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iKjeld.com » News » Politics » The Ghost of Wartimes Past

The Ghost of Wartimes Past

The Economist
Thursday November 6, 2008
Illustration by Georges Bigot

Many Japanese were surprised that a hotel chain, under a cloud for shoddy earthquake-proofing standards, should sponsor a competition for the best essay to deny Japan’s wartime role as an aggressor and sponsor of atrocities. But then the chain’s boss, Toshio Motoya, is a vigorous historical revisionist (and big supporter of Shinzo Abe, prime minister in 2006-07). More astounding, then: the competition winner, Toshio Tamogami, was none other than the head of Japan’s air force.

Mr Tamogami’s offering is a warmed-through hash of thrice-cooked revisionism. Japan, he writes, fought a war of self-defence, protecting its legal territories of Manchukuo (North-East China) and Korea against communists. Pearl Harbour was an American-laid trap. Japanese occupations were both benevolent and a liberation of Asia from the yoke of Western imperialism—indeed, neighbours (20m of whose deaths were caused by the Japanese) now look fondly on wartime Japan. Japan must “reclaim its glorious history”, Mr Tamogami ended with a barrel-rolling flourish and a want of irony, “for a country that denies its own history is destined to fall.”

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