“But now Japan and America are partners”: A further look into the 1964 special issue of Life magazine about Japan
[Recorded 21 November 2018] September 1964, when the Tokyo Olympics were about to start, the reputed American middle-class- oriented Life magazine published a large special issue on Japan, teeming with superb photography and acutely written chronicles. Over the decades, it has become a sought-after collector’s item, especially cherished for a remarkable photographic piece on Tokyo’s underground music scene signed Michael Rougier. However, its interest goes beyond its graphic beauty, since this issue can easily be considered one of the most complex and illuminating documents on the convoluted relationship between Japan and the U.S. after World War II. The impassioned account of the economic miracle, the purposefully naive portrayal of Emperor Hirohito, the philosophical analysis of some of Japan’s most pervasive moral contradictions, the tender look on Tokyo’s distraught youth and the significant page layout and management of advertisements both to American and to Japanese brands are only some of the aspects that will be focused on in this lecture, all pointing to the serious political revelations that are hidden behind this fascinating array of texts and images.