Friday, June 25, 2010

What would modern Japanese school boys think of the emperor's surrender speech?

On 15 August 1945 in Tokyo, NHK Radio broadcast a recording made by Emperor Hirohito the night before accepting the terms of the Potsdam Declaration and surrendering unconditionally to the Allies.

As an account in the Japan Times makes clear, however, that broadcast nearly didn’t make it to the air. The son-in-law of former Prime Minister Tojo Hideki issued a bogus order at 2:00 a.m. for about 1,000 soldiers to seize the Imperial Palace and cut off communications with the outside. The aim of the cabal of about a dozen officers was to find and destroy the two audio discs made by the Emperor before they could be broadcast to the nation later that day, overthrow the government, and install a new administration led by the War Minister to continue fighting.

The soldiers did occupy the Palace grounds, and about 40 or 50 entered the premises of the Imperial Household Agency. They hunted for the records for about 90 minutes without finding them. The discs had been placed there instead of NHK headquarters, which also was occupied, because it was thought to be a safer hiding place. One wonders how they knew to look on the Palace grounds instead of at NHK.

The coup leaders killed the head of the Imperial Guards after he refused their request to order the 4,000 troops under his command to join the revolt. Eventually, an officer of the Guards Division escaped and alerted General Tanaka Shizuichi, the head of the Eastern Defense Command (responsible for defending the capital) of the situation at the Palace. Tanaka convinced the Imperial Guard commander that the orders were not legitimate, and the commander confronted the coup leaders. They killed themselves shortly afterward, and the troops left the Palace grounds about 8:00 a.m., six hours after the plot got underway.

NHK’s official account of the events of the 14th and 15th, contained in their corporate history published on the network’s 50th anniversary in 1977, clears up another matter. There has been a persistent urban legend in Japan that the combination of poor radio reception and unfamiliarity with the language reserved for the Emperor led some people to believe that Hirohito had actually asked the people to fight to the last man. This cannot have been the case.

After the plotters were removed from NHK headquarters, the day’s broadcasts began at around 7:20 a.m., more than two hours behind schedule. There was an immediate and urgent announcement that the Emperor would address the nation at noon that day, and every citizen was urged to listen to the gyokuon broadcast. (Gyokuon is the Emperor’s voice, or literally, jeweled sound.) There were no daytime radio broadcasts in the regional areas of the country at that point in the war, so arrangements were made for a special hookup. This was to be the first time that most Japanese had ever heard their Emperor speak.

At noon, everyone in the country stopped what they were doing to listen. The recording was broadcast not only throughout Japan, but also over the NHK radio network in each of the colonized countries and territories in the Pacific. My mother-in-law’s family of well-to-do farmers were the only people in their neighborhood with a radio. She remembers everyone in the area coming to her house to listen.

Before the recording was played, the NHK announcer asked everyone to stand (to listen to the radio!) While it is true that the broadcast of the record was difficult to understand due to interference in some areas and the language used, there is no question that everyone understood what had just happened when the full broadcast ended some 37 minutes later. After the recording was played, the NHK announcer explained in simpler language that Japan had just surrendered, read the text of the Emperor’s broadcast again, and followed that with another explanation. After all that, it would have been unlikely that anyone would have thought the Emperor had asked the country to fight to the last man. In any event, newspapers began publishing extra editions at 1:00 p.m.

They understood in Tokyo. A stream of people passed by the bridge leading to the Imperial Palace to bow in its direction. This continued for the rest of the day.

They understood in Seoul. This was Liberation Day for Korea, and the sound of fireworks and gongs were heard almost immediately. The colonial government broadcast a plea asking for cooperation from the citizenry until the occupation army arrived, and they apparently got it.

They also understood on the other side of the world. It was midnight on the East Coast of the United States. Those people listening to a late-night live broadcast of Cab Calloway on the Mutual Broadcasting Network were among the first to find out.

One tricky aspect for students of Japanese is the basket of personal pronouns available in the language, combined with the common practice of omitting personal pronouns entirely. When pronouns are omitted, people usually can tell who is talking about whom from the context, but even the Japanese have to stop and ask each other every now and again.

For centuries, there was a specific personal pronoun meaning “I” reserved for the exclusive use of the Emperor, with its own kanji character. Hirohito used the word that day in his broadcast. The word is chin.

Now chinpo or chin-chin are two of the less refined expressions for penis (the latter used mostly by young-school boys), though it is written differently.

So if you are ever asked to give a run down in English of parts of the body to a group of 10-year-old boys in Japan, beware! When you point to the end of your jaw and call it your chin the hysterical laughter will be heard all over the school. My Japanese teacher friends seem to think it is quite funny to set stupid Aussies like me up to do this.

But I don't fall for it anymore!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Do you need historiography for Germany Questions? Part 2

Again, Gabby, I think the guy's advice is a bit suspect. I think that using no more than 5 historians and paraphrasing their work is too general a piece of advice.

