Takaya Shiomi, former leader of Sekigun-ha (Red Army Faction), has died aged 76, reported Japanese media today.
He passed away from heart failure on November 14th at a hospital in Kodaira, a city in west Tokyo. Born in Hiroshima in 1941, Shiomi became involved with radical politics during his time at Kyoto University. He formed Sekigun-ha in 1969 as a breakaway faction from the Bund at the peak of the Japanese student movement and campus strikes. Generally regarded as the best-known far-left group in Japan, the faction immediately achieved notoriety by attacking other leftist activists in public. It launched a series of attacks against police stations and vehicles in Tokyo and Osaka before the authorities conducted a large-scale raid in November 1969, arresting dozens of members while they were training in the countryside.
Shiomi and the other leaders went underground, where they planned Japan’s first airplane hijacking. The so-called Yodogō incident (after the aircraft’s name) was carried out in March 1970, though Shiomi was apprehended by police shortly beforehand. This ultimately proved somewhat fortunate for him, since the hijackers became stuck in North Korea after the plane was flown there. Shiomi served nearly 20 years in prison, much of it on remand, for planning the hijacking, though there was no law specifically against airplane hijacking at the time, as well as conspiring to attack the prime minister’s residence and other charges. Elements of Sekigun-ha then developed into other factions such as Rengō Sekigun (United Red Army), which self-destructed through an infamous purge in late 1971 and early 1972, and the internationally based Japanese Red Army.
Following his release from prison in late 1989, Shiomi worked as a parking lot attendant in Kiyose, a small city on the outskirts of Tokyo. He also published several books — most recently in 2014 — and was quite a regular guest speaker at public talks. He campaigned unsuccessfully for a seat in the Kiyose municipal assembly election in 2015.
Shiomi is one of several other prominent figures in the Japanese New Left who have died this year, including East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front bomber Masashi Daidōji, Sanrizuka movement leader Kōichi Kitahara, and former Chūkaku-ha radical Kōichi Kishi.