World / History

Japanese scholar seeks the truth in Nanjing

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-12-13 07:21

NANJING - Professor Akihiro Nonaka, of Japan's Waseda University is a seeker after truth. "Do you want to know what really happened between Japan and China in the last century?" he asks his students. "Then follow me to China."

The former journalist, now teacher at the graduate school of journalism, holds that reporters need nothing but the truth. "Journalists have to investigate to find the truth, to see the places and to hear the words of the people who went through it."


Nonaka, 60, thinks young people in Japan have complicated feelings toward China. College students learn Chinese language, politics and economics. "But when it comes to history, you'd be shocked by how ignorant they are," Nonaka said.

"You can't blame the students. Educated by the distorter history books, we can't expect them to know the real history."

Nonaka believes that normal communications cannot be restored unless history is acknowledged. He has taken students to Nanjing, scene of the 1937 massacre, many times.

Japanese troops captured Nanjing, capital of China at the time, on Dec. 13, 1937. There then followed more than 40 days when more than 300,000 people were murdered and about 20,000 women raped.

"We have to do our own investigations into the history that our government does not want us to know," Nonaka said.

In a small village near Nanjing, a stone tablet, reveals the tragedy of 64 villagers. In Anxin County in the north Hebei Province, where the Japanese soldiers implemented the policy of "burn all, kill all, loot all," students are shocked by the tales of an 86-year-old former soldier.Students listened as silently as they could to the old man's story, frequently bursting into sobs. Every student bowed to the veteran as they left.


For Japanese people of Nonaka's age, the truth of the war seems within reach, but the reality is, few really know what their parents and grandparents did in China.

The Japanese people believed that their army entered China to protect them from European threats. They even posted pictures of Nanjing citizens "welcoming" Japanese troops. Even now, some still believe that what they were told is the truth of the war.

"But it's not only the government who tries to hide the truth." Nonaka said. "Some veterans do the same."

Nonaka's grandfather and one of the uncles died in China during the war. Another uncle was sent to a gulag in the Soviet Union after Japan was defeated.

"They were good people, my grandfather and uncles. There's no chance they were murderers," Nonaka said, "but they were conscripted and ordered to kill. It was impossible to refuse, so they did those terrible things in China. For Japanese soldiers like them, dying in battle might have been a relief."

Some veterans have expressed their guilt through war journals. Many of the journals describe men who used to be kind and had loving families, who became heartless and cruel after being told to kill time after time.

Nonaka believes that old soldiers do not want to tell their families what they did because they know they were doing monstrous things.

"Many Japanese haven't realized that ignorance can also be a kind of sin," said one of Nonaka's students.

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