“Welcome to Japan!: How U.S. Marine Corps Orientation Materials Erase, Coopt, and Dismiss Local Resistance”

In: Journal of American-East Asian Relations
Carl A. Gabrielson University of California, Santa Barbara

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After seventy years, U.S. bases in Japan continue to inspire ambivalence, resentment, resistance, and even fear for many Japanese people. To improve the public image of the U.S. armed forces, base administrators create training materials designed to promote cultural awareness, prevent troops’ crimes, and discourage bad behavior. But how does the organization whose purpose is to violently oppose foreign threats to U.S. interests conceive of cultural understanding and sensitivity? Taking as a case study the materials that U.S. Marine Corps bases in Japan produce to instruct newcomers, this article argues that such materials tend to equip base personnel preemptively with strategies for erasing, coopting, and dismissing local anti-base perspectives. Specifically, these materials depict Japanese people as friendly supporters of the military, as irrational and brainwashed puppets of anti-military political forces, or simply as decorative pieces of the cultural backdrop. It concludes that the cultural education materials the U.S. Marine Corps produces at its bases in Japan not only help marines to feel that they have or deserve the support of the Japanese people in carrying out the U.S. military agenda abroad, but that they also promote a sense of cultural superiority that fosters the very behaviors that cultural training materials are meant to prevent.

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