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Discussion Paper 6 in 2007
First published in ejcjs on 28 November 2007

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The 'Uyoku Rōnin Dō'

Assessing the Lifestyles and Values of Japan's Contemporary Right Wing Radical Activists


Daiki Shibuichi


About the Author


Military-style vans circulate through the streets of major Japanese cities. Drivers in uniforms blare slogans via loudspeakers bolted to the vans' roofs. These are the Japanese right-wingers, or uyoku radical right-wing activists, who routinely demonstrate in front of foreign embassies and government buildings, and who can also be seen protesting in smaller towns. While the leftist Japan Teachers' Union, or Nikkyōso, holds assemblies in local town halls, uyoku activists organize demonstrations in front of city halls and shout slogans. Furthermore, some of them may demand to meet with members of the mass media who make what the uyoku deem to be 'inappropriate' remarks, and they then insist on retractions and apologies for these remarks. In December 2000, journalist and academic David McNeill experienced this pressure from a group of uyoku activists after he mentioned the Nanking massacre on a Japanese radio program (McNeill 2001). He was shocked to learn that the radio station gave in to the group's demand and asked him to apologize on the next show. The station's director explained that radical violence directed at the station was unlikely, but it could not be ruled out. The director's concern was legitimate. There have in fact been sporadic violent incidents attributed to the uyoku. In August 2006, senior Liberal Democratic Party politician Katō Kōichi was targeted by an uyoku radical. After confirming that the home of Katō's parents was empty, the radical burnt it down and used a sword to stab himself in the stomach at the scene (Noda 2007). The failed Molotov cocktail attack on the residence of Kobayashi Yōtarō, president of Fuji Xerox, in January 2005, by an unidentified perpetrator was followed by anonymous threats. This incident was also suspected to be the work of the uyoku.

One might assume that these radical uyoku activists are dangerous zealots driven purely by ideology. However, cost-benefit analyses could also enter into their motives. Cases of criminal fund-raising through pressure and tacit intimidation against corporations by the radical uyoku or quasi-radical uyoku have been reported by police and the mass media. In the abovementioned case of Kobayashi Yōtarō, it is possible that some groups or individuals were secretly demanding that Fuji Xerox offer material benefits in exchange for stopping further harassment. Similarly, in the case of David McNeill, the radio station might have been the true target. In fact, experts have confirmed the Japanese uyoku right-wing radicals' overlapping membership with crime syndicates, the yakuza or bōryokudan, as well as with the sōkaiya or professional corporate extortionists.

Researchers Szymkowiak and Steinhoff (1995) try to analyze these phenomena in their study. They first refer to incidents in which readers can see complex and ill-defined relations among the radical right, criminal groups, corporations and politicians. Then Szymkowiak and Steinhoff ask, 'Is the term "radical right" merely a convenient cover for what are actually organized crime operations? Or is there a true radical right, deeply committed to the emperor and the protection of Japan's national identity in the face of foreign pressure and corrupting leftist influences?' To answer these questions, Szymkowiak and Steinhoff explain the political and social structure of post-war Japan, where radical activists mingled with underworld elements.[1] Szymkowiak and Steinhoff also depicted the emergence in the 1970s of the 'new right' or shin-uyoku, which found this overlap with underworld elements disgusting, causing them to split from the existing radical right-wing camp. As of the mid-1990s when Szymkowiak and Steinhoff's study was published, the majority of Japanese right-wing radicals remained entangled with yakuza and sōkaiya, and the Liberal Democratic Party and private corporations still had not completely weaned themselves from suspect relationships.

Szymkowiak and Steinhoff's analytical framework subscribes to a political process model of social movements, linking the behavior of the radical right to historical and structural changes in Japanese society, and particularly to changes in political opportunities. This provides their study both with analytical clarity and the power to convince. Having said this, adopting this model perhaps led Szymkowiak and Steinhoff to focus less on examining the Japanese right-wing radicals per se. Szymkowiak and Steinhoff explained that the radical right-wing has an agenda that includes the following six aspects:

  1. Protection of the emperor and restoration of his pre-1945 status

  2. Opposition to the post-war diplomatic framework, which the radical right believes has relegated Japan to second or third-class world citizenship

  3. Anti-communism, socialism and unionism

  4. Being anti-Russia/Soviet Union

  5. Defending the Yasukuni Shrine

  6. Denial of war responsibilities.

Szymkowiak and Steinhoff also repeatedly stress that the core ideology of the Japanese right contains ideas of 'racial' purity and exclusive national identity.

While many of the above notions do seem to matter to the radicals, some of these ideas may be rather wide of the mark. For example, it is not necessarily obvious how racism is linked to Japanese radical right-wing phenomena. When Szymkowiak and Steinhoff try to explain why harassment and physical attacks by Japanese right-wing radicals had not been directed towards members of foreign workers and illegal immigrants,[2] they attribute it to the tie between Japanese right-wing radicals and yakuza gangs. Szymkowiak and Steinhoff explain that the international business of today's yakuza – human trafficking and drug smuggling – as well as the yakuza's multi-ethnic composition prevented radical right-wing hate-crimes against social minorities in Japan.[3] While this theory is intriguing, there remains an unanswered question. If the yakuza include various ethnic groups as Szymkowiak and Steinhoff claim, by extension this would mean that Japanese right-wing radicals, who overlap with yakuza, could also be multi-ethnic. And in fact, some observers have noted resident Koreans among Japanese uyoku radical right-wing activists. For example, a known media commentator Shin Sugok states: '… those who appear to be right-wingers … Many, in fact, are Koreans' (Baylis 2001). As regards uyoku members' desire to protect the emperor and to restore his pre-1945 status (1, above) and the denial of Japanese war responsibilities (6, above), this report will show in later sections that the radicals' views are nuanced.

In addition to the above, the radical right-wing issues noted by Szymkowiak and Steinhoff do not necessarily help in explaining how the uyoku choose their targets, not to mention why the uyoku adopt certain tactics. For example, we can see that Katō Kōichi was targeted because he aired opinions critical of Japanese prime ministers visiting the Yasukuni Shrine. However, other prominent LDP politicians, not to mention politicians in the opposition camp, had criticized prime ministerial visits to the Shrine. Then why was only Katō targeted? Furthermore, if the radical uyoku perpetrator had intended to maximize the impact of his act, it would have been more logical to attack LDP headquarters, its local branches, or even Katō's office in Tokyo and indiscriminately kill or injure staff members or Katō himself. Instead, the activist attacked Katō in such a way as to injure only the activist himself .

As for the pattern of uyoku behavior, Maruyama (1964) posits that violent 'outlaws' in the political arena across the world, uyoku in case of Japan, have common features. According to Maruyama, political outlaws impulsively make value judgments in the ways which ordinary people do only under the state of emergency. They daily aspire for 'special missions' which accompany unusual adventures, and are more interested in and excited at conflicts and confusions generating from processes rather than the mission ends. Maruyama also states that such outlaws despise earning their living through engaging in regular and stable occupations, and this leads them to rely on criminal extortion.

