Filmmaker Yoji Yamada says Japan needs reminders of war's horrors


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Thanks Mr. Yamada. Politicians use some deceiptful tactics to turn the population into nationalists. Like the shame for not being patrioctic, ridicule, denial of benefits, rewards for those who do, medals.

24 ( +26 / -2 )

Japan needs people like Yoji Yamada to put the past in perspective. Let's hope someone younger will continue his legacy when he's gone.

18 ( +19 / -1 )

The sense that the war was a catastrophe, that it was dreadful, that it was cruel, that it was a tragedy, the sense that you have to learn from that and never repeat that again.

Agree with the sentiment, but this sounds like it will be a more melancholic, sentimental treatment of the theme which adheres to the idea that Japan was a victim of the war, as opposed to some hard naval gazing about Japan's actions in the war.

And I support the basic view that ordinary Japanese people of the time were manipulated and coerced by Militaristic Nationalist madmen, including the Emperor, but that alone cannot be the sole representation of Japan's war experience. It mustn't be the only narrative, because then you are carefully choosing the things about the war you 'must not forget', and your view of history becomes skewed and dangerous.

For me, this is ultimately the issue with the way Japan reflects on WW2 - it sees itself as this clean snowflake nation whose purity of spirit was somehow slightly and lightly corrupted for a brief and ever so fleeting moment, as opposed to recognising that it was a nation that collectively went mad for a period of years and in the process killed many people and visited terrible suffering on others, as well as itself.

I guess it's ultimately this unwillingness or inability to take a balanced view of the war that resonates most with people. I certainly do not hold modern day Japan responsible for it's wartime past - but neither am I comfortable with how it chooses to reflect on it, and I'll be interested to see if this film provides anything new in that respect. I suspect it won't.

5 ( +12 / -7 )

I think that the problem is... If they only play the victim, then they're less and less motivated to try to stop the war or even see that the Japanese war aggression was really that bad. I mean the whole point of this is to show that the Japanese were a victim and that they really, really suffered (which is true). Its intent is to show how much the Japanese suffered, and the more the they suffer, the better, because that would show that the Japanese were REALLY the victims.

If they are the victim, then more and more they feel that they're powerless to do anything about it. You can only be seriously moved or motivated when you see OTHERS suffering. Then they can no longer go on about how they were the victims and feel comfortable about it because then their apathy and powerlessness would no longer be justified.

1 ( +11 / -10 )

**Well, what's the point in reminding them if you're only going to portray Japan as the victim? You're just preaching to the aging choir here.

@Eiji Takano Err... All aspects of war are horrible, but it's widely known that Japan was by far the worst. Nanjing, Unit 731... I mean they were really beyond human comprehension. Do some reading!

1 ( +8 / -7 )

“The sense that the war was a catastrophe, that it was dreadful, that it was cruel, that it was a tragedy—the sense that you have to learn from that and never repeat that again.”

Absolutely agree with this man. I wonder if this will fall under Abe's secrecy law and be censored or banned? Anyway, I'm glad SOME people are trying to get the message that war benefits NO ONE, instead of the current crop of politicians here and in other nations that seem to be aching for it.

14 ( +16 / -2 )

@sighclops, you missed the point of @Eiji Takano's post. Actually, he is saying the same thing you are.

Other than that I agree with Yamada's sentiments.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Yes, did you actually read my post?

0 ( +5 / -5 )

I wonder if NHK plan to broadcast this in the future. Will it be deemed suitable for the current narrative?

12 ( +14 / -2 )

“The sense that the war was a catastrophe, that it was dreadful, that it was cruel, that it was a tragedy—the sense that you have to learn from that and never repeat that again.”

Truer words were never spoken. A real shame this gentleman is 82 and will likely not be able to bring a level-headed opinion to Japanese politics much longer.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I haven't seen the movie, but judging from the trailer, etc. it seems to be set entirely in Japan and the cast is entirely Japanese.

So I'm guessing that its portrayed "horrors" are the horrors inflicted on innocent Japanese people, no? Correct me if I'm wrong. If that's the case, wouldn't Yamada's objective be better achieved if he set his movie at least partially on a Chinese battlefield or town struggling under brutal Japanese occupation?

