Following up on my initial report on November 4 and an update on November 21, here is yet more information on the Tamogami Toshio affair.
Most important is today’s Asahi front-page article, which is the best media confirmation so far of my initial hypothesis on the entire Tamogami/APA link, which readers may remember was as follows:
Combining his attraction to both power and military, [APA CEO Motoya Toshio] invited ASDF General Tamogami Toshio into his circle, bringing him to the Wine no Kai and to address the launch party for his latest right-wing tract. Motoya then had APA sponsor an essay contest promoting his book-possibly an illicit use of corporate funds-with the grand prize awarded to Tamogami , in a decision I suspect was actually arranged by Motoya personally, with the “selection committee” only choosing the lesser prizes.
Adam spotted the Asahi article and forwarded it to me, and provided a summary in the comments of my previous Tamogami post.
Apparently, several of the contest judges were really miffed at how Motoya ran things… Of over 400 entries, the company only sent the four-member panel 25 for the first round of anonymous scoring. Motoya himself was apparently on the panel (though APA did not list him as a judge), and he gave the top score to Tamogami’s (anonymous) essay while giving low scores to all the others. In the second round of judging, the names and profiles of the contestants were revealed and the judges met to discuss the winner. Three essays, including Tamogami’s, had the same number of points. Motoya apparently proposed that they just give the prize to Tamogami and award a kind of tied-for-second prize to the others. None objected.
Apart from Motoya, the judges named in the report:
Shuichi Yamamoto, a former Diet member’s secretary and current legal scrivener and guest lecturer in Okayama Prefecture.
Nobuaki Hanaoka, conservative commentator
Kazuo Komatsuzaki, President of (Yomiuri affiliated) Hochi Shimbun
Apparently the fourth judge was Motoya, but I can’t tell for sure by the way the report is written.
The article also includes direct quotes from two of the judges. Yamamoto said that he “felt there was something unnatural about how Motoya gave low scores to pretty much all of the essays that the other judges gave high scores to.” Yamamoto went on to accuse Motoya directly, saying that “one has to believe that the top essay was chosen to award the prize money to Tamogami.” Komatsu gave similar statement, saying that “Thinking about it now, Motoya must have known all along that it was Tamogami’s essay, and deliberately put it on top.” Oddly, the article makes no mention of conservative commentator and Sophia University English Professor Watanabe Shoichi, who is described on the APA web site as head of the judging committee.
The article certainly does make it sound as if Motoya was one of the judges, although I do not believe any previous source has acknowledged his direct involvement. Naturally there was no comment from APA for this article. Considering that even the Inspector General’s Office of Legal Compliance of the JSDF is investigating the possibility that Tamogami encouraged his subordinate officers to enter the contest, and the fact that Tamogami and Motoya had a relationship stretching back a decade when Tamogami was commander of the very same Komatsu air force base that Motoya runs a civilian support committee for, it seems very likely that the entire essay contest was in fact staged.
There is even speculation that the conspiracy goes even deeper than I suggested in my initial post. According to the Japan Times on November 20, in an article which also presents many of the connections I had pointed out previously:
Hirofumi Hayashi, a professor at Kanto Gakuin University and an expert on modern Japanese history, pointed out that Tamogami may have landed the top post because of his close ties with Toshio Motoya, head of hotel and condo developer Apa Group, who had connections with then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a staunch nationalist.
Is it really possible that the Motoya connection could be that strong? Could Abe have actually been persuaded to promote a known militarist to the head of the JASDF based on the recommendation of an ultra-rightwing activist?
Another professor, Kotetsu Atsuhi (whose published books include one on relations between the civil government and military in modern Japan), was quoted by the Japan Times as saying “Mr. Tamogami went out of control and his act was close to a coup.” In a Mainichi debate column he gives a more detailed statement, which reads in part:
In the final paragraph of the essay it is written that the SDF needs to return to a position of independence, away from the eternal dependence on America. This adds up to the “Asian Monroe Doctrine” that Japan had before the War. For Japan to have singular hegemony in Asia, they thought that they had to secure their own sources of raw materials and military equipment, without depending on America or Britain, and the fact that this spread to the financial and political spheres as well is one of the factors that opened the road to war. I am horrified to think that there may be a desire for this in today’s uniformed officers.
The article also contains an opposing quote from right-wing historian Hata Ikuhiko, in which he says:
Compared with the pre-war system, things are effectively controlled in Japan now. Today, you do not hear the uneasy discussion of a coup de’etat that you did 20 or 30 years ago. If the defense minister and prime minister, who is the Commander in Chief, do their jobs properly then the SDF should not be able to run wild and take hold of political power.
The two problems with this statement are that A: following the Tamogami affair there actually ARE people (Koketsu for a start) mentioning the danger of a coup, and B: Prime Minister Abo Shinzo was the one who appointed Tamogami to his job in the first place. On the other hand, Tamogami’s prompt dismissal following the uproar over the APA essay demonstrates the current effectiveness of civilian control. And although current PM Aso Taro did promptly dismiss Tamogami, he is well known for having a similar view of history.
(Incidentally, Hata’s essay calling for the restraction of the Kono Statement acknowledging Japanese responsibility for comfort women is among those offered as a free download by the so-called “Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact”, which publicizes the Japanese right-wing historical revisionist agenda in English, and includes such people as Watanabe Shoichi and Japafilic Taiwanese Ko Bunyu on its board.)
Whan now-PM Aso was CEO of his family firm, Aso Cement Company in 1975 (he was CEO from 73-79, see here), they published an official corporate history which closely matches the views of Tamogami and Motoya. As described in a FEER article by Mindy Kotler (head of DC’s Asia Policy Point, known for her testimony on behalf of the US House resolution calling on Japan to apologize for comfort women, and William Underwood, a specialist in the history of Japanese WW2 era forced labor):
The “Aso Fights” section of the book states that top U.S. leaders had detailed knowledge of Japanese military plans prior to Dec. 7, 1941. Japan was purposely allowed to strike the first blow, in this telling, so that “Remember Pearl Harbor” could become a rallying cry for Americans. Like Gen. Tamogami, the Aso historians conclude that “this cleverly united American opinion for war against Japan.”
Aso Mining then became a “kamikaze special attack production unit,” according to the book. “People like Korean laborers and Chinese prisoners of war filled the void” in Kyushu’s coalfields as Japanese miners left for military service.
Despite having fired Tamogami, he and Aso are still ultimately on the same side in the history wars, along with former Prime Ministers Mori and Abe, at the very least. (Tamogami has been quoted as saying that “former PM Abe and former PM Mori also support my philosophy.)
While Prof. Koketsu’s coup reference may be a bit exaggerated, there have been a number of comparisons made with the February 26 incident of 1936, a failed coup in which “a group of young radical Army officers led some 1,400 troops under their command on a attack on the Prime Minister’s residence and other buildings in Tokyo, killing Home Minister SAITO Makoto, Finance Minister TAKAHASHI Korekiyo, and Army Inspector General of Military Training WATANABE Jotaro.” As has often been the case in Japanese military coups (such as the Meiji restoration), the young officers claimed to be fighting in the name of the Emperor, but when it was clear they lacked his support the rest of the military put down the revolt. This 2.26 Incident was famously orchestrated by “young officers” of the Imperial Way Faction, which was an unofficial grouping of hardcore rightist officers within the military, who called for a “Showa Restoration“-evoking the Meiji Restoration – in which the military would purge government and society of degenerate left-wing elements and re-institute traditional values based around militaristic Bushido.
The Imperial Way Faction was largely based around the philosophy of Araki Sadao, a rightist officer who ascended to the position of War Minister in 1931, after having served as Inspector General of Military Training, and began publically promoting the “Imperial Way” in a September 1932 news conference. Although he was forced to retire from the military following the failed 1936 coup, he was apparently not accused of any direct involvment and was allowed to become Minister of Education the following year, a job which allowed him to promote his militaristic agenda in the civil sphere.
Although the names “Tamogami” and “Araki” have as yet only appeared appeared together in a handful of obscure Japanese blogs, I do sense some concern that Tamogami could be (or at least could have been) an Araki-like figure. I strongly doubt anyone is particularly worried that Tamogami himself was plotting a coup, but rather a lot of people are worried about the influence he may have had on subordinates, as represented by the dozens of JASDF members under his command who submitted essays to the contest. Then, does this mean that people should be worried that the 94 who served under Tamogami and submitted essays will be a “young officer” vanguard of the Heisei Restoration armed uprising circa 2012?
