© The Japan Times
Tokyo, Japan
May 3, 1998

Pride in the name of truth

          I found the story on the Japanese movie "Pride" ("Movie paints Tojo in different light," April 9) very distasteful.
The article, from The Associated Press, states that "As Japanese troops marched across Southeast Asia in 1941 and 1942, the countries they occupied were all colonies of Europe or the United States."
          Actually, the Philippines was not a colony when the Japanese attacked in December 1941. Though the country was colonized by the US after the Spanish-American War, (and I believe the US was wrong to do so), the internal self-governing Commonwealth of the Philippines was established in 1934, and preparations for full independence were in place, only to be interrupted when Japanese troops invaded.
          Though The AP's error is probably an unintentional result of sloppy research, the Japanese filmmakers seem to be making an intentional effort to mislead - portraying Japan's military as a liberator in East Asia in the 1940s. The filmmakers imply this is a source of "pride," but the Filipinos who strongly resisted the brutal Japanese occupation of the Philippines would probably disagree.
Like the Filipinos, the Vietnamese were probably no more happy to see the Japanese invade. In fact, Ho Chi Minh founded a nationalist movement to fight the Japanese, and over a million Vietnamese reportedly died of starvation because the Japanese hoarded the rice crop.
          Unlike the Philippines though, which became completely independent after the war, Ho Chi Minh's nationalists fought for Vietnamese independence and unification in wars with the French and the US.
The Vietnam War still causes deep soul-searching in Americans. In contrast to the Japanese, Americans study the history of their involvement in Southeast Asia in school textbooks.
          I hope the Japanese will someday find the courage to portray their own history more accurately. In a democracy it is sometimes right to admit you were wrong, and this honest self-criticism can be a source of "pride."

Don MacLaren