Final Paper

The Construction of Identity through the Deconstruction of a Single Line Representation

 

Introduction

Understanding the Construction of Identity through the Deconstruction of a Single Line Representation came as a developing process in the last stages of the program. The key pieces were the Prof. Villega’s encouragement in diving into the heart of my personal agenda in constructing my own Japanese identity, and the serendipitous insightful visit at the philosopher and scholar D.T. Suzuki’s contemplative museum in Kanazawa.

Through Anderson’s Imagined Community, we discussed how nationalism is a constructive concept when communities get together in a constructed notion of common ground that binds groups of strangers. In that sense, the irrationality of a constructed narrative, that ultimately can define our identities, both in personal, community or national level really stood out. As I try to make connections with both Japan and United States single narratives in the national level, and try to understand why it benefits, the power dynamics and who is left out. It became clear over time, that a single line narrative, as a common threat of a group identity overlapped with the notion of exclusion, irrationality, and arbitrariness.

At the same time, my personal agenda in constructing my own Japanese identity led me to inquire more deeply when reflecting on the lectures, readings, site visits in contextualizing each event focusing on finding the main narrative represented or advocated, and identifying its place in a broader narrative.  Particularly, which ways this narrative left marginalized perspectives when it was constructed? And to what extent the consequences of this narrative were felt and if so, how the marginalized narratives are either being suppressed or advocated? Is healing and strengthening of voices occurring and in which ways?

Those were underlying questions that I had as I tackled the complex puzzle of the construction of my personal identity by contrasting with the construction of national identities. Which values are being imposed, and which I ascribe to. Following, I have narrated some of these experiences in detail, and how it relates to the readings and other visited sites, and in its totality, have deeply broaden my understanding and led me to inquire on how both individually and historically as a nation, single line narratives were constructed, and the detrimental consequences of the marginalized voices, and how then if to deconstruct and single line representation, how can we perhaps construct a narrative based on confronting two contradictory representations as a way of understanding the multidimensionality of as a way of broadening a perspective, and I am particularly interested in the consequences of decisions made if applying this thought process. And what will we lose if we are to abandon a single line representation?

 

Imagined communities, Ono and Ono, Sugimoto, Murphy-Shigematsu and Mixed Race Identities.

In Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson informed us about the concept of the construction of an identity, that have been at times so ingrained in the imaginary of a nation, as a formed and concrete fact versus an imagined set of common values binding strangers to each other through the advent of mass production and spread of information. With the campaign and continuation of policies advocated by our current president, and relies on rhetoric deeply in this sentiment that appeals to large groups in our society and was utilize and still does have a great effect in the US. Values perceived as true American, that nonetheless has been deeply ingrained and legitimized through 350 years of history, since the arrival of Europeans in this land, based on a single line narrative of whiteness and Christianess. A narrative that in consequence, overtly discriminates against all other representations in our society that does not fit into these two main categories. And the firmness of this narrative today has deeply divided the country and still does, as it exposes these values that once were thought to be extinguished. Arguably and understandably these values have lingered, as it was once deeply rooted, and not processed. It is a narrative that was suddenly marginalized in from the mainstream, and the community members who prescribed from these values, and in that sense, we can see that simply marginalizing a voice, without the process understanding, in whichever logical or political part of the spectrum, react in a similar way. The voice lingers and anger arises from the marginalization status. Furthermore, we can see this formed single line representation placed and the level of understanding it brings, and the consequential problems.

From the Japanese societal aspect, through Sugimoto and Ono&Ono readings, we have learned the ideology of the single line representation of Nihonjiron and the ethnic and racial diversity in Japan that is omitted in the mainstream narrative. From post-WWII, and the advocacy of a monoracial ideology theory, and its implications to this day, this value deeply relates to the understanding of Japanese identity, strongly tied to its consciousness and applied policies, particularly immigration policies. We have learned that officially, the statistics are 98% of the population is racially Japanese and how this statistic might hide the diversity of the population, mostly due to segregation and oppression that other groups face. Ono&Ono identified these main groups: The Ainu (native group), Burakumin (“lower cast”), the Korean and Chinese (community forced by during the colonial phase between wars), Nikkeijin (descendants of Japanese migrants, particularly from South America, that have returned to Japan), and mixed-race identities. The relevancy is that these groups for the most part were and still are coerced to fully assimilate and lose their identity, or being constantly reminded of the shameful lower foreigner status and stigma it carries. That opposing to the higher status given specifically to white European or American individuals. In that social cohesiveness, after generations, one might feel that after being born and growing up here, to identify themselves as Japanese, in its identity, cultural references, language and values, being referred to and considered as others, in contrasting with the purity of the Japanese narrative, but by possibly assuming its Japanese identity in the census, turned out to be reflecting a different status.

Through Murphy-Shigematsu’s readings and the documentary on mixed-race identities in Japan, we have learned the ambivalent status that a mixed race individual face in the Japanese society. It is worth to mention that contrasting with the US, mixed-race couples were considered illegal until late 60’s when it was finally abolished in the iconic case of Loving & Loving. The taboo of mixed-race identities is deeply rooted, and have historically been marginalized in both societies. However, it was curious to observe and acknowledge that at the same time, today, there is a mixed-race fascination in Japan, represented in many advertising as an ideal type of beauty. There are many layers to this phenomenon, but in comparison to the framework of marginalized groups in the Japanese society discussed, it is a group that nonetheless is stigmatized and the individuals are categorized in its otherness as a consequence of the single line mono-racial ideology.

 

Yasukuni Shrine, Military Museum, Hiroshima Ground Zero and Peace Memorial Museum  contrasting with Art and Healing through cultural manifestations

Through Dr. Fulco’s ongoing research in the area afflicted by the earthquake and tsunami, we’ve learned first-hand her experience on how the community in the Tohoku region is healing after the traumatic and devastating events. Particularly her focus on Kataribe. Described as the oral tradition of passing down a folktale, myth, historical facts, dialects, proverbs or precepts; or in a deeper meaning, the passing of a feeling from one to another person. According to a CNN report recently updated, the summary of the aftermath of the combo 9.11 earthquake and 30-foot wave Tsunami resulted in over 22,000 confirmed dead and missing, and about 185,000 were evacuated due to the instability of the Fukushima Daini and Daiichi Power plants. It was a massive catastrophic event of destruction and displacement. Tohoku was the epicenter and the community most affected. Dr. Fulco’s shared experience highlighted on how healing process has been a mixed experience. From the government interests and perspective, the yet to see if the planned massive protective walls along the coast, that seem to have a very negative impact in the environment, fishing economy, public accessibility, would have any real positive impact; to the reference on Hiroshima and the healing on the community level, and how new narratives are being developed and constructed.

Upon reading James Orr’s perspective on Japanese ideologies of peace and national identity post-war, we were informed by the different national perspectives played in the consciousness of Japanese society. Earlier in that week, we visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine and Military Museum and were presented and informed of a narrative that leaned towards justifying the military role of Japan in WWII. Although most of the exhibit had a traditional detached perspective narrating the consecutive historical events, its site has enshrined class A war criminals and ignoring the role as colonial aggressors by sitting on the mea-culpa position. It is a line of narrative legitimized by a large group in the Japanese society, including politicians who make a point of visiting the site as a political statement and fundraising today. The narrative of Japan’s colonialization as a liberator role in Asia is still believed in certain groups, and Yasukuni Shrine became an emblem of this narrative. But this point of view has not played well with the affected countries, particular issues on the comforting woman and other atrocities committed by the Japanese military during the occupation in Taiwan, Korea, and Manchuria specifically.

Contrasting to that narrative, during my visit to Mori Art Museum, I have experienced a powerful exhibit on bringing the voices of Southeast Asian communities today. The exhibit is a culmination of a two-year collaboration between two major arts organizations in Japan and organizations in the 12 countries represented. It resulted in a beautiful exhibit of raw and powerful conceptual representations of the contemporary marginalized population within these countries. In a larger scale, we could see the conflicted role play of power and oppression, and its ramification in the community level and the majority of ordinary lives affected. Either in reference to the mass genocide of Cambodia in the 70s and their path of healing and reconstructing a national narrative, to a depiction of a shared single room family living in its minimal realistic details. The resourcefulness on maximizing living limitations, drawing to understand what really matters to the members of the community, and to us, as humans in a survival level. It also invited us to think about the crucial role of cultural manifestations, particularly the role of art in processing and creating and recreating a narrative, educating and healing.

