Visuality and the Japanese Wartime City

Authors: Cary Karacas*, College of Staten Island, City University New York
Topics: Cultural Geography, Urban Geography, Asia
Keywords: Japan, cities, war, memory, citizenship, air raids, visuality
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: 8201, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this paper I will consider two sets of bodily images in an exploration of the expected role and actual experience of wartime citizens as related to civil air defense and the firebombing of Japan’s cities. Throughout most of its “Fifteen Year War” that commenced with the 1931 invasion of Manchuria, the Japanese state relied heavily on the use of images published in popular magazines to communicate to its growing urban population the expected role of its subjects vis-à-vis civil air defense. Monthly journals such as Housewives’ Companion and Girls’ Club regularly featured illustrated essays on the roles of specific family members in carrying out fire suppression. Drawings show children wearing gas masks as they cover incendiary bombs with straw mats, and determined women passing water-filled buckets to one another as they valiantly douse fires threatening to consume houses. In the postwar period, a new set of images emerged when survivors of the firebombing of Japan’s cities turned to drawing from memory their actual experiences. By contrasting these two sets of images, I show how air raid survivors via their drawings challenge the Japanese state’s vision of the ideal citizen in both wartime and postwar Japan.

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