Overview of the History Wars in the United States

産経新聞ワシントン駐在客員特派員 古森義久
KOMORI, Yoshihisa   Sankei Shimbun Associate
Correspondent Stationed in Washington, DC



Why is the Japanese history controversy in the US important?
This report will examine the present state, and past changes, of the so-called “history controversy” involving Japan now taking place in the United States. As you are well aware, China and Korea have been incessant in their criticisms, using the controversies surrounding Japanese history. Recently, though, Japan has appeared rather indifferent to these criticisms, regardless of what the Chinese or Koreans have said. Even in terms of a consideration of Japan’s objective national interests, there are many areas of the issues where it is all right for Japan to remain calm without offering any kind of response.
It is a somewhat weightier matter, though, when the slings and arrows of criticism over these historical controversies begin flying in Japan’s direction from the United States. The fact of the matter is that America is the world’s sole superpower, and is also an ally of Japan. This, coupled with the ease with which the United States sets the stage for world opinion, makes the American criticism graver than that from China and Korea. It is an old expression, but nevertheless still true: “When America sneezes, Japan catches a cold.” And I feel that this intimacy of influence holds true in the case of these historical controversies, as well. It follows, then, that if these issues are left to fester, then it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that American criticisms and denunciations of Japan predicated upon a full-blown historical controversy could exert a negative influence on the Japanese- American alliance itself. Because Japan could find itself in a serious situation, I am of the opinion that we must exercise particular caution when engaging in history wars within the United States.

I have spent many years in Washington, DC, as a newspaper reporter, with more than two decades of experience in the American capital over a total of three assignments, for both the Mainichi Shimbun and the Sankei Shimbun. It goes without saying that, during that time, I have observed, and experienced, more than my fair share of the historical controversy phenomenon. Even now, for instance, we have the high school history textbook, published by McGraw-Hill and mentioned in a separate speech by Prof. Hirakawa Sukehiro, which contains preposterous falsehoods about the Japanese comfort women. In a rare development, both the Japanese government and private sector have been clear in remonstrating with McGraw-Hill over the textbook’s errors. Of particularly great impact in the United States were the objections raised by nineteen scholars in Japan on March the 17th - including some of the scholars in attendance today - in a setting designed to be easily understood overseas, as well as the requests for corrections raised by those same scholars. I shall explain more about this below. Suffice it to say here, though, that the Americans refused to accommodate these requests for corrections. Indeed, not only did the Americans refuse, they went on the counteroffensive, characterizing the Japanese objections as revisionism and attempts to whitewash history. Even though the Asahi Shimbun has admitted that there were no systematic forced abductions of comfort women, the American scholars and researchers absolutely refuse to admit the same. On the surface, at least, the situation that has continued for many years still remains unchanged.

Based on such mistaken understandings of Japanese history, comfort women statues and memorials have begun cropping up all across the United States.