Otoya Yamaguchi PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 05 November 2008 11:02

Yamaguchi withdraws his Japanese long knife (dosu) after attacking Inejiro Asanuma

Otoya Yamaguchi

Born: February 22, 1943

Died: November 2, 1960, Tokyo.

Age: 17

Cause of death: Hanged himself while in prison.

Notable because: A very intense 17 year old, took a Japanese long knife (dosu) to execute a liberal politician who offended his right wing beliefs and the honor of his Emperor. The moment was captured on film, becoming a Pulitzer prize winning photo of the year - 1960.


Otoya Yamaguchi was a Japanese ultranationalist, a member of a right-wing Uyoku dantai group, who assassinated Inejiro Asanuma (a politician and head of the Japan Socialist Party) by wakizashi on 12 October 1960 at Tokyo's Hibiya Hall during a political debate in advance of parliamentary elections.

Less than three weeks later, while being held in a juvenile detention facility, Yamaguchi mixed a small amount of tooth paste with water and wrote on his cell wall,

"Seven lives for my country. Ten thousand years for His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor!"

Yamaguchi then knotted strips of his bedsheet into a makeshift rope and used it to hang himself from a light fixture.

A photograph taken by Yasushi Nagao immediately after Otoya withdrew his sword from Asanuma would later go on to win the Pulitzer Prize and the 1960 World Press Photo award.

Nobel Prize-winning author Kenzaburo Oe based his 1961 novella "Seventeen" on Yamaguchi.

The uyoku dantai are deranged right-wingers who ride around in black jeeps, play marching music and yell imperialist slogans.An embarrassment which most people ignore, they possess a surprising amount of political influence through yakuza connections and bribery.Their campaigning centers monotonously around increasing Japan’s military, kicking foreigners out, and making the Emperor the boss again.In 1990, Nagasaki’s mayor was shot by an uyoku group after he publicly suggested that Japan take responsibility for WWII. In 1993, another group killed the parents of a magazine editor whose publication criticised Empress Michiko.

The first uyoku dantai are said to have their origins in the late 19th century, in the wake of the 1868 Meiji Restoration which ended Japan's centuries-old feudal system and national seclusion. Dramatic and drastic changes to society resulted in widespread movements throughout the nation against the newly formed Meiji government, consisting mainly of disgruntled former samurai and the rural poor, known collectively as the Freedom and People's Rights Movement, often resulting in bloody clashes such as the 1884 Chichibu Incident. The authorities frequently resorted to use of hired gangs to suppress these movements.

As the socialist movement spread to Japan in the early 20th century, the authorities in turn used similar tactics to suppress or intimidate unions and the socialist movement. Some more violent groups or groups tied to organized crime, having close contact with the conservative elements of Japanese politics at the time, formed ultranationalist secret societies and militias that went on to develop extensive espionage networks throughout Korea, Manchuria, Russia and China. Ultranationalists gradually gained influence in the military and mainstream politics, and increasingly used political violence--see Imperial Way Faction. The groups not only helped the authorities fight a covert war against socialism, but often ran prostitution and drug-smuggling rings throughout continental Asia and agitated for conflict.

After the defeat of Japan in the Pacific War, the ultranationalist societies were disbanded and socialism was decriminalised. However, as the Cold War set in, the Allied Occupation authorities soon started to suppress the growing socialism movement. They frequently resorted to seeking the help of leading pre-war right-wing and organised crime figures, some of whom were war criminals who were pardoned in exchange for this help, and this formed the basis of post-war, anti-communist fringe groups with close links to both organized crime and the conservative Japanese establishment.

Throughout the Cold War, the groups, known as uyoku dantai, generally carried a philosophy of anti-leftism and advocated solidarity with the United States and South Korea against communist nations such as the USSR, North Korea and the People's Republic of China. The 1970s, however, also saw the emergence of the shin-uyoku ("new right wing")--nationalist organizations that viewed the post-war Japanese conservative establishment as a puppet of the US and sought to break away from the traditionally pro-American stance of the post war rightist movement.

