From Confinement to Containment: Japanese/American Arts during the Early Cold War, Edward Tang (Temple University Press, February 2019)
From Confinement to Containment: Japanese/American Arts during the Early Cold War, Edward Tang (Temple University Press, February 2019)

During the early part of the Cold War, Japan emerged as a model ally, and Japanese Americans were seen as a model minority. From Confinement to Containment examines the work of four Japanese and Japanese/American artists and writers during this period: the novelist Hanama Tasaki, the actor Yamaguchi Yoshiko, the painter Henry Sugimoto, and the children’s author Yoshiko Uchida. The backgrounds of the four figures reveal a mixing of nationalities, a borrowing of cultures, and a combination of domestic and overseas interests.

There’s a song by the Rolling Stones which has the words “Time, time, time is on my side, yes, it is,” and which we might imagine being merrily hummed by Seleucus I in 305 BCE as he instituted a new system of dating which made him, in effect, the ruler over time itself. In future, Seleucus decreed, time would not stop when one sovereign died and restart when his successor ascended the throne. Instead, time would be continuous, durational, move progressively forward and not be reversible.

In 2011, Susan Conley’s candid memoir, The Foremost Good Fortune, took readers to Beijing around the time of the 2008 Olympics. Conley’s concise and poetic prose showed a side of Beijing few expats experience: the fears of a new cancer diagnosis while trying to navigate a new city with her husband and two young sons. This was followed in 2013 with a novel, Paris was the Place about  a young American woman who moves to Paris during the 1980s AIDS crisis to be closer to her brother. She finds work at a refugee detention center where she helps women prepare for their asylum hearings.

Deborah Baker opens The Last Englishmen with the admission that she was looking for a new way to write about WW2 India when she came across the papers of John Bicknell Auden, the older brother of the well-known British poet, WH Auden. In her explorations, she found another brother of another poet—Michael Spender. The fortuitous connections lead her to yet another man, this time no brother, but a poet himself, Louis MacNeice. The result is a book that is a detailed account of who was having an affair with whom, especially one Nancy Sharp, a painter, and when, and who climbed which mountain peak and when, and discovered what. The book is three books in one: loving, mountaineering, and Baker’s original ambition to write a book about India.

The vast majority of silverware in Thailand does not possess any reign or maker’s mark or other indicator as to date or place of manufacture. Most of the marks found are Chinese “chop marks”, stamped onto the underside of the silver object, perhaps with the aim of validating authenticity. Sometimes, the Chinese characters were transliterated into Thai from the Chaozhou dialect although this never became common practice.

The Japanese are fascinated by cats, and it’s not difficult to find shrines dedicated to them. There are cats that live in train stations (one, at least, has a uniform and a “job”) and cat cafés, where people go to pet them and hang out with them. We are all familiar with the maneki-neko, the beckoning good-luck cat who appears in Asian shops everywhere, ensuring the success and prosperity of the enterprise. And they like to write about them, too; in Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book (1002) the Emperor Ichijo, who was the earliest Japanese emperor (or anyone else of note in Japan) to own one, loses his cat at one point, and everyone has to go and look for it.