My SNA Visible Minorities 36: “Abe’s Assassination and the Revenge of History” (July 18, 2022), on how his historical revisionism created a blind spot that ultimately killed him


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Hi Blog.  After the Abe Assassination, people have been asking me what I think about it.  In short, I think Abe’s historical revisionism is what got him killed.  Opening of my latest SNA column 35:


Abe’s Assassination and the Revenge of History

By Debito Arudou,  Shingetsu News Agency, July 18, 2022

SNA (Tokyo) — The assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has occasioned a lot of valuable, eye-opening discussions in the media, but few if any have focused upon how Abe’s death could be seen as a form of karmic payback–-what happens when you ignore the lessons of history in the pursuit of raw political power.

The discussions have instead focused on the veneer of Japan’s “safe” society being blown away by a homemade gun; or about how the world’s democracies have been deprived of a Japanese leader comfortable on the international stage (while egregiously overlooking all the damage he did to Japan’s democracy).

A few intrepid journalists (starting with the SNA) have explored the swamp of Abe’s political connections with the “Moonies” religious cult, and how that probably gave motive to the killer.

To me the most absurd debate has been whether Abe’s death was an “assassination” at all –- the Japanese media have uniformly refused to use the corresponding word ansatsu, portraying it as merely a “shooting event” (jugeki jiken).

These important topics have been covered elsewhere by people with more expertise, so this column will take a different tack. It will discuss the role of national narratives in a society, how dishonest national narratives stunt the maturity of societies, and how a willful ignorance of history due to these national narratives circled back to kill Abe…

Read the rest at
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25 comments on “My SNA Visible Minorities 36: “Abe’s Assassination and the Revenge of History” (July 18, 2022), on how his historical revisionism created a blind spot that ultimately killed him

  • Yeah, he was a fascist. It’s a shame how international media wants to whitewash him. Good riddance.

  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    Unfortunately, the connection with the Moonies will be seen as a Korean connection going back to Kishi rather than Abe’s personal political ties with the group (Yamagami specifically stated that Abe’s appearance in a video endorsing an organization affiliated with the Moonies was his motivation for killing him); nor will most locals recognize that the Moonies are essentially a pro-corporate, anti-communist group, and the Korean connection is unimportant here.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    The shocking wave of his assassination was so immense that it captured political/national leaders, journalists and pundits overseas as well. Not surprisingly, western media commentators and pundits love to portray him as a respectable, heroic figure of ‘neoliberal’ world order while conveniently ignoring his notorious family history –i.e., grandfather pardoned and groomed by USG/CIA. Professor Koichi Nakano refused the invitation from CNN for their same old hagiographic coverage of nationalist iconoclast, and instead appeared in Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now!. He also mocked western ‘white’ liberals for giving Abe an unreserved praise for his achivement in ‘opening up’ Japan but overlooking his nationalist ilk and corruptions. Like many readers here, I usually turn to people like Jeff Kingston, Michael Penn, Jake Adelstein, Justin Mccurry for genuine critique of Abe/LDP regime. This time, I also saw a couple of more critics–and this is indeed a surprise to me– Aaron Good(American Exception Podcast) and Ben Norton (Multipolarista/GrayZone). While both are outspoken critics of western imperial foreign policy that is destablizing the world, their critique of Abe’s problems gives a new perspective. Perhaps, some of you may disagree with Ben Norton on depiction of US as “The 4th Riech,” but his characterization of Abe and imperial family is priceless.

    Aaron Good:

    Ben Norton:

  • Another great analysis. Abe’s politics were extremely violent and his connections with organised crime were well-known. I might have been one of not so few to not be surprised he went like this. He died the way he made others live, and the way even more would have lived had he skewed Japan’s political even more in his favour.

    And yes, he relied on nationalism to push whatever agenda he had. Nationalism is, in its nature, discriminatory, its enforcement is inherently violent and its results are missed opportunities to learn from history. How can this nation improve if it already is the most glorious one made of the kindest people in the world? If you think otherwise, you’re anti-Japanese and an enemy. This is literally one of the defining characteristics of fascism laid out by Umberto Eco.

    It was depressing to read about the murder as a “a blow to democracy” as if Abe wasn’t someone openly applauding and working for an end to democracy in Japan. If anything was a blow to democracy in Japan, it was his second term in office. The celebratory nature of the narrative surrounding his death is also a slap in the face of minorities (visible and invisible) and anyone else affected by the hate speech he encouraged and jingoism he promoted.

