Anti-Japan

  • Posted on: 17 September 2019
  • By: thecollective

In the early 70s, a group of young people - including ex-student radicals, disaffected party communists, and anarchists - went to war the Japanese state and society in the name of abolishing Japan itself. The following is the opening essay to the pamphlet Anti-Japan by Max Res detailing their lives and struggles along with some reflection on their continued relevance today. You can find this essay along with a partial translation of their manifesto/guerilla manual Hara Hara Tokei on the anarchist library or purchase a physical copy from Viscera (viscerapvd@protonmail.com) and other fine retailers of anarchist literature.

The East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front isn’t a group you’re likely to encounter in English-language literature, much less in that being written by anarchists. I myself happened upon them by chance when looking up information about their infamous urban guerrilla manual Hara Hara Tokei, which enjoys the occasional reference even now in Japanese popular media. From there I stumbled upon an informative if brief Wikipedia article about the group itself, which, lo and behold, was described as anarchist. Having some capacity in Japanese, I decided to make a project of translating the less explosive parts of the manual and researching the group. The pamphlet you hold in your hands is the product of my efforts.

Though its members don’t seem to have referred to the Front as an anarchist project (though at least one member was), this ideological vagueness is part of what makes them interesting. With no formal leaders and no ideological program beyond the negative project of destroying Japan, they can be located squarely within the tradition of anarchist and non-sect activity (that is, activity unaffiliated with any Marxist party) in Japan during the ‘60s and ‘70s. And while there were certainly minor differences between these categories of groups and individuals, those details fall outside of the scope of this work. Part of my interest in sharing the history of the Front is to relate the story of people who positioned themselves outside of the parties and Red cults as well as their accompanying hierarchies and strictures, which often define this time period in popular imagination. Whether you’re interested in modern Japanese radical history, political violence, or lesser-known anarchist histories, there is much of this and more to find in the story of the Front.

Having said all that, I am by no means an expert on the Front. This essay is heavily indebted to Ryuuichi Matsushita’s Noroshi wo Miyo as well as Yasushi Kushihara’s Nihon no Tero. Beyond those works there’s a variety of others, both primary and secondary, that were unattainable to me or likely anyone who isn’t in Japan. This lack of expertise also extends to my translation of Hara – unfortunately I was unable to find assistance in proofreading the translation, so I give this to you as the best of my current language abilities but with the awareness of and hope that it will be revised at some point. This introduction, however, wasn’t done by myself alone, and as always I’m deeply appreciative of my editor for her time.

A Decade of Violence

To you our comrades in armed struggle in the imperial home country of Japan who are already in the process of preparing for battle because you must defeat Japanese imperialism, and to you our comrades in waiting who are determined to commence armed struggle, today the Ookami Cell of the East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front sends “Guerrilla Manual Vol. 1.”

Thus opens Hara Hara Tokei [hereafter Hara], the ideological statement and bombing manual published in Japan by the East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front in 1974. The Front would use these same tactics and instructions, to launch a bombing campaign against Japanese corporations, decimating the Mitsubishi headquarters in the business center of Tokyo and making a painstaking but ultimately aborted attempt on the life of the Emperor. In the name of destroying Japanese imperialism, the Front launched a series of clandestine bombings, baffling the police and terrifying their enemies until their mass arrest in the spring of 1975. The fact that the group could address itself to an audience of people ready to use violence in Japan, who they found in the leftist bookstores and Japanese Korean groups to whom they sent copies of Hara, gives us a striking image of a Japan in the 1970s where many radicals had rejected protest movements and picked up the bomb.

