Japan’s Past is Still the Ghost of the Present


“Haunting Past, Haunting Future-Why Japan’s ghost-like Past is still the Ghost of the Present”

Japan committed numerous atrocities and crimes during WWII. Such crimes have occurred during Japan’s period of imperialism. Explicit examples of

these include: mass killings, torture of POW’s, and looting. These examples have been accounted in events; indeed, the Nanking Massacre has been portrayed as the most notorious example. Ever since Japan’s surrender, compensation and official apologies have been made; however, during the past few years, Japan’s government seemed like they were trying to cover up their crimes. Additionally, the Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrines 14 class-A war criminals, has been regarded as a national monument; Prime ministers Koizumi and Abe have made controversial visits that have angered foreign neighbors. Despite the fact that there seems to be evidence of increasing amiability, the outlook for future relations is unpredictable as it seems. However, there is a chance that one can look forward to a better relationship between foreign nations—Japan and its neighbors. Japan has committed warcrimes for which they have tried to apologise for, but their denials are reflective of current events, as well the outlook for future relationships.

The severity of Japanese war crimes reached a pinnacle during the late 1930’s. As mentioned earlier, there was a mass execution of solders and innocent civilians, including women and young children. The death toll amounted to around 6 million murders. Such examples include the Manila Massacre (Philippines) and the Sook Ching Massacre (Singapore). The estimated death toll between these two countries is around 150,000. In China alone, 3.9 million lives were lost as a result of Japanese invasions. However, the controversial focus involves the Nanking Massacre from 1937-1938. Even the death toll cited has yielded radically different estimations; the number ranged from 8,000-430,000.

Within the atrocities, Japanese soldiers have also conducted cruel scientific experiments on China’s POWs. “Victims were subjected to vivisection without anesthesia, amputations, and were used to test biological weapons, among other experiments…in some victims, animal blood was injected into their bodies”. As a result, there were 200,000 innocent lives lost due to bubonic plague, cholera, etc. Acts of cannibalism were later carried out in the 1940’s, while evidences of use of comfort women were prevalent, although the cannibalism reports and prostitution can only be proved through accounts from eyewitnesses. Ever since Japan’s surrender to the war, trials of war criminals followed. Some of the war criminals were convicted with death/life sentences, while some were not even given a trial. After the war trials, official apologies have been made; however, “they official apologies were widely viewed as inadequate by many of the survivors of such crimes and/or the families of dead victims…many people aggrieved…that no apologies has been issued for particular acts of and…the Japanese government has merely expressed ‘regret’ or remorse.” Basically, China and Korea want Japan to fully recognize the magnitude of the crimes Japan has caused. Japan has since made compensations to the POWs, but many have stated that Japan has never had the responsibility to compensate each of the victims.

During the last 10 years till the present, Japan is still in constant debate between its neighbors. Visiting the Yasukuni shrine has become more prevalent and frequent during Junchiro Koizumi‘s term as Japan’s Prime Minister. The visits have been deemed as controversial because Japan’s leader has been visiting the enshrined souls of those who have been responsible of most of the atrocities. But Japanese people claim that he does not frequent it enough to pay respects. It has been known that Japan’s foreign nations are not quite thrilled with the shrine’s symbolism of Japan’s past military aggression. Japan’s indignant refusal to “face all of the facts” has been prevalent recently. In 2001, Japan’s neighbors were not content with the fact that Japan had not made an official apology, recounting and confessing all the atrocities that they have committed. Furthermore, textbooks and historic material taught in Japanese schools have changed Japan’s purported role as an aggressor during WII.

Events, including the Nanking Massacre (or “incident”, as the Japanese prefer to call it), comfort women, and various other war crimes, have been ignored. Until now, this has yet to be changed. Koizumi’s successor, Shinzo Abe, renounced the issue that women had been forced into sexual slavery. He claimed that there was no tangible evidence that would prove such events had happened during WWII. He is currently trying to alleviate tensions between Japan’s neighbours. It is true that he is a committed visitor, but it does not seem to have a profound effect on China (like it had been years ago). For example, Chinese Prime minister Wen Jiabo has visited Japan to formalize a new cabinet level dialogue on economic co-operation, suggesting more economic opportunities for Japan. On 10th May 07, Beijing avoided direct criticism of Abe when he made his offering to the Shrine. Their purpose was to adopt a more forward looking approach with relations with Japan. A day later, Japan has responded, citing that they would want to keep improving relations as well, sharing a goal in building common interests. Japan’s indignant refusal to embrace their faults regarding the war crimes has generated debates and controversy, but apparently this issue is starting to change, with Japan/China relations improving. Ergo, the relationship will improve, but because Japan still avoids and denies some of the atrocities, it is evident that Japan’s ghost like past foreshadows the present, as well as the future.

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