QUOTE
The myth of rising Japanese nationalism

By Mitsuru Kitano

WASHINGTON - Reports of excessive Japanese nationalism are fashionable today in some U.S. news media. Their selective compilation of phenomena that appear to support this idea could well make many believe it. But is it really true? A check of the facts indicates otherwise.

Japan's critics charge that an extreme Japanese antipathy toward South Korea and China is on the rise. A recent report that a comic book titled "Hating the Korean Wave" has sold 360,000 copies went on to say that this suggested strong anti-Korean sentiment in Japan. The report failed to note, however, that according to opinion polls, the percentage of Japanese having warm feelings toward South Korea increased from 36 percent in 1996 to 57 percent as of 2004. Further, South Korean television dramas and actors are extremely popular in Japan.

This warming of relations between South Korea and Japan was spurred by the 2002 soccer World Cup, which both countries co-hosted. Any antipathy toward South Korea today is a counter-trend, smaller in scale.

On the other hand, polls show that the percentage of Japanese who hold warm feelings toward China has declined, falling from 69 percent in 1988 to 38 percent in 2004. Tiananmen Square in 1989 and recent violent anti-Japanese demonstrations throughout China regrettably affected public opinion in Japan.

At the same time, however, economic and cultural exchanges between Japan and China are deepening. China is now Japan's largest trade partner. More than four million people travel between Japan and China yearly. And Chinese is, after English, the second most popular foreign language studied in Japan.

Other reports charge that Japan tries to glorify its prewar militarism and whitewash past misdeeds. A new history textbook that was authorized for use was cited as proof of this so-called revisionism. But it is seldom reported that the textbook - which only 0.4 percent of Japanese schools have adopted - describes World War II this way: "This war caused huge damage and suffering to the people of the various regions of Asia that had become the field of battle. In particular, soldiers and the people of China fell victim in large numbers to the invasion by the Japanese military."

Additionally, while there are voices opposed to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, he has clearly apologized and stated his remorse for Japan's past colonialism and aggression. And Japan remains committed to making the San Francisco Peace Treaty the foundation of its postwar existence, including acceptance of the judgments of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East.

Another false criticism charges Japan with trying to revive a dangerous militarism. Recently, Japan dispatched its Self-Defense Forces for peacekeeping operations; they have also joined international operations in Iraq and the Indian Ocean. Japan has also strengthened its security arrangements with the United States, and hopes to gain a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

These actions can be viewed as a departure from Japan's former passive diplomacy. But Japan's path is one of close cooperation with the United States and of strengthening the international community

(International Herald Tribune)

In November 2008, Japan's then air force chief of staff was sacked for writing that Japan was "not an aggressor nation in WWII".