Thursday, August 15, 2013

Japan prime minister Shinzo Abe ignores the atrocities Imperial troops committed in Asia 
by the war criminals enshrined at the Yasukuni Shrine 靖国神社

68th Commemoration today of the defeat of Japan who surrendered to the World War 2 Allied Powers on 15 August 1945 with the "surrender documents" finally signed aboard the deck of the American battleship USS Missouri 2nd September 1945, ending the war in front of Douglas MacArthur, Commander in the Southwest Pacific and Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers and of, among other Allied generals, the Général d'Armée Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque for France.

Today's ceremony, in presence of the Emperor and the Empress, was set at the Nippon Budokan, in front of 6,000 people but Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe inflamed China and Korea for sending earlier a ritual offering to the neighbouring Yasukuni Shrine 靖国神社 while his ministers and lawmakers paid their respects in persons to the shrine.

Today, in his official speech in front of the Imperial couple and the crowds, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe broke with two decades of tradition by omitting any expression of remorse over Japan’s past aggression in Asia on the anniversary of Japan 1945 surrender.

This Shinto shrine is dedicated to the nation's 2.5 million war dead, including about 1,000 convicted war criminals. In Asia, and overseas in the west, it is seen as a symbol of Japan's past militarism. Japan’s former colonies of Imperial Japan find such repeated offering, since 1985, offensive because war criminals are enshrined at the Yasukuni. Questioned is the sincerity of Japan Prime Minister Abe in his quest to improve ties between China and Japan. Imagine German Chancellor Angela Merkel paying homage to Hitler and Nazi convicted war criminals in Berlin in front of the Reichstag...

During the ceremonies at Nippon Budokan thousands of Japanese visited the Yasukuni shrine. From what I could see, Japanese visiting the Yasukuni belong to all generations, from young to aged ones, their ranks growing years after years, to the point of filling the whole avenue from the first Tori to the shrine entrance. Less uniformed disguised nostalgics but a more vivid civilian presence, showing that Abe's nationalist message finds strong echo into the minds of the Japanese middle class. This is extremely significant and requires to be thoroughly watched for the future. Needless to say that I visited the Budokan and the Yasukuni shrine regularly in the last decade and see how its nationalistic popularity rises high in the sun of the archipelago.

The centre-left Asahi Shimbun writes today that Abe "broke ranks from his predecessors by making no mention of the damage inflicted by Japan on Asian nations in his August 15 speech commemorating those killed in World War II. Abe’s speech focused on the Japanese who died in the war. And his mention of other countries came only when he described how Japan helped them after the war ended. Abe also did not express any promise that Japan would never again enter into war, a pledge that had been the norm in previous speeches, even when Abe first served as prime minister… No parents of the war dead were among those scheduled to attend, marking the third straight year that has happened. Only 16 widows planned to attend, representing a record-low 0.3 percent of all participants. In his speech, Abe said, "I pray that there is peace for the spirits of the war dead, and that bereaved family members can remain in good health… One Abe's adviser said about the speech, "It reflects his intention that the ceremony should be about the war dead." Ignoring millions of war victims of Japanese Imperial armies memories.

In the Tokyo Yasukuni, among those honoured are 14 World War Two leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as "Class A" war criminals, including prime minister Hideki Tojo. Seven of these were executed by hanging. The Class A criminals were listed as gods at Yasukuni in a secret ceremony in 1978. A museum in the shrine's grounds depicts the Pacific war as one Japan was forced to fight in self-defence. It has been criticised for ignoring the atrocities Imperial troops committed in Asia.

Near by the streets surrounding the Yasukuni shrine, violent right wing extremists in paramilitary uniforms tried to break the walls of protection enforced at several crossroads by the police dressed with anti riots battledress. Here in Jimbocho, near the Yasukuni dori-road, I witnessed a succession of physical assaults by the right-wingers who screamed in loudspeakers during several hours insulting the police for their "being of no use, for not acting as Japanese in blocking the paramilitary, and in using taxpayers' money."

Nationalists Japanese lawmakers say their visits are intended not to glorify war but to honour the war dead and pray for peace. And Chidorigafuchi Senbotsusha Boen 千鳥ケ淵戦没者墓苑 was quite abandoned as usual with rare visitors. Although it is the official national Japanese cemetery for more than 350,000 unidentified war dead in the Second World War, located on a beautiful Cherry lane, near the Imperial Palace moat and the Yasukuni Shrine.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"Aichi Triennale" 
When artworks express the hopes of the post-quake society

Contemporary artist Kenji Yanobe, 47, created the “Sun Child” statue hoping that the areas affected by the 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant will recover from the disaster.

 Katsuhiro Miyamoto

Fukushima Dai Ichi as a Japanese style roofing shrine 
to physically communicate the true scale of the nuclear plant by Miyamoto

August 2013 "Aichi Triennale". The 3 months festival started a few days ago reflecting on Arts in the wake of the 2011 East Japan Earthquake. Aichi Triennale's theme is: “Awakening, Where Are We Standing? Earth, Memory and Resurrection?”

2 years after the events shaking Japan and the planet, for the first time in Japan, artists and creators convey the emotional and creative impact of March 2011.

 Prestigious names from overseas and Japan gather in Nagoya and Okazaki in cutting edge contemporary arts, performing arts. I saw dance, theatre, architecture, paintings, photography, sculptures, modern art, operas in the program. I had a fascinating chat with Alfredo Jaar who expects no limitation in the way creators and audiences will spend these 3 months ahead.

Director Taro Igarashi, Professor of Architecture and Building Science, Tohoku University Graduate School of Engineering: "In the late nineteenth century Paul Gauguin produced a painting titled “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” In contrast, at the Triennale, Director Igarashi asks : “Where are we standing?"