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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

"The Start of the Pacific War" Day Reported in the NHK News - the 68th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor (or no mention of it)

Last night at 1 AM (December 8), I saw the most weird news report in NHK Morning News (6 PM on the same day by the Japan time). I can't recall the details, but it went like this.

At this temple somewhere in Japan, people gathered to commemorate the anniversary of "the start of the Pacific War." Each rings a bell, then "prays for peace." The purpose of the event is to "recognize the importance of peace." At this street at another place in Japan, women handed out flyers in the shopping arcade. It was the replication of "Akagami," or the "Red Slip" which the government used to send to draft men. Then people on the street were interviewed. An old man says, "War is no good. War should not happen again." A woman says, "Peace is so precious." A young man says, "We should remember the suffering of the previous generations."

There was no mention of the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese Navy. There was no explanation of how the "Pacific War" started. There was no mention of the recent controversy over the former Air SDF chief Tamogami's article in which he claimed Pearl Harbor was a set-up. There was no mention of whom Japan fought the war with. There was no mention of the fact that Japan actually lost the war.

For the young people who don't know the history, this news would imply that the war was somewhat like a typhoon or an earthquake that just "happened," and what one can and should do to avoid another war is to pray and wish. The "prayer for peace" is like what many Japanese do in the new year - visit a Buddhist temple or a Shinto shrine, and make a wish that the coming year would be a happy and eventless one.

This kind of ritual I saw in the news can be repeated exactly in the same way whether it is to commemorate Hiroshima/Nagasaki atomic bombing, the air raids on other cities of Japan, Nanjing Massacre (if they do at all), or even Yasukuni Shrine. There is no reflection of what mistake exactly was made by whom and no suggestion of the concrete lesson we the current generation should learn from that specific chapter of history. It is harmless, meaning it is nothing. It avoids debate, and uncomfortable discussion of the past wrong.

I know this kind of tendency is in the Japanese mindset. What happened happened, and there is nothing we could have done about it, so just let it go and live today peacefully and harmoniously, and pray that no bad thing will happen in the future. And let's frown upon people who make a fuss about the past and disturb the "precious peace" we enjoy. That's the kind of reaction that victims of Japanese aggression in Asia have been getting, and the victims of Hiroshima/Nagasaki and Okinawa are getting from their own people.

I acknowledge the Japanese cultural value of prioritizing on harmony and avoiding trouble or disagreement, but we should squarely face the fact that the people of our country made terrible decisions before and caused so much pain and suffering to the people in other countries and our own country, in the fifteen year of Japan's invasive war in China (1931-1945), and four destructive years of the war with the United States, Britain and its Allies (1941-1945). We should seriously think about at whose expense we are enjoying this "precious peace" like it was mentioned in the NHK news.

Right now, activists in Japan are working hard to collect signatures for the petition campaign for the legislative resolution to compensate for the suffering of the victims of Japan's military sex slavery. The on-line petition form is here, but right now the form is only in Japanese. I will announce as soon as the English version is ready.

For peace,

Satoko

11 comments:

  1. Eiichiro Ochiai7:25 am

    Thank you Satoko-san for your thought on the occasion of "The
    Start of the Pacific War" Day. As I lived in the United States for
    about quarter a century, I remember that every national TV station
    there never failed to broadcast the image of the Pearl Harbor attack
    by the Japanese military on that day. I know it's true but I confess
    I resented it. I learned a number of stories behind the scene (how
    the Japanese went into the war (the diplomatic dealings behind the
    scene) and the US government may have known the attack on the Pearl
    Harbor beforehand and yet did not warn the military bases there,
    etc.). This kind of situation, however, should never be used to
    justify the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The truth must be told
    about the Japanese militarism which was ultimately tolerated by the
    majority of the Japanese people themselves. This is Satoko-san's
    point, I think.

    Eiichiro Ochiai

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  2. Thank you Ochiai-san, yes that is exactly my point. I don't think any
    event in history can be black and white. Even the horrendous crimes
    committed during the Rape of Nanking, need to be considered with the
    fact that those Japanese soldiers were not provided with food and
    adequate supplies, and were forced to steal from local people in order
    to survive. After the deadly battles in Shanghai, the soldiers were
    exhausted and despite the expectation that they would be able to go home,
    they were forced to advance to Nanking. They carried the supplies that
    were about one half or more of their weight, and they took their
    resentment toward the Japanese military leaders on the civilians and
    POWs in Nanking and surrounding areas, because of course they were not
    allowed to disobey their superior's commands, which were said to be
    equal to the Emperor's orders. This aspect of the abuse of the soldiers
    by the Japanese military leaders did play a part in their own abusive
    behaviours towards the people in China, but again, those factors should
    never be used to justify any of the horrific and barbarian acts that
    they committed against the Chinese people. We should learn these
    factors so that we know those Japanese soldiers were not born devils -
    they were just like us, ordinary citizens, but under the militaristic
    education(brainwashing) and depravation of their basic needs, they
    became devils. ]This happened not only to the Japanese soldiers in those
    wars, but in many other wars, if not all, in the human history. This
    means that each of us can become a devil under similar circumstance, and
    therefore we must never allow ourselves to engage in war, whether directly
    or indirectly, whether there is any justifiable reason or not. This is
    the principle that Article 9 upholds, and this is why we VSA9 members are
    doing what we are doing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. David L.7:31 am

    Regarding your contemplations and thoughts on the start of the Pacific War. I feel you have placed emphasis on Japanese culture only that seems to ignore the actual historical facts and causes of the war. I would suggest that there was many other contributing factors such as the European countries who over the years have exploited the Asian communities, set up their colonial claims in the far east, and treated the Asians as less than equal.

