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Ingyu Oh and Douglas Ishizawa-Grbic´


One can write history in two opposite ways. The first is to select facts that have sufficient realistic evidence. In this, official records always matter more than people's oral history. The other is to play people's oral history off against official records. Here, oral history can outweigh official records. Either method of historiography neglects a third type of facts, which we will label the "indescribable."

We, qua readers of history, sometimes encounter indescribable facts. This is not that the facts were hidden, although they could be, but that we lack a proper metaphor with which we can categorize such facts. Whenever certain perceptions of historical facts defy easy description, they are often described in silence. This is why Primo Levi told us once in his low pitched tone, "Auschwitz did not end." If Auschwitz did not end, nor did Hiroshima, Nagasaki, or Nanking. Has there been any moment in our history when the descriptions of Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and Nanking were more fulfilling than silence about them?

We do not just encounter problems concerning description. History often arrests historical facts in a small display box that is off limits to many people. We are told simply to watch these historical facts, not to touch or steal them. Once our past is written in words, in several different languages, stories of aggression and revenge are fixed. Aggressors punished, victims compensated. However, if things past were to be revisited, one's understanding of them may change. Especially in the absence of guides or "historical custodians," personal reflections begin to dictate what one really perceives from these historical facts.

In less than two decades from the date of German defeat, revisionists began writing their reconstruction of facts and events. That is, Auschwitz did not exist. There was no massacre of the Jews.1 Japanese revisionism went one step further. It contended that the attack on Pearl Harbor, and invasion into China and other parts of Asia were not acts of aggression. These were defensive maneuvers against Western imperialism.

Many victims of Japanese aggression remain silent about their suffering, because words cannot simply convey the sense of humanity that was utterly destroyed. Historical revisionism is saying that victims' silence proves atrocities had never occurred. Even if they had occurred, their magnitude was in no way close to any existing historical description, such as that of the Nanking massacre or the forced slavery of countless men and women. Indeed, historical revisionism is an attempt to release historical facts from the display box. Yet, its attempt is not to speak what has been unspeakable. Its aim is to remove these facts from the display box altogether, leading to yet another "assassination" of our memory.

The underlying objective of historical revisionism is to blur the distinct line that exists between the victims and the aggressors. By depicting Japanese war criminals as victims (of western imperialism), revisionists want their school children to memorize prewar Japan as a heroic nation that struggled to free its Asian neighbors from Western aggression. For example, in the summer of 1995 during the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War, some Japanese historians preached to their youngsters not to believe the comfort women stories. The Japanese were not aggressors but victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

The revisionism debate still continues on the Japanese Archipelago. The core of the debate is about who the Japanese were fifty or so years ago and who they are now. From the left emerged images of the Japanese as imperialistic aggressors. Yet, the left could not produce a unanimous interpretation of who the postwar Japanese are. Are they the same Japanese people? If not, who are they? From the right came an attack on the left, with the argument that the Japanese for the last hundred years have been victims of Western aggression, including the current U.S. hegemonic domination of Asia. For the right, the Japanese remain the same people, still struggling to be free from Western domination.

This paper is an attempt to introduce to the Western reader the real face of Japanese historical revisionism. The central question is this: are the Japanese victims of Western aggression? If so, is Japanese historical revisionism a theoretical advancement in the making that will take us to a new understanding of the world, going beyond the underlying logic of the Western perspective of the war? The answer to both of the above questions is "no." In explaining why, we take three aspects of historical revisionism: the war, the women, and the peace constitution. In conclusion, we would like to share with readers what could be learned from the Japanese historical revisionism debate about war, peace, history, and the Japanese. In short, lessons from history are not about remembering historical facts correctly. Rather, history is about realizing that there are many unrevealed historical facts about aggressors and victims, because the facts are often indescribable. Revisionism tells us to forget anything that is not described. History, however, is about imagining the untold. If we stop imagining, Auschwitz never ends.

