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Rightist asks Japan to revive its army

Kin of war leader runs for office

TOKYO -- Every morning for the last three months, Yuko Tojo has prayed at a war shrine for Japan's fallen soldiers, including her grandfather, General Hideki Tojo, the executed World War II prime minister who ordered the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

Yuko, 68, will fight her own battle next month, when she competes as an independent in elections for Parliament's upper house. An ultranationalist, she seeks to restore Japan's honor by scrapping its pacifist constitution and enacting a full-fledged military, giving the country the clout she says it deserves.

"I was born as Hideki Tojo's granddaughter, and as a Japanese national. I cannot see Japan go on like this, with no confidence or pride," Tojo said. "I do not think the war dead gave their lives for a country like this."

Her views are part of a resurgent right-wing fringe in Japan that espouses a hard line in territorial disputes with the country's neighbors and a rose-tinted view of its past militarism.

However, she may be too far to the right even for Japan's nationalists, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who have distanced themselves from her.

Hideki Tojo, Japan's prime minister from 1941 to 1944, is widely remembered as a warmonger who was behind Tokyo's invasions of its Asian and Pacific neighbors and its attack that killed 2,388 American soldiers at Pearl Harbor, bringing the United States into World War II.

The general was hanged by the Allies in 1948 after the Tokyo war crimes tribunal.

His granddaughter has defended his legacy, contending he reluctantly took Japan to war after a US oil embargo threatened the country's survival.

"Japan did not fight a war of aggression. It fought in self- defense," she said. "Our children have been wrongly taught that their ancestors did evil things, that their country is evil. We need to give these children back their pride and confidence."

Tojo's views make her among the most nationalistic of candidates in July's parliamentary elections.

The former teacher said that she considers the 1947 US-drafted pacifist constitution as a creation of an occupation army, and that she favors throwing it out and starting from scratch, rather than merely revising it as Abe has sought.

Tojo also argues that Japan needs a full-fledged military, something the country gave up to take responsibility for World War II.

The military now is known as the Self-Defense Forces, and it is prohibited from taking offensive action.

"It's natural that Japan should have an army commensurate with its world standing, especially with China's growing military might," she said. "But some here are critical even of keeping a humble Self-Defense Force. What's wrong with this country?"

Tojo's support is mixed among voters in Tokyo, where she plans to run for office. Even conservatives in the nation's capital city appear to be hesitant to back her candidacy.

"I support her ideals," said Hiroshi Watase, 70, a retiree.

"But I'm not sure whether she would be the best person to become a politician," he added, citing her lack of experience.