Letter: Japanese apologies

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The Independent Online
Japanese apologies

Sir: David Walker ("For Japan, the art of forgetting is first to remember", 12 January) provides a generally balanced analysis of how the Japanese have faced their past. However, his claim that "the sum total of British iniquity since the abolition of the slave trade is impressively small" is questionable

The British Empire abolished the slave trade 1807. In 1839-42 came the Opium War. Having won that war, Britain was to continue to export opium to China. As we enter the 20th century, we see the Amritsar massacre in India. (The Queen did not make an official apology during her state visit.)

The repercussions of British colonial rule are still felt in many parts of the world: African countries whose economies are still dependent on cash crops; Muslim-Hindu clashes, aggravated by the divide-and-rule policies Britain adopted. I would describe this as an iniquity that is "impressively large".

I agree with David Walker that there is an element of refusal in the Japanese to remember what happened in the past. There can be no excuses for the atrocities the Japanese committed during the war. However, his claim that Japanese schoolchildren, "never read about [Japan's imperialistic past] in their government-approved textbooks" is untrue. I was taught about this in a Japanese state school when I was 14.

It is true that some "right-wing boot boys" and politicians in Japan are reluctant to acknowledge Japan's responsibility. However, Japanese historians have debated this matter, and there are many Japanese who do face up to their country's dark historical past.


Ilkley, West Yorkshire