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Hironobu Ishikawa

【#526(Special)】Award Winning Book Befits 150th Anniversary of Meiji Restoration

Hironobu Ishikawa / 2018.07.05 (Thu)

July 4, 2018

     On July 4, the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals honored Chuo University Professor Robert Morton with the fifth Japan Study Award and University of East Asia Professor Choe Kilsung with the Japan Study Special Award.
     Morton delivered a special speech on his book titled “A. B. Mitford and the Birth of Japan As a Modern State: Letters Home” (Renaissance Books), for which he received the award. The book describes Japan’s rapid changes toward a modern state as seen from a British diplomat who stayed in Japan around the time of the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The book befits this year marking the 150th anniversary of the Restoration.
     Choe has authored “The Truth of Comfort Women: As Seen by a Brothel Receptionist from Korea -- ‘Comfort Station Diary’ Scrutinized by a Cultural Anthropologist”(Heart Shuppan)to reveal the realities of comfort stations by focusing on a diary written mainly during World War II.

Departing from Western supremacy
     Among British diplomats stationed in Japan around the Meiji Restoration, Minister Harry Parkes and interpreter Ernest Satow are well known in Japan. Algernon Mitford ranked after the minister was an aristocrat educated at Eton College and Oxford University and is known well in Britain.
     When stationed in Japan for three and a half years from 1866, Mitford was granted an audience by Emperor Meiji face-to-face instead of through a bamboo blind, finding that the young emperor was as smart as a whip. In his apparently most shocking experience, he witnessed Bizen Okayama samurai warrior Zenzaburo Taki’s hara-kiri (ritual suicide by disembowelment). In his letter, Mitford attempted to describe the warrior’s strength to overcome a fear of death and protect the honor of samurai warrior class.
     It cannot be denied that Mitford had mixed feelings of likes and dislikes about Japan. If you read the book by Morton, however, you may believe that Mitford had departed from the viewpoint of Western or Christian supremacy.

Objective view of comfort women problem
     The comfort station diary was written in Burma (now Myanmar), Singapore, etc. It mixes Hangul letters with Chinese characters, Japanese katakana and hiragana characters. It might have been difficult for anyone other than scholars like the author to understand what was written. In South Korea, this diary is viewed as evidencing that comfort women were coercively recruited by Japanese military or police officers. However, the diary makes no mention of any recruitment process. Choe has taken an objective, fair view of the comfort women problem. He was naturalized in Japan in 1999, asserting that he would be responsible for tackling the comfort women problem.

Hironobu Ishikawa is a Director and Planning Committee Member, the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.