Maruyama succinctly summarizes the uyoku's outlaw mentality; but he does not discuss why uyoku are like that. Uyoku behavior is even more puzzling – especially if they are mere outlaws as Maruyama claims – when one considers the increase in political opportunities for hate-crimes and high-intensity and indiscriminate attacks over the past decade. Diplomatic conflicts and tensions between Japan and China have escalated since the latter half of the 1990s, as has been the case with Japan and Korea (the Koreas) since the beginning of the 21st Century. Regrettably, antipathy to China and Korea and the Japanese elite who have supported the Chinese and Korean positions has increased in some sectors of Japanese society. Nowadays, jingoism and ethno-centrism are rampant in some Japanese mass media outlets and especially on the internet. Given the situation, uyoku radicals could have easily found opportunities and pretexts. However, while the uyoku radicals have frequently protested against and occasionally attacked the Chinese and South Korean embassies and the de facto embassy of the North Korean state, the Chōsen Soren, no injuries have been caused by the attacks. The escalation of conflicts has seemingly not led the uyoku to perpetrate hate-crimes against individual Chinese and Koreans, either. Lack of resources would not explain why the tactics of the uyoku have been relatively mild; harassing or attacking unprotected foreign nationals in town requires very few resources. If the uyoku radicals wanted indiscriminately to hurt and kill personnel in protected targets such as foreign embassies and headquarters or branches of the LDP, they could mobilize themselves as armed yakuza affiliates and effectively use fire-arms.

Recognizing that both Szymkowiak and Steinhoff's and Maruyama's studies contain convincing insights and interesting observations, this report suggests that there could still be a different way of interpreting radical right-wing phenomena in Japan. This report tries to consider uyokus' subjective reasoning that allows them to engage in right-wing radicalism which does not include hate-crimes while not necessarily rejecting criminal gains or connections. The key seems to be their style and what they think about their identity. This report found that many of the uyoku hew to a peculiar lifestyle, with self-expression and activities based on certain aesthetics, and which creates a fraternity of those who share these values. This report contends that the values can be summed up by the phrase 'way of life as unemployed samurai-cum- right-wingers' or uyoku rōnin dō (右翼浪人道). The author of this report heard the phrase from a key subject, Mr. Ono Keizō, when interviewing right-wing radicals between 2000 and 2002.

In the following sections this report will first elaborate on the uyoku rōnin dō. Second, it will introduce parts of the author's interviews and observations.[4] The uyoku's unexpectedly diverse views will be reported and relationship to society will be depicted. Some aspects of their community will also be described. Finally, the current trend of radical uyoku activism will be discussed.[5]


The topic of criminal connection reveals that this report has some serious selection-bias. Members of yakuza-related groups – 'incumbent' yakuza, so to speak – were not included. During interviews with Mr. Ono, the author had occasion to interview two people from such groups. However, they were not willing to talk about themselves. Likewise, Mr. Ono was reluctant to introduce yakuza connections to the author. He said that when he thought about which uyoku to introduce, he chose mainly the 'new right-wing' activists because they are generally serious regarding their ideology. Relying on Mr. Ono also meant that this report was perforce influenced by his views. In addition, this report was not able to cover the isolated and anonymous right-wingers and terrorists lurking under cover of society. The notorious Sekihōtai, which shot the Asahi Shimbun journalists in 1987, is a good example of these undercover types.[6]

The Uyoku Rōnin Dō

In Japanese history, Rōnin were samurai or bushi – mostly in the Tokugawa Shogunate period – who had abandoned their feudal positions in the ie households of han principalities or in the Shogunate proper. They could be regarded as unemployed and thus were often impoverished. Some of them took advantage of their freedom to engage in anti-regime political activities. Of course, such rōnin do not survive in contemporary Japan. However, their image is still reproduced endlessly in the popular culture media. The Tokugawa Shogunate has been a favorite topic in Japanese kabuki plays, fictional novels, movies, and recently in television dramas and manga cartoons. Those stories have depicted rōnin as unemployed samurai who were obliged to toil for their livelihood as part-time farmers and artisans, teachers for neighborhood children, and even bodyguards for gang bosses and mercenaries, while aspiring to attain an honorable goal or cause. It is not going too far to say that popular stories have given almost everyone in Japan an image of these rōnin.

As for the phrase uyoku rōnin dō, this report considers that the word is the key. It generally means 'the way' in which someone practices certain skills and regulates one's conduct accordingly. This idea of 'path' or 'way' is a well-known concept in East Asian cultures. By adding onto the term rōnin (or uyoku rōnin), the complete phrase takes on a positive connotation. People wishing to pass as true followers of the uyoku rōnin dō are expected to seriously embrace radical right-wing tenets and to educate themselves for the cause. At the same time, they must endeavor to behave like unemployed but dignified samurai, which likely leads them to refrain from bullying the socially weak and from indiscriminate terrorism. However, being a radical right-wing rōnin is tantamount both to being ignored by the populace and monitored by the authorities. It therefore stands to reason that they cannot hope to improve their living standards very much. Their life is of necessity as frugal and simple as that of the rōnin depicted in stories. They might therefore imagine that they are entitled to practice criminal extortion in order to earn a living.

The next section looks into various cases of such uyoku rōnin. While they engage in usual political activities such as making public speeches, organizing demonstrations and protests, distributing pamphlets, posting propaganda, discussing ideologies with comrades, and even spending time in jail for radical violence, many of them have a penchant for activities associable with rōnin life such as learning martial arts, studying or teaching classical Japanese literature, voluntarily cleaning Shinto shrines, and even engaging in farming.


Mr. Ono Keizō

This section opens with the introduction of Mr. Ono Keizō, who guided the author through the radical uyoku activist community. He also used to be a sōkaiya. Silver-haired Mr. Ono had already retired as a sōkaiya and was semi-retired as a radical uyoku activist, but he is still acquainted with renowned uyoku radicals and activists. He also heads a Non-Profit Organization for environmental protection. In his view, the preservation of nature and forest is related to the protection of humanity, the motherland and family harmony. As a representative of this NPO, Mr. Ono lectures in local city halls, and elementary and junior high schools. He is an incisive, cheerful and outspoken person who was born soon after the Japanese war defeat in 1945.

Mr. Ono was born in Aomori Prefecture, which is one of the poorest regions in Japan. After finishing his compulsory education, he volunteered to serve in the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. Mr. Ono found himself absorbed in training in jūkendō, a Japanese style of bayonet fencing, in the Defense Force. While serving as part of the ground staff at a radar facility, Mr. Ono trained hard in jūkendō, and even competed once at the national level. After some years, he grew tired of life in the Defense Force barracks. He left the Defense Force and went to Tokyo, which was bustling in the unprecedented economic boom of the late 1960s. In Tokyo, Mr. Ono's expertise in jūkendō helped him earn a living. He became a bodyguard for the head of the Nationalist Association or Kokusui-kai. The Kokusui-kai originated as an uyoku group in the pre-war period, but it later turned into a major yakuza group controlling the Ginza district of Tokyo. Being a member of a yakuza group ruling the underworld there must have been quite a coup for a young man who had come from the countryside with nothing but his skill in fighting. Nonetheless, Mr. Ono never joined the yakuza. 'I don't like their way of earning money. They squeeze it out of miserable drug addicts and prostitutes,' he said. 'Besides, their lives have no rhyme or reason. They are also stupid and low-class.' Mr. Ono, who is apparently somewhat of a maverick, seems particularly to dislike the quasi-family system and yakuza customs. Just like various Mafia groups in other countries, yakuza members are tightly knit in quasi-parent and child relationships.

Mr. Ono was instead gradually drawn to radical uyoku activists. He listened to speeches made by the late Akao Bin, the famous old leader of Dai Nippon Aikoku-tō (The Great Japan Patriot Party 大日本愛国党) and once a lower house politician during the pre-war period. During the post-war period, Akao Bin preferred to make speeches at Sukiyabashi corner, which is one of the central points in Ginza. Some of Akao Bin's words impressed Mr. Ono. He did not join Akao Bin's party, but instead went to drink coffee with Akao Bin in a coffee shop in Ginza. 'I happened to know where Akao Bin drank coffee. He didn't refuse to speak to a young guy like me. Akao Bin loved coffee and was very particular about it,' Mr. Ono said. Mr. Ono soon quit his job as a bodyguard for a yakuza boss. During those years in the Ginza underworld, he thought he had learned something about corporations and management, so he began a sōkaiya business.[7]

As a radical uyoku activist, Mr. Ono was known among other radicals as a specialist in anti-Soviet activities. He participated in the uyoku activists' parades and demonstrations in front of the Soviet embassy in Mamiana, Tokyo. In his efforts to harass the Soviet politicians who visited Tokyo, Mr. Ono sneaked into their hotels and tried to meet them. He was never successful, as the security police always found him, arrested and detained him. Mr. Ono is also known among other radical right-wing activists as a generous donor of funds. He uses the money he earned from the sōkaiya business to support radical uyoku activists who are serious ideologues but have no money. For example, Mr. Suzuki Nobuyuki (鈴木信行), a younger generation uyoku activist, once worked as Mr. Ono's assistant. His case will be introduced next. Mr. Suzuki paid homage to Mr. Ono as his senior. In fact, the group Mr. Suzuki headed, Gendai Ishin-sha (the Society for Contemporary Restoration 現代維新社), was founded by Mr. Ono.

Speaking of money, Mr. Ono seems to be neither interested in amassing wealth nor in living a luxurious life. When the author met Mr. Ono, he was driving a small ramshackle Nissan van in which he carried farming equipment for his NPO activities, and he lived in an ordinary house measuring perhaps 90 square meters built on 130 square meters of land owned by his parents-in-law in an outlying suburb. However, one of the other interviewees said that when Mr. Ono's sōkaiya business was thriving, he drove a big Mercedes and had a large office-cum-residence in a condominium located in the up-market Akasaka district of central Tokyo. Nevertheless, Mr. Ono did not seem to regret those days. Mr. Ono gradually retreated from the sōkaiya business as regulations against extortionists were tightened step by step. He closed his coffee shop in Higashi Ginza and he was not very keen on engaging in anti-Russia movements after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Perhaps he thought Russia lacked the substance of a powerful enemy worth challenging. By the late 1990s, he had moved from Tokyo to the suburban city that had been home to his wife, and he began to focus seriously on his NPO activities.

Mr. Suzuki Nobuyuki

This report next looks into the case of Mr. Suzuki Nobuyuki, whom Mr. Ono introduced to the author. Although Mr. Suzuki neither fell into the category of the radicals, nor has he engaged in underworld sōkaiya or yakuza businesses, his case is significant and worth examining. He can be regarded as one of the young generation leaders of Japanese uyoku activists. As head of the secretariat (jimu kyokuchō) of the only current Japanese right-wing political party, Ishin Seitō Shimpu (The New Wind Restoration Party 維新政党・新風), Mr. Suzuki has a wide network among both radical and legitimate uyoku activists. This party, for which Mr. Suzuki works as a volunteer, garnered approximately 57,000 votes in the 2001 upper-house election, approximately 128,000 votes in the 2004 upper-house election, and approximately 170,000 votes in the 2007 upper-house election.[8] Mr. Suzuki also heads the right-wing Yasukuni Jinja Seisō Hōshi Yūshi no Kai (Association to Voluntarily Clean the Precinct of the Yasukuni Shrine 靖国神社清掃奉仕有志の会). The participants congregate once every few months in the precincts of the Yasukuni Shrine to clean the place. Afterwards, the members pay worship fees and worship in the main building of the shrine. They then eat lunch at a coffee shop in the precinct and adjourn. These activities seem to be part of their shūgyō mental and physical training to become respectable uyoku rōnin.[9] Mr. Suzuki, who was born in the mid-1960s, speaks quietly and always seems calm. His mild seriousness and sincerity have helped make him a leader. He explained the reason he became a right-wing activist: 'One of my seniors in elementary school days joined the radical uyoku. The senior let me join their gaisen demonstrations in the black van gaisensha. That was the beginning. In those days, I was just a kid, and had no sense of ideology or politics. It was when I was detained for juvenile delinquency that I got seriously interested in uyoku. I read books there. We had nothing else to do, you know. A policeman there lent me a book by Nomura Shūsuke (野村秋介, who represented the 'new right-wing'). I was impressed with the book. So, after my release, I began to meet radical uyoku people.'

To make a living, Mr. Suzuki runs a small construction company in the Katsushika District of Tokyo where small businesses are concentrated. Some of his employees are young people with arrest records like the sharp-tempered but friendly Mr. Watanabe Garyū (渡辺臥竜). Mr. Watanabe spent five years in jail for yakuza crimes. In jail he became interested in the uyoku through a book by well-known lawyer Endō Makoto who defends uyoku activists. Mr. Watanabe quit the yakuza after his release. He takes care of his bed-ridden mother and earns his living as a construction worker under Mr. Suzuki. He wishes to become a respectable uyoku by studying ideology and participating in various activities. When Mr. Watanabe has time, he accompanies Mr. Suzuki to uyoku meetings and ceremonies. As for Mr. Suzuki, it seems that the responsibility of running a company and securing jobs for employees like Mr. Watanabe has influenced him. Unlike many other radical and legitimate uyoku activists, Mr. Suzuki has a tendency to construe Japan's status and its national cause in terms of economic factors. The continuing recession of the day had severely affected his business. It made him feel even more frustrated with the existing regime – represented by Premier Koizumi Jun'ichiro, who drastically cut public spending for construction – and turned him toward legitimate political activities. However, his senior, the ex-radical Mr. Ono, was not necessarily in favor of having Mr. Suzuki focus on legitimate political activities.

'I assume Southeast Asian countries expect Japan to play a positive role in Asia,' Mr. Suzuki once said. 'I understand that Japan and Thailand were the only non-white nations to have remained independent before World War II, and Japan acted as a counterweight to the West,' he elaborated. 'Furthermore, Japan swiftly recovered from the devastation of its defeat. I think it is natural that other Asian countries, as well as Middle Eastern and African countries, respect us for that achievement. They might imagine that since Japan has become affluent, prosperity is also within their grasp. Right now (This interview took place in the summer of 2001.), the Japanese economy is not in good shape. If the economy continues to slide, it would indicate that people of color cannot emulate white people after all. So, I hope the Japanese economy recovers. Then, we can show the might of Japan without using violence or military power,' he stated.

The New Wind Restoration Party has its headquarters in Kyoto, a representative office in Tokyo and 29 branches nationwide. Since the party's founding in 1995 by Uotani Tetsuō (魚谷哲央), its members have participated in upper house elections four times: in 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2007. Mr. Suzuki implied that the party was funded by donations from several businessmen running successful small-to-medium sized businesses. The party's policy platform is roughly as follows: 'carrying out "independent diplomacy" by amending the Japan-US security treaty and by pursuing a hard-line policy against China, the two Koreas and Russia while supporting Taiwanese independence; reflecting conservative and patriotic values in education; restoring order in Japanese society by reviving traditional family relationships and stressing the agriculture-first principle; boosting the economy; opposing pork-barrel politics; and amending the 1946 constitution.' We can note that the party's domestic policy platform per se did not include xenophobic factors.[10] This platform does not seem very different from that of the ruling LDP, except for its diplomatic policies. Therefore, it could be said that a jingoistic foreign policy is its main feature. This emphasis might allow the party to garner votes from far-right constituents who have not been satisfied with the LDP and the ruling coalition's foreign policy.

