Japan from the inside out

Seeing is believing

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Japan is a country in which politics are conducted through free speech. Free speech is the core of our democracy. Therefore, it is the government’s duty to guarantee the people’s right to know, which effectuates free speech.
But I must say that the Kan Cabinet’s refusal to release the video to the public, and its continued refusal to show all of it, betrays democracy by depriving the people of the right to know. It does not inform them of circumstances they absolutely must know—the Chinese act of seizing our territory.
At the same time, this betrayal has allowed the Chinese to control free speech in our country, though free speech is not allowed to its own citizens….in other words, the Kan Cabinet has, by releasing the ship’s captain, ceded our policy in the Senkakus to the Chinese, and, by refusing to release the complete video, placed the right of the Japanese citizens to know under Chinese control.
– Nishimura Shingo / Kobe city councilman, formerly of many parties, including the DPJ, and now a member of the Sunrise Party

(T)ruth will come to light; murder cannot be hid long; a man’s son may, but at the length truth will out.
– Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

A Japanese warship dispatched by the neo-militarist government obstructs the passage of a Chinese fishing boat operating in the waters of Greater China.

SOMETIMES, in the course social and political events, objects assume greater importance than the words and deeds of the actors they represent. One historical example is the Zimmermann telegram from the German foreign minister to the government of Mexico proposing a military alliance against the Americans during World War I. Three months after it was revealed, the U.S. was at war with Germany.

Other examples include the Zapruder film of the JFK assassination, the so-called Pentagon Papers during the American war in Vietnam, the 18-minute gap on Richard Nixon’s tapes, Monica Lewinsky’s stained dress, and the University of East Anglia e-mails that exposed the charlatans of global warming.

Now there’s another—the 44 minutes worth of video excerpted from as many as 10 hours filmed by the crews of three Japanese Coast Guard ships as they encountered a Chinese fishing boat near the Senkaku islets.

The Dunning Kruger Effect was named after the two men who published a paper in 1999 titled, “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties of Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments”.

Dunning and Kruger argued, “When people are incompetent in the strategies they adopt to achieve success and satisfaction, they suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it. Instead…they are left with the erroneous impression they are doing just fine.”

There’s no better way to describe the behavior of the Kan-Sengoku Cabinet, that sorry assemblage now “governing” Japan, throughout the Senkakus affair. You thought Hatoyama Yukio was bad? Japan’s most serious foreign policy crisis in more than a generation is being handled by the people least capable of doing so. The mismanagement of the crisis exposed the nation’s leaders as naïve and duplicitous incompetents who had convinced themselves they knew exactly what they were doing.

From a report in the Yomiuri Shimbun:

The Kantei was filled with optimism on the 24th (September) when they announced the release of the ship’s captain. Said one government source, “This should completely deflate the Chinese reaction.” Said a source close to the prime minister, “(We) want you to watch Chinese behavior in the future and then give us the credit.”

The Dunning-Kruger Effect is the only possible explanation.

Sato Takahiro, formerly of the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, and now a researcher at a think tank, wrote on his blog:

(The government) has demonstrated an inability to handle the situation from the beginning, starting with the arrest of the captain, his release, its response to later Chinese retaliation, and the disclosure of the videos. Many are angry at the government’s ad hoc decisions and dithering irresolution. With all this ineptitude, there has not been one visible sign from Prime Minister Kan about his policies for dealing with this situation, and how he reaches decisions.

Polls have shown that more than 80% of the Japanese public thought the government was lying about how they handled the matter. A similar number thought they were spineless jellyfish, though the pollsters had a more discreet way of phrasing it. Less discreet were some in the audience at the conclusion of the September sumo tournament when the prime minister takes part in the ritual of presenting a trophy to the winner. Mr. Kan was openly jeered, and shouts of “traitor” were in the air. Behavior of that sort is very atypical of Japan.

The videos of the encounter in the waters of Okinawa Prefecture between the Japanese Coast Guard and Zhan Qixiong, the captain of the Chinese fishing boat Minjinyu 5179, rose in importance as an issue after Zhan’s release. The first people to view the images say they were the determining factor in the captain’s arrest. They clearly showed the Chinese ship making a sudden hard turn to port to ram the Coast Guard vessel as the Japanese crew called out to him to stop in both Chinese and Japanese.

