Japan's young 'storm troopers': political front for Mafia
Each day, armored trucks prowl Tokyo streets, their huge loudspeakers blaring out wartime marital songs and slogans glorifying imperial Japan. As their leader harangues lunchtime crowds, tough young "storm troopers" grimly stand guard. They are perfectly turned out, with their shining black combat boots, crisp green fatigues, and wraparound sunglasses, and closecropped hair.
This is the typical image of Japan's ultraright-wing fringe -- an image, however, now suffering form the latest influx of recruits with dyed orange hair teased into bizarre coiffures.
these are teen-age dropouts and delingquents, now joining the right-wing cause in increasing numbers.
But in many cases, say police, the political coloring is a cover for the criminal activities of Jakuzam, Japanhs Mafia.
Big underwood groups are financially as powerful as any giant business conglomerate. Their huge illegal profits have been plowed into lucrative legitimate businesses like constructure, dockyard operations, and theatrical productions.
But with constant police hounding, the underworld has decided to erect an even more respectable public facade. And politics seens to be the perfect answer.
The National Policy Agency (NPA) estimates there are probably at least 90 undersworld right-wing political groups with memberships of around 2,000, along with another 100 to 200 right-wig factions with a gangland connetion.
In some respects, this development is merely a new way for gangs to gain extra revenue (extortion disguised as political contributions, according to the NPA) in a more respectable manner than drugs, prostitution, and gambing.
A the same time, the tiny fragmented righ-wing movement (hundreds of factions with a total extimated membership today of some 120,000) is gaining in its war against the better organized, more fanatical extreme left.
Active recruitment has become evident among young dropouts, offering them a chance to vent their frustrations against society and to continue to make nuisances of them selves under the guise of political activity.
Few of the orange-haired recruits have more than a hazy idea of rightist ideology: a mishmash of ultranationalism, militarism, emperor worship, and anticommunism.
A league of 14 rightist groups dedicated to "construction of a new Japan under the Emperor" recently held military training on a public beach near Tokyo, which included thrusting homemade bayonets into sandbag dummies. Nearly half the 250 participants were junior or seniro high school students, including 25 girls.
A recent meeting of the Kiku Seido (Young Guards of the Chrysanthemum Association -- chrysanthemum being the imperial symbol), was attended by at least 30 youngsters under 16. All had rebelled against their parents and teachers, joined delinquent or motorcycle gangs, taken to drugs and inhaling paint thinner. But when adult society continued to ignore them, the youngsters drifted into the Kiku Seido, attracted by the romantic image of being part of a tightknit group standing out so dramatically from normal society.
The drift to right-wing politics has become more pronounced during the past year, since police began a crackdown on the motorcycle gangs and other petty criminals.
By comparison, the Japanese public believes police show a rather benevolent if not outright sympathetic attitude toward right-wingers who, unless they are attacking the prime minister's residence or the Soviet Embassy, usually are left unharassed (which is not true of left-wing groups).
Originally, police had dismissed the switch to the right as a tempory phenomenon. "These kids are just playing games. . . . it's not so serious," said one authoriy.
But it now being taken more seriously in view of the obvious links between the right and the Mafia.
The dropouts, police now admit, seems to be getting more criminal than political indoctrination -- being hired by gangs mostly to act as strong-arm thugs in collecting protection money in the night entertainment areas of japanese cities, some of which allegedly ends up in the pockets of politicans.
There is a natural link between the yakuzam and right-wing groups, in fact, that is irresistible to a certain type of youth. Encouraged by comic books and television programs, the yakuzam picture themselves as Robin Hood types, soviors of traditional Japanese virtues in a postwar society corrupted by "foreign" influences -- exactly the rightists' mesaage.
The fight for a lost cause and the perverse pleasure of being misunderstand are also powerful attractions of underworld-rightist groups for the romantic Jpanese.
With the small numbers involved, all this could easily be dismissed, if it weren't for the evidence that crime syndicates, throught their righ-wing frontS, are forging links with the conservative forces who have long ruled Japan.
The country's most powerful unerworld group has set up a political organization in the hope of putting one of its senior members in the Diet (parliament) at the next election.
When its "Godfather" died earlier this year, one of the first messages of condolence came from Yoshio Kodama, a right-winger with extraordinary influence in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
There have been several recent cases of underworldbacked rightist groups canvassing support for prospective members of parliament on the grounds that the candidates have shown "sympathetic understanding of our activities."
Though not willing to names, police sources say a great many politicians have friendly links with the underworld, extremely helpful when they need money to buy votes at election time.