Public Figures in Popular Culture

Identity Problems of Minority Heroes

By William Wetherall

A version of this article appeared in
Changsoo Lee and George De Vos (editors)
Koreans in Japan: Ethnic Conflict and Accommodation
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981
Chapter 12, pages 281-303 (text), 406-413 (notes)

See Lee and De Vos 1981 for a gossipy overview of the birth of this book and its stillbirth in Japanese.
See Wetherall 1981 for a look at Kosaku Yoshino's remarks about my comments on Watanabe Shōichi.

Contents Closeted Ethnicity and Machismo | Debunking Myth | Ethnic Definitions and Stereotypes | What's in a name | The Sound of Music | Tragic Pathways of Alienation | Myths of Homogeneity | Notes

Note on inaccuracies

Substantially this article holds up fairly well some thirty years later. However, some terminology and a few statements reflect my lack of understanding, at the time I wrote it, of the complex legal and social history of the Empire of Japan and the people affiliated with its four regional jurisdictions -- the Interior (Naichi), Taiwan, Karafuto, and Chosen. Here are some examples of my inaccurate usage.

To set the record straight -- Rikidozan, the main protagonist of this article, was born, raised, and breathed every second of his life as a national of Japan. Except when traveling outside Japan a few times after World War II, he spent his entire life in the country (although not in the region) of his birth.

in JapanJapan formally consisted of the Interior (Naichi) or prefectures, Taiwan, Karafuto (which later became part of the Interior), and Chosen (formally Korea). All four of these regions (subnational jurisdictions) were formally "in Japan", and all their affiliates were Japanese. All, when traveling or migrating from one region to another, were doing so as Japanese within Japan.

Japan Proper"Japan Proper" is a quaintly external (frankly colonialist and Angloesque) characterization for what, in Japanese law and formal description, was merely the "Interior" (Naichi) or prefectural part of the legal Empire of Japan. Rikidozan was born a national of Japan affiliated with a part of Japan called Chosen. His adoption by an Interiorite, into an Interior register, merely changed his regional (subnational) status within Japan from Chosenese to Interiorite. Changing his regional (subnational) affiliation from Chosen to Naichi did not enable Rikidozan to compete "in Japan" -- but merely to compete in another part of Japan.

Korea"Korea" did not exist at the time Rikidozan was born in Chosen, or when he later changed his regional affiliation from Chosen to the Interior. The Empire of Korea became Chosen, an integral part of the sovereign territory of the Empire of Japan, in 1910, and remained so provisionally until Japan formally surrendered to the Allied Powers at the end of World War II in 1945, and finally when the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect in 1992. Since Korea had become Chosen, a part of Japan, Koreans -- people territorially affiliated with the Empire of Korea -- became Japanese subjects and nationals of Chosenese regionality (subnationality).

Japanize namesThe statement that "all citizens of the Imperial Japanese territories of Korea, Taiwan, and Karafuto (Sakhalin) were ordered to Japanize their names" is not true. The "soshi kaimei" (create family name, change personal name" ordinances issued by the Government-General of Chosen applied only to Chosen registers -- and compelled only the adoption of Interior family law standards regarding the use of a single family name for all members of a Chosen register in lieu of the variety of surnames and clan names in the register. The register continued to record the surnames and clan names.

citizenship, citizenJapanese law, past and present, defines only "nationality" and "nationals" -- unlike the domestic laws of countries like the United States, which commonly refer to "citizenship" and "citizens" (US law actually defines "nationality" and then differentiates between US "citizens" and US "nationals"). But Japanese domestic law defines only "nationality" and "nationals", in much the same spirit that international private law defines "nationality" as an attribute of state affiliation with no implications of "citizenship".

Public Figures in Popular Culture: Identity Problems of Minority Heroes

By William Wetherall

If you want to see a good cockfight, observe the vicarious participation of the audience, rather than the action in the ring. Racial aggression continues to motivate much of what passes for healthy spectator sport in interethnic competition. Ethologists have even argued that athletic rituals may serve to express the same kinds of psychosocial and psychobiological tensions that find release in warfare. The popular cult of Rikidozan Mitsuhiro (1924-1963), an outstanding champion wrestler of postwar Japan, would seem to support this view.


Closeted Ethnicity and Machismo

In the Preface to Rikidozan's 1962 autobiography, Ono Banboku has written: "In a nation laid waste by defeat in war and in the milieu that prevailed under the occupying army, by knocking large-bodied gaiiin [foreigners] [n 1] around the ring and beating them to the mat, Rikidozan vented in proxy the pent-up emotions of the Japanese people at that time. We must not forget his meritorious service in thus imparting courage to the postwar Japanese." [n 2]

Chin Shunshin (Ch'en Shun-ch'en), a popular novelist of Chinese ancestry who was born and reared in Japan, writes of an incident he observed as he entered the lobby of an Osaka hotel. A television set was tuned to a wrestling match between Rikidozan and a gaijin opponent. Rikidozan was hurting his opponent with damaging karate chops. When the gaijin fell to the mat, an ardent viewer in the lobby stood up and shouted in delight, "Beautiful! Give it to him! Show him some Japanese strength." [n 3]

Journalist Oshima Yukio reports, in a biography of baseball star Harimoto Isao (Chang Hun), that Rikidozan's ability to withstand the brutal rule infractions of American wrestlers and ultimately to pin them in victory in their own sport made him a bona fide Japanese hero. [n 4] Harimoto, born in 1940 when Rikidozan was training for national sumo (traditional Japanese wrestling) competition, was among the many youths of postwar Japan who idolized Rikidozan and sought to emulate his masculinity in athletic achievement. But interests unrelated to their common fame in sports later led to a close friendship between the two athletes.

Rikidozan's home, on the eighth floor of a Tokyo apartment building he had bought with some of his earnings, had a private room into which no one was allowed but relatives and intimate friends. Harimoto, whom Rikidozan treated like a younger brother, became one of these privileged few. Oshima relates the following episode: [n 5]

One day Harimoto was invited into the room. Harimoto took one step inside, and his eyes widened in surprise. The other rooms were done in a Western manner, but this one was decorated ethnically, including several pieces of old Korean ceramics. For Rikidozan, who didn't reveal his origins to his fans, this room was an oasis for a heart irrevocably steeped in ethnic nostalgia.

"Hey, Hari, let's listen to some music!" As Rikidozan said this to Harimoto, he locked the door and put on a record of folk songs from his mother country. Apart from his elation at having been invited into Rikidozan's private room, Harimoto found the ethnic consciousness of the terribly reserved wrestler disconcerting.

"Why do you have to lock the door before you listen to the music of your own country?" It was the first time Harimoto had challenged Rikidozan. Rikidozan snapped the phonograph off, his mood suddenly soured. Paying no heed, Harimoto continued his remonstration. "Why can't you say the name of your ethnic group with dignity?"

Rikidozan's facial expression hardened. "Look, I'm an idol of children around the world, and I'm living in Japan. I can't say such things."

Harimoto stood up and retorted, "What are you ashamed of?"

"You're a fool!" Rikidozan exploded in anger, jabbing at Harimoto.

Harimoto, equally excited, knocked a glass from the table to the floor, breaking it.

"What'd you say?"

"Okay, okay, sit down!" The tone of Rikidozan's voice had changed. "You've been talking big, saying you've got ethnic pride, but you don't know our generation!"

"What if I don't?!"

"In our generation, if you said you were Korean [Chosenjin], it didn't matter that you were the same human being, you were treated no better than an insect. You have no idea what a man like me had to do, with nothing but my big body, to overcome that thick wall."

'What if I don't?"

"Don't push it! You're always so proud!"

"What's wrong with that?"

"You're still a young punk and don't understand. When you grow up more, you'll come to know what it means for people like us to be in the limelight in Japan."

Only one of the three major Japanese dailies, in reporting Rikidozan's death in 1963, touched upon the question of ancestry. [n 6] Only one of the several magazine articles reviewed for this chapter openly questioned the ethnic origins of the man who did his best to conceal them. The article simply commented in passing: [n 7]

There is no riddle like that of Rikidozan's birth. We have it that he was born on November 14, 1924, in Omura city of Nagasaki prefecture, the third son of Momota Minosuke; but another account has him born in Korea. Moreover, it is commonly said that his father Minosuke died when Rikidozan was two, but there are people who say that his biological father is still living in Korea. It may be a case of having parents who bore him and parents who raised him.

The typical Rikidozan nativity story has the hero born in Japan to a farming family, as Momota Mitsuhiro, the third child and third son of Tatsu, wife of Momota Minosuke. The wrestler is said to have lost his father at the age of two or three. His mother seems to have died in 1943, shortly after he made his debut in national sumo competition. Biographies that give details of his childhood commonly portray conditions of extreme poverty. The adult Rikidozan is often quoted as recalling the figure of his mother bent over piecework late into the night, making straw sandals and other small products so that her youngest son might eat and be warm. The rambunctious, quarrelsome, marginally delinquent Mitsuhiro is at first insensitive to the suffering he causes his mother, but eventually he comes to feel an enormous sense of guilt in having failed to return her nurturing devotion.

In the midst of a war that ended in defeat, Rikidozan fought on the home front, serving the cause in sumo, the ritually symbolic, almost sacred native sport. His mother died as poor as ever, but one imagines that she passed in peace, knowing that her least settled son was embarked on an honorable career and that her final years had not been in vain. Entering the stable of a known sumo champion, training for the day he would compete before the nation, became Rikidozan's way of expressing both his physical restlessness and his awakened sense of filial piety.

