So, in my Japanese Literature class today we talked about the comfort women in Japan and watched a trailer for the movie Spirits’ Homecoming. (I would recommend watching the movie if you are interested in the topic as I watched it last term while abroad in Japan) We also discussed Unit 731 (where inhumane biological human testing is rumored to have occurred in Japan during WW2.) I knew from the past that Japanese history classes tend to leave out atrocities that occur. Going into depth on this topic made me remember our class and how historians will distort or omit facts and items from history. But learning how far in depth the Japanese government goes to cover up these war crimes made me realize there’s so much effecting a historians judgment on what to write. Not only are they catering to publishers and a target audience, in some cases, they are constrained to what the government wants to show its citizens.
It made me rethink everything that we have read so far and try to see where the government might have hidden information about Western Expansion or tried to brush over a crime as nothing important. One of the first that came to mind was none other than Native Americans and the way they were rounded up and put into reservations. Ultimately, since so much of Native American history is by word of mouth or pictures and not necessarily exact words, it would be easy for the US government to hide crimes committed by the army pushing them into reservations. Yet in comparing and contrasting the history between Japan and the US I can see that in areas where the US government would have tried to cover up things, they have now owned up to it.
An important factor in considering why the government would do such a thing is most likely just image. It is definitely a reason why current Japanese Politicians don’t want to acknowledge comfort women or the Unit 731. Their WW2 history is an atrocity that would make them look bad amongst just their citizens, let alone the world. But this brings me to a question: What is better? Owning up to trying to erase history (and Native people) that makes a country look bad or refusing to acknowledge the history that the rest of the world knows is true for the country’s image within its borders?