Organized Panel Session
This panel investigates the development and practice of the social and natural sciences in postwar Japan in the context of an unfolding “American world.” Like so much else in postwar Japan, scientific endeavor was shaped by the experiences of war, defeat, and occupation, and by the singular importance of the US-Japan relationship. The presenters explore the consequences of the asymmetrical US-Japan political power balance on the path of postwar Japanese science and society.
Annika Culver demonstrates that apparently depoliticized early postwar Japanese-American interactions in ornithology were in fact deeply political. In particular, Japanese embrace of the ostensibly apolitical issues of conservation and (importantly) borderless bird migration contributed to reintegrating Japanese science into an American-led international community. Aya Homei explores the sudden boom in policy-oriented social and medical surveys on birth control in Japan, late 1940s to early 1950s. Homei shows how Japanese birth control and population researchers utilized the asymmetrical US-Japan political hierarchy to advance their cause both domestically and internationally through the surveys. Ran Zwigenberg demonstrates that the Japanese medical and scientific communities’ reluctance to address the psychological consequences of the atomic bombings was influenced by postwar entanglement with American researchers, and that this failure delayed critical care to survivors until at least the 1990s. Nathan Hopson explores the role of American-funded food demonstration buses in postwar Japan. Hopson shows that the “kitchen cars’” US-mandated (and healthy ministry-endorsed) emphasis on wheat, soy, and corn as the cornerstones of a modern, rational diet shaped postwar nutrition science and the national diet.