Date: Sat, 16 May 98
From: Ono Seiko and Aaron Gerow 
Subject: People’s Daily on Pride

It was also reported in the papers that the Chinese _People’s Daily_ published an editorial article on the 14th severely criticizing the production of _Puraido: Unmei no toki_, the Toei-released film that focuses on Tojo Hideki and the Tokyo war crimes trails. The film, which opens on May 23rd, has already sparked criticism inside Japan for reportedly depicting Tojo favorably.

The Chinese paper declared (translating from the Japanese) that “fabricating this kind of movie is a threat to the people of Asia and a challenge against international society.” Entitled “The Beautification of War Criminals Cannot Be Excused”, the article said that “the filming of _Pride_ is not an accident, but a product of the expansion of right-wing forces in Japanese society.”

While I haven’t seen the film, the fact that one of the first previews was for LDP members and that the print ads basically construct Tojo as a Japanese Jefferson Smith (the top blurb: “Tojo vs. America: A sole individual’s fight with a nation’s pride at stake”; and the “quote” from Tojo: “I will fight. At this rate, Japan and the Japanese will be rendered the worst of nations and peoples.”), my impression is that the People’s Daily is not too far off the mark.

Anyone (such as Mark) seen the film yet?

Aaron Gerow


Date: Sun, 17 May 1998
From: “Jean W. Williams”
Subject: RE: People’s Daily on Pride

It will also be interesting to follow what Chinese filmmakers may have to say on the topic. Xie Jin, for example, previously in _People’s Daily_, has spoken of what he perceives as Japan’s “cultural impotence”.

Jean Williams

Date: Sun, 17 May 98
From: David Hopkins
Subject: RE: People’s Daily on Pride

Well, I told you about this movie when I first joined back in February. I haven’t seen the finished movie, but I have a copy of the final draft of the script, which I’ll be happy to copy for you if you’ll send me your address and, say, 1000 yen of bookstore coupons.

I would say it’s just as bad as the worst you can imagine. On the other hand, I can’t imagine it being popular with young people, who would be the only group unlikely to have a formed opinion on the topic.

The Wall Street Journal already covered it, too, on April 30th, and although the article seemed to be based more on the press conference announcing the movie than on the movie itself, they got it about right, I thought. Bizarrely, they said that Tsugawa Masahiko was the “Robert DeNiro of Japan,” while I think of him as a hack TV actor. Does he have any fans?

Anyway, free publicity is what the filmmakers want and need, so I say, ignore it. If you do go to see it, I’m the handsome middle-aged American officer behind the witness stand who is giving the finger to the camera all the time.

David Hopkins in Tenri

Date: Sun, 17 May 98
From: Ono Seiko and Aaron Gerow 
Subject: RE: People’s Daily on Pride

Thanks to David Hopkins for his post on _Pride_. I agree with him that, as consumers, we would be best off ignoring _Pride_, as scholars, there are still some issues we might want to pursue further.

The Mainichi this morning ran a rather long special report on the controversy. While covering both sides of the argument, the piece, in summarizing the movie, says, “The film, taking the point of view of Tojo, emphasizes that Japan was forced into fighting World War Two in order to defend itself and to liberate Asia from colonialism, and that the treatment of the Nanking Massacre in the Tokyo Trials was based on rumor and exaggeration and used by the Allies to censure Japanese militarism.”

The film was made for a very large budget of 1,500,000,000 yen to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Higashi Nippon Hausu, a housing company based on Morioka. HNH paid for 90% of the budget with Toei, which is distributing the film, covering only the remaining amount. HNH’s former chairman, Nakamura Isao, is the chair of the right-wing political party, “Seinen Jiyuto,” and started the “Gyokakai” in order to “rethink Japanese traditional culture and maintain pride in our history.” The film’s production committee is headed by the noted right-wing foreign policy expert, Kase Hideaki. The president of HNH, Asano Katsuaki, said that “We thought we had a duty to transmit a correct historical consciousness and to bring back pride in being Japanese.”

However, when Toei’s labor union read the script, it declared that the film “makes a hero out of Tojo and warps history.” Getting support from the industry wide labor union, Eiga Engeki Rodo Kumiai Sorengo, the union gained supporters from various fields and launched on April 20th the “Society to Criticize the Film Pride” which has called on Toei to cancel the release of the film.

