Do neocons in Japan pose threat to peace? Question the culture

By Joe Hhung

Sixty-nine years ago from last Friday, I heard Emperor Hirohito’s gyokuon hoso (玉音放送), or broadcast, in jade voice. He started to tell all his subjects “Despite the best that has been done by everyone …” which I understood, and continued to drone on for quite some time. There were only a handful of people in Taiwan who heard the broadcast, although there had been a notice on it on the previous day. Few, if any, listeners knew their emperor was telling them in fact Japan accepted unconditional surrender to end what was known as the Great East Asian War (大東亞戰爭), which began with Japan’s sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 8, 1941. Well, most of the Japanese subjects, including those in Taiwan and Korea, who heard Hirohito’s broadcast, have died. Gone with them is the haunting memory of the war and gnawing wartime misery. These people were deadly opposed to any more war for whatever purposes. They hated war, but their sons and daughters born long after the war have no such memory. It has paved the ground for the rise of neo-conservatism in Japan,

Neo-conservatism is also known as the neo-defense school that refers to a hawkish new generation of Japanese conservatives, of whom Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is the most prominent one. Others include Mayor of Osaka Toru Hashimoto, Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba of the Liberal Democratic Party who may succeed Abe, and such luminaries as former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi who was born during the war years but has never tasted the war misery and former Governor of Tokyo Shintaro Ishihara, who was one year my junior in school. I don’t think Ishihara heard Hirohito’s broadcast in jade voice. Japan’s neo-conservatives are different from older Japanese conservatives in that they take a more “active” view of the Japanese self-defense forces and are known for making what would be considered in the West “politically incorrect” statements, for which Ishihara is particularly well-known.

Despite this, or perhaps because of it, they enjoy fair popularity across the nation, especially with the middle-aged postwar population. As members of the postwar generation themselves, they view themselves as free of responsibility or guilt for Japan’s war crimes. They view China as a country that harbors historical grievances for political gain, rather than accepting Japan’s apologies. They express strong patriotic pride and stress Japan’s international role. They support changing the Japanese constitution, especially Article 9 which is viewed as obsolete, so as to make progress toward “normalizing” Japan’s status in the world like the one in the 1920s. As a matter of fact, it’s the last wish of Abe’s maternal grandfather, Nobusuke Kish, the prime minister who made the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty the anchor of Japan’s foreign policy. Abe, whose mentor is Koizumi, wants Japan to re-arm to the level of most other countries.