These are the tender emotions that give meaning to the rough exterior of the Japanese warrior. Macho lust is seldom, in any culture, sufficient to make one a hero. What may be needed in addition to machismo will vary with the culture but will usually involve human compassion. In Japanese popular culture, the masculine hero must live and die for his mother to qualify as a true "Son of Nippon." The tears must be real; those in the audience who participate in their shedding have need to believe that they wen from a childhood nostalgia imbued, like theirs, with guilt concerning filial ingratitude toward maternal suffering, particularly concerning failure to achieve in accordance with maternal expectations. Dynamic psychocultural themes like these characterize the many book-length biographies that bill Rikidozan as a classic popular Japanese hero." [n 8]

After World War II, Rikidozan left a moderately successful career as a sumo wrestler to help introduce American-style professional wrestling to Japan. He trained under Asian-Americans in Hawaii and competed on the American continent before returning to Japan. The Japanese tabloids were not large enough to contain the excitement he generated as a promising Japanese contender in the new sport. Rikidozan encouraged Japanese youth who had all the qualifications to compete except confidence by pointing out that if Japanese-American wrestlers like Great Togo, Great Yamamoto, Mister Moto, Harold Sakata, and Tommy Kono could wear championship belts in competition with generally larger whites and blacks, so could Japanese yellows. Rikidozan went all over the wrestling world to promote yellow competitors, importing such athletes as Brazilian-born Antonio Inoki, of Asian-Japanese ancestry, called by Muhammad Ali both a "Pelican" and a "Jap" in verbal exchanges preceding their 1976 boxing vs. wrestling exhibition. Ironically, in the early postwar years in Honolulu and San Francisco arenas, Rikidozan often heard the word "Jap" in the noisy ringside frenzy and became sensitive to what his Japanese-American wrestling peers had experienced from birth. [n 9]

Life for Rikidozan was ultimately rougher outside the ring than in. Few who knew him well, and who knew of his use of bodyguards and of the gangster connections and rivalries that surrounded him, were totally surprised to read in the papers on the morning of 9 December 1963, that their friend had been stabbed the night before by a young hoodlum in the course of an argument in the toilet of the New Latin Quarter, a large nightclub in the Akasaka district of Tokyo. Unable to catch his assailant, Rikidozan mounted the stage of the club in the midst of a show and announced, in Japanese mixed with English, that he had been stabbed and that an armed man was loose. [n 10] Released after treatment at a nearby hospital, Rikidozan appeared to be making a good recovery, but an acute relapse, apparently provoked by his stubborn refusal to recognize his need for total rest, found him back in the hospital a few days later and dead of peritonitis on 15 December.

The fatal flaw of many a hero is his reluctance to acknowledge that he is mortal. This flaw enables the hero to be heroic, which often involves dying under tragic circumstances. No one knows why Rikidozan chose to ignore medical advice. No one wrote in obituaries that the champion of postwar Japanese machismo wanted to die. But another face of the gusto for life that laughs at death is the silent wish that one will die when least expecting to, for to sense that the end is near is to know, if not to admit, that one is mortal. Rikidozan did not seem the type who would want to die of a knife wound incurred in a drunken brawl. Death in the ring, the result of an illegal assault by a gaijin opponent, might have been tolerable. Thus one can only think that Rikidozan failed to fight for his life because of delusions of indomitability. In the manner of the true human hero, he was vulnerable only to himself.

Rikidozan died only weeks after John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Japanese women's magazines at the time focused on the problems that beset widowed mothers with young or unborn children, like Jacqueline Kennedy and Momota Keiko, Rikidozan's wife. Magazines read mainly by men raised the question of whether the high audience ratings of professional wrestling broadcasts and telecasts-not only higher than baseball but most entertainment programming at the time-would continue at such levels without their principal attraction. The sports tabloids were thrown into a state of shock in fear of circulation drops on the lucrative commuter runs. Few commentators on Rikidozan's death failed to observe what the wrestler had meant to postwar Japanese fans. As one Tokyo sports programmer expressed it: "Rikidozan can be called a hero of the age, given birth by a Japan defeated in war. His flinging of the giant bodies of gaijin wrestlers was a hit with the Japanese, who had been shocked by the defeat. No matter what the mass media may do now, it cannot create a hero like this a second time." [n 11]

It is probably true that the specific climate in which Rikidozan became a popular hero is past, but media mongers can hardly be said to have "created" Rikidozan. At most they gave him time and space, reporting his achievements in the belief that they held profound meaning for their audiences. That Japanese listeners and viewers found his demeanor to their liking cannot be attributed to media technology or methods. If Rikidozan was a product of exploitative marketing, he was a product that largely sold itself.

In any event, the apprehension that the Japanese wrestling world and sports media expressed about their future has proven unfounded. Professional wrestling, featuring mainly Asian Japanese versus non-Asian foreigners, continues to command several hours of prime-time television every week. Commuter tabloids have multiplied, showing as much as possible of the pulpy gore of battered bodies in color gravure with sensational captions. The continued and possibly increased interest in professional wrestling in Japan since Rikidozan's death may be credited in part to subsequent developments in media knowhow and related changes in social behavior, but the media did not create such interest, much less the behavior that attracts or attends such interest. The need to display sexual power, the capacity to ritualize such display for the benefit of vicarious participants, and the potential for such ritual to extend to interethnic competition. have existed in human cultures throughout history.

In the instance of Japan, one has only to refer to any of the widely available reproductions of Japanese erotic art, particularly of the premodern periods, to understand why "cockfight" is more than a Freudian double entendre when applied to professional wrestling and other gladiator sports. Some of the great masters of ukiyoe (floating world pictures) and shunga (spring pictures) have left dramatic portrayals of males fighting one another with exaggerated phalli, or otherwise engaged in overt phallic competition. Also of interest are the classic depictions of sumo matches between male and female sexual organs. In early Japanese sexual humor, as well as in caricature art, one finds considerable evidence of concern over intra- and intersexual rivalry placing importance on organ size. It was therefore not a new obsession but simply a modem extension of an ancient one that inspired Asian Japanese to challenge gaijin in the ring. From early sketches and caricatures of such interethnic matches, one imagines the enormous crowds that gathered and the keen interest they took in the rivalry between "Japanese spirit" and "gaijin might."

Contemporary Japanese weekly magazines often feature articles on marriages between large athletes, like sumo and professional wrestlers, and women of normal stature. Interviewers of these spouses all but ask directly for details of their sexual life. Similar interest is shown the subject of interracial sexuality, particularly between smaller yellows on the one hand, and larger blacks and whites on the other. Rikidozan escaped none of this, although in his day the media was less explicit. He exposed his body with obvious pride to both sexes and all races. What this exhibitionism meant to Rikidozan cannot be known. More important, perhaps, is what it meant for his fans. For not a few Asian Japanese who watched his explosions of machismo, he symbolized ethnic hope. During the early postwar years, he made more bearable the street parades of yellow women on the arms of black and white soldiers.


Debunking Myth

Decades after such racial embarrassment, some majority Japanese continue to suffer an apparent inferiority complex from documentary and fictional flashbacks of occupied bars and beds. The weekly magazines continue to chum out the conventional warnings to their Japanese female readers against casual liaisons with gaijin men, while ironically baiting them in others. But since the late 1960s and early 1970s, a new genre of lurid story has begun to appear, featuring Asian Japanese male conquests of gaijin womanhood in Japan and abroad, suggesting that the proverbial "number one economic animal" of the 1980s will sport a new coat of sexual confidence, to warm its neonascent pride in national achievement in the face of increasingly chilly alien winds.

The aura of Rikidozan is never too remote from such currents in Japanese popular culture. Between mid-1971 and mid-1972, the most widely read ring magazine revived the cult in a feature series on Rikidozan's life. [n 12] In late 1972, Rikidozan's youngest son (the wrestler left two sons and two daughters) followed his father into the ring, and the more vicarious older son became a ringside announcer. [n 13] In late 1976 and early 1977, the image of Rikidozan's muscular body was recalled to duty, helping to sell Nikka whiskey in display ads that capitalized on the "Yesterday Once More" television specials by NHK (Japan's national public broadcasting network) and on commercial networks celebrating their twenty-fifth year. The special programs gave great tribute to the "gaiiin conqueror" who had helped so much to boost the spread of Japanese television in the early 1950s. And in mid-1978, billing himself as Rikidozan II, the older son traded his microphone for trunks and boots, claiming that it was in his blood to be where the action was." [n 14]

The myth of Rikidozan as a "Japanese" ethnic hero, however, has finally begun to be viewed with considerable skepticism. This is not to say that the myth will die as easily as the man who became its central character, but that the abutments supporting the myth are showing signs of erosion from undercurrents of criticism. Rikidozan researcher Ushijima Hidehiko, for example, has disposed of practically every element of the fable of Rikidozan's origins as found in most popular biographies. [n 15] An exhaustive search of the records of the Omura schools supposedly attended by Rikidozan have produced no evidence that the wrestler lived in Japan before his midteens. And Ushijima has interviewed people with documents making it clear that Rikidozan acquired his Japanese nationality through being adopted by Momota Minosuke, who was anything but an impoverished farmer. Nor was Rikidozan such an obedient son.

One of Ushijima's principal informants was Ogata Toraichi, who claimed to have scouted Rikidozan in the late 1930s while serving as a border patrolman with Japanese military police in Korea. Ogata was the son of a relatively wealthy Omura merchant who died of cancer. Ogata's widowed mother became a common-law wife of Momota Minosuke, who thus became Ogata's stepfather. Not a farmer but a foreman, and then a promoter and geisha-house operator, Momota was an avid sumo fan and became the benefactor of Tamanoumi and other local sumo contenders.

When Ogata discovered Rikidozan, the wrestler's mother and older brothers were running a rice mill on the outskirts of Seoul. The family name Kim became Kanamura in 1939, when all citizens of the Imperial Japanese territories of Korea, Taiwan, and Karafuto (Sakhalin) were ordered to Japanize their names. [n 16] Rikidozan had attracted Ogata's attention when he and the oldest of his two brothers won a sumo tournament in Seoul. His mother, however, is said to have been strongly opposed to her sons participating in a sport that made them naked spectacles, and she was so adamantly against Rikidozan pursuing a sumo career in Japan that she pressed him to marry in the belief that he would never want to leave Korea if he slept with his bride even one night. Rikidozan conceded to the wedding, but not looking forward to spending his life milling rice, and possessed by dreams of becoming a sumo champion of Imperial Japan, the fifteen-year-old youth abandoned his bride and sought Ogata's shelter and patronage.

Imperial subject Kim Kwang Ho, alias Kanamura Mitsuhiro, was a citizen of the Imperial Japanese territory of Korea, and not of Japan proper. Thus he required a landing permit to enter Japan. Such a permit would have been difficult to obtain had Ogata not been a veteran of many years on the military police in Korea, as well as the nominal stepson of an influential Kyushu sumo promoter. The only additional passes required on the road to becoming a competitor in Japan were Japanese nationality and training in the stable of a proven competitor, and both were granted by Momota Minosuke, who adopted Rikidozan and apprenticed him to Tamanoumi. [n 17]

Ushijima describes the postwar wrestling scene as one which found Asian Japanese and Koreans concerned not only about whether yellow competitors could beat blacks and whites, but who would win in competition between Japanese and Koreans. Apparently Rikidozan was not a favorite among those ethnically open Koreans who suspected or knew of his Korean ancestry and of his willingness to identify with Japanese who felt that Japanese machismo was superior to that of Koreans.

