Open Seminar

Vol. 10.

Sex during the Occupation of Japan─From the Literary Leavings of US Soldiers

  • Date: 26th April 2019, 17:00 - 19:00
  • Venue: Ito International Research Center, The University of Tokyo
  • Speaker: Taihei Okada (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo)

This seminar pursues issues around military occupation and sex through a close reading of depictions in American literature, chiefly from the 1950s, of Japan's postwar period of Allied occupation. Most of these works are so-called "pulp fiction" (unsophisticated novels for a popular audience), written for male readers. In these books, sexual relationships in the works occur almost exclusively between characters of different genders. Our first area of interest is the continuity of descriptive techniques in literary works. Japanese characters, characters from elsewhere in Asia, and white women are drawn in highly formulaic terms, and this seminar will explore the works in which each formula arose along with its subsequent development. The discussion will devote particular attention to the question of which works grant Japanese women the individuality to voice their own will.

Second, expanding on the first area of interest, our attention will be turned to the justification of sexual violence in literary works almost entirely written and read by men. Previous research has shown that a range of sexual relationships existed during the occupation, and that the occupying forces intervened in these relationships in a variety of ways. Other researchers have considered the question of which kinds of sexual relationships are violent, but this seminar will reexamine that question in light of the complex interdependent relationship between the questions of what is violent and what can be justified. The 1950s and 1960s were the period in which marriage between white men and Asian women came to be accepted in the United States, and changes in representation will be considered against this larger historical background.

Third, the seminar will more generally consider the relationship between military occupation and sex through examples involving different armies and places--in particular, through comparison with literary works about sexual relationships during the Japanese military occupation of the Philippines. The previous seminar discussed sexual violence on the Philippine island of Cebu based on court records and army-related documents, but literary works have also been published on the topic. This seminar will compare some of these works to the American literature discussed above, identifying points of similarity and differentiation. This done, a discussion will be held on how research into literary depictions of sex can contribute to the recognition of historical sexual violence.