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Remembering the Asian Holocaust – part 2 December 7, 2015

Posted by Alex Sawit in In My Opinion.
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By Alex Sawit

December 7, 2015



[ This is Part 2 of a two-part series. To read the start, go to Part 1. ]



   Ordinarily, a wine blog should not serve as a venue for matters unrelated to the subject of wine. Yet wine is ultimately the ally of honesty and truth, as expressed through the timeless saying, “in vino veritas” (“in drinking wine, truth emerges”). So when the world presents an occasion of such gravity that it gives dispensation to voice ourselves regardless of venue, we owe it to honestly speak the truth for all to hear.

   Seventy years ago, on September 2, 1945, government and military representatives of the Emperor of Japan signed the instrument of Japan’s surrender to Allied Forces, bringing a formal end to hostilities in the Second World War.

   This December 7 – the day on which we remember the Japanese surprise attack that plunged Asia into that world war – we owe it to further reflect on the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender and give remembrance to the victims of Japanese wartime occupation, not least of all to the millions who perished from the atrocities committed against them. It is only through such memorial by both the people of Japan and the peoples of Asia that genuine forgiveness and lasting reconciliation are achieved, giving our nations hope that those who faithfully remember the past need not be condemned to repeat it.

   – the Editor



The “Rising Sun Flag”, once used in World War 2 by the Imperial Army and Navy,
welcomes Prime Minister Abe at an inspection of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces.



   Can we now trust Japan to revive itself as a military power – now that it has been seventy years since the end of the Asian Holocaust?

   It is a legitimate question and it needs to be answered.

   Under the present leadership of its ultra-nationalist Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, Japan is moving toward the full reinstatement of its military services, which will give it the ability to wage war overseas for the first time since World War 2. Currently, Japan’s post-war constitution only allows the country to keep self-defense forces that are non-aggressive in principle. Over the past decade, however, security threats from North Korea and territorial disputes with China have given right-wing politicians the pretext to attempt legislative changes that will pave the way for Japanese militarization. And since the United States, Japan’s former wartime adversary, is pushing for a strong Japanese military presence to counterbalance China’s ambitions in the region, it seems inevitable that Japan will once again possess a war machine to be reckoned with.

   But should I trust Japan as a revived military power in Asia?

   There was a time, not too long ago, when I wouldn’t have hesitated to say yes. Even though I was well-versed in the stories of the Japanese occupation of the Philippines and had familiarized myself with Japan’s wartime actions in the rest of Asia, at the time I felt very secure about the idea of Japan regaining its full military services.

   “Japan is a responsible First World country now,” I used to tell myself. “The war is long over and they’ve learned their lesson. Everything is okay. Surely by now, they’ve fixed their wartime problem.”

   Then a funny thing happened. After years of feeling comfortable with the idea of Japan reviving its military strength, I had a startling realization: that the first step to fixing your problem and learning your lesson is to admit you have a problem to begin with. After all, that’s what we tell our friends as individual people when we want to help them change for the better, right? Why shouldn’t the same principle apply to our friends as nations?

   So it hit me: Japan still hasn’t fixed its problem. And it hasn’t fixed it because Japan continues to deny that the problem ever existed. It’s been seventy long years since the end of the Asian Holocaust, yet to this day there endures a stubborn political culture of denial in Japan concerning Japanese wartime atrocities.

   Despite the overwhelming historical record of the holocaust, Japanese politicians continue to promote a domestic policy of lying about the full extent of their country’s guilt. Astonishingly, most of them feel it is irrelevant to acknowledge the truth to the Japanese people, believing all that matters is to preserve Japan’s honor by avoiding anything that brings shame to the country. These holocaust denialists have resorted to revising history itself, distorting and misrepresenting what happened to the point of portraying Japan as the innocent victim of the war. The most insidious propaganda device in their arsenal is the country’s education system; textbooks unscrupulously whitewash Japan’s wartime behavior, teaching generations of schoolchildren to be ignorant of Japanese atrocities and leading them to grow up believing that Japan was unfairly victimized by the victorious Allies (read any history book used in any Japanese high school, and the simplified narrative will say this: “During the war, Japan was bravely trying to defend its way of life against the people of Asia who were fighting against it. Then, for no good reason at all, their American allies started dropping atomic bombs on us.”).

   And now, under Prime Minister Abe, the holocaust denialists are stronger than ever.

