The founder of what is now Japan’s third largest party, Tooru Hashimoto, has given an outraged response to the suggestion that any American could possibly call Japan right wing, saying a nation with such a huge army and nuclear weapons which brazenly violated the sovereignty of Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden has no business calling Japan right wing.
A post-election press conference saw an American reporter attempt to quiz JRP quasi-leader Tooru Hashimoto on his international views – the exchange as reported by the Japanese press:
Overseas the election has attracted a lot of attention, with the Japan Restoration Party having quite a right wing image. What are your views on diplomacy?
If you say the JRP is moving to the right, what can you say of the USA with its army and nuclear weapons?
When they killed bin Laden they freely trampled another country’s sovereignty. Compare that to the JRP, and who is right wing?
I’d think anyone would consider what it is to involve nuclear weapons.
I’d like you to tell me what you consider right wing in the first place?
Syria is a in terrible state. Has the JRP made any statement with respect to its views on Syria?
Well, I’d like America to abandon nuclear weapons and turn its army into a self defence force.
Japan is protected by the USA’s nuclear umbrella, we’re grateful for that, and think we must deepen the US-Japanese relationship.
I’m against the possession of nuclear weapons, but it is too irresponsible for the government just to ignore their existence and pretend they don’t exist.
Something like the nuclear simulation Ishihara proposes is a matter of course, I think.
After this response the reporter apparently thought better of asking any further questions.
Japanese reporters could not help but note he had declined to answer any of the actual questions posed, instead launching into tirades based on the nationality of the asker.
Worse yet for Hashimoto, he had just replied to a reporter from the ‘Japan Times’ – an independent English-language newspaper established in 1897 in Tokyo and sold exclusively in Japan, known for a generally facile pro-Japanese slant extending all the way to shameless wartime propaganda condemning the evil of the Allies and the heroism of kamikaze pilots:
Recordings show that he had never even heard of the rag, but also that he had trouble grasping the fact there was an English language paper published in Japan which was not owned by the evil foreign media – he eventually settled for extracting the nationality of the reporter, and using that as a basis to bash America:
The translated pre-amble to his rant:
“Which paper was that?”
“Times… which country’s paper was that?”
“A Japanese English-language newspaper.”
“Where is your head office?”
“Our head office is in Tokyo.”
“Where is your foreign head quarters? Times, isn’t that American?”
“The Japan Times is a Japanese English-language newspaper.”
“Nothing to do with the other Times?”
“Nothing to do with the New York Times at all.”
“What nationality are you, reporter?”
He then launched into the main body of his outburst.
He also seems not to have reflected on the fact his own party’s choice of PM advocates Japan obtaining nuclear weapons.
The Japan Restoration Party did well in Japan’s recent general election, the 57 seats they netted making them the third party, although they were disappointed with the result, having both expected significantly more and having managed to badly botch their campaign.
The election resulted in a strong return for the LDP and the virtual collapse of the DPJ, though with only a 60% turnout and only 30% of the electorate actually voting for the LDP, it would seem only the most addled (or 2ch posting) Japanese expect much more than a few more years of stagnation and another half dozen useless prime ministers from the LDP.
In the international media Hashimoto has routinely been described as “right wing” and “populist,” although within Japan generally only leftist critics have explicitly referred to him as such.
His favoured policies do not cleanly fit the usual obsessions of Japan’s nationalist fringe – along with staunch defence of Japan’s territories he has also expressed interest in providing a “basic income,” breaking the power of the civil service (probably the real reason for his attacks on tattooed civil servants) and reorganising the Japanese government along decentralised federal lines.
However, after incorporating Tokyo’s famously racist and outspoken mayor Shintaro Ishihara into his party just before the election – along with his own remarks that Japan “needs dictatorship” – such labels begin to seem more appropriate.
The fact that Ishihara was actually made formal leader of the JRP and would therefore apparently be their choice for prime minister had they actually won (Hashimoto remains “acting leader” but is still mayor of Osaka and so cannot take a parliamentary seat) also looks likely to have given much or the nation, to say nothing of the world, nightmares.
