When I was in Korea a few weeks ago, my friend A told me about how strong the anti-Japanese sentiment is there. The fight over ownership of the island of Dokdo/Takeshima is a particularly hot issue in Korea, but I never hear about it in Japan. (Both countries claim ownership of the tiny islands.) My friends told me the reason behind a name change for all Family Mart convenience stores (now “CU”) was because Family Mart is a Japanese brand and the company didn’t want to lose business. And of course the issue of Comfort Women (Japanese forcing women in Korea, China, and other occupied countries into prostitution) has been in the news numerous times.
But in Japan, one of my coworkers told me that she was “upset” when she learned that other teachers referred to the Nanjing Massacre as a “massacre” during human rights education at our school. She explained to me that it was a conspiracy, that the actual number of people actually killed during the “incident” was nowhere near the number that China claims. She said that when she was younger she felt really guilty for being Japanese, but now she doesn’t think the incident happened and Japanese people shouldn’t “feel guilty” about it.
Read this article about what is and isn’t taught in Japanese history class. It explains how so many Japanese people don’t understand why their neighbors are so strongly anti-Japan.
Japanese people often fail to understand why neighbouring countries harbour a grudge over events that happened in the 1930s and 40s. The reason, in many cases, is that they barely learned any 20th Century history.
Now, I don’t think that every Japanese person should personally “feel guilty” about things that their country did more than half a century ago. World War II happened before many of us were born. But there’s definitely a responsibility to acknowledge what happened. And more importantly, to make reparations to the victims and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
A German friend told me that he was surprised to hear Japanese politicians claim that things like the Nanjing Massacre never happened. Apparently in Germany, it is illegal to deny that the Holocaust happened. And not just for politicians, but for anybody.
It scares me to think about such large-scale denial/ignorance. Now, I am the first to admit that my knowledge of history is extremely spotty, but there are people in power actively trying to spread misinformation.
Finally, if you really want to feel appalled, read this article about how the comfort women were “necessary.” Ugh.