10 November 2004

Prewar Japanese Fantasies of Invading Hawai‘i

Japanese scenarios of a Hawaii invasion were generally episodes within books about imaginary wars with the United States. Such scenarios surfaced in 1913 and appeared from time to time until 1941. Japanese fantasies about a Pacific War, like analogous works appearing in the United States, grew out of deepening tensions and distrust between the two countries after 1905. Offended by anti-Japanese prejudice in California, frustrated by American obstacles to peaceful expansion in the Pacific, writers conjured up consoling victories in the realm of fantasy.

The earliest scenarios, written by authors innocent of technical knowledge about naval warfare, have a whimsical quality. Among these is Nichi-Bei kaisen yume monogatari [Fantasy on the outbreak of a Japanese-American war], which appeared in 1913 under the editorship of the National Military Affairs Association (to all appearances a private group). The book opens with the destruction of the American fleet by a Japanese squadron between Luzon and Taiwan. Japanese forces then take the Philippines and occupy Hawaii (the author noted that Hawaii presented fewer obstacles than did the Philippines). Hawaii's fall prompts the Kaiser, Tsar, and president of France to mediate a peace settlement. The United States cedes Hawaii to Japan, and the islands are incorporated "forever" into the Empire. This book conveys two perceptions that thereafter crop up regularly in Japanese literature about Hawaii: Hawaii is a natural part of Japan, and Americans are not terribly disturbed about losing the Islands.

In 1914 Yoshikatsu Oto brought out a similar fantasy entitled Nichi-Bei moshi kaisen seba [If Japan and America fight] with a preface by a retired admiral, Seijiro Kawashima. Oto echoed the theme of Hawaii belonging to Japan, adding that this was so because doho ['compatriots' of Japanese ethnicity, regardless of citizenship] had developed the local economy. He even suggested that doho already held de facto political power in the Islands. Like the author of the earlier fantasy, Oto assured readers that Hawaii could be captured more easily than could the Philippines. About forty thousand troops, he estimated, should be able to land on Oahu's north shore and deal with the fifteen thousand American defenders. The book then proceeds to describe a successful Japanese assault, followed by formal acquisition in the peace treaty.

A more extravagant scenario unfolded in Nichi-Bei senso yume monogatari [Japanese-America war fantasy] (1921) by Kojiro Sato, a retired army general. Sato portrayed the destruction of the U.S. Pacific Fleet after it has been lured to Midway, an uncanny forerunner of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's ill-fated plan twenty-one years later. Japan then seizes Hawaii and from its mid-Pacific base strikes San Francisco. Building air bases in California, Imperial forces launch bombing missions across the Rocky Mountains into the Midwest. Allies materialize from among American minorities. Ten million blacks revolt, led by Marcus Garvey.* Jews and German-Americans also rise up against the Anglo-Saxons. Eager to rectify past injustices, Mexico invades Texas. Sato brought his tale to a climax with a grand finale in New York at 9:00 A.M. Sunday morning ("when people are still asleep"). Japanese commandos blow up the Brooklyn Bridge and--using dirigibles--land on the Woolworth Building. Washington sues for peace, and Lothrop Stoddard** joins the surrender negotiations.

* Marcus Garvey (1887-1940). Jamaica-born black nationalist who lived in New York from 1916 until his deportation to Jamaica in 1927.
** Lothrop Stoddard (1883-1950). Author of a notorious racist tract, The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy (1920).
SOURCE: Hawaii Under the Rising Sun: Japan's Plans for Conquest After Pearl Harbor, by John J. Stephan (U. Hawai‘i Press, 1984), pp. 59-60

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