Nanjing, Unit 731
April 22, 2005 7:30 AM   Subscribe

Japanese PM Koizumi has apologized for causing “tremendous damage and suffering for the people of many countries, particularly those of Asian nations,” but made no direct acknowledgement of atrocities like those committed at Unit 731.
posted by dfowler (73 comments total)

 
Does he have to specifically apologize for every single thing that ever offended anyone? I think that to have the Japanese PM even admit that Japan did something wrong is a big first step for them.
posted by acetonic at 7:33 AM on April 22, 2005 [1 favorite]


Thing is, this 'big first step' is about 60 years too late.
posted by the cuban at 7:36 AM on April 22, 2005


Now the Chinese can start apologizing.
posted by thirteenkiller at 7:47 AM on April 22, 2005


acetonic, tens of thousands were killed (brutally tortured, raped etc.) at Unit 731, Nanjing, etc.

"offended"? what are you talking about?
posted by dfowler at 7:58 AM on April 22, 2005


The acts of Unit 731 are only one of many major war crimes committed by the Imperial Japanese Army from the occupation of Manchuria in 1931 to the end of World War II in 1945, during which over 15 million Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Indonesian, Burmese, Indochinese civilians, Pacific Islanders and Allied POWs were killed.
posted by dfowler at 8:10 AM on April 22, 2005


Now the Chinese can start apologizing.

Ok quick, what country has nothing to apologize for........ still waitin'.........
posted by scheptech at 8:16 AM on April 22, 2005


Just curious - has the U.S. ever apologized to the Cherokee nation for the trail of tears? Or to any of the other tribes who were intentionally infected with smallpox? Because that would be about 160 years too late, at this point.
posted by bashos_frog at 8:17 AM on April 22, 2005


This'll be my last comment here because I don't want to 'moderate' this thread.

15 million killed, bashos & acetonic, and many of the victim's relatives are still alive and can still remember.

posted by dfowler at 8:21 AM on April 22, 2005


So if we wait until the victim's relatives are all dead then this incident can also assume the relative unimportance of what happened to the Native Americans? Cool - just a few years left.
posted by bashos_frog at 8:23 AM on April 22, 2005


now you're just trolling, bashos. that's it, i'm done.
posted by dfowler at 8:25 AM on April 22, 2005


Or is it the numbers that count? Because there were about 60 million Africans enslaved by the U.S., and there hasn't been an apology for that either.
posted by bashos_frog at 8:26 AM on April 22, 2005


Just trying to follow your logic about why this particular incident is so unusually deserving of a timely apology.
posted by bashos_frog at 8:27 AM on April 22, 2005


bashos_frog : " Just curious - has the U.S. ever apologized to the Cherokee nation for the trail of tears? Or to any of the other tribes who were intentionally infected with smallpox?"

Well timed question. It appears that the bill is in currently in Congress.

But, to be fair, even though it's 160 years too late, the comparison is somewhat difficult, because, as far as I am aware, it's not like Congress is refusing to apologize in the face of giant annual protests and the occassional riot. One (the US situation) is more an oversight than anything else, while the other (the Japanese situation) is far more deliberate: a refusal to apologize in the face of pretty constant pressure.

Plus, as far as I know, the POTUS does not make an annual visit to Custer's grave.
posted by Bugbread at 8:30 AM on April 22, 2005


This is indeed a great leap forward on the long march towards progress on taking repsonsibility for their past horrific actions that every civilized country must make.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 8:32 AM on April 22, 2005


China deserves a direct apology from Japan, and gestures of remorse; this off-handed "Oh, sorry about that unpleasantness, peoples of Asia" crap will not cut it. There are still people living who suffered through Japan's wartime atrocities - and Japan's utterly arrogant failure to apologize does not sit well with generations of Chinese who saw their elders suffer under occupation.

And as China grows ever more powerful, Japan is running out of time to make amends.

And quit with the "oh it's not logical" trolling, bashos. It's lame.
posted by bwilliams at 8:32 AM on April 22, 2005


Clinton did apologize for White Europeans' receiving the fruits of the slave trade. A list of political apologies.
posted by QuietDesperation at 8:33 AM on April 22, 2005


On preview:

bashos_frog : " Just trying to follow your logic about why this particular incident is so unusually deserving of a timely apology."

The best comparison that comes to mind is if I run into someone pretty hard getting on the train, and then bump someone hard (but not as hard) getting into my seat. Failing to apologize is bad in both cases, but if the second person says "Um, you bumped into me. You could apologize, you know", and I answer "I have nothing to apologize for", I come off as far more of a cock in the second place, even though the first bump was bigger. And if every 5 minutes on the train I turn to my friend and say, "Bump! Awesome!" (my analogy grows weak, but it's the closest I can get to the Prime Minister's Yasukuni visit every year from this corner I've painted myself into), it's even more insulting to the person I bumped, again, even though the first person I ran into was bumped harder.
posted by Bugbread at 8:36 AM on April 22, 2005


bashos_frog:
Senate Joint Resolution 37, proposed apology to all native peoples

Bureau of Indian Affairs apology on the 175th anniversery of their founding

So, I guess your logic of "If group A doesn't get an apology from group B, than no one deserves an apology from anyone!" is kind of flawed.

(on preview: what bugbread and bwilliams said)
posted by Kellydamnit at 8:37 AM on April 22, 2005


QuietDesperation:

Thank you very, very, very much for that list. I had no idea so many Japanese Prime Ministers had apologized for Japan's actions in the war. My opinions stand greatly changed and corrected.
posted by Bugbread at 8:41 AM on April 22, 2005


Clinton's 'apology' was no more of an apology than anything the Japanese have done in the past, with their expressing of 'deep remorse.'