This is another pretty farfetched scenario. Japan today is a very different country from the one it was in the 1930s, with a decades-long popular antiwar attitude that few could have predicted in the 1930s. Shifting back towards that level of militarism would likely require both a generation of re-education and a massive shift in the international balance. But the militaristic right wing is thinking long-term. They have been pushing their version of history increasingly hard recently, but despite much of the media coverage has actually not been very successful in altering public school education. And yet, the general attitude towards the revision of the Japanese constitution’s famous war-renouncing “Article 9” seems to have gone from being an absolute impossibilty to being undesirable but perhaps only a matter of time.
Some time in the next several months Japan will hold a general election, in which it is very possibly that the opposition Democratic Party of Japan will take power for the first time. This would be a stunning defeat for Tamogami’s supporters, however many of them really exist. Despite political apathy, most of Japan still firmly believes in national pacifism, and if the LDP falls from power it will likely be in part due to Tamogami.
13 thoughts on “Still more on Tamogami”
Wait a minuite.You are mentioning others as experts(i.g Kotesu as an expert”on relations between the civil government and military in modern Japan”. Underwood as”a specialist in the history of Japanese WW2 era forced labor” and Hayashi as
” an expert on modern Japanese history”)Yet you represent Hata Ikuhiko only as “right-wing historian” seems to me unfair and biased.
Not that I’m entirely aganist calling Hata as”a right-wing” in any way.But it would be much more fairer and accurate to say Koetsu as “left leaning”,Underwood as “Aso bashing” and Hayashi as “hypothesis-driven” historian.
Hata had authored “History of Fascism in the military軍ファシズム運動史”which is a ground breaking work on the subject.Plus his criticism on Kono deserves more attention,I think.
I found comparison between Tamogami and Araki of 226 is something comes out from Science Fiction.Back in the good old days,the generals and young turks in the military used the rhetric”It’s all for the sake of the countryお国のため”to justyfy their
logic.On the other hand,Tamogami accused his critic in the name of liberal democracy.(「政府見解に対しひとことも言えないようでは、自由民主主義の国とはいえない。北朝鮮と一緒だ」）
I laughed when I read this part in Tamogami interview on Sankei,since it has resemblence with what left-wing teachers had been saying when they had issues with local educational board over Kimigayo and Hinomaru,.I also remember.former Ministry of Health official and author of “Straight Jacket Society”Miyamoto Masao who was lionized by Karel Van Wolfren as Japan’s ANdrei Sakharov,had said exactly the same thing.Liberal media and foreign press had covered that with strong sympathy with emotional attachment.
Not that I’m accusing the double standard of media which I too am part of.(After all Tamogami is a general of ASDF)But still it also must be reminded that his logic is something his predecessor in the 30’s would have never imagined or thought about using to defend themselves.
OK, I see your point about referring to Hata as “right-wing” but also note that I described Underwood as a “specialist” not an expert, as I am not familiar with his work, but that does appear to be his specialty. And I only called Kotetsu a “professor” and mentioned that he wrote a book on the topic, but did not actually call him either “expert” OR “specialist.” He may be left-leaning but I haven’t read any his work either, so I’m in no position to say. And Hayashi was referred to an expert in the article I was quoting. I did not actually describe in any way.
The Araki comparison is pretty wild, but since I have seen various news articles or blog comments on Tamogamo that mention the history around the 226 incident, I thought it would be a good idea to describe it in more detail. Of course Tamogami doesn’t have a spec of the influence Araki had, but I would not be surprised if he has dreams about it. I was going to write some more at the end about how unrealistic the comparison is, but I had to cut off my blog time and hit publish so I can get back to work. You are right that it is very interesting to see how Tamogami is defending himself using the arguments of liberal democracy, when the 1930s people would invoke the emperor in pretty much the same way. It shows at the very least how the background culture has changed, and how even a position that is extreme right wing by today’s standards might seem mild to the 1930s militarists.
Do you have a link to that Sankei article?
Regarding “coup”comparison,the only event that I can think of is the “attempted coup”by Mishima Yukio in 1970.That was one hell of a PR disaster for SDF and the defense agency.It was said as derailng constitutional revision for at least a decade.
