Featuring 14 Japan-Based Artists & Over 100 Pieces of Artwork
With Spring comes new beginnings! Tokyo Art Studios is thrilled to announce their inaugural exhibition, titled “Spring Healing”, which features over 100 artworks by 14 emerging and establishedartists based in Japan. The “Spring Healing” exhibition runs until March 28 2021.
The exhibition highlights artist experiences in Japan using varying aesthetics relating to their mediums, including oils, acrylic, watercolor, illustrations, silkscreen, and photography. The artists hail from Japan and around the world, but all call Japan home today. The themes of Japan’s nature, arts and society, are woven into all the pieces.
All artworks can be viewed online at a later date but come see them in person while you can. Some featured artists include:
Johnna Slaby is an abstract artist born and raised in Japan, and currently works between Japan, the UK, and the US. Utilizing various materials from acrylics to coffee, she creates abstract pieces that are reminiscent of a late-afternoon coffee or the golden hour near a river. Through the experiences and stories that she comes across during her travels and life, she works them into pieces to create memories people can see. From her large canvas pieces to her intimate paper studies, she dissects both mundane and profound moments of life, continuing to ask, What does it mean to be alive?
Shinjiro Tanaka is an artist who expresses the infinite possibilities of simple lines by combining contradictory elements such as calmness and passion, past and future, and life and death. His works are not limited to canvas painting, but also include murals, apparel, three-dimensional objects, and digital art. Born in CA in 1985, he graduated from Keio University in 2008 and moved to NYC after working for Dentsu. He brings a variety of experiences to his art, including working as a music producer’s assistant and Performing with Nile Rodgers and CHIC, launching the apparel brand BSWK, and performing at Heisei Nakamura-za in New York. After returning to Japan, he held his first solo exhibition “FACE” in 2018; at the end of 2018, he performed live art on the streets of New York for 30 days, and the following year held his solo exhibition “NYC STREET ART PROJECT”. The same year, he won the ART BATTLE TOKYO competition and has been working unconventionally in Japan and abroad, exhibiting at a gallery in London and creating murals on the streets.
Keiko Takeda’s practice allows her to express her favorite places and unknown corners of the world through colors and shapes. Each subject is made warmer with her brush as she believes that colors have feelings that embody our own emotions. Keiko has shown her work in many exhibitions, both solo and group shows.
Marie Ikura studied art, and more specifically painting, while at Tama Art University before becoming a professional artist whose signature style is based on live art. Often, Marie creates live paintings that share space, time, and music with the people present where her work is ever-evolving as the paint scatters, making sounds such as “voice of color”. In addition, she engages in participatory art like wearing art or consuming art. Her live work has taken her to regions in Europe and Southeast Asia.
A new Tokyo gallery which opened this March (2021) – Tokyo Art Studio strives to provide a platform for the global community of emerging artists based in Japan. Through exhibitions and programming, TAS encourages our community to creatively connect with one another through the power of art and dialogue. To learn more about Tokyo Art Studio
The Studio is located at 3-17 -12 Minami Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Visits outside of exhibit times are by appointment only.
Email and questions or request for interviews to contact@TokyoArtStudioGallery.com.
She’s old, really old. You could describe her as an ancient relic. But at 103 years old, Brunhilde Pomsel seems strong, confident, even blase. Pomsel is the centerpiece of the stunning documentary, A German Life (released in Japan as Goebbels to Watashi ) in which she recounts the years she spent in the employ of the Third Reich, as a personal secretary to Joseph Goebbels. Shot in a gradations of black and gray, A German Life, highlights her still soft hair and the brightness of her eyes. What you’ll notice however, are the deep crevices crisscrossing her face, an incredibly creasy visage that make her look like some kind of exotic deepwater fish. Only once does her confidence falter, and that’s when she’s asked to recall whether she was aware of the existence of the concentration camps. “I didn’t know it,” she says but her voice lacks conviction. “I wasn’t guilty of that, but if I was, then the whole of Germany during the reign of the Third Reich – was guilty.”