Current Foreign Minister Maehara Seiji, then the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport watched the videos and said:

The Chinese ship clearly turned the rudder and hit (our ships). Were it not intentional, he could have taken the step of throwing the engine into reverse and moving away, but there is absolutely no trace of that on the video.

The Japanese public was naturally anxious to see for themselves what happened. Polls showed that 78.4% of the people wanted the videos to be made available to them. But the government didn’t want the people to see any of it.

One of the most incurious people in the country was the prime minister of Japan himself. Presiding over a “no touch” government that pantomimed the charade of claiming it had nothing to do with arresting or releasing the fishing boat skipper, Mr. Responsible didn’t bother to take the trouble to see for himself until nearly two months after the incident.

Reporters asked him what he thought. He answered that the content was as reported by Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku Yoshito and Mr. Maehara.

Q: Specifically, what was that report?
A: No, no, it was just as in their reports.
Q: What did you think of it personally?
A: (It’s like I told you) It was just as in the reports.

Mr. Kan’s Cabinet is filled with the incurious in addition to the inept. Justice Minister Yanagida Minoru, who has developed a national reputation as something of a chucklehead in a mere three months, also said during Diet questioning that he didn’t have to watch them.

A person in the office explained what was in them. I studied marine engineering at university, so I was able to understand what happened from just a diagram.

After further questioning by Ogushi Yoshinori of New Komeito, he said:

I studied shipbuilding, so of course I studied sea routes. I understood (what happened) by looking at a diagram.

What was the government’s problem with showing the videos? No weapons were discharged, no ships were sunk, no one died, and no one was injured.

This published report of a conversation held on 30 September in the Kantei explains part of it:

Kawakami Yoshihiro (Upper house DPJ member): There’ll be serious trouble if we release the video. It will set back improvements in Japanese-Chinese relations two or three years. It’s best to sit on it.
Sengoku: Just as you say. Be sure to tell everyone in the Diet.
Kan: That makes sense.

Others claimed that “discretion is required for the international political situation.” Said Hachiro Yoshio, DPJ Diet Affairs Committee Chair:

“Shouldn’t we be careful how we handle the videos, considering that the friendship of Japan-China is in a fluid state?”

An aide to LDP MP Nakagawa Hidenao had the best answer for that:

“Friendship not based on reality is nothing more than a temporary cease-fire until a resolution is achieved by force.”

What was in the video that would cause the Chinese to be upset? People would see the truth for themselves.

While the video was still unseen, the Global Times of China, a People’s Daily affiliate, posted diagrams and other statements claiming it was the Japanese coast guard vessel that rammed the Chinese fishing boat. (We’ve seen the diagram in a previous post.) The newspaper quoted Foreign Ministry official Jiang Yu as saying:

“Japanese patrol boats surrounded the Chinese fishing boat in Chinese waters, pursued it, cut it off, and rammed it.”

In other words, the Kan government chose to support a Chinese lie in public rather than letting the truth speak for itself to the Japanese people. In another published report, a source cited as being familiar with Japan-China relations said a promise was made to not release the video for public viewing in consideration of the strong Chinese objections during the negotiations conducted for the Kan Hallway Sofa Summit in Brussels on 4 October. In return, Prime Minister Kan Naoto was allowed to have a 25-minute accidental encounter with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

You remember the chance meeting in the hallway, right? Strangers in the night it was not. It was so unexpected and unplanned the Chinese just happened to have brought Japanese-language interpreters with them all the way to Belgium. Sources from the Japanese government, however, said they didn’t take along any Chinese-language interpreters because they didn’t want to tip off the media to the possibility of a meeting. Apparently they weren’t interested in knowing what the Chinese said among themselves, either.

Hata Yuichiro, a DPJ MP and son of former Prime Minister Hata Tsutomu, had this to say about the video at a news conference:

“Do we really need to make the video public? We must handle it with prudence, because it must not harm the national interest.”

Now that the video’s been released, the people who want to see it have seen it. Among those who have seen it, the question inevitably arises: Which harms the national interest? The Kan government’s ineptitude or the public viewing of the video?

Or is Mr. Hata confusing the national interest with his party’s interest?

There was a second reason the Kan government didn’t want to show the video to the Japanese public: They don’t hold the Japanese public in very high regard.

The position of the government and the ruling party was that there was a strong likelihood anti-Chinese sentiment would arise among the people if they released the video, because it clearly shows the Chinese deliberately ramming the Japanese ships. One of the parliamentary vice-ministers of a “Cabinet ministry involved with the incident” saw the video and said, “It must not be released. It would only incite an emotional response among the people against China.”