Rikidozan did his best to maintain his image as a "Japanese" ethnic hero (which he definitely was, although he had once been Korean). He was irritated whenever the media alluded to his Korean origins, as it did on the occasion of his January 1963 visit to the Korean peninsula. Some papers had reported this visit as "the first to his mother country in two decades," instead of simply saying that he had gone to play golf. But Rikidozan himself seemed to have found his "Japanese" mask too heavy to wear on this visit, during which he once said "Thank you" in Korean, when welcomed as a "Korean" hero by bouquet-bearing Korean girls. He then apologized that two decades of speaking only Japanese had left him unable to speak his mother tongue very well.

Korean wrestler Kim Il so admired Rikidozan for his "Korean" machismo that in April 1958 he smuggled himself into Japan to seek out his idol and make his acquaintance. Later arrested in a Yokohama brothel, the illegal immigrant appealed to Rikidozan, who prevailed upon the political ties of Ono Banboku to secure Kim's immigration status in Japan as one of Rikidozan's ring disciples. But Rikidozan forbade Kim to use his Korean name, assigning him the ethnically Japanese ring name of Oki Kintaro. [n 18]

Rikidozan's confusion about his identity is further reflected in a comment he once made to a ring referee, reported by Ushijima, in which he referred to himself as a "Japanese-Korean halfbreed" (Nihonjin to Chosenjin no haafu). In this variation of the Rikidozan nativity story, his father is said to have been a Japanese soldier, stationed in Korea, who abandoned his Korean family when he returned to Japan. But questions of Rikidozan's parentage aside, in Ushijima's words, "He lost no time endeavoring to become completely Japanese."


Ethnic Definitions and Stereotypes

But what would majority Japanese have thought had they known that their wrestling hero was a Japanese whose parents had been garlic-eating, conniving, dirty, arrogant Koreans? Oshima understates the potential sense of ethnic betrayal when he writes: "The heroic story of Rikidozan performing in the midst of the fanatic cheering and applause of Japanese fans should really be called the grand fiction of Japanese popular nationalism. For Rikidozan was not a Japanese [Nihonjin] but a Japan resident Korean [Zainichi Chosenjin]." [n 19]

But if contemporary kings of Japanese machismo (such as pulp-story writer and sports biographer Kajiwara Ikki) [n 20] are irresponsible or even deceitful when they capitalize on Rikidozan's image as a Japanese national hero uncompromised by tabooed questions about his ethnic ancestry, then Oshima would seem to be equally guilty of betrayal. Indeed, the greatest betrayal of all may be the manner in which Oshima denies that Rikidozan was a Nihonjin (Japanese) and labels him a Zainichi Chosenjin (Japan-resident Korean). For the moment Rikidozan's name was entered in Momota Minosuke's domicile register, the wrestler became a Japanese national and therefore Japanese. Examples of ethnic majority Japanese and others reserving the word "Japanese" for those who are thought to be of Japanese racial pedigree are ubiquitous. Even in scholarly writing, which is supposed to be objective in the most humanistic sense of this word, the term "Japanese" is almost invariably used to connote a mythical race of people, rather than to denote people who in reality are bona fide members of Japanese society and who may wish to be considered as such.

Ethnocentric sociolinguistic conventions also make it difficult for majority Japanese and many others to entertain the notion of a Japanese of Korean or other non-Japanese ethnic ancestries. But psychocultural identity includes not only nationality and the emblems acquired from the society in which one is living, but also emotional ties to earlier years that may have been passed in other societies, or an ethnic heritage acquired through a lineage that may include immigrant ancestors. Thus another kind of betrayal is the betrayal of the individual by society, as seen in the reluctance of critics like Oshima to consider Rikidozan a person who was both Japanese and Korean, rather than simply Japanese or Korean; a person who may have had both a Japanese side and a Korean side, the former propelling him into a public career, the latter moving him to nostalgia for things he kept locked in a room and comfortably shared only with those he felt he could trust with his secret; a person who was ethnically proud but both expected and feared social discrimination if he tried to be ethnically honest.

If Oshima's report of Harimoto's encounter with Rikidozan's locked ethnic closet is an accurate representation, then the wrestler's motive for passing as a majority Japanese would seem to have included the wish that he did not have to. Whatever the law may tell us about Rikidozan's nationality, and whatever journalists or scholars may say about his identity, it is dear that he had reasons to identify with Japanese and Korean culture and society, whether his Japanese and Korean connections were biological, cultural, social, linguistic, legal, religious, psychological, or even delusionary. It is reasonable to suppose that he would have been elated to feel free to acknowledge the Korean and Japanese parts of himself as an integrated whole. But his ego was divided by the tyranny of limited labeling choices in a multi-ethnic Japanese society most of whose members, and even outsiders, prefer to regard as mono-ethnic.

Common to all betrayals of the pressing desire to express one's ethnic self without division or hiding-essential factors in the psychology of closeting and passing-is the social pathology induced by conventional ethnic labels. Labeling traditions imprison users of language in conventional categories that tend to disallow racial and cultural mixing, to nourish obsessions with purity, and otherwise to help condition visceral ambivalence about belonging to a disparaged group. Traditional ethnic labels thus discourage the formation of attitudes free of the need to resolve real or fictitious multiple identities into one favored identity.

If Rikidozan was unable to be both selves at once, it was because he grew up with people who insisted, in accordance with their labeling traditions, that he be only one self, preferably Japanese. But equally tragic, though etiologically telling, is that even in death his identity should remain the object of an ethnic tug-of-war that labels him one or the other, but not both Japanese and Korean. It is this general absence in human cultures of the spirit of ethnic accommodation, multi-ethnicity, and pluralism that made Rikidozan an ethnic schizophrenic. That the causes of his symptoms were social more than personal is reflected in the manner in which his biographers, and others who use his life to serve their own purposes, continue to divide the whole person that Rikidozan would probably have been had prevailing cultural linguistic categories been less ethnocentric.


What's in a name

The language of Harimoto Isao's culture inspires him to remain a Korean national while being both Korean and Japanese in terms of his actual life. Derogatory jeers like ninnikubara (garlic belly), kimuchi kutabare (kimch'i, i.e., Korean, go to hell!), and Choosen kaere (Korean go home!) [n 21] have followed Harimoto from his youth in Hiroshima, where an older sister died from effects of exposure to the atomic bomb, to his present life on the ball field, where ethnic gibes from the grandstands and even from opponent players keep him busy defending his pride with his bat if not with his mouth or fists. Unlike Rikidozan, Harimoto wants it known that he is of Korean ancestry, and also that he is Korean and does not wish to be Japanese.

The one accommodation Harimoto has made is to continue to be known by his ethnic-majority Japanese passing name, which he has used since childhood. Koreans in Japan and Korea, and persons of Korean ancestry who are no longer Koreans but who continue to bear witness to their ethnic heritage, know Harimoto by his legal name, Chang Hun. This name also appears, with no objection from Harimoto and usually on his recommendation, in much of the mass-media coverage of his life and career, including television programs, book-length biographies, and magazine and newspaper articles.

NHK television, for example, once featured a prime-time documentary on Harimoto as a Japan-resident Korean superstar who had refused to naturalize. The program was telecast nationwide on 6 February 1976, when NHK was fighting a lawsuit filed by legal scholar, Christian minister, and civil-rights leader Choe Chang Hwa (Ch'oe Ch'ang Hwa) for alleged discrimination in its policy of reading all ethnically Korean personal names-for which Chinese characters are known-in Sino-Japanese rather than in Japanized forms of Sino-Korean. [n 22] The title of the NHK program, "Chan Fun," was based on Harimoto's Korean name. It consisted of the Chinese characters for the name Chang Hun, followed by (in parentheses) the Japanese syllabic transcription for the Sino-Korean pronunciation of the characters. The Korean name Chang Hun was pronounced on the program in the Japanized form, Chan Fun, rather than Cho Kun, the Sino-Japanese reading of the characters.

This represented an unusual NHK deviation from an otherwise totally ethnocentric attitude toward ethnically Korean and Chinese names. NHK, arguing in court that to render Korean names in Korean or in Japanese based on Korean would invite "confusion and misunderstanding" among Japanese viewers, makes concessions only in cases of superstar performers and other Korean minorities in Japan who are known to have the courage to place their self-proclaimed ethnicity before their personal careers and paychecks. Less distinguished Korean and Chinese minorities have little hope of having their ethnic names recognized by majority institutions, a situation reminiscent of the colonial period when Koreans, Taiwanese, and indigenous peoples of Karafuto were ordered by Imperial Japanese administrators to Japanize their names. But NHK is only one of the pillars of majority Japanese culture and society that practices systematic discrimination against ethnically non-Japanese names expressed in Chinese characters. Reflecting but also perpetuating the strong tendency of Japanese to ignore the languages of their nearest Asian neighbors, practically all Japanese institutions responsible for the dissemination of information in the Japanese language systematically ignore the ethnic readings of Korean and Chinese names, even when their bearers make personal requests that their names be read as they read them, or clearly indicate the readings they prefer in press conferences or commercial publications.

Freedom in the choice of names when naturalizing in Japan is another area of controversy in maintaining ethnicity via ethnic names. Andrew Horvat, a freelance writer residing in Japan, writes under the subheading "Not One Person in Japan Has a Foreign name," as follows: [n 23]

Japan is a strange country. It is a rule that Japanese nationals [Kokumin] must have a characteristically Japanese name [Nihonjin koyu no namae]. If I, Horvat [Horubaato], acquire Japanese citizenship, I would have to change my name to something like Horikawa, Horie, Horibata, or Horibato [as written in Chinese characters]. So long as I am Horvat, city hall will refuse to establish my domicile register.

In Hungary I was Horvat, and I was Horvat after moving to Canada. Only when becoming Japanese would I be forced to discard the name Horvat. In other words, the basis for preventing the assimilation of Japanese with other ethnic groups is clearly provided by law.

