Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Japan, China, Korea
STILLMAN Mikie / Senior Research Fellow, Institute for International Policy Studies

July 1, 2005
I feel very sorry for all those who suffered unbearable experiences at the hands of the Japanese imperial army during World War II. Many Japanese born after the war, including myself, are aware of why their ancestors stand accused by international public opinion. True there are some people in Japan who still wish to glorify the past. However, it is not correct to state that Japanese are not taught about their war record at school, nor that glorifying the past is a widely spreading movement in Japan.

The recent volatile anti-Japanese movement in China deeply hurt many Japanese. We are also sensitive to one Korean diplomat's strong views to impede Japan's entry in the United Nations Security Council.

After its defeat Japan under the US occupation was not an independent country. Every decision on the Nation's management needed the consent of the occupying force. Although some acknowledged the Emperor's war responsibility, his abdication was precluded. Eradication of ultra-nationalistic leaders was not completely accomplished under the circumstances of late 1940s and early 50s where a communist China emerged, Korean War erupted and McCarthy's anti-communism predominated. Japan was but one part of the global US strategy during the Cold War. In reality, the US just half cooked a remade Japan. 60 years ago the Japanese were unwilling and unable to determine their imperial family's destiny. I predict, however, that soon the Japanese people will amend the law to make a female Emperor possible. This will be a significant symbol of Japan's rebirth from a widely perceived male-dominant and militaristic Japan -- a persistent reminder of Japan's past wrongs.

While Japan hid itself in a pacifist cocoon, in China many events that should be squarely examined in a Chinese history textbook took place: Tianamin Square and the Cultural Revolution to name a few. China supported Cambodia's Pol-Pot regime which killed more innocent civilians than the Korean War. It is very difficult for younger Japanese to obediently listen to the lecture about history given by Chinese leaders. "Japan should face squarely its history." Yes, indeed but they want to say in return to them practice what you preach too, please!

Chinese official excitement about Japan's wrongdoing has simply backfired for us Japanese who feel sorry both for the Chinese under Japanese militarism in the past and for their descendants under selective information today. We wonder why China, a nuclear power, with many recent wars with its surrounding neighbors and with some of their missiles targeting Japan, broadcasts the message of a fear of the revival of Japanese militarism. Also their playing of the history (i.e. guilty) card in relation to Japan only encourages certain Japanese who feel their Emperor and Prime Ministers have apologized enough about their own country’s past and want to make a history textbook revision and even engage in other activities undesirable for China .

Our feelings towards South Koreans are different. There is no denying that resentment to Japan persistently remains in democratic Korea. In the past there were several oppressive regimes, but today's South Korea is open enough and Koreans choose freely to be anti-Japan. That is sad but we have to swallow this bitter fact.

Not all democratic countries in Europe maintain good terms with their neighbors when it comes to history or territory. For instance, in peace-loving Scandinavia, some Norwegians can never forget Swedish atrocities. All nations have to live with such opinions, perceptions and value judgments as the legacy of history. Shared historical episodes common to two neighboring countries due to their geographical proximity often negatively influence one country's perception on the other. And in a free market of information, some information is simply manipulated but fortunately there exists access to different sources of information as a counterbalance.

We could simply agree to disagree about controversial issues of history, rather than trying to refight them. Still overall sound relations are possible between democracies just as the Europeans are practicing. By law a responsible host country must always protect the shops, restaurants and needless to say embassy and consulate buildings owned by a neighboring country no matter how much the local public hates that country. This is a rule in a civilized world that South Korea respects while China apparently still needs to learn.

In democratic countries, leaders occasionally pose with feigned toughness towards other countries to impress their local electorates. But it is equally important, however, to gain greater sympathy among peoples of other countries to successfully pursue any diplomatic agenda. All I can say to our Korean friends is that instead of exaggerating the impact of Japan's new history textbook which is used in only 0.1% of Japanese schools and of giving an excuse for revisionists to promote this book in question, it would be much more productive to gain the hearts of the great majority of fair-minded Japanese. That is the case for Prime Minister Koizumi as well.

The writer is Senior Research Fellow, Institute for International Public Studies.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

スティルマン美紀恵 / シンクタンク研究員

2005年 7月 1日









一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