Director Ito Shunya has defended himself by saying that “I am neither on the right nor the left. The Tokyo Trials were a continuation of the war after the war, and I depicted Tojo from the perspective that he was the one who best fought that battle.”

The Mainichi underlines in a sidebar that films like _Pride_ are a manifestation of the weak position of the film industry. Despite hits last year like _Paradise Lost_ and _Evangelion_, Toei revised its projected profits for this year down from 1.8 billion to 800 million yen. In such a state, the industry is more likely to rely on films largely paid for by outside sources. Thus Toei released one film last year paid for by the dubious religous cult, “Kofuku no Kagaku,” and this year opened an animated film paid for by the Otani-ha of Jodo Shinshu. Such films make economic sense for Toei: they obtain films for their theaters with little risk and often get the producing side to buy up the required number of advance tickets. In the case of _Pride_, HNH bought up 900,000 advance tickets (which it will presumably sell (or force on) its business partners and employees), so that there is absolutely no chance the film will not be a box-office success. (This is another reason to question the advance ticket system.)

Aaron Gerow


Date: Mon, 18 May 1998
From: David Hopkins 
Subject: RE: People’s Daily on Pride

Actually, my sister-in-law works for a plastics company that sells flooring and wallpaper to Higashi Nihon House and they were pressured to buy half-price tickets for all of their employees as a show of corporate loyalty. In the last few weeks, HNH stock has declined from 650 to around 570. Maybe they blew too much money? There is no reliable info available from companies that trade over-the-counter, only insiders have info.

David Hopkins

Date: Mon, 18 May 1998
From: “Peter B. High” 
Subject: RE:Toei’s PRIDE

PRIDE is not the first example of a postwar Japanese film sponsored by a political pressure group, since both the left (perhaps especially the left and the right have been in the background of numerous films. On the right, the Shin Toho spectacular EMPEROR MEIJI AND THE RUSSO JAPANESE WAR (MEIJI TENNO TO NICHIRO DAI SENSOU,1957), directed by the rightist-leaning Watanabe Kunio, springs to mind as one significant example. In addition to its nearly hagiographic portrayal of the Emperor himself, the film resurrects several of the “bidan” (or “tales of military virtue”–in this case the stories of Lt. Col. Hirose and Corporal Sugino) which had been featured in the pre-war and wartime National Language (Kokugo) and Ethics (Shushin) textbooks and which had been expurgated under the direct orders of SCAP. One apparent parallel between the MEIJI film and PRIDE is that they both were made by production companies facing severe economic difficulties (although MEIJI was a major hit, Shin Toho bellied up four years later), receiving important funding from non-film industry, politically- motivated sources.

As far as I know, however, PRIDE presents the most overt postwar example of a tendency which was very common during the 1930s–the direct sponsoring by a rightwing pressure group of a film to promote its political ideals and/or program. In the thirties such films tended to be “documentaries” (but there were dramas, or at least “dramatizations,” as well). Of course in those days, the government itself eagerly pushed the major film companies to turn out features which propagated official thinking on domestic and international issues, something they did by providing often lavish financial backing. But since the regular film companies contained few ideologues of either the right or the left, the direct influence of pure ideology on their films, even in those days, can probably be discounted. Patriotic themes–usually set in the context of war films— tended to be exploited commercially until they were played out, whereupon they were dropped.

