Note to Japanese readers: if you are not prepared to accept a rather harsh criticism of your culture, please stop reading now.
A couple of days ago, I learned about the behavior of the Japanese in the second world war, and it rather shocked me. I didn’t really understand why the Japanese were (and to some degree, are) so reviled in South and East Asia, but after hearing about some of the atrocities that were done in Manchuria, China, and the Philippines, among others, I think I understand it now. I’m very uncomfortable with it. Primarily because it seems, from what I’ve been reading, that most of those countries, including South Korea, only want an acknowledgement and apology for what the Japanese did eighty years ago. I imagine some are looking for reparations too, but I’m not going to get into that discussion. That’s also something we’re dealing with in America, on a smaller scale, and I don’t want to open that can of worms.
However, such an apology and acknowledgement has, from what I understand, never been forthcoming.
I can think of many reasons for this. I am not familiar with Japanese culture as much as someone who may be living there, but my general impression is that they tend to avoid things that cause them shame or embarrassment. So I can kind of understand why they, even today, avoid thought or mention of what was done in world war two. But in other senses, I can’t. Culture is a very strong driving force, and I get that, but there are some things with which the only appropriate thing is swallowing your pride, and owning up to the history of one’s country performing unimaginable atrocities in wartime should be one of those things.
I am very uncomfortable with Japanese culture right now, and while I continue to learn the language as I don’t wish for two years of study to be in vain, I’m not sure if I want to ever visit there at the moment. I mean, before I was pretty sure I would never be able to, but now I’m not even sure if I want to. Because behind every kawaii thing they come up with, there are relatively recent wounds of war that are still festering, and I remain very disturbed by what I learned.