Media in War

The importance of Media in War

Media and the public perception of wars is what allows societies to determine whether a war is virtuous or unjustified. In the twentieth century, Western countries had fought wars that easily portrayed them as the “good guys”. When the United States went over to Europe it was in the name of stopping the tyranny and fascism of the Third Reich. When the U.S. dropped the horrible power of atomic bombs in Japan, they did it to stop the advancement of a barbaric imperialist system that swallowed up smaller countries and enslaved its peoples. These wars were easily displayed as necessary and justified. One could even say that there were a clear goals in mind and adequate illustrations of how the war would come to an end. However, in the period following WWII the reasons for going to war would become increasingly muddled. The German military theorist Karl von Clausewitz stated that the ultimate goal of war is the subjugation of the enemy and “bending them to your will”. For the concept of old physical warfare the idea is brawn over brains but in new wars that are fought between superpowers and small countries media and perception is key.

The Cold War

The proxy wars of the Cold War era were no longer as easily justified as the goal of stopping Fascism or Imperialism but instead enlisted the flawed domino theory. The domino theory was used to justify the Vietnam and Korean conflicts by stating that if one country falls to communism surrounding nations will follow. It added a justification as to why a nation such as the United States could interfere in civil conflicts within countries such as Vietnam. Presidents such as Kennedy and Johnson would reiterate the idea that by keeping communism out of Vietnam or Korea the United States was in effect protecting all of its Asian Allies along with itself. At the beginning of the war in Vietnam victory seemed assured for the United States. Surely the United States had the resources, power, money and advanced technologies to take over a poor unindustrialized country like Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh and the North Vietnamese knew very well that they were outmatched so changed the Strategy from all previous wars that came before. They focused on psychological manipulation and the influence of people rather than physical warfare. They wanted to make the war impossible for the U.S. to justify and prolong the conflict as long as possible. Once the U.S. started the draft they had already lost in the hearts and minds of its people. Vietnam was in a far-flung part of Asia that most people hadn’t heard of until the war started. The fact that the power of Vietnam did not pose an existential threat to the U.S. increased the difficulty of how to justify a proxy war to the public.

 

The Gulf War

“The Gulf War Did Not Take Place” as written by Jean Baudrillard expressed how important perceptions of war have actually become. Baudrillard described how the U.S. and other Western countries were fed pictures and news reels of slick tomahawk missiles and advanced fighter jets gracefully striking their targets. Western audiences were sparred gruesome images from the effect of these bombing but instead saw inhuman infer red images of Iraqi soldiers being struck by “smart” bombs. The U.S. knew that the public was still reeling from the experience of the Vietnam war and needed convincing propaganda to send people into feelings of war fervor. One such now infamous event was the “weapons of mass destruction” campaign launched in the U.S. to portray Saddam Hussein as being in possession of WMD’s. While whether WMD’s were present or not, intelligence agencies have admitted that evidence was not conclusive. Another lessor known event was when a fake news story spread about premature babies being removed from incubators in Kuwait by Iraqi invaders. It is clear that on the hierarchy of victim’s premature babies are by far the most defenseless. The Events of the Gulf War display how the U.S. had learned from its mistakes in Vietnam and made sure to make the war palette-able for the American public. America accomplishes this through concepts of “risk free” warfare, war fervor propaganda, and intense reiteration of justification for the war. Risk Free warfare refers to the images of soldiers safely piloting unmanned weapons in locations relatively far away from the battlefield. In effect the Gulf War was sanitized for the consumption of Western audiences.

If I have learned anything in University it is to question all media sources including the ones you trust. The Military industrial complex is real and every source of media is biased. Everything is said a certain way… to make you think a certain way.

The purpose of this post was just to write down some of my thoughts from my War and Media class. I hope you found my thoughts about the correlation between war and media usage interesting.

The Japanese Navy Caves

Okinawa is littered with vast cave systems that were created underneath the island. During the Battle of Okinawa Japanese soldiers and Okinawan civilians caught in the crossfire took refuge from the constant artillery bombardment in these caves.  Okinawans call these caves “gama” and they have become infamous as the places where many people committed suicide during the war. In the heart of Naha there is one such cave system situated directly under a large hill. When the Japanese military learned of the imminent American invasion of Okinawa they attempted to convert this cave system into a bunker that would act as the Imperial Navy Headquarters. They quickly amassed a troop of Okinawan laborers to excavate this cave and reinforce the roof with steel and concrete. As the situation became increasingly desperate more civilians and soldiers became clumped together in this cramped and soggy cave. The Imperial Navy Headquarters museum in Naha attempts to tell the tragic stories of those in the cave as the inevitable Japanese defeat loomed and the battle waged on.

