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One of the great mysteries of life in Japan is the presence of the ultra-right. Loud, threatening and occasionally lethal, the shaven-headed patriots seem immune to police powers. “Why doesn’t someone do something about those guys,” is a fairly common response by the first-time foreign visitor. A strong clue to the answer to this mystery can be found in Li Ying’s celebrated but beleaguered documentary, “Yasukuni.”

About half-way through, Li’s camera pans around the old soldiers and politicians commemorating the 60th anniversary of Japan’s surrender at the shrine on Aug. 15, 2005. Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara has just roused the crowd by promising that Japan will again “rise like a lion.” A woman takes the stage and says: “We are committed to rebuilding a proud Japan, where the prime minister can openly worship at Yasukuni. We will devote ourselves to speeding the day when the Emperor too can worship here.”

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