The Culture of Japanese Fascism

The Culture of Japanese Fascism

Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics, and Society

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Book Pages: 496 Illustrations: 24 illustrations Published: April 2009

Asian Studies > East Asia, Cultural Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

This bold collection of essays demonstrates the necessity of understanding fascism in cultural terms rather than only or even primarily in terms of political structures and events. Contributors from history, literature, film, art history, and anthropology describe a culture of fascism in Japan in the decades preceding the end of the Asia-Pacific War. In so doing, they challenge past scholarship, which has generally rejected descriptions of pre-1945 Japan as fascist. The contributors explain how a fascist ideology was diffused throughout Japanese culture via literature, popular culture, film, design, and everyday discourse. Alan Tansman’s introduction places the essays in historical context and situates them in relation to previous scholarly inquiries into the existence of fascism in Japan.

Several contributors examine how fascism was understood in the 1930s by, for example, influential theorists, an antifascist literary group, and leading intellectuals responding to capitalist modernization. Others explore the idea that fascism’s solution to alienation and exploitation lay in efforts to beautify work, the workplace, and everyday life. Still others analyze the realization of and limits to fascist aesthetics in film, memorial design, architecture, animal imagery, a military museum, and a national exposition. Contributors also assess both manifestations of and resistance to fascist ideology in the work of renowned authors including the Nobel-prize-winning novelist and short-story writer Kawabata Yasunari and the mystery writers Edogawa Ranpo and Hamao Shirō. In the work of these final two, the tropes of sexual perversity and paranoia open a new perspective on fascist culture. This volume makes Japanese fascism available as a critical point of comparison for scholars of fascism worldwide. The concluding essay models such work by comparing Spanish and Japanese fascisms.

Contributors. Noriko Aso, Michael Baskett, Kim Brandt, Nina Cornyetz, Kevin M. Doak, James Dorsey, Aaron Gerow, Harry Harootunian, Marilyn Ivy, Angus Lockyer, Jim Reichert, Jonathan Reynolds, Ellen Schattschneider, Aaron Skabelund, Akiko Takenaka, Alan Tansman, Richard Torrance, Keith Vincent, Alejandro Yarza


“This volume will prove to be a pathbreaking collection of essays on how we think of Japanese fascism. . . [A] very powerful contribution to the relationship between aesthetics, culture, and fascism.” — Bill Mihalopoulos, Journal of World History

“[T]he essays in this collection provide informative perspectives on topics such as literature, film, architectural design, exhibitions and popular culture. . . .” — Roger Brown, Social Science Japan Journal

“Alan Tansman deserves tremendous credit for bringing together this multidisciplinary group of scholars to deal with an issue conspicuously neglected by the majority of scholars in Japan studies. . . . The publication of this insightful set of essays in this volume is without question an important contribution to our understanding of a culture of Japanese fascism as a local manifestation of a truly international political and cultural phenomenon.” — Walter Skya, Journal of Japanese Studies

“So can a volume focused on the cultural aspects of a primarily political concept succeed? Yes, indeed. This book offers a wealth of fresh information on the era of fascism in Japan, ranging from the ‘high road’ of intellectual history and literary studies to more accessible insights on the role of dogs and propaganda lies about Pearl Harbour. . . [An] excellent study of fascist Japan.” — Lawrence Fouraker, Itinerario

“These rich and varied essays provide a fascinating, if unsettling, depiction of the seductive appeal of fascist culture. They also show how much Japan shared with Europe in its aesthetic responses to the crisis of modernity in the interwar years. An important contribution in every respect.” — Carol Gluck, Columbia University

“An extremely provocative and stimulating collection of essays, The Culture of Japanese Fascism canvasses a wide array of cultural forms—movies, novels, religious rites, material culture, monuments, and architecture—to show the ways that fascist aesthetics saturated a dispersed cultural field. By focusing on thought and culture, it helps us rethink the turn from modernism to fascism, to understand fascism’s effects on everyday life, and to reconsider the reigning conceptions of fascist ideology.” — Louise Young, author of Japan’s Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture of Wartime Imperialism


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Alan Tansman is Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of The Writings of Kōda Aya: A Japanese Literary Daughter and a co-editor of Studies in Modern Japanese Literature. Marilyn Ivy is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. She is the author of Discourses of the Vanishing: Modernity, Phantasm, Japan. Marilyn Ivy is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Foreword: Fascism, Yet? / Marilyn Ivy vii
Introduction: The Culture of Japanese Fascism / Alan Tansman 1
Part I: Theories of Japanese Fascism
Fascism Seen and Unseen: Fascism as a Problem in Cultural Representation / Kevin M. Doak 31
The People's Library: The Spirit of Prose Literature versus Fascism / Richard Torrance 56
Constitutive Ambiguities: The Persistence of Modernism and Fascism in Japan's Modern History / Harry Harrotunian 80
Part II: Fascism and Daily Life
On the Beauty of Labor: Imagine Factory Girls in Japan's New World Order / Kim Brandt 115
Mediating the Masses: Yanagi Sōetsu and Fascism / Noriko Aso 138
Fascism's Furry Friends: Dogs, National Identity, and the Purity of Blood in 1930s Japan / Aaron Skabelund 155
Part III: Exhibiting Fascism
Narrating the Nation-ality of a Cinema: The Case of Japanese Prewar Film / Aaron Gerow 185
All Beautiful Fascists?: Axis Film Culture in Imperial Japan / Michael Baskett 212
Architecture for Mass-Mobilization: The Chūreitō Memorial Design Competition, 1939-1945 / Akiko Takenaka 235
Japan's Imperial Diet Building in the Debate over Construction of a National Identity / Jonathan M. Reynolds 254
Expo Fascism?: Ideology, Representation, Economy / Angus Lockyer 276
The Work of Sacrifice in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: Bride Dolls and the Enigma of Fascist Aesthetics at Yasukuni Shrine / Ellen Schattschneider 296
Part IV: Literary Fascism
Fascist Aesthetics and the Politics of Representation in Kawabata Yasunari / Nina Cornyetz 321
Disciplining the Erotic-Grotesque in Edogawa Ranpo's Demon of the Lonely Isle / Jim Reichert 355
Hamaosociality: Narrative and Fascism in Hamao Shirō's The Devil's Disciple / Keith Vincent 381
Literary Tropes, Rhetorical Looping, and the Nine Gods of War: "Fascist Proclivities" Made Real / James Dorsey 409
Part V: Concluding Essay
The Spanish Perspective: Romancero Marroquí and the Francoist Kitsch Politics of Time / Alejandro Yarza 435
Contributors 451
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4468-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4452-0
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