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Thread: Japan's agonised wrestling with its past

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Japan's agonised wrestling with its past

    This is a good summary of the (international) political situation in Japan regarding nationalism and imperialism.

    BBC News : Japan's agonised wrestling with its past

    Identity crisis

    Nearly 60 years after it surrendered to the United States and renounced the militarism of the 1930s and 40s, Japan still cannot decide what kind of country it wants to be.

    This manifests itself in all sorts of ways, from the agonised debate over sending a few hundred troops to Iraq and the furious attacks on the prime minister's visits to the national war shrine, to the row today over playing the national anthem in school.

    Many of the symbols of the disastrous era of military rule still survive in Japan - the emperor, the flag, the national anthem - but their exact status has been left deliberately vague.

    It was only in 1999 that the ancient poem Kimigayo, calling for the reign of the emperor to last "for all eternity" was formally declared the official national anthem once again, as it had been before the war. But many Japanese still object to it.

    So when the Tokyo city government this year decided to enforce playing Kimigayo at the beginning and end of the school year, hundreds of teachers registered their objection by refusing to stand up.
    Toru Kondo has had an unblemished career as an English teacher for 31 years.

    Now, spluttering with rage, he opens an envelope to show me his first ever official warning from the Board of Education. He is one of those who refused to stand.

    "Japan changed after the war," he says. "Our constitution gives us freedom to follow our consciences. This cannot be a democratic country if they insist on punishing us."

    Like many teachers in Japan, Toru Kondo's politics are left-wing, and like most left-wingers here, he has an unforgiving view of anything connected to his country's shameful past.

    Never mind that the lyrics of Kimigayo are innocuous, and today's emperor has only symbolic, not divine status.
    Takayuchi Tsuchiya is a city councillor who wholeheartedly backs Governor Ishihara's new rule. "Singing Kimigayo will help promote a sense of national unity," he told me.
    ...
    Mr Takayuchi has no sympathy for rebel teachers. He dismisses them as communists who want to indoctrinate the children.
    And what about the majority of Japanese who fall in between these militant guardians of Japan's history? It is almost impossible to know what they think.
    ...
    Open debate on divisive issues is strongly discouraged for fear it would disturb social harmony.

    So there has been little public soul-searching about what went wrong with Japan before World War II.

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    me gots isshooz...
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    wow. um. wow. basically, i think this is an issue japan needs to open and examine as a people and a culture. japanese textbooks have been criticized before now about how they tend to gloss over world war II, and events such as the rape of nanking? many have never heard of it. this issue over something as simple as the national anthem will not be solved until they deal with the underlying issue- the past. you can't heal the symptoms until you take care of the illness itself. this entire debate is a symptom of the unwillingness of many to examine japan's role in wwII.

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    I think many Japanese doesnt feel sense of discomfort about the thing "Kimigayo" is Japanese national anthem probably, althoug left-wing groups feel unwelcome it.


    Quote Originally Posted by ashuri2
    japanese textbooks have been criticized before now about how they tend to gloss over world war II, and events such as the rape of nanking? many have never heard of it.
    it's said that Japanese history textbooks are self-flagellating in Japan on occasion.

    anyway, why isnt the thing which British national anthem is "God Save The Queen" raised a row?
    Last edited by heno heno moheji; Apr 21, 2004 at 16:07.

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by heno heno moheji
    anyway, why isnt the thing which British national anthem is "God Save The Queen" raised a row?
    Good point. I think that the British National Anthem and the monarchy altogether should disappear. I am against all forms of monarchy in any country in the world, because it is old fashioned and undemocratic (why give privileges and tax-payers' money to someone just because they were born ?).

    However, it does give something special to a country being called "kingdom" or "empire". Maybe is it just unfair to other countries (esp. being called "empire" as it sounds more poweful and prestigious), but on the other hand it would sound strange to say "Republic of England, Scotland, Wales and Nortern Ireland". Then let's separate them and make them EU states, just called "England, Scotland", etc.

