Nice to the Children

It is well-documented that Japan’s invasion of China in the 1930s was accompanied by horrendous atrocities against the civilian population. As was the case with the Nazi rule of terror in Eastern Europe, even children were not safe from the excesses of the foreign aggressors. Of course, this was a story that could not be told at home in Japan. How to explain to the Japanese public that sons, husbands and fathers who had left for China as decent human beings had been turned into monsters after a few months or just weeks at the front? It ran counter to the overall image that Japan tried to project of itself as a force for civilization and modernization in East Asia, and as a more benign alternative to the western imperialist powers. It also, in a much more basic sense, ran counter to all claims of common human decency. Instead Japanese propaganda, including postcards such as those shown here, attempted to describe the empire’s soldiers in the role of nice uncles, sitting down to chat and play with the local children. Scenes like these probably also occurred in the real world, but their predominance in the official media covered up the darkest aspects of Japan’s presence in China.

Categories: Media, War

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