Germans were de-nazified in an attempt to mitigate the propaganda of hate the regime spread across Germany. Our soldiers returned home to resume their lives as they had been before the war (though that was most surely impossible). The anti-Japanese propaganda remained a theme of victory. How easily we, as a country, forgave the Germans, but not the Japanese. Japan continues to be heavily criticized for its lack of apologies and remorse for her part in World War II. The most prominent criticisms of Japan’s World War II issues center on public apologies, treatment of World War II in Japanese textbooks, and unaddressed use of “comfort women” during the war. Japan has indeed publicly apologized within bilateral agreements and in public speeches. Specific statements of apology are made within the Joint Communiqué of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People's Republic of China (September 29, 1972), the Japan-China Joint Declaration on Building a Partnership of Friendship and Cooperation for Peace and Development (November 26, 1998), and the Japan-Republic of Korea Joint Declaration: A New Japan-Republic of Korea Partnership towards the Twenty-first Century (October 8, 1998). In response to accusations of its unapologetic history, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan released a statement in January of 2006:
Japan has always engraved in mind feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology with regard to the tremendous damage and suffering that it caused in the past through its colonial rule and aggression to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations. On various occasisions [sic], Japan has clearly expressed these feelings of remorse and apology, and its resolve to ensure that such an unfortunate history is never repeated, as shown in the statement by the then Prime Minister on August 15, 1995 (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, 2006).
Japan has made available English translations of history textbooks used in Japanese classrooms, citing that “foreign interest in Japan’s school textbooks is extremely high” (Japan Echo, 2008). In other words, Japan is addressing criticism of World War II history in textbooks by making them publically available. In the middle school history textbook, the section on World War II admits the harm Japanese caused to other nations: “Japan also caused considerable human and material damage to the people in the areas of Asia and the Pacific that it occupied” (Shoin, 2008:32). The statement may be brief in comparison to the entire chapter, but certainly no briefer than American textbooks in regard to her own human atrocities.
In 1994, Japan addressed the issue of “comfort women” by creating the Asian Women’s Fund (Sub-committee to Address the Wartime Comfort Women Issue, 1994). Through the fund, Japan implemented “atonement” projects that not only formerly apologized to “comfort women” in several countries, but also created public awareness projects that admitted guilt. Additionally, the project provided medical, monetary, and welfare support to wartime “comfort women.” The project ended in March 2007 and a digital museum was created and published at http://www.awf.or.jp as a record of awareness and atonement toward women made to be “ianfu.” The website is in Japanese and English and conveys a deep sense of national remorse.
The U.S. continues to accuse Japan of rubbing out and rewriting historical memory. At the same time, America continues to veil historical reinterpretations that may elicit Japanese sympathy, such as the 1994 controversy over the commemoration of the bombing of Hiroshima at the Smithsonian. This dichotomy between protecting Japan from new reparations and refusal to present the suffering of Japanese is difficult to unravel. Americans have lived among Germans since before World War II; many have German ancestry. Japan remains foreign and mystical – a land of samurais, kamikazes, and ninjas steeped in traditions westerners are often unable to understand. Perhaps, it is that very foreignness that is the key to unforgiveness?
At the close of World War II the blame for Germany’s part in the war fell mostly upon Hitler, who had taken his own life, and high ranking Nazi officials, most of whom were headed for war tribunals. Regarding Japan, the world blamed all her people, the result of a hard played war of propaganda against the Japanese. When it comes to Japan’s part in World War II, the world still refuses to let Japan move on as it has Germany. Japan has gone above and beyond her responsibilities to treaties and bilateral agreements. Although there may be lingering debates of historical memory and semantic issues of remorse, the chapter of Japanese reparations for World War II should be closed. Continuing demands and criticisms against Japan, particularly more than fifty years after the war and upon a new generation, are not only unrealistic, but unfair and unduly harsh.
Let the monument stand.
Japan Echo, Inc. 2008. "JE Kaleidoscope." vol. 2010: Ministry of Education.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. 2006. "Historical Issues Q&A." edited by F. Policy. Tokyo: Government of Japan.
Shoin, Teikoku. 2008. Japan’s Path and World Events: Social Studies: History for Middle School Students.
Sub-committee to Address the Wartime Comfort Women Issue. 1994. "The First Report on the So-called Wartime Comfort Women Issue." Ruling Parties' Project to Deal with Issues Fifty Years After the War.