Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The land where the sun would not set

Every time Japanese Prime Minister, Mr Koizumi, visits the Yasukuni Shrine, the rest of East and South-East Asia cringes and criticises these visits. The reason why these people do not view these visits by Mr Koizumi favourably is that there are Class A war criminals interred in this Shrine. War criminals such as Tojo, whose militaristic conquest of Korea, China right down to Singapore, still brings back very very horrible memories, some of which are still talked about today, more than 50 years after the first incidents.

There are some who question why Japan has still got to ask for forgiveness after so many years while the German Chancellor never need to do something similar. The Germans under Hitler probably caused a lot of suffering in Europe as well. The issue, really, is not Japan per se. I would say that much of the world has embraced Japan, its way of life and its technology over the last few decades. Non-Japanese have embraced the good cars that Japan have built and continue to export, Sony is a desired brand all over the world, including China and Taiwan right down to Singapore. Indeed, Singapore has embraced Japanese investments and welcome Japanese tourists and travellers. Closer to home, one of my son's favourite food is Sushi.

So in fact, the Japanese have been forgiven a long time ago. Why then do people feel so offended by Koizumi's shrine visits? The reason is because this shrine commemorates war criminals. Last year, Prince Harry of England wore a military uniform complete with a Swastika arm-band to a costume party. He was taken to task by the public. He had to apologise for his poor sense of judgement and insensitivities. So also, what Mr Koizumi continues to do shows a lack of judgement and is deeply insensitive to many in Asia. Many who lost kith and kin during that cruel period are still alive today. If those Class A war criminals were not commemorated at Yasukuni, then I think nobody will be bothered with anyone visiting that Japanese Shrine, or any Shrine for that matter.

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