The film will resonate with many viewers in Japan, not least because Germany was an Axis partner in WWII, but for the radical difference in the way the two nations have dealt with their wartime legacies of shame and humiliation. For many Japanese, the war years are a receding memory, most often romanticized and tinged with sentiment, as in The Eternal Zero. The stories told in the media or retold by our elders, have always varied little, summed up in a singular theme that combines victimization and valor. In this theme, the atrocities committed by the military in Asia, are glossed over. After all, the Japanese starved, Japan went through unspeakable deprivation, was relentlessly firebombed and then the Japanese people had two nuclear bombs dropped right on their heads for good measure. Whatever terrible things the Japanese military did in China and Southeast Asia, was paid for with our own suffering. We’ve checked off the items on our rap sheet of atonement. So let’s agree to sweep all that stuff under the futon and get on with the business at hand, shall we?
This particular logic (or lack thereof) has come to define the collective memory in the 7-plus decades after the Japanese surrender. It wasn’t really our fault, but the fault of the entire era, and the unstoppable war machine! Compare this mind-set to Germany. They also suffered from the air raids and bombings and went through hell. But they are also a people unafraid to rub their faces in the shit pile of defeat. To this day, they are still examining what exactly happened, and why. New revelations of Nazi atrocities are being unearthed all the time, to be dissected and discussed. The Germans have not averted their gaze from the past, rather they’ve been pretty relentless in their cause to track down and then lay bare the gruesome details of their own crimes. Consider the meticulously categorized displays at the Auschwitz Memorials. The unforgiving precision that characterize the guided tour of those Memorials. The sheer number of movies and documentaries that have come out about the camps and the Third Reich. Or the revived public interest in Sophie Scholl, the young political activist who was guillotined for her fierce anti-Nazism.
“For all that, I believe that Germany is experiencing an eerie deja vu of the Nazi years,” said Florian Weigensamer, one of the four-man directorial team behind A German Life. Weigensamer was in Tokyo to promote the film, along with another director Christian Krones, who is also the founder of Blackbox Films and Media Productions. Blackbox engineered the whole endeavor that is this movie and other award winning documentaries. Krones and Weigensamer have been colleagues and friends for over 20 years and they’ve dedicated a good chunk of their professional lives to the excavation of some of humanity’s most complex problems. (One of their recent projects is a documentary called Welcome to Sodom that examines Ghana’s burgeoning waste problem, born of discarded home appliances.)
Krones is the oldest and most experienced member of Blackbox but he stresses that there’s no corporate hierarchy at work. “I like to take a democratic approach to filmmaking. No orders are issued top-down. There are no one-man decisions. We hold extensive meetings and discuss the film process every step of the way, like a real democracy.” And he added with a chuckle, “We do this because the film industry tends to be very dictatorial and we are very sensitive to anything that smacks of dictatorship!”
Blackbox is an Austrian company as are Krones and Weigensamer. Because they don’t carry German passports, the pair say that their gaze on WWII and the Nazi atrocities are a little distanced. “We were both born many years after the war,” said Weigensamer. “And growing up, I remember my own family didn’t really talk about the war unless it was to say that we were victimized. In this way, I guess we are a lot like the Japanese.” In 1938, Austria was forcibly annexed to Germany in what was known as the Anschluss, and according to Krones, it “laid the groundwork for turning a blind eye to Nazi atrocities. The Nazis held Austria in a grip of terror and the Austrians felt powerless. They descended into denial, and most people just tried to make it through the war years without getting killed.” Weigensamer nodded in assent, but said, “And now we are seeing the rise of neo-Nazis, and the end of tolerance for refugees and outsiders.” Indeed, Krones said, “When we first started filming ‘A German Life,’ I thought, we would be talking about something that was past and over with. Now I feel like I’ve gone back in time, and traveled to a future where the nightmare is beginning all over again.”
As for Brunhilde Pomsel, she comes off as neither a tragic heroine or an evil monster but a woman with exceptional secretarial skills and a breathtakingly banal personality. Astonishingly, before taking up her duties for the Third Reich, Pomsel had worked in a Jewish insurance company in Berlin while having a side gig in the afternoons working for an official in the Nazi Party. Her lover and fiance was half Jewish. (In the film, she has a silver band around her ring finger.) He was killed in Amsterdam in 1942. Her best friend was a young Jewish woman named Ava, who died in one of the camps. All around her, Jewish people were being taken away, ostensibly to a place of “re-education,” and she didn’t think to question what this may really mean. Her take on Joseph Goebbels is that he was “so dapper, so dashing! The cut of his suits was perfect.” Pomsel even remembered how Goebbels’s children would come to pick him up at lunchtime so that they could all walk home together for the midday meal.
