Of all the iconoclastic vigilante figures that changed the course of history, perhaps none is as lost to the history textbooks of the current year than a young man named Otoya Yamaguchi.
In 1960, Japan was still reeling from the Second World War, and was seen as fertile ground by members of both Western capitalist and Eastern communist political parties. The most prominent of the far-left organisations was the Japan Socialist Party, a communist mouthpiece that took its orders directly from Beijing.
17-year old Otoya was a fiercely patriotic ultranationalist and a member of a far-right Uyoku Dantai group. He was disillusioned and enraged that China, a fervent enemy of his people, had such a growing foothold in Japan.
Otoya sought out the leader of the Japan Socialist Party, a man named Inejiro Asanuma who was backed by the Chinese Communist Party and was a virulent critic of the U.S. and her attempts to forge a strong friendship with Japan. He died at a political rally on October 12, 1960.
Asanuma was widely regarded to be a puppet of Mao Zedong. While most Japanese considered the Republic of China to be the true Chinese state, Asanuma met with the communist Chinese in an attempt to ally himself with them against the West. After returning from mainland China, he was seen wearing a Mao suit, drawing rebuke from members of his own party.
Armed with a traditional yoroidoshi sword Otoya charged the stage at Tokyo’s Hibiya Hall where Asanuma was speaking from a lectern and drove the blade into the communist’s left side rib cage. The press at the scene were able to capture moment-by-moment photo and video footage of the assassination as the knife was plunged into Asanuma and then withdrawn. Asanuma died rather quickly.
Less than three weeks after the assassination, Otoya mixed water with toothpaste and wrote “Seven lives for my country. Long live His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor!” on his cell wall at a juvenile detention facility. The first part was a reference to legendary 14th century samurai Kusunoki Masashige.
Having penned his last words, the not-yet-18 Otoya knotted strips of his bedsheets into a makeshift rope and hung himself from a light fixture.
After Asanuma’s death, support for communism tanked sharply in Japan. Yamaguchi was honored as a samurai assassin-martyr, with gifts given to his parents and a memorial service held in his name.
In the sixty-odd years since Asanuma’s assassination, Japan has blossomed into a Westernized world power, with a Top 10 economy, record low crime and terrorism, and record high quality of life. A sizeable part if that growth has to attributed to Otoya Yamaguchi, who slew the communist dragon in Nippon with one thrust from his trusty yoroi-doshi blade.
Otoya became something of a legend among other Japanese nationalists after his death, and his parents were widely honored as a result. Over 50 years after his death, Otoya is still celebrated by Japanese nationalists, and a major celebration was held in 2010 to mark the 50th anniversary of his actions.
F to pay respects.