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The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus
In-depth critical analysis of the forces shaping the Asia-Pacific...and the world.
Biohazard: Unit 731 in Postwar Japanese Politics of National “Forgetfulness”

Frederick R. Dickinson


Fueled by perennial controversies over official Japanese regulation of textbooks, Western media and academics thrive on claims of a peculiar Japanese “forgetfulness” of wartime atrocities. But the postwar record of Japanese discussions of wartime biological warfare experiments reveals an impressive level of public exposure that, in some ways, surpasses American discussions of its own wartime past. To stress Japanese “forgetfulness” tells only half the story and obscures the tale of postwar political polarization that has greatly facilitated exposure of war crimes in Japan.

Japan and its citizens have an international reputation for historical amnesia. The battle by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology to tame references to wartime atrocities in Japanese textbooks has made the headlines in Western, as well as Asian, capitals over the last quarter century. These controversies have been accentuated in recent years by Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro’s highly public annual pilgrimages to the main Japanese war memorial, Yasukuni Shrine, where the spirits of Japanese war criminals remain enshrined. Western fascination with Japanese historical “amnesia” is manifest in a spate of English-language studies highlighting a peculiar Japanese brand of “forgetfulness.”[1]

Among the most dramatic examples of Japanese amnesia is the failure to come to terms with Japan’s history of wartime medical experiments. Between 1932 and 1945, special Japanese units in China subjected thousands of Chinese, Korean, Mongolian, Russian, and American prisoners of war to a range of experimentation aimed at developing new techniques in medical treatment and biological warfare. Word of these experiments was slow to emerge after 1945 and, together with Japan’s record of wartime forced labor and “comfort” women, and with specific events such as the Nanjing Massacre and the Bataan Death March, became the object of Japanese government censorship of textbooks. A dearth of English-language analyses of Japanese wartime experiments relative to investigations of the holocaust and of the activities of Dr. Mengele reinforces the impression that the Japanese record remains under tight wraps. According to one recent English-language title from the popular press, “until the 1990s, almost nothing at all was written or discussed publicly about the Japanese bio-war crimes.”[2]

What is the actual record of postwar Japanese discussions of wartime biological warfare (BW) experiments? How does that record shed light upon the larger pattern of Japanese debate over the wartime past? Although most analyses of this debate highlight the peculiar magnitude of Japanese “forgetfulness,” Japanese discussions of the past might most profitably be viewed less in terms of a singular Japanese “amnesia” than as a reflection of the particular atlas of politics in post–1945 Japan. In fact, the political polarization in post–1945 Japan may be said to have facilitated, rather than hindered, exposure of highly sensitive information.

Exposing the Unthinkable in Japan

Contrary to the impression imparted by much of the discussion over Japanese textbooks, evidence of Japanese wartime atrocities did not emerge in just the last two decades. Rather, the fifty-three-count indictment of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East specifically highlighted such crimes as the “Rape of Nanking,” the “Bataan Death March,” and the massacre of Chinese civilians at Canton in 1938.[3] Like questions about the role of the Japanese emperor in the prosecution of the war, information about Japanese wartime bacteriological experiments was purposely suppressed by occupation authorities during the tribunal.[4] But the issue was by no means unknown to the Japanese public.

There were hints of wartime medical experimentation on the continent even before the start of the Tokyo trials in May 1946.[5] In January 1946, Tokyo papers quoted Japanese communist leaders’ allegations that a “Japanese Medical Corps” had inoculated American and Chinese prisoners-of-war with bubonic plague virus. Less than four years later, formal word from Moscow that twelve Japanese soldiers had been tried and convicted in a six-day war crimes tribunal in Khabarovsk in December 1949 generated greater discussion. All twelve men had been members of Unit 731, the most notorious Japanese BW unit, which had been established in Manchuria in 1939, and were charged with “preparing and applying bacteriological weapons.” Both national dailies, the Asahi shinbun and the Mainichi shinbun reported on the surprising Soviet announcement in late December. And a variety of local and specialty papers picked up the story.[6] The trials became the subject of the first two Japanese publications on Unit 731, Shimamura Kyo’s Sanzennin no seitai jikken (3,000 Human Experiments; Hara shobo, 1967) and Yamada Seizaburo’s Saikinsen gunji saiban (Military Tribunal on Biological Warfare; Toho shuppansha, 1974).

One year after the appearance of Yamada’s study of the Khabarovsk trials, a television documentary produced the first revelations of Unit 731 from Japanese sources. On the eve of the thirtieth anniversary of V-J Day, the largest Japanese commercial network, Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS), aired a prime-time half hour segment on Unit 731 based upon three years of research and interviews of twenty former Unit 731 employees by documentary filmmaker Yoshinaga Haruko. Although the first installment of “Akuma no 731 butai” (The Devil’s Unit 731) offered mostly tantalizing images of respected doctors clamming up or running from the camera, two one-hour prime-time follow-ups in August and November of 1976 sparked an international sensation. These segments not only recorded the testimony of four former Unit 731 employees but included their allegations that they had escaped indictment by the International Military Tribunal in return for divulging their research to American authorities.[7] The November 1976 piece was highlighted in both the Washington Post and on “Sixty Minutes.”[8]

The TBS documentary opened the floodgates in Japan for research on Japanese wartime BW experimentation. Five years later, a wave of scholarly books on BW experimentation appeared, marking the 1980s as the heyday of Japanese research on the subject. Mystery writer Morimura Sei-ichi began the surge with a serialized story about Unit 731, titled “Shi no utsuwa” (Death Receptacle; Kadokawa, 1981). Just several months later, Morimura published an analytic work on the subject, replete with photographs and charts obtained from former unit members and prewar medical journals. Akuma no hoshoku (The Devil’s Insatiability) was produced by a respected mainstream publishing house (Kobunsha) and became a best-seller. It inspired a fourth TBS documentary on Unit 731 in 1982 and was the source of a 90-minute movie about Japanese wartime BW produced in Hong Kong and later reintroduced into Japan.[9] Morimura’s impact was accentuated by a second analytical work that appeared in the same year—Tsuneishi Kei-ichi’s Kieta saikinsen butai (The Biological Warfare Unit That Disappeared; Kaisosha, 1981), which was based upon wartime research reports of the second in command at Unit 731, Kitano Masaji.

Together, Morimura and Tsuneishi seized the leadership of the scholarly treatment of Japanese BW experimentation. In 1982, both men published sequels to their original treatises. Morimura added new material from American archives to produce Zoku akuma no hoshoku (The Devil’s Insatiability—Supplement; Kobunsha, 1982). And Tsuneishi produced further evidence of postwar medical research based upon wartime human experiments in Saikinsen butai to jiketsu shita futari no igakusha (The Biological Warfare Unit and Two Physicians Who Committed Suicide; Shinchosha, 1982). In 1983, Morimura published the third installment of his study, this time including materials from China (Akuma no hoshoku, dai-sanbu, Kakugawa, 1983).