Pomsel apparently compartmentalized all that into her life, and shut out whatever she deemed unworthy of attention. She never stopped to examine the contradictions of her thoughts or her actions. She simply wanted to perform her duties well, and then go home.
“The thing is, she was very likable,” described Weigenhamer. “She was articulate, self-sufficient and loved going to the theatre. She took very good care of herself and liked to have a good time. At first I thought I liked this woman but the more time I spent with her, the more I got to hate her.” Krones said: “What struck me was her incredible selfishness. I honestly got the feeling that she was alone because she didn’t want to share her life with anybody. She enjoyed living. But as in the war years, she wanted her life to be hers alone. And this mentality, this wish to shut out others – is part of what made Hitler successful.”
Brunhilde Pomsel died last year, at the age of 106.
Rich Nation, Strong Army: Japanese Militarism Redux
War clouds threaten northeast Asia. One state within the region continues to raise its military spending to record levels over five consecutive years. It increases solid-fuel rocket testing under the guise of launching satellites into orbit and continues stockpiling vast reserves of plutonium that could potentially nuclear arm the nation. New domestic laws severely limit the media, and active discussion persists on bills that would crack down on socially unacceptable or controversial thinking—i.e., “thoughtcrime.” These ever-belligerent, destabilizing actions are not the actions of a rogue state. No, this isn’t about North Korea, Iran, or Russia for that matter, but the remilitarization of Japan.
The nationalist administration, led by the grandson of a war criminal, Shinzo Abe* (Liberal Democratic Party), uses recent activities in North Korea to its benefit, pounding war drums alongside most established media organizations, both on the left and the right, such as the Asahi, Mainichi, and Yomiuri Shimbun newspapers. This “threat” from its mainland neighbor is forced down the throats of Japanese citizens daily. Tokyo rehashes wartime imperialist ideologies, senior cabinet ministers stating support for using the Imperial Rescript of Education by schools—a text promulgated in 1890 in the name of Emperor Meiji that placed utmost importance in reverence and loyalty to the crown—as a means to foster the administration’s values in today’s youth. (It was also to justify the use of kamikaze, suicide missions in mini-submarines, and the forced suicide of thousands of Okinawans.)
In May 2017, the Abe administration made its position known regarding the ban of wartime imperialist military flags in international soccer matches, expressing that imperial regalia does not necessarily connote imperialism and discriminatory opinions against neighboring nations—something akin to if Angela Merkel condoned the use of the Nazi Hakenkreuz for supporting the German national sports team as completely acceptable and lacking negative effect on spectators.
Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party has produced manga booklets to promote constitutional revisionism—for Japan to become a “normal country” as party members call it. Proponents of wholehearted constitutional revisionism claim that Japan is not a “normal country” due to the postwar U.S. occupation forcing the current national constitution upon the Japan. The Japanese establishment wields this tried-and-true tactic of using pop culture to foster understanding of its agenda among the public across many domains. The civilian nuclear energy programs of the 1950s were promoted through pop culture icons utilized by the then head of the Yomiuri Shimbun—and known CIA operative—Shoriki Matsutaro. This tactic continues to prop up the myth of nuclear safety in Japan, which played a disastrous role leading up to the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in 2011.
The combination of propaganda and the incessant war drumming appears to be working. Recent survey data from late April collected by the nonpartisan Mainichi Shimbun newspaper showed that 48% of respondents agree to the proposed constitutional revisionism, whereas those against it consisted of only 33%. The numbers have steadily risen since the ruling party began openly discussing constitutional revision.
Abe’s party and the Cabinet Legislative Bureau reinterpreted Article 9—the peace clause of Japan’s constitution that renounces war—to allow for collective self-defense in 2015. This move was a sharp reversal from the policy of individual self-defense and the constitutional interpretation that all previous administrations used to justify a reliance on the U.S. military as their defense policy and their relative reluctance toward international military cooperation.
