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Spies, Prisoners, and Farmers: The Origins of Japanese Studies at Michigan

November 29, 2017  |  Rackham Building - East Conference Room

In 1947, Professor Robert B. Hall became the founding director of the Center for Japanese Studies. Just three years earlier, at the height of the Pacific War, he was director of something very different: U.S. intelligence operations against Japan. From Kunming, Hall worked with the Chinese Communist Party to turn captured Japanese soldiers into spies who would infiltrate the Japanese home islands. His office was frequented by a young man named Ho Chi Minh, who liked to read the Time magazines in the lobby. Ho demanded that Hall recognize his organization, the Viet Minh, in its fight against Japan.

Meanwhile, the Army had turned Ann Arbor into the base of its Japanese language program. In the halls of East Quad, formerly interned Japanese-Americans were tasked with teaching Japanese to the officers who would oversee the postwar occupation. Every afternoon, these student-soldiers marched down State Street to commands shouted in Japanese.   

A day-long conference, Spies, Prisoners, and Farmers: The Origins of Japanese Studies at Michigan will trace how the twin legacies of Robert B. Hall and the Army Intensive Japanese Language School laid the foundation for the creation of the Center for Japanese Studies and its historic Okayama Field Station.

Free and open to the public.

Presented in partnership with the National Museum of Japanese History and the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics.

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