JPRI Working paper No. 38: October 1997
Holocaust Denial à la Japonaise
by Gavan McCormack


"Nothing is more idiotic than to deny today the truth of what one did yesterday," Ooka Shohei, Furyoki (1948), "Ooka Shoheishu," Chikuma gendai bungaku taikei, vol 69, Chikuma Shobo, 1975, p. 50.

"It is precisely its way of teaching its modern history that is the crucial determinant of the constitution of a people as a nation. The people that does not have a history to be proud of cannot constitute itself as a nation," Fujioka Nobukatsu, Ojoku no kin-gendaishi, Tokuma Shoten, 1996, p. 30

Apology Versus Apologia

Apology has become a characteristic mode of late 20th century politics. Pope, Queen, President, and Prime Minister declare their contrition over various acts committed by their predecessors. Apologies come easier, and are more convincing, in some cases than others. For Germany, the rupture between Nazism and postwar Germany was plain. The repudiation of the former by the latter was a condition for the resumption of a role in European and global affairs; but the actual expressions of apology, by prominent figures such as Willy Brandt and Richard von Weizsacker, were convincing because they transcended considerations of advantage and were seen as sincere. In the U.S., presidential apologies could be issued over the wartime internment of Japanese-Americans and the subjection of black Americans to deliberate medical neglect (the Tuskegee Institute experiments), but not in general to the black victims of slavery and racism, to the nuclear victims of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, or to the countless victims of U.S. military interventions around the world. Britain could apologize to the Irish people for the potato famine, but not to the people of Hong Kong (or anywhere else) for colonialism. South Africa pursues a distinctive path in which, under the 'truth and reconciliation' process, all sides are encouraged to apologize and seek reconciliation through confession. In Australia, despite a long and shameful record of ill-treatment of indigenous inhabitants, and the 1997 official report on the 'Stolen Generation' documenting treatment it describes as genocidal, the Prime Minister rejected the idea of an official apology. In Japan, the question of whether or not to apologize over wartime actions arouses fierce passions, while the idea of apologizing to indigenous inhabitants is not yet a public issue. Japan has formally apologized for its colonialism and war, but at a political and social level the question is still hotly contested. Unique among Second World War combatant countries, Japan is still of two minds over how to remember and interpret its war, even as the social and political rifts deepen, and the international ramifications grow more serious.

With the end of the Cold War, under the LDP governments of the early 1990s Japan's long-frozen Cold War political fabric did begin to thaw, and some of the hard issues of responsibility left over from the 1930s and 1940s began to be addressed. The Miyazawa government in 1992 admitted to official involvement in the 'comfort women' issue and published a selection of related archival materials; and in August 1993 the Cabinet Secretary stated that during the war the Japanese government and military-not just 'private contractors' as previously claimed-had been involved in establishing and managing 'comfort stations' for Japanese soldiers and that most of the women working in them had been forced into service (sojite kyosei datta). Soon after that, the long political hegemony of the LDP was broken, and the war was for the first time described by the Prime Minister (Hosokawa) as aggressive and colonial.

During 1995, the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, great efforts were made to reach a political consensus. A socialist Prime Minister steered through the Diet a resolution formally expressing official regrets over the war, and a fund, nominally private but with strong official backing, was established to compensate surviving 'comfort women.' Despite that, political and social divisions over the issue widened and deepened becoming, paradoxically, more contentious the longer the elapsed time since the end of the Second World War. The hopes of the post-LDP period spluttered out indecisively, the LDP returned, and the Japan Socialist Party self-destructed. The fundamental issues of the war continue to be fiercely contested, and even the question of what to call it is so contentious that it is often known simply as 'that war' (ano senso).

The debate in Japan is notable for one other peculiarity. The focus of war reflections has shifted. In the past, men-politicians, soldiers, scholars-always defined and debated the issues, but from the early 1990s on, women have begun to intervene. The wartime 'comfort women' themselves returned, confronting Japan with immense moral, political, and cultural questions. But the problem of creating a national memory is now complicated by the problem of establishing a cross-gender consensus on what happened, both within the nation and beyond it.

