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Japan mourns victims of Tokyo firebombings

38 Comments
By ELAINE KURTENBACH and MARI YAMAGUCHI

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“With the lessons of the atrocities of war etched deeply in our hearts, we must humbly face the past and do our utmost to contribute to world peace,” said Abe

Sorry, Mr ABe. I very much doubt you have learned anything about history beyond what the Yushukan museum next to Yasukuni teaches. If you attended ceremonies to pay tribute to Japan's WW2 victims, I might start showing you a little more respect on this score

13 ( +18 / -5 )

Mess with the bull...

-2 ( +8 / -10 )

What would have been the fate of all non japanese had japan won ww2. ..or successfully developed the atom bomb?

6 ( +11 / -5 )

After the war, one of McArthur's early actions was the confiscation of all photographs of immediate postwar Japan. If the bombing was so noble, why do that? I guess they didn't want to leave a bad taste in the victor's mouth. The photos are still in the vaults under the Pentagon. That is why there are do few picturs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the firebombed cities.

-2 ( +10 / -12 )

Please do speak up. Yell if you have to.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

@gokai: you sound like a conspiracy theorist! All you have to do is search "tokyo firebombing" and you'll find thousands upon thousands of images that are supposedly "still in the vaults under the Pentagon." Nice try, though.

The Tokyo firebombings (replete with pics) were to be found in my American elementary, junior high, high school and college history textbooks. I was taught this happened from when I was a child, and though terrible, you'd have to be crazy to live in a wartime capital while your country is on a decade-long murderous rampage across Asia and yet still expect that you'll somehow be exempted from all forms of retribution when your country's aggression starts to fail!

Compared to the atomic bombs, air bombings of cities during WWII were quite commonplace. In fact, it was the Japanese who first decided to start the trend when they bombed the Chinese city of Mukden way back in 1931 (8 years before war broke out in Europe, and fully 10 years before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.) In conclusion, it's not like there's a cover-up or anything (as there definitely is with other wartime subjects here in Japan.)

3 ( +10 / -7 )

The movie Pearl harbor had a good reflection on Tokyo bombings, I think : http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0213149/?ref_=nv_sr_1

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

Don't just teach what happened to Japan, teach what Japan did that lead to this. The US didn't just wake up and decide to bomb Japan. Japan loves to paint themselves as the victims. The fascist regime at the time killed these people. Japan was intent on wiping out China, Korea and America if it could.

1 ( +11 / -10 )

@harvey

And neither did Japan wake up one morning and suddenly decide to bomb Pearl Harbor.

Although that's the way it happened in the minds of a lot of simplistic people who like to see the war in black-and-white terms....

4 ( +10 / -6 )

@harvey

1) Japan wanted an empire, just like Britain and France and Belgium and the Netherlands.

2) Empire-building is a nasty, filthy business (look at the Brits in Ireland, the Belgians in the Congo or the French in Algeria). Nobody now would claim otherwise. But at the time it was the way power and politics worked.

3) America didn't enjoy the sight of the Japanese empire-building (they're not even white, for God's sake, they're yellow!) and so set herself up as Japan's enemy, frustrating any attempt to expand like the Europeans were allowed to.

That's the reason for Pearl Harbor. The reason, not a justification or excuse.

The moral, surely, is don't ever mess with other countries. It brings grief and very little else in the end.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

"Yamabe, the historian, said authorities “are reluctant to acknowledge civilian suffering from the wartime leaders’ refusal to end the war earlier.”"

The firebombings are not denied nor downplayed in the United States, and certainly not bt the government.

Japanese can remember, too, if they would choose to do so. One of the most anti- war stories was made into an animated feature called 蛍の墓 -- Grave of the Fireflies. It starts with B-29s firebombing Kobe during which the mother is killed and two young children survive, for a while. Their father is already missing in war, with no word heard from in months, and the two try to scrape by to survive, trying to live an aunt in Nishinomiya -- now one of the tony neighborhoods of Hyogo (and home of the Hanshin Tigers). They ultimately perish, unable to get the help they need or the people from whom care can be given. This is not anti-American per se. It is not even anti-militarist. It is profoundly anti-war. And well Japan should be. This and other accounts should be things that Japanese should see periodically to reflect 反省.

If there is forgetfulness, it is forgetfulness of choice. Just like wars of choice, there are consequences to forgetfulness of choice.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

It is profoundly anti-war.

Indeed, Takahata's movie is a masterpiecer.

Some people here are confusing what and where some things were censored. Besides the fact I don't know how deeply American kids learn about American war crimes in every war America was and currently IS involved, I'm sure there are great American historians who are rather objective about the facts.

But the point is that the firebombings and also the effects of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in the earlier years of American occupation in Japan were censored, especially the effects of the radiations. Actually, around the world the US sold "Atoms for Peace" program and propaganda. How do you think Japanese people were able to accept nuclear reactors in their territory, despite Hiroshima and Nagasaki? This was thanks to whitewash the effects of radiations, and this was made by American AND Japanese politicians together (before you call me "Anti-American"). It was a huge business, and American industries built up together with Japanese industries reactors like Fukushima Daiichi.

