The Rise of Patriotism, Ishihara, and the Mini-Skirt Right Wing

An ad for the video and DVD for the documentary film Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office on Sept 26th and less than 2 months later, on Friday November 17th, an education reform bill reforming the Fundamental Law of Education was cleared by the Lower House and has now progressed to the Upper House. This bill is backed by Shinzo’s government raising the fears of liberals that patriotism may become law in Japan’s schools. A move long awaited by the Mini-skirt Right Wing! (their promotional video pictured here)

Although the wording excludes the direct use of the word patriotism, the bill specifies the need for students to love the nation and homeland. The larger point, however, is that legislation to such an extent gives the central government the go-ahead for complete control over Japan’s education system. This appears to be a move towards fascism. No Mussolini-type figures are in sight at this stage but this is a move worth scrutinizing as, blind allegiance to any group, code or country, robs individuals of their intellectual capabilities to analyse the morality of the actions being asked of them. The worst actions can suddenly become justified if it demonstrates loyalty to the group.

The last time this happened in Japan, circa 1905, the education system was used for militarist radical ideologies, supporting the militarised state and preparing future soldiers. Patriotism was hijacked by a political group with its own agenda, and the lines between human morality and love for ones country were deliberately blurred beyond recognition. Nazi germany had the Hitler Youth, Chairman Mao used the Red Guards and modern Japans miniskirted right wing may yet have its day!

Even so, this bill brings little surprise considering the trends since at least the late 1990’s in Japanese politics have been increasingly nationalistic.

This first shift became obvious to me with the 1998 adoption of the national anthem and flag as state symbols. This almost escaped the radar but when Shintaro Ishihara was elected Mayor of Tokyo in 1999 I became more curious. I had read his book “The Japan That Can Say No” (co-written with Akio Morita, founder of Sony) in 1989 and actually admired his stance in encouraging his countrymen to be more vocal, but I have also kept an interested eye on his vote-winning nationalistic antics ever since.

Ishihara openly supports nationalistic pride and policies. It is also rumoured he is aligned with one of the many secretive ultra-nationalistic groups (groups such as the”Seiryuukai” and “Kokuryukai” have been around since the Meiji period). The Self-Defence Forces in Ginza under Ishihara's LeadIt is suspected however, that it was he who encouraged them to re-kindle territorial disputes with every Asian neighbour on the many small islands around Japan. Among other things he was also criticised for referring to China as “Shina”- a pre-war pejorative term. The most bold of these antics, and my personal favourite, was organizing a parade of 7000 military (Self-Defence Force) personnel and vehicles (including full size tanks!) through the streets of the Ginza shopping district on a national holiday. Much to the shock of the citizens in the area, who were taken by surprise by the unannounced party.

In 2001, the newly elected Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro was often found in the company of the long term statesman Ishihara. Koizumi caused uproar with his continual visits to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine. It seemed the Mayor of Tokyo and the Prime Minister were on the same page. During Koizumi’s term in power Japan’s Self Defence force received an upgrade in its military capacity overseas as they took part in peace-keeping missions. They are not allowed to carry arms but if they had their way we may see the revival of the old favorite Nambu pistol – once side-arm of choice in the Pacific War. The Koizumi government even pushed in a bill to upgrade the Defence Agency to a fully fledged Ministry – meaning it can act almost independently. Fortunately,the bill is still in deliberation.

U-Yoku TruckIn the 1990’s I also noticed an upgrade in not only the noise levels and numbers of the Right Wing trucks that often haunt the Russian and Chinese Embassies – as well as interrupting democratic demonstrations by the people – with their loud speakers and Imperial flags flying, but also an upgrade in their vehicle paint jobs! Someone was funding these guys – the “U-yoku” (右翼, right-wing) – with fat envelopes of cash.

In this Post-War period we are now faced with a dichotomy where the rise of concepts such as the Global Village and borderless trade and communications has expanded rapidly but we also find the throwback to racial conflict and regional nationalism.

However, without even touching on the issues surrounding Article 9. of the Constitution, or the fact that Japan’s main international ambition is to get a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, there are other factors which may be influencing the revival of country worship.
Looking at world history we find that nationalism in any country rises in direct proportion to economic downturn. Japan is no exception to this, as its 10 year economic slide continues.
Why? The need to move the focus of the media and voting public away from poor economic policy by choosing an external enemy or threat and encouraging solidarity of the people to overcome the source of the “evil”.

It is also no secret that there is increasing economic competition from its Asian neighbours i.e. China and South Korea. As anyone who visits these places can soon tell you, these two countries are vehemently patriotic and dare anyone say a word against the country, even jokingly, and you’re likely to provoke a screaming match. The US itself sings it’s national anthem in schools and flies the flag ceremoniously in school grounds. Perhaps the conclusion is obvious; nationalism leads to economic success. Well, maybe?

Koizumi and BushOn another angle, with the war on terrorism still in full swing, the U.S. increased its own shift towards central control and limitation of civil liberties with the passing of the 2001 Patriot Act. Japan is perhaps just on its way to following suit.

And it seems clear with the planned relocation of the U.S. 7th Fleet from Okinawa to a new H.Q. in Guam, the U.S. wishes Japan to take more responsibility in its own military defence and protection of international shipping lanes. The free protection service provided by the U.S. will be logistically more complex from a further distance of Guam hence requiring a stronger Japanese Self Defence Force. This needs appropriate justification to put ASEAN countries at ease who worry that the ex-colonial power may look to expand again.

The solution was found after ‘timely’ missile and nuclear tests raised fears of an attack by North Korea. The result was the sale and installation of the Russian made S-3 ballistic missile defence system. There’s nothing like the threat of invasion from an unstable neighbour to raise feelings of nationalism from your citizens! GodzillaDemands rose for both self protection and the means to do so. It was the perfect con; the people were so scared they began to ask for their own re-militarisation! (However, as we all know, Japan is protected from any great threat, especially nuclear, by their old and trusty hero – Godzilla. I’m sure he is stirring in the depths getting ready to eat a few warheads as we speak)

Now, perhaps we can agree that a certain amount of national pride is a good thing to give citizens an identity, a sense of ‘self’, and help focus the country in a similar direction be that economic or social. However, making it law? Well that’s the crunch. Patriotism is voluntary! Any state will, of course, encourage it’s people to be patriotic as the only legitimacy it has for existence is this ‘concept of being’ which is granted by its inhabitants. However, making it compulsory through legislation is an encroachment of state power over the rights of the citizens.
Remembering that this is a country where in 1945 the Allied Powers (remember MacArthur, that Asian hero of Time magazine?) had to separate State from Religion, ensure the separation of powers and create a democratic government, in order to remove the myth of divine leadership and destroy the idea of Emperor worship. It was this belief which lead to unquestioning devotion to the state through self sacrifice.The so-called ‘Kamikaze’ pilots have become the most infamous symbol of this extremism.

There is a distinction between healthy patriotic feelings – in which a balance of morality and ethics is maintained and a concept of the universal brotherhood of man plays a central role, and ultra-nationalism – which encourages borders and barriers between people and lforces lines to be drawn in the sand (e.g. “those who are not with us are against us”) which then becomes a cover for violent behaviour and other extreme policies.

This difference needs to be clear and the boundries kept in check. However to now, in 2006, be reintroducing legislation with a core of patriotism is a concern for both foreign countries and Japanese citizens alike.

27 thoughts on “The Rise of Patriotism, Ishihara, and the Mini-Skirt Right Wing”

  1. Patriotism really is just one small step away from blind Nationalism. Whether some extremely ‘patriotic’ countries like America and China have already taken that step is up for debate…
    As a British guy I find it quite terrifying to see the kind of brainwashing they do in American schools to little kindergarten kids. We never sing the national anthem, we never salute the flag, we’re never told how our country is the “land of the free.”
    I figure we need a good phase like “land of the free” that we can use every time something bad happens within our country, so we can cry “but England is [insert phase]!” in dismay and go back to watching Fox.
    So far I’ve come up with “Land of the Tea” and “Land of the Apathetic”. Neither have a good ring though.

  2. “Rule Britannia” may be an example for Britain. “God save the Queen”?

    It seems to me that the kind of patriotism outlined by the author occurs before almost every major war throughout history. The current situation with North Korea is the perfect opportunity for political exploitation of national senitment and personal identity. As stated, there’s nothing wrong with a personal sense of national identity in itself. However, when power groups hijack it for their own purposes they control the language and symbols of identity, the “us versus other” becomes clearly defined, and enmity overboils. Thucydides wrote the manual for this process.

    Very good article. Look forward to more.

  3. It’s interesting that you mention that new law. It had caught my attention in the papers a few weeks ago when I noticed that Abe was pushing to remove all English teaching from Primary schools (the apparent rationale being that “how can you expect to learn a foreign language when you don’t even understand your own mother tongue properly”). Not really encouraging “international citizens” is it…

  4. Is this a polictically inspired site? I think maybe you maybe missing the bigger picture then just Japan. Japan is no doubt going through changes as are all countries around the world. Every little piece makes a bigger picture in the puzzle.The rights of every person on the face of this earth are getting squeezed by some Governmental authority and the funnny thing is we cant stop it we can only be aware of it. I.e Twin Towers was brought down by a group of Americans – Govenmental or not could not tell you. However when it happened people immediately said it was terrorists “Arabs” of sorts .So all the people rallied together(NATIONALISM) which ineffect started a big movement of fear. Which then laws are introduced to keep people in place of control.
    I know this may sound very out there. America ,NZ ,Australia ,Japan ,EU .Its happening everywhere. I better go Big Brother probably watching. Error came up on the page as soon as I typed Arab in the same sentence as American, Terrorist ,Govenmental and Twin Towers . Dangerous words at this time. HAHA!

  5. Hmm…the Economist reads! I guess its a compliment that they copied ideas from our site;-)
    well, ideas have no ownership…but would be nice if they said thanks to Stippy somehwere! (just kidding)

    Interesting comments readers, thank you for adding new perspectives.

    This is not a politically inspired site, but it is definitely written from the perspective of foreigners/outsiders living in Japanese society so the topics are indeed parochial. Thats why its good to get readers from outside Japan to give feeedback such as Hay Bay has offered!

    Thanks again!
    Author of the article

  6. NZ also. These ideas aren’t Japan specific, no, but it’s interesting to see the particular way that they manifest in Japan.

  7. Thanks Gourmet,
    (the article spoke of a movement to tidy up the image of japanese food around the world,keeping it original as possible)

    I know for sure could write many articles on the bizarre foods produced in Japan and passed off for Western cuisine…..cream and strawberry sandwiches for one!

  8. Gourmet, good find. How ridiculous. People here are so damn stupid when it comes to food. Yes, Japanese food is good, but it is not the be all and end all of food. Most of it, despite it’s delicate appearance is hardly what I call cooking (raw fish? cook-it-yourself-yakiniku? dip-it-and-dunk-it-in-sauce shabushabu?) come on.. I can boil “ajinomoto” in water, and create the Japanese “dashi” flavour too.. how f*cking hard it is.

    I once was overseas for quite a while with several Japanese colleagues, and they were saying how they longed for miso soup, and white rice. Yes, I understand this feeling myself, often craving a steak, but I don’t whinge and whine about it like a little boy who’s favorite spinning top just broke. Its food for f*cks sake, get used to the local stuff, and get the f*ck over it.

    Protecting Japanese food… What right do they have using my f*cking tax to approve authentic Japanese restaurants overseas! (Unless they give me the f*cking job of traveling, and “covertly” going to restaurants all around the world using taxpayer yen to stuff my face full of approved Japanese food)

    What a load of crap, god Japanese people and their ways piss me off sometimes. No wonder they can’t speak English, too busy stuck up their own arses finding their own identity and approving it.

  9. G-man, Ill take the stippy pill thanks. Is it the one that makes me forget everything I ever knew about Japan?

  10. The thing with the gourmet article is that it doesn’t mention how Japan has pilfered the once delicious curry and rice, and rendered Chinese food spiceless and underwhelming. I have to beg the local Indian diner to make me a real curry. Forget asking the Chinese restaurant owners down my street if they could allow me a taste of some authentic mabo tofu. These restauranteurs, though both immigrant families in Japan, wouldn’t dare serve something that could anger the “Japanese taste” and therefore ruin their business.

  11. Talk about tangents lads!
    By the way ,I had a few questions, so look more at the history of Godzilla if youre not familar..hes an anti nuclear symbol in Japan.

  12. I think this article raises some interesting questions about the current state that Japan is in. However, I quite like to think the rise of the right and nationalism is only limited and is prevalent among few groups in the society. I think this right wing movement needs to be followed with careful attention since I do not deny the rise of nationalism in other parts of the world and that they are becoming more vocal about it like the BNP in the UK.

  13. Ry, I live in China and have been hunting a “real” Mabo tofu for the entire 3 years I’ve been living here. I hate to admit it but unfortunately it is a very rare case that one of them is up to scratch vs. what you can get in Japan. While I’m at it, I haven’t been able to find a decent An’nin Dofu either! (none of this To Fu Fah crap for me – even if Jacky Chan does swear by it!)

  14. Hey, why are these guys all talkin about food???? go write another article on that…Rong Rive the Emperor ….BANZAIIIIII!!!!!!

  15. Found some new info…must verify which system Japan is using…it was just highly ironical that the S-3 is Russian made.

    This clip from Asahi Shimbun suggests otherwise…

    Under the Japan-U.S. missile defense program, the USS Shiloh, an Aegis cruiser equipped with Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptor systems capable of shooting down ballistic missiles, has been deployed at the Yokosuka Naval Base since August.

    Since September, units with Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) surface-to-air interceptor missiles have been deployed at the Kadena base. (IHT/Asahi: December 26,2006)

  16. With all that’s happening in Russia lately, we might
    be preparing for WWIII, The U.S, the EU, Japan, South Korea, maybe China
    vs. Russia, Iran(and all the terrorists), North Korea (maybe China 😮 ).

  17. Japan’s patriotism got out of control in the Showa period started 1926 and ended in 1989. This is the period where ultra-nationalism started from the early 1930’s and ended in 1945. It is better for Japan not to focus on war and militarism. Japan doesn’t need another great suffering and destruction. War can’t make you friends but enemies. If Japan win the war, It is going to be a different story. Japan can get whatever it’s want and have everything and anything such as richness of natural resources such as oil,gas,gold,silver and food materials, territories of lands that probably can make Japan rule the world and the exercising of advanced and growing authority that can make Japan a Superpower and highly influential. I will probably write and speak Japanese because of Japanese victories in the World War. However, Japan lost the war and its dream of world domination and extreme privileges completely vanished to non-existence. Lets use the patriotism for the benefit of Japanese society that focuses on love and respect between Japanese rather than calling for war and deaths. When the successful time has come and I will assure you there is something special will also come to you without the use of politics,religions and money and please no more war bullshit!

  18. There are some very left libtards here and maybe when your daughter gets raped by the arab or sub-saharan african immigrant and your son stabbed and killed in a racially motivated murder, maybe you’ll change your naive view on the world and come to a conclusion that this liberal ideology of allowing people in to your country and endorsing reverse-racism is what will destroy the long term survival of the nation’s native culture and people. Enjoy your cheap produce and bathroom renovation supplied by immigrants while it lasts because people in Europe, America and east Asia will finally wake up and fight for their very own survival while you would still preach your emasculate ideology that does not work and got the industrialized world into the shit hole they are in now.

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