Paralleling the gradual moves at state level to face up to responsibility, two significant new organizations emerged in the mid-1990s. The 'Liberal View of History Study Group' (Jiyushugi Shikan Kenkyukai) was founded July 1995 by the Tokyo University professor (specializing in educational curriculum development), Fujioka Nobukatsu, with the rather loosely-defined mission of striving to 'inculcate a sense of pride in the history of our nation.' Since then it has become best-known through the series of best-selling books it has issued under titles such as Kyokasho ga oshienai rekishi (The History the Textbooks Do Not Teach). A similar group, the 'Society for the Making of New School Textbooks in History' (Atarashii Rekishi Kyokasho o Tsukuru Kai), was founded in December 1996. Fujioka is also its central figure, along with the cartoonist Kobayashi Yoshinori and the German scholar, Nishio Kanji (Professor of Electric Communications University). Others involved include Agawa Sawako (essayist), Fukada Yusuke (novelist), Hayashi Mariko (author), Sakamoto Takao (Gakushuin University professor), Takahashi Shiro (Meisei University professor), and Yamamoto Natsuhiko (essayist). A larger group of 78 scholars, writers, and various public business figures were initially listed as supporters. The 'New Textbooks' organization may be seen as the 'mass' organization element of the same movement. It has strong links to the mass media, especially the conservative newspaper Sankei Shimbun. It focuses, in particular, on deleting all references to 'comfort women' from middle school history texts, and is also engaged in preparing its own draft text. On February 1, 1997, members of this group participated in an all-night television debate on TV-Asahi over the issues of war memory, textbooks, and 'comfort women,' which pitted the apostles of this new 'liberalism' against their many critics. Many issues were aired, but none were settled.

The 'Liberal' View

The fundamental position of the 'Liberal View of History' group is defined by Fujioka in terms of a rejection of the 'zendama'/'akudama' ('goodies' and 'baddies'), or 'left-right' dualist, view of history, and the preference for a relativistic, multiple causal framework. What he means is that it is time to move beyond the long postwar historical deadlock between the so-called 'Tokyo Trials' view of history on the one hand and the 'Affirmation of the Greater East Asian War' view on the other. In Fujioka's view, the Occupation imposed on Japan an interpretation of the war in which Japan was bad and the U.S. good. Fujioka believes this view became internalized in Japanese society thanks primarily to the efforts of left-wing historians and educators, to the extent that today even the LDP government has been subverted and the assumption of Japanese war guilt and responsibility for crimes against women has been generally accepted.

The opposite view was first articulated comprehensively in 1969 by Hayashi Fusao and brushes aside all notions of Japanese war responsibility, insisting on the primacy of the Japanese role in achieving the liberation of Asia. Fujioka has intuited, perhaps correctly, that many Japanese today want to articulate a positive identity and role in the world appropriate to the global economic superpower Japan has become. Hence, he would like to move beyond the 'good-bad' dialectic of historical interpretation. In practice, however, it soon became clear that Fujioka and his group wanted to advance a view of history centered upon the lament for the loss of a 'distinctive Japanese historical consciousness' (Nihon jishin no rekishi ishiki) and criticism of what they describe as the postwar, orthodox, 'masochistic' (jigyakuteki) view of history. They take particularly strong exception to school history texts approved for use from April 1997 which refer to the 'forcible abduction of comfort women' (but also to accounts of the Nanking Massacre and other atrocities). To include such material in school texts amounted, they believe, to the loss of 'our own' (dokuji no) historical sense; instead textbooks should restore 'correct history' (bold-face added: seishi).

The group maintains that the gap between Japan and its neighbor countries over history and memory is unbridgeable, that the depth of anti-Japanese sentiment on the part of countries such as China and Korea is so great that 'if we were to try to get a mutual historical sense with our Asian neighbors it would be bound to lead to surrender on our part.' But the opposite, Fujioka's call for the construction of a correct and edifying (in contrast to masochistic) Japanese history, means that Japan would have to confront its neighbors and reject their histories (in so far as they choose to recount their memory of Japanese imperialism, aggression and war) as 'incorrect.' What this would do to the international relations of the region in the coming century is not a subject on which Fujioka dwells.

The comfort-women issue is a touchstone to understanding how Fujioka's call to transcend 'zendama/akudama' dualism actually becomes an effort to enforce 'correct history.' Nothing is denied with more vehemence than the 'comfort women,' their existence, their servile status under the Imperial Japanese Army, their suffering, and their entitlement to any apology or compensation from the Japanese state. Furthermore, the basis of this negation is essentially a priori rather than empiricist, because it rests on the passionate belief that the Japanese state could not possibly have been involved in the crime of abduction and slavery on a large scale, therefore that claim is utterly false and abhorrent, and the recounting of the material in school textbooks amounts to 'anti-Japanese' and 'masochistic' behavior, which can only serve to 'corrode, pulverize, melt and disintegrate' Japan. Schools that teach 'false history' of 'comfort women' become like a giant 'Kamikuishikimura [the headquarters of the Aum sect], a mind control center staining the entire nation with anti-Japanese ideology.' For Fujioka, the 'comfort women' issue is 'an unfounded scandal created in the 1990s for the political purpose of bashing Japan.' It is even 'a grand conspiracy for the destruction of Japan, in collaboration with foreign elements.' If such a falsehood were to be included in school texts Japanese would come to be seen as 'a lewd, foolish and rabid race without peer in the world.'

Ironically, this overblown prose reproduces precisely the sort of polarized 'good-bad' argument of which Fujioka accuses 'mainstream' historians and scholars. For the Fujioka group, history lacks those intrinsic standards of truth or evidence that might make possible the resolution of conflicting interpretations; instead, it is subject to the ultimate moral imperative of whether or not it serves to inculcate a sense of pride in being Japanese. It is perhaps a mark of how out of sync with the outside world this discourse in Japan is that Fujioka should make his case for political 'correctness' under the banner of its opposite-post-modern relativism-apparently oblivious to the contradiction.

The Changed Political Climate

Beginning in the 1990s, the official Japanese stance on its past changed. After four decades in which the past was set aside and forgotten in the rush to growth, in the fifth decade, as the Cold War crumbled and affluence palled, the problem of reconciliation with the region began to be faced. Since 1992 in particular, as other governments gradually acknowledged the aggressive and exploitative character of the prewar and wartime colonial empire, general apologies were issued, and specific letters of apology from the Japanese Prime Minister, accompanying solatium payments, were issued to the first of the former comfort women during 1996. Despite all the pressures brought to bear by Fujioka and his colleagues, the Japanese government, and the Education Minister, refused to bow to their demands for deletion or dilution of the references in the textbooks to be used from April 1997 on. In short, it may be that the sense of righteous indignation grows precisely as the political and social base for the sort of views held by Fujioka shrinks, and that the stridency of his arguments is inversely related to their efficacy.

However, international attention on Japan's wartime role has also grown during the 1990s. In Seoul, Manila, Jakarta, and the other cities of the old "Co-Prosperity Sphere" the maturing of civil society and of concepts of human rights have made it possible for the women who were victimized to raise their voices and start telling their story. The Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists also issued a report on the "Comfort Women" in 1994 which referred to large numbers of women and girls being held captive, beaten, tortured, and repeatedly raped in Japanese military installations. In February 1996, a report for the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations (the 'Coomaraswamy Report'), described the 'comfort women' as 'sex slaves' and their treatment as a 'crime against humanity.'1 It called upon Japan to compensate victims, to punish those responsible, without regard to limitation of time, and to ensure that educational curricula included the historical facts. In December 1996 it was also announced that the United States Justice Department's Criminal Division had drawn up an immigration 'ban list' of Japanese believed to be responsible for war crimes; three of the twelve (unidentified) people on that list were thought to be associated with the 'comfort women' system, the others being former members of the Harbin-based 'Unit 731' responsible for bacteriological warfare in China and many horrific crimes against prisoners. In other words, fifty years after the event, Washington decided to place Japanese on the same level as Nazi war criminals.

