Japan from the inside out

Archive for September, 2012

All you have to do is look (64)

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, September 30, 2012

More than 1,000 people practice qigong in Xian at the 2012 Qigong Communication and Exhibition of Thousand Villages.

When one qigong master was asked what it was all about, he replied, “Do it and you get it.”

Photo from China Daily

Posted in China, Photographs and videos | Leave a Comment »

Ichigen koji (186)

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, September 30, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

One Chinese objective is to force Japan to dispatch the Self-Defense Forces (to the Senkakus). We will not respond to that challenge. It is important to calmly deal with the situation through the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard must always dispatch more ships than the Chinese or the Taiwanese.

– Maehara Seiji, foreign minister in the Kan Cabinet

Posted in China, International relations, Military affairs, Quotations | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

They’re not happy unless they’re not happy

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, September 29, 2012

Today I happened to be talking to a former senior official with the Foreign Ministry about President Lee’s demand for an apology from the Emperor. He said, “Until now, we’ve been considerate of South Korea, and handled them with reserve, but South Korea has crossed the line. We now know just what the South Korean conservatives are like. This is a good opportunity for both countries to establish normal bilateral relations.”

There is now a consensus in political, bureaucratic, and media circles throughout Japan, however, that we’ve stopped putting up with whiny brats like the South Koreans and will just brush them off.

– Abiru Rui

SOME years ago, when the bloodletting in the region had subsided to a relative trickle, a geopolitical think tank reminded the readers of its website that “peace in the Middle East” was a mirage. Conditions in the region would always slide along a scale ranging from simmering animosity to outright warfare, and that the state of simmering animosity was the best anyone could hope for.

The behavior of the South Korean government and news media for the past two months suggests that the same observation can be made about bilateral relations between Korea and Japan. That is not to say there will be bloodletting and open warfare between the two countries. Rather, it is to say that the Korean view of Japan will always slide along a scale ranging from simmering animosity to outright hysteria, fueled by the permanent South Korean wildcat strike against reality.

Japan can do nothing to change that, because that’s how South Korea wants it.

This was confirmed by the most unlikely of sources: A column by Donald Kirk in the Korea Times. That’s the English-language arm of the Hankook Ilbo, a major South Korean daily. The column itself is remarkable only for exposing how little Kirk knows about Japan, though he once worked here and occasionally visits. He’s become marinated in the Korean weltanschauung after spending many years there, so refuting his shallow, inaccurate, and ill-tempered exercise in disinformation is a waste of time.

Reading one small part of it, however, was like reaching into muck and pulling out a diamond.

The article is called The Japanese Just Don’t Get It, and includes passages such as these:

Japanese have trouble understanding. Why do all the countries surrounding Japan seem so hostile? What is it the Japanese have done to incur the wrath of the Chinese, the Koreans, and the Russians? The sense here is that of Japan encircled, the odd power out, the pariah at the party.

Now someone`s saying the Japanese emperor, Akihito, should apologize. So what? As if that would make a difference…Not that the Japanese could not make amends. Compensation for comfort women? Abandonment of the claim to Dokdo? Revision of textbook accounts of Japanese imperial history and World War II? Forget it. The Japanese don’t get it. They’re not going to do any of these things. They’d rather fret and fume over “why Japan is not liked” than do anything substantive to repair the image, much less redress wrongs.

It makes no difference whether Kirk made all that up about “the sense here” because he likes the sound of it, or convinced himself that his alternate universe is real. It still constitutes journalistic malpractice. The Japanese attitude toward South Korea today is as expressed in the quotation at the top of the page. If someone in the country has fretted and fumed over why the Japan of the Kirkian imagination is not liked, it has been hidden very well in the daily, weekly, and monthly news media and the blogosphere. Mr. Abiru, a newspaperman, captures the tone of that commentary. Does Kirk access enough of that information in the original Japanese to say otherwise? I think not.

His piece also contains overwritten cheap shots more suitable for a ragged street corner pamphleteer:

So, aside from the economy, stupid, what`s grabbing headlines here? Nothing like a fracas with China to charge the atmosphere with memories of old times, of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s when Japanese troops rampaged over the Chinese mainland.

Yet despite having us forfeit irrecoverable minutes from our lives to read the column, he does say something of value:

The bitterness is a permanent condition. It won’t go away.

He even knows why, too, but gets it out of sequence.

The wounds, the sense of Hahn, go too deep into the Korean national sub-conscience.


An understanding of han is critical to an understanding the people on the Korean Peninsula. Indeed, people often speak of the “han culture of Korea”. Kirk chooses to capitalize the word and add a second h, but it’s most often spelled han in English. (It is 한 in Korean).

