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Monday, November 16, 2009

Yesterday Is Now 歴史の傷跡

We had a deeply engaging four-plus hours of discussion after the
screening of both Japanese and English versions of Yesterday is Now
("Wounds of History"歴史の傷跡), with Director Celine Rumalean.

One participant said that Japanese were so easily manipulated by government and media and do not have an ability to think critically and independently. Like the filmmaker Yutaka Tsuchiya said in the film, it was the Emperor during the war, and the Media after the war that control people's mind in Japan. Another argued that it is not the Japanese mindset; people are just made that way. People just make such mistakes.

Celine said that it was a big surprise to many in the West that after six decades, Japan is still so divided on whether they should have gone into war; whether it was a just war; who is responsible for the war. The war responsibility issue is closely tied with the national identity - "Japanese-ness." After six decades, people in Japan still go back and forth about how they process the history of war.

On the other hand, there is ignorance. Those interviewed at Showa-kan, this museum in Tokyo that displays how life was during the Showa Period (1927 - 1989) said "War should never be fought any more, but we should never forget about war and the fact that the current happiness and prosperity we enjoy are owed to that period of time." This is what we often hear Yasukuni worshippers say. Koizumi said that too. They believe that we are what we are now because of the precious sacrifices of the war heroes (gods) enshrined at this shrine.

Another hot topic of the evening was how we teach the dark history of a country. How do we teach children in Japan about its military's past wrongdoings and atrocities without making them feel bad and guilty? Celine said that it was dangerous just to show atrocities without giving a big picture. Careful framing is needed. I talked about my Japanese colleague and a long-time
history teacher in Japan Misako Iwashita and her three-step lesson model, which she presented in Vancouver in March 2008. First, she introduced facts. It is very important for the students to learn the facts of Nanjing Massacre and other horrible war crimes by the Japanese Army during the war. Second, she taught the kind of education that the children were made to go through, so that they believed in militarism and imperialism. Third, she introduced Japanese progressive thinkers and war-resisters then - like Senji Yamamoto, Takiji Kobayashi and others who objected to war, supported labourers and people's rights, so children could find their own role models in those brave people in Japan.

The reality, however, in the Japanese education is that still the majority of schools fail to teach that chapter of the history in any detail. The history curriculum starts with the pre-historic period and by the time they reach the modern history, they run out of time and get too busy with school entrance exams. Shoko, the Salon staff and an SFU student shared her experience of her Chinese friend telling her surprisedly that "Japanese people can be nice." It was the same kind of comment I, as a high school student received from a Filipino friend, back in 1983. After a quarter of a century, the situation has not changed much. Shoko at that time thought that education in China was biased, but as she learned more about the Japanese aggression in Asia during the war, she came to think differently. This kind of experience is shared by many Japanese overseas, young or old.

There is a lot of work to do ahead of us. There are many questions we asked but cannot find answers for. Celine asked us, "How does this part of the history matter to you?" How does the history of war matter to each of us? How far should it matter? How can each of us do so that there will be closures and we can move forward?

The theme of the film is new and relevant, almost a decade after it was made. Perhaps it is becoming more relevant. Celine says at the time it came out, the North American viewers, whose view on the war was still one that started with earl Harbor and ended with Hiroshima/Nagasaki, were not ready for the material that shed light on Japan's behaviours in
Asia that dated back to the early 1930's.

I think this film should be used at as many Japanese schools and communities as possible. The film, without any narration, does not tell you what to think or what's right or wrong. It makes one think, and connect with the historical, societal, yet deeply personal consciousness held by each who was interviewed.

Satoko Norimatsu


  1. Keiko M.11:10 am

    今日は ありがとうございました。
    本当に楽しかったです。学生さんともゆっくり話せたし 色々な角度から 物事を考えることができます。

    今夜 中学生に戦争責任を考えさせるには どうすればいいか?と言う話がありました。

    船が沈みかけた時に 多くに国の人に 海に飛び込むように促すためにはなんと言えばよいか?という
    例え話がありますが ・アメリカ人には 飛び込むとヒーローになれますよと言うと良い
    ・イタリア人には 女の子にもてますよと言うべきで ・イギリス人にはジェントルマンなら飛び込めます
    と言うらしい 日本人には みんな飛び込みましたよ 残っているのはあなただけです
    と言うと良い と言う話があります

    もし 私が 教員で子供たちになんの制約も無く 戦争責任を考えさせるとするならば
    まず ドイツの歴史を教えます どんなことをユダヤ人にしたのかをしっかり教え
    どのようにして 謝罪をし 戦争責任をどのように取っているのか
    また それに対しての世界の評価を教えます。

