Songs Unsung: Censorship of Popular Song in Occupied Japan

The Occupation of Japan by Allied forces following World War II marked an unprecedented incursion of outside (soto) influence into Japanese affairs. From the Meiji Restoration through WWII, the Japanese government had practiced censorship, especially
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   Nathanial Gailey-Schiltz Songs Unsung: Censorship of Popular Song in Occupied Japan Presented on 11/15/13 at SEM The Allied, and largely American, Occupation of Japan, which lasted from 1945 until 1952, was an unprecedented event in Japanese history. According to popular thought, it marked the first time that any foreign power had occupied the country and exercised direct administrative control. While there had been numerous cases of foreign influence shaping Japanese policy to various degrees in the past, the Allied Occupation, and the open negotiation of power between the Occupiers and the Occupied, was a very different kind of situation, and a pivotal moment in modern Japanese history. Today I will discuss a topic largely passed over by scholars of this  period: published music. Music materials like that which you see here published during the Occupation and censored by Allied personnel, now archived at the Gordon W. Prange collection at the University of Maryland, provide a window into popular discourse of the time, or more specifically into the kinds of sentiments that popular music might reflect from, and help  propagate within, popular discourse. I will examine both the censors’ and the publishers’  practices regarding what materials were appropriate for publication, and suggest a Foucauldian interpretation of how power was negotiated through these processes. Before delving into the materials themselves, it is useful to take a few minutes to explore the historical context in which they were published, and I’ll start here in the 1920s. In the wake of Japanese victories in the Sino- and Russo-Japanese Wars, Japanese imperialistic sentiment was growing, and individual freedom of speech lessened. In order to suppress socialist, anarchist, and other undesirable social movements, the government passed the 1925 Public Security and Preservation Law, which stifled dissent and strengthened state censorship. This imperial censorship was very open, so the public knew that criticism would not be published.  Gailey-Schiltz 2   Popular music in Japan in the 1920s had long since been influenced by Western harmony, instruments, song forms, and other aesthetics, and in the 1920s, a second wave of Western musical influence swept through Japan largely via American popular music, which appealed to the newly-empowered middle-class consumer culture in Japanese urban centers. Both foreign and domestic jazz and big band tunes were popular, although foreign music eventually became stigmatized as undesirable by the government, as was much foreign culture, in the 1930s. The  National Mobilization Law of 1938 in particular provided the means for the government to  prohibit all foreign music except for that from Germany and Italy. Aside from these explicitly foreign-style tunes, another musical style grew in popularity during this period, in which balladic Japanese-language solo vocal melodies were placed on top of Western-style orchestras, piano, guitars, or other such accompaniment. This style of music has been referred to by several different names, and the one which I will use in this presentation is ryūkōka . Literally this term means “ trendy song ” or “popula r song ,” and the scholar Nagaharu Hiromu has suggested that it came into use to describe this genre of music at the time of the establishment of the recording industry in the late 1920s. 1  It was a neologism, signaling the novelty and trendiness of the style; essentially a marketing term. Another term for this style of music is kayō kyoku , but I use the term ryūkōka  instead here consciously because it had earlier associations with the genre, because it carries connotations of the heyday of the recording industry in the first half of the century, and because kayō kyoku  became the dominant term later, around 1960, being commonly associated with the music of pop stars like Misora Hibari, who  became famous in the 1950s. We’ll come back to Kayō and Dōyō.   1   Nagaharu Hiromu, 2011, “Unpopular Music: The Politics of Mass Culture in Modern Japan” (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University), 14  – 15.  