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Meet the Victims of False News About Japan




What do these people have in common?


  • Citizens of three small villages in the eastern part of Nago City
  • Military pilots based in Japan
  • Law-abiding United States Marines stationed in Okinawa
  • Descendants of Japanese soldiers, who are labeled as having engaged in slavery in the 1930s and the 1940s
  • Members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces who are labeled by some Japanese scholars as illegitimate
  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is accused of wanting to return Japan to militarism


To this foreign observer, they are victims of misleading, if not false, news, of erroneous reporting about Japan that either originated from or tolerated by Japanese and the international media.


Conscientious Japanese and American officials agreed in 1996 to relocate the Futenma Marine Corps base inside Marine Camp Schwab near the eastern part of Nago City. This move—sometimes erroneously reported as the creation of a new base—would lessen noise and danger in Ginowan City. It is acceptable, if not totally welcome, to the citizens of the villages of Henoko, Toyohara, and Kushi.



The media in Okinawa and mainland Japan have rarely, if ever, visited the three villages, yet they have reported as if the large majority of Okinawans oppose the move. If the Japanese media succeed in stopping the move, the likely “Plan B” for United States and Japan is for Futenma to remain open.


Even though strenuous maintenance and training efforts are undertaken to make military aircraft operating in Japan as safe as possible, a small number of accidents have occurred. Apologies and pledges to make greater efforts are always forthcoming as should be the case. However, the heroic and skillful efforts of the pilots, who avoid landing in populated areas, are not reported as often as they deserve to be. Pilots have put their own lives in danger in attempts to avoid injuries to citizens on the ground in at least several of the small number of accidents. These pilots stand ready to make maximum sacrifice in defending Japan against an enemy. Their training efforts are carried out as safely as possible to protect those they are prepared to defend, and they deserve to be appreciated.



A large number of young US military, particularly Marines, are based in Okinawa. Efforts are made to find the best qualified to serve abroad, and most of them perform very professionally and reliably. But young Japanese and American men 20 years of age and younger are not always perfect. One crime is one too many, but the good conduct of the great majority of US Marines serving in Okinawa also deserves to be reported. Low incident figures for Americans compare favorably with Okinawans of the same age, yet crimes by Marines are often reported sensationally.


Although the civilian contractors operated brothels for Japanese soldiers in China and other theaters, available evidence points to the fact that the Japanese and Korean women, both legally Japanese at that time, were paid for their services at rates sometimes higher than soldiers, and were not abducted. A story in a major Japanese newspaper in the 1990s falsely alleged that Korean women were coerced in the 1940s. It ignited strong complaints in Korea, in a United Nations committee, and elsewhere, that the Japanese Army organized and promoted sexual slavery, rather than the true story that they were allowing legal prostitution.


An original version of what became Japan’s Constitution stated that postwar Japan could have no military forces “even for self-defense.” But the specific prohibition of self-defense measures was eliminated by the American drafters before being given to the Japanese government. What survived was modified by Hitoshi Ashida when the draft was passed by the Diet, so that military forces for self-defense could be legally justified in the future. Japan’s Supreme Court has ruled that self-defense is legal, yet several Japanese legalists still hold the Self-Defense Forces to be illegal, a clearly undeserved indictment of the SDF and their families.



Prime Minister Abe’s Cabinet has adopted security legislation which has been welcomed by the US, Australia, and Japanese friends in Southeast Asia and other countries. Yet, parts of the Japanese media allege that Abe is moving dangerously to the right, especially in his attempts to insert a clause in the Constitution specifically to clarify the legitimacy of the SDF.  


A free press is fundamental to a strong democracy, but with freedom comes responsibility. Media often portray themselves as providing an education to the public. They have a right and duty to report crime and warn of dangers to national security, but sometimes it seems that biases or some agenda other than objective reporting take precedence. Freedom of the press should include a responsibility to report accurately.



(Click here to read the article in Japanese.)



JAMES E. AUER is the President and Director of the Auer U.S.-Japan Center [AUSJC] and Emeritus Professor of Vanderbilt University.  The AUSJC hosts Japanese researchers annually at its offices on the Vanderbilt campus, conducts the annual U.S.-Japan (Defense/Dual Use) Technology Forum for American and Japanese businessmen in Nashville and, since 2004, an annual U.S.-Japan Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) Forum in Washington, D.C.

He served in the U.S. Navy from 1963 to 1983 in a number of positions including visiting student at the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Staff College (equivalent of the U.S. Navy War College) in Tokyo and serving as executive and commanding officer of guided missile ships of the U.S. Seventh Fleet. From April 1979 until September 1988, he served as Special Assistant for Japan in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

He holds an A.B. degree from Marquette University and a Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. In December 2008 he received the Japanese Government’s “Order of Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon.” 

In December 2015 he was named as the first foreign recipient of the annual “Sound Opinion (Seiron) Grand Prize” by the Fujisankei Communications Group.


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  1. FronTierFrank

    March 21, 2018 at 12:26 am

    Dr Auer is so on point regarding how Fake News pervades most of the world including Japan. The MSM and Communist-Leftist scholars as well as their allies in politics do not believe in self-defense, something utterly fundamental in preserving a nation's very existence. Unfortunately, many decades of brainwashing have resulted in the majority of Japanese today to believe that America will always come to the rescue if and when hostilities break out - this is not how a population of an 'independent' nation should think, and it is time for the people to wake up to the realities of a very dangerous geopolitical environment in which they exist.

  2. Mindy Kotler

    March 10, 2018 at 6:47 am

    Professor Auer knows nearly everything he, or whoever wrote this in his name, here is willful misinformation. It is a shameful distortion of the press and of history. In regards to Abe's security legislation is was not just "parts of media" that objected, but also constitutional scholars hand-picked by the Abe Administration and the public who protested in long unseen rallies. Just because the US government welcomed the extra-legal approach of the Abe government to subvert the Constitution, does not make it right. In regard to the Comfort Women, a single newspaper article in a newspaper had utterly nothing to do with highlighting the issue. The words of the women themselves from Korea, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Indonesia, China, Taiwan and elsewhere are what mattered in conjunction with the hundreds of documents found in the Japanese military archives. The Right's discounting of the testimony of women from all over the Indo-Pacific (Indian, Burmese, Tamil and Andaman women were part of this) is a particularly misogynist aspect of their denier history. It was the Imperial Navy that started the system in the 1930s to circumvent the legal prostitution system, which did not allow trafficking or coercion. Naval Lt Nakasone, who became PM, acquired four Indonesian girls for the brothel he ran near today's Jakarta in the early 1940s. The CW system was not merely a project of the Army, but of Imperial Japan's military and government. One objective was cheap sex and another to ensure that private contractors did not profit from this military entitlement. Soldier, sailor, and government official wages were to be all recycled back to the state. Nearly every sentence Dr. Auer has written above needs correction and clarification. I leave the rest to others. Vanderbilt University may want to examine the intellectual integrity of Dr. Auer's "work" more carefully.

    • U

      March 24, 2018 at 12:53 pm

      In her attempt to cast Professor Auer as intellectually dishonest, Mindy has used disproven and false information to do so.

      Mindy's Claim: "In regard to the Comfort Women, a single newspaper article in a newspaper had utterly nothing to do with highlighting the issue."

      Fact: It was not a single newspaper article in a newspaper as Mindy attempts to falsely portray it, but a series of articles from a book that became the focal point for a concerted campaign by Japanese extremists to organize the Koreans into mirroring what the author of the book claimed. The newspaper author, as Mindy carefully omits along with the other historical deniers, was married to the daughter of the president of the association that was organized to sue the Japanese government. As noted by that newspaper reporter, the story ran and action was being taken even before a single Comfort Women from Korea came forward. The Asahi Shimbum failed to retract their 21 articles at the time of the events, and took decades to do so. In addition, both the Asahi and the author failed to disclose the potential conflict of interest of running stories that could lead to a financial benefit to his mother in law. A gross violation of ethics. And a gross omission by Kotler.

      Mindy's Claim: "The words of the women themselves from Korea, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Indonesia, China, Taiwan and elsewhere are what mattered in conjunction with the hundreds of documents in the Japanese military archives."

      Fact: Mindy again omits the facts that the Japanese lawyers who organized the Korean organization to sue the Japanese government, also traveled to the Philippines, Indonesia and elsewhere to call for claimants in a lawsuit against the Japanese government. Many of those women's stories have not been verified, some of their claims were clearly false as there were women who were not born during WWII, were found to not live in the areas they stated, had contradictory statements, etc. Many women who were true victims of wartime rape were corralled into the Comfort Women prostitution group in an attempt to add legitimacy to the Comfort Women claim.

      Fact: The hundreds of documents in the Japanese military archives state clearly that the women were not sex slaves, but were contract prostitutes. Mindy attempts her own brand of intellectual deception and dishonesty with inferring the documents are supporting of her brand of denialist history.

      Mindy's claim: "It was the Imperial Navy that started the system in the 1930s to circumvent the legal prostitution system, which did not allow trafficking or coercion. . .One objective was cheap sex and another to ensure that private contractors did not profit from this military entitlement. "
      Fact: The comfort women system was instituted not to "circumvent the legal prostitution system". It was an extension of that system and was clearly implemented to (a) combat the rise of STDs among military personnel. (b) reduce the incidents of harassment of local women to include rape. The military system implemented stricter controls on coercion, restrictions on underage girls, and clauses that allowed the women to refuse service for any reason to include drunkeness. These additional restrictions were not in the normal "legal prostitution system". In addition, which "legal system" is Mindy referring to? There were multiple jurisdictions in China depending on which international settlement, or area the Japanese were in. Some were their own administered area, others were in International Settlements like Shanghai, still others in 1940 under French Colonial law in Indochina for example. Again, Mindy displays her own intellectual dishonesty in attempting to deny the historical records.

      There are more, but it is clear that Mindy Kotler is the only one being intellectually dishonest in this conversation. She was hired by then representative Mike Honda of California to organize the HR 121 campaign to propagate these same intellectually dishonest and deceptive denialist talking points to the US Congress in 2006 and 2007. She is still shilling today.

    • Toshi Hayakawa

      April 3, 2018 at 5:26 pm

      Unverifiable accusations, unidentifiable logic, and irrelevancy-- Ms. Kotler confuses me living amid heaps of evidence.

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