Japanese politician who handed Emperor Akihito letter receives death threat
Letter delivered to controversial anti-nuclear politician Taro Yamamoto's office contained knife and threat to send assassins
Julian Ryall in Tokyo
The Japanese politician roundly criticised for handing Emperor Akihito a letter last month has received a knife and a death threat at his office – a none-too-subtle message that even a hardened right-winger says is over the top.
The envelope was intercepted on Wednesday when an X-ray machine detected the weapon at the building where Taro Yamamoto has his political office in Tokyo.
Police later confirmed that the envelope contained a knife with a folding blade about 9cm long. On the reverse of the envelope was a message in red ink that read: “A group of assassins carrying knives will be sent to you shortly”.
The message was sent by a previously unknown group with a name that translates as The Japanese Racial Independence and Liberation Front.
“That does not sound like the name of a real nationalist group,” Mitsuhiro Kimura, the president of the right-wing Issuikai group, told The South China Morning Post. “It sounds like a name that someone has come up with very quickly.”
Kimura said he understands the emotions of the person who sent the death threat, but says mailing a knife goes beyond what is acceptable in this situation.
“I’m not so angry now, but I was furious when I saw what Yamamoto did,” he admits. “My first thought was ‘What an idiot’.”
The politician has come in for a public shellacking after approaching the Emperor at a garden party on October and handing him a hand-written letter detailing the health problems that are affecting children who were living close to the Fukushima nuclear plant when three of its six reactors suffered melt-downs after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Yamamoto has received a public dressing down from the government, the media, the majority of politicians in the Diet and the Japanese public. There were calls for him to resign – in large part for what conservatives claimed was an effort to drag the monarch into politics – but he declined to do so, instead offering an apology.
The Upper House of the Diet has since voted to ban Yamamoto – a staunch opponent of nuclear energy and an actor before being elected to Parliament as an independent – from attending future events involving the Imperial Family.
“He overstepped the mark, broke the rules and was rude,” believes Kimura. “That’s not a question of nationalism; it’s a question of politeness.
“But he has apologised, said he regrets his actions and I think that’s enough now,” he said.
Police are investigating the source of the death threats against Yamamoto and security is likely to be tightened around him to prevent any attempts on his life.