The U.S.-Japan War and Activism through Art

Fig. 124. Yasuo Kuniyoshi, "Water Torture"
Fig. 125: Yasuo Kuniyoshi, "The Killer"
Fig. 126. Yauso Kuniyoshi "Eradicate the Enemy: Buy Wartime Bonds!"
Fig. 127. Yasuo Kuniyoshi, "Clean Up This Mess!"
Fig. 128. Chuzo Tamotsu, "Map of China Cut into Pieces."
Fig. 129. Yasuo Kuniyoshi, ""Victims of Militarism
Fig. 130. Chuzo Tamotsu, Tanks and Soldiers
Fig. 131. Chuzo Tamotsu, "Dilemma"
Fig. 132. Toshi Shimizu, Charge
Fig. 133. Toshi Shimizu, "Machine Guns"
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In the 1930s, Japanese artists in New York who lacked citizenship spoke out against the war through their creative output. However, their message went unheard. On December 7th, 1941 (December 8th in Japan), war broke out between the U.S. and Japan. On December 12th, the Committee of Japanese Artists Resident in New York City issued a statement protesting Japanese militarism and pledging allegiance to the United States. The statement was signed by Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Chuzo Tamotzu, Thomas Nagai, Sakari Suzuki, Roy Kadowaki, Bunji Tagawa, and Leo Amino.

Following the outbreak of war between the United States and Japan, several Japanese businessmen associated with the Japanese Society of New York were detained at Ellis Island and subsequently deported to Japan. The Japanese community in New York City was subsequently led by the Japanese American Committee for Democracy (JACD). The JACD was established immediately after the outbreak of war in December 1941 with the objectives of promoting anti-war and anti-fascism sentiments, as well as advancing Japanese democracy in the United States. The group’s membership consisted of Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Chuzo Tamotzu, Thomas Nagai, and Sakari Suzuki, all of whom were active in the American Artists’ Congress. Additionally, Roy Kadowaki, Taro Yashima, Leo Amino, and other artists in the region provided charitable support to the Allied nations and the Red Cross.

In 1942, the Office of War Information (OWI) commissioned Yasuo Kuniyoshi to create anti-war posters and deliver a radio speech to Japan, emphasizing the importance of democracy.

Chuzo Tamotzu was assigned to the Office of Strategic Service (OSS) and headed for Southeast Asia. From the 1930s onward, Chuzo Tamotzu’s works condemned Japanese militarism.

Meanwhile, Toshi Shimizu, an artist who worked in New York in the 1920s and later returned to Japan via Europe in 1924, produced paintings for the Japanese military during the war.

After the outbreak of war between the U.S. and Japan, the Japanese artists who had studied and produced art together in New York became involved in different artistic activities in their respective positions.


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