My young colleague at work, Donald Howard, comes to me and wryly asks: Why is this Japanese office having a Christmas party on Dec. 7? Impressed by his historical acuity, I only manage: Well, from the Japanese perspective, the Pearl Harbor assault didn't take place on Dec. 7, but on Dec. 8 in the predawn hours.

I remembered this exchange when I received from a friend of mine in Tokyo the bulletin of the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan carrying a transcript of historian Herbert Bix's talk, including questions and answers, at the FCCJ toward the end of last August. In response to one questioner, Bix, now famous for his book "Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan," says:

"The struggle over historical consciousness is heating up again in Japan today, and there are those who are recycling old FDR notions from the isolationist literature of the '30 and '40s, you know: FDR maneuvered to get the Japanese to fire first, and the Hull note was an effort to get Japan to attack. Some of the worst myths from that era appear all the time in Japanese journals like Shokun among others."