Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Tuesday 3 July 2007

Admirable awareness of historical realities ...

... leads to the resignation of Japanese Defence Minister Fumio Kyuma. He dared to say that the dropping of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was 'inevitable' and [was] "something that couldn't be helped" because the US must have thought they "could prompt Japan's surrender, thus preventing the Soviet Union from declaring war against Japan". Interestingly I hadn't appreciated that last aspect of the matter, although it is a fact that the war did end within days of the second bomb being dropped - and I doubt very much that this would have happened otherwise. Mr Kyuma represents Nagasaki in Parliament.

This brings to mind a luncheon I attended with a colleague whilst on a business trip (from Hong Kong) to Japan. Whilst in Tokyo we were taken to lunch each day by one of our Japanese colleagues and one one occasion our most senior Japanese colleague took us to a Japanese version of what a 'typical' British restaurant might have been like 70 or 80 years ago - immaculate table-cloths, crystal glassware and silver cutlery and the kind of British cuisine and dishes that are rarely seen nowadays; mediocre is the word that springs to mind. However, completely authentic if my own earliest childhood is any kind of guide. We took it for what it was - a kind and thoughtful gesture in an endeavour to make us feel at home; our Japanese colleague was completely unabashed by his total reverence for everything British. However, that's not really the point of this little story. The Japanese colleague would then (mid-1980s) have been in his mid-50s, just as I am now. Toward the end of WWII he was only 15 or 16 years old, so too young to have taken part at the start of the war, but as things got worse toward the final denouement younger and younger people were being drafted into the military - in the case of my colleague he was being trained as a kami kaze pilot. His manner of delivery was dead-pan, partly the result of his excellent but very precise use of the English language no doubt: "Luckily I didn't have to go on my mission, because the war ended the day before I was due to fly. Unfortunately all my family lived in Hiroshima." - his words have been imprinted in my memory ever since. Neither I nor my (English) colleague knew quite how to respond to what we had just heard, but in truth I don't think there was much useful that we could have said - even with the benefit of 20 or so years of hingsight. The best I can come up with is that war is hateful and that some of the things that happen in a war are specially hateful, but unfortunately some of those hateful things are necessary.

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