Seventy Years ago today, Japan surrendered and the Second World War was brought to a close. Months earlier, Adolph Hitler had (or as some believe, had not) died in a bunker in Berlin, bringing an end to the Third Reich and the war in Europe. Glory, is historically given to those that fought the war in Europe, while those engaged in the Far East seem forgotten.
Today marks a day that Japan accepts the guilt of the actions of its forefathers, those that declared the war and those who committed hideous acts during the war – from comfort women to human experimentation on prisoners of war. Yet, outside of Nagasaki and Hiroshima; Fat boy and Little man; what do we know about the war and all these years on, should the Japanese people still be saying sorry for their ancestor’s actions?
To some, today marks their independence. Their freedom from tyrannic oppression… only for some countries to fall apart in the five years that followed – Korea and Vietnam, I am speaking of you two, and about the conflicts that you entered into in the early post-War period.
The story of those forgotten in the war in the Far East is too complex for a blog to do justice to and fully cover, but one can try. Its more than just the story of the women that were taken as comfort women (forced sex slaves, similar to what IS does with the Yazidi women and girls); its more than the expansionism of Fascist Japan and Pearl Harbour; and its far more than Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when people became death, the destroyer of worlds.
If you ask me, its a story that is a bit more interesting than that of the war in Europe but gets a fraction of the attention, except when we complain about Iran getting nuclear weapons or a certain Japanese Prime Minister’s constantly controversial statements… or we’re watching the movie Emperor.
The story of the War in the Far East is one about young men, from all corners of the world defending imperial possessions and fighting under a belief in patriotism and honour, in some cases. Its the story of an empire that expanded and attempted to take the territories of other colonial powers as its own, only to find that it could not sustain the war effort.
Its the story of West African men fighting in the jungles of East Asia in the British and French along side whites from France, the Netherlands and Britain against the Japanese for to reclaim their imperial possessions; its about the American soldiers fighting in retaliation for Pearl Harbour; the Chinese laying aside their differences – Communist and Nationalist – to fight against the invaders; the women taken and raped as comfort women, the massacres and even the proud Japanese soldiers that were taken by the Divine Wind and became Kamikazes – striking fear and trembling into the hearts of their enemies.
Its the of the forgotten and led astray, of violence and pain and plenty… but most importantly of a second chance.
See, following the end of the War, Japan was rebuilt under American leadership, to become today one of the largest economies in the world and possibly the most technologically advanced economy internationally. From the ashes of the empire, to the recreation of a state of many islands.
That’s what we see today when we look at Japan. That and a controversial Prime Minister that we could argue has so little chill, he needs a trip to the Arctic, negative population growth and whale hunting despite what anyone else says.
Today Japan remembers its actions, the Emperor apologizes for the sins committed under the flag and Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, being Abe (the polished blunt instrument of the East) asks why Japan cannot have an army capable of defending its allies. Following the recent Islamic State execution of two Japanese men, this could be a good point.
Today Abe asks why Japan must remain guilty for actions that those alive today and those yet to be born tomorrow may have not been involved in committing. I disagree with making a country feel guilty for its actions for all eternity, but I do believe that its essential for that country or group to admit the wrong that they did.
Abe makes the same argument that some former colonial powers make when referring to abuses committed by their colonial representatives. The scars, emotional and spiritual will remain long after those physical injures have left, and that’s why you need to say sorry.
No, I am not saying guilt trip Japan for its past. Just saying they should remember it. And that our history syllabuses should speak more on the War in the Far East than they do, especially the story of colonial soldiers. Together they paint a true image of the war itself.