Big Talk

Japanese Pride Leads to Non-discrimination

Modern History Researcher Ara Kenichi
Chairman, APA Group Toshio Motoya

The textbook scandal of the 1980s inspired Ara Kenichi to begin studying the Nanjing Incident. Today he is a modern history researcher with many publications, including his co-written book Conversation: Reflecting on Yoshida Shigeru, which won the Prize for Excellence in the 2nd APA Japan Restoration Grand Prize. Motoya Toshio spoke with Ara about the movement to revise the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website on the Nanjing Incident, the importance of learning accurate history, and other topics.

Media misinformation led to incorrect textbooks


(M) Thank you for joining me on Big Talk. In 2019, you won the Prize for Excellence in the 2nd APA Japan Restoration Grand Prize for Conversation: Reflecting on Yoshida Shigeru, which you co-wrote with Sugihara Seishiro. You’ve also given several talks at the Shoheijuku academy.

(A) Thank you for inviting me.

(M) How did you end up doing research on modern history?

(A) I was inspired by the textbook scandal of 1982. The media spread significant misinformation about a textbook review by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. Major newspapers and TV programs claimed that the ministry ordered a Japanese history textbook for high schoolers to be revised to say the Japanese army “advanced into” North China, rather than using the word “invaded.” However, no textbooks were actually changed. This reporting set off a major backlash in China and South Korea. The Japanese government yielded by adding to the review standard a requirement that textbooks must discuss modern historical phenomena with neighboring Asian countries while keeping in mind the necessary consideration for international understanding and cooperation. Textbooks contained no information about the Nanjing Incident for many years. After the scandal, they began writing about Nanjing. A movement arose the following year demanding that these textbooks be revised, and I got involved as well.

(M) All countries publish textbooks that show them in positive lights. This is the natural order of things. However, the Japanese educational system and media say Japan was a bad country. I don’t think this is right, which is why I publish Big Talk and Wine Tasting and Discussion About Japan articles in Apple Town to teach what really happened and share historical facts. That’s also why I established the Shoheijuku, “True Interpretations of Modern History” Essay Contest, and APA Japan Restoration Grand Prize.

(A) I respect you a great deal for that. I began studying the Nanjing Incident when I started participating in the movement. We were very motivated by hearing you clearly state at such an early stage that there was no incident in Nanjing.

(M) Research shows the truth of what really happened. It’s shameful that so many Japanese people hold to an erroneous view of history and feel contempt for their country.

(A) Many historical issues have occurred in Japan since then. I admire how you’ve expressed your views and worked to convey the truth.

(M) In addition to textbooks, the media is problematic. There are too many articles based on the stance that Japan used to be a bad country. If Japan hadn’t fought in World War II, the globe could still be under white Western rule, and all colored nations might be colonies. Right after the Meiji Restoration, the Western powers thought Japan’s strong military and government made it too difficult to colonize. However, they didn’t see Japan as a direct threat. Meiji-era Japan successfully carried out its policy to enrich the country and strengthen the army, and it won the First Sino-Japanese War, Russo-Japanese War, and World War I. Japan became a permanent member of the League of Nations and one of the five major powers along with the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Italy. That’s when Western nations felt threatened by the possibility of Japan gaining even more power. They put pressure on Japan in various ways, which led to the Greater East Asia War.

(A) Yes, I think so.

(M) After the war, other countries targeted Japan with unjustified criticisms. Our citizens should have refuted and protested these fiercely, but the left-wing Japanese media pandered to them by gleefully publishing untrue reports that made Japan look bad. It’s truly bizarre that the media takes this stance of rejoicing in a weaker Japan.

(A) Japan’s long-held belief that colonies should be liberated was the ideology for its fight in the Greater East Asia War. This has been totally ignored in the postwar era. After the defeat, the Tokyo Trials said that Japan was the perpetrator of fictious incidents like the one in Nanjing. The anti-Japanese citizens and media took advantage of this, resulting in the atmosphere of today.

MOFA makes groundless claims about the Nanjing Incident


(M) They seem intoxicated by their belief that Japan deserves contempt, and they are proud to be on the side of “justice.” Because of these anti-Japanese citizens, people from overseas say, “Look, your countrymen agree with us,” which renders any further protests impossible. The Japanese government should deny and refute these claims in a resolute way, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) also has anti-Japanese sentiments.

(A) Speaking of the MOFA, Tanino Sakutaro was ambassador to China from 1998 to 2001. He said the Nanjing Incident was real and provided documents as evidence, but none of them actually proved anything. At a House of Councillors Audit Committee meeting on April 3, 2023, Upper House Member Wada Masamune asked Minister for Foreign Affairs Hayashi Yoshimasa to provide evidence for the text on the MOFA website that reads, “The Government of Japan believes that it cannot be denied that following the entrance of the Japanese Army into Nanjing […], the killing of noncombatants […] occurred.” Hayashi brought up a document written by a governmental organization based on Army Strategy in the Second Sino-Japanese War: Volume 1, from a military series history published in 1975 by the Military History Office, National Institute for Defense Studies, Japan Defense Agency. That book contains no specific information about a massacre by the Japanese military. In other words, Hayashi admitted that no proof exists. The MOFA hadn’t revised its groundless website one year later in April 2024, when we held an assembly at the Diet Members’ Building to meet with MOFA officials and demand the text be changed. Wada said he would continue his efforts, and I plan to keep working on this issue as well.

