While the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department may seem to have something of an obsession with veteran far-left group Chūkaku-ha and arresting its members, from the young to the old, on trivial charges, that is not to suggest it is only interested in the one faction alone.
Despite the cynical neoliberal circumstances of the present, or perhaps precisely because of them, Chūkaku-ha remains quite buoyant and proactively involved with a wide range of political and labour campaigns to which it devotes a lot of energy in terms of street protests, small strikes, petitions, disseminating information online and in print, and launching legal challenges. The other major far-left groups are comparatively less in the public eye, but that doesn’t mean the police are willing to let them be. As we saw from the recent Kakumaru-ha searches, they still carry out regular raids and arrests of the rapidly ageing membership of these groups.
The third main far-left group is Kakurōkyō (originally Kaihō-ha) and its twin factions: the “non-mainstream faction”, also known as the Kimoto-ha, Yamashige-ha or Sekisaisha-ha; and the “mainstream faction”, or Hazama-ha or Gendaisha-ha.
The latter attracted fresh police attention in 2015 during the height of the protests against the security bills. But it is the Kimoto-ha faction that is seen as the genuinely dangerous of the two today, since it is essentially the only far-left organisation of its kind in Japan that remains militant. While Chūkaku-ha has officially given up militant tactics, the non-mainstream faction of Kakurōkyō has continued throughout the Heisei period to launch attacks, sporadic and ineffective as they are, against government and US military targets.
In 2015 it allegedly launched a mortar attack against Camp Zama, a US army base in Kanagawa Prefecture. It is suspected of a similar incident in 2014 aimed at a construction contractor involved in the controversial relocation of Futenma Base to Henoko.
Responsibility for the attacks was claimed by a cell calling itself the Revolutionary Army, though police believe this is simply an unofficial paramilitary wing of Kimoto-ha (indeed, the group openly published the Revolutionary Army’s communiqués). Police have naturally been trying to thwart this pesky reminder of the nation’s radical not-so-distant past. On January 24th, Tokyo police arrested two male construction workers on suspicion of counterfeiting documents, though this will likely only be the initial charge while they gather evidence for more serious indictments. Kinsaku Mutō and Toyotsuna Numata — both aged 65 and residing in, respectively, Saitama Prefecture and Chiba City — are alleged by the Public Security Bureau of making contracts with a construction company under false names between 2012 and 2013. They had been wanted by police after raids on supposed covert bases in February 2016.
Police believe the pair were involved in making the mortar-launched projectiles that were used in recent “guerrilla” attacks, such as the 2013 Yokota Air Base incident that resulted in six arrests a year ago. (Four were later released without charge and the other two charged with counterfeiting documents — a typical minor offence that can be deployed against far-left radicals, who often live under various aliases.) According to the public security police, the sites raided in 2016 turned up evidence of Mutō and Numata’s involvement, such as a video taken by Numata of the area around JGSDF Camp Asaka (the target of an abortive mortar attack in 2016) and notes on water-soluble paper showing where Mutō had concealed six explosives.
Kakurōkyō actually has its main annual rally planned for February 26th in Tokyo, where we can expect the police presence to be significant.
Ideologically, the Kimoto-ha faction of Kakurōkyō is roughly aligned with the likes of Chūkaku-ha — they even appear at the same rallies sometimes, such as ones related to opposition to Narita Airport — and campaigns against the US-Japan alliance, the Abe government and its perceived militarisation, and the emperor system. It calls for a national class-based revolutionary movement that can initiate general strikes as well as a communist workers’ party and the destruction of its rival, Kakumaru-ha, who is also an old enemy of Chūkaku-ha. It has a Zengakuren student wing, though this is less prominent than Chūkaku-ha’s.
The state is anxious to clamp down on these senior radicals as Tokyo draws closer to the 2020 Olympics. As unlikely as their tactics are to cause actual fatalities or even serious injuries, any breach of security during the Games or in the changeover of emperor, which is likely to happen between now and 2020, would be humiliating. The G7 summit in Tokyo in 1986 was affected by several embarrassing guerrilla incidents, while the period marking the changeover to the current emperor nearly 30 years ago also saw a spike in small bombings and other incidents carried out by far-left radicals.