Fulfilled in Jesus

Our pilgrimage with our Beloved in Japan -- Yoko & Ramone on the journey with Jesus!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Comments on Asian Healing


Recently I read a May 19 article on the Japan Today news site: Koizumi says UNSC bid separate from Yasukuni issue

I left some comments about the painful feelings going back and forth between Japan, China and Korea. The issue revolves around Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni shrine, a large Shinto temple that enshrines those who died fighting for Japan throughout the years, particularly during the Fifteen-Year War (World War II). Shinto believes that people are essentially absolved of their crimes after death, and so sees no problem in enshrining the people who were executed after the war for commiting war crimes against Asian nations, such as the massacres in Nanking, China, and elsewhere. However, this doesn't make the pains of the nations any easier, and on top of it, the right wing in Japan has taken efforts through books, national history textbooks, speeches, etc., in order to say that the "crimes" from the war are exaggerated or entirely untrue. So in effect, the Shinto belief seems a convenient way out, if you know what I mean. But why the need to deny the history?

(I attached my comments in the comments section because they're long!)

6 Comments:

  • At May 23, 2005 2:59 PM, Blogger Ramone said…

    May 20, 2005 -

    RR: Hi BlackKnight. Where did you find the list of names of the war criminals executed and enshrined at Yasukuni? Awhile back I was searching all over the internet trying to find a list of names & so forth.

    Aside from that, the information on the different classes of war criminals/crimes is very interesting. The A class represented the top figures, mostly politicians and generals. But those who were more directly responsible for initiating and supervising specific atrocities -- these were of class B and C.

    "Martyrs of Showa"? Does it really say that on the site? Is there any excuse for that kind of term? How would most of Europe feel if Hitler were called a "Martyr of Germany"? Or how would Japanese people feel if the North Korean spies who kidnapped innocent Japanese citizens were enshrined at worship centers as "martyrs"?

    How would Japanese hibakusha feel if those who developed the experimental atomic bomb and chose to drop it on two cities (and later tried to hide its effects from public knowledge) were enshrined at a center of religious worship and called "martyrs"? Would they not cry out in protest, anger and pain? Would they not call it an affront to humanity? They would and they would be right.It is right to remember those who gave their lives for their nations, because no lives are worthless and each are valuable. It is also good to pray for one's enemies, forgive and bless those who curse and hurt you. But perhaps these things are best left to individuals and not to the leaders of nations. Certainly even if we do love our enemies, we would not go about building monuments to them or enshrining them in worship centers. This would only serve to invite anger, controversy, and pour acid into the wounds of victims.

    [Someone posted later: The Yasukuni site is at www.yasukuni.or.jp. There is a English page too, for those who don't know much Japanese. The English site says the "war criminals" are "martyrs of Showa". The Japanese site says they are heroes (英雄).]

    ***

    RR: Do you know if the late Iris Chang's exhaustive investigation "The Rape of Nanking" has been published in Japan yet? Last I knew, no Japanese publisher would print it in Japanese (many would likely not publish it out of fear of threats). Rebuttals to her book, however, are not hard to find in Japan. It seems that there is a resistance to letting the Japanese people look at her work and weigh both sides for themselves. Both governments pick, choose, and withhold information from their own people. However, there are independent reports (such as Chang's) which are available for study. Sadly, the governments may restrict access to them.

     
  • At May 23, 2005 3:00 PM, Blogger Ramone said…

    May 21, 2005 -

    Q. Does it explain why the neighbours are offended?

    RR: I can't remember if Chang's book takes much time to focus on the offense of the neighbors -- it's mainly concentrated on chronicling the events and eyewitness accounts of surviors of the Nanking incident (the rape of Nanking).

    Probably the most interesting accounts are those from international workers and observers who witnessed the atrocities and wrote about them. By far, the most damaging of these is John Rabe, a Nazi official stationed in Nanking who helped create a safety zone so he could protect citizens. From his diary, I believe, he speaks of how he would go about the city and stop soldiers from raping women, etc. Because he wore the Nazi badge, he was feared and obeyed... until the alliance between Nazi Germany and Japan grew stronger and Hitler eventually recalled Rabe and chastised him at home. I may not be relating these things well, and even if I did I would recommend looking at the book for yourself. It's very thorough and yet readable.

    The late American historian Stephen Ambrose called Chang "one of the best historians we've got."

