In Japan, the glossing-over of atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) during the Pacific War (and the Second Sino-Japanese War in particular) is sadly neither new nor uncommon. Outright denials that such events occurred are thankfully much rarer, but it often seems that men with such extreme views end up in positions of political power giving their views undeserved attention.
This week Takashi Kawamura, the mayor of Nagoya, made headlines both here and in China for his denial of the Nanking Massacre, in which the IJA raped and murdered hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians in the winter of 1937. These atrocities were shockingly brutal. Kawamura’s father was stationed in Nanjing in 1945.
Nagoya and Nanjing established a sister-city relationship in 1978. Kawamura, showing his complete ineptitude for diplomacy, chose to make his remarks to a visiting delegation of Nanjing city officials. Nanjing has since suspended its city sister relationship with Nagoya.
Even after 70 years, Japan’s continued inability to unequivocally acknowledge and honestly reflect upon the events of the Second Sino-Japanese War has been a major contributor in preventing the warming of Sino-Japanese relations, both at diplomatic and personal levels.