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

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Gary Catona has worked with a number of high profile singers including Stevie Wonder, pictured  

High pitch: In search of the next Whitney

Simmy Richman
Margaret Thatcher resigned on 22nd November 1990  

Nicola Sturgeon's rare achievement

Jane Merrick
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin