The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department and Kanagawa police have apparently discovered the real name and registered address of the head of far-left political group Kakumaru-ha (Revolutionary Marxist Faction).
If true, it would be the first time that the actual identity of Hiroshi Nitta (70) has been revealed. He assumed the leadership of Kakumaru-ha in 1996 after founder Kanichi Kuroda stepped down, though for around 20 years he has used the nom de guerre of Takuma Ueda and almost never shown his face in public.
Police from Tokyo and Kanagawa raided apartments in Kanagawa and Tokyo on January 10th on suspicion of uttering of counterfeit private documents. The allegation is that a man in his sixties used a different name to renew the lease on another apartment in Arakawa ward in east Tokyo, which was being used as a secret base (ajito) for the faction, in March 2012. Such minor infractions are often used as pretexts to raid facilities or properties associated with far-left activists in the hope of finding new information on past cases.
Police announced today that the Kanagawa apartment was registered by Ueda under what they believe to be his real name, Hiroshi Nitta.
It is very common for far-left activists to assume false names and live “underground” for years at a time. One of the longest-running fugitive cases in Japan is Masaaki Ōsaka, who has been on the lam for decades while probably supported by a network of activists.
Perhaps not unsurprisingly, Kakumaru-ha has accused the search of being unjust and denied that Nitta is Ueda’s name. “A risible, reckless statement,” is said with its usual panache for language. The revelation is essentially academic, since a name alone will not lead to his arrest, even assuming the police have grounds for taking him into custody.
Though its period of violent inter-factional conflict was largely behind it, Ueda/Nitta took command of Kakumaru-ha at a time when the group was under intense police pressure. Though it has not engaged in direct attacks against the state in the same ways as the likes of Sekigun-ha, Chūkaku-ha or Kakurōkyō, Kakumaru-ha has been a police target, in particular since the 1990s when it was involved in various bugging cases. The group also faces straitened circumstances. It long relied on its key base of Waseda University to provide it with funds but the private college, like many others in Japan, has worked to expel the radical group from campus. Kakumaru-ha is also allegedly connected to the Japan Confederation of Railway Workers’ Unions and East Japan Railway Workers’ Union. Its public headquarters, Kaihō-sha, is a condominium building near Waseda, tucked away in a residential street.
This was raided by police in July last year after men believed to be Kakumaru-ha activists were arrested for allegedly trespassing in a hotel in Kobe. Four men aged in their sixties and seventies apparently entered the hotel without permission in June 2016 to distribute leaflets about labour issues and nuclear power.
Police and media reports regularly estimate that Kakumaru-ha currently has some 3,000 members, making it the largest far-left organisation in Japan or at least on par with its arch-rival, Chūkaku-ha, which is nonetheless more active in terms of street protests. Veteran far-left groups are facing terminal decline as their members age — the majority will surely be over 50 or 60 years old by now — and finances dwindle, notwithstanding a recent boost for Chūkaku-ha and its Zengakuren student wing at bases such as Kyoto University.