Japan Was a Hope for Asia: An Interview with Henry Scott Stokes

About Henry Scott Stokes

Henry Scott Stokes

Henry Scott Stokes was born in 1938, in UK. After earning master’s degree at Oxford University in 1961, he joined the Financial Times in 1962. He became the first Tokyo bureau chief for the Financial Times in 1964. After that, he took up the post of the Tokyo bureau chief for The Times in 1967, and the New York Times in 1978. He is also known for a close friendship with Yukio Mishima. He is the author of “Falsehoods of the Allied Nations’ Victorious View of History, as Seen by a British Journalist,” (Shodensha Shinsho) and “Why Did the U.S Wage War Against Japan? (coauthored by Hideaki Kase, published by Shodansha Shinsho)

The Japanese Holocaust: An Unfinished Aspect of the War

Q: My first question is on European Colonialism and the Greater East Asia War. I’d like to ask your views on the Second World War, because Westerners have regarded it as a matter of democracy vs. fascism. They’ve viewed Japan as the aggressor.

A: Yes, the Second World War, as seen by the Western side, is totally different than as seen from the Asian side. They have two radically different views. The war ended a long time ago – 70 years ago, but still the view of war in the West is very different from the view in the East. But they are slowly getting closer. The tendency in the West has been to see World War Two, in part, as a struggle between the colonial powers and the rising Asian powers. We are seeing a little bit more sophistication now.

Q: Do you think Japan fought the last war in self-defense and fought for colonial liberation? It has been the Eastern way of viewing the last war. Japanese people regarded the war as a defensive one; is that an acceptable stance to you?

A: Let me just discuss this briefly with you. The question is, how did people react in the West to the result of the war? I think the war is still seen in the West as a tremendously tough challenge between Asia, Europe, and America. That tight conflict was a ferocious one.

It ended with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We, in the West, have not been comfortable with the nuclear outcome. We think the war, as a whole, had a very brutal climax that, in America for example, was just not debated.
No American President has ever visited Hiroshima when in power. Jimmy Carter, according to my memory, did go to Hiroshima, but that was after he was President. Those of us, who live in Asia, including Asians and non-Asians like myself, feel that the war has had an unfinished aspect, which has been very crucial.

Q: Do you think these brutal acts, including the droppings of atomic bombs and the Tokyo air raids, constituted a Japanese Holocaust? Would you agree with such a statement?

A: Let’s come to this question. What was the true nature of the nuclear clash between America and Japan? I think, and this is just my attitude, that the U.S side wants to try and ignore, or forget, or cover over the realities of the Pacific War as we call it. From the Japanese side, there is still trauma. That trauma remains as a bad dream, a horrible nightmare. It is still with them. That trauma has not been digested.

It remains an un-tackled issue. Very few people in the West – and it is not just the West – very few people in the U.K. or the U.S. have really observed or understood it – that these bombings, these monstrosities, if you like, were war crimes on a scale that made the alleged crimes of the Japanese in that war appear absolutely minor.


The Tokyo Tribunals Were an Abomination

Q: What do you think of the Tokyo War Crime Tribunals? They have become an obstacle to an honest assessment of the last war.

A: We don’t think about it. We have forgotten about it. I have been here, off and on for fifty years, and very occasionally have I ever encountered someone who has told me a little bit about the Tokyo Trials, but here is what I’ve learned.

Number one, the atmosphere in the room was very painful, heavy, and dark. The room was full of Westerners, Japanese experts, press people, and so on, but the reality was conveyed by the atmosphere. People had heavy faces. They were sort of loaded down.

We know from expert studies that people close to McArthur, including his #2 or #3, those very senior officers, felt that the trial was an abomination, a very sad thing. Why? It was victor’s justice.

Japanese People Were Tried for Actions That Didn’t Even Justify the Trials
It didn’t reflect the facts. These elderly men, many of them, had not gotten records which would have even justified prosecution in the opinion of Justice Pal of India. Pal’s view of the war, and who was responsible for it, was probably not known in the West.

In the West, I don’t think people have been apprised. They’ve just been apprised that these war criminals were condemned and executed for the horrible things that Japan did during the Pacific War; that’s about as far as the awareness goes.

