Forget the noise terrorism and the anger and the political distortions of Ultra-Nationalists — let’s talk about the tunes.
Oh, so very square.
First: the prerequisite pentatonic scales — because the Imperial nation-family (國體) believes in an austerity of note-saving and probably agrees with my 10th grade English teacher that “sad things have more artistic gravity than happy things.”
Second: the vaguely Prussian/Germanic orchestration — because grand military majesty is not the sound of one-hand-clapping and shamisen and taiko drum polyrhythms, but millions of Japanese marching lockstep towards modernity in the Meiji era.
This brings us to an important point: the Ultra-Right in Japan does not want to “get back” to pre-Western, pre-modern Japan; whether intentionally or not, their clarion calls hark back to the Western-influenced Modern Japan — that electric era when a bunch of old men got together and flattened out all regional customs, sundry superstitions, and local variations to pave the way for one monolithic idea of “Japanese culture.” If our local Armchair Fascists were into the Edo era instead, they’d all be chugging sake and sayin’ “Ee ja nai ka” and partying in the streets and sleeping with their neighbors’ wives. Instead we get intolerable Prussian military marches with sour Oriental melodies — because men look good in uniform and Empire-building was the owning-a-Ferrari of the early 20th century. But all this subsumed Germanic obduracy is hilarious now: If some new set of trucks rolled down Omotesando-doori protesting the death of Frederick II, no one would be able to aurally distinguish them from the uyoku.
If conservatives in the U.S. had soundtrucks, they would probably do a loop of “Sweet Home Alabama” and the Charlie Daniels Band’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Without blinking, both Democrats and Republicans would unwittingly run out of the house after the DJ-mobile, get drunk, sing along, and then somehow end up electing Bush for a third term. These gunka don’t let you have any fun while you’re setting back the political clock 100 years.