1 ( +2 / -2 )

Japan is lucky they go off this easy, did not Japan declare war on the United States and sneaked a brutal attack on the Americans like a thief in the night. If it was up to the generation of adults in the US coming up to power today and had they been the leaders, I doubt Japan would be where it is today and it would indeed be another state of the US.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Japan is lucky they go off this easy

"This easy"? It's the only country in the world that has been nuked, and twice!

I doubt Japan would be where it is today and it would indeed be another state of the US.

Japan is still occupied by US army, same for Italy, Germany, and tons of other countries as well. After 70 years from the end of WWII. Isn't this enough for you?

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

killing 100,000 civilians by burning them to death in on night killing again 100,000 civilians by nukes n we call them righteous

Should US lost the war, there will be terrible price to pay

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Don't forget who started the war!

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

Don't forget who started the war!

Which war? It's not like WWII was started by Japan. What about the situation in Europe? The origin of this hell is in the colonialistic politics, and they were created by the West. Japan copied European model because it didn't want to become an European colony. It's fun like some people always remember Japanese colonialism in Asia, but they forget European colonialism in Asia. It's not like the British or the Spanish apologize every year for what they did in Asia, for example.

History is more complex than you think, and there are complex reasons also behind the fact that only South Korea and China are so obsessed over Japanese colonialism, while other South East Asian countries already moved on, despite periodic revisionism by some of Japanese leaders.

Anyway, the matter here isn't who started what, but the violence against civilians in war.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

"Anyway, the matter here isn't who started what, but the violence against civilians in war."

Civilians in Tokyo were supporting the war effort. Up til then the bombing of mainly military targets hadn't stopped the Japanese war effort. And, incredibly, after the devastation of their capital city, the Japanese war STILL continued until two of their cities were A-bombed.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

And neither did Japan wake up one morning and suddenly decide to bomb Pearl Harbor.

@luca no-one dispute that, of course colonialism and its downsides is discussed all over,,,but,,when some serious matters are being hidden, tragedies being denied, facts not mentioned in textbooks as they ought to be and/or distorted, maybe thats what matters here i think.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Civilians in Tokyo were supporting the war effort.

Yeah, also a 2 years old kid. Please, in every country you had/have civilians that were/are supporting their government, specially if they hadn't/have the means to be against it, but they were/are still civilians.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

It seems that Japan must neither make war nor join war whatever in the future if they don't want to mourn victims any more.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Alex80

History is more complex than you think, and there are complex reasons also behind the fact that only South Korea and China are so obsessed over Japanese colonialism, while other South East Asian countries already moved on, despite periodic revisionism by some of Japanese leaders.

Other South East Asian countries can not afford to be obsessed, they need every yen they can get.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

@souka

Agree completely. I just want the whole truth about colonialism and aggression to be acknowledged.

The idea that Japan was some especially evil case is both widespread and wrongheaded.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Other South East Asian countries can not afford to be obsessed, they need every yen they can get.

Both South Korea and China accepted economic support by Japan in the past years, as well. And indeed, they were less vocal about revisionism. Now that they are powerful enough, they can play the nationalist card against Japan for inner reasons. I'm not saying that Japanese revisionism is right. It's absolutely wrong. But the truth is that all these three countries are playing the same game, by using the same rhetoric for distracting their own people from other problems.

The idea that Japan was some especially evil case is both widespread and wrongheaded.

Indeed, specially whan you consider that Japan copied the European colonial powers because it didn't want to be invaded by them.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

€€@okai_wo_manekuMAR. 10, 2015 - 03:35PM JST After the war, one of McArthur's early actions was the confiscation of all photographs of immediate postwar Japan.

;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;''

There was no such orders during his GHQ era in Japan.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

My dear friend, the most open-minded woman I know in Japan, who has been so helpful and kind to me and my children here, told me stories of her leading and carrying her younger siblings to safety in Hachioji and stepping over the dieing or dead bodies and still has nightmares about the groaning and moaning living victims they had to circumnavigate. They had a lot of potatoes that were completely scorched.They ate them later and she can still (at 80+years) remember the flavor! She was about 11 or so. I rent an apartment from a man who was forced to leave his home in Shinjuku for the countryside when the air raids started. He was a young boy then. They know what they saw as small children.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The firebombing of Tokyo happened because of what the American diplomats living in Japan before World World II reported thus: most of the buildings in Japanese cities were still made of wood, built densely packed, and with a lot of workshops in these areas. And this was after what happened to Tokyo during the Great Kanto Earthquake, where massive fires caused by overturned cooking stoves (that famous earthquake occurred right at the start of lunchtime in Tokyo, so many cooking fires were going) destroyed much of the city, which should have taught the Japanese to rely a lot less on wooden buildings.