This Museum as with all museums in Japan that focus on the topic of WWII, emphasize the importance of peace and how war is catastrophic to all those involved. I have noticed that war is always handled very delicately in all Japanese museums and they are careful in their wording never to demonize either side. This is directly opposite of my experiences in Vietnam where museums are very biased and occasionally reflect hatred that is still perceived at the “enemy”. Museums in Japan are not meant to display any sort of propaganda but instead memorialize the victims and factually display the atrocities of war committed by all sides. Every time I visit a “peace museum” I am increasingly impressed with the care and attention that goes into the wording and overall feeling of the exhibits. I always leave a peace museum with the solemn reminder that “war is hell”.

*The following information contains historical details of war that may not be suitable for all readers (Contains gruesome details collected within the museum)

My Experience:

Yuki, her brother Shintaro and myself climbed the seemingly beautiful mountain on a bright summers day to the entrance of the museum. As we entered we were shown a small exhibit that explained the chronology of the Battle of Okinawa and some personal stories of the navy officers in the cave. We saw several artifacts such as rifles and canteens that had been recovered from the cave. There is also information regarding how the caves were built and how soldiers and civilians survived on rats while hiding in the cave. Once we finished reading the brief information we entered the dark stuffy tunnel with stairs that led us deeper into the cave. Once you’re in there you can easily imagine the horror of those trapped in this cave while bombs were dropping off directly above. They must have been terrified that the cave would collapse upon them and kill them instantly, but perhaps that would have been a more humane end than their actual deaths.

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Shintaro entering the Navy Caves

As you proceed the cave becomes a maze of corridors and antechambers. At various locations, there are markers that explain what the room was such as “medical chamber” or “officers quarter”. In some particularly important rooms markers show illustrations of how life was during the war. One room that particularly left an impression on me is one in which faded stains and chipped concrete from shrapnel covers the walls. On a nearby plaque Yuki read to me that several officers had used grenades to blow themselves up to avoid surrendering. The Commander of the base Minoru Ōta had commanded all 175 soldiers to commit suicide rather than surrender he himself died via seppuku. We also learned that civilians were also sometimes “forced to commit suicide” and in turn murdered by the soldiers that were meant to be protecting them. All of these facts lead me to the conclusion that the Japanese soldiers often had sentiments of extremist nationalism and would rather have died than surrender. It also displays how the propaganda of the time had so successfully brainwashed the soldiers. Above all it is a testament to how horrific and brutal this war had become in it’s final stages.

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The room where General Ujishima and Navy  Commander Ota committed seppuku

Towards the end of the battle American troops stormed the caves and killed or imprisoned the remaining soldiers. I’m sure they were astonished by the gruesome scenes that awaited them deeper within. This site is an important testament to the human costs of any conflict and remains one of the most visceral experiences I have ever had in a museum.

It was at this sight that I also realized that almost every part of Okinawa had at one point been a battle ground where people brutally died. While a vacation to Okinawa is certainly fun and enjoyable I think it also important to recognize the tragic history of the island. It is truly amazing that the Okinawans were able to rebuild after such devastation and is a testament to the resilience of the Okinawan people.

Other information contained at the museum:

 

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map of the caves

We learned how U.S. troops would often lob grenades into caves with the intention of clearing out soldiers but civilians were often killed because they were too afraid to come out.

This is the location where General Ushijima died and has biographical information about him.

Minoru_Ota.jpg image from Wikipedia

Minoru Ōta was the last commander of Imperial navy who committed seppuku alongside Ushijima. He wrote a telegram to the emperor asking that special considerations be given in the future to the prefecture of Okinawa because of the Okinawans staunch defense and loyalty the “the Motherland”.

“Born as a man, nothing fulfills my life more than to die in the name of the Emperor.” Ōta’s death poem

If you’re interested in learning more about Okinawa please see my other posts about Okinawa

 

History of Okinawa

In order to understand Okinawa you must first understand this islands fascinating and sometimes tragic history. I’ll start from when Okinawa  was called the Kingdom of Ryukyu and functioned as a powerful trading kingdom that traded with both Japan, China, and later the West. On the other islands in the Okinawan archipelago such as the Miyako islands and Yaeyama island chain one can find varied dialects and alternate cultures. One very interesting cultural practice occurs during rice harvest festivals Miruku the god of bountiful harvest is venerated and given rice wine in hopes of a bountiful harvest. Many of the islands have separate and unique gods. My personal favorite is Oh Ho Ho a god with “European features” that is depicted as a dancing man with a long beard and pointy nose. During one ritual Oh Ho Ho proceeds steal the local native women away from their husbands. The locals must throw money at Oh Ho Ho to appease this greedy god. I personally think this practice may have been developed based on past experiences with European traders in the medieval period but there is no conclusive evidence to back up my claim.