This is truly a dangerous moral situation. It’s dangerous because to get away from reality, and to get away from legality in this fashion, is really sad, pathetic, and unimpressive. Here we have this huge gap, and people in the West know nothing about the War Crimes Tribunal… nothing. They have no collective memory.

In Japan, people think about it every day. It annoys them. It irritates them. Many of my friends are Japanese; many are not Japanese; but people in Tokyo, who know this historic score, have been very unhappy with it.
Americans Ignored the Opinions of a Famous Indian Justice, Dr. Pal

Q: Why do you think the words of Justice Pal were unknown among Westerners?

A: Justice Pal was ignored; he was brushed aside. His testimonies and his findings were not given any publicity to speak of by the SCAP (Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers), by the occupation authorities. This was supposed to be a trial, conducted on a fair basis, with fair play observed. Actually, Pal’s views, and he was a very distinguished Indian Jurist, were pretty much brushed aside by the Americans, who were running the trial. It was essentially a U.S. trial.

Q: So they ignored Pal’s opinions?

A: It’s got to be revisited. Somewhere there is a professional historian – it could be you; it could be me, maybe less likely to be me than you – somehow, history has to be written. People have to understand how it was that those bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and how far they qualified as war crimes compared with the alleged war crimes committed by the Japanese military in Asia during the war.


Americans Used the Tokyo Trials to Manipulate World Opinion

Q: Some pundits, like Mr. Hakuta, have insisted that the Tokyo Trial was conducted in order to conceal the atrocities, the acts of genocide and atomic air raids by the U.S. Do you think that was true?

A; Yes, I think there’s some strength in that argument. The emphasis on the Nanking matter was certainly greatly expanded on the Allied side. We’re not here to talk specifically about the Nanking massacre today, but there are people who say it did take place.

It was a blemish on the history of the nations concerned. The Chinese had their separate tragedy unfolding, and it was the responsibility of the Chinese Communist Party as well. There were three parties involved: the Chinese Nationalists, the Chinese Communists, and the Japanese main military. All of them, in my humble opinion, contributed to a situation that became very chaotic, stark, and bleak.

I have done, what anybody has done, who has looked at this matter of Nanking. I have done as much as I can, to dig out eyewitness reports, and the report of a Korean woman who was working in Nanking, who saw certain things with her own eyes. Having said that, your question was, “Did the allies, including the Americans, choose to blow up this story after 1948?” After ‘48, it was done, somewhat, then.

There was a real motivation to draw attention to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as an example of a war crime on a grander scale, of which Americans were 100% responsible. My sense of the drama of those years is that, yes, indeed, that was part of the story, part of the mosaic, but in this situation, in this story, the word “mosaic” may be helpful. There are all different kinds of colors. The pattern of history is there, made up of little incidents here and there.


My Experience in a City-Under-Siege Similar to Nanking

I, myself, have covered a situation where a military force surrounded a city and penetrated the defenses, and destroyed the people inside in terms of organization. That was Kwangju, the city of Kwangju in 1980. I was there inside the city when it was recaptured, or captured by government forces, supported by the U.S.

We didn’t really know what was going on. Even twenty years after the Kwangju uprising of 1980, even twenty years later, people were very reluctant to talk about it.

Americans Used the Nanking Incident as a Distraction for the Atrocities They Committed

Asian people are often shy in regard to really bad things. They don’t want to revisit them all the time. Reframing your very excellent question, I do have the feeling that the emphasis on Nanking was very comfortable from an American official point of view. It was comfortable because it did help to distract attention from something that many people didn’t want to remember.

Q: There has been an assertion that the Nanking Massacre or the Nanking atrocities were fabricated after the war in order to conceal or hide American atrocities. Do you agree?

A: That matter is still an unresolved scenario. The notion that Nanking was fabricated, as a historic incident, really is difficult to sustain because of the eyewitness reactions. The fact that the Chinese Nationalists, who were in authority until ’48, when they were driven out, the fact that the Nationalists didn’t bring this subject up, doesn’t persuade me that Nanking did not happen.

