Gomennasai


Our Forces, Flying a Great Distance, Bombard the Airport and the Surrounding Area in Nanjing, Ibuki Koshu, 1937

Our Forces, Flying a Great Distance, Bombard the Airport and the Surrounding Area in Nanjing, Ibuki Koshu, 1937

Today is the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and it seems like a good time to revisit the current Saint Louis Art Museum’s show, “Conflicts of Interest: Art and War in Modern Japan”. The origin of this show stems from a donation by locals Charles and Rosalyn Lowenhaupt. Over their lifetimes, they had collected and subsequently donated over 1,400 art objects to the museum. The current show draws from this collection and primarily features posters, like the one pictured with this post. These posters in addition to being highly stylized art works, were also the news of their day. Their bold and colorful graphics and relatively Spartan captioning told the stories of the day to a mostly rural, mostly illiterate populace. Many of the works depict scenes of violence. This particular poster, like most in the exhibit, dates from before the Pearl Harbor attack. I suspect that this is because, come Pearl Harbor the Lowenhaupts, like most other westerners were persona non grata in Japan.

Today’s Post-Dispatch had one of those folded-over advertisements that obscure half of the front page. I hate these things that usually are for hawking autos or the like, because I have to remove them before I can read the front page. Today’s wasn’t so bad though. It was a Pearl Harbor remembrance that was sponsored by the American Legion. It was also a reproduction of the December 8, 1941 Post-Dispatch front page. Headlines describe the attack and the consequential loses. It also describes FDR’s address to Congress, his “a date that will live in infamy” speech. It must have been an evening edition of the paper. If this reproduction is accurate, then the paper then was 50% wider than today’s front page. I find this to be an interesting, if not consequential change.

Gomennasai means I’m sorry in Japanese. It is a word that my Mom picked up after our year in Japan, when I was just a baby. Later this month, the Japanese prime minister will visit Pearl Harbor, their first prime minister to do so. This visit is in response to President Obama’s recent visit to Hiroshima. This was the first time a sitting American president had done that. After the war, relations improved and have been quite good for some time now, but these two tentative steps at reconciliation show how much more work there is still left to be done.

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