On one night during my stay back in Japan, I had a dinner with a history teacher, Mr. Yoshi. He is teaching at the cramming school (a special school to prepare for university entrance exam) where I was studying as a student and later working as a tutor. I wanted to talk to him because I had an inquiry about something that is related to his job, history education in Japan.
Below is one of my diaries written about a month ago after I watched a film, through which I thought deeply about war.
Today, I was so shocked to find out some new facts about World War II. And at the same time, I was shocked at the fact that I had been ignorant up until now. It is such a shame that I knew for the first time what Japan did to the world during the war, such a long time after my compulsory education. Why didn't I learn the fact at school? Well, I remember learning about war, but, I don't remember anything as horrible as what I have learnt just now. Oh dear... I blame that damn education I had in Japan. They only taught me what countries Japan fought with and against, how terrible it was for the Japanese during the war, especially after the attack by atomic bomb, and that Japan concluded war by renouncing war not to repeat those horrible memories again. That's it. I memorized these things for the exam, I read about the tragedy of Hiroshima & Nagasaki and felt "War is not good because a lot of Japanese died because of it", and the media remind all of us about war on every August 15th, which is the anniversary of the end of the Pacific War, and we pray for the victims. Every time, I feel pathetic about the war, but I've never thought about what was going on at that time during World War II, up until today. Now, I want to question; how many of the modern Japanese people can explain exactly what had happened during that war? and how? Why? In what process? I am sure I am not the only one who had been so ignorant about all these things, which we must know as a Japanese. Well, I'm not blaming the ignorance itself, I am blaming the education. What I want to say is that, the facts that we learnt at school in the history class are just a mere point of view from our own nation, Japan. The truth is not as simple as what the textbook says. I cannot believe the way they teach us about war, and I don't wanna believe that most of the Japanese are very likely not to have any more chances to see the facts in a different point of view. What we know is only what Japan wants us to know, nothing further than that, unless we try to know further. And as the knowledge is passed down to the next generation, the information is altered and some facts are just ignored not to be passed on to them. But while the true history is forgotten in Japan, students in other countries that involved in the war will learn what Japan did to their country. The fact will never disappear.
My historical knowledge about war had been as poor as this: “’Holocaust’. I think I leant this word somewhere, but I couldn’t remember what it was exactly, something to do with killing people, long time ago, somewhere in Europe.” “’Nazis’ Oh, I know that one, the ‘Heir, Hitler!’ stuff. He was a terrible governor, right?” “’The Triple Alliance’? Mmmm I don’t remember, I didn’t learn that at school. Maybe I’ve heard of the word somewhere…” Today, my Canadian friend taught me how horrible Holocaust was, how exactly it was done under the commands of Nazis, and most serious fact to me that Japan and Nazis was in an ally with Italy at that time. Later I learnt on the Internet that Japan decided to form an alliance with Nazis because of its strong military power. My friend said to me, “if Nazis were not defeated in WWII, then it could have killed whole Africans, whole Russians, whole Americans and Asians, any other human races EXCEPT themselves, Italy and JAPAN.” I was very shocked at the fact that Japan was supporting Nazis to have done such a horrible thing.
‘War’ ‘Atomic bomb’ those words reminds me of some images of poor Japanese victims, hateful enemy countries, images that make me feel sorry for my ancestors. I had never thought of how and why the war happened, and how it ended until today. I’ve learnt, for the first time, that it was actually Japan who opened fire on the Pacific War. I’ve leant, for the first time that Japan attacked and occupied some of my favorite countries (Singapore, Malaysia and more) for a while until the war ended when Japan was attacked by Atomic bomb. Then, we had to, not decided to, renounce war forever, as our apology for what we have done to other nations.
This is totally new to me, totally different from what I leant from history classes! It is such a shame that Canadians, Malaysians, Singaporeans and Aussies know these fact about the war, but not the Japanese. But this is the very thing that we Japanese should know the most, and schools should teach students in such a way that they learn from the past. Why didn’t I have a chance to learn these things at school, even though I took some history classes? All I remember is the very old history from the time when we didn’t have written language until Edo period, the time just before European cultures come into Japan in Meiji Revolution. The most important period, the war time was not compulsory to the science students. As long as I was doing well on math and science, I was regarded as a “honor student”. Maybe if I had not taken the science course, then I might have learnt further history into the war time. But there’s no point learning only early history of Japan without learning the modern history. Why is this? Why shouldn’t schools teach those facts to all students? What about other countries? Do they also hide their shameful history to their nations? Hmm…This is a home work for me, to find out the answers to these questions.