World / Asia-Pacific

Bruised pride and swelling anger fuel ultranationalism

(China Daily) Updated: 2012-12-14 04:05

When a country's economy goes downhill, people always look for scapegoats. Foreign countries and immigrants are ready targets.

Japan's National Police Agency has found that new extremist groups are recruiting more and more people who are different from the traditional ultranationalists, known for wearing paramilitary uniforms and riding around in ominous black trucks with loudspeakers blaring martial music.

Many of these groups clothe "extremely nationalistic and xenophobic ideas" in the language of civil rights. They are unafraid to attract attention by holding unruly street demonstrations.

One group, under the name Zaitokukai, a Japanese abbreviation for Citizens Group That Will Not Forgive Special Privileges for Koreans in Japan, uses the Internet to organize demonstrations at which people gather to shout slogans calling for immigrant "roaches" to "die".

Last December, the organization surrounded a Korean elementary school in Kyoto, demanding to "expel the barbarians". Its leader says Japan now suffers from a loss of respect in the international sphere and has gone in the wrong direction.

In interviews, members of the Zaitokukai and other groups blamed foreigners, particularly Koreans and Chinese, for Japan's growing crime and unemployment, and also for what they called their nation's lack of respect on the world stage.

Many seemed to embrace conspiracy theories taken from the Internet that China or the United States were plotting to undermine Japan.

"This is a reflection of the failure of the Japanese government. People will only stand so much economic, social and cultural decline before they have had enough. These groups provide an outlet for them," a message at the Japan Today website said.

"An entire generation of Japanese has been born and has grown to adulthood seeing nothing but decline and facing a bleak future of fewer opportunities. It is the first generation since the war in which children cannot expect to have a better future than their parents."

The Japanese public is feeling less neighborly since their country became embroiled in island rows with China and South Korea.

A recent Japanese government survey found that only 18 percent of Japanese polled had a positive view of China, down more than 8 percentage points in a year. Just two out of five Japanese felt positively about South Korea, down from three in five.

Ahead of the Dec 16 general election, mainstream politics is rushing to capitalize on the bruised pride and swelling anger in Japan, and to boost Japan's nationalism in relation to its neighbors.

As for a review of the constitutional interpretation with regard to the right to exercise collective self-defense, the Liberal Democratic Party and the Japan Restoration Party share similar views, with 92 percent of LDP candidates and 94 percent of JRP candidates insisting that the constitutional interpretation be reviewed, according to the Mainichi newspaper's latest survey.

JRP leader Shintaro Ishihara has made radical statements such as, "We hate becoming a vassal state of China."

"Who can protect Japan's beautiful seas?" LDP leader Shinzo Abe asked in a recent speech, framed by a huge Japanese flag. "Who can protect our territory and our people's lives? The crisis is before our very eyes. We will take back our country, our nation."

He emphasized in a speech in downtown Tokyo that an LDP-led administration will firmly defend Japan's territory by restoring the Japan-US alliance. The LDP also advocates creating a new organization to deal with matters affecting national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Politicians aspiring to gain power are pumping up nationalistic rhetoric. During the last three years in opposition, the LDP's traditional policies became more conservative and right-wing as it attempted to cater to its core constituency.

Japan should bear in mind that it cannot encourage extremism and xenophobia to spread, said Masato Kitera, Japan's new ambassador to China, in a recent interview with the Chinese-language websites of three Japanese media outlets.

Two consecutive "lost decades" and a dearth of political leadership — five prime ministers in the past four years — have unmoored Japan. Its economy shrank for the second quarter in a row in the quarter ending in September, revised Japanese government figures showed on Monday.

"The economic gap has been widening for the past decade even as Japan's welfare system has grown. A backlash against two decades of failed domestic, economic and foreign policy failures is fueling a more conservative feeling in Japan," Kiyotaka Miyazaki, a 32-year-old real estate agent, said.

Contact the writer at

Trudeau visits Sina Weibo
May gets little gasp as EU extends deadline for sufficient progress in Brexit talks
Ethiopian FM urges strengthened Ethiopia-China ties
Yemen's ex-president Saleh, relatives killed by Houthis
Most Popular
Hot Topics