Tuesday, September 24, 2013

American Mishima Looks at The Sun

As we have been working on publishing an illustrated a book and a epic Samurai Novel, we haven't had the time to review any films lately and we do apologize for that. So in doing so we thought this film review was worthy of mention. Earlier this year we reviewed the 2012 film “Emperor” which depicted the American Occupiers post war investigation as to the Showa Emperor's role in the war. In our research we discovered an earlier Russian film which also depicted the late Showa Emperor in the same period of the closing days of WWII in the 2005 film titled “The Sun” directed by Aleksandr Sokurov'. While Sokurov' contends he is not interested in Politics, the stark difference between Emperor and The Sun become quite clear.

The Sun features Ogata Issei in the starring role as the Showa Emperor Hirohito. In this film we see a very different Showa Emperor cloistered in the isolation and claustrophobia of his underground wartime bunker. While conditions inside the Imperial Bunker are not so much like the Führerbunker in Berlin, the mood is equally grim.
Here we see a rather frail looking Showa Emperor meeting with his wartime Ministers in Military uniform for the last time. As depicted in other films, ministers representing the rival Army and Navy bicker over who has lost the war. The Emperor seems powerless to control the ensuing debacle and escapes his air raid shelter to study marine biology as a mental health distraction while Tokyo is under constant bombardment. Unlike Hitler, the Showa Emperor is portrayed as being somewhat childlike and lost consuming himself in Tanka poems of his grandfather the Late Meiji Emperor and other philosophical pursuits. While he does accept personal blame, he does acknowledge his own limited power to stop his ministers from going to war and the arrogance that in turn lost the war.

While it is anyone's guess here in the West as to how he the late Hirohito felt about his divinity, The Sun depicts his divine status as a burden which he is happy to be rid of. History recalls this was an imposed condition of Japan's Capitulation. As the film continues on, we have no visible time line between the closing days of the war and the post war Occupation. In fact, you can never tell when this film is going to become dramatic or going to end. One moment, air raid sirens scream in the background while we are given an artsy depiction of angry fish replacing enemy bombers incinerating the capitol. 

The next thing you know there are American soldiers on the Imperial Palace Grounds treating the IHA staff and the Emperor himself with a total lack of respect. Save for one Nisei Warrant Officer (played by Georgi Pitskhelauri ) who serves as MacArthur's translator who bows and addresses the Emperor with dignity, the rest of the troops mock the Japanese. While it is likely possible that such disrespect may have taken place during the American Occupation, it's hard to imagine seeing the Showa Emperor being taunted by common American foot soldiers from Alabama during a photo session being called Charlie Chan. 

Straying further from history, there is no mention of General Bonner Fellers who in Emperor leads the investigation into the Emperor's Wartime Role. In “The Sun” we have General MacArthur (played by Robert Dawson) leading the investigation himself in a series of personal meetings where he grills the Emperor in an antagonistic manner in English and somewhat with contempt. We of course had a problem with this. Whatever MacArthur's private notions might have been, he is recorded as treating the late Showa Emperor with dignity and respect not found in this film. Sorry Robert Dawson, but Tommy Lee Jones played the role with more character.

History recalls that MacArthur did meet with him eleven times and did so as respect as he saw him as a living unifying symbol of Japan. In contrast, the film depicts the Showa Emperor as a frail, nervous, and somewhat lost in his own sense of dimension. Clearly, if there was some truth to it the Imperial Household Agency would have objected to letting the public see this private side that robbed the late Emperor of his dignity. An actor can only work with the script given to him. And while we can not blame Ogata for the role we can question the writing of this picture. For our money, we recommend you pass on this film and see Emperor. 

If you would like to see The Sun for yourself, it is available on Netflix for rental. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

First American Mishima Publication Published!

American Mishima is pleased to announce the arrival of our first Illustrated book Ichiro Dreams In Color which has now been published.It is our first illustrated book which we plan to have a Japanese version  いちろうのゆめ to be available later this fall of 2013. Ichiro is a short story originally written as a poem about a young Japanese boy who spends his afternoons dreaming of flight. But when his colorful imagination flies into the conflict of his grandparents generation, Ichiro must find a way to look up and dream again. This book is loosely based on the personal childhood experiences of the author Louis Rosas who grew up watching waves of Japanese Warplanes fly overhead his childhood home in Oxnard California while they filmed WWII dramas such as Baa Baa Blacksheep and The Winds of War during the late 1970's in the Post Viet-Nam Era. Ichiro is also inspired in part  by the experiences of Hiroshima survivor Suyeshi Kazu who witnessed the B-29 Enola Gay flying above her city before the bomb dropped into history. That being said in combining the two experiences into this one fictional short story, it made sense to take the authors story and set in Post War Japan of the 1970's instead of Oxnard California. If you do purchase and enjoy our book, please write a review for us on Amazon. We hope that you the reader of American Mishima will support this book and continue to follow this blog. Please enjoy! ありがとうございます!

For Purchase in the UK Please visit American Mishima on Amazon UK 
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Thursday, September 12, 2013

一日の画像 - Picture of the Day - Guadalcanal Funeral

Seen here are the mortal remains of 36 Imperial Japanese Army soldiers who were killed on Guadalcanal are finally laid to rest in a combined Shinto/Buddhist cremation ceremony held on Guadalcanal in September 2013.

Buddhist & Shinto Priests from Japan.

