living in Japan and making so many friends from other countries has really shown me so much about the way a nation views itself and that each country has its own narrative when it comes to history. In America we think we’re the heroes, in Japan they see themselves as the victim, and neither of these things are accurate depictions of history. That’s why it’s important to study abroad I think. You can learn to see your country and history from another perspective, and in this case, I saw history through the eyes of Japan’s ultranationalist party, who deny the massacre at Nanking, the testing on human subjects at unit 731, and Japan’s use of comfort women. And I thought, no way, there’s no way that there are japanese people who deny this, and I was wrong. And even my boyfriend was reading a book and seemed to be of the mindset that maybe comfort women happened or maybe they didn’t.
So I had to stop and think and realize that there were definitely things in American history which were glossed over by the American school system. For instance, I had never even heard of the Philippine-American war in a classroom until I became very good friends with a Philippina girl here in Japan. I realized there was this massive war with bloodshed that completely reshaped her country, and I never even had been expected to know about it.
I also have a friend who now lives in Canada, but grew up in Taiwan, and she told me a story of when a Japanese girl moved to her school in Taiwan, and when they were learning about Japan’s occupation of Taiwan as well as many other countries, the japanese girl completely denied it and said there was no way that ever happened. And my friend told me she remembered thinking how on earth is it possible that she doesn’t know what her country did?
I think young people have the image of ourselves that we weren’t around when world war 2 happened, we didn’t massacre Vietnam, or we didn’t send the troops into Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. so why is it our fault? Why do we need to be educated about things we weren’t even around to help stop? But when we enter an international community, our identity as Americans doesn’t go away. The rest of the world sees us as American’s, and they see our history as well. and we see that our history doesn’t necessarily line up with the way the rest of the world teaches it, or maybe we see that many things America has done (war crimes) aren’t taught to us.
For instance, I don’t ever remember being taught about Japan’s unit 731 in high school or college. I remember talking a lot about crazy nazi scientists, but nobody ever taught us about the Japanese equivalent. I have a feeling it’s because when Japan came under American occupation and the East Asian tribunal was heard, the team responsible for Unit 731 were not tried as war criminals, in spite of the fact that they, well, were, as part of a deal with the US, that if they traded over all the information and research from unit 731 to us, they’d get off without a trial.
That doesn’t sound like the World War II America they put in the textbooks.
ANYWAY my point is that I got in this huff and fuss about my boyfriend not knowing about his own country’s history, which tbh i’m still not happy about, and frustrated that Japan seems so unapologetic about many things which they did during WWII lately. but I can see now, there are still so many things about America that I know I was never given the truth about, huge things like the occupations of the Philippines, and America sure as hell hasn’t apologized for that yet. I mean, hell, I didn’t get a half decent history lesson on slavery and the black civil rights movement until I entered college.
It’s another reason why my kids, if I ever have them, won’t go to public school. Not in America, not in Japan, nowhere. The public school system doesn’t churn out individuals or thinkers, it churns out workers and nationalists. And that’s why history repeats itself constantly and there’s never an end in sight to consumerism and capitalism!!!! I HATE IT!!!! End of rant!!!!!!!!