Sacred or Profane? Representing War Orphans in the Post-war Occupation of Japan

Ishikawa Jun’s “The Jesus of the Ruins”

  • Wakako Suzuki University of California, Los Angeles
Keywords: war orphans, black market, memories, trauma, redemption


This article examines both the limits and potentials of literary representations of trauma immediately after World War II. With a special focus on Ishikawa Jun’s treatment of a war orphan in “The Jesus of the Ruins” (1946), I examine how post-war literature depicted war orphans who suffered unthinkable losses in their personal, social, and physical worlds as a result of the war. While many representations have provided a means of reconstructing the post-war context and romanticizing images of children directly affected by tragic historical events, writers, such as Ishikawa, have cast doubt on the authenticity of romanticized representations. Ishikawa describes a war orphan as an animal-like creature, who would disgust readers rather than evoke sympathy. He also portrays the black market that emerged in Ueno where the male narrator sees a filthy boy amid numerous food stalls, small shops, and greedy sellers. Concerned with the depiction of the war orphan, this article analyzes the ways Ishikawa negates romantic representations of trauma, allowing readers to negotiate with war memories and to reconsider a relationship between redemption and suffering.

Author Biography

Wakako Suzuki, University of California, Los Angeles

Wakako Suzuki is a PhD candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles. She received her Bachelor of Arts in German Literature from Rikkyo University and her Master of Arts in Japanese Literature from Stanford University. Her dissertation examines the discursive formation of childhood in modern Japan. By looking at a wide range of picture books, diaries, compositions, letters, magazines, newspapers, stories and translations, she analyzes how the concepts of childhood and children were fractured, reinterpreted, negotiated and expressed through literary works in the modern period. She is also interested in the role of translation and adaptation in Japanese literature, with a particular focus on the shifting concept of authors and authorship in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

How to Cite
Suzuki, W. (2018). Sacred or Profane? Representing War Orphans in the Post-war Occupation of Japan. Japan Studies Association Journal, 15(1), 127-144. Retrieved from
New Voices in Japanese Studies