Playing the Victim | Historical Revisionism and Japan

Playing the Victim | Historical Revisionism and Japan


If I asked you to name as many movies and
video games as you can where Nazis are the bad guys, you could probably come up with
at least a dozen before you even had to take a breath. But if I were to ask you to do the same for
Japan, you’d probably struggle. Aside from the greatest movie ever made and
maybe one of the Call of Duties, they really aren’t portrayed as evil in our popular
media. There actually is one Call of Duty, but if
you’re not a die hard fan I bet you can’t even name it. This is despite the fact that they killed
just as many people as the Nazis during World War 2. Why is that? As with most stories about World War 2, we
need to go back several decades to get the full picture. We’re going to start the clock in 1868 with
the Meiji Restoration, when the Emperor of Japan became the supreme leader of the government. Before that, it flip-flopped between the Shogun
and the Emperor – who am I kidding, we’ve all seen bill wurtz’s video, and if you
haven’t you should, because I’m going to reference it several times. In 1890 the Meiji Constitution was adopted,
which set up a western-style government, with a parliament, a prime minister, and a monarch
– very similar to what Great Britain has today. For several decades prior to this, Japan was
a closed-off, isolated country. But now they wanted to burst onto the world
stage, quite literally with a bang. China had always been the dominant power in
Asia and since Japan borrowed so much of their language and culture from China, they kind
of felt like a little brother. China is to Japan what Great Britain was to
the United States. And like a younger brother, when they matured
a bit, they decided to test their strength against the elder, which resulted in the First
Sino-Japanese war in 1894. To sum it up into a single sentence, this
war was over who would control Korea and Japan won. They had beaten their older brother in their
first real fight. However, Japan also captured the Liaodong
Peninsula, just north of Korea. It previously belonged to China, who was leasing
Port Arthur to Russia. Now that the Japanese controlled it, they
offered to extend the lease with Russia if Russia recognized Korea as belonging to Japan. Russia refused, wanting to exert its own influence
on Korea. So in 1904, the Russo-Japanese War started
when Japan surprise attacked the Russian navy in Port Arthur. This is apparently a recurring strategy for
Japan. Long story short, Japan won, which was a pretty
big deal. This was the first time an Asian power had
defeated a European power since the Mongols. Ten years later, World War 1 began and I’m
not entirely sure it should be called a World War since it was almost entirely fought in
Europe. German-held territories in the Pacific, of
which there were many, all fell to the Allied forces in the first six months or so. The rest of the war would go on for another
four years. Japan was one of those Allied forces, having
captured several islands and ports from the Germans. So when it came time to negotiate the Treaty
of Versailles, they got to sit at the table with everyone else. Can you ever find him? There he is. Yeah, Japan didn’t take too kindly to being
relegated to the end of the table and basically forgotten, because, you know – Japan is
all about the respect. They had just beaten China, and Russia, and
now Germany. They felt like they should be treated with
the same respect as all of the other world powers. And much like a younger brother with a chip
on their shoulder, when they felt disrespected by their allies, they stomped off to their
room and plotted their revenge. Japan’s role in World War 1 was fairly minimal. There was some action in the first few months,
but then they mostly played a support role. Their manufacturing and military industries
took off during the war, because they were one of the only allied nations not digging
trenches in their backyard. So the economy was booming and the population
soared. But then the war ended and people stopped
buying Japanese goods… and then the Great Depression hit, and people stopped buying
Japanese goods even harder? Japan had convinced itself that it was the
target of a global conspiracy to crash its economy. Things were going great during the war and
now that the world was at peace, things were making a turn for the worst – which is the
opposite of what you’d expect. So nationalism began to take hold, much like
it did in European countries at the time. Why is the economy bad? Because of terrible trade deals, a global
conspiracy against us, and a lack of the respect that we deserve. This should sound familiar, but draw whatever
parallels you like. Japanese schools began pushing conformity,
obedience, and ultra patriotism. Many school teachers were former soldiers
and ran their classrooms like boot camp. There were even a few teachers who killed
themselves out of shame for messing up words to patriotic songs. Again, draw whatever parallels you like. But perhaps worst of all, was the indoctrination
of the idea of Japanese racial superiority. The Nazis recognized the Japanese as the Asian
master race – which is why they entered into an alliance with them. The Japanese still saw the Chinese as somewhat
