On October 31, Professor Michele Mason, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Maryland, brought 13 students from her Readings in Japanese Cultural Studies class (JAPN 402) to the Prange Collection. The objective of the class is to strengthen reading skills while studying crucial Japanese historical events, trends, and figures of the modern period. The class was given a tour, which gave the students a sense of the size and scope of the collection and exposed many of them to an archive for the first time. The students were clearly impressed by the wide range of materials in the collection, including cook books, textbooks, Braille books, posters, magazines, and newspapers. Professor Mason also showed the students materials that she had pre-selected on topics covered in class, such as the role of the Emperor, atomic energy, censorship, and gender norms (as represented in children’s magazines).
The students were asked to reflect on their visit by writing a “kansobun (感想文).” Here are a few excerpts from their essays:
- “One of the most remarkable things I learned at the Prange collection tour was how strict censorship of the Japanese flag was, even in such benign places as pictures in children’s books. Actually, it seems as though anything even possibly relatable to Japanese nationalism was expunged from publications during the occupation period, including a poem titled “Flag”, describing the poet’s feelings about his country. Of course, the flag being used in a nationalist sense should definitely have cause the censors to strike it out, but in such oddly simple places, such as a picture of a classroom, it seems extremely overboard, though such a word could be used to describe much of the censorship during that period.”
- “One thing that I found the most interesting was that the CCD was exceptionally sensitive to anything that was related to General MacArthur, even the newspaper article about the wedding of his cousin was not allowed to be published.”
- “The example text I found most interesting though, was a travel diary we were shown during the tour. The reason I found this travel diary so fascinating was because it was just a blank diary that hadn’t even been written in at all by anyone yet. Although I had known ahead of time that anything and everything anyone wanted to publish during this time had to be submitted for censoring, I hadn’t quite realized that this literally meant everything.”
- “One particularly fascinating example text showcased was a brail (sic) copy of John Hersey’s, Hiroshima, made entirely of recycled paper. I had previously studied that, due to the war effort, Japan’s natural resources were greatly regulated and had been depleting in the last years of the war. This book is a first-hand example of how diminished paper supplies were used in publication. Seeing this tangible example gave new meaning to what had previously only been academic study.”