April 30, 2013

Regarding the April 27 editorial “An inability to face history”:

The government of Japan has expressed its feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology, and it has expressed feelings of sincere mourning for all World War II victims, at home and abroad. As Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government’s chief spokesman, explained last week, these feelings fully reflect those of the cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The government believes that it is always important to face history head-on and with humility. It is also desirable that efforts to do so be facilitated by the progress made by historians and public intellectuals to research individual facts of history.

Lessons we learned from the past have enabled Japan, since the end of the war, to build a society based on such basic values as freedom and democracy while consistently contributing to peace and prosperity in Asia and making the utmost efforts for the stability of the Korean Peninsula, including the denuclearization of North Korea. The Republic of Korea and other neighboring countries are invaluable partners for Japan.

As a responsible democratic nation, Japan will continue to contribute to peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region together with our neighboring partners.

Kenichiro Sasae, Washington

The writer is Japan’s ambassador to the United States.

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The April 27 editorial “An inability to face history” added much-needed gaiatsu (pressure from abroad) on Japan to accept how the world views the atrocities it inflicted upon other Asians before and during World War II. As a Japanese native in her late 60s who was schooled in Japan, I was reminded that we were taught that our country was a victim of atomic bombs but not that it also was a major perpetrator of the war that led to them. 

I often have wondered at how Japan’s denial contrasts with Germany’s atonement. My encounters here with Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos, Taiwanese and Dutch have given me a more objective, albeit unflattering, picture of how Japan’s wartime behavior is perceived by the rest of the world. Unfortunately, my contemporaries in Japan, as well as the Japanese media, seem reluctant to reflect on this issue.

Because we love our native country, my Japanese friends in the United States and I believe that Japan, for its own sake, must come to terms with world opinion. In Japan, a country where, it is said, “The nail that sticks out gets pounded,” no one seems willing to risk bringing up this touchy issue.

Yuki Henninger, Vienna