Since the end of World War II, August of each year has seen lively discussion reflecting on Japan’s defeat. Even now, more than 60 years after the war, issues are being disputed enthusiastically from a variety of viewpoints. This serves as a reminder that many situations stemming from World War II still exist today; in fact, they are the basis of multiple circumstances in the present era.
In this essay based on opinions I have heard from different people in the past, as well as my own considerations I will discuss the significance of Japan’s defeat in World War II, the impacts of this defeat, and ways of coping with the related effects.
This essay is an attempt at interpretation, not a complete investigation. I hope that many people will share their views and comments with me in order to further deepen the discussion on World War II.
Japan’s losses can be divided into three categories. The First Loss is its defeat in the war with the United States. The Second Loss is the creation of the deeply rooted, masochistic view of history that exists in Japan, which was caused by the First Loss. The Third Loss is Japan’s defeat in the long-running information warfare that began during World War II and still continues today.
The First Loss was a trial of the sort that is experienced in any country that is beaten in a war. The Chinese poet Da Fu wrote, “The country is destroyed, but the mountains and rivers remain.” In other words, all countries feel great despondency, and a sense of defeat, when their territories and cities suffer great destruction through warfare. However, in most cases nations and their citizens have been able to surmount this sense of despondency and defeat. During World War II the capital city of Tokyo was reduced to ashes, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki were leveled by the atomic bombs. Many other cities were also reduced to ruins by repeated bombing. Many people lost their homes, and the factories required for daily life were destroyed as well. At that time it was normal to see large numbers of war orphans living impoverished lives underneath bridges.
Japan is not the only country with such experiences. Germany Japan’s ally during World War II experienced national destruction of a much more severe scale than Japan. In Japan, strategic bombing and other causes took the lives of many ordinary citizens. However, the strategic bombing in Germany was much more intense; the number of bombs was nine times greater than the amount dropped in Japan, and the entire country was transformed into a battleground. Looking at Germany as a whole, the nationwide destruction via intensive combat was much more pronounced than in Japan. In addition, brutal acts by occupying armies during and after the war such as the pillaging and sexual assault perpetrated by the Soviet Red Army in eastern Germany was barely seen in Japan.
However, Germany and Japan both successfully accomplished their respective national revivals after the destruction of the war. Even though these two countries were crushed, they successfully created new cities and improved their infrastructure. Both countries accomplished remarkable economic growth as well, and have been praised throughout the world for their miraculous reconstruction. Via the period of rapid economic growth centered on the 1960s, Japan developed into the world’s second-largest economic power after the U.S., and was able to overcome this First Loss.
In terms of Japan’s Second Loss, it seems that this defeat is much more noticeable in Japan than in Germany. The reason is that the self-tormenting view of history in Japan had major impacts on the formation of political measures afterwards, which is likely a rare thing compared to other countries.
Around five years ago, I met with a high government official when I visited Germany. He stated, “Germany today is overflowing with confidence towards fulfilling a central role in the European Union (EU) of the future.” I sensed absolutely no masochistic beliefs in this statement. This is due to Germany’s current stance of regarding the Nazi government, which committed acts including the massacre of the Jewish and Romani people, as an aberrant group that is separate from Germany itself. Namely, a criminal group known as the Nazis carried out the series of atrocities committed in Germany during World War II (including the massacre of the Jewish people); Germany and the German people of today are not regarded as direct wrongdoers. Rather, the awareness is that the German people were themselves victims of the Nazis. Even though Germany carried out brutal ethnic cleansing, it is noteworthy that no self-tormenting historical views exist there as they do in Japan.
The country of Germany was fully destroyed during the war, yet a masochistic view of history is found only in Japan at present. I believe this historical view was not produced through the actual war defeat, but was formed separately.
The reasons given for the verdicts of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (Tokyo Trials) indicated a way of thinking that consistently repudiated Japan’s national policy from the Meiji period onwards, which was undeniably promoted as a masochistic view of history (mainly by a portion of the mass media). Since the Tokyo Trials, Indian Justice Radha Binod Pal made persistent objections against their legitimacy. Concepts such as “crimes against peace” and “crimes against humanity” were created after the war, so judgments based on these were in opposition to the principle of no penalty without law (the foundation of justice). Moreover, wasn’t dropping the atomic bombs chemical weapons of mass destruction on Hiroshima and Nagasaki a crime against humanity? Wasn’t the bombing of many cities effectively targeted at regular citizens a crime against humanity? In these and other ways, the fairness of the Tokyo Trials can be questioned.
After the war, Doctor of Juridical Science Morinosuke Kajima published a book entitled Research on the Causes of World Wars「世界大戦の原因の研究」. The preface to the fourth edition shrewdly pointed out the illegality of the Tokyo Trials. Kajima said he hoped that people in charge of the government or law would raise questions in the near future to overcome the masochistic backdrop of the Tokyo Trials. However, these circumstances remain unchanged even more than a half-century later.
In any case, the Tokyo Trials resulted in the various national policies of Japan from the Meiji period onward being repudiated in a bizarre way. These policies had been broadly accepted across the world, and were required for the survival of the nation.
The Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (GHQ) created the English draft of the current Constitution of Japan. The constitution was put together in accordance with this basis, a fact that is widely known today. Looking at research and literature afterwards, one can see that the GHQ officials of that time were frustrated with the Government of Japan, which was slow to turn towards the enactment of an independent, democratic constitution. The GHQ finished writing the original draft of the Constitution of Japan at one stretch as a temporary measure during the occupation, keeping in mind the constitutions of the United States, Philippines, and other countries, which are frequently amended. The Japanese constitution, which is the supreme law of Japan, was established according to legal procedures. However, it was not created via a consensus of opinion from the Japanese citizens, which is another way that Japan and Germany are different. On this point, even though Germany had disagreements with the four occupying countries, it allowed none of the occupying armies to be involved in its constitution.
In the early 1990s, this masochistic view of history was spread to the political world, bureaucracy, and financial world the very pillars of the nation. The Japanese government also implemented various policies to force a self-torturing way of thinking upon the Japanese citizens. One example is the clauses about Japan’s neighboring countries that were included in textbooks when Kiichi Miyazawa was prime minister. I find it exceedingly regrettable that, via the Miyazawa Statement, a simplistic decision was made regarding the necessity to infer the intentions of our neighboring countries such as China, North Korea, and South Korea as part of historical education the starting point of youth education. If nothing else, the most fundamental right in a sovereign nation is education; justifying the acceptance of orders from other countries regarding this is itself a masochistic act, as well as a violation of sovereignty.
In addition, the so-called Kono Statement of 1993 a statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono made as a response to the comfort women issue said there are no documents that verify the forced transportation of women by the Japanese authorities in Korea, but that it is impossible to determine that this transportation did not take place just because no documents exist. This statement made other countries assume that Japan had carried out forced transportation. This is a classic example of a self-torturing act by the Japanese government.
The Japanese government built a heliport on the Senkaku Islands in May 1979, more than 30 years ago. Despite this, the heliport has not been maintained for the past 30 years in fear of provoking China. This is a masochistic action by the nation of Japan that serves to bind its own hands. If Japan were to construct another heliport on the Senkaku Islands today, it is likely that China would revolt against this on a grand scale.
The same applies to the visits to Yasukuni Shrine by members of the National Diet. When I visited Vietnam in the past, I spoke with a female professor. After saying the Chinese government censures visits to Yasukuni, I asked the professor what she thought. She clearly replied, “In Buddhist countries like Vietnam and Japan, all people become buddhas after they die. It doesn’t matter what actions they took, or what bad deeds they committed, while they were alive. For that reason, I think it’s only natural for individuals to visit Yasukuni Shrine.”
Considering these factors, what must Japan do in order to overcome the Tokyo Trials-centered historical viewpoint that is the source of its self-tormenting historical views?
The Treaty of San Francisco was a major component in the formation of the current peaceful framework between Japan and the international society. Article 11 of this treaty postulates the acceptance of the Tokyo Trials judgments. Esteem for this framework comprises one part of the peaceful structure of today’s international community.
Accordingly even if it is difficult to overturn the actual judgments experts should hold progressive discussions in the future, not only on the texts of these judgments, but also on changing the reasons behind these verdicts.
The necessity to rid Japan of this masochistic historical view does not decrease as time passes by. Even if physical wounds are healed, spiritual wounds like this historical view do not disappear. We must fight to overcome this.
Next, I would like to point out that Japan has suffered from a Third Loss its defeat in information warfare.
Through this defeat, an image of Japan as a terrible country has been created in the international community. In Japan, a mentality of needing to always act in a masochistic way has been forced upon the citizens. This Third Loss has been carefully plotted since World War II, and is still occurring today. Examples of this include the Nanking Incident (the so-called “Nanking Massacre”), the controversy over the name of the Sea of Japan, and the comfort women issue.
In regards to the Nanking Incident, fabricated photographs and other materials are used to disseminate information about atrocities that could not have happened, going way beyond violations of international laws from that time (such as the massacre of 300,000 people). In addition, proposals are made in many locations, including the United Nations, regarding the international legitimacy of the name “East Sea” which is only used inside South Korea instead of “Sea of Japan.” Regarding the comfort women issue as well, South Korea insists that the Japanese Army carried out the forced transportation of Korean women, which did not happen.
The issue here is what the international community recognizes as actual fact. I recently shared a meal with a diplomat from a certain country. When I raised the topics of the Nanking Incident and the comfort women issue, this diplomat said, “I am aware that these things likely did not happen.” His further comment, which follows, was quite thought provoking:
Rather than asking if these things are true, the issue is one of how actual circumstances are conveyed. There are many different ways of looking at facts. In terms of the acceptance of facts in the international society in particular, it is generally accepted that two parties will not be in agreement. Information warfare is waged to gain acceptance of these facts. Perhaps Japanese people think that facts will be recognized as such even when they are silent, but the international community is not that naive; a great deal of effort must be expended to have facts recognized as the truth. If these endeavors are not made, it is only natural that such facts are not accepted by the international community.
