October 2017 Lower House Election Briefing: LDP wins big again, routs Japan’s left wing, but some silver linings to be had

mytest

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Hi Blog. As is tradition on Debito.org (see previous writings herehere, here, here, here, here, and here), after a Japanese election we analyze the results.

I waited until today, when all seats had been awarded (four were decided nearly a day after polls closed). So here goes:

OCTOBER 2017 LOWER HOUSE ELECTION RESULTS

As Japan politics watchers know, Japan is a parliamentary system where the party or coalition with the majority of seats in a legislature forms the governing Cabinet. In Japan’s case, the Lower House is the more powerful one in terms of actual policymaking (even though Japan’s Upper House is already in the hands of Japan’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party, or LDP), so this snap election, called by Prime Minister Abe Shinzo basically on a whim (there wasn’t one due for another two years), was essentially a referendum on whether Japan’s electorate wanted to continue on Abe’s course of probable Constitutional amendment and remilitarization.

The conclusion: Japan’s electorate is basically just fine with Abe’s rightist agenda.

Granted, there was a typhoon getting in the way on election day (although there is no indication that inclement weather affects leftists more than rightists). And there was no real viable opposition to Abe, either. Japan’s left is in complete disarray (given fickle Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko’s “Hope Party” offering little more than re-warmed Abe; Koike wasn’t even in Japan for the election!), with the Democratic Party of Japan completely dissolving from ruling party in 2011 into nonexistence (with right-leaning DPJers being absorbed into the Hope Party, and left-leaning DPJers forming a new “Constitutional Democratic Party” (Rikken Minshutou, or CDP) in clear opposition to Abe’s Constitutional reforms).  And the DPRK repeatedly sending missiles over Japanese waters and land certainly isn’t helping the pacifist point-of-view much.

The point is that Japan’s electorate, which doesn’t generally support underdogs (Why waste your vote on a losing party?, is more the logic), went for Abe and the LDP in general out of habit, default, or tribalism.

Let’s take a look at the numbers, according to Asahi.com (Japanese; click to expand in browser):

HEADLINE RESULTS:
As you can see, the ruling LDP (in red) retained its absolute 2/3 majority beyond 310 seats in the assembly. Its coalition with Sokka Gakkai religious party Komeito (KMT) remains firmly in power, with 284 plus 29 seats for LDP and KMT respectively.

WINNERS AND LOSERS:
The LDP, as mentioned above, won big. But it wasn’t an unqualified win. It retained exactly the same number as last time. However, KMT lost five seats from the 34 it had pre-election.

However, the protest vote by people who wanted a party to keep Japan’s Constitution as it is (the CDP), won bigger, going from 15 seats from its former DPJ/DP politicians to a full 55. Message: The DPJ is dead, long live its spirit in the CDP.

The losers were just about everyone else. Koike’s Hope Party dropped from 57 to 50 seats, the far-right Japan Restoration Party (Nihon Ishin no Kai) from 14 to 11, the far-left Communist Party from 21 to 12, and the tiny socialist Social Democratic Party (Shamintou) unchanged at two seats.

The biggest losers were the party-unaffiliated politicians (mushozoku) on both sides. The ones leaning left went from 27 seats to 21, while the ones leaning right went from eleven to one! Part of this is that due to the Proportional Representation vote (which only applies to official parties), these independents had to win in single-seat constituencies. But the bigger reason seems to be that brand recognition these days sells well: Either you stampeded with the herd under the LDP’s umbrella, or you went for a party flavor du jour (which quickly soured under Koike’s Hope, but clearly flowered under the CDP).

WHAT DISTRICTS WENT FOR WHOM

One thing I love about Japanese elections (and there are quite a few things I love) is the clarity of the visuals. You can see how people voted in this map of all the single-seat constituencies in the prefectures. Red is ruling coalition, Blue opposition, and Grey independent:

Based upon this, you can see that Western Honshu essentially all went LDP/KMT, big cities Osaka and Fukuoka were solid LDP/KMT with even far-right Restoration making seats. The Kanto conurbation of Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa were somewhat mixed, but mostly Red again. And the only places there was a true mix were Hokkaido (traditionally left-leaning) and Okinawa (which elected one of everything except the CDP and KMT).

OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST WITH THIS ELECTION

1) Horrible, horrible Hokkaido politician Suzuki Muneo finally lost his seat under the PR system. This isn’t the first time this former LDP ideologue has been down and out, but here’s hoping it’s his last.

2) The political dynasty of Hatoyama did not succeed in getting LDP Hatoyama Kunio’s eldest son elected this time. However, the dynasty of racist former Governor Ishihara Shintaro was maintained with the reelection of his sons. Also, the daughter of former PM Obuchi was reelected, further demonstrating the power of generational branding (seshuu seijika) in Japan.

3) Former PM Kan Naoto was reelected in Tokyo. As was firebrand Tsujimoto Kiyomi in Osaka.

FINAL CONCLUSIONS:

This has been the third time (more than that if you also add in Upper House elections) Japan’s has given a sweeping mandate to PM Abe and his Constitution-revising stance.  I guess they’re pretty much okay with it.  There’s still a national referendum to be run on this.  But I reckon it’ll get through, especially if North Korea keeps scaring the Japanese public with missile tests.  And of course, not making any blip whatsoever in the election (aside from Koike requiring new entrants to sign an oath to disenfranchise foreign resident voters) were issues of immigration and internationalization in Japan.

Comments?  Dr. Debito Arudou

PS:  Other writings on Japanese politics:

My Japan Times JBC column 102, Oct 31, 2016: “U.S. and Japan elections: Scary in their own ways

My Japan Times JBC column 101: “US and Japan votes: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Oct 3, 2016)

My Japan Times JBC column 99, For Abe, it will always be about the Constitution, Aug 1, 2016

My Japan Times JBC 92 Oct. 5, 2015: “Conveyor belt of death shudders back to life”, on how Abe’s new security policy will revive Prewar martial Japan

My Japan Times JBC 91 Sept 7, 2015: Why Japan’s Right keeps leaving the Left in the dust

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 88: U.S. green-lights Japan’s march back to militarism”, on America’s historical amnesia in US-Japan Relations, June 1, 2015

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 70, “Japan brings out big guns to sell remilitarization in U.S., on how an October 2013 speech in Hawaii by the Abe Administration’s Kitaoka Shin’ichi is a classic case of charm offensive by a Gaijin Handler, floating a constitutional reinterpretation to allow for a standing Japanese military before the American military. (November 7, 2013)

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 66: “Ol’ blue eyes isn’t back: Tsurunen’s tale offers lessons in microcosm for DPJ”, Aug 5, 2013

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 61, “Keep Abe’s hawks in check or Japan will suffer,” a recounting of how ill a rerun of an Abe Shinzou Prime Ministership portends to be for Japan as a liberal democracy. (February 4, 2013)

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 57, “Revisionists marching Japan back to a dangerous place,” on how the Senkakus and Takeshima Disputes are more than just an official distraction for domestic problems – they are a means to stop crucial liberalizations from taking place within Japanese society. (October 2, 2012)

Japan Focus: “Japan’s Democracy at Risk: LDP’s 10 Most Dangerous Proposals for Constitutional Change” by Lawrence Repeta (UPDATED with Aso’s Nazi admiration gaffe).

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“Japanese Only” rules mutate: Hagoromo-yu, a bathhouse excluding LGBT in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, in reaction to local same-sex-partner ordinance

mytest

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Hi Blog. As Debito.org has argued for decades, if you don’t make discrimination explicitly illegal, it spreads and mutates.

Now we have a bathhouse (the most famous type of “Japanese Only” businesses in Japan) named Hagoromo-yu, in cosmopolitan Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, which has a sign up explicitly refusing custom to all LGBT customers “who don’t follow rules and morals, or don’t practice moderation” (setsudo o mamoru).

But here’s the nasty kicker (and brazen nastiness seems to be the hallmark of Japan’s excluders these days; just consider the antics of Osaka car dealer Autoplaza in the recent Yener Case).  The sign even includes this iyami on the bottom, striking back against the unusual progressiveness of the local government:

Shibuya-ku has established the ‘same-sex partners ordinance’, but we at this store will refuse service to any LGBT customers who who don’t follow rules and morals, or don’t practice moderation.”

How nice. Here’s where this place is located, for the record:

料金:入浴料 460円/サウナ使用 ・ 入浴料 1,000円
営業時間:14:00 ~ 深夜 1:00 (日曜日は14:00 ~ 深夜 24:00)
住所:東京都渋谷区本町3-24-20

Hagoromo-yu, 〒151-0071 Tokyo, Shibuya, Honmachi, 3−24−20 Tel. 03-3372-4118, no dedicated website.

Courtesy of TL on Sept. 4, 2017.  Although this isn’t explicitly a Debito.org issue (on the treatment of International Residents and Visible Minorities in Japan), this is still an issue of minority treatment, and as such warrants a mention.  Feel free to give them a piece of your mind, as “moderately” as you like.  Dr. Debito Arudou

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Daily Show on overseas media interpreters’ self-censorship of Trump’s language: Japanese interpreter plays dumb, claims no way to express “grab ’em by the pu**y”

mytest

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Hi Blog.  I’m trying to maintain my summer vacation (and a dry-out from the Internet for a little while), but every now and again I stumble across something interesting (what with this golden age of political comedy in the US), and here’s something indirectly Japan-related.

Trevor Noah and company on the Daily Show make an interesting case about how Trump’s language, both in terms of content and syntax, is challenging for translators in other languages to render.  They make the point that the impact and nuance is often softened by translator self-censorship (or filling in the gaps with personal interpretations).  I understand well, having been in their situations more than once.  (And let me say here for the record:  I am not a trained interpreter, and I have had numerous debates with interpreters with accuracy versus diplomatic rendering of the language.  I fall on the side of total accuracy warts and all.)  Worth a watch:

But at minute 4:00 of the segment, the Japanese interpreter claims that there is no accurate way to translate Trump’s infamous “grab ’em by the pu**y” remark.  She even claims that there is no word “in the exact sense” for “pu**y” in Japanese.

Rubbish.  I can think of quite a few words that would do the trick, in content and especially in nuance.  The two easiest, of course, are om*nko or om*nta, as in “om*nta o tsukandari shite“,  and in Trump’s case I would even remove their honorific prefixes.

Of course, that would require bleeping out the syllable after “man”, but it’s been done on Japanese TV before.  I’ve seen it.

But I dislike it when people, especially in this case a professional interpreter, play dumb and deny.  Repeating that old lie that we heard as beginning Japanese students that “there are no bad words in Japanese”.

Like it or not, “om*nta” what 45 said.  Portray it accurately.  Or, as the segment argued well, the awfulness of 45’s speech is bleached out simply because the interpreter is being too diplomatic, cultured, or prudish.  Dr. Debito Arudou

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One more Bucket List item removed: Meeting Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran; here’s my playlist

mytest

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Hi Blog. Coming out of Debito.org’s Summer Vacation briefly with some good news:

Long-time readers of Debito.org know what a deep appreciation I have for ’80s band Duran Duran — which is still putting out good albums chock full of good music (see below), and touring to full arenas. I was at the Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu tonight to catch them (for the second time, the first back in Canandaigua NY on June 26, 1987). Good seats, great setlist. This was their first time playing in Honolulu (they cancelled a previous date in 1994 due to lead singer Simon Le Bon losing his voice), and as the last stop on their current tour (they spent a few days recuperating on-island), they put on an excellent show to a rapt crowd.

And, I’m proud to say, thanks to mutual friend GB, I got a backstage pass. And met and briefly chatted with Simon Le Bon. As they say, pictures or it didn’t happen:

I’m going to treasure this memory for a lifetime, as I have been following DD assiduously since 1982. Thanks GB. And thanks Simon.

As for people who still think Duran Duran peaked in the mid-1980s, I challenge you to listen to my iPod’s “Damn Good Duran Duran” playlist. (And in terms of musicality, I also challenge you to listen to John Taylor’s bass line on the song “Rio” as an isolated track, and tell me it doesn’t rank up there with Geddy Lee or Tina Weymouth.)

Here’s the playlist, songs in the order I play them. You can find them on YouTube if not on iTunes:

  1. Last Chance on the Stairway
  2. Serious
  3. A View to a Kill
  4. Late Bar (2010 Remastered Version, from the Deluxe Version of their first eponymous album)
  5. Too Late Marlene
  6. My Own Way (Night Version)
  7. Khanada
  8. Come Undone
  9. Breath after Breath
  10. Point of No Return
  11. Land
  12. The Flame (as Arcadia)
  13. What Happens Tomorrow
  14. Reach Up for the Sunrise (Ferry Corsten Dub Mix)
  15. Girls on Film (16 Millimeter Mix)
  16. Only in Dreams
  17. Box Full o’ Honey
  18. Winter Marches On
  19. All You Need is Now
  20. First Impression
  21. Do You Believe in Shame?
  22. Anyone Out There?
  23. Late Bar (Live at Hammersmith Odeon, 17 December 1981)
  24. New Religion
  25. Before the Rain
  26. Still Breathing
  27. The Chauffeur
  28. Ordinary World
  29. The Man Who Stole a Leopard
  30. Watching the Detectives
  31. Is There Something I Should Know?
  32. Last Night in the City
  33. Playing With Uranium
  34. Be My Icon
  35. Shadows On Your Side
  36. Crystal Ship
  37. Michael You’ve Got a Lot to Answer For
  38. El Diablo (as Arcadia)
  39. Lady Ice (as Arcadia)
  40. The Universe Alone

Very few of these were chart material.  Many are deep album cuts, very rewarding to fans.  But at 3 hours 15 minutes you have a lot of good stuff from a band you’ve probably thought was merely fashion and hair.  Give them a listen.  And maybe you’ll know why I’m such a devoted fan after nearly 40 years of their existence (and 52 years of mine).  Dr. Debito Arudou

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Tangent: NPR: journalist Tom Ricks and how Western society operates best when it assumes an objective reality, and values facts over opinions

mytest

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Hi Blog. Tangent today on something that made me think.  I was listening to NPR the other day when I heard the following segment from NPR Fresh Air with Terry Gross: “Churchill, Orwell And The Fight Against Totalitarianism”, dated May 22, 2017.  Gross interviewed Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Tom Ricks, who said the writings of Winston Churchill and George Orwell still resonate today, and who discussed the caliber of the generals serving in the Trump administration.  Ricks, the author of the new book “Churchill And Orwell: The Fight For Freedom”, and writer of the blog The Best Defense for Foreign Policy magazine, had this to say at the very end of the interview.  Gross sets up the question:

////////////////////////////////////////

GROSS: I want to quote something that you write in your book “Churchill And Orwell: The Fight For Freedom.” And again, this is a book – it’s a kind of dual biography and looking at how their political views evolved and how it was reflected in their writing and their hatred of both fascism and Stalinism.

So you write (reading aloud) “the fundamental driver of Western civilization is the agreement that objective reality exists, that people of goodwill can perceive it and that other people will change their views when presented with the facts of the matter.”

So I’d like you to talk to how that reflects on Churchill and Orwell and how that reflects today.

RICKS: That’s the last line in the book. And if – I’m glad you read it because if there’s anything I have to say I learned from this experience of reading and re-reading thousands upon thousands of words by Churchill and Orwell over the last three and half years, it’s that. That’s my conclusion – that this is the essence of Western society and, at its best, how Western society operates.

And it’s – you can really reduce it to a formula. First of all, you need to have principles. You need to stand by those principles and remember them. Second, you need to look at reality to observe facts and not just have opinions and to say, what are the facts of the matter? Third, you need to act upon those facts according to your principles.

////////////////////////////////////

COMMENT:  The point of this exchange was to conclude with how this fact-based (as opposed to opinion-based) dynamic has broken down over time, especially in current American politics.  And having lived in a society for an extended period where the search for the truth is less important than understanding power, and the existence of an objective reality is constantly doubted if not outright dismissed, I think it’s a good idea to keep this segment in mind on a personal level.  Periodically renew your commitment to fact-based inquiry towards an objective reality, and undertake decision-making with the flexibility to change your mind when presented with the facts.  Dr. Debito Arudou

==================================

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Tangent: Michener’s “Presidential Lottery” (1969) on dangerous US Electoral College

mytest

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Hi Blog. On this fateful day in American history, where an utterly unqualified person has just been chosen by the US Electoral College to be the next POTUS, I went to the local library to take out one of James Michener‘s least-read books, “Presidential Lottery: The Reckless Gamble in Our Electoral System” (Random House, 1969).  The points he raised back then are just as important now, if not more so.

The opening paragraphs, as always, pull you right in:

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“On election day 1968 the United States once again played a reckless game with its destiny.  Acting as if it were immune to catastrophe, we conducted one more Presidential election in accordance with rules that were outmoded and inane.  This time we were lucky.  Next time we might not be.  Next time we could wreck our country.

“The dangerous game we play is this.  We preserve a system of electing a President which contains so many built-in pitfalls that sooner or later it is bound to destroy us.  The system has three major weaknesses.  It places the legal responsibility for choosing a President in the hands of an Electoral College, whose members no one knows and who are not bound to vote the way their state votes.  If the Electoral College does not produce a majority vote for some candidate, the election is thrown into the House of Representatives, where anything can happen.  And it is quite possible that the man who wins the largest popular vote across the nation will not be chosen President, with all the turmoil that this might cause.

“In 1823 Thomas Jefferson, who as we shall see had long and painful experience with this incredible system, described it as, ‘The most dangerous blot on our Constitution, and one which some unlucky chance will some day hit.’  Today the danger is more grave than when Jefferson put his finger on it.” (3-4)

=============================

The book goes on to describe Michener’s own experience as a chosen Electoral College member in his state of Pennsylvania, how the process worked for him, and how the tumultuous 1968 Presidential Campaign (Nixon (R) vs. Humphrey (D) vs. George Wallace (I)) could have caused the chaos he described.  And for those who remember, Alabama Governor Wallace was that bigot who famously stood in front of the University of Alabama and other school zones in protest of the forcible integration of African-Americans into the segregated South.

As Michener describes in his book, the “winner take all” nature of the Electoral College meant that all Wallace would have had to do is secure 67 Electoral College votes, and neither Nixon nor Humphrey (locked in a close race) would have secured the 270 minimum votes for the Presidency.  Then Wallace could assign his votes as he pleased, saying to either candidate, “What will you give me for my votes?”  In essence, one would have been able to choose the next President.

Fortunately, that did not come to pass, as Wallace wound up not doing that well.  And this time, it’s not a matter of Electoral College voters refusing to follow state electoral outcomes, but rather an election this time where yet again, another popular vote victory is stymied by the Electoral College (the last one being in 2000, with Bush vs. Gore).  And there, by dint of the outcomes in few counties in a few battleground states (again, thanks to the “winner take all” nature of the vote, not votes assigned as a proportion of the vote), one man can lose overall by nearly three million votes and still win.

Michener goes on in his book to talk about what happens in the rare cases when the Electoral College is inconclusive, where the vote goes to the House of Representatives; the debacle there pitted American historical icon Thomas Jefferson vs. Aaron Burr, a man so amoral (Michener:  “a man without principle …mercurial and undependable… who would later be charged with betrayal of his nation” (27, 30)) that he was essentially the Donald Trump of his day.  Jefferson won, but after the House had more than 30 times voting.  Again, the right man was chosen, so the Electoral College got let off the hook.

With today’s result, I bet that Michener would be as dismayed to see what little effect the protests about electors “voting their conscience” nationwide had in the end.  As Trump himself said, the election was rigged.  Perhaps Michener would say that the dangerous vestige of the Electoral College has finally managed to create the catastrophe.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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JT: The flip side of coveted public-sector jobs in Japan: fewer rights, by being excepted from labor laws

mytest

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https://www.facebook.com/BookInAppropriate
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Hi Blog.  Once again, the JT comes out with an insightful article about the difference between appearance and reality, especially in Japan’s labor market.  Okunuki Hifumi tells us about how Japan’s most-coveted job — civil servant (!) — actually comes with at a price of fewer rights under Japan’s labor laws.  Depending on your status, bureaucrats lack the right to strike, collectively bargain, or unionize (not to mention, as it wasn’t in this article, engage in “political activities”).  And that can severely weaken their ability to fight back when labor abuses occur (see in particular footnote 6) or, as schoolteachers, to educate students about politics.  Read on.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////

(Photo Caption) Pop quiz: Which of these types of government worker has the right to strike — tax inspectors, schoolteachers, firefighters or public health workers? Answer: None of the above, thanks to an Occupation-era law designed to tamp down the influence of communism. | KYODO PHOTO

The flip side of coveted public-sector jobs in Japan: fewer rights
BY HIFUMI OKUNUKI, SPECIAL TO THE JAPAN TIMES, AUG 21, 2016
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/08/21/issues/flip-side-coveted-public-sector-jobs-japan-less-rights/

I research labor law and teach it to university students. In the first class, I break up the two groups of labor laws — those related to individual and collective labor relations — for my students. Individual labor relations law begins and ends with the 1947 Labor Standards Act (rōdō kijun hō); its collective counterpart is surely the 1950 Trade Union Act (rōdō kumiai hō).

About 99.9 percent of my 18-20-year-olds look blank the first time they hear the word “rōdō kumiai,” or labor union. Some of them have arubaito (part-time jobs) and thus already have become rōdōsha (workers) protected by labor laws, but they have not heard of labor unions and have no idea what such a creature looks like. I have my work cut out trying to explain to them the concepts of labor unions, collective bargaining and striking.

A popular professional aspiration among university students today is to join the ranks of kōmuin, or government employees. Civil servants have stable employment, meaning they don’t have to worry about the possibility of being laid off. Their work hours and days off are usually quite favorable compared with those at private-sector firms. (At least that is what is said — that is the reputation. The reality is not so straightforward.)

Once, the hot jobs were high-income positions with finance firms or trading houses, but today’s youth are more sober, preferring a steady, grounded career path. A 2015 poll by Adecco Group asked children between 6 and 15 years old in seven Asian countries and regions what they wanted to be when they grow up. Children in Japan answered in the following order of popularity: 1) company worker; 2) soccer player; 3) civil servant; 4) baseball player. Note the perhaps unexpected answers ranking 1) and 3). “Government employee” made the top 10 only in Japan. […]

Amazingly, each type of civil servant has different labor rights in Japan. I ordinarily teach labor law that protects private-sector employees, so when I tell my students that the labor laws for civil servants differ by type of job, they express shock, particularly when they find out that civil servants have fewer rights than other workers…

Read the rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/08/21/issues/flip-side-coveted-public-sector-jobs-japan-less-rights/

============================
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Japan Times JBC column 103: “Trump’s lesson: You can lie your way to the very top”, Nov. 16, 2016

mytest

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Hi Blog. The Japan Times tapped me for an opinion on the US Elections and Trump’s ascendancy to the Presidency. So here’s my latest JBC a couple of weeks early. Excerpt:

////////////////////////////////////////
JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE
Trump’s lesson: You can lie your way to the very top
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
SPECIAL TO THE JAPAN TIMES
NOV 16, 2016
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/11/16/issues/trumps-lesson-can-lie-way-top/

The morning after the election, I woke up to Trump’s America.

I’d had a fitful sleep the night before. I’d watched the results from Hawaii, one of America’s bluest states, where our friend had organized a house party to ring in the predicted victory of Hillary Clinton and the continuation of local hero Barack Obama’s legacy. The first polls on America’s East Coast would be closing in our early afternoon. We’d see a clear outcome by dusk and go home happy.

But we lost our swing as the sun went down. Donald Trump started with an early lead thanks to some victories in the Bible Belt and Great Plains. But OK — they almost always go Republican. And, not to worry, the Northeast states mostly went blue. As soon as a few of the “battleground” states turned our color, as polls predicted they would, Clinton would leapfrog to victory.

[N.B. I have a feeling SNL was also at our party…]

But then more southern states started going red. Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana — sure, lost causes to begin with, right? Wyoming, Montana, Idaho — so deep red that the networks called them right after their polls closed.

But then Ohio fell. And Florida. And Georgia. I remember our cheers when Virginia went blue, then our shrieks when North Carolina canceled that out. Then the nor’easter: Maine and New Hampshire became too close to call. Even when the West Coast states came in and put Clinton in the lead, that too began to erode. After California, the Democrats had nothing left in the tank.

At that point the TV networks began to doomsay. MSNBC’s polling geek spent more than a television hour on incoming votes from rural and urban counties in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. The dominoes were falling the other way. And then, stunningly, Trump’s victory in the “rigged” (Trump’s word) Electoral College became a mathematical certainty.

By the time the cameras turned to Clinton’s victory bash and showed delegates slinking out, I had too. Back home, I watched as Clinton conceded even before all the networks had called it for Trump. I felt betrayed. And insomniac.

————— break ——————-

JBC has commented on previous U.S. elections (“Hailing the tail end of Bush”, Dec. 2, 2008), so let me tell you: I searched for a silver lining to all this. I found none…

Rest of the column at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/11/16/issues/trumps-lesson-can-lie-way-top/

==================================

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My Japan Times JBC column 101: “US and Japan votes: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” (Oct 3, 2016)

mytest

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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

US and Japan votes: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito. The Japan Times, Just Be Cause column 101
To be published Oct 3, 2016

I love elections. Anywhere. It’s fascinating to see how politicians craft public appeals. No matter how flawed the process, it’s how nation-states recharge their legitimacy and publicly reaffirm their mandate to govern.

During this season of the world’s most-watched presidential campaign, JBC will assess “the good, the bad, and the ugly” of how the United States and Japan run their elections. […] I want to talk about the expression of political culture and momentum that has grown from generations of campaigning, and how it brings out the “good” (things that are healthy for a representative democracy), the “bad” (things that aren’t), and the “ugly” (the just plain ludicrous)…

Read the rest in the Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/10/02/issues/comparing-elections-u-s-japan-good-bad-ugly/

=====================

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Discussion: Should I stay or should I go? What’s your personal threshold for staying in or leaving Japan?

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Some weeks ago a Debito.org Reader posed an interesting question to the Comments Section. Let me rephrase it like this:

  • What is your threshold for remaining in a society? Are there any conditions which will occasion you to consider an exit strategy?

Caveats: Of course, this can apply to anyone anywhere. But a) since this is a blog about Japan, and b) people who have chosen to live in another society for whatever reason have the experience of moving from one place to another (hence “hometown inertia” is not a factor), let’s make this specific to people who are living (or have lived) in Japan.

What would have to happen (or did happen) for you to have to decide to move out of Japan?

It’s an interesting hypothetical. For some expats/residents/immigrants in history, even a war was not enough (see the interesting case of William Gorham). So it’s all a matter of personal preference. What’s yours? Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

TIME Magazine and Japan Times on how online trolls (particularly Reddit) are ruining the Internet and media in general

mytest

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Hi Blog. I recently received the following post from a Debito.org Reader who (for obvious reasons) wishes to remain anonymous:

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
XY: There are some people on “Reddit” (Including Eido Inoue/letteradegree & Ken Yasumoto-Nicolson/KenYN) probably former colleagues or ex friends which apparently knew you in the past but seems that they hold a grudge against you all these years and now they have a mission to literally ruin your name and your reputation, as a activist, as a writer, but above all as a human being.

The pattern goes like this: Every time someone makes a positive post about you on Reddit, these people swarm to either down-vote into invisibility the positive post or comments about you, or they mock you and they spread lies about your personal life. Frankly, I don’t know what you can do in this case and what action you can take, but we’re talking about Reddit, with million of users and visitors on a daily basis, and not some small blog as Tepido/Japologism was. Below I’m giving you a few links with threads on r/Japan & r/Japanlife etc Subreddits as proof of the things I said earlier.

Note (1): Obviously many of the comments of these threads fall into what they call the “Circlejerking” category so please skim through.
Note (2): In some cases you have to expand/expose the full conversation/replies on the down-voted comments, which means you need to click the small cross next to the faded user name.

(Threads)
https://www.reddit.com/r/japan/comments/2u8k66/why_is_debito_arudou_so_angry_all_the_time/
https://www.reddit.com/r/japan/comments/2h146w/what_are_your_thoughts_on_the_author_arudo_debito/
https://www.reddit.com/r/japan/comments/hydru/to_people_in_rjapanespecially_the_gaijins_what_do/
https://www.reddit.com/r/japan/comments/3bypbo/middleaged_japanese_faces_down_canadian_racism/
https://www.reddit.com/r/japan/comments/2ofo8w/debito_arudou_to_foreign_japan_residents_you_are/
https://www.reddit.com/r/japan/comments/4xsqwy/debito_racism_in_japan_by_deep_in_japan/
https://np.reddit.com/r/japancirclejerk/comments/46cf17/meta_how_do_you_know_debito/
https://www.reddit.com/r/japanlife/comments/2tnyw7/debito_arudou_deleting_my_japanese_only_sign_is/
https://www.reddit.com/r/japan/comments/40qs5l/dr_arudou_debito_and_his_haters/
https://www.reddit.com/r/japan/comments/4x7akz/dr_arudou_debito_in_action_negotiating_with_a/

(Profile/Comment history overview)
Eido Inoue/letteradegree https://www.reddit.com/user/letteradegree/
Ken Yasumoto-Nicolson/KenYN https://www.reddit.com/user/KenYN

(Single comment’s thread)
Proof that “letteradegree” is Eido Inoue: https://np.reddit.com/r/japancirclejerk/comments/46cf17/meta_how_do_you_know_debito/d05lgva

If you go through on some of his comments, he actually believes that you’re actually some user on Reddit and you post with a sockpuppet account:
https://www.reddit.com/r/japancirclejerk/comments/4xtdnh/man_has_serious_crush_on_lil_debbie_and_is_in_no/d6jcsu5

And some comment about the Otaru Onsens Case:
https://www.reddit.com/r/japancirclejerk/comments/4xtdnh/man_has_serious_crush_on_lil_debbie_and_is_in_no/d6jidz3

And some self-styled ex-friend:
https://www.reddit.com/r/japan/comments/4xsqwy/debito_racism_in_japan_by_deep_in_japan/d6koj8j
https://www.reddit.com/r/japancirclejerk/comments/47xljl/debito_has_a_message_for_you_jland_clowns/d0gu7l1

There are lots of people who follow you, support, and admire your work for many years now. So please don’t let these few toxic people affect your work. Thanks for your time to read my message. XY

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

COMMENT:  Thanks for the notification.  This is in fact symptomatic of a larger problem.  Here’s a recent article in a mainstream American newsmagazine talking about how trolls are having deleterious effects on the media, specifically mentioning Reddit.  It’s long, but read on (and this will weed out the tl;dr online reactionaries who are allergic to doing real research):

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
How Trolls Are Ruining the Internet
By Joel Stein @thejoelstein
TIME Magazine, Cover Story, Aug. 18, 2016
They’re turning the web into a cesspool of aggression and violence. What watching them is doing to the rest of us may be even worse
Courtesy http://time.com/4457110/internet-trolls/

This story is not a good idea. Not for society and certainly not for me. Because what trolls feed on is attention. And this little bit–these several thousand words–is like leaving bears a pan of baklava.

It would be smarter to be cautious, because the Internet’s personality has changed. Once it was a geek with lofty ideals about the free flow of information. Now, if you need help improving your upload speeds the web is eager to help with technical details, but if you tell it you’re struggling with depression it will try to goad you into killing yourself. Psychologists call this the online disinhibition effect, in which factors like anonymity, invisibility, a lack of authority and not communicating in real time strip away the mores society spent millennia building. And it’s seeping from our smartphones into every aspect of our lives.

The people who relish this online freedom are called trolls, a term that originally came from a fishing method online thieves use to find victims. It quickly morphed to refer to the monsters who hide in darkness and threaten people. Internet trolls have a manifesto of sorts, which states they are doing it for the “lulz,” or laughs. What trolls do for the lulz ranges from clever pranks to harassment to violent threats. There’s also doxxing–publishing personal data, such as Social Security numbers and bank accounts–and swatting, calling in an emergency to a victim’s house so the SWAT team busts in. When victims do not experience lulz, trolls tell them they have no sense of humor. Trolls are turning social media and comment boards into a giant locker room in a teen movie, with towel-snapping racial epithets and misogyny.

They’ve been steadily upping their game. In 2011, trolls descended on Facebook memorial pages of recently deceased users to mock their deaths. In 2012, after feminist Anita Sarkeesian started a Kickstarter campaign to fund a series of YouTube videos chronicling misogyny in video games, she received bomb threats at speaking engagements, doxxing threats, rape threats and an unwanted starring role in a video game called Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian. In June of this year, Jonathan Weisman, the deputy Washington editor of the New York Times, quit Twitter, on which he had nearly 35,000 followers, after a barrage of anti-Semitic messages. At the end of July, feminist writer Jessica Valenti said she was leaving social media after receiving a rape threat against her daughter, who is 5 years old.

A Pew Research Center survey published two years ago found that 70% of 18-to-24-year-olds who use the Internet had experienced harassment, and 26% of women that age said they’d been stalked online. This is exactly what trolls want. A 2014 study published in the psychology journal Personality and Individual Differences found that the approximately 5% of Internet users who self-identified as trolls scored extremely high in the dark tetrad of personality traits: narcissism, psychopathy, Machiavellianism and, especially, sadism.

But maybe that’s just people who call themselves trolls. And maybe they do only a small percentage of the actual trolling. “Trolls are portrayed as aberrational and antithetical to how normal people converse with each other. And that could not be further from the truth,” says Whitney Phillips, a literature professor at Mercer University and the author of This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship Between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture. “These are mostly normal people who do things that seem fun at the time that have huge implications. You want to say this is the bad guys, but it’s a problem of us.”

A lot of people enjoy the kind of trolling that illuminates the gullibility of the powerful and their willingness to respond. One of the best is Congressman Steve Smith, a Tea Party Republican representing Georgia’s 15th District, which doesn’t exist. For nearly three years Smith has spewed over-the-top conservative blather on Twitter, luring Senator Claire McCaskill, Christiane Amanpour and Rosie O’Donnell into arguments. Surprisingly, the guy behind the GOP-mocking prank, Jeffrey Marty, isn’t a liberal but a Donald Trump supporter angry at the Republican elite, furious at Hillary Clinton and unhappy with Black Lives Matter. A 40-year-old dad and lawyer who lives outside Tampa, he says he has become addicted to the attention. “I was totally ruined when I started this. My ex-wife and I had just separated. She decided to start a new, more exciting life without me,” he says. Then his best friend, who he used to do pranks with as a kid, killed himself. Now he’s got an illness that’s keeping him home.

Marty says his trolling has been empowering. “Let’s say I wrote a letter to the New York Times saying I didn’t like your article about Trump. They throw it in the shredder. On Twitter I communicate directly with the writers. It’s a breakdown of all the institutions,” he says. “I really do think this stuff matters in the election. I have 1.5 million views of my tweets every 28 days. It’s a much bigger audience than I would have gotten if I called people up and said, ‘Did you ever consider Trump for President?’”

Trolling is, overtly, a political fight. Liberals do indeed troll–sex-advice columnist Dan Savage used his followers to make Googling former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum’s last name a blunt lesson in the hygienic challenges of anal sex; the hunter who killed Cecil the lion got it really bad.

But trolling has become the main tool of the alt-right, an Internet-grown reactionary movement that works for men’s rights and against immigration and may have used the computer from Weird Science to fabricate Donald Trump. Not only does Trump share their attitudes, but he’s got mad trolling skills: he doxxed Republican primary opponent Senator Lindsey Graham by giving out his cell-phone number on TV and indirectly got his Twitter followers to attack GOP political strategist Cheri Jacobus so severely that her lawyers sent him a cease-and-desist order.

The alt-right’s favorite insult is to call men who don’t hate feminism “cucks,” as in “cuckold.” Republicans who don’t like Trump are “cuckservatives.” Men who don’t see how feminists are secretly controlling them haven’t “taken the red pill,” a reference to the truth-revealing drug in The Matrix. They derisively call their adversaries “social-justice warriors” and believe that liberal interest groups purposely exploit their weakness to gain pity, which allows them to control the levers of power. Trolling is the alt-right’s version of political activism, and its ranks view any attempt to take it away as a denial of democracy.

In this new culture war, the battle isn’t just over homosexuality, abortion, rap lyrics, drugs or how to greet people at Christmastime. It’s expanded to anything and everything: video games, clothing ads, even remaking a mediocre comedy from the 1980s. In July, trolls who had long been furious that the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters starred four women instead of men harassed the film’s black co-star Leslie Jones so badly on Twitter with racist and sexist threats–including a widely copied photo of her at the film’s premiere that someone splattered semen on–that she considered quitting the service. “I was in my apartment by myself, and I felt trapped,” Jones says. “When you’re reading all these gay and racial slurs, it was like, I can’t fight y’all. I didn’t know what to do. Do you call the police? Then they got my email, and they started sending me threats that they were going to cut off my head and stuff they do to ‘N words.’ It’s not done to express an opinion, it’s done to scare you.”

