Thursday, February 12, 2015

Paper Shrines Of Japan

I was meandering without significant aim through the canyons of books in Maruzen's massive Tama Center store (if there are not 30,000 titles on the shelves I would be surprised) when I chanced upon a quiet, unostentatious display in the "NON-FICTION: WAR" section of the Young Readers area.

Only it was not actually not a display. Someone had set books in an unusual way, face outward, with uneven spacing, almost in disarray.

The titles, furthermore, did not all seem appropriate. Documenting War (Senso o shuzai suru) and Prayers for Rwanda (Ruwanda no inori) fit under the rubric "non-fiction: war" but Born in an Aids Village (Eizu no mura ni umarete) about a teen mother in Romania did not.

Then my heart fell to the floor.

Of course the books belonged together: they were all by Goto Kenji.

Whether intentional or not, the non-display display of Goto's books was right above the shelf of books by and about Malala Yousafzai.

Ms. Yousafzai survived her peace-seeking confrontation with fanatics (who despite their vanity and poses are not servants of the Prophet. Indeed, they are only the scrapings-off of geopolitics).

Goto did not.

* * *

If you are looking, in this year of the 70th anniversary, for a book explaining the postwar struggle over memories of World War II -- and how this struggle affects contemporary Japanese politics, pick up a copy of Dr. Franziska Seraphim's War Memory and Social Politics in Japan, 1945-2005. The cover, which I reproduce below, is of that little remembered and today unimaginable September day when the Japan Communist Party took over the grounds of Yasukuni Shrine.

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