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The History ProblemThe Politics of War Commemoration in East Asia$

Hiro Saito

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780824856748

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824856748.001.0001

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Apologies and Denunciations, 1989–1996

Apologies and Denunciations, 1989–1996

(p.74) Chapter 3 Apologies and Denunciations, 1989–1996
The History Problem

Hiro Saito

University of Hawai'i Press

Abstract and Keywords

The history problem fully developed between 1989 and 1996. Japanese and South Korean NGOs expanded the transnational network to help former “comfort women” demand apologies and compensation from the Japanese government, while Japanese NGOs helped Chinese victims file compensation lawsuits against the Japanese government and corporations. At this historical juncture, the LDP was ousted from power. This allowed non-LDP prime ministers to offer apologies for Japan’s past wrongdoings more decisively than did their LDP predecessors. Nevertheless, the LDP remained the largest political party, forcing non-LDP prime ministers to compromise cosmopolitanism with nationalism in Japan’s official commemoration. This compromise intensified the history problem by galvanizing Japanese nationalists as well as the governments and citizens in South Korea and China. The former criticized the Japanese government for failing to honor Japanese war dead enough, whereas the latter criticized it for failing to commemorate South Korean and Chinese victims enough.

Keywords:   Japan, South Korea, China, LDP, nationalism, NGO, comfort women, apology, cosmopolitanism

Emperor Hirohito became seriously ill in September 1988, prompting television programs and newspapers to report his condition daily, including changes in his temperature and pulse. When the emperor fell into critical condition on January 7, 1989, all the broadcasting stations in Japan began airing special programs on the history of “Shōwa,” his reign since 1928. The special media coverage continued through January 8 when the emperor died.

Ever since SCAP and Japanese leaders had shielded the emperor from prosecution at the Tokyo Trial, it had been taboo to openly question his responsibility for the Asia-Pacific War. The special programs that aired between January 7 and 8, too, focused on positive aspects of the emperor’s reign. Nevertheless, the emperor’s imminent death had prompted a small number of Japanese citizens to critically revisit the Shōwa period. In 1988, NGOs across Japan organized symposiums and seminars to explore the emperor’s war responsibility. These NGOs included pacifists critical of the emperor’s role in the war, activists who questioned Japanese mass media for emphasizing positive aspects of the emperor’s reign, as well as Christians who feared that funeral ceremonies following the emperor’s death would marginalize non-Shinto religious minorities in Japan.1

Among these critical voices, one in Nagasaki City stirred a nationwide controversy. At the Nagasaki City Council in December 1988, JCP member Shibata Sunao asked LDP mayor Motoshima Hitoshi, “Do you think we could have avoided the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki if the emperor had decided to end the war sooner?” In his response, Motoshima acknowledged that the emperor could have done so and stated, “In light of (p.75) my experience of serving in the military and involving in military education, I think the emperor shares war responsibility (sensō sekinin).”2 Motoshima’s statement infuriated his fellow LDP members and right-wing organizations. The LDP Nagasaki Prefectural Association immediately demanded that Motoshima retract his statement. Members of right-wing organizations also came to Nagasaki City Hall en masse, used loud speakers to denounce Motoshima, and sent him several death threats.

Yet, Motoshima maintained his position. After barely surviving an assassination attempt, he spoke at the 1990 Peace Memorial Ceremony and called for “apologies” (shazai) to “Korean and Chinese people who were forcibly taken to Japan, treated inhumanely under Japan’s brutal colonial rule, and killed by the atomic bomb.”3 This was the first time either Nagasaki or Hiroshima City had officially commemorated foreign A-bomb victims in relation to Japan’s past wrongdoings. In August 1991, Hiraoka Takashi, a former Chūgoku shinbun reporter newly elected as Hiroshima City mayor, followed Motoshima’s example and stated, “Japan caused enormous sufferings and sorrows among people in Asia-Pacific through its colonial rule and war. We are sorry for it (moushiwakenaku omou).”4 In his 1991 peace declaration, Motoshima went further to commemorate Japan’s past wrongdoings in greater detail: “Our country had forcefully annexed Korea, waged the Fifteen-Year War in China, and fought the Pacific War that led to the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and, eventually, Japan’s defeat. We must reflect on these wars with the feeling of remorse from the bottom of our heart. We must also pray for both Japanese and foreign victims and think about how we can offer atonement.”5

Importantly, it was not only the critically minded mayors, Hiraoka and Motoshima, who transformed the official commemoration of the atomic bombings. The transformation was also prompted by residents in the two cities that had participated in the transnational network to demand that the Japanese government commemorate South Korean and Chinese victims. Such demand was intensifying as the fiftieth anniversary of the Asia-Pacific War’s end approached. For example, NGOs supporting A-bomb victims organized multiple symposiums on Japan’s past wrongdoings in Hiroshima in summer 1990, one year after the emperor’s death. One of the symposiums was hosted by the Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs (Gensuikin) affiliated with the JSP. At the symposium, Iwamatsu Shigetoshi, a Japanese A-bomb victim from Nagasaki, bowed his head and offered a “deep apology” (p.76) (fukai owabi) to foreign victims of Japan’s past wrongdoings. He explained that he had come to realize that “without thorough self-criticism of Japan’s atrocious crime, the invasion of the Asia-Pacific, our antinuclear movement would be a sham.”6

The death of the emperor thus reinforced the commemorations in Hiroshima and Nagasaki that tried to atone for Japan’s past wrongdoings. At the same time, these cosmopolitan commemorations of foreign victims were stimulated by the end of the Cold War that created the optimistic atmosphere for greater international cooperation as well as complicated Japan’s relations with South Korea and China.

The Changing Structure of International Political Opportunities

Prior to the end of the Cold War, the Japanese government had tried to strengthen Japan’s position in world politics, given its growing economic power. In this regard, Nakasone Yasuhiro’s contrite gestures toward South Korea and China—the expression of “deep regret” and the suspension of a prime ministerial visit to the Yasukuni Shrine—had been motivated by his nationalist ambition to remove the history problem as an obstacle preventing Japan from becoming a regional leader.7 Continuing the effort to increase Japan’s international influence, Prime Minister Kaifu Toshiki showed further contrition when South Korean president Roh Tae Woo visited Japan in May 1990: “By sincerely reflecting on the fact that people in Korea experienced enormous sufferings and sorrows because of our country’s acts during a certain period of the past, I would like to clearly express my apology (owabi no kimochi).”8 Kaifu’s word choice suggested a more explicit acknowledgment of Japan’s past wrongdoings than his predecessors. Prime Minister Nakasone and Emperor Hirohito, for example, had used only the word “regret” (ikan) during President Chun Doo Hwan’s visit to Japan in September 1984.9 During the summit meeting, Kaifu also promised to offer four billion Japanese yen to subsidize medical treatment for South Korean A-bomb victims as well as to assist with the construction of a medical center for A-bomb victims in South Korea.10

Kaifu’s government found another opportunity to raise Japan’s international standing in August 1990 when the Iraqi military invaded Kuwait. While the UN Security Council condemned Iraq’s aggression and imposed economic sanctions, Iraq continued to occupy Kuwait. In response, the United States deployed its troops into Saudi Arabia and called for a coalition force to drive Iraqi troops out of Kuwait. The United States first requested (p.77) that the Japanese government provide financial support for the UN coalition force and deploy the Self-Defense Forces (SDF). But the majority of Japanese citizens did not support sending troops overseas because Article 9 of the constitution, renouncing war as a sovereign right, had become integral to postwar Japanese identity as a pacifist nation. Many LDP members, too, were unsure about overseas deployment of the SDF because of the constitutional restrictions.11 Kaifu’s government therefore decided not to send the SDF but to offer 13.5 billion dollars to support operations of the coalition force.

