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  • Originally published 02/27/2014

    Remembering Japan's kamikaze pilots

    Japan hopes to immortalise its kamikaze pilots - a squad of young men who crashed their aircraft into Allied ships in World War Two - by seeking Unesco World Heritage status for a collection of their letters.

  • Originally published 01/16/2014

    Japan's Resurgent Nationalism

    Shinzo Abe is a right-wing nationalist who wants to revive Japan as a "normal" military power. He has been brusque in his rhetoric and his actions.

  • Originally published 08/18/2013

    Steel maker to pay if Korean ruling upheld

    Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. will comply if the South Korean Supreme Court upholds a ruling ordering it to pay 400 million won (about ¥35 million) to compensate four Koreans who were for forced to work for its predecessors during the war, company sources said Sunday.The Seoul High Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on July 10, marking in the first judgment by a South Korean court ordering a Japanese firm to pay in a case involving postwar reparations.After appealing the ruling, however, NSSMC has apparently changed its mind.“We, as a global company, can’t help but accept (the ruling),” one of the sources said, hinting that failure to comply might lead to seizure of the company’s assets in South Korea....

  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    U.S. veteran wants to return war 'souvenirs' to Japanese families

    AURORA, Illinois--At the age of 92, Kenneth Udstad felt a sense of guilt for his actions of nearly 70 years ago.Now, the U.S. veteran of World War II wants to return the items he took from dead Japanese soldiers and Japanese civilian homes on the Northern Mariana Islands of Saipan and Tinian.Udstad served in the 4th Marine Division and was in charge of supplying ammunition and fuel for tanks. In the summer of 1944, he landed on Saipan for heavy fighting against the Imperial Japanese Army and Japanese civilians rounded up for the battle....

  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    Wartime maps of Japanese cities damaged by Allied bombers on exhibit for first time

    Maps of Japanese cities that were devastated by Allied air raids during World War II are currently on display at the National Archives of Japan in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward.Covering 131 municipalities stretching from northern Hokkaido to southern Kagoshima Prefecture, most of the maps are being shown to the public for the first time.The maps were completed in December 1945 to provide information to military personnel, as well as civilian workers for the military, on their way home from overseas battlefields. Records show the maps were displayed in ships bringing back demobilized soldiers to Japan, according to officials....

  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    Abe to skip visit to Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15

    To prevent relations with China and South Korea from further deteriorating, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided not to visit Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15, the date marking the end of World War II, sources said.Instead, Abe will make a personal monetary offering in his position as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to the shrine, which memorializes Japan’s war dead along with 14 Class-A war criminals, according to the sources.Abe has been forced into a delicate balancing act concerning Yasukuni Shrine.The prime minister has been repeatedly asked about his plans for Aug. 15. His usual reply has been: “Because the very question of whether I visit the shrine will by itself become a political and diplomatic issue, I will not say whether or not I will visit.”...

  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    Jeffrey Kingston: It’s Time Japan Acted to End the War over Yasukuni Shrine

    Every year around this time, in the run-up to the Aug. 15 anniversary of Japan’s surrender in 1945, feverish speculation ensues about whether Japan’s top politicians will visit Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo. Chinese and South Koreans — not to mention many Japanese — abhor such visits because the shrine honors the souls of 14 “Class A” war criminals. Visitors say they have every right to honor the 2.5 million other Japanese war dead celebrated at Yasukuni; they compare the shrine to the U.S. war cemetery at Arlington. This is dangerous nonsense.

  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    Korean’s war brothel diaries offer new details

    SEOUL – The diaries of a Korean man who worked in wartime brothels for Japanese soldiers in Burma and Singapore during World War II have been found in South Korea.Researchers believe the diaries, the first ever found that were written by someone who worked at a “comfort station,” are authentic and provide actual details of the brothels and the lives of “comfort women.”They also show that the Imperial Japanese Army was involved in the management of the facilities, which the Japanese government acknowledged in a 1993 statement by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono....