Whereas the aforementioned survey data claimed that 46% of respondents were against amending Article 9, one can but wonder whether the respondents based their responses on the current interpretation of the article, which justifies a self-defense force with tanks, aircraft carriers, and other offensive weaponry along with participating in foreign wars with the United States. The nationalists in the Japanese government had claimed for the last seventy-odd years that they needed to revise the constitution, as it did not allow them to have a full-fledged military. And yet ironically in the last two years, the government and media have promulgated a new claim that the renunciation of war in Article 9 does not prohibit the use of military force by Japan. If political actors can reinterpret long-standing constitutional interpretation on a whim like this, then wouldn’t it affect the perception of formally revising Article 9?
“Rich nation, strong army” (fukoku-kyohei) was the nineteenth-century slogan the ruling elite used to rapidly industrialize in the advent of the Meiji period to protect national interests against Western colonial powers. It was also the slogan that led Japan to bolster its military and eventually steer the nation toward colonial expansion into Korea, China, and other neighboring nations. Fomented by both the international and domestic media, we are too often conditioned to pay attention to the most fashionable international threat of the week and yet are blind to actions occurring right before our eyes. Recent developments led by Abe’s administration eerily echo the prewar slogan, and we as members of the international community should view these events with extreme caution, as for all we know history may repeat itself.
*Editor’s note: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (2012-) had a grandfather was a war criminal, and served as Minister of Munitions during World War II–Nobusuke Kishi. Kishi raised Abe like his own son, and Abe’s stated desire to fulfil his grandfather’s dreams of dismantling the post-war constitution and restoring a State Shinto controlled Imperial government probably owes much to his childhood. But his childhood dreams could be a nightmare for a democratic Japan.
Douglas Miller is a PhD Candidate at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington. His primary focuses are political theory and Japanese history.
Reviving Japan’s Imperial glory and rewriting history to exorcise Japan’s war atrocities has always been an Abe obsession. But teaching ‘Mein Kampf’ in the schools? Modelling a new Japanese constitution after the Nazis? Japan joins the roster of threatened democracies. (Originally published in May of 2017)
The recent article in The Daily Beast opens as follows: Imagine a world in which the Nazis and Imperial Japan won the second world war—that’s the premise of the critically acclaimed TV series The Man In The High Castle, which is science fiction. But as a matter of fact, the grandson of a war criminal, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, seems intent on turning that dark fantasy into something more like a reality TV show. The premiere is scheduled for 2020, and he’s drawing on some classics for the scenario: Mein Kampf recently was approved for Japanese classrooms, and the suggestively titled Hitler’s Election Strategy is popular with some members of the Abe Cabinet.
…..In the summer of 2013, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, famous for his verbal gaffes declared in a speech to his political supporters, “Germany’s Weimar Constitution was changed into the Nazi Constitution before anyone knew. It was changed before anyone else noticed. Why don’t we learn from that method?”
Two of Abe’s Cabinet appointees were associated with Japan’s Nazi Party and several of his comrades wrote laudatory blurbs for a book called Hitler’s Election Strategy, published in 1994, and written by a member of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The book was banned after international criticism.
Comparisons with the Nazis are hard to brush off if your Cabinet members are looking up to them as role models…..
For the whole article please go read this below. Under the link we will be posting a few more things to consider, mostly in Japanese
Hitler did exactly what he said he would do. And Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Vice Prime Minister are doing exactly what they said they would do, change the constitution just like the Nazis did. And create the Imperial Japan that once ruled over the people without any democratic restraints or worries about “human rights”.
But Hitler surprised everyone by doing exactly what he had been preaching for more than a decade: turning Germany into an ethnically pure, nationalistically-driven economic machine for making Germany great again. And he thought he could do it fast.For that, Hitler had Hermann Göring and Joseph Goebbels. In 1933, they were not yet the monsters of history that they later became. But they were ambitious political operatives with a radical agenda and a charismatic leader. They acted with speed and force.The Abe Government Borrows From The Nazi Party↙
Here would be the modern day Japan rewrite of Mr. Range’s article:
But Abe surprised everyone by doing exactly what he had been preaching for many years: turning Japan into a Japanese first, Shinto-worshipping, Imperial and nationalistically-driven economic machine for making Japan great again. And he thought he could do it fast. For that, Abe had Cabinet Minister Suga, the right-wing Shinto cult, Nippon Kaigi, and The Yomiuri Shimbun and a timid press core. In 2012, they were not yet the monsters of history that they later became. But they were ambitious political operatives with a radical agenda and a charismatic leader. They acted with speed and force.
