Bishop to Boycott Obama Commencement Speech

    South Bend is heating up over the controversy surrounding Obama and the local bishop...Read the post

    2009 College Grads: We're the Lucky Ones

    Why there is hope for the graduating Class of 2009, and how they can find work in a recession...Read the post

    Beer in Vending Machines -- What Drinking Age?

    U.S. policies on drinking age seem restrictive when examining the rest of the world...Read the post

    How The Press Can Remain Relevant

    Is it any surprise that Obama has employed a strategy to cordon journalists that is similar to previous administrations?...Read the post

    Be Afraid, Cheney Warns. Be Very Afraid.

    Just when you thought the Bush-era warnings of Armageddon around the corner were over, Cheney strikes again...Read the post

    Obama: You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry...

    Obama threw down his stick, spat on the floor and growled in the face of cameras -- metaphorically... Read the post

    Obama to GOP: 'I Won, I'm The President'

    "You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done," Obama told GOP leaders...Read the post

    Palin Seeks $11M Book Deal, but Can She Read?

    One can only imagine what Republican rising star Sarah Palin could possibly write about in her memoirs...Read the post

Rss Feed

boston university

international newspoliticsculture

These Right-Wingers Make Bush Look Like Nader

TOKYO -- Like that pre-calc nerd in high school, Japan doesn't really get out a lot. The government and the people are more concerned with what's happening inside their borders than anything else.

Which helps explain why Yasukuni Shrine, a controversial burial ground for a couple of million war dead including a handful of Japanese war criminals, is a focal point of nationalism.

During World War II, Japan's imperial army led bloody campaigns in China and other parts of Asia, resulting in tens of millions of deaths. Yet a few decades after the island nation surrendered, more than 1,000 soldiers who were charged as war criminals -- including 14 really terrible ones who are called "Class-A" criminals -- were secretly enshrined in the burial ground.

When this became public, China and Korea got pretty angry. Now, every time a Japanese official (like former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi) visits the shrine, East Asia flares up in wars of words. Japan's current leader, Taro Aso, said recently that he is considering a visit.

But that's not the only reason why Yasukuni is controversial. Walk 200 feet to the right of the shrine, and there's the Yushukan, a "history" museum erected by super-conservative, right-wing nationalists who want to set the record straight about Japan's wars -- at least, their version of the record.

Keep in mind that this group openly advocates -- and has succeeded in -- revising school textbooks to omit details such as the fact that during the war, the Japanese used Korean "comfort women" as sex slaves for their soldiers.

So when you think the United States has too many political extremists, think again. Whether they're on the right (like Sean Hannity) or the left (like Bill Maher), none of them have anything on the conservative Uyoku dantai.

It's also important to know that such extreme nationalists, while somewhat influential, are not very popular among most Japanese citizens. They represent a minority of Japanese people who are willing to bend the facts about what happened in one of Japan's darkest chapters. So, enter the Yushukan.

The first thing I saw before I even walked into the museum was a group of right-wingers huddled by their black trucks that bear the old imperial Japanese flag and blast "nationalist" music from loudspeakers. And the first thing I saw inside the museum, near the gift shop, was a row of hundreds of CDs burned with the same type of music.

It's common to hear American politicians defend attacks from their critics by saying that their opponents are practicing "revisionist history," misrepresenting their records. But that phrase has an entirely different and real meaning on the other side of the world.

What's inside the Yushukan is not as important as what's not inside. In 1937, Japan began massacring millions of Chinese civilians in Nanjing, nearly committing genocide. (Japan says its actions were a matter of self-defense.) Yet inside the museum, the only mention of the slaughter is a small panel barely three feet wide that refers to the "China Incident" and makes no mention of any conflict whatsoever.

Similarly conspicuous are the letters written by kamikaze pilots in the hours before they took off on their suicide missions. The letters appear only in Japanese, and the entire display has no English translation. It is one of the few parts of the museum with no English translation whatsoever. A Japanese friend of mine translated a part of one that read, "I'll do my best as one of the Japanese soldiers."

Robert Dujarric, an East Asian expert and former senior fellow at the Washington-based Hudson Institute, stresses that Yasukuni Shrine is modeled after European values of monarchy and religion, and is really a tribute to Japan's modernization.

"The thing you have to know about Yasukuni is that it's not Japanese," Dujarric told a sociology class as a guest lecturer. The symbolism of honoring the emperor, he said, is a way for nationalists to say to the world, "We died for something."

The shrine and museum are only a small part of Japan. But they represent a significant mindset that still grips at least a few vocal leaders, and they are no doubt on the mind of the Obama administration as Hillary Clinton departs from her trip to Japan. Clinton asked Aso to be the first world leader to visit Barack Obama in the White House, a move that is almost certainly a favor she expects to be returned by committing the isolationist country to contributing more to global issues.

Recent Comments »

Page 1/1

Post Your Comments Below

Join The Discussion

New Users

Current Users

Most Popular Stories »

    More Stories »

    Latest News »

      Featured Galleries »

      • Living the Vice Presidential Life
      • Watching the First Debate At UPenn
      • Obama's Number Two
      • Historical Olympic Highlights
      • Pictures from Another World
      View All »
      Comming Soon
      Also on AOL

      Get the latest national news, cultural trends, political analysis and more.

      AOL news