Japan received a blast from the past, almost literally, on October 20th, when residents in Kawaguchi City, a suburb of Tokyo in Saitama Prefecture, were awoken by a loud sound in the early hours of the morning.
“I thought a plane had fallen from the sky,” said one resident.
But it was something less arbitrary. On the third floor stairwell of a condo police found a 50cm pipe, the remains of equipment for launching a projectile. A homemade metal “rocket” (mortar) had been fired and struck the wall of a neighboring building between the second and third storeys.
There were no injuries but there was immediate speculation that the attack was the work of a far-left radical group. The homemade rocket had hit the wall of a construction company linked to the controversial plans to relocate Futenma U.S. base in Okinawa to Henoko Bay, which has been intensely protested by thousands of locals this year. The company, unnamed in media reports, has been involved with surveys of the site.
Now there has been a de facto confirmation of the suspicions as today (October 25th) numerous media outlets reported that they had received contact from a group claiming responsibility. The perpetrators call themselves the “Revolutionary Army” (Kakumeigun) and say they carried out the attack to block the relocation of the base.
The attack, as ineffective as it was, recalls the guerrilla stunts by Chūkaku-ha and other far-left Japanese radical groups, especially during the 1980’s and 1990’s in connection with the extension of Narita International Airport and the change-over of the emperor. There were also many bombings in the late 1960’s and 1970’s, mostly directed at state, police or American facilities, with the notable except of the East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front and its copycats.
The Narita bombings are a similar case to this recent one since they were revenge attacks against corporations connected to the construction work.
However, in recent years, only Sekisaisha (also known as the Kimoto-ha or Yamashige-ha), a faction of Kaihō-ha (Kakurōkyō), has indulged in these kinds of activities, in their case against U.S. military facilities.
In police terminology, radical groups that carry out these kinds of actions are labelled kagekiha (militant or extreme faction, domestically almost always used for New Left groups) or kyokusa bōryoku shūdan (far-left militant group). The incidents are called “guerrilla” attacks.
The “Revolutionary Army” who has claimed responsibility has an unusually generic name, one which does not reveal any connections with Japan’s pre-existing, highly convoluted family of New Left factions. This may mean it is a non-sectarian group, possibility Okinawan, that is acting for the first time. One of the characteristics of the so-called guerrilla campaigns carried out by established far-left groups in past decades in Japan was that the groups openly propagandized their actions as part of the struggle. While most have now surely left their wilder days behind them, if they were involved here, I suspect they would still follow their past habits and claim the stunt. The fact that it is a new name suggests that the culprits may be what the police used to call “black helmet” radicals, an independent anarchist or non-sectarian group.