of an older brother, but Koreans… were the red-headed stepchild. Now Japan had a new problem. In order to feed their expanding population,
they would need more land and I wish this was a joke… but they actually called it
manifest destiny and invaded China in 1931. Except it wasn’t actually China, it was
Manchuria, which was kinda sorta part of China… kinda… Maybe I can help? Please. You’re right, Most carefully worded historical
resources will call the Japanese offensive between 1931 and 1932 the “Invasion of Manchuria”
not the “Invasion of China” because “China” was not one unified political entity at the
time. With the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1912
the country had split into numerous states ruled by warlords called cliques, who fought
both with and against each other in shifting alliances. The Republican Kuomintang under Chiang Kai
Shek and the Socialist Chinese Communist Party united to fight the warlords but soon started
fighting each other beginning the Chinese Civil War. The Fengtian clique ruled most of the area
we call Manchuria and it was this state the Japanese invaded in 1931 because of the vast
economic and military ties they had in the region. The “Invasion of China” is a name reserved
for the offensive in 1937 because it was the first time Japan had invaded territory actually
controlled by the Republic of China politically. However both invasions were done under fabricated
incidents of Chinese aggression such as the Mukden incident and the Marco Polo bridge
incident respectfully, betraying Japanese obvious military interest in crushing Chinese
rule in the area. If you’d like to learn more, check out my
history of China series over at the Suibhne channel when you’re done here
As he said, in 1937, the Marco Polo Bridge Incident occurred, which was the beginning
of the Second Sino-Japanese War. And depending on who you ask, the beginning
of World War 2. There are obviously dozens, if not hundreds,
of battles to talk about here – but battle history isn’t really my thing, so let’s
just focus on two. The Battle of Shanghai started in August 1937. While Japan still viewed China as an elder
civilization and held them in somewhat high regard, they expected Shanghai to fall quickly. China was broken and fighting amongst itself
– Japan was clearly superior, at least in their minds. But it didn’t, the Chinese held out for
three months until November 1937 when they retreated to Nanking. The Japanese pursued them for all 200 miles
absolutely obliterating anyone or anything along the way. The city of Suzhou, which is on the road between
Shanghai and Nanking, went from 350,000 people to just 500. Single cities in China suffered as many casualties
as entire countries in Europe. If you remember Bill Wurtz’s video, here’s
where he talks about the Japanese advance. And Japan invaded more and more and more and
more of China and was planning to invade the entire East. Did you catch it? I bet you didn’t, because you probably had
annotations turned off. Here it is again, with them turned on. And Japan invaded more and more and more and
more of China. And they did some rapes. What a wonderfully lighthearted way to put
that. And as an annotation, which means it wasn’t
much more than an afterthought. So let’s talk about Nanking, which was the
capital of China at the time. Chiang Kai-shek pulled the government and
air force out of the city and ordered the skeleton crew of troops to hold Nanking at
all cost. It was pretty clear to the soldiers that he
had left them for dead. But being the capital of China, it was still
a fairly important political prize for Japan, so the Emperor appointed his uncle, Prince
Asaka, to lead the charge. This becomes incredibly important later. The siege and battle for Nanking lasted four
days in the beginning of December 1937 – remember, Shanghai lasted 3 months. The Chinese soldiers in the city either ran,
surrendered, or tore off their military uniforms and looted stores, homes, and sometimes random
people on the street in order to steal their clothes and hide among the civilian population. The Japanese who entered the city had a completely
different mindset. They felt humiliated after Shanghai and were
looking for revenge. At the same time, they were absolutely disgusted
by the soldiers who were surrendering. One of the main tenets of the Japanese warrior
code, or Bushido, is death before dishonor. There is nothing more shameful than surrendering. Among Western military powers, there was 1
surrender for every 3 dead. Among the Japanese, there was one surrender
for every 120 dead, they just didn’t do it. This was compounded by the fact that the Chinese
outnumbered the Japanese 7 to 2. Journals from Japanese soldiers at the time
wondered why are they surrendering? Even unarmed they could overpower us. The Chinese were cowards in the eyes of the
Japanese and the only explanation they could come up with was that they were subhuman. Once they took the city, things only got worse. Prince Asaka, or one of his subordinates,
issued a “kill all captives” order. The stated reason was to preserve food. Where have we heard that one before? All 90,000 Chinese soldiers, now prisoners
of war, were killed. Every military aged male in the city was killed. In fact, almost everybody in the city was
killed. If I asked you to list one hundred ways to
kill a person, you still wouldn’t come close to what the Japanese did. Prisoners were used for bayonet and machine
