Japanese History Textbooks (2005 edition)

The strong emotions in Korea and Greater China against Japan (see previous post, The Great Chinese War Against Japan) would not be sustainable without Japan periodically pouring fire accelerants onto the stove.  Once again, it is the time for the new history textbooks to be submitted for screening in Japan.  This happens once every four years, and 2001 was a bad year already.  Although these new 2005 history textbooks have not yet been publicly revealed, some Japanese media have leaked the information about the textbook compiled by Japan's Society for History Textbook Reform already.  

Here is the scene in Seoul (Korea) via UPI:

Throughout this week, a short alley just outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul was packed by demonstrators protesting Tokyo's claim to South Korean-held islets and Japan's school textbooks, which whitewash Japan's brutal colonial rule over Korea.  Protestors -- from aged women forced to serve as sex slaves for the Japanese imperial army during World War II to Korean War veterans, school students and teachers and to housewives and children -- shouted anti-Japanese slogans and waved South Korean national flags.

Former South Korean military agents scuffled with police as they tried to march into the embassy building.  Scores young protestors also clashed with riot police while trying to scale a wall of the compound at midnight.  The embassy building, its steel gates closed, was almost completely cordoned off as police buses were parked the length of the front wall to keep protesters away.  Thousands of police are stationed along the embassy.

What is the fuss all about?  I am going to translate some comments in the Chinese press (via Peacehall).  As such, I cannot guarantee that the leaked information is truly in the particular textbook or that the excerpts are accurate or representative of the changes to the new edition of this textbook.  However, you should bear in mind that this is what the Chinese are reading now and they are hopping mad.  Read what is listed here, and see if you can tell the Chinese to just get over it ...

Topic #1: The cause of the 1894 Sino-Japanese War

The 2001 edition of the Japanese history textbook removes the reference that the Japanese attacked the Manchurian forces first.  Instead, it used the ambiguous description: "Conflict occurred between the Japanese and Manchurian military forces, and the Sino-Japanese War began." 日清两军发生冲突,日清战争开始了。

The proposed 2005 edition goes a step further: "The Manchurians did not want to lose their final tributary state Korea and therefore treated Japan as an enemy.  Japan entered the Sino-Japanese War and the Russian-Japanese War due to these international relationships." 清不想失掉最后的朝贡国朝鲜,开始将日本作为敌人。日本进行了日清和日俄两场战争,就是由于东亚的这种国际关系。

The Chinese understanding of this history was that the Sino-Japanese War had its origin in the continental policy formulated at the first Imperial Congress of Japan in 1890 where their territorial interests were directed right at the Korean peninsula and northeastern China.  With these goals, Japan initiated the Sino-Japanese War.  China lost, paid 200 million taels of silver in compensation and ceded Taiwan and the Pescadores Islands to Japan.  At the same time, Japan invaded Korea and attempted to take over the Liaotung Peninsula too.  Due to the intercession of Russia, Germany and France, the Manchurian government paid Japan 300 million taels of silver to 'reclaim' Liaotung.

Topic #2: The 21 Articles

The 2001 edition of the Japanese history textbook claims: "England and the United States objected, and the 21 articles were divided into five groups.  The fifth group contain wishes and was supposed to be treated as secret.  The fifth group requests that the Japanese shall act was political, financial and military advisors for the purpose of purchasing huge amounts of Japanese-manufactured military armaments." 英国和美国提出了抗议,二十一条要求分为五款,第五款是希望条款,被作为秘密。第五款要求接受日本人作为政治、财政和军事顾问以及大量购买日本制武器。

The proposed 2005 edition says: "China awaited the interference of the powerful nationals, and therefore leaked the crucial information of the talks to the outside.  Of the five conditions, they even included those that were not requests in order to come up with the name of the 21 articles.'  This caused anti-Japanese sentiments to rise sharply in China."  中国方面期待列强的介入,向国内外泄露了极为机密的谈判内容,而且在5大条款中,将并非正式要求的事项也列入,制造了二十一条要求的名称,中国国内的反日舆论开始高涨。

The Chinese understanding of this history is that Japan announced the '21 articles' to the Yuan Shikai government of China in order to exclude all the other imperialist powers and dictate China alone.  Basically, Yuan Shikai had to agree to these 21 demands in order to secure the support of Japan.

Topic #3: The 918 Incident

The 2001 edition states: "After the Japanese Kantogun army assassinated Manchurian warlord Zhang Zuolin with a bomb, it was hoping to increase its control in Manchuria.  Anti-Japanese sentiments were rising in China, and there weremany incidents in which the railway was being attacked.  Moreover, Japan was also facing the threat of Soviet Russia in the north and the Kuomintang army in the south.  Under these circumstances, some of the Kantogun officers made a plan to take over all of Manchuria as the solution."  关东军炸死满洲军阀张作霖后,希望加强对满洲的控制,中国人的反日运动激化,不断发生妨碍列车运行的事态。此外,对日本来说,北面有苏联的威胁,南面有国民党的力量不断逼近。在这种情况下,部分关东军军官制定了通过占领整个满洲解决问题的计划。

The proposed 2005 edition says: "Following the unification of China by the Kuomintang, anti-Japanese sentiments grew among the Chinese people and there were repeated instances in which the railway was being attacked and Japanese schoolchildren were being harrassed.  Moreover, Japan was also facing the threat of Soviet Russia in the north and the Kuomintang army in the south."  Please note that the last sentence about plotting by the Kangtogun army has now been excised.  随着国民党统一中国的逼近,中国人的反日运动激化,不断发生妨碍列车运行和迫害日本学童的事件。此外,对日本来说,北面有苏联的威胁,南面有国民党的力量不断逼近。

The Chinese understanding was that there was a huge financial crisis in Japan during the spring of 1927, so that the Japanese government wanted exterior expansion to divert attention from its internal problems.  Japan wanted to take over northeastern China, and therefore instigated the 918 incident.

Topic #4: The Marco Polo Bridge Incident

The 2001 edition states: "On the night of July 7, 1937, someone fired shots at the Japanese army near the Marco Polo bridge outside Beijing.  The next morning, the Japanese army as well as the Chinese Kuomintang army entered into a state of war alertness.  Although people hoped this could be peacefully resolved, Japan soon sent in large number of soldiers and the Kuomintang government announced full mobilization.  Thus began the Sino-Japanese war that lasted eight years."  “193777日夜,在北京郊外的卢沟桥,发生了有人向日本军队开枪的事件。第二天一早,与中国国民党军队之间进入战斗状态。虽然当时人们希望现场解决,但是不久日本方面大规模派兵,国民党政府也立即发布了动员令,此后进入了持续8年的日中战争。

The proposed 2005 edition says: "The incident itself was just a small conflict.  Although people hoped that it could be peacefully resolved, conflicts continued to occur with the Japanese side and it became difficult to find a solution."  事件本身不过是一个小摩擦,虽然人们希望就地解决,但是与日本方面的冲突事件不断发生,解决变得困难起来。

The Chinese version starts with the point that the Japanese were illegally present at the location, and the Chinese defenders obviously must defend their national territory.  Prior to July 7, 1937, the Japanese army had also shot at the Chinese.

Topic #5: The Xi'an Incident

The proposed 2005 edition added this new topic, in which the following paragraph appeared: "The Communists got breathing space and the Communist moles burrowed inside the Kuomintang and engaged in destructive and inflammatory activities to lead Japan into war."  In other words, this whole war was started unnecessarily by the Communist provocateurs!  共产党获得了喘息,共产党员潜入国民党内部,大肆推进将日本引入战争的破坏和挑衅活动。

The Chinese version obviously does not accept the Japanese occupation of Chinese territory as being normal in any sense.  This is positively obscene!  The Xi'an incident in December 1936 was the precipitating factor that forced the Communists and the Kuomintang to form a united front of all Chinese people against the foreign invaders from Japan.  They didn't need Communist provocateurs to tell them that this was the nation's foremost priority!

Topic #6.  The Nanjing Massacre

The 2001 edition saw the addition of one sentence in parentheses "(At the time, the Japanese army caused many deaths and injuries among the citizens, and this was the Nanjing incident)" (那时,日本军队导致民众中也出现了很多死伤者,这就是南京事件)”.  Later on, a footnote said: "As for the actual situation in the incident, there are many doubts about the information.  There are many interpretations, and this issue is still being debated."  This obviously dilutes the preceding sentence in parentheses. 关于事件的实际情况,资料上被发现有很多疑点,存在各种见解,现在仍在争论。

In the proposed 2005 edition version, the sentence in parentheses has been deleted.  Under a photograph with the caption "Shanghai city suffered destruction during street battle," the footnote above appears.  Thus, the whole matter of the Nanjing massacre has been eviscerated.

The Chinese version states that in the early morning of December 13, 1937, the Japanese army took over the city of Nanjing and committed atrocities against the civilian population.  After the Second World War, the Tokyo Court has affirmed the war crimes of Japan.  The Chinese believed that about 200,000 to 300,000 people were killed in Nanjing.

Topic #7: Japanese War Losses

In the section on "The Disaster of War" in the 2001 edition, the losses of Japan were listed next to the other countries victimized by Japan, with a long description about the great Tokyo air raid.

In the 2005 edition the losses of the nations victimized by Japan are not mentioned at all while Japan's losses are listed with "the victims of the two totalitarian ideologies."  Emphasis was given to: "Near the end of the Second World War, the United States launched indiscriminate air raids on Tokyo and other cities and dropped atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Meanwhile, Soviet Russia tore up the Japanese-Russian Neutrality Pact and invaded Manchuria and committed looting and violence against Japanese civilians including forcible relocation of about 600,000 Japanese into Siberia where 10% of died from forced labor."  第二次世界大战末期,美国对东京等多数城市进行不加区别地空袭,并且在广岛和长崎投下了原子弹。而且,苏联撕毁日苏中立条约,侵入满洲,不断发生掠夺、杀害日本平民的暴行,包括日军俘虏在内的约60万日本人被强制带到西伯利亚,被迫从事严酷的劳动,约有10%的人死亡

Topic #8: Japanese War Crimes

In the 2001 edition, "there is no country that did not harm or mistreat unarmed persons during a war, and Japan is no exception.  In war, the Japanese army mistreated foreign soldiers and civilians through abuse and killing."  没有任何一个国家没有在战争中发生过杀害和虐待非武装人员的行为,日本也不例外。战争中,日本军队对于俘虏的敌国士兵和平民进行了不当的杀害和虐待。

In the proposed 2005 edition, "There is no country that did not harm or mistreat unarmed persons during a war, and Japan is no exception."  There is no mention of any crimes committed by the Japanese military forces.  Since everybody else does it too, it would be cool anyway!  没有一个国家在战争中没有任何杀害和虐待非武装人员的事情,日本也不例外。

Alright, but the question is just what do the Japanese themselves think?  I mean, they have dug themselves into a deep hole time and again.  But maybe they could care less?

(Asahi Shimbum)  `Asian neighbors' clause.  March 10, 2005.

"Consideration for Japan's Asian neighbors'' is one of the provisions for the screening of public school textbooks by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Specifically, the provision requires that Japan respect the spirit of "international understanding and cooperation'' in its appraisal of history with its Asian neighbors.

But a senior education ministry official has made a comment that effectively negates this provision.  Hakubun Shimomura, a parliamentary secretary in the education ministry and a Lower House member, recently told a lecture meeting in Tokyo: "Ever since this provision was created, schools have become more Marxist-Leninist in leaning to teach a masochistic view of Japanese history. This is something that must not be overlooked, and that is why we have formed a parliamentary league (to consider the future of Japan and history education).'' Shimomura has been secretary-general of this suprapartisan league since its inception.


The provision was created in 1982. The harsh censure was made from China and South Korea for Japan's attempt to gloss over its history of invasion of China and colonization of the Korean Peninsula. In response, the Japanese government issued statements to the effect that its sense of remorse for the past remained completely unchanged, and that it would readily heed criticisms against the contents of history textbooks and correct mistakes. Later, at the recommendation of an advisory panel to the education ministry, the provision was added to the textbook screening guideline.

That was not the first time the government voiced remorse for the past. It was mentioned in the Japan-South Korea joint communique of 40 years ago, as well as in a similar joint communique with China 33 years ago. Furthermore, it was in acknowledgement of this remorse that, as recently as in 1998, then-Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and then-President Kim Dae Jung jointly declared their resolve to build a "future-oriented'' relationship.

The "Asian neighbors'' provision embodies this basic national principle. It has nothing to do with Marxist-Leninist philosophy. Objections to this provision by any senior education ministry official would raise questions about Japan's basic stance. This is hardly in the nation's interest.

