Ian Buruma is the author of Year Zero: A History of 1945, which is getting strong reviews. Here's a long interview with the author, of which a few choice extracts below:
In Japan there were no Nazis and no Hitler. The same old elite before the war were running things during the war, so the question was what made them go so terribly astray? The conclusion was that there must be something deeply rotten about Japanese culture. There was the Samurai spirit of ancient militarism and feudalism, so it was felt everything had to change. The Americans wrote a constitution whereby Japan was made to be a pacifist state. They no longer had the right to use force as an aspect of their foreign policy, which was not the case in Germany. The Americans almost immediately regretted it because of the Cold War. Nixon, while he was Vice President under Eisenhower, admitted that Article 9 of the Japanese constitution was our biggest mistake.
...when people attack the Japanese for not admitting to war guilt or accepting their responsibility for certain atrocities but praise Germany for their acceptance of guilt and their transparency, they are completely missing the point. There are many Japanese who are completely honest about their past. Indeed, in the 1950s there was more critical writing about World War Two in Japan than there was in Germany. It’s now become a deeply polarised position in Japanese politics and Abe represents the right-wing approach.
This was interesting too:
...the war trials held against Japanese war criminals were all conducted based on what they had done to Europeans. There was not one trial about what they’d done to the Indonesians, which was on a larger scale and much more brutal.