The threshold of responsibility

Fujisawa, Kanagawa

In his June 25 article, “Irony of being in the company of ’12-year- olds,” Hiroaki Sato uses dubious rationalizations for Japanese war crimes 70 years after the fact. Sato points out American Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s view of Japan as a nation of 12-year-olds, when actually it was Emperor Hirohito who told MacArthur this to explain why Japanese weren’t mature enough for democracy. (Read “Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan” by Herbert Bix.)

Sato cites Yukio Mishima’s statements that MacArthur’s comment excused the actions of Japan’s class-A war criminals as it made them akin to “boys who accidentally killed their friends while playing war.” Mishima exposed the dead-end nihilism of his ideology with the blade of his samurai sword at the Self-Defense Forces headquarters in 1970. However, true believers continue to try to rewrite Japanese history for the sake of nationalist pride.

Japan cannot be excused by the fact that Western nations were far from pure themselves (including after World War II). This kind of politically correct equivocation has no moral basis. Aggressors and defenders are inherently different.

Japan started the Pacific War. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt did not trick Japan into attacking China, raping Nanking or developing biological/chemical weapons.

The toothless response of the League of Nations to Japan’s aggression gave Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini license for their own invasions. Japan’s 1937 pioneering of combined air, sea and land attacks on Shanghai and other cities raised the bar for warfare and is responsible for the events of 1945. Meiji Era leaders tried to keep Japanese people dependent, childlike serfs in response to the influx of Western technology and ideas.

Twelve is the age when adult thought processes begin to take hold. The clearest dividing line between adolescence and adulthood is accepting responsibility for one’s actions instead of blaming others. Unfortunately, major segments of the Japanese “intelligentsia” have yet to cross this threshold.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

donald feeney