Mainichi and JT: Nagoya mayor Kawamura repeatedly denies Nanjing Massacre, joins ranks of revisionist J politicians


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Hi Blog.  This is hot news (or has been recently), so let me cut in with this issue and break the arc of immigration/labor issues.  Here’s another Japanese politician, Nagoya Mayor Kawamura Takashi, playing to type (as in, playing to a Rightist historical revisionist base) by reportedly denying that the Nanjing Massacre in WWII China ever took place.  He’s not alone.  The Japan Times article below is particularly good, as it includes other deniers and their dates in Japan’s political discourse, showing there is a longstanding arc to this discourse.

There may be a political dimension.  As a commenter mailed me, “Because I have lived in Nagoya for over 20 years, Mayor Kawamura’s atrocious lack of tact really makes me cringe. We’ve seen it before with these old boys. They reach a certain age and feel they can afford to throw caution to the wind. However, there may be some background here that isn’t being aired. The Chinese apparently had their sites on a prime piece of land near Nagoya Castle and wanted to build a consulate or trade related facility of some kind. There is local opposition. So it’s possible that the Mayor deliberately wanted to piss them off.”  Interesting if true.  Let’s have that investigated.

A little academic expostulating, if I may:  One of the things that Japan has never undergone (as opposed to, say, Germany) is a postwar examination of its colonialist/imperialist past, as Postcolonialism as an analytical paradigm seems to have passed Japanese academia by (as have many rigorous intellectual disciplines, in favor of, say, the unscientific pseudo-religion that is Nihonjinron).  Even proponent Edward Said was blind to it, by binding us to an East-West divide when encapsulating his theory of lack of minority voices in the world’s historical discourse as “Orientalism”, meaning Japan became an “Oriental” country (as opposed to a fellow colonial empire builder) and thus immune to the analysis.  Partially because of this, Japan lacks the historical conversation (and is ignored overseas for not undertaking it) that would include and incorporate the minority voices of “sangokujin” (i.e., the former peoples of empire) as part of the domestic discourse.

And this is one reason why fatheads like Kawamura are able to keep on reopening old wounds and refuse to face the dark side of Japan’s history — a history which, if an honest accounting of history is done everywhere, every country has.  Arudou Debito


Nagoya mayor repeatedly denies Nanjing massacre

Mainichi Shimbun, February 23, 2012, courtesy of JK.

Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura speaks to reporters on the morning of Nov. 26. (Mainichi)

Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura speaks to reporters on the morning of Nov. 26. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura said Wednesday that no incident in which hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered in Nanjing, China, in 1937 took place, defending his earlier remarks in which he doubted the Japanese military’s massacre and rape of civilians there.

“Since I became a lawmaker I’ve said there was no massacre of hundreds of thousands” in Nanjing, Kawamura told a press conference in Tokyo. “It is better to say so openly, rather than saying it secretly.”

Asked why he doubts a massacre took place, Kawamura said, “The crucial reason is that there were no witnesses.”

His remarks about the 1937 massacre during the Sino-Japanese war have already had repercussions, with Chinese media reporting that Nanjing decided to suspend its exchanges with its sister city of Nagoya, and his latest statement could draw further fire from China.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Wednesday morning that Nagoya and Nanjing should settle the dispute by themselves.

“It isn’t a matter for the state to interfere in as they have sister-city relations,” Fujimura said at a news conference. “The issue should be settled appropriately by the local governments of Nagoya and Nanjing.”

Fujimura added that Tokyo has not changed its view on the Nanjing Massacre, saying, “It cannot be ruled out that the killing of noncombatants, looting and other acts occurred” following the advance of Japanese troops into the Chinese city.

China says the number of victims was more than 300,000, but Japanese academics cite various estimates ranging from 20,000 to 200,000.

The 63-year-old Nagoya mayor on Monday told Liu Zhiwei, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Nanjing City Standing Committee, he believes that only “conventional acts of combat” took place there, not mass murder and rape of civilians.

His comments immediately prompted Nanjing, which established a sister-city relationship with Nagoya in December 1978, to announce the suspension of exchanges on Tuesday.

Emphasizing that the Japanese city shares the same view on the Nanjing Massacre as the central government, a Nagoya government official said, “They were the mayor’s personal remarks and it is very regrettable if they are affecting the friendship” between Nagoya and Nanjing.

Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura on Wednesday called on Kawamura to correct his comments as soon as possible, saying, “It has become a diplomatic issue.”

