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Yakuza do what Abe Cabinet pick can’t

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In most countries, police officers and criminals are supposed to be on opposite sides of the law, especially the higher up the chain of command you go, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe doesn’t appear to think this is necessary.

Last month, photographs surfaced showing several members of Abe’s new Cabinet socializing with members of an anti-Korean hate group known as Zainichi Tokken wo Yurusanai Shimin no Kai (more commonly known as Zaitokukai). The appearance of such images raises some disturbing issues.

Founded circa 2006, Zaitokukai is an ultranationalistic, right-wing group that seeks to eliminate the “special privileges” extended to non-Japanese who have been granted Special Foreign Resident status. These people are predominantly ethnic Koreans, many of whom were conscripted and brought to Japan as slave labor in the 1930s and ’40s. Zaitokukai also hates other non-Japanese as well — it just has a special hatred for Koreans.

In July, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination urged the government to crack down on the growing number of hate-speech incidents targeting non-Japanese. The committee made special mention of Zaitokukai in its report and called on Japan to introduce legislation that specifically punishes hate crimes. The U.S. State Department has also named Zaitokukai in its annual human rights white paper. However, Zaitokukai isn’t on a U.S. blacklist like, say, the Sumiyoshi-kai yakuza syndicate — or, at least, not yet.

The National Police Agency has even touched upon Zaitokukai-related issues. “In parts of Tokyo and Osaka heavily populated by Korean-Japanese, racist right-wing groups have engaged in radical demonstrations, drawing the attention of society to the hate-speech problem,” the agency wrote in its white paper on public safety.

And yet Eriko Yamatani, the newly appointed chairman of the National Public Safety Commission that oversees the National Police Agency, doesn’t seem to be aware of Zaitokukai’s existence nor does she seem to believe hate speech is a problem. When photographs of her posing alongside several Zaitokukai members were uncovered by the Shukan Bunshun weekly tabloid, she said that she didn’t know the name of the group, and didn’t know the former Kansai bureau chief of Zaitokukai who was standing in the same photo. The man in question, however, claims to have known her for more than a decade in a recent interview with the tabloid. What’s more, Yamatani has appeared in a newsletter he previously published (even penning a column in it) and worked with various Zaitokukai members at other political rallies.

At a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Sept. 25, Yamatani denied that the weekly’s article was true and alleged she had been misquoted. However, when she was asked to publicly repudiate Zaitokukai, she refused — three times.

Shukan Bunshun last week published a follow-up article and included an audio recording of its interview with her, suggesting Yamatani did indeed lie at her news conference. It also added a proverb to its coverage: “All thieves start as liars.”

But lying to the press is not a crime, nor is hate speech illegal in Japan. Hate crimes are not illegal either. That said, generating profit for organized crime is something else.

Zaitokukai has had a tight relationship with Nihonseinensha, a right-wing group that is part of the Sumiyoshi-kai, the second-largest yakuza syndicate in the country. In testimony in the Diet, the National Police Agency acknowledged that Nihonseinensha’s top adviser was also a senior figure in the Sumiyoshi-kai.

Zaitokukai has been invited to events hosted by Nihonseinensha, it advertised in Nihonseinensha’s magazine and it even listed Nihonseinensha as a sponsor on its own website.

When Zaitokukai was asked why it advertised with Nihonseinensha, its answer was, “No special reason.”

Now some politicians in Japan, Yamatani included, have expressed tacit approval for Nihonseinensha’s “patriotic” activities, which include placing a lighthouse on the Senkaku Islands. (Note that I don’t say “disputed” — they’re clearly Japan’s property, in my opinion. It’s perhaps the only argument I might find myself in agreement with the right wing on).

Former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara has publicly expressed admiration for Nihonseinensha. Do you suppose that Ishihara and Yamatani know that associating with and providing support to anti-social forces is a crime under the city’s Organized Crime Exclusion Ordinances? Maybe they need a warning from the Tokyo metropolitan police first to clarify that.

I wonder if Yamatani approves of Nihonseinensha’s other activities — intimidation, extortion, fraud and tax evasion.

I wouldn’t say the Sumiyoshi-kai is an angelic organization either. In July, 10 members allegedly kidnapped a 43-year-old man in Saitama, assaulted him severely and dumped his body in front of a hospital. Whether he died after being left there or was already dead remains to be seen.

Murder or manslaughter will be the focal point of the trial. Maybe the alleged thugs responsible can get the court to lean toward manslaughter by asking Yamatani or Ishihara to be character witnesses? They could then plead guilty to the lesser charge and promise to turn over a new leaf — devoting their lives to worthy causes such as promoting discrimination against Koreans.

It appears, however, that Nihonseinensha itself may be turning over a new leaf. “Screaming at children is unacceptable,” the group said in a note after I contacted it and requested a comment. “Thank you for pointing it out. We lodged a protest to Zaitokukai’s leader and are now cutting all ties with the group.”

That’s right — even the yakuza are now willing to repudiate Zaitokukai by name.

Here’s the rub:

Yamatani, who oversees the entire police force of Japan, appears to condone the activities of a hate group that, until recently, had ties to the Sumiyoshi-kai. Her appointment to the post should be questioned and, at the very least, Abe should be held to account for putting her there in the first place.

It’s unfortunate that Yamatani’s past connections to a yakuza-connected hate group have come to light and it’s unfortunate that she has lied to the press about it.

The prime minister might even consider sweeping the issue under the carpet by appointing another female Cabinet member to the position.

Minister of state for gender equality Haruko Arimura might be good. After all, she has publicly said that she often seeks advice from the spirits of war heroes — or war criminals — interned at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.

It’s a tough choice: Do we want the country’s police commissioner getting advice from yakuza-backed hate groups or from the ghosts of war criminals? One thing is for sure: We can always count on Abe to make the worst choice.

