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Yamashita to address resistance in World War II Japan

Samuel Yamashita, the Henry E. Sheffield Professor of History at Pomona College, will present “Wartime Japan and its Discontents” Thursday, April 5, at 7:30 p.m. in the Richard and Lucille Ice Auditorium in Melrose Hall at Linfield College. The lecture is sponsored by the Jonas A. “Steine” Jonasson Endowed Lecture.

Yamashita will address the allegations made during World War II about the attitudes of Japanese citizens. American propaganda portrayed Japanese citizens as loyal and obedient supporters of their emperor who were willing to sacrifice their lives for their country. Yamashita’s reading of the wartime diaries and several dozen postwar memoirs written by ordinary Japanese citizens proves that this assertion was not true. He will discuss the varieties of resistance to the wartime government and its policies.

Yamashita will reveal important exceptions to the prevailing American stereotype of the Japanese by exploring first-hand accounts of Japanese citizens. They include a navy man who expressed his contempt for his superiors by shaking his dandruff into their rice; a teacher who condemned the Nazis in public lectures; the many thousands of urban Japanese who defied the prohibitions on buying food on the black market or from farmers; and evacuated school children who routinely stole food.

Yamashita has taught Asian history at Pomona College since 1983. He has been the chair of the history department and coordinator of the Asian studies program, the oldest college-level program of its kind in the United States. He received a Ph.D. in Japanese history at the University of Michigan in 1981 and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University and a senior tutor in East Asian studies there before he moved to Pomona. Yamashita has been awarded the Pomona College’s Wig Distinguished Teaching Award six times since 1986. He was Pomona’s nominee for California Professor of the Year in 2004 and for the Robert Cherry Foster award for Great Teaching in 2005; and the “Princeton Review” recently named him one of the top 300 professors in the country.

A noted intellectual historian, Yamashita has written “Master Sorai’s Responsals: An Annotated Translation of Sorai sensei tōmonsho” (1995) and was co-translator of “The Four-Seven Debate: An Annotated Translation of the Most Famous Controversy in Korean Neo-Confucian Thought” (1993). In 2005 he published translations of eight wartime Japanese diaries in “Leaves from an Autumn of Emergencies: Selections from the Wartime Diaries of Ordinary Japanese.” And he is currently writing three food books: the first scholarly study of Hawai’i Regional Cuisine, a history of Japanese food and a history of Pacific Rim fusion cuisine.

The Jonas A. “Steine” Jonasson Endowed Lectureship at Linfield honors Jonasson, professor emeritus of history, who was associated with Linfield for more than 60 years before his death in 1997. The endowment is used to bring in distinguished scholars and speakers in the area of history. Jonasson held the unofficial title of Linfield historian and wrote “Bricks Without Straw,” a history of the college.

The lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, call 503-883-2479.