Tamogami’s case is a lot more serious since this is the guy who was the top dog.I’m pretty sure MoD is now regretting about having him retired so soon.
Talk about 虎を野に放つ.
“The article also includes direct quotes from two of the judges. Yamamoto said that he “felt there was something unnatural about how Motoya gave low scores to pretty much all of the essays that the other judges gave high scores to.” Yamamoto went on to accuse Motoya directly, saying that “one has to believe that the top essay was chosen to award the prize money to Tamogami.” Komatsu gave similar statement, saying that “Thinking about it now, Motoya must have known all along that it was Tamogami’s essay, and deliberately put it on top.” Oddly, the article makes no mention of conservative commentator and Sophia University English Professor Watanabe Shoichi, who is described on the APA web site as head of the judging committee.”
I do not think that Yamamoto is taking an accusatory tone and would have translated this quote very differently. It’s more like “If this essay contest is seen as [being run for the purpose of] awarding the prize money to Tamogami, I guess there is no getting around that.”
And Komatsusaki’s quote is more like this: “Thinking about it now, since Motoya knew about Tamogami’s entry from the beginning, he could have put it on top if he wanted to.”
Note that neither of them is making a direct accusation or making any conclusive claims, apart from Yamamoto’s comment about the scoring and Komatsusaki’s about the fact that Motoya knew about Tamogami’s entry. Motoya and these people are clearly acquaintances. Already, the mere fact that they are going on record criticizing the operation of this contest is probably putting pressure on their relationship. If the Asahi had misquoted Yamamoto and claimed that he was going on record accusing Motoya of fraud, that could result in a defamation suit.
That article on the evil, evil Aso company reminds me of the writers who use school shootings to push for tighter gun controls. They have a narrow interest in mind and exploit current events to insert their agendas into the discussion. What in the world does the Aso corporate history have to do with anything? All it does is weave in a tenuous connection to war apologies, which is really the least of our worries in this issue.
Saying that Aso and Tamogami are on the “same side” is like saying Ann Coulter and Barack Obama are on the same side because they both believe in a strong standing US military. Aso is a centrist and believer in the democratic system, much more than the knee-jerk extremist Tamogami. He’s got decades of experience working within the current system and while he might favor incremental steps toward constitutional revision, the reinterpretation of the constitution to allow collective self-defense and a more proactive Japanese defense policy, these positions fall within the framework of the US-Japan alliance, not anything approaching Tamogami’s anti-US demagoguery. Lumping them all together isn’t helpful in the slightest, though it might make for satisfying copy in the FEER.
There are a number of journalists who write brief, pithy articles full of innuendo about this or that right-winger being the true harbinger of resurgent ultra-nationalism. It’s almost a template. But the template obscures more than it reveals, and to me that is unacceptable.
Adam: I do think your interpretation of the quotes is better, especially according to the official English version of the article just posted today.
Incidentally, the English article is a bit more specific in places, stating that Motoya “was not a judge in the process” but fails to reconcile that statement with the fact that he was awarding scores. It also mentions Watanabe’s presence on the panel, but says nothing more about him.
I didn’t find the stuff about the Aso company’s past with forced labor directly relevant to Tamogami, although mentioning it would have some place in a longer and more detailed treatment of the entire debate over historical revisionism, but I did think that mentioning his oversight of the revisionist official corporate history was an interesting side-note to Motoya’s use of APA as a platform. The huge difference of course is that Aso Concrete does not seem (at least according to the FEER article) to have ever sought publicity for their history. It shows that Aso’s historical views are generally on the same side as Tamogami and Motoya, but of course it is important to say that he has not been particularly active in this area, and of course deserves credit for allowing Tamogami’s prompt dismissal (even if allowing him the dismissal fee was a questionable choice).
“If the Asahi had misquoted Yamamoto and claimed that he was going on record accusing Motoya of fraud, that could result in a defamation suit.”
Speaking of that- I actually noticed that some time today Asahi actually pulled the original article – entitled “Hotel group CEO ‘helped’ Tamogami win controversial essay contest.” and replaced it with what seems to be an identical one, aside from the title, which is now “Was Tamogami’s essay win justified?”
