Terrorism in Japan - Suckling on the bosom of (a false sense) of security

Can anyone recognise the person in this picture?

Most foreigners won’t know her. Her name is Fusako Shigenobu. She looks harmless and sweet enough. The girl next door? She is actually the Japanese equivalent of Ulrike Meinhof. Shigenobu founded the Japanese Red Army (JRA) in 1971 at the tender age of 26. The JRA was responsible for a spate of hijackings, hostage takings, airport massacres and bombings in the 1970s and 1980s. It was closely aligned to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Although she claimed the group disbanded in 2011 it has since been renamed the Movement Rentai. Many are not aware another Japanese terrorist organisation bombed Mitsubishi Heavy Industries HQ in 1974. Aum Shinrikyo is perhaps the freshest in many memories for the 1995 sarin gas attacks on Tokyo’s subway. Japan is a safe country to be sure but that does not mean it is immune to future attacks.

As the tragic news events of the Brussels attack unfolded last week, I was reminded of a recent trip to Hong Kong. The Cathay Pacific check-in counter at Haneda International Airport (Fig.1) had not opened. I was surprised to see that several passengers had left their bags unattended and probably gone off to have lunch or shop. I approached a young policeman (draped in ‘anti-terrorism’ arm-bands and badges on his uniform) who responded that if more bags were left unattended they might act.  I suggested to him that a terrorist organisation would view Japan as a very soft target if security personnel turned an obvious blind eye. In any other country these bags would be immediately deemed suspicious, removed, checked and the passengers admonished for being so ignorant. With the 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Summer Olympics approaching this was an international ‘embarrassment’ as far as airport security protocol went. Airports should be zero tolerance zones.

Fig 1: Haneda International & unattended baggage    

Japan’s two main security firms Secom (9735) and Alsok (2331) are official Olympic partners. However what is the upside to a safe Olympic games? Not much but the downside to any potential ‘terrorist event’ could have large downside for these companies.

A senior Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) spokesman said, “we do not want to provide the kind of heavy-handed security by gun-carrying personnel that was seen at the 2012 London Olympics and 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi”

The MPD wants a light touch approach and is considering an 80-strong all-women riot squad to be used for crowd control. The MPD said “We hope to provide effective and elegant security by using sophisticated technologies…By mixing hard-line and moderate methods, we also hope to honor the atmosphere of omotenashi hospitality unique to Japan.”

It is completely understandable that the Japanese wish to showcase their world-renowned hospitality but there are better ways to do it. Hello Kitty clad Olympic volunteers make a lot of sense but security is all about showing teeth and AK-47 toting terrorists are unlikely to care about omotenashi moreover take it as a sign of weakness which will ensure Japan a viewed as a soft target.

While Brussels and Paris serve as recent reminders of how vulnerable a public can be, Japan must be careful to not suckle indefinitely on the bosom of false security. As American mountain climber Alison Levine once said,

“Fear is OK. It is complacency that will kill you!”

PDF report available Here


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