The 1980s also witnessed a flood of testimonials by former Unit 731 employees. In 1982, a former female member of the Unit 731 staff offered memories and photographs in “Shogen” 731 Ishii butai (Eyewitness: Unit 731).[10] On the thirty-eighth anniversary of V-J Day in 1983, a former driver for Unit 731, Koshi Sadao, produced Hi no maru wa akai namida ni (Red Tears of the Red Sun; Kyoiku shiryo shuppankai, 1983). In 1989, a freelance journalist published a collection of testimonials by four former employees, which he had discovered in the Chinese memorial hall to Unit 731 outside of Harbin (Takitani Jiro, Satsuriku kojo: 731 butai, Shinshinshobo, 1989). In the same year, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Nomonhan Incident, the Asahi shinbun carried testimonials of three former members identifying the incident as the first Japanese battlefield use of biological agents.[11]

If the 1980s marked the appearance of the first substantive Japanese research on Japanese BW experimentation, the 1990s ushered in a new era of public consciousness of the issue. In 1992, the story emerged from the realm of private programming to the Japanese national network, NHK. In April of that year, NHK aired a two-part documentary on Japanese BW mastermind Ishii Shiro. Based upon newly discovered records of the Khabarovsk Trial from KGB files and materials from the Dugway, Utah, Proving Grounds, the main American testing ground for biological warfare, “731 saikinsen butai” (731 Biological Warfare Unit) revealed how Japanese experiments were actually conducted and highlighted the Soviet–American rivalry over records.[12] In July 1995, a team of researchers released more evidence of the effect of Japanese experimentation in a collection of translated Chinese documents.[13] Several months later, the Asahi shinbun reported the first joint Sino-Japanese symposium on wartime Japanese experimentation. Convening over five days in the city of Harbin, Manchuria, the symposium drew together approximately one hundred participants from both countries, including former members of Unit 731.[14]

Three important new discoveries in the Japanese record fueled the growing public consciousness of the 1990s. In 1989, the bones of suspected victims of Japanese wartime experimentation were unearthed from the grounds of the former Army Medical College in Tokyo.[15] Four years later, in January 1993, Tsuneishi Kei-ichi uncovered from military records in the Japanese National Archives the first documentary evidence of Japanese preparations for use of biological weapons on the battlefield.[16] In August of the same year, a team of Japanese researchers affiliated with the Nihon no senso sekinin shiryo senta (Center for Japanese War Responsibility) discovered in the administrative journal of the Army General Staff in the National Defense Agency Library documentary evidence of the use of biological weapons throughout China. The finding made front page news on the forty-eighth anniversary of V-J Day.[17]

Both the discovery of bones and Tsuneishi’s disclosure of documentary evidence of Japanese preparations for biological warfare inspired the organization of an unprecedented national exposition of Japanese wartime experimentation between July 1993 and December 1994. The “731 butai ten” (Unit 731 Exhibit) displayed 80-some odd implements and described wartime experiments with models constructed from the testimonies of former Unit 731 employees. Although originally scheduled for one year, the exhibition ultimately ran for 18 months, toured 64 Japanese cities and attracted 240,000 visitors.[18]

Meanwhile, the administrative journal of the Army General Staff that had been unearthed in the library of the National Defense Agency spurred fact-finding missions to China and a new publication. In 1994, following evidence from the journal, a private citizens’ group visited Manchuria and obtained corroborating testimony from Chinese citizens of Japanese use of cholera and plague-carrying fleas.[19] In 1995, two prominent members of the group that had discovered the General Staff evidence published their findings in a booklet produced by one of Japan’s most powerful publishing houses, Iwanami.[20]

Hiding the Unthinkable in the U.S.

Non-Japanese audiences are less likely to be familiar with this history of revelations of Japanese BW than with the record of struggle over inclusion of such material in Japanese primary and secondary textbooks. Japanese textbook screening became a focus of intense international interest particularly after highly public political debates in the Japanese Diet in the early 1980s.[21] The series of long and protracted lawsuits brought against the Japanese government by celebrated textbook author Ienaga Saburo between 1965 and 1997 ensured an almost permanent association of the Japanese state with censorship in the Western press.[22] The very visible recent initiative led by Tokyo University professor Fujioka Nobukatsu to fashion a “New Education,” which purges Japanese textbooks of references to the “dark” past (covered in more detail below), has persuaded many Western observers of the intractable nature of intellectual debate generally in Japan.[23]

Central review of textbook content certainly distinguishes Japan from most Western industrialized states. But in the context of the above record of postwar revelations of wartime BW experimentation, the notion of Japanese historical “amnesia” seems overblown. In light of America’s postwar record of revelation concerning wartime BW experimentation, it appears irrelevant.

The scale of Japanese wartime BW experimentation was certainly striking. At the peak of his power, Ishii Shiro directed over 5,000 soldiers and scientists. Ping Fan (Unit 731) alone comprised over 150 buildings, including a 1,000-seat auditorium, athletic field and other amenities for the three thousand employees stationed there.[24] But American wartime facilities were, at their height, just as impressive. The principal American BW facility, Camp Detrick, an old army base in rural Maryland, expanded between April and December 1943 from a rural outpost to a metropolis of 250 buildings and living quarters for 5,000 people.[25]


The known record of American experimentation on human subjects pales, of course, by comparison with the estimates of those killed in north China through willful Japanese extermination between 1932 and 1945.[26] Yet the virtual absence of academic discussion on American wartime efforts is remarkable. Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh weighed in with the first important glimpse of the American program in a 1968 volume titled Chemical and Biological Warfare: America’s Hidden Arsenal (Doubleday, 1969). But unlike the Japanese case, this initial revelation did not mark the beginning of a wave of scholarship on American wartime experimentation.[27] Rather, we know more today from Japanese and American scholars about postwar American efforts to extract information about Japanese wartime experimentation than we do about American wartime programs themselves. There is, of course, plenty of critical literature on indiscriminate American violence in World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam and Iraq. And increasing interest has been generated in recent years in the tale of possible American use of biological agents in the Korean War.[28] But the American appetite for such investigations is so low that the publishers of a celebrated British study of Unit 731 saw fit to excise the Korean War chapter highlighting U.S. collaboration with Japanese BW experts in Korea in the American edition of their work.[29]

US bioweapons map, early 1950s.

Politics of Exposure in Japan

Observers are correct to pinpoint a clear record of official Japanese textbook censorship after 1945. But the notion that “the late 1950s and 1960s saw the textbook production and adoption system becoming more and more like the state-authored textbook system that was in place during World War II”[30] is overstated. In post-1945 Japan, final selection of school texts remains in the hands of local school boards, not the state. Thus, even the most notorious recent “revisionist” text by Atarashii rekishi kyokasho o tsukuru kai (The Society for History Textbook Reform), which won government approval in 2001, was blocked from local adoption in that year by a coalition of grassroots organizations.[31] Unable to obtain even a one percent adoption rate after publisher Fusosha had aimed for ten, Tsukurukai in September 2007 announced a new contract with publisher Jiyusha.[32]

Far from evidence of a collective national “amnesia” regarding Japanese wartime atrocities, the record of struggles over school texts seems more indicative of what may be considered the most salient context of the post–1945 debate over wartime BW experimentation: turbulent Japanese politics. Postwar battles over historical memory have been part and parcel of the tumultuous political conflicts spurred by the wrenching debate over national identity after 1945.

