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Abe’s Shrine Visit Hurts


  My daughter, who studiesat Waseda Universityin Japan, often asks me,“The Japanese people Iknow are very friendly and Prime MinisterShinzo Abe is very popular in his country,but why does China so often criticize Japanas having right-wing tendencies?” ShigeruIshiba, secretary-general of the LiberalDemocratic Party (LDP) who formerlyserved as Japan’s Minister of Defense,asked me during a Sino-Japanese thinktank forum, “Since the end of World WarII, Japan has remained peaceful, so whydoes China think Japan wants to revivemilitarism?” Soichiro Tahara, a famous Japanese TV host, also asked me, “TheSino-Japanese relationship was stabilizedafter so many ups and downs, so why has itbegun to deteriorate now?”

  However, Japan’s rightist swerve isnot due to what China says, but from whatJapan has done. Twenty-five years ago,when I was working in Osaka, Japaneseright-wing extremists often caused troublein front of the Chinese Consulate in Osaka.Then, as director of the General Office ofthe Consulate-General, I had to discussthe matter with the local government andpolice department, and even talk to the Japaneseright-wing leaders. But at that time,they were basically non-violent, and peoplesaw them as alternative voices which couldbe easily isolated. However, activities ofright-wing extremists have become morerampant and violent today, from shoutingto smashing gates and breaking intothe consulate and even to throwing Molotovcocktails. Recently, many Japanesecitizens have joined provocative activitiesorganized by right-wing groups. I wonderwhether it is due to right-wingers’ claims –to gain more sympathy and support – or theJapanese people’s need for any opportunityto relieve the pressure of the long-timeeconomic depression.

  Note the Japanese media. I dealtwith them for more than a decade when I worked in Japan. Forget right-wing newspaperSankei Shimbun – even avowed“neutral and impartial” outlets such asYomiuri Shimbun and NHK have begun topublish extremely provocative remarks andprovide platforms for right-wing politiciansand scholars to disseminate extremist opinions.Even a right-leaning reporter I knowsaid he was criticized by his colleagues asan old-fashioned China supporter.

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