The China-Japan standoff over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands has unleashed a top-down information war that has cemented the two governments’ positions over their territorial dispute. Under the Abe administration, Tokyo has stood up to an assertive China and drummed up nationalistic narratives of a virtuous Japanese “Self” (“us”) pitted against an aberrant and aggressive Chinese “Other” (“them”). It has done so along a markedly realist logic in order to (1) cement domestic resolve in direct response to China’s assertiveness and heated rhetoric; and (2) legitimize a swift passage of the contested security bills to enhance deterrence. Yet, while Japanese popular anxieties have echoed top-down instrumentalist narratives of an assertive China, they have also signaled a clear fear of entanglement in provocations of Tokyo’s making. This paper will provide evidence of the Japanese government’s active reconstruction of China’s assertiveness in the public discourse—with an eye on the realpolitik of Sino-Japanese relations. It concludes that the Japanese government needs also to cater more to grassroots sensitivities, something that has been a clear limit to Abe’s security agenda.