Inejiro Asanuma (浅沼 稲次郎, Asanuma Inejirō, December 27, 1898 – October 12, 1960) was a Japanese politician and leader of the Japan Socialist Party. A noted public speaker, Asanuma was unusual in post-war Japan for his forceful advocacy of socialism, his support of the Chinese Communist Party, and his criticism of the U.S–Japanese relations, which was particularly controversial.
Asanuma was assassinated by a nationalist while speaking in a televised political debate in Tokyo. His violent death was seen in graphic detail on national television, causing widespread public shock and outrage. The weapon used was a yoroi-dōshi, a traditional sword.
Asanuma was born in the Chiyoda ward of Tokyo on December 27, 1898. His mother died during his birth, leaving him to be raised by his father, who later died of cancer at the age of 42.
In the 1930s Asanuma was a member of several pro-military, far-right uyoku dantai and supported Hideki Tojo. He served in the Diet from 1936. He grew dissatisfied with the direction World War II was taking and withdrew his candidacy from the 1942 election and retired from politics until after Japan's defeat. When he returned to politics, it was as a socialist and left-wing activist.
Asanuma was widely criticized for a 1959 incident in which he visited the Communist-controlled People’s Republic of China (Mainland China) and called the United States "the shared enemy of China and Japan" during a speech in Beijing. When he returned from this trip he wore a Mao suit while disembarking from a plane in Japan, sparking criticism even from Socialist leaders. At that time, Japan and many other countries recognized the Republic of China (Taiwan) as the legitimate government of Greater China.
Assassination and legacy
On October 12, 1960, Asanuma was assassinated by 17-year-old Otoya Yamaguchi, a nationalist, during a televised political debate for the coming elections for the House of Representatives. While Asanuma spoke from the lectern at Tokyo's Hibiya Hall, Yamaguchi rushed onstage and ran his yoroi-dōshi (a traditional samurai sword) through Asanuma's ribs on the left side, killing him. Japanese television company NHK was video recording the debate for later transmission and the tape of Asanuma's assassination was shown many times to millions of viewers. The photograph of Asanuma's assassination won its photographer Yasushi Nagao both the Pulitzer Prize and World Press Photo of the Year.
Yamaguchi was captured at the scene of the crime, and a few weeks afterwards committed suicide while in police custody.