Japan has been unfairly demonised by the victors of the second world war, Tokyo gubernatorial candidate Toshio Tamogami said yesterday, adding that he believed his views were shared by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Tamogami, a former air force chief forced to resign for denying that Japan started the war in the Pacific theatre, is trailing in opinion polling for the February 9 election behind Yoichi Masuzoe, the preferred candidate of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
But Tamogami believed the party's leaders regret their decision to back Masuzoe. He said his policies reflected the opinions of Prime Minister Abe far more closely than those of former health minister Masuzoe.
"In its heart of hearts, I believe the LDP would really like to support my campaign," said Tamogami in Tokyo yesterday. "I believe I share Mr Abe's position that Japan is not the demonic nation that many others want to portray us as, and that image was painted by the victorious nations in World War II," he said.
In an essay he wrote in 2008, Tamogami asserted that Japan was dragged into the second world war by Chinese nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek and US president Franklin D. Roosevelt.
After his dismissal, Tamogami allied himself with a number of nationalist groups before founding and chairing Ganbare Japan! Zenkoku Kodo Iinkai (Do your best Japan! National Action Committee) in February 2010.
He strongly agrees with Abe's belief that Japan needs to face down its critics. "As a nation regains its independence, it must be able to stand on its own two feet and regain its self-confidence," he said.
"If it cannot do that, then it is doomed to fade. And that is why I believe Mr Abe should continue to pay his respects at Yasukuni Shrine, to show that there is no justification for the image of Japan as demonic."
Tamogami seemed to be only half-joking when suggesting the Japanese prime minister "should go to Yasukuni every month until China and Korea eventually get tired of complaining".
Tamogami said his conservative credentials could not be matched and that there were a number of key differences between his campaign for the post of governor of Tokyo and those of his three rivals. They include economic policies to support small and medium-size companies in order to encourage and measures to assist working women, those who want to have children and the elderly, he said.
While the other candidates have come out against the use of nuclear energy in Japan, Tamogami is in favour of restarting the country's mothballed reactors.
As the former head of the Air Self Defence Force, Tamogami is keen to air his opinions of China and other regional rivals.
"I'm not suggesting that we should fight China or anyone else and we must try to have good relations with other countries, but we have to think about ourselves as well," he said.
"What other country puts other nations' interests ahead of its own? The comments by China and Korea on the Yasukuni issue are fundamentally interference in the domestic political situation, and that is not correct."
Tamogami dismissed any threat that China posed to Japan's control of the Senkaku Islands, which Beijing refers to as the Diaoyu Islands.
"I cannot tell you the details as they are still secret, but as the former head of the ASDF, I know the capabilities of the Chinese military and they do not have the capacity at the moment to take over the Senkakus," he said.
"They are trying to wage a war of information.
"They do not want to provoke the Japanese military because they do not have the capacity to wage war, but they are seeking to aggravate strong feelings among Japanese people, that it is just not worth keeping the Senkakus and therefore pulling back" is the correct move.
Tamogami insisted that he would never permit Japan to give up its claim to the islands.