When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Japan

Japanese Nationalists Try To Bury Past, Kill Freedom Of Expression

There's a bitter irony when an exhibit titled 'Non-Freedom of Expression' itself faces censorship.

 Japanese ultranationalist and far-right activist candidate Makoto Sakurai during a campaign rally, Tokyo, 2016
Japanese ultranationalist and far-right activist candidate Makoto Sakurai during a campaign rally, Tokyo, 2016
Meike Eijsberg

TOKYO — An exhibition opening in Tokyo criticizing Japan's militaristic past and human rights atrocities, called "Non-Freedom of Expression," was itself canceled under pressure from the extreme right. Japanese and international media have reported that threats from the Japanese nationalist movement have led to the cancellation of the opening of the exhibition the day before its June 25 inauguration.

Le Monde reports that the exhibition was originally supposed to take place at the Session House, a private space in Tokyo. But far-right protesters demonstrated outside the building, while hateful and violence language multiplied. The police were notified but remained discreet, only asking the protesters to turn down the volume. A new location was found and kept secret until the last moment but, fearing an incident, the owner of the venue canceled the exhibition.

The organizers remain hopeful and are looking for a new place. "This is only a postponement," said Yuko Okamoto, a 58-year-old organizer of the event to The Japan Times. "We are confident that we can hold the event." In the meantime, organizers are considering legal action after some protestors had suggested physically attacking the exhibition, the Japanese broadcaster NHK reports.

The source of the fiercest criticism is a statue called "Girl of Peace."

The exhibition is full of topics long considered taboo in Japan. Some of it is related to the atrocities committed in the second Sino-Japanese war, including the 1937 Nanjing massacre. Other installments address more recent evens, such as the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, the imperial system, or the debate over Article 9 in the Japanese Constitution mentioning the renunciation of war, which nationalists would like to remove.

Rally in front of the "Comfort Woman" statue, located near the Japanese embassy in Seoul, Korea, 2018 — Photo: Lee Jae-Won

But the source of the fiercest criticism is a statue called "Girl of Peace," created by South Korean sculptors Kim Seo-kyung and Kim Eun-sung. This statue features a so-called "Comfort Woman," a euphemism for Korean women forced to work as prostitutes for the Imperial Japanese army. It was originally installed in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul but it has been reproduced in several other countries, such as the United States and Germany.

The statue has raised repeated controversy over the years, most notably in a similar freedom of expression art exhibition hosted in Nagoya, as part of the Aichi Triennale 2019, one of the largest international art festivals in Japan. Repeated threats were made by protestors, who viewed the exhibition as "anti-Japanese propaganda." According to Kyodo News, the organizers were forced to close the exhibition three days after its opening, and the Ministry of Culture withdrew a 78 million yen ($706,000) grant to the Triennale.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

How South American Oceans Can Sway The U.S.-China Showdown

As global rivalries and over-fishing impact the seas around South America, countries there must find a common strategy to protect their maritime backyards.

RIMPAC 2022

Juan Gabriel Tokatlian

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — As the U.S.-China rivalry gathers pace, oceans matter more than ever. This is evident just looking at the declarations and initiatives enacted concerning the Indian and Pacific oceans.

Yet there is very little debate in South America on the Sino-American confrontation and its impact on seas around South America, specifically the South-Eastern Pacific (SEP) and South-Western Atlantic (SWA). These have long ceased to be empty spaces — and their importance to the world's superpowers can only grow.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
Writing contest - My pandemic story
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