Japan’s “Net Right” spouting off.

The New York Times reports on the minor phenomenon here of anti-foreigner netroots activists who organize demonstrations over internet social networks.

I don’t want to comment too much today about their activities, which have included targeting Korean children for intimidation at a school and harassing the mother of the guy who distributed the film about dolphin slaughters at her home. (Debito had the You Tube link of that up earlier this year.) That kind of behavior of the Japanese “Net Right” is really crossing the line, and I’m surprised the cops didn’t do more than take notice. [Update: Courtesy of my commenter, “Sigma 1”, below, I learned that the police here did arrest and/or investigate some members in the Korean school harassment case. Good for them.]

Japan’s economy–as everyone says and no one does anything about–has a lot of problems. One of them stems from the fact that the older generation doesn’t seem to do much to give the younger generation much hope and encouragement. It’s like the 1979-1983 period in America, during that time’s Great Recession. Things are always bad, there’s always some social change afoot, and so people who otherwise would be off doing something productive with their lives instead are seeking out (utterly powerless) scapegoats for their troubles. Again, such as Korean children and the retired mothers of film distributors.

I am no big fan of right-wingerism by any means, but I acknowledge that people have different views. The money quote in that article has to do with the attitude of the traditional right-wing in Japan, their own set of cowards if you ask me, and the young’uns using the net.

They are also different from Japan’s existing ultranationalist groups, which are a common sight even today in Tokyo, wearing paramilitary uniforms and riding around in ominous black trucks with loudspeakers that blare martial music.

This traditional far right, which has roots going back to at least the 1930s rise of militarism in Japan, is now a tacitly accepted part of the conservative political establishment here. Sociologists describe them as serving as a sort of unofficial mechanism for enforcing conformity in postwar Japan, singling out Japanese who were seen as straying too far to the left, or other groups that anger them, such as embassies of countries with whom Japan has territorial disputes.

Members of these old-line rightist groups have been quick to distance themselves from the Net right, which they dismiss as amateurish rabble-rousers.

“These new groups are not patriots but attention-seekers,” said Kunio Suzuki, a senior adviser of the Issuikai, a well-known far-right group with 100 members and a fleet of sound trucks.

So you see, even here is the pattern where the older Japanese criticize the younger ones, without giving any credible advice or guidance, and just basically dismissing them to struggle on their own! See? It happens even in far-right political circles. “Look it kids, we got ours, and this is how we did it. So you better follow the exact same path, with no innovations!”

The old guys take the bricks-and-mortar approach to right-wingerism. If there is no internet, you need to get a small fleet of trucks and drive around with loudspeakers. This made sense in the 1960’s, even 1990’s. But now, there’s the internet, so the “kids” (age 38, biologically old enough to be a grandfather), are adopting more innovative approaches. And, because they have no guidance, they are doing really stupid things, like going after children and mothers.

Frankly, since they don’t know anything else but Tamogami Japanese 20th century history, they are setting off a number of emotional tripwires among Koreans, Chinese and other ethnic groups in Japan who know the real 20th century history.

Yes, this looks to be deliberate on their part. But this country’s not good with playing with fire. After all, when the Japanese military did just that to our POWs, setting them on fire for fun, it ended up with not one, but two thermonuclear devices coming back. After the massive firebombings.

The old guys know where to draw the line at the protests. They have their own brand of cowardly, petty terror—a defanged KKK. But I really wonder if the younger generation knows the boundaries of “acceptable” (gag, cough) [anti-]foreigner sentiment. If Japan’s going to start tolerating that sort of thing again, or rather, more, they really need some other people to go out there and figure out where the trip wire boundaries are.

It’s not a popular view here to remark that Japan is already living its second chance. But I bet a number of Chinese and Koreans on the Asian mainland do look it that way, on their charitable days.

7 thoughts on “Japan’s “Net Right” spouting off.

  1. The police did arrest a number of people associated with the protest.


    In a historical perspective, the police are much more willing to act now, as are the citizenry, against radical elements such as these (and even the old school rightists where they have dubious links such as with the Yakuza). The debate around the Cove for example come down decisively in the end in favour of democracy (and capitalism), even if many Japanese didn’t like the content – which is what democracy is about. There was an online movement to show the movie because of the intimidation, and eventually the cinemas decided to it anyhow, and the police offered support if there were any issues. 80, and probably not even 25 years ago this counter-reaction might not have happened.

    It would be nice if US reporters commented on growing pro-democracy movements and increasing engagements of NGOs with young Japanese from time to time.

    Then again, as you argue, Japanese youth are so often written off by their own people, that if US elite get the[ir] information from Japanese elite I am not surprised if they think there is nothing to comment on. And I guess even if it did, it wouldn’t help sell “newspapers”.

    1. I agree with your sentiments about the brighter side of contemporary Japan. More people do speak up, and in fact there was the development in the Kyoto Korean school case that I didn’t know about, and that wasn’t in the Times story.

      The pattern I’ve seen with Martin Fackler (one of the Times reporters for Japan) is that he usually reports the things that are already acceptable in the Japanese media—I don’t see much fresh reporting. I guess this is fine as a pre-internet style, and there are many people who still just read the actual hardcopy New York Times, and who don’t use the internet.

      But lately he seems to be pointing out things that other people already know. Nothing fresh. And maybe because he’d get cut out of the press clique in Tokyo if he did.

      The difficulties that young people (and now even middle-age young people!) face here is a story in its own right. But maybe establishment Japan is too jittery about that one, too.

  2. A particularly amusing fact from the Times article (I’m assuming we’re thinking of the same one) was the self-association of the Zaitokukai with the (wow!) American Tea Party movement by its president. Priceless. Thanks for that, NYTimes.

    1. What I found priceless was how an anti-foreigner movement was inspired by a movement from a foreign country, with no sense of the irony.

      But it’s possible these sort of people have a sort of racial hierarchy that makes that okay in their eyes.

      1. So Sakurai says that his group is anti-foreigner, and then points to how the American Tea Party (a mostly white and somewhat nativist group) was organized as one inspiration–this is what you are saying?

        I find that a lot with people who try to justify their anti-foreigner sentiments here. They come up with these excuses that simply don’t make sense if you think about them for longer than the words last, coming out of their mouths.

        I am not certain about your second point, so I can’t really respond.

  3. “After all, when the Japanese military did just that to our POWs, setting them on fire for fun, it ended up with not one, but two thermonuclear devices coming back. ”

    I know it’s a bit off the topic, but I would like to say one thing on the sentence which I quote above: the nuclear bombs (as far as I know, a “thermonuclear device” means a HYDROGEN bomb, not a nuclear one) did not come BACK to the Japanese soldiers. In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, most of whom were there at that time were CIVILIANS including children, women and old people, any of whom are hardly responsible for any war crimes that the Japanese Army made. Killing civilians in retaliation of an atrocity is merely an another war crime — wasn’t it proven by George W. Bush a few years ago?

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