I wonder at times what type of relationship Japan's young generation will have with Japan's Asian neighbors when those young people reach the age where they are setting policy decisions as Japan's leaders.
Though nearly two generations have passed since the events of WWII, China and Korea still harbors resentment towards Japan for its aggressions in WWII reflected in the current events of today; Some memories die hard and are passed from parent to child. Complicating matters is the fact that China is quickly becoming the economic hedgemon of Asia, overshadowing “Japan Inc.'s” economic miracle in the 1990's.
How will Japan's new working class of the 21st century deal with a rising tide of anti-Japanese sentiment in Asia?
And do they even know the reasons why China and Korea are so hostile to Japan?
Just to illustrate how much China and Korea STILL hold intense national animosity towards Japan today from the actions of Imperial Japan in the 1930s, three issues have flared up in the past few weeks sparking intense anti-Japanese resentment in those two countries.
I normally wouldn't comment on this sort of thing in my blog, but the Japanese textbook issue does pertain to the current young generation in Japan. My purpose here is to just bring the reader up to speed on the issue of anti-Japanese sentiment flaring up in Asia, not really take one side or the other in the disputes. I would only like to consider the effect it is having on Japan's Lost Generation.
The Japan Middle School Textbook Issue
The newest rekindled debate arose when a new edition of textbooks for Japanese school nationwide were approved by the Japanese Ministry of Education this week. The accusations from China and Korea are that the Japanese publisher of the Japanese middle school textbooks are guilty of 'whitewashing' Japan's role in WWII as an aggressor nation: the textbooks barely mentions the Nanking Massacre, Comfort Women, or the annexation of Korea.
The idea being that young Japanese have no knowledge of their country’s true historical involvement in those WWII events (and so are doomed to repeat the mistakes of their grandfather's generation). The thinking put forth by the articles below by Chinese and Korean sources are that these textbooks are ultranationalist and right wing in their presentation. These textbooks, cleansed of ugly historical events, will shape the way young Japanese view the world not by what they say, so much as what the textbooks don't say to the young reader by omission.
The fear in China and Korea is that the cleansed textbooks may create a jingoistic generation of Japanese who might once again try to establish militaristic Japan in hegemonic role in Asia.
The most heated response from the Japan side is that the textbook writers don’t want young Japanese growing up to feel depressed or ashamed of their country:
China moves to block a greater role for Japan in the UN
The second and related issue spurring ant-Japanese sentiment is China's bid to stop Japan's inclusion in the UN Security Council. With anti-Japanese riots and the boycotting of Japanese goods in China in recent days due to the textbook issue, China finds it hard to satisfy the nationalist fervor at home against the Japanese while trying to come across as globalist in the eyes of the UN. Japanese products like Asahi Beer have been pulled from the shelves in China and protesters assemble outside of Japanese embassies:
The Korean/Japanese territorial dispute over Dokdo/Takeshima
The third issue is the heated territorial dispute over a small chunk of rocks that Japan calls Takeshima and Korea calls Dokdo in the Sea of Japan that both Japan and South Korea claim to be their national territory. To understand the bitterness of this dispute you need to understand the history between Japan and Korea in the 20th century. The articles that follow offer a much more detailed description of the history behind this, but suffice to say the annexation of Korea 1910-1945 by Imperial Japan left behind many bad feelings on both sides.
And this issue has heated up beyond civilian action to the point that both governments have taken overt steps to prove they have rightful claim to these islands. The Japanese Self Defense Forces have apparently flown over the islands and there exists plans by the South Korean military to fire on anyone who nears the islands.
Again, the new Japanese middle-school textbooks tie into this issue as well, as the textbooks claim that the disputed islands belong in fact to Japan.
This dispute sparked a wave of violent protests across South Korea in Mid-March and the textbook issue this week has only intensified the issue. Anti-Japanese protests in Seoul have even reportedly involved an old Korean women cutting her pinky off, people stabbing themselves to death, or setting themselves on fire outside the Japanese embassies in Korea in protest:
The most interesting link—
Image 1: People's Daily Online
Image 2: Kim Dong-hoon / The Korea Herald
Image 3: CBC News