The word is derived from the Chinese character 恨, which the Japanese are familiar with and use in 恨み (urami). It can be translated as grudge, hatred, or rancor. In Korea, however, the word has several other dimensions.

Translator D. Bannon quoted a Korean source to provide an explanation:

Han is frequently translated as sorrow, spite, rancor, regret, resentment or grief, among many other attempts to explain a concept that has no English equivalent (Dong-A 1982: 1975). Han is an inherent characteristic of the Korean character and as such finds expression, implied or explicit, in nearly every aspect of Korean life and culture.

Han is sorrow caused by heavy suffering, injustice or persecution, a dull lingering ache in the soul. It is a blend of lifelong sorrow and resentment, neither more powerful than the other. Han is imbued with resignation, bitter acceptance and a grim determination to wait until vengeance can at last be achieved.

Han is passive. It yearns for vengeance, but does not seek it. Han is held close to the heart, hoping and patient but never aggressive. It becomes part of the blood and breath of a person. There is a sense of lamentation and even of reproach toward the destiny that led to such misery. (Ahn 1987).”

The theologian Suh Nam-dong describes han as:

“…a feeling of unresolved resentment against injustices suffered, a sense of helplessness because of the overwhelming odds against one, a feeling of acute pain in one’s guts and bowels, making the whole body writhe and squirm, and an obstinate urge to take revenge and to right the wrong—all these combined.”

The extreme intensity of the feeling is self-evident.

Having observed the Koreans at close range for more than a millennium, the Japanese have their own explanations. Not being directly involved, they have no need to romanticize or glorify the phenomenon. Tsukuba University Prof. Furuta Hiroshi, a specialist in East Asian political thought, explains han in Korean culture as:

“…(arising) from a traditional framework, based on circumstances for which the responsibility can’t be imposed on someone else. It is the accumulation of dissatisfaction at the lower level in the hierarchical order, and the wish for its resolution.”

He also notes that longing and sadness are elements in the mixture, and cites as the origin “long years of oppression, both external and internal, by the ruling elites”.

Here’s another Japanese source. Note the last sentence:

Han is a sense of intoxication due to grief and self-pity as the sufferers of the Korean people for their history and hardships as an ethnic group. It arises as a shared feeling that transcends time and space, and is an emotional adhesive. For Koreans, one’s pain is identical to another’s pain, and your pain in the present is the same as the pain of your ancestors in the past.

Han accumulates over time, and its elimination can be expected if there is an interval, but the method for that elimination is revenge. Also, because han accumulates only among the sufferers of the Korean people, their racial memory of gratitude does not remain.”

Prof. Furuta explains one way that relates to Japan:

“Korean independence was achieved not as the result of their own efforts, but because of the Japanese defeat in the war. That becomes a source of han for later generations. Sports are now a substitute for the victory they were unable to achieve then.”

There’s the reason for the Dokdo is Our Land sign on the pitch at the London Olympics. There’s the reason Koreans became so defensive about the criticism they received for it, they concocted the story about the rising sun flag on Japanese gymnastics uniforms.

Oshima Hiroshi wrote a book published as a trade paperback with short explanatory articles comparing and contrasting the Koreans and Japanese in their daily lives and culture. One article focuses on han. Mr. Oshima presents a review of a movie to help explain.

The film is titled Seopyeonje, and a photo from the DVD cover is shown at the top of the post. In Chinese characters, that’s 西便制, and it’s the name of one style in the traditional music of pansori, performed by a vocalist and a drummer. The style was developed by a master of the late 19th century, Bak Yu-jeon. The film was shown in Japan under the title, Kaze no Oka wo Koete.

Here’s the plot. Orphans Dong-ho and his sister Song-hwa were raised by the pansori singer Yu-bong, who treats them harshly and imposes a strict training regimen in his attempts to make serious artists of them. Yu-bong feels that a truly great pansori artist must suffer. The training is so difficult that Dong-ho runs away, but his sister stays behind. The singer gives Song-hwa some Chinese herbal concoction that causes her to go blind. His objective was to implant in her the concept of han, which would enable her to become a pansori singer.

On his deathbed, Yu-bong says, “Do not be buried by han, overcome han.” Later, the brother looks for his sister. After he finds her, she sings, and they part once again.

Writes Oshima:

Han is harsh and difficult, but nothing can be done about it. It refers to the emotion buried in the heart. The heart filled with the emotion of han is han itself. Yu-bong causes Song-hwa’s blindness to implant that emotion. It does not take root, however, because she remembers the father who reared her.”

