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FTR #296 The Return of the Rising Sun, The Reemergence of Fascism in Japan

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As in Europe and the United States, fascism was not eliminated in Japan at the end of the Second World War. FTR-290 highlights the retrenchment and perpetuation of the political, industrial and financial interests that spawned and profited from Japanese fascism. RFA-7 and FTR-291 analyze the Unification Church of Reverend Sun Myung Moon as the perpetuation of the Japanese patriotic societies that empowered fascism in that country through a wave of political assassinations. This program examines the resurfacing of political forces and ideas that had been (to a certain extent) eclipsed in the decades following World War II.

1. Beginning with the revival of ultra-nationalistic sentiment, the program examines revisionist history that is being included in Japanese textbooks and popular literature. “Hironubu Kaneko, a 21-year-old college student, remembers the powerful emotions stirred in him three years ago when he read a best-selling book of cartoons that extolled, rather than denigrated, the history of Japan’s former Imperial Army. The thick cartoon book, or manga, is called ‘On War’ and celebrates the old army as a noble Asian liberation force rather than a brutal colonizer. It lauds Japan’s civilization as the oldest and most refined. And it dismisses as fictions well-documented atrocities, from the 1937 Nanjing massacre to the sexual enslavement of 200,000 so-called comfort women in World War II. ‘This cartoon was saying exactly what we were all feeling back then,’ said Mr. Kaneko, an eager and articulate student who is spending his winter break working as an intern in the Japanese Parliament. ‘The manga was addressing mattes that many Japanese people have simply been avoiding, like we’ve been putting a lid over something smelly. I just felt it said things that needed to be said.’ Asked exactly what that message was, he said, ‘That we should not be so masochistic about our history.’ Unlike such countries as Austria and France, Japan has not had a prominent political party that has been aggressively nationalistic since World War II. Ultraconservatives from right-wing intellectuals to criminal syndicates have always maintained discreet contacts with the conservative governing party, the Liberal Democrats. For decades after Japan’s defeat in the war, the most visible sign of the survival of hard-core nationalists here was just as powerful a reminder of their fringe group status: the black sound trucks, mostly regarded as public nuisances, that blasted imperial hymns and xenophobic speeches on crowded streets. But as attested by the huge sales of the nationalistic manga – drawn and written by a best-selling author, Yoshinori Kobayashi – Japan’s far right has been elbowing its way into the mainstream, at a time when the country is increasingly distressed about its political and economic decline. Mr. Kobayashi’s latest manga, On Taiwan, has sold more than 250,000 copies since it was published in November and has created sharp tensions with Japan’s neighbors for its depiction of the war. One frame, for example, says that Taiwanese women volunteered to become the sexual servants of Japanese soldiers and that the role even offered the women social advancement. The government has remained silent. But the ambitions of Japan’s new right-wing activists go beyond incendiary characterizations of the war, or mere provocation. Although their movement is still somewhat amorphous, its wide-ranging agenda includes returning to the stricter, more conservative values of the past, rewriting the Constitution to allow Japan to make war, and re-arming so that Japan would be prepared to got it alone in a world they depict as full of threats to its survival … Akimasa Miyake, a historian at Chiba University, disagrees, and has helped organize seminars for students to address what opponents of Mr. Kobayashi say are misperceptions that the students have picked up from his work. ‘Since the mid-1990’s, revisionism, or some would say nationalism, has been surging in Japan,’ he said. ‘There is a feeling of emergency here, and we are very worried. But fortunately, so far this sort of reactionary movement hasn’t reached the core of the society.’ Many of these themes have already been picked up by mainstream politicians, however, particularly those in the Liberal Democratic Party. The last two prime ministers, both Liberal Democrats, have enacted measures aimed at pleasing this constituency, from making the Japanese flag and anthem legally recognized symbols of the nation for the first time, to creating a national youth service, which critics complain is really aimed at preaching traditional conservative values. Shintaro Ishihara, the strongly conservative governor of Tokyo, has become one of the country’s most popular politicians in part by sounding a xenophobic alarm about crime by foreigners, and by proposing that the United States surrender control over a major air base it maintains here under a bilateral defense treaty. The new nationalists’ most ringing success, though, has been at rewriting history, taking advantage of a textbook reform won by liberal intellectuals in the 1980’s after two decades of hard battle. The reforms limit the staunchly conservative Education Ministry to screening books for factual accuracy instead of writing history. But now the far right is rushing to put out histories that many academics say will whitewash the past. A nationalist group known as the Association to Create New History Textbooks has written a secondary school book that is in the final stages of government screening. . . . Mr. [Kanji] Nishio, a professor of history at the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo, has long been active in right-wing intellectual circles, but he never had much impact until his movement associated itself with Mr. Kobayashi and younger popular authors and celebrities. Now he has become their guru, saying for example that China fabricated the Nanjing massacre to stir nationalist sentiment and that the United States deliberately snared Japan into war.” (“Japan’s Resurgent Far Right Tinkers with History” by Howard W. French; New York Times; 3/25/2001; p. 3.)

