Posted by ampontan on Friday, June 18, 2010
SOME PEOPLE were pleased with Prime Minister Kan Naoto’s recent announcement that he wouldn’t visit the Yasukuni Shrine as prime minister, though no one was surprised.
Some people, however, were angry. Some people in the latter group were upset for reasons that others might find distasteful, but others were angry for a reason that should be understandable to everyone, regardless of their position on the issue.
Earlier this year, when relations between Japan and the United States grew tense with Prime Minister Hatoyama’s blundering over the Futenma issue, then-Finance Minister/Deputy Prime Minister Kan visited Washington D.C. as part of his official duties. Realizing that he might well wind up as prime minister himself before long, and looking for a way to mollify the Americans, he visited the national military cemetery at Arlington, Va.
That’s why it’s natural for some people in Japan to be dumbfounded that he would visit a site to commemorate American war dead, but not a similar site for Japanese war dead.
Some people might object to a Yasukuni visit because they would claim some of the Japanese memorialized there fought in an immoral war. But there are a lot of people around the world who think some of those buried at Arlington fought in immoral wars too. Including some Americans.
The Chinese will be gratified that Mr. Kan won’t visit Yasukuni, but some of the men buried at Arlington killed plenty of Chinese when the army of that country came to the assistance of Pyeongyang on the Korean Peninsula 60 years ago.
Some people would object because Yasukuni enshrines Class A war criminals. Then again, nearly 500 soldiers of the Confederacy are buried at Arlington in concentric circles around the Confederate Monument. One of the reasons they fought in the American Civil War was to maintain the institution of human slavery.
On the base of the monument are the following words: (I)n simple / Obedience to duty / As they understood it / These men suffered all / Sacrificed all / Dared all-and died.
Those words wouldn’t be out of place at Yasukuni, either.
Some people were nonplussed when Ren Ho, the Wide Show Daijin, grilled a bureaucrat during last year’s policy review and asked why it was necessary for Japan to aim at being number one in the world in the development of a supercomputer. What was wrong with being number two, she demanded?
For the same reason your party wasn’t satisfied with being the second-largest in the Diet, would be the obvious answer for some people familiar with evolutionary biology.
Now she’s interested in walking that one back, particularly after the successful return to earth of Japan’s asteroid probe has generated some positive publicity. In a recent interview with the Sankei Shimbun, she said:
(Japan) aims to be number one in the field of science and technology. It’s natural that we should aim to be number one in other fields, too.
She was asked the same question by the opposition in the Diet. Her first instinct was to use an excuse that some people no longer accept from politicians:
My words were taken out of context.
But she also got a bit huffy:
My word alone was not the determining factor for everything in the policy review.
No one thought that it was. Some people just assumed you meant what you said.
Some people were mildly surprised that Kamei Shizuka of the People’s New Party didn’t withdraw from the ruling coalition instead of merely resigning his Cabinet post after the DPJ brain trust double-crossed him like they two-timed Fukushima Mizuho and the SDPJ over Futenma by postponing passage of the Japan Post renationalization bill. Then again, some people wondered why a man of his age and political experience should have expected the DPJ to keep its word, especially after their behavior of the past few years.
Mr. Kamei explained his reasoning during a speech at the JR Shinjuku Station in Tokyo:
(The DPJ) are neglecting an important political issue and holding an election while their support rate is high. There have been repeated crashes-and-burns in Japanese politics. The PNP is gritting its teeth and staying in the coalition to prevent the DPJ from running out of control.
Even some people who don’t care for the PNP and Mr. Kamei will have to admit that makes a lot of sense…