After a period of dormancy, Japan is now awake

This text is from the latest issue of the beautifully edited and well-worth your time Anarchist Federation’s Organise! magazine (available here). Along the following piece, the new Organise! features:

1 – Anarchist Black Cross
4 – Anarchist Federation Backs Earth Strike
6 – Interview with an Earth Strike organiser
12 – Productivity Is Not Your Friend – Pavlo Shopin
14 – Fashy Social Media Site Now Comes In Pink
16 – A Brief History Of Violence – Peter Ó Máille

23 – International Bulletin
24 – After A Period Of Dormancy, Japan Is Now Awake – Noma Yasumichi (C.R.A.C.)
28 – Feminists Rise Up In Mexico
29 – Stateless And Oppressed
34 – Hongkongers Ain’t Nothing To Fuck With
39 – Fascist Foot In The Door Of Squats
40 – Update About Our Current Situation – Spirou Trikoupi
41 – Refugees Welcome Stencil
42 – Bookfair 2020

44 – Review: Desert, A Warning – John Warwick
47 – Books Beyond Bars
48 – An Anarchist Manifesto – Max Nettlau
54 – Putting The A Back Into Admin

58 – Review: A Bewitching Revolution
59 – Review: Comrades
60 – The Board Game Is Political – Anteo (no Board Games Collective)
Print and Play Version of RIOT: Caste The First Stone

62 – The Super Happy Anarcho Fun Pages – Margaret Killjoy
63 – Assigned Male Comics – Sophie Labelle
64 – Bogswallop
65 – Red And Black Salamander

64 – Rest In Power Tekoşer Piling / Lorenzo Orsetti
65 – Rest In Power Ewan Brown

66 – Anarchist Federation / IFA

Grab yourself a copy from your favourite disreputable anarchist literature distributor, or subscribe either via Patreon,  or DM to sort a paypal/bank transfer. The magazine is also available as free pdf online, and it is free for prisoners.

The embryo of Japanese modern far-right

Japan’s significant anti-fascist / anti-racist movement came along very late. It started just six years ago, when far-right Abe government came back to power.

In autumn this year, it is said that the Abe government will mark the longest period of ruling since the Meiji Revolution. It is also the most fascist and racist government since the Second World War. Japan now looks as if it’s the Third Reich in the early 30s, full of hatred spreading towards ethnic minorities like such as the Koreans and Chinese living here.

Japan’s modern far-right movement has reared up in the late 90’s. First, it began as a protest to revise the history textbooks for high schools for the purpose of denying Japan’s wartime crimes such as the Nanjing Massacre and war-time sex slaves (comfort women). After more than two decades, the revisionism achieved a successful outcome and Japan’s war-time history is now completely revised. It was first spread through manga, then internet BBS (Bulletin Board Systems) and movie broadcasting services. Revisionism and racism in Japan has been a part of subculture and covered society from the bottom up.

Unlike the UK and other European countries, Japan’s far-right was not particularly active on the streets. They didn’t march or protest in cities before the mid 00’s, but in the late 00’s the situation changed. They began to do demonstrations in city centres naming themselves “Conservatives in Action”. It was the beginning of Japan’s current hate speech problem.

They frequently marched raising many Rising Sun flags just like National Front marching through London in the 70’s. Japan’s far-right now caught up with the world’s far-right after forty years and at the same moment, Japan’s Antifa movement started.

Racist groups like Zaitokukai (now turned Japan First Party) soon became violent. They targeted ethnic minorities, mainly Koreans, sometimes Chinese and others. The name of the group means Association of Citizens against the Special Privileges of the Zainichi Koreans. This name claimed that Korean permanent residents (similar to UK Asians or Caribbeans from former colonies) had special privileges and Japanese people had been under ‘reverse discrimination’ for a long time. It was very similar the White Pride movement often seen in the UK, Europe and America.

Zaitokukai attacked the Korean Junior High School in Kyoto at the end of 2009, when the first Anti-Racist movement had rose up in Kyoto to organize counter-demonstration waving No Pasaran flags. In the same year, Japan experienced a rare regime change to the Democratic Party government which was relatively more liberal than LDP (but still conservative with the same neo-liberalist policies as LDP had). So right-wingers and conservatives became much more active to defeat the DP government and far-right Zaitokukai turned more hostile and violent to try and overwhelm the counter-demonstrators.

In 2011, a huge earthquake hit Northeast Japan and it lead to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. That ruined the stability of DP government and soon LDP took over the regime with PM Abe by the end of 2012. It was a backlash government from the beginning.

Zaitokukai and other ultraright groups were still strong on the street after the Abe government had come to power. In early 2013, they marched through Korean communities in Tokyo and Osaka every week shouting threats to Koreans that were so painful to hear and attacked Korean shops. Counter-Racist Action Collective was founded to physically stop this vandalism.

Counter-activities against far-right burst out

Until 2012, counter-protesters were very few in number compared to ultra-right hate mongers. There were only several antifascists confronting hundreds of bigots acting up, so sometimes counter-protesters were injured by their violence. It was mainly because leftist protesters were often intellectuals and too moderate to fight them back. Yes, they were good people but truly vulnerable.

But in 2013, things drastically changed. The emerging antifascist protesters were dressed in hoodies and stood up against the far-right marching in the streets. They verbally attacked bigots with F-words and sometimes got involved in fights with them. This was the beginning of the Battle of Shin-Okubo which lasted for half a year in Tokyo’s largest Korean enclave.

