Commemorating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month at Thompson Library: Book Display on “Global Asias”!

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage month, East Asian Studies at OSU Libraries recently opened a feature book display for the month of May. Focusing on the exchange of ideas, people, and culture between Asia, the Pacific Islands and broader global communities, the display’s theme “Global Asias” draws inspiration from recent scholarship on topics from across the Humanities and Social Sciences in Asian and Asian American Studies. Given the context of Asian Pacific American Heritage month, the display emphasizes Asian-American experiences in the United States. In addition, it showcases OSU’s extensive collections in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Studies while highlighting recently published books on the Asian diaspora in the Pacific Rim. With books available for immediate circulation, the display is located near the stairwell in the east atrium of Thompson Library.

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Posted in News |

Focus on Japan in WWII: Kōa Shingun Ezu Iri (興亜進軍絵図入)

Interior of aerogram depicting Japanese battles in the Pacific

On February 14th, I wrote a blog introducing the Pearl Harbor Exhibit that was hung last winter in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor (December 7, 2016). In order to showcase the Japanese military perspective, the exhibit included a very special document, a fold-up aerogram that was made by the Japanese wartime government.  The present blog will feature that document, known as gunji yūbin (軍事郵便), or “military mail” in English.

Gunji Yūbin (軍事郵便)

Gunji yūbin was the military mail service that connected soldiers on the front lines to their families back in the metropole. It was established in 1894 (Meiji 27) during the Sino-Japanese War. Because the gunji yūbin was responsible for handling all letters going back and forth between the soldiers and their families, its extant pieces can be a treasure trove for researchers of war-time and Imperial Japan.

Kōa Shingun Ezu Nyūfūkan (興亜進軍絵図入封緘)

Aerogram exterior shown folded as an envelope

One such remnant is a fold-up envelope, or aerogram, which upon unfolding, provides the postal recipient with a map showing the expansion of Japanese military actions in the early 1940s. Entitled 興亜進軍絵図入封緘葉書 (or “Map of Military Marching for the Development of Asia”), the interior also includes a detailed chronology of Japanese military victories from 1941 to 1943. Issued by Niigata Tsuda Company in 1943, the main purpose of the aerogram was to illustrate ongoing battles, focusing on Japanese naval and land successes across the globe.

The map also highlights Japan’s relations with other nations in the early 1940s. Countries and regions shaded in red represented the territory of the Japanese Empire or Axis powers. Areas colored in white were known as enemies. These included countries such as the United States, Great Britain, Republic of China, and other Allied powers. Countries shaded in yellow, such as the U.S.S.R., had peace treaties or neutral relationships with Japan at the time of publication.

Flags of Friends and Allies

Another noteworthy point is a series of flags, which were attached and intended for the recipient to assemble as a type of three-dimensional decoration linking key territories in the Pacific Rim. Among these were the flags of Japan, Republic of China, Thailand, France, Germany, Italy, and Manchuria, as well as the Japanese military flag and Z flag, symbolizing Japanese victories. The small paper flags were linked together on a single string, suggesting the bonds of friendship and victory between these entities. Bamboo rods at the end of the string of flags were designed for insertion into special folds on the map.

Scholars and students wishing to access this rare material may refer to the item record in the OSU Libraries catalog:

For more information on Japanese activities during WWII available at OSUL:

Never Look Back: A History of WWII in the Pacific by William A Renzi; Mark D Roehrs (Armonk, 1991)

Japan’s War : the Great Pacific Conflict, 1853 to 1952 by Edwin P Hoyt (Da Capo Press, 1991)

Competing Voices from the Pacific War : Fighting Words by Chris Dixon, Sean Brawley, Beatrice Trefalt (Greenwood Press 2009)

For more pictures and information on the map, we recommend the blog entry here (Japanese language).


Detailed view of major military battles including the bombing of Pearl Harbor and campaign at Guadacanal

Posted in History, News |

New to OSU Libraries: The Japan Times Digital Archive!

Japanese Studies at OSU Libraries is delighted to announce that The Japan Times Digital Archive is now available at The Ohio State University. It is an extraordinary archive of Japan’s oldest English language newspaper and only independent English-language newspaper in existence today.  The digital archive allows you to search the full text of all issues of The Japan Times published since its inauguration in March 1897 (Meiji 30) until 2014.

