IS THERE a child today in any part of the United States, and perhaps in many other parts of the world, who has not seen the gruesome pictures of the gas chambers at Auschwitz or read at least part of the haunting tale of the young Anne Frank? Indeed, at least in the United States, most schoolchildren are also taught about the devastating effects of the atomic bombs the United States dropped over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But ask most Americans—children and adults alike, including highly educated adults—about the Rape of Nanking, and you will learn that most have never been told what happened in Nanking sixty years ago. A prominent government historian admitted to me that the subject had never once come up in all her years of graduate school. A Princeton-educated lawyer told me sheepishly that she was not even aware that China and Japan had been at war; her knowledge of the Pacific conflict of World War II had been limited to Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. The ignorance extends even to Asian Americans in this country. One of them revealed her woeful grasp of geography and history when she asked me, “Nanking? What was that, a dynasty?”
An event that sixty years ago made front-page news in American newspapers appears to have vanished, almost without a trace. Hollywood has not produced a mainstream movie about the massacre—even though the story contains dramatic elements similar to those of Schindler’s List. And until recently most American novelists and historians have also chosen not to write about it.
After hearing such remarks, I became terrified that the history of three hundred thousand murdered Chinese might disappear just as they themselves had disappeared under Japanese occupation and that the world might actually one day believe the Japanese politicians who have insisted that the Rape of Nanking was a hoax and a fabrication—that the massacre never happened at all. By writing this book, I forced myself to delve into not only history but historiography—to examine the forces of history and the process by which history is made. What keeps certain events in history and assigns the rest to oblivion? Exactly how does an event like the Rape of Nanking vanish from Japan’s (and even the world’s) collective memory?
One reason information about the Rape of Nanking has not been widely disseminated clearly lies in the postwar differences in how Germany and Japan handled their wartime crimes. Perhaps more than any other nation in history, the Germans have incorporated into their postwar political identity the concession that the wartime government itself, not just individual Nazis, was guilty of war crimes. The Japanese government, however, has never forced itself or Japanese society to do the same. As a result, although some bravely fight to force Japanese society to face the painful truth, many in Japan continue to treat the war crimes as the isolated acts of individual soldiers or even as events that simply did not occur.
In Japan competing stories of what happened during World War II continue to appear. According to a currently popular revisionist view, the country bears no responsibility for the wholesale murder of civilians anywhere during the war. The Japanese fought the war to ensure its own survival and to free Asia from the grip of Western imperialism. Indeed, in return for its noble efforts, Japan itself ended up as the ultimate victim at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
This soothing perception of history still finds its way into Japanese history textbooks, which have either ignored the massacre at Nanking altogether or put a decidedly Japanese spin on the actions of the military. At the far end of the political spectrum, Japanese ultranationalists have threatened everything from lawsuits to death, even assassination, to silence opponents who suggest that these textbooks are not telling the next generation the real story.
But it is not just fanatical fringe groups that are trying to rewrite history. In 1990 Ishihara Shintaro, a leading member of Japan’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party and the author of best-selling books such as The Japan That Can Say No, told a Playboyinterviewer: “People say that the Japanese made a holocaust there [in Nanking], but that is not true. It is a story made up by the Chinese. It has tarnished the image of Japan, but it is a lie.”
Naturally, this statement enraged scholars and journalists around the world. One proclaimed that “Japan’s denial of the rape of Nanjing would be politically the same as German denial of the Holocaust.” But the denunciations failed to silence Ishihara, who responded with a furious stream of counterattacks. In his rebuttals, Ishihara, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, asserted that the world never learned about the Nanking massacre until the International Military Tribunal of the Far East put people on trial for their role in it; that neither Japanese war correspondents nor Western reporters wrote about the massacre as it was occurring; that the New York Times correspondent Frank Tillman Durdin failed to witness any massacre; and that the Episcopalian minister John Magee saw only one person killed.
By the 1990s John Magee was, of course, no longer alive to defend himself, but his son, David Magee, made an effort to disprove Ishihara’s statements. He gave interviews to the media and attended conferences on the Nanking massacre at which he read from his father’s papers and displayed the actual camera his father used to film Japanese atrocities. Frank Tillman Durdin was alive, and he took direct action. Stepping out of retirement in San Diego to hold a press conference to refute Ishihara’s remarks, Durdin explained to reporters that he had indeed written an article in 1937 that described the countryside from Shanghai to Nanking as peaceful, but that this article was written two months before the Japanese started their advance on Nanking.
