Saturday, September 12, 2009 | Posted by Jay
This might be one of the touchiest topics between America and Japan, and while studying
in Kyoto as an American exchange student, it was bound to come up some time. To my
surprise, however, it came up in one of the largest lecture classes available in the
university, with about 98% of the 500-550 students being regular Japanese college
The lecturer was a retired British BBC reporter who was, interestingly, at the scene of
Tiananmen Square 20 years ago. He had us watch several politically sensitive films that
discussed the Showa Emperor (Emperor Hirohito from World War II), and Japan's and
America's situation before and after Hirohito's final surrender. Many of these films were
banned in the past due to some fear of the Yakuza (Japanese mafia), and even now are
difficult to see in Japan.
I am not a Japanese citizen, and cannot understand what it must feel like to be a part of
a country that lost a World War, or a country suffering from war guilt. I can only try to
take note of the opinions of both sides of the war. I decided to post some of the
comments that were shared among the students (the authors' names were kept secret).
They're really quite interesting to read.
Note that these were written word for word in English by Japanese university students.
Nothing has been translated.
The Showa Emperor's failure led to Japan's collapse, so he is a war
Hirohito was never held responsible for his role in WWII and some
ultra-nationalists still try to justify the emperor's involvement. Japan has prospered
but suffered guilt.
We all know WWII was the biggest mistake ever and the decision was made by him. If
the film was correct, he was totally childish.
Japan doesn't want to admit it's wrong but actually feels regret about what it
Japan gave people a brain wash, Japanese government politics is not
Since he was regarded so highly, it might be considered rude to assume what he did
and for what reasons.
If people attack the emperor, the people who guard or protect the imperial family
will fight us.
Some people don't want to accept the fact that Japan was defeated, but the Showa
Emperor caused the war and should be judged as a war criminal.
The decision made by the Showa Emperor was wrong. It wasn't possible to win the
war and he didn't think about what would happen after the surrender.
The emperor who advanced the war was the symbol of the Japanese nation yet he was
not punished. Japanese people fought for him and then he changed 180 degrees. This
contradiction makes us feel like we lost our mind.
People may believe that the Pacific War led to the bombing of Hiroshima, Nagasaki
and the atrocity bombing of Tokyo.
Thinking about the situation in Japan at the time, it is difficult to conclude who
Hitoshi Motoshima, the former mayor of Nagasaki, was shot for talking about the
responsibility of WWII in Japan. That shows the subject is taboo.
The Showa Emperor attacked China with armed intervention. He supported fascism and
led Japan into WWII, so the damage is the result of his decision.
Japanese went to the battlefield fully aware it might cost them their life, for
him. The matter was a great shock to Japan.
"Blood" (chi) is the keyword to understand Japanese history. Blood of "holy"
imperial lineage, and blood of the many people who died.
When I was in high school, we studied persons of great renown such as Ito Hirobumi
and Oda Nobunaga, their background was written about in detailed, concrete terms, but
when it came to Emperor Hirohito, it's just a "name." He is still far from
Unlike post-Nazi Germany, where German citizens are very open about their feelings of war
guilt, the Japanese hardly ever discuss their part in WWII. Being able to hear all these
different views from current Japanese university students was definitely an eye-opening
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Read more about Jay
My name is Jay Lee, and I have traveled to the East Coast of the United States, studied in Kyoto, Japan for a time, and currently live in Southern California.
My preferred art mediums include: digital on adobe products, corel, web; fine on oil-on-canvas or charcoal; photography in black and white, with a focus on portraiture and music; and classical music on piano.
I work as a graphic designer and web developer with a primary interest in marketing, advertising, and business.