He also notes that Dong-ho and Song-hwa have feelings of love for each other. Because they are not relatives, they could get married, but feel they cannot because they were raised as brother and sister. Some have pointed out that this also creates han.

“Grudges in Japan can be eliminated by revenge, but han cannot be immediately eliminated by one act. It is deeper than that.”

This reviewer called it “perhaps the definitive work of Korean cinema.” It was a cultural phenomenon in South Korea. In the age of multi-screen film debuts, it was shown first at only one theater, and later at three. It was the first Korean movie to sell one million tickets in Seoul alone, and roughly a million more people saw it throughout the country. The Dong-a Ilbo cited director Im Kwon-taek as the Man of the Year. Im has continued to explore han in the other films of his career.

More from the reviewer:

“Some critics have stated that this movie glorifies the father’s patriarchal power as he seeks to limit his daughter’s sexuality. [6] But most believe that the pansori singer is symbolic for (South) Korea, transcending a history of suffering to achieve greatness…

“Many Koreans commented on how the film represented the purest portrayal of Han they had yet to see on screen. ..To quote Chungmoo Choi, Han basically entails “the sentiment that one develops when one cannot or is not allowed to express feelings of oppression, alienation, or exploitation because one is trapped in an unequal power relationship”.”

Here’s a trailer for the film:

There’s also an expression in Korean for “resolving han”. South Korea’s feelings about Japan are unresolved han.

The following are excerpts of articles and op-eds that appeared in South Korean newspapers over the past two months. Reading them in the context of the foregoing might offer a new perspective on bilateral relations. Remember that the Japan-Korean merger lasted only 35 years, it ended 67 years ago, and the treaty between the two countries that legally resolved everything was signed 47 years ago.

“If Japan is to truly understand the han of the people of the Republic of Korea and seek our forgiveness, it must begin with the recognition that Dokdo is the territory of the Republic of Korea.”

– Jeong Ui-hwa, Saenuri Party, former deputy speaker of the national assembly, quoted in Yonhap

“Only the truth will make the Japanese king kneel. The South Korean government must investigate the truth and condemn those who committed the vicious crimes.”

– Ahn Byon-ok, Daegu University professor

“The piteous suffering inflicted on us by the Japanese has not changed for their descendants, 100 years ago or today.”

– Yuk Cheol-su, Seoul Shinmun, 29 August

According to a government spokesman, Takeshima for South Koreans “is sacred and inviolable land that is a symbol of our sovereignty and independence….Japan took it from us temporarily, but it is recovered Korean land. Now, Japan is finding a pretext to create a quarrel and trying to take it from us again.”

– Jiji news agency, Seoul, 26 August

“Here and there, the form of Japan is changing from that in the recent past. A particularly gruesome surge is evident. This is a typical Japanese political pattern of dispersing their accumulated domestic dissatisfaction through a policy of attack directed outwardly. In particular, the ulterior motive of putting South Korea on the cutting board instead of China or Russia is obvious.”

– Chosun Online, 25 August

“Tactics are the technique of warfare. Strategy is the means for understanding the entire battle, and for fighting resolutely. Tactics alone will result in defeat in a great battle.

“Victory in battle depends on a search in a greater dimension. The search involves what part of the enemy to avoid, and is a very important part of strategy. We think it is a mistake to expand this battle. We must conduct a strategic search to determine how to fight effectively while accurately observing the enemy as it fights.

“This battle with Japan is by no means an exception.”

– Joongang Ilbo Sunday

The Dong-a Ilbo interviewed Saenuri presidential candidate Bak Geun-hye, who said Japan must abandon its territorial claims to resolve Korean dissatisfaction. If not:

“It will harm all our interaction: economic, security cooperation, cultural exchange, the interaction between future generations. Both countries have much to lose…If Japan recognizes Dokdo as South Korean territory, this will be easily resolved.”

That won’t resolve it, and she knows it, but let’s continue:

In an interview with The Associated Press on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said: “We are victims of Japanese colonial rule.”

Kim said Seoul wants to expand relations with Japan, including in military cooperation, but only if South Korean public sentiment allows it. In June, they put on hold an intelligence sharing pact after it provoked an outcry in South Korea.

“We have to try to overcome these differences. It’s up to the Japanese attitude. While they maintain their attitude … there should be some limit on the scope of cooperation,” he said.

Last week, there was a training exercise for the Proliferation Security Initiative to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, held near southern part of South Korea by Japan, the United States, Australia, and South Korea. A Japanese escort ship was to call on Busan, as one did in 2010, but the South Koreans refused to allow it to dock. Their pretext was a concern about demonstrations, but a Japanese official at the embassy said, “This is extremely rude for the host nation of a multilateral training exercise.” (They know. That’s why they did it.) Japan thought of backing out of the exercise, but the US rearranged the plans so a trip to Busan was not necessary.