There are situations, true, like Kwangju in 1980, Nanking in 1937, where nobody knows how that Mosaic was composed. Nobody knows how the mosaic was put together. It’s too complex – the actual detail, you know.

I was in the city only for a very short time, a few days. I became aware that, as it were, 99% of the mosaic was invisible from where I was. People were dying in side streets; people were being killed in the countryside; people were being kidnapped; all kinds of things were going on. The foreign press was mostly not there, was only there for a couple of days in ten years.

The Korean Press was there. There were lots of Korean journalists, but they couldn’t write what they knew. Twenty years after Kwangju, I joined with twenty colleagues, ten Korean and ten international, and we tried to put together a record of what had happened at Kwangju.

The souvenirs came pouring out. These journalists, who’d never had a chance to write up their experiences, who had been too scared, finally stepped forward, and we got some basic things like names. What were the names of the student leaders who fought in Kwangju, into the center of the city, and up to their deaths? Many of them were killed.


Japanese Diplomacy Silenced at the Versailles Peace Conference

Q: Japan proposed the removal of racial discrimination at the Paris Peace Settlement Conference in 1919, but President Wilson rebuffed it by saying that it required a unanimous vote.

A: What happened in Paris, let’s come to that, what happened in Paris with the Versailles Peace Conference – the Versailles Peace Conference is the formal name. People often say it took place in Paris; the correct version is Versailles. It was 1919.

I studied international relations, specifically European ones, at Oxford University on and off for three years, and I did not know about Japanese discrimination. My Sensei did not teach me. I can say I went to one of the leading colleges in the world, certainly in the U.K., in history. I specialized in history – took my degree in politics – and I did not know about the Japanese unhappiness with the settlement.

Many people were unhappy with that settlement from different points of view, and the Japanese were some of the unhappiest. I think that it was important. Versailles was crucial because it showed the people involved how exhausted their countries were. The First World War was a terrible war; an enormous number of men were killed very quickly.

We were just wiped out. My father was an army infantry officer in that war all the way through in India and in Southern Russia. People of that generation inherited a history of mental, moral, and intellectual exhaustion. They couldn’t face what had happened.


The Anglo-Japanese Alliance Was Unintentionally Dropped

Now I’m British, and I’ll tell you very quickly a brief story because it showed the people involved how exhausted their countries were. In 1902, we in England and you in Japan, we concluded something called the Anglo-Japan Alliance. We were very proud of it in England among the few people who knew.

It was called officially the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902. We just let that Agreement slide away into nothing after World War I. – and you’re looking at the Japanese stand, which I’ll come to in a moment. You may miss the point that it was a Conference that covered so many topics.

Now I’ll come to the attitude toward the Japanese stance at Versailles. When I learned about this, having come to Japan – I’m embarrassed to say how recent it was I learned about it in detail – it is really a tragedy that we let our relationship in Britain with Japan slide and slip away. When we did that, it happened very quickly.
Now, I, because I know Japan, and because my family is Japanese, and I see Japan through them, I’m really disappointed that we let established ties with Japan fade away. But we did.


Versailles Leadership Brushed Aside the Real Issues

I think that from the Japanese point of view, the decision by Mr. Makino-san, as a leader of the Delegation, to press for votes showed there was a majority in favor of recording the fact that there was to be no recognition given at Versailles of the issues at Versailles. It was a complex situation. What happened was, in effect, the Makino plan to get recognition for Japan’s epical attitude, was a very fine stand taken by the Japanese side. It was a rare case of Japanese diplomacy really standing up in a dignified and appropriate manner.


Woodrow Wilson’s Inability to Serve as a Conference Head

It’s just a shame that those people in Japan, who were internationalists, found their internationalism undercut by the Conference headed by Woodrow Wilson. Wilson was simply an academic, a man with a legal background, but he had no sense of how his decisions would be seen in Japan.

I’m afraid it was very damaging to those in Japan who wanted democracy and racial equality. I’m afraid they were very badly served. It was a bad moment for the world when that Versailles Conference turned out the way it did.

Q: Was the Breaking of the Anglo-Japan Alliance the Cause for War Between Japan and the U.S.A.?

