Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ancient Ways

Music and Nationalism
Part Two: Uyoku Dantai

If you live in Japan you soon become aware of the ominous black trucks ["gaisensha (街宣車)"] which prowl the streets blaring propaganda slogans, outdated military marches and the national anthem Kimigayo.

These are the Uyoku Dantai (右翼団体; lit. "right wing groups"), reactionaries who seek to - ho-hum - return Japan to the ancient ways. They remind me of loony Christian fundamentalists who crave a return to the old time religion, never wanting to move humanity on to a more enlightened future.

It's hard to say exactly how many Uyoku Dantai there are in Japan, although in 1996 it was estimated the country was home to more than 1000 right wing groups comprising about 100,000 members. But that only works out to a piddly 1.2% of the population.

Political beliefs differ between groups of Uyoku Dantai but generally they espouse a flatulent philosophy of anti-leftism and hostility toward the Japan Teachers Union. Since I'm a liberal-leaning university teacher you can imagine I don't exactly see eye to eye with these baka.

Most are revisionists who endeavor to justify Japan's calamitous role in the Second World War, denying war crimes such as the Nanjing massacre and attempting to rewrite history in school textbooks.

Strangely Uyoku Dantai often contain many foreign members, especially those dominated by Yakuza groups - Japanese 'mafia' - which include Zainichi Koreans. Thus many Yakuza groups use Uyoku Dantai as cover for their nefarious activities.

Although the extremists maintain a high public presence throughout the country, I doubt they obtain many converts. And not only because they insist on forcing stuffy military matches down the collective throat of a public which would rather listen to SMAP.

The vast majority of Japanese seem indifferent to politics and sensiby ignore the tedious anthems which irritate their earholes. I saw this on a recent visit to Tokyo, where Sunday shoppers hardly noticed the hysterical ranting of a right-winger who screamed at them as they scampered from one designer store to another.

One opinion poll after another confirms that the Japanese are politically apathetic. In fact among Asian nations nihonjin are the least willing to die for their country.

So just because people wave the Hinamaru flag and warble Kimigayo, there's probably no reason to fear a return to 1930's-style nationalism. Japanese may not be as individualistic as westerners, but their jones for J-Pop and craving for consumption is of more concern to them than any hankering for a nationalist revival.

Watch. "You're a loony."
Japanese fascists display impeccable musical taste


Cushion Meg said...

Hi Shiffi, you know well the fact the Yakuza includes many Korean residents in Japan. Ethnic Koreans are a minority in Japan and they have been discriminated against in many ways. It is universal that some of those who have difficulties and no support find their way into the underworld communities. By the way, did you know that Uyoku received subsidies from the government until quite recently? Then, some Yakuza groups took part in that force for the money. I heard that from an elite yakuza. The background of Uyoku seems historically very complicated!

Shiffi Le Soy said...

Thank you for the information. There is a lot more to it than most people realize!

hip hop honeys said...

Thanks for the post

Toad said...

So the best tracks of 2009 are..?

Shiffi Le Soy said...

Toad: Er...let me think about it...