Japan from the inside out

Posts Tagged ‘Okinawa’

Shimojo Masao (16): The Senkaku Islets Issue and Japan’s Response

Posted by ampontan on Friday, September 21, 2012

THE incident of 7 September 2010 in which a Chinese fishing boat collided with two patrol boats of the Japan Maritime Safety Agency seems to have revived China’s traditional hegemonism. Whenever a new dynasty in China has been established and the nation’s strength has grown, history repeats itself as the Chinese launch military invasions of neighboring countries, subjugate them, and create a system of vassalage with the surrounding countries. China’s national strength has again grown quite substantially, and they are now exhibiting similar behavior. This was also repeated in the years immediately following the Second World War.

The People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949 after the end of that war. At the same time, the Chinese Communist Party attacked East Turkistan (now part of the Xingiang Uighur Autonomous Region), and brought Tibet under their control. Now, China claims the territory of the Senkaku islets and the Spratly Islands. They are also hotly contesting with South Korea the possession of Ieodo (a submerged reef 4.6 meters below the surface of the sea, which the Chinese call Suyanjiao) in South Korea’s exclusive economic zone.

But we have something to confirm first. The Senkaku islets were incorporated as Japanese territory through a Cabinet declaration of 14 January 1895. It is also a fact that Japan has continued to maintain effective control of them since then.

The immediate background

China and Taiwan first expressed an interest in the Senkakus in June 1971. That’s when the “Agreement between Japan and the United States of America Concerning the Ryukyu Islands and the Daito Islands returning Okinawa to Japan” was signed. The Senkakus were included as part of the Okinawa islands.

The same month, Taiwan’s government issued a declaration through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the islets were part of the Republic of China’s territory and incorporated in Taiwan Province. That December, the Chinese government said that the Senkakus were “islands incorporated in Taiwan, and as with Taiwan, these islands have since ancient times been part of the indivisible land of China. It is illegal to include our Diaoyutai and other islands in the region that will be returned to Japan through the agreement between the Japanese and American governments.” They also declared, “The Chinese people will by all means recover Diaoyutai and the other islands incorporated in Taiwan.”

The Chinese government declared the Okinawa islands as part of the “First Island Chain” for national defense, and designated both Taiwan and the Senkakus as part of their “core interests”. They consider their Foreign Ministry declaration of 31 December 1971 to be still valid. For the Chinese, the ultimate objective is to gain control of the Senkaku islets.

One has the sense that this pending issue between the two countries came suddenly to the forefront with the incident involving the Chinese fishing boat two years ago. Now, Japan must see clearly the traditional Chinese diplomatic stance and respond strategically.

This article uses Chinese documents to verify from a historical perspective whether or not the Senkaku islets were “part of the Republic of China’s territory”, or “part of the indivisible territory of China since ancient times”. This is the urgent necessity before us.

The Japanese government gave names to 39 uninhabited islands, including those of the Senkaku islets, in Japan’s exclusive economic zone as of January 31 this year. The State Oceanic Administration of the People’s Republic of China retaliated by giving names to 71 islands, including reefs near the Senkaku islets. The day after Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura announced the names of the uninhabited islands, the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, printed an article in their 17 January edition that designated the Senkaku islets as a core national interest for which China’s security admitted no compromise. It is the same designation given to Tibet and Taiwan. They added that the islets had been “an integral part of Chinese territory since ancient times.” This historical interpretation is well worth noting. It is the logic that the Senkaku islets were Chinese territory before their incorporation into Japan. It is the same logic of South Korea, which holds that Japan unlawfully seized Takeshima during the Russo-Japanese War.

Further, the Naha (Okinawa) Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution made the decision on 15 March to hand down a mandatory indictment of the Chinese fishing boat captain involved in the collision in the Senkakus. Soon after, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs media spokesman Liu Weimin, claimed, “The Senkaku islets and their ancillary islets have been an integral part of Chinese territory since ancient times…Japan has no right to conduct official business of any kind in this area. Any civil proceedings adopted by Japan against a Chinese citizen are illegal and invalid.”

The following day, two maritime research vessels from the State Oceanic Administration encroached on Japanese territory near the Senkaku islets. Hailed by a patrol boat from the Maritime Safety Agency, they responded, “We are performing our duties in this area. These islands, including Diaoyutai, are Chinese territory.” Once again, the historical interpretation that the islets were “an integral part of Chinese territory since ancient times” is the basis for this behavioral principle.

What is the origin of the historical awareness that has caused China to become so forceful? The basis for their argument is “The Sankaku Islets: A historical elucidation of the Diaoyutai”, a 1972 book by former Kyoto University Associate Professor Inoue Kiyoshi. In the preface, Mr. Inoue wrote:

“Didn’t Japan seize the Senkakus from China during the first Japan-China war? If that is true, the instant that Japan surrendered and unconditionally accepted the terms of the Potsdam Declaration of the Allied powers, including China, they automatically had to return the islets to China based on the territorial clause of the declaration. Is not Japan’s belief that they are still Japanese territory nothing other than a recurrence of Japanese imperialism?”

The thinking is the same as in the Chinese Foreign Ministry declaration of December 1971, and the Chinese have utilized the Inoue book to the maximum. In fact, after the collision between the Chinese fishing boat and the Japanese ships occurred, Chinese Foreign Ministry media spokesman Jiang Yubao insisted that the Senkakus were Chinese territory and cited Mr. Inoue’s book as a basis for the claim.

Inoue Kiyoshi’s motivation for writing the book was to establish two points:

1. The Diaoyutai were not terra nullius, but Chinese territory dating to the Ming Dynasty.

2. Japan’s possession was an act of plunder that took advantage of their victory in the war.

There were similar views in both Taiwan and China, but the book was prized in China and quickly translated into Chinese because it was written by a Japanese scholar.

Does the view of Mr. Inoue that the islets are Chinese territory have any basis in historical fact? Let’s examine Chinese historical awareness as the current tension surrounding the Senkakus continues.

The problems with the Chinese claim

The grounds for the Chinese claim of the islets is that they were used as a navigational marker on the route taken the emissaries sent to the Ryukyu Kingdom (now Okinawa) when they were a Chinese vassalage during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. This is, in fact, true. The argument that the islets were Chinese territory during the Ming Dynasty is found in the name Diaoyu, one of the islets mentioned in the Shun Feng Xiang Song, (Voyage with a Tail Wind) a navigational guidebook from 1403.

The Chinese have also used the records of the emissaries sent to the Ryukyus since the Ming Dynasty as proof of their claim that the islets have historically been their territory. The name of the islets (either Diaoyu or Diaoyutai) were cited in Shi Liu Qiu Lu (Records of the Envoys to Ryukyu) by Chen Kan (1534); Chong Bian Shi Liu Qiu Lu, a revised version of the same records by Guo Rulin (1562); Shi Liu Qiu Za Lu (Assorted Records of the Envoys to Ryukyu) by Wang Ji (1683); Zhong Shan Yun Xin Lu (Records of Messages from Zhong Shan) by Xu Baoguang (1719); Liuqiu Guo Zhi Lue (History of the Ryukyu Kingdom) by Zhou Huang (1756); Shi Liuqiu Lu (Record of Ryukyu Missions) by Li Dingyuan (1800); and Xuliuqiu Guozhilue by Zhai Kun (1808). The Xu Baoguang document and the Zhou Huang document had appended navigation charts on which the islets of Diaoyu, Huangweiyu, and Chiweiyu were shown.

Further, the Chen Kan document explains that Kumejima (part of Okinawa Prefecture) is part of the Ryukyus, and the Wang Ji document states that the “boundary between China and the outside” lies between Kumejima and Chiweyu. That is the basis for the Inoue and Chinese insistence that the Senkakus are part of Chinese territory.

In the fall of 2005, Haigyoji, supposedly a lost section of Fusheng Liuji, was discovered in a used book stall in China. One passage read, “Sighted Diaoyutai on the morning of the 13th”. China regards this as ironclad proof that the Senkakus belong to China. In the Chinese interpretation, Haigyoji is a depiction of the main character of the Fusheng Liuji who travels to the Ryukyus in 1808 in the company of Zhai Kun, the Imperial emissary.

Using the Haigyoji as the basis for the territorial claim does not hold up, however. The Imperial emissary Zhai Kun sailed from the port of Fuzhou early in May 1808 for Naha in Okinawa, and along the way he passed Wuhumen, Jilongshan, Diaoyutai, Chiweiyu, Heigouyang, Gumishan, and Machishan, arriving in Naha on the night of the 17th. Zhai wrote a poetry anthology titled Dongying Baiyong (One Hundred Verses from the East) in which he included a poem of eight lines called Hanghai Bayong describing his voyage from Taiping to Naha. Each line in the poem is a five-character verse, and one of them is titled Jilongshan, a mountain located in the province of Taiwan. Zhai wrote that this mountain was considered to be the boundary of China, and that Jilongshan of Taiwan province was the boundary of the Qing Dynasty.

Zhai wrote of Gumishan (Kumejima) as his ship neared the Ryukyu kingdom. In the footnote to this verse, he writes that this mountain is within the boundary of the Ryukyus. (N.B.: There are mountains on Kumejima, which is apparent from the Chinese name Zhai used.) In other words, Zhan is saying that Mt. Jilong (Jilongshan) is the boundary of the Qing Dynasty and Gumishan is the boundary of the Ryukyus. Thus, Diaoyutai and Chiweiyu, which are between those two, must therefore be terra nullius, neither part of the Qing Empire or of the Ryukyu Kingdom.

Zhai Kun once again wrote that Mt. Jilong was the border of China in a subsequent work titled Du Hai Yin Yong Xi Cheng Peng Po Lang Tu Yun, which was rhymed verse based on the idea of a brave sea voyage to the western border. Just because the passage in Haigyoji reads, “Sighted Diaoyutai on the morning of the 13th” does not mean there is ironclad proof that the Senkakus were Chinese territory.

