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Motley crew of foreigners backing Japan’s revisionists basks in media glare

by Mark Schreiber

In the war of words — particularly with South Korea and China — over World War II-era issues that has intensified over the past 18 months, foreigners — both Westerners and Asians — have also waded into the fray. And some have even sided with revisionist positions, raising questions over the Japanese military’s alleged recruitment of sex slaves (“comfort women”) and other contentious wartime topics.

For these individuals, preaching to the Japanese choir does appear to have its rewards. At a gathering in Tokyo last autumn, veteran British journalist Henry Scott Stokes commemorated the 70th anniversary of the showpiece meeting of the Greater East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere, Japan’s short-lived effort to align Asians against European colonial powers.

“Japan is a country of rising sun,” he told his audience. “Joining hands together with the fellow Asian people who desire truly Free Asia, I sincerely hope that Japan will play a vital role for realizing democratic Asian unity.”

Soon thereafter, Shodensha published Stokes’ book ”Eikokujin Kisha ga Mita Rengokoku Sensho Shikan no Kyomo” (“Falsehoods of the Allied Nations’ Victorious View of History, as Seen by a British Journalist”). The book, whose third chapter echoes the speech in its description of Japan as “Asia’s light of hope,” has gone through 11 printings and sales have shot past 80,000. Last week it was rated Amazon Japan’s 32nd best-selling title.

Stokes, born in the U.K. in 1938, is one of the longest-standing members of Tokyo’s foreign press corps and the author of the 1974 biography “The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima.” His new book also contains references to his personal relationship with the author and political activist (who died in a bizarre incident of ritual disembowelment in 1970), but many of the other chapters are tinged with the language and ideology that was standard political doctrine in Japan in the 1930s and ’40s.

It could be argued that some sections of the book provide a distorted mirror on past history. In the first six pages of Chapter 9, titled “Japan and the Jews,” Stokes touches on Japan’s benevolent treatment of refugees from the Nazi Holocaust. It attempts to provide a counterweight to Japan’s wartime wrongdoings by adopting the same post-hoc rationalization logic that’s become the standby of historical revisionists: treating possibly good intentions as facts.

An authority on this topic who examined the passages at my request remarked that the contents were “very familiar,” suggesting the book might have been “written by a ghostwriter (or writers).” He noted errors on several points, such as the number of Jewish refugees cited (“several hundred and not 20,000 as stated in the book”) and their countries of origin (“not from Germany but from Poland and Lithuania”). Such discrepancies have apparently not discouraged large numbers of readers from snatching up the book at ¥840 a copy.

Meanwhile, a flamboyantly pro-Japanese gentleman named Tony Marano, aka “Texas Oyaji,” has been appearing with regular frequency in the Yukan Fuji tabloid newspaper. Interviews with the 65-year-old Marano, who boasts no academic or professional credentials to speak of, appear in the April edition of Voice, a monthly opinion magazine published by the PHP Institute, and in Flash magazine’s April 1 issue.

Marano’s main claim to fame (or notoriety) is his circulation of a petition demanding removal of the comfort-woman statue erected by Korean Americans in a park in Glendale, California. The petition has reportedly reached 100,000 signatures, the requisite number to warrant an official response from the White House.

For those who might have difficulty comprehending an accent resembling character actors in “Law and Order” (“Thea wuz a woah goin’ on, see?”), Marano’s animated video rants are supplemented with Japanese subtitles. The most popular, in which he claims the comfort women were professional prostitutes guided solely by the profit motive (www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggQaYD37Jm4), has registered over 600,000 views.

At the end of the video, a Japanese woman’s voice solicits contributions through the Kumagaya branch of the Gunma Bank. A website produced by Marano’s Japanese supporters (texas-daddy.com) includes a “Texas Daddy Official Goods Store” hawking coffee mugs, cellphone ornaments and T-shirts (“Free shipping on orders over ¥5,250!”).

Interestingly, Texas Daddy’s website includes photographs of him on a visit to Japan together with Hiroyuki Fujita — the man also credited with translating Stokes’ latest book into Japanese. Unless you believe in startling coincidences, you might be moved to wonder if a nucleus of like-minded Japanese have taken it upon themselves to network with the few foreigners willing to publicly endorse their political assertions.

The revisionists and their fellow travelers can also count on support from a small number of Asians residing in Japan. Perhaps the most outspoken of these is Takushoku University professor Oh Seon-Hwa (age 58), who was born on Korea’s Cheju Island but is now a naturalized Japanese.

Oh has authored dozens of books, many openly critical of her former compatriots, and recently she collaborated with two other critics for publisher Tokuma Shoten on a series of dialogues in defense of Japan. The other two are Taiwan-born Ko Bunyu (aka Huang Wen- hsiung, age 76), author of numerous books including “Minikui Chugokujin” (“The Ugly Chinaman”), and China-born Seki Hei (aka Shi Ping, believed to be about 52). The third work in the series is titled “Nihonjin wa Chu-Kan to no ‘Zekko no Kakugo’ wo Mochinasai” (“Japanese, Please Resign Yourselves to Severing Relations with China and Korea”).

The historical issues they espouse aside, the small number of foreigners appeals to an almost exclusively domestic Japanese audience, one so eager to receive support from outsiders that they’re disinclined to question the quality, or motives, of those providing it.

  • Ron NJ

    “In the war of words — particularly with South Korea and China — over
    World War II-era issues that has intensified over the past 18 months,
    foreigners — both Westerners and Asians — have also waded into the fray.”
    If foreigners weren’t involved, then who would Japan be having words with? Itself? As the article is at least attributed to a non-Japanese writer, I’m hesitant to chalk it up to the typically off-kilter mindset so prevalent in Japan when anything involving non-Japanese pops up, so what is this then, just terrible wording and a lack of proofreading? Nobody stopped and went “you know, this makes no sense…” before pressing the ‘publish’ button? Or is he lampooning the government? I mean, as much as Japan would love that international diplomacy be comprised entirely of monologues (see: “There is no dispute” re: Senkakus vs. “There is a dispute” re: Dokdo, Kuriles, etc), that’s obviously not the case, so it would be a clever jab at least, but I think it would fly well over most peoples’ heads.

    • Dismantle_Me

      Japanese can’t argue with each other, then? There is no internal dissent, with the Japanese people obediently lock-step in groupthink mode under Abe? That’s clear.

    • YoDude12

      When envisioning “South Korea”, and “China,” people don’t often draw the conclusion that those being referred to are “Westerners,” do they? The quote doesn’t say “foreigners,” does it? Watch out, JAL is about to land in Newark!

  • happyjapan

    This is very interesting. A fairly large proportion of long time NJ residents in Japan basically support the racist ideology of the country. They do this because they are comfortably ensconced in fat jobs and don’t wish anything to change. A few post regularly on the Japan times. They are a big reason why I left Japan, as people who stay in Japan long term tend to compromise their basic humanity and compassion in return for an easy life. They support the racist treatment of their fellow foreigners as long as they aren’t affected. They have sold their soul. They have lost their humanity.

    • kooshkoff

      What sort of racism? What happened to you there?

  • Satan Baalzvoov

    Ron, it’s a pity you didn’t bother to read past the first paragraph — there was some interesting stuff in the column.

  • Don MacLaren

    “Texas Daddy” sounds like he’s from New Jersey.

    • Tony Marano

      Brooklyn. However been in Texas for 35 years.

      • Don MacLaren

        Thanks for clarification, sir.

  • Ben Wagner

    I’m concerned at the direction the Japan Times are going in. A direction akin to western style liberalism.

    Criticism is one thing, even better when it’s constructive and truthful (which this article is not).

  • kooshkoff

    The guy in the video makes some good points on his channel.

  • http://japedant.blogspot.jp/ Japedant

    “An authority on this topic…suggesting the book might have been written by a ghostwriter…”
    Really? It doesn’t make sense. Mr. Scott-Stokes expressed exactly what he wrote on the book in the speech which you can see on Youtube.
    And why are those “authorities” always anonymous?

  • bombkiller007

    In attempting to discredit Mr. Stokes books, he apparently outsourced the fact checking to an “expert”. But from the glaring mistakes of this “expert’ who must be in the second grade, Mr. Schreiber rises to an entirely new level of irony while trying to show Mr. Stokes books as inaccurate and blunders his way into a corner.

    The reality is that in Israel on Yad Vashem we have a monument to Chinue Sugihara of Blessed Memory (OBM), in addition, the Shoah museum contains references for the families that were sheltered in Japanese administered areas from 1937 to 1945. Sugihara is credited with 10,000 souls granted visas, the entry for Jewish families allowed to settle as refugees in Shanghai after the Japanese administration from 1937 during its peak was 20,000.

    There were multiple thousands more allowed settlement throughout the Chinese zones administered by the Japanese as well as Japan proper itself. The Kobe synagogue remains prominent in the collective memory in Israel among the refugees to Japan during this time. Mr. Schreiber should be ashamed at this blatant attempt to downplay the number of Jews that were awarded refugee status even as many nations to include the US did not allow Jewish refugees especially as stateless persons entry. But Mark could be bothered with researching himself these easy to read facts, yet he is the first to attempt to disparage others when they, in fact, were correct.

    So perhaps Mr. Schreiber needs to take his revisionism up with the Israeli Embassy, Yad Vashem Committee in Israel, and the Shoah Museum and remembrance library, as obviously Marks ‘expert’ found them out.

    • Satan Baalzvoov

      Bombkiller@ everything you said above about Jewish refugees is correct, but has little to do with the contents of Scott-Stokes’ book, which refers to Japanese dealings with Jews from Russia and Eastern Europe who transited Manchuria. I suggest you google “A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE JEWS OF HARBIN” by Irene Clurman and Professor Dan Ben-Canaan. Here is an excerpt: “Japanese troops occupied Harbin in 1932, and the city became part of the puppet state of Manchukuo. The Japanese immediately began expropriating private property and terrorizing the civilian population. They recruited spies among the locals and allowed Russian fascists to spearhead anti-Soviet and anti-Jewish campaigns. Foreigners as well as Chinese were kidnapped, tortured and often murdered by the occupying army and its collaborators. Fearing for their lives, ordinary citizens had no recourse against these injustices.” There’s more, and it’s not pretty.

  • tesmith47

    this is truly mind boggling !!!!!

  • Masaki Miyamoto

    First of all, “revisionism” and “a fault in warage of Japan” do not exist in Japan.

    Mr.Tony is discussing its opinion for “the official record of the U.S. Forces & U.S. Government” by video on the basis.

    It’s nonsense to criticize him by a “Korean fantasy history”.

    The side which criticizes him must present and argue about “him and basis record more than equivalent.”

    The clerical error in a report:
    Diplomat “Sugihara Chiune” of Imperial Japan, he saved 6,000 or more Jews from the Nazis’s Holocaust in the Kaunas consulate in Lithuania.

    Colonel Inuzuka Koresige of Imperial Japanese Navy worked in “the Japanese settlement area” in Shanghai, he gave 20,000 or more Jews from Austria the Japanese entry visa, and saved from the Nazis’s Holocaust.

    In the 1930s, the Jews who received persecution have escaped to Manchuria via the Siberia railroad in Germany and Europe.

    Imperial Japan accepted all Jews by a “globefish plan.”

    Lieutenant General Higuchi Kiichirou of Imperial Japanese Army gave the Manchuria entry visa to 20,000 or more Judea refugees who have escaped from Europe to Otho Paul of the Soviet Union territory in March, 1938, and he saved from persecution.

    He sponsored the “Far East Jew convention” and was opposed to the Nazis’s Holocaust.

    These are facts. It’s not “revisionism.”

  • http://ringojyuku.blogspot.com/ 林檎塾

    I feel sad when I read an article insulting Japan. :’(
    I want to love people loving Japan.
    Most Japanese think so…

    • chang-hs

      Please do not misunderstand. The author is never insulting Japanese. He is just saying that there is an ugly thing in Japan, and it is really ugly.

      • Brandon

        Do you know that a Japanese is discriminated against in Japan?

  • ChuckRamone

    Your anecdotal experience is everyone’s reality.

  • Kazn Naker

    Mr. Schreiber mentioned to the coutribution on Mr.Marano’s video.
    I think the contribution is natural, not so bad, rather good.
    His action is supported by the individuals, not by a specific entity.
    It’s democracy. It’s healthy, even daring to compare with other political system like as plutocracy or spoils system.

  • Kazn Naker

    Mr.Schreiber mentioned to the contributions on Mr.Marano’s video.
    I think the contributions are natural, not so bad, rather good.
    His action is supported by the individuals, not by a specific entity.
    It’s democracy. It’s healthy, even daring to compare with other political system like as plutocracy or spoils system.