Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Japanese' Incredible Ability to Forget Their Past - Update 4

Today, Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H. Res. 121, urging the Japanese government to formally apologize for Comfort Women. Here is the link to the text of the resultion, and here is the remarks of Chairman Lantos. The resolution will now go to the full house for vote.


  1. I saw the story and the Japanese are continuing to deny their responsibility. I think they can not justify what they did during the war so like some Germans it is easier to claim it never happened. The German government at least does accept responsibility. Here the Japanese government denies, changes school books, and claims someone else was responsible for starting the war.

  2. I'm not sure if you're already aware of this, but there's some Japanese dude making a revisionist documentary about Nanking. It's basically about how it never really happened and nobody can prove it did, and even if it did only 20,000 people died.

    There's a piece on Variety and the Angry Asian Man has some commentary on it.

  3. Okay, well... I realize this is old stuff, but anyway...

    Only a very very small percent of Japanese education is revisionist. I should know, it's an area of study of mine in grad school. Something like .01% of schools subscribe to revisionist crap. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think that the government has done a GOOD job of handling apologies, but it's not like the Japanese have never apologized for their actions in the war-- it's just not something they've handled with aplomb like the Germans.

    If you google the topic, pretty much every PM since the 1960s or so has made some sort of apology, including Koizumi.

    The question, then is how well they handle it. Let's be fair though: The medias in China and Korea don't exactly give the Japanese a fair shake, either.

    Not that the Japanese media does a good job, but I remember seeing a big op-ed in the Asahi Shimbun when I was last in Japan talking about how the Japanese could better handle the wartime atrocity issues, and how badly the government needs to change its outward stance.

    Trust me, the educated mainstream and the true academics know about what happened. And yes, atrocities are covered in the textbooks (I sat in on a lecture at a middle school on the topic). They just do as good of a job covering them as the US does a good job covering Cambodia.

  4. As far as I can tell, no Japanese head of state has ever given a direct and specific apology for Japanese state and military actions taken against Koreans or Chinese during the first half of the 20th century.

    All of these apologies have been general remarks about how the Japanese government (which, in its current incarnation, actually isn't responsible for the atrocities of its predecessor Meiji and Imperial governments) is sorry for having conducted World War II.

    And then many Japanese do things that seem almost intended to piss off those to whom they supposedly apologized. Some examples include the Yasukuni Shrine visits, and most notably the increasingly tense claims over/about Dokdo. So even if the Japanese made apologetic remarks, their actions (which, as we would all do well to recall, speak louder than words) have contradicted these words on more than a few occasions.

    Because of this, it can't be expected of the Korean and Chinese media to give any official Japanese a "fair shake," because the Japanese aren't being fair about their supposed apologies to begin with. If you're apologetic, you start doing things that reflect this, in addition to using words. You do not contradict your apology by taking inflammatory actions that seem to approve of the things for which you apologized in the first place. That is, unless your apology isn't sincere.


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