Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Critical Voices From "Japan" is presenting 4 films in February & March in the Bay Area. Thank you to those who came to the screening of "Our School" and "Sayama"! 
Here's our next film!!!

My Heart is not Broken Yet (2007, dir. Ahn Hae Ryun: English subtitles)

Presented by Eclipse Rising
Co-sponsored by Asian Women United and SFSU Asian American Studies Department
Opening introduction by Professor Grace J. Yoo, Asian American Studies
Tuesday, March 3, 6:30 pm
J. Paul Leonard Library, Room 121
San Francisco State University (mapdirectionsparking​)
Suggested donation: $3-15 (no one turned away for lack of funds)

Ms. Shindo Song is the only Korean resident who has sued Japanese government for the human rights violation she experienced as a “comfort woman.” Born in 1922, Ms. Song was forced into sexual slavery for Japanese imperial army in China at age 16. In 1993, nearly half a century after the war ended, Ms. Song sued Japanese government, demanding an “official apology.” Even after losing the 10-year-long courtroom battle in 2003, Ms. Song wasn’t defeated and stayed strong as she told her supporters, “Although I lost the case, my heart is not broken.”The documentary was made possible with the donations of 670 individuals who have built a loving and trusting relationship with Ms. Song, and it portrays her as someone who’s more than just a “former comfort woman,” but a super witty, talented, kind and caring human being.
Trailor (Japanese):

For questions, e-mail Kei Fischer at:
Also save the date for our last film showing from Critical Voices from "Japan" series!! 
For details, please visit our FB event page!!!
  • March 10: Iitate Village: Investigates the challenges of a farming village in Fukushima after the nuclear disaster@ New Parkway, Oakland 7p
P.S. Eclipse Rising is leading the global petition to stop Abe regime of Japan to deny Japan's imperial past and miseducate youth using revisionist history textbooks! Please sign and spread the word!!
Say NO to ‘Revisionist History’ that glorifies Japan’s WWII aggression and war crimes! 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Eclipse Rising presents "Critical Voices from 'Japan'" Film Series (Feb & March 2015)!!!!!

2015 is a very important year for Zainichi Koreans as it marks:
  • the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II; 
  • the 50th anniversary of the (re)establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Republic of Korea (South Korea);
  • the 4th anniversary of the 3/11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters that hit the greater Tohoku region.
In commemoration of these historical "endings" and "new beginnings" that have continued to shape our lives in Japan and beyond, Eclipse Rising is thrilled to present a social justice film series in collaboration with other progressive organizations!!!

Save the dates for Critical Voices from "Japan"!!
(film descriptions at the end)
- Feb 17: Our School: Depicts every day life of Korean school in Japan @ New Parkway Theater, $8
Opening remarks by the award-winning filmmaker, Deann Borshay Liem

- Feb 24: Sayama: Follows an untouchable buraku couple's life after unjust conviction and decades of incarceration of the husband, Mr. Kazuo Ishikawa
@ New Parkway Theater, $10
Discussion with Asian Prisoner Support Committee & East Point Peace Academy 

- March 3: My Heart Is Not Broken Yet: Humanizes a former Korean "comfort woman" residing in Japan, co-sponsored by Asian Women United
J. Paul Leonard Library Room 121, San Francisco State University, $3-15 suggested donation (No one turned away for lack of fund)

- March 10: Iitate Village: Investigates the challenges of a farming village in Fukushima after the nuclear disaster, co-sponsored by No Nukes Action
@ New Parkway Theater, $10
Poetry reading by Suzy Huerta

Check out our Facebook event page for updates!

------------------------------ film descriptions --------------------------

FEB 17
OUR SCHOOL (2006, Dir. KIM Myung Joon: English subtitles)
Our School depicts the every day life of Koreans in Japan or "Zainichi Koreans," particularly, the "North Korean" school and 3rd generation Korean students. It illuminates an invisible aspect of North Korea through the history of the diaspora of Korean people who believed in one unified and liberated Korea. It offers a poignant counter-narrative to the popular representation of "North Korea" as seen in The Interview or any other media in the West or in Japan. Through Our School, a narrative put together by South Korean director, Kim Myung Joon, we witness a very small but misunderstood community of Zainichi Koreans who dream of a unified Korea that transcends the Cold War and negotiate complicated systems of nationality, identity, and belonging as Koreans in Japan.

