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.
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.