We turn to the question of why Zhai Kun regarded Mt. Jilong as the boundary of China. In his book Dongying Baoyong (One Hundred Verses of the East Sea), Zhai wrote that Mt. Jilong was “a mountain on the edge of Taiwan province”. The provincial government in Taiwan at the time held that Mt. Jilong was the northern border. The Qing Dynasty placed that government in Taiwan in 1684, and they cited that mountain as the border to the province. The Taiwan Fuzhi (History of Taiwan Province), compiled annually by Jiang Yuying during the reign of Emperor Kanxi, states that the prefecture extends 2,315 li north to Mt. Jilong, That is echoed in the revised 1696 edition, when the same distance to the mountain is cited and the mountain is called the boundary. The 1696 edition contains this map. The documentation cites the same distance to the mountain and calls it the boundary.

The Jilong Castle and Mt. Jilong are located near the present-day city of Keelung. Here is the basis of Zhai Kun’s statement in the Dongying Baiyong that the mountain was the boundary of China.

Therefore, the arguments that the islets were Chinese territory because the name Diaoyu was mentioned in the Shun Feng Xiang Song of the Ming Dynasty, or that the name Diaoyutai is noted in the records of Chinese emissaries, do not constitute proof that the Senkakus are Chinese territory. Taiwan did not become Chinese territory until the Qing Dynasty. In fact, the Daming Yitongzhi (Waiyu) (The Great Ming Journal of Unification [Foreigners]), an official geographical reference compiled during the Ming Dynasty in 1461, states that the Penghu Islands, also known as the Pescadores, located between Fujian Province and Taiwan, were part of the Ryukyu Kingdom. They were not part of Taiwan during the Ming Dynasty.

This fact can also be confirmed in the Daqing Yitongzhi (The Great Qing Journal of Unification) compiled during the Qing Dynasty. The Daqing Yitongzhi states that Taiwan was a distant frontier territory, and refers to it as the land of the Eastern Barbarians (dongfan, often a general term for ethnic minorities) that wasn’t a part of China. It also states that people from Japan had congregated there during the early part of the Ming Dynasty, that Zheng Zhilong (Chinese merchant, pirate, and admiral) had outposts there, and that the Dutch also came. The edition published during the reign of the Emperor Qianlong states simply that Taiwan was part of Japan.

Taiwan was incorporated into the Qing Dynasty in 1684. Taiwan Province, located in Taiwan, had Mt. Jilong as the northern border of its administrative district. That’s why Zhai Kun twice stated the mountain was the border of China when he passed Taiwan on his way to the Ryukyus to fulfill his duties as emissary.

The territory of Taiwan province is shown in a map contained in the Taiwan Fuzhi. Using that as the basis, the Qing Dynasty compiled the official Qinding Gujin Tushu Jicheng, an atlas, in 1728. The map of Taiwan province in that collection does not show the Senkakus at all. It shows Mt. Jilong as the northern border of the territory. That’s because the mountain was designated as the northern border of Taiwan province before Zhai Kun traveled to the Ryukyu Kingdom as emissary.

The Daiqing Yitongzhi published in 1744 also shows the mountain as the northern border, and it too does not show the Senkakus. This geographical awareness is continued in the Haiguo Wenjianlu (Records of That Seen and Heard of Overseas Countries) published in 1793. The Senkakus were not part of Taiwan.

All of this demonstrates that the Senkakus were terra nullius when the Japanese government incorporated the islets as Japanese territory in 1895. The geographical recognition of Mt. Jilong and the Jilong Castle as the northern border of Taiwan was continued into the era of the Republic of China following the pattern of the Daqing Yitongzhi in the Huangzhao Xuwenxian Tongkao (A Review of Dynasty Documents), compiled in 1912, and the Qingshigao (Draft of the Qing Dynasty History) of 1927. From the Ming Dynasty through the Qing Dynasty to the days of the Republic of China on the mainland, the Senkaku Islets were not part of Taiwan’s territory.

China thus is claiming the Senkaku islets are their territory and that Japan used the war with China as an excuse to steal them, based on the information contained in the Inoue book. Mr. Inoue’s manipulation of the historical documents was careless, however. It is not possible to use his book as the basis for the Chinese claim.

One of the first to refute Mr. Inoue’s research was Okuhara Toshio, then an associate professor at Kokushikan University. Mr. Okuhara’s specialty is international law, but he employed both international law and historical materials, including the Taiwan Fuzhi and the Jilong Fuzhi (History of Keelung) as a basis to show that the Senkakus were not part of Taiwan.

Historical research has not proceeded beyond Mr. Okuhara’s work, however. Therefore, the dispute between Japan, who claim the islets based on international law, and China, which claim the islets based on their historical interpretation that they were Chinese since the Ming dynasty, has not been fully engaged. It has not been possible to overturn the Chinese claims that take Mr. Inoue’s book as gospel.

When one carefully reads the Chinese documents, it is clear that Mr. Inoue’s research was arbitrary. As Zhai Kun wrote that Mt. Jilong was the border of China in Dongying Baiyong, and that Gumishan (Kumejima) was the border of the Ryukyus, the Senkakus were terra nullius before Japan incorporated them. China has no historical title for which to base their territorial claim in the islets.

The issue today

Consequently, when China claims the Senkakus as their core interest and says they were Chinese territory from the days of the Ming Dynasty, it is rooted in a territorial ambition based on the idea of imperialism. It is similar to the South Korean claim in regard to the debate over the Takeshima islets, which they illegally occupy. They insist that Japan unlawfully took possession of the islets from them.

Indeed, the 26 September issue of the Hong Kong-based Asiaweek, immediately after the incident with the Chinese fishing boat captain, held that a lesson should be learned from the Korean seizure of Takeshima, and that it was worth examining the possibility of occupying the Senkakus. The idea that Japan’s territorial issue should be utilized for their own territorial issues has already occurred to some people. Writing in the online edition of Qingnian Cankao, a semi-weekly journal affiliated with Zhongguo Qingnian Bao, the daily newspaper of the CPC Communist Youth League, Kanto Gakuin University Prof. Yin Yanjun said, “China and Russia should cooperate in their territorial issues and apply strong pressure to Japan.” Yu Zhirong, a researcher at the Chinese Maritime Development Research Center, said in the 21 February edition of Duowei News, “If it’s necessary, South Korea, Russia, and other countries with territorial issues with Japan should work together.”

This is the climate in which Russian President Putin brought up the resolution of the issue of the four islands it holds off of Hokkaido, known as the Northern Territories. Understanding that Japan was incapable of moving on the territorial issues with China and South Korea, he sees this as a golden opportunity. Territorial issues are difficult to settle if the country that has seized the territory refuses to budge, but the countries involved have begun to take action on their own. Japan must first clearly see and understand the traditional Chinese approach to foreign affairs and make a strategic response. That’s because now is the time to resolve these issues.

– Shimojo Masao, Takushoku University


* Clicking on the maps will enlarge them.

* Here’s something else Yu Zhirong said about this issue, just last month:

“Safeguarding rights is a political issue. We need to use the law, learn it, apply it, know it, but also go beyond the law.”

I’m sure everyone knows the words used to describe people who “go beyond the law”.

* So, China, Russia, and South Korea are thinking of ganging up on Japan to cut themselves each a slice. There is no better way to accelerate the move to amend the peace clause of the Japanese Constitution, and indeed, to have Japan consider taking up nuclear weapons. Estupido. But they’ll find a way to blame it on Japan.

One wonders if they would make so bold if a different president were in the White House.

Posted in China, International relations, Taiwan | Tagged: , , | 8 Comments »

All you have to do is look (54)

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, September 20, 2012

Chinese cartoonist @q0506700’s take on the Senkakus controversy.

“In Japan, if the government wants your land, it will send 2 billion yen. In China, if the government wants your land, it will send 20 bulldozers.”

That’s supposed to be Godzilla in the cartoon.

From China Digital Times via AmazeNews.

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

All you have to do is look (48)

Posted by ampontan on Friday, September 14, 2012

An anti-Japan demonstration yesterday in Beijing. The larger Chinese-language part of the A-bomb sign says pretty much the same as the English.

The Chinese government says the demonstrations are spontaneous. This photograph of the bus stop closest to the Japanese embassy, used by 12 different bus lines, was published in a Chinese newspaper yesterday. It has been closed by the police, as you can see from the tape. The written notice on the wall is from the bus company apologizing for the inconvenience and informing riders that the stop will be closed indefinitely.

From the Kinbricks Now (Japanese language) website.

Posted in China, Photographs and videos | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Missing the forest for the tree

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, September 13, 2012

Where’s Xi Jinping?

AS I write, the world is wondering what in the world has happened to Xi Jinping, China’s vice-president and soon-to-be president (perhaps next year) and head of the Communist Party, perhaps as soon as the CCP gets around to scheduling its party congress. Mr. Xi hasn’t been seen in public for a fortnight and has skipped several meetings with foreign leaders. That’s prompted speculation reminiscent of the photo analysis of the relative positions of Soviet officials reviewing parades in Red Square during a previous age. Rumors have ranged from a pulled muscle caused by swimming to a heart attack, the failure of an assassination attempt by staged automobile accident, and most recently, a stroke. Hong Kong’s iSun Affairs website says he’s just busy with work.

Some media-designated cognoscenti think it’s only that the Chinese love to keep secrets:

The party simply “does not think that the public has a right to know about the affairs of leading personnel unless the message is carefully controlled and positive,” said Harvard University China expert Anthony Saich.

The self-appointed cognoscenti think everyone else should chill:

“I think people are getting themselves excessively excited by this,” former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said yesterday in an interview with Bloomberg Television from the Chinese city of Tianjin, where he was attending a World Economic Forum gathering. “I think people frankly need to take a long, strong, hot cup of tea and just calm down a bit.”

“I’ve been following Chinese politics for about 30 years,” said Rudd, a Mandarin-speaker who served as a diplomat in Beijing in the 1980’s.

No, he doesn’t know what’s going on either.

The Associated Press thinks this is typical behavior for a health-related problem:

If Xi’s absence is indeed health-related, he would join some of his forebears among the ruling elite who suddenly vanished for health reasons with no explanation. The party barred all discussion about the frequent absences of Politburo Standing Committee member Huang Ju, who died of illness in 2007. And then-Premier Li Peng also disappeared for several weeks in 1993 after what was believed to have been a heart attack.

