Tamogami Update

Last week on November 4 I wrote a long post detailing the results of my brief investigation into the various political connections surrounding the (now) infamously ultra-right-wing (now) former General Tamogami Toshio. This article was referenced by several English language bloggers such as Jun Okumura, Tobias Harris, and the anonymous Shisaku, (as well as a very nice plug from Curzon) who all add their own instructive commentary. Best of all though, was a prominent citation by Herbert Bix, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, who gave his perspective on the controversy in an essay in the Japan Focus online journal. Bix’s key piece of analysis regarding Tamogami is that “His aim is to forge a body of activist officers who will participate in political combat, promoting the “true” perspective on history, even if it is not factually true for the particular historical period he cares about.” Based on further evidence that has come out since my initial article, some of which Bix cites (even more has come out since), this certainly seems to be the case.

I wish I had time right now to do another in-depth piece, but I don’t, so I’ll just run down the various interesting facts that I’ve noted in more of a summary list form. There’s a lot more than this around, both in ordinary newspaper articles found online, blogs, and in print-only magazine articles, so I will try and do a few more updates soon. I had started to collate everything into one big post, but after letting it sit for a week I thought I should just hit post on this one and continue adding details in future posts.

  • Tamogami had published a similar article in May of last year, in a magazine for “officers to publish their personal research.” In this article, he described the fact that Japan invaded Korea and China and committed brutalities there a lie, and said of the Nanjing Massacre that “some civilians may have gotten mixed-up in the midst of the chaos, However, there was absolutely no systematic massacre of Chinese civilians by the Japanese army.” (After writing the post I found the article at this excellent blog.) In 2004, when he was dean of the JSDF Joint Staff College, he wrote another article for the same magazine, in which he called on JSDF members to submit articles to ordinary magazines. Neither of these articles made any political or media fuss at the time. (Asahi, Nov. 3)
  • I found a review of the book written by Ochiai Michio (落合道夫), second prize winner of the APA Group contest. The book, “Looking at the Japanese and the Great East-Asian War from the Perspective of Stalin’s International Invasion” endorses the same minority theory of Comintern responsibility for the Xian Incident. Based on the review, it seems to be an expanded version of the thesis proposed in “Mao: The Unkown Story”, which was itself heavily cited in Tamogami’s APA essay. In general, the book sounds as if it reflects a version of history identital that of both Tamogami Toshio and Motoya Toshio. The author seems to have no university affiliation, and in fact his name has no online presence aside from a couple of mentions of this book, or his connection with the current contest. The book is not available in ordinary bookstores, and can be ordered from its publisher, “The Tokyo Institute for the Study of Modern History” only by telephone or fax, as they have no website. They may be some sort of right-wing group, or they may simply be Mr. Ochiai’s living room with a fancy sign on the wall.
  • Hatoyama Yukio, who was photographed at the “Wine no Kai’ with APA Group leader Motoya Toshio and Tamogami claims that, “did appear at the meeting with my wife, thinking that it was not a place for political discussions. The overall mood was and conversation was peculiar, and I took a graceful early exit without having spoken much.” (Sankei Nov. 6)
  • As Curzon helpfuly pointed out, APA Group actually is not a publically traded company, which means that my speculation over possible misuse of corporate funds etc. turned out to be likely unfounded. While there are a variety of banks and other creditors/investors, the company is largely controlled by the Motoya family. For example, this page shows four different members of the Motoya family serving on the board of the Apa Community Co.
  • The only company in the APA Group not to have APA in the name is the “Japan Finance Development Finance Corporation”, based in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Pref. near the Komatsu base, and near to where APA was founded, and the hometown of Motoya Toshio, who is listed as the representative of this sub-company. (Search here, cannot link directly due to CGI script.)
  • Of the 235 essay submissions, a lage proportion were found to be JASDF members. I believe the latest count is 94. As pointed out by Tobias Harris, when there were still only 78 identified ASDF personnel, the Asahi discovered “hat of those seventy-eight, none except General Tamogami were flag officers, ten were field officers, sixty-four were company-level officers, and four were cadets. Asahi also found that sixty-two had served under General Tamogami when he served as commander of Komatsu base.”
  • The Japan Times did a pretty thorough profile of Motoya Fumiko, wife of Toshio, back in 2005. Fumiko is actually CEO not of APA Group, but of APA Hotels, while her husband is head of the overall corporation. Motoya Fumiko became a celebrity CEO after splashing her en-hatted photo all over advertising, and writing a book about her management style, but interestingly her husband does not even have an article on Japanese Wikipedia-despite his many and not very secretive right wing-activist political activities.
  • One detail I had noticed while doing the research, but then forgot to insert into my original post. One of the honorable mentions in the essay contest is the head of the Risk Management Office of APA. While I see no reason to think there is any particular significance to his selection, corporate contests in general ban all employees and immediate families of employees from participating in a contest, to avoid conflict of interest. Having an employee be a contest winner (an honorable mention includes a small cash prize and APA hotel voucher) is simply another piece of evidence to suggest the generally irregular and suspicious nature of the contest.

