I listen to NHK radio every morning. In one program, titled “What happened on this date,” the announcer introduces notable events that occurred on that day in Japanese history.
On March 10, the program introduced several events, including an air raid on Tokyo by U.S. B29 bombers in 1945. The announcer explained that many people burned to death in the raid, and the capital was reduced to ruins.
At that time, I was living in Tokyo, and while I escaped death, my house was destroyed. Although the raid was certainly a newsworthy event, another, more significant event also took place on that date during the Meiji Era, which NHK failed to mention.
On March 10, 1905, Japan defeated the Russian Imperial Army at the battle of Mukden in the Russo-Japanese War, which had begun in February the previous year. To commemorate this feat, the government designated March 10 as “Army Memorial Day” and this national holiday was celebrated until Japan’s defeat in World War II.
For elderly people like myself who received a prewar education, it is impossible to forget that event. The battle not only marked the Japanese people’s successful rejection of global domination by the West, but it was also the first time an Asian people had defeated a white power in modern times.
Gen. Maresuke Nogi was the supreme commander of the victorious Japanese army at the battle of Mukden, while the defeated Russian army was headed by Gen. Anatolii M. Stessel. Both generals praised each other at a famous meeting in Shuishihying, near Port Arthur. Gen. Nogi treated Gen. Stessel with dignity, and this meeting proved that the Japanese people were courteous and not brutal.
Why did NHK fail to mention this historic event? Clearly, it feared inviting the criticism that the broadcaster was celebrating militarism. Such criticism would be unfounded, however. The Russo-Japanese War was an act of self-defense on the part of Japan, and an all-out effort to fight Russia’s imperialistic actions. How could this war be labeled one of aggression, as leftists have asserted?
Prior to that battle, the world had been dominated by the white colonial powers. But the Japanese became the first Asian people to successfully stand up against that domination. Even though Japan’s population was then only about 46 million, it was ranked among the world’s three strongest nations, along with the United States and Britain. Japan steadfastly refused to submit to the high-handed policies of the Western powers, and the Japanese were constantly debating how best to protect their nation’s independence.
Japan’s leaders tried make the country strong by encouraging citizens to have large families and work diligently. When a country’s people work hard and the population grows, that nation is on the path to prosperity.
In today’s Japan, however, people have become self-absorbed, and are not interested in having children. Progress in science and technology will not lead to national prosperity if people fail to increase the population and serve the nation. Indeed, there is a real danger of Japan falling apart.
According to estimates based on a survey conducted by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Japan’s population will increase from 126 million in 2000 to 127 million in 2010, but decline to 124 million in 2020. It will drop to 117 million by 2030, to 108 million by 2040 and to 100 million by 2050. By 2060 the population will have fallen to 91 million, 83 million by 2070, 77 million by 2080, 72 million by 2090 and 67 million by 2100.
Thus, it is predicted that the Japanese population will decrease drastically within the next century to the level of the Taisho Era. A chill runs down my spine just to think of the consequences.
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