होम Modern Asian Studies Six Lives Six Deaths: Portraits from Modern Japanby R. J. Lifton; S. Katō; M. R. Reich

Six Lives Six Deaths: Portraits from Modern Japanby R. J. Lifton; S. Katō; M. R. Reich

यह पुस्तक आपको कितनी अच्छी लगी?
फ़ाइल की गुणवत्ता क्या है?
पुस्तक की गुणवत्ता का मूल्यांकन करने के लिए यह पुस्तक डाउनलोड करें
डाउनलोड की गई फ़ाइलों की गुणवत्ता क्या है?
खंड:
15
साल:
1981
भाषा:
english
पत्रिका:
Modern Asian Studies
DOI:
10.2307/312099
फ़ाइल:
PDF, 148 KB
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आप पुस्तक समीक्षा लिख सकते हैं और अपना अनुभव साझा कर सकते हैं. पढ़ूी हुई पुस्तकों के बारे में आपकी राय जानने में अन्य पाठकों को दिलचस्पी होगी. भले ही आपको किताब पसंद हो या न हो, अगर आप इसके बारे में ईमानदारी से और विस्तार से बताएँगे, तो लोग अपने लिए नई रुचिकर पुस्तकें खोज पाएँगे.
1

The Punjab Peasant in Prosperity and Debtby Malcolm Darling

साल:
1981
भाषा:
english
फ़ाइल:
PDF, 112 KB
Six Lives Six Deaths: Portraits from Modern Japan by R. J. Lifton; S. Katō; M. R. Reich
Review by: Richard Bowring
Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 15, No. 2 (1981), pp. 347-350
Published by: Cambridge University Press
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REVIEWS

347

growing responsibility of the members, despite the few violent incidents which
he describes. The main responsibility of his division was the carrying out of
SCAP policy in all matters pertaining to the establishment of parliamentary
government.
Returning to the broader area of occupation policy, Williams makes an
interesting attempt to refute the theory that from around 1948 the occupation
underwent a 'reverse course' when the United States shifted from the democratization of Japan to the rebuilding of the country in order to contain
Communism. On at least one point (that of economic recovery) Williams'
argument is unconvincing. In 1945 the basic directive to SCAP had insisted
that 'you will not assume any responsibility for the economic rehabilitation
of Japan or the strengthening of the Japanese economy'. Yet by 1948 SCAP
had been ordered to impose a rigorous programme of economic stabilization.
In other respects too the 'reverse course' theory ; stands up far better than
Williams makes out. Nevertheless his opinions are interesting and deserve
to be heard.
This book is not an attempt to contradict or undermine the works of other
members of SCAP such as Whitney. Throughout Williams is loyal to his
chiefs and his views do not diverge greatly from the official opinion on the
occupation. Mercifully though he does not reach the heights of adoration that
Whitney did in 'MacArthur: His Rendezvous With History'. His final
chapter deals with MacArthur the Statesman and while his opinion is overwhelmingly favourable, it is tempered with some sense of balance.
The great value of this work is the insight it gives into the workings of
Government Section. Particularly interesting are the profiles of its members.
These men had previously been merely only names on the roster but now, at
least partly, their characters and motivations have been sketched for us.
Williams admittedly takes a somewhat conservative stance, especially when
describing members such as T. A. Bisson, but he still adds much to our knowledge of these men. Thus his account is a welcome addition to research on
occupation history.
University of Sheffield

MICHAEL

P. HAYES

Six Lives Six Deaths: Portraitsfrom ModernJapan. By R. J. LIFTON, S. KAT 6,
and M. R. REICH. Yale University Press: New Haven, I979. Pp. 302.

