CHICAGO – Keiko Okuizumi completed her memoir earlier this year, in which she describes her late husband Eizaburo’s work as a librarian at U.S. universities who had a special interest in censored publications in occupied Japan after the end of World War II.
Eizaburo’s major work consisted of sorting and filing thousands of Japanese books, booklets and magazines collected by an American scholar who had worked at the censor office of the Allied Forces’ General Headquarters.
Keiko said he was “firmly committed to the work,” which many in the field of Japanese studies have come to appreciate for showing the reality of life in Japan just after the war.
“I was driven to leave something” about Eizaburo, Keiko, 75, said in her high-rise apartment in Chicago as she explained why she wrote the memoir.
Keiko was born in Nemuro, Hokkaido, in 1939 and Eizaburo was born the following year in Shibukawa, Gunma Prefecture. They became friends when they were junior high school students.
After WWII, Eizaburo studied library science at Keio University in Tokyo and worked at its library after graduation, while Keiko became a nurse at a hospital in the capital. They married in 1966.
Accompanied by Keiko and their 5-year-old twin daughters, Eizaburo went to the United States in the summer of 1974 under a trainee program between Keio and the University of Maryland. He was scheduled to spend one year at the McKeldin Library of the University in Maryland.
Eizaburo came across the Gordon W. Prange Collection, a comprehensive archive of Japanese print publications, including 71,000 books and booklets as well as 13,000 magazines, issued between 1945 and 1949, at the library.
The collection was named after the late Gordon W. Prange, who compiled a history of the war at the Allied Forces’ headquarters. He sent the publications in some 500 wooden boxes to the University of Maryland where he served as a professor of history.
Subjected to censorship by the Allied Forces for four years starting in the fall of 1945, the materials bear censorship markings ranging from check-in and examination dates to deletions, suppression and other changes.
Eizaburo was so intrigued by the collection that he decided to stay in the U.S. and quit the Keio library. As his income was not enough to support the family of four, Keiko studied hard and became a hospital nurse in 1977.
“I felt something beyond description and experienced breath-stopping surprises and strains,” Eizaburo wrote in a professional journal after working on the Prange collection for 10 years.
His work proved to be very useful for people looking into Japanese history immediately after the war.
One such person was Japanese literary critic Jun Eto, who conducted a rigorous study on the Allied Forces’ censorship.
In the fall of 1979, Eto visited Eizaburo at the McKeldin Library, according to Frank Shulman, then Eizaburo’s superior at the library.
Eto found a proof copy of “Senkan Yamato no Saigo” (“The Last Days of Battleship Yamato”), written by Mitsuru Yoshida. Based on his experience as a junior officer of the ship’s final suicidal voyage, the article bore the censorship marking of “suppress.” The book was banned for being militaristic, Eto wrote in his book.
Professor Kazuhiko Yokote at Nagasaki Institute of Applied Sciences, who maintained a close friendship with Eizaburo, said: “Mr. Okuizumi recognized the value of censored materials that at a glance appeared worthless, and bet the future of him and his family on the uncertain work of filing and annotation.”
Eizaburo moved to the University of Chicago library in 1984 and worked there for 29 years to support the foundation of Japanese studies. He passed in July 2013 due to an illness.
In an address at a memorial service held for Eizaburo in October 2013, Norma Field, a professor emeritus at the University of Chicago known for her studies on Japanese proletariat writer Takiji Kobayashi, quoted Eizaburo as saying: “Libraries are not just for book storage. It’s a place, it’s how we get these books into the hands of human beings, all kinds of human beings.”