Yasukuni Shrine – August 15th 2011 – Right wing fun in the sun

***UPDATE*** There have been some unpleasant insinuations and comments about my morals and political views concerning the content of this post.
Please be sure to read my replies to the commenters.

I almost didn’t make it down to Yasukuni shrine for the anniversary of the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II this year.
It would have been the first time in 5 years that I hadn’t and therein lay the problem.
The pantomime is the same every year with mostly the same big players and even many of the extras returning year in year out, if you’ve seen it once then you’ve pretty much seen it all.
But, on reflection on the morning of the 15th I decided to go, if for no other reason to meet up with some friends and have a day out in the sun rather than spending the whole day sat in front of a computer screen.
As always I was glad I did.

I have written about my experiences over the years on numerous occasions (here and here) including last year’s particularly strange day meeting with Shinichi Kamijo and his Uyoku Dantai group the Gishin Gokokukai.
This year I planned, as usual, to meet up with a few friends, take some pictures, enjoy the madness and try not to get arrested or beaten up.

I arrived at the shrine just as the 1 minutes silence for the war dead was starting and quietly moved my way through the crowds of people stood silently with heads bowed, towards the main shrine where I expected to find @tokyoreporter, @damoncoulter and maybe twocutedogs .
Almost immediately after the silence finished I spotted the unmistakable shaven head and blue jump suit with a swastika on the arm of Kamijo san.
He recognised me immediately and as always was disarmingly friendly and suggested we go to meet @tokyoreporter for a drink in the shrine cafe.
We made our way down through the crowds of people exchanging pleasantries about our families etc, when he told me he had got divorced I unthinkingly joked “Congratulations” and his stare froze me for a second before he repeated, “divorced” and I backtracked and pretended it was my poor Japanese that had caused my error.

Soon enough I was sitting in the shrine cafe surrounded by a who’s who of Uyoku dantai and Yakuza sweating like a skinny white middle class boy drinking with 5 huge men with swastikas on their jump suits.
As always I was pleased for the presence of @tokyoreporter whose Japanese ability far outshines mine and without whom I would never have been introduced to this strange man, who repeatedly called me “his friend” and “his photographer” throughout the day.

With a few hours to kill before Kamijo’s favorite ‘matsuri’ (festival) really got started the drinks kept coming as did the food (even vegetarian soy beans for me, which appeared as soon as Kamijo san heard I didn’t eat meat) all courtesy of Kamijo san. Whenever anyone’s can was empty more money would appear and one of his group would rush of to buy more beer or chu-hi or another plate of fried noodles.

The conversation as always was disarmingly friendly (vegetarianism, my earlier “congratulations” joke which thankfully everyone laughed at and of course women) and the group were happy to answer our questions as well as asking us many, at one point one of them even asking me about the correct English pronunciation of a word.
It always rolled back around to politics though and I was surprised when Kamijo san talked to me about the recent riots in the UK, correctly identifying them as economic riots rather than the race riots they are being reported as on Japanese TV.

One of the biggest dilemmas as the beer and chu-hi kept following was to separate the very normal if a little politically slanted conversation, which could have been with any group of Japanese men if I had my eyes closed, from the reality of these men, sat in blue jump suits with swastikas and Japanese flags on the arms and knowing that under Kamijo san’s suit were tattoos of swastikas, Adolf Hitler’s name and the SS symbol.
If I was a journalist I’m sure all kinds of “journalistic ethics” alarm bells would be ringing at uncomfortable volumes, thankfully though in this instance at least, I was just there to try to document the day from their point of view and to enjoy being sat in the center of a group of gangsters and thugs that would normally not tolerate my presence.
Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly drink anymore in the heat it was time to head off out of the shrine down to where the left-wing peace march would be passing by, Kamijo and the Gishin Gokokukai’s favorite part of the day.
A brief stop to talk to some old men praising Kamijo and his groups for their efforts and we were on the move.

As we walked down Yasukunidori towards where the Left Wing Peace march would arrive, Kamijo and his group stopped to talk with many of the riot police lining the route and many of the undercover police, they all seemed to know each other. It was weird to see them joking around and chatting like this was just a lovely day out in Kudanshita in the sun. The Gishin Gokokukai even bought a big bag of Pocari Sweat rehydration drinks and handed them out to us and the undercover policemen.
It definitely seemed like Kamijo san, the Gishin Gokokukai, the other right-wing groups and the police were all on the same side and all were waiting for a common enemy to pass by.
The obviously close and friendly relationship between these violent right wingers and the police supposedly far removed from them just one more item to add to the list of strange dilemmas and ethical conflicts.

