[FOUNTAIN]Japan retains pride over imperial past

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[FOUNTAIN]Japan retains pride over imperial past

Second lieutenant Hiroo Onoda of the Imperial Army of Japan was sent to Lubang island of the Philippines in December 1944. His mission was to destroy the U.S. military airstrip and lead guerrilla battles. When the Japanese army unit on Lubang island was defeated by U.S. troops in March 1945, 22-year-old Onoda went into the jungle with Corporal Shoichi Shimada and Private Kinshichi Kozuka. In 1954, Mr. Shimada died, and then in 1965, Mr. Kozuka followed. However, Mr. Onoda’s battle continued. Over three decades, the Japanese government sent a mission to search the jungle, and even his brothers came to the island to look for him. He even saw a flier announcing Japan’s defeat. However, he did not believe any of them. On Feb. 23, 1974, he finally came out of the jungle after receiving an order to surrender from Yoshimi Taniguchi, his direct boss during the war. The Japanese public was fascinated by his military spirit. At the surrender ceremony, Mr. Onoda stood at attention, and his rustless bayonet ignited reminiscences of imperialism among Japanese.
Ryuzo Sejima was sent to Manchuria in July 1945 as a staff officer in the Kwantung Army. After the end of the World War II, he had been detained in Siberia by the Soviet Union for 11 years until he returned to Japan in August 1956. He joined the Itohchu Corporation in 1958. He proved himself at the company immediately and became chairman in 1978. The Japanese novel “Wasteland” is based on his dramatic life. In his memoir, he repented saying, “The obsession with expanding the territory and influence was the decisive cause of the defeat.” Which of the two soldiers reflects actual Japanese sentiment better? On Dec. 7, 1988, a member of the Nagasaki Municipal Council asked Mayor Hinoshi Motojima about his opinion on the emperor’s accountability for the war. The mayor resolutely said that the emperor was accountable. Mr. Motojima dealt with severe criticism after the comment. The Liberal Democratic Party members of the council demanded he withdraw his comment. In January 1990, he was shot by a right-wing group leader. The incident shows how hard and dangerous it is to be “conscientious” in Japan. Seventeen years have passed, but the extreme rightists such as the “Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform” are actively propagating their beliefs, and a local government claims that Tokto is Japanese territory.
It makes me heavy at heart that we cannot expect much from Japan, where the imperialistic sprit and Mr. Onoda’s followers still prevail after 60 years.


by Ahn Sung-kyoo

The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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