Lafcadio Hearn, in order to become Japanese, changed his name to the Japanese name Koizumi Yakumo. Persons with names like Pak or Kim, or with other names that convey non-Japanese ancestral origins, are not recognized as Japanese. Is there nothing that can be done about this?

There are blonde, blue-eyed people who like me are saying that if possible they would like to become Japanese. But we are told, "If that's how you feel, then take a name like Yamamoto."

Horvat, like Oshima, is sincere in his criticism but hasty in his use of ethnic labels. To state that no one in Japan has a foreign name is to ignore the nearly one-million foreigners, including himself, who are not only in Japan but who comprise a vital part of Japanese society. Most of them are life-long residents who have been born and raised in Japan, are native speakers of Japanese, and are psychologically at home in Japanese society. Foreigners in Japan who came to Japan as adults include, for example, a Canadian whose name is Ishikawa, and he -- not she -- is "a white-skinned, gaijin-esque male with blond curly hair and blue eyes that shine in the dark" -- with not a trace of "Japanese" blood in his veins. [n 24] But because he is a foreigner, Ishikawa must be a foreign name -- for only foreigners can have foreign names, and all names of foreigners must be foreign. And if Hamamoto is the name of a Japanese American in Japan, then it is also a foreign name, for its owner is not Japanese but American, and Americans in Japan are foreigners. But to suggest that no Japanese in Japan has a foreign name is ludicrous, for no Japanese in Japan is a foreigner, and so no name of a Japanese in Japan can be a foreign name, whether the name is Hamamoto (the name retained by the above-mentioned Japanese American when he naturalized and became not only Japanese, but a Japanese American Japanese); or Wagana (Wagner, the name of a Japanese sculptor who naturalized from Hungary); or Chin Jukan (Sim Sugwan, the name of a Japanese potter who traces his Korean roots fourteen generations back to 1604, and continues to be in touch with relative potters in Korea).

In fact, Japanese naming laws and their administrative interpretations place not a single restriction on the ethnicity of the legal name elected by a naturalizing alien or naturalized citizen, or the name assigned to an infant native-born citizen. The laws require only that a name being entered in a Japanese domicile register, as the name of a member of the register (which is tantamount to being a Japanese national), must be written in one of the three officially approved scripts: that is, Chinese characters selected from a standard list of about 2,000, or one of two standard syllabic Japanese scripts. It is not even required that a name be written in characters; either of the syllabic scripts can be used to transcribe names from other scripts, including hangul (the Korean alphabetic script) and Roman letters. Thus Horvat could be written Horubaato (as his translator did in his book), and Kim and Pak could be written Kimu and Paku. For that matter, the Chinese characters for Kim and Pak are included on the official lists, and there is nothing in Japanese law to prevent a naturalizing foreigner from becoming Japanese as Kimu or Paku -- if not Kim or Pak.

This is not to say that there is not considerable discrimination regarding names. Instructions in the guidebook for nationalization applicants state that, in principle, the applicant is free to choose any name. But it is immediately added that, as far as possible (narubeku), the name used as a Japanese citizen should be a "Japanese-style name" (Nihonfu-na namae). And because all examples of entries on forms show only so-called Japanese-style names, the field is wide open for quasi-legal discrimination on the part of officials who receive and process naturalization applications. Applicants are given the impression that their application will be refused if the name to be used as a Japanese citizen is not "Japanese" in the ethnocentric sense of this word. But it must be noted that the legality of refusals to accept "non-Japanese" names has never been tested in court.

Some Koreans, Chinese, and other foreigners in Japan may avoid naturalizing because they fear they will lose their ethnic names. But it seems that most who naturalize are inclined to want to give up their ethnic names and to establish a so-called Japanese name. Available breakdowns of naturalization statistics, by former nationality and by other cohorts, show that most foreigners who naturalize in Japan already have a foot in the door of majority ethnicity, through either their own or their parents' international marriage. [n 25]

Sensitivity about one's ethnic name may vary with national minority. Unofficial statistics compiled in 1971 on Koreans and Chinese living in Kawasaki show that of 4,944 Chosenjin (North-Korean-affiliated Koreans), only 2,087 (42 percent) had registered passing names, compared with 2,555 (58 percent) of the 4,390 Kankokujin (South-Korean-affiliated Koreans) in the city. In sharp contrast with both Korean groups, only 61 (14 percent) of the 449 Chinese in the city had registered passing names. [n 26] These figures suggest that members of some minority groups may attach more importance to ancestral ethnicity than those of other groups, particularly as regards the desire to assert one's ancestral ethnicity by using an ethnic name, and to use this name despite expectations of unwanted attention, if not discrimination. [n 27] Significantly, the stigma that a Korean may attach to one's ancestral name in Japan does not necessarily abate when going abroad. Japan-resident Koreans who go abroad to study or work respond in various ways to the "ethnic freedom" they tend to discover. Those going to America, for example, may begin to express their Korean selves by attempting to gain acceptance in a Korean immigrant community. If they fail to marshal the ethnic emblems required for admittance, they may fall back on the comforts of their familiarity with things Japanese, including passing. Others are known to continue passing when around "Japanese" -- with no more assurance than when in Japan that the "other" Japanese are not also passing Koreans. [n 28]

The subject of naturalization is so highly politicized that it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. There are no naturalization quotas, and although naturalization requirements are strict and are subject to quasi-legal interpretation, it would seem that the majority of Japan-resident Koreans are technically able to naturalize. But so great is the feeling that becoming a Japanese national amounts to betraying one's Korean ethnicity, and the fear that one might be found unqualified, that only a few thousand Koreans per year take out their papers. Those who naturalize seem to feel that being a Japanese national with a majority name would make life easier, and given the discriminatory structure of Japanese society, assimilation through naturalization is easily rationalized.

Foreign nationals in Japan are disadvantaged in opportunities for employment compared with Japanese nationals. Blatant discrimination is even found in the classified ads of the major English-language dailies published in Japan, which are mainly read by Japanese nationals learning English in order to "internationalize" their view of the world. The editor of The Japan Times, for example, has publicly defended the paper's use of the phrase "Japanese only" in some of its help-wanted ads by writing that, "There may be exceptionally qualified non-Japanese individuals, of course. But they are, statistically speaking, very few." [n 29] If opinion leaders like the editor of Japan's most influential journalistic link with the rest of the world can so facilely reduce the human problem of discrimination in Japan to a numbers game (despite editorials in the same paper advocating early implementation of the United Nations Human rights Covenants that the Japanese Diet ratified in 1979), then optimism about the future of Japan as an open, humanistic society is best entertained with considerable reservations.

Although refusal to employ on the basis of nationality is illegal for most kinds of jobs, any number of quasi-legal means are available to the Japanese employer who wishes to hire only Japanese. These problems tend to affect most greatly those who have not established themselves economically and those whose skills are not sufficiently in demand to neutralize barriers of discrimination. But such problems are found also among minorities ostensibly best able to hurdle discriminatory occupational barriers. Even the most qualified and reputable foreign scholars, and other foreign professionals, have been systematically barred from regular posts in national universities, although Korean and Chinese doctors are welcomed in rural areas avoided by citified Japanese medics. And being a star ballplayer or sumo wrestler does not necessarily ease a resident foreigner's anxiety over post-retirement employment. Kaneda Masaichi, who holds most of the major pitching records in Japanese baseball, naturalized in 1959, shortly after Harimoto Isao made his debut. Kaneda, privately but never publicly known as Kim, was also a friend of Rikidozan. Kaneda is said to have told Harimoto of his apprehension that Korean nationality might be an obstacle to his becoming a manager of a Japanese ball club. [n 30] Ironically, Kaneda became manager of Lotte Orions, which is owned by Lotte incorporated, Japan's largest chewing-gum and candy company, founded and developed by Sin Nak Ho alias Shigemitsu Takeo, one of the successful postwar entrepreneurs of Korean ancestry in Japan who have found it convenient to be known by different names in different worlds.

Few successful Koreans in Japan are as direct about their use of passing names as movie maker Yoo Jinshik (Yu Chinsik), whose business card also carries the name Ryu Shinnosuke, the name he used as director of a documentary movie released in 1980 on Koreans in Japan. The film attempts to show how well Koreans have succeeded in Japanese society, and otherwise supports the ROK-affiliated Mindan policy of minimizing the problem of discrimination in Japanese society while holding apparently unsuccessful Japan-resident Koreans individually responsible for their failure.

Although Japanese nationality is no longer required to compete in national sumo, the Sumo Association continues to regard sumo as an "indigenous" sport to be protected from foreign incursions. Thus Japanese nationality is required of all association officials, including retired wrestlers who wish to open training stables. Takamiyama became a Japanese national in June 1980, only one month before he set the all-time record for the most consecutive matches in the senior division. Known as Jesse Kuhaulua when an American, he is now Watanabe Daigoro. Takamiyama long protested that he should not have to become a Japanese national in order to be a stable boss in Japan when he retires from competition, but the Sumo Association refused to change its "Japanese only" policy. [n 31]


The Sound of Music

Ethnic minorities who pass as majority Japanese unwittingly do racially sensitive majorities an incalculably great psychological favor. If one is an ethnic majority who deeply believes that race determines ability to speak the Japanese language, or appreciate Japanese food, or compose a Japanese poem, or sing Japanese songs, then nothing can be more disturbing than to find a racial outsider speaking Japanese as well or better than insiders, or eating Japanese food with as much or more relish, or writing Japanese literature and rendering Japanese music with equal or greater facility and feeling.

Admitting the heterogeneous reality of the Japanese population and its culture would reduce the level of enjoyment for those who subscribe to the myths of ethnic purity and homogeneity that bolster majority identity, and for those who feel that arts labeled "Japanese" can best be performed and appreciated only by "Japanese" artists and audiences. To encourage outstanding minority artists to perform under their ethnic names would subvert that profoundly religious sense of otherworldly uniqueness that not a few majorities and even some outsiders have the need to attribute to things Japanese. The ethnic minority who is able to pass feels pressured to assume a "Japanese" name and present oneself to the public as a "genuine" son or daughter of Nippon. Younger minority performers may be finding it easier to acknowledge their ethnicities, but trends in this direction are anything but clear. Pressure not to present oneself as Korean, for example, comes in part from parental and managerial desires not to risk a promising career in the name of ethnic pride. Once established as a "Japanese" performer, it is all the more difficult to "reveal" one's closeted self without the sense of having deceived not only one's ethnic peers but also one's fans.