Nagoya is the capital city of Aichi Prefecture in central Japan.

(Mainichi Japan) February 23, 2012



The Japan Times Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012

Nagoya mayor won’t budge on Nanjing remark

By JUN HONGO Staff writer (excerpt), courtesy of CG

Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura on Wednesday refused to retract his contentious comments about the veracity of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre and said he is ready to visit the city to explain his views.

News photo
Takashi Kawamura

Speaking Monday to a group of Chinese Communist Party members from Nanjing, Kawamura said he was skeptical about whether the Imperial Japanese Army actually raped and slaughtered thousands of Nanjing residents during the war.

The city of Nanjing responded by suspending exchanges with Nagoya, while Beijing assured him it had “solid evidence” proving the massacre took place…

Disputes over the Nanjing Massacre are a constant source of friction in Sino-Japanese relations, and Kawamura’s comments are merely another example of the skewed perceptions held by Japan’s politicans.

In May 1994, then Justice Minister Shigeto Nagano, a former chief of the Ground Self-Defense Force, said the Nanjing Massacre was a “fabrication.” Nagano, who played a key role in having references on the sexual slavery perpetrated by the Imperial army deleted from history textbooks, resigned after the comment caused outrage in China.

Three months later in August 1994, then Environment Agency chief Shin Sakurai stepped down after stating Japan “did not intend to invade” Asia.

Similarly in 1995, then Management and Coordination Agency chief Takami Eto said Japan did “some good deeds” during its colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, resulting in the veteran lawmaker being booted from the Cabinet.

However, Kawamura’s comments come at a crucial time in bilateral relations as the two sides prepare to mark the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties this year…

With Xi Jinping expected to succeed Hu Jintao as China’s new leader later this year, Tokyo is eager to avoid sparking any controversy with Beijing so it can present an amicable relationship.

Kawamura said Monday that only “conventional acts of combat” took place in Nanjing and that the likelihood that mass murder took place there was doubtful.

Nanjing, the former capital of China, fell to the Imperial army on Dec. 13, 1937. Beijing says 300,000 soldiers and civilians were slaughtered during the invasion.

But loss of historical records in both Japan and China has made the task of determining the number of victims elusive to this day. Most Japanese experts claim Beijing’s figure is off, but their estimates range from at least 10,000 to more than 200,000.

Full article at


23 comments on “Mainichi and JT: Nagoya mayor Kawamura repeatedly denies Nanjing Massacre, joins ranks of revisionist J politicians

  • >Postcolonialism seems to have passed Japanese academia by…Even proponent Edward Said was blind to it

    The Japanese Imperialists/Colonialists weren’t white. Don’t think that had nothing to do with their receiving a pardon from Professor Said.

  • No surprises that Blinky has put in his 2 yen worth as well.

    — Agreed, no surprises. Tokyo Gov. Ishihara is just an intemperate, senile, racist bigot who believes Japan’s destiny is somewhere along the lines of Prewar Japan. But Ishihara’s is an ideological predisposition, as opposed to Kawamura’s probably political one. And those types of demagogues are the worst kind, as they will champion their issues to extremes, even lead others to their deaths. As history would attest, should it be properly accounted for.

  • Academics and the media need to be able to work away at carefully promoting an appropriate (truthful but acknowledging areas of uncertainty) understanding of the past amongst the populace. Unfortunately china itself is very far from having this kind of freedom of speech, which means that their official history will be weak for the foreseeable future. I don’t think you can trust the chinese version of history, and you certainly cannot trust the way that they use history. For this reason, nanking is probably best passed over, until china is a free country. However, fortunately for japan, there are several other countries whose freedom permits for good opportunities for academic and journalistic exchange. International debate needs to be set in a context of mutually agreed facts or it simply won’t happen.

  • Keep in mind the mayor of Nagoya has not denied that Chinese were massacred at Nanjing. He’s denying that “hundreds of thousands” were massacred there. And that’s the focus of the thinking of most such “massacre deniers;” they are not saying NOTHING happened, they’re questioning the alleged SCALE of the atrocity.

    I’m taking no personal stand here on the numbers. That’s something for scholars with more time than myself. To be sure, no doubt some degree of badness happened at Nanjing at the hands of the Japanese. But the number of 300,000 killed, which has taken on a life of its own thanks to the Chinese repeating it all the time (for obvious political reasons), really needs to be scrutinized. To slaughter as many as 300,000 people without using nuclear weapons would be, to say the least, a major undertaking that would leave, one would expect, a lot of easily confirmable evidence.

