Military policy shift worries Japanese
Tokuro Inokuma, a former Imperial Japanese Army soldier, gained his first taste of the horrors of war in 1945 when he scrambled to gather the scattered limbs of his fellow servicemen, blown apart by a US air raid in Japan. He was 16. One of a dwindling number of World War II veterans, Inokuma now finds troubling echoes in Tokyo’s policy shift away from the pacifist ideals adhered to after 1945.
“I find it quite dangerous. This is the path we once took,” said Inokuma, who fought in China soon after the deadly airstrike and survived two years in camps in the thenSoviet Union following Japan’s surrender.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took a major step by ending a ban last month that has kept the military from fighting abroad since 1945.
Inokuma, 85, said: “We have neither killed nor been killed (in battle) for almost 70 years. That’s unprecedented. It’s important we think hard about that.”
Critics of Abe’s move warn
91-year-old veteran who lost his right leg to a US incendiary bomb in 1945. that it could lead to a revival of militarism and pose a threat to Japan’s East Asian neighbors.
Teru Hisato, a 91-year-old veteran who lost his right leg to a US incendiary bomb in 1945 when he was guarding military supplies at a railway station in northern Japan, doubts that the policy shift makes Japan safer.
“If you raise your fist in response to your opponent’s fist-lifting, that only leads to a fight,” he said.
Hisato also wants Abe to refrain from visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Class-A war criminals.
In December, Abe visited the shrine, where Japanese leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal are honored along with war dead.
Japanese leaders’ visits to the shrine anger China and South Korea, where memories of Japan’s past militarism run deep.
Hisato said, “I believe he does not need to visit Yasukuni at the price of ties with China and South Korea, if he hopes for safety and peace of mind of the Japanese people.”
Ichimatsu Shimura, 93, who fought the Allies and experienced malnutrition and bloodsucking leeches on a long retreat through the jungles in Burma — now Myanmar — agrees that Abe should not visit the shrine again.
“With the current diplomatic situation, it would be better if he did not go. Going there will only harm Japan’s diplomacy,” Shimura said.
Abe is expected to send an offering to the shrine on Friday, the anniversary of Japan’s surrender, but not to visit it.
Tokuro Inokuma, a former Japanese Imperial Amy soldier, with a photograph of himself taken in 1944.