Wednesday, July 23, 2014
From The Places They Have Seen We Might Know Who They Are
This morning Prime Minister Abe Shinzo paid a visit to the Tomioka Silk Works, Japan's first Western-style silk production facility, recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. He paid tribute to the citizens' groups which had cared for the site through its many decades of sleepy neglect and who spearheaded the drive to have the site designated a part of the world's heritage (Link). The prime minister also showed his appreciation for the women whose labors inside Tomioka and Japan's other giant silk mills produced the export yen that helped pay for the national strengthening policies of the Meiji Era.
Local community efforts, women working with the nation reaping benefits, international recognition - all great political messages to latch onto and integrate in the prime minister's Abenomics master narrative.(Link - J video)
However, in the "recognition for the previously under-recognized" travel league, the prime minister got trounced this week by their Imperial Majesties.
Yesterday the Emperor and the Empress finished a forty six year long project of national contrition and inclusiveness. They visited the Tohoku Shinseien, a former leprosarium, fulfilling a promise made in 1968 to visit all the former incarceration sites for sufferers of Hansen's Disease. (Link - J video)
Japan's leprosariums, where education and care was minimal, stayed in operation decades after other countries had ceased to isolate their Hansen's disease sufferers. It was not until 1996 that the draconian Leprosy Control Act was repealed. It took a 2001 unconstitutionality ruling by the Supreme Court (a rarity) to open the door for the Koizumi Cabinet to apologize for successive Japanese governments's violations of the patients's civil and human rights. (Link)
Their Highnesses's travel itineraries do not shirk revisiting the dark sides of the country's history. In May they visited the areas affected by Ashio Copper Poisoning Disaster, indicating that his Highness was not entirely displeased by House of Councillors member Yamamoto Taro's clumsy reinactment of the Tanaka Shozo Appeal last year -- and that their Highnesses are keeping their eyes on the government's fumbling at Fukushima Daiichi. In June their Highnesses paid their respects at the location of the wreck of the wartime evacuation ship Tsushima Maru, sunk by a U.S. submarine in August 1944 with loss of 1418 persons, most of them children. (Link - J)
It is hard not to love the Emperor and Empress for their efforts, at their advanced ages, to promote a full and complete reckoning of the nation's history.
Which suggests an intriguing idea. If Abe Shinzo's views of history make him unsuitable to meet or invite to China or South Korea, how about inviting their Imperial Majesties instead? By inviting them one proves that one's problems are with the policies of the Japanese government, not the Japanese people. One also gives oneself a wonderful chance to get off the merry-go-round of hatred and suspicion the region finds itself on.
Images courtesies: NHK News