FEB 24
(2013: Dir KIM Soung Woong)
Sayama follows everyday life of Mr. Kazuo Ishikawa and Ms. Sachiko Ishikawa in their struggle for justice. Kazuo, a descendant of buraku --Japan’s outcast group-- was wrongly convicted of rape and murder of a schoolgirl in Sayama-city in 1963 (known as the “Sayama Case”) and imprisoned for more than 30 years until he was conditionally released in 1994. At age 74, Kazuo and Sachiko still continue their weekly demonstration at the Tokyo High Court to demand retrial and seek justice, in addition to touring all over Japan to meet their supporters and raise awareness around the case. Although one tends to see Kazuo and Sachiko simply as “freedom fighters,” the film does a beautiful job humanizing the tireless warriors by showing the “back-stages” where they get to do “ordinary” things such as doing house chores, having haircuts and going on a vacation. Director Kim invites all of us to join the movement and be part of Kazuo’s dream of getting back to school after retrial.
Official website:
English Trailer:

My Heart is Not Broken Yet
(2007: Dir. AHN Hae Ryung)
Ms. Shindo Song is the only Korean resident who has sued Japanese government for the human rights violation she experienced as a “comfort woman.” Born in 1922, Ms. Song was forced into sexual slavery for Japanese imperial army in China at age 16. In 1993, nearly half a century after the war ended, Ms. Song sued Japanese government, demanding “official apology.” Even after losing the 10-year-long courtroom battle in 2003, Ms. Song wasn’t defeated and stayed strong as she told her supporters, “Although I lost the case, my heart is not broken.” The documentary was made possible with the donations of 670 individuals who have built loving and trusting relationship with Ms. Song, and it portrays her as someone who’s more than just a “former comfort woman,” but a super witty, talented, kind and caring human being.
Official website:

Iitate Village
(2012: Dir. DOI Toshikuni)
“Iitate Village” follows 2 families and several villagers in the rural farming town of Iitate in the Soma District of Fukushima, Japan during the aftermath of the March 11, 2011 Tohoku Tsunami and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Famous for its beef, most residents depend on cattle breeding, yet due to radiation contamination, we witness the families having to throw out fresh milk, sell off their cows, and slowly shut down the very farming facilities their families have depended on for generations as a way of life. Within a month, the town is forced to evacuate its residents and we observe the nuanced challenges that result from family separation and what was once a tight-knit community quickly dissipates. Doi interviews these family farmers in their most vulnerable and intimate moments when they are forced to let go of all they know: their families, their farms, their livestock, their way of living, and most importantly, the town of Iitate, a place that Minori Takahashi, a young mother, called, "A place you come home to, where you're comfortable, you belong."
Official Website:

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Reclaiming the Cherry: Questioning what it means to be from "Japan"

Note: I was moved to share this piece as a way to convey my deeply personal motivation for supporting the global petition campaign currently under way to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan to stop the whitewashing of Japan's wartime history in history textbooks in Japan. In order to contribute to peace in the region, and peaceful Japan that reflects our values, I believe we must reclaim what it means to be from Japan on our own terms, rather than assume what it has come to represent in the minds of the far-right revisionists in power in Japan today. Only then, there is a potential for a perspective that is wholly Nikkei and also sides with the victims and not the aggressors, shielded from the characterization of the historical revisionist issue as a matter of geopolitical maneuvering by China and Korea vying to squeeze Japan out of the evolving sphere of influence in the region.

Join our social media photo campaign and use‪#‎TruthTodayPeaceTomorrow‬ and sign the online petition at today!

I've had the privilege of getting to know the members of a small Native American Tribe up in Shasta the last decade. Despite unimaginable violations and assault by settler government(s) and corporations that seeks to obliterate them "from the map," they continue to carry out their traditional ways of life and fight for their right to exist as a unique nation of peoples. It was at one of their ceremonies, an elder said to me, "we always say 'you must know where you come from in order to know who you are, and also, where you're going, and supposed to go.'"

This elder, actually is by blood, a Nikkei, Japanese American. And she's also a proud Tribal elder and fierce advocate for social justice and human rights. She sighed upon learning about Japanese government's attempt to deny its own history of aggression and wartime atrocities. She later posted on Facebook:

From Meiji times, Japan has deliberately embraced American white supremacy attitudes, making white supremacy policies and stand in the world in order to build an empire. White supremacy, violence, hate go hand in hand with what destroyed Japan from the inside out.

She also said to me: "When Japan lost their clan ways, they lost their path." This surprised me.  The reason for the surprise, is that from my experience, very few people know of any Japan other than one that these revisionists refer to, such as the Japan that actually was full of hundreds of 'clans,' such as Emishi, Satsuma, Kumaso and Izumo, and oh so many more, that flourished with their respective distinct cultures and ways, even languages. One needed an interpreter travelling from Kyushu to Honshu. I doubt she knew, but after I thought about it, I came to a realization, that she spoke universal truth not just about Japan but human souls, as well as nations. She didn't need to know that Japan actually really had 'clans' prior to 'Contact.'

Nikkeis must reclaim our indigenous roots in the land that Abe now calls "Japan" on our own terms in order to transcend the failed historic legacy of White Supremacist ideology-influenced Imperial ideology and the worldview Abe is trying so hard to revive with his administration as a vessel to resurrect the Empire to its past glory.

