Friday, February 27, 2015

Japanese Revisionist History News

At first I was going to put "revisionist history news" as the title for this post, but the more I thought about it, Japan and Germany, those villains of World War II, are cited the most frequently as being the most forgetful and the nations most likely to erase or whitewash their histories. This is a very seductive discursive proposition, because by focusing on the way other nations wish to hide their shameful violent and inhuman past, it can easily make you righteously oblivious to your own nation's terrifying past. The United States certainly shouldn't treat Japan as some terrible white-washer of history, especially when the United States itself is built on genocide and has several national holidays that perpetuate pathetic myths about the origin of the US, rather than acknowledging that genocidal genesis.

Japanese crown prince says country must not rewrite history of WW2
Naruhito makes rare statement on importance of ‘correctly’ remembering Japan’s role in war as right wing attempts to downplay issue of sex slaves.
Agence-France Presse

Japan’s crown prince has warned of the need to remember the second world war “correctly”, in a rare foray into an ideological debate as nationalist politicians seek to downplay the country’s historic crimes.

In an unusual intervention in the discussion, Naruhito’s mild-mannered broadside was being interpreted in some circles as a rebuke to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a key figure in the right wing drive to minimise the institutionalised system of wartime sex slavery.

“Today when memories of war are set to fade, I reckon it is important to look back (at) our past with modesty and pass down correctly the miserable experience and the historic path Japan took from the generation who know the war to the generation who don’t,” Naruhito said.

The comments, released Monday on the prince’s 55th birthday come as Abe’s controversial views on history roil relations with China and South Korea, and cause unease in Washington.

Abe has openly said he wants a more sympathetic telling of the history of the first half of the 20th century, a period marked by brutal expansionism in Asia and warring with China and the West.

The prime minister last week appointed a 16-member panel to advise him on a statement he is set to make later this year to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender.

Abe has said he will largely stand by Tokyo’s previous apologies, but amid growing anger in China and South Korea over the “comfort women” system, speculation is mounting that he will seek to downplay the issue.

Mainstream historians agree that up to 200,000 women, predominantly from Korea, were forced into sexual slavery during the war.

Right wing Japanese insist there is no documentary proof that the Japanese state or its military were involved in the system on the Korean peninsula and reject official guilt.

Both countries will be carefully watching any official pronouncement on the war.

While Japan’s newspapers remained staid in their coverage of Naruhito’s comments, social media users leapt on them.

“This definitely contains a warning against Shinzo Abe, doesn’t it?” tweeted @Kirokuro.
“It is a regular recognition (of history), but these comments by the crown prince stand out because Prime Minister Abe’s views on the constitution and history are outrageous,” said @kazu—w50
Asked about his views on war and peace, Naruhito told reporters: “It was very painful that many precious lives were lost, many people suffered and felt deep sorrow in the world including in Japan.
“It is important that we never forget people who died in the war... (and we must) deepen our appreciation for our past so as not to repeat the horrors of war and to foster a love of peace,” he said.



Historians agree that up to 200,000 women were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese during World War II. 

The women are thought to be predominantly from Korea.
In many cases, they were lured with promises of work in factories or restaurants. 
But once they were recruited, the women were forced to stay in 'comfort stations' and work as organised prostitutes. 
Research suggests that 75 per cent of 'comfort women' died and others were left infertile or suffering from sexually transmitted diseases.
Some were beaten and killed by officers.
Prime Minister Abe once said: 'There is no evidence to prove there was coercion, nothing to support it.'


China-Japan relations have been strained since the 1937 Nanking Massacre and what China sees as Japan's refusal to acknowledge the extent of what happened there.
Japanese soldiers murdered tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of Chinese soldiers and civilians during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
They were accused of raping local women and widespread looting.
Estimates of the death-toll range from 40,000 to 300,000, but revisionists in Japan have contended it is much lower and even suggested that the event was entirely fabricated.
China sees the denial to acknowledge the extent of the massacre and Japan's reluctance to apologise as insensitive.


Japanese revisionists are demanding comfort women newspaper apology
More than 2,000 people are suing the liberal Asahi newspaper to demand that it place international advertisements apologising for its coverage of wartime sex slavery, saying it has stained Japan's reputation, local media said Thursday. The move is the latest salvo in the battle over Japan's history, which pits an increasingly aggressive revisionist right wing against an ever-more cowed mainstream that accepts the country's guilt over its World War II atrocities.

The group of plaintiffs, including Japanese nationals living in the United States, filed the class action in the Tokyo District Court on Wednesday, according to Japanese newspapers, including the Asahi.
They argued that the Asahi's historical reports on the so-called "comfort women" system were instrumental in forging global opinion that the Japanese state and its military were involved in organising a formalised system of sex slavery.

They also claim that the paper's reports contributed to the drive to build statues of former "comfort women" in California and other US locations, which they say led to their mental distress.

The suit demands the Asahi pay 3 million yen ($253,000) in compensation and place advertisements in major US and European newspapers apologising for the coverage.

Last month, some 8,700 people, including conservative lawmakers and professors, filed a similar lawsuit with the district court against the Asahi.