Gailey-Schiltz 3    Ryūkōka   grew in popularity during the 1930s, and its success was closely tied to that of the blossoming film industry in Japan. Hit songs advertised films, films advertised songs,  popular actors who sang those songs made records to sell, and publishers sold sheet music of those hits. The whole process generated a lot of revenue, and a number of star performers and composers emerged. Quickly, however, growing totalitarianism imposed pressure on composers to move away from untoward topics like romance and eroticism, or sadness and nostalgia, and more towards upbeat topics that would help s upport Japan’ s military endeavors. Not all ryūkōka  composers were enthusiastic about this switch, though not all of those who resisted writing militaristic music were pacifist or against the cause; regardless, songs in line with wartime rhetoric were domi nant from the late 1930s until Japan’ s surrender. While Imperial censorship had been a very open process, the new system of censorship  put in place by the Allied forces was hidden from the public. The censors in charge of looking over printed material for the Occupation belonged to the Press, Pictorial, and Broadcast Division of the Civil Censorship Detachment, under the Civil Intelligence Section, a branch of General MacArthur’s Supreme Command for   Allied Powers. In September of 1945, MacArthur issued the Press Code for Japan, which set out guidelines for censorship. First among these were that news must be truthful, nothing should disturb public tranquility, and there should be no destructive criticism of Allied Powers. With these overarching points in place, the CCD created key logs of more specific categories of subjects which should be deleted or suppressed. These changed over time, and included entries such as references to censorship, militaristic or nationalistic propaganda, glorification of feudal ideas or divine descent of the Emperor, and Greater East Asia propaganda.  Gailey-Schiltz 4   During the period of censorship, from the beginning of the Occupation until the CCD’s dissolution in late 1949, materials were processed in two different ways: pre-censorship and  post-censorship. Most types of publications were pre-censored until 1947, and this process consisted of publishers sending in galley proofs for review prior to publication; the CCD would then either allow items to be published as-is, mark passages for deletion, or suppress them completely. Publishers would have to replace deleted passages with new material or change  page layouts in order to disguise the fact that something was missing. By 1947, the CCD had shifted most materials to post-censorship, in which publishers were expected to abide by censorship guidelines on their own, and sent published copies to the CCD for approval. This system used negative reinforcement, and the threat of shifting publications back to pre-censorship, to eliminate most violations before they ever actually reached the censors. At the end of the censorship period, Gordon W. Prange, chief historian for SCAP, moved the entire collection of materials associated with the CCD to his home institution, the University of Maryland. The collection there includes thousands of newspaper and magazine titles,  photographs, and books, and within the book section there is a significant amount of music, separated into Western scores and partbooks, music for Japanese traditional instruments, popular music, instructive materials, and music literature. In the popular music section, which Prange Collection staff call “ kayō  and dōyō ,” or “songs and children’s songs,” there are nearly 900 items, over half of which are sheet music for single songs, the remainder being mostly pocket-sized collections of hit songs. The collection of published popular songs allows us to take a unique look at what kinds of topics and sentiments were part of the popular discourse of the time; I interpret ryūkōka  here as a style of music that worked as part of a feedback loop for popular discourse, both reflecting  Gailey-Schiltz 5   and influencing what people were feeling. A lyrical analysis of the popular music materials in the Prange Collection might produce a very interesting data set, but unfortunately this was  beyond the scope of my thesis project given the sheer size of the collection. An analysis of song titles, however, can still provide some useful data, which I will present here. The table you see here gives the frequency of key characters or words that appear in at least 10 of the 530 individual sheet music titles in the collection, which again includes both ryūkōka  and dōyō   children’ s songs. 2  One thing that becomes immediately clear is that there was a significant focus on words that convey a sense of melancholy, nostalgia, or pathos. Words for night, rain, tears, and parting were common in titles. The character for aoi  or blue, appears in a number of titles as part of the compound word aozora , “blue sky,” which has a more positive connotation, but also as part of the compound word  seishun , meaning something like “when we were young,” conveying more of a sense of nostalgia. These sentiments are unsurprising to find in popular music, especially after a period when the government suppressed songs with these kinds of emotions, and surely many people could relate to them at the time. Another trend that seemingly picked back up where it left off in the late 1930s was  publishing songs about romance, pretty women, and lovers, all of which had been balked at by  bureaucrats over the previous decade as untoward. There are many popular title terms that evoke these sentiments; ai  and koi , both words meaning love, are obvious.  Bara , rose, is nearly always associated with romance.  Musume , girl, is often used in titles like “ Tai no Musume ”  (Girl from Thailand. The word tabi , meaning “travel,” can convey romance as in songs like “ Tabi no odoriko ” “travelling dancer girl . ” 2  See Appendix 1
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