Question for history/travel buffs

Today in class we had an Englishman in our class to talk about Ulysses. When he asked for questions, I asked one that had been bothering me since I was a child. “How do the English present the American Revolution to their schoolchildren?” Obviously not how we do. He said that it is shown as the American rich wanted to break off of Britain so as to get even richer. I was sated. But then another question popped into my head, one that I pose here: How do the Japanese present to their schoolchildren these things; the massacre and rape of the Chinese during WWII, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japan’s treachery and entry into war, and the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima?

If anyone can satisfy me on these, I would be eternally grateful.


We are the children of the Eighties. We are not the first “lost generation” nor today’s lost generation; in fact, we think we know just where we stand - or are discovering it as we speak.

I’m speaking as an American who visited the Yasukuni-jinha Shrine in Tokyo. (That literally means ‘Peaceful Country Shrine’.) It is the memorial to Japan’s WWII dead.

I popped into the museum and looked around. It was interesting.
IIRC, the phrases used were “Manchurian Incident” and “Great War of the Pacific.”
The original telegrams that called for the attack on Pearl Harbor were on display. (A Japanese couple next to me were reading them and went ‘Tora, tora, tora.’)
The English language captions implied that the attack on Pearl Harbor was heroic, but ultimately pretty stupid.
There is also a replica of a kamikaze plane and an actual kamikaze submarine (‘Gift of the U.S. Navy’ the caption read.)

I also went to Hiroshima, where the mood is much more somber. The point of that museum is to show the horror of nuclear weapons and what damage they cause. The impression I got there is that the people of Hirsohima want to ensure that war never happens again.

The Tokyo shrine was a bit more ambivalent about war.

As to what is taught in schools in Japan has been a great source of dispute between Japan and its neighbors Korea and China. Supposedly, textbooks softpedal Japan’s actions in Manchuria and Korea.

Well-phrased question. Another interesting tack one might pursue, Tim, is how the respective governments have dealt with the wars’ abuses. This can be researched in public documents, in many cases recent newspaper articles and books such as Hidden Horrors or {i]The Rape of Nanking*. Very generally speaking:

The US has dealt with a variety of war-era reparation claims: payments to American Nisei, or Pacific Islanders, for example (but not Philippine veterans’ claims).

The Japanese high court recently declined to review claims by Korean and Philippine women forced into war-time prostitution by the Imperial Armed Forces.

“Proverbs for Paranoids, 3: If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.”

  • T.Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow.

I haven’t read any original Japanese source material, but from what I understand, the Japanese pretty much teach that WWII was just another war. They treat it as the equivalent of America’s war in Vietnam: we lost but that doesn’t make us immoral or anything. Events like the massacres in occupied territories, POW mistreatment and executions, experiments on human test subjects, etc are generally ignored. OTH, how much have you heard about the thousands of American-held German POW’s who starved to death because of inadequate rations?

I live in Japan. School books will talk about the expansion of Japan, not the war. They haven’t repented half as much as the Germans have. I think the coming generation is going to be rather ignorant of that particular bit of history. The Americans were the baddies, didn’t they drop the bomb? Also, the goverment purges the history books. They will not allow references to facts such as ‘comfort women’, supposedly because there isn’t enough evidence to prove it. Yeah, right.

In any case, the Japanese seem very anti-war, so there isn’t a risk of repeat. WWII is all about the nuclear bomb for them. Understandably, anything else seems insignificant. There are people who are very aware of the military past of their country. In Hiroshima many teachers refuse to participate or ackknowledge the Hiromaru (Japanese national flag) or the Kimigayo (National Anthem) because they consider them symbols of Japan’s military past.

Only humans commit inhuman acts.

In “Dave Barry Does Japan,” he includes a serious chapter (for those who don’t know, Dave Barry is a humor columnist, and is extremely funny) about the memorial to the victims of Hiroshima, and speaks of being frustrated that there’s no mention at all of Pearl Harbor…i.e., the reason for Hiroshima.

Chaim Mattis Keller

“Sherlock Holmes once said that once you have eliminated the
impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be
the answer. I, however, do not like to eliminate the impossible.
The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it that the merely improbable lacks.”
– Douglas Adams’s Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective

I visited the Pearl Harbor memorial a few years back, and there were lots of Japanese tourists there. The Americans (many old enough to remember the war) were very sad and solemn, and many of the Japanese were laughing and pointing and havin’ a grand ol’ time.

