Banned in Japan: The Little Statue that Roared

Welcome, dear readers, to Aichi Trienniale 2019, one of the largest Japanese contemporary festivals in the country. Held every three years since 2010, this festival attracts artists from around Japan and the globe, while promoting such lofty goals as “contributing to the global development of culture and art” and “bringing culture and art into people’s daily lives” as its mission.

The exhibitions for year’s Aichi Trienniale are being held at several major art venues in the cities of Nagoya and Toyota (home of the famous Japanese Toyota cars), in central Japan, under the theme of “Taming Y/Our Passion”. The festival is running 75 consecutive days from 1 August to mid-October 2019.

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The Ghosts of Tiananmen, Thirty Years On

Like many around the world, I sat glued before the television set, transfixed by the scenes of thousands of people jamming a public square in the Chinese capital of Beijing for weeks on end as they demanded democracy and a more honest, open form of government from their political leaders. It was the spring of 1989, and I was living in a tiny one-room apartment in downtown Osaka, Japan and working as a journalist.

It took my breath away, watching these scenes unfold in a nearby Asian country. My reporter’s instinct kept on nudging me, and for a time, I thought seriously of getting on a plane and trying to file stories from the heart of China’s growing grassroots democracy movement to the outside world.

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A People’s Cry, a Heroine’s Silence

Rhino Records released in 2004 a compilation CD of various artists from around the world coming together for a good cause: “Dedicated to freeing Aung San Suu Kyi and the courageous people of Burma”, as the front cover of the CD boldly noted. This two-disc set, titled For the Lady, featured tracks by the usual fare of socially conscious liberal/leftish artists, plus a few more apolitical types — like former Beatle Paul McCartney and guitarist Eric Clapton — that you normally wouldn’t see on this kind of overtly political music release.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, “The Lady” to whom this CD was dedicated, had been under house arrest by the brutal military regime in the southeast Asian nation of Burma for more than a decade. Buyers of this CD were encouraged to support and get involved in a nonprofit organization called the U.S. Campaign for Burma as a way to show solidarity for the oppressed people of that country. Aung San Suu Kyi was to Asia then what Nelson Mandela was to Africa — a true hero in the struggle for an oppressed people’s freedom.

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The Stain of Sexual Slavery

The Japanese government’s censorship of nationally used school textbooks — deleting or downplaying the many bad things Japan did during World War II — has been going on for decades. But it is only recently, with a neo-fascist prime minister back in power, that such official censorship is now moving into dangerous areas beyond Japan’s borders and into textbooks used in overseas countries.

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