2. Japan’s newly elected Prime Minister appears to be following in the tradition of paying obeisance to Japan’s imperialist and militarist past. “[Junichiro] Koizumi prompted concerns about the rise of nationalism in his campaign, in which he joined with other conservative candidates of the governing Liberal Democratic party in a pledge to visit the Yasukuni Shrine to war veterans in Tokyo on August 15, a national memorial day.” (“New Leader Says Japan Will Have All-Purpose Military” by Howard W. French [New York Times]; San Francisco Chronicle; 4/28/2001; p. A11.)

3. Next, the program recapitulates material presented in FTR-291 about the “May 15th Incident,” during which the Japanese prime minister was assassinated by military officers associated with the patriotic societies. (This passage of text is repeated later in the broadcast.) Before proceeding to the Prime Minister’s residence to murder him, his assassins visited the Yasukuni Shrine. In another indication of continuity between Mr. Koizumi’s government and Japan’s reactionary past, the newly elected prime minister appointed the daughter of a previous Liberal Democratic prime minister to be foreign minister. “Also widely remarked on was Mr. Koizumi’s choice for foreign minister, Makiko Tanaka, the daughter of the late prime minister, Kakuei Tanaka, the Liberal Democratic Party’s most fabled power broker. Ms. Tanaka, who was an early supporter of Mr. Koizumi’s campaign, holds her father’s old parliamentary seat, but has shunned party factions, and shares the new prime minister’s passion for change. She was expected to win a cabinet post, but the foreign minister’s job came as a surprise to many because of her reputation for bluntness. Ms. Tanaka-who speaks English well, attended high school in Pennsylvania and at 57 is a relative youth in her party-will have the task of handling the delicate relationship with Washington and Japan’s ties with the rest of Asia. Japan’s relations with its neighbors are often clouded by its behavior during World War II. South Korea, for example, recently recalled its ambassador from Tokyo to protest new school textbooks the Koreans feel gloss over Japan’s harsh occupation.” (“Japan’s New Cabinet Breaks Hold of Traditional Political Factions” by Howard W. French; New York Times; 4/27/2001; pp. A1-A22.)

4. Next the program reviews information about Ms. Tanaka’s father and his alleged connection to the mysterious “M-fund” discussed in FTR-290. “But if that looks suspicious, the other explanation is far stranger and begins in the early 20th century, when Japan invaded its Asian neighbors and looted vast wealth. After the Second World War, U.S. intelligence forces secretly seized this wealth and later used it to finance covert anti-Communist operations – paying bribes, for example, to rightwing members of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party. Schlei told the Florida court that in the postwar U.S. ‘we came to feel that [such payments] were OK because the Russians were subsidizing the communists and socialists.’ In the 1960’s, the U.S. returned control of this fund – called the ‘M-fund’ – to Japan. Japanese politicians, such as Kakuei Tanaka, a former finance minister and later prime minister, grabbed it, stole large sums and used it for their personal use and to buy political support with bribes. ‘For 25 years Tanaka was known as the money man of Japanese politics. My clients say the reason he had so much money was he got control of this M-fund,’ Schlei said. In the 1960’s, Tanaka tried to hide some of the fund by buying JGB’s and registering them in the name of his crones and supporters. But in 1976, he was sucked into a corruption scandal and convicted of receiving bribes from the U.S. Lockheed company. In the following years, his cronies wanted extra money and, in the late 1970’s, the Tanaka clique decided secretly to print what have become the disputed certificates as part of a complex financial scheme.” (“Mischief or Conspiracy?” by Gillian Tett; Financial Times; 4/7-4/8/2001; p. 10.) (In addition to Tanaka, Yoshio Kodama was deeply involved with the Lockheed bribery scandal. Kodama had been interned by the Americans as a war criminal at the end of World War II. Like another Japanese fascist, Ryoichi Sasakawa, Kodama had been deeply involved with the Japanese patriotic and ultra-nationalist societies that brought fascism to Japan. Both Kodama and Sasakawa were deeply involved with Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church.)

