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It’s time for emperor to rev up his own sound truck

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By CB Liddell

It may have escaped your attention, but there is a fraternity of gentlemen in this country who wear military jumpsuits and drive around in large trucks emblazoned with the national insignia. They spew out high-decibel renditions of enka songs about the occupation of Manchuria or the conquest of Sakhalin, lovingly intercut with snatches of political speeches, the basic burden of which is that the sun — rising or otherwise — shines out of Japan’s sweaty loincloth.

The aural and other activities of Japan’s high-profile ultranationalists may be hard to ignore or even stomach, but they may have escaped your attention simply because they seem to have escaped the attention of other long-term Tokyo residents, most noticeably His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Akihito.

For the average foreigner who’s unable to decipher the lurid kanji or interpret the megaphone-mangled marching lyrics, the failure to notice convoys of pseudo-military sound trucks barracking the embassies of China and Russia — or some pachinko parlor or “soapland” that didn’t make this month’s payments — may be partly excusable. This certainly isn’t the case for the native population. They know exactly what’s going on, but seem to deploy mental blind spots as big as beach umbrellas every time the ultras go by.

Perhaps the fine, democratic Western traditions of heckling and throwing overripe tomatoes and rotten eggs hasn’t reached this far. Or, more likely, a trembling cocktail of terror, timidity, fear, trepidation, panic, agitation, nervousness and the jitters, combined with a nasty case of sweaty palms, shivers down the spine, quaking knees, and a yellow streak a mile wide, prevents the average Japanese person exercising their democratic right to mock these absurd pseudo-fascist nonentities.

As the occasional bit of violence lies behind the puffed-up bluster of the ultras, there may be a touch of justification for such cowardice. But what can’t be so easily explained is the degree to which Japan’s establishment allows this national embarrassment to both contaminate the air with sound pollution and, at a time of rising oil prices, permits the prodigious waste of gasoline represented by sound-truck convoys. In particular, the silence of the emperor himself on this issue is deafening, as, from what I can tell, most of this nonsense seems to be done in his name.

Groups like Nihon Seinensha (“Japan Youth Society”), Seikijuku (“Sane Thinkers School”) and Nihon Kominto (“Japan Emperor’s Citizen Party”) all claim to revere and respect the emperor. However, in addition to their almost touching devotion to the living symbol of the nation, most of these groups also have seedy links to yakuza gangs and have also been involved in acts of violence and intimidation.

The Nagasaki-based Seikijuku, for example, were behind the 1990 near-fatal shooting of the mayor of Nagasaki, after he suggested, not unreasonably, that the Emperor Hirohito, commander-in-chief of the Imperial Army and Navy at the time, bore some responsibility for World War II.

In June 2000, the Japan Youth Society attacked the offices of a magazine that ran a headline supposedly “disrespecting” Princess Masako. In 2006, another group launched an arson attack on the house and office of LDP lawmaker Koichi Kato because he had been vocal in criticizing then Prime Minister Koizumi’s visits to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine.

In all these cases, there was little in the way of condemnation from the Imperial household. Perhaps the emperor regards it as “good form” to avoid speaking out on issues like these, even when they involve serious crimes committed in his name.

I have read that he is a noted authority on goby fish and, recently, even delivered a lecture on the classifications of different subspecies of that particular fish family to the Linnean Society of London. While hobnobbing with foreign dignitaries and fellow fish fanciers must be fun, surely the emperor’s first duty is to the comfort and safety of his people. So, rather than speaking to the champagne and caviar set about the differences between mudskippers and prawn gobies, perhaps the emperor should take time out from perusing his ichthyological textbooks and address the awkward question of thugs and bullies who act up and then pass on the credit to him and his lineage.

In other words, it’s high time the emperor put Japan’s ultranationalists in an impossible situation by clearly and repeatedly stating that he disapproves of all their activities. Said often and loudly enough, this will force the ultras to either listen and mend their ways or, instead, become the ones with beach umbrella-sized mental blind spots, pretending that he’s not really there.

CB Liddell is a Tokyo-based writer, editor and cartoonist. This commentary originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).

© Japan Today

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CB

the emperor didnt say do anything about stoping atrocities in the 30-40`s he sure aint going to speak about the ultra conservative losers

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This article misses the point. The fascists do not really respect or revere the emporer and his opinions count for nothing with them.

For the fascists, the ideal emporer would be a mute figurehead. Fascist policies would be implemented on the grounds that "the emporer wishes it", regardless of what he actually thinks. If the emporer were to denounce the fascists, they would simply kill him and replace him with a more compliant guy.