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    Regular Member kuchi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by heno heno moheji
    think many Japanese doesnt feel sense of discomfort about the thing "Kimigayo" is Japanese national anthem probably, althoug left-wing groups feel unwelcome it.



    it's said that Japanese history textbooks are self-flagellating in Japan on occasion.

    anyway, why isnt the thing which British national anthem is "God Save The Queen" raised a row?
    it is in some cases, but the british most likely have such an affinity too defend the queen (in my experience, brits feel free too jump in), archaic institution it is. i would guess the queen serves as a reminder that the british controlled the world at one point.

    as i cant translate the japanese poem they are discussing (feel free too help out those that can) i cant speek for what that poem reprasents compared to "god save the queen". i can tell you that in america, the pledge states "i pledge allegiance too the flag...one nation, under god..." the idea that it is one nation under the christian god is ludicrous (unless the republicans are in office ). the thought of some higher being protecting your land is not a new idea, and it is not going away. nationalism is a direct result of aspects of human nature-such as fear, pride, and greed. now, as i think that any country that tries too spread its boundaries with any means other than diplomatic is an abomanation, i must protest what ishihara stands for with every nuance of energy i have. men like him cause war, rape, pillaging, racism, misfortune, grudges, bitterness, and ultimately failure (i hope)-an as i dont live in japan i can say he should be castrated till im blue in the face without fear . furthermore, id like too point out that the pledge in america is close too being revised, and litigation against it has been going on for longer than my lifetime, and personally i hope they abolish it. no country should have a hint of nationalism...such as no pledge at all. sry these are just too cents from a globilazation advocate.

    btw doesnt "Honne and Tatemae" translate too what u think and what u show? if thats right then it is preaching hypocrisy.
    -wisdom is being able to entertain an idea without accepting it-

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    Omnipotence personified Mandylion's Avatar
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    To me at least we seem to be surfing into some gray areas with words.

    Nationalism

    1. Devotion to the interests or culture of one's nation.
    2. The belief that nations will benefit from acting independently rather than collectively, emphasizing national rather than international goals.
    3. Aspirations for national independence in a country under foreign domination

    Patriotism

    1. Love of and devotion to one's country

    Some dictionaries even say the two are basically the same thing.

    To me, the only real danger is found in #2 of nationalism. The other defintions are only bad things when they are abused.

    It is possible to love ones country and still retain an open and internationally oriented mind-set. I think people forget that every now and again. Patriotism and even nationalism (when it means love of country) do not have to be exlusionary ideas. For many being a patriot/nationalist lends a strong sense identity and maybe comfort to their lives. I can't say I have a problem with that, nor with some people saying pledges, singing an athem, or deciding to do neither.

    I do have a problem when those feelings turn insidious. Until that point I resepct everyones' right to express themselves how they choose as long as they recognize my right to ignore them/disagree.

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    Regular Member kuchi's Avatar
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    well said. you nailed the highground on this issue...mud cant sling upwards .

    you are right, nationalism acts much like religion for some. i liken it too a comfortable pillow when im in a good mood, a crutch when im not. the difficulty with nationalism is the inferiority one naturally feels too others as a result. this result will undermine attempts too end such things as racism and bitterness. and as for the third one...i wouldn agree with that definition. im sorry but nowhere does it state that a country needs too be under "foreign" domination, and the word itself implies that it must be a nation first-sorry but this one would be likely too be under the "freedom" category.

    and as for religous intollerance i totally agree. however with agreeing with the pledge, you are saying that a person has an obligation too being a nationalist and therefore lacking a freedom. what the states have is an optional pledge (in america "optional" translates too "law suit" )but as a result of nationalism peoples emotions when one dosnt say the words in the pledge vary from disgust too violence; reasoning for their not too be one in my oppinion. my brothers high school has something called silent meditation in the morning, opting for 30 secs for all religious people too have a moment for their views.

    i do not view nationalism as a synonym for patriotism in the least. patriotism is the love of ones country, nationalism is feeling that ones country is the best. patriotism is generally paired with rebels and freedom fighters. nationalism is paired with militarization and colonization. feeling nationalism is a wrong inflicted on inhabitants does not reflect upon my patriotism.

  8. #8
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandylion
    the two are basically the same thing.
    ...
    It is possible to love ones country and still retain an open and internationally oriented mind-set. I think people forget that every now and again. Patriotism and even nationalism (when it means love of country) do not have to be exlusionary ideas. For many being a patriot/nationalist lends a strong sense identity and maybe comfort to their lives.
    In my feeling patriotism is more of an individual sense of duty toward one's country, expressed by the flag, anthem, passport, president, etc. and is more widely accepted as a normal thing in the US than the average European countries.

    Nationalism for me refers especially to the late 19th/early 20th century extremist current, particularily in Germany, Italy and Japan, that lead to the first and second World Wars. It includes all characteristic of patriotism, but stronger and felt as an (ethnic) group against the rest of the world. That is probably why the US is patriotic rather than nationalistic (there is no concept of a superior "American race").