This prompted the United States and the UN coalition force to criticize Japan for trying to buy out the lives of its troops. This international criticism shocked LDP members, who had opposed the SDF’s overseas deployment on constitutional grounds. Since LDP members feared that Japan would lose its international standing, they eagerly sought a way to authorize the SDF to join peacekeeping operations after the Gulf War. In October 1990, Kaifu’s government submitted to the Diet the Bill on Cooperation for the UN Peacekeeping Operations, also known as the PKO Bill, to authorize the SDF to join UN peacekeeping operations outside Japan.12

The JSP and the JCP denounced the bill as a violation of the constitution. The LDP was unable to overcome the determined opposition because it had lost the majority in the House of Councillors during the 1989 election. Instead of creating a new law, Kaifu’s government decided to rely on the existing law and authorized the SDF to be deployed to the Gulf region in April 1991. This action drew strong criticism not only from the opposition parties and antiwar NGOs in Japan, but also from other Asian countries along the route that the SDF had to take to arrive in the Gulf region. Indeed, the year 1991 marked the fiftieth anniversary of Japan’s attacks on the Allied powers in Southeast Asia and on Pearl Harbor. To pacify criticisms from abroad, Kaifu visited member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) from late April through early May. In Singapore, Kaifu gave a speech, expressing his “strong feeling of remorse (kibishiku hansei) for our country’s act that caused unbearable suffering and grief among many people in the Asia-Pacific region.”13 Prime Minister of Singapore Goh Chok Tong, however, expressed his concern about the growing role of Japan in the region.14 Former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew also argued that many people in Asia did not want Japan to join peacekeeping operations because allowing the overseas deployment of the SDF was “like (p.78) giving a chocolate filled with whisky to an alcoholic”—that is, like giving more military power to a country unapologetic for its past wrongdoings.15 In addition, though acknowledging Japan’s effort to join international peacekeeping, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry expressed concerns, given Korean people’s “tragic experience [of Japan’s aggression] in the past.”16

Despite these criticisms, the Japanese government proceeded to deploy the SDF to the Gulf region and tried again to pass the PKO Bill in 1992, when the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia was established to manage a transition from civil war to democracy. Since peacekeeping operations in Cambodia were unlikely to involve combat, Kōmeitō and the Democratic Socialist Party, though previously opposed to the 1990 PKO Bill, agreed to support the LDP this time. The other opposition parties, however, continued to criticize the bill. JSP member Itō Masatoshi faulted the LDP government, now headed by Prime Minister Miyazawa Kiichi, for having offered “neither apologies nor compensation for people that Japan victimized through its colonial rule and war of aggression. Such a country sending troops abroad is unacceptable for international society, which includes Asian peoples.”17 JCP member Kodama Kenji similarly criticized Miyazawa’s government for “sending our country’s troops to Asia again, even though the Japanese government has not apologized for the war of aggression or resolved postwar disputes.”18 In the end, the PKO Bill was passed in June 1992 with the support from Kōmeitō and the Democratic Socialist Party.

The controversy surrounding the PKO Bill showed that the structure of political opportunities had changed in the post–Cold War period since it increasingly acquired an international dimension. In the immediate aftermath of the Asia-Pacific War, conservative politicians in power had been able to promote nationalism in Japan’s official commemoration without worrying about reactions from abroad. This had begun to change after the normalization of Japan’s relations with South Korea and China, and the end of the Cold War accelerated the internationalization of political opportunities. The LDP thus faced a difficult dilemma: if it wanted to boost national pride by raising Japan’s international standing through peacekeeping operations and other means, it had to make more contrite, cosmopolitan gestures toward other countries or at least tone down its nationalism. This dilemma deepened when “comfort women” (ianfu) became a diplomatic issue with South Korea in the midst of the national debate on the SDF’s overseas deployment.

(p.79) The “Comfort Women” Controversy between Japan and South Korea

“Comfort women” were those who had provided “sexual services” to the Japanese military during the Asia-Pacific War. The military originally had set up “comfort stations” (ianjo) to prevent Japanese soldiers from raping Chinese women and contracting sexually transmitted diseases. The military had entrusted private contractors to recruit comfort women and manage comfort stations. Comfort women had been recruited from both Japan and its colonies, such as Korea and Taiwan. Some women had agreed to work at comfort stations, whereas others had been forced by deception or coercion. After Japan had started war with the Allied powers in December 1941 and occupied Southeast Asia, the military had increased its involvement in recruitment, with methods that became increasingly coercive. By 1942, about four hundred comfort stations had been set up across Asia.19

Comfort women first became widely known in South Korea in January 1990, when Yun Jeong Ok, an English professor at Ewha Womans University, serialized her reports in the newspaper The Hankyoreh. Then, in October, a total of thirty-seven women’s associations, including Korean Church Women United, submitted a petition to the Japanese government. In their petition, the associations demanded that the Japanese government should (1) acknowledge the fact that the government forced Korean women to serve as comfort women for the Japanese military, (2) offer an official apology, (3) investigate all facts related to the military-administered system of comfort women, (4) erect a memorial for victims, (5) compensate former comfort women and their bereaved families, and (6) incorporate facts about comfort women in Japanese history education so as not to repeat the same wrong in the future.20

In November 1990, these women’s associations formed the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan.21 In December, JSP member Shimizu Sumiko, one of the contacts for the Korean Council, asked how the Japanese government was going to respond to the petition. An official from the Ministry of Labor refused to admit government involvement, citing a lack of evidence: “Our ministry has no documentation about Korean comfort women in the military. We also checked with people who used to work at the Ministry of Welfare … but they told us there was no government involvement.”22 According to the government, private contractors had been solely responsible for recruiting comfort women and setting up comfort stations.23

(p.80) In the meantime, the Korean Council conducted anonymous interviews with former comfort women as part of its campaign to demand compensation from the Japanese government.24 Then, in December 1990, former comfort women, former soldiers who had served in the Japanese military during the war, and bereaved families—thirty-five South Korean plaintiffs in total—filed a joint lawsuit against the Japanese government at the Tokyo District Court.25 All of the plaintiffs were members of the Association of South Korean Victims and Bereaved Families of the Pacific War. With the help of Japanese lawyers from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, they demanded that the Japanese government should offer apologies and compensation for the damages that they had suffered.26 The Japanese government, however, continued to argue that all issues of compensation had been resolved upon the 1965 normalization, and that no evidence had been found to demonstrate government involvement in the recruitment of comfort women and management of comfort stations.27

Then, on January 11, 1992, Asahi shinbun reported as top news that Professor Yoshimi Yoshiaki of Chūō University had found a document at the Ministry of Defense Library indicating military involvement in the recruitment of comfort women.28 The document was titled “On Recruiting Women for Military Comfort Stations” (Gunianjo jūgyōfutou boshū ni kansuru ken). In this document, the Japanese military gave its troops an order to cooperate with local police to oversee private contractors and prevent them from using certain methods of recruitment, such as kidnapping, that could harm the reputation of the Japanese military.29 The news came five days before Prime Minister Miyazawa Kiichi was scheduled to visit South Korea, and was immediately relayed to South Korea through major television and radio programs. This fueled the growing redress movement in South Korea. On January 15, a day before Miyazawa’s visit to South Korea, about three hundred protesters, including members of the Association of South Korean Victims and Bereaved Families of the Pacific War, gathered in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul and demanded apologies and compensation from the Japanese government.30 In Japan, too, women’s associations issued a statement calling for government compensation for former comfort women and a Diet resolution to offer an apology.31

At the press conference on January 17, President Roh Tae Woo stated that the future of Japan–South Korea relations should be built on Japan’s “correct understanding of and sincere remorse for its past history,” and Miyazawa expressed his “sincere apology” (chūshin yori owabi) for former (p.81) comfort women who had suffered from the “hardships beyond words” (hitsuzetsu ni tsukushigatai shinku).32 Nevertheless, Miyazawa did not promise to compensate former comfort women but only to investigate historical facts regarding the issue. Miyazawa’s apology without a promise of compensation only angered South Korean protesters. As one of the former comfort women, Kim Hak Sun, put it, “Simply apologizing means nothing. I would like the Japanese government to fulfill its responsibility for compensation.”33 JSP chairman Tanabe Makoto also criticized Miyazawa’s apology as inadequate by arguing, “Apology without compensation is hypocrisy. Compensation without apology is strategic calculus. I propose that we discuss how Japan should compensate and apologize to war victims, including former military comfort women and forced laborers.”34

In the face of the international and domestic criticisms, Miyazawa’s government investigated archives of the various ministries and found 127 documents related to comfort women. These documents showed government involvement in the selection of private contractors and hygienic inspection of comfort stations, among other activities. The government continued to collect historical materials both inside and outside Japan and also interviewed sixteen former comfort women in Seoul.35 In light of the discovered documents and interviews, Kōno Yōhei, Miyazawa’s chief cabinet secretary, issued the so-called Kōno Statement in August 1993. He acknowledged that the government had been involved, directly or indirectly, in the establishment and management of comfort stations and that, in many cases, women had been recruited against their will. He then went on to state: “The Government of Japan would like to take this opportunity once again to extend its sincere apologies and remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women. … We hereby reiterate our firm determination never to repeat the same mistake by forever engraving such issues in our memories through the study and teaching of history.”36

Thus, in the early 1990s, the Japanese government began to commemorate Japan’s past wrongdoings in greater detail, even though the LDP, the longtime supporter of nationalist commemoration, continued to control the government. This change was caused by the growing pressures from the transnational network mobilized for comfort women and other foreign victims, as well as by the growing constraint of the international dimension of political opportunity. Just as the mobilizing structures and political opportunities for cosmopolitan commemoration expanded at the transnational (p.82) level, an important political change occurred, pushing Japan’s official commemoration further in the direction of cosmopolitanism: the LDP’s loss of power.

