Ja­pan war lead­ers’ scions want rec­on­cil­i­a­tion


To Hidetoshi Tojo, his great­grand­fa­ther is a man in a blackand-white doc­u­men­tary film he saw some 30 years ago.

In one scene that he watched, Hideki Tojo ( ) — a bald, be­spec­ta­cled man with a mus­tache — is sit­ting at a war crimes tri­bunal in Tokyo when he sud­denly gets a slap in the head from be­hind by another de­fen­dant. The sound of the smack pierces through the court­room, yet Tojo just turns his head around and grins.

“That was your great-grand­fa­ther,” Hidetoshi Tojo’s mother told him af­ter he watched the scene.

Hideki Tojo, an ex­e­cuted Class-A war crim­i­nal, was Ja­pan’s prime min­is­ter dur­ing much of World War II. He was be­hind the at­tack on Pearl Har­bor, and was blamed for pro­long­ing the war, re­sult­ing in the U.S. atomic bomb­ings of Hiroshima and Na­gasaki.

The younger Tojo, now a 42-year-old en­tre­pre­neur, was a fourth-grader when he saw the film. As a child, peo­ple of­ten re­ferred to him as “Hideki Tojo’s great-grand­son,” and not by his own name. He didn’t like the tone of their voice, but his par­ents told him to just keep his mouth shut and cope. Decades later, Ja­pan and its Asian neigh­bors are still seek­ing clo­sure on their wartime past. As Ja­pan marked the 70th an­niver­sary of the coun­try’s Aug. 15, 1945, sur­ren­der that ended World War II, two of the de­scen­dants of Class-A war crim­i­nals in­ter­viewed sep­a­rately by The As­so­ci­ated Press made ges­tures to­ward rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

For Tojo, fac­ing Ja­pan’s wartime history in­volved a process of ac­cept­ing his roots. “I carry an ex­treme la­bel: a de­scen­dant of the heinous vil­lain,” he told the AP.

He said he used to wish he could re­ject his iden­tity. He also said he didn’t en­joy Ja­panese history classes when he was in school, and didn’t like the at­ten­tion he got.

But more re­cently, as eye­wit­nesses of the war get old and mem­o­ries fade, Tojo has changed his mind.

He now thinks there is a role he could play be­cause of who he is, and is seek­ing ways to help Ja­pan and its wartime en­e­mies over­come the past and rec­on­cile. He has reached out to Clifton Tru­man Daniel, grand­son of wartime U.S. Pres­i­dent Harry S. Tru­man, to pro­pose joint projects such as public talks.

He said that he briefly spoke with Daniel via video con­fer­ence and that he wants to get to know him bet­ter be­cause there might be some­thing they can share.

While Tojo said he has no in­ten­tion of try­ing to jus­tify his great­grand­fa­ther’s wrong­do­ings, he thinks Daniel and he could share their feel­ings about the dif­fi­cul­ties of be­ing mem­bers of fam­i­lies with such huge his­tor­i­cal lega­cies.

“Of course, un­like me, (Daniel) is on the vic­tor’s side, but I won­der how he feels about be­ing the grand­son of some­one who dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Na­gasaki,” Tojo said.

‘Con­vey a for­ward-look­ing

mes­sage to­gether’

Just like Tojo thinks about his great-grand­fa­ther’s wartime re­spon­si­bil­ity, he said Daniel might be go­ing through a sim­i­lar process try­ing to come to terms with his grand­fa­ther’s de­ci­sion.

Daniel has been in­volved in an­ti­nu­clear ac­tiv­ity since be­ing inspired by the story of Sadako and her thou­sand cranes in a book his son brought home from school.

“I’m hop­ing per­haps we can con­vey a for­ward-look­ing mes­sage to­gether,” Tojo said of Daniel.

For­mer Ja­panese diplo­mat Kazuhiko Togo has done his own soulsearch­ing in rec­on­cil­ing and ac­cept­ing the judg­ment of history on his grand­fa­ther, Shigenori Togo (

), who twice served as Ja­pan’s for­eign min­is­ter. He was part of the Tojo Cab­i­net that started the war, and the Kan­taro Suzuki Cab­i­net that ended it.

Shigenori Togo, known for op­pos­ing the war and for his ef­forts to end it, was sen­tenced to 20 years and died in prison when his grand­son was only 5.

“I can­not share the view that he is a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the ag­gres­sors’ po­si­tion, but that is how history con­cluded, and I think I have to ac­cept this fact,” Kazuhiko Togo said. “That was the ver­dict pro­nounced by the Al­lies, not by us. Then what is our own judg­ment? That be­came my task.”

Togo fol­lowed in his grand­fa­ther’s foot­steps, join­ing the for­eign min­istry as a diplo­mat. Since re­tir­ing, he has de di­cated his time to re­search­ing Asian his­tor­i­cal is­sues. Last month, he pub­lished a book ti­tled “Diplo­macy in Cri­sis,” in which he pro­posed a road map to re­solv­ing the prob­lems of the Ya­sukuni Shrine, which hon­ors war crim­i­nals among other war dead and is a key source of re­gional ten­sions. Cur­rent Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s his­tor­i­cal views, seen by many as re­vi­sion­ist, and his 2013 visit to the shrine, viewed as a sym­bol of Ja­pan’s mil­i­taris­tic past, have stalled Ja­pan’s re­la­tion­ships with China and South Korea.

Togo, a be­liever in the power of diplo­macy, sug­gests that the 14 Class-A crim­i­nals hon­ored at the Ya­sukuni shrine, in­clud­ing his grand­fa­ther, be tem­po­rar­ily “deshrined” un­til a bet­ter op­tion is found. Their names were added to the shrine in 1978 af­ter the gov­ern­ment de­cided they were not crim­i­nals un­der Ja­panese law. “Just re­mov­ing it as to­day’s thorni­est po­lit­i­cal is­sue — that is im­por­tant,” Togo said. “I think it is im­por­tant for us to re­solve this very dif­fi­cult is­sue of soul-search­ing in­side Ja­pan. At the same time, it is very im­por­tant to re­solve diplo­mat­i­cally. Then Ya­sukuni will be off the agenda.”

(Right) In this Aug. 5 photo, Kazuhiko Togo, Shigenori Togo’s grand­child, vis­its his fam­ily’s tomb at Aoyama ceme­tery in Tokyo.


(Above) In this Thurs­day, Aug. 13 photo, Hidetoshi Tojo, the great-grand­son of Hideki Tojo, the 40th Prime Min­is­ter of Ja­pan, dur­ing World War II, walks af­ter of­fer­ing a payer at Ya­sukuni Shrine in Tokyo.

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