News article originally appeared in the Guardian on Wednesday 11 August 2010.
The British National Party is taking part in a week-long conference in Japan organised by Nippon Issuikai, an extreme-right group that denies Japanese wartime atrocities.
Adam Walker, the BNP‘s staff manager, is in Tokyo along with 20 MEPs and members of the Alliance of European National Movements, the “europarty” that brings together far-right parties from across Europe.
Walker arrived in Tokyo today where he will spend the next week attending a congress on “The Future of Nationalist Movements” .
According to the BNP, Walker has worked in Japan as a teacher and runs a martial arts academy.
During recent election campaigns, the BNP has used images of Winston Churchill and Spitfires in an attempt to broaden its patriotic appeal.
However, Issuikai, or the “Wednesday Society”, denies the atrocities perpetrated by Emperor Hirohito and his government, including the Rape of Nanking in 1937, in which hundreds of thousands of civilians were murdered and between 20,000 and 80,000 women raped by soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army.
John Walker, a spokesman for the BNP, said: “It is not for us to make comment on other parties’ views.”
Issuikai was founded in 1972 by acolytes of the militarist novelist Yukio Mishima, who committed Seppuku, or ritual suicide, after a failed attempt at provoking a coup d’état by the Japanese Self-Defence Forces to restore the powers of the emperor.
Mitsuhiro Kimura, Issuikai’s president since 2000, has long wanted to build an international alliance of far-right parties.
A graduate of the prestigious Keio University, Kimura speaks English and counts French rightwing leader Jean-Marie Le Pen among his associates. He was a friend of Uday Hussein, son of Saddam Hussein, and made regular visits to Iraq before the war.
“We are holding this meeting in Japan to get to know each other, to talk about how we can protect the national identity in our respective countries and cooperate to win the battle against globalisation,” Kimura told the Guardian.
On Friday, Le Pen will make a keynote speech at a hotel in Tokyo.
A day later – on the eve of the 65th anniversary of the end of the second world war – conference participants will pay their respects at Yasukuni, a Shinto shrine in the capital that honours Japan’s war dead, including 14 class-A war criminals.
The conference’s main subject will be the future of the far-right internationally, in particular, “lessons that Japan could learn from the experience and achievements of European movements, some of which have made inroads in recent polls, and ways to maintain ties worldwide”.
Philip Claeys, of Belgium’s Flemish separatist group Vlaams Belang, told the Guardian he was not bothered about meeting with sympathisers of Imperial Japan.
“The conference is focused on current politics in the 21st Century. We are confronted with Islamic terrorist threats, free trade, and globalism now. I’m not interested in going to a conference focusing on who did what to who in World War Two or which side was guilty of war crimes.”