PM Abe’s meetings fuel fears of nationalism

Japanese Prime Minister’s Diary: Morning – Visit Hiroshima A-Bomb ceremony / Evening – Meeting with revisionist right-leaning editor

TOKYO (majirox news) — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with the chief editor of the right-wing magazine WiLL, on the evening of August 6 at a Tokyo hotel. This was the second meeting between Abe and Kazuyoshi Hanada in the course of the week; they had previously met on August 2. Both were reported in the “Prime Minister’s Diary” in the Sankei Shimbun. The Prime Minister’s Office would not comment on the meetings.

Hanada, well known in Japan’s publishing world, has attracted controversy in the past. In 1995, while at the helm of the monthly magazine Marco Polo, he garnered worldwide news coverage for running an article titled “There Were no Nazi Gas Chambers,” denying the mass murder of Jews (the Holocaust) during the Second World War. The article appeared around the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz extermination camp and infuriated the Israeli Embassy in Tokyo and Jewish groups worldwide.

When Hanada refused to run an apology and retraction, the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles organized a boycott of Marco Polo advertisers, which resulted in publisher Bungei Shuju Co. withdrawing all unsold copies from circulation and closing the magazine, which made front-page news headlines in Japan, and drew attention to anti-Semitic conspiracy books and magazine articles in Japanese publishing.

“On August 2, I did meet Abe, but I cannot tell you the various matters we discussed,” Hanada told Majirox News. Of the August 6th meeting, he said, “I met Abe together with novelist Naoki Hyakuda [whose works including Eien no Zero have been described by some as "nationalist"] for the purpose of interviewing the Prime Minister for our magazine.”

In addition to recent articles defending Japan’s territorial claims over the Senkaku Islands and Takeshima (also claimed by China and South Korea respectively), WiLL, a magazine with a strong right-wing slant, regularly runs material claiming that the accusations of atrocities by the Japanese military in the Second World War, particularly the Nanjing Incident and recruitment of “comfort women”(a euphemism for sex slaves) are either exaggerations or outright fabrications.

Hanada denied charges that he is right-wing. “I’m in the center,” he said. “Most Japanese media except for the Sankei Shimbun are on the left.”

These meetings between Abe and Hanada follow on the heels of controversial remarks by Abe’s Deputy Prime Minister, Taro Aso, who recently appeared to praise the way the National Socialists changed the constitution of Weimar Germany without causing a disturbance in society. While Aso did not advocate the policies adopted by the National Socialists, as some reports may have implied, the fact that he appeared to be suggesting that Hitler’s party be viewed as a role model for Japanese constitutional reform attracted harsh criticism, obliging him to hastily retract his remarks.

A well-known Tokyo-based foreign journalist who covered the Marco Polo affair in 1995 said, “Since Mr. Abe has been enjoying an extended ‘honeymoon’ with Japan’s mainstream media, I’m intrigued that he would keep company with the likes of Hanada, whose editorial views are far to the right of what the government of Japan has been projecting up to now. The timing is also strange, since August is when Japan commemorates the atomic bombings and consecrates its war dead.”

He adds, “Normally I would be hesitant to speculate on what Abe has in mind; but when a national leader meets openly with an editor with Hanada’s background and reputation, I’m curious to see whether or not this might be a harbinger of something unpleasant.”

Abe’s meetings with a man whose past can be described as “checkered” at best have so far drawn little attention from commentators at home or overseas. But some view them as a problematic, and possibly an ominous indicator for the future.

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