History,  International

Air force chief denies Japan was aggressor in war; wins prize

Although we in the west are often reminded of European apologists for the Nazi regime, it’s worth remembering that a number of leading Japanese have yet to come to grips with the aggression and atrocities committed by their country in the 1930s and 1940s.

The Washington Post reports:

The abiding reluctance of prominent nationalists in Japan to come to grips with the past resurfaced Friday, when a hotel company announced the winner of its $30,000 “true modern history” essay contest.

The winning essay was written by Gen. Toshio Tamogami, who until Friday night was chief of staff of the air force. He was fired a few hours after the essay appeared on the hotel company’s Web site.

Japan attacked Pearl Harbor because of a “trap” set by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Tamogami claimed in his essay, which also argued “that many Asian countries take a positive view” of Japan’s role in the war.

He wrote, too, that the war was good for international race relations: “If Japan had not fought the Great East Asia War at that time, it might have taken another 100 or 200 years before we could have experienced the world of racial equality that we have today.”

The essay concluded that “it is certainly a false accusation to say that our country was an aggressor nation.”

Explaining why Tamogami was fired, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada told reporters that a senior military leader “should not make public an opinion opposed to the government’s position.”

In 1995, then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama officially apologized for Japan’s wartime aggression. Still, there is a politically potent minority in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that periodically backtracks and distances itself from the apology.