Going back to Japan’s national narratives, our visit to Hiroshima was unique. We all had some level of deep-rooted connections and associations as it is a well-known tragic historical event and intrinsically connected with US history. Visiting the ground zero site Hiroshima and the extensive exhibit at the Peace Museum was powerful. The correlation between Hiroshima nuclear bombing, as well as Nagasaki, gave voice to a mainstream humanitarian and to some extent, victimization narrative. I have not seen throughout the museum extensive exhibit any direct reference of blame to the US, or being a victim of war, but rather a factual account of Japan’s participation in the war and the other countries participation in the war. There was a great emphasis on community healing: the accounts of a personal narrative of people who have lived through the bombing and how their lives and those surrounding have immediately changed. Of those who were impacted by the radiation, who have lived through or later perished, particularly 9-year-old girl Sadako Sasaki. The popular legend is that anyone who folds 1000 cranes, is granted a wish, and during the short period when Sadako, a survivor who was 2-years-old at the time of the bombing, suddenly fell ill due to the radiation, and inspired by the legend, folded 664 cranes until she was too weak to fold, and soon passed away. It became the symbol of the humanitarian main message displayed: that nuclear bombing to never happen again. Many accounts of civil rights activism, including the education on the consequences of radiation over the population, were told to emphasize the message. A diorama displayed the folded paper cranes and a handwritten message of peace written by then-president Obama. It has been the main national narrative in reference to Japan’s stance war and nuclear power, until recently, as Prof. Govella presented in the current international political influences, to be a more active player in the international relations in the unstable Asian dynamic, particularly with China and North Korea, as well as the current US government position and the forced role of Japan in the current conflict between the US and North Korea.

 

My own Japanese construction and bias: From my Brazilian-Japanese roots, Nikkei upbringing and my fourth time in Japan – from blue-collar experience to Kanazawa: D.T. Suzuki and Zen Buddhism, Traditional Arts and Crafts, Ofuro and bathing in community. Journey to self-discovery, construction of a personal lens and the concept of intellectual construction – beyond assigned boxes and contrasting assigned and ascribed identities.

            I was born and grew up in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in the thick of the largest Japanese community outside of Japan. We are a community of roughly 1.5 million individuals, in a 200 million country population, making us a minority of less than 1 percent of the Brazilian population, and yet, if you are in Sao Paulo area, one would get the impression that Brazil has a large percentage of Japanese descendants. As informed by Ono&Ono, since Japan’s economic boom of 1980’s, and the need of blue-collar labor to cater the booming industry, paired with Brazil’s deep recession and political unrest, as we have just come out of 40 years of dictatorship in the mid 80s, in addition to occasional governmental incentives, have created the background environment for a massive migration wave and roughly 275,000 Brazilian Nikkeijins are currently living in Japan, in a temporary or permanent capacity. The nuance of the Brazilian Japanese community in Japan situation is purely derived from the racial construction reinforced by the mentioned Nihonjiron ideology. Unlike other migrant groups who have remained deeply marginalized and in illegal status, such as Pakistani and Bangladesh, who came at the same time to fulfill the same types of jobs, and the long-standing communities of Korean and Chinese; the Nikkeijin community were granted special visas and a legal status of living and working, a privilege purely based on the logic that by having Japanese ancestry we could adapt, assimilate and integrate better into the Japanese society. Which to the surprise of many who assumed that, it turned out we are culturally different, and as a standard to marginalized communities, we have been given stereotypes of loud and uneducated, and unable to fully integrate – meaningfully assimilate to Japanese standards, to the point of invited to move back to Brazil (2009). Which is a very symbolic event in where the Japanese society is on opening to a needed diversification due to the doomed aging of the society and low birth rate.

The construction of my perceived identity in my formation years, being Japanese was, by and large, the majority part of my identity. As part of a racial minority group in the Brazilian society, I was always referred to as the Japanese girl, and as all my Brazilian Japanese fellows, we were strongly defined by the Brazilian society by our Japanese otherness. As well as my Nikkeijin status was strongly reinforced within by my family, via instilled values based on Japanese ancestry and culture, community participation, such as Japanese school after regular school, that many of us endured in our childhood, as well as community events. In our family’s experience, my father’s participation in the Fukuoka Kenjinkai, an organization sponsored by the Fukuoka government, based on the province of ancestry, was a strong point of reference in our upbringing. There was a reference to his experience as a grad student sponsored by the Fukuoka government at Kyushu University, as well as other family members who also participated later, and how it affected our perception of Japanese roots, pride, and cultural values. Those were experiences that he was very grateful, and we have and still certainly are collecting the fruits of this experience. Recently, I have taken a role in actively participating on the board of the local Seattle-Tacoma Fukuoka Kenjinkai, and also being part of the local Japanese American community.

With that life experience, I have embarked in this program to understand more in depth what my strong sense of Japaneseness, as a Nikkeijin, contrasted with my status and value within the Japanese society. In line with unrealistic assumptions from the Japanese society, many Nikkeijin community members, as well as myself in the past, have assumed that our status and cultural similarities would have been very close, and shocked to realize that we have culturally grown apart much further than imagined. The expectations curiously lie also in the fact that Japanese society has also drastically changed since my grandparent’s generation. The values and understanding of the Japanese culture of a rural Japan in the 1920’s, or a student brief passage in Japan in the late 60s, are very different than Japan in 2000s. But we are naturally very close to our Brazilian, Latin American or American birth culture, and force that assimilation connection is still an ongoing debate on assimilation as a higher status identifier, or understand our uniqueness of self-appreciation and value.

