40. Poll: Most Japanese Want Ugly Past Told
Newspaper survey also reveals that 80% of Japanese consider themselves patriotic Straits Times Jan 26, 2007
A survey by the influential Asahi Shimbun daily published yesterday found that 78 per cent of the 1,805 Japanese polled felt they were very patriotic or patriotic to some degree.
Among these ‘patriots”, a whopping 88 per cent said in the Dec 2-3 survey that there was a need to reflect on Japan’s ugly wartime past.
The Asahi concluded that being patriotic did not prevent the Japanese from being objective about their nation’s history.
Overall, however, only 32 per cent of respondents felt that Japan should reflect strongly on its past, with a further 53 per cent feeling that maybe some dose of reflection was in order.
The survey results are arguably heartening for nationalistic Japanese, who often wonder if patriotism is a rare commodity in the country these days, and also for other Asians, who worry that the Japanese tend to gloss over their last war.
But the results do not dispel suspicions among Asian countries that those who rule Japan may have different ideas about their country’s war responsibilities.
Officially, the Tokyo government has apologised for the suffering brought about by imperial Japanese troops on neighbouring countries.
But Japan’s former victims, particularly China and South Korea, often question whether the Japanese truly feel sorry for their war deeds, because of periodic utterances by conservative Japanese politicians that suggest they disagree strongly with the official line.
Many Japanese politicians also pray regularly at the Yasukuni war shrine, purportedly for peace, but no doubt fully aware that the shrine is insistent on the view that the Pacific War was fought for self-defence on Japan’s part.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe too had been a regular visitor to the shrine until he took office last September.
But the Japanese leader appears less concerned with reflecting on the war than tackling the perceived lack of patriotism among Japan’s younger generation – a perception supported by the Asahi survey.
The results showed that while overall 20 per cent of respondents felt they were strongly patriotic, among those in the 20s-to-40s age group, the proportion fell to about half.
Last month, the Japanese Parliament approved a Bill to change the nation’s basic education law, which now obliges teachers to instil in children a love for their hometown and country.
But only half of the Japanese are with Mr Abe on teaching patriotism in schools.
Many feel it is dangerous to legislate patriotism, fearing a return to pre-war days when patriotic education blinded the Japanese to the excesses of the military, which led the country down the path to war and eventual defeat.
Many teachers are still against compulsory singing of the national anthem and standing at attention to the Japanese flag at school events, as they consider both to be symbols of Japan’s militarist past.
Legislating patriotism topped Mr Abe’s domestic agenda, but earned him little political capital.
Meanwhile, in a monthly Asahi poll, published on Tuesday, the Japanese leader’s popularity sank further to 39 per cent, from 45 per cent the previous month.
He is widely seen as ‘out of touch’ with the Japanese people, who are more keen, for instance, to see the government do something about the widening income gap rather than cultivate patriotism.
Kitoaka said the talks so far were “serious, frank and friendly” but that they had yet to delve into specific historical events such as the Nanjing Massacre — a particularly painful subject that the two sides have sharp differences on.
Nanjing suffered a rampage of murder, rape and looting by Japanese troops in 1937 that became known as “The Rape of Nanking,” using the name by which the city was known in the West at that time.
Historians generally agree the Japanese army slaughtered at least 150,000 civilians and raped tens of thousands of women. China says that as many as 300,000 people were killed.
*** Historiographical triangulation, HNN
A middle school history textbook jointly written by scholars, teachers and historians of China, Japan and South Korea will be published in May, according to the Asahi Shimbun on Saturday.
The committee has been engaged in compiling the work since 2002 with the aim of establishing a jointly recognized interpretation of history among the three nations and prepare solutions for conflict over the past rather than engage in criticism.
“It is the first time the three countries have worked together on an account of history. It is not an exclusive description of history from a nationalist point of view, but a description for future coexistence that views history with an open mind and respects the opinion of each nation,” the committee said.
About 200 people, including teachers, scholars and civic group members, from China, South Korea and Japan participated in the work, holding a series of domestic and international conferences on the subject.
The textbook will deal with the 18th-20th century, when the Northeast Asian regions witnessed many ups and downs, including the rise of Japanese imperialism and World War II.
In its modern history of the three nations, the textbook details Japan’s colonial rule and resistance against it. The textbook will also present pieces by several scholars of the three nations, providing students with the chance to look into the opinions of each.