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 New book on Japan. World War II and making apologies

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PostSubject: New book on Japan. World War II and making apologies   Mon Dec 24, 2012 5:28 pm

Author Q&A - from time.com
Why Japan Is Still Not Sorry Enough - By Kirk Spitzer
Dec. 11, 2012

Keen observers know that Japan’s ugly territorial disputes with its neighbors aren’t really about fishing grounds or oil and gas reserves or ancient historical claims. What they’re about is that the Japanese still – still – won’t admit they did anything wrong during the Second World War or during their long colonial rule in Asia.

That’s how the neighbors see it, anyway. And it explains why arguments with China and South Korea over islands of questionable value have turned into volatile confrontations. Armed ships are conducting rival patrols around the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands, which Japan controls but are claimed by China; Japan and South Korea are in a bitter feud over Dokdo (Takeshima) Island, which South Korea controls but which Japan claims.

Now comes author Thomas U. Berger to explain why Japan is viewed as so unrepentant. Some 20 million people died and millions more were subjugated and oppressed during Japan’s half-century of war and colonial expansion, which ended in 1945.

Cambridge University Press

In a new book, War, Guilt and Politics After World War II, Berger says a complex web of culture, politics, geography and shifting notions of justice have made it more difficult for the Japanese to apologize for past transgressions than other societies. That’s particularly true compared to Germany, whose crimes outstripped even those of Japan, but which has largely reconciled with former victims.

Berger is an associate professor of international relations at Boston University and a frequent traveler to Japan; he is currently lecturing at Tokyo’s Keio University. I chatted with Berger about his book via email this week. Here are excerpts:

Why did you decide to write this book?

I had done research previously on the impact of historical issues on defense and foreign policy in both Germany and Japan. So when disputes flared up in the 1990s over how Japan was dealing with its past, a number of my friends thought it would be a natural topic for me to look at. I wrote a couple of essays and thought I could spin off a quick book, but it took close to 14 years to get it out.

Why so long?

As I worked on the topic, I became convinced that political scientists and policy makers do not have a very good handle on what drives the politics of history. I was forced to read a lot of material from different fields to help me make sense of it.

Also, on a more personal note, I found myself talking often with my parents about their experiences. My mother lived in Germany during the war, experienced bombings, lost many of her school friends and eventually was driven out of her home. My father came from Vienna, and though a Christian, was of Jewish background and therefore was forced to flee after the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938. Their experiences brought to life for me the reality of the times, and how individuals had to try to deal with the aftermath of the war. I hope it didn’t damage my objectivity – I don’t think that it did. But it did help make it a very personal project on a certain level.

What did you find out? Is Japan as unrepentant about its past as its neighbors claim?

Yes. But it’s not as simple as that.

It’s true, Japan has not been as repentant as Germany or other countries that have faced up to the darker sides of their past. Japan has apologized for waging aggressive war and oppressing its neighbors, but those apologies have fumbling and awkward, and often been undercut by revisionist statements from senior politicians. Japan has offered relatively little compensation to the victims. And to this day there are no nationally sponsored museums or monuments that acknowledge Japanese aggression or atrocities.

But Japan has been far more repentant than is often credited. Prime ministers have repeatedly offered apologies for their country’s misdeeds. Japan has sponsored joint historical research with both South Korea and China. Most Japanese school textbooks deal with issues like the Nanjing massacre and the colonial oppression of Koreans in a fairly open manner. Opinion polls suggests that most Japanese feel their country did things in Asia for which the country should apologize.

So why can’t the Japanese just say, “We were wrong. We’re sorry”?

Apologizing is a costly business for leaders of any country, and requires the investment of a great deal of political capital. Apologies tend to be given when there is a belief that those apologies will be accepted, at least in part, and that dialogue between the two sides will be advanced. So unless there are strong reasons to do so, most leaders avoid it.

American readers may recall how difficult it has been for us to come to terms with the legacy of slavery and institutionalized racism. Issues like the atomic bombings of Japan and the massacre of insurgents in the Philippines remain difficult for American politicians to address — if they are aware of them as issues at all.

The problem is, in China and Korea there has been very little readiness to accept Japan’s efforts to promote reconciliation, and as a result, those efforts have tended to founder.

So it’s all Japan’s fault?

