Japan from the inside out

Peace and love

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, October 20, 2009

IT WOULD BE EASY to understand if people outside Japan were to swallow the media-created image of the country as being populated by dorky otaku, airhead gyaru enthralled by designer brands and octopus tentacles, sexless married couples, whale-murdering xenophobes, and loners so socially inept they have to rent friends. What else are they given a chance to see? Even some self-isolated foreigners living in the country carrying their excess baggage of preconceived notions fall for it.

But there’s more to Japan than meets the media eye. As old American television program had it, “There are a million stories in The Naked City. This is one of them.”

Here’s one of the 127 million stories in Japan, translated from the 1 October issue of the weekly Shukan Bunshun.

The new Democratic Party candidate Kushibuchi Mari (41) defeated Liberal Democratic Party incumbent Ito Kosuke in Tokyo’s District 23 in the recent election. A former official of the NGO Peace Boat, Kushibuchi was all smiles when she and her husband were photographed in front the Diet building on her first visit. Her husband seems to be receiving more attention than she is, however.

Li Song

Li Song

Her husband is Li Song, one of the directors of the Japanese branch of the Federation for a Democratic China, an activist group working for Chinese democracy. According to a Chinese journalist, “He is quite well known among the democracy activists in Japan. At the torch relay ceremony last year in Nagano (for the Beijing Olympics), he was involved in activities related to the Tibet issue.”

Born in Harbin in 1967, Li came to Japan in 1989 after the Tiananmen massacre. A Chinese activist describes how he met Kushibuchi: “The two of them met in 1994 while working on Peace Boat activities. Li also worked with Peace Boat the next year on relief efforts after the Hanshin Earthquake. When Tsujimoto Kiyomi ran for office the first time as a Social Democratic Party candidate in 1996, Kushibuchi managed her election office and Li drove her campaign car.”

Li earned a reputation as an extremist during a June 1997 demonstration eight years after Tiananmen. The activist explains:

“When Wu’er Kai-shi, a student leader during the Tiananmen demonstrations, visited Japan, he was refused entry to the Chinese embassy at Motoazabu. Li was following Wu’er as his driver. He got upset and crashed the car into the barrier at the checkpoint set up by the Japanese police.”

Li was arrested for obstructing police officers in their official duties. Newspapers at the time ran photos of the car and its windshield, which the police had smashed with their riot sticks. This directly led to his marriage with Kushibuchi.

“After Li’s arrest, it was found that he had overstayed his visa. For some reason he had not applied for a special activities visa. To prevent his deportation to China, Ms. Kushibuchi came forward and said she was his fiancé.”

He was provisionally released from custody, and the two were later married.

Li instantly become a hero to some for his bold action, but not all of his compatriots were pleased. Said one, “We’ve been working peacefully for democratization, but that one incident tarred us as a violent organization. After that, the police shadowed us whenever we had a meeting.”

Kushibuchi Mari

Kushibuchi Mari

Before this month’s 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese embassy’s public safety division was concerned that “the anti-government activist who is the husband of a new Diet member might stage a political disruption when Prime Minister Hatoyama was visiting from Japan.”

This reporter tried to contact Li by telephone to ask him about it, but he replied, “I am not accepting any interview requests. If you want to know about the Diet member, ask the person herself.”

Ms. Kushibuchi’s office replied, “We consider the activities of Li Song and the political activities of Kushibuchi to be separate. We will not respond to a request for an interview.”

We hope this does not become a headache for the Hatoyama Administration when a new feeling of friendship is emerging between Japan and China.


I translated this article for the reasons I stated above.

But as a personal opinion, I hold no truck for either of these two. Working for the democratization of China and earthquake relief is indeed commendable. One has to wonder, though, about Li Song, a political refugee who couldn’t be bothered to get his visa straight after eight years in the country, and who thought he was going to accomplish something by pointlessly ramming a car into a police roadblock at a foreign embassy in that country. All he accomplished was discrediting his organization in the eyes of the authorities.

As for Ms. Kushibuchi, all she’s ever done in her adult life is work for Peace Boat. That organization was founded by Tsujimoto Kiyomi with the help of her Significant Other, a Japanese Red Army member expelled from Sweden for terrorist activities, and a man later identified as a KGB agent. They admired the peaceful Yasser Arafat so much they sailed to visit him several times. As for Ms. Tsujimoto, now part of the new Government, she inadvertently told a reporter her aim was to destroy the Japanese state.