Online, Hashimoto’s outspoken antics continue to attract a mixed reaction:
“If you’re worried about countries drifting to the right, start with your own damn country.”
“He’s completely right. The overseas media goes on and on about Japan turning right wing, despite all of those nations already having huge armies themselves.”
“China and Korea are the ones always going on about Japan going rightwards, yet they are both far more extreme to begin with!”
“Japan is actually far to the left of virtually all other nations.”
“I don’t see many other nations which no army and have given up the right to declare war in all but self-defence.”
“Answering a question with a question, eh?”
“I’ll give it to him for telling a hairy barbarian where to get off, but the rest is nothing but rubbish.”
“I guess he has not noticed just how right wing he has become.”
“He’s not actually engaging in a conversation at all. Despite the fact they were discussing Japanese domestic politics, he suddenly brings up America and starts saying he isn’t right wing? Really?”
“This traitor also said we reach an accommodation over the comfort women issue, pursue joint control of Takeshima, and continue offering apologies to China and Korea!”
“War and being right wing are two different things. He shows how uncouth he is by not grasping this distinction.”
“Why is he answering a question about Japan by going on about America?”
“It may have been an awful question, but what of completely ignoring it like that? This is the kind of guy who’d make himself a dictator if he got in.”
“He’s the strong leader I’ve been waiting for!”
“Hashimoto is always right.”
“Was the reporter a Korean-American?”
“The reporter was a bit of an idiot for bringing up Syria though.”
“In fairness the reporter did only say that the JRP has that image overseas, not that it is actually right wing.”
“I’ve seen the video – he was just belligerent towards the reporter. Maybe he just has no experience talking to foreigners.”
“The questioner was just some hairy barbarian, there’s no need to take him seriously. The mass media are all scum anyway.”
“He always just attacks the person asking him the question and then goes off on a tangent when they politely follow through with another different question. This guy couldn’t even manage a 2ch-level debate.”
“These guys are worse than the DPJ. It was bad enough with just Hashimoto, but with Ishihara as well now they are laughing stocks…”
“He’s actually left wing. Just replace ‘restoration’ with ‘revolution’ and you’ll see what he’s about.”
“I can see why he’d be annoyed. By internal Japanese standards, yes, things have gotten more right wing. But Japan is still far to the left of America by all their standards.
The reporter ignores this and just describes the JRP to an American audience as ‘right wing’ anyway.
Don’t their lying media have any shame? Considering the Spanish-American war, I guess not.”
“Well, in Japanese ‘right wing’ and ‘restoration’ ['ishin'] have two completely incompatible meanings. The Meiji Restoration was based on ‘restoring’ the emperor to power, but what it really described was a revolution. A revolution is the very opposite of what the ‘right wing’ or ‘conservative’ want.”
“The issue is that ‘restoring imperial rule’ inevitably gets perceived as ‘right wing’ overseas.”
“Even Abe-chan is getting written up as a rightist overseas. Hashimoto’s choice of naming alone has led to them being treated as extreme right from the start.”
“The ‘restoration’ naming, is taken to mean restoring imperial rule and by extension imperialism overseas, leading to it being seen as ultra-nationalist.”
“He should really have called it the ‘Japan Revolution Party’ in English. But what can you expect from a man whose grasp of English is limited to ‘guddo moruningu’?”
“I was astonished he had never even heard of the Japan Times. It’s not some random American paper like you guys seem to think…”
“Who cares if he never heard of them?”
“If a politician has never heard of a major newspaper it seems an issue. It is a famous paper, would have been available to anyone at university and their publications are widely used in English language courses. Maybe people of your level wouldn’t know about it, but it’s hard to believe a Waseda graduate like Hashimoto would not know of it.”
“What a moron. He heard ‘Times’ and assumed it was the New York Times, not even realising that is a common title for newspapers in English.
He then interrogates the reporter on his nationality and uses that to attack his country, it’s shameless. And being on the Japan Times staff he’s probably a total Japanophile to start with anyway.”