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Right-wing witch hunt signals dark days in Japan

by

Special To The Japan Times

Many Japanese and long-time Japan observers have expressed dismay about the recrudescence of self-righteous nationalism under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has emboldened right-wing extremists now threatening democratic institutions and civil liberties.

“The revisionist right in Japan with the active encouragement, if not involvement, of the Abe government has succeeded in controlling NHK news, intimidating Asahi Shimbun and now academia,” says Koichi Nakano, a professor of political science at Sophia University.

Abe has presided over the mainstreaming of reactionary extremism in his quest to rewrite and rehabilitate Japan’s wartime past in Asia, and in doing so instigates widespread international criticism. Any other national leader who did the same for their nation’s egregious history would merit a similar reaction.

This past week, Hokusei Gakuen University in Sapporo moved to fire part-time lecturer Takashi Uemura, a former Asahi Shimbun journalist, because right-wing goons had threatened violence if he wasn’t removed. The university was reportedly inundated with threatening letters and phone calls demanding the teacher’s dismissal for his controversial articles in the 1990s about the comfort women system.

What started as a clash over history has morphed into a broader political battle over national identity and Japan’s democratic values. Nakano worries that “each time a university succumbs to right-wing intimidation, ‘success’ encourages more terrorist threats.”

Reactionaries maintain that the Asahi and its reporters tarnished Japan’s international reputation, but as Hokkaido University historian Philip Seaton explains, it is the “efforts by a small but powerful minority in Japan to deny atrocities that sullies Japan’s name in international eyes.”

These reactionaries are now inflicting infinitely more damage on Japan’s reputation than a handful of newspaper articles in the 1990s. It is scandalous that the so-called Net Right (netto uyoku) of extremists, lurking behind pseudonyms and spewing ill-informed vitriol on the Internet, are eroding democratic freedoms, censoring inconvenient truths and degrading Japan’s dignity.

As Martin Fackler of the New York Times recently wrote (Oct. 29), these cyberactivists “have gained an outsize influence with the rise of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s conservative government, which shares the goal of ending negative portrayal of Japan’s history, and with the acquiescence of a society too uninterested or scared to speak out.”

Fackler goes on to note several examples around Japan where the Net Right has imposed its agenda through thuggery.

Japan’s cyber-terrorists sound like religious extremists, threatening “divine retribution” in the form of gas canisters packed with nails. By stopping towns from erecting repentant war memorials, caterwauling on the Internet and scaring employers into firing “undesirables,” these vigilantes represent Japan in jackboots. It is like the 1930s, when ultranationalists hounded respected academics such as Tatsukichi Minobe and Tadao Yanaihara from their posts.

The Net Right embodies Japan’s 21st-century McCarthyism, from an era when communist hysteria in the United States unleashed a witch hunt that trampled on democratic freedoms.

“Defending academic freedom must be sacrosanct,” Seaton says. “To terminate the ex-Asahi reporter’s contract simply sends the message that ‘intimidation works.’ This incident could initiate a dangerous slide toward the muzzling and dismissal of researchers working on sensitive issues.”

Andrew Horvat, former president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, points out that Uemura “has been caught in the crossfire of a proxy war on the comfort women issue. The aim of the rightists is to undermine the reputation of the Asahi, a liberal paper, and he has become a pawn in this game.”

Tomomi Yamaguchi, a professor of anthropology at Montana State University, says Uemura has been on the right’s hit list from the mid-2000s largely due to vilification by Tsutomu Nishioka, a professor at Tokyo Christian University.

Satoko Norimatsu, director of the Vancouver-based Peace Philosophy Centre, speculates that Hokusei itself is a target because of its 1995 Peace Declaration, which goes much further than the Murayama Statement in acknowledging Japan’s war responsibility and obligation to atone. Back then, Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama condemned Japanese aggression in Asia and called for an end to “self-righteous nationalism.”

“The Abe regime has clearly abetted this mobilization of right-wing extremists against academic, media and other institutions,” asserts Andrew DeWit, a professor of public policy at Rikkyo University. “Allowing extremists to intimidate academe will not foster the learning environment that Japanese universities require in order to become the ‘super global universities’ envisioned in Abenomics. You cannot have it both ways, winking at ultra-nationalism that targets academe while at the same time actually building globally competitive institutions of critical inquiry.”

