Assassin of Inejiro Asanuma remembered by right-wing groups on 50-year anniversary

Photo of Otoya Yamaguchi placed on the stage at the Hibiya Public Hall on Tuesday
Photo of Otoya Yamaguchi placed on the stage at the Hibiya Public Hall on Tuesday

TOKYO (TR) – Right-wing groups celebrated the assassination of socialist politician Inejiro Asanuma by holding a small ceremony to honor his killer, Otoya Yamaguchi, at Hibiya Park in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on Tuesday, the 50-year anniversary of the gruesome event.

Roughly 20 members of various right-wing organizations congregated in front of the Hibiya Public Hall just before 3:03 p.m, the time when the 17-year-old Yamaguchi, brandishing a sword, rushed the stage while Asanuma, head of the Japanese Socialist Party, spoke during a political debate prior to lower house elections. (Other reports indicate the attack actually took place at 3:05 p.m.)

Nationalists had at that time 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 the year before. He also attempted to block a bill in the Diet that would establish the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between Japan and the U.S.

The beginning of the debate and subsequent assassination of the 61-year-old radical were shown live on public broadcaster NHK (watch video below).

Right-wing members see the current scandal-plagued state of politics and the ongoing turmoil with China — specifically, the recent dispute over the Senkaku Islands — as evidence that the attack still has merit in a modern context.

“Asanuma was a traitor to his country 50 years ago, and today we have numerous traitors in Japan,” said Takashi Funakawa, a representative of the right-wing group Dai Nippon Aikoku-to, as he stood in front of his blue sound truck in the hall’s parking lot. “For example, [former Democratic Party of Japan leader] Ichiro Ozawa and [Prime Minister] Naoto Kan, they are traitors to their country. We want to send them a message.”

As Asanuma began speaking on that fateful day, right-wing activists taunted him from the edge of the 2,085-seat hall. When police officers attempted to break up the group, Yamaguchi, attired in his school uniform, broke for the stage.

Socialist politician Inejiro Asanuma is assassinated by Otoya Yamaguchi at the Hibiya Public Hall in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on October 12, 1960
Inejiro Asanuma is assassinated by Otoya Yamaguchi at the Hibiya Public Hall on October 12, 1960

Upon reaching the podium, Yamaguchi thrust his 30-centimeter-long blade into the heavyset Asanuma. Following impact, Yamaguchi lost his glasses and the two separated. The assembled spectators immediately rushed to the scene. Mainichi Shimbun newspaper photographer Yasushi Nagao pointed his camera at the pair just before Yamaguchi plunged his weapon into Asanuma for a second time — the resulting image of which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 (see below).

Yamaguchi was apprehended, and Asanuma died an hour later, before arriving at the hospital. The teenager afterwards, on November 2 of that same year, committed suicide in his detention cell in Tokyo’s Nerima Ward by hanging himself with his bedsheets. One of his last acts was to open a container of toothpaste and smear the concrete wall of his cell with the message: “Seven lives for my country. His Imperial Majesty the Emperor, banzai!”

Positive public remembrances of Asanuma at the park on Tuesday were non-existent. In September, a representative of the Inejiro Asanuma Memorial Assembly Committee, Tamotsu Shima, explained in an article distributed on the Kyodo wire service that a tribute to Asanuma on the anniversary of the event by the ruling DPJ would be unlikely given that scheduling a speech by Naoto Kan would be “difficult.”

However, an editorial in the Mainichi Shimbun, dated October 5, questioned Yamaguchi’s “Seven lives for my country” statement, adding that his death was for glorification purposes and that the state of politics 50 years later is severely ill. “In times of political trouble, incidents do occur,” the editorial concluded. “But don’t let history repeat itself this time.”

Photo of Otoya Yamaguchi placed on the stage at the Hibiya Public Hall on Tuesday
Photo of Otoya Yamaguchi placed on the stage at the Hibiya Public Hall on Tuesday

Promotional literature was issued by nationalist Web pages to announce the Tuesday event. Nationwide commemorations began on Saturday and concluded Tuesday, when right-wing members entered the Hibiya Public Hall at roughly 3 p.m.

A framed, black-and-white photo of Yamaguchi was quickly propped at the front of the stage. Three minutes later, the lead representative of the Otoya Yamaguchi Memorial Association uttered a short prayer as the members of the contingent bowed their heads (see at right).

“We are here to honor Yamaguchi’s deliverance of justice to Asanuma,” added Dai Nippon Aikoku-to’s Funakawa.

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  1. Great writeup. Wish I’d known about this too; the park is right across from my office.

    I wonder if they’ll do something like this again a year from now, or if this was just for the half-century anniversary of the killing.

    • No need to wait. Click that link near the end. More action at same place on Nov. 2, when the suicide will be honored. 800 people expected.

  2. Y’know, if you had a rally commemorating Lee Harvey Oswald or John Wilkes Booth on the Washington Mall, you’d be getting visits from the FBI really soon, and there’s no question your little group would get placed under surveillance. Note: there’s a reason why that doesn’t happen here — like why right wing sound trucks also are allowed to harass without being stopped — and it has something to do with the traditional ties between the LDP & the right-wing groups, both born out of WW2 militarists… it’s extremely disturbing that in the 21st century groups espousing political violence –and whose members occasionally practice it — are allowed to continue without reaction from the state.

  3. I’ll never understand the Japanese. Nationalists kill a man that was critical of the United States, a country who continues to occupy parts of Japan, exploiting it all the while. Not very good nationalists, if you ask me…

  4. Otoya Yamaguchi was a hero of his country! Look how the marxist plague is destroying the western countries today!

    • It’s literally amazing how brainwashed and ill the right wing nuts of Japan are. The US nuked your country twice, humiliated and dominated it and they cherish a psychopath who kills a promising leader who says the US is an enemy?! These people are fascists and are exactly the types that caused WWII. They should all be arrested and thrown in jail as a threat to the general welfare.

      • Why haven’t you been put in a mental institution? Roosevelt was a dirt-eating socialist who used unnecessary war to cover the failures of his pathetic social programs, preserve the European investments of his cronies, and put the Japanese into concentration camps. Only a complete and total idiot would adopt socialism, and only the most brain-dead of those idiots would adopt socialism after it decimated Japan and imprisoned Japanese people.

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