Letters to the Editor,
The Daily Yomiuri,
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8055
I'm not sure that I understand the purpose of the August 15, 2004 editorial, "Class-B, -C 'war criminals' should never be forgotten." It seems to be boldly advocating that we should be so disrespectful towards the dead that we deliberately forget the truths of their lives once they are gone. I understand the motivation to do this. People, especially family members of the dead, prefer to remember the good, or at least to cast thing in a good light, and to brush the bad under the carpet. Japanese excel at this kind of falsehood. It is called "tatemae." Our picture of history is more a gross whitewash than an honest appreciation of ancestors who were just as human as we are today. But I never understood how or why intelligent people carry through on those motives.
For good or for bad, people accomplish their own lives and are responsible for themselves and what they do. I know that this runs counter to the passive approach to life that prevails in Japanese and other Asian thinking. Asians prefer to think of human life as helplessly afloat on a sea of Fate. But Japanese give no respect to their war dead by forgetting or ignoring the truths of history in general, and the specific truths of individuals in particular.
World War Two in the Pacific and East Asia is a war that Japan started illegally. It was a war that Japan waged with special cruelty and criminality as a matter of official policy, which is why so many of the political and military leadership were condemned to death and imprisonment for their roles in it. War criminals like former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo were convicted in Tokyomostly on the merit of their own government and military records and documentation, not because of a racist motive by victors. Blame for the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki can be said to rest squarely on the shoulders of the Japanese government of the time which had been losing the war for more than two-and-a-half years and still refused to give it up when it was obviously hopeless. If the Japanese leadership at the time was contemplating surrender, as is often said, then the way to do it properly is not to quietly put out feelers through ambassadors in third party, neutral countries, but to boldly stand up and say, "Hey, we surrender!"
Considering how Japanwaged the Pacific war sixty years ago, it might be suggested that suffering atomic attack was less than what was deserved., and that being defeated by America and its allies was the best thing that ever happened to this country. Yes, horrible acts were committed by Allied troops during the Pacific War. We know it, do not deny it, and can freely talk about it, none of which is true in Japan about its wartime deeds.
So, I agree with the title of the August 15th editorial, but I suggest that paying proper respect to its war dead may be the last thing that Japanese are really doing on these anniversaries of the end of the Pacific war. If you want to pay proper respect to grandpa, then don't lie about who and what grandpa was.