A swastika was one of the images that volunteers armed with rags and sponges tried to clean up in Tokyo’s Okubo district on Monday. Hateful graffiti targeting Koreans had appeared around the district over the past few weeks. The volunteers, members of Japanese groups who have opposed right-wing and xenophobic rallies in the past, finally got fed up.Anti-Korea rallies, propaganda, and graffiti have grown more visible in Japan over the past year or so. Last February hundreds of demonstrators appeared around Okubu district, which is known for Korean restaurants and shops, waving signs that read “roaches” and “go back to Korea.” “Let’s Kill Koreans!” they chanted. The graffiti language cleaned up by the volunteer groups over the weekend was similarly hateful: “Koreans, do not come to Japan”; “Vile idiots”; “Go home.”Most Japanese are shocked by this kind of hate speech and the groups that support it. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the phenomenon “extremely regrettable” last year. But since then, he and members of his government have become increasingly hostile toward neighboring countries and dismissive of their concerns over Japan’s apparent desire to revise the accepted history of its aggression and atrocities during World War II. This is all a reflection of the rise of nationalism among ordinary citizens, as well as a swing to the right in Japanese politics.The rightward tilt in Japanese society is especially evident—and alarming—among young people. In Tokyo’s mayoral election in February, 24 percent of voters in their 20s supported General Toshio Tamogami, the leader of a xenophobic far-right political party, whom pundits had almost entirely written off as a fringe nationalist. In parliament, a cohort of young, conservative members of Abe’s party cheer whenever he makes antagonistic remarks about China and South Korea.
East Asian xenophobiaVicious Anti-Korea Graffiti Signals Rise of Nationalism in Japan