In honor of the legendary filmmaker’s birthday, Hulu is streaming all of his movies for free until the end of Sunday. I know it’s short notice, but it’s well worth a shot. My personal recommendations are Ikiru, Rashomon, Seven Samurai, and his final underrated feature, Madadayo. Hope you enjoy!
The picture is a rare glimpse of the bomb’s immediate aftermath, showing the distinct two-tiered cloud as it was seen from Kaitaichi, part of present-day Kaita, six miles east of Hiroshima’s center. […]
The person who took this photo would have been among the first to look out there and realize that this wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill bomb. It wasn’t the air raid that the citizens of Hiroshima had been anticipating for months. This was the beginning of a new world.
Read more. [Image: Honkawa Elementary School]
The remarkable improvement in Japanese health began with the rapid economic growth of the late 1950s and 1960s. The government invested heavily in public health, introducing universal health insurance in 1961, free treatment for tuberculosis and cutting childhood deaths through vaccination and treatment of intestinal and respiratory infections.
Following the control of infectious diseases, Japan tackled its high death rate from stroke with salt reduction campaigns and the use of drugs to control blood pressure.
But beyond the government’s initiatives, there are attitudes and cultural practices among the people of Japan that have also helped, says the article by Professor Kenji Shibuya, of the department of global health policy at the University of Tokyo, and colleagues.
“First, Japanese people give attention to hygiene in all aspects of their daily life,” they write. “This attitude might partly be attributable to a complex interaction of culture, education, climate [eg humidity, temperature], environment [eg having plenty of water and being a rice-eating nation] and the old Shinto tradition of purifying the body and mind before meeting others.
“Second, they are health conscious. In Japan, regular check-ups are the norm. Mass screening is provided for everyone at school and work or in the community by local government authorities. A systematic check-up of the whole body, referred to as a human dry dock, is another type of health screening, which is popular amiong business people - they stay at clinics or hospitals for several days to undergo thorough physical examinations.
December 13, 1937: The Nanjing Massacre begins.
The fall of the Chinese city of Nanjing (former capital of the Republic of China) to the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War was followed by a six-week period of mass rape and murder known as the “Rape of Nanking”, beginning seventy-five years ago on this day. As the city fell, a handful of Westerners - businessmen, missionaries, doctors - quickly set up the Nanking Safety Zone, a demilitarized zone composed of several refugee camps designed to protect Chinese civilians from the city’s Japanese occupiers who, to some extent, did respect the boundaries of the zone. Although the safety zone was not entirely safe at all times, conditions outside it, in other parts of the city, were far worse, for that was where the brunt of the atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers took place over the weeks following December 13, 1937.
The International Military Tribunal for the Far East estimated that 20,000 women were raped over the course of six weeks; this number included not only young women but also the elderly, infants, and pregnant women alike, many of whom were killed indiscriminately afterward. Others had objects, ranging from bayonets to bamboo to bottles and canes, rammed into their vaginas, as seen in this photograph (warning: explicit image). One reverend present in Nanjing at the time wrote in his diary during the early days of the massacre:
I know not where to end. Never I have heard or read such brutality. Rape! Rape! Rape! We estimate at least 1,000 cases a night, and many by day.
John Rabe, German businessman, Nazi party member, and elected leader of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone, also reported the prevalence of such atrocities:
You hear nothing but rape. If husbands or brothers intervene, they’re shot. What you hear and see on all sides is the brutality and bestiality of the Japanese soldiers.
