AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Archive for the ‘I couldn’t make this up if I tried’ Category

Smallness playing large

Posted by ampontan on Friday, December 28, 2012

AT what point does one’s reaction to the absurdities of South Korea’s preoccupation with Japan pass from amusement at a diversion that resembles the ramblings of a wild-haired street corner preacher to sadness tinged with dismissive indifference at the frenzied intensity of smallness playing large? This excerpt from an article written by Seon U-jeon that appeared in the Chosun Ilbo — which the newspaper translated into Japanese — comes close to defining that passage for me. It’s titled, What South Korea has but Japan doesn’t.

It’s tempting to answer, “Crazed irrationality about a neighboring country”, but I’ll leave that for you to decide.

*****
There are 290,000 foreign students in China, of which the most, 60,000, are from South Korea.

Japan once sent many students abroad 100 years ago, but it has lost its vitality. This is reflected in the sharp decline in students going abroad, the popularity of Korean pop culture, the strength of Korean corporations, and education.

Today’s South Korea is just like Japan a century ago. From the 19th century to the early 20th century, the number of Japanese going abroad to study reached 24,700. They sent more students overseas than any country in the world. There were 43 students accompanying the Iwakura mission (1871-1873) to visit the Western powers, six of whom were young women. That gives one an idea of their passion for studying abroad at the time. The stunning development of modern Japan resulted from their bringing learning back with them, though many were dismissed overseas as monkeys. They served as a bridge to the Great Powers. It was these students who broke the chains binding Japan during its period of isolation.

The number of Japanese students now in China is fewer than half the number of South Korean students. The number of Japanese students in the United States is just 28% the total of South Korean students. It is not that Japan is a country with nothing to learn from other countries. Even after Japan became a member of the advanced countries, it continued to send many students abroad into the 1980s. The sharp decline in the number of overseas students began when economic growth stalled and society lost its vitality.

Students studying abroad are an accurate reflection of a country’s hopes and the strength of its people. We view Japan’s rightward lurch as the floundering of out-of-control old men, because we now have what Japan had 100 years ago. The passion for Korean pop culture sweeping the world is as resplendent as the Japonism that swept Europe and the United States a century ago. The ability of Korean companies to seize markets is reminiscent of Japanese corporations after the war. Times have changed.

*****
Some observations, though you surely have many of your own.

* I’ve read some of the records of the Iwakura mission, which are still in print. They’re boring and not worth reading in their entirety because they are nothing but hundreds and hundreds of pages of the most basic travelogue. They’re like a postcard expanded into a book. The Meiji-era Japanese were literally visiting a new world beyond their imaginations. Nowadays, Japanese of average means can — and do — hop on a flight to New York after work on Friday to catch a Saturday night concert by a favorite performer and return in time for work Monday morning.

* Mr. Seon might be more accurate in his assessment than he suspects. In this article, Koreans do come off like the Japanese 100 years ago — going abroad to marvel at a new world beyond their imaginations. That says more about Korea, its degree of openness, and its entrapment in the mindset of a previous century than it does about Japan and its vitality.

* What is it exactly that Japanese students need to learn by studying at a Chinese university? Other than getting advanced practice in the Chinese language, very little. And what, for that matter, is it that Japanese students have to learn as undergraduates or masters candidates at the exorbitantly priced cesspools of political correctness that American universities have become?

* Japan sent so many students abroad a century ago because it was so far behind the West and wanted to catch up. Exactly what learning would they be bringing back from China?

* If Japanese universities are so inadequate that education needs to be supplemented by overseas universities, why are so many Chinese and South Koreans coming here to study?

* The only real reason that so many Koreans are studying in China is commercial — that’s where they think the money is. But then Koreans have a long history of fealty to the Chinese imperium.

* The Japonism of a century ago was a result of the admiration for the aesthetics of Japanese art and culture, such as ukiyoe and ceramics. Do Koreans think they have supplanted the Japanese in the West by offering chewing gum pop culture?

I’m glad I won’t be exposed to the internal Korean dialogue when the world forgets about Gagnam Style and they have to pick themselves up off the floor in a daze after the crash of the mother of all sugar highs.

* It always bears repeating: Saying that Japan has lost its vitality is prima facie evidence that the speaker knows next to nothing about today’s Japan.

* And yes, Japan is still the gold standard by which the Koreans judge themselves.

*****
When he was assigned to Japan, the author of this article received the Japan-Korea Cultural Exchange Award as the representative of a Korean newspaper.

