Another sign of worrying revisionist trend in Japan
The news that the Japanese hotel chain operator APA Group has put books in its rooms that, in both English and Japanese, deny theNanjing Massacre took place and that “comfort women” were forced into sexual slavery by Japan’s imperial army, reveals the stark reality that historical revisionism is on the rise in Japan. The group’s head, ToshioMotoya, who wrote the books, is a die-hard rightist who has always viewed Japan’s war of aggression in a positive light. As head of a group that supports Japanese PrimeMinister Shinzo Abe, the hotelier insists he has no plans to withdrawthe books from the rooms, let alone offer an apology.
Although he cites “freedom of speech” in his defense, imagine if a hotel chain in Europe dared to put books denying theHolocaust in its rooms.
This incident has not occurred in a vacuum. It simply reflects how ultra-nationalist and revisionist Japan is turning under Abe.
Abe himself has been a leading member of Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Conference, an influential ultra-right lobby group that asserts the 1931-45 war was a noble attempt to liberate Asian countries fromWestern imperialism, and which states one of its fundamental aims is “change the postwar national consciousness based on the Tokyo Tribunal’s viewof history”.
While it is understandable that one might not want to admit that a relative was involved in horrendous acts, and by extension take pride in a country which engaged in such acts, by seeking to whitewash the atrocities that were perpetrated by the members of the Japanese armed forces against the civilian population of some of the territories occupied by them— for which there is overwhelming evidence— Japan’s rightists are committing a further wrong.
Coming to terms with its militarist past has never been easy for Japan, especially as its forgetting has been enabled by the United States, which has permitted its vanquished foe to reshape its past in pursuit of its own interests. Thus it is unrealistic to expect the current generation of rightists in Japan to change their views.
The greater concern, however, is that while not all history textbooks in Japan fail to cover the war crimes the country committed, most gloss over them, and there are some, like one that has sparked the current furor, that deny them. The historical amnesia that is being fostered in this way portends widening divisions between Japan and its neighbors, especially given the current dynamics at work in Asia.