Today marks the 64th Anniversary of the End of WW2 in Asia and throughout the world. The Pacific War began on July 7th 1937 (some would argue it began with Japan's invasion of northern China in 1931, setting up puppet Manchuria)and ended with Emperor Hirohito's pronouncement of unconditional surrender on August 15th 1945, following the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early Aug.
As in the tradition of my blog since it began way back in '05, I have written a remembrance post on every Aug 15th commemorating that fateful day when the horrific war in Asia ended, leaving millions dead, wounded, raped, and traumatised. It has been always a tremendous interest of mine in researching,archiving, and collecting materials, books, and personal accounts and eyewitness stories of the war in Asia and how the war affected the occupied territories of Asia, which included what is now called modern day Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Burma, East Timor, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea and many other nations. Yes, indeed, the Imperial Japanese Forces invaded all the above places, which may surprise many given how little is still known by the general public, even within Asia itself, much less, people residing outside of Asia in Europe, America, or the Middle East and India about WW2 in Asia.
Much attention has focused on China and Korea, whom are great economic powers now and make the most noise about Japan's wartime record, whilst the suffering of people's of other Japanese occupied nations such as Philippines and Vietnam is rarely known outside of those countries. (Yes, i was surprised myself when i started learning about South East Asia under Japanese rule and didn't even realise Vietnam had been occupied by Japan before during the war, or that Japanese atrocities in the Philippines equalled those committed in China...heck, with all the attention given to the Vietcong and the American involvement in the Vietnam War in the 60s/70s, who'd have known about the WW2 period and the Japanese involvement in Vietnam bck in WW2??!! Certainly not me!)
I've been involved in the Demand for Full Japanese Redress and Compensation Movement of sorts since around '05 when i went over to Tokyo for my exchange program. n i first met former Imperial Japanese vets whom spoke about their atrocities in China, and attended even Court Hearings and even a Judgement Hearing (i was lucky! these judgements usually take yrs to hand down, and i happened to be in Tokyo, when i could attend) on WW2 compensation cases in Japan's courts. I have been passionate about this issue since 14 yrs old or thereabouts when i first chanced upon this film starring Chingmy Yau and Veronica Yip Yuk Hing (two of my fav HK stars of the 90s) called 'Hong Kong on Fire 1941'.
Up until then, my image of the Japanese was one of refinement, of upper-class, prim and proper, polite Japanese ladies and mothers and their advanced nation of high-tech stuff, of Japanese being rich and cultured at the same time...this was, after all, the 90s...Japan led the way in Asia even despite the burst of the bubble economy as South Korea and China were still not in the world scene so-to-speak yet...i hadn't known about Japanese wartime atrocities AT ALL since it wasn't taught in schools and in the media, it wasn't such a big issue at the time, well it was, but it wasn't like it was headline news or anything like that..that single movie, changed me. It remains one of my fav movies depicting the Japanese atrocities committed during WW2.
Below: The film which forever changed my impression of the Japanese and where I first learnt about Japan and WW2 atrocities; called 'Hong Kong on Fire 1941'...
Since 2000, much has changed. In 1997, Iris Chang's book on the 'Rape of Nanking' came out, also the first time i heard about Nanking and what occurred there. China made little to no noise over the issue of wartime atrocities and indeed throughout the 80s/90s, it actively sought to restrict and ban any attempts by activists to highlight the issue or publicise compensation demands ( PRC relinquished the right to official compensation from Japan as a gesture of goodwill in 1972 when it re-established diplomatic ties with Japan). However, from 2001, when Koizumi (the Ex-PM of Japan) began his annual high-level official visits to Yasukuni Shrine, China began protesting in a loud manner and since then, the government and the media in China have been highlighting the issue very prominently. In fact, WW2 dramas are prob the MOST popular genre when it comes to war dramas nowadays, and even my mainland Chinese apartment sharemate is watching them now, que all the patriotic scenes of PLA soldiers killing Japanese soldiers and gory scenes of Japanese rampages..i'm glad actually...i mean many commentators say this is propaganda and brain-washing..etc..all that anti-commie crap as usual...i distinctly remember feeling so angry that no one seemed to bother during the 90s including China when the issue of Japanese warcrimes came up...with the strong exception of South Korea,and i NEVER heard people or commentators back then argue about the lack of justice for Asian victims of Japanese atrocity or howl over the Chinese government's ACTIVE PROHIBITION on activists seeking to gain attention to this issue, as it wasn't and still isn't 'convenient' ....and nowadays you get these (mainly western observers) saying these highly condescending and patronising statements like 'China and Japan should just grow up..' 'Korea should stop whining over the colonial issues lest it be viewed as not international enough, jeopardising its aspirations to becoming a first world country' ...' and I'm like 'what total nonsense!!!!!'...imagine what it'd be like if Germany behaved like Japan today, the western world would be up in arms...