Our ancestors in Japan less than two centuries ago may not have identified as "Japanese" the way Abe defines "Japan" today. In fact, they may not have identified as Japanese over Korean. For example, Izumo had long historic relationship with the Shilla Dynasty, and their religious worldviews are more similar than that of Izumo and Yamato to the north, both part of what is now "Japan." Asuka era left us with many historic shrines still frequented by the faithfuls in Kyoto and beyond -- and it's recognized as fact, that Asuka began when fallen princes from warring states in what is now the Korean peninsula fled and settled there. When you see a map of the Far Eastern Archipelago (I just made this up but it suits the worldview I choose to have for that region much better than Japan/Korea binaries) as a mediterranean without any regard to today's modern nation-state boundaries, you might be surprised how we've managed to come so far with this unquestioned, deeply imbedded assumption, that the Far East is divided into territories neatly divided into three: China, Korea, and Japan. There are literally thousands of islands splattered all over the fringe of the continent. Of course cultures and civilizations mixed every which way for tens of centuries.

In that context, in retracing our 'roots,' how helpful is it, if at all, to use today's definition of "Japan" as unit of analysis and reflection? Really, is "Japan" even relevant to our hidden story of where we REALLY come from?

What if, by accepting "Japan" to be however it is defined by the Abe regime, we are inadvertently internalizing the impact of an explicit strategy of conquest Meiji leaders exercised for the sake of national cohesion? Local 'kami' worshipping practices and rites were made illegal (while only State Shintoism was recognized 'Japan's official' religion); language was homogenized ; US creators of public education system (designed to support settler expansion) were recruited to Japan to appropriate indigenous controlled territories (Hence, first university is Hokkaido, Ainu territory)... and the list goes on.

And so, I feel quite easefully, the elder made a very astute -- observation. Indeed, "Japan" had implemented a line of strategies designed for conquest of what was truly a diverse, multiethnic, multicultural archipelago, as gleamed from the US vis-a-vis mostly Native Americans. The clan roots would give this truth away. God forbid that we relcaim any roots other than one Abe would like us to believe is ours.

Therefore, I'm willing to bet, the "Japan" that is a victim of racist bullying by the international community, is not referring to the Japan that most of our ancestors would have identified with. Abe's grandfather (first post-war Prime Minister Kishi) was in a leadership position for the Imperial Japanese government, which unleashed unspeakable tyrannic rule over the Japanese people -- our ancestors -- and fiercely repressed and exploited farmers and rural peasants throughout Japan to fuel its empire-building effort. Japan's war capacity was built on the backs of our farmer and merchant ancestors, women, elders and children. Life was so incredibly difficult, so many chose to jump on a boat destined for some faraway distant land (like the United States) they knew nothing about. Nikkeis around the world share this history. Massive emigration from Japan in early 20th century is interestingly timed with the succession of popular riots and rebellion throughout the country for excessive taxation and other exploitative government practices. many of our ancestors stood up to protest the Japanese government - run by people Abe strongly identifies with, ideologically, and politically.  He fashions himself a self-appointed 'heir' to THIS throne.

Only in the "clan ways" we can trace the courageous legacy of our great-grandparents standing up to power, scaling the walls of the kura to liberate rice for the children, organizing and founding Japan's first national farmers cooperative, or the socialist party, or the Suiheisha, organization led by the bold and brave Burakumin which published modern Japan's first human rights declaration in history....

When we lose our "clan ways" we simply are left with "Japan" and it is unidimensional. We are simply consuming the Japan that is served up by the Abe regime and are fine with that because in absence of it, there is only emptiness. But if we choose to heed the message of the elder, then we just may come to discover, that our roots and the roots of Abe's are not only quite distinct, but at odds....

When Imperial Japanese Army occupied new territory, they planted cherry trees on the school grounds as they did so throughout schools in Japan. Public education was a means through which to instill imperial ideology and cultivate absolute, unconditional loyalty and surrender to the Emperor. As the cherry flower petals fluttered away with the slightest of a breeze at the height of its blooming beauty, as the Emperor once stated, "see, that, is the most virtuous way of life..." to give up one's life at the height of his youth. This, is how Kamikaze fighter spirit was born. Becuase the value of one's life is "lighter than goose feather." Yes, he was speaking about your life, and those of our ancestors. But probably not Abe and his ancestors.

In the course of its Empire-building effort, the Imperial Japanese Army appropriated cherries for its symbol precisely due to its sacred standing among the Japanese. The planting and harvesting of rice, our lifeblood, was informed by the timing of wild cherry blossoms in the mountains. Without cherry flowers, our ancestors would not have existed at least in the way we understand today. We can either reclaim our cherry flowers as source of life as our ancestors surely did, or as signifying the disposable nature of human life in absolute, unconditional service to the holy Emperor and his country, as the fascist leaders of WWII Japan (and Abe now carrying their torch) would have liked us to embrace with joy and gratitude.

Looking inward and backward is like looking into a hologram. It's never what it seems, and it's all of what it seems, all at the same time. It's hard to see past the distorted images or collages of pieces of images... but the important thing to note, is that you take that first step, acknowledging, but not engaging, all that illusion. All the path lead to the same place at the end of the day, as the elder would say. As long as you continue to seek the truth. When you do, you will know, to distinguish illusion from what is real.