Below is a chart in Japanese of ways in which the LDP and Prime Minister Abe have stolen from the Nazi playbook. It’s not much of a surprise but the similarities are striking. Perhaps because the LDP really did learn from Hitler’s Election Strategy, a book written in 1994 by an LDP member, and blurbed with great praise by several past and present members of Prime Minister Abe’s Cabinet at the time it came out.
Here are the key things Hitler did to consolidate power, as noted by, Mr. Range.
—let loose the police against Jews and Communists to a degree never seen before;
—won emergency powers to govern by decree following the incredibly well-timed February 27 arson against the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament building;
—begun the shutdown of dissent and diversity in German publishing and culture through a policy of Gleichschaltung, or forcing everybody onto the same page.
And here is what Prime Minister Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party are attempting to and have done
—let loose the police against dissenters, critics, and protests to a degree never seen before with the passing of the Conspiracy Laws this week (May 2017)
—win emergency powers to govern by decree in their new constitution as soon as they can find a suitable emergency (by 2020)
—continue the shutdown of dissent and diversity in Japan publishing and culture through a policy of Gleichschaltung, or forcing everybody onto the same page, passing a Special Secrets Act, and gradually crushing press freedom. (Japan was ranked #11 in the World Press Freedom Index in 2011 before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took power. It is now #72).
Wiser men then myself said a few years ago that the much vaunted Abenomics was just a sexy smokescreen for Abe’s nationalist agenda–and like every great big lie, everyone has fallen for it. While the investors and true-believers of the world wait for the 4th arrow that will never come, Prime Minister Abe and his cronies are quietly getting Japan prepared for their vision of the 4th Reich.
Charles Jenkins, a U.S. Army Sergeant who deserted his post in South Korea and allegedly sought refuge in the communist North Korea in 1965, died this week. He spent nearly four decades inside the “worker’s paradise” before being set free along with his Japanese wife, Hitomi, who was abducted by North Korea. Below is our interview with him, reprinted. Rest In Peace.
In 1965, U.S. Army Sergeant Charles Robert Jenkins deserted his post in South Korea and allegedly sought refuge in the communist North. He spent nearly four decades inside the “worker’s paradise.” After North Korea admitted to abducting Japanese citizens in 2002 and returned them to Japan, including Jenkins’s wife, Hitomi Soga, Charles Robert Jenkins re-emerged into the public eye–a relic of the cold war, an unsolved mystery and a figure of national interest. In July of 2004, North Korea finally let Jenkins leave. He turned himself in to the U.S. Army in Japan, was given a court martial and was sentenced to 30 days in jail. After his release, he relocated to Sado Island, off the coast of Niigata Prefecture, where he spends his days with his wife and family, working and remembering. This is part of his story. In his recollection of events, he raises questions about why he ended up in North Korea, contradicting his previous statements. Perhaps it is due to failing memory, or perhaps it is due to circumstances which even now he feels that he cannot divulge, no one– probably not even the man himself–knows completely.
The gift shop of the Sado Island Legend Museum was busy and noisy that summer afternoon. Japanese tourists, mostly retired men and women can’t wait to walk around the museum’s gift shop to take a glance at one man. He is in the corner, a tired old American, who looks like he has been working in the fields most of his life, not a gift shop. The man is quietly tending to his sole duty, which is to mechanically fill the local sweet biscuit boxes, despite the noisy crowd of people calling him from all sides, Jenkins-san! Some of the tourists solicit him from time to time for a souvenir photo. The shy little man from North Carolina doesn’t smile for the photos, and he returns to his work; the pattern repeats itself until the day is done.He lived in North Korea for over 40 years after being captured inside the Russian embassy in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang in 1965, when he defected from the U.S. Army.
When asked for an interview, he first shakes his head. “I cannot leave my post now. I’m on duty until 4 PM.” After asking permission to his superior, Mr. Jenkins agreed to talk.