Reverend Ryuho Okawa has clearly said the cause of war between Japan and America was that America wanted to break the Anglo-Japan Alliance. What’s your comment on this line of argument?

A: My information, my common sense, is that this Anglo-Japanese Alliance was allowed to disappear. All it required, for it to disappear, was for nobody to bring it up, and to the best of my knowledge in the U.K., interest in this issue was close to zero, even more so now.

I don’t think the Americans, and I’m open to correction, I don’t think the American’s stand on the Anglo-Japanese Alliance was so important. It was not a conscious decision, if I’m right. Maybe when we revisit the history books after this conference, we’ll discover a little bit more on the subject!


Japanese People Didn’t Discriminate Against the Jews

Q: Again, my next question is regarding racial discrimination. At the time that Japan had an alliance with Germany, Japan didn’t discriminate against Jewish people.

A: That’s true.

Q: When Japan received an order from Hitler to discriminate against the Jews, the Japanese declined. Japan had the spirit of racial equality, which was described in Japanese as Hakko Ichiu. This was a very famous Japanese philosophy of the time. People did not discriminate. The concept of Hakko Ichiu was that all people could receive equal treatment under the same roof.


Prime Minister Tojo’s Historic Speech

A: Yes, the Japanese stand on this subject is the most interesting point that you’ve brought up in our meeting today. You know, in 1943, in the autumn of ’43, a conference took place here to bring together the representing heads of Asian countries. The person, who made the keynote speech, was General Tojo, who was still Prime Minister of Japan then. I was furnished with a copy of that speech not long ago.

When I opened up the speech, I thought it would be a boring official speech. It was a passionate appeal to the people who had gathered from the farthest points of East Asia, there was a passionate appeal from the Indian National Army leader (Subhas Chandra Bose), and the atmosphere of that conference and of Tokyo at the time came home to me. The speech was so damn well written. It’s an account of Japanese values at that time, as applied to international politics, it was sort of scholarly.

I had supposed that General Tojo was an uninteresting person, just a military machine all by himself. That was the image that must have been conveyed to English students of my generation, whether at Oxford or not. The reality was that a lot of information was available as to why Asian countries were suddenly leaping up for their independent status.

Soon After the Pearl Harbor Attack, A View Spread That the Five Hundred Years of Western Colonial Rule of Asia Came to an End

This was something I made a couple of speeches about at the insistence of Japanese friends. The speed at which the British Empire in India collapsed, it was absolutely phenomenal. Going into the hardest part of the war in ’41, most people in Asia, and it’s a generalization, but they probably expected that there would be no immediate outcome. But in actuality, within weeks of Pearl Harbor, a view was spreading in Asia that finally the five hundred years of Western colonial rule was over. It must have been an intoxicating time.

1.Tojo, in his speech, succeeded in encapsulating the passion and the emotion of the people in Asia at that time. Subbas Chandra Bose provided some useful details in his speech. He also made a still-emotional speech, saying that finally the chance had come to remove the British from India. Indeed it had come.

This is not to say that there was nothing good on the side of the U.K. relationship with India, but just, the time had come for the British to surrender their privileged positions in India and let India rule itself. It happened very quickly. By ’47, the deal was in the bag.


America Is Silencing Japan on Issues That Could Create Conflict With China

Q: One more question, China now claims that Japan was like Nazi Germany in World War II, facists. However, Japan had the idea of racial equality. Regarding the Chinese claim about Japan, what is your stance?

A: China does not have that idea. It’s hard to know what the Chinese claim is. We’ve seen rounds of emotional opposition to Japan in China over the last couple of years, but in this huge country, this vast country, with its colossal population, what are they really going to do?

What do they think about Tiananmen, about the anniversary? You know this is a situation which the Americans are very concerned about it. They do not want attitude to develop in certain ways. The Americans basically don’t want to see China and Japan at war with each other.

They’re very concerned about the sudden popping up of, what they regard in the West as, extreme attitudes spreading in Asia and in Japan, as evidenced by the Abe-san’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine. On this matter of the Yasukuni Shrine, I’m sorry to say every other power has dug its heels in, and said that the Japanese are out of line. This wave of emotion against Japan has been rather strong.