Ishihara’s other statements are readily refutable. Contemporaneous reports of the Rape appeared in dozens of Western newspapers, and even Japanese newspapers ran detailed stories about the massacre. As for Durdin, his articles were not only contemporaneous but published on the front pages of the New York Times. John Magee’s letters contained descriptions like, “The raping of the women has been beyond description or imagination,” and, “There were dead bodies in every street and alley in the city, so far as I could tell, and I went around quite extensively including Hsiakwan.”
Not to be stopped, however, Ishihara went on to suggest that the Chinese claims of a massacre at Nanking helped influence the U.S. decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As each refutation of his earlier claims made it impossible for Ishihara to repeat them, he shifted his position slightly, but on one point he remained inflexible: even if the Germans had apologized for killing the Jews, that did not mean that the Japanese should do the same; under no circumstances should the Japanese ever admit they were guilty of any wrongdoing.
Ishihara’s career remained intact despite the Playboy interview, but eventually others were not so lucky.
—One man who was sucked into the vortex of controversy was General Nagano Shigeto. In the spring of 1994, within days of his appointment to the cabinet-level position of justice minister, he gave an interview to the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper that turned out to be political suicide. “I think the Nanking Massacre and the rest was a fabrication,” he told the newspaper. “I was in Nanking immediately afterwards.” He went on to call the Korean comfort women “licensed prostitutes,” not sex slaves, and to argue that Japan had no choice but to go to war because it was “in danger of being crushed.” The violent reaction to his statements across Asia forced Nagano to resign in disgrace.
—In September 1986, Fujio Masayuki, the Japanese minister of education, sabotaged his career when he declared that the Rape of Nanking was “just a part of war.” In an interview with Bungei Shunju magazine, Fujio defended the actions of the Japanese during the Nanking massacre and claimed that the number of dead had been exaggerated. He also said that Korea was partly to blame for its annexation by Japan in 1910, that Korea willingly accepted colonization, and that the Tokyo War Crimes Trial was “racial revenge” meant to “rob Japan of her power.” Though Fujio made these comments only “to restore the Japanese spirit through history and tradition,” they cost him his job. That month Japanese Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro dismissed him from his post.
—Okuno Seisuki, who had been the prefectural director of the notorious Kempeitai (the secret Japanese military police) during the war, rose after the war to become the Japanese minister of justice and even the minister of education. By 1988 Okuno had become the Japanese land agency chief and the third most senior member of the cabinet. But Okuno’s undoing came that spring when he visited the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo (where Japanese class A war criminals are enshrined and worshipped) and revealed his true attitudes about World War II. “There was no intention of aggression,” Okuno told reporters. “The white race made Asia into a colony, but only Japan has been blamed. Who was the aggressor country? It was the white race. I don’t see why Japanese are called militarists and aggressors.” His statements provoked an uproar across Asia, prompting Okuno to adjust his wording: “I didn’t say Japan wasn’t an aggressor. I said it wasn’t the only aggressor.” By May, Okuno had been forced to resign, but he remained unrepentant to the end. He had stepped down, Okuno said, only under pressure from the government, not because he wished to retract his statements.
—In August 1994, Sakurai Shin, the director general of the Japanese environmental agency, remarked that Japan did not go to war with the intent to commit aggression. In response to China’s angry protests (a PRC Foreign Ministry spokesman announced that “the Chinese government regrets that, once again, a Japanese cabinet minister has brazenly made remarks which distort historical facts”), Murayama Tomiichi ended up apologizing for Sakurai’s remarks. He also rebuked Sakurai by calling the remarks “inappropriate” and forced the director general to hold a midnight press conference to retract his statement.
—In 1995 Hashimoto Ryutaro, the minister for international trade and industry and a powerful man in the Liberal Democratic Party (he would later become the prime minister of Japan), announced that it was Japan’s intention only to fight the United States, Britain, and “others” during World War II. While Japan was aggressive toward China, he said, it really had no intention of invading other Asian countries.
The official denials continued even as this book was going to press. Kajiyama Seiroku, the Japanese chief cabinet secretary, outraged several Asian countries when he stated that the sex slaves and rape victims of the Japanese imperial army during World War II were not slaves at all but willingly engaged in prostitution. In January 1997, he proclaimed that the comfort women of the Japanese army “went for the money” and were no different from the Japanese prostitutes who were working legally in Japan at the time. Amazingly, these comments came on the eve of weekend summit talks between Japanese Prime Minister Hashimoto Ryutaro and South Korean President Kim Young-sam, both of whom expressed deep anger over Kajiyama’s remarks.
