Going home can yield any number of surprises. Your parents have aged, your childhood room is a den, etc, etc, Spa! (Dec 11) tells of this going-home surprise:
It concerns a company employee we’ll call Mr Suzuki, visiting his 70-year-old father with his wife and four-year-old daughter. The surprise was sprung when the little girl innocently mentioned a nursery school friend of hers who is Korean. Her grandfather saw red. He exploded, “There are Japanese children on nursery school waiting lists and yet Koreans kids can get in easily! The way things are going Koreans will take over the country!”
His son gaped at him open-mouthed. Was this his father? He’d been a sales executive, he’d worked abroad; it hardly seemed like him to be fulminating against foreigners.
A journalist we’ll call Mr Tanaka had a similar astonishment in store for him when he went home recently. He and his father were watching TV when suddenly, out it came: “Koreans and Chinese don’t have the same brains as Japanese – that’s why they don’t win Nobel prizes!”
His son remonstrated, “Listen, father, I have Korean friends and colleagues, please don’t talk like that!” It was oil on the flames. “If you’re a journalist, write the truth about the Nanking Massacre and the comfort women!” the old man thundered, referring to two World War II issues that neo-nationalists say were exaggerated or fabricated by foreigners and/ or traitorous Japanese bent on making Japan look bad.
Tanaka, like Suzuki, saw nothing in this ranting old man of the father he thought he knew. The elder Tanaka had been a small-town bank branch manager, a quiet and distinguished man. What had happened to him?
The neo-nationalist presence known as the net uyoku (net ultra-rightists) is a fairly well-known phenomenon. Their internet sites specialize in hate speech and the whitewashing of what most Japanese and most of the rest of the world call Japanese war crimes. Those who don’t share their views deplore them or ignore them. But Spa! focuses on a peculiarity not much noted: the growing appeal these hate sites seem to have for the elderly – including people who, like the elder Suzuki and Tanaka, had never been of that persuasion before.
“You don’t believe that Korean permanent residents of Japan have special privileges?” the elder Suzuki challenged his son. “Here – look!” And pulling out his smartphone, he produced his “evidence” – numerous blogs and posts “proving” his point.
One can, of course, “prove” anything that way. Looking around the house, the younger Suzuki found books – many. So his father, never much of a reader in the past, had taken to literature to fill his post-retirement leisure. Highly provocative literature at that – “hate literature.”
“It would embarrass him to buy that stuff at a neighborhood book store,” the younger Suzuki tells Spa!. “But he orders it via smartphone, the way a teenager might order pornography.”
Tanaka says much the same of his father, adding, “He searches for hate books on his smartphone, which leads him to (uyoku) sites” – which push other hate books, and the vicious circle closes, revolving endlessly.
Journalist Koichi Yasuda, who has written extensively about the net uyoku, makes an interesting point about Japanese neo-nationalists. “In the past,” he tells Spa!, “prejudice meant looking down on people of other races or nationalities. Now it means looking up to them” – at least in the sense of fearing that they’re clever enough to take over and subvert Japan.© Japan Today