Rest in Peace, Mayor Iccho Ito
April 18, 2007 7:45 PM   Subscribe

An assassin with alleged links to the underworld shot and killed the mayor of Nagasaki yesterday. Nagasaki Mayor Iccho Ito was a tireless anti-nuclear proliferation activist who travelled the world to spread his pacifist message and help serve witness to the horrors of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. His comments during bombing anniversaries have criticized the United States as well as North Korea and Iran for contributing to proliferation.
posted by stagewhisper (20 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The underworld in Japan is very "right wing" and wants to re-establish Japan as a nationalistic and militaristic superpower.
posted by delmoi at 7:53 PM on April 18, 2007

The yakuza was a member of the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan's biggest yakuza gang, sorta like the Gambino family. The Yamaguchi-gumi was responsible for a shocking shootout in Tokyo earlier this year.

As yakuza are usually tied with right-wing nationalists, they can be brutal when left-wing politicians denounce Japan's wartime past, Japanese demilitarization, and, naturally, criticism of right-wingers in general.

The pointless thing about this killing is that it seems to just be a case of one crazy bastard's damaged car.
posted by zardoz at 7:56 PM on April 18, 2007

The retaliation in Shibuya over that shootout happened just around the corner from my place. Good times.
For the most part though, gang activity is extremely low-key and these recent events stand out precisely because they are such a rare occurrence.
posted by nightchrome at 8:01 PM on April 18, 2007

I met and observed Mayor Iccho Ito at a peace/anti proliferation march on May 1, in 2005 in New York City. The march consisted primarily of overwhelmingly large groups of Japanese citizens dressed in festive clothes, carrying signs promoting peace and scurrying into the crowd of spectators along the course to hand out beautiful origami peace birds. At the end of the parade, we all gathered on the green in Central park and formed a peace symbol as Mayor Iccho Ito and many of the survivors took the stage to address the crowd. I can't think of any other day and event that shifted how I viewed the world, The United State's place in it, and how I viewed war in general (and this is after many a march before).
While I was sitting in the grass, some women came by and pressed a book into my hand and nodded to me to keep it. They were from the anagawa Atomic Bomb Sufferers Association
The book was called:
A collection of testimonies and pictures by sufferers of the A-bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

each page had a drawing or piece of artwork created by a survivor depicting what living through the bombing was like. On the other side of each was accompanying prose such as this:

I Collected Timbers to Cremate My Child

When I found my child whose shape had changed totally, I unconsciously sat down on
That spot and put my hands together.
After a moment suddenly a sense of fear whether this was really my child or not, came
Across my mind, and once again I checked.
Then I collected timbers to prepare for the cremation but I couldn’t make up my mind to
Burn it.
I lay down beside my child for a while cherishing the moment of eternal farewell.
I detested war’s mercilessness that had changed innocent children into horrible shapes like

Mayor Ito remains so vivid in my mind- he mingled with everyone at the march as though he was any other citizen, but every now and then swarms of people would cluster around him to have their photos taken. There was something very genuine about his demeanor and something bordering on a desperate plea when he spoke of the horrors of war. We passed him later on a street corner waiting to cross, blending in with the NYC bustle like every other pedestrian, and my husband and I mentioned to each other how he struck us almost alarmingly vulnerable.
posted by stagewhisper at 8:08 PM on April 18, 2007 [5 favorites]

hrrmmm... i guess underworld has a broader definition than i thought. so... this guy wasn't a confirmed soldier of satan or vampire werewolf? okok. so.. ties to "organized crime" is what we mean here.

Shiroo reportedly clashed with Nagasaki city over a traffic accident in 2003, when his car was damaged after he drove into a hole in the ground at a public works construction site.

what a selfish waste of an assasination.
posted by eli_d at 8:20 PM on April 18, 2007

Sounds like somebody needs to hook up Gary Kasparov with a gun.
posted by phaedon at 8:23 PM on April 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

The reports I've been seeing are that there was nothing political about this, as least as regards things like pacifism and nuclear non-proliferation. And it didn't have anything to do with nationalism.

As mentioned above, it partly seems to have been about a damaged car, but there are also rumors that the city wasn't forthcoming with bribe money. More or less that certain contracts from the city didn't go to the Yamaguchi-gumi's preferred "clients", so the Yamaguchi-gumi didn't get to skim their cut.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:05 PM on April 18, 2007

The underworld in Japan is very "right wing" and wants to re-establish Japan as a nationalistic and militaristic superpower.

Not true.

According to Wikipedia (I'm not going to claim to be knowledgeable about the yakuza), there are two kinds of gangs in Japan - those that descended from street peddler associations, and those that descended from gamblers. Both groups accept people from Buraku backgrounds (the traditional underclass) and from Japan's ethnic Korean community, which hardly makes the yakuza a nationalist or supremacist bunch. The gambler-group are not known to be particularly nationalistic.

The yakuza likes to make money, and that's about where it ends. Sure, they like chauvinistic totems and regalia, but it's not a sophisticated worldview.

As Steven notes, the media has reported that the municipal government refused to pay compensation for a damaged car on a city-run construction site.

You may be mistaking the yakuza with the uha, Japan's Rightist groups that go around blasting nationalist music, etc.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:24 PM on April 18, 2007

"Two-thirds of the country's 53 known shootings in 2006 were gang-related..."

See what happens when you outlaw guns?!? Uncontrollable violence in the streets! Mayhem! The downfall of civilization...

Wait? 53? I live in Oakland, we passed that threshold in just one month...
posted by yeloson at 10:39 PM on April 18, 2007

According to Wikipedia (I'm not going to claim to be knowledgeable about the yakuza), there are two kinds of gangs in Japan - those that descended from street peddler associations, and those that descended from gamblers.

The yakuza came from the gamblers. In fact the term comes from some game. I've read two books about crime in japan this and this) There are Koreans in the groups, I guess, but for the most part the lower-level people are nationalistic.
posted by delmoi at 11:29 PM on April 18, 2007

posted by blacklite at 12:24 AM on April 19, 2007

That first link of delmoi's, Tokyo Underworld, is excellent, and not just to understand more about crime and corruption in Japan. There's a ton of info in there I didn't know about how this place got to be like it is. (mostly because there's a hint of corruption or interference in just about every aspect)
posted by dreamsign at 12:41 AM on April 19, 2007

Hey stagewhisper, I scooped you on this story by about a day. That post didn't get a lot of love though, and I can see where it could've been easily missed. I agree it deserved an FPP of its own, as well. :)

delmoi writes: The underworld in Japan is very "right wing" and wants to re-establish Japan as a nationalistic and militaristic superpower.

KokuRyu responds: Not true.

Not true? Just like that, you're going to say 'not true', end of discussion? You don't really know what you're talking about. Which, to your credit, you've wisely admitted. What's not so wise is then treating Wikipedia like it's some sort of ultimate and unassailable authority, the Giver of the Final Word. Any number of articles concerning the very real associations between rightists and yakuza can be found, for example, here.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:00 AM on April 19, 2007


Heh. Try England instead of Japan. Violent crime quadrupled after they disarmed the populace in the mid-90's.
posted by effugas at 3:44 AM on April 19, 2007

effugas : "Heh. Try England instead of Japan. Violent crime quadrupled after they disarmed the populace in the mid-90's."

No it didn't.
posted by Drexen at 4:12 AM on April 19, 2007

The populace wasn't armed before the mid-90s.
posted by vbfg at 4:50 AM on April 19, 2007

They banned semi-automatics after the Hungerford massacre (1987) and handguns after Dunblane (1996), neither of which correlate at all with the peak in Drexen's graph.

These bans were passed very quickly because almost no one had guns at the time. "disarmed the populace"? Fucking hell.
posted by cillit bang at 5:31 AM on April 19, 2007

You don't really know what you're talking about.

Let the ad hominem attacks start.

All right. First off all, I may not have read the books you're talking about, but I did live in Japan for ten years. During that time, I read a lot of books, too. And I was also one of those foreigners, flapjax, who learned Japanese. And not just to be able to order beer or whatever. My wife is also Japanese. Friends and family are, too. So while I may not be able to link to a couple of books, my supposed knowledge is more experiential, and comes from stuff I read in the Japanese newspapers, discussions with my Japanese father-in-law, Japanese friends and associates (I note from your profile that you live in Tokyo, so you'll probably know what I mean).

But Flapjax, your Google search comes up with (blog!) articles where nationalists and yakuza are mentioned together, but do not actually say they are one and the same. The Google search also comes up with blog comments (not a good source), the China People's Daily (not a good source on Japan) and the Washington Post (not really a good source on Japan).

Flapjax, could you link to any Japanese sources to prove your point?

But, all I can say is, the yakuza exist to make money. It's their core competency. Sure, they may spout the slogans, and they may have ties to the right and rightists politicians (let's face it, the Right is corrupt everywhere), but...

The yakuza do not, as delmoi originally asserted (and this is not an ad hominem attack on delmoi, by the way) "want to re-establish Japan as a nationalistic and militaristic superpower."

There is no prominent political group in Japan that wants to do that.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:14 AM on April 19, 2007

KokuRyu, first off, apologies for the "you don't really know what you're talking about" comment. It was too strident and insulting, and not the kind of thing I usually say to people. However, although it was an ugly way to put it, I was, after all, only echoing what you yourself said: "I'm not going to claim to be knowledgeable about the yakuza". But then when you bolstered your rather authorative-sounding "not true" with nothing but a Wikipedia entry, well, it just seemed a little thin, that's all. Now, I myself wouldn't claim to be any sort of expert on the yakuza either, which is why I wouldn't make clear and bold assertions like "not true", or "absolutely true" or the like, when talking about this subject. Nor would I assume that something is or isn't so just because I read it in Wikipedia.

So all I'm saying is that there are many references, in a lot of different sources (and many of my references are also experiential and anecdotal, hearing folks talk about it and so forth, as I've lived here in Japan continuously for the last 12 years) to the ties between rightists and yakuza. The very nature of the subject, however, precludes any real sure-fire knowledge or information, as the activities of gangsters as well as far-rightists are generally shrouded in a pretty thick veil of secrecy. Most references to yakuza/uyoku ties, therefore, tend to run along these lines:

from this article:

"The best estimates are that there are more than 100,000 far-right members in Japan belonging to almost 1000 groups throughout the country, 800 of which are affiliated through an organization called Zennippon Aikokusha Dantai Kaigi, or the National Conference of Patriotic Associations (Masayuki, 1989 and Van Wolferen, 1993).

The exact number is clouded in controversy because there is overlap with yakuza (Japanese mafia) gangsters. Many yakuza groups transformed themselves into rightist political organizations from the 1960s after the Political Fund Regulations Law prohibited extortion, but allowed legitimate political groups to raise money and claim preferential tax treatment as long as they presented income and expenditure statements to the Ministry of Home Affairs. Ideologically, both uyoku, as the ultra-right are known, and yakuza see themselves to some extent as patriots and defenders of traditional codes of honor, although "genuine" right-wingers make a firm distinction between plain old gangsters and what they call minzoku-ha, or nationalists.

And the author of that paper suggests this:

"The most readable English account of the relationship between Japanese gangsters and the extreme and mainstream right, although a bit dated, is Kaplan, David E. and Dubro, Alec (1986). Yakuza: The Explosive Account of Japan's Criminal Underworld. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. You will also find some information (although it is mostly rehashed) in Robert Whiting (1999). Tokyo Underworld: The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster in Japan. New York: Vintage Books."
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:59 AM on April 19, 2007

A lot of large criminal organizations have the facade of patriotism, etc. It’s a nice cover. In the U.S. a lot of the old mafiosi were very (outwardly) religious.
Whether it’s in earnest or not, it’d be the image you’d want to project. A criminal organization generally wouldn’t want to appear anti-nationalistic for a variety of practical reasons (police attention/motivation at the least).
The Hell’s Angels come to mind as well as a historically very outwardly patriotic, yet criminal, organization.
I’d be surprised if they’re not getting stomped on after killing a mayor, particularly over something more trivial. That’s got to be really bad for business.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:37 AM on April 19, 2007

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