Chinese prisoners are used as live targets in a bayonet drill by their Japanese captors, during the Nanking Massacre, November 7, 1938 –

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I’m saying that most Japanese have always viewed Japan’s actions during WWII as good. No leader ever sold a war to people by saying they wanted their nation to be evil conquering bastards, they come up with myriad excuses for why the war is really to the benefit of the people they are attacking, or why their nation is really the victim.

Take, for example, the way Japan started off the real invasion and occupation of China in 1931. The government didn’t simply announce that it was in Japan’s interests to colonize China and take the resources there. Long before that there had been a long PR campaign emphasizing the way that the Western powers were colonizing China, and an astroturf campaign of citizens crying out for Japan to liberate the Chinese. Concurrent with that, there was a PR campaign painting China as a backwards nation of people who hated Japan who had to be dealt with firmly.

Then, a Japanese Army Lieutenant took some TNT and blew it up near a Japanese owned railroad in Manchuria. The railroad wasn’t damaged, but Chinese dissidents were blamed, and thanks to the groundlaying of the PR campaign the Japanese people were ready to both liberate the oppressed Chinese people and punish the ungrateful backwards scum who dared to attack Japan (and if that seems mutually contradictory, it is; no one ever said people were rational). Even when it came out that the “attack” in the Mukden Incident (as it came to be known) was really from a Japanese source (he always maintained that he acted alone and was motivated by patriotism), the war was on.

Same goes for all the rest. The PR was that Japan was uniting the eight corners of the world under the one roof of benevolent Japanese rule to be betterment of mankind [1].

The Western powers were presented to the Japanese population as evil colonial oppressors (and, to be fair, they mostly were) and this was the reason given for Western opposition to Japan’s expansionism.

Following WWII no one wanted to talk about it. Bad stuff was acknowledged to have happened, but it was stuff that just sort of happened in a vacuum and no one was really responsible, and certainly Japan was the victim. After all, two Japanese cities were nuked and Japan was occupied by America for seven years. Japan must have been the victim, right?

Today the average Japanese doesn’t fully buy into the right wing view, but neither are they what you’d call well educated about WWII (neither is the average US citizen). They’ve got a vague, muddled, blurry, awareness that some people say Japan did bad stuff, and some people say Japan was the avenging liberator of Asia, and that China and Korea keep yammering about “war crimes” as a way to gain political concessions from Japan, and anyway it’s all confusing and no one really knows what happened and it’s not comfortable to think about too much so let’s talk about something else now.

In school their history classes will either have glossed over WWII as quickly as possible, or actively promoted the idea that Japan was an innocent victim of evil Western aggressors (this is generally viewed as propaganda from the right wing, but they don’t get much else so it kind of seeps in regardless). What they learn in school, in all cases, will have focused on the US/Japan part of the conflict to the extent that the invasions of Asia are often completely unmentioned. WWII is called “The Pacific War” in Japan, and as you can tell this focuses attention on the US/Japan fight and away from the Japanese occupation of China, Korea, etc.

So it isn’t that the average Japanese hates America or believes the right wing rhetoric. It’s that mostly they just don’t like thinking about it and are generally pretty ignorant of WWII.

And, again, to be fair the average American doesn’t know much about WWII except that the USA was 100% heroic and totally kicked Hitler’s ass singlehandedly and got awesome revenge for Japan attacking Pearl Harbor.

Most people are woefully ignorant of history.

[1] [Hakko Ichiu](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hakk%C5%8D_ichiu) “Eight Corners, One Roof” was a sort of shorthand rallying cry for the proponents of this concept.

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