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Opinion
Gearoid Reidy

Ukraine Becomes a Wake-Up Call in Faraway Japan

Tokyo spent the decades since WWII in a pacifist slumber. Russia’s invasion is a reminder that there are risks for dozing too long. 

Members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force in November 2021.

Members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force in November 2021.

Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

Just days before the national holiday this Friday commemorating the birth of the late Emperor Hirohito, Japan got a rude reminder of its inextricable part in the global history of war. It came in the form of an apology from the government of Ukraine. 

Social media out of Kyiv had released a video about fighting fascism that represented the Axis powers with images of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Hirohito — who sat on the Chrysanthemum throne during World War II and oversaw Japan’s return to prosperity and active “non-aggression” in the decades after its defeat. Hirohito has been portrayed by some as a helpless puppet of the militarists who ran the empire’s expansionist policies in the first half of the 20th century. Japan’s government says it’s not appropriate to rank him alongside Hitler and Mussolini.