A New Opportunity for Cosmopolitan Commemoration

While facing the controversies over Japan’s past wrongdoings, Miyazawa’s government was struggling to cope with the worst economic recession since 1945. The LDP was also hit by a high-profile scandal in October 1992, when the Tokyo District public prosecutor’s office exposed illegal dealings among the LDP, the Tokyo Sagawa Express Corporation, and Japanese yakuza. This was considered the biggest political scandal in postwar Japan in terms of the amount of illegal monetary dealings and the number of politicians involved. Dissatisfied with the way the LDP had tried to downplay the scandal, opposition parties tried to force Miyazawa out of his office. Even though the LDP had a majority in the House of Representatives, a vote of no confidence was adopted in June 1993, since younger, reform-minded LDP members went along with the opposition.37 Instead of resigning, Miyazawa dissolved the House of Representatives.

In response, LDP members who had directly or indirectly supported the vote of no confidence left the LDP and formed their own political parties. But the LDP did not lose any more seats at the election in July. Instead, the JSP suffered a considerable loss, decreasing the number of its seats from 137 to 77, because many voters decided to give the newly formed parties a chance, rather than continuing to support the existing opposition.38 Then, after the election, eight opposition parties agreed to form a coalition to secure the majority in the House of Representatives to oust the LDP from power. These parties included the JSP, Kōmeitō, the Democratic Socialist Party, Sakigake, the Japan Renewal Party (Shinseitō), the Japan New Party (Nihon Shintō), the Socialist Democratic Federation (Shakai Minshu Rengō), and the Democratic Reform Party (Minshu Kaikaku Rengō).39 On August 9, 1993, Japan New Party chairman Hosokawa Morihiro became the first non-LDP prime minister since 1955, heading the eight-party coalition.

As soon as Hosokawa became prime minister, he began revising Japan’s official commemoration. At a press conference on August 10 to outline his policy plans, Hosokawa stated that the Asia-Pacific War “was a war of aggression (shinryaku sensō), and I see it as a mistaken war (machigatta sensō).”40 To be sure, LDP prime minister Nakasone had already admitted in December 1985 that the war was a “mistaken war that Japan should not have (p.83) started” and that Japan had committed “aggression” against China.41 However, Hosokawa was the first prime minister to clearly state that Japan had waged a war, not simply an act, of aggression. Moreover, at the National Memorial Service for the War Dead on August 15, Hosokawa extended his “condolences to war victims and their bereaved families beyond national borders—to those in neighboring Asian countries and around the world.”42 Again, this was the first time any Japanese prime minister had commemorated foreign victims at the National Memorial Service. Doi Takako, JSP chairperson and speaker of the House of Representatives, also delivered a speech reinforcing Hosokawa’s statement: “We have not yet obtained reconciliation with Asian peoples who suffered enormously from our past mistake.”43

The LDP immediately criticized Hosokawa for defining Japan as the sole perpetrator in the Asia-Pacific War. On August 11, LDP members from the Association of Diet Members for Visiting the Yasukuni Shrine Together, the Association of Diet Members for Bereaved Families, and the Council of Diet Members to Honor War Gods went to the prime minister’s office to demand that Hosokawa retract his statement. These three associations also held a joint meeting on August 13 in which they accused Hosokawa of accepting the “Tokyo Trial historical view” that had held Japan solely and entirely guilty of the war. At the joint meeting, representatives of the Japan Bereaved Families Association and the Association to Honor War Gods also requested that the LDP “establish a correct historical view” and fight against “the historical view poisoned by the Tokyo Trial.”44

The three associations of the LDP Diet members then proceeded to create the History Investigation Committee (Rekishi Kentō Iinkai), defining its purpose as follows: “We cannot overlook the rampage of the one-sided, masochistic historical view in the name of remorse for the war, exemplified by Prime Minister Hosokawa’s statement on ‘war of aggression’ and the intention of his coalition government to ‘express an apology for Japan’s war responsibility.’ We are convinced that it is our urgent task to establish the Japanese people’s own historical view based on undistorted historical facts.”45 Beginning in October, the committee began to hold monthly seminars to examine historical facts and interpretations of the Greater East Asia War by inviting university professors, journalists, and writers critical of the Tokyo Trial as guest speakers.

In the face of strong criticism from the LDP, Hosokawa modified the wording of his first keynote address in the Diet on August 23, 1993. Instead (p.84) of “war of aggression,” Hosokawa used “act of aggression” (shinryaku kōi) when offering his apology to foreign victims, and effectively retreated to the position, previously held by Nakasone, that not all of Japan’s acts had been aggressive.46

Nevertheless, LDP members kept criticizing Hosokawa. In early October, the LDP bombarded him with questions about his statement almost daily at Diet committee meetings. LDP member Ishihara Shintarō, for example, argued that Hosokawa was mistaken in apologizing for the Asia-Pacific War. Ishihara insisted that Japan had no need to apologize to Britain, France, the Netherlands, and the United States—the imperial powers that had “engaged in aggressive acts. Colonialism was obviously an aggression and troubled people in Asia, and they ruled their colonies longer than Japan did.” Ishihara continued, “We should apologize to Asian people, but not to the imperial powers we fought against in Asia. … If we are to apologize to the Allied powers, our apologies will have to be mutual. Japan suffered, too. Many civilians were killed by indiscriminate bombings, and 300,000 people have died from the atomic bombings so far. But I have never heard of the US government apologizing for these damages.” In his defense, Hosokawa argued that his previous statement on Japan’s “war of aggression” was supported by the Tokyo Judgment that Japan had accepted as part of the San Francisco Peace Treaty. Ishihara responded by dismissing Hosokawa’s argument as an “extremely ridiculous and masochistic way of thinking.”47

Another LDP member, Itagaki Tadashi, attacked Hosokawa’s defense of the Tokyo Judgment, arguing, “The so-called Tokyo Trial historical view presents Japan as solely and entirely wrong. I think this has severely poisoned the Japanese people’s historical view. … What we should do now is to move away from the Tokyo Trial historical view that SCAP tried to relentlessly inculcate in the Japanese people.”48 By rejecting the Tokyo Trial historical view, Itagaki offered his positive appraisal of what Japan had done in Asia: “You repeatedly said Japan invaded Asia, but really, Japan did liberate Asia. Without the Greater East Asia War, could Asia have been liberated from colonial rule [by the West]?”49 Although Hosokawa did not agree with Itagaki that the Asia-Pacific War was a war of liberation, he eventually conceded, “I do not think that the Tokyo Trial was entirely right, either.”50

In spite of these criticisms, Hosokawa continued to steer Japan’s official commemoration away from the logic of nationalism that the LDP had promoted since the 1950s. When Hosokawa visited South Korea in November (p.85) 1993, he expressed his “heartfelt remorse” (kokoro kara hansei) and offered a “deep apology” (fukaku chinsha) by acknowledging that Japan’s colonial rule had forced Koreans to “adopt Japanese names, work as ‘comfort women’ and forced laborers.”51 When Hosokawa visited China in March 1994, he repeated his “deep remorse and apology” (fukai hansei to owabi) for Japan’s “acts of aggression and colonial rule that brought unbearable sufferings and pains to many people.”52 At the same time, however, Hosokawa followed the LDP government’s precedent, to decouple apology from compensation for foreign victims, by insisting that the issue of compensation had been resolved upon normalization of diplomatic relations.53

While Hosokawa was promoting cosmopolitan commemoration of foreign victims, disagreements among his coalition partners grew. In January 1994, the Political Reform Bill proposed by Hosokawa’s government was rejected in the House of Councillors because the JSP, one of the coalition partners, voted against it. Hosokawa was then suspected of illegal monetary dealings, including illegal contributions from the Tokyo Sagawa Express Corporation. The LDP criticized Hosokawa so relentlessly that the Diet deliberation was temporarily halted. Hosokawa saw no way out of this difficult situation and resigned on April 8, 1994.54

The eight parties initially agreed to maintain their coalition and selected Japan Renewal Party chairman Hata Tsutomu as prime minister. But Hata’s coalition government was even more fragile than Hosokawa’s. The JSP left the coalition when it became clear that three of the coalition members—the Japan Renewal Party, Komeitō, and the Democratic Socialist Party—were scheming to limit the JSP’s influence. After the LDP and the JSP joined forces to submit a vote of no confidence to the House of Representatives, Hata resigned in June 1994. At the time of Hata’s resignation, the LDP was still the largest party in the Diet, though it did not have the majority in the House of Representatives.

