Perspectives of the Japan-Bengal Relationship
Probir Bikash Sarker
Writer, Researcher 
Editor of Manchitro magazine
, Japan


      The modern Japan-India relation started since 1902 through a historical meeting between two great intellectuals, Tenshin Okakura and Rabindranath Tagore at Calcutta (presently renamed Kolkata), the capital of the then British ruled India. At the same time there was a movement in Kolkata on reviving Bengali traditional culture and arts, which was known as ‘The Bengal Renaissance.’ Tenshin was deeply impressed by the movement because he had also started a similar movement in Japan. On returning to Japan he sent two distinguished artists, Taikan Yokoyama and Kanzan Shimomura to Kolkata, where they met Rabindranath Tagore and  renowned artist Abonindranath Tagore. They exchanged opinions, artistic views and methods of teaching Then, in 1916, Shibusawa Eiichi the 3rd president of the Indo-Japanese Association invited Rabindranath Tagore and some of his friends  to visit Japan for the first time. The Indo-Japanese Association was founded by influential politician Shigenobu Ookuma in 1903.

      One of the main purposes behind the building of Tenshin-Tagore or Japan-India ties were to protect the oriental spirituality through bilateral cultural and educational exchange. It was moved forward until 2nd  World War (1945) and further attained its climax in 1961 through the celebration of Tagore’s Centenary in Japan. There is no doubt that both Tenshin and Tagore were true nationalists over the understanding of internationalism. Tenshin found the flow of cultural and spiritual similarity through his journey to India which revealed the truth that ‘Asia is One’The same belief was held by Tagore as well as other Indian nationalist politician, intellectual and revolutionist like Rasbehari Bose, Subhash Chandra Bose. In Japan Pan-Asianist like Mitsuru Toyama, Ryohei Uchida, Yasaburo Shimonaka, Dr.Kunihiko Ookura, Dr.Kunihiko Oobara and many more had the same belief. Even the then prime minister of Japan, Hideki Tojo was concerned about the matter. Japanese spiritual thinker Tenshin brightened this movement while he was in Kolkata . He was secretly involved with ‘The Anushilan Shomiti’, a secret revolutionary organization, that was so powerful to be spreaded throughout Bengal very shortly. Within two years of Tenshin’s visit to India, the tiny island nation Japan surprised the world including Indian politicians like M.Gandhi, J.Neheru, B.V.Patel, B.G.Tilak, L.L.Rai, G.K.Gokhle, B.C.Pal, R.Ghosh, S.C.Bose and many more, by wining the Russo-Japanese War (1904-5). It was a landmark incident in Asia, as well as a message to oust not only British colony in India, but also every European-dominated country in the continent.

      So, Indian revolutionists became naturally inclined to Japan. One of them was Rasbehari Bose, who left India for seeking political asylum in 1915. He was helped and protected by Mitsuru Toyama, an influential leader of the Peoples’ Freedom Movement and secret  political organization ‘
Mitsuru Toyama : Leader of Genyosha
Genyosha.’ This incident was
very significant for Indian independence history. If Rasbehari Bose had not come to Japan what would have happened to Indian national movement, is now beyond imagination. He spent almost all his life in Japan and other Asian countries collecting money, arms, organizing secret movements in motherland, forming INA (Indian National Army) and finally calling Subhash Chandra Bose to Japan at that time exiled in Germany for taking the leadership of INA. These great activities of Rasbehari Bose had been accomplished with the support of Mitsuru Toyama, Herambolal Gupta, Aizo and Kokko Soma (The owners of famous ‘Nakamuraya’ of Shinjuku district in Tokyo, who were also  his Father and Mother-in-Law); A.M.Nair, Ryohei Uchida, Shumei Ookawa, Toten Miyazaki, Dr.Terao Touru, Masaaki Tanaka like many others those were politically active at the time. He conferred the title Netaji (Leader) to Subhash Chandra Bose during the congress of INA in Singapore in 1942. Netaji convinced Prime Minister Tojo and other government leaders to help India getting Independence from British rule. With collaboration of INA, Japanese solders fought for 3 years but did not achieve the goal; Japan was defeated to America. But the people of India were still in fighting against the British government for freedom of  their motherland. After defeat at the Imphal operation, Netaji went into hiding. Gradually British rulers started to  collapse under the mounting pressure of non-cooperation movements all over India. Finally, in 1947, the British Imperial Rulers had to free India from their 200 year-old colonial oppression. It is needless to say that the sacrifice of Japanese people as well as government at that time, largely contributed to the long deserved independence of India.

 
      After the war, another Indian genius Justice Dr.Radhabinod Pal, born in the then East Bengal presently Bangladesh, was probated as one of the Judge of International Military Tribunal for the Far East (Tokyo Tribunal) by Allied Powers. He was the only judge of the tribunal to
Justice Dr. Radhabinod Pal
 give a dissent judgment in the trial of war criminals. He found no international law in the court to be considered for verdict of accused criminals as guilty. According to his view, it was a ‘Victor’s Justice’ to fulfill their desire of vengeance. Furthermore, he raised his voice against America’s deeds in Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the war. If Japanese Imperial soldiers were guilty of killing innocent people in Manchuria, China, what about Americans killing thousands of innoncent people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he argued. He became famous for his verdict not only in Japan but all over the world. In 1952 he visited Japan for the 2nd time presiding at a world peace conference held in Hiroshima with his friend Shimonaka Yasaburo, President of Heibonsha Publisher, also Chairman of Japan World Fedaration Movement. Due to friendship with Shimonaka he became renownd as a world peace activist in India and Japan for the rest of his life. He received the First Order of the Sacred Treasure from the hand of Emperor of Japan in 1966 for contribution to building the Japan-India relationship. According to his accounts he loved Japan and Japanese people very much. For paying honour to his memories ‘Pal-Shimonaka Memorial Meseum’ had been built in Hakone, Kanagawa prefecture in 1974. There are two monuments of Radhabonod Pal built recently, one in Kyoto another in Yasukuni Shrine compound, in Kudanshita, Tokyo, proving how Japanese people are respecting him!

      Being a citizen of Bangladesh we are very proud of them, because they had laid foundation of Japan-Bengal relationship. Over the years, a lot of events have followed to enrich this history of friendship.

Probir Bikash Sarker
Writer, Researcher 
Editor of Manchitro magazine
ProbirSarker@manchitro.net
probirbikashsarker@gmail.com

05.09.2007
Tokyo.Japan

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