As part of this burgeoning international pressure on Japan, since the beginning of the 1990s dozens of law suits demanding apologies and compensation have been lodged with Tokyo district courts on behalf of former 'comfort women' and the many other victims of Japan's colonialism and aggression, including, most recently, victims of the Nanking and other massacres, and the victims (or their families) of bacteriological (plague) or chemical attacks on wartime China. But of all the issues, the 'comfort women' one may be the most intractable. By early 1997, some 23,000 women in Korea (North and South), the Philippines, China, Thailand, Indonesia and elsewhere had come forward by name testifying to their experience.

For Fujioka and his group, the 'comfort women' were professional prostitutes, often earning more than a general in the Imperial Japanese Army, or as much as 100 times the pay of their soldier customers. Hata Ikuhiko, Fujioka's expert on this question, describes the work as 'high risk, high return.'2 In launching their suits for compensation, the women are described as motivated by greed and desire for money, seeing their suits as a chance to 'win the lottery.' Hata and Fujioka insist there is no documentary evidence of compulsion, or official responsibility, and they reject the evidence of the women themselves. As an analogy to illustrate the relationship between the private contractor-run 'comfort stations' and the Imperial Japanese Army, they see the 'comfort stations' (ianjo) as akin to the restaurants within the Ministry of Education building: physically within the premises and subject to certain constraints of payment of rent, health controls and the like, but fundamentally independent in terms of management and in treatment of their staff. As the Ministry of Education is not responsible for the services or the labor relations in restaurants housed within its building, so they argue the Japanese Army cannot be held responsible for the conduct of the sex business in the old Japanese empire, at a time when, in any case, prostitution was legal and standards and values were very different from what they are today.

Hata also advances a financial argument against compensating the women, claiming it might cripple the Japanese state. At a figure of, say, ¥3 million for each act of rape to which they were subjected, and taking account of the number of such acts of rape over the years, he estimates that each woman could be entitled to payments of up to ¥70 billion, in which case the overall claim would soon rival the Japanese national debt.

Underlying these protestations is the question of how to characterize the Japanese state. Fujioka-and his colleague Nishio Kanji in particular-argue that while Japan may be compared with other modern states, all of which have committed various crimes or excesses, it is fundamentally different from Nazi Germany. Nishio goes to great lengths to protest that, while what he describes as 'Japan's theocratic state under the emperor as high priest' may have fought 'a slightly high-handed patriotic war' (sukoshi omoigagatta aikoku senso), it certainly did not commit 'crimes against humanity' such as would warrant its inclusion with Nazi Germany in the category of 'historically unprecedented terror state.' Fujioka adds that Japan was neither a terror state nor a 'grotesque sex crime state.' This stance is threatened by recent revelations about the 'comfort women' and the crimes of the Japanese medical and scientific elites (most shockingly the record of Unit 731), the similarities in racial ideology and the 'science' of 'eugenics,' and the practice of wartime 'forced labor' (kyosei rodo). In many respects Nazi and Japanese ideology and practice were similar, and in some respects Japan was guilty of crimes that even the Nazis did not commit-for example, trading in opium to finance the activities of its puppet governments, bacteriological and gas warfare, and (also in China) the forced evacuation of vast areas of all population (mujin chitaika). Yet genocidal intent as such remains peculiar to the Nazis.

However, unlike the former Nazi and present German governments which are divided by a historical chasm, the present Japanese state enjoys a high measure of continuity with its war-time predecessor. Its wartime head of state, the Showa Emperor, war crimes charges against him having been dismissed on political grounds, continued in office until 1989. If the analogy with Nazi Germany is pursued, it becomes clear that the sort of views being upheld by Fujioka and his colleagues-denying the existence of the comfort women, denying Nanking and other massacres-are generically one with views that in Germany and France would be proscribed under legislation forbidding 'Holocaust denial.'