5. The first side of the program concludes with discussion of the deep economic troubles that beset Japan (and which could have drastic and negative effects in the United States.) “For Japan’s reform-minded new government, the central economic challenge is that almost anything it does to try to fix the long-term problems of an out-of-control budget deficit and a wobbly banking system will almost certainly exacerbate the country’s immediate woes and risk pushing the economy into a new recession. . . .Analysts . . . hailed the choice of Heizo Takenaka, an outspoken economist at Keio University in Tokyo, as economic policy minister. But he has no experience pulling the levers of government, and his advocacy of harsh remedies for Japan’s economic ailments is likely to collide with political concerns over elections in three months. Already, Mr. Koizumi, the new prime minister, has denied that thee will be an increase in the much-hated consumption tax, which is one of Mr. Takenaka’s chief prescriptions. The appointment of Masajuro Shiokawa, 79, as finance minister was perhaps the biggest disappointment in the cabinet lineup, and currency traders raced to sell yen.” (“A New Politics of Pain: Japan’s Tough Economic Repairmen” by Stephanie Strom; New York Times; 4/27/2001; p. C1.) If the Japanese economy worsens, it could exacerbate the country’s drift toward fascism.

6. Historically, of course, the drastic social conditions brought on by severe economic hardship have had a destabilizing effect on democracies. The second side of the program begins with a reading of an article from the British anti-fascist magazine The Searchlight. The article begins with discussion of recent statements by former prime minister Mori that are reminiscent of the rhetoric of wartime Japan. “. . . . Symptomatic of the recent revival of the nationalists’ respectability have been several ‘slips of the tongue’ by Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori. In a speech to Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) supporters in his native Ishikawa Prefecture in June 2000, Mori called for ‘jugo,’ literally ‘behind the guns,’ support. Japanese militarists used the term during the Second World War to encourage women to support the war effort of soldiers fighting overseas by taking care of the children and family on the front. . . . This followed an earlier remark that caused deeper and more widespread outrage, even from partners in his coalition government. Speaking to a gathering of parliamentarians belonging to Shinto Seiji Renmei, a political group of the Association of Shinto Shrines, Mori declared: ‘We [have made efforts to] make the public realize that Japan is a divine nation centering on the Emperor. It’s been 30 years since we started our activities based on this thought.’ (The Japan Times; 5/17/2000.) The similarity to the widely used wartime tem that exalted the Japanese as a ‘divine race’ was not lost on observers. . . . ‘In Japan these days, democracy is not faring very well. This is a time of danger,’ Mr. Shigefumi Matsuzuawa, an MP for the centre-right opposition Democratic Party, told the Houston Chronicle at the time. ‘When democracy deteriorates, extremism of the right wing often emerges.’ That same year also saw the release of the film Pride-The Fateful Moment, which critics see as an apology for Japan’s wartime Prime Minister General Tojo, who was hanged as a war criminal. (“Japanese Nationalism Revives” by Kenny Coyle; Searchlight; January/2001 [#307]; p. 30; see www.searchlightmagazine.com.)