During our 3-day free time, Tobi and I spent two days in the ancient city of Kanazawa, the second largest spared during WWII. Reflecting today, my interest in the city can only be described as serendipitous. This is the fourth time I have been in Japan, and the first to explore this part of the country. Other than being referred to as the little Kyoto, and an old city, I had no special awareness of this place. From the beginning, the exquisite quiet elegance of Kanazawa, from the train station, left me feeling I have found a Japan that I had been looking for. The constructed ideal notion of Japan that I deeply connect with, is the sense of traditional Japanese culture in fine art forms, particularly ceramic and patterns, architecture, Zen Philosophy and bathing – Ofuro. As derived from the Buddhist philosophy, to bring the mundane to a sacred status, cleansing has been also made to an art form. When I get to experience these cultural aspects, as it has beautifully combined and lived in this medium-sized city, I felt for a moment seductively intertwined in this narrative, and tempted to forget all other aspects of what I know of Japan, and embrace this feeling as a totality of what is and what I want it to be as the same thing.

 

Conclusion

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In the presentation, I made a reference to the Sendai’s text and D. T. Suzuki’s scroll displayed at the museum and reflective space. This passage was an attempt in making sense of the concept of the construction of a narrative, by trying to pinpoint the beginning of this thought process by connecting Zen Buddhism philosophy and the construction of the Universe. By acknowledging and transporting the multidimensionality as a fundamental part of the process, and contrasting with the limitations of the linearity of a single line representation and its implications.

If I were to hold on to single linear representations on a personal level and ascribe to them, I would have limited my self-understanding in a place value, amongst other complex values, of a lower-class migrant, lower class immigrant status that in both Japan or the US place in my immigration status. Or racially as a lower status, nonwhite in the US, or Nikkeijin in Japan. Those are boxes outside of myself and that does influence my sense of self and integration, however, by acknowledging the single linearity of these narratives, and the representation and dynamics it derives from, I was able, in an ongoing capacity, to construct a more contextualized place for these narratives, and develop a multilayered understanding, that resulted in an increased awareness and constructive engagement. And conversely, I believe that this thought process can be transplanted from the individual to a community and national level.

 

References

Kataribe. Website. Accessed 23 September 2017.http://www.kataribe.cc/eng/kataribe.html

2011 Japan Earthquake-Tsunami fast facts. CNN. Website. 5 March 2017. Accessed 23 September 2017. http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/17/world/asia/japan-earthquake—tsunami-fast-facts/index.html

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities (1983) [excerpt].

Sugimoto, Yoshio, Introduction to Japanese Society. Cambridge University Press, 2014. 4th Edition.

Green, David. “As Its Population Ages, Japan Quietly Turns to Immigration,” Migration Information Source (March 28, 2017).

Shibuichi, Daiki. “The Yasukuni Shrine Dispute and the Politics of Identity in Japan: Why All the Fuss?Asian Survey (2005)

Orr, James.  The Victim as Hero: Ideologies of Peace and National Identity in Postwar Japan (2001)

Ono, Hiroshi and Ono, Hiromi. “Race and Ethnic Relations in Contemporary Japan,” The International Handbook of the Demography of Race and Ethnicity (2015),

Hafu, the film. Dir. Nishikura, Megumi and Perez-Takagi, Lara. Documentary. 2011. Accessed September 2017.  http://hafufilm.com/en/

Visited sites mentioned

Yasukuni Shrine and Military Museum, Tokyo http://www.yasukuni.or.jp

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Hiroshima http://hpmmuseum.jp/?lang=eng

Mori Art Museum, Tokyo http://www.mori.art.museum/en/

D.T. Suzuki Museum, Kanazawa http://www.kanazawa-museum.jp/daisetz/english/

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At last – last week’s reflection

We’ve done it. I am in deeply and emotionally appreciative of this extraordinary opportunity, knowing that the effects of what I have experience and gained from this trip, will last lifetimes.

After over two extremely intense weeks since my arrival in the country, and the pace of the program, I could feel my old bones, and my mental capacity starts to slow down. My body wanted to slow down to a pace that is similar to my daily life. And I have started to miss more my dear son, my home, my friends, my routine. Nonetheless, I had committed to take the most of this program, and stay focused.