No, the Koreans and the Chinese bear a large share of the blame. With the Koreans, there has been an unwillingness to help the Japanese find ways of reconciling when the Japanese have tried to do so. This was most apparent with the Asian Women’s Fund, which the Korean government did not support and in fact subverted by establishing a separate, rival support system for the former comfort women. This has been made worse by the tendency of Korean politicians to score cheap points by very publicly taking out their frustrations with Japan — as when President Lee Myung-bak went to Dokdo/Takeshima recently.

There is good reason to question whether the Chinese really want or care about reconciliation. When Jiang Zemin went to Tokyo in 1998, he hectored the Japanese about the past in ways that prevented the Japanese from offering the kind of written apology that they gave South Korea President Kim Dae-jung that same year.

Chinese leaders have preferred taking a hard line on Japan. This has been especially so when there are divisions in the Chinese leadership, and on a deeper level may have something to do with the Chinese leadership being deeply worried about their legitimacy. While Korean leaders are frequently unpopular, there is strong support for the Korean political system and pride in its democratic institutions, but Chinese leaders need to strike a nationalistic tone in part because there is greater internal skepticism about one-party rule.

Most other countries in Asia seemed to have moved on, haven’t they? Why are things different China and Korea? Was it because the occupations lasted longer, or because more people were killed there?

A lot of people died in Indonesia, Vietnam, and elsewhere, too. But Southeast Asians have been generally willing to forgive the Japanese. And the Japanese were in Taiwan even longer than in Korea, but anti-Japanese attitudes there are weak or non-existent.

To my mind, the key difference is how modern nationalism was created in those countries. Chinese and Korean nationalism is in many ways defined itself against Japan. In contrast, the national identity of most Southeast Asian countries was defined in opposition to their old colonial masters. In Indonesia, the focus was the Dutch, in Malaysia it was the British, and in the Philippines it was the United States. Taiwan is also instructive here, since the pro-democratic movement focused its resentment against domination by mainland China, first under the Nationalists and more recently against the PRC.

O.K., so what’s next? China has new leadership; Shinzo Abe is likely to become the new prime minister of Japan this month; and South Korea is holding new elections as well. Will that help?

I am not too optimistic, at least over the short term – the next five years or so.

There is a genuine chance for an improved relationship between Japan and South Korea. They both have strong common interests. They share many common values. Both are decent, democratic societies. In contrast to the past, the Japanese have come to respect and even admire the Koreans, while the Koreans have won back their self confidence and can afford to be more magnanimous towards their former oppressors.

Unfortunately, there are lots of signs that the Abe administration is coming into office thinking it will be firm but conciliatory with China, but really dump on the Koreans. They appear to be thinking about revoking the Kohno statement on the Comfort Women and may do some other things on historical issues that the Koreans will find highly provocative. This would enrage the Koreans and may lead to their taking counter steps.

With the Chinese, the gap in interests as well as perceptions is too big to allow for the pursuit of reconciliation, and even a more limited strategy of damage control may prove impossible. The new Xi administration shows every sign of wanting to continue to push the Senkaku/Diaoyu issue further, and China may even choose to escalate the pressure in the pring. Since Chinese claims are based on a particular reading of history that is very critical of Japan, there is little or no chance that the two sides will be able to dampen the nationalist passions that are feeding the crisis in the East China Sea.

Hopefully, cooler heads on all sides — perhaps with behind-the-scenes help from the United States — can persuade the governments not to escalate the issue to dangerous levels. But the possibility of further riots, diplomatic crises and possibly even clashes involving paramilitary forces around the disputed territories is all too real.

Read more: http://nation.time.com/2012/12/11/why-japan-is-still-not-sorry-enough/#ixzz2G0TBoKdW
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PostSubject: Re: New book on Japan. World War II and making apologies   Mon Dec 24, 2012 5:56 pm

As I noted, this relates back to the whole discussion of Imperial Way Zen and how all the Zen sects supported the war effort.... and most of the Rinzai head temples, as far as I know - have not acknowledged their war participation. Sange / contrition is certainly a major topic in Dogen and Soto Zen, but for the most part, sange is about personal contrition... and it seems to be that most of the "masters" or leaders don't think that contrition applies to them, but is only for their followers. Once you are officially "enlightened," you are beyond self-criticism or saying you're sorry. I see this attitude expressed in these recent Zen sex scandals, where the many of the roshis really don't apologize or think they have done anything wrong. Like Richard Nixon, if the president does it, it can't be illegal.

