Unremarkable at first glance, this is a photo of a Japanese colleague who serves in the charity org we’re connected with in China. She’s placing flowers at the memorial to Eric Liddell (the “Chariots of Fire” guy) in the Japanese internment camp where he died during the brutal Japanese invasion of China during WWII.
Of the Japanese I’ve met in China, it’s been the three Japanese Christians (two more plus the one pictured, all serving in the same NGO) who’ve gone out of their ways to personally and symbolically apologize for the actions of their country during WWII. On another occasion, an older Japanese couple hosted a special dinner for their Chinese colleagues and language teachers at which they personally and formally apologized on behalf of their nation.
Has anyone else seen or heard of individual Japanese making apologetic gestures in China? I assume it’s not just Japanese Christians who do this (though with the three I’ve mentioned, their Christianity has a lot to do with it). But I’m also assuming that these kinds of apologies are exceptional, since, as at least one scholar points out, “in Japan thereâ€™s almost a dramatic lack of any sense of responsibility.”
I’d love to know more about the dynamics of apology and forgiveness in honour-oriented, Confucian-heritage cultures like China and Japan. I’m also curious about the ways Mainlanders are likely to perceive these types of gestures.
And I wonder: Should Europeans and Americans do the same for the Opium Wars?
More on Eric Liddell and the Japanese invasion:
- Why they hate the Japanese
- Eric Liddell: McSaint (biography review)
- Marriage market, Eric Liddell, weekend slogan (finding Liddell’s former residence in Tianjin)
- Spitting is good for something! (interesting anecdote from Liddell’s Japanese internment camp)
P.S. – For some info about official Japanese acknowledgment of WWII atrocities in China, see this comment.