Nationalism not on the rise: Abe’s brother


Nationalism is “absolutely not” on the rise and Japan remains committed to peace almost 70 years after its defeat in World War II, said Vice Foreign Minister Nobuo Kishi, the younger brother of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Abe’s December visit to Yasukuni Shrine, which is seen by many in China and South Korea as a symbol of Japan’s past aggression, prompted the U.S. to express disappointment with its main ally in Asia.

Comments by Abe’s associates playing down wartime atrocities by Imperial Japanese forces have also led to criticism, with The New York Times saying in an editorial March 2 that Abe’s nationalism threatens ties with the U.S. as well as other nations in the region.

“Such suggestions are absolutely not right,” Kishi said in an interview Friday at the Foreign Ministry. “For 68 years since the war, our country has made contributions to international society as a nation that strives for peace.”

That won’t change under the Abe administration, he said.

Anger at Japan’s perceived ambivalence over its invasion and occupation of large parts of Asia in the first half of the 20th century has further soured already difficult relations with China and South Korea.

While the U.S. has urged Japan to engage with its neighbors, Abe has not held a summit with either country since taking office in December 2012.

“I am aware there are various criticisms of Japan, and if there are misunderstandings I want to explain so as to resolve them,” Kishi said.

He reiterated that Abe’s assertion that his visit to Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Class A war criminals alongside the nation’s war dead, was intended to pray for lasting peace. Abe was the first sitting prime minister to go to the shrine since 2006.

Disagreements over history have not affected Japan’s overall relationship with the U.S., Kishi said.

“When talking about U.S.-Japan relations, you need to look at the whole picture,” he said. “I think you can say strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance is at the top of the list of the things the Abe administration has done.”

Kishi, 54, declined comment on the plan for Abe to hold a meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye and U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit Monday and Tuesday in The Hague. The three-way summit had not yet been confirmed when Kishi was interviewed.

  • Steve Jackman

    In my more than ten years of living in Japan, I have noticed a marked increase in nationalism (of the negative kind), racism, discrimination and xenophobia. So, Mr. Kishi is either demonstrating his ignorance or he is being disingenuous.

    • Might that reflect general apprehensions about increased migration rather than any nationalism on Abe’s part. I observe that Abe is opening up the country to skilled migrants. I think he’s being a politician – all things to all men.

  • Demosthenes

    I don’t know about it not affecting relations with the U.S. Caroline Kennedy refused an interview on NHK, specifically because one of the NHK bosses denied that the Nanjing Massacre occurred. Then there was the White House’s expression of disappointment when Abe visited Yasukuni. Insofar as Japan not going to the ultra-right is concerned, what evidence does Kishi present to assure that this is not the case? A denial isn’t proof, nor are broad generalizations about recent history like “68 years of being committed to peace”. Attitudes can change overnight. These assurances are unlikely to persuade those many foreign observers that are of the opinion that Japan IS going to the ultra-right.

    • Steve Jackman

      I agree with you and 68 years is by no means a long period of time within the broader historical context.

      One also has to understand that Japan was totally devasted by WW2 and needed this time to rebuild itself economically. It suited Japan’s interests to have the U.S. take care of Japan’s military and security interests during this period, so that Japan could focus on growing its economy and exports.

      Now that Japan’s economy and exports have stagnated, it is once again flexing its muscles, and nationalism and militarism are on the rise. I don’t believe that these thoughts ever left the psyche of a great many Japanese, even during the last 68 years that Mr. Kishi talks about. It’s just that they were in hibernation, and now we are seeing a resurgence in these once again.

  • Nixon

    And what’s wrong with Japan’s (or any other countries’ citizens for that matter) growing nationalism?

    • Demosthenes

      Nationalism is a pernicious form of tribalism. It is a way for a ruling elite to mislead the masses by appealing to an abstract concept through which they are supposedly united – eg. race, and the nation they reside in.

      It is a collectivism that says “This is us and that is them”, it uses “we” and “they” as words to subvert the perception that individuals exist within either collective. When based on race, it can completely deny the admission of outsiders into its ranks. In also venerates a class system where the “in group” considers itself as morally superior to the “out group.”

