Eiji Yamashita was employed at a bank that did a great deal of overseas business, then switched careers to university professor. After continual research focused on international finance, the topic of his research in recent years is modern history. As dean of the International Research Institute of Controversial Histories (iRICH), he disavows the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (GHQ)-based historical view and works to share correct perspectives of modern history with the world. Toshio Motoya spoke with Yamashita about a wide range of topics from history to diplomacy, including iRICH’s past activities and efforts to stand off against China.
(M) Thank you for joining me on Big Talk today. You are dean of the International Research Institute of Controversial Histories (iRICH), and many of its senior researchers and researchers have won the “True Interpretations of Modern History” Essay Contest and APA Japan Restoration Grand Prize. I also support iRICH’s excellent research. When was it founded?
(Y) Thank you for inviting me. iRICH was established in November 2018, and the main goal of our research is to overturn the view of history based on the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (GHQ) – starting from its roots – and share this with the world. However, I started taking part in historical disputes with external parties when I wrote “50 Japanese Academics’ Rebuttal of the 20 American Historians’ Statement” in September 2015. I also founded the Academics’ Alliance for Correcting Groundless Criticisms of Japan (AACGCJ) in May 2016.
(M) I wish someone had started these important efforts even sooner. The United States thought Japan was simply too strong. It formulated and executed a thorough plan to weaken Japan out of fear that Japan would once again become a powerful country after the end of World War II. The Constitution of Japan was one part of this, although independent states should of course have constitutions that allow for independent self-defense.
(Y) Yes, and furthermore the GHQ brainwashed Japanese citizens through propaganda and censorship.
(M) That’s the War Guilt Information Program (WGIP). They educated all Japanese people to implant a sense of atonement for World War II. Books published before and during the war were burned, and public officials were purged. I think the U.S. did this because it saw Japan as a major threat that necessitated such measures.
(Y) It’s just like when books were burned and scholars were buried alive during the Qin dynasty of China. This masochistic view of history still exists today, and is the reason that Japanese politicians and bureaucrats cannot rebut criticisms from other countries about historical issues.
(M) Our educational system, textbooks, and mass media are also problematic. People learn mistaken information in school and read incorrect news articles as adults. As a result, they believe that falsehoods are true.
(Y) The GHQ “carpet bombed” the minds of the Japanese people. First, they wrote a history pamphlet entitled History of the Pacific War and serialized the entire text in 10 installments in the five major newspapers starting on December 8, 1945 (the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack). At the same timing, they also started a propaganda radio program called This is the Truth on NHK. It was broadcast during the “golden hour” on Sunday, then re-broadcast at noon on weekdays for working adults. It was also re-run on weekday mornings for students to listen to in school. Understandably, it was poorly rated – people who had fought in the war wrote to NHK to say that it was inaccurate. To deal with these responses, they changed the format of the program and replaced it with Truth Box and Question Box the following year. The GHQ fully utilized the two major mass media outlets of the day to brainwash all Japanese citizens who were old enough to understand.
(M) The war was originally named the “Greater East Asian War,” not the “Pacific War.” It seems like the GHQ wanted to eliminate the Japanese concept of the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere,” aimed at independence from colonial rule by the Western world.
(Y) Making the “Greater East Asian War” a taboo term and using “Pacific War” was a priority issue in the GHQ’s brainwashing. That’s why Japanese people should not actually use the name “Pacific War.” NHK has long referred to the war as “World War II,” but today it uses “Pacific War” as a matter of course.
(M) Today mentions of the “Greater East Asian War” are cut from TV programs.
(Y) During the seven years of the American occupation, the GHQ indirectly governed Japan through the cabinet. Americans were also directly involved in brainwashing and censorship, including the WGIP. Even after the occupation, the “prize pupils” – Japanese people who were diligently brainwashed by the Americans – have reproduced this brainwashing against other Japanese citizens.
(M) That’s why many people believe in the historical view created by the U.S. We must make people aware of the truth now, 70 years after the end of the war.
(Y) I agree, but the U.S. didn’t just brainwash Japanese people – they deceived and brainwashed the entire world, including their own citizens. That’s why people around the globe don’t know the truth about modern history.