Gen. Tamogami Toshio, Motoya Toshio, and Abe Shinzo

Note: I have followed up this post on November 21st, and then again on December 1st.

The publication of an essay denying Japanese aggression in the Pacific before and throughout the WW2 by Japan Air Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff Gen. Tamogami Toshio (pictured below) could have led to another major international diplomatic incident. This seems to have been curtailed by his immediate firing, and a reaffirmation of the Government of Japan’s official stance of acknowledging Japanese aggression.

General Tamogami Toshio

The essay was published on the website of APA Group, a large construction and real estate conglomerate best known for scandals involving inadequate earthquake proofing and falsification of records, as the grand prize winner of an “essay contest.” (The essay can be found on the award page, in both Japanese and English. Oddly, none of the lesser prize-winning essays are available.)

Almost all of the news coverage I have seen reports simply on the contents of General Tamogami’s essay, the fact that it was a contest, his prompt dismissal, and some half-hearted complaints about the essay from overseas (clearly headed off by the rapidity of his firing), but aside from this article at Mainichi virtually nothing about the contest itself. My first reaction was to wonder what the background story here was.

Naturally I started poking about online. I’ll start with what the Mainichi story had to say about the contest:

Watanabe etc. on the selection committee

According to the APA Group web page, essays were solicited for the purpose of “steering Japan towards a correct understanding of history as an independent nation”, and a prize of ¥3 million (Note: around $30,000 USD) was awarded as the grand prize. The head of the selection committee was Sophia University Distinguished Professor Watanabe Shouichi, a conservative commentator. APA Group CEO, Motoya Toshio, writes essays on historical perceptions under the pen name Fuji Seiji (藤誠志).

Mr. Motoya does not simply write essays under this pen-name, but actually publishes them in the APA corporate newsletter, Apple Town (“Fresh Information For Your Best Life”). He has also published a number of books under his own name, which you can order through the APA website, most notable “Modern History The Media Doesn’t Report on: Postwar History is an Argument over Nuclear Weapons”, for which he has a promo page on the APA site. (There are also a couple of books written by his wife, Motoya Fumiko CEO of APA Hotels.) Incidentally, another of Mr. Motoya’s books, “Business is Romance”, appears on a “Japanese National Bibliography” page on the National Diet Library website.

As you can see from the above screen capture of the contest website, the essay contest actually appears to be a promotion for his book. In fact, the grand prize is self-aggrandizingly named the “Fuji Seiji Prize Award”, after Mr. Motoya’s pen name. Although APA Group is a publicly traded company and not a family business (I believe this is the case, but I am not 100% sure, so I would appreciate someone checking), CEO Motoya is not only using the corporate website and magazine to promote his right-wing political agenda, but may also very well be using corporate funds for the contest prize money. According to this blog post, the book is also being promoted and sold in APA hotels.

