The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Home > Research > Waseda research zone - latest news on project research


Waseda Research Zone - Latest News on Project Research -

In Search of Post-War Japanese Identity in Occupation Period Media and Occupation of Japan Policy

Institute of 20th Century Media

Everyone recognizes that post-war Japanese culture was heavily influenced by the United States. Above all, Japan incorporated various aspects of the advanced and sophisticated American culture during its period of rapid post-war growth such as television, music, film, art, sports and lifestyles. The beginning of this American influence was the strict censorship of the media and speech imposed after the war by General Headquarters (GHQ), which was established in Japan at the war's close and served as the officer the Supreme Commander of Allied Powers (SCAP).

In the free environment immediately after the war when strict war-time restrictions were suddenly lifted, Japan experienced an unprecedented publishing boom. Everything from new magazines by major publishing companies and local self-published magazines printed by mimeograph were filled with countless opinions and ideas. However, the fact is that there has been surprisingly little academic investigative research into the media that was the starting point for Japan's post-war culture.

Fortunately, GHQ kept all the materials it gathered during its exhaustive collection of media publications for five years after the war, which it did to enforce censorship. Gordon W. Prange, who worked as a historian under General Douglas MacArthur (SCAP), realized these documents' historical importance. He persuaded the right people in order to have the books, magazines, newspapers and other materials transferred to the University of Maryland for safekeeping, thus saving them from being destroyed. Thereafter they were organized at the university starting in 1962 and were made available to the public in 1978 as the "Gordon W. Prange Collection." Then in 1991, the National Diet Library of Japan began to gradually make microfilm copies of the magazines and newspapers along with an index of the materials.

Taketoshi Yamamoto, Advisor of the Institute of 20th Century Media (right) and Reiko Tsuchiya, Director of the Institute (left).

Despite the materials' organization, the largest reason for the lack of investigative research has been their enormous size coupled with the inability to search by article and the laborious effort required to find and view the sections a researcher needs on the microfilm. The Institute of 20th Century Media was created to solve this problem and explore these valuable materials.

The Institute has been promoting the "Post-War Occupation Period Media Database Creation Project" for the past decade (since 2001) to gradually build an article database of these extensive materials and allow researchers to search by keyword. We talked to advisor to the Institute and Waseda University Professor Emeritus Taketoshi Yamamoto (former Professor of the School of Political Science and Economics, Professor Emeritus at Hitotsubashi University) and Reiko Tsuchiya, Director of the Institute and Professor of the School of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University, about a series of approaches and an ongoing project that actually develop the research about the Occupation of Japan Policy and the media in the Occupation Period based on collected materials. This ongoing project was adopted as Waseda University Research Initiatives in 2009.

Comprehensively Covering all Occupation Period Magazines and Newspapers

"For the past decade we have received funding to share the results of our research in the form of Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) and we have made progress in building a database out of the magazines and newspapers in the Prange Collection. Every year our project has received the largest amount of the Grant-in-Aid for Publication of Scientific Results in Japan. Building the database has been highly praised as a meaningful effort due to these materials being an incredibly valuable academic and cultural resource for Japan" (Advisor Yamamoto).

During the first phase lasting from the 2000 academic year to 2004, the Institute succeeded in putting all of the Prange Collection's 13,000 magazines and 1.96 million article records into the materials database. In February of 2006 they finished the Database of Newspapers and Magazines Published during the Post-war Occupation Period from 1945 to 1949 (see Photograph 1) by constructing a database into which they entered all the author names, article and essay titles, text subtitles, classification numbers, classifications, censorship-related info, volume numbers, place of publication (publishers), publication dates, place of distribution and more found on the covers, in the tables of contents and elsewhere in all the issues. All of these have been made public. Now anyone in the world can get online to access the database and search by keyword.

Photograph 1 - The Database of Newspapers and Magazines Published during the Post-war Occupation Period from 1945 to 1949, created by Occupation Period Media Database Creation Project committee members.

Phase 2 began in the 2006 academic year, during which the Institute worked on entering the titles, first 80 characters of each article (or only the lead paragraph if the article has one), proper nouns (people, countries, regions, etc.; up to five per article), censorship status, presence of photos (and captions if present), publication name, publication date, page numbers, form of distribution (morning/evening news, supplement, newspaper extra) and advertisement (advertiser, product name) information for all articles in papers affiliated with the Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association at that time from microfilm into the database. This work is ongoing and is scheduled for completion in the 2011 academic year.

"What makes the Prange Collection materials valuable is that they are stored together with materials censored by GHQ's Civil Censorship Department (CCD) (see Photograph 2). We can quickly find out what kind of media and speech were restricted and in what fashion. The CCD made a thorough collection of magazines on women's fashion, education, science, leisure and even local self-published magazines, in addition to of course magazines concerned with ideology and politics. It is incredibly interesting how places outside the central urban centers experienced different social and cultural phenomena due to the local publications being especially active at this time" (Director Tsuchiya).