    As for why the neighbors are offended, I believe the reasons are obvious two-fold:

    1) The wound is open and un-healed

    2) It's also in some nations' political interests to keep the wound open. (e.g., China and North Korea in particular, which are striving for nationaly unity by keeping the public distracted from more recent atrocities at home... it wasn't until after Tiannamen that China began to emphasize Japan's war crimes in a much stronger way; North Korea's regime needs villians, mainly supplied by Japan and America. The enmity against Japan also serves those who are attempting to unite North and South Korean sentiment)

    In spite of #2, the governments taking political advantage of Japan's history could not do what they're doing without the help of the Japanese right wing. If the Japanese right wing were not so passionately (and powerfully) engaged in attempting to erase/rewrite history, the ammunition for China (etc.) would quickly be exhausted.

    As to why normal people in China, the Koreas, and other nations are upset (particularly about Yasukuni), I'll say what I said earlier:1) If a religious center in Germany enshrined Hitler and Goering, and Germany's leaders publicly went there to pray, thousands upon thousands of European people (particularly Russians and Jews) would be just as offended as those in China and the Koreas. Furthermore, if the European nations protested and the leaders continued to pray there (and refused to remove Hitler, etc.), they would get angrier and angrier.

    2) The airplanes that dropped the atomic bombs have been put in museums in Washington D.C. Recently some Japanese groups lodged a protest and plea that the effects of the bomb be shown next to the bombers. Sadly, it was denied, and many Japanese people (particularly victims of the bomb and their descendants) are shocked about it. Imagine further. Imagine that the bombers (or those who dropped the bomb or gave the orders) were put in a church, or in the national cathedral in D.C. And imagine that the president & other leaders went there to pay tribute. Japan would permit it because it's in its economic interest, but most Japanese people would feel deeply shocked at how the effects of the bomb could be so disregarded. From their perspective of pain, it would seem like the bomb (and their suffering) were being celebrated at a national level.

    I hope this helps to explain how it might feel from the perspective of the wounded and their relatives. It would be a responsible thing if Koizumi and the LDP (etc.) could think from the perspective of those who were wounded by the Japanese Empire in their fifteen-year war. And if they still cannot understand, they ought to consider how Japanese people would feel if those who wounded Japan (the Atomic Bombers & North Korean spies) were religiously enshrined and visited by national leaders. If those situations happened and the Japanese leaders did not vehemently protest, the public would be in uproar.

    ***

    RR: I said above that "the wound is still open", and I need to add something to that.

    For Japanese politicians and those in the right wing, the war crimes are a painful memory at best or a lie concoted by Japan-haters at worst. People who love their country often long to believe that their country's national actions have always been noble and right -- on behalf of the world and on behalf of truth. This goes for America as well as Japan. But we ought to consider how we love our parents: our parents are not perfect and have messed up many times. Most of them have wounded us in one way or another, yet we love them. If we or others have been severely wounded by our parents, we have to come to terms with it. If we continue to love our parents then, it will not be because they have been perfect. Instead our love will be deeper. We will love them for who they are instead of for what they've done. For those in the right wing who love Japan and want Japanese people to love their nation, this cannot be accomplished by whitewashing history or pretending it never happened. True love for one's country is deeper -- it must be allowed to develop honestly. Love for one's country that survives its crimes is a true love. Love based on perfect history is shallow and will not survive if the country does not perform perfectly. Japanese people should be allowed to love Japan for who Japan is, not because of what Japan has done (positive or negative accomplishments).

    I said that the wound was still open. The frustration of the nationalists here who admit to some of the atrocities is summarized by these feelings: "How many times do we have to say we're sorry?" "Didn't [so and so] prime minister already apologize?" "Look at all we've done since then!" The feeling is "What must *we* (Japanese) do to make up for it?"

    These are the sentiments of a guilty conscience that longs for peace of mind. When you do something wrong, you want things to be okay again. And that is natural to all humans. But if what we've done has hurt someone else, our efforts to get peace of mind can also be selfish: What are we more concerned about, not feeling guilty anymore or if the wounded person has healed? Are we more concerned about the victim or our own consciences' peace? If you accidentally cut someone severely with a knife, would you apologize, give some money, and then go on your way? Wouldn't you instead take the person straight to the hosptial and make sure they were well attended to? Even further, wouldn't you hope that the person did not suffer any permanent damage? And if the person did suffer permanent damage, what would break your heart more: that you were responsible or that the person must now live handicapped for life?

