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.

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Takahashi apprehended

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After 17 years the hunt for the Aum members has come to an end.
Katsuya Takahashi was arrested today in Ota ward south west Tokyo.
At 8:30 police were tipped of that a man fitting Takahashi’s description was staying at a manga cafe. He was arrested around 9:30 carrying a black bag containing several million yen in cash.
Just as his counterpart Kikuchi had done he calmly responded yes when asked if he was Takahashi.

Net closes in on final Aum fugitive.

Takahashi was recorded buying lunch and newspapers after working the night shift at a construction company. The clothes he is wearing are thought to be from the time he first went on the run

The hunt for the last person wanted in connection with the 1995 sarin gas attacks draws towards an end as police say they are mere hours behind Katsuya Takahashi.

Fugitive, Takahashi has been spotted in Kawasaki, just south of Tokyo. Takahashi served as the getaway driver for Toru Toyoda who planted sarin on the Hibiya subway line which killed one and injured over 500.

Takahashi fled his company apartment after a colleague mentioned the arrest of Naoko Kikuchi. He was recorded withdrawing over two million yen from his savings and buying lunch at a convenience store. As he has not been spotted on train station CCTV police expect he is travelling by foot or bus.

Then and now, the right shows Takahashi in the mid-90s, the left as he looks now.

 

Following the arrest of Kikuchi police learnt that the two fugitives had retained close contact and had lived together for some time. Both had used the alias Sakurai. They also believe that Kikuchi financially aided Takahashi in their initial flight after the subway attacks. Although Takahashi withdrew two million yen ($25,000) from his account Kikuchi only had about 100,000 yen ($1250) at the time of her arrest.

Kikuchi photographed in the back of a police car

 

 

The Metropolitan Police Department has increased the number of investigators searching for him to 170.

The Tokyo sarin gas attacks

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Yesterday evening, as Japan trounced Oman in the 2014 qualifiers, Naoko Kikuchi was apprehended in Kanagawa-Ken.

Naoko was one of the last missing people connected to the 1995 sarin gas attacks carried out by the yoga based cult Aum Shinrikyo. She had been on the lamb for 17 years, the only person left unaccounted for is the get away driver Katsuya Takahashi. Naoko (although not there for the attacks) was wanted in connection with manufacturing the deadly gas and other crimes committed within the cult. When approached by the police she was asked if she was Naoko Kikuchi, to which she supposedly calmly replied “yes”.

Aum Shinrikyo was (is) a controversial cult. They believe in the healing powers of aesthetic yoga and were controlled by their egomaniacal leader Shoko Asahara. The cult was founded in a one room apartment in Shibuya in the mid 1980s and had became an official religious organization by 1989.

The group was accused of the usual cult things, holding disciples against their will, using LSD and other hallucinogenics during rituals and extorting money from their followers. The darker side included murder (a prominent anti-cult lawyer and his family were murdered in 1989), declaring war on the Japanese constitution and manufacturing nerve and sarin gas. In 1993 there was bizarre seismic activity around a huge farm they had purchased in rural Australia (the rumour is the group had tested nuclear weapons).

The 1995 attacks was not the first to come from the group. In 1994 eight people were killed and two hundred injured when sarin was released in Matsumoto city, Nagano-Ken. This attack was only linked to the group after the subway events.

On the morning of March 20th 1995 five high levels members boarded three different train lines heading to the area containing the Japanese government buildings. Each carried around 900ml of sarin liquid (a pinhead amount can kill an adult).

13 people were killed and thousands were injured in that was the worst attack on Tokyo since the second world war. The court cases that followed saw a total of 189 members indicted, thirteen were sentenced to death, five were sentenced to life in prison, eighty were given prison sentences of various lengths, eighty-seven received suspended sentences, two were fined, and one was found not guilty.

The sarin gas attacks were a huge blow to the Japanese which viewed their society as virtually crime free. It questioned the safety of their society. The backlash was explored in Murakami’s book Underground in which he interviewed survivors and members of the cult. Aum has since denounced their leader and changed its name to Aleph. Their image is still terrible in Japan and its followers find it very hard to find employment and housing.

The picture below is taken from this site, the commentary is in Japanese but the pictures speak for themselves.

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