AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Hashimoto Toru (11): Scurrilous

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, October 18, 2012

THE weekly Shukan Asahi started on Monday a series of articles profiling Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru that could only be described as scurrilous, had the behavior of the international news media not rendered that word inadequate long ago.

The series is written by non-fiction author Sano Shin’ichi and is titled, “Hashishita: Savior or King of the Ignorant Public? Smoking out the real character of Hashimoto Toru by tracing his DNA.”

The Hashishita in the title is written in the katakana alphabet (ハシシタ) instead of in kanji (橋下). That could only be described as a deliberate impertinence — had the behavior of the international news media also not rendered that word inadequate long ago. It was probably the original reading of Mr. Hashimoto’s name, and the reading indicates his father might have been descended from burakumin, a social class in Japan that has been subject to discrimination in the past. Hashi no Shita, or underneath the bridge, is also a phrase used in the Kansai region to denote buraku communities.

The Asahi group is attempting to use Mr. Hashimoto’s family background to destroy his career. His father might also have been a member of a lesser yakuza group that no longer exists, and is said to have committed suicide when his membership was revealed by a distant relative. His cousin is serving a jail term for manslaughter. This information is already widely known because it was revealed by weekly magazines just before last November’s mayoral election. It had little, if any, impact on the voting — Mr. Hashimoto won by a wide margin.

Explained the author:

“I do not intend to validate the Hashimoto political methods.”

And:

“In the event Hashimoto achieves a position from which he can influence Japanese politics, the most important issue must become this man’s intolerant character in which he will absolutely reject his opponents. That is the real Hashimoto character which lies at the root of his troublesome personality. To do that, we must examine in as much detail as possible Hashimoto Toru’s parents and the roots of the Hashimoto family.”

The phrase “in the event” also has overtones in the original Japanese. It was man ga ichi , which is the same euphemism Japanese life insurance companies use in their advertising as a substitute for “if XXX should happen to die”. In practice, it means, “If we have to think the unthinkable.”

When Mr. Sato says “intolerant character”, what he really means is that the mayor gives no quarter in public debates. The reason the Asahi finds his personality “troublesome” is that (a) the public loves him for it, and (b) his ideas are on the opposite side of the political spectrum. When Mr. Hashimoto responds to criticism from a university professor, for example, not only will he offer a lengthy and detailed rebuttal based on his political philosophy and policy views, he is also apt to question the qualifications of academics to even participate in the debate because they lack experience in manipulating the nuts and bolts of public administration. Further, he is apt to add barbed comments about their lack of real-world experience outside the classroom.

Mayor Hashimoto was asked about the articles yesterday at a news conference. He had plenty to say.

* “I think that no institution has a more important role in a democratic nation than the news media. They must act as a check on authority.”

But:

* “I have no memory of being raised by my biological father. (His father’s suicide occurred when he was seven.) Considering that, I don’t think it makes any difference what sort of life he led.”

* “I would like to hear their thinking about the impact of my father’s life on my current political activities. Their frightening thinking is compatible with racialism (literally, “blood vessel-ism”) and class (caste/status) systems.”

* “This is extremely frightening because it can be associated with Nazi ethnic cleansing.”

Note that the publication is not questioning the influence of his father’s thinking or behavior on his political beliefs or behavior through contact while he was growing up. That would be a legitimate area for inquiry. Rather, it is questioning the influence of “DNA” on his behavior, as Mr. Hashimoto wasn’t reared by his father.

He also reminded the news media that his name was Hashimoto, not Hashishita.

As a result:

* “Until I have them provide a clear confirmation of whether or not this thinking is racialism connected to a class system, I cannot recognize them as an organ of (free) speech, nor can I, as a public official, respond to their news-gathering activities.”

And:

* “Until I hear a proper (explanation) of what they were thinking about, I do not want to answer any questions from the Asahi newspaper company or their broadcast network. Maximum protection must be afforded freedom of speech, but they have crossed the line.”