Then, the quiet before the storm, we waited for the left-wing protest march to arrive.
Despite the heat and the alcohol, you could almost taste the nerve tingling anticipation  as Kamijo san and his group stood around joking with the policemen and smoking cigarettes.

We didn’t have to wait too long.
At the first sign of the police buses moving up the street ahead of the Left wing march the atmosphere changed completely.
This was what Kamijo, the Gishin Gokokukai, the other assembled right wingers (far less than last year), the Yakuza and wanna be Yakuza were really here for.
A show of force that seems most of time little more than scripted pantomime, but can at any given moment turn genuinely ugly, and at those moments Kamijo san and the Gishin Gokokukai are never far away.

And just like that Kamijo san’s favorite festival was over for another year.
Everyone said it seemed quieter this year and there definitely seemed to be a much smaller posturing right-wing presence outside the shrine.
The police however seemed more violent to us photographers, I got properly pushed a few times.
Kamijo san and the Gishin Gokokukai were definitely as genuinely violent as they were last year but all smiles and handshakes with us afterwards.

Before I wrap this post up, there are a few more pictures unconnected to the Gishin Gokokukai I’d like to share.
During the scuffles with the left wing march I spotted a Japanese girl dressed in the hippy uniform of muted browns and rough around the edges chic.
She seemed out-of-place in amongst the right wingers but it quickly became apparent she was firmly on their side as she battled to get through the police and even stood crying when she wasn’t strong enough to make it through.

Shortly after the next photo was taken the guy with her covered up her face with his fan to prevent me taking anymore photos and as she passed by she punched me. Luckily it was a pretty pathetic punch, the kind you’d expect from some obviously highly confused little Japanese girl. But still, hands down the most incomprehensible person I saw this year.

And so, just one more photo to share before I close off on Yaskuni August the 15th for one more year.
This is just for fun – As I was editing my photographs that night this one caught my eye, maybe it was the sunglass wearing right-winger wielding a rising sun flag megaphone or his place in the composition, I don’t know.
Anyway I opened it in Photoshop only to discover just below the megaphone the handsome(?) face of Mr Charlie Kirk a.k.a. two cute dogs, a good friend who I had no idea was anywhere near me when I took the shot. So this last one is for you Charlie ;-)

And that as they say is that.

See you there next year for the greatest pantomime in Japan.
I’ll be the white guy sat drinking with the big scary right-wing guys.

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14 comments for “Yasukuni Shrine – August 15th 2011 – Right wing fun in the sun

  1. August 17, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    So bizzare yet so entertaining. Great story. I enjoyed reading this a lot. Mostly because you chose to just document the story and not personalise the event.
    great shots too. Looks like you got right in the biffo.

  2. August 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Really great shots. Wanna go next year. :)

  3. August 17, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Good you went there and took these great shots to share with us. Hope you will do so again next year! In any case I will have to read up on how you ended up socializing with the uyoku dantai guys :)

  4. August 17, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    Love the ones of Kamijo San reading metropolis and talking with the old men in the cafe. great work as always, action, energy and poignancy . Damon

  5. Billy Bob
    August 20, 2011 at 7:18 am

    Whilst it may have been an amazingly unusual or even a ‘cool’ opportunity for you and your blog, with some nice high end camera trophy shots to top it all off with, I cant help finding some particularly unsavoury aftertastes in this piece. Maybe your excitement of being ‘back stage’ with such characters at such an event might have got the better of your judgement? Dont get me wrong, its very interesting, but maybe ‘befriending a fascist’ or ‘the cuddly side of nationalism’ or ‘the nazi who groomed me’ would have been a more befitting title.

  6. August 20, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Thank you for this comment, as patronising and offensive as it is, it is a valid point to raise.
    As I see you have chosen to be anonymous I have no way of knowing if you are someone who knows me or not.
    That of course is of no consequence, but it is interesting that you choose to be so judgemental and patronising from the position of anonymity.

    That said, allow me to respond.

    Firstly the experience was not terribly unusual or ‘cool’, I have travelled extensively and lived in several countries throughout my life and been in a number of situations that are outside of many people’s experiences. I am not young, naive or stupid.

