|Femmes Fatales||Jul 10 2021|
This nice photo shows actress and singer Li Xianglan, aka Li Hsiang-lan, and based on her name you'd guess she's Chinese, but she was actually Japanese and her real name was Yoshiko Yamaguchi. Early in her career the Manchukuo Film Association noted that she had grown up in Manchuria and was fluent in Mandarin, so they decided to hide her Japanese origin, which made it possible for her to star in Japanese films posing as Chinese. The purpose was to make films promoting certain Japanese ideologies, disseminated onscreen by someone the Chinese public saw as one of their own. In other words, at a time when Japan had invaded and occupied part of China, she starred in propaganda films.
The ruse wasn't perfect. People Xianglan worked with figured out she was Japanese, but the Chinese public didn't know until 1946, when she was arrested after the Second Sino-Japanese War as a collaborator. She avoided execution only by revealing her Japanese identity to the Chinese court. It's a long and interesting story, but we won't get into it here. We'll note, though, that her tale didn't end there. She became a journalist in the 1950s using the name Yoshiko Otaka, and was elected to the Japanese parliament in 1974, where she served eighteen years. Quite an autobiography. The photo above was made to promote her 1957 film Shénmì měirén, aka Lady of Mystery. Indeed.
|Intl. Notebook||Jul 11 2011|
What you’re looking at above are six issues of the Japanese World War II-era propaganda magazine Shashin Shuho, aka Pictorial Weekly, published by Japan’s Naikaku Johobu, or Information Department of the Cabinet. The interiors are a mix of military and lifestyle stories, which is to say, in addition to glorifications of the armed forces, you might encounter pieces as diverse as a profile on a swim team or a photo essay of a fishing trawler hauling in a catch. Whatever the specific subject matter, all the content projects the image of an industrious nation on the upswing.
When Shashin Shuho launched in February 1937, Japan was headed for war. By July of that year (with economic help from Germany, the Soviet Union and the U.S.) it would be fighting China. When that conflict folded into World War II (and sides were swapped so that the U.S. was now an enemy of Japan) Shashin Shuho continued to publish. As the war turned against Japan the patriotic tone of the magazine remained consistent, and it only closed its doors in July 1945, when it was clear to the entire population that the Allies would win.
The U.S. hit the Japanese mainland with two atomic bombs a month later. We can easily identify Shashin Shuho as propaganda, but of course, we’re outside observers with more than half a century of hindsight on our side. What’s perhaps a bit more difficult—but is a worthwhile exercise for those inclined—is to spot propaganda being pushed at you, in your own culture, today. We have more Shashin Shuho, which we’ll share down the line.