Shinzo Abe’s Murder: History of Japanese Political Violence

Hugo Dobson and Christian Magnus Hawken

Our reaction when we heard the news of the shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was just as shocking and incredible. What followed was an enthusiasm to connect news reports and gossip to understand the event until his final death was announced hours later.

At first glance, the assassination of Prime Minister Abe was characterized by the assassination of the current and former Prime Ministers (Hara Takashi, Hamaguchi Yu, Inukai Tsuyoshi, Takahashi Korekiyo, Saito Makoto) in the 1920s and 1930s. It reminds me. We cannot easily associate political assassination and violence with postwar democratic and pacifist Japan. From this perspective, it is not surprising that many reports focus on Japan’s political violence as “almost unheard of.” But, like in other countries, sudden extreme political violence is not unprecedented in Japan.

During Prime Minister Abe’s second term (2012-20), one of his most controversial initiatives was the reinterpretation of Japan’s exercise of the right of collective self-defense. This was seen as part of a steady transition to a more militarized Japan, with two very common cases of people igniting themselves in protest in June and November 2014. Caused. In the latter case, the person died.

At the beginning of Prime Minister Abe’s inauguration (2006-7), Mayor Iccho Itoh of Nagasaki was shot dead by a member. Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest organized crime syndicate, over the issue of seemingly trivial compensation for damage to his car. In 1990, Hitoshi Motoshima, the predecessor of Ito, was also the target of an attempted assassination by right-wing extremists in response to public comments on Emperor Showa’s responsibility for war.

In 2006, there was a right-wing arson attack at the house of Koichi Kato, an executive of the Liberal Democratic Party, who was indignant at the comments criticizing Prime Minister Koichiro Kato’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine. The shrine has long been a controversial symbol of Japan’s wartime heritage.

Photo provider: Reuters / TPG images

Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan

The failure of the world-famous writer Yukio Mishima in 1970 shocked Japan and was deeply rooted in his own ultranational political view. Mishima established the Paramilitary Shield Society two years before the coup and recruited far-right members who wanted to regain the Emperor’s government. Famously, Mishima committed ritual suicide when the coup attempt failed.

1960 was a turbulent year in postwar Japanese history as a result of the revision of the Japan-US Security Treaty. Abe’s grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, was the victim of an attempted assassination in July of that year. In the latter half of the same year, Inejiro Asanuma, the leader of the Japan Socialist Party, was stabbed and killed by a radical ultra-nationalist student. Asanuma frankly criticized Japan’s relations with the United States and sought a closer relationship with Asian communist nations. The photo of the attack won the Pulitzer Prize.

All of these examples are personal actions. Japan is also not a stranger to organized political violence by groups of people. Arguably the most devastating event of postwar political violence was the March 1995 attack on Tokyo Salingus. By the hands of the religious cult Aum Shinrikyo, a major subway station servicing the political center of Tokyo was targeted with the aim of initiating its termination. Of the world. Nerve agents killed 14 people and injured more than 1000. Cult leader Shoko Asahara was executed in 2018 with key members of the cult.

From the 1970s to the 1980s, Japan witnessed domestic terrorism by a series of left-wing revolutionary groups. The most famous of these was the Japanese Red Army (JRA), which hijacked planes and attacked embassies, businesses, and civilians. Wanted posters for the Japan Racing Association are still posted at stations in Japan. Recently, the Metropolitan Police Department has produced a video that reminds the public that members are still loose.

As the numbers show, gun crime is rare in Japan, so political violence is shocking and extreme. But as in any other country (just think about the killings of MP Jo Cox and David Amess in the UK), sadly far from unheard of.

Sadly, Shinzo Abe is only the latest in a long line of politically motivated attacks. Unfortunately, the prominent nature of criminal charges in Japan provides perpetrators with a great platform for presenting their views. This is not only in Japan. Judicial proceedings have been used for political grandstands in recent cases across Europe and the United States, and the Breivik case in Norway is a particularly disastrous example. Eventually the same thing may happen in Japan.

Many words will be written about this event over the next few hours, days and years, but at this point we are sympathetic to Abe’s family.

Read next: How do Taiwanese see their efforts against false information?

TNL Editor: Bryan Chou (@thenewslensintl).

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