Anti-Japan: The Life and Death of the East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front

Anti-Japan is the product of a year (more or less) of research and translation by Max Res and the plentiful free time he’s had to learn Japanese. Physical copies including a cover with a timeline of the Front’s activities can be obtained from Viscera (viscerapvd@gmail.com) and other fine sources of anarchist print goods — we also look forward to hearing your thoughts on the piece. Viscera Print Goods and Ephemera, of which Max is a part, can be found online at viscerapvd.wordpress.com/. You can read a text version of this publication at The Anarchist Library here. The following is an excerpt from Anti-Japan…

Blood and Prosperity

On August 30th, 1974, two explosions rocked the business district of Tokyo that would shake both Japan and the members of the Front themselves. These explosions, the dark fruit emerging from months of research and planning, decimated the corporate headquarters of Mitsubishi and the people around it. Though the Front had existed in relative obscurity up to this point, attracting little attention with their previous bombings from either their fellow-travelers on the Left or the police, the Mitsubishi bombing along with the publication of Hara earlier that year would act like a magnet for both allies and enemies.

Mitsubishi was a clear target for the Front’s anti-Japanese struggle – a major company that supplied war machinery, tanks, and planes for the imperial army (including its signature Zero model plane) with the use of slave labor from Chinese conscripts during the war, and still supplied the Japanese Defense Force. It survived being dissolved after the war and was now a major multinational corporation and the face of the new era of Japanese imperialism—what the Front would refer to as the “boss” of other corporations in the new economy in the communique issued after the bombing. The headquarters had fewer guards than the company president’s home, and its bombing would send a warning to the companies surrounding it in bustling Shinjuku that overseas activities hadn’t gone unnoticed. It would also come on the tail of Japanese Korean Mun Se-gwang’s attempt on the life of South Korean dictator and friend of the Japanese government Park Chung-hee earlier that month.

Things appeared to have gone as planned, with the Front demonstrating all the caution and meticulousness they’d preached in Hara. Ayako had gone ahead as a lookout, Kataoka had parked the getaway car near the scene, Masashi had taken a taxi with the bombs and planted them by the entrance, and Sasaki had called ahead with a warning to clear the building. The bombs went off four minutes after the warning call, and the front of the building was reduced to smoking ruins. But among these ruins were eight dead bodies and almost 400 injured, most by the shards of glass that had rained down from Mitsubishi and the blown-out windows of neighboring buildings.

Almost a month later, the Front issued a statement claiming responsibility for the bombing, denouncing those dead and injured as “colonial parasites,” and warning that they would “continue to turn the central district of Japanese imperialism into a war zone.”

However, these corpses and shredded survivors hadn’t been part of the plan. Despite their denunciation of the Japanese masses, the Front hadn’t actually intended to kill anyone at all, and on the other side of the typewriter that issued those cold words was a gripping sense that everything had gone wrong. Various guesses were made as to what happened – the power of the unsuccessfully tested explosive they’d originally intended for the bridge carrying the Emperor’s train, the too-short window they’d given to evacuate the building, Mitsubishi’s lack of preparation for a bombing – but the end result was a heavy sense of guilt that would haunt the Front’s members from that point forward, guilt that would eventually turn Kataoka into a “living corpse” and help drive Masashi to confess to the police after his arrest.

Whatever feelings the Front may have had about their own action – and their self-flagellating would be affirmed by the aghast reporters and witnesses on the evening news accompanied by criticism from portions of the Left – they also found allies answering the call of the signal fire they’d kindled in Hara and sent up with the Mitsubishi bombing. Nodoka Saitou, an anarchist who’d learned about the massacre of Korean forced laborers in his hometown after he dropped out of college, took up Sasaki’s invitation and formed the Fangs of the Earth (Daichi no Kiba) cell, he and Yukiko Ekida setting out to bomb Mitsui & Company shortly thereafter. Mitsui was another major player in the Japanese economy, and they targeted the company’s foreign affairs section, destroying computers, telex machines, and injuring a handful of people. They then bombed two more targets – the Taisei Construction Company in December, shocking police during a period of heightened security, and the Oriental Metal Company’s industry research center involved in helping Japanese companies expand into Korea during the following April. The Front was also joined by the Scorpion (Sasori) cell consisting of Yoshimasa Kurokawa and Hisaichi Ugajin. Kurokawa had a similar background to many in the Front as an ex-student radical who’d seen the need for arms with the fall of the Yasuda Auditorium occupation, and the cell declared its existence by bombing Kajima Corporation in December of 1974. Like many of the Front’s targets, Kajima had used forced labor during the war and its infamous cruelty had gone unpunished.

With the expansion of the Front, its structure continued to reflect a spirit of non-sect independence. In stark contrast to the swollen, centralized organizations they’d fled from in the waning days of the Zengakuren, the Front functioned as a network of small, autonomous cells that could launch attacks that were both discreet and effective. Though the Ookami provided some supplies and advice— fruits of its experience and greater access to materials—there was no central leadership or even ideological uniformity within the organization. Its membership was a mix of anarchists such as Saitou, non-sect ex-activists, and lapsed members of various Marxist groups who had come together around the common enemy of Japanese imperialism and the goal of its defeat by means of armed struggle.

The way these cells functioned was fairly simple: each was made up of a small group of friends in contact with certain members of the Ookami, and each was free to choose its targets and methods as it saw fit. One cell would communicate its intent to bomb something with either one or both of the others and request materials from the Ookami if needed. The other groups might offer some advice or suggestions, and the Ookami would meet one of them discreetly to provide the requested materials. These materials were manufactured in either Masashi and Ayako’s or Kataoka’s apartments, and Matsushita relates to us nights where the couple had to make curry to hide the harsh chemical smell from the explosives they were cooking. Their supplies were stolen from Masashi or Ayako’s chemical manufacturing jobs, collected by various members of the group, or paid for from their war chest.

From the Mitsubishi attack in August of 1974 to the attack on Oriental Metal in April of 1975, their corporate bombing campaign touched off a season of chaos in Japan, as corporations panicked over who would be next and the police searched frantically for perpetrators. Frequent prank calls would lead companies to evacuate entire buildings on the chance they might be real. The height of the Front’s joint activities came in February of 1975, when they executed a triple bombing of targets related to the Hazama Corporation. The urban guerrilla strategy seemed to be working – not only had they not been caught, but their bombing of Oriental Metal had even caused the company to pull an inspection team set to travel to South Korea.

All of these successes did little to relieve the guilt felt by the Ookami cell since the Mitsubishi bombing, and sometimes the opposite when these bombings caused more unintended injuries. This guilt was manifest in the vials of poison they carried with them, with their suicides intended as much as for compensation for the deaths and injuries at Mitsubishi as to avoid being taken into custody by the State. Yet they still fought, and in this period of new alliances and flourishing cooperation between cells, the anti-Japan struggle appeared to be going better than ever.

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