Media Intimidation in Japan

A Close Encounter with Hard Japanese Nationalism

David McNeill, Institute of Socio-Information and Communication Studies, University of Tokyo [About | Email]

Volume 1, Issue 1 (Discussion paper 1 in 2001). First published in ejcjs on 27 March 2001.

The Encounter

In the wake of a series of recent incidents that seem to point toward a resurgent nationalism in Japan, Brian McVeigh draws a distinction between "soft" and "hard" nationalism in postwar Japanese politics in a recent Japan Policy Research Institute paper (McVeigh, 2001). Hard nationalism, found in the noisy flag-waving antics of ultra-nationalists, in historical denials by academics and politicians, and the increasingly unembarrassed displays of patriotism by cabinet members, is less pervasive and dangerous, he seems to suggest, than the soft nationalism "implicated in the mundane practices of everyday life." By soft nationalism he means the set of hegemonic practices embedded in the education system, in state ideology, and in culture and social life.

But are these static categories? Where does hard nationalism end and soft nationalism begin, and do the high-profile activities of hard nationalists in Japan have a wider role in helping to legitimize previously taboo ideas and positions within society? These were the questions that came to mind after a recent close encounter I had with the Japanese ultra right.

My wife Keiko and I host a weekly talk show on local radio in Western Tokyo that tries to take a jaundiced, opinionated approach to the clash of East versus West. Just before Christmas 2000 we talked briefly about a trip we had made a year earlier to Nanjing1 in China, the site of a notorious massacre by the Japanese imperial army at the end of 1937. Walking through the museum in Nanjing that commemorates the incident, reading the testimony of hundreds of Chinese and non-Chinese survivors, looking at countless photographs of corpses and indeed their bones, some of which lie beneath the museum site, it's impossible to deny what happened. And we said so, adding that those who do should pay a visit there themselves.

Thirty minutes after the show was broadcast, three members of a local "political group" arrived at the studio and asked to see the management. The station director, Sato-san, said he spoke for the station and, after exchanging name cards, everyone sat down.2 The only member of the group who spoke was the sempai (senior member) who softly and politely explained his displeasure. The Nanjing Massacre had not been "officially announced" (koshiki happyo) by the government, so we shouldn't have mentioned it, he said. If we were going to use the radio to talk about communist countries, why didn't we tell our listeners that Japan had exported thousands of tons of rice to help famine-stricken North Korea, he asked. Why, he wanted to know, were we going on about China? Was our radio station communist? Sato-san carefully noted these points, including the last, on a writing pad before escorting the visitors to the elevator, bowing and thanking them for their visit.

Two days later the senior station manager called a meeting. He apologized for taking our time and explained that from now on he would be very grateful if we would not discuss political issues on the radio. If someone sent a fax or email in giving their opinions, it was fine to read it out over the air but not to give our own opinions. He said we would need to apologize over the air for the Nanjing comment. If we didn't, the men and their friends would drive their gaisensha, or black sound trucks, outside our sponsors (two ramen, or Chinese noodle, restaurants, a bar, and a couple of real estate agents) and harass them until they withdrew their support. Violence was unlikely, but he couldn't rule it out. He apologized again for asking us to apologize. He handed us a sheet of paper the station had prepared for us to read on the next show. It said that we humbly apologized for the "inappropriate comments" (futekisetsu na hyogen ) we had made the previous week.

My wife and I were stunned. Far from being angry at a crude, thuggish attempt to shut down a public discussion, the station's management had gone along with the rightist's suggestions and upped the ante, out-censoring the censors by requesting an end to all political discussion. While we argued over the next couple of days about whether to call the station's bluff, about a dozen faxes arrived at the studio in response to our comments, all of them supportive. One read: "I was so surprised to hear the two of you discussing the Nanjing Massacre. I remember my own crazy uncle showing us photographs he brought back from the war of the bodies of the Chinese he said he had beheaded." All messages ended with pleas to continue, to take courage, and to stick it out. When we met the director to discuss the next show we proposed to apologize for any "misunderstandings," instead of the more specific "inappropriate comments," and to read the faxes over the air. Sato-san did not look pleased. Despite the reassurances of the senior station manager that we could safely read other people's opinions, there followed two hours of heated discussion about which faxes could safely be broadcast. Sato-san favored bland messages of support without specific references to Nanjing; for us, the more specific the better. In the end we read four faxes with only one referring to Nanjing. We didn't read the station's apology and there, or so we thought, the episode had ended.