  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    Papers that pushed for Pacific War revisited

    The key was lost and the safe remained locked for 22 years after the 1989 death of its owner, former Lt. Gen. Teiichi Suzuki of the Imperial Japanese Army, who had been the last surviving Class-A war criminal of World War II.Suzuki, who died at the age of 100 in Shibayama, Chiba Prefecture, was among key Cabinet members when Japan started the Pacific War with the Dec. 7, 1941, surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.Two years ago, Suzuki’s relatives had NHK open the safe. Inside were diaries, notebooks and other documents, including a 16-page typed manuscript that the general had read out in front of Emperor Hirohito and national leaders at an Imperial Conference on Nov. 5, 1941, to detail Japan’s logistical strengths.Suzuki, who headed the Planning Board, a government body in charge of allocating resources for the army, navy and civilians, concluded that Japan, which was already at war in China, would be able to still wage war against the United States, Britain and the Netherlands....

  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    Abe refuses to move into prime minister's 'haunted' mansion

    Traditionally, Japanese tell ghost stories in the middle of summer, perhaps as a chilling way to take their minds off the heat.Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was no exception when he invited executives of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party to a dinner at the Prime Minister's Official Residence on July 30.“Why don't we live here together? I am frightened," Abe is quoted as telling one participant. "I do not feel like living here because there are ghosts.”Abe and his Cabinet have categorically denied that ghosts appear at the structure, associated with two bloody coup attempts by the military before World War II....

  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    Ainu fight for return of plundered ancestral remains

    Shigeru Kayano, one of the most well-known and respected Ainu figures of modern times, writes in his autobiography “Our Land Was a Forest” about the loathing he felt as a young man for the shamo (Japanese) researchers who used to visit his village and family home.“In those days I despised scholars of Ainu culture from the bottom of my heart . . .“Each time they came to Nibutani, they left with folk utensils. They dug up our sacred tombs and carried away our ancestral bones....

  • Originally published 08/14/2013

    James Dawes: Why Do People Commit Atrocities? (INTERVIEW)

    A Japanese soldier poses with the head of a Chinese prisoner.The human capacity to injure other people is very great precisely because our capacity to imagine other people is very small.--Elizabeth Scarry, For Love of Country?Most Americans know little of Japanese war crimes perpetrated in China during the Second World War. In the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), Japanese troops tortured, raped and murdered Chinese men, women and children, as Japanese scientists conducted horrific medical procedures on living human subjects at facilities such as the notorious Unit 731, a covert research center for biological and chemical experimentation in northeast China.

  • Originally published 08/14/2013

    Ex-Korean war criminal seeking compensation, apology from Japanese government

    Once sentenced to death for war crimes against POWs, Lee Hak-lae was later spared the gallows and is now on a mission of passing on the sorrow of his colleagues who died as war criminals after being forced to work for Japan during World War II.Lee recently braved the withering summer heat, despite his advanced age, to continue spreading their message as organizer of a Korean POW guards' group seeking an apology and compensation from the Japanese government."I do not want the money," Lee, 88, said. "When the people of my homeland were celebrating their liberation from Japanese colonial rule, my colleagues died in execution chambers in a foreign land. Why did they have to die? Who did they die for? It is my mission, as someone who just happened to survive, to clear away the chagrin felt by my friends."...

  • Originally published 08/13/2013

    Oliver Stone to Japan: Apologize for WWII war crimes

    Film director Oliver Stone, who is no stranger to controversy, turned from his sharp attacks on the U.S. for the atomic bombings of Japan to criticize his hosts over their attitude to China and other Asian neighbors.In a speech to foreign correspondents in Tokyo, Mr. Stone said that Japan needs to more completely apologize for its wartime acts, and said it should also resist a shift to relying on military might to deal with security challenges posed by its neighbors such as China and North Korea.Japan’s leaders have expressed “deep remorse” over the physical damage and psychological pain the country has inflicted on other Asian countries, but repeated visits by cabinet ministers to a controversial war shrine in Tokyo and growing talk of revising the nation’s peace constitution have made other countries skeptical about the intention of these remarks....

  • Originally published 08/08/2013

    Shihoko Goto: Japan's Self-Inflicted Wounds

    Shihoko Goto is the Northeast Asia associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars’ Asia Program based in Washington D.C. Praising Nazi Germany’s achievements is hardly a smart move for a public figure in any country. But when a senior Japanese politician lauds Hitler’s efforts to change the constitution to empower himself, it’s hardly surprising that the world would howl with fury. Yet there have been far too many ridiculous comments from too many Japanese leaders at a time when the country’s relations with its neighbors show no signs of improving. As the sixty-eighth anniversary of the end of World War II in the Pacific theatre approaches, the burning question is the extent to which there is political will, if there is any at all, to bridge the gap between East Asian nations....

