The Politics of Guilt and Emperor Hirohito

The court ruling on NHK’s program on a mock trial of WWII sex slavery criminals has been controversial in Japan recently (e.g. Japan’s NHK in WWII sex slave row in BBC, NHK stung by censorship suit appeal in the Japan Times, Court orders NHK to pay compensation over program on sex slaves in MSN Mainichi).

“The Tokyo High Court on Monday expanded on a lower court ruling and ordered NHK and two production companies to pay damages to a women’s rights group (VAWW-NET Japan) for altering the content of a documentary on a mock tribunal over Japan’s wartime sexual slavery… At the center of the case is a segment that was deleted by NHK in which the tribunal found the late Emperor Hirohito guilty of allowing the institutionalization of sex slaves, known euphemistically as comfort women.” (The Japan Times)

It is alledged that PM Abe (then deputy chief Cabinet secretary) and Shoichi Nakagawa pressured NHK to alter the program since they thought “its contents were biased.”

The timing of the release of this news was interesting to me since I had just attended a talk a few days earlier by a senior Yomiuri journalist at school discussing Yomiuri’s new publication called “Who Was Responsible?”. According to the speaker, the goal of the project was to help the Japanese themselves face and come to terms with the issue of war responsibility. The Yomiuri team on this project named 32 individuals who were responsible for the war, and also concluded that Emperor Hirohito was not guilty. The audience was curious how the Yomiuri team could come to this conclusion, and the journalist emphasized the structural setting in which Hirohito was forced to play his role. He also mentioned that Japanese politicians acknowledged their work without any overt (or covert) criticisms.

I did not realize how the issue of the guilt of Emperor Hirohito could still be such a political issue at this point. Now I am more interested to know whether politicians really played no role in the team’s discussion on the issue addressed by the Yomiuri project (although it is easy to imagine that Yomiuri’s team could have reached this conclusion without any political pressure from outside)…

Category(s): Japan

3 Responses to The Politics of Guilt and Emperor Hirohito

  1. Former part of your article:
    Abe and Nakagawa acknowledged in Magazine article (Monthly magazine”Gendai”Smilie: ;)that they pushed NHK to revise the program, and NHK editors followed their “pushing”. This is a known fact to Japanese people except for NHK managements only.

    Latter part:
    It needs to differentiate between responsibility of war and responsibility of war criminals; The former was not questioned even in Tokyo trial. The latter was issue in Tokyo court mainly. However, strictly speaking, this court was victors’s trial/justice(remember A-bombs were not questioned). Important was that the Trial never questioned Emperor’s responsibility of war criminal(whether or not this was a fully fair judgment or not legally). Japan’s Acceptance of the result of the Tokyo court was a condition of Japan’s independence and recovery of membership in United Nation, authorized in San Francisco treaty.

    Considering this, Yomiuri’s article “War responsibility of Emperor” is a dull. Because politically, it is or was not a question. But morally we may ask and re-ask it. We know now the evidenced fact that the Showa Emperor wanted to quit the role of emperor at the end of war. But this request was immediately rejected by Prime Minister Yoshida and General MacArthur. At the end of war, as far as I know, the majority of Japanese thought the Emperor had the at least morally responsible of the war, correctly the loss of many lives and assets of people, and naturally He had to leave the emperor function.

  2. P.S.
    Personally, I regards the Tokyo Trial was a part of WWII, similarly with the Iraqi war trial.
    Many Japanese people might compare the position of Hussain with Showa Emperor.

  3. Hi Sayaka
    Memory and speakings constitute oral history.
    But I think it needs positivety or objectivity.
    So,historical issues, I think three levels.
    First, we must verify first source completely with objectivity.(verification level)
    Of course its difficult, But fact need clear.
    Example, japan-south korea have historical issues that japan and korea historian with west historians verify.
    Second, the fact is interrupted or recognized.(recognizing level)
    Even if the fact is uncovenient fact for each state, each state must accept it.
    May be recently, ‘historical debates’ is this level.
    Naturally, all states will make good convenient for self-state.
    Third, the fact reflects politics and inter-relation. (substance level)

    This three levels are correlation. We must argue this issues, view point is clealy.

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