The Investigation

As perhaps one of the few gaijin (foreigner) to experience ultra-right intimidation first hand I thought I owed it to myself to investigate who these groups are and what motivates them. Was our experience anomalous, or does the extreme right play a wider role in helping to control and frame public discussion in Japan?

The best estimates are that there are more than 100,000 far-right members in Japan belonging to almost 1000 groups throughout the country, 800 of which are affiliated through an organization called Zennippon Aikokusha Dantai Kaigi, or the National Conference of Patriotic Associations (Masayuki, 1989 and Van Wolferen, 1993). In a personal communiction to me, journalist Andreas Hippin, who follows their activities for the German press, claims the number of rightists increases if members of cult religions in Japan, which also espouse conservative, rightist ideology, are included.

The exact number is clouded in controversy because there is overlap with yakuza (Japanese mafia) gangsters. Many yakuza groups transformed themselves into rightist political organizations from the 1960s after the Political Fund Regulations Law prohibited extortion, but allowed legitimate political groups to raise money and claim preferential tax treatment as long as they presented income and expenditure statements to the Ministry of Home Affairs. Ideologically, both uyoku, as the ultra-right are known, and yakuza see themselves to some extent as patriots and defenders of traditional codes of honor, although "genuine" right-wingers make a firm distinction between plain old gangsters and what they call minzoku-ha, or nationalists.3 It is nevertheless clear that since the 1970s a new branch of radical nationalism or shin-minzokushugi (new nationalism), with a much more articulate and politically committed membership, has emerged in Japan (Szymkowiak and Steinhoff, 1995). While the neo-nationalists, whose members and sympathizers include academics, authors and well-known manga-artists, often use similar methods to the older uyoku (intimidation usinggaisensha and loudspeakers is still their weapon of choice), there are a number of important differences between the two groups.

Anti-communism and patriotism remain a common plank, but emperor-worship has been toned down in the newer groups who are more media-savvy and much more likely to stress Japanese independence and self-sufficiency in the face of American "hegemony." (Matsumoto, 2000 and Daiki, 2001). There is also good deal of disgust by neo-nationalists with the criminal activities of yakuza-uyoku, typified by the involvement of the notorious postwar rightist Kodama Yoshio in the Lockheed bribery scandal, and the corruption that infests establishment politics.

Besides Nanjing, the current list of ultra-right taboos includes the so-called comfort women, or sex slaves, forced into prostitution by the army during World War II, and Unit 731, the army laboratory in wartime Manchuria that experimented with chemical weapons on live Chinese prisoners. Yoshida Yoshihisa, a professor at Sagami Woman's University who helped to publicize the comfort women issue in Japan was hounded for two weeks by a convoy of vans after his name was publicly linked to the issue. "They drove round and round my university screaming at me to come out," he says. "I thought it would never end." War veterans who come forward to tell their stories can also expect the attention of right-wingers. Shiro Azuma, who served for four years in China and kept a detailed diary that he subsequently published, and Yoshio Shinozuka, a member of Unit 731 who agreed to testify in the current lawsuit brought by 100 surviving Chinese victims, both tell stories of threats and intimidation. A Chinese movie on Nanjing, which was screened in a single small Yokohama theater three years ago, was attacked and shut down at about the same time as the Japanese revisionist war movie Pride was showing in hundreds of cinemas nationwide.

The uyoku often reserve their greatest firepower for any attempt to degrade the ultimate national symbol, the emperor. The liberal-left Asahi Shimbunhas been a target of attack for, among other things, its failure to use proper honorific terms for the emperor. Tomohiro Kojiro, an Asahi reporter, was killed by a shotgun-wielding rightist in 1987. In October 1993 a man named Nomura Shusuke killed himself in the Asahi offices because he felt the paper had been making fun of rightists. The mayor of Nagasaki, Motojima Hitoshi, a mild-mannered Christian, was threatened for months by right-wingers, egged on by academics and a handful of senior politicians, for suggesting that emperor Hirohito bore some responsibility for the war. He was eventually shot in the back, but survived, in January 1990, but not before 3.8 million people had signed a petition supporting what he said.4

Isolated cases of extremist political violence are a feature of life in many advanced countries, but the Japanese version has several distinct characteristics. First is the sheer number of attacks, thousands of them, from low-key intimidation of the type we experienced at the radio station to high-profile assassinations of union leaders and political figures. Even accepting that the extreme right in Japan is not an entirely coherent group and that its members are often in ideological dispute with one another, taken together, its activities add up to a massive and organized intimidatory presence. Every large media institution in Japan, and many small ones, have experienced political harassment of some sort.

