Sayaka Chatani

​茶谷さやか  차타니 사야카  茶谷亮

A historian of people. in modern east asia



my interests

Why do people decide to fight for their nations and people? What turns people into supporters of an ideology? I have been intrigued by these questions for two decades now, which drove me to study the intersection between the nation, the military, and society in East Asia. I found my academic home in the field of history, but am eager to learn other theories and methods that help me better investigate these issues.

I teach histories of modern East Asian societies, ideology and emotions, and the Japanese colonial empire as an assistant professor in the department of history, National University of Singapore. I have two beautiful children and two bunnies.


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"Revisiting Korean Slums in Postwar Japan:

Tongne and Hakkyo in the Zainichi Memoryscape"

Korean shantytowns existed in every large Japanese city from the postwar years through the late 1960s. Japanese people recall them as secluded, dirty, impoverished, and dangerous. To many scholars, their existence confirms the transwar continuity of Japanese oppression of underclass ethnic minorities. But zainichi Koreans who grew up in such slums, which they called tongne, offer inspirational stories and fond memories of living there. This article sheds light on Koreans’ postwar experiences by discussing the important sociopolitical functions of the tongne and their continuing symbolism among the zainichi population. Viewing the tongne as zainichi's postliberation place of origin and paying attention to the reproduction of its meanings in hakkyo (schools) helps us understand the uneven terrain of power relationships in zainichi society, including why the Chongryun exercised great cultural power at least until the 1970s.

I am developing a new website to solve my own teaching problem: we don't have many translated primary sources that we can use in class! 

In addition to choosing from the sources I have, I am asking a number of historians to contribute theirs to enrich our teaching material options. Each excerpt will accompany a short introduction about the piece, data of the original source, and the English translation. I have hired competent student/postgraduate translators for this project, and I have uploaded a number of fascinating sources that I received already:


If you are interested in contributing a source along with an introduction (and if you can, the translation as well), please contact me.   


Cornell University Press

Dec 2018

Nation-Empire: ideology and rural youth mobilization in Japan and its colonies.

I examine the questions of ideological belief, identity, and imperialism through the history of youth mobilization by the Japanese empire. In addition to an analysis of the rise of youth discourse and agrarianism, it presents ethnographical research of villages in northern Japan, Okinawa, Taiwan, and Korea, and fleshes out a grassroots mechanism of ideological indoctrination. I believe this book is in conversation with many subfields, such as histories of youth, fascism, everyday, and emotions.

Nation-Empire front
Nation-Eempire back

Current Research Project

Project Korea:
Chongryon in Postimperial Japan

I am currently working with KumHee Cho on the history of Chongryon (the community around the pro-North Korean organization run by zainichi Koreans) in postwar Japan. I am writing two books. The first book, tentatively titled Project Korea: Chongryon in Postimperial Japan, focuses on their community building and network. Drawing on our interviews with hundreds of zainichi Korean people inside and outside of Chongryon, we aim to tell their own nation building as a diasporic group in the midst of complex global and local politics of decolonization, neoimperialism, the Cold War, gender politics, regional Communist ties, and shifting Japan-North Korean relationship. The second book (being coauthored with KumHee Cho), tentatively titled After Exodus: Chongryon and North Korea in Flux, highlights interactions between Chongryon people and North Korean society. Once their family members moved to North Korea starting in December 1959, Chongryon members' interactions with North Korean society expanded and became important conduits between Japan and North Korea. Chongryon people’s visits to North Korea, trade and investment experiences, cultural exchanges show that the Chongryon community gave significant impact on North Korean society, not just vice versa. 

Recent Publications