AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Mr. Honda goes to Tokyo

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, January 24, 2008

HERE’S A STORY that flew under everyone’s radar—in the English-language media, anyway. That wasn’t the case in Japan, where it’s all over the Web.

American congressman Mike Honda—perhaps Japan’s least favorite son after he pushed the comfort woman resolution through the U.S. House last year—jetted into Japan earlier this month. Did he come to see the Tokyo Tower, the temples in Kyoto, or the first sumo tournament?

eda.jpg

He might have done all that, but he didn’t release his schedule to the media while he was here. The one stop that did become public knowledge, however, caused more than a few eyebrows to rise. Mr. Honda paid a courtesy call on Eda Satsuki (photo) of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, a former socialist who was elected last year as the president (presiding officer) of the Diet’s upper house.

The weekly magazine Shukan Shincho reports the two men met at about 5:30 p.m. on the evening of 8 January. Also present were two other upper house members from the DPJ and two from the Communist Party of Japan.

The magazine quotes a participant as saying the two chatted pleasantly in English for roughly 15 minutes (Mr. Eda has a law degree from Oxford) about the comfort woman issue and Japan’s death penalty, with no sign of acrimony. Mr. Eda also explained some of the artwork in the room.

Why would the two meet? The magazine offers the comment of an unnamed reporter who points out that the DPJ has submitted a “Bill Promoting the Resolution of the Comfort Woman Problem” to the Diet seven times since 2007. The legislation would provide for a formal apology and compensation from the government. The bill has had six sponsors, one of whom is Mr. Eda.

The upper house president also attended a gathering last March at which one of the comfort women was present. (That might have been Lee Yong-soo, who admitted to the House in her testimony last year that she went with a comfort woman recruiter voluntarily, but who told the Japanese while on a speaking tour here that the Imperial Army abducted her from her home at gunpoint.)

Mr. Eda’s office explained that some Diet members and people associated with NGOs asked the upper house president at yearend to take the time to meet with the American lawmaker. The upper house president himself offered the bland platitude that he agreed to see Mr. Honda because he thinks it is important to hear a wide range of opinions on different issues.

The journalistic style of most Japanese weekly magazines is in-your-face sensationalism, and they often have trouble with the truth. That wasn’t the case this time, however; Kamimoto Mieko, one of the DPJ parliamentarians present, posted two photographs of the meeting at her website, which you can see here. (The second and third links from the top, for non-Japanese readers.)

Considering the approach of the weekly newsmag medium and Shukan Shincho’s tilt to the political right, it was no surprise to see the publication indulge in some lurid speculation. They think Mr. Honda is in the pocket of the Chinese and quote a Washington correspondent speculating that he came to Japan to dig up some more dirt on the Nanjing Massacre and Unit 731, the notorious biological warfare research team. Naturally, said the reporter, meeting an influential Japanese politician would be good PR.

The article concluded by expressing the wish that Mr. Eda had taken the opportunity to raise some objections with Mr. Honda about his behavior, rather than having a pleasant chat.

The strident, second-rate prose notwithstanding, Shukan Shincho does make a valid point. The perquisites of Mr. Eda’s job as upper house president include an official residence, a salary 1.7 times that of an ordinary upper house member, and the probable receipt on retirement of a medal in the grand cordon rank.

A man in such an important and visible position might have been more discreet about meeting someone as controversial in Japan as Mike Honda, even if they are ideological soulmates. A private conversation with no cameras allowed would have been easy to arrange.

On the other hand, if Mr. Eda is such a strong proponent of compensation for the comfort women, why shouldn’t he display the courage of his convictions and discuss his views more openly? Indeed, why not appear before the cameras in Japan with Mr. Honda to make his case to the Japanese public? If the issue means that much to him—and evidently it does—he should be willing to take the political and electoral heat for his beliefs.

The last thing he should do is pretend it’s no big deal—when it so obviously is.

20 Responses to “Mr. Honda goes to Tokyo”

  1. Ken said

    Mr. Eda seemed to have reflected, “It might be my careless mistake if meeting with him is that sensitive.”, or so.
    I wonder why Mike Honda did not meet with Mr. Kohno, the president of the Diet’s lower house, who apologized about this matter without conferming that the story had been fabricated by Asahi newspaper.
    The lower house in Japan has dicisive priority so that it ought to have been favorable for him to appeal to Chinese sponsers.
    Last year’s resolution surely made crack on the relation between the US and Japan along China’s aim.
    Patriots in Japan seems gaining with laghing at Western banks difficulty by sub-prime loan, etc these days.
    Anyway, Mike Honda does not look a Japanese.

  2. Bender said

    I don’t see what’s to be laughed about with Japanese stocks falling even more than US stocks. It’s not simply about American banks losing money.

  3. Overthinker said

    Don’t you mean Shukan Shincho (週刊新潮)?

  4. ampontan said

    Thank you Overthinker. I’m not an Ampontan for nothing!

  5. Aceface said

    Well,I’m pretty skeptic about this China behind Honda conspiracy.
    He is just doing what he thinks he can unite progressive Californian Asian American community,which are mostly now Chinese and Korean desendent.

    But you’re right Ken,he certainly doesn’t dress like Japanese of that age.
    http://images.google.co.jp/imgres?imgurl=http://peacecorpsonline.org/messages/imagefolder/mikehonda.jpg&imgrefurl=http://peacecorpsonline.org/messages/messages/467/2030015.html&h=400&w=550&sz=46&hl=ja&start=13&tbnid=HcQtTEnuC9ZzsM:&tbnh=97&tbnw=133&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dmike%2Bhonda%26gbv%3D2%26svnum%3D10%26hl%3Dja%26sa%3DG

  6. MTC said

    Ampontan –

    A fair and balanced post.

