Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Dear Higon

I want to thank Higon for sending my blog its first comment. Higon is Japanese and those readers who read his comment (the first one on my Koizumi post) will meet with opinions about Yasukuni that are broadly shared by many Japanese, though not all. I would like to answer Higon here.

Higon, I agree with your broad point that the Japanese people have the right and the emotional need to honor their dead, including their war dead. However, I disagree with this statement of yours:

"I strongly think I wouldn't live like I do now, I wouldn't have this much freedom as a member of international community I belong now, and I wouldn't be as wealthy as I am now *IF* my grandfathers and grandmothers didn't have their action."

Let me start with "their action." Was it entirely theirs? The Japan of that time was a military dictatorship. The Bushido and Shinto traditions were used by the non-elected government to instill a mindless love of the emperor into the Japanese people. And with no free press or free flow of information, the people had no alternative ideas available to them. Under this total situation, the Japanese army did act aggressively against its neighbors and did perform terrible and inhuman actions.

You can honor your ancestors without honoring or agreeing with their rulers, the wrongheaded men who sent them on this destructive path.

You say that Japan's actions in the 1930's and 1940's led to your current wealth and participation in the international community. Well, I see your point, but the road from there to here was not a straight one. It involved the deaths of millions of both Japanese and non-Japanese, Japan's total defeat, the collapse of its industry and economy and then occupation and reconstruction by America. Wasn't there an easier way?

In the Taisho era of the 1920's - and very similar to the Weimar era in Germany at the same time - there was an opening to new ideas and an attempt at democracy, which failed. May I suggest that the better path to wealth and international membership would have been for that opening of Taisho to have continued? Was war, mass death, defeat, occupation and reconstruction a better path or a necessary path?

Now, I agree with you that China, South and North Korea, and many other Asian nations today are using this war history to embarrass and manipulate Japan. Also, today, it is Japan that is among the most democratic of Asian nations, and among the most sincere. Today's Japan deeply wishes to contribute to the world in a positive way.

But that is today, when the people of Japan can guide the actions of its government. Yesterday was different, and while it is proper to honor your ancestors, you need not and should not honor the government of the 1930's and 1940's that sent them to their deaths, and ordered them to kill civilians throughout Asia.

Democracy is the key. Imagine that the people of Japan, in the 1930's and 1940's, could have voted each year on whether to continue or stop the war. How would they have voted? (Especially if they had been raised in an environment of free information). I think the answer is clear that they would have called it off early. So if you honor what the government did, I think you do not honor what the people would have done.

Thanks so much for your comment. I hope our exchange is as valuable for you as it is for me.



<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?