The fact is the Chinese and Koreans will never be happy with any statement from Japan, and the protests and riots (encouraged, if not straight out engendered by the govt.) are just a means to get some easy political gains, such as keeping Japan off the security council.
posted by bashos_frog at 8:41 AM on April 22, 2005


the only country to reasonably compare japan to is germany.

it is one thing to say you're sorry, it's another thing to follow-up these words with actions. the german government has made great efforts to compensate the victims of its aggression in WW2. japan, in comparison, has actually done very little.

so there is room for japan to move here, but the problem seems to be china. the chinese government is clearly using this issue for political gain and that makes their demand for a mea culpa anything but sincere.

moreover, the rape of nanking brings two images: the brutality of the japanese imperial army and the utter weakness of the chinese.

i think the japanese can - and should - do more to diffuse this present situation, but they have to be careful to not apologize too much thereby reminding the chinese that their country is and has always been inferior militarily and economically.

bi-ach.

and then they might want to think about amending their constitution so they too do not end up weak and defenseless against what appears to be growing chinese imperial ambitions.
posted by three blind mice at 8:46 AM on April 22, 2005


"Plus, as far as I know, the POTUS does not make an annual visit to Custer's grave."

There are some pretty dodgy characters buried at Arlington, you know. One is General Miles, who had some responsibility for both the massacre at Wounded Knee, as well as the vicious suppression of the Pullman strikes which left 24 strikers dead.
posted by bashos_frog at 8:48 AM on April 22, 2005


Japan has apologized repeatedly for its wartime atrocities in China. Granted, maybe not as sincerely and not in the words that some people would have liked to hear, but this is not the first apology and is therefor not a "first big step" or anything like that.

As for the sincerity, well, I think that what really counts is not so much the semantic nuances ("show remorse", "apologize", "regret", "have caused an inconvenience") that can be endlessly analyzed by the pundits, but the money that has actually been paid to the victims. Here, Japan hasn't done very good at all (especially compared to Germany, which has paid and continues to pay billions upon billions of dollars to Israel and numerous victims organizations). But Japan has paid considerable money (some in the form of interest-free loans or free construction works) in China, Korea and elsewhere.

This is something that you don't read about in Chinese and Korean news, though. In fact, most Chinese and Koreans think that Japan has a) never apologized for its wartime atrocities and b) has never paid any compensation for it, both of which is wrong.
They also think that the schoolbooks that caused the fuzz in the first place are widely used, which is also wrong (the books are used by less than 1% of all schools).
posted by sour cream at 8:49 AM on April 22, 2005


This is not just about apology. Japan must acknowledge that they committed heinous acts.

They tied civilians to tree stumps, sprayed them with liquid nitrogen and shattered their limbs to "study" the ability of the human body to heal.

They performed horrific surgery, like removing limbs and re-attaching them to the other side of the body ,again-- for "research".

This is the sort of thing that was regularly done to civilians by the Japanese at that time.

posted by dfowler at 8:57 AM on April 22, 2005


My point is that he apologized, officially. 60 years or 60 days late does he have to read off a list of every atrocity and apologize separately?

Some people will never be satisfied, especially smug MeFites sitting in their cozy cubicles waiting for an opportunity to get offended.
posted by acetonic at 8:59 AM on April 22, 2005


This situation has persisted for so long because it has presented valuable international bargaining positions for both sides.

Look at it this way. So long as Japan doesn't fully apologize, it has something that the other Asian nations want. Likewise, the issue of Japan's apology is a strong force that the other nations can use to pressure Japan on various issues.

Whether by accident or design, both sides have a vested interest in dragging out this whole goddamn mess for as long as possible, using any detail and any excuse. It would be great if recent events are a sign of coming closure, but frankly I wouldn't count on it.
posted by PsychoKick at 8:59 AM on April 22, 2005


acetonic writes: Some people will never be satisfied, especially smug MeFites sitting in their cozy cubicles waiting for an opportunity to get offended.

Let's not make this personal, acetonic. We're talking about something on the order of the holocaust, but which has never been admitted.

Have some respect for the dead, if not for fellow Mefites.
posted by dfowler at 9:03 AM on April 22, 2005


Why is China not demanding an apology from the US for freeing the perpetrators, buying the data from the medical experiments, and helping to cover the whole thing up?
Makes you wonder.
posted by bashos_frog at 9:10 AM on April 22, 2005


dfowler : "We're talking about something on the order of the holocaust, but which has never been admitted."

I dunno. According to QuietDesperation's links, it seems like it has been admitted.
posted by Bugbread at 9:17 AM on April 22, 2005


"the german government has made great efforts to compensate the victims of its aggression in WW2. japan, in comparison, has actually done very little."

Well, maybe so but I don't think the Germans were doing it out of compassion. The Federal Reserve Board that helped Hitler to spend his way up the ladder also payed for a lot of the post-war 'efforts'. That's U.S. money.
posted by j.p. Hung at 9:21 AM on April 22, 2005


Ok, same thing as the Armenian / Turkish post (80 years ago) or the Rwandan Tutsi / Hutu post (10 years ago) of the last few days. This one happened 60 years ago. They are acknowledgements of large scale criminality, pain, suffering, some would say ongoing evidence of the 'fallen' state of mankind. These things are what they are, have happened all through time as far as we know and lacking any evidence to the contrary, may be expected to continue.

So what are these posts about? Simple memorials or are they about politics, power, and ruling the world both in the past when the events originally happened and now when current leaders manage (manipulate in some cases?) public opinion and events to achieve what they want in the here and now?

