Japan Today

Each Aug 15, Yasukuni area turns into riot zone

By Brett Bull

With his broad shoulders rippling beneath his dark blue jumpsuit, Shinichi Kamijo has taken a sidewalk position on Yasukuni Dori, not far from Jimbocho station in Chiyoda Ward.

It is 2 p.m. and, given that he is about to engage in battle, Kamijo is surprisingly calm. “We must stop them from advancing to the shrine,” implores the 38-year-old member of Gishin Gokoku-kai, an "uyoku dantai" (right-wing group) that he founded when he was 26.

Kamijo’s target is the Anti-Emperor Activities Network, a "sayoku" (left-wing) organization that is about to begin a protest march through Kudanshita and toward Yasukuni Shrine, the controversial Shinto monument that effectively serves as a symbol of Japan’s wartime past. The group of 150 members is assembling at nearby Nishi Kanda Park, a small concrete and gravel square about a kilometer east of the shrine. Before the protest begins, the leader announces that the group’s battles with the uyoku are a usual occurrence. “But we are doing this for the people of Japan,” he says.

As Kamijo waits, convoys of his brethren in black trucks descend upon the area, their presence reinforced by the imposing grilles welded to their fronts, the gold-painted chrysanthemum crests upon their sides and, of course, the unmistakable nationalist jingles booming from their sound systems.

Thirty minutes later, hundreds of riot police officers materialize on the streets. Each trooper is outfitted with a shield, heavy black boots, shin guards and a helmet — the equipment needed to oppose the throng of rightists now stationed on the pavement.

“I want to show the strength of the uyoku power,” Kamijo says, readying his stance, “but we are under the control of the police.”

The above scene unfolded just prior to last year’s pacifist demonstration in Kudanshita on August 15, the anniversary of the end of World War II. The protest, which will be repeated this week and preceded by various other marches near the shrine, highlights the one day of the year where downtown Tokyo could nearly be confused for Pakistan or Tibet during times of political unrest — the city literally turns into a riot zone as right- and left-wing groups stand off against one another.

Yasukuni like a spark in a tinderbox

Perhaps Japan’s most notorious rallying point for nationalist sentiment, Yasukuni confounds its left-leaning detractors and inspires patriots due to its honoring of roughly 2.5 million military men, many of whom were encouraged by the belief that their spirit would be enshrined should they die in battle fighting heroically for the emperor. For South Korea and China, two countries that suffered most heavily at the hands of Japan’s military over a half-century ago, a crucial point of criticism is the enshrinement of 14 Class-A war criminals, including wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo. A heated debate on an average day, Yasukuni and its surrounding area is like a spark landing in a tinderbox on the anniversary.

Last year, the morning saw a separate one-hour demonstration in the streets west of the shrine’s grounds led by the Anti-War Joint Action Committee, which assembled in front of Hosei University in Ichigaya.

“On the anniversary, the uyoku begin working from early in the morning,” says the committee’s 64-year-old representative, Misumi Tadashi. “Not only around Yasukuni, but all throughout Tokyo, they blast their messages from speakers mounted atop their trucks. This is the most appropriate day of the year for them to appeal their existence to the public. The police cannot control them, and we cannot let them continue with these harsh activities. We have to do something.”

The Anti-War Joint Action Committee, which is funded through the sale of publications and plans on marching again this year, was established in 1992 to oppose the dispatch of the Japan Self-Defense Forces to Cambodia. Today, the war in Iraq is one of the group’s raisons d’etre.

The procession left the Hosei campus and moved up towards Iidabashi and back down Sotobori Dori to Sotobori Park, near Yotsuya. All through the route, police officers walked pace for pace with the over 100 protesters as uyoku members attempted to physically disrupt the march.

“It seems like the police are trying to stop them, but in reality it is very easy for the uyoku to break through,” believes Tadashi. “We can’t rely on the police, and the uyoku know that we have the skills and power to fight back — so that is why they don’t attack so aggressively.”

The proceedings were decidedly more subdued inside the shrine’s compound. Kamijo, the right-winger, paid his respects at Yasukuni just before noon. As he faced the memorial’s imposing façade, a hinomaru flag proudly stitched on the back of his clothes, beads of sweat poured down from his shaven skinhead on this mercilessly muggy day. He performed a few bows, tossed some coins, and clasped his hands in remembrance of Japan’s fallen soldiers.

