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Anti-Japanese sentiments range from animosity towards the Japanese government's actions and disdain for Japanese culture to racism against the Japanese people. Sentiments of dehumanization have been fueled by the anti-Japanese propaganda of the Allied governments in World War II; this propaganda was often of a racially disparaging character. Anti-Japanese sentiment may be strongest in China, North Korea, and South Korea, due to atrocities committed by the Japanese military.
In the past, anti-Japanese sentiment contained innuendos of Japanese people as barbaric. Following the Meiji Restoration of 1868, Japan was intent to adopt Western ways in an attempt to join the West as an industrialized imperial power, but a lack of acceptance of the Japanese in the West complicated integration and assimilation. One commonly held view was that the Japanese were evolutionarily inferior (Navarro 2000, "... a date which will live in infamy"). Japanese culture was viewed with suspicion and even disdain.
While passions have settled somewhat since Japan's surrender in World War II, tempers continue to flare on occasion over the widespread perception that the Japanese government has made insufficient penance for their past atrocities, or has sought to whitewash the history of these events. Today, though the Japanese government has effected some compensatory measures, anti-Japanese sentiment continues based on historical and nationalist animosities linked to Imperial Japanese military aggression and atrocities. Japan's delay in clearing more than 700,000 (according to the Japanese Government) pieces of life-threatening and environment contaminating chemical weapons buried in China at the end of World War II is another cause of anti-Japanese sentiment.
Periodically, individuals within Japan spur external criticism. Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was heavily criticized by South Korea and China for annually paying his respects to the war dead at Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrines all those who fought and died for Japan during World War II, including 1,068 convicted war criminals. Right-wing nationalist groups have produced history textbooks whitewashing Japanese atrocities, and the recurring controversies over these books occasionally attract hostile foreign attention.
Some anti-Japanese sentiment originates from business practices used by some Japanese companies, such as dumping.
In the United States, anti-Japanese sentiment had its beginnings well before the Second World War. As early as the late 19th century, Asian immigrants were subject to racial prejudice in the United States. Laws were passed that openly discriminated against Asians, and sometimes Japanese in particular. Many of these laws stated that Asians could not become citizens of the United States and could not hold basic rights, such as owning land. These laws were greatly detrimental to the newly arrived immigrants, since many of them were farmers and had little choice but to become migrant workers. Some cite the formation of the Asiatic Exclusion League as the start of the anti-Japanese movement in California.
Anti-Japanese racism and Yellow Peril in California had intensified after the Japanese victory over the Russian Empire in the Russo-Japanese War. On 11 October 1906, the San Francisco, California Board of Education had passed a regulation whereby children of Japanese descent would be required to attend racially segregated separate schools. At the time, Japanese immigrants made up approximately 1% of the population of California; many of them had come under the treaty in 1894 which had assured free immigration from Japan.
The invasion of China in 1931 and the conquest of Manchuria was roundly criticized in the US. In addition, efforts by citizens outraged at Japanese atrocities, such as the Nanking Massacre, led to calls for American economic intervention to encourage Japan to leave China; these calls played a role in shaping American foreign policy. As more and more unfavorable reports of Japanese actions came to the attention of the American government, embargoes on oil and other supplies were placed on Japan, out of concern for the Chinese populace and for American interests in the Pacific. Furthermore, the European American population became very pro-China and anti-Japan, an example being a grass-roots campaign for women to stop buying silk stockings, because the material was procured from Japan through its colonies.
When the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1937, Western public opinion was decidedly pro-China, with eyewitness reports by Western journalists on atrocities committed against Chinese civilians further strengthening anti-Japanese sentiments. African American sentiments could be quite different than the mainstream, with organizations like the Pacific Movement of the Eastern World (PMEW) which promised equality and land distribution under Japanese rule. The PMEW had thousands of members hopefully preparing for liberation from white supremacy with the arrival of the Japanese Imperial Army.
The most profound cause of anti-Japanese sentiment outside of Asia had its beginning in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese attack propelled the United States into World War II. The Americans were unified by the attack to fight against the Empire of Japan and its allies, the German Reich and the Kingdom of Italy.
The surprise attack at Pearl Harbor prior to a declaration of war was presented to the American populace as an act of treachery and cowardice. Following the attack many non-governmental "Jap hunting licenses" were circulated around the country. Life magazine published an article on how to tell a Japanese from a Chinese person by the shape of the nose and the stature of the body. Japanese conduct during the war did little to quell anti-Japanese sentiment. Fanning the flames of outrage were the treatment of American and other prisoners of war (POWs). Military-related outrages included the murder of POWs, the use of POWs as slave labor for Japanese industries, the Bataan Death March, the kamikaze attacks on Allied ships, and atrocities committed on Wake Island and elsewhere.
