Today is the fortieth anniversary of a shocking but remarkably little-known incident and the most fatal of its kind until the Aum sarin subway attack in 1995. On August 30th, 1974, the headquarters of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries were devastated by a pair of homemade bombs left at the entrance to the building by members of the “wolf” (Ōkami) cell of the East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front (Higashi Ajia Hannichi Busō Sensen).
The bombs ripped through the lobby of the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Headquarters. Eight people were killed and nearly 400 wounded in the blast that went off during lunchtime, with much of the carnage caused by glass from blown-out windows in the surrounding office buildings falling down on pedestrians. This massacre was not the intended effect. The bombing was an amateur’s affair, using far too much explosives hastily recycled from a failed bid to bomb the Emperor’s train earlier in the month. A cell member rang Mitsubishi to give them a warning but did not allow enough time. As was argued at their subsequent trials, the leaders had not wanted to murder innocent people indiscriminately. Collateral damage was to be expected but the attack was aimed squarely at the corporation itself, not the public.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was then located in Ōtemachi-Marunouchi. The area is largely owned by Mitsubishi, having been bought up by the original family just after the collapse of the feudal system, when it was an abandoned former barracks. It was a joke at the time that Mitsubishi had wasted its money on such a nugatory investment. However, over the decades the district around the attractive brick Tokyo Station has developed into the economic engine of Japan. The revenue from the dozens of listed corporations based in the district equates to over twenty per cent of Japan’s GDP. Until the 1950’s the government also housed many of its offices there, before re-locating to nearby Kasumigaseki. Today Mitsubishi Heavy Industries resides in Shinagawa and the attack on the heart of the Japanese economy in 1974 is largely relegated to historical trivia.
The “wolf” cell was soon joined by two others and the three teams engaged in a bombing campaign for several months on the facilities of other major Japanese corporations. However, these bombings were smaller and better organised. No one was killed and injuries were minimal. But the police were closing in. Officers eventually arrested most of the cell members on the same day in May 1975 and the leaders were sentenced to death, though the executions are as of writing yet to be carried out.
The East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front is usually classified as part of the Japanese New Left but its ideology and methodology was very different to other radical leftist groups, not least how its target was solely the Japanese state, which it viewed as inherently imperialist and militant, encroaching on weaker neighbours either through actual invasion or trade and commerce. Like the self-hating Jew, the members of the Armed Front believed that Japan was rotten to its core, that its personality is fundamentally belligerent and violent towards others. This is demonstrated by Japan’s past treatment of Ainu and other ethnic groups, as well as its empire-building in Asia. During the 1970’s Mitsubishi was also responsible for making parts of armaments used in Vietnam, just as now its products are being used by Israel in Gaza. (Officially, exporting arms is not allowed.) The East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front wanted to destroy the apparatus of Japanese aggression, which would ultimately end with the destruction of Japan itself.
This almost nihilistic and anarchistic radicalism is quite at odds with the more constructive ideologies of Marxist groups, and the members themselves led double lives as lone urban guerrillas, working ordinary jobs during the day and building bombs at night. Although the Front inspired some later copycat bombings and campaigns by independent radicals and two members were even freed extralegally by the actions of the Japanese Red Army, its ideas and exploits have consigned it to a very isolated place in the canon, abhorrent to the average citizen and rejected by other left-wing peers.