chapter  7
Appropriating defeat: Japan, America, and Eto Jun’s historical reconciliations
Pages 22

Scholars of East Asia have problematized the stagnation of historical reconciliation as one of the defining issues in that region. Although the demands of reconstructing a European Union-like regional community came to be highlighted in East Asia, they argue, the development of such a community has been arrested because of the different and contested understandings of historical injustices in Northeast Asia. While some Japanese historians have revealed various atrocities committed by the Japanese military during the wartime and colonial period, several Japanese public figures have marginalized or even denied their responsibilities. Their statements have always incurred strong indignation in China and Korea, and have exacerbated anti-Japanese sentiments even among the younger generation. In Japan, the belief that Japan has been too apologetic has gained strength as a reaction to the increase of anti-Japanese sentiments in China and Korea. Faced with the escalation of mutual mistrust resulting from the contested interpretations of historical injustice, researchers have attempted to explore the possibility of historical reconciliations in East Asia from different perspectives. In contrast, historians specializing in US-Japan relations have faced the

opposite problem. In this field, researchers have attempted to explain how such a swift reconciliation came about between the two nations after the Pacific War, in which many atrocities were committed on each side from Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Dower 1987, 30). During the period from the acceptance of the unconditional surrender in August 1945 to the recovery of its sovereignty in April 1952, Japan was occupied by the Allied Powers led by the United States. For Japan, signing the San Francisco Peace Treaty meant not only a reclamation of its sovereignty, but also an incorporation into one bloc of the world order designated internationally as the “Cold War System,” epitomized by the signing of the United StatesJapan Security Treaty. The US occupation of Japan after World War II transformed hostile enemies into reliable partners. The historical reconciliation seems to have been realized in such a short period of time in spite of

different and contested understandings of historical injustices between the two nations. People are still debating whether Franklin Roosevelt knew about Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor beforehand, or whether the use of the atomic bombs should be justified. However, those historical debates have had little impact on the diplomatic relation between the two nations. In the course of postwar Japanese history, there have been two

main facets to the issue of historical reconciliation: the contemporary stagnation of historical reconciliation with China and Korea, and its swift realization with the United States. Even though many scholars have attempted to explain each problem separately, few of them have interpreted both issues in a unified framework. In this chapter, I attempt to analyze the two reconciliations as intimately connected events and argue that the swift reconciliation with the United States should be critically reviewed as an important precondition that made the historical reconciliation with China and Korea difficult. In order to clarify the implications of the two historical reconciliations in

postwar Japan, we should historicize each issue. First, I point out that the historical reconciliation between Japan and China or Korea has only fairly recently come to be recognized as a crucial issue among the citizens in the countries concerned. It was only in the 1990s, when survivors of the comfort stations came forward to tell their own stories in the past decade, that the issue of the comfort women came to the fore. Until then, comfort women were largely relegated to the status of minor details, if they appeared at all (Sand 1999; Yoshimi 2000; Tanaka 2002). In Japan, comfort women turned up in memoirs, histories, novels, and films, but their victimization was seldom regarded as criminal. As far as the Nanking Massacre is concerned, it was the publication of Iris Chang’s best-selling The Rape of Nanking in 1997 that introduced it to English audiences and brought it to worldwide attention. Although Japanese journalists and historians had been writing about the story of these atrocities, the Communist Party leadership in China had been reluctant to investigate the matter and politicize it. As Suzanne O’Brien explains, “Eager to attract or maintain Japanese development aid and investment, the postwar governments of Asian nations colonized or occupied by Japan during the war have often been reluctant to press issues of Japan’s responsibilities to its victims” (Honda 1999, 3). However, the development of democracy, economy, and communication

in East Asia, after the end of the Cold War transformed the situation. East Asians have challenged the official accounts that shaped their public memories of the war since 1945 – even beyond their own national boundaries. In this regard, the intensification of historical disputes is an important indicator of the shifts that East Asian nations have experienced in the past two decades. In contrast to the scholars of East Asia, Japan specialists in the United

States explored the reason for the swift reconciliation between the two nations in the history of the occupation period. In his bestseller Embracing

Defeat, John Dower attempted to make a positive assessment of the vitality of the occupation period and the dynamism of the Japanese role in shaping postwar consciousness and affirming a commitment to “peace and democracy” (Dower 1999). Other scholars have offered a more critical view of this period. According to Harry Harootunian, the occupation of Japan was a crucial part of American global strategy of “remapping” the former Japanese Empire “within the framework of American Imperialism” and offering “a new representation to postwar Japan that had become an element of American Imperialism” (Harootunian 2010, 64). However, we should also remember that ordinary citizens in Japan

