Former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is perhaps best remembered for making outlandish eco claims to the UN, being the first DPJ premier, and suffering the infamy of being labelled as “loopy” by the Washington Post while in office.

Hatoyama famous rode the wave of enthusiasm that ushered the DPJ into power in 2009, and then promptly screwed everything up. It soon became apparent that the new government had no concrete plans or means to implement most of its promises, perhaps most notoriously his vow to deal with a much-hated U.S. base in Okinawa.

He left office after a year and recently sided with his mentor Ichiro Ozawa over the dispute over whether to raise sales tax. He retired from politics at the end of last year.

Already oft mocked for his wealthy upbringing (he also comes from a political dynasty; his brother is a politician in the rival LDP and his grandfather was PM in the Fifties) and avian appearance, Hatoyama has now taken the brave and possibly salutary decision to visit the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall.

yukio hatoyama nanking massacre nanjing china

The museum commemorates the Nanking Massacre (or “Nanjing Massacre”) in December 1937, much disputed by both scholars and ultra-nationalists in Japan. It is a fact that thousands died — likely hundreds of thousands — and the Japanese government has admitted as such, but the exact numbers are a matter of debate and the whole incident is a symbol frequently cited by Chinese nationalists when they want to attack Japan.

Hatoyama’s wife, a former Takarazuka actress who took charge of her husband’s awful wardrobe during his time in power, accompanied the ex-leader on his trip, in which he wrote characters on a banner saying “fraternal peace” (yuwa aihei).

China, of course, is the original source of Japanese ideographs and it is a nice touch to the spirit of the message that is can also be universally appreciated in the so-called Kanji-ken Sinophere nations (Taiwan, Korea, Japan, China).

yukio hatoyama nanking massacre nanjing china

With border disputes dominating so much of the headlines in 2012, perhaps this is a nice gesture to start the new year?

Well, it isn’t quite clear why Hatoyama was even there (he’s not a lawmaker now so he can’t really represent Japan) and he will certainly earn only the ire of the extreme rightist groups. He has already acquired new enemies online amongst Japan’s right-leaning netizens.

Don’t come back!

This makes me angry.

This one becoming a politician was the biggest of failures.

It’s amazing that in Japan this kind of trash isn’t killed.

Just a regular guy doing calligraphy in China.

I want to wait for him at Narita and throw rotten eggs.

Hatoyama is the third former PM to visit the hall in the eastern Chinese city.