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.


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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.   


Recent Publications

Cornell University Press

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:
the Chongryun in Postimperial Japan

I am working with KumHee Cho on the history of the Chongryun (the community and organization of North Korean diaspora) in cold war Japan. One old cadre told us that the Chongryun community is "like a pachinko ball"---small but won't be easily destroyed. Looking at this very cohesive and dedicated community, I want to present two themes: one is their space consciousness and community network, propped up with a great sense of confidence in decolonization and nation-building of their homeland. Through the history of their community building, I try to tell a new history of postwar Japan/Koreas and unpack the tightly entangled contexts of post-colonial and neo-imperial politics, diasporic experiences that produced a distinct emotional community, the hegemonic presence of North Korea, and complex outcomes of their repatriation movement to North Korea that we see today.  The other theme is women in the Chongryun community, including Japanese wives and mothers who Korean-ized themselves. Women were the foundation of the Chongryun’s day-to-day operations, key gatekeepers of the ethnic boundaries, and important emotional symbols and activists. By highlighting women’s experiences, we hope to deconstruct the highly politicized lives that have been often emphasized and show family and community dynamics of their Chongryun activism.