Japanese War Related Survey and its Results

Sasaki Kei, one of our contributors at the Japanese history blog here at Frog in a Well pointed out some results of a survey recently released in the Japanese press (Mainichi article here). I’m cross-posting an English summary of the questions and results here that he discusses as they may be of interest to readers of the Korean and Chinese history weblogs as well as those who don’t read Japanese.

Below are the responses of the population at large (as opposed to to those in government):

Question 1: What do you think about the government’s apologies and expressions of regret for actions during World War II: They are sufficient (36%) Insufficient (42%) There is no need (11%) No response etc. (11%)

Question 2: Evaluation of the war against the United States (in World War II): It was a reckless choice (59%) It was an unavoidable choice (33%)

Question 3: Do you think the war against China was an act of invasion? One Can’t Really Say (45%) It was a war of invasion/aggression (40%)

Question 4: Evaluation of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials: It was an unjust trial but having lost the war it was inevitable (59%) It was a just trial of those bearing responsibility for the war (17%) It was unjust and one-sided trial by the victors of the war (17%)

Mr. Sasaki feels, and I think I agree, that the number of those who say the war was inevitable or who could not come to any kind of opinion on the issue is unusually high. He adds some results from a 2000 NHK survey:

Question: The war was a war of aggression against our Asian neighbors: I agree (51%) I don’t agree (15%) It is all in the past and so has nothing to do with me (7%) I don’t know, no response (28%)

Question: The war was an inevitable conflict that a resource deprived Japan waged in order to survive: I agree (30%) I don’t agree (35%) It is all in the past and so has nothing to do with me (4%) I don’t know, no response (31%)

While it shows that there is significant diversity in opinion in Japan (though I have issues with the way the survey is done, its questions, and the options everyone can choose between) it also shows a significantly high number of those who seem to lack enough confidence to say much about the nature of the wars of the mid-century in either direction.


  1. I always hate when they get such a big no-response group and make no attempt to find out what they think. Is it possible that some of these are people who do have some opinion, but not one they can fit into the responses given?

  2. Regarding question 4:

    I think it was Napolean who said that history is written by the victorious.
    Although I dont think that the trial were incredibly unfair, the verdict will always be in favour of the victorious nations.

  3. Do you think the present situation in China can influence how the Japanese populace respond
    to such questions? My point is: China has embraced a capitalistic economy, as a result the
    society is a bit unhealthy. We have seen corrupt officials and the ‘influential people
    (the ones with money) who operate pretty much the same way in the feudal society. Sex trade
    is rampant. One one child policy pretty makes sure the present day emporor do not grow up
    in a caring, sharing selfless society as the one Mao sold to China back in the forties when
    they grabbed power. When Japan look at the present situation in China, would you expect them to humble
    themselves in apologising? They have always consider themself a superior race (as least in
    Asian), I suspect that feeling lingers. Until China becomes a economy super power that Japan
    has looked up to one day, ask them to fall on their knees and apologize is not likely. Mind
    you, China one day WILL become a nation to be reckoned with (10-20 years from now?) only then the
    Chinese can dictate the terms more forcefully. Bottom line, China need to fix up all the
    internal problem to become a truly strong country where people live freely in a balanced
    environment, forget about saving face, don’t ask for handout, have some dignity and take care
    of you own people first. Only then people will respect you.

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