  • Originally published 08/08/2013

    Yasukuni watch: Who’s going, who’s not, who won’t say

    With just a week to go until Aug. 15, the 68th anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender, local media have gone on full Yasukuni alert, trying to predict which Cabinet ministers will be heading to the controversial shrine to pay their respects to the country’s war dead.This annual media circus on an otherwise a solemn day of remembrance is likely to take on an added significance for Japan this year, as China and South Korea increasingly view visits to the shrine as a measure of hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s commitment–or lack thereof–to face up to Japan’s wartime history.The Shinto shrine located in central Tokyo honors over two million war dead, including numerous convicted war criminals.Virtually all of Mr. Abe’s Cabinet ministers were asked about their schedules for next Thursday during their respective post-Cabinet meeting press conferences....

  • Originally published 08/03/2013

    Japan’s finance minister retracts statement on Nazis

    TOKYO — Japan’s finance minister on Thursday publicly retracted comments he made this week that appeared to call on Japan’s current conservative government to emulate Hitler’s takeover of prewar Germany. The gaffe underscored the potential for disputes over Japan’s own wartime history to derail its popular prime minister, Shinzo Abe.The finance minister, Taro Aso, insisted that his comments on Monday, in which he seemed to say that Japan should learn how the Nazi party quietly rewrote Germany’s Constitution, were taken out of context. Faced with growing criticism in Japan and abroad, he countered that he had never meant to praise the Nazis. He said he had hoped to prompt debate in Japan over whether to change its current pacifist Constitution to allow a full-fledged military, as many conservatives now seek.

  • Originally published 07/24/2013

    Jennifer Lind: The Limits on Nationalism in Japan

    Jennifer Lind, an associate professor of government at Dartmouth, is the author of “Sorry States: Apologies in International Politics.”...[O]n Aug. 15, the 68th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in the war, many officials [including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe] are likely to visit the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors the nation’s war dead and includes among them convicted war criminals.The way Mr. Abe observes those two anniversaries will be read, especially by China and South Korea, as a measure of his attitudes toward the past and his sensitivities toward Japan’s neighbors.An episode from this spring suggests that nationalism is the last thing Japanese voters want from their government. Toru Hashimoto, the mayor of Osaka, made comments justifying the use of comfort women by citing soldiers’ hardship. “If you want them to have a rest in such a situation, a system like the ‘comfort women’ is necessary,” he said. “Anyone can understand that.”...

  • Originally published 07/22/2013

    Kirk Spitzer: Shinzo Abe, The Wild Card

    Kirk Spitzer is a Tokyo-based freelance writer and former defense correspondent for USA Today and CBS News. TOKYO — Japanese voters are almost certain to give Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) an overwhelming victory in upper house elections on July 21. The election so far has focused largely on economic recovery -- and for once there's hope on the horizon. Abe's aggressive program of monetary easing and government spending has begun to jolt the economy out of nearly two decades of deflation and stagnation. The prime minister, who's been operating with only the lower house of the Diet backing him, is looking to regain a majority in the upper house to help push through his "third arrow" of structural reforms....

  • Originally published 07/19/2013

    Japan's Prime Minister is a Far-Right Nationalist

    Is it possible that the best way to win future wars is to avoid them altogether?  As simple as that question is, you will rarely hear it asked in the halls of power in Washington.

  • Originally published 07/01/2013

    James Dawes: Understanding Why People Commit War Crimes

    James Dawes is a professor of English at Macalester College and director of its Program in Human Rights and Humanitarianism. He is the author, most recently, of Evil Men, just published by Harvard University Press.The man sitting in front of me is a mass murderer. He is a serial rapist and a torturer. We are chatting about the weather, his family, his childhood. We are sharing drinks and exchanging gifts. The man is in his 80s now, frail and harmless, even charming. Instinctively I like him. It is hard for me to connect him to the monster he was so many decades ago. I think it must be hard for him, too.I am visiting with him now because I have spent too many years interviewing survivors of war crimes and human-rights workers and wondering: What kind of person could have committed those heinous acts? I want to know. So I am internally preparing myself, during the smiling pleasantries of our introduction, to ask.When we start talking about his war crimes, we might as well be talking about a figure from a history textbook, for all the emotion we show. If we were on a television program and you were watching us with the mute button pressed, you would imagine I was asking about his grandchildren. Instead I am asking about how he murdered other people's grandchildren.

