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Author Topic: Nanjing  (Read 1406 times)

Offline DrIdiot

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Nanjing
« on: November 03, 2010, 01:04:47 PM »
This doesn't really have to do with anime, but I was curious about this and can't think of a better place to ask, since a lot of people here seem to have a pretty extensive knowledge regarding Japanese culture.  It's sort of a touchy subject, so I'd like to approach it as objectively as possible.

Basically, I want to ask how the Nanjing Massacre is viewed by Japanese people in general.  I'm not looking for a debate on the massacre itself, but some insight regarding its perception amongst the Japanese, which I honestly know nothing about.

This is my understanding, which might be incorrect.  Point out anything you think is wrong.
a) There are three camps, one who denies it occurred (or that it was anything unusual), one who believes the casualties to be on the order of 10,000 and one who believes the casualties to be on the order of 100,000.
b) Most Japanese fall in the second or third group (i.e. not denial).
c) Various apologies have been issues by significant politicians.
d) Some conservative Japanese politicians and historians deny that it occurred. 
e) Compared to Germans, the Japanese military leaders were punished more harshly in post-war tribunals.  Currently, Holocaust denial is illegal in Germany, whereas the same cannot be said in Japan.

Questions:
a) It's inevitable that some Japanese people deny its occurrence.  There are people who deny the Holocaust happened in the United States.  What I know, though, is that people who believe the Holocaust didn't happen in the U.S. are basically viewed as loonies.  How are people who deny the Nanjing Massacre viewed in Japan?  I know the parallel doesn't quite hold, as I've heard Japanese people are generally apolitical (is this true?).  Basically, (approximately) what percentage of Japanese people fall into which camps (or none at all, i.e. don't know of it)?
b) I've also read that there are some established historians/professors in the denial camp; but then again there are some parallels in the US as well (e.g. Ward Churchill).  What is the general view regarding the massacre amongst academics?
c) There was the Japanese textbook controversy about a decade ago.  Was that ever resolved?


My personal opinion is that the denial camp is completely groundless.  I've read some of their arguments and they seem to be full of inconsistencies.  One example is that they deny any findings by international newspapers (citing bias) and frequently cite findings by Japanese newspapers; to me, an untenable position (one of the prolific members of the camp: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobukatsu_Fujioka).  Between the other two camps, I do not know.

Offline TypicalIdiotFan

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Re: Nanjing
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2010, 02:54:50 PM »
Quote
a) It's inevitable that some Japanese people deny its occurrence.  There are people who deny the Holocaust happened in the United States.  What I know, though, is that people who believe the Holocaust didn't happen in the U.S. are basically viewed as loonies.  How are people who deny the Nanjing Massacre viewed in Japan?  I know the parallel doesn't quite hold, as I've heard Japanese people are generally apolitical (is this true?).  Basically, (approximately) what percentage of Japanese people fall into which camps (or none at all, i.e. don't know of it)?

I can't answer this question fully, but I will say that anybody who denies history because they don't like it or can't believe it are loonies.  Period.  What is equally pathetic is the people who keep bringing it up as if it still matters.  It happened over 70 years ago.  Let it go.  Japan of today is not Japan of World War 2.  And while you don't have to forget it happened, forgive already and move on.  Most of the people effected by and involved with the Nanjin Massacre are dead.

And yes, I feel the same thing about the Holocaust.  I'm not unsympathetic to what happened to several million Jewish people.  But get over it and quit riding it whenever you need political maneuvering.  It's as bad as the "race card".

Quote
b) I've also read that there are some established historians/professors in the denial camp; but then again there are some parallels in the US as well (e.g. Ward Churchill).  What is the general view regarding the massacre amongst academics?

Again, I can't answer the question fully, but Academics who deny overwhelming evidence are cranks.

Quote
c) There was the Japanese textbook controversy about a decade ago.  Was that ever resolved?

Can't answer this one. 

What we need to understand is that there are always going to be people who are embarrassed about the past actions of their nation.  The Japanese, especially, have a belief system that the sins and crimes of the ancestors carry over to the current generation.  I'm not like that.  I think what's in the past was done by other people who have nothing to do with me, even if they're related.  I do what I do, they did what they did.  They're not connected.

However, it is common practice to try to bury, mitigate, or outright deny ugly smears on a nation's history.  Germany not only has laws to not deny the Holocaust, but they also don't talk about Nazi Germany very much.  So they're able to deny one thing, but not another.  Nobody holds modern Germans responsible for what happened in World War 2.  It doesn't stop people from exploiting the situation for their own personal and greedy ends (and these people should be round up for another holocaust...), which is why it can never truly be put behind anyone.

The United States has done it, too.  How many of us truly know the history behind what started the War with Mexico in 1846?  On another hand, we'll examine to death the events and incidents involving the Civil War.  Now we have an attempt to try to mitigate the history surrounding Iraq and terrorist torture in Abu Ghraib.  History is continually vexed by those who would seek to control it. 

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"He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future."

I'm not one to buy into Orwellian nightmare scenarios, but in this case he's right.  History (ironic) has shown this to be true.
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Offline Kylaran

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Re: Nanjing
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2010, 11:02:21 AM »
Unfortunately, history is not a mere matter of what is right, what is wrong; what is fact, what is fiction. It is largely about perception, and a large part of history involves piecing together how things went from tiny windows into the past. To take for example, even if our own everyday perception of the world can be somewhat flawed (i.e. we fail to notice things right in front of us sometimes), it should be quite obvious that attempting to look at the past would be equally, if not more, flawed.

The problem with the Nanjing Massacre is that, like any war in which a city is occupied, there are the view points belonging to those conquered and belonging to those conquering. Of course, the Japanese people themselves don't know what went on in Nanjing as they weren't there at the time; as a result they can only depend on what is told to them. Post-war Japan didn't focus much on WW2 history since their main focus was progress and rebuilding after the war. On the other hand, Chinese WW2 rhetoric didn't surface particularly strong until the late 70s, as Mao Zedong's power started waning and we saw the gradual shift to a market economy and the opening of China to the West. In particular, the Nanjing Massacre became a foundation of nationalist rhetoric almost roughly 30+ years after the events actually happened, so when the radical right-wing nationalists hark that there is a dearth of facts, they aren't pulling it out of their ass.

As for the general populace, they tend to acknowledge that their army committed atrocities, and part of it has become a source for the support of Article 9 of Japan's constitution. On the other hand, few textbooks choose big numbers (largely because Japan's current top brass are remnants of the war or immediate post-war period which saw the rise of Chinese nationalism in recent decades), and even only refer to the massacre in passing in a large majority of the texts. So the textbook controversy isn't solved at all.
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