David McNeill: Hiroshima history is far from sacred

Tokyo Notebook

Share
Related Topics

During the first fortnight of August as the Tokyo summer gets into its sticky stride, its citizens gear up for a string of painful Second World War anniversaries, climaxing on the 15th – the date the nation surrendered.

Fresh controversy invariably flares over how to remember the conflict: as a shameful stain, or a futile but honourable attempt to resist foreign aggressors.

The true spiritual home of revisionist debate is Yasukuni, a Shinto temple in the heart of Tokyo that enshrines the nation's war dead. For many, it is a monument to Japan's undigested militarism – the shrine is host every year to nationalist speeches praising the war as a glorious episode that helped free Asia from white colonialism. This year, however, the controversy is set to move to Hiroshima.

Rarely have the nationalists dared to make those claims in the city that writer Ian Buruma calls "the centre of Japanese victimhood" – until now. But on Thursday, the 64th anniversary of Hiroshima's incineration by a US nuclear bomb, the former general Toshio Tamogami will break that unspoken rule by giving a speech called, "Casting doubt on the peace of Hiroshima".

Nobody but Tamogami knows what it contains, but it is likely to make headlines around the world: last year he admitted he might have used nuclear weapons against the US had he been a general in 1945.

Tamogami was sacked from his post as Air Self-Defense Force chief last October for saying that Japan was a benevolent imperial power in Asia and was sucked into the war by the US and China. He has since become a hero to the revisionist right, championing their cause that the war was just, and that the West's racism and cruelty climaxed in Hiroshima on 6 August, 1945.

Many are hoping to stop him before he can pick afresh at those wounds. "It's not too late yet," said Naoto Amaki, a former Japanese ambassador to Lebanon over the weekend. "The government, intellectuals, citizens, supporters of the Constitution, proper rightists who love the country, everybody should join hands by going beyond their positions to postpone Mr Tamogami's speech...for the sake of Japan."

The jury's in

The facts in the case appear clear M'lud: two Tokyoites fought for months before one plunged a hunting knife into his 66-year-old neighbour. The defendant, Katsuyoshi Fujii, has admitted the charge.

For the first time in Japan's judicial history, however, citizens, not judges, will decide his sentence. After years of fretful discussion about Japan's lay judge system, the first trial kicks off today at Tokyo District Court. Lawyers have been told to sit up, stop mumbling and use slides to help explain the case to six ordinary folk. Such is the interest in the experiment that state broadcaster NHK will cover the entire four-day proceedings.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?