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Post Japan's Changing National Image, WWII-Present; from Gary Moore
Created by John Eipper on 01/08/18 3:42 AM

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Japan's Changing National Image, WWII-Present; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA, 01/08/18 3:42 am)

Gary Moore writes:

When commenting on Brian Blodgett’s important documents from Japanese forces on Saipan in World War II, JE raised an understandable question: How could Japan morph so quickly from the devil-hating fanatics of World War II into the enlightened civilization of today—and does this mean, in another part of the world, the suicide bombers of today may become peaceful a half-century from now?

Others will know more about this, but it seems modern Japan has always shown an almost incandescent flexibility and adaptability from the time it emerged from feudalism in the mid-nineteenth century. On the other hand, Islam has been perhaps too successfully the religion of stasis, which is always going to mean an axe to grind with the more adaptive. Almost since its inception, Islam has been generating violent splinter movements—which may stop tomorrow, for all anyone can say, but then who will defend the stasis?

JE comments:  These questions of national character are as unanswerable as they are endlessly fascinating.  Perhaps unlike any other nation, Japan managed to put a humiliating defeat in its past, without the rise of revanchism.  One possible explanation:  the Emperor was not martyred, but simply "de-deified."  I can think of no other example in history of such a thing.  Imagine the official secularization of Jesus or Muhammad.

Our dear departed colleague Les Robinson was assigned to Saipan shortly after the invasion.  One of my favorite war stories is the time a Japanese prisoner asked Les to give him his watch, "because he [Les] is rich."  Typically, watch transfers go in the other direction, from prisoner to jailer.  See this post from January 2008:

http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=19341&objectTypeId=13591&topicId=1


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  • Have the Japanese *Really* Changed since WWII? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 01/09/18 4:46 AM)
    Gary Moore (8 January) makes some very good points. I totally agree that modern Japan has always shown an extraordinary flexibility and adaptability.

    But have the Japanese really changed considerably?


    Of course it is impossible to completely understand a foreign country, but I traveled a lot and I almost married a woman from Nagasaki. Talking with many Japanese, I had the impression that they are always the same great nation with the same basic feelings.


    From them I understood that they are extremely resentful of the US occupation troops. Just see the continuous protests on Okinawa.  But I understood also that they are forced to put up with this situation for the present.


    As an Italian, I was generally always welcomed very warmly in Japan, in contrast to the above. But once I was in a Yokohama bar, and a tough-looking local fellow approached me and asked if I was an American. I answered that I was Italian expecting the usual change of humor and smiles, but instead he looked at me with contempt, saying to me in Italian, "Traditore di Mussolini."  I was so surprised that I could not tell him his mistake, as he had already left.


    In Nagasaki there is a huge statue with a man who has one arm pointing to the sky and the other pointing East. They explained that the meaning was: the bomb fell from the sky but then it will go East too.


    Finally about the de-deification of the Japanese Emperor, they told me that on 1 January 1946 Hirohito had to make the "Ningen-sengen" (declaration of humanity) just to satisfy an arrogant and ignorant occupier, as no Japanese believed that the emperor was a god or that he was the offspring of the goddess Amaretasu. This was akin to the nice legend of the she-wolf of Rome.


    By the way there is nothing comparable between the Japanese kamikaze and the present suicide terrorist from the Middle East. This is an insult to the gallant Japanese aviators, even if today's suicide terrorists are better than many partisans of WWII who conducted terrorist attacks and then escaped.


    JE comments:  To my mind, suicide fighters are all cut from the same fanatical cloth.  Is Eugenio Battaglia making this distinction because the Japanese kamikazes were serving a traditional nation-state?  Or because they targeted only enemy combatants?


    Eugenio:  tell us more about Mussolini vis-à-vis Japan.  What did Il Duce have to say about his distant allies?


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    • Relations between Mussolini and Imperial Japan (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 01/16/18 5:01 AM)
      John E (9 January) asked me about the relations between Mussolini and Imperial Japan.

      As far back as 1919, Mussolini spoke of an Asian century under Japanese leadership. The future Duce in the spring of 1920 wanted to participate as a pilot/newsman in the air expedition from Rome to Tokyo organized by Gabriele D'Annunzio and Harucuchi Shimoi but was refused. The flight over Europe and Asia and was carried out by Arturo Ferrari from 14 February through 31 May 1920, with 122 hours of actual flight time.


      After WWI, Italy at first looked to China, but then there was a shift in policy towards Japan. The cinema industry founded by Mussolini started exalting Japan with its ability to absorb Western technology without renouncing its history. It also praised the productivity of Japan's industries and its rich bucolic countryside, its martial soul, the health of its people and above all the the spirituality of its traditions. This goal of a new world order within traditions was a similarity between the two nations.


      At that time many Japanese delegations visited Italy and Puccini's opera Madame Butterly was a must.


      During the years 1941/43, Italy published a monthly cultural magazine Yamato, in order for the Italians to know the characteristics of Japan, together with its achievements, history, and culture. Japan had a similar magazine titled Italia. It is very worthwhile to read these magazines; unfortunately I have only reprints.


      In the same years Germany published the magazines Signal and La Svastika.  The latter was the equivalent of the Yamato.  Again I have only the reprint.


      On 14 July 1945 the new Italy, a defeated nation but cooperating with the Allies and pressured by them, "very heroically" declared war on Japan, but for such a ridiculous act no peace treaty has ever been signed.  Similarly, the declaration of war on Germany one and half years earlier never resulted in a treaty.


      A curiosity about Italy: its national anthem has a reference to Poland, while Poland in its anthem has a reference to Italy. This is the only such case in the world and shows the great relations between the two countries.  They were also the only two nations in WWII that did not declare war on each other, even if theoretically they were on opposite sides.


      JE comments: I believe Finland and the US never declared war on each other.


      Regarding D'Annunzio's 1920 flight from Rome to Toyko, Eugenio Battaglia originally described this as a "raid."  Spanish also uses the word to refer to an expedition in aviation's early days.  In English, an "air raid" is very different and far less peaceful.  Who can walk us through the history of the term?

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