Fusako Shigenobu

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Fusako Shigenobu
Kozo okamoto and fusako shigenobu.jpg
Kōzō Okamoto (left) and Fusako Shigenobu (right) at a press conference
Native name
重信 房子
Born (1945-09-28) September 28, 1945 (age 73)
Setagaya, Tokyo, Japan
EducationBachelor of Arts
Alma materMeiji University
Years active1971–2001
OrganizationJapanese Red Army
Criminal charge2 counts of passport forgery
Criminal penalty20 years imprisonment from March 8, 2006
Criminal statusIn custody
ChildrenMei Shigenobu (daughter)

Fusako Shigenobu (重信 房子, Shigenobu Fusako, born September 28, 1945) is a Japanese communist and the former leader and founder of the now disbanded Japanese Red Army (JRA).[1]

Early life[edit]

Shigenobu was born on September 28, 1945 in the Setagaya ward of Tokyo.[2] 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 Manchukuo.

After high school, she went to work for the Kikkoman corporation, and took college courses at night at Meiji University.[3]

Involvement in the student movement[edit]

Shigenobu received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Economy and in History from Meiji University. While there, she joined the student movement that was protesting the increase of tuition fees, and this led her to activism in the general leftist student movement of the 1960s. She rose up the ranks of the movement to become one of its top leaders.

Japan Red Army[edit]

In February 1971, she and Tsuyoshi Okudaira went to the Middle East to create international branches of the Japanese Red Army. 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.[4]

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.[5] She mentions in several of her books "The mission's purpose was to consolidate the international revolutionary alliance against the imperialists of the world."[6]

Shigenobu was listed as a wanted person by the INTERPOL in 1974 after the French embassy hostage-taking in Hague in which she was believed to be involved.


Shigenobu returned to Japan sometime in July 2000. She was taken in for questioning from a hotel in Takatsuki, near Osaka, in November of that year.[7][8] 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, shouting at reporters: "I'll fight on!"[6]

She was sentenced to 20 years in prison on March 8, 2006,[9] and received a final verdict from the Supreme Court in 2010 with the same 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 was Leila Khaled, known for the 1969 hijacking of TWA Flight 840, and currently 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 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, 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 she had composed: "The verdict is not the end. It is only the beginning. Strong will shall keep spreading."[10]

In December 2008, she was diagnosed with colon and intestinal cancer and has had three operations to remove them. She is currently detained in Hachiōji Medical Prison.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Fusako Shigenobu is the mother of the journalist Mei Shigenobu, who was born in 1973 in Beirut, Lebanon.[11]

In popular culture[edit]

  • 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.[12]
  • 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.[13][1]
  • 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.[14]
  • 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、[15]
  • 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、[16]
  • 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


  1. ^ a b [1] Archived 2015-12-08 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Shigenobu Fusako. りんごの木の下であなたを産もうと決めた. ("I Decided to Give Birth to You Under an Apple Tree"). Tokyo: Gentosha, 2001. p. 15
  3. ^ Shigenobu Fusako. りんごの木の下であなたを産もうと決めた. ("I Decided to Give Birth to You Under an Apple Tree"). Tokyo: Gentosha, 2001. p. 36
  4. ^ Shigenobu Fusako. 日本赤軍私史:パレスチナと共に ("A Personal History of the Japanese Red Army: Together with Palestine") Tokyo: Kawade, 2009.
  5. ^ Shigenobu. "A Personal History of the Japanese Red Army".
  6. ^ a b Fusako Shigenobu Biography, enotes.com
  7. ^ "Japanese Red Army leader arrested". BBC. November 8, 2000. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  8. ^ Fighel, Jonathan (Col. Ret.) (November 9, 2000) Japanese Red Army Founder Arrested in Japan, International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, Retrieved January 16, 2016
  9. ^ Japanese Red Army Leader Gets 20 Years in Prison Archived 2011-08-24 at the Wayback Machine, Palestine Press, February 23, 2007
  10. ^ Colin Joyce (February 24, 2006) Japan's Red Army founder is jailed, telegraph.co.uk, Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  11. ^ a b McNeill, David (July 4, 2014). "Mei Shigenobu's words continue the fight for her mother's cause". The Japan Times. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  12. ^ MacDonald, Eileen. "Shoot the Women First." 1991. pp. xx-xxi.
  13. ^ "Shigenobu Twilight". Shigenobu Twilight. Retrieved 2017-08-24.
  14. ^ "わが愛わが革命 - Webcat Plus" (in Japanese). Webcatplus-equal.nii.ac.jp. Retrieved 2017-08-24.
  15. ^ "資料・中東レポート - Webcat Plus" (in Japanese). Webcatplus-equal.nii.ac.jp. Retrieved 2017-08-24.
  16. ^ "Webcat Plus" (in Japanese). Webcatplus-equal.nii.ac.jp. Retrieved 2017-08-24.