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Nanjing Massacre-denying Japanese hotel boss sparks Tokyo protest

TOKYO (Reuters) - About 200 protesters marched through the streets of Tokyo's Shinjuku district on Sunday carrying banners to protest a hotel chain under fire for books its president wrote denying the Nanjing Massacre in wartime China ever happened.

Tokyo-based hotel and real estate developer APA Group is at the center of a furor over books by its founder and president, Toshio Motoya, which contain his revisionist views on history and are placed in every room of the company's 400-plus APA Hotels.

Motoya, using the pen name Seiji Fuji, wrote of the Nanjing Massacre that "these acts were all said to be committed by the Japanese army, but this is not true." He also denied stories of Korean women forced to work as prostitutes in wartime military brothels, the so-called "comfort women".

Video shot by eyewitnesses showed protesters carrying banners saying "Cherish Peace" and "Resist APA resolutely and defend national dignity" in both Chinese and Japanese marching through a busy shopping district of Tokyo. Organizers said some 200 people took part.

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They were met by counter-protesters carrying signs saying "Japan is a country with freedom of speech, and you should change China into the country that has the right of free speech as well." Both groups dispersed without incident once past the closest APA Hotel on the march route.

Tokyo police were unable to give an estimate of the protest numbers and the APA Hotel could not immediately comment. There was no statement on the unlisted company's website.

China says Japanese troops killed 300,000 people in Nanjing from December 1937 to January 1938. A post-war Allied tribunal put the death toll at about half that number.

To the fury of China, some conservative Japanese politicians and academics deny the massacre took place, or they put the death toll much lower.

The APA Hotel said last week that it would temporarily remove the materials from a hotel being used to house athletes during the Sapporo 2017 Asian Winter Games competition starting later this month.

Chinese tourism authorities have urged tour operators to sever ties with the hotel chain after an escalating row over the matter, and there have been calls for a boycott on social media against both the hotel and travel to Japan.

Motoya told Reuters in an email last month that Chinese made up only 5 percent of the guests at his hotels in Japan and he was not worried about the impact of any potential boycott.

(Writing by Elaine Lies; editing by Jason Neely)