I have been in this country too long apparently. I hadn’t realized how attitudes have developed. But attitudes have developed in such a way that every single major power, that made a statement on the Yasukuni visit, has joined in the same line, “You really shouldn’t have done it; please don’t do it again.” What I think about it is, it’s a very disturbing moment.


The Japanese Government Wants to Revise the Post-War Constitution

Q: Prime Minister Abe is trying to revise Article Nine. In order to achieve his goal, PM Abe must face the historical issues because American people always accuse the Japanese of returning to the militarism. The Liberty thinks that the American historical perspective is becoming an obstacle to a revision of the Japanese constitution. Therefore, it’s crucial for us to ask the U.S. government to re-examine its historical perspective on WWII.

A: Yes, the constitution is really a hell of a sticky issue, and I’ll give you an example of just how difficult it is.


Yukio Mishima and I

I was a friend of a gentleman named Mishima Yukio. We saw each other until the last month before he died. I was a very rare case of a foreign correspondent, maybe the only one, who stuck close to him, who wanted to know what he was saying, and what he was doing. When Mishima was on the platform outside the military headquarters at Ichigaya, he spoke his last words in public. He shouted from the top of the building, “You are unconstitutional. You are mercenaries from the United States.”

When I heard the report on radio that he was on the U.S. base at Ichigaya, and was threatening to commit suicide, I rushed over to meet him, but I was too late. Mishima was the kind of person to stick to his plan. He took his own life. All of his concerns had to do with the constitution and how to fix it. The answer was that there was no answer; there was no way to resolve the issues.

When PM Abe visited Yasukuni Shrine, the developed world displayed unanimous opposition over the Japanese approach to religious practice. If you get that much resistance to the reality of Japanese life over Yasukuni, you can expect a hundred times stronger opposition to the nature of your proposed constitutional revisions.

America Won’t Pay Attention to the Issue of Constitutional Reform in Japan
I also thought that maybe the time had come to revise the constitution, but it was a few months ago. The atmosphere in Japan and the world has already changed so much. The constitution is now the number one un-raised question in Japanese politics.

Americans are much more eager to solve the situation in Ukraine, and they don’t want to see any trouble on the Sino-Japanese front. They want everything to remain quiet here while the Ukraine is very noisy. The crisis is a big one, and the world doesn’t even know how large.

If you read the newspapers, you won’t see any reports on nuclear weapons. Where are the nuclear weapons in Ukraine? What form do they take? Do they have rockets? What are their guidance systems? My colleagues must ask and answer all of these basics questions.

Coming back to the constitutional matter, I’m sure that Ms. Kennedy, the lady ambassador to this country, JFK’s daughter, has had the duty to convey to all of her best contacts in the city that there will be no discussion or mention of the constitution. It’s what the U.S. wants now. This conversation is out of line with its policy. Ms. Kennedy’s staff would say that no one should be having any conversations about the constitution. It’s the advice that she receives from them.

However, this topic of the constitution has really come up, but it’s a long way from revision. On the day Mishima died, soldiers gathered in front of the place where he was speaking, and they screamed abuse at him. It wasn’t that he just failed to create the spiritual coup d’etat, there was no support within from within the self-defense forces in favor of a constitutional revision.

The subject of the constitution is not on anyone’s plate. It’s not like a visit to Yasukuni where people say, “Well, maybe it’s OK. I’d like to go, or I like to go occasionally.” You’re not going to see this constitution revised for the time being. I don’t think it’s an issue. The Americans, who are saying nothing on the subject, will convey their message in that way for Japanese public.


Two Different Models of Progress Existed at the Time of the Greater East Asian War

Q: Westerns believe that Japan was a bad country in the past, and it had no cause to enter into the Pacific war. Is it impossible for them to change their historical perspective?

A: It’s a very interesting subject. Japan basically went into the conflicts between 1931 and 1945, the era of militarism as seen by western history books, using a model evolved in the U.K. and in the U.S., which was a classic imperialistic model. You went into other people’s countries, and you grabbed hold of them. If you were Dutch, you went into Indonesia. If you were British, you went into Hong Kong and bits of China.

