Unsworn testimony before an Upper House committee last week shed light on axed Air Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff Gen. Toshio Tamogami’s nationalist views, but questions persist over how such a vocal revisionist was appointed ASDF chief to begin with.

Born in Fukushima Prefecture in 1948, Tamogami graduated from the National Defense Academy of Japan in 1971. He served as chief of the Air Defense Command as well as the head of its equipment division before being appointed ASDF chief of staff in March 2007.

Some experts questioned Tamogami’s unusual appointment to the ASDF’s top job, since he had only served as head of the logistics and welfare sections instead of the mainstream planning and operations division.

Hirofumi Hayashi, a professor at Kanto Gakuin University and an expert on modern Japanese history, pointed out that Tamogami may have landed the top post because of his close ties with Toshio Motoya, head of hotel and condo developer Apa Group, who had connections with then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a staunch nationalist.

The controversial essay contest Tamogami won, and was subsequently sacked for, was sponsored and organized by the Apa Group. Its theme, “True Modern History,” allowed the general to try to justify Japan’s wartime aggression.

“I can only speculate,” Hayashi said, noting Motoya may have served as an intermediary between Tamogami and Abe.

“The close relationship between the Apa Group and former Prime Minister Abe is widely known,” Hayashi said.

Tamogami is believed to have befriended Motoya during his stint at the ASDF’s Komatsu base in Ishikawa Prefecture. Motoya organized and ran a local group of residents who supported the activities of the base, which Tamogami commanded from 1998 to 1999.

According to media reports, Motoya was given a special tour of the base for his contribution and once was even allowed to sit in the cockpit of a fighter jet.

But the Apa Group owner is also the key member of Anshin-Kai, a group of supporters of Abe.

The two have a close relationship, as described in the December 2005 issue of an Apa Group magazine, which includes a photo of Abe attending a wine party at Motoya’s home.

Hayashi, who specializes in Okinawa’s wartime history, was at the center of the textbook revision controversy in 2007, when Abe instructed publishers to modify statements that claimed Okinawa residents were forced by the military into committing mass suicide and murder-suicide during the Battle of Okinawa.

The height of Abe’s hawkishness coincided with Tamogami’s appointment as ASDF chief, Hayashi noted.

“It’s possible that Prime Minister Abe’s close associates were aggressively on the move at the time,” he said.

In a news conference last week, Japanese Communist Party heavyweight Tadayoshi Ichida said he was troubled by the shady connection.

“Tamogami was appointed chief of staff of the ASDF at a time when Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet promoted ‘a departure from the postwar regime.’ The government is liable for setting the stage where such views could be publicly stated,” the chief of the JCP Secretariat told reporters.

“The majority of Abe’s Cabinet was filled with those who had ‘Yasukuni views,’ who claim Japan fought a war of self-survival and self-defense,” Ichida said in reference to Tokyo’s Yasukuni war shrine.

Mihagi Yamamoto, of Nagoya-based peace activist group Fusen-eno Network (Network for Abolishing Wars), agreed.

“Many politicians say they support the Murayama statement on war, but openly challenge Japan’s responsibility by attempting to rewrite school textbooks. It’s likely there are people within the government who see things the way Tamogami does,” she said. In 1995, Socialist Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama issued what stands today as Tokyo’s official apology for the war.

While Tamogami’s long-held nationalist views came as a shock to many, they were no secret in the ASDF.

During an Upper House committee session last week, it came to light that, only three months after his appointment, Tamogami had written an essay for internal publication within the ASDF in which he also justified Japan’s aggression during the war.

Tamogami raised eyebrows in April for denouncing a Nagoya High Court ruling that declared the ASDF airlift mission between Kuwait and Iraq unconstitutional.

But the Defense Ministry did not deal with him until his latest revisionist essay, in which he claimed Japan was not an aggressor nation and the people had been misled by “erroneous education,” was submitted and won the top prize in the Apa contest last month.

Yamamoto, a plaintiff in the Nagoya High Court suit, which questioned the constitutionality of the ASDF dispatch, raised concerns that the Defense Ministry’s oversight of the Self-Defense Forces is lacking.

“If they were unaware of Tamogami’s views before the essay came to light, then that is a serious issue from the perspective of civilian control over the military,” she said.

Meanwhile, sessions at the Upper House committee also revealed that Tamogami launched lecture courses on wartime history during his stint as head of the Joint Staff College, subsequently influencing its officers with revisionist education.

The Defense Ministry did not reveal some of the tutors who held classes on the Tokyo war crimes tribunals and views on the war during the committee sessions.

While the office of the U.S. president-elect reportedly goes as far as to ask its candidates for political appointments their Internet blog postings and their social networking service handle names, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada acknowledged that his ministry did not know of Tamogami’s habit of making controversial comments.

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