JPRI Working Paper No. 112 (August 2007)
Inserting America into Japanese History Woes
J. Dustin Wright
On April 22, 2005, then Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro issued an official apology to the nations of Asia expressing "deep remorse" over Japan's wartime actions. On the same day, 160 Japanese lawmakers and political aides paid a highly publicized and invariably "controversial" visit to Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. The juxtaposition seems to be almost a caricature of Japanese foreign relations in Asia. But the visit to Yasukuni Shrine, and the subsequent outrage expressed by other nations of Asia--primarily Korea and China--is only a small part of the much larger regional political climate. The protests that took place across China in April 2005 were the products of a vast array of domestic political decisions made in both Japan and China. The protests tended to focus around the atrocities committed by the Imperial Army during the Pacific War, particularly the comfort women and the Nanking Massacre.
As the Nanking Massacre--or rather, the memory of the Nanking Massacre--spun out through the 1990s and into the 21 st Century, it became apparent that the battle over history would not end any time soon. The sheer volume and variety of scholarship is in itself emblematic of the debate's role in contemporary Sino-Japanese relations. Iris Chang's book, The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II, survived considerable criticism from the academic community to become a bestseller in the U.S. and bring the massacre to the attention of a wider American audience. Her writing also implanted itself in the debate between revisionists and progressives in Japan, and subsequently between the revisionists and Chinese scholars and historians. This extended to the Chinese government.
While Chang's writing could be seen to symbolize an American voice, or role, in this debate, it is not the first time the United States has sought to orchestrate memory and history in Japan. The occupation of Japan--spanning the years between August 1945 and April 1952--played a vital role in determining Japan's role in Asian and indeed world affairs, while also assigning the nation the status as the United States' most capable and unquestioning ally. For over six years, Japan lost its sovereignty as a free nation and found many of its social and bureaucratic institutions dismantled and reorganized to better fit an Allied direction and agenda. Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) sought to eliminate the former military government and feudal systems, which in 1940's Japan, were deeply entrenched in not only public but also private institutions. John Dower writes,
"the (Japanese) government was commanded to extend the franchise to women, promote labor unionization, open schools to more liberal education, democratize the economy by revising 'monopolistic industrial controls,' and in general eliminate all despotic vestiges in society."
Post-war Textbook Revisions
The educational institutions of Japan were one of the primary targets of SCAP's reform policies because the education system was thought to be the place where democratization should be initiated. Children who before and during the war had been flooded with Imperial militaristic and nationalist propaganda would now be the first to receive the brunt of the new ideological challenge Japan faced.
This shouldn't come as a surprise. School education has long been the key forum by which nations can instill a sense of national pride (and in some cases, a maniacal nationalism that leaves little room for discussion, debate, or dissent). In the U.S., for example, one historian has noted that history education is meant to "instill patriotism, national unity, and pride in the nation." However, this would probably horrify someone like Gavan McCormack, who believes that a history curriculum "in which people can take pride" cannot really function as credible, " as if that were the function of history ." In Japan, post-war educators were ready for the change. Dower explains that there was relatively little resistance to this "democracy from above" approach, though it could be argued that by targeting the youngest members of Japanese society, the American administrators were actually doing the opposite and starting at the ground level. The educators themselves were eager and willing to do away with the previous governments' military indoctrination. The liberalization of education was, in fact, fed by "a genuine sense of liberation."
The opening scenes of the 1984 film MacArthur's Children seek to convey the "about face" of the immediate post-war occupation of Japan, seen here through the eyes of a group of elementary schoolchildren. The film deals with a group of young boys who survived the war but continue to suffer from the propagandistic education they've received. Some lost fathers while others have parents soon to be executed as war criminals. In the film, the children are instructed by their teacher to paint large black lines over certain passages in their textbooks. This was the act of suminuri , or "blackening over" of material deemed dangerous by the occupation authorities. Before textbooks could be issued, children were required to go through their textbooks, line by line, and paint over this material. Dower tells us that while suminuri had been practiced by Japanese educators before the Americans landed, the fact that the enemy conqueror was now directing such instruction left an unsettling impact on many students, some of whom had actually transcribed their own textbooks by hand.
The new, "updated" textbooks sought to prevent the resurgence of military indoctrination, which up until the American occupation, had been the focal point of Japanese education. SCAP authorities wanted to ensure that, above all else, future textbooks would be quite the opposite, negating any mention of military ideology. However, in eradicating such information from textbooks, SCAP (a euphemism for the United States government) also eradicated much of Japan's wartime past from popular education.
This leftward trend of "peace education," was countered by a rightist movement focused on recentralizing the education system. Rather than textbooks being drawn up by the state, the New School Education Law of 1947 "stipulated that elementary school textbooks were to be screened, approved, and/or authored by 'competent authorities.'" From very early on in Japan's post-war history, many Japanese government officials and organizations, like the Japan Teachers' Union (JTU) were in favor of liberalizing the textbook-decision making process. These educators failed however, and in 1948 the Ministry of Education announced it would form a committee, made up of "competent authorities" to decide which textbooks would be utilized.
