I’m currently studying ‘Visualizing Postwar Tokyo‘, a short course offered by the University of Tokyo. I am sharing my midterm essay with you below. I Hope you find it interesting.
In August 30th 1945, Commander Douglas MacArthur, of the US Army, landed at Atsusgi airport to receive the Japanese surrender during the US led war on Japan.
It is interesting to note that the (above) photograph of him landing did not appear in the Japanese newspapers at the time. This only leads one to believe that the image was not really meant for the Japanese people but was for the American spectators in Japan and the American readers in the USA. The American censorship system in Japan prohibited America to be depicted as an occupier (The media was supposed to pretend that the occupation did not exist). Hence, even though this iconic image was out of view for ordinary Japanese people; why was it that on September 2nd 2011, when this image was reprinted as an advertisement in a major Japanese newspaper, the readers perceived this image ironically and positively?
The image above is an advertisement (The text means “Let’s rebuild our nation, yet again”) that appeared as a full-page ad in a major national newspaper. It ran for one day on September 2nd 2011, about six months after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. This advertisement, which implies keen criticism regarding post-war Japan, attracted instant public attention, and won a lot of ad design awards.
In present day Japan, Macarthur is viewed as an iconic symbol of post-war era Japan. He led Japan’s reconstruction in many fields such as economy, democracy and the Japanese constitution. As such, Japanese people seem to have positive feelings towards him but having said that, they also harbour feelings of a complex nature.
The image suggests that the Japanese were more horrified of what the war had brought to their country (such as death, hunger, deprivation and destruction etc.) more than the actual occupation itself. Hence rather than being afraid of the commander’s arrival, they were relived and welcomed the end of the war, which also meant welcoming Macarthur.
The advertisement itself does not come across as pushy nor arrogant, but rather reinforces the idea that there is always light at the end of the tunnel (the war being the dark tunnel and Macarthur being the light at the end of that tunnel). Macarthur’s arrival was hope for a new Japan, a vision for a prosperous Japan, which was achieved in a very short time. Therefore what the advertisement is telling the reader is that, if we can rise from the ashes of a horrific war then recovering from an earth quake and a nuclear disaster shouldn’t be a problem, we just need to work hard collectively. On the contrary, by glorifying an enemy commander the image and the text lacks a little consideration to the people who had suffered during the war.