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

On My Mind - Seventy Years Since World War II
HANABUSA Masamichi  / Former Japanese Ambassador to Italy

October 6, 2015
Seventy years ago, when "the war" came to an end, I was a sixth grader living the idyllic life of an evacuee in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture. The times being what they were, I too, was a typical "militarist boy" who had gone wild with joy when Japan scored fantastic gains in the attack on Pearl Harbor. That initial victory was followed by a string of reports telling us of tragic defeat on islands in the southern Pacific, and though I could guess that Japan faced an uncertain future each time I heard such news, I was still a child who had no idea of what defeat would bring.

Boys at the time were thrilled by stories of famous generals and admirals who fought in Japan's wars against China and Russia. But in the mind of a child, these two wars were events from a long time ago. When "the war" ended, it had already been fifty years since the end of the Japanese-Sino War and exactly forty years since the end of the Japanese-Russo War.

Today, those born after the war account for over 80 percent of Japan's population. In other words, more than three generations have passed since that defeat. To many Japanese, "the war" is an event that took place during the times of their grandparents or those who are even older. The seventy years that lie between a child who was born this year and the end of "the war" is 2.5 times the twenty-eight years that lay between the year I was born in 1933 and the end of the Japanese-Russo War in 1905. Remembering how I felt as a child about the war with Russia being an event from a long time ago, I can understand how children today feel no sense of reality in the "last great war."

In fact, thinking along these lines gives rise to strange feelings. Considering the ever accelerating pace of social development, what is incredible is that today's Japanese continue to retain a vivid connection with that war at all. Why can't the Japanese let bygones be bygones? I am not saying we should be forgetful, but instead of seeing history for what it is, the Japanese seem to be living in its shadow. I might even say they are being threatened by its history.

Setting aside the Civil War, America is one country that has continuously waged war - in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq - without giving its people time to forget about the previous war. That makes the US an exception, and it is difficult to imagine many other countries that continue to retain as real a sense of their past war as Japan.

One, because of the magnitude of the shock left by World War II, which was also Japan's first ever defeat. Two, because the Japanese are naïve about international relations and have a national tendency of being serious-minded. Three, because South Korea and China have intentionally included history in their diplomacy. While the time is ripe for reconciliation, there is no will to achieve this among the countries involved. And four, because there are various elements in Japan that do not want to deny the past. For example, Marxist influence persists among the intelligentsia, and lastly, there is the memory mechanism that was left behind by the U.S. occupation.

I abhor war as much as anyone else. But in the international community, it does not suffice to simply appeal to pacifism. The Japanese must learn from modern history, and increase their knowledge of security and military issues as well. It is most important that we learn intelligent lessons from history and understand the international environment that surrounds us. The passing of a decade is an occasion to look back on our past, but unless we keep our eyes firmly on the future, no amount of reflection will bring progress to society.

Masamichi Hanabusa is Chairman Emeritus of the English Speaking Union of Japan.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

英 正道 / 元駐伊大使 

2015年 10月 6日
70年前「あの戦争」が終わったときに、私は小学校の6 年生で長野県の山中で牧歌的な疎開生活を送っていた。あの時代のこと なので、私は真珠湾攻撃の大戦果に驚喜した軍国少年だった。緒戦の勝利の後、南の島からの悲報が次々に伝えられる毎に、日本の運命が容易でないことは想像できたが、戦争に負けたという事が何を齎すかなど全くわからない子供だった。

 当時の少年たちは有名な将軍や提督が日清戦争や日露戦争で活躍した ことに胸を躍らせた。しかし子供心にこの2つの戦争は遥か昔の 事だと言う気持ちだった。「あの戦争」が終わった時点で、日清戦争は50年前に終わった戦争で、日露戦争は丁度40年前に終わっている。






(筆者は日本英語交流連盟 名誉会長。)
一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

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