Why is not reasonable to objectively examine the present-day dynamics involved and to question logically just what is being accomplished, by who, for who, and how. Sure, how old does an event have to be before it loses its power? Or what form does an apology have to take? Or what other 'action' as the Chinese are putting it has to accompany? Relevant questions no?
posted by scheptech at 9:23 AM on April 22, 2005


Japanese politicians come under heavy pressure each year from citizens' groups and organized thugs not to apologize to former member states of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Japanese racism against Chinese and Koreans (yes, it is racism: you may not think Japanese are a race apart from other Asians, but many Japanese certainly do) inspired colonial subjugation and inhuman treatment during the Pacific War. It persists and pervades Japanese society to this day.

The Japanese PM visits Yasukuni Jinja to a small opposition every year. Apologies have been made to China and Korea, but they've been vague and unsatisfactory. Reparations are not forthcoming.

Descendants of conscripted laborers and "comfort women" brought to Japan are discriminated against, socially and institutionally.

The general consensus about the war has been, "Apologize? Fuck that! We had the A-Bomb dropped on us. Who's the victim? Anyway, those shifty continental subhumans, they make shit up all the time. If what they say is true, why isn't it in the history books?"

Times are changing. They change slowly. The apologies become more sincere, the visits to Yasukuni more low-key, the discrimination less overt.

This whole "oh yeah, well, the US wiped out the Indians..." crap? If you don't know why that's a straw man, if you don't know that you're just muddying the waters, if you actually think 18th-century US actions justify Japanese non-apologies, then you have shit between your ears. Keep it there.
posted by breezeway at 9:29 AM on April 22, 2005


And bugbread, those apologies from before are lame, and vague. They say, "we caused great damage," stuff like that. When they should say, "we tortured civilians, removed their organs, sewed them back up, and ate them while they watched. We encouraged our officer class to commit war crimes, then sheltered and honored them. We spent fifty years denying this, to the shame of our nation."

The prior apologies are not merely insincere; they are insulting. Koizumi's apology is a long-awaited step in the right direction.
posted by breezeway at 9:36 AM on April 22, 2005


breezeway : " The general consensus about the war has been, 'Apologize? Fuck that! We had the A-Bomb dropped on us. Who's the victim? Anyway, those shifty continental subhumans, they make shit up all the time. If what they say is true, why isn't it in the history books?'"

Huh. I don't know where you got that "general consensus" part from (though the rest of your post is spot-on). The general consensus around me is "man, why doesn't the PM just apologize and stop going to fucking Yasukuni?"
posted by Bugbread at 9:37 AM on April 22, 2005


Ok, actually, I take that marginally back. The concensus is "why doesn't the PM just apologize and stop going to Yasukuni?" The "fucking" part is my own somewhat stronger opinion, which somehow seeped in.
posted by Bugbread at 9:44 AM on April 22, 2005


I said has been, bugbread.

The current apology is different (it mentions aggression and humility), and reflects (I hope) the change in general consensus on the war.

It's troubling that the general consensus you see, is so easily drowned out by the right-wingers and their loudspeaker trucks.

Japan is headed in the right direction, but the apologies still have a long way to go before they are acceptable.

Baby steps.
posted by breezeway at 9:55 AM on April 22, 2005


My opinion of China's role in all this. And it's about time for Japan to apologize wholeheartedly, specifically, and unambiguously, because it's stupid to keep this on the table politically. Everyone affected by what happened 60 years ago deserves to stop having this issue thrown around. More importantly, an apology from Japan would destroy the basis for Chinese hatemongering, and that would be good. I'm tired of getting yelled at for not wanting to eat the hearts of Japanese children.
posted by saysthis at 10:00 AM on April 22, 2005


breezeway : " I said has been, bugbread."

Sorry, I didn't realize the emphasis there. Nice, because other than that I thought you were right on the money, so that bit stuck out. Good to see it was a misreading.
posted by Bugbread at 10:00 AM on April 22, 2005


Thanks, and I'm glad you understand. It's something I care a great deal about.
posted by breezeway at 10:05 AM on April 22, 2005


Yasukuni Shrine is not simply a memorial to war criminals. It was founded after one of the civil wars in Japan in the 1860s to honor the souls of both sides in the conflict. From its founding, it has been this particular ambivalence about which side the soldier's soul was fighting for that makes it special and unique to Japanese. And yes, it also makes it attractive to the Japanese right wing, especially the nut jobs with the loudspeaker trucks.

It's a peculiarity of Japanese Buddhism that once you are dead, enshrining the soul is pretty divorced from what the that person did when alive - at that point, good, bad, or whatever, the soul is part of Buddha, and freed from the constraints of maya or earthly illusion.

Japanese politicians will stop going to Yasukuni about the same time US presidents stop visiting the Vietnam memorial in DC. There are, no doubt, some war criminals "enshrined" there as well - but that doesn't become the focus of the entire war memorial, does it?

The Japanese realized, after WWII, that if they have a military, eventually that military will become the strongest force in the nation, and blindly lead it to war - because that is the role of the military. Today's Japanese are fully aware of that fact and the vast majority of Japanese citizens, especially the young, would prefer to keep Japan demilitarized because of it. How many nations maintain that level of historical reasoning? If anything, the maintenance of this firm anti-military policy should stand as a proud memorial to the Japanese' awareness of what happened in WWII.
posted by zaelic at 10:23 AM on April 22, 2005 [1 favorite]


The Japanese realized, after WWII...