Alexis Dudden, a professor of history at the University of Connecticut, argues that post-1945 Japan has advanced because of the ability to study, learn and teach in an open atmosphere.

“Since then, Japanese society and all who engage with it have benefited and thrived because of this fundamental freedom guaranteed in the 1947 Constitution,” says Dudden, who believes that “turning away now degrades Japan’s capacities to lead and defines a ‘safe’ society as one that cowers from bullies and sanitizes history to fit contingent political demands.”

Sven Saaler, a professor of history at Sophia University, notes that “right-wingers have been pushing their agenda constantly with violence. They have actually violently attacked journalists, newspaper offices and politicians.”

Mark Mullins, a professor of Japanese studies at the University of Auckland, warns that right-wing threats must be taken seriously.

“Recall that in 1990 Nagasaki Mayor Hitoshi Motoshima was shot by rightists for expressing his views about the Emperor and war responsibility; and in 2006, Koichi Kato, a moderate (Liberal Democratic Party) politician, had his house in Yamagata burned down for his criticism of Prime Minister (Junichiro) Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine.”

Saaler sees a broader pattern.

“In recent years, pressure by right-wing groups has led to cinemas canceling movies dealing with sensitive war-related issues; hotels canceling the reservations of conference rooms for symposia dealing with such issues; and museums canceling or revising exhibitions with sensitive contents,” he says.

The Peace Philosophy Centre’s Norimatsu thinks things are getting worse under the Abe regime.

“(There has been) widespread anti-China and anti-Korea sentiments (and) books of that kind becoming best-sellers, hate demonstrations, assaults on history by the nation’s leaders that trickle down to the general public, page-ripping of Anne Frank’s diaries, hiding of ‘Barefoot Gen’ in school libraries, assaults on protest tents in Okinawa and anti-nuclear tents in Tokyo, and public places refusing to rent space to groups that discuss issues like the Constitution and anti-nuclear power,” she says.

Amid this rightist chill, Mullins is worried that “academic freedom — and freedom of speech more broadly — is clearly threatened and is a legitimate concern for those who care about the future of democracy in Japan.”

Sophia’s Nakano laments that Abe exacerbates the situation.

“When an important principle of liberal democracy is under attack, the government should be playing an active role to condemn the attacks in strongest terms,” he says, but instead points out that it is actually fanning the fires.

Saaler’s suggests that, “The situation can be compared to Weimar Germany, where the authorities turned a blind eye to right-wing activities and let right-wing violence go largely unpunished.”

Here we remain far from descending into that Nazi abyss, but government tolerance for intolerance and hooliganism makes a mockery of the rule of law, democratic norms and the Olympic spirit.

[For readers interested in the Hokusei affair, here is a link to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan press conference by Koichi Nakano and Jiro Yamaguchi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNjWHwCQbcE ]

Jeff Kingston is the director of Asian Studies, Temple University Japan.

  • Steve Jackman

    I have always enjoyed reading Jeff Kingston’s articles here in The Japan Times, but this one is particularly well written and poignant.

  • Richard Solomon

    Thanks for an incisive discussion of these very important issues. Some of the foundations of democracy are being eroded by these attacks.

    I hope the people in Japan whose opinions you have quoted and you are not in danger from these nationalists who are willing to take matters into their own hands.

    I have not read Fackler’s piece in the NYT but I will look for it.

  • tisho

    These people are an ugly product of the education system. An education system that not only do not teaches about kids about their countrys past, but also carefully construct and portrays an image of their own country intended to install feelings of victimhood and innocence. Those people genuinely believe in what they are doing. Until the education system change, such people will continue to exist. You can’t solve the problem by somehow stopping or trying to regulate them, you can only solve the problem by changing the education system and teaching the reality to people.

    • Oliver Mackie

      Whatever the truth of this, please note that any middle-class family can opt out of the official education system and these days it is unlikely to negatively affect your employment chances in any area except the government. Indeed, in many future-focused employment areas, it may well improve them.

