If you’ve ever spent any time in Japan, you’ve seen them: big, black buses blaring right-wing propaganda. And today, you’re going to see an entire fleet of them. If Japanese itasha enthusiasts gather, Japanese right-wingers do, too. Here, it was also to mark Japan’s creation. This weekend, that’s exactly what happened.
Feb. 11 is National Foundation Day, the day that the country’s mythic first emperor, Jimmu, ascended to the throne. Jimmu is believed to have descended from Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess.
It’s the stuff of legends (and the video game Okami), and the day was used in the past to whip up nationalism. Today, it’s been stripped of its patriotic fervor — just don’t tell these folks who showed up in Kashihara, Nara, where Emperor Jimmu, is supposedly buried.
Dubbed “gaisensha” (街宣車) or “propaganda trucks” in Japanese, the vehicles blast right-wing slogans and songs. The vehicles are intimidating — even to regular Japanese folks. Like anywhere, loving one’s country is fine, but extreme patriotism can be frightening.
While Japan does have noise pollution laws, it also has free speech laws. These vans are able to get the same licenses that allow political parties, and even religious groups (hello Japanese Christians!), to drive around and broadcast their opinions.
These right-wing groups, or uyoku dantai (右翼団体) as they’re called in Japanese, have existed in Japan since the country opened itself to the West. They are not mainstream. Some members are connected to organised crime — and some of them are not even Japanese citizens, but Japanese-Koreans, or Zainichi Koreans. Wikipedia has a list of groups considered to be uyoku dantai.
As Japanese website Gigazine pointed out, it’s fairly normal to see these big black buses patrolling the city streets, blaring propaganda. However, this past weekend gave a rare chance to see an entire parking lot full of them.
In year’s past, gaisen were mostly huge buses, but due to new automobile emissions regulations, they are getting smaller — mini-vans and even hybrids are not unheard of. And how about those Japanese right-wingers driving around in American cars?
Have a look at the propaganda mobiles. Photos courtesy of Japanese site Gigazine.