That's wrong. Macarthur wrote Article Nine, and the Japanese accepted it, because they lost the war. There is a big push going on now to have it removed from the constitution, and to make Japan's standing army of UN peacekeepers and humanitarians, a real standing army.

How many nations maintain that level of historical reasoning?

Your native Cloud-cuckoo-land? Certainly not Japan.

a proud memorial to the Japanese' awareness of what happened in WWII.

Ever read a Japanese junior high history textbook? Talk with somebody there? Blissful ignorance, not awareness, is the norm. Things are changing, but slowly.

Yasukuni shrine has an attached museum dedicated to the glory of Japanese militarism. The political overtones to PMs' yearly visits are unmistakable: they honor the dead, and the dead prominently include the scapegoat Tojo and thousands of other monsters.

It is more than bad mojo to honor murderers and deny their crimes. It is a disgrace.

The Vietnam comparison is a poor one. Americans, all the way to the president, acknowledge and are horrified by atrocities committed by American soldiers. Those actions are universally condemned, and are part of the historical record.

When the same can be said for Japanese war crimes, what you say might become true.

Until then, it isn't.
posted by breezeway at 11:06 AM on April 22, 2005


if you actually think 18th-century US actions justify Japanese non-apologies

I never said this. My question is what justifies the extraordinary pressure on the Japanese to apologize, to the exclusion of every other nation that has commited equallly bad (if not worse) atrocities. The genocide of Native Americans featured just as much cruelty, greed, and malicious intent as anything the Japanese ever did. The other genocidal incidents mentioned upthread were horrendous as well. Yet, can any nation point to a longer list of acknowledgments of wrongdoing as this (from QuietDesperation's list)?

1965: A joint statement issued by the foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea includes "twenty vague words of apology" for Japan¹s 36-year colonial rule.

1972: Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka tells visiting Chinese Premier Chou En-lai that "Japan realizes her heavy responsibility in causing enormous damage to the Chinese people in the past through the war."

September 7, 1984: Alluding to World War II, Japanese Emperor Hirohito tells the visiting South Korean President that "it is regrettable that there was an unfortunate period in this century."

October 23, 1985: In an address to the United Nations, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone apologizes for Japan¹s role in World War II.

May 27, 1990: South Korean leader Roh Tae Woo accepts Japanese Emperor Akihito¹s words of regret for the occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945.

December 4, 1991: Japanese Foreign Minister Michio Watanabe expresses "deep remorse" for the wartime suffering that followed Japan¹s attack on Pearl Harbor.

January 18, 1992: Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa apologizes for Japan¹s use of "comfort women."

October 23, 1992: During a royal visit to China, Japanese Emperor Akihito expresses his sorrow for Japan¹s wartime abuses.

August 10, 1993: Japanese Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa declares that World War II was a mistake and an act of aggression.

August 23, 1993: Japanese Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa uses his first parliamentary policy address to convey "a feeling of deep remorse and apologies for the fact that our country¹s past acts of aggression and colonial rule caused unbearable suffering and sorrow for so many people."

September 20, 1993: Japanese Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa apologizes for suffering caused by Japan in World War II.

November 6, 1993: In South Korea, Japanese Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa apologizes to South Korean President Kim Young Sam for Japan¹s wartime actions.

August 15, 1994: Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama apologizes for the suffering caused by Imperial Japan and concedes that other Asians suffered "tragic sacrifices beyond description."

June 9, 1995: The lower house of the Japanese Diet expresses "deep remorse" for the suffering inflicted on Asians and others in World War II.

June, 1995: Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama says, "I would like to say that Japan is deeply remorseful for its past and strives for world peace."

uly, 1995: Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama apologizes to the roughly 200,000 women who were put into brothels by Japanese forces to serve as sex slaves or "comfort women" and sets up a private "Asian Women¹s Fund" to deal with reparations. The fund is "an expression on the part of the people of Japan to these women."

August 15, 1995: On the 50th anniversary of Japan¹s surrender, Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama issues a statement of "heartfelt apologies" for Japan¹s aggression. On the same date as Murayama¹s statement, the National Diet adopts a "Resolution to Renew the Determination for Peace on the Basis of Lessons Learned from History."

December, 1996: Japanese Prime Minister Ryutara Hashimoto offers a letter of apology and monetary reparations to 500 survivors of the 200,000 "comfort women," but only six accept.

January, 1998: Japanese Prime Minister Ryutara Hashiomoto offers his "heartfelt apology" to the British government and expresses "Deep remorse" for Japan¹s treatment of British POWs in World War II.

May, 1998: Japanese Emperor Akihito apologizes to Britain for World War II.

October, 1998: Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi gives visiting South Korean President Kim Dae Jung a written statement saying that Japan "expressed deep remorse and extended a heartfelt apology" for inflicting "heavy damage and pain" on Koreans.

September 27, 2001: The leaders of the Myoshin-ji sect of Zen Buddhism apologize in Japan for their religion¹s past ties to militarism. The leaders acknowledge that their apology is largely motivated by Brian Victoria¹s 1997 book "Zen at War," which details the relationship between Zen leaders and the Japanese military in World War II

October 8, 2001: Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi apologizes and expresses condolences in China for those Chinese who lost their lives in World War II.

August 15, 2002: Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi expresses regrets about Japan¹s past aggression.

Only Germany has apologized as much as this.
posted by bashos_frog at 11:30 AM on April 22, 2005


Americans, all the way to the president, acknowledge and are horrified by atrocities committed by American soldiers. Those actions are universally condemned, and are part of the historical record.

Bullshit.
There are many Americans who feel no qualms at all about My Lai, No Gun Ri, Abu Ghraib, or anything else. There are many Americans in the Red states who feel the US military can do no wrong.

