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: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Rafael Nadal is down and out, beaten by Dustin Brown at Wimbledon – but an era is not thereby ended  

Sad as it is, Rafael Nadal's decline does not mark the end of tennis's golden era

Tom Peck
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test