Eric Jaffe's A Curious Madness (2014) is one of those books that is really several books in one. It is a historical mystery which focuses on the question of whether or not nationalist intellectual Shumei Okawa was faking insanity during the Tokyo tribunals, it is also a personal foray into the life of Jaffe's laconic grandfather Daniel Jaffe, the roots of Japanese nationalism, the development of combat psychiatry during World War II, and postwar justice. You can see the historic slap of Hideki Tojo's head that brought to question, Okawa's sanity, here on You Tube. The chapters are as follows: 1. "The Slap Heard Round the World" 2. "A Young Philosopher-Patriot 3. "The House on Lyme Avenue" 4. "Heavenly Mission" 5. "Loose Ends" 6. "Showa Restoration" 7. "The Making of a Combat Psychiatrist" 8. "A War for Asian Liberation" 9. "Breakdown" 10. "Unconsciously Conscious" 11. "Judgement" 12. ""The Ghosts of East and West." Jaffe brought to light many interesting observations about both men, the rise of Asian nationalism in Japan, and psychiatry in general. It was interesting to see that Patton's public slapping of two combat fatigued soldier brought the idea of combat psychiatry to the attention of the powers that be. I was also interested to hear that his grandfather's unit, the 97th infantry was one of the most traveled in the war-covering 35,000 miles chasing the Germans toward Czechoslovakia and then raced across Europe to the U.S. to take part in the U.S. occupation of Japan. It is a well-researched and fascinating book for anyone who is interested in WWII.
Donald Richie's writings are always revelatory about the subjects in which he writes about: Japanese society and culture in general, as well as that of himself. This especially true in Japanese Portraits:Pictures of Different People (2006). Several of these vignettes were featured in The Donald Richie Reader, but all of them have some interesting perspectives about the subjects mentioned above. Since Richie is interested in culture and the arts there are several portraits about artists. There are profiles on writers like Yukio Mishima (somewhat revealing about both writers' sexuality) and Yasunari Kawabata (in which he Richie comes to accept his suicide). People associated with films: Yasujiro Ozu and actors associated with him Setsuko Hara and Chishu Ryu, as well as a film executive associated with his studio Hiroshi Momma (who refused to believe Richie's claim that Ozu could be understood and appreciated by non-Japanese audiences), Akira Kurosawa and his collaborators Toshiro Mifune and Isuzu Yamada, frequent film composer Toru Takemitsu, the Japanese Hollywood actor of the silent period Sessue Hayakawa, actor Tsutomu Yamazaki (who acted opposite Richie in his small part in Hiroshi Teshigahara's Rikyu), Kon Ichikawa (of whom Richie feels disappointment with his later films after a golden period in the 60s), Shintaro Katsu (popular actor of the Zatoichi series of films), and Nagisa Oshima (iconoclast film maker and intellectual). Richie tracks down the infamous Sadao Abe, who accidentally killed her lover and severed his penis as a keepsake of which Oshima made his provocative film Realm of the Senses, working in an izakaya to draw crowds. Richie also writes portraits of several artist associated with performance art: Tastsumu Hijjikata (Butoh dancer), onnagata (female impersonators) Utaemon Nakamura and Tamasaburo Bando, and Shuji Terayama (expressionist theater playwright and poet). Her profiles two artists: Tadanori Yokoo and Mayumi Oda. There are portraits of people working in the mizushobai (water trade-red light district): Minoru Sakai (a male host working in a host bar), Oharu Kitano (geisha), Sonoko Suzuki (a low level geisha), and Sumire Watanabe (Ginza mamasan of a hostess bar). But the most revealing portraits, about Richie, the subjects, and Japanese society are those common everyday folks with whom Richie encounters in his daily life: Saburo Sasaki (a sushi apprentice wiling to take abuse in order to rise in the ranks at work), Hiro Obayashi (a wealthy publisher who hires Richie then forces him out of the job), the heartbroken seeking solace and answers from Richie like Keiko Matsunaga and Hidetaka Sato who commits suicide when heartbroken, the furosha (homeless) Toshiro Morikawa, the story of Kikuo Kikuyama that provides Richie with the opportunity to describe gay cruising in Japan, and the busybody, Hisako Shiraishi, who drives Richie out of his apartment building. Other interesting and enlightening portraits include those of Princess Michiko and Buddhist scholar D.T. Suzuki. It is a fascinating, nuanced and very personal look at people and life in Japan.