Although celebrated as the first Asian power to industrialize and shed the trappings of Western imperialism, modern Japan has confronted the monumental challenge of fashioning a new national trajectory four times in the span of one hundred years. The founders of modern Japan shaped from the remains of a feudal realm a modern nation–state upon a German model. Following the destruction of Imperial Germany in 1918, party politicians led Japan upon a new trajectory of democracy and internationalism.[33] Enemies of 1920s liberalism steered the nation toward a “Greater East Asian” world order in the 1930s. And when the “Asian” order collapsed in 1945, Japanese citizens confronted once more the question of what it meant to be Japanese.

Unlike the first three attempts, the post–1945 effort to redefine the nation proceeded under the artificial auspices of military occupation. As students of postwar Japan have observed, the overwhelming military, political, and economic presence of the United States in Japan after 1945 guaranteed an unprecedented polarization of Japanese politics.[34] On one side stood the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its political and bureaucratic allies. With the direct political and financial backing of the United States, these forces seized a monopoly of power and pursued rapid economic development at home and pledged allegiance to an international coalition of states led by the United States abroad. On the other side stood a diverse assortment of forces on the left (the Socialist and Communist Parties, militant unions, student, teacher, and intellectual associations), who rejected both the LDP monopoly of power and unbridled pursuit of economic growth at home and Japan’s military alliance with the United States.

Revelations about Japanese wartime BW experimentation, like many intellectual debates in postwar Japan, were a direct consequence of early political battles between Left and Right. Japanese socialists, communists, union organizers, students and liberal intellectuals had originally viewed the United States as a liberating force for destroying Japanese militarism and releasing Japanese political prisoners. But as American occupation policy took a conservative turn after 1947-48 (the so-called reverse course), the Japanese Left staked a position that would define the intellectual mainstream for over two decades. In a series of statements on the “Peace Problem,” over fifty of Japan’s most respected academics in 1950 challenged the conservative Japanese administration, rejected the prospect of a “separate peace” with the United States, and championed, instead, a policy of equal distribution of wealth at home and “neutrality” abroad. Printed in the left-leaning monthly journal Sekai, the policy statements were widely popular among the public.[35]

If the Japanese Left after 1947 became concerned with the conservative turn of Japanese politics and the overwhelming American political, economic and military power behind it, that concern increasingly defined their intellectual pursuits. As already noted, initial word of wartime Japanese experimentation on Chinese and American POWs was circulated by members of the Japanese Communist Party in January 1946. That was the month that Japanese communist leader Nozaka Sanzo returned to Japan after having spent nine years in the Soviet Union and five years in the Chinese Communist stronghold, Yenan, in northern China. At the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party of China in the spring of 1945, Nozaka had declared that it was he and the “progressive forces” of the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) in Japan, not the “pro–Anglo–American faction” dominated by financial magnates, members of the Imperial Household, bureaucrats, generals, and leaders of the Seiyukai and Minseito parties, that constituted the most reliable basis for democracy in Japan.[36] Revelations of Japanese wartime BW experimentation in January 1946 were, in other words, one step in the larger attempt by the Japanese Communist Party to reconstruct its base of support in postwar Japan.

Having recognized the political potential of the BW issue in 1946, the JCP would become the most energetic early champion of “historical truth” about Japanese wartime experimentation. The Khabarovsk trials of late 1949 caused a minor sensation in Japan, but nowhere more so than in the principal organ of the Japanese Communist Party, Akahata. Among the mainstream national dailies, the Khabarovsk affair ran on the front page of the Mainichi shinbun morning edition next to a United Press dispatch on MacArthur’s request for an investigation of Japanese internees under Soviet control, but did not run at all in the Yomiuri shinbun.[37] The story gained increasing momentum in the left-leaning Asahi shinbun, which ran it the entire week, first on the third page, then with four consecutive days of front-page billing.[38] But Akahata provided the most detailed coverage of all, spending a week, first to print the indictment of the twelve prisoners in full, then to feature interviews with men with purported connections to Unit 731.[39]

Among those interviewed by Akahata was Takeyama Hideo, who had been a staff writer for the Nippon shinbun. The Soviet Army had founded this newspaper in Khabarovsk thirteen days after the Japanese surrender to distribute to Japanese prisoners of war. Among its editorial staff was Aikawa Haruki who, upon returning to Japan, joined the editorial board of Akahata.[40] Given that Soviet exposure of Japanese BW experimentation ran directly counter to American policy to maintain silence upon the matter, contemporaries and historians have stressed the political nature of the trials.[41] Likewise, the high-profile Akahata coverage of the tribunal may be interpreted in the largest sense as a JCP challenge to the American-dominated occupation and the conservative turn of politics in Japan. Indeed, American authorities aggressively countered the news emerging from Khabarovsk as Soviet propaganda.[42] Mirroring the effort to shield the emperor from criminal prosecution after the war, General MacArthur himself publicly denied any evidence of Japanese experimentation on human beings in December 1950.[43]

The late 1960s and early 1970s were characterized by increasing volatility in Japanese national discourse, principally spurred by growing U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Journalists such as Honda Katsuichi became national heroes through trenchant criticism of American “imperialism” and its devastating effects upon Vietnam.[44] But even more problematic from the perspective of the Japanese Left became the complicity of the Japanese government in American atrocities. According to one participant in the student movement of the era, in contrast to the Korean War era, Japan seemed to possess “independent political and economic power and seemed to take the initiative to commit itself to the Vietnam War.” Increasingly, the anti–Vietnam War movement considered the greatest problem facing Japan to be “the structure of Japanese society itself.”[45]

It was no coincidence that Honda Katsuichi turned his attention in the early 1970s from the tale of Vietnamese suffering to the story of Japanese wartime atrocities. Disturbed by American actions in Vietnam, but also increasingly by official Japanese support, he envisioned the as-yet-hidden record of Japanese wartime behavior as another critical front in the intensifying battle for political balance in post–1945 Japan. In 1971, Honda traveled to China to begin a series of articles in Japan’s most widely read national daily, Asahi shinbun, on the Nanjing Massacre. The series was based upon interviews with survivors and other data collected in the mainland and was ultimately reissued in volume form in Chugoku no tabi (Journey to China; Asahi shinbunsha, 1972) and Tenno no guntai (The Emperor’s Military; Asahi shinbunsha,1975).

