2008: The commander of the Japanese Air Force, general Toshio Tamogami, was forced to resign recently, after the
media noted an article he had written claiming that Japan was not an aggressor
during World War II.
This is a
common attitude in Japan. Unlike the Germans, who take to guilt quite readily,
the Japanese always saw themselves as victims. For example, when all the
encrypted Japanese message traffic from World War II was decoded (in the years
after the war), one series of diplomatic messages, sent to embassies in the
months after the atomic bombs were dropped, and Japan surrendered, advised
diplomats to push the idea that Japan was a victim of Western savagery. The
atomic bomb was to be used to prove this. Apparently the Japanese diplomats gained
some traction with this in the West, but among their neighbors, the concept of
the Japanese as victims was laughable, and still is.
entered World War II, it justified its aggression in China (which it began
invading in the early 1930s) as an altruistic effort to bring the benefits of
modern political thinking and technology to the backward Chinese. There is
still a lot of anger in China over this. Japan justified its attack on the
United States, and European colonies in the western Pacific, in 1941, as an
attempt to liberate Asians from European colonial rule. But the Japanese just
replaced one set of foreign rulers with another, and the Japanese were much
more brutal. The Japanese saw themselves as a master race (and still do), and
treated lesser races with contempt and brutality. They have toned down the
brutality since 1945.
1990s, the Japanese government has tried to persuade the world, and
particularly their neighbors, that Japan really is sorry for their bad behavior
before 1945. But many Japanese still prefer general Tamogami's pre-1945 version
of events. There are enough of these old school Japanese around to keep Japans
worst World War II behavior out of Japanese school books, and those who publish
anything to the contrary in Japan, get a lot of abuse from old school believers
in what Japan really was, and is.