A Psychosocial Analysis of Far-right Activists in Japan

  • Yutaka Yoshida

Student thesis: Phd


Since the mid-2000s, the rise of far-right movements has become a major concern in Japanese society. This thesis argues that is necessary to understand the reasons why people join such movements, characterised as they are by hatred against minorities and a false understanding of history, and that it is crucial to engage with these people and acknowledge their painful feelings as the first step to creating a more inclusive society where antagonising discourses on 'others' do not garner support. The current study therefore aims to explore the appeal of the far right to some Japanese people by adopting a psychosocial perspective, which exposes the dynamic relationship between people's political leanings and their social and personal circumstances over the course of their lives. Fieldwork was conducted in Japan with various far-right groups from July 2018 to March 2019. Free Association Narrative Interviews were undertaken with 25 participants. Five cases are chosen to illustrate different types of psychosocial dynamics. The study shows how poorly defined painful feelings, the cause of which participants did not fully articulate, tended to motivate interest in the far right and its ideologies. Because the social factors triggering people's painful feelings were obscured by overwhelming memories of more personal experiences, they saw these painful feelings as evidence of shameful personal shortcomings. They projected their fears of failure onto outgroups whom they regarded as insidious enemies, including people with foreign origins and neighbouring countries who seemed to be conspiring against them. One of the contributions of the current study is its finding that the visibility of minorities is not a necessary condition for racism in Japan. The life stories of the far-right activists interviewed are characterised by a scarcity of direct contacts with the zainichi. The thesis reveals that invisibility of minorities can render racial categories even emptier in terms of their meaning, enabling activists to project their wildest fantasies and delusions onto them. This emptiness allows nation-centred thinking--not only within the far right but also by many mainstream populist political figures--to collapse the distinctions between a nation-state and its people, as if the latter embody the former. The thesis concludes by arguing that it is necessary to allow for the possibility of a subject being invested in multiple narratives that contradict each other. Such a perspective will enable a researcher to have a nuanced understanding of the painful experiences that can drive subjects to embrace far-right movements. Moreover, this perspective will help to prevent binary categorisations of people as either racist or non-racist.
Date of Award1 Aug 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorDavid Gadd (Supervisor) & Erica Baffelli (Supervisor)


  • Racism
  • Psychosocial studies
  • Japan
  • Far-right
  • Nationalism

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