In late 1973, when Masashi Daidouji hunched over his typewriter to begin work on this notorious document, the Front was a relative newcomer to the urban guerrilla warfare they would come to champion. Though fervent in their devotion to the study and construction of explosives, their practical efforts had yielded only a few semi-successful attempts on cultural centers in and around Hokkaido. Other groups had been more active, with 1971 seeing a rash of bombings – 51 incidents total – leaving 42 people dead including family members of a police official who had a bomb sent to his home[1]. A bomb left outside of a police station in Shinjuku on Christmas Eve, the street crowded with shoppers and couples on dates, had the press decrying the appearance of indiscriminate violence by anarchists. Meanwhile the Red Army Faction (which split from the Communist League in 1969 with a call for armed worldwide insurrection amid the smoke of burning police boxes in Tokyo and Osaka) managed to carry out Japan’s first plane hijacking in 1971 despite almost their entire membership being arrested during preparations for a hostage-taking operation only two years before. In that same bloody year of 1971 marked by so many bombings and killings, its members joined with the Maoist Revolutionary Left Faction to form the infamous United Red Army Faction. Even protests – already marked by students beating on riot police with battering rams and clubs – had taken a more violent turn. Protests in Okinawa against unification with Japan as well as a long campaign against the clearing of residents in the area slated for the construction of Haneda airport were marked by firebombs, rioting, and clashes that resulted in the deaths of three riot officers.

This isn’t to say the Front were newcomers to radical action, however, as most were veterans of the Zengakuren student movement that had spread throughout Japan in the ‘60s. Masashi himself was among a mass of student protesters listening to The Internationale being broadcast by the last members of the Yasuda Auditorium occupation – a hallmark protest of this era – as the last occupiers waited to be arrested on the rooftop of the building after days of fighting that wounded hundreds of police and students. He and many of his friends were also beaten back in the struggle against the security treaty between Japan and the US, which was renewed in 1970 despite massive protests and street violence. The movement against the Vietnam War was more of the same, with massive, militant protests unable to stop Japan’s continued support for the American military effort.

Out of these failures, many protesters would turn to arms, only to be thwarted there as well. The armed struggle faction in Japan, including the aforementioned United Red Army as well as a myriad of groups ranging from Marxist to anarchist, had suffered a number of failures in the years leading up to the formation of the Front. Some were horrifying, such as the brutal, bombastic collapse of the United Red Army Faction with the Asama-Sansou Incident in 1972 in which multiple members were executed in struggle sessions before a desperate shootout with the police. Some were also embarrassing, such as the aforementioned Red Army Faction’s botched hostage-taking attempt in 1969, which was fraught with infighting and done so openly that a newspaper even sent a reporter to a lodge they were staying at when they got wind of what was going on. The collapse of the student movement had left only scraps for the partisans of various Marxist parties to struggle over, their shrill denunciations of each other turning into violent internecine clashes that would sometimes spill into unaffiliated, non-sectarian campuses.

It was in this era of violence and disappointment that the Front emerged.

Return of the Ookami

The founding cell of the Front was made up of a small group of friends, many of them old friends who’d met as student militants in the Zengakuren. Masashi and Ayako Daidouji had met as activists and were now married and living together in an apartment in Tokyo. Toshiaki Kataoka, the group’s explosives expert, had been recruited into the student struggle by Masashi and both shared an unease with the hierarchies they experienced in sectarian groups[2]. Norio Sasaki, an acquaintance of Masashi’s from the circle around the leftist publisher Revolt, would be invited in after not balking at the contents of the recently-released Hara[3].

From the beginning, the Front stood out from the general leftist milieu. The founding cell took the name Ookamia Ookami species native to Japan— because it didn’t sound like a Left group, and also invoked a symbol of both strength and oppression. This noble creature had been hunted to extinction in Japan, now brought back to life to stalk it once again. The Front they claimed to be a part of was an expression of solidarity with other people fighting Japanese imperialism throughout East Asia. Their outsider status was also evident from Hara’s emphasis on direct action: though it was an ideological document, they’d written it as a manual first and propaganda second. It has no quotes from Marx, Mao, or Che. The guerrillas they addressed in their introduction weren’t members of a mass organization or a cadre, nor were they fighting for a new, better Japanese state. Rather, they were self-made revolutionaries who took up the gun (or in this case, fuse) in order to destroy Japanese imperialism. Differing from many of their contemporaries, the Front focused their attacks not on the Japanese state but on cultural symbols celebrating Japan’s imperial conquests and the companies driving Japan’s emerging global economy, which they considered to be the foremost means of post-war imperialism.

This spirit of independence was also reflected in some of their earliest actions, carried out between 1971 and ‘72. Rather than the police stations commonly targeted by radicals at the time, it was cultural monuments that made up their initial targets: a war shrine, a memorial to Japanese settlers who’d died in occupied Korea, as well as a monument celebrating the settlement of northern Japan and a museum containing Ainu[4] artifacts, the latter two in Hokkaido. Though they had mixed success with these bombings, leaving most of their targets either unharmed or only damaged, they had taken the first steps for themselves in deploying explosives against symbols of Japanese imperialism and asserting their anti-Japan thought (hannichi shisou) with action.

Those born of Japanese imperialism

This thought was at the heart of the Front, and is explained in detail in Hara. Japanese people are referred to as “those born of Japanese imperialism,” reflecting the intimate connection they saw between the Japanese masses and those who governed them. Underlying the rotten society they had been born and raised in was a system built on imperial conquest and domination of native peoples and supplemented by Japan’s support for the US in the ongoing wars in Southeast Asia. Members of the Front were just some of the many young people who, on discovering the crimes of their parents – the forced labor and mass killings that made up the Empire’s economic policies during the war, the subduing and oppression of the Ainu and Okinawan peoples, the brutal lives of Korean day laborers crushed by the economy they were building – broke with the views held by the traditional Japanese Left. Along with the rest of what would be termed Japan’s New Left, they asserted that, contrary to the old Left’s assertions, Japan was an aggressor rather than a victim on the world stage. Nor was the Front excluded from these crimes – Masashi himself had witnessed discrimination against Ainu classmates growing up in Hokkaido, and his father had worked in occupied Manchuria. In the eyes of the Front, everyone in Japan who wasn’t at the very bottom of society – the day laborers and native peoples of Japan – was complicit, and the Front set out to “pay the debt for [their] counterrevolution.”

This anti-mass mentality put them at odds, again, with much of the Left, which, old and new, was still centered around class struggle. The Front took a fiercely anti-worker position, arguing that the working class of Japan formed the “limbs of Japanese imperialism” who acted in “everyday, unremitting hostility towards its colonial subjects” and would rush to defend imperial assets in foreign countries if they felt their livelihoods were at stake. Many of these livelihoods had seen a boom in the 1960s and ‘70s, in large part due to increased overseas economic expansion by Japanese companies as well as a domestic economy supported by American money in exchange for help in the ongoing Vietnam War. In such a situation, the Front saw a worker’s revolution that didn’t destroy the bourgeois lifestyle—to which many in Japan had become accustomed—as one that would miss the roots that secured the status quo.

Accordingly, when they turned away from the workers of Japan, they embraced what they perceived to be a rising tide of struggle against Japanese imperialism. And like Americans half a world away sensing the imminent demise of US imperialism at the hands of Third World revolutionaries, the turbulence of the late 1960s and early ‘70s gave the Front many reasons to think that the tide of history was turning against Japan. Protest movements had kicked off in Thailand and South Korea against Japanese-supported dictatorships, which in the case of the former had also targeted Japanese goods coming into the country and led to a shooting war with the regime. A variety of revolutionary groups were resisting corporate expansion into the Philippines and elsewhere. Nor was this resistance limited to outside Japan. While Japanese workers may have been steeped in imperialist ideology, the Front found hope in the rebellion of indigenous groups such as the Ainu and native Okinawans, as well as day laborers, mostly Korean and Chinese, who made up Japan’s dispossessed. Riots had rocked the slums of Tokyo, Osaka, and Yokohama throughout the 1960s, and there were violent protests against the move to annex Okinawa with Japan.

