Forty-nine years after its surrender in World War II, Japan remains steeped in denial, torment and revisionism regarding its true role in that conflict.
Even as Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama became the latest official to express regret for Japan's war actions, seven of his Cabinet members ignored his suggestion that they forgo the annual--and controversial--visit to the Yasukuni Shrine to the war dead. There they heard the usual declarations that Japan's wartime aggression was justified.
Tokyo's inability to truly come to terms with its militaristic past continues to haunt the nation and disappoint its neighbors and allies. However, Murayama, should he survive in a time of revolving-door changes of Japanese prime ministers, plans to make 1995, the 50th anniversary of the war's end, a year for self-reflection and apology to Japan's victims. The task will be formidable; already debates and reflections have begun in newspapers and television broadcasts.
Murayama began his consciousness-raising on Monday by refusing to go to Yasukuni. At a separate, government-sponsored ceremony at Budokan Hall to honor Japan's war dead--an event attended by the emperor--Murayama declared that Japan had "inflicted tragic sacrifices beyond description upon large numbers of people in Asia and other countries."