Conflicting recommendations show the difficulty in standarizing how Japanese history textbooks portray historical episodes of wartime aggression, including the Nanjing Atrocities.
For decades China endured the presence of military troops on her soil in accordance with the provisions of Article IX of the Boxer Protocol of 1901, allowing military guards to be posted and military maneuvers to be conducted at 12 specific points along this rail line. Chinese authorities were not required to be notified when such maneuvers took place. However, in the summer of 1937 Japan’s military presence had grown exceedingly large, causing alarm by the Chinese government. On the night of July 7, 1937, the Japanese Guandong Army, stationed on China’s South Manchurian Railroad, staged military night maneuvers. After several months of witnessing the growing presence of Japanese soldiers in the area (upward of 5,000), Chinese troops feared an attack was under way. Both sides fired blank shots at each other, and when the fighting stopped, a Japanese soldier was feared missing. In response, the Japanese commander ordered an attack on Wanping the next day. The Chinese were able to win this battle, but it is considered the beginning of World War II in East Asia.
Soldiers serving in China’s nationalist forces and the Japanese imperial Army left a trail of evidence through letters home, battlefield diaries, and other accounts. One Japanese reserve soldier, Amano Saburo, arrived in Shanghai on November 29, 1937. He was a member of the Sixty-Fifth Regiment, which, like other special units of the imperial Army, was hastily assembled out of an acute need for soldiers following the events at the Marco Polo Bridge. These special units were largely comprised of second- and third-tier reservists. From Shanghai, Amano Saburo marched and arrived on the outskirts of Nanjing, in Mufushan, which lies north of the walled city. He wrote the following letters home to his family.
As Emperor Hirohito prepared for surrender in the summer of 1945, Japanese military leaders also saw that capitulation was imminent. Unlike other times in history when war was concluded, surrender to Allied forces this time included their arrest and prosecution for war crimes. The 1943 Moscow Declaration confirmed that the Allied forces sought to conduct trials against major war criminals, and Article 10 of the Potsdam Declaration stated that “stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals, including those who have visited cruelties upon our prisoners.”Alongside these provisions, Japanese military leaders could not ignore the fate of leading Nazi officials awaiting trial at the International Military Tribunal (IMT) at Nuremberg.
The teaching of Japan’s war history, specifically the story of the Nanjing Atrocities and the institution of military sexual slavery during World War II, continues to be a source of controversy within Japan and between Japan and nations it occupied during the war. In 2013 BBC reporter Oi Mariko reflected upon her own childhood education in Japan in the article “What Japanese History Lessons Leave Out.”
While most Chinese with a higher social standing chose to leave Nanjing, there were a handful of Chinese nationals who chose to remain and help. Some were well educated and helped manage and serve as translators while others helped prepare and distribute food, helped with sanitation, or served as police.