Because of Jones’ harassment, alt-right leader Milo Yiannopoulos was permanently banned from Twitter. (He is also an editor at Breitbart News, the conservative website whose executive chairman, Stephen Bannon, was hired Aug. 17 to run the Trump campaign.) The service said Yiannopoulos, a critic of the new Ghostbusters who called Jones a “black dude” in a tweet, marshaled many of his more than 300,000 followers to harass her. He not only denies this but says being responsible for your fans is a ridiculous standard. He also thinks Jones is faking hurt for political purposes. “She is one of the stars of a Hollywood blockbuster,” he says. “It takes a certain personality to get there. It’s a politically aware, highly intelligent star using this to get ahead. I think it’s very sad that feminism has turned very successful women into professional victims.”

A gay, 31-year-old Brit with frosted hair, Yiannopoulos has been speaking at college campuses on his Dangerous Faggot tour. He says trolling is a direct response to being told by the left what not to say and what kinds of video games not to play. “Human nature has a need for mischief. We want to thumb our nose at authority and be individuals,” he says. “Trump might not win this election. I might not turn into the media figure I want to. But the space we’re making for others to be bolder in their speech is some of the most important work being done today. The trolls are the only people telling the truth.”

The alt-right was galvanized by Gamergate, a 2014 controversy in which trolls tried to drive critics of misogyny in video games away from their virtual man cave. “In the mid-2000s, Internet culture felt very separate from pop culture,” says Katie Notopoulos, who reports on the web as an editor at BuzzFeed and co-host of the Internet Explorer podcast. “This small group of people are trying to stand their ground that the Internet is dark and scary, and they’re trying to scare people off. There’s such a culture of viciously making fun of each other on their message boards that they have this very thick skin. They’re all trained up.”

Andrew Auernheimer, who calls himself Weev online, is probably the biggest troll in history. He served just over a year in prison for identity fraud and conspiracy. When he was released in 2014, he left the U.S., mostly bouncing around Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Since then he has worked to post anti–Planned Parenthood videos and flooded thousands of university printers in America with instructions to print swastikas–a symbol tattooed on his chest. When I asked if I could fly out and interview him, he agreed, though he warned that he “might not be coming ashore for a while, but we can probably pass close enough to land to have you meet us somewhere in the Adriatic or Ionian.” His email signature: “Eternally your servant in the escalation of entropy and eschaton.”

While we planned my trip to “a pretty remote location,” he told me that he no longer does interviews for free and that his rate was two bitcoins (about $1,100) per hour. That’s when one of us started trolling the other, though I’m not sure which:

============================

From: Joel Stein
To: Andrew Auernheimer
I totally understand your position. But TIME, and all the major media outlets, won’t pay people who we interview. There’s a bunch of reasons for that, but I’m sure you know them.
Thanks anyway, Joel

From: Andrew Auernheimer
To: Joel Stein
I find it hilarious that after your people have stolen years of my life at gunpoint and bulldozed my home, you still expect me to work for free in your interests.
You people belong in a f-cking oven.

From: Joel Stein
To: Andrew Auernheimer
For a guy who doesn’t want to be interviewed for free, you’re giving me a lot of good quotes!

============================

In a later blog post about our emails, Weev clarified that TIME is “trying to destroy white civilization” and that we should “open up your Jew wallets and dump out some of the f-cking geld you’ve stolen from us goys, because what other incentive could I possibly have to work with your poisonous publication?” I found it comforting that the rate for a neo-Nazi to compromise his ideology is just two bitcoins.

Expressing socially unacceptable views like Weev’s is becoming more socially acceptable. Sure, just like there are tiny, weird bookstores where you can buy neo-Nazi pamphlets, there are also tiny, weird white-supremacist sites on the web. But some of the contributors on those sites now go to places like 8chan or 4chan, which have a more diverse crowd of meme creators, gamers, anime lovers and porn enthusiasts. Once accepted there, they move on to Reddit, the ninth most visited site in the U.S., on which users can post links to online articles and comment on them anonymously. Reddit believes in unalloyed free speech; the site only eliminated the comment boards “jailbait,” “creepshots” and “beatingwomen” for legal reasons.

But last summer, Reddit banned five more discussion groups for being distasteful. The one with the largest user base, more than 150,000 subscribers, was “fatpeoplehate.” It was a particularly active community that reveled in finding photos of overweight people looking happy, almost all women, and adding mean captions. Reddit users would then post these images all over the targets’ Facebook pages along with anywhere else on the Internet they could. “What you see on Reddit that is visible is at least 10 times worse behind the scenes,” says Dan McComas, a former Reddit employee. “Imagine two users posting about incest and taking that conversation to their private messages, and that’s where the really terrible things happen. That’s where we saw child porn and abuse and had to do all of our work with law enforcement.”

Jessica Moreno, McComas’ wife, pushed for getting rid of “fatpeoplehate” when she was the company’s head of community. This was not a popular decision with users who really dislike people with a high body mass index. She and her husband had their home address posted online along with suggestions on how to attack them. Eventually they had a police watch on their house. They’ve since moved. Moreno has blurred their house on Google maps and expunged nearly all photos of herself online.

During her time at Reddit, some users who were part of a group that mails secret Santa gifts to one another complained to Moreno that they didn’t want to participate because the person assigned to them made racist or sexist comments on the site. Since these people posted their real names, addresses, ages, jobs and other details for the gifting program, Moreno learned a good deal about them. “The idea of the basement dweller drinking Mountain Dew and eating Doritos isn’t accurate,” she says. “They would be a doctor, a lawyer, an inspirational speaker, a kindergarten teacher. They’d send lovely gifts and be a normal person.” These are real people you might know, Moreno says. There’s no real-life indicator. “It’s more complex than just being good or bad. It’s not all men either; women do take part in it.” The couple quit their jobs and started Imzy, a cruelty-free Reddit. They believe that saving a community is nearly impossible once mores have been established, and that sites like Reddit are permanently lost to the trolls.

When sites are overrun by trolls, they drown out the voices of women, ethnic and religious minorities, gays–anyone who might feel vulnerable. Young people in these groups assume trolling is a normal part of life online and therefore self-censor. An anonymous poll of the writers at TIME found that 80% had avoided discussing a particular topic because they feared the online response. The same percentage consider online harassment a regular part of their jobs. Nearly half the women on staff have considered quitting journalism because of hatred they’ve faced online, although none of the men had. Their comments included “I’ve been raged at with religious slurs, had people track down my parents and call them at home, had my body parts inquired about.” Another wrote, “I’ve had the usual online trolls call me horrible names and say I am biased and stupid and deserve to be raped. I don’t think men realize how normal that is for women on the Internet.”

The alt-right argues that if you can’t handle opprobrium, you should just turn off your computer. But that’s arguing against self-expression, something antithetical to the original values of the Internet. “The question is: How do you stop people from being a–holes not to their face?” says Sam Altman, a venture capitalist who invested early in Reddit and ran the company for eight days in 2014 after one of its many PR crises. “This is exactly what happened when people talked badly about public figures. Now everyone on the Internet is a public figure. The problem is that not everyone can deal with that.” Altman declared on June 15 that he would quit Twitter and his 171,000 followers, saying, “I feel worse after using Twitter … my brain gets polluted here.”

Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Del Harvey, struggles with how to allow criticism but curb abuse. “Categorically to say that all content you don’t like receiving is harassment would be such a broad brush it wouldn’t leave us much content,” she says. Harvey is not her real name, which she gave up long ago when she became a professional troll, posing as underage girls (and occasionally boys) to entrap pedophiles as an administrator for the website Perverted-Justice and later for NBC’s To Catch a Predator. Citing the role of Twitter during the Arab Spring, she says that anonymity has given voice to the oppressed, but that women and minorities are more vulnerable to attacks by the anonymous.

But even those in the alt-right who claim they are “unf-ckwithable” aren’t really. At some point, everyone, no matter how desensitized by their online experience, is liable to get freaked out by a big enough or cruel enough threat. Still, people have vastly different levels of sensitivity. A white male journalist who covers the Middle East might blow off death threats, but a teenage blogger might not be prepared to be told to kill herself because of her “disgusting acne.”

Which are exactly the kinds of messages Em Ford, 27, was receiving en masse last year on her YouTube tutorials on how to cover pimples with makeup. Men claimed to be furious about her physical “trickery,” forcing her to block hundreds of users each week. This year, Ford made a documentary for the BBC called Troll Hunters in which she interviewed online abusers and victims, including a soccer referee who had rape threats posted next to photos of his young daughter on her way home from school. What Ford learned was that the trolls didn’t really hate their victims. “It’s not about the target. If they get blocked, they say, ‘That’s cool,’ and move on to the next person,” she says. Trolls don’t hate people as much as they love the game of hating people.

Troll culture might be affecting the way nontrolls treat one another. A yet-to-be-published study by University of California, Irvine, professor Zeev Kain showed that when people were exposed to reports of good deeds on Facebook, they were 10% more likely to report doing good deeds that day. But the opposite is likely occurring as well. “One can see discourse norms shifting online, and they’re probably linked to behavior norms,” says Susan Benesch, founder of the Dangerous Speech Project and faculty associate at Harvard’s Internet and Society center. “When people think it’s increasingly O.K. to describe a group of people as subhuman or vermin, those same people are likely to think that it’s O.K. to hurt those people.”

As more trolling occurs, many victims are finding laws insufficient and local police untrained. “Where we run into the problem is the social-media platforms are very hesitant to step on someone’s First Amendment rights,” says Mike Bires, a senior police officer in Southern California who co-founded LawEnforcement.social, a tool for cops to fight on-line crime and use social media to work with their communities. “If they feel like someone’s life is in danger, Twitter and Snapchat are very receptive. But when it comes to someone harassing you online, getting the social-media companies to act can be very frustrating.” Until police are fully caught up, he recommends that victims go to the officer who runs the force’s social-media department.

One counter-trolling strategy now being employed on social media is to flood the victims of abuse with kindness. That’s how many Twitter users have tried to blunt racist and body-shaming attacks on U.S. women’s gymnastics star Gabby Douglas and Mexican gymnast Alexa Moreno during the Summer Olympics in Rio. In 2005, after Emily May co-founded Hollaback!, which posts photos of men who harass women on the street in order to shame them (some might call this trolling), she got a torrent of misogynistic messages. “At first, I thought it was funny. We were making enough impact that these losers were spending their time calling us ‘cunts’ and ‘whores’ and ‘carpet munchers,’” she says. “Long-term exposure to it, though, I found myself not being so active on Twitter and being cautious about what I was saying online. It’s still harassment in public space. It’s just the Internet instead of the street.” This summer May created Heartmob, an app to let people report trolling and receive messages of support from others.

Though everyone knows not to feed the trolls, that can be challenging to the type of people used to expressing their opinions. Writer Lindy West has written about her abortion, hatred of rape jokes and her body image–all of which generated a flood of angry messages. When her father Paul died, a troll quickly started a fake Twitter account called PawWestDonezo, (“donezo” is slang for “done”) with a photo of her dad and the bio “embarrassed father of an idiot.” West reacted by writing about it. Then she heard from her troll, who apologized, explaining that he wasn’t happy with his life and was angry at her for being so pleased with hers.

West says that even though she’s been toughened by all the abuse, she is thinking of writing for TV, where she’s more insulated from online feedback. “I feel genuine fear a lot. Someone threw a rock through my car window the other day, and my immediate thought was it’s someone from the Internet,” she says. “Finally we have a platform that’s democratizing and we can make ourselves heard, and then you’re harassed for advocating for yourself, and that shuts you down again.”

I’ve been a columnist long enough that I got calloused to abuse via threats sent over the U.S. mail. I’m a straight white male, so the trolling is pretty tame, my vulnerabilities less obvious. My only repeat troll is Megan Koester, who has been attacking me on Twitter for a little over two years. Mostly, she just tells me how bad my writing is, always calling me “disgraced former journalist Joel Stein.” Last year, while I was at a restaurant opening, she tweeted that she was there too and that she wanted to take “my one-sided feud with him to the next level.” She followed this immediately with a tweet that said, “Meet me outside Clifton’s in 15 minutes. I wanna kick your ass.” Which shook me a tiny bit. A month later, she tweeted that I should meet her outside a supermarket I often go to: “I’m gonna buy some Ahi poke with EBT and then kick your ass.”

I sent a tweet to Koester asking if I could buy her lunch, figuring she’d say no or, far worse, say yes and bring a switchblade or brass knuckles, since I have no knowledge of feuding outside of West Side Story. Her email back agreeing to meet me was warm and funny. Though she also sent me the script of a short movie she had written (…).

I saw Koester standing outside the restaurant. She was tiny–5 ft. 2 in., with dark hair, wearing black jeans and a Spy magazine T-shirt. She ordered a seitan sandwich, and after I asked the waiter about his life, she looked at me in horror. “Are you a people person?” she asked. As a 32-year-old freelance writer for Vice.com who has never had a full-time job, she lives on a combination of sporadic paychecks and food stamps. My career success seemed, quite correctly, unjust. And I was constantly bragging about it in my column and on Twitter. “You just extruded smarminess that I found off-putting. It’s clear I’m just projecting. The things I hate about you are the things I hate about myself,” she said.

As a feminist stand-up comic with more than 26,000 Twitter followers, Koester has been trolled more than I have. One guy was so furious that she made fun of a 1970s celebrity at an autograph session that he tweeted he was going to rape her and wanted her to die afterward. “So you’d think I’d have some sympathy,” she said about trolling me. “But I never felt bad. I found that column so vile that I thought you didn’t deserve sympathy.”

When I suggested we order wine, she told me she’s a recently recovered alcoholic who was drunk at the restaurant opening when she threatened to beat me up. I asked why she didn’t actually walk up to me that afternoon and, even if she didn’t punch me, at least tell me off. She looked at me like I was an idiot. “Why would I do that?” she said. “The Internet is the realm of the coward. These are people who are all sound and no fury.”

Maybe. But maybe, in the information age, sound is as destructive as fury.

—————————————-
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story included a reference to Asperger’s Syndrome in an inappropriate context. It has been removed. Additionally, an incorrect description of Megan Koester’s sexual orientation has been removed.
This appears in the August 29, 2016 issue of TIME.
ENDS

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COMMENT: As described above, I’ve also endured online bullying, death threats, and other anonymous libel for decades now. And I’ve made it clear in previous comments to articles decrying the harmful activities of trolls that trolls simply just cannot be ignored:

======================================

[…] For example, I have numerous online stalkers, who dedicate many electrons on cyberspace (even devote whole websites and hijack Biographies of Living People on Wikipedia) not only to misrepresent my arguments, but also to track my personal life and advocate that I come to harm. I’ve endured death treats for decades, and I can’t conclude that merely ignoring trolls and hoping they’ll go away is an effective answer either. After all, as propaganda masters know, if enough people claim something is true, it becomes true, as long as through constant repetition they gain control over the narrative.

I for one never visit these stalker sites, but lots of people who should know better do look at them without sufficient critique, and (as you noted above) assume that my not commenting about their false allegations is some kind of admission in their favor. What the stalkers actually get out of all this wasted energy truly escapes me.

So after realizing that being ignored still works in their favor, now they are going after journalists, which brings into the debate issues of freedom of the press. Plus journalists have a more amplified public soapbox and credibility to advocate for change than we activist-types do. I hope you will continue to research and speak out against this, and not fall into the mindset that anonymous threats and stalking are simply part of being a public figure.

======================================

Even in Japan, despite the hand-wringing found in this FCCJ No. 1 Shimbun article, we’ve had calls for action for many years now.  Here’s Phil Brasor of the Japan Times:

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Media must take a stand against trolls
by Philip Brasor
Special To The Japan Times, Aug 31, 2013
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/08/31/national/media-must-take-a-stand-against-trolls/

We live in an age of contention, when any comment can spark righteous indignation. Nominally conservative or progressive viewpoints become meaningless when every response is reactionary. This situation supposedly arose along with the Internet, which provides an unmediated outlet for every voice. Traditional media insisted on readers and viewers providing certifiable identification before printing or broadcasting their feedback, one of the ideas being that commenters will be more responsible for their opinions if forced to reveal their real names and addresses.

Recently, the Asahi Shimbun has slightly altered this policy. Though it still insists that letters to the editor be accompanied by real names, the paper no longer prints the city of residence, opting instead for the prefecture. In the past year, a number of letter writers’ home phone numbers were located by parties with opposing opinions who then systematically harassed the letter writers. Last spring, the paper published a letter from someone in central Japan who disagreed with the view that the “comfort women” were all professional prostitutes rather than sex slaves. The person was bombarded with anonymous phone calls at home, some of which contained threats. Later this person found out his phone number had been distributed on Internet bulletin boards.

The National Consumer Affairs Center says that complaints about harassment centered on media correspondence increased markedly this past spring, and Asahi itself acknowledges that at least 30 people whose letters it published have had their home phone numbers revealed on the Internet, with 14 becoming victims of harassment. Tokyo Shimbun reports that one recent letter writer to the Asahi who complained about nationalist sentiments at sporting events was systematically harassed even though the paper only printed his prefecture. There are many ways of finding out a person’s phone number. The paper said it discovered at least 800 examples of letter writers’ phone numbers and addresses being posted on Internet bulletin boards.

This sort of behavior is not new. Trolls — individuals who purposely send insulting and threatening messages to comments sections and social media sites — may be an Internet-specific phenomenon, but the impulses that drive them are general and eternal. Some say the difference is less ideological than psychological: serial harassers hide behind masks to express their grievances with the world, regardless of political leanings. But ideology, or at least the presumption of a “position,” is always the delivery device for the grievance. […] Media outlets should prevent intimidation any way they can, but they’re failing their mission if they don’t stand up to it.

Entire article up at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/08/31/national/media-must-take-a-stand-against-trolls/

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

CONCLUSION:  Notwithstanding the claim that Japanese society turns a blind eye to foreigners committing crimes against other foreigners (whereas, as I argue in “Embedded Racism” Ch. 6, leniency greets Japanese-on-foreign crime and merits unusually harsh penalty for vice versa), in the end this is dangerous stuff.  Cyberstalking is still stalking, and Japan no longer tolerates it like it used to outside of the Internet.  Debito.org reiterates its stance that something should be done to make these anonyms into real people taking responsibility for their statements.  To me, that means registering real names under traceable conditions, as has happened (abortively) in South Korea.  Short of that, the trolls will continue to sour and soil the online environment, depriving others of the freedom of speech the trolls themselves allegedly cherish (and use as their excuse for abuse) by remaining anonymous, immune to the same critique and exposure they mete out to others.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

=================================
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Hawaii is about to receive a direct hit from Tropical Storm Darby. Will keep you posted [CONCLUDED]

mytest

Hi Blog.  Another quick one as the weather deteriorates.  Tropical Storm Darby is about to swipe Hawaii.  Hopefully the damage won’t be too severe, but we’re anticipating heavy rainfall and flash floods.  Will keep you posted as the situation develops.  Debito

— UPDATE SUN JULY 24:

Darby has passed by Big Island and left its mark.  Up next are Oahu and Kauai.  Where I am there’s been a lot of rain but nothing too scary (I’ve seen worse cloudbursts; it’s just mostly steady misty rain.)  Nothing I see to worry about yet.

— UPDATE MON JULY 25:

What a difference a day can make.  The storm hit us during yesterday afternoon and dumped in some places 2-4 inches of rain per hour.  Downtown Honolulu, particularly Ala Moana, Chinatown, and the main road arteries were flooded to the point of cars floating.  I personally received reports of people stranded in traffic between exits for hours on the H1.  That said, it was far more rain than wind, and life is getting back to normal already on this sunny Monday morning.  This rare hit of Oahu by a tropical was nothing like Iniki’s hit of Kauai in 1992, which damaged several areas beyond repair.  Nor is it like the storm that flooded UH Manoa in 2004 and almost killed several library students attending class in the basement.

So all is well.  Concluding this topic.  Thanks for reading.

Brief comments on the July 2016 Upper House Election: The path is cleared for Japan’s Constitutional revision

mytest

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Hi Blog. As is tradition on Debito.org, here is a comment (this time brief) on the outcome of the July 10, 2016 election in Japan for the Upper House of Parliament.

The results of the election are here in Japanese (English here), and on the surface this is what they say to me:

PM Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its allies won handily. The LDP picked up six more seats (while its joined-at-the-hip party ally Koumeitou won an extra five, as did other LDP-simpatico parties), winning the near-supermajority in the Upper House that it was shooting for (i.e., only one seat away from the 2/3 supermajority of 162 seats).  The largest opposition party, the Democratic Party, lost eleven seats, and while other smaller opposition parties picked up a seat or three, that doesn’t offset the LDP’s net gain. In other words, Abe won his third election in a row solidly.

According to the electoral map on the Japanese page, the left side of Japan (north and west of Tokyo, that is) outside of big cities is essentially the LDP, the ruling party that has governed for most of Japan’s Postwar Era. The right side of Japan (north of Tokyo and up) is more mixed, but the closer you get to the Fukushima disaster areas the more likely they went for opposition or unaffiliated parties. Hokkaido (my home prefecture) went 2/3 opposition, as usual, but the biggest vote-getter was the LDP candidate.

Commentators have talked about the deception behind this election (that Abe kept the talk on economics instead of his pet project of reforming Japan’s American-written 1945 Constitution in ways that are neither Liberal nor Democratic), about how Japan’s opposition have been so disorganized that they haven’t put up much more than an “anyone-but-Abe” policy stance, and about how PM Abe probably won’t go after the Constitution for a while.

But I would disagree. What more does Abe need in terms of confirmed mandate? As I said, he’s won three elections solidly (probably better than even former PM and LDP party-leader template Koizumi did), he’s essentially gotten a supermajority in both houses of Parliament, and these wins will be seen as public affirmation that Abe’s on the right track (especially within the ranks of the LDP itself; he already regained the LDP presidency running unopposed). Abe has made it quite clear constantly since he’s been anywhere close to power that he wants a return to Japan’s past (foreigner-uninfluenced) glories. Now nothing is really stopping him, short of a national referendum.

And despite opinion polls saying that people don’t want bits or all of Japan’s Constitution changed, I don’t think the Japanese public is all that scared of that happening anymore. Not enough to vote significantly against him at election time.  My take is that Japan is becoming a more geriatric society, and with that more politically conservative. That conservatism I don’t think extends to old documents seen as imposed as part of Victors’ Justice. As of this writing, I will be surprised if a) Abe doesn’t push for Constitutional revision, and b) it doesn’t succeed. Clearly the Japanese public keeps handing Abe the keys to do so. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

—————————-

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Ivan Hall’s new book: “Happier Islams: Happier US Too!” A memoir of his USIS stationing in Afghanistan and East Pakistan. Now available as Amazon Kindle ebook.

mytest

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Hi Blog. Debito.org is proud to announce that longtime friend and colleague Dr. Ivan P. Hall, author of the landmark books “Cartels of the Mind” and “Bamboozled: How America Loses the Intellectual Game with Japan”, has just come out with his latest book.

Exclusively for now on Amazon Kindle is “Happier Islams: Happier US Too!: Afghanistan: Then a Land Still at Peace. East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh): There, an Island of Toleration, 1958-1961“. It is his long-awaited memoir of being stationed as a young man with the USIS as a cultural attache.

Cover

Book summary:

Being the Wry Eye Witness Chronicle of Rookie American Cultural Diplomat Ivan P. Hall.

As a fragile peace in Afghanistan breaks down once again in 2016, and as machete murders in broad daylight of progressive intellectuals by radical zealots erode the rare heritage of religious toleration in secularist Bangladesh, Ivan Hall with grace and wry wit brings back to life for us today – in a chronicle penned then and there – the now totally counterintuitive “Happier Islams” he experienced as a young cultural officer with the U.S. Information Service, sent out in 1958-1961 to promote America’s good name in Muslim South Asia.

In Kabul a half century ago Islam though forbiddingly traditional was still politically quiescent. In Dacca, East Pakistan (today’s Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh) a less rigid type of Islam had long accommodated its large Hindu minority. And a “Happier US,” too, as American diplomats worked in lightly guarded embassies, personal safety taken for granted, enjoying an individual and political popularity unthinkable throughout the Muslim world today.

Rare as a memoir by an active embassy officer (rather than scholar or journalist) about a still dictator-run Afghanistan totally at peace in the late 1950s, Hall’s story also offers a unique glimpse into Dacca’s lively America-savvy intelligentsia as of 1960. Illustrated by 200 color photos taken at the time, and updated with geopolitical backgrounders for his two posts then and now, Hall’s narrative also casts a critical eye on the bent of his USIS employer at the height of the Cold War for short-term political advocacy at the expense of long-term cultural ties. By way of contrast his prologue and epilogue limn the heartwarming American genius for private sector “cultural diplomacy he witnessed or took part in during his years “before and after,” in Europe and Japan.

Crawling onto the Great Buddha’s head at Bamian. Mounting the first modern art exhibition in Afghanistan. Picnicking on mountain meadows later pummeled by Soviet gunships. Capturing on camera those remote mood-laden landscapes, those stunning Afghan juxtapositions of verdant and austere. Directing Broadway hits with young Pakistani actors destined to become Foreign Secretaries and top ambassadors of Bangladesh. Flying lessons with the Pakistan Air Force. Living it up in Calcutta. The nagging moral conundrum of that extraordinary artistic sensibility throughout Bengal cheek-by-jowl with material poverty and physical pain never seen before or after on such a vast and poignant scale. Rousing welcomes for his talks on Faulkner or the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon campaign at Muslim Libraries and Assembly Halls. A heady and nostalgic anecdotal romp through worlds long since lost.

Ivan’s Bio reads as follows:

Ivan P. Hall’s passion for straddling cultural gaps dates from his birth on the Protestant campus of the American College of Sofia in Orthodox Bulgaria in 1932. Following his Princeton B.A. in European History in 1954, he served with the U.S. Army as a German language interpreter in military intelligence in Bavaria and as a ‘cellist with the Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra in Stuttgart, took an M.A. in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and was stationed with the U.S. Information Service in 1958-1961 as a rookie cultural officer in Afghanistan and East Pakistan (today’s Bangladesh), including a heady stint at 27 as acting U.S. Cultural Attaché in Kabul.

Turning then to East Asia with a Ph.D. from Harvard in Japanese History, Hall went on to author three books on Japan’s always fascinating if ambivalent intellectual ties with the outside world including a biography of the controversial Meiji westernizer Mori Arinori (1973); Cartels of the Mind: Japan’s Intellectual Closed Shop, chosen by Business Week as one of its Ten Best Business Books of 1997; and Bamboozled! – How America Loses the Intellectual Game with Japan and its Implications for Our Future in Asia (2002).

Hall has taught courses in English and Japanese on Modern Japan, Japanese Intellectual History, American Intellectual History, Political Ideology, and International Cultural Relations as a professor at The Gakushuin and visiting professor at Keio and Tsukuba Universities in Japan and as a lecturer at Tokyo University, Yonsei and Renmin Universities in Seoul and Beijing, and the Harvard Summer School. From 1977-1984 he was the Tokyo-based Associate Executive Director of the federally funded Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission for scholarly and artistic exchanges between those two countries. He now makes his home in Thailand.

I urge anyone who is interested in either Ivan’s view of the world, or how the world was quite a different place vis-a-vis the Cold War’s relationship with Islam a mere half-century ago, to download and read “Happier Islams” on Amazon Kindle.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Do you like what you read on Debito.org?  Want to help keep the archive active and support Debito.org’s activities?  We are celebrating Debito.org’s 20th Anniversary in 2016, so please consider donating a little something.  More details here.

My latest Japan Times column JBC 97: “Enjoy your life in Japan, for the moments” (May 2, 2016)

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog.  Here’s my latest column, which is a departure from my usual writing.  Enjoy.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE
Enjoy your life in Japan, for the moments
BY DEBITO ARUDOU, THE JAPAN TIMES, MAY 1, 2016
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/05/01/issues/enjoy-life-japan-moments/

After more than 30 years of studying Japan, I’ve learned to appreciate one thing people here do well: living in the moment.

By that I mean there seems to be a common understanding that moments are temporary and bounded — that the feelings one has now may never happen again, so they should be enjoyed to the fullest right here, right now, without regard to the future.

I can think of several examples. Consider the stereotypical honeymooning couple in Hawaii. They famously capture every moment in photographs — from humdrum hotel rooms to food on the plate. They even camcord as much as they can to miss as few moments as possible.

Why? Safekeeping. For who knows when said couple will ever get back to Hawaii (or, for that matter, be allowed to have an extended vacation anywhere, including Japan)? Soon they’ll have kids, demanding jobs, meticulous budgets, and busywork until retirement. No chance in the foreseeable future to enjoy moments like these.

So they frame a beachside photo atop the TV, preserve a keepsake in a drawer, store a dress or aloha shirt far too colorful to ever wear in public — anything to take them back to that precious time and place in their mind’s eye. (Emperor Hirohito reputedly treasured his Paris Metro ticket as a lifetime memento, and was buried with his Disneyland souvenir Mickey Mouse watch.)

Another example: extramarital love affairs. Sleeping around is practically a national sport in Japan (hence the elaborate love hotel industry), and for a good reason: the wonderful moments lovers can surreptitiously capture. It’s a vacation from real life. For chances are their tryst is temporary; it fills a void. But how pleasant their time is in their secret world! […]

Read the rest at
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/05/01/issues/enjoy-life-japan-moments/

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Tangent: Terrie Lloyd on why Abenomics is a “failure”: lack of essential structural reforms

mytest

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Hi Blog. Terrie Lloyd offers his perspective on why Abenomics is faltering: Pandering (as the LDP has always done) to special interests, and ignoring the necessary structural reforms (including, he rightfully mentions, a proper immigration policy). Although talking about economies and effective economic policy is a very inexact science, this article is good food for thought and rings true, especially the conclusion about the incentives towards military adventurism. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

* * * * * * * * TERRIE’S TAKE – BY TERRIE LLOYD * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd, a long-term technology and media entrepreneur living in Japan. (http://www.terrielloyd.com)

General Edition Sunday, March 20, 2016, Issue No. 843

– What’s New — How the Failure of Abenomics Leads to the Record Sales of Safes

SUBSCRIBE to, UNSUBSCRIBE from Terrie’s Take at: http://mailman.japaninc.com/mailman/listinfo/terrie

BACK ISSUES
http://www.japaninc.com/terries_take, or, http://mailman.japaninc.com/pipermail/terrie/

+++ WHAT’S NEW

After a strong start last year, the ruling LDP government seemed genuinely perplexed when at the end of the year the nation’s annual Real GDP was found to be just 0.5% and for the last quarter a problematic -0.3%. The government’s leadership continue have their collective heads buried in the sand by blaming an unusually warm winter and other external factors for the anemic performance. You kind of feel sorry for them. After all, they have done everything by the textbook (well, the Keynesian textbook, anyway), by expanding the nation’s money supply aggressively, and by implementing various stimulus packages.

But unfortunately Mr. Abe’s crew seem to have forgotten one small thing, they need the public to respond to their pump-priming (the whole point of Keynesian policies), and this means being seen to be making real regulatory reforms for the future, not just recirculating cash among vested interests. Abe needs to make good on his promised third arrow – slashing business regulations and encouraging innovation, liberalizing the labor market, getting tough with the agricultural sector, cutting corporate taxes, and increasing workforce diversity through immigration and improved support of working mothers.

But instead the reverse is happening. For example, if you look at the 2015 statistics for Japan, the allocation of funds for development/promotion of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), the drivers of employment and economic growth in any country, fell from JPY825bn in 2012 to just JPY186bn last year. At the same time, the government spent JPY1.042trn (six times as much) on “stable food supply”, a code for rice farmer subsidies. In other words, it’s business for the vested interests as usual.

And now with the Bank of Japan moving to impose negative interest rates on retail banks so as to force them to start investing their cash instead of parking it, we can all see that the Bank of Japan’s policy makers are running out of ammunition. This means that Abe’s politicians either need to do their share of heavy lifting by implementing reforms or the economy will be pretty much driven by external influences. Right now, those influences are driving the yen back to 100 to the US dollar, and will undo any of the benefits achieved over the last 3 years.

For the rest of us, this means that sectors that have been enjoying increased business because of the cheap yen will see a reversal of fortunes, including the exports, international recruiting, inbound tourism, and banking/investment (i.e., a slow down in the repatriation of overseas earnings by Japan-based parent companies). At least overseas trips and food imports will get cheaper, though… 😉

The media is full of articles speculating as to why Abenomics is not working, and certainly international pressures are one cause. But we don’t think they are the root cause. For that, you need to look at WHY the Japanese public and its corporations are so reluctant to take a risk and spend some of their hoarded cash. Our take is that the malaise is caused by one simple thing: a lack of trust in the government and its policies.

Without trust that there will be innovation and growth, the leadership of big companies see their current record earnings as temporary and don’t want to share them with employees. The employees themselves hold off on spending, thus strangling the birthrate, car ownership, stock market shares, travel, and advanced education. As an end-game the public starts pulling cash out of the system and stashes it literally under the mattress or in safes at home.

This is no joke and the situation is prompting all kinds of abnormal (but perfectly logical) behavior by the public. For example, there has been a surge in cash hoardings, with an extra 6.2% ten thousand yen bills going into circulation last year, the highest jump in demand since 2002. This means that there is now totally about JPY100trn (US$890bn) of cash in circulation, around 20% of the total economy. And to hold all that cash, there has also been a run on home safes, with sales soaring 60% to 70% above last year.

It’s ironic that even as consumers distrust the government, they still trust it to honor the bills it issues.

Well, not everyone trusts the government to honor its paper and as the Japanese are generally well educated there is a growing segment of the community that is starting to buy gold. The price of gold bars has risen to JPY5,027/gram and demand in 2015 was up a whopping 70%, from 17.9 metric tons in 2014 to 32.8 tons in 2015. This makes Japan the seventh largest consumer of gold in Asia, even though as a nation they don’t really have a recent gold culture like the Chinese and Indians do. At this rate, Japanese consumers will spend about JPY300bn in 2016 just on gold.

So what is the government to do with this seemingly intractable situation? There are really only two ways forward for Abe’s government: either confront their personal demons and attack and reform vested interests while funding SMEs who are the real growth engines for the country, OR, devalue all that cash hidden under mattresses through more inflationary policies and distract the public’s attention with a little military adventure.

And what better than a little military adventure against the Chinese bogeyman through a SE Asian proxy such as the Philippines?

ENDS

=======================

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JT: Abe Cabinet says JCP promoting ‘violent revolution,’ subject to Anti-Subversive Activities Law; now, how about violent Rightists?

mytest

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Hi Blog.  As PM Abe becomes further emboldened by a lack of organized political opposition, his administration is becoming more reactionary towards Japan’s Left.  According to the Japan Times, it will subject the Japan Communist Party to the Anti-Subversive Activities Law (Hakai Katsudou Boushi Hou), reserved for subversives who resort to violence.  Of course, the JCP is a legitimate party (in fact, Japan’s oldest political party) with a (declining) number of seats in the Diet, and it is allowed to agitate for reforms and even non-violent revolution, as it has for decades now.  But Abe seems bent on a return to Japan’s old form, when Leftists were incarcerated, tortured, and killed in custody in Wartime Showa Japan.

Looking forward to him similarly cracking down on Japan’s violent rightists as well, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.  I presume violent rightists wouldn’t be considered “revolutionaries” by the Abe Administration in the same sense — their form of revolution would take Japan back to a status quo of inter alia Emperor worship, unaccountable elite rule, and military adventurism.  To Abe’s clique that is also part of Japan’s history, even if that would “subvert” Japan’s current democratic institutions.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

///////////////////////////////////////////////

NATIONAL / POLITICS
Abe Cabinet says JCP promoting ‘violent revolution,’ subject to anti-subversive law
BY TOMOHIRO OSAKI, THE JAPAN TIMES, MAR 23, 2016
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/03/23/national/politics-diplomacy/abe-cabinet-says-jcp-promoting-violent-revolution-subject-anti-subversive-law/

The Japanese Communist Party remains a “violent revolutionary” group subject to the scrutiny of a law restricting the activities of subversive organizations, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has declared.

A statement approved by Abe’s Cabinet on Tuesday highlighted the government’s stance that the leftist JCP continues to uphold its longtime policy of promoting what the National Police Agency calls “violent revolution.”

The statement, issued in response to a question by former Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Takako Suzuki, went on to declare the JCP as being among the organizations targeted by what is known as the anti-subversive activities law.

Yoshiki Yamashita, the high-ranking secretariat chief of the party, responded Tuesday by expressing his strong displeasure over the statement. The party will “lodge a strong protest” with the government and demand that it be retracted, he said.

Originally founded in 1922 as an underground organization, the JCP insists that Japan undergo revolution to transform into a socialist country.

It rocketed into notoriety in the 1950s when it masterminded what the NPA calls a litany of “violent, destructive activities” nationwide — including assaults against police.

Such extremist activities, the NPA says, stemmed largely from a controversial platform the JCP adopted in 1951, in which the party declared it is “wrong” to try to achieve Japan’s democratic revolution through peaceful measures.

