Trans-Pacific Racisms and the U.S. Occupation of Japan

In This Review

Trans-Pacific Racisms and the U.S. Occupation of Japan

By Yukiko Koshiro
Columbia University Press, 1999
304 pp. $45.00

A bold exploration of the difficult subject of American and Japanese racist attitudes. During World War II, both sides engaged in blatant racist characterizations of the other. But with the American occupation, race largely vanished as an overt issue and took on more complicated and nuanced forms. The American military's antifraternization regulations suggested that they considered the Japanese inferior, but at the same time America's confidence that Japan could be turned into an effective democracy suggested that Washington believed that the Japanese could become the equals of Westerners. Koshiro analyzes with great delicacy the interplay between the two concepts of race and culture in U.S.-Japanese relations, tracing the strange history of the introduction of "race" into the new postwar Japanese constitution through Article 14, which prohibits discrimination because of "race, creed, sex, social status, or family origin." Although the author focuses on the war and the occupation period, he also touches on Japanese overseas emigration and mixed-race children in Japan. The trend of improving race relations was suddenly shaken by fresh American anti-Japanese sentiment in the 1980s over Japanese economic successes. Koshiro concludes by arguing that both sides can learn lessons from the occupation to end racism.

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