Japan’s Leader Appeals To Geeks With A Military Tank

Japan’s Leader Appeals To Geeks With A Military Tank

Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ticked off people in South Korea and China. This weekend, he hung out with nerds and got in a tank.

NicoNico Douga, Japan’s popular video channel, hosted a big meetup this past Saturday and Sunday, celebrating the country’s internet and geek culture. It seemed like an unlikely place for Japanese politics and the military. It wasn’t.

Controversy recently arose in South Korea and China after a Yasukuni Shrine visit by over a 150 Japanese politicians and three members of Abe’s cabinet. Yasukuni Shrine honours over two million of the country’s war dead, including fourteen Class A war criminals.

Some people in Japan support politicians visiting the shrine on the grounds that they are honouring the war dead. Others say the visits are just not worth the diplomatic headaches they cause with neighbouring countries, which still carry resentment over Japanese actions in World War II.

Note that Japan has issued numerous apologies for war crimes since the 1950s; however, there are arguments that these statements are not “official” apologies, even though Japanese leaders have repeatedly made them.

“It’s only natural to honour the spirits of those who gave their lives for the country,” said Abe (via WSJ). “Our ministers will not cave in to any threats.” Abe also believes that “chipping away” at its right to honour the country’s fallen soldiers will not improve diplomacy between Japan and its neighbours. Maybe, but it’s certainly not helping.

What further complicates the issue is that Yasukuni Shrine is a Shinto shrine, making this a religious issue, too. Enshrinement is thought to be irreversible, and you can’t just take those Class A war criminals out per se.

Elsewhere in Asia, visiting the shrine is seen as ignoring Japan’s military past. Japan, however, is now a pacifist nation. Under the Japanese Constitution, Article 9 states that Japan cannot use military force to settle disputes and renounces war as a “sovereign right”. Japan does have a military, called the Japan Force; US military bases are also located within the country. Prime Minister Abe has expressed interest in re-writing Article 9 so that it expands Japan’s military powers.

At this weekend’s NicoNico event, Abe talked about the importance of the internet in Japanese politics and, decked out in camo, got in one of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ Type-10 tanks.

Near the Japan Force and US Forces booth, the tank was on display for cosplayers and NicoNico attendees to take photos with. Thanks to the popularity of tank-based anime Girls und Panzer, the Type-10’s inclusion, oddly, doesn’t seem totally out of place.

In the past decade, Japan has had a string of Prime Ministers. Many of them have been incredibly weak. Abe is trying to show strength, whether that’s through the country’s economy or the military. Not everyone in Japan agrees with Abe or wants expanded military powers. Abe’s first tenure in office, which was from 2006 to 2007, soured after he expressed desire for increased military power.

More popular than ever, Abe does have his supporters, online and off. And as last December showed, geek culture and politics certainly can mix in Japan. Don’t be surprised if they continued to do so.

安倍首相が自衛隊と在日米軍ブースを視察、10式戦車に搭乗 [Inside Games] Net site becomes reality for two days [The Japan Times]

Culture Smash is a regular dose of things topical, interesting and sometimes even awesome — game related and beyond.


  • I’m sorry to the Koreans and Chinese that get offended by this comment.

    But it absolutely pisses me off that a nation is criticised for visiting a war memorial, sure it includes people who are war criminals/rapist/murders, But to ignore the vast majority of men/women who were serving their country and civilians who died is unforgivable.

    In other words, accept a apology, the country isn’t run by the same old men who ordered those crimes nearly over 60 years ago.

    • Would you view it the same way if the leaders of Germany honoured the soldiers of the 3rd Reich every year or so?

      • As long as they viewed it as honouring their fallen brothers, sons, and fathers in the wars of history, and not the soldiers of the 3rd Reich specifically, then you’d have to be a pretty gigantic prick to begrudge people that. It’s not, “Well done guys, you almost had the world in your hands,” it’s, “We lost people we care about, fighting for what we were told were the country’s best interests.”

        Can you imagine telling the Americans they only get to celebrate the sacrifice of the soldiers in wars where they were unequivocally the ‘good guys’. That means sorry boys, if you died in Vietnam, Korea, or Iraq, you died as the pawn of manipulative warmongers, rather than as a bastion of freedom.

        • If you told your average patriotic American something like that, he would be puzzled. “What do you mean, UNEQUIVOCALLY good? We were always good…yeah Freedom!!!”

          And it s precisely for this ambiguity that Germany does not honour anything related to warfare. Especially that “what we were told” and “countries best interest”-part. From the German point of view those are pretty irritating or rather cynical terms, very much in the vein of how patriotism is seen as nonsense by a majority of Germans (well outside of football and that silly Eurovision circus every year).

  • In a moment of unnecessary internal pedantry I had a bit of a giggle at, “With A Military Tank,” in the title. “Yes. It would’ve been embarrassing if he’d rolled up in one of those civilian tanks.”
    It quickly occurred to me, “Well, the ‘military’ part prevents mistaking it for other kinds of tank. Like tank tops.

    Dat mental image.

    • I had the same thought. And it is indeed a stupid term…like “explosive grenade” or “wet water”.

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