Uyoku dantai are well known for their highly visible propaganda vehicles, known as gaisensha (街宣車)--converted vans, trucks and buses fitted with loudspeakers and prominently marked with the name of the group and propaganda slogans. The vehicles are usually black, khaki or olive drab, and are decorated with the Imperial Seal, the flag of Japan and the Japanese military flag. They are primarily used to stage protests outside organizations such as the Chinese, Korean or Russian embassies, Chongryon facilities and media organizations, where propaganda (both taped and live) is broadcast through their loudspeakers. They can sometimes be seen driving around cities or parked in busy shopping areas, broadcasting propaganda, military music or Kimigayo, the national anthem.

Political beliefs differ between the groups but the three philosophies they are often said to hold in common are the advocation of kokutai (extreme nationalism), hostility towards communism and hostility against the Japan Teachers Union. Traditionally, they viewed the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China and North Korea with hostility over issues such as communism, the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands and the Kurile Islands.

Most, but not all, seek to justify Japan's role in the Second World War to varying degrees, refute the war crimes committed by the military during the first part of the Shōwa era and are critical of what they see as "self-hate" bias in post-war historical education. Thus, they do not recognize the legality of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and other allied tribunals, consider the war-criminals enshrined in the Yasukuni shrine as "Martyrs of Shōwa" (昭和殉難者 Shōwa junnansha), support the censorship of history textbooks and the historical revisionism 

However, Uyoku dantai especially groups affiliated to Yakuza syndicates have many foreigner members involved Zainichi Korean. It is because Yakuza groups include many Zainichi Korean, and insistences of Uyoku dantai that uplift nationalism become their source of money. Moreover, it is difficult to arrest Uyoku dantai because a freedom of ideology is protected by Constitution of Japan. Then, it is one of the reasons why Yakuza camouflages Uyoku dantai.

Below is a list of some groups usually considered uyoku dantai.

Historical groups

  • Aikokusha (愛国社 “Society of Patriots”) - Set up in 1928 by Ainosuke Iwata. (Not to be confused with a 1875-1880 organisation of the same name). Activities included organisation of anti-communist student movements in various universities and indoctrination of youths in rural villages. On November 14, 1930, Tomeo Sagoya, a member of the society shot Prime Minister Hamaguchi Osachi at Tokyo Station in an assassination attempt.
  • Gen'yōsha (玄洋社) - originated from a secret society of ex-samurai with an aim to restore feudal rule, Genyosha was an ultranationalist secret society which engaged in terrorist activities, such as the attempted assassination of Okuma Shigenobu in 1889. It formed an extensive espionage and organised crime network throughout east Asia and agitated for Japan's military aggression. Forced to disband after the war.
  • Black Dragon Society (黑龍會 kokuryūkai) - an influential paramilitary group set up in 1901, initially to support the drive to drive Russia out of east Asia. Ran anti-Russian espionage networks in Korea, China, Manchuria and Russia. Expanded its activities worldwide in the subsequent decades and became a small but significant ultranationalist force in mainstream politics. Forced to disband in 1946.

Traditional groups

  • Daitōjuku (大東塾 “Great Eastern School”) ()- a cultural academy set up in 1939. Runs courses related to Shinto and traditional arts such as waka (poetry) and karate. Conducted several campaigns, such as the restoration of the National Foundation Day's original status of kigensetsu ("Empire Day") and of the legal designation of Japanese era names as Japan's official calendar.
  • Great Japan Patriotic Party (Dai-nippon aikokuto 大日本愛国党) - Set up in 1951 by, and centred around, Satoshi Akao, a former anti-war member of the pre-war National Diet who was well-known at the time for his daily speeches at Sukiyabashi crossing in Ginza, Tokyo. The party advocated state ownership of industries with the Emperor as the head decision maker. They emphasised the need for solidarity with the United States and South Korea in the fight against communism. Their propaganda vans were decorated with the Stars and Stripes alongside the Japanese flag, and Akao once stated that Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo/Takeshima) should be blown up as it represents an obstacle to friendship with South Korea. A former party member, Otoya Yamaguchi, was responsible for the 1960 assassination of Inejiro Asanuma, the head of the Japanese Socialist Party, at a televised rally.
  • Issuikai (一水会) - Formed in 1972 as part of what was then known as the "new right wing" movement which rejected the pro-American rhetoric of the traditional right wing. It sees the Japanese government as an American puppet state and demands "complete independence". Advocates the setting up of a new United Nations on the basis that the current UN structure is a relic of the Second World War. Fiercely critical of the Bush Administration over issues such as the Iraq war and the Kyoto protocol.

