Saturday, December 08, 2007

How do Japanese think about the Pearl Harbor attack?

"Do you know what day the 8th of December is?" If you ask Japanese people, some music lovers will reply "It is the day of John Lennon was shot." But most of them will reply "It is the day (Japan Time) of the Pearl Harbor attack / the beginning day of the Pacific War." All Japanese know of the Pearl Harbor attack, most of them have a different understanding from the one U.S. people have.

The USS Arizona (BB-39) burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941.
The USS Arizona (BB-39) burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941 (from Wikipedia Commons, this image is in the public domain.)

Actually, most Japanese feel a little pang of conscience about the Pearl Harbor attack, in spite of them knowing that it was a perfidious attack. Of course, a perfidious attack is understood as an evil act among Japanese. Why do Japanese think that the Pearl Harbor attack was "a normal act?"

First, quite a few Japanese believe in the opinion that "the U.S. knew of the attack beforehand." The opinion is as follows: The U.S. caught and decoded the Japanese army's coded command of the attack, therefore the U.S. army prepared for the attack: let all main aircraft carriers go, only old battleships were left in the harbor. The opinion also says that a rare vivid color film which captured the attack exists. It is the evidence of the opinion, they said. In addition to, some go to the length of saying that it was a trap by the U.S. Of course, all the information above is a false rumor. But in Japan, many people know and believe the rumor.

Second, some Japanese say that the Japanese government prepared the declaration of war, but it couldn't be sent to the U.S. government before the attack. The night before the attack, all members of the Japanese Embassy in the U.S. attended a farewell party for a member and the ambassador attended a funeral, therefore nobody could receive the declaration. The ministry of foreign affairs of Japan admitted this mistake at last in 1994.

This mistake was a big misfortune for Japan: the attack became a perfidious attack from a mere sudden attack. However, at any rate, it was Japan's mistake - not the U.S.'s. In addition to, the Japanese government thought that the declaration of war would be sent at least 30 minutes before the attack. If Japan sent the declaration as they thought, the attack would be a perfidious one.

Third, in my opinion, this is the strongest reason for the Japanese thinking about the attack, nobody says that the Pearl Harbor attack was out of spite. Most Japanese think the following: Was the attack a surprise attack? Yes. Do you think the U.S. got angry? Yes, of course. That's all. People never ask the next question: Was the attack out of spite?

It is absurd thinking, I admit. However, in my opinion, many Japanese think so. Actually, I did. Through writing this article, I have learned that the rumor that the U.S knew of the attack beforehand was false, learned over 2,400 U.S. people were killed at the attack (many Japanese think the attack broke many battleships but didn't take people's lives.) I have also learned the following fact: think about what we did.



Related Post


Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor?

24 comments:

Wuttisak said...
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Anonymous said...

So why did they attack? I've heard it suggested that they didn't want Hawaii interfering with plans for the Pacific, but the US and Japan were still negotiating at the time, so why the preemptive strike?I do remember reading about the US opening the Japanese ports in 1850, but that was a long time before WWII.

Yoshiteru said...

Thanks for your comment. Actually, I don't know the reason why Japan decided to attack the US suddenly in detail. I'm going to check relevant books and make new entry about this topic.

Yoshiteru said...

Ms./Mr.Anonymous,
I wrote my opinion for your question: See http://yositeru.blogspot.com/2008/06/why-did-japan-attack-pearl-harbor.html

Thank you very much for your question, I had a good experience to reconsider my country's history.

Anonymous said...

I am quite impressed at you honesty. I have lived in Japan 7 years and have acted in many dramas and movies about post war including "ashita e no yuigon" with the late Fujita Makoto san. I was a bit offended at the defense of a war criminal. his defense seemed weak to me. He murdered or executed American prisoners of war without a proper trial (which he himself received).

Yoshiteru said...

Thank you for your comment and introduction of interesting movie. I haven't seen the movie "Ashita e no Yuigon", but I'm interested in it very much after checking its plot with Wikipedia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Best_Wishes_for_Tomorrow

Wikipedia also tells that the movie is admitted by both "leftish" newspaper and "rightish" newspaper. It is rare for Japan's 20th-Century-war movie.

