Children's Literature Association Quarterly 31.1 (2006) 65-86
In 1949, one of the Little House books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867–1957) was introduced in Japan, then under American occupation after World War II. All publishing materials were strictly examined, censored, and revised by General Head Quarters (GHQ), with General Douglas MacArthur (1880–1964) as Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP). The Long Winter (1943), the sixth volume of the Little House series, was the first to be granted permission for translation and publication. Upon publication in 1949, the book gained widespread popularity among Japanese readers as GHQ actively encouraged the book's publication and distribution to libraries, including public, school, and new libraries that GHQ established in major cities throughout Japan. Two other books of the Little House series, The Little House in the Big Woods and The Little House on the Prairie, followed The Long Winter in 1950, but they did not achieve as much popularity as The Long Winter did.
This little-known episode raises a number of questions. Why did GHQ encourage Japanese schoolchildren to read The Long Winter? Although it was the sixth in the series, why was The Long Winter the first to be translated and published in postwar Japan? Moreover, the cardinal questions that this article pursues are: How did The Long Winter help create the image of the American West in the minds of Japanese readers? How did Japanese people come to accept the book—a memoir of the American frontier? And how did the story of an American woman's frontier life affect the process of Japanese democratization under American occupation after World War II?
GHQ's major aim of its social reform of Japan was "the removal of all militarism and ultranationalism" and establishment of "a democratic Japan" based on American democratic principles (GHQ, Education 136). To achieve this aim, GHQ issued a wide range of policy directives to the Japanese Imperial Government. Although demobilizing the Japanese Army and the Imperial Navy was the initial purpose of the Allied Powers' occupation, their occupation policy significantly shifted focus to the social reform of Japan when demilitarization was completed so as to convert Japan into a democratic nation. As a matter of fact, both GHQ and the U.S. government considered the social reform to be a crucial underpinning of reshaping Japan. General MacArthur clearly stated that his occupation policy of Japan was designed "to build a future for the people of Japan based upon considerations of realism and justice" and "to infuse into the hearts and minds of the Japanese people principles of liberty and right heretofore unknown to them;" "[W]ith those very principles . . . we [Americans] become architects of a new Japan" (Whan 165). As MacArthur saw it, social reform in Japan had to entail "reshaping of national and individual character" because such "structural and spiritual changes" were "essential to form the strong foundation of popular support upon which a democratic state must rest."
To implement social reform effectively, GHQ actively used media as an educational apparatus. In fact, as historian Takeshi Tanigawa remarks, GHQ tried to make the best of any kind of media source—books, textbooks, periodicals, films, radios, and school libraries—to educate Japanese people and accelerate educational reform (58). GHQ's Civil Information and Education Section (CIE), for instance, distributed free projectors and films made by the U.S. State Department to local halls, libraries, and schools in 1948. Through this program, 1,084 projectors were distributed, and over 400 educational films were watched by Japanese civilians of all ages (Nakamura). The distributed CIE films were virtually all about the democratic (that is, American) nation that Japan was going to become (Tanigawa 186).
Besides films, GHQ also took advantage of radio broadcasting in Japan. In the 1940s radio was the major medium for the Japanese people, though the Japanese broadcasting system was severely damaged during the war. It was on the radio that Japanese people first heard the emperor's official announcement of Japan's defeat and surrender. GHQ created 400 radio programs in...