Fusako Shigenobu: Japanese communist (1945-) | Biography
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Fusako Shigenobu
Japanese communist

Fusako Shigenobu

Fusako Shigenobu
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Japanese communist
Is Intelligence officer
From Japan
Field Law Military
Gender female
Birth 28 September 1945, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Age 78 years
The details (from wikipedia)


Fusako Shigenobu (重信 房子, Shigenobu Fusako, born September 28, 1945) is a Japanese founder and former leader of the now disbanded Japanese Red Army (JRA).

Early life

Shigenobu was born on September 28, 1945 in the Setagaya ward of Tokyo. Her father was a teacher at a terakoya or temple school (寺子屋 terakoya) open for poor village children at temples in the south Japanese Kyushu region after World War I. He later became a major in the Imperial Japanese Army dispatched to Manchuria, which was under Japanese control before and during World War II.

After high school, she went to work for the Kikkoman corporation, and began to take college courses at night at Meiji University.

Involvement in the student movement

Shigenobu attended Meiji University receiving a BA in Political Economy and in History. She joined the student movement that was protesting the increase of tuition fees, and this led her to activism in the leftist student movement of the 1960s. She rose up the ranks of the movement to become one of its top leaders.

Japan Red Army

In February 1971, she and Tsuyoshi Okudaira went to the Middle East to make international contacts for the Japanese Red Army Faction. Upon arrival, she soon split with the Red Army Faction in Japan due to both geographical and ideological distance, as well as a personal conflict with the new leader, Tsuneo Mori. The Red Army went on to link up with the Maoist Revolutionary Left Wing of the Japanese Communist Party to form the United Red Army. Upon hearing about the internal purge the United Red Army carried out in the winter of 1971-1972, Shigenobu recalls her shock and sorrow. She and Okudaira wrote My Love, My Revolution (わが愛わが革命) as a response.

Shigenobu remained in the Middle East for more than 30 years. Her move was part of International Revolutionary Solidarity, with the idea that revolutionary movements should cooperate and eventually lead to a global socialist revolution. Her destination was Lebanon, and her aim was to support the Palestinian cause. She originally joined the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) as a volunteer, but eventually the JRA became an independent group. She mentions in several of her books "The mission's purpose was to consolidate the international revolutionary alliance against the imperialists of the world."


Shigenobu returned to Japan sometime during July 2000. She was arrested in Osaka in November 2000. Japanese citizens were startled to see a handcuffed middle-aged woman emerge from a train arriving in Tokyo. When Shigenobu spotted the waiting cameras, she raised her hands and gave the thumbs-up sign, shouting at reporters: "I'll fight on!".

Fusako Shigenobu was sentenced to 20 years in prison on March 8, 2006 and received a final verdict from the Supreme Court in 2010 with the same sentence terms. The prosecution charged her on three counts, the use of forged passport, aiding another member in the JRA in obtaining a forged passport, and attempted manslaughter by planning and commanding the 1974 occupation and hostage taking at the French embassy in The Hague, the Netherlands. Shigenobu pleaded guilty to the first two charges, but not guilty to the charge linking her to the 1974 embassy hostage taking. Among the witnesses that appeared in her court for the defense team was Leila Khaled, who is known for the 1969 hijacking of TWA Flight 840, and is now a member of the Palestinian National Council. In his final verdict, the judge stated that there was no conclusive evidence of her involvement in the armed occupation of the French embassy that resulted in the injury of two policemen, or in the intention of attempted manslaughter, but sentenced her for possibly conspiring with members of her group to occupy the embassy.

Shigenobu still endorses the same cause, unapologetically claiming that the verdict is only the start of a stronger movement, and remaining convinced that she should not have been convicted, claiming that since her group's activities were politically motivated, she should have been offered a "political way out of the situation". At a press conference before the sentence in February 2006, her lawyers read a haiku (a form of Japanese poetry) she had composed: "The verdict is not the end. It is only the beginning. Strong will shall keep spreading."

In December 2008, Shigenobu was diagnosed with colon and intestinal cancer and has had three operations to remove them. She is living in Hachioji Medical Prison.

Fusako Shigenobu is the mother of Japanese national Mei Shigenobu, a journalist.

In popular culture

  • Eileen MacDonald's 1991 book Shoot the Women First mistakenly conflates Shigenobu with Hiroko Nagata, attributing to her the actions of Nagata at the United Red Army purge of 1971-72.
  • Japanese rock singer and longtime Shigenobu friend PANTA has released his album Oriibu no Ki no shitade in 2007. Shigenobu wrote some of the lyrics of the album's songs.
  • The actress Anri Ban portrayed her in the Kōji Wakamatsu film United Red Army (2007).
  • In 2008, artist Anicka Yi and architect Maggie Peng created a perfume dedicated to Shigenobu, called Shigenobu Twilight
  • In 2010, Shigenobu and her daughter Mei were featured in the documentary Children of the Revolution, which premiered at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam.


  • 1974: My Love, My Revolution『わが愛わが革命』 Kodansha. [1]
  • 1983: 『十年目の眼差から』 話の特集、ISBN 4826400667
  • 1984: If You Put Your Ear to the Earth, You Can Hear the Sound of Japan: Lessons from The Japanese Communist Movement 『大地に耳をつければ日本の音がする 日本共産主義運動の教訓』ウニタ書舗、ISBN 4750584096
  • 1984: Beirut, Summer 1982 『ベイルート1982年夏』話の特集、ISBN 4826400829
  • 1985: Materials: Reports from the Middle East 1 『資料・中東レポート』1(日本赤軍との共編著)、ウニタ書舗、[2]
  • 1986: Materials: Reports from the Middle East 2 『資料・中東レポート』2(日本赤軍との共編著)、ウニタ書舗、[3]
  • 2001: I Decided to Give Birth to You Under an Apple Tree 『りんごの木の下であなたを産もうと決めた』幻冬舎、ISBN 434400082X
  • 2005: Jasmine in the Muzzle of a Gun: Collected Poems of Shigenobu Fusako 『ジャスミンを銃口に 重信房子歌集』幻冬舎、ISBN 4344010159
  • 2009: A Personal History of the Japanese Red Army: Together with Palestine 『日本赤軍私史 パレスチナと共に』河出書房新社、ISBN 978-4309244662
  • 2012: Season of the Revolution: From the Battlefield in Palestine 『革命の季節 パレスチナの戦場から』幻冬舎、ISBN 9784344023147
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