    What I'm saying is that the way to healing in Asia is not through political apologies and monetary appeasements (or demands for monetary compensation). The way healing can come to Asia is when we care about the people on the other side more than seeking to restore our country's good name. In Japan, our hearts have been broken by seeing the suffering of hibakusha (the atomic bomb victims). Those who have been moved by their suffering want to cry out to the world: "Such a thing should never happen again -- not to anyone!" We must look at the atrocities in other parts of Asia the same way -- we must look at the victims and cry with them and for them, and from our hearts say to the world, "Such a thing should never happen again, not to anyone!"

    ***

    RR: Thanks... I'm actually American and my wife is Japanese. Japan is now my adopted country, and I've chosen to identify myself with her people and her history. These things aren't unique to Japan, and are very true for my own home nation as well. I said "we" also because I understand those who are proud of Japan and want to believe that things such as the rape of Nanking never happened or were fabrications. I understand loving your country because you want it to be the best country in the world, because you want it to have always been noble in everything it did (goodness, that desire & belief is very strong in the States). I cry for the victims of the rape and of the bomb, and I also sympathize with those who do not know that deeper love that comes from loving someone for who they are instead of what they've done. In other words, I see a bit of myself in the right wing in Japan, even though I don't want to. I too can feel that desire to absolve my guilt more than care about my neighbor's wounds. I pray that understanding and love will be born in the hearts of Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, and all others in Asia. We're all in this together. We're each trying to find national pride and clear our names, but our wounds in Asia are deep, and we are not the only ones wounded. We're only going to find healing *together*.

     
  • At May 23, 2005 3:01 PM, Blogger Ramone said…

    May 21, 2005 -

    [Someone commented on the Japanese need to save face and their ambitions with disputed islands which seem to reflect their aggressive history in the war. The commentor also had lost a family member in the war. He thought I had a positive view, but that neighbors of Japan such as he see it differently...]

    RR: I'm sorry about the loss of your family member in the invasion. I don't know what to say, but I wish I could see pictures and listen.

    About positive and negative views... I wrote about the Japanese the way I did because I can understand their excuses -- these are built on pride, fear of being wrong, and trying to escape from the feeling of guilt. There's also some plain old mob mentality in the mix for some.

    The passive-ness of the people is something not to be overlooked, as you noted. It is good, however, to distinguish who is driving the vehicle of offense. The majority of Japanese people are passive and silent, and feel like they have no control over their politicans and large corporations. Whereas in Americans are raised with the idea that "one person can make a difference", in Japan people are raised with the idea that "the nail that sticks up gets hammered down."

    The right wing in Japan has vans that go around the city blasting old, loud anthems and messages. We all think they are scary and freakish. When I say "we", I mean my family and virtually every Japanese person I've ever met, except one. The one who surprised me happened to be an exchange student at university in the States.

    What I'm saying is that the right wing does not represent most Japanese people. It does, however, represent the politicans that are to a very real degree out of reach of public removal. Power is in the hands of corporations and those who want to believe in the righteousness of Japanese history.

    I know that for those who have lost loved ones from the aggression of Japan's 15-year war and colonization of Korea, Taiwan, etc., I know for them it is harder to accept that most Japanese people are not like the right wing. It is especially difficult when all the news media focuses on the actions of right wing politicians, "revisionists" and priests at Yasukuni. When the representatives of Japan act this way, it's natural to think that they are truly representing Japan. They are not. They represent rich, powerful corporations which hold right wing ideas. The right wing in Japan is powerful and fearful. When some politicians have spoke honestly of what Japan did during the war, they have received death threats and some have been shot. No doubt there are publishers that want to tell the truth and even want to publish Iris Chang's book, but they are afraid: The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.

    About the islands: It is important to see these issues somewhat separately from Yasukuni and Japan's wartime aggression. Particularly the islands in dispute with China which lie in oil-rich waters. These are desired by both countries because they wish to have full economic rights to profits. There are less-powerful people in the nationalistic groups in all countries involved who want the islands for the sake of territorial history, etc. The politicians are taking advantage of these nationalistic common people. The politicians of all countries want the profits from the islands and are tapping old wounds and pride in their peoples in order to generate support for their particular country's right to the islands.

