Stress at a multinational cocktail party in occupied Okinawa

In 1989 Brown University Japan studies professor (now emeritus) Steve Rabson translated and contextualized two Akutagawa Prize-winning novellas by Okinawan writers (in Japanese): “Cocktail Party” (Kakuteru pātī, 1966) by Ōshiro Tatsuhiro and “Child of Okinawa” (Okinawa no shonen, 1971) by Higashi Mineo (born—on Mindanao— in 1938). Both were published while Okinawa was occupied by the US (the US still has large military bases on the island whose people chose to return to being a part of the country of Japan, despite a history of discrimination by “mainland” (Honshu) Japanese against Okinawans). Both have been adapted to the screen, btw (in 2016 and 1983, respectively).


IMHO, Ōshiro stuffed too much into “Cocktail Party.” It begins on a base near Naha with a cocktail party for a mix of Americans and Okinawans with one Chinese thrown into the mix. The nucleus of the party, hosted by a Mr. Miller (who has hidden that his position is in military counterintelligence), is a group that is practicing/learning Chinese. The party breaks up when the Morgan’s son is discovered to be missing and everyone goes in search of him (it turns out that the Morgan’s Okinawan maid took him home without telling anyone; they eventually charge her with kidnapping).

The solidarity in facing possible harm to an American child completely breaks down when the daughter of one of the Okinawan guests, City Hall employee, Ogawa, is raped by an American serviceman, Robert Harris, who has been renting a room in the Ogawa house to copulate with his Okinawan girlfriend.


Mr. Miller is not willing to intervene on behalf of his Okinawan “friend.” Mr. Sun, the Chinese refugee attorney, is very reluctant to bring charges of rape against a G.I., knowing that the Okinawan court has no authority to punish an American (and that a court-martial will cover-up rape by servicemen of locals). Adding insult to injury, the raped girl is charged with assaulting Harris (she pushed him off a cliff after he finished with her, so it doesn’t count as “self-defense”).


Mr. Sun points out to Mr. Ogawa the latter’s acquiescence through silence of atrocities Japanese committed in China, including some of which Ogawa was aware. Moreover, Japanese soldiers had raped Mr. Sun’s wife. And Japanese had mistreated Okinawans both before and during the war when they were in authority there. Mr. Sun also acknowledges Chinese mistreatment of Japanese after Japan’s surrender. No group has clean hands, and justice is but a dream. Nonetheless, Mr. Ogawa brings charges in a court that cannot compel Harris to appear. The real victim of the story’s present (some time during the 1960s), the daughter, is not even given a name by Ōshiro.

(Rabson writes that Robert Harris is a catalyst rather than the villain. I think he Mr. Miller are villains and that Mr. Sun is the catalyst of recognizing that others occupying armies —most particulary Japan’s—mistreted the conquered peoples, not that this justifies Americans in raping Okinawans and jettisoning “international friendship” when something is asked of them.)

Alse see Medoruma Shun’s In the Woods of Memory, also centered on the rape of an Okinawan girl by US militart personnel.


©2017, Stephen O. Murray


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