*****
Speaking of Korean education, here are some photos of a demonstration earlier this month in front of the Japanese embassy conducted by primary school students and their teachers. Got to start washing those brains early, eh?

Japanese people apologize!

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Japanese people, recognize your errors! (That’s a photo of the comfort woman statue on her sign.)

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Apologize for the comfort women!

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The photo prop on the left is the comfort woman statue and the photo prop on the right is holding a sign saying that Takeshima is our land.

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If Korean primary school take their students on field trips such as these, it is a matter of extreme urgency for even more students to study abroad when they reach university age. Even at Chinese universities

Posted in China, Education, History, I couldn't make this up if I tried, International relations, Social trends | 65 Comments »

Where it all started, and where it all starts

Posted by ampontan on Friday, December 21, 2012

HERE are two related posts. The first is an excerpt of an article that appeared on the website of the Cheonji Ilbo, a South Korean religious daily that focuses on history, culture, and religion.

The Race that Knows History will be the Masters of the Future

“Hang Sang-won, professor of East Asian and Western linguistics, holds that the countries that do not know history are idiots and will be rendered extinct.

“It is not possible to understand the history of Asia without an understanding of Dangun-era Joseon in the ancient history of Northeast Asia. (N.B.: According to legend, Dangun founded Gojoseon, the first Korean kingdom, in 2,333 BC).

“Dangun-era Joseon is that important for ancient history, but it is impossible to understand why South Korea does not recognize its importance.

“Though Japan and China make up history that didn’t exist, why do you Koreans believe that history which actually existed did not exist? This country is unbelievable.

“It all started with the scholars who taught the distorted historical falsehoods of the toadyism and colonialism concocted first by the Chinese and the Japanese. We must authenticate the resplendent civilization that was the start of human history by restoring the history that was shredded. Yet the scholars without common sense, neutered by the transmission of that which is erroneous, who destroy the true history by declaring it false, hold firm to the mendacity.

“The history and civilization of humankind began in the East and moved westward. Western historians past and present are well aware of the importance of the history of humankind. The historical philosophers of the West have insisted on meeting the “wise men of the East”. They have included Francis Bacon, Albert Einstein, and Arnold Toynbee. Toynbee once said that human civilization will move from Europe and the North American continent to Northeast Asia. He predicted the reality of today.

“The people of the West now have nothing to brag about. They have no history or philosophy worth mentioning. That’s because the roots of the history and philosophy they are so proud of originated in the East. This fact is also well known by people in the West….

“…The Oxford English Dictionary, published from the early 1800s to the early 1900s, makes clear through linguistic proof that humanity originated with the Korean people.

“To cite a familiar example, there is the word “khan”, which means ruler. If we remove the silent K, it becomes Han. In other words, “Hanguk” (South Korea) means either the country ruled by the king, or the race with hereditary rule by kings.…

“…As a result of linguistic research in the East and the West, it was determined that the origin of humanity was the Korean people. They were the Dongyi people who created a flourishing civilization in the Pamir Mountains (of Central Asia) even earlier than the Sumerian civilization that so astounded the Westerners. We must know that the Dongyi are our ancestors, the Khan people who used Chinese characters, moved to Sumer, and created the foundation of contemporary Western civilization.”

The second is the introduction to a book by Takushoku University Prof. O Seon-hwa. She was born in Jeju in 1956 and first came to Japan in 1983.

“The arrogant attitude that the culture of one’s tribe is the standard, and that the culture of other tribes, such as the customs of their daily lives, their ways of thought, and the forms of their behavior, are disgraceful, irrational, mistaken, and inferior, is known as ethnocentrism.

“It can only be said that the Koreans’ belief that their culture’s value system is more proper and splendid than any other has exceeded normal bounds to a substantial degree.

“The damage of ethnocentrism is manifest in the self-serving fantasies and an unwillingness to look at reality. This problem is serious in South Korea because this way of thinking now extends into academia.”

Posted in History, I couldn't make this up if I tried, South Korea | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Ichigen koji (251)

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, December 6, 2012

一言居士
– A person who has something to say about everything

The East China Sea is the Sea of Peace.

- Hatoyama Yukio, former prime minister of Japan

Posted in I couldn't make this up if I tried, International relations, Quotations | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Music made easy

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, December 2, 2012

MANY people wish they could play music like Beethoven or Jimi Hendrix, but few have the talent or the discipline to bring their chops to that level.

But the wild and crazy guys at Maywa Denki, the self-described “parallel-world electricians”, have solved that problem with the otamatone. Here’s the regular version (note the shape):

Here’s the jumbo version:

And here’s the bilingual website. Once upon a time, they were a subcontractor for Toshiba and Panasonic. Not any more!

Posted in I couldn't make this up if I tried, Music, New products, Science and technology | Leave a Comment »

You really don’t know?

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, December 1, 2012

EARLIER this week, we saw that NHK-TV chose not to invite any K-pop performers to appear on its famous New Year’s Eve program, Kohaku Uta Gassen. Four K-pop groups appeared last year.

This seems to have upset the three major South Korean newspapers.

The Joongan-Ilbo charged that they were deliberately excluded, and asked:

Is it really not related to the Dokdo (Takeshima) problem?

They added that the groups who appeared on last year’s show were more popular in Japan this year. Shojo Jidai and KARA sold more than 100,000 albums and received gold discs from the Recording Industry Association of Japan

They also didn’t find the NHK explanation very convincing.

The Chosun Ilbo asked:

Why the declaration of a boycott of South Korean singers?

Note the typical exaggeration — one program on one network constitutes a “boycott”.

The Dong-a Ilbo also complained about the “exclusion” of K-pop singers.

The exaggerated posturing impresses no one but themselves. Of course it’s about Takeshima. And President Lee’s statements about the Emperor. And the continued decades of obnoxious behavior of many South Koreans toward Japan that they’re now exporting to unrelated countries. They put up absurd propaganda billboards in Times Square and expect Japan to turn the other cheek?

And be allowed to appear on the quasi-governmental television network as if nothing happened?

The thread has been broken, and they’re the ones who broke it.

Meanwhile, it is still against the law for a Japanese performer to appear on South Korean terrestrial television at all — yet the Korean media gets enuretic when Korean singers are not included on one Japanaese television program.

It’s time for some people in South Korea to get over themselves.

But that would be too much to ask, wouldn’t it?

Posted in I couldn't make this up if I tried, International relations, Mass media, Popular culture, South Korea | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

National persimmon seed spitting contest

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, November 25, 2012

WHAT sort of image do people overseas have in their mind’s eye about Japan? Other than the noodniks fixated on Edo-period tentacle porn, I mean. Perhaps they have the traditional picture of a clean, simple, fastidious elegance.

If so, it might be because they haven’t swung by Nanbu-cho in Tottori in late November every year. That’s when the Tottorians hold their annual National Persimmon Seed Spitting Contest using the seeds from the famed local fuyu persimmons. This year’s event was the 24th, and about 400 people came to see how far they could hawk an oblong spherical seed that’s about five to 10 times larger than a watermelon seed.

And when I say 400 people, that includes men, women, boys, and girls who compete in four separate divisions. That’s what makes Japan such a fascinating place — any other day of the week, some of those persimmon seed-spitting housewives might be in kimono practicing the tea ceremony. In this event, they get to behave in public like bored fratboys on a Wednesday night in midwinter and be cheered by an audience.

Of course there are rules and techniques. The seeds have to land within a four-meter lane, and there’s said to be a special body snap for ejecting the projectile the maximum distance.

This year’s winner in the men’s division was a 41-year-old company employee from Imabari, Ehime, with an expectoration of 17.46 meters. The women’s champ was a 40-year-old local who shot her seed 10.67 meters. Before you start snickering, keep in mind that both of them won free trips to Hawaii. Now isn’t that enough to make you buy a crate of persimmons and start practicing?

It might be fun to watch, or even test my seed-spitting abilities against the other competitors. But here’s where I’d draw the line: I wouldn’t want to be one of the event workers assigned to pick up the spent seeds from the mat.

Yeah there’s a Youtube. In fact, this one is a report by the Nihonkai Shimbun on last year’s event. That featured 350 people from five Chugoku region prefectures and the Kansai area. The men’s winner managed a spit of only 14.87 meters. He still won a trip to Hawaii, though.

Posted in I couldn't make this up if I tried, Popular culture | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Inaccuracies in image and language

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, November 24, 2012

LAW professor/blogger Ann Althouse picked up a post from The Tokyo Reporter about the Tokyo police objecting to the publication in the weeklies Shukan Post and Shukan Gendai of photos of the Great Wall of Vagina by British artist Jamie McCartney. The great wall is “a series of rows of white plaster casts of the genitals of 400 women”.

The wall itself is the sort of vapid nonsense people in the West enjoy amusing themselves with these days (cf. Vagina Monologues, lady parts, etc.), but Ms. Althouse’s short post is worth reading for two reasons.

The first is that she writes:

The description is accurate but fails to mention how artistic it is.

The line has a link to pictures of the wall panels that makes it clear her comment is ironic.

Of course McCartney can’t understand it. Of course. He was quoted elsewhere as saying:

Japan is a sophisticated and forward-looking culture that should be able to accept all forms of creative expression. The purpose of the artwork is not to be sexually arousing but instead to be educational and alleviate the unnecessary anxiety many women feel about their genitals.

Isn’t it interesting how often people such as McCartney unwittingly parody themselves? Creative expression as psychological education, eh? Perhaps the sophisticated and forward-looking Japanese don’t consider vagina walls to be creative expression. But the less publicity given to this latter-day Barnum, the better.

Here’s the second Althouse observation:

I’m sorry to be pedantic, but don’t say “vagina” for “vulva.” I’m not concerned about obscenity. It’s the false advertising that bothers me. This is “Decorously Framed Vulva,” not “Great Wall of Vagina.”

Just as inaccurate is the The Tokyo Reporter’s description of the two magazines as “weekly tabloids”. Snort.

Tabloid is the term used to describe the form of certain types of newspapers. They are narrower and smaller than the conventional broadsheets. TTR here is using the term inaccurately to describe the magazines’ content. For example:

Tabloids also tend to be more irreverent and slangy in their writing style than their more serious broadsheet brothers. In a crime story, a broadsheet refers to a police officer, while the tabloid calls him a cop. And while a broadsheet might spend dozens of column inches on “serious” news – say, a major bill being debated in Congress – a tabloid is more likely to zero in on a heinous sensational crime story or celebrity gossip.

In fact, the word tabloid has come to be associated with the kind of supermarket checkout aisle papers – such as the National Enquirer – that focus exclusively on splashy, lurid stories about celebrities.

That highlights a problem with both the American image and the description of the Japanese magazines. For the first:

But there’s an important distinction to be made here. True, there are the over-the-top tabloids like the Enquirer, but there are also the so-called respectable tabloids – such as the New York Daily News, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Boston Herald and so on – that do serious, hard-hitting journalism. In fact, the New York Daily News has won 10 Pulitzer Prizes, print journalism’s highest honor.

There’s the second inaccuracy in the TTR description. Japan’s kisha club system for reporters means that journalists working for the respectable daily press are sometimes de facto prevented from writing stories they’d like to write because they might upset the political class, particularly the ruling party. Failing to conduct self-censorship could result in being cut out of the news loop.

But the Japanese print media devised a solution for that long ago: weekly magazines. Those publications are both a type of samizdat press and a proto-print Internet featuring information that the newspapers avoid. Indeed, some of them are published by the major newspaper companies, so they have direct access to that information.

As for the Shukan Post and Shukan Gendai, I’ve read articles in both magazines on political and social topics that were better researched and contained more useful information than many similar articles that appeared in Time or Newsweek during their heydays.

True, each issue is likely to include articles with showbiz gossip or content that appeals to the prurient interest. Some also have sexually suggestive comics and Playboy-type nude spreads. This week’s issue of Shukan Gendai, for example, has a group interview with some women discovering how to use dildoes — but that’s on page 172.

The magazines are also the occasional target of lawsuits. Based on observation over the years, however, it seems they usually win the ones brought by politicians. They more often lose the ones in which a celebrity is the plaintiff.

Thus, to dismiss them as tabloids in the pejorative sense is to do them a disservice. They’re much more than that, and it’s not possible to describe them using any single English word I can think of.

The irony is rich. The Tokyo Reporter website consists entirely of content that he used the word tabloid to describe. Perhaps he should start reading some of those articles he skips over in the weeklies to get to the stories that he prefers.

*****

Posted in Arts, I couldn't make this up if I tried, Mass media | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

When eligibility makes you ineligible

Posted by ampontan on Friday, November 23, 2012

* I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office.

* The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taken one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office.

-H.L. Mencken

THERE’S little to add to Mencken’s observations about politicians except specific examples that illustrate his point. It would be easy to find those examples just by shutting your eyes and sticking your finger on a random point on a world map. But two examples from Japan sprang off the newsfeed yesterday, so we’ll use those.

