The Identity Crisis That Lurks Behind Japan’s Right-Wing Rhetoric

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When anti-Japan protests, the fiercest in years, erupted in China over territorial disputes last September, I was attending a conference in Tianjin, roughly 80 miles south of Beijing. Footage from the capital was chilling: smashed Japanese department stores and automobiles, flags on fire, protesters hurling eggs and debris at the Japanese embassy with chants of “F*** Japan.” Someone tried to crash into a Japanese diplomat’s car on a Beijing highway.

By comparison, the Tokyo I returned to a week later felt downright placid. Most Japanese peered down their noses at the violence in Beijing, finding the scenes embarrassing and barbaric. One Japanese government official I spoke to privately blamed then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his administration for bungling the whole affair through diplomatic incompetence. “They should have kept quiet about [the purchase of the disputed islands],” he said. “None of this would have happened.”


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