Essay judges defend Tamogami

by Jun Hongo

Organizers and judges of a controversial essay contest backed the contentious entry by former Air Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff Gen. Toshio Tamogami, saying Monday its contents “awoke the Japanese public.”

Tamogami was sacked last month after his revisionist historical views came to light when his work took the contest’s top prize. The general sought to justify Japan’s wartime aggression under the competition’s theme, “True Interpretation of Modern History.”

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, Toshio Motoya, head of hotel and condo developer Apa Group, the contest’s organizer, said Tamogami’s sacking “resulted in a huge frenzy and made the public aware of the essay and its contents. It turned into a historical event.”

The entrepreneur said his motive for organizing the event was to have “proper historical views pave the way for Japan” to reinvent itself as a “true independent state.”

Tamogami’s essay echoes well-worn revisionist justifications for Japan’s wartime aggression. For example, Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor is described as the result of trickery by the U.S. and that Asian neighbors colonized by the Imperial Japanese Army benefited from the occupation.

The sacked general has said that such opinions are shared by many lawmakers and Self-Defense Forces personnel. Motoya said that entries by 98 other ASDF personnel expressed views similar to Tamogami’s.

Motoya revealed that 13 essays selected from the 235 entries to the contest will be published as a book and go on sale Monday at selected bookstores and Apa Group’s hotel chains.

The book, “The Shocking Truth About Modern History,” will retail for ¥1,000 and include an English translation.

Responding to experts who have questioned the contents of Tamogami’s essay as well as the sincerity of the judges for giving it the top prize, the parties concerned claimed all was aboveboard.

“We reached a unanimous agreement that Mr. Tamogami’s work was the finest,” the contest’s top judge, Shoichi Watabe, an honorary professor at Sophia University, told reporters.