The first involves Nagoya Mayor Kawamura Takashi, mentioned this week in a post about regional reform parties. He’s the leader of Tax Reduction Japan, which had six Diet members. Mr. Kawamura’s wanted to formally merge with other reform parties, but those desires were unrequited. He was even jilted by Ishihara Shintaro and his Sun Party days after they accepted his proposal. They chose to walk down the political aisle with Hashimoto Toru and Japan Restoration instead.

Kawamura Takashi and Kamei Shizuka

The latter group ostensibly rejected his overtures because of his policy positions — anti-TPP, anti-nuclear energy, and anti-consumption tax increase. Rather than modify any of those positions, he chose to keep them. He spun this as his own rejection of an alliance with the new Japan Restoration. That caused him to lose one of his six Diet members, with the possibility that two or three more might also flake.

The requirement for political parties to receive public funds as a subsidy is five Diet members, and that puts Mr. Kawamura in a bind. He was thrown a political life preserver by Kamei Shizuka and his two-man Anti-TPP, Anti-Nuclear Power, Achieve a Freeze of the Consumption Tax Party. In other words, they are kindred policy spirits.

Unfortunately, Mr. Kamei is one of the breed that combines cultural conservatism with a preference for Big Government. He so opposed the privatization of Japan Post and its banking and insurance business that he was thrown out of the LDP. He then formed the People’s New Party to cleave to those bureaucratic interests.

Mr. Kamei followed that up by becoming a junior partner in the DPJ coalition, who fiddled around with his single issue hobby horse for three years while using his party’s votes to maintain an upper house majority. His primary contribution to the DPJ administration was to require financial institutions to suspend their acceptance of loan payments from struggling businesses, while being reimbursed by the government. In short, he lacks even a rudimentary understanding of the free market.

He also personally selected an ex-Finance Ministry official to take over Japan Post just months after the DPJ won election on a promise to keep the bureaucracy at arm’s length.

So that’s who Kawamura Takashi the reformer is interested in being partners with. And now he’s talking about working out an arrangement with Ozawa Ichiro the fixer and his drolly named People’s Lives First Party. If you’re going to jump into the septic tank, you might as well dive head first, right?

For that matter, they might as well join the Social Democrats. They’re pushing the same three policy positions, though they go full-bore socially democratic by calling for an increase in the income tax rate to a maximum of 50%. (So is Japan’s Communist Party, for that matter.)

The two men even say they are interested in working with the Greens, which have yet to take off in Japan. Now I ask you…

Meanwhile, five political groups in the Nagoya City Council, including those from the DPJ, LDP, and New Komeito, urged Mr. Kawamura to forget about national politics and concentrate on his job in the city. They say his involvement with the political party is causing problems in municipal administration.

All of this leaves on-again off-again ally Aichi Gov. Omura Hideaki hanging in mid-air. Recall that Mr. Omura and the Nagoya mayor resolved their disagreements that resulted from the former’s interest in being a local branch of Japan Restoration. Mr. Omura was given a position as advisor to Japan Restoration, and as part of that deal, given the authority to select a candidate to run from an Aichi district in next month’s lower house election. He gave all that up earlier this week to maintain his local alliance.

Now he says he won’t back any candidates in Aichi this time. It looks like he made the wrong choice.

On the last loop

That brings us to former Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio. Japan’s first junior high school girl to serve as prime minister was in Hokkaido this week to talk to supporters in his Diet district after announcing that he wouldn’t contest the election. The Mainichi Shimbun included this passage in its Japanese-language report:

In regard to the issue of moving the American Futenma air base in Ginowan, Okinawa, Mr. Hatoyama declared just before the 2009 lower house election that he would move it outside the prefecture at a minimum. After he became prime minister, he returned to the plan developed by the LDP-New Komeito administration to move the base to Henoko in the same prefecture. This generated a fierce response from local citizens.

The Mainichi doesn’t say that his promise also included moving the base outside the country as the ideal beyond the minimum, that his government spent six of its eight-month lifespan flopping like a fish dumped from a net on the deck of a trawler over the issue, and that it became apparent during the first month of the process he was unsuited for national government. The Mainichi also doesn’t mention that Wikileaks suggest he never seriously intended to move the base out of Okinawa to begin with.

Here’s what Mr. Hatoyama said in Hokkaido.

I want to be involved in the future in some way with the Okinawa issue, and want to cooperate to make ‘outside the prefecture at a minimum’ a reality.

