Natsuki Kimura

Natsuki Kimura
Urayasu, Japan
June 21
I live in a country known for its many earthquakes; I live 200 kilometers away from three smoldering nuclear reactors; my father saw the mushroom cloud over Nagasaki as a boy; I watch movies with titles like Neon Genesis Evangelion and Gattaca; I read books with titles like Trout Fishing in America and In Our Time; I make collages about my wife and show them in Tokyo galleries; I spend weekends writing about nukes, aliens, vampires, and love child Vulcans.


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MAY 4, 2013 10:05AM

What Would Lincoln Think about Racism in Today's Japan?

Rate: 8 Flag

I went to see the movie Lincoln today, which is finally playing here in Japan.

What a movie. Daniel Day-Lewis played President Lincoln like he was born to do so. He deserved his Oscar.

I've always thought Lincoln was interesting because he's one of the few politicians everyone agrees on. The great president who freed the slaves.

The movie made me wonder what Lincoln would think about racism in today's Japan, and specifically, about the anti-Korean demonstrations held by Japanese far-right groups like the Zaitokukai. (The Wikipedia article on the Zaitokukai is here. While it has no English pages, Zaitokukai's site is here; as of today, visitors can answer a poll on the top page that asks them which country they hate the most.)

I first went to see an anti-Korean demonstration in Shin-Okubo, a Korean neighborhood in Tokyo out of curiosity, if nothing else. I saw a hundred or so demonstrators carrying Japanese flags -- typical of far-right groups -- and signs that shouted grievances against the Koreans. And there were the rants at ear-splitting volume. Right in the heart of Tokyo's Koreatown.

I was troubled by what I saw. The Japanese have always treated its ethnic minorities badly, but I'd never seen overt public displays of racism like the Shin-Okubo demonstrations, and I've lived in Tokyo for over twenty years. Yes, there's a hot territorial dispute going on between Japan and South Korea right now and the new leader of North Korea is someone who would lob missiles at Tokyo if he had his way. But does that justify racial hate? (My answer: No.Does anything justify racial hate? (My answer: No.)

I'll bet the men and women who marched in the demonstration would answer differently. Or would they?

I wonder what the Zaitokukai and their supporters think of Lincoln. When they see a Congressman say something like "Congress must never consider equal those God created unequal," do they see a bigot? Or, do they see a comrade speaking the truth? Or, do they place themselves in the slaves' position with the Koreans in the position of the Congressman? I do not know.

But I want to know; in fact, I want to know much more

I keep an eye on the Zaitokukai because when I watch them march in front of me, I see normal people I see everywhere else and I can't watch them without seeing the rest of Japanese society. However disgusting these demonstrations are, I go to them because they are a reflection of the state of Japanese society as a whole. 

Racism isn't exclusive to Japan, and ultimately, I want the answer to this question: How do we all live together in peace? It's a simple and complicated question that has boggled the best minds, including Lincoln's, for centuries, if not millenniums. We just got out of a century peppered with genocides and godawful wars; can't we do better in 21st?

 An article about the Zaitokukai demonstrations as well as counter-demonstrators in The Asia-Pacific Journal is here. 

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japan, zaitokukai, racism, hate, peace

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That's a pretty small minority, although there is a "Limbaugh Toyota" vote so to speak that is not, in the sense of wanting to be as nationalistic as everyone else is, and frankly, it's not like the Chinese or Koreans too don't have their ... moments as to thinking their ethnicity has something special going on.
This issue is really haunting you - and understandably so. It reminds me of how I feel about the protests against gay marriage and adoption that were going on here recently. I think the only thing to do in these cases is to be wary and informed - as you are - and I guess we can be grateful, at the very least, that these protests and demonstrations, awful as they are to us, haven't degenerated into violence. Thank you again for keeping us informed about this issue.
The Japanese always seemed more xenophobic to me than necessarily racist. They had a pretty exclusively closed society until fairly recently in human history. I know nothing of this group you noted, though.

What would Lincoln think? Well, unless Honshu was seceding, I don't think he'd really care.
Thanks for sharing this disturbing movement, and like Alysa said, bearing witness to what is going on. Hopefully it stays on the fringe, and is not necessarily a reflection of your society as a whole.

I think we can do better in the 21st century. We have to let go of the vestigial notion that violence and killing are noble, heroic, and legitimate ways to solve differences. We can learn new ways.
It doesn't matter what Lincoln would think about racism in Japan; isn't there any politician in Japan speaking out against this? I had no idea the Japanese treated minorities badly or felt this way about Koreans. Thanks for this eye-opening post.
An interesting question. I doubt that it can be answered but the great comments you're getting indicates how well you've done at getting people thinking.......

Well done!
I think the Japanese are more ethnocentric than they are racist. They aren't too fond of anyone who isn't Japanese.