  • Originally published 06/18/2013

    Oxford historian sheds light on China in WWII

    The China theater of World War II is sometimes forgotten today in the West. But one historian aims to change that, Andrew Moody in Oxford reports.Rana Mitter is determined to shed light on what is often seen in the West - although clearly not in China - as the forgotten war.Despite killing up to 20 million people, including many savagely such as in the infamous Nanjing Massacre, and creating between 80 and 100 million refugees, China's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45) is often treated as a World War II sideshow."I thought it was one of the great untold stories of the 20th century and certainly the World War II period," he says....

  • Originally published 06/13/2013

    Oldest man in world dies at 116

    Jiroemon Kimura, who was born in 1897, died in hospital early on Wednesday morning, Kyodo News cited the local government as saying.Mr Kimura, from Kyotango in Kyoto Prefecture, was recognised by Guinness World Records as the world's oldest living person in December 2012 when a woman from the United States died at the age of 115.On the 28th day of that month he broke another record, when he became the oldest man ever verified to have lived when he reached the age of 115 years and 253 days.However, he was well off the all-time record set by French woman Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at the age of 122, making her the longest living person in history....

  • Originally published 06/02/2013

    Much Ado about Islands

    Credit: Wiki Commons.This article is a condensed version of a longer essay which appeared in JapanFocus.More than six decades from the San Francisco Treaty that purportedly resolved the Asia-Pacific War and created a system of peace, East Asia in 2013 remains troubled by the question of sovereignty over a group of tiny, uninhabited islands. The governments of Japan, China, and Taiwan all covet and claim sovereignty over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.The islands, known in Japanese as Senkaku and in Chinese as Diaoyu, are little more than rocks in the ocean, but they are rocks on which there is a real prospect of peace and cooperation in the region foundering.The Long View

  • Originally published 05/30/2013

    Ward Wilson: The Bomb Didn't Beat Japan... Stalin Did

    Ward Wilson is a senior fellow at the British American Security Information Council and the author of Five Myths About Nuclear Weapons, from which this article was adapted.The U.S. use of nuclear weapons against Japan during World War II has long been a subject of emotional debate. Initially, few questioned President Truman's decision to drop two atomic bombs, on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But, in 1965, historian Gar Alperovitz argued that, although the bombs did force an immediate end to the war, Japan's leaders had wanted to surrender anyway and likely would have done so before the American invasion planned for November 1. Their use was, therefore, unnecessary. Obviously, if the bombings weren't necessary to win the war, then bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was wrong. In the 48 years since, many others have joined the fray: some echoing Alperovitz and denouncing the bombings, others rejoining hotly that the bombings were moral, necessary, and life-saving.

  • Originally published 05/28/2013

    Japanese Politician Reframes Comments on Sex Slavery

    TOKYO — Seeking to quell an uproar over his recent comments suggesting that sexual slavery was a necessary evil in Japan’s imperial past, a populist party leader said Monday that he had not meant to justify wartime brothels or deny the women’s suffering at the hands of Japanese soldiers.But the politician, Toru Hashimoto, who is a co-leader of the opposition Japan Restoration Association and the mayor of Osaka, Japan’s third-largest city, also argued that Japan was being unfairly singled out for its use of so-called comfort women, and that other nations needed to examine the mistreatment of women by their own militaries before pointing the finger at Tokyo.“We must express our deep remorse at the violation of the human rights of these women by Japanese soldiers in the past, and make our apology to the women,” Mr. Hashimoto said, speaking to journalists at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. But, he added, “it is not a fair attitude to blame only Japan, as if the violation of human rights of women by soldiers were a problem unique to Japanese soldiers.”...

  • Originally published 05/28/2013

    Japan’s sex slave legacy remains

    OSAKA, Japan — More than 70 years ago, at age 14, Kim Bok-dong was ordered to work by Korea’s Japanese occupiers. She was told she was going to a military uniform factory, but ended up at a Japanese military-run brothel in southern China.She had to take an average of 15 soldiers per day during the week, and dozens over the weekend. At the end of the day she would be bleeding and could not even stand because of the pain. She and other girls were closely watched by guards and could not escape. It was a secret she carried for decades; the man she later married died without ever knowing.Tens of thousands of women had similar stories to tell, or to hide, from Japan’s occupation of much of Asia before and during World War II. Many are no longer living, and those who remain are still waiting for Japan to offer reparations and a more complete apology than it has so far delivered....