Honda Katsuichi. The Nanjing Massacre

At the same time that Honda began reporting on American atrocities in Vietnam in Japan’s largest-circulation daily, historian Ienaga Saburo published a highly critical account of Japanese involvement in the Second World War with Japan’s most influential popular publishing house, Iwanami shoten. Taiheiyo senso (The Pacific War; 1968), like Ienaga’s high school history textbook, Shin Nihonshi (A New Japanese History; 1952), focused upon the “dark side” of Japan’s wartime experience, and even included references to Japanese wartime BW experimentation. Given Ienaga’s battles with the Japanese Ministry of Education since 1952 over approval for his history textbook, The Pacific War may be viewed, like Honda’s exposé of the Nanjing Massacre, as a direct challenge to the conservative politics of post–1945 Japan. Indeed, Ienaga filed his first lawsuit over his history text against the national government in 1965, just three years before the appearance of The Pacific War. And the text of The Pacific War left no doubt about Ienaga’s political aims: “The Japan–U.S. military alliance revives prewar roles, albeit with different stars. America has assumed the Japanese mantle of anti-Communist crusader in Asia and helpmate Japan functions as a strategic base. This arrangement again projects internal security laws outward across Asia and employs lethal force against radical ideas.”[46]

The conservative establishment clearly viewed the wide dissemination of sordid tales of Japan’s wartime past and direct criticism of postwar U.S.–Japan relations in such popular venues as the Asahi shinbun and in books by Iwanami shoten with alarm. Honda Katsuichi’s revelations on Nanjing were roundly criticized in the conservative monthly Bungei shunju.[47] And the national government would continue to resist Ienaga’s challenges until 1997, when the Japanese Supreme Court passed final judgment on Ienaga’s third lawsuit.[48]

The heyday of Japanese research on wartime BW experimentation corresponded with the growing volatility of the national discourse in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Private broadcasting network TBS aired the first three Unit 731 documentaries at the height of public discussion over Honda’s exposé of the Nanjing Massacre. And the wave of published research on Japanese BW experimentation that marked the early 1980s came in the wake of a new LDP initiative to crack down on “progressive” historians following impressive victories at the polls. The 1980 general election had given the LDP a large majority in both houses of the Diet and spurred a vigorous new challenge of textbook writers considered to have ties with the Japan Teachers Union, the Communist Party, or various democratic education movements.[49] The pivotal work by Morimura Sei-ichi and Tsuneishi Kei-ichi emerged within the context of this heightened conflict between Left and Right in Japan.

The JCP continued to play a critical role in the intensifying battle between liberal intellectuals and conservative politicians in the early 1980s. Both of Morimura’s first two books, the fictional treatment of Unit 731, Death Receptacle, and the analytical work The Devil’s Insatiability, were originally serialized in the Communist Party journal Akahata. “Death Receptacle” ran through the May 1981 Sunday issues of the magazine and “The Devil’s Insatiability” trickled out in seventy-four installments between July and October 1981.[50] Through Morimura’s introduction, one of the more dramatic American investigations of the Japanese BW issue, a seminal article by former editor of the China Monthly Review John W. Powell, in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, was also published in Akahata in October 1981.[51] In the wave of discussion that followed the initial publication of The Devil’s Insatiability, Morimura noted that much of the cooperation that he had received from former staff members of Unit 731 had come from those who, following Japan’s defeat, had become members of the Japanese Communist Party.[52]

By the 1980s, however, the JCP no longer played the central role in disseminating information about wartime Japanese BW experimentation. The work of both Morimura and Tsuneishi was ultimately distributed in the Japanese popular press.[53] Morimura’s The Devil’s Insatiability eventually sold more than 1.5 million copies.[54] And new revelations appeared in a variety of sources. After first running in Japanese in Akahata, the seminal Powell article of 1981 reemerged in the June 1982 issue of Bunka hyoron.[55] In the same month, TBS aired a fourth documentary on Unit 731. A flood of testimonials by former Unit 731 employees appeared in new publications and the national print media. And by 1992, the story of Ishii and Unit 731 came to the national network, NHK.

The 1990s witnessed a new level of participation by ordinary citizens in the effort to expose the history of Japanese wartime BW experimentation. In 1993, a private group in Shizuoka City released a 90-minute film based upon the testimonials of victims of Japanese experimentation. Organized in 1980 and dedicated to exposing the history of Japanese aggression in film, the one thousand-member Eiga “shinryaku” joei zenkoku renrakukai (National Liaison Association for Showing “Aggression” in Film) sent fifty of its members on nine fact-finding tours of China and Korea over a five-year span to produce “Saikinsen butai, 731” (Biological Warfare Unit 731).[56]

As recently noted by Tsuneishi Kei-ichi, the 1989 unearthing of bones on the grounds of the Army Medical College spurred the formation of the Gun’i gakko de hakken sareta jinkotsu mondai o kyumei suru kai (Association to Investigate the Problem of Human Remains Discovered at the Army Medical College).[57] In August 1991, this group, too, sent a delegation of high school teachers and citizens to China on an investigative tour. Inspired by a suggestion from their Chinese hosts, the same group began planning for the Unit 731 exhibit that toured Japan’s major cities between July 1993 and December 1994. Organizing committees were established in each prospective exhibit spot, largely in the hands of enterprising twenty-somethings. Parallel exhibits were planned by nonaffiliated youth. Students from Tokyo Women’s College, Sophia University, and Toritsu High School created their own exhibits at their schools’ culture festivals (bunka matsuri) in the spring of 1994. And by setting up a Unit 731 emergency number (110–ban), the organizers of the national exhibit solicited the participation of an unprecedented number of former Unit 731 members.

The national exhibit spawned a series of smaller expositions throughout the nation. Tokyo’s Nakano Ward sponsored a “Rikugun Nakano gakko to 731 butai ten” (Nakano Army Academy and Unit 731 Exhibit) at Nakano train station in September 1994. Among the attractions was a picture-story show of Japanese wartime experimentation created and performed by second-year students from Ishikawa Middle School in Hachioji.[58] In 1995, students of Showa High School in Saitama Prefecture attended the first joint Sino-Japanese symposium on wartime Japanese experimentation at Harbin. There they delivered the preliminary conclusions of their independent research on the mouse-breeding industry of their native Saitama. The mice, it was discovered, were sent to Manchuria during the war as agents in spreading the plague. After two years of interviews of over one thousand Saitama households, the students displayed their final results in a three-day exhibit at Kasukabu City Culture Hall.[59] Their research was also published as Kokosei ga ou nezumi mura to 731 butai (High Schoolers in Search of the Mouse Village and Unit 731; Kyoiku shiryo shuppankai, 1996).

