Big Talk

The United States is Bound by the Curse of the Atomic Bombs

A historical textbook compiled by the Japan Society for History Textbook Reform, published by Jiyusha, is the only junior high school textbook – among books from eight companies that were approved this year – that doesn’t mention the Nanking Massacre. Toshio Motoya spoke with Seishiro Sugihara, an educator and historian who is the current chairman of the Japan Society for History Textbook Reform, about the current state of textbooks and real modern history including the maneuverings by the Allies that led to dropping the atomic bombs.

China is manipulating information all over the world

Motoya Thank you for joining me on Big Talk today. How long has it been since you became the chairman of the Japan Society for History Textbook Reform?

Sugihara It’s been four years.

Motoya This year is when the textbooks are chosen for the next four years. The Japan Society for History Textbook Reform’s New History Textbook, published by Jiyusha for junior high schools, was approved by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) as the only textbook among those from eight companies that contains no mention of the fictitious Nanking Massacre. I think more boards of education will choose it this year.

Sugihara Yes, I expect that things will be better than they were four years ago…

Motoya In 2008, Toshio Tamogami won the Grand Prize in the 1st Annual “True Interpretations of Modern History” essay contest with his essay entitled “Was Japan an Aggressor Nation?” Since then the atmosphere in society has been steadily changing, which is why I think this textbook will be increasingly selected.

Sugihara The question is whether boards of education will highly evaluate the exclusion of the Nanking Massacre. I hope they will, but…

Motoya It is important that textbooks convey the truth to children. Japan would change if many schools utilized the New History Textbook.

Sugihara The Chinese government has applied to have historical records related to the Nanking Massacre and comfort women inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. If all Japanese junior high school textbooks contain information about the Nanking Massacre, Japan is unable to refute this. We created the textbook, thinking that – even if it is not frequently selected – there must be one book that expresses the stance that there was no Nanking Massacre. I think it is a very significant textbook for Japan.

Motoya Yes. Incidentally, New Japanese History, a textbook by Ikuhosha Publishing – a similarly conservative publisher – discusses the Nanking Massacre

Sugihara If you look at the supporters of Ikuhosha’s historical textbooks, you will see that they all insist the Nanking Massacre never happened.

Motoya Yet it is shameful that Ikuhosha compromised and had to include information about the Nanking Massacre. Textbooks should not be written to make money; they must investigate the truth.

Sugihara I agree entirely.

Motoya I always advocate that Japan should establish a new “Ministry of Information” with 3,000 staff members and a budget of 300 billion yen. It should observe media from across the world and immediately refute, in the local language, any mistaken claims or reports. It seems like Japan has slightly increased its external PR budget this year, but it is still one digit too short.

Sugihara Apparently, at the end of July 2015 a man called the National Museum of the Pacific War located in Texas (the U.S.). He said he was a staff member at the Chinese consulate in the U.S. and requested that the museum’s descriptions of the items on display contain falsified history, such as saying that the Chinese Communist Party defeated the Japanese Army. The museum refused to do this, saying there was no basis. In this way, China is lobbying across the world.

Motoya There are many cases in which people who seem to be civilians are backed by the Chinese government. Regarding the issue of coral poaching in the Ogasawara Islands, the government’s will is certainly required to mobilize that many fishing boats. And as for gas field development in the East China Sea, besides wanting profit they are constantly exploring the possibility of putting these gas fields to military use. Japan should make firm responses as a nation, not via the private sector. As Winston Churchill said, all other countries are hypothetical enemies. WikiLeaks exposed how the American National Security Agency (NSA) wiretapped phones including the Japanese government, but that is only natural.

Sugihara People believe it is immoral for individuals to deceive others, but it is normal for nations to do so. Being deceived is regarded as the worse sin.

Dropping the atomic bombs prevented World War III

Motoya The common understanding of the world is that countries will lie or kill people for the sake of their national interests. Religion is also involved. Both Christianity and Islam say that people of other religions should be killed. I believe this way of thinking exists in the background of the atomic bombs dropped at the end of World War II. Japan made peace overtures through the Soviet Union, Chiang Kai-shek, the Vatican, and other parties. The U.S. knew that Japan wanted to surrender, but it was concerned with what would happen after World War II – namely, how to prevent the Soviet Union’s communization of the world and avoid World War III, which would inevitably result. American Secretary of State James F. Byrnes believed the U.S. had no choice but to use the atomic bombs to restrain the Soviet Union. He overcame resistance, including from the army, regarding the bombing of Japan with no prior warning.

