April 04, 2002


JAPANESE REVISIONISM: Just got back from the Edo-Tokyo Museum, which meticulously chronicle's the history of this city (which was called Edo until the 19th century) from the 17th century on. The houses that Edoites lived in, their economic systems, what they read, the collapse of the Tokugawa shogunate and the Meiji restoration, everything is chroncled with extensive descriptions (with English translations, unlike some of the museums here), cultural artifacts, and extremely detailed models. Then, when we get to the 30s, something strange happens: war "approaches." The Pacific War "begins" in 1941. There is not a word about the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Tojo's name isn't mentioned. Naturally the Rape of Nanking and the slaughter of 10 million Chinese civilians is skipped-- and there's no mention of Pearl Harbor! The destruction in Tokyo by American bombs is detailed, however, and the death figures even looked a bit inflated. It's as if the war was a destructive force, much like the many earthquakes and fires that have hit this city except wrought by Americans instead of by nature.

It's become a cliche, but there is truth to what Santayana said: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Japan continues to dodge official acknowledgement of the horrors of its past. Every time they're asked about China they change the subject to the A-bombs (which probably saved more lives than they took, given how bloody an Allied invasion of Japan would have been). Now that they're remilitarizing in the wake of Sept. 11 (instead of depending wholely on the U.S. for defense, as they have since WWII), it might be time to demand that they set the record straight.

Incidentally, the Japanese are some of the nicest people I've ever met; it's hard to imagine them perpetrating genocide, but it happened. Such is the nature of man.

Posted by John Tabin at April 4, 2002 03:28 AM