Wednesday, 21 September 2011

75. Genki days

On my last two nights in Nagasaki I was futon-surfing with Asuka, a medical student who had just returned from an African trip. One evening we talked about some Japanese issues and she disagreed with my comments on Fukushima being a potential threat and also felt that the Japanese "had paid enough" with regard to World War II and it would be better if we could just move on from the past. Unfortunately though I think that it will require first a full acknowledgement of the extent of Japanese war crimes during the Second Sino-Japanese war and WWII before people in the respective nations involved will be able to heal and move on and Takahashi Tesuya at the University of Tokyo agrees: "in order for Japan to regain the trust of East Asian peoples, it is important for it to make clear its responsibility for the past, so that it can actively fulfill its role in the construction of international order based on just peace". Perhaps then, as he points out, can Japan more legitimately expect an apology for the war crime of the atomic bombings from the US.

Three of the most important issues regarding atrocities committed by the Japanese Imperial army during the Second World War concern the 1937 mass rape and massacre in the former Chinese capital of Nanking, the issue of forced sexual slavery during World War II involving a couple of hundred thousand so-called comfort women, especially from Korea and Japan, and the covert biological and chemical warfare carried out by Unit 731 between 1935 and 1945. As the extent of these of these issues has become clearer, they remain as stumbling blocks to improving relations with China and South Korea as well as several other nations. The Allies assisted in the covering up of evidence of some of these war crimes in the aftermath of Japan's surrender as their was primary focus was on curtailing the spread of communism. During the 1980s and 90s, controversy surrounded the issue of government-approved history textbooks for high school students in Japan that failed to discuss the actions of the Japanese Imperial army in a critical manner but most of the history books used today contain references, although sometimes brief, to the above events. 

Genki is word of the week. It translates as energetic, exciting or full of life. "O genki desu ka?"(How are you?"). Response... "Hai, genki desu" (Yes, I'm well).

The last two cycling days in Japan from Nagasaki to Fukuoka were not always genki as Typhoon No.15 resulted in a tremendous headwind, that at times made it difficult to keep Rocinante moving forward. Around noon yesterday the odometer reached the fifty thousand kilometre mark but I was too busy trying to avoid getting blown in front of a truck to notice until I was sheltering a few kilometres down the road. Gradually though the wind died down and the rain eased off as I came in along the coast to Fukuoka, the end point of Japan and the embarkation point for the ferry to Busan in South Korea this coming Friday morning. In the meantime I am staying with Anita, a friend of my cousin's, who had an amazing dinner prepared when I arrived in last night.

Bar the obvious broken limbs, Japan has been an amazing experience and I've met many great people along the way and thoroughly enjoyed my time here. The past couple of weeks cycling along the quieter roads of Shikoku and Kyushu have been wonderful. Here are a couple of photos from the Japan album that I have uploaded here.

Fukuoka, Japan
Pedalled: 50,055 kilometres

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