Anyway, below is a comment that someone posted on the time.com site - as part of the many comments. I did not write what is below, but post it as part of the conversation:

11 days ago

I spent nearly a decade living and working in Japan, and this topic is incredibly frustrating, and depressing. Mostly because nothing ever changes, and one can't escape the feeling that things will never improve, and the countries of east Asia will not ever be able to move on.

The Japanese have apologized on numerous occasions, but in most cases, they have perceived by the Koreans and the Chinese as being vague and insincere, and rightly so. As well, the annual visits by senior politicians (including some Prime Ministers) to the controversial Yasukuni shrine, as well as the constant attempts by right-wing elements to change the version of history taught in Japanese schools, merely reinforces the perception that the Japanese are not really sorry at all.

For their parts, the Korean, and ESPECIALLY the Chinese governments rely on the Japanese "bogeyman" to fire up nationalistic fervor, and distract from their own shortcomings. It's true that the Japanese brutalized the Chinese in the 1930s, but the Chinese Communist Party are brutalizing the Chinese in 2012, and they would very much like to keep everyone's minds off of that fact.

The biggest problem of all with regards to conversations around Japan's wartime guilt, are that in Japan, they tend to take place among expatriates, or like here, in western magazines and media outlets. It's not something that the average Japanese person ever talks about, and to go even further, most are completely ignorant of Japan's wartime activities. Japan largely views its role in WWII as that of victim. Which is why every August, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are commemorated nation-wide, and yet there is never any acknowledgment of what was done that caused the B-29s to come calling.

When I lived over there, I worked in Research and Development. My Japanese colleagues were, for the most part, very well-educated, and more worldly than the average Japanese citizen (it was a foreign company). And yet, the sheer level of ignorance with regards to WWII, and Japan's role in it, was astounding. They genuinely had very little idea because the distorted view of events that continues to exist there is barely taught in schools, and never discussed. To sum it up briefly, the Japanese went to Asia to liberate their neighbours from colonial oppression at the hands of the western powers. They then established what is referred to euphemistically as "The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere". Everyone else would recognize it as simple, brutal colonization. Then there was a misunderstanding at Pearl Harbor, followed by the bombing of their cities, and the eventual, "criminal" nuclear attacks in August 1945.

In this respect, the standard comparison between Japan and Germany is quite illuminating. EVERY German born since the war knows what the Nazis did and although I don't believe in children paying for the "sins of their fathers", there is a collective awareness there, that borders on guilt. No such thing exists in Japan, and until the nation as a whole really makes the effort to come to grips with its ugly past, then all of the empty gestures and hollow apologies from Japanese officials will continue to fall on deaf ears in China and Korea, and they will continue to use the issue as a weapon with which to attack Japan, and distract their domestic populations from their own problems."


Read more: http://nation.time.com/2012/12/11/why-japan-is-still-not-sorry-enough/#ixzz2G0aHYuV4
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PostSubject: Re: New book on Japan. World War II and making apologies   Fri Dec 28, 2012 4:08 pm

Perhaps there is something in the Japanese character / culture that makes apologizing / acknowledging / contrition so difficult. Just speculation here. But here is another example from today's NYTimes:

December 27, 2012
Japan Hints It May Revise an Apology on Sex Slaves

TOKYO — A top official hinted Thursday that Japan’s newly installed conservative government might seek to revise a nearly two-decade-old official apology to women forced into sexual slavery during World War II, a move that would most likely outrage South Korea and possibly other former victims of Japanese militarism.

Speaking a day after the new cabinet was named, the official, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who serves as the government’s top spokesman, refused to say clearly whether the new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, an outspoken nationalist, would uphold the 1993 apology.

Mr. Suga said at a news conference that it would be “desirable for experts and historians to study” the so-called Kono Statement, which acknowledged the Imperial Army’s involvement in forcing thousands of captured Asian and Dutch women to provide sex for Japanese soldiers. Most historians say the women were coerced and were not prostitutes, as Mr. Abe and other nationalists have claimed in the past.