gun practice. Officers ordered new recruits to kill unarmed
prisoners in order to break them in and desensitize them to war. Those are just the nice ways, I hope you’re
not eating right now, because it’s about to get a whole lot worse. Chinese were lined up in rows and beheaded. They even made contests out of it, where officers
would compete to see who could behead 100 Chinese the fastest. These contests were reported in Japanese newspapers
in the same way you’d read about a baseball game. After they were beheaded, the row behind them
would push them into the mass grave that they dug themselves… and then they were beheaded
and pushed in by the row behind them. And that’s if you were lucky. There are cases of the Chinese being forced
to bury their own countrymen up to the neck alive, and then being buried up to the neck
alive themselves. Bodies were used to fill in trenches so that
tanks could drive across. People were forced to drink kerosene and then
shot so they exploded. People were forced to walk out on the ice. Babies were impaled on bayonets or thrown
into boiling pots of water. Yes, that is a real picture, you wouldn’t
have believed me otherwise – it’s blurred for obvious reasons though. Basically every way you could possibly think
of to kill a person and then some. At least 200,000 people were killed, which
was half of the population of Nanking at the time. This is why the event is known as the Nanking
Massacre. But it’s also known, perhaps more appropriately,
as the Rape of Nanking. Do you have any notion of what happens when
a city is sacked? The Japanese raped every woman they could
find. I hope you have a strong stomach, because
between 20,000 to 80,000 women were raped. Why does that number have such a large range? Because after women were raped by anywhere
from 15 to 20 soldiers each, they were killed and then their bodies were left in the street
with bayonets stuck in them. Again, blurred for obvious reasons, I’m
not making this up. Why were they killed? Well, rape was explicitly forbidden in the
Japanese military, but dead women tell no tales. Asian cultures value female chastity and purity,
so many surviving women never spoke about it or just killed themselves out of shame. To this day, no woman will admit that their
child may have been born to a Japanese soldier and infanticide was rampant during the occupation. And if you think that’s the worst of it,
you’re still wrong. At gun point, Chinese fathers were forced
on their own daughters, sons on their mothers, basically every combination that you’ve
all looked up on pornhub. I’m so done trying to understand millennials. There were rape contests as well, but honestly,
even I have my limits, so we’re done talking about this. You might be thinking: How have I never heard
about this, this must have been carried out in secret or something. No, this was front page news at the time. There were a number of foreigners in the city,
including reporters, businessmen, and ambassadors – it was the capital of China after all. These foreigners established the Nanking Safety
Zone, a two and a half square mile area reserved for civilians that was supposed to be safe
from the Japanese military. Many former Chinese soldiers hid in the zone
and were subsequently captured, so the military justified regularly raiding the zone. It eventually sheltered 250,000 refugees and
was maintained by two dozen foreign nationals led by John Rabe. The official Nazi Party representative in
Nanking. Nazi Germany was allied with Japan, so he
had every reason to portray Japan in a positive light. But he didn’t. His letters and journals from the time tell
the gruesome story of how thousands of women were raped and thousands more were murdered. Last night up to 1,000 women and girls are
said to have been raped… You hear nothing but rape. If husbands or brothers intervene, they’re
shot. What you hear and see on all sides is the
brutality and bestiality of the Japanese soldiers. (Dec 17, 1937)
He would walk the streets and night and stop rapes in progress – like a Nazi Batman…
but his only superpower was his swastika armband. The idea of a “good guy Nazi” is just
so weird that you couldn’t make it up if you tried. Upon his return to Germany, the Gestapo ordered
him to never speak of Nanking again. He is celebrated as the Oskar Schindler of
Nanking and there are multiple memorials to him in the city today. This lasted for six weeks. Reporters were barred entry to the city the
entire time, and it didn’t take long for foreign governments to figure out why. Then the stories started coming out. There are very few media depictions of this
incident, but this one, called Flowers of War, came out in 2011 and starred Christian
Bale. They definitely put some coin into this one
so it’s worth giving a watch. Had I not read about this event prior to seeing
the movie, I would have thought it was an exaggeration. They even go through the effort to recreate
several of the iconic photographs of the massacre, including this one, which we saw earlier. To Wurtz’s credit, he does mention the Rape
of Nanking in his “history of the entire world.” Japan is finally conquering the East and they’re
so excited they rape Nanking way too hard. They should probably just deny it. We’ll get to the denial later, but this
event, combined with the “accidental” sinking of the USS Panay in Nanking during
the evacuation turned US opinion against Japan. But the final straw was when Japan invaded
Indochina in 1940. The United States decided to cease all shipments
of oil and other goods to Japan as well as ban them from using the Panama Canal. Japan’s response to this was… But then Japan spits on them in Hawaii and
challenges them to war. And they say yes. An event he leaves out of his history of the
entire world, despite how important it is – and despite the fact that it wasn’t
just Pearl Harbor. They attacked dozens of islands in the Pacific
all on the same day in order to secure their own sources of oil. I made a video about this. Pearl Harbor was where the US Pacific Fleet
was based, so it’s the one that got the most press. The attack was designed to stall US response
long enough for Japan to fortify its other positions. Which worked actually… for a little while. I’m not going to get into the specific battles
of the war, but I do want to talk about the prisoners of war. As I said before, the Japanese rarely, if
ever, surrendered – but for western militaries, surrender is a perfectly acceptable option. At the beginning of this video, if you were
able to name any movies about Japan in World War 2, one of them was probably the 1957 movie
Bridge on the River Kwai, starring Obi-wan Kenobi, and maybe you knew about the 2014
movie Unbroken. Both of these movies are about the hells on
Earth that were Japanese POW camps. Of American POWs in Nazi Germany, one out
of every 25 prisoners died in a camp. Of American POWs in Japanese camps? One in three. They surrendered, in the eyes of the Japanese,
they were dishonorable cowards and they are enemies of Japan. You will be treated accordingly. The infamous Bataan Death March in 1942 was
the forced relocation of 60,000 to 80,000 American and Filipino POWs over 70 miles. It’s often referred as the POW Trail of
Tears, which is an apt comparison because just as many people died. In an act of perpetual defiance, the march
is repeated annually at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. So let’s end the war. Bonus Round, United States versus Japan, fight. Finish him. I don’t want to get into whether or not
it was right to use the bombs. But I will say that destroying cities wasn’t
all that new. We’d been firebombing cities for a while
at that point, this was Tokyo – again, I made a video about this. So if I were to tell you that this was done
by a single bomb, you’d probably think I was lying. And rightly so, because that one’s actually
Tokyo, the first one was Hiroshima. The point is that you couldn’t tell the
difference. So when we told Japan “we are in possession
of the most destructive explosive ever devised by man” their response was: “Yeah, sure
you are buddy.” Because we had been levelling cities for some
time. So we dropped a second one and forced an unconditional
surrender without having to invade mainland Japan. The United States installed a new government,
inspired by the United States government. Whoa wait. And they did some rapes? Rapes did occur in occupied Japan. But to use the same “whoops, and they did
some rapes” tone to suggest that it was anywhere near the same scale as Nanking is
just intellectually dishonest. It was measured in the hundreds, not the tens
of thousands. This, along with playing up the horrors of
the atomic bomb, helps paint a sympathetic picture of Japan as a victim of the war rather
than an aggressor. Along with a few other subtle narrative changes. Like that the war was to free Asia from western
imperialism, not world domination. And Pearl Harbor was just a reaction to being
backed into a corner, not an aggressive land grab. Those really are the versions of history being
taught in Japan today. And that’s only recently, for decades after
the war, Japanese schools didn’t even teach that Japan and the US were at war – or who
won. But there’s something else I want to say
about that segment. The United States installed a new government,
inspired by the United States government. No we didn’t. Firstly, it’s much more inspired by the
constitutional monarchy that Great Britain has, but secondly, there’s very little new
about it – all of the positions are the same. The Emperor is still the Emperor, the parliament
still exists, even the Prime Minister – the current-day Prime Minister is the 63rd Prime
Minister. We’ve only had 45 presidents. The position goes all the way back to the
Meiji Restoration. And while all of the positions remained the
same, so did many of the faces. The 56th Prime Minister of Japan was previously
being held as a Class A war criminal. To put that into perspective, there is nothing
higher than Class A – if Hitler were captured alive, he would have been a Class A war criminal. This is why Nazis are always the bad guys
in our World War 2 media and not Japan. Nazis don’t exist anymore… or at least
they’re not in charge anymore. There is a clear disconnect between Nazi Germany
and present-day Germany. But if you make Imperial Japan the bad guys,
you are by extension making current-day Japan the bad guys. Everything about the government, and most
people in it, were the same. Many Class B and C war criminals, including
the lower level officers and soldiers, were tried by the Nanking War Crimes Tribunal. Many of the foreign nationals who administered