(M) For some time after the war, Asian countries remembered that Japan fought to achieve independence from their suzerain states. For instance, many nations expressed gratitude to Japan at the Asian-African Conference (Bandung Conference) in 1955. However, Japan has repeatedly apologized and is now seen as a country that will pay reparations when criticized. If Japan hadn’t fought, the world might still be controlled by the white, Christian nations and Western powers.
(Y) The United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands actually returned to Asia after World War II to resume their colonial rule. However, these former suzerain states were unable to realize their wicked aspirations because Asian people were inspired by Japan’s actions and were more aware of what was happening.
(M) There were cases of Japanese soldiers staying behind in Indonesia, Vietnam, and other nations to help fight for independence. And Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War against the major military power of Russia abolished the sense of inferiority held by people of color, who believed they couldn’t win against white people.
(Y) Yes. International students from Asia and around the world came to Japan after the Russo-Japanese War. They returned to their home countries and served leading roles in winning independence. More than 100 nations have achieved independence and self-determination since World War II. If we consider these great deeds with a cool head, I think we can say that no other nation in human history has accomplished as much as Japan.
(M) I agree. Our island nation in East Asia changed global history. I think that myself and your iRICH must work to overturn the current situation, in which there is no pride for these fantastic deeds in Japan.
(Y) I think so, too. We’ve been able to add four research staff members and step up our activities over the last five months. I presented a report, entitled “A Huge Brainwashing Cage Engineered by the General Headquarters (the Occupation Military) in Japan, 1945-1952,” at the Libertarian Scholars Conference in New York last September. It discusses how all Japanese citizens and all people around the world are brainwashed and lack understanding of true modern history, other than Hiroo Onoda, a human “time capsule” who spent 29 years in the jungles of the Philippines before returning to the newly affluent Japan. I think that was the first time for the participants at the conference to see a Japanese person talking about these topics. We are providing an antidote to the brainwashing in Japan and around the world.
(M) People who learn historical truths will certainly wake up from this brainwashing and feel a sense of pride in Japan.
(Y) They can probably understand this on their own if they think in a way that is based on the truth.
(M) I launched the “True Interpretations of Modern History” Essay Contest 11 years ago. The first Grand Prize winner was Toshio Tamogami, then chief of staff of Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force, who was dismissed from his post by the government. That incident woke up society and today the public opinion is clearly more conservative than it was at that time. I also founded the APA Restoration Grand Prize two years ago. Many members of iRICH have won these two prizes.
(Y) I have received the Honorable Mention prize five times myself.
(M) From the roughly 250 submissions, the judging committee reads and assigns points to about 30 essays that have passed the first screening without knowing who the authors are. I feel that yours are highly evaluated for their fantastic content and your abilities.
(Y) Thank you very much.
(M) As of this December issue, I’ve written 339 monthly essays in Apple Town magazine under the penname “Seiji Fuji.” I write from my own resolute historical viewpoint and outlook on the world, and have maintained a consistent stance for 27 years. More people are coming to endorse my way of thinking, too.
(Y) When I taught in Osaka City University’s School of Economics, every few years I was put in charge of a basic seminar for students in the general education course. Students in the School of Economics start with introductory economic books, which are not very interesting. I decided to have them read books about new historical viewpoints. That was probably about 25 years ago, and it was how I got involved in modern history research.
(M) Shoichi Watanabe studied in the UK, and the other scholars that I see as having respectable ways of thinking also studied in Europe. People who only do research in Japan don’t see anything wrong with a masochistic view of history.
(Y) People who live abroad end up thinking about Japan in various ways. Studying in France is particularly great because there are many people with different ways of thinking from the U.S.
(M) Did you study abroad?
(Y) No, but I have a great deal of overseas experience.
(M) You previously worked at The Bank of Tokyo.
(Y) Yes, I spent a long time in the Head Office’s Research Division. I didn’t work abroad, but I often took business trips to New York and flew to Washington, DC to visit organizations like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and Institute of International Finance (IIF). I started writing papers about international finance while working at the bank. Osaka City University reached out to me when I was 39, and although I wavered a great deal, I ended up teaching there.
(M) The Bank of Tokyo had strong ties with other countries.
(Y) Its predecessor was the Yokohama Specie Bank (YSB), which was founded in 1880 and was one of the world’s major banks at that time. There were many branches in Manchuria, mainland China, and around the world.
