War criminals don’t deserve praise

It has come to light that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed sympathy for Japan’s World War II war criminals during a memorial service for them in April. His act is especially problematic because the subject of the service included the nation’s wartime government and military leaders convicted as Class-A war criminals at the postwar tribunal by the Allied forces. It will only deepen the perception that Abe is a revisionist on Japan’s wartime behavior, possibly jeopardizing the nation’s position in the international community.

Abe reportedly expressed sympathy in a letter sent to the memorial service held for some 1,180 people who were executed as war criminals or died during detention after being charged with war crimes in the wake of WWII, including wartime leaders who were given death sentences by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East such as Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo. The memorial service was held in the Oku-no-in area of Mount Koya in Wakayama Prefecture, the center of the Shingon sect of Buddhism.

The service was sponsored by an association of graduates of the Military Academy of the Imperial Japanese Army and of the current National Defense Academy, and by an association to maintain the memorial stone for the war criminals.

In his letter written in the capacity of president of the Liberal Democratic Party, Abe expressed his sympathy to “the spirit of the Showa Era martyrs who became the foundation of their fatherland by sacrificing their souls for the sake of peace and prosperity of today’s Japan.” With these words he whitewashed the responsibility of Class-A war criminals and ignored the fact that the path of war adopted by Japan’s leaders in the 1930s and ’40s caused millions of Japanese citizens and people across Asia to die cruel and miserable deaths.

It is extremely strange for Abe to say that Class-A war criminals sacrificed their souls for the sake of peace and prosperity of today’s Japan. The war in which these people played leading roles destroyed much of the country and deprived millions of Japanese of their lives, robbing them of the opportunity to help build a better society, and left their families in deep sorrow and hardship. Abe’s rhetoric, which seeks to hide the harsh reality of war, should not be condoned.

In his letter, Abe prayed for perpetual peace and pledged to work toward a future characterized by the coexistence of humankind. But his prayer and pledge sound hollow because he fails to touch on Japan’s responsibility for its past military aggression in the Asia-Pacific region.

In December, Abe paid homage at Yasukuni Shrine, which served as an ideological institution to mobilize the Japanese for the war. It enshrines Class-A war criminals among the nation’s war dead. For the second year in a row, in his national memorial service address for the war dead on Aug. 15 to mark the 69th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in WWII, Abe neither made a no-war pledge nor expressed remorse for the suffering and pain Japan’s military caused to other Asians. In expressing such sentiments, he is openly defying the custom established by recent Japanese prime ministers — including himself during his first stint as prime minister in 2007.

Abe’s words and actions give the impression that he does not want to accept Japan’s responsibility for the suffering its wars inflicted on millions of other Asians in the 1930s and ’40s. This could damage relations not only with Japan’s Asian neighbors but also with the United States, its key ally, and erode international trust in Japan. As such, Abe’s words and actions should be roundly condemned.

  • axia

    No one can help if Japan under Abes cannot reflect on this pathetic patriotism in the name of peace. The horror and utter atrocity committed by the Japanese in WWII is undeniable, it is tens of millions of destroyed lives families outside Japan that were forced to sacrifice for the prosperity of Japan. If Japan has any wholesome sense of morality in commemorating WWII, why we never see a single event where Japanese dignitaries bowing to the anguished spirits of all those painfully perished at the hands of the Japanese? Do these spirits count far more than the spirits of the killer soldiers and the atrocity masterminds? It is farcical to see the Indians and Japan sit together talking about the religious bonds of Bhudda. Sheer Sacrilege.

    • Merchant Mmo

      EACH country should reflect on their own war crimes yes.
      Although i feel it would be pretty interesting if nation bashing propaganda in present day should also be defined as a crime as it is done with grudge, negativity, and hostility within the cover of ‘remembrance’ which is downright underhanded.
      The even stranger outlook tho, is that as the years pass by and the war contributors die out, past grudges are pushed upon a nation of people who have not even seen or experienced war, yelled at by the descendants of the ‘victims’ to compensate and apologize heartily, as if they can actually put themselves in a past murderers’ shoes. And yet few have probably thought to step back and wonder, is asking for justice while shoving a whole new generation of warless people into the weight and shoes of past murderers and to apologize as if they are in ‘their’ shoes, morally justified in itself. My answer would be no, for any country, as non of us would like to be on the receiving end of a dictation that was brought on by long dead ancestors.