Revising the Asia-Pacific War

Hayashi Fusao wrote a seminal book in 1964, titled Daitôa sensô kôteiron [The Great East Asian War was a Just War].2 This book was in commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of the 1868 Meiji Ishin [political reforms of the Meiji Emperor] and ever since has served as a model for later revisionists.3 Hayashi's book can be summarized as follows:

1. The Asia-Pacific War cannot be separated from the Japanese modernization process that had started from the late Edô period.
2. Japanese modernization was a defensive measure against European-American aggression in the colonization of Asia.
3. The Japanese annexation of Korea and invasion into China and Southeast Asia were necessary to contain European-American nations and became a catalyst for Asian national liberation.
4. Japan neither invaded Asia nor was an imperialist state in a Leninist sense.
5. In the process of modernization, Japan did not adopt aggressive imperialism. The hundred years of Japanese modernization maintains the same foundational logic.
6. The Japanese emperor system is not a fascist institution; it is based on an ethnic and cultural foundation.

The first five arguments are similar in content, while Hayashi does not explain his sixth argument in detail. We will first explain the Japanese modernization process B or Japan's hundred years war with the West. The basic assumption of Hayashi's revisionist understanding of Japanese modernity of the past hundred years lies in his tenacious belief in nationalism. Nationalism, according to him, cannot be formulated without national egoism or national interests (Hayashi, 1976, 189). Therefore, nationalism necessitates a nation's pursuit of power and wealth, which naturally leads to expansionism. Once this assumption is taken for granted and believed to be just, clashes between nations are only natural.

For example, Hayashi considers the Japanese invasion of Korea a result of Japanese nationalism (i.e., national egoism and national interests). It was a defensive act against Western nationalism and/or imperialism. As long as it was an act of national defense, wars of invasion thus can be justified. In short, Hayashi (1976, 166) defines war as a means of achieving hegemony in a region. Although war is not a solution to all political problems, it is a means of protecting national hegemony (Hayashi, 1976, 275). Faced with the decline of China, Japan had to maintain its hegemonic power over Asia, because otherwise the West would have filled the power vacuum.

How do Japanese "just" wars promote Asian self-reliance and nationalism? Hayashi contends that Japanese victory over Western imperialism in every confrontation with the West elevated the Japanese nationalistic cause to a universal world value. Postwar national liberation movements in Asia, Africa, and Latin America thus rest on Japanese nationalism. Therefore, despite the fact that Japan eventually had to kneel down before the Western "imperialist" powers at the end of the Second World War, the new nations of the world continued their struggle against the West on behalf of Japan. Reflecting upon the "historic" Tokyo Olympics Hayashi (1976, 311) wrote:

Out of ninety or so national flags displayed in this large stadium, almost one third of them represent new nations that came into being after the Asia-Pacific War. [These] new national flags also represent the lowering of imperialist and colonialist flags. It is a wrong way of reading history if one argues that the Japanese struggle of hundred years [against Western imperialism] had no contribution to the birth of these new flags.

To Hayashi (1976, 262) the real enemy of the newly independent nations is the U.S., just as it has been a Japanese foe for the last one hundred years. The Japanese contribution to the new world-order after the Asia-Pacific War was containing the U.S. Hayashi (1976, 262) continues:

The world is in turmoil. In addition to Asia[n nationalism], there is African [nationalism]. Central and South American countries started to realize [the importance of nationalism]. In America, black riots are not uncommon, and below the blacks are Puerto Ricans. Unless Americans restart devouring the rest of the human race, the world will not follow America's order.

Hayashi's main point is that Japanese nationalism, which necessitated invasions into Korea, China, and Southeast Asia, is different from U.S. nationalism, since America, not Japan, is the common enemy of all non-Western nationalism. Although Hayashi remains apologetic about the Japanese invasion into Asia, he sympathizes with Japanese nationalism, which he thinks liberated not only Japan but also the rest of Asia from Western domination.

Underlying this assumption of Japanese nationalism as a fundamental ideology of national independence movements lies Hayashi's defense of the idea of East Asian Alliance [tôa renmei ron]. This idea of alliance between East Asian nations, according to Hayashi (1976, 284), is the backbone of world peace and national self-reliance. Tôa renmei ron, thus, is not a fascist ideology that Japanese imperialists utilized in the justification of their aggression against other Asian countries. It is the final stage of Japanese nationalism B i.e., the co-prosperity of all East Asian peoples vis-à-vis Western imperialist aggression. Thus, Hayashi (1976, 284) writes:

I agree with the basic principles of the "tôa renmei ron" [Y]. What is the insurmountable truth of tôa renmei ron? It [led to] the liberation of the repressed peoples of the world and the termination of imperialism and colonialism, and it [predicts] the eradication of atomic weapons and the arrival of world peace through the unification of the world.