When did the US apologize for any of those things?

The US also has plenty of shrines dedicated to American militarism. Just down the block from me is the Intrepid, showcasing all manner of planes used for illegal bombings during the Viet Nam war. It still is an interesting place to visit, and I don't need to feel any more guilty about visiting there than Koizumi should feel for going to Yasukuni Jinja.
posted by bashos_frog at 11:38 AM on April 22, 2005


Ever read a Japanese junior high history textbook? Gomen nasai, sumimasen Breezeway-san, but actually, yes - I sat with a Japanese friend asking her specifically to read from her high school history book passages about WWII. No, no mention of Nanjing, but it wasn't a celebration of Japanese militarism, rather the opposite.

I have a lot of Japanese friends, and they all talk about WWII with a true horror and they do note that the Japanese right wing wants to remilitarize, but I have yet to meet any who are for it.

Yes, MacArthur forced demilitarization on the Japanese, but it has since come to be seen as a blessing in disguise by post war Japanese themselves..

I think the Vietnam reference is valid: as long as there are War Memorials there will always be the shadow of atrocities. Twentieth century warfare is all about blurring the lines between combatants and civilians.

Japan's prime ministers and its emperor have apologized to China for the brutal conduct of the occupying Japanese army in the 1930s-1940s on 17 occasions since the two countries restored diplomatic relations in 1972.
posted by zaelic at 11:39 AM on April 22, 2005


Look, this is becoming too much "I'm right, you're wrong." I'm right. You're wrong. I can trot out the facts, you can trot out your sources, and we will come to no conclusions.

Regarding this FPP, every year the wording of these apologies becomes more specific. If you read Japanese, you can see. Issues that were once skirted around are now being mentioned.

International pressure for something more than lip-service from the Japanese government regarding war atrocities has mounted as the decades have passed. Internal pressure has increased as well, as Japanese are exposed to more of the truth regarding their legacy.

All the "compare it to America" arguments are straw men, and my mistake was to address them at all. We're discussing Japan here, and what they have and haven't addressed. These are matters of historical record.

I hope someday your dreams come true.
posted by breezeway at 12:28 PM on April 22, 2005


it has since come to be seen as a blessing in disguise by post war Japanese themselves..

yeah, but the weapon-control postwar rules almost destroyed the swordmaking trade!
posted by matteo at 12:28 PM on April 22, 2005


I'm really amazed at the responses here.

During the '30s and '40s, the Japanese operated many concentration camps where they systematically tortured, raped and killed millions of civilians.

You think a dozen or so "We caused great suffering and damage" apologies amount to total acknowledgement and acceptance of responsibility for creating and operating the worst kinds of concentration camps imaginable? Oh, really?
posted by dfowler at 12:55 PM on April 22, 2005


breezeway: You haven't trotted out any facts, just opinions. I trotted out my sources. Good old style Japan bashing just doesn't cut it anymore.

We're discussing Japan here Oh, I'm sorry. I forgot the pre-set ground rules. Tibet, anyone?
posted by zaelic at 12:56 PM on April 22, 2005


breezeway : "There is a big push going on now to have it removed from the constitution, and to make Japan's standing army of UN peacekeepers and humanitarians, a real standing army."

A big push by the government, opposed by pretty much everyone.

breezeway : " Ever read a Japanese junior high history textbook? Talk with somebody there? Blissful ignorance, not awareness, is the norm. Things are changing, but slowly."

I've read a high school history book, if that counts. Pretty much what I expected: it certainly doesn't glorify what Japan did, and it certainly does skip over the worst chapters of the war. Basically, I get the idea it's written by people who don't like the war and don't particularly want to think of the war, and certainly don't want to get in trouble with random right-wingers, so they basically skip through it. "Dry" is definitely the word for it. Then again, most Japanese textbooks are far dryer and less emotional than American ones, so the omission of topics is more telling than the dryness.

But breezeway is right: blissful ignorance is the norm. The people who know about Nanjing, or Unit 731 (pretty unknown) are generally aghast. The majority of folks just know that Japan did some lousy stuff, but not many specifics.

dfowler : " You think a dozen or so 'We caused great suffering and damage' apologies amount to total acknowledgement and acceptance of responsibility for creating and operating the worst kinds of concentration camps imaginable? Oh, really?"

This is something that I've always found puzzling. Not that I agree or disagree, but puzzling. I can understand if the demands were for reparations, but half of the demands are for an official apology. What does amount to total acknowledgement and acceptance of responsibility? What would you have the PM or Emperor do?
posted by Bugbread at 1:07 PM on April 22, 2005


Good question, bugbread. I believe that the Japanese Government should issue a detailed explanation of what happened, explain that these were not renegade segments of the army, but rather that the Government of Japan at the time had ordered the creation of these camps and the Gov't was aware of the extent of torture, rape and murder of civilians that took place for years. I also believe that the Japanese Gov't should denounce their history of, first-- ignoring that these events took place, and then second-- finally making only the most general allusions to what happened.

Nobody is Japan-bashing, zaelic.

Do you dispute that the events described in the fpp links took place, zaelic?

Do you dispute that the apologies which have been linked to in this discussion do not really acknowledge the extent of these horrific atrocities and that there are 15 million + victims of Japan's wartime actions, zaelic?

Then why, zaelic, do you believe that these non-specific "we created physical and psychological damage" apologies are sufficient acceptance of responsibility?
posted by dfowler at 1:26 PM on April 22, 2005


Following on from bugbread's thought: I think it would be interesting to know what exactly would satisfy 'China' by way of an apology for two reasons.

