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In Memoriam: Southeast Asia During the Second World War


Memories make nations endure. This theme seems to reverberate throughout Mr. Shinzo Hayase’s journey in Southeast Asia as he explored countless memorials for World War II in an effort to enlighten the Japanese youth on the atrocities of an infamous war. ‘A Walk Through War Memories in Southeast Asia’ (New Day Publishers, Quezon City, 2010) is literally a walk through as the author takes the reader country by country to memories of the war, immortalized by museums and memorials set up in locations where the fiercest passions to fulfill the call of duty met the turbulent desire to fulfill the call of destiny. It is also an analysis on how nations endure by valuing the memories of the past as these memories echo in the present and reflect the necessary steps to undertake in the future. Devoid of memory, the book suggests, a nation cannot face its bright future as it is haunted by the shadows of its past.

  It is only in viewing an issue in different vantage points that a person can gain a carefully crafted opinion about it. The Japanese perspective on waging war is as important as the victims’ perspective on hating the perpetrators of war. Ignorance of any of these will result in an unhealthy study of the history of World War II in Asia as the thinker’s biases traps him in drawing fallacious conclusions.

Hayase contributes to solving this bias problem as he presents the carnages of war in a detached, scholarly and unbiased point of view. Armed with nothing but the desire to educate the Japanese youth, the author used the museums and memorials in various Southeast Asian countries as metaphors for the attitude of a people’s attitude on this war. The preservation or neglect of any of the museums and memorials speaks for a people’s thoughts on the event in commemorates.


Some countries preserve and continue to build their memorials while others refuse to build a simple marker to indicate that some historical event happened in that place sometime in the past. This is not surprising as some countries forgive and forget while some countries forgive but do not forget. Still, some countries cannot forgive for it chose to forget.

In any case, Hayase seems to reiterate that memorials and museums are important for it is only through them that the participants of that historical event gather to commemorate what happened. Commemoration builds and strengthens the memory that is vital in interacting with those who might have been victims in the past. As Japan continues to build these memorials overseas, it hopes to rebuild relations with them. Japan does not wish for rejection, rather it hopes that as it continues to erect these vestiges of the past, it would be easier for the Japanese youth to understand the hatred of other nations to them. It hopes that with the continuous strengthening of memory is the shift of outlook among the victim nations so that the past may not be a hindrance to future peaceful relations.

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