Archive for the 'History' Category
Steven Pinker, one of the brightest minds of our times gave a speech about the history of violence at the TED Talks in 2007, arguing that we live more peacefully with each other than ever before in human history. I’d like to agree, but the media coverage of every incident easily leads to the impression that the world has indeed gone down the drain and the outlook is grim. It’s 20 well invested minutes:
Churchill came of age when the cavalry charge was still a valid tactic for breaching the enemy’s defenses and he didn’t leave the world stage until Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been vaporized.(0)
…because enshrinement is cheaper than paying pensions to Korean WWII veterans – and the other side of the Yasukuni story.(0)
I read again through a few hundred pages of trivial literature, but it wasn’t not too worthwhile this time. It was the first one for several years, since my studies curbed my appetite for books unrelated to seminars. My wife usually starts reading something and I jump on the wagon and join her. In this case, we’ve read a book by Chang-Rae Lee, A Gesture Life in its German translation, Fremd im Eigenen Leben. My English is far from being free from errors, but I’m certain that the translator either didn’t have much time or was incompetent. On the first few pages already you get strangely translated words (false friends), throughout the whole book I never had the feeling that the translation was close to the original… somehow… bumpy, inaccurate. The lector also must have been in a hurry, the number of grammar and spelling errors was telling. The story itself was interesting, though, verbose at times, with a predictable character developement. On the bright side, that’s not to say that the characters weren’t intruiging, the relation to reality, a Zainichi in the Japanese Imperial Army is a tantalizing foundation for a story, but the execution was surprisingly uninspired – the author won the PEN/Hemingway Award for another book. Maybe it’s the translation, maybe my expectations were too high. If you’re looking for information about Japan’s war history and the notorios Comfort Women system, better turn to Yoshimi Yoshiaki or Buruma.
Has anybody seen this? Too bad it’s not available in Germany.
This is worth an hour of your life, check it out: The DIJ (Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien) published a remarkable archive about the fate of Germany’s first and last colony in China, Tsingtao. You’ll find pictures, maps, theater- and sportprograms, postcards and whatnot there. From the newsletter:
After the fall of the German colony of Tsingtao (China) approximately 5000 Germans were placed under arrest as Japanese prisoners-of-war. From 1914 to 1920 these POWs were interned in several camps in Japan. Because of the stimulating cultural exchange between the POWs and the neighbouring Japanese population, especially in the case of the Bando POW camp, this period of time represents an important step in German-Japanese relations. The DIJ Library is in the possession of a large number of original materials related to or printed in the Bando POW camp: journals, books, maps, postcards, theater/concert programs, photographs etc. This is the so-called Bando Collection. As part of the initiative “Germany in Japan 2005/2006” the Bando Collection is hereby presented to the public for the first time.
On http://bando.dijtokyo.org you will find:
…a virtual tour of the Bando POW camp with its barracks, restaurants and the shopping quarter “Tapautau”.
…information about the theatre activities: “a stage without actresses”.
…how music and gymnastics became a bridge to the Japanese population.
…who won the “camp prize” during the “Exhibition of Graphic Art and Handicraft” in March 1918.
…a catalog to browse or search the whole Bando collection.
JE Kaleidoscope, a Japan Echo website, presents in-depth information to researchers and other people who need a deeper understanding of Japan. The main feature on the website now is a collection of translations of middle school textbooks. These are the Japanese history textbooks approved by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology for use in the school year beginning in April 2006; we present the sections on Japan’s early modern and modern history.
Foreign interest in Japan’s school textbooks is extremely high. The textbook translations have been commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which hopes to see this information accurately presented to people around the world. The translated material comes from all eight of the Japanese history books approved for the 2006 school year.
The data is not completely available yet, but you can already view partial English translations. The list of textbooks includes the controversial edition of Fushosha Publishing, that has been accused of whitewashing Japanese history in regard to World War II. The book is in use in 0.1% of Japans school – tendency rising – but the publishers hope for more acceptance this time.
That’s as close as I can get right now. I never had the chance to visit the place before the attacks, but I’ve been there last year during the Model UN simulation. The story began three and a half years ago. I was in Croatia, meeting my brother while he took a few days off from his internship at the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation office in Zagreb. On September 11th, 2001, we drove all the way down to the coast to meet with our aunt, to celebrate her birthday together. Like our uncle and her husband, she’s an architect who at that time happened to work on an infirmary at Pag, which is an island in the Adriatic Sea. The island is connected to the mainland with a long and high, newly constructed bridge. On our way there, I thought it looks much like the Moon, or perhaps Mars, because of the stone desert around us. It seemed dead, all of it. No tree, nothing but stones. The weather was warm, a blue sky, with a single cloud here and there, but it felt cold.
We met in the late morning hours, went out to eat sea food at a great restaurant and talked a lot about family stuff, how everyone was and enjoyed life. I think I’ve never eaten so much again. After a few hours my brother and I slowly had to drive back to Zagreb again, but just when we wanted to say goodbye, the radio was turned on but something wasn’t right. The reported said something about an attack on New York City, but after a minute or two it was still difficult to understand what was going on, just that it was a catastrophe. A neighbor ran by and we all went into his house. They had CNN turned on and we sat down, watching planes flying right into the World Trade Center. I can remember the shock when we watched it as if it was yesterday. I looked at my brother and he looked at me, in disbelief what we watched was real. I knew that when I looked at him, I saw what he saw. I watched myself.
We watched the reports for about an hour, the two building burning, people jumping out of the windows and in the end, how the towers collapsed. At a certain point we had to drive back. On the road, we listened to the radio: The first half of the day it played music as ever, but since the attacks were reported they only played slow, purely instrumental and melancholic pieces with the occasional interruption with the same news.
That afternoon I didn’t speak much, just looked outside the window … and perhaps tried to find something, not really knowing what I was searching. I could remember that a year ago, we had a ??? (party) in Shinya’s (one of our buddies) room of the international students dorm in Japan. Most of the nine Germans who were at Ritsumeikan University at that time were present, with one or two German girls who visited us. I don’t know why they started talking about it, but the ones who came from southern Germany/Bavaria exchanged their memories about where they were and what they did when Franz Josef Strauß died in 1988. One year later that afternoon I thought with this it is going to be the same way in the future.
I have a completely black T-shirt with
New York City written in white letters. It was a present I got in 2000. The T-shirt’s meaning changed on September 11th, but that wasn’t the only thing.
Every year, I think of my aunt on her birthday as well as New York. Visiting the place itself last year made it much more clear what happened – although you couldn’t see much anymore (except a concreted square and memorial plaques), the feeling of being there was similar to an experience I had once in Germany. I was walking through a park when I noticed a small stone with a decayed inscription – it said that this was the place of a concentration camp outpost where people died in slave labor. A tragedy followed by six decades of history, but strangely it adhered to the place so that you could feel it – tonight I learned that the Ustaša regime established a concentration camp on Pag in 1941.
Where were you on September 11th, 2001?
Japan Times and Asahi report a surprising story about “forgotten” soldiers. The last time Imperial army soliders were found was in the 70ies – I think they even made a movie about it, but can’t find it at IMDb right now. I found Hell in the Pacific, but that one’s slightly different.