Too often we look at an issue, like the rise of neo-nazism in Germany or neo-nationalism in Japan out of context. I lay before you here first an article from 2002 and another from 2012. This part 1 makes predictions. The part 2 article came out yesterday and makes almost no allusions to the background discussed in the first article. What is needed by a reader is to tie the two decades and stories together. Discuss the failures in Japanese education, social struggles, etc. a bit more in detatil WALL STREET JOURNAL!.–KAS
November 21, 2002
Council on Foreign Relations
[Note: A transcript of this meeting is unavailable. The discussion is summarized below.]
Project Director: Eugene A. Matthews
1. What we know:
Different terms, such as nationalists, patriots, populists, and realists, have been used to refer to the group of Japanese who believe Japan needs to be self-determined and independent of the United States. “Nationalism” does not necessarily refer to a right-wing movement, which in Japan is quite small. The nationalist movement is characterized more by a sense of national pride and a desire for self-determination than by aggression or militarism. In fact, the same people who want Japan to have a stronger military are the same people who favor more open trade.
The origins of Japanese nationalism are based on the following: (1) a belief that the Emperor is a descendant of God, (2) geographic isolation, (3) a desire for expansion within the region. Different kinds of nationalism have emerged during different periods in Japan’s history.
Two issues at the forefront of the current discussion of nationalism in Japan are Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution and history textbook reform. Many Japanese nationalists favor a stronger Japanese presence on the world scene and would like to see Japan have a stronger, full-fledged military, instead of being confined to the Self Defense Forces as dictated by the Japan’s Constitution. It seems likely that Article 9 will be revised, but even though some would like to develop Japan’s military capabilities, they still favor the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance and are likely to continue cooperating with their main ally, the United States.
Education reform is becoming an increasingly active and important movement in Japan. Members of the New Education Reform Group advocate a stronger, more clearly defined identity for Japan as a nation. China and Korea in particular have taken great exception to the textbooks’ handling of Japan’s atrocities in Nanking and the treatment of the issue of “comfort women” from Korea, China, Indonesia, and the Philippines. It is important, however, to keep this issue in perspective: historical accounts are subjective, and every country teaches revisionist history to some extent. Even within the United States, versions of events and movements like the Civil War and the civil rights movement differ across regions of the country.
Prime Minister Koizumi’s visits to the Yasukuni Shrine have also raised concerns that Japan is becoming too nationalistic. It is important to bear in mind that while Yasukuni Shrine houses class-A war criminals; it also holds the remains of Japanese citizens who have died in the service of their country since the 19th century, much like Arlington National Cemetery in the United States. The attention surrounding it is unwarranted, and the United States must be mindful of the fact that right now, the most nationalistic country in the world is the United States.
Shintaro Ishihara, Governor of Tokyo, has been regarded as a staunch nationalist because of his strong, offensive remarks concerning immigrants. However, Ishihara does favor a U.S. alliance because he recognizes that Japan cannot defend itself alone right now, and that Japan will not be able to build up its military without U.S. assistance.
The economic malaise of the past decade and a half has forced Japan to reevaluate itself. Economic hardship, combined with a politically apathetic public and discreet economic stressors, could set the stage for a populist politician, such as Ishihara, to rise to power. An economic shock, such as the failure of the banking system or a debt situation crisis, would fuel the popularity of nationalist ideas. With the closures of many banks in Japan, people are losing money. The extent to which an economic shock would boost a nationalist movement depends on how afraid the country becomes. A terrorist attack on Japan’s soil could also prompt a rise in the nationalists’ influence.
2. What we don’t know:
The nationalist movement in Japan does not have to gain widespread popularity for it to gain widespread influence. If some of the views put forth by this movement become popular enough, they could garner enough backing to influence the Japanese government. How popular do these ideas have to become in order for them to affect Japanese foreign policy and necessitate a U.S. response?
