Defense Minister Taro Kono’s denunciation of NHK and the mainstream news media as “fake news” for reporting that his ministry had decided to give up the Araya Training Area in Akita city as host for an Aegis Ashore facility was a cynical ploy on his part, but it did highlight once again that many people misunderstand the news media in rather fundamental ways.
In 1993, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono made the most full-throated admission and apology acknowledging that Japan had coerced women across Asia into being sex slaves—euphemistically referred to as “Comfort Women”—for the Japanese military during the Pacific War. More recently, however, conservative politicians such as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura have engaged in a campaign that is less about carving out a path toward reconciliation than to overwrite memories of an unsavory past.
The Yomiuri Shinbun stunned the world in late November with a highly unusual apology. The paper announced that it had found dozens of articles in past issues of the English-language Daily Yomiuri (now called The Japan News) between February 1992 and January 2013 that used the expression “sex slave” to refer to wartime comfort women.
When NHK was founded in 1926, it was quite consciously modelled on the BBC of the United Kingdom. In that spirit, visitors to the English-language section of the NHK webpage will find its self-description as follows: “NHK delivers a wide range of impartial, high-quality programs, both at home and abroad.”