At or near the bottom of the sidebar present throughout the entire APA Group website (some pages have other links below), there is also a link to an external political organization run by Motoya, the “Kanazawa Friends of the Komatsu Military Base.” (小松基地金沢友の会) The purpose of the group, according to a statement from Motoya on the front page is “get the entire citizenry of Japan, in which there is yet a shallow understanding of the importance of national defense, to understand that a balance of power involving military deterrent leads to international peace,” and to “support the Komatsu Base, which covers the entire Sea of Japan region, which is close to such countries as Russia, China and North Korea.” Googling a few sample names from the members list produces what would be expected: old men from Ishikawa Prefecture involved mostly in business, and one LDP Diet member who had held a minor position in Koizumi’s cabinet.

The website is located on a domain which appears to be independent of APA Group, at jasdfmate.gr.jp (Japan Air Self Defense Force Mate at the Japanese secondary .gr domain for volunteer groups). They also appear to be hosted at different locations, as the traceroute path is significantly different. However, the WHOIS database indicates that the contact person for both websites is a Nishikawa Harumi (西川 治美), who according to the apa.co.jp WHOIS entry is an employee in the Business Section of APA Co.,LTD. and according to the jasdfmate.gr.jp WHOIS entry is a “Clerk” for “Air Self-Defense Force in Komatsu, Kanazawa Mate.” Ms. Nishikawa has been listed as the contact person for the sites since at least 2001.01.16 and 2000.03.21 respectively, when the contact information was last updated. The shallow attempt at separation of private form corporate breaks down, however, when the JASDFMate site lists the contact email address as office@apa.co.jp. You too can join the group, and go on their various activities-such as tours of the base-for a mere ¥10,000.

“Modern History The Media Doesn’t Report on” was published on April 18 of this year, and a combination publishing celebration party and birthday party was held in early June, which is commemorated at this page on the APA site. This page contains some videos which were screened at the party, the third of which finishes off with a list of the party’s sponsors. The list is long, but contains quite a few names of note. Some of the ones that jumped out at me were (in order of appearance):

  • Asao Keiichiro (DPJ Shadow Defense Minister)
  • Abe Shinzo (former LDP PM)
  • Ikeguchi Ekan (Shingon-shu leader)
  • Koh Se-kai (Former Taiwan representative to Japan, Taiwan independence activist)
  • Ko Bunyu (Japan-resident Taiwanese independence activist and writer, darling of Japan’s far right)
  • Dewi Sukarno (Japan-born former wife of Indonesian dictator Sukarno)
  • Tamogami Toshio (just-fired JASDF chief)
  • Hatoyama Kunio (LDP politician, currently Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications)
  • Bobby Valentine (Former MLB baseball player and manager, current manager of Japan’s Chiba Lotte Marines baseball team)
  • Jose de Venecia, Jr. (Speaker of the House of the Philippines)
  • Mori Yoshirou (Former LDP PM)
  • Watanabe Shouichi (Sophia U. Distinguished Professor of English and right-wing commentator, and head of the essay committee)

According to this Sankei article on the party, over 1500 guests were in attendance, of which several dozen were thanked by name in the video.

In this photo of the party (again, from the APA page) you can see General Tamogami was not merely a guest at the event, but actually addressing the crowd. This was just under a month after the contest had been announced, on May 10. According to the above-linked Sankei article, Tamogami jokingly referred to himself as a “controversial figure” and said that:

After the war, speech arguing to defend our country was suppressed, but speech that was anti-Japan or badmouthing Japan was free. As long as the fundamental problems of security are not dealt with, it is impossible to be ready to protect this country in the manner it deserves.

This is a reference to constitutional revision to eliminate or revise Article 9-Japan’s famous pacifism clause. Essentially, the grand prize winner of an “essay contest” was a speaker at an event which was both the launch party for the book the essay contest was promoting, as well as the birthday of the author, expressing essentially the same opinion later given in that essay.

Tamogami and Motoya actually had a political association dating back some time, at least to a “Wine no Kai” (Wine Party for Discussing Japan)documented in Motoya / APA’s own magazine. (Click here for PDF of the article, originally copied from the APA web site.) In this photograph you can see Tamogami , Motoya, Hatoyama Yukio (one of the leading hawks in Japan’s opposition Democratic Party, which differs little from the permanent ruling LDP on substantial matters, his family name ironically means “Dove Mountain”) and his wife, as well as Sankei Journalist Oshima Shinzo.

Wine no Kai 2004
Wine no Kai 2004

I am actually slightly unclear whether the article text is a summary of the discussions had at the party or simply yet another of Motoya’s essays, but it is probable that the participants at least agreed with the ghist of it. The article concludes by stating that “the statement that ‘Japan must absolutely not equip itself with nuclear weapons’ is absurd.” Japanese nuclear armament seems to be one of Motoya’s main issues.

Motoya has apparently hosted a number of annual sessions of the “Wine no Kai,” including a session the following year attended by not-yet Prime Minister Abe Shinzo.

Wine no Kai 2005
Wine no Kai 2005

That’s Abe sitting there in the middle, flanked by Motoya Toshio, with the horrific grimace and weirdly out of place striped shirt, and Mrs. Motoya Fumiko, wearing one of the silly hats she is famous for. PDF of the entire article is here.The article contains nothing nearly as inflammatory as the previous year’s call for nuclear weapons, but I would like to share this brief and bewildering excerpt.

A certain Japan-born Korean said that “The Japanese value respect. Japanese culture is excellent on the inside. But I shed tears when looking at today’s Japan.” The lazy attitude of young people is particularly offensive. Korea still has a military draft system, and although I am not saying that Japan should revive militarism, I will say that the draft system should be introduced. They would not need to serve for two years, but let them live for a year in a group to teach them rules and endurance. If you invite a young person today to say “let’s go drinking” they refuse saying, “that’s OK.” In the old days, they were happy to get an invitation from an elder.

Abe and Motoya are reputed to have far stronger links. Although it seems to have been rarely discussed in the mainstream media (keep in mind that Japanese newspapers keep articles online for a very short time and I am not actually going so far as to check archives), it has been repeatedly claimed on blogs (most notably Kikko’s Diary, but also many smaller ones) that Motoya was vice-chair of Abe’s political support committee known as the Anshinkai, (安晋会, J-Wikipedia article). The name “Anshin” is a pun derived from part of Abe Shinzo’s name, which also sounds like the Japanese word for “safety.” neither the existence of Anshinkai nor Motoya’s membership in it has ever been publically acknowledged, but the above photograph of the “Wine no Kai” is often cited as evidence of both.

One blog wrote in February 2, 2007, that “mentions of Anshinkai have finally started appearing off-line as well,” indicating that this story actually began in the blogs before being taken up by the offline media, in a pattern considered to be generally un-Japanese. Another blog, on the same day, has a roundup of weekly news magazines (traditionally these magazines and not daily papers is the place for news that is more based on investigation or rumor) which had recently mentioned the Anshinkai, including Shukan Post, Shukan Bunshun and Shukan Asahi. The blog says that Shukan Post had been the first to report on Anshinkai, in February 10, 2006, alleging a connection with the Livedoor scandal.

Another blog, from January 31, 2006, has some more information on the Livedoor connection, notably that HS Securities VP Noguchi Hideaki, who committed suicide after falling under suspicion, was director of Anshinkai. The same article contains a dizzying chart of connections between various persons, groups and companies, which does not include Motoya/APA but does include another interesting name – HUSER (Human User Company). Huser had been involved in a construction inspection scandal, seriously enough so that President Ojima Susumu was actually called to testify before the Diet, where he admitted to meeting with Abe Policy Secretary, Iizuka Hiroshi.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this increasingly long post, APA Group is now infamous for their involvement with a similar scandal. I don’t want to spend more time on this, so I recommend you read the good English coverage of at Shin Fukushige’s blog (note that Adam commented on this post.) The CEOs of both Huser and APA are allegedly members of Anshinkai, and there has much much suspicion that Abe and his people deflected as much heat as he could. The connections between Motoya and Abe are strong enough that Kikko titled one January 2007 post “APA Group is Abe Group.”

As I write this, the US 2008 election results are coming in and I want to wrap this up so I can concentrate on that, so let me summarize briefly.