    As a side note, “Flyjin’s” number of nine million is quaint, to say the least. Whether it’s appropriate to put the blood of the Soviets and Jews who died in Europe on the hands of the Japanese (it’s not) is another debate, but s/he should be aware that primarily due to German action in WWII, no less than 25 million Soviets died.

    — Thanks for the clarification. Thought as much regarding the reportage (which is why I also used the word “reportedly denying”). Note that the articles said that he simply denied it (as per headline), then offered clarification that he doubted the veracity of the numbers. But disputing the matter of degree of a crime against humanity is only a shade of the true aim of this genre of J Historical Revisionism, which goes (again a matter of degree) as far as calling the massacre an outright “fabrication” (detchiage) entirely, as has been done in the past. And this is one reason why the current PM administration has washed their hands of it and why Tokyo Gov Ishihara has come out in overt support — the Nanking Massacre is once again a political football. This in a polity where the J Right Wing continues to assert its voice in an aging, I believe increasingly conservative Japanese society, tiptoeing rightwards towards insularity again. Why this has to come up now in this form at this juncture of Sino-Japan Relations is curious and deserves unpacking.

  • A Man In Japan says:

    This is something that has bothered me for a long time.
    I have noticed that throughout my time of being in this country, the Japanese love to bring up the fact of British colonies.
    I’m not denying that weren’t any, but they sure love to rub that in my face, with ANY chance they can get as if they can embarrass me with something that I had nothing to do with.
    Any way. Whenever it comes times to talk about the rape of Nanjing or the Bataan death march, they always say “Those pictures are fake!” or “This is all Chinese propaganda!!”.
    What can I show them to prove that they did it?
    It’s like trying to deny that were actually any British colonies and using the argument that there are no pictures to prove that were any, and if there are any, then they are all “fake” or “propaganda”.
    What can I say to these people?

  • ‘Most Japanese experts claim Beijing’s figure is off, but their estimates range from at least 10,000 to more than 200,000.’ Really? Well that’s alright then! *Only* 200,000, not 300,000? That’s totally forgiveable……?

    There is (as Debito rightly points out) a long-standing tradition of senile old idiots in Japan who whilst being old enough to hear their parents tales of the war, are too young too have actually participated in it, and seem to have a rather selective memory. Doesn’t it ever seem strange to them that if the Japanese wartime atrocities are just stories, and not based on fact, that many asian nations still harbor anger and resentment about it? I mean, surely, if the senile old J-fools were correct, China and Korea would have been ever so sad that the ‘Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere’ (that ‘freed them of the yoke of Western colonialism’) lost the war, wouldn’t they? And yet, they are not sad that Japan lost the war.

    As for the Mayor of Nagoya’s gaffe, well, what can be said? The man he said it to (for the second time; he said the same thing to the same man in 2009) is tipped to become the next leader of China. The Japanese should remember that the days when Japan was the ‘economic darling of Asia’ are over. China is Japan’s biggest trading partner in terms of exports and imports, whilst Japan is not China’s biggest trading partner. When the Senkaku islands dispute flared up a couple of years ago, China dragged it’s feet re: Japanese imports, and put a stranglehold on Japan’s supply of rare-earth metals. If J-politicians keep outright insulting the Chinese (and historical fact), they will only have themselves to blame if China decides to boycott Japanese imports and exports. That would destroy the J-economy, and put Japan back in the Jomon jidai within a month.

    — Bit of an exaggeration, and this blog post touches upon the possibility (and the delegitimizing effects) of exaggeration, so let’s avoid them in our comments. However, bear this in mind: confronting an ideological belief with economic threat will only add strength and appeal to it (as a “taboo”), as it only goes unexpressed in polite company. As the UN’s Doudou Diene said, until this region gets its historians together and draws up a history that all rigorous academics can agree upon, there will be no settling of this issue.

  • Interesting discussion, to say the least. This article appeared in an online English language news site in Germany. Note the debate which follows the article, many comments as heated and passionate as responses to your post above. Also note the ruling, which is the topic of the article. Whether one agrees or not, it is reasoned and sensibly articulated.

    While the extreme German laws, and those of other countries, do not allow scientific studies for the purposes of verification or revising of the facts of the Holocaust (TM), Japan seems to have simply tried to ignore what happened in Nanjing, and tried to blame the victims, by simply saying, “There were no witnesses!” Historical willful ignorance, neither reasoned nor sensibly articulated.

