Saturday, 13 September 2014

Kyoto continued: The Mimizuka:

In the late 1600s  Japan was united in a series of battles led first by Oda Nobunaga and then by Toyotomi Hideyoshi.  On balance, Toyotomi is remembered well by Japanese history. Despite his humble beginnings he was able to rise to become the leader of Japan (though not shogun because he didn't have a bloodline that tied him to the Minamoto or the Taira clans) and continue Nobunaga's goal of uniting the country.
Hideyoshi has less illustrious parts to his legacy in particular the persecution of Christians (which to be fair to Hideyoshi, they could reasonably have been seen as a threat to domestic unity) and his invasions of Korea.   The Christian sites of Nagasaki are now under consideration for World Heritage status, however in Japan (in contrast to Korea) there is little contemporary thought given to Hideyoshi's Korean invasions.

Hideyoshi had grand plans for his invasions: Korea was a stepping stone to his greater goals of conquering China and India. The Korean king turned down Hideyoshi's overtures which gave Hideyoshi reason to attack.  A combination of unexpected guerilla warfare, Chinese assistance to Korea, and a formidable naval Admirable Yi Sun-sin resulted in Japanese defeat in the 1592 incursion.

A bit of a a tangent, but Yi Sun-Sin invariably tops surveys of the greatest Korean of all time.  The link below shows the battle, from the Korean point of view. (Most Japanese haven't heard of him.)





The Japanese were defeated, but Hideyoshi was not to be deterred from further expanding territory under his control. After diplomatic engagements with Ming China failed to secure territory for Japan on the Korean peninsula, Hideyoshi declared war for a second time.  The second war was particularly brutal with Hideyoshi giving an order for the noses of Koreans killed to be cut off, and sent to Japan.  According to the Cambridge History of Japan more than 50,000 Koreans were captured and sent to Japan.

The connection to Kyoto?

In Kyoto, near the city centre is a shrine to Hideyoshi - Hokoku jinja 豊国 (also pronounced as Toyokuni ).  It's a pretty minor shrine, or at least not a famous shrine for most people,  though there are a few impressive pieces in the small museum in the shrine precinct.   Outside the front gate of the shrine is the mimizuka   a funeral mound for the noses of Koreans that were shipped to Japan.  It's sad and simple. There's no English sign and unless you knew what it was you probably wouldn't look twice at it.  It's looked after by volunteers, though I don't know anything about the history of who the volunteers are or how they became volunteers.

It's not an illustrious part of Japanese history, but Japan is far from unique in having black parts of history.  At the same time as Japan has historical amnesia and lacks the ability to look at history honestly, Korea has a tendency to derive national legitimacy from feeling persecuted by old injustices.  Both exacerbate the other.  In reality as the perpetrator, the onus is on Japan.  In Gunma this year a prefectural order has been given to remove a memorial for the Korean forced labourers from World War Two as it might incite ill feeling.  If only Japan could realize that looking at the past and not blinking at it could be very empowering.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi

The Mimizuka

Explanation in Japanese and Korean
It's rather similar to a kofun burial mound that
was common in the past.






4 comments:

Andrew Wright said...

Interesting! I wonder if there is any sentiment at all in Japan, even amongst the far right, for another occupation of China.

Cecilia said...

I'm not sure about re-occupation, I don't think so. But there is certainly a feeling of re-establishing Japan as the pre-eminent power in the region.
This is quite an interesting article from the NYT last week.
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/13/opinion/tea-party-politics-in-japan.html
The far right seems to have a consistent position on restoring Japanese glory, but not a consistent vision of how it should be achieved.

The BBC had an expose on China the other day.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/special/2014/newsspec_8701/index.html

The clash of national egos doesn't bode well for peace in the region IMO.

Andrew Wright said...

You have two groups with a myth of racial and cultural superiority. Both have felt historically wronged by the West (and in China's case, Japan). My reading is that Japan has largely got over the West and now feel equal, respected and somewhat respectful, within cultural boundaries. Attitudes towards the rest of the world undoubtedly continue to differ, but I think Japan sees itself as a member of the international community.

China still has that chip on its shoulder that Japan had to lose after WW2. It sees itself as having the longest civilisation and now the most power and therefore, by Confucian principles, it must be respected by all. Respect entails obedience. If you are ever disobedient towards your elders or doubt their truth, no matter what the reality is, in a traditional Chinese household there is he'll to pay.

I think we must hope that China can learn to play nicely on the world stage without going through the same steps as Japan and Germany. I remain hopeful.

Cecilia said...

I think in the main you're right about Japan having got over the West. But at the same time if you scratch the surface, it's not difficult to find some kind of resentment that Japan was forced to open up to the west. It's totally illogical because any Japanese person would prefer to be living in today's Japan rather than Japan of the 1850s, but the feeling is still there. My impression, based on no research, is that with regards to WWII, the general population feels that Japan was wrong - though there is still some trace of resentment that Japan was pushed into war by the Americans.
But people can't articulate it properly, because it's not taught properly i.e. in a way that gets people to engage their mind and think.


Japan does see itself as a member of the international community, no question at all. But even this has "buts" attached - Japan will give money for refugees in refugee camps and money to help them resettle, so long as that resettlement doesn't occur in Japan.


I think it's fair to say the ultra nationalists do want to re-assert Japanese dominance and to hell with the international community. They are a small minority though growing. According to Akahata (the communist newspaper) the current minister for Internal Affairs, Takaichi Sanae opposed a Diet resolution on German-Japanese friendship marking the 150th anniversary of the bilateral ties in 2011 on the ground that the resolution exhibited a "masochistic" view of history by mentioning remorse for the conduct of both countries in WW2. There is absolutely an agenda at the moment to rewrite Japan's war time aggression.

At the same time, China's anti Japan vitriol is toxic. As much as I loved living in China and working with Chinese people, there is almost a pathological dislike of Japan that comes from a diet of war time propaganda movies. (At least that was the case when I lived in China through 1999.) The current regime in Japan give plenty of new material for the Chinese to latch onto. That said though, the Chinese students that I teach here are extremely good natured and in many cases a lot more open-minded than Japanese classmate.

I hope Japan and China both learn to play nicely. Japan is better at playing nicely in SE Asia these days, but the growing right wing in Japan these days is in my view of really deep concern. And, so is Chinese aggressive territorial expansion...
sigh...