Source of the Month: “Here’s Looking at You, Says Tokyo Tot,” 1959

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March’s source of the month is a very brief primary source taken from the Nome Nugget newspaper, published in Alaska in 1959. It’s a single image with a caption, titled “Here’s Looking at You, Says Tokyo Tot.”

The image features a Japanese kindergarten student drinking a cup of “reconstituted dehydrated milk” in a (likely imagined) “toast to a U.S. farmer.” Its caption notes the twin benefits of Japan’s consumption of imported U.S. milk: taller and healthier children, and a new market for America’s agricultural exports.

As historian Chris Aldous notes, powdered skim milk imported from the United States became the core component of postwar Japan’s school lunch program, which the American occupation government regarded as “an invaluable weapon in the Cold War.” Seen as a mechanism for boosting protein intake among children, the program also aimed to address the perceived poor health of Japan’s younger generation, casting them as “victims of Japan’s militarism… whose recovery to at least prewar norms would champion the success of peace and democracy.” Widely supported within Japan and partly built on prewar school lunch programs, powered milk also lay at the forefront of American efforts to “correct” Japanese eating and thereby reshape Japanese bodies.

Chronicling America is an online resource that offers free access to 19.9 million pages of newspapers published in the United States between 1777 and 1963. It hosts newspapers from all 50 states in 22 languages. The main site can be accessed at this link.

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