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  • Fun Facts #8: Stuff gleaned from Seidensticker’s “Tokyo Rising”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on September 13th, 2007

    Hi Blog. Been stampeding through the late Edward Seidensticker’s book TOKYO RISING (borrowed from FCCJ library, but two weeks is simply not long enough for me to get through a book; I like to suck on them over months and am never faithful to one tome unless it’s really good), and these are some things that popped up for Debito.org:

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    One powerful force in the workings of the city and the prefecture is not entirely under the control of the prefectural government: the police. The chief of the Tokyo prefecutral police is appointed by a national police agency with the approval of the prime minister and upon the advice of a prefectural police commission, which is in effectual. None of these agencies is under the control of governor and council. Tokyo becomes a police city when it is thought necessary to guard against the embarrassment of having someone shoot at a president or a queen or a pope [or a Beatle; see more about the concert gone so badly in 1966--3000 police seated to make sure 10,000 Budoukan spectators didn't even stand up during the concert--that the Beatles never returned to Japan as a group to perform]. It has more than twice as many policemen as Osaka, though it is less than twice as large in population. The problem of police excesses is by no means limited to Tokyo–it was in Kanagawa Prefecture that a case of illegal eavesdropping was uncovered in 1986–but it is most conspicuous in the prefecture in which national embarrassments are most likely to occur. (page 169)
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    This might be one reason why the Tokyo Police (keishichou) seem to be much more assiduous in their Gaijin Card Checkpoints than anywhere else in the country…

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    There was in those days [during the Occupation] the problem of the “third nationals” [sangokujin]. It was conspicuous in the underworld and in gang squabbling. Third nationals were for practical purposes Chinese and Koreans resident in Japan [i.e. the Zainichis]. The expression put them in their place, distinguishing them both from Japanese and from the Occupation, which favored them, treating Chinese as allies and Koreans as quasi allies (enemies of the enemy). It is hard to deny that they took advantage of their position.

    If the police couild not intercede in behalf of Japanese gangs that thought of themselves (or at any rate advertised themselves) as Robin Hoods and defenders of the Japanese spirit, there is much evidence that they managed to aid them surreptitiously. In the “Shimbashi Incident” of 1946, American military police and Japanese police intervened to prevent an armed battle between Chinese and Japanese gangs for control of the market. The nonbattle was in effect a victory for the Japanese. It showed the Chinese, who were progressively weaker, that they could not have everything their way even in that day of confusion and demoralization. Across the bay in Chiba, later in 1946, the police seem to have actualy encouraged a showdown between Japanese and third-national gangs. It would be the occasion, the Chiba police and the American military police agreed, for rounding up gangsters of whatever natioanlity. The Japanese police told the Japanese gangs what was to happen and invited their cooperation. The Americans do not seem to have accorded the same favor to the third nationals. The encounter took place, a few minutes of gunfire in which several men were wounded but no one was killed, and in the end only third nationals were rounded up. (page 154-155)
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    The most powerful force in getting [the postwar Japanese economy] moving again came fairly late. The Korean War broke out in June 1950, almost exactly at midpoint thorugh what we may call the decade of the rebuilding. For Korea it was a terrible happening, for Japan a momentous one, with little sense of the terrible… It was perhaps natural in an occupied country that had no foreign policy save to get rid of the Occupation and export things wherever possible…

    Momentous the event certainly was for all that. Japanese profits from the Korean War were massive and they went into rebuilding city and land, and bring them back somewhat near, in material terms, the position that had been theirs before the folly of the forties. Procurement contracts in the remaining months of 1950 ran to $180 milion, and before the Korean War was over they ran to $2.3 billion. Production returned to and passed prewar levels. Direct Ameircan aid, which had been necessary in the immediate postwar years, now ceased to be. Brave beginnings had already been made towards putting things together again, but it was in the early fifties that matters went forward with speed and purpose… Yet it is ironic that the prosperity of a country which has renounced war (see Article IX of the postwar constitution) is founded on a war. (page 155-156)
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    All-in-all, in TOKYO RISING Seidensticker has created a book that is okay for those who really know something about Tokyo or Japan already (it’s a work that would thrill academic specialists in the field, but if they assigned it to their students with only incipient knowledge of Japan it would leave them nonplussed). For me, after 20 years here, it’s a decent read–it fills a lot of holes and answers a lot of lingering questions. For anyone else, it would probably be a head-scratcher. It would merely promote Japan as a land of impenetrable exotica (which is the wont of this generation of Japan specialists anyway, IMO), instead of as a land of quirks working under a mostly rational system. It takes a lot of experiences before people see the rationality. I’m sure Seidensticker himself saw it too, but he really doesn’t communicate that at all well. Too much reliance on novelists (with largely boring or uncontexted excerpts from their writings) as primary sources of information as well.

    This is one of the reasons I refused to read “specialist” books on Japan for so long, until I had built up my own set of experiences from which to get the hang of this place. Now that I have gotten the hang, I find it amazing how so many books on Japan are written by those who don’t have the hang, or can’t communicate that they do.

    Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    6 Responses to “Fun Facts #8: Stuff gleaned from Seidensticker’s “Tokyo Rising””

    1. David Says:

      Hi. Interesting comment about the massive police presence at the Beatles’ concert in July 1966. That said, the author seems to imply that the Beatles decided never to return to Japan because it supposedly went very poorly. Truth is, the Beatles as a group stopped touring anywhere a month later. Their last concert was in San Francisco (August 1966). They were getting burnt out with touring (having done it for 3 years) and their experience in Manila (right after Tokyo) was a disaster and no doubt would have had a much greater impact on their decision to quit touring than anything that might have happened in Japan. One of the comments you hear the Beatles make about Tokyo was that the fans were very polite, meaning that they weren’t crazed a la Shea Stadium (I guess you can thank the police). I never interpreted that to be a negative though because the band often complained that their fans seemingly could never actually hear their voices because it was so loud and crazy.

      Thanks for your post.

      David

      –AH YES, A BEATLES FAN POPS UP! THANKS FOR THE COMMENT. YES, TRUE AND GOOD POINT. THE BEATLES WEREN’T TOURING ANYWHERE ANYMORE, ACKNOWLEDGED. CANDLESTICK PARK WAS THE LAST OF IT UNTIL ATOP ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS, RIGHT?

      HOWEVER, I DO HAVE ON GOOD AUTHORITY (THE BEATLES “ANTHOLOGY” CHAPTER 5 SECTION 14) THAT THE BEATLES DID NOT ENJOY THEMSELVES IN JAPAN. THEY WERE SEEN AS A BAD INFLUENCE ON JAPANESE YOUTH, AND DEMONSTRATIONS FROM THE EXTREME RIGHT OVER THEIR CONCERT IN THE BUDOUKAN (THE ALLEGED VIOLATION OF THE JAPANESE SPIRIT AND MARTIAL ARTS; JOHN IN A PRESS CONFERENCE: “WE’RE MORE INTERESTING THAN WRESTLING ANYWAY”), MEANT THAT THE POLICE WERE GOING TO OUTDO EVERYONE IN CLAMPING DOWN (GEORGE: “LIKE A MILITARY MANOEUVRE”). THEIR SCHEDULE WAS BLOCKED DOWN TO THE MINUTE BY THE AUTHORITARIAN CONDITIONS, AND ONCE THE BEATLES SAW THAT THIS WAS THE CASE, THEY DELIBERATELY WOULD OVERSTAY THEIR SCHEDULE BY A FEW MINUTES OR SO JUST TO GET PEOPLE’S GOAT (RINGO: “PEOPLE WENT BARMY!”). THEY ALSO COULD NOT GET OUT AND SHOP (PAUL AND LINDA MANAGED TO ESCAPE BRIEFLY, BUT WERE SOON APPREHENDED BY THE POLICE), OR DO MUCH OF ANYTHING BUT SIT IN SECLUSION AND MEET MERCHANTS IN THEIR HOTEL ROOM. EVEN WHEN THE CONCERTS HAPPENED, GEORGE REMARKED THAT THE RECEPTION WAS WARM BUT “CLINICAL”, AS THERE WAS NOT MUCH THE FANS COULD DO GIVEN THE POLICE HAD TELEPHOTO LENSES, READY TO PHOTOGRAPH ANYONE WHO EVEN SO MUCH AS STOOD UP. THIS WAS A POLICE STATE. AND IT WAS A NEGATIVE TO THEM.

      THE PHILPPINES WERE THE WORST YET (THE WHOLE IMELDA DINNER PARTY FIASCO WOULD HAVE DONE ME IN ON TOURING TOO), BUT JAPAN WAS NO DOUBT THE PERFECT LEAD-UP. ASIA WAS A DIFFERENT PLACE BACK THEN. THANKS FOR WRITING. ARUDOU DEBITO

    2. Jon Says:

      You may ignore this as it may be considered irrelevant to this blog but below is a link to a site called Blog Action Day. It is about supporting environmental action through blogging on Oct. 15 if you’re interested.

      http://blogactionday.org/

      AH, WHAT THE HECK. SOUNDS LIKE A GREAT IDEA, AND EVEN THOUGH IT’S NOT RELEVANT TO THIS POST AT HAND, IT DESERVES ATTENTION SOMEHOW. I’LL APPROVE THIS COMMENT. AND I’VE REGISTERED DEBITO.ORG WITH BLOGACTIONDAY. THANKS FOR LETTING ME KNOW. DEBITO

    3. David Says:

      Hi Debitou,

      First let me say, I enjoy reading your blog when I have a chance. Keep up the good work.

      In response to your comments, I can’t disagree with you that the Beatles had a less than stellar time. It’s certainly true they generally had to stay in their hotel rooms. However, I wouldn’t say they were treated badly either. For example, last year’s Beatles’ exhibit in Tokyo celebrating the 40th anniversary of their arrival in Japan showed them enjoying how to play Japanese instruments, wearing Japanese kimono, receiving gifts (e.g. mikimoto pearls), etc. The impression I got from that coupled with what I’ve read is that they were tightly controlled but not ill-treated, like a child who is told to stay indoors by their mother because its raining (albeit for 3 days). Of course, that surely can be disappointing when visiting a new country.

