Wartime Japan was responsible for more deaths in the far east, than was Nazi Germany in Europe. Yet while Germany has tried to make amends to victims of the Hitler era, Japan goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid any admission of responsibility towards its victims.
Most modern Japanese do not even accept the atrocities the Japanese people committed against the nationals of occupied countries, even when it is supported by overwhelming evidence and the few who do acknowledge it, face the hostility of their fellow countrymen for doing so.
I find it disgusting that the Japanese people still seek to excuse and even ennoble, the actions of their ancestors during World War 2, so many of whom were war criminals. The Japanese nation is guilty of a collective rejection of its past crimes, in an inexcusable effort to save its collective face. As long as such denial persists, it should remain impossible for the world to believe that Japan has become a peace loving nation. History is a lesson for us to learn from, if we acknowledge what it has to teach us. In this instance, history teaches us that Japan is as great a threat as it ever was, because its people still try to view the criminals of World War 2 as heroes.
Coming to terms with its past crimes has never been easy for Japan, which still tries to hide from the horrors it perpetrated during WW2. Now, the Japanese people demand to be allowed to forget the atrocities they committed and they have found a new voice. Known collectively as the Net Right, these internet terrorists were once dismissed by the west as radicals, but they have gained considerable influence with the rise of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, which shares their goal of ending foreign demands for Japan to take responsibility for the horrors it committed.
The activists blame the failing Japanese economy on 70 years of unfair portrayals of Japan as the villain in World War 2, by outside powers who are only interested in keeping Japan weak. “We are tired of Japan being constantly told to apologise,” said Kazuya Kyomoto, 26, a popular blogger who condemns the west for continuing to pressure Japan to admit what it did.
Mr. Abe’s government has been criticised for being slow to distance itself from the Net Right and Eriko Yamatani, the cabinet member in charge of national law enforcement, has been photographed with a prominent member of the biggest online extremist group, the Zaitokukai. But the government has failed to condemn him for his involvement with such a group. How can this be if they are sorry for what happened in the past?
It is interesting to note that Shinzo Abe's grandfather, Kan Abe, was a pacifist who stood against Japanese warmongering. But his father, Shintaro Abe, was far more right wing and his grandfather on his mother's side, Nobusuke Kishi, is a suspected war criminal. Perhaps this explains Shinzo's support for a racist Japan. Further evidence of his true beliefs is given by the fact that Shinzo Abe has actually prayed at the Yasukuni Shrine, which includes the names of class A war criminals as Japanese heroes.
Historians estimate that the Japanese murdered as many as 20,000,000 Chinese civilians during their occupation of China. (This is taken from Wikipedia) This is not simply the Japanese military, it is the Japanese people as a whole. 300,000 Chinese civilians were butchered in a matter of a few weeks during the taking of Nanjing alone. Many women and young girls were actually raped to death by Japanese soldiers.
Most, although not all, Japanese war crimes occurred during the Showa era of Japan, that is, the reign of Hirohito. Yet unlike Hitler, Hirohito was never accused of any crimes. In fact, while Germany has been forced to face and pay for, its many atrocities, Japan has never been brought to task for the horrors it committed.
While not trying to minimise the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis, Germany is responsible for the deaths of 6,000,000 Jews. Japan is responsible for as many as 20,000,000 Chinese civilians, plus allied service personnel who were taken prisoner and the nationals of other occupied countries.
Germany has admitted the crimes it committed and has apologised time after time. Japan still denies it did anything wrong. Germany has paid over a billion pounds in compensation, while Japan refuses to accept that it has done anything that it needs to atone for. Thousands of Germans were brought to trial in Nuremberg at the end of the war, for crimes that ranged from membership of an illegal organisation, to actual atrocities. Hundreds of Germans were executed as a result of these trials. 25 Japanese stood trial for Class A crimes. Germany was torn asunder by the allies, Japan... nothing happened.
Japanese war crimes took place in Korea, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Burma and other countries in the Orient during the Second World War. A number of these occurrences have been defined as a Holocaust, because of the number of fatalities involved. Governments and historians from various countries hold the military forces of Japan (Emperor Hirohito in particular) responsible for the crimes and deaths of millions of prisoners of war and civilians. Yet Japan continues to deny its involvement. One must wonder what has happened to the code of Bushido.
The Nanjing Massacre took place in 1937 at Nanjing, China. The Japanese looted, raped, burned and murdered Chinese prisoners of war and civilians. The international Military Tribunal in the Far East, commonly known as the Tokyo War Crimes Trials, estimated that a total number of about 300,000 Chinese were murdered in this one incident.
Japanese forces used chemical weapons during major operations, particularly those against China. Phosgene, Chlorine and Mustard gas, all banned substances after WW1, were extensively used during the Japanese occupation of China.
Japanese war crimes are not just limited to massacres. Special units of the Japanese military carried out experiments on POW's and civilians. Unit 731, led by Shirō Ishii, subjected people to amputations, vivisection and biological weapon testing. The unit was established on the express orders of Hirohito himself. Approximately 580,000 people were murdered by similar Japanese formations.
