Sasaki Kei, one of our contributors at the Japanese history blog here at Frog in a Well pointed out some results of a survey recently released in the Japanese press (Mainichi article here). I’m cross-posting an English summary of the questions and results here that he discusses as they may be of interest to readers of the Korean and Chinese history weblogs as well as those who don’t read Japanese.
Below are the responses of the population at large (as opposed to to those in government):
Question 1: What do you think about the government’s apologies and expressions of regret for actions during World War II: They are sufficient (36%) Insufficient (42%) There is no need (11%) No response etc. (11%)
Question 2: Evaluation of the war against the United States (in World War II): It was a reckless choice (59%) It was an unavoidable choice (33%)
Question 3: Do you think the war against China was an act of invasion? One Can’t Really Say (45%) It was a war of invasion/aggression (40%)
Question 4: Evaluation of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials: It was an unjust trial but having lost the war it was inevitable (59%) It was a just trial of those bearing responsibility for the war (17%) It was unjust and one-sided trial by the victors of the war (17%)
Mr. Sasaki feels, and I think I agree, that the number of those who say the war was inevitable or who could not come to any kind of opinion on the issue is unusually high. He adds some results from a 2000 NHK survey:
Question: The war was a war of aggression against our Asian neighbors: I agree (51%) I don’t agree (15%) It is all in the past and so has nothing to do with me (7%) I don’t know, no response (28%)
Question: The war was an inevitable conflict that a resource deprived Japan waged in order to survive: I agree (30%) I don’t agree (35%) It is all in the past and so has nothing to do with me (4%) I don’t know, no response (31%)
While it shows that there is significant diversity in opinion in Japan (though I have issues with the way the survey is done, its questions, and the options everyone can choose between) it also shows a significantly high number of those who seem to lack enough confidence to say much about the nature of the wars of the mid-century in either direction.