    I was at Yasukuni this year as I am every year to document something which is almost totally unreported in the Japanese media despite the huge numbers of people present, the huge police presence in the form of riot police, undercover police and police helicopters at a significant cost to the Japanese tax payer and most importantly for me a side of Japanese society and psychology that is dismissed as ‘fringe’ by many people, but on closer examination is clearly anything but ‘fringe’.

    Yes I take pictures with my “high-end camera” because I am (at least part-time) a professional photographer and videographer. In what way is a documenting of an event “trophy shots”?

    It would maybe help my understanding of your objections if you were a little more specific than “unsavoury aftertastes”.

    To suggest that my “excitement of being ‘back stage’ with such characters at such an event might have got the better of your judgement?” is a question that I find extremely patronising.

    Kamijo san and his group in no way “excite” me as you suggest, but they do interest me a great deal for a number of reasons.
    It is an unfortunate fact that Kamijo san is an intelligent, eloquent and internationally politically aware person. The last part being particularly unusual in a society that even post the 3/11 quake and Tsunami disaster still seems more concerned with having the latest Louis Viton bag than it does with international politics or indeed with its own domestic politics for example with the potentially high levels of radioactive caesium in its food supply.
    Despite his exaggerated attire and offensive tattoos , his viewpoint is really not so different to that of the mainstream of Japanese society.
    As I mentioned above anyone who thinks that these people are on the fringe of Japanese society or hold beliefs that radically differ from those of the average Japanese person, are in my opinion , grossly misinformed.

    From a photojournalistic standpoint the group are interesting for the reasons just stated and because their blue jumpsuits with their shocking swastika badges are visually striking.
    It should of course be understood that whilst to white Europeans and Americans the swastika image is an extremely powerful one inescapably denoting the evil of Hitler and the Nazi’s, the symbol quite simply does not have the power in Asia that it has for us. In Asia the symbol as it appears to us is largely divorced from its European/American context and becomes in Japan at least closer to cos-play (as is evidenced by nazi cos-play or the streets and J-pop bands occasionally even sporting SS uniforms on Japanese TV)

    Grudgingly given the extremity of his views I respect Kamijo san because in a society that actively discourages any public venting of emotion or stating of an opinion, he not only says his opinion but stands up and shouts it and is prepared to fight for it in a way that I do not see from ineffectual left-wing or anti-nuclear protestors, who allow their “protests” (quotes added as they can only be described as ‘protests’ in the loosest sense of the word) to be strictly regimented by the police and broken up into smaller groups diluting any effect on the wider public.
    Yes, his views are abhorrent, but as stated they are not so far from the views of main stream society, as a photojournalist and in fact as a person I find it very interesting to talk to some one whose views are so far removed from mine but is at the same time clearly intelligent and well-informed.

    Finally your suggested titles are not only childish and patronising but just plain inappropriate for the material.
    I am not “befriending” him, I am merely giving my self the opportunity to try to understand more about him, because he is an extremely interesting character both intellectually and visually.
    I am not suggesting there is a “cuddly side” to his nationalism, but trying to make the point that his nationalism and that of the average Japanese person are really just a difference of volume and degree, not one of kind.
    And no one is being “groomed” here, to suggest that I am in someway under his spell or am being led to accept his beliefs is to suggest that I do not already have clearly thought out ideas and opinions or that I am not an adult, as children are the ones usually the victims of grooming. (one need look no further than the child porn manga available in every convenience store to see where the grooming is taking place in Japanese society)

    I hope this response clarifies any misunderstanding you may have of my motives for this piece.
    Feel free to ask any other questions you may have.

  7. August 20, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Interesting to see a different side of this and to see how the people who are running it really are. It was an interesting day, and it seemed like a lot of the right wingers knew each other and the police very well.

    I think the thing that really surprised me was the attitude that was shown towards me by a lot of the people. As soon as they had ascertained that I was from the UK they were friendly and polite.

    I must admit, I went there with preconceived notions of what I would see, but soon found that I was wrong. Of course there were the usual nazi-esque nutjobs, but there were a lot of people there who would be classed only as patriots in any other country.

    Thanks for sharing this, an interesting piece. Sorry I missed you there.

  8. unite against fascism
    August 21, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Upon what evidence do you base your wild assertion that the views of this violent minority ultra right wing group are “not so different to that of the mainstream of Japanese society” ?

