Last Call for Abe Shinzo Congressional Speech Op-eds

The Stimson Center’s Yuki Tatsumi threw down the gauntlet in The Diplomat on May 7 in a piece pointedly entitled ‘Stop Obsessing over Abe’s Congressional Speech.’ The conclusion read as follows:

Continuing to criticize Abe for his congressional speech is futile, even counterproductive. […] Would the audience have rather heard Abe spend most of his speech apologizing for Japan’s past wrongdoings and offer very little on his vision for Japan’s future, and the future of U.S.-Japan alliance? I would think not.

Now is not the time to nitpick and parse his speech text to death. Rather, Abe should be congratulated for his successful U.S. visit and a job well done. Of course, he can be encouraged to consider stepping out further as he crafts his statement on August 15 at the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. But he needs to receive credit for his achievements first.

Tatsumi then went on to note that ‘endless criticism against Abe will make it more difficult for Abe to maneuver, providing him less incentive to make further efforts.’ So leave the poor man alone! He obviously has the history issue covered.

Unfortunately, if you are like me, you were way too busy during the actual Abe visit (late April-early May is a notoriously bad time for academics) to get any thing more than a couple of sloppy drafts prepared in an effort to look at historical aspects of Abe’s visit. Watching the actual speech might also be a good idea.

Obviously, judging from her Diplomat essay, Yuki Tatsumi obviously won’t be happy if you finally get around to updating, polishing, and submitting your drafts now, now that she’s ‘called time’ on the op-ed statute of limitations. Not only that, but don’t forget that your work would clearly and single-handedly (!) wedge Abe Shinzo, this very skillful LDP politician, into a corner in which his only option would be to become more revisionist in his views and action. (Did you know that every time John Dower writes an op-ed, a cabinet member is ordered straight to Yasukuni Shrine?) Well, I’m afraid that it’s a risk you may have to take.

Allow me to share a few prompts that may help you to get that essay off of your hard drive and into the welcoming void of cyberspace, the consequences be damned:

The “comfort women” issue: What is Prime Minister Abe saying — or not saying — about the comfort women issue? How does he want to frame the problem? To what extent has it been consistently raised or ignored either by US media, the American Congress, or the White House (including Michelle Obama, who has talked a lot about girls’ rights both in Japan and with the Japanese delegation in the US)? Are there historians visible in the media discussing this matter in the US? Do the Korean and Chinese goals of getting an explicit apology from Abe Shinzo, or full endorsement of the 1993 Kono declaration which admitted the system existed, seem likely to be achieved? What role have right-wing Japanese women played in cementing support for Abe Shinzo on this issue?

Other historical legacies: To what extent has Kishi Nobusuke (Abe’s grandfather, a former suspected war criminal, and Prime Minister from 1957-1960) been raised during the visit, and how? Is Japan winning or losing the battle over the popular perception of Kishi as a pro-US technocrat or unrepentant quasi-fascist? What about general memories of World War II? Which Americans, Koreans, or Chinese seem to be able to shape the public narrative about Japan during this visit?

Security issues: How much military independence does Japan really have from the United States, and what role does wariness of China and North Korea play in expanding the latitude the US is willing to give Japan?

Women: Before leaving Japan, Abe Shinzo wrote an op-ed for Bloomberg about “Womenomics,” and he has reemphasized those themes in his speech at the Kennedy School at Harvard and at other moments in his journey. Does Abe intend on really improving the ability of Japanese to be upwardly mobile in the corporate world, while simultaneously trying to get Japanese women to get married, have children, and solve Japan’s demographic crisis? Does his stonewalling on the ‘comfort women’ issue make him less popular with Japan’s female majority? 

If you’re looking for a convenient place to start, I would say that anything written by Anna Fifield, the Washington Post bureau chief in Tokyo, would be good, since she represents a mainstream US press voice about Japan, writing for, among other audiences, policy elites in Washington. Her author page or an article on the various historical issues clouding the Abe visit could be a good place to start.


  1. if anyone wants to talk about japan’s nonapology, especially on the comfort woman sensation, i suggest u start with the award-winning propaganda films of madame butterfly, Sayonara and The World of Suzie Wong (1960), as well as the song meilin’s flying tiger all-male harlem and her prostition to america’s politicians along with the soul of china. then u ll probably realize that the only thing u cant forgive the japanese is that they did a lousy job on advertising the desirability of the samurai warriors.

  2. Comfort Women has been inaccurately understood and interpreted. I believe the following video provides you with the most impartial explanation of the issue.

    1. well, apart from the excellent musical selection, the textual rhythm is extremely slow — have you got the full text of this video? I think it could be read in about 4 minutes, as opposed to watching in 10x the amount of time (as much as I love Bach organ music and maps)

      1. Thank you for checking the video. You can change the play speed using “Setting” (gear wheel icon under the video). Some important charts and videos are included in the movie so I want you to watch the movie till the end not only reading text.

        1. ah very good, thanks for the suggestion, I am thus enriched in technical aspects; I also hope there will be some citation for the soundtrack as I do also try to keep track of BWV numbers when it comes to J.S. Bach

      1. I failed to show you a comprehensive website of mine, since it is all written in Japanese language and also I feared that you might categorize my effort as “revisionism” honestly speaking.

        I’m making videos in foreign languages to explain Japan’s viewpoint regarding several territorial and historical disputes that are troubling our country and people. The following is one of the example.

        1. Japanese is fine if you have the URL; I’m quite slow in reading but can make my way through it. As I’m not in Tokyo at the moment I have a harder time placing things in their broader informational context (for instance, where a given video aligns or differs from the rather abundant newsmagazines or new books being published) but generally it’s helpful to have more information rather than less — again, I’m not able to cite your video in a scholarly paper but if I had a better idea of authorship you’d be one step ahead (assuming your goal is to convince me/other academics who teach relatively open-minded university students the merits or demerits of any given historical position with respect to the 慰安婦問題).

  3. Thank you for checking the video. We are preparing the website to explain the issue so that you can grasp the point at a glance.

    1. Yeah, being told ‘WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED’ without being told WHO IS ACTUALLY CRAFTING THE NARRATIVE (to quote the site and then channel its fondness for the caps lock key) is not something I find terribly reassuring, but in the meantime perhaps you will find a few converts who are less particular about the sources they consume, assuming that conversion rather than merely muddying the informational water is what you’re after.

      1. I’m a mere Japanese citizen, who just is concerned about the misunderstanding of the issue spread all around the world. It took 3 years to accomplish the whole video. Why must the misunderstanding be corrected? It’s not for like “to restore the honor of Japan” or something but we must know the “REAL CAUSE OF THE TRAGEDY” for its prevention, since the totally same tragedy is being repeated JUST RIGHT NOW. This is the purpose I made the video taking 3 years.

        1. Yes, we are all mere citizens (occasionally dual citizens) of somewhere; I look forward to more information and the promised website as sadly I don’t have the habit of citing “Video by WJF, a Japanese citizen who wishes to remain anonymous” in academic papers.

  4. Let me say one more thing. You may mistake me as a Japanese right-winger, which is not true. I’m a severe critic against Abe regime especially its economic policy.

    1. Thanks for that — I think as Hashimoto’s recent defeat and the fragmentation (or was it growth?) of the various Ishin factions, not to mention the very different attitudes taken toward North Korea (a country which has managed to sideline itself from serious history debates, which is too bad) among nominally right-wing politicians in Japan, would indicate that “right-wing Japanese” is an extremely broad category that doesn’t always illuminate very much. I wonder to what extent “revisionist” means “right wing”; doesn’t Kobayashi Yoshinori also state something rather like this? He’s a critic of the state and not (to my knowledge) a big fan of the LDP; to my knowledge apart from a large manga on “Class A” war crimes proceedings he hasn’t written much about Kishi Nobusuke.

  5. You are quite familiar with the current political situation in Japan. Impressive. Maybe I can provide you with some tip to understand the point. There are two types of “right-wingers” or “conservatives” in Japan. Since 1990, when the cold war ended, two problems have troubled Japan.

    One is so called “Japan Bashing”. The relationship between Japan and her neighboring counties such as China and South Korea used to be much more peaceful and friendly before 1990. However, soon after the cold war ended, disputes on historical issues raised by those countries began to get more and more severe. Comfort Women issue was among them.

    The other is “Kouzo Kaikau” (構造改革, Structural Reform). A pressure to change the social, economic, industrial, and financial structure of Japan was strengthened by the U.S. government after 1990.

    These two problems have separated Japanese conservatives into two groups.

    1. Those who are critical of China’s or Korea’s historical accusation but supporting “Kouzo Kaikaku.”

    They are typical right-wingers. Abe, Koizumi, Hashimoto, LDP, Ishin and their supporters belong to this group.

    2. Those who are critical of China’s or Korea’s historical accusation and also of “Kouzo Kaikaku.”

    Kobayashi Yoshinori belongs to this group.

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