I'd just like to ask which part of Chinese textbooks is 'propaganda'?? Is it the mention of rapes of women? The figures stated as killed? The emphasis of Japanese warcrimes?
I don't see any problems with them...Indeed, I never went through ANY education on those topics and yet you find me still feeling very strongly about it...I think people need to understand that this is a very sensitive topic and that if people cannot be sympathetic nor understanding over the issue, they should just BUTT OUT and not contribute pathetic racist patronising comments about how China and Korea and Japan are acting like children, or how Korea is not acting like a first-world power by wallowing in self-victimhood. Cos it is EXACTLY a FIRST WORLD NATION such as Korea or China (whom has many characteristics of a first world major power now) that would make a big fuss about stuff like this...you see, poorer and weaker nations such as Vietnam and Indonesia are not 'more mature', they're simply poorer, and have too many domestic problems to worry about historical issues like this, its only the stronger and richer nations which can afford to call out Japan for its atrocities. So please try and understand that....just like how in richer countries you have 'post-traumatic stress disorder' whereas in poor African nations, you just have to live with it and not worry about how traumas affect you...which doesn't mean its a healthy thing:-)
As for movies made on the WW2 issue in Asia, contrary to popular belief, there's been VERY LITLE made on Japanese atrocities in Asia...many films simply touch on it or its the setup but not the focus, such as Ang Lee's 'Lust, Caution' which dealt very briefly and hinted on Japanese terror during WW2. Two recent Chinese films on Nanking came out this yr, one being 'Nanking! Nanking!' and the other being 'John Rabe', a German-PRC Co-production. Although i lamented on the lack of good well publicised films back in the 80s and 90s on the topic of Japanese invasion/atrocities in Asia...i must say now that despite all the attention that the Rape of Nanking is getting now, all the films made in the past 10 yrs are pretty much crap compared to the ones made during the era when the issue wasn't as prominent!!!
Nanking! Nanking! was highly anticipated and is arguably the most high-profile Chinese film to have been made on the Nanking Massacre in history. It did massively well in the Chinese box-office but i suspect that's bcos there's just been such a lack of films on the Nanking Massacre that mainland Chinese audiences simply bought tickets to watch what was available. 2 stars out of 5. Miss it. It is one of the worst films i've watched on the Nanjing Massacre...despite all the supposedly research done, it was totally historically inaccurate, very much a work of the director's 'imagination' of what happened, totally incoherent storyline to the point of it being more suited as a play than a movie, and having wrong casting decisions putting japanese actors whom look like 21st century actors from tokyo playing 30s rough and rugged japanese soldiers..
The other film, 'John Rabe' fared better, and i'd recommend it if only cos there's no other films on the Nanking Massacre for the past few yrs...it is also quite inaccurate in its portrayals, and miss out huge chunks on atrocities, shying completely away from depicting any rape scenes...
I still think of all the tv dramas and movies on Japanese wartime atrocities, 1 tv drama and 4 films come to mind in terms of what i'd recommend (despite them having some flaws as well).
The tv drama would be Singapore's 'The Price of Peace' in 1997 which dealt with the Japanese invasion and occupation of Singapore 1942-1945. I cried countless times when i saw this on video yrs later..i get very emotional when i see media on this period..i don't know why, but i cry easily on depictions of especially the bombings and raping by the Japanese.
The films i'd recommend would be 1) Aishiteimasu (Mahal Kita) 1941 dealing with the Filipino experience of WW2 which was produced in 2004. 2)屠城血证 A mainland chinese film which was the first Chinese production on the Rape of Nanking bck in 1987. Yes, despite the PRC been found in 1949, no movie was ever made on the Nanking Massacre from 1949-1987! Almost 4 decades! Even with this film, the director reported restrictions from the govt not to portray japanese atrocities such as would 'harm' sino-japanese relations at a time when China was still in deep need of Japanese economic assistance. 3) 南京1937. This Taiwanese-HK coproduction was produced by John Woo and came out in 1995 on the 50th Anniversary of the End of WW2. It is the best film i've seen (so far) on the Nanking Massacre and highly recommended. 4) 香港沦陷1941 HK on Fire 1941. Mentioned above, by Wong Jing in 1994 which is good despite it being essentially a typical 1990s wartime hk sex-ploitation film.