    This article does appear to be biased towards, paint in good light, and therefore promote and glamourise this group and its leader.

    Whilst offering little background information on the event or any of the other larger groups present, it unwittingly elevates and condones ultra right wing views and behaviour that is morally wrong and offensive.

    Furthermore, feebly attempts to legitimise the wearing of Nazi regalia as acceptable based on a few misguided and ignorant individuals around the globe doing so for fancy dress and such.

  9. August 22, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Dear sir/madam,
    it is very clear to me from your comment that you have made no attempt to read any of my other posts concerning life in Japan or Japanese society or it would be crystal clear to you my views on this matter but despite your lack of common courtesy I will take the time to reply.

    The evidence that I base my assertion that the views held by the Gishin Gokokukai are “not so different from the mainstream of Japanese society” is simple:-
    I have lived as a foreigner in Japan for 5 years and been subjected to almost identical views on a daily basis as well as having paid careful and close attention to the society in which I find myself.
    I can cite numerous examples of politicians and members of the general public echoing sentiments that are scarily close to those of the group I portray in this post.
    Shintaro Ishihara for example, who is the governor of Tokyo, currently in his third term in that position, not so long ago told the Tokyo police to regard “all foreigners as suspicious individuals”, whilst Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone claimed in 1986 that Americans were less intelligent than Japanese “because of a considerable number of blacks, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans”. (http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/world/Outrage-over-Tokyo-governors-tirade.2365301.jp)
    I myself was told by a perfectly normal 60 something year old man in a private english class just last week that “the reason Japan does not want immigration is because the foreigners will bring problems to and dilute Japanese society”
    I am happy to supply you with links to numerous other such comments from politicians and people in power in Japan as well as personal testimony from many people living in Japan who have been victims of the inherent racism in Japanese society, which is completely condoned by the political establishment.
    Despite Japan having signed the UN resolution on racism and xenophobia in 1996, just 3 years ago the UN special envoy for racism Dr Diene visited Japan to question the Japanese government about why they have not enacted any anti-discrimination laws, a fundamental tenet of the UN resolution despite being signatories for more than 10 years.
    I would counter that unless you have lived in Japan then your laughably inadequate and uniformed “hello-kitty, anime and kimonos” view of Japan and it’s society is nothing but a wholesale swallowing of the propaganda that the Japanese government sends out to the world.

    It is clear again that you have not taken the time to read anything else I have written on this subject or indeed the reply that I made to the other commenter who questioned my motives if you feel that I am in any way attempting to “paint in a good light” or “glamourise” this group or its leader.
    I stand by my initial statement that he is an intelligent and politically aware person.
    Uncomfortable as that may be, it is an unfortunate truth of my experience in speaking to him.

    The current post offers little background information on the events that occur at Yasukuni on the 15th of August because I have written about them extensively in the past and a simple google search will bring up thousands of results written by people far more eloquent and well-informed than myself that cover the historical and political issues that surround the Yasukuni shrine and the class A war criminals interred there.
    It also does not address other groups present as by far the largest groups present on the day are the right wingers, out numbering the left-wing groups by at least 3 to 1 and often by far more.
    I would assert that if you wish to attack me in such a way that you should at least avail yourself of some of the facts.

    With regard to the wearing of Nazi regalia, I am in no way attempting to legitimise or excuse this behaviour but once again it is clear to me that you have spent little time in Asia or you would understand that the symbols do not have the power, resonance or association that they have for Europeans or Americans. By saying this I am merely stating a fact. The swastika does not mean the same here in Japan, or in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia or India as it does in the West.
    I have met numerous young people in all of those countries that have swastika tattoos yet have no idea of the enormous magnitude of feeling that it evokes to people in Europe.
    Again it is not my opinion that the swastika as a symbol does not wield the power here that it does in the west, it is simple fact.

    I find your insinuation that I in any way condone the views of these people both offensive and ill-informed.
    When I lived in the UK (more than 15 years ago) I had close ties to groups such as the Socialist Worker party and Anti Fascist Action.
    I have lived in Asia amongst people of all nationalities and skin colours for more than 15 years.
    I have championed the cause of minority groups in Japan such as the Muslims to the point that my name appears in police records as a possible terrorist suspect.
    My grandfathers fought against the German Nazis in Europe and Asia during WWII.
    I have also worked for NGO’s in Africa.

