Are Japanese leftists playing with matches?
Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, August 28, 2007
A FIRE STARTED among some shelving material placed in front of a discount store on the first floor of a five-story commercial building in Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward at about 9:00 p.m. on Sunday. The blaze completely destroyed about 100 square meters on the first floor. The shop proprietor and an employee of an Internet café on the second floor suffered light injuries before it was extinguished.
Police are investigating whether this incident is related to another fire of suspicious origin that occurred at the same location on the 15th. At that time, boxes made of cardboard and wood were discovered on fire in front of the building.
The third floor of the same building is the location of the office of former Agriculture Minister Yoshinobu Shimamura of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. He represents Tokyo’s 16th district in the lower house, and is also the chairman of a non-partisan group of legislators who encourage people to visit Yasukuni Shrine. Mr. Shimamura last visited the shrine on the 15th, the date of Japan’s surrender in the war and the date of the first suspicious fire.
In August last year, one ultranationalist burnt down the family home of LDP lower house member Koichi Kato, who had criticized then-Prime Minister Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine. This isolated incident was given wide exposure in the mass media overseas, which claimed to see it as emblematic of a troubling resurgence of right-wing nationalism in the country.
In their coverage of the two Tokyo fires at Mr. Shimamura’s office, the Japanese media are speculating that it was not a direct attack on the politician’s office, based on the specific location of the second fire. Mr. Shimamura seems to be of the same opinion, but then no one has an explanation for two fires of suspicious origin at this site less than two weeks apart.
The first fire merited a brief report from Kyodo, who will probably file a report about this one too. One wonders if this will prompt any breathless speculation overseas about the rise of left-wing threats on free speech.
I think we already know the answer to that.