Japan from the inside out

Handling Japan

Posted by ampontan on Monday, August 1, 2011

A GLANCE at the article that ran in the English-language edition of the Mainichi Shimbun suggested it was the sort of filler that often appears in such publications in this country. It was a brief account of a talk by Columbia University Prof. Gerald Curtis at a lunch held at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. When viewed through the prism of a Japanese-language blog post that appeared a few days later, however, one sentence in the article hints at greater, unexplored depths.

The Mainichi’s report of Prof. Curtis’s appearance focused on his comments about political conditions in Japan today:

“This is totally a dysfunctional government … and the party (DPJ) is in disarray.”

It’s reassuring to know that at least one of the Western academia grovers is paying attention instead of bloviating on a cloud of wishful thinking.

For the first time in his 45-year career as a scholar of Japanese politics, Curtis said he recognizes that “the public is uniform in its view that politics is just awful.” He said, “This cannot go on forever this way. Something is going to blow because the extent of public disgust is quite extreme.”

The extent of public distrust was also quite extreme in the early 90s, which led to the birth of the Hosokawa government in 1994-95. The difference between then and now is that people have realized the Democratic Party of Japan, formed in the late 90s with the intention of creating a credible two-party system, is a far worse option than most ever imagined.

Prof. Curtis’s observations make for entertaining reading. He mentioned Mr. Kan’s taste for government by coup de theatre and presenting ideas seized on the spur of the moment as policy. He cited the Trans-Pacific Partnership and renewable energy scheme, but the Mainichi didn’t tell us whether he said anything about the stress tests for nuclear power plants. He also said the political vacuum in Tokyo has led to the emergence of interesting and effective local political leaders, and that private sector activism is on the rise due to a loss of confidence in the government.

It’s entertaining because the entire content of his address as reported should have been old news for the FCCJ clubsters had any of them bothered to read Japanese-language newspapers and periodicals, not to mention this website. Instead, they were clued in by an American professor stopping by for lunch after coming all the way from New York to visit Iwate on his fourth trip to the Tohoku region since the earthquake/tsunami.

Well, that’s what the Mainichi said. But is that really what he’s doing in Japan? Consider this:

“Kan will be gone by the end of August but he may not go quietly,” said Gerald Curtis, professor of political science at Columbia University in New York, at a luncheon meeting of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ).

He seems sure of himself, doesn’t he? Very few people in Japan are willing to predict when — or if — Kan Naoto will relinquish his position, but Prof. Curtis is speaking as though it were a done deal.

There might be a reason for that. The following is a quick translation of a Japanese-language blog post by author and former diplomat Amaki Naoto.

Here’s what I saw when I read a newspaper summary for Prime Minister Kan’s activities on 25 July.

1:49 p.m to 3:20 p.m.: Gerald Curtis, Columbia University professor; Aide Tsujimoto Kiyomi also attended.

It would be a good idea for people to picture this scene in their minds. Gerald Curtis is known to the cognoscenti as one of the Japan Handlers.

He has advised Japanese prime ministers since the days of the LDP governments, starting with Prime Minister Nakasone. He approached the DPJ government when they took power and began giving advice to them.

He is the typical “crony capitalist” scholar. (政商学者)

Japanese politicians, both in government and in the opposition, and media members with no connections in the United States, praise him worshipfully.

What did Prime Minister Kan hear when he summoned this man to the Kantei?

Also present was Tsujimoto Kiyomi, ever alert to power in the same way.

What did these three people huddle together and talk about?

Of course we don’t know. But it’s not necessary that we know.

What is clear is that their discussion involved nothing that would benefit the people of this country.

They were using the prime minister’s office to hold discussions for their own benefit.

(end translation)
Japan Handlers is the title of a book published by Nakata Yasuhiko in May 2005, who also wrote a book called Reoccupied Japan. The term gets more than 22,000 hits on Google Japan.

The author identifies 197 people from universities, think tanks, and government agencies whom he claims manipulate Japanese politicians and businessmen in pursuit of the ends of the “American empire”.

