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Economic Difficulties Fuel Rise of Far-Right Groups in Japan; They Compare Themselves to “Tea Parties”

Com­ment: The social dis­lo­ca­tion pro­duced by the eco­nom­ic dis­tress of Japan’s “Lost Decade” has stim­u­lat­ed the rise of far right groups rem­i­nis­cent both of the patri­ot­ic and ultra-nation­al­ist soci­eties that led to the rise of fas­cism in Japan in the 1920’s and 1930’s and the “Tea Par­ties” in the U.S., with whom many of them com­pare them­selves.

Notice that one of the groups dis­cussed here is the Issuikai group, pred­i­cat­ed upon the ide­ol­o­gy and oper­a­tional dic­tates of the late Yukio Mishi­ma. This group recent­ly host­ed a gath­er­ing of Euro­pean fas­cists, some of whom vis­it­ed the Yasuku­ni shrine.

““New Dis­sent in Japan Is Loud­ly Anti-For­eign” by Mar­tin Fack­ler ; The New York Times; 8/28/2010.

Excerpt: . . . . More sig­nif­i­cant­ly, the protests also sig­naled the emer­gence here of a new type of ultra­na­tion­al­ist group. The groups are open­ly anti-for­eign in their mes­sage, and unafraid to win atten­tion by hold­ing unruly street demon­stra­tions.

Since first appear­ing last year, their protests have been direct­ed at not only Japan’s half mil­lion eth­nic Kore­ans, but also Chi­nese and oth­er Asian work­ers, Chris­t­ian church­go­ers and even West­ern­ers in Hal­loween cos­tumes. In the lat­ter case, a few dozen angri­ly shout­ing demon­stra­tors fol­lowed around rev­el­ers wav­ing plac­ards that said, “This is not a white coun­try.”

Local news media have dubbed these groups the Net far right, because they are loose­ly orga­nized via the Inter­net, and gath­er togeth­er only for demon­stra­tions. At oth­er times, they are a vir­tu­al com­mu­ni­ty that main­tains its own Web sites to announce the times and places of protests, swap infor­ma­tion and post video record­ings of their demon­stra­tions.

While these groups remain a small if noisy fringe ele­ment here, they have won grow­ing atten­tion as an alarm­ing side effect of Japan’s long eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal decline. Most of their mem­bers appear to be young men, many of whom hold the low-pay­ing part-time or con­tract jobs that have pro­lif­er­at­ed in Japan in recent years.

Though some here com­pare these groups to neo-Nazis, soci­ol­o­gists say that they are dif­fer­ent because they lack an aggres­sive ide­ol­o­gy of racial suprema­cy, and have so far been care­ful to draw the line at vio­lence. There have been no reports of injuries, or vio­lence beyond push­ing and shout­ing. Rather, the Net right’s main pur­pose seems to be vent­ing frus­tra­tion, both about Japan’s dimin­ished stature and in their own per­son­al eco­nom­ic dif­fi­cul­ties.

“These are men who feel dis­en­fran­chised in their own soci­ety,” said Ken­suke Suzu­ki, a soci­ol­o­gy pro­fes­sor at Kwan­sei Gakuin Uni­ver­si­ty. “They are look­ing for some­one to blame, and for­eign­ers are the most obvi­ous tar­get.”

They are also dif­fer­ent from Japan’s exist­ing ultra­na­tion­al­ist groups, which are a com­mon sight even today in Tokyo, wear­ing para­mil­i­tary uni­forms and rid­ing around in omi­nous black trucks with loud­speak­ers that blare mar­tial music.

This tra­di­tion­al far right, which has roots going back to at least the 1930s rise of mil­i­tarism in Japan, is now a tac­it­ly accept­ed part of the con­ser­v­a­tive polit­i­cal estab­lish­ment here. Soci­ol­o­gists describe them as serv­ing as a sort of unof­fi­cial mech­a­nism for enforc­ing con­for­mi­ty in post­war Japan, sin­gling out Japan­ese who were seen as stray­ing too far to the left, or oth­er groups that anger them, such as embassies of coun­tries with whom Japan has ter­ri­to­r­i­al dis­putes.