While the country was engaged in what would become an unprecedented rate of recovery and economic growth, political dissent against the U.S. occupation was hampered by SCAP's censorship policies. This included strict censorship of newspapers, books, movies, and political parties. Writings about the atomic bombings were particularly taboo, with now important literary figures like Ota Yoko and Hara Tamiki facing significant difficulty in finding a popular audience until the end of the occupation. While rightwing nationalist groups, together with those who wrote about the A-bomb were initially targeted by SCAP authorities, leftist organizations were more or less free from constant monitoring and censorship. A striking example of this soon-to-be-ironic policy was the release of political prisoners from Japanese prisons and the return of many prominent exiled Communists from the USSR. For a time, it seemed that a progressive movement would flourish in Japan. Unfortunately, the weight of the oncoming Cold War would destroy the chances of a popular liberal "enlightenment" in Japan. The Soviet Union tested its first atomic bomb in August 1949. Even though the test was inevitable and certainly predicted, the American occupiers were so horrified that they rapidly shifted the focus of the occupation from one of creating moral disgust over the military and Japan's wartime behavior, to a policy of remilitarization of Japan and a massive crackdown on political freedom and expression. This effectively ended what Andrew Barshay calls Japan's "penitent phase" and offered Japanese nationalists a chance to reemerge on the political scene.
In addition to the reverse course led by the U.S., members of the political right--representing those who had most adamantly promoted and implemented the imperial military's doctrine--found it difficult to abandon the ideologies they had for so long endorsed. Even after defeat, it was unlikely they would accept any blame for the demolished condition of the country. Dower writes, "They rejected all arguments about the 'root' causes of militarism, repression, and aggression, choosing instead to depict the recent war as an aberration brought about by irresponsible and conspiratorial elements within the imperial military." This was convenient for SCAP. Under the occupation, because many of Japan's wartime leaders were executed and imprisoned by the authorities, it was believed that it would be impossible for the same rightist elements to resurface. If--as many revisionists maintain--the responsibility for the failure of the war fell on a few suicidal megalomaniacs, eradicating such "villains" would offer some form of absolution. As the new Cold War threat emerged, however, SCAP encouraged the resurrection of many anti-communist rightists, creating a political climate unnervingly similar to that of pre-war Japan.
The Rightwing Backlash
Thus, the foundations were laid for a revisionist movement to flourish in post-war Japan. When Japan's sovereignty was handed back in 1952, a steady stream of right-wing elements arose in the political juggernaut that is the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). While the later period of the U.S. occupation already began to encourage the clampdown on communists and socialists within Japan, it was not until the occupation ended that indicted war criminals were allowed to re-enter the political sphere--and they did. Kishi Nobusuke, wartime Minister of Commerce and Industry from 1941 to 1945, was elected Prime Minister in 1957. In fact, the conservative LDP has continued to keep a firm grasp on the Japanese political system, and this nearly complete one-party domination over the past five decades has created a sort of time warp, where the ideologies and trends of a post-occupation, Cold-War-era Japan, still inform much of official opinion and policy.
To a certain extent, revisionism seeks to counter the historical approaches left by the occupation and the ensuing U.S. inspired Cold War. Scoffing at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunals and the policies of the occupation as nothing more than "victor's justice," the revisionist movement sees American involvement in Japan over the last 60 years as demeaning and damaging to the nation's sovereignty. Moreover, though SCAP authorities forced Japanese schoolchildren to ink out the wartime history from their textbooks, revisionists believe the United States and other countries have sought to create a "masochistic" history of and within Japan, exaggerating and even creating events and atrocities like the Nanking Massacre and the forced recruitment of comfort women.
Fujioka Nobukatsu, a professor of education at Tokyo University, sent a letter to the California State Assembly in 1999 after the assembly adopted Assembly Joint Resolution No. 27, which called on Japanese officials to "issue a clear and unambiguous apology" to the victims of Japanese wartime aggression. More specifically, the resolution referred to the "atrocious war crimes committed by the Japanese military" and said the Japanese government should commit itself "to immediately paying reparations." In his letter, Fujioka criticized the assembly, faulting it for several "inaccuracies," including the Assembly's use of the 300,000-person death toll in the Nanking Massacre, which he called "nothing more than demagoguery." For Fujioka, perhaps the most infuriating part of Resolution No. 27 is not its content, but the fact it was issued, or even discussed at all. For the revisionists, it is a continuation of the imperial policies of the West, or more specifically, of the United States. They argue that Western imperialism initially fueled Japan's military-dominated ideologies and that with European and American powers colonizing Asia, Japan's trade partnerships and overall sphere of influence were being threatened. Given this framework, the attack on Pearl Harbor is then perceived as an act of self defense. For Fujioka, Japan was only a part of the Pacific War, not its instigator. Not only this, but Japan was twice victimized during the 20th Century: first by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and second by the American occupation.
