Toru Hashimoto, the populist mayor of Osaka, Japan’s third-largest city, made an outrageous statement recently, justifying the systemic forcing into prostitution of Asian women by Japan in World War II.
“When [Japanese] soldiers are risking their lives by running through storms of bullets and you want to give these emotionally charged soldiers a rest somewhere, it’s clear that you need a comfort-women system,” he said.
Hashimoto is a prominent politician and a leader of the Japan Restoration Association with 57 legislators in parliament, and is considered a potential prime minister. He has since qualified his remarks, but it does not make things any better.
He is not the only Japanese politician seeking to whitewash Japan’s terrible wartime record. Indeed, there is a whole crop of them, particularly among the ultra-right, who believe that Japan was not the perpetrator of the war in Asia-Pacific, but its victim.
Which is not to say that Japan did not suffer when Tokyo was virtually destroyed by US incendiary bombs toward the end of the war. Worse still, Japan has been the first and the only casualty of US atomic bombing, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Despite all the lame justifications by the US government for such bombing, eg, it was meant to bring the war to an end and save US lives, it seemed more like punishment for Japan and the testing of a new weapon, live. Japan was already on its knees when it was hit with atomic bombs.
However, there is no argument that Japan was the aggressor from the time it started to invade and occupy Chinese territory in the 1930s. This was before the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 that brought the US into the Pacific theater of World War II.
China was the early victim of Japanese aggression, followed by almost all countries of Southeast Asia. The argument sometimes proffered that Japan’s occupation of Asian countries was designed to liberate them from colonial rule, or help them in that direction, is absurd and insulting.
Yet to this day, many Japanese are unhappy that Japan was branded an aggressor in World War II with a long list of wartime crimes. Even Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems to question the description of Japan as an aggressor in the war, maintaining that the definition of “invasion” was relative — though relative to what is not quite clear.
Though the Japanese government was made to apologize under international pressure for the systemic enslavement of Asian women by Japanese soldiers in 1993, and in 1995 to nations that suffered under Japanese wartime aggression, it somehow seemed to lack conviction. After all, it took Japan that length of time, after the conclusion of the war in 1945, to reach that point.
Compared with Japan, successive governments in Germany have been much more forthcoming to apologize about its Nazi past, particularly the Holocaust. Which would explain, partially at least, why its political and economic rehabilitation as a normal state happened so fast.
Now it is virtually the leader of the EU, while Japan is still involved in the semantics of its relative role as a perpetrator or a victim.
Even today, Japan’s ultra-nationalists are unhappy with their government’s apologies, back in the 1990s, for war crimes, so much so that Abe’s recent comments about the relative nature of “invasion” has led some to fear that his government might seek to modify or repudiate the earlier apology that Japan proffered.
That probably would not happen for fear of creating a political storm in the region. However, this sort of revisionist Japanese politics remains a problem in Japan’s relations with its neighbors, particularly with China and South Korea.
However, Hashimoto’s remarks justifying systemic prostitution of Asian women during the war, and Abe’s equivocation over the his country’s apology for its wartime aggression, are likely to further tar Japan’s image.
It is difficult to comprehend that even after several decades of wartime atrocities, some responsible Japanese politicians, and others not so responsible, keep insisting that Japan was somehow wronged or misunderstood in its role in World War II.
Japan has also been involved in an ongoing acrimonious dispute with its Asian neighbors over the revision of history textbooks, taught in Japanese schools, that tend to whitewash its dark role in the war.
In the same way, visits by Japanese political leaders to the Yasukuni Shrine housing the graves of Japan’s war dead, tend to rile and provoke some of its Asian neighbors. Indeed, during his recent US visit, Abe sought to justify such visits as a normal activity, like in other countries such as paying respect to the nation’s fallen soldiers.
The difference is that Japan’s cemetery also includes the graves of top Japanese generals convicted of war crimes. In other words, during their visits to the Yasukuni Shrine to pay homage, Japan’s political leaders are also venerating those responsible for atrocities in World War II.
As long as Japan has a powerful political constituency that seeks to sanitize or repudiate Japan’s wartime role, it will continue to create problems with Japan’s Asian neighbors.
Japan will then have no one else to blame for this than its own politicians, such as Hashimoto, who continue to deny that Japan did anything wrong in World War II.
Sushil Seth is a commentator in Australia.
Unless Hollywood movies like Greenland, Deep Impact, and Armageddon have predictive powers and a rogue space rock is heading our way, stopping Chinese Communist Party expansionism is likely to prove the single most challenging and dangerous problem of our lifetimes. How can the United States, Taiwan, and other liberal democracies prepare for and prevent attacks from China? How can Washington bolster Taipei’s confidence when it doesn’t recognize Taiwan as a real country and, so far, lacks the political will to make major adjustments to its ossified China policy and Taiwan policy? How can Taiwan make itself heard on the world stage when
Hypersonic weapons are defined as armaments capable of traveling at speeds faster than Mach 5 and can be broadly classified into two types: hypersonic glide vehicles (HGV) and hypersonic cruise missiles. The former are launched into the upper atmosphere by ballistic missiles. The vehicle is then separated from the booster to maneuver, or glide, toward its target. The latter can be launched from a jet plane or rocket to reach supersonic speed before igniting a scramjet engine to achieve hypersonic speeds. As the US engages in a great-power competition with China and Russia, all three countries are racing to field hypersonic
The number of people emigrating from Hong Kong has been rapidly increasing, Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department data show, with the territory’s population dropping by 110,000 people from 2019 to this year. China’s imposition of a National Security Law has clearly triggered a massive population outflow. However, not only people but also foreign businesses are leaving Hong Kong. For example, Vanguard Group, the world’s second-largest asset management company, VF Corp and Sony Interactive Entertainment have moved their top regional management from Hong Kong to Singapore. LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the world’s largest luxury goods company, has also relocated staff
Double Ten Day, Oct. 10 every year, is an important day for Taiwan, as it marks the Republic of China’s (ROC) National Day. Major holidays are usually a time for celebration and commemorative activities, but among all the clamor and excitement, Double Ten reflects one essential fact: that Taiwan is still not a normalized society. As usual, there was a large parade in front of the Presidential Office Building, displaying to the world Taiwan’s social diversity and its soft and hard power, and President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) gave an address, relaying her message to the nation and to the world, while the