Materials for Dr. Steinhoff Interview

As an addendum to our long interview with Dr. Patricia Steinhoff, we have collected the following resources for those who would like to learn more about Japanese radical leftism in the 1960s and 1970s.




Muto, Ichiyo and Reiko Inoue. “Beyond the New Left Part 2 – In Search of a Radical Base in Japan.” AMPO Japan-Asian Quarterly Review 17(4).


Steinhoff, Patricia G. “Student Conflict.” Conflict in Japan. Eds. Krauss, Rohlen and Steinhoff. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1984.

Steinhoff, Patricia G. “Hijackers, Bombers and Bank Robbers: Managerial Style in the Japanese Red Army.” Journal of Asian Studies 48(4) Nov 1989.

Steinhoff, Patricia G. “Death by Defeatism and Other Fables: the Social Dynamics of the Rengō Sekigun Purge.” Japanese Social Organization. Ed. Takie Lebra. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1992.

Steinhoff, Patricia G. “Three Women Who Loved the Left: Radical Women Leaders in the Japanese Red Army Movement.” Re-Imaging Japanese Women. Ed. Anne Imamura. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.

Zwerman, Gilda, Patricia G. Steinhoff and Donatella della Porta. “Disappearing Social Movements: Clandestinity in the Cycle of New Left Social Movements in the United States, Japan, Germany, and Italy.” Mobilization (5) 1. Spring 2000.

Steinhoff, Patricia G. “Notes from the Underground: Doing Fieldwork without a Site.” Doing Fieldwork in Japan. Eds. Theodore Bestor, Patricia G. Steinhoff, and Victoria Lyon-Bestor. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2003.

Steinhoff, Patricia G. “Kidnapped Japanese in North Korea: The New Left Connection.” Journal of Japanese Studies Winter 2004.


The Takazawa Collection at University of Hawaii (Manoa) – Official homepage for the extensive collection of resource materials on postwar Japanese social movements that Takazawa Kōji donated to the University of Hawaii in 1993. The collection contains 1,800 books, over 9,000 issues of magazines, 1,200 serial titles, the majority of which are not available in any other library. This page on the Takazawa Collection page offers a comprehensive list of Japanese web resources on Japanese activism.

W. David MARX
September 15, 2007

W. David Marx (Marxy) — Tokyo-based writer and musician — is the founder and chief editor of Néojaponisme.

Igi Nashi

United Red Army

Wakamatsu Kōji’s latest film 『実録・連合赤軍:浅間山荘への道程』 (The True Story of the United Red Army: the Road to Asama-Sansō) is probably the final and definitive cinematic retelling of the United Red Army (URA) story. In early 1972, the URA terrorist cell achieved infamy for killing off twelve of its own members during ideological training and then battling police from the inside of a mountain lodge near Nagano’s Mt. Asama. Over the course of three hours, Wakamatsu covers the group’s entire history from their formation and eventual arrest, moving the viewer through a brief history of the student movement, the internecine fighting accompanying the foundation of the Red Army Faction (赤軍派), the brutal lynching of fellow members in its secret mountain training lodge, and the final standoff at Asama-Sansō.

Telling the “full” story of such a fractured and complex set of events forces Wakamatsu to use a no-frills “docudrama” approach, including plenty of on-screen text and voice-over narration. The story could not fit neatly into the conventional three-act film. Almost none of the Red Army members survive or stay free of police custody long enough to act as an emotional anchor or arch-villain for the entire three hours. Some characters are little more than historical bookmarks; for example, future Japanese Red Army leader Shigenobu Fusako shows up in the forward to bond with future URA victim Tōyama Mieko, but soon leaves for Lebanon to found the “international wing” of the Red Army. Likewise, Red Army founder and philosopher Shiomi Takaya is arrested in the first hour and taken completely out of the central story. But so goes the actual history.


Wakamatsu and fellow soft-porn filmmaker Adachi Masao were both Red Army sympathizers and chronicled the early proto-Japanese Red Army / Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Lebanon training camps in their 1971 documentary 『赤軍PFLP世界戦争宣言』Red Army-PFLP Declaration of War. In the last few years, both have apparently felt the need to create new films reflecting on the ’70s Japanese leftist terrorism. Adachi’s lackluster 『幽閉者テロリスト』Prisoner / Terrorist told the story of Lod Airport Massacre attacker Okamoto Kozo losing his mind in Israeli jail. With multiple Japanese fictional films about the United Red Army’s self-destruction already in circulation, however, it may seem odd that Wakamatsu went to such lengths to make yet another film on the topic. He has specifically stated a need to correct falsehoods in the 2002 film 『突入せよ!浅間山荘事件』(Choice of Hercules), which tells the story of the Asama-Sansō hostage crisis from the perspective of law enforcement. Wakamatsu protege Takahashi Banmei’s 2001 film 『光の雨』(Rain of Light) , on the other hand, very skillfully visualizes the horrific URA training deaths, but somewhat tempers it with a distancing meta-approach where the actors are shown “adapting” the novel that lends the film’s name. Although there are slight discrepancies between Takahashi and Wakamatsu’s versions, both generally work from the same historical chronicles and hit the same notes. Wakamatsu’s only real addition is combining the lynchings with the Asama-Sansō tale in a single epic-length film.

The other notable film to pick up the United Red Army narrative is 『鬼畜大宴会』 (Banquet of the Beasts) — Kumakiri Kazuyoshi’s ultra-gory mondo-horror retelling of the early ’70s student movement disintegration — where post-gunshot head-wounds spew blood, men are castrated with knives, and limbs are frequently severed. Beyond twisting this important historical event into purely prurient content, Kumakiri does the URA story great disservice by recasting the event’s true horror — the legitimatization of comrade purging through Marxist utopian ideology — into the result of the evil female leader’s growing “insanity.” When the stand-in for female URA leader Nagata Hiroko is killed late in the movie (by brutal means which I never want to think about again), Kumakiri gives viewers the karmic revenge they ultimately desire. (The historical URA denouement is not so rewarding: sadistic leaders Nagata and Mori were unceremoniously arrested before the Asama-Sansō siege even starts. Mori’s later suicide is always reduced to an afterword.)
Continued »

W. David MARX
April 27, 2008

W. David Marx (Marxy) — Tokyo-based writer and musician — is the founder and chief editor of Néojaponisme.