5 ( +7 / -2 )

A genius and a true wise man, Yoji Yamada. His Tora-san movies, all 48 of them, are wonderful, and for that he deserves a big round of applause. For this new movie at age 82, wow, a bigger round of applause. A true Japanese!

5 ( +7 / -2 )


I haven't seen the movie, but judging from the trailer, etc. it seems to be set entirely in Japan and the cast is entirely Japanese.

That's likely the case. It just goes to show that the left in Japan are just as bad as the right: That they constantly want to portray the Japanese as the "victims", so essentially they're absolved of their own responsibilities (that others suffered too as a result)

It is true that the Japanese were mostly a victim of the military that went out of control. But that's not the whole picture. There were other things that went along with it that they're ignoring. Portraying themselves as the victims not only serve them to give them an alibi to not feel too guilty about it, but it also robs their ability to stand up to this kind of injustice in the first place.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Eiji Takano, Yes, I agree with that, although I dispute how "innocent" a significant portion of the population was. Japan had a conscript army and navy, so the military was quite representative of the (male) population. Morale and motivation among the ranks was extremely high, unlike say, the US army in Vietnam in the 1970s, LOL.

As for the officer class, the Imperial Army Academy, where most of the highest ranking officers were trained, had an admissions policy based on ability, i.e. academic and physical achievement, (although family connections, etc., probably didn't hurt, either.)

Indeed, a check of the backgrounds of Japan's highest ranking officers during the war shows that many came from modest, folksy origins, particularly Kyushu, for some reason. So portraying these Japanese leaders as somehow detached from their own society is clearly disingenuous and aimed, once again, at avoiding responsibility.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

It all boils down to who is or was ultimately responsible for the war. And that's obviously the militants in Japan that thought that it was a good idea to invade other nations and turn Japan into an empire.

Japan at then was basically divided into two camps; those who wanted to just focus on economy to make Japan "strong", and those who obviously wanted to focus on military might. As the time went by, the Japanese government found itself increasingly difficult to control itself, especially the military, as it lacked a system that put a check on the control of power. The Japanese government didn't quite know how to control power after the Meiji restoration, and the short-lived democratic period in Japan was soon overtaken by the army.

Actually the Japanese constitution initially even forbade starting wars with another countries. It was unconstitutional to invade other nations. So the military faction set up a puppet government in Manchuria, and called the invasion "incidents" as a way to avoid breaking the constitutional law. This is when the military started to walk independently on its own, ignoring government orders. The government did not like this, called to stop the military but the military was already out of control, and it was no longer taking any orders from the government, and we know how that all went... It was a pure disaster on all accounts. Millions of people have died as a result. It changed the whole of Asia. It contributed to the rise of communists in China. And all because of a system that failed to put a check on power, the military, and so the military went out of control...

4 ( +9 / -5 )

The Japanese people need to know that enthusiasm for the war effort was widespread but still not "unanimous," and (more importantly) that many people in high places knew full well what would happen (only to have their views subsequently ignored or imperiously overruled.) My favorite quotes on this subject come from the famous Japanese Imperial Navy Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. He knew full well what would become of Japan's empire (and what Japan in turn could expect on the home front in response to its treacherous aggression abroad) when he boldly stated before the war:

"Should hostilities once break out between Japan and the United States, it is not enough that we take Guam and the Philippines, nor even Hawaii and San Francisco. To make victory certain, we would have to march into Washington and dictate the terms of peace in the White House. I wonder if our politicians have confidence as to the final outcome and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices." And...

"In the first six to twelve months of a war with the United States and Great Britain I will run wild and win victory upon victory. But then, if the war continues after that, I have no expectation of success."

What's happening now in Japan, where Japanese know that there is an ongoing shift in the comments and actions of their "leaders" towards ever-greater militarism, historical revisionism and jingoism, seems strikingly similar to what happened in Japan in the 1920s and 30s. And yet the average citizen still seems quite prepared to sit back and do nothing concrete in response (as long as their nation's economy continues to recover, that is...)