It is not unreasonable to assume that Ms. Kushibuchi chose to run as a DPJ member because she realized she would be unlikely to win as an SDPJ member. So few of them do, after all. It is also not unreasonable to assume that she shares some, if not most, of Ms. Tsujimoto’s political philosophy.

Nor does it speak well to her view of openness as a servant of the people in a democracy by stiffing a request from a reporter to ask reasonable questions about her husband. That’s a basic requirement for people in political life.

Then again, there are probably many things she’d rather not talk about publicly.

11 Responses to “Peace and love”

  1. bender said

    I think Japan is a democracy, although the politicians and bureaucrats may be corrupt, but hey, so are they in the U.S.:

    …and I don’t even bother to do a research on European politics ’cause it’s hard to break the assumption.

    Anyways, one thing that’s kind of peculiar to Japanese politics- or diplomacy may be the right word- is that they don’t bother to export democratic ideals. So it’s perfectly OK for Japan to be friends with almost any regime. It’s almost a non-issue.

  2. Mac said

    In 2005 the Chinese consulate-general in Sydney defected to the Australian government and put in a formal claim for political asylum.

    He said that a network of 1,000+ Chinese government spies were operating in Australia – and leading the Australian branch of the FDC – commenting that such claims would “lead to an atmosphere of distrust and even antagonism towards the Chinese community”.

    As someone who has seen at first hand the speed, efficiency and order of massed patriotic rallies organized by Chinese Embassies and policed by their own security in Europe, what protection – or even awareness – does Japan have towards such potential “fifth columns” within its midst?

    In fairness to China, and from Chinese friends, it did seem that these networks were more targeted at monitoring and influencing the Chinese communities within foreign nations (dissidency and crimelinks) rather than to overthrow any other state. An extension of the party into states within other states.

    As regards the Tsujimoto quote about, “her aim was to destroy the Japanese state” … how was “state” defined, for whom, which part and to be replaced with what? Are they planning to handing over power and be subsumed by Chinese state capitalism? … is it just a psychological need to be punished?

    As an outsider, there seems to be a lot of naivety and backturning going on and a proportion of Japanese that wanted to erase/are embarrassed/fear “Japaneseness”. As if Showa Japan still existed and need to be “destroyed” still. I have no idea what their alternative is or who they want to be instead. I am thinking of some elements of the Article 9-ers.

  3. Mac said

    Just thinking for a moment … and this relates to the above … it might be that instead of accepting or promoting the “Japan” meme and falling into line with the general nationalist make up of the world today in which “we are the nation”, it does seem that there is a “we are peace” lobby or movement.

    The nationalist meme (which I define as the thought of being “I am Japanese”) is replaced with the thought of “I am a Peace Person” wanting to live in a Utopian one world state of “peace”. And along with that self-identity comes a baggage of other preformed ideas and fashions. I find it somewhere between naive, insipid and desperate at times.

    This following is an open question to others, what is the history of this “Peace” movement … does it go back to a meme the Americans planted during the occupation/re-education period as a ‘disabler’ of Japanese ascendency within NE Asia … deliberately confusing the nation’s ability to ascend vigorously with the concept of aggression and nationalism? There seems to be dissonance between the “Japan” element and the “Peace” element.

    Given that international politics and economy does seem to be ruled by Darwinism (survival of the fittest carnivore), and that America’s intentions within the Pacific region was dominance and colonial control, this does seem to be a memetic handicap placed within modern Japan to split it rather than a genuine global Utopian movement.

    Personally, I find it hard to believe there are people still seriously working to bring about a Marxist revolution and no one could be dumb enough to want to ‘surrender to Bejing’, even if there is a communist party etc in Japan. But I could believe that it would be in “2 Korea, Inc” interest to work against “Japan, Inc” and screw with it … alongside sucking out as much cash as possible to fun their own homeland regimes.

  4. ampontan said

    The nationalist meme (which I define as the thought of being “I am Japanese”) is replaced with the thought of “I am a Peace Person” wanting to live in a Utopian one world state of “peace”. And along with that self-identity comes a baggage of other preformed ideas and fashions. I find it somewhere between naive, insipid and desperate at times.

    “‘All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling,’ wrote Oscar Wilde, and I would like to suggest that the same can be said for bad politics . … It seems to me that the politics of liberal reform, in recent years, shows many of the same characteristics as amateur poetry. It has been more concerned with the kind of symbolic action that gratifies the passions of the reformer rather than with the efficacy of the reforms themselves. Indeed, the outstanding characteristic of what we call ‘the New Politics’ is precisely its insistence on the overwhelming importance of revealing, in the public realm, one’s intense feelings — we must ‘care,’ we must ‘be concerned,’ we must be ‘committed.’ Unsurprisingly, this goes along with an immense indifference to consequences, to positive results or the lack thereof.”