In June of the same year, an assembly of 220 professors, lawyers, doctors and private citizens gathered in Tokyo to found the Nihongun ni yoru saikinsen no rekishi jijitsu o akiraka ni suru kai
(Association to Expose the Historical Facts about the Japanese Military’s Biological Warfare).[60] Among the members was thirty-year old Mizutani Naoko, whose great uncle had, on his deathbed three years earlier, presented 300 pages of material documenting his involvement with the Japanese biological warfare unit in Nanjing, China—Unit 1644.[61] In July 1996, Mizutani accompanied other members of the group to Manchuria in a preliminary step toward aiding Chinese victims of Japanese biological warfare to bring suit against the Japanese government.[62]

Shifting Framework of Japanese Academic Debate

The erosion of the LDP monopoly of power and reconstitution of the Japanese Socialist Party after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 has shifted the reference of academic debate in Japan in recent years. But it has not, by any means, mitigated the polarization of that debate. If the battle lines following the end of the Cold War are no longer drawn as starkly between intellectual Left and political Right, they have intensified within the intellectual establishment itself. If postwar history reveals the steady diffusion of Japanese wartime BW experimentation into mainstream discourse, it also discloses a growing conservative backlash within academe to the “mainstreaming” of Japanese wartime atrocities. Although novelist Hayashi Fusao had, as early as 1961, attracted notable attention by describing the “Greater East Asia War” as a war of “liberation” in the pages of the popular monthly Chuo koron,[63] it has only been more recently that respected members of Japanese academe have been able to marshal forces for a concerted challenge of the intellectual Left.

Japanese military historian Hata Ikuhiko jumped into the high-profile debate between Ienaga Saburo and the Japanese government in 1987 and 1991, when he testified in the Tokyo High Court on behalf of the Japanese Ministry of Education. Hata, in fact, appeared expressly to refute Ienaga’s references to Japanese wartime BW experimentation.[64] Hata would ultimately join Tokyo University professor Fujioka Nobukatsu and Electro-Communications University professor Nishio Kanji in the new national organization, The Society for History Textbook Reform, formed in 1996 to counter the “masochistic” (jigyakuteki) view of history purportedly promoted by the intellectual Left. The organization represents an impressive coalition of literary, media, academic, and business figures that has already achieved a level of mass exposure and support. The revisionist cartoons validating the “Greater East Asia War” produced by one of the most celebrated figures of the coalition, Kobayashi Yoshinori, were run-away bestsellers between 1998 and 2003.[65] And, although they were blocked for adoption by local school boards in 2001, the revisionist history and civics texts produced by The Society for History Textbook Reform have, since that time, slowly made inroads into the classroom. Added to regular over-the-counter figures, they have sold nearly one million copies.[66]


To the Japanese scholars who have labored to unearth the facts of Japanese wartime BW experimentation and to American observers of contemporary Japanese society, the “New Education” movement represented by Fujioka is understandably cause for concern. But, contrary to the impression imparted by many Western analyses of this initiative, it is less a reflection of a unilateral “Japanese movement to ‘correct’ history”[67] than a glimpse of one side of a turbulent debate over Japan’s wartime past that has raged since the imperial declaration of surrender in August 1945. That debate is a direct product of the deep political polarization that has characterized Japan since military defeat and foreign occupation. Although the polarization has, on the one hand, spurred efforts to obscure the “darkest” aspects of the Japanese wartime record, it has served just as readily as a powerful catalyst for greater disclosure. The Japanese Left, particularly the Communist Party, looked to revelations of Japanese wartime BW experimentation, in part, to help reinvigorate its political base after 1945. And the great wave of Japanese scholarship on Japanese wartime experimentation in the 1980s sprang from the increasingly volatile intellectual debates surrounding the Vietnam War. By contrast, revelations of American BW experimentation have been slow in coming, in part due to the absence of an equally polarized debate over national identity in the United States.

The increasing prominence of conservative intellectuals in the Japanese national discourse is an unmistakable reflection of the post-Cold War decline of the Left in Japan. But it is also, in part, a product of the continuing vitality of the “critical” vision that marked mainstream Japanese scholarship on modern Japanese history through the 1970s. Professor Fujioka was inspired to mobilize in 1996 not from a position of strength. He was appalled to learn that all seven history textbooks approved by the Ministry of Education at that point for use in junior high schools contained references to wartime “comfort women.” Fujioka and his cohorts were, in other words, reacting against the clear advance of the plight of Japan’s “comfort women” in Japanese national consciousness.

Although national debates continue to rage around both the story of Japanese wartime BW experimentation and of Japan’s “comfort women,” contrary to the experience of the United States, one can plot a clear record of progress in postwar Japanese revelation and consciousness of wartime BW experimentation, on a par with the advance symbolized by the tale of comfort women. Western laments about Japanese “historical amnesia” invariably focus upon official Japanese government policies and the actions and pronouncements of conservative politicians and intellectuals. The cluster of history textbooks approved by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in the spring of 2005 was clearly more conservative than those given the green light in the previous round of evaluations in 2001. And the continuing official refusal to countenance appeals for legal restitution for wartime acts, whether it be to Chinese victims of biological warfare, to former “comfort women” or to ex-POW’s impressed into slave labor, are obvious setbacks for history, as well as for the plaintiffs.

But a spotlight on official policy reveals only part of the story of public memory. As the American expert on Unit 731, John W. Powell, has observed, the Japanese government is not alone in its attempt to conceal dark aspects of the wartime past. To do so is the hallmark of almost any government.[68] And when it comes to legal restitution, the question of official recognition of wartime sins is vastly complicated by formal treaties and international law. Pressures on national governments to maintain a lid on a Pandora’s box of legal demands against the state are, understandably, substantial.[69]

Despite official Japanese resistance to restitution, the widespread Japanese public exposure to an increasingly tangible record of wartime BW experimentation in the 1990s marks a genie that cannot be returned to its bottle. The latest laments over Japanese “historical amnesia” ironically confirm the advances in Japanese public awareness. Japanese courts continue to resist compensation to Chinese victims. But lawsuits raised against the Japanese government since 1993 have been possible only because of new documentation unearthed in Japan and the assistance of Japanese private citizens. Problems in the evaluation of history textbooks in 2005, moreover, were of a fundamentally different character than those in the 1980s. Whereas twenty years ago the Ministry of Education actively excised references to Japanese “aggression,” biological warfare and “comfort women,” by 2005, critics lamented not government action, but inaction—namely, failure to vigorously insert references to wartime atrocities into texts.

This change of emphasis symbolizes the most substantial advance in official policy vis-à-vis wartime atrocities over the last twenty years. In the contentious debate over textbook content, Tokyo now officially recognizes the historical reality of most Japanese war crimes: the Nanjing massacre, comfort women, mass suicide in the Battle of Okinawa, etc.[70] On the issue of biological warfare, the Ministry of Health and Welfare confirmed the existence of Unit 731 in the cabinet committee of the National Diet in April 1982.[71] And the Japanese Supreme Court recognized the legality of references to Unit 731 in textbooks in the final ruling of Ienaga Saburo’s third lawsuit in 1997.[72]

Ienaga Saburo’s The pacific War.

A study of the postwar politics of revelation of Japanese wartime medical experiments does not engage the issues of the causes of those initiatives and cannot predict the degree to which we might see questionable medical practices surfacing again in Japan’s future. But by shifting the focus from the purported “culture” to the politics of Japanese “forgetfulness” after 1945, it does suggest that an important indicator of future developments may be found less in certain Japanese cultural practices (as is often stressed in the literature on Japanese bioethics),[73] than in the political lay of the land. The politics of exposure of wartime Japanese BW experimentation remains as vital as ever and continues to enrich Japanese public consciousness regarding this dark chapter of national history. Likewise, critical issues of bioethics (brain death, stem cell research, etc.) have become the focus of heated political debate.

