A social media post that has allegedly exposed a Japanese hotel selling books that deny the Nanjing Massacre has stirred online outcry in China after attracting the attention of Chinese mainstream media. As Japan has become a popular destination among Chinese tourists in recent years, the news could have an impact on people’s enthusiasm to visit the country.
On January 16, People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of China’s Communist Party (CCP), posted an English-language video with Chinese subtitles on Weibo accusing Japanese hotel chain APA of displaying and selling books which deny the Nanjing Massacre in China and forced prostitution in Korea during World War II. The original poster was a Weibo user named “KatAndSid” which says it is the account of two New York University students—an American named Kat and Chinese citizen named Sid. According to the video, this book, which is published in both English and Japanese, states that the Nanjing Massacre in China, “comfort women,” and the forced prostitution that occurred in South Korea were “untruthful.” The video claims that the alleged author of this book, the CEO of the APA Group Toshio Motoya writing under pen name “Seiji Fuji,” intends to use the sales revenues of the books to support his right-wing political views. The books can be found in the drawers in every APA hotel room and can be purchased at the hotels’ reception desks, the video says.
People’s Daily also posted the news on its Facebook account, summarizing key findings in the video. Other Chinese official media outlets, including Xinhua News Agency, Global Times, and China Daily, among others, also picked it up immediately, and China Daily posted it on Weibo. Xinhua says that the APA Group’s behavior showed poor business ethics, stating, “It was disgusting for them to both hope to make profits from Chinese and South Korean travelers, but also to fool them with distorted political views.” So far, the company has not issued any statement related to the news. But the article written by Global Times mentions a Chinese-funded travel company in Japan called “Huangwang Group,” which issued a statement on Monday saying it will stop making reservations for Chinese travelers on behalf of APA hotels until the company apologizes for its mistake.
The news has sparked outcry on China’s social media among Chinese netizens. By 11:30 p.m. Beijing time on January 17, the subject, “The Secret of Japanese APA Hotels” was ranked 7th on Weibo’s real-time list of trending topics, attracting massive user discussions. The majority of commentators on Weibo expressed their anger against the hotels and praised “KatAndSid” for exposing the fact. One person said, “We are very grateful for your righteous act. Everyone really deserves to know the truth.” Many internet users also voluntarily boycotted the APA Group. One person said, “I am not against traveling to Japan, but I hope you will never stay in that hotel.” Some people even mentioned major Chinese hotel booking agencies in their posts, calling them to stop their partnership with APA.
The APA Group’s official website seemed to be broken when Jing Daily tried to gain more information about it. Based on statistics provided by the People’s Daily report, “there were 413 hotels or resorts and 70,000 hotel rooms under the APA Group as of September 2016,” and it estimated that Chinese and South Korean tourists made up half of the foreigners who stayed in its hotel rooms during peak season. Ctrip, China’s biggest online travel agency, has a partnership with the APA Group, as does Fliggy, previously known as Alitrip, which is the counterpart to Ctrip owned by Alibaba Group. So far, Fliggy has removed information about APA on its website, while Ctrip had not made any move yet at time of publication.
The video declares that the policy of the hotel doesn’t reflect the sentiments of Japanese people as a whole, but it is yet to be seen how big of an impact on Chinese tourists’ travel decisions it will have. An influx of Chinese tourists into Japan in recent years has benefited the country’s tourism industry greatly. Even though an appreciating Japanese yen could deter some Chinese travelers, research shows that the overall attractiveness of Japan to Chinese tourists remains high.