Letter: Emperor and PoWs

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The Independent Online
Sir: As a Japanese national who has lived in Britain for over 17 years I was surprised by Tony Blair's statement regarding the PoW problem. It is sad that economic necessity has overruled the suffering that the PoWs and internees experienced. However, it is equally sad that the British right-wing media has hijacked the PoW issue and used it as a stick to beat Japan.

Neither country can take the moral high ground; Japan because of the atrocities committed by its soldiers during and before the Second World War, and Britain because of its poor record in Ireland, India and China during the years of the British Empire.

The real crime in this affair is the crime of nationalism. Japan was a poor country at the beginning of the 20th century and was desperate to catch up with Western nations. It utilised nationalism and imperialism as tools to achieve industrialisation, a process which brutalised the common Japanese worker, who was forced to work extremely hard for minimum reward and in the harshest of conditions. The Emperor was used as an icon to concentrate the spiritual energy of the nation, to justify the hardship and also the plundering of other nations. The pathological atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese soldiers illustrate the intensity of this totalitarian regime, under which the Japanese people also suffered.

Why not call it quits and forget it? Because those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. The way forward for Japan is to start teaching the young people in school exactly what went on during the war. They are being extremely complacent by not doing so. We cannot turn a new leaf without coming to terms with the past.



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