7. The broadcast then notes the strong connections of fascist elements to the LDP, the continued presence of virulent anti-semitism in Japan and the activities of a number of organizations that are (in effect) modern-day patriotic societies. “The links between the far right and the ruling LDP are intimate, explains Mr. Harki Narinaka, who has closely monitored their activity for several years. The LDP always found it useful to have teams of street fighters on its side during industrial disputes, against the powerful Japanese Communist Party, or to disrupt protests against the U.S. military presence in Japan. There are 2,033 ultra-right organizations that have submitted applications for a political they have a combined membership estimated by one German observer of around 100,000. By registering for political status, these groups are free to conduct propaganda and raise funds. Around 500 of them are purely ideological associations, publishing nationalist propaganda in various. Japan has a disturbing range of anti-Semitic literature. The Protocols and The International Jew have been available in Japanese since 1934. Recent home-grown additions include The Jewish Plan for the Occupation of Japan (1984); The 450-year Secret of Jewish Aggression against Japan (1995). . . . The Last Warning from the Devil/the Jews: Give Dazed Japan the Finishing Blow (1995). . . . Mr. Narinaka estimates that perhaps 1,000 of these registered right-wing groups, with grandiose titles such as Young people’s Comrades, Research Association for a Great Japan, Congress of Japanese Racial Youth, and Steel Helmet Association, belong to the violent wing of the right. He estimates the active membership of this trend to be around 21,000 with around 2,000 gaiensha vehicles. The fleets of propaganda cars, lorries and vans is an essential part of the ultra-right’s street tactics. . . . There is a loose nationwide alliance of more than 800 far-right groups known as Zen Ai Kaigi, the “National association of Patriotic Organizations. . . .” (Ibid.; p. 31.)

8. The broadcast then turns to the subject of Yoshio Kodama and Ryoichi Sasakawa. Kodama, in particular, is illustrative of the interweaving of organized crime elements, Japanese ultra-right groups and big business. “The links between organized crime and the ultra-right are well documented. When the police crack down on yakuza activities, gangsters find it easy to launder money through legal outlets such as the ultra-right groups, although even here, almost half of the right-wing groups do not submit their accounts as they are legally obliged to do. These murky links can best be illustrated, Mr. Harinaka argues, by looking at a key figure in the prewar Japanese right who forms a direct link to the politics of today, the late Yoshio Kodama. His life illustrates the interweaving of far right fanaticism, big business, organized crime and government. In the 1930’s, Kodama was active in a variety of political nationalist movements such as the Independence Youth Society, Blood Brotherhood, Holy War Execution League, Federation of Radical Patriotic Workers, and Capital Rise Asia Academy, which broke strikes and attempted to assassinate political figures. Despite prison convictions, Kodama was then contacted by the Japanese government in the wholesale looting of China for raw materials for Japan’s war effort. By the end of the war in 1945, his industrial empire, the Kodama Agency, was worth $175 million. Following the Japanese surrender, Kodama was listed as a Class A war criminal, yet he served only two years in Tokyo’s Sugamo Prison. In 1949, he personally directed yakuza gangsters against a threatened strike at the Hokutan coal mine. The second wealthiest man in Japan he bankrolled the LDP at its birth in 1955. In the 1960’s, he teamed up with a then unknown South Korean right-winger, ‘the Reverend’ Sun Myung Moon, and Ryoichi Sasakawa, a Japanese motor boat racing millionaire. Sasakawa had organized Japanese Blackshirt sin the 1930’s and once described himself as the world’s richest fascist. The three, with the help of South Korean intelligence and Taiwanese dictator Chiang Kai-Shek, helped form the Asian People’s Anti-Communist League. The League set up and funded Moon’s Freedom Center in the United States in 1964. Kodama was chief adviser for the Moon subsidiary, Win Over Communism. In 1966, the League merged with the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations to form the World Anti-Communist League, a major international network of fascists and anti semites featured many times in the pages of Searchlight.” (Idem.)

9. The program concludes with a recapitulation of the May 15th incident. (Like Kodama, this subject was covered in FTR-291. On May 15, 1932, the Japanese Prime Minister [Tsuyoshi Inukai] was assassinated by a conspiracy hatched by the patriotic societies, acting through a group of young military officers called the Blood Brotherhood. “The civilian wing of the young officers’ plot was a gang called the Blood Brotherhood (Ketsumeidan, literally the Blood Oath Band). Some of them were vicious youths, living on the borderland where patriotism and crime meet; others were idle, fanatical students. All of them were idealists, in their way. They were willing instruments, but they had hypnotized themselves with slogans and they regarded themselves as more than tools. The prospect that the army would become the active force of revolution had stimulated the patriots all along the line, and many currents met in the movement which culminate on May 15.” (Government by Assassination; by Hugh Byas; Copyright 1942 [HC]; Alfred A. Knopf; p. 53.)

