On the anniversary of the end of WWII, Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, visited Jerusalem to speak at the official memorial to victims of the Holocaust.
He said, “Today, I have learned how merciless humans can be by singling out a group of people and making that people the object of discrimination and hatred. … We must continue to work toward the realization of a world free of discrimination and war, where human rights are protected” (as quoted by the Japan Times).
But in Japan, human rights are far from protected. In 2014, black kigyo became a mainstream topic, referring to companies that force overtime and poor work conditions on employees. These companies, including Uniqlo and Yoshinoya, create a form of modern slavery in a society that punishes those who cannot find permanent employment and refuses to hire those who are not young.
Also in 2014, work conditions for foreigners in Japan’s trainee system, called a form of modern slavery by even those in the UN, became mainstream when highlighted in a televised drama, Dandarin.
And again in 2014, the constant discrimination against Koreans in Tokyo became a public nuisance, so much that courts have ruled against discriminators.
Once more in 2014, Japan’s government made the news for seeking to revise its postwar apology to Korean and Chinese comfort women, allegedly forced prostitutes.
Not to mention that a large number of Japanese are openly hostile to Koreans and Chinese because of disputes over the Senkaku and Takeshima island chains, even as the government seeks to court more tourists from these countries.
Consider the case of Germany, which has openly acknowledge its wartime aggression and apologizes for it. Consider Australia, which has publicly apologized to its native Aborigine populations, or the US, which has allowed Native Americans to run their own limited governments. In no way can apologies or future actions remedy the hurt caused by war, but by teaching these issues, society can hope to prevent future hurts and future wars.
Were Japan to openly embrace its past transgressions instead of denying them, a lot more global goodwill could be generated and its citizens would be more compassionate. As the Japan Times says, “Oddly enough, Abe refrained from mentioning Japan’s wartime aggression and colonial rule in the past, or the frequent hate speech against Korean residents in Japan today. If Japan does not open its eyes to the negative aspects of its modern history and turn the lessons it draws from them into meaningful actions, it will not be able to achieve true reconciliation with its neighbors.”
Image: Nicolas Antoine Vasse.