Summary: Japanese anti-Semitism may be the ultimate oxymoron since Japan is a Shintoist/Buddhist society with virtually no Jewish minority and no history of discrimination against Jews as an ethnic or religious group. However, anti-Semitic attitudes and anti-Jewish conspiracy theories are accepted by surprisingly many Japanese. The idea of Jewish economic, political and intellectual "omnipotence" has gained an audience among Japanese who are not otherwise anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism in Japan is manifested through books, magazines, public appearances by anti-Semitic writers, and several internet sites. The Israeli Embassy in Tokyo notes that what is found in Japan isn't "classical anti-Semitism," but a "combination of unfamiliarity, a tendency amongst a few to give credence to conspiracy theories about Jewish power, and some issues that are politically sensitive."
The first incident occurred on a national television talk show, TV-Asahi's Sunday Project, hosted by veteran journalist and interviewer Soichiro Tahara. Tahara's remark, which prompted a statement of criticism from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, took place during an interview with former Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka. Tahara had raised the arrest of Tanaka's late father, former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, in connection with the Lockheed scandal in the mid-1970s and the recent arrest of an aide to Democratic President Ichiro Ozawa for illegally receiving political donations. Tahara, who has written a book alleging that the Lockheed scandal was a CIA plot against former PM Tanaka, remarked, "Mr. Tanaka was done in by the Jews, and Ozawa was done in by them too."
The second recent anti-Semitic incident was much more surprising since it came from Atsuyuki Sassa, a former policeman and one-time national-security aide (1986-89) to then-Prime Minister Nakasone who is now well known as a commentator on crisis management and defense issues. Appearing on a Saturday morning NTV infotainment program on March 21, the former chief of Japan's National Security Council, in referring to the issue of massive bonus payments by AIG to its executives, as well as the use of private jets by the heads of the "Big Three" companies, said: "There were terrible capitalists around the 18th century. I know it is bad to say this, but most of them were Jews. It is the Jews who are doing awful things today." When the program host immediately told Sassa that his remarks were out of line, Sassa insisted, "But that is my view."
Anti-Semitic books and articles occasionally appear in Japan even if these views are not widely shared. There are also several rabidly anti-Semitic websites in Japanese spread anti-Semitic conspiracy theories (e.g., that Jews masterminded 9/11). While most such literature tends to favor conspiracy theories of international Jewish control, even citing such fabrications as the early 20th century Protocols of the Elders of Zion, writings that deny the Holocaust or defend Nazi pogroms can also be found. One internationally notorious incident occurred in 1995 with the publication of an article by then 38-year old physician Masanori Nishioka titled. "There Were No Nazi 'Gas Cambers'," in the February issue of Marco Polo, a slick, 250,000-circulation monthly aimed at a young audience, published by Bungei Shunju, one of Japan's most influential publishing house.
One of most infamous peddlers of Jewish conspiracy theories has been Masami Uno, who has written such books as "The Invisible Empire - Jewish Zionists Control the World." Uno needless to say denies the Holocaust and even claims that the diary of Anne Frank was a hoax. With conspiracy theorists like Uno, just about everything that goes wrong in the world, including the current financial crisis, can be blames on the Jews.
Although anti-Semitic propaganda seems found mainly among right-wing nationalists, the same conspiracy-minded prejudices can be found in leftist publications, as well. Shukan Kinyobi (Weekly Friday) had a special collection of articles in its January 16 issue on "The danger of Obama" that excoriated the President and his policies. One of the features was a two-page spread with photos, names, and comments of the "Jewish lobby" that allegedly controls the Obama administration. The magazine characterized out Jews who were appointed or slated for appointments in the Obama administration as a cabal that would now run the U.S. government. The collection subsequently came out as a book available from Amazon Japan.
Blatant anti-Semitism can be found in the works of the political cartoonist Yoshinori Kobayashi, an ultranationalist whose books of polemical cartoons sell well among young readers. He has long been a frequent guest on a TV-Asahi all-night debate show on television and other talk shows, where his outrageous political views no doubt are expected to raise the ratings of the programs. He is a regular contributor to Sapio, a nationalist biweekly magazine that targets young readers.
Kobayashi's book contains a strong passage that reveals his hatred of the Jews. Singling out Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the scientist who directed the Manhattan Project that led to the development of the first atomic bomb, Kobayashi used him as a scapegoat for all Jews, who he accused of masterminding the atomic bombing of Japan. The following chilling passage comes from the book: "The director of the Manhattan Project was Dr. Oppenheimer, a Jew. He did the Devil's work. Japan saved up to 20,000 Jews during the war, but Jews built the atom bomb and lent their hands to Japan's Holocaust."
There are no reports of violence or discrimination against Jews in Japan. According to Arie Grosman, Coordinator for the Jewish Community Center in Tokyo, although protests at the Israeli Embassy itself tend to peak around periods of Middle East disturbance, "at a personal level there are no acts of anti-Semitism toward individuals. We do of course from time to time get threatening letters and post cards, but this is mostly when fighting is going on back home."
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