When I heard this, I recalled the Iraq War of 2003. On the eve of the Iraq War, the U.S. and England suspected that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), decided that an attack was necessary for this reason, and then attacked Iraq. In the end, no WMDs were found in Iraq, and it became clear that the reason for attacking Iraq was inconsistent with reality. However, at that time the U.S. and England attacked Iraq based on Iraq’s obstruction and violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which established the necessity of conducting an inspection in Iraq to determine whether it possessed WMDs. This is one example of how history was made not based on what was true, but rather on how facts were acknowledged by the international community.
The UN and U.S. Congress have signed off on recognitions of such facts. The adoption of a resolution in the U.S. Congress criticizing Japan for the comfort women issue was one of the first steps towards having the international community recognize this as a fact.
A similar resolution censured Turkey for its massacre of the Armenians 100 years ago. The resolution criticizing Turkey was introduced by a congressman with Armenian heritage, but has lost steam due to thorough opposition from the Turkish government, mass media, and citizens. At that time, the Turkish media and government lobbied vehemently against efforts by this Armenian-American congressman to have the resolution adopted, such as by suggesting that the adoption of this resolution might result in the U.S. Armed Forces being denied the use of military bases in Turkey.
Despite the existence of this similar case, the Japanese government did not reproach the comfort women resolution introduced by a congressman with strong support from Korean-Americans. Incidents such as these are conclusive proof of Japan’s defeat in information warfare.
The aforementioned diplomat also made the following cautious statement: Over the past 30 years, the international community has come to accept the Nanking Incident and comfort women issue as facts. Similarly, dozens of years will be required to change these circumstances; it is impossible to overthrow the entire world’s understanding in a short period of time. To that end, Japan should implement a range of measures via the mass media and PR firms that form the public opinion. This will necessitate a great deal of effort and expense. The present situation stems from the lack of effort made by the Japanese government and mass media to fully engage in information warfare. Japan must reflect on this and learn from it. Furthermore, information warfare does not generally involve stepping into another party’s territory and going along with their strategies, as Japan does when it insists that the comfort women statues put up in various locations should be taken down immediately. Instead, it will be more important for Japan to turn attention away from these issues by taking time and conducting various measures to create a widespread understanding that these things are not based on fact.
For example, I think Japan should attempt measures such as putting up statues of humanists next to the comfort women statues, such as Chiune Sugihara. He saved the lives of more than 6,000 Jewish people by issuing many visas during World War II, and has been continually respected in Israel for this reason. In this way, I think it would be effective to show the world that Japan was home to people in the pre-war era who defied danger due to their esteem for human rights.
The Jewish mass media and human network, which are hugely influential across the world, engage in propaganda that says Japanese people are bad. Responding to such propaganda in this way would serve as an effective impetus towards improving Japan’s image on the global scale.
The Nanking Incident was broadly promoted throughout China around 20 years ago via nationalistic education based on ethnocentrism according to the will of its leaders, specifically then-General Secretary Jiang Zemin. This nationalistic education resulted in the anti-Japanese sentiment of the current generation of Chinese citizens, which is even stronger than directly after World War II.
In other words, information warfare is still occurring today, and will continue perpetually.
The Japanese citizens must overcome the Three Losses I have described in this essay in order to gain pride. Now that Japan has accomplished great economic growth to overcome the First Loss, we must make urgent efforts to surmount the Second Loss and Third Loss that is still occurring.
According to a survey conducted by the Japan Youth Research Institute, the number of junior high school students who believe they are bad people and have no confidence was 56% in Japan, 14% in the U.S., and 15% in China. The ratio of Japanese high school students who answered that they have no confidence was 66%, while the U.S. was 22% and China was 13%.
Confidence is the most important force for all human actions; it leads to vitality and success. It will be essential to restore the confidence of the youth in order for Japan to have an honorable position in the world and to continue being active. However, it will be difficult to regain this confidence in a masochistic environment with self-torturing education. Plato once said that “states” is the same as “individual” written in capital letters. If confident individuals draw together, a confident nation will be born; this will lead to the further cultivation of confident individuals.
In particular, the Third Loss defeat in information warfare is still a great danger even more than a half-century after the end of World War II. This defeat grows more severe each day. In this essay, I would like to inspire readers to fight against the masochistic view of history, overcome it, and establish a foundation for Japan to stand upon. In addition, I hope they will be able to overcome this defeat in information warfare by creating long-term strategies for the sake of their future grandchildren. These two things are absolutely vital for Japan’s formation of truly peaceful, friendly relationships with other countries in the 21st century, and to hold an honorable position in the international society.
One specific strategy to consider is working together with Germany to hasten measures towards the abolition of the “former enemy clause” that still exists in the UN Charter despite the large amount of contributions made by Japan. Thorough initiatives of this sort, it will be of the utmost importance for Japan to further enhance the international peace based on justice and order it has built together with other peace-loving countries.
I am firmly committed to making full-scale efforts with all other concerned readers in this important battle for Japan to overcome these Three Losses and free itself to become a stronger country.