    Yamagami claims the Moonies have ruined his and his family’s life, quite believable if you know anything about how and why cults operate. A desperate man who committed a desperate act of violence. Abe, on the other hand, spent a life ruining (and ending) other people’s lives for no other reason than personal gain. Who is or was more dangerous to society?

  • Some Nazis actually spoke out against Japanese atrocities, they were that bad. And not just John Rabe.
    “While reading Rationalwiki page on the Rape of Nanjing part of the article really stood out to me:

    …such as hanging people by their tongues on iron hooks or burying people to their waists and watching them torn apart by German shepherds. So sickening was the spectacle that even Nazis in the city were horrified.”
    (And a tangent, but the Nazi’s had ultra progressive laws protecting animal rights that I doubt the Imperial Japanese bothered with) .

    — I think we need some links to sources for these claims.

  • Great article, Dr Debito, though of course the Elephant in the Room is, as I keep saying, Nobusukebe Kishi, Abe’s venerated grandfather.

    – He used slave labour in Manchuria and worked people to death.
    – He forced himself on numerous women.
    – He set up the LDP, starting the virtual one party state under a democratic veneer which continues to this day.
    – He was the one who started the links with the Moonies.

    It runs in the family. Karma indeed.

  • Here’e the first link to that quote, I will search for others

    And its interesting it talks about Abe as a Nanking Denier due to the Nobu-sukebe Kishi connection, aka “The Devil of Showa”

    The Devil of Showa. Its got a ring to it. Definitely a new pithy comeback to silence apologists.

    “In fact, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe (a grandson of former-Prime Minister and unprosecuted Class A war criminal Nobusuke KishiWikipedia, a man so brutal his own contemporaries nicknamed him “The Devil of Showa”) has been a long-time denier. “

  • There is also the simple historic fact that the NAZIs were aided the opposition to Imperial Japan at the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War until 1938. They were the military advisers for the Chinese Nationalists (Chiang Kai-shek’s regime).

    It was in fact German advisers urged Chiang to attack the Japanese in Shanghai in October, 1936, but Chiang made a ceasefire with the Japanese ambassador.

    So, at the time of Nanjing, Germany was still supplying the Chinese army. Hitler eventually decided to side with Japan due to its stronger military but arguably this was a mistake which immediately led to the loss of all German business in China, and Germany got almost nothing out of this.

    “The shift from a pro-China policy to a pro-Japan damaged German business interests, as Germany had far less economic exchange with Japan. Pro-China sentiment was also apparent in most Germans in China. For example, Germans in Hankow raised more money for the Red Cross than all other Chinese and foreign nationals in the city combined. Military advisors also wished to honour their contracts with Nanking. Von Falkenhausen was finally forced to leave at the end of June 1938 but promised Chiang that he would never reveal his work to aid the Japanese.”

  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    But wait!
    Now we have all this journalism “investigating” the Moonies’ influence in Japanese politics. Who could have imagined a religious cult interfering in the politics of Japan? (Cough… Soka Gakkai… cough… Nippon Kaigi…)

  • @Baud,
    Thats a very interesting post about Germany and their view, roles in China before the Japanese invasion.

    My feelings about PM Abe are mixed. Before the reader jumps to a conclusion of my post, please read the entire post first.
    Agreed, he was a staunch nationalist, but I saw him begin to distance himself from the more rightist members of that movement (ex. Ishihara). He would throw them a bone during his campaigning, but his policies seemed to agitate the rightist. I know he wanted to re-militarize Japan, but I think he recognized Japan must change and join the world or be stuck in the doldrums of that post Fukushima era (remember it?). His 3 arrows policy breathed some life into those dark times, particularly the liberal immigration policies He could also claim some credit for the Tokyo Olympics. Unfortunately, COVID reversed allot of his successes or hopes.

    As a foreigner in Japan, Ive never felt any policy by any PM benefited me, whether it be a Kan, Hatoyama, Taro, Abe, Mori,Koizumi etc, so I dont have any preference for any party; I just observe their dysfunction or in rare occasions, their success. .Most will visit Yasukuni, most have some distant relative or connection with the past; this is Japan after all, and its one of the many reasons I will never naturalize.
    What was interesting to me, was the reaction by some foreigners to PM Abe passing. Those foreigners who identify as “leftist” politicians media academics, etc, seemed to eulogize him in a very disconnected, almost ignorant manner. Ive witnessed this before in japan. As is posted above, Abe was a nationalist, perhaps statist and fascist,, very much in a lane opposite of any leftist. but Its as if they see japan as a monolith, a whole, all the same. There are many Japanese who did not like Abe, but the stoic, overly polite mannerisms by these foreigners was bizarre to observe and listen too.. Its like a blanket stereotype, racist perception, it seems so insincere, without any criticism they would have for someone of the same politics in their own country.