Fujioka is a somewhat prominent figure in Japan's neo-nationalist "rear-guard reaction" movement, a man whose outspokenness has afforded him significant press attention. He does not limit his energy to denying the extent, or even the occurrence of the Nanking Massacre. Fujioka has enraged liberals across Asia with his denials of many wartime atrocities, including the government procurement of military sex slaves ( ianfu ) during World War II. In addition, Fujioka has sought to delete passages in textbooks that describe Japanese soldiers ordering civilians to commit suicide rather than surrender during the hellish battle in Okinawa. As a consequence, his popularity has risen. He is not alone. Since the 1990s, the revisionists have steadily gained momentum. McCormack writes, "Although Fujioka is the central figure, he and his cause are supported by a wide-ranging group of literary, media, academic, and business personalities." Fujioka's "circle" of revisionists includes Tanaka Masaaki, author of Fabrication of the "Nanking Massacre," the self-proclaimed non-fiction writer Suzuki Akira and the popular manga writer Kobayashi Yoshinori.
Creating a New Post-War Identity
The revisionists in Japan see themselves as helping to create a positive sense of what it means to be Japanese ( nihonjinron ). A nation lacking a pure identity, it is believed, is doomed to failure. It is Fujioka's opinion that foreign ideologies and a communist-leaning teachers union, as well as the schools and textbooks of Japan, are helping to create a generation and society of self-loathing Japanese. Fujioka feels that this produces not only self-contempt among Japan's youth, but also a sense of alienation. This alienation, he and other nationalists fear, leads Japanese youth into the arms of the cultures and ideals of other nations. Fujioka, then, is to be a defense mechanism against this perceived trend.
Coming to the aid of Fujioka, the cartoonist Kobayashi has penned several manga books sympathetic to the neo-nationalist cause. The most popular, entitled Sensoron [On War], sold a half million copies in early 1998. By 2005, Kobayashi was publishing his books in the millions. Sensoron sparked controversy not only for its selling success, but the fact that its main audience was young Japanese. In the book, a young man finds himself increasingly disenchanted with current Japanese society. The constant barrage of consumerism, the media, and a lack of direction cause him to stare wistfully to the distance. On top of this, he is troubled by his "guilt" over Japan's imperialism. Kobayashi then sends the young man on a ride through history, where he finds himself witnessing the debate between the progressives and revisionists. Actual photographs from Iris Chang's book are reprinted in the manga , only to be damned as propaganda, and there are numerous illustrations of beaming imperial soldiers marching across Asia, spreading freedom from the imperialist aggression of the Western powers. Then there are the illustrations of a grinning Paul Tibbets, waving from the cockpit of the Enola Gay . On these pages leading up to the destruction of Hiroshima, there are no words, only images: first a serene street scene of children playing while an old man walks his dog. In the next panel, utter destruction. The same devotion to image, as opposed to text, is given over to the firebombings of Tokyo. The appearance of neonationalism in a vehicle as mainstream as manga provides an example of the versatility of the revisionist movement and the potential for creating a new generation of revisionists. It also smacks of pre-war Japan, where it was the young who were so successfully rallied for a nationalist cause. Sensoron is pop-nationalism, or the mass marketing of a product with the intent to instill pride in one's nation.
In December 2005, The Independent reported on the popularity of several other manga in the tradition of Sensoron. One book, entitled Hate Korea , praises the "civilization" Japan brought to Korea during its colonial enterprise in the country from 1910-1945. It sold 350,000 copies. The other, entitled Ko Bunyu , depicts the Chinese as a people who practice cannibalism and export "Aids-infested" prostitutes abroad.
Both Fujioka and Kobayashi see Japan's alienated youth as threatened by foreign influences. Social discontent, they hope, will turn the younger generation back towards a more nationalist perspective, one in which they can take pride. With greater pride in their country, the nationalists hope to regain the strong sense of unity that they feel was lost after the war. After all, without that sense of unity, Japan would never have been able to mobilize its forces to become the military power it once was, and without that sense of "we" (that is, a nation wholly agreed on one history) the nationalists feel Japan can never regain its prewar strength.
The foreign "intrusion" into the historical debate is often seen as a conspiracy headed by the People's Republic of China. Takemoto Tadao, professor emeritus in French literature at Tsukuba University, along with professor of Shinto studies, Ohara Yasuo, wrote The Alleged "Nanking Massacre": Japan's Rebuttal to China's Forged Claims , in an effort to combat such perceived conspiracies. Here, Iris Chang is seen as a pawn of the PRC, something of a mole with the mission to deliver a "masochistic" view of Japan to the American public. Their book, which includes both Japanese and English texts within the same edition, was sent to several American institutions and politicians, ranging from the Association for Asian Studies to Donald Rumsfeld.
