Skip to comments.Wave of ‘dangerous’ nationalism sweeps Japan-(tora tora tora)
Posted on 08/28/2006 3:18:10 PM PDT by Flavius
Koichi Kato is understandably upset.
Earlier this month, a man armed with a knife and copious supplies of kerosene burnt down Mr Katos family home in Yamagata prefecture and then tried to commit seppuku, or ritual suicide, on the premises. Only by chance was Mr Katos 97-year-old mother out for a stroll.
The attack on Mr Katos home by a suspected right-wing fanatic followed repeated warnings by the veteran Liberal Democratic party politician against the wisdom of prime ministerial visits to the Yasukuni shrine. Yasukuni is the Shinto shrine that honours 2.5m war dead, as well as a handful of leaders including Hideki Tojo, the wartime prime minister convicted of war crimes by the Tokyo tribunal. Visits by Junichiro Koizumi, prime minister, have angered China and South Korea, which say Japan is refusing to face up to its wartime past.
Although the assailant, still recovering from burns and slashes to his stomach and wrists, has not yet spoken, police are working on the assumption that he was outraged by the suggestion of boycotting Japans most treasured nationalist symbol.
In spite of the advice from Mr Kato, once Mr Koizumis righthand man, the prime minister visited the shrine on August 15, the anniversary of Japans wartime surrender and the most offensive date for the countrys former adversaries.
For Mr Kato, this series of events is a sign that Japan is lurching towards unhealthy nationalism. What I am concerned about is the very strong anti-Chinese, anti-Korean and sometimes anti-American nationalism that is prevailing in Japan.
He blames politicians, including Shinzo Abe, for reopening the debate about whether Japan fought a just war in the 1930s and 1940s and whether it was forced into conflict by American trickery. This kind of nationalism is very hard to calm down once leaders ignite it. This is a dangerous nationalism. Politicians should not try to use it.
Things could get worse, Mr Kato says, if, as is almost universally expected, Mr Abe succeeds Mr Koizumi as prime minister next month. Koizumi-san admitted that Tojo and others were war criminals, he says. But Abe does not accept that notion.
Mr Abe, he argues, is very influenced by the thinking of his grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, who became a postwar prime minister after being arrested, but never convicted, on suspicion of being a war criminal.
Mr Abes advisers say the would-be prime minister is merely trying to draw a line under six decades of self-flagellation under which, they say, schools have taught successive generations that Japan was uniquely wicked in the war. Mr Abe, they say, wants to restore a healthy nationalism in which people are proud of their countrys culture and achievements.
He also wants to clarify Japans right to defend itself, by changing the pacifist constitution banning a Japanese military and by spelling out Japans right abandoned for half a century to participate in collective self-defence.
As things stand, the US is pledged to defend Japan if it comes under attack but if the US is attacked in the region, Japan cannot come to its aid. Hisahiko Okazaki, an adviser to Mr Abe, says: Theres good nationalism and bad nationalism. If you raise the flag and sing the national anthem, thats good nationalism. But if you tear down the flag of another nation, thats bad nationalism. Mr Abe is promoting the good kind, he says.
However, Mr Kato says politicians are leading the nation into unhealthy territory, actively promoting a historical amnesia.
He also blames books and films for encouraging such sentiments, adding that the man who burnt down his home was believed to have been reading a rightwing comic before the attack.
Masahiko Fujiwara, author of the recent blockbuster A Nations Dignity, and a poster boy for Japanese conservatives, says: The concept of an A-class criminal doesnt mean anything, because winners dont have the right to judge the losers, not just in Tokyo but also in Nuremburg.
If Tojo was an A-class criminal, then so was Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, Mao and Truman, who bombed us with atomic bombs.
Mr Kato regards such views as dangerous, saying that Japan should face up to what he considers its prewar arrogance and colonialist ambitions. Some people want to erase all these past mistakes.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
There's nothing inherently wrong with nationalism, its the scapegoating often inserted by politicians thats dangerous.
Nail on the head.
Prevailing?? Since when?
Mr Abes advisers say the would-be prime minister is merely trying to draw a line under six decades of self-flagellation under which, they say, schools have taught successive generations that Japan was uniquely wicked in the war.
Ending the "self-flagellation" would be a good thing for Japan, if there ever was any to begin with. And since when have Japanese schools ever taught students the true wickedness of Imperial Japan??
Japan * ping * (kono risuto ni hairitai ka detai wo shirasete kudasai : let me know if you want on or off this list)
Japan's form of nationalism was absolutely insane. I think it's a remote threat at best (worst).
They know that this kind of rhetoric can bring the US into the debate. That way, Japanese leftists whose ideology comitts them to telling that Japanese nationalists nationalists to shut up can instead just sit on their hands while noisy Americans do their work for them.
The US can profit from a well-armed and confident Japan against CHINA.
That kind of real cooperation is what they're trying to head off, here.
Turn 'em loose on China.
Complete bull. Nationalist Japanese number as many as Neo-nazi's in America. They have black trucks with megaphones...oooooh.
There. Fixed it.
"The attack on Mr Katos home by a suspected right-wing fanatic followed repeated warnings by the veteran Liberal Democratic party politician against the wisdom of prime ministerial visits to the Yasukuni shrine."
Which AP writer is moonlighting as a Japanese stringer?
Looks like they are getting ready for the North Korea threat..
Yep, that about sums it up!
Reverse throttle, and FULL STEAM AHEAD.
Getting over their national, post-war heiwa bokkei funk and aversion of geopolitical or even military conflict to stand up for their democracy is good, and about time. For it to go too far, however, is not.
Often we have to be careful what we wish for. We just may get it some day.
I agree with skeeter that there is nothing inherently wrong with nationalism. Japan's nationalism has a unique character we do not begin to get. I have read a lot of books on Japan, but David Bergamini in "Japan's Imperial Conspiracy" seems to come closest. Also, it helps to try to figure out Kokutai, which is a spiritual combination of Emperor, citizen, land, ancestral spirits, government, and Shinto religion woven together into a several thousand-year heritage. Western societies are driven by election cycles, but Japan is not. In Bergamini's book you get the best sense I have seen of a force driving this society through the millennia that is never revealed to the West, but is understood by Korea and China. At the present moment Japan may quietly pave the way to move publicly away from our military protection. I think a lot of Japanese are asking why the U.S. would risk a nuclear strike on their country, just because a Japanese city was incinerated.
I personally would welcome a rearmed Japan. It would have the Chicoms and that fuzzy little nut salad in North Korea doing kaa kaa in their undies.
A re-armed Japan would likely be a good thing for the region, and they would likely enjoy a more "equal" relationship with the US. Doubtful that any of the militarism from yesteryear would ever catch hold in current Japan, unless NK were to shoot first.
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