Research report: historical amnesia and the “neo-imperial gaze” in the Okinawa boom

Kühne, Oliver E.

The Japanese perceptions of Hawai’i and Okinawa today share fundamental similarities: Both postcolonial island chains are appreciated as stereotypical tropical paradises with beautiful beaches and untouched nature, where gentleness (yasashisa) and healing (iyashi) await the visitor. However, although affirmative, such interchangeable images obscure not only the social, economic, and political reality, but also the historically grown oppression. The questions thus arise whether these images are part of cultural discourses of power and whether they follow a conscious or unconscious “neo-imperial” agenda employed to silence subaltern Pacific voices. This paper examines the interwoven structure of the Okinawa boom (2001-2009) and the “healing boom” (iyashi bumu) in mainland Japan. Locating the two islands in a Pacific framework, statistical data of Okinawa and Hawai’i will be investigated to demonstrate how analogous postcolonial and “neo-imperial” issues actually are. Exemplarily, the NHK television drama Churasan of 2001 and Yoshimoto Banana’s travel diary Nankurunaku, nai (‘What Will Be, Will Not Be’) of 2006 will be investigated with the aim of uncovering trajectories of colonial agency and thus elucidate what political roles mass tourism, its media, and popular agents play in the power framework of “neo-imperial” oppression in the Pacific