Nakayama noted on Shimomura's comment, "Even if we didn't have the provision, that shouldn't change the fact that we need to aim for international understanding and cooperation.'' He is right. Whether we have this provision or not, we must never make light of our history with our neighbors.

Please be mindful that the controversy is raised over one proposed history textbook that has been submitted for screening and may yet be rejected, and that schools can choose to use other textbooks.  The 2001 edition of this book was adopted by only 0.1% of Japan's middle and high schools.  So this is not a mainstream phenomenon, but it manages to be a lightning rod.  The real story here is that a small number of ultra-rightists is pushing their revisionist agenda in the educational system by patiently nibbling at history textbooks one sentence at a time, with the connivance of a few highly placed officials who are contravening a provision of "consideration for Japan's Asian neighbors" in such matters.  What else can the Asians do other than 'give them  hell' every four years?

The presence of this revisionist book in the contested market of history textbooks for students between the ages of 13 to 16 years old also has the effect of subtly changing the positioning of the other textbooks.  Kyodo News reports:

While some of the eight history textbooks approved in the latest round of ministry screenings mentioned wartime sex slaves in simplified terms, most avoided going into detail and none used the term ''comfort women'' where some had done in the past.  In previous screenings in 2001, three of eight history textbooks used either ''comfort women'' or ''comfort facilities.'' This time, only one publisher's textbook had the term ''comfort facilities.''  One of the textbooks referred to wartime sex slavery by simply saying, ''Young women from Korea and other parts of Asia were assembled and sent to the battlefield for Japanese soldiers.''  All textbooks used in the 1997-2001 school years made reference to ''comfort women,'' or women, mostly from Asia, who were forced to work as prostitutes or sex slaves for the Japanese military. 

As for the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in China, with the exception of one textbook that says the number of victims ''is said to be as many as 200,000,'' all the textbooks gave no specific numbers, saying only that ''many'' were killed.  Prior to the previous screening in 2001, six of seven history textbooks gave specific figures.

From Mari Yamaguchi, Rarely-Read Book Inspires Japan-China Rift, AP in Yahoo! News on April 14, 2005.

A nationalist textbook newly approved by the Tokyo government is driving the deepest wedge in Japan-China relations in decades, but few of the country's students have ever read it.  Though given away for free, the book titled "New History Textbook" is used by only 18 of 11,102 junior high schools in Japan, reflecting many teachers' concerns over its content. It has been denounced by the leading teachers' union, and is well to the right wing of mainstream public opinion. 

The book's publishers claim surprise at the outcry.  "We only hope more schools choose our book," said Fusosha spokeswoman Yoko Ishimaru, acknowledging the textbook could have been more popular.  Only 10 public and eight private junior high schools use the textbook, meaning it reaches just 0.1 percent of the 1.2 million seventh graders.

Teachers' concerns over the content have limited use of the textbook, which covers all of Japan's history. The current edition has 236 pages, only about 20 of which deal with the 1920-1945 period, the height of Japanese expansionism.  But those 20 pages are highly inflammatory, with passages defending Japan's militarism as an attempt to liberate Asia from western colonialism and claiming that resource-poor Japan was pushed into a corner and used aggression as a last resort. Similar logic was used by Japan's wartime leaders.

Critics say the text underscores a disturbing, broader trend.  "All history textbooks are shifting their focus away from Japan's wartime atrocities," said Mikio Someya, a spokesman for the liberal Japan Teachers' Association, the country's leading teachers' union.  For example, he said, none of the textbooks approved this month mentions Japan's official role in establishing front-line brothels during the war. Historians say as many as 200,000 women from Korea, China, the Philippines, Taiwan and the Netherlands were forced into sexual slavery for Japanese soldiers.  Japan's military also seized up to 800,000 men from China, Korea and other Asian countries in the early 1900s and shipped them to Japan to work in coal mines and ports under brutal conditions. 

Chronology of Textbook Issues

1872 School Ordinance
1883 Textbook Approval System
1886 Textbook Authorization System
1904 The nationalization of textbooks for elementary schools. 
1945 The GHQ suspends moral education, Japanese history, and geography. The GHQ orders ultranationalism and militarist sections in textbooks of other subjects blacked out.
1946 The first postwar history textbook Kuni no Ayumi (“The Footsteps of a Nation”), authorized by the GHQ.
1949 Textbook Authorization System
1955 The then-Democrat Party, one of forerunners of the LDP (Liberal Democrat Party), publishes a series of three important reports, entitled The Deplorable Textbooks.
1958 The Course of Study becomes legally binding.
1962 Free Textbooks 
1965 Ienaga Textbook Controversy Suit (first case)
1967 Ienaga Textbook Controversy Suit (second case)
1970 Tokyo Regional Court Judge Sugimoto declares the Textbook Authorization System unconstitutional and illegal. 
1982 The Textbook Controversy of “The Invasion of China”.  In June 1982, Japanese major newspapers announced that Japan’s “invasion (shinryaku)” to China during the 1930s had been changed into Japan’s “advance (shinko)” of China in a new high school textbook for 1983 after the textbook screening by the MOE. In July, the Korean and Chinese governments protested to the Japanese government about this change. The MOE replied that this charge was in fact wrong and that there was no actual textbook, which was changed from “invasion” to “advance” to China, though there was one for the South East Asia. In August 1982, Miyazawa Kiichi, Chief Cabinet Secretary apologized to the Chinese and Korean governments. He promised that the Japanese government improve the criteria of screening textbooks for the war responsibility of Japan and make efforts to emphasize friendship and cooperation with neighboring countries when screening textbooks in the future. 
1984 Ienaga Textbook Controversy Suit (third case) 
1986 The Textbook Authorization System approves a High School History (Shinpen Nihonshi) textbook by the rightwing organization.
1989 The 1989 Course of Study for six-grade social studies requires textbook to mention 42 historical figures including Togo Heihachiro, a war hero of the Japan Sea Battle agains Russia during the Russo-Japan War. The Tokyo High Court declares that it is no benefit to judge the second Ienaga case because the case is too old. The plaintiff, Ienaga lost.
1993 The Supreme Court dismisses the first Ienaga case. The plaintiff, Ienaga lost.
1995 The Liberal View of History Study Group is formed.
1996 The Society for the Making of New History Textbooks is formed.
1997 The Supreme Court declares that the four cases: “Troop Somo,” Nanking Massacre, Unit 731 and the rape of women were “illegally” forced to change by the government’s screeners, and that the government compensate him for 400,000 yen. But the Supreme Court confirms the constitutionality of the Textbook Authorization System. The plaintiff, Ienaga partially won his third case.
2001 The Textbook Authorization System approves a history textbook and a civics textbook written by the Society for the Making of New History Textbooks.

(AFP via Hindustani Times)  The ways Japan has said sorry to its neighbours over the past.  April 11, 2005.

Japan's wartime past haunts its relations with its neighbours 60 years later, with Chinese protesters attacking Japanese interests and urging boycotts of its products and with passionate anti-Japanese sentiment in the two Koreas.  Japan occupied the Korean peninsula and much of China up to 1945, during which imperial troops forced thousands of women into sexual slavery and in 1937 carried out a massacre in the Chinese city of Nanjing.  At the root of the current tensions are perceptions among many Chinese and Koreans that Japan has not atoned for its wrongdoing.

Herewith some of the key statements by Japan on its past:

- June 1965: Japan establishes diplomatic relations with South Korea. Tokyo gives Seoul 800 million dollars in loans and grants. Seoul waives the right to compensation of Koreans who suffered under Japanese rule.

- September 1972: Japan normalizes relations with China. A joint communique says: "Japan is keenly conscious of its responsibility for the serious damage inflicted in the past on the Chinese people through war and deeply regrets it." China has refused compensation by Japan.

- May 1990: Emperor Akihito, the son of wartime emperor Hirohito, says during a banquet for visiting South Korean president Roh Tae-Woo: "I think of the sufferings your people underwent during this unfortunate period, which was brought about by my country, and cannot but feel deep regret."  Then premier Toshiki Kaifu goes further in his summit with Roh: "I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere remorse and apology for Japan's acts that made people on the Korean Peninsula suffer unbearable agony and sorrow during a period in the past." He notably did not use the words "colonial rule" or "aggression."

- October 1992: Emperor Akihito on a historic visit to Beijing tells a banquet hosted by president Yang Shangkun: "In the long history of relationship between our two countries, there was an unfortunate period in which my country inflicted great sufferings on the people of China. I deeply deplore this."