China’s growing economic power in the region could lead to an increase in the appeal of some of Japan’s “nationalist” ideas. Japan will have to create a niche for itself, perhaps in product design or financial services, in order to remain a dominant economic force in the area. If Japan aims to focus on design, many Japanese will likely lose jobs. How will this affect the political climate? Will the appeal of the populists rise? Will Japan take a protectionist route?
Similarly, many industries will likely disappear if Japan’s non-performing loans are cleaned up. The resulting layoffs could also alter Japan’s political environment.
3. What are the next steps; what should be done and by whom:
It is important for the United States to monitor the nationalist movement. The question is when do Japan’s calls to become more independent move into the realm of belligerence or militarism? Japan currently does not have any fascist leaders poised to come to power, but there are some politicians with nationalist tendencies who are popular enough to warrant U.S. attention. A study of political history suggests that the United States should be concerned and should definitely keep this movement on its radar screen.
Lawmakers Find Ways to Draw Young Supporters Who Favor a More Assertive Foreign Policy; ‘We’ve Been Too Complacent’
By YUKA HAYASHI
TOKYO—Nationalist politicians and activists are wielding new clout in Japan, straining the country’s ties with China and South Korea, and creating headaches for policy makers in Tokyo.
Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara is the face of Japanese nationalism.
Two Japanese cabinet ministers visited Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine—a place strongly associated with the country’s imperialist past—on Wednesday, the first such visits since the Democratic Party of Japan took power three years ago. The visits further inflamed a dispute with South Korea; South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who upset Japanese officials with his visit to an islet contested by the two nations, said in a speech Wednesday that Japan must resolve issues from the World War II era before the two countries can develop better relations.
Mr. Lee referred to Japan as a “close neighbor, a friend” but noted the sexual enslavement of Korean women by Japanese soldiers during World War II.
“It was a breach of women’s rights committed during wartime as well as a violation of universal human rights and historic justice,” he said. “We urge the Japanese government to take responsible measures in this regard.”
Adding to tensions in Japan, the Russian Defense Ministry said Tuesday it would soon send two navy vessels to the disputed Russia-controlled islands known as the Southern Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan to honor Soviet soldiers who died there after World War II.
Nationalist lawmakers have found new ways to drive the policy debate in recent weeks, using tactics that go beyond traditional noisy protests to embrace a younger generation of supporters—and their videos and social media. Various blogs, tweets and Internet videos offering nationalistic views shunned by most of Japan’s mainstream media are helping to bring together conservative politicians and the public.
In the past three months alone, Japanese politicians have twice drawn formal diplomatic protests from the Chinese government: by hosting in Tokyo a large conference of Uighur separatists, branded terrorists by Beijing, and by pushing Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda into proposing to buy a chain of privately owned islands claimed by both China and Japan.
A separate group of parliament members stirred complaints from Seoul by visiting the U.S. to demand the removal of a New Jersey monument dedicated to so-called comfort women, Korean women forced to work in military brothels during Japan’s occupation of Korea during World War II.
The growing influence of nationalist causes complicates matters for Mr. Noda, who has so far avoided saber-rattling but faces poor approval ratings ahead of a tricky leadership campaign in coming months.
Mr. Lee’s visit last week to South Korea-controlled islets claimed by Japan pushed Tokyo to give a strong response. It recalled its ambassador to Seoul, and postponed a meeting between its finance minister and his South Korean counterpart.
The nationalist agenda is to push Japan’s government to be more assertive in defending the country’s territorial claims in a region fraught with multiple such disputes.
Many hope the growing interest in territorial issues will give momentum to their ultimate goal: revising Japan’s pacifist constitution, which severely limits the role of the military, known as the Self Defense Forces.
Former South Korean ‘comfort woman’ Kil Un-ock, center, joins a protest.
April 2012 Tokyo Gov. Ishihara proposes the purchase of Senkaku/Diaoyu islands—disputed between Japan and China—from a private owner.
May LDP calls for revising the constitution to boost the status of the military.
May Japanese lawmakers visit Washington to request help in solving issue of North Korean abductions.