    To those who are passionate about the islands: Don't let the politicans fool you into believing that the islands are more important than your neighbors. The Chinese, Korean, and Japanese people are much more valuable than small dots of land. Your national pride and heritage will *not* be restored by getting land back, but by caring for your neighbors more than you care for pieces of land.The Japanese nationalists say to its people, "This is part of our traditional land!" The Korean & Chinese nationalists say, "This is just like Japan's wartime aggression! They're doing it all over again!" THE FEELINGS OF NORMAL PEOPLE ON BOTH SIDES ARE BEING MANIPULATED BY LEADERS FOR FINANCIAL GAIN. Your neighbors are more important than land. Your neighbors are your treasure, not their land or your land.

    Please consider what I've said and what I've observed of the difference between Japanese people and the Japanese right wing. Don't let the news media in your country (or ours) define your idea of Japanese people. Talk to them, get to know them, and realize that your politicians (and ours) have a vested interest in stirring emotions -- and it's not always for healing.

    Please also speak out. Encourage Japanese people. They need to know that one person can make a difference. They need to know that they don't have to feel powerless to change the old guard politicians. They need to know that they are strong and not helpless. They need to know that they can survive being "hammered down" and triumph over greed, racism, crooked and manipulative politicians. They need to know that they too can overcome the old system & power just like the civil rights movement did in America. Don't beat your head against the wall of the right wing. Strengthen the Japanese people who are afraid of the right wing.

     
  • At May 23, 2005 3:02 PM, Blogger Ramone said…

    May 23, 2005 -

    Ben,

    Thanks for your comments. I don't know that I'd say any people are necessarily peaceful or un-peaceful. I think we all have moments when we are both, one or the other depending on what we've been experiencing or thinking.We ALL have too many contradictions in our minds. Not only the Japanese. The more we begin to recognize our own contradictions and face them, the better we will be able to help others recognize theirs.

    Americans have contradictions (everyone should be free, but let's act undemocratically to make it happen and twist the arms of our neighbors to support us); Chinese have contradictions (belief in Communisim despite the wide gap in the country between rich and poor; also, the Taiwan issue); Koreans have contradictions (wanting unification with the North while turning a blind eye to the atrocities that escapees tell of -- often escapees are told to keep quiet in the South!); etc., etc., etc.

    We ALL have too many contradictions. The mistake is when we think that only "THEY" have too many contradictions. Then the issue becomes "them vs. us" and we think we are unlike them. The truth is that we are all human and all humans have contradictions, and we all think "they" have more than we do.

    Again, I am shocked whenever I hear a right-wing van go by (maybe twice a week or less). And I wonder how in the world they can act like they do, and so loudly! But then I remember that I've also been very loud about stuff that was clearly wrong, as well. I've believed what my parent country has told me, and it was only as I stepped over to the other side and saw stories of those who had died -- then I could cry and realize that we had not always been right, and even if we were, it didn't matter compared to the suffering of those who died for our right-ness. People are more important than being right, and I wish my history books had reflected that truth and taught me how to mourn with those who mourn instead of wave the flag only.

    On a final note, I will again beg you to see the difference between regular Japanese people and the loud right-wing. Please don't lump so many of the Japanese people with the right wing by simply saying "they", when the actions that offend you (and me) are done by the right wing only. As I have mentioned before, the right wing is strong, loud, has many politicians, many corporations, and many yakuza connections as well. It has the strongest Shinto connections & support. And most people shudder when a right wing van rolls down the street playing some old anthem about the greatness of Japan.

    When looking at the history leading up to the fifteen-year war (World War II), it is easy to generalize about the Japanese and forget that most international observers thought liberalism which flourished in the Meiji era in Japan was unstoppable -- until the right wing militaristic powers took over and changed the climate of things. The years leading up to the long war were frought with ideological clashes between the left and the right in Japan. Just as it seemed the progress introduced by the left was becoming permanent, the military party took control. One Japanese man who experienced the years before they took control and lived through the years of the war described the climate change of the military influence by saying, "There was hate in the air."It is important not to generalize about this period of Japanese history by believing that the sentiment of the military party was the sentiment of all the Japanese people. There was much disagreement and much struggle, and a lot of manipulation of national sentiment (similar to the way that American feelings have been stirred irrationally by simple words about freedom).

