The Atsumi International Foundation was established in 1994 at the behest of my late father, Takeo Atsumi, the former President and Chairman of Kajima Corporation. We support financially foreign students who are writing their Ph.D. dissertations in graduate schools in Japan. We aim to make an academic network with those foreign scholars who have lived in Japan and who understand Japan. Using this network, we host forums and symposiums in Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul, Manila, and Taipei.
When I look back over my 20 years of interaction with our Asian scholars, I do not think it is difficult to talk with them about our histories calmly, even if at one time our countries fought each other in the last war. But, at the same time, we should not forget about the fact that memories of the Japanese Imperial Army have been passed down from generation to generation in Asia.
Each country has its own history and its history textbooks are written based on its self-centered view point. So, when we discuss about our histories, I think the following three points are important:
1. Accept complicated situations as they are, without framing them in black and white,
and persevere to look for points which could be made the basis for mutual
2. Grasp the situation with multifaceted eyes, which can also look from the other side,
as an individual human being without carrying the honor and name of the country
3. We need not hurry, but we should not escape from confronting the issue.
Recently in Japan, there is a strong opinion that it is “self-deprecating” to reflect on or apologize for a nation’s past fault. According to Mr. Sadaaki Numata, former Ambassador of Japan to Canada and Advisor of Kajima Corporation, when he was posted at the Japanese Embassy in the UK, people had a bad impression of Japan because of the Japanese atrocities inflicted on British soldiers during the war. The adverse reports in the UK stopped after the media were informed that Japan had apologized following an issuance of the statement by Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in 1995. In order to break the political deadlock of Japan with China and South Korea, I think it is more fruitful to continue and even emphasize Japan’s postwar policies that were established over so many years with the efforts in politics, diplomacy, and civil activities.
In 2000, Kajima Corporation was ordered to reconcile by a Tokyo High Court with Chinese workers (who were forcibly moved to the Hanaoka Mine, Odate-City, Akita Prefecture during the war) by depositing 500 million Yen. This reconciliation is generally regarded as imperfect in Japan because some of the Chinese plaintiffs did not accept the offered compensation, as it was not legal reparation, and even criticized the Japanese supporters.
Prof. Lee Enmin of J.F. Oberlin University, who was an Atsumi scholar, pointed out that “the process of the Hanaoka reconciliation and the difficulty in formulating it, have not been properly understood”. Indeed it was epoch-making to have reached the reconciliation by overcoming big gaps among plaintiffs, civil rights activists, enterprises and justices, because some Japanese people still think that “forcibly relocating residents from their homes during the war was the responsibility of the government” or “it will affect other private companies who have similar problems”. The filing of lawsuits continues in South Korea and China for postwar compensations by Japanese private companies. In China, with the economic growth, it is very likely that people will have a heightened awareness of their rights and initiate new lawsuits. I think the Hanaoka reconciliation, which was tackled without escaping from the past issues, should be better appraised
I do not deny that the war responsibility has become a political issue rather than historical. But, I do not think that the passionate rationalization of the behavior of Japanese soldiers during the war is helping to enhance mutual trust among Asian neighbors. I think we should endeavor to send our message to the world that we are proud of our present course of history as a peaceful country under the “new constitution” of postwar Japan. I regret to say that the current Japan seems to be going the opposite direction.
(Managing Director, Atsumi International Foundation)
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English Checked by Mac Maquito
Original:The Mainichi (Japanese newspaper)