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

On My Mind - Seventy Years Since World War II
ANDO Yuka  / Former Political Secretary to the Foreign Minister of Japan

September 14, 2015
Each year at the height of summer, Japan goes through a series of painful events. The events commemorate the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on the 6th of August, the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on the 9th, and the end of World War II on the 15th. Year after year, we have spent this period contemplating about the last world war, thinking about war and peace, and renewing our aspirations for peace. There is an especially strong sense of momentum this year, as we mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. It is perhaps because the security situation in Asia has undergone significant change and we find ourselves in the midst of a parliamentary debate on security legislation.

In the postwar era, Japan made a continuous effort in the hopes of being allowed to return as a member of Asia and the international community as soon as possible. The going was never easy, but views on Japan have changed considerably over the past 70 years. While on a historic tour of Southeast Asia in 1972, Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei was met with intense protests in Thailand, Singapore, and particularly in Indonesia. The region gradually came to accept Japan around 1977, when Prime Minister Fukuda Takeo paid his visit, upholding the idea of an equal partnership. Today, it is highly unlikely that Japanese traveling to Southeast Asia would notice any signs of the region's past antagonism toward Japan.

The issue of reconciliation between countries and their peoples looms large when we contemplate war and peace. True peace will never take root where there is no reconciliation. We look at Europe today and conclude that major European countries will never again go to war with each other, because we feel that reconciliation in the true sense has taken place between France and Germany after World War II.

Can we say the same about the Asia-Pacific region? Japan and the United States have overcome their respective memories of devastation and misery to forge a strong alliance. Japan also made progress over the years in reconciling with countries in Oceania and Southeast Asia. However, it is unfortunate that with China and South Korea – while there are differences in context and nuance between Japan's relationships with the two countries – we cannot say that reconciliation has firmly taken root

Apart from the United States, the primary target of Japan's postwar diplomacy had been none other than China and South Korea. Yet, such efforts have not led to true reconciliation, due to perceptions that are deeply rooted in history, and also to thoughtless comments on history that have been uttered from time to time by politicians whose job is to represent the Japanese people. Different perceptions on acceptance are also at work on the receiving end.

On June 19, Japan's public broadcaster NHK aired a series of special programs titled: “Portrait of Japan - 70 Years After the War." The program on Japanese diplomacy included an interview with a Dutch former "comfort woman." She spoke of her initial hesitation toward accepting compensation from the Asian Women's Fund that was offered as part of Japan's initiative for peace and friendship, and how she eventually decided to accept the offer after learning that the money included donations from ordinary Japanese citizens, in addition to the government contribution. Even more than the letter of apology from the Prime Minister of Japan, she felt that the donations from citizens was a true expression of sincerity, and it ultimately moved her to forgive Japan's wartime behavior.

Though I belong to a generation that has never experienced war, I have often heard about the tragedies of war directly from those who lived through it. To tie the loose ends that remain and achieve reconciliation with neighboring countries, and to never again repeat the tragedies of war, each Japanese must make an effort for the future, and seek to ensure that the substance of our historical past is not lost. We must work on various levels to create an environment that reinforces among the Asian people the perception that reconciliation with Japan would be beneficial for peace and stability in Asia.

Yuka Ando is Former Political Secretary to the Foreign Minister of Japan.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

安藤 優香 / 元外務大臣秘書官  

2015年 9月 14日





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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > On My Mind - Seventy Years Since World War II