They didn’t trust the Chinese people either. Said a government source:

“If anti-Japanese demonstrations flare up again in China, it will be impossible to hold the Japan-China summit (at APEC).”

To which the only rational response is: So what?

Meanwhile, here’s Mr. Kan answering a question on the 8th in the Diet:

“Ultimately, the people, who are sovereign, determine the course of foreign policy. A stronger foreign policy can be pursued when each one of the people apprehends the issue for himself, not just some specialists, and (issues are) considered by the people as a whole.”

In fact, the Kan government failed to see that it had the upper hand. The Chinese Foreign Ministry demanded on 21 September that the Japanese immediately show the full video from beginning to end without any cuts. They told Japan not to edit the videos to tailor the evidence to fit their side of the story:

“While the Chinese fishing vessel was conducting normal operations in the Daioutai islands, it was surrounded by the Japanese Coast Guard, pursued, obstructed, rammed, and suffered damage.”

In short, all the government had to do is what the Chinese Foreign Ministry, most of the Japanese political class—including many in the ruling party—and 80% of the people said they should do. The nominal leader should have taken himself seriously and let the people be the ultimate arbiters of foreign policy. Showing the videos was a win-win-win proposition. But they didn’t.

Leo Amery, a member of Britain’s House of Commons early in World War II, is remembered for two statements that electrified the chamber. The first occurred on 2 September 1939 when then-Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain indicated he would not declare war on Germany for invading Poland. The rebuttal to the prime minister was to be given by Labor Party head Clement Attlee, but he was not present. Another Labor MP, Arthur Greenwood, announced that he was speaking for Labor in his place. Amery called out, “Speak for England, Arthur!”

The Kan government has chosen not to speak for Japan lest it offend the Chinese.

Not everyone in the DPJ agrees with that position, however, and one of the exceptions is Ozawa Ichiro. Mr. Ozawa is viewed with suspicion in some quarters because he favors placing Japan at one of the vertexes of an equilateral triangle with the United States and China. He has led large delegations of politicians to visit China every year for many years. Yet he said that he wouldn’t have released the Chinese sea captain before the legal process had run its course. He added:

“The Japanese government must state its position clearly. I’ve stated my position clearly about the Senkakus with Chinese leaders…’For several thousand years, we have never been under Chinese rule’…This was the territory of the Ryukyu Dynasty. That dynasty may have paid tribute to the Chinese government, but it was never Chinese territory…Okinawa is part of Japan. There is no question that Okinawa is Japanese territory…We will absolutely not budge from this position. I only got vague answers in reply.”

Is it not interesting that Mr. Ozawa—at least in his side of the story—felt compelled to tell Chinese leaders that Okinawa was not theirs? And that the Chinese would not give a clear answer in return?

One wonders how Mr. Kan and Mr. Sengoku made it past the age of 60 without understanding the most elementary aspects of human nature. When people are told they won’t be allowed to know information that they understand is critical to their interests, it ensures that the people will obtain that information eventually.

One of the excuses offered by the DPJ was that the videos were evidence in a criminal investigation. Explained Mr. Sengoku:

“Maintaining secrecy of criminal investigations is the A of the ABCs in the Code of Criminal Procedures.”

Article 47 of the Code of Criminal Procedures states, however, that the public release of evidence and documents is recognized “If it is deemed necessary for the public interest”.

Mr. Sengoku must therefore think it is not in the public interest for the Japanese people to see how the Chinese conceive of Japanese territory and how they respond to Japanese public officials.

The criminal investigation was over, of course. That ended before a decision was reached and the Chinese captain sent home. He was no longer liable to prosecution.

Mr. Sengoku also said:

“The people say, release them, release them, but I wonder what they want. If they support the concept of a simultaneous television broadcast or circulation on the Internet, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

It was obvious what the people wanted—to see the videos for themselves. It didn’t have to be a simultaneous broadcast. Isn’t that what NHK is for?

Rather than calm the waters, the behavior of the government inflamed the public curiosity. Suspicions were aroused of a secret agreement with the Chinese. Stories circulated about the behavior of the captain. J-Cast carried an interview with a Coast Guard source who avoided comment on the story from a Kan aide that the captain was flipping the bird and rather belligerent. When asked about stories that he was drunk, the Coast Guard source said, “The captain was not in a state that impaired normal judgment.” When asked about a Sankei Shimbun report that he deliberately sped up the ship to ram the Coast Guard vessel, the source answered that a collision would have been physically impossible if both ships were traveling at same speed.