But Bloomberg thinks it’s atypical:

China’s silence on Vice President Xi Jinping’s 12-day absence from public view contrasts with past rebuttals of speculation about top officials and is escalating concern over the nation’s leadership succession.

The official Xinhua News Agency took less than a day in July 2011 to deny former President Jiang Zemin had died. Earlier this year, Xinhua published accounts of China’s top security official within days of a Financial Times report that he was under investigation. By comparison, state media haven’t reported on Xi for a week, or mentioned that he canceled meetings with foreign officials on Sept. 5

The AP presents an on-call academic to say the silence is an echo of the past:

Richard Rigby, a former Australian diplomat and China expert at the Australian National University, said the Communist Party has become more sensitive to public opinion on certain issues, such as nationalism and social unrest. “But when it comes to the leadership, the old conspiratorial instincts of an underground party come to the fore,” he said.

But Bloomberg presents another to say they’re a part of the 21st century:

“In a relatively closed system, Chinese society is driven by rumors and conspiracy theories and the government does recognize the need to release some explanation,” said John Lee, an adjunct associate professor at the University of Sydney and author of the book “Will China Fail?” “The fact that you have not had a definitive explanation from state media suggests that there is internal disagreement as to how to release the truth, whatever that may be.”

They still haven’t made up their minds on the story they want to tell. Japan’s quasi-public network NHK has an international news broadcast that’s carried in China. Last night they reported on Chinese opposition to the government’s purchase of the Senkaku islets from their owners. The story then segued into a segment about the speculation over Mr. Xi’s whereabouts, but the only people in China to see it were the censors. The screen suddenly went black and the sound was cut off.

That something serious is happening is obvious. But whatever the truth may be, whether it’s a slipped disc from dancing with his celebrity wife or recovering from 12 hours of surgery after a shootout in the Politburo chambers, the danger is that people are missing the forest by focusing on one tree. More important than what is happening with Mr. Xi is what is happening with the country. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, who usually writes about the global economy and finance, presents an expert of his own:

We all know by now about the simmering leadership crisis in China. The Bo Xilai affair has lifted the lid on a hornet’s nest. I had not realised quite how serious the situation has become until listening to China expert Cheng Li here at the Ambrosetti forum of the world policy elites on Lake Como…Nor had anybody else in the room at Villa d’Este. There were audible gasps.

The rifts within the upper echelons of Chinese Communist Party are worse than they were during the build-up to Tiananmen Square, he said, and risks spiralling into “revolution”. Dr Cheng — a Shanghai native — is research director of the Brookings Institution in Washington and a director of the National Committee on US-China Relations. He argues that China’s economic hard-landing is intertwined with a leadership crisis as the ten-year power approaches this autumn. The two are feeding on each other. “You cannot forecast the Chinese economy unless you have a sophisticated view of the political landscape and the current succession crisis,” he said.


Dr Cheng said fears of a disintegrating political model are now eating in economic confidence. “This legitimacy crisis is worse than in 1989, and may be the worst in the history of the Communist Party. People are afraid that it could lead to revolution if it is not handled well.”

One reason people are smelling revolution in the air is that Chinese leaders treat their country as the mobsters used to treat Las Vegas casinos: As a cover for skimming the profits.

The worry is that the transition could go badly awry as 70pc of top cadres and the military are replaced, the biggest changeover since the party came to power in the late 1940s. “That is what is causing capital flight. All the top officials are trying to get their money out of the country,” he said.

Dr Cheng grew up during the Cultural Revolution. That makes one very sensitive to the risks of sudden lurches in the Chinese ruling system, not always for the better. He said the scandal around Bo Xilai and the party machine in Chongqing – and the fight-back by Mao nostalgics – is a symptom of a much broader crisis. The word in Beijing is that Bo Xilai alone has squirreled away $1.3 billion, but there are other even worse cases. Mr Cheng said a former railway minister – known as Mr 4pc — had amassed $2.8 billion. “This level of corruption is unprecedented in the history of China and unparalled in the world,” he said.

But not even mandarins can fool all the people all the time, and all the natives in China are getting so restless they’ve become explosive. The 19 September issue of the biweekly Sapio in Japan contains a report on that restlessness. Here are the highlights.

* There are an average of 500 public disturbances a day in China, and up to 180,000 a year. They aren’t reported unless they’re very big, many people are injured, or are directed at Japanese corporations.

* When the author of the report arrived at the Shanghai Airport in May, a sit-in was underway complaining about runway noise. One of the many signs read, “What is this country’s government doing?” One thing the police weren’t doing was to stop it, which is a change from their past practice.

* On 23 May prosecutors, a committee to prevent party corruption, police, and officials from the foreign ministry and those supervising international financial institutes formed a study group to stop corruption. They were supposed to come up with solutions, but only identified the means employed — skillful book cooking and money laundering, Hong Kong subsidiaries, and paper companies in the Virgin Islands.

Public dissatisfaction is growing, and there was a sharp increase in disturbances last year.

* In May 2011, students demonstrated in support of livestock herders in inner Mongolia protested mining operations whose discharges had caused serious pollution and killed livestock. It involved several thousand students and several deaths.

* In the same month, down south in Fuzhou, there were three synchronized explosions at government buildings. The perpetrator also died, leading the government to declare that it was a suicide bombing. The events occurred around nine in the morning and were reported by the Xinhua news agency, but the report was scrubbed from their website by 1:00 p.m. Though an effort was made to characterize the bomber as a terrorist, the Chinese Internet viewed him as a hero. People were sympathetic to his case because he was victimized by authorities and had no means of redress.

* In June, there were more bombings in Dezhou, Zhengzhou, and Laiyang at Public Security bureaus (national police) and other government institutions.

* The heavy rains this July caused extensive flooding in Beijing, but not the part of town where government officials live and work. The drainage was excellent there. That led to violent demonstrations in August.

* Also this year, there was a pitched battle in Caishi in the Xicheng district of Beijing between gangsters and local residents. The mob tried to evict residents for a new building development, but the residents didn’t want to move. The gang started up bulldozers and cranes to tear down the homes on the site with the people still inside. They fought back with iron bars.

Most remarkable is that the district is the location for many government, party, and military offices, and should have plenty of security.

* A report from a different source describes how the residents of Qidong took to the streets after the denial of their formal application for a protest a few months ago. They were concerned that the construction of a paper mill would result in water pollution. They rolled police cars, broke into government buildings, and dragged Mayor Sun Jianhua into the street, where he was stripped and made to wear a protest shirt.

And then there’s the shadow banking:

Private-lending victims nationwide filed more than 600,000 lawsuits valued at 110 billion yuan in 2011, an increase of 38 percent from the previous year. In the first half of 2012, the number of filings rose 25 percent to 376,000, according to People’s Court, a newspaper run by China’s Supreme Court.

The loans include off-balance sheet financial engineering conducted by legitimate institutions.

Imagine the news coverage in the West if this was happening in their part of the world. China is beginning to look as if it is in a pre-revolutionary state, but the media is more interested in playing Where’s Xi Jinpin.

If the Red Tongs sitting atop the money machine want to keep the funds flowing, they’ll have to find some way to distract the other 1.2999 billion people in the country. Here’s one way:

That’s the front page of Xianyang Today, which doesn’t seem to like Japanese flags either. The headline reads: In Illegal Island Purchase, You’re to Blame for Consequences.

They found their solution when the Japanese government finalized the deal to purchase the Senkaku Islets from the private owners. Here’s another one:

That’s the front page of a newspaper in Shenyang with the statement from China’s Foreign Ministry surrounded by 56 blood red fingerprints. The text near the bottom says: “The days when the Chinese people let themselves be bullied are gone forever.”

And there are a lot more where that came from.

There are curious aspects to this development. There were scattered demonstrations in a few Chinese cities when the Japanese purchase was announced, and the Chinese government called for “rational expressions of patriotism”.

The conventional wisdom is that they’re afraid anti-Japanese demonstrations will quickly morph into anti-government demonstrations.

But how can they expect rational displays of patriotism when the state-controlled media deliberately whips the 1.2999 billion into a frenzy with front page pictures of fists and bloody fingerprints? Of course there’s more.

* The People’s Liberation Army newspaper declared in an editorial, “This is not the China of the first Sino-Japanese War, nor the China that Japan later invaded. It is the most naked challenge to Chinese sovereignty since the Second World War…Japan should not be playing with fire.”

* State-run TV broadcast the military’s amphibious landing and combat training exercise on “an uninhabited island” in the Jinan Military Region.

The state-operated China Daily is the country’s largest English-language newspaper. They have a reputation as being slightly more liberal than the rest of the media. Some excerpts from one article in China’s liberal voice make it clear they’ve got more than the Senkakus on their mind:

Islands Stolen by Japan

Japan took the Liu Chiu Islands, which Japan calls Okinawa, by force from China in 1874, when the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) was at war with several countries. The Diaoyu Islands, though, remained under the administration of Taiwan. Following China’s defeat in the Sino-Japanese War in 1894-95, the Qing government ceded Taiwan, including its subsidiary islands, to Japan.

Other than the fact that the Qing Dynasty was fighting the Europeans, everything in this article is a deliberate falsehood. In fact, the government’s official position is that the 1943 Cairo Declaration limited Japan’s territory to only the four islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Shikoku, and Kyushu. But China was jobbed!

As stated above, it’s perfectly logical to conclude that the Diaoyu Islands, being part of the Taiwan territories, have been returned to China.

So where do the claims to the contrary come from?

In part from an illegal treaty the United States and Japan signed in San Francisco in 1951 in the absence of China, one of the victors in the war. Article 3 of the treaty wrongly assigned the Diaoyu Islands and other islets to the Liu Chiu Islands, which was then under the US’ control.

This is what people mean when they say the Chinese Communist Party has tried to legitimize itself with the public by promising to make everyone else in the world pay for what they did to the country for the past century and a half.

Given the rampant rightist tendency seen in Japanese politics and the potential dangers Japan poses to its neighbours and the region at large, there is an imperative need to set the record straight.

Once they set the record straight, the China Daily started saber rattling:

The Chinese military said yesterday it “reserves the right” to take action on the Diaoyu Islands (known in Japan as Senkaku Islands) after the Japanese government ignored warnings from Beijing and “purchased” three of the islands, which belong to China.

