Should you come across a book called Japan at War - An Oral History I recommend you to pick it up. It's gripping in a way that no piece of artifice could ever manage. It's a collection of various Japanese people talking of their time in WWII. It runs the gamut: School-kids making balloon-bombs; settler-housewives from Manchuria; wicked Kempei head-loppers; everyone is here. And they tell you of their experiences in their own words.
I do not recommend this book for the simple-minded seeking to have their racist Hollywood delusions confirmed. This book is too full of humans. There is a great deal to Japanese culture - it is as complex as a thing can possibly be. It can, like our culture, produce perfect villains. It can also produce astounding people like the fellow I am dubbing here, 'the brain-washing victim'.
I can't even remember his name. Understand, I read this book years ago and it's now in storage a thousand kilometres away, so I necessarily run on recollection. Our villain-victim provided insights into two aspects of the Japanese at the time. Initially he was a standard occupier doing his small part in the subjugation of China. He hunted 'bandits', or 'terrorists', or whatever phrase-du-jour was then in use to avoid calling a patriotic resistance something truthful. But it's what happened to him after the war that lends him significance. After Japan's defeat he was captured by the communists, imprisoned, and 'brain-washed'.
This was the precise term he used. And he wondered at the words themselves and made a simple point: said he - Why do we shudder at the words 'brain-washing'? Isn't 'washing' good? When a thing is 'dirty' and we 'clean' it, isn't that better than leaving it as it was? This fellow, believe it or not, was of the opinion that the Chinese had removed the filth that had been clogging up his brain. His understanding that others were 'unter-menschen', or 'beasts', or any other self-serving bullshit, was broken down and washed away. He could look back clearly and know the falsity, indeed enormity, of who he had been.
As an aside - if you're given to thinking that 'brain-washing' is some kind of evil, hypnotic, drug-fueled mindfuck, then you've obviously been reading about mkultra and Sirhan Sirhan. I can dig it. I read that too and it's all true. But just put that to one side for the moment. This fellow's experiences were no such thing. The Chinese had neither the resources nor the mindset of the CIA. They did not mistreat him, drug him, or torture him. They simply demanded, implacably, that our Japanese victim-hero stop bullshitting them. And himself, of course. They would not stand for his lies. They demanded nothing less than that he cast off delusion and face the wrongness of his behaviour. And he rose to the occasion.
I always imagined that his experiences resembled those of Pu Yi in The Last Emperor. And like the ex-emperor in that film, our Japanese hero possessed no hatred for his 'brain-washers'. Far from it - he rejected any label of victimhood. With a clear mind he saluted his jailer's humanity and expressed his gratitude. They could have just shot him. It would have saved a lot of time and money and achieved a similar result - ie. ensuring one less murderous racist scumbag. Nobody would have blamed them. Instead, his jailers freed him. And he thanked them.