Mei Shigenobu

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Mei Shigenobu
Native name
Born (1973-03-01) March 1, 1973 (age 46)
Other namesMay Shigenobu
Alma materLebanese University
American University of Beirut
Doshisha University
EmployerAsahi Newstar
Middle East Broadcasting Center

Mei Shigenobu (重信 メイ, Shigenobu Mei) (born 1 March 1973), is the daughter of Japanese Red Army member Fusako Shigenobu and of a Palestinian who was reportedly the head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.[1][2] Some news agencies have given her name as May Shigenobu.

Early life[edit]

She was born in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, her father was a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine guerilla leader (not named by Mei due to security reasons) and her mother was the Japanese Red Army member Fusako Shigenobu.

After three Japanese volunteers for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine PFLP External Operations executed an attack on Israel's Lod Airport (see Lod Airport massacre) on 30 May 1972, PFLP leaders and other Japanese volunteers became targets for Israel's assassinations. In retaliation for the attack, PFLP's spokesman Ghassan Kanafani was killed on July 8, 1972, by the Israeli Intelligence Agency Mossad in a car bomb. Mei's mother became wanted by the INTERPOL in 1974 after the French embassy hostage-taking in Hague in which she was thought to be involved, so Mei had to move frequently and used aliases to evade reprisals by her mother's enemies.[3]

Mei Shigenobu lived some of her childhood years in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon; Fusako Shigenobu was absent for months at a time and Mei was raised in those periods by her mother's comrades in the Japanese Red Army and Arab friends and supporters; while her birth father was killed sometimes during her childhood.

She had her early education in several schools in Lebanon and in other countries she refuses to name, she studied journalism at the Lebanese University as well as going to the American University of Beirut in Lebanon for her tertiary education where she continued her graduate studies in International Relations. During those years, she learned to speak fluent Arabic and English, but hid her knowledge of Japanese, fearing that if her identity as Fusako Shigenobu's daughter were to become known publicly, her mother might be captured.[4]

Though she was not a citizen of any country until March 2001, when she received Japanese citizenship.[5][6]

Return to Japan[edit]

She came out of hiding after her mother was captured in Osaka, and visited Japan for the first time in April 2001, making her the first child of a Red Army member to return to Japan in five years,[7] she was the subject of some controversy in December 2001 when she gave a talk at a public school in Kanagawa Prefecture about Arab culture and food at the invitation of a teacher there; the Israeli embassy in Tokyo sent a complaint to the school, describing her discussion as conveying "blatant, biased political" anti-Israeli sentiments.[8] She then began working as an English teacher in a cram school in Tokyo.[3] Japanese lawyers, scholars, journalists, writers and activists responded by signing a protest petition against the Israeli embassy and government saying that Mei was now a Japanese citizen and had the right to freedom of speech in Japan.

Mei later became an anchor on Japanese cable television channel Asahi Newstar's (TV Asahi's news channel) one-hour live political programme News no Shinsō,[9] she is currently MBC's (Middle East Broadcasting Center, the United Arab Emirates' Arabic satellite channel) Tokyo correspondent, reporting in Arabic about Japan.[10]

She earned her PhD degree in Media Studies from Doshisha University in 2011, doing research on the development of Arabic media, and the effect of satellite channels (a case study of Al Jazeera) on Arab societies.

Mei Shigenobu is a supporter of Palestinian statehood and a critic of Israel. In contrast to Bettina's (Ulrike Meinhof's daughter) disavowal, shown in Children of the Revolution, she views her mother's actions with pride, to the point of stating that she considers her a role model, merely repeating, as her mother, that those were different times, as she mentioned to the Standard, "there were no means of gaining media attention",[4] and with today's media and communication, other venues prove far more effective.