Despite a dearth of official records, mainstream historians say up to 200,000 women, many from Korea but also from China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan, served Japanese soldiers in military brothels called "comfort stations".

Most agree that these women were not willing participants and that the Imperial Japanese Army and wartime government were involved in their enslavement, tacitly or explicitly.

Right-wingers, however, say the women were common prostitutes engaged in a commercial exchange, and are fighting a vigorous rear-guard battle to alter the narrative.

The Asahi has become the focus of their ire because it published a series of articles in the 1980s based on the now-discredited testimony of a Japanese man who said he had rounded up Korean women to work in military brothels.

After years of pressure, the paper retracted the articles, and apologised. The company's president also resigned.

Conservatives leapt on the Asahi's climbdown, and nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe -- who wants a more sympathetic telling of Japan's history -- took the move as proof of a smear.

Mainstream Japanese opinion holds that the state was culpable for the system, and rejects the revisionist drive. Supporters of the position say the Asahi articles were not the only basis for their belief.

Last month, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye urged Tokyo to apologise properly to the "comfort women," saying: "If Japan fails to resolve the issue on will not only strain bilateral relations but also put a heavy historical burden on Japan."

The Asahi said it would respond "in a proper manner" when it receives court documents.


 Japanese global PR could misfire with focus on wartime past
By Linda Sieg

TOKYO (Reuters) - A push by Japan to correct perceived bias in accounts of the country's wartime past is creating a row that risks muddling the positive message in a mammoth public relations campaign to win friends abroad.

The PR campaign, which has a budget of over half a billion dollars, comes as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to adopt a less apologetic stance on Japan's actions before and during World War Two and ease the fetters imposed on defense policy by Japan's post-war, pacifist constitution. 

History is hardly the sole focus of the PR program. Many of the funds will be used for soft-power initiatives to cultivate "pro-Japan" foreigners, such as supporting Japan studies at universities and setting up "Japan House" centers to promote the "Japan Brand".

But the government is also targeting wartime accounts by overseas textbook publishers and others that it sees as incorrect and damaging to Japan's image. 

One such effort has already sparked a backlash.

Nineteen historians from U.S. universities have written a letter of protest against a recent request by the Japanese government to publisher McGraw Hill Education to revise its account of "comfort women", the term used in Japan for those forced to work in Japanese military brothels.

The request was rejected. 

"We stand with the many historians in Japan and elsewhere who have worked to bring to light the facts about this and other atrocities of World War II. We practice and produce history to learn from the past," says the letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters and which will be carried in the March edition of the American Historical Association's newsletter.

"We therefore oppose the efforts of states or special interests to pressure publishers or historians to alter the results of their research for political purposes," it added.

Abe himself has signaled support for the more aggressive PR push. "Being modest does not receive recognition in the international community, and we must argue points when necessary," he recently told a parliamentary panel.

The effort comes at a touchy time as Asia marks the 70th anniversary of World War Two's end with bitter memories not yet laid to rest, especially in China and North and South Korea.

After a decade of shrinking spending on public diplomacy, Japan's foreign ministry won a total 70 billion yen ($590 million) for strategic communications in an extra budget for 2014/15 and the initial budget for the next year from April - up from just 20 billion yen in the initial 2014/15 budget.


Many politicians and officials worry Japan has been outmaneuvered by the aggressive public diplomacy of regional rivals China and South Korea.

"Many countries are investing hugely in this field and we feel we were not investing enough," said a Japanese foreign ministry official.

Conservatives have welcomed the bigger budget but want priority placed on correcting perceived errors about history.

"When we see lots of misunderstanding or prejudice against Japan's history, we'd like to at least set the record straight," said Yoshiko Sakurai, a journalist and head of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, a conservative think tank.

"We have already lost (the information war). Now we have to recover," she told Reuters in an interview.

Aware of the danger of a backlash, diplomats seem to have mitigated pressure to make the "Japan House" centers - to be set up first in London, Los Angeles and Sao Paulo in late 2016 - beachheads to market an official view of history. Instead, the facilities could provide what one bureaucrat called a "platform for balanced discussion" on controversial topics, for example, by sponsoring seminars.
Conservative politicians however want bolder steps.

"We are half-satisfied. By mobilizing all means, we must strengthen Japan’s information strategy ... so that in a real sense, we can have (others) properly understand what is good about Japan," said ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Yoshiaki Harada, who heads a party committee on improving Japan's communication strategy.

Experts said government efforts to seek changes in historical accounts would be counter-productive, since it would keep the issue of Japan's wartime past in public focus.

"Dragging people into a long discussion about history ... seems like they are going to brand Japan with that atrocity in terms of its image," said Dartmouth College professor Jennifer Lind. "It’s a losing battle."

($1 = 118.4800 yen)
(Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan


Britney Joy said...

Hafa Adai!

Hello my name is Britney Sison and I was wondering if I could get some information for my topic, Americanization amongst the Chamorros during the Naval Era for my National History Day project. National History Day is a research program for middle/high school students. I was wondering if I could interview you via email regarding my project and what you know about it.

Britney Sison,

Britney Joy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.


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