    It took the Pacific War to bring these disrepancies to a head. Even today the old gaurd (the controlling elite) are still trying to justify the consequences of what others do to us and the grievance festers. We know why we did what we did to others and it becomes justified. We are puzzled that others should bear a grudge and be willing to go to war to protect their interests and maintain the status quo.. even today we are repeating history in the middle east and ignoring the lessons we should have learned from not only the Pacific war bur all wars.

    Kinuko-san would always say ......"WE must all be tolerant of each other and respect each other, and we must know how important peace is, to each and every one of us. That love and understanding is the only way to make this world a better place to live."

    ReplyDelete
  4. David Laskey11:20 am

    further I think there should be some
    reference to the many wars and the thousands of people who have died since
    the end of the second World War 11. This is mainly due to the struggle for
    control of natural resources, and the greed of the elite on both sides, who
    control the econmic systems and the cultures of the world today.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Very well said. That's also why wars keep on happening in the human world as
    very seldom we dare or want to reflect on what have done wrong. The cycle
    of impunity even encourages the perpetrators to commit those atrocious
    crimes again.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Chit B.11:22 am

    Congratulations for your article and the analysis of the causes of the last war.  Indeed the Japanese should realize that their leaders had so much to do with the violence and sufferings that hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of innocent civilians and soldiers who were forced to defend their countries, had undergone because of the greed of those leaders. Someone once said: Those who easily forget the mistakes of the past will tend to repeat the same mistakes in the future".  May the Japanese - through the valiant efforts of people like you, learn from the mistakes of the leaders.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Eiichiro Ochiai11:43 am

    Hello, David:

    Thanks for your comment on Satoko-san's thought and your own
    view. I really appreciate it. I have thought, said and written on a
    number of occasion that the European's colonization of the whole world
    by force to benefit themselves have left devastating effects on the
    people of those colonized countries and regions. In some parts of the
    world they are still doing it. As a late comer to the West-dominated
    world, unfortunately Japan followed suit. The current economic
    giants, particularly US, have a grip on the rest of the world. The US
    is still following the imperial mode, employing force to exploit the
    resources on the foreign countries, and most of the NATO countries are
    participating in that folly or at least not resisting it. It is
    important to recall and reconsider and learn from the past, and that
    we act to reduce the militaristic mentality of the humankind.

    Eiichiro Ochiai

    ReplyDelete
  8. Anonymous6:13 pm

    NHK did an award-winning 2 hour documentary in 1991 about Pearl Harbour, together with ABC (US TV Channel) and also this fall there have been several documentaries and dramas with WW2 themes. You can search on NHK's Japanese website and find lots of information. So, I would hesitate to jump to conclusions about the "mindset" here.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I am totally with you on this. I have the 6-DVD set of NHK's EXCELLENT documentaries on the Pacific War, and also have recorded and bought their numerous works on the war issue. I loved the prologue of their "Project Japan," among many others. Thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Satoko,

    I posted on your excellent post (following a post on John Dower's critique on the misuse of history by the US which uses Pearl Harbor and 9/11 to justify its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    But I just removed it after reading this excellent dialogue that brought up nuances I can't address in reposting just the post -- I also saw the NHK documentary this past summer and I was very impressed with the painful national examination of Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor and atrocities in Asia. So to be fair to NHK, since I can't reproduce all the insightful comments here...

    It's tragic that WWII did not end mlitarism and imperialism -- these forces are as bad as ever and perpetuated in great part by the US that was supposed to end fascism, militarism and imperialism, genocidal racism with its "great war."

    In African American and Asian American Studies, there are many critical reports about how African Americans and Japanese Americans returned from their military service to the kind of discrimination they had been fighting.

    As everyone who has posted here knows, the war has not even ended in Okinawa, much of Japan, Aisa, the Philippines, where US military bases prolong that history of militarism and colonialism.

    The irony is unbelievable.

    Jean Downey

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thank you Jean.

    I probably appeared like I was criticizing NHK. Well partly yes, but my attention was more on this specific event at this temple in Japan. I shouldn't shoot the messenger, but NHK would not have reported the way it did if they didn't agree with the way that event commemorated the Pearl Harbor anniversary. So I would say my comments were 70% on the content and 30% on the media. I will always criticize NHK when they air anything I disagree with, but that does not mean I am criticizing all their work. There are far more number of NHK programs that I admire than those I don't. I admire their courage to at least attempt to honestly cover the Women's International Warm Crimes Tribunal that was sabotaged Shinzo Abe and late Shoichi Nakagawa, their brave work in covering the birth of Japan's Constitution in the two programs they aired in the beginnig of 2007 when Abe administration was just about to pass the National Referendum Law, among others. Now NHK is sued by 8,000 people who are angry about their depiction of Japan's colonization of Taiwan, and I am totally in support of NHK.

    Now, Obama. Now that we know of the secret nuclear pact between US and Japan, we know Sato Eisaku's Nobel Peace Prize, which he received while he must have known about the existence of the pact, is even worse than Obama's.

    Thank you!

    Satoko

    ReplyDelete