This model of advancing into the war was in place for a good many years, well into the twentieth century, but somewhere along the long, and I’d like to study this point and see exactly when it was, somewhere along the line the notion of Asian nationalism took hold.

The notion of independence from white powers took hold, and Japan was suddenly, and it’s more complicated than this explanation, but putting it simply, Japan was suddenly in the limelight. Japan was seen as ending the colonial stages of Indonesia and of China, and it was an incredible moment. Again, it happened so quickly because people were ready for it.

They had been grinding their teeth or impatient for generations, if not centuries, and finally they were seeing the colonial hold, the colonial nightmare, caving in at tremendous speed. So, to be a young Indonesian, growing up in Jakarta in 1942, 1943, and 1944 must have been electrifying. The local team gave up so quickly in Indonesia. The Dutch surrendered in seven or eight days to much inferior forces.

The British colony’s authorities in Hong Kong, which included some relatives of mine, were not capable of a response to Japan, and they capitulated in hours. They surrendered in hours! When the rest of Asia saw these events, and I mean educated Asian people who could judge the events’ importance, they said, “Well, if it only took eight hours in Hong Kong and eighty hours in Jakarta, how long is it going to take us in India, Burma, and the Philippines?”

So, this was a different model of progress into the modern world, and Japan had these two models. The second one, liberating Asia in the face of colonialism, and doing so very fast, the second of these two models prevailed. It was the stronger one.

The old British imperial model had lost its steam. You can measure or estimate a change in attitudes in India. In any case, somewhere between 1941 and the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, not later, they knew that by that time it was all over. The age of Colonialism was finished.

I’d like to add one more thought. These days I occasionally make speeches on India about what happened to them. I find myself going over material that is pretty old. It feels like a different world when I read about the Indian empire. My queen was the Empress of India.

I grew up in the 1950s, and I happened to ask my father one afternoon, given his experience in the East, “Dad, is it true that our queen was the Empress of India?” He was so shocked. He was so disappointed that he had a son who didn’t know his history.

I didn’t know my history, but the Asians learned fast. After 1941 and the Japanese entry into WWII, there was no question that there would be rapid change.


The “What Ifs” in History

Q: What would have the world been like if Japan hadn’t fought in the Greater East Asian War? How would have the world looked today? Do you think that India would have still been under the colonial rule of Britain if Japan hadn’t fought the Greater East Asian War? Would the Queen of England still be the Empress of India?

A: It’s a good question. You know, the Japanese army, with the participation of the small INA, the Indian National Army, got into the aegis of Northeast India around the city called Imphal. It was touch and go. That just wasn’t the year for India’s independence. Indian activists like Nehru didn’t want to make the big move until things were a bit more settled. The world war was at an end, but what would have happened if Japan hadn’t participated?

I have to say, I don’t know. I’m not a good historian. In history, if you ask “what if” questions, the “what if” questions fly open and you have Pandora’s Box. Anything can happen if you start with the two little words “what if”. Nonetheless, we want to ask those questions.

What would have happened if Perry had never come to Japan? What would have happened if the U.S. Navy had not torn open the little country of, as it when and was, Japan? What would have happened if the Japanese local forces had waited for Perry to land, and had then surrounded him and his men, and killed them? What if there had been other forms of resistance to the U.S. Naval fleet, the famous black ships as they were called?

I’m very interested in this subject, and if you come across a study of the black ships, I would like you to let me know. What would have happened if the black ships had never showed up? All I can say is these days the color black is a pretty stark color. I won’t explore that further. It’s a sort of hobby horse of mine.


Evolution Changed the World

Q: What would have happened if Japan hadn’t fought the Greater East Asian War?
A: Well, I have to think, I have to say it would be a very different world. If Japan had not attacked Pearl Harbor (chuckle) it’s, um, it’s one of the best “what if” questions. If Japan had not taken such a firm attitude, a fiery, ferocious attitude in the face of western colonialism, I think you’d have had evolution at a slower pace.

Subhas Chandra Bose is very interesting on this subject. He warned people in his speech, here in Hibiya in November 1943, that it was their one chance in a hundred years. I had a feeling that he was right. It could have been an opportunity that just popped up, and the forces of white people in society could have just dragged him back down. Asian nationalism might not have been born.

