Chapter 6

Two Coconuts and a Bonito Stick

After the Japanese participated in WWI on the side of the Allies, they received some Micronesian islands formerly governed by the Germans. The Japanese governed these islands, referred to as the  South Seas islands (Nan’yō) according to a League of Nations mandate. The Japanese tried to create and enforce an ethnoracial hierarchy among those living on the islands, including the  Chamorro, Kanaka and various Japanese and  Okinawan immigrants who worked as colonial officials or laborers, and Korean and Chinese laborers. As with all racial hierarchies, the idealized hierarchy often differed greatly from the lived experiences of various individuals.  But the attempts by Japanese colonial officials to try to enforce these divisions suggest an emphasis on hyper-racialization as a tactic to govern Japan's diverse empire.

These two images were published in a Japanese photo album side by side. On the left, three women are identified as Chamorro, people of mixed heritage (usually European and islander), who were viewed as more civilized by the Japanese. The second group on the right, the Kanaka, or indigenous islanders were depicted as more primitive. When the Japanese referred to Okinawan immigrants in the South Seas as Japanese Kanaka they were indicating Okinawan immigrants occupied a lower status than the Japanese immigrants. Credit: Nan’yō Kyōkai. Nihon no Nan’yō Guntō. (Palau: Nan’yo Kyōkai Gunto Shibu, 1935). (Corresponds with Lost Histories, p. 258, footnote 18).

1917 Tour group with Arugorubai second from left.

(Corresponds to Lost Histories, p. 264, footnote 40).

Credit: Tokyo Asahi, July 5, 1917.

“The handwriting of the young children of the South Seas tour group.” One of the protagonists of Chapter Six, Pedro Ada, was on this tour group and his handwriting can be seen third from right.

(Corresponds to Lost Histories, p. 264, footnote 41).

Credit: Mitsukoshi, August 1, 1917.

Pedro Ada

As a student from Saipan studying in Japan, news of Pedro's graduation was accompanied in the newspaper by his photo and proof of his abilities: a poem he composed and his signature. As is argued throughout the book, showing colonial people "in their own hand" was a way to double down on the supposed gulf between the Japanese and colonial peoples, with respect to their assumed intellectual capabilities. If colonial peoples demonstrated high proficiency or skill in Japanese, "proof" was shown. (Corresponds to Lost Histories, p. 266 footnote 49).

Credit: Tokyo Asahi, February 17, 1922.

Ngiraked Atem

A main protagonist of Chapter Six, Ngiraked Atem, a young Palauan who could speak Japanese, was the ideal type of person the Japanese government tried to use to help enforce Japanese policies in the South Seas islands and simultaneously undermine the traditional Palauan leaders. Ngiraked's story is not a straightforward one, however, and he found himself criticized by both the colonial government and local Palauan community. His attempt to marry a Japanese woman was sensationalized and showed the limits of colonial peoples' ability to transgress ethnoracial divisions.

Ngiraked is seated (left) and close friend Kitamura Nobuaki upper right.(Corresponds to Lost Histories, p. 279, footnote 111). Credit: Kitamura Nobuaki, Nan’yō Parao shotō no minzoku. (Osaka: Tōyō Minzoku Hakubutsukan, 1933).


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