AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Posts Tagged ‘Anti-Nipponism’

All you have to do is look (46)

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A “performance” on the 10th at the comfort woman memorial in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul by a woman associated with a group whose name roughly translates as the “Love Dokdo Association”. There was also a poetry reading.

Posted in Photographs and videos, Sex, South Korea | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

In their heads

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, September 11, 2012

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
-Oscar Wilde

THE terminally serious sitting at their cubicle desks of respectable discussion are missing the point with the intellectual skirt chasing of gravitas and erudition. They’d find it more productive to apply some good old-fashioned Buddhist detachment to the goofiness, mythomania, and triple-digit loon factor of the global gutter press and dumpster-dive right into the middle without holding their noses. The immediate benefit would be a wealth of entertainment superior to most vaudeville of either the 20th or 21st centuries. The payoff would be information more useful and an education more practical than that to be found in their learned periodicals of choice better suited to their class prejudices.

If you think I’m red-lining it on the loon meter myself, follow this trail and watch where it leads.

Let’s start with Tokyo Sports, a daily tabloid of the type that prints all the news that isn’t fit to print, extensive coverage of sports news with huge headlines, and speculation on the physical characteristics of the sexual organs of female celebrities.

Here’s an excerpt from their 23 August edition.

“It would be a good idea to ban the Korean Wave, or even K-Pop. That would include Girls’ Generation and Kara. Korean consumer electronics and other products make their way into Japan, but I think there will definitely be a boycott. (Person connected with the Liberal Democratic Party).”

That’s Square One: A solitary unidentified guy in an unidentified party position biting into the red meat of the sort that people chew whenever there’s an uproar between two nations. The Korean Wave is no more likely to banned in Japan than French fries were to be renamed Freedom Fries in the US a decade ago during the runup to Iraq War II.

Now for Square Two: Someone from enews, “The Voice of Korean Entertainment”, read the article and gave it to Erika Kim to translate and Lee Kyung-nam to put into publishable form. Here’s their treatment.

“One official from the leading opposition party, the Liberal Democratic Party, has even told the Japanese press that Japan should ban any Korean wave related content and K-Pop… According to a Japanese newspaper, Tokyo Sports, the official said, “We need to ban the Korean wave, K-Pop, everything. Girls’ Generation (SNSD) and Kara are also out of the question. Korean electronics make their way into Japan, but a boycott will definitely arise soon.”

See how quickly they upgraded to “an official” telling “the Japanese press” that they “need to ban” the Korean wave, K-Pop, “everything”?

Square Three followed shortly thereafter. MTV Iggy picked up the enews story and ran this headline:

Japan Wants to Ban Korean Media Over Dokdo Islands

We’ve gone from an unidentified someone to the entire country in a virtual blink of the eye. Using the enews story as a basis, Janine Bower reported:

“Right now, Japanese officials are working to place a ban on all forms of Korean media.”

Bower wanted to give the site’s readers some background, but research and reading comprehension do not seem to be her strong points:

“It all comes down to a fierce territory dispute between what are called the Dokdo Islands to the Koreans, and the Takeshima Islands to the Japanese. Japan believes that the islands belong to them because the US government abolished Korea’s ownership of them during World War II.”

Janine must have been playing with her i-Pad during class. In addition to the rules for preposition use, she doesn’t know that Korea never had “ownership” of the islets until they seized them in 1954, so the US government couldn’t abolish anything. After World War II, the Americans upheld the Japanese ownership of the islands that dated from 1905 and rejected the Korean claim through the peace treaty.

And now we fly off the board entirely and into the world of the vernacular South Korean news media, which always has one foot in the gutter and every columnist is Drama Queen for a Day in drag. Lee Jeh-yeong got a whiff of the story and wrote a column for the Korean site Ajunews. Lee is being the pundit, so here’s how he starts:

“I visited Japan in 1990. One evening, I asked a young man in the subway for directions. He was true to the famous Japanese reputation for kindness by giving me very detailed instructions. But he kept repeating the same words in clumsy English two or three times. I thought this was strange, and wondered if he was being too kind. Just then I realized what was really happening. This young Japanese man, who had alcohol on his breath, somehow wanted to show off to his Japanese friends that he was good at English.”

That’s one possibility. Another is that alcohol had loosened the man’s tongue at the expense of briskness. We’ve all seen it happen. Yet another is that Lee’s English isn’t very good, and the Japanese man wasn’t sure that he understood. A fourth is that the Japanese man lacked confidence in his own English and was trying hard to convey the information to Lee. Finally, maybe he was just being kind. Everyone else in the world who visits Japan thinks their kindness to befuddled strangers is delightful. Lee complains about it and looks for ulterior motives.

Then again, the idea of being kind to foreigners struggling with the language might be a foreign concept for Lee. I was once lashed with a torrent of verbal abuse from a young female clerk in a Busan supermarket because my very rudimentary Korean wasn’t good enough to understand her instructions on where they stocked the instant kalguksu I wanted to buy and take back home. I have no idea what she said, but she was behaving as if I had tried to slip my hand up her dress. It was all I could do to keep from laughing in her face. Finding similar stories on the Web is easy to do.

After ranting for a few paragraphs, Lee concludes:

“The Japanese themselves will probably never admit it, but they have now developed an inferiority complex towards the Republic of Korea (大韓民国). They’ve added a “Korean complex” to their “White complex”, and Japan’s far right has been overcome by a profound dread. They’re anti-Korean and anti-Korean wave. If they take one more step, they’ll be shouting for all the foreigners to get out of Japan.”

See what you would have missed if you hadn’t gone dumpster diving?

The key passage came in the middle, however:

“Mass culture is like the water of a river. It isn’t possible to stop the flow of the river through artificial means. In the past, we indiscriminately banned Japanese culture, but at the time, many Koreans thought Japan = First Class and were infatuated with Japanese culture. During the colonial occupation, and then until the 1990s, our inferiority complex towards Japan drove a hostile reaction toward Japan, the Japanese, and Japanese culture. Now, however, our national brand is ranked #7 and the Japanese national brand is ranked #27. They fear Korea and are rushing headlong into anti-Korean sentiment and banning the Korean wave.”

I’ve always thought mass culture more closely resembled chewing gum than the waters of a mighty river, but we can let that pass. After all, many people outside of South Korea enjoy their version of disposable television programming and music. More important is the selective amnesia that Lee shares with his readers.

Japanese pop culture was prohibited entirely in South Korean until 1998 — only 14 years ago. Deregulation began that year on 20 October. The government permitted manga to be sold and award-winning movies from international festivals to be shown in theaters, but not on television. There have since been three more deregulations.

* As of 10 September 1999, concerts were permitted in venues with 2,000 seats or fewer, though the prohibition on CD sales and broadcasting remained. More movies were permitted, still in theaters only.

* As of 27 June 2000, international award-winning film manga could be shown in theaters only. The restriction on the number of seats in halls for musical concerts was lifted, but CD sales and broadcasting was still forbidden. Some electronic games were allowed to be sold, except television games such as Nintendo. Some sports, documentary, and news programs could be broadcast on television.

* As of 1 January 2004, the screening of all movies and manga was allowed in theaters only, music could be sold in shops, and television dramas were allowed on cable channels, with age restrictions.

As far as I can determine — Koreans aren’t forthcoming about this — it is still illegal today to broadcast Japanese television dramas, films, cartoons, and concerts on regular television, or Japanese music on the radio.

South Koreans also seem to be as hazy on history as Janine over at MTV Iggy. Even the academics, as Prof. Ishii Ken’ichi demonstrates. He starts by citing a passage in Media Asia:

Japan and Korea, both of which had blocked the importation of each other’s cultural products, have opened their media markets in recent years. Since 1989, the Korean government has gradually lifted the gate for several cultural products, such as Japanese pop music records, limited films and television programmes and animation. Korean television dramas traditionally limited their portrayals of Japanese to those who participated in Japan’s colonization of Korea. Meanwhile, Japan permitted, for the first time, the broadcasting of Korean music on the air in June 2000. (Dal Yong Jin, “Regionalization of East Asia in 1990s”, Media Asia, 29(4), p227, 2003)

Note that Dal gives the Koreans credit for lifting some of their restrictions first before the Japanese eliminated their imaginary ones. But Prof. Ishii quickly sets the record straight. The emphasis is his:

“Media Asia” is one of the most prestigious academic journals on media and communications in Asia. Also Dal Yong Jin is a Korean Ph.D. candidate majoring in media and cultures, who will probably become a professor in media and communications. However, the above quoted paragraph is based on a completely wrong belief. In fact, Japan has never prohibited any foreign cultures (including Korean ones) on TV. Thus, it was impossible for Japan to “permit for the first time the broadcasting of Korean music in 2000″.

Prof. Ishii is generous and calls it a misconception. It’s also possible that Dal either made the story up, or took the word of someone else who made the story up.

Why would someone from a country with these Taliban-lite broadcast restrictions, both past and present, foam at the cybermouth about Japan adding to its White Complex with a Korea Complex and being on the verge of driving all the foreigners out of the country?

The likely answer is, to use a common sports expression, that the Japanese and the Japanese presence are “in their heads“ in a way that the Koreans never have been, aren’t now, and never will be in Japanese heads. Articles with this sort of content and language about South Korea do not exist in Japan outside of a dumpster. It’s difficult to find anything remotely similar to this even on the “far right” sites they like to complain about. Perhaps the best explanation is to be found by consulting Stedman’s Medical Dictionary or a psychiatric journal.

Because this is South Korea, there is also the aspect of plagiarism. Keeping the locals from seeing the original enables South Korean industry in general, and the media industry in particular, to snatch it for themselves without royalties or attribution. For example, here’s a comparison of Japanese originals with the South Korean knockoffs. (I’ve seen another in Korean shops myself.) Just yesterday, a thread popped up on the Korean Internet complaining that the opening scene to a music program hosted by the singer HaHa was ripped off from a Japanese commercial for Softbank, a telecommunications and Internet company. Here’s the Softbank ad:

And here’s the HaHa intro:

Finally, a third reason is green old envy. Any Japanese success internationally causes the gnashing of Korean teeth domestically. When the sanctions on Japanese culture were first partially lifted in South Korea in 1998, the Japanese government sponsored a series of events for Japan Week. One was a concert by Japanese singer Sawa Tomoe, whose mother is Korean and who spent some of her childhood in that country. She sang songs in Korean and English, and the South Korean government gave her permission to perform two songs in Japanese. One of those songs, as this article describes, was “’Kokoro’ (Heart), in which she put to her own melody a famous Korean poem that her grandfather–a renowned Korean poet himself–had translated into Japanese.”

Ms. Sawa wanted to sing another song in English, but decided against it after the Koreans made it clear they were displeased with her choice. The song the South Korean government didn’t want their countrymen to hear a woman of partial Korean heritage sing, even in a third language, says all you need to know about how deep the Japanese are in their envious heads.

The lyrics were neither politically nor socially controversial. Rather, they are about a lonely man trying to cheer himself up and give himself encouragement. Here it is in the original Japanese with the original singer.

UPDATE: Reader Avery M took the trouble to translate the Japanese Wiki page on Korean media censorship into English, and sent us the link. Thanks, Avery!

Posted in Arts, I couldn't make this up if I tried, International relations, Mass media, Music, Popular culture, South Korea | Tagged: , , | 10 Comments »

Ichigen koji (165)

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, September 8, 2012

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

Since the (recent) expansion of the Dokdo (Takeshima) issue, Japan has taken measures of self-restraint in regard to the territorial dispute with China over the Senkakus. The prime minister sent a letter to the Chinese, and showed courtesy in every regard. Ishihara Shintaro, the ultra-rightist governor of the Tokyo Metro District, has wanted his local government to purchase the islets. The national government hurriedly intervened, fearing a collision with China. There was briefly some tension when the Russian president visited the Northern Territories (Southern Kuriles), but at present the Japanese show no signs of making this an issue. Now these people, from the prime minister to all the Cabinet ministers, are making up fictional stories about Dokdo. How long will South Korea and the South Korean people put up with this? It is a test of our capacity to endure.

- From a Chosun Ilbo editorial on 5 September, in Japanese

They seem to have forgotten what happened when the Japanese prime minister sent a polite letter to the South Korean president last month.

Posted in China, International relations, Mass media, Quotations, Russia, South Korea | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Discretion is the better part of censorship

Posted by ampontan on Friday, September 7, 2012

In South Korea today, the people who are anti-Japanese and anti-American are on the left. Anti-Japanese and anti-American sentiment is linked to patriotism, so in South Korea, the left is nationalistic. The (previous) Roh Moo-hyun administration, and its predecessor, the Kim Dae-jung administration, were left-wing nationalists. I want to emphasize this so it is not misunderstood.

-Furuta Hiroshi

THIS might come as a surprise to American readers, but people in East Asia still read the local editions of Newsweek magazine. Ikeda Nobuo, who is sometimes referenced on this site, writes for the Japanese edition. The Yonhap news agency of South Korea explains why the 10 September Asian edition had to be specially edited for that country.

*****
The American magazine Newsweek has created a controversy with the latest issue of its Asian edition, which includes an article about Dokdo (Takeshima) that tilts toward Japan.
Yokota Takashi, the editor of the Japanese edition, said the article, titled “Why are Japan and South Korea Fighting over Rocks?”, “shows the irrationality of the South Korean attitude”. This is a one-sided presentation of the claims of the Japanese right wing. Such extreme phrases as “an out-of-control South Korea” and “a difficult-to-understand thought pattern” are used, and it is critical of South Korea throughout.

Mr. Yokota includes statements critical of South Korea by Thomas Schieffer, the former ambassador to Japan, such as “the irrational behavior of South Korea”. The article starts by saying the current Dokdo controversy was touched off by the sudden visit of Osaka-born Lee Myung-bak to show that he was not pro-Japanese. The article presents the view that the discord deepened with the “Dokdo Performance” by the South Korean footballer at the London Olympics, and President Lee’s demand that the Emperor apologize.

Further, it repeats the Japanese government’s claim that the islets have been Japanese territory since 1905, five years before the merger with Korea, that President Lee Sung-man (Syngman Rhee) unilaterally established the Lee Sung-man line in 1952, and that the South Korean occupation of Dokdo is illegal.

In consideration of the one-sided argument presented in the Asian edition, Newsweek Korea revealed that article was not in the Korean edition.

(end translation)

* Has Newsweek ever been accused of tilting to the right before? There you are. Pigs will fly.

* If this is how the country’s premier news agency deals with the facts, you can imagine what the country’s newspapers are like.

* “Irrational attitude…out of control…difficult-to-understand thought pattern…” When did Newsweek start practicing objective journalism? More pigs will fly.

* While it is regrettable that the people who most need to read the article won’t be able to, the decision to substitute some space filler in the Korean edition is understandable. The bottom line is more important than The Courageous Quest for Truth and Justice in journalism. The company is in enough financial trouble as it is without stimulating the Korean imagination to devise unusual ways of mutilating the magazine in public. That’s a shame, considering the entertainment value of Korean street demonstrations.

* Left-wing nationalists, eh? Let’s just say national socialists and be done with it. Statolatrists all. By the way, some of those Koreans who claim Tsushima is really their land too like to use as evidence shared blood characteristics. Isn’t that another one we’ve heard somewhere before?

* Reader Nigelboy yesterday sent in some links reporting that the Japanese Foreign Ministry was quietly presenting their side of the story to foreign embassies. Perhaps they applied their persuasiveness to Newsweek as well.

Considering the facts at issue, they shouldn’t have many difficulties making the case.

*****
Miki Mie plays Rameau’s L’Egyptienne on the accordion. Borderless!

Posted in International relations, Mass media, South Korea | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

You go first (Part two of two)

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, August 23, 2012

More than anything else, what is first required is that the Asahi Shimbun revise its series of error-filled reports that created a mistaken understanding in South Korea, and apologize…the one who “should face the past to build the future” is the Asahi Shimbun.

-Ikeda Nobuo

The Japanese mass media has aroused the wrath of the Korean people against the Japanese people.

- Korean President Roh Tae-woo, quoted in the March 1993 issue of the monthly Bungeishunju

This is the second part of two-part post on the Korean historical consciousness in regard to bilateral relations with Japan. The first part is here.

EVERYONE understands how young men are apt to behave in wartime when they are given weapons and trained to ignore the constraints of civilization they were reared with. Everyone also understands how young men in those circumstances are apt to behave towards women, particularly overseas. It is easy to find accounts of Soviet Army behavior in Germany and points east in 1945. The Americans cooperated with Japanese and South Korean authorities to establish prostitution houses for its military in both of those countries, during the Allied occupation in the first, and later in the second. They did the same during the Vietnam War. The long-running controversy over the Marine air base at Futenma in Okinawa began when Marines abducted and raped a Japanese schoolgirl.

The Japanese arranged for licensed prostitutes for its military forces in the late 1930s through a commercial transaction between the military and private sector brokers. The government term for the workers was kosho, or licensed prostitutes. They are now commonly referred to as comfort women. Prostitution was a legal activity in Japan and Korea at that time, and between 40% to 50% of the comfort women were Japanese.

The advertisement shown above ran in the Keijo Nippo in Korea on 26 July 1944, offering salaries of JPY 300 a month for their services. That is 40 times greater than the JPY 7.5 a month paid to a new private in the Japanese army at that time, and 10 times greater than the salary paid to a sergeant.

People in the private sector operated the centers and recruited the women. Because some of them were near the front lines, Japanese military authorities oversaw their operation. The military provided transport for the workers, as they also provided transport for general laborers.

No one in Japan denies what have you have just read. The issue is whether the Japanese Army as a general practice abducted women and forced them to serve as “sex slaves”. This charge is often included in Korean mass media reports on any subject dealing with Japan, and those English-language news media reports that focus on the subject.

This was not a matter of controversy during the first 40 years of the postwar period. That changed with the publication of a book in 1983 by Yoshida Seiji.

Mr. Yoshida was a soldier in the Imperial Army during the war. After he was mustered out of the service, he ran for the Shimonoseki City Council in 1947 as a member of the Communist Party and received 129 votes. He began talking about what he referred to as the army’s coercion of Korean women as sex slaves in 1977, but it was his 1983 book Watashi no Senso Hanzai (My War Crimes) that brought the issue to the forefront of public attention in Japan and South Korea. Mr. Yoshida said he and his army mates went comfort women hunting on Jeju, a Korean island in the Sea of Japan.

The Jeju Shinmun, a local newspaper, finally conducted an investigation of its own and published the results in its 14 August 1989 edition. They concluded that Yoshida made the story up. Nihon University Prof. Hata Ikuhiko went to Jeju himself to interview the residents and drew the same conclusions. One Korean he interviewed told him:

“There would have been a huge uproar if anyone went people hunting on this island, and everybody would know about it. But I’ve never heard any stories like that.”

When Yoshida Seiji was interviewed by the weekly Shukan Shincho for their 29 May 1996 edition, he told them:

“If I had written the truth in the book, there wouldn’t be any profit in it. Isn’t concealing the facts and mixing them with personal opinions something that even newspapers do?”

The Asahi Shimbun wrote in a 1997 article stating that Mr. Yoshida’s testimony could no longer be trusted. The importance of that Asahi conclusion will soon become apparent.

In a later book, Mr. Yoshida said he made up the place where the comfort women hunting happened. Prof. Hata reported that in a 1998 telephone conversation with Yoshida, the latter told him, “It’s my fault that I was used by human rights hustlers (人権屋).”

Comfort women hunting

After Yoshida Seiji’s blockbuster appeared, two other Japanese went comfort woman hunting in South Korea. They were Takagi Ken’ichi and Fukushima Mizuho, both human rights lawyers. The South Korean government awarded Mr. Takagi the Order of Civil Merit, Peony Medal, in 1989 for his legal work on behalf of Korean atomic bombing victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is the same medal the government gave Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yu-na earlier this year.

In addition to her activities as a human rights lawyer, Ms. Fukushima appeared as a commentator on an Asahi TV discussion program. She has been associated unofficially with the Japan Revolutionary Communist League (Chukakuha), a terrorist group, for many years. Both Mr. Takagi and Ms. Fukushima were on the legal team subsequently created for the Korean comfort women. The former was the head of the team, and the latter was the media liaison.

During their hunt, they were put in contact with Kim Hak-sun. In August 1991, Ms. Kim became the first of the comfort women to come out in public. According to her first statement, her father died while she was still young, and her mother sold her to a gisaeng establishment for JPY 40 when she was 14. The gisaeng in Korea were somewhat similar to the Japanese geisha. Unlike the latter, however, many of them were prostitutes. She also said in her statement that her stepfather took her to a comfort woman station in China and sold her to a broker.

