We’re the atrocities (Nanking, Manila, Bataan, etc.) known to the general/non military Japanese? Did the mindset responsible for these atrocities exist outside the military in the general population? Any remnants of it in today’s Japanese culture?
If you mean was it known at the time that they were occurring, to some extent yes. Two Japanese newspapers ran a series of articles on the contest to kill 100 people using a sword en route to Nanking. The two Japanese officers were portrayed as competing to be the first to behead 100 Chinese in heroic hand-to-hand combat, but given the reality of the firearm and the fact that the goal was beheading, not simply killing with the sword it was pretty clear to anyone with any imagination what was really going on: they were beheading defenseless Chinese prisoners.
This is completely inaccurate. The two papers that covered this contest both depicted it as involving hand-to-hand combat, and the fact that the vast majority of soldiers were executed by ambush or killed by squads firing into charges from hardened positions only came out much later.
The Japanese military had an incredible amount of control over journalists during the Sino-Japanese war, and nearly all press generated regarding the conflict depicted it as a heroic, hard-fought war in which no civilians and very few Japanese soldiers were killed. Between media coverage during the war and the preponderance of nationalists who rose to power in the postwar years, the vast majority of Japanese civilians were unaware of the sheer scope and magnitude of the warcrimes committed during the campaign. When the rape of Nanking became an international issue in the 1970s, it caught much of the Japanese civilian population as off-guard as it did the international community.
I’m sorry, but it is completely accurate. I said “The two Japanese officers were portrayed as competing to be the first to behead 100 Chinese in heroic hand-to-hand combat” right in the post you quoted. The idea that one could successfully engage in hand-to-hand combat with a samurai sword, much less have a contest to be the first to behead (note: not kill, behead) 100 enemy soldiers in 1937 was ludicrous, and as I said, one didn’t need much imagination to realize this. Given the fact the Japan practiced universal conscription this would be well known to the majority of the adult male population.
I think that the Japanese attitude of acting superior to and, when called for, unimaginably cruel to others persists, and is shown, or at least hinted at, in two Japanese entertainment areas: game shows and porn. Japanese game shows are sadistic and almost always involve literally torturing the contestants, usually to screams of laughter from the audience. Japanese porn relies heavily on the theme of women being taken against their will. Very often, the female “victim” actresses are white and blonde.
The Rape of Nanking was the essence of the Japanese character, and half a century of enforced pacifism hasn’t changed the Japanese mindset one bit. They are, though, pragmatists now, and won’t be fighting any wars because they’re bad for business. Also, most of eastern Asia still hates their guts for what they did in WWII. So they turn their hatred inward.
Here’s a translation of the article from the Tokyo Nichinichi Shimbun
Most Japanese game shows were and are either trivia/quiz shows, talent competitions (like Nodo Jiman, which is a singing completion), or panel shows similar to the US “To Tell the Truth” or “What’s my Line”.
The whole "sadistic game show"thing was a fad in the 80s and 90s, started by a 1985 show called Takeshi’s Castle, which made contestants participate in all these difficult physical challenges. It spawned a bunch of imitators, until finally, people outraged by the shows, which had gotten to be pretty sadistic and raunchy, formed lobbying groups, and got broadcasters to agree to a code of conduct, and you don’t really see them any more.
But even when these shows were on the air, they weren’t the majority of game shows. And it’s not like those shows are exclusive to Japan. Do you remember the show “Fear Factor”, which was basically all about making people do gross stunts? Wipeout, which is making people go through an elevated obstacle course while avoiding falling in a pool of water? Hole in the Wall (which was adapted from a Japanese show), where people had to contort themselves to get through weird shapes cut in a wall that was approaching)? The Chamber, where somebody had to answer trivia questions while being tortured?
Sure. Sadism isn’t confined to Japan. Just as the Japanese weren’t unique or even original with their wartime atrocities. Their culture does, however, greatly discount the value of the individual, subsuming his concerns to that of the group. I think that makes it MUCH easier to torture someone (ingroup or outgroup member), when that person isn’t worth anything.
And yes, there are sadistic game shows now in the US, too–but they’ve never gotten the market share that the Japanese shows have. And those shows have by no means died out–last year, while in Japan, I must have seen five different ones just while idly channel-surfing on my hotel room TV.
Not my ‘Auntie’ Bei … she barely got out alive. She being of the generation born in 1896, she did not discuss if she had been tortured or raped, while she was still alive I was under the age of 10 and she would have considered it horribly wring to discuss something like that with such a young child.
This did, however, give the US one of the funniest shows of the mid 2000s, namely FX network’s Most Extreme Elimination Challenge! They used the old footage but re-dubbed it with very odd, funny English dialog. Kind of a one-trick gimmick but it was pretty funny for a couple seasons.