For scholars like YoshidaTakashi, who recently wrote the excellent book entitled, The Making of the 'Rape of Nanking': History and Memory in Japan, China, and the United States , one great irony to come out of the revisionist movement is the fact that, without people like Fujioka, there might not have been any revived international attention paid to the issue. He writes, "Had there not been intense challenges from the revisionists, the history and memory of the Nanking Massacre might have remained a domestic issue rather than becoming an international symbol of Japan's wartime aggression."
For many of the pre-war nationalists and the contemporary neo-nationalists, "victim consciousness (higaisha ishiki )" also plays a prominent role in writing 'correct' history. This aspect of Japan's memory is important in understanding Fujioka. In believing that the war was an act of defense against a foreign oppressor, he feels that Japan lost a war it was forced to instigate. Thus, any of the consequences of the loss serve as further examples of victimization. The Japan Teachers Union's slogan, adopted at a Central Committee meeting in 1951, states "Never Send Our Students to the Battlefield." Even during the occupation, there were voices of dissent who continually attempted to invoke the memory of atrocities committed by the Japanese military throughout Asia. However, voices like the Japan Teachers Union were the minority. Progressive thought was hampered by the nationalistic furor surrounding the fear of Communism and the immense economic gains that were to come from the Korean War. In 1954, the conservative, "victim consciousness" approach gathered further support after 23 Japanese fishermen were poisoned by the radiation from an American atomic bomb test in the South Pacific. Widely seen as another atomic attack on Japan itself, the anti-nuclear movement gathered further strength and heightened the notion of Japan as victim.
Japanese victimization has been, as would be expected, widely reflected in popular culture. The scenes of the destruction of Hiroshima and Tokyo depicted in Sensoron can be found in films as well. Takahata Isao's Grave of the Fireflies is set in pre-surrender-1945 Japan. In it, a young brother and sister struggle to survive as family and society break down during the starvation and destruction that was the norm for nearly all Japanese during the waning months of the war. Orphaned by a mother who died during a firebombing and a father who died while serving in the military, the children embark on a downward spiral of starvation and alienation. Susan Napier writes, "the recurring image of planes flying above the heads of children evokes a world that can never be safe."
The recent epic film, Yamato: The Last Battle, depicts the final days of the battleship Yamato through the experiences of the sailors aboard the doomed vessel. Certainly, most American movie goers would not be surprised to see a war film in which American soldiers are scrutinized and humanized. For Japanese filmmakers, however, a consideration in creating such a film is the certainty that it will raise the ire of China and Korea. Before the film was released, Justin McCurry of The Guardian reported that "the makers of the film make no apologies for their positive portrayal of the crew, whom producer Haruki Kadokawa calls the war's 'nameless victims.'"
Fujioka didn't become a "proactive" historian until he returned from sabbatical at Rutgers University in 1992. The experience, according to Rikki Kersten, greatly influenced Fujioka. She writes, "Fujioka was able to hear and read at first hand American notions about Japan in the aftermath of the Gulf War, contrasting the 'gung ho' pride of the American military on the part of Americans, with the weak-kneed paranoia of Japan's society and government."
Troubles with China
Fujioka, along with the so-called "Liberal School of History" (later dubbed The Society for History Textbook Reform), published History Not Taught In Textbooks after a half century of what was perceived as foreign intrusion into Japanese internal affairs. This intrusion, he felt, had invariably caused current Japanese textbooks to be mostly negative toward Japan. Fujioka continues, "When such aspects, false aspects, are emphasized in history education, it is no wonder that young Japanese become no longer proud of their nation. Middle-school students often perceive Japan as the most evil nation in the world." Although the issues of comfort women and the Nanking Massacre are enough to at least raise the notion of "evil" in Japan's wartime conduct, the nearly 200,000 mostly Korean comfort women are a particularly sore nerve for Fujioka, who adamantly denies their servitude. Had the comfort women actually been taken by force from Korea, he told a live audience, he was "sure the proud Koreans would have been so outraged that they would have stood up to kill all Japanese, no matter what the consequences."
In April 2005, tens of thousands of Chinese citizens, mostly young professionals in their 20's and 30's, took to the streets of China venting frustration over information that they believe should or shouldn't be included in Japanese textbooks. Only months earlier, an "inflamed territorial conflict" was occurring between the two countries over what would appear to be little more than a rock formation poking out of a big blue sea. However, this small rock formation in the East China Sea--called Diaoyutai in China and Senkaku in Japan--has become part of the much larger resurgence of hostilities between the two countries, spawning, among other things, Chinese citizens in small boats climbing atop the rocks to stick Chinese flags in the ground. While it is not impossible that these passionate patriots are simply hoping to ensure the Chinese public's access to a few more square yards of land, the oil-rich ocean floor around the islands may offer a better answer. Just a week after the protests began, Tokyo announced it was opening the bidding for oil contracts to its domestic companies to begin exploring the contested region for oil deposits. China has already begun drilling in the region. Both countries are quick to call the other's actions a "provocation," which could hold some significance in the realm of global oil consumption, where China ranks second and Japan third. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman went further to state that Japan had caused "a serious provocation to the rights of China and the norm of international relations." (Unfortunately, the spokesman's quote, taken from a BBC report, neglects to offer or expand on the appropriate definition for the "norm of international relations," dooming students, academics, journalists, policy makers, and other thinkers to continue their endless pursuits for just such a definition).
