After two decades of isolation, Japan has begun to break out of its national cocoon. Japan is once again beginning to play a major role in shaping the destiny of Southeast Asia. Recent rioting has highlighted opposition to Prime Minister Sato. Here is an eyewitness account of the rioting and the reasons behind the opposition.
Tokyo, Japan "SATO DON'T Go... Sato Don't Go." This chant became the battle cry of over 3,000 militant Zengakuren college students and labor union members as they turned the approaches to Tokyo's International Airport into a bloody inferno. They were out to prevent Prime Minister Eisaku Sato from leaving on a goodwill tour of five Southeast Asian nations. As I and another member of The PLAIN TRUTH staff drove to the airport on the Sunday morning of October 8, to cover Prime Minister Sato's departure, little did we expect to find ourselves eyewitnesses to the worst rioting to hit Japan in over seven years. Not since the student demonstrations of 1960, protesting the ratification of the United States-Japanese security treaty, has such massive violence erupted. Those earlier clashes led to the cancellation of President Eisenhower's planned visit to Japan in June, 1960.
The telltale signs of big trouble developed the night before. Large groups of Zengakuren students (members of the Anti-Communist factions of the Federation of Student Self-Government Associations), some of whom had come all the way from Kyoto, Hiroshima and other cities, had rallied at three university campuses in Tokyo. They vowed they would prevent Prime Minister Sato from leaving on the trip by blocking his way to the airport. Their leaders announced their intention of stopping him "even by force," if necessary. This bold threat was an unexpected departure from the otherwise normal approach to student demonstrations. It is a recognized fact in Japan that student demonstrations are merely another form of outdoor recreation. Some young people get their "kicks" out of drag racing. Others take up one sport or another. But Japanese college students are famous for getting their "kicks" and thrills by staging very vocal and energetic protest demonstrations. This was no routine student demonstration. It was no demonstration at all. It was a RIOT — a carefully planned riot. It soon became apparent that the students had one thing in mind — intentional violence. Chief Cabinet Secretary Toshio Kimura called it an act of "massive criminal violence." When Sunday morning arrived, Tokyo's Metropolitan Police Department was taking no chances. It was prepared to meet force with force. Over 2,400 police armed with batons and wearing helmets with plastic face shields to protect them against flying gravel and rocks were mobilized and stationed at key approaches to the airport. As we prepared to leave the Imperial Hotel in downtown Tokyo for the airport, we were unaware of the violence that had already erupted. Helmeted students and trade unionists had begun battling with police along the main road leading to the airport. Girl students formed an ammunition brigade. They were collecting and passing along baseball-sized rocks taken from a nearby construction site. The male students sent the rocks raining down upon the ranks of policemen — resulting in many injuries. At 7:50 a.m., 1,500 students, hurling rocks ` and wielding six-foot bamboo poles, 'broke through the police cordon at the Suzugamori entrance of the No. One Expressway and began demonstrations on the highway, paralyzing traffic. They were finally driven off the highway by the police 30 minutes later. When we tried to enter this section of the Expressway on our way to the airport, we were unable to. It had been blocked off to all traffic. We did not know at the time the reason, since we were still unaware of the reign of violence which had already begun. Meanwhile, hundreds of other police guarded the four bridges leading across the Ebitorigawa River to Tokyo's island-like airport. Here is where we saw the biggest battles take place. Shortly after 9:00 a.m., the students tried to crash the police blockades set up on the bridges in an attempt to swarm into the airport. In an attempt to block the path of the students, the police had parked a number of large armored riot trucks on several of the bridges. Some of these trucks had gun turrets — equipped with high-powered fire hoses. Demonstrating unusual determination, the students succeeded in seizing a number of the police trucks. They sprayed gasoline on them and set fire to them. Before they were finished, seven trucks were aflame.
