When I was a child, I used to think that war was cool… that John Wayne was the western ideal of ass-kicking… that war was glorious.
I used to get my hands on all the war comic books I could find: Sgt. Rock, G.I. Combat, Sgt. Nicky Fury And His Howling Commandos, All-Out War and many, many others… plus I would read my parents books (mostly staring at the the photographs of ovens where Nazi's burned those who did not fit their ideal of a Master Race, and of shadowy images where once there were lively bodies, but now just dust in the atomic winds - a more divine wind there surely can not be…
And then, when I was 13 or so, I became a man… or at the very least allowed my braincells to expand to realize that war is not glorious… that war is hell.
Talk to most military personnel nowadays - it doesn't matter from which side - they know it was a job and don't revel in the gore.
And yet… on today's anniversary - when Japan, the last of the so-called Axis of Evil finally gave up after watching two cities burn in nuclear hellfire - many Japanese - its youth especially - seem to think that war is cool.
One of the more famous critiques of the defense of Nazi Germany's military, was its plea that it was just following orders… a defense that was slammed by the post-war tribunal responsible for punishing war criminals…
There are many instances of good German folk helping the targeted any way they could. I am aware that for those who didn't toe the goose-stepping line, it could have meant death for them also… but many didn't care for fascism or national socialism and did what they could anyway.
And yet… here we have the Japanese… who revel in the fact that its soldiers and citizenry had such blind faith in following the law spat out by its then Emperor… because the Emperor was a god, and god must be worshiped… his orders must be followed.
I suppose the one failing grace for Japan in this instance, is that it wasn't merely politically-motivated, it was religiously-motivated by politics.
Anyhow… nowadays, there seems to be this big swing back towards Japanese self-importance, which is a good thing in many ways, but depending on how others perceive it, it's a bad thing.
For example, there is nothing really wrong with Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe wanting Japan to have it's own army and airforce… after all, Japan isn't an asshole country like it was back in the 1930s and 1940s when it wanted to rule all of Asia… it's a well-respected global country filled with humorous videos of drunken business men doing wacky things on strange television game shows.
Seriously… does anyone really have a deep fear that Japan is going to try and take over the world again? Not even economically, I'm afraid…
Japan has recently gone through a pretty decent recession (so did most of the world), and then gone through some major natural disasters such as one of the strongest earthquakes on record; the spawning of a tsunami that killed 20,000 people and displaced thousand and thousands of others; and even several near (I said 'near') nuclear meltdowns that threatened to wipe the northeastern part of Japan off the map.
Boo-fricking-hoo. There has been greater loss of life in many another earthquake around the world… but the main difference is that Japan has long held a higher standard of living, and thus, when it falls into Stone Age-like conditions, it is a shock to the system.
So… when Japan's people elect its political leaders, and chooses a more hawkish than dovish course to try and fight its way back to the surface of respectability, many people start to wonder if they have seen such actions before - such as in the days immediately preceding WWII.
Right now, Japan is being pressured by Russia to the North and China to the Southwest, each claiming that Japanese-held island territories belong to them, and Japan only has them because it was either some long-ago claimed spoils of war, or because long ago Japan was the baddass mouth of the Pacific, flexing its long-dead samurai might while brandishing its katana sword of Damocles over the heads of those weaker.
Japanese youth — not all, of course —are beginning to grow in numbers favoring a return to a more aggressive Japan… one that channels the spirit of the long-banned samurai… back when everyone with half a brain feared Japan.
The youth of Japan believe that it is better to die than to surrender… who think that being part of the divine wind (the kamikaze pilots) is reaching higher moral heights.
“I respect kamikaze pilots—they sacrificed their lives for their families and the country,” says 18-year-old Tokyo University student Nakamura Tsurugi (surname first) after watching Japanese box-office movie hit “The Eternal Zero”, which was based on a best-selling novel—a concept that came at the right time to glorify the kamikaze in the eyes of its sort-of downtrodden citizens.
The Eternal Zero is about a top Japanese navy pilot refusing to take part in a kamikaze suicide mission because he promised his wife that he would return home alive. When the pilot eventually learns to change his mind, he asks a friend to look after his family.
“Kamikaze pilots are cool. It’s wrong to criticize the mission,” adds Nakamura.