Two China Marine Surveillance patrol ships reached waters around the islands, in the East China Sea, after Beijing announced on Monday territorial coordinates for waters off the islands. Beijing also announced plans to implement normal surveillance and monitoring of the islands.

Here’s what that could mean:

Given China’s territorial definition, through the coordinates, entry into waters around the islands by the Japanese Coast Guard or Japan’s Self-Defence Force troops will be regarded as an intrusion into China’s territorial waters, said Feng Wei, a specialist on Japanese studies at Fudan University in Shanghai.

“And it is the duty and obligation of Chinese government vessels, and even warships, to guard China’s territorial sovereignty,” Feng said.

There was more today. Notice the use of qualifiers and quotation marks:

Beijing on Wednesday urged Tokyo to immediately cancel its “purchase” of the Diaoyu Islands as senior diplomats from both countries met.

“China will never acknowledge Japan’s illegal grab and so-called actual control of the Diaoyu Islands,” Luo Zhaohui, director of the Foreign Ministry’s department of Asian affairs, told Shinsuke Sugiyama, director-general of the Asian and Oceania Affairs Bureau of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, during their meeting in Beijing.
Japanese Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said on Wednesday that the purchase of the islands from “private owners” was completed on Tuesday, a move that sparked protests and countermeasures from Beijing.

They have experts of their own:

Liu Jiangyong, an expert on Japanese studies, said Japan’s farcical “purchase” is aimed at extending its reach and projecting an image of so-called actual control over the islands in a bid to mislead the international community that it “owns” the islands.

They know all about political cartoons too. Here’s one from today’s edition:

Kevin Rudd thinks we should take a long strong hot cup of tea and everything will be tickety-boo. Were he paying closer attention, he might be heading to the liquor cabinet instead for a few stiff drinks:

Beijing Evening News Says “Nuke Japan”

Japan’s purchase of three of the Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands has pushed anti-Japanese rhetoric in China to a fever pitch. Yesterday on Weibo, the Beijing Evening News posted a link to an article comparing weaponry for a potential (conflict) with Japan, claiming that China should use the atomic bomb. Chatter mounted around this post before all mention of “advocating war” was deleted. (It is unclear whether Beijing Evening News or Sina deleted the material.)


Meanwhile, the Japanese political establishment is calm but firm. No one wants to be seen as behaving like Kan Naoto in the fall of 2010 when the first Senkakus crisis arose.

Prime Minister Noda has made it clear where he stands, and he is likely to be reelected as Democratic Party president this month.

The next prime minister might well come from the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, however. The top three candidates are former President Abe Shinzo, former Defense Minister Ishiba Shigeru, and current Secretary-General Ishihara Nobuteru. Everyone knows that Mr. Abe is unlikely to bend over for China. Here’s what Mr. Ishiba said when asked about the government’s purchase of the islets:

“The government’s purchase was proper, but the status quo is not a “peaceful and stable” possession (a reference to Mr. Noda’s statement). We should build docks there, and a base for environmental studies and the utilization of maritime resources. The Coast Guard also needs to be involved.”

A pier and heliport would be of use in any event to facilitate the rescue of fishermen in trouble.

The weakest of the three is Ishihara Nobuteru, the son of Tokyo Metro District Gov. Ishihara Shintaro. Though he’s conservative, he isn’t as Pat Buchanan-ish as his father. He’s thought to be the choice of the Old Guard, perhaps because he’d be a good boy and follow their instructions.

But Mr. Ishihara isn’t making a convincing case for himself in the LDP presidential campaign. He has a tendency to say peculiar things. The most recent peculiarity arose at a news conference when he said he thought the Chinese wouldn’t invade the Senkakus because “they’re not inhabited”.

There is little point in Western government officials, think tankers, and editorialists helpfully suggesting from the sidelines that everyone should stay calm. Too many people aren’t interested in staying calm.

Posted in China, International relations, Mass media, Military affairs, Taiwan, World War II | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Ichigen koji (170)

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, September 13, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

(After the Tohoku Disaster), there arose again the awareness that we are of one culture. This awareness has been felt again in regard to the Senkaku islets.

It became apparent with the manner in which we received the public donations that the Tokyo Metro District requested to purchase the Senkakus. It came lapping in like gentle waves. It was nothing like the fanaticism shown, for example, by the South Korean president when he visited Takeshima, or those people who rip up the Japanese flag. I sensed a quiet passion.

The Metro District determined an appropriate price through surveys and the advice of the Asset Price Council. A resolution was passed in the assembly. We followed the rules of democracy and tried to purchase them fairly.

In contrast, the national government has no idea when it will pass the special legislation authorizing bond issues, and it still can’t distribute the JPY four trillion in grants to be sent to local governments. They shouldn’t have any money, but they bought the islets for JPY 2.05 billion. We do not know the basis for the purchase price, and they have not fulfilled their responsibility to explain to the taxpayers.

– Inose Naoki, Vice-Governor of the Tokyo Metro District and a non-fiction author

Posted in Business, finance and the economy, Government, Quotations, Social trends | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

An island still occupied?

Posted by ampontan on Monday, September 10, 2012

I think he’ll be to Rome
As is the osprey to the fish, who takes it
By sovereignty of nature.
– Shakespeare, Coriolanus, Act 4, Scene 5

SOME people in medieval times believed the osprey caught fish by mesmerizing them. Once they fell under the sea hawk spell, the finsters floated upside down to facilitate their flop into the osprey belly. That’s what Shakespeare was referring to in the passage quoted above.

The fish weren’t turning belly up at the Ginowan Seaside Park in Okinawa yesterday, just a few minutes as the osprey flies from the Futenma air base. The Okinawans already felt betrayed by Hatoyama Yukio’s false promise of three years ago to have the base moved either outside the prefecture or outside the country. Now it gets even worse: The arrival of the Osprey VTOL aircraft that has crashed or suffered other accidents several times throughout its development and deployment. The most recent incidents occurred in Morocco in April and in Florida in June. That would be dangerous enough at an Air Force base or an aircraft carrier, but danger is part of their job description. The Futenma base, however, is smack dab in the middle of a 19.7 square-kilometer island and the city of Ginowan, with a population of nearly 100,000 people.

The various party caucuses in the prefectural assembly and the prefectural federation of local chambers of commerce and industry formed an executive committee to hold a demonstration against the planned October shift of 12 Osprey from Yamaguchi to Futenma. Another demonstration in a different part of the prefecture was organized by representatives from 36 municipalities.

Naha Mayor Onaga Takeshi delivered the opening address as the committee’s representative. He said:

“The behavior of the Japanese and American governments, which are pushing through deployment against this degree of opposition, is not at all different from the forced seizure of land by bayonet and bulldozer after the war.“

As for the degree of opposition, an estimated 101,000 people showed up yesterday. Organizers are known to exaggerate crowd sizes, but you can use the following video to make your own estimate. It’s also worth watching to see how the Okinawans behave in comparison to the Occupyans.

UPDATE: An Osprey had to make an emergency landing in North Carolina over the weekend, and reporters asked Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura Osamu about it at a news conference today. That the government is forced to answer questions about individual incidents concerning an aircraft under the control of another country on the other side of the world indicates the state of mind of much of the Japanese public.

(Photo and video from the Asahi Shimbun)

Posted in Foreigners in Japan, International relations, Military affairs | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Ichigen koji (160)

Posted by ampontan on Monday, September 3, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

Tens of thousands of the Ryukyuan people, who did not have the power to overturn the American decision (to return Okinawa to Japan), gathered in the main square to weep openly and vow to drive out the invading Japanese. More than 30 years have passed, but the battle to repel the Japanese and win independence has not stopped. A referendum of all Ryukyu citizens on 4 March 2006 resulted in a 75% vote for independence, as they cast a vote for the restoration of free interaction with China. The remaining 25% had Japanese blood, so they did not demand independence. They did cast a vote for self-rule, however.

– Tang Chunfeng in a 2010 op-ed in the Global Times (affiliated with the People’s Daily and the CCP) titled “Japan lacks the qualifications to negotiate over the Diaoyutai (Senkakus).

He is identified as a Japan expert in China’s Department of Commerce. This article was so clearly fiction that even the Chinese government complained to the newspaper.

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

Evil Lin Fan is on the loose

Posted by ampontan on Monday, August 27, 2012

WHEN the Chinese government blocked Twitter, Facebook, and Fanfou, the first Chinese microblogging site, after the Xinjiang riots in July 2009, the entrepreneur Charles Chao saw an opportunity. He created Weibo, a microblogging site that combines aspects of Twitter and Facebook. As of February this year, it had 300 million registered users, 30% of China’s Internet users, and 100 million messages a day. One method Mr. Chao used to attract people to the site was to sign up celebrities and the famous as members. One of them was former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who is fluent in Mandarin. Another was London Mayor Boris Johnson, who is not, and seems to have beclowned himself as a result.

Still another was a user registered as Evil Lin Fan, identified as the vice-chairman of a company whose name translates to Jieying Electronics Technology in Guangdong. The government has begun requiring Weibo and other sites to confirm the identity of their users, and Evil Lin Fan made it through the verification process.

Now the government wishes she hadn’t.

Late last week, she Weiboed the following message:

“The Chinese government recognized Diaoyutai as Japanese territory from 1949 to 1971.”

She followed it up with:

“Japan calls them the Senkakus, and throughout the 50s and 60s, all Chinese maps surprisingly called them the Senkakus, recognizing them as Japanese territory.”

She supported this extremely inconvenient truth by uploading copies of the maps and newspaper articles, and followed that up with:

“Can the Chinese government say the Diaoyutai is our territory even after this?

Evil Lin Fan has more than 100,000 followers, which Weibo calls “fans”, and some of them responded. One said:

“Now we understand that the masses who know nothing danced to the CCP tune.”

Said another:

“This will be a problem for those who were used by the authorities for free to hold anti-Japanese demonstrations.

The authorities keep liquidating Evil Lin Fan’s posts, but they keep popping up again.

I wonder if Evil Lin Fan came to Japan, perhaps on business, and did some research on the Internet while she was here. The newspaper article she cited is from the 8 January 1953 edition of the People’s Daily. It’s easy to find.

