Tokyo rewind: Right-wing groups commemorate assassination of politician Inejiro Asanuma 50 years later

By on February 21, 2011 under Society

Shinto ceremony to honor Otoya Yamaguchi

Shinto ceremony to honor Otoya Yamaguchi

TOKYO (TR) – By any measure, the assassination of socialist politician Inejiro Asanuma in Tokyo in 1960 was a shocking event — and five decades later the impact of the incident continues to reverberate in unpredictable ways.

During a political debate at Tokyo’s Hibiya Public Hall in October, a 17-year-old rightist, Otoya Yamaguchi, broke free from the assembled crowd, rushed the stage, and stabbed Asanuma with a small sword two times before being apprehended. He committed suicide three weeks later while being incarcerated in a detention cell.

Right-wing groups had strongly opposed Asanuma, who criticized the Liberal Democratic Party and the United States, proclaiming the latter to be the common enemy of the Japanese and Chinese peoples during a speech in Beijing one year before.

Since the assassination was telecast live on public broadcaster NHK, the incident received substantial attention. But more notably, just before Yamaguchi plunged his weapon into Asanuma for the second time, Mainichi Shimbun newspaper photographer Yasushi Nagao pointed his camera at the pair and clicked the shutter — the resulting image of which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961.

Very rarely, if ever, are the perpetrators of political assassinations later celebrated in a public forum. Yet on two occasions at the end of last year that was the case for Yamaguchi.

In the very same hall where the gruesome killing took place, right-wing groups held a Shinto ceremony to commemorate the assassin on the 50-year anniversary of when he hung himself with a bedsheet.

Just before that final act, Yamaguchi famously opened a container of toothpaste and smeared the concrete wall of his cell with the message: “Seven lives for my country. His Imperial Majesty the Emperor, banzai!”

“It was a moment that marked a change in the course of Japanese history,” said Shohei Okada, director of the Otoya Yamaguchi Appreciation Society, at the Shinto event, held on November 4 and presided over by three priests.

The previous month, on October 12, various right-wing members, including Okada, gathered with a Japanese flag and memorial photos of Yamaguchi on the stage where 50 years before (to the very minute, 3:03 p.m.) the boy had made his run for Asanuma.

“Just like a swift wind, he went after the country’s enemy and delivered justice,” said the director. “For a human being to sacrifice one’s life at the age of 17 to save a country from crisis is something truly dignified.”

Note: The video above, a joint collaboration between The Tokyo Reporter and Uchujin-Adrian Storey www.uchujin.co.uk, summarizes both of the celebratory events and the initial incident.

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Written by on February 21, 2011. Filed under Society. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry.

2 Responses to Tokyo rewind: Right-wing groups commemorate assassination of politician Inejiro Asanuma 50 years later

  1. Pingback: Uchujin-The Blog| Celebrating The Assasination Of Inejiro Asanuma-October 12th 1960, Tokyo

  2. thedudeabides Reply

    February 27, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    This just makes me sick. Imagine if the German right was allowed to celebrate the burning of the Reichstag.

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