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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 December 6 - 12  > On 76th anniversary of start of Pacific War, Japan needs to go back to roots of pacifism
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2017 December 6 - 12 [POLITICS]
editorial 

On 76th anniversary of start of Pacific War, Japan needs to go back to roots of pacifism

December 8, 2017
Akahata editorial

Seventy-six years ago today, December 8, 1941, Japan which already invaded Southeast Asia as well as the Korean Peninsula and China attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and Kota Bharu in the then British Malay, expanding the front line of the Asia-Pacific War. This year also marked 86 years since Japan’s invasion of Northeastern China, then called Manchuria, and 80 years since Japan’s invasion spread across China.

In the 15-year-long war of aggression, the Imperial Japanese government caused tremendous damage to people in Japan and its Asian neighbors. At home, Japan paid a big price with the commencement of indiscriminate air strikes and the first-ever use of atomic bombs.

In order to prevent a recurrence of such a catastrophe, it is vital for Japanese to remember the misery and horror of war and keep raising their voices to champion peace.

‘War drives people mad’

“The first important step to eliminating war is to know what war really is,” Niwa Uichiro, former president of the major Japanese trading company Itochu, said in his book published this summer, “Sensou no Daimondai (Big problem of war)”. His argument attracted public attention. Stating, “War drives people mad,” he pointed to the horrific nature of war by citing various facts concerning the Asia-Pacific War, including Japanese people’s hardships as well as the Japanese military’s massacre of residents in China and the Pacific islands as well as the cases of cannibalism among ravenous Japanese troops.

The government of prewar Japan entered a war of aggression in quest for new territory and interests which victimized 3.1 million people in Japan and 20 million in other Asian countries, devastating Japan and these nations. As the number of people who experienced first-hand wartime Japan is decreasing, Japanese should make more efforts to pass down the memories and associated scars of the war to future generations.

Without any long-term strategy, the Imperial Japanese government launched the war against the U.S. which was far superior to Japan in national strength and against the vast country of China. Japan mobilized all the necessary resources, including human resources, not only at home but also from its colonies.

However, the war soon reached impasse. The Japanese Army, which expanded its aggression across China and the Asia-Pacific region, became unable to get enough supplies but prohibited its soldiers from surrendering with its enforcement of the "Imperial Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors" and the "Senjinkun Military Code". The Japanese Army engaged in barbarous acts "by burning out, killing, and plundering everything" and its losses were described as "heroic defeat".

After fully starting its war of aggression on the Chinese continent, the Army advanced into Nanjing where the national government of China was located at that time. Then, it was in early December 80 years ago that the Army murdered hundreds of thousands of surrendering Chinese soldiers and innocent civilians. This massacre, known as the Nanjing Massacre, occurred allegedly because the Army no longer had any food left for its soldiers, let alone war captives.

At the final stage of the Asia-Pacific War, a ground battle took place in Okinawa, bringing about tragic consequences. Local residents were exposed to U.S. military attacks and were also brought into the battle by the Japanese Army. Some labeled as "spies" were unfairly executed, and many were ordered by the Army to commit suicide or "mass suicides". Even after Japan's defeat, Okinawans were placed under U.S. occupation and were deprived of their land. They still suffer from hardships due to the existence of U.S. military bases which occupy vast areas of the Okinawans' land.

Never again become a 'war-capable nation'

In 1946, the year after Japan lost the war, the present Constitution was established under which Japanese people "resolved that never again shall we be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government". Literally, this was postwar Japan's starting point.

The current government led by Prime Minister Abe Shinzo who obsessively endorses the "Yasukuni Shrine historical view" repeatedly tries to destroy this Constitution by such means as enacting the so-called war laws. What is more, the Abe regime is now attempting to amend the existing Constitution to incorporate the possession of Japan's Self-Defense Forces into the Japanese supreme law. This is a complete turnabout from Japan's postwar starting point. On the occasion of December 8, it is important for Japanese to continue remembering how horrific the war was and to never again allow Japan to become a "war-capable nation".

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