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Painting depicting Shuri Castle the home of the Ryukyu Kings

Becoming Japanese 

Okinawa used to be called the Kingdom of Ryukyu and due to it’s convenient geography of being nestled directly between Taiwan and Japan it became a wealthy trade hub. During the medieval period the Satsuma clan of Southern Kyushu occupied and conquered the islands of Ryukyu and united them in the name of the Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Thus the Kingdom of Ryukyu become the Japanese province of Okinawa. Okinawa literally means “off coast rope” in Japanese and is still sometimes seen as the “Japanese Hawaii”. Indeed Okinawans may speak Japanese but they have their own unique culture, customs and heritage. In fact, the reason why the Okinawan dialects have become nearly extinct is because during the Meji period (Pre war 1900’s) Japan had enforced hardline assimilation policies on the Okinawans and punished students for not speaking Japanese in schools. During WorldWarII  these practices became even more harsh and Okinawans caught speaking their native dialects were often accused of being spies and executed.

World War II

After years of increasingly aggressive nationalist policies Japan had succeeded in colonizing Okinawa’s neighbor Taiwan and many other Southeast Asian countries. Any non Japanese sentiments were brutally crushed and Okinawans began to forget they had not always been Japanese. After the brutal fighting on the volcanic island of Iwo Jima and raising of the flag over mount suribachi the U.S. fleet set it’s sights on Okinawa. Japan knew that it had to prevent the forces from landing on Honshu and prolong the battle of Okinawa as long as possible. Japan also knew that it was fighting a loosing war but hoped to create as much battle fatigue in the U.S. soldiers and public as possible. They hoped to hold off a full scale invasion of the homeland and have more favorable peace talks. The sheer brutality of the Battle in Okinawa is often considered as the catalyst for the Truman’s decision to drop the Atomic bombs. Japan had throughly spread propaganda warning and scarring Okinawans out of  surrendering to American troops. Propaganda stated that the American troops would kill civilians immediately and even eat the bodies. The Imperial Japanese army also armed civilians with bamboo spears and sent out a national wide order to “fight to the death!”. Before the Americans landed they spent two weeks bombarding Okinawa with naval artillery fire to weaken Japanese defenses. This bombardment became know as the “typhoon of steel” and turned the battlefield into a muddy and bloody mess. Of course this bombardment also indiscriminately killed countless civilians. During the invasion itself American troops landed in the middle of the island and pushed southward towards the main city of Naha. The north of the island was relatively peaceful compared to the hell that the South had become. There are countless stories of horrible tragedies that took place during this desperate battle. Many Okinawans and Japanese chose to commit suicide rather than surrender. Japanese soldiers even distributed hand grenades to children and told them they were “gifts from the Emperor”.  The soldiers told civilians it was better to die than give themselves up to the Americans. Many people who didn’t have hand grenades threw themselves of the “suicide cliffs”. The tragic battle ended up being the last battle of the pacific before the surrender of Japan. The United states ended up occupying Okinawa until returning the island to the Japanese in the 70’s after mounting unrest broke out across the island. I have heard stories about the celebrations that occurred when suddenly the currency was changed to yen from dollars and cars drove on the Japanese sides of the road. U.S. bases on the island were used heavily as staging grounds during the Vietnam and Korean conflicts and continues to be a controversial issue.

“Green grass dies in the islands without waiting for fall,
But it will be reborn verdant in the springtime of the homeland.
Weapons exhausted, our blood will bathe the earth, but the spirit will survive;
Our spirits will return to protect the motherland.”- General Mitsu Ushijima suicide letter before committing seppuku

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The Room in the Japanese Navy Caves where General Ushijima committed seppuku

 

 

I suggest watching “Hacksaw Ridge” and the Okinawa episode of the HBO series “The Pacific”

I hope this post helped you gain a brief understanding of the History of Okinawa I will go into specifics of historical locations and my travel experiences in future posts. It is ironic how a place that is so unimaginably beautiful was also home to such a degree of pain and suffering. When I am in Okinawa enjoying the beach or strolling through a luxurious mall I often find my mind drifting to the stories of those who died so savagely here in the 1940’s. I don’t usually believe in ghosts but when your out in the darkness of night at Okinawa you can defiantly feel the spirits. Americans and Okinawans have become connected through history and as an american I feel a connection to this place.

I also find it miraculous that a mere 70 years later I am able to walk freely down the streets of Okinawa. where our ancestors had once tried to desperately kill each other. This very fact gives me hope that deep seated hatreds can be left behind and nations that once so brutally clashed can achieve peace and amity between one another.

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A photo I took of the Suicide Cliffs from the Okinawa Peace memorial observation deck
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An english textbook hand printed in the Taisho period during the American Occupation

History of Japan: Christians in Oita and Nagasaki

 Geography and History are linked very strongly and often can help to explain why cultures develop in certain ways. We can also analyse traditions, philosophy, religion and political structures of the past to better understand the present. I wanted to develop my understanding of the religious makeup of Oita and Beppu. As we learned in class among many Northeast Asian Countries there “is a shared moral philosophy derived from Confucianism”. During my research of this region I discovered that Oita was under the control of a famous Daimyo named Otomo Sorin. It is rather interesting to me that these Daimyos from the Sengoku period live onward in the imaginations of their former subjects and are often venerated in festivals, literature, and pop culture. I wanted to attend a festival to see this for myself during my visit to Oita city I saw Otomo Sorin depicted with a Christian Cross. I also noticed that the Portuguese missionary and founder of the Jesuits, Francis Xavier has a statue directly adjacent to a statue of Otomo. These monuments are situated prominently outside the train station in the city square. I became interested in how the influences of Christianity had shaped this region and political developments of the past. In my research I will describe the historical developments of Otomo’s conversion, instances of conflict arising from religious differences and the current distribution of churches in comparison to the native Japanese Shinto and Buddhism. I will also attempt to describe and list locations of particular historical significance in relation to the Christianization of Beppu and Oita City.

  I found in my research that Kyushu was one of the main points of contact with European traders. In fact Dejima island is an artificially created island in the bay of Nagasaki where European traders were allowed to stay and trade their goods. I discovered that the antiquated term for the European traders is “nanban” or “southern barbarians”. Europeans arrived with advanced technologies such as matchlock guns and powerful ships. The Europeans accidentally stumbled upon Japan when a typhoon washed up a ship of Portuguese traders on Tanegashima Island. Unbeknownst to the Japanese the world had been split into two spheres in the Treaty of Tordesillas which the Pope mediated between the Catholic powers of Spain and Portugal. Due to this treaty the Portuguese were given permission to exploit Japan for the famous three g’s god, glory and gold. Otomo himself most likely saw the advanced “nanban” technologies and saw converting to Christianity as more of a strategic move, rather than a religious revelation. Otomo was also the most prominent of all the sengoku period Daimyos to convert to Christianity and one of the few to meet with Francis Xavier directly.

 Francis Xavier was already an experienced missionary whose main focus had been converting Goa and Southern India. Xavier found significantly less fortune in Japan where he struggled significantly to understand the language. Eventually Xavier alongside three Japanese converts were able to spread Christianity where it gained its initial foothold in South West Japan. The main sects of Christianity that appeared was Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity and much later Protestantism. Beppu known as Bungo during the Sengoku period was allowed religious tolerance under Otomo who allowed his people to continue to practice shintoism or convert to the new and foreign religion of Christianity.

   After his conversion in 1578 Otomo used his favor with the Europeans to exploit them for guns, financial gain and assistance in his civil war against the other major Western clans the Shimazu and Mori. Eventually however Shimazu was assisted by the unifier of Japan Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the Otomo clan was destroyed. Despite the pacification of Otomo Christianity remained entrenched in Kyushu particularly in Nagasaki and islands in the West.

  Toyotomi Hideyoshi banned the arrival of new Jesuit monks and outlawed Christianity seeing the popularity of the religion as a personal threat to his power. Under Tokugawa and the Edo Bakufu Christianity was completely outlawed. Famously 26 Japanese Christians were martyred by crucifixion on a hill outside of Nagasaki. Christian missionaries were banned for 250 years and Japanese Christians were forced to go into hiding. “Kakure Kristians” developed, meaning literally “shadow christians”. Congregations were forced to hold services inside people’s homes. This period was similar to the period when Christians were persecuted by Roman Emperors. Finally in the 1850’s the ban on Christianity was lifted in the Meiji restoration and Churches were free to appear publicly. Several beautiful churches sprang up in Nagasaki and the surrounding islands.

