Magazine article Insight on the News

WW II's Tojo 'Warm and Thoughtful?' (Film Presents New Image of Japan's Wartime Prime Minister, Hideki Tojo)(Brief Article)

Magazine article Insight on the News

WW II's Tojo 'Warm and Thoughtful?' (Film Presents New Image of Japan's Wartime Prime Minister, Hideki Tojo)(Brief Article)

Article excerpt

Have Japanese filmmakers Turned a war criminal into a Victim of `victors' justice?

History ranks Hideki Tojo, Japan's wartime prime minister who ordered the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, with Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini as notorious villains. But Tojo has returned with a different image in a movie that depicts the executed war criminal as a kindly grandfather who sacrificed his life to absolve Emperor Hirohito of responsibility for World War II.

The movie, titled Pride, the Fateful Moment, drew sellout crowds to 145 theaters across Japan in May. Prerelease publicity prompted protests :from China and North Korea, two nations brutalized under Japanese rule, and Japan's government distanced itself from the two-hour, 41-minute film. But conservative politicians, including prominent members of the Diet, Japan's parliament, called the movie a cathartic achievement to help rebuild national self-esteem.

"Movies should be fun, so I hope this movie will cheer up the Japanese people," said Masahiko Tsugawa, the actor who played the prime minister who ruled Japan from 1941 to 1944. Tsugawa made his remarks in an appearance with the cast before a noon showing at a packed theater in Tokyo's upscale Ginza district.

Tokyo's role in World War II polarizes Japan like no other issue. On the left, politicians and activists eagerly publicize atrocities such as the 1937 Rape of Nanjing, the use of women as sex slaves for front-line troops and germ-warfare experiments on prisoners of war and entire Chinese villages.

Politically powerful right-wingers claim Japan fought in self-defense and to liberate Asia from white colonial powers. They argue that reports of Japanese atrocities either are fabricated or exaggerated.

Pride, the Fateful Moment, backs the latter view, but only tangentially. Primarily, the film dwells on the two years Tojo spent in prison, portraying him agonizing in his prison cell as he wrote his own defense affidavit with a stubby pencil. It also focuses on Indian Judge Radhabinod, the only justice to rule Tojo and six other defendants not guilty.

The film's climax comes with Tojo on the witness stand being grilled by the American prosecutor, who asks a final question: Did the emperor order or endorse the bombing of Pearl Harbor? …

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