Mr. Fukuda Kunihiro

Mr. Fukuda Kunihiro (福田邦宏), who heads Bokyō Shimbunsha (The Anti Communist Press 防共新聞社), is close to Mr. Suzuki Nobuyuki. His Anti-Communist Press regularly makes speeches in front of Tokyo's Shimbashi and Shibuya Stations using their loudspeaker-equipped black van; it can be regarded as one of the typical uyoku groups encountered in the street. The author once observed their speech in front of Shimbashi Station. People in Tokyo are busy and none of the passers-by bothered to stop and listen. However, several men wearing business suits took notes nearby. When the author told Mr. Fukuda in the gaisensha van that he had keen listeners, Mr. Fukuda retorted that they were officers from the security police monitoring them. The Anti-Communist Press is also close to the late Akao Bin's well-known Great Japan Patriot Party; we would sometimes find their black vans protesting together in front of foreign embassies.

A peculiar feature of Mr. Fukuda's case is that, in contrast with other uyoku activists, he hails from a wealthy family. His Anti-Communist Press was established in 1948 by Mr. Fukuda's grandfather, Fukuda Soken, a known politician who had founded Nihon Rōdō-tō (the Japanese Labor Party 日本労働党) in 1914 while advancing the universal suffrage movement. Mr. Fukuda's uncle, Fukuda Susumu, born in 1928, was also a renowned uyoku radical and very successful sōkaiya (Hori 1991). Mr. Fukuda's family wealth is evident from the address of the offices of his Anti-Communist Press: they occupy a house in Tokyo's Den'en Chōfu District, which is home to some of Tokyo's wealthiest residents. Because Mr. Fukuda comes from a wealthy family and has a famous grandfather and uncle, people might imagine him to be genteel and sophisticated. However, Mr. Fukuda, then in his mid-30s, is stout and taller than average; he looks tough and is obviously a very confident person. He is also eloquent.

Mr. Fukuda's aide, Mr. Kondō Katsuhiro (近藤勝博), probably in his late 20s, looks even tougher. He is a tall and muscular man with no superfluous flesh. Clad in military-style clothes and GI shoes and sporting a GI haircut, Mr. Kondō looks like a soldier from the Special Forces or the paratroopers. He wears brown-tinted glasses that cover a cloudy eye that is likely the result of an injury. Mr. Kondō fits the stereotypical image of a rough-and-tumble radical activist who blares slogans from black vans and skirmishes with the riot police.

Mr. Fukuda has a complex and interesting opinion on the Japanese national identity. 'The Japanese people forgot the ideal of a national identity – kokutai – after the war defeat and foreign occupation,' Mr. Fukuda said indignantly during an interview. 'But, I believe it still lives within the flesh and blood of the Japanese people. Our task is to awaken it.' However, he continued, 'Having said that, this idea of nationhood is really complicated. You can't really be sure whether there were foreigners among your ancestors or not, can you? So, in my definition, those who follow and believe in the imperial court are Japanese,' he explained. 'And of course, what I follow and believe in is the Japanese imperial court. Although they lived in Japan, the ancient Emishi and Kumaso tribes were regarded as alien because they did not follow the imperial court. Those who follow and believe in the emperor are Japanese, regardless of the color of their eyes or skin. Blue eyes or black skin is no problem.' Mr. Suzuki, who was accompanied Mr. Fukuda during the interview, added 'You know, there are ancient historical records showing that many people migrated to Japan from Korea and China. The aristocratic Ōuchi-family is a good example of a Japanese family with foreign ancestry. But they all became Japanese when they accepted the culture and the language.' Thus, we find Mr. Fukuda taking a constructivist approach to define the Japanese national identity, even though he also believes in the importance of blood, Mr. Suzuki can not be considered an essentialist either.

In any case, Mr. Fukuda's and Mr. Suzuki's views on Japanese national identity and, by extension, on foreigners, can be regarded as moderate. However, Mr. Fukuda's aide, Mr. Kondō, seems to have a different view. In a relaxed get-together of the Anti-Communist Press and some other groups in a pub, he expressed feelings of disgust for Chinese immigrant workers and resident Koreans. Ethnic hatred does exist among uyoku radicals. Having said this, it is unlikely that Mr. Kondō, who is proud of being an uyoku of the Anti-Communist Press, harasses or bullies minority individuals. Mr. Kondō heads the gaisen speech team of the Anti-Communist Press. 'My team has a total of about 15 or 16 members. We usually have meetings and go to gaisen every Monday,' he explained. 'I can't say that people in town are eager to listen to us, but there are a few serious listeners. I know this because we sometimes get feedback over the telephone. As for my group, most of us earn our own living as cooks, carpenters, laborers or truck drivers and one of us runs a curry restaurant,' he elaborated. 'Employers kick us out once they knew we are uyoku. I was fired twice because of it. People regard uyoku as rogues (gorotsuki),' he lamented. However, according to Mr. Kondō, all his comrades were volunteers. 'Kondō-kun is a volunteer, too.' said Mr. Fukuda and continued, 'To be an uyoku, you need strong convictions and extensive ideological knowledge. Those who volunteered just because they were influenced by the cartoons of Kobayashi Yoshinori have not usually lasted very long.'[11]

'Why did you volunteer?' the author asked Mr. Kondō.

'I was born in Nagano prefecture and grew up there. Well… it's a long story. Anyhow, I had been interested in the uyoku since I was a junior high-school student. When I turned twenty, I compared pamphlets and newsletters from many groups and chose the Anti-Communist Press,' he said. When asked about his views on terrorism, Mr. Kondō answered, 'Uyoku attacks are different from those of the amoral radicals of the left. We don't bomb indiscriminately. Uyoku target key individuals, for example, a politician who makes many people suffer.'

Mr. Morita Tadaaki

Mr. Ono also introduced the author to Mr. Morita Tadaaki (森田忠明), who participated in the attack against the headquarters of the Keidanren – the largest Japanese business association – in 1977 (経団連襲撃事件). Armed with shotguns and swords, Mr. Morita, along with the renowned 'new right-wing' figure Nomura Shūsuke and two ex-members of Mishima Yukio's Tate no kai, occupied the Keidanren chairman's office, taking four hostages and demanding that Japanese business circles re-think their profit-oriented behavior. He was jailed for five years for this act (Hori 1991). Mr. Morita, who was born in 1949, studied at Kokushikan University, and had once been in the Maritime Self-Defense Forces (He also studied jūkendō in the Defense Forces.). He had apprenticed in the prestigious radical uyoku group from the pre-war Daitō Juku (Great Eastern Academy 大東塾). He had also studied Mandarin Chinese at the Tōa Language Institute and visited China during the Cultural Revolution. In addition, Mr. Morita is a registered Shinto priest. 'I got the license by attending a one-year course at Kokugakuin University,' he explained. At the time of the interview, Mr. Morita ran a small institute called Morita Juku (The Morita Academy: presently 森田塾北杜書院・練成道場) in the countryside of Yamanashi Prefecture to train uyoku youths. At the academy, Mr. Morita lectured to students on the history of uyoku and on Japan's literary classics. He also gave jūkendō lessons.

