There have been a lot of news stories recently about Japan’s disputes with Russia and China over the ownership of both the Kuril Islands, which are off the north-east coast of Hokkaido, and also the Senkaku Islands, which I think are somewhere near Okinawa. I have known about the dispute over the Kuril Islands since I first came to Japan, because I lived in Hokkaido and regularly visited Shiretoko. Around that part of the island, there are posters everywhere saying, “Give us back our islands!” I have to admit, however, that I was not aware about the problem regarding the Senkaku Islands until quite recently.
I did some background reading on the history of these islands, and it is very complicated. In the case of the Kuril Islands, a peace treaty between the Allied Powers and Japan signed in 1951 states that Japan has to give up its claims to the Kuril Islands. However, the same treaty does not give the Soviet Union sovereignty over them, and Japan claims that at least some of the disputed islands are not part of the Kurils at all, and are therefore not covered by the treaty (link).
In the case of the Senkaku Islands, China and Taiwan apparently both agree that the islands belong to Taiwan, which is a bit surprising given that they cannot even agree who Taiwan belongs to! Anyway, the islands were under the control of the US from 1945 to 1972, and they have since been a part of Ishigaki, although the mayor has been prohibited from actually doing anything with them (link).
As I’m sure you all know, the Kuril Islands have been in the news recently because of visits by Russian politicians, and the Senkaku Islands have been in the news because of clashes between Japanese and Chinese boats, not to mention Governor Ishihara’s campaign to raise money to buy them from the Japanese family that currently owns them. Also, I think a Japanese politician landed there for an hour last week even though the government tried to stop him.
I do not know enough about these disputes to have an opinion, but it seems to me that going out of your way to provoke countries like China and Russia is not a very good idea. In particular, China is now stronger than Japan economically, as well as being far, far stronger militarily. In any kind of battle between Japan and China, there is not much doubt who would win.
Anyway, the reason I decided to write about this topic is that I am interested to know what regular Japanese people think. Do you think the nationalist politicians are doing the right thing and defending Japanese interests, or do you think they are damaging Japan just for the sake of pursuing their own political agendas?
Look forward to hearing your thoughts.