The second major difference is its relationship with people in power. The common view of the people who cause this mayhem, even among the "serious" nationalist right, is that they are lowlife thugs, but the lowlifes can always take comfort from pronouncements by pillars of the establishment. Prime Minister Mori's recent slip, that Japan was a "divine nation centered on the emperor," is only the latest example of how apparently extreme rightist posturing, like calls for the restoration of the emperor's powers and denials of well-documented war crimes, find echoes all the way up to the top of Japan's dim political corridors. Chief Cabinet Secretary Kajiyama Seiroku's claim in 1997 that Korean comfort women were just prostitutes; former education minister Okuno Seisuke's similar claim in 1996 that the comfort women were "in it for the money"; Justice Minister and Army Chief of Staff Nagano Shigeto's protestations that accusations of Japanese wartime atrocities were all "fabrications"; Ishihara Shintaro's famous pronouncement inPlayboy that Nanjing was a lie made up by the Chinese ? the list is long and undistinguished. There are also well-documented ties between ultra-right figures and Japan's most senior politicians who have used them to harass and attack the left. The most famous of them all, Kishi Nobusuke, found time to be Prime Minister and mix with the some of the most notorious rightist and yakuza figures in Japan (Kaplan and Dubro, 1986). Another famous rightist, Sasakawa Ryoichi, became one of Japan's richest businessmen with connections right to the heart of the country's business and political worlds. Last year's resignation by Chief Cabinet Secretary Nakagawa Hidenao for consorting with the boss of an ultra-right organization, is part of a long and venerable political tradition in Japan.

I am not suggesting the existence of a massive, organized conspiracy cooked up by the conservative political mainstream and extreme nationalists in Japan to prevent the expression of controversial political ideas. The relationship between the yakuza-uyoku, the neo-nationalists and established political figures is a complex matrix of financial, political and personal ties with conflicting and contradictory elements. However, what is abundantly clear is that the practice, by actors within what Van Wolferen (1993) calls "the system" of calling on the services of the hard nationalists to intimidate or silence unwieldy or troublesome elements has helped to give them a legitimacy and influence arguably beyond what would be tolerated in any other advanced industrial country. Moreover, ultra nationalists are often aware of their role in not only preventing discussion of taboo topics, but also in helping to legitimate fringe ideas. As the chairman of the neo-rightist group Issui-Kai, Kimura Mitsuhiro explains:

The government uses uyoku to express ideas which it cannot openly say. Just like the lighthouse on Senkaku (Diaoyu) islands.5 We built it on our initiative. The government did not ask us to. But afterwards there were politicians who said, "I told them to build it." They are liars.(Daiki, 2001)

The most important result of years of dedicated service by both establishment and fringe rightists may have been, in the words of Dr. Ivan Hall, author of Cartels of the Mind, to have shifted the center of debate, and of political consensus in Japan, well to the right. One would have thought that as they survey the current Japanese political landscape, the uyoku would be quite happy with their lot. The hinomaru, or rising-sun flag, once the dividing symbol of left and right, flutters across the nation's school yards, the kimigayo national anthem belts out of lungs too young to remember the battles fought over it, both having been officially recognized in August 1999. Their archenemy, the Communist Party (whose chairman, Miyamoto Kenji, they attempted to assassinate in 1973), has swung to the right since the collapse of the USSR. The Socialist Party (whose chairman, Asanuma Inejiro, they stabbed in 1960) disintegrated after their leader Murayama Tomiichi rang in the post-Cold War era by recognizing the hinomaru and kimigayoand the Self-Defense Forces. The teacher's union, Nikkyoso, another hated enemy, is a shadow of its former militant self. The battle for control over the content of textbooks, into which Nikkyoso threw most of its troops, seems to have slipped off the national agenda, and the union has not even been able to defend the 250-odd teachers disciplined for not raising the flagor for not singing the anthemin the past two years. Watching television surely brings more smiles to ultra-right faces. Discussions on previously unthinkable issues, such as Japan's right to a modern army, are now quite common. Visits by politicians to Yasukuni Jinja, the shrine to Japan's war dead, are no longer considered taboo. The yazuka, despite a police crackdown that began in the early 1990s, are not in bad health either. According to a recent report in the Far Eastern Economic Review, although a host of smaller gangster groups have been smashed, the largest of them all, the Yamaguchi Gumi, has grown into a "colossus" during the recession, now boasting 16,500 full-time members (Kattoulas, 2000).