We’ve learned with Dr. Fulco’s lecture about Tohoku earthquake and tsunami aftermath, particularly how communities get together and heal through storytelling. The difficult recounting of a traumatic experience, achieving a common ground on how to move forward understand and construct a community new narrative. With Prof. Govella’s lecture, we’ve learned Japanese basic policy history and engaged in foreign policy. The uniqueness of their position as an economic leader, and the historical intricacies of being a soft power versus pursuing military power.

Continuing through storytelling and the creating of narratives, I have visited Mori Art Museum and their pursuit in telling the story of Southeast Asian communities through engagement with the communities. It was a two-year effort to scout, curate and develop installations from local artists engaged in social justice in the represented countries. At the D47 Shibuya’s exhibit, we were able to observe how groups in the younger generations are engaging in a global movement to live sustainably, in awareness of supporting a lifestyle that caters that takes into account the health of the community. The 47 prefectures were represented with one example each of how an individual, family, or business are putting into practice this mind frame, even if that meant a complete change of lifestyle from their part.

At last, we grappled and prepared for, to present our research. I have tried to dive into the construction of a narrative via aspects of the Japanese culture that I deeply like, such as visual patterns that horizontally or vertically distinguish an individual in the Edo period, as a reflection of our visit to the Tokyo-Edo Museum and Ueno Shitamachi Museum, storytelling the working class during Edo Period. With particularly the distinction of the geometrical patterns adopted and used by the working class in the clothing and other accessories, as well as the more ornate patterns attributed to the higher classes, as well as in parallel, the horizontal philosophy and Wabi Sabi sense of aesthetics developed and solidified during Edo Period, as a result of the adapted Zen Buddhism by the Shogunate. Alas, my impressions after visiting D.T. Suzuki’s museum and reflective space in Kanazawa instigated me, in addition to Julie’s recommendation, in going deeper in the quest for my personal agenda – the construction of my Japanese identity. In that thought, I was interested in investigating what the process of constructing a narrative, in its most pure form could be. Suzuki’s thought, derived from Zen Buddhism philosophy was the essence, the closest thought process I could find. Although it was the last minute, and incomplete thought, I hope it provided an insight.

I am in deep gratitude for the program, and all the incredible thought and opportunities it provided. The group was a blast to hang out with, it was a very unique experience for me at this point in my life. Looking forward to the reunion, and maintain this incredible connections formed during this trip.

 

 

 

 

Outline – Main Presentation

Title: The tension between inner and outer narratives as a path to the construction of understanding/identity at the individual level, and community/national level.

With challenges and problems derived from the representation of a single narrative with marginalized voices ignored o

Proposing the reformulation of a single line historical narratives into an active construction as a result of the tension between opposite narratives.

The duality of victim and aggressor/enabler/perpetrator, agent and recipient. Utilizing the contradiction of the dominant voice and marginalized voice as a simultaneous process of the construction of identity

Personal narrative –

Major in sociology, minor in anthropology and diversity. Developing the main topic on the construction of identity in the honors program, grad school and PhD in public policy, hoping to utilize the critical thinking skills learned in the process and apply into policy development, educational programs in both government level or non-profit, emphasizing social justice to marginalized voices.

I’m a third generation Brazilian Japanese, growing up in the largest Japanese community outside of Japan, roughly 1.5 million, 350,000 living in Japan. Layering and intersecting as a first generation, an immigrant in the US.

Brazilian Japanese versus American Japanese – main thread – external narratives and imposition of status and identity.

Historical, cultural and social construction of the Brazilian community and American community

Seductiveness in staying in a perceived privileged narrative, versus ignoring the marginalized narratives. Construction of Identity it is easier and seductive to stay in a storyline, both on personal and as a national narrative – American Japanese and Nihonjiron

Zen Buddhism and the parallel of narratives represented in the visual aesthetics of the Japanese Culture: Wabi Sabi and the pattern differentiation during Edo Period – Prof. Watt and the importance of the religious values in the Japanese culture being a non-religious in the contemporary society

Places and articles explored in the program as support material:- Diversity/Identity of Tokyo Neighborhoods and History – Ueno – Tokyo in reality

– Diversity/Identity of Tokyo Neighborhoods and History – Ueno – Tokyo in reality

– Yasukuni Shrine and Military Museum – Military history – elite voices

– Tokyo-Edo Museum – and the solidification of the core of perceived Japaneseness during Edo Period

– Shitamachi Museum – working class voices

– Yanesen Cultural Center – Tea Ceremony – symbolism and cultural representations

– Hafu documentary – otherness and marginalized voices within ethnic and racial constructions

– Museum of Japanese Migration – when racial otherness, also means cultural

– Kamakura: Daibutsu, Engakuji, and a step in the ancient capital

– Sacred Island of Miyajima – Itsukushima Shrine and the role of religion legitimizing power, philosophical and cultural values

