Yesterday I watched a short procession of vehicles zip by while I was in Shinjuku. The tiny parade of three vehicles was made of two black vans, one khaki van – all with large Japanese flags displayed, large kanji characters on the side, and blasting out some sort of patriotic music. I assume it is patriotic, but it is “scary” patriotic music – it sounds like the Wagner pieces Hitler chose for his themed assemblies.
Of course, it is only fitting the music be a bit Hitler-esque. Apparently these are the vans of the extreme right-wing groups found in Japan. In truth, passing these fans makes me feel like the one black person shopping in town when the KKK holds a rally.
Prior to moving to Japan, I had read a tiny blurb about these vans – it pretty much said something like “this right-wing group hates foreigners.” If that is not enough to conjure images of myself being snatched off the streets by masked, angry, Nihon-go, and sold in to the white slave trade, I do not know what is. But it is a minimal threat – I have only seen these vans twice in the one year I have been in Japan.
Later that day, I sat down with a Japanese friend and asked, “So, today I saw these black vans with big flags…” She immediately hung her head. Sighing, she said, “Ah, I know exactly who you mean.” She told me that yes; they are the extreme right wing. But the “extreme right-wing” is not really one group – it is many groups. Yes, some of them dislike foreigners and would prefer all non-Japanese be deported. But other groups actually have foreign members, usually Zainichii Korean; they are just VERY pro-Emperor and would like Japan to go back to having Emperor rule, more nationalistic pride, and for Japan to take back any apologies they might or might not have given for WW II actions. Other right-wing groups are just very anti-Bush style US government, and feel Japan plays too much the part of US puppet government. They want Japan to become more independent and restart maintaining a strong military.Other groups seem to be places where Yakuza can act tough.
Not knowing Japanese, when I see a festooned black van, I have no idea which ideology of the “right-wing” those particular members hold. My friend just said, “I suggest you just stay back from them. You don’t want to ask them for directions.”