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    しょうがない

    You don’t see this very frequently: Minister of Defense Fumio Kyuma gave a talk yesterday:

    Opposition parties unanimously criticized Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma for remarks he made in a lecture on 30 June. Kyuma had stated that the dropping of the atom bomb by the United States during World War II was “unavoidable.”

    Kyuma is the only sitting cabinet member from Nagasaki Prefecture. Reaction to his dissent from orthodoxy has been swift and furious:

    Kyuma said later that his comments had been misinterpreted, telling reporters he meant to say the bombing “could not be helped from the American point of view.”

    “It’s too bad that my comments were interpreted as approving the U.S. bombing,” he said.

    Bombing survivors have developed various illnesses from radiation exposure, including cancer and liver diseases.

    “The U.S. justifies the bombings saying they saved American lives,” said Nobuo Miyake, 78, director-general of a group of victims living in Tokyo. “It’s outrageous for a Japanese politician to voice such thinking. Japan is a victim.”

    Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue was quoted as saying by Kyodo, “The use of nuclear weapons constitutes the indiscriminate massacre of ordinary citizens, and it cannot be justified for any reason.”

    In America, the bombings are widely seen as a weapon of last resort against an enemy that was determined to fight to the death but instead surrendered unconditionally, six days after Nagasaki was attacked.

    There are many things to admire, even love, about Japan; but surely one of its more unpalatable cultural traits is its tendency to look for reasons to feel put-upon and victimized. The way people talk about the A-bomb, one would never know that Japan had tried to take over all of East Asia. (Its invading forces were not known for their scrupulously upright treatment of ordinary citizens.) One would also never know that the Allies had spent the last year enduring the battles on Saipan, Iwo Jima, Okinawa.

    I don’t mean to make a coarse tu quoque argument here. I’m perfectly willing to acknowledge that America had geopolitical reasons for using the atom bomb that went beyond the saintly desire to prevent more blood from being spilled in the immediate future. Japan had inserted itself into World War II as our enemy, and we needed to defeat it, and we needed to win. It would be nice if war didn’t work that way, but it does. It’s easy for me to say this as an American, I guess, but I don’t think Kyuma’s acknowledgment that it wasn’t our job to play nice with Japan in 1945 can be construed as “approval.” It’s certainly going to be interesting to see where this goes politically, though.

    4 Responses to “しょうがない”

    1. Zak says:

      In the popular Japanese imagination, WWII started right before Enola Gay opened her bomb-bay doors.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Was there even a WWII? To hear my friends and my ex tell it, they only learn Japanese history up to the Russo-Japanese War in school, anyway.

    3. Zak says:

      Yeah, that’s when, by design, the school year unfortunately runs out!

    4. Sean Kinsell says:

      Design? My dear man, you must be polite enough to allow for coincidences. (And let’s be fair–there were plenty of social studies teachers in our day who found a way to run out of time before the Vietnam War would have taken center stage in the lessons.)

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