JIN-451 -- Right-wing issues

J@pan Inc Newsletter
The 'JIN' Japan Inc Newsletter
A weekly opinion piece on social, economic and political trends
in Japan.
Issue No. 451 Wednesday February 6, 2008, Tokyo

------Metropolis Magazine Valentine`s Glitterball-------

Glitterball is back!
Tokyo's favorite party makes its triumphant return on
February 14, 2008-Valentine's Day.
An institution for nearly a decade, the Metropolis-hosted
Glitterball was on hiatus this year due to the closing of
Velfarre nightclub, but 2008's version promises to be better
than ever.

Roppongi hotspot Alife will host over 1,000 V-Day revelers
for a night of eating, drinking, dancing, making friends-and
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Prize drawings, swag bags, and Tokyo's funnest crowd will make
the reborn Glitterball the highlight of the Tokyo social calendar.


Right-wing issues

By and large, Japanese people are characteristically quiet. It
is rare to hear an angry argument in the street, loud
exclamations of surprise, or even boisterous singing at night.
Such cacophonous activity tends to be kept the confines of the
home or the soundproofed walls of a private karaoke box. All of
this changes however, when it comes to politics. At election
time there are campaign vans bellowing out slogans from
loudspeakers, disturbing office workers and hurting the
eardrums of passers by, with their noisy, megaphoned
announcements about new plans to improve road safety and the
incompetence of the opposition.

On the whole, such electioneering may be irritating but is
essentially harmless, often accompanied by smiling people
in white gloves, whose main goal is to inform voters of their
existence. However, there is a less benign form of political
activity, that is equally loud, perpetrated predominantly by
extreme right-wing associations who have little form of
official representation. For example, take a trip to the embassy
of South Korea on a Sunday morning and you will hear the
deafening dogmatism of one right-wing group lambasting the
Koreans for polluting Japanese society and crudely telling
Koreans to get out of Japan. They often pop round the corner
to the Chinese embassy to say something similar and other
groups, or even lone members, can occasionally be heard
shouting their nationalist version of twentieth century history
at crowds around the capital's busy districts of Shibuya, or
Shinjuku. Normally they travel in convoys of black trucks and
self-consciously set out to intimidate.

In the past, members of the extreme right have been actively
violent, their actions easily fitting into the category of
'terrorism' even before its post-9/11 stretching. For example,
last June, Masahiro Horigome was sentenced for burning down the
house of LDP lawmaker Koichi Sato's mother—apparently because
of her son's criticism of Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni
shrine. Indeed, most of the extreme right's actions and
attention seem to be focused on a series of issues, many of
which relate to history. In addition to the shrine, which they
believe all politicians have a duty to visit, right wing-groups
get their knickers in a twist about the following:

History Textbooks

Unsurprisingly, nationalists believe that Japan fought 'a good
war' and that many of the reports of atrocities, such as the
Nanking massacre, are the fabrications of anti-Japanese media;
they believe Japan should be proud of its imperialism and that
today's leaders should emulate those of the 1930s and 1940s.
Last weekend, the Teacher's Association, whose left-wing
credentials have often brought it into confrontation with the
right, had to abandon its general meeting at its annual National
Conference on Educational Research after the Grand Prince Hotel
in Takanawa forced it to cancel, citing right-wing threats to cause
disturbance as the reason
(http://tinyurl.com/374os9). Teachers have also bothered the
rightists by refusing to sing the national anthem


Japan's island dispute over a few rocks in the Sea of Japan
(East Sea in Korea) has led to protests on both sides. In
particular, the 'nihon izokukai' (Japan Association Bereaved
Families) and the people of Shimane prefecture (who believe
the islands belong to them) are vocal about this issue. This
dispute often makes it into the Sunday morning tirades bellowed
outside the Korean embassy and February 22, 'Takeshima Day' sees
a wave of demonstrations.


More broadly, North and South Korea are focus points for
right-wing hate. The Kenkoku Giyugun Chosen Seibatsutai
(Voluntary Army Unit for Punishing Korea), is the most obvious
group dedicated to activism in this regard. Essentially the
group protests North Korean acts of terrorism perpetrated
against Japan, abductions and so on. However, it is more
generally anti-Korean in ethos and holds Korean immigrants
responsible for crime rises, moral degeneration and just about
everything else that they see wrong with Japanese society.
In particular, they target the Chongryon (Korea Residents
Association of Japan) whose Fukuoka headquarters they attempted
to bomb back in 2003.


Some of the groups put more of their energy into campaigns
aimed against China. Like the Dokdo/Takeshima issue, the
Senkaku/Diaoyu island dispute with China is a sore point that
tends to get the extremists flared up and occasionally leads
to embassy protests too. Additionally, right-wing groups
regularly jump on any negative news stories about China, the
most recent gyoza (dumpling) debacle being an obvious example
(see the J@pan Inc blog http://www.japaninc.com/node/2891).

The Kuriles

Japan's dispute over territory at the northern tip of the
country is another cause of the right and explains the heavy
security presence outside the Russian embassy.


Like with most other nationalist groups the world over,
foreigners in general are a source of right-wing angst
(for more on this see http://www.debito.org/index.php/?p=394).
[Continued below...]

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[...Article continues]

What unites the 'uyoku dantai' (ultra-right groups) over these
issues is their belief in Japan's destiny as leader of Asia
(if not the world) and their approach—noisy protests and
periodic terror–like plots. They also have an interesting
relationship with the yakuza who hold many similar ideals but
lack the basic political legitimacy (for more on this see
http://tinyurl.com/2ze243). While ultra-right groups are a
minority and very rarely do their plots do much damage, what
is striking, is the lack of counter-balance. There are extreme
groups on the left but the right is more vocal nowadays. There
is a lack however, of any attempt from the centre to confront
the rightist organizations. Their influence on policy is a
mysterious but important variable yet it is very rare that any
politician makes direct reference to them. In fact, many
nationalist politicians have quiet reasons to allow these
groups to continue their activities and they partially drive
the media to cover the above issues more regularly than they

On the other, hand, an outright crackdown or attempt to
confront, could play right into their hands, making their
causes seem all the more important and attracting sympathy for
any perceived persecution. Suppression might only make them
stronger. In a democracy like Japan, the establishment may be
criticized for its apathy but it also perhaps allows a
sufficient level of venting to keep a lid on. When things do
cross the line into violence, the police have a good track
record of prosecuting the culprits. It is annoying that we have
to put up with so much unpleasant noise, and it would be wrong
to say that the right didn't deliberately aim to make people
afraid, but its current existence perhaps saves us from
anything more sinister happening more regularly.

Peter Harris


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The link mentioned in the JIN-451 to
http://www.debito.org/index.php/?p=394 works, however, on YouTube all
linked videos have been removed for terms of use violations.

The unholy alliance between right-wingers and yakuza, as well as their
links to the political establishment deserve some more scrutiny. These
right-wingers do a great deal of damage to Japans image abroad.

The complacency of Japan to deal thoroughly with these extremist outburst
gives rise to suspicion, that the right-wingers would actually enjoy
popular support, another reason why Japans neighbours prefer not to trust

A much less vocal right-wing would do Japanese foreign policy some good.

A deep look into the funding of the right-wing organisations may reveal
income from all kinds of crime, income, on which taxes have never been
paid. The tax law may be a convenient tool to reduce the right-wingers to
what they are: An unloved, isolated, tiny faction of part-time criminals
on the edges of society, who desperately bully others for a little bit of