    つまり モデルを提示するのです(日本人は 自身で考えることは苦手ですが 真似ることがうまいので)

    そして 日本がアジアにしてきたことを教えます そして 戦後のアジア諸国への対応を教えます
    そして それに対する世界の評価を教えます
    日本の子供たちは評価される教育を受けてきているので 比較され評価されることで 
    これで本当に良いのかどうか 自身の中の正解を探し出すことでしょう

    そして わざと 答えは出さずに 事実のみを伝えます。
    そして 日本がとるべ行動を考えさせると思います。

    敗戦国であり 他民族にひどいことをした日本以外の国が 戦後どのような行動をとっているのかを見せ
    日本が ほかとは違う行動であることを教え どうするべきかを考えさせます
    きっと みんなと同じが好きな日本人 責任を取るべきだという答えが返ってくるでしょう
    そして そこには 罪悪感ではなく 責任を取ることが普通だから という意識での 責任を負うという 
    心理操作と言えばそうですが 子供たちなりに 感じ考える機会にはなると思います。

    日本での出来事だけを教えても 視野の狭い日本に生きていると 日本がしていることが正しいと錯覚を覚えます。 
    他国と比較することで 視野も広がると思いますし
    第三者の行動を知ることで 客観的に物事を考えられるのではないでしょうか?

  2. Shoko Hata11:12 am

    Thank you for another wonderful learning experience too!!

    I found the film highly informative and eye-opening in a sense that it
    provides various perspectives which had me rethink which position each of us
    is in, and it does throw open-ended questions to its audience, "what is your
    position? what do you think about the history?", "what do you think how we
    can work on preventing us from repeating the evil?", and so on.

    Most importantly, I totally enjoyed the discussion with Celine. We discussed
    so many things, but what struck me the most last night was one of the
    questions Celine asked us- "in what way, does this history matter to you?".

    "History matters, but why? In what way?"

    To answer this question, as well as independency and criticality, I believe
    we need a flexibility in our way of thinking ,which enables us to find
    connection between many things. It is the ability to connect one individual
    to others, one nation (where you are from if you like) to other nations, the
    past to the present, the present to the future, the past to the future, and
    so forth.

    Japanese war crimes matter to the victims. And, at the same time, it does
    matter to me too, even though I am not a direct victim of it and I didn't
    go through the same experience as the victims of Japanese militarism during
    the war.

    When I think of our past, I always think of this statement carved in
    Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Victims Memorial- "Let all the souls here in peace ;
    For we shall not repeat the evil".

    Who is the "all the souls"? who is this "we"?

    Up until recently, I used to think "all the souls" as the victims of
    A-Bombing in Hiroshima and Japanese people who died of air-raids. I used
    to take "we" as only Hiroshima locals, or at least Japanese people.

    I believe all Japanese people, especially the young, need to rethink about
    who is the "all the souls" we need to show our compassion and who is the
    "we" who need to learn from each other and work together in dealing with
    historical, political, and social issues.

    By meeting you and people I met through university and our salon, I realized
    I am one of the "we" and got motivated to look into the future more deeply.
    In my opinion, one of the purposes and goals of education should be making
    people realize the sense of "we" within and beyond the place and time they
    live in.

    As the history teacher depicted in the film was saying, child/students is
    highly capable to transcend the brutal and cruel history into something
    positive and hopeful. Not-knowing is the most disempowering. I was deeply
    impressed by the fact that there is such a history teacher in Japan.

    The film "Yesterday is Now" touches various point of views (feminist,
    progresive/left-wing, right-wing/nationalist, and so on) of how people look
    at atrocious the Japanese military has committed differently. In my opinion,
    it conveys a strong message to us, especially the importance of challenging
    ourselves to achieve individual consciousness at the global level as well as
    our global consciousness at the local/personal level.

    Also, I found it necessary for me to expand the area to look at, where the
    Japanese military committed war crimes. I'm aware there are still lots of
    things I don't know about Japanese war crime issues associated with China
    and Korea, but I think I also need to know historical relationship with
    other areas of Asia such as Indonesia, the Philippines,Cambodia, and so
    forth. (Celine mentioned internment camps in Asia operated by the Japanese
    military, and I was wondering if those camps were constructed and operated
    in other Asian countries other than China and Korea?) and...I would like to
    learn more about more history and controversies around Yasukuni shrine too.

    Im sorry, I've written too long....! (it maybe because i become too wordy in
    Enlgish... :p)

    Overall, I believe it was a really successful and special salon.
    I would like to have Celine and her husband in our future salons!