During World War 2, some 50 million casualties worldwide were caused by the Nazi Germany, among which were six million Jews who died in Auschwitz and other concentration camps. For this, the West has been stigmatizing Swastika and Nazi salute as symbols of Nazi war crimes.
Germans in particular maintain watchful eyes over public use of Swastika and other nationalistic tendencies as they worry reemergence of a militaristic or a totalitarian regime. As such, Germans are regretful of their past war crimes and their chancellors have offered apologetic remarks to the neighboring victims.
Turn the globe over to Japan, one of the allies of Nazi Germany during World War 2, who also caused 50 million casualties in the Asia Pacific. What have they done for their war crimes? Are they regretful of their past? Are they offering any apology before history?
1. What is a rising sun flag?
A rising sun flag is the military flag and ensign used primarily by the military forces of Imperial Japan and Japan's Self Defense Forces. It illustrates red sun rays that emanate from the red circle in the middle, which symbolizes the rising sun, as shared in the Japanese flag.
In 1870 during the Meiji period, rising-sun flag with sixteen rays was first adopted as the flag of the Imperial Japanese Army. A similar design was adopted in 1889 as the ensign of the Imperial Japanese Navy, which soon allowed the entire Japanese military to use the rising-sun flag as the emblem. Subsequently, as eight-rayed version was adopted by the Japanese flagship, the rising-sun flag became
the symbol of the Japanese military.
The rising-sun flag has been the symbol of Japan's militaristic imperialism, and still serves to be the symbol of Japanese Self-Defense Forces. However, there are recent phenomena to utilize the symbol in fashion or in international sporting events although it is considered extremely offensive in countries of former Japanese imperialism as it reminds Japan's former war crimes.
2. Japan's War Crime
Before the eventual fall in 1945, the occupied territories of Japanese empire boasted its enormity and the victims of the war were innumerable. Horrors of Japanese fascism extended all over the Asia-pacific region, including China, Korea, the Philippines, Indochina, Indonesia and Australia. Remnants and records of Japanese war crimes and atrocities still remain to this day. This, however, is widely
received in Japan as a source of pride, not shame.
Civilians slain by the Japanese soldiers
Japanese bayonet practice with dead Chinese near Tianjin
In Korea alone, total of 6,126,180 civilians were conscripted and mobilized into forced labor camps according to the 1947 document by Japan's Treasury Department titled "Historical data for overseas activities of the Japanese civilians". The number accounted for 20% of the entire Korean population.
Koreans who were conscripted into labor concentration camps within Korean peninsula were rather the lucky ones. Approximately 1.5 million were conscripted to Sakhalin Island and forced into mining; some even to near-equator regions such as the Samoan Islands.
In response to the Great Kanto Earthquakes of 1923 and the subsequent social instabilities, Japanese government spread disinformation that the Koreans had poisoned the drinking wells in Japan. As a result, angry crowds of Japanese civilians immediately took actions by killing off Koreans indiscriminately with bamboo spears.
During the Japanese occupation, Korean liberation army remained active in Manchuria for its geographical proximity to the Korean peninsula. However, their efforts were put under the test in part by the Japanese military and in another the Manchurian warlords who cooperated with the Japanese. Not only were the summary executions of the Korean soldiers common upon arrests, but also civilians were slaughtered as retaliation. An example
of this was documented
in 1920, where Japan burned some 2500 residential houses and 30 schools, while massacring 10,000 civilians in the region.
Nanking Massacre is a famous case for Japan's war crime in China which involved killing of approximately 300,000 people during Japanese advance into Nanjing and approximately 42,000 after the seizure. The massacre took place in forms of rape and kill for women; live burial and burning were also common.
The violence of Nanking did not only target the Chinese. Residences of diplomats of the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany, as well as American hospitals, schools and churches were looted for helping Chinese refugees.
Execution of an American POW, a clear violation of the Geneva Convention for humane treatment of POWs
For women of the occupied territories, the horrors of Japan's fascism came in forms of sexual slavery. These sex slaves, better known as comfort women, were young women of the occupied territories such as Korea, China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia who were lured with promises of works in factories and other workplaces. However, Japan is still reluctant to regret and apologize for its crime.
The following are excerpts from an article regarding comfort women.
"The Department of the Army of the Japanese empire installs and executes the military-run comfort stations throughout army bases with objectives in preventing STIs, maintaining public order and providing sexual comfort for soldiers in response to the rising anti-Japanese sentiment after the frequent rape cases during the Nanking Massacre of 1937."
"The total number of comfort women is estimated as high as 400,000. Among them, a few were Japanese prostitutes, some were Chinese, Filipinos and Dutch people of the occupied territories and the rest were 200,000 Koreans who were unwillingly conscripted."
"Most of the conscripted Koreans were from the unfortunate backgrounds of extreme poverty and were recruited by deception or abduction."