    This doesn't excuse what happened, nor does it excuse the mob mentality that jumped on the bandwagon and supported the aggressions. But it ought to add perspective so that we don't fall into simple stereotyping of the Japanese people. And it ought to help us understand that the Japanese people are also human, and that similar nationalistic sentiments have arisen in America, Britain, Germany, the Soviet Union and in countless places elsewhere. Oppression and aggression are human problems, and so is pride. When you see people as "other", as if they have some particular natural tendency to do these bad things, then you are the furthest from actually being able to help them and speak reason to them. But when you see that these people are human like yourself, and that they (just like you and I) are susceptible to feelings of pride and self-righteousness, then you are in a position to identify with them and speak to them as *brothers* instead of as "others".

    BlackKnight,

    Thanks for the links, I'll check them out! Don't worry, everyone is biased here, including me. If someone says they're not biased, then I would be suspicious.

    Koizumi's citation of the Shinto afterlife belief is a convenient way out. He needs to please the right wing (his support base) and at the same time try to diffuse the indignation of Japan's wartime victims. I don't know what he believes personally, but I doubt he has ever cried with the victims of Japan's holocaust (Anyone who has might not get enough support of the old guard in order to become prime minister). When an opposition party member said visiting Yasukuni was like bowing at Hitler's grave, Koizumi vehemently replied that it is not, but gave no reason why it is different. Likely it is because many people on the right wing (including himself) have never thought of Japan's wartime atrocities as being the same as Hitler's.

    Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that Germany's atrocities happened at home and close by, whereas to visit Japan's would require traveling across part of an ocean. In other words, Japan was physically more isolated after the war than Germany was, and only had her own wounds to examine up close.Anyhow, the belief in the afterlife is not such a big thing here in Japan. Shinto mainly deals with what happens during life. Buddhism deals with the afterlife (weddings are Shinto, funerals are Buddhist). Buddhism and Shinto are so closely intertwined in Japan that most Japanese people cannot tell the difference. Most Japanese people are puzzled when foreigners ask whether such and such temple is Buddhist or Shinto. Many also don't realize that Buddhism is a completely foreign religion.In other words, don't look at the official (or historic) lists of Shinto beliefs to judge average Japanese people by. The shrines of Shinto and the temples of Buddhism come into peoples' lives very rarely and only in a few ways:

    1) festivals (matsuri)
    2) yaku years (bad luck years)
    3) praying for an exam
    4) weddings (Shinto)
    5) funerals (Buddhist)
    6) when needing some good luck

    On the last one, the more responsibility people have, the more they visit a temple/shrine. For example, company owners or high-ranking supervisors tend to be more "religious" than their workers because they are more worried about bad luck destroying their company. Religion is basically kind of a "just in case" insurance against misfortune and failure. This is why most Japanese people do not consider themselves religious.

    Most people who visit Shinto shrines have little idea that the emperor is the descendant of Amaterasu (the all-powerful sun goddess) and the center of Shinto worship. Many Japanese people don't even know the emperor's name. When encountering the views that say Japan is divine or racially superior, most Japanese flinch and think whoever says it is a right-wing freak.

    Many of these freakish views are enshrined in Shintoism, but most people don't know them. Similarly, there are scary views enshrined in Maoism which most average Chinese wouldn't defend. The likelyhood of another rise in Japanese militarism might be compared to the rise of another Cultural Revolution in China. Both left a bad taste in the mouths of the average people which they wouldn't like to revisit.

    I can't comment on everyone's statements about "face" because honestly, I haven't seen it here. I've seen face-saving moves done by the governments of America, China, the UK, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, and by [fill in the name of any nation here]. Furthermore, I grew up hearing the idea that "honor" and "face" were a big thing over here in Asia (see Disney's "Mulan" for example). After coming here, living here and getting to know the people, I have found that the stereotypes of face & honor are not as we had imagined. When viewing international events and the actions of governments, however, you can always see face-saving efforts, Asian or Western. It is easy to read "face" and "honor" into the actions of governments, but please do not generalize and read these things into the character of the people. I don't think any of the governments of China, Japan or the Koreas truly represent the character of their people.

    Finally, I think most of these arguments about the Japanese are missing the point. I feel like I'm stuck in a position of defending the Japanese people because the questions seem to be asking: "Are the Japanese good or bad?" I am spending much time explaining how stereotypes about Japan are not helpful; this is obvious to me, but may not be to others. I would rather spend time being shocked at the brazenness of the right wing and crying with the victims over their losses in the war.

