The Pacific War Historical Society records here Japan's long history of denial of its ghastly war crimes.

Text and Web-site by James Bowen

WARNING: This section of the Pacific War Web-site contains images and text that children may find disturbing.


This section of the Pacific War Web-site is dedicated to the many Japanese, and especially Professor Saburo Ienaga, who have fought, and are still fighting, their own government in a courageous battle to compel it to allow Japanese schoolchildren to be told the truth about Japan's military aggression and the terrible atrocities committed by the Japanese military between 1937 and 1945.


The Japanese were especially brutal in their treatment of captured Allied airmen and members of special forces, such as commandos. A Japanese soldier, Yasuno Chikao, prepares to behead Australian Sergeant Leonard G. Siffleet at Aitape in New Guinea in 1943. The Australian commando from "M" Special Unit was captured while his small patrol was operating deep behind enemy lines. This atrocity cannot be justified on the ground that Sergeant Siffleet and his team were spies. All were in uniform when captured. In the case of other Allied prisoners of war, the Japanese killed many of them by starvation, bashings, and forced labour. Yasuno Chikao escaped the hangman by failing to survive the war.


It was not my original intention to place on this web-site detailed treatments of Japan's war guilt or the countless atrocities committed in the course of Japan's military aggression in East Asia and the Pacific region between 1937 and 1945. I was finally persuaded to do so by the continuing refusal of Japanese governments to acknowledge these matters frankly or permit them to be mentioned frankly in official history textbooks written for Japanese schoolchildren.

In taking this course, I want to make it very clear that I do not believe that the people of Japan are inherently cruel. I believe that the appalling brutality practised by the Japanese military between 1937 and 1945 has its roots in cultural conditioning. I argue my view in this chapter, and elsewhere on this web-site from an historical perspective in "Historical foundations of Japan's military aggression" and "Imperial Japan's path to World War II".

The statements quoted below are representative of the continuing denial of war guilt and atrocities at the highest levels of Japanese politics, academia, and cultural expression.

Denial of Japan's war guilt

"The Pacific War was a war of liberation..."
Nagano Shigeto, Japan's Justice Minister (1994).

"The Pacific War was a war to liberate colonised Asia."
A resolution moved in the Japanese Parliament (the Diet) in 1995 by 221 members of Japan's long-dominant Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

"Japan was forced to go to war by American oil and other embargoes."
Hosei Norota, senior member of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (2001).

"Japan was forced into WW II to liberate Asia from the yoke of Western colonialism."
Hideaki Kase, producer of the controversial Japanese film "Merdeka" (2001).

Denial of atrocities

"The Nanjing Massacre is a lie made up by the Chinese."
Ishihara Shintaro, former Japanese Cabinet Minister, interviewed October 1990.

..the Nanjing Massacre is a fabrication.
Nagano Shigeto, Japan's Justice Minister (1994).

"The Americans brainwashed the postwar Japanese into believing they had committed terrible war crimes."
Professor Nobukatsu Fujioka, Professor of Education, Tokyo University (1997).

"We have to pass on true history to young people. We must fight this information war against the rest of the world."
Eiichiro Washio, member of a group of Japanese politicians who deny the Nanjing Massacre occurred in 1937.

"Foreign 'Comfort Women' conscripted for Japanese Army brothels were 'prostitutes'."
Kajiyama Seiroku, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary (1997).


The ultra-nationalist Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has shocked decent human beings by denying that hundreds of thousands of women were forced into sexual slavery in conquered countries by the Imperial Japanese Army between 1937 and 1945. Despite an apology to the so-called "comfort women" by Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono in 1993, testimony from the female victims and the Japanese soldiers who raped them, and support from historians who claim that as many as 200,000 captive women were forced into Japanese Army brothels in conquered countries, this prime minister has chosen to degrade himself and Japan in the eyes of civilised people by promoting a blatant lie that causes even more anguish to the female victims of Japanese brutality. Reported Tokyo, 1 March 2007. Predictably, the willingness of this neanderthal Japanese prime minister to sanitise Imperial Japan's hideous war crimes has encouraged other Japanese politicians to deny the Nanjing Massacre (Rape of Nanking) in 1937. Reported in "The Australian" 2 March 2007. See quote attributed to Eiichiro Washio above.

Rehabilitating Japanese war criminals

"Why should it matter any more?"
Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto's response to criticism of his paying homage to Japan's worst war criminals at the infamous Yasukuni Shinto Shrine in Tokyo (1996).

"Why do we have to select among the dead."
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's response to criticism of his paying homage to Japan's worst war criminals at the infamous Yasukuni Shinto Shrine in Tokyo (2001).

Reviving the ideology of Japanese militarism

"Japan is a divine nation centered on the emperor."
Yoshiro Mori, Prime Minister of Japan (2000).

And the final word

"I do not think things are going well in terms of Japan accepting responsibility for the past."
Professor Saburo Ienaga, distinguished Japanese historian (1998).

I believe that a resurgence of extreme nationalism in Japan since the early 1990s should be ringing alarm bells and require Japan's neighbours to take very seriously the continuing denial of Japan's war guilt and the appalling atrocities committed by the Japanese military between 1937 and 1945.


"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it".

George Santayana, Spanish-American philosopher 1863-1952


Japanese war crimes, 1937-1945

A small cross-section of Japanese war crimes, 1937-1945

An attempt to explain Japanese war crimes

Japan's refusal to acknowledge its war guilt and atrocities

How the United States protected Japanese war criminals and facilitated Japan's denial of war guilt and war crimes

Disturbing signs of reviving militarism in Japan

Historical source material

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