      In the case of Japan, its use of nationalism in the past has, like the fascist apparatus that arose from the Weimar Republic in Germany,
      appealed to the purity of the people and the country in which they lived. The atrocities that arose from this line of thinking need not be repeated here.

      One only need look at the recent demonstrations of hate speech towards Koreans in Tokyo, and the anti-Japan harangues coming out of China in recent times, to see that nationalism growing in Japan is most definitely a problem – not only for foreigners living in Japan, but also for Japanese businesses and the future of the country itself.

      • Nixon

        You’re like advocating everybody to lose his/her cultural identity. I look at it in a different perspective though. Sorry!

      • Daishi88

        If you knew the first thing about what culture is, you’d know that he is not, in any way, advocating “everybody to lose his/her cultural identity.” Your “different perspective” is actually something known as “racism” in polite company.

      • Nixon

        Then will you please answer me what will I call you? What passport are you holding? What flag does your country bears? Why there are words like Russians, Americans, Chinese, Japanese and Europeans? Most concepts and ideas are dichotomous. It is a matter of where you stand and look. It is a matter of who you are? If it is you, it is you, no mater what. It all depends on what you want to be. Is it kind of stepping on your shoes if I say, “Hey, look I am a Chinese”? Does my intention of saying it means I am greater or bigger than you? From the beginning an individual is born, he is naturally differentiated from the rest. And emphasizing this differentiation doesn’t make one bad or good, per se.

    • Wahrheitsfreund

      In the context of the English-speaking press, “nationalism” or any of its synonyms from the Japanese are euphemisms for “not remaining completely prostrate before Beijing/Seoul/Washington”.

    • Daishi88

      Because Japan is one of the world’s leading first world nations – it uses as many natural resources as any other first world nation, probably more, along with utilizing the labor of the third world. Because Japan is a nation that relies on others and is relied upon.

      Because Japan has one of the world’s most powerful militaries, despite protests that they “don’t have an army.” Because “nationalism” in Japan means a racist myth of ethnic and cultural purity that pits Japan against the rest of the world.

      That’s why nationalism in Japan is bad. It paints Japan in a corner. It digs Japan into a hole. It lets Japanese people convince themselves that they are a unique, special people, surrounded by foreigners who neither “get” them nor want to have anything to do with them.

      Don’t be naive, or childish, or stupid. Right-wing nationalism in Japan is dangerous. Argue all you want that it is no immediate danger – Japan isn’t poised to re-invade Korea, after all. But it is dangerous in the long run, and hurtful in general to the world economy. If Japan can’t “play nice” they will take others down with them, whether it is in a bloody war or in an economic depression. And Japanese nationalism has no peaceful, tolerant aspect to it. It goes in one direction and one direction only. Fear and hatred.

  • bluetortilla

    Nationalism and racism is most certainly on the rise in Japan and at a very fast pace. I hear countless stories from Japanese people believing everything they read on the Internet involving racist and nationalistic tracks. It is common for propagandists to accuse China of ‘making up’ Japanese atrocities in WWII, and the US dropping the atomic bomb purely for experimental purposes. While I concede that experimentation may have been one goal for some US leaders in dropping the atomic bomb, the truth is that the event should be a stimulus to the world to rid ourselves of the thousands of bombs we have now, ready to fire at a moment’s notice. I cannot understand why Japanese nationalists are trying to take the moral high ground with China, a country that Japan invaded in the first place, not the other way around, and a country that is poised to perhaps become the world’s preeminent power in the next few decades. What are these people hoping to accomplish by their hate mongering? Do they want to start another war with China? If the US backs out, they would lose in weeks.
    Many people here are simply willing to believe whatever is fed to them by any idiot bigot with a web site. They do not need documentation or citations. There is no rhyme or reason to it, and it exposes a population that has been brainwashed by an education system that fosters no critical thinking and passivity. It shows me that this nation could be re-militarized in a matter of years if they wanted, and patriotism could once again become the ambiance of the day. If Japan continues the way it is and does not forge friendly relations with its neighbors, both diplomatic and cultural, there will be hell to pay.