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News Analysis: Abe unifies far-right ideology in upper echelons of Japanese politics

by Jon Day

TOKYO, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) -- Due to a number of his recent policy moves that have steered Japan dramatically towards the right in recent months and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's affiliations, both open and more clandestine, to groups that harbor fundamentalist nationalistic leanings that embrace many of the tenets of pre-WWII Japan, including those of State Shinto, Japan's leader can no longer hide behind smoke and mirrors.

The most recent and incontrovertible evidence of Abe's plans for ideological, jingoistic uniformity at the highest level of politics in Japan -- ideologies that fly in the face of Japan's own Constitution, dismiss the fundamental premises of the U.S.- Japan alliance underwritten by the San Francisco Peace Treaty 1951, and, equally if not more worryingly, the wholesale rejection of the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal -- is the prime minister's clear plans to unite a number of parliamentary leagues and "issue groups " that expound ultranationalist ideologies.

"It's absolutely no coincidence that the majority of Abe's Cabinet following his reshuffle last week belong to a number of parliamentary and nonparty groups that hold ultra-right wing beliefs," Keiko Gono, a prominent Tokyo-based sociologist told Xinhua.

"The danger being, if these parties were to merge in any way and see numbers swell more than we already know from the top to the bottom of politics, then, far from concerns of mere nationalism, the world will literally have to prepare itself for a Japan that is step-by-step, setting about overturning the postwar regime, and this is no embellishment of the truth, this is, in actuality, what is happening as we speak," Gono said. "And for those of us in the know, it's terrifying," the acclaimed academic stated.

Gono added that Abe's new Cabinet, ushered in on Sept. 3, for all intents and purposes, seemed to have been done with economics and female equality in mind, but explained that much of this was smoke and mirrors and, in fact, the selections were made for far different, surreptitious reasons, that are slowly become as blatant as they are disturbing.

In a huge departure from previous administrations, Abe's new Cabinet is ideologically on the same footing, whereas former Cabinets have, historically, been selected based on balancing intraparty factions, which allowed for policies to be debated and decided upon based on differing perspectives, competition and the ability to negotiate, as has been the postwar norm.

Abe's Cabinet is now, however, of a single, revisionist mind and along with a number of other Shinto-based political cliques has a keen eye on charting a course away from postwar political norms and values, and back towards ultranationalism.

"The hub of these leagues, with a membership that claims 63 percent of the extended 97-member Abe administration and nearly 90 percent of its 18 cabinet ministers, is the Shinto Association of Spiritual Leadership Diet Members' Caucus. The caucus is an extension of the Shinto Association of Spiritual Leadership, an organization established in 1970 to preserve the political presence of Shinto in Japan."

"Shinto, as defined by the association, resembles State Shinto, which was the official ideology of Imperial Japan (1868-1945). Members want to restore the divine right of the Emperor and support the reinstatement of the Emperor as the executive of Japan. Japan's current constitution rejects this view and separates the political and religious realms. Abe is the Association's current secretary-general," Mindy Kotler and George Lazopoulos, Ph.D., director and deputy director of Asia Policy Point, a Washington think tank, said in a recent editorial on the matter, just prior to the reshuffle.

With Abe's Cabinet now being the most rightwing in Japan's postwar history, as pundits have attested, the premier has surrounded himself with a tight-knit coterie of very personal friends and allies who share the same fundamental beliefs as a former imperialist regime that could only be stopped by the United States dropping atomic bombs on two of its cities to force the end of the war, and, the intransigent religious ideology that, for example, martyred pilots who used their planes as manned missiles against the Allied forces.

"Regardless of the women Abe's ushered into his Cabinet, there' s a consensus among the majority of this coteries that Japan should maintain an active military, reject the separation of religion and state, refuse to accept responsibility for Japan's wartime atrocities and the war-ending agreements made between Japan and the U.S., and, generally speaking, see Japan returned to an ultra-conservatist society that rejects individual liberties, such as women's rights, and is led once again, by Shintoism," David McLellan, a professor emeritus of postgraduate Asian Studies in Tokyo, told Xinhua.

"The vast majority of his Cabinet belong to Nippon Kaigi, an organization which is an ultranationalistic nonparty organization with around 300,000 members who all believe in praising the Imperial family (The Emperor), changing the pacifist Constitution, promoting nationalistic education in schools and supporting parliamentarians' visits to Yasukuni Shrine," McLellan said.

"Effectively, Nippon Kaigi is the biggest rightwing organization in Japan and Abe has cherry picked his new Cabinet members from this group to run the country. These Shinto conservatives believe that Japan should not apologize for its wartime acts of brutality and despite the legitimacy of proven historical events, such as the travesty inflicted on Nanking in China during WWII and the Imperial Forces' forcible use of comfort women," the expert on Asian affairs added.

As Abe sets about trying to achieve his lofty goal of having more than 30 percent of women in Japan occupying senior positions in the labor force by 2020, his addition of five new female members to his Cabinet may seem a testament to his commitment here, but, in fact, pundits here are suggesting this move, as has been Abe's modus operandi since his first stint as Japan's leader, is just more smoke and mirrors to dupe a world already hoodwinked by "Abenomics."

All of the female ministers support Nippon Kaigi and, by virtue of supporting the group, are tacitly approving the notorious groups' explicit disapproval of gender equality.

Indeed, his appointments of Tomomi Inada as the new female LDP policy chief, could potentially derail any future hopes Japan has of mending ties with some of its closest neighbors, which have been all but severed due to Japan's refusal to accept its wartime culpability, politicians', including Abe's, seemingly whimsical visits to Yasukuni Shrine and ongoing territorial altercations.

"Inada has been a vocal defender of Japan's wartime aggression and has publicly disputed Japan's incontrovertible and admitted use of comfort women during WWII and (Sanae) Takaichi is known to have a particularly cozy relationship with Abe, and also espouses nationalistic views, having previously petitioned the government to replace the landmark Kono Statement -- a benchmark apology from Japan for the forcible wartime conscription and enslavement of comfort women," Kaoru Imori, a renowned local pundit on Asian affairs, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

"All that remains to be said is that now the smoke is beginning to clear, it's getting easier to see Abe and his nationalist troupe of Shintoists' true reflection and intentions in the mirrors," Gono concluded.

Related:

Japan reshuffles cabinet, introducing 12 new faces

TOKYO, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga released new cabinet lineup on Wednesday.

The reshuffle ushered in 12 new faces and five female ministers in the new 18-member lineup.Full story

Japan's ruling LDP unveils new executive lineup

TOKYO, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) -- Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) unveiled its new executive lineup Wednesday, with Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki replacing Shigeru Ishiba as the party's secretary general, local media reported.

Ishiba is seen as a potential rival to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who also heads the LDP, in future party leadership race and the replacement could weaken Ishiba's influence within the ruling party as No. 2 effective figure, according to analysts and reports here. Full story

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