“Thank you, everyone,” wrote Toshio Tamogami in his weekly column in Shukan Asahi Geino (Feb. 27). “This has given me great courage toward my next move.”
Tamogami, former chief of staff of the Air Self-Defense Force, received 610,865 votes in Tokyo’s gubernatorial election on Feb. 9, accounting for roughly 12 percent of the valid votes (and nearly a quarter of those cast by voters in their 20s). His fourth-place showing served as evidence that the so-called netto-uyo — right-wing supporters active on the Internet — can no longer be disregarded as a force to be reckoned with.
Tamogami’s strong showing did not come as a surprise to everyone. On Jan. 19 — three weeks before the election — the Yukan Fuji cited an Internet survey by Radio Nikkei News. Of 8,220 votes received, Tamogami received 6,835 — 83.15 percent of the total.
One commentator attributed Tamogami’s unexpected strength to his speaking out on the issues of safety and security, as opposed to what was seen as a mostly negative campaign being run by the eventual winner Yoichi Masuzoe, a former minister of health, labor and welfare who was supported by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Tamogami’s career in the Air Self-Defense Force came to a screeching halt after he won an essay competition in 2008 for a magazine article titled “Was Japan an aggressor nation?” The article, remarkable for its revisionist historical views, put the Japanese government on the spot and left it with no choice but to demand the general’s resignation.
In Tamogami’s view of history, America was drawn into World War II through the machinations of Soviet Comintern agents and Japan was “tricked” into going to war. He writes: “Japan was caught in (U.S. President Franklin) Roosevelt’s trap and carried out the attack on Pearl Harbor.” This view would appear to be contradicted by transcripts from imperial conferences leading up to the war that show Japan’s military and civilian leaders were proposing action against the U.S. as early as July 1941.
A full English translation of the article can be viewed at www.apa.co.jp/book_report/images/2008jyusyou_saiyuusyu_english.pdf.
His revisionist views aside, the general-turned-politician comes across as likable, intelligent and lucid — anything but a fanatic. The native of Koriyama city, Fukushima Prefecture, ran a smart campaign, avoiding inflammatory remarks that might have lumped him with the “hate speech” of right-wing fringe groups.
But while speaking on the stump, Tamogami’s positions indicated he hasn’t moved a whit from the positions he staked out in the 2008 essay. At one whistle stop, he remarked, “After children are born, it’s important to bring them up well. So education means a lot. It’s necessary so that they feel pride and confidence in the nation of Japan. Japan is a really wonderful country. I think education that dwells only on self-flagellating history that presents the country as an aggressor is no way to bring up children. Therefore, I believe it’s necessary for teachers to be educated with an accurate view of the nation and of history and for them to convey this to children.”
From his other statements, Tamogami seems to have taken a cue from conservative politicians abroad, lashing out at Japan’s riberaru (liberals), who, he claims, haven’t a clue about “defending” their country.
“While Japan is getting clobbered by China and South Korea in the ‘war of intelligence,’ it relies on the U.S. for its defense,” he complains to Flash (March 4). “Half the ‘conservatives’ in the Diet belong to the American faction. In other words, we’ve just got a tussle between pro-America and pro-China factions. There’s no faction in Japan that’s backing Japan.”
As for Tamogami’s next move, he told Flash that he’s looking down the road to a possible seat in the Diet’s House of Representatives, in the election to be held three years hence. “But I’ve got to put together at least five Diet members and make myself head of a party.”
When asked what he plans to name his party, he just laughed and replied, “I don’t know yet.”
While the 600,000-plus vote tally was impressive, blogger Ichiro Yamamoto doesn’t see Tamogami and his netto-uyo supporters as mounting a credible political threat.
“It can’t be helped that society’s have-nots are drawn to issues that are easy for them identify with, like religion or ethnicity,” he told Flash. “If Tamogami continues to run as a candidate in elections, I suppose he’ll receive support from a certain segment of voters, but . . . whether he’ll develop into the nexus of a political movement is very questionable.”