The West sees the turbulent era of the late 1960s and early '70s principally through the lens of its own protesters and radicals, with America's war in Vietnam the focal point of activist anger. If it thinks about East Asia in this period at all, it is usually the China of Mao and the Red Guards, who became inspirations for the Weathermen and other Western radical groups.

But as Koji Wakamatsu's docudrama "Jitsuroku Rengo Sekigun: Asama Sanso e no Michi (United Red Army — The Path to Asama Mountain Lodge)" reminds us, Japan had its own hardcore student radicals, who moved beyond peaceful protest to outright terrorism, while conducting bloody internal purges. The Japanese Red Army (Nihon Sekigun), founded in 1971, became the most notorious of these radical groups for terrorist acts that continued for nearly two decades. Their exploits included hijacking airplanes, attacking embassies, bombing buildings and killing 26 victims and injuring 80 more at Lod Airport in Tel Aviv in May 1972. In Japan they first became widely known when five members took a hostage at the Asama Mountain Lodge in the Karuizawa resort area north of Tokyo in February 1972 and fought a pitched gunbattle with police.

Wakamatsu, a gangster-turned- filmmaker who pioneered the "pink" (soft-core erotic) genre in the early 1960s and baited the censors with his cinematic outrages, not only befriended members of the group but joined them in Palestine as a "trainee," an experience that resulted in the 1971 film "Sekigun/PFLP — Sekai Senso Sengen (Red Army/PFLP: Declaration of World War)." These and other contacts with the Red Army have made Wakamatsu a target of investigation by Japanese authorities, as well as an "undesirable alien" to the U.S. State Department.