Friday, 9 May 2008


One is tempted to let bygones be bygones,until one reads of the Japanese Prime Minister’s annual visit to the Yakasuni Shrine in Tokyo.The present encumbent ,Mr.Shinzo Abe ,as well as his predecessor ,Mr Junichiro Koizumi make a great point of doing this.The shrine honours Japan’s war dead in many wars . Nothing wrong in that ,one might think until one learns that the Book of Souls in the shrine contains the names of one thousand and sixty-eight people indicted for war crimes and proven atrocities committed during the Second World War. It includes General Hideki Tojo generally regarded as the mastermind behind Pearl Harbour ,a man hanged for war crimes by the Allies.The visits have provoked a storm of criticism in China and Korea ,which the Japanese have completely ignored.BBC correspondents in Tokyo report that Japanese school history textbooks depict the Second World War as a ‘war of defence’ and that Japan was forced into war by America’s oil embargo.Generations of Japanese schoolchildren are being taught that their country did not commit aggression during the Second World War ,but was instead a victim of it.China has repeatedly asked Japan-to no avail- to apologise for the massacres of Nangking,in which over 100,000 Chinese civilians lost their lives.Similarly,the so-called‘comfort women’ – Chinese and Korean women forced to act as prostitutes to cater for the sexual needs of the Japanese wartime army- have received no compensation for their ordeal , despite repeated requests.No apology has been forthcoming,either.