Walk on the Wild Side of the Yasukuni Shrine
Many watchers are well aware that the majority of Japanese nationals are far away from the ultra conservative right wing who think their time has come with Shinzo Abe. It is nevertheless embarrassing to see foreigners doing their job and who are seen by some critics as hostile to Japan because they dare to talk about dark corners of the society. This is the comment of one of the most experienced correspondent in Japan who I met the other day. Indeed. Could we imagine, because it is sensitive, not to talk about the rise of the France National Front or about the violence erupting today in Ukraine or the religious conflict in Central African Republic?
The current prime minister, Abe, seems not to give such an importance to politics, according to his aides, but rather prioritises the economy and tries to make Japan rebound after decades of economy and financial crisis.
OK, but I remember that day when I saw Shinzo Abe attending a right wing gathering at Yasukuni, August 15th, 2012, a few months before his come back. He was addressing crowds under a big white tent, protected from the strong sun, many, many, many old men lined up in dark suits, scowling when foreigners came to visit the place, while the Emperor Akihito was sending a message of condolences and peace through the loudspeakers, at the near-by Budokan. It was around midday.
Before and since Abe took power, I know of plenty of gatherings of nationalists at Yasukuni, at Nagatacho, at Meiji Kinenkan and other dark rooms where nationalists gather to talk defeat and establish their plans against Koreans or Chinese, build their spider web like network in all aspects of the society, from administration to shinto religious associations, from police to armed forces, and mostly from all layers of society.
One day they gather to pray for the soul of Mishima, another day for people who died for the nation during this war of aggression. I’ve seen those who attend these parties even celebrating the return of the World War Two heirs to power. Many spread their anger speech on the internet, on TV (Channel Sakura, known for its support for Japanese right-wing causes) where nationalists launch revisionists campaigns etc. Many of them are distorting the real course of history and, as in my own country France with our FN, use democracy to advance their noisy and dangerous agenda. The right wing is globally on the rise as “Le Monde Diplomatique” recently wrote in a special publication.
Really? Or in Japan is it just because a few of them are very noisy, as Yakuza are, or have no common sense, no shame and lack essential dignity or are the Japanese so comfortable that they cannot identify or sense the notion of danger, and eventually are just lacking courage to say NO to these dangerous waves of anti democracy groups? As if violence and racial crimes were just belonging to the past, really?
Near by Yasukuni shrine, under the torrid midsummer heat and humidity, disobeying the priests command for peace and prayers, we can hear each August 15th the usual screaming noisy black lorries of the right wing made to scare politicians, citizens, and media, with arrivals of limousines filled with what appear to be Yakuza bosses, they look extraordinarily similar to those muscled men standing a few yards away from the shrine, in front of the food stalls, in the apparent absence of security from police forces. Making the place look like a strange no-law zone. We heard there the right wing nationalists people bragging that they actually pay the Yakuza to scare whoever is their enemy "du jour". I was told it often happens these last years in front of Tepco too where people shout slogans and receive money from the right wing to do so. Paid demonstrators somehow…
Therefore, and in spite of all, it is good to rebalance views about what is unfairly addressed to Japanese society, apathetic, sleeping, bureaucratised, fearing the days after when a powerful China would take over their lands, starting with their remote islands. That is in fact an improbable scenario when you know what China is going through these days, with its huge domestic problems ahead. Back in Japan, I can only wonder why is Abe courting these extremists people? Is he just tolerating them because he must to use the symbolism of Yasukuni to inspire a wider audience? And who is the audience?
Surely Shinzo Abe perceives and has been advised that hanging out with these characters does not make him appear to be a very sound politician. Politicians can either love lost causes and tilt at windmills or devote themselves to holding power. The marriage between these two things can never afford to be very long. What is Abe’s real quid pro quo and who does he really represent? Is this Japanese right wing network running far more deeply and more broadly in the Land of Yamato than we realise?