To return to power, the LDP made deals with the JSP and the New Party Sakigake. The JSP agreed to form an alliance with the LDP after the latter offered Murayama Tomiichi the post of prime minister.55 Thus, on June 30, 1994, JSP chairman Murayama became prime minister by forming the three-party coalition government. For the first time since 1955, the government was headed by the political party that had pressed for cosmopolitan commemoration throughout the postwar period. This newly gained access to the government presented the best political opportunity for proponents of cosmopolitanism to change Japan’s official commemoration. (p.86) Now, as part of the government, the JSP began to pursue its longstanding policy goal, to provide government compensation for A-bomb victims.

A-bomb Victims as a Focal Point of War-Related Compensation

The issue of compensation for A-bomb victims had been gaining momentum in the Diet since the late 1980s. In December 1989, the JSP and five other opposition parties had succeeded in passing the Bill on Relief for A-Bomb Victims (Genbaku Hibakusha Engo Hōan)—“based on the spirit of government compensation (kokka hoshō no seishin ni motozuki)”—in the House of Councillors for the first time, though it had been discarded in the House of Representatives because the LDP had refused to extend deliberation on the bill to the next Diet session.56 In December 1993, however, Hosokawa’s coalition government had established the Project Team on the Act on Relief for A-Bomb Victims (Hibakusha Engohō ni kansuru Purojekuto Team) by appointing Morii Chūryō, a JSP member from Hiroshima Prefecture, as project leader. The JSP also had produced its own report proposing to define relief for A-bomb victims as “government compensation.”57 Then, a week after Murayama became prime minister, the project team published its final report endorsing a new act on relief for A-bomb victims based on the “spirit of government compensation,” comparable to the Act on Relief for Injured Veterans and Bereaved Families.58

After taking office, however, Murayama took a cautious approach to the issue of compensation for A-bomb victims: “I am really concerned about the situation of A-bomb victims. But government compensation poses a fundamental problem in terms of equality between A-bomb victims and other civilian victims. So, we need to think about this issue carefully among members of the coalition government.”59 Murayama and other JSP cabinet members became cautious because the LDP was against government compensation. In fact, the LDP had opposed all sixteen versions of the Bill on Relief for A-Bomb Victims that the JSP had previously submitted to the Diet.60

The LDP’s strong opposition was based on the fact that the entire postwar framework of commemoration of the Asia-Pacific War depended on how to deal with the issue of A-bomb victims. First of all, if the nature of relief for A-bomb victims was defined as compensatory, the government would have to accept its responsibility for having started the Asia-Pacific War that had led to the atomic bombings. This would require the government to commemorate the war as wrong for having harmed the lives of Japanese citizens. (p.87) Such commemoration would be unacceptable for the LDP, as well as for the Japan Bereaved Families Association, because they perceived the war as a heroic act of self-defense. Second, the government’s compensation scheme for war-related damages was predicated on a distinction between military-related and civilian populations. Throughout the postwar period, the government had limited compensation to former military-related personnel and their bereaved families as a way to honor their sacrifices for the country. If the government granted compensation to A-bomb victims who were civilians, this would legitimate compensation claims from many other civilian victims, such as those who had suffered from aerial bombings of major Japanese cities by the Allied powers. Last but not least, the government treated Japanese and foreign A-bomb victims equally, so long as the latter resided in Japan. This was an exception to the government’s compensation scheme that required citizenship as part of its eligibility criteria.61 If the government compensated A-bomb victims—both Japanese and non-Japanese—that could open the doors to compensation claims by a wide variety of foreign victims of Japan’s past wrongdoings. This was why the LDP was determined to stop the JSP’s attempt to provide government compensation for A-bomb victims.

In the end, the JSP accommodated the LDP’s demand, given the latter’s numerical dominance: the LDP had 228 and 109 seats in the Houses of Representatives and Councillors, respectively, whereas the JSP had 77 and 73.62 When Murayama’s coalition government submitted the Bill Regarding Relief for A-bomb Victims (Genshi Bakudan Hibakusha ni taisuru Engo ni kansuru Hōritsuan) in November 1994, it included in the bill the phrase “government responsibility” (kuni no sekinin), instead of “government compensation” (kokka hoshō). Minister of Welfare Ide Shōichi offered the following definition of government responsibility: “If we use the phrase ‘government compensation,’ people will likely interpret it as referring to compensation based on the government’s responsibility for having started the war. According to such an interpretation, there would be various problems, such as an in equality between A-bomb victims and other civilian war victims. In light of these considerations, we agreed not to include the concept of ‘government compensation’ in the bill.”63

Some of the opposition parties immediately challenged the proposed bill. Yamamoto Takashi, a member of the Japan New Party, criticized the JSP for giving up its longstanding commitment to government compensation for A-bomb victims. He also rejected the phrase “government responsibility” as (p.88) vacuous because it “best exemplifies the JSP’s compromise [with the LDP]. The phrase makes no sense at all. The government was already responsible for implementing the existing two acts [regarding A-bomb victims].”64 Katsuki Kenji of the Democratic Socialist Party also wondered what the JSP would do for other civilian war victims: “In the past, the JSP argued that the government should compensate civilian victims because the government had mobilized almost all civilians for the war. The JSP even proposed bills to compensate civilian war victims. … Are you going to give up the Bill on Relief for Civilian Victims of War time Disasters (Senji Saigai Engo Hōan)?” In response, Murayama conceded that the JSP had to give up its commitment to compensation of civilian war victims because the JSP was now part of the coalition government and had to make compromises with its coalition partners.65

Thus, even though the JSP finally gained access to the government, it was unable to change the nationalist logic of postwar Japan’s compensation scheme, partly because its mobilizing structures had weakened, and partly because its control of the government was compromised by the LDP, a powerful coalition partner. But the political struggle over Japan’s official commemoration was not over yet. It only intensified as the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Asia-Pacific War approached.

Ramifications of Compromised Apologies and Compensation

When the LDP, the JSP, and the New Party Sakigake formed a coalition government in June 1994, they agreed to adopt a resolution on the fiftieth anniversary of the war’s end. But the three parties had very different ideas about the resolution. The JSP wanted to frame the resolution in terms of apology for Japan’s past wrongdoings, whereas the LDP wanted a more forward-looking resolution to emphasize Japan’s determination to strive for peace while minimizing references to the past.66

To promote their own version of resolution, LDP members created the Association of Diet Members for the Fiftieth Anniversary of the War’s End (Shūsen Gojūnen Kokkai Giin Renmei) in December 1994. In its statement of purpose, the association emphasized the importance of remembering that “peace and prosperity that our country enjoys today is built on two million war dead who sacrificed their precious lives for defending Japan and peace of Asia in the time of the national crisis.”67 Association president Okuno Seiryō also stated that it was senseless for Japan alone to apologize when the United States and Russia did not apologize for the atomic bombings and (p.89) the invasion of Manchukuo, respectively.68 The association included two LDP members of Murayama Tomiichi’s cabinet, Hashimoto Ryūtarō (minister of international trade and industry) and Tamazawa Tokuichirō (director general of defense). Nearly half of the LDP Diet members had joined the association by March 1995.

Concurrently, the Japan Bereaved Families Association lobbied prefectural councils to adopt resolutions to honor and thank war dead rather than to apologize for Japan’s past wrongdoings. By March 1995, eighteen prefectural councils adopted such resolutions.69 The association also launched the Citizen Committee on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the War’s End (Shūsen Gojūshūnen Kokumin Iinkai) with other NGOs to collect signatures supporting the LDP version of resolution to emphasize Japan’s determination to strive for peace.

Given the dominance of the LDP within Murayama’s coalition government, the LDP’s position was favored in the Resolution to Renew the Determination for Peace on the Basis of Lessons Learned from History (Rekishi wo Kyōkun ni Heiwa eno Ketsui wo Aratanisuru Ketsugi) submitted to the House of Representatives in early June 1995. The proposed resolution stopped short of offering an “apology,” though it incorporated the JSP’s position commemorating Japan’s past wrongdoings. Specifically, the resolution stated,

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, this House offers its sincere condolences to those who fell in action and victims of wars and similar actions all over the world. Solemnly reflecting upon many instances of colonial rule and acts of aggression in the modern history of the world, and recognizing that Japan carried out those acts in the past, inflicting pain and suffering upon the peoples of other countries, especially in Asia, the Members of this House express a sense of deep remorse. … This House expresses its resolve, under the banner of eternal peace enshrined in the Constitution of Japan, to join hands with other nations of the world and to pave the way to a future that allows all human beings to live together.70

The resolution passed the House of Representatives in June, but 241 out of 502 House members boycotted the vote, including fifty LDP members and fourteen JSP members.71 LDP members boycotted the vote because they were opposed to any resolution regarding the Asia-Pacific War, whereas JSP (p.90) members did so because they felt the resolution did not go far enough in acknowledging Japan’s past wrongdoings.

