Japan from the inside out


Posted by ampontan on Monday, April 2, 2012

HERE are a few questions about the responses of some people who have objected to recent actions by the Japanese government.

Questions #1

Early last week, anti-capital punishment activists praised Japan for what Kyodo termed its “apparent de facto moratorium” — whatever that word sequence is supposed to mean — on killing convicted killers.

What really happened, rather than what apparently de facto happened, is this: The last time anyone walked the long green Japanese mile was July 2010. Rather than being a moratorium, it was an unannounced decision by the new prime minister, Kan Naoto, to stop executions. He was abetted in that decision by his second justice minister, Eda Satsuki, long an opponent of capital punishment. Mr. Eda always dodged the question when asked whether he had declared a moratorium on executions, as well on as signing the papers authorizing them. Last year was the first year there were no executions in Japan in 19 years.

Both men are now gone from the Cabinet for good, which means that affairs have reverted to normal. Three men were hung by the neck until dead on 29 March. In keeping with the Japanese practice to reserve the death penalty for multiple murders, one of the three rammed a car into a train station in 1999 and killed five people with a knife.


Every survey I’ve ever seen has the Japanese public approving capital punishment with roughly 70% support. A December 2009 Cabinet Office poll found that 85.6% of respondents said capital punishment is “unavoidable in some cases”.

The English-language media says the issue is “hotly debated” in Japan. What they mean is that they want it to become hotly debated in the real Japan instead of the Japan of their imaginations. Most Japanese think capital punishment is a natural response to certain circumstances, in the same way that others think abortion is a natural response to different circumstances. A look at the poll results shows that only a sliver of the population is likely to get hot about it, and then only those who know how to write press releases.

The executions were followed by Justice Minister Ogawa Toshio’s announcement that plans for a discussion panel on the pros and cons of executing cons will not be put into execution after all.

Said the Kyodo English-language article, with typically emotive language:

“The panel would have invited input from experts on all sides of the emotive issue, and Ogawa’s decision to curtail the opportunity for debate, including on the suspension of executions, immediately drew fire from death penalty critics.

“’It is left up to the personal creed of a justice minister whether to debate capital punishment. The DPJ cannot avoid blame for its irresponsibility as a ruling party,’ said Hideki Wakabayashi, an official at Amnesty International Japan.”

Amplified bologna. Mr. Wakabayashi thought it was fine that the personal creed of a different justice minister led him to apparently de facto suspend executions. Further, the only “experts” on capital punishment are those who research the frequency, the means, the standards, the distribution, and the background of the practice. Everyone else is trafficking in moral suasion, regardless of the title on their name card.

Nor did Mr. Ogawa curtail the opportunity for debate. Mr. Wakabayashi is at liberty to debate the subject until he’s gassed. He can write op-eds, magazine articles, or books, give speeches at rented halls or standing on top of upturned beer crates in the park, or wheedle interviews in the broadcast media. The absence of government sponsorship does not mean a thing does not exist.

And since Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko has no problem with capital punishment, it certainly wasn’t left up to the personal creed of this justice minister.

The EU is floating in the same boat. Here’s Catherine Ashton, Baroness Ashton of Upholland, the European Union’s High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, UK Labor Party pol, and a Life Peer who was born into a coal-mining family (i.e., she’s leftist aristocracy):

“The EU deeply regrets the execution of Yasuaki Uwabe, Tomoyuki Furusawa and Yasutoshi Matsuda on 29 March 2012, and the fact that this marks the resumption of executions in Japan after twenty months during which none took place.”

Why does Lady Ashton not mind her own business? Or are her official EU duties as insubstantial as her peerage?

The opponents of capital punishment say it is cruel and inhuman, but that’s looking at it through the wrong end of the telescope. Cruel and inhuman is deliberately stabbing five innocent people to death at a train station.

There were lamentations that the three condemned men were given only a few hours’ advance notice, and that their families were not notified until after the executions. There were no apparent de facto lamentations for the victims, who received no advance notice of their deaths at all. Their families weren’t notified until after they died either.

It is not unreasonable to assume that Lady Ashton and Mr. Wakabayashi are concerned about “social” justice, “social” democracy, and “social” welfare, and therefore about the well-being of society itself.

Why then do they deny society the means for self-defense?

Questions #2

Most Okinawans are getting really tired of having to make room for all those American service personnel. The entire Okinawa island chain is 877 square miles in all, and it is the location of 70-75% of the 47,000 American warfighters in Japan. American military installations occupy slightly more than 10% of all Okinawan territory, which is just over half that of the 1,545 square miles of Rhode Island, the smallest of the 50 American states.

In December 2010, Kan Naoto’s government agreed to pay the U.S. JPY 188 billion a year (about US$2.25 billion then) every year through 2015 to help defray the American military expenses. That’s significantly more than either Germany or South Korea pay.

The Japanese finally convinced the Americans in 2009 to move some Marines from Okinawa to Guam, but they had to accept a bill for $2.8 billion to get it done. That money will be allocated to the construction costs for new facilities in Guam.

But the U.S. reopened the deal in February when Congress wanted to cut expenditures and thought Japan should pay even more to transport American soldiers and build facilities for those American soldiers on American-governed territory. They wanted US$3.5 billion instead.

Why did Japan agree?

The Kyodo report had the answer:

“Japan, which initially resisted the move, has since relented to preserve the harmony of the bilateral alliance, the sources said.”

Ah, so. To keep the Americans from pouting and behaving unpleasantly. But you don’t always gotta have wa.

Why is Japan helping the U.S. out of their budgetary mess by exacerbating their own?

I have an answer for that:

The Japanese government is paying vigorish to the United States of America for a protection scheme.

Now here’s the question no one has an answer for.

Why don’t the Japanese apply the same attitude to the U.S. as they do to Amnesty International or the EU?

It would be salubrious for both parties if the Japanese were to tell the Americans to depart from Futenma in one year and to pay their own way home. The lower American lip would protrude; the neo-cons and many on both sides of the aisle in Congress would raise their voices, but they’d get over it. They’d still have plenty of military firepower here.

The Japanese might even figure out that the Americans need them just as much, if not more, than they need the Americans.


Here’s another question: Why does Amnesty International and the EU pester Japan — or even Mr. Natural himself, Abdallah Al-Bishi? Those organizations are full of the type of people who think multiculturalism is the contemporary apostles’ creed, can’t bring themselves to hold responsible the European Islamist youth for their actions when they rampage — or even admit their identity — but yet insist the uncivilized un-continentals on either end of Asia conform to their moral code instead of allowing them their own.

Al-Bishi’s implicit comparison of men and women at about the eight-minute mark is most interesting, by the way.

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