Japan from the inside out


Posted by ampontan on Thursday, February 25, 2010

…(T)hey justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.
-T. S. Eliot

THIS THOMAS SOWELL column directly addresses the question of apologies for slavery. It contains no mention of Japan, nor any reference to Japan’s behavior in the early part of the 20th century.

Replacing the references to slavery in his column with references to Japanese behavior, however, would not alter the intellectual argument in the slightest.

Slavery is too serious for an apology and somebody else being a slaveowner is not something for you to apologize for. When somebody who has never owned a slave apologizes for slavery to somebody who has never been a slave, then what began as mushy thinking has degenerated into theatrical absurdity— or, worse yet, politics.


This craze for aimless apologies is part of a general loss of a sense of personal responsibility in our time. We are supposed to feel guilty for what other people did but there are a thousand cop-outs for what we ourselves did to those we did it to.

Not only have aimless apologies become a craze, there are university professors who make a living at it by choosing historical apology as their specialized field of study.

Why not? It’s a relatively easy way to obtain a measure of money and recognition unavailable to them otherwise.

Had I the money and the access, I would have this article translated into Japanese, Korean, and Chinese and distributed to the political leadership in all those countries.

Since it’s already in English, it doesn’t need to be translated for the anti-Nipponists and the Korean and Chinese sycophants in the West.

5 Responses to “Apologies”

  1. RMilner said

    Studying something is not the same as condoning, supporting or performing it.

    The situation regarding any Japanese apology for WW2 behaviour is different to the situation regarding western slavery. Nearly all western nations stopped slavery by 1865. The perpetrators and victims of the trade are all long dead — we are now four or five generations on. WW2 still has many veterans and victims alive, though.

    Let’s not argue about whether an apology has been given or not. That does not affect the point.

  2. Fat Tony said

    So are you arguing that states bear no responsibility for things that happened in the past because of the actions of their governments.

    Wow. There goes treaty law.

    “Not only have aimless apologies become a craze, there are university professors who make a living at it by choosing historical apology as their specialized field of study.”

    Yes, and some of them say it isn’t worth it. So what’s your point?

    So are you arguing that states bear no responsibility for things that happened in the past because of the actions of their governments.

    No. Apologies have nothing to do with treaties.

    Japan has signed treaties and paid reparations–as required–to everyone it invaded or fought in the war, with the exception of North Korea, for obvious reasons. This includes the Dutch, who controlled Indonesia. They paid 800 million dollars in 1960 dollars in the mid-60s to South Korea. China waived the demand for reparations for the sake of good relations in the future, but got a ton of ODA as compensation. Roughly 20% of Japanese GDP in the 50s went to paying reparations.

    So, that chapter’s been closed for some time now.

    some of them say it isn’t worth it

    Really? Name three. Since I’m talking about people who have made it their specialty, please include also links to their home pages and the books they have written in which they argue that their specialty isn’t worth it.

    – A.

  3. M-Bone said

    I have to wonder sometimes – would putting a big black obelisk inscribed with something like “This is a symbol of the apology of the Japanese state for crimes committed by Imperial Japan. We reflect sincerely on the suffering….” near the Budokan not achieve at least something, and with minimal cost?

    It wouldn’t be anything that the Japanese government hasn’t said before in various contexts. It wouldn’t be any different from that research of academics at Japanese universities who have been effectively funded by the state to do the most thorough and comprehensive research on Japanese atrocities done anywhere. It wouldn’t be different from 99.6% of Japanese textbooks.

    Better yet, why not toss the buck to Korea and China – we’re making a concrete memorial to go with an apology. Let’s hash out a 200 ji text together. That would make it far harder to disregard later. If they suggest something way out there (a “Korean Holocaust” or that Japanese blood is tainted until the end of time – saw that one in a Youtube comment the other day), that only makes them look bad.

    Even if one accepts that apologies are moral mush, why not do it if it has the potential to aid, even a little bit, in these rich popular level exchanges that we know contrast so powerfully with government level tomfoolery?

  4. Francis said

    I remember hearing the then president of France Jacques Chirac making a solemn apology for the part played by French police in rounding up Jews to be later deported to concentration camps. As a French person I felt this was something that needed at least to be said. I am neither Jewish nor a holocaust survivor, so what I feel does not count for much, but Mme Simone Veil, who is both, and one of the first women to become cabinet minister in France, seemed to feel it was a landmark. Asked whether this was a return to normal on the issue, she answered that it wasn’t a return to anything, it was the start of something new.
    We used to live thinking that our country was always on the side of right and dignity (and some still do). But when you meet people from other places you see a different perspective. I think everybody should be proud of their country and of their achievements. Why not then show atonement for its wrongdoings?

    Francis: Thanks for your well-considered comment.

    Why not then show atonement for its wrongdoings?

    In addition to paying reparations and the provision of ODA, Japan has issued formal apologies to the Chinese on more than 20 occasions, and several to the South Koreans.

    In the case of the latter country, when Japan does something that it doesn’t like, such as mildly assert its claim to the disputed islets of Takeshima, the South Koreans say that eliminates all previous apologies and everyone is back at the beginning.

    For me, then, the question is not whether Japan should show atonement–it has–but when its neighbors will stop using it as a political weapon in bilateral relations.

    Also, the Japanese make the point that their behavior, however bad, cannot be compared to concentration camps in Europe. The idea in the latter case was to exterminate the Jews in the final solution. The Japanese intent was to drive the Western imperial powers out of Asia and replace them, albeit with great cruelty.

    – A.

  5. […] Interesting English language comments about apologies and the legacy of Japanese imperialism from the blogs ROK Drop, Observing Japan, and Ampontan. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: