I went to the Yasukuni Shrine on Friday to see what all the hubbub was surrounding this sixty-third anniversary of Japan's surrender. I was expecting a little excitement from the uyoku dantai, but I'm afraid they've lost their moxy in recent years.
After listening to a few of their speeches, I realized that their movement lacks two cardinal components: a coherent vision and a charismatic leader who can articulate that vision. Their main complaint this year: "China [or Shina 支那 in their parlance] must stop making rotten gyoza that sickens our nation's valiant young men and virginal maidens!" Not a word about Japan's foreign policy, the "special relationship" with America, their increasing irrelevance on the global stage, or any other real problems.
Apparently last year riots broke out among the police, the uyoku, and the left-wing student groups. This year, only the police and the uyoku showed up, so there was little scuffling. I did get to see some of the Cabinet ministers paying their respects to the dead, but I was too far away to tell which was Abe Shinzo and which was Koizumi Jun'ichiro.
Although I tend to be more sympathetic to expressions of nationalism than your average enlightened Western liberal, on the whole I must say the experience was a bit creepy, especially the part where several hundred crusty seniors strutted out in formation wearing Imperial Japan Army uniforms and armed with bayonets. But as anyone who's recently visited Washington D.C. knows, our war memorials-- especially the newly-added National World War II Memorial that is a testament to our drift toward fascism-- are no less creepy.
Tomorrow I'm off to Sendai, Sakunami, Matsushima, and Yamagata city. In preparation for the trip I'm reading Kirikirijin 『キリギリ人』(1981), Inoue Hisashi's long comic novel written in the Tohoku dialect. Be back next week.
[Note about picture: I think that's me in the far background. Look closely.]
Saturday, August 16, 2008
This just in from Grady Glenn: