The unspeakable heresy - Popular Japanese blogger's persistent denial of history

Japanese nationalist speaking beside war flag. Image by: uzaigaijin

Though the East Asia Gazette has already published an article about the arrogant and frighteningly ignorant Tsujimoto Kiichi and his fellow ultra-nationalists before, we feel compelled to do so once again since the implications of his blog being one of the most popular in Japan is truly unbecoming for the land of the rising sun.

The 70 year-old businessman Tsujimoto was born in Osaka in 1942. He graduated from Konan University (which ranks 188th in Japan, and almost 4,000th worldwide), located in Kobe, with a law degree. He then became representative director of MYO Corporation. After gaining experience by working in China, Korea, Europe and elsewhere, he started a blog in 2006 that is read about 55,400 times a week, and almost 291,000 times a month. The blog is called “The man who knew too much about China and Korea.”

Throughout his blog entries, Tsujimoto punctually vents his spleen on Chinese, Koreans and their respective countries. Statements such as “I can only hope that in the 21st century, Japan will no longer fraternize with barbarous China” are common as muck, and would be easily ignorable if it weren’t for the fact that his readership is impressive.

One of his latest entries is entitled “Troublesome Koreans - A journey in modern and contemporary history.” He begins by pointing out, “I am not a historian. However, history textbooks ignore that epoch’s status quo and single out Japan’s actions, fabricating Japan’s history and viewing it in a bad light.” He claims he cannot forgive this reasoning, which he says is a result of Japan’s left-wing historians who have a “poisoned” perspective that has brainwashed current generations of Japanese children.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Japan’s history textbook controversies involve conservative historians who try to brainwash its youth by downplaying Japan’s crimes, remolding Japanese history in a way that seems immaculate, devoid of reprehension and thoroughly commendable.

According to R. J. Rummel, a political science professor at the University of Hawaii, Japan’s savage military murdered more people from 1937 to 1945 than the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the ethnic cleansing in Poland and Tito’s slaughterhouse in Yugoslavia combined. This is a sickening reality that is silenced and decorticated from common knowledge about Japan, to the point that very few Westerners are aware this happened.

It is not only Japanese middle and high-school textbooks that downplay these incidents, but also bestselling books such as “Japanese History clearly understood” (Yomu dakede sukkiri wakaru Nihonshi) and countless others. The willingness to ignore these events ever took place is evident: our previous article on Tsujimoto and Japanese history was posted on Reddit and swiftly disliked by a Japanese readership. It had to be transferred to another section of the website in order to be read by eyes unclouded. This testifies to the attitude for writings of this nature to be censored, ignored and silenced as unspeakable heresy.

When posted in a different section on Reddit, one netizen commented, “If you ask Japanese children about WWII (I am a teacher in Japan and I have done this), they will tell you all about the atomic bombs dropped on Japan, the fire bombing of Tokyo, and the arduous rebuilding process that made Japan the wealthy country it is today. But when it comes to genocide, imperialism, and medical experiments done to Asian and American prisoners, Japanese people in general seem to have a sort of cultural amnesia. Indeed Japanese people hate talking about anything negative when it comes to their home, but their knowledge of one of the worst genocides in human history borders on willful ignorance.”

Willful ignorance aptly captures Tsujimoto’s spirit. The ultraconservative 70 year-old claims, “if Korea had been conquered by Russia and not become a Japanese protectorate, Korea wouldn’t have been able to gain the independence it enjoys today, nor would it have attained its present level of enlightenment.” For him, Korea betrays with composure and does not know how to be grateful for the benevolence done unto it by Japan.

Tsujimoto is oblivious to the fact that, if this line of reasoning is followed, Japan should be indebted to Korea for its entire civilization: several years ago, Emperor Akihito publicly declared Korean ancestry. His Majesty tells of an ancient Japanese chronicle regarding his imperial ancestor, Kanmu, who was from a Korean kingdom. According to the New York Times, this lack of knowledge is easily excusable: “Japan is said to produce the largest number of archaeologists per capita of any country, and one of their most popular pursuits is showing that the foundations of Japan's culture predate contact with Korea and China.”

The New York Times also quotes Professor Ronald Toby, a historian at Tokyo University and the University of Illinois, who said, “in a way, what is surprising about Akihito's statement isn't that he said it, but that people were surprised. … It is quite clear that in the seventh and eighth centuries, the emperor’s family was descended from Koreans from the Paekche Kingdom.”