Since the Diet resolution only expressed “deep remorse,” Murayama decided to offer his own official apology as Japan’s prime minister. He consulted with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in drafting his statement and persuaded LDP members in his cabinet to approve it.72 Given the unanimous approval by his cabinet members, Murayama issued the following apology as Japan’s official position on August 15, 1995:

Japan, following a mistaken national policy, advanced along the road to war, only to ensnare the Japanese people in a fateful crisis, and, through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations. In the hope that no such mistake be made in the future, I regard, in a spirit of humility, these irrefutable facts of history, and express here once again my feelings of deep remorse and state my heartfelt apology. Allow me also to express my feelings of profound mourning for all victims, both at home and abroad, of that history.73

In response to Murayama’s apology, government officials across the Asia-Pacific issued generally positive statements. Australian prime minister Paul Keating, Philippine president Fidel Ramos, and White House press secretary Mike McCurry, among others, welcomed Murayama’s apology and stated that it would improve Japan’s relations with former enemy countries in the region.74 South Korea and China, however, expressed more cautious reactions. South Korea’s Foreign Ministry planned “to carefully observe whether Japan’s subsequent attitude will support Prime Minister Murayama’s apology.”75 China’s Foreign Ministry pointed out that “there are still people in Japanese politics and society who do not adopt the correct attitude toward the history problem,” though it praised Murayama’s action for “expressing deep remorse for Japan’s past colonial rule and aggression and offering an apology to Asian peoples.”76

In addition to the official apology, Murayama and other JSP cabinet members planned to create a fund for a wide variety of victims of Japan’s past wrongdoings, whereby the government and the public would each take responsibility for a half of the fund. For the JSP members, this plan was meant not to evade the Japanese government’s war responsibility but to express genuinely nationwide atonement for foreign victims by enlisting Japanese (p.91) citizens. In the end, however, they judged that their plan was infeasible both politically and financially. Instead, they decided to focus on former comfort women, since this issue had become the center of international controversies in the early 1990s.77

In December 1994, a subcommittee within Murayama’s coalition government released the “First Report on the So-called War time Comfort Women Issue,” recommending the establishment of a fund based on contributions from both the government and citizens to offer nationwide atonement for the suffering of former comfort women.78 But the report was strongly criticized by the Ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs and the majority of LDP members. They insisted that all issues of compensation had been resolved upon normalization of diplomatic relations. Confronted with the strong opposition, the JSP again compromised with the LDP. Instead of mandating the government to contribute half of the fund as originally proposed, the JSP and the LDP decided to hold the government responsible for the expenses associated with managing the fund, such as staff salaries and advertising costs. Japanese citizens, in turn, would be responsible for making actual monetary contributions to be used as “atonement money” (tsugunai kin) for former comfort women.

In June 1995, Chief Cabinet Secretary Igarashi Kōzō announced the government’s plan for the Asian Peace and Friendship Fund for Women (Josei no tameno Ajia Heiwa Yūkō Kikin). Igarashi explained that the purpose of the fund was “to offer a heartfelt apology for our country’s act that inflicted incurable pains on many women and deeply wounded their honor and dignity.” He then summarized the main goals of the fund as follows: the fund was to collect donations from the public to offer nationwide atonement for former comfort women as well as to take responsibility for providing medical and welfare relief for them through government funding; when carrying out the fund’s activities, the government must clearly express remorse and apology for former comfort women and collect historical materials related to comfort women and use them for history education.79 The fund was officially renamed the Asian Women’s Fund (Ajia Josei Kikin) and launched in July. Promoters of the fund, including well-known university professors and former Diet members, published a call for monetary contributions from Japanese citizens in major national newspapers.

In their call, the promoters frankly admitted disagreements among themselves. Some insisted on government compensation, whereas others thought such compensation would be difficult from a legal point of view. (p.92) Nevertheless, the promoters were “unanimous on one point: we have to act as soon as possible because little time is left for aging victims.” They continued:

We demand that the government should make every effort to uncover historical facts and offer a heartfelt apology, so that victims of the “comfort women” system can regain their honor and dignity. … But the most important thing, we believe, is that as many Japanese citizens as possible will face the suffering of the victims and express atonement from the bottom of their hearts. … Prewar Japan created “war time comfort women.” But Japan is not a country owned solely by the government. Japan is a country created by every citizen who inherits the past, lives in the present, and envisions the future.

The promoters thus called for “atonement by the whole of Japanese citizenry” (zenkokuminteki tsugunai).80

Within a year, the Asian Women’s Fund collected about four hundred million yen from Japanese citizens. The fund then began negotiations with five governments that officially acknowledged the existence of former comfort women in their countries: the Netherlands, the Philippines, Indonesia, South Korea, and Taiwan. The fund planned to offer two million yen for each former comfort woman, as well as different amounts of medical and welfare support according to living standards of different countries. In addition, members of the fund planned to deliver atonement money with a “letter of apology” (owabi no tegami) signed by Japan’s prime minister, which included the following statements: “I, Japan’s Prime Minister, offer a heartfelt apology and express remorse for all former military comfort women who suffered great pains and incurable physical and mental wounds. We shall not evade our responsibility for the past and the future. Our country must embrace moral responsibility, take our apology and remorse seriously, and confront our past and teach it to future generations.”81

From the very beginning, however, the Asian Women’s Fund received heavy criticism from both Japanese and foreign NGOs that supported former comfort women. The most intense criticism came from South Korea. All prominent women’s NGOs in South Korea, including the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan and the Korean Church Women United, rejected the fund. The Korean Council president Yun Jeong Ok criticized it as the Japanese government’s (p.93) “attempt to evade its responsibility for the crime [the comfort women system] by asking Japanese citizens to contribute donations. … The fund will not resolve the victims’ resentment (han). It will not liberate Japan from the crime that its government committed, either.”82 Then, in December 1995, Japanese and foreign NGOs organized an international conference, where they rejected atonement money from Japanese citizens and demanded government compensation.83 In short, instead of resolving the controversy over former comfort women, the Asian Women’s Fund galvanized it.

Growing Strains in Japan’s Relations with China

Relations between Japan and China, by contrast, were friendly on the surface. After the Chinese military suppressed the democratization movement in June 1989, the United States and many other countries, especially in Western Eu rope, condemned the Chinese government and imposed sanctions. The Japanese government, too, suspended its loans to China but made an effort not to isolate China in international society. In August 1989, only two months after the Tiananmen Square protests, the Japanese government resumed its loans to China and, a month later, delegates of the Alliance of Diet Members for Japan-China Friendship visited Beijing.84 Then, Prime Minister Kaifu Toshiki visited China in August 1991, reciprocated by General Secretary Jiang Zemin’s visit to Japan in April 1992. These diplomatic exchanges between the two countries culminated in Emperor Akihito’s visit to China in October 1992 to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of normalization.

On these occasions, both the Japanese and Chinese sides minimized references to their past conflict and emphasized the importance of future cooperation. At the welcome dinner for Emperor Akihito on October 23, 1992, President Yang Shangkun stated, “I regret that the modern history of China-Japan relations had an unfortunate period from which the Chinese people suffered greatly. It will serve best interests of the peoples of both China and Japan if we remember the past to draw lessons from it.”85 He then devoted much of his speech to reviewing friendly relations between the two countries over the past two decades. Emperor Akihito responded by expressing his “deep sorrow” (fukaku kanashimi) over the unfortunate period and mentioned the Japanese people’s efforts to build a peaceful country based on their “deep remorse” (fukai hansei) for the war.86 Furthermore, when Prime Minister Hosokawa Morihito met with President Jiang Zemin in (p.94) Seattle in November 1993, Jiang praised Hosokawa’s apology for Japan’s past aggression as an “excellent attitude toward history” and stated, “Even though we had an unhappy period in our long history of friendly relations, our relations will improve if we take a forward-looking attitude.”87

By the mid-1990s, however, the Chinese government had changed its commemorative position toward Japan. When Prime Minister Murayama Tomiichi visited China in May 1995, Jiang Zemin stated, “It is unacceptable that some people in Japan had a wrong understanding of the Asia-Pacific War.”88 Here, Jiang referred to the LDP members who had mobilized against Hosokawa’s statement on the “war of aggression.” But his strongly worded statement also reflected the Chinese government’s campaign for patriotic education that had intensified since the Tiananmen Square protests.89 In July 1989, right after the government suppressed the protests, the National Education Committee had launched the “Three Love Education Program” to counteract the democratization movement by emphasizing love for the Communist Party, the socialist fatherland, and the People’s Liberation Army.90 Over the following years, the Chinese government had issued multiple directives to strengthen patriotic education. As part of the patriotic education campaign, Chinese history textbooks came to emphasize national humiliation brought by Western imperialism and the eventual triumph of the Chinese people. Among the imperial powers that had humiliated the Chinese people, Japan was marked out as the paradigmatic devil that had been historically inferior to China.91