10. The officers of the Blood Brotherhood, in turn, were associated with the Native-Land-Loving School, run by Kosaburo Tachibana. This school, like others of its kind, was a direct outgrowth of, and vehicle for, the patriotic societies. “Kosaburo Tachibana was haunted by dreams in his boyhood and could not decide whether to become a statesman or a general or (sometimes) simply a good man. He had been born in the prefecture which afterwards became the site of the naval air training base and the home of the Blood Brotherhood, and his birthplace fixed his destiny . . . . In 1939, his admirers enabled him to establish a school. He called it the Native-Land-Loving School (Aikyojuku). Everybody in Japan with a message to deliver or an axe to grind opens a school. . . .Those schools in the hands of the patriotic societies are at once a method of training young men for strong-arm work and a plausible excuse for extorting contributions from the rich and timid.” (Ibid.; pp. 63-64.)

11. Two days before the killing of Prime Minister Inukai, his assassins-to-be gathered to plan their crime. “Two days earlier, on Friday, May 13, two young naval officers had made a two-hour train journey from Tokyo to a place with which they wee familiar, the drab country town of Tsuchiura, railway station for the inland naval air base and training school called Kasumigra-ura, the Misty Lagoon. An army cadet and a Tokyo student accompanied them. They were met by a teacher of the Native-Land-Loving School, which trained farmer boys in agriculture and patriotism. They all went to a Japanese restaurant where they were, as usual, given a private room. . . .On Sunday, the same men met some others in various places in Tokyo and their actions became the May Fifteenth incident. At five o’clock that Sunday evening nine naval and military officers of ages between twenty-four and twenty-eight alighted from two taxicabs at the side entrance of Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. The shrine is dedicated to all members of the fighting services who have died in Japan’s wars. There is no holier place in Tokyo.” (Ibid.; pp. 22-23.)

12. Later that day, the conspirators gathered at the Prime Minister’s residence and murdered him in front of his daughter-in-law and grandchild. “They found the Prime Minister, Mr. Inukai, a diminutive alert man of seventy-five. His first name was Tsuyoshi but his friends knew him as ‘Ki.’. . .He was a very small man, quick and fearless. His goatee beard was of a vague gray color, which somehow suggested, quite erroneously, that it had once been blond. Late in life he had attained the goal of his ambition and he was intensely proud of being the Emperor’s first Minister. He led the officers into a room. His daughter-in-law, carrying her baby, was with him, and one of the officers ‘knowing what would happen in a few minute,’ as he said at the trial, told her to go away, but she stayed. The young men were rather confused and some were impressed by the old man’s calm demeanor as he asked them to take off their shoes and sit down and talk it over. He had a cigarette in his hand and he lit it. ‘As I observed,’ said one of the officers in his testimony, ‘our leader was willing to talk with the Prime Minister. The group that had gone to the back door burst in, headed by Lieutenant Masayoshi Yamagishi, a man of action, carrying a dagger. ‘No use talking,’ said Yamagishi. ‘Fire!’ The word was shouted like an order and they all began firing. One shot the Prime Minister in the neck and another, deliberately, in the stomach. The Prime Minister sank on the matted floor and never spoke again. ‘Believing the whole affair was over,’ the officers walked out.” (Ibid.; pp. 24-26.)


One comment for “FTR #296 The Return of the Rising Sun, The Reemergence of Fascism in Japan”

  1. 68th Aniverary of WWII. Notable tension in Asia.
    In Japan the war dead continue to be honored at the controversial Yasukuni Shrine.


    “The past is never dead and burried. It isn’t even past.” As Dave Emory has most accuarately and appropriately paraphrased William Faulkner.

    Posted by GK | August 15, 2013, 9:30 pm

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