  • Originally published 05/28/2013

    J. Berkshire Miller: Abe's Unhelpful Historical Interventions

    J. Berkshire Miller is a fellow on Japan at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Pacific Forum. The views expressed are his own.“Japan is back,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced to a packed room at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington back in February. The remarks came during his first visit to the United States since he returned to power in a landslide election in December. But while Abe’s aggressive stimulus policies have sent his approval ratings soaring at home, Japan’s neighbors have been watching much more warily....

  • Originally published 05/22/2013

    Japanese scholars slam Tokyo on history

    A group of Japanese intellectuals on Tuesday rebutted their government's territorial claim to Dokdo and urged Japan to have a correct understanding of history.During a press conference in Busan, they called on Shimane prefecture to rethink its annual observance of Takeshima (Dokdo in Japanese) Day, designated in 2005 to underline its sovereignty claim to the Dokdo islets in the East Sea."We perceive the Dokdo issue as a historical issue rather than a territorial one," said Kuboi Norimo, former history professor at Momoyama Gakuin University."Japan occupied Dokdo to lead the (1904-05) Russo-Japanese War more advantageously, and Tokyo has since recognised it as its territory. Regarding it as a territorial issue is like glorifying its invasion into Korea rather than repenting for it."...

  • Originally published 05/14/2013

    Japanese mayor: Comfort women necessary

    TOKYO (AP) — An outspoken nationalist mayor said the Japanese military's forced prostitution of Asian women before and during World War II was necessary to "maintain discipline" in the ranks and provide rest for soldiers who risked their lives in battle.The comments made Monday are already raising ire in neighboring countries that bore the brunt of Japan's wartime aggression and have long complained that Japan has failed to fully atone for wartime atrocities.Toru Hashimoto, the young, brash mayor of Osaka who is co-leader of an emerging conservative political party, also said that U.S. troops currently based in southern Japan should patronize the local sex industry more to help reduce rapes and other assaults....

  • Originally published 05/09/2013

    S. Korean president urges Japan to face history honestly

    WASHINGTON, May 8 (Xinhua) -- Visiting South Korean President Park Geun-hye Wednesday urged Japan to face history honestly for the good of Northeast Asia."Those who are blind to the past cannot see the future," Park said in an address to the U.S. Congress, a day after meeting with President Barack Obama."This is obviously a problem for here and now. But the larger issue is about tomorrow," she said, adding "for where there is failure to acknowledge honestly what happened yesterday, there can be no tomorrow."...

  • Originally published 05/09/2013

    Japan says it will abide by apologies over actions in World War II

    TOKYO — Japan’s conservative government will abide by official apologies that the country’s leaders made two decades ago to the victims of World War II in Asia, top officials said Tuesday, backing away from earlier suggestions that the government might try to revise or even repudiate the apologies.Japan formally apologized in 1993 to the women who were forced into wartime brothels for Japanese soldiers, and in 1995 to nations that suffered from Japanese aggression during the war. Both apologies rankled Japanese ultranationalists, and there were concerns that the hawkish current prime minister, Shinzo Abe, would try to appeal to them by whitewashing Japan’s wartime atrocities, a step that would probably infuriate Japan’s neighbors.The United States shared those concerns, and it urged the Abe government to show restraint on historical issues so that Japan would not further isolate itself diplomatically in the region....

  • Originally published 05/08/2013

    Japan says it will honor apologies for WWII

    TOKYO — Japan does not plan to revise past apologies to neighboring countries for atrocities committed by its Imperial Army before and during World War II, top government officials said Wednesday.The comments by the chief government spokesman and the foreign minister appear intended to allay criticisms of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s earlier vows to revise the apologies, including an acknowledgement of sexual slavery during the war.Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that Japan recognizes the harm it caused during its invasion and occupation of much of Asia, and that it has repeatedly and clearly stated that position.“The Abe government has expressed sincere condolences to all victims of the war, in and out of the country, and there is no change in that,” Suga told reporters. “We have repeatedly said we have no intention of making this a diplomatic and political issue, but I’m afraid this may not be fully understood.”...

