Japan in war museum row

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The Independent Online
CONTROVERSY surrounded the opening of a Japanese war museum that commemorates the hardship of civilians during and after the Second World War but which makes no mention of the cause of the war, or of Japanese atrocities.

Construction of the country's first national museum dedicated to the Second World War has stirred a debate over its message, pitting conservative nationalists against liberals who want Japan to face up to the past.

The Japan War-Bereaved Families Association and nationalist groups wanted the museum to reflect patriotic themes and to stress the sacrifice made by Japanese soldiers, but historians called for it to incorporate evidence of Japan's wartime aggression and brutality. In 1996 the government decided it would simply focus on the experience of the survivors, so it skips such topics as the attack on Pearl Harbor, the sexual enslavement of women in conquered countries such as China and Korea and biological experiments on live human captives.

Japan's neighbours have urged it to be more forthcoming about atrocities but the subject is still largely considered taboo. While Tokyo has expressed varying degrees of "remorse", increasingly vocal revisionists say it has nothing to apologise for.

The project attracted attention because its projected construction cost was funded by the Health and Welfare Ministry under benefits administered to families of Japanese veterans.

The site has also caused controversy, as it is located in the centre of Tokyo, next to a shrine for the country's 2.5 million war dead, including executed war criminals. (Reuters)