JIN-343 -- On the 60th Anniversary of the End of Censorship

T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R
Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News

Issue No. 343
Wednesday October 26, 2005 TOKYO

+++ VIEWPOINT: On the 60th Anniversary of the End of Censorship
1. Horse drivers--samurai redux?
2. Surrender soldier!
3. The man who wielded the blue pencil at rest

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+++ VIEWPOINT: On the 60th Anniversary of the End of Censorship
1. Horse drivers--samurai redux?

Japan under occupation after the Second World War offers many
examples of inexplicable newspaper censorship. Censors killed
an article entitled "Epidemic Feared in Tohoku." Nor did they
permit the publication of a photo of a horse driver festival, because--and
I kid not--this seemed to suggest a revival of the image of the warrior.
Newspapermen tasted the bitterness of defeat.

Censorship began in earnest in October 1945. Every newspaper
every day brought its manuscripts to the Occupation Authorities
for approval. The decision to approve an article was made by
Donald (Don) Brown, head of the Information Division of the Civil
Information and Education Section within SCAP. Brown had been
an overseas newspaper correspondent in Japan from 1930 to 1940.
He not only had the authority to censor articles but was also
responsible for allotting printing paper to newspaper companies.

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2. Surrender soldier!

Don Brown is the subject of an exhibition at the Yokohama Archives
of History until the 30th of the month. After Pearl Harbor, he joined
the US intelligence service. One duty of this Japan hand was to
produce propoganda leaflets dropped on Japanese soldiers in the
field to induce them to surrender. At the bottom of some leaflets
appeared a coupon-like "Survival Pass." It reads, "The bearer wishes
to survive. Under no circumstances is he to be harmed. He is to be
treated kindly and escorted to the rear."

Brown's leaflets were ingenious, revealing a flare for design and
a wide knowledge of Japan. One entitled the "Shrine's Garden"
features a misty two-tone picture of a shinto shrine, and quotes
waka, traditional poems, from the brush of Hirohito, the Showa
emperor. One, composed by His Majesty for New Year's in 1940,
reads in translation: "East and West friendly intercourse and prosper/
For such a world I pray, at the beginning of the year." The copy
aims to convince a Japanese soldier that he should not be fighting,
for even the emperor desired peace with the countries with whom Japan
is at war. For all the knowledge of Japan the leaflet evinces, it
seems naive, as if by a few paragraphs of argument interlarded
with imperial poetry it could reverse half century of brainwashing
by a cult of emperor worship. I wonder how many jungle fighters
used the Survival Pass.

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3. The man who wielded the blue pencil at rest

In 1905, when Brown was born, Japan was at war with Russia, and
the Japanese military were sharpening their blue pencils. According
to Kyoji Takeyama's book "The Secret History of Press Telegram
Censorship," many news flashes were censored or tossed down
the memory hole not by the army or police but on a whim by local
post offices.

In those days the telegram was the weapon with which the press
wars were fought. Takeyama has exhaustively investigated the
whereabouts of voluminous telegrams sent by reporters from the
post office in Marugame, Kagawa, in Shikoku, a stronghold of the
Japanese army. The author was awarded this year's Japan Essayist
Club Award for the light his book shed on censorship of telegrams.
Censorship of newspapers began around 1872 and continued for 80
years, until the end of the occupation.

Don Brown remained in Japan after the war. This Japanophile (his
vast collection of Japan-related materials is part of the Yokohama
Archives) would have been distraught when his native land fought his
adopted one. Like many an American smitten by Japan before him,
he remains here yet--in a grave in Nagoya.

--Burritt Sabin

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Written and edited by Burritt Sabin (editors2@japaninc.com)

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