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Efforts on to wash off Japan's war crimes



I had to go to California to learn that Michiko Shiota Gingery, who lives in the Central Park area of Glendale City, suffers "feelings of exclusion, discomfort and anger" because her local authority unveiled a memorial to the innocent Asian women turned into slaves by the Japanese Imperial Army.

These women, the Japanese military's repulsive euphemism for the victims they turned upon with such sadism, were ravaged, misused and often butchered by Japanese soldiers during their occupation of Korea and China in the late 1930s, in the early years of what was for them — but not for us — the Second World War. These women — the few ageing survivors and the many dead — are a symbol of Japan's wartime disgrace.

Now you would have thought, wouldn't you, that these poor women had themselves suffered "feelings of exclusion, discomfort and anger"? But no, it's poor Michiko Shiota Gingery, presumably a person of Japanese origin, who's all upset at the Glendale monument to this most appalling of Japanese war crimes.

Furthermore, a joint lawsuit claims that Glendale City — an otherwise peaceful and intensely boring suburb of greater Los Angeles — has exceeded its power by infringing on the US government's right to conduct America's foreign policy; thus "the monument threatens to negatively affect US relations with Japan, one of this nation's most important allies…"

But when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shames himself and his country by wandering through the Tokyo Yasukuni shrine, what else can we expect?

I've been to Yasukuni myself, a place of cherry trees and blossoms and a museum to honour the memory of the 2.5 million Japanese soldiers, kamikaze pilots and war criminals who died in the Second World War. I had a cousin who died building the Burma railway and so I was greatly interested in the real steam loco shunted into Yasukuni, the very first engine to use that infamous track.

It carried home the ashes of the first few of the Japanese soldiers to die in Burma. No doubt Abe enjoyed his little trip to honour the murderers of Imperial Japan. Sure, Japan has apologised for the little matter of the "comfort women". But why, according to the Chinese, has Yasukuni received 60 visits from Japanese prime ministers between 1945 and 1985, including six visits made on 15 August, to mark the date of Japan's surrender?

The 1937 rape of Nanking — in which tens of thousands of Chinese women were ravaged and at least 100,000 killed — is being turned into part of "a self-defensive holy war"; school textbooks now try to depict Japanese aggression in the  as the "liberation of backward nations".

The Japanese Education Minister is proposing to reject textbooks that do not adopt a "patriotic tone". When the US hears that Palestinian textbooks include Israel as part of "Palestine", American officials roar like bears. But when the Japanese do far worse, the Americans turn into mice.

Yasukuni's purpose is to minimise Japanese war crimes and portray the expansionist Japanese empire as a victim. That's what Abe wants do to. He's spending more on his country's military. The man referred to as Abe's "brain", the former diplomat Hisahiko Okazaki, says that Japan has become "a hopelessly pacifist nation".

Now that China is a newly emergent military power — and challenging Japanese ownership of the Senkaku Islands — Abe's rewriting of his country's outrageous occupation of China takes on a far more sinister quality.

One of the best British political scientists on Japan, James Stockwin, has expressed grave concern at Abe's visit to Yasukuni. A retired Oxford academic, Stockwin is no Japan-hater; just a decade ago, the Emperor of Japan awarded him the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays, no less.

But he speaks frankly of atrocities committed by Japan in the Second World War and finds it "quite extraordinary… that Abe should use this juncture to visit the Yasukuni shrine, a gesture he must know would be regarded as highly provocative by China".

In an iconoclastic moment, Stockwin suggested that China and Japan should jointly bulldoze into the sea "these useless pieces of real estate".

But there is a far darker side. Last year, the Japanese passed the Designated Secrets Act, which applies a prison sentence of 10 years to journalists and whistle-blowers who give publicity to "state secrets" — and five years for those who ask questions about secrets!

This Designated Secrets Act, as Stockwin says, "runs counter to some of the most basic principles of democracy".  There have been protests against it. And how did the secretary general of the governing party characterise the protesters? They were "terrorists", of course. Long live the Greater South-east Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Speak not of Nanking. Set course for Pearl Harbour. That should put paid to all that exclusion, discomfort and anger in Glendale City.

- The Independent


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