Monday, August 15, 2005

Rising Sun, Bowing in Apology

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi did the right thing today by abstaining from visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine and apologizing for the atrocities committed by Japanese forces during the course of the Second World War on this, the sixtieth anniversary of the war's end in the Pacific.

While the Prime Minister's actions today are a step in the right direction, Japan must do a whole lot more to atone and come to terms with its bloody militaristic past. Like Germany, Japan today may be a vibrant democracy playing a constructive role on the world stage, but the contrast with Germany when it comes to exorcising the demons of the Second World War cannot be greater.

That much is made clear by the fact that convicted war criminals such as General Tojo are still venerated at Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine, and that at least one protester at the shrine today was bloodied today by far-right thugs who had assembled at the shrine to commemorate the anniversary.
One could only imagine the outrage that such veneration for a leading official of the Third Reich at a similar site in Berlin would cause, but in Japan and other parts of the world that were not hurt by its aggression, the attitude to the country's refusal to acknowledge the darkest episodes in its history is largely one of indifference.

That's something that should not be sitting well with anyone on this anniversary of the end of a war, the likes of which we hope to never see again.

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