The Words of the Bikkal Family

Black Ships, Edo, and Education

Nick Bikkal
March 26, 2000

I will start this story on the other side of the world and with my family. My grandfather was Hungarian, born in Budapest. When the war broke out he was given asylum in Germany along with my father and all the family. My father was brought up in the Hitler Youth Movement but was too young to fight even at the war's end. They had nothing left at that time and as refugees were accepted by Peru. He met my mother and I was born there. When I was three, we all went to the States. What stayed with him, and always baffled me, was his insistence on praising Hitler. He could never, and still can't see, or won't accept the harm done, sorrow caused, etc. to the world. This repeated itself time and again throughout his life. We lived in Spain not because of the Spanish we all already knew, although it was an influence, but because it was under the rule of the dictator Franco, basically a friend and ally of Hitler's. A few years after Franco's death my father, in search of greener pastures moved down to Paraguay (!!!). Fundamentally, since there were so many former Nazis and SS officers down there attracted him to the otherwise underdeveloped nation.

Why is this background so important? I could never understand him until I came to Japan and started studying this society and learnt, through parallels, of the type of mentality that leads people who must and can't face defeat. This lesson, I would argue, will be applicable to the former Soviet, North Korea, and all other places where people will have to look at "defeat" in the face.

Denial at school starts with the lack of education of WWII. The intended purpose for not teaching is presumably for the young to have pride in Japan. Truth is not important, pride in the country is. This has been the way the Japanese government's Education Ministry has been rationalizing their history lessons. Some school books spend a page on WWII. However the young do end up finding out about history through contact with foreigners, trips abroad, and of course now the Internet.

Though not important for this essay such things as the fact that the Emperor, the Tenno, is of Korean descent will never be told. Some educated people, however, know. Another point I make is the question about Edo. The nation is proud of Edo. It had culture. However, it closed Japan to the world. Christianity was kicked out, in Nagasaki Christians were martyred. It's interesting to note that WWII ended with the dropping of two atomic bombs. What is interesting to note is that both these cities are places where the few Christians in Japan conglomerated. One would think they were an offering for Japan.

What makes Japan change? In 1868, and even today: Black ships. When Commodore Perry, with his four black ships threatened to open fire on Edo if they didn't open the country up for trade the end of Edo was at hand. The nation was set for a new government: Meiji. Japan began opening up. However, only externally. Strong inner status quo has kept the 50 plus year government at the helm, with a 1 year interval some 4 years ago.

Bribes strongly assisted this stability, which the US government never acknowledged due to the Cold War. Japan was given open and unlimited markets in the US. The economy grew. There was no thought of nor expenditure for defense. Protected, as a mother, to serve the world through her economy was its fate. Thus today's riches. The black ships today have a similar connotation. This nation does not open up until and unless there is a foreign pressure. Strong foreign pressure. That's the US. It's the only force in the world with enough clout to force change and opening up of Japan. It's no secret. Many like it. Many don't. The nationalists definitely don't.

They walk around haughty. They have strong influence in the government. They are the ones holding on to pre-war Japan thoughts, traditions, etc. They believe in Japanese superiority, etc. They are a menace to stability in Asia. Japan is now spending big money on the military. They are pushing to legalize the military, which MacArthur after WWII made Japan abandon. It's one of Japan's forces we would have to contend with. They are not sympathetic to foreigners. There are 600,000 Koreans here, in this country. The Korean slaughter in Japan occurred (in Akabane, the village where I live) after the Kanto Earthquake of 1923. It was police-led. Koreans were blamed for the earthquake. I'm sorry to have to say that this spirit still exists.

The educational system is rigid. Youth are very apathetic. One sees more gangs out on the streets. It's the scene of unhappy people, which a poll released a few years ago certified that the Japanese are the most unhappy people in Asia. One does sense violence in the air. It's only a matter of time. Job prospects for those entering the work force is down sizably. 80% if you are a college graduate, higher the less education you take with you.

We cannot abandon this country that has given us, the US so much. We should worry with all we have. This is fundamentally a godless society. Little spirituality exists here. Emotions are beginning to run high. Father wants to forgive Japan, and will, but we must do our 100% to help bring them here. He needs to hold the next blessing in Japan, preferably Tokyo. If Japan goes down so does the US and the world. It's a big economic giant which will bring down many with it. Japan holds hundreds of billions of dollars in US Treasury bills, etc. If they cash in, we all lose. With these two nations going down what area of the world is immune?

There is one more story coming. I'm sorry it's so long. I feel it's important for as many of us as possible to know what we stand against if we "lose" Japan. I, for one, must take it seriously.

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