Occasionally, the Army or Navy would hire a production company outright to make a propaganda picture. As experienced moulders of public opinion, the film units connected with the major newspapers were often favored. For example, the Army hired Mainichi to make Defend Manchuria (Mamore Manshu, 1932), a film of documentary footage interspersed with dramatized sequences which argued that Manchuria was part of Japan’s “lifeline” (the latter being a key phrases of the era). General Araki Sadao (leader of the radical Kodo-ha or “Imperial Way” faction inside the Army) used non-official funds to commission one of the most famous, the part-talkie Crisis-Time Japan (Hijoji Nippon, 1933), also produced by the Mainichi film unit. There, Araki appears on screen in full military uniform to lecture the nation on “the truth about Japan’s present-day situation at home and abroad.” What follows is a long, high-blown oration on the divine mission of the nation’s military. Oover a dozen years later the film would be introduced as “evidence” at the Tokyo War Crimes trial. Quite apart from such officially- and quasi-officially-commissioned propaganda pieces, “civilian” political pressure groups (the pre-war equivalents of the Nakamura Isao’s present-day “Seinen Jiyuto”) did manage to have their say as investors in specific film projects. Their impact was comparatively great in the case of small, “independent production” companies; many of them, like Taiheiyo or Akazawa Kinema, were quite tiny indeed. Independent production companies centered around a single star, such as Arashi Kanjuro or Bando Tsumasaburo, were particularly favored for the production of drama films. But these were often relationships fraught with discord, since the stars usually refused to become mere puppets.

Such was the case of Bando Tsumasaburo and his company. In February 1931, a public mudslinging contest broke out between the Kokusuikai (National Essence Society) and the infamous Kokuryukai (Black Dragon Society) over which of the two factions had the controlling interest in the company. Bando insisted that neither of them did. Howling with injured dignity, the Kokuryukai leveled a blast at him through the newspapers: “Bando owes our society a great debt of gratitude. After his resignation from Shochiku, we invested seventy throusand yen in his new company with the understanding that it would exert itself in the task of national education through films made in line with Kokuryukai principles.” At least part of the problem was that Bando’s popularity was sagging badly and he was having serious difficulty making any films at all.

By the late thirties, with the China Incident now in progress, the “itaku” (commissioned) film went into decline, partly because of the 1939 Film Law, partly because of the enforced “consolidation” of documentary film companies in 1940 and partly, quite simply, because the public never responded very favorably to them in the first place. In the case of Gen. Araki’s Crisis-Time Japan, the public responded with a sneer. The very term “Crisis-time” became the butt of numerous jokes, one of them running thusly: Question: What time is it? Answer: It’s Crisis-time!”

It seems to me that the production background of PRIDE can be seen in the context of this 1930s pre-war phenomenon. Certainly it provides an interesting precedent. Whether it signifies a serious revival of the ultra-right is still open to question. Still, there are worrisome straws in the wind. One of these is the steadily growing influence of Fujioka Nobukatsu’s “Atarashii Rekishi Kyokasho o Tsukuru Kai” (the Society for the Preparation of New History Textbooks”), a vocal group seeking to eliminate most references to the worst abuses during Japan’s aggressive-militarist past on the grounds that it signifies a peurile form of “self-maligning” (jigyaku). In much the same vein as Nakamura Isao, they call instead for school textbooks which “rethink Japanese traditional culture and maintain pride in our history.” Especially now that the New History Textbook Society has gained the fervent backing of the extremely popular maverick manga-artist Kobayashi Yoshinori (of “Goman-ism” fame), the numerous books put out by the Society line the shelves of university bookshelves and the buzz word “jigyaku” is known to most students. Mercifully however, it too has become the occasional butt of wry humor (sot of like “Crisis-time”), especially since “jigyaku” partakes somewhat in the significance of the English term, “self-abuse.”

Clearly, PRIDE shares to a great degree in this “self-consolation” form of national history.

Peter B. High
Nagoya University

Date: Tue, 19 May 1998
From: “Mark Schilling” 
Subject: Re: Pride

I went a screening of Pride today and had the sense, for once, to arrive early. The Toei screening room was packed with not only the usual industry types, but visitors in reserved seats who looked to be of the WWII generation. I’ll post my Japan Times review later, but as for first impressions: the film is surprisingly well-made, with a strong performance by Tsugawa Masahiko as Tojo, and not as crudely propogandistic as its origins would suggest. Much of it consists of courtroom and other scenes that are taken directly from the films of the Tokyo tribunal and otherwise follow the historical record fairly faithfully. (The operative word in this sentence is “fairly.”) .

