Although the anniversary comes amid recent surges in Japanese nationalism and intense debate over reforming the country's pacifist constitution, it won't be celebrated nationally, implying Japan is far from embracing its militaristic past. Most Japanese draw a blank on the date; the victory over Russia is far overshadowed by the suffering and shame of World War II.
What events are planned seem almost universally low-key. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's hometown of Yokosuka will hold a memorial tea ceremony, which he has declined to attend. In Shimane prefecture—where a holiday celebrating the annexation of Takeshima island sparked anti-Japanese demonstrations in Korea earlier this year—one village will honor fishermen who rescued hundreds of Russian seamen during the battle. And in Tsushima, May 27 will be marked with remembrance services and the unveiling of a Russia-financed war memorial.
The softpedaling of Japan's greatest military victory is grating to many conservatives, who don't see why the event should be conflated with less savory aspects of Japan's wartime past. "Britain is celebrating the bicentennial of the Battle of Trafalgar as a national event. That is what a normal country does," says opposition lawmaker Shingo Nishimura. "We still have a long way to go to become normal."