TOKYO • A Japanese hotelier's denial of a 1937 massacre by Japanese troops in the Chinese city of Nanjing has prompted Chinese social media calls for a boycott of travel to Japan, threatening tourist arrivals days before the Chinese New Year holidays.
The furore erupted over books by Mr Toshio Motoya, the president of Tokyo-based hotel and real estate developer APA Group, which contain his revisionist views and are placed in every room of the company's more than 400 hotels.
In one book, printed in English and Japanese and entitled The Real History Of Japan, he said that the "Nanjing massacre story" was "impossible", blaming looting and killings on members of a branch of the Chinese military who had shed their uniforms.
"These acts were all said to be committed by the Japanese army, but this is not true," Mr Motoya, using his pen name Seiji Fuji, wrote.
Japan's wartime occupation of Nanjing and the resulting massacre is a highly contentious issue between the uneasy neighbours.
China says that Japanese troops killed 300,000 people in the city.
A post-war Allied tribunal put the death toll at about half that number.
Two tourists who stayed at one of the group's hotels showed the book in an online video, which quickly went viral on social media site Weibo, attracting more than 95 million views.
The video triggered criticism on Chinese social media and sparked travel boycott calls.
"Any Chinese person with self-respect for their nationality should boycott Japanese goods and boycott travelling to Japan," one Weibo user wrote.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said that she was aware of reports about the book and said it showed that"certain forces" in Japan were unwilling to face history.
She urged Japan to reflect on the past and "ensure its population is exposed to a true telling of history".
In response to questions from Reuters, Mr Motoya said that Chinese tourists made up only 5 per cent of the group's customers in Japan and there had been no impact on the hotel, and added that he did not expect there would be any impact.
He was defiant in his denial of the Nanjing massacre.
"They have never been able to bring up concrete proof against the interpretation that there was no Nanjing massacre," Mr Motoya was quoted as saying, referring to China.
"In Japan, where the freedom of expression is protected, I will continue to transmit my thoughts and beliefs."
Some 24 million foreigners visited Japan last year, with Chinese tourists topping the list at 6.3 million, up by nearly 28 per cent from 2015, according to the Japan National Tourist Organisation.