AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Japan’s ongoing national conversation

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, August 7, 2007

WHENEVER YOU SEE OVERSEAS CRITICS maintain that the Japanese are in denial or avoid talking about their Imperial past, it is a dead giveaway that the critics are out of their depth. I’ve often made the point that the discussion of Japanese wartime behavior, including the comfort women and the Nanjing Massacre, is conducted from a broader perspective and in more detail here than anywhere else in the world.

Now, Philip Seaton of Hokkaido University has published a book presenting the same thesis. Titled Japan’s Contested War Memories, it was favorably reviewed by Jeff Kingston in The Japan Times on Monday.

Writes Kingston:

Stereotypical images of Japanese collectively in denial about the atrocities committed by the Imperial armed forces are grossly misleading and overlook the more prevalent view accepting wartime guilt and favoring atonement. In this excellent study featuring media and cultural analysis, Hokkaido University’s Philip Seaton persuasively argues that, “Japanese war memories are not nearly as nationalistic as they are frequently made out to be.”

Seaton points out that war memory is fiercely contested among Japanese, and collective amnesia is impossible given this ubiquitous and robust discourse. History remains at the center of contemporary political battles and it is thus a “current affairs” issue….The war has not been forgotten. Quite the opposite, the Japanese seem unable to let it go.”

While not mentioning the comfort women specifically, this point is made about compensation:

In terms of Japan’s steadfast legal position that all compensation claims have been resolved, he argues that “most governments tacitly accept or openly support the Japanese compensation position.”

In conclusion, Kingston writes:

Translating this book into Chinese and Korean might help.

I’d like to share his optimism, but too often it seems that some Chinese and Koreans are not really interested in facts that would derail their other objectives. In that regard, they perhaps share an affinity with some members of the U.S. House of Representatives and journalists and editors on the staff of the New York Times.

10 Responses to “Japan’s ongoing national conversation”

  1. Durf said

    I saw a post about that book on the NBR Japan Forum today that made it sound quite interesting, but also like something that will never be read by anyone thanks to its price tag of 75 freaking UK pounds. Um, I look forward to the paperback?!

  2. Aceface said

    But this has been like this for decades!
    Those who do not admit that there is a national conversation within Japan chose not to see this fact for obvious reasons.
    I know a lot of Korean journalist stationed in Japan,and they all read(and speak)perfect Japanese.They all know too well what’s going on.Simply they want keep this power play of victimhood for that is their gain and their readership in Korea would not allow any derail from that.
    Same goes to China.

    And America(sigh) Any of you read Knight Ridder/Christian Science Monitor correspondent,Michael”Shutting out the Sun” Zielenger’s piece on WaPo?
    Awful stuff.If J-Voters support Abe,We are heading toward wrong end ,If we say nay to Abe,than it’s still wrong,because we are rejecting what Abe tried to do.And Japan,not just slipps off from “power in Asia”status but as an “able” American ally,because we have no confidence from Seoul nor Beijing.Twisted logic he locks us up.But WaPo finds nothing particulary wrong with objectivity here.

    I’ll bet my two cent for nothing happens even if this piece gets translated in Korean or Chinese.And we all know the reason why.

  3. ampontan said

    Either the paperback or get a library card and start pushing the local library to get it.

  4. Aceface said

    How about either one of you start translating the book?
    You would probably get a free copy from the publisher.

  5. Durf said

    Maybe I should offer to review it in my magazine . . . 😀

  6. tomojiro said

    “Simply they want keep this power play of victim hood for that is their gain and their readership in Korea would not allow any derail from that.
    Same goes to China.”

    Well, honestly said, the Japanese in general should be prepared that these appeal to victim hood will not cease until Nort Korea and South Korea will be united (plus 20 or 30years), and until China will find a way to coexist with Taiwan, find a way to live peacefully with Tibet, or Uighur and turn into a democratic society (plus 20 or 30years).

    I think that is not because they like the status of “victim hood”, but more because the Japanese aggression in the past was the substantial moment (maybe the first and only moment) to create their nationalism.

    The Korean society, divided between Yang-ban and slaves, became united under the Japanese rule, and their common experience as the object of Japanese colonial rule would have gapped the bridge and created “the Korean Nation”, I suppose.

    The more so for the “Chinese nation”, I guess. Without the Japanese Invasion in the thirties, there would be no strong bond and consciousness of belonging to the same “Chinese nation”.

    The Japanese imperialisms and their invasion is often compared to the Nazis, but I think it had the same role as Napoleon Bonapart and his war in Europe during the first half of the 19th century. Bonapartisme was also detested and feared in 19th century, but there is no doubt that his empire spread and evoked the concept of “Nation” and “Nationalism” in other parts of Europe (Great Britain included, I guess). And maybe because of that, French nationalism and Napoleon Bonapart was detested and feared I guess (until the rise of Germany).

    It’s the same here in contemporary East Asia.

  7. […] it was the US House of Representatives acting holier than anyone, now it’s the Canadian Parliament’s turn to pontificate: The Canadian motion was […]

  8. gaijinalways said

    [quote]WHENEVER YOU SEE OVERSEAS CRITICS maintain that the Japanese are in denial or avoid talking about their Imperial past, it is a dead giveaway that the critics are out of their depth. I’ve often made the point that the discussion of Japanese wartime behavior, including the comfort women and the Nanjing Massacre, is conducted from a broader perspective and in more detail here than anywhere else in the world.[/quote]

    I’m not sure how it could be a from a broader perspective. According to who, the Japanese? I’ve seen a lot of denial, both in person and on the Internet. I know of several people that want to deny many of the acts. Most of the peace movements I see in Japan tends to rally behind Japan being bombed, glossing over the fact that tere was a reason they were bombed.

  9. Aceface said

    “According to who, the Japanese?”
    According to both Japanese and the victims.

    “I’ve seen a lot of denial, both in person and on the Internet. ”

    Say,do you read Japanese? How about nation wide papers and textbooks.

  10. ponta said

    Japanese non-combatants–women and children— had no reason to be bombed just as innocent Chinese civilians had no reason to be bombed or killed.

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