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  • A Nation Restored:The Utopian Future of Japan’s Far Right
  • Matthew Penney

Most scholarly writing about Japanese neonationalism focuses on what it denies or denounces. The emphasis falls on how pundits and politicians decry Japan’s postwar history as delegitimized by the “American-authored” constitution and deny the suffering of Korean comfort women and the Japanese army’s victimization of civilians at Nanking. Behind efforts to deny and discredit, however, neonationalist writing does try to construct something positive—a vision of the future in which far-right cultural and political positions “save” the nation and build a uniquely Japanese utopia.

The essay below is a fiction constructed by bringing together the most common elements of far-right myth making in Japan’s popular media. Built around the fantastic conceit that the right’s favorite assumptions and predictions have come true, the fiction takes the form of a history of Japan, 2015 to 2050, written in the middle of the twenty-first century. It thus offers a summary of the ideas of the incredibly prolific rightist culture machine. While these ideas might not find full expression on television or in best-selling newspapers such as Yomiuri, Asahi, and Mainichi, the texts that espouse them crowd bookstore shelves and convenience store pulp nonfiction racks, effectively forming a type of alternative public sphere. This essay [End Page 98] constitutes an attempt to extract a narrative and perspective shared by right-wing writers, the utopian vision of the future that they hold in common. I have added numerous endnotes to the fiction to give a sense of where the perspectives drawn on are situated within contemporary right discourses.

Examining the imaginative emplotment of rightist desires in future history sheds light on the way that Japanese right-wingers view historical causality. Salient in a wide range of rightist writings is a powerful ethno-cultural essentialism. Change is not something that comes from forward thinking, new possibilities, or creative alternatives, but rather from turning to the past. “Restoring Japan,”1 a “Heisei Restoration,”2 “Escaping from the Postwar Regime”3 (toward a new prewar regime?), and embracing “True History” are all major threads of political speech and pop nationalist writing. All look to the past to provide the panacea for Japan’s ills, to offer a source of productive destruction of everything held to be wrong with the postwar era. This theme and its teleological presumptions come into stark contrast when framed in a single story.

There are important differences of opinion on the far right. Common, however, is a conflict-based view of international affairs and an obsession with the idea that Japanese sovereignty, cultural and territorial, is under assault, necessitating a more powerful state and a return to “traditional values.” These traditional values are, of course, ethereal, and their definitions can oscillate wildly, even in the works of a single author. What remains consistent, however, is the idea that a return to a “truer past” is the key to Japan’s future.

In this exercise of analytical fiction, I have attempted to highlight the right’s most frequently repeated themes. Even if some of the authors cited here do not resort to the same themes, they publish in the same magazines, such as Will and Seiron, and with the same publishers, like PHP and Wac; they endorse each other’s work and have generally formed an alternative public sphere in which the kinds of assertions used to assemble this account are not only common but the norm. This text relies heavily on the words of Tamogami Toshio. Tamogami has more than 200,000 followers on Twitter. In the 2013 Tokyo gubernatorial election, he finished fourth out of five major candidates but placed second among voters in their twenties, placing him among the right-wing pundits who have the most substantial public presence.4 [End Page 99]

Prime Minister Abe Shinzō and other elite politicians are more careful in their public statements than pop nationalist authors who mobilize their readers by expressing sentiments of outrage and victimhood. Abe selectively cultivates conciliatory rhetoric, and in some contexts, such as an interview with Foreign Affairs in 2013, has stuck to the line of official contrition, saying...


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pp. 98-112
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