Mr. Suga also said, however, that the Abe government would uphold a broader apology, issued in 1995 to observe the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, to all victims of Japan’s colonialism and aggression.

Mr. Abe, who also served as prime minister in 2006 and 2007, has never been shy about his right-wing agenda, which includes calls for textbooks with a more patriotic tone. But after watching his popularity plummet in his last term as mainstream Japanese bridled at his hawkish stands, some analysts have suggested that he might be more restrained this time.

If Mr. Abe revises the apology, the move will run counter to the wishes of the United States. American officials say they have urged Mr. Abe to shelve calls to revise the Kono Statement to avoid increasing tensions with South Korea. The United States has been urging the two countries, its closest allies in the region, to increase cooperation as China is asserting more territorial claims and as North Korea appears to be continuing to strengthen its nuclear weapons and missile programs.

The sex slaves issue remains highly emotional in South Korea, a former Japanese colony. On Thursday, the South Korean Foreign Ministry called on Japan not to forget its militaristic past.

The Kono Statement — named for the chief cabinet secretary who issued it, Yohei Kono — has long been a sore point for Japanese rightists, who deny either that the women were coerced or that the military had a hand in forcing them to become what many Japanese euphemistically call “comfort women.” These critics include Mr. Abe, who has repeatedly called for revising the statement, most recently during an internal Liberal Democratic Party election in September.

The issue, however, does not resonate broadly among the public, which remains averse to provoking other Asian countries over issues of history and territory, and Mr. Abe avoided talking about the matter during the national parliamentary elections this month that swept his Liberal Democrats back into power.

The sex slaves issue has rippled into other areas of tension before. During his final months in office, President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea visited a group of islands claimed by both his nation and Japan in an apparent display of displeasure over Japan’s refusal to pay official compensation to South Korea’s few hundred surviving former sex slaves, now in their 80s.

South Korea’s newly elected president, Park Geun-hye, has also shown personal interest in the matter, attending United States Congressional hearings in 2007 that criticized Mr. Abe’s denials that the women were coerced.
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PostSubject: Re: New book on Japan. World War II and making apologies   Sun Dec 30, 2012 12:17 am

Hi Josh,

In the ongoing discussion and analysis of Japan and Zen in World War II, perhaps the research of Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney (William F. Vilas Research Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) may be of interest? Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalisms: The Militarization of Aesthetics in Japanese History (2002) and Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers (2006), both published by The University of Chicago Press. According to the cover of the second book, the Economist called this work "A timely and necessary correction of a popular myth, and an important contribution to the understanding of Japan at war."

Best wishes for the holidays, gassho.
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PostSubject: Re: New book on Japan. World War II and making apologies   Sun Dec 30, 2012 1:14 am

thanks for the book suggestions. i bought one through my kindle account - cheap -- and found a used hardcover on line of the other one, so can add them to my stacks of books. I will add mentions of these books to the reading section also, so people can find them if they are interested. I actually just read quite a good essay on Japanese religion both before WWII and how the new religious freedom affected Japan after the war.

happy new year... a bit snowy and cold here in nyc.

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Christopher Hamacher

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PostSubject: Re: New book on Japan. World War II and making apologies   Sun Dec 30, 2012 9:31 am

A bit off-topic here but I can add that I have lived in Germany for fifteen years and concur at the level of acknowledgment and serious, honest, dealing with World War II atrocities here. I don't have that much connection with Japan but from what I have experienced, the difference is staggering. The longer Asian countries continue to deny and/or cheaply exploit Japanese WWII misdeeds, the longer they will remain infantile as countries. An the other hand, German collective consciousness is becoming extremely mature and insightful, through honest admission of wrongdoing, among other things.
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PostSubject: Re: New book on Japan. World War II and making apologies   Sun Dec 30, 2012 11:02 pm

Thanks, Josh. Can the essay you mention be read on line?

Happy New Year! After arctic outflow conditions, it has warmed up to -3 degrees Celsius up here.
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PostSubject: Re: New book on Japan. World War II and making apologies   Mon Dec 31, 2012 1:05 pm

which essay?
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PostSubject: Re: New book on Japan. World War II and making apologies   Mon May 27, 2013 10:34 am

Posting this here - another example of collective denial - group-think. And it does relate to how the Japanese Zen world faced their own involvement in the imperial war culture, the way we can rewrite history, etc:

May 27, 2013 - NYT
Japanese Politician Tries to Calm Furor Over Wartime Brothels

TOKYO — Seeking to quell an uproar over recent suggestions that sexual slavery was a necessary evil in Japan’s imperial past, a populist party leader said Monday that his comments were not meant to justify wartime brothels or deny the women’s suffering at the hands of Japanese soldiers.