This shocking interpretation of modern Japanese history, nevertheless, distorts history itself. In short, Hayashi's historical revisionism faithfully represents views of the Japanese elite of the past hundred years. History, however, is not a monopoly of the elite. After the publication of Hayashi's works, several young Japanese historians advanced the following criticism (see Itô et al., 1965). First, it was not just Japan that was at war with Western imperialism at the time of the Meiji Restoration. China had already been deeply involved in its defense against England, France, and Germany. Japan had no intention whatsoever of either helping China or forming an alliance with China. Second, Japan sent troops to China with other Western powers to quell the Boxers' Rebellion (1900). The Japanese alliance with England in 1902 was another example of the Japanese intention to suppress Asian nationalism. Third, during the Taishô period (the First World War), Japan joined the Western allies to consolidate its imperialist stance in Asia. Japan ruthlessly subdued the 1919 Korean Independence Movement, Chinese May Fourth Movement (same year), and the Taiwanese rebellion. Lastly, during the Second World War Japan aligned with Germany and Italy, while invading Manchuria and China. Indeed, Hayashi never explains or defends the reason for Japan's alliance formation with Western powers (Ogura, 1995, 12).

However, this kind of academic critique of Hayashi fails to reveal what has been untold. The critique is a simple negation of what Hayashi presents as history.4 The negation of Hayashi's revisionism is nothing new. Who doesn't know that Japan had been an imperialist nation up until 1945? What we don't know is Hayashi's real intention. Why do people like Hayashi want to revise history? Does he want a real union of Asian peoples? Does he want Japan to take over the West? Or is he simply apologetic about Japan's imperialist past? To us the answer lies in the untold stories of history. Amid the untold are hidden historical facts that would reveal what Japan or Japanese nationalism really is. The Hayashi grouping and, to a lesser degree, even his academic critics may want to permanently bury these facts in the sea of oblivion. One such fact is the story of comfort women.

Revising Her-stories of Comforting the Soldiers

The comfort women issue [jugun ianfu mondai] poses a very series threat to Hayashi's nationalism, as it may reveal what his nationalism is really about. Hayashi's followers, notably revisionists in the government and historians of "liberalism" [jiyushugi shikan], denied either ianfu's [military sex slaves] existence or the Japanese government's direct involvement in the creation of the iantai [military divisions of comfort women]. If Japanese nationalism necessitated not only military invasions into Asian countries but the sexual exploitation of some Japanese and other Asian women as well, why would they have to deny the existence of the ianfu?5

For this question, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) politicians, historical revisionists, and liberalist historians unanimously provide the following answer: the ianfu mondai has been fabricated ["jugun ianfu wa detchiage da!"]. Since the story is not true, "we" revisionists have to deny it. In other words, revisionists are now taking an ironic standpoint of historical realism (i.e., historical facts number one!), although their revisionist view of prewar history is a fiction.

Is there no hard evidence of (a) the existence of iantai and (b) the comfort women who were recruited forcefully by the Japanese military? Evidence of both (a) and (b) is out there and widely available. Presently, revisionists' contention relates to whether such evidence is reliable. There are two kinds of evidence discovered so far by various groups. First, there are testimonies by ex-ianfu, viz., the victims themselves (see Chongdaehyup, 1993; 1997). Second, there are archival sources and documents from the prewar Japanese military (see Yoshimi, 1992).
Revisionists, including LDP politicians and bureaucrats, rejected the value of the testimonies, because they are mere testimonies, not official documents. Similarly, they also disputed the meaning of the official military documents on the iantai. One key document that proves military involvement in the recruitment of the ianfu is as follows:

From: Military Administration, Ministry of Army
Re: On the recruitment of comforters in the military brothels.
To: Division commanders stationed in North and Central China
In recruiting women for the creation of military brothels in the Chinese front, [...] the recruiting method is similar to kidnapping. Hence, some of the recruiters had trouble with the local [Japanese] police. The ministry asks for utmost care in the matter of recruitment. Each military division sent to the Chinese front must use caution in selecting recruiters. By maintaining close relationships with local military police and police departments, these recruiters must avoid causing harm to the reputation of the Japanese imperial army and social stability (Yoshimi, 1992, 134-135).

This document had been stored in the archival section of the Self Defense Force (SDF). When Yoshimi Yoshiaki publicized this document in order to prove that there was a direct link between the Japanese military force and the recruitment of the ianfu, Kobayashi Yoshinori, himself a liberalist historian, refuted its validity as follows:

There is no evidence of coercion in the recruitment of the comfort women. The [Japanese imperial] army, [as the above internal Army memorandum indicates], might have been involved in the recruitment procedure. But its involvement was to defuse any kidnapping attempts by actual recruiters. Japan's present-day police is also involved in prostitution B to prevent any kidnapping from happening (Sekiguchi, 1997, 36-44).

True, the Japanese military warned its divisions to use caution in selecting recruiters (who had kidnapped girls from all over Asia). Yet, the same military urged the recruiters to work closely with the local police and the military police in the recruitment (i.e., "kidnapping") of the girls. The army had never told its division commanders to disband the recruiters of the comfort women. Indeed, the entire memorandum sounds like the reputation of the Japanese imperial army is more at stake than the lives of the girls being kidnapped.

Why are the revisionists trying to deny the existence of the ianfu or iantai? Why are they distorting facts to paint the ianfu as either voluntary prostitutes or the iantai as a civilian business operation? The bottom line is that these sex crimes, if revealed, may destroy the entire basis of Japanese nationalism and its ideological façade, called tôa renmei ron [East Asian Alliance theory]. After all, Japanese nationalism did not protect ordinary women who were not Japanese. Although there were some Japanese ianfu, they were all prostitutes. Non-Japanese ianfu were unmarried girls, kidnapped or deceived by the military recruiters (Shin and Cho, 1997).

Japanese nationalism, or tôa renmei ron, is an elite ideology for Japanese racial supremacy on the one hand and Japanese male chauvinism on the other. Indeed, Japanese nationalism from time to time encouraged poor groups of women to sacrifice for a nationalist cause.6 This is why the Japanese feminist movement is changing its direction from a simple demand for participation in Japanese male establishments to an international alliance of all women toward the destruction of such male establishments (Fujime et al., 1998, 102-129).

Japanese nationalism, thus, was not a national-liberation ideology suited for ex-colonial residents. Collaboration within the parameters of Japanese nationalism or tôa renmei ron meant enslaving oneself for the Japanese male imperialists. The victims of the mass rape committed daily by the wartime Japanese soldiers were one group of women who realized the real face of Japanese nationalism. In this sense, their "her-stories" were indescribable. The general public in Japan would not believe such stories, as there has not been a single Japanese woman to describe her suffering as a comfort woman. Korean, Chinese, Filipina, and other Asian women dared not to speak up, because the social stigma was as unbearable as their actual lives as sex-slaves. In a Confucian society the victim of rape is the one to be blamed, not the criminal who actually raped the victim. Most importantly, comfort women were not from the middle or upper strata of their societies. Most of them were from poor families, lacking any social power or support groups that might have helped them clarify their names and demand war reparation from the Japanese government.7

While the ianfu experiences still largely remain untold, Japanese revisionists are busy transforming ex-ianfu's her-stories into his-stories, a male, nationalistic, version of what had "supposedly" happened to these women. The underlying theme of this "his-story" of the ianfu mondai emphasizes fabrication, along with a strong male predisposition that rape had never occurred in the comfort divisions, since all comforters were voluntary prostitutes. In this sense Japanese revisionists are rejuvenating the specters of the prewar imperialists, blurring the distinction between the prewar and the postwar Japanese. Its Asian male neighbors and their male political leaders are still living in the era of East Asian co-prosperity sphere, as they themselves want to forget about what had really happened to the ex-comfort women. So far the losers are the ianfu themselves, as the Japanese government has escaped charges of mass rape.8

With the ianfu mondai disappearing quickly from the mass memory (or with a new collective memory that the ianfu mondai was a "detchiage" [fabrication]), the Japanese revisionists moved on to another historical issue B the Japanese peace constitution.