      • zer0_0zor0

        Public education is the heart of democracy.

      • Oliver Mackie

        I agree with the sentiment, but I would re-phrase it as, “Education of the public is the heart of democracy.”

      • Oliver Mackie

        Or perhaps even better, “an educated public is essential for an effective democracy.”

        Sadly, public education in the vast majority of democracies doesn’t educate the public to anything close to the required level. Indeed, in the context of this discussion, I would say that much that is imposed under the guise of ‘educating’ is in fact counterproductive to creating freethinking, intellectually rigo(u)rous young adults. And I include here both ends of the ‘patriotic’ spectrum, i.e. both ‘YOUR emperor is a child of god, so YOU are flawless’ but equally so, ‘YOUR ancestors did terrible things, so hold YOUR head in shame for your entire life.’

        Given the sad state of much public education, I would recommend to any parent that, where you can, do as the elite do (even on the left, in fact especially on the left) and that is get your kids educated privately.

  • Japanese Bull Fighter

    “This past week, Hokusei Gakuen University in Sapporo moved to fire
    part-time lecturer Takashi Uemura, a former Asahi Shimbun journalist.” No, they said he would not be renewed. Part-time jobs in universities in Japan (as in the US and the UK) have no security of employment. They are renewed each year or each semester. I would imagine this to be the case at Temple University as well.

    • Jeff Kingston

      My thanks to Earl Kinmonth for sharing his views.

      • Please abide by the Japan Times commenting policy; even if the identity may be obvious to you or others (due to the picture / avatar or past usage), the Japan Times commenting policy prohibits the “outing” or associating real names with nyms and handles. In a way, your comment reminds me of the actions of some net extremists.

      • Steve Jackman

        That’s funny, Eido, that you should mention “the actions of some net extremists” in your comment here. Wasn’t your name specifically mentioned in the excellent article by Stuart Braun in The Japan Times titled, “Trolls or media watchdogs?: Japan’s foreign-born defenders”, dated July 16, 2013?

        The article talks about a certain Eido Inoue and others by saying, “In ways, these foreign-born cyber-warriors parallel the infamous netouyo (“Internet right”) — nationalistic Net trolls who hunt Japan’s critics online”. Sounds familiar??

      • KetsuroOu

        I really should not feed the trolls, but for the public record, that “excellent article” was a thinly-veiled attack piece full of exaggeration, innuendo, and lots and lots of straw grasping.

        Poorly written articles (and comments) aside, the very non-anonymous Eido Inoue is correct. Jeff Kingston’s attempted outing of “Japanese Bull Fighter” is immature and inexcusable behavior.

      • Steve Jackman

        KetsuroOu, your past comments on this site, which I would characterize as quite extreme, right-wing and nationalist, clearly show that you are anything but objective, balanced or rational.

        Besides, it is debatable whether Jeff outed anyone, since Earl Kinmonth has until very recently been frequently posting comments here under his name using the same avatar which he is now using for his new screen name of “Japanese Bull Fighter”. If he wanted to stay anonymous, he could have easily picked a different avatar for his new handle.

      • That article does sound familiar. Apparently you didn’t read it thoroughly; you stopped reading and missed the part that says

        “… the faces of the movement — when they deign to reveal themselves — appear more neutral and reasonable [than the many anonymous commenters-cum-trolls].”

      • Steve Jackman

        I invite people to read the article, which is still available on this site, so they can decide for themselves. I assure you that after they read the totality of the article and your excerpt in the proper context, they will disagree with your assessment.

      • Feel free. And feel free to point them to me, and I’ll happily privately introduce them to Stuart Braun, the author of that article, with whom I communicate both in email and voice with and we are on friendly terms; Stuart will gladly tell you exactly how his own words should be interpreted.

      • Steve Jackman

        I believe his words need no interpretation, since they were quite clear in their meaning. I’m sure readers can decide for themselves.

      • Haha! “Oh please oh please, don’t encourage readers to verify anything straight from the source that wrote it!” You’re always good for a laugh, Steve.

      • Steve Jackman

        Eido, you apparently don’t know the basics of writing. When you put something in “quotes” like you did, it implies that you are quoting a person. Since I said no such thing as what you have written within the “quotes”, you’re just carrying on a nonsensical monologue with yourself!