And this:

“Of 1,493 Japanese companies that mobilized Koreans into forced labor during the 1910-45 Japanese colonial rule, 299 still exist, according to an investigation committee under the Prime Minister’s Office that published its findings Wednesday.”

Not in the English version: These are termed “War Crime Companies”, and efforts are being made to prevent them from bidding on public works projects. Here’s a photo of a politico-led demonstration:

Now compare all of that with this excerpt from the Chosun Ilbo:

“24 August marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and South Korea. South Korea fought China during the 50s in the Korean War, and opposed them as an ally of North Korea during the Cold War. This changed, however, after the end of the Cold War. Now, we are important trading partners, and have a political relationship based on a partnership of strategic cooperation. Unlike the Japan-South Korea and Japan-China relationships, clouded by the Takeshima and Senkakus disputes, our relationship is stable.”

China is the reason the Korean Peninsula is still divided into two countries. China is the reason the repellent regime north of the 38th parallel exists, and China is the only reason it continues to exist. It is possible to view North Korea as a contemporary vassal state of China, which the entire Korean nation once was.

China is directly responsible for the brutality suffered — right now — by those Koreans who happened to be northerners. China is causing Koreans to be killed or die — right now — in unspeakable ways.

The South Koreans seem to have a highly flexible set of standards for deciding who becomes the object of their feelings of han.

None of this is to suggest there is something intrinsically wrong about han. Were it not effective in some way as a survival strategy, han itself would not have survived, much less have been exalted.

The problem — both for Koreans and for others — is that they expect other people to arrange their lives to suit an emotional orientation that exists only for themselves. That they consider it a matter of cultural identity to stew in their own juices, and rather enjoy the stewing, is their business. It is not the business of the Japanese, who in any event no longer care.

Korean solipsism expects the Japanese nation today to hold itself responsible for behavior it isn’t responsible for. The responsibility for the past behavior of the Japanese nation would have been considered resolved for most people long ago. The Koreans are railing at the Japanese in a room full of mirrors, and most Japanese have left the room.

That is why bilateral relations between the two countries will never improve. The Koreans don’t want relations to improve. They’re not happy unless they’re not happy, and it’s become an imperative of cultural identity to keep it that way.


* Donald Kirk is a member of the Institute for Corean-American Studies. Years ago, Korea was sometimes spelled with a C in the Anglosphere until they settled on the K as standard. Some Koreans think the standardization of the K spelling was a Japanese plot to have them precede Korea in alphabetical order. The C spelling, they believe, restores the Korean nation to the alphabetical supremacy that is rightfully theirs.

When they start using it for cimchee and Cim Jong-eun, then I’ll think about using it.

* Kirk has received many awards and commendations from the journalistic guild. It should now be apparent that those encomiums are not a reflection of his accuracy or professional integrity, but rather the low standards of the guild itself.

Consider, for example, the photographs the AP and Reuters chose to publish of Benjamin Netanyahu at the UN last week from among the many shots which they could have selected.

* The root of 恨, or han, is deemed to be one of the earthly passions according to Buddhist teaching. It arises concomitantly with anger, and is considered variously a poison, an unwholesome root, or an unwholesome mental factor. Attachment to it will lead to perpetual disquiet in one’s life, and mistaken thoughts in the Buddhist sense. The Buddhist ideal is to disassociate from these phenomena — which are empty — but Koreans choose to indulge this one.

Buddhism was the state religion for the four centuries of the Goryeo period of Korean history. That ended in the late 14th century when Confucianism was forcibly imposed from the top down and Buddhism oppressed.

That’s another reason the Koreans are less likely to be antagonistic to the Chinese than to the Japanese. It’s part of a larger concept that Japanese scholars refer to as Small Sinocentric Culturalism.


Posted in History, International relations, Religion, South Korea | Tagged: | 49 Comments »

All you have to do is look (63)

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Hizen Tanuki Odori, a dance performed at a festival in Kashima, Saga, on the 25th as a thanks for the fall harvest. They’re wearing raccoon masks and have squash gourds suspended between their legs. It is supposed to represent a legendary battle between a raccoon and a fox over the ownership rights to a hot spring. The performance is said to be about 500 years old.

The photo is from the GID Grandma Yumi Living website.

Posted in Festivals, Photographs and videos | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Ichigen koji (185)

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, September 29, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

All media throughout the country have what they call satellite reporters. They are assigned to circulate in the regional areas. About 10% are the victims of factional warfare inside the company. About 20% are excellent, but aren’t team players. The other 70% are useless. Ah, but the Asahi Shimbun is a storehouse of talent. The only problem is that (she) can’t quit because the salary’s good.