2 ( +3 / -1 )

We need more men like him in Japan, simple and plain.

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Just one question to everyone here or any Japanese. Has there been any Japanese movie in the past that deals with Japan's invasions, as how the rest of the world viewed the Japanese forces - as occupying cruel military? Or have they only portrayed as Japanese as victims of war? Have there been any Japan's versions of the movies like the Schindler's list, the Holocaust, etc etc? How has Japanese movies dealt with WWII?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Anyone on here seen "Dr Akagi"? In that film the titular character's son, also a Doctor, is in Unit 731, and Akagi is ashamed. There is also the soldiers looking for the western serviceman who has escaped a POW camp and is being hidden from the soldiers looking for him. That film addresses some of the difficult issues.

Chucky... has there ever been a Chinese film showing the massacres inflicted upon civilians during the Cultural Revolution? Of course not. Reminding the intended viewers that their country was a brutal aggressor in WW2 is one thing, but to have the modern generation shell shocked and probably needing counselling after being shown to be monsters is a bit much.

In "Platoon" Oliver Stone addressed the way US soldiers behaved in Vietnam, showing several of them to behave as if the Vietnamese were not human. In "Casualties of War" US soldiers rape Vietnamese girls at one point. The films don't shy away from depicting what US soldiers did. However, Japanese people aren't American, and for a Japanese director in a Japanese film to depict soldiers of the IJA carrying out acts like this would backfire big time in my opinion.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

This dude is on his way out and is just trying to save face for his country. what he said was nail on the head, but what matters is the people who will be around for a while : the younger generation and the politicians who are running the computer program put into most of these peoples heads.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )


Other countries need reminders of wars horrors too.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

Hiroshima is the #1 reminder of the horrors of war and has yet to be made into a major motion picture. The legacy of the survivors of any war must be peace... a day that there is no war anywhere on the planet.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

"....has there ever been a Chinese film showing the massacres inflicted upon civilians during the Cultural Revolution?"

I don't watch mainland Chinese movies. But the "Last Emperor," whose crew was granted extensive access to shoot in China by the gov't, showed the humiliation and misery the communists inflicted on their own people during that period.

And no, the Chinese didn't have a hissy fit about it, either. In fact, the only people who objected to that movie were the Japanese! The Japanese distributor deleted 40 seconds of newsreel footage (ie, "real footage") of Japanese wartime behavior in Nanjing.


3 ( +3 / -0 )

Jeff Lee I never knew the Japanese distributor deleted part of the movie "Last Emperor", so I checked about that on the internet, and you were right. But I also found out part of what you call "real footage" was not real, and that was what right wingers in Japan was angry at. The scene where Chinese are executed by headshots is show as part of Nanjing massacre but actually that scene was derived from "The Shanghi document"(1928) made by soviet and Germany. It was originally a scene depicting persecution of Chinese communists by Chinese nationalist party. Somebody uploaded the movie on youtube so you can watch it. Then the propaganda film made by the US during the pacific war called "The Battle of China"(1944), used the same scene as persecution of Chinese by Japanese army. And "Last Emperor" used that same scene to show Nanjing Massacre.

But that headshot part was just few seconds of the movie. If the Japanese distributor deleted 30 ~40seconds of the movie, I don't know whether other scenes of Japanese atrocities were real footage or not. If they deleted the real footage, they shouldn't have done that, and even if they are not using the real footage, maybe distributors should have left it to the market of free speech. In that way, the distributors should not have deleted the film, but at the same time, I think right wingers and conservatives are legitimate in criticizing at least the headshot scene. The DVD version of the movie in Japan includes deleted part, and the movie is generally highly rated in Japan.

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Wow you really did your research. What is the source? The distributor, Shochiku Fuji, didnt cite that as a reason for making the cut, rather because it didnt want Japanese viewers to be upset or "confused" by such scenes, it said.

I imagine that there isn't much or any real footage of the Nanking massacre anyway, given Japan's energy and thoroughness in destroying evidence of such events.