“The Japan Times Archives” search interface

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Posted in News |

Pearl Harbor Exhibit at Thompson Library of The Ohio State University

On December 7, 2016, the National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Commemoration was held at Kilo Pier, located in the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The 1941 Japanese attack on the US naval base Pearl Harbor was one of the defining events of the twentieth century. In that single moment, the U.S. was dragged out of its post-WWI isolationism and into a role of world leadership. The U.S. put away half a century of Mahan naval doctrine, with its emphasis on naval superiority, and moved into the age of naval air combat.

In commemoration of this historic event, Area Studies at Thompson Library created the Pearl Harbor Exhibit, which can be found on the 3rd floor at reading area Room 341. This exhibit fills two glass cases, each divided into several distinct sections.

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Posted in News |

Toyo Suyemoto

Photograph of Toyo Suyemoto (Kawakami) Columbus, Ohio. Undated, circa 1974

On the occasion of Asian Pacific American Heritage month at OSU, Japanese Studies is pleased to announce the online publication of select materials from the Toyo Suyemoto (Kawakami) Collection.  Highlights of the digital exhibit include a rare oral interview, available in streaming video format, in which Suyemoto discusses memories of forced relocation and incarceration in U.S. internment camps during World War II. Images of diaries, personal photographs, notes and essays are also available in this online collection.
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Herman J. Albrecht Library of Historical Architecture – Ginza Kaiwai (銀座界隈)

As Japan was recovering from World War II, Sōhachi Kimura (木村荘八), Yoshikazu Suzuki (鈴木芳一), and several others, set out to document the history and architecture of the Ginza district in Tokyo. The finished project, Ginza Kaiwai (銀座界隈), contains two separate volumes. The main volume has detailed text, illustrations, drawings, woodblock prints, and hand-drawn maps of the entire district. The supplement, Arubamu, Ginza Hatchō (アルバム・銀座八丁) by Suzuki, is a panoramic photo, folded in leporello style, documenting the length of the main boulevard Ginza-dori.  

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Posted in Art/Art history, News | Tagged |

Focus on Rekion: Okinawan Folk Music Asadoya Yunta (安里屋ユンタ)

Asadoya Yunta (安里ユンタ or 安里屋節) is one of the most widely performed Okinawan songs in recent music history.  The song originated from Taketomi Island in the Yaeyama district of Okinawa, Japan. It tells the tale of a young and beautiful peasant woman named Kuyama Asato (安里クヤマ) and the advances of a government official. The version wide-spread in Okinawa has Kuyama refusing the official as she felt the stability offered by marrying a local man was better than the luxurious but short-lived lifestyle of a mistress. However, in the Taketomi Island version, Kuyama ended up becoming the official’s mistress.

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Posted in Databases, Digital resources, Focus on Rekion |

Okinawan Toys by Shiso Sakiyama (崎山嗣昌) – Leon Kurtz Walters, Sr. and Grace Smith Walters Collection

These papier-mâché toys are part of the collection of Okinawan Folk Art Toys (traditional Ryukyuan handcrafts)  donated by Leon K. and Sadae Yamamoto Walters and also by Robert A. and Shirley Fearey.

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Posted in Art/Art history, Distinctive collections, Resources | Tagged |

NHK Drama DVDs in the Japanese Studies Collections

The following is a list of NHK dramas offered through the Japanese Studies Collections. Brief plot synopses for each series are provided along with links to their pages in the library’s catalog. Continue reading

Posted in Films, Resources |

Focus on Rekion: The Ainu Storytelling – Yukar (ユーカラ)

The Ainu are the indigenous people of Japan, who now reside primarily on the island of Hokkaido. Ainu culture can be traced back hundreds of years. During their long history they developed their own unique music, singing styles, and musical instruments.

Photo of yukar performed around a fireside from "Songs of Gods, Songs of Humans" by Donald L. Philippi

Yukar performed around a fireside from “Songs of Gods, Songs of Humans” by Donald L. Philippi

Yukar (ユーカラ) represent a form of Ainu storytelling. They are epic poems performed using a distinctive chant-like voice, and are generally performed without musical accompaniment. Yukar can be further divided into yukar of human heroes (英雄叙事詩) and kamui yukar ( カムイ・ユカラ) which are tales of gods and spirits.

Imekanu (イメカヌ also know by her Japanese name 金成 マツ) is a well-known yukar performer and transcribed yukar poems along with her niece Yukie Chiri  (知里幸恵).  Recording of Imekanu’s yukar performance are available through Rekion by using 金成イメカヌ as the search term. Below are a few examples : Continue reading

Posted in Digital resources, Focus on Rekion |