Homecomings

The Belated Return of Japan's Lost Soldiers

Yoshikuni Igarashi

Columbia University Press

Homecomings

Google Preview

Pub Date: September 2016

ISBN: 9780231177702

320 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $35.00£27.95

Pub Date: September 2016

ISBN: 9780231541350

320 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $34.99£27.95

Homecomings

The Belated Return of Japan's Lost Soldiers

Yoshikuni Igarashi

Columbia University Press

Soon after the end of World War II, a majority of the nearly 7 million Japanese civilians and serviceman who had been posted overseas returned home. Heeding the call to rebuild, these veterans helped remake Japan and enjoyed popularized accounts of their service. For those who took longer to be repatriated, such as the POWs detained in labor camps in Siberia and the fighters who spent years hiding in the jungles of islands in the South Pacific, returning home was more difficult. Their nation had moved on without them and resented the reminder of a humiliating, traumatizing defeat.

Homecomings tells the story of these late-returning Japanese soldiers and their struggle to adapt to a newly peaceful and prosperous society. Some were more successful than others, but they all charted a common cultural terrain, one profoundly shaped by media representations of the earlier returnees. Japan had come to redefine its nationhood through these popular images. Yoshikuni Igarashi explores what Japanese society accepted and rejected, complicating the definition of a postwar consensus and prolonging the experience of war for both Japanese soldiers and the nation. He throws the postwar narrative of Japan's recovery into question, exposing the deeper, subtler damage done to a country that only belatedly faced the implications of its loss.
A bracing, riveting, and lucid retelling of postwar Japanese culture, Homecomings is the best kind of cultural history, capturing the mesh of experience, memory, history, and representation. The book reveals the psychic and ethical complexities of the lives of soldiers who returned to a defeated nation. It shows how postwar Japanese culture was created out of those experiences and how they were narrated and represented across culture in writing, photography, and film. Alan Tansman, director, Townsend Center of the Humanities, University of California, Berkeley
Homecomings tells the stories of six repatriated Japanese soldiers. Yoshikuni Igarashi shows how Japan's mass media represented these men and how they grappled with their media images. By focusing on returnees from the immediate postwar years as well as those from the 1970s, Igarashi tells a rich story of the decades-long struggle of the Japanese people to come to terms with the awful experience of the war. Andrew Gordon, Harvard University
As masterfully recounted by Yoshikuni Igarashi, these stories of Japanese soldiers who returned home years (and sometimes decades) after 1945 are revealing, sometimes heartbreaking and often confounding, and thoroughly fascinating. Homecomings details how servicemen belatedly repatriated from Soviet labor camps and Southeast Asian and Pacific Island jungles could become both painful reminders and powerful icons in a postwar Japan eager to distance itself from and mythologize a deeply troubled past. Bill Tsutsui, president and professor of history, Hendrix College
Homecomings is a brilliant cultural history of mass-mediated negotiations of Japan's 'postwar' from the 1940s through the 1970s and beyond. Yoshikuni Igarashi brings close and sympathetic attention to the ironies, hypocrisies, and inconsistencies that colored the landscape of reintegration after Japan's disastrous empire and war. Franziska Seraphim, Boston College
A remarkable, detailed study of life in Japan and all countries in Asia involved in WW II and its aftermath.... Recommended. Choice
The author deftly examines the conflict between the need for returnees to verbalize their experiences and the government's attempt to smother the past, burying the legacies of war and colonialism under a newer, brighter postwar narrative. Japan Times
This eloquent volume will no doubt become a work to which diverse audiences— scholars, students, and general readers with an interest in the complex events of the past—will turn repeatedly to draw lessons about modern Japan’s pained relationship with the vestiges of its failed empire. Sherzod Muminov, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK, Pacific Affairs
Acknowledgments
Note on Personal Names and Names of War
Introduction
1. Life After the War: Former Servicemen in Postwar Japanese Film
2. The Story of a Man Who Was Not Allowed to Come Home: Gomikawa Junpei and The Human Condition (Ningen no joken)
3. Longing for Home: Japanese POWs in Soviet Captivity and Their Repatriation
4. "No Denunciation": Ishihara Yoshiro's Soviet Internment Experiences
5. Lost and Found in the South Pacific: Postwar Japan's Mania Over Yokoi Shoichi's Return
6. Rescued from the Past: Onoda Hiro'o's Endless War
7. The Homecoming of the "Last Japanese Soldier": Nakamura Teruo/Shiniyuwu/Li Guanghui's Postwar
Epilogue
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Commended, 2018 John Whitney Hall Book Prize, Association for Asian Studies

About the Author

Yoshikuni Igarashi is professor of history at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of Bodies of Memory: Narratives of War in Postwar Japanese Culture, 1945–1970 (2000).