    My Oxford Dictionary says :

    - patriot : "person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it". (best illustratued by the movie with Mel Gibson, IMO)

    - nationalism :
    1) patriotic feelings, principles or efforts
    2) an extreme form of this, marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries.

    Japan was clearly a nationalistic country in the first half of the 20th c. and some people nowadays still are, although I would say there are few patriots.

    I would also add the concept of "chauvinism", in the case of France, which is not realted to the flag, anthem, president, ethnic group, etc. but to a pride of being part of a cultural group. In that sense, Japanese or Italians are also quite chauvinistic, but Americans aren't really.

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    Regular Member kuchi's Avatar
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    i agree with all of that completely with the exception of the world war I reference. it wasn that those countries were any more nationalistic than the others, both sides were equally too blame as it was the triple alliance and the triple entante (sp?) that were fighting over an outbreak as a result of archduke ferdinands assasination. the only reason people say germany was on the "wrong" side is that is how history was written-by the winners. germany did commit the atrocities of inventing mustard gas and the sinking of ships in the waters it was patrolling, but only because it was losing. sorry this is not an important thing too nitpick at but id like too clarify that germany and the others were not necessarily any more nationalistic than the others.

    and as for japan having few patriots, i regret i dont know much about that so any links would be appreciated maciamo. tnx

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kuchi
    both sides were equally too blame as it was the triple alliance and the triple entante (sp?) that were fighting over an outbreak as a result of archduke ferdinands assasination.
    These alliances were justly the result of nationalism and imperialism. There is nothing so obvious when Europe was almost made up of just 6 major powers : the British empire, France and the Russian empire in one team, and the recently unified Italian kingdom and German empire + the Austro-Hungarian empire (and the Ottoman empires) in the other. Only Italy and France were not empires, but were certainly as proud.

    Archiduke Ferdinand's assasination was just the spark in the powder keg of the imperialist game.

    and as for japan having few patriots, i regret i dont know much about that so any links would be appreciated maciamo.
    Don't need links. It's common knowledge for Japanese themselves that they don't care about their government, flag, anthem or even, dare I say, the emperor for a good half of the population. I didn't say that there were no patriots at all, but it is definitely not the trend. Either they don't care or they are extremist nationalist fighting to get back those small islands near Hokkaido from Russia, denying WWII crimes and brandishing imperialist flags and slogans. These however are just a tiny minority (less than 1%), but enough to be noticed in the streets when they go around town in black vans yelling nationalist slogans in loudspeakers.

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    i agree that you can be partriotic without being nationalistic (the second, not-so-good definition). There have been many times where i don't necessarily approve of the way the u.s. can put its own interests on other countries, but that doesn't mean i don't love my country.

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    Regular Member kuchi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    These alliances were justly the result of nationalism and imperialism. There is nothing so obvious when Europe was almost made up of just 6 major powers : the British empire, France and the Russian empire in one team, and the recently unified Italian kingdom and German empire + the Austro-Hungarian empire (and the Ottoman empires) in the other. Only Italy and France were not empires, but were certainly as proud.

    Archiduke Ferdinand's assasination was just the spark in the powder keg of the imperialist game.
    are we not just repeating ourselves? i thought this was my point as too why nationalism is not a virtue but a catalyst.


    and with no offense intended, im sorry but i will have too look up japans feelings on patriotism myself. sry but i have never just accepted anything simply told too me...iv always don my research. im sure your right, but i withold an oppinion until iv looked it up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kuchi
    the only reason people say germany was on the "wrong" side is that is how history was written-by the winners. germany did commit the atrocities of inventing mustard gas and the sinking of ships in the waters it was patrolling, but only because it was losing. sorry this is not an important thing too nitpick at but id like too clarify that germany and the others were not necessarily any more nationalistic than the others.
    i think the point about history being written be the winners is quite true. an example that comes to my mind is communism. true, in places like russia and china the end result was horrible, as millions died. but, in the beginning, many citizens of those countries welcomed communism as an alternative to the corrupt regimes in place at the time. except for the upper classes, the majority of those in south vietnam celebrated the arrival of the viet cong, as the saigon government- which the u.s. supported- was hopelessly corrupt and inefficient. hpwever, communism as a world force is pretty much dead now, and the winners- capitalist- never mention how communism was actually a pretty good system corrupted more by human error and greed an anything else; instead, all i learned in school was that communnism had been an evil threat that had collapsed since evil can never prevail and democracy was the best system, of course. it was never said exactly like that, but that was the impression i got until i started doing some reading of my own.

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