Concurrently, in anticipation of the fiftieth anniversary of China’s victory over Japan, the Chinese government built new war-related museums and renovated the existing ones: the September 18th Historical Museum, to commemorate Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931, was opened in 1991, and the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall was significantly expanded in 1995. Then, on September 3, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Japan’s official surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri—and thereby China’s victory over Japan—President Jiang gave a speech at the Great Hall of the People: “The Japanese military killed and injured thirty-five million Chinese people. More than three hundred thousand people were killed in the Nanjing Massacre alone. … There is a discourse in Japan that not only denies the war of aggression and colonial rule but also glorifies them. … Japan can only win trust from Asia and international society, as well as prevent another tragedy in history, only if the country learns from the history, (p.95) atones for its crimes of aggression, and maintains the path of peaceful development.”92

While the Chinese government was promoting patriotic education, Chinese citizens also began to seek individual compensation for war-related damages from the Japanese government. This redress movement had already emerged in September 1988 when two hundred residents in Shandong Province had submitted a petition to the Japanese embassy in Beijing, demanding compensation for the atrocities that the Japanese military had committed in their village in 1944.93 Then, in March 1991, activist Tong Zeng submitted to the National People’s Congress a petition arguing that since the 1972 Joint Communique had discarded only the Chinese government’s compensation claims, Chinese citizens still retained individual compensation claims against Japan.94 Tong’s petition was rejected at the 1992 congress, but three years later, when the 1995 National People’s Congress was held at the height of celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of China’s victory over Japan, Foreign Minister Qian Qichen stated that individual Chinese citizens still retained compensation claims for their war-related damages.95 The Chinese government thus changed its position on compensation to accommodate the growing demand from its citizens and align it with the nationwide campaign for patriotism that singled out Japan as the worst imperialist aggressor.

Given the government’s permission and the help of Japanese lawyers, a total of ten Chinese former forced laborers and bereaved family members filed compensation claims against the Japanese construction company Kashima at the Tokyo District Court in June 1995.96 The Chinese plaintiffs demanded that Kashima offer apologies and compensation for forcing them and their family members to work under abusive conditions at Hanaoka Mine during the war. In August, four Chinese former comfort women also sued the Japanese government, demanding apology and compensation. In the following months, more Chinese people came forward to file lawsuits against the Japanese government and corporations, including victims of the Nanjing Massacre, the 731 Unit, and indiscriminate aerial bombings.97

Thus, the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Asia-Pacific War did not bring closure to the history problem between Japan and China. Rather, the history problem began to simmer, as more and more Chinese victims filed compensation lawsuits, supported by the Chinese government, which increasingly commemorated the Chinese people’s struggle against Japan’s (p.96) imperialist aggression as the most important historical episode in modern Chinese history. Put another way, the growing pressure from China in the mid-1990s further constrained political opportunities for proponents of nationalist commemoration inside Japan. But this changing structure of political opportunities at the international level galvanized Japanese nationalists, who perceived their government as giving in to foreign pressures.

Nationalist Counterattacks: Educational Implications of the History Problem

Just as the history problem was deepening in East Asia, Murayama Tomiichi resigned from the post of Japan’s prime minister in January 1996. He decided to resign partly because he felt his government had fulfilled its historic mission to offer apologies and relief to Japan’s foreign victims. Besides, friction within his own JSP had intensified since it lost a substantial number of seats in the House of Councillors in July 1995, and this had made it difficult for Murayama to lead the coalition.98 Upon Murayama’s resignation, the coalition of the JSP, the LDP, and the New Party Sakigake chose LDP chairman Hashimoto Ryūtarō as prime minister. Hashimoto had served as president of the Japan Bereaved Families Association between 1993 and 1995 and joined the Association of the Diet Members for the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Asia-Pacific War’s End. Given his strong commitment to honor Japanese war dead, Hashimoto visited the Yasukuni Shrine in July 1996, for the first time in the twelve years since Nakasone Yasuhiro had suspended a prime ministerial visit in response to strong criticisms from South Korea and China.

Soon after Hashimoto’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement requesting that the Japanese government consider “feelings of the governments and peoples that suffered from Japan’s imperialist aggression in the past.”99 More than a dozen South Korean Congress members also protested in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul, arguing, “Prime Minister Hashimoto’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine amounts to the second act of aggression that ignores victims and bereaved families who suffered from Japan’s atrocities during World War II.”100 Similarly, China’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement to reiterate the official position: “The Yasukuni Shrine honors militarist leaders, such as Tōjō Hideki. Prime Minister Hashimoto deeply hurt feelings of Chinese and other Asian peoples who had suffered greatly from Japan’s militarism.”101

(p.97) Hashimoto argued that his visit was not an official one but only “personal” (shiteki), motivated by his wish to pray for war dead, including his cousin and some former neighbors who were enshrined. He also insisted that his personal visit had nothing to do with either the Japanese government’s official position on the Asia-Pacific War or Class A war criminals.102 To mitigate the international criticisms, however, Hashimoto decided not to visit the shrine again during his tenure. In addition, Hashimoto could not afford to let the controversy over the Yasukuni Shrine sidetrack his coalition government’s policy agenda to cope with the worst economic recession since 1945. The recession affected the country at large, creating widespread feelings of national crisis. According to government statistics, the percentage of Japanese citizens who thought the country was headed in the wrong direction increased from 31.4 percent to 72.2 percent between 1990 and 1997.103 The number of suicides also jumped from 24,391 in 1997 to 32,863 in 1998 and continued to exceed 30,000 annually.104 The severe economic recession, the growing feeling of anomie, and the seeming incompetence of the government made many people lose confidence in Japan’s future, and the 1990s were later called “the lost decade.”

While Hashimoto’s government was busy implementing political reforms to meet the unprecedented economic and social challenges, conservative politicians tried to undo the logic of cosmopolitanism that had been partially incorporated into Japan’s official commemoration. In fact, nationalist counterattacks had already begun in August 1995, when the LDP’s History Investigation Committee published The Comprehensive Evaluation of the Greater East Asia War (Daitōa Sensō no sōkatsu). This edited volume collected transcriptions of seminars between October 1993 and January 1995, wherein LDP members had engaged in discussions with nineteen guest speakers, including Tanaka Masaaki, the author of books denying the Nanjing Massacre, and Nishio Kanji, who was later to become the first president of the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform. In the edited volume, the guest speakers and LDP members justified the Asia-Pacific War as Japan’s act of self-defense against Western imperial powers, and they argued that Japan had helped Asian peoples gain independence from their colonial rulers after the war. Moreover, they rejected the Tokyo Trial as “victor’s justice” and criticized postwar Japanese education for propagating the masochistic, Tokyo Trial version of history. As Itagaki Tadashi put it in the volume’s epilogue, “I cannot but feel overwhelmed by the critical situation (p.98) of the Japanese people’s historical view shaped by the Occupation policies and leftist-biased postwar education. I must say this kind of education is wrong because it fails to cultivate in next generations pride in their country and joy of being Japanese.”105

This growing concern about the education of Japanese youth was perhaps most systematically articulated by Fujioka Nobukatsu, a professor of education at the University of Tokyo. In April 1994, he began serializing articles in Social Studies Education (Shakaika kyōiku) to outline what he called the “liberal historical view” (jiyūshugi shikan), and in June 1995, he launched the Liberal History Research Group (Jiyūshugi Shikan Kenkyūkai). The purpose of liberal history was to write a new history of Japan by rejecting the two types of historical interpretation that had dominated postwar Japan: “the Tokyo Trial historical view that describes Japan as the only bad guy and the Pro-Greater-East-Asia-War historical view (Daitōa Sensō kōtei shikan) that asserts Japan committed no wrongs.”106 According to Fujioka, these two ideologically charged historical views—describing Japan as categorically either right or wrong—prevented Japanese citizens from developing a more mature historical view. As Fujioka put it, liberal history was “liberal” in the sense of being “free from all ideologies,” so that “if something is proven to be a fact, practitioners of liberal history should be ready to accept it, whether they like it or not.”107 At first glance, Fujioka’s manifesto of liberal history simply sought a more empirically rigorous approach to the history of the Asia-Pacific War. But, in reality, his liberal historical view attacked only “the Tokyo Trial historical view that denied anything national” and instead advocated “healthy nationalism” as an essential ingredient for history education in Japan.108