We can look at their anti-Japanese struggle as a negation in two parts: one rejecting the cultural and economic institutions of Japanese imperialism and the other negating what made up Japanese bourgeois identity. By bombing memorials, museums, and statues they attempted to tear open the legacies of oppression that Empire had confined to the past and expose the continuing state violence defining the imperial present, which they referred to as “modern history itself.” Attacking companies that had prospered during the war was an act of revenge for war crimes left unpunished and confined to “the past” in the post-war era. Their unsuccessful attempt on the life of the Emperor – given to us in painful detail by Matsushita, who describes sleepless weeks of planning and bomb-building culminating in a silent, frustrating showdown with some passersby that foiled the final preparations for their plan – was also an attempt to disrupt this imperial present. They’d known that killing the Emperor (as well as the queen and whoever else was in their train as it plunged into the river from the exploded railroad bridge above) wouldn’t destroy the position of Emperor, but rather bring about martial law in Japan that would target law-abiding leftists and thus disrupt the contradiction of peaceful existence within Empire[5].

They negated Japanese identity through embracing it in appearance. Like the 9/11 hijackers who blended into secular American society to attack it from within, the members of the Front donned the costumes of the same bourgeois Japanese workers they sought to destroy. This meant doing everything within their power to avoid being perceived as a political dissident: Masashi quit his day labor gigs and got a straight job complete with a business suite and a workplace he could steal chemicals from; he and Ayako kept their apartment clean (with explosives materials hidden in the floor) and made sure to say hi to the neighbors; a later member even joined a religious society to compensate for his lengthy police file. Hara has a litany of proscriptions for how to appear normal, including cutting your hair, not staying up too late, and avoiding alienating your straight friends and family members (and therefore appearing suspicious) by not dropping off the face of the earth. In this way, they could attack their targets by night without fear of suspicion from the police or their neighbors – at least for a time.

Blood and prosperity

On August 30th, 1974, two explosions rocked the business district of Tokyo that would shake both Japan and the members of the Front themselves. These explosions, the dark fruit emerging from months of research and planning, decimated the corporate headquarters of Mitsubishi and the people around it. Though the Front had existed in relative obscurity up to this point, attracting little attention with their previous bombings from either their fellow-travelers on the Left or the police, the Mitsubishi bombing along with the publication of Hara earlier that year would act like a magnet for both allies and enemies.

Mitsubishi was a clear target for the Front’s anti-Japanese struggle – a major company that supplied war machinery, tanks, and planes for the imperial army (including its signature Zero model plane) with the use of slave labor from Chinese conscripts during the war, and still supplied the Japanese Defense Force. It survived being dissolved after the war and was now a major multinational corporation and the face of the new era of Japanese imperialism—what the Front would refer to as the “boss” of other corporations in the new economy in the communique issued after the bombing. The headquarters had fewer guards than the company president’s home, and its bombing would send a warning to the companies surrounding it in bustling Shinjuku that overseas activities hadn’t gone unnoticed. It would also come on the tail of Japanese Korean Mun Se-gwang’s attempt on the life of South Korean dictator and friend of the Japanese government Park Chung-hee earlier that month[6].

Things appeared to have gone as planned, with the Front demonstrating all the caution and meticulousness they’d preached in Hara. Ayako had gone ahead as a lookout, Kataoka had parked the getaway car near the scene, Masashi had taken a taxi with the bombs and planted them by the entrance, and Sasaki had called ahead with a warning to clear the building. The bombs went off four minutes after the warning call, and the front of the building was reduced to smoking ruins. But among these ruins were eight dead bodies and almost 400 injured, most by the shards of glass that had rained down from Mitsubishi and the blown-out windows of neighboring buildings.

Almost a month later, the Front issued a statement claiming responsibility for the bombing, denouncing those dead and injured as “colonial parasites,” and warning that they would “continue to turn the central district of Japanese imperialism into a war zone.”

However, these corpses and shredded survivors hadn’t been part of the plan. Despite their denunciation of the Japanese masses, the Front hadn’t actually intended to kill anyone at all, and on the other side of the typewriter that issued those cold words was a gripping sense that everything had gone wrong. Various guesses were made as to what happened – the power of the unsuccessfully tested explosive they’d originally intended for the bridge carrying the Emperor’s train, the too-short window they’d given to evacuate the building, Mitsubishi’s lack of preparation for a bombing – but the end result was a heavy sense of guilt that would haunt the Front’s members from that point forward, guilt that would eventually turn Kataoka into a “living corpse”[7] and help drive Masashi to confess to the police after his arrest.

Whatever feelings the Front may have had about their own action – and their self-flagellating would be affirmed by the aghast reporters and witnesses on the evening news accompanied by criticism from portions of the Left – they also found allies answering the call of the signal fire they’d kindled in Hara and sent up with the Mitsubishi bombing. Nodoka Saitou, an anarchist who’d learned about the massacre of Korean forced laborers in his hometown after he dropped out of college, took up Sasaki’s invitation and formed the Fangs of the Earth (Daichi no Kiba) cell, he and Yukiko Ekida setting out to bomb Mitsui & Company shortly thereafter. Mitsui was another major player in the Japanese economy, and they targeted the company’s foreign affairs section, destroying computers, telex machines, and injuring a handful of people. They then bombed two more targets – the Taisei Construction Company in December, shocking police during a period of heightened security, and the Oriental Metal Company’s industry research center involved in helping Japanese companies expand into Korea during the following April. The Front was also joined by the Scorpion (Sasori) cell consisting of Yoshimasa Kurokawa and Hisaichi Ugajin. Kurokawa had a similar background to many in the Front as an ex-student radical who’d seen the need for arms with the fall of the Yasuda Auditorium occupation, and the cell declared its existence by bombing Kajima Corporation in December of 1974. Like many of the Front’s targets, Kajima had used forced labor during the war and its infamous cruelty had gone unpunished.

With the expansion of the Front, its structure continued to reflect a spirit of non-sect independence. In stark contrast to the swollen, centralized organizations they’d fled from in the waning days of the Zengakuren, the Front functioned as a network of small, autonomous cells that could launch attacks that were both discreet and effective. Though the Ookami provided some supplies and advice— fruits of its experience and greater access to materials—there was no central leadership or even ideological uniformity within the organization. Its membership was a mix of anarchists such as Saitou, non-sect ex-activists, and lapsed members of various Marxist groups who had come together around the common enemy of Japanese imperialism and the goal of its defeat by means of armed struggle.

The way these cells functioned was fairly simple: each was made up of a small group of friends in contact with certain members of the Ookami, and each was free to choose its targets and methods as it saw fit. One cell would communicate its intent to bomb something with either one or both of the others and request materials from the Ookami if needed. The other groups might offer some advice or suggestions, and the Ookami would meet one of them discreetly to provide the requested materials. These materials were manufactured in either Masashi and Ayako’s or Kataoka’s apartments, and Matsushita relates to us nights where the couple had to make curry to hide the harsh chemical smell from the explosives they were cooking. Their supplies were stolen from Masashi or Ayako’s chemical manufacturing jobs, collected by various members of the group, or paid for from their war chest.

From the Mitsubishi attack in August of 1974 to the attack on Oriental Metal in April of 1975, their corporate bombing campaign touched off a season of chaos in Japan, as corporations panicked over who would be next and the police searched frantically for perpetrators. Frequent prank calls would lead companies to evacuate entire buildings on the chance they might be real. The height of the Front’s joint activities came in February of 1975, when they executed a triple bombing of targets related to the Hazama Corporation. The urban guerrilla strategy seemed to be working – not only had they not been caught, but their bombing of Oriental Metal had even caused the company to pull an inspection team set to travel to South Korea.

All of these successes did little to relieve the guilt felt by the Ookami cell since the Mitsubishi bombing, and sometimes the opposite when these bombings caused more unintended injuries. This guilt was manifest in the vials of poison they carried with them, with their suicides intended as much as for compensation for the deaths and injuries at Mitsubishi as to avoid being taken into custody by the State. Yet they still fought, and in this period of new alliances and flourishing cooperation between cells, the anti-Japan struggle appeared to be going better than ever.

The Ookami Lays Down

Unfortunately, this increase in joint activity between cells leading up to the Hazama bombing also provided a key to their downfall. Having combed through their profiles of various activists in Japan, particularly those concerned with the struggles of native peoples as described in Hara, the police were already tailing the group by the time of the Oriental Metal bombing and may have been observing when Fangs of the Earth carried it out. The inroads into the group came through the same above-ground Leftist activism they’d cautioned against in Hara, with Sasaki’s activist past and Saitou’s connections at a radical press[8] making them persons of interest and leading the police to the rest of the members. Matsushita describes in claustrophobic detail how the group was photographed together moving equipment from one apartment to another, and how Masashi failed to shake the seasoned detectives he suspected might be following him on his way to a joint meeting with members of the other cells. Despite their precautions, almost their entire membership would be caught in a high-profile mass arrest, many on the way to their jobs, on the morning of May 19th, 1975.

It’s with these arrests that Matsushita’s book opens, and we’re treated to an image of the Front at odds with the cool, confident urban guerrillas of Hara. Out of their entire membership, only Saitou managed to swallow the poison they’d been carrying before being arrested, seizing and vomiting in front of the interrogating officers before dying in jail[9]. Though the state expected the same stubborn silence they’d received from many radicals they’d arrested, it took less than a week of intensive interrogation before most members of the Front began to crack. Masashi and Kataoka felt driven to explain the reasons why they’d killed all those people at Mitsubishi, and Masashi heaped crimes upon himself as he tried to clear the names of his friends. Ayako’s pride as a guerrilla was goaded by officers’ suggestions that Masashi must have been at fault because she was just his wife. Before long, their supporters outside were begging them to shut up because, as they put it, “in the hands of the state… silence is the most revolutionary act.”[10]

Their troubles, however, had just begun. Home searches revealed all of the supplies and equipment they’d amassed. Though Masashi had followed their own advice in Hara and coded the his journal of the Front’s activities, the police were able to compare it with their own notes and decode it using their observations. Armed with a wealth of evidence and testimonies and despite an intense prison struggle waged by members of the Front who endured beatings and torture from guards in an attempt to put the Japanese state on trial, Masashi and Kataoka were sentenced to death and Kurokawa to life with hard labor. Masashi died in 2017 from multiple myeloma, while Kataoka and Kurokawa remain on death row.

Others found means of outside support that were more effective – Sasaki ended up in Libya in 1975 after his name appeared on a list of prisoners in a hostage exchange with the Japanese Red Army[11]. In 1977 he participated in a hijacking that freed Ayako as well as Ekida. Though Ekida was identified and rearrested in Romania in 1995, the whereabouts of Sasaki and Ayako are unknown and they remain wanted internationally.

Hara Hara Tokei

This pamphlet contains a partial translation of Hara Hara Tokei, which was published by the Front in early 1974. Partial here means none of the instructions for making or planting explosives which make up the bulk of the work and I have omitted for reasons of legal prudence as well as well as the high likelihood that many of these techniques may be out of date. That said, I acknowledge that this omission goes against the spirit of Hara. The pamphlet was intended as a guide for action and not just propaganda to incite people ideologically. It was proof that they weren’t all talk, as they considered much of the Left to be, and was written to equip their fellow-travelers with the knowledge necessary to carry out a clandestine guerrilla war against Japanese imperialism.