Japanese popular culture reflects the same racial concerns that are found at other levels. Whether one is "Japanese" is almost invariably a matter of blood, in the genetic sense, and rarely a matter of culture or nationality. The tendency to regard blood as the ultimate ethnic emblem is epitomized in the caption to a magazine picture of an American talent in Tokyo who happens to be of Japanese ancestry. It reads: "She was born in Japan but raised in Hawaii. Her nationality is American, but no foreign blood [gaikokujin no chi] flows in her veins. She's a third generation [something] of Japanese ancestry [nikkei sansei]. [n 32]

Another issue of the magazine reports that promoters of a popular Japanese singer's Las Vegas appearance "hoped to draw mainly gaijin [foreigners], but 80 percent of the turnout was nikkeijin [people of Japanese ancestry]." [n 33] The singer, Itsuki Hiroshi, is best known for his renderings of enka (popular ballads), which are thought by many to be the "soul" of popular Japanese musical expression. [n 34] But not a few critics regard the enka genre to have been inspired by Korean songs, largely owing to the fact that Koga Masao (1904-1979), the late god of enka scores, spent the formative years of his youth (1912-1922) in Korea, although in his autobiography he fails to attribute his musical inspiration to Korean sources. [n 35]

The "roots" of enka became an open issue in Japanese journalism in late 1976 and early 1977, when Korean enka songstress Yi Song Ae toured Japan and impressed enka lovers with her moving renditions of Japanese and Korean ballads. One of her best-selling albums bore the subtitle "Enka no genryu o saguru" (Seeking the Source of Enka), and it was inevitable that review articles compared her with Miyako Harumi (b. 1948), who won the Best Singer of the Year award in 1976 for the enka ballad "Kita no yado kara" (From an Inn in the North). The "enka roots debate" was especially interesting because Miyako's father is known to be of Korean ancestry, although this fact is rarely acknowledged in entertainment magazines. [n 36] Miyako, who has been a top-billed enka singer since the late 1960s, was apparently not aware that her father was Korean until she saw how her name was listed on her junior high school diploma. Given the highest award of the Japanese popular music world in late 1976, she and her mother mounted the stage in tears that stopped a show accustomed to tears on such occasions. In magazine interviews and personal appearances over the weeks that followed, her mother told the familiar story of maternal suffering and how she had bet everything on her daughter's success. And she did so without referring to her estranged husband, much less to his Korean ethnicity. An anonymous reporter, in an article criticizing the taboos that prevent ethnic honesty in Japan's entertainment world, quoted Miyako on her reaction to discovering that she had been raised under her mother's family name Kitamura (Miyako is her stage name) rather than her father's name of Yi, as follows: [n 37]

I remember seeing my junior high diploma, and asking why the name was not Kitamura Harumi. But I immediately forgot all about it, and now it doesn't concern me in the least. After all, we're all the same human beings. I think it is really something that my father came alone to Japan from Seoul at the age of twenty-one, and then struggled to establish his business in textiles] It may have been a big decision in my mother's day [to marry a Korean], but it's different in mine. . . .

Rikidozan in myth, and Miyako Harumi in reality, achieved their glory with strong mothers at their backs or sides. Their fathers were either deceased, missing, or absent. Baseball star Harimoto Isao, raised in Japan as the youngest of three surviving children by a Korean mother who tolerated only a minimum of passing, is another model of maternally inspired achievement. Shortly after the end of the Pacific War, when his mother was thinking of returning to Korea, she received notice that her husband had died of sickness. She therefore resolved to raise her family in Japan.

Harimoto is proud at the bat, but he is prouder still when with his mother, who is frequently pictured in Korean garb. The athlete states that it was largely his mother's counsel that inspired him not to comply with requests that he naturalize so that his ball club could meet the Foreign National Player Quota and hire an American player. Unable to have their way with Harimoto, team owners sponsored the change in baseball regulations limiting the number of foreign national players allowed on one team. The law was changed so as to exempt from the quota Korean or Chinese nationals who held Imperial Japanese nationality at the end of the war or who were born in Japan to former colonial subjects.

In mid-1976, Harimoto's mother, Pak Nam Jon, was recognized as "Mother of the Year" by an organization in the Republic of Korea that wished to cite her undaunted devotion, while living in a foreign land and bereaved by the death of her husband, "in raising her children to be proud Koreans, and in raising Harimoto Isao to be an ethnic hero and not to succumb to the various allurements that would have had the athlete Harimoto become a naturalized Japanese citizen." [n 38] And in 1979, a Korean film company came to Japan to produce a move on Harimoto's life. [n 39]

Harimoto cuts a spectacular figure wherever he goes. He walks with a certain swagger that is probably more the result of his large trunk and macho character than an ethnic chip on the shoulder. Nonetheless, he attracts considerable female attention, particularly in the watering spots he is known to frequent. Harimoto is said to have contended that one in five bar and cabaret hostesses are of Korean ancestry, and that some of them reveal their ethnicity to him. Oshima reports the following anecdote: [n 40]

For example, a hostess at another table gets up for some reason. When passing Harimoto she whispers in his ear, "I'm a sister."

"You're kidding!"

"Follow me if you want proof."

The hostess goes to the entrance of the toilet and flashes Harimoto her Alien Registration Certificate.

"Keep it quiet."


Tragic Pathways of Alienation

Although one may find some refuge in hiding secrets from others, trying to hide realities from oneself can be fatal. Yamamura Masaaki (1945-1970), a Korean-Japanese college student who aspired to be a writer, committed suicide (see Chapter 7). Yamamura doubted his worth as a naturalized Japanese in a society that seemed to require the total ethnic surrender of its minorities. His older brothers were moved to publish a posthumous collection of his diary entries, essays, poems, and notes, including the following lines: [n 40]


I do not regret my youth!
Literature, religion, politics,
ethnic problems, student movements.
I drove myself in everything
to the limits of my ability.
And though it didn't last,
I even fell in innocent love.
I do not regret it!
At least I have to tell myself this.
It is just that I am extremely fatigued.
I am exhausted
and can no longer walk on.

These words are quoted from a long stretch of very fragmented and gloomy prose reflecting mainly on suicide and death. On the whole, Yamamura's writing tends to be very disorganized and hostile. Much of the content is clinically "schizoid" in the manner in which he dwells upon problems concerning Christianity, politics, and "blood" ethnicity. Yamamura represented a case of cognitive incapacity to resolve a psychological problem common to those who obsessively struggle with ethnic labels that stress "purity of blood" over "sincerity of culture." He applied all the conventional labels to himself, including kika Chosenjin (naturalized Korean), han-Nihonjin (half-Japanese), and sokoku soshitsu sha (person who has lost one's country of ancestry). He found that none of these fit, and he knew of none that would be acceptable not only to others but to himself. But he was Japanese and Japanese only. Moreover, he was entirely Japanese, for there is no such thing as being partly Japanese. One is either a Japanese national or not, and questions of ethnic ancestry have absolutely no bearing on whether one is Japanese. The problem that Yamamura faced was that neither he nor the vast majority of those he came in contact with were aware of this. In a society that made adequate allowances for ethnic diversity, Yamamura might have survived the consequences of his private obsessions and those of others. As ethnically convoluted as Rikidozan but of more fragile fiber, he became another strand in the rope of individuals strained in the tug-of-war between racists on both sides of the Korean/Japanese ethnic barrier.


Myths of Homogeneity

Ki no Tsurayuki (ca. 868-945), compiler of the Kokin wakashu (905), Japan's first anthology of waka (31-syllable poems), cites in his preface a poem he praises as the archetype of waka, and he attributes its authorship to an immigrant Korean scholar named Wani. [n 42] That the "father" of Japanese poetry was possibly an immigrant is seen by Watanabe Shoichi as evidence that there was little discrimination in early Japan, where he claims that all people were equal before waka in the sense that, in some Euro-American societies, all people are said to be equal before the law. [n 43] Watanabe, a professor of English who argues that the spirit of Japanese language and its poetic expression is all but genetically transmitted, [n 44] stops short of saying that there is discrimination in present-day Japan, but he observes that although some Japan-resident Koreans have won literary awards for their Japanese fiction or prose, he knows of no foreigner who can write good waka. [n 45]

Using an "immune reaction" metaphor, Watanabe has advocated that "a country like Japan, which from the beginning has been strongly aware of the pure blood [of its people], must regard this [aspect of] its character seriously and be stringently cautious about suddenly admitting [into its body] large amounts of alien substances." [n 46] He has also advocated that Japanese should racially discriminate against foreigners of Japanese ancestry by employing only white native speakers of English to teach English to Japanese. He reasons that because Japanese have such an enormous "gaijin complex," they would not feel comfortable learning English from native speakers of Japanese ancestry. [n 47] Watanabe's rationalization for racial discrimination in Japanese society is not without persuasiveness, especially for those who find discrimination convenient, desirable, or profitable.

The appreciation of insect sounds also tends to be the peculiar province of Japanese, according to Tsunoda Tadanobu, an otolaryngologist who has experimented with the differential reception of insect sounds and other sounds in the two hemispheres of the brain. Tsunoda's best-selling book on his research constitutes an incredibly deceptive blend of presumably scientific biometric data with cultural observations that constitute mere preconceptions and stereotypes rather than conclusions logically arguable from the data. [n 48] Although Tsunoda occasionally warns his reader that sensitivity to insect sounds is a matter of language and not genetics, his use of nationality labels in his small-sample comparative studies is thoroughly racist, and the impact of his book has been to strengthen the popular view that "Japanese" are racially unique.

Tsunoda writes, for example, of the Japanese spoken by two white subjects who showed the predominately "Japanese" pattern of sensitivity, that "if you listened to their Japanese as it came over the curtain [of the experiment booth they were sitting in], it was so perfect that you would have thought that they were Japanese." [n 49] In calling his book The Brain of Japanese People rather than The Brain of the Japanese Language, Tsunoda would seem to emphasize race rather than language. The title, like most of his research, ignores the existence of the hundreds of thousands of Koreans in Japan who are native speakers of Japanese, and the similar number of Japanese of recent Korean ancestry, not to mention Japanese of other ethnic ancestries. Ms "ethnic clinging" to foreigners of Japanese ancestry is tellingly ambivalent, for so-called Nisei and Sansei are always vaguely nikkeijin (people of Japanese ancestry) or Nihonjin (Japanese); never are those born in American said to be Americans. [n 50] For Tsunoda, being "Japanese" is a matter of race and little else.