"Sex slaves were stripped of rights of having day-offs and contract revocation. They suffered from 20 to 30 unwanted intercourses per day and were exposed into physical and mental violence, as well as unwanted pregnancies."
"After the war, these sex slaves were either left to die at the abandoned comfort stations (i.e. military brothels of WW2 era Japan) or were mass slaughtered. For an example, shortly after the American mass air-raid of the Chuuk Island, located in the South Pacific, the Japanese military stationed in the island decided to slaughter these women as they were thought as the national disgrace. The slaughter took place by machine-gunning
former slaves at the bomb shelter. In China, injured comfort women during the retreat were stabbed to death by the Japanese soldiers. Ones who were left behind at these comfort stations had to suffer from rape by the locals, death by starvation, or internment camps."
"As of 2001, 192 living Korean women are listed as the victims of Japanese sexual slavery by the Korean government. Among them, 6.2% witnessed the mass slaughter, 22.4% the concentration camp, 9.9% the death threat from the locals, 16.1% the near-death by starvation, and 3.6% the near-rape crisis by the soldiers of the countries that took over the former Japanese territories."
Unit 731 was another aspect of Japan's war crime. It was established in Harbin, China as a covert biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction research and development unit of Imperial Japan.
Live human specimen were often used in Unit 731 for torturous experiments to develop pathological weapons. These experiments included injecting pathogens into live human body, vivisection without anesthesia, and extreme temperature survival tests. Nearly 3000 victims lost their lives in these procedures.
Rising sun flag served as the sole emblem of Japan's crimes against humanity during the war time. However, Japan still uses the symbol enthusiastically and boastfully as the symbol of Japanese Self-Defense Forces and as a cultural item. Use of the war emblem in such manners is an offense to the modern global community and
an aggression towards the humanity as a whole.
The last picture depicts the entirety of Japan's war crimes.
3. Nazi salutes and Neo-Nazi banner fined at sporting events
The UEFA fined the German football association as German supporters caused concerns at the Euro 2012 by Hitler saluting. In Europe, any public display that relates to the war crimes of Nazi Germany, including Swastika, is a subject of sanction.
"UEFA, European football's governing body, fined the German football association €25,000 ($31,000) for the behavior of its fans during a Euro 2012 match against Denmark in Lviv, Ukraine, on June 17."
German Football Association was also fined for displaying offensive banner containing Neo-Nazi symbols.
In Europe, any action, speech or display that reminds them of Nazism or extreme nationalism is viewed as highly concerning. This include swastika, Hitler salute, or any speech that glorify the World War 2 era crimes.
4. Banning of the flag at the Beijing Olympics
As Europe sanctions any Nazi-related public display such as Swastika or Nazi salutes, Asian countries take strong concerns at public display of any symbol that reminds of Japan's imperialism such as rising-sun flag. As an example, Japanese supporters were warned by the Olympics committee for waving rising-sun flags at a football match during the Beijing Olympics. Beijing clearly stated that "flags and banners of a political,
religious nature are banned at Olympic venues", affirming the inappropriate nature of the flag with the racial and political undertones.
Rising-sun flag is as offensive to the Asian countries as Swastika is to the Jews. However, such symbol is still being widely distributed and used in sporting events as cheering tools and national team uniforms, as fashion icons, and even in children's animations.
5. Rising-sun flag at sporting events
In the West, symbols or banners that relate back to Nazi Germany are subjects of concerns and sanctions. However, Japan's use of this symbol of the past war crime as a tool of support their athletes in sporting events is a common practice even after the waning from the Beijing Olympics, even in countries that suffered during the period of imperialistic fascism. This is comparable to hoisting and waving Swastika in
events in Europe.
As issues around the use of rising-sun flag in sporting events became prominent in the international community, Japanese football association (JFA) prohibited the flag at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup events.
JFA's decision, however, was overturned the next day by the protests of the Japanese supporters. This incident well reflects the general perception of this symbol of the past war crimes.
6. Rising-sun flag in sport uniforms and fashion designs
For the national gymnastics uniforms at the London Olympics, Japan selected the design that emblazoned the rising-sun flag.
Asahi Press of Japan reported the use of the rising-sun flag as the design component of the uniform.
Japan ended up donating the uniform to the Olympic museum in Switzerland for display. The following is an excerpt from the article regarding donating the uniform.
"Kohei Uchimura (Konami), who won the gold medal at the Man's Individual All-around Gymastics-Artistics event, donated his uniform to the Olympics museum in Lausanne, Switzerland as requested by the IOC."
Rising-sun emblem is emblazoned in many fashion items as well. As celebrities using fasion items emblazoning the symbol, the use of the symbol in the public eyes has become a norm.
7. Rising-sun flag in animations
Rising sun flag is also used in in children's animations. While it may be aesthetically pleasing, prolonged exposure to this controversial emblem at young ages can numb down children's conception of Japan's war crimes committed under this banner.