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Sunday, Oct. 22, 2006


Yasukuni is a 'duty'

Staff writer

Every Sunday, 37-year-old businessman Daisuke Sakai and his cohorts in the 30-member rightist group Dai Nihon Chusei Kogokai hop into their black truck and head to Shibuya Station, the epicenter of young and trendy Japan.

There, at ear-splitting volume, they harangue the teeming crowds through their truck's massive roof-mounted speakers, criticizing the "victor's justice" of the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal and highlighting the threat of North Korea's missile program.

But listen closely to Sakai, as I did while sitting inside his group's black truck, and you might come to think he's on the wrong political side.

"I'm often asked by colleagues, 'Are you sure you aren't a Leftist?' " Sakai confesses with a chuckle.

For all his dedication to his uyoku cause, Sakai blurs the line between stereotypical notions of right and left. For one, though he accepts violence as a means of self-defense, he is essentially anti-war -- a position generally associated with liberals. Also, he rejects racial chauvinism and, though wary of Asian neighbors China and South Korea, he's open to detente.

Sakai is living proof that political opinion can't be neatly plotted on a Left-Right axis. Sometimes it can be like a doughnut: three-dimensional and joined at the extremes.

"War, the taking of lives, is something that must be avoided at all costs. Our group opposes war. Mind you, we're not anti-war in a simplistic sense; there are times when war is necessary. If a person comes into your house without knocking and is holding a gun, you have to shoot to protect yourself. I think this is the correct thing to do.

"Take World War II. At that time, of course, there was foreign pressure on Japan, the only non-colony in Asia. Japan was also attacking other countries, and I disapprove of that. Japan created Manchuria for its own profit and invaded Southeast Asia and Korea -- I acknowledge that. I do believe that Korea was a Japanese colony. At that time, though, Japan wasn't the only colonizer; Britain, France and the rest of Europe were colonizing Asia -- as well as the Philippines, China and Hong Kong. The United States was involved. They most likely wanted to make Japan a colony, too.

"Liberating Asia was one reason Japan had for invasion. OK, that may have been what the Japanese government told the population to get everybody on board. But Japanese at the time believed it.

"A lot of uyoku think we should scrap our Constitution. It's true that we didn't make it ourselves. But it is a very peaceful Constitution and I like it.

"Even so, in spite of it, we dispatch soldiers to Iraq and dish out all kinds of money. Though we don't want war, we're nevertheless doing as told [by the U.S.], and that's not good.

"When people say Japan is best, that really depresses me. I like Japan as a nation. The only people living in Japan are Japanese, basically, and that bums me out. It's incredible how the United States can get so much done with so many different types of people. You don't know anything about a person just by looking at them. They can be white, South Korean, Chinese -- is there really any difference between people . . ?

"It's dangerous to think that the prime minister can't bow his head at Yasukuni Shrine. Who is enshrined there? People who fought on behalf of the country are enshrined. People don't engage in war on their own initiative; they do it on the order of the government. The country orders people to fight . . . and they die. If the head of a country doesn't bow his head in respect, that is wrong. Maybe the 14 enshrined Class-A war criminals had responsibility. I have my doubts about the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, but I think they do bear guilt for starting and perpetuating the war.

"War is the most heinous possible crime. The person at the top must fulfill his duty and bow his head [at Yasukuni] as the representative of the Japanese nation, and of the elite who initiated the bloodshed that engulfed the people of the country. This isn't to say that atrocities carried out in the name of the nation are to be forgiven. Rather, it's to prevent it from happening again.

"In war today, the top people never die -- only regular people on the battlefield die. For exactly that reason, I want our top leadership to take responsibility."

See related links:
Riding with the rightists
'God of death' seethes with rage
Anti-American in name of 'respect'
Building 'crisis' mood

The sights and sounds of Japan's ultranationalists: A multimedia presentation

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