Motoya Toshio is a very successful construction and real estate entrepeneur, with extreme right wing views, an obsession with political leaders and celebrities (he brags about having met a wide variety of famous people, starting oddly with Castro), and an otaku-esque fascination with military things (he also brags about having taken a test flight on a fighter plane). Having built his company into the massive APA Group, he used his company’s publicity apparatus to promote his political ideas, and his significant financial leverage to support Japanese politicians supportive of his militaristic agenda. He appears to have also used those political connections to promote large business projects, and when his company became embroiled in a serious construction inspection scandal, he also turned to his political allies for help.

Combining his attraction to both power and military, he 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. Motoya was probably hoping that Tamogami , who had a history of making controversial public statements and escaping serious censure, would be able to step up and continue the main-streaming of right-wing militaristic views, but his gamble failed. His friend Abe Shinzo was no longer Prime Minister, having perhaps spent too much of his political capital defending Motoya’s APA Group and Huser during the earthquake proofing inspection scandals, and Aso’s government was just not interested in risking blow-back by defending a general who had so egregiously violated the rules on political speech by uniformed officers and the supremacy of civilian leadership. Fukuda Yasuo had worked to improve relations with China and other neighbors following the Abe administration, and perhaps newly appointed Prime Minster Aso Taro, despite his right-wing views and his own well-earned reputation for making gaffes decided to take the pragmatic route and declined to protect Tamogami .

Protesting in a police state

In July of 2005, when I was living in New Brunswick, NJ, finishing up my studies at Rutgers University, the apartment shared by my friend Ted and his then-wife Janice (they have since divorced for unrelated reasons) in neighboring town Highland Park was raided by a SWAT team of the FBI and New Jersey Joint Terrorism Taskforce, which took a wide variety of their property including any computers or related material, as well as their BBQ. Ted himself was never charged with a crime, and in fact was not even being investigated or targeted, but Janice had been targeted for her animal rights protest activities, which naturally included a lot of relatively harmless shouting at people who did not want to be shouted at, and in places where they did not want outsiders to enter. The actual charges against Janice were, in fact, the real offenses of trespassing and criminal mischief (i.e. spray painting graffiti on the fence of an executive of a company responsible for animal testing), but the police response to these minor offences was grotesquely out of proportion.

Continue reading Protesting in a police state

Remembering the Railway of Death

About a week ago the New York Times had an article entitled “Seeking Recognition for a War’s Lost Laborers” on the lack of recognition for the Asian victims of Japanese forced labor in the construction of the famous “Railway of Death.” According to the article, the history of the 200,000-300,000 Asians who were employed, and often killed, in the construction of the railway, which was being constructed to link Bangkok and the Burmese (Myanmarese) capital of Rangoon (Yangon) to provide logistical support for Japan’s invasion of Southeast Asia, has been almost completely overshadowed by stories of the smaller number of Western POWs.

Between 200,000 and 300,000 Asian laborers — no one knows the exact number — were press-ganged by the Japanese and their surrogates to work on the rail line: Tamils, Chinese and Malays from colonial Malaya; Burmans and other ethnic groups from what is now Myanmar; and Javanese from what is now Indonesia.

“It is almost forgotten history,” said Sasidaran Sellappah, a retired plantation manager in Malaysia whose father was among 120 Tamil workers from a rubber estate forced to work on the railway. Only 47 survived.


By contrast, the travails of the 61,806 British, Australian, Dutch and American prisoners of war who worked on the railway, about 20 percent of whom died from starvation, disease and execution, have been recorded in at least a dozen memoirs, documented in the official histories of the governments involved and romanticized in the fictionalized “Bridge on the River Kwai,” the 1957 Hollywood classic inspired by a similarly named best-selling novel by Pierre Boulle.

One reason given for this inequality of historical memory are that virtually none of the Asian victims were from Thailand, giving the local government little incentive to commemorate them. Another is that, unlike the American and British POWs who wrote memoirs and gave countless interviews to journalists and historians, virtually none of the Asian laborers were literate, and they lacked ready access to mass media.