This was an individual getting angry about the comfort women because she is contemptuous of Japanese men. I’m not what she would call a right-winger, but she’s just branding soldiers as perverted, which has a negative impact on Japanese men today. The false rumors spread about the comfort women are an attack on Japanese men.

– Science and technology journalist Ishii Taka’aki on the controversy caused by Asahi reporter Akuzawa Etsuko.

She flew off the handle because Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru was at home on the day a Korean comfort woman visited City Hall. Akuzawa unleashed a Twitter barrage of invective that included, “Stop screwing around and get down here!” (The language used was deliberately rude and in the command form.)

She also told him, “I want to have a war of words with you, and have many questions to ask. How about if I came down dressed in a stewardess uniform?”

She has since apologized and said she would refrain from Tweeting for a while. Here’s a selection from her other recent Tweets:

* “When I was in primary school, I used to love reading Shakabon, the weekly magazine for children published by the Asahi Shimbun. It was an important magazine that properly implanted left-wing thinking in children.”

* Her advice to a third-year junior high school boy who thought his civics class wasn’t interesting: “Just study the Constitution and the three labor laws hard, and forget about the rest of it.”

* “The values of liberals and postwar democracy and human rights have withered at the root, and I feel tired from watering them. But as long as they make newspapers, I won’t step down from this platform.”

Posted in Education, Mass media, Politics, South Korea | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

More on Han-yi Shaw and the Senkakus

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, September 29, 2012

MICHAEL Turton examines the recent guest article by Han-yi Shaw about the Senkakus in the Nicholas Kristof New York Times column and shreds it. Literally. Here was my response, but his is better. First, kudos for sharp eyes: I’ll let Turton explain it.

Here is what Shaw wrote near the bottom:

And according to Taiwan gazetteers, “Diaoyu Island accommodates ten or more large ships” under the jurisdiction of Kavalan, Taiwan.

Heh. The Chinese text he highlights, presumably from the Chen Shouqi text on the right, actually says something like “the Diaoyu Island can hold 1000 large ships.” Not ten, but a thousand. Is Shaw deliberately mistranslating, mistaken, or is it that the gazetteer he cites is not the one in the picture?

Sure enough, that’s exactly what the text in the photograph says: 1,000 large ships. That’s physically impossible.

Shaw was new to me, so I wondered in the piece whether he had another agenda. He wasn’t new to Michael Turton. Here’s his explanation of the Shaw background.

The NYTimes piece leaves out a key piece of information that makes Shaw’s position more rational than it really is, because if the paper’s gentle readers saw it in print they would immediately realize an inconvenient truth: that Han-yi Shaw is a right-wing Chinese expansionist following a Chinese-invented Sinocentric form of sovereignty that hands all of Asia to China. Here is what he says in the long paper:

…Many Chinese scholars have argued that when evaluating the various historical evidence put forth by the Chinese side, one must not fail to recognize the important political realities of the time from which they originated, namely, an era characterized by the East Asian World Order (otherwise known as the Chinese World Order).

The underlying concern is the following: whether principles of modern international law, which has its origin in the European tradition of international order, can properly judge a territorial dispute involving countries historically belonging under the East Asian World Order with fundamentally different ordering principles from its European counterpart. First and foremost, it should be noted that the East Asian World Order was a system of international relations characterized as Sinocentric and hierarchical rather than one based on sovereign equality of nations. Under such a framework, relations between nations were not governed by principles of international law known to the West, but instead by what is know as the “tributary system” instituted by China.

It looks like Shaw claims that there are Chinese scholars arguing that if China says someone paid tribute to it at some point in history, China can determine the sovereignty in its favor. I doubt one can find many Korean, Mongolian, Tibetan, Japanese, Thai, or Vietnamese scholars to support this. It is hard to imagine a mindset more self-serving and expansionist than this. Imagine if the NYTimes column had been fronted by this nonsense. Instead, Shaw cleverly frames it as an attack on Tokyo’s position rather than an announcement of his own with copious evidence, maps, and charts.

There’s more:

What has really happened here is that the East Asian World Order as deployed in the service of Chinese expansion means that when China wants to expand, it will rummage through its history to find justification for said expansion. Thus, the real inconvenient truth is that the Senkakus are Japanese and the Chinese claim is simply naked expansionism.

The even more inconvenient truth, as I have noted several times on this blog, is that many Chinese, especially on the right, argue that Okinawa is Chinese, “stolen territory” — in Chinese minds, and on Chinese maps, the two are linked.

He also touches on the chartered Taiwanese fishing boats that sallied forth to the Senkakus and back:

It should be noted that effectively, when the Ma government and the Beijing government tag-team Japan, the Ma government is working with China, whatever their denials.

It’s all here, and worth reading every word.

It would seem that the credibility of a certain Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist in the New York Times is rapidly evaporating.

Posted in China, History, International relations, Taiwan | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

All you have to do is look (62)

Posted by ampontan on Friday, September 28, 2012

The city of Kitakyushu last week became the first municipality in Kyushu to begin the large-scale disposal of rubble from the Tohoku disaster. They intend to dispose of 62,500 tons by March 2014.

Posted in Environmentalism, Photographs and videos | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Shimojo Masao (17): Information war

Posted by ampontan on Friday, September 28, 2012

THE debate over both the Senkaku islets and Takeshima, neither of which should be pending matters at all, has emerged as a major issue in East Asia. One factor is the inept diplomacy of the Japanese government. This situation will change, however, if the world is engulfed in an information war.

The South Korean news media reported yesterday that newspapers in both Spain and France criticized Japan over the Takeshima issue. The Europeans used the South Korean claim that Japanese documents exist which show the islets were not Japanese territory during the Edo period.

With these territorial disputes as a backdrop, the Russian and Chinese have begun making appeals to public opinion. This is dangerous, because the United States is now involved in a confrontation with the Muslim world. It is possible the Russian and Chinese trend could be employed for use in anti-American criticism.

There are problems with the Japanese diplomatic efforts at the United Nations. While China and Japan are couching the Senkakus and Takeshima territorial questions as historical issues, Japan is asserting that they are matters of international law.

The strategy is to brand Japan as invaders, linking the territorial issues to the comfort women in South Korea’s case, and to the Second World War in China’s case. Not only does this render the Japanese objection that there are no territorial issues meaningless, the stronger Japan speaks out, the more likely third parties will doubt what it says.

The UN Secretary-General is now a South Korean. China and Russia are permanent members of the Security Council. The Chinese have already distributed a paper to the council claiming that the Senkakus are Chinese territory.

Regardless of how often Japan insists there is no territorial issue, if the Chinese say that the Senkakus have been theirs since the 15th century, third parties will be likely to side with the Chinese claim. The mass media reports from Spain and France that side with South Korea are the result of South Korean PR.

There is no documentary evidence showing that the Japanese incorporation of the Senkakus and Takeshima was the result of an invasion. That some are making the entirely opposite interpretation shows there is a problem with the Japanese response.

Contemporary Japanese diplomacy has come to resemble that during the sequence of events from the Mukden Incident to the Second World War.

– Shimojo Masao, Takushoku University


Addressing the UN General Assembly session in New York, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said:

“The Diaoyutai have been Chinese territory since ancient times. We strongly urge Japan to immediately cease behavior that harms Chinese territorial sovereignty.”


“(Japan) should take definite action to correct its errors, and return to the course of resolving the dispute through negotiations.”


“Japan stole the islets at the end of the 1895 war….(The Japanese nationalization) is a serious challenge to the objectives and principles of the UN charter.”

Kodama Kazuo, Japan’s deputy permanent representative, exercised the right of rebuttal to argue that China didn’t begin to make this territorial claim until the 1970s. The Chinese UN ambassador came back with: “Japan persists in colonialism”.

Posted in China, History, International relations, South Korea | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Ichigen koji (184)

Posted by ampontan on Friday, September 28, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

I think these cycles of friction with South Korea are inevitable. A look at history shows that friendly Japan-Korea ties have been maintained only at those times when they resembled those of the proverb which recommends relations as simple and uncomplicated as water*. Japan should continue to engage South Korea in the future about historical problems, but with the people in that country calling to make Japan a hypothetical enemy, the anti-Japanese sentiment there exceeds that directed at North Korea and China. Isn’t that a clear demonstration that public opinion in South Korea towards Japan emphasizes nationalism rather than shared values?

Even though we have market economies, there were tariff barriers to the sale of Japanese products until recently, and even now there are many non-tariff barriers that block their sale in the Korean market…in these circumstances, the free market cannot be a principle cementing bilateral ties.

People say that Japan and South Korea share the values of liberal democracy and a market economy, but South Korean “freedom” suppresses the expression of opinion or the freedom of viewpoint toward Japan. The state also sees the management of nationalism as proper. In Japan, a society in which that sort of behavior goes unchallenged could not be called “free”.

– The Tweeter known as Aceface

* 君子の交わりは淡きこと水のごとし

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All you have to do is look (61)

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, September 27, 2012

The climactic event of the Fujisaki Hachiman-gu Shinto shrine in Kumamoto City on the 16th. Representatives of 68 groups each led a horse in a procession witnessed by 16,000 people. There’s an explanation for the reason at the end of this page. It seems the idea is that the divinities are astride the horses now.

But that’s not all that goes on, as you can see from the video.

Posted in Festivals, Photographs and videos | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »


Posted by ampontan on Thursday, September 27, 2012

YESTERDAY, senior officials of the South Korean Maritime Police (AKA Coast Guard) confirmed on Chosun Television the information that former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo revealed a year or two ago. According to the Chosun Ilbo report on the program, then-South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun ordered the maritime police to attack and sink two Japanese Coast Guard ships conducting a hydrographic survey in the Sea of Japan if they entered the waters near Takeshima.

Roh gave the order on 14 April 2006. That was a few months before the end of the Koizumi administration, when Mr. Abe was the chief cabinet secretary. The Japanese had provided the International Hydrographic Agency with advance notice of the survey. When South Korea found out, they transferred 18 ships from their maritime police stationed in the West Sea and the South Sea, as the Chosun put it, to defend the islets. As the map above shows, the “West Sea” is what the rest of the world calls the Yellow Sea, and the South Sea is what the rest of the world calls the Jeju Strait. It also shows the Sea of Japan as the “East Sea”, but they generously put the real name in parentheses just below it.

The presidential order was to ram the Japanese ships, sink them, and then fulfill their humanitarian duty by rescuing any Japanese sailors in the water. Said one of the officials on Korean TV:

“We didn’t actually do it, but the order was imbued with the will to defend Dokdo.”

Also yesterday, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported on the election of the “far right” Abe Shinzo as president of the Liberal Democratic Party, and added:

“If he becomes Prime Minister, it will expose the Japanese trend toward militarism, and friction will increase with China, South Korea, and other surrounding countries…Mr. Abe seems to be dreaming of the revival of a militarist Japan.”

Somebody seems to be dreaming, but they’ve fingered the wrong sleeper. If Yonhap ever wakes up from its stupor, perhaps they’ll remember that Abe Shinzo has already served as prime minister for a year and given everyone an idea of his approach to foreign poicy. His first overseas trip as the head of the Japanese government was to China, and he also visited South Korea for a summit with Roh (whom he immediately discovered was impossible to work with.)

Also during his term of office, Premier Wen Jibao became the first Chinese leader to address the Japanese Diet. In his speech, Mr. Wen said:

“The older generation of Chinese leaders stated on many occasions that it was a handful of militarists who were responsible for that war of aggression. The Japanese people were also victims of the war, and the Chinese people should live in friendship with them.”


“Since the normalization of diplomatic ties between China and Japan, the Japanese Government and leaders have on many occasions stated their position on the historical issue, admitted that Japan had committed aggression and expressed deep remorse and apology to the victimized countries.”


“During my meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday, we agreed to upgrade bilateral economic cooperation by launching a China-Japan high level economic dialogue mechanism. To start with, the two countries should further strengthen cooperation in energy, environmental protection, banking, new and high technology, information and communication and protection of intellectual property rights.”

Toward the end, he observed:

“We in China have a time-honored tradition of prizing virtue rather than force and valuing credibility and harmony.”

So to sum up, we have a leftwing president of South Korea sending a flotilla of 18 ships from the “West Sea” and the “South Sea” to defend Dokdo by attacking two vessels conducting a hydrographic survey. We’ve got the Communist Party in China forgetting everything it once said now that they’ve pried out of Japan the money they needed to kickstart their entry into the modern world, and are trying to pry one part of Japan loose as a preparation for prying loose all of Okinawa.

Wouldn’t it appear to the disinterested observer that the problem is the real militarism of leftists in other Northeast Asian countries rather than the dreams of a non-existent militarism from a “far-right” politician in Japan?

For another entertaining diversion, you might try the Hiroko Tabuchi piece on Mr. Abe’s election in the New York Times. It isn’t often you get the chance to see a major news outlet create an article out of a series of cut-and-paste observations so random as to be scatterbrained.

Their headline also referred to Mr. Abe as a “nationalist”, and the article said his election might “help fuel tensions” in the region. Yes, she did use the word “help”, but no, I don’t think the Chinese and the Koreans really need any help with tension fueling. They’re already doing fine on their own.

Note the underlying assumption that everyone else’s bad behavior is Japan’s responsibility to ameliorate.

She said he might become prime minister after the next election because:

“(N)ow the Democratic Party has lost much of its support, having fallen short on many of their promises to change Japan’s postwar order by wrestling power away from the country’s powerful bureaucrats.”

