wish to respond to Mariko Aoyama’s July 30 letter, “Good, bad, ugly of Japan’s war,” to suggest some exceptional material that may answer her desire to learn more about some of the things that the Japanese military did during World War II.
First of all, I would like to underline the fact that although I am probably about 25 years younger than Aoyama, I could still learn about Japanese wartime behavior to some extent by studying Japanese history as a hobby, mainly by watching documentaries, which can often be found on the Internet.
There are some quality books and films — although maybe not that many and not that publicized — that deal with the subject, and it is not so difficult to talk with Japanese nationals if one makes the effort. But I also agree that education at school should be the main occasion in any country for reflecting on the brighter and darker times of a country’s history.
I would like to suggest two documentary films that I strongly feel should be systematically shown to every high school student in Japan. Warning: Both are profoundly disturbing films that do not attempt to hide war atrocities from viewers.
The first is “The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (Yukiyukite, Shingun)” by Hara Kazuo (1987). It deals with the war trauma of Japanese soldiers in postwar Japan. It is amazing to watch how many younger Japanese are at a complete loss when faced with a war veteran’s feelings of revolt.
The second film is “Japanese Devils (Riben Guizi)” by Minoru Matsui (2001). This film is probably more one-sided as it focuses on interviews with Japanese war veterans about what they did. Narration by people who actually committed atrocities makes it very hard to watch, but unavoidable if one wishes to face reality. A film like this one is probably rejected by rightists as Chinese propaganda and a blatant lie. Everybody should judge it for themselves.
I am also looking forward to watching “Flowers and Troops,” the documentary by Yojyu Matsubayashi, which Edan Corkill of The Japan Times wrote about July 26.