Dealing with Japan’s extremists

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Dealing with Japan’s extremists

The right-wing movement is increasingly deepening in Japan. Behind it is an ultranationalist group dubbed Japan Conference, which offers an ideological foundation and solidarity to conservative forces across the political, financial and cultural spectrums. The group’s ultimate goal is reportedly to grasp control of hegemony in East Asia by reviving Japan’s imperialism and transforming the Self-Defense Forces into a “normal” military.

The radical movements range from a brazen negation of sexual slavery during the Pacific War to outright denial of apologies by former prime ministers Murayama and Kono for Japan’s aggression-ridden past to distortion of history textbooks to a blatant claim to the Dokdo islets and to paying respects to the war dead at Yasukuni Shrine. It’s time for our government to remain on the highest alert.

Japan Conference is known to be a nationwide organization with 47 headquarters in large-unit local governments and 330 chapters in small-unit governments. With as many as 30,000 core members, the group wields a strong influence over 8 million conservatives of the right-wing groups under its umbrella. Thirteen of 19 members of the hawkish Shinzo Abe cabinet belong to the conference, with 252 Diet members from both sides of the aisle joining with 2,000 local councilmen. Prime Minister Abe serves as the top adviser to a group of representatives. Different from normal right-wing groups that protest on the street or work on the Internet, they take the lead in establishing national policies and are stronger than any other political group.

We used to do little more than explode in anger at Japan’s dangerous fiddling with rightist movements whenever they occur. But the ominous developments in Japan call for a more fundamental and systematic response. The government must devise better ways to cope with ultranationalists in Japan than engaging in occasional criticism. One solution includes systematic efforts to augment solidarity with the conscientious voices of Japan, including intellectuals and politicians. At the same time, it must establish an amicable environment where ordinary Japanese as well as the international community see the hazardous move for what it is.
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