That’s pretty close to the truth for the Times. All you have to do is replace the word “many” with “all”.

Tabuchi also explained that Mr. Abe resigned the premiership “citing an unspecified health problem”.

Forty-five seconds on Google specified the health problem as ulcerative colitis, one symptom of which is severe diarrhea. He might not have specified it when he resigned, but the Japanese news media did. In Mr. Abe’s case, it involved 30 trips to the bathroom a day, none of which relieved the pain in his abdominal area. He says that a new drug approved for treatment two years ago has helped considerably.

Now if we could only find an equivalent medication for the news media.


The Yomiuri Shimbun is reporting that President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan met with people from the Taiwan military on the 26th and praised the recent fishing boat excursion in Japanese territorial waters:

“They showed the world that the Diaoyutai is Taiwan’s territory.”

And here it was just a month ago that he appeared on Japanese television to tout his East Asia Peace Initiative, one of the clauses of which was to refrain from escalating tension.

Mr. Ma’s family name, by the way, translates to horse. He’s not living up to it, however. It’s hard to tell whether he’s a donkey or a horse.

That might have been the Last Emperor, but the dreams of empire are still alive.

Posted in China, International relations, Mass media, Military affairs, South Korea | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Ichigen koji (183)

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, September 27, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

* Theoretically, the viewpoint of the People’s Daily does not represent the viewpoint of the government.

* The article in the People’s Daily has no legal force.

* Japan objects, objects, and objects. If they believe the People’s Daily that much, how about if we have the People’s Daily run an editorial saying that Japan is the vassal of China?

– The response of some Chinese on the Internet when they discovered that an article in the 8 January 1953 edition of the People’s Daily called the Senkakus by their Japanese name and explained to its readers that they were part of Okinawa.

Posted in China, International relations, Quotations | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

All you have to do is look (60)

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Scenes from the National Sake Barrel Tug of War Championships held at the end of last month in Nagaoka, Niigata. The event started in 1965, and nine male and five female teams participated this year. Each match was divided into three rounds, and the winner was the first team to win two rounds.

Note the paper folded into a zigzag shape on top of the barrels. That’s called a shide, and is used to denote a sacred space in Shinto.

The photo above comes from the Hibi Zakka website

Posted in Photographs and videos, Popular culture, Sports | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Refrying nationalism

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, September 26, 2012

THE balloting to select the new president of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party has just finished, and the LDP has chosen former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo as its new leader. That means Mr. Abe stands a good chance of becoming prime minister again following the next election.

We already know how most of the news media in the Anglosphere and the Asahi Shimbun in Japan will treat the news: Japan is turning rightward! Japan is turning to nationalism! In fact, the Washington Post has already started (and we’ll get to that in a day or two.) [[Quick update: The Yonhap news agency of South Korea just now referred to him as “far right” in their report.]]

Well, that’s accurate in one sense: Japan isn’t turning to social democracy and uno mundo imposed and enforced from the top down.

I’ve already dealt with the other senses in a post called The Mirage of Japanese Nationalism more than five years ago. I just re-read it and, apart from the failure to anticipate the revival of the term “right-wing”, it’s just as valid as it was in May 2007. Hit the link and see for yourself. (The link to the blogger in France still works.)

And if you’re in a reading mood, the links to the post before and the post after in May 2007 might be of interest as well — particularly the one the right with commentary about the Japanese Constitution, and what Ishihara Shintaro suggested the Chinese government would do when their economy hits a rough patch.


It didn’t take the Associated Press long:

Abe’s previous 2006-2007 tenure as prime minister was marked by a nationalistic agenda. He urged a revision of Japan’s pacifist constitution, pressed for patriotic education, upgraded the defense agency to ministry status and pushed for Japan to have a greater international peacekeeping role.

News outlets should give serious consideration to shifting their AP reports to the Entertainment section.

Time for some neo-nationalist music. It’s funky as the dickens, has three of the four original members of Nenes, and the bandleader wearing a hibiscus in the lapel of his white suit.

Posted in Mass media, Politics | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Ichigen koji (182)

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, September 26, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

Environmental Minister Hosono Goshi was appointed as chairman of the Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council (i.e. the body in charge of party policy), and Finance Minister Azumi Jun was appointed as acting party Secretary-General. Just what does the DPJ think a Cabinet Minister is? I understand they probably have difficulty finding suitable people for those positions, but I can only view this as disrespecting the post of Cabinet Minister. I want them to serve in their jobs in government until this administration is over.

– Matsuda Kota, upper house member from Your Party

Posted in Government, Politics, Quotations | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »