Otoya Yamaguchi, the assassin of Inejiro Asanuma, remembered by right-wing groups
Happy Otoya Yamaguchi Day! On this day, 12 Oct 1960, 17-year-old Otoya Yamaguchi swinging his sword, dashed onto the stage while Asanuma, head of the Japanese Socialist Party, spoke during a political debate ahead of the lower house election.
Japanese television company NHK videotaped the debate for later transmission, and footage of Asanuma’s assassination was shown repeatedly to millions of viewers.
On October 12 last year, right-wing groups commemorated the assassination of socialist politician Inejiro Asanuma by holding a small ceremony to remember Otoya Yamaguchi, at Hibiya Park in Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward, 50th anniversary of the horrific event.
About 20 members of different right-wing organizations gathered in front of the Hibiya Public Hall before 3:03 p.m, the time when Otoya Yamaguchi stabbed to death Inejiro Asanuma.
Nationalists at the time strongly opposed Asanuma, who criticized the Liberal Democratic Party and the United States, claiming the latter to be the common enemy of the Japanese and Chinese citizens during a speech in Beijing the year before. He also tried to block a bill in the Diet that would set a Treaty of Cooperation and Mutual Security between Japan and the United States.
Right-wing members see the current scandalous political situation and ongoing turmoil with China – in particular the recent controversy over the Senkaku Islands – as proof that the offensive still has value in a modern context.
A framed black and white photograph of Yamaguchi was placed in front of the stage. Three minutes later, the leader representative of the Otoya Yamaguchi Memorial Association said a short prayer while the team members bowed their heads.
“Asanuma was a traitor to his country 50 years ago, and today we have numerous traitors in Japan,” said Takashi Funakawa, a representative of the right-wing group Dai Nippon Aikoku-to.
He continued, “We are here to honor Yamaguchi’s deliverance of justice to Asanuma.”
Otoya Yamaguchi Shirt Political Tee
Otoya Yamaguchi Shirt Political Tee is created as a way to honor Otoya Yamaguchi. The Otoya Yamaguchi T Shirt Top Uyoku Dantai Political Right Wing Party Japan features the scene of an assassination of a Japanese politician and leader of the Japan Socialist Party, Inejirō Asanuma, on 12 October 1960 by a right-wing ultranationalist Otoya Yamaguchi, who committed suicide in prison less than three weeks later.
The image was captured when Yamaguchi stabbed Asanuma and was seen here trying a second stab despite being restrained before that took place.
The unexpected incident happened at a tense time in the country as divisions between the left and the right were increased dramatically. A year earlier, Asanuma spoke in Beijing in which he called the United States as “the shared enemy of China and Japan.”
Nicknamed “the locomotive of man”, Inejiro Asanuma who had a towering figure, came back home in a Chairman Mao-style suit, a move that was even criticized by Socialist leaders. At the time, China was not admitted as legitimate by Japan and the US.
His fiercest critics were from Uyoku Dantai, Japanese ultranationalist right-wing groups that shared different political beliefs but had three main philosophies:
- Hostility towards communism and Marxism
- In favor of Kokutai-Goji
- Against Japan Teachers Union
The image on the shirt features Yamaguchi rushed onstage and held his yoroidōshi, attempting to kill Asanuma
Looking at the image on the shirt, we can see that while Asanuma was making a speech from the podium at Tokyo’s Hibiya Hall, Yamaguchi brandished a sword and rushed the stage. Yamaguchi ran his samurai sword through Asanuma’s ribs on the left side and killed him.
The tape of the incident was recorded live by a Japanese television company. The picture on the shirt was taken around 0:27 in the slow-motion video.
You can even see the camera flash and the killer strike pose in the photo as people rush towards him. He was either pushed or pulled, so even though he came from the right, in this photo of the second stab effort, he was on the left a few seconds later.
Otoya Yamaguchi was a member of a right-wing Uyoku dantai group, who wished to escape Western influence and restore traditional Japanese culture. He chose a weapon suited to his purpose, and that meant approaching and attacking with complete confidence. That demonstrated that he didn’t have an intention to run away.
After the collision, Yamaguchi lost his glasses and the two separated. The assembled spectators instantly flocked to the scene. Mainichi Shimbun photographer Yasushi Nagao pointed his camera at the pair just before Yamaguchi hurled his weapon at Asanuma for a second time – the resulting image won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize.
Witnesses in the incident said that Yamaguchi just smiled when he was arrested. About 15,000 left-wing demonstrators opposed outside the Tokyo Police Department offices after Asanuma’s death. They supposed that security at the debate was poor and that the police weren’t able to defend Asanuma, although Japanese Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda was also on stage.
Asanuma died an hour later, before reaching the hospital. Less than three weeks after the incident, while incarcerated in a juvenile detention center, Yamaguchi took a small amount of toothpaste and then mixed it with water and wrote on the jail wall with the message: “Seven lives for my country. Long live His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor!”.
On November 2 of the same day, Yamaguchi committed suicide in his cell in Nerima ward, Tokyo by hanging himself from a light fixture with his bedsheet.
It is believed that his suicide was made in true samurai style as an apology to his group for killing someone in power.
Later, the Socialist Party of Japan tried to make use of the incident to collect sympathy votes at the General Election next month. However, it didn’t work. The Liberal Democrats (LDP) acquired 300 of the 467 seats. The 144 seats obtained by the JSP was 23 fewer than the prior election.
In spite of not having an important political influence, the incident lingered for a long time in the memory of people who witnessed it.
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