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History Wars:  Japanese Taxpayers Funding Anti-Japan Activists



Aerial view of Hashima (or Gunkanjima), the UNESCO's cultural heritage of the world


The KAKEN database is a record of research carried out with the financial support of “Kakenhi” (Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research). These grants are distributed by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (Monbu-kagakusho, or MEXT), as well as by the Japan Foundation for the Promotion of Science, which is under MEXT jurisdiction.


In the KAKEN database are listed such projects as “Research on activities involving citizens’ reconciliation of historical issues, and the possibilities thereof” (led by University of Tokyo professor Masaru Tonomura, JPY38.09 million); “Basic research in primary documents on the political and social history of wartime Korea” (led by University of Kyoto professor Naoki Mizuno, JPY17.29 million); and “Basic research for a structural analysis of the Korean general mobilization system” (led by Ritsumeikan University associate professor Yuka Anzako, JPY2.86 million). Some of these projects took one year, while others took longer.


What do professors Tonomura, Mizuno, and Anzako have in common? They delivered keynote speeches on “The Issue of Forced Abduction and Forced Labor” at the 10th All-Japan Research Workshop on Finding the Truth About Forced Mobilization, held on March 25, 2017, in Matsumoto, Nagano prefecture.


In his speech, Tonomura spoke of Hashima (known colloquially as “Gunkanjima”) and other areas registered as part of the cultural heritage of the world with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2015 under the rubric “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining.”






“A small fraction of newspapers,” Tonomura said in his speech, “and by ‘small fraction’ I mean the Sankei Shimbun, [report] that [the Japanese] got along well with the Koreans [on Gunkanjima], that everyone lived enjoyable lives. I respect individual recollections, but the Koreans felt discriminated against. It is pointless to argue over whether [the Koreans] were forced to be there or not. If the person in question thinks they were forced, then that means that they were.”  


(Related Story: Lie Debunked: Historical Data Show No Forced Labor for Koreans)


Collaboration with South Korean Groups


Among other initiatives, the Network for Finding the Truth about Forced Mobilization, which looks into the issue of labor commandeering during World War II, organized in March 2017 the Research Workshop on Finding the Truth about Forced Mobilization. In late November 2017, this network partnered with the South Korean citizens’ group Ethnic Issues Research Center (Minjok Munje Yonguso) in creating a guidebook titled Forced Labor and “Heritage Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution.” The guidebook points out that, while the application for registration as UNESCO heritage sites should have been carried out under the leadership of the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs, “it is worth noting that it was carried out, instead, by the prime minister’s office.”



“Failing to reflect on the lessons of the past by remembering only those parts of history of which Japan can be proud,” the guidebook continues, “is part and parcel of the project to remake Japan into a country which can once again wage war. The story of the Heritage Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution can be seen as one aspect of this movement.”



MEXT Bias Against Non-Leftist Views


A MEXT source says that Kakenhi grant-in-aid applications are reviewed by a three-person team, with winning applications being those which receive the highest overall scores. This source says that, unlike the natural sciences field, history inevitably shows intellectual bias.


University of Kyushu professor Munehiro Miwa’s project, “Labor Mobilization during World War II: Focusing Mainly on Commandeering Koreans to Work in Coal Mines,” was approved by the Kakenhi committee for JPY37.7 million in funding in the fiscal year 2016. Miwa, who has studied the labor commandeering issue for many years, takes a different view than Tonomura, Mizuno, and Anzako.


“In terms of the system in place at the coal mines,” Miwa said, “there was no discrimination between Japanese and those born on the Korean peninsula.”



There are only few research similar to Miwa’s that are listed in the KAKEN database. Conversely, until January 2017, the top official at MEXT were those sympathetic to the views of the South Koreans and the Network for Finding the Truth about Forced Mobilization.


Disagreement Over Information Center


The November 28, 2017, edition of the South Korean newspaper Dong-A Ilbo carried an interview with former MEXT vice education minister Kihei Maekawa. The interview was titled, “Prime Minister Abe and Team Override MEXT Objections by Setting up Information Center in Tokyo.”



The Japanese government, speaking before the UNESCO world heritage committee in 2015, revealed that it was planning to set up a facility in order to promote understanding of the policies carried out during the commandeering of labor. This information center, to be opened in downtown Tokyo in 2019, will likely display wage records and other laborer-related primary source documents, as well as testimonials from those who resided on Gunkanjima.



In the Dong-A Ilbo interview, Maekawa said that in September of 2016, while he was still the vice education minister, he was called to the prime minister’s residence by Special Advisor to the Prime Minister Hiroto Izumi. Arriving at the residence, Maekawa was asked by Izumi for his thoughts on constructing the information center at the National Art Center of Tokyo, located in Roppongi. Maekawa said that he took the proposal back to his boss, Minister of Education Hirokazu Matsuno, and others. Maekawa then relayed to Izumi that, in the light of Matsuno’s and other MEXT bureaucrats’ views, MEXT’s position was that the information center should be located not in Tokyo but in Kyushu, home to the majority of the UNESCO Meiji Industrial Revolution sites.


