The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 22. 2014    

June 2, 2014    
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In This Issue
We feature two Okinawa-themed articles this week. Sarah Bird's novel, Above the East China Sea, excerpted here, describes the suicide dilemma facing a young Okinawan during the battle, and then pursues the same theme into the ranks of US forces on Okinawa in the present. Her discussion with former Marine Steve Rabson explores themes from the two periods and the making of the novel. The theme of compulsory suicide is the subject of Kinjo Shigeaki's interview on the circumstances in which he and his family were caught when he was a sixteen year old during the Battle of Okinawa in March 1945. Contrasting two forms of discrimination in contemporary Japanese society-Zaitokukai's repeated hate demonstrations directed at Zainichi Koreans and the treatment of women in a recent high profile art exhibit at the Mori Museum, he queries the silence of progressives on issues of gender discrimination.

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Sarah Bird with Steve Rabson      
Above the East China Sea:
Okinawa During the Battle and Today

This article provides excerpts from Sarah Bird's newly published novel, Above the East China Sea, together with the author's conversation with Steve Rabson, who served in the military on Okinawa in 1968 en route to becoming a leading translator of Okinawan literature. Bird's novel engages the themes of suicide and death from the 1945 Battle of Okinawa to the present, interweaving the fate of Okinawans and American occupying forces.  
Sarah Bird's novel, Above the East China Sea, was published in spring 2014 by Knopf. This is her second novel set in Okinawa, following The Yokota Officers Club, published by Ballantine (2001).

Kinjo Shigeaki interviewed by Michael Bradley

"Banzai!" The Compulsory Mass Suicide of Kerama Islanders in the Battle of Okinawa

Translated by Maehara Naoko  


This is an April 2014 interview with 85-year-old Kinjo Shigeaki, a survivor of the compulsory mass suicides which occurred on Tokashiki Island, Okinawa in March 1945. Kinjo details the atrocities he was both subject to, and forced to commit, during the Battle of Okinawa. The author calls on the Japanese government to properly account for this period in Japan's Imperial history.  


Michael Bradley, a former broadcast journalist with BBC Northern Ireland, teaches at Okinawa Christian Junior College. 


Morita Seiya
Taiwan and the Ryukyus (Okinawa) in Asia-Pacific Multilateral Relations - a Long-term Historical Perspective on Territorial Claims and Conflicts
Translated and Introduced by Caroline Norma 
Morita Seiya's timely book, excerpted here, challenges the meaning and limits of Japanese misogynistic cultural products as a form of "hate speech." Contrasting the strong progressive response to the public attack on Zainichi Koreans through repeated Zaitokukai demonstrations in Tokyo with the silence in the wake of of Aida Makoto's 2013 exhibition at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, the author confronts public media contexts where women, children, and disabled people are exclusively targeted victims; where the environment is sexualised; and where the context is purportedly one of entertainment, art or culture.

Morita argues that Japan's progressives, including human rights activists and liberals, have been blind to human rights violations against women, or at least do not see anything serious enough to warrant raising voices in protest in such contexts.
The author asks why pornography showing human rights violations like rape, enslavement and brutalization produced in numerous films and other media each year are justified as 'freedom of expression.'

Translator Caroline Norma lectures in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University and is an editorial board member of Women's Studies International Forum. Her book, Japanese comfort women and sexual slavery during the China and Pacific wars, is forthcoming from Bloomsbury in 2015.