TOKYO: While nearly 80 percent of Japanese say they are patriotic, most of that majority say their country should own up to, and reflect on, its record of aggression in Asia, according to a poll published in a newspaper yesterday.
The Asahi Shimbun said 78 percent of 1,805 respondents to the December 2-3 poll felt at least some degree of patriotism. The figure was slightly lower than the 80 percent recorded in a similar poll conducted in April 2005, the daily said.
At the same time, 88 percent of those claiming to be patriots said Japanese must consider their country's militaristic past and brutal colonial rule in Asia, the Asahi said.
The results reflect public concerns about Japanese friction with China and South Korea over their shared history, the Asahi said.
Japan's relations with its Asian neighbors have often been poor because of Tokyo's lack of contrition for its aggression and harsh colonial rule in the first half of the 20th century.
Repeated visits by former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi to the Yasukuni Shrine that honors war criminals from World War II have further strained those ties.
The Shinzo Abe government has pursued a policy agenda aimed at bolstering Japan's international military role, building up national pride and distancing the country from its war guilt, leading some critics to question whether Japan's postwar pacifist stance is under threat.
However, Japan's relations with China and South Korea have improved after Abe took power in September last year. His first overseas trips as prime minister were to Beijing and Seoul and there have been several initiatives in recent months to thaw ties.
(China Daily 01/26/2007 page1)