Voices | HOTLINE TO NAGATACHO

For the sake of Japan's future, stop glorifying past crimes at Yasukuni

Your Excellency Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,

It hurts the victims of the Imperial Japanese military’s war of terror that ministers of your government and members of parliament continue to visit Yasukuni Shrine, purportedly to honor Japan’s war dead. As you know, among the dead honored by the visits are 14 individuals convicted of war crimes for their actions during World War II.

[Unlike Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, Keiji Furuya, state minister in charge of the abduction issue, and Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshitaka Shindo, in April] you did not visit Yasukuni Shrine, but you paid for a Shinto ceremonial gift, bearing your name and title, to decorate the altar at the shrine. Thus, indirectly, you [indicated that you] approve of the Yasukuni visits by your party members.

What a contrast to the Dutch remembrance ceremony on May 4. The Dutch honored their war dead both in Europe and in Asia at the National Monument in Amsterdam’s Dam Square. Our new king and queen laid a wreath and paid their respects to those who died. Both were visibly moved. The former commander of all Dutch military forces, Gen. Peter van Uhm, reflected on war and the egocentric attitude of those who glorify conflict for their personal benefit. He strongly advised all to remember the consequences of war and its criminal aspects.

However, it appears that you and your party continue to glorify Japan’s military past. Changing the Constitution and marking the date the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect [marking the end of the Occupation, except in Okinawa] does not help Japan’s economy. It does not restore a sense of hope and determination for the future. In practice, it does the contrary: As long as Japan does not acknowledge moral responsibility to the victims of the war and their next of kin, Japan’s relations with the rest of the world will be strained and suspect.

You cannot pass this responsibility to yours and Japan’s children.

The leaders of Germany recognized immediately after the war that the German nation would never be trusted again as long as they refused to fully acknowledge their crimes during World War II. They paid their respects, and acknowledged and compensated for their wrongdoings.

Japan used the San Francisco Peace Treaty only for its own benefit, avoided its moral obligations and will remain haunted by them. In the meantime, Japan causes fresh pain to its victims with every ministerial visit to Yasukuni Shrine.

J.F. VAN WAGTENDONK
President
Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts
The Hague

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