Wednesday, September 02, 2015

"letters to Damascus to the synagogues" - Expressions in Emperor's Statement to End WWII

Ginza, Tokyo

Expressions in Emperor's Statement to End WWII

Even Christ Jesus referred to the Old Testament when teaching His disciples or other people.  The Old Testament was authentic material for Christ Jesus and His followers.

In Japan, what the elite people, such as politicians, leading journalists, scholars, etc., sometimes refer to is Chinese classics.  And there have been long traditions of studying Chinese classics in Japan.  Even the Nihon Shoki (the Chronicles of Japan), the oldest book of classical Japanese history and myths compiled by the imperial court in 720 , referred to a Chinese history book written in the third century.

In the past or before the modernization of Japan, not only noble men but also samurais were requested to learn Chinese classic books and various types of Chinese philosophy.  When the imperial court or a samurai government issued documents, they often contained special expressions taken from Chinese classics.

Accordingly, when the Empire of Japan surrendered to the US military forces in August 1945, the imperial statement to announce the end of the war to the Japanese people was drafted by some high-ranking official close to the prime minister.  He thought that the draft should be upgraded by adding some sophisticated expressions taken from Chinese classical books.  Then he consulted a few experts (of course Japanese scholars) in Chinese classics and finally got approval in a Cabinet meeting.

And, on August 15, the Emperor's reading this statement, without modification, was aired by radio to the Japanese people, though it was recorded in recording discs in the night of August 14.  So, in this announcement there were some difficult classical expressions for ordinary Japanese people, though they could understand the whole meaning of this imperial rescript declaring the termination of the war.

One of the experts of Chinese classics this high-ranking official, namely the Cabinet Secretary, consulted was  Masahiro Yasuoka (1898-1983), who added some key Chinese classical expressions to the draft.  Though not all of his modifications were approved by a Cabinet meeting subsequently held to authorize the statement, Yasuoka's idea and influence was evident in the words the Emperor read.

Imperial Rescript
August 14, 1945
To Our good and loyal subjects:
After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in Our Empire today, We have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.
We have ordered Our Government to communicate to the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union that Our Empire accepts the provisions of their Joint Declaration.

To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of Our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by Our Imperial Ancestors, and which We lay close to heart. Indeed, We declared war on America and Britain out of Our sincere desire to ensure Japan's self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from Our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignity of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement. But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by every one - the gallant fighting of military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people, the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest. Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is indeed incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should We continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization. Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects; or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers.

We cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to our Allied nations who have consistently cooperated with the Empire towards the emancipation of East Asia. The thought of those officers and men as well as others who have fallen in the fields of battle, those who died at their posts of duty, or those who met with untimely death and all their bereaved families, pains Our heart night and day. The welfare of the wounded and war-sufferers, and of those who have lost their home and livelihood are the objects of Our profound solicitude. The hardships and sufferings to which Our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great. We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all ye, Our subjects. However, it is according to the dictate of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable.

Having been able to safeguard and maintain the structure of the Imperial State, We are always with ye, Our good and loyal subjects, relying upon your sincerity and integrity. Beware most strictly of any outburst of emotion which may engender needless complications, or any fraternal contention and strife which may create confusion, lead ye astray and cause ye to lose the confidence of the world. Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith of the imperishableness of its divine land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibilities, and the long road before it. Unite your total strength to be devoted to the construction for the future. Cultivate the ways of rectitude; foster nobility of spirit; and work with resolution so as ye may enhance the innate glory of the Imperial State and keep pace with the progress of the world.

The 14th day of the 8th month of the 20th year of Showa
(The original is of course in Japanese.  For convenience only this English version will be referred to.)

Specifically, Yasuoka put expressions from some Chinese classics to "pains Our heart night and day" and "pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come" in addition to other minor parts.  Especially, the latter expression is important in that it clearly meant the end or termination of the war.  (The former expression meant extreme sadness or remorse of the Emperor.)

However, there was another phrase Yasuoka wrote but was further modified in the Cabinet meeting, which was "it is according to the dictate of time and fate."  It did not reflect Ysuoka's intention.  Yasuoka originally wrote "it is according to the justice and right cause of our nation."  He meant that the reason why the Empire would terminate the war was that it was a right thing in light of the justice for the Empire.

Yasuoka wanted to emphasize that the Empire of Japan would not simply surrender because the course of the war and the situations for the Empire were so hopeless but because termination of the war was a right thing taking into account the justice and the cause the Empire had pursued; it was not a simple surrender resulted from a trend of the war.

However, in the Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Suzuki and other ministers of the Imperial Government did not include this expression.  Some of them even said that there was nor such a word in Chinese-Japanese character dictionaries as "according to the justice and right cause."

Yasuoka reportedly got angry when he knew that ministers changed the expression from the imperial statement, since he had strongly emphasized to the Cabinet Secretary that the phrase  "it is according to the justice and right cause of our nation" was paired with another, "pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come."  

After WWII, Masahiro Yasuoka became the most influential mentor to conservative politicians, including some prime ministers such as Eisaku Sato.  Yasuoka's knowledge in Chinese ancient philosophy was respected even by top business leaders who needed some spiritual backbone.

But, what Yasuoka was most proud of was an episode that the Emperor directly talked to Yasuoka in an imperial garden party held years after WWII, saying, "Yasuoka, I appreciate your work at the end of the war."

So, to fully understand what the Japanese elite want to mean, you might have to sometimes learn Chinese classics.

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Act 9:1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
Act 9:2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.