Reflecting on the History of World War II

Joel - Chikugo, Fukuoka, Japan
Entered on August 31, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50

While exchanging ideas about wars with a group of?Japanese high school students the other day, I asked who started the Pacific branch of World War II. I got answers ranging from Korea to China to America, but not Japan. They?all knew well about the misery and suffering caused by the U.S. army’s atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but ignored the atrocities Japan committed on innocent people in Asia.

I was very upset–but not surprised–by the fact these young people did not know much about Japan’s history of invasions and colonial rule. Their ignorance sharply and exactly mirrors the content of their history textbooks, which condone atrocities committed by the Japanese Imperial Military. Take for instance, the Japanese Ministry of Education’s approval of a certain junior high school history text that –from the points of view of China and Korea — is painting a much rosier picture of Japan’s role in World War II than is historically accurate. Atrocities are downplayed and Japan’s role in using sex slaves from Korea and China are excluded.

I believe the Japanese need to reflect on the history of World War II from an impartial standpoint. It is beyond my imagination how much the victims of the atomic bombs suffered. Because of their suffering, Japanese people can sympathize all the more with the Asians who suffered as a result of Japan’s military invasions.

For better or worse, it is indeed history from which we learn the exact facts and lessons to improve human dignity, peace, freedom, happiness and justice. But it does not just happen by waiting, erasing the painful parts of history, playing political games and ignoring responsibilities.

The war, massacres and inhumane crimes that were done in the name of Japan mean every Japanese has moral responsibility toward the suffering victims. But, by not letting children know about these unpleasant historical facts, they will grow up believing their nation has never done anything wrong.”Comfort women” and the Nanjing massacre happened. That is the irrevocable truth.

If Japanese schools continue teaching students an obviously biased version of the truth, what is it that they are actually teaching them? They will come to believe that certain actions and events can be covered up, that responsibility does not have to be assumed. It saddens me that Japanese schools teach students about the horrors of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, yet hide Japan’s shameful history. I believe that presenting such an unbalanced view of history is a crime against humanity.

Every country has things to be ashamed about. Canada has the atrocious treatment of the native people, the United States the Indians and the African slaves, Germany THE HOLOCAUST, and Japan has the Asian war victims (“comfort women,” the victims of Nanjing massacre, etc.). The only way we can stop such terrible things from recurring is to teach our children about them, and hope they learn the valuable lessons offered by history. Otherwise, how can we ever hope to stop history from repeating itself?