Anyone got a Japanese Ouija board?

Dark Side of the Rising Sun is a monthly column that takes a behind-the-scenes look at news in Japan.

  • OldGrandDad114

    “All thieves start as liars.” That pretty well sums it up. Eriko Yamatani should go fall on her sword. Shameful and disgusting. Here come the trolls.

  • Jamie Bakeridge

    It is so sad that the Japanese people have taken their country in this direction. Japan is rapidly acquiring a reputation in the international community for racism and intolerance. It is not only Abe’s fault. This is a democracy and the fault lies with people who voted for the LDP.

    • Charles Henry Wetzel

      I tried to post a reply in support of what you said, about Japan’s direction (in the economy, foreigner rights, and diplomatic relations), especially (but not exclusively) under Shinzo Abe. There was not a single lie in the post, and it was all well-researched (mostly with JT articles published on this site, to boot). Go figure, the comment was deleted, and instead, Robii’s comment with the War Flag of the Imperial Japanese Army was approved, instead.

    • Kelly

      This is one of the most fabricated articles I have ever seen in my life.OMG Zaitokukai is not related to Yakuza.Moreover, Abe is very peaceful and lovely person.I wonder why the author Jake is trying to spread outrageous lies regarding Japanese leader.Is he a spy from Communist China? ?Anyway I think Japanese gov should make a public protest against the Japan Times.

    • http://www.federaleagent86.blogspot.com/ Federale

      Its not racism to want to preserve your country from massive third world immigration. Given Chinese and Brazilian crime in Japan, there is a threat. And given that Koreans refuse to become Japanese, the Japanese have a real concern.

    • pp22pp

      If the Japanese wish to run Japan for the benefit of Japanese people, good on them!

  • ろびい

    Freedom of speech is guaranteed in Japan.
    Zaitokukai is not a criminal.

    • anoninjapan

      Is that the same constitutional rights that only Japanese citizens have rights, ergo..if one is Japanese, one can say what one likes…yet if one is not Japanese, one has no rights, ergo, one can’t say what one likes. Great stuff…
      So basically the Japanese wish to say what they like -so long as the Govt doesn’t like it then of course it falls under the new “secrecy act”…all because they say it is in their constitution. But anyone who is not Japanese that disagrees with this statement, is not allowed to express their thoughts because they have no such rights of “freedom of speech”. Way to go….what a truly mature society it is :)

    • Charles Henry Wetzel

      You’re right, ろびいさん。 Zaitokukai is not “a criminal.” Zaitokukai is many, many criminals. Thanks for pointing out that Zaitokukai is not just one criminal.

    • Jim Jimson

      In July 2014, the Zaikotokukai *as a group* were convicted for a 2009 incident wherein they used a megaphone to hurl invective at a Korean elementary school during school hours, then attempted to storm the school gate. Nice try, but they’re cut-and-dried criminals.

    • Scrote

      Freedom of speech is indeed guaranteed in Japan, so I wonder why groups
      like Zaitokukai threaten and use violence against those who speak out
      against it? Surely that makes Zaitokukai criminals, doesn’t it?

  • J.P. Bunny

    The Korean and Chinese press are going to have a field day with this. Yamatani ought to take a hike before it really blows up.

  • nomore asahi

    Most of presses in Japan are biased and dominated by former communist(even after cold war they still remain in Japan) and agent of PRC and Both of Korean peninsula countries. Especially. English papers in Japan, all of them is far-left, so only the correspondents who obeyed direction of company can work in Japan. Do not believe in easily their articles, some of them are fabricated. Asahi Shimbun is notorious in Japan had just apologized to fabrication of articles for Fukushima nuclear plant and comfort woman last month.

  • zer0_0zor0

    The author obviously has not read the fine book by Unryu Suganuma (PhD from Cornell) on territorial rights, etc., regarding the Diaoyu/Senkakus, because they obviously are not Japan’s property.

    So why doe he agree with some right-wing propaganda and disagree with others?

    Obviously Japan needs to enact a law making hate speech illegal, and the courts–unusually–have already recognized that it is illegal.

    Could the high percentage of Koreans in the yakuza (30%) be part of the problem, and involve an inter-crime group rivlalry?

    Fortunately, the Japanese authorities have recently been taking much needed measures against such organized crime groups, so that aspect should be resolved before long.

    The fact that Adelstein writes about the yakuza regularly, but doesn’t discuss that aspect is somewhat curious and disappointing.

  • nomore asahi

    Who erased my comment posted before yesterday?
    I have just pointed out all of English paper in Japan are radical left and biased too much, Even after cold war, There are still many communist in Japanese press and they are very close to Korean regidence in Japan. Both of them dominated most of Japanese media, especially liberal TV and newspapers.
    Asahi Shimbun apologized fabrication of articles of Fukushima Nuclear Plant and Comfort woman last month. It proves what I said.
    Do not erase this time. I’ve arleady took photos on this page!

  • Jim Jimson

    The Zaitokukai itself has acknowledged that no such “privileges” exist for ethnically Korean Japanese. If you can read Japanese, google the article 在特会が「在日特権リストはすべてデマ」と認める.

  • nomore asahi

    Zaitokukai denied the rumor shown as below in their official web site last month.

    If you can read Japanese, google the article 在特会が「在日特権リストはすべてデマ」と認める. [Zaitokukai Acknowledges “Korean Privileges” List Baseless ]

  • http://www.federaleagent86.blogspot.com/ Federale

    Hardly unique, look at the close relationship between Al Sharpton and Barack Hussien Obama.

  • http://www.federaleagent86.blogspot.com/ Federale

    And for the record, the Koreans who remained after the war chose to. They also chose to retain their Korean nationalism, which by definition excludes them from being Japanese.