Still, the DPJ had no intention of showing the videos. They did not change their minds until after their candidate was trounced in a lower house by-election for a vacant Hokkaido seat, and the opposition made it clear that discussions in the Budget Committee for the supplementary budget would not proceed unless the lawmakers saw the videos themselves. Said LDP Secretary-General Ishihara Nobuteru:

“I don’t know what will happen with deliberations for the supplementary budget as long as the government does not fully release the video that it has.”

Thus the Kan Cabinet concluded it would have to show some of the video to some members of the Diet, but even that was beyond their capabilities. Ten hours of footage was edited down to six minutes and 50 seconds. It was not specified who did the editing, though some thought it was done by the prosecutors in Naha. The DVD was given to Budget Committee Chair Nakai Hiroshi of the DPJ, who said the Okinawa prosecutors told him:

“Discretion is required, so handle it carefully, including the number of people who see it.”

Mr. Yanagida, the justice minister, added to his reputation for incoherence by claiming that the prosecutors told him they did not want to release all the video because it would hinder future Coast Guard activities in the area and infringe on the human rights of some of the people involved.

No one had any idea what he was talking about, but then no one believed him anyway. The government had already shredded its credibility by maintaining from the beginning that the local prosecutors made all the critical decisions in the case.

The idea of a six-minute viewing satisfied no one. The opposition again demanded that all of the video be shown and that the prosecutors be called to testify in the Diet. They would be asked who edited the video, who decided what was to be included and what was to be left out, and whether the images were tampered with. Was it edited with an eye to the impact on Sino-Japanese relations, or to the survival of the Kan Cabinet?

Upper and lower house budget committee members finally saw the DVD last week with the Coast Guard present as observers. No members of the media or private citizens were allowed in the room, and those who were admitted were not allowed to bring in cell phones or video and still cameras.

Mr. Sengoku was concerned about Chinese objections:

“It is essential that they fully understand the relationship between the Japanese Diet and the government. The Diet is the highest organ of state authority.”

He’s quoting the Constitution there. How unfortunate that he skipped over the part in Article 15 that says: “All public officials are servants of the whole community.”

The reaction to the screening was curious. Said Isozaki Yosuke of the LDP:

“(After seeing the video), I clearly understood that it was intentional on the part of the Chinese captain.”

Perhaps that was to be expected of the LDP, but Abe Tomoko of the Social Democrats, Japan’s version of the political moonbat left, said:

“I had the strong impression that the ship purposely rammed (the Coast Guard vessels).”

The Motive: A CYA Edit?

Surely that must be what they think they saw. But not everyone else saw it the same way. Matsumoto Koki is a former LDP postal privatization rebel and veteran of several parties now in the DPJ. Here’s what he saw:

“(The fishing boat) hit the (Coast Guard vessel) as it was trying to flee. The way it hit didn’t seem to be an intentional collision. The instant of impact couldn’t be seen due to the camera angle.”

And Hattori Ryoichi of the SDP said:

“I have my doubts about the arrest itself.”

Taking Mr. Matsumoto and Mr. Hattori at their word raises questions about the editing. Were the clear shots of the direct hits on the Japanese ships intentionally edited out of the version shown to the Diet members to make the government look good?

Perhaps that was the last straw; before the week was finished 44 minutes of video showing that the Chinese fishing boat rammed the Japanese ships twice—without any camera angle problems—were made available on YouTube. The Japanese government had them taken down, but they were soon back up. They have now been seen and saved to hard discs the world over, including China.

The person who uploaded the videos used the handle Sengoku 38. Many wondered about the reason for 38, and a story briefly circulated that it was a homonym for “big dummy” when the Chinese pronunciation was used. Native Chinese speakers have scotched that, however. The most commonly accepted explanation is that it is a type of pun frequently used in Japanese. One reading for the number 3 is san, and one reading for the number 8 is hachi. Taking the first syllables of both creates the word “saha”, or 左派; i.e., left wing.

The Kan government was of course upset. It either forgot or ignored that the government is supposed to serve the people, and the result was that the paucity of their political skills and the poverty of their character was exposed. Said a DPJ executive:

“It is terrorism to bring down the Cabinet. The exposure was probably deliberate.”


Terrorism is not the correct expression. It was an act of rebellion in the finest sense of the word – if the government cannot stand up for the people, the people will stand up for themselves and find a government that better suits their needs.

Others in the DPJ claimed it was the work of the Kasumigaseki bureaucrats, but that excuse was quickly dismissed as infantile. What bureaucrats would take the risk? In any event, the source has been narrowed down to the Coast Guard.

Mr. Sengoku promised to prosecute the perpetrator if and when he is found, and no doubt the attorney will be able to find some law that he broke. But as a Japanese blogger pointed out this weekend, the day Mr. Sengoku brings charges against the offender will be the day that marks the beginning of the end of his political career (though we might well have passed that point already).

Consider: The Chinese captain was arrested, but later freed without being prosecuted. On his return to China, he was one of several citizens awarded a medal for “model behavior”. (In other words, the Chinese government is encouraging its citizens to behave the same way.)

Meanwhile, Sengoku 38 is the one who deserves a medal, but instead he’s the one subject to arrest and prosecution.

Your Party head Watanabe Yoshimi got it right:

“They should stop looking for the perpetrator and release the entire video to the public. This information should not be protected as a state secret and placed under criminal sanction.”

The response to the release has been both educational and salutary.

The Chinese response was almost amusing. Said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei:

“(The video) cannot change the truth. It cannot cover up the illegality of Japan’s actions.”

Who are you going to believe—me or your lying eyes?

The Japanese mass media is calling for a concerted effort to find the leaker, but few outside the ruling class are fooled by the hypocrisy. Their realize their monopoly on the flow of information has also been disintermediated, and that the You Tube videos are as much a threat to them as they are to the Kan government.

Let’s not forget the English-language print media both overseas and in Japan. Wrote a blogger at the New York Times (his name is not important):

Leaked Video Shows Clash at Sea between Chinese and Japanese Ships

Clash? Is it a clash when two Coast Guard ships are attacked when shooing away a fishing boat illegally operating in Japanese waters? Would the New York Times use the word “clash” if a police officer was assaulted by a rapscallion trying to enter a restricted area?

Two writers for the Japan Times, that English-language publication produced by a few people who think it’s great fun to dress up in big people’s clothes and play newspaper, chose a clumsier verb:

“The 44 minutes of footage, uploaded on the video-sharing website in six parts, shows the Chinese boat bumping into Japanese cutters twice while coast guard personnel can be heard repeatedly issuing warnings in Chinese and Japanese.”

The Daily Mainichi was worried:

“Leaked video footage of a collision between a Chinese fishing boat and two Japan Coast Guard vessels off the disputed Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture could inflame fresh anti-Japan sentiment in China.”

To which the only rational response is: So what?

The Asahi pointed out that the release of the videos will force Mr. Kan to regroup and start over on both the domestic and foreign policy front because the Chinese might harden their attitude before the APEC summit this weekend.

To which the only rational response is: So what?

The Asahi reported that some government sources are calling the video release a “quasi coup d’etat”.

Is there a better way to deal with a quasi-government who treats its own citizens as if they were ignorant rabble?

The guests on one television news discussion program wondered why Sengoku 38 released the videos. Apparently they hadn’t read this Kyodo report:

Saitama police are analyzing about 280 DVDs that were found Friday at a train station in Saitama Prefecture and are thought to be recordings of video footage apparently showing the September collisions between Japan Coast Guard cutters and a Chinese trawler off the Senkaku Islands, sources said.
The DVDs were in two cardboard boxes left in a corridor near the east exit of East Japan Railway Co.’s Kawaguchi Station in the morning, the sources said.
According to the sources, an attached memo read: “This shows the reality of the Democratic Party of Japan…Feel free to take these with you.”

Fortunately, there were also plenty of sensible observations. Here’s LDP General Council Chair Koike Yuriko:

“This is a grave situation that will cause the international community to lose faith in Japanese trustworthiness. The Kan administration has neither the capability to manage a crisis, nor to govern.”

And LDP upper house member Yamamoto Ichita:

“This is a self-inflicted foreign policy defeat for the DPJ administration. I have the sense that the person who released the video had a compelling reason to do so.”

