This book shook some parts of me, and I could not help but wondering what so far has changed in Japan in the last 20 years since the book was written in the late 1980s. 20 years of economic stagnation, yet also 20 years of further distance with the past, and 20 years into the overwhelming modernity.In the Realm of a Dying Emperor
is a beautifully written piece of work that discusses country's social, political, and cultural atmosphere surrounding the death of Emperor Hirohito whose reign lasted more than half of the 20th century (1926-1989)which includes many critical periods. It is hard to put into concise words exactly the number of issues were brought up, thoroughly discussed and challenged.
The first section opens to the story of an Okinawan activist, Shoichi Chibana and his burning of Rising Sun flag in 1987 at a national athlete meeting, then progresses to talk about the prefecture's heartbreaking history at the end of WWII and the later US occupation. The second part revolves around Nakaya Yasuko, a widow of a government's official, who protested against the enshrinement of her husband at a Shinto shrine but was defeated by the Supreme Court in 1988. The last story takes on the mayor of Nagasaki, Motoshima Hitoshi, who publicly expressed his opinion about Emperor Hirohito's responsibility for the WWII, capturing the whole nation's attention.
Norma Field's book is a must read for any Japan lovers. It shatters the ideal picture of a peaceful, ordered, "perfect" country. It digs into things that matter, that are deeply rooted, but are not so visibly available to foreigners and young people, both in Japan or in somewhere else.
My heart breaks to find historical facts again not fully heard and acknowledged, and this time the story is so vivid, featuring one of my favorite nations. The fight for truth is indeed a brutal one. Japan after WWII transformed itself economically, and that was a proud & miraculous achievement, yet all those fruits should not be used as reasons to excuse for its horrific past, to decline to discuss history and the nation's dark sides. Yes, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it
; the war and immediate post-war generations will recede soon, and we the young, well into the 21st century, cannot afford to face the future with so much ignorance.