May 2, 2009

The beginning of Golden Week and a little bit of history...

Today is the beginning of a vacation week known as Golden Week. here in Japan.
There are a bunch of national holidays crammed together...

(Some people got to start their Golden Week from April 25 (Sat) giving them a 12 day vacation. For the extra "lucky" people their Golden Week will end on the 10th of May, giving them a 16 day vacation!)

Today is "just a Saturday" but tomorrow the real national holidays begin.

Tomorrow will be "Kenpo Kinen Bi" 憲法記念日 in Japan... Constitution Day, that is.

This day reminds me, believe it or not...of an American woman, Beate Sirota Gordon.
The constitution went into effect on May 3rd 1947.
There are several different accounts that I have heard of but the dominant view is that a group of Americans in Japan were assembled to draft the new constitution.

Japanese officials were also making their own draft of the constitution but since it was expected to have a "strong right wing bias" the group of Americans had an objective to "get the Japanese to change their ideas on constitutional revision" (according to B.S. Gordon's book).

They had one week to make the draft. Beate, then 22 years old was the only woman in the group of about a dozen GHQs.
She was told "You're a woman; why don't you write the woman's rights section?"
she was "delighted" and also asked if she could write "about academic freedom" as well.

Right about now, you might be asking:
Why would she be interested in, or qualified to do this?

Beate grew up in Japan. Her father, a Russian pianist, Leo Sirota and her mother, Augustine lived in Japan during the 1930s. Even during WW2 the Sirota's stayed in Japan while Beate went to the USA to study. She also worked as a translator...monitoring Tokyo Radio for the US government.

Beate was raised by a Japanese housekeeper. Her fluency in Japan and knowledge of Japanese culture was like any other Japanese child. She knew the restraints kept on Japanese women as well as children and that was her incentive.

The details of the group of Americans that helped to draft the new constitution were not made public for a long time. I first heard about it in the 1990s....I memory fails me when it comes to history.

Supposedly, the details were kept confidential because it was thought that, if the Japanese knew that "foreigners" made the constitution there would be a "movement" to revise it.

I am not sure how much of this fact actually contributes to recent discussions about the Constitution of Japan, but it has become a well known topic now; whether or not the Constitution should be revised and if so how much of it should change.

As I was looking through my bookshelf for "The Only Woman in the Room" by Beate Sirota Gordon, I found another book about another American in Japan...

This one I haven't read yet, but as you can see by it's title, it should be very interesting:

"Native American in the Land of the Shogun - Ranald MacDonald and the Opening of Japan - the true story of a half-Chinook, half-Scot adventurer who entered feudal Japan in 1848 and helped pave the way for its modernization" ... wow!
I'll let you know how it turns out... but my stack of "books to read" for book clubs and research (for my own book) is becoming astronomical... yikes!

In the meantime, I get to work during Golden Week... Argh, this week Happy Monday will be a Happy Tuesday for me. Hopefully I will be able to post something about the other upcoming national holidays as well : Green Day (I'm not kidding) and Children's Day.


Butternut Squash said...

Absolutely fascinating stuff. I wish I could enjoy Golden Week again. I know how hard the Japanese work, but I used to love my vacation time there. And when I was home from work, my time was my own. Now I have no free time. Reading and writing are tucked into the corners of the day. I haven't had a real vacation in the past 11 years. Children do that to you, but owning your own business does it to you too. *A boy I knew went into a library looked at all of the books from floor to ceiling and sat down on the floor to cry. "I'll never be able to read them all." He said. I feel like that too sometimes. Peace.

moonrat said...

Beate Gordon is SO COOL!! I remember when I first read about her, during college--I thought it all had to be made up, it seemed so crazy.

Happy Golden Week!

June Saville said...

I'd be interested to know how well the American-inspired constitution worked for the Japanese as a whole ...
I knew that this was written during the occupation after World War 11.

Lori ann said...

Thank you so much for telling us about this Tulsa, it was fascinating to learn. Can I ask you a dumb question? Does your keyboard come with those Japanese symbols(is that the right word?)oh, that is 2 questions!
Happy Golden Week!

I_am_Tulsa said...

June, I can't speak for the nation but from what I've experienced, it seems to have worked pretty well. The reason is probably because they let the Emperor continue to be a symbol for the Japanese people although he was stripped of his political position.

Today there were lectures etc across the nation concerning the constitution... Some talks focused on the reasons it shouldn't be changed (not having an official army shows how Japan is a very peaceful country now) and the opposite view of why it should be changed (Japan should be allowed to defend itself more properly).

I have no idea if some kind of decision will be made anytime soon.

Lori, there are Japanese (hiragana) symbols on my keyboard! NOT a dumb question at all! I'll take a picture and try to explain them sometime soon!

I_am_Tulsa said...

Butternut Squash, I know exactly how you and "the boy" feel! So much to see, do and read!

Moonrat! Her life does seem so unreal... But as a woman living in Japan right now, I must be thankful for her hard work and dedication!

Delwyn said...

Hi Tulsa, I'm back in Oz and doing a little catch up read. I am going to order the Beate book from Amazon and would also be interested to hear about the Ranald Mac Donald one when you get into it. I have recently read the book about the crown princess written by an Australian - such a sad story...
A blogger - maninroma, has asked me to recommend a book about Japanese spiritual beliefs so I was wondering if I direct him your way you may have some ideas?
Back to reading more of your posts
Happy days and holidays too

I_am_Tulsa said...

Delwyn! So glad to hear you are back! I loved your posts from NZ!
I will be going out now but when I come home later tonight I will go through my books on Japanese spirituality etc!