Another example of how such obsessions with "blood" pervade human thought and make it exceedingly difficult for multi-ethnicity to emerge as a healthy alternative to extremism, schizoid paranoia, and self-destructive psychosis is found in a book published in Japan in 1976 by an international businessman and essayist, Sakamoto Uichiro, stylishly entitled Ganso to Nihonjin: Anata no senzo wa nanizoku ka (Facial Physiognomy of Japanese: What Ethnicity Were Your Ancestors?). The book epitomizes the kind of verbal categorization and expression that one can find innocently embedded in practically all contemporary commentaries on Japanese ethnicity: by Japanese and non-Japanese; in Japanese and other languages; and in pulp, popular, vernacular, journalistic, and even most scholarly publications-in short, in all the media.

A paragraph ten pages into the book directs the reader to a black-and-white photograph on the facing page, said to have been taken at a big-league baseball game, with a legend reading "Blonde girl and Korean-ancestry girl" (kinpatsu shojo to Kanminzoku-kei shojo). The author discusses the photograph as follows: "In the center of the photo is a blonde girl of Anglo-Saxon ancestry [kinpatsu no Anguro-Sakuson-kei no shojo]. She probably came to cheer Dave Johnson, [n 51] who batted well that day. Even if the rather Korean-like girl to her left is Japanese, there can be no visual confusion of taking a blonde girl for a Japanese." [n 52]

What makes these and similar comments throughout the book innocent travesties of ethnic sensitivity is the conventional manner in which the author uses common words with their most ordinary meanings to express impressions that most of his readers probably share without hesitation. Not only has Sakamoto emphatically stated that naturally blonde, phenotypically Caucasian people cannot be Japanese, but he seems to imply that white blondes go to baseball games in Japan to watch gaijin batters triumph over "Japanese" pitchers. Moreover, after labeling an unidentified Asian face Korean in the caption, he admits in the text that the person may be Japanese, thus also using these labels with a degree of racial arbitrariness that utterly ignores the only criterion by which one can ever tell who is Japanese and who is not: bona fide nationality.

Not surprisingly, the same book includes other examples of reductionist cliches. Discussing the distribution of categorically white skin tones among apparently Asian-ancestry Japanese, the author does three very interesting things. First, he observes that better than 80 percent of Asian-Japanese (my term) have skins with yellow tones, while about 10 percent have darker, brownish skins typical of Polynesians and other South Pacific peoples. Second, he implies that the remaining few percent have "clear white skins that in whiteness seem to differ little from those of the peoples of northern Europe; or smooth, lustrous skins like tamanegi [round onions]; or beautiful skins translucent enough to faintly transmit the red tones of capillaries." [n 53] Third, and most significantly, Sakamoto writes in conclusion that: [n 54]

It is very regrettable that recently there are many examples among the many caricaturists and artists who in portraying our masses uniformly render the faces of these masses in the same yellow skin tone. But there are also examples of calling us Japanese things like "Yellow Yankees" [Ieroo Yankii] or "Yellow Americans" [Kiiroi Amerikajin]. And [so] I feel that caricaturists and artists should more closely observe that which relates to white Japanese and emphasize this "white" existence.

What one fails to write often provides the best clue to the meaning of what has been written. For example, a very competent journalist specializing in Japan once wrote, in a widely distributed pamphlet, of Japan's "well-known cultural homogeneity (one language, one race, one common historical experience)." [n 55] Having thus reduced Japan to a simple, mono-ethnic society, it is understandable why the reader was told nothing of the mutual unintelligibility of some Japanese dialects, or nothing of the suppression of Okinawan, Ainu, Chinese, Korean, and other minority languages found in Japan or nothing of the dozen definitive ethnic groups that comprise a sizable fraction of the resident population, or nothing of the regional contrasts in historical experience that continue to diversify Japanese physique, personality, and culture.

Sakamoto does not seem to believe that "Japanese" origins are monogenic. Indeed, the point of his book is that "Japanese" origins are ethnically diverse. He simply fails to praise darker skins while admiring lighter skins. And he fails to ask that artists begin to emphasize the "dark existence" in the Japanese population, which might make it easier for darker, racially-mixed Japanese to be accepted as full Japanese, which they are if they are Japanese nationals. [n 56] And he fails to ask artists to represent Japanese of Korean, Chinese, Okinawan, and Ainu ancestry in their portrayals of the Japanese masses, and Japanese with black and white faces, and blonde hair and blue eyes.

To ask that Japan be portrayed as a multiracial, multicultural society is only to ask that the artist, journalist, and scholar be objective and humanistic. For Japan has never been a country for which the description "homogeneous" or "mono-ethnic" would be appropriate except as a reductionist, holistic caricature. During the one-and-a-half millennia for which we have reasonably accurate historical accounts of Japanese society and its population, it is clear that Japan has never been without ethnic minorities and ethnic conflict. [n 57] The tendency to deny that Japan is a complex, heterogenic, multi-ethnic society is the major source of anxiety and anguish for passable minorities who wish to be members of Japanese society without submitting their ethnic souls and acquiescing in the myth that they, if they pass, become as pure as those who would reject them if they did not. For those who cannot pass, there are constant reminders, verbal and nonverbal, that they lack the ethnic, usually racial emblems deemed essential to "Japanese" identity. But studies of popular heroes like Rikidozan and others like him clearly show the extent to which "Japanese" racism can be self-deceptive. The fact that some disparaged outsiders can pass as majority Japanese, and be cheered and acclaimed as Japanese ethnic heroes, is the best reminder we have that majority Japanese are not as unlike the rest of humankind as popular self-images and stereotypes would have it. [n 58]