While members of the LDP and the Liberal History Research Group began to mobilize their counterattacks against the greater degree of contrition adopted by the Japanese government, the Ministry of Education announced the results of the latest round of textbook inspection in June 1996: all history textbooks approved for junior high schools now included descriptions of comfort women and expanded descriptions of atrocities that Japanese troops had committed during the Asia-Pacific War, such as the Nanjing Massacre. This significant change in history textbooks happened not only because of the efforts by non-LDP prime ministers and NGOs commemorating foreign victims of Japan’s past wrongdoings, but also because of Ienaga Saburō’s lawsuits against textbook inspection. In January 1984, Ienaga had filed his third lawsuit after his draft history textbook (p.99) for high schools had been rejected during the 1982 cycle of textbook inspection. This time Ienaga and his lawyers had focused on eight items that the Ministry of Education had disapproved, six of which had pertained to the Asia-Pacific War: (1) Japan’s aggression against China, (2) the Nanjing Massacre, (3) the Korean people’s resistance against Japan’s colonial rule, (4) the Japanese military’s war time atrocities, (5) Unit 731 and its biological experiments, and (6) the Battle of Okinawa.109 In October 1993, the Tokyo High Court had ruled that, among the eight items in Ienaga’s textbook, descriptions of the Nanjing Massacre and rapes of Chinese women (as part of the Japanese military’s war time atrocities) had been illegally disapproved in the textbook-inspection process.110 Ienaga then had appealed to the Supreme Court and argued that the Ministry of Education had exceeded its prerogative by having disapproved the other items, whereas the ministry had decided not to contest the high court’s ruling. This led to the 1995–1996 cycle of textbook inspection for junior high and high schools permitting increased descriptions of Japan’s past wrongdoings.111

The results of the 1996 textbook inspection, however, prompted Fujioka Nobukatsu to submit an open letter to the Ministry of Education, demanding that the descriptions of comfort women be removed. In his letter, Fujioka stated that the descriptions were misleading because they gave the impression that the Japanese military had forcibly drafted women to work at comfort stations, even though facts about comfort women were still disputed among historians. He concluded his letter by mentioning cases of students who had internalized the masochistic historical view: “Some junior high school students think Japan is the most evil country in the world. There are also female students who feel ashamed about being Japanese. The unbalanced and masochistic history education is a serious crime.”112 Then, in December 1996, Fujioka and other university professors and writers formed the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform (JSHTR).

For these LDP politicians and conservative intellectuals, the history problem was no longer simply about the past but also about the future of the Japanese nation because it concerned the hearts and minds of younger Japanese citizens. Moreover, they regarded Japan’s domestic problems—the economic recession and social anomie—as coterminous with the history problem. They felt that the domestic problems could be overcome if Japanese citizens became more patriotic and willing to contribute to their country. They then placed the blame for the perceived lack of patriotism squarely on the “masochistic” Tokyo Trial historical view that the Allied powers had (p.100) imposed on Japan during the Occupation. To combat this historical view as a root cause of the domestic and international problems facing Japan, they targeted history education as the key for reinvigorating patriotism and thereby overcoming the problems.

Growing Cosmopolitanism and the Escalating History Problem

During this period, Japan’s official commemoration of the Asia-Pacific War became more cosmopolitan, though the logic of nationalism remained dominant. Since political opportunities increasingly acquired an international dimension in the post–Cold War period, even the LDP government had to adopt contrite gestures, precisely because doing so was necessary to remove the obstacle of the history problem from its nationalist quest for making Japan a regional leader. Moreover, the LDP lost its monopoly access to the government, and this created a political opportunity for the two non-LDP prime ministers, Hosokawa and Murayama, to promote the cosmopolitan logic of commemoration. Murayama in particular offered a decisive apology in August 1995, and his government created the Asian Women’s Fund to provide relief for former comfort women.

Coterminous with the changing structure of international relations and Japanese politics was the growth of the transnational network consisting of Japanese NGOs and South Korean and Chinese victims of Japan’s past wrongdoings. While the transnational network had originally emerged to provide relief only for South Korean A-bomb victims, it expanded to include more actors, such as former comfort women and forced labors, and gained momentum in the early 1990s. The expanded mobilizing structures for cosmopolitan commemoration exerted indirect influence on Japan’s official commemoration even when the LDP still single-handedly controlled the government, and especially when the JSP headed the ruling coalition. By making the suffering of foreign victims widely known, the transnational network also helped, in conjunction with Ienaga’s textbook lawsuits, to make history education more cosmopolitan, that is, to increase descriptions of Japan’s past wrongdoings in history textbooks.

These attempts to promote cosmopolitanism in Japan’s official commemoration, however, were compromised by the LDP. Given the power asymmetry between the JSP and the LDP, the former was unable to fully exploit the political opportunity—access to the government—to significantly alter Japan’s official commemoration. Put another way, due to the JSP’s weak position, the growth of mobilizing structures for cosmopolitan commemoration (p.101) at the transnational level was not effectively translated into Japan’s official commemoration. Thus, the resultant compromise of nationalism and cosmopolitanism in Japan’s official commemoration contributed to the history problem’s full development. On the one hand, South Korean and Chinese victims and their Japanese supporters felt that the Japanese government did not go far enough in adopting cosmopolitanism, and they continued to demand apologies and government compensation. On the other hand, conservative politicians and NGOs felt that Japan’s official commemoration went too far in the cosmopolitan direction, disrespecting Japanese war dead who had sacrificed their lives to defend Japan. Galvanized by the growing South Korean and Chinese demands for apologies and compensation, these proponents of nationalist commemoration began to openly challenge the evidential bases of the victims’ demands and raised the stakes of the history problem by focusing on its educational implications for future generations.


(1) Takashi Yoshida, The Making of the “Rape of Nanking”: History and Memory in Japan, China, and the United States (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 130.

(2) Asahi shinbun, December 13, 1988.

(3) “Nagasaki Peace Declaration, August 9, 1990,” http://www1.city.nagasaki.nagasaki.jp/peace/japanese/appeal/history/1990.html.

(4) “Hiroshima Peace Declaration, August 6, 1991,” http://www.city.hiroshima.lg.jp/www/contents/0000000000000/1111658488735/index.html.

(5) “Nagasaki Peace Declaration, August 9, 1991,” http://www1.city.nagasaki.nagasaki.jp/peace/japanese/appeal/history/1991.html.

(6) Asahi shinbun, August 5, 1990.

(7) Thomas U. Berger, War, Guilt, and World Politics after World War II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 174.

(8) Asahi shinbun, May 26, 1990.

(9) Ibid., September 7, 1984. For discussion of different word choices used by Japanese prime ministers, see Jane W. Yamazaki, Japanese Apologies for World War II: A Rhetorical Study (London: Routledge, 2006).

(10) Asahi shinbun, May 25, 1990.

(11) Both the Japanese original and English translation of the Japanese Constitution is available at the website of the National Diet Library, http://www.ndl.go.jp/constitution/e/etc/c01.html.

(12) For a detailed sequence of events surrounding the PKO bill, see Yoshitaka Sasaki, Umi wo wataru Jiētai: PKO rippō to seijikenryoku (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1992).

(13) Asahi shinbun, May 4, 1991.

(14) Ibid., May 3, 1991.

(15) Ibid., May 5, 1991.

(16) Ibid., September 20, 1991.

(17) House of Councillors International Peacekeeping Cooperation Committee, May 29, 1992.

(18) House of Representatives Plenary Session, June 15, 1992.

(19) Historians have offered varying estimates of the total number of “comfort women,” ranging from 20,000 to 200,000. For a comprehensive summary of the historical facts about comfort women, see Yoshiaki Yoshimi and Fumiko Kawata, eds., “Jūgun ianfu” wo meguru 30 no uso to shinjitsu (p.217) (Tokyo: Ōtsuki Shoten, 1997); “Japanese Military and Comfort Women” at the Digital Museum: the “Comfort Women” Issue and the Asian Women’s Fund, http://www.awf.or.jp/1/index.html.

(20) House of Councillors Bud get Committee, April 1, 1991.

(21) Jeong Ok Yun, Heiwa wo kikyūshite: “ianfu” higaisha no songen kaifuku eno ayumi (Tokyo: Hakutakusha, 2003), 280.

(22) House of Councillors Foreign Affairs Committee, December 18, 1990.

(23) House of Councillors Bud get Committee, June 6, 1990.

(24) Asahi shinbun, August 15, 1991.

(25) Ibid., December 6, 1991.

(26) The complaint is archived at the Digital Museum, http://www.awf.or.jp/4/lawsuit.html.

(27) House of Councillors Bud get Committee, August 27, 1991.

(28) Asahi shinbun, January 12, 1992.

(29) The document is archived at the Digital Museum, http://www.awf.or.jp/1/facts-04.html.

