The rock star who defected to North Korea — and now regrets it – Nationwide


The Sixties had been a turbulent time. Assassinations, riots, civil rights protests, and offended opposition to the conflict in Vietnam. This unrest wasn’t confined to North America, both. It appeared that the entire world was about to come back aside on the seams.

Japan had its personal points. There was the Anpo wrestle, an on-again, off-again sequence of protests in opposition to the post-WWII treaty that allowed the U.S. to keep up navy bases within the nation. 1000’s had been concerned throughout the nation, typically leading to violent clashes with police. Together with college college students world wide in 1968-69, Japan noticed daigaku funsō (“college troubles”) that took on all the pieces from the development of Narita Airport to the administration of post-secondary faculties.

Probably the most harmful challenges to the established order got here from the Communist League, the precursor to the Japanese Crimson Military, a violent militant communist group that was finally rightly branded a terrorist group.

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This leads us again to Les Rallizes Dénudés, a psychedelic and experimental rock fashioned at Doshisha College in Kyoto in 1967. The group, a merger between the creative ambitions of vocalist Takashi Mizutani and a radical theatre group often known as Gendai Gekijo, itself wasn’t staunchly political, though they did carry out for protestors and college students through the late ’60s, together with an occasion often known as the Barricades A Go-Go live performance in 1968. Particular person members had been additionally sympathetic to and took part in each the Anpo wrestle and daigaku funsō, no yet one more so than bass participant Moriaki Wakabayashi.

Wakabayashi was all-in when it got here to collaborating within the Communist League’s Crimson Military Faction. On March 31, 1970, he was a part of a gaggle (Kyosando Sekigunha) that hijacked Japan Air Traces flight 351, which turned often known as the “Yodo-go” incident. The tremendous far-left Crimson Military Faction, hoping to encourage a well-liked rebellion in Japan — a Soviet-style proletarian revolution — that may remake the nation because the headquarters for a larger world revolution in opposition to the U.S. and its allies.

About 20 minutes after the 727 took off from Haneda Airport (then often known as Tokyo Worldwide) on a brief hop to Fukuoka, a Communist League member named Takamaro Tamiya popped out of his seat with a samurai sword, yelled that the airplane was being hijacked, and ordered the eight different members of the group — together with Wakabayashi — to attract their weapons: extra swords, metal pipes, and bombs. The pilots had been then ordered to fly the airplane to Cuba. Seven crew members and 122 passengers had been now hostages. (Takashi Mizutani had been supplied a task within the hijacking however he declined.)

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One drawback: The 727-200 had a most vary of 4,720 km. The gap from Tokyo to Havana is over 12,000 km. The plane didn’t have anyplace sufficient gas capability to make the jumps over the Pacific. Clearly, the Communist League knew little about civil aviation.

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When knowledgeable of that inconvenient truth, the hijackers demanded that the airplane fly to Pyongyang in ultra-communist North Korea, a way more affordable 1,300 km away however a vacation spot that also required a refueling cease. After touching down in Fukuoka to fuel up and to free 23 of the passengers, the airplane took off once more.

However authorities had a plan. As an alternative of flying to Pyongyang, the crew diverted the airplane to Kimpo Airport in Seoul, South Korea. By the point it landed, the airport had been staged to appear to be one thing in North Korea. The hijackers disembarked, pondering they’d efficiently carried out their mission and will nonetheless by some means make it to Cuba the place they hoped to be educated as guerilla fighters.

Once they entered the terminal, one thing appeared … off. Why was American jazz music enjoying over the PA? The place was the welcoming committee from Kim Il-Sung’s DPRK? Uh-oh.

The hijackers had been livid and promised no secure launch of the remaining hostages till they had been granted passage to North Korea the place they may search asylum. That gave the impression to be an inexpensive plan, so the calls for had been granted and the airplane few to Mirim Airport within the North on April 3. Moriaki Wakabayashi was among the many defectors, surrendering himself to North Korean officers. He was fired from Les Rallizes Dénudés for apparent causes. Everybody was positioned on Interpol’s most-wanted listing. The complete incident was thought-about a nationwide embarrassment for Japan.

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Though they had been initially welcomed as heroes of the good socialist revolution — at the least in public with navy medals and luxurious lodging in Pyongyang’s “village of the revolution” — issues didn’t end up so effectively for them. North Korea was irritated that they had been the hijackers second selection behind Cuba and handled their undesirable visitors accordingly.

One of many hijackers was arrested hiding in Japan after coming into the nation on a faux passport. One other was arrested in Thailand and deported again to Japan. Two hijackers, together with Takamaro Tamiya, died within the North. That leaves 5 survivors, amongst them Wakabayashi.

We all know a bit in regards to the defected rocker. In 1976, Wakabayashi married one other radical activist, one among a number of brides secretly flown in from Japan for the hijackers. His political beliefs softened dramatically, saying in 2010 that hijacking a airplane stuffed with harmless individuals was “a egocentric and immodest” concept and that he’d gladly return to Japan to face trial. As far was anybody is aware of, Wakabayashi remains to be dwelling someplace in North Korea. His fellow hijackers pleaded to go dwelling for many years.

In the meantime, Les Rallizes Dénudés continued as a band till 1988 and reunited between 1993 and 1996. The group’s mysterious chief, Takashi Mizutani, preserving a low profile, maybe dwelling in Paris for some time. Reveals, recordings, and interviews had been few and much between. Rumours are that he died in 2019.


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