Saturday, March 03, 2007
Years ago I was at a dinner party in Tokyo when, suddenly and without provocation, the host stood up and started shouting that the Japanese were justified in their invasion of China. They were doing it to rid Asia of Western imperialists. On the same trip, a man at the Ministry of Education showed me an English translation of a school history textbook. He was intending to prove that the authorities no longer denied that the Nanking Massacre had taken place. And, indeed, the massacre was mentioned, but it was only 'said' to have taken place. The Japanese also persist in taking no notice of foreign protests about the war criminals honoured at the Yasukuni Shrine. Now Shinzo Abe has denied women were forced into military brothels. I know very little about Japan but this need to deny an obvious truth - that the country once fell into the grip of a murderous, fascist regime - intrigues me. We assume it is healthy to face up to our failings and, like the Germans, do what we can to atone. Plainly the Japanese don't, or, of course, they believe their own denials. The question is: does it matter?
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 7:39 am