Now you know why the Americans dismissed him as loopy, and more than a few Japanese agreed. What point would there be in telling him he could have made that a reality when he was prime minister, but chose not to? It would float in one ear and pass unobstructed to float out the other.

Indeed, Mr. Hatoyama lacks even the sole talent that Mencken attributed to politicians. He has no particular talent for getting and holding office. What he does have is a famous political name and vaults full of money.

Eldridge Cleaver once said that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Kawamura Takashi and Hatoyama Yukio offered themselves as solutions to the problems the public wants resolved. It didn’t take long for both them to expose themselves as part of the real problem.

Afterwords:

Talk about wet cement: Kobayashi Koki, the man who left Tax Reduction Japan for Japan Restoration, was rejected by Japan Restoration and is mulling a return to Tax Reduction Japan. The Ishihara branch of Japan Restoration was willing to admit him, but the core of the party in Osaka is said to have “very harsh opinions” about him.

The two parties are offering candidates in the same district in two cases: One in Aichi and one in Ibaraki.

The Wild West is probably a better analogy for the state of Japanese politics now than wet cement.

UPDATE: The Kawamura-Kamei party has now expressed in public an interest in getting it on with Ozawa Ichiro’s People’s Lives First party. Mr. Kawamura said he wants to create as large a party as possible, and that the group should be considered Reform Team B. That’s in contrast to Japan Restoration and Your Party, which he dubbed Team A.

A Yomiuri Shimbun article said some people perceived this as a “middle-of-the road, liberal force”. With the paleo Kamei Shizuka and the policy-as-disposable-tissue-paper Ozawa Ichiro? It is to laugh.

*****

Maybe they should all think about living together on a Yellow Submarine.

Posted in I couldn't make this up if I tried, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Daytime soba opera

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, November 18, 2012

ONE analogy used when politicians abandon a party that’s dissolving as quickly as a mudboat is that of rats leaving a sinking ship. True to the vapidity of some of its members, however, the Democratic Party of Japan’s dissolution is starting to resemble daytime soba opera.

At last count, nine DPJ MPs have left the party in the last three days. Here are some screenshots of a video broadcast on the national news when first-term member Hatsushika Akihiro of Tokyo went to the DPJ headquarters in the Diet building to turn in his resignation. In a scene that must have been staged, Tanaka Mieko, another first-term DPJ member, briefly (and slightly tearfully) tried to stop him. It was over in a few seconds.

The entertainment it provided isn’t over for the Japanese Net, however. They’re still passing the photos and video around. Here’s the sequence:

The caption at the top left says that it happened before 11:00 a.m. The one at the bottom identifies Mr. Hatsushika. The one at the top right quotes LDP chief Abe Shinzo as promising an election victory and notes that the DPJ has already lost its lower house majority

No change

The third quotes Ms. Tanaka as saying, “I came to stop you. Don’t go.”

This quotes what seems to be a smiling Mr. Hatsushika replying, “I understand your feelings, but I’ve decided. Let me through.”

No caption necessary.

Still no caption necessary.

And now for the backstory (or at least the publicly known part of it.)

Mr. Hatsushika told the reporters why he was leaving:

The DPJ has clearly changed its policies from the time it assumed control of government. It’s become a different party.

Either the reporters were just doing their jobs, or they don’t do their jobs thoroughly to begin with, because they asked him a really dumb question: Will you be joining the Japan Restoration Party or Ishihara Shintaro’s Sunrise Party? He said no, and added:

I want to devote my energies to consolidating the strength of “liberal” political forces.

He used the English loan word for liberal. That means left-of-center nowadays in Japan too, but the extent of the leftward lean depends on the user. In Mr. Hatsushika’s case, that means being Pyeongyang’s pal in the Diet.

Yes, the Democratic Party of Japan certified this man in 2009. Yes, the Anglosphere media described the DPJ government as “center-left”. They really should have reversed the words and used some imaginative typography instead. It was “LEFT of center”.

One wonders what Hatsushika Akihiro expected of the Democratic Party when he ran in 2009.

The story gets better. Boy, does it get better.

Tanaka Mieko is another one of the DPJ MPs whose first term is likely to be their last for the forseeable future. The holder of a master’s degree in political science from Meiji University, she was recruited by Ozawa Ichiro to run against former LDP Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro in 2009, setting up a battle between the young Beauty and the old Beast. She lost by just 4,000 votes, but managed to slide into the Diet anyway as a PR representative for the Hokuriku bloc.

Ms. Tanaka held several jobs before turning to electoral politics. She was an aide to Kawamura Takashi when he was a DPJ Diet member. (He later quit the party, resigned his seat, won election as Nagoya mayor, and formed the Tax Cut Japan party that might still join Hashimoto Toru’s Japan Restoration Party.) Before that, she was a company employee and tour conductor.

And before that, she wrote a column in the magazine Bubka with the title, “Beautiful cosplay writer Arisu interviews sex workers: A real battle of beauties”. Explained an employee of the publishing company:

“She would interview women in the sex industry while she herself was outfitted in some kind of costume. It became something of a topic of conversation because no one knew why she had to dress up like that.”

One of the magazine’s editors said that Ms. Tanaka approached them about doing the articles. While the articles were well-written, he said, the series ended after 10 pieces when she couldn’t think of any more costumes to use. In the photos above, you can see she chose the elegant basic black costume with a string of pearls to barricade the door on her last day in the Diet.

And sometimes, she wore very little at all. She got a bare naked chest massage in the cult film Moju Tai Issunboshi (The Blind Beast vs. the Dwarf). You can tell it’s a cult film from the low budget, amateurish direction, and the even more amateurish acting.

Of course there’s a YouTube. Isn’t there always?

Some people criticize the new regional parties because they’re not impressed with the caliber of people they’ve recruited to run for the Diet.

Ha, ha, ha!

Posted in I couldn't make this up if I tried, North Korea, Politics, Popular culture, Sex | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Letter bombs (25): The origins of stake terror!

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, November 11, 2012

READER Ken sent the following YouTube video of a segment that was presented on the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS-TV) during its 8:00 a.m. program. There was no information about the year, but it might have been 2007. In any event, the activities described in the video continue today. It has Japanese subtitles, which I’ve translated into English.

Female anchor: Do you remember that Japan drove metal piles into the ground throughout our country during its forced occupation to disrupt the vitality of our race? Recently several large wooden piles were discovered on Mt. Gaehwa in Seoul. These are presumed to have been driven in by Japan.

Male anchor: It’s the first time wooden and not metal piles have been discovered…used for a feng shui invasion. This reminds us once again of the intensity of the Japanese desire for domination.

Male reporter (Kim Hak-je): Sixteen wooden piles, 27 metal piles, and two piles made of stone were discovered on Mt. Gaehwa. They managed to remove the metal and stone piles, but the wooden piles discovered later were quite large, and the removal work has so far not been easy. We set out to discover who drove in those piles, how they did it, and for what reason.

Voiceover: Mt. Gaehwa is about 130 meters above sea level on the other side of the Han River from the Haengju Fortress. Thick wooden piles of indeterminate form rose on the summit of the mountain.

It’s 2.85 meters high and has a circumference of 83 centimeters. Does it get thicker the further down it goes?

There were 16 in all, each of slightly different lengths and thicknesses. A specialist in the hexed metal piles began the work to remove them last month.

Seo Yun-yeong, Chairman of the Committee to Promote the Vitality of the Race: I’ve already removed a lot of these hexed metal piles. But this is the first time I’ve seen so many wood ones…The purpose of these piles was probably the same as the metal and stone ones.

Voiceover: On the day we visited the site, the real size and shape was revealed of the long wooden pile that was deeply buried in the earth.

Seo: Ah, it’s out! Your role is now finished. This poison pin!

Voiceover: The metal and stone piles that were discovered last September have all been removed. Also discovered was a thick wire coiled around the metal and stone piles to connect them.

Seo: So we Koreans would find it difficult to live…so no great people would be born in Korea…for this wicked objective, they used nature. It’s frightening.

Voiceover: Here is the place where what are thought to be hexed piles were buried. Twenty-seven metal piles, two stone piles, and now 16 of the wooden piles have been discovered for the first time in the country. But the people who lived in the vicinity had no suspicions about the real nature of the wooden piles, unlike those for the metal piles. It had been said for many years that they were used for military drills.

Lee Jeong-hun, Seoul: They say there was a military drill area here in the past. I heard there were no wooden piles, but they carried ropes for training.

Voiceover: But after suspicions began to surface, the squad conducted the work for confirmation at the site three times. We received a reply from military sources that the wooden piles on Mt. Gaehwa had no connection with a military facility. The location was unsuitable for military training purposes. They explained military technology at the time was incapable of burying the wooden piles in such a sophisticated way.