  1. The term gaijin is almost always used to label "foreigners" on a racial rather than a legal basis. Thus, even Japanese may be called gaijin if they happen to be white, black, or racially mixed. In nonspecific contexts, however, the word tends to connote "white person" [hakujin] or "Westerner" [seiyojin]. In pejorative contexts, it closely resembles the English word "gook" [Oriental] in the sense that it is used as a sweeping racial label without reference to nationality and with derogatory connotations.
  2. Rikidozan Mitsuhiro, Karate choppu sekai o yuku: Rikidozan jiden [The Karate Chop World: The Autobiography of Rikidozan] (Tokyo: Beesubooru Magajin Sha, 1962), page 1. Ono Banboku (1890-1964) was an influential rural faction leader and vice-president of the politically conservative Liberal Democratic party. He was the commissioner of Japanese professional wrestling at the time of Rikidozan's death, and he served as chairman of the wrestler's funeral committee. It is possible that by "proxy," Ono meant to imply that Rikidozan was Korean.
  3. Chin Shunshin [Ch'en Shun-ch'en], Nihonjin to Chugokujin: "Dobun doshu" to omoikomu kiken [Japanese and Chinese: The Danger of Believing "Same Script, Same Race"] (Tokyo: Shodensha, 1971), page 169. It is not clear that Chin is aware of Rikidozan's ancestry.
  4. Oshima Yukio, Harimoto Isao: Fukutsu no tokon [Harimoto Isao: Dauntless Fighting Spirit] (Tokyo: Suponichi Shuppan, 1976), page 190.
  5. Ibid., pages 191-193.
  6. Of the three major national dailies commanding general readerships, two reported in obituaries that Rikidozan was born in Nagasaki prefecture. Only one wrote, without elaboration, that the deceased wrestler was born in Korea but that his honseki [domicile register] was in Omura city of Nagasaki prefecture. If true, then Rikidozan was Japanese at the time of his death, for had he been Korean his honseki would have been in Korea, not Japan.
  7. Shukan gendai, Vol. 6, No. 1 (1 January 1964): 46.
  8. Important Rikidozan biographies, in addition to the autobiography already cited (n 2), include: Gunji Nobuo, Rikidozan, Endo Kokichi: Puro resu oja [Rikidozan and Endo Kokichi: Professional Wrestling Champions] (Tokyo: Tsuru Shobo, 1954); Kajiwara Ikki, Rikidozan to Nihon no puro resu shi [Rikidozan and the History of Japanese Professional Wrestling] (Tokyo: Akebono Shuppan, 1971); Kaneda Tatsuo, Oja Rikidozan: Sekai senshuken o waga ude ni [Champion Rikidozan: The World Title in Our Arms) (Tokyo: Kindai Shuppan Sha, 1955); Mitsuhashi Kazuo, Rikidozan monogatari, Puro resura [The Story of Rikidozan, Professional Wrestler] (Tokyo: Muromachi Shobo, 1954); Supootsu Nippon Shinbun Tokyo Honsha (compiler), Rikidozan: Hana no shogai [Rikidozan: The Life of a Flower] (Tokyo: Supootsu Nippon Shinbun Sha, 1964). Enjoying a wider audience than all these biographies combined, and occasionally still shown in small rerun theaters, is the 1955 Nikkatsu film Doto no otoko: Rikidozan monogatari [The Man of Angry Waves: The Story of Rikidozan], directed by Morinaga Kentaro. The 84-minute feature movie dramatizes the standard Rikidozan nativity myth, and it even features the wrestler himself in documentary clips and studio shots. The film takes its title from an enka [popular ballad] first sung by Misora Hibari, the most popular songstress of postwar Japan, and one of the many enka singers who is sometimes rumored to be of Korean ancestry (see references in n 37). "Doto no otoko" (surging masculinity) was the theme song of the movie. It was natural that Misora sing it in the film, for she rivaled Rikidozan for viewer ratings in the neophyte television industry. For additional comments on this film and its pairing of Rikidozan and Misora, see Mori Akihide, Naze enka na no ka: Onpu mo yomezu gitaa mo hikenai sedai no jikkan-teki enka ko [Why Enka?: Reflections on the Truly Felt Enka of a Generation that neither Reads Notes nor Plays Guitars] (Tokyo: Keimei Shobo, 1980), pages 105-114.
  9. Ali claimed in an interview with a Japanese sports writer, published in Japanese, that Inoki called him "nigger" [Nigaa (Kuronbo)] at a press conference in New York. As a rule, Japanese in Japan are not likely to be as sensitive to the word "Jap" as Japanese who reside in North America or Europe. But even Japanese who reside outside Japan may not be as sensitive to the term as North Americans and Europeans of Japanese ancestry. The highly regarded Japanese fashion designer Takada Kenzo, for example, established his Paris reputation with the trademark JAP, and when it appeared in his New York boutique, Japanese Americans protested, although in vain.
  10. The same newspaper that reported in its obituary that Rikidozan was born in Korea (n 6) reported that he said, "Negro go home" [Niguro goo hoomu] when he mounted the stage. Featured that evening at the New Latin Quarter was a group of black performers, and it was their show that he interrupted. Rikidozan researcher Ushijima Hidehiko (see references in n 15), however, reports that the gangster who stabbed Rikidozan was someone the wrestler had punched on a previous occasion, and that the intoxicated wrestler had been shouting "Negro go home! Son of a bitch!" before he was stabbed.
  11. Shukan shincho, Vol. 8, No. 32, Iss. 410 (30 December 1963): 98.
  12. Gongu, in eight parts, from Vol. 4, No. 9, Iss. 49 (September 1971), through Vol. 5, No. 4, Iss. 56 (April 1972).
  13. Shukan bunshun, Vol. 14, No. 44, Iss. 699 (6 November 1972): 164-166.
  14. Gongu, Vol. 11, No. 7, Iss. 153 (June 1978): 88-90.
  15. Ushijima Hidehiko, "'Hinomaru' no otoko: Rikidozan no Showa hishi" [The Man of the "Rising Sun Flag": The Secret Sh6wa History of Rikidozan], Ushio, No. 219 (August 1977): 110-149; and Ushijima Hidehiko, "Cha no ma no eiyu: Rikidozan no hikari to kage" [Living-room Hero: The Lights and Shadows of Rikidozan], Ushio, No. 220 (September 1977): 264-283.
  16. For many poignant anecdotes of Korean reactions to the deprivation of their ethnic names, see Richard Kim, Lost names: Scenes From a Korean Boyhood (New York: Praeger, 1970); and Kim Il Myon, "Chosenjin no 'Nihonmei': Nihon tochika no Nihonmei shiyo no yurai to 'Soshi kaimei"' [Koreans and "Japanese names": The "Soshi Kaimei" Order and the Origin of the Use of Japanese names Under Japanese Rule], Tenbo, No. 208 (April 1976): 34-54. The latter source gives an account of Korean poet Kim So Un, who responded to the Soshi Kaimei [Create Family name, Change Personal name] order by adopting the name Tetsu Jinpei, which he intended to mean something like "I don't give a damn that I've lost my gold!" The Chinese character for Tetsu [iron] consists of two parts which mean "gold lost" (i.e., iron is metal without gold), alluding to the fact that he had lost his ethnic name Kim [gold]. See also reference in n 27.
  17. The Japanization of Korean athletes and performers through adoption is a fairly common practice. Another well-known example is ace spiker Shirai Takako, who led Japan's women's volleyball team to a silver medal in the Munich Summer Olympics in 1972, and to a gold medal in the Montreal Summer Olympics in 1976. Shirai became a volleyball star as a Korean Nisei, but she had to become "Japanese" in both nationality and name before she could play in international competition on the All-Japan team. Both conditions were met when the coach of a company team she had played for adopted her as his daughter.
  18. The Sino-Korean family name "Kim" is retained as the Sino-Japanese "Kin" in the personal name "Kintaro." This is one of the many ways that people of Korean ancestry in Japan embed their Korean names in their Japanese passing names.
  19. Oshima, Harimoto Isao, page 191.
  20. See n 8 for Kajiwara's Rikidozan biography. Kajiwara's principal genres of macho melodrama are professional sports, the martial arts, and the underworld. He was once indicted, along with his publishers, by a group of Japan-resident Koreans for stereotyping Koreans in yakuza [gangster] roles in the script he wrote for a comic-book story set in postwar Japan. A reedition of the comic book left the story intact but rendered stereotyped, Korean-accented Japanese dialogue in unaccented standard speech, and encrypted some overtly discriminatory ethnic labels. For Kajiwara's own account of the macho genres he favors, and his role in their development in postwar Japanese popular culture, see his "Gekiga ichidai" [First Generation Action Caricature], serialized weekly in the Sunday edition of Mainichi shinbun beginning 4 September 1977. Articles relating to Rikidozan begin from installment No. 9 (30 October 1977).
  21. Choosen (an exaggerated form of Chosen [Korea]) is a derogatory term for either Korea or Korean, and so Choosen kaere may also mean "Go back to Korea!"
  22. There is an extensive literature on Ch'oe's case, which he appealed to the high court in late 1977 after losing in the district court. For the most important references, see his own book on the case, Namae to jinken [Personal names and Human rights] (Tokyo: Sakai Shoten, 1979).
  23. Andrew Horvat, Soredemo watashi wa Nihonjin ni naritai: Yudaya no me ga toraeta Nippon [Still, I Want To Become Japanese: Japan as Caught by a Jewish Eye] (Tokyo: Nisshin Hodo, 1976), pages 142-143. The text, in Japanese, was translated by Toyoda Koji from an apparently unpublished English manuscript.
  24. Step News (Tokyo), No. 162 (June 1979): 4.
  25. William Wetherall and George De Vos, "Ethnic Minorities in Japan," in Veenhoven et al., eds., Case Studies on Human rights and Fundamental Freedoms: A World Survey (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1975) 1:333-375.
  26. Figures (percents are mine) are from a copy of hand-written, internal-use statistics obtained through informant.
  27. For a reasonably adequate discussion of the problem of passing names for Koreans in Japan, see Kim Il Myon, Chosenjin ga naze "Nihonmei" o nanoru no ka: Minzoku ishiki to sabetsu [Why Do Koreans Use "Japanese names?": Ethnic Awareness and Discrimination] (Tokyo: San'ichi Shobo, 1978). See also Kim, Lost names.
  28. Daekyun Chung, "Japan-born Koreans in the U.S.: Their Experiences in Japan and the U.S." (M.A. Thesis, Asian-American Studies, University of California at Los Angeles, 1978); and Chung Daekyun [Chong Tae Gyun] "'jiyu e no toso' ka: Atarashii Zainichi-Chosenjin-ron e no shikaku" ["Escape to Freedom?": A Perspective for a New View of Koreans in Japan], Chosen kenkyu, No. 189 (May 1979): 1-68 (entire contents).
  29. The Japan Times, 3 February 1980, page 9. See also Daekyun Chung's cogent rebuttal (printed without editorial comment and without any change in the paper's discriminatory advertising practices) on page 12 of the 16 February issue.
  30. Oshima, Harimoto Isao, pages 174-178.
  31. For Takamiyama's interesting views of ethnicity in Japan, and for revealing insights into his own ethnic adjustments, see Takamiyama Daigoro, Washi no sumo jinsei [My Sumo Life] (Tokyo: Asahi Evening News, 1979), translated by Mushiake Aromu from an apparently unpublished English manuscript. His English autobiography, written with John Wheeler, Takamiyama: The World of Sumo (Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1973) also touches upon the problems of cultural shock and ethnic identity, but not as comprehensively as in the more recent Japanese autobiography.
  32. Terebi gaido, Vol. 15, No. 49 (3 December 1976): 174.
  33. Terebi gaido, Vol. 16, No. 35 (2 September 1977): 9.
  34. Itsuki and a score of equally popular singers are followed by rumors that their musical flowers stem from Korean roots, and that their Japanese "soul" should be spelled "Seoul." See also n 8 and references in n 37.
  35. Koga Masao, Uta wa waga tomo waga kokoro: Koga Masao jiden [Songs are My Friends and My Soul: The Autobiography of Koga Masao] (Tokyo: Ushio Shuppan Sha, 1977), pages 51-73. See also Mori, Naze enka, pages 115-124.
  36. See, for example, Asahi shinbun, 3 March 1977 (evening edition), page 3. It is significant that this article specifically notes that Miyako Harumi has a Korean [Kankokuiin] father. Yi Song Ae's enka challenge was also widely reported in the Japanese-language Korean press in Japan. See, for example, Toitsu nippo [T'ong'il ilbo], 29 April 1977.
  37. Akasaka Kishi (pseudonym), "Naze Kankokujin tarento ga maruhi na no ka! Geino tabuu o kiru!" [Why Are the Ethnic Identities of Korean Entertainers Kept Secret?: Breaking Taboos in the Performing Arts!], Masukomi hyoron, Vol. 2, No. 12 (December 1976); 18. This article invited a strong rebuttal from Okaniwa Noboru, in "'Uwasa' to iu terorizumu: Geino o meguru 'mo hitotsu no isha' ni tsuite" [The Terrorism of "Rumor": On "One More Consolation" of the Performing Arts], Gendai no me, Vol. 18, No. 2, Iss. 103 (February 1977): 118-127. Akasaka responded to Okaniwa in a follow-up "Naze" article in Masukomi hyoron, Vol. 3, No. 3 (March 1977): 24-31, which invited a second rebuttal from Okaniwa in Gendai no me, Vol. 18, No. 6, Iss. 110 (June 1977): 276-285.

    In 1979, an editor of Masukomi hyoron [Mass Media Critique] left the magazine and started publishing the look-alike competitor Uwasa no shinso [The Truth About Rumors]. An unsigned article in Vol. 1, No. 6, Iss. 6 (September 1979): 9 of the latter reported that Mienoumi, a sumo wrestler who had just been made a Yokozuna [Grand Champion], the highest rank in national sumo, was a naturalized citizen, and that his parents were Koreans. The article criticized the fact that these details were conspicuously missing from Japanese mass media accounts of the wrestler's life, although the Korean community press gave considerable coverage to Mienoumi's "ethnic" achievement. The following issue (October 1979) featured a lengthy article by Kaneyama Toshiaki (pseudonym) entitled "Naze, Kankoku/Chosenjin no tarento no 'kokuseki' ga tabuu na no ka!" [Why are the "Nationalities" of Korean Talents Taboo?!]. The author of the article cites the case of "Englishman Lafcadio Hearn" who is said to have taken the name Koizumi Yakumo as a means of endearing himself to the people of Japan and easing his entrance into Japanese society. He then reiterates that Mienoumi had naturalized, and that he is presently known as Ishiyama Goro, but that his honmyo [true name, legal name] is Yi. But Lafcadio Hearn became a Japanese citizen, after which he was no longer "Englishman Lafcadio Hearn" but "Japanese Koizumi Yakumo." Similarly, if Mienoumi naturalized, then he is as Japanese as any member of the Imperial Family. And if he naturalized as Ishiyama, then his honmyo is Ishiyama, not Yi. Thus the author of this article, like the authors of similar "rumor" expose, would seem to be under the spell of taboos that are even more indelible than those which he would eradicate.