Sugihara Today is the anniversary of the bombing. On that topic, when the Potsdam Conference began in July, it was thought that a decisive battle on the Japanese mainland was inevitable, and that the recommendation to Japan to surrender would be postponed. However, the news about the successful atomic bomb experiments changed the American way of thinking. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson strongly insisted that the U.S. give Japan a summons to surrender, which President Harry S. Truman agreed to, resulting in the Potsdam Declaration. I am going to publish a book soon – perhaps next year – featuring my dialogues regarding the atomic bombs with American historians. Many people in Japan claim the U.S. dropped these bombs to place checks on the Soviet Union, and of course that aspect does exist. But this theory includes the meaning that the U.S. dropped the bombs even though it didn’t need to. However, American historians justify the atomic bombs by saying they were necessary. They say, if the atomic bombs had not been used and a decisive battle took place on the mainland, the Soviet Union would not have stopped its invasion at the Northern Territories and Japan would have been divided into parts.

Motoya Because Japan had conveyed its desire for reconciliation to the U.S., wouldn’t there have been no fighting on the mainland?

Sugihara Truman desired Japan’s unconditional surrender, so I think it’s certainly possible that a decisive mainland battle could have taken place.

Motoya Truman was promoted from vice president to president at the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and apparently didn’t know about the atomic bomb development until his inauguration. Byrnes held the real power. Perhaps his intention in dropping the bombs – in addition to threatening the Soviet Union – was for the U.S. to acquire global hegemony.

Sugihara At the Yalta Conference of February 1945, British Prime Minister Churchill proposed to Roosevelt that it might be possible to end the war quickly – through Japan’s surrender – by clearly showing that the Soviet Union was going to fight with Japan and compelling Japan to surrender. But Roosevelt denied this, in his most perniciousness act, and the war dragged on. Roosevelt died in April, still holding to his policy of fighting until Japan’s unconditional surrender was recognized. Roosevelt’s objective was also rooted among the American populace. My conjecture is this is the reason Truman thought the completed bombs should be dropped, in addition to the fact that there was not sufficient understanding of the serious meaning of the atomic bombs at that time.

Motoya It’s true the domestic circumstances may have been like that. Stimson attempted to include the defense and maintenance of the national polity of the Emperor System in the Potsdam Declaration, but Byrnes and Truman removed this. In other words, this declaration was presupposed on Japan’s rejection; it was likely a prescribed course for dropping the atomic bombs once the statement was rejected by Japan. To speak even more clearly, the atomic bombs were extremely inhumane weapons that slaughtered 200,000 weaponless civilians. They cannot possibly be forgiven, but what would have happened if they weren’t dropped…

Sugihara It’s true there was the possibility that the world would have been drawn into an even more disastrous war involving the usage of atomic bombs.

Motoya Because of Germany’s strength, the U.S. provided not only weapons but also war plants and weapon manufacturing expertise to the Soviet Union, transforming it into a major military monster. It was possible that this monster would have communized all of Eurasia.

Sugihara Yet the tragedy caused by the atomic bombs created a common awareness throughout the world, preventing World War III by changing it from a fierce fight to a cold war.

Motoya The Soviet Union carried out successful nuclear testing in 1949, which made the atomic bombs into unusable weapons. The bombs were developed in just four years because American scientists leaked information to ensure that atomic bombs could not be used. Yet the Soviet Union’s possession of nuclear arms led to the Korean War in 1950. Joseph Stalin, who was no longer worried about being the target of a nuclear attack, instigated Kim Il Sung of North Korea and made him move into South Korea.

Breaking the American curse by recognizing the positive aspects of the atomic bombs

Sugihara I read your latest book, Theoretical Modern History: The Real History of Japan. In it, you pointed out that the U.S. is bound by the curse of the atomic bombs, to which I agree entirely.

