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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Kondo Book Store and U.S. Propaganda in Postwar Japan


Here is my first Japanese bookstore trade label: The Kondo Book Store in the Ginza section of Tokyo. I found it in a copy of Homecoming, by Jiro Osaragi. It's been languishing for months in a backlog pile. I finally got around to looking at it and got a nice surprise in the form of some interesting history in U.S.-Japanese relations and psychological warfare following World War II.


This English translation was a special reprint edition of Knopf's first English translation. Published by Charles E. Tuttle (Rutland, Vermont and Tokyo) in 1955, this edition was sold only in Japan, Korea, and Okinawa. Perhaps someday I'll have trade labels from the stores in Korea and Okinawa that also stocked this book.

As the book deals with life in postwar (WWII) Japan, and the publication time frame includes post-Korean War, I can see how the book wound up on the shelves of Kondo Book Store and bookstores in Okinawa and Korea. U.S. occupation of Japan ended in 1952, so my guess is that this book and other English translations were intended primarily for Japanese readers who wanted to improve their English skills.

I was curious about the Kondo Book Store and its place in Japanese (specifically Tokyo) culture during the postwar years. I imagined Kondo and other bookstores playing important cultural rebuilding roles for a country devastated by war and seeking to redefine itself.

But I found some very interesting information about another war that began during U.S. occupation--that of propaganda to counteract the communist propaganda machine that was fighting for the minds of the Japanese. The United States Information Service (USIS) used various media as tools to influence Japanese thinking. Films were perhaps the most popular form, but books were included in the mix as well.

David E. Kaplan writes:
...U.S. psychological warfare waged in Japan and other Asian nations during the 1950s, according to recently declassified U.S. government documents. The most extensive operations appear to have been in Japan, where U.S. officials secretly financed feature films, TV programs, thousands of hours of radio programming, hundreds of books, and numerous intellectuals.
The advent of this psychological campaign was justified as a necessary counteraction to Communist propaganda in Japan. Kaplan writes further of the communists, with an angle on book publishing and bookselling:
Like the Americans, the Soviets had their successes. "Bookstores are loaded with Communist books," warned the NSC report on Japanese intellectuals. Alarmed by these sales, including a bestseller on Marxist economics, the Americans pushed into publishing as well. By 1955, the USIS was behind publication of more than 100 books per year in Japan--and could boast its own anti-communist bestsellers. Payments or subsidies went to friendly authors and publishers.
Was Charles E. Tuttle a "friendly publisher?" Charles E. Tuttle Publishing started in Japan in 1948, specializing in books about Japanese culture and English language books for Japanese readers trying to learn English. They are still in business today, as you may have already determined by clicking the link above. Tuttle was at the forefront of language studies between the two nations during this era and had a keen interest and understanding of what it would take to build good relations with a former enemy. Many English translations were published by Tuttle during the 1950s, which coincided with the USIS program.

The Tuttle name has been associated with the printing and publishing business out of Rutland, Vermont since the 1800s. I'm not sure of the exact connection with the company in Japan, but there is a connection, perhaps a spin-off company of some sort.

But I have to wonder if Tuttle's vision of publishing and bookselling in Japan coincidentally played into the hands of USIS initiatives, or did those initiatives recruit and place Tuttle into a prominent position to direct the Japanese mindset toward American interests? Charles E. Tuttle had served in the occupation forces and developed an interest in returning to start a publishing company.

Whereas the bibliographic detail for the book containing the Kondo trade label seemed trivial before, it now seems to have a possible, and quite interesting, relationship to the psychological warfare waged in publishing houses and bookstores across Japan during the 1950s and beyond.

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