From the beginning, Maekawa had been against applying for UNESCO world heritage registry for the Meiji Industrial Revolution sites. Maekawa worked to have the Nagasaki churches and the sites related to Christianity in Japan registered, instead, but the Meiji Industrial Revolution project overtook his efforts.


Morality Education Leads to Nationalism?


“Both the positive and the negative sides of the heritage sites must be correctly explained,” Maekawa emphasized. “The Japanese government, starting today, must enter into a debate with South Korea [on the issue of the information center].”


Maekawa extende his criticism to the full-scale introduction, starting this year, of morality classes in elementary and middle schools in Japan: “We are moving in a nationalist direction, in which the country is more important than the individual. I sense danger in this.”



Attacking Yoshida Shoin and Yamaguchi Academy


The South Korean government agrees with Maekawa in opposing setting up the information center in Tokyo, as do the Ethnic Issues Research Center in South Korea and, in Japan, the Network for Finding the Truth About Forced Mobilization.


In July of 2017, the Ethnic Issues Research Center and the Network for Finding the Truth About Forced Mobilization joined other citizens’ groups in issuing a joint statement calling for the “establishment of an information center commemorating the victims.”


Forced Labor and “Heritage Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution,”the guidebook put out by the Ethnic Issues Research Center and the Network for Finding the Truth About Forced Mobilization, contains a passage on Shoka Sonjuku, located in Hagi, Yamaguchi prefecture, and included among the “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution”:


“Japan has included among the ‘Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution’ the Shoka Sonjuku, said to be a place which fostered the individuals who would go on to promote industrialization. However, Shoka Sonjuku is a place where the historical view was formed which justifies the history and philosophy of Japan’s invasion of Asia, and is not an industrial revolution heritage site.”



Shoka Sonjuku


Invasionist Philosophy


Nagasaki University professor emeritus Yasunori Takazane, who passed died in April, 2017, worked alongside the Ethnic Issues Research Center and the Network for Finding the Truth About Forced Mobilization in criticizing Shoin Yoshida, the famous late-Edo samurai who founded the Shoka Sonjuku. Takazane also accused Japan of aggression and worked to make postwar reparations a reality.


In a January 2016 essay in the Journal of the Ohara Institute of Social Research, titled “Nagasaki and the Forced Abduction of Koreans,” Takazane wrote: “It is no exaggeration to say that the intellectual sources for modern Japan’s invasions were Shoin Yoshida and [late Edo and Meiji thinker] Yukichi Fukuzawa…. In arguing that it is appropriate to register Shoka Sonjuku as a world heritage site, the Japanese government, which is behind Shoka Sonjuku’s world heritage site recommendation, is affirming Shoin Yoshida’s philosophy of invasion. The Japanese government thus commits a disgraceful and grave error which runs contrary to the mission of the UNESCO charter, which is given as ‘the protection of the cultural and natural heritage of outstanding universal value.’”


Shoin Yoshida


Yukichi Fukuzawa


Takazane writes further that “we should seek the possibility of positioning [the Shoka Sonjuku] as a negative world heritage site for teaching us lessons [about the past], like [the Jewish concentration camp] Auschwitz and [slave trade port] Liverpool.”



Likewise, “Forced Labor and ‘Heritage Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution’” insists on “calling heritage sites which give bad examples from history ‘negative heritage sites.’”


The China Nexus


Takazane was once the director of the Oka Masaharu Memorial Nagasaki Peace Museum, opened in 1995 following the wishes of the late Masaharu Oka, who researched the issue of Koreans killed during the atomic bombings of Japan.


The Oka Masaharu Memorial Nagasaki Peace Museum displays photographs provided by its sister museum, the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall and Museum in Nanjing, People’s Republic of China. Another sister museum of the Oka Masaharu Museum is the Museum for Proof of the Crimes of Unit 731 of the Japanese Military Which Invaded China, located in Harbin, PRC. This museum has on display documents pertaining to the Kwantung Army’s Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department (“Unit 731”).


In addition to displaying materials, the Oka Masaharu Museum also hosts many public speakers. In November 2017, the Oka Masaharu Museum invited the Harbin Unit 731 Museum director, Jin Chengming.



In October 2017, the Oka Masaharu Museum screened the documentary Taiping Gate: 1300 Lost Lives, directed by Tamaki Matsuoka. This is the same Matsuoka who, at the end of November 2017, screened this same documentary at the University of Toronto at the invitation of the Canadian anti-Japan group Canada ALPHA.


“During the present time, when ferocious words are hurled back and forth, let us listen anew to the invaluable voices of those who survived the massacre,” says the Museum flyer on the documentary. “Let us learn and think together.”


Related article:

History Wars: Chinese Propaganda Against Japan Gains Ground in Canada

History Wars: China Ignores Facts to Weaponize the Past




(Click here to read the original article in Japanese.)



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