The only way to deal with the fascists is to stand up to them, fight them and destroy them. Unfortunately, the Japanese people lack the will to do this, preferring the "head in the sand" approach.

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Scrote, you are correct. While i was in Japan i studied these unsavoury groups. Found out almost all were wanna be Yakuza, recruited in their late teens. They also had little or no knowledge of Japanese history.

Sad little people, who should get a life.

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They spew out high-decibel renditions of enka songs

I believe the tunes are called "gunka" (martial music), not "enka" (romantic ballads). Failure to make such a simple differentiation does not bode well for the assertions that follow.

Those "average" foreigners who would like to know more about the "lurid" kanji on the sound trucks should keep their eyes peeled for 尊皇攘夷 (sonno-joi), which means "revere the Emperor and expel the barbarians." Some Choshu samurai adopted the slogan for a short-lived movement in the autumn of 1863. It could be argued this puts the ultranationalists' dearth of new ideas in sharper focus.

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the emperor didnt say do anything about stoping atrocities in the 30-40`s he sure aint going to speak about the ultra conservative losers

The present emperor was 7 years old in 1940.

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This is Japan and as such we Japanese have the right to express ourselves.

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"This is Japan and as such we Japanese have the right to express ourselves."

Unless you say something the fascists don't like, then they kill you. This is Japan!

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I'd love to beat down some of these uyoku bums

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Great article!

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there should be something done about those people!

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As many people would now consider Japan Today to be the most read English language news website in Japan, isn't it then time for Japan Today to live up to that responsibility by not publishing rubbish right-wing articles disrespecting Japanese people such as this piece ?

a yellow streak a mile wide, prevents the average Japanese person exercising their democratic right to mock these absurd pseudo-fascist nonentities

This is purely right-wing and anti-Japanese fear journalism. Why don't you stand up to them then Liddell ? Or maybe you are also aware, such as the average Japanese citizen, that these guys are often armed and they even fight with the yakuza.

or some pachinko parlor or “soapland” that didn’t make this month’s payments

These statements are totally incorrect, not researched properly and downright just made-up. The rightwing vans do not sit outside pachinko parlours or 'soaplands'. It is the yakuza who organise protection payments and they certainly would not advertise that fact by placing vans outside said establishments. Liddell is living in a fantasy land and Metropolis and Japan Today give this fantasy author his platform for incorrect facts and right wing fear.

it’s high time the emperor put Japan’s ultranationalists in an impossible situation by clearly and repeatedly stating that he disapproves of all their activities

A monarch or royalty (same thing) are not permitted by law to get involved in politics. They have been placed as heads of the monarchy by heirdom. They have no right to make political speeches and they certainly did not choose these right wingers either.

It's time to live up to your responsibilities Japan Today and Metropolis. Get rid of this garbage journalism and respect the country that is hosting you and providing you with a business. "Yellow streak a mile wide" ? That is disgraceful.

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I think there is merit to both sides of this arguement. I feel the article does come off sounding condescending with racial undertones. That said, the Japanese people are the only ones who can legitimately get rid of these idiots. How they do that I'm not really sure. It seems to me that the nation has been striped of it's national pride in many ways, and these uber-nationalist are a result of this. Young Japanese men want to feel proud of their country and through ignorance perhaps fall in with these kind of rhetorical trash talkers. The country needs a facelift concerning healthy patriotism vs. militant facism. The emperor is correct in ignoring them. To speak out will most likely only fuel the fire. Proper education for the masses is a good place to start.

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This is not the responsibility of Japanese citizens. Back in the UK, would we expect normal citizens to deal with the current spate of knife and gun crime ? In the US, would you expect US citizens to confront the drug dealers and the mob ? The answer is no way. This is the responsibility of the Japanese government (of which many are in the pockets of the right wing here) and the police. For Liddell to label ordinary Japanese people as "yellow" for not confronting armed right wing groups is laughable and this article is just another excuse for his ant-Japan fear.

As a comparison, in the UK the right wing groups such as the British Movement and Combat 15 actually target and attack Asians and Jewish communities. People have been murdered from firebombings. Although I despise the Japanese right wingers, they do not physically attack foreigners here. Don't foget that fact Liddell.

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When I say that the people can get rid of these idiots, I mean through elected officials. Elected official who can use the police to protect, elected officials that can make education a priority, and elected official who can promote healthy patriotism. I am not saying the people should go out and throw-down with them.

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dean,

It wasn't directed at your post. My comments are all directed toward the author of the original article. Your comments are normal and balanced, in comparison to some of the idiots posting on here.