Seo: Cement and rock, cement and rock. There are 12 layers of rock and 12 layers of cement, 24 altogether. Just who buried these piles with this sophistication and with these numbers in mind?

Voiceover: There was also a space intentionally created between the lower part of the wood and the bottom. It was filled with oil, which seems to have been to prevent rot.

Seo: The odor is gross. It was filled with oil.

Voiceover: Scholars of feng shui geography have noted that Mt. Gaehwa on the other side of the Han River from Haengju Fortress was an important control barrier

Shin Sang-yun, Head of the Asia Feng Shui Geography Research Institute: This was to prevent good fortune from moving to the northwest. The metal, stone, and wooden piles were put in a place in the mountain to prevent the fortune from rising.

Voiceover: A large quantity of piles resembling this have been discovered throughout the country at sites of maximum good fortune (from a feng shui perspective).

Prof. Seo Gil-su, Seokyeong University: There have been at least several hundred of these found throughout the country. One person isn’t capable of doing the amount of work involved. This was planned and thoroughly prepared, and the theory of feng shui geography was used for the piles as a kind of invasion of our vitality.

Voiceover: How many places and in what forms do piles such as those discovered at Mt. Gaehwa remain as the residuum of the Japanese forced occupation period? The things we want to know and the concerns are growing.

*****
An excerpt said to be from the 21 April 2006 edition of the Dong-a Ilbo:

The answer is that these were benchmarks or triangulation points for surveying, piles for civil engineering use, or for climbing mountains. From this excess of hatred for the Japanese, the result of going around and digging up these piles has been the loss of 60% of the benchmarks and triangulation points in one year.

Note that the reporter in the story wonders how they were all driven in. One wonders if he thinks pile driving technology is all that complicated.

*****
This first came to public awareness during the Kim Young-sam administration in 1995 as part of the 50th anniversary of liberation, and the tabloid press was instrumental in keeping it there. Typical storylines:

* “Imperial Japan’s feng shui conspiracy to eliminate the vitality of our race and cause disasters for our country!”

* “Imperial Japan feared Korea, and they drove in all these metal piles in lines that would sever energy flow to destroy Korean superiority and strength.”

The work to remove the piles began at the urging of the government, it was officially sanctioned, and there were rumors of the sale of pile removal rights to certain large companies.

Some of the piles that were removed are exhibited at the Wonju Municipal Museum as important historical artifacts.

*****
It is still possible to read the advice of some of the oh-so-well-intentioned and the oh-so-superficially-knowledgeable in academia and thinktankeria that Japan must “face up to history”, don the hair shirt, and enter perpetual apology mode.

Apart from the fundamental errors on which those assumptions are based, such behaviors would have no effect.

Nothing will have any effect until some people on the Korean Peninsula grow out of their enthrallment with the East Asian equivalent of dancing for rain with snakes in their mouths.

Posted in History, I couldn't make this up if I tried, International relations, Science and technology, South Korea | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

All you have to do is look (102)

Posted by ampontan on Friday, November 9, 2012

Education Minister Tanaka Makiko in the Diet during the discussions over whether to grant government authorization to the three universities she originally refused authorization for. After the decision was announced to reverse her decision less than a week later, she said, “This could be a good advertisement for them. They might have a boom in four or five years.”

Posted in Education, I couldn't make this up if I tried, Photographs and videos, Politics | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

All you have to do is look (96)

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, November 3, 2012

South Korean junior high and high school students demonstrate in front of the Japanese embassy in September, demanding that history be properly taught to Japanese youth.

Posted in Education, I couldn't make this up if I tried, Photographs and videos, South Korea | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

All you have to do is look (92)

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A public sculpture somewhere in China.

Posted in China, I couldn't make this up if I tried, Photographs and videos | Leave a Comment »

Ichigen koji(211)

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, October 28, 2012

一言居士
– A person who has something to say about everything

■ “I have fantasized — don’t get me wrong — but that what if we could just be China for a day? I mean, just, just, just one day. You know, I mean, where we could actually, you know, authorize the right solutions . . .”

- New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman on “Meet the Press,” 23 May 2010

■ “China Blocks New York Times Website After Article”

-headline, Associated Press, 26 Oct. 2012

(Stolen from James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal. Here’s the reason for the ban.)

Posted in China, I couldn't make this up if I tried, Mass media | 1 Comment »

All you have to do is look (85)

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Public art somewhere in China.

Posted in China, I couldn't make this up if I tried, Photographs and videos | Leave a Comment »

 
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