– Hiroshima Peace Museum, Dome and reflective overlook at Orizuru Tower – community trauma and healing

– Kyoto: Kinkakuji, Ryoanji, Kiyomizudera Temple, National Museum of Traditional Crafts

– Yudofu – Ryoanji traditional temple vegetarian lunch

– Stroll along Gion area

– Himeji Castle

– Kanazawa Arts and Crafts Museum, D.T Suzuki Museum, Museum of Contemporary Arts,     Kanazawa Castle and Keirokuen Garden – Zen Buddhism, balance in tradition and contemporaneity, refined aesthetic

– Mori Contemporary Art Museum – reclaiming marginalized voices of southeast Asia through contemporary arts

– Lectures of Prof. Oka in History and Neighborhoods identity, Prof. Watt in Japanese Religions, Prof. Botev on the construction of a fictional narrative, Prof. Fulco on Tohoku and community engagement in healing through storytelling – what can we learn in community trauma and healing

– D47 exhibit – understanding cause and consequences and choosing to live a sustainable life

– Bunraku Performance – core of traditional Japanese representations

 

Supporting readings:

– Sugimoto and Ono&Ono: Japanese society,

– Murphy-Shigematsu: Japanese diversity and multi-racial,

– D.T Suzuki & Zen Buddhism

Fukushima 3.11

– narrating the progression of events and accounting for the different response and consequences following the immediacy of the event – community immediately fully mobilized, challenges in housing and attending immediate needs – it helps depict the reality of the community and suffering and challenges

– break the linearity of blame, coping, hoping and forgetting; and the stigma challenge “tensai” vs “tenbatsu”- natural and man vs made disaster

– Long run reconstruction – challenges with corruption, radiation (relocating 150,000 people and contamination) and depressed economy

Week 2

Another week worth a year. As we headed to our week away from Tokyo, it was filled with intense experiences from the beginning to the very end. The group had a tight schedule planned from Monday until Wednesday. Excitedly, we took the bullet train Shinkansen, crossing a big part of the main Honshu Island towards the small sacred island of Miyajima, off Hiroshima coast. It is the site of world heritage monuments of Itsukushima Shrine and the iconic large red Torii gate, that on high tide seems to float on the water. The island offers other spiritual sites, and the religious presence is felt immediately when the short ferry ride lands. We were greeted and amused by the friendly, and sometimes mischievous herds. It was a nice change of energy and pace after a busy week in Tokyo. The site, offering a combination of temples and shrines, reminded us of the deep connection between religion and state through Japanese history. Particularly since Tokugawa period, where the society transitioned from Shintoism to Zen Buddhism as it was it was embraced by the Shogunate since the 16th century.

After Miyashima, we’ve had an emotional experience in Hiroshima, at the Peace Museum, strolling through the park passing by the dome and ending this reflective experience observing the reconstructed city at the roof terrace building nearby. The group emotionally shared their experiences, and moved by the humanistic narrative evoked by the museum, as well as reflecting on the differences of constructed narratives, from power position to the community voices; as well as the victim and aggressor narratives sustained. Who are the marginalized voices, and how are we honoring them today.

After this brief afternoon in the city, the group set for Kyoto. The Shinkansen ride helped us transition from this experience, to the cultural powerhouse of the ancient capital. We’ve visited the temples of Kinkakuji – the famous golden temple – and Ryoanji, and its world renown rock garden. The contrast between both temples, in experience and aesthetic informed us in the differences of religious tradition, the richness of the history and aesthetic diversity it has developed in the Japanese tradition. The epitome of Zen tradition of observing the rock Zen garden was heightened with the experience of having a traditional Kaiseki vegetarian lunch at the temple, sitting in a tatami room overlooking a beautiful Japanese garden. In that afternoon, I have visited Kiyozumidera temple, the complex is nested on the hills overlooking the city. I have thoroughly enjoyed the hilly walks with its many shops along the way, either touristic or traditional crafts. It was very entertaining, with the usual great quality of crafts and service, hallmarks of the Japanese cultural experience. On the way to our beautiful hostel, I have also enjoyed experiencing the traditional neighborhood of Gion, known for accommodating Geisha  establishments. The night was topped with a group gathering, celebrating Julie’s birthday, and a night stroll in the town, enjoying the group sitting by the river. Next day, Tobi and I have gone to the comprehensive National Museum of traditional crafts, specialized in the Kyoto style, where I have delighted to get to see an in-depth display and comprehensive education on traditional crafts. After that, it was time for the three-day solo visit utilizing our prized rail pass.