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Stop the crap the KluKlux Clan is still going strong in the US and the Nazi Party in the UK. They are no different to the idiots in Japan, every country has these extremist bigots, rednecks or whatever you want to call them including China

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cleo

ya nailed me, ouch that hurts, but its really only a technicality point still stands : )

Japan as a whole just tries to ignore these black truck dudes which isnt sooooo bad, but the govt & IHA ignoring them leaves only one conclusion...............they support them CLEARLY! Sometimes saying nothing is actually saying something & the govt & IHA are being loud & clear in their support for these groups

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Stop the crap the KluKlux Clan is still going strong in the US and the Nazi Party in the UK.

Yes but these guys are parading around and annoying the peace in Tokyo, the largest city in japan. How long would a KKK rally in, say, NYC go on before the citizen and the cops (in cooperation for once) busted the rednecks up?

These guys need to be reeled in with "quality of life" laws that restrict absurd sound trucks - they are a major embarrasment for Japan.

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Japan as a whole just tries to ignore these black truck dudes which isnt sooooo bad, but the govt & IHA ignoring them leaves only one conclusion...............they support them CLEARLY!

Nah. Just like most Japanese citizens, the government ignores them.

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Actually, they supposedly have ties to Government factions

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The core of the problem is that Japan is not a democracy. It has democratic institutions, but they do not work ; they don't because the japanese citizens in many many cases do not have the desire of making them work. This is the price paid to this culture of "consensus", which actually means accepting archaic social patterns and uniformity as a value. But (I write this to placate the timid ones amongst you) Japan is not unique in this non-desire of democracy ; other developed countries in the far-east have the same widespread democratic impotence, prominent amongst them is China. In any case, I had never thought that in a country with democratic institutions and law I could hear loudspeakers blaring a slogan like "death to the communists", all this in a carefully orchestrated and police monitored motorcade.

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simple solution to the problem db level regulations and permits needed for assemblies stops them and the other loud speaker on top of cars idiots Dont you guys hate the recycle trucks that blast the loud speaker all day...

Japan has to enforce noise laws and this kind of thing wouldnt be a problem....

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Has anyone thought that by letting these right-wingers drive around and let off steam by shouting their slogans, we stop them from venting their political opinions by attacking foreigners here in Japan ? We have laws banning the National Front from driving around the UK and shouting slogans, but we have an awful lot of violent attacks instead. Maybe we are better off letting these guys let off steam this way ?

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maybe Tokyo shud do like beijing & make a demo zone for these losers & let them go wild there & create neat backdrops so it dont look like Japan

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I think ignoring these freaks, like most Japanese people do, is the right approach. Ignore them, let them have their fun, don't provoke them, don't outlaw them, because then they will go underground and start causing real problems. Fringe groups exist everywhere in the world. Hammering them down creates martyrs and is only to the advantage of the group.

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Heck; these guys couldn`t do this stuff in the US.

We have laws protecting everyone, ensuring equality and freedom to all. There is no racial discrimination in the US.

The emperor should, at least state his dislike for thse people, and the cops should arrest them.

Follow the lead of the US, and ensure freedom for all.

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The Constitution that the US required Japan to adopt during the post-WWII occupation includes a provision similar to the First Amendment to the US Constitution that guarantees freedom of speech. Because of the way that provision is worded, it has been interpreted by the Japanese courts as protecting the rights of groupts (regardless of political orientation) to engage in demonstrations, including the use of sound trucks.

The US Supreme Court developed a rule allowing "reasonable time, place and manner" restraints on speech, even though such restraints are inconsistent with the literal wording of the First Amendment to the US Constitution (which states that "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech"). As a result, there are many laws in the US restricting when, where and in what manner people can exercise their "free speech" rights. Japan's Supreme Court tends to be more literal, and thus has not developed a rule allowing government to pass laws that restrict speech in the same ways that speech is limited in the US.

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The Emperor is held on a very short leash by the IHA, and it seems he is prohibited from ever saying anything controversial about anything. For him to oppose these nationalist groups, while I think it would be admirable, would surely be shot down (hopefully not literally) quickly by arguments that by Japan's constitution, the emperor is not allowed to be involved in the country's politics. Such arguments have been used before to quash Imperial opinions on how succession should be handled absent a male heir.

Attacking the average Japanese person for allowing these groups to exist is wrong-headed, and Liddel's accusations of cowardice are about as clear racism as anything the Black Vans spew. The people whose job it is to stop these groups is The National Police Agency. That they don't is just more evidence piled on the heaps of ineptitude we've already seen from them. When will Japan demand that their police do their jobs?