MANY dirty looks were shot at them, as you can imagine. I sincerely hope that American tourists don’t giggle it up at Hiroshima . . .

I didn’t giggle at Hiroshima. It’s quite a sobering experience. There were a lot of schoolkids there placing paper cranes on the various cenotaphs.
The kids sometimes act like kids, but the adults seem to be a bit more respectful.

In response to the Englishman’s statement I would like to present an article I have been hanging on to.

They all may have had some wealth but they knew what would happen once they signed the Declaration of Independence. They would lose their wealth one way or another fighting for independence. I doubt some actually thought they could hang on to their wealth or increase it.

As far as the Japanese, the same thing can be wondered about with every country that America has done battle with.

I know how American Natives feel. I would like to know how Russians felt about our brief occupation in their country. I would like to know what the Germans and Japanese teach their students. N. Koreans, Vietnamese, Mexicans, Iraqis, French. We could list a lot of countries here.

I befriended a Japanese exchange student back in HS. He did not comment much on WWII. When the subject did come up he did not laugh at Pearl Harbor nor did I at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

He did make fun of American martial arts movies though.

I havn’t been to a memorial. I if I ever go to one I plan to and hope to be reverent in respect to those who sacrifice their lives for their country.

I once read a book on English History from England. The relevant passage on the Revolution, buried in discussion of the 18th century Continental wars, was: In 1776 the American colonies revolted. The revolt was successful.

Ah, yes, one has to love English understatement… :wink:

My two cents:

On the Revolutionary War- it’s a bit of an exaggeration to say that we only rebeled against Britain for the sake of pure greed. But beginning in the 1760’s, our colonial ancestors did discover, to their horror, that they were on the wrong end of a imperial merchantalist system. The colonies were supposed to supply raw materials and labor, in exchange for manufactured goods from England. We didn’t like it, and eventually neither did the peoples of India, Africa, the Middle East, etc.

Japanese history- While the postwar government was reformed considerably, Japan didn’t do the ideological flip-flop that Germany went through, from republic to Nazi totaliarianism, than back again. What Germany has spent decades being penitent over was Fascism, not going to war per se.

Japan was virtually the only non-European society not to be conquered or dominated by the European powers. In the late nineteenth century, it managed on it’s own to transform itself into a modern industrial power. Japan saw itself as a tiny, struggling nation surrounded by Russia, the British and French empires, and the United States. It seemed that to be a strong independent country, you had to have a colonial empire. So beginning as early as the 1890s, when Japan took possession of Korea and Taiwan, that’s what it set out to do. Ironicaly, Japan was striving to get into the empire business in the last few decades before classic imperialism collapsed.

I beg to differ. This isn’t a knock on the Japanese, per se - I hold the same opinion toward such statements as “America can be trusted to be the only World Power because we would never start a war of conquest” or “It’s only those foreign nuclear weapons we have to worry about.”

Simply put, peoples and nations change. As long as imperialist urges exist - whether in business or religion or politics - there is danger. And frankly, I don’t know if a solution even exists.

At the memorial in Nanking an apology from the Japanese government is displayed. My impression from the English language media here in the Bay Area (for what that’s worth) is that the educational system in Japan is mute on the issue of Japanese war crimes. But I don’t remember the U.S. internment camps for its own citizens being much of an issue in my high school education here, either.

In monetary terms, the Japanese government hasn’t repented 5% what the German government has. Japan has paid out about 1/20 of the reparations Germany has according to Iris Chang’s ‘The Rape of Nanking.’

Andrew Warinner

Unfortunately, this is pretty much a load of baloney. If you are interested in a debunking of it, look here:

Andrew Warinner

(Fixed quote tags - Nick)

[Note: This message has been edited by Nickrz]


Thanks for the Declarition of Independence information. I don’t know what to think now

Not every signer of the Declaration of Independence was a hero.

One sold out.

One took an oath to serve George III, & betrayed his fellows to preserve his wealth, life & safety.

Our dirty little secret.

And, no; I’m not talking about Benedict Arnold.

For his name & other details, check out “What They Didn’t Teach You About The American Revolution”.

Go to the library & read a book, DAMMIT!

We have met the enemy, and He is Us.–Walt Kelly