But Toru Hashimoto, who heads the opposition Japan Restoration Association and is mayor of Osaka, Japan’s third-largest city, also argued that Japan was being unfairly singled out for its use of so-called comfort women and that other nations needed to examine the mistreatment of women by their own militaries before pointing the finger at Tokyo.

‘'We must express our deep remorse at the violation of the human rights of these women by Japanese soldiers in the past, and make our apology to the women,’’ Mr. Hashimoto said. But he added, ‘‘It is not a fair attitude to blame only Japan, as if the violation of human rights of women by soldiers were a problem unique to Japanese soldiers.'’

The conduct of the Japanese military in Asia before and during World War II remains a highly charged topic between Japan and its neighbors, who say Tokyo has not properly atoned for its history of wartime atrocities, and those like Mr. Hashimoto who feel that Japan has been demonized.

Some historians estimate that 200,000 women were rounded up from across Asia to work as comfort women for the Japanese Army. Other historians put that number in the tens of thousands and say they served of their own will. Japan formally apologized to the comfort women in 1993.

But Mr. Hashimoto charged that the United States, Britain, France, Germany, and the former Soviet Union were guilty of similar violations of women’s rights in World War II.

He also stood by an assertion shared by many Japanese, as well as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, that there was no evidence to suggest that Japan’s wartime government directly forced these women to serve in the brothels. He brushed aside testimony to the contrary from a number of former comfort women as unreliable.

Mr. Hashimoto’s comments followed those of a string of Japanese politicians who have recently challenged what they say is a distorted view of Japan’s wartime history. Last month, Mr. Abe seemed to question whether Japan was the aggressor during the war, saying the definition of ‘'invasion'’ was relative.

But even Mr. Abe and his cabinet have distanced themselves from Mr. Hashimoto in recent weeks as he tried to correct what he believes is an erroneous view of Japan’s wartime history.

Mr. Hashimoto’s rants — sometimes in the form of an outpouring of dozens of posts on Twitter — have sparked furor from human rights groups here and alienated much of the public. A recent survey of 1,550 households by the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper showed 71 percent of respondents called Mr. Hashimoto’s comments ‘‘inappropriate,’’ compared with 21 percent who said the comments were ‘'appropriate.'’

Mr. Hashimoto’s speech Monday to overseas journalists at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan was as much a plea to domestic voters before parliamentary elections this summer as it was an attempt to reach out to global public opinion.

Recent ratings for Mr. Hashimoto, who was once seen as a possible contender for prime minister, have plummeted, and a smaller party has called off plans to cooperate in the coming elections, citing his remarks on women.

During his speech Monday, Mr. Hashimoto apologized for suggesting to a senior American military official stationed on the island of Okinawa that United States troops at bases there should make more use of the local adult entertainment industry to reduce sexual crimes against local women.

‘‘That was not what I meant. My real intention was to prevent a mere handful of American soldiers from committing crimes,’’ Mr. Hashimoto said. ‘‘In attempting to act on my strong commitment to solving the problem in Okinawa stemming from crimes committed by a minority of U.S. soldiers, I made an inappropriate remark.'’

Still, Mr. Hashimoto did not shy away from delving into his interpretation of the comfort woman experience.

Many wartime brothels were run not by Japanese, but by local brokers on the Korean Peninsula and elsewhere, he said. And though some brothels were run by Japan’s wartime military, its main task was to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases for the sake of the women, he said.

He stressed that while Japanese military boats and trucks were used to transport women to the brothels, authorities themselves were not deeply involved in the coercion of women. He said he did not believe Japan’s actions at the time amounted to human trafficking.

Banri Kaieda, who leads the opposition Democratic Party, advised Mr. Hashimoto to stop talking before he made the situation even worse.

‘‘There is a Chinese saying, ‘You cannot wrap a fire with paper,’’’ Mr. Kaieda said at a news conference. With Mr. Hashimoto, he said, ‘‘It’s as if he is trying to wrap it
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PostSubject: Re: New book on Japan. World War II and making apologies   Thu Jan 02, 2014 1:07 am

I don't think I posted this before -- apologies if it was posted before....

Meditating On War And Guilt, Zen Says It's Sorry - from NYTimes
Published: January 11, 2003

To many Americans, Zen Buddhists primarily devote themselves to discovering inner serenity and social peace. But Zen has had strong ties to militarism -- indeed so strong, that the leaders of one of the largest denominations in Japan have remorsefully compared their former religious fanaticism during Japan's brutal expansionism in the 1930's and 40's to today's murderously militant Islamists.

The unexpected apology for wartime complicity by the leaders of Myoshin-ji, the headquarters temple of one of Japan's main Zen sects, was issued 16 days after 9/11, which gave it a particular resonance. But the leaders of Myoshin-ji -- as well as other Zen Buddhist leaders who have also delivered apologies over the past two years -- mainly credit a disillusioned Westerner for their public regrets: Brian Victoria, a former Methodist missionary, who is a Zen priest and historian.

Buddhist leaders in Japan and the United States said in recent interviews that Mr. Victoria had exerted a profound influence, especially in the West, by revealing in his 1997 book, ''Zen at War,'' a shockingly dark and unfamiliar picture of Zen during World War II to followers who had no idea about its history. Keiitsu Hosokawa, secretary general of Myoshin-ji, made a speech to the group's general assembly in September 2002 in which he said that the Japanese edition of ''Zen at War'' had been one of several factors that ''provided the impetus'' to issue the group's apology.

Now, in a new sequel called ''Zen War Stories,'' Mr. Victoria has dug more specifically into relationships between Zen leaders and the military during World War II.

From its beginnings in Japan, Zen has been associated with the warrior culture established by the early shoguns. But the extent of its involvement in World War II has stayed mostly submerged until recently. Many people in the United States and Europe know Zen's indirect traces through the poetry of the Beats or the quietist aura of contemporary architecture and clothing.

Even John Dower, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian of modern Japan at M.I.T., whose early interest in Japan was kindled by Zen-inspired architecture, said that Mr. Victoria's works had opened his eyes to ''how Zen violated Buddhism's teachings about compassion and nonviolence.''

Ina Buitendijk, a Dutch Zen devotee, was so inspired by Mr. Victoria's work in 1999 that she mounted a letter-writing campaign pressing Zen leaders to confront their history. Mrs. Buitendijk's husband, along with other Dutch civilians, was interned by the Japanese in the Dutch East Indies during World War II. All this she put into the 28 letters she said she had written to Zen spiritual figures, educators and administrative leaders in Japan. A number of leaders responded, sending her official apologies, some of which were published.

The Myoshin-ji statement, first issued on Sept. 27, 2001, for example, was expanded in a major religious newspaper in Japan in September 2002. The initial statement said that the conflict between America and an anti-American jihad made it important to remember ''that in the past our nation, under the banner of Holy War, initiated a conflict that led to great suffering.''

The more detailed version apologized for helping to lend a religious purpose to invasions, colonization and the former empire's destruction of ''20 million precious lives.'' The self-critical account also described how Myoshin-ji members followed Japanese invaders across Asia, ''established branch headquarters and missions'' in conquered areas, even ''conducted fund-raising drives to purchase military aircraft.''

Two other Zen groups -- the Tenryu-ji temple and the Sanbo-kyodan foundation -- and several individual Zen leaders have also issued apologies after receiving Mrs. Buitendijk's letter for war-time complicity, which have appeared in Buddhist publications in Europe and the United States.

Mr. Victoria, 63, is a former Nebraskan who lives in Australia and teaches Japanese studies at the University of Adelaide. He embraced Zen in 1961, partly because he believed its history was free of the violent conflicts that had marked Western religion.

In 1964, ordained a Soto priest while living in Japan and increasingly active in opposing the Vietnam War, he was chastised by a religious superior for taking part in peace protests. He then discovered the writings of Ichikawa Hakugen, a Zen priest who had taken an early look at Zen's war-time role. It was buried, like that of Emperor Hirohito, by efforts to stabilize Japan during the cold war, Mr. Victoria said.