    I think the matter was kept low-key for security reasons–the police probably appreciated not having to put up guardrails and security checkpoints around the meeting site. Right wing low-lifes have been carrying out acts of dubious patriotic value of late. There was realy no reason to give them a pretext and a location for an extreme action.

    Of course, keeping the meeting quiet can backfire–because one can claim, as the right wing press has, that something nefarious must be going on.

    As to the photography question, my guess is the last event in Japan not recorded either on film or with a digital visual recording device took place in 1998. The era of “No Cameras Please” is over.

  7. Dee said

    He is just doing what he thinks he can unite progressive Californian Asian American community,which are mostly now Chinese and Korean desendent.

    I agree with you Aceface.

    Honda’s pandering to his Democratic electoral base in California by playing the victim card. I doubt there’s much in the way of Chinese influence behind his actions.

    Short-sighted, pandering politicians are a dime a dozen here in the US.

  8. Aceface said

    ”On the other hand, if Mr. Eda is such a strong proponent of compensation for the comfort women, why shouldn’t he display the courage of his convictions and discuss his views more openly?”

    I think he did.From Eda’s blog.
    http://www.eda-jp.com/katudo/2005/8/12.html

    Partially,because Eda is now the president of the upper house and supposed to be remain politically neutral.He is currently not a member of DPJ too,you know.

    From wikipedia 参議院議長
    設立当初の参議院は政党に所属しない議員が多く、議長がリーダーシップを発揮することも多かったが、参議院の政党化傾向に伴い議事運営の主導権が政党に移っていった。同時期に正副議長は院内会派を離脱し無所属となる慣例が成立した。

    BTW,Eda is not a “former socialist”,he was the member and the president of Socialist Democratic Federation(Syaminren社民連) founded by Eda’s father Saburo and his allies who had left SPJ in 1979.

  9. Aceface said

    1978,not 1979.

  10. Bruce Smith said

    Umm well it seems Mike is American not Japanese but considering he and his family were interred in the US during WWII I would have imagined he would be more anti-American than anti-Japanese. But who can honestly say how such experiences would shape your beliefs ?

  11. ampontan said

    Aceface: Click on the link to his website in the post and you will see:

    “President, Socialist Citizens’League” in 1977

    I deliberately put socialist in lower case rather than upper case. Capital S means the political party. Small s means political beliefs. If he was the president of the “Socialist Citizens’ League”, that sounds like he was a former socialist to me, talking of his political beliefs. He might still be, but I don’t know that.

    I know he is supposed to be politically neutral. Didn’t stop him from meeting with a controversial figure whose stand he supports, did it?

  12. bender said

    Of course he doesn’t dress like the Japanese- he’s Californian. But I’d say he dresses more like Hawaiian.

  13. Aceface said

    I think Eda is as much a socialist as Tony Blair.

    Honda’s house resolution was controversial.But he is an American Congressman,afterall.And Japan and the U.S are allies.Besides why does Eda have to hide from Honda?

    Bender.
    Hawaiian? In purple shirt and suspender?
    Well,I can only think the member of Yakuza would dress like that here.

  14. Ken said

    Don’t you know his wirepullers?
    Around 40% of his Chinese sponsors are out of California, which is exceptionally higher than about 10% of other senators.
    The contents are Chinese Assoc to remember War-to-Japan history, Council for Guangdong Rep of Chinese National Assembly, A Chinese of Brutality-during-WW2-in-Asia Remembrance Group, Chinese Holocaust Musium in the US, etc.
    Moreover, the ratio of contribution from Koreans who must be more interested is about 5% of that from the Chinese.

  15. Aceface said

    I wouldn’t surprise for two reasons.
    a)There isn’t enough Chinese Americans in Honda’s electoral district who want to focus predominantly on WW2 issues.Eventually all the Chinese groups of various stripes gathered under the banner of Mike Honda of California.

    b)His involvement on Comfort women is rather late compare to Nanjing massacre.Koreans had Lane Evans instead.

  16. Jon said

    If some polictician from another country pushed some resolution condemning something the United States did many years ago and demanding an apology, people in the U.S. would be pretty annoyed as well.

    If that politician then came to the U.S., he would not be very welcome.

  17. Ken said

    Aceface,

    My grammar was wrong.
    40% of his Chinese subscription is from outside California.

    By the way, he seems able to speak Vietnamese not Japanese.

  18. Dee said

    If some polictician from another country pushed some resolution condemning something the United States did many years ago and demanding an apology, people in the U.S. would be pretty annoyed as well.

    If that politician then came to the U.S., he would not be very welcome

    This happens so often that most Americans aren’t concerned about it.

    “The Great Satan” has very thick skin. 🙂

  19. Aceface said

    “If some polictician from another country pushed some resolution condemning something the United States did many years ago and demanding an apology, people in the U.S. would be pretty annoyed as well.”

    What many in here are annoyed with Honda is not because he is condemning the Japanese war crimes,but ignored and effectively ruined our series of apoligies and method to compensate the victims.

    Japanese PMs has been repeating apology ever since PM Miyazawa in early 90’s. Special fund was established to help the lives of former comfort women.And these facts had been distorted by Honda and his surrounding.

    I think the outrage would be A LOT smaller if Honda was pursuing apology for the Nanjing victims,since as my living memory serves I recall no apology from Japanese government specifically targeted on Nanjing massacre.

  20. […] Congressman Honda has gone to Tokyo to demand compensation.  So when is he is going to go to China and demand compensation from them […]

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