Charles Robert Jenkins, 73, is known by everyone in the island of Sado, off the west coast of Japan, directly facing China and the two Koreas. Jenkins fled his U.S. Army unit in South Korea in 1965, when he was only 24 years old and was caught in North Korea after a failed attempt to be sent back to the U.S through the Russian embassy in North Korea. In 2002, his wife Hitomi Soga, was released a month after Japanese former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s historic visit to Pyongyang in September of that year. During that historic meeting, North Korea admitted to abducting Japanese citizens and holding them in the country to train spies for the regime. In 2004, After forty years of communist captivity, he was finally brought to Japan with his two daughters, Mika and Brinda. When Jenkins arrived to Japan, the U.S. military sentenced him to 30 days in jail and a dishonorable discharge for deserting his Army unit, among other crimes.Jenkins told JSRC that he was offered a job as a sergeant in Camp Zama, a U.S. Army post located in Kanagawa prefecture. Jenkins believes it was because the military could then question him anytime they wanted to. “They promised me a good salary but my wife didn’t want it,” he said. “In Kanagawa, they gave me a good house to live in.”
Jenkins later received a permanent resident status to remain in Japan with his wife and daughters.The reason for his desertion is still unclear, did he simply surrender to North Korea as many reported? Or did he intend to sneak into the Russian embassy in North Korea hoping that they would save him from serving out his time in North Korea? In both cases, it was huge risk. What was so intolerable in the U.S Army that pushed Jenkins and three other American soldiers to surrender? We might never get a clear answer as he swore to his army lawyer to never reveal the true reason for his decision.Jenkins told the LA Times in 2009 that he deserted because he wanted to avoid a “sure death” in Vietnam. He told JSRC that he wanted to go to Vietnam because he couldn’t make it anymore in Korea. The answer contradicts his previous statements and even after repeated questioning Jenkins would not divulge what he had promised his army lawyer never to reveal.
Why is that Charles Robert Jenkins couldn’t make it anymore in North Korea? What made him feel it was worth deserting the U.S. Army? He won’t answer. Jenkins did say he regretted almost each and every day of his captivity for the incredible act he perpetrated in 1965, until he met his Japanese wife, who is 20 years younger than him.
“Four American defectors lived in the same room. The first American to go to North Korea was Larry Allen Abshier. The second was James Joseph Dresnok, the third was Jerry Wayne Parish. Larry and Parish have now passed away. Jenkins was the number four. Right now there is only Dresnok left in North Korea that I know of. But there could be more American soldiers in North Korea from the Vietnam War.”
According to Jenkins, in the late 60s and early 70s during the Vietnam War, each time the Communists would liberate a village in Vietnam, they would take all the people that were capable, clever and young, to send them away to North Korea for ‘education’, in fear that they would fight back against their new rulers. “They were forced to learn electricity, plumbing, stuff like that, not really going to university. After the war was over, they were all sent back and I heard rumors that in return, Vietnam gave them American soldiers, that might still be prisoners of war today.”
Remembering the story of one Romanian man in North Korea who defected to the U.S.A, he recalls meeting two Romanians who told him that they had seen people in the North Korean fields working who appeared to be American soldiers. “That Romanian who defected was a weapons dealer who was about to be caught. But I did meet two Romanians in North Korea in a shop in Pyongyang. I asked them what they were doing. They said they were television technicians. They were building a television factory. The reason [why they saw those possible American soldiers] is because the government was building a 48 km long road from Pyongyang to Nanpo. North Korea didn’t have a road to land the airplanes. They were building a runway, not for airplanes but for a road. While they were building this road, they had to take a detour in the mountains. That’s how the Romanians got to see these other people. And the driver told them that they were prisoners. I haven’t seen them, and I haven’t heard much more about them.”
In North Korea, some high military officials trusted Jenkins more than they did some other North Koreans. Jenkins explained. Why? “Well, when I worked at the military university, one time, I was down in my room eating, two generals and a colonel invited me over. The general kept talking to the other general and the colonel was talking to me. The general kicked the colonel out of the table, (He laughs), he said ‘Shut up’, the general looked at him and said ‘Listen, we trust Jenkins more than we trust you.’
The colonel replied, ‘I’m a colonel in the Korean People’s Army, who do you think you are talking to me like this?’ The general says, ‘You could escape through Russia or China but Jenkins can’t. He is in Asia, he can’t go nowhere [because he can’t fade in the Asian crowd]. And he will never get out of North Korea, so we don’t care what he knows.” Jenkins smiles, “Well, they didn’t know I was going to marry a Japanese woman who would be sent back.”
Jenkins published a memoir, The Reluctant Communist, a book his wife didn’t want him to write as she feared North Korean retaliation. In the book, he describes how he became a reluctant celebrity when the North Korean government used him as the American villain in its propaganda films.
