Nikon's Shameful Behaviour
I can't quite believe I read this, but apparently it's true -- the Nikon Salon in Tokyo has censored an exhibition of photographs of the 'comfort women' victimized by the Imperial Japanese Army during WW2.
Details are in this story:
And I strongly urge all photographers to take 2 minutes and send an email to Nikon Japan, at this address, to register protest at this action:
I won't go into the disturbing tendency of Japanese society to ignore and whitewash its recent history...we can only imagine the outrage if Germany denied the Holocaust, for example. And yet, that's precisely what's going on in Japan today -- there are politicians (by no means the minority) who even deny the Nanjing Massacre, despite literally mountains of forensic, eyewitness and photographic evidence.
I'm just saddened and shocked that a global company like Nikon would capitulate to that sort of ugliness.
Interesting. There is currently a minor flame war going on over in news group soc.history.war.world-war-ii about attempts by the Japanese consul in New York and some far right-wing Diet members to get a statue commemorating the Korean women removed from a site in New Jersey.
This is really unfortunate, but not surprising. Nikon's cancellation shows poor judgement, but their lack of explanation is pretty consistent to the way things are done here.
Generally speaking, the Japanese do not like to see themselves as anything but victims of WWII. A year or two ago I saw a photo exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography that focused on the Japanese in Nanking in the 1930s -- it only had photos of military leaders, parades, and the Chinese welcoming them to their city. I think the Japanese generally don't admit to any wrong-doing, if they can get away with it (the government especially).
My favorite thing is to go where I've never been. D. Arbus
Yea not only Nikon, but large part of Japanese gov't/society that still denies the many atrocities committed during WW2, which I also agree is ridiculous and sickens me. Even events such as Minamata and the cover up attempt by that local govt there makes you think how much they could try and deny something, and if it were not for photographers like W. Eugene Smith there would not be societal change or compensation for those affected.
Nikon shame on you for denying the public such visual information. Shame on you for censoring photography, the core foundation of your business.
Google the rape of Nanking.
However, it rarely does too much good to bring up atrocities forever.
The US perpetrated atrocities/genocide against the aboriginal population as well as African slaves.
At Pearl Harbor the tours go out of their way to not offend the Japanese. In fact I've seen some of them proud of their achievements there but didn't realize that the attack came while the US and Japan was at peace.
I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.
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Some perspective/background always helps:
Contrary to popular belief elsewhere in the world, most Japanese are well aware of existence of "comfort woman" and "Rape of Nankin". People are well aware of Pearl Harbor, too. How can they not be.... it's talked about in detail everywhere including in Japan.
I had a benefit of studying world history from two completely different view points: that of Japanese and that of American. While this was only in high school, the treatment of the same event is quite different. If I didn't know any better, I'd believe we are talking about two different events.
In Japan, there is a concept of not exposing dirty fact to outside while acknowledging internally or privately. It is often called "gaiken" - literally translating view from outside. People mount a protest when this gaiken is tarnished. It takes decades, or even longer, for these facts to become so common place that people are able to discuss it in public.
I believe this is what is happening. Myself being a Japanese decent, I will withhold my judgement on this practice of gaiken but that is the culture behind it.
This is changing in today's younger crowd. However, Nikon is an old company largely run by older generations. They got themselves in a jam where either way they move, they face fierce criticism. They cancelled it. I'm not sure if I blame them. It's a company after making profit. They are very unlikely to take unpopular position and go against majority - especially those who drive the economy and thus the company.
Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?
Whatever Nikon's reasoning, as someone who lived in Japan for a year I should say that I found the Japanese people I met to be just as capable of ignorance and/or kindness as any Americans I've met.
Here's a link to the photographer's web site, and some of the show photos.
I refuse to use the cultural relativism of statements like "it's their culture...they're different...they have to find their own way"
This is chauvinism. The same mentality that led Japan down the road of fascism and militarism and into the well-documented events of the early 20th century.
Germany acknowledged what they did, and not just with platitudes (which Japan seems to excel at) but with financial compensation and what can only be seen as sincere motivation.
Japan? Their leaders visit Yasukuni Shrine and whine about being victimized.