Sato Reaches Airport
Despite the violent efforts of the rioters, Prime Minister Sato and his party safely reached the airport. We arrived, after photographing some of the events taking place outside the airport, just in time to be checked through the press gate as the motorcade wheeled through the heavily guarded entrance and out onto the boarding area. Dozens of high-ranking government officials, members of the Diet (the Japanese Parliament), as well as a number of foreign ambassadors and their wives, were assembled to bid them farewell. We hurriedly took our place among the other photographers and reporters. Prime Minister and Mrs. Sato were given a red-carpet farewell — literally. A red carpet extended from the foot of the planes stairway down past a number of the top dignitaries. As they ascended the stairway and finally stood at the top waving for the benefit of photographers, they could see off in the distance the hundreds of shouting, screaming demonstrators who had managed to gain entrance to the airport. The students had gathered on the viewing ramp overlooking the area and chanted "Sato Don't Go." Finally, at 10:35 a.m., the sleek Japan Airlines jet carrying Sato and his party took off and headed for Djakarta, Indonesia — the first stop on the tour. Below could be seen the billowing columns of smoke rising from the burning police trucks — a grim reminder of the price paid to insure the plane would be able to take off safely. As we prepared to leave Tokyo International Airport, we thought that the violence was over. Since the rioters had failed to prevent Sato's departure, we assumed they would resign themselves to the fact that he had left and would soon disperse. However, such was not the case, as we soon realized. The most tragic and heartbreaking event was yet ahead. As we drove out of the main airport area, our attention was immediately attracted to renewed fighting taking place on the Benten Bridge. We parked the car and quickly made our way down near the edge of the bridge in full view of the fighting. Almost three hours were to pass before we finally left the riot area.
A Fatal Mistake
About 500 die-hard student rioters were attempting to break through a police blockade, still intent on reaching the airport — despite the fact Sato had already left. They had vowed they would reach the airport and to fail would be "losing face" — something Japanese hate to do. In an effort to block the rioters' advance, the police had parked four large riot trucks on the bridge. Shortly after 11:00 a.m., the police were forced to abandon two of these trucks. In the hasty evacuation, the ignition key was accidentally left in one of them. This ultimately proved to be a very costly — yes, fatal — mistake. Several students climbed into the truck and began to use it as a battering ram to clear the other parked vehicles off the bridge, thus opening a path for their advance. We watched as the student driver repeatedly threw the vehicle into reverse gear and rammed it at full speed against the vehicle parked behind it. The plan was working. Slowly but surely the parked vehicle gave ground under these repeated hammer blows. But at 11:27 tragedy struck! An accidental shift of gears — unexpectedly throwing the vehicle into reverse — crushed Hiroaki Yamazaki, an 18-year-old Kyoto University student, to death under the wheels. This only served to further enrage the students. They began accusing the police of beating him to death. In reality, a fellow student was responsible for his death. During the next hour, the students prepared for what proved to be their final charge. At the same time, the police rushed in additional reinforcements during the lull. They even used megaphones to announce to the students that they would be permitted to go to the airport if they would agree to go peacefully, single-file, and then promptly depart the environs of the airport. This offer was refused. The police then issued an ultimatum — disperse, or tear gas would be used. Four police officers armed with tear gas guns took their positions near the airport end of the Benten Bridge. I was astonished to see the students carefully making their way around the stalled vehicles on the bridge in preparation for their final charge. I watched as a number of female students made their way up toward the front. Girls are often used to spearhead the advance, since the Japanese law prevents the policemen from so much as laying a hand on them. The students were hopelessly outnumbered. Several thousand policemen stood between them and their objective. There wasn't one chance in a million they could succeed in reaching the airport. It was as if a kamikaze spirit pervaded the students' ranks. It was do or die trying! Just as the students began their final surge toward the police, the police opened fire with tear gas. The blinding cloud forced the students back. Others leaped from the bridge into the river below to escape the burning fumes. Quickly, the baton-wielding police surged forward and rushed into the student ranks, showing no mercy. As I watched the tear gas cans exploding around the students' feet, I failed to notice that I happened to be standing downwind. The cloud of tear gas began to move quickly toward me. I began a hasty departure, but unfortunately, it moved faster than I did. A few seconds later, I was engulfed in the noxious fumes. A hot, burning sensation hit my eyes and face. Almost blinded from the tears which were gushing from my eyes, I painfully made my way back to the car. The mopping-up operations took another hour or so. And when all the grisly facts were in, one student had been killed. Over 700 had been injured — most of them policemen.