    Such tripe as is frequently spouted by Japanese so-called “Leaders” only does more harm than good. Whether at Municipal, Prefectural or National levels they all belie a state of fear that these geezers hold deep in their heart. Fear that terminal decline has taken hold in Japan, and that their role in that decline might become public.

    I’ve often said that the Japanese people deserve better. A country of mostly fine, upstanding citizens and other residents, trying to do their best to make ends meet, do well by their kids, live in some degree of harmony and prosperity, yet led to the brink of despair by a bunch of Aso, Mori & Ishihara-esque losers who just don’t know when to shut the hell up. Japan really deserves better than this.

  • Debito,

    As you say, this IS related to immigration issues.

    If Japan never engaged in atrocities in East Asia, as many in Japan believe, and yet there are claims throughout East Asia to the contrary, that suggests to these Japanese that a massive conspiracy exists by East Asians against Japanese.

    Given that (in their mind) such a large-scale orchestrated conspiracy exists, with China, Malaysia, Singapore, etc. all involved, what are those elsewhere in East Asia to think when considering Japan?

    No Japanese government has ever forthrightly and explicitly acknowledged responsibility for such war crimes, so the assumption must be elsewhere in Asia that such delusional thinking is not confined to a tiny minority, but is instead rather widespread.

    One has but to read official Japanese statements

    to see that there is no frank acknowledgment of these crimes.

    This all creates the strong view that fundamentally Japan has not changed in its regard to foreigners since World War 2.

    It creates the view among many East Asians that today’s Japanese, if they but had the opportunity again, would engage in sadism and killing on a mass scale.

    Those holding this view about Japan will look at the immigration issues and Japan’s treatment of foreigners or ethnic minorities and see confirmation of this view of Japan.

    — To head the critics off at the pass: We have had some GOJ apologies for WWII war crimes in the past. But this blog entry isn’t to debate whether or not they were, say, sincere or effective. It is to debate 1) why J politicians keep feeling the need to reopen historical wounds like these, and 2) why now with a mayor of one of Japan’s major cities?

    Future Moderation Note: We can also talk about Japan’s relationship with its neighbors in light of developments like these, but let’s confine this blog entry to the facts of the case (i.e., reactions and counterreactions in Sino-Japanese Relations), not whose side has more credibility in your view. Let’s debate the politics, and let other venues handle the ideology. Thanks.

  • “Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura on Wednesday refused to retract his contentious comments about the veracity of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre and said he is ready to visit the city to explain his views.”

    Brilliant. Why doesn’t he then? I even suggest that he starts his visit here, and then proceed to the various documented execution grounds and mass burial places the Japanese fascists left behind. Kawamura might also wish to explain his “views” directly to the surviving witnesses; there are only about 400 of then left, but still with vivid accounts to give.

  • Isn’t this also about vote?
    As far as I know, politician sometimes shoot extreme opinion to lure the vote. It can also give voters impression of “I am not coward.”
    Another problem is moral hazard. When people like Kawamura said something extreme, he may get some benefits, but if his words lead Japan to damage, he may not get any punishment. Asymmetric profit.
    Japanese citizens seem have very little control about politicians (and leaders), and that makes moral hazard more serious.

  • Once again, the only way to respond to absurd comments like Kawamura`s is to be postmodern and seemingly agree. In much the same way as Baudrillard would say “The Gulf War was not a war”.

    Thus, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not atrocities, because these were aerial bombardments, not acts of war per se (read Baudrillard). Post Fukushima, to use current J Gov thinking, it is hard to even say how many died as a result of these “Unfortunate incidents”, because a lot of them were cancer-related. Cancer, as you know, has many causes- it may not even have been because of the atom bomb. Hey, wasn`t there that Japanese scientist that said recently that radiation is in fact GOOD for you!

    One could even quote Stockhausen and his comment that 9/11 was “great art”-

    Predating that was a postmodern sci fi story of Strangloveian black humor(forget exact title, hope someone here knows it) about how the UN in the future decide to “Commemorate and re enact” Hiroshima with a real bomb (“Of course Japan voted against it, but they were out-voted”).

    So, @comment #6. “huh? WHAT British Colonies? I dont remember them, so they didnt happen.” Or Better still, as with certain J politicans comments about the Japanese takeover of Korea- “Britain was voted in by the local inhabitants- They WANTED to be British! Best country in the world!”