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Has anyone heard of freedom of speech ? Let them drive around and shout their slogans and play their marching songs. And if they truly believe that Sakhalin should be handed back and that all the Chinese are Communists then that is their right to think that way. They only fight with the police (no bad thing) and it is extremely rare for them to attack foreigners here. So what's the big deal ?

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they are not so bad. I find them mildly entertaining. They often cruise around the chinese embassy near my home. they can protest all they want but there is a legion of armed cops surrounding the place making it one of the safest areas in Osaka. for that, I thank them.

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I wonder whether this Liddell person has ever run into nazi skinheads back in the States, or Combat 15 in London ? He wouldn't be whinging on about vans and loudspeakers and how the Emperor should apologise if he had done. They'll kick your head in as soon as they get the chance, even if you are white.

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I smile at them benignly and wave as they go by.

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Will be interesting to see whether the Nihon Seinensha and the Seikijuku get to hear about Liddell's criticism of the Emperor, his constant Japan-bashing and his article about their organisations. Maybe then we'll see how Liddell's "yellow streak" is. Hope he has plenty of fire extinguishers at home..

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He should be free to criticise without the fear of reprisal. Japan is too lax on these right wing thugs. Freedom to criticise is essential. THe US would be in a sorry state now, without our cherished rights to free speech.

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He should be free to criticise without the fear of reprisal. Japan is too lax on these right wing thugs. Freedom to criticise is essential. THe US would be in a sorry state now, without our cherished rights to free speech.

But that is a contradiction in itself. The right-wing groups are also merely giving their opinion.

Moderator: Please refrain from accusing anyone of racism on this discussion board.

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So... if I hire a truck and barricade an embassy I'm a terrorist.

If the nationalist goons do it, while basically threatening the sovereignty of Japan's neighbors and killing politicians, they're patriots...

Someone's getting paid somewhere.

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No one is calling them patriots or condoning them. But what is the difference between Liddell using internet news media to write that Japanese people have a "yellow streak a mile wide" and those idiot right-wingers who use speaker vans to denounce the Russians and the Chinese ? Some of us are also putting these guys into perspective because they do not attack foreigners in Japan, whereas their counterparts in the west kill normal citizens.

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northlondon: At risk of being labelled a pedant, isn`t it Combat18?

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My idea for getting back at the black-truckers is to print up some stickers on the Tepra at work with "baka" in Japanese. Cycle up behind them at the traffic signal and put 2 or 3 stickers on the back of the truck. The only minus point is that you wouldn't see their faces when they finally found them ;-)

Minor risk is that the car behind them at the lights is full of their mates, in which case you'll be cycling off faster than a keirin champion...

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Surge at 01:25 AM JST - 30th July

Heck; these guys couldn`t do this stuff in the US.

We have laws protecting everyone, ensuring equality and freedom to all. There is no racial discrimination in the US.

The emperor should, at least state his dislike for thse people, and the cops should arrest them.

Follow the lead of the US, and ensure freedom for all.

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they are entitled to their free speech but my question is why the police don't stop them when they run stop lights which impunity. i mean these buses go barrelling thru redlights long after the light has changed and the police do nothing.

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This is nothing to be accused of the Emperor. For your information Current role of Emperor: The emperor's role is defined in Chapter I of the 1947 Constitution of Japan.

Article 1 defines the emperor as the symbol of state and the unity of the people Article 3 says the Emperor must have the approval of the cabinet in matters of state. Article 4 states that the emperor shall not have powers related to government. Article 6 gives the emperor the power to appoint the prime minister and the chief judge of the supreme court. Article 7 gives the emperor power to do things common of a head of state. The emperor of Japan has no reserve powers.

While the emperor does serve as head of state, many people question if the emperor is a true monarch in a political sense. Efforts in the 1950s by conservative powers to change the constitution to actually name the emperor as head of state were rejected. Regardless, the emperor does do all the diplomatic functions of a head of state and is recognized as one by foreign powers. Secondly, It has to do with the militarism period in Japan which all those japanese officials payed their life to death penalties after the second world war. If they have followers like their secret organization, we don't know now whose the head of this organization but truly this is not link from the Emperor's Dispositon nor his duties to know because he is very innocent about the negativity of thier actions towards citizens. Maybe Prime Minister can asked help to the Authorization of thier Chief Commander in Police Agency, National Security Agency and JPIS.

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i have no problem with these losers free speeching & all but at REASONABLE FRIGGING VOLUMES ONLY, simple noise ordinance shud take care of these twits, but even then wud the coppers have the nads to do their jobs.......well we all know that answer, thats why things is the the they is!

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I was just commenting on the topic "1 in 30 babies born in Japan (come from non-Japanese parents)". Imagine what the rightwingers in this article would do if NHK announced that.

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