One might even argue that the substantial exposure of Japanese citizens by the 1990s to the history of wartime BW experimentation has facilitated Japanese sensitivity to contemporary issues of bioethics. It is clearly difficult in today’s Japan to ponder weighty issues of medical ethics without being reminded of the disturbing history of wartime experimentation. Thus, the Aug. 3, 1991 Asahi shinbun carried, side-by-side, an article questioning the all-too-convenient new standard of “brain death” for purposes of organ donation[74] with one describing efforts by the national legislature and private citizens to obtain information about the Army War College bones belonging to suspected victims of Japanese wartime experimentation.[75] An eighteen-year-old preparatory student who attended the national Unit 731 exhibit observed in 1994: “That war is bad goes without saying. But as someone intending to go to medical school, [this exhibit] made me think hard about what we consider today medical ethics.”[76]

In 1998, Japanese moviegoers flocked to a charming and delightfully humorous film about a rural family doctor that also pointedly asked, in the context of the history of wartime BW experimentation, how far physicians should go to preserve public health. Beautifully crafted by the award-winning veteran director Imamura Shohei, “Kanzo sensei” (Dr. Liver) follows the frenetic efforts of Dr. Akagi (known to neighbors as Dr. Liver) to contain the spread of hepatitis in wartime Kyushu, Japan. Obsessed with finding a cure, Dr. Akagi at one point contemplates extracting the liver of a live Dutch POW for experimentation. But he suspects that his son, a medical doctor in Manchuria, has access to the most advanced knowledge on liver disease because of tests on live subjects. Unable to countenance the horrors of an ambitious research agenda, the trusted doctor ultimately abandons his search for a general cure to return to the simple, if frenzied, life of catching each new flare-up of hepatitis through house calls.

The candid reference in a major Japanese feature film to wartime BW experimentation and a serious ethical dilemma that continues to plague medical practitioners is enough to belie the notion of a “forgetful” Japan. It is, moreover, a tantalizing hint of the rich philosophical terrain from which the active Japanese debates on medical ethics emerged in the 1990s. As William LaFleur notes in his introduction to Dark Medicine: Rationalizing Unethical Medical Research (Indiana University Press, 2007), the origins of the pioneering volume lie in this widespread discussion of Unit 731 and contemporary medical ethics in 1990s Japan. We would all do well to heed Gernot Bohme’s compelling point in Dark Medicine that we do not yet have the proper philosophical safeguards in place to avoid a repetition of history.[77] But one might argue that the horrible reality of Japanese wartime experimentation in “dark medicine” and the clear postwar record of exposure of those crimes, at the very least, make Japanese professionals currently debating weighty issues of bioethics all the wiser.

Frederick R. Dickinson is Associate Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of War and National Reinvention: Japan in the Great War, 1914-1919 (Cambridge: Harvard East Asia Monograph Series, 1999) and, most recently, of “Dai-ichiji sekai taisengo no Nihon no koso: Nihon ni okeru Uirusonshugi no juyo.” In Ito Yukio, Kawada Minoru, eds. Niju seiki Nihon to Higashi Ajia no keisei. Tokyo: Minerva, 2007. pp. 133-149.

This is a revised version of an essay of the same title that originally appeared in William R. LaFleur, Gernot Böhme, and Susumu Shimazono, eds. Dark Medicine: Rationalizing Unethical Medical Research. Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2007. pp. 85-104.

Posted at Japan Focus on October 12, 2007.


[1] Ian Buruma, The Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Germany and Japan. NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1994; George L. Hicks, Japan’s War Memories: Amnesia or Concealment? UK: Ashgate, 1997; Laura Hein and Mark Selden, Censoring History: Citizenship and Memory in Japan, Germany, and the United States. NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2000. Norma Field asks, “Why did these impulses for a self-critical renewal fail to flourish?” Norma Field. “War and Apology: Japan, Asia, the Fiftieth, and After.” Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique 5, no. 1 (1997). p. 13. This view is not confined to Western commentators. See Wakamiya Yoshibumi, Postwar Conservative View of Asia: How the Political Right Has Delayed Japan’s Coming to Terms with Its History of Aggression in Asia. NY: Free Press, 1999.

[2] Daniel Barenblatt. A Plague on Humanity: The Hidden History of Japan’s Biological Warfare Program. NY: HarperCollins, 2004. p. xx.

[3] For a quick overview of the fifty-three counts, see Higurashi Yoshinobu. Tokyo saiban no kokusai kankei. Tokyo: Bokutakusha, 2002. pp. 286-87.

[4] Peter Williams and David Wallace, Unit 731: Japan’s Secret Biological Warfare in World War II. NY: Free Press, 1989. pp. 176-79.

[5] Information in this paragraph is based upon ibid., pp. 141, 220-3.

[6] For example, the Gifu Times, the Chugoku shinbun and the Japanese Communist Party daily, Akahata. See ibid. pp. 226-27.

[7] “Shishashitsu: akuma no 731 butai.” Asahi shinbun. Aug. 10, 1975. p. 20; “Shishashitsu: zoku akuma no 731 butai.” Asahi shinbun. Aug. 15, 1976. p. 20; “Akuma no 731 butai: futatabi rupo hoei.” Asahi shinbun. June 21, 1982. Evening edition. p. 9. Yoshinaga had already made a name for herself and TBS with other documentaries on such controversial issues as the story of right-wing sponsorship of the leftist student group, Zengakuren (titled “Yuganda seishun” [Twisted Youth]). Kawatani Tadao. Review of Yoshinaga Haruko, Nazo no dokuyaku. Asahi shinbun. Apr. 28, 1996. p. 12.

[8] John Saar. “Japan Accused of WW II Germ Deaths.” Washington Post. Nov. 19, 1976. pp. 1, 19. Reference to “Sixty Minutes” in “Akuma no 731 butai: futatabi rupo hoei.” p. 9.

[9] The new TBS documentary was titled “Soko ga shiritai: Akuma no 731 butai” (This is What I’d Like to Know: The Devil’s Unit 731) and introduced an American survivor of the camp. “Akuma no 731 butai: futatabi rupo hoei.” p. 9; “Shishashitsu: Soko ga shiritai, akuma no 731 butai.” Asahi shinbun. June 29, 1982. p. 24. The Hong Kong film, titled “Kuroi taiyo 731 butai” (Black sun, Unit 731), was translated into Japanese and given four public showings a day at Nitchu gakuin in Tokyo on Oct. 7 and 8, 1992. “Kantogun saikinsen butai no jittai egaita eiga kokai.” Asahi shinbun. Oct. 7, 1992. p. 26).

