digital seit 2020
digital seit 2020

Peace | Lemon

In this article, the author elaborates on the historical context of her video essay Peace | Lemon, as well as providing a glossary decoding the symbols she included in the work. Peace | Lemon explores tensions between post-war Japanese Leftists and the US-American Army through a word association game surrounding two motifs: a can of tobacco and a lemon.

By Sayaka Katsumoto, Video 9:49, 16:9. Katsumoto interprets the fantastical and fetishistic world of post-war Japanese protestors, moving through images and sound in a post-Internet ‘satisfying video’ style. The video is further accompanied by ASMR triggers and binaural recording, creating a sound sensation for the listener.

We can see on the picture a cigarette box with the text "Peace". A person hold the box in the hands.
Screenshot from the video

Audio version of this article.

Historical Context

Following WWII, on May 3 1947, Japan received a new constitution which was heavily influenced by U.S. policy makers, specifically General Douglas MacArthur. In 1952, a second security treaty was signed which allowed for the housing of U.S. military bases within Japan. The U.S.-Japan relationship, although today widely accepted, was heavily contested during these post-war years. Detractors, like those within the student movement and the New Left, warned of these treaties leading to a great doorway of the supposed ‘Japanese Diet’, as well the potential involvement of Japan Self-Defense Forces alongside U.S. armies. These movements which began with demonstrations gradually became more and more radicalised, with Molotov cocktail attacks, bombings, and plane hijackings becoming key factors of protest before the movement gradually shifted underground.

Japan was, during the 1970s, an advanced country in the field of terrorism, starkly contrasting its current image of low crime and safety. Big bomb terror occurred throughout the decade where the Japanese Red Army, for example, engaged in international coordination between terrorist organisations with several countries, a common tactic employed by 21st century international terrorist organisations.*1

On the picture can be seen a lemon. The background is white. Under the lemon can be read "There is a story called "Lemon" by Motojiro Kajii.
Screenshot from the video


Chapter 1.

Peace Tobacco: The package of this tobacco was re-designed by Raymond Loewy, an American Commercial designer also credited with the production of the Lucky Strike packaging, in 1952. The packaging design features a pigeon holding an olive leaf in its mouth and is a direct reference to the Old Testament symbol of peace. After Leowy’s redesign, Peace Tobacco tripled in sales in just one year and is considered a commercial design success story. His design also had a significant influence on the Japanese industry during the reconstruction period. *2

Chapter 2.

Expression of the sense of touch on the short story “Lemon”: 

The coldness of the lemon was indescribably good. […] It was pleasant as if the coldness was seeping through the palm holding it. […]
It seems strange to me that such a simple sense of cold, touch, smell and sight felt so good to me as if I had been looking for this all those years ago […] I put the lemon on a dirty hand towel or on a cloak and see the reflection of the colors, or I was thinking about this:  – So that’s the weight! —

Kajii, Motojiro (1925) *3

Chapter 3.

The Television:  First published in 1982, this is one of Japan’s most famous TV information magazines. It is easily recognizable as every actor or singer on its cover holds a lemon in their hands. This strange motif is used to prove that every cover photo is a freshly taken, unique image rather than a stock photo. Using the lemon as a metaphor for a bomb, pictures on the cover of ‘The Television’ such as Mickey Mouse can be interpreted as the United States simultaneously bringing the atomic bomb and peace to Japan after WWII.

Chapter 5.

Pi Kan [píː kæn]This is a slang term in the Japanese film industry which roughly translates to a ‘cloudless blue sky.’ There are many theories as to the origin of this term. Some argue that it is a reference to the deep blue color of the package of a can of Peace tobacco (pea can), however this is disputed. The photo of a hand holding a peace can was taken with a background of the blue sky of Palermo in Sicily, a city famous for its lemon production.

Atomic Sunshine: General Whitney, Director of the Government Section of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), said these words at the drafting of the Japanese Constitution with the new Japanese government in March 1946. “We’ve just been basking in the warmth of the atomic sunshine.” *4

M26 grenade: A grenade developed by the US military during the 1950s which has been adopted by nine countries, including Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force. (The US military has now replaced it by the M67). Its nickname is the “Lemon” because of its shape. *5

On the photo can be seen a lemon which is kept in sculpture hand which is white. The hand and the lemon lay on the grey table. The lights are cozy.
Screenshot from the video


*1 Kato (2015) Lessons to be Learned from the International Terrorism Incident: In response to the ISIL Incident. Institute for International Socio-Economic Studies, Last accessed: August 1 2020

*2 Topics: Design Change of Peace, Various topics of tobacco and salt, Tobacco & Salt Museum, Last Accessed: July 15. 2020

*3 Kajii, Motojiro (1925) Lemon. Aozora Bunko, Last Accessed: July 4. 2020, translated by the Artist

*4 Gayn, Mark (1989) Japan Diary. Vermont: Tuttle Publishing

*5 Akira Sakamoto (2019) The Perfect Guide to the World’s Most Powerful Infantry Equipment. Electronic Edition. Tokyo: Gakken Plus​​​​​​​

Sayaka Katsumoto (b. 1984, Japan) is an artist, filmmaker and anthropologist based in Berlin, Germany. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Photography at Osaka University of Arts, gained in 2006. After working as a producer and production manager at an advertising agency in Tokyo, she moved to Berlin in 2013 to develop her artistic practice in film, photograph, and sound installation. She received her MA in Visual and Media Anthropology from Freie Universität, Berlin, in 2018 and is currently studying towards an MA Art in Context from Universität der Künste Berlin (UdK / Berlin University of the Arts). Most of her artistic practice is based on social scientific research on hidden and unknown cultures. She explores historical events from the post-war period in Japan, including terrorism throughout the 60-70s, minority groups, and contemporary religious cult movements. Katsumoto is currently working on binaural sound and video with 3D objects, seeking to developing expressive sensorial potentials that bring particular emotions and feelings based on fieldwork, combining anthropological research and art practice.