        Besides, unlike many denizens of Japan, most non-Japanese I know don’t like to be spoon-fed a concoction of what the spin-doctors have prepared for them. They are intelligent and capable enough to be able to read an article in a newspaper and decide for themselves.

      • At Times Mistaken

        I agree that posting that comment demonstrates a lack of professional journalistic integrity (for all the reasons pointed out above by “samarkand”) on the part of the columnist but does the JT really spell out the don’ts of “associating real names with nyms?” I don’t remember seeing it mentioned in the commenting policy. I know it has a rule against using nyms for the purpose of bullying but Kingston’s “outing” comment (if indeed that’s what it is) seems to turn that rule on its head.

      • Well, I actually called out a JT Editor for doing the exact same thing in the past (referring to a popular commenter here who uses a nym by a real name), and either he or somebody else in the Japan Times deleted his “outing” comment. So there is precedent.

      • At Times Mistaken

        The JT ought to do the same in this case. It should also explain what happened here and maybe promise to put a leash on its regular writers who would engage in behavior that intimidates readers and stifles open debate. Until they do, I think I’ll stick with a more trustworthy source of information like the Kyokou Shimbun or The Onion.

      • Steve Jackman

        Oh, stop the silly love-fest between Eido Inoue and “At Times Mistaken”. You two are embarrasing yourselves!

      • At Times Mistaken

        Now I’m blushing. I’ve got love to spare though – sorry I ignored you for so long. ;)

      • rossdorn

        Thanks for reminding me of The Onion. I Had lost the bookmark and forgotten all about it.
        I juts love them, if we would not know better(?) all their news items about Japan might just be true.

      • Steve Jackman

        The poster called Akio Morita “outing” me for being William Pesek here in The Japan Times, was hardly the same thing as this.

      • If someone did that, they were clearly wrong, you aren’t even half as bright as Pesek.

      • Steve Jackman

        What a juvenile comment, GMainwaring. The feeling is reciprocated. Wait, I take that back! I’ll one-up you and say, you aren’t even a third as bright as Pesek. How does that feel?

      • At Times Mistaken

        I think I meant to say “…(on ethical grounds and for all the reasons pointed out above)…”

      • Japanese Bull Fighter

        I was not sharing views. I was stating what Japanese newspaper reports say and what the head of Hokusei Gakuen said – they were not renewing (更新) his contract. The Japanese term for firing or termination is typically 解雇. You are reading the Japanese press, are you not?

      • Guest

        Fair game. However this minor linguistic subtlety should not divert us from the main allegations: Hokusei Gakuen might have not renewed his contract because of external threats.

      • Japanese Bull Fighter

        Japanese press accounts and the statement of the president of the university make it very clear that the contract would not be renewed because of threats. The difference between “fired” and “non-renewal” is more than a linguistic subtlety. It impacts on your legal rights and your ability to seek compensation. I can think of no good reason for not properly reporting what Hokusei Gakuen itself said.

      • At Times Mistaken

        How do you know the identity of this anonymous poster and what is the purpose of revealing it?

      • Steve Jackman

        I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but could it be because the poster now calling himself “Japanese Bull Fighter” was until very recently using the same avatar/picture while frequently posting comments under the name “Earl Kinmonth” on this site? Yeah, it’s called rocket science for a reason!

      • I am at a loss as to which of the following three is the worst:

        Your original column

        Your outing a poster

        Or

        Your “liking” the below comment by notorious racist troll Steve Jackman.

    • samarkand

      Since the lecturer technically isn’t being “fired,” but rather may not have his contract renewed by the university, the Japan Times should make a correction to the article in order to maintain journalistic standards of accuracy, even for an opinion piece.

      At the same time, such a correction doesn’t change the basic point that the threats made to Hokusei Gakuen University are influencing its decision not to continue employing the lecturer. Or is it normal practice for a college lecturer’s hiring status to be discussed in press conferences and in statements declaring that it considers “protecting the safety of the students as a top priority”? If the university capitulates to these anonymous threats, it would be a serious blow to academic freedom, and an ominous turn of events for free speech throughout Japan.

