The National War Museum
I forgot to mention in my last letter what I did on April 25th. Being overseas and away from home makes you very aware of your nationality and the patriotism that you truly believe doesn't lie within your heart begins to make it's presence known. I decided that because I couldn't get to anything that was going to be remotely like an ANZAC parade, I decided to visit the Japanese War Museum. This is something that I really thought of doing when I discovered it upon the first adventure out in Tokyo all those weeks ago when we did the Fish Markets. The museum included a is laid out over two levels and you work your way around in a downward spiral, starting at the exhibits commemorating the ancient battles and warlords of the shoguns (rulers who took power from the Japanese Imperial Family) and various individual factions that ruled areas around Japan. The rulers must have had to rule with iron fists as continual feudal battles occurred to take possession of properties. Even though there were a few shoguns who did manage to unite Japan and effectively rule over the entire population, there were always successions to deal with and new challenges to authority. Much like European history, the bloodthirstiness of the lords must have been a necessary trait to possess.
From this noble rich history you begin to move more into the more recent history of the Japanese. And this is where it got really quite interesting. Having studied WWII in depth during school and having debates a plenty with my sister regarding facts and information, there is a healthy interest in the tigger for this period of history and Australia's role within it. I felt like I was back in Miss Watmore's history class at Dubbo South High. The displays documented the expansion of Japanese interests in the international arena, taking in China, Mongolia and of course Sth East Asia. The Russo-Japanese War was covered well and I found this really interesting to get all my old historical perspectives back in order. It was when we moved on to the WWII section and also the post WWI era that I began to see how things were being presented.
Looking at the facts and looking at the way the Museum had worded certain aspects of the historical information was a real eye opener. I am so happy to have had a teacher like Miss Watmore who encouraged us to read between, above, below and around all the lines of any historical text! On this note of 'wording', the historical references to the Russo-Japanese War and associated battles in Mongolia and upper China, were all referred to as 'conflicts'. They even go so far as to state that war was never officially declared on their behalf! INTERESTING. In regards to the WWII section, basically the Museum pursues the angle that Japan were forced into the war from US and Western trade policies that were holding resource poor Japan ransom from developing as an industrial power. All through the references are "forced into war", "forced to pursue aggressive policies". It was really interesting. There was very little mention of the Sth East Asian policies and really how aggressive the Japanese were in conquering those countries that were so important and rich in vital resources for Japan. This combined with the withdrawl of Japan from the League of Nations and effectively isolating themselves from the rest of the global community seems to paint a picture of the Japanese combating the influences and evils of non japanese countries - ie a threat! Interesting to note this was 'isolation' factor was a trend of the Japanese pre 1890 as they chose to keep their borders closed to any foreign involvement or trade before the Meiji restoration!
There was hardly any mention of Australia or the Australian troops that were combating the Japanese. Perhaps because of the notorious nature of the Japanese occupation and treatment of Australian POW's during the Sth East Campaign. The focus was very much on US involvement and the battle between Japan and the US trade and foreign policy. The best thing was that even though there was a little bit of selective editing to scripts, it was interesting to see how the museum justified the war for the Japanese. There was this emboldened noble vision of doing what was deemed necessary for the nation and the costs associated with that were merely part of the deal. And I guess in a way, they are right. It was war. War is awful and no-one plays by the rules (just look at Abu Ghraib). So I had my few little moments of reflection on April 25th, even though it was in the "other" camp. Really interesting experience and am really pleased to have done it.