Dirty Hearts: an alternate history

22 01 2013

Corações Sujos is a film about the fascinating but little-known story of Shindo Renmei, a Japanese terrorist organisation that killed 23 people in Brazil’s Sao Paulo state in the dying days of World War 2. Refusing to believe in the surrender of the Emperor, die-hard loyalists set out to attack those within the Japanese immigrant community they accused of defeatism and spreading Allied Propaganda.

The film is – according to a Brazilian friend – not actually very good, but I’m still grateful that it introduced me to such an interesting episode of history, one that has apparently long been a taboo conversation among the Brazilian-Japanese community, eager to show its degree of assimilation.

The film inspired me to check out another book on a similar topic, “A Discontented diaspora: Japanese Brazilians and the Meanings of Ethnic Militarism”. I’ve ordered it from Amazon but not yet read it fully – from the sample pages it seems an interesting and surprisingly readable discussion of the Japanese community in Brazil, considered either a goody-good ‘model minority’ or more interestingly to me, a dangerous hotbed of violence and sedition. Evidence of this is in newspaper clippings from the 1960s cited in the book of dangerous “Japanese-looking” criminals hounding Sao Paulo.

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