[OUTLOOK]Real reasons for Japan to be proud

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[OUTLOOK]Real reasons for Japan to be proud

Last month, Shinzo Abe, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary and the leading candidate to be the next prime minister, published a book titled “To a Beautiful Country.” In this book, he wrote that he wanted to make Japan a country of confidence and pride and that he would fight to make it so.
A couple of years ago, a series of seminars was held for young politicians in Japan. Mr. Abe said at one of the seminars that if he became prime minister, he would present a vision of a country whose people could feel proud.
He said Japanese people could not feel proud of their country because the image of the hard-working Japanese people had not been presented properly.
As an example, he said that when Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi toured Asian countries, he visited national cemeteries where unknown soldiers were buried. But in the Indonesian cemetery, 20 Japanese were also buried alongside local soldiers.
Ichita Yamamoto wrote in his book that “After World War II was over, 10,000 Japanese soldiers stayed in Indonesia, determined to fight with Indonesians to help them gain independence from the Netherlands. After the war, the Japanese soldiers were disarmed, but they told the Indonesian guerillas where the weapons were, so that the Indonesian fighters could get them. Those Japanese soldiers who lost their lives in this war were buried in this national cemetery.
“I do not mean to brag about how there were such great Japanese. I feel we need to know that many Japanese people have worked hard in the world.”
Would Japanese people be more proud of their country if they knew more about this? Mr. Abe shares the historical views of the right-wing history textbook publisher Fushosha, whose books state that Japanese troops’ southward expansion helped Southeast Asian countries gain independence after World War II.
But what Japanese really need to know is that Japan’s war of aggression, which lasted for 15 years, cost the lives of 20 million people and 3 million Japanese soldiers.
The visits to the Yasukuni Shrine and the debate over an amendment to the Japanese Constitution are in this context. Mr. Abe appears to be conflicted about the issue of the shrine visits, but he is very sure about it on the inside.
Former Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Koichi Kato said that while Prime Minister Koizumi thinks of his visits as paying tribute to the shrine and not necessarily the class-A war criminals praised in it, Mr. Abe strongly believes that the trial of the Japanese war criminals itself was wrong.
As for amendment of the Constitution, Mr. Abe argues that the Constitution should be revised or interpreted in a wider sense in order to enhance his country’s self-defense ability. After North Korea test-fired its missiles, he talked openly about pre-emptive attack against the North’s military facilities.
Mr. Abe seems to think that the 61 years after World War II have been long enough for repentance and that neighboring countries worry about the resurrection of Japan’s imperialism only because they are paranoid.
Lee O-young, the former culture minister and professor, wrote an article in the Japanese magazine Chuo Koron, or The Central Review. He wrote that in Japanese the word “pride” and the word “dust” sound the same, “hokori.” Although both words have the same pronunciation, dust cannot turn into pride. One can start to have pride, however, when one wipes off the dust.
In 1978, a ritual was held to pay tribute to class-A war criminals. Since then, the prime minister and government officials have repeatedly visited the shrine.
Politicians talk about revising the Constitution in order to become a military superpower. These acts are like causing more dust, instead of wiping it out. These cannot make Japanese people proud of their country.
In one book that many foreigners consult when they want to know more about Japan, it says this about Japan’s Constitution:
“For Japanese, Japan’s Consitution is a huge dream, a culture and new identity that the country earned to make up for the disasters of war. Thanks to the principle of pacifism in the Constitution, Japanese can be proud that they are ahead in moving toward the 21st century.”
That is not all. Japan’s economy is the world’s second largest. Japan has a rich cultural heritage. The landscape from Hokkaido down to Okinawa is full of beauty. Its cities are clean and its people are friendly. These things can make Japanese people feel proud of their country.

* The writer is the chief of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Park Tae-wook
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