Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, visiting the Yasukuni Shrine in 2012

What Japanese history lessons leave out

by Mariko Oi

Japanese people often fail to understand why neighbouring countries harbour a grudge over events that happened in the 1930s and 40s. The reason, in many cases, is that they barely learned any 20th Century history. I myself only got a full picture when I left Japan and went to school in Australia.


I asked the children of some friends and colleagues how much history they had picked up during their school years.

Twenty-year-old university student Nami Yoshida and her older sister Mai - both undergraduates studying science - say they haven’t heard about comfort women.

“I’ve heard of the Nanjing massacre but I don’t know what it’s about,” they both say.

“At school, we learn more about what happened a long time ago, like the samurai era,” Nami adds.

Seventeen-year-old Yuki Tsukamoto says the “Mukden incident” and Japan’s invasion of the Korean peninsula in the late 16th Century help to explain Japan’s unpopularity in the region.

“I think it is understandable that some people are upset, because no-one wants their own country to be invaded,” he says.

But he too is unaware of the plight of the comfort women.

Former history teacher and scholar Tamaki Matsuoka holds Japan’s education system responsible for a number of the country’s foreign relations difficulties.

“Our system has been creating young people who get annoyed by all the complaints that China and South Korea make about war atrocities because they are not taught what they are complaining about,” she said.

“It is very dangerous because some of them may resort to the internet to get more information and then they start believing the nationalists’ views that Japan did nothing wrong.”

I first saw her work, based on interviews with Japanese soldiers who invaded Nanjing, when I visited the museum in the city a few years ago.

“There were many testimonies by the victims but I thought we needed to hear from the soldiers,” she says.

“It took me many years but I interviewed 250 of them. Many initially refused to talk, but eventually, they admitted to killing, stealing and raping.


Jacques Vigoureux-Duplessis

Ambassadors from the King of Siam* to Louis XIV of France with Translator

France (1684)

From History Today:

French involvement in Siam in the 17th century was an extraordinary episode in the history of that country’s foreign affairs. It began in the naïve and arrogant belief that people in a faraway land**, with a religion much older than that of France, could be converted to the Catholic faith and it ended in military humiliation when French forces were drawn into a succession crisis at the Siamese court. In the key years from 1685 to 1688 three great embassies were exchanged, two French and one Siamese, lending an air of exotic charm** and ceremonial splendour to what was in reality the flimsiest of relationships based on mutual misunderstanding. Two absolute monarchs, Louis XIV and King Narai, inundated each other with gifts and declared bonds of eternal friendship across a cultural chasm.

* Narai was actually king of the Ayutthaya Kingdom

** Note that the use of othering language here seems only to refer to the French perception of these ambassadors from King Narai

The language/tone of this piece of writing about the French being “Naive” and “cultural chasms” gets a lot less cute once you look into the History of the Franco-Siamese War, the Franco-Thai War, and the atrocities committed in the name of French colonial interests in Southeast Asia.

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History can be one of Life’s greatest teachers and if there is one thing it has taught me is that the foundation of anything usually plants seeds that work to protect it’s fundamental beliefs. What do I mean? Take America for example. Home of the Brave, Land of the Free. That is the motto correct? The irony in the statement is that this country was built by people who were not FREE. The Foundation of America is built upon Racism White Supremacy; Still is and always has been. Recall what I stated earlier about protecting fundamental beliefs. Now think about everything that was done to black people in this country. Slavery, Jim Crow, Lynch Mobs, Rape, Murder, Castration and realize IT WAS ALL LEGAL. Why was it legal? Because we have always been looked at as senseless animals that need to be in cages or dead. The Government has millions of people brainwashed into believing legal means right!!! As @Solar_Innerg once said, “Legal is not synonymous for “right” and illegal is not synonymous for “wrong””. It is very important we realize the difference between right and “legal” because if not, everything that was done to us can be justified. Never Forget. SanCopha!!! Written By @KingKwajo

BBC History: Kill ‘Em All: American War Crimes in Korea

While atrocities conducted both by North and South Korean forces have already been documented, recently a much darker side to the US involvement in the Korean War has begun to emerge. It casts a shadow over the conduct of US forces during the conflict, particularly of officers and generals in command. Declassified military documents recently found in the US National Archives show clearly how US commanders repeatedly, and without ambiguity, ordered forces under their control to target and kill Korean refugees caught on the battlefield. More disturbing still have been the published testimonies of Korean survivors who recall such killings, and the frank accounts of those American veterans brave enough to admit involvement.


German soldiers hang Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, a member of the Komsomol, a volunteer for active service, who was sent behind German lines as part of a sabotage unit. She was taken prisoner while attempting to blow up a German ammunition dump. She was stripped and tortured to the extent that even some German soldiers were sickened. Covered in blood and half dead, she was taken to the gallows with a placard around her neck denouncing her as a partisan. Zoya posthumously became a decorated Hero of the Soviet Union and an inspiration for poems and films.

Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, mutilated. On New Year’s Eve, drunken German troops pulled her body off the gallows and stabbed and hacked it. During the night, local inhabitants ran a terrible risk by taking the mutilated corpse away and digging a grave in frozen earth.

Photo of Kambriel taken by Curse (circa 1993)

Ivory Dracula’s Bride Gown (available here & here)

Also ~ some thoughts on the importance of keeping artists’ credits/sources/signatures on their work: There are multiple photos from my original catalogue making the rounds online with the credits removed. It’s sad to see these old favourites cut down due to cropped out photo credits. Is it more “aesthetic” to get rid of a small text credit, and leave the entire photo off-center? Why do people think it’s o.k. to remove the equivalent of an artist’s signature? If people give their time, inspiration, $, and skill to create and share their art ~ art that speaks to you enough that you want to share it with others, please be considerate enough to leave their original signature/logos/credits in place. Otherwise, these just become ‘another random anonymous image’, which hurts artists on a variety of levels.

So of course ~ enjoy the art & feel free to share, but please leave original credits & sources in tact. To those who make the effort to add them back in, thank you ~ it’s truly appreciated!

A case of history repeating — Waterboarding during the Philippine American War (1898 - 1902).

“His sufferings must be that of a man who is drowning, but cannot drown." 

— Lt. Grover Flint, Philippine American War

 One of the most controversial topics related to the War on Terrorism and modern intelligence gathering doctrine has been the use of torture, causing very passionate views on both sides.  One of the most controversial torture methods is the use of waterboarding, a method in which water is poured continuously over a cloth covered face or down the throat to give the victim the feeling of drowning.  Supporters claim that waterboarding is nothing more than a form of interrogation rather than torture.  Those who are against waterboarding consider it to be a heinous form of torture that violates human rights.  Regardless of one’s stance on the subject, many would be surprised to learn that the first instances of American soldiers waterboarding prisoners was not done at Abu Graib or Guantanamo Bay, nor done during the Iraq War or Afghanistan.  Rather, the first instances of American soldiers waterboarding captives occurred in the Philippines during the now forgotten Philippine American War.

In 1898 America won the war against Spain (Spanish American War) and liberated the Philippines from the Spanish.  The Filipino’s were overjoyed at the American victory, believing that the United States would make the Philippines an independent country.  However when the US occupied the country and made it a colony or dependent territory, many Filipino’s revolted.  In response the US Military brutally suppressed the rebellion. During the four year war many atrocities were committed by American soldiers including torture, massacre’s of civilians, and the creation of several concentration camps.

One of the most popular methods of torture used by American soldiers during the war was what was called "the water cure”, a method remarkably similar to modern day waterboarding. One witness named Lt. Grover Flint documented in detail the water cure, writing,

“A man is thrown down on his back and three or four men sit or stand on his arms and legs and hold him down; and either a gun barrel or a rifle barrel or a carbine barrel or a stick as big as a belaying pin, – that is, with an inch circumference, – is simply thrust into his jaws and his jaws are thrust back, and, if possible, a wooden log or stone is put under his head or neck, so he can be held more firmly. In the case of very old men I have seen their teeth fall out, – I mean when it was done a little roughly. He is simply held down and then water is poured onto his face down his throat and nose from a jar; and that is kept up until the man gives some sign or becomes unconscious. And, when he becomes unconscious, he is simply rolled aside and he is allowed to come to. In almost every case the men have been a little roughly handled. They were rolled aside rudely, so that water was expelled. A man suffers tremendously, there is no doubt about it. His sufferings must be that of a man who is drowning, but cannot drown.”

In 1902 news of American atrocities, and especially the use of the water cure, reached the American public through reports published by Life and The New Yorker.  News of the torture was soon the headline of every newspaper as the American public demanded answers.  Accounts  of the atrocities enraged the public who pressured the government to stop the torture.  The Senate held special hearings into the use of the water cure, leading to the dismissal of a number of US Army officers who had partaken in the torture.  US Secretary of War Elihu Root personally order the court martial of Capt. Edwin F. Glenn, who was known to order the water cure for prisoners on a number of occasions.  Finally President Theodore Roosevelt ordered the court martial of Gen. Jacob H. Smith.  When the court found he had only acted in “excessive zeal”, Roosevelt ordered him dismissed from the army.

On July 4th, 1902 Roosevelt declared the war to be a victory, and within weeks the new of American atrocities in the Philippines was forgotten.  The war, however, would continue until 1913 as skirmishes raged between Filipino rebels, Moro natives, and American troops.


Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, April 24th

Although Armenians under Ottoman rule had been mistreated regularly for many years, the outbreak of World War I led the Ottomans to believe that they had to eliminate what they saw as a potential fifth column within their empire. On April 24th, the traditional start date of the Armenian Genocide, hundreds of Armenian intelligentsia were rounded up and imprisoned as British troops landed on Gallipoli.

Over the next few years, between 1 million and 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children in the Ottoman Empire were systematically exterminated through mass killings and death marches through the desert, and countless more imprisoned or deported from the empire. To this day the Turkish government refuses to acknowledge a genocide even occurred.