Home History The History Problem : The Politics of War Commemoration in East Asia
A New Opportunity for Cosmopolitan Commemoration
While facing the controversies over Japan’s past wrongdoings, Miyazawa’s government was struggling to cope with the worst economic recession since 1945. The LDP was also hit by a high-profile scandal in October 1992, when the Tokyo District public prosecutor’s office exposed illegal dealings among the LDP, the Tokyo Sagawa Express Corporation, and Japanese yakuza. This was considered the biggest pol itical scandal in postwar Japan in terms of the amount of illegal monetary dealings and the number of politicians involved. Dissatisfied with the way the LDP had tried to downplay the scandal, opposition parties tried to force Miyazawa out of his office. Even though the LDP had a majority in the House of Representatives, a vote of no confidence was adopted in June 1993, since younger, reform-minded LDP members went along with the opposition.37 Instead of resigning, Miyazawa dissolved the House of Representatives.
In response, LDP members who had directly or indirectly supported the vote of no confidence left the LDP and formed their own political parties. But the LDP did not lose any more seats at the election in July. Instead, the JSP suffered a considerable loss, decreasing the number of its seats from 137 to 77, because many voters decided to give the newly formed parties a chance, rather than continuing to support the existing opposition.38 Then, after the election, eight opposition parties agreed to form a coalition to secure the majority in the House of Representatives to oust the LDP from power. These parties included the JSP, Komeito, the Democratic Socialist Party, Sakigake, the Japan Renewal Party (Shinseito), the Japan New Party (Nihon Shinto), the Socialist Democratic Federation (Shakai Minshu Rengo), and the Democratic Reform Party (Minshu Kaikaku Rengo).39 On August 9, 1993, Japan New Party chairman Hosokawa Morihiro became the first non-LDP prime minister since 1955, heading the eight-party coalition.
As soon as Hosokawa became prime minister, he began revising Japan’s official commemoration. At a press conference on August 10 to outline his policy plans, Hosokawa stated that the Asia-Pacific War “was a war of aggression (shinryaku senso), and I see it as a mistaken war (machigatta senso).”40 To be sure, LDP prime minister Nakasone had already admitted in December 1985 that the war was a “mistaken war that Japan should not have started” and that Japan had committed “aggression” against China.41 However, Hosokawa was the first prime minister to clearly state that Japan had waged a war, not simply an act, of aggression. Moreover, at the National Memorial Service for the War Dead on August 15, Hosokawa extended his “condolences to war victims and their bereaved families beyond national borders—to those in neighboring Asian countries and around the world.”42 Again, this was the first time any Japanese prime minister had commemorated foreign victims at the National Memorial Service. Doi Takako, JSP chairperson and speaker of the House of Representatives, also delivered a speech reinforcing Hosokawa’s statement: “We have not yet obtained reconciliation with Asian peoples who suffered enormously from our past mistake.”43
The LDP immediately criticized Hosokawa for defining Japan as the sole perpetrator in the Asia-Pacific War. On August 11, LDP members from the Association of Diet Members for Visiting the Yasukuni Shrine Together, the Association of Diet Members for Bereaved Families, and the Council of Diet Members to Honor War Gods went to the prime minister’s office to demand that Hosokawa retract his statement. These three associations also held a joint meeting on August 13 in which they accused Hosokawa of accepting the “Tokyo Trial historical view” that had held Japan solely and entirely guilty of the war. At the joint meeting, representatives of the Japan Bereaved Families Association and the Association to Honor War Gods also requested that the LDP “establish a correct historical view” and fight against “the historical view poisoned by the Tokyo Trial.”44
The three associations of the LDP Diet members then proceeded to create the History Investigation Committee (Rekishi Kento Iinkai), defining its purpose as follows: “We cannot overlook the rampage of the one-sided, masochistic historical view in the name of remorse for the war, exemplified by Prime Minister Hosokawa’s statement on ‘war of aggression’ and the intention of his coalition government to ‘express an apology for Japan’s war responsibility.’ We are convinced that it is our urgent task to establish the Japanese people’s own historical view based on undistorted historical facts.”45 Beginning in October, the committee began to hold monthly seminars to examine historical facts and interpretations of the Greater East Asia War by inviting university professors, journalists, and writers critical of the Tokyo Trial as guest speakers.