Kajiyama later made a gesture to apologize, though he infuriated critics because the apology seemed insulting and insincere. The cabinet secretary regretted that his comments “caused some unpleasantness at the Japan–South Korean summit, and misunderstanding among the South Korean people,” but he refused to retract his original comments. This was not the first time Kajiyama’s mouth had landed him in trouble. In 1990 he was forced to resign from his position as Japanese justice minister after comparing African Americans to prostitutes who come in and ruin a neighborhood.
THE TEXTBOOK CONTROVERSY
Perhaps one of the most sinister aspects of the malaise in Japanese education is the deliberate obstruction of important historical information about World War II through textbook censorship.
Almost from birth, Japanese children fight for footholds in the slippery pyramid of education, striving to reach the tip, which is admission to Todai, or Tokyo University. There are cram elementary schools to get into the right high school, where kids study from 9:00 P.M. to 6:00 A.M.; cram preparatory kindergartens to ensure admission into the right elementary school; even exclusive maternity wards that guarantee babies a ticket into the right nursery school.
But despite the “examination hell” for which the Japanese are famous, what do their schoolchildren learn about World War II?
Very little, as it turns out. The entire Japanese education system suffers from selective amnesia, for not until 1994 were Japanese schoolchildren taught that Hirohito’s army was responsible for the deaths of at least 20 million Allied soldiers and Asian civilians during World War II. In the early 1990s a newspaper article quoted a Japanese high school teacher who claimed that his students were surprised to learn that Japan had been at war with the United States. The first thing they wanted to know was who won.
How does this happen? All textbooks used in Japan’s elementary and secondary schools must first be approved by the Japanese Ministry of Education. Critics in Japan note that social studies textbooks come under the heaviest scrutiny. For example, in 1977 the Ministry of Education reduced a section on World War II within a standard history book of several hundred pages to only six pages, which consisted mainly of pictures of the American firebombing of Tokyo, a picture of the ruins of Hiroshima, and a tally of Japan’s war dead. The text neglected to mention the casualties on the other side, Japanese war atrocities, or the forced evacuations of Chinese and Korean prisoners to labor camps in Japan.
Much of this censorship might have gone unchallenged had it not been for the efforts of one brave crusader. In 1965 the Japanese historian Ienaga Saburo sued the Japanese government. This lawsuit was the beginning of a legal battle that would span three decades and gain the backing of thousands of sympathetic Japanese followers.
Those who have met Ienaga are struck by his frailty. The bald octogenarian historian trembles when he walks and his voice is hardly louder than a whisper. But underneath a powerful will is at work.
The Ministry interfered with Ienaga’s attempts to document the Nanking massacre for schoolchildren. For example, in his textbook manuscript Ienaga wrote: “Immediately after the occupation of Nanking, the Japanese Army killed numerous Chinese soldiers and citizens. This incident came to be known as the Nanking Massacre.” The examiner commented: “Readers might interpret this description as meaning that the Japanese Army unilaterally massacred Chinese immediately after the occupation. This passage should be revised so that it is not interpreted in such a way.”
Finally, over Ienaga’s protests, the passage was changed to: “While battling the fierce resistance of the Chinese armed forces, the Japanese Army occupied Nanking and killed numerous Chinese soldiers and civilians. This incident came to be known as the Nanking Massacre.” That statement may have satisfied textbook censors as a compromise between Ienaga’s argument and the ministry’s position on the massacre. Unfortunately, the statement is simply not true, because it implies that the massacre occurred in the heat of battle.
The examiner demanded that Ienaga delete his description of the Rape itself, claiming that “the violation of women is something that has happened on every battlefield in every era of human history. This is not an issue that needs to be taken up with respect to the Japanese Army in particular.”
Even the word aggression was deemed taboo. “Aggression,” the censors wrote, “is a term that contains negative ethical connotations.” The Ministry of Education also bristled at Ienaga’s efforts to condemn Japanese wartime behavior. It took offense at the following passage: “The war was glorified as a ‘holy war’ and the Japanese Army’s defeat and their brutal acts on the battlefield were completely concealed. As a result, the majority of the Japanese people were not able to learn the truth and they were placed in a position where they had no choice but to cooperate enthusiastically in this reckless war.” The Ministry of Education deleted this passage on the grounds that the expressions “the Japanese Army’s brutal acts” and “this reckless war” were “unilateral criticism of Japan’s position and actions” during World War II.