The Senkakus are under the administrative jurisdiction of Ishigaki, Okinawa. Ishigaki Mayor Nakayama Yoshitaka submitted a request to government to make all the video public and to guarantee the security of Japanese fishermen in the area:

“The video exposed the fact that the area around the islands has become a lawless zone, as well as Chinese behavior. The scenes shown on the web are just one part. All the videos should be shown in their entirety to the people…There are still serious doubts about why the Chinese captain was released and allowed to return to China. I want the government to stop this mealy-mouthed response, take a firm stand, and work to secure the safety of Ishigaki fishermen.”

The public sympathy for Sengoku 38 is considerable. The lighthouse at Ishigaki is open to public this time of year for tours, and the Ryukyu Shimpo, an Okinawa newspaper, interviewed some of the visitors from outside the prefecture. Said Shimada Kazuo of Aichi:

“It’s not right for the person who released the video to be sought for a crime, even though they released the ship’s captain who deliberately rammed (the Coast Guard vessels).”

There are also stories that people are calling the Coast Guard and asking them not to look for the guilty party. The Yomiuri Shimbun said 100 people called their offices in the first day after the videos appeared, 83 of whom approved the release. Another anti-government demonstration was held in Tokyo on Saturday, this time with 4,500 people participating.

The Kyodo news agency conducted a quickie poll over the weekend. It found that support for the Kan Cabinet has fallen 15 percentage points in the past month to 32.7%, lower than the approval rate when the DPJ took a shellacking in the July upper house election. The figures were down to 30.3% in a JNN poll. It won’t be long before it reaches the 20s, and when that happens to a Japanese Cabinet, it’s time to empty the ashtrays, put the glasses in the sink, and turn out the lights.

The Kyodo poll also found that 74% of the respondents disapprove of the way the government conducts foreign policy. Here are the results for a question about the approach to relations with China in the future:

48.6%: Maintain some distance
24.4%: No change
22.9%: Closer ties

Asked about the future of the government, Prime Minister Kan said:

“I don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to fight it out, but as long as events progress, we’ll fight it out with everything we have.”

In the original Japanese, he said at the end “even if we have to bite on a rock.” In this morning’s edition of the Nishinippon Shimbun, editorial cartoonist Sato Masaaki has an illustration of Mr. Kan biting on an island in the sea labeled “Senkakus”. His caption: “By all means, we want you to keep biting on the rock.”

Translated into plain English, Mr. Kan’s statement means they won’t dissolve the Diet and call an election on their own initiative. Governments of the left never relinquish power willingly. As the Romans had it, Sic semper erat, et sic semper erit.

Frankly, the Kan Cabinet has shown itself to be so worthless it’s almost a waste of time to write about them. They’ve been in office only five months, and already they’ve become as useless and annoying as the dust that accumulates in the corner of desk drawers, the stray kernels stuck to the sides of the rice cooker, the scorched stew at the bottom of a pan, the dusty strands that appear between the curtain rods and the ceiling in unused spare rooms, or the dead cockroach swept out from behind a moved refrigerator at the end of summer.

What has characterized their behavior in office? They avoid responsibility and blame others instead of owning up to their actions and stating their case. They embrace the Chinese rather than stand up for Japan. They hide information critical to the national interest rather than trust the public. When criticized, they make angry and hysterical threats, rather than offer calm and collected explanations.

These men are weevily parsers of the law who think the nation exists in a vacuum. Instead of the highest governmental offices of the land, they are better suited to tatty rooms appointed with plastic furniture and assembly-line artwork, located behind second-rate retail merchandisers in hastily constructed strip malls at the shabby end of town, badgering people to sign contracts filled with unreadable small print and handing them cheap ballpoint pens that leave ink stains on the fingers.

Why would anyone expect this government to stand up for the national interest? The leaders of this government have believed since their university days that national interest is an obsolete concept. So much bilge has floated by the public since the DPJ took power in August 2009 that people in Japan have already forgotten the eminently forgettable Hatoyama Yukio, the leader of the preceding DPJ government, once said: “The Japanese archipelago is not the possession of Japanese people alone.”

Did he think the Chinese weren’t paying attention? Or was he so accustomed to be taken for a flannelhead that he thought his words no longer had consequences?

I wrote above that Leo Emery was remembered for two statements he made in the House of Commons, and cited the first. The second occurred during what was known as the Norway Debate in 1940. Great Britain had suffered a series of military disasters, and Amery quoted Oliver Cromwell to attack Neville Chamberlain and his government:

“You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”

What next?

Be that as it may, I choose to think of the glass as half full rather than half empty. Perhaps there is already a spark in the imagination of an opposition lawmaker to file a motion of no confidence in the government. The idea of a motion of censure in the upper house has already been raised, but that would carry no weight.

