Moss-covered Monk

Moss-covered Monk

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Reflections on the Rising Sun

A red dot on all-white background. Crimson rays emanate forth from the source, extending to the edge of the canvas. While not always emblazoned on a flag, the symbol is more than a fashion statement. In the minds of survivors of the second World War, the rising sun is so much more. On one side, some Japanese see a symbol of national pride. For the Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Vietnamese, and Burmese people who lived under Japanese occupation, the rising sun was associated invariably with largely unacknowledged atrocities. While many who use the rising sun are unaware of the its history, the symbol will always serve as a reminder of Japanese imperialism for those who were forced to suffer under it.

Recently, Georges St. Pierre entered the arena wearing a white gi decorated with the rising sun. As a student of Kyokushin Karate, Georges likely did not think twice about the decision, seeing the symbol as little different from the Nisshōki (sun-mark flag), otherwise known as Hinomaru (circle of the sun). The design which graced Georges' gi was the Kyokujitsu-ki, sunburst, or rising sun flag. For many people in the West, who were not directly affected by the Asian theater of World War II, the difference between the Nisshoki and the Kyokujitsu-ki are subtle enough to be unnoticeable. Our minds are still focused upon Hitler and Nazi Germany as the preeminent enemy of the war. War with Japan was just an afterthought, to be dealt with only after the destruction of the Third Reich. This thinking may have shaped the decisions of Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin and it persists to this day.

Consider this. Out of the daily dose of World War II documentaries that cross the airwaves on a daily basis, how many deal with the repercussions of the Nazis, and how many with the repercussions of the Japanese empire? The percentage is truly staggering, if you consider the fact that other forms of media about the war also follow this same distribution. Whether you look at video games, movies, miniseries, or novels, the vast majority focus upon the European theater. Were the lives lost in the Asian theater less important? Why is Burma still considered the forgotten war? Because it was, for the most part.


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I was going to let this go, and leave these thoughts festering on the "draft" table. I didn't see any reason to indict GSP or Hayabusa, considering the prompt apology and response from both parties. I was then presented with the ignorant argument I could not overlook in the form of Ryo "the Shark" Chonan.

I tried to relate some of the history in as objective of a manner as possible, but I kept getting hung up on my own failure to consider the ramifications of GSP’s gi at the time of the fight. I think I noticed it, but only in a superficial, subconscious way. I did not fully consider the potential backlash, and I should have been more aware considering the fact that I chose Japan and China in the 30’s as the setting of my novel(s). I felt like a chump.

I admit my ignorance. There is a lot I don’t know about Japanese history and Asian history in general, but I am learning more with each book I consume on the subject. Whether I am studying Hideyoshi and the Imjin War or the first Sino-Japanese war, the gaps are constantly being filled in while I continue to find more blank spaces. This search for the truth, openly and skeptically, has allowed me to present my story from the perspective of both victim and victimizer. The soldiers who have come forward and admitted their guilt are still largely ignored as the behavior of an attention-seeker. So long as the collective will to forget overwhelms the will to learn about the world, people in Japan will remain in the dark. Not all Japanese are willfully ignorant, but the perception persists in Korea and China (and other occupied countries to some extent). This is just one potential reason to doubt the sincerity of Japan’s apologies.

I will cut this off before it gets too long. The treaty between Japan and China in 1965 included provisions for “products and services” adding up to three hundred million U.S dollars to be paid to the South Korean government. The fact that this investment did not reach the victims of the Japanese occupation provides certain individuals in Japan to point to the money as an official apology payment. Personally, I don’t consider hush money paid to a government to be compensatory to the people. But that’s just me.