politics

With Hiroshima, Obama goes where predecessors stayed away

17 Comments
By BRADLEY KLAPPER and KEN MORITSUGU

The requested article has expired, and is no longer available. Any related articles, and user comments are shown below.

© Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

17 Comments
Login to comment

Anything resembling an apology could become a wedge issue in the U.S. presidential campaign and plunge Obama into the complicated politics of victimhood among Japan and its Asian neighbors.

In the name of a more peaceful world and nuclear non-proliferation, overall I am glad that Obama is visiting Hiroshima, and think America should not have used nuclear weapons against Japan — in retrospect. But having said that, Obama's visit will also have longstanding negative consequences in that it will be construed by many in Japan for years to come as validity for the all-too-common victim, not aggressor, agenda in Japan.

By and large, the nuclear bombings along with the Nazi Holocaust have come to be portrayed in Japan as the two greatest atrocities of WWII. Meanwhile, people in Japan normally portray Japan as a hapless victim and not an aggressor during the war years. The narrative of the Abe administration and many educated people in Japan is that the nation begrudgingly entered the war as a liberator (in fact the war was widely popular among Japan's populace in the beginning) and was loved and revered by those it occupied, and that nearly all accusations of atrocities are lies by those harboring ill-will toward Japan. Denialism and historic revisionism is the order of the day.

Ostensibly because the education ministry feared that teaching Japan's youth about the nation's wrongdoings was overly masochistic and would hurt the self esteem of Japan's youth, in the 1990s educators in Japan began toning down on teaching students about Japan's aggression and atrocities, but continued to focus on Japan's wartime suffering. Part of that curriculum involves school trips to Hiroshima by many (most?) of Japan's students at some point during their jhs/hs years. The consequence of this educational focus on Japan's suffering but turning a blind eye to the nation's wrongdoings, of course, is that Japan's population now widely regards itself as a victim on par with those who suffered in the Holocaust.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

With Hiroshima, Obama goes where predecessors stayed away

Good for him.

Nationalists put forward the idea that the atomic bombs “evened out” Nazi-allied Japan’s wartime atrocities, he said.

So a couple of hundred thousand dead from atomic bombs is somehow equal to a number of aggressive invasions and millions of deaths, caused by the Japanese is it? Whilst every life is priceless, the dropping of the bombs caused Stalin to halt his planned invasion of Hokkaido, which was about to go ahead, and doubtless would have caused Japan to be partitioned like Korea is today.

I think it's disgusting that Japanese nationalists are putting forward the notion that Japan was a victim here in light of this. Do they honestly think that the alternative would have been better? That is, having Japan split like Korea and having many Japanese suffer under what would have been an oppressive regime like North Korea with famines and all the associated madness?

Not to mention the fact that Japan killed millions of people in China, brutally oppressed occupied areas and tried to eradicate national cultures in Korea and Taiwan through Kokuminka. I think the fact that, no matter how awful nuclear weapons are, these weapons were used to bring about an end to the suffering that people were enduring at the hands of the Japanese, not to mention the suffering of normal people in Japan is enough on its own to justify the use of the bombs. Added to the fact that it stopped a Soviet invasion and a partition of Japan, then the necessity of their use is beyond reasonable question.

Japan was never a victim here. It started all the hostilities in Asia by invading China and then lashing out at the US and SE Asia. It treated people in the occupied areas brutally, not other countries. People may argue that it was the government of the day that did this, but rank and file soldiers sent all over Asia wilfully committed these heinous acts and the people at home rolled over and allowed this to be done in their name (and the Emperor's name). At a human level, people must know when they are doing wrong and there was nothing to stop the people from rising up against the government to stop it or from soldiers not being so sadistic in occupied territories. And at the same time, the government and its representatives should have known better than to try to force people in Korea and Taiwan to lose their identities.

Of course this is not the fault of people alive today, so sometimes I think that Korea and China should tone down what they demand of the Japanese government. However, the Japanese government's continued efforts to whitewash what happened and to try to dress Japan up as a victim here does not do the people alive today any favours. We live in a very connected world and people are able to access information from anywhere in the world - so the Japanese public today has absolutely no excuse for not knowing what horrors were committed all over Asia. It is time that Japan manned-up a little bit and stopped trying to play the part of being a victim of its own crimes. If it did man up, we may finally actually see Asia moving forward, which is a good thing for everyone.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

I'm very tired of hearing Americans criticize Japan over the war. Your president decided to visit HIroshima, if you don't like it, critiicize your government not Japan.

