With Pokemon Go bringing Japanese culture back to the fore, we were reminded of an essay that ran in TAI way back in the carefree days of 2006. In Goodbye Godzilla, Hello Kitty, literary critic Norihiro Kato identified a clear relationship between World War II, pacifism, democracy, and some of Japan’s most famous movies and cartoon characters.
The essay really must be read in its entirety, but here’s a small taste:
Japan has never said much to the rest of the world about the after-effects of the occupation and its attempts at democratization, or about the bizarre position in which the nation has found itself. The problems with Japan’s democratization run deep. Even the concept of democratization needs to be treated as a problem, but so far neither the Japanese government nor the Japanese media has addressed these issues head on. But if little has been said explicitly about the occupation’s after-effects and about the troubles that have haunted postwar Japanese society, the problems have perhaps begun to be marked in another way. This is the meaning of Japanese cuteness.
With Shinzo Abe’s controversial remilitarization effort bringing long-suppressed questions about war and identity back in Japan’s consciousness, Kato’s insights into Japan’s post-War experience couldn’t be more timely. Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.