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Left-wing group announces Yasukuni Shrine demonstration

TOKYO (TR) – The Anti-War Joint Action Committee will lead a one-hour protest near the grounds of the controversial Yasukuni Shrine on the morning of Friday, August 15th, the anniversary of the conclusion of World War II.

Organizers of the leftist group feel that they must counteract the activities of the uyoku dantai (right-wing groups) that are so prevalent in the shrine’s vicinity on that day.

“On the anniversary, the uyoku begin working from early in the morning,” said the committee’s representative, Misumi Tadashi in an exclusive interview with The Tokyo Reporter. “Not only around Yasukuni, but all throughout Tokyo, they blast their messages from speakers mounted atop their trucks. This is the most appropriate day of the year for them to appeal their existence to the public. The police cannot control them, and we cannot let them continue with these harsh activities. We have to do something.”

Perhaps Japan’s most notorious rallying point for nationalist sentiment, Yasukuni confounds its left-leaning detractors and inspires patriots due to its enshrinement of roughly 2.5 million military men, many of whom were encouraged by the belief that their spirit will be enshrined should they die in battle fighting heroically for the Emperor. A heated debate on an average day, Yasukuni and its surrounding area is like a spark landing in a tinderbox on the anniversary.

The Anti-War group, which is funded through the sale of various publications and carries out about 12 protests a year, began in 1992 to oppose the dispatch of Japan Self-Defense Forces to Cambodia. Today the war in Iraq is one of the group’s objects of derision.

Last year a similar procession left the campus of Hosei University in Ichigaya and extended up towards Iidabashi and back down Sotobori-dori to Sotobori Park, near Yotsuya. All through the route, police officers walked pace for pace with the protesters as uyoku members attempted to physically interrupt the march.

“It seems like the police are trying to stop them but in reality it is very easy for the uyoku to break through,” said Tadashi. “We can’t rely on the police, and the uyoku knows that we have the skills and power to fight back – so that is why they don’t attack so aggressively.”

For this year, Tadashi expects the same route to be followed with perhaps up to 200 marchers participating, an increase of 50 over one year ago. He said he will be ready for any conflicts. “We have confidence to fight back,” he said. “We have guts and pride, and I am sure they will be coming after us.”

Note: The demonstration will start from Hosei University at 9 a.m. Access is via JR Ichigaya station.