Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
In “Unshown ‘Unbroken’ unwelcome” (Sunday, December 14) which reports right wing resistance in Japan to an as-yet unreleased Angelina Jolie film that raises the issue of Japanese cannibalism of Pacific War POWs, nationalist educator and Shinto priest Mutsuhiro Takeuchi is quoted condemning such dramatization saying “there was absolutely no cannibalism” because “That is not our custom.” This kind of statement represents the problem that right wing Japanese have with expressing their take on Japanese history and, in reaction, the problem many foreign critics have with what resembles a mix of stubborn obtuseness and immoral denial. Isolated instances of cannibalism are a documented historical fact. It certainly was not a common practice but it did happen, so Takeuchi san’s rejection of historical facts because they are “not our custom” is an irrelevant statement. His statement is factually correct in that cannibalism has never been a Japanese custom. But since some cannibalism certainly did occur all I can say is tough, get used to it. This is the common right wing response to unfavorable news and opinion: in a display of native ill-logic they speak in non-sequiturs that completely fail to address foreign criticisms on the one hand, fail to take proper account of the facts on the other hand, and also fail to enunciate a logical explanation of their revisionist interpretation. Revisionists don’t even try to make sense and rebut opposite ideas by engaging in a dialog with superior rhetoric and better evidence. They just shout their tripe as loudly as possible in order to drown out the opposition.
It’s not just a problem of translation. Even in Japanese it is sometimes difficult to make logical sense of the idea trail of Japanese speakers’ statements. Japan boasts its universal education and literacy. But my experience is that people are not nearly as literate or educated as the statistics suggest.