Monday, April 13, 2009

Hiroaki Sato again

Sato, whom I posted about below, writes The View from New York for the Japan Times. He also writes occasional book reviews. In addition, he is a translator and an essayist.

He has had a real problem with Herbert Bix and his book, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, for years. I can understand that emotion, as I had a problem with what I had heard was in Fujiwara Masahiko's The Dignity of the Nation too. The difference is that I read the book.* Sato, despite repeatedly attacking what he had heard Bix had written or what he had read in excerpt, still has not bothered to actually read Bix' book. Believe me, if I can go through Fujiwara's nonsense, he should have been able to manage Bix' book in the now nearly 9 years since it was published. He'd then be somewhat credible when he dismisses it completely as he has done.

Wading back through some of his early articles---need I have read them before commenting on the content?---I quickly found at least two in which he criticized Bix using his "haven't read, but if" line of argument. (Just to note: I personally do not believe that it has been proven that Hirohito had the power to start, stop, or significantly influence WW2, but he was hardly an innocent peace-lover either.)

Jan. 29 2001 Was Pearl Harbor Really a Surprise?

I have not read the Shokun article or others pertaining to this particular "myth" that Bix had in mind, but I have the feeling that in this instance Bix is putting the cart before the horse. [Emphasis added]

In that article, Sato also wrote: Yes, Vidal is a novelist, and "The Golden Age" is a "historical novel." But about this category he has something to say for "those who mistakenly regard history as a true record and the novel as invention."

That is interesting if one considers what Sato accused Bix of in his April 5 article:

Positivism in historiography means an emphasis on facts over theory, documentary evidence over deductions from premise...

...Bix believes in the efficacy of the "voiceless order technique," among other things, as he liberally puts his imaginings and assumptions into others' heads where evidence does not exist.

It seems that Sato has somewhat changed his mind since 2001. There seems to be no room for "I have a feeling" or Gore Vidal novels in a positivist approach.

Oct 30 2000: U.S. Reporter misses the mark on Japan: Sato upset at Howard French, former NYT Tokyo bureau chief, wrote: Was Hirohito a "militarily aggressive leader?" I haven't read Bix's book and I am no historian. [Emphasis added]Most of his criticism is directed at French and his comments about the book, but also toward Bix including the hanging curve of a question: What has he [Bix] been reading? The answer: Obviously more than Sato-san.

It's easy, and maybe a bit unfair, to pick out contradictions in what people who write for a living say as there is a record going back years. I think that Sato writes some good columns occasionally. Others, in my opinion, seem to verge on the "Japan as victim," although he can be critical of some of Japan's actions and the extreme right.

A bit too much of what passes for thought for me on the weekend. Why should I even care about this? Is WW2 over yet?

* I must confess: I have not read the last two chapters of Fujiwara's book. I am going take a wild leap and assume that the last two chapters do not negate what he wrote in the others. Perhaps I am partially guilty of Satoism.

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