    J-Politicians in glass houses shouldn`t throw stones, and I hope this is enough ammunition. So Kawamura, Ishihara, keep your Theatre of the Absurd coming, it is most entertaining. Keeps you in the limelight too. You might motivate someone of mettle to stand against you.

    Right, moving on, lets get back to the bar and avoid talking about anything unpleasant (A frequent outcome of any “serious”political” conversation with a Japanese over a certain age (quote)). Oblivion beckons in a Sake glass.

  • Putting the show on the other foot, how would the Japanese react if a US politician said that Hiroshima ‘never happened’?
    China is politically, economically, and militarily stronger than Japan now, so it doesn’t matter what historians or scholars think they can prove, J-politicians should learn to keep ‘personal opinions’ to themselves.

  • “…Ishihara’s is an ideological predisposition, as opposed to Kawamura’s probably political one.”

    Some camps (on the right) use “you are entitled to your own [ideology]” as free pass. I think anyone smart or lucid enough to get elected multiple times, which requires some semblance of reasoned governance (as opposed to insane, and I didn’t say good governance) is able to tell the difference between an extreme ideology and a political calculation.

    Chinese don’t vote in Tokyo elections. Lots of Oyaji who’s “old women who [have] live[d] after they have lost their reproductive function…” drive them nuts and love to imagine they are empowered over someone else do vote thought!

    So. No free pass for Ishihara from me, whom IMHO knows his constituency precisely.

    Hmmm… I’ve got to find some way to use this ‘ideology’ shield myself 😀

  • Jim Di Griz:

    “China is politically, economically, and militarily stronger than Japan now, so it doesn’t matter what historians or scholars think they can prove, J-politicians should learn to keep ‘personal opinions’ to themselves.”

    All true.

    The fact that Japanese politicians do not do so, reinforces the view that those politicians speak for their constituents, in declaring forthrightly a racist view.

    Many East Asians understand this to mean that Japanese are not using logic in this issue — Japanese are speaking from their hearts.

    The view of many East Asians is that Japanese truly are deep in the hearts racist bigots.

    East Asians say “Japanese politicians say out loud what all or most Japanese feel — that East Asians are racial inferiors who should in an ideal society be treated as sub-humans.”

    — If we’re going to speak on behalf of “East Asians”, let’s have some sources, please.

  • i wonder why these Japanese politicians always get a free pass to say whatever they want, look at the other side of the coin and could you imagine what would happen if for example the ambassador to japan john roos were to say that he doubts the Hiroshima atomic bomb never killed 200,000 people because there were not any witnesses. how long do you think it would take for his head to roll back to america, uh about 5 seconds. why don’t these Japanese politicians never have any accountability?

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    I just read the editorial on Nagoya mayor’s controversial remark. Since I’ve been working on the issue for a while, there’s nothing new about how Japan and Chinese have dealt with the issue. My impression is that Japan’s habitual denial of the past stems from their fear of loss in ‘cultural ideology’–constructed by ‘dishonorable Founding Fathers'(Yup, they are rolling on the grave) of the imperial Rising Sun. But this man is the one deviated from most right-wing politicians in the central government, in that his anti-Chinese sentiment seems to come out of his political motive to discourage their ‘cultural intervention’ into the 3rd largest city of Japan.

  • The East Asians’ concerns about Japan are evidenced by reports such as:

    from China.

    China, of course, accounts for the bulk of all East Asians, and is the place most acutely outraged by the recent remarks about Nanjing.

    But issues alienate peoples from Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, etc. from Japanese — all the former nations of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.

  • I like this quote from the Chinese Peoples Daily;

    ‘the essence of the disputes over historical facts is a battle between justice and evil.’

    I think that sums it all up quite succinctly. For who in their right mind could honestly say that the world would be a better place if the Nazis and Imperial Japan had won the war? Between them they would have exterminated hundreds of millions, and the rest of the human race would have been living as slave animals. Japan would never have had a bubble jidai. There wouldn’t be a Japanese car on every street in America, and Japanese women would still be chained to the kitchen sink in kimono. It wouldn’t have been like modern Japan, only somehow *better*. I think that many revisionists/apologists fail to grasp this fact.

  • your friend gregory clark has some very strange comments on this sort of thing in the JT today-says that japanese dont know how to colonize ,and brought lots of good things to the countries they raped.according to him,they werent so nice to people who didnt want to be japanese …

    — He is a pandering, racist old fool (see here), not to mention an unrepentant liar (see here). Self-righteous old fools in Japan proliferate like mold. Let us pay no further attention.


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