It is helpful to view the 2005 "row" through an economic lens. The two nations, enormous industrial powerhouses and massive consumers of energy, are vying for a dominant position in East Asia, both militarily and economically. However, their display of cooperation is equally important. China is Japan's biggest trading partner, something which no doubt weighs heavily on the minds of both the CCP and the LDP. In 2004, one year before the protests, Japanese trade with China grew by 17 percent. Two-way trade between the two countries recently reached $212 billion. Needless to say, the Japanese economic sector hopes that any issues with China can be resolved quickly and without conflict, especially when that conflict comes in the form of protests and boycotts. When then Chief Cabinet Secretary (and now possibly soon-to-be-ex-Prime Minister) Abe Shinzo said he was freezing loans to China, the Chinese "coolly" appealed for dialogue.
A new reality, however, is that China maintains its strongest trading partnership with the European Union. This fact could contradict the much publicized belief that China and Japan are completely dependent upon one another in order to maintain their strong global economic status.
Equally chilling to Sino-Japanese relations is the role the Japanese Self-Defense Forces have played during the continuing occupation of Iraq. While troop numbers were not large in comparison to the other 23 non-U.S. military forces, (about 800 Japanese soldiers were stationed near the town of Samawa) Japan has promised to contribute upwards of $5 billion to the cause (though $3 billion is expected to come in the form of loans). This is a significant contribution, similar in scope to the check written during the first Gulf War, when Japan was the second largest monetary donor. For Japan's revisionists, this is certainly a comforting departure from the first Iraq War, when, Fujioka complained in an interview with the Yomiuri Shimbun , "our (Japanese) government couldn't explain to the world community why Japan didn't send its Self-Defense Forces."
But how is this viewed by China? Certainly, the Chinese would see Japan's economic and military capabilities as a threat, reminiscent of the years leading up to the Japanese occupation of mainland China. With this in mind, its not surprising that China expressed strong reservations when Koizumi went before the United Nations and asked the body to accept Japan as a Permanent Member of the Security Council. In what Guardian correspondent Jonathan Watts called "by far the biggest mobilization of internet opinion in the country's history," a petition, originating in the U.S. and circulated in China, garnered over 16 million signatures opposing Japan's inclusion. With China in a powerful position as one of the Security Council's five permanent members, this is an important "no" vote.
China also fears an even stronger U.S.-Japan relationship, one obvious outcome if Japan did gain a permanent seat on the Security Council. Chalmers Johnson points out that the appointment of pro-Taiwan conservatives like John Bolton--who resigned from his post as ambassador to the UN in December 2006--to positions of importance within American foreign policy circles strikes an uneasy chord when played at the same time as calls for amending of Article Nine (the so called "no-war clause") of Japan's constitution. When Colin Powell traveled to Japan in 2004 and told a press conference that if the country wanted to be a permanent member of the Security Council, it would first have to abandon Article Nine, China assuredly pricked up its diplomatic ears.
In a country where public demonstrations can easily get out of hand and lead to tanks on city streets and students taking bullets in the name of democracy, one must wonder why the Chinese authorities ever allow such unruly behavior. But, many have pointed out, China not only allows protests, but in some cases gives a wink of endorsement. In Shanghai, for example, the local police department sent out text messages to mobile phone users, stating "We ask people to express your patriotic passion [against Japan] through the right channel, following the laws and maintaining order."
China, with 100 million internet users and 350 million mobile phone users, has seen a rise in the popularity of news forums and internet blog sites. With an estimated 50,000 internet censors working in China, it is not surprising that the topics that can readily be discussed are severely limited. For the young, tech-savvy generation in China, their individual frustrations have been pointed towards Japan.
Enter the U.S.
In February 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution (246-182) against an escalation of the Iraq war and, perhaps more than anything, demonstrated to the American public that the new Democratic-controlled Congress was going to be vocal but ultimately powerless to stop the war. During the four-day debate another war-related resolution, also led by a Democrat, took place on Capitol Hill, albeit given considerably less television time. House Resolution 121 was introduced by Mike Honda, a Democrat from California who is no stranger to symbolic resolutions. Honda was also instrumental in drafting the previously mentioned California state bill that drew Fujioka's scorn.