-10 ( +1 / -11 )

Adam, I agree with every word you've said

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Japan's population now widely regards itself as a victim on par with those who suffered in the Holocaust."*

Spot on.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

the Japanese public today has absolutely no excuse for not knowing what horrors were committed all over Asia.

You too.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Adam's post shows no real understanding of the reality of the times when WWII was started. Japan was following an identical path to all of the major European powers, and to point the finger at them over and over and over is just showing poor or no understanding of history. No one likes the terrible things that happened in history and we are a little better now than ages past but not a lot. It is cultural favortism to blame Japan for having national insterests and pursuing them. China has no clean hands over its past and the things that it did internally and externally. History over time shows that all nations can sponsor bad things. What is sad to see is the ignorance of modern people over the real issues and real costs of that war and its aftermath. not only for Japan but the US which suffers today deep wounds from the affects of trauma on the millions of servicemen and the same in Europe. I hope in time people may take the time to read more of the real events in Japan and some of the fine books and other research written of that era ...a powerful military faction controlled the country in an iron fist...quite similar to the modern condition in the US where the current president and his regieme are trying to control the entire US with his own brand of socialism and use of the government to force his socialist program. No nation is innocent in its past but today Japan is a fine country rediscovering pride in its culture and I support that effort 1000 percent.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

@Adam:: Write the names of Japanese nationalist group to warn Japanese people. I advise you to learn how to comprehend your claim. And study war time history, both Japan and ÎSA beside Stalin's Soviet .

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Ditto on what Adam said. His post shows a DEEP understanding of the reality of the times when WWII was started and how it is being treated in today`s world.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

@Sam Dragon. Can you read? There are non fictions WWII history books.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Sam Dragon. Can you read?

LOL karma strikes at the oddest times! XD

Reporters are making a big deal by assuming Obama will apologize in some way. Anybody want to bet that the reporters will not say a word of apology themselves when Obama doesn't apologize for anything?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@toshiko:

Write the names of Japanese nationalist group to warn Japanese people.

I don't think writing down the names of nationalist groups will offer any help to the Japanese people, there are enough uyoku dantai out and about at weekends that most people who live in urban areas (so the majority of the Japanese population) will be aware of who they are.

Like I wrote in my original post, Japan was never a victim here. If you start a war, then you have to live with the consequences whether you win or lose. If you can't live with the consequences, then the logical conclusion should be not to start a war in the first place. I am sure that if Japan had won then the narrative would be completely different and we probably would not know about many of the atrocities carried out across Asia in the name of the Emperor.

@CrisGerSan:

Japan was following an identical path to all of the major European powers, and to point the finger at them over and over and over is just showing poor or no understanding of history.

Saying that Japan was just following in the footsteps of imperial European powers is a pretty lame excuse to be honest. Japan already expanded in 1895 and 1910 (by absorbing Taiwan and Korea respectively) and had access to treaty ports in China on the same terms as the Western powers.

Its expansion into China can't really be explained purely in terms of Japan wanting to be like a Western power. Japan had designs on China from the 16th Century when Toyotomi Hideyoshi invaded Korea as a route into China (the ultimate goal was to 'win' control of China) - those aspirations never seemed to go away and led to the militarists who came into power in the 1930s to push forward with this whilst China was weakened and fractured due to the civil war.

Because the invasion was condemned internationally, the US and Western powers placed sanctions on Japan which effectively stopped it from having access to oil and other resources, all of which were necessary to conduct its war in China. The only way Japan could access them was to invade resource-rich SE Asia, which is why it attacked the US, in order to make sure that the US did not stand in its way, as it only had enough resources (oil etc.) to do this once, there was no room for a second attempt.