    Japan truly does have an opportunity to trigger healing in Asia by repentance. At the same time, Japan is just as confused about herself (right vs. left, etc.) as China (communism vs. reality) and South Korea (unification vs. the reality of the Northern government). In the end, we all need to guard against believing that any people or nation are fundamentally flawed, and we need to guard against stereotyping them. We need to remember that each of our governments' leaders are interested in profit and freely manipulate public sentiment by tapping old wounds and speaking rousing words to make us proud, as if our nation is the best nation in the region and the "other" ones are bad.

    The point is that many people suffered and died in China, Korea, and elsewhere throughout Asia and the Pacific. Many people also suffered and died in Japan. We need to get past saying only that "Chinese suffered" or "Koreans suffered" or "Japanese suffered". We need to progress onto "PEOPLE suffered" and realize that we are all people, we are all human, and that we are all even brothers & sisters.

    (P.S. I'll pass on commenting about Christianity in Japan -- it's a whole different subject. Briefly, the percentage of Christians in Europe did not stop the Crusades, nor did the percentage in America help her identify truth in the Spanish-American war or in the recent Iraq war. Christianity is not meant to be a political party or a majority in parliment. There is nothing worse than a society that is based on Christian ideas but does not have the living God in the hearts of its individuals. On the other hand, forgiveness, repentance and agape [loving ones enemies] are foreign to all cultures, yet are able to strike the same chord in every human, no matter what culture one is from.)

     
  • At May 26, 2005 12:07 PM, Blogger Ramone said…

    May 24, 2005 -

    Hi Ben,

    Thanks for your comments & understanding.

    Again, I'm going to be picky about saying "they" when referring to Koizumi and the right wingers who defend the Yasukuni visits. Please don't lump my wife and the rest of Japan together with the right wing -- much or most of Japan does not want to be identified with the right wing!

    In a very similar way, when you look at the electoral map of the recent American election, you might think that the country was almost wholly on the right wing. But it's not true at all, because and nearly half of Americans voted against the American right wing. Yes, the administration has done things that weren't great to the international community, like Japan's PM. At the same time, not all of the people (in Japan or America) are on the right wing. I would say that the percentage of Japanese who support the Japanese right wing is much less than the percentage of Americans who support the American right wing.

    I know that the right wing is perhaps the only picture of Japan people may see on TV (particularly on Chinese TV), but please understand they are extremists and most people think they're freaks. Indeed, they do hold many of the power positions of the country, but that does not mean they have power to rile up all the people and control them.

    About right and wrong: the emphasis objective right and wrong is generally a Western/European/Middle Eastern emphasis; in Asia peace & agreement have been *generally* more emphasized. Generally.

    You wrote:
    "You can see how they justify with their shrine visit. People fundamentaly believe that their action was right. The PM sees no resason not to visit! and the other views are present here..."

    Again, please do not stereotype the Japanese people by saying that the Koizumi represents their feelings & culture. A large portion of the nation disagrees with him.

    Again, one of the biggest reasons the neighbors are worried is because they have been watching Japanese politicians & right wingers and thinking that all Japanese people are like that. THEY ARE NOT. Another reason the neighbors are more worried than they should be is because their leaders are taking advantage of the Japanese right wing's stubbornness for their own political & economical ends.

    There is manipulation going on, people! The Chinese government is trying to stir up national pride, so are the Korean governments, and the Japanese right wing as well is hoping to capitalize off of the riots in China, etc. WE ALL NEED TO WAKE UP and see that the story we receive from our politicians and from our media is often very tailored to produce certain emotions in us for their own purposes.

    About Japanese culture, right & wrong is generally whatever is most harmonious. In other words, whatever brings agreement & harmony to a situation is right, and whatever disrupts harmony and agreement is wrong. The reason that the right wing (in particular) has so much trouble reconciling what happened in the war is because they are trying to maintain harmony with Japan's past actions and beliefs. In other words, they don't want to disagree with their past and their ancestors. When Japanese consider something new or consider quitting an important old tradition, they carefully consider whether it would offend their ancestors or not. So in effect, they're trying to harmonize their past and their present (before they harmonize internationally).

    That is the current dilemma of the right wing. Vast amounts of Japanese have accepted that her actions in and prior to WWII were wrong and should not be defended. Many, many Japanese people realize it is stupid to try and whitewash Japan's past. Many, many Japanese people have accepted that their ancestors did bad things and that it is not good at all to offend Japan's neighbors.

