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Interview: political analyst says Japanese gov't should shut down fascist groups' public tirades

English.news.cn   2014-09-03 18:43:36

by Jon Day

TOKYO, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) -- A new official chapter of global anti-fascism begins on this day of this year, as the 69th anniversary of the Anti-Fascist War and China's victory in its War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression, has been elevated to an official memorial day to be known worldwide as the Victory Day.

But as the Victory Day encourages a time of global introspection as to the atrocities fascism has brought to the world historically, the day also stands as a symbol of future harmony based on commitment to documents such as The Cairo Declaration and The Potsdam Proclamation, and the countries who promoted them, and recognition of the significant influence they' ve had on contributing to peace and stability in the world and in post-war East Asia, particularly.

However, while it's safe to say that ideological fascism is a declining global trend in progressive countries since the days of former leaders such as infamous Benito Mussolini in Italy and Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany, neo-fascist or post-fascist groups harboring ultranationalist and militaristic tenets, sadly, remain prevalent in Japan.

"There is an important distinction to be drawn here between cultural nationalism, which prevails in all countries globally and state-fostered nationalism, the fundamentalists of which can indeed be termed 'fascists' in the historical sense, and, yes, those factions still exist in Japan, unfortunately, as is the case in other countries too," political analyst Teruhisa Muramatsu told Xinhua.

"The difference in Japan, perhaps, is the visibility and level of propaganda used by these groups, compared to other countries where the activities are likely kept more 'underground' and the seeming disinclination of the government here to quash such public displays of ultra-nationalism," Muramatsu said.

He was referring specifically to a group known here collectively as Uyoku dantai, who are easily recognizable by their vans and trucks, which are usually painted black and fitted with loudspeakers, and bear the Imperial Seal, the national flag of Japan and the Japanese military flag.

The group's members, while not united on all political fronts, generally believe in a philosophical principle known here as kokutai-Goji, meaning "the retention of Japan's fundamental character," and have a shared anti-communist stance, and take exception to countries such as the former Soviet Union and more recently China, South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), and are quick to propagandize the latest diplomatic rifts in this region, such as the ongoing territorial disputes Japan is embroiled in with a number of its closest neighbors.

"Uyoku dantai are often regular fixtures in busy shopping districts in the nation's cities, such as Shibuya and Shinjuku in Tokyo, and can seemingly appear from nowhere in impromptu displays of high-octane, high-decibel, ultranationalist hollering," said Muramatsu.

"Other times, more organized protests are arranged with police chaperones outside Chinese, South Korean or Russian embassies, where the national anthem is blared through loud speakers, between speeches denouncing these countries' ideologies, histories, their presence in Japan, fused with whatever happens to be the latest diplomatic spat between Japan and its neighbors at the time, with the current hot topic being the territorial disputes," Muramatsu said.

But while such groups' ultranationalist credos can, according to recognized scholars, be dated back more than two centuries, of concern to Japan's current situation and diminished diplomatic ties with countries like China and South Korea, is the fact that Uyoku dantai's hateful public propaganda, intimidation and menacing behavior toward foreigners, goes unchecked by the authorities.

In countries like Britain where ultra-right wing groups also exist, as is the case in many other countries, for the groups to mobilize and protest publicly is an increasingly rare event that requires government approval and precision police planning. Were this not to be the case, mayhem would ensue, as counter-protests would converge, likely resulting in physical altercations and mass riots, as has been the case in the eighties and, to a lesser extent, in the early nineties.

In Japan, however, due to the freedom of ideology charter, which is protected by the Constitution of Japan, groups like Uyoku dantai operate with seeming impunity, causing concern and confusion in the international community here.

"With their blacked out windows on their trucks and military attire, not to mention their thuggish looks, I can't help but feel intimidated by these groups and this is surely their purpose,as the speakers they use on their trucks are as loud as a rock festival and drown out any other noise," Caroline Yeon, a market research executive of Korean descent, told Xinhua.

"I've lived in Tokyo for almost a decade and am fluent in Japanese, so can understand every word they say, and firstly, I can't believe the government here allows such public xenophobic attacks, and, secondly, I personally feel victimized as being ( South) Korean, much of what they say is aimed at me and my country, " said Yeon.

She went on to say that even if she wanted to make a public complaint, it would fall on deaf ears as the police have no interest in upsetting such a potentially volatile group that has not-so covert connections with the Japanese mafia.

"So, once a week, or once a fortnight, I'm subjected to the most horrific torrent of racist abuse and I have no way to defend myself or voice my opinion. I can either put up with it, or leave Japan. These are not the two options I'd expect in a so-called ' progressive country'," Yeon said.

But for regular Japanese people, it seems, Uyoku dantai represent the exception and not the rule. For some they're considered a slightly archaic throwback to historical militarism and their ideologies can only be found in the most diluted forms in mainstream society and politics.

"It would be ridiculous to suggest that Uyoku dantai represent a standard Japanese way of thinking, any more than the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), in the United States are the voice of America. Uyoku dantai are an extreme group, with extreme ideas that hold on to notions of imperialism and reject historical facts, such as Japan surrendering at the end of WWII," said Muramatsu.

"What can be said is that Japan is moving more to the right politically, and the risk of allowing groups like Uyoku dantai to rant on the streets is that it distresses foreigners, and their convictions could possibly have some kind of lasting negative effect on an obtuse Japanese individual who got swept up in the hullabaloo, although one would hope that such individuals comprise a minority of Japanese society."

"That said, the government really should do more to regulate their activities and not allow them free rein to preach hatred when and where they want, as this, when publicized, does little to help Japan's current predicament with its neighbors," Muramatsu said.

Editor: An
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