      But did their experience in Japan have any impact on their decision to stop touring? I think not. Does this mean Japan wasn’t a police state back then? Not at all. I frankly haven’t researched it. My feeling is there were, at the very least, elements of Japan being a police state. On the other hand, I also don’t suspect it was on par with, say, East Germany. Perhaps I should ask more Japanese I know who were young adults at that time what they think.

      Anyway, my only contention was the author’s claim that the 3 day Japan experience (that is, being in a police state) had such an impact on the Beatles that they refused to come to Japan again. His underlying thesis – that Japan was actually a police state – may be reasonable. Still, the connection with that and the Beatles’ decision to not to return to Japan is pretty weak. Yes, many in Japan saw the Beatles as a bad influence. So did the rest of the world, at least many who were over 40yo. How about touring in a country where at one point you fear for your lives (Philipines)? Or a country where people are saying vile things about you, burning your records, and censoring them as well on some radio stations, which happened in the U.S. after John Lennon’s infamous “More popular than Jesus” comment (July 1966). As mentioned before, the Beatles had been touring for three years, chock full of bad experiences, and were burnt out and frustrated. It wasn’t as if they completely changed their opinion about touring in the final two months (which of course was not a picnic, especially in the U.S. and the Philipines). Looking at the whole picture though, the impact of the Japan experience on the Beatle’s decision to stop touring (which means not coming back to Japan), was almost nil.

      From Ringo Starr:
      I didn`t miss it when the Beatles stopped touring because we all realized the reason we did stop in those days – and we were all like 25 – was that we did a couple or three years and, in all honesty, nobody listened. And that was part of our gig. So we decided to spend more time in the studio. I felt as a musician at the end of the Beatles` touring I was not playing as good as I could because of the noise. You have to remember, we didn`t have all the volume we have now. We had those small amps and the house PA wherever we played, including Shea [Stadium in New York].
      http://music.monstersandcritics.com/features/article_1172225.php/Q&A_with_Ringo_Starr

      Hypothetically speaking, if the Beatles actually loved touring, who knows if they would have visited Japan again? When they were first forming the group, they had a pretty bad experience in Germany, for example, yet returned to that country. Regardless, I just don’t think its relevant. I’m not trying to take away from the author’s message but unfortunately he risks losing some credibility (at least with a Beatles fan like me) by trying to make a connection between Japan’s political environment in 1966 and the Beatles’ decision to quit touring and not return to Japan.

      Regards, David

      THANKS FOR THE LENGTHY COMMENT, DAVID. ACTUALLY, I’M THE ONE SAYING THE BEATLES DIDN’T HAVE A GOOD TIME, NOT SEIDENSTICKER. ALL SEIDENSTICKER IS SAYING IS THAT TOKYO WILL BECOME A POLICE STATE AROUND AN EVENT WHICH HAS THE POTENTIAL TO BE EMBARRASSING, POTENTIALLY FATAL. IN THE BEATLES’ CASE, THEY OVERDID IT–TO THE POINT WHERE PEOPLE COULDN’T ENJOY THE ROCK AND ROLL OR EVEN BEATLEMANIA THE WAY IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ENJOYED–STANDING UP, CHEERING, WAVING “LOVE BEATLES” BANNERS, ETC.

      LOOKING BACK NOWADAYS, THE BEATLES AREN’T GOING TO SAY MUCH BAD ABOUT THEIR JAPAN EXPERIENCE IN REMINISCE (IT’S STILL A BIG MARKET). BUT IN MY OPINION (AGAIN, NOT SEIDENSTICKER’S), THEIR EXPERIENCE OF BEING KEPT IN A FISHBOWL TO THIS DEGREE, WHERE THEIR EVERY MINUTE WAS BLOCKED OFF IN JAPAN, WAS SETTING THEM UP FOR THE SPIKE THAT BECAME THE NEED FOR A DAY OFF IN THE PHILIPPINES. CUE THE IMELDA FIASCO.

      GLAD YOU’RE ENJOYING THE BLOG. DEBITO

    4. KokuRyu Says:

      This is one of the reasons I refused to read “specialist” books on Japan for so long, until I had built up my own set of experiences from which to get the hang of this place. Now that I have gotten the hang, I find it amazing how so many books on Japan are written by those who don’t have the hang, or can’t communicate that they do.

      You’ve nailed it.

    5. David Says:

      Thanks for your reply, Debitou. My apologies for making two errors. First, between my first and second comments, I forgot that the author’s claim was, as you wrote, “Tokyo becomes a police city when it is thought necessary to guard against.. embarrassment…”. For some reason, I started to incorrectly think he made the claim that Japan was a police state. After re-reading what you wrote, I realized my mistake. Moreover, I was relieved because this claim is much more credible and one that I happen to believe is true. Secondly, your comments on the Beatles are well taken and I apologize for confusing the author’s thoughts with your own.

      Sincerely,

      David

    6. Doug M. Says:

      Boring..When I first went to Japan I wasn’t at all fooled by the “quirkiness”. I just regarded it as any regular Asian country and not unique or exotic in any special regard.

      I guess that’s why they didn’t like me so much. lol

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