Don’t mention the war

The Second World War is still raging.

Well bubbling along in another island dispute concerning the Kuril island chain; a grouping of volcanic islands that sit in-between Japan’s northern Hokkaido and Russian Kamchatka.

The Kuril Islands form the top part of the pacific RING OF FIRE!  The southern most mere kilometres from Hokkaido the northern most a gnats cock off of Kamchatka. The islands are currently inhabited by almost 20,000 people, mostly Russians but with some Ainu other Baltic populations. The islands are home to many Russian ‘soldiers’ known as the Border Guard Service. The islands are known for their severe weather of long stormy winters followed by short and notoriously foggy summers. It is these foggy summers and the remoteness of the islands that made them the perfect launch site for the Pearl Habour attack.

In 1855 the islands were recognised as Japanese territory. After Japan’s second world war defeat, all of its territories were occupied by the Allied forces. The Allied Powers agreed that Japan’s main islands would be under American occupation; Taiwan would fall under Chinese occupation; and that Sakhalin Island and the Kurile Islands would be occupied by the Soviet forces.

In 1951 when the San Francisco Treaty was signed the allied powers handed Japanese land back, but Russia refused to sign over the Kurils.  To this day Japan and Russia have never formalized any peace agreement, technically meaning the Second World War isn’t over.

As of 2015 Japan has been offered the southern most islands by Putin but it has refused as the offered land only counts for 7% of the disputed area.

Ushishiru Island (Yankicha in Russian)
Ushishiru Island (Yankicha in Russian)

Again, as with the Senkoku islands, this isn’t a “we miss our ancestral land!” dispute. The Kurils are surrounded by some of the most fertile fishing grounds in the North Pacific. There is also a possibility that there are oil and gas reserves. The island also has large deposits of various polymetallic ores including the rare mineral, rhenium.

In 2006, the Russian government pledged $630m to including improving energy and transport infrastructure on the Kuril island chain. The Japanese government also maintains public awareness of the dispute by allowing visits by former residents, displaced after the war to pray at their family shrines.

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Today’s 日本語

Person in monkey costume hanging from tree

猿も木から落ちる (さる も き から おちる)

You can have done something a thousand times. Easily mastering it with your eyes closed, hands behind back, spinning plates.

Go to impress someone with it and mess it up so royally you have to move town, change your name, burn your finger prints off with battery acid.

Don’t Worry, as the old saying goes “even monkeys fall from trees”

The Japanese Red Army

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There are a few things that come to mind when one thinks of Japan; sushi, geisha, tea ceremony, busy street crossings, hard-line communist terrorists.

‘What?!’ You might say, ‘clearly Joekyo you are mistaken’

Well The Japanese Red Army is here to mess your stereotypes up.

Founded in 1971 by Fusako Shigenobu, the JRA was dedicated to overthrowing the Japanese government and the monarchy throughout the 70s and 80s.

Fusako had been a leading member in the Red Army Faction, a militant new-left communist group. In 1970 it teamed up with a Maoist group to form the United Red Army. Just a few months before a major purge, which left twelve members dead and started a week-long police siege, Fusako Shigenobu and a few select members had moved to Lebanon to promote International Revolutionary Solidarity, a movement which aimed to unite the different revolutionary groups throughout the world. Soon after arriving in the Middle East Shigenobu cited geographical and ideological differences with the URA as her reason for starting the Japanese Red Army. She allied the group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Fusako Shigenobu was born in 1945 in Setagaya, Tokyo. Her father had been a teacher and an Imperial Japanese Army Major stationed in Manchuria during World fusako-shigenobuWar II. Fusako became involved in activism whilst studying at Meiji University. At the time in Japan (along with the rest of the world) leftist ideology was rampant in university campuses. Fusako started protesting increases in tuition fees. She quickly rose up the ranks of the new-left movement and became one of their top leaders. Fusako Shigenobu was at one time judged to be the most feared female terrorist in the world.

The group was responsible for a large number of violent acts. In 1972 three members walked into Lod airport (now Ben Gurion Airport) in Tel Aviv and used guns and grenades to kill 26 and injure 80. Two of the attackers were killed whilst another Kozo Okamoto survived and was captured.

In 1973 the group hijacked a JAL plane bound for Tokyo and demanded the release of Kozo. When this was refused the group flew the plane to Libya, released the crew and passengers and blew the aircraft up. The JRA was involved in numerous hostage situations throughout the 70s and 80s. After the Lod massacre they became the most well-known leftist terror group in the world.

In Novemeber 2000 Shigenobu was arrested in Osaka. She was found with forged passports and $9000 in cash. It was a shock for Japanese people to see a middle aged woman in handcuffs, thumbs up shouting at reporters “I’ll fight on”. In 2006 she was sentenced to 20 years for using a forged passport, aiding a member of the JRA in obtaining a forged passport and attempted manslaughter by way of planning and commanding the hostage taking at the French embassy in The Hague in 1974. A key member of the defense at her trial was the hijacker of TWA Flight 840 (1969) and current member of the Palestinian National Council Leila Khaled.

In 2001 after the Twin Towers attack, Al-Jazeera and the AFP both received anonymous calls claiming the attack in the name of the JRA. This was debunked after Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden were officially blamed.

Most of the groups members have been arrested and imprisoned. In 2015 Tsutomu Shirosaki, who had been imprisoned in Mississippi for his involvement in a mortar attack on the American Embassy in Jakarta, was arrested as he returned to Japan. He had been one of the prisoners freed in 1977 after the JRA hijacked a JAL flight from Paris to Tokyo.

The Japanese Red Army have been portrayed in books and film. In 2010 Fusako and her daughter Mei were featured in the documentary Children of the Revolution which tells the story of Shigenobu and German activist Ulrike Meinhof through the eyes of their daughters.  Mei Shigenobu is the daughter of Fusako and an unnamed Lebanese freedom fighter. She is currently a Japanese citizen working for news agencies. Fusako wrote about her experiences raising a child in Lebanon in her book I Decided to Give Birth to You Under an Apple Tree (2001).

Today the JRA have disbanded stating that having lost their base in Lebanon and the changing political environment of the world, the aims of the JRA can no longer be met by such a group.

Their successors are known as the Movement Rentai.