Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

3 - Cultures of Disremembrance in the Postwar and Contemporary History of Shuri Castle

Thursday, March 22
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Virginia Suite A, Lobby Level

After three consecutive days of bombardment by U.S. ships and planes during the Battle of Okinawa (April-June 1945) to flush out the Japanese 32nd Army who had built their headquarters in a web of tunnels underneath Shuri Castle, the centuries-old throne room of the Ryūkyū Kingdom lay in ruins.


Using local newspapers, U.S. Army documents, and writings by Okinawan intellectuals, I investigate the conflicting narratives of Okinawan culture and identity that emerged from the ashes of Shuri Castle in postwar Japan. U.S. occupying troops saw the site as grounds for constructing a new, hybrid Okinawan-American culture with the latter at the center. While left-wing and progressive Okinawans criticized the American presence, they attacked the castle ruins as symbols of an oppressive feudal regime. Other groups wanted to capitalize on the palace, hoping to turn it into the symbol of traditional and unique Ryūkyū culture with exotic tourist appeal.



I argue that in these re-imaginings, the rhetoric of culture downplayed and overshadowed the history and legacies of war and violence from the Battle of Okinawa. This paper proposes the term “cultures of disremembrance” to conceptualize how parts of history were erased. As the Shuri Castle site was eventually rebuilt, the remains of the 32nd Army Headquarter tunnels were forgotten. Although some Okinawan scholars attempted to rescue the site’s wartime history, beautified narratives of the site as ancient cultural heritage had already become codified at the expense of its violent legacies of war and atrocity.

Justin Aukema

Sophia University, Kanagawa, Japan

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