Hate rallies mostly targeted at ethnic Koreans living in Japan have spread beyond Tokyo and Osaka to smaller regional cities over the past six months or so.
A group of scholars who analyzed Internet postings by organizations behind this disturbing phenomenon found that between March and August there were at least 161 instances of street marches or vehicles mounted with loudspeakers blasting hate-filled slogans.
The group, called "Kodo hoshu (active conservatives) archive project," includes Kei Nakazawa, a professor of literature at Tokyo's Hosei University, as well as sociologists in the Kansai region.
It found that March had the most instances of protests with 35. July had the least with 14. The average number of participants was 43, although in some protests in Tokyo's Shin-Okubo district, which boasts a sizable Koreatown, as many as 200 protesters took part.
In addition to Tokyo and Osaka, protests were also held in Hokkaido as well as Aomori, Yamagata, Gunma, Chiba, Aichi, Shizuoka, Nara, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Oita prefectures.
The hate speech-filled protests picked up pace in January. In June, police made a number of arrests after a clash between protesters and those opposed to such behavior.
Subsequently, protests in major urban areas became temporarily less popular. However, protests in smaller regional cities have continued.
The protests go beyond those organized by Zainichi Tokken wo Yurusanai Shimin no Kai (Group of citizens who do not tolerate privileges for ethnic Korean residents in Japan), which are generally directed at ethnic Koreans. The group is known more commonly as Zaitokukai.
In a similar vein, there have been protests by nuclear energy supporters that have raised opposition to anti-nuclear groups.
Sound trucks also gathered in front of a Russian consulate general demanding the return of the Northern Territories.
There has even been a protest against the peace movement in Hiroshima.
Despite the difference in targets, the basic pattern of the protests is similar, with activists shouting slogans such as "Kill them" and "Get out."
Groups like Zaitokukai use the Internet as an abetting and organizing tool. They also videotape the actual protests and post them to video-sharing sites.
The group of scholars focused on data that remained in cyberspace.
Five or six group members began analyzing postings and videos from about July and broke down the number of participants and the arguments they made at the protests. Some members also attended actual protests to gather on-site study.
The group plans to go over the data from February and earlier to broaden the range of the study.
Nakazawa, who is also a novelist, first paid attention to the hate speech protests in Japan about four years ago.
"The harshest protests were those held between late last year and early this year," she said. "Scenes of protesters yelling insults were reported widely in foreign nations and that hurt Japan's reputation.
"We want to provide numerical data about what is actually going on so that it can serve as materials for debate on whether legal restrictions should be placed on such hate speech protests."
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