(M) Did you have more chances to travel overseas as a teacher?
(Y) I was stationed in London to do research for some time. Afterwards, I spent six months at the European University Institute (EUI), a graduate school for doctorate studies founded by the European Union in Fiesole on the outskirts of Florence, Italy. I also spent one month at the University of Hamburg. These were all opportunities to go overseas for research, and I served as a visiting professor.
(M) European history until the 20th century is a history of many wars; all countries experienced victories and defeats, and gained and lost territory. Due to this grueling history, European people don’t see anything remarkable about losing just one war. This is entirely different from the awareness in Japan, a fortunate country that is surrounded by ocean and was never attacked by foreign powers except for the Mongol invasions. The Jewish people, who were oppressed and scattered across the world, were also forged by history. Accordingly, after the founding of Israel, they won the four Arab-Israeli Wars with the resolution to face death and protect their own country. Israeli men and women are required to do military service, and the people all stand up to fight when necessary. Switzerland also mandates military service and has a high percentage of citizens who own guns compared to other European countries. Every citizen is a soldier. Many Japanese people assume the permanently neutral country of Switzerland is peaceful, but that’s wrong. The country remained neutral even during World War II because the Swiss people are armed like hedgehogs.
(Y) Douglas MacArthur stated his hope that Japan would remain neutral, which was based on a mistaken understanding that Japan was the “Switzerland of the East.” Switzerland exported mercenaries since the Middle Ages because it was a poor country in the mountains. Vatican guards are Swiss soldiers, both traditionally and today, and Swiss mercenaries were the first to be killed by the common people during the French Resolution.
(M) That’s the polar opposite of the image people have, that Switzerland is a peaceful country.
(Y) The Swiss have an extremely high awareness regarding war. I’ve had the chance to attend the United Nations Human Rights Council and related committee meetings in Geneva. When I’ve rented houses to stay in, all of them have basements that can be used as fallout shelters. The London subway was also designed to function as a nuclear bomb shelter.
(M) Japan should build evacuation shelters at subway stations and stock them with food to withstand nuclear attacks. Even North Korea has evacuation shelters deep underground at its subway stations. All other countries are prepared, yet Japan – which has suffered major nuclear attacks – has done nothing. Independent nations must defend themselves. Japan has enjoyed peace in the postwar era not due to Article 9 of the constitution, but thanks to the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. Yet we are nothing more than a vassal state if we are always protected by others.
(Y) Americans have different views on this, and I think the U.S. will not always be against Japan’s independent self-defense.
(M) This is demonstrated by President Donald Trump, who asked Japan to pay more of the expenses for stationing the U.S. Armed Forces here. They are trying to reduce the burden of collective security while putting emphasis on defending their own country.
(Y) Both the U.S. and China could collapse, but it would be terrible if the U.S. did so first. I hope we can avoid that.
(M) I used to think China would be divided and democratized like the Soviet Union, but high technology has changed these circumstances. Facial recognition cameras are installed everywhere to see what individual Chinese citizens are doing and restrain them before revolts can occur. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that advanced technology is upholding the Chinese dictatorial system.
(Y) One reason the Soviet Union collapsed is because it was a federation and the central power was weak. In contrast, China has built a powerful structure of centralized authoritarian rule.
(M) I think another major factor is the large percentage of Han people, unlike the Soviet Union, which had many ethnic groups. China steadily sends members of the Han ethnic group to Tibet and other nearby autonomous regions in an effort to integrate them ethnically. One million people are interned in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and no one knows where they are or when they will come home. China is using high technology to enhance its rule of these autonomous regions and build a sense of unity with the country.
(Y) The People’s Republic of China has an astounding doctrine of expansion. China’s territory is larger than it’s ever been in history. Tang China and other past dynasties had vertically shaped territories in the east, but today China’s territory has expanded horizontally.
(M) And now China is embarking into the ocean in a bid for marine hegemony.
(Y) China unilaterally drew the “nine-dash line” (or “ox’s tongue line”) giving it possession of most of the South China Sea, and claims rights to this area.
(M) China disregards the 2016 Hague permanent court of arbitration judgement while reclaiming reefs in this ocean region to build military bases. The U.S. has carried out freedom of navigation operations against this and has recently dispatched two carrier groups.
