JAPAN shows little interest in U.S. opening of 'Pearl Harbor'

Saturday, May 26th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TOKYO (AP) _ Japanese reacted calmly Saturday to the U.S. opening of Disney's ``Pearl Harbor,'' a movie that graphically depicts Tokyo's World War II surprise attack on a U.S. Navy base.

The $140 million blockbuster, which recounts the siege as experienced by fictional Army pilots played by Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett, opened at theaters in the United States on Friday.

The trailer has run in Japan for months, and youngsters posting messages on movie-related Web sites say they can't wait to see how special effects were used to simulate the air raid.

Theaters in Japan will begin screening a slightly revised version of the war spectacle on July 14. Disney decided to tweak some dialogue to avoid offending Japanese audiences, according to a Disney source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Major Japanese evening newspapers Saturday gave scant coverage to the movie, carrying small articles on the inside pages and noting that there were many empty seats at theaters. But there was some concern in Japan that ``Pearl Harbor'' would fan racial hostility in America.

After the attack on the Hawaii base, the U.S. government sent 120,000 Japanese-Americans to relocation camps out of concern that some of them were acting as spies for their ancestral homeland.

``When I saw the preview on television, I wondered whether second-generation Japanese in America were anxious about a rise in discrimination,'' said Tokyo resident Yoko Hayama, 45.

Japanese continue to debate their role in World War II and whether the country was justified in launching the Dec. 7, 1941 attack against the United States.

Some historians have argued that the United States forced Tokyo to carry out its surprise attack against the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor by placing an embargo on shipments of oil and other essential materials to Japan.

The dominant view among Japanese, however, is that Japan's bombardment was an act of irrational militarist aggression that antagonized a far stronger opponent and ultimately led to its own defeat in 1945.

Nearly 2,400 Americans died in the Pearl Harbor assault. Eighteen U.S. warships were destroyed, along with 188 planes.