According to Junya Tanaka, curator of Tsushima’s artifacts, “excavations of sites here show that Koreans taught Japanese how to build some of our first castles, and we think that a prince who fled from the peninsula played an important role in Yamato.” (Yamato is the province where the ancient capital of Nara is located. The term was then semantically extended to mean “Japan”.)

According to an article by the Association for Asian Research, Tokyo University archaeologist Namio Egami claims the horsemen of Yamato “would have been offshoots of the northern barbarians who had overrun China, but who more recently had inhabited the Korean Peninsula, and would have launched their invasion from there.” The article also quotes Gary Leylard, professor of East Asian Language and Culture at Columbia University, who argues that during the early fifth century “large numbers of people from the Korean peninsula did come to Japan, bringing with them a multitude of new skills and customs. A dramatic change is seen in pottery, which changes from soft, homemade, low-fired pots to a hard stoneware, known as Sue pottery.”

Clearly in denial about the falsehood of his credences,Tsujimoto takes his attacks to a new level by arguing that Korea, not Japan, has fabricated its past: “in Korea, plastic surgery is so commonplace to the point that even former president Roh Mu-hyeon admittedly had it done; perhaps their insensitivity to this topic is what caused them to give surgery to their own history.”

Tsujimoto quotes Isabella Bird, a nineteenth century English explorer and writer who traveled to China and Korea in 1897. Out of the sixteen books she wrote, one book, Korea and Her Neighbors, was almost entirely dedicated to the peninsula. The quote reads, “both in cities and in the capital, the crudeness is truly hard to verbalize. Roughly 250,000 inhabitants live in mazes of dirty roads. These filthy narrow streets are wide enough for carts and men to brush past each other. Upon exiting the homes that run along these paths lie solid and liquid refuse in ditches. Many dogs and blear-eyed children, half or wholly naked, and scaly with dirt, roll in the deep dust or slime, or pant and blink in the sun, apparently unaffected by the stenches which abound.” Tsujimoto claims these aspects of Korean history are negated in their textbooks.

Alas, there is no need for Korea to negate this history. Koreans are well aware of the poverty they came from, and their prosperity is largely a result of these painful memories. An article in The Economist points out that “in 1960, in the aftermath of a devastating war, the exhausted south was one of the poorest countries in the world, with an income per head on a par with the poorest parts of Africa.” Regarding the Cheonggyecheon river that runs through downtown Seoul, the author writes, “its waters, dirty and hidden, were trapped beneath a roaring highway; its surroundings were a slum of sweatshops, metal bashing and poverty.”

Though this description seems comparable to Isabella Bird’s half a century earlier, Korea’s strength lies in the aftermath: “The reclamation of the Cheonggyecheon, one of the great urban-regeneration projects of the world, has about it the air of a dream achieved. … By the end of 2011 [Korea] will be richer than the European Union average, with a gross domestic product per person of $31,750, calculated on a basis of purchasing-power parity (PPP), compared with $31,550 for the EU. South Korea is the only country that has so far managed to go from being the recipient of a lot of development aid to being rich within a working life. For most poor countries, South Korea is a model of growth, a better exemplar than China, which is too vast to copy, and better, too, than Taiwan, Singapore or Hong Kong."

Present and past: Bucheon, South Korea

Rich within a working life. That is the key, the reason why there’s no need for Korea to negate its history: it experienced poverty first-hand, and came out of it egregiously

Korea is currently constructing a $40 billion city called Songdo which aims to build a place that provides “everything one could possibly want, need and dream of in a world-class city.” According to The Economist, Songdo will feature the world’s best-equipped school with a 650-seat theater and its own TV studio, electric water taxis, a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course and huge swathes devoted to staying green, including a 40-hectare park in the center of town. What’s more, South Korea’s Hanwha conglomerate recently signed an $8 billion contract to build an entire Iraqi city of 100,000 homes, JoongAng Daily recently reported.

Tsujimoto’s insight is myopic; his vitriolic words, an endless stream of patriotic nonsense. What’s frightening is his large audience and their “willful ignorance” to believe chauvinist falsehoods over documented truths. Japan is a land rich in cultural treasures, but those in denial must remember that all that glitters is not gold. More than anything, they must bear in mind actress Yuki Kudo’s sensible words: “We need the confidence with which to see the good qualities hidden in our history and tell the world about them. We need a flexible mind with which we can learn about mistakes in our history and turn them into positive lessons.”