Toward Peace: War Responsibility, Postwar Compensation, and Peace Movements and Education in Japan
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Japan will memorialize the sixtieth anniversary of the end of World War II on August 15, 2005.  Many bereaved families have already performed the last Buddhist memorial service at the sixtieth year after their death.  The wartime generations are seniors and are dying.  Many grandparents are too young to remember the war in details.  The Asia-Pacific War is becoming a history that is mentioned by documents such as books, documentaries, and pictures, not by experienced persons.

Japan completed war reparation with all related countries except for North Korea (and Taiwan) through the SF Peace Treaty, reparation agreements and joint declarations.  Especially from the 1990s, many foreign war victims, such as former Korean/Taiwanese soldiers, Korean/Chinese “forced” laborers, foreign atomic bomb victims, and comfort women have brought lawsuits to request the Japanese government and/or Japanese companies to apologize and compensate them individually.  The courts usually dismissed the cases and ruled that the compensation matters for individual victims should be decided by the legislature, not the court, though many courts recognized the sufferings and damages of plaintiffs.  The Japanese government took legal measures to compensate for former comfort women, former Japanese soldiers and army/naval civilian employees of Koreans or Taiwanese living in Japan, as well as atomic bomb victims living in foreign countries. 

Japan has taken a lead of peace movements as a peace-loving country after the war, keeping the Peace Constitution, and the “Three Non-Nuclear Principles” from 1971, as well as promoting international disarmament for peace through less than one percent defense expenditure of GDP from 1974 (in most of time), and the enforcement of the CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty) in the UN from 1994.

Japan has been very sensitive about the development of the Self-Defense Forces.  In 1992, for the first time, the SDF participated in Peacekeeping Operations.  The majority of Japanese people has approved with the participation of the SDF in the peacekeeping operations.  In 2004, Japan dispatched 520 Japanese ground troops to Iraq, for the first time without affiliation with the United Nations or the approval of the host country, in order to provide humanitarian assistance in the relatively safe areas of southern Iraq, without using forces.

Furthermore, Japan has enforced peace education to teach the cruelty of the war through the tragedy of Japanese war victims from atomic bombs and air bombs from “victim consciousness” (higaisha ishiki), as well as to teach the war responsibility and war crimes of Japan from the “victimizer’s” (kagaisha) viewpoint.  It is very important for Japan to take war responsibility for the casualties caused by the Asia-Pacific War sincerely and to learn and teach the war experiences and peace makings in order not to repeat the casualties.  Allocating more time on the modern history in the history education will help children to better understand the war and peace as well as the war responsibility of Japan toward the Asia-Pacific War.

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