      • axia

        Abe made very clear that Japanese today live on the receiving end of a dictation that was brought on by logn dead ancestors, only that he decides this dictation is a treasure trove, including huge fortune looted from neighbouring countries especially China. No one can deny historical link, like it or not, but the question is whether you take it as a glory that your grandfathers (ancestor is exaggerrated term not that far) were able to loot another country through atrocious means, or you inherit the fortune left to you but you are conscious there is shame associated. Like it or not it is accomplished fact, BUT, what matters is exactly this whether you like or not, for it relates to your moral standard.

      • Merchant Mmo

        I don’t think any country will praise their looting, and every large or small country, china too has done it in the past and still does it shamelessly as one of the largest copyright infringing countries. I do think tho, there are misconceptions in this where people think the stealers actually are proud of it, when in fact for them, it’s just an item that came from xxx country during xxx (and knowing its war, it’s certainly no gift)

      • axia

        You are shunning the real question. IPR dispute is in nature fundamentally different from rape murder. And it doesn’t relate to the present divisive issue of Yasukuni shrine and similar commemorating issues. I presume since you read JT, you have a basic education to understand the distinction here. As to commemoration, why Japan endorses commemorating class A criminals, while we never read anything like a major activity held to commorate the victims? Two answers:1. victims are not Japanese, thus irrelevant, though of course, their fortune looted is highly relevant to Japan and thus constitutes what Abe describes as the foundation of prosperity. 2. Japanese basically read the concept of Victim as Themselves, that is, Victims of A Bomb, actually excluding the tens of millions of victims from the continent from victimhood, most of them Chinese. How to interpret these two answers? For the first, it is self gain at the destructive expense of others and purely innocent others (China did not invade Japan then). For the second answer, it is the subconscious notion of WE/HUMAN versus THEM/SUBHUMAN that is at play, a notion that applies only during war time survives to this day and you have to ask WHY? Japan’s cultural homeland is China, this history is clear and the future would offer more testaments. Alliance with India is a tasteless joke, that the intellectual sages of ancient Japan would mock, as much as Bhudda would mock the India today being a religious people yet having little sense of hygiene. India belongs to Africa, it is the African extension in this largely misleading notion of Asia, and hopeful to be its most advanced part.

      • Merchant Mmo

        I think #1 can be answered pretty easily; no other country fundamentally really does that. And by that I mean commemorate victims of a place your country bloodied. Maybe it is a remorse that every bloody country likes to keep in the shade. It is especially rare to see detailed commemorations for the civilian victims in wars, most of the time not given by the aggressor but an ally that stood by.
        Part of #2 why Japan sees itself with a victims eyes is partly because their strong hierarchy system. They where a victim of their own government, even some of the class A criminals in yasukuni are scapegoats for the true power mongerers. Joining the army wasn’t a choice, it was a demand that was not refusable. You may be correct on the SUBhuman aspect, altho one thing different is the lowly japanese foot soldiers were also ranked in as such. This is one perspective that is often times overlooked

      • KenjiAd

        I agree with you. But as a Japanese guy living in China, I just wanted to point out something.

        It is true that there is some level of anti-Japan sentiment even among many ordinary people here. But this is definitely not “grudge.” It’s more like a combination of sense of humiliation in the past and disdain toward what some Japanese politicians sometimes do or say now.

        Ordinary Chinese people don’t have any grudge against the current generation of Japanese people. I’m Japanese living in China (Wuhan) for three years, and I have absolutely zero experience of any hatred shown toward me by Chinese coworkers, vendors, or employees. Also, I’ve never heard of any such incident among Japanese expats living here.

        They of course understand that I wasn’t responsible for anything he Imperial Japan did before I was even born. People outside China often assume that Chinese people are brain-washed by the party propaganda. That may be true a long time ago, but no longer accurate in this Internet age. Chinese netizens refer to CCTV as CCAV (AV being Japanse-made adult video), because CCTV is seen obsessed with Japan-related news no one is really interested in. lol

        It is true that there are some anti-Japan/Japanese idiots here, especially among Internet keyboard warriors. They are very few, just like Japan’s “Netouyo.” Unfortunately, their voice and actions have been getting way more attentions in the Japanese media than they are actually worth.