Mem­bers of these old-line right­ist groups have been quick to dis­tance them­selves from the Net right, which they dis­miss as ama­teur­ish rab­ble-rousers.

“These new groups are not patri­ots but atten­tion-seek­ers,” said Kunio Suzu­ki, a senior advis­er of the Issuikai, a well-known far-right group with 100 mem­bers and a fleet of sound trucks. . . . In inter­views, mem­bers of the Zaitokukai and oth­er groups blamed for­eign­ers, par­tic­u­lar­ly Kore­ans and Chi­nese, for Japan’s grow­ing crime and unem­ploy­ment, and also for what they called their nation’s lack of respect on the world stage. Many seemed to embrace con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries tak­en from the Inter­net that Chi­na or the Unit­ed States were plot­ting to under­mine Japan.

“Japan has a shrink­ing pie,” said Masaru Ota, 37, a med­ical equip­ment sales­man who head­ed the local chap­ter of the Zaitokukai in Omiya, a Tokyo sub­urb. “Should we be shar­ing it with for­eign­ers at a time when Japan­ese are suf­fer­ing?”

While the Zaitokukai has grown rapid­ly since it was start­ed three and a half years ago with just 25 mem­bers, it is still large­ly run by its founder and pres­i­dent, a 38-year-old tax accoun­tant who goes by the assumed name of Mako­to Saku­rai. Mr. Saku­rai leads the group from his tiny office in Tokyo’s Aki­habara elec­tron­ics dis­trict, where he taps out announce­ments and oth­er post­ings on his per­son­al com­put­er.

Mr. Saku­rai says the group is not racist, and reject­ed the com­par­i­son with neo-Nazis. Instead, he said he had mod­eled his group after anoth­er over­seas polit­i­cal move­ment, the Tea Par­ty in the Unit­ed States. [Ital­ics are mine–D.E.] He said he had stud­ied videos of Tea Par­ty protests, and shared with the Tea Par­ty an angry sense that his nation had gone in the wrong direc­tion because it had fall­en into the hands of left­ist politi­cians, lib­er­al media as well as for­eign­ers.
“They have made Japan pow­er­less to stand up to Chi­na and Korea,” said Mr. Saku­rai, who refused to give his real name. . . .


Discussion

2 comments for “Economic Difficulties Fuel Rise of Far-Right Groups in Japan; They Compare Themselves to “Tea Parties””

  1. It’s kin­da sad and iron­ic, that Japan nowa­days is at least some­what more social­ly lib­er­al than the U.S., and yet they, too are sport­ing Tea Par­ty like groups.........makes me won­der just how much hope we have for Amer­i­ca.

    Posted by Steven | August 30, 2010, 3:13 pm
  2. I take excep­tion to Steven’s com­ment that Japan & the U.S. are sport­ing Tea Par­ty-like groups as if they were an organ­ic devel­op­ment.

    The Tea Par­ty phe­nom­e­non is arti­fi­cial, ini­ti­at­ed by the usu­al sus­pect GOP/fascist orga­niz­ers & backchan­nel fun­ders.

    The Tea Par­ty is cre­at­ed to serve the same pur­pose as the Sturmabteilung, in advance of a 1976 Argenti­na-style mil­i­tary coup, when the war of attri­tion on the last rem­nants of the New Deal pro­tec­tive bar­ri­ers against a U.S. Banana Repub­lic will have foment­ed an oli­garch-spon­sored out­cry that “only the mil­i­tary’s com­pe­tence can save us from this ungovern­able chaos”.

    And there is no inher­ent Tea Par­ty “phi­los­o­phy” that is any dif­fer­ent from the stan­dard GOP rhetoric of the past 20-plus years. They are not a nat­u­ral­ly-occur­ring new phe­nom­e­non — only a new mar­ket­ing cam­paign for the same old reac­tionary pawns of the Under­ground Reich.

    Posted by Seattle Bob | September 2, 2010, 6:50 pm

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