In the face of strong criticism from the LDP, Hosokawa modified the wording of his first keynote address in the Diet on August 23, 1993. Instead of “war of aggression,” Hosokawa used “act of aggression” (shinryaku kot) when offering his apology to foreign victims, and effectively retreated to the position, previously held by Nakasone, that not all of Japan’s acts had been aggressive.46
Nevertheless, LDP members kept criticizing Hosokawa. In early October, the LDP bombarded him with questions about his statement almost daily at Diet committee meetings. LDP member Ishihara Shintaro, for example, argued that Hosokawa was mistaken in apologizing for the Asia-Pacific War. Ishihara insisted that Japan had no need to apologize to Britain, France, the Netherlands, and the United States—the imperial powers that had “engaged in aggressive acts. Colonialism was obviously an aggression and troubled people in Asia, and they ruled their colonies longer than Japan did.” Ishihara continued, “We should apologize to Asian people, but not to the imperial powers we fought against in Asia. . . . If we are to apologize to the Allied powers, our apologies will have to be mutual. Japan suffered, too. Many civilians were killed by indiscriminate bombings, and 300,000 people have died from the atomic bombings so far. But I have never heard of the US government apologizing for these damages.” In his defense, Hosokawa argued that his previous statement on Japan’s “war of aggression” was supported by the Tokyo Judgment that Japan had accepted as part of the San Francisco Peace Treaty. Ishihara responded by dismissing Hosokawa’s argument as an “extremely ridiculous and masochistic way of thinking.”47
Another LDP member, Itagaki Tadashi, attacked Hosokawa’s defense of the Tokyo Judgment, arguing, “The so-called Tokyo Trial historical view presents Japan as solely and entirely wrong. I think this has severely poisoned the Japanese people’s historical view. . . . What we should do now is to move away from the Tokyo Trial historical view that SCAP tried to relentlessly inculcate in the Japanese people.”48 By rejecting the Tokyo Trial historical view, Itagaki offered his positive appraisal of what Japan had done in Asia: “You repeatedly said Japan invaded Asia, but really, Japan did liberate Asia. Without the Greater East Asia War, could Asia have been liberated from colonial rule [by the West]?”49 Although Hosokawa did not agree with Itagaki that the Asia-Pacific War was a war of liberation, he eventually conceded, “I do not think that the Tokyo Trial was entirely right, either.”50
In spite of these criticisms, Hosokawa continued to steer Japan’s official commemoration away from the logic of nationalism that the LDP had promoted since the 1950s. When Hosokawa visited South Korea in Novem?ber 1993, he expressed his “heartfelt remorse” (kokoro kara hansei) and offered a “deep apology” (fukaku chinsha) by acknowledging that Japan’s colonial rule had forced Koreans to “adopt Japanese names, work as ‘comfort women’ and forced laborers.”51 When Hosokawa visited China in March 1994, he repeated his “deep remorse and apology” (fukai hansei to owabi) for Japan’s “acts of aggression and colonial rule that brought unbearable sufferings and pains to many people.”52 At the same time, however, Hosokawa followed the LDP government’s precedent, to decouple apology from compensation for foreign victims, by insisting that the issue of compensation had been resolved upon normalization of diplomatic relations.53
While Hosokawa was promoting cosmopolitan commemoration of foreign victims, disagreements among his coalition partners grew. In January 1994, the Political Reform Bill proposed by Hosokawa’s government was rejected in the House of Councillors because the JSP, one of the coalition partners, voted against it. Hosokawa was then suspected of illegal monetary dealings, including illegal contributions from the Tokyo Sagawa Express Corporation. The LDP criticized Hosokawa so relentlessly that the Diet deliberation was temporarily halted. Hosokawa saw no way out of this difficult situation and resigned on April 8, 1994.54
The eight parties initially agreed to maintain their coalition and selected Japan Renewal Party chairman Hata Tsutomu as prime minister. But Hata’s coalition government was even more fragile than Hosokawa’s. The JSP left the coalition when it became clear that three of the coalition members—the Japan Renewal Party, Komeito, and the Democratic Socialist Party—were scheming to limit the JSP’s influence. After the LDP and the JSP joined forces to submit a vote of no confidence to the House of Representatives, Hata resigned in June 1994. At the time of Hata’s resignation, the LDP was still the largest party in the Diet, though it did not have the majority in the House of Representatives.
To return to power, the LDP made deals with the JSP and the New Party Sakigake. The JSP agreed to form an alliance with the LDP after the latter offered Murayama Tomiichi the post of prime minister.55 Thus, on June 30, 1994, JSP chairman Murayama became prime minister by forming the three-party coalition government. For the first time since 1955, the government was headed by the political party that had pressed for cosmopolitan commemoration throughout the postwar period. This newly gained access to the government presented the best political opportunity for proponents of cosmopolitanism to change Japan’s official commemoration.
Now, as part of the government, the JSP began to pursue its longstanding policy goal, to provide government compensation for A-bomb victims.
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