The main objects are to, first, humanize Tojo as a self-sacrificing patriot, good family man and all-round decent, if deeply conflicted, guy and, second, justify Japan’s wartime policy as contributing to the liberation of Asian peoples, mostly notably Indians, laboring under the colonial yoke, while minimizing Japan’s wartime atrocities and maximizing the misdeeds and hypocrisy of her conquerors. The historical viewpoint is highly selective and, especially for the majority of younger Japanese who know next to zilch about their country’s recent history, highly misleading.

Is the film, as are so many maeuri ken eiga, a turkey that, without its corporate life support, would be DOA at the box office? The Westen media reports I’ve seen finesse this question, because most of the reporters who wrote them (1) did not see the film or (2) have no idea of how the market works in Japan. My own guess is that, though the film’s core audience is the same crowd that worships at Yasukuni Shrine – i.e, over fifties who lived through the war and its aftermath – it is also going to draw more than a fewer younger Japanese who buy Kobayashi’s “Gomanism” paperbacks, with their revisionist arguments against the “official” history of the Nanjing Massacre, and dig Beat Takeshi’s sneers at craven politicians and bureaucrats who suck up to their American overlords and crawl before Asian professional victims.

Far from being only the expensive hobbyhorse of a wacko rightist businessman, “Pride” expresses sentiments that are gaining ground here among not only ranters on sound trucks, but otherwise ordinary Japanese.

After seeing the film, I asked a friend in the Toei Kokusai-bu if Toei had any intention of selling it abroad. The answer, as one might expect, was a resounding “no,” though he said he would be glad to oblige anyone interested in screening it. A middle-management type who is not in the company union, he said emphatically that he “is not ashamed” of the film and thinks it will “do well in the Japanese market.” He also added, half-jokingly, that rightists were “protecting the company” from assault, though I didn’t notice any khaki-clad punch perms anywhere near the building.

Was Toei driven to investing and distributing the film by balance sheets woes? Perhaps the lure of quick yen in tough times made the greenlight decision easier, but Toei has an industry rep as a “yakuza” company with right-wing tendencies. Their 1995 film commemorating the 50th anniversary of the end of WW II, “Kike Wadatsumi no Koe” (Last Friends) was the most blatantly nationalistic of any of the war movies of that year. President Tan Takaiwa told me in an interview that he viewed the film as a message to younger generation aimed at making them better understand the glorious sacrifices of their forebearers. No wonder Toei is presenting “Pride” with pride.

Mark Schilling

Date: Fri, 22 May 1998
From: “Peter B. High” 
Subject: Re: Mainichi’s Review of PRIDE

PRIDE, the Toei film which apparently sings the praises of wartime leader Tojo Hideki (unfortunately I haven’t seen it yet), has come up for discussion several times so far. In today’s (5/22) Mainichi Shimbun (evening edition) it was reviewed by critic Nojima Koichi and I thought readers would be interested to see an example of how the Japanese media views this film/phenomenon. Roughly translated, Nojima writes:

************************************************************************************* “ ‘PRIDE’–AN UNDENIABLE SENSE OF AWKWARDNESS” Even before its release, PRIDE came under attack from both the Chinese press and Toei’s own trade union. Of course this is because it has former PM and Class A War Criminal Tojo Hideki, probably the most widely-reviled Japanese individual ever, as its main character. The film itself features a scene in which Tojo’s grandson is forced to stand in front of his elementary school teacher and hear his grandfather condemned as “worse than a thief.” Not only did Tojo pull Japan into a miserable, losing war, he failed to die when he shot himself in a suicide attempt. Clearly the purpose of the movie is to use the Tojo story to shore up the opinion that “Japan was not the only villain of the war.”

The Tokyo War Crimes Trial, in which the Allied forces try the Class A War Criminals, dominates the film. Before seeing the film, I wondered why the filmmakers felt it necessary to dramatically re-enact the trial, since we already have so much documentary footage available and since Kobayashi Masaki’s feature-length documentary, THE TOKYO WAR CRIMES TRIAL [1983.see Note A below], gives us such a detailed account. As it turns out, the trial comes across as a far more powerful sense of drama than we get from [Kobayashi’s] carefully edited documentary footage.

