JAPANESE MUST HEED TESTIMONY OF WAR GENERATION
At the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Beijing last October, Chinese President Xi Jinping placed a particular emphasis on the importance of education for his people.
Education in China is all about expounding the “greatness” of the Chinese race and how the supremely patriotic CCP is at the center of promoting that truth.
To the people’s loyalty to the CPP and the pride they take in the Chinese race itself, China adds its strong economy and outstanding military might as the pillars supporting its status as a global super power. China hopes its current master plan will thus enable it to proudly stand tallest among the nations of the world by the mid-21st century.
Proceeding down a path directly opposite to China’s approach to education are the members of the powerful Japan Teachers’ Union (JTU), whose leftwing agenda continues to poison Japan’s youth against our own past. The conservative national daily Sankei Shimbun in its February 4 edition ran an article spotlighting a seminar the union hosted in Shizuoka Prefecture.
As an example of Japan’s postwar “peace education” discussed at the seminar, the daily noted how Japanese grade school students are taught about the period between the Manchurian Incident (1931) and the end of the Greater East Asian War (1945) as the “15-year war.” However, this is clearly incorrect, as the fighting did not continue uninterrupted throughout the period.
The Sankei further reported that the participants pointed out one after another that any attempt to foster a love of the students’ hometowns by introducing indigenous heroes embraces a “possible danger of encouraging too positive an evaluation of the present circumstances” and that students’ attention should be directed to “social contradictions and disparities, exploitation by the powerful, and the true aim of the ‘ruler’ ” in contemporary Japan.
It is a well-known fact that China under communist rule disdains universal values such as the rule of law, fairness, and human rights. And yet, China deceptively promotes itself as a great nation, seeking to impress not only its 1.3 billion people but the entire world.
In marked contrast, the JTU continues to be critical of its own country, although Japan without doubt is far more mature and normal than China. What type of adults will young Japanese children grow into, given such biased education at a young age?
It is widely known that Japan has been subject to false claims from China and South Korea over its wartime deeds. However, as has been clear from the example of the liberal mass-circulation Asahi Shimbun, most of the outlandish criticism against Japan has sadly been of our own making—the actions of a significant number of Japanese at home and abroad. Convinced that Japan’s wartime past is a dark history marked by aggression, these individuals have disseminated anti-Japanese propaganda far and wide over the years, persistently inventing blatant fabrications.
Needed: Dissemination of Hard Facts
Biased education is the breeding ground of anti-Japanese ideas and mentality. That is exactly why we must pay particular attention to specific textbooks used in the field of daily education both at home and abroad.
As for Japan, how do our school textbooks explain matters pertaining to the conscripted wartime workers that China and South Korea now treat as the ideal excuse for their attacks on Japan?
In its “Japanese History A,” Tokyo Shoseki Co. states under “the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere”: “Approximately 700,000 Korean were coercively brought to Japan under pressure from the administrative organs and the police as directed by the Governor-General of Korea.”
Jikkyo Shuppan Co. states in its “High School Japanese History B”: “To make up for worsening labor shortages, Japan coercively recruited an estimated total of 800,000 Koreans to work in Japan, Sakhalin, and the Asia-Pacific through collective recruitment from 1939, by the good offices of the Japanese government from 1942, and under the National Requisition Ordinance from 1944.”
Meanwhile, Yamakawa Shuppan-sha in its “Detailed Japanese History,” “New Japanese History,” and “High School Japanese History” states respectively: “Japan forcibly recruited several hundred thousand Koreans and Chinese in occupied regions to work in Japan, assigning them to mines and construction sites”; “Japan forcibly recruited many Koreans and Chinese in occupied areas, brought them to Japan, and put them to work in places like mines”; and “Koreans, as well as Chinese from areas occupied by Japan, were forcibly brought to Japan for hard labor.”
A significant number of other Japanese school history books also maintain that conscripted Chinese and Korean workers were coercively brought to Japan for hard labor. As such, it will be next to impossible for young Japanese to acquire the correct knowledge necessary to refute the unjust portrayal of our history by foreign countries, including China and South Korea.
Such undesirable circumstances will likely create an environment well suited to nurture young people who blindly accept Chinese and Korean assertions and believe that the truly conscientious thing for them to do is simply emulate Chinese and Koreans in criticizing Japan. As a result, the number of Japanese dedicated to defaming Japan will increase, eventually leading the whole of Japan into a spiral of negative thought about its heritage and tradition.
Successive governments before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe were disinterested in disseminating globally well-substantiated facts about the nation’s wartime history. Their basic stance was to not bother to explore historical facts and instead accept Chinese and Korean accusations and demands. Our bureaucrats have followed the lead of our politicians.
When former Chinese workers and their families sued Mitsubishi Materials Co. in 2016 in China for alleged wartime forced labor in Japan, the Foreign Ministry favored an amicable out-of-court settlement, in effect instructing the company to not refute but accept the Chinese allegations and pay compensation instead.
After the end of the war, there was a long period in which successive Japanese administrations remained extremely reluctant to even discuss the historical truth when they faced Chinese or Korean claims about the so-called “Nanjing Massacre” or the alleged coercive recruitment of “comfort women as sex slaves (for the Japanese military.)”
The truth is the only weapon to combat Chinese and Korean fabrications about the war. The generation of Japanese familiar with the truth has rapidly been declining, but there have fortunately been some people who have left precious testimonies about their wartime experiences.
One such person is Kiyoshi Nishikawa, who died last summer at 102 after authoring The Last Testimony of A Former Official in the Colonial Government of Korea (Sakura-no-Hana Publishing Co., Tokyo; 2014). Assigned to the Gwangwon-do prefectural government office in 1933, he served as the regional affairs section chief under a Korean governor for 12 years until Japan’s defeat, working closely with Japanese and Korean superiors and subordinates.
Japanese Efforts to Abolish Discrimination
I had the good fortune of interviewing Mr. Nishikawa, and learned a host of valuable facts relating to Japan’s rule of Korea (1910-1945). His afore-mentioned book is full of vivid descriptions of what he experienced as a responsible Japanese official in occupied Korea. What struck me most strongly was Nishikawa’s remarks about relations between Japanese and Koreans: “As a very natural consequence of our policies, Japanese and Koreans lived in great harmony during those days.”
Nishikawa emphasized time and again that the two peoples on the Korean Peninsula enjoyed far better ties with each other than today—something that is difficult to imagine given the current mutual mistrust.
The fundamental policy of the Governor-General of Korea was “Japan and Korea as one,” which also was referred to as Japan’s “imperialization policy.” Nishikawa declared this policy was aimed at completely eliminating the disparities between the two peoples and abolishing Japanese discrimination against Koreans.
While he did not deny discrimination against Koreans existed, Nishikawa earnestly urged contemporary Japanese to understand that the Japanese of that time, including himself, made concerted efforts to abolish discrimination against the Korean people.
Under the Governor-General of Korea, all tasks were performed with great transparency in accordance with a set of very strict rules. As regards the conscription of workers, the office of the Governor-General first assigned a total number of workers required, with specific orders then sent down to local authorities—from prefectures to counties to towns and villages. The process was definitely not based on coercion but persuasion and consent. Those who did not consent would not be conscripted, according to Nishikawa.
Nishikawa noted the Governor-General’s office dispatched Korean conscripted workers after explaining in great detail the duties of the work to be done and the working conditions. There was not a single case of coercion of a Korean conscripted worker, the soft-spoken Nishikawa declared resolutely.
He also had no hesitation in saying that absolutely not a single “comfort woman” was coerced into servitude for the Japanese military. If the military had attempted to forcibly recruit them, the military headquarters naturally would have had to send down the orders from prefectures to counties to towns and villages, as was the case with conscripted workers. Naturally, copies of such orders would have remained in large numbers if the military had really been directly involved in the recruitment. Nishikawa emphasizes that efforts by researchers from China, Japan, and Korea have failed to find even a single copy of such an order.
At the time, prefectural offices and police stations were staffed by a large number of Koreans. Nishikawa reasoned that it must have been simply impossible to expect the Korean staff to meekly process papers ordering a coercive recruitment of Korean women by the military.
It is absolutely important for us today to teach our younger generation about these and other precious testimonies left by the previous generation about the truth of Japan’s wartime past.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” article no. #790 in the February 15, 2018 issue of The Weekly Shincho)