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Interview with Jonathan Bull, Research Award Recipient

Each year, the recipients of the 20th Century Japan Research Awards visit the University of Maryland to use the materials in the Gordon W. Prange Collection.  They often spend a week or more on campus.  They are interviewed at the end of their stay about their research experience.

Dr. Jonathan Bull in the Maryland Room.

One of the two recipients of the award for 2016-2017, Dr. Jonathan Bull, is Assistant Professor in the Slavic-Eurasian Research Center at Hokkaido University in Japan.  He is currently revising his dissertation into a book manuscript provisionally titled “Settling the Unsettled: History and Memory in the Construction of the Karafuto Repatriate.” The book will review the place of population displacement from Karafuto (present-day Sakhalin) in Japan’s post-imperial migrations and examine the ways people used their ‘postcolonial bonus’ to reintegrate into post-war society.


How did you learn about the research award, and why did you apply for it?

I first learnt about the award when I was checking the Prange Collection website. Two colleagues also suggested that it would be a good award for me to apply for so I decided to put in a proposal. I had wanted to use the Prange Collection at the University of Maryland after reading the excellent research on Japan’s post-imperial migration done by Lori Watt. She made good use of repatriate newsletters in her monograph ‘When Empire Comes Home: Repatriation and Reintegration in Postwar Japan’ (Harvard, 2009). I felt that these newsletters were such a rich source, more research could be done.

What motivated you to focus on this research topic?

When forced migration occurs and governments respond, the individual histories of those who are forced to move almost inevitably become flattened into a single image of ‘the refugee’ or ‘the repatriate’. My research into Japanese who repatriated from Karafuto (present-day southern Sakhalin) after the Asia-Pacific War attempts to deconstruct the government-supported image that emerged in the late-1940s. Much of my motivation comes from my earliest experiences of living in Japan as an Assistant English Teacher on the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET Program). I lived in a small fishing town on the Okhotsk Sea coastline of northern Hokkaido. I met several elderly residents of the town who told me their stories of having escaped from Karafuto on small fishing boats in the last days of the Soviet-Japanese War. These stories really captured my imagination and made me want to find out more.

Which material in the Prange Collection left the biggest impression on you?

The galley proofs of newspaper articles were particularly interesting. They indicate that Japanese journalists and repatriates often talked at train stations and hospitals – away from the control of American and Japanese officials. Previous research has argued that during the Occupation period, repatriates were unable to criticize the USSR in the press because of censorship. Many of the galley proofs suggest that Japanese journalists tried to include a fair amount of criticism in their articles. Examining what was published in the newspapers following the galley proof stage might reveal that repatriates had quite a lot of leeway to criticise the USSR and, in doing so, shape early narratives about repatriation.

The press agency photographs were also fascinating. The number of photos of repatriates indicates that the ‘repatriation problem’ was one of the most important issues during the Occupation. One photo was particularly interesting – it suggested that the American view of repatriates as a communist threat sent by Stalin was exactly that – an American view and perhaps not shared to the same degree by the Japanese press. If this reading is accurate, we may need to reconsider the processes by which media images of repatriates were disseminated in Postwar Japan.

How would you describe the research experience at the University of Maryland Libraries? Do you have any suggestions for fellow researchers using the collection?

All of the library staff who I met were friendly and helpful. I am particularly grateful to Amy Wasserstrom, Yukako Tatsumi and Kana Jenkins who answered all my questions and remained cheerful as I sent yet another request to see a long list of documents from the collection.

I would urge anyone using the collection to make use of the excellent inventories that are available as part of the ‘Guide to how to use the collection’ section of the website. These are easy to search and I was able to find many documents that I had not known existed.

I would also emphasise how useful I found the opportunity to give a talk on my research whilst I was at the University of Maryland. The audience had many good questions and helpful suggestions for leads to follow up.

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Call for Applications: 20th Century Japan Research Awards, 2017-2018

The Nathan and Jeanette Miller Center for Historical Studies and the University of Maryland Libraries invite applications for two $1,500 grants to support research in the library’s Gordon W. Prange Collection and East Asia Collection on topics related to the period of the Allied Occupation of Japan and its aftermath, 1945-1960.  Holders of the Ph.D. or an equivalent degree are eligible to apply, as are graduate students who have completed all requirements for the doctorate except the dissertation. The competition is open to scholars in all parts of the world and from any discipline, but historical topics are preferred. University of Maryland faculty, staff, and students may not apply.

The application deadline is November 17, 2017.  The grant must be used by October 26, 2018.