  • @ Tim, fair enough. But still a denier and apologist of his grandfather, from whom he inherited the LDP system and thus, his position.
    The whole system needs tearing down, like post Stalin USSR. The authoritarian tendencies are inherent and inherited.

  • What I am concerned with is the way the media has been policing itself and how things started to come out after the election. It is interesting how the Moonies can have an anti-Japanese slant so how can the LDP seem to support them? I think there is some sympathy for Yamagami as his father went to Kyoto University and he could only go to vocational school.

  • David Markle says:

    Well at least we know now why the push for a State funeral for Abe: take a look at the members list of the Nippon Kaigi. It is a who’s who list of J politicians:

    I tend to believe Japan wants to use homages to Abe as a way to shore up its dreams of joining NATO.

    I managed to watch quite a few, but not all, of Mr. Norton’s videos. He makes some very valid points on most things regarding Japan, however, it is obvious he has never resided in either China or Japan.

    Maybe the Latin American country he occupies is a socialist utopia, but if he really thinks China is the answer for all the ills of the world, he just needs to watch a couple of documentaries on life there before he recommends that everybody revolt against the Great Satan USA and copy China. For Japan to become a vassal state of China would make life here much more difficult than it already is, especially for N.J.

    Abe’s killing may strengthen the Nippon Kaigi right wingers, and history revisionists in Japan, but making China the model we should live under gives me the willies. At least Abe recognized that, and in his ham-handed way, worked against it. Also the fact that the Chinese despise Japan and would enjoy making life hell in Japan for everyone probably propelled some of the common sense behind his intentions to side with the West. At least he didn’t want things to get any worse which they surely would/will under the thumb of China.

  • @Tim
    I get your point, but “throwing a bone” to fascists, albeit occasionally, is exactly what makes respectability politics so dangerous. The overton window is so far in the direction of nationalism to an extent because of his collusion with these forces.

    As for how he or anyone else affected our lives as NJ, I think no one person has the power to make changes to society that would affect everyone. To me, he represented everything I dislike about Japan and because the system favoured people like him (i.e. wealthy Japanese men), he upheld it.

    Every time I get condescendingly praised on speaking Japanese, every time I am refused housing, every time I experience any form of casual racism, I know it’s a result of nationalist education that people like him rely on to stay in power. The article describes that very well.

    The system is terrible to begin with, but I give no credit to people who not only participate in it but actively make people suffer more under it. With his power and influence, he had the means to make the world a better place. He chose to make it worse. Saying that that’s Japanese politics is a bit like refusing to call David Duke racist because that’s just how the Ku Klux Klan rolls. The comparison might sound a bit extreme, but is it though?

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    So, Abe’s younger brother (adopted by relatives on paper to keep grandfather’s family name alive; Kishi), admits having links to the Unification Church;

    I’m wondering at which point will the news stop saying that the guy who shot Abe ‘THOUGHT Abe had links to the Unification Church’, and will finally be allowed to say that he ‘KNEW Abe had links to the Unification Church’?

    Oh yeah, and there’s the whole thing of Japan’s Defense Minister having secret links to a shady foreign cult, but whatever. Let’s see those J-right wingers turn themselves into pretzels trying to rationalize that.

  • @MT,
    Respectfully, I think you missed my point.

    “To me, he represented everything I dislike about Japan and because the system favoured people like him (i.e. wealthy Japanese men), he upheld it.”

    “Every time I get condescendingly praised on speaking Japanese, every time I am refused housing, every time I experience any form of casual racism…..”

    I experience that weekly as well, but it does not matter who is in charge, that will never change, as you stated, I saw more hostility towards foreigners under Kan, during the Fukushima disaster.

    During Abe, I saw real immigration changes; there were boatloads of people visiting Japan. Many towns were preparing for the arrival of foreigners Business and hotels catering to tourism were booming. After COVID, its back to business as usual, as if those foreigners were never here, no exposure or catalyst for change. Back to what you mentioned; the same fun and games, same ole micro-aggressions.
    If your hoping for a progressive change in Japan, your chasing dreams, IMO.
    Fascism, nationalism, communism; their just tools that are convenient for Far East Asian cultures. The core is the communal patriarchy, and it will be preserved at all cost. The best you can hope for is some “game changer” policy by a leader who is “safe” to follow….and Abe was that man. Thats just how it works here.

