Saturday, April 27, 2013

Heroes of Imperial Japan?

So, I was thinking earlier in the week about the apparent tendency for Japan to brush the evils of World War II under the carpet, and wondering about the lack of Japanese war heroes.

When I say Japanese war heroes, I don't mean "inflicted n amount of damage on his adversary", what I'm thinking of is Japanese people who risked their lives to stand against the evils of Imperial Japan, first hand.

Doing a Google search on "Japanese world war 2 heroes" doesn't really return a lot, and requires some filtering because it turns out there were lots of Japanese american war heroes. Moreover, since they were almost all military this kind of "heroism" tends to fall under the "inflicted n amount of damage on his adversary" kind of heroism.

Perhaps the problem here is that I'm imagining some sort of Oscar Schindler character; an ordinary person who rises above his surroundings, transcending the pragmatism of his character to keep the dark at bay...

But then again, why shouldn't there be someone like that in Imperial Japan? The Japanese are equally capable of doing good, example: Chiune Sugihara. But while he opposed Japan's actions in Manchuria, he didn't help there in the same way he saved lives in Lithuania. That said, the work he did in Lithuania was spectacular, that link is really worth the read.

Trying a different tact, I tried to find out who Imperial Japan's domestic enemies were. Being a highly militaristic society in WW2, I reasoned that the kind of people getting tried for treason were probably the same people trying to stop Japan's aggression in China.

As it turns out, I had more success than I'd expected with that train of thought, and pulled up the name Sanzo Nosaka. Nosaka heavily criticised Japan's involvement in China, and even went so far as to help setting up a spy network in Japanese-occupied China. The idea of heralding this man as a hero seemed not too far off, until reading that he effectively had his (adulterous) friend murdered. Then there are his links with Stalin's regime... Hmm, perhaps not a brilliant example after all.

But if nothing else, this did introduce me to the fact the Japan's (underground) communist party was opposed to Japan's role in China, and supported the independence of Japan's overseas colonies.

I'm not overly keen on communism myself, it reeks of schoolboy naivety that somehow that 1% of greedy people will stop seeking power (what I like to think of as "floater" politics*), or that the greediness inherent in all of us will just disappear with a change of government. However, it is somehow endearing, and the thought of a hero that wants everyone to be equal in society is poetic, if nothing else.

*Yes, its toilet humour!

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