For Japan, the origins are seemingly clear - all desendants of Amaterasu? Well, perhaps this is no longer acceptable. Finding Japanese roots is much harder. As author and philosopher Jared Diamond said, "Just who are the Japanese? Where did they come from and when? The answers are difficult to come by, though not impossible ― the real problem is that the Japanese themselves may not want to know." Despite this, as someone one once pointed out to me, history seems to be taught through a progression of eras, culminating with the Edo period, followed by the Meiji "Restoration," and then the
I have heard it said that Koreans and Chinese, instead, teach their history "in reverse." They start with the the war (and how bad Japan was), then progress backwards, leaving the question of origin open ended in some early mist of the past.
Is this why, then, that Japan and its neighbors have such a hard time reconciling their histories? Perhaps it is true. However, another vein within these descriptions is the reality that no one likes to talk about their own skeletons, and everyone always talks about others skeletons.
How do we get out of this rut? How can the forward-looking Japanese look over their shoulders a bit more, and how can over-the-shoulder-gazing Koreans and Chinese look a bit more towards the horizon? And more importantly, how can Americans look more at any history - be it their own or someone else's? History matters, but what matters more is an understanding that there is not one history, but many histories. Understanding how others view their own history is important to being able to deal with them. Likewise, understanding that history and the truth are not the same is also important. Keeping these things in mind, the importance of history remains the same.