This book is not without its problems. It is essentially a collection of six
biographies of six important men; Nogi Maresuke (1849-1912), Mori Ogai
(1862-1922),

Nakae Ch6min (I847-I901),

Kawakami Hajime (i879-1946),

Masamune Hakucho (1879-1966), and, perhaps inevitably, Mishima Yukio
(I925-1970). Although we now have full length biographies of three of these
men (Ogai, Kawakami, and Mishima), there can be no doubt that it is an
extremely valuable book, containing much information that cannot be found
elsewhere in English, nor in such a convenient form. There is, however, an
introductory chapter, entitled 'Approach', which falls into two distinct parts,

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348

REVIEWS

explaining Lifton's methodology and Kato's basic ideas about Japanese
society. This clear break prompts one to ask to what extent the book succeeds
in melding the views and opinions of two very different scholars, given the
fact that books of joint authorship have a danger all their own. The second
question has to do with the views expressed in the introduction; to what
extent are they a new contribution to the art of biography?
In answer to the first question, the first biography, that of General Nogi,
is as good a place to start as any. As one might expect from Kat6 Shfichi,
it is competent, wide-ranging, and to be recommended. Nogi is well placed
in his historical background, and the judgements are sound. He is defined,
quite rightly, as one of the key folk heroes of pre-I945 Japan, and the stark
contrast between the reality of the man and his symbolic existence is well
brought out. He entered the military against his will, proved incompetent at
almost every vital turn, fell into a long period of depression and dissipation
from 1878 to I886, and yet by a strange quirk of fate became a symbol of
Japan's success. This is a convincing account of his vulnerability to 'deathguilt', caused by the untold deaths that his blundering generalship brought
about. 'His only hope for revitalization lay in a good-a
perfect-death.'
(p. 57) It was a way to restore his self-esteem, to atone for his mistakes in a
time-honoured manner. The way in which this very private act (so different
from Mishima's offensive posturing) was transformed into a powerful public
symbol is one of the supreme ironies of modern Japanese history, and this
account of it is a good one.
One cannot, unfortunately, be so complimentary about the style in which
it is written. What, for instance, are we to make of the following?
The general then unbuttoned his military trousers, lifted his undershirt, and sliced
his abdomen three times with a razor-sharp blade. After carefully rebuttoning his
trousers, Nogi placed the long military sword between his knees, point up. In a final
death lunge, he threw himself on the sword's tip, jabbing it through his neck and
severing his left carotid artery. Nogi died instantly as his red blood spurted over the
tatami mats. At some time in this process, Shizuko drew her short dagger, a weapon
traditionally carried for self protection by the wife of a samurai, and stabbed herself
several times above the heart, probably dying in agony. (p. 34)
Stirring stuff but also slightly ridiculous in context, this passage is remarkable
for its total disregard for the conventions of normal academic discourse. That
it sounds as though it has been lifted from a historical novella by Mori Ogai
should not be surprising, given Kat6's avowed admiration for Ogai's work
('the most perfect prose that has yet been written in modern Japan.' p. 62).
But it is a dreadful parody; 'probably dying in agony' indeed! This may be
an extreme case, but it is by no means the only oddity. Four lines later we
come across a newspaper headline: 'General Nogi and Wife Commit Suicide
Together; As Imperial Cannons Explode They Commit Junshi.' Mori
Ogai's novella 'Utakata no Ki' is rendered somewhat improbably as 'Notes
on Bubbles' (p. 94)-a
scientific treatise perhaps? Nagauta is described as
'long epic songs' (p. I29), and the German professor of philosophy at Tokyo
University is, unless I am very much mistaken, not Kobel (p. 85) but Koeber.
It would be untrue to say that as a whole the book is badly written, for it is

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REVIEWS

349

not, but such lapses do occur quite often, and they only serve to distract and
detract.
Each biography is preceded by a few select quotations on death jrom the
man in question, and it is followed by two commentaries, one by Kat6 and
one by Lifton. Although what they say is often of interest, one is puzzled
why such a format was chosen, for it only serves to strengthen the suspicion
that we are dealing not with a synthesis but with a simple juxtaposition of
views. The commentaries in fact become unintentionally wearisome, almost
as if Kato needed an excuse to display his undoubted virtuosity and Lifton
an opportunity to take his bow too. What this means is that it becomes
impossible to decide whether the collaboration has indeed been fruitful or
not, since the two sets of opinions are always kept in quarantine. The value
of the work lies more in the solid facts and interpretations offered in the
biographies proper; the commentaries add very little of substance.
And what of the second question ? How do we evaluate the methodology
as put forward in the introduction? Kato's comments on the nature of
Japanese society and on Japanese religious attitudes are perspicacious and,
as ever, worth reading. What is more they are lucidly presented, which is
more than one can say for Lifton. At the risk of simplifying, his 'paradigm
of death and the continuity of life' goes as follows. Behind man's search to
define himself in space and time there lies a 'sense of immortality'. 'It reflects
a compelling and universal inner quest for a continuous symbolic relationship
between our finite individual lives and what has gone before and what will
come after. It is a search for symbolizing continuities, despite the discontinuities of death.' (p. 7) This 'sense of immortality' has five modes: the
biological (family system, often connected to the idea of race), theological
(mythical themes of death and rebirth), creative (artistic and scientific
endeavour as part of a larger process), natural (feeling at one with nature),
and lastly 'experiential transcendence' (ecstasy and rapture). Lifton then
relates this to the growth within the individual of an awareness of mortality,
the experience of separation in childhood leading to the painful self-analysis
of middle age. The extent to which the individual accepts death is directly
related to the degree to which the 'sense of immortality' has been nurtured
and satisfied. This is in turn linked to the much larger question of historical
change, the significance of the death for those who live on:
The paradigm of death and continuity, especially the theory of symbolic immortality,
thus can contribute to a concept of historical change. If historical shifts are understood
as alterations in the cultural stress given to one mode or combination of modes, the
general flow of history can be understood as the struggle of various collectivities to
achieve, maintain, and reaffirm a sense of immortality under changing conditions.
(p. 16)
I have two complaints with this. The first is with the mumbo jumbo. Ah
paradigm where is thy sting! If jargon can be defined as a rhetorical device
designed to persuade that ideas are infinitely more difficult, and hence more
profound, than they really are, then this is an excellent example. I am not
really sure that this sentence says anything more than: people will always
strive to give their lives significance. And this is not the only example of the

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REVIEWS

350

lamentable art of intellectual obfuscation. What can one possibly do when
faced with a sentence like: 'This framework has at least the potential advantage of combining death-linked principles of individual motivation with
necessary social and historical "space" ', or with a hydra such as: 'The
individual is energized by merging with an "immortal biocultural substance"'
(p. 9), except close the book? I protest precisely because this does the whole
book a gross disservice, obscuring the fact that we are dealing with a collection of six eminently serviceable biographies.
The second complaint is with the pretence that this approach offers us
something new:
We work outwardfrom empiricalinvestigationof primaryand secondarysources,
to comparisonof eachof the six menwith othersinJapan and elsewhere,to informed
speculationaboutmoregeneralpsychologicalandhistoricalsignificance[sic].Though
each case study is relatedas a unifiedstory,we seek to connectdirectpsychological
data aboutindividualliveswith a bodyof recognizedsocialand culturalobservations.
All this wouldseem logicalenough,even obvious.And yet it is rarelydone, because
both psychologistand historianhold so tenaciouslyto their respectivehavensof the
collective.In ourcollaborationwe leavethese
singleindividualand the suprapersonal
safe havens.We do so with commitmentto whateverpsychohistoricalrigorwe can
muster... (p. 6)
This smacks of special pleading and is rather offensive. Surely it is what any
self-respecting biographer should and does try to do. I fail to see anything
remotely new in an approach that analyses individual lives and deaths and
then tries to relate the findings to the larger historical and cultural context;
to pretend otherwise is basically dishonest.
But we are in grave danger of placing too much emphasis on the book's
failings. It should be clear where this reviewer's itch lies, and his best advice
is that the reader should turn to the first biography without further ado. This
book is definitely to be recommended for its information and for many of the
interpretations offered. The choice of subjects is informative and represents
a good cross section: two establishment figures in Nogi and Ogai, two
oppressed opponents of the government in Ch6min and Kawakami, two men
who committed suicide in Nogi and Mishima, and two rational sceptics in
Ogai and Hakuch6. Despite the emphasis placed on death, it is their lives
that prove to be of most interest, and it is for their lives that this book will
be read and appreciated, despite the worst efforts of nit-picking reviewers.
PrincetonUniversity

RICHARD

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