Bodies and Structures

The Shape of Postwar Memories

This exploration of wartime journals published by Osaka Mitsukoshi is not intended to lead to the conclusion that Mitsukoshi was "really" a militant imperialist.  Rather, the oscillation we see in and across issues between promoting war and peace, modernity and the past, production and consumption, and other linked binaries suggests at the very least that neither pole could satisfactorily ground the retailer's identity and mission.  Furthermore, we need to go beyond assuming that there is an automatic mutual construction at play here. In the case of this journal run, the ongoing oppositions seem to have resulted in the journal's exhaustion and retreat.

Postwar memory has excised Mitsukoshi's collaboration with colonial expansion and the wartime state, but this was not just about burying a specific shame.  John Dower,  Yoshikuni Igarashi, and others have provided sharp analyses of the decisions made in how to end the war; how to conduct the American Occupation and how to accept it; and how to define the seeming universalism of capitalism and democracy.  The collective weight of such positions has profoundly shaped mainstream memories of what a Westernized institution like a department store must (surely) have meant.  And what it could (should) not have meant: that "Westernization" and "modernization" were at the heart of that calamitous world war that engulfed the Asia-Pacific.


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