Other accounts report actual contests between Japanese officers to see who could kill the most Chinese civilians. Corpses literally littered the streets of Nanjing for weeks and months after the massacre; one Christian missionary described how civilians “were shot down like the hunting of rabbits in the streets”; Victims were bayoneted “like potatoes in a skewer”, in the words of one Japanese soldier. Death toll estimates differ greatly and remain highly disputed, although the Japanese war crimes tribunal estimated that over 200,000 civilians and prisoners of war had been killed during the six-week period in Nanjing. Iris Chang’s acclaimed (but controversial) novel The Rape of Nanking and the Chinese government assert that the death toll reached 300,000, while some Japanese researchers have made more conservative estimates, ranging from several thousand to 150,000. Others deny that such an event even occurred at all, although the IMTFE did ultimately hold Iwane Matsui responsible for what they described as an “orgy of crime”, sentencing him to death. General Hisao Tani was also sentenced to death by China’s own Nanjing War Crimes Tribunal for his involvement with the massacre.
Japan is known for being “weird” and otherwise eccentric, but it’s interesting to explore the deeper roots and significance of these customs and memes.
Namba Mall (Green Mall) in Osaka, Japan. Find more fascinating structures here.
And I mean the physical gesture, not the tie :P
Battered religious figures stand watch on a hill above a tattered valley. Nagasaki, Japan. September 24, 1945, 6 weeks after the city was destroyed by the world’s second atomic bomb attack. A Japanese report on the bombing characterized Nagasaki as “like a graveyard with not a tombstone standing.”
American World War II poster.
Australian Sergeant Leonard G. Siffleet about to be beheaded with a sword by Yasuno Chikao. Sgt. Siffleet was captured behind Japanese lines while on reconnaissance. The photo was recovered from a dead Japanese soldier. New Guinea 1943
Leonard George (Len) Siffleet (14 January 1916 – 24 October 1943) was an Australian commando of World War II. Born in Gunnedah, New South Wales, he joined the Second Australian Imperial Force in 1941, and by 1943 had reached the rank of sergeant. Posted to M Special Unit of the Services Reconnaissance Department, Siffleet was on a mission in Papua New Guinea when he and two Ambonese companions were captured by partisan tribesmen and handed over to the Japanese. All three men were interrogated, tortured and later beheaded. A photograph of Siffleet’s impending execution became an enduring image of the war, and his identity was often confused with that of other servicemen who suffered a similar fate, in particular Flight Lieutenant Bill Newton VC.
What’s going through that man’s mind while he’s waiting for the sword to cut into him? I literally cringe at the thought.
Japan’s population is both aging and declining rapidly. The country has been shrinking for five straight years, and several recent estimates have concluded that in the coming decades, Japan will lose around a million people annually. If current trends persist, by 2060 Japan’s population will be around 86 million, compared to 126 million today. Furthermore, 40% of the population by that time will be over the age of 65 (currently, 1 out of 5 Japanese people are over 65, one of the highest proportions in the world). This will be one of the first societies in history where most people are elderly (though not the last).
The more troubling thing is that while many other countries are going down this route - Germany, Italy, China, etc - Japan is almost unique in that its people are not only rejecting childbirth, but sex and relationships in general. According to domestic research, 25% of unmarried men and women in their 30s had never had sex, and most young women preferred being single. It also showed over 60% of unmarried young men didn’t have a girlfriend, while nearly 50% of women were not dating. Another survey found that 36% of males between 16 and 19 had “no interest” in sex (the phenomenon of the so-called “grass eating” men). What are the consequences of both this lack of relationship dynamic and an increasingly elderly population?
秋野不矩美術館 (Akino Fuku Art Museum)
The Akino Fuku Bijutsukan in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka is a museum housed in an interesting building made mostly from local cedar and other products. It features a permanent collection of many pieces by the late artist Akino Fuku.
The Japanese have always had a knack for both function and aesthetics. This is beautiful.
Approximately three quarters of comfort women died, and most survivors were left infertile due to sexual trauma or sexually-transmitted disease. According to Japanese soldier Yasuji Kaneko “The women cried out, but it didn’t matter to us whether the women lived or died. We were the emperor’s soldiers. Whether in military brothels or in the villages, we raped without reluctance.” Beatings and physical torture were said to be common.
I’ve read stories of women being raped with bayonets. So many people endured such horrifying treatment, and so few of their stories are known. That’s probably the greatest tragedy of all.