Far from the invasions and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, H. Res. 121 calls on Japan to "formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility" for the Imperial Army's use of comfort women during the Pacific War. Inevitably, the bill expresses dismay over the effort of Japanese textbooks to "downplay" this and other atrocities.
This isn't the first time American legislators have inserted themselves into the comfort women controversy. In 2003, the U.S. House of Representatives--including Honda--initiated a similar bill, left to idle in the legislative process and resurfacing again in 2004 and 2005. Since bills that do not pass into legislation are cleared from the books, Honda and other lawmakers have been able to introduce the same bill every year, using it as a chance to do little more than offer a quick press release and with no real chance of the bill actually passing in a vote. H. Res. 121 is a simple resolution and as such is only relevant for making "recommendations."
The irony of H. Res. 121 is, of course, that the U.S. government is suffering from the same historical amnesia from which it accuses the Japanese. Noticeably absent from the bill is any mention of American involvement with the Japanese government's official comfort women programs. Fearful that Japanese women would be subject to mass rapes at the hands of the American occupiers, Japanese officials quickly mobilized a massive nationwide network of "comfort stations" within Japan immediately after the surrender. These brothels were "staffed" by Japanese women, made up mostly of bar hostesses, geisha, waitresses, and on some occasions, the same young girls (many still in high school) who had previously been conscripted to work in factories that churned out war equipment. Not surprisingly, the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunals, which lasted two and a half years, failed ever to prosecute anyone over the issue of comfort women, even though the U.S. military knew of their existence. A prominent scholar on the topic, Tanaka Yuki, has written a detailed account of this. He reports that although comfort stations and comfort women were captured when the Allies invaded Okinawa, there is no documentation showing interrogation of the women, leading to the conclusion that "neither the US forces nor the British and Australian forces were interested in investigating crimes committed by the Japanese forces against Asian women." During the actual occupation, even with the existence of comfort stations set up for Allied use, crimes against local women were an uncomfortably common occurrence. In Okinawa alone, 76 cases of rape-murder were reported in the first five years of the occupation.
The people living on Okinawa, an island still very much a satellite of the U.S. and host to American troops, continue to fall victim to the crimes of American soldiers. One study found that since 1988 there have been 169 courts-martial for sex crimes in Japan. Another study shows that in Japan alone, U.S. servicemen committed 4,716 crimes between 1972 and 1995. It is important to note that these are only the crimes that were reported (rape is often not reported) and most of these occurred on Okinawa. A particularly brutal crime was the 1995 kidnapping and gang-rape of an Okinawan girl by three American soldiers. Afterwards, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Admiral Richard C. Macke, commented that "I think that [the rape] was stupid. For the price they paid to rent the car, they could have had a girl." Obviously, this same type of dismissive rhetoric can be found in Japan as well. Komori Yoshihisa, Editor-at-Large at the Washington bureau for the conservative daily Sankei Shimbun , rationalized the comfort women issue when he told Fareed Zakaria in an interview that comfort women during the Pacific War "were making lots of money" and that "some of them were making much more money than the Japanese Prime Minister."
When H. Res. 121 was unanimously passed by a voice vote on July 30, 2007, there was little surprise among most observers. After all, it is difficult to imagine any lawmaker voting against a resolution concerning the condemnation of rape. However, it is noteworthy that Honda, who said he didn't think the resolution would hurt U.S.-Japan relations, nonetheless decided to hold the vote one day after Japan's Upper House elections. Even without a passed H. Res. 121 hanging over the elections, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and the LDP emerged beaten and bruised. As of this writing, calls for Abe's resignation (almost half of Japanese voters want him to step down) have been dismissed. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan ( Minshuto ) now holds 109 seats (as opposed to the LDP's 83) of the 242 seats in the Upper House. Shortly after the elections, the DPJ's leader, Ozawa Ichiro, rejected a meeting with the U.S. ambassador, who was apparently hoping to pressure the DPJ into voting in favor of extending a law that allows the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force to engage in anti-terror missions alongside U.S. ships in the Indian Ocean. That law will expire in November 2007 and, if not extended, could serve to highlight the strain on U.S.-Japan relations.
U.S. lawmakers demanding an official apology from the Japanese government exemplifies Washington's difficulty in maintaining a consistent foreign policy with Japan. Colin Powell's suggestion of revising Japan's "no-war clause" is noteworthy because of the fact that Article Nine was and continues to be a symbol of Japan's acceptance of responsibility in the Pacific War. Therefore, demanding an apology from the Japanese government for wartime crimes while at the same time asking for the revision of their pacifist constitution seems incompatible, and while it may not hurt U.S.-Japan relations, it certainly won't help. One day after H. Res. 121 passed, Abe called the decision "regrettable" and Chief Cabinet Secretary Shiozaki Yasuhisa dismissed the resolution as nothing more than "a matter decided by the congress of another country." So it shouldn't come as a surprise that H. Res. 121, or any other effort by the U.S. to influence Japan's historical memory, will likely fall on deaf ears.
