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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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