Friday, Feb. 25, 2000
OSAKA -- One month after an Osaka International Peace Center symposium denying the Nanjing Massacre took place, another controversy over Japan's wartime past is brewing after the center and a Tokyo nursing home rejected an exhibition on the occupation of the Dutch East Indies.
The Osaka center said it rejected the event because of logistic reasons, but the Tokyo facility admitted it had received threatening phone calls and canceled the exhibition out of what it claimed was fear for the safety of the nursing home residents.
Titled "Dutch, Japanese, Indonesians: The Japanese Occupation of Indonesia Remembered," the exhibition is made up of 24 showcases and consists of photographs, letters, posters and testimonies of Dutch and Indonesians who were placed in internment camps during the war, Indonesians who fought for the country's independence, and Japanese soldiers.
The exhibition is organized by the Netherlands Institute for Wartime Documentation and was to be part of the 400th anniversary of Japan-Dutch relations being celebrated this year.
The Dutch government had plans to display the exhibition throughout Japan, including in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Fukuoka, Osaka and Tokyo.
The Dutch had also hoped to exhibit at Iki Iki Plaza Ichibancho, a combination cultural center and nursing home run by Chiyoda Ward. But after the Dutch Embassy presented an outline of the exhibition in late January, the ward received threatening phone calls.
"We got about 10 phone calls opposed to the exhibition that we judged to be threatening, as they may have been from rightwing groups. As a result, we became worried for the safety of the elderly residents and decided not to hold the exhibit," said Yoshinobu Nishimura, a Chiyoda Ward official.
Nishimura said the decision was taken only out of concern for the residents and was not related to the exhibition's content.
But he added that the ward canceled without first consulting the residents or informing them of the exhibition's content and that, even if the Dutch institute offers to revise the exhibition, it would still be difficult to hold it.
In Osaka, a spokesman for the Osaka International Peace Center meanwhile claimed the reason for the decision not to hold the exhibition was one of logistics rather than security concerns.
"We told the Dutch that there was no way the exhibition could be fit into this year's schedule, and that since an Anne Frank exhibition was also being planned, it would not be right to have two exhibitions that focused on Holland and World War II," said Kunihiro Matsubara, the center's secretary general.
But the decision by the two facilities to reject the exhibit has many Dutch officials wondering if there aren't other reasons for the cancellation.
"Unlike an exhibition about the Rape of Nanking, none of the photos or documents in the Indonesian exhibition are particularly shocking. It's not anti-Japanese," said Ernesto Braam, a spokesman for the Dutch Embassy in Tokyo.
"The testimony of the Dutch focuses on life in the camps, and there is testimony in the form of letters from Japanese and Indonesians," Braam said.
The institute is still in discussions with a number of local governments about the possibility of holding the exhibition, most likely later this year, he added.