One way to learn what happened in one of history's most noxious but disputed episodes is to ask Satoru Mizushima. After what he calls "exhaustive research" on the seizure of the then Chinese capital Nanjing by Japanese troops in 1937, estimated to have cost anywhere from 20,000 to 300,000 lives, Mizushima offers a very precise figure for the number of illegal deaths: zero.

"The evidence for a massacre is faked," explains the president of rightwing Internet television channel Channel Sakura. "It is Chinese communist propaganda." For support, he brandishes a book containing what he says are dozens of doctored photos. One shows a beheaded Chinese corpse with a cigarette stuck in its mouth. "Japanese people don't mistreat corpses like that," he says, stabbing the page for emphasis. "It is not in our culture."

The world will soon have a chance to assess these claims when Mizushima's movie, "Nanking no Shinjitsu (The Truth About Nanjing)" hits cinemas. The documentary is supported by more than a dozen lawmakers [see sidebar] including Nariaki Nakayama, an LDP member of the House of Councilors and an education minister under former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, and a panel of academics, including Shudo Higashinakano, a history professor at Asia University in Tokyo who provides much of its thin intellectual gruel. Courts in China and Japan recently ruled that Higashinakano libeled two survivors (Xia Shuqin and Li Xiuying) of the massacre in two books that documented their experiences of atrocities in Nanjing as fantasies.