For this individual experience, we chose the castle of Himeji and the traditional town of Kanazawa. Himeji castle, an impressive and majestic white tall castle nestle on top of the hill overlooking the city, well resembles its nick name of the flying white egret. We had a chance to experience its interior, climbing the very steep steps of its six floors, appreciate its beautiful wooden interior architecture and breathtaking views. That afternoon, we have made our way to Kanazawa. Unexpectedly, it made my soul sing. I found what in the conscious construction of my Japanese identity, it emblems my Japanese identity. I can only describe it as the right amount of city liveness, traditional environment and coziness, pride, and an exquisite and understated sense of elegance. To top that, we have made our way to my first sento experience in this trip. A sight of relief, calmness, accomplishment, and gratitude filled my soul and summarized this week’s experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections on Race Relations reading

A few points stood out during the reading, mostly a contrast of attitude and policies. Particularly being defined by the external construction of my identity as a Brazilian or American, and in understanding the different place values attributed to these two categories, how appealing and seductive it might seem at first to stay within the privilege of the American identity and deny the Brazilian one and what does it mean. What are the consequences, particularly damaging it is if to deny a part of my identity, the marginalized part of my identity, roots, and community, versus understanding, embracing, and fighting for the marginalized voices as a healing place for the whole society as it is for the self.

-Nihonjiron and Sotoku narrative – historical reasoning

-Encourage migration and immigration historically parallel

-Restriction of rights or force assimilation within the Japanese society – push/pull – Chongryon Korean schools/ acceptance of curriculum, Ainu and brutal forced assimilation and citizenship erasing their indigenous cultural status after Hokkaido aborigine Act of 1899.

Ryukyu/Okinawans until 1879 – partial cultural forced assimilation due to cultural disintegration – today “sub-nation” status

-Nikkeijin: Population explosion  –  encouraged migration – US/Latin America 1899

Immigration control act 1990 – almost Japanese – 2009 – cash incentives to return due to economic crisis – fragile marginalized position in the society and restricted civil rights.

Social racial construct

– Personal lens: Rationalization of perception – Brazilian Japanese or American Japanese

-Japanese society need for labor & comprehensive policy on immigrationRace

Reflections on Peace Museum – Hiroshima

“Black Rain: soon after the explosion, a giant mushroom cloud billowed upward, carrying dirt, dust, and other debris high into the air. After the explosion, soot generated by the conflagration was carried by hot air high into the sky. This dust and soot became radioactive, mixed with water vapor in the air, then fell back to earth”

 

 

After reading James Orr’s article the Victim as Hero, I wondered if the narrative adopted by the museum would have a strong political tone in perpetuating a victim narrative, and in consequence, grossly neglecting the largest context of the involvement of Japan in the war. Particularly, as pointed out by the article, the participation as the colonial aggressor in parallel to the advent of the nuclear bomb

The museum devoted a large of its facilities to factual historical and scientific education materials. With the usage of large photographic visual displays of Hiroshima before and after, video/interview of testimonies of survivors, time line wall panels, technological dioramas enactment of the bomb and tables containing information from what it an atomic bomb to its development, and the political scenario that led to the event. The tone was very factual, and although there was a mentioning on Japanese colonial policies in Manchuria and Korea. It was a small and factual part. There wasn’t a narrative of responsibility for these policies, nor of culpability on the United States.

The institution greatly emphasized the humanitarian aspect of the consequences of the nuclear bomb, and Japan’s efforts to eradicate the propagation and utilization of such military statement. On the latest parts of the exhibits, there was a great emphasis on the impact of the bomb in the community level. Dissecting the aftermath beyond Black Rain – health problems explained, difficult photographs of community members suffering right after the bomb and beyond: bodies burned, chaos and death, capturing the suffering brutally and honestly by adults and children. The exhibits also displayed objects and artifacts that were modified by the impact of heat and radiation. It concluded with a great effort in community healing by demonstrating ways in which the community and the country have been healing since the tragedy: preserving the tragedy through video, A-bomb survival testimony, preservations of the Dome, movies, inheriting experiences (generational conversations), and recreating the lost neighborhoods. As well as support and exchange with Holocaust survivors around the world, NGO symposiums, medical support for survivors, movement to ban Atomic and Hydrogen bombs, large demonstrations and protests of nuclear testing and development.

The latest part particularly called my attention and made me wonder about community tragedy and healing. In parallel to US history, particularly the communities of color history of genocide, incarceration, segregation, slavery, and other systemic challenges is still recent in the memory of these communities and how are we able to move forward in these historical traumas that the current president, since its campaign, has brought forth the through its political tone and proposed and enacted policies.

