by Robert Whiting (reprinted with permission)
TOKYO — Over a recent early weekend, there were a series of threatening calls made in English and Japanese to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. The caller threatened to blow up the FCCJ and to harm two journalist members, including Jake Adelstein (author of Tokyo Vice and host of The Evaporated podcast series) for being ‘anti-Japanese’ and one other journalist, who’s name has been kept out of the press at her request. The FCCJ contacted the police, who responded swiftly. They traced the caller and quickly arrested the individual responsible — a woman with extreme right-wing and nationalist views.
The FCCJ issued a statement of gratitude to the police and instituted security measures for both staff and members. The organization thanked the police for their prompt and efficient response.
The FCCJ, established in 1945, exists, the statement said, “to provide foreign correspondents and other journalists with broad access to news sources in Japan and overseas, to defend the freedom of the press and the free exchange of information, and to promote friendship, harmony, and mutual welfare in both professional and social relations among foreign and Japanese journalists … We will not be swayed by terrorism or threats.”
This is not the first such incident for the FCCJ.
Longtime FCCJ member Mary Corbett remembers the Club received calls not to show ‘The Sun,’ the 2005 Russian film about the meeting between MacArthur and Emperor Hirohito, when no other theater would dare screen it, for fear of violence from right wing extremist over its portrayal of Hirohito.
Andrew Horvat, FCCJ president 1988-1989 had his own problems with ultranationalists, as he recalled in a recent e-mail:
“When I was president in 1988/89 I also received threats from right wingers but they were cleverly worded so that the police could not take action as the threats were veiled but of course quite clear to both parties.
“One of our members, Bob Whymant, had written a piece on Emperor Hirohito, who at the time was on his deathbed. Whymant recalled in detail allegations against the emperor regarding his role in WWII that the Japanese right had found offensive. One of the national dailies contacted me for a comment and I naturally defended the right of foreign correspondents to raise issues of concern to their readers. (I said that even though I personally disagreed with Whymant’s piece.) After that came the cleverly worded messages from self-styled defenders of Japan’s honor. I believe I received more than one such message … One of mine encouraged me to pack up and return to my country. The message, however, came from an ultra-right group so it was quite obvious that they had other than my airline reservations in mind.
“In addition, you may recall the attempted murder at the Club of the Japanese translator of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. I was at this conference and saw Tokyo’s finest tackle the knife-wielding would-be killer to the ground, disarm him and remove him from the room in a matter of seconds. Unfortunately, the translator, Professor Hitoshi Igarashi was later killed apparently by an assassin responding to a fatwah.
“The police promised to step up surveillance of the Club and I think they did increase their patrols but of course they were conscious that in a democratic society you don’t want to see uniformed police standing around at the entrance of a news organization.”
The FCCJ was not be the only target of extremists over the years; The Mainichi Shimbun was attacked by yakuza for publishing reports detailing their activities. In 1994, a 44-year old captain in the Tosei-Kai, a Tokyo based ethnic Korean gang, named Hiroji Tashiro stormed into the Tokyo headquarters of the Mainichi and fired three .38 bullets into the ceiling. Tashiro was upset with an article published by the Mainichi’s weekly magazine that described the Tosei-kai as “over the hill.”
In 1987, a reporter for the Asahi Shimbun Kobe office was shot and killed by a right wing extremist who was angered by a story the reporter had written which described Japanese discrimination against members of the Korean minority in Japan. Another employee in the office was injured in the attack. Typed letters were later sent by the assailant’s group claiming responsibility.
There are thousands of right wing extremists active in Japan, many aligned with underworld gangs, and are notable for the use of black buses and loudspeakers which they use to espouse nationalistic causes. A favorite target is the Russian Embassy in Japan protesting over the Kuril Islands and other territories seized by Russia after WWII had ended. In 1990, a right wing fanatic hit the mayor of Nagasaki Hitoshi Motoshima in the back after the mayor stated that recently deceased Emperor Hirohito supported the war.
The largest ultranationalist group is Nihon Kaigi, which has approximately 40,000 members, including many prominent political figures. Nihon Kaigi denies Japan’s war guilt and aims to revise Japan’s Constitution, Article 9 of which forbids the maintenance of a standing army, among other things.
The assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July revealed the deep influence of the Unification Church on the Japanese conservative government, an anti-communist tool employed by the CIA/ KCIA/LDP alliance that helped shape post-war politics in Japan.
In the latest FCCJ episode, over the weekend of Dec. 10-11, six separate calls were made in English and Japanese to the front desk reception.
“Their articles are rubbish,” she said in one call, according to a source, “and they should leave Japan or go to Korea. “
Said another, “I am personally against FCCJ activities because it was established by MacArthur in GHQ,”and still another went,“The staff members at the reception desk should quit because the FCCJ is an anti-Japanese organization.”
Police were able to identify the suspect because recordings left on the front desk answering machine showed the phone number from which the calls had been made. Under questioning, the suspect said she did not actually intend to blow up the Club.
Says Adelstein of the recent threat, “If you don’t address social problems or recognize they exist, nothing changes. I love Japan and many Japanese people are hard-working, honest, and polite. That doesn’t mean the society doesn’t have problems, such as child poverty, gender inequality, discrimination against: the handicapped, women, foreigners, especially Korean-Japanese — powerful organized crime, nuclear dangers, staggering injustice in the legal system, repression of the free press, sexual assault on women with impunity for many assailants, rampant labor exploitation, death by overwork, and political corruption. Ignoring the problems doesn’t make them better. If people are offended by that, they should rethink their love of Japan.”
SOURCES, FURTHER READING
Whiting, Robert Tokyo Underworld, Pantheon, New York, 1999
Samuels, Richard (December 2001). “Kishi and Corruption: An Anatomy of the 1955 System. Japan Policy Research Institute.
“Church Spends Millions On Its Image” by Michael Isikoff, The Washington Post, September 17, 1984; Page A01. (Wiki) https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/cult/unification/image.htm