In the relatively small number of incidents these days when the mass media broach a taboo topic, the extreme right can still have a significant impact on public discussion. The magazine Shukan Shincho reported in February 2001, for example, that NHK, the national state broadcaster, censored a program on the mock trial of the emperor by a group of comfort women and their supporters in Tokyo in December 2000 (Struck, 2000 and Yoneyama, 2001). The program, Senso to josei e no boryoku (War and violence against women) failed to report the final judgment of the court, that the emperor was guilty of war crimes against the women, and instead gave over much of its airtime to an academic known for his rightist views. The article suggested that the self-censorship was not unrelated to a number of visits to NHK's Shibuya headquarters by gaisenshas blaring loud martial music. It was notable, indeed, how little coverage the comfort women "trial" received in the daily Japanese press.

The Aftermath

Helping to set and control the agenda for political discussion is one thing, but the question of why censorship finds such fertile soil in the Japanese broadcasting and newspaper world is another. Hard nationalism in Japan may well, as I have argued, have a distinctive function in helping to shift the ideological consensus rightwards. But control of the media through intimidation (what U.S. scholars Herman and Chomsky (1988) call "flak") is not an exclusively Japanese phenomenon. Nor is the rightward drift, which has been a feature of the political landscape of the U.S., Britain and elsewhere since the 1970s, although it is especially alarming in Japan with its militaristic past. On the surface at least Japan has a modern, competitive, pluralistic and open mass media, with thousands of outlets and a diversity of views. A casual glance at Japanese television or Japan's weekly magazine output shows an often lively and critical force with a healthy disrespect for people in power. As Pharr and Krauss suggest, in the sense that both controlled and pluralistic elements, freedom and restraint coexist, Japan is no different to other democracies (1996, pp. 358). Nevertheless, we need to ask: is there something distinctive about the mass media in Japan that makes it more docile and easier to control and manipulate than equivalent systems in the advanced economies with which it is invariably compared? There is not the space here for a full analysis but I offer the following observations in the light of my experience at the radio station.

A common pole of analysis is to suggest that the apparent failure of media gatekeepers in Japan to confront intimidation may be the result of the group-centered nature of Japanese society which translates into negotiation and ultimately compromise with elements within the system that threaten to disrupt harmony (Takeshita and Takeuchi, 1996 and Pharr and Krauss, 1996, pp. 359). Sociologists in Japan stress the fear of difference, of being the nail that sticks up, the value attached to conformism and the subtle and not so subtle differences used to achieve it. At one point Sato-san said, for example, that our program was too "provocative" (chosenteki) and "one-sided" (katayotteiru) and seemed unable to comprehend our point that provoking public discussion and taking sides against false or malicious arguments might be a good thing.

This analysis, that there is some central drive within Japanese culture, to harmonize and transform "discordance" into consensus is superficially plausible but fails to explain where this drive comes from or what interests might be served by it. As Van Wolferen says, "The term ‘consensus' implies positive support for an idea or a course of action" (Van Wolferen, 1993, pp. 441). This notion of consensus, reinforced through the education system and other state apparatus, often boils down, in practice, to the imposition of power over dissenting, minority, and sometimes even, majority opinions. The myth of consensus also arguably helps to make codes of practice, systematic rules and abstract rights and concepts, such as those enshrined in the American constitution (‘freedom of information' and such like) contingent on the situational context. Comfortably wrapped in the notion that Japanese life is ruled by harmony and consensus, and in the relative absence, even as an ideal, of the conceptual freedoms built up over generations in other societies, it is not difficult to understand why in many instances compromise comes easiest. Laurie Anne Freeman calls this phenomenon "soft censorship within the context of a weakly developed civil society" (2000, pp. 173).