Behind him, veterans sporting camouflage military uniforms and tourists, cameras in hand, emptied from tour buses onto the baking concrete.

Afterwards, as the burly Kamijo made his way back to a few rows of shaded tables filled with members of other right-wing groups, he explained that he founded Gishin Gokoku-kai because of the way Japan’s neighbors view the country.

“China and South Korea educate their children to hate Japan. They don’t want the younger generation to stop being angry and want to continue receiving money from the Japanese government,” he says of the Official Development Assistance program, whose work has included a subway project in Seoul and programs to improve the environment and public health in China. “I am tired of their complaints. They do not appreciate our efforts.”

By midday, most of the right-wingers had, like Kamijo, completed their patriotic duties at the shrine and returned to their fortress-like vehicles for the eventual move down the road to Kudanshita for the clash with the pacifists.

In Kudanshita, the tension is increasing. Cordons of police officers are now lined up face-to-face with the uniformed rightists. Kamijo, however, won’t be intimidated.

“Japanese have been way too quiet,” he explains. “And since we don’t have a nuclear weapon, they [China and South Korea] can be aggressive.”

Kamijo admits that he’s not in top form since having dropped 11kg following an illness, but there is little doubt that he means business. As a warning to foreigners, the word “DEATH” is tattooed on the back of his neck, as is the numeral 4, whose kanji (pronounced “shi”) has the same morbid meaning. Appearing on his meishi are the lyrics to “Kimigayo,” Japan’s national anthem.

History of brawling with mobsters, foreigners

A carpenter by trade, Kamijo says that his history of brawling with mobsters and foreigners in Roppongi while a member of a "bosozoku" motorbike gang is so extensive that he suggests we have a separate meeting so he can convey all the gory details. Certainly, on this day, his actions make such claims seem extremely plausible.

Carrying large red balloons, colorful flags, and painted banners — including one featuring the image of Che Guevara — the Anti-Emperor Activities Network makes the turn toward Kamijo’s corner. Their chants are loud and clear: “We are completely against all the people who go to Yasukuni!”

As if rushing a quarterback, Kamijo tries to wedge his massive frame between a pair of police shields to get at his enemies. When rebuffed by the officers, he stabs his right index finger to the sky and screams.

Unbowed, Kamijo quickly follows the crowd down the street with one of his cohorts. Together, they leap over a flower bed yet find themselves pushed back by a flurry of helmets and forearms. Amid the chaos, Kamijo winds up getting flipped onto his back, with planters being dumped and their contents spilled. Advertising flags fall to the sidewalk.

Reports of uyoku-sayoku clashes commonly claim that the police firmly side with the right. But on this day, the sayoku are generally being protected. As the procession moves along, right-wingers with portable loudspeakers blast their righteous messages as their bolder brothers continue to make attempts at breaking the police lines. Each time, however, the protester is tackled, dragged off or pushed away by Tokyo’s finest.

Confused onlookers stand by as the sidewalks and the center of the street become a swirling display of swaying flags, mashing bodies and deafening noise.

In spite of Kamijo’s claims of wanting to display the spirit of the uyoku, much of the violent activity appears staged, which matches with the observations of Tadashi from the Ichigaya demonstration. Though visually surreal, many of the punches seem feigned, and the multiple clenched fists merely come across as elaborate street theater. Further, given the clear planning on the part of the police, it is clear that the protest route, starting time and participants have been coordinated well in advance.

The opposition continues to show relentless zeal, yet the chants from the marchers do not stop: “We are not going to forgive the government at all! No more war! No more Yasukuni!”

In the surrounding area, right-wing groups have parked their trucks at police barricades established at many of the large intersections. The cops hold their ground as the members stand by and scowl outside their vehicles, whose sound systems are still smothering the area with the military anthems at ear-splitting volume.

By the time the mob comes within view of Yasukuni’s gates, an atmosphere of hatred permeates the entire scene. Standing outside of shops and offices, a few salarymen and older women have decided to join in and verbally condemn the lefties for their presence.

The march then turns up Mejiro Dori — not onwards toward the shrine — which most certainly was the plan all along. The protesters file into a small brick smoking area that includes a bathroom. Many right-wingers surround the premises and continue their screaming and pushing routines.

Down narrow side streets, a few overly aggressive rightists can be seen getting hauled away by small groups of police. It is now clear that the ranks are thinning, and when a caravan of right-wing trucks breaches one of the police blockades and makes a final sonic blitz past the assembled protesters, it almost signals a last gasp.

