I’m not a fan of Toyota, despite championing the Prius hybrid car in Lucire and not protesting its nomination in the Medinge Group Brands with a Conscience awards this year. Most of my objections are historical: as a company, it was part of the Japanese war machine, and as with certain political groups, it shields its involvement from an honourable Japanese public.
Our photographer, Douglas Rimington, whose mother is Japanese, tells me of circumstances where Japanese tourists learn of their nation’s appalling World War II record for the ﬁrst time when seeing monuments in Asia and Australia dedicated to the dead. It makes me wonder how much the genuine apologies made by individual Japanese, independently of the Diet, such as Toshiki Kaifu, Tomiichi Murayama, Junichiro Koizumi and HM Emperor Akihito were covered or actioned at home.
I remain in two minds about this. If a head of state offers it, such as the Emperor, it is as near enough to ofﬁcial as we can get. I have no reason to doubt the remorse shown by many Japanese ofﬁcials over the years. Here are national leaders kowtowing.
The other side of me says that if the Diet has not endorsed it, and Japan is a constitutional monarchy in a similar manner to the UK, then how real is such an apology? Surely the Emperor has not acted on the advice of his ministers. Prime Minister Koizumi continues to visit the Yasukuni Shrine, commemorating some war dead—including war criminals—undoing many earlier apologies, even if this action appeases certain groups. Hence, you get the position of a lot of Chinese people: an apology is insufﬁcient if it has not had the endorsement of the Japanese parliament. Let’s not even start on what happened in Korea.
But I have no desire to make my Japanese friends feel bad, and all of them know the truth since they grew up in the west. It’s not like “our side” comes to the table with clean hands, either—we only have to point out that our ally, the United States, used atomic bombs on two Japanese cities, and locked up Japanese–Americans on account of their race. Mao killed millions of Chinese through his policies.
And everyday Japanese citizens cannot and should not be judged by the actions of a few lobbyists and Japanese politicians, who block endorsements of these apologies. Regular Japanese and Chinese want to move on, which is why there tends to be a pan-Asian–American movement in the States. We have more in common than the dividers like to claim, but as long as there are groups within Japan trying to revise history, this issue won’t go away.
Nevertheless, I admit to some degree of bias when I choose products. The main reason: at a corporate level it is still nice to see some degree of honesty, and I don’t think Toyota has shown it. It contributes to historical revisionism, according to Michiko Hasegawa, trying to paint Japan’s World War II record in a positive light.
Hence, when Lucire’s Associate Publisher met with Toyota to see if we could do a deal together, she detected a sense of displeasure in my voice (I said I would back her, but it must have sounded insincere), and the deal was nixed in favour of one from Mercedes-Benz—a company that has acknowledged its part in WWII to Jewish groups. (If we don’t acknowledge, we don’t reconcile, and we don’t move on.)
Despite my own wishes to point out the deaths of 10 million Chinese during the Sino-Japanese conﬂict (the Holocaust cost six million lives, I am told, though I always understood it to be more), I try to report on Toyota with balance, and have done so on both this blog and at the Beyond Branding Blog. The company has done well, after all, and the thrashing it is giving many other automakers is down to clever planning and execution.
But it’s worth highlighting, too, that Toyota’s environmental record is not as green as it might seem.
While I support the idea of hybrid systems being installed in larger cars, such as Toyota’s plan to place them in its full-size Lexus sedan and in a mid-size SUV, the Bluewater Network points out that the automaker is in cohoots with the Detroit Big Three in suing California over the state’s attempt to reduce greenhouse gases. It has opposed tougher fuel economy regulations in Washington. Some highlights from its web site:
• Toyota is part of a group of automakers quietly stiﬂing efforts in Congress to raise national fuel mileage standards for passenger vehicles.
• Despite recent signs heralding the coming of global warming, including melting glaciers, higher global temperatures, and severe storms and hurricanes, Toyota continues to litigate against the world’s ﬁrst law to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from vehicles.
• Toyota’s argument that it is pushing for “tough” national greenhouse gas standards in place of state standards is news to us. Toyota has not proposed or requested Congressional action on a national standard. To the contrary, Toyota has a long record of working with the major automakers to oppose increases in fuel mileage standards. For Toyota to claim, in a recent Associated Press story, that it wants to improve federal standards shows how far its rhetoric is from reality.
It is easy to argue that it is more worthwhile supporting a company like Toyota, who at least hasn’t been sleeping or been blind to consumer desires for more fuel-efﬁcient vehicles, while Detroit turned out truck after truck after Hummer. However, kudos should go more to Honda, which most Chinese like me have less trouble supporting (note how many Honda “rice burners” there are in Asian–American communities), since it was founded by Soichiro Honda—a man who loved cars more than money—in 1948. Bluewater actually states that Honda is the greener company, with ‘best ﬂeetwide fuel mileage of any major automaker.’ Sounds good to me. They also seem better built, if the examples I see here in New Zealand are any indication.
Therefore, by way of endorsement, and of support for the Japanese people and more ethical Japanese ﬁrms, have you driven a Civic or Accord Hybrid … lately?
Del.icio.us tags: Toyota | World War II | WWII | Honda | Japan | Japanese | atrocities | Chinese | environment | greenhouse gases | gas mileage | fuel economy | history | revisionism Posted by Jack Yan, 01:18
I don't know ... I think it is way past time to forgive the Japanese and the Italians and the Germans.
Do you not fly Boeing, for example, because of the civillians killed in 'shock and awe'?
On the other had I do think the Japanese would do themselves a favour and voice absolute contrition, and start teaching their past to their people. But tat is not Toyoto's fault.
That is my point, Wadard: regular citizens today have nothing to do with the wars of the past, so there should be forgiveness. However, my other point is that Toyota has contributed to historical revisionism, which is the opposite of contrition; and its actions with suing California, for instance, seem inappropriate given our planet’s situation. So I think it deserves to be “outed”: it is not as nice a company as many would like to think.
"Japan-Republic of Korea Joint Declaration," "Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration," and "Resolution to renew the determination for peace on the basis of lessons learned from history" were all approved by the Diet and issued an apology for Japan's war time agression.
Maybe Jack Yan is Racist, and does not like Japanise people.
If that is the case, Nathan, why would I write, ‘And everyday Japanese citizens cannot and should not be judged by the actions of a few lobbyists and Japanese politicians, who block endorsements of these apologies’ or wind up endorsing Honda and praising Mr Soichiro Honda in this post?Post a Comment
My experience has always been that those who accuse others of racism are closet racists themselves. Why else would such an accusation come so readily from you?
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