For more information about the Award, please see this page.

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Exhibit on the Japanese Constitution

Check out the Prange Collection exhibit of materials related to the Constitution of Japan!  “The Japanese Constitution Turns 70!” commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Constitution’s enactment.

The exhibit is on display in the Maryland Room on the first floor of Hornbake Library North through October 2017.  Displayed items include:

  • Tentative Revision of the Meiji Constitution by Joji Matsumoto (January 4, 1946)
  • Draft Constitution of Japan (First Government Draft) (March 4, 1946)
  • Brines, Russell. (1947, May 22). Spirit of New Constitution Nullified. The Pacific Stars and Stripes.
  • Rikuzo Kamiyama. (1948). Shakai to seikatsu. Tokyo: Gakudo Ryogi Sosho Kankokai.

For more information about the Constitution, please see this series of blog posts.

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Two new research guides are now available!

We are pleased to announce the launch of two research guides: “The Chinese Press in Occupied Japan” and “The Korean Press in Occupied Japan.”  These guides will help you find publications in the Prange Collection produced by and for the Chinese and Korean communities in Japan during the Occupation.

The Chinese Press in Occupied Japan

The Chinese Press in Occupied Japan

The Korean Press in Occupied Japan

The Korean Press in Occupied Japan

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Yamamoto Shuguro Exhibition at the Kanagawa Museum of Modern Art

An exhibition on Yamamoto Shugoro/山本周五郎 (1903-1967) and his work will open on September 30, 2017 at the Kanagawa Museum of Modern Literature.  The exhibition commemorates the 50th anniversary of Yamamoto’s death.   Materials acquired since the museum’s previous exhibition on Yamamoto in 1991 will be on display.  A reproduction of one item from the Prange Collection will be used in the exhibition.

The exhibition will be on display from September 30 through November 26.  For the full schedule of events related to the exhibition, please visit this website.

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On this day in 1947… (September 25)

This post is a part of continuing series on the Censored Newspaper Articles (CNAs).

On September 25, 1947, multiple newspapers (Sekai Nippo, Jiji Shimpo, Kyodo Tsushin, Seiji Shimbun and Tokyo Times) submitted an article to the Civil Censorship Detachment (CCD) about the distribution of American tobacco.  All of the articles were suppressed.  (Prange Call No. 47-loc-0998, 0998a, 0998b, 0998c, 0998d)

The Sekai Nippo article with the headline (as translated by the censor), “American tobacco to Japanese houses: the numbers of regular distribution to be decreased,” reported that American tobacco, including 22,000,000 Camel cigarettes, would be released soon, thanks to the “Occupation Forces’ kindness.”   The rations at the time were 120 cigarettes/month per man and 30 cigarettes/month per woman.  Reduction of the rations was under consideration in order to sell some of the tobacco on the open market to increase revenue to the government (Call No. 47-loc-0998).  According to the article, “American tobacco to stores: the statement from the Director-general of the Monopoly Bureau,”  (headline also translated by the censor) submitted by Jiji Shimpo, “We…are thinking of selling them to consumers in general at proper prices and then supplying farmers with goods which they really need by the income gained, rather than doing such things as to release cigarettes to farmers.”  (Call No. 47-loc-0998a).

Below are the CCD documents that accompanied the Sekai Nippo article (Call No. 47-loc-0998).  The Japanese galley proofs and hand-written manuscripts from the other articles are available onsite in the Prange Collection and onsite at the National Diet Library of Japan (NDL) through NDL’s Digital Collection.

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Featured Education book – “Shakai e no tabi”

In September 2015, we began digitizing the education books in the Prange Collection.  We’ll share interesting educational materials with you as the scanning project progresses.  A list of posts in this series can be found here.   

“Shakai e no tabi” (Nara-shi: Nara Bunko, 1947) is a three volume set of social science textbooks edited by Nara Bunko.  Chapter 7 in the third volume (Call No. 435-0016v_3), entitled “Yamato Country,” describes the different roles of staff in the Nara Prefectural offices.  On pages 34-35, there is a map of the Prefectural Office and on the following page is the guide to who occupies offices on the map.  One office is listed as the “Military Trial Office (M.P.).”  The Civil Censorship Detachment (CCD) examiner noted on the censorship document, “Here is a map of the Nara Prefectural Gov’t where the [     ] of the M.P. can be seen.  This part should be deleted as indicating the location of Allied Forces.”  “Pass” and “OK” were written on the front cover of the book, however, so it is unclear if this portion was actually deleted.