Dustin Wright recently completed his M.A. in Asian Studies at San Diego State University. Last year, his article on the revisionist movement in Japan won him "First Place, Best Graduate Student Paper" at the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society's Southern California Conference. Dustin hopes to begin a PhD program in 2008.
1. BBC News. "Japanese PM apologizes over war." April 22, 2005. Retrieved April 22, 2005 from http//www.bbcnews.co.uk [Return to Text]
2. BBC News. "Japanese MPs visit war memorial." April 22, 2005. Retrieved April 22, 2005 from http//www.bbcnews.co.uk. [Return to Text]
3. For an example of such criticism, see Joshua A. Fogel's "Review of The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II, by Iris Chang." The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 57, No. 3. (Aug., 1998): 818-820. [Return to Text]
4. John Dower. Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II . (New York, 1999), 81. [Return to Text]
5. Christopher Barnard. Isolating Knowledge of the Unpleasant: The Rape of Nanking in High School History Textbooks . British Journal of Sociology of Education, Vol. 22, No. 4, The Sociology of the Curriculum (Dec. 2001), 519-530. [Return to Text]
6. Gavan McCormack. "The Japanese Movement to 'Correct' History" in Censoring History: Citizenship and Memory in Japan, Germany, and the United States , eds. Laura Hein and Mark Selden (New York, 2001), 67. Italics are the author's. [Return to Text]
7. Dower, Embracing , 247. [Return to Text]
8. MacArthur's Children [ Setochi Shonen Yakyu-dan ], prod. Masato Hara. dir. Masahiro Shinoda. Based on the novel by Yu Aku. 125 min., Orion Classics, 1984, film. [Return to Text]
9. Dower, Embracing , 247. [Return to Text]
10. Nozaki Yoshiko and Inokuchi Hiromitsu. "Japanese Education, Nationalism, and Ienaga Suburo's Textbook Lawsuits," in Censoring History: Citizenship and Memory in Japan, Germany, and the United States , eds. Laura Hein and Mark Selden (New York, 2001), 101. [Return to Text]
11. Nozaki, "Japanese Education," 101. [Return to Text]
12. See Ota Yoko's City of Corpses and Hara Tamiki's Summer Flowers . Ota and Hara both played prominent roles in bringing the atomic massacres to those who did not personally experience them. For a vivid discussion of genbaku bungaku (atomic bomb literature), see Richard H. Minear's Hiroshima: Three Witnesses (Princeton, 1990). [Return to Text]
13. Andrew Barshay. "Imagining Democracy in Postwar Japan: Reflections on Maruyama Masao and Modernism." Journal of Japanese Studies , Vol. 18, No. 2. (Summer, 1992), 389. [Return to Text]
14. Dower, Embracing , 84. [Return to Text]
15. The reformist Japan Renewal Party would offer new leadership, though only for less than a year, under Hosokawa Morihoro from 1993 to 1994. [Return to Text]
16. California State Assembly. Assembly Joint Resolution No. 27--Relative to the war crimes committed by the Japanese military during World War II. California, 1999. [Return to Text]
17. Fujioka Nobukatsu. "Open Letter of Inquiry for the California State Assembly Joint Resolution No.27 sent to Assemblyman Michael Honda, on December 1, 1999." Retrieved October 29, 2006 from http://www.jiyuu-shikan.org/e/letter. December, 1999. [Return to Text]
18. Laura Hein and Mark Selden, "The Lessons of War, Global Power, and Social Change" in Censoring History: Citizenship and Memory in Japan, Germany, and the United States (Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, 2000), 26. [Return to Text]
19. James Brooke. "Okinawa Suicides and Japan's Army: Burying the Truth?" The New York Times , June 20, 2005. [Return to Text]
20. McCormack, "Correct," 56. [Return to Text]
21. Kobayashi Yoshinori, Sensoron [On War] (Tokyo, Gentosha, 1998). [Return to Text]
22. David McNeill. "Anti-China comics head Japanese bestseller lists." The Independent . December 13, 2005. [Return to Text]
23. McCormack, "Correct," 81. [Return to Text]
24. Kobayashi, 166. [Return to Text]
25. Kobayashi, 330-336. [Return to Text]
26. McNeill, "Anti-China." [Return to Text]
27. Both of these texts are cited in McNeill's article. [Return to Text]
28. Takemoto Tadao and Ohara Yasuo. The Alleged "Nanking Massacre": Japan's Rebuttal to China's Forged Claims (Tokyo: Meiseisha, 2000). [Return to Text]