There was no goal to create a Western-style empire. It was purely to allow Japan to access resources to continue its war in China. It 'justified' this, mainly to itself, by calling this controlled area the 'Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere' and used this as propaganda to try to win over local populations to help them fight against the Western powers which, at the time, controlled SE Asia as parts of their own empires. They did this to try and portray Japan as a liberator for Asians, which was never the case, it was a cynical ploy to get resources and to be brutally honest about it, the local populations suffered way more under Japanese rule than they ever did under Western rule, as the Japanese were trying to gain as many resources as possible in the shortest time possible.

So don't kid yourself into thinking that it was Japan trying to create a Western-style empire. It never was and to be quite honest, that's kind of being an apologist for the 1930s military government. It's also the line some nationalist groups take, saying that 'the Westerners did this too, so we were just copying'... It's a weak argument, pretty much along the lines of 'I was just obeying orders'.

If it was natural to copy Western powers at the time and go about on a bout of imperial conquest, why didn't Sun Yat Sen's ROC do this? It had the potential to and was industrialising before fragmenting and ending up in civil war. Or how about some of the countries that gained their independence in the 1940s and 1950s?

Every country has a right to be proud of its culture but not at the expense of ignoring or brushing over terrible things it did in the past, just because they are an inconvenient embarrassment. Germany goes to great lengths to educate its youth about the genocides committed in the name of the German people in the 1930s and 1940s and doesn't hide from the fact that they happened. Of course today's youth are not responsible for what happened, but they have a right to now and should know. Nor does it stop today's youth from being proud to be German or to be proud of their culture, why should it? You have to know about the past in order to learn from it - not bury it and hope that people will forget about it.

Japan does none of this and it should. It won't harm Japanese culture, nor will it stop people from being proud of Japanese culture. Japanese culture didn't start the war or commit the atrocities around Asia, nor did Japanese culture force the government and people of the time to enforce Kominka on Taiwan and Korea.

It would also allow Japanese people to be more understanding of why Korea and China get so upset with Japan for not facing up to its history. By not properly informing the Japanese people of why Korea and China are so upset, the Japanese government is wilfully leading to mistrust and potential hatred of people in these countries.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Why people avoided to visimHiroshima or Nagasaki. We were scared we might become atomic bomb cancer payient.

Uhoku. Abe's maternal grandfather became good friend of Eisenhower. He invited Ike to Japan and uyku injured him at airport. Ike diidd not come but Japanyakuza groups created welcome Ike office all over Japan and scared Iyoku with violence. Uyoku movement died.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If Japan’s leaders were going to surrender because of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, you would expect to find that they cared about the bombing of other cities in general, that the city attacks put pressure on them to surrender. But this doesn’t appear to be so. Two days after the bombing of Tokyo, FM Shidehara expressed a sentiment that was widely held among high ranking J-officials at the time. Shidehara's opinion was that "the people would gradually get used to being bombed daily. In time their unity and resolve would grow stronger." He said it was important for citizens to endure the suffering because "even if hundreds of thousands of noncombatants are killed, injured, or starved, even if millions of buildings are destroyed or burned," additional time was needed for diplomacy. It is worth remembering that Shidehara was a moderate. At the Japan's highest levels of government, the Supreme Council's attitudes were apparently the same and discussed the importance of the Soviet Union remaining neutral, and didn’t have a full discussion about the impact of city bombing. It is difficult to make a case that Japan’s leaders thought that city bombing, compared to the other pressing matters involved in running a war had much significance at all. The Japanese government and the military didn't care about their people.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@sflip330: The gov't didn't care people's life.then. But the emperor found from botanists from A bomb. He only was arrowhead to, have botanists to visit him. And he asked people who, worked for him to get in touch with officers of Ministry of I'm'erial house to get NHK because he Hs a message to Japanese. So, several went Palace avoiding Military police. Next day, he tread his word and we could use ketchup. Supposed we all did with harakiri, ketchup was to fool mp as if blood. When school dvan in September we cheered in school.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

toshiko san, usually I can understand what you are trying to say, and I really value your point of view, even if your posts are full of little things that could mostly be sorted with a preview and/or a quick spellcheck.

The post above however, is too difficult for me to understand. Is there not someone who can help edit your posts before you press the submit button?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@nanda: learn how to skip to read a message. I use only one sign on name. Don't you understand this too?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites