Translation: Another loudmouth falls fowl of China and Korea's smokescreens, ignoring facts in favour of popular opinion and propaganda.
Anti-Japanese propaganda coming from China and Korea I can understand, even if I don't like it. Popular opinion in the west about Japan whitewashing its history is an annoyance, but ultimately without consequence. Lawmakers in the west blackmailing the prime minister of Japan is going a little too far. You can't accuse a country of simultaneously glorifying its war criminals and pretending the crimes never happened. It's time to speak up.
The Textbook Issue
This one comes up every 4 years, resulting in huge anti-Japan riots across China that the local government curiously doesn't seem to have any problem with, despite the amount of damage done to Japanese cars, businesses, businessmen and other bystanders. What's it all about?
According to Chinese and Korean "experts," the Japanese government is taking the official stance that the Nanjing/Nanking massacre never took place, and if it did, it was simply a case of high spirited "boys will be boys" getting a bit carried away with their bayonets in a far away land, and who could begrudge them that?! This is a clear whitewashing of the "realities" of history, because it's well known that WWII history as reported in both China and Korea is completely neutral and even handed. What more could you expect from a country that can't apologise after all.
Sadly as is often the case, easily found (if you bother to care) facts tell a slightly different tale. What is construed to as the country's "official stance" is nothing more than government approval of school textbooks. This approval takes the form of a transparent set of factual criteria that all textbooks are subject to. Any submitted textbook that satisfies this criteria is approved regardless of focus, balance or political bias. Japan is after all a democracy, so these things are not for the government to decide. The issue of contention is that out of a number of history textbooks submitted, one extraordinarily right wing group - a private entity I'll add - came up with a revised version of history which certainly did downplay the events of the period, stretched about as far as they could be stretched and still meet the criteria. Consequently, there was no choice but to approve it. And in a rare show of magnanimity, the government even upped the ante for the following period to try to appease foreign criticisms. The best part of this system though is that government approval entails no implication of any kind of endorsement. Less than 20 schools nationwide adopted the textbook, and those that did were predominantly for mentally handicapped kids who were much more able to learn from the simplified style of the book in question.
So what we in fact have is a government who has put the necessary cornerstones in place to ensure the internationally approved facts of WWII are taught properly, and school boards up and down the country are unanimously choosing textbooks that go far beyond this basic criteria. So what exactly is the problem here? No seriously - what is it? Are China and Korea saying that for an unpopular political viewpoint to even EXIST is a crime the government must take responsibility for? Maybe that's how it is in their countries, in which case I'm glad I live in mine.
As for whether or not your average Hiroshi on the street is aware of Japan's wartime past, I think it's fair to say that there is a general awareness. The thing is, not many people really care that much. It's not that they think it wasn't important, just that Japan now is a very different place - one committed to peace, and wartime atrocities are not really relevant anymore. For the greatest part and for whatever reason, the country has learned and moved on. Wasn't that the point of the exercise?
And as for the whole apology thing, Japan has had a clean record of peace and peaceful co-operation in world affairs for 60 years, but they want a verbal apology. Japan has verbally apologised 17 times, but they say actions speak louder than words. Which is it to be then?
And China is absolutely not the country to be talking about another country whitewashing its history. Next time you're in an internet cafe in Beijing, why not Google "Tianenmen Square" or "Tibet" and see if you can find anything beyond tourist information.
Apparently Japan is proposing to China that a neutral committee be appointed to oversee the contents of history books in both countries. China has yet to respond.
Prime Minister Koizumi's annual visit comes up more frequently than the textbooks, and is very good at undoing diplomatic relations just as they start to gain steam. This time, it's gaining greater international attention in the US and UN.
According to Chinese and Korean "experts," Yasukuni enshrines 14 class A war criminals. Ipso Facto, for the Prime Minister to visit on the anniversary of the end of the war, he (and therefore Japan) is honouring their deeds, glorifying Japan's military past, and generally being very very naughty.
According to the (very easily found for anybody that cares) facts, little is really known about Koizumi's true motives as he rarely speaks of them, except on one occasion where he did make it clear that he weren't there to honour no war criminals. Considering that in addition to the 14 class A war criminals snuck in undercover a few decades back while nobody was looking, there are some two and a half million regular war dead enshrined there, then to believe that his visits are something other than a solemn rememberance of the horrors of all aspects of war and a renewed commitment to peace would require exceptional jingoism. That and/or additional evidence such as some kind of move to change the constitution, article 9, to allow military involvement overseas...
Let's put it into perspective for a moment. When I lived in Britain, there was always an annual one minute silence in remembrance of war dead on the 11th November, nationwide. Now, I don't recall it particularly being a case of "we sure kicked those Deutschbags's arses," but let's say that Germany was threatening to halt all diplomatic relations with Britain all the time this continued, because among the war dead being remembered are certain RAF members that fire bombed Dresden. Britain goes ahead anyway. Then other countries start getting in on the act, saying that Britain must stop its remembrance day celebrations as it's an insult to other nations that suffered under Britain's tyranny. Eventually it becomes common sense and factions of the British start to reject it too. The very notion that this would happen is laughable, but that's exactly what's happening here.
Remembrance is not about glorifying war, it's about learning from it. Is the Prime Minister, and indeed Japan, to remember and reflect on the past with all its horrors, or are the horrors and war criminals to be somehow forgotten, shoved under the carpet, whitewashed over during that time? China and Korea, make up your minds!