    The current piece is photojournalism, it is my personal account of what happened on August 15th 2011 and a continuation of other writings and photojournalism from Yasukuni shrine on this day over the past 5 years.
    It attempts to portray a group of people that are a fundamental part of Japanese society, intricately linked with the politics and organised crime groups that essentially run the country and yet are unreported both inside and outside of Japan.
    It in no way attempts to legitimise, condone or glamourise the people photographed.
    It does however attempt to tell uncomfortable truths about the intelligence level and political awareness of a man who, no matter how we might wish to, cannot be denied.

    I would ask you kindly to take a look around the rest of my website as I have done yours before you make any further judgements about my integrity or political affiliations.

  10. name withheld
    August 24, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Your defensive response offers little clarity or substance other than further revealing your shameless stereotyping and discriminatory views. I am in fact japanese and given that it appears to count in qualifying views, have spent at least 6 times longer in Japan than you, and did in fact read all of your relevant posts before commenting.

    I still personally find your comments sickeningly offensive.

    Are you aware that along side photos of an ultra right wing party, belittling discriminatory remarks that Japanese people are only interested in shopping as if stupid, are all right wing to varying degrees, and that wearing the Nazi party emblem is acceptable, are all highly questionable, bordering hatefully racist?

    Could you even entertain the possibility that your opinions might not be concrete facts for everyone, might not be in accordance with everyone else’s experience, or could be refined in someways, or do you hold these opinions to be literal and absolute?

    I asked upon what evidence you base your outrageous assertions on, and instead of responding with proper scientific and surveyed statistical information, you simply continued to robustly defend your halved baked, home grown views with an air of authority based merely upon your own personal experience of a few years living in the country, along with a few examples of other badly behaved individuals in an attempt to appear more credible.

    Maybe your Japanese communication skills are not sufficient enough to properly engage and integrate into Japanese society to gain an accurate insight into peoples personal and political views? It is quite sad, and you sound like an arrogant snob, looking down on people who are not like you, or how you want them to be. But who are you to judge? Of course one can find all types of people in every country, but to paint all people with the same tarnished brush is both highly insensitive and wrongfully discriminatory.

    This article and your responses do not read as a professional unbiased documentary, but a mere personal diary experience with personal beliefs, which appear, intended or not, to promote this minority group and belittle Japanese people. I believe that you do not properly comprehend the severity of your posturing.

    You mention that you worked with some worthy organisations, which instead of adding credibility to your discriminatory remarks, suggests that you should be aware of this kind of stereotyping and even more ashamed of what you have publicly expressed.

    I urge you to reconsider and amend your views. In all my years in Japan, I have never met a person that has worn the nazi emblem, and in my experience, like in the rest of the world most people do not react well to seeing neo-nazis or odd balls who do. (didn’t UK’s Prince Harry try once?) WWII history is taught in every Japanese school, so it is very much understood. I doubt you attended Japanese school, or know Japanese people as well as I do, and even I could not sum up all the varied and colourful characters and opinions into one simplified stereotype, so how can you possibly accurately judge what the mainstream opinions of Japanese people are, expressed or otherwise. I cant help wonder what type of Japanese people, if any, you even know well enough to have this type of discussion with?

    To add balance, it could easily be argued that the most widespread and common view in Japan of foreigners is to admire them, and there is a huge interest in foreign arts, cultures, music, styles, material goods and looks. Like it or not, that has to be included in any mixing pot of Japanese stereotyping.

    In every city centre in the world one can see shopping of louiss vitton latest bags etc, after any situation, so that is hardly some factual weapon to fire at Japanese people. Who deemed shopping for luxury items wrong anyhow? what about shopping for your ‘high end’ branded camera, should you yourself be included in your own belittling comments?

    I have been on the receiving end of rasicm in England, on the street and in government offices, but I would never slay the whole of the English population in the way you do the Japanese. I could take some BNP photos and slag off the British population and I wonder how that would go down? If anyone complained, would i just defend my standpoint, or might i realise that i hadn’t been completely fair and apologise for any offence caused and retract certain statements? I would like to think that I would do the right thing. I would at least adjust my language to use words like, some people, not all people, in my own opinion etc. But I suspect that you are too stubborn and narrow minded to take on board any of what I write, and will no doubt continue to defend and attack any of your critics even if they do have valid points and objections.