U.S. historian James J. Weingartner attributes the very low number of Japanese in U.S. POW compounds to two key factors: a Japanese reluctance to surrender and a widespread American "conviction that the Japanese were 'animals' or 'subhuman' and unworthy of the normal treatment accorded to POWs." The latter reasoning is supported by Niall Ferguson, who says that "Allied troops often saw the Japanese in the same way that Germans regarded Russians [sic] — as Untermenschen." Weingartner believes this explains the fact that a mere 604 Japanese captives were alive in Allied POW camps by October 1944. Ulrich Straus, a U.S. Japanologist, believes that front line troops intensely hated Japanese military personnel and were "not easily persuaded" to take or protect prisoners, as they believed that Allied personnel who surrendered, got "no mercy" from the Japanese. Allied soldiers believed that Japanese soldiers were inclined to feign surrender, in order to make surprise attacks. Therefore, according to Straus, "[s]enior officers opposed the taking of prisoners[,] on the grounds that it needlessly exposed American troops to risks ..."
An estimated 112,000 to 120,000 Japanese migrants and Japanese Americans from the West Coast were interned regardless of their attitude to the US or Japan. They were held for the duration of the war in the inner US. The large Japanese population of Hawaii was not massively relocated in spite of their proximity to vital military areas.
A 1944 opinion poll found that 13% of the U.S. public were in favor of the extermination of all Japanese. Daniel Goldhagen wrote in his book "So it is no surprise that Americans perpetrated and supported mass slaughters - Tokyo's firebombing and then nuclear incinerations - in the name of saving American lives, and of giving the Japanese what they richly deserved."
Weingartner argues that there is a common cause between the mutilation of Japanese war dead and the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. According to Weingartner both were partially the result of a dehumanization of the enemy, saying, "[T]he widespread image of the Japanese as sub-human constituted an emotional context which provided another justification for decisions which resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands." On the second day after the Nagasaki bomb, Truman stated: "The only language they seem to understand is the one we have been using to bombard them. When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him like a beast. It is most regrettable but nevertheless true".
In the 1970s and 1980s, the waning fortunes of heavy industry in the United States prompted layoffs and hiring slowdowns just as counterpart businesses in Japan were making major inroads into U.S. markets. Nowhere was this more visible than in the automobile industry, where the lethargic Big Three (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) watched as their former customers bought Japanese imports from Honda, Subaru, Mazda, and Nissan, a consequence of the 1973 and 1979 energy crisis. (When Japanese automakers were establishing their inroads into the USA and Canada. Isuzu, Mazda, and Mitsubishi had joint partnerships with a Big Three manufacturer (GM, Ford, and Chrysler) where its products were sold as captives). The anti-Japanese sentiment manifested itself in occasional public destruction of Japanese cars, and in the 1982 murder of Vincent Chin, a Chinese American beaten to death when he was mistaken to be Japanese.
Other highly symbolic deals — including the sale of famous American commercial and cultural symbols such as Columbia Records, Columbia Pictures, 7-Eleven, and the Rockefeller Center building to Japanese firms — further fanned anti-Japanese sentiment.
Popular culture of the period reflected American's growing distrust of Japan. Futuristic period pieces such as Back to the Future Part II and RoboCop 3 frequently showed Americans as working precariously under Japanese superiors. The film Blade Runner showed a futuristic Los Angeles clearly under Japanese domination (with a Japanese majority population and culture), perhaps a reference to the alternate world presented in The Man in the High Castle written by Philip K. Dick, the same author on which the film was based, in which Japan had won World War II. Criticism was also lobbied in many novels of the day. Author Michael Crichton wrote Rising Sun, a murder mystery (later made into a feature film) involving Japanese businessmen in the U.S. Likewise, in Tom Clancy's book, Debt of Honor, Clancy implies that Japan's prosperity is due primarily to unequal trading terms, and portrays Japan's business leaders acting in a power hungry cabal.
As argued by Marie Thorsten, however, Japanophobia mixed with Japanophilia during Japan's peak moments of economic dominance during the 1980s. The fear of Japan became a rallying point for techno-nationalism, the imperative to be first in the world in mathematics, science and other quantifiable measures of national strength necessary to boost technological and economic supremacy. Notorious "Japan-bashing" took place alongside the image of Japan as superhuman, mimicking in some ways the image of the Soviet Union after it launched the first Sputnik satellite in 1957: both events turned the spotlight on American education. American bureaucrats purposely pushed this analogy. In 1982, Ernest Boyer, a former U.S. Commissioner of Education, publicly declared that, "What we need is another Sputnik" to re-boot American education, and that "maybe what we should do is get the Japanese to put a Toyota into orbit." Japan was both a threat and a model for human resource development in education and the workforce, merging with the image of Asian-Americans as the "model minority."
Both the animosity and super-humanizing which peaked in the 1980s, when the term "Japan bashing" became popular, had largely faded by the late 1990s. Japan's waning economic fortunes in the 1990s, known today as the Lost Decade, coupled with an upsurge in the U.S. economy as the Internet took off largely crowded anti-Japanese sentiment out of the popular media.
Anti-Japanese sentiment is felt very strongly in China and distrust, hostility and negative feelings towards Japan, Japanese people and culture is widespread in China. Anti-Japanese sentiment is a phenomenon that mostly dates back to modern times (post-1868). Like many Western powers during the era of imperialism, Japan negotiated treaties that often resulted in the annexation of land from China towards the end of the Qing Dynasty. Dissatisfaction with Japanese settlements and the Twenty-One Demands by the Japanese government led to a serious boycott of Japanese products in China.
Today, bitterness in China persists over the atrocities of the Second Sino-Japanese War and Japan's post-war actions, particularly the perceived lack of a straightforward acknowledgment of such atrocities, Japanese government employment of known past war criminals, and Japanese historic revisionism in textbooks. From elementary school, children are taught about Japanese war crimes in detail, for example, thousands of children are brought to the Museum of the War of Chinese People's Resistance Against Japanese Aggression in Beijing by their elementary schools to view photos of war atrocities, such as exhibits of records of Japanese military forcing Chinese workers into wartime labour, the Nanking Massacre, and the issues of comfort women. After viewing the museum, the children's hatred of the Japanese people was reported to increase significantly. Despite the time that has passed since the end of the Second World War, discussions about the Japanese conduct can still evoke powerful emotions today, in part because most Japanese are aware of what happened but their society has never engaged in the type of introspection common in Germany after the Holocaust. Hence, the usage of Japanese military symbols are still controversial in China, such as the incident of Chinese pop singer Zhao Wei seen wearing a Japanese War Flag dress for a fashion magazine photo shoot in 2001. Huge responses were seen on the Internet; a public letter from a Nanking Massacre survivor was sent demanding a public apology, and the singer was even attacked. According to a 2017 BBC World Service Poll, only 22% of Chinese people view Japan's influence positively, with 75% expressing a negative view, making China the most anti-Japanese nation in the world.
Anti-Japanese sentiment can be seen in anti-Japanese war films currently produced and displayed in mainland China. More than 200 anti-Japanese films were made in China in 2012 alone. In one particular situation involving a more moderate anti-Japanese war film, the government of China banned the 2000 film, "Devils at the Doorstep", because it depicted a Japanese soldier being friendly with Chinese villagers.
The issue of anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea is complex and multi-faceted. Anti-Japanese attitudes in the Korean Peninsula can be traced as far back as the Japanese pirate raids and Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598), but are largely a product of the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910–1945, and subsequent revisionism in history textbooks used in Japan's educational system after World War II.
Today, issues of Japanese history textbook controversies, Japanese policy regarding World War II, and geographic disputes between the two countries perpetuate this sentiment, and these issues often incur huge disputes between Japanese and South Korean Internet users. South Korea, together with mainland China, may be considered as among the most intensely anti-Japanese societies in the world. Among all the countries which participated in BBC World Service Poll in 2007 and 2009, South Korea and People's Republic of China were the only ones whose majorities rated Japan negatively.
During the 2005 anti-Japanese demonstrations in East Asia, Taiwan remained noticeably quieter than the PRC or Korea, with Taiwan-Japan relations regarded at an all-time high. The KMT majority-takeover in 2008 followed by a boating accident resulting in Taiwanese deaths has created recent tensions, however. Taiwanese officials began speaking out on historical territory disputes regarding the Diaoyutai/Senkaku Islands, resulting in an increase in at least perceived anti-Japanese sentiment.
Anti-Japanese sentiment traces back to World War II and the aftermath of the war, where an estimated one million Filipinos, of a wartime population of 17 million, were killed during the war, and many more injured. Nearly every Filipino family was hurt by the war on some level. Most notably in the city of Mapanique, survivors recount the Japanese occupation with Filipino men being massacred and dozens of women being herded to be used as comfort women. Today, the Philippines is considered to have un-antagonistic relations with Japan. In addition, Filipinos are generally not as offended as Chinese or Koreans are about the claim from some quarters that these atrocities are given little, if any, attention in Japanese classrooms. It is the result of the huge Japanese aid sent to the country during the 1960s and the 1970s.