The Institute compiled a series of books entitled "The Occupation Era Magazine Compendium" (see Photograph 3) in order to make these materials known to a wider range of people. Compiling the five volumes on Popular Culture (2008 - 2009) and five volumes on Literature (2009 - 2010) was a major task, but these are only a small fraction of the Prange Collection.

Photograph 2 - An example of the Prange Collection's materials. They are stored together with censored pre-publication galley proofs and reports on censored content.

Photograph 3 - "The Occupation Era Magazine Compendium," a series of books compiled from the Prange Collection's materials. (Photograph from the Iwanami Shoten website's page for the Popular Culture volumes.)

A Community of 5,000 Researchers

In the 2011 academic year, the newspaper database will be completed and the Prange Collection project will take a break. The focus will then shift to how to use the database assembled by the project. The Institute of 20th Century Media's next job will be a research project called "American Strategy for Information and Culture in Japan and Japan and the Japanese People during the Occupation Period and the 1950s." The project has been deemed a competitive research grant project of Waseda University by the university's Organization for University Research Initiatives and work has been underway since 2009.

Photograph 4 - 56th Seminar (September 2010 at Waseda University).

"Our selection by the Organization for University Research Initiatives has allowed us to receive a research grant from the university, secure a base of operations and a database server as well as obtain a new research system. This project will help us add more researchers who are using the occupation period database and engaging in research while building an interdisciplinary community of researchers. There are already more than 5,000 people in Japan and abroad who have registered as users of our database. We consider each and every one of them to be members of our research community" (Advisor Yamamoto).

The Institute has been organizing seminars for researchers to interact over the past ten years and has been inviting committee members to participate in such seminars since the database's opening. The door is wide open to anyone regardless of discipline or nationality, even private sector researchers. The fruits of these efforts have developed what were initially small seminars of only a few people into large events that regularly gather 50 to 100 participants. Sixty seminars have been held over the past ten years (see Photograph 4).

"Our members are engaged in a wide variety of disciplines. Most members work in media, journalism or intelligence (intelligence agencies and operations), but there's also a broad interdisciplinary assortment including political history, design history and educational history. When we can disburse travel expenses from research grant funds, we support members who want to participate in the seminar from local area or foreign countries. At times we have overseas researchers travel to Japan to attend our seminars" (Director Tsuchiya).

Photograph 5 - Intelligence magazine.

The magazine Intelligence began publication in 2002 to share research results with members, of which eleven issues have been published over the past decade (see Photograph 5). A number of researchers contribute to each issue according to its theme. Example themes include "Japan-U.S. Information Warfare in Depth" and "Occupation Period Discourse" in the latest issue as well as "War and Cultural Properties/Materials - Looting and Whereabouts" in issue #10. On occasion the Institute also holds international symposiums with guest speakers from Japan and abroad. An important task for members is to organize new joint research projects.

"Our massive occupation period database is a very tough job for only one or two people to do. Merely gathering the materials is a big task, which in its sheer size is overwhelming. It requires the formation of groups for coordinated investigation and analysis. In any case it's too formidable a task for our generation! We believe that we need to train younger researchers to continue the work. Although the period is completely unfamiliar to young people, I think it's one that has a chaotic vibrancy and freshness" (Director Tsuchiya).

Shedding Light on Post-War Japan's Core

There are other materials collected by GHQ during the occupation that have not been studied. For example, after the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USBSS) was formed and began investigating the effects of the incendiary explosives and atomic bombs the U.S. had dropped, it researched topics such as Japan's food supplies, public opinion and anti-American sentiment. These research materials are in the National Diet Library, but it would be no small task to read through their thousands of pages.

"Searches by keyword are possible, but the microfilm is not organized. We need a way to read and understand them, which I believe is another job for us. That's because there's no other group that can do it. Furthermore, the media of the Shanghai International Settlement's pre-war Japanese community remain in the Shanghai Library. Though there are limits to what we can do and it's no use being too ambitious, we'd like to put these in a database too. (Advisor Yamamoto).

In the future, systematic investigation of the massive collection of occupation period media materials along with strategic and detailed research and analysis should yield persuasive essays and models. It would probably not go too far to say that this would be the first step in shedding light on the core identity of post-war Japan.

Related Links

Institute of 20th Century Media

Institute of 20th Century Media, Organization for University Research Initiatives, Waseda University

Institute for Research in Contemporary Political and Economic Affairs, Waseda University

The Database of Newspapers and Magazines Published during the Post-war Occupation Period from 1945 to 1949

The Gordon W. Prange Collection, University of Maryland