1990s: Eye witness testimonies, exhibits, books, documentaries confirm Japanese atrocities

In April 1992, a two-part documentary about Japanese biological weapons mastermind Ishii Shiro was based upon newly discovered records of the Khabarovsk Trial, from KGB files, and materials from 731 Biological Warfare Unit, revealed how Japanese experiments were actually conducted.

In 1993 the Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono issued the Kono Statement which apologized for the immeasurable pain caused to the comfort women. The statement has been rejected by rightist Japanese nationalists and has continued to be the source of contentious political wrangling.

July 1993-Dec. 1994: “731 butai ten” Exhibit
An unprecedented national exposition of Japanese wartime experimentation: the “731 butai ten” (Unit 731 Exhibit) described wartime experiments and displayed models constructed from the testimonies of former Unit 731 employees. The exhibition ultimately ran for 18 months, toured 64 Japanese cities and attracted 240,000 visitors. However, the Japanese government has refused to pay restitutions to the victims. Read: Frederick Dickinson. Biohazard: Unit 731 in Postwar Japanese Politics of National “Forgetfulness”, Japan Focus, 2007;   Dark Medicine: Rationalizing Unethical Medical Research. Indiana University Press, 2007.

1994: Sheldon H. Harris. Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932-1945, and the American Cover-up. This is a seminal book by an author who spent a lifetime in pursuit of the detailed evidence.

“what sets Harris’s work apart is the depth and painstaking thoroughness of his research, as well as the impressive amount of material which he was the first to uncover. A glance at Harris’s extensive bibliography listing archival depositories, private collections, diaries, personal interviews, journals, periodicals, United States Congressional reports, television documentaries, books, and pamphlets allows the reader to see at once why Professor Harris spent nearly ten years preparing the first edition of this work, and nearly all of his subsequent waking hours adding to it in order to produce this revised 2002 edition.

If anyone can be said to have become obsessed in his determination to get at the full truth of what went on in Unit 731 and the other “factories of death” operated by the Imperial Japanese Army, that person would surely be Sheldon Harris.” (Linda Goetz Holmes. Review. “Legacy of Denial: The Pacific War Shame, H-Net Reviews, 2003)

In 1995, Nicholas Kristof’s article, Unmasking Horror –Japan Confronting Gruesome War Atrocity in The New York Times provided a detailed account of the massive heinous crimes against civilians that had been concealed with complicity of the U.S. government for more than fifty years. He quoted the testimony of a man who served as a medical assistant in Unit 731 who described in excruciating detail what it was like to cut open a man who is tied naked to a bed ad dissect him alive without anesthetic:

“I cut him open from the chest to the stomach and he screamed terribly and his face was all twisted in agony. He made this unimaginable sound, he was screaming so horribly. But then finally he stopped. This was all in a day’s work for the surgeons, but it really left an impression on me because it was my first time.” 

Aug. 15, 1995, on NBC’s Dateline “Factory of Death: Unit 731”
Japanese Dr. Kanisawa testified that live un-anesthetized dissection was a routine common practice in all units.
The 1st time, I was very hesitant to do what I was told to do.
The 2nd time, you get used to it.
The 3rd time, you more or less volunteered
.”

1995: Japanese human rights activists, an unprecedented alliance
A small group of conscientious Japanese human rights activists, doctors, lawyers and former soldiers formed an unprecedented alliance with Chinese victims.
Senior Japanese lawyers acted on behalf of the Chinese; among them is Tsuchiya Koken, the former president of the Japanese Lawyers Association. A group of lawyers formed the national Lawyers Group for Chinese War Victims’ Compensation Claims, and a few old Japanese soldiers who worked on the biological warfare program have also come forward to give evidence. Their conscientious stance exposes them to accusations from ultra-nationalists that they are traitors.

Keichiro Ichinose, one of the Japanese lawyers, stated: “The brutality of my parents’ generation committed in the name of war has to be resolved and addressed by my generation.” Eisuke Matsui, a Japanese Professor of radiology at Gifu University school of Medicine, said he was compelled to uncover Japan’s germ warfare in order to educate the young generation of Japan.

1996: United Nations Commission on Human Rights issued a report on Japan’s “Comfort Women” which the report deemed to have been “military sexual slavery”. It called on Japan to apologize to the victims and pay reparations to survivors who had been forced into sex slavery during the war.

“As late as August 13, 1996, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson declared that, ‘The Japanese Government has not found any official documents confirming evidence that germ warfare was employed in China.’  The statement was a patent lie.  The Japanese Government is fully aware that thousands of documents in its archival holdings confirm the widespread biological warfare activities of Unit 731 and its allied Units.  The government is aware also of the culpability by the highest authorities in power at the time, including members of the Royal Family, in the crimes of Unit 731 and the other Units.  For whatever reasons, the governments in power in Japan over the past half century have refused to acknowledge these crimes.   Those in power today, continue the pattern of denial or obfuscation of the events of the past.” (Harris.  Japanese Medical Atrocities in WWII: Unit 731 Was Not An Isolated Aberration, 1999)

In 2006, a former Unit 731 Japanese doctor admitted conducting human vivisection experiments in northern China. He said that he had been ordered to conduct amputations, abdominal dissections and other experiments on condemned men, women and children, as part of the medical training. (The Guardian, 2006)