It is part of the inherent nature of being an expatriate that you reinvent yourself in your new country of residence, whether by design or by accident. Japan is a place that seems to allow this more easily than elsewhere, perhaps especially if you are Western and male. From zero to hero, as the old gaijin joke has it: back home, a nobody; in Japan, a minor TV celebrity or fashion model, and an instant success with local ladies.
If the title of this post sounds like a contradiction in terms, that’s because it is. But there was indeed none other than a white man participating in a Japanese far-right protest march on May 28th in Shinjuku. The march — condemned by counter-protestors as a racist anti-Korean “hate demo” — happened on a Sunday afternoon as shoppers enjoyed the early summer weather in the heart of one of Tokyo’s main commercial districts. While the participant numbers appeared small, as is typical for these fringe groups, the march should be noteworthy in and of itself, given its repudiation of the clean image of Tokyo and Shinjuku the authorities are trying to promote in the run-up to the 2020 Olympics, and that national legislation was passed intended to curb hate speech. It also comes just days after a 65-year-old man was arrested for allegedly attempting to burn down a Zainichi Korean (Japanese-born ethnic Koreans) credit union in Nagoya.
But it was the curious case of the white guy that drew much attention. Wearing sunglasses and a white t-shirt dyed with a red Rising Sun flag, the young man proudly carried a matching flag and held a placard with a hammer and sickle crossed out (presumably a reference to North Korea, though the regime actually uses a variation on this Communist symbol). His exact motivations are a mystery. Was the man an audacious prankster trolling the racists, or simply a non-Japanese resident whose views are aligned with the rest of the marchers? Or was he a comedian in the manner of Minoru Torihada, performing an elaborate stunt? Or a weeb who has taken his dream of “turning Japanese” to an extreme (and a right-wing extreme, at that)?
Organised by Shūsei Sakurada’s New Social Movement — a small but prolific ultra-nationalist group that focuses on anti-Korean issues — the march itself started in Kashiwagi Park and then headed to the west side of Shinjuku Station. Below is the “official trailer” for the event.
The entire march was followed closely by a boisterous counter-protest called by Anti-Racism Project, with the harried bevy of police keeping the two sides away from each other.
The facetious response to the aberrant marcher would be that the hate groups are now so desperate for attendance that they are even recruiting Westerners to their ranks. Truth, though, is sometimes stranger than fiction. The spectacle of the “white Japanese ultra-nationalist” could almost be a scene out of Go! Go! Second Time Gaijin, an upcoming mockumentary, centred, as discussed before, “around a Caucasian expat who believes himself to be a member of the Japanese ultra-nationalist right”.
But there are indeed gaijin uyoku: anecdotes regularly surface that the ranks of the far-right groups are actually filled with Zainichi Koreans, not least because some of the traditional rightists have links to the Yakuza, which is apparently populated with people from various social fringes. As extraordinary as it may sound, this is not even the first example of a white foreigner who has become a vocal mouthpiece for Japanese nationalist sentiments. We have already had the likes of Tony Marano, aka “Texas Daddy”, and Kent Gilbert. Is there now a new contender?
Update: More Details on the White Participant in March
A little searching of videos posted online by New Social Movement has revealed that the white participant in the march has attended several other rallies by the same group and associated groups.
This video shows him attending one previous event on January 3rd when he even gave a speech in Japanese (from around 8:20). In it he introduces himself as Spanish, though wisely does not give his name. In his speech he says that foreign countries tell a lot of lies about Japan but he believes Japan to be a “good country”. He claims that Japan’s neighbours just spread false rumours about Japan, such as about the comfort women and Nanking massacre. He then turns the argument around to Western imperialism and how the real losers of the war were the colonies of the Western powers, and that these countries were grateful to Japan for “liberating” them. He also claims that “hate speech” does not actually exist.
Here are videos with more examples of his speeches at rallies this year and identifying him as “Daniel”.