The headline at the right says that the people of the Ryukyus (Okinawa) were upset at the American occupation of their territory. (The occupation was to continue for nearly 20 more years.)

The first paragraph of the article, sidelined in red, explains to the readers that the Ryukyus consist of seven island groups. The first one mentioned, just after the comma in the second line from the right, is the Senkakus. The People’s Daily uses the Japanese name.

She also said that a world map published by Chinese authorities that same year showed the Senkakus as Japanese territory — as did maps they published in 1958, 1960, and 1967. Two years after that, the potential for large undersea resources was discovered nearby, and the fact that the Senkakus were Japanese territory immediately became blackwhite.

Here’s the relevant part of the 1960 map.

Larger views of the map show that Taiwan is identified as part of the People’s Republic of China. The line that looks like three Is separated by dots is the border with Japan. The Senkakus are shown, with that name, to the left of the upper center intersection of the longitude and latitude lines.

Isn’t it curious? Evil Lin Fan in China discovered this material despite the best efforts of her government to prevent it. It took me fewer than five minutes in Japan to find both the People’s Daily article and the map.

But the English-language news media can’t seem to find them at all.

It must be that evil stuff running through Lin Fan’s brain that’s causing her to misbehave.

Posted in China, International relations, Social trends | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Power grab

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, August 26, 2012

OLD Ma Necessity has come for an extended uninvited stay in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident and the subsequent idling of most of the country’s nuclear power plants. That’s spurred some inventive Japanese scientists to attack the problem of renewable energy power generation.

Lens windmills

One of the most ambitious plans is part of a project now being conducted by a team led by Kyushu University Prof. Oya Yuji in Hakata Bay, off Fukuoka Prefecture. They’ve developed what they call a lens windmill whose design triples the amount of power a conventional windmill can generate.

In Stage One of the project, which started last December and will run for a year, the two 3 kW lens windmills shown above have been placed on a floating platform with solar power cells and a large storage battery. They’re calling it a floating maritime power farm. They plan to eventually add equipment that generates power from tidal currents and waves. Prof. Oya thinks the lens windmills would be practical if they could be made larger.

One of the advantages of maritime windmills is that the wind is stronger over the sea. Also, renewable energy power generators require a large surface area, and Japan has a limited amount of surface area for equipment of this type. They’ve got plenty of sea all around them, however.

Stage Two of his project is to place an interconnected floating platform in the Korean Strait with five 200 kW lens windmills. His team is already working on a design for 1,000 kW models.

An intriguing aspect to the plan is the idea of using the platforms as small fishing ports. Sweden and Denmark both operate maritime windmills, and they’ve discovered that fish like to hang out nearby for reasons that no one can explain. Fishermen are unanimous in their belief that this is an excellent idea for an experiment. There are even suggestions that fish farms could be created below the platforms.

Several problems remain. One is that the production costs for the lens windmills have to be lowered. Another is the space requirement. Even when commercialized, it would require 230 windmills to produce the output of the #1 generator at the Fukushima plant alone.

Seawater temperatures

Several companies are working with the Okinawa Prefecture Deep Sea Water Research Center in Kumejima-cho, Okinawa, on an ocean thermal energy conversion project that will run until next March. The idea is to use the difference in the ocean water temperature at the surface and that at greater depths. A temperature differential of 20 degrees (I assume centigrade) is required for this to work, so that means the tropics and the subtropics are the ideal location. That’s Okinawa!

In this process, the difference in water temperatures is used to gasify ammonia and other substances with low boiling points, which rotates a turbine. The power output is only 50 kW, but this is a trial, after all. The center says it is the world’s first trial using this process with the objective of commercialization.


They’re ready to go commercial at a ryokan, or Japanese-style inn, in the hot springs resort town of Yufuin, Oita. Starting in December, the ryokan will use a 70 kW generator that Kobe Steel put on the market last fall to generate electricity using the hot springs on the site. Not only do they expect to cover their own energy needs, they also plan to sell the surplus power generated to Kyushu Electric Power under the system for the sale of renewable energy at a fixed cost that began in July. Kobe Steel says that if the power is sold at 20 yen per kW, the ryokan could recover the costs by 2015.

That highlights another problem with these systems. It costs Kyushu Electric JPY 10 yen per kW for the power generated by nuclear plants. These costs in the aggregate will be passed on to the utility’s consumers. In other words, the government scheme amounts to a renewable energy tax.

And they’ve already gone commercial throughout Japan in the use of processed sewer sludge — yeah, that — as a biomass fuel for power generation. Kumamoto City plans to commercialize an operation in 2013, and Kitakyushu is planning to do the same in 2015. Construction work started on the plant in Kumamoto City in January. When it begins operating next January, it will have the capacity to process 16,000 tons of the sludge, roughly half the amount produced in the city. That will be converted to 2,300 tons of fuel for use at power plants.

Here’s an idea: Create smaller models of this equipment and place them in the buildings that house national and sub-national legislatures. We wouldn’t have to worry about nuclear energy or lens windmills again.

Seeing as how Okinawa came up in the discussion, here’s Okinawan Natsukawa Rimi singing an island song.

Posted in Science and technology | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

All you have to do is look (17)

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Miyako Shinto shrine on Miyakojima in Okinawa, the southernmost Shinto shrine in Japan.

(Photo by Tacara)

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

Ichigen koji (118)

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, July 15, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

We’ve applied 13 times to the national government for permission to go ashore (on the Senkakus), but it’s been rejected every time. Permission won’t be granted even if the national government buys them. They also probably won’t build a port of refuge or a lighthouse there, either. It would be better if the Tokyo Metro District bought them.

– Nakayama Yoshitaka, mayor of Ishigaki, Okinawa. The Senkaku islets are in his jurisdiction. There is growing criticism of the Noda government that his plan for the national government to purchase the islands instead of the Tokyo Metro District is only talk for public consumption.

Posted in Government, Quotations | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Okinawa from the air

Posted by ampontan on Monday, May 28, 2012

PEOPLE have written millions of words about the issue of the American bases on Okinawa (in Japan, anyway), but it is difficult to understand the meat of the issue from words alone.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If that’s true, the following aerial photograph of Okinawa alone might be worth several million more words.

Posted in International relations, Military affairs, World War II | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Just deserts

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, May 24, 2012

Upon a pillory – that al the world may see / A just desert for such impiety.

– Warning Faire Women (1599)

IF it were possible to bestow a person with a medal for services rendered to society, pin the medal to his chest, cover his eyes with a blindfold, stick a final cigarette in his mouth, and stand him against a wall to be executed by firing squad, Public Enemy/Hero #1 would be Julian “Wikileaks” Assange. While his behavior is undoubtedly execrable by any standard, we are also undoubtedly better off for knowing some of the information he was responsible for revealing. Much that information demonstrates the contempt the international political oligarchy has for the people they rule. Some of that information involves the Japan-U.S. security alliance.

Recall that in the summer of 2009, Hatoyama Yukio and the Democratic Party of Japan made the specific promise during their lower house election campaign to tear up the agreement with the Americans and move the Marine air base at Futenma in Okinawa outside of the prefecture “at a minimum”, and ideally outside the country altogether. Negotiations for dealing with the base began after Marines raped a schoolgirl near there in 1995.

To briefly recapitulate: The United States governed Okinawa from 1945 to 1972, even though the Allied occupation ended in 1952. It took 20 more years for the Americans to give Okinawa back.

Cross my heart and hope to die!

It would be entertaining to hear someone deny the argument that they still occupy it. The Ryukyus account for 0.6% of Japan’s land area, but host 75% of American military facilities in the country. Those bases occupy 18% of Okinawa’s land area. Roughly 70% of the people on the country’s four main islands support the military alliance with the United States, compared to only 10% of the Okinawans. (A higher percentage is willing to put up with it for the economic benefits.) More than 50% of Okinawans think the unwillingness of the rest of the country to either reduce their burden or accept American military facilities themselves is a form of discrimination. That makes it the ultimate manifestation in Japan of the Not In My Back Yard phenomenon.

The American military is stationed in the country for Japan’s “defense”, but Futenma is a Marine air base. Marines attack; they don’t defend.

When negotiations began with the Clinton Administration, there was an American promise to return Futenma to Japan (who built the first air base there during the war) in five to seven years. That somehow morphed into a project to build a new airbase in northern Okinawa.

There are four directly elected lower house seats in Okinawa Prefecture. Before the election, two seats were held by the then-ruling LDP, one by the Social Democrats, and one by the People’s New Party. Buoyed by the anti-LDP sentiment nationwide, the Aso government’s use of the Koizumian two-thirds lower house majority to push through the Guam Transfer Agreement, and the DPJ promise to move Futenma, the DPJ snatched those two LDP seats in the 2009 election. They didn’t run any candidates in the other two districts; the incumbents were members of parties that were part of their alliance and which joined the ruling coalition.

Several things became apparent within days after Mr. Hatoyama took office. Among them were that he had no idea what he was doing, neither he nor his party could be trusted to keep any of their campaign promises, and he had no business holding any executive position whatsoever, much less the prime minister of Japan at a turning point in the country’s political and governmental history.

To telescope a long story, two months after he opened the fall session of the Diet with a speech at the end of October 2009, he couldn’t keep his own story straight about his government’s plans for the Futenma base or their negotiations with the Americans. Statements made in the morning became inoperative before the end of the day. He would decide before the end of the year and then he put it off until May. He famously asked Barack Obama to trust him, and people wondered what it was he could be trusted to do. By early January, the Japanese media already assumed that his days as prime minister were numbered. His support numbers were in free fall after he had squandered both his honeymoon period and one of the most golden of opportunities ever available to a new government and its leader.

By May 2010, Mr. Hatoyama confirmed what had been obvious since the beginning of the year when he announced that Futenma would stay in Okinawa as originally planned. He traveled to Okinawa himself to apologize to the governor:

“I tried to do different things, but I came face to face with the difficulty of the actual problem of (moving) everything outside the prefecture.”

Mr. Hatoyama resigned at the end of the month after one of the shortest terms and with one of the lowest support ratings in postwar Japanese history.

The Beans are Spilled

One year ago this month, Wikileaks released American governmental cables sent from Japan to the U.S. about the Futenma discussions. They didn’t generate much comment, even in the English-language media, because the focus of Japan-related news was still the Tohoku disaster of two months before.

