Right-Wing Extremism Rising


Right-wing extremism is increasingly becoming a driving force in Japanese politics and society.

Shadowy right-wing groups, the Independent reports, “are at the forefront of a concerted push to get Japan to move away from its post-war pacifism” (Dec. 8, 2006).

This right-wing movement “is ardently nationalist, reveres the emperor, supports the rebuilding of Japan’s military might and generally bemoans what they call the apologetic strain of Japan’s foreign policy since World War ii. The right-wingers trumpet their patriotism in the sound trucks and at Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni shrine honoring the country’s militarism” (Washington Post, Nov. 2, 2002).

They also use violence and other sinister methods to promote their cause. In February last year, for example, right-wing extremists burned down the house of a prominent liberal politician. Members of one such group, Taiko-Sha, “are accused of carrying out fire-bombings, beatings, stabbings, shootings, and even their own ritual suicides, to make a political point” (Independent, op. cit.).

Such groups have received little exposure over the years. Now, however, the aggressive nationalism they espouse is becoming mainstream. “[A] resurgent nationalism among some mainstream politicians and North Korea’s recent nuclear testing have meant right-wing groups are now being listened to at the highest levels, and many of the policies they have been seeking are now on the government’s agenda” (ibid.; emphasis ours). Traditionally sensitive topics that have recently become open to political and public discourse—such as stripping the constitution of its pacifist components, developing nuclear weapons, and promoting patriotism in schools—are the very issues right-wing extremists have been pushing for decades.

Manifestations of the growing popularity of Japanese nationalism advocated by right-wingers include foreigners being targeted by police, the alleged censorship and intimidation of journalists and scholars who criticize nationalist trends in Japan, the Defense Agency being upgraded to a Defense Ministry, a new school curriculum aimed at instilling in students “an attitude that respects tradition and culture, and love of the nation and homeland,” and teachers being threatened with suspension and loss of pay if they don’t sing the national anthem and salute the flag (theage.com.au, Aug. 30, 2006).

“All of this,” comments the Independent, “is exactly what Japan’s influential and well-organized right-wing movement has been demanding for years” (op. cit.).

Yumi Kikuchi, a writer who attended a meeting in central Tokyo recently to protest against moves to the right, put it bluntly: “If you look at all the laws they passed in the past three years it is preparation for war like we did 60 years ago” (ibid.).

Naturally, some surrounding Asian nations are nervously eyeing Japan’s emerging nationalism. However, it is not only Japan’s neighbors that should be concerned; Japan’s history shows it can be a threat much further afield. In this context, it is worth noting that the right-wingers also advocate cutting ties with the United States—a trend also likely to be reflected in Japanese society and politics in the future as right-wing sentiment grows more and more mainstream.