May Japanese lawmakers host a conference in Tokyo of Uighur activists, considered terrorists by China
June Japanese nationalists hold signature drive to
protest a New Jersey comfort-woman monument on a White House petition site. This follows a visit by Japanese lawmakers to the U.S. town
July Prime Minister Noda offers the purchase of Senkaku/Diaoyu islands by the government. Chinese patrol boats enter Japanese waters.
“Many Japanese are beginning to realize we’ve been too complacent,” says Keiji Furuya, an opposition politician who, among other things, spearheaded the Uighur effort and joined the Korea protest in New Jersey. “Just look at all the claims made on our territories from China, South Korea and Russia. We’ve never been made to look so foolish.”
Japan’s 21st-century nationalist movement has no single leader or party, but is a loose alliance of politicians, young and old, from the two main political parties—along with some rightist activist groups—backed by increasingly influential commentators and business executives.
One prominent figure in the movement is Shintaro Ishihara, the 79-year-old governor of Tokyo. Mr. Ishihara has been the face of Japanese nationalism from the time he wrote his best-selling “The Japan That Can Say ‘No,’ ” in 1989 as a member of parliament.
But after years of being dismissed as largely a fringe provocateur, Mr. Ishihara’s clout appears to be on the rise. He was able to translate his trademark China-bashing into policy this summer with his plan for the Tokyo metropolitan government to buy the contested Japan-controlled Senkaku islands—called Diaoyu in China—from private Japanese owners.
Mr. Ishihara got considerable attention for his Senkaku gambit when his online island-buying fundraising campaign raised $16 million in two months. Playwright and movie director Satoru Mizushima says his network of nationalist organizations generated one-third of that cash. He also raised $13,000 to defray costs for the visiting Uighurs in May.
Realizing the diplomatic perils of letting Mr. Ishihara control the territory, Mr. Noda felt compelled to have the national government step in to try to purchase the islands, currently owned by a Japanese family and leased by the Japanese government. But that, in turn, has raised Beijing’s ire, leading to protests and a Chinese patrol-boat mission to the area—prompting counter-protests from Japan. Another boatload of protesters from Hong Kong is expected to arrive at the islands within the next few days.
Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
South Korean students marched last week during a memorial for ‘comfort women,’ who worked as sex slaves for Japanese troops in World War II.
Today’s leading nationalist organizations try to distance themselves from traditional right-wing groups, whose public image is one that includes loud and menacing protest rallies. The issues driving the current generation also are distinct from earlier ones, which were more focused on Japan’s war experiences and on issues such as worship of the imperial family. Some see the nationalists as drawing from the same pool of disgruntled youth as the antinuclear protesters, although that movement has moved closer to the mainstream.
What ties elements of the current movement together are the territorial rivalries and the desire to see Japan act more decisively over them. “At a time when China is claiming even Okinawa as part of its own territory, Japan must be more resolute in our foreign policy,” said Takeo Hiranuma, a parliament member who heads the small Sunrise Party of Japan.
Nationalist Internet sites have proliferated in recent years, allowing participants—known as netto uyoku, or Internet rightists, to air their views, often using incendiary and derogatory terms for China and Korea.
The 63-year-old Mr. Mizushima is another leader among Japan’s new nationalists. He helped start a political group in 2010 called Ganbare Nippon, or Hang Tough Japan, which has organized seven so-called fishing expeditions to the disputed islands that Mr. Ishihara wanted to purchase, as a way of underscoring Japan’s territorial claims.
Mr. Mizushima also runs a cable channel that, in 2009, became focused on right-wing talk shows, one of the few such outlets in Japan. “We created our channel as a counterweight to national newspapers and broadcasters that don’t tell the truth,” said Mr. Mizushima, whose media production company also posts its shows on the Internet. An Internet show called “Senkaku Islands, What If Japan Goes to War With China?” drew 37,000 viewers.
— Evan Ramstad contributed to this article.
Write to Yuka Hayashi at firstname.lastname@example.org
A version of this article appeared August 15, 2012, on page A8 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Japan’s Nationalist Movement Strengthens.