In the economic field, the JCP has traditionally championed the goal of wrestling power from capitalists and improving the life of the working class. In recent years, the policy has led to its objections to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement as well as the planned consumption tax hike.
ENDS

=========================
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Economist: United Nations fails to stick up for the rights of Imperial female succession, drops issue as a “distraction” from report

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Off on a tangent this time, as Debito.org is not in the habit of talking about the Japanese Imperial System (unless it has an impact on how NJ are treated in Japan, such as here or here).  But this time, check this article out from The Economist.  I will tie it into Debito.org’s themes in commentary below.

/////////////////////////////////////////////

Japan’s male-only emperor system
Imperial lather
The United Nations fails to stick up for the rights of empresses
Mar 19th 2016 | TOKYO | From the print edition, courtesy of the author
http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21695073-united-nations-fails-stick-up-rights-empresses-imperial-lather

THE progenitor of Japan’s imperial line, supposedly 2,600 years ago, was female: Amaterasu, goddess of the sun. But for most of the time since, all emperors have been male. This has exercised the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Recently it concluded that Japan should let women inherit the Chrysanthemum throne, too.

It is not clear what Emperor Akihito, who is 82 (and has a hugely popular wife), thinks about this. But the Japanese prime minister blew his top. Shinzo Abe leapt to the defence of a male-only line, saying it was rooted in Japanese history. The panel’s meddling, he said, was “totally inappropriate”. Cowed, it withdrew its recommendation that the law of succession be changed.

Polls suggest that most Japanese would welcome a female monarch. A decade ago a looming succession crisis triggered a robust discussion, led by Junichiro Koizumi, then prime minister and Mr Abe’s political mentor, on whether to allow a woman to ascend the throne. But the birth of Hisahito, a boy prince, ended the debate. A draft law was quietly shelved.

Mr Abe does not share Mr Koizumi’s iconoclasm. An arch-traditionalist, he wants the male-only system preserved to protect the imperial bloodline. But in other ways he has been an unlikely champion of diversity since he came to power (for the second time) in 2012. He has cajoled Japanese firms into promoting more women and urged them to make it easier for them to come back to work after having children.

There is a long way to go. Japan is bottom of the rich world in most rankings of sexual equality. For the past month Mr Abe has struggled with the political fallout from a much-read blog post by a working mother angry at a chronic shortage of day-care places. Still, Mr Abe’s efforts appear to be getting somewhere. From April big companies will have to declare their plans for promoting women. The hope is that this will shame firms that overlook female talent. As for the proportion of board members who are women, it has inched up by a percentage point in the past year—to 2.7%.

The UN committee notes this progress but laments foot-dragging on other issues. Japanese women are still meant to need spousal consent for abortions, it says, even in cases of rape. Divorced women must wait months before remarrying thanks to an archaic rule designed to remove uncertainty over the paternity of unborn children. For most Japanese women, the question of whether or not some future princess can become empress is hardly pressing. But Yoko Shida, a constitutional scholar, says it matters nonetheless. It is, she says, a symbol of discrimination.

ENDS
============================

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  What’s interesting here is not that Japan protested outside comment about their emperor system (that happens with some frequency), but that the United Nations took it seriously enough to drop the issue.  Pretty remarkable that the UN, which faces criticism for many of its human-rights stances, would be cowed by this. It only encourages Japan’s rabid right to become more reactionary in regards to international criticism — because oversight bodies will possibly retreat if the Abe Admin kicks up a fuss.

When I asked the author a bit more about the reasoning of the UN committee members, he said that nobody on the committee would discuss it with him.  He said he was told that it became a distraction from the report, so they dropped it. Supposedly they felt this was an issue for Japan, not the UN.

Wow, that’s awfully generous. I can imagine numerous countries making the same argument — this contentious point is merely a “distraction” so drop it. Once again, Japan gets geopolitically kid-gloved.  What’s next:  Japan protests UN criticism of its “Japanese Only” practices as “totally inappropriate”?  Actually, Japan essentially has (see also book “Embedded Racism” Ch. 8), but not to the point of the UN withdrawing its criticism.  Yet.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

===================================
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Roger Schreffler: Fukushima Official Disaster Report E/J translation differences: Blaming “Japanese culture” an “invention” of PR manager Kurokawa Kiyoshi, not in Japanese version (which references TEPCO’s corporate culture) (UPDATED)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Just before the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima Disasters, let’s revisit a topic Debito.org covered some years ago in this blog post:

Parliamentary Independent Investigation Commission Report on Fukushima Disaster “Made in Japan”: ironies of different Japanese and English versions (Debito.org, July 16, 2012).

Veteran journalist Roger Schreffler has contacted Debito.org to release the following information about the snow job that the person heading up the investigation, a Mr. Kurokawa Kiyoshi, carried out when this report was released in English blaming “Japanese culture” for the disasters (he also blamed foreign inspectors, believe it or not).  It’s a supreme example of successful Gaijin Handling, and most of the overseas media bought into it.  But not everyone, as Roger exposes below.  Read on.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

DISCLAIMER appended March 12, 2016 JST:  Debito.org has given this issue space because 1) one of our missions is to provide a voice to underrepresented views, 2) we have reported in the past that having two different versions of the Fukushima Report based on language was odd, and 3) Roger has made his claims under his name and is thus taking responsibility for the contents.  The reportage culture of the FCCJ is also coming under scrutiny in this post, and as a former member of the FCCJ myself I have been a target of bullying and censorship, so it is possible there may be a “there” there in this case.  That said, the views below are Roger’s, and not necessarily those of Debito.org as a whole.  Moreover, again, Roger has put his name to his views to take responsibility, and those who do not comment under their actual names will not have their comments approved IF they direct their criticisms at people by name.  Thus commenters’ names and their claims will be subject to the same level of scrutiny as the names they mention.  (That means in the comments section, “War Dog” has had his posts edited or deleted for engaging in personal attacks.)

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
March 8, 2016
Dear Debito,

I don’t think we’ve met, but I am aware of who you are because I authorized an invitation for you to speak at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan between 2000 and 2005.

I believe the following information may be of interest to you. The Fukushima commission never concluded that Japanese culture caused the Daiichi plant meltdown.

Kiyoshi Kurokawa worked with a PR consultant, Carlos Ghosn’s former speechwriter, and altered the preface to the overseas edition of the report.

More than 100 media organizations, mostly unwittingly, quoted Kurokawa’s introduction as if it were part of the official report. It was not, of course.

I pitched my article to the press club’s Board of Directors. No response. So now I’m doing it the old-fashioned way – contacting everyone who erroneously reported individually.

Kiyoshi Kurokawa will speak at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Thursday, March 10, the day before the fifth anniversary of the 3/11 earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear accident.

Kurokawa spoke at the club in July 2012 as chair of a parliamentary commission set up to investigate the causes of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. More than 150 foreign news organizations, government agencies and NGOs attributed blame to ‘Japanese culture’.

It was an invention.

Nowhere in the 641-page main report and 86-page executive summary can one find the widely quoted expressions “Made in Japan disaster” and “ingrained conventions of Japanese culture (including) reflexive obedience, groupism and insularity.”

In fact, all references to culture (文化) involve TEPCO – TEPCO’s corporate culture, TEPCO’s organizational culture, and TEPCO’s safety culture.

It turns out that Kurokawa retained a PR consultant to hype the report’s English edition for overseas distribution including to foreign media organizations such as AFP, BBC, CNN, Fox News and more than 100 others (see attached list).

I have reported this matter to the Board of Directors of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan because the consultant, a former speechwriter for Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, was working as publisher and editor of the club’s magazine at the time of the news conference; in fact, on the day of the news conference.

It may be true that Japanese culture is to blame for the Fukushima disaster. But it isn’t what the commission concluded and submitted formally (in Japanese) to the Diet on July 5, 2012.

Attached are records showing the commission’s hiring and financial relationship with the consultant (click on links to pdf files):
1. Attachments for report

2. Kurokawa statements in Fukushima commission report

3. media outlets fukushima

4. Attachment 1..

I have downplayed the FCCJ’s involvement because it is my hope that the club’s Board of Directors will address this matter in an open and transparent way. Unfortunately, the current BOD is under attack because they settled three litigations last December (two by staff and one by members) over the firing of 50 employees.

I proposed an article to the club’s magazine in August 2013 in which I summarized evidence that had been submitted to the courts. I was refused. But had the magazine published my article, there is a good chance that the lawsuits could have been settled then, saving the club nearly ¥25 million in legal fees. That’s nearly $200,000.

This time again, I have asked for space in the magazine. No response.

If you read the club’s notice, you won’t find a single reference to the fact that Kurokawa hired a club fiduciary to help alter an official, taxpayer-funded report. Or that there was controversy over the translation.

http://www.fccj.or.jp/events-calendar/press-events/icalrepeat.detail/2016/03/10/3955/-/press-conference-kiyoshi-kurokawa-author-of-capture-of-regulatory.html

Mure Dickie of the Financial Times is the only reporter who reported the translation discrepancies on the day of the FCCJ news conference: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/94fba34a-c8ee-11e1-a768-00144feabdc0.html

Dickie, of course, didn’t know that these weren’t ‘translation’ mistakes.

It is not uncommon for newsmakers to hire PR consultants to help with their messaging. What is uncommon – and almost without precedent – is for the consultant to be an editor of a publication that has an interest in the news event in question – and that publishes a report about that event.

As you are aware, Asahi Shimbun took a brutal beating for altering the testimony of the late Masao Yoshida, the Fukushima Daiichi plant manager.

How is this different?

Kurokawa signed off on the rewrite; it wasn’t a translation. But the commission didn’t approve. I contacted the commission two weeks after the news conference. They said: “Refer to the Japanese, the official.”

The club’s magazine was founded by two AP legends – Max Desfor (pictured on the lobby wall with his Pulitzer Prize winning Korean War photograph) and John Roderick (pictured with Mao Zedong).

I shudder to think of what they would say if they knew that the magazine was now in the hands of a PR specialist and a one-time tabloid magazine editor who, by extension, now decide what constitutes ‘news’.

For your reference: I am a 30-year veteran journalist, have never worked for a major news organization though did plenty of freelance work. I also served as FCCJ president (once), vice president (twice) and BOD director (twice). I chaired the club’s speaker program for five years and signed off on 800 press luncheons including the last sitting Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, on Sept. 14, 2001.

Sincerely, Roger Schreffler, Providence RI & Tokyo

ENDS

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////

FCCJ Writeup on Kurokawa Kiyoshi Presser on March 10, 2016:

Thursday, March 10, 2016, 12:00 – 13:00

5th Anniversary Series for 3.11 Disaster 

FCCJKurokawaKiyoshi031016
Kiyoshi Kurokawa
Author of “Regulatory Capture”
Language: The speech and Q & A will be in English.

http://www.fccj.or.jp/events-calendar/press-events/icalrepeat.detail/2016/03/10/3955/-/press-conference-kiyoshi-kurokawa-author-of-capture-of-regulatory.html

 Five years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan is in the process of restarting more reactors and has made some progress in the cleanup and decommissioning of the wrecked plant. Meanwhile, there are still some 100,000 evacuees from around the Fukushima site.

 A new independent nuclear watchdog has also been set up along with new regulations prompted by Fukushima. But the Nuclear Regulatory Authority is under pressure from politicians and utilities to process restart applications more quickly and to be less strict on seismic issues and other matters. Equally important are the questions as to what lessons plant operators have learned from the unprecedented triple meltdown. Recent problems with restarts and disclosure by the utilities, among other issues, aren’t reassuring.

 At this critical juncture, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, the former chairman of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, will come to the Club to talk about his new book “Regulatory Capture,” and answer questions about what has happened since the Fukushima accident. In the introduction to his 2012 Diet report, Kurokawa was scathing in his criticism of regulators and utilities, saying, “It was a profoundly man‐made disaster – that could and should have been foreseen and prevented.”

 In his new book, in addition to describing the set up of the commission and its investigation of the Fukushima accident, he talks about Japan not learning the necessary lessons from it and applying them to prevent accidents in the future.”

 “If there are major accidents or problems in areas other than nuclear power, Japan will make the same mistakes again, become isolated and lose the trust of the international community. The Fukushima nuclear accident is not over yet. Japan must seize the opportunity to change itself, or else its future will be in danger,” he says.

 Dr. Kurokawa, MD and MACP, is an adjunct professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, chairman of the Health and Global Policy Institute, chairman of the Global Health Innovative Technology Fund and professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo.Please reserve in advance, 3211-3161 or on the website (still & TV cameras inclusive). Reservations and cancellations are not complete without confirmation.

Professional Activities Committee

ENDS

===============================================

UPDATE MARCH 11, 2016 JST, FOLLOWING FCCJ PRESS CONFERENCE, FROM ROGER SCHREFFLER: 

Debito,

As a followup: The moderator asked Kurokawa [at the FCCJ on March 10, 2016) about the differences in the English and Japanese version of the report’s executive summary. Kurokawa admitted that the ‘content’ was different. What this means is that the content turned over to the Diet on July 5, 2012 (both houses) was different than what he reported to the nonJapanese-speaking world.

Listen for yourself to his answer [to a question from the AP, who moderated the meeting, available on the FCCJ website for members only.  Here’s an audio file of the question (an excerpt from minute 34 on the recording, for 3:26, in WMA format. Kurokawa press conference and .mp3 format:

where he now blames other factors on the outcome, such as a lack of time, him summarizing his own personal opinion for the report, and the lack of concision in the Japanese language.] 

Later on, Kurokawa equated his Japanese cultural references to Ruth Benedict, Samuel Huntington, Karel van Wolferen and John Dower.

Which leaves one unanswered question: Who wrote it?

The Associated Press followed up with a question about the translation team. Kurokawa mentioned an acquaintance of his, Sakon Uda, who was ‘managing director’ of the project and currently works for Keniichi Ohmae at Ohmae’s graduate school of business.

I don’t know if the AP will follow up. But the AP was one of only three media organizations, the other being the Financial Times and The New York Times, that pointed out discrepancies in the Japanese and English reports in summer 2012.

The rest – even those who attended Kurokawa’s July 6, 2012 news conference where he admitted to there being differences in the ‘translation’, but not ‘content’ – followed like a herd and didn’t report that there was a discrepancy between the ‘official’ and the one for ‘gaijin’.

Following is the translation of the official Japanese introduction. Kurokawa talks about ‘mindset’ (思いこみ and マインドセット) but not ‘culture’.

Best, Roger Schreffler

======================================

Preface of Kurokawa Kiyoshi’s Statements (from the full text)

THE FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI NUCLEAR POWER PLANT ACCIDENT IS NOT OVER.

This large-scale accident will forever remain part of the world’s history of nuclear power. The world was astounded at the fact that such an accident could occur in Japan, a scientifically and technologically advanced country. Caught in the focus of the world’s attention, the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) revealed, in their response to the disaster, some fundamental problems underlying Japanese society.

The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was the third nuclear power plant to start commercial operation in Japan. Japan began to study the commercial use of nuclear power in the 1950s. Following the oil crisis of the 1970s, nuclear power generation became part of Japan’s national policy, unifying the political, bureaucratic, and business circles into one entity promoting its use.

Nuclear power is not only the most incredibly powerful energy ever acquired by the human race, but a colossally complicated system that requires extremely-high levels of expertise as well as operational and management competence. Advanced countries have learned lessons through experience and from many tragic events, including the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents. Authorities in charge of the world’s nuclear power have maintained a basic stance of protecting people and the environment from all sorts of accidents and disasters, while nuclear operators have evolved in sustaining and enhancing the safety of equipment and operations.

Japan has itself dealt with a number of nuclear power plant accidents, small and large. Most of these were responded to, but without sufficient transparency; sometimes they were concealed by the organizations concerned. The government, together with TEPCO, the largest of the country’s ten utilities, promoted nuclear power by advocating its use as a safe energy source, while maintaining that accidents could not occur in Japan.

Consequently, the Japanese nuclear power plants were to face the March 11 earthquake totally unprepared.

Why did this accident, which should have been foreseeable, actually occur? The answer to this question dates to the time of Japan’s high economic growth. As Japan pushed nuclear power generation as national policy with the political, bureaucratic, and business circles in perfect coordination, an intricate form of “Regulatory Capture” was created.

The factors that contributed to this include: the political dominance by a single party for nearly half a century; the distinct organizational structure of both the bureaucratic and business sectors, characterized by the hiring of new university graduates as a group; the seniority-based promotion system; the lifetime employment system; and the “mindset” of the Japanese people that took these for granted. As the economy developed, Japan’s “self- confidence” started to develop into “arrogance and conceit.”

The “single-track elites”—who make their way to the top of their organization according to the year of their entry into the company or the ministry—pursued the critical mission of abiding by precedent and defending the interests of their organization. They assigned a higher priority to this mission over that of protecting the lives of the people. Hence, while being aware of the global trends in safety control, Japan buried its head in the sand and put off implementing necessary safety measures.

We do not question the exceptional challenge entailed in the response to the vast scale of the disaster created by the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear accident on March 11, 2012. Furthermore, we understand that the accident occurred a mere eighteen months after the historical change in power, the birth of a new (non-Liberal Democratic Party) government for the first time in some fifty years.

Were the government, regulators and the operator prepared to respond to a severe nuclear accident? Did they truly understand the weight of responsibility they bore in their respective positions? And were they fully committed to fulfill those responsibilities? To the contrary, they showed questionable risk management capabilities by repeatedly saying that circumstances were “beyond assumptions” and “not confirmed yet.” This attitude actually exacerbated the damage that eventually impacted not only Japan, but the world at large. Undeniably, this accident was a “manmade disaster” that stemmed from the lack of a sense of responsibility in protecting the lives of the people and the society by present and past government administrations, regulators and TEPCO.

Nine months after this massive accident, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission was established by a unanimous resolution of both the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors of the National Diet, which represent the people of Japan. It is the first investigation commission in Japan’s history of constitutional government, and is independent both from the government and from the operator, as set up under the National Diet of Japan.

To investigate what was at the center of this accident, we could not but touch upon the root of the problems of the former regulators and their relationship structure with the operators. The Commission chose three keywords as the bases of our investigative activities: the people, the future and the world. We defined our mission with phrases such as “conducting an investigation on the accident by the people for the people,” and “to submit recommendations for the future based on the lessons learned from the mistakes,” and “to investigate from the standpoint of Japan’s status as a member of international society (Japan’s responsibility to the world.)” This report is the fruit of six months of investigative activities carried through with a few constraints.

About a century ago, Kanichi Aasakawa, a great historian born and raised in Fukushima, blew the whistle in a book titled Nihon no kaki (“Crisis for Japan”). It was a wake-up call concerning the state model of Japan after the victory in the Japanese-Russo War. In his book, he accurately predicted the path that Japan, with its “inability to change,” would take after the war’s end.

How now will Japan deal with the aftermath of this catastrophe, which occurred as a result of Japan’s “inability to change”? And how will the country, in fact, change subsequently? The world is closely watching Japan, and we, the Japanese people, must not throw this experience away. It is an opportunity, in turn, to drastically reform the government that failed to protect the livelihood of its people, the nuclear organizations, the social structure, and the “mindset” of the Japanese—thereby regaining confidence in the country. We hope this report serves as the first step for all Japanese to evaluate and transform ourselves in terms of the state model that Japan should pursue.

Last but not least, I strongly hope from the bottom of my heart that the people of Fukushima—particularly the children upon whose shoulders rest the future of Japan—will be able to resume their lives of peace as soon as possible. I would also like to express my deepest gratitude to the people all over of the world who extended their warm assistance and encouragement in the wake of this devastating accident. My sincere thanks also go to the many people who kindly cooperated and supported our investigation, the members of the Diet who unswervingly strove to make this National Diet’s investigation commission a reality, and all the staff of the commission office for their many days and nights of work.

Kiyoshi Kurokawa
ENDS

Tangent: McNeill in No.1 Shimbun: “Into the Valley of the Trolls”: Is ignoring them really an effective strategy?

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Excellent potential for discussion being broached with the following article, long overdue.  Excerpt and my comment follows.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

//////////////////////////////////

Into the Valley of the Trolls
Is growing online harassment just part of the job or should it be confronted? And when does it cross the line?
by David McNeill
No. 1 Shimbun, Sunday, December 27, 2015
http://www.fccj.or.jp/number-1-shimbun/item/724-into-the-valley-of-the-trolls/724-into-the-valley-of-the-trolls.html

For most correspondents, it has become an unpleasant morning ritual: opening the laptop and wading through abusive tweets and mail. One of my recent articles, on Japan’s plunging press-freedom rankings provoked this response: “You’re anti-Japanese scum. Japan grows weaker because left-wing traitors here mix with the likes of you. Get out, moron.”

That’s mild compared to the slurs that percolate on the Twitter feeds of star reporters. Hiroko Tabuchi, former Tokyo correspondent for the New York Times, recalls a stream of invective laced with sexual and ethnic smears (see sidebar).Justin McCurry, Tokyo correspondent for the Guardian has been branded an “ultra-leftist North Korean spy” and repeatedly invited to “Fack off.”

Many reporters trudge the path taken by McCurry, from engagement to frustration, and resignation. “I have tried several different ways to deal with trolls, from snapping back to taking the time to dream up what, in my mind at least, is a rejoinder so withering that it will surely be the final word on the matter. It never is, of course.” Increasingly, he says, he reaches for the Twitter mute button: When trolls send an abusive message now “they are simply pissing into cyberspace.”

But McCurry says it’s important to understand the difference between legitimate criticism and trolling. “I’ve had my share of critical emails, tweets and Facebook postings,” he says. “When the point is made in a temperate manner and, more importantly, with a real name attached, I take in what has been said and, if necessary, respond. But I regard this as reader feedback, not trolling.”

Cyber abuse is a serious issue, notes a recent article in the Columbia Journalism Review. “There’s far from any kind of consensus on how to deal with it and what journalists’ roles are,” says author Lene Bech Sillesen. Law enforcement struggles to deal with the proliferation of anonymous online harassment. Platform providers often “suck” at dealing with trolls, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo memorably admitted this year.

Increasingly, the consensus seems to be shifting toward confrontation. The Review cites a growing genre of stories about unmasking trolls. In the Swedish TV show Troll Hunters, journalist Robert Aschberg tracks down and confronts offenders on camera. “It’s a huge problem,” says Aschberg, “and it’s no different from exposing, let’s say, corrupt politicians, or thieves.”

THE RISE OF THE troll, and the shifting terrain it represents in our networked society, is a particular dilemma for journalists. For decades, virtually the only rejoinder available to print readers was the carefully moderated letters page, but the internet has opened up multiple channels of feedback. Many bloggers view journalists as fair game because they are public figures.

Inevitably, the result is a steady river of bile, but most journalists are understandably wary of trying to block it. As Martin Fackler, a former Tokyo bureau chief of the New York Times notes: “You’re walking a fine line. Journalists dish out criticism, and need to take it with the same grace. Otherwise, we look hypocritical. And we need to support freedom of speech, even for our critics.”

In practice, most journalists follow Fackler in not feeding the trolls, and many don’t even block them to avoid the providing the veneer of cyber-street cred. Fackler, who says he has yet to block any troll accounts, advocates only shutting down those that cross boundaries of decency. “Short of that, I think everyone deserves the same freedom of speech that we demand in our own work.”

Where, however, do these boundaries lie? Perhaps the only line everyone agrees on is the one dividing incivility from threats of violence….

///////////////////////////////////////////////////

The rest is at http://www.fccj.or.jp/number-1-shimbun/item/724-into-the-valley-of-the-trolls/724-into-the-valley-of-the-trolls.html

I did leave a comment at the article:

=======================================
January 29, 2016
Thanks for the article. One thing I might add, as a longtime veteran of being targeted by trolls, is that it’s worse for some of us than you mentioned above. For example, I have numerous online stalkers, who dedicate many electrons on cyberspace (even devote whole websites and hijack Biographies of Living People on Wikipedia) not only to misrepresent my arguments, but also to track my personal life and advocate that I come to harm. I’ve endured death treats for decades, and I can’t conclude that merely ignoring trolls and hoping they’ll go away is an effective answer either. After all, as propaganda masters know, if enough people claim something is true, it becomes true, as long as through constant repetition they gain control over the narrative.

I for one never visit these stalker sites, but lots of people who should know better do look at them without sufficient critique, and (as you noted above) assume that my not commenting about their false allegations is some kind of admission in their favor. What the stalkers actually get out of all this wasted energy truly escapes me.

So after realizing that being ignored still works in their favor, now they are going after journalists, which brings into the debate issues of freedom of the press. Plus journalists have a more amplified public soapbox and credibility to advocate for change than we activist-types do. I hope you will continue to research and speak out against this, and not fall into the mindset that anonymous threats and stalking are simply part of being a public figure.

Thanks again for broaching the subject. Arudou Debito

=======================================

ABC News Australia: Video on PM Abe’s secretive and ultra-conservative organization “Nippon Kaigi”

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here is an excellent bit of investigative journalism done by the Australians on an organization that the USG would do well to do their own research on (and the US media pay due attention to):  PM Abe’s Nippon Kaigi, which threatens to undo just about everything The American Occupation did to demilitarize Postwar Japan and defang its self-destructive ultranationalism.  Why hasn’t anyone else done a good in-depth report on them, even after this came out over a year ago?  Because it’s probably not something people want to believe–that the belligerent elements of Prewar Japan are not only ascendant, they are already well-organized within Japan’s highest echelons of government.  A transcript follows, but I strongly recommend people click on the link and watch the video at the ABC News Australia Lateline program to get the full effect.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2015/s4364818.htm

/////////////////////////////////////////

Lifting the lid on one of the most influential, and secretive, political organisations in Japan

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcast: 02/12/2015

Reporter: Matthew Carney

Nippon Kaigi, or ‘Japan Conference’, has an impressive list of members and aims to reshape Japanese politics and policies, and Lateline gains rare access to this secretive and ultra-conservative organisation.

Transcript

TONY JONES, PRESENTER: It’s been described as one of the most influential political organisations in Japan. Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Conference, has an impressive list of members and advisors, including the Prime Minister and much of his cabinet. But very little is known about this right-wing nationalist lobby group which aims to reshape Japanese politics and policies and even change the Constitution. It operates mostly out of the public eye, but North Asia correspondent Matthew Carney gained rare access to file this exclusive story for Lateline.

MATTHEW CARNEY, REPORTER: A call has gone out and people from all over Japan have responded. To hear a vision from one of Japan’s most powerful political organisations, the Nippon Kaigi. And it’s back to the future. Nippon Kaigi want to restore the status of the Emperor, keep women in the home to nurture family and rebuild the might of the armed forces.

To do that, they have to scrap the pacifist constitution that was imposed by the Americans. This is the first step, they say, to shake off the shame of the defeat in World War II and restore pride.

YOSHIKO SAKURAI, JOURNALIST (voiceover translation): We need to ask ourselves: will the current constitution of Japan protect Japan and its people? The answer is no. We need a constitution that reflects the true Japanese identity.

MATTHEW CARNEY: The biggest champion to the cause and the group’s specialist advisor is Prime Minister Shinzo Abe himself.

SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (voiceover translation): To create a constitution suitable for the 21st Century, that’s where it needs to be spread throughout Japan. I seek your continued support on this. Let’s move forward towards changing the Constitution.

MATTHEW CARNEY: The Nippon Kaigi has serious clout. The Deputy Prime Minister is also a member, as well as 80 per cent of the cabinet, as are almost half of all parliamentarians. It’s a kind of uber lobby group that uses its 38,000 members to mobilise support.

The Nippon Kaigi has pledged to collect 10 million signatures by next April to change the Constitution. Some say it’s a cult-like organisation.

KOICHI NAKANO, SOPHIA UNIVERSITY: I think it is, you know, cultish, in the sense that it’s very sectarian. They have a very strong view of us and them. They have a sense of the inner group because they feel victimised, marginalised and they have been subjected to severe injustice, that they need to take back Japan.

MATTHEW CARNEY: But their spokesperson says they are only trying to normalise Japan.

AKIRA MOMOCHI, NIPPON KAIGI, STRATEGIC COMMITTEE (voiceover translation): It is proper for an independent sovereign nation to have an army. There are no sovereign nations without one. Armies are deterrents. They exist to prevent war. We’ll keep our pacifist traditions, but we need to respond to the rising threat of China.

MATTHEW CARNEY: The fundamental vision for many in the group is to go back to a time when they say Japan was pure and free from foreign influence, like the Edo Period in the 16th to 18th centuries when outsiders were strictly forbidden and Japanese culture flourished. They believe this beautiful Japan has been lost.

HIDEAKI KASE, NIPPON KAIGI, TOKYO BRANCH: There are two Japans. One is traditional Japan and one is Westernised Japan. And we wish to revert to the traditional Japan.

KOICHI NAKANO: They are romantic, they are irrational, they live in their own world. So they lack strategic thinking in terms of what they are going for and for what reason and how does that serve national interest in realistic terms?

MATTHEW CARNEY: The darker side to the organisation is to deny any wrongdoing in Japan’s war-time past. They assert World War II was one of defence, not aggression. They say comfort women were not sex slaves, but well-paid prostitutes and the rape and pillage of Nanjing in China that historians say killed up to 200,000 was a fiction.

HIDEAKI KASE: There was no massacre at all. That is an utterly false accusation.

KOICHI NAKANO: They try to rewrite history in order – and they think that this is fundamental to what they see as Japan’s need to restore pride. They think that because the kids and the – you know, the adults of Japan are being brainwashed by self-blame and a sense of shame in their history.

MATTHEW CARNEY: Many in Japan think Nippon Kaigi’s ideas are dangerous and have to be countered. Professor Setsu Kobayashi is one of the country’s top constitutional experts.

SETSU KOBAYASHI, CONSTITUTIONAL EXPERT (voiceover translation): They’re thinking about Asia before the war when Japan was the leader of Asia. They want to repeat that. They openly say that.

MATTHEW CARNEY: On his Friday lunchtime radio spot, he warns against reform of the Constitution, arguing it could lead Japan down the warpath. So far, Prime Minister Abe and Nippon Kaigi have succeeded in passing security bills that let the armed forces fight overseas again. Kobayashi says the move is unconstitutional.

SETSU KOBAYASHI (voiceover translation): The majority of people are not convinced. We have to fight and not give up, otherwise we’ll live under a dictatorship. Freedom and democracy will not exist.

MATTHEW CARNEY: Professor Kobayashi was once a member of Nippon Kaigi, but is now one of its biggest critics. He tried to change them from the inside, but couldn’t. As a self-described commoner, he says the organisation is one of elites, out of touch with the people. Polls consistently show that the majority of Japanese don’t want the country’s pacifist constitution to change.

SETSU KOBAYASHI (voiceover translation): They want to achieve the dream that Japan pursued pre-war to be one of the top five military powers in the world. To enable this, our country will go around the world fighting wars alongside the Americans. Mr Abe went to the United Nations and said that Japan will seek aggressive peace; militarism is another name.

MATTHEW CARNEY: Professor Kobayashi now devotes much of his time fighting the Nippon Kaigi and the reform of the Constitution. He believes it’s a battle for the very hearts and minds of the Japanese and the outcome will decide the country’s future. The Nippon Kaigi say their ambition is to simply protect Japan and its identity.

AKIRA MOMOCHI (voiceover translation): It is a difference of opinion. We want to retain the Japanese traditions, to make Japan as it should be. We have the power to do it.

ENDS

O’Day in APJ: Japan Focus: “Differentiating SEALDs from Freeters, and Precariats: the politics of youth movements in contemporary Japan”

mytest

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Hi Blog. Since the SEALDs activism topic has inspired much discussion on Debito.org, let’s look at them (and other youth protesters in Japan) from another angle, where an academic colleague argues that the group is by design demonstrating without full devotion to the cause.

This article came out before SEALDs announced that it was disbanding, so I wonder if partial devotion means killing off the group without transitioning to new leadership to preserve the credibility of the hard-won brand.  (No mention either of allegations of parochialism and bullying towards NJ.)  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

///////////////////////////////////////////

From Robin O’Day, “Differentiating SEALDs from Freeters, and Precariats: the politics of youth movements in contemporary Japan”, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue 37, No. 2, September 14, 2015.

Excerpt:

SEALDs is suggesting that students can use some of the freedom that their positioning affords for political engagement, instead of channeling it into more traditional activities like sports clubs and social circles, that tend to dominate students’ leisure time.

Yet SEALDs is also proposing something more significant than a reallocation of students’ time—they are also attempting to construct a different kind of political identity among college students. Another SEALDs member explained it this way:

“Our movement is not our life; it is a part of our life not our whole life. I went to class yesterday as usual, and we have rappers, people who do music, people who just study, people who are trying to be teachers, we have all kinds of people, and our movement is a part of what we do in our life but not our whole life. If you focus on the movement and movement only, you will become narrow.”

What this SEALDs member is suggesting is a reconfiguration of what constitutes student political identity. SEALDs is essentially showing other students that it is acceptable to seriously engage political ideas, without become radical, or having to completely devote themselves to the cause. SEALDs is challenging an all-or-nothing orientation to politics that tends to cleave most students into taking either an apolitical stance, or fully committing to a cause that will likely marginalize them. Instead, SEALDs is coming up the middle with a proposition that you can be a regular student, have conventional ambitions, aspire to a middleclass life, and still carve out a piece of yourself that is informed and engaged with political issues. If this proposition is hardly radical, it is currently resonating with a broad spectrum of students.

Entire article at http://apjjf.org/-Robin-O_Day/4376/article.html

JT on corporate threats to student activists’ futures (SEALDs in particular); this is probably why they suddenly turned craven

mytest

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Hi Blog. One particular topic Debito.org has not touched upon enough is activism in general by liberal-minded students, in particular the group attracting much attention called Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs). I have only mentioned them here and in my year-end round up of the Top Ten Human Rights Issues for 2015 for the Japan Times (I placed them at #6), where I wrote:

=======================================
“On the other hand, the most high-profile youth group against the Abe Cabinet’s right-wing push (and darling of the international media), the Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs), decided to flame out with flair. At an news conference in October at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, SEALDs leaders announced that with their impending graduation from college, they wouldn’t just be stepping down in 2016 as organizers — they would disband the group without a transition to a younger generation.

“Coming off as more concerned with their own short-term individual interests than the larger movements within Japanese society, SEALDs seemed to show that even Japan’s most vibrant, cosmopolitan and appealing young activists (which matters, as this year the voting age will drop from 20 to 18) are nonetheless intimidated by power, and treat human rights advocacy as a temporary hobby.”
=======================================

While I am not changing my position regarding the cravenness of SEALDs organizers, let’s be fair. They have been overtly threatened by authority. Check out this article from last August. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

////////////////////////////////////////////
Should SEALDs student activists worry about not getting hired?
BY HIFUMI OKUNUKI
THE JAPAN TIMES, AUG 30, 2015

Summer 2015 — 70 years since Japan’s defeat in World War II. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling coalition have rammed two security bills through the Lower House that overturn decades of interpretation of the Constitution by enabling Japan to engage in collective self-defense. Now he hopes to do the same in the Upper House.

Opposition to the government’s aggressive push to loosen restrictions on the use of military force is being heard from many corners. The beacon for students opposing the bills has been the Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy, or SEALDs. Under the slogan of protecting “freedom, peace and democracy,” these students have loudly voiced their opposition to the government’s push for militarization at protests around the country.

SEALDs have put paid to two tired tropes that have been regularly trotted out over the years about Japan’s students: first, that they have no interest in politics, and second, that student social movements here are a thing of the past. Inspired by SEALDs, even high schoolers and mothers who had never before engaged in social activism have taken to the streets to demand that our country commit to never again waging war, and that our youths are never asked to kill those of other countries. Jumping on the bandwagon have been the elderly, under the collective banner of OLDs, and even the middle-aged, or MIDDLEs.

This resolute, relentless movement has already begun to have a clear impact on our society. The recent drop in support for the Abe government is at least in part a result of grass-roots movements such as SEALDs. One Liberal Democratic Party member of the Lower House tweeted: “SEALDs members just don’t want to go off to war, i.e., their actions are based on extreme selfishness.”

But if these youths were only thinking of themselves, would they really be engaged in a collective social movement like SEALDs? Also, the idea that not wanting to go off to war is “selfish” is itself a serious attack on individual thought and freedom of conscience. It reminds me of the totalitarianism that prevailed before the war, and I was shocked to hear a modern-day politician utter such a comment. I assumed he must be some old fogey, so when I discovered it was 36-year-old Takaya Muto, I was flabbergasted.

The fact that a lawmaker would use such extremist language perhaps offers some insight into the extent of panic within the LDP at SEALDs’ growing strength. The comment caused quite a stir. That and some alleged financial shenanigans led to Muto’s resignation from the LDP on Aug. 19.

For politicians chomping at the bit to deploy Japan’s forces overseas, SEALDs are apparently quite an irritant. An independent member of the Yukuhashi city assembly in Fukuoka Prefecture also stuck his foot firmly in his mouth when he riffed on a comment by one SEALDs member that “we tremble at the thought of going to war.” Shinya Kotsubo parodied it on his blog on July 26, titling his article “SEALDs members should tremble at the thought that they’ll never get a job.” He explained further, writing, “You are demonstrating now while you’re students, so don’t come crying when no one will hire you later on.”

“When companies scout for students,” he elaborated, “they look at the name of the university. They don’t look at the students themselves. All the power lies in the side that selects. … Since the corporation is the one that selects, everything must follow the company’s rules and interests. This is reality.

“To give a specific example, say a sports club becomes involved in a rape scandal. The university’s reputation is damaged and it affects all students. The rapists’ reputations are of course damaged, but the university is also seen as ‘that kind of university.’ The fellow students who were unable to prevent such a scandal become tainted as people who would be likewise unable or unwilling to protect the reputation of the company. So there would be no reason to hire such a student.

“The university’s reputation was not built by the current student body. Since it was not acquired by current students, they have no right to protest. … This reputation was a gift given to current students from their seniors who have already graduated and gone out into the world, making a name for the university. If they damage the reputation of the university to which they belong, it’s obvious how things are going to play out. We should do everything possible to eliminate the risk of this. A corporation should not be asked to shoulder such a risk to its reputation.

“Careers begin with an offer from a corporation, but it’s already too late for that. The result is that they will all be shot down. Some students are at prestigious schools such as Waseda or Keio University. These students are probably OK since many famous politicians, police and bureaucrats are from there. Selection takes precedence in all cases, so the impact on these students will only be slight. However, students at universities with little power, history or tradition won’t be so lucky. They will not be selected and as a result, all will be eliminated. I have even heard of cases where the professors join the demos and egg on their students.”

To sum up, Kotsubo says: 1) Corporations have all the power over whether to hire; 2) when hiring, corporations place great weight on the reputation of an applicant’s university and don’t really look at the students themselves; 3) if the university’s brand name is hurt, all students attending that university lose credibility; 4) students engaged in social movements are damaging the brand value of their universities; 5) the risk for students at prestigious colleges like Waseda and Keio is slight, but students at less prestigious schools are a write-off (i.e., They will never get a job); and 6) I am saying all this for the benefit of students, but the most guilty are the professors who encourage students to protest without warning them of the risks.

Let’s examine Kotsubo’s rant from the perspective of labor law…

Rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/08/30/issues/sealds-student-activists-worry-not-getting-hired/

The Year in Quotes: “Much jaw-jaw about war-war” (my latest for the JT), Foreign Element column, Dec. 23, 2015

mytest

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Hi Blog. Here is my latest for the JT. I love year-end roundups, and this year I was given the privilege of compiling the year in quotes.  Fuller version follows with more quotes that didn’t make the cut and links to sources. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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ISSUES | THE FOREIGN ELEMENT
Much jaw-jaw about war-war: the year 2015 in quotes
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
DEC 23, 2015, THE JAPAN TIMES

Published version at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/12/23/issues/much-jaw-jaw-war-war-year-2015-quotes/

The past year has seen a number of tensions and tugs-of-war, as conservatives promoted past glories and preservation of the status quo while liberals lobbied for unprecedented levels of tolerance. This year’s Community quotes of the year column will break with tradition by not giving a guided tour of the year through quotations, but rather letting the words stand alone as capsule testaments to the zeitgeist.

“I cannot think of a strategic partnership that can exercise a more profound influence on shaping the course of Asia and our interlinked ocean regions more than ours. In a world of intense international engagements, few visits are truly historic or change the course of a relationship. Your visit, Mr. Prime Minister, is one.”
— Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe’s December trip to India, where agreements were reached on infrastructure investment (including a much-feted high-speed train), nuclear energy cooperation, classified intelligence sharing and military hardware sales to deter China from encroaching upon the Indian Ocean.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/12/14/national/politics-diplomacy/japan-picked-china-build-indias-high-speed-rail-link-15-billion-deal/

“Since taking office, I’ve worked to rebalance American foreign policy to ensure that we’re playing a larger and lasting role in the Asia Pacific — a policy grounded in our treaty alliances, including our treaty with Japan. And I’m grateful to Shinzo for his deep commitment to that alliance. He is pursuing a vision of Japan where the Japanese economy is reinvigorated and where Japan makes greater contributions to security and peace in the region and around the world.”
— U.S. President Barack Obama, during a joint press conference marking Abe’s visit to the United States in April, during which he became the first Japanese leader to address both houses of Congress.
https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/04/28/remarks-president-obama-and-prime-minister-abe-japan-joint-press-confere

“If Japan gets attacked, we have to immediately go to their aid. If we get attacked, Japan doesn’t have to help us.”
— Donald Trump, U.S. Republican presidential candidate, on the stump.
http://www.japantoday.com/category/quote-of-the-day/view/if-japan-gets-attacked-we-have-to-immediately-go-to-their-aid-if-we-get-attacked-japan-doesnt-have-to-help-us

“Administrative bodies must leave records. Without records, how could the public as well as experts examine the process in the future?”
— Shinichi Nishikawa, professor of politics at Meiji University, commenting in September on the Abe administration’s lack of records on internal discussions behind the historical reinterpretation of the Constitution in 2014, which led to the lifting of the long-held ban on collective self-defense, potentially enabling Japanese troops to fight overseas for the first time since World War II.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/09/28/national/politics-diplomacy/government-skipped-recording-debate-over-constitutional-reinterpretation/

“I have been really annoyed by this issue. … I have nothing to do with the design. Whatever (stadium) might be built, my committee would not have anything to do with it.”
— Yoshiro Mori, head of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games’ Organizing Committee, handling flak in July over plans for the new National Stadium, which were eventually abandoned after its budget doubled without any public explanation.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/07/22/national/mori-denies-role-failed-stadium-bid/

“Does local autonomy or democracy exist in Japan? Is it normal that Okinawa alone bears the burden? I want to ask (these questions) to all of the people [of Japan],”
— Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, criticizing the Japanese government in December for its plan to relocate US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Henoko, despite strong popular protests about environmental damage and Okinawa’s disproportionate hosting of American military bases in Japan.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2015/12/06/editorials/legal-showdown-henoko/

“Despite the principle of separation of powers, the judiciary in Japan tends to subordinate itself to the administrative branch. I think it will be very difficult for the prefectural government to win the suit.”
— Former Okinawa Governor Masahide Ota commenting in November on the lawsuit between Okinawa Prefecture and the central government over the Henoko Base construction plan, based upon his experience twenty years ago when he lost a case in Japan’s Supreme Court over denying leases of local lands for US military use.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/11/17/national/politics-diplomacy/former-okinawa-governor-raps-japanese-government-suit-u-s-base/

“In March, an internal document of the SDF was exposed in a Lower House Budget Committee meeting, showing a plan to permanently station about 800 Japanese Ground Self Defense Force troops at U.S. Marine Camp Schwab at Henoko and other U.S. facilities in Okinawa.”
— Sentaku monthly magazine, commenting in July on the probable future use of US bases by the Japanese military in light of increasing tensions with China.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2015/07/28/commentary/japan-commentary/henoko-base-eventually-will-be-used-by-the-sdf/

“Should we leave terrorism or weapons of mass destruction to spread in this region, the loss imparted upon the international community would be immeasurable… I will pledge assistance of a total of about 200 million U.S. dollars for those countries contending with ISIL, to help build their human capacities, infrastructure, and so on.”
— Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, pledging non-military assistance for Middle-Eastern Countries battling Islamic State, in January.
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-japam-idUSKBN0KQ07L20150117

“Abe, because of your reckless decision to take part in an unwinnable war, this knife will not only slaughter Kenji, but will also carry on and cause carnage wherever your people are found. So let the nightmare for Japan begin.”
— Terrorist “Jihadi John” of the Islamic State, in a video message to the Government of Japan in January showing footage of journalist Kenji Goto’s beheading after being taken hostage.
http://leaksource.info/2015/01/31/graphic-video-islamic-state-beheads-japanese-journalist-kenji-goto/

“The Japanese government didn’t make due efforts to save my son. It was simply remiss in its duties. I believe my son died a tragic death because the government did nothing. I demand that it conduct a thorough soul-searching.”
— Junko Ishido, mother of Kenji Goto, in a statement in May denouncing the Japanese government’s handling of the hostage crisis.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/05/26/national/gotos-mother-alleges-government-inaction-led-sons-death-hands-islamic-state/

“差別のない世界を子どもたちに” “難民歓迎” “民主主義を肯定“
“Give children a world without discrimination.” “Refugees welcome” “Reaffirming democracy.”
— Slogans shouted by 2,500 demonstrators at a third-annual Tokyo Democracy March in November in Shinjuku, Tokyo.
http://www.jcp.or.jp/akahata/aik15/2015-11-23/2015112301_04_1.html
http://www.debito.org/?p=13675

“There are 100 million voters in Japan. What percent of them are protesting in front of the Diet? The number is insignificant. I’m not denying their right to protest. But it’s wrong for the national will to be decided by such a small number of demonstrators.”
— Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, regarding a demonstration in August that organizers said drew 120,000 people to protest security legislation that paves the way for the deployment of Japanese troops abroad to fight in defense of allies even when Japan is not directly threatened.
http://www.japantoday.com/category/quote-of-the-day/view/its-a-denial-of-democracy-if-just-that-many-protesters-would-be-enough-to-decide-the-will-of-the-nation-the-number-of-voters-in-japan-is-100-million-the-protesters-in-front-of-the-diet-would-be-no

“Their claims are based on their self-centered and extremely egoistic thinking that they don’t want to go to war. We can blame postwar education for such widespread selfish individualism.”
— LDP Diet Member Takaya Muto, 36, criticizing university students protesting the aforementioned controversial security bills in August.
http://www.japantoday.com/category/quote-of-the-day/view/their-claims-are-based-on-their-self-centered-and-extremely-egoistic-thinking-that-they-dont-want-to-go-to-war-we-can-blame-postwar-education-for-such-widespread-selfish-individualism

“Since we started our activities as an ‘emergency action,’ and many of our members are slated to graduate from universities soon, SEALDs will dissolve after next summer’s Upper House election. After that, if individual persons want to take action or create another movement, they are free to do so.”
— Mana Shibata, 22, organizer of the prominent Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy, speaking at a news conference in October at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/10/28/national/politics-diplomacy/anti-war-student-organization-close-shop-upper-house-poll/

“It’s not only pre-war nostalgia. He needed to step up the rhetoric for the election. But I don’t think it’s coincidental that something related to wartime propaganda came up.”
— Sven Saaler, history professor at Sophia University, on Abe’s new goal of building a “Society in which all 100 million people can play an active role,” and how it is redolent of an old martial mobilization slogan.
http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-japan-abe-slogan-idUKKCN0RW0SO20151002

“People come up to me every day and ask, ‘What happened to women’s empowerment?’ ”
— Masako Mori, former cabinet minister in charge of grappling with Japan’s declining birthrate, noting how as soon as Abe launched his “100 million active people” catchphrase in September, his previous one about empowering women disappeared.
http://www.japantoday.com/category/quote-of-the-day/view/people-come-up-to-me-every-day-and-ask-what-happened-to-womens-empowerment

“There’s something wrong about exploiting underprivileged women from abroad to do household work in the name of boosting female labor participation in Japan. Men’s share of housework has not yet been discussed sufficiently.”
— Motoko Yamagishi, secretary general of Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan, speaking in November about the foreign workers being imported as maids and household workers on an experimental basis in Osaka and Kanagawa, which have been designated as “special economic zones” where some labor protections do not apply.
http://www.japantoday.com/category/quote-of-the-day/view/theres-something-wrong-about-exploiting-underprivileged-women-from-abroad-to-do-household-work-in-the-name-of-boosting-female-labor-participation-in-japan-mens-share-of-housework-ha

“International Court of Justice judges are not necessarily experts in marine resources.”
— An unnamed Foreign Ministry spokesman in October, confirming that Japan will no longer respond to lawsuits filed over whaling issues. Japan later announced it would resume “research” whaling in 2016 despite the ICJ having ruled that the program was anything but scientific.
http://www.japantoday.com/category/quote-of-the-day/view/icj-judges-are-not-necessarily-experts-in-marine-resources
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/29/japan-to-resume-whaling-programme

赴任前、入会していた日本外国特派員協会で、日本語ができない外国人記者たちが偏向した「反日」記事を世界に発信しているのを苦々しく感じた。日本も日本語能力を外国人特派員へのビザ発給の条件にしたらどうだろうか。正しい日本理解につながるかもしれない。
“When I was a member of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, I had a bitter feeling that foreign reporters who don’t understand the Japanese language are filing biased ‘anti-Japan’ articles worldwide. How about Japan making Japanese language ability a condition for issuing a visa? That might lead to a correct understanding of Japan.”
— Author Noburu Okabe in a column earlier this month in the conservative Sankei Shimbun.
http://www.sankei.com/column/news/151215/clm1512150004-n1.html
http://www.fccj.or.jp/number-1-shimbun/item/639-new-members-in-july/639-new-members-in-july.html

“In Japan, the postwar generations now exceed eighty per cent of its population. We must not let our children, grandchildren, and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize. Still, even so, we Japanese, across generations, must squarely face the history of the past. We have the responsibility to inherit the past, in all humbleness, and pass it on to the future.”
— Shinzo Abe’s Statement on the 70th Anniversary of the end of World War II, in August.
http://japan.kantei.go.jp/97_abe/statement/201508/0814statement.html

“But, focusing on the vocabulary, some observers failed to notice that Abe had embedded these words [of apology and remorse] in a narrative of Japanese history that was entirely different from the one that underpinned previous prime ministerial statements. That is why his statement is so much longer than theirs. So which past is the Abe statement engraving in the hearts of Japanese citizens? …The problem with Abe’s new narrative is that it is historically wrong.”
— Historian Tessa Morris-Suzuki commenting shortly afterwards on how Abe’s WWII Statement fails History 101.
http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2015/08/18/abes-wwii-statement-fails-history-101/

やはり従軍慰安婦の問題というのは正式に政府のスタンスというのがよくまだ見えませんよね。そういう意味において、やはり今これを取り上げてですね、我々が放送するということが本当に妥当かどうかということは本当に慎重に考えなければいけないと思っております。
“Regarding the ‘comfort women’ issue, I can’t see an official government stance on it yet. So for that reason, I think it’s very important to consider very prudently whether it is appropriate for us to take it up for broadcast.”
— NHK Director-General Katsuto Momii, revealing the national broadcaster’s lack of independence from the government vis-à-vis reporting on issues surrounding Japan’s government-sponsored wartime sexual slavery.
http://www.asahi.com/articles/ASH256DRYH25UCVL01P.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/27/world/asia/in-japan-bid-to-stifle-media-is-working.html

もう20−30年も前に南アフリカ共和国の実情を知って以来、私は、居住区だけは、白人、アジア人、黒人というふうに分けて住む方がいい、と思うようになった。
“After 20-30 years knowing the situation in The Republic of South Africa, I have come to believe that whites, Asians and blacks should be separated and live in different residential areas.”
— Ayako Sono, novelist and former Abe Cabinet adviser on education reform, in another Sankei Shimbun column, this one in February advising that a similar policy be instituted in Japan.
http://www.debito.org/?p=13061

“Already we have more foreigners than registered dogs.”
— Hiroaki Noguchi, a Liberal Democratic Party assemblyman in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, while asking questions earlier this month about the number of foreign residents who had allegedly not paid their taxes.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/12/13/national/saitama-assemblyman-apologizes-remark-number-registered-dogs-foreigners/

“Municipalities can offer the biggest support to same-sex couples who face hardships in everyday life. We want to deliver this message: Don’t worry on your own, we are with you.”
— Tomoko Nakagawa, mayor of Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, which announced in November that it was joining two Tokyo wards in legally recognizing same-sex partnerships as being equivalent to marriage.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/11/30/national/social-issues/another-japanese-city-to-recognize-same-sex-unions/

“Our children will still be around in 2100, and that’s the perspective we need to remember.”
— Japanese Environment Minister Tamayo Marukawa, speaking in the lead-up to the December Paris talks on climate change, which led to a historic agreement by 196 countries to limit carbon emissions and forest degradation before global warming reaches irreversible levels.
http://www.japantoday.com/category/quote-of-the-day/view/our-children-will-still-be-around-in-2100-and-thats-the-perspective-we-need-to-remember http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/12/12/world/paris-climate-change-deal-explainer.html

“Other advanced countries prioritize political education. Things like mock elections should be promoted for students in Japan. If young people aren’t encouraged to participate in politics, we’ll end up with politics only for the elderly.”
— Tokyo University education professor Shigeo Kodama, an education professor at the University of Tokyo, commenting in the lead-up to the lowering of Japan’s legal voting age from 20 to 18 in June.
http://www.japantoday.com/category/quote-of-the-day/view/other-advanced-countries-prioritize-political-education-things-like-mock-elections-should-be-promoted-for-students-in-japan-if-young-people-arent-encouraged-to-participate-in-politics-we

“Young people aren’t hanging around places for a long time as much as they used to. It’s tough to know what they’re doing and where. Police haven’t been able to keep up with the spread of social networks. It’s getting harder to grasp what’s happening.”
— An unnamed senior National Police Agency official speaking in March about the ills of social media on Japan’s youth.
http://www.japantoday.com/category/quote-of-the-day/view/young-people-arent-hanging-around-places-for-a-long-time-as-much-as-they-used-to-its-tough-to-know-what-theyre-doing-and-where-police-havent-been-able-to-keep-up

“If you come across children alone at night, please ask them, ‘What are you doing?’ If this is difficult, it’s also OK to contact the police and other authorities.”
— Mieko Miyata, director of the Japan Research Institute of Safer Child Education, speaking after two junior high school children were found dead after they had spent a night hanging around the streets of Neyagawa, Osaka Prefecture, in August.
http://www.japantoday.com/category/quote-of-the-day/view/if-you-come-across-children-alone-at-night-please-ask-them-what-are-you-doing-if-this-is-difficult-its-also-ok-to-contact-the-police-and-other-authorities

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) establishes in the Asia-Pacific a free, fair and open international economic system with countries that share the basic values of freedom, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law.”
— Prime Minister Abe, in a response to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement struck between 12 Pacific Rim economies in October.
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-trade-tpp-abe-idUSKCN0S004920151006

“The TPP could violate the Japanese right to get stable food supply, or the right to live, guaranteed by Article 25 of the nation’s Constitution.”
— Masahiko Yamada, Agriculture Minister under previous Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, filing a lawsuit against the government to halt Japanese involvement in TPP talks in May.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/05/15/national/crime-legal/ex-minister-turns-courts-bid-keep-japan-tpp-talks

“Japan is full of Chinese, they ask to go to places with none. That’s a difficult one to handle.”
— Yasushi Nakamura, President of Hato Bus Co., commenting in November on the ubiquity of Chinese tourists in Japan in 2015.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/11/12/business/aboard-tokyos-yellow-hato-bus-china-tourists-surge/

“In the trash collection areas on each floor, you’ll see veritable mountains of discarded boxes for cosmetics, shoes, small electrical appliances and so on. And they don’t even bother to flatten and tie them up for pickup. I had to go to the building custodian for assistance.”
— Unnamed resident complaining about Chinese tourists engaging in bakugai (“explosive buying”), leaving their rubbish in apartment complexes they have rented out to avoid recently-inflated hotel prices.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/12/12/national/media-national/no-tolerance-inns-chinas-shoppers/

“The Self-Defence Forces are trying to brainwash students without leaving any evidence behind.”
— Parent of a school student in Shiga, complaining in October about the SDF distributing recruitment messages on toilet paper to six junior high schools in the prefecture.
http://www.japantoday.com/category/quote-of-the-day/view/the-sdf-is-trying-to-brainwash-students-without-leaving-any-evidence-behind

ENDS

WSJ: PM Abe Shinzo First Non-American to Win Conservative Hudson Institute Award — and other American neocons egging on Japan’s remilitarization

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Now here’s something interesting (and geopolitical, but positive overseas recognition like this helps keep Abe’s popularity ratings up (and the money to the LDP rolling in, and Japan’s right-wing swing swinging, etc.):

According to the article below, less than a year after being returned to power and decimating Japan’s Leftists, PM Abe received this award from an American conservative think-tank.  It’s clear that conservative elements in the hegemon wish Japan to have a leader like Abe honored and in power.  I’m not quite sure why.  It would be facile to think it’s merely because the US wants to maintain bases and a weapons market, or even contain China.  No, think tanks like these are also grounded in morals and values that transcend economics and politics (such as, in this case, Abe’s alleged dedication to “democratic ideals”).  The funny thing is, these people seem to think Abe shares their values.  He really doesn’t, unless these people are fundamentally positive towards a racialized reorientation of Asia, where Japanese bigots settle old historical scores, pick fights, destabilize the region, and return Asia back on the course of an arms race.  I’m probably missing something (again, this isn’t quite my field), but I’m aghast at the short-sightedness of American neocons (especially, as noted below, the Heritage Foundation egging on the Ishiharas to purchase the disputed Senkaku rocks and inflame Sino-Japanese tensions).  As I was the similar short-sightedness of the Obama Administration honoring Abe years later (see also here).  I don’t think they understand what Frankenstein they’re creating.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Abe First Non-American to Win Conservative Hudson Institute Award
Wall Street Journal Sep 23, 2013
http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2013/09/23/abe-first-non-american-to-win-conservative-hudson-institute-award/

European Pressphoto Agency: The Hudson Institute says it’s honoring Shinzo Abe ‘as a transformative leader.’

On Sept. 25, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will join an elite group of right-leaning leaders like Ronald Reagan, Henry Kissinger and Dick Cheney, as the recipient of an award from conservative Washington D.C.-based think tank, Hudson Institute.

The award, named after Hudson Institute’s founder, the physicist-turned-geopolitical thinker Herman Kahn, is given every year to honor creative and visionary leaders with a Kahn-style dedication to national security–traditionally in the U.S. Mr. Abe will be the first non-American honoree to receive the Herman Kahn Award.

“Abe is being honored as a transformative leader seeking to advance the kind of reform necessary to restore Japan to full economic vitality,” the institute said in its news release. At the award ceremony to be held in New York on Wednesday, Mr. Abe is expected to deliver “a major speech” on economic reform in Japan and the continuing importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance, according to the release.

The Hudson Institute–as well as Mr. Kahn–has long had close ties with conservative leaders in Japan. Though Mr. Kahn started off his career as a physicist at the Rand Corporation in the 1940s, he moved on to writing about nuclear strategy with the publication of “On Thermonuclear War,” and then to the study of geopolitical trends, including the rise of Japan.

Mr. Kahn is known for predicting Japan’s ascendance as early as 1962, and in 1970 wrote “The Emerging Japanese Superstate,” in which he said that the country would “almost inevitably” become a great economic, technological and financial power–and would likely achieve global military and political clout as well. Mr. Kahn was a “confidante of every Japanese prime minister from Hayato Ikeda on,” until his death in 1983, the institute press release on the award to Mr. Abe said.

Mr. Abe too “is a longtime friend of Hudson Institute, someone who knows the critical importance of ideas to effective governance,” Hudson Institute Chief Executive Kenneth Weinstein said, in the release. “Given Herman Kahn’s legacy of research on Japan, it is altogether appropriate to honor Abe-san.”

Mr. Abe won’t be the first Japanese politician to speak at a Hudson Institute event, though. In December 2011, Nobuteru Ishihara, then secretary-general of Mr. Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, also gave a speech, calling for swift nationalization of disputed islands in the East China Sea and deployment of Japanese troops there. The islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, have been a major source of diplomatic strain between the two countries.

“The importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance is increasing as a means to deter any attempt by a country to forcefully change the national borders,” Mr. Ishihara was quoted as saying by the Japanese press at the time.

Mr. Ishihara’s speech was quickly followed by one at the Heritage Foundation, another conservative U.S. think tank, given by his more famous–and controversial–father, Shintaro Ishihara. At that April 2012 speech, the elder Ishihara, who was then governor of Tokyo, unveiled a plan for the Tokyo government to purchase the disputed islands. Japan’s national government headed off that purchase by nationalizing the islands itself later in the year, sparking massive anti-Japanese protests in China.

Mr. Abe has made no secret of his own nationalist leanings. He’s pushing to strengthen Japan’s national security, as the nation feels growing pressure from China’s rising economic–and military–power. China’s annual military spending has grown rapidly in recent years, reaching $166 billion in 2012, nearly triple Japan’s $59 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

But Mr. Abe needs to walk a fine line. He can’t pursue his pet issue of national security unless he first addresses Japan’s economic and fiscal problems–major challenges on their own. Wednesday’s Hudson Institute speech will offer the latest clues on how Mr. Abe hopes to proceed. ENDS

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What the Hudson Institute itself says about the event:

2013 Herman Kahn Award Luncheon Honoring Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Hudson Institute, Sept. 25, 2013, courtesy of VF
http://www.hudson.org/events/1105-2013-herman-kahn-award-luncheon-honoring-japanese-prime-minister-shinzo-abe92013

(Video)
At a gala luncheon in New York on September 25, 2013, Hudson presented its annual Herman Kahn Award to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in recognition of his extraordinary career on the world stage—and his vigorous, principled promotion free markets, global security, and democratic ideals.

The Prime Minister was introduced at the event by his long-time friend and Hudson Senior Vice President Lewis Libby. Abe then took the stage himself to accept the Kahn Award, offering kind and generous remarks about Hudson before delivering a substantial and serious talk about his plans to reform the Japanese economy—and his determination “to make my beloved country a proactive contributor to peace.”

“Japan should not be a weak link in the regional and global security framework where the U.S. plays a leading role,” the Prime Minister said. “Japan is one of the world’s most mature democracies. Thus, we must be a net contributor to the provision of the world’s welfare and security. And we will. Japan will contribute to the peace and stability of the region and the world even more proactively than before.”

Hudson Institute Board Chair Sarah May Stern and Hudson President & CEO Kenneth R. Weinstein also made remarks during the ceremony, with Weinstein adding a special additional tribute to Hudson trustee Yoji Ohashi, Chairman of ANA Holdings Inc., for his visionary contributions to commercial aviation and dedication to a strong bilateral relationship between the United States and Japan.

ENDS

Eleven touristy articles of mine about touring Sapporo, Hokkaido, and environs, published by Netmobius

mytest

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Hi Blog.  It has been a busy past few months.  August and September were spent proofing and indexing my new book Embedded Racism.  But while doing that, I was working for a group called Netmobius who asked me to do some touristy writeups on Sapporo and environs.  Since I’ve lived in the area for more than two decades and already written three chapters for Fodor’s Japan Travel Guides, I was happy to do it.  Here are the eleven articles and titles I wrote for them:

Sapporo New Chitose Airport — how it’s run like airports everywhere should be.
http://www.sapporostation.com/sapporo-new-chitose-airport/

Transportation from New Chitose Airport to Sapporo
http://www.sapporostation.com/transportation-from-new-chitose-airport-to-sapporo/

Hokkaido Shinkansen – Traveling from Tokyo to Sapporo (or at least Hakodate by March 2016)
http://www.sapporostation.com/hokkaido-shinkansen-traveling-from-tokyo-to-sapporo/

History of Sapporo Station — From Meiji to the Present
http://www.sapporostation.com/sapporo-station-history/

Sapporo Station Layout and Facilities
http://www.sapporostation.com/sapporo-station-layout-and-facilities/

Shopping Near Sapporo Station (Paseo, Stellar Place, APIA, ESTA, Daimaru, Tokyu)
http://www.sapporostation.com/shopping-near-sapporo-station/

Sightseeing near Sapporo Station (Odori Park, Sapporo Chikagai, Akarenga, Hokkaido University, Tanukikoji, Sapporo Clock Tower)
http://www.sapporostation.com/sightseeing-near-sapporo-station/

Prominent Hotels Near Sapporo Station (JR Tower Nikko, Century Royal Hotel, Keio Plaza Hotel, Sapporo Grand Hotel, Hotel Monterey)
http://www.sapporostation.com/hotels-near-sapporo-station/

Getting Around Sapporo: Sapporo Subway Namboku, Tozai and Toho Lines
http://www.sapporostation.com/sapporo-subway-namboku-tozai-and-toho-lines/

Getting Out and About: JR Hakodate Main Line for Otaru, Niseko, Hakodate, and Asahikawa
http://www.sapporostation.com/jr-hakodate-main-line-for-otaru-niseko-hakodate-and-asahikawa/

Getting Off the Beaten Track: JR Hokkaido Train Lines Accessible from Sapporo (Asahikawa/Furano, Obihiro/Kushiro)
http://www.sapporostation.com/jr-hokkaido-train-lines-accessible-from-sapporo/

About my sponsor: Netmobius is an online media company developing quality websites since 1995. The company is based in Singapore and specializes in travel and transportation guides. I look forward to writing for them again.

You see, there is plenty to like about Japan, and I can switch off the critical tone when I want to. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

CSM: Reviving Shinto: Prime Minister Abe tends special place in Japan’s soul for mythology

mytest

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Hi Blog. For those who think I was exaggerating about the mystical ideology behind the Abe Administration’s aims in my most recent Japan Times JBC column, please consider the following article. Courtesy of MS and GS. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Reviving Shinto: Prime Minister Abe tends special place in Japan’s soul
Conservatives seek to expand the role of Japan’s indigenous faith in public life. But critics warn that could feed a simmering nationalism.
By Michael Holtz, Christian Science Monitor, October 5, 2015
http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2015/1005/Reviving-Shinto-Prime-Minister-Abe-tends-special-place-in-Japan-s-soul-video

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s deep adoration for the Ise Grand Shrine, the most sacred Shinto site in Japan, is no secret. He visits every New Year and reportedly even postponed a cabinet meeting in 2013 to attend a ceremony on its hallowed ground.

So when Mr. Abe announced this summer that the 2016 summit of the Group of Seven industrialized nations would be held in the nearby resort city of Shima, Satoru Otowa wasn’t surprised.

“I believe it has something to do with his Shinto beliefs,” Mr. Otowa, a spokesman for the shrine, said while leading a tour there in August. “When the prime minister visited in January, everyone saw how passionately he prayed.”

The decision to host the G-7 summit near Ise underscores Abe’s devout Shinto faith. Yet his commitment to Japan’s indigenous religion has led to far more than symbolic gestures. He and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) have pursued a wide range of Shinto-inspired policies – from more openly embracing Japan’s imperial heritage to reforming aspects of Japanese education and even re-evaluating the country’s wartime record – with the explicit goal of renewing what they say are traditional values.

As old perhaps as Japan itself, Shinto has no explicit creed or major religious texts. Its adherents pray to “kami,” spirits found in objects both living and inanimate, and believe in a complex body of folklore that emphasizes ancestor worship. But as Japan modernized in the late 19th century, officials made Shinto the state religion, and Japanese were taught to view​ the emperor as having divine stature. The religion became closely associated with Japanese militarism, leading to its separation from state institutions after World War II.

Shinto struggled for decades to find a place in postwar Japan, and given the religion’s history, some critics see the country’s newfound interest in it as a sign of simmering nationalism at best. At worst, they describe it as a reprise of the official State Shinto of imperial Japan.

But among conservatives it reflects a palpable fear that Japan has somehow gone adrift after two decades of economic stagnation, rampant materialism, and the rise of neighboring China. Many believe the time has come for the religion to regain its rightful place in the public sphere.

“Shinto is refusing to be restricted to the private and family life,” says Mark Mullins, a professor of Japanese studies at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. “There is this sense that Japan needs to get back what it lost after World War II and that this will be good for the nation.”

Flying the flag
One of Keiji Furuya’s most formative experiences was the three years he spent as an exchange student in New York as a young teenager. Mr. Furuya, who has since become one of Japan’s most conservative LDP lawmakers, recalls marveling at America’s unabashed displays of patriotism. He was astonished to see flags billowing from front porches and students reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in school.

Growing up in Japan, Furuya’s never saw such displays. The official Shinto ideology used to promote Japanese superiority and a presumed right to govern Asia was tucked away after Japan’s defeat in 1945. Emperor Hirohito renounced his divine status as a “living god” in early 1946 and the country’s new Constitution, drafted by US occupation forces, enshrined pacifism as national policy.

The Constitution also mandated the separation of state and religion. The US occupation not only ended Shinto’s official designation, it inaugurated a period when Shinto began to disappear from Japanese society altogether. Shinto, along with the nationalism it helped spawn, quickly became taboo.

“For people like me who went through the postwar education system in Japan, raising a flag was not a popular thing to do,” Furuya said in August during an interview in his office conference room. As if to make up for the loss, the room had been adorned with three flags. “But as time went by,” he added, “I came to believe that it was natural to have respect and pride in one’s own country.”

It’s a belief that has come to define much of Furuya’s political career. He was first elected to Japan’s lower house of parliament in 1990 and re-elected to an eighth term in 2012. He also serves in Abe’s cabinet. As a defender of what he calls “true conservatism,” he considers it his duty to protect Japanese traditional values. To do so, he says, “We need drastic reforms.”

Interest in such reform has been building for much of the past decade. Masahiko Fujiwara’s “Dignity of a Nation” sold 2 million copies in 2006 and revived the concept of “bushido,” the honor code of the samurai. The former ultranationalist governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, spoke of the Japan “that could say no” to the US. And the introduction of patriotic education in public schools was one of Abe’s top initiatives during his first stint as prime minister from 2006 to 2007.

More recently, a new wave of conservatives – often compared to members of the tea party in the US – helped the LDP win a landslide victory in 2012 and put Abe back in power. Their support helped him pass a package of laws last month that allows Japan to send troops abroad in support of allies for the first time in its postwar era.

Shinto Association
Furuya’s support for a wide range of initiatives that aim to revive pieces of prewar Japanese culture led him to join Shinto Seiji Renmei (the Shinto Association of Spiritual Leadership). Since its founding in 1969, Seiji Renmei has transformed into one of the most influential political lobbying groups in Japan. According to the most recent count, 302 parliament members are affiliated with the association, compared with 44 two decades ago. Abe and many of his top cabinet officials – including the deputy prime minister, defense minister, and justice minister – are longtime members.

Seiji Renmei’s mission is to reclaim the spiritual values that it says were lost under the US occupation. The association supports efforts to revise Japan’s pacifist Constitution, encourage patriotic and moral education, and promote the return of the emperor to a more prominent place in Japanese society. It also calls for restoring the special status of Yasukuni Shrine, a controversial memorial to Japan’s war dead, including convicted war criminals from World War II.

“After the war, there was an atmosphere that considered all aspects of the prewar era bad,” former Seiji Renmei director Yutaka Yuzawa told Reuters last December. “Policies were adopted weakening the relationship between the imperial household and the people,” he added, “and the most fundamental elements of Japanese history were not taught in the schools.”

Seiji Renmei declined multiple requests for an interview from The Christian Science Monitor.

Iwahashi Katsuji, a spokesman for the Association of Shinto Shrines, a closely linked organization that administers 80,000 shrines in Japan, says it’s time for the Japanese to re-evaluate their past.

“Even after the Meiji Restoration there are many good points,” he says, referring to Japan’s rapid transformation from a feudal farming society into an industrial power at the end of the 19th century. “Just saying that Japan lost the war and that Japan was bad and evil is not constructive.”

A growing influence?
Inoue Nobutaka, a professor of Shinto studies at Kokugakuin University in Tokyo, says it’s far from clear how much of the past Abe and his supporters want to revive. But he contends that organizations such as Seiji Renmei and Nippon Kaigi, a like-minded nationalist group, hold more sway over the Abe administration than they did over its predecessors.

“These groups have been politically active for a long time,” Dr. Nobutaka says. “Their influence has grown because Abe has turned to them for support.”

That support is starting to pay off. With the help of Furuya, who heads a group of conservative lawmakers that promotes the cultivation of patriotic values in schools, Seiji Renmei and its allies have gained some of the most ground in education.

The group argues that changes in the education system are essential to restoring Japanese pride, which they say has eroded over decades of teachers imparting “a masochistic view of history” on their students. Its members dispute the death toll of the 1937 massacre in Nanking that the Chinese government says stands at 300,000, and deny that the Japanese Army played a direct role in forcing so-called comfort women to provide sex to its soldiers in China and Korea.

The group launched a campaign this summer to encourage local education boards to adopt revised textbooks that eliminate negative depictions of Japan’s wartime activities. The strategy is gaining attention. Last month, 31 school districts in 14 prefectures had agreed to use the more conservative textbooks in their junior high schools, up from 23 districts in 11 prefectures four years ago.

Those achievements came after Abe pledged in January to fight what he called mistaken views about Japan’s wartime actions. Yet history is an unresolved subject in East Asia. In the eyes of China and South Korea, two victims of Japan’s early 20th-century aggression, Abe and his supporters are historical revisionists who want to whitewash the country’s wartime atrocities.

Abe’s critics warn the new textbooks could weaken an antiwar message they say has helped keep Japan peaceful for seven decades. But supporters like Furuya argue that they are needed to instill a new sense of patriotism among young people.

“That doesn’t mean we’re fostering nationalism,” Furuya says. “I believe it is natural to understand our country’s history correctly and to have respect for our country.”

The Ise mystique
The Ise Grand Shrine is a sprawling, tree-covered complex located in Mie prefecture, about 200 miles southwest of Tokyo near the Pacific coast. The sun goddess Amaterasu, a major Shinto deity who is believed to be an ancestral god of the imperial family, is enshrined in its inner sanctum. Her story is a powerful legend that draws millions of Japanese every year to pray at the shrine. It’s one that Abe is eager to share with the world.

“I wanted to choose a place where world leaders could have a full taste and feel of Japan’s beautiful nature, bountiful culture, and traditions,” he told reporters after announcing the location of the G-7 summit.

Never mind that the governor of Mie prefecture hadn’t even submitted a bid to host the summit when the deadline came and went last August. At the time, Hiroshima and Sendai, a major city in the area ravaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, were widely considered the frontrunners.

But it soon became clear that the prime minister had other plans. That December his staff contacted the Mie governor to encourage him to enter the race, according to reports in Japanese media. On Jan. 21, just weeks after Abe visited Ise to celebrate the New Year, Shima’s candidacy was announced. He declared it the winner on June 5.

The summit will in fact be held on an island off the coast of Shima. Yet that hasn’t stopped Abe from calling the host city Ise-Shima in an apparent effort to draw more attention to his beloved shrine.

“Every country has its myths,” says Dr. Nobutaka of Kokugakuin University. “Myth has a special place in the heart of the Japanese, regardless of what happened in the past.”
ENDS

Honolulu Civil Beat: Cultural Exchange Program or a Ticket to Sweatshop Labor? Contrast US with J example of exploitative visa conditions

mytest

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Hi Blog. Debito.org has long complained about how NJ (especially the “Trainees” being thrust into sweatshop and slave labor) were being exploited by ill-designed and unsupervised visa statuses in Japan. Let’s take a look at the American example and do a bit of triangulating. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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A Cultural Exchange Program or a Ticket to Sweatshop Labor?
A Japanese woman’s poor working conditions as a Waikiki pastry chef illustrate the dark side of a visa program that brings thousands of temporary foreign workers to Hawaii each year.
April 7, 2015·By Rui Kaneya

http://www.civilbeat.com/2015/04/a-cultural-exchange-program-or-a-ticket-to-sweatshop-labor/

It didn’t take long for the 30-year-old Japanese pastry chef to realize that she was getting the raw end of the deal.

She had arrived in Hawaii only days before, lured by a promise of pastry training as part of a cultural exchange program run by the U.S. State Department. The terms of her stay, under a visa known as J-1, were to spend the next 18 months working in the kitchen of a Waikiki restaurant — six days a week on 8-hour shifts beginning at 6:30 a.m.

But she found herself toiling inside the kitchen in a shift that began at 5:30 a.m. and stretched to 12 hours — without any breaks or overtime pay.

In 2012, a Japanese pastry chef arrived in Hawaii on a J-1 visa, only to find herself working at a Waikiki restaurant in sweatshop conditions. She requested her name and the name of the restaurant not be used.

When she complained, she said no one lent a sympathetic ear.

Initially, she said she was told that none of the restaurants in Hawaii offered any breaks. And, if she were to work on a shorter shift, her salary would have to be reduced accordingly.

Unsatisfied, she went to her American sponsor organization and its Japanese contractors that had matched her up with the restaurant, but she said her pleas for their intervention were met with threats that her visa could be taken away.

Soon, it dawned on her that she faced a Faustian choice: endure the grueling conditions at the restaurant or risk being deported for not showing up to work.

“Because the J-1 terms are so restrictive, if they stop working for a day, they are out of status and deportable, so the employers hold all of the strings.” — Kathryn Xian, Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery

“At the time, I was confused and didn’t know what to do,” the chef said, recalling her ordeal in 2012. Civil Beat granted her anonymity and withheld the restaurant’s name at her request. She said she feared reprisals.

The chef’s story, recounted in an interview conducted in Japanese, provides a rare glimpse into the dark side of the J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program, which was created half a century ago to foster “global understanding” through cultural exchanges but has since blossomed into the source of thriving, multi-million-dollar businesses.

But it’s virtually impossible to determine just how common these experiences are among about 2,000 J-1 visa holders in Hawaii.

That’s in part because the program, as a cultural exchange, isn’t subject to monitoring by the U.S. Department of Labor — unlike other guest worker programs.

The State Department, for its part, recently established a system to keep track of all complaints it receives, but spokeswoman Susan Pittman told Civil Beat that the tally for the entire program isn’t readily available, and a Freedom of Information Act request must be submitted before the data could be compiled.

Kathryn Xian, founder and executive director of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, says another reason the issue tends to fly under people’s radar is that the victims often choose to escape their situation by simply returning to their home country.

“What’s difficult about J-1 is that these people usually don’t seek help,” Xian said. “Because the J-1 terms are so restrictive, if they stop working for a day, they are out of status and deportable, so the employers hold all of the strings.”
‘Notoriety’ and ‘Disrepute’

Created under the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961, the J-1 program was designed to give foreign students and young professionals a temporary work experience and expose them to the American way of life — at no cost to taxpayers.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of people pay upwards of $10,000 in fees and insurance to enter the country under the program and work for four to 18 months. The State Department’s latest figures show that more than 297,000 J-1 visas were issued in 2012, including 2,021 visas for those heading to work in Hawaii.

But, in recent years, some participants — and their advocates — have complained that it’s being used as a source of cheap, foreign labor with little federal oversight.

The issue grabbed national headlines in 2012, when hundreds of J-1 visa holders working at Hershey’s packing plant in Pennsylvania staged a raucous protest. About 400 of them were staying in the country for “Summer Work Travel,” the biggest of the 14 categories of the J-1 program allowing students of modest means to work in a temporary job as a way of offsetting the costs of their travel to the U.S.

“In theory, these sponsors are supposed to be helping keep participants safe and avoid exploitations of any kind to take place. But, in reality, a fox is in charge of the hen house.” — Stephen Boykewich, National Guestworker Alliance

They were put to work, often on night shifts, lifting heavy boxes and packing chocolates on Hershey’s fast-moving production line — while being paid substantially below the minimum wage after deductions.

The troubling tales of the summer programs were nothing new to officials at the State Department. In 2010, an investigation by the Associated Press uncovered widespread abuse, finding that some students were taking home less than $1 an hour, while others were being forced to work as strippers — even though the regulations prohibit the students from taking on work that could “bring the Department of State into notoriety or disrepute.”

In response, the State Department conducted a systematic review of the summer program and eventually acknowledged that its “work component … has too often overshadowed the core cultural component.”

The department later issued new rules for the program that significantly reduced the types of jobs the students can perform — to keep them away from most warehouse, construction, manufacturing and food-processing work. The rules also tightened requirements on the sponsor organizations and their contractors that administer the J-1 program on behalf of the State Department, ensuring that students were matched up with jobs that are appropriate and safe.
Ripe for Exploitation

The changes haven’t rooted out all the unlawful labor practices in the J-1 program.

Last week, the Labor Department announced that a Waikiki-based wedding planner called Wave USA Inc. — aka Ka Nalu Wedding — agreed to pay more than $35,000 in restitution to a group of eight Japanese employees, all of whom were here on J-1.

According to the Labor Department, the eight were the company’s “front-line workers” from November 2012 to July 2014 and were paid full-time salaries that varied from $700 to $1,000 a month — a rate well below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Stephen Boykewich, communications director at the National Guestworker Alliance, which helped organize the Hershey’s protest in 2012, said the problems persist because of the program’s flawed setup: The sponsor organizations and their contractors, which are responsible for vetting the hosting companies, are the ones tasked to monitor the working conditions. So, when any problem comes up, they have a vested interest in downplaying it.

“In theory, these sponsors are supposed to be helping keep participants safe and avoid exploitations of any kind to take place,” Boykewich said. “But, in reality, a fox is in charge of the hen house.”

In Hawaii, the issue is compounded by the fact that there are only seven sponsor organizations operating in the islands, and they only place participants into academic institutions — typically as scholars or physicians.

That means those looking for nonacademic work in Hawaii are forced to find their sponsor organization from the mainland, and this arrangement makes the regular, on-site monitoring of the working conditions a logistical nightmare.

John Robert Egan, an immigration attorney who once chaired the Hawaii chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, says the way the system is set up now works to the advantage of unscrupulous employers.

“Part of the problem is that they are bringing in people who don’t speak good enough English and are not familiar with the legal system and don’t know what protections are available. So that’s ripe for exploitation,” Egan said.

‘Alleged Bad Acts’

The Japanese pastry chef came to Hawaii hoping that her training here would bring her closer to realizing her dream of opening her own bakery.

To make her trip possible, she had to work with layers of contractors in Japan. First, she dealt with a company called Global Associates and its subsidiary, Hawaii Exchange Service. They then put her in touch with their affiliate — a Japanese company called the American Career Opportunity Inc. — to help her go through an English proficiency test and work with a California-based sponsor organization called the ASSE International Student Exchange Programs.

In all, she paid about $8,850 in fees and $1,300 for her medical insurance. And she spent thousands of dollars more to make living arrangements in Hawaii.

By the time she arrived and discovered her restaurant’s working conditions, her savings account had been tapped out. “I felt trapped as I had invested so much time and money to come to work on my J-1 visa,” she wrote in her 2012 affidavit to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “I did not believe I could go home as I would realistically never have another opportunity to come back to the U.S.”

But going back to work for the restaurant wasn’t much of a choice for her, either. Luckily, a network of friends, victims’ advocates and pro bono attorneys came to her rescue and got her in touch with officials at the U.S. State and Labor departments.

“I’m terrified of running into the restaurant owners. I’m too scared; I still can’t walk alone in Waikiki.” — Pastry chef from Japan

This, in turn, triggered a barrage of calls from officials at American Career Opportunity and Global Associates. They called her — and her mother in Japan — incessantly, trying to convince her to go back to work at the restaurant. When it became clear that she wasn’t going back, she said they tried to intimidate her into voluntarily returning to Japan.

Fearing that she’d be deported, she fled her apartment and went into hiding. At first, she stayed at the house of a married couple she had befriended during her first week in Hawaii. Then, Xian of the Pacific Alliance found her space at a shelter run by a local church.

As far as the chef knows, the investigations at the State and Labor departments are still pending — more than three years later. Meanwhile, with the help of attorneys, she applied for a T-1 visa, which is set aside for trafficking victims. After about a year, her application was approved, enabling her to stay in the country and start working again.

Ira Kurzban, general counsel for ASSE, says the company wasn’t notified about the case until federal authorities got involved.

“From our perspective, we did everything we could possibly do as soon as we learned that there was a problem,” Kurzban said, adding that the State Department “has never said” that the company engaged in “any of the alleged bad acts that were claimed to have happened.”

Officials from the State and Labor departments declined to comment on the case, citing privacy concerns.

Officials at American Career Opportunity did not respond to Civil Beat’s request for comment. Global Associates and Hawaii Exchange Service could not be reached.

The chef is trying to move past her bitter experience. With Xian’s help, she managed to recover the fees she had paid for her visa. And, last year, she got a cooking job at the Kahala Mall and has saved enough to move into her own apartment.

But there’s one thing she still can’t shake: “It’s been three years now, but, to this day, I’m terrified of running into the restaurant owners. I’m too scared; I still can’t walk alone in Waikiki.”

ENDS

Another Gaijin Handler speaks at East-West Center: Dr. Nakayama Toshihiro, ahistorically snake-charming inter alia about how Japan’s warlike past led to Japan’s stability today (Sept. 15, 2015)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Japan’s Gaijin Handlers (people well-versed in representing Japan overseas in ways placating USG fears about Japan’s ulterior motives) are still making the rounds of America’s foreign-policy forums.  Debito.org covered one in October 2013, where a deputy chairman of an Abe Administration advisory panel on Japan’s security, Dr. Kitaoka Shin’ichi, basically told policy wonks on a whistle-stop tour of the US (courtesy of the East-West Center) that Japan’s “collective self-defense” wasn’t a remilitarization of Japan that should cause any worry.

This time, brought to you by the Japanese Consulate General (see page three of questionnaire below), and hosted by the East-West Center and the Center for Japanese Studies at UH Manoa, an academic named Dr. Nakayama Toshiaki, of prestigious Aoyama Gakuin University, gave an hourlong presentation about the “Mind of Japan”, and what that “mind” thought about America.  Here’s his bio, text-searchable:

Dr. Toshihiro Nakayama
East-West Center
September 10, 2015
Dr. Toshihiro Nakayama spoke about Japan-U.S. relations especially in consideration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. An insight was given into America’s roles in the Asia Pacific and beyond through the eyes of a well-known professor, author, and columnist. Dr. Nakayama also shared his personal experiences in the context of this important relationship between the two allied nations.
Dr. Nakayama is Professor of American Politics and Foreign Policy at the Faculty of Policy Management at Keio University. He is also an Adjunct Fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs. He received his M.A. (1993) and Ph.D. (2001) from Aoyama Gakuin University, was a CNAPS Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution (2005-06), and has written two books and numerous articles on American politics, foreign policy, and international relations. He appears regularly in the Japanese media and writes a monthly column for Japan News. He was the recipient of the Nakasone Yasuhiro Award (Incentive Award) in 2014.

Here’s the original flyer:

NakayamaToshihiroEWCtalk091015

Here is his speech in its entirety:

America in the Mind of Japan: How Japan Sees America’s Role in the Asia Pacific and Beyond from East-West Center on Vimeo.

(May be slow playing on your browser.  Download the actual video to your computer from here: https://vimeo.com/140019513)

I attended, but thought even beforehand, based on the title of the talk, how scientifically problematic it is for someone to represent all of Japan as a “mind” so monolithically (I would expect it from a government representative, but not a trained doctorate-holding academic).  But Dr. Nakayama, as would befit people with an agenda who are employed by the right-wing Yomiuri (moreover rewarded by the likes of far-rightist and WWII sexual slavery organizer Nakasone Yasuhiro), fulfilled his role as Gaijin Handler very professionally:

First he softened up the audience, spending several minutes (in fact, a sizable chunk of his allowed time) convincing everyone how Americanized he is (with a number of anecdotes about his time as a youth going to school in New York City and South Dakota and asking American girls out to dance), giving the audience a number of familiar warm-fuzzy touchstones in terms of economics, politics, and culture in excellent English.  Then he switched smoothly into the “We Japanese” “us” and “them” rhetoric, no longer a non-dispassionate academic, now a government representative.  He clearly felt confident enough in his knowledge of both the US and Japan to feel that he could portray Japan authoritatively in a hive-minded fashion, while painting a picture of the US as a fractious pluralistic place with people like Donald Trump.  Seriously.

But after a rather pedestrian retelling of the US-Japan Relationship after WWII, Dr. Nakayama made the following statement right at the very end.  It was indicative of what kind of snake-charming narrative Prime Minister Abe wishes to wrangle the (USG) Gaijin with.  In regards to a question about Japan’s historical relationship with its immediate neighbors:

///////////////////////////////////////////////////

Nakayama:  (From minute 1:02:00).  But as shown in Prime Minister Abe’s statement commemorating the [unintelligible] end of World War II that was announced on the 14th of August, there were suspicion in Korea and in China that Prime Minister Abe changed totally the understanding of how we see history.  But I think that we see if we actually read the text, I think it relates much more to [unintelligible].  He was sometimes being criticized as being a revisionist, trying to see the war in different terms.   

I don’t think that was his intention.  In Japan, the governmental historical discourse is that everything started from 1945.  Everything that happened before that is basically wrong.  That’s not how things turned out.  Yes, there was a disastrous four years.  If you include China and The Occupation, it goes beyond that.  But you have to remember that Japan was the first modern state in Asia which successed [sic] in modernizing itself, and became a player in the Great Power games.  And that’s a success case.  Yes, it ended up in a war, with the United States and China, but that doesn’t mean we have to negate everything that happened before 1945.  An attempt by Prime Minister Abe was to see history in continuation, and there were some parts [unintelligible]  that would make democracy stable after 1945, were established in the Prewar Period. So we have to see the history in continuance.  I think that was the message. 

///////////////////////////////////////////////////

Wow.  Imagine the international reaction if a representative of Germany (or one of their academics lecturing overseas on a government-sponsored junket) were to argue today that “Nazi Germany did some good things for Germany too, including making the country the stable democracy it is now.”  Fascinating tack (in its ahistoricality) in light of the fascist regimes that not only did their utmost to dismantle the trappings of stable democracy, but also led their countries to certain destruction (and were in fact rebuilt thanks to Postwar assistance from former enemies).  No, what happened to Japan in the Prewar Era at its own hands was ultimately destructive, not stabilizing (and not only to Japan).  What happened before 1945 WAS basically wrong; and it wasn’t “also not wrong” for the reasons he gives.  Thus, Dr. Nakayama imparts an interesting mix of uncharacteristic historical ignorance, with an undercurrent of the ancestor worship that the Abe Administration ultimately grounds its ideology within.

Further, Dr. Nakayama is a fascinating case study of how the Japanese Government recognizes the Gaijin-Handling potential in its bilingual brightest (inserting them into, in Dr. Nakayama’s case, Japan’s diplomatic missions abroad), and manages to convince them to come back home and shill for Japan’s national interest even if it defies all of their liberal-arts training and mind-expanding world experiences.  Meanwhile the USG kindly takes the lead of the Japanese Embassy to offer GOJ reps the forums they need to have maximum impact within American policymaking circles.  Very smart of the GOJ, less so the USG.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Other overseas-policy-influencing pies that Dr. Nakayama has his fingers in:
http://www.eastwestcenter.org/events/young-japanese-scholars-program-new-views-politics-and-policy-tokyo-taiwan
See them in action: https://vimeo.com/89107591

Questionnaire given out at this EWC presentation further empowering Japanese Government presentation effectiveness in the US (click on thumbnail to expand):

GOJSurveyNakayamatalk091015 GOJSurveyNakayamatalk091015 1GOJSurveyNakayamatalk091015pg3

Japan Times JBC 91 Sept 7, 2015: Why Japan’s Right keeps leaving the Left in the dust

mytest

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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////
Why Japan’s Right keeps leaving the Left in the dust
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
JBC column 91 for the Japan Times Community Page
September 7, 2015
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/09/06/issues/japans-right-keeps-leaving-left-dust/

JBC has talked about Japan’s right-wing swing before. The news is, it’s swung so far that Japan’s left is finally getting its act together.

For example, over the past year historians inside and outside Japan joined retired politicians to demand Prime Minister Shinzo Abe accurately portray Japan’s role in World War II during the 70th Anniversary commemorations last month. It didn’t work, but nice try.

Or how about the decimated Democratic Party of Japan submitting a bill to the Diet that would ban racial discrimination (yes!), hate speech and related harassment? Sadly, the bill has no hope of passing, or of being enforceable even if it does (what with loopholes for “justifiable discrimination” and no criminal penalties). But, again, nice try.

And we are seeing outdoor protest after protest, with ranks swelling to numbers not seen in decades.

That’s all fine — and about time, given that people repeatedly reelected these rightists in the first place. But let’s discuss why Japan’s left has basically always been out of power (leaving aside the geopolitical pressures from Japan’s sugar-daddy busybody — see “U.S. green lights Japan’s march back to militarism,” Just Be Cause, June 1).

The left keeps losing, and much of it is their own damned fault.

As an activist in Japan, I worked with the left (as in the self-proclaimed center-leftists, socialists and communists) and dealt with its right (the center-rightists, conservatives, populists and nationalists) for decades.

Since I advocate for minority rights here, I am simpatico with the left, given their comparative tendency to view people as individuals — as opposed to the right’s reflex of seeing people as groups that are ascribed characteristics from birth.

Of course, both sides have belief systems you must subscribe to for membership. (That’s precisely what a political camp is.) Both tell stories and maintain narratives to garner public appeal. And, naturally, their organizations are clubby and cliquey. Worse, in Japan, while membership might be instant, acceptance into leadership roles often takes many years (in case you are a spy or a subversive).

Nevertheless, the right has distinct advantages that the left should be aware of, if it wants to have any hope of playing the game better.

One advantage is simplicity of goals. Basically, the rightists (as conservatives) want things left the way they are — or apparently were. The left wants change, which means it has to argue harder for it. On the other hand, the right can simply invoke the almighty power of precedent.

This sets off a vicious circle. Japan is a land that craves precedent, yet the left has little leadership precedent to cite. They can never argue that Japan has been a socialist state (even though in many areas it is exactly that), and few dare display communist sympathies (even though Japan’s appeal to historical collectivism would fit right into any commune).

“Precedentophilia” also avails the right of a scare tactic: They can argue that the left would force Japan to chart unknown territory. Rightists, on the other hand, are merely citing the tried and true: “Hey, the system worked for our ancestors in the past, right?”

And there the debate usually dies. Whenever Japan harks to the past, an element of ancestor worship seeps in. This stifles critical thinking, for insinuating that our forefathers were somehow wrong is to disrespectfully question the essence of Japanese identity. You see that even with WWII war criminals — who would have led Japan into oblivion if they had continued to get their way — enshrined as heroes at public worship sites and in popular culture.

Then there’s the leftist ideological distaste for measuring everything in terms of money. That’s a fatal error in politics. Rightists have no trouble whatsoever doing so, since they have a lot more of it. And with money, of course, comes power — and the rightists have no trouble with that either. In their inherited world, being rich and powerful for generations has normalized their entitlement to the point where they claim it without shame or self-consciousness.

But the biggest disadvantage I see in Japan’s left is an intellectual snobbery.

First, if you want to join their ranks, you must prove your ideological worth. I remember numerous times asking for assistance from leftist groups in the quest for equal rights for all. We were on the same page, yet their Young Turks grilled me about whether I had read this author or that book. Essentially, I had to pass an entrance exam — be demonstrably schooled in their canon and their lexicon — or else I would get no support.

Then there’s the problem with narrative: Japanese leftists are oddly lazy about honing their talking points. Why? Because their ideals were handed to them in the postwar “peace Constitution.” Since then they have basically rested on their (un-won) laurels.

This became painfully obvious during the current debate on Japan’s remilitarization. Because Article 9 had been hitherto sacrosanct, the left didn’t think they had to talk about war anymore. It was simply inconceivable that Japan would ever fight one again.

The right, however, knew that undermining what leftists have taken for granted would be a multigenerational fight. And over time it got good at it.

Rightist victories have been gradual but significant, as seen in the policy creep of doublespeak — from the “Self-Defense Forces” all the way to today’s “collective self-defense.” The left just bleated that this was unconstitutional, without crafting a clearer narrative about the horror and excesses of war to capture the popular imagination. More effective were rightist scares about security threats from the Soviet Union, China and North Korea.

With any multigenerational battle comes the grooming of young successors, and at this the right excels.

Despite being blue-bloods clinging to the class structure, rightists have been peerless when it comes to appealing to those outside their class, particularly Japan’s young. (Why do you think they suddenly decided to lower the voting age from 20 to 18?)

Rightists intuitively understand that if something is to be a talking point, you have to put it in manga or anime form. Then you’ll reach even the most disaffected shut-in (who will then go online to terrorize a newfound foe).

In comparison, leftists look more like doctrinaire fossils, sniffing at all this anti-intellectualism: “Who needs to tell lowbrow stories when we have abstract principles to adhere to?”

But the right knows it needs as many people as possible parroting its talking points — for a fundamental maxim of propaganda is that if enough people say something, it becomes true.

That’s why rightists lower their standards for admission. They take just about anyone as long as they parrot. Even their xenophobes will enlist foreigners! Take a broke retired journalist, a redneck Net ignoramus or a paramilitary spook for hire, and just put their names on inflammatory Japanese publications in a language they can’t read anyway. Plus, ferreting out foreign parrots makes the right’s talking points seem more worldly.

In essence, the rightists keep their eyes on the prize: money and power. In the game of politics, that gives you the advantage every time. And when you’re wielding patronage and privilege for this long, you get good at doling it out to the underprivileged, like soup at the breadlines.

The leftists? Well, hey, they can’t even talk to one another, let alone band together against this dynamic. Intellectual schisms are historically toxic, to the point of factions killing one other (think Kakumaru-ha vs. Chukaku-ha in the 1970s). Of course, the rightists aren’t all friends either, but at least they can be odd bedfellows following a narrative under the same religion — Japan.

And therein lies the ultimate power in this game: nationalism. It’s easiest to appeal to people by resorting to patriotism. Again, it blunts critical thinking. (Even Western media handle Japan’s most bigoted rightists with kid gloves, labeling them “nationalists,” “conservatives,” even “patriots”!)

This is all much easier than using slogans about impalpable “equality,” “democracy” and “peace.” After all, money and privilege offer tangible and immediate benefits, whereas peace is a public good you only appreciate when it’s gone. And few now remember it being gone. Like it or not, the simpler narrative sells.

If Japan’s left is ever to aspire to power, it must, ironically, learn to be more open-minded, cooperative and co-optive. It must learn how to get out there, welcome new blood and convince people with a compelling story of alternatives (rather than just sit back and wait for the enlightenment of the masses, followed by an ideological litmus test). Otherwise, Japan’s left will keep on losing to the right on a past-revering, precedent-based playing field naturally slanted against them.

Leftists: Stop only learning how to argue. Learn how to appeal. Learn narrative.

====================================

Debito Arudou’s next book, “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination,” will be out in November. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears in print on the first Monday Community Page of the month. Your comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp
ENDS

Morris-Suzuki in East Asia Forum: “Abe’s WWII statement fails history 101”. Required reading on GOJ’s subtle attempts at rewriting East Asian history incorrectly

mytest

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Hi Blog. I had a couple of other topics to bring up (for example, this one), but this essay was too timely and important to pass up. Required reading. First the analysis, then the full original statement by PM Abe being analyzed.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

///////////////////////////////////////////////////

Abe’s WWII statement fails history 101
East Asia Forum, 18 August 2015
Author: Professor Tessa Morris-Suzuki, ANU
Version with links to sources at http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2015/08/18/abes-wwii-statement-fails-history-101/

As the clock ticked down to the 70th anniversary of the end of the Asia Pacific War, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe faced a dilemma. His right-wing supporters were pushing him to produce a commemorative statement that would move away from the apologetic approach of his predecessors and ‘restore Japan’s pride’. Moderates, Asian neighbours and (most importantly) the US government were pushing him to uphold the earlier apologies issued by former prime ministers Tomiichi Murayama and Junichiro Koizumi. Most of the media anticipation centred around the wording of the forthcoming Abe statement. Would it, like the Murayama Statement of 1995 and the Koizumi Statement of 2005, include the words ‘apology’ (owabi) and aggression (shinryaku)?

Abe’s response to this dilemma was clever. First, he established a committee of hand-picked ‘experts’ to provide a report locating Japan’s wartime past in the broad sweep of 20th-century history. Then, drawing heavily on their report, he produced a statement that was more than twice the length of those issued by his predecessors. His statement, to the relief of many observers, did use the words ‘apology’ and ‘aggression’. In fact, it is almost overladen with all the right words: ‘we must learn from the lessons of history’; ‘our country inflict immeasurable damage and suffering’; ‘deep repentance’; ‘deep remorse and heartfelt apology’; ‘we will engrave in our hearts the past’.

But, focusing on the vocabulary, some observers failed to notice that Abe had embedded these words in a narrative of Japanese history that was entirely different from the one that underpinned previous prime ministerial statements. That is why his statement is so much longer than theirs. So which past is the Abe statement engraving in the hearts of Japanese citizens?

The story presented in Abe’s statement goes like this. Western colonial expansionism forced Japan to modernise, which it did with remarkable success. Japan’s victory in the Russo–Japanese War gave hope to the colonised peoples of the world. After World War I, there was a move to create a peaceful world order. Japan actively participated, but following the Great Depression, the Western powers created economic blocs based on their colonial empires. This dealt a ‘major blow’ to Japan. Forced into a corner, Japan ‘attempted to overcome its diplomatic and economic deadlock through the use of force’. The result was the 1931 Manchurian Incident, Japan’s withdrawal from the League of Nations, and everything that followed. ‘Japan took the wrong course and advanced along the road to war’.

The narrative of war that Abe presents leads naturally to the lessons that he derives from history. Nations should avoid the use of force to break ‘deadlock’. They should promote free trade so that economic blocs will never again become a cause of war. And they should avoid challenging the international order.

The problem with Abe’s new narrative is that it is historically wrong. This is perhaps not surprising, since the committee of experts on whom he relied included only four historians in its 16 members. And its report, running to some 31 pages, contains less than a page about the causes and events of the Asia Pacific War.

In effect, the Abe narrative of history looks like an exam script where the student has accidentally misread the question. He has answered the question about the reasons for Japan’s invasion of Manchuria with an answer that should go with the question about the reasons for the attack on Pearl Harbor.

There is widespread consensus that the immediate cause for Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor was the stranglehold on Japan created by imperial protectionism and economic blockade by the Western powers. But there is equal consensus that the reasons for the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, and for the outbreak of full-scale war in China in 1937, were different and much more complex.

Key factors at work in 1931 were the troubled relationship between the Japanese military and the civilian government; Japan’s desire for resources, transport routes and living space; rising nationalism in an economically and socially troubled Japan; and corruption and instability in Northeastern China. By the time Japan launched its full scale invasion of China in 1937, global protectionism was becoming a larger issue. But even then, other issues like Japan’s desire to protect its massive investments in China from the rising forces of Chinese nationalism were paramount.

Economic historians note that the Japanese empire was the first to take serious steps towards imperial protectionism. The slide into global protectionism had barely started at the time of the Manchurian Incident. Britain did not create its imperial preference system until 1932. The economic blockade that strangled the Japanese economy in 1940–41 was the response to Japan’s invasion of China, not its cause.

This is not academic quibbling. These things really matter, and vividly illustrate why historical knowledge is vital to any understanding of contemporary international affairs.

The Abe narrative of history fails to address the causes and nature of Japan’s colonisation of Taiwan (in 1895) and Korea (in 1910), and ignores the large presence of Japanese troops in China long before 1931. It says to China: ‘Sorry we invaded you, but those other guys painted us into a corner’. It offers an untenable explanation for Japan’s actions, and blurs the distinction between aggressive and defensive behaviour. Western media commentators who haven’t studied Japanese history may not pick up these flaws in the narrative, but Chinese and South Korean observers (who have their own, sometimes profoundly problematic, versions of this history) will instantly see them and rightly object.

Engraving a factually flawed story of the past in people’s hearts is not going to solve East Asia’s problems, and risks making them worse. Worse still, the Abe statement is generating deeply divergent responses in the countries where East Asian history is not widely taught (most notably the United States) and those where it is (South Korea, China and Japan itself), thus creating even deeper divisions in our already too divided world.

Professor Tessa Morris-Suzuki is an ARC Laureate Fellow based at the School of Culture, History and Language, at the College of Asia and the Pacific at The Australian National University.
ENDS
=======================================

OFFICIAL TRANSLATION OF ABE SHINZO’S STATEMENT

Statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Friday, August 14, 2015
http://japan.kantei.go.jp/97_abe/statement/201508/0814statement.html

On the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, we must calmly reflect upon the road to war, the path we have taken since it ended, and the era of the 20th century. We must learn from the lessons of history the wisdom for our future.

More than one hundred years ago, vast colonies possessed mainly by the Western powers stretched out across the world. With their overwhelming supremacy in technology, waves of colonial rule surged toward Asia in the 19th century. There is no doubt that the resultant sense of crisis drove Japan forward to achieve modernization. Japan built a constitutional government earlier than any other nation in Asia. The country preserved its independence throughout. The Japan-Russia War gave encouragement to many people under colonial rule from Asia to Africa.

After World War I, which embroiled the world, the movement for self-determination gained momentum and put brakes on colonization that had been underway. It was a horrible war that claimed as many as ten million lives. With a strong desire for peace stirred in them, people founded the League of Nations and brought forth the General Treaty for Renunciation of War. There emerged in the international community a new tide of outlawing war itself.

At the beginning, Japan, too, kept steps with other nations. However, with the Great Depression setting in and the Western countries launching economic blocs by involving colonial economies, Japan’s economy suffered a major blow. In such circumstances, Japan’s sense of isolation deepened and it attempted to overcome its diplomatic and economic deadlock through the use of force. Its domestic political system could not serve as a brake to stop such attempts. In this way, Japan lost sight of the overall trends in the world.

With the Manchurian Incident, followed by the withdrawal from the League of Nations, Japan gradually transformed itself into a challenger to the new international order that the international community sought to establish after tremendous sacrifices. Japan took the wrong course and advanced along the road to war.

And, seventy years ago, Japan was defeated.

On the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, I bow my head deeply before the souls of all those who perished both at home and abroad. I express my feelings of profound grief and my eternal, sincere condolences.

More than three million of our compatriots lost their lives during the war: on the battlefields worrying about the future of their homeland and wishing for the happiness of their families; in remote foreign countries after the war, in extreme cold or heat, suffering from starvation and disease. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the air raids on Tokyo and other cities, and the ground battles in Okinawa, among others, took a heavy toll among ordinary citizens without mercy.

Also in countries that fought against Japan, countless lives were lost among young people with promising futures. In China, Southeast Asia, the Pacific islands and elsewhere that became the battlefields, numerous innocent citizens suffered and fell victim to battles as well as hardships such as severe deprivation of food. We must never forget that there were women behind the battlefields whose honour and dignity were severely injured.

Upon the innocent people did our country inflict immeasurable damage and suffering. History is harsh. What is done cannot be undone. Each and every one of them had his or her life, dream, and beloved family. When I squarely contemplate this obvious fact, even now, I find myself speechless and my heart is rent with the utmost grief.

The peace we enjoy today exists only upon such precious sacrifices. And therein lies the origin of postwar Japan.

We must never again repeat the devastation of war.

Incident, aggression, war — we shall never again resort to any form of the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes. We shall abandon colonial rule forever and respect the right of self-determination of all peoples throughout the world.

With deep repentance for the war, Japan made that pledge. Upon it, we have created a free and democratic country, abided by the rule of law, and consistently upheld that pledge never to wage a war again. While taking silent pride in the path we have walked as a peace-loving nation for as long as seventy years, we remain determined never to deviate from this steadfast course.

Japan has repeatedly expressed the feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for its actions during the war. In order to manifest such feelings through concrete actions, we have engraved in our hearts the histories of suffering of the people in Asia as our neighbours: those in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, and Taiwan, the Republic of Korea and China, among others; and we have consistently devoted ourselves to the peace and prosperity of the region since the end of the war.

Such position articulated by the previous cabinets will remain unshakable into the future.

However, no matter what kind of efforts we may make, the sorrows of those who lost their family members and the painful memories of those who underwent immense sufferings by the destruction of war will never be healed.

Thus, we must take to heart the following.

The fact that more than six million Japanese repatriates managed to come home safely after the war from various parts of the Asia-Pacific and became the driving force behind Japan’s postwar reconstruction; the fact that nearly three thousand Japanese children left behind in China were able to grow up there and set foot on the soil of their homeland again; and the fact that former POWs of the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia and other nations have visited Japan for many years to continue praying for the souls of the war dead on both sides.

How much emotional struggle must have existed and what great efforts must have been necessary for the Chinese people who underwent all the sufferings of the war and for the former POWs who experienced unbearable sufferings caused by the Japanese military in order for them to be so tolerant nevertheless?

That is what we must turn our thoughts to reflect upon.

Thanks to such manifestation of tolerance, Japan was able to return to the international community in the postwar era. Taking this opportunity of the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, Japan would like to express its heartfelt gratitude to all the nations and all the people who made every effort for reconciliation.

In Japan, the postwar generations now exceed eighty per cent of its population. We must not let our children, grandchildren, and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize. Still, even so, we Japanese, across generations, must squarely face the history of the past. We have the responsibility to inherit the past, in all humbleness, and pass it on to the future.

Our parents’ and grandparents’ generations were able to survive in a devastated land in sheer poverty after the war. The future they brought about is the one our current generation inherited and the one we will hand down to the next generation. Together with the tireless efforts of our predecessors, this has only been possible through the goodwill and assistance extended to us that transcended hatred by a truly large number of countries, such as the United States, Australia, and European nations, which Japan had fiercely fought against as enemies.

We must pass this down from generation to generation into the future. We have the great responsibility to take the lessons of history deeply into our hearts, to carve out a better future, and to make all possible efforts for the peace and prosperity of Asia and the world.

We will engrave in our hearts the past, when Japan attempted to break its deadlock with force. Upon this reflection, Japan will continue to firmly uphold the principle that any disputes must be settled peacefully and diplomatically based on the respect for the rule of law and not through the use of force, and to reach out to other countries in the world to do the same. As the only country to have ever suffered the devastation of atomic bombings during war, Japan will fulfil its responsibility in the international community, aiming at the non-proliferation and ultimate abolition of nuclear weapons.

We will engrave in our hearts the past, when the dignity and honour of many women were severely injured during wars in the 20th century. Upon this reflection, Japan wishes to be a country always at the side of such women’s injured hearts. Japan will lead the world in making the 21st century an era in which women’s human rights are not infringed upon.

