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The Nature of the BeastsEmpire and Exhibition at the Tokyo Imperial Zoo$
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Ian Jared Miller

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780520271869

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520271869.001.0001

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The Great Zoo Massacre

The Great Zoo Massacre

(p.120) Chapter 4 The Great Zoo Massacre
The Nature of the Beasts

Ian Jared Miller

University of California Press

Without a doubt, the strangest thing that ever happened at the Ueno Zoo was the massacre of the zoo’s most famous and valuable animals in 1943. That year, as the Japanese empire teetered on the brink of collapse, ōdachi Shigeo, who would become home minister in 1945, was recalled from his post as the imperial mayor of occupied Singapore to become Tokyo’s first governor general, a powerful new position created to prepare the capital for Allied invasion. ōdachi knew that the death and hardship of the front lines would soon come to Tokyo, but when he arrived, he found newspaper headlines filled with stories of Japanese triumph. Faced with the question of how to mobilize a populace numb from years of propaganda and exhausted by over a decade of conflict, ōdachi initiated one of the most surreal events of the war: the mass, mediated sacrifice of the zoo’s hugely popular animals. Choreographed to shock depleted Tokyoites into the recognition that they, too, might be called upon to sacrifice themselves for emperor and nation, the bizarre ritual was replicated in each of the empire’s zoos, institutions with a combined annual attendance of over ten million people in 1942. This chapter uses those events to add a new chapter to the history of fascism and total war in Japan.

Keywords:   ōdachi Shigeo, sacrifice, animal sacrifice, animal funeral, animal memorial, elephants, fascism, bio-power, total war, home front, mobilization

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