Acts of Vandalism in Tokyo Targeting The Diary of Anne Frank Probably Angry Reaction to Recent Book by French Journalist- and Certain Articles Reviewing it
Why have copies of Anne Franks Diary and related books been damaged in Tokyo? A possible solution to the mystery:
By Avi Landau
I had just switched on my computer and was getting ready to do some translation work. The TV was on in the background- Olympic highlights. I was not paying very much attention, since I had seen the same scenes- in their entirety – during a nearly sleepless night before of figure-skating viewing..
But just as my laptop had fully booted up, my ears caught a name which drew my attention- ANNE FRANK. Instead of getting to work I moved in front of the set and watched with trepidation.
My eyes opened wide and a chill ran down my spine. The fears that I had had just a few weeks earlier seemed to have been realized- some person or group of persons had, according to the tv report, been going around to Tokyo`s libraries and ripping pages out of any books related to Anne Frank.
I quickly had a look at what was being said about this in cyber-space. I guess I should not have been surprised to find that the story had already been reported on dozens of web-sites -many of them the online versions of major newspapers.
I read the concerns expressed by various parties- there was the Japanese government – which decried the acts of desecration against what can almost be considered a canonical work here in Japan- especially beloved of young girls (and those who were once young girls), who probably relate more to the teen-aged Anne`s well-written thoughts about the problems of growing up, than they do to the book as a Holocaust story.
One common denominator among all the various reports was that they all stated that the motive behind the book-ripping remained a MYSTERY.
There were, however, also comments by various group`s, most prominent among them the Simon Weisenthal Center, which immediately jumped to the conclusion that the acts were committed out of racial or religious hate.
Well, they may be right, but I think it would be more correct to say that these books were damaged out of anger and frustration- maybe even by a single unstable individual.
Let me explain.
I have already mentioned that I had a premonition that something like this would happen.
At the end of January- when we now know that this vandalism spree began, I read an article about a new book entitled: ”Anne Frank in the Land of Manga,” which is apparently author, Frenchman Alain Lefkowitcz`s investigation of what he calls the “Anne Frank phenomenon” in Japan. According to the article: “In January, a version of the work was published by the Franco-German television channel Arte”.
What disturbed me about the content of book (as described by the article) was that instead of being happy (and comforted) that so many people here are still interested in and read about Anne`s tragedy, Mr. Lefkowitcz tries to insist that it is STRANGE that her Diary is so popular in Japan. For him it is an expression of Japan`s desire to deny any war guilt of their own.
His book (and the article about it), brings up certain issues which have become highly volitile points of contention – especially between Japan and Korea, in recent months.
In other words, a book ostensibly about Japan`s relationship with Anne Frank was used as a forum to criticize Japan when more and more Japanese have been feeling exasperated by what to seems an unending barrage of accusations against them (many here feel that appropriate apologies have already been made and want to know what else could possible be done).
Newly published (and very extreme) books can be found at EVERY bookstore these days decrying how rabid anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea has Koreans blaming Japan for almost anything that goes wrong in their country ( Do not imagine in any way, however, that everyone is reading these books, though I have no data as of now). .
There is also felt by many here, a sense of abandonment by the country`s most important ally, the United States, in that (they feel that) Japan does not get strong support in its territorial disputes with Korea and China and that the Prime Minister`s recent visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine have been criticized by US officials and its media.
So for certain people- probably the same one`s who read (or who are behind) these extreme anti-Korean books, the people who join anti-Korean and Chinese activist groups, the fact that a book came out which actually CRITICIZED THE JAPANESE FOR READING ANNE FRANK`S DAIRY (once again- the thesis of the book is that the Japanese read the book to deny war guilt!) and raised the war crimes issue in relation to the Diary, probably seemed like things had gone too far. And apparently that person or persons (unstable as he or they already arnd SNAPPED and has/have been stealthily (and systematically) tearing pages out of Anne`s Diary and related books in whatever Tokyo libraries these books may be found (and that is MANY libraries!)
I do not think this could be the action of a major UYOKU (extreme right-wing) Organization. They would not be so sneaky- they`d make a lot of noise and demand the books be removed from the libraries. (the fact that only libraries and not bookstores have been targets alo suggest for me the actions of individual kooks- they feel a right as tax-payers to interfere in things which are publicly funded- I was heckled once by such an individual when I was invited (and paid) by a local city government to give a lecture (in Japanese) on Japanese history).
when I first read that online article about Lefkowicz`s book I felt an urge to write a comment. But the fact was that many comments had already been written- some of them which would be offensive to any Japanese (making fun of those who read the Diary) and by raising specific accusations of war guilt- sure to make exteremists livid.
I decided to stay out of the fray- I just hoped that no Japanese would read the book- or the article I had read.
The fact is though that some offended or mystified Japanese DID write in- even though writing a comment in English must have been a major effort. Let me give you a sample:
“The Israeli not know it? The Japanese military helped 20, 000 Jews In World War II. Please search Kiichiro HIGUCHI. Why he could to help a Jew? The Japanese military helped Jews in cooperation with HIGUCHI, too. Japan made war on China, but Korea was Japan in those days. Korean is a companion who fought along with the Japanese. However, they do not recognize it because Japan was a defeated nation. Also In then Japan, prostitution was accepted. It was admitted that Wemens worked by the promise. Fixed period of time. Parents sold a daughter in economic distress. A lot of Japanese women worked with a Korean woman, too. It is a humanity sin now. However, there is no fact that Japan hunted out Japan and a Korean woman by violence as a country. Please hear the say of Japanese. But I’m sorry for my poor English.”
The person who wrote this might not have ever before written a single sentence in English in his or her life- yet had gotten so worked up by reading the article on Lefkowicz`s book on Anne Frank in Japan that he or she took the time and effort in an attempt to express some complicated thoughts (i.e.- Don`t Israelis know that some Japanese were involved in the saving of more than 20 thousand of Jews during the Nazi period? Don`t you know that Korea was part of Japan during WWII – it had been annexed to Japan in 1910- and Korean soldiers fought with the Japanese Imperial Army? It is a sad fact, but at that time, prostitution was an accepted part of life and even in Japan -which at that time included Korea, many women of impoverished families had been sold into prostitution by their parents. There is no evidence that Japan forced women into prostitution systematically on a wide scale. Please listen to our side of the story. – my paraphrasing of the above comment sent to Haaretz)
I assumed that there were at least a few others out there (and some of them mentally unstable, to boot), in a country of over 120,000 people, who had the same frustrated feelings, but could not release their stress by writing by posting their comments on line.
That is why I had the feeling that something bad was bound to happen.
There is no excuse for what this person (or people) have done-. And of course, I am not in any way condoning these sick, cowardly acts. I also have to say that I am shaken up by the news despite the fact that I am not surprised by it.
I just want to let anyone who reads this know that there IS a specific reason why Anne Frank`s Diary is being attacled in Japan at this particular time.
I also hope that this situation does not spiral into disaster. If the book and article I have mentioned get big publicity in Japan- more Japanese might (ironically) feel that they are being unjustly victimized. I already see this coming as news of the vandalism has elicited online comments from around the world which are exaggerated reactions to acts which might have been committed by one person ( or a small, obscure group).
Let us hope that the library vandalism comes to an immediate stop and that Anne Frank`s Diary loses none of its PRECIOUS POPULARITY here in Japan (despite Mr. Lefkowicz`s book).