Motoya You read my book? The U.S. feels a sense of guilt regarding dropping the atomic bombs, an inhumane act. To reduce this guilt, it has had to maintain the image that the U.S. (a good country) punished Japan (a bad country). That’s why Japanese people have been imbued with a masochistic view of history via the Tokyo Trials, War Guilt Information Program (WGIP), censorship, and the Press Code imposed on the media. Even now, the U.S. supports preposterous claims – such as China’s insistence that 300,000 people were slaughtered in the Nanking Massacre and South Korea’s story about the forced transportation of 200,000 comfort women – from the shadows. World War III was avoided, turning a fierce fight into a cold war, and roughly 10 million people across the world were saved. Japan should recognize these positive aspects of the atomic bombs to break the atomic bomb curse and enable the U.S. to talk about historical truths.

Sugihara I think that’s a correct recommendation.

Motoya During the Barack Obama administration, Ambassadors to Japan John V. Roos and Caroline Kennedy have attended the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony. I think the American president will someday visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki personally and show his appreciation. This would be a way to break the atomic bomb curse. As a result, I think many tourists from across the world would come to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Anticipating this, I plan to open APA Hotel Hiroshima-Ekimae – a large-scale hotel with 727 guestrooms – next year.

Sugihara That is a very ambitious plan (laughs). Also, breaking the curse would enable just, upright discussions.

Motoya You are right. Up until now the U.S. has been afraid of being blamed for the inhumane act of dropping the bombs, but I think it would switch to a stance of advocating for Japan. Regarding the comfort women as well, in the American National Archives there is a record of questioning conducted of Korean comfort women in Myanmar. They were evaluated as simple army prostitutes who earned high salaries and were free to go on outings. I think the U.S. might help further spread these facts throughout the world.

Sugihara I agree. Is the concept of the American atomic bomb curse your original analysis?

Motoya Yes, it is.

Sugihara I think it’s wonderful.

Motoya I have visited 81 countries across the world and spoken with important figures in each. I have also held dialogues with many ambassadors to Japan. In this way, I have learned that not a single person believes in things such as the Nanking Massacre or comfort women story, although they understand why China and South Korea continue making these claims. Moreover, people from across the world have a hard time understanding why Japan must suffer, without making valid objections, and continue apologizing regarding these assertions that are made by China and South Korea for their own national interests. We must not forget that Japan was commended at the Bandung Conference in 1955 by the Asian and African countries for making sacrifices so these nations could gain independence. World War II was not a war of aggression; Japan fought together with people in countries that had been invaded and colonized to free them from Western European rule.

Sugihara That is true.

Motoya I believe the media also played a major role in starting World War II. After Japan was victorious in the Russo-Japanese War, American railroad executive E. H. Harriman proposed jointly managing the South Manchuria Railway with Japan. At first the Japanese side was amenable to this, leading to the signing of an agreement between Harriman and Prime Minister Taro Katsura. But this was not realized due to opposition from Minister for Foreign Affairs Jutaro Komura. The media stirred up the public opinion about the reparations that were not received after the Russo-Japanese War, unlike the First Sino-Japanese War. This resulted in riots such as the Hibiya incendiary incident, and Japan was in an uproar. Furthermore, Komura’s reason for opposition was concern for what violence might occur if half of the railroad interests were handed over to the U.S. The tension between Japan and the U.S. at that time led to the war between the two countries.

Sugihara I think Komura made a blunder in repealing the agreement between Katsura and Harriman. This was the same error as Minister for Foreign Affairs Yosuke Matsuoka shutting down the Draft Understanding Between Japan and the U.S. put together by Ambassador to the U.S. Kichisaburo Nomura during World War II. The lack of plans when the Russo-German War broke out also caused major impacts afterwards. Because his planned four-country alliance between Japan, Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union vanished like mist, the next-best measure would have been for Matsuoka to make the U.S. bend by insisting that Japan –– as the ally of Germany – would strike the Soviet Union from the east unless the U.S. compromised in negotiations.

Motoya It’s true that both ministers for foreign affairs were greatly responsible. Speaking further about World War II, people generally say the army was bad and the navy was good, but I don’t agree. On the Chinese continent in particular, the army continued winning tactically until the cessation of hostilities. On the other hand, the navy made military gains at the beginning of hostilities such as the naval battle off Malaya, but it experienced frequent setbacks including the Attack on Pearl Harbor. It should have cooperated more closely with the army and captured Hawaii. But the army and navy were in conflict and unable to collaborate, so the situation gradually became worse and worse. Huge strategic mistakes were made in the Battle of Midway, and it’s bizarre that the navy continued using its codes that had been deciphered. By the way, the army’s codes were not deciphered by the U.S.

