Japan’s Kamikaze Isolation

It almost seems as if Japan is bent on self-isolation in Asia. After a few months during which Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi ostensibly sought to improve his country’s relations with China, his fifth visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine has again raised tempers. China and South Korea both cancelled meetings of their foreign ministers with their Japanese counterpart. Once again, Japan has missed a chance to rebuild trust in a part of the world where, in the absence of cooperative international institutions, trust is all there is.

Why does Japan still not understand that the way it treats its history echoes across every part of Asia that Japan’s military occupied in the first part of the 20th century? Japanese reactions reveal an extraordinary degree of stubborn self-righteousness.

As Japan’s government never ceases to point out, the Yasukuni shrine, built in 1869, venerates the 2.5 million Japanese who have died for their country, not just the 14 judged as war criminals after WWII. But, while many Japanese feel (with some justification) that South Korea and, in particular, China, exploit the Yasukuni issue to reduce Japan’s influence in the region and to pander to their publics’ strong nationalism, they are missing the point.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.


Log in

  1. An employee works at a chemical fiber weaving company VCG/Getty Images

    China in the Lead?

    For four decades, China has achieved unprecedented economic growth under a centralized, authoritarian political system, far outpacing growth in the Western liberal democracies. So, is Chinese President Xi Jinping right to double down on authoritarianism, and is the “China model” truly a viable rival to Western-style democratic capitalism?

  2. The assembly line at Ford Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

    Whither the Multilateral Trading System?

    The global economy today is dominated by three major players – China, the EU, and the US – with roughly equal trading volumes and limited incentive to fight for the rules-based global trading system. With cooperation unlikely, the world should prepare itself for the erosion of the World Trade Organization.

  3. Donald Trump Saul Loeb/Getty Images

    The Globalization of Our Discontent

    Globalization, which was supposed to benefit developed and developing countries alike, is now reviled almost everywhere, as the political backlash in Europe and the US has shown. The challenge is to minimize the risk that the backlash will intensify, and that starts by understanding – and avoiding – past mistakes.

  4. A general view of the Corn Market in the City of Manchester Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

    A Better British Story

    Despite all of the doom and gloom over the United Kingdom's impending withdrawal from the European Union, key manufacturing indicators are at their highest levels in four years, and the mood for investment may be improving. While parts of the UK are certainly weakening economically, others may finally be overcoming longstanding challenges.

  5. UK supermarket Waring Abbott/Getty Images

    The UK’s Multilateral Trade Future

    With Brexit looming, the UK has no choice but to redesign its future trading relationships. As a major producer of sophisticated components, its long-term trade strategy should focus on gaining deep and unfettered access to integrated cross-border supply chains – and that means adopting a multilateral approach.

  6. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now