This morning I woke up to a splitting headache which got worse when I found out that instead of the usual newspaper, I would have to make content with a competitors’ viz. ‘The Hindu’. Yes people, I agree it is a more informative newspaper than the others around, but I like my news in coloured fonts.
So, I flipped open to the one page a story grasping the world right now (actually one of two stories, the other being that of Libya), and thankfully found that the Japanese authorities confirming that the radiation isn’t a severe as estimated. As usual, my craving for information didn’t stop there. I went online and googled for Japan and the Sendai earthquake. True to the report, the radiation was a speck under control. I scrolled down to the Wikipedia link to ‘Japan’ and clicked it open. Flowing before me was the country’s past, present and future.
As a child, we recalled Japan as the country of the rising sun and the land of kung-fu and ‘Samurais’. With age, we learnt about its involvement in the Second World War and subsequent bombings by the Allied forces on it. Surprisingly, that is the horizon of our knowledge of Japan. The question arises: ‘What do we know about the country with the currency Yen?’ Some of my friends looked upon me curiously. ‘What’s Yen?’ they asked. Ignoring their surprisingly low currency knowledge, I asked them that other than the ties involving Japan and India regarding automobiles and food crops, if they had any prior knowledge of the country. Some laughed inquisitively; others shrugged and shook their heads.
A few hours back, even I would have been stumped. World War II, Sendai and cars, that’s all I knew about the Japanese. I guess it can be called as an eye opener in my case, upon leaning the Japanese War Crimes. What followed was like someone had punched me in the gut. Things described there was too horrible to jot down in my blog. The atrocities committed against the Koreans and the Chinese was nothing less than what Nazi Germany did to the Jews; some at par and others even above. It seemed Germany and Japan were hosting as massacre competition within them. Koreas, from 1910 to 1945, was a living hell on earth. Exploited, uneducated and severely exposed, the Koreans couldn’t even keep their clan names. It was compulsory to change your name or be looked as filth in the community. The Japan-Korea annexation treaty was forced under threat of murder and other officials were handsomely bribed. Hundreds of thousands of Korean males were forced into labour in Japan and its colonies all over the Pacific and South-East Asia. Children were forced to apply in the Imperial Japanese Army and fight against the allied forces. About 200,000 women were used as ‘comfort women’ in Japanese Army camps and forced in prostitution; some not even old enough to menstruate were raped repeatedly. A typical comfort woman had to ‘entertain’ 25-35 men daily, and forced to live in inhumane conditions. The chances of survival in such camps were less that 25% for the women.
It was not just the Koreans. Japan has been reported to have killed about 10 million Chinese during the same period and similarly force Chinese women to become comfort women. It implied to Indonesia, the Philippines and the Malay states as well. Over 500,000 Chinese labourers lost their lives in Japan’s effort to build the Siam Railway line. Oppression was crushed and thousands were openly executed on the streets of Seoul and Busan, none more famous the March 1 Movement where 7000 Korean souls were lost.
Japan’s war policy was severely brutal. The Japanese Emperor considered he to be God’s chosen disciple and his word was supreme. They believed that the other neighbouring countries was full of impurity and much like Hitler’s policy with the Jews, they had to be purified. The Chinese were not considered human and the Americans were considered mongrelized apes. The Japan Navy was ordered to execute all Prisoners-of-War (POWs) caught at sea. The army was brutally brainwashed and any discontentment was satisfied with more women. A POW caught by the Americas, Britain, Australia or New Zealand had less than 4% chance of not surviving as compared to the 30% death rates of the POWs caught by the Japanese. The POWs, along with hundreds of other civilians from Korea, China and other colonial states were subject to massive cannibalism as a result of the Allied forces cutting out provision lines for the Japanese Army. They cut off body parts from prisoners, while they were still alive and leave them to die. Stories recalled from Indian and Pakistani survivors of the war from Andaman Islands provide testimony to the statements.
Human experimentation was common in Nazi Germany was well as Imperial Japan. Unit 731 of the Japanese Experimental Unit is known to have committed possibly the most horrible of these crimes. Open vivisection was common, mostly on the POWs. Thousands were sacrificed for the practice of science leaving them to suffer from the effects of cholera, malaria and anthrax as a part of the biological weapons programmes. In order to test the effects of frost bite, civilians were forced bare naked in the cold and water splashed over them repeatedly to speed up the process, until their arms and legs froze. Their arms were amputated and next, the legs followed until only the head and torso of the person remained, which was then experimented chemically; all these being done with the person still alive. Anaesthesia was not recommended as it was said to have reduced the effects of chemicals previously.
Looting was common and thousands of Koreans artefacts worth millions of dollars still lie in Japanese museums, unreturned. Japan was subject to trials for all the above crimes by the Allied forces but only a few higher ranked officers were convicted. Lower ranking soldiers were never brought to justice. Officers and scientists of Unit 731 were tried but most of them were acquitted under the condition that they cooperate to provide the results of their experimentation to the U.S.A. Furthermore, those punished were not considered convicts under Japanese law as they were following orders in serving their country. Japan has yet not apologized to Korea, China, Indonesia or the Philippines for all the comfort women used during the war.
The United States, Russia, Britain and the Netherlands along with the United Nations have repeatedly asked Japan to apologise, but Japan till date deny the use of women for such purposes or for further availability to comment on the issue. In 1993, the then Japanese Foreign Secretary issued an informal apology which was later denied by Japanese authorities. Japan refused to oblige to the United States pressing of an apology stating that it could hamper ties between the nations.
The March 11 Sendai Earthquake and Tsunami diverted all our attention once again to Japan after a seemingly long time. Indeed the country has prospered to become one of the leading forces in Asia and a leading economy of the world. But is the present worth the past? Japan is facing a crisis perhaps never witnessed before. Humanity is their chief concern today, an ironical statement as compared to their dark past. The decision to understand and logic rests in our hands. Both the Koreas as well as China have offered massive help campaigns to the country. In fact, it is the people of the country who are subject to help. We can turn our backs and be angry at what they did, or choose to forget, at least for those who are suffering there.
The question, again, is: ‘What do we know?’