Within this context it is not unheard of for media gatekeepers, those who might otherwise be expected to most strongly defend rights of free expression, to use the threat or implied threat of intimidation to silence difficult and marginal voices (Kogawa, 2000). This has the added bonus of allowing the strongest and the loudest political actors, tolerated and often nurtured by the establishment, to dominate and set the agenda for what passes for rational public discourse here. As Freeman says:

Some observers in North America have criticized the role of the media in the political process because of their power in setting the agenda of discourse. What Japan suggests, however, is a situation even more problematic: one in which the media do not set, but rather limit, the agenda, thereby letting others (notably political actors) set it instead.(Freeman, 2000, pp. 197)

It seems to me that one of the most notable developments of the last ten years in Japan has been the collapse of the few organized poles of resistance that might once have challenged the agenda-setting role of the extreme right. Alternative perspectives on contested historical events like the comfort women and Nanjing are as likely to come from citizens groups (such as the mock trial of the emperor mentioned above that was organized by women's groups) and individual journalists (Iris Chang, Honda Katsuichi), than the organized pillars of the left like Nikkyoso and the Socialist or Communist parties.

In the weeks following the uyoku visit, there were two more incidents of censorship at the radio station. In the first we had interviewed the headmaster of a local junior high school during the course of which I asked how, in the light of the recent changes to the law, he felt about flying the once disputed national flag. In the event his answer was essentially a defense of soft nationalism. "It's a shame that we have to be the only country in the world that is embarrassed to fly our national flag because of events that happened before any of us were born," he said. He denied any of his teachers had protested against the changes. The entire episode was cut from the broadcast. Sato-san said it had been a "technical error" but we were informed by another member of staff that it had simply been too sensitive. The segment seemed to indicate that even to raise the issue of the once controversial revisions was taboo.

In the second incident, Yoshida Yoshihisa came on to discuss the media furore about the drunken antics of young revelers at seinenshiki (Coming of Age) ceremonies around Japan in January this year. We argued that the ceremonies were a waste of money and that making loud, disruptive noises in the middle of boring speeches by local politicians was an entirely understandable response (Keiko disagreed). Yoshida sensei further claimed that it was becoming more common at these ceremonies for the participants to be asked to sing the national anthem, a trend he personally found objectionable. This entire segment was also cut. Sato-san said that to air it was asking for trouble. When we challenged him on this he said that his role, as the director of a small radio station, was to protect the jobs of himself and his staff, not to support abstract concepts of free speech. He couldn't do this if the uyokubankrupted him. He personally sung the national anthem "with pride" and couldn't understand anyone who didn't. Nowhere did he refer to national broadcasting regulations that might explain or justify his prohibitions.

Fear of intimidation party explains these sentiments but not them all. With the passing of the high-profile ideological struggles over the historical weight of once-controversial national symbols like the kimigayo, the way is clear for more unabashed displays of soft-national pride of the kind Sato-san treated us to.

In a recent JPRI paper Chalmers Johnson (2000) outlines the recent drift rightwards in Japan and what he calls the deteriorating security situation in East Asia under Japanese and American pressure. He cites the 1999 New Year speech by the Minister of Justice Nakamura Shozaburo denouncing the Japanese constitution denying Japan the right to engage in war; the chief of the Japanese Defense Agency, Norota Hosei's announcement in March 1999 that "under certain circumstances Japan enjoyed the right of "preemptive attack" (sensei kogeki) and that it was thinking of making such an attack against North Korea." He continues:

During the spring and early summer [of 1999] the Japanese government then did the following things one after another: it passed a law allowing the police to tap citizens' telephones (the Tsushin Bojuho); it legalized the rising sun flag (hinomaru) and made the prewar song celebrating the emperor's reign (kimigayo) the national anthem, and ordered them to be displayed and sung in schools; it established Constitutional Research Councils (Kempo Chosakai) in both houses of the Diet in order to study revisions to the "peace constitution"; it enacted legislation to support the new "Defense Guidelines" with the United States, giving the U.S. the power to take over Japanese airports, harbors, roads, and hospitals in times of an emergency in "areas surrounding Japan," a description that is said to be conceptual and not geographical; it forged a three-party coalition (the Ji-Ji-Ko alliance) giving the Liberal Democratic Party control of over 70 percent of the seats in the Diet and the ability to pass any laws that it wants to; and, in October 1999, it saw the newly appointed vice minister of defense, Shingo Nishimura, urge the Diet to consider arming the country with nuclear weapons.(Johnson, 2000)

