The Issue of Japan’s Nuclear Armament and Lessons Learned from the Tongzhou Massacre


Fujioka Nobukatsu

Senior researcher

International Research Institute for Controversial Histories (iRICH)

July , 2022

Inevitability of Japan’s nuclear armament

Japan is located near three nuclear powers, namely China, Russia and North Korea, and has been made a target of possible nuclear attacks. The character of all these countries is authoritarian, autocratic and dictatorial. Russia is slightly different from the other two because its top leadership is chosen by election, but its political culture obviously differs from that of the so-called West.

Unless Japan, in this position, arms itself with its own nuclear weapons, it may eventually be deprived of its national independence and robbed of the lives and property of its people by nuclear attacks or nuclear threats from these three countries. The biggest lesson learned from the Ukraine war is that the US has been confirmed to be reluctant to fight squarely against countries with nuclear weapons. Therefore, nuclear armament is meaningless unless it is acquired and owned by the country that is under threat. This has been pointed out by Emmanuel Todd, a French demographer.

Based on these circumstances, it is self-evident that, for Japan to remain an independent country, the possession of its own nuclear armament is necessary. It is indisputably clear in the same way as one and one makes two. In short, the national defense problem is the issue of Japan’s nuclear armament.

Faced with the harsh realities of the Ukraine war, the Japanese, peace addicts as they are, are apparently waking up to the national defense issue. For example, in an opinion poll taken in a Fuji TV show in June asking the viewers about the pros and cons of the “proposal to raise Japan’s defense budget to 2% of its GNP,” as many as 90% of the respondents agreed to the proposal and 7% said the current level of 1% of the GNP should be maintained, overwhelming the 3% who said it should be reduced.

This gave me the hope that some candidates would possibly appear in the House of Councillors election in July who would raise openly the issue of defense, including nuclear armament. It is because politicians truly willing to take the responsibility for the security of the nation and the people should be bound to reach the conclusion mentioned above. Seeing that the Japanese people have “experienced” the Ukraine war, it was a golden opportunity to awaken the people to the problem. It is politicians’ job to give substance and direction to indefinite “public opinion.” Otherwise, public opinion that has finally risen would eventually lose all its momentum.

Certainly, there were candidates in the election who touched on “the defense budget at 2% of the GNP” but I could not find any candidates who came to grips with the nuclear issue and made all-out appeals. My expectations were betrayed. It is still a taboo for politicians to openly avow Japan’s nuclear armament. The election made me aware anew that the defense issue would not attract votes after all.

Japanese mentality posing the biggest difficulty in national defense

Nuclear armament of Japan involves numerous difficulties. The biggest point is whether the US would permit Japan’s nuclear armament. While it depends on the nature and policies of the administration in power at the moment it is not easy judging from the historical context up to now.

In the first place, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces are forced to use US-built weapons as basic equipment, which hinders the development of domestically-produced weapons. Accordingly, these armament policies have been designed by the US armed forces with the intention to make the Japanese Self-Defend Forces dysfunctional. The national leader is required to have the political skills for realizing the country’s goals while adeptly getting around any problems. We need the advent of a politician with strong leadership skills capable of handling all these adversities.

These obstacles alone are no easy matter but let’s say that the problems mentioned above have been solved. Even so, I cannot help but think that the final force to obstruct the nuclear armament of Japan will be the Japanese people themselves. Judging from the disposition, nature and thought process of the Japanese people as a group, securing national consensus as to nuclear armament is a very difficult task.

 Studying the developments of the Tongzhou Massacre, in which Japanese were cruelly and horrifically killed by Chinese, and the behavior of the Japanese regarding this incident, inevitably makes me aware of the difficulties described above. Let me point out two problems. First, the Japanese are unable by nature to look squarely at cruelty. Secondly, the Japanese tend to leniently drop their grudges and refrain from retaliating, no matter how severely they are made to suffer, rather than burning with the desire for revenge.

● Japanese culture tabooing the disclosure of cruelties

Let me start by discussing the first problem. I would like to make it clear in advance that my discussion is about a group attribute of the Japanese people, it is in their nature to avoid contact with cruelties and place them under a taboo. The Japanese cannot withstand those things. This is probably closely linked to the Japanese culture that shuns impurity. It is in the basis of Shinto. The difference between cruel and non-cruel peoples has sometimes been explained by the difference between meat-eating culture based on cattle-raising and plant-eating culture based on agriculture but whether this opinion is well-founded is unknown. Instead, more directly, there seems to be a stronger relation with the fact that the society taboos involve the perception of cruelties.

To the morning edition of the Tokyo Asahi Shimbun dated November 1, 1937  when the Tongzhou massacre occurred, musician Konoe Hidemaro contributed an article entitled “Taigai Senden Shikan (Personal Comments on External Propaganda).” Konoe Hidemaro was a paternal younger brother of Konoe Fumimaro, the then Prime Minister. Konoe Hidemaro, who lived abroad for a long time and was familiar with the Western European affairs, made an issue of “ineptness of propaganda and news coverage on the Japanese side” and commented as follows:

“The Tongzhou mass murder incident must exactly be the biggest material for making known worldwide how reasonable the fury of all Japanese is. The photographs of the real disastrous scenes need not be imported to mainland Japan. None of our fellow countrymen would probably be able to look straight at them and everybody would look away. However, hiding from foreign countries this violence, which is worth being described as fiendish beyond inhuman, would instead make the sacrifice of the many fellow Japanese victims wasteful.”

“In fact, news films on the Chinese side show piles of corpses of coolies allegedly killed by Japanese troops, a close-up of a dead body with its head cracked open using a Chinese falchion and brain fluid oozing out and so on, and make every effort to make themselves look weak despite the fact that they made defensive preparations that extremely troubled the Imperial Army in North China and Shanghai. In contrast, Japanese propaganda only shows marches and banzai cheers with the Rising Sun flag fluttering animatedly on the top of a castle and it is only natural that China automatically attracts sympathy.”

Accordingly, Konoe Hidemaro states, “we should think that, photographing how each and every person subjected to anguish in Tongzhou was killed from a forensic perspective, for example, is not disrespectful to the deceased as long as it can serve as a salvation from a crisis for the nation at any rate” and called for “countering Chinese propaganda” by “dismissing old ideas.”

I perfectly understand how he felt. When I worked to publish Sasaki Ten’s testimonies as an independent reprinted booklet (“Tsushu Jiken - Mokugekisha no Shogen” published by Jiyusha)[1], I greatly hesitated. I made the firm decision on its publication thinking that, after all, the Japanese would forever be kept away from the knowledge of how dreadful the Chinese society is unless the truth is known, which would cause a serious problem from the viewpoint of national defense. It is not that I have a grotesque taste.
At present, a look around publications in Japan shows that fake photos of the Nanking Incident are being spread unchallenged with impunity, exactly as pointed out by Konoe Hidemaro. Iris Chang’s “The Rape of Nanking” was sold at airport kiosks around the world. In contrast, no collection of testimonies, not to mention atrocious photos, of the Tongzhou Massacre has ever been published. “Shimbun ga Tsutaeta Tsushu Jiken [The Tongzhou Massacre Covered by Newspapers] 1937 - 1945” (Shukousha), which has recently been published, is the very first collection of materials about the incident. In these circumstances, there is no way that the true dreadfulness of the incident can be widely known among the Japanese people. This is a major dilemma.

● Leniency to forgive even if made to suffer

The second problem is the leniency of the Japanese, who will forgive no matter how badly they are made to suffer. What is conspicuous about the aftermath of the Tongzhou Masscare is that Japanese attempted no harm on Chinese, whose fellow countrymen committed such outrageous acts. F. Williams, an American journalist, wrote:

 “While this was taking place, and later, some 60,000 Chinese were living

  peacefully in the Japanese Empire… (omitted) I have walked through the

  Chinatowns of Yokohoma (sic) and other Japanese cities and watched the

  Chinese children at play without thought of fear or danger and while in China

 their countrymen were mobbing and hunting down Japanese children like themselves. (omitted) The very Chinese soldiers who perpetrated the massacre

 of the Japanese innocents at Tungchow were fed by the Japanese troops when captured and under the Sumarai (sic) code which condemns the offense but

 forgives the offender they were told to go and kill no more.” (Behind the

 News in China)

 The fact that not one of the 60,000 Chinese became a target of retaliation by Japanese is miraculous from the perspective of the international standard. Even more surprisingly, in Chinatown in Yokohama, a Japanese vigilante group was organized for protecting Chinese. Cooks in Tokyo who were advised to go home by the Chinese Embassy in Japan found it unwelcome because it was safer in Japan.

Should we be proud of a thing like this as a virtue representing the noble spirituality of the Japanese? My answer is “No.” The reason is that it is extremely risky from the viewpoint of national defense. It makes the other party assume that the Japanese will never strike back no matter what cruel treatment they are given. The Chinese are the type of people who, once they have decided that the other party is weaker, attack to any extent. Therefore, an excessive virtue like this is nothing other than a vice, in the sense that it leads to more Japanese victims. In order to suppress the other party’s aggression, you should be armed with fangs. This is the international standard, which the Japanese must meet by making conscious effort to transform themselves. Otherwise, Japanese nuclear armament will not be achieved.

In May, 2022 a play on the theme of the Tongzhou Massacre with Sasaki Ten as the main character was performed in Tokyo for the first time in history. One woman, who gathered her courage to watch it after hesitating to do so because of her psychological unwillingness to see cruelties, commented as follows: “It is unimaginable that the superb humanity of the Japanese would bring them agony. Where should we turn to find the means to protect the Japanese, a people with a kind heart rarely found in the world? Probably, the only means is nuclear armament as a deterrent.” To know the truth of the Tongzhou Massacre is significant in terms of national defense.

[1] English translation edition: Tongzhou Massacre: Testimony of an Eyewitness, Fujioka Nobukatsu,Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact, January 2020.