The new generation of Japanese nationalism: Kubozuka Yosuke (GO) and Takaoka (Pacchigi)

by Yuki Sugiyama

In  class, we watched two movies concerning Zainichi Koreans, namely “GO” and “Pacchigi!”. The two depict two different viewpoints of Zainichi Koreans in Japan, which try to tell us various messages and teaches us lessons. That is not the central concern of this article. Rather, what I want to observe are the personal psychological changes occurred to the actors who played the main roles of the two films.

Kubozuka Yosuke

Playing the role of Sugihara, a Young Zainichi Korean struggling with his identity in Japansese society, Kubozuka paradoxically leaned to nationalism. He says:

“I had been somehow irritated. Probably I couldn’t see the whole picture of the society. I realized that I am living in the society. where I live in is Japan and I am Japanese. In GO, Korean Japanese Sugihara’s identity was born because of the system of the society. Since I was born in Japan and I have been taking it for granted, I didn’t think about it. ”

Before playing Sugihara in Go, he was surrounded by the environment where everyone is Japanese and everyone take that for granted. But after knowing the other in his own society by playing Sugihara, he internalized the nationalistic sentiments as a Japanese. Having discovered himself as nationalist, Kubozuka tried to rebel against what he sees as “uncool Japan” that doesn’t have its own pride at all. In 2002, he produced a movie named “Kyouki no Sakura” (cherry blossom of madness) in which he acted a role of young nationalistic neo-Nazi in Tokyo.

From around that time, his remarks and actions started to be regarded as weird (He even jumped off from 9th floor in his apartment) and he left the mainstream show-biz industry. He is now actor and a reggae artist. We can show his nationalistic perspective.

Takaoka Sosuke

By playing the role of Ang-song in Pacchigi!, he became one of the well-known young actors in Japan. He appeared in a number of tv dramas and movies and he married a famous actress. Everything seemed to be perfect for him until the incident occurred. In 2011, his controversial remarks in his twitter got spotlighted at first by Internet users and later by powerful mass media. His remarks, for example, is as follows: ,

“I used to be indebted to Fuji TV in the past, but now I’m suspicious that they may actually be a Korean network”  “It troubles me because I feel like I am being brainwashed”, 

 “Since we’re in Japan, I would like to see Japanese programs. I get scared every time I hear the word, ‘Korean wave”

His proposition, in short, is anti-Korean and importance of nationalistic unity of the Japanese. Those lurid words caused controversy and troubled him a lot. He resigned from his production and got divorced.

(Takaoka in Kinkakuji, Play of Mishima Yukio’s novel)

In Conclusion, I don’t think those two are the coincidence. There are differences between the two. Some may find this argument too simplistic, but the cases definitely tell as that there is nationalistic tendency among young generation Japanese and those actors embodies that attitude. Having been educated in Japan, I can guess that they hadn’t really been aware of “the other” in their society. The imagined image of homogenous Japanese society collapsed once they discover “the other” in their own society and start to internalize the strong Japanese-ness within themselves.

What do you think?


6 thoughts on “The new generation of Japanese nationalism: Kubozuka Yosuke (GO) and Takaoka (Pacchigi)

  1. Reading about nationalism in other countries is often a strange experience, because by default you have a more global perspective on it. Nationalism can seem unpleasant enough in your own country where you’re used to the standard ‘other’, but seeing it in another culture highlights even more strongly how arbitrary these groupings are. Everyone’s got someone they love to hate, and it seems that they often do so because of fear and a perceived threat to their own identity, regardless of how irrelevant the perceived ‘other’ group is to it.

  2. Hello,

    It makes me sad to see that someone Japanese would say that it’s nationalistic for someone to vocally express himself against seeing his TV-set being filled with Korean tv-series instead of Japanese tv-series. I see absolutely no reason for anyone from any country to want to see his tv filled with foreign tv-series, especially if those tv-series are all from only or mostly one country. Actually, someone who cares about his country (no, that’s not what being nationalistic means – learn proper english) even a little bit should be totally against that for many very obvious reasons which i will not even try to explain.

    I guess that multiculturalist individual with rights – citizen of the world liberal-democratic ideas have sadly colonised your brain, as the great Christopher Lasch would probably say.

    Very sad stuff.

    See ya,

    ps. Wake up. Takaoka Sosuke should be treasured for his comments against this bs – not be called a nationalist ffs.

    • Thanks for the comment. In the future, ad hominem critiques will not be posted. So kindly please stick to the issues, and avoid comments like telling a student of English that he should learn proper English, or that his brain has been colonized. Let’s elevate the level of discussion.

