Since moving to the United States from Japan in 1975, I have invested 32 years in sharing Shintaido - a martial art of love and peace that develops each individual’s hidden potential. My “selling points” included my own experience of growing up in Hiroshima immediately after Japan’s defeat in the Second World War, and surviving the poverty, suffering and physical and social destruction of the postwar years.
Before the trip to the conference at Nanjing, I studied the atrocities by the Japanese Imperial armed forces in China during the Second World War, and the suffering of the Chinese people (both the survivors and their descendents). I thought I had a pretty good understanding of just how terrible it had been. And, knowing what Japanese people had done there in the past, I expected that the Japanese participants at the Nanjing Conference might have a cold reception. (But actually we were welcomed warmly by the Chinese participants.)
At the conference, I heard the stories of Chinese survivors and saw research by Chinese scholars, and I realized how superficial my understanding had been. The Japanese soldiers massacred Chinese soldiers who had surrendered. After the fighting was over, they killed unarmed civilians, raped and enslaved women and girls, and stole food, utensils, and clothing while the military authorities did nothing to intervene. I realized that these were despicable acts of cowardice.
I feel that many Chinese people believe that Japanese today are still cowards who deny what happened in China. I think this is not a new coat of shame, but a new coat of cowardice. And while I was there, I realized that these feelings are shared under the surface even by those Chinese who are pro-Japanese.