Revising the Peace Constitution

One Japanese critic of the war-time Japan, Oda Makoto, reflected on the so-called "chimachogori incident" in which some Japanese youths beat Korean Japanese students who wore traditional clothes (chimachogori). He conjectured that this incident might have been the result of the uncertain future of Japan (Oda, 1996, 65). Uncertainty about Japan's future regarding its military status in international relations can be easily gleaned from the fact that both the left and the right have no real solution to the problem of national security [ampo mondai]. In other words, both sides want the remilitarization of Japan.9

Amid uncertainty, revisionists started talking about revising the peace constitution. Their purpose was to change the constitution to a "normal" one that allows a military presence in Japan. What is the reason for this change? Revisionists argue that the purpose of constitutional overhaul is to live peacefully together with Asian neighbors [heiwa tekina kyôsei no tame]. This rationale was that of tatemae [façade]. What was their real intention [honne]? "Kyôsei," or living together, itself appeared during the Second World War. As we explored above, the East-Asian co-prosperity sphere was based on the same ideology of tôa renmei ron. Kyôsei is the key word of Japanese nationalism, which we discussed earlier. Thus, kyôsei essentially means cohabitation of masters and slaves (Oda, 1996, 66). In that sense, the chimachogori incident makes sense: those who espouse kyôsei (masters) can always beat up the Korean Japanese (slaves), although they live "together."

Constitutional revisionism tries to achieve two things: (1) domestically, revising Article 9 means depriving the ordinary Japanese [minshû] of their rights to peaceful survival; and (2) to Japan's neighbors and other ethnic groups in Japan, it means the rearming of the master. The preface of the Japanese constitution promises to guarantee the right to survive in peace [heiwateki seizonken]. Right to peaceful survival constitutes the basis of essential human rights that the postwar Japanese constitution intends to provide and protect. The Japanese state is not allowed to force its people to participate in any state-led military activities, either defensive or offensive (Article 9). The existence of any type of military institution itself becomes unconstitutional, because it delimits this basic human right of people's survival (Nakakita, 1997, 36-37).10

Heiwateki seizonken was a necessary institutional condition for political democracy in Japan. The prewar Japanese state with its peculiar ideology of nationalism allowed a monopoly of power in the hands of the state [kokka shuken shugi]. The power of the state derived not from the people, but from the state itself, or more specifically the emperor [kokutai]. Under this state power, ordinary people were mere subjects that had no other option than to carry out state orders even at the sacrifice of their lives. The democratization of Japan required a wholesale transfer of power from the state to the people [minshû shuken shugi]. A permanent safety mechanism that would protect people's power vis-à-vis the state dictatorship was to deprive the state of the right to national defense. In its stead, people chose peace as a foundation of the new Japanese state. Here, peace does not merely refer to Japan's peace [ikkokka heiwa shugi]. Rather, the Japanese peace constitution demands peace as the foundation of "all" states in the world [sekai heiwa shugi]. This is why Japan differs from such neutral states as Switzerland. Japan is not a neutral state but a model peace state that all nations of the world are expected to emulate in the near future (Nakakita, 1997, 37).

The U.S., which imposed the peace constitution on the Japanese, immediately changed its mind with the fall of China in 1949 and the Korean War in 1950. Changes in U.S. foreign policy coincided with the Japanese right wing demand for constitutional revision. The constitution was saved even after the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty and the birth of the SDF. The U.S. and the ruling LDP reckoned that the constitutional interpretation of Article 9 allows certain levels of expansion of individual rights to self-defense and to collective-defense (McNelly, 1982, 352-354).

An interpretation of Article 9 can be understood not to renounce all kinds of war, only war and means of force in the settlement of international disputes, as described in paragraph one. War and the use of force for the purpose of self-defense can be legal, as it is not strictly prohibited in paragraph two. Therefore, armaments for the purpose of self-defense need not be renounced and the SDF by interpretation is "legal" as it exists for the purpose of defending Japan.

The current changes in the concept of Japanese self-defense no longer allow this overblown interpretation of Article 9. For instance, the 1992 Tokyo Declaration of George Bush and Miyazawa Kiichi and the 1997 New Guidelines of U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation are cases in point. The Tokyo Declaration was the first in Japanese postwar history that proclaimed Japan's right to the defense of its national interests. Unlike the previous U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, the declaration recognizes Japan's initiative in the use of military power in the collective (vis-à-vis individual) defense of its sea-lanes and other national interests. Simultaneously, the U.S. can also ask Japan to participate in the defense of American interests (i.e., global partnership). This new concept of global partnership led to the deployment of the Japanese SDF to the Persian Gulf, Cambodia, Golan Heights, and other places under the label of peace keeping operations (PKO) of the UN (George, 1993; Tomoda, 1992).

The 1997 New Guidelines specify the regional cooperation between the U.S., Japan, and South Korea in the defense of their mutual interests in cases of communist aggression from the North, especially North Korea. It also allows for the first time in postwar Japanese history the SDF's participation in collective defensive maneuvers on the Korean peninsula in the case of a war. Both the Tokyo Declaration and the Guidelines are unconstitutional. Revisionists argue that Japan has to revise its constitution to accommodate these new changes in Japan's military status in regard to regional and international defense (Ozawa, 1994).

The leading figure within the revisionist group [kaikenha] is Ozawa Ichirô. Faced with the controversial issue of sending the Japanese SDF to the Gulf in 1991, Ozawa formed the Special Research Committee on Japan's Contribution to International Society and made himself chair of the committee. Two years after the introduction of the committee in the Diet, Ozawa presented the final report of the committee, titled "Japan's Role in International Society: Suggestions on the Security Problems." In the report Ozawa distinguished ikkoku heiwashugi [one country pacifism] from nôdôteki heiwashugi [active pacifism]. Ikkoku heiwashugi, according to him, is a view that peace equals disarmament, whereas nôdôdeki heiwashugi is an active participation in the preservation of peace in international society. By "active" Ozawa means rearmament and military operations not only within the Japanese domestic defense line but overseas as well. Subsequently, in his book, Nihon kaizo kaikaku [Plans of Reforming Japan], much akin to the book written by his mentor Tanaka Kakuei (1972), Nihon retto kaizo ron [Theories of Reforming the Japanese Archipelago], Ozawa (1994, 93-98) contended that Japan should not avoid its international role and should abandon its passive pacifism articulated in the constitution. Ozawa (1993, 24) states that the Japanese people must be willing to accept their international responsibilities if they want to maintain their current peace and prosperity. He called for a transformation of Japan into a "normal" state.

It goes without saying that this concept of normal state refers to the U.S. and its active military and "policing" role in the international community. Revisionists consider Japan as another "U.S." that has to protect its interests all over the world. The Japanese Defense Agency also recognizes this necessity of expanding the role of the SDF from domestic individual-based self-defense to international multination-based collective defense (Nakakita, 1997, 139). This desire of Japan to become another U.S. can also be gleaned from a report published by the Japanese Strategic Studies Center, titled "Security Plans that would Underwrite Japan's Survival in the International Community." The Center argues that deploying troops overseas in alliance with the U.S. is "a necessary choice that Japan has to make to guarantee its survival and security" (Nakakita, 1997, 139).

Those who support a proactive role for the SDF, an amended constitution, and "great power" status in the international community are defining the defense of Japan's national interest as something that needs to be pursued offshore. Japan, so this group asserts, must be actively involved in the maintenance of international peace and security to defend Japan's national interests because, invariably, protecting Japanese interests is to the good of the world community. Furthermore, and more importantly, to achieve these goals Japan has no alternative but to become a "normal" state. A state that possesses offensive weapons and has the unfettered autonomy to "defend" its national interests anywhere on the globe.

However, Ozawa's committee did not see any need for revising the constitution, because, as it argued, the following military activities are all constitutional: PKO participation, participation in the UN Forces, and participation in the multinational forces organized by the UN. Dissatisfied with this, Ozawa (1994) outlined in his book a constitutional revision that deemed the above military maneuvers to be unconstitutional. Constitutional revision has become inevitable as other revisionist groups agree with Ozawa, and these include the Yomiuri group, the LDP Committee on Security Issues, and the Democratic Socialist Party group (see Table 1).

Table 1. Comparison of Positions within the Revisionist Groups

Items/Kokenha Groups Ozawa'ss Research Committe Yomiuri Shimbun'ss First Suggestion LDP Committee on Security Issues Democratic Socialist Party Ozawa'ss Nihon Kaizo Kaikaku Yomiuri Shimbun'ss Second Suggestion
Items that are interpreted as constitutional by the groups PKO 0   Needs to change ways of interpreting the constitution 0 0  
UNPEF   0   0  
UNF 0 0 0 0  
UNMNF 0 0 0    
CSD   0 0    
C-revision     0 0 0 0 0
New Laws     0     0  


The Yomiuri newspaper has been the most vocal on constitutional reform and amending Article 9 to be "more in line with reality." It has written its own version of the constitution with a much altered second paragraph of Article 9, one that eliminates confusion in interpreting the limits to Japan's military capabilities. Other dailies have likewise joined the debate on revision. The Sankei newspaper praised Yomiuri's courage in taking a strong stand on such a political issue. It states that:

the reworking of the present Constitution'ss war-renouncing Article 9 and the addition of clauses explicitly recognizing the nation's right to maintain self-defense forces and to cooperate with the United Nations and other international organizations, including the provision of self-defense personnel, is rational. Simply calling adamantly for 'defense' of the Constitution at a time when it is being 'hollowed out' and disregarded is not much absurd as retrogressive (Matsuzaki, 1995, 38).

Consensus on constitutional revision within the ruling coalition in Japanese politics casts a dangerous future outlook. Pro-revisionist groups are the very same people who promote historical revisionism and Japanese nationalism, all inculcated in their unanimous view of the hundred years war with the West. They are the very same people who vehemently deny the massacre of Nanking (see for instance, Hata, 1998) and the ianfu mondai. The combination of historical and constitutional revisionism becomes a very dangerous formula for the future of the ordinary Japanese people who will be deprived of their right to peaceful survival and Japan's neighbors who putatively have to join the bandwagon with Japan in a new East Asian arms race.


In this paper we showed the progression of Japanese historical revisionism in the context of the current debates on the identity of Japan. Japanese historical revisionism is an attempt to bring back the prewar ideology of nationalism into ordinary Japanese political life and discourse. This conclusion can be obtained from revisionists' denial of the ianfu mondai and their pursuit of remilitarization through constitutional revision.

The movement toward historical and constitutional revisionism is an attempt to recover the Japanese prewar identity as a "normal" international citizen who has the capacity to invade other Asian countries for the purpose of defending Japan itself. Moreover, aggression is justified to defend all of East Asia under the banner of Japanese nationalism. Not unlike the prewar era, this banner of nationalism necessitates alliances with Western powers, notably the U.S. In this sense, postwar revisionism immediately contradicts itself: to protect Asia from Western imperialism, Japan aligns with the West. After all, it is not contradictory at all. From the beginning Japan wanted to become another Western power, as was clarified by Fukuzawa Yukichi's famous phrase, "datsu a" [escape from Asia].

To cope with Japanese historical revisionism is to realize a correct Japanese postwar identity. A critique of historical revisionism is to uncover this identity and suppress it. The Japanese identity is putatively Japanese and requires a razor sharp introspect in the analysis of its complexities. This seemingly complex Japanese identity stands on a sea of untold historical tales. Stories of ex-comfort women are one case in point. Revealing these women's untold stories would smash this disguised identity of the postwar Japanese as unchanged aggressors. To reveal the untold stories, we have to revise our historical paradigms to accommodate those facts that cannot be described by scientific methods. History now must learn how to imagine "her-stories".


We thank Ogura Toshimaru, John Lie, Ralph Pettman, and Ho-Won Jeong for comments and support. All remaining errors are, of course, ours.


1 See Vidal Naquet (1992).

2 This paper used the 1976 edition.

3 For a critical introduction of Hayashi's work, we consulted Ogura (1995).

4 Other revisionists argue that Japan had no choice but to invade into other Asian countries to unite them vis-a-vis Western aggression. Alliance with Germany and Italy itself was an action of defense of Asia, because there simply were no other choices [shikataga nakatta]. For this see Ogura (1997, 4).

5 For a general introduction on the ianfu mondai in English, see George Hicks (1992).

6 A typical example of Japanese women sacrificing for the male nationalists is the Recreation and Amusement Association (RAA), a prostitution ring organized by the state to cater its sexual service to the U.S. soldiers stationed in Japan during the immediate postwar years. For the RAA, see Lie (1997) and Oh (1998).

7 Most former ianfu "halmonidul" [grand mothers] interviewed by the first author of this paper said the following: "if I had been born into a rich family, I would not have been recruited as an ianfu. We [the ianfu] are the victims of racism, sexism, and poverty." The interviews occurred in Korea, at the Nanum ui Jip [House of Sharing], which hosts most former ianfu halmonidul, in August 1997.

8 The Korean government is not interested in redressing the atrocities of these sex crimes committed by the Japanese imperial army. The newly elected Kim Dae Jung government announced that it would no longer raise the issue of the ianfu mondai in its diplomatic relations with Japan (Chosun Ilbo, October 9, 1998).

9 From the left came the "sekai version" of a future ampo solution, while the right wing version is the "yomiuri plan." Both plans assume Japan's active participation in the international cooperation of world defense (see McCormack, 1995, 205).

10 For a detailed analysis of the Japanese peace constitution, see Nakakita (1997).


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