[10] Gunji Yoko. “Shogen:” 731 Ishii butai. Tokyo: Tokuma shoten, 1982.

[11] “Nomonhan jiken ni ‘saikinsen’no shogen.” Asahi shinbun. Aug. 24, 1989. p. 3.

[12] Sheldon H. Harris. Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare 1932-45 and the American Cover-up. NY: Routledge, 1994. p. 224. The two-part series was produced by Inoue Takashi and aired on two consecutive nights, Apr. 13 and 14, at 10 p.m. “NHK dokyumento ‘731 saikinsen butai.’ ” Asahi shinbun. Apr. 13, 1992. Evening edition. p. 19. Similar to the BBC in Britain, NHK is a publicly owned radio and television broadcasting agency, which means that it is both independent and linked to the government in a way commercial broadcasters are not.

[13] Mori Masataka and Kasukawa Yoshiya. Chugoku shinryaku to 731 butai no saikinsen. Tokyo: Asahi shobo, 1995.

[14] “731 butai kyumei e Nitchu kyodo shinpo.” Asahi shinbun. Sept. 16, 1995. Evening edition. p. 9.

[15] The discovery was even highlighted in the New York Times. David Sanger, “Skulls Found: Japan Doesn’t Want to Know Whose.” New York Times. Aug. 13, 1990. pp. 1, 5; “Gun’i gakko ato no jinkotsu Chugoku mo chushi.” Asahi shinbun. Aug. 3, 1991. Evening edition. p. 19. Although it was originally reported that the bones came from 35 bodies, that number was eventually revised to over 100. See Tsuneishi Kei-ichi. “Unit 731 and the Human Skulls Discovered in 1989: Physicians Carrying Out Organized Crimes.” In William R. LaFleur, Gernot Böhme, and Susumu Shimazono, eds. Dark Medicine: Rationalizing Unethical Medical Research. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007. pp. 73-84.

[16] Significantly, Japanese historian Hata Ikuhiko, who had earlier aided the Japanese Ministry of Education’s legal case against Ienaga Saburo’s inclusion of references to Japanese BW experimentation in high school history textbooks, confirmed the authenticity of these documents in 1994. See “731 butai kyokumitsu bunsho: zenkoku 40 kasho de junkaiten.” Asahi shinbun. July 2, 1993. Evening edition. p. 10.

[17] “731 butai no saikinsen: Nihongawa shiryo de urazuke.” Asahi shinbun. Aug. 14, 1993. p. 1; “‘Pesuto moi’ to hokoku.” Asahi shinbun. Aug. 14, 1993. p. 27.

[18] Kasahara Tokushi, et al., eds. Rekishi no jijitsu o do kakutei shi do oshieru ka. Tokyo: Kyoiku shiryo shuppankai, 1997. p. 16; “Jibun ni muen no hora ja nai.” Asahi shinbun. June 13, 1994. p. 15; “Seitai jikken o mokei de saigen.” Asahi shinbun. July 11, 1993. p. 24.

[19] “Mochi o tabe, zenshin ga aokuroku nari, shinda.” Asahi shinbun. Sept. 6, 1994. p. 30.

[20] Yoshimi Yoshiaki and Iko Toshiya. 731 butai to tenno, rikugun chuo. Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, 1995; “731 butai no saikinsen kensho.” Asahi shinbun. Dec. 18, 1995. p. 14.

[21] Nozaki Yoshiko and Inokuchi Hiromitsu. “Japanese Education, Nationalism, and Ienaga’s Textbook Lawsuits.” In Hein and Selden. Censoring History. p. 113. Nozaki and Inokuchi note that, from July through September 1980, more than two thousand reports on Japanese textbook screening appeared in the press in nineteen Asian countries.

[22] For sustained analysis of the Ienaga textbook controversy, see Hicks. Japan’s War Memories. chp. 7.

[23] Gavan McCormack sees Fujioka as epitomizing a “troubling” current situation in Japan in which “liberalism and rationalism are used to conceal a mode of reasoning that is both antiliberal and antirational.” Gavan McCormack. “The Japanese Movement to ‘Correct’ History.” In Hein and Selden. Censoring History. pp. 70-71.

[24] Harris. Factories of Death. pp. 47, 52.

[25] Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg, and William Broad. Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War. NY: Simon and Schuster, 2001. p. 39. It should be noted that the official history of Fort Detrick places the wartime high of employees at the facility at only 2,300. Richard M. Clendenin. Science and Technology at Fort Detrick, 1943-1968. Fort Detrick, Md.: Fort Detrick, Historian, Technical Information Division, 1968. p. 26.

[26] For a summary of those estimates, see Harris. Factories of Death. pp. 66-67. The two most celebrated cases of American experimentation on human subjects during the war are the Tuskegee Syphilis Study (1932-72) and the Chicago Malaria Study. Neither of these projects, however, was related to the principal U.S. experimentation in BW agents conducted by the United States Army Chemical Warfare Service.

[27] The one notable follow-up to Hersh was the 1988 piece by Stanford University historian Barton Bernstein. Barton J. Bernstein. “America’s Biological Warfare Program in the Second World War.” Journal of Strategic Studies 2, no. 3 (1988). pp. 292-317.

[28] See Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagermann. The United States and Biological Warfare: Secrets from the Early Cold War and Korea. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998. Also, G. Cameron Hurst III, “Biological Weapons: The United States and the Korean War.” In LaFleur, et al., eds. Dark Medicine. pp. 105-20.

[29] Namely, chp 17 of the British edition of Williams and Wallace, Unit 731, titled, “Korean War,” pp. 235-85, is missing in the American edition published by the Free Press. Williams and Wallace. Unit 731; Harris. Factories of Death. p. 283, n. 36.

[30] Nozaki and Inokuchi. “Japanese Education, Nationalism, and Ienaga’s Textbook Lawsuits.” p. 105.

[31] David McNeill and Mark Selden. “Asia Battles over War History: The Legacy of the Pacific War Looms over Tokyo’s Plans for the Future.” Japan Focus. Apr. 13, 2005.

[32] “Jiki no kyokasho, jiyusha kara shuppan: Tsukurukai ga happyo.” Asahi shinbun. Sept. 18, 2007; “Tsukurukai, Fusosha to kankei danzetsu, betsu no shuppansha o kobo.” Asahi shinbun. June 1, 2007.

[33] For a description of this era as more than a feeble gesture toward liberalism, see Fred Dickinson. “Dai-ichiji sekai taisengo no Nihon no koso.” In Ito Yukio, Kawada Minoru, eds. Niju seiki Nihon to higashi Ajia no keisei. Tokyo: Minerva, 2007. pp. 133-49.

[34] John W. Dower. “Peace and Democracy in Two Systems: External Policy and Internal Conflict.” Andrew Gordon. ed. Postwar Japan as History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. pp. 3-33.

[35] Following soon after the outbreak of the Korea War, the December 1950 issue of Sekai, in which the third Peace Problems Symposium statement was printed, doubled its circulation. Ibid. p. 9.