29. The writers sent letters to people who purchased the book, urging them to post recommendations for the book on Amazon.com. However, reading the posted recommendations (as of November 2006) shows how influential Iris Chang has been in the United States; Amazon.com customers leveled vicious attacks at Takemoto and Ohara. See http//www.amazon.com/Alleged-Nanking-Massacre-Japans-rebuttal. [Return to Text]
30. Takashi Yoshida. The Making of the "Rape of Nanking": History and Memory in Japan, China, and the United States . New York: (Oxford University Press, 2006), 5. [Return to Text]
31. John Dower, "Three Narratives of Our Humanity" in History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past , eds. Edward T. Linenthal and Tom Engelhardt (New York, 1996), 64. [Return to Text]
32. Yoshida, Making , 56. [Return to Text]
33. Laura Hein and Mark Selden, "Commemoration and Silence: Fifty Years of Remembering the Bomb in America and Japan" in Living with the Bomb: American and Japanese Cultural Conflicts in the Nuclear Age . (New York, M.E. Sharpe, 1997), 20. [Return to Text]
34. Grave of the Fireflies ( Hotaru no Haka ) dir. Takahata Isao, prod. Hara Toru, writ. Akiyuki Nosaka. 88 min. Shinchosha, 1988. [Return to Text]
35. Susan B. Napier. Anime: From Akira to Princess Mononoke. New York, 2001. 164. [Return to Text]
36. Yamato: The Last Battle ( Otoko-tachi no yamato ). dir. Junya Sato, 2005. Also see Justin McCurry, "Battleship epic reignites anger over Japan's wartime excesses." The Guardian . December 16, 2005. [Return to Text]
37. Rikki Kersten. "Neo-Nationalism and the 'Liberal School of History'." Japan Forum. 11 (1999): 194. [Return to Text]
Nobukatsu. "Foreign Correspondents Ask about 'Comfort
Women' answered by Fujioka Nobukatsu." Retrieved
August 28, 2006 from www.jiyuu-shikan.org/e/comfort.
[Return to Text]
39. Fujioka, Foreign Correspondents. [Return to Text]
40. David McNeill and Mark Selden. "Japan and China Battle Over History." April 21, 2005. Retrieved May 3, 2005 from http//www.zmag.org.[Return to Text]
41. Justin McCurry. "China and Japan in Race for Gas." The Guardian . April 14, 2005. [Return to Text]
42. BBC News. "Asian giants keep up war of words." April 14, 2005. Retrieved April 14, 2005 from http//www.bbcnews.co.uk.[Return to Text]
43. BBC News, "Asian Giants." [Return to Text]
44. BBC News, "Asian Giants."[Return to Text]
45. Mark Magnier. "Letting Passions Burn May Backfire in China." The Los Angeles Times. April 25, 2005 [Return to Text]
46. Kana Inagaki. "Japan cuts off loans to China; relations chill." The Washington Times . March 24, 2006. [Return to Text]
47. Chalmers Johnson. Information from a lecture given at San Diego State University on May 3, 2005. [Return to Text]
48. Globalsecurity.org. "Iraq Coalition Troops: Non-US Forces in Iraq - 23 August 2006." Retrieved April 12, 2005 from http//www.globalsecurity.org.[Return to Text]
49. Jeremy M. Sharp. "Post-War Iraq: A Table and Chronology of Foreign Contributions". CRS Report for Congress . November 5, 2004.[Return to Text]
50. Sayuri Saito. "Reconsidering History Education." The Daily Yomiuri. 9-18-1997 [Return to Text]
51. Jonathan Watts. "Rush to sign Chinese petition." The Guardian. March 30, 2005 [Return to Text]
52. Ibid. Johnson lecture.[Return to Text]
53. BBC News. "US questions Japan's pacifism." August 13, 2004. Retrieved April 12, 2005 from http//www.bbcnews.co.uk. [Return to Text]
54. Jim Yardley. "A Hundred Cellphones Bloom, and Chinese Take to the Streets." The New York Times. April 25, 2005. [Return to Text]
55. Yardley, Ibid. [Return to Text]
56. Tanaka Yuki. Japan's Comfort Women: Sexual slavery and prostitution during World War II and the US Occupation. (New York, 2002). [Return to Text]
57. Tanaka, 86. [Return to Text]
58. Tanaka, 112.[Return to Text]
59. For details of these studies, see Chalmers Johnson's Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire . (2000, New York), 41. [Return to Text]
60. Robert Burns, Associated Press, San Diego Union-Tribune, November 18, 1995. [Return to Text]
61. Fareed Zakaria interview with Komori Yoshihisa, Show 313 Transcript - March 30, 2007, www.foreignexchange.tv. [Return to Text]
62. "Survey: 47% of voters want Abe to step down." The Asahi Shimbun, August 2, 2007.[Return to Text]
63. "Ozawa snubs U.S. Ambassador Schieffer." The Asahi Shimbun, August 2, 2007. [Return to Text]
64. "Govt stays calm over U.S. resolution on 'comfort women'." The Yomiuri Shimbun August 2, 2007.[Return to Text]