Because these urban workshops were heavily involved in the Japanese war effort manufacturing bullets, rifles and other small weapon parts, they essentially became a prime target for American bombing raids. Just four firebombing raids in March 1945 on Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Kobe had a massive effect on the Japanese war effort, not only from the massive loss of life and all those urban workshops, but on the will of the Japanese people to continue the war.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

and when the rest of asia remembers ww2 and the atrocities caused by japan, the sentiment is to "get over it". we need to remember ALL of it

2 ( +3 / -1 )

There is no justification for the mass slaughter of civilians. Whoever knowingly does such things is criminally insane! My father was a bombardier who participated in the fire-bombing of Dresden in Germany that killed some 100,000 civilians. The air crews were lied to by those in command and told it was a military target. My father was haunted to his grave by the spirits of those who died. He relived those experiences every night in his nightmares. He abandoned his family after the war, to save us from life with a mass murderer. When I met him as a teenager, he explained that the war had no purpose other than to get the ordinary people on either side to kill each other for the benefit of the rich and powerful. My heartfelt condolences to all who suffered in war. Disarmament and peaceful resolution of differences through a functional UN with an international peacekeeping force is the way forward for humanity.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

Main target pf firebombs were also for industries which were built with concrete.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Sorry, but never pick a fight you can't win.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

once again, the moral of the story is; don't start a war you can't FINISH.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Jim, thanks for sharing that experience.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Don't just teach what happened to Japan, teach what Japan did that lead to this. The US didn't just wake up and decide to bomb Japan. Japan loves to paint themselves as the victims. The fascist regime at the time killed these people. Japan was intent on wiping out China, Korea and America if it could.

Japan had no intention of "wiping out" Korea or America.

Korea had already been established as a colony of Japan and was considered a part of Japan since WWI. Why would they want to "wipe out" some place they already considered theirs?

As for America, Japan had no illusions about winning a war against, never mind "wiping out", America. America's access to resources far outweighed Japan's so any sort of direct war was doomed to failure. Before Pearl Harbor, resources in Japan were stretched so thin that people were dying of malnutrition because there was no food for the civilians. What happened was that Japan started to push into Southeast Asia in pursuit of more resources for Japan and to support their war in China (which the Japanese euphemistically called "The China Affair" even back in the 1940's), and The Dutch and British colonies there took exception. The United States basically issued a "cease and desist" order to Japan. Japan, desperately needing the resources, knew they would never be able to comply, so they came up with a daring plan to "kneecap" America's ability to project force in the Pacific and hope that their Southeast Asia incursions would be solidified by the time the U.S. had recovered. The (naive) thinking was that the Americans would consider it a fait acompli and say "Sho ga nai". All the strategists in Japan knew that a protracted war against the U.S. was impossible to sustain, so you have to wonder why they didn't capitulate as soon as it became clear that America was not familiar with the concept of "sho ga nai".

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Japan needs to mourn victims every day/year so that it can't start war or join war in the future. It seems that Abe willingly wants to start/join new war like other developed countries already did for whatever reason.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You go into war, brutally enslave others and then you lose and think you are the victim? They, like the Nazis, were an evil regime and needed to be stopped at all cost. They were not going to surrender so their will to fight had to be completely broken.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

That's the reason for Pearl Harbor. The reason, not a justification or excuse.

Not exactly. The US brokered the peace deal that ended the Russia-Japan war in 1905. Japan fought on the side of the Allies in the first world war - a fact many people forget. Japan started its expansion into China at a time when empire building was starting to become unfashionable, post WW1. The problem is it did itself no favours in its actions. (Withdrawal from the League of Nations, the "Manchurian incident" etc.) After the Nanking massacre in 1937, even the Nazis were appalled. That, and China had an effective lobby in the US - which had the ear of Roosevelt. America may have been a little too pro-China in the leadup to the Pacific War - but Japan was hardly a benevolent conqueror either. So with all that in mind, Japan is in no position to paint iself as the victim

0 ( +0 / -0 )

lucabrasi so set herself up as Japan's enemy, frustrating any attempt to expand like the Europeans were allowed to. That's the reason for Pearl Harbor. The reason, not a justification or excuse.

America meddled in Japan's invasion with China by supporting mercenaries (the Flying Tigers) and eventually cut off steel exports to Japan, which started the "set up". Japan needed the steel to support its expansion in Asia. Japan saw America as becoming more threatening and could eventually oppose Japan with its large navy of battleships. The Nazis also wanted America involved in the Pacific to pull it away from the European theater.

So, Japan decided to destroy Pacific fleet (more specifically its battleships) in a decisive ambush at Pearl Harbor. The attack was meant to stop America before it could enter the war. Japan failed to destroy the carrier fleet though, which with the loss of the battleships became a new and more effective form of warfare.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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