The atmosphere should be no less heated on the anniversary this year. This spring anger raged over the release of "Yasukuni," a documentary by Chinese director Li Ying that multiple theaters in Japan refused to screen following threats from right-wing groups, who saw the film as being “anti-Japan.”

Kamijo, who was not arrested last year, expects a similar scene in Kudanshita, and once again he is excited. “We have to stop them,” he says bluntly. “We must force them to cancel the demonstration.”

The Anti-War Joint Action Committee, too, sees the scene unfolding much as it did 12 months earlier, and promises to be ready. “We have confidence to fight back,” Tadashi says. “We have guts and pride, and I am sure they will be coming after us.”

The Kundanshita demonstration will get underway along Yasukuni Dori on Aug 15, just after 2:30 p.m. Access via Jimbocho station (exit A1 or A2) or Kudanshita station (exit 5 or 6). The Ichigaya demonstration will start from Hosei University at 9 a.m. Nearest stn: JR Ichigaya. Due to police activity, routes and times may change without notice.

A panel of journalists and other interested parties will be holding a meeting about the Yasukuni issue at Sendagaya Kumin Kaikan on Aug 15 at 5:45 p.m. 1-10-1 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3402-7854. Nearest stn: Harajuku or Meiji-Jingumae. See http://tinyurl.com/senkumin for map.

For more information about the Anti-Emperor Activities Network, see www.ten-no.net. For more information about the Anti-War Joint Action Committee, see www.anti-war.jp/english/index_e.htm.

This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp)

© Japan Today

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

Wow, amazing, Japanese citizens actually protest AGAINST glorifying its war past? Jp citizens actually march en masse and even, gasp, fight against right wingers and all causes war?

Yet another example (out of so many) that yet again destroys the commonly spouted notion that all Japanese are ignorant war mongers, xenophobics denying their past. Oh well.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

rjd jr; And You really think this article makes Japanese look less Xenaphobic.

REad the article carefully, this is not thousands demonstrating is it?

Not quite what anyone withn an open mind would call a riot zone.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some notes for the right wingers.

WWII was lost before the first shot was fired. Even your greatest naval officer warned of this. Resources vs resources. Japan losese. Period. Nothing has changed in this regard, so wishing a return to militarism is like wishing to be defeated all over again.

No one, outside your group, wants you back in power. The vast majority of Japanese just want to be left to live the Japanese dream in peace. A nice place to live, good food and family. Very few people are foolish enough to think that nationalism will solve anything.

Have you looked the competition? WWII era China was a push over due to their divided state. I think the current China would bury Japan. Same goes for most of the other counties the Right wingers hate so much.

One request. Can you guys invest in some kind of wireless PA system and play one song at a time? And try reducing your shouting to one at a time. I don't think anyone knows what you are talking about.

The guys in Harajuku a while back were playing Godzilla theme music while driving around. I don't think Godzilla is a nationalist. But I did truly enjoy the humor of right wing guys looking so serious while Godzilla theme music played. Maybe the most vivid example of just how pointless and hopeless this collection of ill informed wanna-be fascicsts are. Sad.
0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sounds like the skinhead fools in southern california. They walk around with shaved heads and swastika tatoos, as if they had any idea.

Too bad I live too far from tokyo, sounds like this hoe down would be fun to watch. I'd love to see some old women scream for the cause, you don't see that everyday.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

bamboohat; Good post. These right wing followers are accepted in Japan.

Their opions are listen to by the LDP. They should be outcasts, on the fringe of society, that no-one listens to.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"with his dark shoulders rippling beneath his dark blue jumpsuit.." What is this? a comic book? give us a break Bret.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

i mean "broad"

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As a warning to foreigners, the word “DEATH” is tattooed on the back of his neck

From Japanpundit.com:

Home renovator Shinichi Kamijo has three tattoos of swastikas: one on each shoulder and another smack dab between his sizeable pectoral muscles — right above the words, “Heil Hitler.”

But then, in the same article, he is quoted as saying:

“Take World War II. At that time, of course, there was foreign pressure on Japan, the only non-colony in Asia. Japan was also attacking other countries, and I disapprove of that. Japan created Manchuria for its own profit and invaded Southeast Asia and Korea — I acknowledge that. I do believe that Korea was a Japanese colony. At that time, though, Japan wasn’t the only colonizer; Britain, France and the rest of Europe were colonizing Asia — as well as the Philippines, China and Hong Kong. The United States was involved. They most likely wanted to make Japan a colony, too.

