TOKYO, Sept. 18 (Xinhua) -- "Japan has to truly reflect upon its invasive history, otherwise it won't be able to rebuild trust with its Asian neighbors," said Masahito Sato, founder of a civil group in Japan dedicated to studying the history of Japan's invasion of China's Hainan Island during World War II.
Japanese troops captured China's Hainan Island in 1939 and used it as a base of operations for its invasion of other parts of China and Southeast Asia. The Japanese military also committed numerous atrocities on the island including killing, raping and burning down villages.
Sato started to study the history of Japan's military invasion of its neighbors in the 1970s and gradually learned about the atrocities committed by the Japanese military on Hainan Island.
To learn more about this part of history, Sato founded a civil group and he and his fellow scholars decided to visit Hainan Island by themselves to collect testimonies from local residents.
"We have to go to the places where the atrocities happened and listen to the testimonies of the victims ourselves, because our government has erased all evidences and records here on these war crimes," said Sato.
Since 1998, Sato and the members of his civil group have visited Hainan Island for over 30 times and interviewed more than 200 people, mainly relatives of the victims of Japan's atrocities.
While being appalled by the war crimes committed by Japan, they are also concerned about the current situation as most of the Japanese young people nowadays do not have sufficient knowledge of the war history due to the government's whitewashing and erasing of history.
Hidemaru Saito, a member of Sato's group, said that for some Japanese, the war history was a history of Japan suffering nuclear bombing and air attacks and being a victim instead of being the victimizer.
Sato said that many civil groups in Japan now are trying to tell the younger generations about the true history and "under government pressure, though the young people have very few opportunities to learn about the historical truths, such opportunities do exist."
Kim Jung-Mi, a Korean scholar and also a member of Sato's civil group, said that Japan has been concealing the historical truth about the war, and the generations that really know about the truth are aging.
"We have to make these memories imprinted in history and pass on to the next generations," she said.
"If I were a Chinese, how could I trust a Japan that denies the Nanjing Massacre and the fact that Japan invaded other countries? ...The first step (to build mutual trust) is to admit the history," said Sato.