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Behind the Visionary : Abe's Dark Past


On Friday July 8th 2022, Japan’s former and longest serving prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was shot dead during a campaignevent in Nara city. Tetsuya Yamagami, a 41 year old man formerly in the defense forces, allegedly opened fire at the politician during the rally and fatally wounded him in the back and the neck. The politician later succumbed to extreme blood loss. Japan bid farewell to their precursory leader with throngs of mourners outside his cremation site, the Zojoji temple.


Honouring his untimely demise, the Japanese public sent him off with tears of gratefulness and endless ‘thank yous’. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recounted the many contributions made by Abe for India and beyond. He described his death as the ‘loss of a great visionary’ and expressed sorrow over losing a ‘dear friend’ of his. In 2021, Shinzo Abe was awarded India’s second highest civilian honor, Padma Vibhushan, for exceptional and distinguished service.


India had been a familiar land for the deceased leader ever since his first ministerial visit in 2007. In his brief yet sonorous first term, he set out to establish a new vision in foreign policy through his address to the Indian Parliament. This vision in Indo-Japanese ties was accentuated through a greater confluence of the Indian and Pacific oceans. Eventually as Abe indulged more and more in strengthening political relations with our nation, Japanese investment in India grew by a staggering 1165%. Abe’s political career was veiled by a strong pedigree. From his grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, being Nehru’s companion in the 1950s to his father, Shintaro Abe, serving as foreign minister of Japan. Even so, he was only building on a pre-existing foundation established by his predecessors, Yoshiro Mori and Junichiro Koizumi. Shinzo Abe proceeded to grasp the Indian essence of culture and solidarity through a visit to Dasashwamedha Ghat during his return to power for a longer term in 2012 which helped him further insinuate the Indo-Japanese connect.


When it comes to Abe’s pennyworth in his own nation, he is credited with Japan’s rise as an Asian power in the 21st century without a single mark of filth from its 20th century history. He is also responsible for the upheaval of “Abenomics”. This economic agenda consisted of ‘three arrows’. Flexible fiscal policy, monetary expansion, and structural economic reform. Japan bore immediate consequences of this newly founded economic policy. It faced a substantial weakening of the yen, which became around 25% lower than the US dollar, and a 22% rise in the TOPIX stock market index. ‘Abenomics’ can be considered somewhat effective in the generating inflationary expectations aspect and in reducing the interest rate.


Well, what exactly was the mixed legacy left behind by the Japanese leader?


Up until this point we’ve shed light on the relatively successful and/or positive areas of his service. Turns out there’s more to the story. Two sides of the same coin.


Shinzo Abe’s contribution into Japan’s new uprising came through a ruthless denial of the atrocities committed by the empire in the 20th century. He made threadbare efforts into erasing the negativities from Japan’s history. Abe argued that much of the war crime allegations were fabricated as an attempt by China and other Asian nations to smear Japan in the bad light. One piece of fatal history which appropriately illustrates the lies played out by Abe is situated in the Nanjing Massacre, or the rape of Nanjing. Lasting throughout December 1937 and January 1938, this disastrous event saw the barbaric mass murder of Chinese citizens by the Japanese imperial army. About 200,000 people were estimated to have been killed in this massacre. Shinzo Abe claimed that a considerable portion of this was made up. His refusal to apologizing severely strained Japan’s relationship with China.


The Korean military sex slaves being used as objects called ‘comfort women’ by the Japanese imperial army during World War 2 was yet another atrocity lying in the pages of world history. With Japan issuing an apology over the matter in 1993, the relationship between them and South Korea began to flourish as the two nations bonded over a common foundation of Pop and anime. This positive progression, however, was short-lived. Throughout 2006 and 2007, Abe made efforts into imposing the notion that Japan bore little to no state responsibility for its past war crimes, including the case of the comfort women. He drove Japan’s relationship with South Korea into a dark pit despite it being one of the country’s most important security and trade partners.


As stated before, Shinzo Abe’s political career was veiled with a strong pedigree. Now what exactly was this veil made of?


Abe’s grandfather and one of Japan’s previous Prime ministers, Nobusuke Kishi, was a World War 2 criminal who brutally reigned over the dummy state of Manchukuo before coming into power as the PM. His distrust towards capitalism and undying faith in his pro-American values is what saved him from the perils of war crimes since he was pardoned by the United States. In 1935, Kishi was appointed Deputy Minister of industrial development of the Manchukuo where he carried out forceful and inhumane industrialization with absolute disregard for human life. He possessed nothing but contempt for the Chinese, ‘robot slaves’ as he referred to them. Kishi imposed long hours, low pay and poor work conditions for the workers. He returned to Japan soon after where he was held at Sugamo prison as a class A war criminal for a short period of time, never having been tried or indicted for his actions.


Conclusion


Abe made it painfully obvious that most of his attempts into reframing Japan’s history were rooted in an effort towards exonerating the name of his grandfather and his family. He saw this as an opportunity to absorb the wrongs committed by his country like a sponge and drip any last remaining bits of conscience on neighbouring nations through his conservative views and callous denial of war crime allegations.


~ Skye


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