(Y) I think the Barack Obama administration was too easy on China regarding the building of bases on reclaimed reefs.
(M) Yes, and China grew more arrogant during the eight years of Obama’s presidency. However, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shared information with Trump even before he was elected. Trump had a pro-China stance during his campaign and right after his inauguration, but now he is clearly antagonistic to China. This is all thanks to Abe.
(Y) We should highly appraise Abe’s foreign policy. His policy of a “free, open Indo-Pacific” is now the basis of America’s Asia policy. The U.S. even renamed its “Asia-Pacific Command” to the “Indo-Pacific Command.” The Department of State and Department of Defense have set forth their Indo-Pacific strategy, which is a keystone of American diplomacy and national security in terms of reining in China. The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (“Quad”) between the U.S., Japan, Australia, and India is also making progress, and the foreign ministers of these countries will meet in Tokyo on October 6. I think they will release a statement to keep China in check. I definitely believe Abe has done more for diplomacy than any other prime minister.
(M) I wish Abe could have kept his position for a longer term. Taro Katsura became prime minister three separate times, so I hope Abe will regain his health and return to office again. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is well versed in domestic affairs, but he is an unknown when it comes to diplomacy. I hope he will rely on his network and learn about the international situation from them. Maybe you should advise him as well! In any case, Suga’s next challenge is winning the election, which will test his abilities.
(Y) That’s right. China wasn’t such a dangerous country until Xi Jinping became president. When I taught at the university, I interacted with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, People’s Bank of China, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, Jilin University, and other institutions. However, fortunately I’ve received no invitations in the Xi era, and have no dealings with them at all today. Two important meetings took place at the House of Representatives Members’ Building on October 1. The first was the International Conference on Human Rights Issues in China, organized by the Resist China Japan Executive Committee. The other was the second meeting of the Japan Parliamentary Alliance on China (JPAC). JPAC is a bipartisan organization of 17 National Diet members that collaborates with the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC). It was created for unified efforts by democratic states against China’s problematic behavior. The representatives are Gen Nakatani and Shiori Yamao. This momentum towards vigilance against China has also spread from Diet members to local assembly members.
(M) It’s true that China has gained military as well as economic power, unlike in the past. It may outstrip the U.S. in these two fields in the near future. China’s major advantage is that the government can freely utilize its 1.4 billion citizens. Low-cost products, produced without paying proper wages to the people making them, have overtaken the globe. The Japanese financial world has been lured in by this and is friendly to China. Business leaders used to have personal opinions about politicians inside and outside Japan, but lately they are weak.
(Y) It seems like they prioritize business rather than national interests. An Australian businessperson who is experiencing conflict with China right now declared, “The nation’s policy is more important than our business.”
(M) That’s how Japan should be, too. I will work hard, and I look forward to seeing what you will do in the future. At the end of the interview, I always ask for a “word for the youth.”
(Y) You will remain brainwashed if you depend solely on what you learn in school and information disseminated by the mass media. But you can find many books about correct modern history in bookstores. It is important for young people to have a stance of acquiring information on their own. The Industrial Heritage Information Center, which was opened in March, is a great achievement by Director Koko Kato. There, you can learn about the astounding growth of Japan’s industry during the Meiji Period. Kato says there were people with great courage in the Japanese political, financial, and bureaucratic circles back then, but we lack those people today. For years we have known of the rich underground resources in Japan’s marine territory, including manganese nodules, yet no one wants to take the risk of developing them. I hope to see young people who are possessed of great courage.
(M) I have had to be courageous as I express my views, since I receive complaints from China (laughs). Thank you very much for joining me today.
(Y) Thank you for having me.
Date of dialogue: October 2, 2020
Born in Tokyo in 1947. Graduated from the Faculty of Economics, Keio University in 1970. Worked at The Bank of Tokyo in the Research Division, International Investment Division, Overseas Division, etc. Began working at Osaka City University in 1988 and held positions including assistant professor in the School of Economics and professor in the Graduate School of Economics. He is currently an emeritus professor of Osaka City University. His major published works include Structural Change in the International Currency System: Reconsidering Criticisms of the Floating Exchange Rate System (Toyo Keizai Inc.) and Common European Currency: Its Establishment and Lessons for Asia (Keiso Shobo).