Scott Wilson, as Prosecutor Kenan, puts in a very convincing performance, as does Tsugawa Masahiko as Tojo. Kenan asks Tojo, “Do you think that what you did was right?” to which the defendant replies, “Most certainly.” Next Kenan demands, “And would you do it again if you are acquitted?” The highpoint of the film is where he thunders this line. Still, taken as a whole, the film gives a certain sense of awkwardness. This probably comes from the maladroit attempt to intertwine the themes of the Indian independence movement [see Note B] and the Trials itself. Apparently the original plan was to focus on the independence movement and it was the director, Ito Toshiya’s idea to incorporate the Trials. As it turns out, the center of the film has shifted to the trial, and the Indian independence motif gets enveloped in a mist. It probably would have been better boldly to sieze on the Trials as the film’s only subject. That way, it could have delved more deeply into the issue of Prosecutor Kenan.

Throughout the trial Tojo maintains a combative stance. When the issue of the Nanjing Massacre is raised, he responds, “It is inconceivable that the Imperial Army could have carried out such an act.” Thus, in this way, the film presents in a very straight manner Tojo’s own viewpoint. In ordeer to get a more balanced fix on the latter issue, viewers might do well to see NANJING 1937. The film is two hours and forty-one minutes in length.


Note A: Kobayashi apparently took quite a number of years to work his documentary material into a sort of private “thesis” film concerning ther Trials. The point he makes is that they were an emotionalized farce in which very little in the way of “actual war crimes” was proven. Personally, I was shocked by his bold intercutting of footage from the My Lai massacre and of the atomic bombings to demonstrate that America was just as “guilty” as Japan. While I agreed that the A-bombing was a serious mistake and American actions in Vietnam utterly reprehensible, I felt that Kobayashi was consciously attempting to obscure the issues of the Trials and to create an apologia for wartime Japan. Just a year before Kobayashi’s film came out, psychologist/pop essayist Kishida Shu published his famous collection of essays, Monogusa Seishin Bunseki, where in one essay he roundly condemns the Trials in a similar manner. In a style of foaming-at-the-mouth with righteous indignation (in many way he was a fore-runner of Kobayashi Yoshinori’s “goman-ism”), he “psychologically analyzes” America as a nation shot through with “giman” (self-deception), a condition which causes it to believe that its “rhetoric and idealism” makes it in fact morally pure, while in fact, from the days of the Puritan’s Pequoit War, it has consistently engaged in loathsome, genocidal activities. The Trials, he says, were a perfect example of this “giman.” He ends his essay with the ringing line, “Until America becomes ashamed of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials and until America returns the land it has stolen from the Indians, I will never trust an American.” The book stayed in print until 1991.

Although Kobayashi’s America-phohobic stance is far more muted in THE TOKYO WAR CRIMES TRIALS, the underlying logic has close similarities.

Note B: The issue of Japan’s sympathy with and fostering of the Indian independence movement became the subject of a major film during the Pacific War–Kinugasa Teinosuke’s ADVANCE, FLAG OF INDEPENDENCE (Susume Dokuritsu Ki, Toho, 1943–available unsubtitled on video), a syrupy semi-“spy” drama set in 1939 Japan and featuring Hasegawa Kazuo as an Indian independence activist refugeeing in Japan. The character he plays expresses awe and adoration for Everything Japanese, looking to Japan as the potential savior of his people. When he is kidnapped from a Tokyo street by the nefarious British ambassador (Saito Tatsuo) and held captive in the British embassy, he commits suicide. Pro-Japanese real-life Indian independence leader, Chandra Bose, makes a brief appearance in the Toho war documentary MALAYAN WAR RECORD (Maraya Senki, 1942) in the section depicting the All-Asian Conference called together in Tokyo by Tojo Hideki.

Peter B. High
Nagoya University

Date: Sat, 23 May 1998
From: “Mark Schilling” 
Subject: Re: Mainichi’s Review of PRIDE

Here, for the curious, is my Japan Times review of “Pride,” which will appear in the Tuesday, May 26 edition.

Most Japanese movies slip in and out of the theaters while registering barely a blip on the mental radar screen of the local foreign community. I wish I had Y100 for every glazed look I’ve encountered when I mention “Mononoke Hime” (The Princess Mononoke), the Hayao Miyazaki animation that shattered all Japanese box office records last year – I could buy a ticket to “Titanic,” which recently surpassed it as Japan’s biggest-ever box office winner. One recent Japanese film, however, is getting the plenty of attention from outlanders – nearly all of it negative. That film is “Pride – Unmei no Toki” (Pride – The Fatal Moment), a biopic that focuses on the wartime career and subsequent war crimes trial of former prime minister Hideki Tojo. When I first heard about the production of the film, underwritten by a home developer whose chairman is a notorious rightist, I thought it was sick joke, comparable to an aging German industrialist with neo-Nazi sympathies financing a Broadway revival of “Springtime for Hitler”

But no, the makers of “Pride” are in deadly earnest and, far from being a cheap whitewash, their film is a lavish big-budget production with elaborately realistic period sets (including the gallows from which Toho and his six fellow war criminals swung), location scenes shot in India with thousands of extras, and an all-star cast headed by Masahiko Tsugawa, who pulls out all stops as Tojo. This formidably gifted veteran, who is best known abroad for his work in the comedies of Juzo Itami, also bears a strong physical resemblance to the late wartime leader and has gone on the promo campaign trail to plump for the film’s historical accuracy, while excoriating his countrymen for losing their Yamato damashi (Japanese spirit) and forgetting Bushido (the way of the samurai). Clearly for Tsugawa, as well as for director Shunya Ito and others involved in the production, “Pride” is not a straight soul-for-cash deal with the devil, but a labor of conviction, even love.

What is that conviction? To put it simply, it is that, far from being the horned arch-demon of Allied wartime propaganda, Tojo was a staunch patriot, able leader and warm-hearted family man who personified the samurai spirit of loyalty and self-sacrifice. Meanwhile, the film presents the Tokyo Trial, at which an international panel of judges heard the cases of 28 defendants charged with war crimes, as a little more than vehicle for victor’s revenge, whose death sentence for Tojo was a foregone conclusion. It also makes the claim that Japan was fighting, not for its own aggrandizement, but to free the subject peoples of Asia, particularly Indians, from the yoke of their white colonial masters.

Though I sat through “Tokyo Saiban” (Tokyo Trial), Masaki Kobayashi’s exhaustive, if exhausting, four-and-a-hour 1983 documentary, I cannot claim to be an expert on either Tojo or his trial. What I can say, after rummaging through yellowed clips and poking about World War II tomes to refresh my memory, is that the film is not totally off the mark. Tojo did have more than a few admirable qualities, including a rock-solid integrity of a kind in short supply among today’s bureaucrats and politicians, and a razor-sharp mind that tore many of his prosecutors’ ill-informed arguments to shreds. Also, the film’s portrayal of his trial is, as far it goes, faithfully follows the outline of the historical record, including the refusal of GHQ authorities to permit publication of the minority opinion of Indian jurist Rabhabinod Pal, the only judge to find the defendants innocent of all charges (and who is, not incidentally, the film’s sole non-Japanese hero).

“Pride” is not content, however, to correct errors and distortions that have crystallized, over the decades, into received opinion. Instead, it presents a one-sided view of its hero and his deeds that may have many cinematic precedents – the Japanese film industry has been releasing nationalistic war films for decades – but goes beyond most in its unapologetic revisionism. Given that growing numbers of Japanese are subscribing to that revisionism, thanks in part to Ministry of Education censorship that has made proper instruction in World War II history all but impossible, “Pride” is a film that deserves serious attention, not casual dismissal.

One could take issue with the way the film massages its depictions of events to fit its particular mold. More important, however, are its glaring omissions. The film presents Tojo as the embodiment of traditional Japanese virtue, who stoically undermines his own defense to save his Emperor. We never see the blinkered, rigid ultranationalist who failed to fully calculate the costs of the war or the chances of success, to the grief of millions. It portrays chief prosecutor Joseph Keenan as an arrogant, ignorant, politically motivated score settler whose case against Tojo depended on fragmentary anecdotes and baseless insinuations. It conveniently omits testimony by prosecution witnesses, including eyewitnesses to the Rape of Nanjing, that offered irrefutable evidence of Japanese aggression and brutality.