      • Steve Jackman

        You are wrong. If an employee has reasonable grounds to expect that his contract will be renewed by the employer, but it is not, then it is tantamount to an illegal dismissal in some cases, which is the same as being fired. Perhaps, you are not familiar with Japanese law, but my assertion here is supported by Japanese case law.

      • Japanese Bull Fighter

        Japan is not a case law country in the American sense although if you have some Japanese citations to court decisions, I would be happy to have a look at them. Unless the university in question was very lax, I would imagine that any contract Hokusei Gakuen used would carry standard boilerplate indicating that any appointment was term by term or year by year. My part-time gigs are all very explicit on this point. My guess is that you are probably thinking of certain types of long term contract employment where the contract has been rolled over N times. It is my recollection that in such cases, courts have ruled that repeated renewals have established an expectation of continuity. Such contract employment is, however, essentially full time.

      • Steve Jackman

        It is a grave insult to the American justice system to be compared to a sham of a system referred to as the Japanese judicial system, which can only be characterized as extremely corrupt and racist.

      • Japanese Bull Fighter

        That may well be the case but I asked for Japanese citations to court cases showing that ” If an employee has reasonable grounds to expect that his contract will be renewed by the employer, but it is not, then it is tantamount to an illegal dismissal in some cases, which is the same as being fired.” I’m still waiting. You may well be right, but I want to read the decisions for myself.

      • Steve Jackman

        You must have confused me with Messrs Google and Yahoo. I assure you, I’m neither. However, should you choose to make their acquaintence, I’m certain they’d be willing to point you in the right direction at the click of a mouse.

      • Japanese Bull Fighter

        Of course I can find material on the Internet but that does not tell me which particular case precedents you were thinking of. Only you can do that. If you have such references, please provide them.

      • Steve Jackman

        There’s only a handful of such precedent-setting legal cases in Japan. I think even a middle school student with elementary internet skills can find them quite easily. If you don’t even know how to find things like this which are in the public domain, I’m not sure why you’re here.

      • Japanese Bull Fighter

        I’m interested in the specific cases you believe are relevant. You are the expert in this area. I want you to tell me precisely which cases you think are relevant. I want to see citations to the court decisions you have actually read.

      • Steve Jackman

        You can read Charles’ comment in response to your question, but beyond that, you can go take a hike, for all I care.

      • Japanese Bull Fighter

        No disagreement, but there is no good reason for the JT to not properly report what happened.

      • At Times Mistaken

        I think you really hit the nail on the head here. Correcting this minor discrepancy only makes for a better article and a more trustworthy paper. But I’d bet dollars to donuts that The Japan Times will delete this well worded comment once its moderators lay eyes on it. I hope you consider cross posting this at some media monitoring site like MediaBugs, etc. just to set the record straight.

    • At Times Mistaken

      You make a valid point and as “samarkand” points out, it’s something you would think that The JT editors would want to take note of. There has also been some discussion about the columnist’s reply to your comment, posted under a pseudonym, and the possibility that he reveals your identity. It seems troublesome to me but I was wondering if you were disturbed by it?

      • Japanese Bull Fighter

        Less disturbed than curious as to why he felt obliged to cite me by name. As other posters have pointed out, if I wanted to be completely anonymous, I would change the avatar. Better yet, I would explore other ways of wasting time as an alternative to posting in this venue. Japanese Bull Fighter was meant to be descriptive rather than a cloak. I am a Japanese citizen. I confront what I consider to be bull written about Japan by people of all nationalities including Japanese. I am a “Japanese Bull Fighter.”

      • Shaun O’Dwyer

        OK, fair enough if you think your job is to call out BS artists and blowhards. But you will agree, won’t you, that a much greater cause for worry – in Japan, in East Asia, or anywhere else – are extremists who threaten universities, and university professors whose opinions they hate?

      • Japanese Bull Fighter

        Yes, but they are a job for the police, not me.

      • Steve Jackman

        “Yes, but they are a job for the police, not me”. I think you’ve just shot yourself in the foot and shown everyone here your true colors, Mr. Japanese Bull Fighter. How can anyone ever take you seriously when you make comments like this?