    – Irving Kristol

    Modern day Marxism is largely a pose, and a lot of modern-day leftism is largely to call attention to how wonderful one is.

    Their support for certain Muslims, who have 7th century attitudes toward gays and women, and who would kill their fatuous asses if given half a chance, gives the game away.

  5. bender said

    Well, pride in Japan’s militaristic past is pretty much suppressed in schools. Boys learn about Mitsubishi Zeros and Battleship Yamato outside of schools.

  6. Mac said

    I am not pulling up you but isn’t that yet another typical simplification of Japan? “Japan=militaristic+past”.

    Weren’t there a lot of other far less sexy things going on, like the consideration and rejection of the Anglo-American self-interested laissez faire economics over the nation centered German (not Bolshevik) School. I think this is why I keep rejecting a vision of Japan from the ‘America versus Soviet Communism’.

    To imagine one can “destroy the state” is about as daft as believing that they are likely too. They must mean something more specific. People grow up. Even in politics.

    I cannot accept simplistic equations as “all lefties support some Muslims accept all Muslim beliefs and activities” either. Just as with “Japan”, life is more complex. I don’t believe it. There is middle ground … e.g. look at the aims and influence of the Christian socialists on the democratic movements of the West and Japan.

    ‘Nature’ magazine recently published studies showing that egalitarianism begins to appear in most kids between ages 3 and 8. Age 3, 9 percent were willing to share; by age 8, that number rose to 45 percent. Another study, also in Nature, of young adults showed that individuals in groups are will to give/spend money to promote egalitarianism amongst members. How and when is it beaten out?

    Values such as democracy, egalitarianism and non-violence are separate from political economic systems. I have always thought elected politicians have very little real influence on them, and they and their parties were just what the power brokers wanted us to fixation on missing the real action.

  7. bender said

    Mac, I believe there are also studies of children when given abusive powers over other children, they enforce them with glee. I remember it was actually kids who were outright racists (I grew up in a multi-racial society), and when I came back to Japan, bullying was (and still is) a serious problem.

  8. Mac said

    Oh, yes, you make a good point … these were NOT studies of Japanese kids. We should really discuss the bullying issue.

    I’d love to see similar studies of Japanese kids and I am very concerned about patterns of bullying that seem to be ingrained … even by teachers … a school age.

    In general, I do not understand how kids can be “born racists”. Racism cannot be “genetic” in its roots. Truthfully, racism/nationalism is a quite modern construct, so it must be taught and learnt at some point. Bullying, cruelty … the exploitation of weak by more powerful, even group dynamics (insider/outsider mentality, outcasting) … I don’t know. Perhaps there could genetic pre-dispositions to those, it has been going on for so long. All cheetahs have spots etc … I’d love to know its roots in Japanese society today.

    It is a question of ‘meme versus gene’.

    Going back to Gavin Blair incident (was it) and the articles mocking Japanese for having ‘Fake Relatives’ agencies in order to address such exact matters as social stigmas and the likely bullying it will bring … I was thinking we ought to start a “Scary Gaijin Agency”, renting out rugged 6 footers to go to Japanese PTA meetings and put the bullies and their parents in their place.

    No violence necessary, of course. Just a little, blue-eyed or black-skinned glaring intimidation, and breaking of social taboos. Every good Japanese family need a Handy Pet Gaijin for lifting boxes to high places and protecting their kids at sport days.

    Sadly, I don’t think love, peace and understanding always works … to let’s extrapolate that argument to include Article 9-ers the SDF.

  9. Bender said

    I encountered racism in the U.S., and bullying in Japan. Kids can be cruel, and empathy might not be inherited but learned. Racism is “modern” in a sense that people of different races didn’t interact as they do now…that’s why there are “races” in the first place. People were much isolated. Possible exception being Central Asia.

  10. Ken said

    Even Wall Street Journal is beginning to worry about US-Japan alliance.

    I think it would be better to let DPJ do as they like. And then, what will happen?
    I it a gifted opportunity to make the people of peace stupor know the severe reality.
    Besides, we may be able to measure the range of seriousness of US for protecting Japan.

  11. Bender said

    Don’t blame Japan for drifting away. America is definitely focusing more on China, which is understandable, and Japan’s conservatives being frustrated about it was silly. But then, Japan should be free to do so, too, and America is in no position to “kechi wo tsuekeru” about it. That’s reality.

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