Groups affiliated to yakuza syndicates

  • Nihon Seinensha (日本青年社, “Japan Youth Society”)  - one of the largest organisations with 2000 members. Set up by the Sumiyoshi-ikka syndicate in 1961. Since 1978, members have constructed two lighthouses and a Shinto shrine on the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyutai), a collection of uninhabited islets claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan. In June 2000, two members of the society attacked the offices of a magazine which ran a headline which allegedly disrespected Princess Masako.
  • Nihon Kominto (日本皇民党 “Japan Emperor's Citizen Party”)  - affiliated to the Inagawa-kai syndicate. In 1987, it conducted a bizarre campaign to smear Noboru Takeshita during his quest for the position of Prime Minister, by constantly broadcasting excessive praise of Takeshita using twenty loudspeaker trucks. The broadcasts were stopped after the intervention of Shin Kanemaru. This incident led to a series of political scandals which eventually highlighted the involvement of organised crime in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. . In April 2004, a bus belonging to the group rammed the gate of the Chinese consulate in Osaka, damaging the gate.  Police arrested Nobuyuki Nakagama, the driver, and Ko Chong-Su, a Korean member of the group, for orchestrating the attack.
  • Taikōsha (大行社)() - a Tokyo-based organisation with about 700 members, officially affiliated to the Inagawa-kai syndicate.
  • Seikijuku (正氣塾) - a group based in Nagasaki Prefecture set up in 1981. Responsible for a number of violent incidents, including the 1991 near-fatal shooting of the mayor of Nagasaki who stated that Emperor Hirohito was responsible for the war.
  • Yūkoku Dōshikai((憂国道志会)-an extreme nationalist party.The group set fire to Ichirō Kōno's house in 1963.The members were armed with gun and katana, took 8 hostages, and barricaded themselves in Japan Business Federation's office in 1977.Its leader Shūsuke Nomura had admired a Korean Nationalist An Jung-geun as a patriot.On the 37th Election of assembly member of the House of Representatives(1983), a secretary of Shintarō Ishihara defamed his Opposition candidate Shōkei Arai(Bak gyeong-jae/박경재) as a "Korean", it protested hard against Shintarō Ishihara.

  • National Socialist Japanese Workers and Welfare Party (国家社会主義日本労働者党 Kokka Shakaishugi Nippon Rōdōsha-Tō) )- a small neo-Nazi party. Its website shows a unique blend of Japanese nationalism and Nazi philosophy.
  • International Federation for Victory Over Communism (国際勝共連合 Kokusai Shōkyō Rengō) - Set up in South Korea and Japan in 1968 by Sun Myung Moon, the founder of Unification Church. The Japanese chapter was set up following a meeting between Moon and Ryoichi Sasakawa, an ultranationalist businessman, and Yoshio Kodama, a leading figure in organised crime. These two figures, both suspected class-A war criminals due to their involvement in drug smuggling operations in China during the war, headed the organisation. In 1969, it campaigned to close the (pro-Pyongyang) Korean University in Japan which was run by Chongryon, a pro-Pyongyang Korean group in Japan. In 1971 it organised hunger strikes to protest against Japan's official recognition of the People's Republic of China. The group advocates a nuclear armed Japan and solidarity with United States and South Korea.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 April 2009 13:57

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