A Japanese view. I have received a lot of contumely from readers in Japan, without much explanation. Here is one from a reader in Japan making a point about its view of the past.
Before turning it over to him, a linguistic note: it's always tricky to decide how much to alter quotes from non-native speakers. I have cleaned this up only where I thought it necessary to clarify the meaning. For another time, a discussion of the fairness and unfairness of English's emergence as a global language of discourse, with related benefits to native speakers. See Ta-Nehisi Coates on this theme from France. For now, my Japanese correspondent writes:
I want to explain the Japanese Culture's views about crime, punishment, and death.
There is a saying that " hate the crime, forgive the offender". [JF Note: In English, this is of course "Love the sinner, hate the sin." Somehow I find myself thinking of the Japanese person who once asked if there was an English counterpart for the Japanese concept of ニュアンス, or nyuansu. This was of course the Japanese transliteration of the French->English word nuance.]
Japanese people make an effort to forgive an offender after his death or after he receives punishment.
It is the wisdom which developed in long history in order to cut off the chain of hate.
This is not only for Yasukuni but is generally true.
Japan's prime minister sent funeral condolences on the occasion of the death of Roosevelt who was an enemy's president.
Japanese people have not been blaming Americans about an atomic bomb in the past and the future...
Even with Osama bin Laden's dead body, probably it is treated carefully and desires a quiet mental rest...
From the world's perspective, it may seem weak not to retaliate.
It may be difficult to be understood. There may be some persons who get angry. However, if seen from the Japanese people's perspective, the world is bound by the chain of hate and can be considered to be sad.
Which may provide one answer to the question a reader in the U.S. raises:
Here's something I've never understood about Japan and its continuing propaganda, as per Yūshūkan: why, if Japanese citizens are taught that the US forced Japan into WWII and then brutally attacked and humiliated her, are relations so good between our countries? Shouldn't there be enormous amounts of teeming resentment on their part? That would seem the natural reaction. And yet it doesn't seem to be the case. Why not?
On the different Japanese and Chinese uses of the past, from an American academic:
You posted some interesting comments from readers about the appalling War Museum at the shrine site. At least a couple of them suggested there was nothing equivalent in American life.
Well, there is. Its the pernicious myth of the Lost Cause and the nobility of the Confederacy. Go visit something like Stone Mountain in Georgia. How do a group of people who attempted to destroy the United States in the cause of preserving slavery get to be lionized? It can be objected that this is a primarily regional, Southern, phenomenon but that would be a significant underestimate of the historic pervasiveness of this myth. This myth, with the accompanying myth of the horrors of Reconstruction, dominated American thinking about the Civil War era for decades. Prominent academic historians propagated these myths, and there is an immense popular literature supporting these ideas.
While this aspect of Japanese life is deplorable, its also worth asking why the Chinese government makes such a big deal out of these episodes? Its certainly not because Japan is any real sense a threat to China. The Chinese leadership is propagating their own version of victimization, which is certainly much better justified by historical events, to boost domestic solidarity and their legitimacy.
This is a rather cynical use of the past. It could even be argued that the Chinese misuse of the past is even worse than the abuse of the past by Japanese politicians. The latter are functioning within the confines of a democratic political system and a constitution that forbids aggression. The Chinese leadership, on the other hand, is attempting to use the past to perpetuate an authoritarian regime.
As I wrote repeatedly while living in China (and in my books), I basically agree with the reader's concluding point about the deliberate -- and dangerous -- way in which the Chinese government has ramped up anti-Japanese feelings. Often, as recently with Yasukuni, the Japanese government makes that job even easier.