   Abe has long been a controversial leader in Japanese politics. As Prime Minister, he has in the past publicly disputed the wartime rape and slavery of the Comfort Women (for years he insisted these were almost all prostitutes hired by the Japanese military), and has tried to suppress the admission of other Japanese atrocities. Further, Abe is closely affiliated with Nippon Kaigi, a highly influential right-wing organization which not only denies the Asian Holocaust, but which dreams of reviving Japan as a military superpower. In other words, Abe is Japan’s holocaust denialist No. 1.

   Still, it wasn’t until only recently that Abe and his political allies demonstrated how brazen they have become with their denialist agenda. On August 14, 2015, on the eve of Memorial Day in Japan, Abe addressed the nation and the world with a speech to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War 2. I have read and re-read the translation of that speech, which was released to the English language press immediately after the address. Based on that translation, I can say that Abe’s speech was a carefully crafted, flowery wording of revisionist history hogwash.

   I don’t want to waste reading space by reprinting that garbage here in its entirety. So instead, I’ve taken the liberty to concisely paraphrase what he said. Here is a “simplified” rewording of the speech Abe delivered to the world in his official capacity as Prime Minister of Japan:


    “A long time ago, it was trendy for Western powers to be colonial rulers in Asia. So when Japan grew up to be as tough as any of them, it wanted to become a colonial ruler too. But by then, colonial rule was going out of fashion with the Western powers, and they rejected Japan as the new kid on the block. Japan felt this was unfair, to be penalized just for arriving late to the game, and that it deserved its turn to play. This caused Japan to make the mistake of trying to have its way by going to war with the them. Unfortunately, bad things tend to happen in war, and in the Asian countries that fought against Japan there were plenty of innocent people who died due to hunger and disease and as collateral damage. And yeah, our boys were allowed R&R with women in those countries. That’s just the way war is. And then we lost. Naturally, as the loser, Japan has apologized over and over again for what happened. These apologies are more than enough so that Japan should not be expected in the future to keep apologizing for its past. So I won’t bother to offer any new apology now on behalf of my country. We’ve learned our lesson, so thank you, have a nice day, and stop trying to make us feel guilty all the time.”


   What an asshole.

   It is important to be aware that, in his real statement, Abe only ever refers to civilian deaths by saying that, “innocent citizens suffered and fell victim to battles as well as hardships such as severe deprivation of food.” Nowhere in his actual speech does Abe directly say or even imply that millions of civilians in occupied countries died as victims of atrocities committed by Japanese imperial forces. And in addressing the sensitive issue of Comfort Women, he states with calculated ambiguity that, “there were women behind the battlefields whose honor and dignity were severely injured,” allowing room for Abe to maintain his position that these were women who lost their way due to wartime economic difficulties, causing them to fall into prostitution (they fell and “injured” themselves, so to speak).

   Prime Minister Abe and his holocaust denialists may think themselves clever at propaganda in Japan, but they are answerable before the inquiries of the world. How can they claim to have fixed their wartime problem and learned their lesson when they deny that Japan had a problem to begin with? How can they say they’ve changed for the better when they insist that Japan didn’t exactly commit the atrocities it is accused of? How can we trust Japan to be a “benevolent” military power in Asia in the foreseeable future when it is still in denial of its merciless past?

   Sadly, it has become a renewable source of nationalistic pride for Abe and his political allies to deny the Asian Holocaust, which they indulge in as a victorious form of defiance against the judgement of world opinion. The great irony is, while they may think they are making a show of strength, these Japanese politicians are unaware that in the eyes of the international community their denial is looked down upon as a show of cowardice in the face of a shameful truth.

   My answer therefore must be no. I will not trust the revival of Japan as a military power and neither should the rest of Asia – unless Japan has the courage to take that first step by admitting it has a problem with the way it sees its past wartime behavior.

   Courage is the measure of a heroic nation, not denial. Until it chooses to bravely accept the truth, without distortion or misrepresentation, Japan will always lack the complete trust of those neighbors it once visited with the atrocities of war.



[ This is Part 2 of a two-part series. To read the start, go to Part 1. ]







1. harry - February 16, 2016

i believe you alex wrote very important point of what’s happening in japan today.
thanks your writing .

2. harry - February 16, 2016

thanks your writing.

Alex Sawit - February 17, 2016

Thank you for reading it, Harry, and please feel free to share the article with your friends in Korea. We all need to keep watch over the political developments in Japan, where the right-wing politicians are now more emboldened than ever in pursuit of their militant, ultra-nationalist agenda.

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