It's been a week since the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear fiasco. Even though we are about 2,000 miles (3,200 km) from Tokyo, it's still a lot closer than Oregon.
I've made it a topic of discussion in my middle school classes since I thought it might be an opportunity for the kids to reassess the rabid anti Japanese sentiment that is always roiling beneath the surface.
When Japan invaded China in WWII the army committed unspeakable atrocities on the civilian population. Much of China, including Zhanjiang, was occupied by the Japanese. The Japanese government's failure to properly atone for the countless atrocities committed throughout Asia during the war has caused deep resentment and hostility everywhere their bootprint was left.
A recent incident involving a Chinese fishing boat and Japanese Coast Guard Ships in some disputed islands revived these resentments among the Chinese citizenry, with large anti Japanese demonstrations, and lots of hostility in the Chinese press and blogosphere.
By showing pictures of the suffering and massive damage I was hoping that I could at least show the students that the people who are suffering are no different from themselves. They are not the savage brutes who invaded their country, nor are they the hamfisted government that has prominent members pay homage at the Yasukuni Shrine, a Shinto shrine dedicated to the spirits of fallen soldiers including those responsible for WWII atrocities.
Interesting discussions have followed, including some students who said that their history teachers have told them that they need not feel sorry for the Japanese. It appears I may have been a good counter to these teachers who dwell in the past.