(30) Asahi shinbun, January 16, 1992.

(31) Ibid., January 14, 1992.

(32) Ibid., January 17, 1992.

(33) Ibid., January 18, 1992.

(34) House of Representatives Plenary Session, January 28, 1992.

(35) In total, the Japanese government found more than 260 documents related to comfort women. See “Historical Documents Related to Comfort Women,” http://www.awf.or.jp/6/document.html.

(36) “Chief Cabinet Secretary Kono’s Statement, August 4, 1993,” http://www.awf.or.jp/2/survey.html.

(37) For a detailed sequence of political struggles that followed, see Masumi Ishikawa and Jirō Yamaguchi, Sengo seijishi (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2010), 175–180.

(38) Ibid., 179.

(39) Asahi shinbun, July 30, 1993.

(40) Ibid., August 11, 1993.

(41) House of Representatives Bud get Committee, December 29, 1985.

(42) Asahi shinbun, August 16, 1993.

(43) Ibid.

(44) Rekishi Kentō Iinkai, ed., Daitōa Sensō no sōkatsu (Tokyo: Tendensha, 1995), 443.

(45) Ibid., 444.

(46) House of Representatives Plenary Session, August 23, 1993.

(47) House of Representatives Bud get Session, October 6, 1993.

(48) House of Councillors Bud get Committee, October 7, 1993.

(p.218) (49) House of Councillors Cabinet Committee, November 9, 1993.

(50) House of Councillors Bud get Committee, October 7, 1993; House of Councillors Cabinet Committee, November 9, 1993.

(51) Asahi shinbun, November 6 and 7, 1993.

(52) Ibid., March 21, 1994.

(53) House of Representatives Plenary Session, August 25, 1993; House of Councillors Plenary Session, August 26, 1993; House of Representatives Bud get Committee, October 4, 1993.

(54) Asahi shinbun, April 9, 1994.

(56) Nihon Hidankyōshi Henshū Iinkai, Futatabi hibakusha wo tsukuruna, vol. 1 (Tokyo: Akebi Shobō, 2009), 227.

(57) Ibid., 268.

(58) Asahi shinbun, July 8, 1994.

(59) House of Representatives Plenary Session, July 22, 1994.

(60) Tomiichi Murayama, Murayama Tomiichi no shōgenroku (Tokyo: Shinseisha Shuppan, 2011), 212–213.

(61) For a summary chart of compensation-related laws and their eligibility requirements, see Nobumasa Tanaka, Hiroshi Tanaka, and Nagami Hata, Izoku to sengo (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1995), 133.

(63) House of Representatives Welfare Committee, November 25, 1994.

(64) House of Representatives Plenary Session, November 25, 1994.

(65) House of Representatives Welfare Committee, December 8, 1994.

(66) Sumio Hatano, Kokka to rekishi (Tokyo: Chūō Kōron Sha, 2011), 176–177.

(67) An excerpt from “Statement of Purpose,” December 1, 1994, reprinted in Tanaka, Tanaka, and Hata, Izoku, 237–238.

(68) Asahi shinbun, March 16, 1995.

(69) Sumio Hatano, “Izoku no meisō: Nihon Izokukai to ‘kioku no kyōgō,’” in Kioku to shiteno Pearl Harbor, ed. Chihiro Hosoya, Akira Irie, and Ryo Ōshiba (Tokyo: Minerva Shobō, 2004), 266–267.

(70) “Resolution to Renew the Determination for Peace on the Basis of Lessons Learned from History, June 9, 1995,” http://www.mofa.go.jp/announce/press/pm/murayama/address9506.html.

(73) “Statement by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama ‘On the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the War’s End’, August 15, 1995,” http://www.mofa.go.jp/announce/press/pm/murayama/9508.html.

(p.219) (74) Asahi shinbun, August 16, 1995.

(75) Ibid.

(76) Ibid.

(77) Yasuaki Ōnuma, Mitsuko Shimomura, Haruki Wada, eds., “Ianfu” mondai to Ajia Josei Kikin (Tokyo: Tōshindō 1998), chap. 1.

(78) “Establishment of the AW Fund, and the Basic Nature of Its Projects,” http://www.awf.or.jp/6/statement-05.html.

(79) “Announcement of the Purpose and Activities of the ‘Fund,’ June 14, 1995,” http://www.awf.or.jp/6/statement-07.html.

(80) “Call for Contributions to the Asian Women’s Fund, July 18, 1995,” http://www.awf.or.jp/2/foundation-01.html.

(81) “Prime Minister’s Letter of Apology for Former ‘Comfort Women,’” http://www.awf.or.jp/2/foundation-03.html.

(82) An excerpt from Yun’s speech in Kurume City, Fukuoka Prefecture on November 25, 1995, reprinted in Yun, Heiwa, 144–145.

(83) Asahi shinbun, December 4, 1995.

(84) Kazuko Mouri, Nitchū kankei: sengo kara shinjidaie (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2006), 120.

(85) “Speech by President Yang Shangkun, October 23, 1992,” reprinted in Kazankai, Nitchū kankei kihon shiryōshū, 1972–2008 (Tokyo: Kazankai, 2008), 375–376.

(86) “Speech by Emperor Hirohito” on October 23, 1992, reprinted in Kazankai, Nitchū kankei, 19722008, 377–78.

(87) Yomiuri shinbun, November 19, 1993.

(88) Ibid., May 3, 1995.

(89) Christopher R. Hughes, Chinese Nationalism in the Global Era (London: Routledge, 2006), chap. 2.

(90) Keiji Kinoshita, “Chūgoku no aikokushugi kyōiku,” in Kironitatsu Nitchū kankei: kako tono taiwa nirai eno mosaku, ed. Ryōko Iechika, Yasuhiro Matsuda, and Ruicong Duan (Kyoto: Keiyō Shobō, 2007), 117.

(91) Peter Hays Gries, China’s New Nationalism: Pride, Politics, and Diplomacy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004); Yinan He, The Search for Reconciliation: Sino-Japanese and German-Polish Relations since World War II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 247–248.

(92) People’s Daily, September 4, 1995. For a discussion of the ideological strategic thinking behind the Chinese government’s patriotic campaign, see Yongnian Zheng, Discovering Chinese Nationalism in China: Modernization, Identity, and International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), chap. 5.

(p.220) (94) Mari Nakaoka, “Nihon no sengo baishō/hoshō mondai,” in Kironitatsu Nitchū kankei: kako tono taiwa mirai eno mosaku, ed. Ryōko Iechika, Yasuhiro Matsuda, and Ruicong Duan (Kyoto: Kōyō Shobō, 2007), 101.

(95) Yoshikazu Shimizu, Chūgoku wa naze hannichi ni nattaka (Tokyo: Bungei Shunjū, 2003), 166.

(96) For a detailed sequence of interactions between Japan and China over war-related compensation, see Caroline Rose, Sino-Japanese Relations: Facing the Past, Looking to the Future? (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2005), chap. 4.

(97) For a list of lawsuits by Asian victims of Japan’s war time atrocities between 1990 and 2003, see Center for Research and Documentation on Japan’s War Responsibility, “Postwar Compensation Cases in Japan,” http://space.geocities.jp/japanwarres/center/hodo/hodo07.htm.

(99) Asahi shinbun, July 30.

(100) Ibid., August 2, 1996.

(101) Ibid., July 30, 1996; People’s Daily, July 31, 1996.

(102) Asahi shinbun, July 31, 1996.

(103) Cabinet Office, “Public Opinion Surveys,” http://www8.cao.go.jp/survey/index-sha.html.

(106) Nobukatsu Fujioka, Jiyūshugi shikan towa nanika: kyōkasho ga oshienai rekishi no mikata (Tokyo: PHP Kenkyūjo, 1997), 4.

(108) Ibid., 139, 179.

(109) Ienaga Kyōkashososhō Bengodan, ed., Ienaga kyōkasho saiban: 32-nen ni wataru bengodan katsudō no sōkatsu (Tokyo: Nihon Hyōronsha, 1998), 167–169.

(110) Ibid., 197–198.

(111) Compared with history textbooks used in junior high and high schools between 1983 and 1985, history textbooks between 1993 and 1995 increased the number of pages devoted to Japan’s colonial rule of Korea and aggression against China. For a detailed comparison, see Yoshifumi Tawara, ed., Kenshō 15-nen Sensō to chūkō rekishi kyōkasho: shinkyū kyōkasho kijutsu no hikaku (Tokyo: Gakushū no Tomosha, 1994).

(112) “Open Letter to Minister of Education, October 1996,” reprinted in Nobukatsu Fujioka, “Jigyakushikan” no byōri (Tokyo: Bungei Shunjū, 2000), 14–31.