1. Maybe, if you're Japanese, the expression by Emperor Hirohito of "it is regrettable that there was an unfortunate period in this century" in 1984 constitutes an apology. Maybe if you're Chinese, it doesn't. Maybe that's the rub, and I'd like to know if the differences in the way the two cultures approach apologies can explain some of the current mess. Are there any comparative anthropologists who can take a stab at this?

2. I think it would also tease out a point that has been alluded to in a couple comments - that there are political motivations behind China's most recent demands for an apology. This may get back to PsychoKick's point, that both countries have political interests in a stand-off.

If there are political motivations behind the current row, then that suggests you can bargain your way out of it. If China makes it clear what they want (say: cash, revised school books, and no more Yasukuni visits) then maybe they can get down to business (preemptive apology on my part if China has already done so - I am unaware).
posted by newscouch at 1:28 PM on April 22, 2005


bashos_frog: Extraordinary pressure? I'm sure Koizumi is shaking in his boots over the extraordinary pressure from a Metafilter thread. THe whole American thing is a seriously bullshit misdirection, and utterly irrelevant. Are you trying to imply that the Chinese are hypocrites because they aren't badgering the Americans to apologize for their own atrocities as well? Or, taking into consideration your ignorance of what kinds of apologies have been made in America, you simply feel the need to bring up irrelevant events?
posted by Snyder at 1:32 PM on April 22, 2005


Aren't these protests more about Japan wanting a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council than anything? I thought I read something like that a few days ago...
posted by atchafalaya at 1:56 PM on April 22, 2005


'Extraordinary' in the sense of 'more than ordinary' political pressure. Not MeFi threads, but the embassy vandalism, riots, etc.

Japan gets more pressure to apologize because they are a rich country with limited military power. It's not enough that they send out more economic aid to the world than the U.S. - they have to be raked over the coals for reparations as well. It's not like they can exert any significant pressure back, right?

15 million may have died as a result of Japanese military action, but only a small percentage of those were victims of war crimes (3000 at Unit 731). Saying there are 15 million victims of Japanese militarism is like saying there were 8 million victims of US militarism in Viet Nam and Korea. And I think the comparisons to the Holocaust are very flawed. Soldiers running amok and killing 300,000 in Nanjing is not comparable to building killing centers across Europe and exterminating 6,000,000 Jews in an organized, systematic manner.
posted by bashos_frog at 1:58 PM on April 22, 2005


Ok, here it is again for the slow ones:

15 million CIVILIANS

The acts of Unit 731 are only one of many major war crimes committed by the Imperial Japanese Army from the occupation of Manchuria in 1931 to the end of World War II in 1945, during which over 15 million Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Indonesian, Burmese, Indochinese civilians, Pacific Islanders and Allied POWs were killed.

posted by dfowler at 2:09 PM on April 22, 2005


...not comparable to building killing centers across Europe and exterminating 6,000,000 Jews in an organized, systematic manner.

What we've got here is... failure to communicate.
posted by dfowler at 2:11 PM on April 22, 2005


No. I don't dispute the atrocities. I just wonder why Japan is held up to a different standard than most European countries - apart from West Germany - are for the atrocities of WWII. I live in Hungary, which has only this year apologized for its role in the Holocaust. Don't even get me started on France's "Sorrow and the Pity" WWII history - and I'm a francophile. Romania's PM is only now urging a similar reassessment for his country. And all of our countries have loud little right wing nut jobs calling for patriotic denial of responsibility for actions which took place in WWII.

Face it, the 20th century was a genocidal shithole from gatling gun to Pol Pot. The entire human race can apologize from here to eternity and never really come to grips with how technology has dehumanized mass murder. The Japanese were not uniquely cruel - but they were cruel. That's what "modern warfare" is all about. So how does a society start over once the war ends? Abolishing your army sounds like a pretty good start, and keeping it abolished for the next 70 years is pretty convincing.

I meet Germans every day, but although I lost plenty of family in the concentration camps I don't demand apologies from them. I do meet Americans traveling in Europe who act like WWII never ended when around Germans.

However bad the Japanese behaved in WWII, the question still comes down to why do the Chinese want to bring it up again after multiple past apologies? Political gain vis a vis the UN Security council, perhaps a bit of muscle flexing pertinent to their Taiwan claims... Maybe the Chinese leadership sees some gain in letting their growing middle class let off some steam in protests.

It is the Chinese government - a cynical communist/capitalist imperialist hybrid - that decides whether or not the Chinese people will be able to read about the 17 apologies made by the Japanese, as well as whether they should take to the streets in demonstrations. Koizumi could shut down Yasukuni and a billion chinese would never even hear about it if their leaders didn't want them to.

It's a peculiarly Asian "make you lose face" game that can go terribly bad.
posted by zaelic at 2:12 PM on April 22, 2005


We killed 2 million civilians in Viet Nam alone.
The two atomic bombs killed as many civilians as the rape of Nanjing.
The U.S. intentionally firebombed civilians in Tokyo and Dresden.
It was a horribly ugly war. What happened at Nanjing were innumerable war crimes, but lumping in every other civilian death is like talking about 2 million Vietnamese civilian casualties in the same breath as My Lai.

(And, by the way, my grandfather was a POW in a Japanese camp in Indonesia for about 3 years, so I'm somewhat familiar with what the Japanese did over there.)
posted by bashos_frog at 2:21 PM on April 22, 2005


and, what zaelic said.
posted by bashos_frog at 2:22 PM on April 22, 2005


Anyone here ever gone to Singapore?

Interesting place. Fell to the Japanese in about two weeks. The Japanese just humiliated them...absolutely decimated the local Chinese population too.