The Man and the Movement

Who, then, is Fujioka? And in what context is his movement and its lineage to be understood? Born in 1943, Fujioka was given the personal name 'Nobukatsu,' literally 'Faith in Victory,' at just that moment when the tides of war were turning toward defeat. As a young man he was, by his own account, a believer in 'one country pacifism,' associated with Communist-affiliated leftist groups and, as a young academic at Hokkaido University, enjoyed a modest reputation as a scholar specializing in pedagogical methodology. He moved to Tokyo University early in the 1980s, but remained relatively unknown until he returned in 1992 from a one-year sabbatical studying cultural anthropology at Rutgers University. During that year he underwent the sort of crisis that is commonly referred to as a 'tenko' (conversion). He experienced a sense of humiliation at the Japanese response to the Gulf War, and was profoundly influenced by reading books such Michael Walzer's Just and Unjust Wars and Richard Minear's Victor's Justice. 'The scales fell from my eyes,' he said, after reading Minear. He came to see Japan as lacking the 'will as a state to protect its security.' In other words, he came to view the 'Greater East Asia' War as a 'just war,' and the post-war Japanese peace constitution as a fetter on the Japanese state and an inhibition preventing the emergence of a proper sense of Japanese nationalism.

Since it is as much an emotional (or even 'religious') experience he describes as an intellectual one, there is no necessary logical consistency to it. Of the Japanese influences upon him he attaches greatest importance to Ishibashi Tanzan (1884-1973, newspaper editor, politician, and renowned interwar liberal) and Shiba Ryotaro (1923-1996, prominent postwar novelist specializing in historical themes), although Ishibashi's 'liberalism' made him in the 1920s a profound critic of the state, an advocate of complete Japanese withdrawal from its colonial possessions and a proponent of 'small Japan-ism.' And Shiba, for all his vivid evocation of the drama of the Meiji period, even in the book which Fujioka professes most to admire, Cloud Over the Hill (Saka no ue no kumo), was withering in his portrayal of the great nationalist hero of the Russo-Japanese War, General Nogi, and had no sympathy at all for 20th century imperialist Japan, especially for the war of the 1930s with China, which he denounced as 'unjust and meaningless.'

The left-to-right trajectory Fujioka underwent is a common enough historical pattern, but what is unusual is his attempt to disguise this switch as a transcendence of left-right dualism. In practice, he is uncritical in his affirmation of the wars of the prewar Japanese state, and except for his use of the label 'liberal' it is virtually impossible to distinguish his views form those of pre-Gulf-War rightists. (However, at least to mid-1997, his corpus of writing has yet to address directly the core 'rightist' question-the emperor and the relationship between Japanese nationalism and the emperor.) But in substance, and despite his theoretical incoherence, Fujioka's new liberal view of history is the old imperial one. Furthermore, like earlier converts, Fujioka retains much of the structure and 'agitprop' style of his leftist days in his rightist reborn state. Although he and his colleagues tried to get local governing bodies to bombard Tokyo with requests to revise the textbooks, only one prefecture (Okayama) and 11 lesser local government bodies actually submitted various resolutions to Tokyo, and the Okayama outcome so surprised and shocked local residents, especially women, that a nation-wide movement intent on blocking the attempted campaign elsewhere quickly emerged.

In the streets, too, a vigorous campaign was conducted. Demands were issued to publishers of textbooks, accompanied by threats, while convoys of rightist trucks blaring martial music and shouting intimidating slogans circled the offending publishing company offices. The names of publishers and the authors of the offending texts were featured prominently in the 'Liberal View' books and pamphlets, and blown-up photographs of the private homes of the text-book authors were circulated, with the obvious intent to intimidate them.

The movement at whose head Fujioka has emerged in the past couple of years may be seen as firmly rooted in the fabric of postwar Japanese nationalism, but revised and reformulated to accommodate the changed circumstances of the post-Cold War period and Japan's emergence as a global economic superpower with aspirations to becoming a superpower in every sense. In the national Diet throughout the Cold War years the LDP nursed a powerful wing committed to revision of the constitution (which was actually part of the party platform), a greatly stepped up defense posture, nationalization of Yasukuni shrine, restoration of the Imperial Rescript on Education at the center of a revamped educational system, a greater role for the imperial institution at the center of the state, and restoration of official status for the imperial myths and of compulsory rituals of flag and anthem in schools and public offices.

The formal organizations through which such causes were promoted changed their names and emphases from time to time, but throughout the long Cold War decades 'nationalist' and 'right-wing' groups remained linked in a broad consensus, their aspirations most openly articulated during the term of office of 'strong' Prime Ministers such as Nakasone in the mid-1980s. They were kept in check by the opposition of the Japan Socialist Party and Japan Communist Party forces within the Diet, however, and in the community at large there was never the measure of support necessary for either constitutional reform or radical restructuring of national institutions. The 50th anniversary of the end of the War in 1995 was a climactic moment in the struggle to recast the national memory. As the immediate post-LDP governing coalitions moved to formulate a Diet resolution of apology, opposition to it coalesced first in the Diet. In December 1994, LDP members who insisted on the justice of the war's cause and firmly opposed any apologies formed a 'Dietmembers' League for the 50th Anniversary of the End of the War,' headed by former Minister of Education Okuno Seisuke, which changed its name in April 1996 to the 'Dietmembers' League for a Bright Japan' (Akarui Nihon Kokkai Giin Renmei). In February 1995, a corresponding group of Shinshinto members was formed under the title 'Dietmembers' League for the Passing on of a Correct History,' headed by Ozawa Tatsuo. Both were closely linked at the national level to the 'Citizens' Association for the Defense of Japan' (Nihon o Mamoru Kokumin Kaigi), founded in 1981 and headed in the 1990s by the composer Mayuzumi Toshiro. Members and activists from the above groups have emerged in prominent roles in the new Fujioka fronts, as have (by some accounts) other more-or-less traditional rightist or nationalist groups: including the National Shrine Association (Jinja Honcho), War Bereaved Families Association (Nihon Izokukai), the Unification Church (the 'Moonies') and its 'Professors for Peace Academy,' the World Anti-Communist League, and religious groups such as Seicho no ie.

The mid-1990s saw the forging of new links between the Diet groups, the established national organization headed by Mayuzumi, and various pre-existing educational groups, especially the Japan Youth Council (Nihon Seinen Kyogikai, founded in 1970) and the Japan Education Institute (Nihon Kyoiku Kenkyujo, founded in 1974), thereby creating a potentially powerful front in which educational circles were integrated for the first time in a systematic way, and school teachers and their students were mobilized as a major new constituency for a revamped nationalist movement. Whether Fujioka should be seen as the architect of this new front or as a convenient 'front person' because of his combination of status and authority (Tokyo University professor) and passionate, 'born again' commitment, still remains unclear.

Apart from pursuing the immediate war and memory-related causes, other issues on which this new front is active include opposition to sex education in schools (stressing, instead, chaste education or junketsu kyoiku), opposition to the retention of their own family name by married women, and other 'family' causes, although it has yet to declare its hand on the fundamental question of constitutional reform.

Toward an Understanding and Interpretation

The issues raised by the Fujioka phenomenon are treated with the utmost seriousness by critics and intellectuals in Japan. The historian Nakamura Masanori sees it in the context of an oscillation throughout modern history between internationalism and nationalism, Westernization and chauvinism. The desire for a new and positive Japanese identity is reaching a peak fifty years after the war, especially among the present student generation that has been brought up in ignorance of history, surrounded by images and lacking in the capacity for independent thought. Fujioka's personal experience of revelation during his Gulf War sojourn in the United States, and his overwhelming sense of shame at Japan's inability to project its power and image in the world may be representative of his own generation, ignorant of and scarcely interested in history, humiliated by what seems to be constant harping on Japan's supposed crimes and its dark history, and the farcical 'diplomacy of apology' conducted by spokesmen for the Japanese government in recent years (while distributing 'hard-earned' Japanese yen to an ungrateful world), and irritated by the low posture constantly required by the Cold War incorporation within the US sphere (and under its military umbrella), and with what is seen as a mixture of American condescension and bashing.

The clarion call for construction of a proud, pure and honorable history seems to evoke a strong emotional response in Japan. The sense of resentment may also be seen as a kind of 'victim complex' (higaisha ishiki). Because of the way the Fujioka movement appropriates this sense, special resentment has to be directed at the claims of others to be victims, and they find it especially galling that old women should be rising up in accusation throughout East Asia.

