Archive for the 'Current News' Category

Mr. Tomita’s Diaries

July 21, 2006

A set of diaries and journals is about to change the course of Japanese history.

In my mind, Nihon Keizai Shimbun‘s discovery and publication of Tomohiko Tomita’s journal entries (related article in The New York Times, among others) on Thursday, 20th July, revealed at least two precious truths:

ONE — and this is what made the news — that Emperor Showa (Hirohito) refrained from visits to Yasukuni Shrine after 1975 due to his “strong displeasure” over the honoring of Class A war criminals at said shrine since 1978; and

TWO — this is what personally moved me to tears — that diaries can provide so much insight into the author’s life that normally remain intangible and change too quickly for the mind to register — things like the softness of heart, degrees of humilitude, clarity with which one regards the future, gratitude, mood, affection, hope.

Mr. Tomita embodied a beautiful respect for the Emperor, and wrote it down in his journals with habitual brevity. His diaries and journals continued without fail for 22 years. He is terse but warm. He is caring without being self-conscious. His prose exudes humbleness, a willful quietness that purposefully steered clear of political waters.

More than the political impact these diaries will have on the ongoing debate about Prime Minister Jun-chan’s visits to the war shrine, Mr. Tomita’s embodiment of the Japanese concept of giri-ninjo (義理人情) deserves historical credit.

One entry in particular profoundly moved me:

一九七八年 九月一六日

長官になって三カ月半。俺一人少なくとも毅然として在りたいとひそかに思い、この夏を過ごした。数えて見れば那須往復は七度。だいぶ那須になじんだ。両陛下にも近く又親しくお話できた。あのお人柄。戦いの日々―細川日記でも間接ながら知りうる―終戦から三十年。一人で胸にしまわれて行動されてきたのである。

16th September 1978

Three and a half months since I became Grand Steward [of the Imperial Household Agency]. I spent this summer secretly wishing that I alone will at least remain a dignified existence. The number of times I have accompanied His Highnesses to Nasu totals seven. I have grown quite accustomed to Nasu. I was able to exchange intimate conversations with His Highnesses. Such fine character. Those days of fighting — one can know indirectly from the Hosokawa Diaries — it’s been thirty years since the war’s end. His Highness has kept those thoughts locked inside his heart and have come this far alone. 

(Excerpted from Nihon Keizai Shimbun 21st July 2006; translation mine)

I wish I can find better words to describe the sense of revered affection oozing out from beneath Mr. Tomita’s quiet words. Somehow I am reminded of Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Remains of the Day.” 28 years later, Mr. Tomita’s words has provided this miserable wretch a reason not to forfeit life.

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“What they need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit.”