We will engrave in our hearts the past, when forming economic blocs made the seeds of conflict thrive. Upon this reflection, Japan will continue to develop a free, fair and open international economic system that will not be influenced by the arbitrary intentions of any nation. We will strengthen assistance for developing countries, and lead the world toward further prosperity. Prosperity is the very foundation for peace. Japan will make even greater efforts to fight against poverty, which also serves as a hotbed of violence, and to provide opportunities for medical services, education, and self-reliance to all the people in the world.

We will engrave in our hearts the past, when Japan ended up becoming a challenger to the international order. Upon this reflection, Japan will firmly uphold basic values such as freedom, democracy, and human rights as unyielding values and, by working hand in hand with countries that share such values, hoist the flag of “Proactive Contribution to Peace,” and contribute to the peace and prosperity of the world more than ever before.

Heading toward the 80th, the 90th and the centennial anniversary of the end of the war, we are determined to create such a Japan together with the Japanese people.

August 14, 2015
Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan
ENDS

Tangent: Japan Imperial Rescripts declaring war and surrendering: Interesting (and scary) documents in terms of narrative

mytest

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Hi Blog. On the eve of the 70th Anniversary of the end of WWII-Pacific, a little tangent:

On display at Hamilton Library at the University of Hawaii at Manoa are original copies of Japan’s Imperial Rescripts declaring war and surrendering. I think they make interesting reading in terms of the narrative they embed themselves within. Have a look:

Imperial Rescript Declaring War on The United States and Great Britain, December 8, 1941 (photo of document):
ImperialRescriptDeclareWar1941

Text (courtesy Wikipedia):

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

IMPERIAL RESCRIPT

By the grace of Heaven, Emperor of Japan [Emperor Shōwa], seated on the throne occupied by the same dynasty from time immemorial, enjoin upon ye, Our loyal and brave subjects:

We hereby declare War on the United States of America and the British Empire. The men and officers of Our Army and Navy shall do their utmost in prosecuting the war. Our public servants of various departments shall perform faithfully and diligently their respective duties; the entire nation with a united will shall mobilize their total strength so that nothing will miscarry in the attainment of Our war aims.

To ensure the stability of East Asia and to contribute to world peace is the far-sighted policy which was formulated by Our Great Illustrious Imperial Grandsire [Emperor Meiji] and Our Great Imperial Sire succeeding Him [Emperor Taishō], and which We lay constantly to heart. To cultivate friendship among nations and to enjoy prosperity in common with all nations, has always been the guiding principle of Our Empire’s foreign policy. It has been truly unavoidable and far from Our wishes that Our Empire has been brought to cross swords with America and Britain. More than four years have passed since China, failing to comprehend the true intentions of Our Empire, and recklessly courting trouble, disturbed the peace of East Asia and compelled Our Empire to take up arms. Although there has been reestablished the National Government of China, with which Japan had effected neighborly intercourse and cooperation, the regime which has survived in Chungking, relying upon American and British protection, still continues its fratricidal opposition. Eager for the realization of their inordinate ambition to dominate the Orient, both America and Britain, giving support to the Chungking regime, have aggravated the disturbances in East Asia. Moreover these two Powers, inducing other countries to follow suit, increased military preparations on all sides of Our Empire to challenge Us. They have obstructed by every means Our peaceful commerce and finally resorted to a direct severance of economic relations, menacing gravely the existence of Our Empire. Patiently have We waited and long have We endured, in the hope that Our government might retrieve the situation in peace. But Our adversaries, showing not the least spirit of conciliation, have unduly delayed a settlement; and in the meantime they have intensified the economic and political pressure to compel thereby Our Empire to submission. This trend of affairs, would, if left unchecked, not only nullify Our Empire’s efforts of many years for the sake of the stabilization of East Asia, but also endanger the very existence of Our nation. The situation being such as it is, Our Empire, for its existence and self-defense has no other recourse but to appeal to arms and to crush every obstacle in its path.

The hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors guarding Us from above, We rely upon the loyalty and courage of Our subjects in Our confident expectation that the task bequeathed by Our forefathers will be carried forward and that the sources of evil will be speedily eradicated and an enduring peace immutably established in East Asia, preserving thereby the glory of Our Empire.

[Added to Wikipedia entry, with different date:  “In witness whereof, we have hereunto set our hand and caused the Grand Seal of the Empire to be affixed at the Imperial Palace, Tokyo, this seventh day of the 12th month of the 15th year of Shōwa, corresponding to the 2,602nd year from the accession to the throne of Emperor Jimmu.”  (Released by the Board of Information, December 8, 1941. Japan Times & Advertiser)]

Japanese original in thumbnail (click to see full size):

ImperialRescriptDeclareWarJ

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

COMMENT:  I’m always intrigued by the formality of documents like these.  One would have thought that a declaration of war would simply state, in essence, “We declare war on you, so kindly get your citizens and diplomatic missions out of our lands and prepare yourself for the loss of life, territory, and resources.”  It’s interesting that they have to offer a series of justifications, as if persuasion is necessary (aren’t declarations of war unilateral, regardless of whether the other side understands why they’re about to be attacked?).  It’s also interesting that the justifications being offered are,  a) we had no choice because we were victims of Allied subterfuge all around us, b) we are victims of machinations to stop us from doing what we wanted to do abroad, and c) we were the peaceniks here, not you unconciliatory jerks.  Declaring war is the only means left for Japan’s survival.  Now, nearly three-quarters of a century later, undercurrents of Japan’s current narrative about WWII still reflect these tenets (e.g., herehere, and here).

And one more thing:  Look at the photo and note who’s signing it.  Aside from the usual suspects, there’s KISHI Nobusuke, a Class-A War Criminal.  How the hell did he escape execution for doing something this public and then go on to be a Postwar Prime Minister?

Now let’s consider the Imperial Rescript signaling Japan’s surrender in 1945 (the Gyokuon Housou, read in part by the Emperor and broadcast on August 15, 1945; photo of document:)

ImperialRescriptSurrender2

 

Text (courtesy Wikipedia):

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

To Our Good and loyal subjects:

After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in Our Empire today, We have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.

We have ordered Our Government to communicate to the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union that Our Empire accepts the provisions of their Joint Declaration.

To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of Our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by Our Imperial Ancestors, and which We lay close to heart. Indeed, We declared war on America and Britain out of Our sincere desire to secure Japan’s self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from Our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandisement. But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by every one — the gallant fighting of military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people, the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest. Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is indeed incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization. Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects; or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers.

We cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to Our Allied nations of East Asia, who have consistently cooperated with the Empire towards the emancipation of East Asia. The thought of those officers and men as well as others who have fallen in the fields of battle, those who died at their posts of duty, or those who met with untimely death and all their bereaved families, pains Our heart night and day. The welfare of the wounded and the war-sufferers, and of those who have lost their home and livelihood, are the objects of Our profound solicitude. The hardships and sufferings to which Our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great. We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all ye, Our subjects. However, it is according to the dictate of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable.

Having been able to safeguard and maintain the structure of the Imperial State, We are always with ye, Our good and loyal subjects, relying upon your sincerity and integrity. Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion which may endanger needless complications, or any fraternal contention and strife which may create confusion, lead ye astray and cause ye to lose the confidence of the world. Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith of the imperishableness of its divine land and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibilities, and the long road before it. Unite your total strength to be devoted to the construction for the future. Cultivate the ways of rectitudes; foster nobility of spirit; and work with resolution so as ye may enhance the innate glory of the Imperial State and keep place which the progress of the world.

Japanese original in thumbnail (click to see full size):

ImperialRescriptSurrenderJ

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

COMMENT:  Even more intrigue, as the word “surrender” was never used in the document.  Just a capitulation that Japan will do what their enemies told them to do.  But then we go on to the boilerplate justifications all over again that Japan engaged in war for self defense, not because of any territorial ambitions, but rather because we subjects emancipated ourselves with Japan’s assistance.   Only now we have the new spin of victimhood as “general trends of the world” turned against Japan and somebody dropped “a new and most cruel bomb”.  So out of respect for our dead and our ancestors, and for the greater peace (not to mention the safety and maintenance of the Imperial State), we leaders of Japan have decided that you subjects should stop fighting.  Not that we did anything wrong, of course.  Or even surrendered.  So, all ye survivors, put all that behind you and work towards, again, enhancing the innate glory of the Imperial State.  Therein lies the roots of the “Japan as postwar victim” narrative, only now with The Bomb woven in.

Fast forward to the present day:  The Showa Emperor goes on to live a long and unquestioned life, many of the ancestors of the ruling elite are still in power (as you know, current PM Abe is Kishi’s grandson), and resurgent are Japan’s rightist revisionist views as the last remaining surviving Imperial Subjects of that era wink out due to old age.

The point is, the designers of these documents have managed to keep their legacy alive to the present day.  That’s why they are interesting:  Upon reading, the Rescripts don’t resonate as the “What the hell were they thinking?” sort of thing when horrible ideas are consigned to the ash-heap of history.   In fact, they don’t seem all that out of place at all.  “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there” doesn’t seem to apply here.  Which is, quite frankly, scary.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Discussion: Abe rams through Japan’s new security guidelines: How will this affect NJ and Visible Minorities in Japan?

mytest

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Hi Blog. What’s happening these days in Japan under PM Abe, i.e., the ramming of new security guidelines through the Diet, will have ripple effects for years, particularly in terms of Japan’s legislative practices and constitutional jurisprudence. Not since the days of Abe’s grandfather doing much the same thing, ramming through the US-Japan Security Treaty more than five decades ago (which also did remarkable damage to Japan as a civil society), have recent policy measures been given the potential to undermine the rule of law in Japan. And I say this with all the disappointment of a Japanese citizen, voter, and Japanophile. The Japanese Government has truly shamed itself as a proponent of its own civilization, and its short-sighted voting public has done too little too late to prevent a self-entitled single-minded person as awful as Abe being given a second crack at governance (this time with a majority in both parliamentary houses, no less).

Debito.org, with its focus on life and human rights in Japan as relates to NJ and Visible Minorities, isn’t really in a position to comment on this until it becomes clear how these policy outcomes will affect them. Right now, all can say is that I told you this would happen. Consider my record in real time in my previous Japan Times columns on the rise of Abe and Japan’s looming remilitarization (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).  Meanwhile, I’m not one to speculate further without more concrete evidence.

Speculation, however, can be your job. What do Debito.org Readers think the future is for NJ and Visible Minorities under this new Japan where fundamentally-pacifist policy underpinnings are being undermined and circumvented? (We can see the forthcoming attitudes within LDP propaganda very sharply critiqued by Colin P.A. Jones recently in The Japan Times.)

Your turn to crystal-ball. Opening this up for discussion. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Update to Canada bank racism issue: Fascinating FB conversation gets me to capitulate

mytest

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Hi Blog. A couple of weeks ago, shortly before bedtime when I was tired and on vacation, I tossed off a blog entry on Debito.org about my recent experience with what I considered to be racism towards me at a Canadian bank for not having a passport that matched the bank teller’s expectation of phenotype. In other words, the teller said my having a Japanese passport was “funny” to him, as I didn’t “look Japanese”.

This was quickly dealt with in a way that I had never seen done in, for example, Japan (where this behavior would in my experience be explained away as a cultural misunderstanding, oversensitivity on my part, etc.).  In Canada, the manager intervened, and (unbeknownst to us at the time) sent the teller home.  The manager, who happened to be a minority in Canada, then said he well understood my distaste for identity policing of this ilk. In sum, the blog post was to give kudos to Canadian society for stopping this sort of thing in its tracks.

I had thought this was a pretty summary case, and wrote it up as such. However, I had no idea that it would blow up in my face.

So much so that I had to add an addendum to the post from a person accompanying me to that bank, filling in a number of things I hadn’t bothered to mention — such as the fact that we called the manager because we had a separate issue of business that needed a manager’s attention, and the teller in fact interfered with that request, and more. (I encourage people who haven’t read the original Debito.org blog entry to go here and do so before reading further.  In fact, sorry to do this:  since I don’t want to just rehash the debate below, comments that don’t reflect a careful reading of that post and the subsequent text will not be allowed through.)

This blog post is to archive the essence of a very informative discussion on my Facebook that was occasioned by this blog entry.

The discussion cleaved into several quite distinct camps, essentially:

  1. Support for what I did.
  2. Criticism for my overdoing it — surely this could have been handled better by me, e.g., by deflecting it with a quick explanation of my background or a bit of humor.
  3. Disbelief at my inability to use common sense:  To them, of course I don’t “look Japanese” (especially in a society with so few Caucasian Japanese), so my apparent expectation of the teller’s lack of surprise is unreasonable.
  4. Anger (especially from Canadians) of my acting like a typically-loud and conflict-encouraging American in Canada.
  5. Disgust at my acting so atypically Japanese that I no longer qualified as a Japanese in that person’s eyes (and that was it for us:  Unfriended. Anyone who says I’m not “Japanese” because I don’t look or act “Japanese” in their view is neither a friend nor a person I care to talk to again.  That’s taking the identity policing too far.  After all, I could have committed a murder, and that would not have disqualified me — since some Japanese people murder, and don’t lose their “Japanese” status; my objecting to a teller’s inappropriate statement is somehow worse than that?)
  6. Outrage towards my victimizing the teller (who as, I pointed out in my blog post, I deduced to be of native Korean background).  To them, I was oblivious towards my White Privilege in a White-majority and White-dominated society.

The most articulate proponent of Camp 6 was a person I will call JG, and he posted a comment so well-argued that I thought it worth archiving in full at Debito.org.   I answered it after a few days (again, I had a number of other commitments while on vacation, and didn’t want to just toss something off again), but here it is:

(N.B. There is one more bit at the very end, after JG’s and my exchange, where I essentially capitulate and agree that I overdid it this time.  Do read to the bottom if you’re convinced that I never admit I’m wrong.)

/////////////////////////////////////////////

Debito:  Hi Everyone. At long last, here is my reply to JG essay. I am sorry for taking so long — these things take time to compose, so thank you for your patience. For completeness’ sake, I will quote it in full with my answers after each one of his paragraphs:

JG: Sorry, this smells of white-privilege, dude! You get to be white AND Japanese! You’ve taken this TOO far! […] I mentioned in another sub-thread that your actions smacked of “white-privilege”, but I think that you missed my point, or choose to ignore it, which is a very symptom of said privilege. What I mean by “white-privilege” in this context is that when one speaks about discrimination, one cannot ignore the part that power plays in the situation. In this case, you are in Canada, NOT in Japan, so the context of power changes. In Canada, you are perceived as WHITE, which in North America is the gold-standard (it is also the case in Japan, but that is another discussion). People who are perceived as White have certain advantages that others who are not perceived as White. Please note that I am not talking about ethnicity or culture here, but the socially-constructed notion of RACE that is defined primarily by stereotypical physical attributes and phenotypes interpreted through the lens of the observer. So while you may “feel” that you are Japanese, others will see you as WHITE; and this is especially salient in the North American context where being labeled as WHITE affords you privileges not afforded to others, even though they may be citizens through birth or naturalization.

Debito: I do not dispute either in concept or form the existence of White Privilege. I acknowledge that being White has assisted and does assist me and others who look like me from society to society, and that the treatment of people deemed to be “White” by society provides systemic advantages in societies that are both White-majority and Non-White-majority dominated. And I acknowledge that people will see me as “White” anywhere I go.

Where you and I part company in this paragraph is my wish to be White AND Japanese. I do not believe that they are (or should be) mutually exclusive. Just as Japanese themselves in Apartheid South Africa successfully lobbied to be Japanese AND “Honorary Whites” under the law. And this was not a case of naturalization in the ASA example, either. My being naturalized as a Japanese gives me even more standing to claim that I am Japanese AND White; I’ve earned this qualification through decades of study and self-education, acculturation, time spent in and contributions to Japanese society, dedication and sacrifice (including my American passport and even my very name), and close scrutiny by the Japanese government of my “Japaneseness” in ways not seen in other countries’ naturalization processes. I am certifiably Japanese because the Japanese government says I am, and they gave me a tough test to prove it.

Moreover, I am not willing to have my identity policed by others, unaware of this degree of dedication, into being Japanese BUT White anywhere I go. I am a Japanese, full stop. As are my Japanese children, full stop. As are yours, full stop. Regardless of how our children look, anywhere in the world, they are ALSO Japanese. It is up to us to claim that for ourselves and them, and not succumb to the majoritarian identity policing that goes on everywhere. Otherwise we’d still have people saying in other societies that they were not “real” members of (insert society here). This must stop, as borders nowadays with international migration and immigration are porous like never before. I believe that introducing White Privilege into the mix here distracts and detracts from the main issue, which is: self-identification. I believe that a person has the right to shape and control their own identity, and claim it when necessary without being unduly accused of an abuse of social power.

JG: Now, in consideration of the above, can you see how YOU were the one with the power in this exchange? Sure, the statement that the guy made may have been insensitive or, giving him the benefit of the doubt, he may have not experienced a “white” person who identified himself as part of a group that has been historically “non-white”, especially when identifying as “white” affords so much advantage and social capital. Also, considering that he himself was a visible minority, might take a bit of offense to someone with such obvious social advantage, identifying himself as a part of the Asian community. In other words, “Why is this White guy trying to be like us? Is he trying to appropriate our culture like the other whites in the past took the land, culture, and livelihood during colonization?”

Debito: Yes, now let’s talk about the power relations here in this particular case regardless of self-identification. You made the case that I, as a White person, had the power in this relationship. That could very well be the case, and I won’t deny it as a possible factor. (Not mentioned is that I also had the power in this relationship as an account holder and a customer.) He was no doubt surprised by a person like me having a passport like that (I don’t blame him for that — it’s an understandable reaction). And his reaction was probably innocuous and not ill-intentioned. All agreed so far.

That said, the issue in this situation I believe is the remark he made. If the teller had also been identifiable and self-identified as “White”, I would have reacted the same way to this social othering. It doesn’t matter what the teller’s background is: It’s an inappropriate remark.

Where we part company further is in seeing everything revolving around a person socially-identified as “White” as riddled with White Privilege that is actually being enforced consciously or unconsciously. My existing as a White Japanese possibly (as you argued) being seen as an appropriator of his culture is his baggage. And if he wants a job dealing with people in a customer-client relationship, he must lose that baggage, or at least not act or remark on it — just as anyone “White” who has to deal with any Visible Minority must lose their personal baggage, as part of company policy as a company representative.

Whether or not that baggage can ever be properly “loseable” is something we can debate (I also concur that racialization processes make that impossible to reduce to zero), but I don’t think its existence should be used as an excuse to empower hypocrisy. By that I mean, if I can’t do it to him, he can’t do it to me. And to imply that he can just because I’m apparently White and he’s not is unduly switching the victimization. That goes for anywhere that has any claims (including the Non-White majoritarian societies) to having anti-discrimination rules and practices.

(Further, if legacies of colonization that you brought up were an issue for this gentleman, the Japanese colonized Korea, so Whiteness is quite probably not a factor in this.)

If the very sight of me somehow, as you put it, “offends” him (which I think is unlikely, but that’s how you couched this issue), I don’t think he should be doing this particular job. But anyway, I really don’t think that’s what happening here. I’m sure he’s a fine teller that just let his tongue slip and vocalized the first thing that popped into his head. You can make the case that I overreacted to it (and I’m fine with that interpretation), but to say that I victimized him just because I happened to be White and he didn’t is in my opinion, in this case, a stretch.

JG: Regardless of what was going on in his head (because it is impossible to know), the facts as you have stated yourself, are that despite his initial shock of finding out that you were “Japanese”, he STILL provided you with service and did not challenge your identity in any meaningful or legal way that denied you anything; which is what TRUE discrimination is. As we understand it, you were not refused or denied service, you were not suspected of misrepresentation or of being a criminal, and the authorities were not called. It only seems that your feelings were hurt because this guy could not immediately recognize from your appearance that you were Japanese (or part of the larger imagined Asian community). And your response to this, instead of using this opportunity to educate him of the larger, diverse, growing imagined Asian diaspora to which you seem to be laying claim; and maybe making an ally in the process; you go for the nuclear option and call his boss on him, claiming “racism”!

Debito: Quite so. This is the better case to make that I overreacted, and, again, that interpretation is quite solid. He did not deny me service (although, as my accompanying eyewitness attested, he did interfere with us seeing the manager — but this information came later and you couldn’t have known it; you later still doubted I my second eyewitness was telling the truth, but more on that later).

However, let’s at least admit that he did deny me a comfortable space for doing business as a customer by socially-othering me. People may say that they wouldn’t react in the same way (that’s their prerogative, of course). Maybe that comment wouldn’t even make them personally uncomfortable. But again, I say, how much of this do you tolerate before you say enough?

One of the issues I have had to deal with just about every day no matter where I go in the world is the natural curiosity about my background turned into vocalized judgment. Where are you from? “Japan.” (Or, “Born in the US, but lived in Japan” if I’m feeling chatty.) Common response: “But you don’t look Japanese.” Or, “Interesting last name, where’s it from?” “Japan.” (Or some more elaborate variant.) “But you don’t look Japanese.” Customs official whenever I cross a border (except, amazingly, in Canada or Japan): “What’s with this Japanese passport?” “I’m a naturalized Japanese citizen.” “But you don’t look Japanese.” And that’s the milder version (at the Jamaican border they actually took my passport to their back room and had a laugh at it), before the Americans in particular render me to Secondary for a few hours’ of wait and inquisition until I miss my flight. I’m serious. Just saying “It’s a long story,” just doesn’t cut it, having to “school” everyone on a daily basis gets tiring, and having to bite my lip through a number of these intrusive and humiliating situations leaves a psychological mark after a while. It causes “triggers”, and that’s what I think was at play with this teller in Canada. That’s why I’m such a big fan of microaggressions as a social diagnosis — I face them every day and know the signals for my situation inside and out.

You might say I got myself into this situation by naturalizing into a country where there are few Non-“Asian”-looking citizens. Fine. But I’m not a unique case. What do you do when it starts happening to your Japanese kids who don’t look so-called “Asian”? How will you react the hundredth time (or the fifth time in a day): “Oh, what cute gaijin kids!” And will you stand by when people doubt your kids’ identity as they grow older and start dealing with society’s veto gates? Alienating comments like these between individuals are not something you can do much about. But these alienating attitudes being expressed in a corporate or official capacity should not happen. To anyone.

Further, as I have said before, I was not in the bank that day to school the teller. That’s not my job. Just like it was not my job to correct everyone’s English everywhere, anyplace, when I was an English teacher. My job is to complete the transaction and get on with my day, and I’d like that to happen without having to deal with vocalized prejudice.

JG: Please do not get me wrong, as a permanent resident of Japan for almost 18 years with a Japanese wife and child, as well as considering Japanese citizenship myself, I understand that if this happened in JAPAN, one MIGHT understand the desire to call the boss in. However, this happened in CANADA, NORTH AMERICA! Why would you hold the same standard of being treated as a Japanese to a person who is not Japanese, in a place that is NOT Japan?

Debito: Sorry, we’re not going to agree on this, but I don’t believe this should happen anywhere regardless of whatever humans we’re dealing with, or what “race/ethnicity/group/etc.” is dominant in a society. That includes Japan, Canada, wherever. When it happens to you as a Japanese citizen enough times, you might react differently. I don’t know you and I’m sure, of course, but you don’t know me either, and I wouldn’t be so summarily dismissive of my position (and just put it down to “White Privilege”) when you’re not in it yet.

JG: The most critical point to my argument is this: YOU were the transgressor in this situation, NOT the teller. I am sure that the boss took your complaint seriously, openly scolded the teller, and summarily dismissed him in your presence; but guess what? It wasn’t because you were JAPANESE, it was because you were WHITE! You were in a bank in North America, where white people have social advantage due to physical attributes that are interpreted by the majority as being advantageous, where the system is tilted more to the side of said people, and where visible minorities have historically (and are still) at a disadvantage.

Debito: You might be right that I got preferential treatment because I’m White, I don’t know. But I rather doubt it in this case. Remember, you’ve got the facts of the case wrong (and wouldn’t believe further testimony): 1) the teller was not dismissed in our presence (he was after we left the building the first time), 2) we didn’t ask for the sanctions that he got (in fact, we didn’t ask for any sanctions at all), and 3) we would not have even KNOWN that those sanctions had happened if we hadn’t gone back and talked to the manager (meaning his sanction was not done for our benefit to curry favor with the White privileged). Moreover, 4) if White Privilege was a factor, wasn’t the fact that the manager was a minority himself in a position of power have any bearing here? Might one not be able to make the argument that since both the teller AND the manager were minorities in Canada, that they might have banded together to protect each other against the White Privilege? I don’t know. But I can’t conclude definitively that White Privilege was at play here, and I hope that you won’t simply say, “You can’t conclude because you’re White.” The evidence just isn’t conclusive either way.

JG: I notice that you have fallen in love with the term “microaggression” in your writings and I would like to say that your understanding of the term falls extremely short, and this situation is stark evidence of it! Again, as as WHITE person, no, better yet, a WHITE MALE in North America, who (whether you are aware of it or not) has social capital and power afforded to him by his physicality, you basically bullied a visible minority Korean-Canadian into accepting the way YOU see the world and you possibly endangered his carreer and future job prospects! How can you call yourself a crusader for visible minorities when you used your WHITE-PRIVILEGE to take the livelihood of a person with less power than you over a simple comment?!?

Debito: I think the bank was the one who told the teller how the company sees the world and how he should represent the company, not us. I know, you’ll couch it as the bank trying to appease the Dominant Whites, but I think this would have happened to any teller of any background who said this. Agree to disagree.

Also, I somewhat doubt this teller’s career is in danger, and I base this on a conversation I had with another Canadian manager friend I consulted with two days ago who has experience in these customer-service situations. Although my friend would not have taken the measure of sending the teller home (and he doubts that it involved a day without pay, either), he said that after a reprimand and a promise not to do it again, this would be seen as a teachable moment and forgotten shortly thereafter as long as it didn’t happen again. He strongly doubts that there would be any career endangerment.

Of course, this is all speculation. But so is the speculation about career endangerment, as is the speculation that White Privilege was involved here. We simply don’t have enough data about the event to say definitively what power relations were at play.

JG: And since you tend to use personal anecdotes as “facts” for your arguments, allow me to follow suit: I am a Irish-Scottish-Chickasaw-Chotaw-Jamaican-African American. I am most often identified as “black” by others (although I have been called Indian, Arab, Mexican, or just “foreigner” in my time in the US) mainly due to skin color. When I go back to the US to visit, I shop with my Japanese credit card and sign the card in Japanese because that is the name I use in Japan. I almost ALWAYS get looks when I do this, just as I do here in Japan. Both here and in other countries I sometimes even get, “Are you SURE this is your signature?” and I simply reply with a matter-of-fact, “Yes” or “Sou desu”, for whichever the situation calls. I do not call for a manager and complain as it is not necessary. I know that you are more Japanese than I am, but from my understanding, the prevailing culturally appropriate attitude for most Japanese is to avoid conflict when at all possible.

Debito: Okay. That’s how you deal with it; I respect that. Not necessarily how I would always deal with it. Perhaps you think we have different coping strategies because you are seen as “black” and I am seen as “white”. Perfectly feasible. But saying that I can’t react a certain way because I’m seen as “white” is a bit disempowering when facing discrimination. I’d rather deal with discrimination using ways granted to us as human beings within a society by the law, regardless of my (or anyone’s) skin color.

JG: Now imagine that I, as a “black” person, reacted the way YOU did at the bank in Canada. Do you honestly believe that I would be treated with the same respect? Well, in Canada, maybe. But in the US, it could very well turn into a story on the evening news! Let me give YOU a teaching point that you failed to give the Canadian teller: Visible minorities go through this ALL THE TIME! When a black person experiences and awkward moment or a “mistake” happens, we always have to question whether it was just an innocent misstep or was there actual discrimination going on. Where the PRIVILEGE comes in is that you, as a WHITE MALE, you have the freedom to question and complain, while a black person risks being called “ghetto”, “uncivilized”, or “an angry black man”! Your white-privilege shelters you from this reality. I am not blaming you for it, but as a so-called social activist you should be aware of it!

Debito: I see your point very well. I am aware that Visible Minorities have had (and still have) it pretty rough in various societies, and that Whites have had it pretty damned good for centuries. I would hope that if a person identified as Visible Minority in any society had this happen to her/him, that they too would stand up for themselves as I did, regardless of the social opprobrium and unfair facile labeling that frequently befalls them. That they have done so bravely for so long is inspiring and instructional, not to mention progressive. But clearly the “White Privilege” really hasn’t shielded me this time, in this discussion. Nor has it shielded me over the years, as people have seen me as the “outraged man tilting at windmills” etc., and assumed that just about everything I do is something I do with anger and out of anger etc. (See examples of criticism at http://www.debito.org/?p=12274, and proof of my style of activism at http://www.debito.org/?p=13365). Anyway, your point about having to question whether it was an innocent misstep or actual discrimination going on is well taken.

JG: It is natural for people culturally, socially, and economically “double-dip” if it is advantageous and if they can get away with it, but PLEASE do not insult the intelligence of the people here by telling us that you are “doing it for the greater good” and “doing it for us”!

Debito: Did I tell you that? Are you quoting me? I’ll answer that: No. I did not say that. Please do not cite things I did not say as some kind of evidence.

JG: I know by telling you all of this, I run the risk of being blocked and unfriended, as you have demonstrated by doing it to others who disagree with you. This is why I find your earlier comment about how society and the law agrees with you very ironic, since you quite liberally exercise your power to divorce yourself from dissenters. However, I hope you choose not to, as I hope that we can learn more from one another though this exchange.

Debito: No, you did not run the risk of being blocked for telling me all this (in fact, as I’ve said repeatedly, it’s a very thoughtful, well-crafted, earnest essay; thanks for it). What I do block people for is for being abusive. You were not abusive here. You were abusive later, which is why I eventually blocked you, long after you refused my request for retracting the angry comments you made later:

(For the record, what I requested of JG: “I would like you to retract the statements you make above basically accusing me of lying about having another eyewitness to this issue, not to mention bad faith and profiteering. These: “Even if your “eyewitness’s” account of what happened is accurate”,” “dodge the issues by posting a mysterious anonymous eyewitness account and advertising your book”. “conveniently-timed “anonymous” eyewitness who refuses to be identified because you have “stalkers”” (I do have stalkers, JG). All of those statements are grounded in anger, not reason. If you cannot retract them, I cannot engage in discussion with you, as you seem unable to fundamentally trust me. Usually when somebody becomes this abusive towards me, I block and unfriend them. But your essay on White Privilege was earnest and thoroughly-argued enough to warrant a response, so I didn’t unfriend you. But after this subsequent unfair indictment of my character, motives, and my friend’s testimony, I do not feel as inclined to discuss until these are retracted. I want a civil discussion. These accusations are not civil. So please retract, or end of discussion with me.”)

If someone wants to forward this response to JG, go ahead. But I don’t think there is any room for discussion between him and me as individuals. As to the points he raises, I hope my attempt to answer them to all of you in a calm, reasoned manner will be seen as earnest and well-intentioned on my part. I apologize in advance for any blind spots I may have due to my personal background being raised and living in several racialized societies, but I hope that, as JG said, we can all learn from one another through this exchange. I know I feel I have. Thank you for reading and discussing. Debito

/////////////////////////////////////////////

Final thoughts from Debito:

One of the reasons I like having discussions like these, even those that sometimes bruise the Ego, is that they make me think and self-reflect, even help me lose some bad habits.  The best comment came from a person whose tone of criticism proved his very point. From SMC:

========================================

SMC: You presuppose a lack of empathy on the teller’s part. But an awkward, inappropriate remark is not the same thing as a lack of empathy. I wasn’t there, so I cannot say anything about the tone, volume, etc., of the teller’s remark that might give me a better idea of the nature of the exchange between you and him.

But it would appear that you chose to respond to a perceived (and probably unconscious) lack of empathy by being consciously non-empathetic, and dealt with the situation in a legalistic, self-validating way.

The Buddhists have an interesting concept called “skillful means”; in other words, having the wisdom to know how to adjust one’s tactics to make one’s point in the most effective way possible.

In a legal/juridical context the kind of approach you took would be appropriate, but in this case it appears that you missed the chance to help educate and enlighten a fellow human being with a few well-chosen words. You’ll probably do better next time, friend.

Respect, SMC
========================================

Yep, quite so. I admit that I overreacted, and in an unproductive way.  I capitulate. Thanks to everyone who explained that to me so patiently. It eventually sunk in. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Tangent: How anti-discrimination measures are enforced elsewhere: Racism towards me at a bank in Canada

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Got an interesting story to tell.

(UPDATE JULY 4, 2015:  PLEASE READ TO THE BOTTOM FOR A RETELLING OF THE STORY BY ANOTHER EYEWITNESS.)

Recently I had business at a Canadian bank, so I went to a branch of it within Canada.  My transaction required me to show government ID, so I showed my Japanese passport, of course.  That’s all I have.

The teller verified my ID, but then made the comment, “It’s funny that you should have a Japanese passport.  You don’t look Japanese.”

I said, “Let’s not go there.  Lose the racism and complete the transaction.”

Well, after the transaction was complete, I called for his manager.  When the manager appeared, I indicated that his employee had made an untoward comment about my physical appearance and legal status.  “How would you like it,” I said to the teller, “if I said to you, ‘It’s funny you have a Canadian passport.  You don’t look Canadian.’?”  (It it important to add at this juncture that the teller was a Korean-Canadian immigrant — I know because I requested his name from the manager later.*)

The manager ascertained that the teller had said what he had said, and then was told that this behavior was inappropriate under Canadian rules and laws.  He was then sent home for the day, presumably without pay.

The bank manager and I then sat down in his office where he offered his sincere apologies.  And he told me over the course of a relaxed and empathetic discussion that he understood very well where I was coming from.  He himself is Metis, a minority in Canada of mixed First-Nations and settler peoples, but he apparently doesn’t “look Metis” to Canadians.  This becomes an issue whenever he, for example, bargains for a car at an automobile dealership, but has his identity policed by the dealer whenever he indicates that his indigenous status in Canada exempts him from Canadian taxes.  “I produce my First-Nations ID card, of course, but I hate it when people doubt my identity just because I don’t ‘look Indian’ to them, especially when they say so carelessly out loud.  This is unacceptable behavior for them, and it’s unacceptable for my employees too.”

That’s the way it’s done.  None of these crappy “cultural/linguistic misunderstandings” excuses, no shallow apologies and then everyone gets back to work undisturbed, and zero tolerance for assuming that people have to “look” a certain way to be a “real” member of a people or nation/state.  Justice was commensurate, swift, and public.  Well done Canada.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

(*CLARIFICATION JULY 3, 2015:  I also deduced that the teller was a landed immigrant because a) he worked in this local branch of a Canadian bank, and you would probably need landed status in Canada in order to get that kind of job, and b) based on his Korean accent, English wasn’t his first language.  However, I made no issue of these assumptions whatsoever during our exchange.  I only asked for his empathy by putting the shoe on the other foot, saying, “How would you like it if…”.)

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////

UPDATE JULY 4, 2015:  A RETELLING OF THE SITUATION FROM ANOTHER EYEWITNESS:

Hello. I would like your readers to know that I was also there as an eyewitness, and the blog post doesn’t really tell what I think to be the whole story. It’s important that you see that there was more to this case than Debito quickly typed up while on vacation, because some people are really misunderstanding what happened.

Reveal: I am a Canadian who has lived here for more than 40 years. I’ve also lived in Japan and the United States, and, for the record, I am a white woman. I can’t reveal any more than that because Debito has stalkers.

Debito’s recounting of the story is correct until the part where he writes that, “The manager had ascertained that the teller had said what he had said.” What happened was this:

The teller asked for Debito’s ID in order to complete our requested transaction. Debito showed his Japanese passport. The teller verified his ID, looked back and forth at Debito’s face and the passport, and then made the comment, “It’s funny you have a Japanese passport. You don’t look Japanese.”

Debito said, “Let’s not go there. Lose the racism and complete the transaction.”

Note that Debito did NOT raise his voice, nor did he accost anybody. MY reaction was one of shock, disappointment, and embarrassment to be a Canadian. I said to the teller, “I’m sorry, but we have laws against this sort of racial discrimination in Canada. You shouldn’t be saying that.”

The teller then apologized. “You are right, I should not have said that.”

And then we asked to speak with the manager. This was NOT about this issue, but a separate one regarding the original transaction. But the teller then proceeded to tell us that we didn’t NEED to speak to the manager. The transaction was complete.

I then requested, “I WANT to speak to the manager.” He again told us again that we didn’t need to, the transaction was complete.

It was at that time where the manager, whose office was within earshot of the teller’s booth, came to our assistance. I asked the manager about the original transaction issue, and he gave us an answer. But because I was so agitated by the terrible customer service, we THEN brought the other ID issue up with the manager. And I said to the manager, “This kind of comment is against Canadian law.” And the manager AGREED and apologized on behalf of the teller, himself, and the bank.

