Respect for sincerity
In 1938, my first year in Japan, I noticed how often the word ‘sincerity’ came up. Sometimes I was surprised at how it was used. For instance, before leaving Britain I had met the Japanese ambassador in London, Mr. Mamoru Shigemitsu. He walked with a stick, and I assumed that he had probably been in a car accident. Later on, I was told that he had had a bomb thrown at him by a Japanese nationalist. Many years later, I heard that Mr. Shigemitsu had met this bomb thrower, after he had finished his dozen years in prison.
The Japanese press asked Mr. Shigemitsu how he felt about this man, and he replied something like this: ‘I have no resentment against him, because I feel that he was sincere in his beliefs’. A British politician would not say this. In fact, after an attempt was made to kill her by a bomb, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher said: ‘These people may be sincere in their beliefs, but those beliefs are completely wrong. They are half-mad, and they are cowardly murderers’.
We can say that most British people would feel like this. So I felt it strange that some Japanese were more impressed by the sincerity of a person than by his words. If a person was very earnest, they respected him.