Untimely Observations

Where the Right Makes the Taboos

Japan doesn't like being told how awful it is.  

YOKOHAMA, Japan — “The Cove,” an Oscar-winning documentary about dolphin hunting in Japan, would seem to be a natural fit for movie theaters here, but so far the distributor has yet to find a single one that will screen the film./And if Shuhei Nishimura and his compatriots on Japan’s nationalist fringe have their way, none ever will.

In a country that shudders at disharmony and remains wary of the far right’s violent history, the activists’ noisy rallies, online slanders, intimidating phone calls and veiled threats of violence are frightening theaters into canceling showings of “The Cove,” which not only depicts dolphin hunting in an unflattering light but also warns of high levels of mercury in fish, a disturbing disclosure in this seafood-loving nation.

It is a stark example as well of how public debate on topics deemed delicate here can be easily muffled by a small minority, the most vocal of whom are the country’s estimated 10,000 rightists who espouse hard-line stances in disputes against Tokyo’s neighbors.

Other areas that have been effectively made taboo by the right wing include Japan’s royal family, rights for ethnic minorities, Tokyo’s occupation of parts of Asia in the last century, the nation’s role in World War II and organized crime groups, many of which have close links with the far right.

Groups like Mr. Nishimura’s Society for the Restoration of Sovereignty, which has just a handful of core members, have recently made it their mission to counter international criticism of practices like whaling and dolphin hunting. In countless rallies, the society’s members have argued that the hunts are time-honored Japanese traditions that must be protected from Western condemnation, and “The Cove” is now their No. 1 target.

“If you have any pride in your nation, do not show this film,” Mr. Nishimura bellowed through his loudspeakers at a protest in front of the Yokohama New Theater, with about 50 protesters with billboards and rising-sun flags in tow. “Will you poison Japan’s soul?”

Poising the nation's soul!  What a wonderful way to put it.

This reminds me of a South Park episode.  The kids are horrified that the Japanese are slaughtering whales and dolphins.  They go see what their problem is.  The Emperor receives them and informs the kids that the Japanese were told that it was dolphin and whale who bombed their country during World War II.  The South Park residents solve the problem by telling the foreigners that it was actually chicken and cow.  The Japanese start slaughtering them instead, and are finally deemed a civilized race. 

This picture presented here is different than that from a three year-old Time story “Communism Is Alive and Well and Winning in Japan.”

The idea of a communist party soldiering on in the world's second-largest economy more than 15 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union may invite comparisons to Japanese soldiers who remained hidden on isolated Pacific islands because nobody told them World War II had ended. But the JCP [Japanese Communist Party] is far from extinct: It claims some 400,000 members, and earned 7.3% of the vote in the most recent legislative elections, in 2005 — that's 4.36 million voters.

I wondered if the JCP took a position on immigration but couldn’t find anything, though they’re into the UN and other feel good anti-nationalism stances.  Here’s the Guardian for a more recent take on communism in Japan.

It doesn’t appear that the Japanese far Right has any political party of note but that may not be that important.  There’s no official “Diversity Party” in the US but the taboos around questioning white malevolence and racial integration that are in the air make sure there’s an inertia that always rolls things further left.

As long as it takes care of itself demographically the Japanese will be fine.  Those silly young Marxists will be able to make mistakes but still grow up into adults who still have a country.