Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Tadashi Saito

【#260】Asahi Shimbun in Summer 1945

Tadashi Saito / 2014.08.20 (Wed)

August 18, 2014

     “We are Japanese. We are all Japanese… Some in the crowd began to sing a song. The military song was ‘Umi Yukaba’ (If I go away to the sea)… It’s the voice of the nation. It’s the voice of the people who respect the will of the emperor and are ready to enter hardship. The Japanese race was not defeated.”
     Above is a report by the Asahi Shimbun of August 16, 1945, the day after the emperor declared Japan’s defeat in war, on the scene of the previous day at the Imperial Palace Plaza. Newspapers then had only two pages amid paper shortages. But there were too many news to report. Each newspaper page was filled with small letters, without line breaks.

Two Asahi articles angered GHQ
     On September 15, the newspaper carried comments by politician Ichiro Hatoyama in a story titled “A Plan to Create A New Party - Part 1.” He discussed his desire for a new party and made the following comment in response to a reporter’s question on the policies of postwar reconstruction: “As far as the United States pursues a slogan that ‘justice represents power,” the country will not be able to deny that its use of atomic bombs and its killing of innocent people are violations of international law and war crimes that are more grave than attacks on hospital ships or the use of poison gas. Let Americans inspect the miserable state of devastated areas and acknowledge their compensation for their acts and responsibility for reconstruction…” The comment demonstrates his unyielding spirit that cannot be expected from Yukio Hatoyama, his grandson and ex- prime minister.
     On September 17, the Asahi carried a story titled “(Japanese) Military Urged to Explain – ‘Violence in the Philippines’ to Be Announced -- Voice of People.” The story included its reporter’s concluding comment: “What is the motive of U.S. military’s decision to announce this? Some speculate that media reports on violence (by American soldiers since the occupation forces’ landing on Japan) may be linked to the announcement of Japanese forces’ wrongdoing.” The comment means that while Japanese must regret Japanese forces’ atrocity, the occupation forces may be willing to offset increasing crimes by American soldiers with the atrocity by announcing the Japanese military act at this timing.
     The two stories gravely angered the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces, known as GHQ.

From a ban on printing to enhanced self-censorship
     The Asahi was ordered to suspend newspaper printing for 48 hours from 4 p.m. on September 18. While a fabricated story on an interview with a former communist party leader Ritsu Ito is famous for missing from the reduced-size collector’s edition of Asahi Shimbun, the September 19 and 20 issues are absent from the reduced Asahi edition for September 1945. The absence indicates nothing other than then Asahi reporters’ honorable attempt to defend freedom of the press in protest against censorship by the occupation forces.
     But Asahi executives chose business rather than freedom of the press. Historian Taketoshi Yamamoto’s excellent work titled “GHQ no Ken-etsu, Choho, Senden Kosaku (GHQ’s censorship, intelligence and propaganda operations)” includes a chapter captioned “Good Censorship Records for Asahi Shimbun.” The Asahi enhanced its voluntary in-house censorship system in a bid to avoid any more punishment by the occupation forces. The book says: “Particularly, the Asahi was punished under censorship far less frequently than the Mainichi or Yomiuri. The Asahi had been a favorable medium for censorship authorities since the precensorship days.” A wise man suddenly changes his mind.

Tadashi Saito is Director, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.