  • Originally published 05/08/2013

    Japan acknowledges comfort women study flawed

    TOKYO — Japan has acknowledged that it conducted only a limited investigation before claiming there was no official evidence that its imperial troops coerced Asian women into sexual slavery before and during World War II.A parliamentary statement signed Tuesday by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acknowledged the government had a set of documents produced by a postwar international military tribunal containing testimony by Japanese soldiers about abducting Chinese women as military sex slaves. That evidence apparently was not included in Japan’s only investigation of the issue, in 1991-1993.Tuesday’s parliamentary statement also said documents showing forcible sex slavery may still exist. The statement did not say whether the government plans to consider the documents as evidence showing that troops had coerced women into sexual slavery.Over the past two days, top officials of Abe’s conservative government have appeared to soften their stance on Japan’s past apologies to neighboring countries for wartime atrocities committed by the Imperial Army, saying Japan does not plan to revise them....

  • Originally published 05/01/2013

    Washington Post Editorial: Shinzo Abe’s Inability to Face History

    FROM THE MOMENT last fall when Shinzo Abe reclaimed the office of Japanese prime minister that he had bungled away five years earlier, one question has stood out: Would he restrain his nationalist impulses — and especially his historical revisionism — to make progress for Japan?Until this week, the answer to that question was looking positive. Mr. Abe has taken brave steps toward reforming Japan’s moribund economy. He defied powerful interest groups within his party, such as rice farmers, to join free-trade talks with the United States and other Pacific nations that have the potential to spur growth in Japan. He spoke in measured terms of his justifiable desire to increase defense spending.

  • Originally published 04/23/2013

    Pankaj Mishra: To Erase Militarist Past, Japan Must Re-Learn It

    Pankaj Mishra is the author of “From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia” and a Bloomberg View columnist, based in London and Mashobra, India. The opinions expressed are his own.It was raining heavily last week when I visited Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which commemorates Japanese who died in the “imperial cause.” But the tour buses still discharged scores of elderly Japanese visitors, and I received approving looks and even a faint smile from two Japanese women as we stood in the rain before the memorial to an Indian jurist called Radha Binod Pal.Pal was the only Indian judge at the so-called Tokyo Trials, Japan’s protracted version of Nuremberg. In his 1,235- page dissent, he voted to acquit the 25 Japanese accused by Allied powers of the “unprecedented” crime of “conspiring against peace.”

  • Originally published 04/23/2013

    Japan officials’ war shrine visits may reflect shift toward PM Abe’s nationalist agenda

    TOKYO — Visits by Cabinet ministers and lawmakers to a shrine honoring Japan’s war dead, including 14 World War II leaders convicted of atrocities, signal Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s determination to pursue a more nationalist agenda after months of focusing on the economy.Nearly 170 Japanese lawmakers paid homage at Yasukuni Shrine on Tuesday. A day earlier, visits by three Cabinet ministers, said by the government to be unofficial, drew protests from neighbors South Korea and China over actions they view as failures to acknowledge Japan’s militaristic past.China and South Korea — Japan’s No. 1 and No. 3 trading partners, respectively — bore the brunt of Tokyo’s pre-1945 militarist expansion in Asia and routinely criticize visits to the shrine. Almost seven decades after the war ended, it still overshadows relations....

  • Originally published 04/23/2013

    Japan’s no-apology diplomacy

    Just one year after Emperor Meiji proclaimed the Japanese Empire in 1868, he ordered the construction of a majestic new Shinto shrine in Tokyo. The Yasukuni Shrine was to record the names of every man, woman and child who died in service of the new empire. And it was to be a place of  worship, part of a larger effort to make the empire something of a state religion. By the time Japan collapsed in defeat at the end of World War II, more than 2 million names had been added to the shrine.For more than 75 years, Yasukuni was a symbol of Japan’s imperial mission; both were officially sacred. The shrine was considered the final resting place of Japanese soldiers, colonists and others who served the imperial expansion that had plunged all of East Asia and eventually the United States into a costly and horrific war.

  • Originally published 03/28/2013

    Forgotten women victims of World War II

    Ahn Sehong had to go to China to recover a vanishing — and painful — part of Korea’s wartime history. Visiting small villages and overcoming barriers of language and distrust, he documented the tales of women — some barely teenagers — who had been forced into sexual slavery during World War II by the Japanese Army.Starting in 2001, he began tracking down 13 of these women who had been stranded in China after the war. Now in their 80s and 90s, some were childless, others penniless. Most lived in hovels, often in the same dusty rural towns where they had endured the war. They had been away from their native land so long, some could no longer speak Korean.Mr. Ahn had no doubts about their identity.“Each one of these women is history,” he said. “They have suffered the biggest pain created by the war. Everyone forgot about the suffering these women went through. But I want to embrace them. As Koreans, we have to take care of them.”...