Mr. Morita is a robust, short-haired person of medium height with tanned skin and a mustache, and he looks rather like a skilled trainer at a military camp. His attitude is open and candid. In an interview, Mr. Morita explained that his academy's facilities had recently been donated by a local entrepreneur who runs a mid-sized electric company. 'But he does not donate funds to run my academy. I have to earn them myself. It's not easy,' he said. In addition to using tuition fees, he maintains his academy and earns his living by editing newsletters for several uyoku groups, and by functioning as a part-time priest at a local Shinto shrine. Mr. Morita explained he received 7,000 yen for a 3-day course from students for tuition. He said he trained some young people from a yakuza-related group a couple of days ago, and some university students would come in the following week. Mr. Morita was thinking about advertising his academy in order to improve his financial situation. He was researching how much it would cost to place an ad in right-leaning magazines like Seiron and Sapio.

At Morita Academy, Mr. Morita showed the author a video-clip in which he prayed as a Shinto priest near a refugee camp on the Thailand-Myanmar border. He explained that a commemoration ceremony had been held for three Japanese university students who had died as military volunteers in the Karen National Liberation Army. 'Their families were distraught, but I understand the motives of those youths,' Mr. Morita said. 'They craved adventure.' In fact, Mr. Morita, too, had craved adventure in Southeast Asia when he was young. 'That's why I learned Mandarin Chinese and often traveled to Southeast Asia. When I was young, I dreamt I could find some friends among ethnic Chinese merchants there, and with their help, set up a secret training camp for revolutionary guerrillas,' he explained.

When asked why he became an uyoku, Mr. Morita said 'I come from the mountains northwest of Kyoto. As a schoolboy, I had an antipathy to the emperor because he lived a privileged life in the very heart of Tokyo. But, my elder brother told me that some 1000 years ago our family members were blood relatives of the imperial family. I was amazed. This totally changed my view of the imperial court.' Mr. Morita continued, 'I had another motive. Around that time, I became an ardent fan of General Nogi (of the Russo-Japanese War). I was fascinated by his biography.' During the interview, a neighborhood farmer visited Mr. Morita with a bundle of vegetables in his hand. He joined the conversation and bragged about how he resisted the power of the state-apparatus by refusing to pay a fine for a traffic offense.

In the evening, Mr. Morita invited Mr. Ono and the author to drink beer in the kitchen. Mr. Morita elaborated on his views. 'Cultural relativism is important. It depends on how you define culture, but we Japanese do have our own understanding of history. Chinese and Korean versions of nationalism attack Japanese nationalism and its understanding of history. It is really hard to get along with them. Perhaps they have the right to pressure Japan to achieve their diplomatic aims, so I don't blame them. But what I cannot tolerate is that the Japanese government is knuckling under to them. In the 1980s, Nakasone Yasuhiro gave in to their pressure. He made me cry. As long as I live, Nakasone is my target. Although I don't have any power, he will pay for that.' Mr. Morita also expressed antipathy to certain mass media outlets. He referred to Kume Hiroshi and Chikushi Tetsuya and said, 'It is easy to quiet those leftist television commentators. I just visit their homes. I distribute pamphlets around their houses to scare their families. I throw smoke bombs into their gardens. Yes, I have a right to do that. TV commentators have a responsibility to the public since they can say what they want on TV. It's the same with those politicians. I also distribute pamphlets around their homes. When you distribute pamphlets, the quality of the writing is important. If my pamphlets were low-brow, they would not be taken seriously. But terrorism is different from distributing pamphlets. It's not so easy.'

While drinking beer, Mr. Ono and Mr. Morita argued about the Japanese invasion of the Asian continent. The argument grew heated and left the author perplexed. Initially, Mr. Ono insisted that Japan had freed the Southeast Asian peoples from Western colonialism. Mr. Morita rebutted this and said that Japan's war was solely for its own designs, and as a result of the Japanese invasion, the peoples of Southeast Asia began to think seriously about modern nationhood and independence. However, their positions soon flipped, and Mr. Ono began to say that contemporary Japanese should think about the feelings of the peoples of countries which had been trodden on by the Japanese military. Mr. Morita refuted this and said that the places occupied by the Japanese army were colonies of the West and there were no countries or nations. He said that the phrase 'Japanese invasions of Asian countries' was therefore not accurate. However, in a probable effort to cool down, they soon changed topics and began to examine the vegetables harvested from Mr. Morita's garden.

Mr. Kamiya Jirō

Mr. Ono took the author to the head-office of the Great Eastern Academy . Mr. Morita of the Morita Academy arranged a meeting for us with one of the leaders. The Great Eastern Academy was established in 1939. Its founder, Kageyama Masaharu was one of the principal conspirators in that well-known right-wing coup, the Shimpeitai Incident (神兵隊事件) of 1933. The academy later openly criticized General Tōjō and was suppressed by the militarist regime. When Japan was defeated in World War II, the heightened sense of national emergency caused fourteen of its members to commit collective ceremonial suicide (Hori 1991). The academy was known for its strong inclination towards Shinto, Japanese literary classics and the emperor. Speaking of Japanese literary classics, it has a branch named Fuji Kadōkai (The Fuji Association of the Way of Poems 不二歌道会), which is a nation-wide network for local poetry lovers. The academy's head-office is housed in a small, old four-storey building located in a back street in the Kita-Aoyama district of Tokyo. It also has a farm in Oume City. The representative of the Fuji Association for the Way of Poems, Mr. Kamiya Jirō (神屋二郎), received us in a small lounge. He looked nearly 80 years old and was dressed like a farmer in the field. Interestingly, Mr. Ono seemed tense in Mr. Kamiya's presence. He politely addressed Mr. Kamiya as sensei instead of Kamiya-san. During the interview, Mr. Ono did not smoke or even lean back in his chair. This indicated the prestige that the Great Eastern Academy enjoyed among uyoku radicals.

Mr. Kamiya expressed his mistrust of politicians such as Nakasone Yasuhiro. He explained the dilemma of needing to be close to the powerful to make changes. 'But it's all over with us if we cooperate with the regime. We can't do that. We have to make changes from outside. Well, I wish we really had the influence to do that,' Mr. Kamiya smiled. Nevertheless, Mr. Kamiya implied that the Great Eastern Academy was close to the Nippon Kaigi, which is probably the most powerful rightist pressure group in Japan. It consists of people from the Shinto community as well as a number of conservative politicians, young rightist intellectuals and even some members of business circles. Mr. Kamiya also said that he was personally close to secretary general of Eirei ni Kotaeru Kai (The Association to Commemorate the Spirits of Fallen Heroes 英霊にこたえる会), which is a major group of retired military men that pressures politicians to visit the Yasukuni Shrine. Incidentally, Mr. Kamiya was an officer candidate during the final stage of the Pacific War. Despite this, he expressed criticism of Nihon Izoku Kai (The Japan Association of Bereaved Families 日本遺族会). This group invites LDP politicians to be chairpersons and is thus prone to compromise in the Yasukuni Shrine dispute.

Mr. Ono stretched his back and lit a cigar when we stepped out of the building after the interview. 'He is one of the forerunners who have truly abided by the uyoku rōnin dō,' Mr. Ono said. 'You can see he lives a very humble lifestyle. The Great Eastern Academy has been self-sufficient, which means they fear nothing. They don't have to compromise,' he added. A week later, the author visited Mr. Kamiya again to listen to his views on Japanese literary classics. Mr. Kamiya gave the author a short lecture on literary classics and the 'way' of the Japanese as he saw it. He spoke of 18th Century scholar Motoori Norinaga and his Karagokoro and Yamatogokoro concepts, and explained that the hero in the 8th Century myths Yamato Takeru should be the role model for the Japanese. Mr. Kamiya also said something a bit surprising. 'I must admit that the American spirit is formidable,' he said. 'President George Bush visited the Meiji Jingū Shrine during his state visit the other day despite the recent controversy over the Yasukuni Shrine. People like him who respect others' beliefs are spiritually strong,' Mr. Kamiya explained.

Mr. Ninagawa Masahiro

Mr. Ono took the author to the office-cum-residence of Mr. Ninagawa Masahiro (蜷川正大), who has led the Daihi-kai (大悲会) group since the death of founder Nomura Shūsuke, and who is also the representative of the Nijūisseiki-shoin (二十一世紀書院) publishing company. Mr. Ninagawa is known for attacking the Sumitomo Real Estate Company in 1987 (住友不動産会長宅人質事件). Armed with swords, Mr. Ninagawa and two younger comrades intruded into the residence of the president of the company and took a hostage while demanding that the company stop profiteering in the then booming real estate business. He was jailed for three years for this act (Hori 1991). Mr. Ninagawa is a big jolly man and warmly welcomed his old drinking buddy Mr. Ono to his small office built over the garage of his house in a suburb of Yokohama City. The office is filled with books. Mr. Ono told the author that anyone who studied contemporary uyoku would need to research the late Nomura Shūsuke, and that Mr. Ninagawa was his closest disciple.

'Nomura never killed anyone, and he was also careful to avoid injuring anyone.' Mr. Ninagawa began to explain. 'That is the main difference with leftist extremists. Nomura had a certain style and I think he had a plan. First he burnt down the house of powerful politician Kōno Ichiro, then he attacked the headquarters of Japan's business elite (the Keidanren incident), and finally he shocked the mass media by committing suicide in front of the president of the Asahi Shimbun. As you know, Nomura targeted the Asahi Shimbun because it made fun of him for running for election. But I don't think Nomura seriously intended to become a politician. He was essentially a fighter. He just wanted to try to make a splash in the politics of the mid-1990s by running for national office.'

When asked about his own views on politics, Mr. Ninagawa answered, 'For example, there are uyoku who support the movement of the New Wind Restoration Party. I respect their efforts, but I distance myself from their movement. Politics needs a lot of money. It needs compromises, too. It's beyond my capability. Besides, in my view, the post-war uyoku movement is not a mass movement. Its roots are in the anti-regime movements of pre-war uyoku trailblazers. There are people who argue that the uyoku are on the rise, just because Kobayashi Yoshinori's books are bestsellers. But what is really on the rise now is conservativism. Conservatives think and do things in the framework of liberal democracy. In that sense they are fundamentally different from us radicals.' Nevertheless, Mr. Ninagawa's views on the emperor are moderate. 'Well, with regard to the emperor, there are many different opinions among uyoku. To tell you the truth, I think the status of the present imperial family is the best, although I know there are uyoku who want Japan to return to the Meiji-era and the imperial system of the day. This is a difficult issue. The official position of all uyoku should be that our image of Japan depends on the preservation of the Kokutai national identity that is centered on the emperor. That's uyoku by definition. If some uyoku diverge from this position, they have become something else.'

Mr. Ninagawa explained his motives for joining the uyoku. 'I think there was nothing special about me. I was a bookish kid who liked reading history books and liked American pop music. But the 1970 Mishima incident changed me. Anyway, in those days youth often got involved in politics, either left or right. I had an uyoku acquaintance and he introduced me to the activists. I did gaisen speeches, distributed pamphlets and posted ads. I didn't get involved in yakuza-related groups. Instead, I got acquainted with Mr. Suzuki Kunio (鈴木邦男) of the Issui-kai. Then I got to know Nomura.' When asked why yakuza often become uyoku, he explained, 'The uyoku movement is not really about ideology. It's passion and emotion (jōnen). You see, samurai do not do things logically. They live for the sake of loyalty and how to die beautifully. Patriotism is also passion and emotion. That is why leftists think we are fools.' When asked about the Sumitomo incident, he explained, 'One of Nomura's friends became a victim of Sumitomo's 'thuggish land-clearing (jiage)'. At that time, the mass media were still not very keen on reporting the phenomenon. That was the real reason.' Mr. Ninagawa also explained his publishing business. One of his company's main projects is the publication of a comprehensive uyoku directory (Ninagawa No Date). Coincidentally, the author happened to have a photocopy. Mr. Ninagawa updates the contents every four years. It is purchased not only by other uyoku but also by corporate personnel in charge of legal affairs and crisis management. Mr. Ninagawa's company also publishes books related to the uyoku. He said, 'Now, I focus on this business. I'm getting a bit too old to continue radical activism. I just turned 50. I know my publications offend many people, but diverse opinions are necessary to a healthy society.'

Mr. Kimura Mitsuhiro

Mr. Kimura Mitsuhiro (木村三浩), also called Kimura Sankō, is the chairman of two new right-wing organizations: one is the well-known Issui-kai (The Association of First Wednesday 一水会), and the other is its more radical affiliate Tōitsu Sensen Giyūgun (United Front Volunteers 統一戦線義勇軍). These new right-wing groups began as university student groups. The United Front Volunteers, which was established in September 1981 by some 20 younger-generation activists including Mr. Kimura, used to be very radical. During the 1980s, it vandalized the Soviet embassy in Tokyo and threw Molotov cocktails at the British embassy in Tokyo, the American consulate in Kobe, an American Navy residence in Yokohama, the Soviet consulate in Osaka and an office of the Soviet Tass News Agency in Tokyo.[12] Mr. Kimura, born in 1956, somewhat resembles Mr. Morita in height, girth, and profile, except that Mr. Kimura has the appearance and manner of an urbanite. He conveys the impression of enough shrewdness to lead well-known organizations.

Owing to the ability of Issui-kai members to logically and systematically explain their ideology, the mass media, including television, often interview Mr. Kimura as the representative of all radicals. Since the mid-1990s, Mr. Kimura, as well as Issui-kai founder Mr. Suzuki Kunio, have often been invited as panelists on Asahi Television's popular overnight debate program Asa made nama-terebi (Live TV Till the Morning). Popular weekly magazines such as Shūkan Asahi, Shūkan Shincho, Shūkan Bunshun, Sapio, Dacapo, Shūkan Spa and Shūkan Playboy interview Mr. Kimura for comments and opinions. Even the left-leaning Asahi Shimbun and its affiliated monthly Ronza do so. For seven years, Mr. Suzuki was a columnist for Tsukuru, a well-known periodical critical of the mass media. He is now a columnist for the Japanese version of the Korean internet news medium OhMyNews. He also has published several books on the radical uyoku. Issui-kai leaders can thus be regarded as mass media celebrities. Their relatively moderate positions also explain their popularity among the mass media.

When the author interviewed Mr. Kimura in November 2000, he explained certain aspects of uyoku tactics in politics. Mr. Kimura said, 'Contemporary uyoku activists do not resort to assassination. They look for scandals and then employ gaisensha vans. The uyoku are westernized. We follow the example of the Americans who raked ex-President Clinton over the coals after his scandal broke. You see, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nakagawa Hidenao was obliged to resign owing to, among other things, the uyoku's having made a fuss about his mistress.'[13] As for foreign policy, Mr. Kimura and his Issui-kai have maintained a position that clearly differs from that of most other rightists. He said, 'Our Issui-kai admitted that the Sino-Japanese War was an overt invasion (shinryaku) by the Japanese Empire. Other uyoku groups have regarded the war as one of a series of actions taken by the Japanese Empire to defend itself from Western aggression. They therefore vociferously opposed the planned '1995 Diet Resolution', in which Japanese lawmakers were to collectively apologize and express regret for Japan's invasions in Asia. 'The Issui-kai kept silent. I think 10,000 to 20,000 Chinese were in fact killed in Nanking for no reason by the Japanese Army. The confusion in Nanking at that time is obvious from various sources. We, the new right-wing, are not against China,' proclaimed Mr. Kimura. 'Our enemies are America's hegemonic ambitions and the Japanese regime that supports America. Recent diplomatic troubles between Japan and China, and Japan and North Korea are, in my view, provoked by America.' But he also added, 'Having said this, I don't like the Chinese Communist Party's propaganda-first principle.'

When the author visited Issui-kai's headquarters for a second interview, Mr. Kimura further elaborated on his views on international relations. 'I am a Japanese minzoku-ha (contemporary nationalist) as you see, but I also respect the Chinese minzoku-ha. I am prepared to talk to them. Please write something in English so that the Chinese understand there are many kinds of Japanese minzoku-ha. I don't like that the Chinese government does not distinguish among the various Japanese minzoku-ha and blames all of them.' 'However, we must be alert to hegemonic ambitions. The Chinese government's actions in Tibet and Xinjiang have made foreign countries suspicious,' he also added. 'Issui-kai used to have contacts with Taiwan's pro-independence factions, but we no longer do. They are far too pro-American. Of course, they have no choice except to be pro-American, since the Japanese government does not support them. We regret that it has not done so. America advocates democracy, but what are they doing in Iraq and in Kosovo?' He pointed to a picture of Saddam Hussein on the wall alongside a poster of thin, pale children. Mr. Kimura explained that these were Iraqi children suffering under the UN embargo. He said he had obtained the picture and poster when he made one of his twenty visits to Iraq. It is possible that Mr. Kimura was interested in the Iraqi Ba'th Party's secular Arab nationalism. It may also be that he regarded Saddam Hussein as a symbol of anti-Americanism. 'I do respect the spirit of the Mayflower and of Jefferson, but contemporary Americans have really degenerated,' Mr. Kimura said.

Issui-kai's headquarters are located on the second floor of a small but modern building near Takadanobaba Station in Tokyo. Issui-kai's white gaisensha van squeezes into a small parking place in front of the building. An office of this size in Tokyo would cost around 300,000 Japanese yen per month. Mr. Kimura said that Issui-kai had core membership of about 500. If each of them paid 1,000 yen per month for membership fees, it would add up to 500,000 yen. The budget of Issui-kai would be limited. As a political rōnin, Mr. Kimura inhabits an old and small wooden apartment building and lives a very simple life, according to his acquaintance Mr. Mori Yōhei, currently an assistant professor at Seijo University in Tokyo. Mr. Mori had introduced the author to Mr. Kimura. Incidentally, Mr. Mori is known as the author of the best-selling Tennō-ke no saifu (Wallet of the Imperial Household). Nonetheless, Mr. Mori said he had never seen any protests or received any threats from the uyoku, including Mr. Kimura, for revealing the private budget of the Japanese imperial family in his volume.[14]

Conclusion: The Uyoku and Japanese Society

Can these contemporary uyoku be a serious threat to society? The uyoku movement in the 1930s tapped the grievances of impoverished farmers and linked with revolting military officers who were indignant with the state of politics and society at the time. However, their violent reform movements were quashed by the mainstream military, which eventually took over the entire Japanese empire. Ideologically, the military selectively adopted some tenets of uyoku and revolting officers, and rōnin aesthetics were among the factors neglected. It could be said that Japanese militarism, which brought horrendous disaster to the Asia Pacific region, was influenced by these complex processes.

In contrast, contemporary uyoku find it very difficult to connect with other elements of society and to wield influence. State-uyoku relations are quite hostile. As seen in the Bōkyō shimbun sha example, both the police and the Public Security Investigation Agency monitor the uyoku. Mr. Kondō and Mr. Suzuki said that the agents not only monitor their protests and demonstrations, but also periodically visit uyoku activists' homes to 'intimidate' them. Miyazaki (2007), who interviewed 15 known uyoku radicals including Mr. Ninagawa Masahiro and Mr. Kimura Mitsuhiro, also noted the recent hostility of the Japanese state towards uyoku. The relationship between politics and the uyoku seems to be at an impasse and there are few conduits for uyoku radical voices in national politics. The only national-level politician whom the uyoku radicals can openly approach is said to be Nishimura Shingo, the maverick right-wing politician of the Democratic Party of Japan. However, to the uyoku's chagrin, Nishimura is currently involved in a criminal suit (Nihon keizai shimbun 2007) and is unlikely to survive the next election. Other conservative politicians have avoided meeting with the uyoku , especially since the aforementioned scandal of then Chief Cabinet Secretary Nakagawa Hidenao and a yakuza-linked uyoku group, the Nihon Seinensha. This tendency might explain why Mr. Suzuki and his comrades are advancing a movement to consolidate the position of the legitimate right-wing party in national politics.

Business circle-uyoku relations have also become difficult, as corporations have made serious efforts to eliminate fund-raising by the sōkaiya and uyoku since the 1990s.[15] Mr. Ono admitted that the days when the uyoku-cum-sōkaiya could expect to gain easy money from corporations are over. Relations between the populace and the uyoku seem much the same. This report found no examples of the so-called 'rise of nationalistic sentiment in society', which might ease the lives and activities of the uyoku.

Thus, general circumstances seem to be deteriorating for the uyoku, as can be seen in the fact that some of the interviewees have segued into more moderate or legitimate activities. Nonetheless, this report found that the uyoku remain a strong organization despite adversity. Uyoku periodically see each other in a casual way. They also see friends and comrades at ceremonies like various commemorations for the late Mishima Yukio, and after the ceremonies they go out drinking. It is quite possible that the uyoku in the street reconfirm their identity on these occasions, as do the values related to 'uyoku rōnin dō'.

Speaking of the uyoku community, the author noted that yakuza-related uyoku participate in Mr. Suzuki's voluntary association to clean the precinct of the Yasukuni Shrine. They also attend Mr. Morita's academy as students. Mr. Ono does have such friends and acquaintances. While the interviewees in this report seem to be clearly aware of who among the uyoku are yakuza, and who are not, they do not seem to mind it very much. Mr. Ono once said that after all, the uyoku need yakuza participation to enlarge their camp and to 'seem fearsome'. He said that the yakuza's capability to mobilize armed members could greatly enhance the image of the entire uyoku camp. Meanwhile, Mr. Suzuki noted that the yakuza-related members tend to hold ceremonies and assemblies separately from other uyoku because their backgrounds are different. However, such differences do not seem to hinder yakuza-related activists and other uyoku from appearing together in major protests and demonstrations.

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[1] Their depiction can be roughly summarized as follows: after Japan's defeat in World War II, the occupation authority weakened Japanese state institutions such as the police force as part of the process of demilitarization. Militant labor movements and large-scale leftist demonstrations provoked domestic disturbances in the late 1950s to early 1960s causing trouble for the Japanese regime, which lacked any effective means of control. This encouraged some politicians in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to contemplate organizing a 'private army' consisting of radical right-wing activists and yakuza gangsters.

