In a Feb. 20 meeting with visiting officials from Nanjing, which has friendship ties with Nagoya, Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura touched on the Nanjing Massacre, which took place from December 1937 to early 1938. He stated that there were “normal military operations” in Nanjing but that it seemed the “Nanjing incident” did not take place.

Many Chinese reacted strongly online, some of them criticizing Nanjing officials for failing to rebut the mayor in the meeting. Later Mr. Kawamura stated that his views are not new and that he has openly stated for years that he believes the claims of “several hundreds of thousands” killed in Nanjing is inaccurate. The lack of eyewitnesses was “fairly decisive” in supporting his views, he stated.

Although it is difficult to determine how many Chinese the Japanese Imperial Army killed in Nanjing, Mr. Kawamura’s statement is inappropriate in view of past accounts and studies.

In 1983, Kaiko-sha, a succeeding group of the original Kaiko-sha, a society of Imperial Japanese Army officers established in 1877, started collecting accounts from former soldiers about what happened in Nanjing. On the basis of some accounts, a Kaiko-sha report in 1985 gives two estimates on the death toll. One estimates that between 3,000 and 6,000 Chinese were killed. The other states 13,000. The report also apologized to the Chinese people. Some remaining reports from army units and officers also state that the Japanese Imperial Army killed many prisoners of war.

In an interview with The Japan Times, Mr. Masatake Okumiya, then an Imperial Navy pilot and later a staff officer for air operations during the Pacific War, said that he witnessed on Dec. 25 and 27, 1937, Imperial Japanese Army soldiers executing Chinese at Xiaguan, a wharf facing the Yangtze River. By counting the number of trucks used to transport those executed, Mr. Okumiya estimated that at least about 500 Chinese had been killed, calling it “large-scale slaughter.” He thought the view that a total of about 40,000 Chinese were killed in Nanjing was nearer the truth. (See “Imperial veteran recalls Nanjing mass executions” Jan. 5, 1999.)

In a January 2010, 549-page report on joint Japan-China history studies, started at the initiative of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Japanese side affirmed that “collective and individual killings by Japanese forces occurred” in Nanjing and noted that Japanese studies gave varied estimates of the number of victims: 20,000, 40,000, etc., with the highest estimate reaching 200,000.

Japanese politicians should refrain from making reckless statements about what happened in Nanjing. Viewed from abroad, such statements only serve to make Japan appear insincere and uncaring.

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