  • Originally published 03/14/2013

    What Japanese history lessons leave out

    Mariko Oi is a reporter for the BBC.Japanese people often fail to understand why neighbouring countries harbour a grudge over events that happened in the 1930s and 40s. The reason, in many cases, is that they barely learned any 20th Century history. I myself only got a full picture when I left Japan and went to school in Australia.From Homo erectus to the present day - 300,000 years of history in just one year of lessons. That is how, at the age of 14, I first learned of Japan's relations with the outside world.For three hours a week - 105 hours over the year - we edged towards the 20th Century.It's hardly surprising that some classes, in some schools, never get there, and are told by teachers to finish the book in their spare time.When I returned recently to my old school, Sacred Heart in Tokyo, teachers told me they often have to start hurrying, near the end of the year, to make sure they have time for World War II....

  • Originally published 03/07/2013

    'Emperor' stirs deep emotions in Japan and U.S.

    Emotions have been running high at screenings of the historical drama "Emperor."The Japanese American coproduction, which opens Friday, revolves around the dilemma Gen. Douglas MacArthur faced as he tried to restore order in post-World War II Japan: Should the country's divine leader, Emperor Hirohito, stand trial and face certain death on war crimes charges?When the producers screened "Emperor" recently in Japan, producer Gary Foster said, many men were in tears as they left the theater."It was almost a cathartic moment," he said....

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    Ancient king’s hat holds clues to Korean alphabet

    A hat which belonged to South Korea’s most revered monarch King Sejong has been recovered more than 500 years after it was looted by Japanese invaders, a senior scholar said Wednesday.Apart from its intrinsic value as an historical relic, the discovery has thrilled scholars after documents were found stitched inside the hat carrying explanations of King Sejong’s greatest legacy — the Hangeul alphabet.... 

  • Originally published 02/28/2013

    WWII Doolittle Raider Tom Griffin dies at 96

    CINCINNATI — Maj. Thomas C. “Tom” Griffin, a B-25 bomber navigator in the audacious Doolittle’s Raid attack on mainland Japan during World War II, has died.His death at age 96 leaves four surviving Raiders.Griffin died Tuesday in a veterans nursing home in northern Kentucky. He was among the 80 original volunteers for the daring April 18, 1942, mission. When they began training, they were told only it would be “extremely hazardous,” coming in the aftermath of Japan’s devastating attack on Pearl Harbor and a string of other Japanese military successes....

  • Originally published 02/27/2013

    Japanese disaster films highlight victims' stories

    The unnerving clicks of dosimeters are constant as people wearing white protective gear quickly visit the radiated no-go zones of decayed farms and empty storefronts. Evacuees huddle on blankets on gymnasium floors, waiting futilely for word of compensation and relocation.Such scenes fill the flurry of independent films inspired by Japan's March 2011 catastrophe that tell stories of regular people who became overnight victims - stories the creators feel are being ignored by mainstream media and often silenced by the authorities.Nearly two years after the quake and tsunami disaster, the films are an attempt by the creative minds of Japan's movie industry not only to confront the horrors of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, but also to empower and serve as a legacy for the victims by telling their stories for international audiences.The impact these films have on the global and Japanese audiences could perhaps even help change Japan, the directors say...

  • Originally published 02/20/2013

    Iconic Japanese Film Historian Donald Richie Passes Away

    While the film world may in many ways still be reeling from the loss of legendary film critic Andrew Sarris this past summer, another iconic film critic and historian has left us. Author/critic Donald Richie, arguably one of the most influential voices in expanding the reach of Japanese culture (particularly cinema) has passed away. He was 88.Best known for books like The Japan Journals, the writer’s imprint on the overall culture has been his aiding in growing the breadth with which Japanese culture reaches. He had been influential in discussing the works of such directors as Ozu and Kurosawa, and has since become an absolute legend in a movement that has lasted ever since....