Busy man, this Gerald Curtis — an American college professor delivering a quick lunchtime seminar (or briefing) for the FCCJ, visiting the Kantei in mid-afternoon on a weekday and getting 90 minutes with the prime minister. Prime ministers are busy people too, especially ones trying to put together and pass legislation to deal with the effects of an immense natural disaster.

Did you ever wonder why former Prime Minister Hatoyama and the DPJ, at such great speed and public humiliation, dropped their initiative to move the Marine air base at Futenma in Okinawa after making the pledge a prominent part of their election campaign? I did. The Americans are supposed to be in Japan to defend the country from foreign attack. It is not the mission of American Marines to defend anything. They’re the offense, not the defense.

And what the deuce was Tsujimoto Kiyomi doing there? It’s bad enough that she’s part of the government to begin with. Here’s a reprise of what I wrote about Ms. Tsujimoto in 2009:

Tsujimoto Kiyomi came up with the idea for taking cruises on a Peace Boat to the countries that Japan invaded during the war when she was a Waseda undergraduate in 1983. It’s not easy for a spunky coed to organize a project on that scale, regardless of her commitment or idealism, so she needed some help.

She received that help from Kitakawa Akira, who later became what is described as her common-law husband, and Oda Makoto.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and intelligence service archives became available, it was discovered that Mr. Oda had been a KGB agent. Mr. Kitakawa was a member of the Japanese Red Army, a revolutionary terrorist group formed in 1971 that was responsible for bombings, airplane hijackings, and armed attacks throughout the world. One member was caught with explosives on the New Jersey Turnpike in the 1980s and spent time in an American jail. Several members were granted asylum in North Korea, and the Japanese government is trying to extradite them. It remains an obstacle to the normalization of relations.

Though vicious, the group’s membership was always small, and they immediately had problems finding the money to survive. It was provided by Palestinians starting in 1972.

The Peace Boat, meanwhile, expanded the range of its voyages and visited the Middle East. Cruise members met several times with Yasser Arafat, perhaps to thank him for his money and ask for more.

Mr. Kitakawa was responsible for JRA activities in Europe, and he was eventually deported from Sweden. Back in Japan, he founded the Daisansha publishing company, which has released six of Ms. Tsujimoto’s books.

She was recruited by former Socialist Party leader Doi Takako to run for the Diet, and she won her first election in 1996. A few years later, Shigenobu Fusako, the founder of the Japanese Red Army, was arrested in Takatsuki, Osaka, Ms. Tsujimoto’s home district. She was in the company of Yoshida Mamoru, a member of Tsujimoto’s staff in Takatsuki.

As an MP, she started receiving national exposure in the early years of the Koizumi Administration with her semi-hysterical challenges of the prime minister during Question Time. She does have spunk, however, and it was great television, so a star was quickly born.

It just as quickly faded after her success went to her head and she accused MP Suzuki Muneo during his questioning in the Diet of being a “trading house for suspicion”. Mr. Suzuki, semi-hysterical himself, blew up in a memorable rant.

Those of you who enjoy interesting coincidences will be delighted to know that not long afterwards, investigators just happened to discover that she had been raking off funds from the money that was supposed to be paid to her political aides. It was suspected that she gave some of the money to Mr. Kitakawa. She was sentenced to two years in jail with a five-year stay of execution.

Ms. Tsujimoto resigned her Diet seat, but Japanese voters can be a forgiving lot, and she’s back.

One of the reasons she’s back is that the DPJ chose not to run a candidate in her electoral district in 2009, despite the likelihood of a DPJ victory. It was, in part, a favor to their soon-to-be coalition partners, the Social Democratic Party of Japan, from which Tsujimoto Kiyomi has since resigned.

Here’s a Wikilist of Tsujimoto quotes:

* “I don’t want to be a Japanese. I want to be an international person.”

* “It’s not possible that the peace-loving North Koreans would abduct anyone.”

* “Immediately and unconditionally normalize diplomatic relations with North Korea.”

That’s from one of her books. The text helpfully includes the parenthetical information that North Korea is the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”.

* “At present, the Self-Defense Forces are unconstitutional, both from the perspective of their equipment and the regulations.”

Long-time friends will remember that this one is my favorite:

* “They say a Diet member should protect the lives and property of the citizens, but that is not my intention. My role is as a ‘national destroyer’ MP who will try somehow to destroy the framework of the state.”

(The word for Diet member is 国会議員 (kokkai gi-in). She replaced the first two characters with the homonym 国壊 (kokkai), which means “national destruction”.

In the aftermath of the Hyogo earthquake in 1995, when everyone else rushed to the area to provide assistance, Ms. Tsujimoto rushed to the area to pass out leaflets attacking the government and calling for its ouster.

The Hatoyama administration appointed the national destroyer to the post of Deputy Minister of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport.

Based on this stellar career of public service, Prime Minister Kan tapped Ms. Tsujimoto to be his special advisor to coordinate post-disaster volunteer efforts in the Tohoku region. The twisted sense of humor of Democrats the world over is entertaining in its own right, is it not?

Mr. Kan even quotes her in his “e-mail blog”:

As Ms. Kiyomi Tsujimoto, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister, often says, it is not simply the reconstruction of society’s “hardware” buildings and so on that requires budget allocations and policy measures. We will also be engaged in “reconstruction of the heart” for each individual affected by the disaster and “reconstruction of kizuna (bonds among people)” that have been disrupted in society.

If they don’t know by now how intellectually vapid that is (and impossible for government to achieve), they ain’t never gonna get it.

Doesn’t this appointment remind you of Barack Obama’s appointments of Van Jones, Anita Dunn, and Ron Bloom? Birds of a feather, don’t you know. (Even better is the Japanese equivalent of that proverb: Mix with crimson and you turn red.)

Be that as it may, why is Prof. Curtis meeting with these people at all, unless he’s telling them that everything they know is wrong? That wouldn’t take 90 seconds, much less 90 minutes.

It’s curious. For the past two months, Kan Naoto has insisted that he never made a deal with Hatoyama Yukio to step down. He’s dropped scores of broad hints that he either intends to stay in office for as long as possible, or call a lower house election.

Last week, however, a few days following his meeting with Prof. Curtis, he allowed as how he might resign sooner rather than later after all. And remember, the professor is certain that Kan Naoto will be gone at the end of the month.

Further, there’s a report today that four senior members of the Democratic Party have created a firm schedule to topple Mr. Kan in an intra-party coup. The group supposedly includes acting party president Sengoku Yoshito, Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano Yukio, Secretary-General Okada Katsuya, and Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Azumi Jun. The report states they will have the prime minister removed as party president in mid-August, and hold an election to replace him on 27 August. The principal justification is that the “out-of-control prime minister is sacrificing the beleaguered Tohoku region and the national economy to extend his term in office.”

Where’s Wikileaks now that we really need them?

The secret Asian men and their groupies get it on!

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4 Responses to “Handling Japan”

  1. camphortree said

    Among all Democratic parties on Earth Japan’s party ranks the bottom of the garbage dump thanks to the diligent work of our ever peace-loving liberal media such as NHK, Asahi Shinbun, and the rest.
    C: Thanks for the note. Nice to see you again. 久日ぶり!

    – A.

  2. toadold said

    Is there a poll on what the voters think of the media?

  3. camphortree said

    The Japanese media periodically survey how much their contents are trusted and liked by the public.
    According to a Mainichi Shinbun article that I can not recall precisely the Japanese media ranked the highest credibility and likability by the public among the democratic countries.
    I believe their results. Otherwise who on Earth would have brought such extraordinary people into power as Kiyomi the Red Army Soldier’s common-law wife, Naoto Kan the Prime Minister with indicated early Alzheimer’s disease (often if not always sleeping in the Budget Committee), Yukio Hatoyama the supected ET transformed and the rest of the Democrat fools?
    C: That might not be Alzheimer’s. He could just be sleeping off his hangovers.

    – A.

  4. […] * Prof. Curtis is considered in some quarters to be one of the Japan Handlers. […]

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