It gives us scenes of pure-hearted Japanese soldiers and their Indian allies, led by Subhas Chandras Bose, advancing gloriously against the British imperialists on the India-Burma border in 1944. It does not show us the outcome: confused retreat, despite direct orders from Tokyo to hold ground, followed by disease, suicide, and a complete breakdown in discipline. It also does not present the fruits of Japanese “liberation” in Asia – a hatred and distrust of Japan that endures among survivors and their descendants to this day. What is really needed to counter “Pride,” however, is not outraged reviews in English-language newspapers, but a film that presents the whole truth about Tojo and his co-defendants, that effectively revises the revisionists. But who would finance it and film it, especially to the tune of “Pride“ ‘s Y1.5 billion? Hard to imagine anyone being so foolish, isn’t?. There’s a market for “Pride,” but not a nation’s shame.

Date: Sat, 23 May 1998
From: Lawrence Marceau 
Subject: Pride

The CNN website carried an item from the AP wire service on the film “Pride” today. I guess we can’t ignore it, even if we wanted to. (I hope AP doesn’t sue me for quoting the article…)

Film depicts Tojo, Japan’s WWII leader, as a hero

May 23, 1998

TOKYO (AP) – A Japanese movie that stirred controversy for depicting Japan’s most notorious war criminal as a hero was released Saturday throughout the country amid protests from neighboring Asian countries.

The film, “Pride,” about Japan’s wartime leader Gen. Hideki Tojo, has provoked harsh criticism from China and North Korea. But the movie had a quiet start in Tokyo, where no protests were held and theaters had empty seats.

So far, the Japanese public has largely ignored the movie. Aside from one small campaign against it by a labor union, there have been no major demonstrations.

But in Beijing, the state-run Xinhua News Agency again attacked the film Saturday calling it “reactionary,” saying it “turns history upside down” and sought to beautify Japan’s wartime actions.

At Marunouchi Toei theater in Tokyo’s posh Ginza shopping district, only the first showing – which was preceded by greetings from the film’s stars – was nearly full. The other three viewings had plenty of empty seats, the theater said.

The film opened at some 140 other theaters around the country.

Toei, the studio that made “Pride,” said viewer reaction has been good at special screenings before Saturday’s release. Some people were deeply moved, and others left feeling proud of being Japanese, Toei said.

Tojo was hanged 50 years ago after being tried as a Class-A war criminal at the Military Tribunal for the Far East in Tokyo.

Tojo, who served as prime minister from 1941 to 1944, gave the go-ahead for the attack on Pearl Harbor. In one scene in the film, Tojo refuses to believe that Japanese forces carried out the Nanjing Massacre in China. The filmmakers defend the scene as faithful to Tojo’s personality.

In announcing the film earlier this month, Toei, said the company wanted to correct the perception imposed by American victors that Tojo was a militarist aggressor.

“Pride” cost $11 million to make, three times Toei’s usual budget.

The film suggests Tojo was actually a peaceful man who took Japan to war in self-defense and to liberate Asia from Western colonialism – a popular view among Japanese ultra right-wing activists and politicians who defend Japan’s wartime role.

Last week, China expressed “shock” at the way Tojo was portrayed in the film, and North Korea called it “shameless.”

Fending off growing international criticism, Foreign Ministry pokesman Sadaaki Numata said Friday: “Whatever may be contained in this film in no way reflects the position of the government of Japan.”

Lawrence Marceau

Date: Sun, 7 Jun 98
From: Ono Seiko and Aaron Gerow 
Subject: Rightist attack


Just after noon on the 6th, a 27-year old self-proclaimed rightist slashed the screen of Yokohama’s Shinema Beti theater, which that day was beginning its run of the Hong Kong-China co-production, _Nanking 1937_ (a 1995 film directed by Ziniu Wu). The film is a dramatic recreation of the Nanjing Massacre. A letter had arrived from a right wing group on the 5th calling for a cancellation of the showing and right-wing promotional trucks had made the same call on the 5th and 6th. Perhaps as a precaution, the Isezaki Police Station had sent an officer to the theater, and thus the slasher was immediately arrested.

The theater was able to tape up the screen and continue that day’s showings.

Aaron Gerow

Yokohama National University
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