Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Monday, May 29, 2006

Remembering the Fallen

It's Memorial Day in the U.S. today.

Here in Japan, whenever PM Koizumi or anyone else in the government tries to honor those that have paid the ultimate price in the service of their country, both Koreas and China immediately go ballistic and set diplomacy back several notches for a period of several months. Of course, it doesn't help that the Shinto shrine dedicated to the nation's war dead, Yasukuni Shrine, not only enshrines class A war criminals but officially (and quite vocally) supports both Imperial Japan's brutal colonialism and the Pacific War as both "noble" and "sacred" endeavors. Yes, I can understand how China and the Koreas would have a problem with that.

Even so, I still can't help feeling that honoring those who have died in the service of their country is both a matter of course and a natural right of any sovereign nation. It doesn't matter who was giving the orders or whether the war was justified or not. These were all men and women who were called upon to leave their homes and families and serve their people. Therefore, their people should honor their memory. Cultures that were brutalized by Imperial Japan should remember what happened and should be angry, but they shouldn't try to interfere with this most basic right.

After all, many people consider the Vietnam War a terrible, atrocity-laden mistake, yet we don't forget the Americans who lost their lives in that conflict. I certainly hope we won't ever forget those who have died (or may yet die) in our latest costly error endeavor. Whatever the leaders at the time may have been thinking, those soldiers still died for us, so we must remember them.

With that in mind, I've decided to make my contribution by offering a poem in the traditional Japanese tanka (32-syllable) style:

Wareware no michi wo     我々の道を
Mamotte ita tsutsuji   守っていた躑躅
Ima kurai ha dake     今暗い葉だけ
Hana mada mieru      花まだ見える

The tsutsuji (Japanese azalea) that guarded our path,
Now only darkened leaves,
I can still see the flowers.

I hope we remember to see them again every year.
Happy Memorial Day, everyone!


  • "...honoring those who have died in the service of their country is both a matter of course and a natural right of any sovereign nation."

    I totally agree with you on the above.

    The poem - such a sweet gesture.

    Happy Memorial Day.

    By Blogger Happysurfer, at 4:35 PM  

  • Yep agreed..every soldier must be remembered no matter what side he/she is on..may they all rest in peace :)

    By Blogger saba, at 8:26 PM  

  • Sometime someone's "basic right" it's someone else's pain. And it's not about that shrine, if everyone could understand. We failed and learnt. We die forgetting.

    But I think the past is past, what matters most is now and future. Our future :p

    By Blogger @ロウ 。LOW@, at 10:40 PM  

  • I like your poem, thank you.

    I totally disagree about Koizumi's visits to Yasakuni Shrine, which I think are an outrage on many levels. I won't elaborate here, but will do so in a future post on my blog.

    I my view, we should reflect on the loss of service people in war to remind ourselves of the waste it represents and to motivate us to help reconcile the past and find a peaceful way to resolve conflicts in the future.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 9:46 AM  

  • I never see things the way you do. Thanks for the insightful entry on how we can see things from the other side.

    By Blogger Kurakat, at 9:37 PM  

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