For instance, how could you answer "well" a question on Hitler's foreign policy without dealing with the different schools of historical thought?

I can see what the guy is getting at, he doesn't want students copying out slabs of other people's opinions and saying that is their essay. I think that advice is to keep the less able students, who could get themselves into trouble trying to deal with historiography that they don't really understand, out of trouble.

I agree with the paraphrasing, but short quotes can be valuable too.

All of this down-playing of historiography comes from a crisis that hit Modern History a few years back when the numbers doing the subject started to drop. The word had started to spread that you couldn't hope to get a Band 6 unless your had plenty of good historiography. This meant that only the kids doing History Extension in most schools were in with a chance. This wasn't really the case with a number of questions, but the idea was enough to scare plenty of people off the subject. So, you now get these people "stressing" to students that it is possible to get a Band 6 without historiography. But, as I have already said, I think that it isn't the case with a lot of questions and I think people can be a bit misleading, because they are afraid of losing students or scaring the ones that they have doing the subject already.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Do you need historiography for Germany Questions?

I thought that we had put this one to bed when we looked at the examples of excellent answers from past HSC papers in class. However, the study day seems to have raised the question again.

I think that the person who told you that historiography was not necessary "at all" was irresponsible. If he did tell you exactly this! They "usually" say that it is "possible" to get full marks without historiography. My answer is that "possible" is different from "probable".

Historiography scares a lot of average kids and quite few teachers too. And they usually say this so that kids don't give up trying. But it shouldn't scare you!


1. Historiography is no substitute for not answering the question well. You must answer the question asked with plenty of deep knowledge of the subject. And yes there are "some" topics that you can answer well without historiography. This is true, and I have marked answers without historiography that have gotten full marks - but very very few.
2. However, there are quite a few questions - especially those involving the influence of Hitler - that you just can't answer "well" without discussing the historiography.
4. The best answers - the straight Band 6 answers: a. answer the question with a well structured argument without any irrelevant information; b. display a deep / expert knowledge of the subject; c. are well expressed; d. use the correct historical terms & names & dates, etc...; and e. uses good historiography to make the argument clearer and more sophisticated.

If the right question pops up - yes you can get full marks without historiography, but sitting and hoping for that question is not a risk that I would be taking.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Heston Blumenthal - what a legend!

Did you see MasterChef tonight? Heston Blumenthal is my very favourite chef. A genius I think. So creative, so innovative... and yet draws most of his inspiration from history! No wonder I love him.

My eldest boy worked with him and said that he was one of the nicest guys he has ever worked with! BUT he also says that Gordon Ramsey is a nice guy. So... his definition of "nice" might be different from ours. lol

Saturday, June 19, 2010

So how were the study days?

What is your verdict? Was it worth the money? Did you learn stuff that that you didn't know? Is it worth going to again next year or not?

And thanks Jess H for another history cat. The Hitler cats are in trouble now!!! lol

What would Leni make of this?

If you watched North Korea play a hard-fought game against Brazil in the World Cup on Tuesday, you may have wondered how all those North Korean fans were able to attend the game given the nation's dire economic condition and dictator Kim Jong Il's strict prohibitions on leaving the country.

Commentator Martin Tyler answers the question:

"We are told that the supporters of North Korea aren't North Koreans--they're handpicked actors from China who have been sent here to act out the part of North Korean fans. I haven't found one I can speak to, who can speak back to me to tell me whether that's the case--I doubt he'd tell me the truth if that is the case."

Although the news has been circling the Internet for a month, AOL's Fanhouse says that North Korea provided 1,000 tickets to a group of Chinese fans, including actors and musicians, to fly to South Africa for the game.

China, which is one of North Korea's closest allies in the world, failed to qualify for this year's World Cup.


Riefenstahl must be laughing somewhere.

What does it all mean???????

I am usually pretty good at interpreting historical photographs, but what is going on here??? WHY were these pictures taken? Who takes a picture of a small kid smoking with a chicken? Why wire up a piglet and get it drunk? Or are these things that most people do and I have just been missing out??

Sunday, June 13, 2010

"Foster" by Claire Keegan

I read this when I was on the Year 9 Camp. I think it is the best short story I have read for quite a long time. The way she captures small town and country Ireland and small town mentality is brilliant. Well I think it is.

My wife, however, didn't think it was anything special. lol I would be interested in hearing what you think.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Another history puzzle!

The dates - 7 December 1941 and 2 May 1982 are 'somehow' linked?

How are they linked?

Who am I?

Who is the guy sitting closest to President Kennedy?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Historians are seedy and horrible, says Terry Deary, children’s author

Don't forget to read the comments too! They are very interesting. lol

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Oral Tasks are coming up at the end of this Term for Ancient & Modern!

You might want to have a look at 'PREZI'. A spectacular new way to do presentations. They look very very kool!

Don't join the site. I'm going to ask Ms Aspel if she can get us a school account. :)