Would a no confidence motion pass? The DPJ has a large majority in the lower house, and in this instance some of the opposition members might vote with them, including the Social Democrats and New Komeito. Then again, there’s no guarantee that Ozawa Ichiro and his allies would vote with the DPJ. There were reports even before this incident that Mr. Ozawa told his minions to be ready because an election could come at any moment.

The passage of a no confidence motion would mean the automatic dissolution of the Diet and a new lower house election. That might well spark the political realignment everyone knows is inevitable and spell the end of the DPJ as it currently exists.

It might also spark an overdue national dialogue about statehood, sovereignty, national defense, and the Constitution.

Further, some of the Chinese public have now seen that their government tried to stuff The Big Lie down their throats as if they were so many French geese being force-fed to produce foie gras. Of course the Chinese government didn’t want the videos made public—they dread the spark that might be ignited among their own people.

By placing those videos on You Tube, Sengoku 38 has become part of a glorious tradition of those with the courage to act for government of, by, and for the people. Whoever and whatever he is, for that alone he deserves our admiration.

Sengoku 38 created a spark. Sparks can sometimes turn to flames.

The nightbird cries, the shadow falls…

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10 Responses to “Seeing is believing”

  1. Roual Deetlefs said

  2. Roual Deetlefs said

    Oh, where have they gone ….

  3. Tony said

    Too right!

  4. Intersting, but over long and not too convincing.

    Japan is declining. Time to turn attention inwards?

    The economy in Japan has been a prisoner of special interests. These are the problem.

    Using symbols in place of policies is a way of displacing attention. Terrible way to govern!@%%

    See, much shorter!
    PD: Thanks. Part of why I do this is to present information in English that otherwise would remain unknown. It also tells a story. Relax and consider it a magazine article.

    I keep telling people this is not a blog. I’m serious!

    – A.

  5. The Falklands superficially do seem appropriate. But the British and USA, wanted to maintain MT in power, so they set a trap. Into which a poorly led Argentina jumped!

    Japan will not act aggressively. However, should accidents occur near the disputed territory ….. Japan might be seen as helpful when rendering assistance to the fishing boats. Assymetric warfare? Taking down fishing boats? This would be a typical response of a weak government that refuses to address the economy.

  6. PaxAmericana said

    I was of the view, perhaps mistaken, that the Chinese Foreign Minister or government spokesman had requested that the video(s) be shown in full before this YouTube leak. Is this not correct? Maybe the leak will force the government to release the full version. If they don’t, perhaps the next government will. It might even be part of a manifesto.
    You’re right. In fact, that’s in the body of the article.

    – A.

  7. Roual Deetlefs said

    @ Pat Donnely.

    The Falklands superficially do seem appropriate. But the British and USA, wanted to maintain MT in power, so they set a trap. Into which a poorly led Argentina jumped!

    Since you’re an Australian, I’ll believe this about as much as the myth that the Australian Government willfully pauperized the Aborigines, by targeted and too generous welfare spending …

    Read this, if you disagree

  8. camphortree said

    Poor prime minister Kan is now laughed by housewives all over Japan.
    On the 8th of November at the Diet budget committee meeting, Tanahasi of the LDP asked a question of the prime minister Kan, “Are you an over-sized garbage?” Mr.Kan asked Tanahashi to take back what he just said, but Tanahashi refused.

  9. George said

    Your reporting on this issue has been phenomenal. I can’t thank you enough for providing some actually substantive English-language analysis on the Senkaku Islands dispute; as you’ve pointed out, the articles by the NYT, WSJ, and others have been woefully insufficient. I can only hope the Kan government collapses under the weight of its own absurdity.

    In your view, which primers on Japanese politics are best to start off with? (preferably written in or translated into English)
    G: Thanks for the note!

    I wish I had a good answer for you about primers on Japanese politics in English. Because of my work schedule, the desire to lead a normal life, and the sheer amount of information available in Japanese, I usually focus my reading on Japanese sources. There’s not enough time for both.

    Perhaps someone else will have a suggestion. Sorry I can’t do better.

    – A.


    Yes, we are used to conducting genocide against our weaker members of society, black, pink and yellow. This is the way of the white man. Killing with drugs and kindness beats smallpox ridden blankets?
    PD: Thanks for the note, but didn’t you mean to address Roual instead?

    – A.

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