For Prime Minister Koizumi to Become an International Politician

"For Prime Minister Koizumi to Become an International Politician"


Dr.Hideo Ohki

Dr. Hideo Ohki
Chair of the Board of Directors
Chancelor of Seigakuin University and Schools

It goes without saying today that, rather than being limited to domestic affairs, the responsibility of the prime minister extends to international politics. Koizumi's policies are positively received in Japan with a high ratio of support among the citizens. However, this does not automatically transfer to the international sphere. The problems relate to the issues of the nationalistic Japanese history textbook approval and paying homage at Yasukuni Shrine in an official capacity. Recently, I visited Korea for an international symposium in Seoul. I felt the depth of anti-Japan sentiments regarding these two issues. After returning from this trip, I heard Koizumi continue to insist on paying homage at Yasukuni Shine in the June 10th television program "Sunday's Debates (Nichiyo Toron)" on NHK. I realized that there is a gap domestically and internationally in the perception of the Prime Minister's stance on these issues, and this makes me uneasy.

Even Prime Minister Mori decided against paying homage at Yasukuni Shrine. Why does Koizumi insist on this? The problem is that the reason for his persistency is not fully explained. What about the saying, "Decide first"? Both Korea and China are stating their concerns through diplomatic channels. Are the recent difficulties of the Department of Foreign Affairs creating the gap of perception for the Prime Minister? While staying at a hotel in Soul, I read the International Herald Tribune. On the first page, it had a major article about how the relationship between Korea and Japan has become worse because of the textbook issue and paying homage at Yasukuni Shrine. This newspaper is read widely by leaders and intellectuals around the world. It is highly influential. Does Koizumi take into consideration the opinions of the world? In order for Koizumi's personal, sentimental decision to be upgraded to an internationally valid one, it needs appropriate support. If it goes in the direction it is now, world opinion cannot be satisfied and Japan will be caught in the destiny of an isolated path.

The desire for politicians who excel not only domestically but also internationally is a long-held hope of Japanese nationals after WWII. Germany after the War established trust from neighboring countries. Japanese politicians need to learn from the attitudes and perceptions of politicians in Germany such as Weizsäker. The decision that Koizumi made regarding paying homage at Yasukuni Shrine seems to stem from an individualistic and sentimental ethic. If so, then there is no reason for such a sentiment to short-circuit into paying homage at Yasukuni Shrine. Such sentiments can be presented at the Chidorigafuchi national cemetery or the gathering for memorial of deceased at Budokan, the national auditorium. What is expected of politicians is not merely ethics of sentiment but attitudes that evince ethics of responsibility.

Neighboring countries oppose the visits because paying homage at Yasukuni Shrine is deeply connected with an understanding of wartime history. Koizumi sees this issue as one of many issues between our countries, on the same plane as others issues, but it is in a different dimension altogether, and is at the very heart of the matter. Koizumi seems to have confidence that he can explain his actions afterwards, but it is a mistaken belief coming from the gap in perceptions domestically and internationally. Explanations after the fact only results in the warning of Confucius: "whitewashing over mistakes" (ayamachi wo kazaru). Rather, he should replace latter explanations with a prior decision not to do the action in the first place. The Prime Minister needs to pull his hands from the pot of dilemma, and start treating the deep gouging wounds of our neighboring countries with his free hands. That will establish firm relationships in Asia and open up hope for the future in Asia. The dead enshrined at Yasukuni Shrine (including my brother) need to be revered in a different way for the peace of Asian in the 21st century. I believe that many people wish for Koizumi to rise up as a new international politician with the same attitude that he showed in deciding not to appeal the Hansen's patients' legal victory against the government.

Written by Hideo Ohki 11 June 2001
Translated by Paul Tsuchido Shew