A word about the title: Hara Hara Tokei has no good literal translation. Matsushita tells us it originated in a drunken campfire discussion during one of the Front’s training camps, evolving from a half-joking suggestion[12]. Hara Hara conveys a sense of one’s heart beating in excitement (as one would feel waiting in suspense with a timing device for an explosive), and also refers to a command form in Korean. It’s also based off the term haradokei, or one’s internal clock, which has nothing to do with the contents but follows the euphemistic style of titles for combat manuals at the time, where you had works circulating in Japan with such vague titles as “Song of the Rose”, “Nutrition Facts”, and “A New Vitamin Remedy”.

Words that echo like explosions

The opening of Hara belies the playfulness of this title. Reading it, I feel a similar sense of mystery that I get from reading other anonymous communiques and essays. The opening words, addressing the reader directly, are a missive from underground. In it, we, the guerrillas, are given a guide to navigate through the sea of overwhelming forces known as Society and the State, forces that could crush us at any moment. The impulse that drove Masashi Daidouji to write Hara was, in part, the same spirit that produces zines about security culture today: the sense that, with certain techniques, we can fight these forces and evade them as they attempt to strike us down. If I say hello to my neighbor every morning and keep my front room clean then I won’t attract their suspicion; if I don’t confer with open leftists and avoid voicing controversial opinions in public then the State will overlook me. We say these things because we want them to be true despite the fact that often they are not. We want them to be true because it’s comforting to believe in an enemy that is governed by rules, and to believe that we understand those rules.

But of course, decades after the arrests of the Front, we know where all this goes – the mystery disappears among piles of testimonies, biographies, and court documents. The mask of the self-assured warrior falls away and what lies behind it is uncertainty, chance, brief victories, and crushing defeats. Hara was the Front’s reassurance, as much to itself as to their audience of urban guerrillas in waiting, that they understood the rules that their enemies played by, and their attempt to create from that knowledge a strategy of attack and evasion.

The complication with their strategy, as with many others, is that it assumes that there are rules to begin with. We can make all the plans we wish, but the degree to which these become qualified by chance and shifting circumstances and our own lack of knowledge make certainty in strategy more wishful thinking than anything else. The story of the Front is full of chance – the unanticipated devastation of the Mitsubishi bombing that drew the State into pouring people and money into finding them while also traumatizing a number of their members; the first inroads the police discovered into the group from a dead-end lead at a leftist press two of them were associated with; the failure of most of them to ingest poison before being arrested. And with the benefit of hindsight there’s a host of what-ifs that emerge – what if they’d tested the bomb they planted at Mitsubishi beforehand? What if they’d assumed the detectives shadowing some of their members were looking for the Front instead of investigating leftist infighting? What if they’d had a strategy for dealing with being arrested alive? The list is inexhaustible.

This isn’t to say that you should disregard strategy entirely, but to give a gentle reminder of the dire consequences of self-assurance. Our survival is often predicated on the fact that we’re not seen as a threat by our enemies, not on how clever we are or how good we are at evading the law. The destruction of a few cultural monuments by the Front appears to have elicited some confusion and may have merited local investigations, but a bomb in front of one of Japan’s biggest corporations brought down the hammer. The survival strategy they’d been living by when they wrote Hara based on their pre-Mitsubishi evasion of the police and some analysis of how they’d seen other armed groups fail unraveled with the pressure of a serious government effort to capture them. When the wrath of the state falls upon us, we often see just how fragile we and our projects really are.

As for the non-strategy part of the document, we get a fascinating look into Japan in the 1970s, filled with radicals sitting in cafes loudly debating theory, would-be militants walking around in second-hand US military fatigues, and a radical scene in which bombings as well as explosives manuals were commonplace enough that Hara is written not to encourage people to blow things up but to blow them up right. They also reference a number of recent, high-profile disasters, including those of the Red Army Faction and United Red Army.

