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

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Recruitment Genius: Appointment Maker / Telesales

£15000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading supplie...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Libby Lane, the first female bishop in the Church of England, smiles following her consecration service at York Minster in York  

Libby Lane's appointment as the first female bishop might have been understated, but its importance echoes around the world

Sally Hitchiner
The leader of Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau holding up a flag as he delivers a message  

The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11

Memphis Barker
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project