the Nanking Safety Zone testified against them. The two lieutenants who participated in that
100 beheadings contest were tried there and their defense was… and I wish I was joking
here… “It was only like, 70 people.” Weirdly that didn’t work and they were found
guilty and executed. One of the lower level generals was also tried,
but blamed the massacre on Koreans… Which also didn’t work and he was executed. But most of the Class A war criminals were
tried in Tokyo by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. Or IMTFE for short. While the IMTFE found that the Nanking massacre
was “secretly ordered or willfully committed” – they weren’t allowed to prosecute the
top commander, who, if you remember, was Prince Asaka. The entire Imperial family was given immunity
from prosecution by Douglas MacArthur. This infuriated the Chinese, but at least
they could go after the other high-level officials… Until 1949, when Mao seized control of mainland
China and the Bamboo Curtain fell on Asia… is that racist? It feels racist. Then the Korean War happened and the West
needed a non-communist ally in Asia, so the IMTFE just… sort of stopped. This was when the future Prime Minister was
let off the hook and was allowed to continue being a politician. As long as he was pro-American. While present-day Germany paid war reparations,
Japan never really had to, and since the chief culprits of the Rape of Nanking never stood
trial, Sino-Japanese relations were sour for decades. Eventually the government of both Communist
China and the Republic of China “forgave” Japan in order to open up trade relations,
which infuriated Chinese citizens. Japan has never formally apologized for any
of its war crimes. The United States helped with that cover-up
narrative. How do you convince millions of citizens that
the people they just fought a few years ago are now our friends? Mostly by repeatedly apologizing for and playing
up the horrors the atomic bombs. Because you know, two wrongs make a right. They cancel each other out. If you look at history, we have bombed the
masculinity out of an entire continent. We dropped two atomic bombs on f***ing Japan
and they’ve been drawing Hello Kitty and s*** ever since. As funny as that is, he’s also not wrong. Hello Kitty, Keroppi, more recently Gudetama
were all created by Sanrio to play into the victimization and pacification of Japan. They are all designed to look vulnerable. All of these characters are so cute and defenseless
and you just wanna hug them and protect them, oh m- It’s also known as Kawaii culture
and really grew during the 70s and 80s but continues today. Until the cold war ended and the stories came
out. Japanese soldiers who no longer feared prosecution
talked openly about what they did. Books were published, like Iris Chang’s
The Rape of Nanking, movies were made like Flowers of War and Unbroken. And still Japan, officially anyway, denies
their part in the tragedy. Saying it was all just Soviet and Chinese
propaganda – which is kind of true by the way, even some blaming the United States for
it, which… Saying that it was only 3000 people who were
killed – even though there are single mass graves with more bodies than that. Or that it was Chinese looters or that all
the women who were raped were actually paid prostitutes or “comfort women” – which
is the same reason Japanese-Korean relations are still on the rocks. The Japanese government thinks that apologizing
for the sins of the past would be an insult to veterans – those responsible have already
been prosecuted, how many times must they apologize? Once would be nice, you know, for starters. Having any sort of academic or political discussion
on Japanese war crimes in Japan usually results in career suicide. And more often than not, death threats. Whenever a Japanese politician makes the mistake
of apologizing in a personal capacity, not an official one. They either retract it shortly afterwards
or are voted out. The current Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo
Abe made that mistake in 2006. And now repeatedly claims that comfort women
were not forced into sexual slavery but were private entrepreneurs. On a visit to the Yakusuni Shrine, which memorializes
over a thousand convicted war criminals, fourteen of which are Class A, he said:
“The men convicted by the Allied tribunals are not war criminals under the laws of Japan.” Japanese denial of their war crimes, and especially
Nanking, is akin to denying that the Holocaust happened. The most successful historical revisions are
those that only tell one side – but in recent years, we’ve finally started to hear the
other sides of this story and it’s important to listen. The saying goes “those who do not learn
from their history are doomed to repeat it.” You no longer have the luxury of saying you
did not learn, because now, you know better. I promised I’d make this video almost two
years ago, and here it is… finally. Big thanks to Suibhne for helping me with
this video, make sure to check out his channel and videos on China. I’d also like to thank my legendary patrons
Eric and Hamzah. If you’d also like me to butcher the pronunciation
of your name or at least have your name up on screen, head over to patreon.com/knowingbetter. In the mean time don’t forget to… uh…
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