- November 1993: Morihiro Hosokawa, the first Japanese prime minister in more than 37 years not to come from the Liberal Democratic Party, says on a visit to South Korea: "I would like to offer my heartfelt remorse and apology as assailants for the unbearable pain and sorrow people on the Korean Peninsula experienced when they were deprived of being able to learn their mother tongue and forced to change their names to Japanese ones and through the recruitment as comfort women, forced labor and various other ways."

- August 1995: In a landmark statement, prime minister Tomiichi Murayama - only the second socialist to head a Japanese government - apologizes on the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II.  "During a certain period in the not too distant past, Japan, following a mistaken national policy, advanced along the road to war, only to ensure the Japanese people in a fateful crisis and, through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian countries," Murayama says.  "In the hope that no such mistakes be made in the future, I regard, in a spirit of humanity, these irrefutable facts of history and express here once again my feelings of deep remorse and state my heartfelt apology."

- June 1996: Prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, in a meeting with South Korean president Kim Young-Sam, apologizes for sexual enslavement of "comfort women."  "Nothing injured the honour and dignity of your women more than this and I would like to extend words of soul-searching and apology from the bottom of my heart," Hashimoto says.

- October 1998: Prime minister Keizo Obuchi apologizes in a joint statement with South Korean president Kim Dae-Jung.  Obuchi says in the statement that Japan "sincerely recognized the historical fact that our country inflicted tremendous damage and suffering on the people of South Korea through the colonial rule during a certain period of the past and expressed deep remorse and a heartfelt apology over this."  Obuchi said later that he spoke on behalf of the Japanese government and Kim said the statement should settle the countries' troubles over their past.

- November 1998: Obuchi repeats Murayama's 1995 apology during a summit with Chinese president Jiang Zemin. The two countries issue a joint statement in which Japan expresses its "deep remorse" over its past.

Addendum:  A much more detailed and expanded list is Japan’s Apologies to China at Muninn.

(SCMP)  The gods of war China can't forgive.  By Doug Nairne.  April 24, 2005.

They account for a mere fraction of 1 per cent of the 2.46 million Japanese honoured at the Yasukuni Shrine - 14 entries in the paper files that symbolically enshrine the souls of that nation's war dead.

Few outside Japan would even recognise many of their names - Kiichiro Hiranuma, Koki Hirota, Heitaro Kimura and the others. Fewer still would know details of the war crimes they were convicted of by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East in Tokyo (IMTFE) during trials held from 1946 to 1948.

Yet personal obscurity has not stopped these men - and the Yasukuni shrine where they are venerated - from being notorious as a group. They are an increasingly painful irritant between China and Japan.

Visits to Yasukuni by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi since 2001 have resulted in angry protests, especially from China, where memories of Japan's war-time atrocities are kept strong by a government propaganda campaign. Critics such as Premier Wen Jiabao say Mr Koizumi's visits prove Japan has not atoned for its past aggression.

The complaint about Yasukuni is that 1,068 war criminals were secretly enshrined there in 1978 by the private religious foundation that has run the shrine since the Japanese government was forced to give it up after the second world war.

The group of 14 often referred to during condemnations of Mr Koizumi's visits are singled out because they were class-A war criminals. They are senior military and political leaders who conspired to wage war or permitted atrocities to take place under their command. Although these men may not have tortured, raped and murdered themselves, they allowed or encouraged others to do so.

The enshrined class-A war criminals all died in the custody of the Allied powers after the war. Seven were executed in 1948 for their involvement in mass atrocities. Five died while serving prison sentences for lesser crimes and two died while still on trial.

Their names are kept in a card file along with those of 2.46 million war dead enshrined since Yasukuni was built in 1869 by Emperor Meiji. All are venerated as gods.

Japan's wartime premier General Hideki Tojo and General Iwane Matsui are perhaps the best known of the class-A war criminals. Tojo was convicted of leading Japan into war with its neighbours. Matsui commanded the Japanese troops who sacked Nanking in 1937, slaughtering an estimated 300,000 civilians and soldiers and raping tens of thousands of women. Both were sentenced to death.

The others are a cross section of Japan's wartime leadership. Kiichiro Hiranuma was the founder of the nationalist society "Kokuhonsha" and a government minister. He was convicted of supporting aggression and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He died in 1952 after being released due to illness.

