The Sankei Shimbun advocates a more aggressive diplomatic stance on history issues and this dovetails with the mission of Japan Conference, a reactionary organization that includes numerous lawmakers. From their perspective, Japan has been too reticent and polite on the world stage and the gloves need to come off.

It never seems to occur to them that this might be a counterproductive strategy and that on history issues it leaves Japan vulnerable to criticisms of promoting an exonerating narrative that glorifies wartime and colonial excesses.

But Japan is not exactly a public-diplomacy wallflower. The Japanese government, foundations and firms have developed an influential network in the United States that dates back to the 1970s. That era of acrimonious trade frictions spawned what American scholar Robert Angel has dubbed the "Japan Lobby," a multipronged public- and private-sector effort to shape U.S. policy and attitudes. ProPublica estimates that total Japanese spending on lobbying and public relations was a whopping $4.2 billion in 2008, putting Japan third behind the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom, while South Korea ranked eighth with $2.9 billion.