I had that feeling sometimes, but you know, if you go to the U.S. or if you go to the U.K. these days, the streets are full of people from Asia and from the Caribbean. Our societies are transforming themselves in incredible ways. England is no longer a country of just English people. Something like 40 percent of the population will be Pakistani in 30 years time. So, if Japan had not stepped forward at that point in 1941, it might have taken a bit longer. I think I’ll stop there.


The Importance of the Dissemination of Historical Facts

Q: Ok. What does Japan need to do in order for Western countries to acknowledge that Japan fought the war to end racial discrimination?

A: I don’t know, but I’m biased in favor of historical studies. I think that if only there was greater knowledge of Japan in the West and in the outside world, and a greater knowledge in Japan itself of the outer world, that would be nothing but good. It’s useful that you are holding this little conference today. It’s useful when such efforts are made, and I would like to think that there will be, in the years to come, a major effort to inform people of the facts of history.

We have a friend called Mr. Moteki who has a little study institute. He’s trying to spread the truth, for example, on the comfort women, but it’s not an easy job. Even so, if people are willing to make their individual efforts to bring about change, then so much the better. It’s spreading information that’s so important, which is why I welcomed this opportunity to join with you in writing one part of the June issue for The Liberty, good luck.

Q: Don’t you think we should spread these historical facts in English?

A: Yes, you should do it in Chinese, too.

Q: Yes, we have a Chinese language website as well. So, we can do it. Don’t you think these historical facts matter?

A: Yeah, I mean, I think we’re in the information business, and we should let the information flow. In that sense, I think that Mr. Abe has taken a misstep. Japan’s new law, governing security, is a little bit of a concern.
However, I’ve been in Japan long enough to know it’s not the laws that count. It’s how they’re implemented. So, the question is how will this new law be implemented? That’s where policy will be made. The first stage is setting up some principles. The whole story is only knowable when you see how the law is implemented.


My Faith

Q: I have a question about faith. You are a Quaker, aren’t you?

A: Yes, I’m a Quaker. I’m a Quaker, and the Quakers have two or three faces. One face is that we’re makers of things. We’re in manufacturing. In England, Cadbury Chocolate is made by a Quaker family, and Clarks Shoes are made by my cousins, the Clarks.

Then, there’s another face, which is the face of passivism. Quakers tend to be against war. Thirdly, we have lots of energy, and we actually created the United States, but we don’t like to claim its successes in public. We don’t do things to make ourselves famous. We prefer the modest way.

During the Vietnam War, all kinds of people took an interest in its outcome. The Quaker attitude was to send a small group over to North Korea and to North Vietnam to inquire what could be done on the American side to bring the conflict to an end. Nobody criticized us as fame seekers or as people who were looking for the chance to glitter. It didn’t happen.

I’m pleased and proud to be in my mother’s line of thinking, joined by my father. They were Quakers, but they didn’t talk about it much. And I don’t talk about it much, either.


Not All Christians Want to Convert People

Q: Can I ask you one more question regarding Christianity?

A: Yes

Q: Christian countries have become very belligerent, and they’ve invaded other countries. We suspect there might be some reasons for them to do so. We think there might be some testament or phrases in the Christian canon that have provided reasons for them to legitimize their actions. Are there?

A: It’s a fact that the business of the missionaries and of the Jesuit priests, who came to Japan, their mission, was to convert the Japanese to Christianity. Because they overdid it, they were thrown out. It’s not that people have been asked to leave the country; it’s just that they’ve not been tremendously encouraged.

In Korea, 20 to 30 percent of the people are self-avowed Christians, right? Here is maybe a tiny fraction of that. Conversion is their business, that’s the way we Quakers would look at it mostly. It’s their business, but it’s not ours. We prefer to make shoes or to make a living out of selling chocolate.

Q: Rather than invading?

A: Yes, Quakers are very interesting people. We came to exist in the 17th century, and we were obliged to respect the queen or the king. We didn’t like it, so we left for what was to become America. That’s us, our history.

Thank you very much, Ms. Cho. I appreciate it.

Japan Was a Hope for Asia: An Interview with Henry Scott Stokes
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