Around 90 Japanese cross-party lawmakers visit the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on April 21, 2017. (Xinhua/Ma Ping)
BERLIN, Aug. 15 (Xinhua) -- As the 72nd anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II comes on Tuesday, an old topic brings into people's mind again -- Tokyo's ambiguity on its war crimes versus the sincerity of Germany's reflection.
That difference shows in their attitudes toward war prisoners and the explanation of history, with Yasukuni Shrine as an outstanding example.
Shinto shrines are Japan's aboriginal religious sites, but Yasukuni Shrine is special, as it honors Japan's war dead including 14 Class-A WWII criminals. Since the end of WWII in 1945, Japan's militarist sympathizers, including high-ranking officials and politicians, have never stopped visiting or paying tribute to Yasukuni Shrine.
Disgracefully, it is still true today. On Tuesday morning, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, disregarding the feelings of the peoples of neighboring countries, sent his special advisor Masahiko Shibayama to make a ritual offering as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to Yasukuni Shrine.
It is the fifth consecutive year that Abe has made a ritual offering to the notorious shrine.
What if Yasukuni Shrine were in Germany? In a country that outlaws all Nazi symbols like straight-arm salutes, swastikas and any rhetoric denying its WWII war crimes and Holocaust, that existence would be impossible.
A visit to the Yasukuni Shrine helps people find how ridiculous and distorted the history is explained. It distortedly expresses that it was China's provocations that led to the full-scale war, but the truth is that China was fighting against Japan on its own land occupied by Japan.
In comparison, although cemeteries were built for German soldiers fell during the war, there is no burial site for Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler or other Nazi leaders.
The exhibition in the Yasukuni Shrine is not able to exist in Germany. German criminal code inflicts heavy punishment on such beautification of war crimes, and the offenders shall be punished with imprisonment for up to three years or a fine.
In February 2015, an ex-lawyer was sentenced to 20 months in jail by a court in Munich for saying that the "so-called Holocaust" had never been legally defined or proven.
The attitude of thorough reflection has also become a consensus of the whole German society. On Saturday, a drunken American tourist was beaten up by a stranger passer-by in the eastern German city of Dresden and later arrested as he gave Hitler-salute for several times. Earlier this month, two tourists were also arrested for the same reason in Berlin.
If Yasukuni Shrine were in Germany, those visitors dressing WWII Japanese military uniforms for the memorial of Japan's military victories would end up with imprisonment, not to mention those trying to deny the Nanjing Massacre and the issue of "comfort women", or military slaves in Japanese army.
Japanese officials' visit to the Shrine has also been criticized by Germany. Days after Japanese Prime Minister visited Yasukuni Shrine in late 2013, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said all nations must honestly live up to their role in the horrible events of the 20th century.
"Only on the basis of this honest accounting is it possible to build a future with former foes. This is a conviction Germany takes to heart and which in my opinion applies to all states," Seibert then said.
When visiting Japan in March 2015, Merkel said because Germany did face its past squarely, the country was lucky to be reintroduced and accepted by the international community after the horrible days during the Nazi rule and the Holocaust.
Merkel also criticized Japanese rightists who spare no efforts to deny and whitewash the country's wartime atrocities.
But in comparison, Japan's half-hearted reflection on its past evil not only hinders it from becoming a trustful and responsible member of the international community, but also affects its relations with China, South Korea and other countries once suffered Japan's invasion.
For decades Japan is sparing no efforts to become a "normal country", but Tokyo must understand that without splitting thoroughly from its past atrocities it cannot past the threshold of a "normal country".
For that reason, Germany is quite a good example for Japan to learn from, if Tokyo really wants to split itself from the dishonorable past and wins the trust of the rest of the world.