In my opinion, as far as reading the short plot of Wikipedia, Japan's execution to US soldiers was unfair because it wasn't by the rules. Anyway, I'm gonna watch this movie (I found it at iTunes Store).

Anonymous said...

The japanese wer just too evil to slaughter lots of innocent people on earth, and still shamelessly refuse to admit that fact.

Yoshiteru said...

Unfortunately, as for some Japanese people, it is true, However, it isn't true for other Japanese, I believe.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the insight! I am a bit of a WWII enthusiast, and I was always curious to know how the 'other guys' society viewed that day in retrospect.

Anonymous said...

What we, the U.S, did was far worse in my opinion. We dropped weapons of mass destruction on two cities. Killing thousands of INNOCENT people. I'm not saying the pearl harbor attack was a good thing, but what we did was far worse.

Yoshiteru said...

For 5/27 comment: Thank you.I think that we never make this incident fade away.


For 7/15 comment: I appreciate your opinion because you think about this incident not only on American people side but also on Japanese people side. Like you, I would like to think this incident on both side.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised people don't know why Japan attacked. We cut off their oil, threatening to render their entire fleet immobilized. Japan had a huge navy, so had other nations cut them off.

Also, the reason for the US dropping the bombs was that we knew Japan would never give up. They would never surrender, its in their blood. They estimated the death tole it would cost to invade Japan and thought it was to high of a cost.

The bombs were as much of a scare tactic as a weapon. The US was telling Japan... "We don't have to risk our men's lives to destroy you"

Faced with this discovery, Japan surrendered instead of facing complete destruction.

Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor was strategic and smart. They wanted to own the waters, and with most of the US fleet in Hawaii, placed close to our enemies, they struck first, knowing it was their best chance of survival.

Japan had zero allies around them, Russia was tapping on the back door, china has always been a problem for them (as well as the other way around). Japan is a small island, and relies heavily on trade and fishing. US was blocking both whenever they could, fearing the growing strength of the "empire of japan"

Yoshiteru said...

Thank you for your detail comments. Yes, I agree with Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor was "strategic" for a short term of the Pacific War, but not for a long term of the war. Pearl Harbor Attack made Japan defined as the unfair nation among the US citizens. No matter what the truth of Pearl Harbor Attack was, the result of the Attack bore no good fruit.

Eric Cym said...

Pearl harbor happened on the 7th of Dec. Not the 8th. I'm surprised no one has mentioned that.

Yoshiteru said...

Dear Eric, thank you for your comment. Yes, Pearl Harbor happened on the 7th of Dec, the US Time but on the 8th in Japan Time Zone. So all Japanese people know that the day of Pearl Harbor was the 8th of Dec.

DK said...

I've always enjoyed researching American history, and World War II specifically. It's only been researching the "other side" of this particular story. Thank you for taking the time to put this together.

The argument that the Japanese government tried to declare the attack to the embassy brings up one question to me. At essentially the same time, Japan attacked Guam, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Wake Island, and Thailand. Did Japan "try" to declare the attacks on any of them (specifically, in my mind, Hong Kong and Thailand).

Yoshiteru said...

Thank you, DK.
You make an important point.
I will research Japan's war declarations at the beginning of the Pacific War.

Gerald said...
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Anonymous said...

I like this it helped me out with some of the questions I had but like someone said i would have liked to figured out why they attack but still a great blog or post

Yoshiteru said...

Thank you for your comment. I added the related post on this article; Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor?

Tiffany Cheng said...

I hope there would be less war, so everyone could enjoy peace.

Jimmy said...

Grandfather was in the war. We dropped the bomb to end a war and save lives. Over 100,000 Americans and 1million Japanese dead at the time.Don't start a fight you can't win.

Yoshiteru said...

Jimmy, you are true. We never start a war we can't win.

In addition, let me tell you the real number of Japanese victims - Military Deaths: 2,120,000, Total Civilian and Military Deaths: 2,600,000-3,100,000. (Quoted from The National WWII Museum New Orleans)
http://www.nationalww2museum.org/learn/education/for-students/ww2-history/ww2-by-the-numbers/world-wide-deaths.html

Yoshiteru said...

Ms. Tiffany, I strongly hope peace, as you wrote.