That information made Mr. Hatoyama and his government look even worse, as difficult as it is to imagine. Try this account from the Economist:

LESS than a month after a new government took office in Japan in September 2009, American officials talked their Japanese counterparts through a longstanding frustration: stalled plans to build a new airbase for American marines on the southern island of Okinawa. According to confidential minutes of the meeting sent to Washington, DC by the American embassy in Tokyo, leaked by WikiLeaks, Kurt Campbell, an assistant secretary of state, said a new airstrip was necessary because of China’s growing military strength. But that could not be discussed publicly, “for obvious reasons”.

A few months later Mr Campbell went further, according to another cable. Because of potential threats from North Korea, China and elsewhere, America and Japan faced “the most challenging security environment” in 50 years. However, he said the messages to the public often glossed over that reality. Presumably that too was to avoid offending China, even though it would have helped Okinawans to understand why the new facility is deemed so important.


The WikiLeaks cables show that the number of marines and their dependents slated for removal to Guam has been inflated in order to soften opposition. (The 2009) agreement mentions the removal of about 8,000 marines and 9,000 dependents. But an American embassy cable in 2009 says that when the plan was formulated in 2006, “both the 8,000 and 9,000 numbers were deliberately maximised to optimise political value in Japan.” Okinawa officials suspect that the number of Guam-bound marines may be as few as 3,000—if they go at all.

When it came to power in 2009, the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, which had opposed the relocation plan in opposition, came under intense pressure from Washington to push ahead with it. American officials urged the new government not to discuss alternatives in public, warning of a strong American reaction if it did, according to WikiLeaks.

The Eurasia Review Newsletter provided more details in an article by Rajaram Panda. ERN deserves a milder form of the treatment appropriate for Assange: They should be commended for presenting additional information and then kicked in their backsides for entrusting the article to Mr. Panda, who combines a tendency to exaggerate with an ignorance of Japanese politics remarkable even for non-Japanese who write about the country.

The article begins:

In a startling revelation, the US cables posted on the whistleblower website WikiLeaks said that, in 2009, the US had warned the then Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio about Japan’s wavering policies on bilateral ties.

It doesn’t take them long to screw it up:

When Hatoyama took office in September 2009, Japanese people believed that he was a sincere but helpless politician who was unable to fight the influence of the US.

Not one word after the comma in that sentence is true. No one knew how he would deal with American influence, and he gave every indication beforehand that he intended to create some distance in bilateral relations. While it is true that some view him as sincere, it is also true that they view as childishly naive the few policies he’s sincere about.

The revealed documents now show that Hatoyama and the DPJ had lied to the Japanese people during the 2009 election campaign. The DPJ and the Japanese government officials were never committed to relocating the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma outside of Okinawa Prefecture, as the revealed documents indicate.

That’s true, but only in an interpretative sense. The American arm twisting of the DPJ does not seem to have begun until after the election.

Between 2009 and early 2010, Hatoyama and his officials conveyed to their US counterparts that Japan would seek alternatives to the 2006 Agreement to relocate Futenma to the Henoko district of Nago in Okinawa Prefecture. However, in a secret pact, they said that Japan will honour the 2006 Agreement if the US rejected the proposed alternative.

The Obama administration knew early on that the Hatoyama administration would go along with the 2006 Agreement as long as the US continued to reject any alternative. Hatoyama had secretly said this to the US six months before he decided to break his promise to the people to relocate the base outside Okinawa.

Six months before he announced that he broke his promise was in December 2009, post-election and post-arm twisting.

The US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific affairs, Kurt Campbell, complained in October 2009 that Hatoyama told his Chinese and South Korean counterparts in Beijing that Japan depended on the US too much. Campbell told Japanese Parliamentary Defence Secretary Akihisa Nagashima that such remarks “would create a crisis in US-Japan relations… Imagine the Japanese response if the US government were to say publicly that it wished to devote more attention to China than Japan.”

We don’t have to imagine the Japanese response, because we know what it is — official sycophancy. The U.S. government has been devoting more attention to China than Japan without saying it publicly for the past two decades.

Now they don’t bother to hide it. This week the U.S. government allowed China the exclusive privilege of purchasing U.S. debt directly from the Treasury, without having to buy the bonds through Wall Street brokers and pay their commissions. The Chinese are now the leading American debt underwriters. Japan formerly starred in the role of Number One Sponge and still buys nearly the same amount as China, but they’ve never gotten the star treatment.

As Mark Steyn frequently points out, the Americans will be paying enough interest on the debt held by China to finance the annual outlays for the People’s Liberation Army by 2016. Meanwhile, Japan pays far and away the highest vigorish of any overseas country to support American troops stationed on its territory. This is justified in part by the need to defend Japan from China.

Finally, a contemporary use of the word “bizarre” that isn’t hyperbole.

But that’s unless the Chinese are actually unloading on the secondary market what they buy from the Treasury to satisfy their desire to get out of US debt and into gold while satisfying US demands to buy more of its debt. (There’s another interesting Wikileak in there, too.)

The Japanese people now feel that Hatoyama’s US policy was fraught with duplicity and backroom deals. Being the Land Minister, Maehara was dabbling with foreign affairs and was playing a crucial role in handling Japan’s US policy.

He’s speaking here of Maehara Seiji, who was involved with the discussions. Mr. Panda thinks that Mr. Maehara’s participation was due to his connections with the American government, and were improper because he was the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport. He is not aware that Maehara Seiji held another Cabinet portfolio at the time — Minister of State for Okinawa and the Northern Territories. It was his business to be involved.

In other words, Mr. Panda doesn’t know the A of the ABCs of Japanese politics/government.

The Obama administration was aware that there was a section of politicians in Japan who sought distance from Washington. Even many Japanese people started to view Japan’s policies as being dictated by the US and described their own country as “America’s baby”. In particular, right-wing nationalists vouched for reducing reliance on the US and argued that Japan must not be afraid to take a confrontational position in foreign policy.

“Started to view”? That view started among many Japanese people on 16 August 1945. And if there is a certified demonstration of lazy thinking/no thinking/no real experience among people writing about Japan, it is their wishful thinking about the effect on modern politics of “right-wing nationalists”, whatever either of those debased terms mean nowadays. The psychopundits either overlook or never saw that the same arguments attributed to those unenlightened and unintelligent dregs of society have been made even more stridently by the left-wing internationalists in Japan. The leading figures of the Democratic Party government are among the country’s most well-known left-wing internationalists.

The Obama administration is believed to be instrumental in Hatoyama’s ouster from office because of the latter’s inept handling of the Futenma base relocation issue.

Not in the US and Japan of Planet Earth. Last rites were already being prepared for Hatoyama Yukio a few months after he took office, for a galaxy of reasons. Futenma was the coup de grace. People are not without their suspicions about American string-pulling in the Japanese government, but the Democratic Party did not want to go into the July 2010 upper house elections led by a man whose support ratings were maxing out at 19% in the polls.

The inept handling of the Futenma base relocation issue? Mr. Hatoyama broke his pre-election promises — which of course the U.S. knew about — to do what the United States wanted to do. This doesn’t make much sense.

Besides, Campbell complained in October 2009 about Hatoyama’s policy towards China and South Korea. At the Nuclear Summit in April 2010 held at Washington, Obama snubbed Hatoyama and weeks later Hatoyama resigned and was replaced by the more US acceptable Kan Naoto. Kan immediately confirmed that the Futenma base issue would proceed according to the US desire. No wonder, when the leaks surfaced, he declined to comment and said that the announcement of information was “not legitimate”.

Kan Naoto is one of the leading left-wing internationalists of the DPJ, though he is also known as a trimmer most interested in power. Japanese arms were almost certainly twisted to cause the DPJ to cry uncle, but the crying had already happened before Mr. Kan’s turn arrived. As deputy prime minister, he had a ringside seat.

It is too soon to assess how the public will digest the dishonesty of the DPJ and how the Japanese government succumbed to the US pressure to follow its line of thinking. The opposition is likely to mount a campaign again calling for Kan’s resignation. Maehara was seen as an agent of the US and the Japanese people are unlikely to forgive him.

It will always be too soon for Mr. Panda to offer analysis about Japan. None of this happened. The opposition mounted a campaign calling for Kan’s resignation, but none of the many compelling reasons had anything to do with the United States. Mr. Maehara has been relegated to the sidelines, not because he was seen as an “agent of the US”, but because he’s viewed as an opportunistic lightweight with an unexplained affinity for North Korea.

Japan-US ties are too complex and its real value cannot be evaluated from this single incident.

Nor can they be evaluated by a drive-by observer lacking field-specific knowledge. The only solution for dealing with people such as Mr. Panda is to persecute them to the fullest extent of the Internet Law of the Jungle.

Finally, here’s how the Ryukyu Shimpo, an Okinawan newspaper, handled with the revelations:

According to U.S. official telegrams disclosed by WikiLeaks, while the DPJ administration was seeking the relocation outside of Okinawa Prefecture of the U.S. Marine Corps now based at Futenma, a staff member of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan suggested to United States government officials that they should not compromise on the Futenma relocation plan. The cable indicates that both governments inflated the numbers involved in U.S. Marine Forces Transfer Plan from Okinawa to Guam. The Roadmap for Realignment Implementation agreed to by both governments in the spring of 2006 states that 8000 Marine Corps personnel and 9000 dependents would move to Guam, but leaked telegrams indicate that these numbers were inflated to optimize their political value.


The cables also include an example of a Japanese career bureaucrat recommending to United States officials that they stay on course with the Roadmap for Futenma relocation after the regime change to the Democratic Party of Japan. At an unofficial lunch meeting October 12, 2009, Director General of Bureau of Defense Policy Shigenobu Takamizawa is reported as warning the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt M. Campbell “against premature demonstration of flexibility in adjusting the realignment package.” The cables also reported that a counselor in charge of political affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan made the basically the same remark to his counterpart of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. The cables therefore indicate that career bureaucrats moved to prevent the Hatoyama administration from seeking the relocation of the facilities at Futenma outside of Okinawa.