Fast forward sixty years. Every museum is run by the State, and every museum is mandated to find some way, no matter how much of a stretch it might be, to make the following crystal clear:

Fifty years ago, Japan tried to colonize Southeast Asia.

Southeast Asia is still pissed.
posted by effugas at 4:18 PM on April 22, 2005


Again, bashos_frog, why would Chinese people give a shit about what Americans did to the Indians, or at My Lai, or whatever? They're the ones who had 15 million of their countries civilians tortured and killed for fun, more or less, and haven't been properly dealt with by Japan, to their eyes. Why would they get more, or as excited, about something that happened in America 160 years ago to some other group? And just because others haven't gotten as excited about it, Chinese people aren't allowed? Numerous people on this thread, have asked you these questions, but you still haven't answered them? Seriously, the only reasons I can see for this are the ones I already mentioned.
posted by Snyder at 8:06 PM on April 22, 2005


Wasn't the immediate spark to the current round of fury with Japanese atrocities the fact that Japanese education officials just approved a new batch of junior high school textbooks that papered over the atrocities in a disgustingly superficial way?

...the tripwire for the protests came this month when Japan's Education Ministry approved a revised series of junior high school textbooks that critics believe whitewashes history. One example: It omits details of the 1937-38 Nanking massacre, in which 300,000 Chinese civilians and prisoners of war were killed by the Japanese Imperial army...The newly published junior high school textbook reduces the Nanking massacre to an "incident" in which "there were many deaths and injuries among civilians caused by the Japanese army.

Yes, it was. Folks who say "But Japan has apologized multiple times!" are really missing the point. There remains an obviously strong desire in some Japanese government circles to whitewash the country's atrocious past, and as long as high-level Japanese officials continue to produce textbooks that distort history, others will continue to object. The recent flap over the Tokyo Board of Education's new regulation requiring teachers to sing the national anthem while standing and facing the national flag is also relevant here. Japanese nationalism, like U.S. and indeed all nationalisms, seems like something that will always need a wary eye kept on it.

[Of course, the same could be said about U.S. textbooks that baldly declare the dropping of two atomic bombs was necessary to end WWII, but that's for another thread.]
posted by mediareport at 8:51 PM on April 22, 2005


This is something that I've always found puzzling. Not that I agree or disagree, but puzzling. I can understand if the demands were for reparations, but half of the demands are for an official apology. What does amount to total acknowledgement and acceptance of responsibility? What would you have the PM or Emperor do?

One thing that Korea would like is an apology from Japan, not from individuals like the Emperor or the Prime Minister. They would like an apology from the Diet. The Diet made one attempt at apologizing and it was total failure.

In 1994, it was announced that for the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, there would be a resolution passed by the Diet and a statement given on the wrongs that had been committed. This resolution from the Diet was considered essential, especially in Korea, as any resolution NOT coming from the Diet was NOT considered to be reflective of the government or the people of Japan. Every ‘apology’ to this point had been made by INDIVIDUALS, like the Emporer and various Prime Ministers. To reiterate, it was NOT considered coming from the government or the people unless it came from the Diet, preferably a unanimous vote.

In 1995, Japan’s Prime Minister Murayama Tomiichi proposed wording for the national apology but failed to obtain support in the Diet by a margin of almost 2 to 1. Only 26% of the Diet members supported Murayama’s resolution and 47% were against it. Additionally, the then Education Minister organized a petition against Murayama’s apology and collected 4.5 million signatures. Wording for the resolution could not be agreed upon, so an executive committee came up with the wording to be voted on by the 9th of June. So, with that, let’s look at the wording of the official apology, the one asked for specifically by South Korea so as to be representative of the government and the people and which Japan agreed to do.

This Diet, in the fiftieth year since the war, offers its sincere tribute to the memory of the war dead throughout the world and victims who have suffered because of war and other deeds.

Recalling the many instances of colonial rule and acts of aggression in the modern history of the world, we recognize those acts which our country carried out and the unbearable suffering inflicted on the people of other countries, particularly the nations of Asia, and express deep remorse.

Transcending differences in historical view of the past war, we must humbly learn the lessons of history and build a peaceful international community.

This Diet links hands with the countries of the world under the doctrine lasting peace enshrined in the Constitution of Japan and expresses its determination to open up a future of coexistence for humankind.

We affirm the above.

This wording infuriated many members of the Diet. Unfortunately, some were upset because they felt it went too far. Of the Diet, the ENTIRE NFP boycotted the vote. 55 LDP members refused to vote, they felt it went too far. 14 Socialists and 4 Harbingers didn’t vote as well.

So, what were some of the things that went on in the background? Well, only the Socialists in their draft called the actual use of the word, ‘apology.’ They were also the only ones that wanted to specifically mention Korea, comfort women and forced labor. The LDP wanted more focus on those that died on behalf of Japan.

So, the ‘official’ apology was a bust.

Yes, Prime Minister Murayama made an apology far different, yet still weak, from the Diet resolution. But, like those from the Emperor and PMs before, it was considered an individual apology and rightly so. It was the Diet resolution that stood for the government and the people. If the Prime Minister’s statement was the ‘official’ statement, there would have been no reason for the one from the Diet. Beyond that, it was the ‘apology’ from the Diet that had been requested by South Korea and agreed upon by the government of Japan.
posted by Plunge at 11:01 PM on April 22, 2005


My grandfather was an Australian POW who was forced to work on the infamous Thai-Burma Railway. He died there. I went to Thailand with my own father and a group of surviving POW's for the launch of The Thailand-Burma Railway Centre and a trip along parts of the railway still preserved. Over 13,000 Allied POW's have so far been documented as losing their lives there, but the undocumented deaths of Asian slave labour is suggested to run into the hundreds of thousands! I can't believe people are defending Japan over these acts. This is a nation that refuses to even teach their kids about these atrocities. How will they learn from the past if they are not even taught about it? "Lest We Forget".
posted by Onanist at 1:56 AM on April 23, 2005


No one wants another apology.