Kamikaze pilots aren't cool. They were military personnel who did the duty asked of them. You can respect that, but that ain't cool.
Now… look at Nakamura's comments in a non-war-like setting… following orders is more important than one's own family.
In Japan, the concept of 'family' involving the mother and father, wife and the kids was at one time the most-important thing to a Japanese person…. but somewhere along the way, that became subverted, perverted even, where the military and its Bushido warrior code; and the Yakuza-family code of respect and honor; and even the humble worker's code of working one's ass off just because every one else seems to be staying late - became the norm in Japan.
The concept of death before dishonor became the norm thanks to bushido. The U.S. Marines appropriated that concept from Japan's samurai warrior class. Booya!
Those are examples that show that respect for the mother, father, wife and kids is no longer at the top of Japan's list of things to do - regardless of bullish!t festivals such as O-bon (death festival that honors one's dead ancestors) that nowadays sugar-coat the average Japanese persons guilt at how they shame its ancestors.
Japanese people who think that blindly following orders shows respect and honor show a decided lack of respect to real family and its ancestors.
Listen to the words of Kanbe Yutaka (surname first), who can thank Japan's surrender 69 years ago, for the reason he is still alive today. Kanbe, you see, was a kamikaze pilot, awaiting his turn to die for god and emperor and country.
While aware that death will claim him sooner rather than later, the 91-year-old Kanbe is concerned that Prime Minister Abe's rightward political shift and The Eternal Zero movie and book are proof that the horrors of war have been lost on generations of younger Japanese.
“It was crazy—I cannot support the idea of glorifying our mission,” the former navy pilot says of young men ordered to crash their planes into Allied ships.
“Japan could go to war again if our leaders are all like Abe. I’m going to die soon, but I worry about Japan’s future.”
Another kamikaze pilot, Kagawa Kozo (surname first), now 89-years-old, is also no fan of having kamikaze being considered 'cool'.
While he correctly does not judge the morality of the suicide kamikaze missions, he says he is still haunted watching his fellow squadron pilots and friends die in vain.
“It’s not for survivors like me to judge whether it was right or wrong. But I’m still mourning the soul of my late comrade. I’m sorry for letting (him) die alone,” says Kagawa, who agrees that kamikaze missions were a mistake, but he is less sure about restricting armed forces to a purely self-defense role as what Japan currently employs - as part of its 'penalty' for its participation in WWII.
“Kamikaze missions should never happen again, but peace does not come without costs,” Kagawa adds. “We can’t protect peace without defense. Prime Minister Abe appears to be in a hurry to make changes, but I understand what he is trying to do.”
I agree… Abe wants to bring back the show of strength and power and respect to Japan… I get that… but it's the rate of speed at which these changes are being undertaken by a country that prides itself on taking things slow when it's time to change… that's what has people worried about the specter of war flying through people's minds.
Now… who's going to visit the Yasukuni war-time shrine in Tokyo on August 15, 2014, that honors about two million Japanese war dead, including kamikaze pilots, but also includes a few Japanese folk convicted of war crimes angers China and South Korea. Read HERE.
Abe really wants to go to Yasukuni Shrine, but in 2013 he stayed away, because he knew that going there on the August 15 date might flame the winds of war… so he went in December of 2013… with even the U.S. weighing in that this visit, regardless of the time, is one that really pisses off a lot of people and countries, who see such a visit as one honoring war.
While it certainly speaks well of Japanese patriotism, it's also possibly received as proof that by visiting such a Shrine, it also shows respect to the war criminals whose spirit may reside there… thereby giving legitimacy to war criminals…
Again… religion and politics…
Back in the 1930s and 1940s, with an imperialistic war machine leading the way, people who followed religion and politics didn't appear to have as many choices—which is why it's always a great idea to not mix religion with politics!
Anyhow… according to Asano Akinori (surname first), a now 85-year-old bugger… he says that back then, one could not say 'no', but had to follow orders.
It's why he was one of those guys who were part of Japan's infamous Ohka (Chery Blossom) squad of WWII… that had nothing to do with planting trees, but rather planting the Yokosuka MXY-11 rocket-powered, human-guided attack plane into some enemy target.
You can read MY article on these craft HERE.
For Asano, war was not a movie: "I’m afraid young people can’t imagine what it was like—all I can do is pray for peace."