Reading about the Front offered me a look into a part of Japanese history that I had little knowledge of before. If you’re talking about radicals active during this period, the United Red Army has easily received the most English-language coverage due to its high-profile brutality and intense weirdness. The Front by contrast has received very little despite its own domestic notoriety, and this is doubly true of the various non-sect and explicitly anarchist groups running around in the early 70’s who I encountered only through my two primary sources for this essay. Sadly, both these as well as other primary and secondary sources remain untranslated, with a number of them out of print or out of reach for someone living in the US. With the recent rise in interest in figures such as Tsuji Jun and Fumiko Kaneko, my hope is that this essay as well as my modest translation of Hara Hara Tokei will widen the breadth of interest by English-speakers in Japanese radical history, and the stories therein that remain yet untold to us.

Nor is all of this in the past. In the spirit of the Front, which urges us to avoid the linear time of empires which bury both oppression and resistance in History, we can look today and see the ongoing links between radicals in Japan and various places in East Asia mentioned in Hara. The bombs are silent, but the spirit lives.

Works Cited

Higashiajia Hannichi Busou Sensen Ookami Butai. Hara Hara Tokei: Toshigeriraheishi no Dokuhon. Higashiajia Hannichi Busou Sensen Ookami Butai Jousenkyoku, 1974.

Higashiajia Hannichi Busou Sensen Ookami Butai Jousenkyoku. Claim of responsibility for the Mitsubishi bombing.1974. Retrieved from ja.wikipedia.org.

Kushihara, Yasushi. Nihon no Tero: Bakudan no Jidai 60s-70s. Kawade Shobo Shinsha, 2017.

Matsushita, Ryuuichi. Noroshi wo Miyo: Higashiajia Hannichi Busou Sensen Ookami Butai. Kawade Shobo Shinsha, 2017.

Hara can be found in various places on the internet. For this project I used the excerpted text found on Yuugeki Internet (www.uranus.dti.ne.jp), cross-checking it with the excerpts reproduced in Noroshi and elsewhere.

[1] Kushihara 44

[2] Matsushita 100–01.

[3] This listing of founding members isn’t exhaustive – people like Nahoko Arai, who helped type Hara, and Yoshimi Fujisawa, who was another early friend of the group and took part in training with explosives, would both leave early on. Their peaceful departure from the group on good terms signals another distinguishing feature of the Front at a time when Left groups would often subject people who were expressing second thoughts to criticism sessions and denunciations.

[4] An indigenous people of northern Japan, they were subject to forced assimilation into Japanese society starting in the late 1800’s. Up until 2008 the Japanese government held that there were no indigenous groups in Japan.

[5] Matsushita 193–94.

[6] Ibid. 191–2. See also Kushihara 62, where he suggests this unanticipated event caused the Front to rush their bombing of Mitsubishi and thus contributed to the unanticipated results that followed.

[7] Ibid. 160.

[8] Ibid. 34.

[9] Two more suicides would follow these arrests, with ex-members Fujisawa suffocating himself with car exhaust and Arai jumping from a train.

[10] Matsushita 53.

[11] The JRA was founded by a member of the Red Army Faction who’d left Japan for Palestine before the creation of the United Red Army.

[12] Matsushita 127.

Comments

Maoists?

Nope some of the members were anarchists. It’s hard to nail down there politics beyond it being militant anti japanese imperialism.

I'm looking forward to reading the pamphlet in full. Weird how even on the west coast (of the us) news of japan takes so long to arrive.

I've only heard the name Zengakuren, I think from a reading on something else from the '60s, but literally just the name.

"Before long, their supporters outside were begging them to shut up because, as they put it, “in the hands of the state… silence is the most revolutionary act.”"-- always a great reminder.

" a litany of proscriptions for how to appear normal, including cutting your hair, not staying up too late, and avoiding alienating your straight friends and family members (and therefore appearing suspicious) by not dropping off the face of the earth."
Wow, its like, just being normal is a revolutionary act!

One of my favorite zines

It's going to be interesting to watch what happens when the altright goes through it's disaffected stage. Clandestined violence is the point where you run out of sincere integrally focused ideas. Also, anarchists, never hang out with disaffected vanguard politicos see also that recurring structural relationship with anarchists and maoists which should never have been in the first place.

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