SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

Yutaka Tonooka “J.I. Forum – the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II: Thought on Historical Memories and Their Recognition –“

I attended the Japan Initiative (J.I.) Forum under the coordination of Mr. Hideki Kato, Representative of JI:”Ko-so Nippon”, which was conducted in Japanese.  Professor Tadashi Kinomiya (Graduate School of Arts and Science, University of Tokyo) who specializes in Korean Political History and Professor Liu Jie (School of Social Science, Waseda University), a specialist in Modern History of the Relations between Japan and China). Both speakers are closely related with SGRA.


I gave my opinion, at the last session of questions and answers which was moderated  by Prof. Liu Jie, who pointed out that anybody who likes to promote “national reconciliation” by “public (common) wisdom”, should establish a platform on the internet. At the get-together meeting, however, I became aware that my opinion was misunderstood and given an opposite meaning. So I like to clarify my opinion in this essay.


When we conducted a survey of the histories of East Asia, there was a lot of confusion or unusual conditions.  The Opium War in China, separation of North and South Korea after the Korean War, and, in Japan, consecutive wars, including the First Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War, the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Pacific-War after the Meiji Restoration. Although Japan lost the Pacific-War, we can say that all the confusions in East Asia have been caused by advances of the great powers in Europe and America who aimed to impose colonial rules.


We cannot always justify colonial rules by different races over Taiwan, Korea and Manchuria.  After the Perry (USA) Expedition in 1853, Japan had thought it necessary to oppose, as a nation of Asia, the advances by great powers into East Asia. There are deep-rooted opinions that Japan should have definitely insisted that they had fought consecutive wars, which were said to be wars of aggression, in order to protect (at least, at the beginning) Asia against the great powers.


After World War II, in the history education in Japan, the Japanese people have been taught, as convenient for America, that all the wars undertaken by Japan were “wars of aggression”. Some people say that this mindset caused Japanese to develop a masochistic view of history. After the War, the American occupation army forced on Japan a distorted history education characterized by fear of Japanese united power, fear of rising again as a warlike nation and fear of national pride. This distorted history exists even now. According to a public-opinion poll of the world, the young in Japan are notably weak among advanced countries, in terms of patriotic spirit, in respect of parents and in self-confidence. It is said those weaknesses have been an American strategy.  But it is also said that activities to recover national pride are being undertaken recently. Though I am not so positive, I am attending a study group of this kind in these days in order to learn if there are many people who have various opinions.


It is said a history is always written so that it will be convenient for administrators of the time. If so, the problem of historical recognitions is not solved as a national sentiment. As proposed by Prof. Liu Jie, if we like to establish histories as “public wisdom” of Asia, it is necessary to accumulate objective historical materials which are not affected by the politics of nations. Unfortunately, the Japanese people are lacking basic knowledge of histories and they do not know histories of surrounding countries. Knowledge and information, which would make researchers realize the pains of the people, who were under colonial rule, are also insufficient.


Governments are liable to impose on their people their understanding of histories which are convenient for these governments and would try to insist this understanding on other countries. However, as we are now living in the internet societies where we can share information among people of other countries. The citizens of the world should build networks for sharing objective materials of histories as “public wisdom” across national borders. There may be various opinions, but scholars of histories are asked to have a role to spreading such fundamental knowledge with opinions based on objective reasons and explainations which can be easily understood by everybody. People in each country will realize that there are opinions different from those of the government. There are many viewpoints. With this realization of general and objective understanding, people will come to know that it would be meaningless to confront each other on different views of histories by governments. As such, I expect some good result which will gradually remove individual ill feelings.


On the other hand, it will be a job for diplomats to solve confrontations among governments, including problems of different recognition of histories by countries. Recently, it is a reality that negotiations among Japan, China and Korea are not always going well, and I am afraid that this situation comes from poor negotiating abilities of  the diplomats of these countries.


Mao Zedong of China said “Existence decides Consciousness”. He preached that people who are concerned with politics have to think on the standpoints of the people (especially the poor and lower class farmers). This indicates that if politicians are not conscious of such standpoints, they are apt to think from their limited viewpoints. For the Japanese people, it is difficult to imagine standpoints or sentiments of other people who have been ruled.


As I was taking the above thoughts into consideration, I expressed at the meeting: “as Japan has never been colonialized, we have difficulty understanding the standpoints of Korea, China and Taiwan”. And I was aware afterward that I affirmed my indifferent attitude without self-examination.


At a social gathering after a lecture meeting, I was told by somebody that “Japan has an experience to have been occupied by American armed forces”. While talking with him, I became aware, for the first time, that my statement in my presentation was misunderstood. In Okinawa, many people have been certainly sacrificed; in the main land, also, a huge number of people (more than 300 thousand) died from the atomic bombs dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and in the Great Tokyo Air Raid many people also died.  I have stated that we have no experience to have been occupied because ours was not a colonial occupation for long period.


We, Japanese, have not yet gotten out of our understanding of a defeated country due to a skillful occupation which came from Japan-US relations for 70 years since the end of the War. The US military bases are still here and there is no future prospect for their going away. Some people say that the US wanted to occupy Iraq softly as they did with Japan so that Iraq would obey everything that the US says. I should have said that Japan is as good as being under (hidden) colonial occupation.


The Pope of Rome said definitely that present business enterprises are plundering and damaging the environment. As Mr. Thomas Piketty (French economist) pointed out, modern enterprises in advanced countries are getting profit skillfully but legally and are establishing the composition of societies where one percent are wealthy people and 99% are poor. There is another economist who pointed out that the US taxation system causes inequalities in societies. In the US, various financial instruments (e.g. derivatives) are developing and when company directors sell their shares, they are treated preferentially in taxation. There is another penetrating opinion that a part of the people in the world are active behind the scene influencing governments in the pursuit of their personal profit, and their activity is stirring up disputes in the world.


There is no point if we, as Asian comrades, are hostile to each other under the circumstances where a small part of the world’s population (consisting of the wealthy), pursuing their personal gain, dominate the governments of the world. In the societies of Japan, China and Korea, where there is a common Confucian culture of working together, I think we have a base which is easy to be reconciled with each other.


I am proud of the Atsumi International Foundation which, as you know, holds international research conferences in several cities in the world. These conferences have contributed to establishing common wisdom as Prof. Liu Jie said. Many men of talent who are scholarship students of the Foundation are very active all over the world. I hope we can enlarge the circle of friends for better understanding and establish reciprocal societies as Asian economic communities equal to the EU.

This present research meeting is significant and, hopefully be the first step toward this end.



(Yutaka Tonooka / Professor of Humanities and Social Science, Saitama University, Visiting Researcher of Waseda University)





Co-hosting “JI Forum – the 70th anniversary of the end of World War IIThoughts on Historical Memories and Their Recognition-“


On September 28,2015, we (SGRA) co-hosted the Japan Initiative (JI) Forum.

JI is presided by Mr. Hideki Katoh, who is also Councilor of the Atsumi International Foundation and they have been examining problems in Japan such as “program (by the Government) review”. They offered us this time to discuss international issues also and we, as SGRA, have been thinking that international problems should be studied by Japanese people more. And we have decided to cohost the forum.

JI held the first Forum in July 2015, titled “At the ‘70th anniversary of the end of World War II”, and they study this time the same period from the side of China and Korean peninsula. We decided on the title “Forum II, Thoughts on Historical Memories and Their Recognition at the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II”, asking Prof. Liu Jie (Waseda University) and Prof. Tadashi Kinomiya (the University of Tokyo), both have been supporting SGRA for a long time.


Prof. Liu showed retrogression of relations between Japan and China comparing two pictures:one is friendly photo of Mao Zedong・Zhou Enlai and Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka・Masayosi Ohirain 1972 and the other is a stiff shaking hands between Shinzo Abe and Xi Jinping in November, last year.  He referred also, according to an attitude survey, not only politicians, more than 80 % of the people of both countries expressed their dislike of each other. He also said that there is recently a movement of history-recognition in learned societies in China.  In order to improve such situation, he asserted to promote  exchange at the intellectual level in Japan studies and necessity of common knowledge which can be shared among the whole Asia,about experiences of success and failure in Japan including the period before World War II.


According to Prof. Kinomiya, when the Japan-Republic of Korea Basic Relations Treaty was concluded in 1965, serious disputes had started between Japan and Korea because the Treaty did not solve problems properly. There were such changes in the relation between the countries like changes from vertical (Japan, as ruler and advanced country in economic development) to horizontal (equal partners in power). In Korea, there appeared domestic confrontation due to their diversification and stratification of society, and people found it difficult to compromise with Japan being afraid of being criticized domestically. He pointed out, as a solution, that Japan should tackle positively historical problems even though this may be in a narrow sense. And, it is necessary for Koreans to control themselves to avoid making a Japan-Korea problem into a “historical issue”.  He also insisted that, for recognition and policies against China, both countries should pursue common possibilities of access.


Moderator Mr. Kato premised “we like to look at historical issues on a broader scale without sticking at trifles”.  Opinion by both gentlemen, Prof. Kinomiya and Mr. Kato, were exactly an overlooking for big steps of modern histories. Based on responses to questionnaires after the forum, some participants commented: “it was difficult to give our own opinions on the theme this time because we could not identify what the truth is. We like to be as close to the truth as much as possible. We believe we can improve our chance to express our opinion by attending this kind of forum.”

I thought, as the sponsor of this forum that it was effective because we were able to have such comment. We may lose free spatial feelings if we discuss on the basis of “justice” or “righteousness”.  Mr. Kato pointed out that we, Japan, came to feel cramped recently for certain though I do not know in foreign countries.  It was very impressive for me.


Lastly, I like to thank the participants in this forum and our co-host.


(Junko Imanishi /Representative for SGRA)



Translated by Kazuo Kawamura

English checked by Mac Maquito


SGRA Kawaraban 471 in Japanese (original)