The conundrum at the heart of prosperous and affluent Japan is the strength of these sentiments of resentment, victim complex, and longing for purity, innocence and solace, and the scale of commitment to the construction of a 'history in which people can take pride,' as if that were the function of history.3 Pollution is also a powerful theme in this discourse, as if a history might become polluted by the revelation of the shameful rather than by the denial of truth.

For Sato Manabu (like Fujioka, a Tokyo University professor of education), discussing the new movement in Sekai, May 1997, Fujioka and his colleagues represent a 'post-bubble, post-Aum' phenomenon of 'eccentric, egocentric nationalism,' a nationalism that is curiously deformed because it has, as yet, no outward expression but only an inward-looking dimension. The political scientist Ishida Takeshi sees in the phenomenon evidence of a general crisis of Japanese intellectuals, especially at Tokyo University (where he himself spent his career until his retirement). While he supports the idea of a 'liberal' view of history, he points out that this should mean in practice a movement beyond the common postwar perspective in which the world has been seen only through the lens of the U.S.-Japan relationship. Japanese must learn to see, think, and feel from multiple Asian identities, especially from the perspective of the socially weak, the victims, and those neglected by official academicism.4 The apprehension and astonishment of large numbers of Japanese intellectuals at the Fujioka phenomenon is captured by Kunihiro Masao, who speaks of being unable to set aside the fear that he is witnessing is 'the rush of Japanese-style fascism.'

Not all comment from outside the circles of the Fujioka faithful is entirely negative. At least one prominent Western (Japan-resident) scholar describes Fujioka's arguments as 'compelling' and a positive contrast to the 'masochistic glee' with which he sees Japanese 'liberals' portraying the past conduct of their country as overwhelmingly negative. For the Dutch scholar Karel van Wolferen, intellectuals like Oe Kenzaburo epitomize the spirit of masochism and self-pity. While van Wolferen parts from Fujioka on the issue of the 'comfort women' and on his call for 'correct history' under government control, he supports the critique of the 'ruinous' character of postwar Japanese 'Marxist theorizing,' the diagnosis of Japan's current predicament in terms of its not functioning as a state, and the prescription for 'a history that would enhance Japan's self-awareness.'5

Despite such qualified sympathy, it seems hard to deny that Fujioka's plans for a positive view of Japanese history, and the policies he urges on the Japanese government, would, if ever adopted, set back immeasurably the process of rapprochement with Japan's Asian neighbors and the search for a qualitatively different 21st century structure of peace and cooperation that would not be dependent on American power. By choosing to speak to the region in shrill tones of political correctness and narrow Japanese pride, Japan would encourage others to do likewise, with unpredictable but inevitably disturbing consequences. The combination of intellectual incoherence and emotional integrity is powerful but bound to destabilize. The Japanese insistence on school textbooks that would substitute for historical education the inculcation of an eclectic set of edifying stories designed to promote traditional virtues and nationalist fervor, closely akin to prewar ethics textbooks, would send a highly charged and ambiguous Japanese message to the region.

Furthermore, while Fujioka sees the 'Tokyo Trials View of History' as something imposed by the U.S. in the course of the occupation and the root of subsequent Japanese humiliation, this too is a highly ambiguous point. If the trials were distorted, they were distorted by the assumption that guilt was exclusive to the defeated-a critique long ago widely accepted outside Japan-and by the decision on political grounds to remove from their purview all consideration of certain crucial matters: the emperor, Unit 731, and the 'comfort women.' The more the spotlight is directed, after half a century, onto the problem of the Tokyo Trials, the more obvious this must become, and the more likely that the debate will evolve in directions difficult for Fujioka and his colleagues to control. Ultimately, the problem of the Trials is not only where responsibility was assigned, but also where, often by a semi-conspiratorial joint American-Japanese agreement, it was concealed and evaded.