“Liberating Asia was one reason Japan had for invasion. OK, that may have been what the Japanese government told the population to get everybody on board. But Japanese at the time believed it.

source :http://japundit.com/archives/2006/10/22/3900/

0 ( +0 / -0 )

rjr hahahahaha. cut and paste "yet another example of___ to show the naysayers__ despite what people think of Japanese____". add one ridicu,ous comment, a sprinkle of salt, simmer and serve. voila comedy

0 ( +0 / -0 )

anyway, this kamijo thug should be behind bars wrestling with other like minded folk and showing them how hard he is.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I wonder do these guys actually think that if Hitler's Germany would have won WWII that they would have given Japan an equal partnership. After all how do the Japanese fit into the whole master race scenario? Wouldn't they have ended up in camps sooner or later too?

Japanese dimwits wearing swastikas is just another sign of how out of touch with reality these guys are. I've always thought we should fence off Nevada and give it to the Neo-Nazis in the US to starve to death in. Maybe we can toss in the Japanese right wingers and they can wipe each other out instead.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Guys like this Kamijo guy are trouble. I always see them driving around town blasting nonsense. And these "Bosozoku" people constantly break traffic laws and god knows what else and the police do nothing. If hes committed countless crimes with foreigners why isnt he in Jail? People in this country are passive whimps for not sorting these guys out.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Where can one purchase IJA marches in CD format such as the "Imperial March"?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"In times of peace, the warlike man turns upon himself."

Shinichi is a frustrated warrior. He sees conflict where there is none, and creates conflict where none is required.

This state of perpetual conflict is the only thing that keeps him going. If you took it away from him, he would wither and die.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"But we are doing this for the people of Japan" He says. Yeah right... 'Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.' Never truer words spoken, SJ

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Where can one purchase IJA marches in CD format such as the "Imperial March"?

I don't know about IJA anthems, but IJN anthem CDs can be purchased in the Yushukan gift shop.

0 ( +0 / -0 )


The guys in Harajuku a while back were playing Godzilla theme music while driving around. I don't think Godzilla is a nationalist. But I did truly enjoy the humor of right wing guys looking so serious while Godzilla theme music played. Maybe the most vivid example of just how pointless and hopeless this collection of ill informed wanna-be fascicsts are. Sad.

Know just what you mean. The Uyoku in my area often drive by the base here blasting the Star Spangled Banner. Never quite figured out that one...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"In times of peace, the warlike man turns upon himself."

Shinichi is a frustrated warrior. He sees conflict where there is none, and creates conflict where none is required.

This state of perpetual conflict is the only thing that keeps him going. If you took it away from him, he would wither and die.

GG - Exactly right. It has been my experience that Japanese people have a strong desire to define who they are through some kind of group experience. It could be work, a hobby club, a highly stuctured group of friends etc. It seems to give them value to their sense of self. Being a social outcast is crippling to their esteem.

Their belonging to these groups might have more to do with maintaining a sense of purpose in life (see "we are doing this for the people of Japan") and less to do with the actual issues involved.

A lot of these "protests" to me seem to be like professional wrestling...a lot of show, without any substance.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

These uyoku are on the fringe of Japanese society. No one takes them seriously, except perhaps themselves. I hae yet to meet a Japanese person who didn't think they were nutbags. These black truck boys are no more influential on Japanedse government and society as skinheads and neonazis. Of course, the mainland anti-J consistently repeat how the Uyoku control the JP govt because Japan is still the old Imperial War Machine of decades gone by. This is pure hogwash and no better proof exists than the inability of the Japanese govt and people to get rid of Article 9. Worse, it puts the United States, which has been trying to re-militarize (normalize) Japan since the Korean War into the same so-called right wing JP govt group.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Many excellent posts here. I disagree with the uyoku on most things. But what really makes me detest them is their threats and their lust for violence, particularly when directed against pacifists. They only lose credibility in my eyes by responding to a peaceful protest like a bunch of cavemen. They also have a pathetic desire to get attention, only made more pathetic by their childish groping to get it. USNinJapan2, that is probably why they play the Star Spangled Banner and the Godzilla theme, as another mentioned. Its just to get attention, and maybe also for image. But then, it is mistake to think two sides are always diametrically opposed. I dont think the uyoku are anti-American in all or even most things.

