Monday, April 22, 2013

Ignoring Japanese war atrocities

Having read this news article about the recent visit of Japan's PM Shinzo Abe to the Yasukuni shrine, and the corresponding conversation with my dad, it reminded me of a strange conversation I had with my wife some time ago.

First, some context, if you're unfamiliar with the Yasukuni shrine, you should in the very least know that it houses the "spirits" of a number of World War II war criminals, I also recommend reading at least this section of the almighty wiki.

A year or two ago, I was watching the film "City of Life and Death" (or "Nanjing! Nanjing!"), on the recommendation of a Chinese friend. The film is centred on the life & death struggle of people caught in the infamous "Rape of Nanking".

My wife asked what I was watching, and I tried to explain it to her. I wasn't entirely surprised (considering the infamy of the Japanese history education) that she didn't seem to know what the Rape of Nanking was, so I explained that to her as well. To me, her response was astonishing:
"Yes, but you can't really know these things, since you weren't there"

To be honest, I was so taken aback by that response (and kind of still am) that I forget how I responded. I think the thing that surprises me most is that there is absolutely no reason at all anyone should come up with an answer like that. You can't simply "fake" a horror on the scale of the Rape of Nanking, but then how the hell do you respond to a statement like hers? Its not like I'm in a great position to start rummaging through the evidence and prove it to her, all I can do is say "I've read this and that", and explain that its the prevailing view of events through the rest of the world...

Having been to Germany and seen plaques honouring those who defied the Nazi regime, a kind of solemn celebration that even in the midst of a terrible regime there exist those willing to fight Evil. It seems very strange then, to see the Japanese brushing events under the carpet. Where are Schindler's lists of Japan?

The closest example I know of is Admiral Isoroku, but as much as he didn't want to go to war with America, he still masterminded a good deal of it... No. I don't have a good example, and it worries me that Japan doesn't seem to have it's own heroes who fought against the Evil of the Japanese Empire*.

If Japan isn't going to educate about its war atrocities, its people aren't going to understand properly why its neighbours are so cold towards them, and if they don't debate the Goods and Evils that occurred, what is to stop them making the same mistake in the future?**

*Although, my knowledge of Japanese history is still very lacking.

**Though I doubt things will escalate enough to really warrant this fear..

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