Volunteers who fund their own trips to recover and respect lost soldiers of Japan.

Special Thanks 
To Last Zero Fighter author & historian Daniel King for making these photos possible to share here.

Planes and Perceptions

We recently visited the Pima Air Space Museum in Tuscon Arizona. At first glance, it appeared as big and impressive as it's much larger cousin down the road known as “The Bone Yard.” We were very excited to be there until the moment we stepped inside to see there in the front of the gift shop a t-shirt set picturing a nuclear explosion over Hiroshima with some distasteful slogan we won't bother to repeat here. As my host tried to argue in defense of the place that people have their reasons there. We'll we have not met any living Pearl Harbor survivors in the last twenty years but we do know Hibakusha and unlike the defenders of this left over war time resentment, the aging Hibakusha do not hold a grudge. But moving on, we thought ok this is just one tacky t-shirt I wouldn't wipe my ass with much less let ruin my visit to this otherwise impressive air museum.

Stepping foot into the museum, the first thing that caught my eye was an unexpected model display of the IJN Battleship Yamato. While I was happy to see her I was not happy to see a model of an American sea plane mounted in a way to suggest it was making an attack run. We would find two more Japanese displays each being depicted attacked by American forces. Sure these are only models and most people would likely not see anything wrong with seeing depictions of former adversaries but once we stepped over to see German displays flying the Swastika of Nazi Germany's murderous regime we could see a clear bias. 

In not one of the German displays did we see depictions of Americans attacking them. Nor did we see such in the Korean War displays. In fact, The Nazi displays of their V-1 Buzzbomb and Kriegsmarine was not only sans American attacks, they were listed with a degree of detail and information about the displays where in the Japanese displays we were left with not one shred of detail. But the best and worst was yet to come. 

We were both delighted and saddened by the lone display of a perfectly restored Nakajime KI-43 Haybusa. I think I had to be the only person there happy to see her as people stayed clear of the lone vintage Imperial Japanese Army warplane. She was in pristine condition presumably on loan from somewhere else. We say this due to the following part that pissed us off. While the “Peregrine Falcon” sat in a lone corner of the WWII hanger surrounded by walls of details about every bomb group and bomb run made against Japan in anger, not one shred of detail or information was given about this remarkable rare plane.

Not one mention of her role in the war, her development, not one Sentai listed or famous pilot who flew her mentioned, only Nakajima Ki-43 “Oscar.” Wow! That's it? As you can see from our photos the place is littered with information about every bomb group and every mission over Japan but not one mission or shred of technical or historical tid-bits that would tell us something other than this was the enemy's plane. It became quite clear that Arizona's questionable politics extends to its air museums. To me I had to ask “Why do the Nazi's get respect here and not the Japanese?” The prevailing attitude seemed like “Well the Nazi's were White like us but the Japs bombed Pear Harbor.” Are you freaking kidding me? We won the war did we not? So what's with the ancient grudges? 

We're not trying to say Japan's Army did not commit atrocities in China and elsewhere nor are we going to uphold this distorted saintly vision of our own country during that war. We're just pointing out the obvious. While some "Americans" couldn't give a rats ass about this plane, those of us who love history and surviving warbirds would want to know about the other guys planes as well. To not educate is to waste an opportunity. Had I not known so much about the Ki-43 Hayabusa, I would have felt utterly cheated.

Call it a perceived lack of interest or perceived prejudice, or just plain out laziness. Pima on the surface has an awesome A+ collection of Jet fighters and bombers from the cold war and some rare WWII planes from all sides of the conflict including Fascist Italy, But when it came to Japanese displays they get a grade D from us. It's not that they couldn't find any information about the Japanese forces of Imperial Japan, they just chose not to. Such war museums are meant to preserve and educate. Seattle's Air Space museum also has a Hayabusa but unlike Pima, they chose to give the visitor information about the plane and respectfully displayed her in her own corner in a manner that befit her remarkable history. We hope that Pima get's over the war or sends their lone Hayabusa somewhere else where it can be appreciated.

We'll that is our two cents worth and I will stick to my opinions. It seems everyone has one and whether you agree with mine is not really all that important. But this lingering rancor over the war from our side baffles me particularly from some (not all) ex-US Navy personnel born years after WWII who choose to hold a grudge for wartime events they themselves did not suffer from or participated in but what few people left from that era on the other side bear them no malice. Just display the airplanes and give the visitor an chance to learn about them for what they are not for events or the policies of their wartime nations. How hard is that?

There is something to be learned from the eyes of an elderly Hibakusha who watched their families die in the ashes of Hiroshima, that in war there are no winners. Only death. It's important for for future generations to learn the lessons of those wars so that future wars are not fought again. But we know we won't change any opinions and that's not our job to do so but for those out there that still want to re-fight WWII I will end this with my favorite and most poignant moment of the Viet-Nam War: At the end of the Paris Peace Talks in 1972, The last sitting American General still sitting at the table sat across from his North Vietnamese counterpart and waited to get one last word in. He leaned forward and said with a degree of spite “You know we beat you in every land battle on the field.” The Vietnamese General smiled and and curtly replied: “Well none of that matters now.” And then he walked away. If you feel like you need to re-fight these old wars and not as a reenactor (which is fine in my book) but for merely for the sake of fighting, remember that Vietnamese General, think about the logic of his statement. Then when you come to your senses, walk away.