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'We humbly ask forgiveness for the past. Please forgive us.'
The 1950s: Politics of the humble heart
'We humbly ask forgiveness for the past. Please forgive us.'
The 1950s: The politics of the humble heart in Japan

Some commentators still say that the Japanese have not apologized enough for atrocities committed during the war. But in the 1950s, Japanese who attended the Initiatives of Change conferences in Caux, Switzerland, made considerable efforts to restore relations with their former enemies.

Japanese delegation to Caux in 1950 (Photo: Arthur Strong)

In June 1950, 70 Japanese came to Caux. It was the most significant group of representatives leaving Japan after the war. It included seven provincial governors, six members of major political parties and the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Members of this delegation went on to apologize to the USA, Australia and several Asian countries. In the fifties, Japanese Prime Minister Kishi became known for practising what has been called ‘the politics of the humble heart’, by visiting the capitals of Asia to apologize for atrocities committed by the Japanese during the war.

In 1955, Niro Hoshijima MP, representing Prime Minister Kishi, apologized on behalf of the Japanese government to the people of the Philippines. 'Japan should pay war reparations', he said, 'but these reparations were not enough. We humbly ask forgiveness for the past. Please forgive us.’ The war reparations were paid.

Further information can be found in the book: Japan's Decisive Decade - How a Determined Minority Changed the Nation's Course in the 1950s by Basil Entwistle, Grosvenor Books, 1985.