In 1970, when he actually won his case (Sugimoto Ryokichi, the judge for the Tokyo district court, ruled that the screening of textbooks should not go beyond correction of factual and typographical errors), extremists fired off death threats to the plaintiff attorneys, the judge, and Ienaga himself, while thugs kept the scholar awake by banging pots and pans outside his home and screaming slogans. The police had to escort Ienaga and his counsel in and out of court through a secret door.
With the exception of an award that Ienaga received in 1948 (when, he admits, he was “politically tone deaf”), he has been consistently ignored by the official committees that dole out national prizes in history. The historian has won, nevertheless, a place in history itself. The tremendous publicity that Ienaga receives for his efforts arouses foreign protests that force change upon the highly conservative Ministry of Education. By the 1980s years of lawsuits and political activism were beginning to pay off. In 1982 the distortion of the history of the Rape of Nanking in Japanese high school history textbooks had become such a hot issue in Japan that it created an international diplomatic crisis. All four of Japan’s major national newspapers carried headlines on the subject. Chinese and Korean officials also filed formal protests, accusing the Japanese of trying to obliterate from memory the history of their aggression to lay the basis for reviving militarism in the younger generation. The Japanese textbook examination council, however, tried to defend itself by telling reporters: “It was not fair to describe the Nanking atrocity in three to five lines while mentioning Soviet or American atrocities against the Japanese in only one line or two.”
In the end, the publicity from the textbook controversy accomplished two things. One was the dismissal of Japan’s education minister, Fujio Masayuki, who had rigorously defended the ministry’s policy of whitewashing World War II history. The second was a heightened awareness inside the ministry that the Nanking massacre was something they could no longer ignore. Before Fujio’s dismissal, the National Conference for the Defense of Japan had prepared a right-wing history textbook that summed up the Nanking massacre in this manner: “The battle of Nanking was extremely severe. China has asked Japan to reflect regarding casualties on the part of the Chinese army and civilians.” But after Fujio’s dismissal, the Ministry of Education rewrote the passage to read: “The battle in Nanking was extremely severe. After Nanking fell, it was reported that the Japanese army killed and wounded many Chinese soldiers and civilians, thus drawing international criticism.”
Of course, the issue of textbook censorship is far from over. Rather than denying the massacre outright, some officials in Japan now focus on minimizing its scale. In 1991 screeners at the ministry ordered textbook authors to eliminate all reference to the numbers of Chinese killed during the Rape of Nanking because authorities believed there was insufficient evidence to verify those numbers. Three years later the ministry even forced a textbook author to reduce the number of killings by Japanese soldiers during one day of the Nanking massacre from twenty-five thousand to fifteen thousand people. The original version of the textbook cited a diary account that twenty-five thousand captives were “put away” in a single day. But under pressure from the ministry, the textbook publisher backed down and shortened a quotation from the diary so that it read: “The Sasaki unit disposed of 15,000 people.”
THE ACADEMIC COVER-UP
With few exceptions, the academic community in Japan has shied away from studying the Rape of Nanking. Some have argued that not enough time has gone by to render the subject worthy of historical study, or for historians to judge Japanese wrongdoing. Some even react indignantly to criticism of Japanese wartime misdeeds. (“How long must we apologize for the mistakes we have made?” one said heatedly.)
Others act as apologists for Japan and have even allied themselves with conservative Japanese ultranationalists to minimize the significance of the massacre and its death toll. One prominent revisionist who has launched his own crusade to distort the history of the Rape of Nanking and other aspects of World War II history is Fujioka Nobukatsu, a professor of education at Tokyo University. Among his incendiary statements are the assertions that far fewer people were killed in the Rape of Nanking than the Chinese claim; that most of the victims of Nanking were guerrilla soldiers, not civilians; and that the Asian sex slaves, or “comfort women,” of the Japanese military were ordinary prostitutes. Fujioka equated the women’s receipt of financial compensation with “hitting the lottery” and demanded that the Japanese government not only retract the apologies it has offered to these women but strike information about them from Japanese history textbooks.
