Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus carries full text of my interview with Dr. Ziegler on GOJ pressure to censor his history book of “Comfort Women”

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Hi Blog.  Last week I offered Japan Times readers an abridged version of an interview with Dr. Herbert Ziegler, historian at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, on Japanese Government pressure to censor all mention of Japan’s official sexual slavery during WWII (the “Comfort Women” issue).  The full text of the interview is now available at The Asia-Pacific Journal:  Japan Focus‘s website (a very valuable resource, in case you haven’t heard of it before).  An excerpt that did not make the cut in The Japan Times due to space limitations:

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Dr. Ziegler:  I mentioned earlier about the woman who came as the Consul’s interpreter and I looked into this a little bit.  I remember some time ago that she came to my office, I didn’t know her well but she was a student at this university, and she asked if I had a collection of World History books.  And I do, sort of, just to see what the competition is like.  So my whole shelf over there is full of World History textbooks.  So she asked if she could go through them and look at them.  And now, with hindsight, I’m thinking, “She was on a spying mission.”  Not that I cared then, but this is my thinking now:  This was started some time ago, perhaps.  I mean, how does the Consul, who barely reads English I assure you, read my textbook?

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Go to http://www.japanfocus.org/events/view/246 for the rest.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

 

10 comments on “Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus carries full text of my interview with Dr. Ziegler on GOJ pressure to censor his history book of “Comfort Women”

  • Jim di Griz says:

    The Japanese government asking its overseas students to lie to thier university faculty and conduct spying, or that fact that Japanese students overseas agree to do so- which is worse?

    Like so many of Abe’s laws, reinterpretations, bills, cabinet decisions, and pledges, this is so Orwellian.
    Like cold war Russia or present day NK.

  • thanks for this. i remember soviets would travel the world, enter libraries, and tear out negative information about russia from textbooks.
    the arrogance of a consular basically ordering someone around in a different country with the clichéd line of “think of the children!” is so disgusting.

  • Baudrillard says:

    @ Jim, that zealot probably considers herself a patriot. Well, Abe should be happy, he needs cannon fodder for his upcoming skirmish with various Asian rivals in his “Mukden Bridge Incident redux”.

    Oh, its a woman…oh well, womanomics.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    >>Next thing I know I’m sitting in my office just like you and I are sitting here today – the door’s open, I have office hours. I was eating lunch. In pops the Consul, and an interpreter. They literally pulled up chairs and sat down.

    Gosh. This is nothing more than a threatening. Amazing the audacity of Japanese Consul officials. They certainly deserve ARC(Arrogant, Robotic, Clueless) card.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Following Japanese governments failure to force overseas academic to change history, the LDP has formed a 16 member panel to pursue the issue of foreign textbooks that do not deny Japanese war-crimes;

    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/03/12/national/history/ldp-panel-explores-ways-to-convey-japans-views-on-sex-slave-issue/

    Your tax ¥ at work!

    This story about the attempt to use intimidation reminds me of a Japan Focus article from a couple of years back that looked at Japanese right-wingers like Tamogami and Ishihara who thought that Japan should have nuclear weapons to deter other nations from ‘propagating’ ‘incorrect’ understanding of history.
    Of course, the very best way to convince the world that the Japanese Empire wasn’t evil, is to threaten everyone who disagrees with you with the use of force?

  • Having largely completed their rewriting of Japanese wartime atrocities in Japan, Team Abe is now trying to control the narrative outside of Japan. The funny thing is, even little comments are like thorns in their sides. Team Abe must really want this entire issue to disappear.

    — It won’t. Their efforts have only made it worse. Not only are they causing awareness-raising statues in far-flung places and dispassionate historians to speak out, they are also causing even tangental places like Debito.org (where historical treatment of NJ hasn’t exactly been within our mandate) to invest energy in coverage. Doesn’t look like Abe learned much from his previous PM stint in 2007.

  • I don’t know if the japanese have heard of “Streisand Effect”, but isn’t it basic PR management knowledge that the harder you push, the more you shed light on the very thing you actually wanted to sweep under the rug in the first place ? Well, at least their ineptness (for a bad cause) is good insofar as it exposes their historical denialism. Foot, meet gun, I guess.
    This “we the power elites command what you have to believe” (and if you don’t comply we have intimidation or worse) might work inside their own little pond, but their reach is far more limited outside (as are their sympathies, increasingly). As long as China and Korea are around, and rising in global importance, the japanese narrative won’t prevail (and of course these countries have their own agendas, but that’s realpolitik).

    Just as a quick aside, @Jim #1, I certainly don’t have any sympathy for the weaselly student, but a review of publicly available literature (even if just to complain about it later) hardly describes as “spying” in my book. This is more like a “baptist preacher writes nagging letter to TV station because they took the lords name in vain”-annoyance, just with an extra “diplomatic stupidity” flavor added. Just saying this because at my engineering university we had to deal repeatedly with actual espionage cases, stolen confidential data and such, by asian exchange students on behalf of their government. And you can guess they weren’t exactly japanese.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    @ Enginerd #7

    Good comments. I agree.

    But your last point describes spying in terms of industrial espionage, which I agree this is not a case of.
    Rather, this incident seems like ‘spying’ copied straight out of a 1960’s cold war thriller (or the Cambridge spy ring and Burgess). It’s exactly the sort of thing that people imagine spies do all the time (but don’t, unless the work for NK or Putin).

    Let’s look at what we know;
    The student lied about her objective in order to get information from the university she was enrolled in, at the direct and expressed instruction of her nations diplomatic service in that country. She then reported back to them, and agreed to represent them as a translator during thier official business.

    This raises so many flags that the J-media should be asking;
    How did the diplomatic service contact her?
    How many others turned them down first?
    Was she paid to act as an interpreter? What is the policy on that type of employment?
    Was she security cleared for that work first (remember the secrecy law)?

    If I was studying in Madrid, and I was approached by a representative of my government, and asked to go asking questions, I would run a mile.
    If I was asked to translate for them at a meeting, I would ask where thier staffers were.

    Too many questions, don’t you think?

  • @Jim:

    quoting the relevant paragraph:
    “I have no idea. I’m going to speculate a little. I mentioned earlier about the woman who came as the Consul’s interpreter and I looked into this a little bit. I remember some time ago that she came to my office, I didn’t know her well but she was a student at this university, and she asked if I had a collection of World History books. And I do, sort of, just to see what the competition is like. So my whole shelf over there is full of World History textbooks. So she asked if she could go through them and look at them. And now, with hindsight, I’m thinking, “She was on a spying mission.” Not that I cared then, but this is my thinking now: This was started some time ago, perhaps. I mean, how does the Consul, who barely reads English I assure you, read my textbook?”

    So this woman asked if she could “look at some world history books”… I just said it’s not “spying” because it doesn’t involve stealing confidential information. “Infiltration under false pretenses” might be a charge (but that’d make this stupid farce sound more pompous than it really is) because she didn’t outright state upfront “oh yeah and by the way I’m doing this to look for something that Japan can complain about later”. It would perhaps be interesting to know if she was already affiliated with the japanese consulate beforehand (ie. staffer sent out on a mission) or just a random overly “patriotic” normal student with snitching tendencies.

    What I don’t get about this whole episode (because I can’t understand what’s going on in the heads of some people)… first of all, why do this in person, and why this random university ? I mean, it’s about publicly available history books, for christs sake. You could order them from Amazon by the bulk if you wanted to do a review of literature. Or download them instantly to an E-Reader so you don’t even have to leave the house. Are people really that stupid.. wait don’t answer that.

    Second, then the consul shows up and demands the “offending” passages changed… are they that dense that they expect it to work like that ? Well, maybe he’s used to this treatment at home, but as a diplomat he ought to know other people usually don’t go “oh yes sorry for the inconvenience, I will now write that Japan was all roses and sunshine” as per his decree. If there are factual inaccuracies, it’s usually historians from different countries that communicate with each other, not government officials.

    Stuff like this is really distilled japanese ineptitude. Hell, even their competitor China influences and whitewashes global opinion more effectively. I can’t even get mad about the malicious intent because the whole this is so bumblingly comical, and backfired better than no attempt at all.

  • The GOJ is currently hard at work with their Yakuza-style intimidation tactics: Please prepare to have your mind boggled and read this “farewell note” by German foreign correspondent in Japan, Carsten Germis. Members of the Japanese consulate have “met” with his boss in Frankfurt and thrown around insults and accusations of bribing by “the Chinese”.
    http://www.fccj.or.jp/number-1-shimbun/item/576-on-my-watch.html

    Some background: Germis is a well-known, well-respected journalist working for the most important German daily paper, “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” which could be described as the New York Times equivalent in Germany. He is also published in other high-profile newspapers, such as “Neue Züricher Zeitung” of Switzerland.

    As Germis’ boss is a well-connected journalist with contacts in the highest ranks of European media and politics, this incident will surely spread like wildfire and help a great deal to unmask the Japanese government. This is the upside of Abe’s Japan becoming less careful and more assertive.

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