National / Media | BIG IN JAPAN

Defiant Apa paints a target on its back

by Mark Schreiber

Special To The Japan Times

“The Japanese airplanes attacked, and a total of 1,200 men, roughly half the victims of Pearl Harbor, died in action on the USS Arizona. … In general, the powder magazine at the ship’s bottom is not induced to explode in a bombing and it would not have caught fire and blown up six minutes after the bomb attack.

“At the time of the Spanish-American War the U.S. blew up and sunk its own USS Maine, blaming it on Spain. It then used the slogan ‘Remember the Maine’ to inspire the citizens to fight against Spain … and snatched away Guam and the Philippines. … It is thought that the U.S. did the same thing during World War II, when it used the slogan ‘Remember Pearl Harbor.'”

The above is excerpted from pages 12-13 of “Theoretical Modern History: The Real History of Japan,” a collection of essays by self-described patriotic essayist Seiji Fuji that appeared from 2014 to 2015 in a periodical called Apple Town.

The bilingual book, and a companion volume, are placed in most of the guest rooms at the several hundred Apa Group hotels around Japan. They serve up “alternative facts” regarding World War II, particularly the Sino-Japanese conflict, including accounts of the 1928 assassination of Manchurian warlord Chang Tso-lin and the Nanking Massacre of 1937.

The two books have generated quite a bit of outrage, although not from Americans, despite Fuji’s rather incredible allegation that in December 1941 their government contrived to sink its own battleship to arouse its populace to go to war with Japan.

Fuji, whose real name is Toshio Motoya, is the co-founder of the Apa Group (Apa is an acronym for “Always Pleasant Amenity”) and is believed to be one of the wealthiest individuals in Japan. His two books are placed in most of the guest rooms along with a 187-page manga that tells the saga of the company since its founding in 1971.

Apa’s CEO keenly desires that “Japanese People Should Learn True Modern History and Have Pride in Their Native Country,” according to the title of one treatise published in February 2015. His other essays, many of which could be kindly described as being of questionable veracity, include an attempt to debunk the New Deal with “The War Between Japan and the United States Was FDR’s Plan to Break Free From the Great Depression”; “Historical Truths Have Been Demeaned Because of Postwar Conspiracies”; and “Japan Should Use Jewish Marketing Companies to Correct Historical Falsehoods.”

So far the greatest objection to the books is their contention that the Nanking Massacre (aka the Rape of Nanking) was a complete fabrication, this despite the Chinese government’s assertion that as many as 300,000 civilians and POWs were gratuitously murdered by troops of the Imperial Japanese Army during a six-week killing spree in late 1937.

After two university students, an American woman and Chinese man, stayed at an Apa hotel in Tokyo last month, they posted excerpts from the books on the internet. Apa hotels’ books were vociferously denounced, with the Chinese government going so far as to call on travel agencies to boycott Apa hotels.

Apa, however, was not the least bit dissuaded by the boycott threat: It caters mostly to a domestic market, and Chinese are said to make up no more than 5 percent of its total clientele.

Some writers were even happy to see Apa’s CEO adopting a nationalist stance. Writing in Yukan Fuji (Jan. 27), American columnist Tony “Texas Daddy” Marano described the Apa Group as “great,” saying, “When I go to Japan … I use Apa hotels and have met Toshio Motoya of the Apa Group any number of times.

“What I like most of all is seeing the Hinomaru (the Japanese national flag) always displayed at the hotels’ front desks, just like you see the Stars and Stripes flying in Texas,” he writes.

Marano doesn’t quite go so far as to endorse Fuji’s account of the Nanking Massacre, preferring to circumvent the issue by writing “I understand a variety of research and analyses exist.”

In Shukan Kinyobi (Jan. 27), Taro Iwamoto lambasted the hotel under the headline “With such a ludicrous perception of history, can Apa Hotels call this hospitality?”

“This problem might reinforce the viewpoint that ‘Japan is a country that won’t confront its war responsibility,'” writes Iwamoto, who added that as the controversy spreads through cyberspace, Apa’s supporters have been wading in and ever more brickbats are flung, with the debate deteriorating into a virtual version of U.S. TV’s rowdy “Gong Show.”

Weekly Playboy (Feb. 13) took a completely different tack, explaining what makes Apa’s hotels so popular. It came up with a dozen points, including that they serve a terrific breakfast smorgasbord for ¥2,000. Another was the egg-shaped bathtubs that offer a relaxing soak. And yet another was the minimal difference (¥1,000) in the charges between single and semi-double occupancy of the same class of room, which makes them particularly appealing for trysts with call girls dispatched by “delivery health” services.

While no one is questioning Motoya’s ardent patriotism, behavior that draws unnecessary attention tends to go against the grain of Japanese culture, as reflected in the aphorism Nō aru taka wa tsume o kakusu (“A skilled hawk conceals its talons,” or, in other words, the person who knows most often says least).

Speaking of aphorisms, Sunday Mainichi (Feb. 19) reported that toothbrushes, combs and other assorted amenities provided to Apa guests come enclosed in protective covers that bear various “macho aphorisms” penned by its founder. One homily: “It is in a man’s spirit to enjoy the difficulties and uncertainties of his life.”

“They smacked of male superiority; I can’t say they left me with a good feeling,” a woman in her 30s told the magazine.

By engaging in air acrobatics on the media’s radar screen, Motoya may find himself dodging flak that has nothing at all to do with Nanking or Pearl Harbor.