In Japan serious research on the Rape of Nanking has largely been left up to the efforts of those operating outside of traditional academic communities, such as freelance authors and journalists. Ono Kenji, a factory worker, is a prime example. In 1988 he started to interview farmers in his area who had served in the Aizu Wakamatsu Battalion during the Rape of Nanking. The bachelor Ono had time to devote himself to the subject because he enjoyed thirty-six-hour breaks between long factory shifts and had no family responsibilities. Six years later it was reported that Ono Kenji had visited some six hundred homes, interviewed two hundred people, photocopied twenty out of some thirty diaries, and videotaped interviews with seven people. Some of his findings appeared in the weekly magazine Shukan Kinyobi and were hailed as the first work on the Nanking massacre to be based solely on Japanese sources. In 1996, he coedited an important book on the subject of the Nanking massacre, but he continues to live under the constant shadow of possible Japanese retaliation, refusing even to be photographed for fear of falling prey to right-wing fanatics.
In Japan censorship is practiced not only by the government when it tampers with textbooks but by the media, which police themselves. In many ways private-sector self-censorship can be more insidious than government censorship because it is subtler and harder to pinpoint.
What distributors did to a scene of the Rape of Nanking in the film The Last Emperor is a revealing illustration of Japanese self-censorship at work. In 1988 the Shochiku Fuji Distribution Company removed from Bernardo Bertolucci’s film biography of Pu Yi a thirty-second scene depicting the Rape of Nanking. Bertolucci was furious, of course, when he found out. “Not only did the Japanese distributor cut the whole sequence of the ’Rape of Nanking’ without my authorization and against my will, without even informing me, but they also declared to the press that myself and the producer, Jeremy Thomas, had made the original proposition to mutilate the movie,” he announced. “This is absolutely false and revolting.”
Bertolucci’s outcry forced the distributors to restore the excised scene immediately. They offered a variety of excuses for their behavior. Kubotani Motoyuki, director of Shochiku Fuji, apologized for the “confusion and misunderstanding,” explaining that his company thought the Nanking scene was simply “too sensational” to be shown in Japan. “Cutting the film was our voluntary decision. We had no idea that it would become such a big issue,” he said. Saito Mitsuhiro, another spokesman for Shochiku Fuji, told reporters that the scene was removed “out of respect for Japanese audiences.” Nakane Takehiko, a Japanese film critic, speculated that the decision to cut the scene arose from both the distributors’ pusillanimity and the threat of ultranationalist violence. “I believe the film’s distributors and many theatre owners were afraid these right-wing groups might cause trouble outside the theaters,” the critic told reporters. “Some of these people still believe that Japan’s actions in China and during the war were part of some sacred crusade.”
DEBATES ON THE NANKING MASSACRE
Japanese who find the courage to write books about the Rape of Nanking often face unrelenting attacks. Take the example of Hora Tomio and Honda Katsuichi. Hora, a professor of Japanese history at Waseda University, visited China in 1966 to investigate Japanese atrocities in China; he later published his research on the Nanking massacre in several books. Honda Katsuichi was a prize-winning journalist at the Asahi Shimbun who broke the taboo against discussing the Nanking massacre in the Japanese press by going to mainland China in the 1970s and 1980s to interview survivors. His findings, serialized first in the Asahi Shimbun and other journals, were later expanded into full-length books. Both Hora and Honda reached the conclusion that Japanese soldiers had killed some three hundred thousand people in Nanking between 1937 and 1938.
Both also faced a vicious backlash in Japan. One vociferous critic of Hora and Honda was the ultraconservative author Suzuki Akira, who challenged their findings in an article entitled “The Illusion of the Nanjing Massacre.” Suzuki charged that some of Honda’s and Hora’s stories were fabricated, that insufficient primary source material existed to substantiate the massacre, and that the Rape of Nanking was an “illusion.” The book that resulted from his articles won the Bungei Shunju Prize in nonfiction and received eulogies from literary critics as “admirable” and “courageous.” When Hora published a series of rebuttals to Suzuki, several famous Japanese writers immediately sprang to Suzuki’s defense.
Another critic was Tanaka Masaaki, a man who claimed to be Matsui Iwane’s protégé. In 1984 he published an anti-Honda book called The Fabrication of the “Nanking Massacre,” using material from Matsui’s wartime diary. Accusing Honda of spreading “enemy propaganda,” Tanaka argued that, unlike in Europe or China, “you won’t find one instance of planned, systematic murder in the entire history of Japan.” This is because, he wrote, the Japanese have “a different sense of values” from Westerners and the Chinese. Revisionists rallied behind Tanaka and joined his attacks on Honda and Hora. The right-wing author Watanabe Shoichi, who wrote a foreword to Tanaka’s book, also blasted Honda for heaping guilt “not only on the Japanese officers and men of the time, but on all Japanese, indeed on our children yet to be born.”
A debate soon raged between the two camps. There was the liberal “massacre faction,” which consisted of Hora, Honda, and their supporters, and the conservative “illusion faction” led by Suzuki and Tanaka. The liberal camp published its findings in the Asahi Shimbun and other journals, while the conservatives contributed to right-wing publications like Bungei Shunju, Shokun!, and Seiron. The liberals demanded that the Japanese government apologize for its crimes in China, while the conservatives considered such an apology an insult to veterans and a foreign interference in Japanese internal affairs.
Ironically, attempts to disprove the Nanking massacre backfired when the revisionists themselves began to probe into the subject for ammunition against the “massacre faction.” For instance, in the 1980s Kaikosha, a fraternity of army cadet school graduates, asked its eighteen thousand members to come forward with eyewitness accounts to discredit the Nanking massacre. To the dismay of the “illusion faction,” many Kaikosha members confirmed the details of the Rape of Nanking and described atrocities that horrified even hard-core Japanese conservatives. A former officer under Matsui estimated that some 120,000 captives were killed under the orders of a staff officer, although later, no doubt under pressure, he changed the figure to “no less than tens of thousands.” But his testimony scuttled the entire purpose of the survey, and moved even an editor ofKaikosha’s journal to write in the concluding part of the series that “there was no excuse for such massive illegal executions. As someone related to the old Japanese Army, I have to apologize deeply to the Chinese people.”
But the most embarrassing incident was yet to come. In 1985 a popular history journal, Rekishi to jinbutsu, discovered as many as nine hundred errors in the newly published Matsui wartime diary. Most of them were intentional attempts to falsify primary documents, a revelation that scandalized historians across Japan. Still more disturbing, the author of these alterations was none other than Tanaka Masaaki, who had proclaimed himself a staunch critic of historical distortion.
What happened to Azuma Shiro, the first Japanese veteran to admit openly his crimes in Nanking, is a spectacular example of the system of Japanese intimidation at its worst. In 1987 he created a sensation when he became the first former Japanese soldier to apologize in public for his role in the Nanking massacre. On the eve of his departure to Nanking to participate in a fifty-year memorial ceremony of the great Rape, he gave interviews to newspaper and television reporters at a press conference in Kyoto. The result was an avalanche of criticism and death threats. To protect himself, Azuma retired from his company and moved with his wife into a house in a tiny village outside Kyoto, where he kept an arsenal of weapons, such as truncheons, clubs, pepper sprays, chains, and knuckle dusters.
The troubles for Motoshima Hitoshi, the mayor of Nagasaki, began when he was asked by a Communist Party member in the city assembly what he thought of the emperor’s wartime guilt. It was December 7, 1988, the forty-seventh anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Emperor Hirohito was slowly dying of cancer, and the nation was mourning the passing of the Showa era by muting the holiday festivities. Motoshima responded that, having read accounts of the war from abroad and served as a soldier himself, he believed that the emperor bore responsibility for the war. The response to his statement was immediate. The next day enraged city legislators and the local branch of the Liberal Democratic Party demanded that the mayor retract his words. But Motoshima refused, announcing that he could not “betray his own heart.”
His opponents then embarked on a violent campaign of harassment and intimidation calculated to bring the mayor to his knees. The Liberal Democrats not only dismissed him as the counsel to their organization but succeeded in convincing the prefectural governor to refuse to cooperate politically with the mayor. Right-wing groups even called for Motoshima’s death. On December 19, 1988, twenty-four ultranationalist groups drove through Nagasaki on thirty loudspeaker trucks, blasting their demands for “divine retribution” through Motoshima’s death. Two days later the number of groups demonstrating in Nagasaki had grown to sixty-two, and the number of loudspeaker trucks to eighty-two. Representatives from numerous conservative organizations, including the office for Shinto shrines, called for his impeachment. Less than two weeks after Hirohito’s death on January 7, 1989, a right-wing fanatic shot Motoshima in the back. The bullet punctured his lungs, but miraculously, the mayor survived. The assassination attempt thrilled extremists across the nation, many of whom proclaimed the deed as nothing less than “divine punishment.”