The extremity of 'Yasukuni's view of history'

Books of Photo collections glorifying the 'Greater East Asia War' being on sale

The war memorial museum Yushukan is located at Yasukuni Shrine. On your way to the entrance hall from the exhibition site of Japan's war history, you will find a shop of "Yasukuni goods". Books propagating the "Yasukuni's View of History" are included. Catching your eyes more than anything else is a series of books of photo collections titled "Memorial Museum of Showa's War -- Panorama photo collection of historical events" (5 volumes, published between 1999 and 2002). Surprisingly, the books glorify the "Greater East Asia War" to give the impression that they were edited during the war by the press section of the military.

But this is no wonder.

The opening article, "Aim of This Series," in Volume 3, which was published in 1999 as the first distribution of the series, blatantly announces the intention of the publisher.

It begins as follows:

In many places of postwar Japan, memorial halls have been built with the prefix "peace." Underlying this is an apologetic atmosphere that our country was an "aggressor country" and an "offender country" causing a lot of trouble to other Asian countries.

Feeling that they could not just let it pass unnoticed is the publisher's motivation. As things now stand, they must have thought, where have the souls of those Japanese who fought the "Greater East Asia War" gone?.

Then, what kind of "memorial museum" should be built in Japan? The article goes on to say:

If we are to build a war memorial museum, it must be based on the national position of Japan that went through the upheavals of the Showa era, as well as on the glory and feats of heroes. The Greater East Asia War, in particular, is a national experience on an unprecedented large scale, leaving a number of unheard-of legacies in world history. While praising their positive role, we understand the position of the enemy countries based on the spirit of "Yesterday's enemy is today's friend" and pay respect for their brave fighting.

In other words, we want to make the museum a "memorial museum of Showa's wars, open to the world."

In short, they want to build a war-adoring museum, which signifies the "Greater East Asia War" as one of the Japanese nation's greatest undertakings, "unprecedented in world history," and praises both "Japan's national position" in the war and the "glory and feats of heroes" carved in it. But there are no conditions yet to immediately begin building such a museum, and therefore, they published five volumes of photo collections, edited in museum style. They say this is the aim of the publication. Therefore, there is no wonder the series of collections take the readers by surprise by their enthusiastic glorification of Japan's past wars.

"'The Greater East Asia War' was a 'climax reached by the Japanese nation'..."

Among all these five volumes, the extent of the fanaticism can be seen in Volume 2, entitled "The Greater East Asia War and the Era under Occupation." Laid out at the first color pages which include the image of Emperor Jinmu with the golden kite perching on the tip of his bow and a picture of a monument in honor of the slogan of "the whole world under one roof" built in Miyazaki Prefecture in 1940 during the war. With the title "The Greater East Asia War is a general mobilization of Japanese history or resuscitation of Emperor Jinmu's Enterprise," comments follow:

When any nation encounters a crisis, its history will surely be resuscitated. The Greater East Asia War, in particular, was a war on an unprecedented gigantic scale in Japanese history. Brilliant achievements at the early stage of the war, hard battles ranging from honorable deaths to suicide attacks, and the disastrous defeat -- it can be said that amid the fierce and heroic national drama the historical experiences of the Japanese nation have been mobilized as a whole.

If you open the table of contents, the big headline of Part 1, which enthusiastically extols the war, grips your attention: "Climax Reached by the Japanese Nation."

Apart from war propaganda launched by the military during the war, in postwar Japan passages glorifying the war of aggression with such enthusiasm have never been seen. Articles in praise and justification of the war appear almost every day in the "rightist" press. But sentences, glorifying the war to such an extent as the "climax reached by the Japanese nation" by referring even to the "history" of Emperor Jinmu's eastward expedition and "the whole world under one roof," is unusual even in the "rightist" press.

Chief Priest of Yasukuni Shrine found among the Publishing Association members

Who in the world published these astoundingly war-adoring books?

At the end of each of these books is a list of the board members of the Association of Publishing "Memorial Museum of Showa's War."

The chairman of the Association is Mr. Itagaki Tadashi, former member of the House of Councilors and the eldest son of the late Army General Itagaki Seishiro. General Itagaki was one of the Class-A war criminals who were at the center of the controversy over their enshrinement as deities at Yasukuni Shrine along with others.

The editor is Mr. Nagoshi Futaranosuke. He is mentioned as former Professor at the Takachiho University of Commerce. He also appears at the beginning of the documentary "We Shall Never Forget," putting forward the war-was-to-liberate-Asia argument. He says in the film that Japan's war was "its resistance against the Western colonial powers on behalf of the whole of Asia."

The next in the list are 12 advisers to the Association. Among them is Mr. Yuzawa Tadashi, chief priest of the Yasukuni Shrine at the time of publication.

These photo books praising the "Greater East Asia War" are not only on sale at the stand in Yushukan. It also is an official "war photo books" sanctioned by Yasukuni Shrine which took part in its publication.

Attacking the government's statement of "remorse" as "lies and errors"

Leafing through Volume 2 (2001), a headline, "Murayama Statement: Full of Lies and Errors" catches readers' eyes. The "Murayama Statement" is an official view of the Japanese government. Prime Minister Koizumi recently expressed remorse for the past mostly in line with the same statement. Denouncing it for being "full of lies and errors," is the advocates of the "Yasukuni's View of History are openly challenging to the government position.

What on earth in the "Murayama Statement" are "lies and errors"? The logic of the "Yasukuni" school's accusation is simple and plain. What they claim as unfounded "lies and errors" are the "colonial rule and aggression," the essential part for which the statement expressed remorse.

