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Sunday, Jan. 24, 2010

'The wartime leaders of Japan were heroes'


Special to The Japan Times

General Toshio Tamogami, 61, was the chief of staff of Japan's Air Self-Defense Force between March 2007 and November 2008 despite having a history of lobbing verbal missiles at "leftists," China and Japan's so-called war-renouncing Constitution. In 2008, he pulled these and other themes together in an essay on "true modern history" that made him one of the most famous names in the country.

News photo
Plain speaker: Sacked former Air Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff Gen. Toshio Tamagami, whose published views running counter to official policy cost him his job in 2008. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

In that essay he argued that Japan was not an aggressor (during its militarist period prior to 1945), and was not given sufficient credit for ending white European colonialism in Asia, or for the benefits that its rule brought to Korea, Taiwan and Manchuria.

The nation's enemies, he claimed, continue to spread lies about Japanese war crimes for their own political ends. He also said that Japan had been sucked into World War II by the United States, which he maintained knew in advance of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The essay, and that last claim especially, caused a furor, coming as it did from a top military figure who was professing views counter to official government policy, if not the Constitution. Then Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada sacked Tamogami on Oct. 31, 2008.

Here, extracts from a recent interview with Tamogami give a flavor of the man who is now busy in his self-described "second life" on the public-speaking circuit, as well as writing and appearing in the media.

On "leftwing education": Humans live for themselves but they are only fulfilled if they are also useful to others and work for and help others. If they don't realize this, it can harm the national interest. My sense is that consciousness about the importance of contributing to the greater social good is declining among young people. I think education is to blame. It teaches young people that this is an evil nation that started a war and invaded other countries. So young people regard the state and their country differently from those in other nations. That's why so many youngsters reject the Hinomaru (national flag) and the national anthem — because they're taught to do so by schoolteachers. If Japan keeps providing leftwing education, young people will continue to lose the spirit of serving others. There could be a similar situation to the Chinese Cultural Revolution in Japan in the near future. We could fall apart.

On rejecting the need for atonement and an apology for Japan's wartime behavior: History is written by victors. Education teaches the opposite of what actually happened during and after the war. Japan is not guilty of war crimes. The Nanjing Massacre and wartime comfort women never happened. Japan never invaded Asian countries such as Korea and Manchuria. In fact, at the Bandung Conference in Indonesia in 1955, then Indonesian President Sukarno thanked Japan officially on behalf of the other 28 countries for leading Asian countries out of colonialism. Japan's then foreign minister, Toshikazu Kase, who attended the meeting, spoke later about his experience, explaining how much other Asian countries admired Japan because it showed them they could fight equally against Western countries. Even (former Chinese Premier) Zhou Enlai agreed with this view. Asia was grateful to us. I believe, therefore, it was wrong to have executed the wartime military and political leaders of Japan. They were heroes.

The Constitution was written under the U.S. Occupation. When the Liberal Democratic Party was formed in 1955, it was written in its manifesto that this forced Constitution should be revised. Article 9 is wrong. . . . Article 9 should be abolished; any country unable to defend itself is odd.

On Japan as a future nuclear power: Japan can't hope to have real international power if it doesn't possess nuclear weapons. I accept that nuclear arms cannot be used, but they bring a certain political power when countries possess them. . . . My opinion is that the more countries have nuclear weapons, the less chance there will be of war.

On the rise of China: I went to China once and talked to a senior government official, who was originally from Manchuria. He spent the first 10 minutes of our conversation berating me for what Japan did to China, so I tried to debate with him about what happened. After Japan began occupying Manchuria, many people from across China went to live there, which is evidence of how much Japan contributed to Manchuria and made it a richer and better place to be. It is wrong to talk about only part of what happened in history — we should see the whole picture.

I don't believe we will fight a war with China but I believe we have to stand up for ourselves. There should be a proper accounting of China, because a lot of what it says about its economy is false. People are being deceived by this false information and are investing in the country. I don't believe their economy can keep growing without serious problems, and when the economy collapses, the anger of ordinary people will explode and the country will fall into chaos.

On Japan's future: European nations consider traditions important and are not as passive about U.S. demands. But Japan still accepts whatever the U.S. tells it to do. . . . It is not equal at all. Japan doesn't even have an anti-espionage act, so the country will lose out in international politics. I don't believe Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama will change this relationship. He is a crowd-pleaser — he tries to please everybody and to be nice to other countries. But his "East Asian Community" policy will not work unless Japan protects its own country first.

Let me say one more thing, 20 percent of shares in the Japanese mass media are held by foreigners. This means that the Japanese mass media are controlled by foreign investments. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was brought down by these foreign powers.

Aya Hamashima helped with this article.


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