Notice that the link in my above comment is now dead. The altered article can be found at: http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY200812020061.html
“That article on the evil, evil Aso company reminds me of the writers who use school shootings to push for tighter gun controls. They have a narrow interest in mind and exploit current events to insert their agendas into the discussion. What in the world does the Aso corporate history have to do with anything? ”
For some people this is the matter of great concern and it looks like for Bill Underwood,Aso Taro is his Moby Dick.
Recently I picked up a copy of Japanese translation of Eamon Fingleton’s “In the Jaws of the Dragon: America’s Fate in an Era of Chinese Hegemony (2008)” Weird thing about the book is eventhough this is taking the form of China bashing,somehow every chapter ends in accusation to Japanese(e.g Japanese are investing in China to make Chinese more economically competitive! and so on and so on)
Anyway,in this book,Fingleton devotes entire chapter attacking Japanese treatment of POW and hacking whoelse but Ian Buruma for not mentioning the reparation movement by the Dutch POWs in his “Wages of Guilt”and Fingleton accused Buruma for becoming a mouth piece of Japanese government.
Funny that most of these “debt of honor”argument on POW tends to ignore the fact that the issue was settled in San Francisco treaty in 1951 and it’s effectiveness has been confirmed by the former allied government in multiple occasions.
Whether they admits this or not,but these western revisionists are the negative of Japanese revisionist like Tamogami in the sense that they ignore the post-war legal procedure of ending World War 2.
“It shows that Aso’s historical views are generally on the same side as Tamogami and Motoya,”
While I denounce the rhetric of these western Aso hunters,this I agree.
There’s a late night TV show called “Syukan Asahi Journaｌ 週刊アサ秘ジャーナル”hosted by comic duo Asakusa Kid interviewing various residents of Nagatacho in a quasi-variety show format.Aso Taro appeared on this show multiple times and when I watched the show about couple years ago,Aso was showing Asakusa Kid his bookshelf in his office at Giin Kaikan.
And there they were,along with dozens of Golgo13 and weekly manga magazines like Big Comic Superior,There were Chang/Haliday’s “Mao,the Unknown History”,a title from Ko Bunyu and professor of Mongol and Manchu study,Okada Hidehiro岡田英弘’s China hating best seller”この厄介な国、中国”.
Aso was talking in all innocence when showing these books.And that was the moment when I thought this is one guy who shouldn’t be the head of the government.But,boy.He became foreign minister and then the PM…..
I bet my a sheet of my Fukuzawa Yukichi for all of these same books are lining on the bookshleves of our dear general.
To confuse things still further, here’s a rundown of a talk by Hanaoka in which he states that one judge was actually Nakayama Yasuhide, and not his secretary, Yamamoto. He says that Nakayama was chosen to judge, sent Yamamoto in his place, and then made his secretary lie about giving the Tamogami essay zero points to cover his own political behind. “I have all the documentation to prove this and intend to make it public when the time is right,” says Hanaoka.
I too think the “coup by essay” idea is a bit much. Japan and the world has come too far to entertain that kind of action. To be sure, who really knows what was the plan by Motoya and Tamogami. They were clearly up to something and the contest smelled from the get go.
One check on Japan, which should not be forgotten, it the growing sophistication of the international community in monitoring political and human rights abuses. It has only been in the last 20 years or less that international organizations and Japan’s neighbors have had the strength and tools to scrutinize Japan. The result has been no only condemnations of Japan’s views on history but of its legal system, treatment of minorities, disregard of womens’ rights, sheltering of human traffickers and child pornographers, and more.
Amb Zoellick’s suggestion that China become an international stakeholder was also meant as a mild rebuke to Japan. There is more to being a modern democracy than saying that you are one. International accountability is fast becoming a check upon insular thinking. I ponder this a bit here: http://china-japan-reconciliation.blogspot.com/2008/10/accountability-of-democracies.html#links
What astonished me is not the Tomogami’s essay wining the award, nor the Tomogami’s opinion, but the reactions of the media, the National Diet, the Japanese Government, and commentators. Their reactions about the Tamogami’s essay seem to be a witch hunt or the Inquisition made against the Galileo Galilei’s Heliocentrism theory in the middle age.
Tamogami’s essay is nothing to do with the civilian control nor militarism nor right wing. Tamogami’s essay is about mere history and his opinion is nothing unique to me and some people.
