How War Museums and Memorial Sites in Japan Control the Memory of the Country’s Wartime Past
Memory and history are two concepts that are often used interchangeably. However, they are fundamentally different. Memory is subjective while history is objective. Memory is based on personal experiences while history is based on facts. Memory can be changed while history cannot.
Museums play an important role in shaping people’s memories and perceptions of history. They can easily be involved in controlling the memories and even “changing” history. This is particularly evident in the way war museums and memorial sites are designed and managed.
In this essay, I will discuss how war museums and memorial sites in Japan are used to control the memory of the country’s wartime past, particularly the memory of the Nanking Massacre and the Yasukuni Shrine. I will argue that these museums and memorial sites are not just about remembering the past, but also aboutfabricating a certain version of history that is convenient for the Japanese government and military.
2. Memory and History
As stated earlier, memory and history are two very different concepts. Memory is subjective while history is objective. Memory is based on personal experiences while history is based on facts. Memory can be changed while history cannot.
These differences can be seen in the way war museums and memorial sites are designed and managed. War museums are usually designed to remember the dead and to honor their sacrifice. However, they also often serve another purpose: to glorify war and to promote patriotism. Memorial sites, on the other hand, are usually designed to commemorate a particular event or victory. However, they can also be used to justify war and to promote nationalism.
3. The Nanking Massacre
The Nanking Massacre was a mass killing that took place during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). It is estimated that anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000 Chinese civilians were killed by the Japanese military in the city of Nanking (now known as Nanjing) over a six-week period from December 1937 to January 1938.
The Nanking Massacre is a controversial topic in Japan. While there is no denying that it took place, there is still much debate over how many people were actually killed and who was responsible for the killings. The Japanese government has never officially acknowledged or taken responsibility for the massacre.
There are several war museums and memorials dedicated to the Nanking Massacre in Japan. However, they all present a different version of events that downplays Japanese responsibility for the massacre. For example, one museum claims that the Japanese military was only responding to Chinese attacks, while another suggests that the massacred civilians were actually members of the Chinese military disguised as civilians.
These different versions of events are not based on facts or evidence. They are based on memory – specifically, the memory of those who were directly involved in the massacre or who witnessed it firsthand. These memories have been shaped by years of denial and revisionism by the Japanese government and military. As a result, they cannot be considered objective or reliable accounts of what actually happened.
4. The Yasukuni Shrine
The Yasukuni Shrine is a Shinto shrine located in Tokyo, Japan. It was established in 1869 to honor those who died fighting for Japan during its various wars, including the Meiji Restoration, the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), and World War II (1939-1945).
The shrine is a controversial site because it includes the names of 14 Class-A war criminals who were executed after World War II. These war criminals include generalHideki Tojo, who was Prime Minister of Japan during most of the war. The shrine also includes the names of 2.5 million Japanese soldiers who died during the war.
The Japanese government has long been criticized for its continued support of the Yasukuni Shrine. Every year, on August 15th, the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, the Prime Minister pays a visit to the shrine to offer a prayer for the dead. This act is seen as a way of honoring those who died fighting for Japan, but it is also seen as a way of justifying the country’s actions during the war.
In conclusion, war museums and memorial sites are not just about remembering the past. They are also aboutfabricating a certain version of history that is convenient for the Japanese government and military. The Nanking Massacre and the Yasukuni Shrine are two examples of this.
The Japanese government has long been involved in controlling the memory of its wartime past. It has done this by downplaying Japanese responsibility for atrocities like the Nanking Massacre and by glorifying sites like the Yasukuni Shrine. These actions are not just about remembering the past, but also about justifying Japan’s actions during the war and promoting nationalism.
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