Pankaj Mishra: To Erase Militarist Past, Japan Must Re-Learn It

Roundup: Historians' Take
tags: World War II, Japan, Bloomberg News, historical memory, Pankaj Mishra, Imperial Japan

Pankaj Mishra is the author of “From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia” and a Bloomberg View columnist, based in London and Mashobra, India. The opinions expressed are his own.

It was raining heavily last week when I visited Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which commemorates Japanese who died in the “imperial cause.” But the tour buses still discharged scores of elderly Japanese visitors, and I received approving looks and even a faint smile from two Japanese women as we stood in the rain before the memorial to an Indian jurist called Radha Binod Pal.

Pal was the only Indian judge at the so-called Tokyo Trials, Japan’s protracted version of Nuremberg. In his 1,235- page dissent, he voted to acquit the 25 Japanese accused by Allied powers of the “unprecedented” crime of “conspiring against peace.”

Not surprisingly, he became a hero to those Japanese who felt more “victim consciousness” than guilt over Japan’s brutalizing of Asia. He continues to be revered, as more than one Japanese nationalist I met last week proudly informed me. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who wants to revise Japan’s 1995 apology for its Asian war, is a fan....

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