Frustrated Japanese Revise Past
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"We cannot accept forgery in our history," Mr. Yoneda argues.Skip to next paragraph
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That resentment of the US, and Japan's long subordination to the US in foreign-policy matters, spells trouble for US-Japan ties, argues Gavan McCormack, a professor of Japanese history at Australia's National University in Canberra.
"Formidable media, corporate, academic, and political forces are echoing right-wing anti-US resentment," he says. "There's a bitterness that expresses itself in movements like the film 'Pride.' "
Discussing war-related issues is difficult, though. Right-wing groups react to any perceived slight against the emperor or the nation, often with physical violence that inhibits debate.
"If you attack anything Japan did during the war, in a way you're attacking the emperor, the Kimigayo, the flag, this whole system that people associate with the core essence of what Japan is," says Mark Schilling, a Tokyo-based author of books on Japanese culture. "It's a very sensitive issue."
When Yokohama theater owner Kikuo Fukuju launched his Asian film festival, he screened the Chinese-made film "Nanking 1937," which shows Japanese troops committing atrocities. On opening night, a member of a local right-wing group slashed the screen with a knife during the first show.
Despite a heavy police presence at Mr. Fukuju's theater and home, other members of the group circle the theater and his house in a sound truck blaring criticism about him and the film. His wife receives threatening letters and phone calls, and attendance has trickled to some 30 people a show. "I don't know when the bullet will come through the window," he says.
'Rape of Nanking' sells
The strategies of these right-wing groups and academics like Fujioka stoke and are stoked by a growing Asian awareness and activism about the war that can only heighten tensions.
More than 50 years after the fact, Japan's wartime actions are discussed around the world more thoroughly than ever before, thanks to shifts in scholarly focus at Chinese universities, the growing influence of Asians in the US, and growing awareness about human rights in Southeast Asia.
In the US, "The Rape of Nanking," Iris Chang's book describing the Japanese army's brutal invasion of the city, recently became a surprise bestseller, spawning academic conferences, documentaries, plans for a Los Angeles museum, a film, and a musical in Singapore.
It has met with harsh condemnation from Fujioka and other prominent Japanese academics, who recently held a forum to discredit the book's claims.
National Pride At Stake In 1998
FEBRUARY: Nagano Olympic gold medal winner Ai Sugiyama is chastised for leaving her hat on when Japan's flag is flown during the medal ceremony, prompting intense government concern that young people do not show enough respect to the flag.
MARCH: Ryuichiro Inoue, a teacher in Kyushu, Japan, loses a court battle against the singing of the national anthem at a graduation ceremony. Mr. Inoue and 100 out of 170 sixth graders refuse to sing the anthem at their graduating ceremony. Their request to fly a flag portraying Picasso's antiwar painting "Guernica" is denied.
APRIL: Tokorozawa High School gains national attention when students refuse to participate in graduation ceremonies that involve the flag and anthem, and stage their own instead.
APRIL: Iris Chang's book "The Rape of Nanking," a surprise bestseller in the United States, is criticized by Japan's ambassador to the United States, Kunihiko Saito, as inaccurate and one-sided.
MAY: The Ministry of Education issues a directive that all schools must fly the flag and sing the anthem at ceremonies to instill national pride. Previously, the ministry had only recommended they do so.
MAY: "Pride, the Fateful Moment," a film about convicted war criminal Gen. Hideki Tojo, opens in Japan. The film portrays General Tojo as a gentle family man who was the victim of bigoted American victor's justice. It has infuriated Japan's Asian neighbors.
JUNE: To mark the 50th anniversary of the Tokyo Tribunal in which Tojo, the architect of Japan's militarism, and others were tried, the Japanese government releases documents on the trials of some war criminals.