In December 2022, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, leader of Japan’s governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), announced Tokyo would double its defense budget, reaching the NATO-friendly target of 2% of GDP by 2027. Wary of a nuclear-armed North Korea and China’s threats to invade Taiwan, Tokyo’s government felt forced to act – sensibly so, in my opinion. Yet Kishida’s decision sparked controversy at home and abroad.
Following unconditional surrender in 1945, occupying US forces imposed a new constitution upon Japan, Article 9 of which, the so-called ‘peace clause’, forbade her from maintaining any future army, navy or air force. However, as the 1950s Cold War dawned, Washington allowed Tokyo to develop its own euphemistically named ‘Self-Defense Force’, which eventually became one of the world’s best-equipped fighting units – but one not really allowed to fight at all, being legally barred from conflicts abroad.
Under the leadership of the nationalist-minded LDP PM Shinzo Abe between 2006-07 and 2012-20, things changed. Abe had long harbored ambitions of ditching Article 9, and harnessed growing Asian instability to do so. In 2015 Japan re-interpreted Article 9 as giving it the right to perform pre-emptive actions against enemies abroad if the safety of the mainland was deemed in direct peril.
One way to grasp this complex situation is through a domestic political party-cum-religious cult named the Happiness Realization Party (HRP). Combining elements of Buddhism, Spiritualism and hardline militarist nationalism, the HRP is led by ‘Master’ Ryuho Okawa, an alleged spirit-medium who, echoing the native Shinto tradition of ancestor-worship, claims to be able to enter trances and channel the spirits of Japan’s WWII-era war-dead to provide him – and by extension the LDP government – with wise military counsel.
The Happies possess not a single member of the national Diet (parliament), yet have harvested over a million votes in general elections, thus enjoying a sizable constituency nonetheless. Their beliefs are oddly similar to those of Shinzo Abe, but in a more cartoonish form. To the HRP, China and its puppet state, North Korea, have already secretly declared WWIII upon Japan and it is therefore necessary to repeal Article 9 and attack them with nuclear missiles before they hit Tokyo first.
On their extensive global news website, The Liberty Web, the HRP explains how Beijing’s propagandists have tricked Japan into believing its conduct in WWII was inherently shameful, thereby leading its voters to meekly accept Article 9. To counterattack, in 2013 Master Okawa issued a special edict, unilaterally withdrawing the LDP government’s past apologies for its nation’s many war crimes, declaring them “retroactively invalid”, WWII being truly “a holy war” fought to liberate Asia from the “racist policies” of its former white colonial masters, in which “the fervent aspiration of the Japanese gods was manifested.”
The 1937 Rape of Nanking, in which 300,000 Chinese were brutally slaughtered, never happened, and the ordeal of the ‘comfort women’, Chinese and Korean sex slaves forced to serve Imperial troops, was wholly imaginary. As proof, The Master conjured the soul of Iris Chang, the Chinese-American author of the atrocity-documenting 1997 book The Rape of Nanking. Yet this text was actually “a work of fiction” written after Chang was “promised fame and fortune” by Chinese agents who hoped to justify the naval militarization of the South China Sea by painting it as an act of rational self-defense against an eternally evil Japanese Army. “People of Japan, I am sorry,” Chang’s ghost wailed. “My book is fraudulent. Please remove it from print.” In February 2015 the Happies delivered an official protest to UNESCO HQ in Paris, concerning ‘fake’ Nanking-related documents lodged there by China.
Okawa also utilized the time-travel abilities of Edgar Cayce, the famous (and long-dead) American trance medium, who found a mere 200 people had died at Nanking, and that only “about two” rapes occurred, the city being so safe Chinese civilians flooded into it seeking Japanese charity. Comfort women did exist, but eager volunteers only got these well-paid roles if they “passed the interview” first. Those Koreans who presented sob stories decades later were plucked from weepy funerals and “bribed” to blacken Japan’s name, such lies now being firmly “embedded in Korean culture.”
The officer in charge at Nanking, General Iwane Matsui, was wrongly executed as a Class-A war criminal in 1948, so in 2014 Master Okawa summoned his soul for an exclusive Liberty Web interview. The false Chinese Whispers now being spread about Nanking made Matsui weep: “I am so, so, so, so, sorry. I feel like committing seppuku [ritual suicide] over again as an act of apology.” But why should an innocent man apologize for a crime he did not commit?
Okawa then consulted General Hideki Tojo, Japan’s wartime PM and “the most intelligent person in Japan”, himself hanged as a Class-A war criminal in 1948 – also wrongly. Tojo explained WWII was purely defensive, with the ‘ABCD Line’ – a shipping embargo imposed by the Americans, British, Chinese and Dutch – being intended to bring resource-poor Japan to a standstill by robbing it of oil imports, anticipating China’s current militarizing of regional shipping-lanes. By “forcing Japan into making a surprise attack” on Pearl Harbor by leaving its battleships so temptingly out there, just begging to be sunk, Washington’s white supremacists intended to trick Japan’s hated “yellow monkeys” into a war they would lose.
America’s true intention was to colonize China under the pretense of defending it from Tokyo, but Tojo ruined this scheme. As revenge, US President Truman dropped his new A-bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the figure of 300,000 dead at Nanking being fabricated to balance out the similar number vaporized in the atomic strikes. Maoist China likewise blamed Japanese destruction for post-war national poverty, not their own foolish Marxism; the two Koreas followed suit. For Tojo’s ghost, the main reason South Korea is so rich today is because his troops built them so much infrastructure, enabling the later rise of Samsung and Hyundai.
But, warned Tojo, if cowardly domestic voters allowed black propaganda about Nanking to continue putting non-nuclear Japan off from repealing Article 9 and building its own nuclear arsenal, then “you will be the next ones to become slaves” to China, which is only “what you get from the post-war ideal of pacifism”.
The Un-Trueman Doctrine
Seeking political balance, Master Okawa now consulted the spirit of Tojo’s nuclear nemesis Harry S. Truman. Admitting “I did something unforgivable”, Truman confessed he only dropped the A-bombs to see if they worked, and that America then helped China fabricate the legend of Nanking to make the Japanese look “even more vicious than us.”
The UN and Article 9 were created to keep Japan “permanently contained” as a pacifist country post-WWII, but this had now backfired, and she needed to re-arm urgently or face Chinese-led annihilation, said Truman. Then, he wept uncontrollably about “the people of this tiny country with no natural resources”, who “really put up a brave fight” before being needlessly atomized: “Oh, the poor things. I really feel so sorry for them … I would probably have started a war too, had I been in Tojo’s position.”
This all sounds insane. Yet, if you remove the Shinto-style shamanistic aspect, it is not a million miles away from the basic things Shinzo Abe and his more nationalistic-minded allies in the LDP also thought: the LDP has in the past ordered school textbooks to remove “defeatist” accounts of Japan’s wartime atrocities like Nanking, downplayed the existence of comfort-women, and argued Tokyo should build its own nuclear arsenal. And, as we shall see in Part Two, the LDP and HRP also enjoy eerily similar positions upon economics: the doubling of a nation’s defense budget has to be paid for somehow…