      • Japanese Bull Fighter

        Since when are private citizens in any country expected to deal personally with criminals other than to perhaps report suspected criminal activity? What precisely are you doing to combat “extremists who threaten universities?” Are you in Hokkaido standing guard outside Hokusei Gakuen Daigaku? How many “citizen’s arrests” of suspected “extremists who threaten universities” have you made? Or, are you assuming that your postings in this venue are more than enough to silence “extremists who threaten universities” and send them sucrrying back to their burrows?

      • Oliver Mackie

        Here, here. And everyone please note that there has already been an arrest in this case.

      • Steve Jackman

        You sound typically apathetic. It is the peoples’ job to put pressure on the appropriate authorities and take grass-roots action as required. But, I guess, given that you said you are Japanese, you prefer apathy.

      • Japanese Bull Fighter

        Indeed. And Japanese also like to study foreign models. Please tell me how you have been putting pressure on appropriate authorities. It would also be useful if you could describe the grass-roots action you have been taking. I am sure that it would serve as a potential model not just for me but everyone else reading this thread.

      • zer0_0zor0

        While I find this article to be informative, there certainly is a lot of Japan bashing propaganda on JT.
        The characterization about “firing” may be inaccurate, but the threats made against the university by ultranationalist thugs do require attention.

      • Oliver Mackie

        Yes. And there has already been an arrest in this case.

  • rossdorn

    Complaints like this can be read regularly. The simple reason for that is of course, that they are true.

    The point is… Japan is like that, japanese people are like that.

    Pretending there could be anything done about it, are childish.

    The education is like this ON PURPOSE !
    That is not an unlucky coincidence.
    This is a one party democracy and the small group of people who run and own this country may be many things, but they are no fools.

    • Oliver Mackie

      Even if true, it is equally true that it’s very easy to opt out of that controlled education system, if the parents are for such. It is by no means necessary to go through that system to gain good employment here anymore. In fact, the only employers that still require hires to have done so are those that most aren’t interested in anymore. Nippon Seimei has real trouble attracting genuinely good people, whilst Accenture does not.

      • rossdorn

        Interesting, thank you.
        I do not know too much about that part of Japan, as I would not even live here, if I had to work for a living.
        I was just commenting on the education system and why it is the way it is…
        Do you have any numbers, about how many choose to opt out?

      • Oliver Mackie

        No numbers, but where I live (middle-class Kanagawa, 30-40 minute commute to central Tokyo) recently opened international schools which are more moderately priced than traditional ex-pat intl schools, but still more than local private schools (and of course more than public schools) are doing rather well, as are ‘alternative’ schools out in places such as Yamanashi. A surprising number of the students have both parents Japanese.
        The local government here makes it very painless to opt of the public system, with no penalty and instant re-admission should you desire. If a family has the money (joint income of 10 million a year for one child, or 12 million for 2 children – or up to 2 million less in either case if the parents are really willing to sacrifice) then it is quite doable.

      • rossdorn

        Thank you… Its nice to read something like that.
        I love the japanese people, but I despise almost everything else about this country.
        Nice to get some good news….

      • Oliver Mackie

        You’re most welcome.
        I don’t wish to argue just for the sake of it, but have heard similar comments from others before and am intrigued. Are the people not the country (excepting of course the physical environment that the country exists in)? If so, how is it possible to love the people but despise the country? Or are you just referring to the physical environment which you despise? (Coming from Switzerland and Australia I could understand that.)

      • rossdorn

        The physical environment is indeed a desaster, for people like
        me, who have always travelled and loved all over the world, people who know how
        beautiful this world is…

        I agree that is the responsibility of the people to shape their society, but
        the differences between progressive States in Europe and here are juts to huge
        to compare the resulting societies.

        Apart from the fact that Japan (even legally) is a protectorat of the US and
        nothing here goes without US permission, Japan’s present day culture is the
        result in the on-going feudalism in the country. Evereything here is run and owned by a small
        caste of people. The method used is the bedevilment of individuality, which
        prevents people from looking out for their own interest, as one can see f.e. in
        elections….. In the US or Europe it is the lack of education, understanding
        and knowledge, in short the stupidity, that have the same result, in Japan it
        is the value system. There is also an obvious connection to the massive, and
        obviously from above wanted bullying going on in school… this conditions
        children from a very young age.