expressed their anti-American sentiments repeatedly even after the end of the occupation period. We can consider the Security Treaty crisis of 1960 as its most dramatic manifestation. The revised Security Treaty of 1960 contained a provision pledging mutual consultation and an exchange of notes that obliged the parties to engage in prior consultation with regard to major changes in the US military deployment, and this caused unprecedented demonstrations and protests against the government’s effort to renew it. Tens of thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of Tokyo in the vicinity of the Diet building and the scheduled visit to Japan by President Dwight D. Eisenhower was cancelled. A participant of this movement claimed that “we have learned that the Japan-U.S. security treaty has obliged Japan to restrict her independence and become a participant in conflicts without the knowledge of her people,” and warned, “let us not forget that irresponsible militarism and military alliances once led us into a path of war against China and other nations of Asia” (Lu 1996, 514-15). This event highlighted the strong anti-American sentiments among ordinary citizens at that time and indicated that the process of US-Japan reconciliation was still under way. Eto Jun was one of the most influential ideologues who prepared

the intellectual foundation for the historical reconciliation between the United States and Japan in 1960s. He was a famous literary critic known for his writings on such important Japanese literati as Natsume Soseki and Kobayashi Hideo. He was also the author of a series of books that reviewed the history of the occupation period in a critical manner. In 1978, he started a heated debate on the interpretation of the Japanese surrender of 1945. Against the common view that Japan was occupied by the Allied Powers as a result of its unconditional surrender, he argued that “it was not the Japanese government, but only the armed forces that were required by the Potsdam Declaration to surrender unconditionally” (Yui 1987). In the early 1980s, he problematized the censorship implemented by GHQ during the occupation period and discredited Japan’s postwar Constitution as being “imposed” by the American occupation army. Eto’s negation of “unconditional surrender” was closely associated with his desire to rescue Japan’s prewar cultural values against the proliferation of postwar democratic values. Arguably, Eto was one of the most influential conservative

intellectuals in postwar Japan. His turning toward historical revisionism in the mid-1960s, and its growing influence in the 1980s, paved the way for rightists to reject Japan’s responsibilities for war and imperialism. Nationalism in Japan, just as in other countries, is less a unified ideology

and more a loose and shifting combination of different ideological components. Traditionally speaking, Japanese nationalism has borne affinity to xenophobia and anti-capitalism. In the late 1930s, Japanese intellectuals came to criticize America as a symbol of capitalism and imperialism, against which, they claimed, Japan must protect itself and its Asian neighbors. During the Pacific War, nationalism inevitably meant “antiAmericanism” (Harootunian 2000). However, as literary critic Kato Norihiro has argued, Eto’s attitude toward America posed an interesting puzzle: although Eto earnestly criticized American occupation, he accepted US-Japan military alliance as legitimate and necessary. Rather than leveling an all-out rejection of America and what it stood for, he directed his frustration at the fact that Japan could not cooperate with America as an equal partner under the constraints of the postwar Peace Constitution. Eto’s nationalistic gesture was a manifestation of his strong proAmerican sentiment. Kato identified this aspect of Eto’s nationalism as “Pro-American Patriotism” (Kato 2009, 25). In 1962, Eto journeyed to the United States as a research fellow at the

Rockefeller Foundation and spent two years at Princeton University as a visiting scholar. After returning to Japan, he published a book, America and I, in which he summarized his observations and experiences during his two-year sojourn in the United States (Eto 2007). In this book, Eto repeatedly emphasized that he felt as if he became a different person after his stay in the United States. Princeton in the early 1960s was an important site in which Eto formulated his ideas that later came to be designated as “Pro-American Patriotism”. As Kato argued, the “proAmericanism” underlying postwar Japanese nationalism contrasts sharply with the “anti-American” nationalism that dominated prewar Japan. What logic enabled Japanese postwar nationalists to legitimatize postwar American dominance over Japan while maintaining the legitimacy of prewar Japanese cultural values? This is a crucial question for us to examine the ideological nature of historical reconciliation between Japan and the United States. Princeton University has been known for its strong “Southern” cultural

affinities. Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States known as a “southern conservative,” served as president of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910. We should also remember that Eto’s two-year stay in America overlapped with the crucial period of the development of the Civil Rights Movement. Eto constructed his view of America by observing the political turbulences in the South from the ivory tower of Princeton. Through this experience, Eto discovered a different America and attempted to reinterpret the history of America from the point of view

of the defeated South. The discovery of the South offered Eto an important opportunity to reinterpret the relationship between Japan and the United States from a new perspective. He came to associate the Civil War with the Pacific War and compared the defeated South with postwar Japan. By studying the continuing resistance by the South against the North in American history, Eto believed he had discovered the possibility that Japan could be a part of America without negating its own cultural tradition. It only became possible for him to make any apology for prewar Japanese history by appropriating the logics of the historical revisionism of the American South. In her seminal book Trans-Pacific Racisms and the U.S. Occupation of

Japan, Yukiko Koshiro proposed “trans-pacific racisms” as an analytical framework for the history of the US-Japan relationship. In the introduction to the book, she argues that

The success of the Occupation and the subsequent formation of an alliance spawned the myth that the two nations had learned a lesson from the Pacific War and had forever removed the race question from U.S.-Japanese discourse. Under the spell of this myth, racism became a mutual taboo, something both countries avoided discussing altogether for the sake of postwar friendship. Thus racism itself, albeit hidden, was tacitly practiced on both sides, providing the basis for a new relationship.