• Tokyo

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I would like to express my appreciation to the Japanese police force. On Sunday I was walking to Mass at my church in central Tokyo when I heard the unmistakable strains of uyoku (rightist) music. I thought, “Here we go again.”

But this time it was no ordinary drive-by nuisance. On the corner outside the church, 30 or 40 protesters stood screeching into loudhailers. Their complaint was that a group called the Japan Catholic Council for Justice and Peace had planned a meeting that day that included an educational tour of Yasukuni Shrine. Attempts by the uyoku to enter the church and disrupt the meeting had led to its cancellation, leaving the rightwingers to stew on the corner. I noted that the protesters seemed to represent a cross section of society: men and women in suits, youths in casual attire, at least one man in kimono and geta.

A short distance away, half a dozen police vans were parked; uniformed officers lined the pavement opposite the rightwingers. As I walked between the two groups, the uyoku screamed at me in Japanese, “Get out of Japan!” Stunned, I looked at them and — I am sorry to say — uttered a common Anglo-Saxon word. They instantly rushed me, striking at me with their fists and loudhailers. The leader got close enough to clip the top of my hair. Then the police surged past me, body-slamming my attackers and wrestling them back to their side of the pavement. “Run!” a middle-aged officer shouted at me.

I obeyed and soon reached the safety of the church. I was uninjured, but if not for the officers’ swift response, I would certainly have been mobbed and perhaps badly beaten. I am a slightly built woman. I was targeted for being white, but these rightwingers are versatile in their hatred: Earlier that day they had heckled and insulted Japanese churchgoers. It’s a pity that they are unaware that the Catholic Church has deeper and older roots in Japan than does their brand of nationalism.

While Japanese society yawns at the small number of unspeakable fanatics in its midst, the uyoku are free to continue their mischief — even when it veers toward physical violence. I am keenly grateful to the officers who shielded me Sunday. These brave men in uniform of this country stand up to the uyoku on a regular basis. Why can’t anyone else?

r. nanashima

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