Sugihara There would not have been a war between Japan and the U.S. if Isoroku Yamamoto had asserted that Japan could not battle with the U.S., instead of saying, “Watch us fight violently for the first year or 1.5 years.”

Motoya I think it was an exceedingly half-baked attitude. General Hideki Tojo was chosen as prime minister to avoid war with the U.S. He was a very loyal subject of the Emperor, and people thought he could avoid war between the U.S. and Japan as Emperor Showa hoped. However, in the end he could not say the navy was incapable and had no choice but to start the war with the U.S.

Sugihara Certainly, we must say that the navy bears great responsibility for the outbreak of war.

Young people should use the Internet to learn the truth

Motoya In contrast, the chaos in the world today began when Obama stated that the U.S. is not the policeman of the world. If the U.S. had been on top of things, there would not be the Crimean Peninsula and Ukraine issues with Russia (which is economically weakening), and the IS would not have gained power in Syria and Iraq. Today the possibility of full-out war between nations has declined dramatically, replaced by intense fighting that uses words as weapons. We must win in this type of warfare as well.

Sugihara I think the Ministry of Information you mentioned would be best, but at least the Japanese government should create an information transmission department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).

Motoya For a department of that sort to be functional, we must use textbooks to enlighten the citizens about true history. It’s terrible that so few schools have adopted textbooks that tell the truth.

Sugihara There are very few cases in which boards of education, during their deliberations, highly evaluate truthful textbooks and end up selecting them.

Motoya There are no other countries with textbooks that deride their own nation. I think this is a problem with the MEXT and MOFA.

Sugihara Yes, with the MOFA in particular. If it had properly dealt with and refuted criticisms from overseas, I doubt things like the stipulations about Japan’s neighboring countries would have been included in the textbook inspections. It’s likely that the comfort women issue would not have occurred, either. It’s now the MOFA’s job to enhance the preservation of the negative legacy from the American occupation, such as the WGIP. It does not consider Japan’s national interests at all.

Motoya I agree entirely. To rebuild Japan’s diplomacy, we should first make the relationship with the U.S. a strong, reciprocal one. To that end, we need to break the American atomic bomb curse as I mentioned before, recognize the right to collective defense, and make the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty from a unilateral treaty into a mutual one as much as possible. As China is rapidly expanding its military power, the U.S. is reducing its war spending each year. How will Japan fill the vacuum that is left? We definitely need the security legislation that is currently being deliberated in the National Diet.

Sugihara The left wing calls this security legislation “war bills,” but the opposite is true – they are bills for preventing war.

Motoya After passing the security legislation in the Diet, we should reform the constitution. But since Article 9 Associations are currently spreading across the nation, I think constitutional reform would be voted down in a national referendum. First we should change what is being taught in textbooks to shift the consciousness of the people.

Sugihara Yes. But to improve textbooks, the MOFA needs to shut out all criticism from overseas countries.

Motoya We cannot expect this of the MOFA, so perhaps we do need a separate organization like the Ministry of Information.

Sugihara I think breaking the curse of the atomic bombs, as you describe, is required not only for Japan but also the U.S. and the world at large.

Motoya I agree. In particular, we must create a world in which Jiyusha’s textbooks are chosen more frequently. I think there are many cases in which Jiyusha’s books are seen as too extreme, and people choose books by Ikuhosha because they seem like a good middle ground compared to companies like Tokyo Shoseki.

Sugihara That may be true. Thinking of Jiyusha and Ikuhosha’s textbooks together, I think we can say that non-masochistic textbooks are gradually coming into more widespread use.

Motoya Please do your best to carry out sound education! At the end of the interview I always ask for a “word for the youth.”

Sugihara First, I would like to say that I hope young people will become members of the Japan Society for History Textbook Reform (which is fighting a fierce battle over history) and provide support for this fight. Young people should learn about historical truths. Today we have the Internet, a very convenient tool. They should use this tool to study and fight in our battle over history in a way that is based on truth.

Motoya It’s true that people can learn the truth today if they go looking for it. First, they must be interested.

Sugihara Yes. If they have a broad outlook, they should understand how important your theory about breaking the atomic bomb curse is.

Motoya Thank you for joining me today.


Seishiro Sugihara
Born in 1941 in Hiroshima Prefecture. Completed a master’s course at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Education. Is a former professor at Josai University. Current chairman of the Japan Society for History Textbook Reform.