World » Former USSR
Author`s name Michael Simpson

In Japan's Heart, the Empire Lives - 12 November, 2002

Japan didn’t capitulate in 1945
The Yasukuni Shrine by itself isn’t placed among the obvious sights in Japan, a country rich in antiquities and rarities. It is not concealed from tourists, but not actively advertised either. The temple situated in Tokyo is open to everyone. It was built in 1869, and its original name was the Temple of Shokonsha. Later, it was renamed Yasukuni Shrine, which means “the temple of peace in the country”; the shrine belongs to the Sintoist church. When the Shrine’s name is read in the network of Japanese history and symbolism, the Yasukuni Shrine can be defined as a place for worshipping the spirit of Yamato, the tribe that founded the Japanese state at the beginning of this era.  

The Yasukuni Shrine would be peacefully and quietly standing if Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi didin’t pay so many visits there

Religious Freedom for Prime Minister

The prime minister is certainly a human as well; like any other person, he has the right to his own religious creed. None of the world’s laws contain restrictions concerning the religious beliefs of prime ministers.

Is the Japanese prime minister allowed to visit the Yasukuni Shrine? The question and the answer to it aren’t among the simplest, especially for Japan.

The Yasukuni Shrine is rather remarkable in Japan’s modern history. Its construction was directly connected with the Meiji Restoration in 1867-1868; with the state coup organized by champions of a sharp turn from Japan’s isolation to orientation toward Europe and the USA; towards foreign conquests and the creation of the Japanese Empire. More and more aggressive wars started  from that moment; more and more lands were occupied at that. The wars ended in 1945 in a shattering defeat, and Japan had to return to its former position, before the Meiji epoch.

The shrine was laid and built by conspiratorial winners in honor to  perished followers. Since that time, the souls of those who died in  the struggle for  imperial Japan, for the Japanese Empire to be more precise, are prayed for in the Shrine, the souls of those who perished in the Russian-Japanese war including. And what is currently more essential, these are also the souls of people who perished in WWII, including war criminals among the Japanese top authorities, who were executed in accordance with the International Tribunal.

In a word, the Yasukuni Shrine is an enormous memorial from  political and ideological points of view; it is an important and one of the holiest temples for those who cannot reconcile the complete destruction of the empire.

Since the first postwar years, such people have united around the shrine; they create different public organizations with the obvious  goal of revenge.

In 1969, during the 100th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration, a Student Union of the Yasukuni Shrine was set up. The union’s leader declared at the first session of the organization: “We currently exist only due to the spirits of Yasukuni heroes who have fallen victims on the battlefield. Our movement should become the vanguard of the epoch.” A representative of the ruling liberal democratic party was present at the session; he said that the sacrifices of the Japanese people shouldn’t be in vain. “The Japanese people should reconsider everything and start their way from very beginning once again.” And where does this way lead? The original intention is to regain Okinawa and the northern territories; the lands which existed at the moment when the country began expanding after the Meiji Restoration.

Does the Japanese prime minister know about this? Any advanced pupil knows it perfectly well. It is clear that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi understood perfectly well that not only Japan, but the whole of the world  would pay attention to his visit to the Yasukuni Shrine on the eve of the anniversary of the  official declaration on Japan’s capitulation.

The governments of China and South Korea immediately expressed their protests on behalf of their people, who had suffered from Japanese aggression more than anyone.

Any symbolic steps mean a lot in Japan. No matter how Koizumi’s visits to the Yasukuni Shrine in the spring of 2002 are interpreted, it is perfectly clear that the Japanese government, the ruling circl, and the top authorities are ready to reconsider the results and consequences of the 1945 capitulation. 

Did Japan Capitulate?

The fact of the signing the Unconditional Surrender Act on September 2, 1945 is obvious and incontestable. Representing the Japanese side, the act was signed by Mamoru Shigemitsu, who was Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Affairs of Eastern Asia, and by commander of the General Staff, General Umedzu.

Japanese authorities recognized the inevitability of their defeat at the beginning of 1945. Prince Konoe started his report in the audience of the Japanese Emperor on February 14 with the following words: “I think our defeat in the war is unfortunately already inevitable.”   

However, the understanding of it remained only an understanding. The war continued. Okinawa was lost on May 8, and Japan’s ally, Germany, capitulated on May 9.  The Japanese  authorities held sessions on those days very frequently.

As a result, the supreme council in charge of the war decided to conclude peace with Great Britain and the USA through the Soviet Union’s mediation. The Japanese government planned to use the Soviet Union to suit its own ends in August 1944 already, in case Germany was defeated, or a separate peace treaty was concluded. In June 1945, despite the fact that the Soviet Union denounced the Neutrality Pact, negotiations with Russia’s Ambassador to Japan, Malik, started. On June 22, the Emperor expressed his intention to put an end to the war; this intention remained just an intention as well. The Japanese government declared it would continue military operations.

No changes followed after the Potsdam Declaration signed by Great Britain, the USA, and China, which stated that Japan must capitulate. (The USSR also signed this declaration on August 9, 1945).

Finally, August 9 came, the day that is so important for the Japan’s top authorities. Uninterrupted sessions began early in the morning: the authorities were discussing not America’s nuclear bombs, but the USSR’s joining the war. An imperial conference of top military and civil authorities was held in the bomb-proof shelter of the Emperor’s Palace at 11:09 p.m. The officials gathered to decide whether Japan should continue the war or not. As a result, at 2:30 a.m., on August 10, the Emperor accepted the demands of the Potsdam Declaration and decided to put an end to the war. However, he made some stipulations at that: there should be no occupation of Japan; the imperial regime was to be preserved, etc. However, the Japanese Minister of War appealed to the army for continuation of the  holy war on the same day, August 10.

The Discussion Was Emotional; the Atmosphere Was Strained

Although the Emperor’s verdict on an end to the war was signed on August 14,  war operations still continued; more and more people were falling victims. The Emperor’s decree and the general order for the Japanese army and fleet on the immediate cessation of the war were published on September 2 only, on the day when the Capitulation Act  was signed.

Today, we can be sure with the conclusion: the Act was concluded as a result of a compromise reached between the Japanese authorities and  reality. However, that wasn’t the reality  at all.

In fact, there were two kinds of capitulation: one was imaginary, and the other was with the fists clenched in the pockets. One was in the documents and the thoughts of the winners, and the other was in  secret doings and in the consciousness of the defeated.

Military units laid down their arms, but set up underground organizations. Some of them still continued to fight. Under the command of Chiang Kai-Shek in China, they fought against the people’s army.

The financial elite of Japan was well preserved,  and they bid for some time.

It was not only the Emperor who remained intact by the US democratic reforms, but also a specific patriotic spirit of Eastern Asia, which was becoming united against the alien European civilization. Japan was carrying out wars for 70 years already,  with several short breaks. The Meiji epoch was over, or did it just pause for some time? 

The Japanese Miracle

Starting with the 1960s, the whole of the world knew and spoke about the hi-tech market. It is an open fact that the Japanese people are keen, enterprising, and hard working. Today, the whole of the world knows perfectly well Japanese technology.

There are some people who are delighted at the way  Japan gained revenge for its recent defeat.

And What Is Concealed Deeper? 
 
By the end of the war, Japanese specialists understood that the defeat was directly connected with technical failures: American weapons and technical equipment were much better than those of Japan. The years within which Japan had carried out military operations against weaker enemies in Asia played a mean joke on Japan. When the war was over, Japanese engineers and their clients studied the most interesting foreign developments and start developing their own.   

The victory of People’s China over Chiang Kai-Shek served as a kind of support. Henceforth, American politicians counted upon Japan as a strategic ally and an anti-Communist barrier in Asia. The situation was rather favorable for the revival of the economy.  Japan finally realized all the faults it committed, and was eager to correct its mistakes. Japan held considerable industrial potential, enough manpower, and a rich uncle by its side. The only thing it needed was money. The Korean war at the beginning of the 1950s brought the needed money to Japan.

This significant condition of the Japanese miracle is often concealed. Military companies were speedily emerging, as the amount of orders for the American army made up 2 billion dollars. The technical reequipment of Japanese industry began.

This fact will remain a fact forever: it was the Korean war, the devastating tragedy of the Korean people, people who slightly recovered after a long occupation by Japan, that served the basis for the Japanese miracle. This bloody miracle, paid for by millions of Korean lives, is an obligatory condition for understanding of the Japanese miracle.

The Vietnamese war also contributed to the Japanese miracle; however, the above-mentioned facts mean that the Japanese defense establishment with its technical developments became the core of Japan’s economic success. The defense establishment and scientific and technical  Japan didn’t capitulate at all, unlike the army and the navy. 
 
The Meiji Epoch Isn’t Dead. Long Live The Meiji Epoch!

The rehabilitation of Japan started long ago under US occupation, starting with may 1951, before the signing of the San Francisco peace treaty.  By April 1952, at the moment the treaty came into effect, 201,577 people out of the total number of 202,082 people subjected to cleansing were already rehabilitated.

In January 1964, as a kind of a concluding action, the Japanese government posthumously awarded about two million people killed in WWII; a memorial to the perished heroes was unveiled in July 1965. Then-Prime Minister Sato said at the unveiling ceremony that the monument was in gratitude to those who lost their lives in the struggle for Japan.

Since the end of the 1940s, and more actively since the beginning of the 1950s, numerous public organizations of a nationalist nature have appeared in Korea. All of them followed the principle of “joining all Asian nations under the roof of the empire.” These organizations were created with a view to take care of  “Great Japan,” to restore “the national pride and unity of the nation under the emperor’s aegis.” These organizations focus mostly on military plots and assassinations. They also were opponents to the ninth article of the Japanese Constitution, the peace article, which prohibited Japan from having offensive armed forces and waging wars. 
 
Self-defense Forces Were Even More Speedily Developing in Japan

They appeared due to the Korean war as well. In two weeks after the war was waged, the commander-in-chief of the UN armed forces, General MacArthur, gave the go-ahead to the Japanese government for the creation of a reserve police corps of 75,000 people and 8,000 people for marines. That was to be done in addition to the existing police units, which were over 180,000 people strong and consisted of the imperial army officers mostly. MacArthur’s directive said that “defensive forces” must be created. As Prime Minister Yoshida admitted later that it was done “taking the Korean problem into consideration,” as there were fears that the communist army might intervene in Japan.

By the mid-70s, Japan’s armed forces, which are still called self-defense forces, became the seventh strongest in the world. They are even stronger than the British armed forces. The annual budget of the Japanese armed forces is several times bigger than Russia’s military budget.

In 2000, Japanese troops entered East Timor to participate in a peacekeeping operation. A law allowing Japanese troops to be sent to Afghanistan was passed in October 2001,  and Japanese soldiers once again entered the Indian Ocean basin.

In Japan, people of influence are more and more often appealing  for the restoration of the Emperor’s divinity and to strengthen the Sintoist church (which was the official church before 1945). And these appeals are often supported with the reminder that  US troops are not needed on Japanese territory.

The recent visits of Junichiro Koizumi to the Yasukuni Shrine occurred against this historic background, when there are lots of appeals to restore the Meiji epoch’s ideals and to revive the Japanese Empire.

The Empire died in 1945, but will the Empire  live again?

Yury Yefimenko
The Sakhalin Information Analytical Agency
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