Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Historic Apology

video

On May 30, 2009, Japan's ambassador to the U.S., Ichiro Fujisaki delivered a historic apology to the former POWs of Japan, their families, and friends. [If the video above does not work, go HERE.]

Like the apology by the President of Toyota to Congress it can not be found in Japanese on any official website. More interesting, it cannot be found on Ambassador Fujisaki's Embassy's website or on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' website.

Nor did the Ambassador mention the apology in his new year's message as one of the three "firsts" in Japan-U.S. relations in 2009. In fact, no newsletter or publication of the Japanese Embassy noted that Ambassador Fujisaki traveled to San Antonio, Texas to address the last convention of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor (ADBC).

No where in Japan was it reported that Ambassador received a standing ovation. Only a few refused to stand.

The Ambassador, speaking for the Government of Japan, expanded upon the apology he wrote to the last Commander of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Dr. Lester Tenney in December 2008:
Accepting with a spirit of humility the facts of history that Japan through its colonial rule and aggression caused tremendous damage and suffering including those who have undergone tragic experiences in the Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor Island in the Philippines.
He altered the above to read to the ADBC Convention:
We extend a heartfelt apology for our country having caused tremendous damage and suffering to many people including POWs , those who have undergone tragic experiences in the Bataan peninsula the Corregidor Island, Philippines and other places.
Thus, this apology is inclusive of all POWs wherever captured or from any country. And it echoes the official, formal apology for the POWs given by the Cabinet to Upper House member Yukihisa Fujita. In many respects it cements that significant apology. That the apology given to Senator Fujita was a Cabinet Decision, a kakugi kettei, the definition of official governmental statements:

Accepting with a spirit of humility the facts of history that Japan through its colonial rule and aggression caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of former Allied nations and other nations including former POWs.
This statement mirrors the 1995 Murayama apology for the Pacific War. MOFA has decided that it is fungible.

What is unknown is how the Ambassador translated the English word "apology" in Japanese. In the Murayama Statement, the word used is merely owabi. Interestingly, Ambassador Togo in an op ed for the Mainichi translates it to the stronger shazai.

Here, it is important to note that Ambassador Fujisaki carefully used the personal pronoun "I" to signal a shift from his official statement to his personal feelings when he said,

I would like to express my deepest condolences to those who have lose their lives to the war and after the war and their family members.
ABC News, below, reports incorrectly that this was a Japanese government apology and expression of sympathy. It was not. It was the Ambassador's personal feelings. Although these fine points are lost on the Americans, they are not to the Japanese, especially to Japan's very vocal conservative nationalists and Rightists.

In some respects, the American press has overstated what Ambassador did. He has not apologized for the Bataan Death March or for the war. He is merely expressing regret for the horrors and inhumanity inflicted upon the people who were put in their care.

Nevertheless, what the Ambassador did was profoundly significant and opened the door for more words and acts of contrition. Each time the apologies will become easier and the discussion that surrounds them will become more searching. All this is a good thing.

Now, the U.S. government needs to make clear to Japan that it is important to create a permanent Peace and Remembrance Fund for research and exchange to better understand the war and Japan's relationship with the U.S.

For an apology to be meaningful, it is necessary to put deeds to words. Thus, it is necessary to not merely include the few remaining American POWs in the 1995 Peace Friendship and Exchange Initiative. Widows, wives, children, grandchildren, archivists and scholars need to participate. The records of the POWs buried in the basements of Japanese government ministries and corporations need to be released. And the Japanese corporations that purchased the POWs from the Imperial Japan's army and navy need to apologize.

A temporary, selective invitation program created long after any of the POWs could physically ever endure returning to Japan is cynical, at best. It is indeed time for Japan to move forward honestly.

This article gives a sense of what it was like to be in the Convention Room when the Ambassador spoke. Below is another article on the apology. The Nikkei reported the Ambassador's remarks here.

As noted no where is a transcript of the Ambassador of Japan Ichiro Fujisaki's apology to the POWs of Japan given on May 30, 2008 in San Antonio, Texas to the last convention of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor.

Here is my intern's transcription of his remarks taken off a video above produced by the San Antonio Express:
Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you very much. I am very grateful, for the very kind invitation I have received. It is a great honor to participate in your final convention.
[Cut]
Today, I would like to convey to you the position of the government of Japan on this issue. As former Prime Ministers of Japan have repeatedly stated, the Japanese people should bear in mind that we must look into the past and to learn from the lessons of history. We extend a heartfelt apology for our country having caused tremendous damage and suffering to many people, including prisoners of wars, those who have undergone tragic experiences in the Bataan Peninsula, Corregidor Island, in the Philippines, and other places.
Ladies and gentlemen, taking this opportunity, I would like to express my deepest condolences to all those who have lost their lives in the war, and after the war, and their family members. As for the Peace Program, as such Dr. Tenney referred, I have told him that I cannot make a definite statement at this junction, if we can expand this program. However, I can convey to you that relevant bureau in the government of Japan is working seriously and sincerely on this matter.
[Cut]
Today, Japan and United States are the closest friends, best allies. But, we should always keep in our mind that this good relations is based on our past experiences and efforts. Ladies and gentlemen, we are committed to carry on the torch of our future gen-to our future generations of this excellent and irreplaceable friendship and relations. I thank you very much for this occasion.
Here is one of only two TV broadcasts in Japan that reported on the apology. It was produced by MBS and only broadcast to the Kansai region. The clip also only shows the Ambassador's personal condolences on the many deaths, and not the formal apology.

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