What was unthinkable has now become commonplace and the categories of soft and hard nationalism are shifting very quickly. Before writing up this paper I showed Sato-san my research. I asked him if his children knew about Nanjing. "They study it at school," he said, "so I'm sure they do." Later, at home, I had a look at a current Japanese history textbook: Nihonshi. The Nanjing Massacre is not mentioned. The Nanjing Incident is, as a footnote on page 234 to a one sentence report that the Japanese army captured Nanjing after fierce resistance. The footnote reads: "konotoki, nihonhei wa hisentouin wo fukumu tasuu no chugokujin wo satsugai shi, haisengo, tokyosaibande ookiina mondai tonatta (Nangking Jiken)". My translation of this: "During this time, the Japanese army killed many Chinese, including noncombatants, something that became an important issue at the Tokyo war crimes court after Japan's defeat (the Nanjing Incident)."6 Revisions are currently in debate which will further dilute any reference to this and other war crimes (Japan Times, 2001).


This paper was produced with financial assistance from the Japan Foundation Endowment Committee.

In addition, the author wishes to thank Brian C. Folk for his help in the compilation of this article.


Freeman, Laurie Anne (2000), Closing the Shop: Information Cartels and Japan's Mass Media. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press Hall, Ivan (1997), Cartels of the Mind: Japan's Intellectual Closed Shop, New York: W.W. Norton

Hayashi Masayuki (1988), The Emperor's Legions: A History of Japan's Right Wing, AMPO Japan-Asia Quarterly Review, Vol.23, No.2, pp. 26-31

Herman, Edward S. and Chomsky, Noam (1988), Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, New York: Pantheon Books

Japan Times (2001), Ministry Approval Likely for Revisionist Textbook, 2 March, 2001, pp. 2

Johnson, Chalmers (2000), Some Thoughts on the Nanjing Massacre, JPRI Critique, Vol. 7, No 1.

Kaplan, David E. and Dubro, Alec (1986), Yakuza: The Explosive Account of Japan's Criminal Underworld, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul

Kattoulas, Velisarios (2000), Taking Care of Business: Japan's Organized Crime, Far Eastern Economic Review Online, 30 November, 2000.

Kodansha Bilingual Books (1996). Japanese History: 11 Experts Reflect on the Past, Tokyo: Kodansha

Masayuki, Takagi (1989), The Japanese Right Wing. Japan Quarterly, July-September 1989, pp. 300-305

McVeigh, Brian (2001), Japan's ‘Soft' and ‘Hard' Nationalism, JPRI Working Paper No.73: January 2001.Nihonshi: (Monbusho Kenteizumi Kyokasho)(1993), Compiled by Inoue Mitsusada, Kasahara Kazuo and Kodama Kota

Pharr, Susan J., and Krauss, Ellis.S. (eds.) (1996), Media and Politics in Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press

Struck, Doug (2000), In Tokyo, Wartime ‘Comfort Women' Put Former Emperor on Mock Trial, International Herald Tribune, 8 December, 2000, pp. 2

Szymkowiak, Kenneth & Steinhoff, Patricia G. (1995) Wrapping Up in Something Long: Intimidation and Violence by Right-Wing Groups in Postwar Japan, Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol.7, No.1, pp. 265-298

Takeshita, Toshio and Takeuchi, Ikuo (1996), Media Agenda Setting in a Local Election: The Japanese Case, in Susan J. Pharr, and Elli S. Krauss, (eds), Media and Politics in Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press

Van Wolferen, Karel (1993), The Enigma of Japanese Power: People and Politics in a Stateless Nation, Tokyo: Tuttle

Yamamoto, Masahiro (2000), Nanking: Anatomy of an Atrocity. New York: Praeger

Yoneyama, Lisa (2001), NHK Censorship/Japan's Military, Sexual Enslavement, H-Japan.

Personal Communications

Andreas Hippin (Vereinigte Wirtschaftsdienst GmbH, Germany)

Shibuichi Daiki (Department of Political Science, National University of Singapore)

Dr. Ivan Hall (Temple University Japan)

Tetsuo Kogawa (Media Critic and Professor, Tokyo Keizai University)

Ino Kenji (Author)

Further Reading

Irish Chang's (1998) book The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (Penguin) has, despite some well-documented errors, done much to bring the issue back into the public arena. The Japanese journalist Honda Katsuichi, who did most to bring the Nanjing Massacre to the attention of the Japanese public, has also written extensively about it. His book (edited by Frank Gibney), The Nanjing Massacre: A Japanese Journalist Confronts Japan's National Shame, has recently been published in English by the Studies of the Pacific Basin Institute, and includes a commentary by the veteran Japanese historian Fujiwara Akira.