    Again, please do not generalize and think that the right wing and the Japanese are always in agreement. Please do not generalize and say "they" about the Japanese (including my wife, her family, and nearly every Japanese person I've ever met!) when you're actually talking about Koizumi defending Yasukuni! My wife, her family, my students, and nearly every Japanese person I've met do not and would not defend Yasukuni! Please do not stereotype them by saying "they" or "the Japanese" when you're really talking about Koizumi and right wingers. Thank you.

     
  • At May 26, 2005 12:13 PM, Blogger Ramone said…

    May 26, 2005 -

    We shouldn't say that Japanese culture has a different idea of right & wrong, but a different *priority* --- harmony of relationships generally has a higher priority than objective facts. This is old culture, however, and most Japanese people probably wouldn't ever consciously think this out loud.

    There is a struggle in Japan about how to reconcile with its history in the war. Many (possibly most) people have accepted what Japan did, but the right wing (which clings to power & wealth) has had trouble with it.

    Please remember that there are moderates in Japan who are not right wing, and among them are many, many people who understand what Japan did in the war and are unhappy with Koizumi and the right wing. Please support them. Please do not say "Japanese" as if all Japanese are like the right wing & Koizumi.

    ***

    Politicians need money, connections and influence. Only a handful of Japanese people can get past those hurdles in order to be elected.

    On top of it, it's a parlimentary system. Koizumi is not directly elected by the people; he's picked by his party. The best that the local people can do is to vote against the party.

    The problem is that all the available politicans look as dirty as each other. So many normal Japanese people figure there's no changing it and that there's nothing they can do. Again, the belief that "one person can make a difference" could do a lot to help this country. Japanese people need that kind of encouragment.

    The biggest danger of the right wing to Japanese people is that the right wing has control of education -- in other words, they are able to say what goes in the history textbooks, and they are able to exert influence over TV networks (particularly NHK).

    This danger can be subverted if normal people from China & Korea develop normal friendships with normal Japanese people, and strengthen them. Dealing straight-on with the political right wing will only be more frustrating for China & Korea. They need to encourage those who disagree with the right wing already, instead of leading their people to believe that all Japanese are like the right wing.

    The biggest recent support for the right wing has been the protests in China. Instead of helping to highlight history, the protests were often violent, mindless, and carried out by vandalizing embassies and innocent restaurant owners. So common Japanese people watching TV could see a restaurant owner who had nothing to do with WWII picking up the pieces of his destroyed shop. Sadly, this makes the right wing case much more sympathetic, because it makes it look like Chinese (etc.) people just hate Japan and Japanese people.

    Again, the "danger" of Japan going militaristic again is about the same as China having another Cultural Revolution. Both governments have trouble admitting clearly that these things were bad. The best they hope for is that they can forget them. Both events left a bad taste in the mouths of common people, so the people do not want to repeat them.

    Yes, most all Japanese people would not like to be dominant rulers over other nations. They would not want that responsibility. If one asked the majority of Japanese their view on their lives, they would prefer a common, peaceful life at home with family instead of being a citizens of a nation that ruled the world.

    The exception is those who already have power -- politicians and corporate heads. But this is not a Japanese problem, because the rich politicians in America, China, Europe, and Russia all act the same way. That means it's a human problem.

    Once again we're back where we started:

    ** The "problem" of Japan is not a uniquely Japanese problem -- it is a human problem (the corruption of power, and the pride of anyone who believes his or her country has always done rightly). **

    The solution to the Asian healing problem is not going to be by demanding that Japan do this, or that China do this, or that Korea do this. As long as we look at the other people as "other", we forget how much we have in common. The problems in each country are human problems, and we ourselves have the same problems at home. The problems may look a little different, but the weakness of our hearts is the same. We will find healing in Asia only if we can see each other (and each others' problems) as human.

    ***

    I forgot to mention that one of the reasons Koizumi stays in power is because most voting Japanese people can't find anyone better. He seems to be the best of the available options. To put it bluntly, the options stink, and he is the least stinky of the stinky options. Most Japanese people did not like Japan's support of Bush in the Iraq war, but they didn't oust Koizumi because... "There's no one else" they can elect.

    Most --maybe all-- Japanese people believe that politicians are corrupt. Hence the idea that you really can't do anything to change society and your vote doesn't make a difference.

     

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