(M) I definitely hope you will. China insists the Japanese military slaughtered 300,000 people in Nanjing, but no one has released the name of a single victim. Everyone has family members, relatives, and friends; this lack of names seems to prove that no massacre took place. If the entire country doesn’t protest these fabrications, they will be accepted as truth. That should be the MOFA’s job, but instead it goes along with China and treats the Nanjing Incident as factual.

(A) That’s right.

(M) It makes sense that other countries express views in line with their own interests. The issue is that the Japanese media and MOFA cater to these foreign countries. Our country is full of anti-Japanese citizens, who are their own enemies.

(A) Some Japanese people are doing even worse things than China. This includes the academics who affirm the Nanjing Massacre, along with the media outlets and government officials who believe their words. Their so-called proof has absolutely no basis.

(M) People who insist the Nanjing Incident took place are convinced of their own righteousness.

(A) They think they are benefitting society, which makes absolutely no sense to me.

(M) There are deep-seated issues with the Japanese educational system and media, which praise the Western powers that actually committed many massacres throughout history, and vilify Japan, which didn’t do anything wrong. Japan accomplished a great thing in World War II by fighting to end global colonial rule by Western powers, leading to a world of racial equality.

(A) I’ve heard India was exhilarated by Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War. Southeast Asian countries gained independence through Japan’s fight in the Greater East Asia War. We should properly teach young people about this true history. For example, the Japanese government said Japan carried out colonial rule and invasions in the 1995 Murayama Statement. The government has abided by that statement ever since, but it had no answer when Wada asked the specific locations that “colonial rule” refers to. We can’t teach our people about correct history with this attitude.

To gain deterrence, Japan should avoid stating whether it has nuclear weapons


(M) People also misunderstand the concept of military power. Japan helped achieve racial equality because it used armed might, which is essential. A balance of power brings peace; war occurs when this balance breaks down. Strong countries invade those they perceive as weak, which is why we must have enough military strength so we are not underestimated by our neighbors. China in particular has used its rapid economic growth to become Asia’s biggest military power, and is putting increasing pressure on Japan. We need sufficient armed might to avoid unnecessary conflict with China and demonstrate that it would suffer if it attacked us. The Three Non-Nuclear Principles – not possessing, not producing, and not permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons – are nonsensical in my opinion. We could gain latent deterrence by not specifying whether we actually have nuclear weapons. Japan has advanced technologies and enough plutonium for thousands of nuclear bombs. Other countries would feel less contempt for Japan if we took an ambiguous stance on nuclear weapon possession.

(A) I agree.

(M) Incidentally, racial issues were one aspect of the atomic bombings. Normally, if a country developed a powerful weapon like the nuclear bomb, it would threaten and discourage its enemies by demonstrating the weapon in the ocean or an unpopulated location. They would probably give advance warning if they were ever going to use it. The U.S. behaved as it did because Japan was a nation of colored people. Another factor was that it wanted to test the two types of atomic bombs: Little Boy, the uranium bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, and Fat Boy, the plutonium bomb that struck Nagasaki on August 9. I imagine America knew it would become the target of global criticism and be unable to drop the second bomb unless it did so right after the first one. The U.S. took this inhumane tactic because Japan was not a white country. It certainly would not have done the same thing in Germany. With the Russo-Japanese War, Japan proved that people of color were capable of defeating white people. Japan quickly recovered from the atomic bomb atrocities to gain significant economic strength in the postwar era, when it was once again counted as one of the major global powers. Japan helped bring about racial quality that was more than just tokenism. As you said, we should share these great achievements and inspire Japanese people to regain a sense of national pride.

(A) You’ve spoken about how historical truths are being uncovered. However, mistaken information is still rampant. It will be particularly important to fix the incorrect history taught in schools and the media. I think your many efforts will be even more critical going forward, including Apple Town.

(M) I’ve been publishing this magazine for over 30 years, so I think it has quite a bit of influence.

(A) I’m extremely impressed by how hard you work. We’re the same age, and I feel more than ever that I must do all I can.

(M) I think your mental age determines how old you are. Life is more enjoyable when you feel young. I don’t like avoiding something because of my age; you have to believe you are still capable of doing things. You and I are still quite youthful!

(A) Yes, I feel that way too. I read Apple Town every month. You interview so many interesting people, and your essays written as Fuji Seiji always discuss timely topics in an easy-to-understand way.

(M) I chose to write “Fuji Seiji” with characters that signify “Reforming society with a genuine Bushido spirit that is the strongest in Japan.” I was once contacted by an American who is an enthusiastic fan of Seiji’s essays and wanted to meet him. When I said I could introduce him to Seiji, he actually showed up! He was astounded when I said, “Seiji is here, right before your eyes.”