The case that the Takagi/Fukushima legal team wanted to bring on behalf of Ms. Kim was to recover the salary she hadn’t received. She was paid in Japanese military scrip. In September 1945, the early days of the occupation of Japan, the GHQ under the direction of the Americans told the Japanese government to declare the scrip invalid. The Finance Ministry did what they were told that month, and the scrip became worthless.

Other comfort women lost all their savings the same way. Mun Ok-ju had a savings passbook with JPY 26,145 as of September 1945, an amount confirmed by the Shimonoseki Post Office. That was a substantial sum of money in those days, and it was accumulated in fewer than three years of work. Some Japanese sources say that would be the equivalent of JPY 130 million today, though I do not know the standards used for the conversion. She also sent home 5,000 yen per month.

Ms. Mun came to Japan in 1993 for an unsuccessful suit against the Japanese government to reclaim the money. She said at the time that JPY 1,000 would have bought a house. She also told the story of riding a jeep with Japanese officers in Rangoon during the war to see a statue of the Buddha. While at the statue she prayed for the good fortune of her boyfriend, a Japanese soldier named Yamada Ichiro.

People throughout East Asia were forced to accept the repudiation of the scrip as a war loss. A group from The Philippines sued the American government — not the Japanese — to recover the money, but lost the case.

NHK

The Yoshida book had caused the controversy to become so heated that Japan’s quasi-public television network, NHK, decided to produce and broadcast two documentary programs. One focused on the Korean laborers taken to Japan to work against their will, while the other focused on the comfort women.

The network sent two teams to South Korea to conduct research and interviews. The team responsible for the program featuring Korean laborers was headed by then-producer Ikeda Nobuo. He is now a university professor, non-fiction author, and blogger. Mr. Ikeda says that he interviewed 50 Koreans about their experience in Japan, and none of them said they were forced to go against their will. The reason for that is easy to understand. As Chung Dae-kyun wrote in Zainichi – Kyosei Renko no Shinwa (Koreans in Japan: The Myth of Coerced Service), they stood to make double the wages in Japan than they would in Korea.

The team responsible for the comfort women, however, created a program that concluded the Japanese were guilty of war crimes. The idea for the program was pitched to NHK by Fukushima Mizuho, shown in the photo above, who accompanied the team to South Korea. They brought Kim Hak-sun back to Tokyo for studio interviews. Mr. Ikeda says he watched Ms. Fukushima coach Ms. Kim in the studio before she was interviewed on camera. He adds that NHK began to have doubts about Ms. Fukushima midway through production after observing her behavior. Some suspected she was using this as a springboard for a political career.

Asahi Shimbun

Five days before then-Prime Minister Miyazawa Kiichi was to pay a state visit to South Korea in January 1992, the Asahi Shimbun began a series of articles about the Japanese military abducting women in Korea and forcing them into sexual slavery. They charged that the women were abducted and sent to the front as part of the women’s volunteer corps. This inflamed South Korean public opinion, and demonstrations followed the prime minister throughout his visit. Miyazawa and the government had literally been blindsided. Absent their own research, they assumed the information in the articles was correct, and he apologized in public in South Korea eight times alone during the visit.

The basis for the articles was the Yoshida Seiji book about comfort women hunting. Prof. Hata’s discovery that the book was fiction was to come later that year. The articles were augmented by the story of Kim Hak-sum and information provided by Yoshimi Yoshiaki, a Chuo University professor and the head of the Center for Research and Documentation on Japan’s War Responsibility. Said Mr. Yoshimi:

“There are (official) notifications and diaries in the library of the National Institute for Defense Studies stating that the Japanese Army established comfort women centers, and supervised and regulated the recruitment of comfort women.”

Mr. Yoshimi wrote a book of his own, called “Military Comfort Women”. It was published three years later on 20 April 1995, and it contained the documentary evidence he said he had uncovered. It is still available as an inexpensive paperback. (My copy from 2007 was from the 19th printing.)

But the evidence he presented in the book tells a different story. The notifications he said were proof that the Japanese Army kidnapped women as sexual slaves turned out to have been issued after an official Japanese investigation of the private sector brokers who were deceiving and kidnapping women, and private sector brokers that pretended to be from the military. The notifications were sent to Army officials to manage affairs in these areas to prevent the brokers from behaving in that manner.

In other words, his documentary evidence showed that the Japanese Army was trying to prevent the abduction of women. In fact, newspaper articles were printed in Korea during the war that warned people of unscrupulous brokers. This one appeared in the Dong-A Ilbo on 31 August 1939 about more than 100 women from farming villages who were ensnared by them. The fourth headline from the right refers to police in Busan.

Mr. Yoshimi also presented the figures for the Asahi newspaper article that said from 80,000 to 200,000 people were forced to become comfort women. The English-language news media often publishes reports that say “historians agree” that as many as 200,000 were abducted to become sexual slaves. Their source for this claim is the higher number of the Yoshimi estimate.

A representative of Mr. Yoshimi’s center recently admitted on Japanese television that they have found no physical evidence that the Japanese Army condoned the abductions of women in occupied areas. Mr. Yoshimi now has a different explanation. He says that even if the women freely chose to become comfort women, they were indirectly compelled to do so by Japanese colonial control, poverty, or unemployment.

Incidentally, Mr. Yoshimi also provides the fact in his book that some of the women whose contracts had ended used their savings to go into business as brokers themselves.

The author of the Asahi Shimbun articles was Uemura Takashi. Mr. Uemura’s wife is Korean, and his mother-in-law is Yang Sun-im. She is the head of a group called the Families of Pacific War Victims, and was party to the suit of the Takagi/Fukushima team against the Japanese government. She is also said to have brought Kim Hak-sum and the Japanese legal team together.

Ms. Yang became the leader of the group in December 1991, one month before the articles appeared on the eve of the Miyazawa visit to South Korea. Last year, 39 members of that group were charged by South Korean authorities for fraud. They are alleged to have bilked as many as 30,000 people for membership fees and the funds to pay attorneys’ fees in cases to receive compensation from the Japanese government. She and other members told people they were eligible to receive compensation even if they were merely alive at the time and not directly involved.

Yang Sun-im is the woman in the surgical mask in the photo below.

That is a screenshot from the website of the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) reporting on the incident. Some reports say that Ms. Yang was arrested, while others say only that she was a suspect, and that she has gone into hiding.

After the Asahi Shimbun articles appeared, Kim Hak-sum altered her statement. Some reports say this was done on the instructions of Fukushima Mizuho. Ms. Kim first said that her stepfather sold her to a broker. Her new story was that she left the gisaeng establishment and went to China by herself. Soon after her arrival, she was accosted on the street by a Japanese Army officer who told her she looked like a spy and took her in for questioning. She was then sent, she said, against her will to a comfort woman station.

Kim Hak-sum is now dead. Her English language Wikipedia article describes her as a “human rights activist”.

When the information contradicting their articles appeared, the Asahi Shimbun finally changed their tone, but continued to assert that it was clear there was compulsion even if they were not abducted by the military. Starting in 2000, the newspaper began to insist that compulsion was not the essence of the issue. An editorial that appeared on 15 August this year, the anniversary of the end of the war, said the deep-rooted anti-Japanese sentiment in South Korea was partially due to the comfort women. Some people in Japan point out that the sentiment was partially due to the Asahi Shimbun.

Hongo Yoshinori was an Asahi Shimbun employee at the time the articles appeared. He later wrote a book about his experiences during his employment. Here’s an excerpt:

“The Asahi Shimbun had a reporter named Uemura Takashi. When I learned that he was the author of a series in the evening edition on Colonized Korea, I began to have serious doubts about the Asahi’s position.”

Mr. Hongo explains that many of the Asahi reporters in those days were of the old Left who shared anti-Japanese values with some Chinese and South Koreans. Their objective was to present Japan’s past in the worst of lights, and he said they were willing to twist the truth in regard to the comfort women and other issues.

The Kono Declaration

The complaints from South Korea grew despite the Miyazawa apologies. It would not be until 2005 that it was publicly revealed in South Korea that the 1965 treaty restoring relations between the two countries contained the provision that individual South Koreans could no longer make claims against the Japanese government. Individual compensation was to be paid by the South Korean government. Of the US$ 800 million the South Korean government received, less than US$ six million was used to compensate people whose family members had been killed or whose land was confiscated. No comfort women were compensated. President Bak Jeong-hui, who had served as a lieutenant in the Japanese Imperial Army, used the money to rebuild the national infrastructure.

The Japanese government has never been able to find evidence that it was the practice of the military to abduct people and have them work as comfort women. Kato Koichi, the chief cabinet secretary in July 1992, said the Japanese Army was at times directly involved in the operation of the stations, but that no coercion was involved on their part. That did not satisfy the South Koreans. Finally, Kono Yohei, the next chief cabinet secretary, issued an official statement for the government in August 1993. Here is the section that has caused the most trouble.

The then-Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women. The recruitment of the comfort women was conducted mainly by private recruiters who acted in response to the request of the military. The Government study has revealed that in many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing, coercion, etc., and that, at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments.

The deputy chief cabinet secretary at the time was Ishihara Nobuo. He later explained the process through which the document was created:

“South Korea kept pressing for the inclusion of the word ‘coercion’ in the Kono Declaration, while unofficially, they told us they would not demand individual compensation because it would create problems for the honor of the individual women… It was our expectation that if Japan recognized that there had been coercion, the South Koreans might ‘lay down their arms’. We informed the Koreans that we would recognize coercion before the declaration was made public.”

He added:

“There were no records proving coercion, so we decided to include the part about coercion as an overall judgment based on the testimony of the comfort women.”

Mr. Kono told the Asahi Shimbun in 1997 that no documents have been found “showing the government took measures to recruit women with violence”. The recognized recruitment of women against their will, as we have seen, was done not by agents of the Japanese government, but by unscrupulous brokers and people selling the women to the brokers unwillingly, as Ms. Kim originally testified before she changed her story.

Mr. Ishihara also explained the reason the decision was made to include the section that “administrative/military personnel directly took part”. It had nothing to do with Korea. That stemmed from a 1944 incident in Indonesia. Some Japanese soldiers took Jan Ruff O’Herne, a Dutch woman then in Indonesia who later moved to Australia, from a Japanese internment camp in Semarang, Java, and placed her in a comfort station. The station had six women, and reports say that she was one of five there held against their will. She was released two months later when a Japanese officer discovered the existence of the station and closed it down. A Dutch military court tried 11 persons in connection with this incident. One of the people involved was executed. That the comfort station was shut down when it came to the attention of Japanese military authorities is not at question.

Nevertheless, this was a matter of public record, and the Japanese government thought for this reason alone they had to state that military personnel took part in the recruitments.

The idea was to create a politically vague document that would appease everyone, but that failed. The South Korean government did not keep its unofficial word to refrain from asking for individual compensation, overseas governments and news media think it is an admission of government-sponsored sexual slavery in Korea, and the Japanese are upset because it created an impression contrary to the facts.

Asian Women’s Fund

In a further effort to resolve the issue, the Japanese government created and supervised the Asian Women’s Fund, which was in existence from 19 June 1995 to 31 March 2007. It was managed by volunteers who were private citizens. The fund paid JPY 1.3 billion to 364 women during its existence, and five prime ministers signed letters of apology, including the Yasukuni visitor Koizumi Jun’ichiro. Some of the women who received the money were South Korean, despite the threat of their government to withhold social welfare assistance to anyone who did. Their objection was that the fund was not an official organ of the Japanese government. The terms of the treaty restoring relations were not revealed by the South Korean government for the first 10 years of the fund’s existence.

The Honda Subcommittee in the US House of Representatives

Korean-American activists in the United States and the politicians representing their districts tried several times to have the House of Representatives hold hearings on the issue and vote for a resolution condemning sexual slavery. They did not succeed until the Democrats took control of the House in 2006, and the resolution was passed in 2007.

The hearings were held by a subcommittee chaired by Mike Honda of California. They called three former comfort women as witnesses. One of them was the aforementioned Jan Ruff O’Herne, whose case had already been resolved. The other two were Korean. One was Kim Goon-ja. In an article titled “Korean WWII Sex Slaves Fight On”, the BBC reported:

“At the age of 17, she was tricked into being abducted by a Korean middle-man who delivered large numbers of young women and girls to his country’s then Japanese colonial masters. Kim Gunja suspects that her foster father, a policeman, sold her for money or promotion.”

The third was Lee Yong-su. She testified that she was one of a family of nine that lived in the same house, and she went to work in a factory at age 13. She also said:

“In the autumn of 1944 when I was 16 years old, my friend Kim Pun-sun and I were collecting shellfish at the riverside when we noticed an elderly man and a Japanese man looking down at us from the hillside. The older man pointed at us with his finger, and the Japanese man started to walk towards us. The older man disappeared, and the Japanese beckoned us to follow him. I was scared and ran away, not caring what happened to my friend. A few days later, Pun-sun knocked on my window early in the morning and whispered to me to follow her quietly. I tip-toed out of the house after her. I (left) without telling my mother. I was wearing a dark skirt, a long cotton blouse buttoned up at the front, and slippers on my feet. I followed my friend until we met the same man who had tried to approach us on the riverbank. He looked as if he were in his late 30s and he wore a sort of People’s Army uniform with a combat cap. Altogether, there were five girls with him, including myself.”

Ms. Lee has told many stories. In fact, she’s told nine different stories altogether. This is an excerpt from a CNN report that is no longer online:

“Lee Yong-soo, 78, a South Korean who was interviewed during a recent trip to Tokyo, said she was 14 when Japanese soldiers took her from her home in 1944 to work as a sex slave in Taiwan.

“’The Japanese government must not run from its responsibilities,’ said Lee, who has long campaigned for Japanese compensation. ‘I want them to apologize. To admit that they took me away, when I was a little girl, to be a sex slave. To admit that history.’ ‘I was so young. I did not understand what had happened to me,’ she said. ‘My cries then still ring in my years. Even now, I can’t sleep.’

Prof. Hata has summarized her stories as follows.

1. Report to Korean Council for Women Drafted for Sexual Slavery by Japan, in 1992. She received a red dress and leather shoes from man wearing clothing that resembled a uniform. She went along with him right away. The rest of the story is the same as in 6 (i.e., the Honda Subcommittee testimony).

2. Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery, in December 2000. She was deceived by a Japanese man who was a comfort station proprietor

3. Akahata, the newspaper of the Japanese Communist Party, 26 June 2002. She was kidnapped at age 14 at bayonet point

4. Kyoto University speech on 12 April 2004. She was kidnapped by a man wearing a People’s Army uniform

5. A community meeting at Koshigaya, Saitama, on 08 March 2005. She was kidnapped by a man with clothing resembling a military uniform and brandishing a rifle.

6. The Honda subcommittee on 15 February 2007, as noted above

7. The upper house of the Japanese Diet, as quoted in the Japan Times on 22 February 2007. “On an evening in 1944, Japanese soldiers forced their way into 14-year-old Lee’s home and dragged her out by the neck.”

8. The Foreign Correspondents’s Club of Japan on 02 March 2007. A soldier and woman entered home between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. on a bright moonlit night. The soldier pointed a sword at her, covered her mouth, and took her away. The soldier and three girls met another soldier and three girls, and were put on a train.

9. The New York Times, 06 March 2007. “Japanese soldiers had dragged her from her home, covering her mouth so she could not call to her mother.”

Two aspects of these stories are worthy of note. First, in two of them, she is not abducted and goes with the recruiters of her own free will, sneaking out of the house to do so. She told those stories the first time she ever got a chance to speak out in public, and when she had her largest international audience during the Congressional hearings in the United States.

Second, Story #6 and Story #7 were both told to national legislatures only a week apart. In the first, she is 16 and willing. In the second, in Japan, she is 14 and dragged out of the house by soldiers.

No one knows why the story changed in such a short time. Prof. Hata wonders if she was coached by Fukushima Mizuho and her allies in the Diet.

It is also worthy of note that the Honda Subcommittee chose from among more than 100 surviving comfort women to testify about how the Japanese Army abducted women into sexual slavery. None of the three women they selected prove their case.

Today

When South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office nearly five years ago, he pledged to focus on the future in bilateral relations with Japan. But, as often happens with Korean presidents at the end of their term, he brought up the comfort women issue again. This corresponded to a precipitous drop in his public approval ratings. One reason for that decline is that 20 people closely connected with Mr. Lee, both relatives and associates, have been arrested for various problems with the disposition and handling of funds.

Japanese Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko has also testified in the Diet that the Japanese government cannot find evidence showing that the army deliberately abducted women as sex slaves. He and Mr. Lee met in May for an hour. Japanese sources say that Mr. Lee spent 40 minutes of that hour talking about comfort women. He was dissatisfied with the response of the Noda government, and concluded that he could expect no more from Mr. Noda. Therefore, he decided to take more assertive steps. One of those steps was his visit to Takeshima earlier this month. Mr. Lee said the comfort woman issue was one of the factors that impelled him to make the visit.

Freelance journalist Itagaki Eiken, who once covered the Prime Minister’s office for the Mainichi Shimbun, wrote:

“President Lee Myung-bak says that the comfort woman issue has become a political problem in Japan, but his thinking is basically mistaken. That’s because it hasn’t become a political problem in Japan. In fact, it is seldom a topic for discussion among Japanese. The people born after the war account for 75.5% of the population. Interest in the issue is near zero.”

That might change after Mr. Lee’s Takeshima visit, but perhaps not in the way Mr. Lee would hope. Earlier this week, Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru, the center of attention in Japanese politics, said the following at a news conference:

“There is no evidence that the comfort women were assaulted by the army, threatened, and led away. If there is any evidence, I want South Korea to present it…The thinking in Japan is that there is no solid evidence that they were taken away by force. That is my standpoint…This should be fully debated with South Korea in a form that allows full understanding by the people.“

And:

“The problem of the comfort women is the root of the Takeshima problem. Immediately turning this into a territorial issue is a serious problem. ..Opinions diverge on whether or not there was coercion by the military. From the contemporary viewpoint, the comfort women might be seen as an ethical problem, but this must be debated by confronting directly the background of conditions at the time.”

And on the Kono Declaration:

“We must clearly state whether we will adhere to it as is, and if there is a problem, state that there is a problem with it.”

Wrote the Joongang Ilbo:

“Mayor Hashimoto’s statement today repeats the claims of the Japanese right wing that seeks to minimize the meaning of the Kono Declaration, which recognized coercion in the recruitment of comfort women in the past. This is expected to cause a controversy.”

Mr. Hashimoto thrives on controversy, and he is not the type of man who will say something vague in the hope that a problem will go away.

Moral failure

Ikeda Nobuo recognizes that some Japanese behavior represents a moral failure. During his trip to South Korea for NHK, he did find people who had been tricked by middlemen into working in the coal mines and living in squalid conditions. Once they were sent, they were not allowed to return. He also recognizes that the same thing happened with some comfort women. While that was not a desirable situation, however, he insists that the state was not responsible for creating those conditions.

*****
The South Koreans demand that the Japanese face the facts of history to create a solid bilateral relationship. As this and the previous article demonstrate, however, there are some facts of history the South Koreans are unwilling to face themselves. Among these are the fact that the Japanese made the arrangements for licensed prostitutes to prevent what the Koreans now complain they did on purpose.

It is a matter of documented fact that the Japanese Army stopped an incident of sexual slavery when it came to the attention of superior officers.

It is a fact that Korean women were willing to become prostitutes for the Japanese military.

It is a fact some Koreans were guilty of fraud, among other offenses, by tricking Korean women into the comfort centers. (Some Japanese citizens in the private sector also did the same.)

It is a fact that South Korean public opinion has been manipulated by some Japanese with ulterior motives who inflamed a dormant issue. One of those Japanese has reportedly admitted that he himself was manipulated by “human rights hustlers”.

A solid bilateral relationship requires that the Koreans go first to face the facts of history they would prefer not to see. The Japanese have already been looking.

But that is unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future.

Afterwords:

* Those who read this and are tempted to compare this to “Holocaust denial” are cordially invited to wash their minds out with soap and read it carefully with the intent to understand what it says. There are no denials of anything in this article. In fact, if there is a more objective article written on this subject in English, I would like to read it.

* Ikeda Nobuo says that NHK began to suspect Fukushima Mizuho was using the issue to start a political career. Ms. Fukushima was later elected to a Diet seat through the proportional representation system, and is still a Diet member today. (She has never won a direct election.) She became the head of the Social Democratic Party, which is the survivor of Japan’s former Socialist Party. Not long after the Soviet bloc fell apart, they also fell apart and changed their name. Most of the members who wanted to continue their political careers joined the Democratic Party of Japan, the current ruling party. The SDPJ was a coalition partner with the Hatoyama government, and Ms. Fukushima was given a Cabinet portfolio. She left the coalition when Mr. Hatoyama decided he could not make the Americans move the functions of the Futenma air base outside Okinawa.

