The political climate of post-WWII Japan was tumultuous. A spectrum of political parties rose up from the ashes of the old fascist empire ranging from the Soviet-sympathising communists to the ultranationalists wishing to restore the old Rising Sun Empire to its glory.
Needless to say, these two ideologies clashed heavily seeking to gain as much power in the unstable climate created by the defeat in 1945. The extreme right and extreme left would go on to clash in a very public way when the Third Chairman of the Japanese Socialist party was giving a speech on national TV on 12 October 1960.
Opposing the status quo
浅沼 稲次郎 (Anglicised: Asanuma Inejirō) was born in Japan 27 December 1898. As he grew up in the mainly nationalistic Society of Japan, he saw its downfalls and took it upon himself to change the nation for the better. Since 1936 after he joined the Japanese Diet Asanuma tried to sway the way Japan was handling the war. This culminated in his brief run for Prime Minister in 1942, a campaign he quickly terminated due to the lack of support behind his movement.
Asanuma retired from the political sphere for the rest of the war only returning to Japanese politics after, now as a supporter of left-wing policies. In 1955 Asanuma became the First General Secretary of the Japan Socialist Party, an event which propelled his notoriety within the Japanese political scene. He would become even more infamous within Japan in 1959 after his visit to the People’s Republic of China. There he criticized Japan’s main ally, the US, in a speech in which he declared that the country was “the shared enemy of China and Japan.”
This sparked a lot of controversy within the political circles of Japan and angered many nationalists who saw this alignment with China as a potential threat to their country. One particular ultranationalist was made furious by Asanuma actions and took it upon himself to eliminate what he deemed to be a ‘threat’.
An unfortunate end to a debate
山口 二矢 (Anglicised: Yamaguchi Otoya) was born on 22 February 1943 in Tokyo. Growing up in a post-WWII Japan influenced the young man heavily. Since a young age, the boy was exposed to nationalist media which swayed his opinion as he grew up, looking at the pre-WWII Japan he saw a much stronger country than the one he was currently living in and sought to achieve this greatness once more.
Being a nationalist Yamaguchi was staunchly anti-communist. As such, when he heard the news that the leader of the biggest socialist party in Japan was trying to align the country with the communist giant of China he knew he had to act. He found the perfect time to strike on 12 October 1960.
On this date, the NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster, hosted a debate. This debate was meant to allow those who were trying to get elected to the Japanese House of Representatives to put their views across to the people of Japan with the hope that those with similar views will vote for them. One of the people who spoke at this debate was Asanuma.
As Asanuma went on to speak about his ideals, the young Yamaguchi sprang up onto the stage where the debate was taking place and, with a 鎧通し(Anglicised: yoroi-dōshi) sword, stabbed the socialist representative, killing him at the scene. Yamaguchi was immediately taken into custody by the local authorities and questioned. He wouldn’t last long in the custody of the police as mere weeks after he killed Asanuma he committed suicide by hanging, unwilling to sacrifice his ‘honour’ by being trialed.
The example of Yamaguchi shows us the real impact of early radicalization. At the age of 17, the young nationalist believed that it was worthy to risk his life in an effort to push his agenda by killing another man. This mindset was created by him being radicalized early on. We see such situations happen today with more cases than ever before popping up across the globe. We must be aware of this trend and combat it at its roots by being mindful of the content our young people consume. Only then we will make sure such events never happen again.
For any enquiries or comments make sure to contact me at email@example.com.