Thursday, April 17, 2014

Walk on the Wild Side of the Yasukuni Shrine

Many watchers are well aware that the majority of Japanese nationals are far away from the ultra conservative right wing who think their time has come with Shinzo Abe. It is nevertheless embarrassing to see foreigners doing their job and who are seen by some critics as hostile to Japan because they dare to talk about dark corners of the society. This is the comment of one of the most experienced correspondent in Japan who I met the other day. Indeed. Could we imagine, because it is sensitive, not to talk about the rise of the France National Front or about the violence erupting today in Ukraine or the religious conflict in Central African Republic?

The current prime minister, Abe, seems not to give such an importance to politics, according to his aides, but rather prioritises the economy and tries to make Japan rebound after decades of economy and financial crisis.

OK, but I remember that day when I saw Shinzo Abe attending a right wing gathering at Yasukuni, August 15th, 2012, a few months before his come back. He was addressing crowds under a big white tent, protected from the strong sun, many, many, many old men lined up in dark suits, scowling when foreigners came to visit the place, while the Emperor Akihito was sending a message of condolences and peace through the loudspeakers, at the near-by Budokan. It was around midday.

Before and since Abe took power, I know of plenty of gatherings of nationalists at Yasukuni, at Nagatacho, at Meiji Kinenkan and other dark rooms where nationalists gather to talk defeat and establish their plans against Koreans or Chinese, build their spider web like network in all aspects of the society, from administration to shinto religious associations, from police to armed forces, and mostly from all layers of society.

One day they gather to pray for the soul of Mishima, another day for people who died for the nation during this war of aggression. I’ve seen those who attend these parties even celebrating the return of the World War Two heirs to power. Many spread their anger speech on the internet, on TV (Channel Sakura, known for its support for Japanese right-wing causes) where nationalists launch revisionists campaigns etc. Many of them are distorting the real course of history and, as in my own country France with our FN, use democracy to advance their noisy and dangerous agenda. The right wing is globally on the rise as “Le Monde Diplomatique” recently wrote in a special publication.

Really? Or in Japan is it just because a few of them are very noisy, as Yakuza are, or have no common sense, no shame and lack essential dignity or are the Japanese so comfortable that they cannot identify or sense the notion of danger, and eventually are just lacking courage to say NO to these dangerous waves of anti democracy groups? As if violence and racial crimes were just belonging to the past?

Near by Yasukuni shrine, under the torrid midsummer heat and humidity, disobeying the priests command for peace and prayers, we can hear each August 15th the usual screaming noisy black lorries of the right wing made to scare politicians, citizens, and media, with arrivals of limousines filled with what appear to be Yakuza bosses, they look extraordinarily similar to those muscled men standing a few yards away from the shrine, in front of the food stalls, in the apparent absence of security from police forces. Making the place look like a strange no-law zone. We heard there the right wing nationalists people bragging that they actually pay the Yakuza to scare whoever is their enemy "du jour". I was told it often happens these last years in front of Tepco too where people shout slogans and receive money from the right wing to do so. Paid demonstrators somehow…

Therefore, and in spite of all, it is good to rebalance views about what is unfairly addressed to Japanese society, apathetic, sleeping, bureaucratised, fearing the days after when a powerful China would take over their lands, starting with their remote islands. That is in fact an improbable scenario when you know what China is going through these days, with its huge domestic problems ahead. Back in Japan, I can only wonder why is Abe courting these extremists people? Is he just tolerating them because he must to use the symbolism of Yasukuni to inspire a wider audience? And who is the audience?

Surely Shinzo Abe perceives and has been advised that hanging out with these characters does not make him appear to be a very sound politician. Politicians can either love lost causes and tilt at windmills or devote themselves to holding power. The marriage between these two things can never afford to be very long. What is Abe’s real quid pro quo and who does he really represent? Is this Japanese right wing network running far more deeply and more broadly in the Land of Yamato than we realise?

Also related:

Update April 28th 2014: WW2 慰安婦 Comfort Women. China published archives.

China just launched a counter-attack on Japan in publishing Japanese archives documents seized in Changchun, ex capital of Manchukuo. 89 wartime documents were made public on Friday. Twenty-five files relate to "comfort women."

"The invading troops buried some of their archives when fleeing Changchun, the then "capital" of the puppet Manchu State, in wake of a war with the Soviet Union, as they had no time to burn the documents," Xinhua wrote.

"New Evidence Confirms Japan's War Crimes Against China." CRI reports: "The document records, mainly written in Japanese, reveal information about Japan's Kwantung Army deployed in northeast China, the central bank of Manchukuo and plans for some construction projects. The new information not only proves the brutal activities conducted by the Japanese troops, but also confirms the role of the Japanese government at the time in the "comfort women" issue, said Su Zhiliang, a professor and expert on comfort women at Shanghai Normal University. The records also unveil Japan's colonial rule in Northeast China, employment of slave labor, institutionalisation of sexual slavery institution in the military and involvement of 731 troops in performing human bacterial tests." EoQ

Also today in the Japan Times: "China releases trove of Japanese sex slave records"

Also more details in the Global Times quoting Xinhua:

President Barack Obama said in Seoul Friday that: " Japan’s use of South Korean “comfort women” during the Second World War was a terrible and egregious violation of human rights. Followed by a strong criticism from Tokyo: "This issue should not be made into a political or diplomatic subject, said Katsunobu Kato, deputy chief cabinet secretary.

I was aware of this option of China having in mind to publish these Japanese documents after a recent press conference event held by Japanese scholars at the press club following events held by Japanese nationalists denying that such things happened under the Japan Imperial Army rule of Japan. (Here the Kwantung Army).

Remains to study the validity of the documents and once established, the consequences it would have on the East Asia region and on Japan policies. All options opened?

Here is the whole Xinhua new story:

Archives reveal "comfort women" official actions of Japan
Source:Xinhua Published: 2014-4-27 8:53:13

Forcing women into sex slavery and setting up "comfort stations" were official actions of the invading Japanese army during World War Two in Asian countries, newly publicized wartime archives reveal.

A total of 89 wartime documents were made public on Friday as a response to Japan's right-wing politicians' denial of its wartime crimes in China. Twenty-five files relate to "comfort women".

The use of "comfort women" was the state action of Japan during the war, said Su Zhiliang, a professor on the history of "comfort women" at Shanghai Normal University.

The actions harmed China, the Republic of Korea and Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The archives showed that the first "comfort station" was in the Southeast Asian country of Indonesia on Java Island.

The invading Japanese army in northeast China, documented what happened during the war, revealing their criminality.

The files are from archives of the military police corps of Japan's Kwantung Army and the national bank of the puppet Manchurian regime, which are stored in Jilin Provincial Archives in northeast China.

The 25 files on "comfort women" include two investigation reports, two telephone records and 21 documents on troops forcing women to have sex and enslaving them.

They revealed conditions at "comfort stations", including ratios between Japanese soldiers and "comfort women" and details of gruesome rapes.

The invading Japanese army allocated women proportionally.

In Feb. 1 to 10 in 1938, there were six "comfort women" for 1,200 soldiers, a ratio of 1:200, in Xiaguan district of east China's Nanjing. After Feb. 20, there were eleven more "comfort women", representing a ratio of 1:71.

In five months since November 1944, the invading Japanese army paid 532,000 Japanese yen on setting up "comfort stations". The expenditure was approved by the Kwantung Army, said a telephone record of the national bank of the puppet Manchurian regime.

The invading Japanese army had abducted and forced women from occupied Korea to some "comfort stations" in Chinese regions, such as Heihe in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province and Wuhu in eastern China's Anhui Province, according to the files.

Invading Japanese troops set up "comfort stations" everywhere they reached. The stations appeared in at least twenty to thirty counties in northeast China, said Su Zhiliang.

"The archives showed that the 'comfort station' in Java in Indonesia, strongly demonstrated the 'comfort women' system had reached the southeast Asian country," he said.

One soldier of the police corps was reported and received a verbal criticism after he went to a "comfort station" on March 5, 1944, recorded on a monthly report of the invading Japanese troops in Java.

Several letters Japanese soldiers wrote but seized by army officers expose the invaders' rapes of local women. "Japanese armies raped tens of thousands of women in Nanjing, including a 12-year-old girl, and many were even killed thereafter. The crimes were appalling," said one letter.

The documents represent only a small portion of the nearly 100,000 wartime Japanese files in 1931-1945 period retrieved underground during construction work in 1953, said Yin Huai, president of the Jilin Provincial Archives in Changchun, capital of Jilin Province. Ninety percent of the files are in Japanese.

"The files recorded by the invading Japanese troops themselves are the real documents about their invasion history in China. They are of significant value," said Yin.

The invading troops buried some of their archives when fleeing Changchun, the then "capital" of the puppet Manchu State, in wake of a war with the Soviet Union, as they had no time to burn the documents.

The Jilin Provincial Archives started in 2013 to translate and study the archives. Further work is under way. 

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