The lament over the loss of the sense of state in an increasingly borderless world, and over the loss of conservative control over the levers of power within that state, is common enough throughout the world, but the passion with which Fujioka and others address these matters is extraordinary. Their fear and vulnerability are difficult to comprehend given that the Japan of which they speak is a global economic giant, claimant to a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, and the 'success story' of the 20th century. What exactly is it that they fear? Analogies may be drawn with the sort of 'politics of resentment' that spread across the industrial world as urban masses find themselves becoming victims of anonymous global forces. But in the Japanese case economic factors seem to play only a slight role. Instead Fujioka is driven by fear of the shrinking authority of the state, the degradation and dissolution of its authority and symbols.

If this hypothesis has any weight, then one may go on to suggest that Fujioka's articulation of the Japanese nationalist aspiration is peculiarly vehement because it is also peculiarly distorted, especially in that two key dimensions of Japanese nationalism are not addressed. They are the emperor on the one hand and the United States on the other, the inner and outer axes of national identity, both of which are subject to taboos that prevent free or open discussion. Few, if any, other countries have displayed the nervous angst that Fujioka and others harbor over crimes committed two generations ago. The Japanese blend of national pride, honor and purity suggests a Japanese identity built around the unsullied, sublime, imperial essence. For such an essence to be sullied by the representation of Japan as a terrorist state, or a 'rapist state,' is utterly abhorrent. To date Fujioka and his colleagues have abstained from discussion of the question of the emperor, but when the kernel of the new movement is in due course revealed, the odds are that, as with all previous attempts to articulate a positive, pure Japanese identity, a chrysanthemum crest will emerge at its center.

The other crucial question for Japanese nationalists is also one that they fear to express and can only articulate in a distorted form: the resentment over Japan's long-continuing military and strategic dependency on the United States. Sooner or later, the nationalist forces currently supporting Fujioka in his distorted and limited evocation of nationalist themes are bound to turn to confront the imbalances in this key relationship. When that happens, the thinness of the veneer of liberalism cloaking Japanese right-wing nationalism in this, its newest guise, is bound to become evident. Whatever else may be said, Fujioka has detected and articulated a mood of national assertiveness that politics in Japan will not be able to ignore in future.


1. See Report on the Mission to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, and Japan on the Issue of Military Sexual Slavery During Wartime (Geneva: United Nations, 1996). Compare George Hicks, The Comfort Women (New York: Norton, 1995), which the Coomaraswamy Commission cited often and which in 1995 JPRI distributed to its members.

2. Hata, "Jugun ianfu mondai de kuni ho hoteki sekinin wa toenai," Sekai, May 1997, pp. 322-25. Also see Hata's article translated from Bungei Shunju, May 1996, and published as "The Flawed U.N. Report on Comfort Women," Japan Echo, Autumn 1996, pp. 66-73. Japan Echo is published by the Japanese Government.

3. See the interesting discussion by the social psychologist Miyaji Shinji, "Seijuku shakai ni shinkuro dekizu kyoko no rekishi ni sugaru oyaji," Asahi shimbun, 27 March 1997.

4. Ishida Takeshi, interviewed by Utsumi Aiko, "Ishitsu na tasha no shiten o fumaete rekishi o miru," Gekkan Oruta, March 1997, pp. 15-19.

5. Karel van Wolferen, "On Victimhood and the Uses of History," published in Japanese as "Rekishi shikan o motenai kuni Nihon," Ronza, May 1997, pp. 23-31. (I am indebted to Professor van Wolferen for a copy of the English original of this text.)

GAVAN McCORMACK is Professor of Japanese History in the Research School of Pacific & Asian Studies of the Australian National University. He has written a dozen books on aspects of modern Japanese, Korean, and Chinese history, including Chang Tso-lin in Northeast China, 1911-1928 and The Japanese Trajectory: Modernization and Beyond (edited with Yoshio Sugimoto). His latest book is The Emptiness of Japanese Affluence (M.E. Sharpe, 1996), an excerpt from which, "Paving Over the Kansai," appeared in JPRI Occasional Paper No. 1 (November 1994). This paper was first presented to the Japanese Studies Association of Australia Biennial Conference, Melbourne University, 7-10 July 1997.

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