  • @ David Markle, ‘At least Abe recognized that, and in his ham-handed way, worked against it. ”

    Wow, he was such a genius…not. Just repeating what Grandpa Nobu-Sukebe told him on his knee, no doubt that the Chinese are purely “logs of wood” to be worked to death or experimented on.

    Sure, China is not a role model. Either. That does not make Japan great. It is not a zero sum game. Its not a China or Japan, you must choose one paradigm. Japan these days it more like Thailand, or some other second tier travel destination that sounds exotic and erotic to most people in the west, and has some weird pride issues once you go there and interact. And it is not as safe as it seems to be.

    If anything, Taiwan is a good role model= democratic and Chinese and unlike Japan, the ruling party actually does lose every few years. Wow, imagine that! What chaos!

    Except Taiwan ROC is doing well.

  • Looking at the Nippon Kaigi, it actually has a couple of non LDP “fellow traveller” parties in it, like the awful stern looking Takeo Hiranuma, Party for Future Generations[5]
    Ditto one member of the Japan Restoration party. So these really are, as in China, LDP lackeys who tacitly recognize the sole right of the LDP to govern.

    Its clearly a party in a party and should not be allowed.

    As a slight aside, or as an aside slight (pun intended), Hiranuma’s unsmiling demeanor reminds me of Chinese Foreign Minister

    I wonder if perhaps they are distantly related? Politically, even.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    In light of the UC connection, I think that Abe was without ideology, and would adopt/co-opt/repeat* whatever was necessary to win elections and serve his imperative; satisfying his sense of entitlement.

    *delete as applicable

  • @Tim

    I’m not sure tourism had as much to do with Abe as it had with cheap flights globally and the GOJ looking to capitalise on the image it had been selling around the world for decades. Nothing foreigner-friendly about that to me.

    As I said earlier, I don’t think Abe made anything single-handedly better or, for most people, worse (which still doesn’t change the fact that he was ruthless and had strong autocratic tendencies along with the capacity to erode the little democracy that exists here). I’m just saying he and his establishment represents everything that makes Japan such as hostile place for many, including NJ. The hostility you describe was a result not of who was PM (obviously) but a public already primed to blame outside elements (more so than in many other parts of the world). People like Abe are a part of an apparatus that causes that.

    Finally, I’m not saying anything will change drastically, but that doesn’t invalidate my point that the system is terrible and change is desirable for many, local or not. In fact with the deteriorating freedom of speech, terrible gender equality, changing textbooks and growing income disparity, change actually is happening, but I’d argue not in the directions that favours anyone except the wealthy.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    Ben Norton appeared in an interview with Katie Halper to explain who Shinzo Abe is. This 5-minute video speaks volume for Abe’s family legacy, ideology, and political party. Unlike a western apologist type such as Gearoid Reidy (a Bloomberg econ pundit), Ben makes a straightforward argument about Abe and LDP as well as CIA’s historical role to set the historical beachhead for them.

  • Abe should have been careful what he wished for, as he got it: – a better armed, stronger, Japan able to project it’s force.

    It just wasn’t exactly what he was expecting.

  • @ TJJ
    He also wanted Japan to go back to its glorious past, of his GF’s time. Indeed, assassinations were common then, even until the 60s. Relative affluence must’ve made people think they had some power but as a segment of society falls below the poverty line, that illusion has been shattered and the powerless will seek other ways to vent their frustration, in a more violent Japanese tradition.

    Should’ve stuck with the western, democratic model you were given!

  • @ JIm, Abe’s ideology was idealizing his gramps. He gramps for whatever reason started the UC link, so in his mind he probably thought it must be kept to honor his tradition or something like that.
    The problem with Japan (and other countries’ like Mussolini’s grand daughter) political dynasties is that by getting elected on the strength of the name of a famed ancestor, they are hardly going to dismantle their reputation, and they are invariably in the same party, and if the ancestor were involved in a scandal, they are out to exonerate their family member, e.g. Ferdinand Marcos jr in the Philippines which is quite incredulous, and here Makiko Tanaka and her father Kakuei- another one like Mrs Abe wittering on about being ‘the home opposition because I sometimes question his decisions” – which is about as much opposition as there was Nazerbayev’s Kazakhstan, but I digress.

    And yet the electorate lap it up, because they are hypnotized by the cult of celebrity and them rose-tinted ‘member berries.

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