GUNMA, Feb 11 (News On Japan) - Across Japan, monuments and explanatory panels documenting the nation's "negative history" are being removed, one after another, amidst concentrated protests alleging that these installations are "anti-Japanese" or "nonsensical."
The mayor of Tenri City in Nara Prefecture shared the challenging position municipalities find themselves in, caught between conflicting historical perspectives. This situation has arisen in the context of a wider trend: for instance, a memorial in a Gunma prefecture park, dedicated to workers who died, including many mobilized from the Korean Peninsula during the war to alleviate labor shortages for Japan's war effort. The official count suggests at least 660,000 people were mobilized under these conditions. Gunma Prefecture faced accusations that the memorial was "anti-Japanese" and "fabricated," leading to its removal, a decision mirrored by other municipalities facing similar pressures.
One such case is in Tenri City, Nara Prefecture, where many Koreans were mobilized for the construction of an airfield before the war. An explanatory panel about Yanagimoto Airfield, installed by Tenri City and its Board of Education, was removed years ago, leaving only its supporting frame. The panel, now stored in a warehouse, contained testimonies indicating that Koreans were forcibly taken to work on the airfield construction.
In an interview with TBS, the mayor of Tenri City explained that the decision to remove the panel was made because of the difficulty in presenting an official view on such a contentious history. He mentioned the complexities in verifying the forced nature and details of such historical events from a municipal standpoint, emphasizing the need for thorough research by history experts. He hoped for understanding that war and colonial domination, where one nation suppresses another, represent the utmost human rights violations and must never be repeated. Yet, he acknowledged the challenge as firsthand witnesses dwindle, and opinions diverge among those who have only heard these stories second or third hand.
The pressure surrounding historical recognition and how to preserve and transmit the remnants of uncomfortable historical relationships remains a critical issue. There exists a tension between conservative groups and peace and human rights activists, each upholding their version of justice, leaving municipalities in a difficult position. The mayor expressed a sincere wish for direct dialogue and discussion, underscoring the importance of how we remember war and confront the negative legacy of history, a question that demands reflection from each individual.