He explained that he has no intention of preventing them from attending news conferences as part of their job. They just don’t get to ask any questions while they’re there.

The public response so far has been such that it might make some politicians in the Anglosphere envious of the Japanese sense of fairness. I’ve yet to see anyone even attempt to defend the Asahi, even by those who dislike the mayor. This Tweet by University of Tokyo Prof. Sugawara Taku seems typical:

“I can only say that Mr. Hashimoto is correct, if only in this instance.”

Others quickly noted that the article contributes to discrimination against the buraku class.

There are also extenuating circumstances, the foremost of which is that the Asahi does not have a reputation for journalistic integrity. They alone among the media concealed information to beautify the ugly behavior of former Prime Minister Kan Naoto during the Fukushima nuclear accident. Many Japanese also hold them responsible for poisoning the well of Japanese-Korean relations by printing bogus information about comfort women on the eve of then-Prime Minister Miyazawa Ki’ichi’s state visit to South Korea. A female Asahi reporter was hoist by her own petard last month when she berated the mayor for not coming to City Hall to meet a South Korean comfort woman.

An Asahi reporter attended the Osaka mayor’s news conference today. Mr. Hashimoto asked him for his opinion, and the reporter complained several times that the magazine is published by a different company than the newspaper (which is the parent company), and they had nothing to do with it.

Replied the mayor:

“That’s the same type of thing as one of those illegal groups that creates a tunnel company (paper company) to get away with whatever they want.”

He added:

“The Asahi Shimbun has always championed human rights. How will they approach this issue as the (only) stockholder of a wholly-owned subsidiary?”

When the reporter continued to protest that the company was different, he retorted:

“That logic will not pass muster. The parent company can also withdraw its investment.”

He then asked the journo for his personal opinion. One report says he had trouble getting it out, but he finally said:

“Personally, I myself do not approve of that behavior.”

Yes, the Asahi group is the leading leftwing media voice in Japan. Yes, Hashimoto Toru is not a social democrat. He wants to reduce the size of government and legitimize the right of self-defense in the Constitution.

Why do you ask?

Afterwords:

* The cover of the magazine in question also promotes an article about Dr. Yamashita Shinya, who was awarded the Nobel Prize this year for his stem cell research. Now consider the juxtaposition of that article with one that purports to reveal the personality of Hashimoto Toru based on his “DNA” (a term the author used without quotation marks).

* The boys and girls who play newspaper at the Japan Times just can’t help themselves, it seems. They ran a brief Kyodo article about the controversy that also includes a reference to the magazine’s comparison of Mr. Hashimoto to Adolf Hitler. As far as I’ve read, none of the people in Japan criticizing the Shukan Asahi for the piece have mentioned it. (The comparison is very old news and only the usual crowd cares.)

But here is the headline the Japan Times chose:

Hashimoto snubs Asahi for Hitler slight

UPDATE:

Mr. Hashimoto said he wants to meet with the Shukan Asahi editors to hear what they have to say for themselves. He’s Tweeted that they’ve told him they’re ready to meet him, but that the meeting be private. The mayor replied that he’s not interested in private meetings. A mass media outlet has brought up the issue of “blood” in public, he explained, so he wants to have a discussion with them that is open to the public.

This willingness to duke it out in public, backed by the confidence to win those battles, is one reason the establishment is petrified by Hashimoto Toru.

UPDATE 2:

The Shukan Asahi decided to suspend publication of the rest of the articles in the planned series.

*****
Speaking of bloodlines, here’s a tune from the disc Blood Line, a 1989 release by Okinawan Kina Shokichi.

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One Response to “Hashimoto Toru (11): Scurrilous”

  1. “The boys and girls who play newspaper at the Japan Times” — perfect turn of phrase. That rag has always reminded me of a college newspaper, except Japan serves as the eternal campus for the reporters to play, and the Japanese are just the “townies”.

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