American actors in North Korean propaganda movies were extremely popular, according to Jenkins. People in the streets started to recognize Jenkins who appeared in small parts of about 10 movies.Jenkins: For the record…
The following is from the interview with Charles Jenkins conducted on June 27th, 2013. At times Jenkins makes cryptic remarks and appears to contradict himself in places. We have reproduced the remarks as he said them.
When people saw me, they would recognize all four of us Americans in me. The producer of the movie ‘Confrontation,’ designed my character, (“Doctor Kilton”) with a horrible haircut.
Once, the other defector Parrish, asked the producer how does ‘Doctor Kilton’ look? The answer he got from the North Korean producer was that Kilton’s age was about 40, but he had to make him look like he was 80. “We do not want Americans to look handsome,” the producer then explained.
I can’t tell you why I decided to leave the U.S. Army, because I promised my military lawyer that I wouldn’t tell anyone. I left on a January 5th’ , about about 12 in the morning. I counted my soldiers, put them in position, I waited about an hour and it was very cold. I told them I heard a noise and that I was going to check it out. Then I said I would go back very slowly, it was 27 below zero. Anyway, that’s when I left. I took all my ammunition, I had a rifle, I had a T-shirt in my pocket, and tied it on my riffle, and walked all night like that. I walked across the biggest mine field in North Korea. They couldn’t believe that. They told me they had the biggest mines in that valley, in between these two mountains. ‘How could you possibly get through them?’ I told them, ‘Well, I know why.’ And I told them I ain’t gonna tell you why.’ They said, ‘Can ever a solider do that?’ I said, ‘Yes, any man can.’ But why in the world didn’t I hit the wires? If I had hooked the wires, I would be beheaded, phouh! (Jenkins mimed a mine explosion.) To avoid the wires, I had to step real high, and step real slow for two kilometers. (Jenkins motions the gesture by pulling his knees very high and getting them slowly down. Then when there wasn’t any man at all, the ground froze so hard, I couldn’t hit them (the mines.) It froze.
I also drank a lot of beer before leaving. But my lawyer said, ‘If you were that drunk you couldn’t have made a night walk.’ But before I left, my patrol leader, Lieutenant X, me and him exchanged our guns. Because they gave me a shotgun, I couldn’t keep the shields in it. So he took my shotgun and I took his rifle. If I was drunk, he wouldn’t have given me his rifle. He wouldn’t even let me go in that zone. I wasn’t drunk, my Lieutenant let me go. If I was drunk, he wouldn’t let me go, because they would have taken my rank away. I told no one that. I wasn’t afraid of the Korean war. I wanted to go to Vietnam, but they wouldn’t let me. I had been to Korea for 13 months and I had been to Germany for 3 years. And I didn’t want to go back to Korea, but they put me there because I could speak some Korean language at that time. But they didn’t let me in Vietnam. My 13th months was due in Korea, all I was expecting was to go back in Germany or France.
There are certain things I wanted to tell the U.S. I couldn’t do it in Korea. And that’s what I can’t tell. My plan was to go into Russia, they would turn me over to the American embassy and I would have gotten back to the U.S.A., straight to the Pentagon. But in North Korea they let nobody go nowhere. That’s for sure.
I was ‘caught’ in North Korea, in a sense. I tried, with three other Americans, to go to the Russian embassy in North Korea. We went into the Russian embassy as if we were Russians. The Korean guards, they thought we were Russians. (He laughs) So we just walked in. The Russian embassy would have notified Moscow. Anyway at that time, the Russian president ordered us to be kicked out of the embassy. We were sent right back into North Korea. I don’t know who did it, but they put us in a room, the ambassador came in and he whispered something to the interpreter. And the interpreter said, ‘Well, I’m sorry but we will have to ask you to leave.’ So that’s what we did.
Right after going to the Russian embassy, you wouldn’t believe how it was. We had one guard, all he could do was to scream at us all day. We were in a cell, and he would come in and beat on the table and scream. We were forced t sit on the floor with our legs crossed and arms crossed during one hour and after an hour we had to change over. That’s the way to punish you. And at times they would tie you up and beat the hell out of you. You see this scar? (points to chin) ‘ this is where my tooth came on to my lip.