        Maybe just because of this conditioning(?) here people are kind, polite and
        helpful…. so, maybe some of them indeed for all the wrong reasons. But having
        been to Europe in summer (because of the unbearable climate here) I learned
        again how much stress is avoided by living between japanese people, compared to
        Europe.

        It can be the cashier in a supermarket or a policeman
        stopping me for speeding, their is always respect and politeness, instead of
        frustration and aggression that are the rule.

      • Oliver Mackie

        Thank you.

        I share your feeling of coming back to Japan from Europe after the summer.

        A few more questions, if I may.

        -When you refer to the lack of education in Europe, specifically what kind of education are you referring to?

        -Do you feel that the politeness (and avoidance of stress between people here) and the group conditioning are two sides of the same coin (i.e. difficult to have one without the other)?

      • rossdorn

        The problem with education is basically the same as with the media. There is but one version of everything, you check several papers and you will find that evil is always and exclusively Russia, Putin, Syria and since yesterday China. “Our” side is the good one. Our wars are for freedom and Democaracy, who is not on our side is a terrorist.
        And on this basis next generations are educated. Governments are not run by elected politicians but by corporations and financial institutions, and the power over media, which are themselves owned by corporations, gives them the power to manipulate and to form the opinions of the huge non-thinking majority.
        CLasses in school, as we just see right now in Japan are made larger, so individual students get less support and attention, and the over all school time has f.e. in Germany has been reduced from 13 to 12 years. This puts up pressure and lowers knowledge standards, as does the reform of studying, where a majority of students now try to achieve useless bacherlor degrees, instead of the magister and PhD that they used to go for, after of course using a longer time for studying.
        Neither politicians nor corporation can have an interest in education beyond the necessary minimum, what to say of people that actually think for themselves…

        To the second question I must admit I do not know… and I am not even sure I want to know. To me it is simply the one reason why I am able to stand life in this country…
        When talking to japanese people in private I find them to acknowledge reality including politics or economy or the role of the USA, as clearly as I do, so I suspect their politeness is simply a cover up, and this tradition is used successfully by the authorities to prevent any change.

      • Oliver Mackie

        Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

      • TomokoHasegawa

        That’s not logically possible. The country was made by the people. You can’t separate it from them them.

      • TomokoHasegawa

        But the problem is, calling your school “international” doesn’t magically make them more liberal or less prone to influence from the Japanese right-wing.
        If they dared to teach Japan’s real history, it would only take a couple of days until the speaker vans turn up and their staff get death threats.

      • Oliver Mackie

        I’m not quite sure that is true. They are not obligated to stick to the national curriculum so the books etc they use are not monitored. So people wouldn’t know what they are teaching. There are, don’t forget, North Korean schools here and I bet they don’t teach the government-approved history of Japan. The recent incident involving students at one such school was an isolated case so far, and not directly linked to the curriculum. Remember, reliable sources put the number of right-wing extremists in Japan at about 2,000 (one-tenth per capita of those in Germany, incidentally) and they can’t spread themselves around very much. If it’s one or two cinemas showing a film they don’t like, or a single university, or a single newspaper’s office, they can handle it, but not much more.

      • Oliver Mackie

        Also, please note that the type of school I am referring too does not have many Japanese, if any, in controlling positions at the school. There are more than you may imagine, and they are growing quite fast whilst every other sector of education is stagnant or shrinking.

  • Sensei_American

    Dear Mr. Kingston, Continue your fine reporting and analysis of the Abe regime. Also please share with your readers that Article 9 of the peace constitution was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize this year due to the efforts of Naomi Takasu of Kanagawa who generated some 70,000 signatures on her petition to the Nobel committee. Those 70,000 names are only a fraction of many thousands more who represent a growing grass roots movement to retain Article 9 and even promote it as a force for world peace. Abe would do well to sign his own name to Takasu’s petition instead of leading Japan down the road potential omnicide. It should be noted too that the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom is promoting a movement to bring a version of Article 9 to the U.S. Constitution.

    • TomokoHasegawa

      “Force for world peace”? Please don’t make me laugh. The Japanese need to get rid of the dark elements of their society before they can be an example for other countries.

  • Kochigachi

    Sadly most Japanese are brain washed by their Right wing media and propaganda materials and I have not seen a single Japanese with anti-Japanese government attitude where you would find hips of Chinese and Koreans who are anti-gov which allows balance of Pro-nationalists and Anti-Nationalists to co-exists. I think Japanese really need to step back and re-think about their society, they’re in 21st century not 19th century war time period.

    • Oliver Mackie

      “Sadly most Japanese are brain washed by their Right wing media and propaganda materials and I have not seen a single Japanese with anti-Japanese government attitude…”
      You should get out more.

    • JSS00

      Yeah too many Japanese turn into apologists for the Japanese government unfortunately. Revolution has not occurred in Japan yet.

  • Ostap Bender

    It’s unfortunate, but if you cloak your rantings in patriotism and conservatism you can get away with anything.

    • Bob Whiting

      Excellent essay Professor Kingston. One is reminded of the attempts by ultranationalist thug Yoshio Kodama and his henchmen to intimidate critics of conservative leaders in Japan during the postwar era.

  • Japanese Bull Fighter

    Thank you very much. This is very useful. A quick glance through commentary on the subject suggests that even with the law there is considerable ambiguity and the issue is very much in dispute. I had seen union pamphlets on this issue but have not read them in detail. As time permits, I will do so. Again, thank you for the citation.

  • JSS00

    Unfortunately Abe and his cronies are sending Japan back to hell (circa 1920s).

  • Danjuma13

    This is not just a problem in Japan. Official lies about history are a problem from India to Texas. People cannot make informed decisions about where their societies should go without information about how they got where they are, in other words accurate history. Keep up the fight, Jeff, and don’t let them stop you!

  • boonteetan

    Japan leaders please take note.
    Politically-crushed Obama is sending an olive branch to Xi in Beijing, hoping to build up a new yet warm Sino-American relationship. Abe must refrain from thinking that Obama would unquestionably support him in his relentless effort to antagonize China, despite all their military agreements.

  • hogyan tovább?

    Racism: Spot It and Stop It!

  • Emjay

    The only significant abyss we are gazing into when we glance yet again at the horrible ultra-right resurgence in Japan is the abyss into which reality has been tossed like so much garbage.

    The US government has yet to apologize to the Vietnamese for the 3-4 million deaths they are responsible for in their neo-colonial racist war in SE Asia. They barely acknowledge that war’s existence except when they lament the deaths of the 54K Americans who died while prosecuting said racist pogrom.

    The US government has yet to apologize to the Cambodian people for the carpet bombing of their impoverished essentially rural nation,or for the Khmer Rouge horrorshow that they first stimulated then defended when the Vietnamese intervened to put an end to Pol Pot’s regime.

    Ditto for the Lao.

    South Korean schools do not teach the truth of South Korean history, especially that part which would have to deal with the dominance of politicians and corporations who got their start by collaborating with the Japanese colonial government, which colonial government was established at the behest of British interest in the region as much as anything else, initially.

    Chinese children do not learn the history of the Party that runs their lives, at least not the part where the party killed or allowed to die some 40-60 million Chinese citizens. They may have heard that Mao was 60% right and 40% wrong though, so if they knew anything about the numbers they would have learned that it’s good to kill up to 36 million of your citizens in the name of the Party.

    American “education” has been so effective in creating a democratic polity that some 40-50% of Americans still think the war on Iraq was justified by either Sadam’s involvement with Al Qaeda or his weapons of mass destruction.

    Is the right wing in Japan a force for good? No, but neither has it managed to keep Japan out there bombing folks into the stone age as has the militarist right in the USA.

    People need to maintain a little perspective, pay a little attention to context, when they rant on about Abe and the “recrudescence” of the right in Japan.

    If they manage to do that, there may be fewer Muslim children slaughtered over the next decade and the American ultra-right may be made visible enough to be opposed by those who otherwise waste their energy worrying about who goes to Yasukuni.