Franklin D. Roosevelt knew Japan was going to attack Pearl Harbor. So he upped the number of sailors on the Arizona in a purposeful sacrifice of Americans to build support for the war he wanted to wage against Japan. This is but one of the “historical truths” perpetuated by Toshio Montoya (writing under the pen name Seiji Fuji) in his collection of essays entitled, Theoretical Modern History II, The Real History of Japan. Balderdash, one might conclude and leave it at that, except that Montoya is Chairman of the APA Group that operates one of Japan’s largest and most popular hotel chains. And each of their 52,310 hotel rooms comes equipped with a copy of this tome.
The brand–that opened its first overseas hotel in New Jersey in 2015–targets budget minded travelers and mostly delivers on the promise of “high functionality, high quality, and environmental friendliness.” It’s a cut out the unnecessary frills sort of affair and given the reported 30 percent plus operating margins (in an industry where 5 percent margins means you’re doing fine), the company is clearly getting something right. Montoya claims that an APA room’s carbon footprint is about a third that of the competition. Plausible, given that APA room dimensions are about a third that of the competition. Small, it turns out, has moral implications, though less environmentally sage and in line with Japanese packaging OCD, each of the four cotton swabs in the inventory of disposable plastic toiletries were individually wrapped.
Compact proved just fine–with the exception of the bathroom, a four by four module designed for the space station. Annoyingly, closing the door for a number two required swiveling to two-o-clock to keep my knees out of the way. I’m six one, but still. A shame because the commode was equipped with one of those supremely civilized bidet spigot systems that I’ve learned to appreciate. Jonesing for a read (I’d forgotten my Kindle in our previous location–it was found, of course, and returned a few days later) I picked up Montoya’s book and wedged myself in for a history lesson.
It was thus that I learned of FDR’s machinations at Pearl Harbor and that the Nanking massacre and the forced sexual slavery of Korean (and other) “comfort women” never happened. Pure fabrications, according to Montoya, tooted by China and South Korea to distract their citizens from their respective domestic economic crises. He links this regional economic malaise to South Korea’s “long tradition of neglecting safety” as evidenced by the tragic sinking of the SV Sewol and the capsizing of pleasure boats on the Yangtze. The kicker is that in 2007 the Japan Times reported that four APA properties were shut down because an architectural firm faked safety data resulting in hotels that failed to meet Japan’s earthquake safety standards. The catastrophic failings in both the design of and response to the meltdown of the Fukushima reactors are more recent, glaring, and dangerous examples of shortcomings in the safety department. Interestingly, Montoya does mention the disaster, but this to lament the rise in construction costs and labor shortages (affecting development expenses) triggered by the remediation and rebuilding.
Montoya blames Japan’s “masochistic press” for having made “Japan the world’s most anti-Japan nation.” To right this, he proposes establishing a Ministry of Information with an annual budget of 300 billion yen (about 3 billion dollars) staffed with 3,000 quick response counter information specialists whose task it would be to “make corrections to articles and news reports [regarding Japan] that are inconsistent with reality.” In a revealing specific, Montoya recommends that Japan tap into the “Jewish information network” by using “American marketing companies funded by Jewish people” to respond to Chinese and South Korean information wars on historical issues.
As an unabashed supporter of Prime Minister Abe, a staunch right of center nationalist, Montoya pledges complete support of the administration’s efforts to scrap Article 9 of Japan’s constitution. That’s the one that prohibits Japan from engaging in warfare as a means of settling international disputes. Montoya feels that US policy in the region has created a power vacuum and that Japan is the only country that can restrain China’s military expansion. “It is fair to say,” Montoya opines, “that all the disorder occurring in the world of late is caused by the ‘Obama Doctrine’ in which military power is just shown off, not exercised.” I’m not sure how he reconciles this with the last major exercise of US force, its disastrous aftermath, and its unquestionable nexus to the disorder of which he speaks. At a minimum it evidences amnestic tendencies. Incidentally, Montoya feels that a Trump presidency would be an ideal opportunity for Japan to reassert herself.
Biases built into history as written by the victors are real. I believe that dropping the atomic bombs on largely civilian populations was a mistake and that race probably played a part as Montoya alleges. On the flip side, I don’t think Montoya would concede that Japan’s imperial and bloody march through Asia was motivated by the belief that their’s, the Yamato, was a divine race–with all other races considered inferior. Montoya legitimately points a finger at the US military industrial complex and its relationship to US aggression but in the same breadth plugs superior Japanese military technology as necessary to regional stability. He’s adamant that America’s sanctions forced Japan into war but glosses over that fact that these were in direct response to Japan’s annexation of mineral rich Manchuria.
Montoya recounts a meeting with the Charge d’Affaires Ad Interim at the Haitian embassy in Tokyo whereby they agreed that, “no country is more wonderful than Japan when evaluated from a global viewpoint.” Perhaps this is true. But with North Korea lobbing increasingly sophisticated missiles into the Sea of Japan and Chinese territorial grabs in the South China Sea (ruled illegal by UNCLOS), a thoughtful, calculated and coordinated response is necessary. Japan’s role in deescalating tensions will be substantially less effective if commandeered by those who view the past through such a clouded lens.