Organized Panel Session
The advent of flight had profound implications—commercial, technological, and symbolic—for Japan and its empire in Asia. Little, however, has been written about what the aerial age meant for the protection of Japanese cities renowned for their combustibility. The airplane, after all, could be a dove or a hawk and, in the immortal words of Le Corbusier, "It became a hawk….able to take off at night under the cover of darkness, and away to sow death with bombs upon sleeping towns." Having witnessed the advent of aerial bombing in WWI from afar and beheld firsthand the vulnerability of the capital to fire in the 1923 Great Kantō Earthquake, military officials, bureaucrats, and civilians were all deeply concerned about the implications of air power. Accordingly, a wide range of actors—from urban planners to civic groups—hastened to prepare urban Japan for the danger lurking in the skies. Air defense (or bōkū) and its attendant obligations were woven into the fabric of everyday life through simulated air defense drills, classroom curricula, and mass media.
This panel surveys Japanese efforts to protect cities and the citizens residing therein. Gennifer Weisenfeld begins with an examination of the aesthetics central to state-led efforts to mobilize civilians into air defense warriors. Through an analysis of "air defense clothing," David Fedman then explores how the changing winds of war thrust new duties on the bodies of women. Cary Karacas concludes with an examination of how the civilian experience of air defense has been remembered, forgotten, and memorialized.