Reconciling Historical Memories From My Grandfather's Past to a Shared U.S.-Japanese Future
Historical memories have been making a geopolitical comeback this year thanks to the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two that has been commemorated from Europe to Asia. August 6, 1945 the first atomic bomb in world history was dropped on Hiroshima and three days later on Nagasaki. However, August 15, 1945, the day that Japan accepted unconditional defeat, has come to be remembered as one of the most consequential, albeit controversial, days of historical memory.
Asian victims of Japanese imperialism and militarism, particularly Chinese and Koreans, have used their own historical memories of Japanese wartime actions to create nationalist narratives that inform the current generation's demand for apologies on this particular day every year. Previous statements of apology by Japanese Prime Ministers like Kono and Murayama have seemingly fallen short because of their socialist center-left credentials compared to conservative center-right nationalists, such as the current incumbent, who have traditionally simply restated impersonal apologies. Whether because of familial ties or personal beliefs, Prime Minister Abe seems to once again be following this tradition much to the chagrin of many Asians and friends of Japan. Overcoming the past is never easy particularly in the current context of East Asia. Yet the lessons from the U.S.-Japan experience teach us that by personalizing our own histories we can look towards a brighter future.