"No one fought for aggression"

First, on the question of "aggression," the "Yasukuni school" argues:

"Among those who took part in the Greater East Asia War, there was no one who fought for the sake of aggression." Even Mr. Murayama, who was enlisted in the Army as a sergeant from his hometown in Oita Prefecture, must not have gone to war for "aggression." He should not have lied against his conscience. "If he really wants to label Japan an 'aggressor,' he should do it only after changing his nationality to American, British or Dutch, otherwise to Chinese."

This is the argument put up by the "Yasukuni" school for denying aggression. What a shameless and fraudulent logic!

It was the war leaders, not common Japanese people, that planned and executed aggression. The latter were mobilized and sent to battle fronts by the former. I wonder if those in the "Yasukuni" school speak without knowing the clear historical facts that Japan's war leaders sought to incorporate China and South East Asia into its "territory." Or do they make such an absurd remark, "against his conscience" in spite of their knowledge of the truth?

For example, in September 1931, Japan initiated the Manchuria Incident, thus starting the aggression into China's North East region. This was carried out by the Japanese Imperial army, the Guandong Army, stationed in the region. One of its masterminds was the then senior staff officer named Itagaki Seishiro. Four months before the start of the war, he gave a lecture entitled "On the Question of Manchuria and Mongolia" at the senior officers' meeting of the Guandong Army ("Manchuria" means the North East region in China and "Mongolia" the present-day Inner Mongolia autonomous region). He unequivocally said, "Our ultimate goal is to make Manchuria and Mongolia our territory." ("Road to the Pacific War: Diplomatic History of Starting War," Collected Materials Volume, Asahi Shimbun,1963)

Another piece of fact. In May 1943 in the midst of "Greater East Asia War," which was praised as a war to liberate Asia in the highest possible terms by those in the "Yasukuni school", there was a meeting of the Liaison Conference between the Imperial General Headquarters and the Cabinet. It adopted the "Guidelines for the Political Strategy toward Greater East Asia," which dealt with the southern territories occupied by Japan. As regards South East Asia, it clearly stated, "Malaya, Sumatra, Jawa, and Borneo (Kalimantan) are determined to be the Imperial territories." As for the other regions, it sought to maintain Japan's dominant role, even if they were given such an ostensible "independence" as the so-called Manzhouguo government.

This distinction between the "Imperial territories" and the area to set up puppet regimes was in the course of the changing situation. But whichever form of government was established in this or that area, it was Japan's consistent policy of aggression to put South East Asia under its rule.

"Japan never colonized Korea and Taiwan"

The next issue is about Japan's "colonial rule." In these books, the "Yasukuni school" makes an unprecedented argument in an attempt to insist that Japan's colonial rule never existed.

It is said that Japan colonized Asian countries, but Taiwan and Korea were not colonies but Japan's territory. Japan promoted an assimilation policy so that people there could raise their levels as high as Japan's. ... The Taiwanese and the Koreans of those days volunteered for service in the Greater East Asia War. ... In total 50,000 people from both areas died in this war and they are enshrined at Yasukuni Shrine.

This argument is what makes us dumbfounded because when it comes to the issue of colonial rule, those who deny Japan's "aggression" insist that they just changed these areas into "Japan's territory," not "colonies." But the fact is that Japan annexed foreign countries or deprived them of their territories, changing them into "Japan's territory." Isn't this precisely "aggression" and "colonial rule"?

Moreover, to those who edited these books, it seems that Japan's act to change Korea and Taiwan into Japan's "territory" was something that brought many benefits to the people in these areas. They turn defiant by setting forth an irrational argument that "Japan's colonial rule did not exist since Japan just changed these areas into its territory." Worse still, they also claim as if Japan's following actions brought benefits to the people in Korea and Taiwan: an "assimilation policy" (imposition of names in the Japanese style and education in the Japanese language) that trampled on the spirit of the Koreans and the Taiwanese; a mobilization of these people to the war zones using various compulsory or semi-compulsory means to provide "human resources" for the war; and even willful "enshrinement" of these victims at Yasukuni Shrine. These are nothing but evidence of the arrogance and conceit of colonial rulers.

Yasukuni Shrine is the most important base to send out a war-adoring argument

The "Yasukuni's View of History" has become as grave as this: Yasukuni Shrine dispatches its own view that "the war Japan fought was a just and righteous one" both at home and abroad by using every possible means and now it is the most important base in Japan for the "Yasukuni's View of History." Yasukuni Shrine assumes a much greater role as an extremely dangerous challenger to the world's judgment against the invaders of World War II.

Furthermore, it attacks mercilessly those who reflect on the past war and colonial rule, even if it is the official view of the Japanese government. Such an act reminds me of neo-Nazism in Europe.

That's how things stack up now. Under the present conditions, it is impossible to separately deal with this Yasukuni Shrine's role and the act of consoling the souls of the war dead.

However hard Prime Minister Koizumi tries to justify his visits to Yasukuni Shrine by his sentiment of mourning the war dead, the unreasonableness of his explanation has become all the more evident because it is inadmissible to give authorized support for Yasukuni Shrine's position to glorify the war by visiting it in his capacity as prime minister.

If Prime Minister Koizumi sticks to going to Yasukuni Shrine as an appropriate place to express his mourning for the war dead, his act in reality is nothing less than to encourage and support those who propagate "Yasukuni's View of History." Doesn't this end up being inconsistent with his sentiment of mourning for the war dead".

- Akahata, June 7, 2005