Is there a resentment in Japan towards the United States because of World War II?

Walking down the street once in Kyoto my wife and I were approached by a young woman. “Are you Americans?” She asked. We answered we were. She then launched into a bitter tirade calling us all kinds of names because of “What you did in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” That was 25 years ago.

But that was one woman out of 125 million. If the majority in the country felt that way at the time I doubt we would have lived there, but Japan has a range of opinion on every issue including whether the bombings were justified.

My wife’s father was on a ship heading for Japan from Burma as part of a special ops force that had practiced for months for the expected invasion of the home islands. My father was in the Philippines under the command of Gen. MacArthur’s forces.

Had the bombs not been dropped and the expected allied casualties been as high as anticipated, chances are neither one of our fathers would have returned alive and we would not exist.

And chances are quite good that neither would the woman who verbally assaulted us.

My dad, lower left somewhere in the Philippines, 1945

Instead all three of us were able to walk the streets of a free Japan, able to express our opinions without fear.

I often wonder how History would have viewed the USA if we had the bomb but not used it. “You had the capability to end the war, a war which killed hundreds of thousands of allied forces and millions of Japanese civilians, a war that left Japan fragmented and half under occupation by the Soviet Union, yet you failed to use it.” But I’m sure the wife, our children, and I would not be around to debate it.


  1. Some of this still exists in Japanese feelings about the Gaijin.I think a bigger part of it has to do with the humility of being defeated and occupied.

    The Japanese people were NEVER told what was really going on during WWII but given propaganda about how they were winning. When their homeland started being bombed and they realized what was really going on it came as a shock.

    As a side note, as far as I’m concerned they got off easy.

    The Japanese treated the people they conquered hideously. They routinely tortured both civilians and POWs in horrendous fashions. In the Japanese occupied Manchuko, Chinese civilians and even POWs were used in ‘scientific experiments’ exactly as Jews and ‘inferior races were used by the Nazis in the concentration camps, if not to the same industrial extent.

    Women were routinely raped and often forced to become ‘comfort women’ in brothels for the Japanese military. POWs were used as slave labor, beaten and starved if they were left alive, which frequently they weren’t. Pilots in particular were tortured for information by the Kenpeitai, the Japanese version of the Gestapo, after which they were bound hand and foot, weighted down and tossed overboard.

    Even though many of these war crimes were quite similar to what the Nazis did there were no Nuremberg type trials and few if any punishments for what was done.

    Instead, the Japanese got off relatively easy. We fed them, made sure our occupying army behaved itself and treated the Japanese civilians quite well.

    They even had General MacArthur governing them, who gave them a constitution, gave Japanese women the vote and helped them rebuild. So they got off easy.

    Well, for that matter so did the Germans. There were over 55,000 SS men and a few women (if you can call them human) who ran the death camps. Only 60 of them ever got any kind of punishment and most of those who got jail terms were released early once the American occupation ended.

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