She attempted to justify the group's terrorist activities by saying that in the 1970s–1980s people had very different "moral values", different "sensibilities and ways of thinking", implying that her mother's sentence should be rendered invalid and echoing her mother's claim that since the criminal acts carried out had had political aims, she should not be convicted but rather offered a "political way out".[1][3][11][4]

In popular culture[edit]

Mei Shigenobu appears in Nobuyuki Oura's November 2006 movie 9/11-8/15 Japan Pack Suicide (『9.11-8.15-日本心中-』).[2][12] Mei also appears in Documentary on Zunou Keisatsu ドキュメンタリー頭脳警察 (2009), a documentary featuring the life of the Japanese Rock band "Zunou Keisatu" 頭脳警察 (Brain Police) and its lead singer PANTA.[13][14]

In 2010, Mei costarred in the fictional Japanese movie on figure skating Coach as a sports journalist.[15][16] In 2010, Mei Shigenobu and her mother Fusako Shigenobu were featured in Shane O'Sullivan's documentary film Children of the Revolution, which premiered at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam.[17][18] In 2011, Mei Shigenobu was featured in Eric Baudelaire's experimental movie The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi, and 27 years without Images along with filmmaker and Japanese Red Army member Masao Adachi, which was entered at the 22nd Marseilles International Film Festival.[19]

On 10 September 2012, Mei Shigenobu appeared as a guest in the program Free word on Al Mayadeen Channel hosted by George Galloway.


  • Shigenobu, Mei (May 2002), 秘密―パレスチナから桜の国へ 母と私の28年 [Secrets - from Palestine to the country of cherry trees, 28 years with my mother], Kōdansha, ISBN 4-06-210859-3
  • Shigenobu, Mei (February 2003), 中東のゲットーから [From the ghettos of the Middle East], Weitsu, ISBN 4-901391-31-3
  • Shigenobu, Mei (October 2012), 「アラブの春」の正体 欧米とメディアに踊らされた民主化革命 [The "Arab Spring"; How it was Played out by the West and the Media], Kadokawa Publishers


  1. ^ a b Takigawa, Y. (June 2006), "日本の非常識からみた中東の非常識 (From someone lacking common sense about Japan, a look at the Middle East's lack of common sense)", Myrtos Magazine (92)[dead link]
  2. ^ a b 9.11-8.15 Nippon Suicide Pact, Nihon Shinju, 2007-01-26, archived from the original on 2011-07-14, retrieved 2010-08-18
  3. ^ a b c "A life less ordinary", The Japan Times, 2006-05-07, archived from the original on 2010-08-05, retrieved 2010-08-18
  4. ^ a b c "Stepping out of the shadows", The Hong Kong Standard, 2006-03-23, archived from the original on 2011-06-04, retrieved 2010-08-18
  5. ^ "重信房子の実娘、自伝出版 (Shigenobu Fusako's real daughter publishes autobiography)", Tokyo Broadcasting System, 2002-06-15, archived from the original on June 27, 2007, retrieved 2007-09-14
  6. ^ "重信房子の実娘、自伝出版 後編 (Shigenobu Fusako's real daughter publishes autobiography, continued)", Tokyo Broadcasting System, 2002-06-22, archived from the original on June 27, 2007, retrieved 2007-09-14
  7. ^ "Shigenobu's daughter lands in Japan", The Japan Times, 2001-04-04, archived from the original on 2008-10-25, retrieved 2007-09-14
  8. ^ "Isael protests Palestinian lecture in Kanagawa school", Kyōdō News, 2002-01-28, retrieved 2007-09-14
  9. ^ 出演者プロフィール, Asahi Newstar, archived from the original on October 14, 2008
  10. ^ Who We Are, Al Risala Media Production, archived from the original on 2011-07-18, retrieved 2010-09-15
  11. ^ Johnston, Eric (2002-06-05), "Shigenobu daughter pushes peace", The Japan Times, archived from the original on 2010-10-10, retrieved 2010-09-07
  12. ^ Movie “9/11-8/15 Japan Pack Suicide" (『9.11-8.15-日本心中-』) Official Trailer.
  13. ^ "Documentary- Zunou Keisatsu" Official Movie Trailer 映画『ドキュメンタリー 頭脳警察』予告編.
  14. ^ "Documentary- Zunou Keisatsu" Official website 映画『ドキュメンタリー頭脳警察』公式サイト
  15. ^ "COACH" official long version movie trailer,
  16. ^ Movie "COACH" official website Archived 2010-09-27 at the Wayback Machine 映画 COACH公式サイト
  17. ^ "Children of the Revolution" premiers at the 24th International Documentary Film Festival Archived 2011-09-27 at the Wayback Machine International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam official website
  18. ^ Children of the Revolution Trailer - Internet Movie Database
  19. ^ Movie "The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi, and 27 years without Images" official selection for First competition at Marseilles International Film Festival FID Marseille 2011 official webpage