You see that scar? (He shows a tattoo on his left arm.) There used to be ‘U.S. Army’ written up here. At the military university, they cut off my skin to the place where it was written U.S. Army. Some North Koreans had seen my tattoo one day as I was wearing a short sleeved shirt. They grabbed me, they don’t give no anesthetic, nothing. You know what they say? The medicines are for the battlefields. They give the medicines to the military, not to the hospital dispensary. That’s where they cut off my skin. They took scissors and cut it off.
The first seven years they saw us as Korean War veterans. The Korean people hated Americans. The colonels and the high ranked officials were not so bad, but the lower ranked soldiers hated Americans.
We weren’t sent to reeducation camps, we got educated right there in our place. In the prison, they were always threatening us. They said they would make an example out of us. And I was often the one made an example, because I made more trouble than anybody. Also because I was the highest ranked.
I regretted every single day I defected from the U.S. army until I met my wife. After that, I thought, ‘Well, if I wasn’t here, it would have been hard for her.” Because if she hadn’t married me, she would still be in North Korea right now. That’s for sure.
But then, when Koizumi came back to North Korea, to meet Kim Jong-Il the second time, that’s when Kim Jong-Il agreed, if I want to leave, I could leave. (crying) But they thought I would come back (to North Korea) because I would go to jail in the U.S.A. They knew that. So, that’s how I came back. If my wife wasn’t sent back (to Japan) I wouldn’t be here.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is due to make a statement today to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II. He said he will uphold the statements made previously on the subject, but people are concerned that he will downplay Japan’s previous apologies.
Former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, who made the 50th anniversary statement on the war, spoke at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan recently, expressing his concerns with Abe’s statement. There is worry that Abe may downplay the Murayama Statement, which apologizes to Korea and China for crimes committed in WWII. Abe has been making comments in attempts to downplay the Murayama Statement, as a result, more and more young people are paying attention to the statement and asking questions about it. Many of these young people have been born after the war, and it’s prompted them to start learning about Japan’s war history on their own.
Due to the fact that Abe is trying to go on the offensive and bulk up Japan’s military, Murayama thinks that there is great danger in the fact that Abe cannot acknowledge that crimes committed during the war were a mistake. Now with the upcoming 70th anniversary of the war, Murayama feels that it is a milestone year that Japan needs to acknowledge.
The Potsdam Declaration was a statement issued in 1945 that called for Japan’s surrender during World War II. It was essentially an ultimatum given to Japan by the U.S., U.K. and China stating that Japan must surrender or face consequences. When asked about the Potsdam Declaration, Abe said that he has “not read the Potsdam Declaration in detail” and he doesn’t believe that the war was a mistake.
Abe’s crusade to nullify or even destroy Japan’s post-pacifist constitution, which also gave the Japanese citizen “basic human rights”, is not given him any popularity points within the country as well as Japan’s neighboring countries. He is intent on destroying Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. Article 9 is a clause in the constitution outlawing Japan from using war as a means to settle disputes.
Japan has experienced peace for 70 years, which is an extraordinary thing. Japanese people are worried that the tensions with other countries will escalate if Abe continues to along this path.
Murayama noted, “We’re approaching 70th anniversary of the war, and Abe wants to issue his own statement on the war, and many people wonder how it will differ and what Abe wants to say. When I spoke, it was the 50th anniversary of the war, a very important milestone. It was a time when Japan was realizing it was a member of the Asian community. It was thought we should put an end to this lingering history. We should apologize for the errors we made, and vow never to repeat them.”
Murayama also noted that the security legislation Abe and the LDP is pushing through the Diet is considered unconstitutional by an overwhelming majority of scholars.
“If it is the decision of the cabinet to change the constitution (at will), this kind of action cannot be permitted. If you want to reinterpret the constitution, you must actually revise it, something people say is near-impossible.”
Referencing the growing protests to the security legislation, Murayama added, “It’s only natural Japanese have become angry. I’ve repeated how Japan has experienced peace for so many years. We need to study history.”
In that statement that we need to study history and his pointing out that Abe had not read or understood the Potsdam Declaration, Murayama seemed to be saying to his successor, “Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. And if you knew your history, you’d make a proper apology. Get smart or shut up.” In many ways, the press conference was like a wise, cranky old teacher scolding a lazy student. However, will the lazy student listen?
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