The first article, Life Behind Barbed Wire, starts with a foreword by Dennis Ogawa. He starts by chronicling Yasutaro Soga’s last words to her husband as she was taken away to incarceration at Sand Island after the Pearl Harbor attack. Ogawa notes that Soga wrote on what she saw as opposed to what she felt. Afterward, Ogawa gives a short biography of Soga from her birth in Tokyo on March 18, 1873, to her arrest on December 7, 1941.
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After the foreword, Tetsuden Kashima gives an introduction to the book, Life behind Barbed Wire. Kashima explores how Japanese Americans were caught in uncertainty after the Pearl Harbor attacks as they were arrested and incarcerated without trial. Kashima notes that Soga’s troubles started back in 1936 when President Roosevelt notified his chief of naval operations to form a special list of all Japanese citizens living in Hawaii so that they could be placed in a concentration camp in case of problems.
Kashima notes that the incarceration of Japanese citizens living in Hawaii by 1941 was the climax of an ongoing racial hostility, and the Pearl Harbor attacks simply catalyzed the process. The article is well written, with the authors citing specific dates when the events occurred. However, they do not indicate what the Japanese did to occasion the said racial hostility.
The major theme of the second article is the First World War in East Asia. Before the First World War, Japan had tried to extend its influence in East Asia, but Western powers frustrated these attempts. However, the First World War presented Japan with an unprecedented opportunity to heighten its influence in two distinct ways. Firstly, the Western powers concentrated on the war, thus allowing Japan to execute its plans in East Asia.
Secondly, Japan’s industries expanded due to the lack of imports from Europe. In addition, Japan supported Britain and attacked Germany’s Jiaozhou lease in China. Later on, it issued the Twenty-One Demands, which annexed Jiaozhou to its jurisdiction. However, it only achieved its objectives partially, and in 1916, it embarked on giving loans to China, which would enhance its influence in the region. However, after the Washington Conference in 1921, Japan lost Jiaozhou to China, and thus its influence. Apparently, Japan realized that it could not win a naval race against the United States, and thus it retreated.
In addition, back in Japan, the international policy was changing as the country moved from oligarchical rule to government by parties. The article is informative, especially on why Japan abandoned its quest to extend its influence in East Asia. However, the article implies that Japan abandoned this quest entirely, which is misleading given the occurrences of Pearl Harbor attacks later on in 1941.
In the third article, Race for Empire, the author explores how Korean and Taiwanese military men were recruited into the Japanese military after the Second World War. The author implies that Koreans thought that joining Japan would be a better move than fighting for their own independence. Similarly, the Japanese joined the American military as combatants or interpreters during the Pacific War. Unfortunately, in both cases, these soldiers from Korea and Japan joining the Japanese and the American military were not honored.
Japan and the US attempted to disavow racism, but these feeble efforts could not explain why the Japanese and Korean were mistreated and segregated in the US and Japan, respectively. Japan and the United States decided to recruit the Koreans and Japanese, respectively, into their military as a way of disavowing racism both at home and internationally, but they were not sincere in these attempts. The article is a masterpiece as it answers some intriguing questions like why the United States was willing to have Japanese soldiers in its military whilst keeping other Japanese citizens in concentration camps.
Best, Antony, et al., editors. “Japan, China and the Pacific War.” International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond, Routledge, 2014, pp. 59–64.
Fujitani, Takashi. Race for Empire. University of California Press, 2011.
Soga, Yasutaro. Life Behind Barbed Wire. University of Hawaii Press, 2008.