A similar essay, “The needless US Pacific War with Japan – Courtesy of Stalin and FDR” , is posted at
by Mr. Michael E. Kreca on October 9, 2000. It is recommended to read the Kreca’s essay.
There is no IF in history. But, I dare say that if Manchukuo established in 1932 by Japan was acknowledged by the West, particularly, by the U.S.A., there would have been no Pacific war, no communist China, no Korean War and no Vietnam War. Although Manchukuo was a puppet state of Japan, Japan got some right about the territory of Manchukuo resulting from Japan-Russia war in 1905. The aims of establishment of Manchukuo by Japan were defense against communism invasion from Russia and the prosperities for five ethnic groups including the Manchu, the Han Chinese, the Mongols, the Koreans and the Japanese.
The territory of Manchukuo did not originally belong to the Han Chinese (94% of the population of China are now said to be the Han Chinese) but was the homeland of the Qing Dynasty. The Qing Dynasty did not allow the Han Chinese who were concurred by the Qing Dynasty to migrate to the sacred homeland of the Manchu, for early time. The Qing Dynasty did not allow Han Chinese to migrate to Tibet either.
Now, Tibet, Manchuria and almost all other parts of the Qing Dynast territories belong to the communist China. The U.S.A has to deal with the strong communist China about some issues, for example, Taiwan, in the future.
“One check on Japan, which should not be forgotten, it the growing sophistication of the international community in monitoring political and human rights abuses.It has only been in the last 20 years or less that international organizations and Japan’s neighbors have had the strength and tools to scrutinize Japan. ”
Japan’s neighbors always had strength and tools to scrutinize Japan in various ways since 1945.
“Growing sophistication of the international community” is a diplomatic expression of China and Korea using Amerian lobby group to revive certain history related issues that has been settled between bilateral relations.
I would also want to point out the obvious hypocrisy in this game,that Japan only gets seat as suspect where there are no defense attorney in the trial and never gets a seat as judge to accuse wrong of others.
“Amb Zoellick’s suggestion that China become an international stakeholder was also meant as a mild rebuke to Japan.”
Zoellick sure chosed weird ways to express his feelings.Anyone who studied Japan’s China policy knows that making China.a reliable partner has been the policy objective since 1974.Anyway that was the rhetric of Tokyo to lift the economic sanction to Beijing after Tienanmen massacre.
” There is more to being a modern democracy than saying that you are one.”
I think you ponder that a bit here too.
And my opinion was,this is the politicization of history at worst.
Aceface, you’re right. Underwood has been writing about the Aso family business and its wartime activities in the Japan Times, which is what I remembered his name from. I believe he studied somewhere in Kyushu.
One of the articles you linked to was from Robyn Lim, and we fully agree on whether or not this person is an expert on Japan.
Anyway, back to Aso. What his family did during the war may or may not be relevant now – to tell the truth, I just don’t care beyond the extent that I wonder how it influences his worldview – and you know that I think he did a fabulous job as foreign minister. We knew the man would be PM someday and what disturbs me most is the cluelessness/insecurity in his eyes and the perpetual scowl on his face, as though he’s always thinking 庶民大嫌い。
And the one I linked at the bottom was the one from Christopher Reed,a leftwing British journalist.It’s amazing to see how this topic unite the band of Japan watchers of all strioes bind together.
Richard Lloyd Parry of The Times had a blog post about two years ago,
I have nothing against Underwood challenging Aso,but using basically the same material like recycling,I have to wonder about the journalistic literacy of the editors who printed these articles.(especially JT)
Regarding Aso hating “the commoners”,it usually these “commoners” who love the celebrity.I don’t think the public hates him as much as the media hates his elitism,which is a bit ironical because lots of media people are the graduates of top universities and belong to upper middle class by their income gain.
Anyway,Aso isn’t exactly a noble breed.Norhtern Kyusyu is a rough land with many gilded instant millionaire.(I’m half Kyusyuan)Aso’s grand father,Shigeru was born between Sasebo prostitute and labor acitivist and then politician Takeuchi Tsuna.Shogeru was then send to adoption to Yokohama trader named Yoshida Kenzo and become Yoshida Shigeru and the rest is history.
Comments are closed.