[2] While one can observe incessant radical right-wing protests and harassment of the Tokyo headquarters and local representatives of the General Association of (North) Korean Residents in Japan or the Chōsen Soren, generally speaking, it is difficult to find cases in which existing radical right-wing groups attacked or harassed ordinary members of ethnic or religious minorities.

[3] Szymkowiak and Steinhoff also stated that the Japanese economy had maintained enough capacity to absorb immigrants without provoking grievances among Japanese workers. However, the number of immigrants has been growing steadily. According to the Immigration Bureau of Japan (2007), the number of registered foreign long-term visitors as of the end of 2005 was about 2,001,000, a 48 percent increase from 1995, when Szymkowiak and Steinhoff's work was published.

[4] Due to the roles and positions occupied by the interviewees, it has not been possible to maintain respondent anonymity. All interviews with research respondents were tape recorded with the consent of interviewees and with the understanding that they may be named in later publications in English.

[5] This report does not condone the unlawful actions of political extremists in Japan. Neither does it support the uyokus' political views. It is also noted that the author is solely responsible for the content of this report.

[6] No evidence indicating the involvement of existing uyoku individuals or groups has been found, although the perpetrators' communiqu้s copied uyoku rhetoric. The interviewees in this report did not understand Sekihōtai terrorism, even if they did not sympathize with the Asahi Shimbun.

[7] In fact, the Ginza district is closely connected to the Japanese business community. Many corporate executives and successful businessmen as well as politicians and artists drink at bars in Ginza. They also use those bars for discussing business. Some of them take bar-hostesses as girlfriends and mistresses. Mr. Ono opened a small coffee shop in Higashi Ginza, borrowing space in a building, all the while making his first visits to corporations as a young sōkaiya. 'I opened the coffee shop not to make it my life-long business on the side, but to collect information,' he said. 'I kept late hours. Then, the bar hostesses would drop by my coffee shop on their way home. You know, they love to gossip. That is how I got so much information for blackmailing corporations.'

[8] However, these numbers were still much too small to enable the party to obtain a seat in the Diet. In the upper house election of 2007, for example, the Women's Party was not able to secure a seat even though it tallied 673,000 votes. The Social Democratic Party, which won 2,637,000 votes, was able to claim only two seats.

[9] Mr. Suzuki explained that the Yasukuni Shrine authority had initially been unwilling to allow an unknown volunteer group headed by a stranger to clean the precinct. He had to plead with shrine priests many times to persuade them. Participants are usually radical and legitimate uyoku activists as well as those with links to the yakuza. However, any interested person can join in the activities of this association. The author once met a group of several undergraduate students who were interested in patriotism and who participated to explore the atmosphere of the association.

[10] The only mention of the issue was in 'We propose to step up measures against illegal foreign workers.' Having said this, their policy may change in future. Mr. Suzuki (2007) in his blog recently expressed concern and antipathy against illegal activities by resident (north) Koreans and immigrant Chinese workers.

[11] This does not mean that uyoku radicals have negative views on Kobayashi Yoshinori and his manga. The uyoku whom the author interviewed, including Mr. Suzuki and Mr. Fukuda, are generally in favor of the works by Kobayashi, saying that if his works help disseminate uyoku ideas, they should be welcomed.

[12] One of the members was killed in an internal conflict in September of 1982. Three executives of the United Front Volunteers were arrested and jailed for murder and one spent twelve years behind bars. Mr. Kimura was also involved in the incident. He was arrested on a charge of illegal abandonment of a corpse. Mr. Kimura was arrested six times for his activities as a member of the United Front Volunteers (Hori 1991).

[13] Nakagawa was said to have met a Nihon Seinensha member, as well as other yakuza-related right-wing activists, to ask them to stop gaisen from denouncing the scandal of his mistress.

[14] Any society has its own taboos and sensitive topics. In Japan, the imperial family, war responsibilities and some social minorities can be regarded as examples of these topics. However, there are certainly ways to get around the taboo and to express opinions on such sensitive topics in the mass media. Mr. Mori seemed to have done that by properly using the polite form and wording when referring to the emperor.

[15] According to Mr. Sakiyama (not his true name), a retired legal section director of a renowned manufacturing corporation, until the 1982 commercial law amendment which clearly banned corporations from buying off the sōkaiya (and uyoku), the police had been reluctant to intervene in clashes between corporations and extortionists. This was especially true of the security police, which had long focused on checking and suppressing communist influence, and who regarded the uyoku as essentially being on their side because the right-wing attacked the communists. However, Mr. Sakiyama said that the situation is quite different today. He explained that police attitudes began to change around 1990. Enforcement of the 1992 Anti-Organized Crime Groups Act further encouraged the police to swiftly intervene and help the corporations. Incidentally, Mr. Sakiyama was the person who introduced Mr. Ono, his long rival and friend, to the author.

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Baylis, P., 2001. Korean Activist Braces for 'Storm of Fascism'. Asahi Shimbun News Service, 9 December 2001. Available from: http://www.jref.com/forum/showthread.php?t=38 [Accessed March 5th, 2007]

Hori, S., 1991. Uyoku jiten (Dictionary of Uyoku.) Tokyo: Mitsumine-shobo

Immigration Bureau of Japan, 2007. Number of Registered Foreign Long-term Visitors. Accessed February 6th, 2007.

Ishin seito shimpu's homepage, 2007. Accessed March 15th, 2007.

Maruyama, M., 1964. Zohoban gendai seiji no shiso to kodo. (Thought and Behavior in Contemporary Politics. Second Edition.) Tokyo: Mirai-sha.

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Miyazaki, M., 2007. Uyoku no iibun. (The Opinions of the Right-Wing.) Tokyo: Asukomu.

Nihon Keizai Shimbun electronic version, 2007. February 8th

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Noda, M. 2007. Yōyūsuru minshushugi, fuyūsuru uyokutero (Right-Wing Terrorism Goes Adrift in a Shallow Democracy). In: Sekai January 2007.

Suzuki Nobuyuki's blog, 2007. Accessed March 3rd, 2007.

Szymkowiak, K. and Steinhoff, P. G., 1995. Wrapping Up in Something Long: Intimidation and Violence by Right-Wing Groups in Post-War Japan. In: Bjorgo, T., ed. Terror from the Extreme Right. London: Frank Cass & Co. LTD.

Further Reading

Dacapo, 2002. No. 502, November 6th

Hori, S., 1993. Sengo no uyoku seiryoku. (Right-Wing Forces in the Post War Period.) Tokyo: Keiso shobo.

Maruko, E., 2002. The 'Underworld' Goes Underworld. Harvard Asia Quarterly, Vol. VI, No.3. Accessed February 20th, 2007.

Matsumoto, M., 2000. Shiso to shite no uyoku. (Right-Wing as a Thought.) Tokyo: Ronsosha.

Tendo, T., 1992. Uyoku undo hyakunen no kiseki. (These 100 years of the Right-Wing Movement.) Tokyo: Tachibana shobo.

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About the author

Daiki Shibuichi has a PhD in political science from the National University of Singapore. The author expresses his gratitude to Lee Lai To, Leszek Buszynski, Iris Mielonen and Wang Jingru for encouragements and general comments.

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Copyright: Daiki Shibuichi
This page was first created on
28 November 2007.

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