Time magazine in the U.S. named her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world last year.

*Takagi Ken’ichi went to Indonesia in 1993 and placed ads in local papers looking for comfort women and promising them money. He created a group of Indonesians to plead their case, but the Indonesian government was not interested. The story was broadcast on Japanese television. Jamal Ali, the chairman of the English-language Indonesia Times, watched the broadcast and dismissed it as ridiculous. He said they were trying to make a mountain out of a molehill with one incident that had been resolved. Translated from English to Japanese to English, this is what he said:

“We are different from South Korea and China, which hurls invective at Japan. We have history and pride. We were controlled by the Dutch for 360 years, and we have never said to them, “Give us money”.

University of Tokyo Prof. Fujioka Nobukatsu charged that Mr. Takagi tried to start a fire where none existed. One Japanese wag commented that it was natural for South Korea, a country of pyromaniacs, to give him a medal.

* Richard Armitage and Joseph Nye of the Center for Strategic and International Studies issued a report on 15 August titled “Anchoring Stability in Asia”. They ask if Japan will decide it wants to remain a “tier-one nation”, or will it be satisfied with second-class status. They say that to become an influential force in Asia, Japan has to face its historical problems.

After reading this and the previous article, you now know more about Japan’s historical problems than Armitage, Nye, the people that were paid to do their research, and the 27 countries that have adopted resolutions about the comfort women.

You also know more than American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has lately started talking about the Japanese “sex slaves”. Mrs. Clinton’s early professional career, by the way, is similar in some ways to that of Fukushima Mizuho.

There are also some similarities between the behavior of the “human rights hustlers” in Japan and what some people call “race hustlers” in the United States. People who follow American affairs know who and what that term refers to.

Posted in Government, International relations, Mass media, Military affairs, Politics, South Korea, World War II | Tagged: , , | 20 Comments »

More votes are in

Posted by ampontan on Monday, July 30, 2012

The public’s will is not the commotion in front of the Kantei, but demonstrated in the procedures of democracy. For a person to run for governor by shouting about the minor issue of abandoning nuclear power is nonsense. Mr. Hashimoto (Osaka mayor) had the judgment of an adult (when he agreed to the resumption of operations at the Oi power plant)…Even former comedians can win local elections. The anti-nuclear power movement has less strength than show business personalities.
- Ikeda Nobuo

DOUBTLESS you have read either the articles or the headlines trumpeting the story of the thousands of people who surrounded the Diet building on Sunday to protest the restart of nuclear power plants in Japan. The RSS feed coughed up more than 30 articles on the subject yesterday and today. One image the journos particularly liked was “anti-nuclear protestors form human chain around Diet building”. There was no mention of the other productive activities they engaged in, but shouting loudly was probably one of them.

You’ll have to dig a little deeper in the English-language media to find articles about the real demonstration of functioning democracy yesterday in regard to the issue of nuclear power, however. Here’s a hint: They weren’t playing ring-around-the-rosie in Tokyo.

There have been two gubernatorial elections in Japan since Prime Minister Noda authorized the resumption of nuclear power generation, and both times one of the anti-nuclear power candidates tried to turn the balloting into a single-issue referendum. The first was held earlier this month in Kagoshima, where the anti-nuke challenger lost by a 2-1 margin. The second was held yesterday in Yamaguchi.

That election attracted much more media attention, both in Japan and overseas. The interest was due in part to the participation of Iida Tetsunari, the founder of the Institute for Sustainable Energy policies. Mr. Iida is one of those fellows whose priority is to keep his eye on the main chance, and he’s leveraged his slippery ambition into public prominence for his anti-nuclear energy positions and theories. He likes generation using biomass materials, the sun, and the wind.

The Yamaguchi election presented the opportunity of an excellent platform and bully pulpit. The current governor was stepping down after four terms, and the early favorite was the uninspiring, 63-year-old ex-Land, Industry, and Transport bureaucrat Yamamoto Shigetaro. Chugoku Electric Power plans to build a new nuclear plant at Kaminoseki in the prefecture. Mr. Yamamoto supported the idea, so that set up the perfect confrontation. He was backed by the bad old Liberal Democratic Party, now in the opposition, and their New Komeito allies. In contrast, Mr. Iida is 10 years younger, 10 times more photogenic, a media sweetie, and had the support of Sakamoto Ryuichi and other show business personalities.

The initial construction on the new Kaminoseki plant stopped after the Fukushima nuclear accident. The issue of finishing the construction became the proxy for the current national debate on nuclear power. The noise from that debate and Mr. Iida’s candidacy caused Mr. Yamamoto to declare that he would “freeze” work on the plant. On the day he made his official announcement, he said:

“It is natural to disconnect ourselves from a dependence on nuclear energy. It is the people’s wish (for Japan) to become a nation that, to the extent possible, does not depend on nuclear energy.”

The qualifications and exit ramps in that statement are obvious, but in any event, he seldom addressed the issue during his campaign. He concentrated instead on promises to revive industry and create employment by building ports, roads, and other infrastructure.

In contrast, Mr. Iida talked about little else, though he did try to tie that to a program of overall reform. He also came out strongly against the deployment of the MV-22 Osprey aircraft to a U.S. Marine Corps Air Station in Yamaguchi. That deployment created strong opposition, both in Yamaguchi and nationwide, because of safety concerns about the aircraft and the planned low-level training flights.

In other words, he had the wind of the media and show business culture at his back, and he chose to sail on the tide of opposition to controversial policies. Another factor worth noting is that Elmer Fudd Yamamoto had 27 Twitter followers while Iida the Cool Guy had more than 60,000. Twitter is used more frequently in Japan than it is in the United States to disseminate political messages.

It appeared an upset might be in the making.

The election was held yesterday. Here are the results:

* Yamamoto Shigetaro: 252,461 47.5%
* Iida Tetsunari : 185,654 35%
* Takamura Tsutomu: 55,418
* Miwa Shigeyuki: 37,150

After all the whiz-bang and pixel shooting, Mr. Iida’s 35% of the vote was roughly the same as the now-forgotten anti-nuclear energy candidate in Kagoshima. The people are speaking, but some other people don’t want to hear what they’re saying.

Also of interest are the results of an exit poll that asked voters what they considered the primary issue to be. They were:

* The economy and employment: 31.0%
* Energy policy: 15.3%.

Thus, the man who framed the debate in Yamaguchi was Yamamoto Shigetaro. If Iida Tetsunari could not turn nuclear power generation into the National Vibration with all that free PR and show biz mojo, it’s not going to happen.

The dogs that didn’t bark

Incidentally, the man who finished a distant third, Takamura Tsutomu, was a lower house MP from the ruling Democratic Party who resigned his seat to run for the office. (Another election must be held by next summer, and many DPJ MPs know it’s time to start thinking about a career change in anticipation of being relieved of their duties.) Mr. Takamura was also one of the 28 members of the small faction headed by Prime Minister Noda, but neither the prime minister nor any other DPJ bigwigs came to Yamaguchi to campaign. They knew it was pointless.

Most interesting was that two of Mr. Iida’s former associates also failed to make the short trip to Yamaguchi to stump for him. They were Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru and Osaka Governor Matsui Ichiro, both of the One Osaka group. Mr. Hashimoto is known for having a Kitchen Cabinet of prominent advisors on his payroll, called “brains” in Japanese. Iida Tetsunari was his energy policy advisor, and was perhaps influential in the mayor’s initial opposition to the resumption of operations at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui.

Shortly after Mr. Hashimoto changed his mind and agreed to the plants’ restart, Mr. Iida resigned to run for Yamaguchi governor. Many wondered whether the mayor cut him adrift after he had served his purpose, or whether Mr. Iida saw the kanji on the wall and split while the splitting was good. Everyone was interested in watching what help Mr. Hashimoto or Mr. Matsui might provide to their former associate. It’s fewer than three hours by Shinkansen from Osaka, were they inclined to visit in person. They might also have offered remote support with a video hookup of the sort Sakamoto Ryuichi used, as shown in the photo above.

Neither man came to Yamaguchi or appeared live on video. That’s because neither man endorsed him.

The Iida negatives

Perhaps one reason for the cold shoulders is that Mr. Iida is more controversial, and the subject of more legitimate criticism, than the English-language media knew existed. Ishii Takaaki, a freelance journalist who writes about science and technology, has explained the reasons for the controversy and criticism in detail.

Mr. Ishii has followed the Iida career closely and has interviewed him several times. He said that he once respected him for his views — until 11 March last year. He has referred to Mr. Iida as a “trickster”, a good public speaker adept at presenting black-and-white frames for his policies, but who also spoke out of both sides of his mouth – one side for government officials, and the other side for anti-nuclear power radicals.

In a column published last night, Mr. Ishii dismissed the candidate and his campaign as revealing the limits of “typical citizen activism”. He noted that while no power industry reform is going to happen without the cooperation of the power companies, Mr. Iida spent most of his time bashing them to win media applause. He charged that a favorite Iida technique was to spread false rumors among the public, creating greater confusion. He also added that “people involved with energy-related issues” knew of the energy advisor’s negative influence on Osaka policy, and that his extremism caused (unexplained) difficulties on the Kansai-area committtees of which he was a member.

He had sharp words for Mr. Iida on policy grounds as well. The candidate wrote a book several years ago praising the policies of some North European countries that allow citizen groups to work out arrangements with the government and power companies to promote renewable energy. This was offered as “the path for Japan”, which Mr. Ishii thinks naïve. He noted that Sweden retains its nuclear power plants, and Denmark, a country of 5.5 million, imports “solid fuels” (read coal) for 21% of its energy needs. It also uses domestically produced oil for 41% of its power generation. (The idea that Japan should adopt the policies of small European nations, when Japan itself has a much larger population than any European country, is not uncommon here.)

The journalist also dismissed outright many of Mr. Iida’s statements as “clearly mistaken”, including:

* In the near future, nuclear energy will be supplemented by natural energy.
* Japan has sufficient energy now.
* There is a conspiracy of the nuclear power interests.
* Europe is the ideal.
* There is a lot of “hidden energy” in Japan.

Another indication of the forked Iida tongue was a brief flap over his membership in the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals as a research fellow since October 2009. Prominent members of that think tank include the former news reader Sakurai Yoshiko and freelance journalist Yayama Taro. They are conservatives who think Japan should actively pursue its national interests internationally, including the TPP negotiations. They are also not the sort of people the Asahi Shimbun editorial staff or Sakamoto Ryuichi would want to hang out with.

When it was brought to his attention that his name was on their Japanese-language website, Mr. Iida denied that he had ever been associated with the group. The institute quickly responded with a statement that said it was not possible they would accept anyone without their consent. Mr. Iida then remembered that it had slipped his mind.

Behind the Times

Little, if any, of the foregoing will be fit to print in the New York Times. Here’s why: Last week, Hiroko Tabuchi wrote an article on the Yamaguchi election remarkable for a tone of condescending snottery exceeding the level that is customary for the overeducated spitballers, particularly when Japan is the subject. While Tabuchi didn’t write the headline:

“In Conservative Japan Enclave, Antinuclear Candidate Gains Ground”

She did write the first sentence:

“In ordinary times, an election for governor in this rural corner of Japan known for puffer fish and tangerines would hardly be worth much of a mention in the national press.”

Didn’t waste any time jumping into their narrative, did they? Opposition to nuclear power is such a powerful issue that it’s even beginning to appeal to the inakappe who make a living by putting food on everyone else’s table.

The veil covering the superior attitude slips with the use of “enclave”, which has the meaning of a group or area different from its neighbors, either politically or ethnically. It most often describes territory that is alien to its surroundings. It’s unlikely that Tabuchi has spent much time there, unless she took an expense-paid trip to hear an Iida speech.

The newspaper missed an opportunity to unload another dump on the place when they failed to mention that the largest city, Shimonoseki, is home to Japan’s whaling fleet. Speaking of ports in this enclave in a rural corner of Japan, Shimonoseki is also one of the terminals for two separate ferry lines to South Korea (a three-hour trip) and China both.

But then:

“(N)early a year and a half after Japan’s nuclear disaster, the election is making news as it evolves into an informal referendum on nuclear power’s place in the country’s future.”

As we’ve seen, Mr. Iida failed to turn it into that referendum, but if they insist on viewing it that way, the votes are in.

“The vote Sunday pits a leading figure in the nascent antinuclear movement, Tetsunari Iida, against a former bureaucrat who was considered a shoo-in in a conservative prefecture that has long been a loyal bastion for his party. But polls have shown Mr. Iida, an independent and a political novice, rapidly gaining on Shigetaro Yamamoto, 63, who in many ways epitomizes Japan’s old guard.”

This was followed by a long paragraph of LDP bashing and explaining their role in nuclear power plant construction. While predictable, it’s also pointless: the demonstrations were touched off by the current DPJ government’s moves to restart the generators.

It is true that the Yamaguchi vote was an old guard election in many ways, however. Mr. Yamamoto is that kind of a guy, and Mr. Iida used the classic version of the old Japanese guard opposition tactic, “We oppose everything you say!”

“Mr. Iida’s campaign has taken off in part because it has attracted more than 1,000 volunteers who are working the phones, staging rallies and walking the prefecture’s sleepy towns and cities to spread Mr. Iida’s message.”

Sleepy, eh? Bright young energetic man with progressive ideas shakes awake the denshakan (田舎漢) and brings them into the 21st century. With all the snot in this piece, Tabuchi must have had a cold when she wrote it.

If his campaign “took off” so explosively to reach the 35% level in voting, Yamaguchi’s sleepy ones must have been the anti-nuclear power forces.

“He was little known before the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, but his media savvy helped him become a go-to commentator on environmental issues as the country dealt with the world’s second-worst nuclear accident.”

She doesn’t mention who was doing the going-to, and after today, she never will. The compulsion to corral stray college profs and self-declared experts to act as media mouthpieces and cite them as “go-to” sources is closed-loop self-absorption, not news reporting.

The obvous lesson is that the objects of contempt are the true reality-based community the sophisticates presume themselves to be. They know what works and what doesn’t because their survival depends on it. The fashion statement of “Split wood not atoms” isn’t a survival choice, and hoping the wind blows and sun shines won’t be for some time yet.

Many nuclear energy critics like to say that “lives are more important than money”. Perhaps they should be given an enclave of their own to see how life goes when they don’t have any money.

The driver of the anti-nuclear energy movement is emotion — actual facts are unwelcome. All emotional issues tend to wane with the source of the emotional stimulation. As the memory of Fukushima recedes, and normalcy is once again defined by the absence of once-in-a-millenium disasters, so will the movement.

In the meantime, it is possible that some of the politicians bandwagoning on this issue — Hatoyama Yukio, Ichiro Ozawa, Your Party — will recede from the movement themselves now that they’ve read the election returns. It will be left to the radicals to carry on.

Afterwords:

* Perhaps now the election results and the comparison of the number of Twitter followers for the two primary candidates will help debubble the froth about the triviality that has been exalted with the term “social media”. Well, that and the Facebook IPO flop.

* The Mainichi Shimbun released the results of a recent poll that are fascinating. They asked whether people felt sympathy with the demonstrators, and the results were evenly split at 47%-47%. Even more interesting is the age breakdown. Here are some percentages for age groups that felt sympathy for the demonstrators:

People in their 20s: 37%
People in their 50s and 60s: More than 50%

In other words, opposition to nuclear power in Japan is a Gray Panther issue.

The Mainichi poll also shows that support for the Noda Cabinet is the lowest they’ve recorded at 23%. That rate’s been in the 20s for a while, so nuclear power is not the reason for those numbers.

* One of the few DPJ politicians who openly endorsed Iida Tetsunari was Diet member Hiraoka Hideo, who was also the Justice Minister for all of four months until January. He was replaced in a larger Cabinet reorganization, in part because it was revealed that he chose as an aide a man with a criminal record. Mr. Hiraoka represents a district in Iwakuni, where the Marine Air Base is located.

He is also the only Diet member to have attended a graduation ceremony of a Chongryun school, the zainichi group affiliated with North Korea. He wants to legalize pachinko gambling, a business which has significant zainichi participation. He also criticizes the laws on foreign contributions to political campaigns, claiming that it is stricter than in other advanced countries. (Not the U.S.; it’s very much against the law there too, but that didn’t stop the Obama campaign.)

In other words, he might as well be wearing a sandwich board proclaiming his ethnic heritage (or, at a minimum, his political funding sources). That says quite a lot about Mr. Noda’s choices for Cabinet, designed in part to balance the party’s internal factions rather than select quality people. It also says quite a lot about the DPJ itself.

Mr. Hiraoka, incidentally, won his Diet seat outright in the last election. You never can tell the sort of people the hayseeds in backwater enclaves might vote for.

Iida Tetsunari wasn’t one of them.

****
Speaking of energy flows, here’s Sakamoto Ryuichi letting his fingers do the talking instead of his mouth.

Posted in Government, Mass media, Politics, Science and technology | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

The glossy paper counterfeit

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, July 14, 2012

The courage to say that Japanese islands are Japanese territory is now required. (Caption on a poster from the Tokyo Metro District)

ONE of the unexpected benefits of extensive study and research into Japan is that it exposes the imposters — immediately and without forgiveness. Also unexpected (at first) was that the worst of the imposters turned out to be the biggest brand names in professional journalism. Now it is no longer unexpected. It’s a handy rule of thumb.

Seated among the inner circle of the hierophantic fabulists is The Economist of Britain. Their ability to offer their consumers worthwhile information on Japan is in indirect proportion to their international reputation. It is as if their objective is to provide a burlesque of news coverage for the entertainment of their readers, rather to provide information and educated analysis.

For Exhibit A, look no further than their short article on the Senkaku islets of Japan. The bologna starts with the title:

Jingoist jangles

The activities they would characterize as jingoist in the piece regarding the Senkakus are exclusively Japanese. Here are the facts: Japan was the only country to have taken an interest in the islets, and both China and Taiwan recognized them as Japanese territory, until it was determined there could well be extensive deposits of natural resources in the seabed nearby. Japanese are the only people to have lived there. The Chinese gave them a name a few centuries ago, but only because they are a maritime landmark on the sea route to the Ryukyus.

But because they insist on territorial integrity, the Japanese are slapped with the “jingoist” label.

The sub-heading:

A row over some goat-infested rocks heats up

Apart from the novel coinage of “goat-infested”, the title and the subheading are an attempt to cop some edgy blogger snark that comes off instead like white suburbanites singing the praises of Jah Rastafari. When you can’t back up an attitude with real ability or knowledge, it’s just a pose.

The point of the goats is revealed in the lede:

IN THE 1970s Japanese ultra-rightists took two goats on a 2,000km (1,250-mile) trip southwest from Tokyo to a group of uninhabited rocks near Taiwan called the Senkaku Islands. In the absence of humans willing to live in such a remote outpost, the hardy creatures would be the vanguard of a new push to solidify Japan’s hold over the islets, which are also claimed by China and Taiwan.

Goats in the vanguard, eh?

The impression they want to create: There go those clazy Japanese ultra-rightists again. The reality they want to ignore: Behavior of this sort is too rare to have any significance other than as media space filler. Some overexcited Chinese buccos have also used the Senkakus as a playground, but The Economist ignored them too.

By the way, the goats — 1978 was the date of introduction — are viewed with alarm by environmentalists worried they are despoiling the pristine natural environment (which is, by treaty, a live ammunition target range for the US navy).

Now the prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, has signalled a more serious involvement in the dispute, by suggesting on July 6th that he plans to nationalise the privately held chain.

What they mean is that Mr. Noda wants to buy them from the Japanese who own them. They are already part of Japan.

On July 11th three Chinese patrol vessels were briefly spotted by the Japanese coastguard in waters near the Senkakus. That led to a flurry of hot-tempered diplomatic exchanges.

The article implies this “brief spotting” is the reason for all those whacked out jingoist jangles. It contains only a brief reference to the hot-tempered Chinese response in the fall of 2010 when a Chinese “fishing boat” captain rammed two Japanese Coast Guard vessels warning him of approaching the islands, the captain’s arrest, and the Chinese government’s subsequent scenery-chewing performance in the role of Righteously Indignant Great Power on the world stage.

The single reference consists of two sentences at the end of paragraph eight of a nine-paragraph piece, and mentions only “Chinese protests”. In the real world, the Chinese protests included a cutoff of rare earth metal exports to Japan and the trumped-up arrest on spying charges of two men working on an environmental project in China for Chinese benefit.

Mr Noda’s move is a clear political victory for Tokyo’s governor, Shintaro Ishihara. In April the famously outspoken nationalist, who has long warned that Japan could become a “colony” of China, announced a plan to buy the Senkakus on behalf of the city.

The article contains no mention of the revelation that Sengoku Yoshito, the first chief cabinet secretary in the Kan Cabinet — the people who botched the 2010 incident — told another legislator that the Japanese were already vassals of the Chinese. In The Economist formulation, ex-Socialist Sengoku meekly accepting the fate of vassalage is not worthy of remark, but an effort by a prominent politician to maintain territorial integrity requires that he be termed a “famously outspoken nationalist”. One wonders what The Economist would say if the French took it into their heads to claim Guernsey. Goats live there, too.

A private fund raised 1.3 billion yen ($16.4m) in donations, with pledges of more.

That amount is a reflection of public interest and is a direct result of both Chinese behavior and the DPJ government’s limp response two years ago, but The Economist will never tell you that.

The tailwind behind Mr Ishihara’s campaign forced Mr Noda off a fence on which most Japanese leaders have sat since 1971.

What “sitting on a fence” means in this context, I have no idea, and I suspect the author doesn’t either. Japanese national leaders never had to do anything about the islets until the Chinese took it into their heads to resume their occupancy of the chair Evil Western Powers forced them to vacate as the Flower in the Center of the Universe.

That was when China began to make diplomatic noises about what it calls the Diaoyus.

Here is what The Economist considers “diplomatic noises”:

The day after Mr Noda’s announcement, a spokesman in Beijing called the islets “sacred territory” and pledged to defend them.

Want to bet if it were Ishihara Shintaro they’d have found some way to combine rightwing Japanese nationalism with the threat of a holy war?

(Coincidently, this week Apple appears to have removed a patriotic Chinese iPad application, called “Defend the Diaoyu” from its Chinese App store, according to the China Daily, a state-run newspaper.)

Not coincidentally, The Economist fails to mention that the app showed samurai, ninja, and other stereotypical characters “invading” islands that are part of Japan. But the publication thought it was “patriotic” for the Chinese, rather than ultra-rightwing nationalist.

China believes the islands were annexed by Japan as spoils of the 1895 Sino-Japanese War.

Trying to justify hegemonistic behavior causes people to believe a lot of things, and this belief is incorrect. Approximate correlation on the time scale does not mean causation, or even connection. Even the Japanese Communist Party doesn’t buy it.

What is correct: The Chinese and Taiwanese recognized the islands as Japanese in official documents, maps, and even a newspaper article in the Maoist-era People’s Daily, starting in 1895. The boulevard-sized paper trail still exists. China complained throughout the 1930s and during the war about Japanese and French possession of islands in the South China Sea, but said nothing about the Senkakus. The San Francisco Treaty after the war that formally determined which Japanese-occupied territory was to be removed from Japanese possession allowed the Senkakus to remain Japanese. The Chinese had no problem with Japanese possession of the islands until (1) resources were discovered nearby, and (2) the Americans returned Okinawa to Japan, which meant that the Chinese now only had to deal with a Japan hamstrung by a pacifist constitution, rather than the U.S. military.

In 1972, at the end of America’s post-war occupation of the Okinawa islands, they reverted to Japan. It refuses to acknowledge the claims of either China or Taiwan.

What is the reason for the appearance of the second sentence? Why should they acknowledge their claims?

In pushing for nationalisation, Mr Noda may be trying to prevent further tensions.

Mr. Noda is trying to prevent the Chinese from annexing Japanese territory. By doing so, he is also trying to prevent China from prying loose Okinawa and making it a 21st century Chinese fiefdom. But the magazine (which they still insist on calling a paper) ignores the nominally non-governmental efforts of Chinese to accomplish the latter. Investigating that would require reading Chinese newspapers and websites. Too much work, what?

But if China takes it the wrong way, the stakes will become higher than fish and a few scraggly goats.

There is only one way for a hegemon to take rejection, and that is the wrong way. Note, by the way, another desperate attempt to combine cleverness with commentary with the fish-and-goat snark after they already wrote that oil and gas deposits were at stake.

For another example of The Economist’s imitation of a color Sunday comic strip, try this blog post from two years ago by someone whose ignorance of contemporary Japan is exceeded only by his ability to communicate with the ephemera of ultra-rightwing Japanese militarism during a séance. They were quickly put in their place by the person who wrote the comment at the top.

Their explanation of the blog’s title on the right sidebar provides more unintentional humor.

It is clear that getting things right is not the objective of the magazine. Indeed, the consistent extremist slant of their pieces on Japan raises suspicions that they’re still bitter over the early wartime Japanese success that signaled the beginning of the end of the British Empire.

It also raises the suspicion that the rest of their magazine is equally worthless. Falsus in unum, falsus in omnibus.

One has to feel sorry for the people who consume the publication and thereby think they know something of what is happening in the world. They certainly won’t know anything about East Asia.

UPDATE: Chinese intentions become clearer still, but some people would rather not get it.

*****
This track has the finest in musical infrastructure — the band, the singer, and the arrangement are superb. All of it is wasted on the lyrical content. It is the perfect analogue for the two articles cited in this post.

Posted in China, History, Holidays, International relations, Mass media, Taiwan, World War II | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Hashimoto Toru (8): Hitler Jr.

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, June 2, 2012

IT was visible to the naked eye a light-year away: The junior Japan hands of the English-language media are starting to spool out the Hitlerian/dictator narrative for Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru now that new and weirder Weird Japan stories are getting harder to outsource.

Of course, the two men have plenty in common. The Hashimoto and Hitler names begin with the letter H, they both have/had dark hair, they like/liked the sound of their own voice and…and…ever so much more!

Here’s another one. They are/were both inhumanitarians. Mr. Hashimoto recently announced that as of August, the city of Osaka will stop providing assistance to the Japanese Red Cross Society for their fund-raising activities. He said:

“City Hall should not cooperate with fund-raising…It is inappropriate for municipal employees to be handling money other than public funds.“

One newspaper account said it was unusual for local governments to decline to help the Red Cross collect money for such operations as disaster relief and blood donations, because it was for the public good.

Yeah, it was a straight news article.

The Red Cross was perturbed. They said:

“It’s possible we won’t be able to raise sufficient funds.”

It certainly is. The Osaka city government collects from JPY 260-280 million every year that it passes on to the organization.

The Red Cross has opened storefronts in most municipal level-governments in Japan, and their Osaka branch opened in 1952.  City comptrollers and deputy mayors have served as chairmen of the Red Cross district headquarters.

Spurring the break was a March meeting between the mayor and a citizens’ group that monitors the improper handling of city funds. The officer of a residents’ association that supported a former comptroller in a past mayoral election was also an officer of a local Red Cross organization. Some of the operating funds for his Red Cross district wound up in a different bank account and were used for the activities of the residents’ association.

There was another failure to keep bank accounts straight in Futtsu, Chiba, back in 2007. It was discovered that the city official in charge of the local Red Cross contributions in his district had diverted some Red Cross funds in “extremely inappropriate ways”, as the local newspaper reports had it, and the whereabouts of a large amount of money became unknown. The Red Cross in Chiba offered a contrite apology and promised that it would never happen again.

More recently, there have been questions about the length of time it has taken for contributions to the Red Cross to be distributed in the Tohoku region after the earthquake/tsunami. Six months to a year is a long time to wait for help. Nippon Foundation Chairman Sasakawa Yohei, known for his charitable work on behalf of lepers, has raised questions about why it should take that long for JPY 300 billion to get put in a position where it could do some good.

He pointed out that the Red Cross is supposed to be independent of government, but that the Japanese government often blatantly gets involved in its activities.  He raised the issue of the slapdash manner in which fund distribution for the Tohoku region was decided in a Health Ministry conference room, though all the people involved tried to slough off the responsibility to the prefectural chapters. Mr. Sasakawa criticized the media for their lack of follow-up coverage, and said they should report once a month on the progress of the fund distribution.

In the United States, even the Socialist Worker Joe Allen is concerned about government involvement in the Red Cross. Some of those funds don’t seem to go where they’re supposed to either.

In recent years, the image of the Red Cross has been tarnished. The worst scandal came after the September 11 attacks, when it was revealed that a large portion of the hundreds of millions of dollars donated to the organization went not to survivors or family members of those killed, but to other Red Cross operations, in what was described by chapters across the country as a “bait-and-switch” operation….

And:

People who think of the Red Cross as a “private charity” would be shocked to discover its actual legal status.

Congress incorporated the Red Cross to act under “government supervision.” Eight of the 50 members of its board of governors are appointed by the president of the United States, who also serves as honorary chairperson. Currently, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security are members of the board of governors.

This unique, quasi-governmental status allows the Red Cross to purchase supplies from the military and use government facilities–military personnel can actually be assigned to duty with the Red Cross. Last year, the organization received $60 million in grants from federal and state governments. However, as one federal court noted, “A perception that the organization is independent and neutral is equally vital.”

The people running the Japanese Red Cross are from a different social stratum, however: The honorary chair is the Empress of Japan, and members of the Imperial Family also serve as vice chairs. Here, it is a special corporation under the authority of the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare. The president is Konoe Tadateru, the younger brother of former Prime Minister Hosokawa Morihiro. The brothers are descended from the daimyo of the old Kumamoto feudal domain on their father’s side, and are the grandsons of Konoe Fumimaro, the prime minister who preceded Tojo Hideki, on their mother’s side. (Konoe even had the stache years before Adolf did.) Tadateru was formally adopted into his mother’s family to provide continuity to the family line, which is a branch of the Fujiwara clan of nobles. The Fujiwaras date back to the 7th century, when they started a four century-long strategy for exercising political influence by marrying their daughters off to the Emperors.

Why should city employees in either country do their work for them?

Airports

Meanwhile, the New Kansai International Airport Co., which will operate both the Kansai International Airport and the Osaka International Airport (Itami) starting next month, has begun negotiations to purchase the outstanding stock of Osaka Interntaional Airport Terminal, the company that owns and operates the Itami terminal building. They expect to finish the purchase by next summer after negotiating the stock price.

The city of Osaka owns 20% of OAT, and the mayor is ready to sell his stake. Said Mr. Hashimoto:

“This is the element on which I was most insistent as the basic policy for combining operations. I will be extremely happy if this happens.”

Osaka Prefecture owns another 20%, and Hashimoto ally Gov. Matsui Ichiro said:

“It would be even more effective (if the OAT earnings) lead to the reduction of landing fees. I hope to be able to sell the stock at an appropriate price.”

So, the mayor continues to extract the Osaka municipal public sector from operations it has no business being involved in. Man, this Hashimoto cat might as well start growing that jive moustache now.

Fortunately, the Japanese seldom give a flying fut about foreigner tut-tutting over their politicians, nor are they tethered to the EU ball and chain. That frees them from having other member states declare their pols persona non grata, or de facto ousting them and selecting their replacements.

When the New York Times mistranslated some Abe Shinzo comments on comfort women to get him in Dutch with the Japanese in 2007, Mr. Abe’s poll numbers plummeted by 0.01% the next month. Even the veteran comfort women campaigners of the Asahi Shimbun held their tongues.

Rather than Japan hands, it might be more apt to refer to these expertise-free experts as Japan fingers. Hand is an inaccurate term for people who lack the intellectual equivalent of 80% of their digits and the entire carpal/metacarpal structure.

*****

Late last month, we saw how a small group of protesters held up, but did not prevent, the incineration of debris from the Tohoku area at Kitakyushu. The results showed the radiation released wasn’t even close to dangerous limits. But one overheated clerk at a consumer electronics mass merchandiser in a different part of the country Tweeted a death threat in the mayor’s direction, which got him arrested. He’s now claiming he didn’t mean it.

Still free as a bird after a similar Tweet of his own is Gunma University volcanologist Hayakawa Yukio. On 15 April, he Tweeted about Fukushima farmers anxious to ship their produce:

This has been difficult for me to understand, but hereafter I will regard farmers such as these as my enemy. I will not stand for having poison put in my mouth. Kill before being killed.

How unlucky for those two not to have been born Americans. It prevents half the political class, most of the mass media, and all of academia and the entertainment industry from martyrizing them.

*****

It won’t be long now before this production starts its Osaka run.

Posted in Government, Mass media, Science and technology | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Southern comfort

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, May 15, 2012

PATTERN RECOGNITION is crucial to the successful conduct of foreign policy. Identifying, recognizing, and then anticipating recurring behavior eliminates the need to speculate about another party’s objectives and facilitates decisions on ways to respond to those parties.

Though it should be obvious that pattern recognition is a survival skill, some people continue to survive despite an inaptitude at spotting patterns that repeat so often they might as well be on a tape loop. One group of American politicians, for example, is incapable of recognizing the two or three patterns employed by Russians over the past few centuries, regardless of whatever state format the rulers in Moscow happen to be employing at the time. The inability of others to recognize the one and only pattern from North Korea causes wonderment at how they manage to cross the street unaccompanied.

The Japanese have become adept at pattern recognition because their nationhood has been in a state of suspended animation since the end of the Second World War, their most amicable neighbor is a Drama Queendom whose leaders view hysteria as a diplomatic trump card, and they are still in the process of scraping off a Constitution that contains the uplifting buncombe of entrusting national security to the goodwill of the peace-loving peoples of the world.

Then again, that part was written by some of those Americans unable to recognize Russian behavioral patterns.

Japanese pattern recognition skills are especially useful in bilateral ties with South Korea. The realization that they’ve seen it all before and know what happens next enables them to skip a few steps in the diplomatic process — particularly because they realize that doing nothing works splendidly.

Those skills have been useful again over the past year, as South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who entered office pledging a policy of realism and focusing on the future in foreign affairs, finally succumbed to the vapors in the penultimate year of his term. Perhaps he should be commended for resisting as long as he did.

Here’s how it started: During his first three years in office, Mr. Lee’s approval ratings settled in the 45-50% range, but started to side last year.

January 2011: 42.9%

February: 38.8%

March: 36.6%

April: 31.4%

June: Into the 20s

The figures were buoyed after the IOC announcement of 6 July that they had awarded the 2018 Winter Olympics to Pyeongchang, South Korea, but stalled around the 31% level. The Dong-a Ilbo commissioned a poll for this year’s April legislative and December presidential elections, which found that 48% of the respondents said they’d switch their vote from the previous ballot. People in their 20s supported the opposition Democratic United Party by 42.6% to 19.3%. More ominous for the ruling Saenuri/New Frontier Party was that even those 50 and older had switched allegiances.

The reasons were multitudinous and variegated. One was a severe outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease that resulted in the slaughter of 12% of the nation’s pigs — some of which were buried alive — and more than 100,000 cattle. The losses from the unanticipated butchery were estimated at KRW 3 trillion (about $US 2.6 billion).

Another was that consumer prices rose 4.5% in February 2011, the highest increase since 2008, and continued to climb after that. The price of Chinese cabbage, essential for winter kimchee, skyrocketed by 94.6% in one year, while pork soared 35.1%, oil products 12.8%, and industrial goods 5.0%. Unemployment was at its highest level in 2010 since 2002; the official unemployment rate was 3.6%, but under the ILO standards used in Western countries and Japan, it was closer to 13%.

Wrote the Dong-a Ilbo on 7 March:

“The government is starting to hear criticism that it is amateurish, and they have no reply for that criticism”.

In addition, several large national projects boosted by the Lee administration were either defeated or abandoned, including a proposed canal across the peninsula (which would have partially traversed North Korean territory), and the construction of a new airport in the southeast part of the country. Further, a large oil development project in Kurdish Iraq has been de facto suspended, but not before a substantial amount of money had been invested in the enterprise.

The English-language media has been full of reports over the past year describing how some large Korean companies have overtaken their Japanese competitors, particularly in the field of consumer electronics products. Few of those reports examine the negative aspects of that story, however. Exports account for 43.4% of South Korean GDP, the highest percentage in the G-20, but the profits do not enrich the nation as a whole. Much of those exports are accounted for by inexpensive goods with low profit margins, and the real competitor nation is often China, not Japan.

The relative poverty rate for working class urban residents is 11.4%, up from less than 8% in the 1990s. A government-affiliated think tank estimates that 9.9% of households nationwide spend 40% of their income on debt repayment.

So: Widespread dissatisfaction due to the failure in domestic governance…the failure to respond to Pyeongyang’s sinking of the Cheonan and the shelling of South Korean territory…the failure to improve the economy…

What is a South Korean government to do?

The Japanese have seen this pattern before. The South Koreans do what a failed South Korean government always does when its support craters:

Talk the comfort women talk!

*****

The groundwork for the Lee administration shift was laid in August 2010, when then-Prime Minister Kan Naoto, one of the luminaries of the local Blame Yourself First faction, slipped into his hair shirt and issued a statement on the 100th anniversary of the Japan-Korean merger:

“We again keenly reflect on our errors and (humbly) express our heartfelt feelings of apology for the immense damage and anguish we brought about through our colonial rule.”

Mr. Kan used the word “again” because the Japanese have repeatedly apologized to the Koreans, who repeatedly pretend they aren’t sincere. It is precisely what helpful Western commentators have repeatedly insisted that Japan should do to “heal the wounds” of a condition that lasted all of 35 years, ended 67 years ago, and was part of a world that no longer exists.

What the commentators repeatedly ignore, however, is the Korean response. One apology is enough in normal human intercourse, especially when it’s accompanied by the equivalent of 800 million 1965 U.S. dollars. Not on the Korean Peninsula, however — holding han grudges is more satisfying than forgiving and getting on with it. The Democratic Union Party response was not atypical: “It’s just a repetition of what they’ve said before, and nothing more than an apology for show.”

So much for Western commentators, and so much for Korean perceptiveness: Kan Naoto and his chief cabinet secretary at the time, Sengoku Yoshito, were the politicians most likely to give the Koreans what they really want — abject servility in perpetuity — and to congratulate themselves for that servility. They are also lilely to be the last leaders from Japan’s mea maxima culpa generation. That’s not looking gift horse in the mouth; that’s failing to recognize a gift horse when it nuzzles them.

President Lee was more conciliatory in those days. He praised the statement as a “step forward” on 15 August, though that praise presumes the Japanese are taking baby steps toward the servility sought. The same Koreans who think that Japanese apologies are insufficient also thought Mr. Lee’s response was insufficient. They asked if he was going to go along with the “phony apology”.

Two weeks later, at the end of August, it was announced that a Seoul-based group planned to build a memorial to the comfort women in front of the Japanese embassy. The construction was approved by the Seoul city ward where the embassy is located, on the recommendation of the health and welfare minister. The memorial depicts a young woman next to an empty bench. It is called The Monument of Peace.

Remember, this was after Mr. Kan apologized. Again.

That same month, the South Korean Supreme Court ruled the 1965 Basic Treaty between that country and Japan was “unconstitutional”, for whatever reason, though that has nothing to do with Japan. It’s just quasi-legal cover to repudiate a deal that legally stymies the rent-seeking of today’s leaders. Under the terms of that agreement, Japan paid South Korea $US 800 million, more than 600 million of which was an outright transfer of funds. The treaty specified that South Korea thereby relinquished the right of individual citizens to make claims on the government of Japan. President Bak Jeong-hui used part of the money to compensate some families whose property was confiscated by Japan, but gave no money to any of the comfort women.

The treaty also provides for the resolution of disputes by recourse to a neutral third party. If either side is dissatisfied with the terms of the pact, or with the response of the other party to their requests, they can employ a mechanism by which the dispute can be resolved by a neutral third party.

In September 2010, the South Korean Foreign Ministry asked the Japanese government to ignore the terms of the treaty and recognize individual claims. Yet in the 47 years since the treaty was signed, South Korea has never sought neutral third party resolution.

Such is the nature of the polity and political discourse in South Korea.

One year down the road, the foreign ministry said President Lee would broach the subject with Prime Minister Noda Yoshiko at their New York summit in September 2011. Mr. Lee seems not to have mentioned it then, but the South Korean government began preparations to have the matter discussed at the UN.

The next steps by both governments are as described in testimony in the Japanese Diet earlier this year.

Diet questioning

Yamatani Eriko, an upper house member of the opposition LDP, questioned both the prime minister and Foreign Minister Gemba Koichiro in the Diet about the so-called Kono Declaration, a 1993 document that admitted state responsibility for the comfort women. It should be noted that in the following, Mr. Noda is speaking for himself, and Mr. Gemba is presenting the view of the Japanese Foreign Ministry. Ms. Yamatani was once a member of the DPJ (the current ruling party), and was even in their Shadow Cabinet, but left after two years. She later served as an aide to LDP Prime Minister Abe Shinzo.

Yamatani: (The next question) is about the so-called “comfort women monument” that has been erected in New Jersey, in the United States. The problem of the military and sexual matters is an extremely vexing one for all countries in every era. We must be modest before history, but we must also clearly explain what is not true and disseminate that explanation. I beg your pardon, prime minister, but I would like you to read four lines from the foreign ministry’s provisional translation.

Gemba: You asked that it be read as is, so I will: “We will fix in our memory the more than 200,000 women and girls abducted by the armed forces of the government of Imperial Japan during the period from the 1930s to 1945, which resulted in the violation of the human rights for these women, known as the comfort women, which no one should overlook.”

We have filed an objection about the construction of the monument with the appropriate people involved. This monument is in a town (in New Jersey) of about 17,000 people, of whom about one-third are ethnic Koreans. It has the highest percentage of ethnic Koreans of any city in the United States. Therefore, we will continue to monitor the situation and respond appropriately.

Yamatani: This question is addressed to the prime minister. The more than 200,000 women abducted on the intent of the Imperial Japanese government, is it a fact that they were abducted by the military?

Noda: More than 200,000 women abducted by the military…I do not think there any grounds (for this claim), including the numbers and the circumstances.

Yamatani: The only one without lobbyists in Washington is Japan. The South Koreans are tireless. (We should conduct) diplomacy by clearly explaining the facts as part of our foreign relations strategy. There is a statue of a girl in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul, called the Monument of Peace. The weekly Wednesday demonstrations in front of the Japanese embassy to resolve the sexual slavery issue of the Japanese military began on 8 January 1992. The 1,000th demonstration was held on 14 December 2011. This peace monument was built to commemorate the spirit of the Wednesday demonstrations over their long history.

Diet members from the DPJ (i.e., Mr. Noda’s party) have taken turns participating in these Wednesday demonstrations. Private sector businesses at the time (during the war) submitted advertising in mass market publications that solicited comfort women. They specified the monthly salaries, the destinations, and the ages of the women sought. But there were no abductions, and there were no sex slaves. Answer, prime minister — was there Japanese military sexual slavery?

Noda: There are different explanations about the circumstances and the conditions, but if you ask whether this is an accurate record, I think there is a great divergence (from the facts). I also asked the president (Lee) to quickly have this monument removed.

Yamatani: But President Lee, during the Japan-South Korea summit in Kyoto on 17 December, said there would be a second and a third memorial. What explanation did you give him?

Noda: It is true that the president expressed his concerns about the comfort women issue to me, but I would prefer to refrain from commenting on what and how much he said. I clearly conveyed to him the Japanese position that the matter has been legally resolved.

Yamatani: That’s the Basic Agreement between Japan and South Korea. But morally speaking, we have provided money to the women from the Asian Women’s Fund. Successive prime ministers have apologized. Is your recognition of this state of affairs the same?

Noda: Successive governments have consistently said that the issue has been legally resolved with the 1965 treaty. Beyond that, another perspective is that the women have received private sector cooperation as humanitarian assistance under previous governments through the Asian Women’ Fund. It is a fact that follow-up efforts continue to this day.

Yamatani: No documents have been found indicating forced removal by the military or the authorities. A cabinet official testified to that effect in 1997, and a member of the government gave the same testimony in the Diet in 2007. Is the present Noda Cabinet in agreement with that?

Gemba: Basically, the government conducted an investigation. And (our position) is basically in view of the results of that investigation. As you say, no evidence has emerged, but I think we just can’t repudiate it.

Yamatani: What’s that supposed to mean?

Gemba: Chief Cabinet Secretary Kono’s statement says that businesses were subcontracted by the military to recruit the comfort women, and that is chiefly what happened, but there were many cases in which the women were gathered against their will, through cajolery or coercion. Also, the authorities and others were complicit in this. The Korean peninsula was under our rule at the time, and in general, the solicitation, transport, and management of the women were done in opposition to their will, through cajolery or coercion. That is my understanding of the Kono statement.

Yamatani: So there’s no proof, but you won’t repudiate it. That’s a strange answer. If this government is going to create all sorts of cabinet ministers, how about creating a minister for recovering the national honor?

Gemba: The government’s basic position is as recorded in the Kono statement.

The brass tacks

Ms. Yamatani didn’t mention another key part of the story. The South Korean government told the South Korean comfort women that anyone who accepted compensation from the Asian Women’s Fund in Japan would thereby become ineligible for South Korean government assistance.

One reason the foreign ministry is hesitant to disavow the Kono declaration — based in part on evidence that was found to have been fabricated — is that they realize the corrupted Western media will not report that half of the comfort women were Japanese, who certainly weren’t abducted. Nor will they report that the evidence is tainted when they can have and eat their J-school cake by dabbling at tabloid journalism on the legit and flashing the phrase “sex slaves”.

Journos that they are, they prefer the much larger 200,000 figure, though it is an estimate at the high end of the range, and the person who came up with it gave 50,000 as the low end of the range. (In other words, no one has any idea how many there were.)  Nor will they mention that the US Army knew all about the system in 1944.

This year

Kuroda Katsuhiro, the Seoul correspondent for the Sankei Shimbun, wrote an article for the April edition of the monthly Will in which he asserted that the recent South Korean conversion of the surviving comfort women into dashboard saints has rendered any solution to the issue impossible. No South Korean politician is capable of crossing the anti-Japanese elements in South Korea, which includes that country’s industrial mass media. The essence of his piece is that they have been made “sacred” and elevated into heroes of the independence movement against Japan.

Mr. Kuroda cited several examples. First, it will require special permission to remove the so-called Monument of Peace, which will not be forthcoming. All the comfort women who die now get full-scale obituaries with photos in the South Korean papers. President Lee gave a special address on 1 March, the Independence Movement Day holiday, which included attacks on Japan. This year, he also sent individual letters for the first time to the roughly 60 surviving comfort women. The letter said the issue was addressed “from the start to the finish” during the Kyoto bilateral summit meeting. The South Korean president referred to this issue as “more urgent than any other foreign policy question”. That would mean he considers it a matter of lesser urgency that North Korea shelled his territory and sunk a naval vessal during his term of office, killing both civilians and military personnel. But that was before the North Koreans began jamming the Global Positioning System of commercial and military air and sea traffic.

That would also mean his countrymen either agree with him or are too unconcerned about the truth to object.

Mr. Kuroda said he was startled to receive a call early one morning from a female reporter at the Munhwa Ilbo (Culture Daily). She informed him that the Dong-a Ilbo had attacked him the day before in an editorial titled, “Japan – Take Part in Discussions about the Comfort Woman Problem”. Half of the editorial, he said, was rehashed Japan bashing using comfort women as the stick. The other half was Kuroda bashing. He had already been savaged on the Korean Internet; one person thought the article was “another absurdity from Kuroda, the absurdity machine”.

Mr. Kuroda spoke to the reporter for half an hour, explaining both the official Japanese position and his view that the real problem is the activist groups and mass media who use the comfort women to brainwash the people and promote anti-Japanese sentiment.

She must have believed him. The woman’s next article for the Munhwa Ilbo had the following headline:

It’s South Korea’s Fault the Comfort Woman Issue Isn’t Resolved

The text noted that Japan had prepared financial compensation and apologies, including those from prime ministers, but the government of South Korea refused to accept them. Yet Mr. Lee still wants an apology.

She concluded:

“Hardline anti-Japanese sentiment caused this country to miss its chance.”

Mr. Kuroda concluded that she had more sense than the president of South Korea.

Reasonable people will say that allowances should be made for Mr. Lee in view of the difficulties of navigating the sometimes surreal, hothouse nature of public debate in South Korea. Until one reads this bit of guerilla theater pretending to be news:

South Korea wants Japan to take steps to address long-running grievances of elderly Korean women who suffered as sex slaves. Lee has strongly urged Japan to resolve the issue, stressing it is becoming increasingly urgent as most victims are well over 80 years old and may die before they receive compensation or an apology from Japan.

No allowances should be forthcoming for a politician who frames an issue in shrouds of mendacity.

The three issues

Lee Myung-bak publicly states there are Three Great Issues for the Korean People: Historical Awareness, Takeshima, and the Yasukuni Shrine.

Taking those from back to front, whatever happens at Yasukuni is the business of no one but the Japanese. Takeshima was Japanese territory illegally seized by force because the Koreans couldn’t convince the Allies it was theirs when the Treaty of San Francisco, which disposed of the conquered Japanese territory, was drawn up. The courageous sons of Jeoson knew they could safely snatch it because the Japanese/American Constitution prevented a Japanese response. Refer to the two articles on the masthead for more information.

Finally, let us agree with the South Korean president when he insists on Historical Awareness, because that is the real issue. Koreans themselves are all too aware of their history, and Mr. Lee must deconstruct it, revise it, and turn it inside out, because accepting that history would be emotional hemlock for the nation.

The Koreans know that some of their mothers and grandmothers were willing prostitutes for Japanese Imperial forces. How could they not? The newspaper advertisements for a then-legal activity still exist. So do articles in Korean newspapers in which Japanese authorities warn the public of unscrupulous Korean brokers.

They know the Japanese were the ones to bring them out of their Hermit Kingdom spider hole into the 20th century. They know there was a pro-Japan faction during the merger period, inspired not by the base motive of “collaboration”, but by a desire to join the modern world. They know some of their great-grandparents saw it as their version of the Meiji–period opening of Japan.

They know that roughly 90% of the Koreans who went to Japan did so voluntarily to seek a better life in same the way that Europeans emigrated to the United States in the previous century.

They know that some of their grandparents fought willingly in the Japanese armed services during the war, and that some even volunteered as kamikaze pilots.

They know that had Japan not stepped in when it did, it is possible they would all be speaking Russian now. They know another possibility is that they would have spent several more decades in darkness as black as the North Korean night, but without the gulags.

But at least their cousins in the north provide public education for girls. They know that was another Japanese innovation on the peninsula, too.

Perhaps most galling of all, they know that they were incapable of achieving independence on their own and owe it to the Japanese defeat in the war.

The intensity of contemporary Korean anger toward Japan is not derived from what Japan did or did not do. It is derived from what Korea did and did not do. The emotion is all the more intense because it is self-anger projected onto contemporary Japan.

As the Munhwa Ilbo reporter now understands, the issue of comfort women and all that it represents is no longer a Japanese problem. It is a Korean problem.

Indeed, in some ways, it always has been.

Afterwords:

* It would seem that the attitude toward international agreements south of the 38th parallel differs from the attitude in the north only in degree, not in kind.

* Nathaniel Branden wrote the following in Six Pillars of Self-Esteem:

“In addition to the “adult-self” that we all recognize as “who we are”, there is within ourselves a “child-self” — the living presence of the child we once were….But we may have repressed that child long ago, repressed his or her feelings, perceptions, needs, responses, out of the misguided notion that “murder” was necessary to grow into adulthood. This recognition led to the conviction that no one could be completely whole who did not reconnect with and create a conscious and benevolent relationship with the child-self. This task is especially important for the attainment of autonomy. I saw that when this task is neglected, the tendency is to look for healing from the outside….Does it need to be argued that we cannot have healthy self-esteem while despising part of who we are?”

Perhaps that book needs to be translated into Korean.

* Mr. Lee’s party wound up doing a lot better than everyone expected in the April elections, but only because party leader Bak Geun-hye (President Bak’s daughter) politically disowned him. The opposition picked up 47 seats, falling a whisker short of a majority. The ruling party wound up losing two more seats in post-election horse trading, eliminating the majority.

* Geopolitical affairs in Northeast Asia are much too complex for drive-by commentators, particularly the industrial mass media and its four-panel comic strip approach to the world. But it would be too much to expect them to leave well enough alone. They have to sell all that advertising space somehow.

For example, we cannot overlook the difficulties level-headed people in South Korea face when they try to do something sensible. Japan and South Korea are on the verge of signing a pact to achieve military cooperation. It is in the interests of both nations to do so. But:

A Seoul analyst said military accords with Japan would spark strong opposition from China and North Korea.

“China would consider it as an expansion of (the US-led) alliance in the Northeast Asian region,” Baek Seung-Joo, of the Korea Institute for Defence Analyses, told AFP.

“South Korea also faces unfavourable public opinion at home over any military agreements with Japan, regardless of their contents,” he said.

There are more subtexts to relations in the area than found in Moby Dick. The recent trilateral summit in Beijing resulted in a pledge by the leaders of Japan, China, and South Korea to pursue a free-trade agreement:

A “milestone” investment agreement between China, Japan and the Republic of Korea was signed in Beijing yesterday, after years of negotiations, while the leaders of the three nations announced that talks focusing on a free-trade agreement (FTA) would be launched within the year.

Aside from substantial economic benefits, experts said that the FTA, if realised, could help ease regional tension and possibly lead to a more integrated Northeast Asia.

Beware of the chirpiness in that article, however. The Chinese are trying to blunt the effect of the Americans’ TPP proposals on Japan. South Korea is more interested in a bilateral agreement with the Chinese to narrow the gap between their companies and the Japanese in the Chinese market. They’re not as interested in a bilateral FTR with Japan because they have a JPY 2 trillion trade deficit with the Japanese and continue to rely on Japan for advanced electronics parts and materials.

Meanwhile, President Lee brought up the comfort women yet again (or said he did) with the Japanese at the summit, while the Chinese complained about the Tokyo Metro plan to purchase the Senkakus from their private owners (they’re getting a lot of volunteer funds to pay for them, too), and the Uyghur conference now being held in Japan:

Beijing yesterday lodged strong protest over Tokyo’s permission for the separatist World Uygur Congress meeting to be held in Japan, and slammed Uygur separatist Rebiya Kadeer’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine.

Fancy that. Japan’s doing more for human rights in China than the U.S. or Europe. Imagine the American self-congratulation if the Congress were being held in Los Angeles.

To his credit, Mr. Noda diplomatically deflected them both. He even politely told Mr. Wen where to get off:

In their meeting in Beijing, Wen took up the issue of the Senkakus, reiterating China’s claim that the islands have been Chinese territory since ancient times, according to a senior Japanese official who briefed journalists about the talks.

Noda stated Japan’s position that the islands, which China calls Diaoyu, are an integral part of Japanese territory, the official said.

Noda called for China to respond in a “cool-headed” manner on the issue, citing China’s growing activity in waters near the Senkaku Islands, which has provoked the Japanese public.

Considering that public contributions to purchase the Senkakus have likely passed the million-dollar mark by now, it would be more accurate to say that the Japanese public has woken up, rather than been provoked.

*****

Percy’s not the only one who could stand some comforting.

 

Posted in China, History, International relations, Military affairs, South Korea, World War II | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Corrupt

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, March 1, 2012

Corrupt: 1. orig., changed from a sound condition to an unsound one; spoiled; contaminated, rotten 2. deteriorated from the normal or standard; specif., a) morally unsound or debased; perverted; evil; depraved…c) containing alterations, errors, or admixtures of foreignisms; said of texts, languages, etc.
- Webster’s New World Dictionary

THE Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, a panel consisting of 30 “university professors, lawyers, and journalists”, released its report this week on the response of the Japanese government and industry to the Fukushima nuclear disaster last March.

The coverage of that report by some elements of the mass media, both in the Anglosphere and Japan, can only be described as corrupt.

The foundation’s founder, Funabashi Yoichi, is the former editor in chief of the Asahi Shimbun. The New York Times’ Martin Fackler writes the following in his article on the release of the report:

“(Mr. Funabashi) said his group’s findings conflicted with those of the government’s own investigation into the accident, which were released in an interim report in December. A big difference involved one of the most crucial moments of the nuclear crisis, when the prime minister, Mr. Kan, marched into Tepco’s headquarters early on the morning of March 15 upon hearing that the company wanted to withdraw its employees from the wrecked nuclear plant.

“The government’s investigation sided with Tepco by saying that Mr. Kan, a former social activist who often clashed with Japan’s establishment, had simply misunderstood the company, which wanted to withdraw only a portion of its staff. Mr. Funabashi said his foundation’s investigators had interviewed most of the people involved — except executives at Tepco, which refused to cooperate — and found that the company had in fact said it wanted a total pullout.

“He credited Mr. Kan with making the right decision in forcing Tepco not to abandon the plant.

“‘Prime Minister Kan had his minuses and he had his lapses,’ Mr. Funabashi said, ‘but his decision to storm into Tepco and demand that it not give up saved Japan.’”

Ah, so. Kan Naoto is the savior of Japan.

The AFP news agency report identifies Kitazawa Koichi as “the panel head” and contains the following passage:

“The panel said as the situation on Japan’s tsunami-wrecked coast worsened, Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) had wanted to abandon the plant and evacuate its workers.

“But the utility, which refused to co-operate with the study, was ordered to keep men on site by then prime minister Naoto Kan.

“Experts concluded that if the premier had not stuck to his guns, Fukushima would have spiralled further out of control, with catastrophic consequences.

“‘When the prime minister’s office was aware of the risk the country may not survive (the crisis)…TEPCO’s president (Masataka) Shimizu….frantically called’ to tell the premier he wanted his staff to leave the crippled nuclear reactor, panel head Koichi Kitazawa told a news conference.

“Kitazawa said Kan threatened to break up the powerful utility if the company insisted on pulling its men out.

“He said Kan’s refusal to bow to TEPCO’s demand had averted a worse crisis.

“Kan told Shimizu: ‘It’s impossible. If you withdraw staff, TEPCO will be demolished,’ according to Kitazawa.”

That last sentence is a mistranslation, perhaps deliberate, but we’ll get to that later.

“‘Consequently, it’s Mr Kan’s biggest contribution that the Fukushima 50 remained at the site,’ added Kitazawa, referring to dozens of operatives who worked to contain the accident and were feted as heroes.”

In their haste to set the agenda and disseminate their narrative, both the New York Times and AFP omitted some details.

For example, here is what Mr. Kitazawa actually said, from the original Japanese:

“(Mr. Kan) himself rushed into Tokyo Electric’s headquarters, which had requested that they be allowed to leave the site. In the end, 50 workers remained on the site. It is thought by some that this ultimately averted the worst-case scenario and was a great achievement. However, most of the excessive intervention on the site by the Kantei (i.e., Japan’s equivalent of the White House or 10 Downing St.), including the former prime minister’s involvement — down to the size of one of the batteries at the site — cannot be praised. In addition, the prime minister’s information disclosure was a failure and caused a sense of mistrust to spread among the people. We have no choice other than to say that overall, their response was a failure.”

(N.B.: The second use of the word failure was fugokaku, which has the sense of failing a school examination.)

Of the English-language reports that I read, only Reuters conveyed the panel’s conclusion that Mr. Kan was a failure, and then only on the second page of the website report I saw (The Chicago Tribune).

Fackler and the New York Times quotes Mr. Funabashi as saying that Kan Naoto saved Japan. No Japanese media report I’ve seen — and I’ve read several — has quoted that statement. Of course they quote extensively from the report on the behavior of Mr. Kan and the Kantei, but the tone is quite different.

Some direct quotes from the report follow. In regard to the intervention of Mr. Kan and the Kantei:

“It is not clear that it was useful in preventing the spread of the damage, and it undeniably increased the risk of needless confusion and the further development of the accident.”

And:

“The prime minister and the Kantei command center fell into an abnormal state of tension and confusion.”

That allows you to put into context the breathless “reporting” in the West, such as this from AFP:

“A worst-case scenario sketched out by the Japanese government foresaw the end of Tokyo in a chain of nuclear explosions as the Fukushima crisis erupted, an independent panel said.

“Chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano told investigators: ‘I had this demonic scenario in my head’ that nuclear reactors could break down one after another. If that happens Tokyo will be finished’.

“Plans were drawn up for the mass evacuation of the capital as Edano — the government’s point man on the nuclear crisis — fretted that reactors all along the coast could go into meltdown and engulf the city of 13 million people.”

No excerpt of the official report I read contained the conclusion that Tokyo was in danger of being “finished”. They did say that Mr. Kan and Mr. Edano had lost their heads, however. Though the AFP calls Edano Yukio the government’s “point man”, it does not mention that Mr. Edano’s sole professional experience before becoming a politician was that of a lawyer specializing in the defense of labor union radicals.

The portions of the report the Anglosphere media omitted present a rather different picture of events. Such as this in regard to the venting of Reactor #1 on the night of 11 March and the morning of 12 March:

“At a minimum, it cannot be recognized that the decision of the Kantei, the order of the Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry, and the prime minister’s demand were useful in promptly achieving the venting.”

In regard to the decision to insert seawater into the reactor on the evening of the 12th:

“The debate at the Kantei had no effect in the end, but if the Kantei’s (Kan’s) order to stop the insertion had been obeyed, it would have resulted in a dangerous situation with the possibility that the work would have been delayed.”

In regard to the insertion of seawater in Reactor #3 on the 13th:

“The Kantei expressed the opinion that fresh water should be preferred to seawater, and that opinion was conveyed from Tokyo Electric to (Fukushima plant manager) Yoshida….the switch to fresh water in the end brought about little or no improvement in conditions. The change in course had the possibility of needlessly exposing the workers to radiation. Not only did the Kantei’s instructions delay the work, there are suspicions that it increased the danger of failure of the water insertion into the reactor.”

There’s more:

“There are few examples in which the Kantei’s intervention into accident management on-site were an effective response to the accident. In most cases, it had absolutely no effect, or it increased the risk of worsening the situation due to needless confusion and stress.”

And:

“The risk involved in the leader of government intervening on-site in the response to the nuclear disaster should be an important lesson from the Fukushima accident to be shared by all.”

And:

“The Kantei’s initial response after the Fukushima accident was a series of crises. During the systemically unexpected developments, the core (of those responding) consisted of a handful of politicians without specialized knowledge or experience. Their grandstanding response continued as the crisis unfolded. It cannot be said that (this response) was at all sophisticated. Rather, this was immature and slapdash crisis management.”

Remember, these are direct quotes from the report.

On Mr. Kan specifically:

“The excessive involvement and intervention under Kantei leadership was criticized for its micromanagement. The Prime Minister was deeply involved in accident management, and it is undeniable that he was negligent in providing sufficient attention to overall crisis management.”

But wait: Martin Fackler and the New York Times quoted Funabashi Yoichi as saying that Kan Naoto saved Japan. In fact, Fackler also wrote:

“Yoichi Funabashi, a former editor in chief of the daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun, is one of Japan’s most respected public intellectuals.”

Keep in mind which newspaper that respected public intellectual edited as you read the following website commentary by Abiru Rui of the Sankei Shimbun. Mr. Abiru begins by noting that every major Japanese newspaper extensively quoted the report’s criticisms of Mr. Kan and used that criticism for their headlines.

Except one.

He explains the reason for that:

“Though all of the newspapers accurately reported the private sector panel’s severe criticism of Mr. Kan and the Kantei, the Asahi did not include any of these problems in its headlines. The text of the articles does not refer to them at all. The newspaper ignored them completely. This can only be said to be abnormal.

“The Asahi (previously) ran a series of articles titled The Trap of Prometheus. They praised Mr. Kan to an unbelievable degree, and continued to beautify his behavior to the extent it sets one’s teeth on edge…Of course, the Sankei will insist on its own viewpoint, and it can be understood that the Asahi will do the same. But to go to this extent to avoid writing about Mr. Kan’s problems, and not informing its readers of the facts, is to betray its subscribers.

“The articles in The Trap of Prometheus are written as if Mr. Kan’s behavior was calm and collected from start to finish, but the panel’s report says that he panicked. Were the circumstances inconvenient for them? In any event, (the articles in) The Trap of Prometheus had the appearance of thoroughness — they even captioned a photograph of a sandal of Terada Manabu, one of the prime minister’s aides.

“The chairman of the group that conducted this investigation was the Asahi’s former editor in chief, Funabashi Yoichi. It seems as if they didn’t care what anyone unconnected with the company had to say. Rather, it was a case of “We will convey the Asahi’s strong determination and resolve to protect Mr. Kan.”

Do I need to mention that the New York Times, the Asahi Shimbun, and Kan Naoto share the same political philosophy?

The sober and steady hand on the tiller of the ship of state

You also won’t read that when Kan Naoto “ordered” the Tokyo Electric Power officials to keep personnel on the site, he had no authority to issue an order to them, as a private-sector company, to do anything at all. There are only glancing references to his threat to dismantle the company if they didn’t listen to him (which he also has no authority to do). His threat to break up the utility was the mistranslated part of the AFP piece.

In fact, there’s quite a lot of information that you won’t read in these accounts — That Mr. Kan did order the Self-Defense Forces to leave the site when he thought it was too dangerous. (Government employees should be saved, but private-sector employees should be sacrificed?)…That Mr. Kan told Tokyo Electric that employees “60 years old or older” could be sent to the site (Younger employees should be saved, but older employees should be sacrificed?)…That it is widely suspected Mr. Kan promised to save Tokyo Electric if the utility started contributing to his Democratic Party instead of the opposition LDP.

The Japanese mass media — other than the Asahi — didn’t miss any of that.

It is curious. Many news media consumers in the Anglosphere would never take at face value anything the New York Times, the Washington Post, Fox News, or the BBC had to say about Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, or the EU, to cite a few of many examples.

Yet they think that turning the cyberpage somehow waves a magic wand of objectivity and credibility over the cesspool. For some reason, the readers swallow it whole and start “retweeting” and “liking” and getting all social media about everything. You know — “having their say”.

More than 60 years ago, former U.S. President Harry Truman said that he felt sorry for the average citizen who wakes up in the morning, reads the newspaper, and thereby thinks he knows something of what is happening in the world.

Sixty years and many revelations later, however, I am not inclined to be so generous.

It is no longer possible to be sympathetic to people who accept without reservation the work of those who are so clearly corrupt.

Afterwords:

Tokyo Electric Power officials chose not to be interviewed by the panel. The panel thinks there is insufficient evidence for the utility’s claim that it did not intend to fully withdraw from Fukushima. While agreeing that the panel could very well be correct, some people in Japan are now wondering if that conclusion was influenced by the statements of Mr. Kan and other government officials, who might have gotten carried away by their panic and mistrust of the utility. They are even finding some evidence to suggest that might have been the case. But this post is long enough already…

As always, links are only for the legit. Certainly not for the corrupt.

UPDATE: The Asahi English edition finally has an article on line that is critical of Mr. Kan and his government’s response. Some of the Japanese to English translation is amusing. For example:

“He cannot be given a passing grade from the overall perspective of his handling of the crisis,” Kitazawa said.

As I noted above, Mr. Kitazawa clearly said “He failed”.

Also:

The report quotes Kan as saying: “How large is the battery that you need? What are the dimensions? Weight? Can it be transported by helicopter?”

One participant who overheard the exchange told the investigative committee: “I became somewhat frightened when I thought about whether it was good for the nation to have the prime minister looking into such details.”

“Somewhat frightened”, eh? The original was zotto shita. That means “I shuddered to think that…” It can even be rendered in more intense language, such as “It made my flesh crawl”, “I was horrified to hear”, or “It made my blood run cold”.

But in Asahiworld, that’s “somewhat frightened”.

Add to: Facebook | Digg | Del.icio.us | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati | Yahoo Buzz | Newsvine

Posted in Government, Mass media, Science and technology | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Suckers

Posted by ampontan on Friday, February 3, 2012

“I have a lot to say,” said the fish, “but my mouth is full of water.”
- Georgian proverb

WHEN last we met, I promised that the next post would discuss Japan’s best options for responding to geopolitical conditions in East Asia. That post has required a lot of time to collect, translate, and organize the information, however. At the same time, my primary attention shifted to a large influx of paying work, which still continues. Finally, it has been difficult to resist the temptation to slide over to YouTube and watch and listen to the videos in the excellent Pakistan Coke Studio series.

The stimulus which pulled me out of that mini-orbit was the festival of cheap thrills in the English-language blogosphere this week touched off by another provocative bit of Japan-related flummery.

Specifically:

A startling number of Japanese youths have turned their backs on sex and relationships, a new survey has found.

The survey, conducted by the Japan Family Planning Association, found that 36% of males aged 16 to 19 said that they had “no interest” in or even “despised” sex. That’s almost a 19% increase since the survey was last conducted in 2008.

If that’s not bad enough, The Wall Street Journal reports that a whopping 59% of female respondents aged 16 to 19 said they were uninterested in or averse to sex, a near 12% increase since 2008.

Not only did everone fall for it, they sucked it up so quickly one could almost hear the kids loudly slurping the last drops of the beverage at the bottom of the cup through their straws.

Now really: Are the popular perceptions of Japan so warped that anyone anywhere 16 years of age or over could take that story at face value? I’ve regularly associated with Japanese kids of high school and college age — in the Japanese language — since 1984, and the idea that they have a widespread aversion to sex caused a snort louder than any straw slurp. But then I’m also familiar with the dissatisfaction many Japanese have with the inferior quality of local public opinion surveys, which seldom finds expression in English.

Some research on the Japanese-language sector of the Internet was in order. The first place I headed was the website for the Japanese Family Planning Association, which is the Japanese affiliate of Planned Parenthood. I spent a few minutes at their Japanese-only site looking for the report, but found nothing. Then I plugged their name into the Japanese version of Google News, but I still came up empty.

I returned to the original article, published by that paragon of accuracy and sobriety in journalism, the Huffington Post. The headline read, “Japan Population Decline: Third of Nation’s Youth Have ‘No Interest’ In Sex”. Part of their article is quoted above, including the claim that this is a “new survey”.

How odd that nothing about this new survey and its remarkable findings can be found on the Japanese Family Planning Association’s website or Google News Japan. The reason became apparent when I accessed the link at the HuffPo piece to a related Wall Street Journal article. Rather than being “new”, the survey was released in January 2011 — more than a year ago.

That explains the absence of stories in Google News; links to Japanese newspaper stories seldom survive longer than a year. After I added some terms to the search query, some information finally started turning up. It helped that the survey was sponsored by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare.

Nevertheless, it was curious how little information actually surfaced. Blog post links last longer than a year, but Japanese bloggers were rather uncurious about this report. Then I ran across this comment from University of Tokyo grad school researcher Furuichi Noritoshi, a sociologist who specializes in studies of contemporary Japanese youth. Mr. Furuichi — who is just 26 himself — wrote in the weekly Pureiboi:

The viewpoint is growing among young people today that it is “smart” (i.e., stylish) to behave as if one has little interest in sex. People think they should not superficially demonstrate that interest, even when they are interested. They even consider it a pain to put up with the generation that spun their tales of triumph, bragging about how many people they bagged. I suspect that viewpoint is reflected in the answers to the survey.

In addition, they only surveyed from 61 to 162 men or women in each generation. That’s a rather small sample size. Further, the response rate was only 57%. It would be difficult to gain an understanding of an entire generation from this survey alone.

N.B.: In Japan, “difficult” is usually a euphemism for “impossible”.

After that observation about the sample size, I knew I was getting close. Sure enough, the next site that turned up was the original Japanese-language report from the Ministry itself on the survey. (You can read the .pdf file here.)

Here’s how the survey was conducted: 3,000 people from the ages of 16-49 were selected at random from residential rolls. The association explained and distributed questionnaires to 2,693 people, eliminating from the original 3,000 those who were never at home or not at the address. They returned to pick up the completed questionnaire later, and received 1,540 (671 from men and 869 from women). That’s a recovery rate of 57.2%.

As page four of the .pdf file shows, they broke down the respondents into seven different age groups. For the age group of 16-19, they received responses from 61 males and 65 females.

In other words, the Internet was agog over a report that 22 males and 38 females aged 16-19 said either that they had no interest in sex or despised it. When the Huffington Post spun this story as “a third of the nation’s youth” disliking sex, they were basing it on the response of 60 self-selected people. The HuffPo also thinks 38 girls is a “whopping” number.

That explains why so few people in Japan took the survey seriously. We already knew there was little reason to take the HuffPo or Wall Street Journal’s coverage of Japan seriously, based on their track record. This story follows the pattern: Discovering the essentials of this survey took only 10 to 15 minutes, but then I was interested in the truth instead of entertainment.

Another peculiarity was the survey’s finding that only 6.6% of the boys and 1.6% of the girls had their first sexual experience at the age of 16-19. That’s not even close to the numbers from this data reported by Kyoto University for surveys of high school students in Tokyo over a 20 year-period. In 1984, the percentage of the no-longer virgin among the big city boys and girls in their senior year was 22% and 12% respectively. By 2002, a decade ago, that had risen to 37% and 46% respectively. (Yes, the girls were getting more action than the guys.)

Is this not curious? If a survey with findings that goofy were to appear in America, folks on the Internet would have mobilized immediately, and the information to refute it would have been found, presented, and widely disseminated in fewer than 24 hours. Recall what happened to Dan Rather of CBS News when he tried to use bogus documents to discredit George W. Bush in 2004. Just last week, an attempt to discredit Newt Gingrich among Republicans by deliberately misquoting his comments about Ronald Reagan was also exposed in less than a day.

When Japan is the subject of goofy surveys, however, the same people forego their critical facilities and become Grade-A suckers.

This phenomenon demands ruthless truth-telling, and it is not possible to be too ruthless. Here’s the truth: If you choose to believe what you read in the English-language mass media about Japan, you choose the course of ignorance.

Conrad the Gweilo

I read this report on the Instapundit website run by University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds. A rational man, Prof. Reynolds presented only the link and a quote, and offered no comment of his own. He did, however, later add a comment mailed in by an ex-blogger whose site he once enjoyed. The commenter identified himself as the former author of the Gweilo Diaries. That would have been “Conrad”, a man writing from Hong Kong who chose to remain anonymous even when active.

I bring up his comments only because they are a superlative example — even for the Internet — of a person unwittingly exposing himself as a horse’s ass through the confident assertion of ignorant nonsense. Here’s what he said:

As a preface: my wife — yes, I’m now married, monogamous and very content — is Japanese. Many of my friends and clients are Japanese. I speak passable Japanese and I am still intrigued (and sometimes repelled) by Japanese culture.

Here’s what he’s telling us: He doesn’t live in Japan, knows a few Japanese people, and is not fluent in the language. Any time spent in the country has been short and shallow. He might fool the linguistically challenged Americans (and himself) with this “passable” business, but there is no “passable” when it comes to language skills — you’re either fluent or you’re not.

What is “passable” supposed to mean? Passable is going to the dentist with a toothache and getting it fixed, explaining why Barack Obama is now so unpopular in the United States after the false euphoria of 2008, or describing the difference between an alpha male and a beta male without any English dialogue or recourse to a dictionary. Passable is being able to read the first 25 signs you see walking down the street. Passable is explaining to someone in English the content of a Japanese newspaper article selected by someone else at random.

His primary means of communication with his Japanese wife would seem to be in a language other than Japanese. My Japanese wife and I will have been married 25 years in May, and she does not speak English. One learns early that the choice is simple: either get fluent fast or live forever behind the eight ball. Passable is not an option.

And of course, if he could read or write Japanese, he would have mentioned it.

His admission that he is “sometimes repelled” by Japanese culture demonstrates a disqualifying bias. Somewhere in the world there is a nation that is the gold standard for culture, from which the Japanese are so far removed that their behavior is repellent? Or does that cultural gold standard only exist in the kingdom between his ears?

If you wonder why that would make a difference, try this perspective: Picture yourself as an American who is listening to someone commenting authoritatively about the United States, but whose culture sometimes repels him. The commenter doesn’t live in the US, speaks only “passable” English, and can’t read the language. He knows a few Americans, including his wife, with whom he converses in some other language.

Now ask yourself how seriously you’ll take whatever this man has to say.

We do learn, however, about the Japan of his imagination.

Young Japanese guys are as horny and desperate to get laid as any guys in the world. Probably more so, since only young Arabs get less actual sex.

The Japanese Family Planning Association survey found that the age at which the 50% threshold was crossed for the first sexual experience was 19, but Conrad the Gweilo in Hong Kong, or wherever he is now, knows more about the frequency with which people in Japan (and the Arab world) get laid. He must be a lucky man to have avoided arrest as a Peeping Tom for all these years.

Unfortunately, three lost economic decades has resulted in a plethora of un- or under-employed young beta men, without real jobs or prospects of success, and young women who look at these prospective suitors and despair.

Unfortunately Conrad the Gweilo seems to be under the impression that the years from 1980-1990 were an economic loss in Japan. He also isn’t aware of the statistics showing that Japanese economic performance in recent years has been comparable to that of other developed countries. Nor is he aware that the nation with a plethora of young beta men without real jobs has an unemployment rate just a skoche more than half that of the United States, where the official unemployment figures are just as fraudulent.

Then there is the deficiency in his reading skills. The report on this survey covered only the results for people from ages 16-19, when most kids are in high school, and many in the first year of college. It is not clear why figures dealing with full-time students prompted him to discuss un- or under-employment among young men.

His use of the term “beta men” is also noteworthy, especially in combination with the following:

Young Japanese guys who can’t attract women turn to magna, gaming, and juvinalia (sic) Young Japanese women, in a society without f*ckworthy guys, turn to fashion, girl friends and the passive/aggressive “cute culture” prevalent among Japanese girls. It turns out that economic stagnation if the enemy of hot sex.

Though the Pukka Sahib of East Asia has “many” Japanese friends and clients, he doesn’t have a high opinion of their masculinity. For all his extensive experience and knowledge, he seems to have overlooked the fact that the dynamic for interaction between the sexes is different here. But perhaps we shouldn’t be too hard on him. Unable to read Japanese, he doesn’t have access to this information.

Nor is the cute culture among young Japanese women a recent phenomenon, but Conrad the Gweilo is probably too young to know that. Why he thinks the buzzword “passive-aggressive” applies to it is beyond my ability to speculate.

That facile use of the term “beta men”, by the way, also identifies him as someone who is likely familiar with what has been called the manosphere and the new masculine awareness. Yet it is strange how quickly he buys into this:

Many commentators in the Japanese and international media have laid the problem squarely at the feet of soshoku danshi – “herbivore men” — a term coined by pop culture columnist Maki Fukasawa in 2006.

One of the staples of the English-language manosphere is the presentation and takedown of articles written by women (especially pop culture columnists) publicly airing their dissatisfaction with contemporary men. As soon as one is brought up as the subject of a manosphere blog post, the author is pelted with a volley of spitballs and put in her place as a whiner frustrated that she isn’t hot enough to attract guys.

But when they turn the cyberpage and see the Japanese version of the same thing, the suckers swallow it whole. Perhaps that’s because American men are so studly compared to those geeky Japanese grass eaters. After all:

Once upon a time, video games were for little boys and girls—well, mostly little boys—who loved their Nintendos so much, the lament went, that they no longer played ball outside. Those boys have grown up to become child-man gamers, turning a niche industry into a $12 billion powerhouse. Men between the ages of 18 and 34 are now the biggest gamers;… almost half—48.2 percent—of…males in that age bracket had used a console during the last quarter of 2006, and did so, on average, two hours and 43 minutes per day. (That’s 13 minutes longer than 12- to 17-year-olds, who evidently have more responsibilities than today’s twentysomethings.) Gaming—online games, as well as news and information about games—often registers as the top category in monthly surveys of Internet usage.

And:

Today’s pre-adult male is like an actor in a drama in which he only knows what he shouldn’t say. He has to compete in a fierce job market, but he can’t act too bossy or self-confident. He should be sensitive but not paternalistic, smart but not cocky. To deepen his predicament, because he is single, his advisers and confidants are generally undomesticated guys just like him.

Single men have never been civilization’s most responsible actors; they continue to be more troubled and less successful than men who deliberately choose to become husbands and fathers. So we can be disgusted if some of them continue to live in rooms decorated with “Star Wars” posters and crushed beer cans and to treat women like disposable estrogen toys, but we shouldn’t be surprised.

Relatively affluent, free of family responsibilities, and entertained by an array of media devoted to his every pleasure, the single young man can live in pig heaven—and often does. Women put up with him for a while, but then in fear and disgust either give up on any idea of a husband and kids or just go to a sperm bank and get the DNA without the troublesome man. But these rational choices on the part of women only serve to legitimize men’s attachment to the sand box. Why should they grow up? No one needs them anyway. There’s nothing they have to do.

Ah, so sorry. That was Kay Hymowitz writing about American men.

Perhaps his time overseas has left Conrad the Gweilo behind the curve:

The US is not Japan, but if present trends of debt, unemployment, lack of mobility and stagnation continue, the end result will be similar.

Well, we know that the US is not Japan, but a report last year from the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the percentage of young Americans aged 15-24 with no sexual experience had risen from 22% for both sexes in 2005 to 27% for men and 29% for women. That’s an extra five years of prime sexual time beyond the ages referenced in the Japanese study. The percentage of high school virgins was 53% for men and 58% for women, not so different from Japanese surveys. In fact, that percentage for girls with their innocence intact is higher than the percentage for Japanese girls in the study of Tokyo I cited above.

What would Conrad the Gweilo make of the book Furuichi Noritoshi published last year? Mr. Furuichi wanted to examine why people were so concerned about Japanese youth when a 2010 survey found that 65.9% of men and 75.2% of women in their 20s said they were “satisfied” with their current lives.

Perhaps if he could read it, he might tell us.

Afterwords:

Please use this link to Instapundit to access the HuffPo and Wall Street Journal articles. Links are only for the legit.

Next time for the geopolitical post for sure!

*****
To say that the Pakistan Coke Studio videos are excellent might be an understatement.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Posted in Foreigners in Japan, I couldn't make this up if I tried, Mass media, Popular culture, Sex, Social trends | Tagged: , | 16 Comments »

Bottom feeders

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, September 1, 2011

The dojo, you know
Doesn’t try to play goldfish

- Dojo, a poem by Aida Mitsuo

NODA Yoshihiko, the new prime minister of Japan, realizes that he’s not the type of man to excite an audience to the point of spontaneous combustion. That’s why he used the analogy from the poem above to present himself to the Japanese public. It was nicely done — most Japanese, including people who will never be Mr. Noda’s political allies, seem to have found it endearing. Some are familiar with the calligrapher/poet Aida Mitsuo, the author of the poem, who lived from 1924 to 1991. Everyone is familiar from childhood with the work of calligrapher/poets, especially anonymous ones, because their creations are a part of daily life. Schoolchildren make their own as part of their classroom work.

The poem

Mr. Noda says he’s always liked Aida’s poems, and people take him at his word. The Japanese will also find that endearing and view it as a positive. There are still plenty of people in this hip-hop world who nod in appreciation at Aida’s explanation of what he did: “I merely express the natural way people should be as humans and the true way to live. To accomplish that, I borrow the format of brush-and-ink calligraphy.”

In fact, there’s been a sharp increase in visitors to the Aida Mitsuo Museum in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward since Mr. Noda’s speech. There were 1,500 on 30 August, which is half again the usual number. The anthology in which the poem appears has been sold out in bookstores, and a new edition of 5,000 copies is being printed to meet the demand. The general theme of that anthology, Okagesan, is “Don’t compare yourself to other people”.

The politicians of his party like it too. Mr. Noda appointed Hirano Hirofumi, the chief cabinet secretary in Hatoyama Yukio’s government, to the important position of Diet Affairs Committee chairman for the party. Promised Mr. Hirano:

I will become the comfortable mud for the dojo.

That presented the fratboy spitballers of the Fourth Estate with a faux problem. Mr. Noda used a fish analogy that everyone in Japan immediately understood. Rather than a physically attractive and eyecatching kingyo, or goldfish, he likened himself to an ordinary dojo that lives near the mud.

But while every Japanese knows what a dojo is, few people in the West are familiar with what is sometimes called the Oriental Weatherloach, or, for the scientifically minded, Misgurnus anguillicaudatus .

So, after their Japanese go-fers at the Tokyo bureau provided them with the English translation, the foreign correspondents pulled a reference book down from the shelf, blew off the accumulated dust, and licked their fingers as they turned the pages. They discovered that:

It is omnivorous, eating a range of food including insect larvae, crustaceans, algae and detritus.

They found what they were looking for. The headline in The Australian the next day read:

New Japan PM Yoshihiko Noda says he is ‘bottom feeder’

It wasn’t just The Australian, either; when I Googled the phrase early yesterday evening in combination with Mr. Noda’s name, there were more than 700 hits.

No, he did not say he is a bottom feeder. He said he was a dojo. A bottom feeder in English has negative connotations that dojo does not have in Japanese. For Mr. Noda, it was an innocent, self-effacing remark to which his listeners responded favorably, if they had any reaction at all.

But the English-language media outside Japan employed Mr. Noda’s comment to make the man look like a dweeb. Of course they did it on purpose. That is what they do.

Journalists become so upset when they are attacked, it’s apparent they have no idea why they are so detested. One reason, of course, is that they are self-important airheads of unparalleled hebetude incapable of stringing together two sentences without revealing just how little they know. Another is that being a smirking, juvenile twat is no way to win friends or influence people — unless your social circle consists exclusively of smirking, juvenile twats.

Imagine that: Japan’s prime minister enjoys the work of a calligrapher/poet in a country with a culture that encourages such appreciation. Now imagine the sort of person who would see that as a prime target for mockery.

*****
Time magazine in the U.S. employs spitballers of a higher caliber, however. Instead of writers who attended red-brick colleges, they prefer graduates of universities where ivy covers the brick, or better yet, stone. Their headline for Mr. Noda’s selection was:

Another Slice of ‘Cold Pizza’? The Man Most Likely to Lead Japan

They were more clever about it by giving themselves plausible deniability. The line doesn’t come until halfway down the page, when they quote Yamamoto Yoshi quoting Westerners about former Prime Minister Obuchi Keizo, who died in office of a stroke.

Oh, they’ve been to the finest schools, all right, but the psychological deformity is the same. Obuchi was another dojo, which few Japanese thought was a handicap. People liked him, including his political opponents, as I suspect they will also like Mr. Noda. I remember watching a film clip of Obuchi talking outdoors to people in the Diet district he represented, and the reasons people liked him were obvious. He was friendly, warm, and genuine in a way that can’t be staged as a photo op.

But perhaps we’re being unfair to the journos. Being unfamiliar with friendly, warm, and genuine behavior, they’re unlikely to recognize it when they see it.

*****
The first article I posted on this website in 2007 was the About page on the masthead. I wrote then that Japan does not receive the baseline respect of other countries, and that people who write about it “seem to enjoy indulging themselves in a comic book vision of the country that depicts Nippon as the Goofball Kingdom of East Asia.”

See what I mean?

For contrast, consider the treatment of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She denied that the first Greek bailout would happen, she denied that the second Greek bailout would happen, and she denied that the Portuguese bailout would happen. They all happened. In fact, she said “we have a treaty under which there is no possibility to bail out states in difficulty”.

Do you remember anyone from the industrial mass media dismissing her in a straight news story with the likes of “bottom feeder” or “cold pizza”? Has anyone in the English-language media taken her to task — much less flicked spitballs at her — for being incompetent, muddle-headed, or wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong?

Please! She’s European, not Asian. Even better, she was born a member of today’s privileged and pedestalized gender. They’re never mocked by the media dinosaurs, unless they’re American women who believe in small government. (Or, in Hillary Clinton’s case, unless they’re running against someone from a subset on an even higher pedestal.)

*****
Isn’t all the commentary filled with brow-knitting concern about how Mr. Noda is Japan’s sixth prime minister in five years just so precious? (Or seventh, if you start counting with the outgoing Mr. Koizumi). There’s a bit of that in Japan, too.

But then I ran across an article yesterday in The Wall Street Journal, in which Daniel Henninger interviewed former American Vice-President Dick Cheney. Here’s an excerpt:

I asked Mr. Cheney why there isn’t a stronger tradition of firings or resignations in American government. He chuckled, noting that one of the chapters left out of the book was “People I have fired.”

“It’s an important issue in terms of trying to manage an administration,” he says. “My experience generally has been that it doesn’t happen often enough. That’s sort of a general statement of why government doesn’t work.”

So, Mr. Cheney thinks American government doesn’t work because there are too few resignations and firings, while others think the Japanese government doesn’t work because there are too many resignations and firings.

Yet if the American government were conducted under the Japanese version of the Westminster system, Bill Clinton would have been gone at the end of 1994, sparing the nation of six lost years, tales of cigars used as adult toys, and testimony of semen-stained dresses. George W. Bush would have been gone after Katrina, sparing the nation of the first pointless bailout and the beginning of the degradation of the currency. Barack Obama, the Sizzling Hot Pizza himself, with more self-regard than the average journalist with even less justification, might have failed to match Hatoyama Yukio’s nine months in office, sparing the nation of agony akin to having all one’s teeth pulled without anesthetic.

And some people think the Japanese have it all wrong.

*****
Finally, we come to The Economist. As befitting the elite status of the in-flight magazine for Davos man, the ink-stained wretches they employ as journalists rank in the highest percentile for vapidity, laziness, and self-importance in their profession. No other similar publication in the English-speaking world has contributors who bray so loudly so consistently and know so little about Japan. Consider this on the selection of Mr. Noda:

But there is at least one thing to be thankful for in today’s victory: Mr. Noda sidelined one of the main forces of paralysis in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), Ichiro Ozawa, who continues to head the largest faction within the party though he has been indicted in a money scandal and his party membership is suspended.

Mr. Ozawa backed Banri Kaieda, a trade minister who looked increasingly in danger of becoming a puppet for the backroom fixer. But though the first vote put Mr. Kaieda in front, thanks to the support of Mr. Ozawa’s cronies, it was not enough to win him an outright victory. In the run-off, Mr. Noda’s supporters joined forces with those of Seiji Maehara, another anti-Ozawa candidate who lost in the first round (and whom we had thought would be the front-runner, because of his support among the electorate at large). Mr. Noda won with 215 votes to Mr. Kaieda’s 177. It is the second time this year—the first was a no-confidence vote against Mr. Kan in June—that Mr. Ozawa has failed to impose his will on the party, though that is not to say that he will stop making mischief for the new leader.

Two paragraphs, two errors with a throw weight measured in the megatons. Mr. Ozawa did not try “to impose his will on the party” through the no-confidence vote. The opposition parties introduced the June no-confidence measure and might have done so in March had it not been for the earthquake. They were already discussing it at the end of February. It would have passed, too, with members of several Democratic Party factions voting for it — acting as antibodies against the human bacteria that is Kan Naoto. But Sengoku Yoshito and Edano Yukio, attorneys at law, put off the inevitable by devising a document that everyone except Kan Naoto thought was a commitment to a quick resignation. It took the rest of the summer, but Kan Naoto is solid gone, leaving behind the odor of sulfur and slime.

So: Viewed from a time frame of longer than a fortnight, how was this a failure for Ozawa Ichiro? If his allies had opposed the no-confidence measure from the start, we still might have Kan Naoto to kick around some more.

As for putting Mr. Ozawa out of business, Mr. Noda just appointed Ozawa ally Koshi’ishi Azuma to be the party secretary-general (head of the party in the organizational sense). In Japan’s version of the Westminster system, the secretary-general is essentially the Number Two man of the party. He controls all the money, runs the election campaigns, and conducts negotiations with the other parties. We’ve also seen that Mr. Noda appointed Hirano Hirofumi to be the party’s Diet Affairs chairman, which another important role. Mr. Hirano is a close associate of Hatoyama Yukio, who is also allied with Ozawa Ichiro.

In other words, reading The Economist on Japan wastes even more time than reading the Japan Times. The former is longer than the latter.

******
Speaking of Koshi’ishi Azuma, his presence and positions of authority within the party are the reasons the DPJ will never have the party unity that the journos keep wishin’ and hopin’ for.

Mr. Koshi’ishi is one of several DPJ legislators to have a Socialist Party background (from the days when their charter included favorable references to Karl Marx), and he once headed the Japan Teachers’ Union-affiliated Yamanashi teachers’ union. The JTU backs the DPJ in the same way that teachers’ unions everywhere back political parties of the left. In the past, they’ve been caught squeezing members to donate to Mr. Azuma’s political campaigns in Yamanashi. They even had teachers working the phone banks to bug voters at home. The teachers themselves admitted the money went into a dummy bank account for Mr. Koshi’ishi, who wound up with JPY 3 million.

The JTU once harassed a Hiroshima school principal to the point of suicide. They think competitive tests are bad for education and singing the national anthem is bad for any reason at all. Another favorite JTU technique is to mail razor blades to the people that displease them.

Mr. Koshi’ishi was a member of the JTU when Makieda Motofumi was chairman. Mr. Makieda is the author of チュチェの国朝鮮を訪ねて (Visiting Joseon, the Country of Juche), in which he praised the North Korean educational system. It contains this passage:

“There are no thieves in this country. Thievery occurs in those places where there is a prejudice toward wealth. There is no need for thievery in this country. Since there is no thievery and no murder, there are also no police. There are only public safety personnel standing at the corners and intersections to direct traffic and deal with any injuries.”

He’s also written:

“After my visit to North Korea, whenever I’m asked whom I think is the most respected person in the world, I immediately bring up the name of Chairman Kim Il-sung. That’s because I have met him personally. I believe that he is loved by the people of his country, and is worthy to be revered by them as a father….Kim Jong-il is the duplicate of his father, and he can be trusted without reservation.”

Makieda Motofumi received a medal from North Korea in 1991.

During the Aso administration, there was talk of Japanese participation in efforts to board North Korean ships suspected of transporting nuclear weapons material to the Middle East. Said Mr. Koshi’ishi at a press conference:

Rather than inspecting North Korean ships, we should inspect the Aso Cabinet.

Mr. Koshi’ishi frequently speaks of the relationship between politics and education:

There is no such thing as education without politics.

At a JTU meeting in Tokyo, he once said:

It is not possible to be politically neutral in education…We will change education through politics.

These statements come close to violating Japanese law, and are of course a de facto pledge to indoctrinate students. Mr. Koshi’ishi’s opposition to singing the Japanese national anthem in schools is perhaps because he favors the Internationale instead.

But in a book published in July 2009, 民主の敵-政権交代に大義あり (The Enemy of Democracy: There is righteousness in a change of government), Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko recalled his experience in primary school as the son of a man in the Self-Defense Forces:

It’s often said there are teachers who tell the children of members in the Self-Defense Forces that “Your father’s job is to kill people”. That atmosphere did in fact exist.

Mr. Noda has also insisted on a firm stance against North Korea and for the revision of the Constitution to allow Japan the use of the military for legitimate self-defense. Though he is the sort of man to whom Mr. Koshi’ishi’s comrades enjoy mailing razor blades, he asked Mr. Koshi’ishi to lead the party.

Mr. Noda is still talking about a grand coalition, but this appointment kills that deader than the proverbial doornail.

The boys and girls covering Japan for the English-language media will never tell you this. Instead they keep asking the pointless question of whether this or any prime minister will unify the DPJ in an equally pointless attempt to present themselves as serious people doing a serious job.

The Democratic Party of Japan will never be unified for the same reason a party whose membership included both Barack Obama and Sarah Palin would never be unified. Mr. Noda is trying, but I suspect he himself knows it’s a matter of buying a few more months of time.

You read it here first, but only because the credentialed media either doesn’t know, or can’t be bothered to tell you about it.

Afterwords:

Though Mr. Ozawa is an ally of Mr. Koshi’ishi, he most certainly does not share the latter’s beliefs. Explaining that relationship will have to wait for another day, however.

Sorry for the lack of hotlinks, but still having the software problem. It should be easy for people to find what they want to see, however. I recommend the Aida Mitsuo Museum site.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

The New York Times: As much currency as the Zimbabwe dollar

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, June 14, 2011

“Prime Minister Kan has been extremely busy during this unprecedented disaster. He’s screaming at people in the Kantei, he’s barging into Tokyo Electric and screaming at them, and he’s screaming when he comes back. The problem with the prime minister screaming without regard to time or place is that none of it brought about an improvement in the situation.”
- The 2 April issue of the weekly Shukan Gendai

THOSE still interested in smokestack-industry journalism might find it fun to go slumming at the New York Times website and read their article, Nuclear Crisis, Crippling Mistrust, about the Japanese government’s initial efforts to deal with the nuclear accident at Fukushima.

A more apt title would be Media Crisis, Crippling Mistrust. That the article contains a substantial amount of distortion, manipulation, and unintentional, spit-out-the-beverage humor will be no surprise — it’s a collaborative effort by two of the Times’ journalistic gimps, Norimitsu Onishi and Martin Fackler. The former is well-known for his hatchet jobs on Japan when he was that paper’s Tokyo correspondent, while the latter’s primary talent seems to be opening his mouth wide and saying Ahhh to receive DPJ government spoonfeedings.

But perhaps that assessment is too harsh. The pair had to work under a greater handicap than usual because the Kan administration, whose party promised greater access to the media when they were in the opposition, excluded overseas reporters as well as freelance and net journalists from the prime minister’s and chief cabinet secretary’s news conferences updating earthquake/tsunami information because “it was an emergency”.

So the Times did the next best thing and faked it by rewriting the government’s handouts.

The following is a comparison of what the Japanese government wanted the Times to tell those people it still thinks are American opinion leaders, and what the Japanese government doesn’t want them to know.

The Times Tale #1:

The Kan government essentially left the handling of the nuclear crisis in the crucial first three days to Tepco, focusing instead on relief efforts for the hundreds of thousands left homeless, Mr. Terada and other aides said.

What Everyone in Japan Knows #1:

When the earthquake occurred shortly after 2:00 p.m. on 11 March, Mr. Kan and his advisors immediately went to the government’s crisis center. That night, the prime minister himself conducted discussions about ways to deal with the nuclear crisis, drawing up scenarios on a whiteboard. The discussions lasted all night.

At about 5:00 a.m. on the following day, he skipped a meeting of a group organized to deal with the emergency and flew by Self-Defense Force helicopter to view the Fukushima reactors from the air. (The trip itself remains very controversial in Japan. Critics charge it delayed the start of measures to cool the reactors. Others claim the trip had no intrinsic value, and that the prime minister made it only because of his taste for performance politics.)

After he returned, the prime minister told aides:

“The nuclear problem can be handled under Kantei leadership.”

(NB: The term Kantei in Japanese is analogous to the terms White House, the Kremlin, or 10 Downing St. in English.)

At 1:00 p.m., still fewer than 24 hours after the quake, a deputy minister addressed a news conference and said the fuel rods at the Fukushima reactors might already have started to melt. The Kantei was already aware of this possibility. That night, the prime minister and Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano Yukio removed him from his job and reassigned him because he had “alarmed the people”.

At roughly 3:00 p.m. on 12 March, slightly more than 24 hours after the quake, Mr. Kan chaired a meeting of all party heads in the Diet and told them:

“I’ve seen it with my own eyes. The nuclear reactor is fine…Even at the worst, there will be no leakage of radiation.”

TT #2

“…(A) nationwide system of radiation detectors known as the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information, or Speedi. Mr. Terada and other advisers said they did not learn of the system’s existence until March 16, five days into the crisis.

“Mr. Kawauchi (Hiroshi, an MP from the prime minister’s party) said that when he asked officials at the Ministry of Education, which administers Speedi, why they did not make the information available to the prime minister in those first crucial days, they replied that the prime minister’s office had not asked them for it.”

WEIJK #2

The Nuclear Safety Technology Center (NSTC), which administers SPEEDI, sends out information in real time during an emergency over dedicated circuits to the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC), all the related agencies in the government, and all prefecture governments. Tokyo Electric informed the government of the power loss at Fukushima on 3:42 p.m. on 11 March, slightly more than one hour after the earthquake. The government immediately instructed the NSTC to operate in emergency mode, which it did at around 5:00 p.m. SPEEDI began sending data hourly, and the amount of data transmitted reached 6,500 pages by 20 April. The government had released only two pages of that data by the end of April. The NSC published the first page on 23 March, 12 days after the earthquake/tsunami, and the second page on 11 April.

An article in the 6 May edition of the weekly Shukan Post claims that Mr. Edano had to have known about the SPEEDI data from the start of the emergency, which means that Mr. Kan had to have known too. The Post interviewed the head of the bureau in the Education Ministry responsible for SPEEDI, who said,

“A senior official at the Kantei ordered that information from SPEEDI was not to be made public (on the 15th). The next day (the 16th) the responsibility for SPEEDI was transferred from the Ministry to the NSC.”

The Post also interviewed the head of the NSC, who denied the story, but the magazine didn’t believe him:

“All the local governments involved told us the (system began functioning immediately). In accordance with the system’s guidelines, maps (showing radiation dispersion) were transmitted to the Fukushima Prefecture government office from the start (of SPEEDI operation). The prefectural government did not issue warnings to municipalities and residents, however. Explained a member of the Fukushima Prefecture group established to deal with the accident, ‘NSC decided whether or not to release the information, and we were prevented from releasing it on our own’.”

Incidentally, the Times found the space for the quote above from Kawauchi Hiroshi, but missed his statement published in the 31 March edition of the weekly Shukan Shincho:

“The prime minister has further stressed political leadership and Kantei leadership, but I do not think that was functioning at all during this crisis.”

TT #3

“(O)n March 14, the gravity of the plant’s situation was revealed by a second explosion, this time at Reactor No. 3, and a startling request that night from Tepco’s president, Masataka Shimizu: that Tepco be allowed to withdraw its employees from the plant because it had become too dangerous to remain.

“When he heard this, Mr. Kan flew into a rage, said aides and advisers who were present. Abandoning the plant would mean losing control of the four stricken reactors; the next day, explosions occurred at the two remaining active reactors, No. 2 and No. 4. ‘This is not a joke,’ the prime minister yelled, according to the aides.