  Let us now evaluate the present day implications of these historical facts. According to the World Value Survey there “may be up to three million Japanese Christians”. Most Japanese Christians live in the Western part of Kyushu because this was one of the main meeting points between Europeans and Japanese. After World War II many protestant preachers from the United States also protletyzed in Japan and protestant sects such as Lutherans and Methodists appeared in Japan. Even now I discovered Mormon missionaries in Beppu. Christians do not really hold any political power in Japan because japan prides itself on having a secular government.

 I wanted to investigate clearly the comparison between christian churches and shinto temples in Beppu. I used google maps to find the location of several of these churches and temples. I also took several pictures of various locations I traveled to that helped me to understand my research. I will differentiate pictures that I took myself and photos I found on the internet. I will show some of the important sites around Oita.

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Photo I took of Otomo Sorin Statue in Oita City

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Photo I took of a float in a festival depicting Otomo Sorin with a cross on his chest to show his Christianity

 

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Me at the Festival among the floats (dashi)       Visiting a Shinto shrine in Beppu with Jizos

 

 

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Beppu Churches (12)                                                                                 Beppu Temples (15)

 

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Higashi Beppu Temples                                              Higashi Beppu Churches (6)

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Thanks to these maps I can see that the amount of Churches and Temples is roughly equal in Beppu. There are 12 Churches and 15 Temples. The distribution of the temples are somewhat unequal and most of the temples to be in the Northern part of Beppu and further away from the sea. I also compared Higashi Beppu and there was a strong concentration of churches in one area. I hypothesize that perhaps in the 1600’s there may have been trade with Europeans in the inner city close to the main port. This may have affected demographics and caused more Christians to live in urban areas. Often times religion is hereditary and passed down through generations perhaps these current day christians are descendants of the “hidden christians” from the Edo Periods.

  To supplement my research I also discussed the conversion of Otomo Sorin with my Japanese History professor Hasuda sensei. I asked professor Hasuda what were some of the implications of Christianity’s arrival in the 1500’s he explained to me that the lower caste people were more likely to convert because they would receive welfare and a better sense of community. Hasuda also shared with me that almost all of the missionaries came from either Spain or Portugal and the Jesuits and Dominicans were the most active in Asia. He discussed how the Jesuits found even more success in converting the Vietnamese to Christianity partly because they were a French Colony. It is also well known that the Philippines is a very Catholic country mostly due to its Spanish Colonial period.

  I also discovered an interesting anecdote about issues that faced Christians in Nagasaki after the Atomic bombing. Due to weather issues the crew of the Boxcar the USAF crew that dropped the Fat Man bomb diverted its course from downtown Nagasaki to the Urakami district. The Urakami district had been one of the cities districts which housed many of the social outcasts and lower caste peoples. Despite the fact that the Japanese caste system was banned in the Edo period the burakumin caste still suffered discrimination. Christians and burakumin were often grouped together in impoverished areas. After the bomb fell some Japanese who were shinto said that the gods were punishing the Christian population in Urakami and blamed them.

 

Photo from the Japan Times Article “Nagasaki’s ‘Providential’ Nightmare Shaped by Religious, Ethnic Undercurrents.”

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Urakami Cathedral after the Bomb

 

Conclusions

Christians went through a period of growth in Japan upon contact with Europeans who mostly hailed from Portugal. Trade with Europeans was mostly concentrated in Kyushu specifically Nagasaki. Otomo Sorin Daimyo of Bungo (modern day Oita) Converted in order to receive guns and financial support from European powers. Under Otomo his subjects were allowed religious freedom and Christianity in Oita grew. During the Edo Bukufu (Tokugawa Period) Christians were banned due to isolationist and xenophobic policies. During this time Christians were persecuted and even crucified. Finally in the 19th century Christianity was allowed once more and several churches sprung up especially in Nagasaki and Western Kyushu. Otomo retains a legacy as the most prominent Daimyo ever to convert to Christianity.

 

Sources:

Google Search, Google, www.google.com/maps.

“Nagasaki’s ‘Providential’ Nightmare Shaped by Religious, Ethnic Undercurrents.” The Japan Times, www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/08/07/national/history/nagasakis-providential-nightmare-shaped-religious-ethnic-undercurrents/#.W_EvQZMzZmA.

“Once Hidden, the History of Japanese Christianity Gains UN Recognition.” Crux, 3 July 2018, cruxnow.com/global-church/2018/07/03/once-hidden-the-history-of-japanese-christianity-gains-un-recognition/.

Ledford, Adam. “Christians in Kyushu: A History.” Tofugu, Tofugu, 8 Jan. 2015, http://www.tofugu.com/japan/history-of-christianity/.