Thursday, July 12, 2007

Free speech in Japan

Fujiwara may be getting what he and the extreme rightwing hope for in Japan. A country without dissent. Sort of a follow the leader shut up and do/believe as you are told neo-bushido paradise.

As has been obvious to nearly anyone who has been living in Japan, or closely following what has been going on politically and socially over the last decade or so, Japan has been going further and further right. "Right" as in the sense of nationalism as opposed to patriotism, and retreating more and more from any responsibility for past actions. Some from the US who believe that the right in Japan has the same interests as conservatives in the US see this as a good thing. They ain't even similar.

It has always been especially difficult for those with views opposed to the mainstream in Japan to speak out. It has historically been even tougher for those who oppose nationalistic right wing groups. Pre-WW2, this could get one killed. Post WW2, it at least meant harassment by the thuggish nutjobs in sound trucks.

Last August, the Washington Post published an article by Steven Clemons titled: The Rise of Japan's Thought Police in which he describes some recent events in which the right wing has managed to stifle opposing views:

...In 2003, then-Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Hitoshi Tanaka discovered a time bomb in his home. He was targeted for allegedly being soft on North Korea. Afterward, conservative Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara contended in a speech that Tanaka "had it coming."...


...Right-wing activists threatened her [Sumiko Iwao] last February after she published an article suggesting that much of Japan is ready to endorse female succession in the imperial line; she issued a retraction and is now reportedly lying low....

He notes:

...I have spoken to dozens of Japan's top academics, journalists and government civil servants in the past few days; many of them pleaded with me not to disclose this or that incident because they feared violence and harassment from the right...(Clemons full article is HERE.)

So Japan has completely changed since WW2? All the ingredients that helped Japan enter into that war just suddenly disappeared. Perhaps nothing that has been going on means anything like similar scenarios did before the war. No doubt, the country, government, and people are different and have very different views.

Then again, Fujiwara's book in which he suggests that Japanese culture is superior to any other in history and that a good government would be one of elites who run the country by dictates based on the theory that they are somehow better and smarter than everyone else; and that people should have no rights at all except the right to complain was a top seller in Japan last year. (Fujiwara's fantasy may be too soft for the rightwing as they don't seem to acknowledge any right to complain.)

Perhaps none of this means anything and I am going wildly overboard here. After all Japan is a US ally and the US has no history of deluding itself about its superior culture/values/beliefs and going to war with another country in order to spread those ideals. So as long as Japan seems to toe the US line, all will be fine.

I found that article at, has a list of more articles from various sources describing the rightwing trend in Japan.

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