    -(‘whilst offering little information on the other larger groups present’ should read, other groups that represent larger portions of the population)

  11. August 25, 2011 at 9:06 am

    Thank you for taking the time to write an actual comment.
    In fairness it should be noted that all comments to this blog have to be approved before they appear so if I really wished to silence detractors or someone who disagrees with me I simply wouldn’t post their comment.

    I would ask you to ask yourself the same questions you ask me, ‘Could you even entertain the possibility that your opinions might not be concrete facts for everyone, might not be in accordance with everyone else’s experience, or could be refined in someways, or do you hold these opinions to be literal and absolute?’

    At the risk of repeating my myself and reiterating my personal opinions I will attempt to address some of your comments.

    At no point have I claimed that ALL Japanese people believe what this group does. In the original post and in my replies I have said that SIMILAR views are MAINSTREAM.
    The examples I gave of why I contend that similar views are ‘mainstream’ were dismissed by you as being “a few examples of other badly behaved individuals”.
    Unfortunately, the example individuals are persons such as Mr Shintaro Ishihara, whose notoriously racist views and extreme opinions would indeed be not indicative of a more widely held view if he were a simple member of the public.
    He is not, he is the governor of Japan’s capital city and has been voted in 3 times to that position.
    The other “badly behaved individual” I quoted was Yasuhiro Nakasone ex-prime minister of Japan, again an elected official who attained his position due to a majority vote.
    These elected officials (and several others who have made similar comments) achieved their positions because the majority voted for them in democratic elections.
    From this I infer that the voters agreed with the officials.

    I will admit that my Japanese language skills are not of the same level as your English skills.
    A fact that tells me you have spent considerable time outside of Japan and are therefore far more aware than the average Japanese person of current international opinions on socio-political matters, an opinion I base on the fact that there are far more diverse opinions written everyday in newspapers etc around the world in English than there are in Japanese, your English skill gives you access to those opinions in a way that the average Japanese person does not have.
    This should not be taken to imply that I regard English as a better language than Japanese , just that it is spoken by a significantly larger number of people worldwide.
    I have attempted to have conversations with many Japanese people of all ages and socio-economic positions about some of the issues raised here (and others) and have for the most part been met with the same inability that you display to accept that there may be any negative aspects of Japanese society, thereby rendering any further discussions mute.
    It seems to me that criticism of any one aspect of Japanese society is taken as a criticism of all of it, certainly not my intention and one that could be described in Japanese as 被害者意識 (higaishi ishiki or victim consciousness)
    To be very clear, I am not saying everybody would or could not have the discussion and indeed I have had some lengthy conversations about these matters with Japanese friends (in a mixture of Japanese and English).
    You ask me “who are you to judge?”, I would contend that I am perfectly within my rights to have an opinion about anything I please and by asking that question you are implying that in someway I am not entitled to have an opinion about Japan or Japanese society, especially if it is one that you do not agree with. Is this not remarkably similar to what you are accusing me of?

    With regard (once again) to the symbolism and its relative acceptability of the Nazi’s and the swastika I will first of all point you to 2 photographs taken by myself and several by other people (easily found with a simple search on Flickr) as well as a 2 articles from reputable international news sources on 2 incidents that have occurred recently:-


    and in case you think it’s just me some more photos all taken by people I do not know.


    this article in the Guardian concerning J-pop group Kishidan’s appearance on Japanese television this year wearing SS uniforms with nazi insignia

    and this article about a large discount retailer in Japan having to remove Nazi fancy dress costumes after complaints from Jewish groups

    This brings me to your point about racism in England, a country where I have not lived for over a decade.
    You are absolutely right, there is still shocking racism in England.
    The BNP and many other groups peddle their hate across the full breadth of Europe.
    Asian friends in the UK tell horrible stories about their treatment by the police and wider government agencies.
    Im sorry that you too experienced racism in the UK, it is completely unacceptable.
    However, I think you would find it extremely difficult to find one single English person who would deny the reality of racism in England. I suggest that to find a Japanese person who would deny it’s reality in Japan would be much easier.
    But here is my point, displays of racist iconography and inciting racial hatred are illegal in the UK. In Germany where these symbols originate from it is illegal to even make a nazi salute (a simple hand gesture) and many people are arrested and charged for it every year.
    In Japan however, not only is racism dismissed as something that happens elsewhere and couldn’t possibly happen in Japan, but there are no laws against it.
    In fact the Japanese human rights laws as they stand do not technically grant foreign nationals the same “human” rights that they do to native Japanese people.
    The history of WWII that is taught in Japanese schools leaves out or plays down some points which whilst considered controversial in Japan are accepted as historical fact in the rest of the world (Comfort women, The Nanjing massacre)
    A simple trip to Akihabara or Shinjuku will turn up numerous establishments which proudly display signs barring the entry of foreigners. One could argue this is due to Japanese language ability, but that is not what the signs say, they just prohibit foreigners. These signs would be illegal in most other countries.

