Recently, although I can’t remember why, I was researching the famous Japanese author Yukio Mishima. Essentially isolated from the outside world as a child, the samurai-descendant was an incredibly prolific writer as an adult. He penned some 40 novels and numerous plays, essays, short stories, and even a musical.
Nevertheless, Mishima had a nationalist streak. He tried to serve in WWII but was considered too frail by recruiters. Undeterred, he began bodybuilding during the woebegone aftermath of the war, meanwhile developing a nationalist ideology. Feeling postwar Japan had lost its way, after gaining international literary success, he formed a paramilitary group aimed at returning Japan to its prewar glory.
Essentially, the author felt Japan’s WWII defeat subjugated the country and forced it to suppress its native character. Through his politics, he sought to reawaken the spirit of Japan. Mishima also sought an honorable death, the reason he hoped to join the military. He bemoaned a protracted death and openly lamented such a common fate.
On November 20, 1970, Mishima and followers broke into the Japanese Self-defense Force headquarters in Tokyo. Hoping to restore the emperor’s prominence, they apprehended the commander and attempted to incite a coup d'état. However, when Mishima addressed the troops he hoped to convert, they openly mocked him. After the failed revolt, the author committed seppuku and was decapitated by a follower per tradition.
Before his death, Mishima expounded his philosophy in an interview (English subtitles available, push the cc button if not displayed):
Did Mishima's suicide serve a greater purpose, or was it just the dramatic end of a tortured artist? Debate exists surrounding his reasons, but I would imagine modern-day nationalists have no trouble understanding his motives.
In metropolitan areas, Japanese residents are accustomed to the cacophony of right-wing activists. These isolationists blare the Japanese national anthem, interspersed among propaganda, from loudspeakers tuned to excessive decibels. Most often seen in Tokyo, they are impossible to ignore while within earshot. Donning anachronistic military uniforms, these political groups often cross urban areas “on raids” en route to demonstrate outside foreign embassies.
For the uninitiated, here’s a brief glimpse:
Although the whole hoorah is largely orchestrated and benign, it’s certainly makes for a lot of commotion. For anyone interested, Langley Esquire provides a great overview in English of 右翼団体 uyoku dantai, right-wing groups, on their YouTube channel:
The Japanese Alt-right Agenda
According to Langley Esquire, the Japanese alt-right espouses historical revisionism. They underplay the oft-cited “atrocities” committed by Japan in the 1930s and 40s and seek to revise existing accounts of their country’s history. As Langley Esquire Senior Advisor Michael Cucek purports, elected members of uyoku-dantai are quick to alter history textbooks, and some supporters have been known to harass journalists and intimidate online dissidents.
The Japan First Party, 日本第一党, Nippon Dai-ichi Tō, is one such group with traction in recent years. The political group was formed by civil servant turned activist Makoto Sakurai. Sakurai originally led the 在日特権を許さない市民の会 zainichi tokken o yurusunai shimin no kai (Association of citizens against the special privileges of foreigners) party which espoused extreme anti-Korean views. After the party was branded a xenophobic hate group, Sakurai formed The Japan First Party.
However, the alt-right group seems to maintain many of the same ultra-nationalist policy positions. Claiming some 2,000 members, the group supports a hard line agenda. According to their website, some key policies include:
- Redrafting the Japanese Constitution and reinstating the Emperor as head of state
- Reinstating the military
- Reasserting dominion over disputed islands
- Abolishing the Japan-Korea comfort women agreement
- Restricting immigration policies and reviewing foreign nationals access to welfare benefits
- Severe restrictions of the political activities of foreign organizations and foreign nationals
- Abolishing the consumption tax and creating a progressive income tax
- Making teaching the national anthem mandatory
It seems the group has had limited political success. Currently there are no members in any elected office.
That being said, the group has referenced support from Tokyo Gov Yuriko Koike, who was apparently a guest speaker at the group's event (although she has claims she doesn't recall the event). While Japan and the international community continue to face uncertain times, it would not be surprising to see such nationalist groups further assert their agendas.
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