[36] Roger Swearingen and Paul Langer. Red Flag in Japan: International Communism in Action 1919-1951. NY: Greenwood Press, 1968. pp. 81-82.

[37] Williams and Wallace. Unit 731. pp. 226-27.

[38] See Asahi shinbun. Dec. 25, 27-30, 1949.

[39] By contrast, the full eighteen volumes of raw data used by Soviet prosecutors to make their case have yet to be made available to researchers. Harris, Factories of Death. p. 229.

[40] Swearingen and Langer. Red Flag in Japan. p. 233.

[41] According to the most authoritative account, the U.S.S.R. conducted the tribunal in an effort to justify the large numbers of Japanese POWs yet to be repatriated to Japan from Siberia. Harris, Factories of Death. pp. 226-28.

[42] The December 27, 1949, United Press quoted the American representative to the Allied Council for Japan and Acting U.S. Political Advisor to Douglas MacArthur, William Sebald, describing the Khabarovsk trials as a likely “fiction” designed as a “smoke screen” to deflect attention from the thousands of Japanese POWs in Soviet custody still unaccounted for. See Kasahara, et al., eds. Rekishi no jijitsu o do kakutei shi do oshieru ka. p. 23, n. 14; John W. Powell. Japan’s Germ Warfare: The U.S. Cover-up of a War Crime.” Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars. vol. 12, no. 4 (1980). p. 15, n. 1.

[43] New York Times. Dec. 27, 1949. Cited in Williams and Wallace. Unit 731. p. 231. For the effort to shield the emperor, see Herbert P. Bix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan. NY: HarperCollins, 2000. Chp. 15.

[44] Honda wrote a series of articles on Vietnam, “Senso to hito” (War and People), that ran for five months in the Asahi shinbun in the mid-1960s. Published in one volume in 1968, Senba no mura (The Villages of War) became a best seller in Japan, and over 50,000 English-language copies were shipped overseas. See John Lie, ed. The Impoverished Spirit in Contemporary Japan: Selected Essays of Honda Katsuichi. NY: Monthly Review Press, 1993. p. 16.

[45] Field. “War and Apology.” p. 15.

[46] Saburo Ienaga. The Pacific War, 1931-1945: A Critical Perspective on Japan’s Role in World War II. NY: Random House, 1978. p. 244.

[47] Lie, ed. The Impoverished Spirit in Contemporary Japan. p. 22.

[48] Although the final ruling rejected Ienaga’s most fundamental contention that government textbook screening was unconstitutional, it did accept the legality of his references to Unit 731. Nozaki and Inokuchi. “Japanese Education, Nationalism, and Ienaga’s Textbook Lawsuits.” p. 119; “Dai-sanji Ienaga sosho: 4 kasho no iho kakutei.” Asahi shinbun. Aug. 30, 1997. p. 1.

[49] For a discussion of this initiative, see Nozaki and Inokuchi. “Japanese Education, Nationalism, and Ienaga’s Textbook Lawsuits.” p. 113.

[50] Morimura Seiichi. “Akuma no hoshoku” noto. Tokyo: Banseisha, 1982. pp. 54, 188.

[51] John W. Powell. “Japan’s Biological Weapons, 1930-45.” Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. vol. 37, no. 8; for a discussion of the publication in Japanese of the article, see Morimura. “Akuma no hoshoku” noto. pp. 188-97.

[52] Morimura. “Akuma no hoshoku” noto. p. 95.

[53] Morimura published with Kobunsha and Kakugawa. Tsuneishi’s research appeared with Shinchosha.

[54] Arnold Brackman. The Other Nuremberg: The Untold Story of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials. NY: Quill, 1987. p. 198.

[55] Morimura. “Akuma no hoshoku” noto. p. 235.

[56] The film became the fifth in a series, titled, “Katararenakatta senso—shinryaku” (The War that Could Not be Told—Aggression). “Kyu Nihongun saikinsen butai, eiga ni.” Asahi shinbun. June 28, 1996. p. 3.

[57] Tsuneishi. “Unit 731 and the Human Skulls Discovered in 1989.”

[58] “731 butai no jittai, kami shibai ni.” Asahi shinbun. Sept. 16, 1994. p. 29.

[59] The display was titled “731 butai ten in Kasukabu” (Unit 731 Exhibit in Kasukabu). Yonezawa Nobuyoshi. “Saitama no kokosei, 731 butai shirabeta. Asahi shinbun. Aug. 1, 1996. p. 31.

[60] “Kyu Nihongun no saikinsen, asu jittai kyumei suru kai.” Asahi shinbun. June 28, 1996. p. 26.

[61] “Tekishutsu shita zoki, suketchi shita.” Asahi shinbun. Nov. 20, 1995. p. 14.

[62] “Saikinsen butai o tsuikyu suru Mizutani Naoko san.” Asahi shinbun. July 12, 1996. p. 3.

[63] Later published as Daitoa senso kotei ron (In Affirmation of the Greater East Asia War, Bancho shobo, 1964).

[64] Kasahara, et al., eds. Rekishi no jijitsu o do kakutei shi do oshieru ka. pp. 17-19.

[65] Kobayashi Yoshinori. Sensoron I, II, III. Tokyo: Gentosha, 1998, 2001, 2003.

[66] McNeill and Selden. “Asia Battles over War History.”

[67] This is the title of Gavan McCormack’s article on the movement; McCormack. “The Japanese Movement to ‘Correct’ History.”

[68] Morimura. “Akuma no hoshoku” noto. p. 128.

[69] For a detailed study of legal demands surrounding wartime forced Korean labor, see William Underwood. “Names, Bones and Unpaid Wages, 1, 2.” Japan Focus. Sept. 10, 17, 2006.,

[70] Hicks. Japan’s War Memories. p. 106.

[71] “731 butai kyokumitsu bunsho” p. 10.

[72] “Dai-sanji Ienaga sosho: 4 kasho no iho kakutei.” p. 1.

[73] See, most recently, H. Tristram Engelhardt and Lisa M. Rasmussen, eds. Bioethics and Moral Content: National Traditions of Health Care Morality: Papers Dedicated in Tribute to Kazumasa Hoshino. Boston: Kluwer, 2002.

[74] For an echo of this argument, see Yamaori Tetsuo. “Strategies for Survival versus Accepting Impermanence: Rationalizing Brain Death and Organ Transplantation Today.” In LaFleur, et al., eds. Dark Medicine. pp. 165-79.

[75] “Gun’i gakko ato no jinkotsu Chugoku mo chushi.” p. 19; “Jinken mushi no noshi ishoku.” Asahi shinbun. Aug. 3, 1991. Evening edition. p. 19.

[76] “Jibun ni muen no hora ja nai.” p. 15.

[77] Gernot Bohme. “Rationalizing Unethical Medical Research: Taking Seriously the Case of Victor von Weizsacker.” In LaFleur, et al., eds. Dark Medicine. pp. 15-29.

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Authors: For all articles by the author, click on author's name.   Frederick R. Dickinson