December 10

2014: Japan maintains fictional image of Hirohito; suppresses press coverage Re: “Comfort Women”

The Emperor Hirohito was the longest reigning monarch in Japan’s history (1926 –1989); his reign is known as the Showa era. The release of an official, 61-volumes (12,000 pages) biography of Emperor Hirohito, in preparation since his death in 1989, continues to maintain the fictional image of Hirohito as a powerless puppet, and fails to acknowledge Japan’s crimes against humanity. There were 30 million casualties – most were civilian Asians; 23 million Chinese whom the Japanese slaughtered.

American and Japanese scholars of Japanese history– who have read portions of the biography criticize it stating that “the new history suffers from serious omissions in editing and arbitrary selection of documents.” Japan’s Imperial Household Agency which compiled the biography, abetted by Japanese media, “dodged important questions about important events before, during and after the war; perpetuating the false image – endorsed by the Allied military occupation led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur – of a benign, passive figurehead.” (Herbert Bix. Op Ed, New York Times, Sept 30, 2014)

A demonstration of Japanese media complicity in suppressing the truth: Herbert Bix, emeritus professor, Pulitzer Prize author of Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, was invited to review an embargoed excerpt for a Japanese publication. But he was told that he could not discuss anything to do with Hirohito’s role in WWII—which is his area of expertise.

Kyodo News reported that the biography acknowledges that after being briefed about Japanese conquest of Nanjing – at the time, the capital of China – Hirohito told military leaders to tell their officers and soldiers, “I am deeply satisfied by their courage in quickly bringing down the capital Nanjing.” However, Kyodo News noted that the biography failed to include any reference to the orgy of violence, resulting in the massacre of tens of thousands of Chinese civilians. (Chang. Rape of Nanking)

Does the biography mention the fact that at the end of June 1944, during the Battle of Saipan, Hirohito sent out an imperial order encouraging Japanese civilians in Saipan to commit suicide rather than be taken prisoner?  Saipan civilians were said to be “of low caste.” The Imperial order authorized Lieutenant General Yoshitsugu Saito, the commander of Saipan, to promise civilians who died there an equal spiritual status in the afterlife with those of soldiers perishing in combat. More than 1,000 Japanese civilians committed suicide in the last days of the battle to take the offered privileged place in the afterlife, some jumping from “Suicide Cliff” and “Banzai Cliff.” Extremists in Japan were also calling for a death-before-dishonor mass suicide, modeled on the “47 Ronin. (On This Day in 1944: The Battle of Saipan, Before Its News, July, 2013) However, Hirohito did not commit suicide; on August 15, 1945, he surrendered to the Americans.

Does the biography acknowledge that Japan’s premier Japanese historians, including Yoshiaki Yoshimi,  have concluded that Hirohito authorized hundreds of chemical and toxic gas attacks on the Chinese?

Japan’s political right-wing militarists use intimidation to suppress the truth about its monstrous actions during WWII: 
In August, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his chief Cabinet secretary accused The Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s second largest newspaper, of “shaming Japan.” The paper then retracted a compilation of articles reporting about Comfort Women, including the testimony of Tamura Yoshio, a Japanese soldier who was a member of Unit 731 and confessed to having rounded up “comfort women,” a euphemism for women forced to be sex slaves for the Japanese military during WWII:

“we were already implanted with a narrow racism, in the form of a belief in the superiority of the so-called “Yamato Race.” We disparaged all other races. … If we didn’t have a feeling of racial superiority, we couldn’t have done it. People with today’s sensibilities don’t grasp this. … We, ourselves, had to struggle with our humanity afterwards. It was an agonizing process. There were some who killed themselves, unable to endure.”(Jane Adelstein. The Uncomfortable  Truth About “Comfort Women,” Nov. 1, 2014)

The retraction was probably the worst mistake the paper made because it encouraged ultra-nationalists who escalated their intimidation tactics. Following the paper’s retraction, the Japanese government asked the UN to revise its 1996 report; the UN Commission on Human Rights refused. The ultra nationalist revisionists then embarked on a vicious smear campaign with threats of violence against Takashi Uemura, a former investigative reporter for The Asahi Shimbun whose ground breaking report “Remembering Still Brings Tears,” published 23 years ago, still offends their self-image.

Mr. Uemura was targeted by the ultra-right wing nationalists who branded him a traitor. Threats of violence have cost him a university teaching job, and, Hokusei Gakuen University, a small Christian college where Mr. Uemura lectures on local culture and history, said it was reviewing his contract because of bomb threats by ultranationalists.

“They are using intimidation as a way to deny history,” said Mr. Uemura, who spoke with a pleading urgency and came to an interview in this northern city with stacks of papers to defend himself. “They want to bully us into silence.”

Ultranationalists have even gone after his children, posting Internet messages urging people to drive his teenage daughter to suicide.

This latest campaign, however, has gone beyond anything postwar Japan has seen before, with nationalist politicians, including Mr. Abe himself, unleashing a torrent of abuse that has cowed one of the last strongholds of progressive political influence in Japan.

The New York Times reports that although dozens of women have come forward with testimony about their ordeals, the Japanese right contends it was The Asahi’s reporting that resulted in international condemnation of Japan. They even blame the Asahi for a 2007 resolution by the U.S, House of Representatives calling on Japan to apologize for “one of the largest cases of human trafficking in the 20th century.”

“Japan’s political right is calling for a boycott to drive the 135-year old newspaper out of business. The threats are part of a broad, vitriolic assault by the right-wing news media and politicians here on The Asahi, which has long been the newspaper that Japanese conservatives love to hate. The battle is also the most recent salvo in a long-raging dispute over Japan’s culpability for its wartime behavior that has flared under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s right-leaning government.”

The [retraction] prompted a storm of denunciations and gave the revisionists a new opening to promote their version of history. They are also pressing a claim that has left foreign experts scratching their heads in disbelief: that The Asahi alone is to blame for persuading the world that the comfort women were victims of coercion.” (Fackler. Rewriting the War, Japanese Right, The New York Times, 2014)

On a recent afternoon, some of Mr. Uemura’s supporters gathered to hear a sermon warning against repeating the mistakes of the dark years before the war, when the nation trampled dissent. This failure to take responsibility for monumental war crimes continues to poison Sino-Japanese relations, not least because a minority of Japan’s political right insists that its conduct was a legitimate military operation.

A powerful article in The Japan Times, in its monthly column, “Dark Side of the Rising Sun” that takes a behind the scenes look at news in Japan challenged the prime minister and the government:

“The government has never issued a formal apology to the victims of Unit 731. If the prime minister is not ashamed of the comfort women, there’s plenty of other things to feel guilt over. Maybe he just believes in the superiority of the Yamato race so the atrocities committed against other Asians don’t matter. After all, they’re subhuman — who cares about their human rights?

Who is shaming Japan? It’s definitely not the Asahi, Mr. prime minister, it’s you. It’s the Sankei and the LDP for whitewashing history, ignoring war atrocities and burying the words of your elders.” (Jan Adelstein. The Uncomfortable  Truth About “Comfort Women,” Nov. 1, 2014)

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