They want admissions of guilt for specific acts.
posted by bwg at 4:26 AM on April 23, 2005


mediareport : "The newly published junior high school textbook reduces the Nanking massacre to an 'incident' in which 'there were many deaths and injuries among civilians caused by the Japanese army."

Note that these are factually true. There was some sort of incident at Nanking, and there were indeed many deaths and injuries among civilians caused by the Japanese army. Not defending the textbook, but just pointing out that it doesn't lie about what happened, it just severely underplays it.

mediareport : "as long as high-level Japanese officials continue to produce textbooks that distort history"

The officials don't produce the textbooks, they approve them. But, yes, point taken.

Also, for everyone's reference: Japan does not use single standardized textbooks. Instead, they approve big pools of textbooks, and individual schools select which they'll use. According to Wikipedia, for example, the rate of adoption for a textbook that caused huge fervor back in 2001 was only 0.039%. So keep in mind that when you read "an approved textbook only devoted one line to Nanjing", it doesn't necessarily reflect in any way on the rest of the textbooks. Once again, I'm not defending, I'm just making sure everyone is on the same page (er, so to speak).

mediareport : "The recent flap over the Tokyo Board of Education's new regulation requiring teachers to sing the national anthem while standing and facing the national flag is also relevant here."

Tokyo's governer is a complete fucking nutjob, and my only consolation if a giant earthquake hits Tokyo and kills me, my wife, and most of my friends, is that it will probably kill that asshole too.

Plunge : " One thing that Korea would like is an apology from Japan, not from individuals like the Emperor or the Prime Minister. They would like an apology from the Diet....any resolution NOT coming from the Diet was NOT considered to be reflective of the government or the people of Japan."


Thank you very much. That has clarified quite a bit.

Onanist : "I can't believe people are defending Japan over these acts."

Er...who is defending Japan over these acts?

Onanist : "This is a nation that refuses to even teach their kids about these atrocities."

You speak from ignorance. Japan, as a nation, does not refuse to teach kids about the atrocities. Japan, as a nation, rubber stamps textbooks, some of which go in depth about the atrocities, and some of which sickeningly omit them. Some schools teach about them in depth, some sickeningly omit them. Saying "Japan is a nation that refuses to even teach kids about these atrocities" is like saying "America is a nation that refuses to give men the same rights as women" because there are no guys allowed in the Girl Scouts.

Japan is not a totalitarian regime. There are places that educate kids about the war, and places that don't. Hell, the class fieldtrip for the public high school I taught at was to China, including the Nanjing Memorial. Saying "Japan is a country that allows children to graduate with horribly insufficient understanding of the war" is fair. Saying "Japan is a country whose politicians cannot collectively even bring themselves to apologize to the people they so egregiously wronged" is fair. But saying it's a country where they "refuse to even teach kids about the atrocities" is just speaking from ignorance.
posted by Bugbread at 5:19 AM on April 23, 2005


While I spent 3 years in Japan, WWII was a rather taboo topic to raise. It's really not good for the "wa" (harmony) to speak bad of Japan to Japanese, and inevitably you have to do that if you talk about WWII - therefore you get a roadblock in the conversation. It's not that they deny Japan did wrong, simply they don't want to speak bad of Japan. You get a "sou desu ne" followed by silence - no elaboration on why it was bad. It used to frustrate me, then I got used to it.

And people in this thread comparing other atrocities - if a pot calls a kettle black, the kettle isn't any less black just because the pot is too (I'm king of tautological expressions!!).
posted by FieldingGoodney at 7:35 AM on April 23, 2005


Gary Leupp on this matter.
posted by TimothyMason at 3:19 PM on April 23, 2005


bugbread, thanks for informing me that Japan is not a totalitarian regime (who would of thunk it?) but the schoolbook thing has been going on for years and years. Yes I'm generalising but, basically, Japan does not teach their children their own history and Japanese children remain ignorant of the true extent of the wartime atrocities. Whether you classify that as "refusal" or not, I don't really care.
posted by Onanist at 8:04 PM on April 23, 2005


Onanist : "Yes I'm generalising but, basically, Japan does not teach their children their own history and Japanese children remain ignorant of the true extent of the wartime atrocities."

That is a very good, and, I believe, accurate generalization.

Onanist : "Whether you classify that as 'refusal' or not, I don't really care."

By that token, Onanist, since I presume you've had sex before, I'll characterize you as a rapist. Whether you classify that as being a "rapist" or not, I don't really care.

Words mean things.
posted by Bugbread at 8:18 PM on April 23, 2005


Not defending the textbook, but just pointing out that it doesn't lie about what happened, it just severely underplays it.

A textbook (ahem) example of a distinction without a difference.
posted by mediareport at 8:36 PM on April 23, 2005


Like I said bugbread, classify the failure of the Japanese education system however suits you, as I'll admit I was a bit hyperbolic in my first post. But as long as we agree there's a significant failure there, we're on the same page.
posted by Onanist at 6:41 AM on April 24, 2005


No worries, we are indeed on the same page.

(Doesn't that make something like the fifth book related metaphor within this thread?)
posted by Bugbread at 6:56 AM on April 24, 2005


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