by Jon Day
TOKYO, Aug. 15 (Xinhua) -- The spotlight will once again be firmly trained on Japan Friday, as this day marks the official 69th anniversary of Japan's defeat in World War II and Emperor Hirohito's unprecedented "Jewel Voice Broadcast" radio address to the nation all those years ago announcing Japan's surrender to the allies.
The surrender came on the heels of the United States dropping atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and Aug. 9 respectively 69 years ago. The severity of the actions at the time shocked Emperor Hirohito to the extent that he personally intervened in Japan's Imperial war machine and ordered the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War to agree to the terms the Allies had set down in the Potsdam Declaration for ending the war.
Despite an attempted coup d'etat, the surrender went ahead and the day will forever remain in history as a day of relief, regret and remorse; a day of reflection, guilt and grief for all parties involved in World War II.
Many Japanese, young and old, feel deep contrition for the brutal actions of the Imperial Forces in many Asian countries, which some scholars have likened to an "Asian Holocaust", due to the sheer numbers of those violated, brutalized and finally killed and the staggering number of war time crimes and atrocities committed by the forces against millions of civilians and prisoners of war.
But it's the responsibility of the government to lead the way in showing remorse and paving the way for a brighter future with the countries it once terrorized. Sadly, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems to have other ideas.
"It's a difficult time of year but it's also a time of honest reflection and introspection as nobody wants to see such a barbaric war like this ever again," author and political commentator Philip McNeil told Xinhua.
"But it's in Japan's leaders that we look to, to voice the sentiments of the nation, which are ones of regret, peace and progress in the future, and to apologize to those who suffered under the Imperial boot in the warring days," said McNeil.
"But sadly, as politics here becomes increasingly nationalistic, the government and hence the nation's voice has, in a very crude manner, this year begun to question some incontrovertible historical facts, which essentially renders Japan's apology for its wartime atrocities null and void," he said.
McNeil went on to say that since the 1950s, successive senior Japanese officials have made numerous apologies to account for the Imperial Forces' war crimes, with the apologies backed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
But some Prime Ministers like current leader Abe have prayed in an official capacity at the Yasukuni Shrine -- the living embodiment of Japanese militarism and a physical reminder of Japan 's wartime crimes and atrocities. The notorious war shrine honors 14 convicted Class A war criminals.
Abe on Friday permitted at least two of his ministers to visit the shrine this morning to pay homage, while he sent a ritual offering by way of an aide.
The move is marginally better than visiting a shrine that glorifies and praises those who committed heinous criminal acts during the war in person, but it will still likely upset and outrage countries that suffered at the hands of Japan's Imperial brutality during the Empire of Japan's occupation or annexation of countries like, but not limited to, China and South Korea.
Abe's continued association with Yasukuni, allowing his Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP) green lighting the whitewashing of Japanese textbooks to be used in schools to portray Japan in a positive light and gloss over war crimes, and his prior refusal to admit that sex slaves forcibly conscripted by Imperial Forces were coerced, must surely negate any words of apology he has to say on the Empire of Japan's callous actions during World War II on this historic day.
And sadly, the list goes on.
"Actions will always speak louder than words, and in the run-up to the anniversary of Japan's surrender this year, it would seem that Abe, perhaps in a bid to appease his aggressive nationalist support base, or perhaps in evidence of his own true nationalistic leanings, disparaged the 1993 Kono Statement," said McNeil.
"The Kono statement apologizes for all the suffering caused to comfort women by Japanese soldiers during the World War II, but Abe threatened to have the issue re-examined and the statements rewritten," he said.
Abe also threatened to issue a fresh statement marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II next year, to replace the benchmark Murayama statement, which has previously been adopted by all administrations as the Government of Japan's official apply on the issue of Japan's wartime aggression, he said.
"These are not the actions of a leader or an administration who feels true remorse. These are the actions of a group of individuals who collectively are looking to rewrite history," McNeil continued.
In fact, former Foreign Minister Yohei Kono, who wrote Japan's official apology for the use of wartime comfort women, not only said recently that his apology should be upheld, but also that he felt himself that the apology was insufficient.
The former senior member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, who also held posts as deputy prime minister, chief Cabinet secretary and president of the LDP, remarked in a recent editorial, "They are insufficient because the people who suffered and have extremely painful memories aren't saying they are sufficient."
"Japan has failed to atone sufficiently for its actions in World War II," Kono said.
Some authorities on the subject believe that Japan must do more to mend the error of its ways and try to gain the understanding of the countries it wronged and the millions it killed in Asia in the 1930s and 1940s.
Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University's Tokyo campus believes that Japan must simply keep on apologizing and stop being equivocal about it.
"Japan needs to keep apologizing, making gestures of contrition and seek a fuller understanding of its shared past with Asia. The apologies tend to be vague and lack specific references to atrocities and excesses, therefore not addressing the needs of the victims," Kingston was quoted as saying.