(A) I also look forward to your APA Words to Live By. They cut right to the important parts of life in short, comprehensible phrases. I’ve identified with many of these sayings.

(M) APA Words to Live By are very popular and are read by many people, including the English translations. Put simply, my goal is to write words that make Japanese people feel a sense of pride. Twenty years ago, I quoted Sun Tzu when I wrote, “First lay the ground for victory, and then go find your enemy.” In modern terms, this means you should discover your own strengths and use them as “weapons” to live your life.

If you chase two hares, you may be able to catch both


(A) I stay at APA Hotels occasionally, and I get the feeling that most of your guests are young people. I think you are influencing many people by placing copies of Apple Town in your guestrooms, where they can feel the emotional impacts of your Words to Live By and learn about historical truths.

(M) Education is highly influential. I believe that people have extremely different ways of thinking depending on whether their school says that World War II was a holy war, or that Japan did terrible things. My goal is to teach people the truths of history so they can gain a sense of national pride.

(A) Research shows that Japanese people have lower self-esteem than other countries, which I think is partly due to our historical education.

(M) All countries educate their citizens in a way that instills pride. However, the peculiar Japan Teachers’ Union and educational policies don’t do this at all.

(A) Yes, this is demonstrated by research, not by anecdotes. We must educate our citizens to have a higher level of self-esteem.

(M) I agree. Japanese pride also leads to non-discrimination. The citizens of Japan are overly subservient to white people, but they feel superior to Asians and Africans. If they had a solid sense of pride and confidence, they could interact with all people as equals.

(A) That’s true. Japan’s defeat in the Greater East Asia war diminished its people, which is not good.

(M) That’s right.

(A) In addition, I’m constantly impressed by your interviews with ambassadors to Japan. I’m sure these Apple Town articles have positive effects on relations between Japan and these other countries.

(M) Diplomats who come to Japan are all highly accomplished people in their own countries. I think Japan will benefit if they gain a correct understanding of this country and share its wonderful qualities with their citizens after they return home. That’s why I send invitations to all embassies when I have parties, which draw more embassy staff members than other events. There are also major results from printing English-language translations of the main articles in Apple Town. English is the global language, which means that more people can come to understand my views.

(A) That’s a fantastic strategy. I particularly like your saying, “If you run after two hares, you will catch both.”

(M) You can’t accomplish anything in this era with the thinking, “If you run after two hares, you will catch neither.” I believe you can’t do anything if you don’t try, and I want to explore the possibility that you can grasp hold of whatever you pursue, even two or three hares at once.

(A) I see.

(M) I always end the interview by asking for a “word for the youth.”

(A) I think the most important thing is gaining a good understanding of Japanese history. As we discussed, Japan became one of the five major powers through the First Sino-Japanese War, Russo-Japanese War, and World War I. They should know about this, and about how Japan brought an end to the white nations’ global rule with the Greater East Asia War. Ninety percent of our citizens believe in the spurious Nanjing Incident because it is written about in textbooks. They should watch Nanking, a documentary released in 1938. It was filmed two to three days after the city fell and shows what actually occurred. It depicts a tranquil city that does not resemble the aftermath of a massacre, including children setting off firecrackers to celebrate the New Year. The film also shows posters demanding that people find and kill the “Hanjian” (pro-Japanese citizens of Nanjing), with narration explaining that up to thousands of these “traitors” were executed in one day. China blames the Japanese miliary for these massive executions, which I think is the actual “incident” that occurred in Nanjing. I hope many people will watch this film and see that the Nanjing Incident is nothing more than a fabrication.

(M) I agree. Thank you for sharing such an interesting discussion with me today.

(A) Thank you.


Ara Kenichi

Born in 1944 in the City of Sendai. Began working a corporate job after graduating from Tohoku University’s Faculty of Arts and Letters. Started studying the Nanjing Incident after the 1982 textbook scandal. Wrote about this research for Seiron magazine, then branched out into modern history research. Is currently chairman of the Society for Exploring the Truth of the Battle of Nanjing and president of Information Publishing Limited. Won the Prize for Excellence in the 2nd APA Japan Restoration Grand Prize for Conversation: Reflecting on Yoshida Shigeru (Jiyuusha), which he co-authored with Sugihara Seishiro. His other published works include Before Day Breaks in Jakarta (Keiso Shobo), Re-examining What Actually Happened in Nanjing (Tokuma Shobo), Testimony From 48 Japanese People About the Nanjing Incident (Shogakukan), Germany Masterminded the Second Sino-Japanese War (Shogakukan), Confidential Documents: The Japanese Defense Force’s Coup d’etat Plan (Kodansha), Unraveling the Nanjing Incident Mystery (PHP), Historical Records Reveal the Truth of the Battles of Khalkhin Gol (Benseisha Publishing), Definitive Edition: There Was no Nanjing Incident (Tendensha), and Definitive Edition: Testimony From 50 Japanese People About the Nanjing Incident (Ikuhosha).