  • axia

    Abe and Modi visited Toji? Given their tacit concensus on how to assess Japan’s action in WWII, and their shared stance now vis-a-vis China, it is at least intellectually shameless to visit such a religious place. Toji was established when Japan received enormous cultural gift from China. Toji was associated with the highly intellectual monk of Kukai. Withou China’s generous selfless cultural support, Kukai would not become what he was to become later in his life. When Kukai received the cultural gifts from China, China had developed it in conjunction with a most delicate art including archetecture, gardening, calligraphy, painting, poems. None of this had any meaningful link with India. For a state where even their holy river is treated as natural toilet, it is indeed quite a sarcastic spectacle that its head of government visited the fundamentally Chinese artistic style temple with his counterpart, while both sharing a common view regarding the monstrocity of Japanese action in China 70 years ago. What would Kukai would have to say to Abe and Modi? What would Bhudda have to say? Or they are really treated as dead nothingness rather than a true source of inspiration and cause of fundamental remorse?

    • Merchant Mmo

      They would probably be aghast and speechless just as they would be if someone asked them to assess Tainanmn square or the early Tibet occupation :P No offense but no countries innocent in history making. All we can do is hope to shine the spotlight on someone else ;o

    • zer0_0zor0

      While Buddhism originated in India, Mahayana Buddhism developed primarily in China.

      Kukai was in fact made the leader of the sect of esoteric Buddhism he entered in China, which may be an indication that Tang society was already in decline, as well as a testimony to the character and intellectual gifts of Kukai.

      Moreover, Kukau developed the practice of syncretism in Japanese religion by introducing the concept of “honji suijaku”, fusing Buddhism and Shinto into a relatively harmonic and complementary coexistence until the fallout from the Meiji Restoration that spawned State Shinto, of which Yasukuni Jinja is the most representative institutional remnant.

      So I agree that the irony is indeed thick insofar as Modi is seen as a Hindu nationalist and Abe as a Shinto ultra-nationalist.

  • KenjiAd

    Abe is a sentimental nationalist. In his view, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (“Tokyo Trial”) in which the Japanese war criminals were prosecuted, is simply a victor’s justice where the victors punished those who had been defeated and captured.

    Was the Tokyo Trial (or Nuremberg Trail for that matter) a victor’s justice? I, non-historian, concede that this question is an area that many historians may have differing opinions.

    With that clearly stated, however, there is absolutely no justification to glorify those people who were responsible for starting and continuing the disastrous war. None. Those Class-A war criminals either actively pursued the wrong war efforts till end, or did nothing to stop it. They were not heroes.

    Abe doesn’t understand it. He never will.

  • VerityHeld

    “the spirit of the Showa Era martyrs who became the foundation of their fatherland by sacrificing their souls for the sake of peace and prosperity of today’s Japan.”

    The Rape of Nanjing, Unit 731, Bataan Death March, Death Railway. All done for the sake of peace and prosperity of today’s Japan. Time for a mental health evaluation, Abe.

    • Merchant Mmo

      Irony of your comment is that you were telling someone else in another thread to stop puking up the holocaust….
      What was the thing mr. whats-it said again, ‘he whos free of sin cast the first stone’. Besides the fact that no one in japan actually thinks that was for their peace and prosperity. Such thoughts are only from those trolls that actually want to stir the pot. Although by doing that, it also does show to spotlight that china itself isnt innocent from history and even less so in the present day annoying its neighbors in the east china sea.

      • VerityHeld

        The Holocaust made the necessity of a Jewish state clear. It however doesn’t mean that what was done then justifies what is done now. As for “no one in Japan actually thinks that was for their peace and prosperity,” clearly one person, aka the current Prime Minister of Japan, does. As for China, yes it cannot claim innocence; the occupation of Tibet, the Great Cultural Revolution, the corporate enslavement of its people today, however China’s conduct then and now doesn’t excuse Abe for his ludicrous and vile interpretation of Imperial Japan’s conduct during 1931-1945.