Lost in translation: British journalist 'shocked' Japanese book he dictated denies Nanking Massacre
Henry Scott-Stokes 'horrified' Japanese book he dictated dismisses war crime as propaganda
Julian Ryall in Tokyo
A veteran British journalist says he has been misrepresented by the translator of his best-selling book that looks at Japan’s history from an outsider’s point of view, and has disavowed the book’s claim that the Nanking Massacre never occurred.
Henry Scott-Stokes’ Falsehoods of the Allied Nations’ Victorious View of World History, as seen by a British Journalist, has become a bestseller since it was released in December. Conservatives and nationalists have held it up as evidence that Japan has been the target of unfair international criticism for its colonial past.
But Scott-Stokes claims his Japanese translator twisted his words.
Most controversially, the Japanese-language book concludes that the Chinese government made up the Nanking Massacre for its own political purposes.
Scott-Stokes could not be contacted by the South China Morning Post, but in an interview with Kyodo News he said that he was “shocked and horrified” to discover his book dismisses one of the most notorious events of the second world war as propaganda.
Scott-Stokes insists that while he believes China has exaggerated the figure of 300,000 victims of the Imperial Japanese Army in the city now known as Nanjing, a blanket denial that the atrocity occurred is “straight forward right-wing propaganda” put forward by Japanese revisionists.
He added that claiming nothing happened in Nanking in December 1937 and January 1938 was ludicrous and fatuous.
Now 75, Scott-Stokes suffers from worsening Parkinson’s disease that makes it difficult for him to type or write. He was also unable to read all of the Japanese-language version of the book.
Scott-Stokes dictated the book during more than 170 hours to Hiroyuki Fujita, a translator who is a member of the nationalist group The Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact.
Fujita told the Post there had been “a lot of misleading explanations” put forward and that a statement would be released through the web site of publisher Shodensha.
“Regarding the translation, we had a discussion on interpretations and what he had in mind and what I thought he had in mind,” Fujita said. He declined to comment further.
Speaking previously to Kyodo, Fujita admitted that he “added his own language” to the book, but the opinions it contained were those of Scott-Stokes. Fujita has declined to comment on other additions that he made to the book and is refusing to share the recordings of the interviews.
Scott-Stokes was apparently alerted to the possibility that his book had been appropriated by the far-right in Japan by Angela Erika Kubo, who was helping create an English-language transcript of the book. Kubo wrote to Scott-Stokes to tell him that she could no longer work on the project, amid her doubts that it accurately represented his views.
In a statement on the Japan Subculture Research Centre web site, Kubo said: “I realised that I felt that Mr Stokes, who is a very nice elderly journalist who I respect, was having his words taken out of context.”
In a letter to Fujita explaining her reasons for resigning from the project, she added: “I’ve also become increasingly uncomfortable with the content of some of the recordings.
“It seems that words are being put into Henry’s mouth and that the interviews don’t reflect his real opinions or thoughts – and that there are many leading questions.”
Scott-Stokes, a former Japan bureau chief for The New York Times, said he was warned by colleagues to be wary of the venture.
It was apparently proposed by Fujita and Hideaki Kase, another leading member of the Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact, both of whom he considered friends.
“As I was being interviewed by these people, I trusted them to stick by the record,” Scott-Stokes told Kyodo. “And if they haven’t done that, they have let me down and let themselves down.”