During the construction of the Burma/Siam railway between June 1942 and October 1943, approximately 100,000 POW's and civilians died. But this was only the start of worse Japanese war crimes to come. In Java alone, there was a death rate of 80% of those the Japanese used for slave labour.
It was standard Japanese policy to torture prisoners of war, as they thought that prisoners had no honour because they had surrendered. It also became the norm to behead them afterwards, to remove any evidence of the actions of their interrogators, a clear indicator that the Japanese knew what they were doing.
It was not only the Japanese army that was responsible for war crimes. On 26th March and July 2nd, 1944, the Japanese submarine, I-8 sank two transport ships. The Dutch freighter, Tsijalak was sunk off Sri Lanka. 103 crew members were taken prisoner, but were later attacked by the Japanese with hammers and katanas. Only 5 of the victims survived. 100 prisoners were taken when the US cargo ship,Jean Nicolet was captured. Only 24 of them survived their ordeal at the hands of the submarine's crew.
Historian, Mitsuyoshi Himeta, reports that a "Three Alls Policy" (Sankō Sakusen) was implemented in China from 1942 to 1945 and was in itself responsible for the deaths of millions of Chinese civilians. This scorched earth strategy, sanctioned by Hirohito himself, directed Japanese forces to "Kill All, Burn All, and Loot All". Additionally, captured Allied servicemen and civilians were massacred in various related incidents.
Many testimonies collected by the Australian War Crimes Section of the Tokyo tribunal, indicate that Japanese personnel committed acts of cannibalism against Allied prisoners of war. According to historian Yuki Tanaka: "cannibalism was often a systematic activity conducted by whole squads and under the command of officers.” This frequently involved murder for the purpose of securing bodies. For example, an Indian POW, Havildar Changdi Ram, testified that: "[on November 12, 1944] the Kempeitai beheaded an allied pilot. I saw this from behind a tree and watched some of the Japanese cut flesh from his arms, legs, hips, buttocks and carry it off to their quarters... They cut it into small pieces and fried it."
In some cases, flesh was cut from living people: another Indian POW, Lance Naik Hatam Ali testified: “... the Japanese started selecting prisoners and every day one prisoner was taken out and killed and eaten by the soldiers. I personally saw this happen and about 100 prisoners were eaten at this place by the Japanese. The remainder of us were taken to another spot 50 miles away. At this place, the Japanese again started selecting prisoners to eat. Those selected were taken to a hut where their flesh was cut from their bodies while they were alive and their bodies were thrown into a ditch where they later died."
Another Indian serviceman stated: “Of 300 men who went to Wewak with me, only 50 got out. Nineteen were eaten. A Japanese doctor —Lieutenant Tumisa, formed a party of three or four men and would send an Indian outside the camp for something. The Japaneses immediately killed him and ate the flesh from his body. The liver, muscles from the buttocks, thighs, legs, and arms would be cut off and cooked.”
The most senior officer convicted of cannibalism was Lt Gen. Yoshio Tachibana, who with 11 other Japanese personnel, was tried in August 1946 in relation to the execution of U.S. Navy airmen and the cannibalism of at least one of them, during August 1944. The airmen were beheaded on Tachibana's orders.
As one Japanese concentration camp after another was liberated, it became all too apparent what had been happening to those unfortunate enough to have been taken prisoner. 25% of all allied POW's died in Japanese camps. This rose to nearly 30% for Chinese prisoners. Yet what justice were they given at the end of the war? None!
The main British opposition to the Japanese came in the form of the Fourteenth Army, which was a multinational force comprising troops from several Commonwealth countries, many of its units were from the Indian Army, with British troops and a significant contribution from 81st, 82nd and 11th African divisions.
It was often referred to as the "Forgotten Army" because its operations in the Burma Campaign were overlooked by the contemporary press and government and remained more obscure than those of corresponding formations in Europe. It was formed in 1943, under the command of Lieutenant-General William Slim. The Fourteenth Army was the largest Commonwealth Army during the war, with nearly a million men by late 1944.
The fourteenth Army suffered approximately 87,000 causalties during combat operations, yet their sacrifices were largely forgotten once the war in Europe was over. With the end of hostilities in the west, the war against Japan became something of an embarrasment to western goverments and by the time our heroes came home, they received a very luke warm welcome. This insult was exacerbated by the way that Japanese war crimes were swept under the carpet. Hirohito never even faced charges for his part in the murder and torture of millions of people.
Why do I care? Principally because my father was a NCO in the 82nd West African Frontier Force and lost many of his friends during the fighting in Arakan. As with the other 1,000,000 men and women who made up Fouteenth Army, he deserved, but failed to get, recognition for his service to his king and country. I also have a lot of Chinese friends whose grandparents suffered at the hands of the Japanese.
The west has not learned the lessons of World War 2 and the sacrifices that were made to halt the Japanese menace were in vain. The Japanese people remain unrepentant and are still a clear and very real threat to peace in the far east. Should they be allowed to forget what they did? Perhaps when they try to make amends for the horrors they inflicted on so many innocent people.
The film/documentary Nanjing, Nanjing is a perfect example of what the Japanese are capable of. It is not for the faint hearted though.