Try to watch any of the above, they're all pretty good..Google for more info on these films...
Don't Cry, Nanking 1937 南京1937 (1995) Extra Review:
I'd like to elaborate more on Don't Cry, Nanking 1937. Which is the No.3 film above...I like this film the best and would DEFINITELY RECOMMEND it for people interested in a fair, unbiased, and most importantly, historically accurate film on what happened during the Nanking Massacre. It takes you on a coherent, dramatic storyline focusing on a Chinese-Japanese family during the Nanking Massacre and gives the proper introduction on the days leading up to the massacre, the bombing of the city, the mass killings, and of course, did a marvellous job of not shying away from depicting one of THE worst MASS RAPE SCENES I've ever scene on film, in a way not tiltillating, but extremely raw and poignantly horrifying. I salute the chinese extras whom were willing to sacrifice their bodies for this historically important film on a historically important event. Compared to Nanking! Nanking! this yr, the actors all looked the part unlike the former, and the Japanese actors looked like they were from 1930s Japan and spoke in such a manner, unlike the former film...the japanese daughter was actually played by a chinese teenage girl judging from her title credits name and the way she spoke japanese was very accurate and she looked just the part, not just a japanese girl of the 90s (the movie was made then) but a japanese girl of 1937!.. and it dealt with possible reasons for the massacre, the inherent racism of the massacre and how soldiers felt they could do anything during war.
Two scenes illustrate (without giving too much away) the above themes perfectly. One scene had the two jap soldiers telling the (very) frightened Japanese wife she wouldn't be so nice to them if they were in Japan in peacetime, would she? It also illustrated perfectly subtly that most soldiers then were from the countryside as it showed them being wowed by the fact that she was a 'woman from tokyo'....
Another scene had a soldier attempting to rape the japanese daughter as they were living in the chinese refugee camp and the wife said 'この子は日本人です、コノ子はニッポン人デス！’(This girl is Japanese! THIS girl is Japanese!) And that showed perfectly how racism was entrenched in that war as the soldier backed off and looked ashamed..cos Japanese girls n women were off-limits and they only raped 'enemy women (chinese women/girls)'..
There's also a reason for the English title 'Don't Cry, Nanking.' which besides being a metaphor for the city of Nanking during those dark days of winter 1937...also has a more literal meaning..its revealed subtly towards the end of the film...but watch the movie, i shouldn't spoil it!..
I liked the opening scene as well, where they show you an empty rail track and the haunting background score, and for almost 20 secs you don't see anyone, and slowly the symbolic Chinese-Japanese family escaping from war-torn Shanghai, of a Chinese father and his son from a previous marriage,and the Japanese wife and her daugther from a previous marriage slowly emerge from the distance, following the railway tracks towards the city of Nanking...all of a sudden, they hear Japanese fighterplanes flying overhead, prob towards bombing the city...she says:
アナタ、南京は本当に安全なの？(Dear, is Nanking safe?)
不会有问题的，南京是中国的首都，如果我们连这里也守不住，我们也没有地方可以逃了。(There will be no problem. Nanking is China's Capital. If the Chinese can't even defend this, we'll have no where to run....)
If only they knew...:-(
Links to Entire Movie here (with Eng Subs!, simply click part a,b,c,d, etc in that order to complete film):http://www.tudou.com/playlist/id/6047965/ (But be forewarned, it's extremely heartwrenching to watch!)
Above: I volunteered with Amnesty International NSW on their Comfort Women Butterfly Campaign at the National Rally for Same-Sex Marriage on Aug 1 at Darling Harbour. Kinda a way for me to show support for equal marriage rights for gay and lesbians too; that's what i call killing two birds with one stone! PS: Also participated in their final campaign event in front of Customs House Circular Quay which was quite a success in terms of the no of butterfly signature cards we managed to collect:-)
Previous Posts on WW2 and Asia:
Lest We Forget....a moment of silence for the at least 30 million Chinese, Koreans, Malaysians, Singaporeans, Vietnamese, Filipinos, East Timorese, Hong Kongers, Indonesians, Taiwanese, and others as well as the Japanese civilians at home whom perished in that immensely devastating war.