Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The most difficult, terrifying, and interesting thing I have ever done...

...left me crazing more. What happened, I can't really express in words, but I will try my best.
Today, August 15th, 2006, is the 61st anniversery of Japan of the Japanese surrender of World War Two. Today, I went to Yasukuni Jinjya. I wasn't really sure if what I was doing was right, so I called Dash and asked for help (tell your parents Sorry I called so late!) He told me to go and check it out. I got off the subway at the nearest station, and leaving the station, I got really scared. Walking towards the shrine got even weirder, seeing lots of people, lots of older men, leaving. I was shaking by the time I got to entrance. There were alot of people there, and it was like 4pm when I got there. Koizumi Junichiro went about 8 in the morning. I would hate to see the number of right wing nuts there were at that time. Not many when I was there. There were some people (rather young looking) dressed in military uniforms of the WW2 era, doing something, and I even saw a couple very old men in their military uniforms. They looked, to say the least, sad. I can't begin to describe the faces I saw. I walked towards the main building, and got in line to pray. I got up to the front, threw my 100yen in, and apologized the awful things my country has done. I walked around for a bit longer, and was standing around when some people came up to me. 3 people, claiming to be students, asked me in English, if I spoke Japanese. I said yes, and they asked if they could interview me. I said yes, and they begin. One of the people was holding a video camera at me, which made me nervous, because I didn't really know what they would ask me. They asked me some very difficult political questions. First they asked me why I was there today (to apologize), if I had been before there before and why (yes, I got lost), and then some really really difficult things. I dont remember all of them because there is such much more that I had to remember, but they asked me what I new about the shrine (not as much as I should or would like to), if I and then most American kids know about the events of WW2 (yes, but only what is taught in American schools), if I new about the class A war criminals enshrined there and what about them (yes, and not as much as I should. only that they were there, not really why they are called class A war criminals, except that they lost), if I thought Koizumi is doing the right thing by coming here (I dont know enough about the shrine to answer that, why one really comes to the shrine), from here they went on to China and Korea. What I thought about Sino-Japanese and Korean-Japanese relations (they could be a LOT better, and I didnt think to say this, but BoA is a miracle) some questions about America, and then one question about the Iraq war. Did I think that the Japanese who die in Iraq should be enshrined in Yaskuni (I dont really know why people are enshrined there, so I didnt really know if they should be too. I said that I didnt think anyone should be dying in Iraq, and left an ambigous sentence ending.) They asked if Americans agree with the Iraq war, and I said that most people dont agree with Bush. I was a little afraid of super nationalists, so I tried to make my answers sound neutral, which makes me a hypocrit, because I am always saying that people should just straight say things, which the Japanese have a problem with. At this point, a guard walked up to them and told them that they werent allowed to do interviews in the shrine, and chased them away. I saw some other people interviewing foreigners, always in Japanese. After the guard chased them away, an older Japanese man (he said he was born in 1933) walked up to me. He had been standing near by during the interview and had obviously been eavesdropping. He started talking to me in English. His English was pretty good. I kept answering in Japanese, but he kept using English. He said that whenever he say a foreigner, he always used English because he really wanted to practice his Japanese. He told me that in the last 2 years, he had been to the Imperial Palace gardens 44 times to practice English with foreigners. He then said something to me about the interview that struck me as incredible, and I think, rather incorrect. He wondered why the interviewers had spoken to me in Japanese, because he thought that I might not be able to understand the true meanings of their questions, or of my answers, Japanese not being my native tongue. I was to nervous to be mouthy and say that if they had spoken in English, they might not have been able to understand the English, it not being their native language. Japanese does have an incredible about of connotations and hidden meanings, about which I have several chapters lined out for my book. I have so many ideas and things to say about that, but I dont really know how to put them on to a blog. I also have to run.

I took no pictures. There were some foreigners (although very few, what they were doing I don't know, if they knew that today was today, I dont know) and they were taking pictures. There were tons of Japanese taking pictures, but I didnt really have the courage to take pictures. I dont really know what the Japanese think about today, and I am afraid to ask them.

I have too much to think about to know what to think.

Peter

13 Comments:

At 3:00 PM, Anonymous Jiying said...

you know BOA!? you're becoming MORE AND more asian by the minute! haha, congrats! um, the shrine, a lot of controversy, but i really don't think that the prime minister of Japan should continue visiting it...

 
At 9:41 PM, Blogger Peter said...

well, why not?

 
At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey peter, its Scott from texas. School started here and i've been busy but just opened up your blog... Dude the class A war criminals are people who committed crimes against humanity, think Hitler or Adolf Eichmann for the Nazi's. It was a good idea that you were cautious at the shrine, as if u had not been so, they would have spun your interview into a right wing tool. Koizumi really shouldn't visit the shrine since it's an insult to other Asian nations, mostly Korea and China since it was those two countries that the Japanese committed the most human rights crimes. In any case, just thought i'd let you know why people are pissed off at the shrine. Send me a myspace msg sometime... Adios

 
At 11:31 AM, Blogger Peter said...

ps. jiying, I love BoA, she is amazing, and Im not really talking about the music!

 
At 2:31 PM, Blogger Dashiell said...

Peter,
Now with all this talk about a cute Korean Cultral Ambassador and pop phenomena, my post will seem somber, however I had a thought: You've been saying that you don't know what various Japanese sentementalities (sp?) are concerning things like the Aug. 15, and things like foreigners and Various Japanese cultural things. I know how scary those Japanese can be when it comes to offending. Down right scary. What if you ask your family? A: You said that the Japanese learn from others in their communities. B: You prolly can't mess things up too badly, considering how angry they've gotten about independance.
I donno. It was just a thought. Anyway, way to go, I can't believe you can answer questions like that in Japanese, you're a beast man!
Gambatte,
Dash

 
At 4:23 PM, Anonymous Nan said...

Wow. I'm with Dash on your willingness & ability to answer cogently in Japanese. I wouldn't be able to at all in Kraut. I can shop & get along, even fake charm. Politics? Fuggetaboudit. You indeed do rock. So, this shrine is not to commemorate the end of hostilities, but a giant, "yeah, we were terrible & deserve to think badly of ourselves" place? Interesting that it's a shrine---is there such a place in Germany? A giant mea culpa that is nationally recognized(Auschwitz doesn't seem to fit) by politicians? My folks met in the South Pacific theater & did Leyte, the Phillipines(too late to spell well) and other such very warm, muggy and dangerous places. They never took me camping as a result. We went to Japan as a family when my father was retiring from the Air Force. I didn't think about it at the time, but it's an interesting choice. He really enjoyed seeing Japanese culture, both the ancient & modern. I'm glad you're getting a bit of it all. One very complex, distilled country. Big hug to Alex when he gets there(without his shampoo in his carry-on). Kisses, Nan

 
At 10:55 PM, Blogger yr ma said...

Dear Peter,

Please tell us about the Tokyo fish market, and what all you are doing with your BROTHER, who is visiting you in Tokyo. Did he bring his laptop? Then write a message right now!

love you,

your old, newsdevprived, smalltown, farmer parents

 
At 2:29 PM, Anonymous Jiying said...

ur not talking about the music? well then i don't know WHAT ur talking about, Hyolee lee is much hotter. haha, and a bunch of other girls...etc etc

 
At 7:51 PM, Blogger Peter said...

hyolee lee? never heard of her. IT is true that BoA isnt especially good looking (but pretty damn) but she can sign in 4 languages. and I think speak all 4 as well. Thats pretty amazing for someone that good looking! I will go look up this person.

peter

ps. thanks for the rec.

 
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