 

 

 

 

Miyajima Island

 

Miyajima Island is one of the three most scenic places in the country, alongside Amano Hashidate, and Matsushima. Known as the island of Gods, housing designated cultural heritages sites in a web of shrines and temples. Notably the Great Torii, that symbolizes the gate of the between the spiritual and tangible worlds, and Itsukushima Shrine and surroundings, which construction is said to have started dating back to 6th century.

 

  • We can observe the historical ties between religion and political powers in Japan’s cultural construction. From the Shinto Shrines when the Emperor and clans represented the social and political power, and in the continuation of Buddhism introduced and embraced by the Shogunate later on. The deep historical connection reinforces later, the importance of the Emperor and its role in WWII.

 

  • I hope to deepen my understanding and appreciation of the Shinto-Buddhism architecture, complex practices, and rituals by different designated spaces, particularly the role and accessibility of the working class in these structures.

 

  • After spending time in the bustling and dense Tokyo, I hope to be transported to Japan’s ancient times. In this process, to experience and feel the energy of this world cultural heritage site in this quiet remote island outside of Hiroshima.

Weekly Reflection 1

If feels like it’s been a year. I’ve arrived last Thursday in Japan, 3 days before the beginning of the program with the intent to have a little time to adjust to the jet lag, emotionally, and meet family members that I have never met personally before. It was a very warm reception. I had expressed the preference to experience the traditional Japan, and in their thoughtfulness, they have systemically taken me to traditional experiences around the city: from food, sites, crafts & museums; and in the meantime, have taught me a great deal about our family roots in Fukuoka Prefecture, how much root means to the Japanese culture, and Japanese Culture itself.

We visited one of the oldest spots and top touristic attraction in the city today, the temple of Asakusa. Cousin Takako and I strolled along the old-style shops in the Nakamise street to the temple, now full of souvenirs, traditional and not so traditional. In Japan you never know, a very traditional and expensive craft shop might be just next door to cheap souvenirs.  In the next few days, we have extensively walked and visited sites, from their neighborhood of Mejiro, Tokyo Station and the Imperial Palace& financial district nearby, the museums of painter Takehisa Yumeji, Kyu-Iwasaki-Tei garden. Had fun in the largest neighborhood street festival of Azabu-Juban, amid the very hot and humid characteristic summer days. Some of these sites had a distinct feeling of being mostly for locals, I felt as if I had entered another layer of Tokyo. I have been in Japan 3 times prior, being last time twelve years ago, and as I was preparing myself for this trip, I could distinctively identify how much I have changed through my interests and taste. The comparison to my predominantly touristic curiosity to the level of depth this program instilled is very telling. When before most sites had some form of English explanations, these places had hardly any English written.

So it begins. Sunday evening, we had the first meeting at the NYC lodging. It was an exciting time to get to get reacquainted with the group members and the incredible surroundings of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic games. Diving into the program, I have particularly made a point to pay attention to identify critically different voices, particularly the marginalized narratives in comparison to the main portrayed. When visiting the Yasukuni Shrine and the Military Museum, it made me think about Anderson’s concept of constructed nationalism. Throughout the exhibit, the creation of a main national narrative glorifying the military efforts and service people, marginalized voices such as the affected colonized areas of Korea, Manchuria, and Taiwan, in addition to the unmentioned war crimes, and the lack of proper apology. In comparison with the US, currently, there is a similar far-right resurgence of nationalism with the rise of the current administration, depicted in the controversial Charlottesville episode. In that sense, Trump’s reluctance at best to denounce the confederates due to his political support base values, associates with the controversy on how the military achievements remain politically unchallenged in Japan.

At the Museum of Japanese Migration in Yokohama, it was personally incredibly emotional to see my grandparent’s narrative being represented. There has always been a stigma of the immigrants who left due to being in a difficult situation, despite being encouraged and supported by the government at that time. The typical silence in avoiding the conversations is being lifted with open conversations on the actual situation of the immigrants and a new perspective in their incredibly brave journey, hard work, and accomplishments. As an immigrant myself, it made me so deeply appreciate these very same qualities of overcoming challenges that once was regarded with shame.

I have ended the week visiting more sites over the week in the ancient capital of Kamakura when the Shogunate took over the power and introduced  Buddhism to Japan, and at the exquisite Nezu Museum of traditional Japanese and East Asian arts and crafts. This inspired me to currently pursue Anderson’s horizontal comradeship effects of the Zen Buddhism through the Wabi Sabi aesthetics, in parallel to the vertical status identity of different patterns observed through my visits at both Shitamachi museum in Ueno and Tokyo-Edo Museum.