The daughter of an Imperial Japanese Army soldier sentenced to death by a military tribunal for engaging in a contest to kill Chinese soldiers in 1937 said during a defamation suit hearing Monday she and her family still suffer stigma because of the “accusations.”
At the first session of the trial before the Tokyo District Court, Chieko Tadokoro, daughter of 2nd Lt. Toshiaki Mukai, said her family suffered for years — both financially and emotionally — due to the “groundless accusations” regarding her father published in articles and books during and after World War II.
She is one of three relatives of Mukai and Tsuyoshi Noda, another second lieutenant convicted of taking part in the killing contest, seeking a total of 36 million yen in damages from the Mainichi Shimbun and the Asahi Shimbun newspapers, publisher Kashiwa Shobo and writer Katsuichi Honda.
The plaintiffs allege that the Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shimbun, which is now the Mainichi Shimbun, falsely reported between November and December 1937 that the two men challenged each other to see who would be the first to kill 100 Chinese soldiers with their swords on their way to Nanjing. The contest was dubbed “hyakunin-giri.”
They also maintain that the Asahi Shimbun published a book in 1981 based on accounts of Chinese survivors of the Nanjing Massacre that mentions the killing contest. They accuse Honda of writing several books on the issue published by Asahi Shimbun and Kashiwa Shobo, as well as a related article in the Asahi in 1971.
In addition to compensation, the plaintiffs are demanding that the Mainichi publish an apology, and that the Asahi and Kashiwa Shobo stop publishing the books.
The families claim it has been proved through soldiers’ wills, tribunal records and other books that the contest, said to have been part of the Nanjing Massacre, did not occur, but that the article in the Tokyo Nichi Nichi was used as evidence by the military tribunal.
“After my father was executed in 1948, our family fell apart and we had to rely on welfare to survive,” Tadokoro said. She added that despite the families’ efforts to lead a quiet life, later books and articles on the issue made them relive the pain over and over again.
“The memory of the killing contest resurfaced among Japanese after Honda’s book came out,” she said. “Rumors that I was the daughter of a war criminal created problems not only at work but became the cause of dispute between me and my husband, who started to become violent.”
Tadokoro said that when she was a child, she wrote a letter to the author of the 1937 article, asking why he wrote such lies and how he felt about it. She never received a reply.
A lawyer for Honda told the court Monday he does not believe the case constitutes defamation. and that he wants to ask the plaintiffs which parts of the story they believe are fiction. He added that cases such as this should be solved through historical debates rather than in court.
But Tomomi Inada, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, said, “The (self-imposed) ethical guidelines for newspapers say they will record history, and that the reporters’ duty is to pursue the truth.”
“They also say newspapers shall attach the greatest importance to the honor of individuals and to respecting human rights, and in case an error is committed, corrections will be made immediately.”