Koki Hirota was foreign minister during the Rape of Nanking and other carnage perpetrated by the Japanese army. He was convicted of allowing the atrocities to take place and sentenced to death.

General Heitaro Kimura helped plan Japan's attacks on China and in the Pacific. He was found guilty of brutalising prisoners of war and using slave labour to build the Siam-Burma Railway. He was also sentenced to death.

General Seishiro Itagaki was given a death sentence for orchestrating the 1931 Manchurian Incident that Japan used as an excuse to attack China and seize more territory. He also ran prisoner-of-war camps in Indonesia and Malaysia.

General Kenji Doihara and General Akira Muto were also ordered executed for their crimes. Doihara ran prisoner-of-war camps and Muto commanded troops involved in atrocities in Nanking and Manila.

Those sentenced to death were hanged one after the other at Sugamo Prison, beginning just after midnight on December 23, 1948. Their remains were taken to the Yokohama Municipal Crematorium and their ashes scattered to the winds.

Some have suggested that Mr Koizumi could placate Japan's neighbours and keep honouring the war dead by moving the symbolic presence of the class-A war criminals to a new site. But the priests who operate the shrine have rejected this option. Chief priest Toshiaki Nambu said recently it would be impossible to remove the souls of the 14 men.

"There is no class A or class B in Japan," he said. "We enshrine them all as war dead."

The priests who run the shrine have added to the controversy in other ways. They dismiss concerns about it as being a misunderstanding of Japanese culture which, they maintain, forgives people's sins when they die.

"A samurai apologises for his sins by performing hara-kiri," Mr Nambu told the Japan Times. "They die to atone for their sins. That's the tradition of Bushido (the way of the samurai), the spiritual culture of Japan.  Chinese people are different. They would punish even the dead."

The shrine's website (www.yasukuni.or.jp) goes further in defending its decision to enshrine Japanese war criminals.

"There were those who gave up their lives after the end of the Great East Asian War, taking upon themselves the responsibility for the war. There were also 1,068 'Martyrs of Showa' who were cruelly and unjustly tried as war criminals by a sham-like tribunal of the Allied forces. These martyrs are also the Kami [gods] of Yasukuni Jinja." 

1 General Hideki Tojo (1884-1948). Considered by some to be Japan's most notorious war criminal. He was premier of Japan for most of the war and assumed full responsibility for his country's actions

2 Koki Hirota (1878-1948). Foreign minister during the Rape of Nanking. He was a key figure in planning the war against China and Southeast Asia

3 General Kenji Doihara (1883-1948). Commanded Japanese troops during the invasion and occupation of China and later ran prisoner-of-war camps in Malaysia and Indonesia

4 General Seishiro Itagaki (1885-1948). Commanded troops in China, Korea and Singapore. Soldiers under his command committed atrocities against civilians

5 General Heitaro Kimura (1888-1948). Helped plan the war against China. He was the military commander in Burma when slave labour was used to build the Siam-Burma Railway

6 General Iwane Matsui (1878-1948). Commander of the forces in China during the late 1930s. Troops under his command were responsible for the Rape of Nanking and other atrocities

7 General Akira Muto (1892-1948). Troops under his command took part in both the Rape of Nanking and the Rape of Manila

8 Kiichiro Hiranuma (1867-1952). A government minister for two decades and founder of the militaristic Kokuhonsha society. He was convicted for his role in Japan's attacks on its neighbours

9 General Kuniaki Koiso (1880-1950). Known as "the Tiger of Korea" because of his brutality. As premier, he was aware of POW death camps

10 Toshio Shiratori (1887-1949). Director of the Information Bureau of the Foreign Ministry and a supporter of military expansion. He was convicted for his role in Japan's attacks on its neighbours

11 General Yoshijiro Umezu (1882-1949). Commanded troops in Guangdong and advocated a fight to the finish late in the war. He was convicted for his role in Japan's attacks on China, the US and other countries

12 General Hideki Togo (1884-1948). Diplomat and government minister. He was convicted for his role in Japan's attacks on China, the US and other countries

13 Admiral Osami Nagano (1880 -1947). Leader of the Japanese navy, he took responsibility for the attack on Pearl Harbour. He died of a heart attack while on trial

14 Yosuke Matsuoka (1880-1946). Foreign minister and advocate of Japan's alliance with the fascist powers during the war. He died of tuberculosis in a US military hospital.