At this point, I would like to present some photos I took at a very peculiar museum that Adam, his (now) wife Shoko, and I visited when we were in Kanchanaburi, the location of the famous Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Jeath War Museum (JEATH is an acronym for Japan, English, American and THai) is a rather eccentric museum based on the collection of a wealthy Japanese history buff, who apparently purchased a building a number of years ago, stocked it haphazardly with local WW2 memorabilia of both great and small interest, and has not had arranged to have it cleaned since.

First, some photos from outside the museum itself.

This is a picture of the famous Bridge which I quite like.

Here are Adam and Shoko posing with the bridge behind them. I do not know the sleeping man, but I have to assume that he is a war criminal of some kind.

This is a silly little train which lets  tourists ride across the bridge and 1 or 2km into the jungle on the other side, and then ride backwards to the other side.

I blurrily snapped this memorial obelisk in the jungle across the river, from aforementioned silly train. It says something along the lines of “the remains of the Chinese army ascend into heaven.”

This plaque is location near the bridge. I did not, however, see one for the British POWs, although I certainly could have just missed it.

And now we reach the museum portion of our tour. I do not seem to have any photographs of the entrance area, but the first thing you see upon approaching the entrance to the museum proper are these statues of historical figures, with biography written on the wall behind them. I will transcribe the highly amusing text another time.

Here is Tojo.

Adam and Shoko again, with their good friends Josef Stalin and General Douglas MacArthur.

The lovable Albert Einstein gets a wall as well.

Inside the museum we are confronted with more dramatic statues, such as this tableau of POWs constructing the railway.

Here is one in a cage. Note the real straw.

Eerie closeup of another caged POW statue’s face.

Adam and his new friend, the WW2-era Japanese soldier driving an old car.

The driver.

Another old car. I do not recognize the make, but it is covered in dust that may weigh as much as the steel.

US Army signal core teletypewriter

Recreation of Japanese army tent

Read the text carefully. Do you know when the CD was invented?

A message from Japan to the Thai people. It’s a bit hard to read, so if anyone wants I can transcribe it.

A British anti-Japan political cartoon

Overall, the museum is a complete shambles. While it has a huge array of cool stuff, it is strewn about almost at random, covered in dust, and sometimes behind other stuff. Not to mention placed in crowded and un-lit cases with poor labeling. Despite the numerous flaws, it is certainly worth a visit if you are in the area, but I can’t say that it will do much to provide any sort of historical narrative, and certainly does not even try to meet the standard hoped for by the Times article I began this post with.

Falun Gong theatre in New York

The NYT has a rather funny article about New Yorkers who attended what they thought would be a traditional Chinese New Year theatrical spectacle at the Radio City Music Hall, but ended up seeing a very different kind of show.

Then the lyrics to some of the songs, sung in Chinese but translated into English in the program, began referring to “persecution” and “oppression.” Each time, almost at the moment a vocalist hit these words, a few audience members collected their belongings and trudged up an aisle toward the exit.

Before long came a ballet piece in which three women were imprisoned by a group of officers, and one was killed. At the end of the number, more members of the audience, in twos and fours and larger groups, began to walk out. At intermission, dozens of people, perhaps a few hundred, were leaving.

They had realized that the show was not simply a celebration of the Chinese New Year, but an outreach of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice of calisthenics and meditation that is banned in China. More than three years after flooding city corners and subway stations to spread the word about the Chinese government’s repression, Falun Gong practitioners are again trying to publicize their cause. Only this time, it involves costumed dancers and paying audiences in that most storied of New York concert halls, Radio City.

The article then goes on to mention that Faul Gong is well known for their elaborate street theatre protests around the city, in which they use props and stage makeup to dramatize the torture their compatriots are undergoing in China, as they hand out literature on the subject. Here are some photos I took of one such protest back in May of 2005.







Has anyone ever seen something like this anywhere besides New York? I saw Falun Gong protesters in Hong Kong, by Victoria Bay, and handing out flyers and DVDs outside of Taipei’s National Palace Museum (prime location to find tourists from the mainland) but never anything like this sort of dramatic reenactment.