Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
In “Sex slave row erupts at French manga show” (February 1) Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga laments that it is “extremely regrettable” for South Korea, or South Korean manga artists, to exhibit manga that depict Japan’s wartime sex slaves at a forum “aimed at promoting international cultural exchanges and friendship.”. The idea is that the display of such manga is an abuse of the festival. I disagree. I think friends have some degree of obligation to care for each other and what the South Korean manga display is doing is a kind of caring for its neighbor.
Japan habitually evades acknowledging its true role in the Pacific War because acknowledging it is uncomfortable and contentious. Prime Minister Abe calls it “masochistic history” and is pushing for mandatory patriotism instruction in schools as an antidote. If there’s one thing Japanese culture strives for it is comfort and harmony. More importantly are the cosmetic appearances of comfort and harmony because how things look is much more important here than how they actually are. Towards that end Japanese excel at obfuscation, vagueness, evasion, historical revisionism, destruction of evidence, and outright lying about itself as strategies for controlling the narrative. Under such conditions it is the duty of Japan’s friends to remind this country of the truth. Japan’s deviance is sometimes so grave that such reminders turn into outright instruction, which can be taken as offensive and condescending. When I say “truth” I mean the facts: Japan started the Pacific War; Japan waged the war in a notoriously heinous and criminal fashion; Japan refused to give up its war long after its cause was lost; Japan was saved by the forgiving loving kindness of its enemies. The 1952 San Francisco Treaty did not settle all disputes, nor did the 1965 bilateral treaty with Korea. The Kuril Islands do not belong to Japan, and Gen. Hideki Tojo was a criminal, not a kindly grandpa.
As a strategy for avoiding danger it is the duty of true friends to correct each other when one of them is making a mistake. True friends practice forgiving patience with each other as well, and I think the entire world is extremely indulgent of the chronic perfidy of Japan’s leaders.