Mr. Victoria subsequently conducted numerous interviews with aging priests and plumbed Japanese military archives to detail how military figures and Zen leaders had jointly shaped Zen meditative practice into forms of military training.

''Zen was a large part of the spiritual training not only of the Japanese military but eventually of the whole Japanese people,'' he said in an interview. ''It would have led them to commit national suicide if there had been an American invasion.''

''Zen War Stories'' quotes from manuals for battlefield behavior that Mr. Victoria says drew on Zen. It tells how the military modeled eating utensils on those in monasteries, how kamakazi pilots visited for spiritual preparation before their final missions.

Japanese Zen is a mosaic of different denominations, the two overarching groups being the Soto school, which emphasizes quiet sitting meditation, and the Rinzai school, which teaches a more aggressive practice based on solving spiritual riddles or koans. The Japanese tend to combine different kinds of Buddhist practice, including Zen and non-Zen forms.

Both of Mr. Victoria's books peel back layers of the career of D. T. Suzuki, who taught at Columbia University in the 1950's and remains the best-known Japanese advocate of Zen in the West. In 1938, however, Mr. Suzuki used his prestige as a scholar in Japan to assert that Zen's ''ascetic tendency'' teaches the Japanese soldier ''that to go straight forward and crush the enemy is all that is necessary for him.''

''What Brian Victoria has written is mostly right,'' said Jiun Kubota, the third patriarch of Sanbo-kyodan, a small Zen group outside Tokyo that has also issued an apology. ''I dare say that Zen was used as the spiritual backbone of the military army and navies during the war.''

Mr. Victoria's research has revealed that the founder of Sanbo-kyodan, Mr. Kubota's longtime teacher, was an outspoken militarist and anti-Semite during the war years. His name was Hakuun Yasutani, and he was one of the most significant figures in advancing the popularity of Zen Buddhism in the United States in the 1960's.

In 1999, the New York-based magazine Tricycle published excerpts of a 1943 book that Mr. Victoria had unearthed in which Yasutani expressed his hatred of ''the scheming Jews.'' Actually, the Zen master probably knew few if any Jews, and Mr. Victoria believes he was using them as a stalking horse for liberalism.

Traditionally, Zen stresses an inward search for understanding and mental discipline. But Mr. Victoria said that imperial military trainers developed the self-denying egolessness Zen prizes into ''a form of fascist mind-control.'' He said Suzuki and others helped by ''romanticizing'' the tie between Zen and the warrior ethos of the samurai. Worse, he charges, they stressed a connection between Buddhist compassion and the acceptance of death in a way that justified collective martyrdom and killing one's enemies.

''In Islam, as in the holy wars of Christianity, there is a promise of eternal life,'' Mr. Victoria said in an interview. ''In Zen, there was the promise that there was no difference between life and death, so you really haven't lost anything.''

Despite the apologies, some of the Zen leaders say that Mr. Victoria is too hard on Zen Buddhists. Thomas Kirchner, an American-born Myoshin-ji monk, who translated its World War II apology and those of other sects, argued that in the view of Japanese Zen leaders Mr. Victoria doesn't sufficiently explain that ''conformist pressures on all Japanese that were immense.''

Masataka Toga, secretary general of Tenryu-ji, echoed that view. Mr. Kirchner also argued that Mr. Victoria doesn't offer a sufficiently textured picture of the religious landscape of wartime Japan. Other Buddhist sects and Japanese Christians also supported the war, along with the emperor-deifying religion of Shinto.

Herbert Bix, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning ''Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan,'' says it is important to see Mr. Victoria's work within the broad picture of Japanese religion and politics at the time.

Still, Mr. Bix, Mr. Kirchner and others praise Mr. Victoria's work. Indeed, it's hard to find a scholar of authority who takes issue with the basic findings of ''Zen at War,'' which has chapter titles like ''The Incorporation of Buddhism into the Japanese War Machine (1913-30).''

Mr. Victoria sees hope for Buddhism in a Western-style ''engaged Buddhism'' that increasingly seeks to combine meditative practice with work for social progress and peace.

That moral growth, he believes, must come with a cold-eyed look at how basic Zen concepts were abused in the past: ''I want my work to provide a model that it is possible to take an unflinching look at what is really happening with a religion while remaining essentially committed to it.''

Allan M. Jalon is a fellow with the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University.
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