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Yuko Tojo: Grandfather not war criminal

Yuko Tojo in Shinjuku
Yuko Tojo in Shinjuku

TOKYO (TR) – The granddaughter of former wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, who was hanged as a war criminal following the Tokyo tribunals, believes that modern Japan is a nation bereft of dignity, a condition she hopes to change by running in this month’s House of Councillors election.

“I want to do something about the present state of Japan,” Yuko Tojo told a press luncheon Tuesday at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. “I want to do something to change the nature of Japanese people who lack confidence, who lack pride and a sense of honor in their nation.”

The 68-year-old ultra-nationalist believes that her grandfather’s legacy has been treated inappropriately in the years following the conclusion of World War II. She wants to set the record straight.

“After the war ended,” she said, “he has been treated consistently as a war criminal in Japan. I believe very strongly that restoring the honor in my grandfather’s name will lead to the restoration of pride and honor to all of Japan.”

Japan did not engage in a war of aggression, she said, adding that the war was a correct and just one.

“If my grandfather Hideki Tojo bears responsibility for this war,” she said, “he bears responsibility not for starting the war but for losing the war.”

Analysts have indicated that the election, which is within the 242-seat upper house of the Diet, could land Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in hot water should there be an erosion within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s majority, which includes its coalition partner New Komeito. The election comes just as the approval rating of Abe’s administration has reached its lowest point – 32% as of Monday – since he took office last September. A string of scandals have plagued his term.

Highlighted by the ongoing fallout of the Social Insurance Agency’s misplacing of 50 million pension records, Abe’s problems have been punctuated by the continuing missteps of his ministers.

Hakuo Yanagisawa, the Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare, equated women to that of household appliances, when he indicated in January that since the number of “birth-giving machines” is fixed they must do their best to reverse Japan’s declining birth rate. After being accused of filing dubious office expense reports and implicated in a construction bid-rigging scandal, Toshikatsu Matsuoka, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, committed suicide in May. Earlier this week Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma said in a speech delivered at Reitaku University in Kashiwa, Chiba that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 were inevitable.

“As a member of a nation which experienced the dropping of the bomb for the first time in human history,” Tojo said, “I found these comments extremely shocking. The fact that Prime Minister Abe and the leadership of the LDP cannot see fit to dismiss defense minister Kyuma is something that fills me with great disappointment.”

Kyuma resigned the day following his statement.

Tojo, running on an independent ticket, has not received support from Abe or any other LDP members. Her funding, she says, is from her personal funds and friends possessing “passionate hearts.”

If elected, Tojo will work to revise Article 9 of the post-war constitution, which renounces war and prevents Japan from engaging in military activities to settle international disputes, and rewrite historical records, such as Chinese claims that the Japanese military slaughtered 300,000 civilians in Nanking.

“Even today,” she said, “there is no physical evidence of what is supposed to have happened during this massacre. There are no witness accounts of actual killing taking place. I know there are photos that have been spread throughout the world that claim to be proof of what happened. However, historians have taken these photos, studied and researched them, and shown them to be of very dubious nature or fabricated.”

On the issue of comfort women, for which the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee last month passed a resolution denouncing Japan’s military for establishing organized brothels in China, Taiwan, Indonesia, and the Philippines, she said that enslaving women against their own will did not exist.

“Attached to the military,” she said, “were many people, like cameramen, nurses, and journalists. However, there were no Japanese military comfort women. They were sought out in commercial endeavors and accompanied the military when they moved to different places as women.”

As for the current state of politics, Tojo had harsh words for Abe, who has wavered on whether he would visit Yasukuni Shrine, the Shinto shrine in central Tokyo that served as a rallying point for militarism and where her grandfather and 13 other Class A war criminals are enshrined.

“Before Prime Minister Abe became prime minister,” she said, “he was very open in his beliefs and visited Yasukuni Shrine quite often. But now having become the leader of the nation he has rethought his position and decided to adopt tactics of ambiguity. He is not clear about whether he will visit Yasukuni Shrine. I feel very strongly that the fact that he has had to change his policies is very saddening.”

Tojo realizes that her views run counter to common perception and may appear quite harsh, but she is truly quite gentle.

“I am not a hawk,” she said how she thinks many view her. “I am actually a dove, one of those white doves perched on the torii gate at Yasukuni Shrine.”

The election will be held July 29th.

Note: This article originally appeared in July 2007 on the Sake-Drenched Postcards Web page.