Last week I watched an NHK documentary on student nurses in Okinawa who committed suicide rather than surrender to American forces at the end of the war. The whole production was awash in pathos, but completely lacking any reflection upon why young girls would willingly kill themselves instead of surrender.
Earlier in the evening, it was announced that Chinese forced- laborers were suing several Japanese firms. One of my dinner companions wearily sighed, “Shoganai,” and dismissed their suit saying, “It was the war.” But then a later segment on the Emperor grieving over young Japanese civilian victims of a torpedoed ship elicited a number of deep mournful sighs and the observation that war is tragic and should never be repeated.
Unfortunately I think this illustrates well how many, otherwise decent, Japanese feel about the war. Although my dinner companion never said so directly, his body language and tone of voice suggested that other countries should stop complaining — after all, it was war — and that Japanese were the true victims.
Yes, reparations were paid, and I agree that China and South Korea should clearly acknowledge all the good that Japan has since done; but Japanese tend to squander much good will by whitewashing or denying history, and wallowing in their own, oft-introspection-less, sense of tragic victimization, with little empathy or sensitivity shown to those they victimized.
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.