Opposition rapidly increased in numbers by the summer. In June 2013, about 2000 people confronted the hate march on the main street of Shin-Okubo, which regularly mobilized 300 – 400 right-wingers. It was exactly like the early NF march surrounded by antifascists in Lewisham, and at that very moment, Japanese people visibly showed an anti-racist attitude for the first time in their history.

Those people who took part in counter-protests were not mobilized by any existing leftist organizations or unions but were individuals who got together through social networks, mainly Twitter. Among them were large amounts of musicians, DJs, ravers, rappers, punks, K-pop lovers, artists. For example, you can find DJ Shufflemaster yelling at a fascist march passing by, or ENDON members got upset with hate speech echoing around.

It was the first experience for bigots as well. Modern Japanese hate groups like Zaitokukai also consisted of individual light-minded activists who got involved in hate speech activities through the internet. They were called Netouyo or Netto-Uyoku, which means Online Right Winger. As you see American Alt-Right activists dressed in odd costumes holding video cameras tightly to record something, it’s been exactly the same in Japan since the mid-00s. They felt almighty with their videos spreading through the internet, so they got a shock and looked clearly embarrassed when confronted with a bunch of ‘real’ enemies standing just in front of them.

From spring to summer 2013, a variety of anti-racist groups and individuals emerged through the Battle of Shin-Okubo. There were several anarchists or black bloc like people among them, but most of the participators were not far-left or anti-capitalist. In fact, Japan’s existing far-left sectors totally ignored this movement. Instead, there were even people calling themselves ‘right-wingers’, who were from skinhead subcultures which had been popular in Japan for more than three decades. It was very similar to SHARP (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice) which rose up in 80s Europe.

The Battle of Shin-Okubo suddenly ended in September, when a huge sit-in protest happened in the centre of Tokyo. Since then there have been no hate-speech marches in the Shin-Okubo community, but thanks to the fascist Abe government, things got worse all around Japan. Now Japanese TVs included news programs repeatedly fomenting hatred against Koreans every day and night. You can find every kind of ‘hate’ books and magazines in book stores all through the country, which show unlimited hostility toward Koreans and Chinese. Japan now is truly xenophobic and totally sick in a literal sense.

Japan needs to revise its culture, not history

Counter-Racist Action Collective (C.R.A.C.) is an organization dedicated to protesting against every kind of bigoted activity. It’s also a platform for anti-fascist artists, photographers, musicians, DJs, authors, researchers or anyone. That is, we are not merely a civil group that organize political protests but a collective that resist racism and fascism on a cultural basis. Thus we have organized music events called CLUB CRAC or art exhibitions at various times, and sold antifascist merchandises, for example, t-shirts, caps, CDs and vinyls at our C.R.A.C. is based in Tokyo but there are local ones in each district of Japan such as C.R.A.C. North in the Hokkaido region, C.R.A.C. West covers Osaka and Kyoto and so on. Each C.R.A.C. is not a branch but independent and autonomous.

We have learned a lot from past anti-racist action through various subcultures from the UK and the U.S.A. Talking about myself as a former music journalist, I knew about National Front from 70s punk music, I knew about Brixton and Notting Hill from UK reggae music, I knew about Bristol things from 90s club cultures, and I knew also about the South Bronx, East L.A. and Detroit scenes. It was, however an all theory because, throughout the post-war period, I’d never seen such racial conflicts here in Japan as reported through the music I listened to. Now a huge amount of racial bigotry and apparent hate speech have prevailed all over Japan, I just had no choice but to fight them back after I settled into middle age.

In Japan, art and culture are very weak in their general resistance towards fascism, ditto with “Cool Japan” things. Its popular culture is somewhat detached from ongoing social movements like anti-racism, anti-fascism, anti-sexism etc. Japanese culture and subculture are both so greedy for power and have an apparent tendency to hate movements of resistance. The Japanese government have promoted the “Cool Japan” strategy for the last decade, which was named after Tony Blair’s “Cool Britania” slogan, however, it is far more authoritarian and government-led than the British precedent. People here so often say “Don’t bring politics into culture”, that means “Do not talk about your problems while I’m enjoying music or anime or anything!”. This is the ordinary Japanese sentiment but it doesn’t mean it’s really non-political. It’s quite political in another sense, that is, it’s just a refusal to any kind of objection that disturbs their peace of mind. So Japanese artists and celebs seldom reveal their own political opinions if it’s against governmental policies.

Contrastingly, people seem to easily accept current LDP government ideology based on nationalism, economic liberalism, racism and historical negativism. It’s all the same for artists, celebs, newspapers and TVs, so Japan now looks like it’s dominated with a something like ‘Spontaneous Totalitarianism’ in which people obey the government not in a forced way but on a voluntary basis. I think it’s the largest illness that our country suffers right now but it’s one of the aspects of our nature that has been cultivated throughout the long history of our country.

After six years of struggle, the number of people opposing hate and racism has pretty much increased and there are far more citizen groups seeing successes than before. Now every far-right activity in Tokyo is met with counter-protests of some kind. Also, we now have an anti-hate speech law for the first time in our history which passed through congress in 2016. However, we are still a minority here compared to any of the western countries. I think it’s because we’ve been in a long long period of dormancy, where we closed our eyes to ignore problems lying down in front of us. With poverty, discrimination, xenophobia and all kinds of social injustice blowing out at once everywhere in the country, we were too weak to cope with them. All I can say now is that at least we are awake unlike before, watch carefully what is happening as Japan awakes.

Noma Yasumichi

Noma Yasumichi is a former music journalist. He founded C.R.A.C. in 2013 and dedicates his time to opposing hate and racism in Japan.

Photo: the Battle of Shin-Okubo, 2013. Author: Mishima Takayuki