This is more evidence, by the way, that the Japanese bureaucracy considers itself to be the permanent ruling class of Japan. That exonerates neither Mr. Hatoyama nor the DPJ, however. Another of their campaign promises was to bring the bureaucracy under control, and they have the authority to do so if they choose to use it. But enjoying the perquisites of political status is more attractive than exercising that authority and touching off a de facto civil war that few of them have the ability to contest.

Diplomatic cables from this period show that despite the DPJ’s formal efforts to find a new candidate site for Futenma, the United States from an early stage thought the Hatoyama administration would go along with the 2006 agreement as long as the United States continued to reject any alternatives.

On Dec. 10, the U.S. Embassy inTokyo dispatched a cable that was classified “secret” and for American eyes only.

The cable said, “Five DPJ Cabinet members (Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and Maehara) met on the evening of December 8 and agreed that they could not accept moving forward with the Futenma Relocation Facility (FRF) because of opposition from the DPJ’s coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party.”

According to the document, Maehara explained to Roos that Japan would seek a number of alternatives that might be acceptable to both the United States and the Okinawa people.

But the cable shows that Maehara also said, “If the U.S. does not agree to any alternative to the existing FRF plan, the DPJ would be prepared to go ahead with the current relocation plan and let the coalition break up if necessary after Golden Week (April 29 to May 5 in 2010).”

Thank you, Julian Assange.

But there’s more:

On Dec. 21, 2009, then Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka had a lunch meeting with (US Ambassador) Roos. Their discussion was included in a cable classified as “secret.”

Yabunaka referred to the Dec. 17 meeting in Copenhagen between Hatoyama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The cable has Yabunaka saying, “Prime Minister Hatoyama confirmed to the secretary in Copenhagen that if the (Japan) review of the FRF alternatives to Henoko did not yield viable proposals, (Japan) would return to the 2006 FRF agreement.”

Immediately after his meeting with Clinton, Hatoyama told reporters accompanying him: “It would be very dangerous to force through (the 2006 agreement). We have begun efforts to think about new alternatives.”

However, the cable has Yabunaka referring to those media reports as “inaccurate.”


On Jan. 26, then Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yorihisa Matsuno met with embassy officials. A cable classified as “confidential” and titled, “Hatoyama confidante on Futenma, Nago election,” described Matsuno as “Hinting at current Kantei (Prime Minister’s Office) thinking.”

Matsuno is further quoted as saying, “Hatoyama and the Okinawa Working Group will have to consider ‘for form’s sake’ Futenma options outside of Okinawa, but the only realistic options are to move Futenma to Camp Schwab or another ‘existing facility.’”

The cable also has Matsuno saying, “The Camp Schwab landfill option was ‘dead.’”

Turning over a New Loop

A flood of media features timed for the 40th anniversary of the reversion of Okinawa to Japan and the related events washed over news media consumers last week. Hatoyama Yukio went back to Okinawa for the first time since he dined on crow with the Okinawa governor in May 2010, and delivered a speech at a Ginowan hotel.

Here’s how he started the speech:

“I love all Okinawans.”

You’re such a lovely audience!

He continued by whining:

“I wanted to let some air into the (base) issue. I wanted to make some progress during my time in office, somehow.”

Before he appalled the nation:

“I have not been able now to satisfy the emotion of “outside the prefecture, at a minimum”. I can clearly state that one who has not satisfied that emotion does not fully understand the emotions of everyone in Okinawa. I intend to have that belief always.”

Everyone in Japan knew what he meant despite the vacuum-packed circumlocution and euphemism. All the headlines in the print media trumpeted the Hatoyama claim that he still supported moving the base outside the prefecture.

There was remarkably little anger, incidentally. People long ago realized he’s an eternal adolescent (most closely resembling a junior high school girl) with too little sense and too much money who had no business becoming prime minister. They intend to have that belief always.

One of his excuses was that he wasn’t able to do devote all his attention to the issue because he was too busy putting together a budget, despite having thousands of subordinates at his disposal. Nobody believed that, either, coming as it did from a man who preferred to attend galas with his trophy wife, the royalty of showbiz, and the Imperial household rather than attend to the business of government.

There was also the usual externalization of the internal fog:

“My thinking got too far ahead of itself, and I wasn’t able to fully convince many people.

“When I think about it, I wonder if it was an unreasonable course. When I think about it now, that’s what I think.”

Nonaka Hiromu, the chief cabinet secretary under LDP Prime Minister Obuchi Keizo in 2000, attended the same event as Mr. Hatoyama. When it was his turn to speak, he looked directly at the former prime minister and said:

“Men are supposed to have a sense of shame. Did you come so casually to Okinawa to dishonor (literally, hurl mud at) the Okinawans?”

Later interviewed by the Ryukyu Shimpo, he added:

“A person who stands on the dais and dishonors the Okinawans makes my blood boil (literally, steams my guts).”

Mr. Hatoyama was his oblivious self when he too was interviewed by the Ryukyu Shimpo the next day:

“It was natural to raise the issue of moving the base outside the prefecture.”

By this time he had found a new excuse:

“The Defense and Foreign Ministry bureaucracy struggled to decide how to return the base to Henoko (in line with the pre-existing agreement). They introduced the logic through the Americans that it would be inappropriate to take the base outside the prefecture, and only Henoko was acceptable.”

He’s confirming the Wikileaks revelations about Messrs. Takamizawa and Yabunaka above, and indirectly contradicting Mr. Kan’s denial. All he had to do to end the malarkey was put his foot down, but there wasn’t enough time to put him through a series of testosterone injections.


After His Majesty’s Firing Squad in the Kingdom of Just Deserts dispatches Assange, it will be the turn of Hatoyama Yukio to stand blindfolded against the wall for his high political crimes and misdemeanors. Pinned to his lapel will be a medal for the service he rendered his country by using his mother’s money to buy the party that ended single-party rule in Japan.



A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 51% of Likely U.S. Voters now believe the United States should remove all its troops from Western Europe and let the Europeans defend themselves. Only 29% disagree, but another 20% are undecided.

That number will probably continue to grow and extend to Asia, if it already doesn’t.


Mr. Hatoyama isn’t the only one who wanted to go back to Okinawa. I’ll bet the other guys had more fun, though.

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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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Posted in International relations, Legal system, Military affairs | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Japan’s cultural kaleidoscope (4)

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, March 7, 2012

JUST because the warts of the overseas media and the commentator-bloggers who rely on them think their folderol is insight doesn’t mean you have to fall for it. The national decline of Japan, if it exists at all, is greatly exaggerated. Here are a few short snorts testifying to the national vitality. The first is a translation of a brief article, while the rest are summaries.

Island hopping

Japan Air Commuter, a small Kagoshima-based airline serving the prefecture’s outlying islands, has hired its first female pilot, Hamada Eri (29). Her maiden flight was as co-pilot on two round-trip flights between Kagoshima Airport and the islands of Amami and Tokunoshima. After returning in one piece, Hamada said, “It was different from training. I sensed the weight of the responsibility for carrying passengers. I was very nervous, but it was a lot of fun and I was relieved when it was over.”

Hamada Eri

Her ambition to become an aviatrix originated when she was a student at Ryukyu University (Okinawa). While flying on commercial airlines to her home in Sendai (the northeast part of the country), “I discovered I liked the scenery from the cabin window and wanted to see the view from the front.” She enrolled at a flight school in Miyazaki City after graduation. She chose to work at JAC because she enjoyed her many flights over Kyushu during training, and because she wanted to repay the many people in the industry in Kyushu for their help.

The flights to the outlying islands are a lifeline for the people living there. “I was spurred by a desire to be of service on these flights, which are so important for their daily life.”

The Tohoku earthquake struck while she was still in training. The family home was washed away by the tsunami. While her parents were safe, a grandmother living in an institution died in the wave. She wanted to be near her family, but her parents encouraged her by saying, “We’re fine. You work hard in flight school.”

“I’m far from the stricken area (about 740 miles), but I decided to put forth my best effort along with all the people who suffered as they head toward recovery.”

Ms. Hamada is the 13th female pilot in the JAL group. “I intend to gain experience and become a full pilot, not only for my benefit, but also for the women who follow.”

A Japanese sentiment permeates every sentence of that article. For contrast, imagine how much self-importance it would have contained had the story originated in the Anglosphere instead of Kagoshima.

Tokushima seaweed comes home

Last year’s Tohoku disaster was also a disaster for Sanriku wakame, a noted product of Miyagi. To help rebuild the industry, a Tokushima Prefecture maritime research institute in Naruto sent local fishing co-ops some wakame spores last October that the Miyagians raised in Kessennuma Bay. The first harvest was last week.

It was a homecoming in a sense for the wakame because the folks in Miyagi shipped the Tokushima institute some of theirs in 2004 for cross breeding. The spawn from that mating is what Tokushima sent back. The spores grew to a length of two meters, though the water temperature this winter was lower than ideal. The quality, color, and thickness of the seaweed is good enough for it to appear on your dinner table soon. Local watermen harvested 400 kilograms on the first day. The harvests will continue until the beginning of April, when they expect to have hauled in a total of 3,400 tons.

Off to see the Iyoboya

The big maritime product in Niigata is salmon. The Niigatans like it so much, in fact, they established the nation’s first salmon museum in Murakami called the Iyoboya Museum.

Niigata was the Murakami domain during the Edo period, and it was there that salmon were first successfully bred in Japan. Since then, salmon has been an important part of local culture. Iyoboya is the name for the fish in the local dialect.

Iyoboya fanciers say the best part of the museum is the mini-hatchery. Starting at the end of October, the museum recovers salmon eggs and fertilizes them. The eggs hatch two months later. Visitors get to see the fingerlings, and if they’re lucky, the hatching itself. The museum is now raising 50,000 fish, give or take a few, which it plans to release in the Miomote River at the beginning of next month. The museum also offers views of the river through glass windows.

There’s a restaurant on the museum premises. Guess what’s on the menu!

Snow fun in Kamakura

The Kamakura winter festival has been underway since 21 January at the Yunishikawa Spa in Nikko, Tochigi. The event is held in small snow huts in a gorge along the banks of the Yunishi River, which sounds like just the ticket for those who get off on nose-rubbing. This is a hot spring town, so visitors can enjoy both the hot and the cold of it, dipping in the spa waters for relaxation after all the fun with snowmen, snow slides, snow hut barbecues (reservations required) and musical performances. If you’re in no hurry for spring to start, the festival will last until 20 March.