    I’m sorry if having uncomfortable facts pointed out to you offends you, it is unfortunate that my pointing out of these facts and inferring opinions from them and my personal experiences is unacceptable to you.
    I would go as far to suggest that by refusing to accept that there may be different opinions held on Japan than yours especially by a foreigner you are guilty of the racism you accuse me of.

    To reiterate:-
    I am NOT claiming (nor have I ever claimed) the views expressed by this group to be the views of ALL Japanese people, but for example their irrational dislike bordering on hatred of Chinese and Korean people (see the recent demonstrations outside the Fuji Tv building), his strong belief that the best way to preserve the racial, cultural and moral purity of the Japanese people is to exclude foreigners from the country and the view that the continued safety of Japanese society in terms of street and other more serious crimes is also too severely limit the number of foreign nationals allowed into Japan are views that can be described as “MAINSTREAM” in my opinion given the facts already outlined.

    My criticism of Japanese consumer culture was, I will admit, possibly an error because it has no relevance to this discussion.
    The title of the blog post may also not have been the best choice as I can understand how it may offend some people.

    One final point is that this discussion is taking place on my public blog, which I write with my real name clearly displayed.
    It is also a photography blog and whilst I occasionally write about my personal and political opinions it is not a blog about politics.
    You however continue to remain anonymous and hide your identity, if you wish to continue this discussion please have the courage to use your real name and associate your criticisms to a real person.

    I feel that I have had to defend my position here enough and that I have made that position very clear with calm and reasoned answers to criticisms that have been very aggressive.
    Any further comments by persons choosing to withhold their names and email addresses will not be published.

  12. September 5, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    Great photos uchujin. I lived in Japan for 4 years, but down in Hiroshima, so I never got to see this event. But, whenever I walked past uyoku groups in Hiroshima or Osaka they always gave me the chills.

    I don’t see why you are being criticised for documenting the event. Seems like a “shoot the messenger” situation. Politics aside, these things have to be documented and I admire you for getting stuck in. I personally wouldn’t want to be punched for taking photos – even if it was by a girl…

    It’s interesting to see how these guys look forward to this event – almost like a town matsuri – and they sip chuhai and eat yakisoba just like any other ordinary Japanese people. It really confuses me…

    I feel I can empathise with the Japanese person who posted above. They’re obviously not proud of this aspect of Japanese society, in the same way that you and I are ashamed of the BNP. Because we hate what these people stand for, it’s almost like we don’t want to see them portrayed as normal people. In a way, it would’ve been biased of you to turn off the camera at the party and not show the warm side of the group. Photojournalism is a tricky field, and I feel like it can never be objective, but you definitely are getting close to objectivity with this.

    Anyway, keep up the good work.

  13. Fernando Sanabria
    July 18, 2012 at 9:38 am

    I have visited Yasukuni 4 times, the last time, I gave the shrine a signed flag I found in an estate sale in the U.S. I feel some of the Class-A war deceased should not have been enshrined. Yosuke Matsuoka, for one, who died of natural causes while awaiting trial, should not have been included, it cheapens the true war dead. However, Generals Homma & Yamashita should, they should not have been executed, their trials were unjust. The High School & College Students, all the souls of the sunken Tsushima Maru, & especially, the souls of Hiroshima & Nagasaki, are souls who deserve prayer & praise. I find the Uyoku & Left, both nauseating, just wanting to be seen & heard, their presence CHEAPENS the solemnity of Yasukuni. Yasukuni should just be visited quietly & as a place to contemplate in silence, as the war bereaved do when visiting there. I, a foreigner, have gone there, & prayed to the souls of ALL WAR DEAD, & also ask the SUPREME CREATOR, who is the TRUE JUDGE, to forgive us humans, for our constant stupidity.

  14. August 20, 2013 at 7:12 pm


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