The most readable English account of the relationship between Japanese gangsters and the extreme and mainstream right, although a bit dated, is Kaplan, David E. and Dubro, Alec (1986). Yakuza: The Explosive Account of Japan's Criminal Underworld. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. You will also find some information (although it is mostly rehashed) in Robert Whiting (1999). Tokyo Underworld: The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster in Japan. New York: Vintage Books.

Some of the best known critical Japanese accounts are:

Hori, Yukio (1993). Sengo no uyoku seiryoku. Tokyo: Dososhoho.

Hori, Yukio (1991). Uyoku jiten. Tokyo: Dososhoho.

Matsumoto, Kenichi, Shiso to shiteno uyoku. Tokyo: Ronso-sha.

Tendo, Tadashi, Uyoku undo hyakunen no kiseki. Tachibana-shoboi.

Readers might also want to take a look at right-wing author's Ino Kenji's (1987) Uyoku For Beginners (Gendai shokan).

There are many good, critical essays available on the Japan Policy Research Institute website. (Please note that some of the articles listed require a password.) They include:

Robert M. Orr, Jr. (1998), The Rape of History, JPRI Critique, Vol. 5, No. 6 (details the controversy surrounding Iris Chang's book The Rape of Nangking.)

Chalmers Johnson (2000), Some Thoughts on the Nanjing Massacre, JPRI Critique, Vol. 7, No. 1

Ivan P. Hall (1998), Gagged on the Ginza, JPRI Critique, Vol. 5, No. 9 (an account of Ivan Hall's own problems with censorship)Readers might also like to visit the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars website, which contains an index of many important articles and reviews on Japan and the rest of Asia, including Ienaga Saburo's, "The Historical Significance of the Japanese Textbook Lawsuit."

Okamoto, Tomochika, The Distortion and the Revision of History in Postwar Japanese Textbooks, 1945-1998, is a very interesting survey of changes to Japanese texbook content over the years. The Chinese University of Hong Kong hosts a memorial website for the victims in the Nanjing massacre at and it includes resources in Chinese, Japanese and English.


[1] There are a number of different spellings of the word "Nanjing" including "Nangking" and "Nanking." I have used the more common English spelling of Nanjing except when listing book and essay titles.

[2] I have not used real names here for obvious reasons. According to the leader's name card, the group, which was described as a "political association," was called the Japanese Nationalist Youth Federation. The radio station broadcasts over a radius of about 15 kms in Sagamihara, Hashimoto, Tsukui, Kamimizo, Shiroyama and Yamato.

[3] Our experience with the station management illustrates how difficult it is to disentangle genuine nationalists from gangsters. A number of people we talked to said it was not unlikely that the station had paid our visitors a "contribution" not to come back. When I interviewed prominent nationalist author, Ino Kenji, for this article, he was nevertheless furious at the constant failure to distinguish yakuza activities from shinminzokushugi (new nationalism) which he said, was the "future."

[4] While the primary motive of this attempted assassination was obviously political, the victim himself feels that there was also an element of blackmail involved. "I felt that if I had paid them off they might have stopped bothering me." (Personal interview, January 5th, 2001).

[5] Kimura was a member of the first group to attempt to build a structure on island, whose ownership is disputed between Japan and China, in 1978.

[6] This is a 1993 textbook. Many newer textbooks are inclined to make even less of it. The Japanese History Section of the Kodansha Encyclopaedia of Japan, now part of the popular Bilingual Books series, contains a total of one page on the Pacific War, with no mention of Nanjing.

About the Author

David McNeill David McNeill studied for his undergraduate degree at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland before becoming a Monbusho scholar at theInstitute of Socio-Information and Communication Studies (ISICS), University of Tokyo. He completed his PhD on the Japanese information society at Napier University, Edinburgh in 1998. He has taught at universities in Ireland, England and China and is currently a foreign research fellow at ISICS, as well as editor of the National Institute for Research Advancement's NIRA Review in Tokyo.

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