Let 100 dragons soar

There’s a lot of snow in Hokkaido, too — probably more than in Nikko — but that didn’t stop Sapporo kiters from holding their 35th annual kite-flying contest in the city’s Fushiko Park. The winner this year was Tanaka Mitsuo, whose design featured a 100-meter-long chain of 100 linked kites.

Mao Zedong once said, “Let a hundred flowers bloom”, but that’s got to be easier than getting 100 kites up in the air. Each of the hundred was 60 x 42 centimeters, made of bamboo and washi (traditional Japanese paper), and designed to look like a dragon. This is Dragon Year in the Chinese zodiac.

Rebuild it and they will come

They’ve been repairing the Izumo Shinto shrine in Shimane lately, the first major renovations in more than 60 years. The local carpenters know just how to go about it, too — the Izumo shrine has been rebuilt 25 times, the last in the 18th century, and also moved several times.

It’s the oldest shrine in the country, but ranks only number two in order of importance. (The enshrined deity is Okuninushi no Mikoto, the nephew of the Sun Goddess.) There’s still a fence around one part where mortals may not enter.

The repairs are being made in conformity with the original construction techniques. That includes softening thin sheets of Japanese cypress by soaking them in water, and then using them to thatch the 600-square-meter roof with bamboo nails. Preparations began in 2008 and the work won’t be finished until next year, though the current phase ended in February. Had I finished this post when I intended, readers nearby might have been able to glimpse the main hall. Alas, I was sidetracked by other work and projects, and now the hall won’t be on view for another 60 years. Attendance also required a dress code: t-shirts, sweatsuits, or sandals will not do for a visit to the abode of Okuninushi, even though the divinity was moved to a temporary site on the premises in 2008 for the duration.

Leg room

Naruse Masayuki of Tamana, Kumamoto, has presented a paper on the safety of his single pedal automobile system to the Society of Automotive Engineers in the United States. Mr. Naruse operates a company that makes industrial materials, one of which is One Pedal. That’s an all-in-one pedal for controlling the gas and the brake to prevent accidents caused when drivers step in it by stepping on the wrong one. There’s an attachment on the right side of the floor pedal for acceleration, which drivers hit with the right side of their foot to move forward. Stepping on the floor still brakes the car.

The pedal’s been around for awhile — the old Transport Ministry conducted trials that demonstrated its safety. Mr. Naruse has custom-fitted nearly 200 cars in Japan with the device, but the major automakers don’t seem interested. Said Toyota, “Technicians have studied it, but we have no plans to adopt it now.” One complaint is that it’s more difficult to keep one’s foot against the gas pedal to maintain a constant speed than it is to downpress a pedal. Nevertheless, SAE plans to hold trials in Tamana with 70 drivers of all ages and foot sizes.

Hokkii rice burger

Tomakomai in Hokkaido has the largest haul of the surf clam — that’s the spisula solidissima for you shellfish enthusiasts — in Japan. They’ve got to eat them all somehow, so they’ve begun promoting a clam rice burger made with what’s called a hokkii, which is also the city’s “image character“. (The name isn’t derived from the hockey puck shape.) It was created by college students who liked the clam and made it for their school festival, and used rice for the bun instead of bread. City officials must have stopped by for a taste, because they adopted the idea and sold 1,600 at a three-day event last year. They then conducted trial tastings and questionnaires to get the perfect recipe, and shops around town began selling it in mid-December. There are several varieties with different condiments, but most sell for around JPY 400 yen, which is not a bad price. The idea is to get more people to come to Tomakomai.

Goya senbei

They’ve got as many goya in Kagoshima’s Minamiosumi-cho as they have surf clams in Tomakomai, so a local hot spring resort developed a way to incorporate them in senbei rice crackers. They slice and dice them and knead them into the batter. Reports say they give the crackers a slight bitter taste. That makes sense — the goya is also called the nigauri, which means bitter melon. Several groups in the city, including the hot spring resort and the municipal planning agency, created the snack as a way to use non-standard goya and gobo (yeah, that’s a vegetable) that can’t be sold on the market. They’re cooked by Yamato-ya, a Kagoshima City senbei company, and 40-gram bags are sold for JPY 315 yen. That’s a bit steep, but some of the proceeds go to local welfare services. Give them a call at 0994-24-5300 to see if they have any left.

Strawberry sake

Instead of clams or goya, Shimanto in Kochi has a strawberry surplus. That was the inspiration for a sake brewer in the city to combine the berries with their sake and create a liqueur with two varieties, one dry and one sweet. The employees even filled the 500-milliliter bottles by hand, and you’ve got to wonder if they had the temptation to sample some. There were 1,000 bottles of the sweet stuff and 2,000 of the dry type going for JPY 1,600 apiece. The idea is to sell it to “people who normally don’t drink sake”, which is code for young women. They’re even selling it outside of the prefecture, so if the idea of strawberry sake appeals to you, input 0880-34-4131 into your hand-held terminal and ask for some.

Extra credit

The more serious drinkers in Aira, Kagoshima, don’t fool around with fruity beverages, and demonstrated it by starting shochu study sessions last month. Some stalls specializing in that particular grog have been set up near the Kagoshima Chuo station, and the people who will operate the stalls attended three training sessions. One of them included lessons in the local dialect for dealing with customers. (Kagoshima-ben requires listeners to pay close attention, and even then you’re not going to get all of it, sober or sloshed. That includes their Kyushu neighbors.) The scholars also examined the traditional process for distilling it, listened to lectures on the origins of satsumaimo (a sweet potato variety) and how it came to be used in the local shochu, and visited the Shirakane brewers. Now that’s dedication for being a liquor store clerk. There’ll be 50 of them working in 25 shops at the stall complex.

Really high

If the last story didn’t convince you that Kagoshimanians are serious about shochu, this one will. They’ve just marketed a new brand called Uchudayori, or Space Bulletin, made with malted rice and yeast carried aboard the international space station Endeavor last May for 16 days. It was developed by researchers at Kagoshima University and the Kagoshima Prefecture Brewers Association. (The university has a special shochu and fermenting research institute for students, and I sniff a party school subtext.) There are 12 different varieties because 12 companies used the base materials to distill their own well-known products, including those made with satsumaimo and brown sugar. Those interested in getting spaced out can buy a set of 12 900-milliliter bottles for JPY 24,000 yen, which is reasonable considering the transportation costs for some of the ingredients. Sameshima Yoshihiro, the head of the research institute, says it has a better aroma than normal. No, he didn’t say it was “out of this world”.

This'll beam you up.

Exotic booze

Did that space travel bring back an alien life form? The shochu kingdom of Kagoshima is about to get its first locally brewed sake in 40 years. Hamada Shuzo of Ichikikushikino (try saying that after a couple of hits of shochu) announced they have started brewing the beverage. They’re the only sake brewery in the prefecture, and the first to go into the business since the last one shut down in 1970.

That's where they make it, you know.

Hamada Shuzo remodeled their shochu plant last year by adding facilities for producing 60 kiloliters of sake annually. An affiliated company used to make sake in Aichi until 1998, so they’ll blow the dust off the old notebooks and apply those accumulated techniques and expertise. A Shinto ceremony was held to receive the blessing of the divinities before they began fermentation with 20 kilograms of rice from other parts of Kyushu. (Kagoshima rice doesn’t work so well.) The company hopes to cook up 800 liters by March.

The company says Kagoshima’s higher temperatures — it’s Down South — make sake brewing difficult, and the shochu culture took root several hundred years ago. I have first-hand experience that Kagoshimanians drink shochu in situations where other Japanese drink sake, and it took about a week to recover. Statistics from the Tax Bureau support that anecdote. They say 36,767 kiloliters of shochu were consumed in the prefecture in 2010 compared to 1,379 for sake.

The company’s idea is to use sake brewing techniques for shochu product development. They might begin full scale production later, but the sake is now being brewed primarily for research. Didn’t I tell you these guys were serious? They’ve also got a restaurant/brewpub on the premises, and they hope it attracts customers who’ll also take a shine to their shochu. Sales in the restaurant begin in May, and in shops after that.

Build it and they will come

The slender, the fat, and the shapeless

Former sumo grand champion and now slimmed down stablemaster Takanohana announced he was starting a program to build sumo rings throughout the country to promote the appeal of sumo. The first will be in Shiiba-son, Miyazaki Prefecture. (Takanohana’s wife, the former newscaster Hanada Keiko, is a Miyazaki girl.) Mr. T believes that sumo helps build character, and he wants to see the rings restored at primary schools and other sites around the country. The Shiiba-son municipal government will contribute funds to the project and manage the ring once it’s built. The construction will be handled by the local Itsukushima Shinto shrine under the guidance of the Japan Sumo Association.

Mr. and Mrs. T sometimes visit a local juku that seems to be more of a character training institute than an academic enhancer. When they were in town to make the announcement about the sumo ring, they attended a lecture by the head of the juku on the Yamato spirit. (Yamato is the older name for the original ethnic group of Japan.) The lecture included this message:

Live as the cherry blossom, blooming vividly with full force and quickly falling from the branch.
We cannot see the color, shape, or size of the spirit, but a person’s spirit manifests in his way of life, deeds, and words.
There are three important things in the way of the
rikishi and the way of sumo: form, greetings, and etiquette.

That old time religion is still good enough for plenty of Japanese, and not just old guys who drink shochu and watch sumo. This month, a team from Saga Kita High School in Saga City was one of two selected for the grand prize in an annual calligraphic arts competition in Nagano conducted for high schools nationwide. It was the 17th year the sponsoring organization held the event, and the 17th straight year Kita High School won the grand prize. Kita students also won 11 of the 65 awards in the individual division. Teams from 273 schools participated and submitted 15,420 works.

The Kita girls have been getting ready since October. They practiced every day after school until 7:30, and voluntarily give up their free Saturdays. Said second-year student Koga Misaki, the calligraphy club leader, “We encouraged each other while being aware of the heavy pressure of tradition, and I’m happy we achieved our goal.”

And don’t forget Okinawa!

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