The Tokyo Trial

It is one of the hit movies in China this year. I was surprised at how informative it is, and how unpretentious.

The Tokyo War Criminal Trial had little publicity in the China that I grew up, because it was conducted by Communist Party’s enemy – The Nationalists, who has been retreated into Taiwan since 1940’s. As a result, I knew nothing about it till I watched The Tokyo Trial last weekend.

The movie was surprisingly impartial given today’s anti-Japan mentality, and fanantic nationalism infested majority of Chinese media. In addition to act out some of the crucial parts of the trial in the courtroom, the movie narrated a Japanese family’s suffering during and after the war. Another surprising appearance is the Last Emperor of China, Fuyi’s testimony. It was amusing.

What infuriated me was the fact that Emperor Hirohito was not tried. It was like having the war criminal trial in Germany, but didn’t try Hitler. I did some googling, and came upon this article from the New York Times.
The Price of Conquest: New York Times

During the war Hirohito and Hitler were linked in the popular American mind. Some American politicians thought the imperial institution should be extinguished and Hirohito tried as part of the policy of ”unconditional surrender.” Others said that the preservation of the imperial institution and of Hirohito was essential as a means of keeping order and blocking Japan’s descent into chaos – and ”chaos” came rather quickly after 1945 to mean Communism. It was British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin who recalled that by driving Kaiser Wilhelm into exile in 1918 and threatening to try and execute him, the Allies of World War I had deprived Germany of constitutional monarchy and opened the door to Nazism.

Bevin’s view prevailed. The Emperor was stripped of divinity and direct political power. But he was protected from indictment, and from giving evidence. He was exonerated through silence. The Tokyo trial was full of leads pointing directly to the Emperor, but by unspoken agreement among the defendants, the prosecution and the bench, these leads were never pursued. The prospect of trying and convicting the embodiment of the Japanese nation was psychologically and politically too disruptive to contemplate.

The fear of communism seemed such an easy scapegoat for everything that the US did wrong in the last century, from Tokyo trial to Vietnam. It is like how the Bush Administration uses “Terrorist” nowadays, isn’t it?

I wonder if the lack of remorse in Japan till this day has anything to do with the fact that the Emperor escaped his trial.

If this movie is to be trusted, the day Japan regains its military power will be the day for the next war making. Scary thought.