      As to the airing of Korean programs on Japanese TV, are there so many Korean programs being aired that they rise to the level of “filling” the TV? It seems to me that Japanese programs far outnumber Korean programs. Saying Japanese TV is filled with Korean programs seems an exaggeration.

      Also, building on the author’s points, do we hear similar critiques of the airing of other foreign programs, such as those from the US or Canada?

      • Your whole post mostly translates to… “Being filled with” is a subjective expression …and you’re right. I’ll conceide that point and replace it with “A LOT”, which would be a very good middle ground and very close to the reality of the situation. BUT seeing your point makes me wonder when do you think that someone should react? …do you think that someone should react at all? !

        More importantly though: Words have meaning, the word “nationalism” has meaning too but it seems like today it’s being used as a tool for multiculturalism and globalism. Seeing your tv have A LOT of tv-series from a certain foreign country should make anyone with even elementary patriotic feelings feel like Takaoka Sosuke did. Part of the issue, as i allready wrote, is the culture that is in one’s head from the point of view of which one (Yuki Sugiyama) makes his/her critique and you (an American) accepted it. One should point to faulty point of views that lead to calling people nationalists without much evidence.

        It would, to say the least, be funny if the US, the supreme cultural imperialist of the world – the chief architect of American mono-culture globalism and multiculturalism, would have issues with having some (even a lot) foreign programs in its tv. It would be like Aristotle being against philosophy. I have a relevant example though: A LOT of Greek people take issue with the many Turkish programs that are in Greek tv. I could point to many Greek leftists who have publicly expressed that opinion. Here’s one whose opinion on this can be found on the net… (…) He’s an expert on democracy, with books such as “democracy as freedom” ( )

      • The presence of Korean programs on Japanese TV–programs that are dubbed into Japanese and enjoyed by Japanese audiences–does not represent a threat to Japanese national identity. Similarly, American, British, Canadian, or Taiwanese programs (all of which are also aired in Japan) do not represent a threat. The shows are on TV here because there’s an audience for them. That is, Japanese people want to watch them.

        I only hear complaints in Japan about the broadcasting of programs from Korea. Whether these programs make up “a lot” of the TV programming is a matter of perspective. Whenever I turn on my TV, I see channel after channel airing Japanese, not Korean, programming. Why someone would be so offended by seeing a few (a more accurate depiction) Korean programs reflects the political and historical tension between Japan and Korea, and not any ontological, economic, or political threat to life in Japan. Hence, the “nationalist” label applied by my student is appropriate.

        Japan does not exist in isolation. It’s part of Asia, with the 3rd largest economy and the 10th largest population in the world. It’s deeply embedded in the global economy, with connections to countries and cultures throughout the world. So, Japanese people watch TV programs and films, listen to music, are friends with people from other countries, and many are even marrying non-Japanese. And yet, Japan continues to exist as a distinct entity. The sky hasn’t fallen, and Japan is a better, wealthier, and more interesting place because of it.

        Japan also uses the popularity of its own cultural products to promote the nation as “Cool Japan.” The government promotes manga, anime, J-pop music, sushi, geisha, etc., around the world. Should other nations block the broadcasting of “Princess Mononoke” or “Pokemon,” or limit the number of Japanese programs that are allowed on their networks?

        And what if the airing of Korean programs inspired some Japanese people to learn more about Korean culture or study the language? What would happen? Increased cultural and social ties between two neighboring countries? Isn’t it better to promote those ties and ease the tensions? Tourism alone between the two countries is big business. Korean tourists spend a lot of money here in Kyoto, and elsewhere in Japan. Likewise, Japanese are spending a lot of money in Korea.

        Japan could close the door and lock itself away, imposing strict regulations on TV and film to limit the foreign influences. It could also clamp down on foreign music on the radio, and foreign language newspapers and websites. But then, the country would be more like North Korea than Japan. Or it could be a cosmopolitan nation that can enjoy watching programs from other countries.

        How my nationality is relevant here is unclear, but since you brought it up, in the US there are many networks that broadcast foreign and domestic programs in languages other than English. There is some nativist reaction to supposed threats posed by immigration and diversity, and these reactions are older than the nation itself. Research on immigration has clearly and repeatedly shown for decades that immigrants adapt to their host society, learning the language and culture. Just because some people get upset about something does not mean that the issue has merit.

  3. That is a very interesting article. Kubozuka Yosuke is one of my favorite Japanese actor, and I respected him a lot for playing a Zainichi high school student in “GO”. I didn’t know he became more on the nationalistic side after playing this movie. I only hope he’s changed his mind and grew up after his scandal.

    So there is a new “young” generation of nationalists just as I thought perhaps the younger you are in Japan, the more open minded poeple you find or something like that.
    However, those two actors are already 30. I think it would be interesting to look at what the young 20’s generation thinks too.

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