Photographer pursues “The Lies of Japan”

by Tomomitsu Miyazaki, Senior Staff Writer

“The enemy forces have been fleeing to the east since yesterday. Our troops have been getting the best of this battle after a series of fierce attacks against the enemy.”

The headquarters of the Imperial Japanese Army made this announcement during the Formosa (Taiwan) Air Battle waged in October 1944 between Japan and the United States. The heroic news reporting went on to state that Japanese forces had already sunk seven U.S. aircraft carriers.

In reality, the U.S. side suffered little damage in this encounter. As the Pacific War ground to an end, it became common practice for the Japanese military to issue false statements of this sort, including such language as “strategic advance” to describe a withdrawal of its forces after a defeat.

As examples, according to these announcements, the USS aircraft carrier Lexington was attacked and sunk six times, while the USS Saratoga was destroyed four times. The statements were so careless that Emperor Showa, also known as Emperor Hirohito, reproached military officials, saying, “It seems, with this announcement, that Saratoga has now been sunk for the fourth time.” (From “Intelligence of the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy” by Ken Kotani)

Has the nature of Japanese leadership, as shown by the statements made by the Imperial Japanese Army, changed much since then? The words offered by members of the Japanese government and experts in the field, who claimed that all was safe in the aftermath of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 (Daiichi) nuclear power plant, perhaps exposed the same inclination for ignoring inconvenient truths and simply interpreting information in ways advantageous to the speakers.

The lies of the post-war period began with Japan’s defeat in the war, which it sought to mask with the term “the end of the war.” A news photographer named Kikujiro Fukushima pointed repeatedly to this evasion. Mr. Fukushima, 91, lives in the city of Yanai in Yamaguchi Prefecture, adjacent to Hiroshima Prefecture.

Over his long career, Mr. Fukushima has stood by the weak, wielding his camera to convey the truth in situations involving A-bomb survivors, war orphans, the demonstrations against the renewal of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty in 1970, pollution, and more.

Recently, Mr. Fukushima visited Fukushima Prefecture to put his energy into taking photos of conditions there following the accident. “There’s now a kinship between Fukushima and Hiroshima,” he said. In August, a documentary film entitled “Nippon no uso” (“The Lies of Japan”), which depicts the peaks and valleys of Mr. Fukushima’s life, including his work in Fukushima, will be released in Hiroshima and other locations.

His strong condemnation of Japan’s lies extends to the A-bombed city as well, which pains me to hear. In the film, Mr. Fukushima states that the “peace city” of Hiroshima was made to conceal the original sins and lies of Japan. I suspect that many people would take exception to his words.

Still, the film offers a new perspective for reflecting on the post-war era, one that is certainly not a lie.

(Originally published on July 11, 2012)