0 ( +2 / -2 )

Jeff Lee

According to the cite you showed, the distributor said ''We concluded that we had better avoid unnecessary confusion in the movie theaters,'. I think it is rational to think the distributor feared right wingers protesting near or inside the movie theater when this movie is showed. Similar thing happened with the movie "Yasukuni". I think these actions by radical right wingers are wrong. I think they have the right to criticize wrong part of the movie using proper freedom of speech, but not in a violent way. I don't know what right wingers were actually claiming, if they were claiming "Nanjing massacre did not happen at all, such a movie is not allowed in Japan" I am against them. But I am not eager to heavily criticize the distributors for I understand fear toward radical right wingers violent actions toward theaters. I think most of the Japanese people won't think such a violent way is a good thing even most of the conservatives would agree with this. The fact that the movie is highly rated in Japan is probably one of the evidence for that. But if right wingers were infuriated with the headshot scene, I think they have some legitimate reasons to be angry, even though that won't justify their violent way. And there are some people, not radical right wingers, who says the movie was basically good and was moved by it, but the headshot scene is something that disappointed them, when they knew the fact. I can understand this kind of criticism.

And it is true that Japanese Imperial government burned documents, but I think there is enough evidence that shows Nanjing massacre of some extent took place, though there is possibility that death toll might have been more clearer if documents had not been burned. But if the documents had remained, and if the death toll was actually not as high as what many Chinese medias or institutions are claiming, there is possibility that remaining documents might have actually worked well to some extent for Japan, not China. I think that is more likely because numbers like more than 300000 is probably the maximum estimate done that is not likely along with people who say numbers like 0 or few hundred.

0 ( +1 / -1 )


From my research, Japan does not dispute that the massacre happened. As you said the death toll is in dispute with Japan, China and overseas historian arriving at different figures.

Iris Chang's book is often cited but historians found many problems with her research. Many also see it as influenced by the Chinese government.

So till some definite data comes along this dispute will exist.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It"S ME I think you are right, there are probably no rational historian that says no killing of any kind out side of battle took place. Thank you for pointing that out. Some right wingers claim there was killing but it does not fit the definition of massacre, I don't know the details, but that sounds too much of justification for me. I personally feel that the truth is somewhere between extremes and I hope things become more clearer in the future, or China and Japan can get over this problem.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I think it's a little pathetic that they care about small details .like the number when what's important is that it happened.

"No, no, it wasn't 200,000, it was 100,000! See, not as bad?"


0 ( +1 / -1 )

Eiji Takano

I understand what you want to say, I think killing 100,000 and 200,000 are both awfully bad. But I am not sure how far you are going to extend that argument, if death toll is ranging from killing hundreds of people to killing more than thirty thousand people, probably you are not going to say they are equally bad.

I think the reality is that majority of the people around the world(not only Chinese and Japanese) cares about how many people were killed in the atrocities especially when numbers are significantly different like from few hundred to thirty thousand, and at the same time they will also understand your feeling that killing 100,000 and 200,000 are both almost equally bad.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's just as bad when the military rapes, pillages and slaughters a village of 50.

"A death of a million is just a statistic."

-4 ( +0 / -4 )


I still don't understand your view fully. I'm sorry if I misunderstood you but you seem to think killing 50 equals to killing millions. I thought about your view and many questions came into my mind. From your view, is a military killing one civilian as bad as Holocaust which killed about 6millions? Is atomic bombing or Dresden bombing as bad as nanjing? If Chinese gov is persecuting Tibet and killing Tibetans, is it as bad as Nanjing?

0 ( +0 / -0 )


One problem with the death toll dispute is China as they insist their number is the correct one, everyone sees it as an over inflated number.

China also insists that their number is used in Japanese textbooks, not using it is seen as whitewashing history.

Similar for a few other issues including ones with Korea. Similar for a few contested is

0 ( +1 / -1 )

That's a moral question that has no clear answer. I guess it boils down to either having a kantian view or benthamian view.

It's like saying would you kill a person to save a million?

Either way we just wish that these things had never happened whether it was 1 or a million.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )


Answering questions like killing 50 is better than killing million or not is already a difficult question for me to answer, but anyway, I agree people would have various answers to these questions and I wish China and Japan become a friend in the future.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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