“They said Mr. Kan convened an emergency meeting early on March 15, asking advisers what more could be done to save the reactors. Then he gave Tepco barely two hours’ warning that he planned to visit the company.

“At 5:30 a.m., Mr. Kan marched into Tepco headquarters and stationed one of his most trusted aides, Goshi Hosono, there to keep tabs on the company.

“Mr. Kan gave a five-minute impromptu pep talk, said his aide, Mr. Terada.

“’Withdrawing from the plant is out of the question,’ Mr. Kan told them.”

WEIJK #3

That’s not all he told them in the ensuing 15 (not five) minutes. Mr. Kan ordered the press corps accompanying him out of the room. The prime minister grabbed a microphone and started shouting loud enough for the reporters standing outside in the hall to hear. He told Tokyo Electric officials, ‘Kakugo wo kimete kudasai’, (i.e., their workers should be prepared to die) and said that if they withdrew from the plant he would crush the company (100% 潰れる). He wound up staying for a three-hour conference, but he was still screaming when he returned to the Kantei.

Five-minute impromptu pep talk, eh?

The utility’s workers were exposed to radiation initially reported to be 2.5 times over the acceptable limit. On the 16th (the next day), however, the prime minister ordered Self-Defense Forces dropping water on the reactors from a helicopter to withdraw because of the risk of radiation exposure.

While recognizing there was a lot for which to hold TEPCO accountable, the Japanese media wondered why Prime Minister Kan issued a de facto order to the utility to send its employees into a situation that had the potential of resulting in their death from radiation exposure (which he mentioned himself), though he has no legal authority to tell a private sector company what to do. In contrast, he pulled back the SDF — public sector employees whose job involves receiving orders that might result in their deaths — because of dangerous radiation levels.

That Mr. Kan screams a lot is common knowledge in Japan. One DPJ member — again, a member of the same party — told the media that when the prime minister barged into Tokyo Electric headquarters and started yelling at them it was nichijosahanji. (A daily occurrence; literally, “daily rice and tea”)

“Everyone’s disgusted with him because he calls in officials off the top of his head and starts screaming at them. When an official with a better grasp of the situation tries to point out his errors, he yells, ‘I’m not listening to anything you say!’ When they resign themselves to just conveying the facts, he loses his temper and says, ‘Are you trying to make me decide?’ Everyone knows something serious is bound to happen unless there’s a change, but no one can stop him.”

The cover headline of the subsequent issue of the Bungei Shunju, Japan’s most prestigious monthly, read: Kan Bangs the Table and Yells / Senior Bureaucrat: “I don’t want to look at the prime minister’s face for even a second”

TT #4

“On March 12, about 28 hours after the tsunami struck, Tepco executives had ordered workers to start injecting seawater into Reactor No. 1. But 21 minutes later, they ordered the plant’s manager, Masao Yoshida, to suspend the operation. They were relying on an account by the Tepco liaison to the prime minister, who reported back that he seemed to be against it.

“‘Well, he said that was the atmosphere or the mood,’ Sakae Muto, Tepco’s executive vice president, explained at a news conference.

“Mr. Sassa (Atsuyuki), the former head of the Cabinet Security Affairs Office, said: ‘Mood? Is this a joke? Making decisions based on mood?’”

WEIJK #4

When the man with the ultimate authority is psychologically unsound and is emotionally out of control as a matter of nichijosahanji, sends people over whom he has no authority to their possible deaths, and threatens to destroy their company if he is not obeyed, of course the people who must deal with him make decisions based on his mood. They can’t afford to joke around. Here’s another report:

“When a member of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency explained a point to him, he retorted, ‘You haven’t been to the site and seen it (like I have), have you?’ He phoned a bureaucrat he had never met out of the blue and issued instructions. He concluded with, ‘It’ll be your fault if something happens’.” (That English cannot convey the faux tough guy roughness of the original Japanese: 何かあったらお前らのせいだぞ)

TT #5

“Mr. Aritomi said that even with Mr. Hosono stationed inside Tepco, the company still did not disclose crucial information until mid-May, including final confirmation that three of the plant’s four active reactors had melted down.”

WEIJK #5

Tokyo Electric told the prime minister at about 10:00 p.m. on the night of the earthquake that they expected a meltdown to occur. Their readings of iodine levels at the plant early the next morning confirmed their expectations. In any event, instead of telling other people in the Diet that he wasn’t sure, Mr. Kan was flatly denying that a meltdown had occurred into mid-May.

TT #6

“(T)he Japanese met an hour beforehand (on 20 March) to discuss developments and to work out what they were going to tell the Americans. Mr. Nagashima said the meeting brought together the various ministries and Tepco, with politicians setting the agenda, for the first time since the crisis began.”

WEIJK #6

Onishi and Fackler pulled that last sentence from their backsides; as we’ve seen, the politicians set the agenda from the day the crisis started. That was the problem.

Here’s one freelance journalist:

“The prime minister and his ‘political leadership’ are suspected to be the reason for the confusion of the blackouts, and the disrupted transport, business, schools, medical institutions, which were implemented on the spur of the moment with no input from ministries. He criticized Tokyo Electric for providing information late, but ignored his own inability to gather information.”

And another:

“Mr. Kan’s greatest mistake was that he was supposed to be the commander but acted like a squad leader on the ground. He established a headquarters within the offices of Tokyo Electric. This was just a performance designed to catch the attention of the mass media and promote himself among the people. Meanwhile, he treated the government’s emergency and disaster relief headquarters as a side job, giving it short shrift. That’s because there’s no glory and no media coverage in it.”

Here’s a headline in the Daily Yomiuri on 17 March:

“Distribution channels blocked; Government has done nothing for six days / No specific plans from disaster headquarters”

The problems extended to foreign affairs. The Taiwanese government got in touch with the Japanese government on the day of the earthquake to tell them they could dispatch an emergency rescue team to the area immediately. The prime minister made them — and the people in Tohoku stranded by the earthquake — wait for two days until after the Chinese rescue team arrived.

All of this goes without saying for the people who know Mr. Kan best. Sengoku Yoshito was the chief cabinet secretary in the first Kan cabinet, and returned as the deputy chief after it became apparent that Matsumoto Ryu, nominally the Minister for Disaster Measures, was incapable of doing his job. He reportedly told a close aide:

“Handling affairs from the earthquake to the recovery is beyond Kan’s ability.”

Here’s an example of what that means: The prime minister has been widely quoted in the Japanese media as telling people that he is an expert on nuclear energy. Meanwhile, the Nikkei Shimbun reported that he wanted a “second opinion” from people not associated with the bureaucracy or Tokyo Electric, so he called in outside experts for a discussion. One of the first questions he asked was, “What is this ‘criticality’?”

Loathe to criticize too harshly someone who shares their political beliefs, the New York Times couldn’t find the space for any of the above. They did find the space for this bagatelle, however:

“Critics and supporters alike said Mr. Kan’s decision to bypass this system, choosing instead to rely on a small circle of trusted advisers with little experience in handling a crisis of this scale, blocked him from grasping the severity of the disaster sooner.”

Who anywhere has the experience in handling the deaths of more than 20,000 people and more than 80,000 people still in shelters as the aftermath of the fourth-largest earthquake in recorded history, the largest recorded tsunami in an area where large tsunami occur roughly every 30 years, and the resultant meltdown of three nuclear reactors?

As for his alleged inability to grasp the severity of the disaster sooner, he understood a meltdown was likely on the day of the disaster and he started ordering evacuations the next day. He was thrashed by the media and the public when it was reported on one occasion soon after the disaster that he said northeast Japan might be rendered uninhabitable, and on another occasion that no one would be able to live there for 10 to 20 years.

Of the many criticisms of the Kan administration, one of the most frequent is that they never accept responsibility and always blame someone else. Either the New York Times fell for it (which means they need new correspondents in Tokyo) or are acting as accomplices.

One reporter assigned to cover the Democratic Party of Japan told the Shukan Shincho that Mr. Kan’s behavior in the first week after the earthquake/tsunami resembled that of Adolph Hitler in the final days of the Third Reich.

Speaking of the Third Reich, anyone who wants to read the Times article and see what an English-language article in the Völkischer Beobachter might have looked like in the heyday of that publication can use the search engine of their choice to find it. No links from me.

Links are for journos on the legit.

*****
Such dubious souls

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Posted in Government, I couldn't make this up if I tried, Mass media, Science and technology, Taiwan | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

They can see for miles

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, June 4, 2011

They are a bus without a destination sign.
- Tanaka Shusei, former director-general of the Economic Planning Agency, speaking at a forum in Nagoya last fall about the Kan Cabinet.

THE USUAL clique of overseas observers who understand Japanese issues better than the Japanese themselves has morphed into a gaggle of schoolmarms exasperated by the political turmoil of the past week, after the dastardly plot by caped mustachioed men to tie the maidenly Kan Naoto to the tracks for slicing and dicing by the Shinkansen was foiled in the nick of time. How much better it would be, they insist, to stop the childishness and allow Mr. Kan and his Cabinet to continue directing the Tohoku recovery, which they have heretofore conducted with such selfless efficiency and dispatch.

Typical was the comment of Michael Auslin writing at the National Review website. He is the director of Japan Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a Wall Street Journal columnist, and occasional television commentator. He made the obligatory reference to the short lifespan of Japanese prime ministers, with the obligatory glossing over of the Koizumi years. He also wrote:

“Japan’s politicians, busy stabbing each other in the back in the narrow alleyways of Japan’s neon-lit entertainment areas, are oblivious to the fact that they are driving their country off the cliff.”

Yes, it would be so much better if the Japanese modeled themselves after American politicians and stabbed each other in the back in spacious, klieg-lit television studios on programs in which the sharpness of the knives are in inverse proportion to the channel’s ratings.

It would be so much better if the political class of Nagata-cho were as self-aware as the American pols barreling down the royal road to peace and prosperity, generously forcing banks to provide home loans to people unable to afford the payments and penalizing the institutions that didn’t cooperate, thereby fueling the economic crisis of the century. It would be so much better if the Diet were to function like the American Congress, whose superior processes were used to pass — or to deem to have passed — the Obamacare legislation. It would be so much better if Japanese government debt were held by foreign interests, as the United States so magnanimously permits, instead of domestic interests.

How much more efficient the Americans are at encouraging national diversity with a strategy of leaky and lawless southern borders, resulting in Balkanization Español in California, Arizona, and Texas and providing the opportunity to criticize the Japanese for being chary of large-scale immigration. How much better that local government is on such a sound financial footing and is always working to improve the lives of its citizens.

And that dysfunctional Japanese political system with rotating papier-mâché prime ministers! How much better it was for the Americans to have benefited from the wise and steady leadership of Lyndon Johnson after the Tet offensive, Richard Nixon during his last year in office, Jimmy Carter during his last three years and six months in office, Bill Clinton after his historical 1994 repudiation or post-Lewinsky (take your pick), George W. Bush post-Katrina, and Barack Obama post-21 January 2009.

How much better instead would it be for Japan to have a system that would have allowed Hatoyama Yukio and Aso Taro to serve out their full terms of office.

These latter-day Mrs. Jellybys and the other fly-by telescopic political philanthropists don’t seem to have closely tracked events in Japan during the past year. Here’s a quick summary to remind them.

*****
In June 2009, Mr. Kan was elected president of the Democratic Party, whose Diet majority meant he became prime minister. He took office with 60% approval ratings, not because the public thought he was the man for the job — please — but because he was not Hatoyama Yukio, with approval ratings at 18% and falling, and because he shut out from a leadership role Ozawa Ichiro, whose negative ratings were north of 80% then and at 89% today.

Mr. Hatoyama stepped down to avoid a DPJ bloodbath in the July upper house election. It was a critical election for the party: Had they picked up a few more seats, they could have ruled without pesky and incompatible coalition partners. It seemed as if the leadership switch had worked, until Mr. Kan broke the party’s no new taxes pledge in their 2009 lower house election manifesto and waxed ineloquently about the need for a consumption tax hike. That managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by creating a quick about-face in voter sentiment in fewer than six weeks. The party lost seats instead.

For two years after the LDP’s defeat in the 2007 upper house election, the DPJ’s quotidian demand was a dissolution of the lower house and a general election because, they said, that vote was the most recent expression of popular will. The DPJ mislaid the pages of that script after the 2010 election.

In September, Mr. Kan was challenged for the DPJ presidency by Ozawa Ichiro, upset that the prime minister had reneged on the party no-new-tax pledge, leading to the electoral debacle, and that his many allies were deprived of a voice in government. Mr. Ozawa’s electoral skills and money management, after all, were instrumental in the party’s rise to power in 2009. The challenge failed, but the residual bad blood has placed the DPJ on the verge of disintegration, able to act with unity only when their existence and power are at stake.

Later that month came the epic failure of Mr. Kan’s government when it was incapable of upholding national sovereignty with their handling of the Chinese fishing boat captain who rammed Japanese Coast Guard vessels near the Senkaku islets. Credentialed overseas observers like to think the territory is at dispute, but forget that both China and Taiwan recognized it as Japanese territory until 1971, when the possibility of enormous seabed oil deposits was discovered.

Rather than accept responsibility for the disposition of the sea captain, the government insisted it was all the doing of the public prosecutors in Naha Okinawa, a claim disbelieved by three-quarters of the nation. The Chinese responded with in-your-face threats, starting with wildly fictional accounts of the incident and continuing with economic pressure by cutting off rare earth exports and thug state pressure by arresting on espionage charges Japanese nationals helping the Chinese deal with their dismal ecological problems.

The cowed Kan government locked up a video of the incident verifying that the Chinese were at fault so as not to anger the Chinese government or to stir up the backwards nationalist sentiments of the non-progressive Japanese public. It didn’t work; anger was the diplomatic policy of the Chinese government regardless of the Japanese response, while the Japanese public accused him of betraying the nation. The video was released anyway on YouTube by an upset Coast Guard officer.

Demonstrating his diplomatic skills, Prime Minister Kan went all the way to Brussels to tug on the sleeve of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in a hallway and get him to sit on a chair and chat for 25 minutes, pretending they met by accident. He also held consultations with President Hu Jintao at the APEC meeting in Yokohama that fall by reading from memos prepared by the Foreign Ministry.

Encouraged by the Kan Doctrine in foreign policy, Russian President Medvedev visited the occupied Northern Territories in November, which the Soviets seized in 1945 after Japan’s surrender. Mr. Kan was livid. Mr. Medvedev told him to bugger off.

The key person of the first Kan Cabinet was Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku Yoshito, widely assumed to have been the man actually running the government because the task is beyond Kan Naoto’s skill set. (Those hangovers can be a bitch until the fog clears around noon.) But Mr. Sengoku had so alienated everyone in government with bullying behavior, lies, evasions, insults, and gangsterish threats that he was censured by the upper house and forced to resign in six months. (An opposition MP also revealed that Mr. Sengoku told him the Japanese had been in vassalage to the Chinese for some time.)

The ruling Democratic Party’s thrashing in local elections nationwide started in February this year with the balloting for the Ibaraki prefectural assembly and continued through two more rounds in April. An estimated half of all local DPJ candidates left their party affiliation off their campaign posters lest it encourage the voters to choose Anyone But Them.

During Question Time in the Diet with the other party heads that month, Mr. Kan’s blink rate was measured at more than 100 times a minute, leading one psychologist to wonder if he was suffering from panic syndrome. His rate of support fell to Hatoyama levels, New Komeito party chief Yamaguchi Natsuo warned that the Cabinet was in “a perpetual state of collapse”, and talk of a no-confidence motion began.

The government’s response to the earthquake/tsunami of 11 March has most closely resembled that of headless zombie chickens with a taste for duplicity. They’ve been lying and concealing information about the Fukushima nuclear accident. (They really don’t trust the people they’re supposed to represent, do they?) To be fair, one reason they can’t get their stories straight is that they themselves don’t know which story is straight to begin with.

The Kan Cabinet formed 20 separate government bodies to deal with the recovery, creating a situation in which the centipede’s left legs don’t know what its right legs are doing. Nevertheless, neither the Cabinet nor the 20 appendages have formulated a basic law of reconstruction for the Diet, much less submitted one, even though the opposition pledged national unity and were resigned to putting up with the prime minister for another two years.

The Kan Cabinet had passed no legislation for the recovery within the first 40 days of the event, whereas the Murayama government had passed 16 recovery-related bills in that same time after the Hyogo earthquake. The Cabinet pulled back one recovery funding measure from the Diet just before introducing it last month because DPJ party leaders had yet to give their approval.

Less than two weeks ago, Kan Naoto gave a speech at the G8 summit and pledged to commit the country to a breathtakingly expensive program of promoting solar energy use. He inserted the proposal in his speech at the last minute without telling anyone in his Cabinet. Some wonder if he cooked up the scheme over a two hour-plus lunch with Son Masayoshi, the third-wealthiest businessman in Japan. A former supporter of nuclear energy, Mr. Son has donated an enormous amount of money for disaster relief, but is also positioning himself with local governments throughout the country to promote the construction of solar power plants. (The DPJ understands crony capitalism as well as the LDP and the Americans.) They intend to build the plants on unused farmland, which might not be unused had Mr. Kan’s Democratic Party not ditched the previous LDP government’s initiatives for promoting agribusiness to institute a legal vote-buying scheme of cash subsidies to individual farm families.

Even without the earthquake, the Kan Cabinet would have submitted a record-high budget with record-high debt for the upcoming fiscal year. It would have broken the records of the previous year’s budget passed under the Hatoyama administration when Kan Naoto was Finance Minister.

Kan Naoto is widely viewed in Japan as a hysterical hothead whose primary talents are self-aggrandizement and the evasion of responsibility. He is seen as more interested in perpetuating the life of his administration and putting his name in capital letters than working for the nation’s best interests.

*****
George Orwell put pacifism in its place during the Second World War when he wrote that it was objectively pro-Fascist and derived from intellectual cowardice.

By their criticism of the no confidence motion, the Jellybys have demonstrated they are objectively pro-Kan, support his behavior in office over the past year, and think he’s just the man to handle the coming challenges. Rather than intellectual cowardice, however, I suspect their position is derived from intellectual laziness.

All politicians seek personal and party advantage, but it should be apparent to the casual observer who examines the record that the politicos behind the no-confidence motion believed they were part of the solution rather than part of the problem, and were acting to prevent the nation from being driven off the cliff that so frightens the overseas critics.

It should also be apparent to the casual observer that Die Drei Weisen of media, academia, and thinktankia prefer spitballing to real research and comparisons with their own environment. Anyone who says that Japanese politicians are oblivious to the problems facing their country are oblivious to the world of Japanese politics.

*****
This one’s for all the telescopic political philanthropists. Be careful not to choke on it too.

Add to: Facebook | Digg | Del.icio.us | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati | Yahoo Buzz | Newsvine

Posted in Government, Mass media, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Political manga for the left

Posted by ampontan on Friday, May 27, 2011

READER Get a Job Son and I have been discussing an op-ed that appeared in the Japan Times this week by Michael Hoffman. The author read a dialogue between two prominent social conservatives which appeared in a weekly magazine and became concerned the Tohoku earthquake/tsunami might cause the Japanese equivalent of swastikas to come shooting out of the national orifices like shuriken. It’s titled, Extreme nationalism may emerge from the rubble of the quake.

I didn’t read the original dialogue, but the only extremism I saw in the rubble of the Japan Times article was an extreme lack of a basis for the author’s frisson of delicious fear. People have been warning about extreme nationalism emerging in Japan since 16 August 1945, but it never does — nor will it this time.

Hoffman is worried about two things in particular. First is the suggestion by the two participants that the Japanese people might look to the Tenno (emperor) for moral support during a national crisis. Were they to do so, it wouldn’t be unusual in the least; that’s what the Meiji Restoration was all about. He doesn’t explain why this would be a problem, but instead gets in a lather because some Japanese see themselves as unique. That’s a trait shared by most of the rest of the world’s nations — does Hoffman ever read the American or British or Russian or Chinese or Korean (South and North both) press? — but he doesn’t explain why that’s a problem either.

Second is his observation that the Saudis have been so impressed by Japanese post-quake behavior that a Japan boom is underway in Saudi Arabia. Perhaps there is. And?

Extreme nationalism, whether one uses the concept as understood by normal people or the one that exists in the imagination of Michael Hoffman and the rest of the staff at the Japan Times, is as likely to emerge in Japan as the music of the spheres will be audible at a Kan Naoto news conference. Pretending that it might, however, is a favorite form of masturbatory mentalism for the Adullamites with a passing interest in Japan.

Those who have a taste for political manga by and for the left know how to find this particular cartoon panel if they want to see it.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Posted in I couldn't make this up if I tried, Mass media, Social trends | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 118 other followers