Haiku reflections on Japan

Japanese-American issues

Japan and its good

friend America has had

its share of trouble.

The behaviour of American marines in Okinawa has been under the spotlight lately.  One soldier allegedly raped a young girl and another one allegedly broke into a house and punched a kid.  I think the government in Japan needs to be stricter with the American army and not be afraid of upsetting the Americans.   Even if Okinawa sees itself as different to Japan, it is still a Japanese island and if the Americans are going to continue with their base there, then their soldiers on or off duty need to be treated the same as Japanese citizens who commit these acts.  That said, there are cases of rape and assaults of other nature happening in Japan as well and you wonder if the Japanese culprits in these cases are even being caught and dealt with properly.  Not always I suspect.   Anyway, these soldiers need to be dealt with and reminded they can`t do what they like wherever they like.  I don`t know if it has always been this troublesome.  I have never heard anything about things like this until now and I don`t mean to generalize (among the American army) but still….

This brings me to American-Japanese relations and more specifically to the history of Japanese immigrants in America especially during World War II.  Most of these immigrants were sent to internment camps, others had gone back to Japan for `safety`, and others decided to join the American army, forming the famous 442nd battalion known for various heroic feats in Europe.  Some Nisei (second generation Japanese Americans) worked for the American army from Japan, being spies, translators and so on for the military intelligence service.  These men are the subjects of a documentary film out at the moment called MIS:  Human Secret Weapon.  It looks very interesting.

I happened to watch a pretty interesting family saga recently which covered this subject.   Charting the story of a Japanese immigrant family and the racism they had to endure when they tried to settle in America and especially during World War II.   Some of the acting is a bit lame but it`s not bad otherwise.  Though I have heard of  the internment camps that the Japanese Americans were herded into (which I mention above), I had not seen it conveyed in a drama before.  America is a country of immigrants and yet during World War II, as someone in the drama pointed out, Italian and German immigrants were left alone during World War II, despite the fact that Italy and Germany were part of the axis of evil with Japan.  On the other hand, the Japanese, being non-white, were really picked on, even more than before the war.

I enjoy sagas like this on tv or in printed form.   I enjoyed Roots when I first watched it and I enjoyed the  trilogy Emigrants about a Swedish family who immigrated to Missouri in the late 19th century.  The Swedish family in this saga suffered their fair share of hardships but it was unconnected to their European origin for the most part and they did not suffer much racism.  A bit of staring once they got off the ship in New York but that was it from what I remember.  It`s been a while since I read it.  Roots of course was about slaves (not called the politically correct African Americans back then) so needless to say there were hardships of all types there.     There are certain parallels between the Japanese and the African American story – racism –  and the Japanese and the Swedish story – agriculture being the main area of work for both families who were very hardworking and really wanted to make a go of it in America.   I felt it was really despicable how these good hardworking immigrants were treated.   The fact that one son joined the American army did not make a difference to Americans.    That kind of reminds me of the Native American soldier in Flags of our Fathers.  No matter what he did on the battlefield for America, he was still a Native American and as soon as the war was over, his life was just the same as before and he died in pretty pathetic circumstances.    I think there is a kind of unrealistic expectation about joining an army if you`re poor or from a deprived background to start with.  Maybe now it gives people access to education which they might not otherwise have,  but they`re not necessarily going to get respect from people just because they`re soldiers.     However, I think the son in this drama who joined the army did it for the right reasons, wanting to get respect for himself and other Japanese Americans and they did get respect, from surprising sources (this is where the lame acting mostly comes in from their one-time nemesis of a neighbour who acted badly throughout the whole drama).   As I was watching this drama and it came to this guy making his decision I was thinking `oh damn, this guy and his fellow Nisei are going to be cannon fodder being forced to go into situations before any of the white European and American soldiers` but being in a specific Japanese-only unit, this didn`t really happen and their bravery on the fields of battle was unparalleled (though of course they still had to face prejudice from the inhabitants of various villages they managed to occupy).

Anyway, it was an eye-opening drama that one but I would like to see that documentary I mentioned above sometime for a real insiders view of fighting for your adopted country against countries that are allied with your own country of origin.

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