  • Originally published 02/13/2013

    John Blaxland and Rikki Kersten: East Asia in 2013 Resembles Europe in 1913

    Dr John Blaxland is Senior Fellow at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, the Australian National University.Rikki Kersten is Professor of modern Japanese political history in the School of International, Political and Strategic Studies at the College of Asia and the Pacific, the Australian National University.The recent activation of Chinese weapons radars aimed at Japanese military platforms around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands is the latest in a series of incidents in which China has asserted its power and authority at the expense of its neighbours.

  • Originally published 02/05/2013

    Japan government to review statements on history

    (Reuters) - Japan's government will review statements by previous administrations about wartime history including a landmark 1995 apology, Japan's education minister said, but added that any changes would not mean rejecting those statements but making them more "forward-looking".Any moves to renege on the 1995 apology by then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama - now in Beijing on a mission aimed at soothing tension over a territorial row - would raise hackles in both China and South Korea, where bitter memories of Japan's military aggression and colonization run deep.The government will also review guidelines for school textbook publishers aimed at addressing the sensitivities of neighboring countries which suffered under Japan's military invasion and colonization, Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday....

  • Originally published 01/31/2013

    Tensions linger in U.S. over ‘comfort women’ memorials

    HACKENSACK, N.J. — Four years ago, noticing plaques at the county courthouse commemorating slavery, the Holocaust and other atrocities, Korean-American community leader Chejin Park struck upon the idea of adding a tribute to the “comfort women” of World War II.To his surprise, the seemingly small, local gesture — to honor the more than 200,000 mostly Korean and Chinese women forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers — would make a tiny northern New Jersey town a flashpoint in an international controversy.Local officials would rebuff a request by Japanese officials to take down the first plaque put up just over two years ago in the town of Palisades Park, a square-mile borough outside New York where a majority of residents are of Korean descent....

  • Originally published 01/25/2013

    Japan's oldest bronze comma-shaped bead unearthed in Tottori

    OSAKA, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) -- A team of Japanese archaeologists has found a bronze comma-shaped bead, which is believed to be the oldest of its kind in the country's history, in the western Japanese city of Tottori, local press reported on Thursday.The metal curved bead, dating back to the early sixth century, was excavated from one of the tombs built in the early sixth 6 century at the Matsubara No. 10 Mound in the city according to the daily Mainichi Shimbun....

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    From Red Army to Al Qaeda: Terror and Postwar Japan

    Postwar Japan has, by and large, been insulated from the type of terror that has afflicted the U.S. and Europe. In recent history, the crisis that resulted in the largest number of Japanese casualties was the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack on New York. On that day, 24 Japanese citizens died, including a number of bank employees working at World Trade Center offices.Here’s a brief history of such incidents:Sept. 28, 1977: Five members of Japanese Red Army hijack Japan Airlines plane in Indian airspace with 156 people aboard. All hostages released after Japanese prime minister accepts demands for $6 million and release of imprisoned comrades, illustrating Tokyo’s preference for negotiation.Aug. 2, 1990: Baghdad starts detaining Japanese and Westerners to deter U.S.-led attacks after invasion of Kuwait. Former pro wrestler and member of Japan’s parliament Antonio Inoki helps negotiate release of all 41 Japanese “human shields” through talks with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein....

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    Missouri GOP Rep.: Japan Didn't Invade U.S. in World War II Because of Armed Populace

    Editor's Note: Today's Bachmann Award comes courtesy of HNN editor and associate professor of Japanese history at Pittsburg State University Jonathan Dresner.Cadets in the Imperial Japanese Army, circa 1934.There are good reasons to bring Japan into the gun control debate in the United States: the relative success of firearms regulation in Japan, the recent rise of gun violence connected to organized crime, the history of weapons-carrying elites, etc. But WWII had nothing whatsoever to do with gun rights, gun control, or the 2nd Amendment.Why bring this up? Because of Ed Emery, Republican representative to the Missouri state legislature from Lamar, MO. In a video produced last April, Rep. Emery said:

  • Originally published 10/18/2005

    Japanese Textbooks, Koizumi, Sex Slaves, & the Nightmare of Nanking

    We had fun killing Chinese. We caught some innocent Chinese and either buried them alive, or pushed them into a fire, or beat them to death with clubs. When they were half dead we pushed them into ditches and burned them, torturing them to death. Everyone gets his entertainment this way. Its like killing dogs and cats. --Asahi Shimbun, Japanese soldier, describing Japanese atrocities during the Rape of Nanking.

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