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  • Destiny: The Secret Operations of the Yodogō Exiles by Kōji Takazawa
  • John Cussen (bio)
Destiny: The Secret Operations of the Yodogō Exiles by Kōji Takazawa. Edited and translated by Patricia G. Steinhoff. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai'i Press, 2017. 452 pages. $70.00 cloth.

If, as is widely understood, the Japanese public wondered little for three decades about the fate of the nine Japanese student/radicals who in the early spring of 1970 hijacked a passenger-laden, commercial airplane destined for Fukuoka, commandeered its diversion to North Korea, and, for a long time thereafter, largely slipped into the black hole of mystery and enigma that is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), that wonder's shortfall was abundantly compensated for by the relentless, consuming interest of freelance journalist Kōji Takazawa in the last of those decades. A contemporary himself of the student/radicals who had stolen the plane, terrorized for a time their compatriots, and taken refuge in their nation's nearby arch-enemy state, indeed, like them too, a former Red Army Faction member, Takazawa, from the time of the Tiananmen Square protests through to the century's near-end, pursued patiently and yet steadily—by means forensic, ruminative, and journalistic—the questions that most concerned him and his generational contemporaries vis-à-vis the hijacking nine's rude act of rebellion and disappearance: their status and style of life in North Korea, the means and depth of their brainwashing, their relations with their [End Page 196] virulently anti-Japanese hosts, the uses to which those hosts had put them, the possibility of their involvement in the (rumored at that time, but since then confirmed) kidnapping of Japanese citizens by North Korea in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and, most important to Takazawa, the connection, if any, between their in-captivity enthrallment with juche—the DPRK's all-encompassing philosophy, politic, ethic, and playbook—and their prior, first attachment to radical New Left ideology.

The culminating product of this long investigation was the monumental history/meditation/cat-and-mouse, journalistic procedural/blockbuster/exposé Shukumei: Yodogō Bomeishatachi no Himitsu Kosaku. Published in 1998, the work was both celebrated and regretted in Japan. For its scope, thoroughness, and bold departure from Japan's regnant journalistic culture—kisha kurabu (press club culture)—wherein no single newsgatherer was allowed to get too far ahead of his or her colleagues nor to challenge their narratives—as well as, too, for its effective straddling of the divide between fiction and nonfiction, it was awarded the 1999 Kodansha Prize for Nonfiction. On the other hand, the book drew a virulently negative response from an important, albeit minority, portion of the Japanese reading public. Ironically, the offended were not those who had written off the hijackers as the worst, traitorous fruits of a misguided generation, but, instead, readers like Takazawa himself, that is, those who had for years stalwartly clung to the fond hope that some remnant of all that was aspirational in the hijacking nine's bold act of Marxist/Socialist, anti-institutional rebellion on the last day of March 1970 was still to be found in them. Indeed, loudest in the Japanese crowd put off by the book were those who had been working to facilitate the hijackers' repatriation by giving them credit for, rather than holding against them, the counter-establishment idealism that had been their generation's defining, if regrettable, trait in and around 1969–1970. For these repatriating folks, an unconscionable stab in the back by one of their own was this large handful of unflattering revelations about the hijackers advanced by Takazawa's text: their palatial lodging in the DPRK's supposed "workers' paradise"; their having abandoned completely their New Left ideologies in favor of juche; their complicity in the rumored kidnappings; their involvement as couriers in North Korea's several European black-market and money laundering rackets of the 1980s and 1990s; their having been at the very least complicit in the murdering of one of their own group's members; and, lastly, their fifth-column intentions, once returned to Japan, for the makeover of their home state in juche's bizarre...


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pp. 196-198
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