to honor a
Gen. Tojo's granddaughterBy Martin Fackler
is altering views of the man who
ordered the Pearl Harbor attack
TOKYO -- She wants a simple ceremony.
Like many who visit Pearl Harbor, she will lay flowers at the memorial to the battleship Arizona, which sank with 1,102 sailors during the Japanese attack of Dec. 7, 1941. Then she will bow her head in a moment of silence.
But Yuko Tojo will be no ordinary visitor. She is the granddaughter of Gen. Hideki Tojo, who ordered the surprise raid that plunged the United States into World War II.
She said her visit Tuesday will fulfill a dying wish of the wartime leader, hanged by the Allies after Japan's surrender.
"In my grandfather's will, he said he wanted to hold a ceremony to honor all the war dead, regardless of which side they fought on," she said. "On behalf of the Tojo family, I'm going to carry out my grandfather's wish."
By paying her respects at the Arizona, for Americans the quint-essential symbol of Japan's war-time aggression, Tojo is attempting to gain international recognition for her efforts to rehabilitate his memory.
Whatever Americans may think, her message that he was a patriot -- and not a war criminal -- has won growing acceptance in Japan.
Pride grows in JapanExperts say a long recession and frustration at what many Japanese see as Japan's lack of respect in world affairs have made more people receptive to calls for national self-assertion.
Gen. Tojo, Japan's prime minister from 1941-1944, has been widely remembered both at home and abroad as Asia's answer to Adolf Hitler, a dictator who unleashed a savage war of aggression on its Asian and Pacific neighbors.
But his granddaughter contends the general had no choice but to go to war. Japan's very survival was threatened by a U.S. oil embargo, which she called a jealous attempt by the larger power to strangle an emerging Asian rival.
"Tojo was totally different from Hitler. Hitler murdered his own people. Tojo fought to save his."
And while most blame Gen. Tojo for the deaths of millions, his granddaughter embraces the view of revisionist historians here that Japanese military atrocities have been grossly exaggerated.
She says the image of her grandfather as a butcher was largely a fabrication of the Tokyo war trials, which she says wrongfully sentenced him and six other Japanese leaders to death in 1947 for crimes against humanity.
She concedes that she might have difficulty bringing Americans around to her way of thinking. But she says just being able to defend her grandfather in public is itself a small victory.
For most of her life, the 59-year-old said she has been afraid even to use her family name.
The hardest time was just after the war. Schoolteachers refused to teach her and her brother. Merchants chased her mother from their stores. Her father lost his job at an insurance company.
"Our father made us promise never to talk back, no matter what was said to us," she said. "Silence became our family's creed."
She didn't break that creed until 1992, when she published a memoir of her grandfather. The book became the basis for a movie last year, "Pride," that broke old taboos by portraying Gen. Tojo as the victim of vindictive Allied judges during the Tokyo war trial.
Crowds lined up to see the movie, making it one of the top-grossing domestic films last year, with proceeds of $169 million.
But only a handful of theaters dared to show "Nanjing 1937," a Chinese film released at the same time that portrayed Japanese soldiers as engaging in an orgy of violence in the Chinese city that left up to 300,000 dead.
Right-wing protesters slashed the screen at a Tokyo theater where the film was shown.
Since the release of "Pride," Tojo says she's been inundated by invitations to speak and requests for media interviews.
The attention, she says, is proof the time has come for Japan to discard the negative image of her grandfather and other war dead.
"In America, it's normal to revere those who died for their country," she said. "In Japan, we can't even do that. There's more respect paid for the Japanese soldiers at the Arizona memorial than at museums here in Japan."