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The Mountain Fortress of the Japan Communist Party

SNA (Atami) — As by far the nation’s oldest political party, the Japan Communist Party has some unique features and assets that most others cannot match. An example of one of the most striking of these assets is the Izu Gakushu Kaikan (Izu Study and Training Center), the venue for the 27th Congress held earlier this week.

Lodged like a fortress in the mountains above Izu-Taga Station in Atami City, Shizuoka Prefecture, the Gakushu Kaikan itself has a history much older than most of the contemporary Japanese political parties. Its first buildings were constructed in 1963, after which it became a sort of combination thinktank, school, and meditation center for the Japan Communist Party, with permanent accommodations for up to about a hundred people.

In 1977 the large auditorium, which can seat about one thousand people, was added. That same year it hosted the 14th Congress of the Japan Communist Party, as it has done for all of the triennial congresses since that time.

Today the facilities are showing their age, looking much like any other architecture of Japan’s high-growth postwar period. But there are beautiful woodlands and a stream running by its side. When not overrun by Communist Party visitors, its fish pond and surroundings make it an ideal getaway from the crowded capital city. In the spring it is a popular area for blossom-viewing, and during the summer the entire Izu area becomes a coastal resort. Indeed, the Gakushu Kaikan is thought of as a sort of “holy land” for the Japan Communist Party.

The Gakushu Kaikan is reached by travelling up a single mountain valley road for about two kilometers from the station. Security is enhanced by the fact that anyone entering the valley needs to traverse a small tunnel that acts as a natural bottleneck and is easily guarded. Security is a genuine concern because rightwing soundtrucks would otherwise attempt to disrupt the facility and its tranquil atmosphere.

There are currently more than 300,000 members of the Japan Communist Party, and their relatively high degree of motivation and organization gives them an outsized role in Japanese politics, especially in those elections when voter turnout is low.

With Komeito having drifted to more conservative positions, the Social Democratic Party declining to the point of near oblivion, and the Democratic Party unable to clarify a specific ideological identity, only the Japan Communist Party remains on the national scene as a solidly progressive political force calling for the maintenance of postwar pacifism and expanded civil rights for all minorities.

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