  38. Harimoto Isao [Chang Hun], Batto hitosuji: Harimoto Isao jiden [Straight Bat: The Autobiography of Harimoto Isao] (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1976), page 200.
  39. The movie, based on Oshima's biography, Harimoto Isao: Fukutsu no tokon, was directed by Yi Sang On of the Ryonbang Yonghwa film company. It stars Kim Ae Gyong as Harimoto's mother, Yi Kang Yong as young Harimoto, and Yi Tong Jin as Harimoto the "Korean hero" of Japanese baseball. The film was shot on a shoestring budget, and the producer economized by making use of Koreans in Japan who volunteered to serve as extras. Harimoto himself coached Yi Tong Jin in the idiosyncrasies of the Harimoto style, and he made a special appearance in the film.
  40. Oshima, Harimoto Isao, page 197.
  41. Yamamura Masaaki, Inochi moetsukiru tomo: Yamamura Masaaki iko shu [Even If My Life Ends in Flame: Collected Posthumous Manuscripts of Yamamura Masaaki] (Tokyo: Yamato Shobo, 1971), pages 3, 34. The title alludes to the manner in which Yamamura committed suicide, immolation by fire.
  42. Wani was an immigrant from the Korean state of Paekche who came to Japan around the end of the fourth Century AD about the time of Emperor Ojin, who also may have been Korean. Ojin's identity and reign dates, and thus the time that Wani came to Japan, are disputed. For a discussion of the dispute in English, see Gari Ledyard, "Galloping Along With the Horseriders: Looking for the Founders of Japan," The Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Spring 1975): 217-254.
  43. Watanabe Shoichi, Nihongo no kokoro [The Soul of the Japanese Language] (Tokyo- Kodansha, 1974), pages 105-106.
  44. Ibid., pages 8, 11-12. For a comprehensive critical review of Watanabe's thesis that so-called Yamato kotoba (words believed by many Japanese to be purely "Japanese" in origin, and which are part and parcel of classical waka) continue to transmit the racial spirit of the Japanese language as it evolved in the pristine past, see Roy Andrew Miller, The Japanese Language in Contemporary Japan: Some Sociolinguistic Observations (Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1977), and his related articles in The Journal of Japanese Studies.
  45. Ibid., page 106. Karafuto-born, Japan-resident, Korean novelist Yi Hoe Song won the coveted Akutagawa Prize in 1971, along with Okinawa-born novelist Azuma Mineo. I [Yi] is known in Sino-Japanese as Ri Kaisei.
  46. Watanabe Shoichi, Rekishi no yomikata: Ashita o yoken suru "Nihonshi no hosoku" (How To Read History: "Principles of Japanese History" That Foresee Tomorrow] (Tokyo: Shodensha, 1979), pages 69-70.
  47. Watanabe Shoichi and Gregory Clark, "Mottomo kokateki-na gakushuho o sagutte miru" [Searching for More Effective Ways to Learn (English)], The English Journal, Vol. 9, No. 1, Iss. 100 (January 1979): 66.
  48. Tsunoda Tadanobu, Nihonjin no no: No no hataraki to tozai no bunka [The Brain of Japanese People: The Functions of the Brain and East/West Culture] (Tokyo: Taishukan Shoten, 1978). For a general critique of this book in English, see Makita Kiyoshi's review in The Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Summer 1979): 439-450.
  49. Tsunoda, Nihonjin no no, page 317.
  50. Ibid., pages 58-60, 135-137.
  51. Second-baseman Johnson, a former Atlanta Braves golden glover, broke the "color line" of the Central League Yomiuri Giants in 1975 as the first "quota foreigner" to join the team. left-fielder Harimoto was acquired the following year from the Pacific League Nippon Ham Fighters, formerly the Toei Flyers, and a second American, pitcher Clyde Wright, was added to the roster. Johnson and Harimoto joined first-baseman Oh Sadaharu to give Giants' manager Nagashima Shigeo the power he needed to field a pennant-contending team and restore the ever-popular Tokyo-based Giants to their former glory. Harimoto was traded to Lotte Orions for the 1980 season. Oh retired from active play at the end of the 1980 season when Nagashima resigned. Giants' pitcher Niiura Hisao is also known as Kim I Ryung, and Nagashima himself, rivaled by Harimoto and Oh in major batting records, is pursued by doubts about the "purity" of his ethnic ancestry (see, for example, Ishida Kenzo, "Nagashima Shigeo o osotta 'Kokuseki mondai' no uwasa o tsuiseki suru! " [Chasing the "Nationality Problem" Rumors that have Assailed Nagashima Shigeo!], Uwasa no shinso), Vol. 1, No. 9, Iss. 9 (December. 1979): 16-22. Oh Sadaharu is a Chinese national, born and raised in Japan. His father is a Chekiang-born Chinese immigrant, and his mother is of Japanese ancestry. The Mandarin Chinese reading of Oh Sadaharu is Wang Chen-chih, and Oh's mailbox name is C. C. Wang. When he broke Hank Aaron's home run record in 1977, he was given the first Kokumin Eiyu [(Japanese) People's Honor] award Kokumin Eiyo Sho [(Japanese) People's Honor Award] by Prime Minister Fukuda Takeo. When Fukuda initiated the award and nominated Oh as its first recipient, he was criticized by those who felt that a foreigner should not receive such an award. For a readable and generally reliable discussion of ethnic problems in Japanese baseball, see Robert Whiting, The Chrysanthemum and the Bat: Baseball Samurai Style (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1977).
  52. Sakamoto Uichiro, Ganso to Nihonjin: Anata no senzo wa nanizoku ka [Facial Physiognomy of Japanese: What Ethnicity Were Your Ancestors?] (Tokyo: Saimaru Shuppan Kai, 1976), page 10.
  53. Ibid., page 21.
  54. Ibid., page 22.
  55. Michael Berger, The Business of Understanding Japan and the United States in Today's World [as seen through The Japanese Film, a PBS television series produced by KQED, San Francisco] (Berkeley: Pacific Film Archives in cooperation with the Japan Society of New York, 1974), page 6. Berger is actually very familiar with the problems that he inadvertently failed to mention. It is also of interest to note that he refers (p. 14) to the "hidden wish" of some Asian-Japanese "to have the yellow color of their skin changed into white."
  56. For a thoroughly researched and sensitive field report on color discrimination in Japanese society, see Nathan Strong's doctoral dissertation, Patterns of Social Interaction and Psychological Accommodation Among Japan's Konketsuji Population (University of California at Berkeley, Anthropology and Education, 1978). See also Hiroshi Wagatsuma, "The Social Perception of Skin color in Japan," Daedalus, Vol. 96, No. 2 (Spring 1967): 407-443.
  57. All periods of Japanese history have witnessed ethnic conflict along Japan's northern, southern, and western frontiers. Run-ins between Yamato peoples and Ainu or other northern groups are well attested, as is the friction between mainislanders and the peoples of the Okinawan islands. The animosity engendered by the Japanese-dominated pirates who preyed upon East Asian seaports is also well known. Two failed invasions of the Korean peninsula at the end of the 16th century left scars still visible in present-day Japan/Korea relations.

    As for confrontation nearer the inner sanctums of Japanese society, one of the most overlooked documents is the Shinsen shoji roku (815), an aristocratic peerage of clans with titles of nobility residing in the inner provinces centering on the Heian capital in present-day Kyoto. Some 326 (28 percent) of the 1182 clans listed in this register were of immigrant origin. The majority of these immigrant-origin clans resided in the capital itself, where they dominated the right district of the Chinese-style divided city. The sun-deity clans, and other clans of nonimmigrant origin, dominated the left district. Residential patterns in early Japan were clearly status related, and status was dearly a matter of ancestral proximity to the Imperial family and indigenous gods, with groups of immigrant origin or unknown ancestry at the bottom. See Richard Miller, Ancient Japanese Nobility: The Kabane Ranking System (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1974), especially statistics on page 190.

  58. The Japanese sense of being "different" extends also to the manner in which some majorities tend to view ethnic and other minority group problems in Japan. To the extent that Japan is regarded a homogeneous country, minorities are not supposed to exist. If their existence is acknowledged, their numbers are deemed insignificant. Some majorities prefer the word kubetsu (differentiation) to sabetsu (discrimination). Kubetsu implies that the treatment accorded minorities in Japan is not derivative of the malicious racial philosophies said to be found in other countries but not in Japan, where some would profess to have a comer on "human sensitivity" [kokoro].

    While some journalistic and publishing enterprises devote considerable attention to minority problems, others -- including some of the largest -- regard the subject taboo. Some mainline presses are known to censor Japanese translations of the works of foreign scholars to give their majority readers the impression that Japan is being seen from abroad as they prefer that it be seen: with no ethnic minorities beneath the cherry blossoms. Surprisingly -- or perhaps not surprisingly -- some of this censorship is the result of pressure from minority group factions that cannot tolerate views of minority problems that differ from their own ideologically dogmatic views.

    A recent example of such censorship is the case of the Japanese translation of Edwin Reischauer's best-seller The Japanese (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1977), translated by interpreter cum scholar-critic Kunihiro Masao, and published in 1979 by Bungei Shunju, one of Japan's largest and most distinguished publishing companies. Kunihiro claims in his epilogue that the translation is complete and accurate, but he makes no mention of the fact that Reischauer's half-page discussion of outcastes, historically called eta and presently known as burakumin, was entirely expurgated. Although a half-page section on Korean minorities in Japan survived, some briefer references to both Koreans and burakumin were either deleted or altered. Bungei Shunju has had trouble with radical burakumin-affiliated groups in the past, and Reischauer's understanding of minority problems in Japan is not without flaws. All but one of the many references to eta in James Clavell's Shogun were cut from the original Japanese translation. But the publishers were forced to recall the translation in March 1981. The following month, an entirely expurgated edition was issued sans all mentions of eta.