from Time magazine
When anti-Japan protests, the fiercest in years, erupted in China over territorial disputes last September, I was attending a conference in Tianjin, roughly 80 miles south of Beijing. Footage from the capital was chilling: smashed Japanese department stores and automobiles, flags on fire, protesters hurling eggs and debris at the Japanese embassy with chants of “F*** Japan.” Someone tried to crash into a Japanese diplomat’s car on a Beijing highway.
By comparison, the Tokyo I returned to a week later felt downright placid. Most Japanese peered down their noses at the violence in Beijing, finding the scenes embarrassing and barbaric. One Japanese government official I spoke to privately blamed then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his administration for bungling the whole affair through diplomatic incompetence. “They should have kept quiet about [the purchase of the disputed islands],” he said. “None of this would have happened.”
A few months later, Noda was gone, replaced by Shinzo Abe and his conservative Liberal Democratic Party (infamously neither liberal nor democratic), high on a nationalist-leaning platform. Suddenly, the yen tanked, aiding Japanese exporters, and right-wing rhetoric and behavior spiked. High-profile politicians, including Deputy Prime Minister and former PM Taro Aso, visited Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine, a memorial to Japan’s war dead and criminals that whitewashes the nation’s imperialist massacres in Asia. Abe floated revisions to Japan’s 1995 war apology and its pacifist constitution, Article 9 of which forbids Japan from having a standing army. He dressed up in army fatigues and posed in a fighter jet emblazoned with the numerals 731, the number of the most notorious Japanese chemical and biological warfare unit in World War II.