The Memory of Nanking: More from the Japanese Side

If we look at the historical event of the Nanking Massacre from the conservative Japanese point of view, the massacre becomes something quite different: instead of Japanese brutality over the Chinese, we see Japanese troops strictly executing their orders and behaving like any other army: capturing and executing only Chinese troops and letting go the Chinese civilians.

One important aspect of Higashinakano's argument is that he tries to uphold that his argument is based on objective evidence instead of polemics. Therefore his essay is amply documented with footnotes. On the other hand, he goes to a different body of evidence than the other writers we have covered: instead of newspaper or other documented figures of deaths, he looks up data indicating the expenses associated with burials, and then deduct from there how many must have been buried, then comparing the figure he deduced with the one declared by the burying agency, such as the Red Swastika[Cross] Society. He also argues that because the seven agencies involved in burials in Nanking mentioned by China in the Tokyo trials were not mentioned by contemporary documentation in 1938 and 1939, they did not exist.(pp.98-100)

Higashikano further argues that the Japanese soldiers obeyed the International Law relating to war conduct as laid down in the Hague International Court (1907), that the Chinese soldiers failed to conduct their war lawfully, therefore were not qualified as belligerents, and could be dealt with not as POWs. He further quotes from American and English contemporary witnesses to corroborate his view. (100-103) He also argues that the original sources of the death statistics were unreliable. (104-106, 113-114) He further discredits the statistics of rape victims because they were note reported in the China Yearbook nor to the Japanese authorities in China. (107-110) Finally, he argues that due to the unreliability of the statistics on the massacre, it should be renamed the "Nanking Incident," indicating clashes between the Japanese and Chinese but no large scale Chinese deaths.

The position taken by Higashikano is quite typical of conservative Japanese who try to prove that the Nanking Massacre did not happen through studious documentation. But the essay by Haruko Taya Cook (Li, chap.7) shows a significant area unexamined by those conservatives in their documentation of the event, namely, contemporary reports in Japanese newspapers that glorified the Japanese occupation of Nanking and massacres of the Chinese soldiers there. (pp.121-124) Cook points out that under the veneer of conformity in Japanese reports on China were journalists like Ishikawa who, despite that their more or less truthful depictions of the war were censored, still sent forth through publications glimpses of the truth picture of the war. It is also interesting to compare Higashikano's use of sources with the sources used by Chinese writers like Lee (chap.4), or Sun (chap.3). It is obvious that the objectivity of a piece of history writing not only depends on how many sources it uses, but also on its selection of sources, as different sources can help shape different arguments. A good historian should be able to use a wide range of sources, including those that contradict his/her arguments, and explain how his/her picture of history are justified despite information that points to the contrary (at least on the surface).