But on this day, the sayoku are generally being protected.

I was thinking the uyoku were being protected from themselves!

I do think the sayoku need to clean up their message though. Yasukuni itself is not the problem. Its the enshrinement of war criminals that started in the 1970's that is the problem. They need to be clear about that. Yasukuni only plays into their hands, because it shows how many die for a failed war. Therefore, it is clear proof of the value of peace.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There is absolutely nothing intimidating or imposing about this guy. He looks like every other shaved headed, average joe that pumps my gas.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The strangest thing is when he says that Japanese have been too quiet. I haven't been in downtown Tokyo for a while, but those trucks are deafening!

As for Yasukuni, it should be remembered that there are still many "normal" Japanese who aren't Uyoku who go there to pay their respects to friends and family members.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Now, what might help against black sound trucks, are raw potatoes. How does it work, one might ask? Well, try (but don't get caught) to push a potato into the sound truck engine exhaust pipe.

If the engine is running at high power, of course, no luck, the potato will come out by the gas pressure. But if the engine is more or less idling, when the truck is standing, then there is a good chance that the back-pressure will make the engine stop after a while.

This might also help with bosozoku, but again - make sure not to be found out.

And there are many other possibilities - well known from the Blues Brothers Movies.

0 ( +0 / -0 )


I hear you, as do others, but who in Jpn cares, gives a damn about the 20-30million who were killed by these "kami".............

the silence has been deafening for decades

0 ( +0 / -0 )

some people have the Olympics and some people have this. If it wasn't defending a shrine it would be something else. Drama at its' finest. -it's only play until someone gets hurt though.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

GW. I agree totally with you. Absolutely. And as I tell my wife, if Japanese did learn about, remember and reflect upon the millions who died from so many countries, people would have more sympathy for them and I don't think Yasukuni would be the issue that it is today.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ah, Shinichi Kamijo the dude with "die 4" tatooed on the back of his head. I get that he's unhappy that Japan lost the war but being a thug just makes the country as a whole look bad. I will give him his point about China and Korea wanting handouts from Japan while continuing to indoctrinate their children and complain about Japan. I think Japan should cut all aid to its irritating neighbors.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Oh, and one more to follow up, these guys are just like skins in Germany. Losers who view themselves as patriotic warriors when they are really nothing more than thugs. The cops should really crack down on the black van crew for disturbing the peace.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It is August 15: the 63rd anniversary of Japan`s formal surrender for its decade and a half of a war of agression and brutality for an expanded Japanese Empire in Asia.

A great day for the the world and the years following this momentous day in 1945.

So many people comment about the right and wrong aspects in their minds of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but we have so few who pay attention to the end result of those two horrific, but sadly necessary days.

This day also commemorates the suffering of the millions who were killed by the Imperial Japanese military in the Emperor`s name throughout many Asian countries. Those victims of the Japanese military shall not be forgotten.

So many brutalized through killings like indiscriminate bombings of Chinese cities, chemical and biological experiments, mass rapes etc., all for the fanatical hopes of the militarists and the millions of other Japanese brain-washed by years of ridiculous education and top-down social control.

Strange that this site had tons of stories about Hiroshima and Nagasaki a week ago, but there is only this story about Yasukuni nearing 17:00 on August 15 that I can see that even remotely relates to this hugely important day in world history.

Remember the so-called victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and listen to so many spout off about the need for nuclear disarmament and desiring some utopian "peace of the world," yet so little attention to August 15, 1945....

Strange. Very strange, indeed.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Remember the so-called victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and listen to so many spout off about the need for nuclear disarmament and desiring some utopian "peace of the world," yet so little attention to August 15, 1945.... Strange. Very strange, indeed."

I don't think it's so strange. You're comparing apples and oranges. Remermbering the end of WWII in the Pacific for most Americans is similar to remembering the end of WWII in Europe. It doesn't really register unless you happen to be in your 80s, because we've had so many military conflicts since then. Even Asia doesn't make much of it, mostly because they're forward looking, with the exception of China where it is reasonably justified. Note that the Koreans don't cause the truth is they were on the Imperial Japanese side in that war. Hiroshima is a much bigger deal because it includes people from all over the world because the civilian victims aren't being remembered as victimns of WWII so much as victims of the atomic age, which suggests mankinds entire future may lie in the ability and willingness not to ever use nuclear weapons against each other again.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites