Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Japan Under Prime Minister Abe: Back to the Future (to Pre-World War II)?

Someone is ripping the pages off over 300 copies of Anne Frank's "Diary of a Young Girl" in libraries in parts of Tokyo and Yokohama. The police thinks the same person may be doing it.

Minami Kyushu City in Kagoshima Prefecture in Kyushu has applied to the UNESCO to have over 300 pieces of farewell letters by "kamikaze" pilots during the World War II designated as "world heritage", so that people will remember how awful a war is. (Anne Frank's "Diary" is designated as "world heritage".)

Kasai City in Hyogo Prefecture wants to memorialize the runway used by kamikaze pilots during the World War II as a historic site.

William Pesek, Bloomberg's columnist in Tokyo wonders aloud: Where is Prime Minister Abe?

From Bloomberg News (2/23/2014):

Is Abe Encouraging Japan's Nut Jobs?

There's a reason the nuns in Queens had me and my classmates read Anne Frank's "The Diary of a Young Girl" several times -- the same reason that's made the book required reading around the globe. The 15-year-old's account of hiding from the Nazis is impervious to nut jobs who argue the Holocaust is fiction.

Shockingly, in recent days at least 282 copies of Frank's memoirs have been vandalized at 36 libraries across Tokyo -- their pages torn or defaced. No one knows who did it, or why. But it requires an acrobatic feat of compartmentalization not to see the connection to Japan's own recent efforts to deface history.

Earlier this month, the southern Japanese city of Minami Kyushu asked the U.N. World Heritage organization to enshrine farewell letters written by World War II kamikaze suicide pilots alongside documents like Frank's diaries and the Magna Carta. The request drew an immediate rebuke from China and stirred up Japan's right wing. What many see as evidence of Japan's wartime fanaticism, nationalists view as testaments to manly duty and devotion to the Emperor.

I have no evidence that Japan's right-wingers are behind this clearly coordinated campaign to desecrate Frank's work. Anti-Semitism isn't particularly pervasive among Japanese (although one extremist group is organizing a 125th birthday party for the Fuhrer so fans can "converse, listening to Wagner's music and enjoying wine together"). But it would be a coincidence of astounding proportions if this shameful vandalism weren't related to the kamikaze letters controversy.

One has to ask to what extent the return of nationalistic leader Shinzo Abe has encouraged such behavior. Though most attention has focused on Abe's efforts to revive the economy, right-wingers have delighted in the prime minister's other initiatives -- to whitewash textbooks, beautify Japan's wartime aggression, load the governing board of national broadcaster NHK with like-minded conservatives, and embolden the nation's military.

No, I'm not suggesting Abe bears responsibility for the Frank diary attacks. But his 14 months in office have created an atmosphere that's encouraging fringe activists, who may believe Abe secretly supports them. Intentionally or not, the Prime Minister has fed this impression by visiting Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 14 World War II Class A war criminals, and hinting that he wants to revisit a past apology for the military's sex-slave program. Among Abe's picks for the NHK board is a man who claims the Nanjing Massacre of the 1930s never happened.

When Abe and his ilk explain why Japan should be able to honor its dead soldiers and rewrite its pacifist constitution, they highlight how their nation has been a model global citizen. The argument is not without merit. For 68 years now, Japan has been a peaceful, generous, and reasonably cooperative power.

Yet Abe's rightward turn could squander much of the "soft power" Japan amassed since then
. Japanese don't tend to track events in Richmond, Virginia and Glendale, California very closely. But it’s in these two American cities that officials in Tokyo can get a glimpse of their nation's future. It's not pretty.

On Feb. 6, the Virginia legislature passed a bill to change textbooks to say the Sea of Japan is also known as the East Sea. It may not seem like a big deal, but the move outraged Japan. The change came at the behest of fast-rising contingent of Korean-American voters who are wielding that power to right what they view as historical wrongs by Japan 7,000 miles away. Tokyo has also taken great umbrage at a "comfort women" statue in the Los Angeles area erected by Asian Americans, and protests from Japanese diplomats and an online petition to President Barack Obama have gone unheeded. More and more, Chinese-Americans are showing up at Japanese consulates with protest placards, including in December when Abe visited Yasukuni.

As Abe preaches the glory of patriotism more than capitalism, expect Korea and China to intensify efforts around the world to shame Tokyo. Take Xi Jinping's trip to Germany next month. According to Reuters, the Chinese president plans to highlight Germany's atonement for the sins of World War II, in order to embarrass Japan. It's a reminder that statements from Japanese politicians have repeatedly undercut the country's many apologies for its wartime behavior.

Abe's mandate from voters is the economy, not prettifying some ugly moments in the nation's history. He should get back to that job. But first he must unequivocally condemn the Frank attacks in clear and strong terms. Few issues are more cut-and-dry than the need to denounce anti-Semitism in all forms. This isn't an issue to be left to Abe's cabinet chief, Yoshihide Suga, whose name isn't widely known outside Japan. Suga has promised a full investigation. But this is a task for the nation's leader, and Abe's silence is, like much of his other signaling thus far, damaging the nation's interests.

Mr. Pesek seems to think the culprit behind the defaced copies of Anne Frank's "Diary" is an Abe supporter. It is indeed possible that his supporters are that dumb.

JTA (2/21/2014; emphasis is mine) notes that Anne Frank's "Diary" is extremely popular in Japan, with the number of copies sold only next to the United States:

Vandals destroy copies of Anne Frank’s diary in Japan

(JTA) — More than 100 copies of Anne Frank’s “Diary of a Young Girl” have been vandalized in public libraries in Japan’s capital Tokyo.

Pages have been ripped from at least 265 copies of the diary and other related books, Japanese officials told the BBC on Thursday. It is not clear who is behind the vandalism, they said.

Anne Frank’s diary was written during World War II, while the teenager hid from the Nazis in occupied Amsterdam. The book made her a symbol of the suffering of Jews during the war.

The head of Japan’s library council, Satomi Murata, told the French AFP news agency that five of Tokyo’s wards had reported the vandalism so far. “We don’t know why this happened or who did it,” he added.

Toshihiro Obayashi, a library official in West Tokyo’s Suginsami area, said, “Each and every book which comes up under the index of Anne Frank has been damaged at our library.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a statement that it was shocked and concerned by the incidents, and called for the authorities to investigate.

“The geographic scope of these incidents strongly suggest an organized effort to denigrate the memory of the most famous of the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered by the Nazis in the World War II Holocaust,” Associate Dean Abraham Cooper said.

Rotem Kowner, a professor of Japanese history and culture at Israel’s University of Haifa, told the BBC that the book has been exceptionally popular and successful in Japan.

He said that in terms of absolute numbers of copies of the book sold, Japan is second only to the United States.

About 30,000 Japanese tourists visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam every year, about 5,000 visitors more than the number of visitors from Israel.

Japan is also the only East Asian country with statues and a museum in memory of Anne Frank.


Anonymous said...

Abe appears to be playing a reactionary role: this can be seen most clearly when he prepares to address media attention which he has experienced as too insightful. That is when his face takes on that full-flattened aspect. He is confirming that slamming his face repeatedly into "the wall" is not pleasant.

sangell said...

Let me take a crack at this serious problem. Tearing up Anne Frank's book is a cruel and idiotic thing to do but why is this book so widely available, presumably in Japanese, in Japan? Its not as if Japan was involved in the genocide of Jews. Italy was a much closer ally of Germany and they are not assigned co-responsibility for German atrocities. That said, Japan has much to atone for and, as the US did with the internment of Japanese Americans, issuing an apology and some compensation to the ( few) surviving Korean 'comfort women' is long overdue and is the decent thing to do.

As to Kamikaze pilots. Americans don't like them but they were not war criminals. They did not attack hospital ships or civilians. They went at our biggest most heavily defended warships and occasionally their attacks hit us hard. They were very brave men. The fact of the matter was a Japanese pilot by late 1944 was going to die or be shot down. They were facing overwhelming numerical odds against a new generation of faster, more heavily armed and armored US aircraft. They weren't going to win many dogfights. If you are doomed anyway then you may as well make your death as expensive as possible for the enemy and that meant go after the American carriers on a one way mission. I know this now though growing up I was taught that the Kamikaze pilots were just crazed killers. They weren't. They were very brave men who were doing what they could to try and change an almost hopeless military situation. I have no objection to their last letters being given honored status.

Yasukuni. Anyone remember Reagan going to the German war cemetery in Bitburg to lay a wreath. It was very controversial because there were Nazi SS soldiers buried there. Reagan went anyway as a way to demonstrate to the German people that that war was over and that not every German who died in WW2 was a war criminal. I wish Japanese politicians could resist the urge to visit Yasukuni, not because it is a big issue in the US, it isn't, but it is in China. If not perhaps an alternative monument should be erected there that acknowledges the universal suffering WW2 caused. I don't know that it would make any difference to China. Asians and Europeans seem to enjoy rubbing salt into old wounds more than Americans ( blacks excepted).

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Thanks sangell for your analysis. Additional titbits on these:

Anne Frank's Diary: I believe it has been a recommended (if not required) reading in schools. Generally, Japanese have been sympathetic toward Jewish people. During WWII, a Japanese diplomat in Lithuania kept issuing visas to thousands of Jewish people in Lithuania and Poland for safe passage to then-Japanese territory. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiune_Sugihara

There were several scholars, both foreign and Japanese, who claimed blood relationship between Jewish people and Japanese people.

Kamikaze pilots: probably not their choices. Fuel shortage was probably the biggest reason - they couldn't afford fuel for a round trip.

Yasukuni: there is an alternative site, Chidorigafuchi. That's where Hagel and Kerry went to lay a wreath. Yasukuni was set up by the victors of the civil war in Japan right before Meiji, and these victors went on to form a government. It only enshrined the dead who fought on the victorious sides (i.e. government side), until World War II.

Didn't know about President Reagan. I guess only he would have been able to pull that off.

Just read on NHK that Germany refused Chinese president's request to visit the Jewish memorial in Berlin during his coming visit. I guess Germans don't want to be used as Xi's political ploy.

Anonymous said...


There's a comment toward the end of a recently published book called Shattered Sword, about the invasion attempt at Midway, where the authors quote a contemporary of that time and he mentions that the U.S. production of warships in the last years of the war was nothing short of astonishing.

Brave the kami-s may have been, but to presume the Japanese of that time did not know their entire effort against the U.S. was suicidal is to be engaged in fantasy.

The only way it would rank as "world heritage" is if they wish the world to view Japanese foreign policy to have an unrepentant, tragic fatalism that predictably "dislocates" itself when pressed for far more mature responses. Is that how Japan seeks to continue to present itself?

Especially as if they'd really sought success at Pearl Harbor they would have invaded or destroyed the fuel oil depots, and they had the reserves to do that on Pearl Harbor day.

Kamikazes unwittingly [?] underwriting the supra-national greed of industrialists is worthy of "world heritage"?


Anonymous said...

In the spirit of Kyushu and Kasai Cities, I nominate the Irish and Baltic Seas, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, for world heritage sites.

This map of WHOI's from 2008 gives cesium-137 levels in ocean surface waters,

"The only cesium-134 in the North Pacific is there from Fukushima,"
"Cesium-137, on the other hand, is also present from nuclear weapons tests and discharge from nuclear power plants."

You'd think post-Fukushima they'd test those seas, again, to prove to themselves that the Irish and Baltic Seas weren't trapped in some kind of non-circulating currents, far greater than the Mediterranean and Black Seas, even.


Industrialists holding the Irish and Baltic Seas hostage with cesium nuclides

Anonymous said...

Back to the future???
Abe is intent on taking Japan back to the Stone Age.

Anonymous said...

As a German who was shocked by the tastelessness of the Kohl/Reagan visit to Bitburg, I cringe each time I have to read that members of the Japanese government visit Yasukuni, *again*.
There seems to be a minority in Japan that protests these visits, and also monuments celebrating the "Great Asian War of Liberation", I admire the courage of these people, but I fear they don't stand much of a chance. Germany was far less than perfect in admitting the crimes committed, and "compensating" victims and their relatives, but Japan's failures in this area make us look like saints. Sad.

P.S.: I've been following this blog for a long time because of its Fukushima related contents and want to use the opportunity to thank you.

P.P.S.: I had the chance to watch http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2111262/ (Annyeong, Sayonara (2005)) at a tiny local movie theater.
That's how I learned about the above-mentioned "dissident" minority in Japan. I was deeply moved.
Next morning, watching the news, yet another shrine visit.
Just a coincidence, but...

Anonymous said...

Just for the record, the Anne Frank diary is a fraud.

As is the whole "Jewish holocaust" scam. The Jewish led communists murdered many milliions more than Hitler even officially murdered.

See: Tomato Bubble dot com for a great source of historical revisionist perspectives.

As for tearing the pages out of the libraries in Tokyo: think Israeli Mossad false flag op.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 3:02 Anybody who takes Faurisson seriously should have their head analyzed.

Anonymous said...

The vandalism has been too well timed and the libraries extremely concentrated. Many believe it is a match & pump attempt at portraying Japan in a radical light. People here have nothing here against Jews per se. Simply analyze the issue by thinking who stands to benefit by complaining most loudly and widely denouncing this act.

Anonymous said...

Very well & good, 2:22AM. We can use the same logic and determine that no serious Japanese believe the kamikaze diaries are worthy of "world heritage" status.

Anonymous said...

In a further spirit of Kyushu and Kasai Cities, I nominate the ridiculous mind of unfrozen caveman on a trip back to the future, Charles Krauthammer, as a world heritage site.


Charles, leave the Climate Change Denial SCIgen software alone.

Joffan said...

I think there's a good argument for treating this book destruction as purely criminal vandalism. It's a matter for police, not diplomats.

I note with pleasure that the vandalized books have already been replaced by donated copies.

Extrapolating this hole-in-the-corner incident to a problem with the Japanese government is over-reaching, I think.

Post a Comment