From Anne Frank to Hello KittyRoundup: Historians' Take
tags: World War II, Japan
Norihiro Kato is a literary scholar and a professor at Waseda University. This article was translated by Michael Emmerich from the Japanese.
TOKYO — In late February, officials from city libraries contacted the police after discovering that hundreds of copies of “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” had been defaced. Media reports included an awful picture: a torn photograph of the girl smiling in a mutilated book. No culprit has been identified, but the rash of vandalism seemed to begin around the time, in January, that a member of the ultranationalist group Zaitokukai marched in a rally with a Nazi flag over his shoulders.
The invocation of Nazi symbols by Japanese right-wingers is a new phenomenon. During the Cold War they focused their hatred on the U.S.S.R. and communism; now, they have shifted their attention to China, South Korea and, increasingly, the United States. Brandishing the flag of Japan’s wartime ally is a roundabout way for right-wingers to laud Japan’s imperialist past. Presumably, the defacement of those copies of Anne Frank’s diary was an expression of the same sentiment.
In my view, it was also a symptom of something broader. Over the past few decades, Japan has developed a mechanism to avoid facing up to its wartime history: It has neutralized issues that are too painful to deal with by rendering them purely aesthetic, and harmless — by making them “cute.” But that strategy no longer seems to be working....
comments powered by Disqus
- Rise of Donald Trump Tracks Growing Debate Over Global Fascism
- Tales of African-American History Found in DNA
- History Celebrates New Show Roots With Project to Digitize Post-Slavery Documents
- In 1453, this Ottoman sultan ended Christian rule in Constantinople. But was he a good Muslim?
- Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation among documents sold for $6.2m in New York
- History Relevance Campaign meets at the Smithsonian
- Bernard Lewis Turns 100
- David Lowenthal, author of "The Past Is a Foreign Country,” says it’s folly to scratch the names of slaveholders off buildings
- Jean Edward Smith, biographer of FDR and Ike, has a new biography coming out … of George W. Bush
- Flora Fraser, biographer of George and Martha Washington, wins $50,000 George Washington Prize