Davao in Mindanao had a large population of Japanese immigrants who acted as a fifth column, welcoming the Japanese invaders during World War II. These Japanese were hated by the Moro Muslims and also hated by the Chinese. The Moro juramentados performed suicide attacks against the Japanese, while the Moro juramentados did not ever attack the Chinese since the Chinese were not considered enemies of the Moro people while the Japanese were.
In Australia, the White Australia policy was partly inspired by fears in the late 19th century that if large numbers of Asian immigrants were allowed, they would have a severe and adverse effect on wages, the earnings of small business people and other elements of the standard of living. Nevertheless, a significant numbers of Japanese immigrants did arrive in Australia prior to 1900 (perhaps most significantly in the town of Broome). By the late 1930s, Australians feared that Japanese military strength might lead to expansion in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, perhaps even an invasion of Australia itself. This resulted in a ban on iron ore exports to the Empire of Japan, from 1938. During World War II atrocities were frequently committed to Australians who surrendered (or attempted to surrender) to Japanese soldiers, most famously the ritual beheading of Leonard Siffleet, which was photographed, as well as incidents of cannibalism and the shooting down of ejected pilots' parachutes. Anti-Japanese feelings were particularly provoked by the sinking of the unarmed Hospital Ship Centaur (painted white and with Red Cross markings), with 268 dead. Treatment of Australians prisoners of war was also a factor, with over 2,800 Australian POWs dying on the Burma Railway alone.
In the Russian Empire, the Japanese victory in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 halted Imperial Russia's ambitions in the East, leaving them humiliated. Later, during the Russian Civil War, Japan was part of the Allied interventionist forces that helped to occupy Vladivostok until October 1922 with a puppet White government under Grigorii Semenov. At the end of World War II, the Red Army accepted the surrender of nearly 600,000 Japanese POWs after Emperor Hirohito announced the surrender of Japan on 15 August. Of these, 473,000 were repatriated, with 55,000 having died in Soviet captivity and the fate of the rest being unknown. Presumably, many were deported to China or North Korea to serve as forced laborers and soldiers.
The Yasukuni Shrine is a Shinto shrine in Tokyo, Japan. It is the resting place of thousands of not only Japanese soldiers, but also Korean and Taiwanese soldiers killed in various wars, mostly in World War II. The shrine includes 13 Class A criminals such as Hideki Tojo and Kōki Hirota, who were convicted and executed for their roles in the Japanese invasions of China, Korea, and other parts of East Asia after the remission to them under Treaty of San Francisco. A total of 1,068 convicted war criminals are enshrined at the Yasukuni Shrine.
In recent years, the Yasukuni Shrine has become a sticking point in the relations of Japan and its neighbours. The enshrinement of war criminals has greatly angered the people of various countries invaded by Imperial Japan. In addition, the shrine published a pamphlet stating that "[war] was necessary in order for us to protect the independence of Japan and to prosper together with our Asian neighbors" and that the war criminals were "cruelly and unjustly tried as war criminals by a sham-like tribunal of the Allied forces". While it is true that the fairness of these trials is disputed among jurists and historians in the West as well as in Japan, the former Prime Minister of Japan, Junichiro Koizumi, has visited the shrine five times; every visit caused immense uproar in China and South Korea. His successor, Shinzo Abe, was also a regular visitor of Yasukuni. Some Japanese politicians have responded by saying that the shrine, as well as visits to it, is protected by the constitutional right of freedom of religion. Yasuo Fukuda, chosen Prime Minister in September 2007, promised "not to visit" Yasukuni.
There are a variety of derogatory terms referring to Japan. Many of these terms are viewed as racist. However, these terms do not necessarily refer to the Japanese race as a whole; they can also refer to specific policies, or specific time periods in history.
The two exceptions to this positive reputation for Japan continue to be neighbours China and South Korea, where majorities rate it quite negatively. Views are somewhat less negative in China compared to a year ago (71% down to 63% negative) and slightly more negative in South Korea (54% to 58% negative).
a derogatory term for Japanese. It refers to Japanese traditional footwear Geta, which separates the thumb toe and the other four toes. [일본 사람을 낮잡아 이르는 말. 엄지발가락과 나머지 발가락들을 가르는 게다를 신는다는 데서 온 말이다.]