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Looking back, to move forward – Facing up to Japan’s past February 15, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in general, Japan.

An unexpected voice has criticised Koizumi for his handling of Asian relations. Tsuneo Watanabe, chairman of the Yomiuri Group media empire (group portfolio: newspapers, magazines, TV, radio) and powerbroker has launched into a scathing attack of Koizumi and of Japan’s “attempts” to face up to historical facts and responsibilities.

Watanabe is known mostly for giving animated performances to the press coming out of some ultra-exclusive ryotei or restaurant, usually having had a bit to drink and with cigar in hand, launching into scathing criticism of anyone and everyone who he disagrees with in a tone conveying withering contempt and not a little arrogance. Makes for good soundbites, I must concede that he does understand what makes “good” media, and he plays the media like a fiddle, regardless of the way he comes across.
It seems that he is also able to make coherent and sensible arguments when he is so inclined:


It comes at a time when PM Koizumi and Foreign Minister Aso (is that short for anachronistic nationalist a$$h*le?) have been alienating Japan’s neighbours with their actions and words.

“Japan’s Offensive Foreign Minister – NYT” (registration may be required)


To any neutral observer, it is patently obvious that Japan has much to lose and not much to gain by irritating its neighbours. It is in Japan’s own national interest to achieve definitive closure on 20th century issues in order that the country can focus on how to work with its neighbours in an effective and mutually beneficial way.

Further, by removing a major external target for the Chinese government to deflect its peoples’ attentions and criticisms to, a Sino-Japanese political detente is likely to accelerate China’s slow progress towards a more progressive and less insular society. Referencing Japan’s Imperial history is a convenient mechanism to achieve Chinese national unity. Removing the excuse will require Chinese authorities to deal with real present day issues which are impacting the population to a much greater degree than affairs from more than 60 years ago.

It could be argued that Koizumi (and the LDP in general) see Japan’s future as so dependent on its alliance with the US, and that they see a politically belligerent China as a means by which Japan can maintain its status as a key US ally. Setting aside the accelerating economic ties between Japan-China and US-China, it may be convenient for both Japanese and US authorities to have China act in a belligerent way by baiting them with historical disagreements.

It is appalling that the closest the Japanese government can get to an apology is the reference to PM Murayama’s expression of regret.

Whilst the argument about reparations may be attempted to be reopened by various countries or special interest groups, the legal status is fairly clear so this should not be an excuse to refuse a forthright apology once and for all.

The LDP’s traditional power base are conservative rural areas and older members of society (plenty of overlap there), and perhaps historically they felt they needed to pander to their electorate to remain in power. However, the opposition parties have been a joke for quite a while, and I can’t see any of them being enthusiastic about pandering to the right wing nationalists as well as the LDP does, so it would seem the LDP have squandered a window of opportunity to achieve closure (assuming they ever want to). With high popularity ratings and with Japan in an economic rut, the last few years would have been a opportune time to face up with history, wipe the slate clean and leave a positive legacy.

For all his rhetoric about de/reconstruction of the Japanese economic/political/bureaucratic systems, it is ironic that he keeps pandering to the same anachronistic group, which, ironically, is the group which is probably most disturbed by Koizumi’s attempt to leave a legacy by changing the laws relating to succession in the Royal Household. Go figure. Perhaps he was talked into this by his coterie of feminist novice politicians who he has drawn into his inner circle…. But that’s another story.


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