Opposed To the Vietnam War
What were the reasons which caused these frenzied rioters to attempt to prevent Prime Minister Sato from leaving on what was intended to be a goodwill tour? Were they opposed to Japan's seeking to play a more responsible part in the affairs of Southeast Asia? Were they against solidifying Japan's economic interests in these nations? No — not at all. Their rabid opposition lay in Prime Minister Sato's final stop on this tour — Saigon, South Vietnam. They didn't want him to go to Vietnam. Just over two decades ago, Japan suffered the most devastating one-two punch in all the history of war. The awesome destructive power of the atomic bomb was unleashed for the first — and at least up until the present, the only — time against human beings. With stunning suddenness, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were virtually wiped off the map. No nation can experience such a crushing defeat and not be deeply affected by it. It produced a type of anti-war psychosis. After World War II, Japan drew up a constitution which declares that it is unconstitutional — illegal — for Japan to wage war. Japan remained in a shell of diplomatic isolation and insisted on maintaining strict neutrality regarding other nations' wars. When Sato included a brief stop in South Vietnam on his goodwill tour, many Japanese — including the militant Zengakuren student association — accused him of making Japan "an accomplice in the war of aggression." The head of the leading opposition party — the Socialists — was quick to point out that no prime minister of a country not participating in the Vietnam War had ever visited South Vietnam. They interpreted Sato's visit to Saigon as an act of support of the United States' position in the war — thus shattering Japan's image of strict neutrality. This made some mad — fighting mad. What many people do not realize is that Japan has quite a sizable stake in the Vietnam war — an economic stake. The war is responsible for putting $200 million a year into the Japanese economy. Markets opened to Japan by American industry's diversion to war production account for an additional estimated $750 million advantage in Japan's balance of payments with other nations. Some Japanese economists feel that an end to the Vietnam war would severely jolt the Japanese economy. When the rumor of a Vietnam peace proposal flashed through Tokyo earlier this year, stock prices tumbled 15-20 points in one day. The Japanese are most happy to take in the profits from the war, but they are unwilling to make any open commitment.
Rising Spirit of Nationalism
Japan is no longer satisfied with the role she has been forced to play since 1945. The weak, helpless, crushed nation — the vassal of her conqueror, the United States — has undergone an absolutely fantastic change. Japan has finally emerged from her diplomatic cocoon of isolationism and is once again one of the world's truly great nations. She is beginning to flex her new-found economic and political muscles. The shame and guilt of war are gone. A new national confidence and sense of destiny have begun to emerge. The time has just about arrived when the new generation will insist Japan can no longer jump to the political tune played in Washington. This increasing spirit of independence came to light in a high-level unofficial conference involving about 70 Japanese and American professors, politicians, and industrialists. The conference was held in September in Shimoda, Japan, The Japanese delegates told the American participants that Japan would become increasingly independent in foreign affairs over the next few years. One Japanese spokesman said that citizens of the NEW JAPAN would increasingly make their own decisions without reference to the United States or any other country.
Sato Courts U.S. Favor
Since that time has not quite arrived — and Japan still needs America's military protection — Prime Minister Sato is willing to "play politics" in order to get what he wants. Many political observers see Sato's visit to South Vietnam as an obvious attempt to gain President Johnson's favor. His visit was a subtle way of throwing his support to the United States war effort. He also spoke out against any cessation of the bombing of North Vietnam unless the Communists are willing to negotiate a peaceful settlement of the war. And all this came at a very crucial time — when President Johnson's stock has hit its lowest ebb and opposition to the United States' presence in South Vietnam continues to mount.
A Return Favor
What does Sato hope to accomplish by this? What does he hope to gain by this political maneuvering? Surely Mr. Sato wasn't willing to pay the price of strong opposition and violent rioting at home unless he felt he had more to gain than lose. Exactly what does he want from President Johnson? Japan wants Okinawa and the Ogasawara Islands! And the Okinawans want to be returned to Japan! Just before Prime Minister Sato left for the United States, he met with the chairman and two other representatives of the Okinawa's Return to Japan conference at his official residence. Outside sat a group engaged in a hunger strike while other demonstrators were loudly shouting, "Return Okinawa to Japan!" Mr. Sato was presented with the signatures of 200,000 Okinawans in a petition requesting the return of Okinawa to Japan. The chairman concluded his appeal with the statement: "At the risk of your political life, and at the cost of the State of Japan, please realize the return of Okinawa to Japan!" Mr. Sato listened carefully, and said, "I'll do my best on this." This promise was made with tears in his eyes. He didn't succeed. But as a result of his latest talks with President Johnson, he obtained the promise of the return of the Bonin Isles to the NEW JAPAN. But one thing is sure. Sooner or later — the flag of the rising sun will once again fly over Okinawa. And the soil on which the blood of so many Americans was spilled will eventually be returned to the Japanese. Yet there is far more to this story that needs to be told. What role is Japan destined to play in world affairs during the next five to ten years? Is Japan really a friend of the West? Will history repeat itself? What does Bible prophecy have to say about Japan's future? Read the fantastic story of Japan's rebirth and the hitherto hidden identity of Japan in Bible prophecy in next month's issue.