Update 7/10: The Washington Post has confirmed the reading of the Bloomberg story used in this diary, stating that Yamagami “targeted Abe ‘out of resentment,’” that he believed “that Abe was linked to a religious group he blamed for his mother’s financial woes. “ and that the mother was a member of the “Japan Unification Church,” which is part of the Sun Myung Moon-spawned organization. As with any developing story, facts may change or be re-interpreted, but Bloomberg and WaPo (and the Japanese organizations they base their reporting on) have for the first time given us a plausible motive for the assasination.
A lot has been written about the assassination of Shinzo Abe, but very little has given any insight into the motives of the assassin. This is terrible, since Japan’s politics is likely to be shaken—and not in a good way—by the assassination. Bloomberg News says this:
Tetsuya Yamagami, the suspect in Abe’s assassination, told police that he had initially planned to attack the leader of a religious group he believed caused his mother to become bankrupt after she donated large sums of money, Kyodo reported.
[Akihiko ] Kurokawa [secretary-general of the very small NHK Party] had also accused Abe’s grandfather, former premier Nobusuke Kishi, of bringing the South Korean-founded Unification Church, known for its mass weddings, to Japan. And he referred to close links between Soka Gakkai, the lay Buddhist organization that backs junior ruling coalition party Komeito, and the Chinese Communist Party.
Bloomberg writes this off as conspiracy theories. However, the Unification Church, founded by Sun Myung Moon and the creator of the right-wing Washington Times has in fact been accused of cult-like activities. Steve Hassan, The Guardian:
I was with the Moonies for two-and-a-half years. I worked 21 hours a day, seven days a week – in prayer for between one and three hours. Then I would spend the rest of the day doing PR or lectures for the group, recruiting and fundraising. Everyone on my team was told they had to raise a minimum of $100 a day, otherwise they wouldn't be allowed to sleep, and as a good leader, if they couldn't sleep, then I couldn't either. When I crashed a van into the back of a tractor trailer, I had gone three days without sleep.
I have read stories of Japanese members of the Unification Church being bled dry, so it’s entirely plausible that one of those families could hold a serious grudge. The Washington Times reported that in September 2021. Abe spoke to a Unification Church-organized “Rally of Hope”—along with Trump and “Hun Sen, prime minister of Cambodia; Jose Manuel Barroso, former president of the European Commission; Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, former president of The Philippines; H.D. Deve Gowda, former Indian prime minister; Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmon, former president of Trinidad and Tobago; and Natasa Micic, former Serbian president.”
I don’t know of evidence that Abe was in any way connected to the Unification Church. Still, Abe’s politics were of the extreme anti-communist variety that Moon had, and speaking at an event organized by the Unification Church is highly unusual. And Trump’s attendance is even more interesting.
Abe was an ultranationalist. S. Nathan Park, Foreign Policy:
He has expressed admiration for his grandfather Nobusuke Kishi, who was imprisoned after World War II on the charges of being a Class A war criminal. Abe was a special advisor to the group Nippon Kaigi (Japan Conference), which claims Imperial Japan should be lauded for liberating Asia from Western colonial powers, the Tokyo war crimes tribunals were illegitimate, and war crimes such as the Rape of Nanking in 1937 were exaggerated or fabricated. (In 2014, 15 out of 18 cabinet members in the Abe administration were Nippon Kaigi members.)
In 2007, during his brief first stint as prime minister, Abe personally disavowed the 1993 Kono Statement that apologized to the World War II-era victims of systematic sexual abuse by the Japanese army, dishonestly claiming a lack of evidence. When Kan made the centennial speech accepting responsibility for Imperial Japan’s annexation of Korea, Abe yelled, “Idiot!” at Kan on live television. Upon taking office again in 2012, Abe wasted no time in showing the world where he stood on the history issues: He openly flirted with officially retracting the 1993 apology to the so-called comfort women and visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrines Japan’s war criminals, over strong criticisms from both South Korea and the United States.
This might cut against the assassin’s notion of a connection between Abe and the Unification Church, since Moon was Korean. Still, following Moon’s death, the Unification Church has presumably transformed.
Apologies for this hasty post. If I can find more information, I will add it below.
1. As mentioned in the post, the appearance of Trump at the “Rally of Hope” is actually more interesting than Abe’s presence. The reason is that now that Trump is less able to use the mainstream media and social media to spread his lies, he has to be turning to alternate avenues. Q-Anon is one of those.
But it turns out that Q-Anon has joined forces with the Unification Church (h/t riogrande). Thomas Lecaque, Religion Dispatches:
One local Pennsylvania Q-affiliated religious group that Mastriano has repeatedly engaged with—with expansionist tendencies and both national and international interests—is “Rod of Iron Ministries.”
Rod of Iron Ministries is a schismatic offshoot of the Unification Church, often called the “Moonies,” led by Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon—son of the Unification Church’s late founder, Sun Myung Moon
Indeed, there’s a grand convergence of Q-Anon, the Unification Churches, and fundamentalist/evangelical churches:
QAnon has features akin to syncretism — the practice of blending traditional Christian beliefs with other spiritual systems, such as Santeria. Q explicitly uses Bible verses to urge adherents to stand firm against evil elites. One charismatic church based in Indiana hosts two-hour Sunday services showing how Bible prophecies confirm Q’s messages. Its leaders tell the congregation to stop watching mainstream media (even conservative media) in favor of QAnon YouTube channels and the Qmap website.
Trump is not the only Republican politician who appears at Unification Church events. The Bulwark:
He is not the only senior member of his administration to appear at their events—Mike Pence, Michael Pompeo, and Mark Esper were featured at a virtual rally by the Unification Church this past May. And the Unification Church had returned the favor—Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon, the son of the cult’s late founder, had campaigned for Trump and organized members to march on the Capitol on January 6th.
2. riogrande suggests looking into whether the Unification Church has built the sort of infrastructure in Japan that it has in the US.
"The church is the largest shareholder of the Yongpyong ski resort, with 49.9% of shares," says Yoshifu Arita, a well known investigative journalist and currently a member of Japan's House of Councilors. "In addition, the Segye Ilbo newspaper founded by the church [called Sekai Nippo in its Japanese edition] owns another 12.59%.
More as I am able.