The task of embracing sincerity

Regarding Brigitte Duchemin’s May 2 letter, “Let go of the sorrow and anger,” I’d like to add my two pence worth.

First, she mentions that she and her family “suffered a great deal because of the war with Germany.” But there is no shrine in Germany comparable to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine. There have been no statements by German politicians that the Nuremberg Trials were the product of “victor’s justice” — as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said about the Tokyo trials recently.

There have been no statements by German politicians denying Nazi atrocities, and I dare say that if such a statement were to be made, the culprit would be hounded out of office. Not so in Japan, where the leaders of Nagoya, Osaka and Tokyo, and even the prime minister, have made statements, without penalty, disputing the culpability of Japan for its actions in World War II.

Second, rather than place the fault with those who “keep asking for apologies,” I would place the fault with those who refuse to give them sincerely. True, some Japanese prime ministers have “apologized” since 1995. But statements by leaders of the aforementioned cities appear to belie statements of apology that have been made at an official level before. Thus the sincerity of Japan’s remorse for its WWII actions is placed in doubt, especially in light of the recent visits to Yasukuni by many politicians.

Since some convicted war criminals are enshrined at Yasukuni, if Japan’s leaders truly wish to show they have apologized sufficiently for the past, they must first embrace the concept of sincerity. Perhaps, then, life can truly “go on.”

christopher glen

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.

  • Danny

    By an act of sincerity, do you suggest abandoning the millions of honored war dead? Or did you had something else in mind?

  • I only suggest that Japan’s leaders refrain from visits. Perhaps they could visit incognito, but not in their official capacity. It only adds fuel to the fire of public opinion in South Korea and China. I think they should do something about the revisionist museum nearby as well

  • No. I`m suggesting that politicians refrain from making official visits, as it was politicians in the first place that led Japan into war. They should keep the feelings of their neighbouring countries in mind where Yasukuni is concerned. If it wasn`t for the 7 enshriend convicted war criminals, this wouldn`t be such a hot topic

  • No. Simply that politicians refrain from making visits to the shrine

  • 151E

    It should be made clear that Yasukuni-jinja was originally built and consecrated after the Boshin Civil War to commemorate those who fought to “restore” the Emperor to power, thus ushering in the new Meiji Era. And while the adjacent museum is unabashedly sympathetic to Japan’s imperial ambitions (at a time when nations were either empires or colonies), and is now something of a magnet for revisionist rightwing fanatics, the shrine itself is in many ways analogous to America’s Arlington National Cemetery. Visits to Yasukuni should not be cause for offense, so much as the vocal denial and callous disregard, expressed by too many of Japan’s politicians, for the suffering inflicted during the war.

    But what about the war criminals enshrined there?!?, comes the shrill protest full of self-righteous indignation. How different really were the actions of the Japanese from other armies of the time and throughout history? The Japanese were largely emulating the gunboat diplomacy, unequal treaties, and territorial expansion of the major powers of the day – the Americans, British, Dutch, Russians, Germans, and French. No empire was ever built through peaceable means.

    I don’t mean to defend the actions of the Japanese military, but I do think many of us suffer from selective outrage. How many died in the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward? I suppose barbarity against one’s fellow countrymen is excusable, while the same actions perpetrated by foreigners are not. Shall we compare the Bataan Death March to British run concentration camps during the Second Boer War, or the Laha massacre with Canicatti massacre? Who has been convicted of war crimes for the fire bombings of Dresden and Tokyo? Who has been prosecuted for the MKULTRA or Tsukegee programs? And who has been brought before the ICC for the invasion of Iraq?

    Again, I do not mean to mitigate the unjust and criminal suffering caused by the Japanese army, but they were not the only ones to inflict barbaric cruelty in the frenzy of war. Let’s not be so self-righteous and quick to label others war criminals while overlooking our own sins.

    I feel the best way to demonstrate the sincerity you call for would be to stop with the public denials and equivocations, and to provide a full proper account when teaching at schools this dark chapter in history.