There are fears in Japan that the Abe government is turning fascist

tags: Japan, fascism, Shinzo Abe

Gavan McCormack is an emeritus professor of Australian National University and coordinator of The Asia-Pacific Journal. He is co-author with Satoko Oka Norimatsu of Resistant Islands: Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States (Rowman and Littlefield, 2012, Horitsu bunkasha, 2013) and co-author with John Dower of the recently published Tenkanki no Nihon e – Pax Americana ka Pax Asia ka (NHK Bukkusu, 2014).

As this 4th year of the second Abe (Shinzo) government draws to a close, how are we to understand the Abe agenda? 1 The Abe government describes itself as committed to the universal values of democracy, human rights, the rule of law. It lets fly policy “arrows” to revive and energize Japan’s “hundred million people” and have Japanese women “shine.” It calls attention to Japan the beautiful. It preaches the gospel of what it calls “resilience,” and declares to the world a commitment to “positive pacifism.” To Okinawa it insists that it is making every effort to “reduce the burden” of the US military presence.2 Abe’s government enjoys high levels of support (60.7 per cent as of November 2016)3 and Abe himself, having triumphed in four successive national elections, under party rules revised to clear the way for him to do so, now stands a strong chance of staying in office as Prime Minister for three terms (nine years), in addition to his earlier term between 2006 and 2007. By 2021 he might become both the longest serving of Japan’s modern Prime Ministers, and (if he manages to accomplish his agenda) its most consequential.

Yet many in Japan see things very differently. Philosopher Takahashi Tetsuya of Tokyo University attaches the label “extreme right” to Abe’s Japan.4 Filmmaker and journalist Soda Kazuhiro sees what he calls a “fascism of indifference” in which the Japanese voters are like frogs in slowly heating fascist water.5Kagoshima University historian Kimura Akira believes that “Japan is already no longer law-governed or democratic and is moving towards becoming a dark society and a fascist state.”6 Scholar of German literature Ikeda Hiroshi of Kyoto University points to the similarities between Abe and Adolf Hitler.7Political scientist Yamaguchi Jiro of Hosei University feels “a sense of crisis that Japan has begun a steep decline towards civilizational collapse.”8 Author Yamaguchi Izumi sees a “fundamental corruption of politics” spreading through every nook and cranny of Japanese society.9 One could go on.

Little of this sense of urgency is perceptible in the writing about Japan published outside the country. The fine labels Abe and his colleagues chose for themselves have to be critically dissected. As for myself, I have tended to organize my thinking about the Japanese state around some key propositions, in particular the “construction state,” the “client state,” and the “colonial state” (doken kokka, zokkoku, and shokuminchi kokka), to which I now add “war state” (senso kokka). ...

Read entire article at The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus

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