We then exited the bank, but when we got to the car, I said to Debito, “You know, that was weird. As a member of this bank for more than 35 years, I’d like to go back and get the name of the teller and the manager so I can write the bank about this.”

When we re-entered the bank, the manager greeted us. It was THEN that we were told that because the teller’s behavior was inappropriate under Canadian rules and laws, the manager had sent him home for the day. (Note that we did NOT request that the teller be sent home for the day. We had no idea about what would occur. If we hadn’t gone back, we wouldn’t even know that that had happened, and it wouldn’t be part of this discussion. We also still don’t know anything about pay deduction, official reprimand, etc. After all, we did not request anything like that.)

The manager then invited us to sit down in his office, where he took the time to relay his own story about his identity being policed as a First-Nations person, as Debito wrote. He also told us that he too had been to Japan and had to deal with a lot of ID policing as well.

In fact, the manager ENCOURAGED us to write a letter about this employee to bank headquarters. He gave us the teller’s card and his own.

Now I want to make clear what everyone seems to be getting wrong about Debito: At NO time did he have a temper tantrum, threaten or attack anyone, push anybody around, or even raise his voice. He had a very graceful, calm discussion at all times. This kind of myth that you have about Debito, going in and bullying people do to things, is TOTALLY unfounded. If you’ve never personally been with Debito in a situation like this, then you shouldn’t make comments or assumptions like these.

I left the situation feeling proud a) to be a Canadian, and b) that we have this type of system. Unlike what I’ve experienced many times in situations in Japan, I left this humiliating bank situation FEELING LIKE A HUMAN BEING.

I’ve grown up with various Visible Minorities in Canada — Asians, Africans, First Nations, etc. — where I was not in the majority. I have never experienced this kind of blatant policing of identity in Canada. Never in Canada – not even at the Canadian border – has anyone so blatantly questioned Debito’s passport or policed his identity like what I witnessed at this bank.

What’s even more appalling to me is not what happened at the bank, but the way you all have judged Debito, and seeing the teller, who broke the law, as the VICTIM. The law in Canada is set up to protect people from this situation, and it’s one of the reasons why Canada is an easier place to live. But why are many of you, particularly when you’re living in Japan as second-class residents, seeing the teller who started all this as the victim here?

This is not how our customer service industry behaves. It’s not the teller’s naivete. It’s his own personal stuff that he’s pushing on us. The teller personally took a risk in making that comment. If the roles were reversed, and I made a comment like that, the same punishment would befall me. It should.

Happy Canada Day!
ENDS

UPDATE JULY 14, 2015: I GET MY COMEUPPANCE IN A FASCINATING DEBATE, BLOGGED SEPARATELY HERE.

Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus extended interview with Dr. M.G. Sheftall: “Japan’s Kamikaze Suicide Pilots Exhibit at the USS Missouri in Honolulu”

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Now up with critique from an unexpected quarter is an extended interview I did with Dr. M.G. “Bucky” Sheftall on the WWII Japan Tokkō “Kamikaze” suicide missions, which appeared in an abridged version in the Japan Times as my JBC column on May 4, 2015.  This longer version features more questions from me and more candor from Bucky.  Here’s an excerpt:

Japan’s Kamikaze Suicide Pilots Exhibit at the USS Missouri in Honolulu: an interview with M.G. Sheftall
The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue. 22, No. 1, June 08, 2015
Dr. ARUDOU Debito, Dr. M.G. Sheftall

M.G. Sheftall, Professor of Modern Japanese History at Shizuoka University and author of Blossoms in the Wind: Human Legacies of the Kamikaze (Penguin 2005), was in Honolulu, Hawaii, aboard the battleship USS Missouri (site of the Japanese surrender in World War II) speaking at the dedication of a temporary exhibition of the Tokkō Kamikaze suicide pilots on April 10 and 11, 2015.

[…]
4) You mentioned earlier about other Tokkō missions, including the suicide motorboats. But we hear mostly about the pilots, hardly ever about the other types of Tokkō. Tell us a little more about these other branches, and why you think the pilots have garnered all the attention, especially in popular culture and at Yasukuni Shrine, where they are more famously enshrined as heroes?

SheftallIn addition to the iconic self-immolating bomb-laden fighter plane version of Tokkō almost anyone inside or outside of Japan associates with the term “Kamikaze”, there were three other major Tokkō platforms that we could deem significant in terms of: 1) the expenditure involved in their development and production; 2) the initial expectations the Japanese military had for their success; and 3) the loss in human lives caused by their deployment. These were the Kaiten (“Fortune-reverser”) manned torpedo, the Shin’yō (“Ocean-shaker”) rammer-motorboat, and the Ōka (“Cherry Blossom”) manned rocket bomb – which was essentially a 1940s cruise missile with a human being in place of a computerized guidance and target acquisition system. Really brutal contraption.

In any case, all three of these platforms were bitter disappointments for the Japanese military. Each of them resulted in over a thousand “friendly” fatalities involved in attempts to deploy them – this is also counting the crew members of the “motherships” ferrying the Kaiten and Ōka (specially modified fleet submarines for the former, and specially modified twin-engined bombers for the latter) into battle – while only causing a few hundred Allied casualties in total between the three of them, as compared with “conventional” aviation Tokkō, which caused some 15 thousand Allied casualties just in the Battle of Okinawa alone. So, right off the bat I would say that this dismal operational history is certainly a sizable factor behind the rather low profile – and the poor reputation, when known at all – of these specialized Tokkō weapons in the postwar Japanese public imagination.

In other words, there’s not much “story-worthiness” there from the standpoint of either the producers or consumers of entertainment media content – which is of course how and where most postwar Japanese learn about Tokkō to begin with, not to mention most of their 20th century Japanese history. Also – and I hope this doesn’t sound as cynical as I’m afraid it might – these three Tokkō platforms would not have lent themselves to economically viable cinematic depiction in the pre-computer graphics era 1950s, 60s and 70s Japanese film industry – when the postwar Tokkō legacy took the decisive “semi-romanticized” turn in Japanese historical consciousness that has characterized it ever since, and that was itself largely the result of the influence of Tokkō films of the era, which were financed by sympathetic conservatives in the entertainment industry and “technically advised” by former IJA and IJN figures. A couple of Kaiten-themed films were made – one that comes to mind starred a young Ishihara Yūjirō during his breakout period – but the model-making and special effects were extremely challenging and also apparently quite expensive. Much more economical to use model airplanes against a rolling “sky” backdrop with some clouds painted on it, right? Plus the more claustrophobic, horrific, and yes, futile aspects involved with the specialized Tokkō platforms could be avoided. Instead, in the stock Tokkō story arc of the era, you have these dashing young men sitting around a single barracks room set, delivering soliloquys and speeches about the meaning of it all, then donning white pilot scarves and boarding their planes at the end of the movie to fly off into the clouds – literally disappearing into the heavens — as the credits roll and the stirring music kicks in. No blood-and-guts horror, no killing, no futility depicted. Fukuma Yoshiaki wrote a great media studies treatment some years back now on the postwar cinematic treatment of Tokkō. I would love to translate that someday.

Read it all at http://japanfocus.org/-M_G_-Sheftall/4326/article.html

ENDS

Tangent: Indo-Pacific Review article: “A Rope Bridge in a Fiber-Optic Age: The East-West Center in Hawaii”

mytest

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Hi Blog.  I’ve been sitting on this article for about a year, and now it’s time to come out.  After a year at the East-West Center in Honolulu as an Affiliate Scholar (where I wrote up my doctoral dissertation; it will be coming out as a book in November), I must say that I agree with its points. If anything, it’s worse now than when the article was first published, since the people in charge are essentially the same and the programs they foster have very little integration with the local community (the campus at large has very little idea, for example, what goes on in their unannounced Wednesday Evening Seminars; their brown-bag lunch talks, although more widely advertised, are generally designed to be uncontroversial US-policy trial balloons).  I see the place as an Elephants’ Graveyard for many a former US ambassador or high-level US bureaucrat who would like to count down the clock in their career in Honolulu’s magnificent climate.  So much potential there, wasted due to leaden bureaucratic mindsets and the lack of utilized fresh outlooks.  You’ll get a better idea how and why by reading this article.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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IPR EXCLUSIVE
A ROPE BRIDGE IN A FIBER-OPTIC AGE: THE EAST-WEST CENTER IN HAWAII
The Indo-Pacific Review JULY 15, 2014
http://www.indopacificreview.com/rope-bridge/

The East-West Center in Hawaii is timid, insular, and lacking in fresh, dynamic thinking about a region that has outpaced the institution as a whole.

The East-West Center (EWC) in Hawaii is well-positioned geographically and conceptually to be a powerhouse of constructive, intellectual engagement with Indo-Pacific Asia. A 50-year legacy of providing academic and research fellowships to young students from Asia has developed a deep regional network of alumni now in senior government positions, multilateral organizations, and the private sector. Over the years, hundreds of experts in governance, policy, science, and history have resided in or served as visiting scholars at the institution. Its spacious facilities, some designed by a world-class architect, are immersed within a beautiful, serene campus setting. And yet this venerable soft-power institution has become flaccid.

Inside the Center, offices are being emptied and desks fill the main corridors. Most of the fourth floor in the EWC’s main building is now rented out as office space for the University of Hawaii in the continual effort to conserve funds. Lining the halls are glass display cases of carefully arranged EWC publications that appear to have been enshrined there for decades. Visitors to the Center must obtain a password and pay a fee to access the wireless Internet. Once a place of community life with a highly popular Friday pau hana on the grounds outside, these after work community get-togethers were shut down years ago because of liability concerns. The atmosphere is more akin to a museum under consolidation than a hub of dialogue and activity.

The EWC president, Dr. Charles Morrison, has been in place for 16 years. During this period he is widely credited with keeping the non-profit Center from being shuttered (this instinct for survival applies to his own job, as he was once dismissed, but then returned to his position as president). Most recently he helped the institution weather the very public resignation of EWC’s entire energy team led by Dr. Fesharaki, which revealed the “turmoil” inside the Center. However, simple survival should never be the measure of institutional success. With a purported deadline of 2018 to achieve self-sufficiency, transformative change is required for the EWC to evolve from prolonged survival thinking to a thriving institution renowned for being a vanguard of engagement on critical issues.

Founded in 1960 through the vision of the late Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye, the EWC’s mission to promote “better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue” is of paramount importance. While a 1978 GAO report demonstrates that concerns about the EWC’s identity and quality of contributions were emerging in its early decades, the Obama administration’s “rebalance to Asia” is the sort of golden opportunity for which the EWC was designed. However, senior fellows are unable to articulate what the EWC’s role is in the rebalance effort. According to them, Dr. Morrison has never stated how the EWC mission fits in the rebalance. One expert said “more of the same I would assume,” while another questioned the relevance of the EWC now that flights no longer need to stop in Hawaii when crossing the Pacific. A striking statement considering that Pacific Command, the nation’s largest strategic command and most visible face of the “rebalance,” sits only a few miles away.

When asked the question himself, Dr. Morrison said the EWC “does not have to rebalance” as it has always maintained a focus on Asia. Furthermore, while he agrees with the premise of the rebalance, he believes “it has not been articulated and resourced” by the Obama administration. Regardless of where one stands on this, these answers miss the point. While the EWC may not need to alter its focus, it should nevertheless be able to demonstrate its value to the strategy and any lack of articulation by the administration should be perceived as an opportunity to do just that.

In a written response regarding the EWC mission vis–à–vis the rebalance provided by a senior fellow, it was stated that “the EWC has led the Pivot for 50 years.” This statement is well-suited for a marketing brochure, but it dodges the question and in fact, that leadership is not in evidence. More than 50 years of foundation-building in the region should have resulted in a Center that is sought out and in demand for its knowledge, relationships, and most importantly, influence. That is not the case. One indicator is that the Center does not even receive an honorable mention in the University of Pennsylvania’s annual Global Think Tank Index Report, which ranks the world’s think tanks by country and focus. The many small “projects” of the EWC show little in the way of outcomes. Despite an emerging Asia-Pacific Leadership Program that brings young regional leaders to Hawaii, Dr. Morrison admitted it is “getting harder and harder to attract” people from the region. One explanation for this is how little utility the EWC has demonstrated to its own alumni.

Proudly announced on the EWC website as 62,000 strong, the majority of which are based in Asia, the vast alumni network remains a highly valuable yet almost entirely untapped resource. Unfortunately, the degree to which the network is active in any given country is entirely dependent upon the efforts of individual country alumni chapters. A current EWC fellow from Southeast Asia, who is about to return home after two years in Hawaii, expressed little knowledge about the EWC alumni community or what presence it had in his country. There had been no attempt by anyone at EWC to connect him with alumni back home and he was unaware that EWC maintained an “online community” for its alumni. Once he logged in, it became apparent why. The “community” is nothing more than a directory, much of which lacks actual contact information. Other than a service for looking up names, it is largely useless.

In a region where social media use has exploded over the last decade, deeper analysis of EWC’s numbers reveals the institution’s level of passivity with respect to its rich networks. The EWC has barely 1,500 Likes on its alumni Facebook page. The Center follows less than 200 on its Twitter account, most of which are other organizations rather than its own alumni. Out of 50 alumni chapters, less than 20 provide quarterly updates; for those that do, the content is remarkably thin. On the website, only nine chapters have “liaison” members named with contact information for those who want to connect with that chapter. The alumni blog boasts a new post only once a month on average and often this is simply the chapter’s quarterly update. While budget constraints are always a limiting factor, these methods for building an Asia-Pacific community are limited only by institutional imagination.

A more concerning example of shallow vision, with respect to the alumni network, is the upcoming EWC International Alumni Conference being held in Okinawa, a city the National Interest recently called “a crack in the Pacific Pivot to Asia.” Plans to relocate the Futenma air base continue to be a long-standing source of contention between Washington and Tokyo. However, according to Dr. Morrison, the EWC conference will not include the topic of U.S. military bases among its two days of panel discussions because it is was deemed “too controversial” by the Okinawa alumni chapter. Instead, conference participants will have a half-day sightseeing tour of “key spots to help you know more about Okinawa,” which include a historic temple and a monument to “re-realize the importance of world peace.” Additional optional tours include an “island relaxation tour” or a “bird-watching tour.”

At the time of writing, according to the EWC website, 279 of the EWC’s 62,000 alumni are registered to attend. Out of that number, 101 are coming from the United States and 115 from Japan or Okinawa, leaving only 63 alumni attending from the remainder of Asia. This should come as little surprise, given the lack of named speakers (other than Dr. Morrison), unspecified panel session topics, and a squandered field trip day. To hold a conference in such a strategic location and ignore any dialogue on the island’s most pressing East-West issue is more than a missed opportunity. It calls into question the very reason for the existence of the Center.

One sign of health for the EWC, which only further highlights the deficiencies in Hawaii, is its Washington, D.C. satellite office. Directed by Dr. Satu Limaye, the D.C. office is by all accounts more engaged with the U.S. foreign policy community and has been behind a few unique initiatives. For instance, its “ASEAN Matters For America” project and publication were conducted in partnership with the US-ASEAN Business Council and the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. “The East-West Center in Washington,” as it is branded, is the point of origin for the majority of the foreign policy thinking at the EWC. According to Dr. Morrison, this is ostensibly by design. However, it has resulted in a split personality institution and created an unusual circumstance wherein the U.S. foreign policy community perceives the Washington satellite office as the hub, rather than a spoke, of the organization. In conversations with senior members of the US-ASEAN Business Council, it became clear that the EWC was not regarded as a Hawaii-based institution. This perspective accords with a number of U.S. diplomats posted at embassies in Asia. Dr. Morrison himself recognizes this issue saying in partial jest that he has considered “switching places with Satu.”

For these reasons and others, the current state of the EWC is untenable. Stakeholders should also view it as intolerable, and necessitating swift and groundbreaking action. The following are recommendations to facilitate a process of much-needed transformation and renewal:

1. Infusion of new leadership: There needs to be a reorientation from chasing money to chasing dynamic professionals who understand Indo-Pacific Asia and have fresh ideas for regional engagement. This should be determined in part by their recent years spent living and working in the region, not by grants managed from afar which include sporadic short-term trips. The Hawaii-based leadership needs to be overhauled. Although Charles Morrison has two more years on contract as president, the search should begin now for a new president and Dr. Morrison should be prepared to step down once that person has been identified. After 16 years in that role, he has given a great deal of himself to the institution, but now it is time for new leadership to take the helm.

2. Clear articulation of the EWC mission vis–à–vis the rebalance: The leadership must determine, articulate, and disseminate what the EWC’s mission will be and how it fits with and contributes to the “rebalance to Asia” and United States foreign policy objectives in the region. All staff should likewise be able to articulate how their work at the Center supports that mission. This should be obvious for an Asia-focused institution, which receives a substantial portion its funding from the U.S. government and where Hillary Clinton has made policy speeches on the rebalance.

3. Be present: Researchers and staff should be required to attend and participate in local conferences and events that address regional issues. This should be mandated regardless of whether they are invited as panel contributors or not. A thin budget may limit travel to off-island conferences, but there is little excuse for absence when local and regional partner institutions come together.

4. Open doors wide to the Hawaii community of practice and regional partners: Given its extensive and optimal space, the EWC should fashion itself as a hub of thinking and dialogue, not only for the university campus, but also for the broad spectrum of Hawaii-based organizations and their respective partners throughout Indo-Pacific Asia. This will require deliberate outreach and must be pursued as such. Easy starting points would be making Wi-Fi free and accessible to visitors, hosting week’s end pau hanas for staff and institutional partners, and making its Imin International Conference Center facilities available at indirect or no cost to its on-island partners for conferences, events, and meetings.

5. Activate the alumni network through engagement with real issues and resources designed to cultivate a sense of shared community: Fellows leaving the EWC to return home should be armed with valuable connections to the EWC network in their country. The Center should master its social media platforms, not only those used in the U.S., but also the most popular platforms in Asia. Alumni conferences should be held in the more accessible urban hubs of Asia, have invited speakers who are named in advance and are genuine influencers rather than dignitaries, and include panel discussions focused on specific, relevant, and critical issues. Site visits at these conferences should be utilized to connect participants with dynamic agents of societal change, rather than cultural sightseeing tours primarily for the benefit of American attendees.

6. Become Pacific Command’s integral civilian counterpart for engagement in the region: The United States spent more than a decade relearning the concept of civilian-military coordination and planning. The EWC did not benefit from that valuable experience and inescapable need. This is accentuated by the fact that the EWC does not have a single staff member with experience in Iraq or Afghanistan and has no process for engaging with the military directly. The president should make it a priority to build bridges with Pacific Command and cultivate a joint civilian-military partnership, which reflects the reality of U.S. engagement in the region. Likewise, the EWC should be deeply connected to the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Waikiki. The opportunities for synergistic value-added between both institutions and their respective beneficiaries are too great to ignore. Pretenses that the EWC’s mission should be kept quarantined from the U.S. military’s role in the region is an outdated concept that is self-deceiving at best and counterproductive at worst. Civilian institutions have a vital role to play in shaping the military’s understanding of the region and that can only be accomplished if there is a real and active relationship.

Absent these critical changes, the East-West Center will continue its slide into a state of irrelevance that has been years in the making. This should not be the path for an institution that could be a key agent of forward-thinking dialogue and understanding in an East-West relationship in great need of it.

===========================

Jesse Wolfe is the editor-in-chief of the Indo-Pacific Review. He is a former U.S. Marine officer and U.S. Department of State political advisor. Jesse is a graduate of Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and is based in Honolulu.

ENDS

Tangent: NYT Op-Ed: Foreigners Are Attacking … American TV, within US TV programs. Contrast with Japan.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  In my previous blog entry, I mentioned the disenfranchisement of foreigners from Japanese media, and my upcoming book (out in November) will discuss further the effects of that in terms of tolerance of difference and counteracting public defamation.  As a Debito.org Tangent, let’s contrast this with the degree of access that foreigners in America have to influence the domestic narrative and talking points.  I don’t know how unusual this is on a country-to-country scale (Debito.org Readers are welcome to mention the foreign anchors/pundits holding court outside the US and Japan), but given the influence that American media has worldwide, this is not a small matter.  The NYT does a survey below.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Foreigners Are Attacking … American TV!
By VIKAS BAJAJ New York Times MARCH 30, 2015
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/31/opinion/foreigners-are-attacking-american-tv.html

American late-night television shows have probably never had so many anchors with foreign accents as they will have soon. Trevor Noah, a South African comedian, will become at least the third non-American native to host a popular TV comedy show later this year when he takes over “The Daily Show” from Jon Stewart. He will join two Britons, John Oliver of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” and James Corden, who recently started hosting “The Late Late Show” on CBS.

Mr. Noah is an unconventional choice to host a show on American television, which has had plenty of British actors and comedians over the years. He was born to a black Xhosa mother and a white Swiss father and is from a country where mixed race unions are still uncommon. And, perhaps most important, many Americans have never heard or seen him perform.

But Mr. Noah’s foreignness might be just what the “The Daily Show” and American television broadly need. It is hard to remember now, but when Mr. Stewart took over the show and later spun off “The Colbert Report,” fake news was not a big part of our comedy diet. Yes, there was the Weekend Update segment on “Saturday Night Live,” but it came on just once a week and did not always deliver the goods.

Maybe what we really need now is to have foreigners apply their brand of satire to the United States — its politics, culture and race relations — to tell us something about ourselves that our homegrown comedians are not capturing. And they can perhaps also enlighten us about what’s funny and tragic in the rest of the world as Mr. Oliver has done ably on his show. Aside from a few jokes about Europe, most late-night shows rarely dwell on international subjects.

Still, Mr. Noah’s appointment has disappointed some fans of “The Daily Show” who had hoped that Comedy Central would pick a woman like Samantha Bee, who is leaving the show to start her own satirical program on TBS. It is disappointing that none of the several late-night shows on the air now are hosted by a woman. Perhaps, Ms. Bee will so successfully shatter that glass ceiling that the executives at other networks will seek out more women to be hosts.

There will probably also be criticism from some quarters that Mr. Noah, Mr. Oliver and Mr. Corden represent a foreign invasion of television that is depriving hard-working American comedians of important jobs. Just last week, a columnist for Deadline.com suggested that some deserving white actors were not getting roles on new TV shows because the industry was designating many more characters as reserved for nonwhite actors.

I for one am looking forward to Mr. Noah’s stint in the anchor chair. I found his three appearances on “The Daily Show” to be funny in a unique way — watch him explain why it was bad for the United States to try to lure top chess players away from other countries. And I laughed at clips of his standup act in which he mimics the odd speaking style of President Jacob Zuma of South Africa. I hope he is just as unsparing to our politicians.

ENDS

Japan Times JBC 87 May 4, 2015: Interview with M.G. Sheftall: “Japan-U.S. effort to tell Kamikaze suicide pilots’ stories dodges controversy, wins praise”

mytest

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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hello Blog. Here’s the opening to my latest Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column. There will be a longer version containing the whole hourlong interview with Dr. Sheftall out in a few days. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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justbecauseicon.jpg

THE JAPAN TIMES: ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE
Japan-U.S. effort to tell suicide pilots’ stories dodges controversy, wins praise
BY DR. DEBITO ARUDOU. MAY 3, 2015
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/05/03/issues/japan-u-s-effort-tell-suicide-pilots-stories-dodges-controversy-wins-praise/

Dr. M.G. Sheftall, professor of modern Japanese history at Shizuoka University and author of “Blossoms in the Wind: Human Legacies of the Kamikaze,” was in Honolulu last month for the dedication of a temporary exhibition about the Tokkō kamikaze suicide pilots aboard the battleship USS Missouri, the site of Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II. JBC sat down for an interview with Dr. Sheftall about the kamikaze phenomenon and what makes this exhibition unique.

Q: So, what’s going on here?

You’ve witnessed something very historic, because the exhibit is the first about any kind of Japanese military activity in the modern era ever held outside of Japan with Japanese cooperation — in this case, with the Chiran Peace Museum on the kamikaze in southern Kyushu.

What makes the USS Missouri an especially relevant venue is that it is to my knowledge only one of two still-existing ships — the other being the USS Intrepid — that were actually hit by kamikaze during the war. The USS Missouri was hit on April 12, 1945, exactly 70 years ago.

There’s a feel-good aspect to this story — very hard to do when you’re talking about kamikaze attacks. The bomb on the plane that hit the Missouri did not detonate. The wreckage spilled onto the deck and amidst that was the pilot’s remains. When the crew was putting out the fire, the initial reaction had been to hose his remains off the deck. But the captain of the USS Missouri, William Callaghan, announced to the crew: “No, we’re going to give him a proper military burial. Now that he’s dead, he’s not the enemy anymore. He’s just another human being, like you and me, who died for his country.”

The next day the crew formed on deck to consign their fallen former enemy to the depths with full naval honors. They even made a Japanese flag shroud from old unused signal flags.

I think that’s a nice story. If there can be some recognition of humanity even in such circumstances, that shows hope for human beings in an otherwise insane and irrational situation dominated by hatred and fear.

Q: How many ships were sunk in the kamikaze campaigns? …

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Rest of the article up at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/05/03/issues/japan-u-s-effort-tell-suicide-pilots-stories-dodges-controversy-wins-praise/.

Feel free to comment below.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

1912 essay: “Japanese Children are no Menace in Hawaii” (from a “Prosperity-Sharing System for Plantation Laborers” handbook), with surprisingly inclusive arguments

mytest

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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog.  Here’s something very interesting I found while researching other things, and the first step I’m taking to start grounding my research in a Hawaiian context.  An old essay in a plantation-era manual on “sharing prosperity” amongst the capitalists in the islands, talking about Japanese newcomers and second-generationers.  Written more than 100 years ago, it offers perspectives long before their time, and also attitudes more inclusive than I would anticipate.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Here are the pages scanned (click on image to expand in browser), with full text retyped below them:

Meadprosperitysharing1Meadprosperitysharingsystem002Meadprosperitysharingsystem003

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JAPANESE CHILDREN ARE NO MENACE IN HAWAII
AMERICAN-HAWAII, PEOPLE AND INDUSTRIES
(By Wallace K. Farrington)
From “Prosperity-Sharing System for Plantation Laborers”, by Royal D. Mead, 1912

One of the favorite fads of the alarmists is to point with fear and trembling to the large number of Japanese children who are supposed to be growing up in the Territory of Hawaii, and who are expected, by the alarmists, to control the electorate at some future day.

Japanese born in the Territory may of course elect to accept American citizenship and vote. Theoretically they might overwhelm the population other than Japanese-American. But it is to be supposed that people of other races and nationalities will not cease to grow and increase.

The facts are that there is a steady exodus of Japanese children born in these islands to the homes of Japanese parents in Japan. In other words a very large proportion of the Japanese send their children back to Japan as soon as they are old enough to travel.

This is proved by the statistics. For the seven years from 1905 to 1911 inclusive the departures of Japanese children for Japan from the port of Honolulu exceeded the arrivals by 6,734. In other words excess of Japanese children born in the islands and sent back to the home of their parents in Japan amounted to about one thousand a year for seven years. This exodus is going on continually.

It is true that the parents of many of these children previous to their being sent away take out certificates of birth showing that they were born in Hawaii.

The records of the office of the Secretary of the Territory gives the fol-lowing totals of certificates of Hawaiian birth, which it should be understood is merely a record of American birth, for the years under comparison:

HAWAIIAN BIRTH CERTIFICATES ISSUED TO JAPANESE.

MINORS

Year Males Females Total [if difficult to understand, click on pages above to see original charts]

1906 60 6

1907 16 0 16

1908 353 42 395

1909 715 68 783

1910 2611 325 2936

1911 7 8 15

3708 443 4151

ADULTS

Year Males Females Total

1907 213

1908 437

1909 404

1910 7 6 13

1911 011

17 11 28

It thus appears that less than two-thirds of the excess of Hawaiian-born Japanese who were sent back to the homes of their parents took out certificates to establish the fact that they were born on American territory.

The purpose of securing these certificates is undoubtedly to assure these children the right of free entry to the United States should at any future time rules be laid down by Japan or the United States to restrict the movement of the Japanese laboring classes between the two countries.

The Hawaiian-born Japanese as shown by the records of the Japanese consulate in Honolulu for the years 1905 and 1911 inclusive a period of seven years, amounted to a total of 18, 775 divided as follows:

Year ….. 1905 1906 1907

Male ….. 1167 988 1134

Female … 1070 933 1045

Total ….. 2237 1921 2179

1908 1909 1910 1911 Grand Total

1505 1578 1668 1608   9, 648

1365 1428 1832 1454   9, 127

2870 2006 3500 3062   18, 775

Taking into consideration the death rate for this period, it would be safe to say that during the seven years, inclusive, a surplus of ten thousand Japanese children male and female remained in the Territory of Hawaii to become citizens of the United States.

If none other than Japanese children were born in Hawaii from year to year the alarmists might have some ground for their fear. The Portuguese-American and the Hawaiian-Americans are more prolific than the Japanese, and there is also the Chi-nese-American and the Caucasian races to be taken into account. It should also be borne in mind that there is a steadily increased influx of Americans from the mainland.

To claim or expect that these Japanese children will control the electorate in the sense of voting as a unit is preposterous.

It should be remembered that these children are attending the American schools. They are instructed in the English language. They are in their play and in the work associated with the American children of all classes and thus are growing up in an American atmosphere.

On this point we quote from an article by Prof. M. M. Scott, principal of the McKinley High school and a foremost educator of Hawaii for many years. This article was published in a previous issue of the Bulletin “People and Places of Hawaii. ” In this Mr. Scott says:

“To show more clearly the voting population in the near future, it may not be amiss to give the statistics of the school population for the year taken from the report of the superintendent of Public Instruction: nationalities: Hawaiian,4767; half-castes, 3691; American, 999; British, 189; German, 265; Portuguese, 4777; Scandinavian, 67; Japanese, 6095; Chinese, 2797; Porto Ricans, 447; Korean, 168; unclassified, 594.

“It will be seen from this table that nearly 9000 of the approximate 25, 000 children in all the schools, both public and private are Orientals, i. e., Japanese and Chinese. There are no compiled figures ready at hand to show the number of these two nationalities born here. Most of the Japanese native to the territory are of very recent birth, as it is for the last few years only that the Japanese brought their women folk here. They are a Virile and fecund race. Though most of the Japanese in Hawaii are young and vigorous men in the prime of manhood, either unmarried or have left their wives in Japan, yet last year were born 3024 Japanese children in this territory.

“There are some that are concerned lest these children, growing up here will not assimilate to American ideals. They have too intense a patriotism for their own country, it is said. Such criticism ignores a well established truth that those who have no love for their native land or race, will not become patriotic adopted citizens. The Japanese have ever been a loyal people. Under feudalism, they were almost fantastically loyal to their feudal lord. Feudalism being abolished, their loyalty was with equal zeal transferred to the Emperor—to Japan as a whole. Ambassador Uchida recently touching Honolulu on his way to Washington, advised the Japanese boys born here, and intending to live here, to become patriotic American citizens.

“The American public school is the great assimilating crucible, which transfuses and blends the various nationalities. How could it be otherwise? One language, one literature, one playground, the same songs, manners and customs—coupled with mild and just laws, giving equal opportunities to all, irrespective of race.

“Nor is this mere theory. There have been born in Hawaii both Chinese and Japanese, educated here to man’s and woman’s estate, and, going back to their own country, have found themselves entirely at variance and out of sympathy with things there. Provision is made in Hawaii for the sound education of all its youth of all nationalities, in a public school system not surpassed in any state or territory of the mainland. Education is free and compulsory. A school is kept open for forty-two weeks in the year in the remotest country districts. It would he an anomaly to find an adult Hawaiian who can not read and write, most of them in both English and Hawaiian. This laudable foresight in providing means for the training of the young originated with the early missionaries, whose descendants, many of whom are now men and women of wealth and social influence, are leaders in all the activities that make for the betterment of the rising generation of all our races. Interest in education is not confined to any one class. Planters, business men, lawyers, doctors—all urge upon every legislature the importance of generous provisions for the education of the youth of the land. ”

There is nothing in evidence thus far to show that the Japanese-American citizen will not make as loyal and trustworthy an American as the other races and nationalities that have been absorbed by the American body politic and are now numbered among the Americans who set the highest standards of citizenship.

Of course Hawaii is doing something new in this connection. But the first fruits of the Chinese-American gives every promised that the American influence in Hawaii over the Oriental of the Far East will be as bene-flcient and will develop as certainly a good and loyal American as the Americanism of the Eastern and Middle States in its influence on the Oriental of the Asia Minor, Russia and the population of what is in general terms the Near East.

No American need worry over the future of Hawaii’s Americanism if the present immigration policy, agreeable to both Japan and the United States, is followed out. That is, to allow Hawaii to assimilate what Oriental population it already has, and at the same time balance the proportions by allowing, for a time a larger immigration of toilers from Europe.

ENDS

Post #2500: Dr. M.G. “Bucky” Sheftall’s speeches at the opening of “Kamikaze” suicide pilots exhibit aboard USS Missouri, Apr 10 and 11, 2015

mytest

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Hi Blog. To celebrate Debito.org’s 2500th Blog Post (not including all of the other sites for example here, here, and here in the ten years before the blog was established), I am proud to have the privilege of putting up two important speeches by friend and colleague Dr. M.G. “Bucky” Sheftall of Shizuoka University, author of “Blossoms in the Wind: Human Legacies of the Kamikaze” (Penguin, 2005)

These speeches were given on April 10 and 11, 2015, to commemorate the opening of a temporary exhibit of historical artifacts and records of “Kamikaze” suicide pilots. This important exhibition is currently below decks for at least the next six months aboard the USS Missouri (yes, the site where Japan surrendered and ended WWII), anchored at Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii. It is open to the public, featuring things from the Chiran Peace Museum near Kagoshima, Kyushu, never before seen outside of Japan. I was in attendance at both events, and it made several US newspapers (the front page of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (subscription only), on Hawaii NewsNow, and the Los Angeles Times, inter alia) as well as some Japanese media. The ceremony itself took place on the 70th Anniversary of a suicide pilot colliding with the Missouri (its bomb did not explode), with many people on both sides of the Pacific in attendance.

BuckySpeaksMissouri041015

I’ll let Bucky tell the rest of the story. First the shorter speech of April 11, then the longer one with more context and intents of April 10. Read and have a think about how some people are wresting control of Japan’s wartime narrative into a less jingoistic direction. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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SPEECH BY MAYOR SHIMO-IDE OF CHIRAN, MINAMI-KYUSHU CITY, KAGOSHIMA. TRANSLATED AND READ BY DR. M.G. “BUCKY” SHEFTALL
USS MISSOURI, HONOLULU, HAWAII, APRIL 11, 2015

戦艦ミズーリ記念館 セレモニー 市長挨拶
Ladies and gentlemen, Aloha, good morning, ohayo gozaimasu.
First, on behalf of the city of Minamikyushu, Japan, I would like to thank the Battleship Missouri Memorial and its staff for giving us this opportunity to exhibit artifacts from our city’s collection of kamikaze pilot letters and personal effects in this historic and symbolic place.

Seventy years ago, our two nations were at war with one another. 
Seventy years ago to this very day, on April Eleventh, Nineteen Forty-Five, a nineteen-year-old Japanese kamikaze pilot crashed his aircraft into this ship — only a few yards from where I am standing. But even in the midst of bitter war, even as lookouts scanned the skies for more attackers, the captain and crew of the Missouri held a military funeral for the dead pilot with honor and respect.

Seventy years ago, the captain and crew of the USS Missouri were able to recognize humanity shared with a fallen enemy. I believe that spirit lives on in this ship, and that it is what allows us to gather here today on the occasion of the opening of the first exhibit on kamikaze history ever held outside of Japan, triumphant over the bitterness and hatred our nations had for one another in a past still within living memory.

In the last months of the war – a war which started with an attack by Japan upon this very spot in 1941 – our town saw off many, many kamikaze missions. It is regrettable that we cannot undo a past in which our two countries were once at war. But now, seventy years later, through this historic exhibit at the Battleship Missouri Memorial, we are provided with an opportunity to stand together steadfastly and look back upon that past in a spirit of reconciliation and mutual understanding.

President John F. Kennedy once said “Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.”All of us gathered here today, and everyone else on this planet, wants peace on earth. And certainly, all of us share from the bottom of our hearts the hope and the prayer that the human race never again sees a war on the scale of destruction and ferocity of the bitter conflict between our two countries seventy years ago. I sincerely believe that this exhibit represents a step, even though maybe only a small step, in the cause of peace not only for our countries, but also for East Asia and the world as a whole.

Finally, I would like to thank the president, curator and staff of the Battleship Missouri Memorial and everyone else who, through their patience, cooperation and great efforts, have helped to make this exhibit possible. Together with my prayers for the success of the exhibit, I also offer my sincerest gratitude. Thank you.
ENDS
///////////////////////////////////////////////////

Kamikaze Lecture April 10, 2015
Written and delivered by Dr. M.G. “Bucky” Sheftall
USS Missouri, Honolulu, Hawaii

Ladies and gentlemen, Aloha, and mahalo for inviting and joining me here this evening. I would like to give a special mahalo to the hard work and generous hospitality of the Battleship Missouri Memorial staff in providing this spectacular and profoundly historic and symbolic venue for my talk, in which I will try to put into appropriate context two events of direct relevance to why we are gathered here on the fantail of this legendary warship.

One of these events involved a 19-year-old man – a boy, really – named Setsuo Ishino crashing a Mitsubishi Zero fighter plane in a kamikaze attack against this ship, hitting it about twenty yards from where I stand, exactly seventy years ago to the day tomorrow. I have spent the past fifteen years of my academic career attempting to figure out why thousands of sane, rational young Japanese men like Ishino did what they did, and were able to do what they did, in 1944-45. And make no mistake about it, as you will see when you read their letters later on when we go belowdecks to see the exhibit, these young men WERE sane and rational – I believe it was rather the circumstances into which they were thrown in 1944-45 that were insane, and irrational.

I have also studied why and how those young men could be ordered to do what they did by ostensibly sane and rational senior military professionals.

Likewise, I have tried to figure out how the populace of an entire nation – in full knowledge via Japanese state mass media at the time of exactly what the “kamikaze” concept entailed, in all of its tragic, gruesome details – could cheer the kamikaze pilots on for the last ten months of the war, sure to the very end that the kamikaze campaign waged by both the Imperial Army and Navy was sure to miraculously rescue them and bring the nation a glorious victory even as Japan’s cities were being burned to the ground every night by American B-29s. To put that era of magical thinking in sharper perspective, during the ten months that constant news headlines and stirring radio broadcasts about the kamikaze gave the Japanese nation the will and hope to keep fighting on in their lost war, approximately half of Japan’s two million military fatalities in the entire conflict and the vast majority of its civilian fatalities were suffered.

In the limited time we have this evening, I hope I can shed at least a little light upon – and do justice to the weight of – the extremely complex issues related to the kamikaze phenomenon, none of which can in any case be explained with single, simple answers.

The second relevant event I would like to put in proper context is about to happen, also tomorrow, and also on this ship, but several decks below the spot where young Setsuo Ishino’s Zero hit the Big Mo. And here, I am of course referring to the “kamikaze artifacts” exhibit featuring letters, uniforms, and other personal effects of kamikaze pilots – the first exhibit of its kind ever held outside of Japan – that will open here at the Battleship Missouri Memorial tomorrow morning.

Before proceeding, I would like to make a note regarding terminology. I am aware that the term “kamikaze” is pretty much standard around the world – outside of Japan, that is, where it is eschewed for various reasons – for describing the late-war Japanese military tactic of the deliberate crashing of aircraft into targets. However, in the interest of historical accuracy, of avoiding stereotypes fossilized by decades worth of lurid Sergeant Rock comic books and tacky slang usage, and most importantly, at least for me, in the interest of ease of elocution, for the rest of my talk, instead of the term “kamikaze”, I am going to use the phrase “tokkō”, which is a Japanese abbreviation of the euphemistic military expression “tokubetsu kōgeki” or “special attack”. So, from hereon out, it’s not “kamikaze”, but “tokkō”. Everyone on board with that?

So, let’s move on to what I’m pretty sure is the first question about tokkō that is probably at the front of everyone’s mind this evening, NAMELY, “Why did they do it?” That is a simple and quite reasonable question to which there are, unfortunately, and at risk of repeating myself, no simple and reasonable single answers. This issue is so complex that, in my fifteen-odd years of study dedicated to it, I think I have barely scratched its surface, and I doubt I will ever figure it all out. Actually, I doubt anyone ever will or can. Nevertheless, I will try to share with you now a summary of some of the fruits of all of that surface-scratching the Japanese taxpayer has been paying me to do for the past fifteen years.

First and foremost, tokkō should be approached from the perspective of brute military expedience. By the time the Japanese military began deploying tokkō, it had already endured a nearly two-year-long steady stream of military defeats and setbacks since the heady period of initial Japanese successes in the first 12 months of the war.

One specific development in the overall dire military situation which had direct influence on the eventual deployment of tokkō was Japan’s near complete loss of air superiority – or even anything approaching air parity — in just about every theater of operations against Allied forces from at least early 1943 on. This loss of air superiority extended to the Japanese Home Islands themselves by late 1944. This turning of the tide of the Pacific war in the air can in large part be credited to new American fighter designs such as the Grumman Hellcat which were not only superior to but in fact specifically designed to destroy the previously overwhelmingly dominant Japanese fighter types. But most credit in this case must be given to the sheer economic and strategic inevitability of what was bound from the start to happen to Japan’s war fortunes when America’s industries tooled up to full war emergency power, so to speak, and the American populace mobilized itself psychologically and steeled itself emotionally for a long, brutal fight against a determined enemy the final outcome of which was nevertheless never in question even when oil fires and burning warships blackened the skies over this very spot on December 7, 1941.

Of course, in an aviation-dominated conflict such as the Pacific Theater, the loss of air superiority was, at the risk of gross understatement, a critical setback for the Japanese military – particularly the Imperial Navy and Merchant Marine, upon which the new Japanese Empire was even more dependent than the old British Empire had been upon its own maritime resources. Without the ability to put up a decent fight in the air, Japanese forces could neither take the fight to the enemy nor adequately defend themselves when the enemy took the fight to them – something that was happening with increasing frequency and intensity from early 1943 on. When Japanese surface vessels sortied out to close for combat, they were as often as not sunk by Allied aircraft before they ever saw an enemy warship. Without the ability to put up solid resistance in the air, the Japanese military could neither stop nor even significantly slow down the Allied fleets that were breaching the ramparts of the Japanese Empire on all fronts and beginning to close in on the Japanese Home Islands themselves by late 1944, when the tokkō tactic made its official debut at the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines in October of that year.

When Western writers attempt to address the issue of tokkō, their approach all too often has a vaguely patronizing, Rudyard Kipling-esque, almost touristy feel to it – a tendency to draw facile parallels to the samurai ethos and the like – lots of misty imagery of mountaintop Zen temples and harakiri scenes and purple prose about cherry blossoms and such – in other words, to write the tokkō phenomenon off to a case of some kind of exotic, inscrutable Japanese weirdness. I do not approve of this trope in Western writing on the subject of tokkō, and have always tried to avoid it unless I am mentioning it in the specific case of wartime Japanese propaganda’s prodigious efforts to sell the tokkō concept to the general public and to the military rank-and-file using similarly flowery and self-exoticizing imagery – portraying tokkō as something springing up naturally from some native, ancient, magical samurai spirit in the Japanese soul – as opposed to being something mapped out as a desperation tactic in a naval planning room and ordered to be performed by adolescent pilots who had no choice in the matter of their personal fate. Yes, if I were a 1944 Japanese propagandist tasked with selling the tokkō concept to the Japanese public, I certainly would have opted for the misty mountain cherry blossom samurai imagery, too. As stirring PR, it’s brilliant.

So, minus all of the “East is East, West is West, and never the twain shall meet” boilerplate, and keeping our emotive adjectives and adverbs to a bare minimum, what was tokkō was all about?:

From October 1944, the Imperial Japanese military – choosing to continue fighting in a combat environment in which air superiority had been completely and irretrievably ceded to the enemy – began fielding what were, in dispassionate, brutally frank terms of intended tactical utility, guided anti-ship missiles. The technology that could be applied to these “guided missiles”, however, was limited to what was available to the Japanese military in 1944-45.

Technological limitations, the exigencies of a rapidly deteriorating tactical and strategic situation, and perhaps, the temptation of having on hand a ready supply of young men that were – thanks to three generations of intensive state education for this very role – capable of any sacrifice (or at least incapable of refusing orders to make any sacrifice) for their cause – all had direct bearing on the decision to commit to tokkō. With the luxury of such human resources at hand, Japanese planners reached the conclusion that a human brain and body – i.e., a pilot – comprised the most pragmatic and effective option available for the target acquisition and guidance control system necessary for this anti-ship missile, while a bomb-laden high performance military aircraft was regarded as the most practical choice for its ballistic component. “Successful” deployment of the weapon, of necessity, involved the inevitable destruction of the human “guidance system” when the “missile” was crashed into its target – generally an Allied warship. The Japanese military had these resources at hand in 1944-45, and they were used to pursue the war effort.

Now, all of this raises a second very important question, namely, “Did anyone in Japan try to stop the decision to go all out on tokkō tactics?” There was, initially, a measure of opposition within the military to the expenditure of human lives in such a horrific manner – even Vice Admiral Takijiro Ohnishi, who would go on to be the first flag officer to give tokkō orders in the field, went on record in a high level Tokyo naval strategy meeting as being opposed to using men and aircraft in this manner when the concept – which Ohnishi initially called tōsotsu no gedō or “military apostasy” — first began getting airtime in high-ranking naval circles after major defeats at Guadalcanal and the Aleutians.

However, the general panic in the wake of the fall of Saipan in 1944 – now putting Japan itself within range of B-29 bases which could not be neutralized by Japanese land forces (unlike US bases in China) – the success of the tokkō tactic’s debut at Leyte Gulf, and perhaps of equal importance, the extreme ingroup conformity and groupthink that characterized Japanese military culture of the era, are all factors that contributed to the silencing of most would-be critics of tokkō. From then on until the end of the war it was acknowledged by the overwhelming majority of field commanders in both the Imperial Navy and Army that the new “guided anti-ship missile” was capable of accuracy and destructive power far greater than what was by then considered obtainable with conventional air tactics against superior Allied forces. As the thinking at the time went, if all of the nation’s military pilots were going to be killed anyway in lopsidedly unequal air combat, why not make their deaths count by striking powerful blows against the enemy? So tokkō was used. And once tokkō entered the public imagination via the mass media, with the military now so publicly and irreversibly committed to the tactic, no one had the nerve to try to stop the whole catastrophic process once it was set in motion. Not even the Emperor himself, who is reported to have stood and solemnly bowed in the direction of the Philippines when told the news of the first “official” tokkō deployment at Leyte Gulf.

And as far as the general populace was concerned? As I intimated previously, the tokkō pilots were collectively presented to the public – and received rock star-like adoration from that public – as dashing young heroes. The mass media record of the era makes unquestionably clear that there was a huge amount of public support for tokkō – both of the sincere and, one suspects, prudent lip-service variety – while the war was going on. No one questioned the tactic, or the sacrifice, or the meaning of it all in wartime Japanese print or broadcast.

For the most part, young, usually unmarried pilots with little or no previous combat experience carried out the tokkō missions. By war’s end, some 5,843 of these young men, many if not most as “volunteers” in name only, had died in tokkō attacks (the vast majority of these aerial tokkō attacks as opposed to manned torpedoes or suicide motorboats) that sank or damaged over 200 Allied ships and killed or wounded approximately 15,000 Allied servicemen, also resulting in the highest rate of psychological casualties – then referred to as “combat fatigue”, and what would today be referred to as PTSD – ever seen before or since in the history of the American armed forces.

So, what do the Japanese think of the tokkō legacy now?

Even though tokkō casualties amounted to less than one percent of the total Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) aviation casualties and only a slightly higher fraction of Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) aviation casualties during the war, the tokkō legacy has continued to be a tremendously symbolic and emotionally powerful feature of the postwar Japanese psychological landscape. The existence of a Japanese institution such as the Chiran Peace Museum, which has cooperated in putting together the exhibition here, is proof of the symbolic and emotional power the tokkō legacy continues to have in Postwar Japan, and proof, perhaps, that this legacy has yet to be completely worked out in popular Japanese historical consciousness. This is true not only for Japanese whose lives were personally and directly affected by tokkō during the war, but I think for all other Japanese since. While it is clear that tokkō was and continues to be something of which millions of Japanese are proud (and one suspects this sentiment is publicly expressed with varying degrees of sincerity and conviction, and privately embraced with varying degrees of cognitive dissonance involved), it is also clear that the tokkō legacy poses a weighty belief dilemma in Japanese discourse regarding national identity – both during and since the war.

Specifically, the essentially overlapping legacies of tokkō-as-historical legacy and tokkō-as-real-time-official military policy have posed particularly hard questions in the following areas: firstly, about the moral implications for those involved in conceiving, carrying out and or otherwise supporting the tokkō campaign in real-time; secondly, about how the tokkō legacy will and SHOULD be treated by historical posterity; and lastly, about how this legacy should be explained (if at all) to current and future generations of Japanese young people. The tokkō legacy might even be said to raise – and I believe it should be ALLOWED to raise – hard questions about the nature and responsibility of a society and political system under which such a tactic could be conceived and executed by its leadership, unquestioningly obeyed by the military rank-and-file, and enthusiastically supported to the degree that it was by that society’s members.

Frankly, I do not think most Japanese want to see Japan become a country like that again – either willingly, out of some kind of misguided cultural nostalgia, or forced to become so by circumstance – with the nation backed into a corner again like it was in 1944-45. And I KNOW no OTHER country wants to see Japan become like that again. The efforts, cooperation, generosity, and moral courage of the city of Minamikyushu and its Chiran Peace Museum in helping to put this exhibition together at Big Mo are proof aplenty that there are movements afoot in Japan to begin the necessary and long overdue process of negotiating explanatory narratives about Japan’s war experience that are acceptable not only for certain domestic Japanese niche audiences, but which are acceptable globally, as well, including with former enemies the loathing and fear of whom still exist in living Japanese memory. These developments and the aspirations for world peace they entail can ONLY have positive consequences for Japan, for the region of East Asia, and for Japan’s national image around the world. It is win-win for everyone involved. Through this reaching out to a former enemy in this literally historically unprecedented exhibit, Chiran is blazing a trail – it is showing the rest of Japan – and ALL OF US – how it can be done, how a commitment to remembering the past can and must put to rest, once and for all, simmering, lingering resentments and hatred about that past. And we are all the better off for these efforts. As you join me below decks later, I ask that you keep that idea in your mind as we explore this exciting new exhibit, and to also keep in mind the idea that you can acknowledge another human being’s humanity and honor his memory and sacrifice without being compelled to glorify, rationalize, or romanticize the cause for which he was sacrificed or, and this certainly applies in this case, without being compelled to attempt to glorify, rationalize, or otherwise romanticize the manner in which that sacrifice was made. Captain William Callaghan and the crew of the USS Missouri taught us as much not twenty yards away from where we are gathered, 69 years and 363 days ago. It is a lesson we should never forget. Thank you for your attention this evening.

ENDS

Koike Yuriko in World Economic Forum: “Why inequality is different in Japan” (= because “We Japanese have a deeply ingrained stoicism”)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Shifting gears a little, here we have another LDP spokesperson peddling Japan’s exceptionalism to worldwide socioeconomic forces, and to an international audience.  While food for thought, it’s clear by the end that this is just Koike shilling for PM Abe’s economic policies, spiced up with some Nihonjinron.  Once again Japan gets away with shoehorning in “Japan-is-unique” mysticism within any social scientific analysis just because Japanese are seen as “funny quirky people from an island country affected by a long history of self-imposed isolation”.  I’ll be talking a bit about the politics of that in my next Japan Times column, coming up on Monday April 6 (out on Mondays now starting in April).  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Why inequality is different in Japan
By Yuriko Koike
World Economic Forum, Mar 2 2015, courtesy of GD
https://agenda.weforum.org/2015/03/why-inequality-is-different-in-japan/

Six months after Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century generated so much buzz in the United States and Europe, it has become a bestseller in Japan. But vast differences between Japan and its developed counterparts in the West, mean that, like so many other Western exports, Piketty’s argument has taken on unique characteristics.

Piketty’s main assertion is that the leading driver of increased inequality in the developed world is the accumulation of wealth by those who are already wealthy, driven by a rate of return on capital that consistently exceeds the rate of GDP growth. Japan, however, has lower levels of inequality than almost every other developed country. Indeed, though it has long been an industrial powerhouse, Japan is frequently called the world’s most successful communist country.Japan has a high income-tax rate for the rich (45%), and the inheritance tax rate recently was raised to 55%. This makes it difficult to accumulate capital over generations – a trend that Piketty cites as a significant driver of inequality.

As a result, Japan’s richest families typically lose their wealth within three generations. This is driving a growing number of wealthy Japanese to move to Singapore or Australia, where inheritance taxes are lower. The familiarity of Japan, it seems, is no longer sufficient to compel the wealthy to endure the high taxes imposed upon them.

In this context, it is not surprising that Japan’s “super-rich” remain a lot less wealthy than their counterparts in other countries. In the US, for example, the average income of the top one percent of households was $1,264,065 in 2012, according to the investment firm Sadoff Investment Research. In Japan, the top 1% of households earned about $240,000, on average (at 2012 exchange rates).

Yet Japanese remain sensitive to inequality, driving even the richest to avoid ostentatious displays of wealth. One simply does not see the profusion of mansions, yachts, and private jets typical of, say, Beverly Hills and Palm Beach.

For example, Haruka Nishimatsu, former President and CEO of Japan Airlines, attracted international attention a few years ago for his modest lifestyle. He relied on public transportation and ate lunch with employees in the company’s cafeteria. By contrast, in China, the heads of national companies are well known for maintaining grandiose lifestyles.

We Japanese have a deeply ingrained stoicism, reflecting the Confucian notion that people do not lament poverty when others lament it equally. This willingness to accept a situation, however bad, as long as it affects everyone equally is what enabled Japan to endure two decades of deflation, without a public outcry over the authorities’ repeated failure to redress it.

This national characteristic is not limited to individuals. The government, the central bank, the media, and companies wasted far too much time simply enduring deflation – time that they should have spent working actively to address it.

Japan finally has a government, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, that is committed to ending deflation and reinvigorating economic growth, using a combination of expansionary monetary policy, active fiscal policy, and deregulation. Now in its third year, so-called “Abenomics” is showing some positive results. Share prices have risen by 220% since Abe came to power in December 2012. And corporate performance has improved – primarily in the export industries, which have benefited from a depreciated yen – with many companies posting their highest profits on record.

But Abenomics has yet to benefit everyone. In fact, there is a sense that Abe’s policies are contributing to rising inequality. That is why Piketty’s book appeals to so many Japanese.

For example, though the recent reduction in the corporate-tax rate was necessary to encourage economic growth and attract investment, it seems to many Japanese to be a questionable move at a time when the consumption-tax rate has been increased and measures to address deflation are pushing up prices. To address this problem, the companies that enjoy tax cuts should increase their employees’ wages to keep pace with rising prices, instead of waiting for market forces to drive them up.

Herein lies the unique twist that Piketty’s theory takes on in Japan: the disparity is not so much between the super-rich and everyone else, but between large corporations, which can retain earnings and accumulate capital, and the individuals who are being squeezed in the process.

==============================

This article is published in collaboration with Project Syndicate. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

Author: Yuriko Koike, Japan’s former defense minister and national security adviser, was Chairwoman of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party’s General Council and currently is a member of the National Diet.
ENDS

Tangent: AFP/Jiji: “Workaholic Japan considers making it compulsory to take vacation days.” Good news, if enforceable

mytest

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Hi Blog. As a tangent to what Debito.org usually takes up, let’s consider something interesting that affects everyone in Japan: the pretty insane work ethic.

Caveat: Having a society that works hard pays out enormous benefits in terms of convenience. Who can grumble about being able to, say, get a good meal at any time from a convenience store, or have bureaucrats and postal workers working on weekends? Well, those people working those kinds of jobs. And while I see a similar erosion of working hours in the United States (according to the OECD, both Americans and Japanese work fewer hours per year in 2013 than they did in 2000, but Americans still work more hours than Japanese — not surprising seeing how inhumane the amount of time people in retail have to work, especially here in Hawaii), one big issue is the ability to take vacations. I see people working full-time around here able to take sick days and even vacations without much blowback from their colleagues. Not in Japan, according to the article below. That’s why the GOJ is considering making the vacations mandatory.

This is good news. However, a closer consideration of the stats given below show an disturbing tendency: Western Europeans take almost all of their mandatory paid holidays off (up to more than a month), while Japanese take less than half of the half of the paid holidays days off they possibly could (i.e., around nine days a year, according to the article below). And what are the labor unions pushing for? Eight days. How underwhelming. Earn your dues, unions!

I think anyone reading Debito.org (since so many of us have worked for Japanese companies) understands why Japanese workers take so few days off and sometimes work themselves to death — peer pressure. Hey Kinmu Taro, how dare you duck out of the office for a vacation and thereby increase the workload for everyone else? How dare you even try to leave “early” on a daily basis. After all, “early” is defined as ahead of anyone else — you even have to embarrassingly announce “Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu” (“Excuse my rudeness for leaving ahead of you.”) as you walk out the door as an apparent show of good manners (it’s more a mutual policing strategy). So you work late, even if that means you just sit at the office until 7 or 8 PM waiting for the boss, who often has no real interests outside of the company, to leave first (or ask you out for drinks, although that Bubble-Era experience is probably a dying phenomenon). So you find make-work or skiving strategies to look busy, and thus the company soaks up the overwhelming majority of your waking hours, for six or even seven days a week.  To the point where the overwheming majority of Japanese workers are reportedly bored to bits on the job. I’m not saying anything here you probably don’t know already.  I’m just explaining why I opened this blog entry with calling Japan’s work ethic “insane”.

So of course, what with all this embedded bullying, making the holidays mandatory is the only way to go. If it’s enforceable, that is: you’ll have to be brave enough to take it up with the Labor Standards Bureau if your employer won’t play ball (given how many people already work on national holidays anyway, employers don’t). So this development is good news for everyone, except that it’s not really asking for more than what the average person takes off anyway. Not until people demand Western-European standards of vacationing culture will things change.  Clearly even Japan’s worker-representative labor unions are not about to do that (especially given the argument that the United States works even more hours).

I think Japanese corporate culture has immense trouble understanding that working longer does not equal working harder. Being able to take proper vacations is important in understanding how to work smarter — in order to increase worker productivity during the actual hours worked.  By being able to duck out for a vacation recharge when necessary without the stress of guilt interfering, I think the Americans have a bit more leeway to do that.

Labor productivity studies is not exactly my field, and I’m sure plenty of Debito.org Readers have their own opinions and experiences about the work ethic in Japan.  Opening this topic up for discussion.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Workaholic Japan considers making it compulsory to take vacation days
Japan Times/AFP-JIJI, FEB 4, 2015
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/02/04/business/workaholic-japan-considers-making-it-compulsory-to-take-vacation-days/

Who wouldn’t want a holiday?

In Japan, plenty of workers fail to take their paid vacation allowance. The Abe administration is now considering making it compulsory for workers to take at least five days of paid holiday a year, in a bid to lessen the toll on mental and physical health.

Workers typically use less than half their annual leave, according to a survey by the labor ministry that found employees in 2013 took only nine of their 18.5 days average entitlement.

A separate poll showed that one in six workers took no paid holidays at all that year.

The administration wants to boost the amount of paid leave used to 70 percent by 2020 and is planning to submit legislation in the current Diet session mandating holidays.

In early discussions, employers’ groups have proposed limiting the number of compulsory paid holidays to three days, while unions have called for eight.

The culture of long working hours and unpaid overtime is regularly criticized as a leading cause of mental and physical illness among employees.

The term “karoshi,” which means “death by overwork,” entered the lexicon a few years ago amid a surge in the number of people dying because of stress-related problems or taking their own lives.

According to a poll by the Japanese unit of Expedia, a U.S.-based online travel agency, workers in France enjoyed 37 paid holiday days in 2010 and used 93 percent of them.

Spain had 32 paid vacation days and Denmark 29, with the average employee using up more than 90 percent.

As well as the health benefits, days off encourage workers to spend money on leisure activities, thereby boosting the economy.

Japan has a relatively high 15 statutory holidays annually. In recent years there has been a move to shift the days so that they fall adjacent to the weekend, making domestic holidays more of a possibility.

This year for the first time there will be a five-day weekend in May and in September, to which it is expected some employees will add a few days’ leave to make their vacations longer.
ENDS

Japan Times JBC 84 Feb. 5, 2015, “At age 50, seeing the writing on the wall”

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Thanks to everyone for putting my seventh-anniversary Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column (yes, JBC has completed 84 columns now) once again in the Top Ten Trending articles on the Japan Times online for the umpteenth month in a row.  Here’s the full article now with links to sources.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg
At age 50, seeing the writing on the wall
BY DR. DEBITO ARUDOU
THE JAPAN TIMES, FEB 4, 2015  

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/02/04/issues/age-50-seeing-writing-wall/

This past month heralded two timely events. One is the seventh anniversary of JBC, with 84 columns out and counting. The other was my 50th birthday on Jan. 13. To commemorate, please indulge me this musing on the passage of time. Just because.

I’ve lived more than half a century now. Fortunately last month, no sudden fear of mortality prompted me to have a mid-life crisis or buy a sports car. I’ve actually been aware of the aging process for decades.

I first noticed it in college, astounded that some supermodels were already younger than I was. It became impossible to ignore in my mid-20s, as my metabolism changed and I grew inexorably fatter despite all exercise. I later became alarmed when colleagues of a similar age and density were losing legs to diabetes and dropping dead of strokes. I dodged that bullet by shedding the weight a few years ago, but regardless, death amongst my peers became less anomalous and more normalized as I watched whole generations succumb.

Consider this: Anyone you see in a silent film is dead — and I mean long dead. So is almost everyone from any movie predating the 1950s. People from the “Greatest Generation” of World War II veterans are now in their 90s. Close behind are the Korean and Vietnam War vets (my growing up in a country that habitually wages war offers easy milestones). Even the people who protested their actions, the famed hippies of the 1960s, are wrinkly and retiring. Soon it’ll be the Desert Storm vets, who are already into paunchy middle age, as time marches on.

I was born at an odd time. Just 13 days shy of what the media calls the baby boomers, people my age aren’t part of Generation X either. I don’t really understand, for example, why people insist on getting tattoos or body piercings, or find public humiliation funny (e.g., “Borat”? “The Office”?), but I do understand why they keep stealing from their elders’ music (rock, psychedelic and progressive — all genres I grew up with and still listen to). But it eventually dawns on us fogies just how derivative popular culture is, and always has been. Straddling two media-manufactured generations meant I more easily saw an arc.

Now permit me to make you feel old too: We are now well into the 21st century, 15 years since Y2K, over 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. No children in developed countries know a time without the Internet; some can’t imagine submitting their homework offline, and some are no longer learning cursive. Google a recent photo of any media personality you grew up with and you’ll see their wrinkles either starting or becoming well-pronounced. Then look in the mirror yourself and trace.

Despite what music CDs at Tower Records say, nobody remains “forever young.” Even ageless Keanu Reeves, Nicholas Cage, Takuya Kimura, Madonna or Prince — they’ll get theirs too. Just as timelessly beautiful but still old Sophia Loren, Catherine Deneuve and Raquel Welch did.

I’m no vampire, but I’m lucky in terms of aging: I’m still mistaken for somebody at least 10 years younger. Part of it is because I avoid stress and let my hair grow, and I am in a place where I can wear age-vague clothes, but I believe another part is down to not having seen proximate others change over time. I didn’t watch parents, siblings, wife, children, classmates or neighbors grow older.

My vocation has always involved college-age students, and I’ve never quite distanced myself from them mentally. I’ve rebooted my career and lifestyle many times — even changed my name — and never lived under one roof for more than eight years. Never being rooted to one spot meant I didn’t stick around to watch the trees grow and the paint peel.

Nevertheless, history will always catch up and remind me how many years have passed. I look at beat-up old coins in my pocket and see they are usually newer than 1965. Things I remember very well as part of my normal world — the Cold War, Nixon and Watergate, Iran-Contra, two Germanys, a jumble of European currencies, even a smoggy Tokyo — are already increasingly forgotten. They are being tersely rendered as boring history-book timelines, as remote as the Suez Crisis, the Amritsar Massacre or the Spanish-American War.

Japan, on the other hand, constantly recycles yore as lore. For example, 70 years since WWII, it still defines itself in terms of a war with few eyewitnesses left, carefully filtering out the evil that inevitably happens in wartime and revarnishing the near-destruction of a nation-state as something glorious.

Japan’s media operate a powerful nostalgia mill for our growing population of conservative elderly. And they are receptive to it: Eldsters, I am discovering myself, find happiness by forgetting bad stuff that happened to them. What good is there in remembering things that make you unhappy?

Of course, that’s fine on an individual level. But for a whole society? The perpetual gerontocracy of Japan’s leadership has happily expanded that into a national narrative and redefined “history” as only “beauty.” Living in a meticulously sanitized past has its uses — even if that means you’re likely doomed to repeat its mistakes.

But back to the individual level. When I turned 40, I realized I had reached a new vantage point on life: I could look both backward to see where I had come from, and forward to envision where things would end. Now 50, I only look forward — to see how much time is left before my clock runs out.

For me, time is actually accordioning. I regularly skip a decade; 1990 feels like 15 years ago. The years are accelerating too, like a toilet paper roll that spins faster the closer you get to the end.

It’s understandable, really. In my 20s, I could not imagine living another 30 years because I hadn’t lived my first 30 yet. I had no sense of scale. Now I can imagine living another 50, because I already have. Sadly, I probably won’t, and I won’t be as genki even if I do. I have so much work to do and such limited time and energy left.

Let me leave you with an image: Watch Madonna and Justin Timberlake’s 2008 music video “Four Minutes” (hey, I’m hip!), where characters go about their lives oblivious to a black pixelated wall steadily encroaching and obliterating them.

That’s how I see time now. Read your college’s “class notes” about alumni (or for that matter, Facebook) and you’ll see that people who graduated in the 1960s and before mostly report on who’s died. In less than a decade, that will be the focus of the 1970s classes. Then it’ll be my decade’s turn. Then yours. That black pixelated wall is forever approaching.

I hope to keep writing for you until the end. Thanks for reading.

ENDS

Lawyer threatens Debito.org in 2009 re a 1993 article in The Australian Magazine on Japan pundit Gregory Clark. Had received reprint permission, so nothing came of it.

mytest

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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog.  I’ve been sitting on this blog post for nearly six years, so I think it’s safe to say that nothing has come of this.

Back in 2009, somebody claiming to be a lawyer representing the publisher of The Australian Magazine contacted me, claiming copyright infringement, and demanded that Debito.org remove from its archives a 1993 article concerning Japan pundit Gregory Clark (who writes articles occasionally so embarrassingly xenophobic and bigoted that at least one has been deleted from the Japan Times archive).

Funny thing is that once I reproduced an email from 2000 from The Australian Magazine that permitted reproduction of said article on Debito.org, that somebody and her threat vanished.

Again, that was back in 2009.  It’s now 2015, so let’s put this up for the record.  Something tells me that Gregory Clark really doesn’t want you to read this very revealing article in The Australian about him, his modus operandi, and his motives in Japan.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Please see letter attached.

Gina McWilliams
Legal Counsel
Nationwide News Pty Limited & News Digital Media Pty Limited
2 Holt Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010, Australia
t: 02 9288 3042   |   f: 02 9288 2480   |   m: 0402 140591   |   mcwilliamsg@newsltd.com.au

The Australian   |    The Weekend Australian   |   The Daily Telegraph   |   The Sunday Telegraph   |   mX   |   The Sportsman   |   news.com.au

<03 – Ltr debito.org 28.7.09.pdf>

Nationwidenews01072809

Nationwidenews02072809

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Date: August 2, 2009 3:04:28 PM JST

To: “McWilliams, Gina” <mcwilliamsg@newsltd.com.au>

Subject: Re: Copyright Infringement — Permission granted December 19, 2000 for reprint by Australian Magazine

Hello Ms McWilliams, and thank you for your attachment.  My apologies for my late reply.  It has been a busy week, and it has taken a little time to visit my safe deposit box and retrieve backed-up emails that are nearly ten years old.

Here is the permission I received from a M. Mairead Sweeney of The Australian Magazine, Dated December 19, 2000, to reprint the article “Our Other Man in Japan”.

============= PERMISSION GRANTED TEXT BEGINS [REDACTED:  FULL TEXT IN CONTEXT HERE] =================

From ???@??? Tue Dec 19 08:35:29 2000
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From: “Magazine,  Australian” <ausmag@matp.newsltd.com.au>
To: “‘debito@debito.org‘” <debito@debito.org>
Date: Tue, 19 Dec 2000 09:55:31 +1100
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Dear Dave

Apologies for the delay in getting back to you.
There is no problem reproducing the article, as long as credit is given to
The Australian Magazine.
Happy Christmas.

Regards
Mairead Sweeney
The Australian Magazine

============= PERMISSION GRANTED TEXT ENDS =================

Credit is, and always has been, given to The Australian Magazine.

Please review the following context from which this is taken.  Here is my request to The Australian Magazine, dated December 4, 2000, for reproduction permissions to print “Our Other Man in Japan”.  It is in raw text format (importing email from an old program [somewhat abridged]), for copyright permission, followed by the exchanges which resulted in the abovementioned permission being granted.  My name back then was David Aldwinckle (it is now Arudou Debito, due to naturalization as a Japanese citizen).

I would appreciate receiving your acknowledgment of these permission-granted circumstances as soon as possible.  I also wish you would do your homework before sending “notice” letters to my friends.  My friend, [SH, who hosted my site at the time], who was also sent your “notice” letter, is hereby cc-ed with this reply.  Kindly cc him your acknowledgment as well.

Arudou Debito (ne David Aldwinckle) in Sapporo, Japan

=========== PERMISSION REQUEST BEGINS ==================

From ???@??? Mon Dec 04 14:28:13 2000
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Date: Mon, 4 Dec 2000 13:20:51 +0900
To: ausmag@matp.newsltd.com.au
From: Arudou Debito/Dave Aldwinckle <debito@debito.org>
Subject: Inquiry to The Australian about old article
Cc: debito@debito.org
X-UIDL: bc68a5de1a75c6385b5848adcc747ef6
To whom it may concern:

I am looking for an old article of yours which appeared in THE AUSTRALIAN
MAGAZINE.  The date is not written anywhere on the pages, but here are the
details as I know them:

PUBLICATION:  The Australian Magazine
ARTICLE TITLE:  “Our Other Man in Japan”
AUTHOR:  Richard McGregor
CONTENTS:  about Gregory Clark’s life and times here in Japan
PAGE NUMBERS:  pp. 27 to 41?
APPROXIMATE DATE:  1993-94 (article mentions Hosokawa as Prime Minister)

Could you please tell me of the date and issue number etc. for the article
for proper citation?

Thank you very much,
Dave Aldwinckle in Sapporo, Japan
(your contact details courtesy of Mr Steven Lunn, Tokyo Correspondent)

=======================

=========== PERMISSION REQUEST ENDS ==================

And here is the answer I received, or rather the communication as it transpired (it took a few exchanges of emails):

=========== PERMISSION GRANTED BEGINS ==================

From ???@??? Mon Dec 04 15:37:20 2000
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From: “Magazine,  Australian” <ausmag@matp.newsltd.com.au>
To: “‘Arudou Debito/Dave Aldwinckle'” <debito@debito.org>
Subject: RE: Inquiry to The Australian about old article
Date: Mon, 4 Dec 2000 17:03:22 +1100
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Hi Dave
Well the good news it that I’ve had success in locating the article.  The
details are:

The Australian Magazine, 16th October 1993, Edition 1.

If you need further information, please do not hestitate to contact me.
Regards
Mairead Sweeney
The Australian Magazine.

—–Original Message—–

From: Arudou Debito/Dave Aldwinckle [mailto:debito@debito.org]
Sent: Monday, 4 December 2000 4:34
To: Magazine, Australian
Subject: RE: Inquiry to The Australian about old article

Thanks for your speedy reply!
I only have a photocopy of the article in question, and no, I’m afraid it
(oddly enough) doesn’t give the date etc where it indicates the page number.
I’m afraid that you have all the information that I have.
Thanks for looking.  I would really appreciate it and don’t mind if it takes
a few days.  It’s quite a big article with a full-page photograph of Gregory
Clark.

Dave Aldwinckle
Sapporo

//////////////////////////

At 4:16 PM +1100 12/4/00, Magazine,  Australian wrote:

> Dear Dave
> I presume you don’t have the front cover of the magazine, just the pages in
> question (?). Where it says the page number, normally it has the Issue Date
> also.  This could be just on the more recent editions, I don’t know.  I have
> had a quick look through our computerised archives but have found nothing
> yet.  It may take a day or two to locate the information you require.

> Regards
> Mairead Sweeney
> The Australian Magazine

> —–Original Message—–
> From: Arudou Debito/Dave Aldwinckle [mailto:debito@debito.org]
> Sent: Monday, 4 December 2000 3:21
> To: ausmag@matp.newsltd.com.au
> Cc: debito@debito.org
> Subject: Inquiry to The Australian about old article
>
> To whom it may concern:
> I am looking for an old article of yours which appeared in THE AUSTRALIAN
> MAGAZINE.  The date is not written anywhere on the pages, but here are the
> details as I know them:
> PUBLICATION:  The Australian Magazine
> ARTICLE TITLE:  “Our Other Man in Japan”
> AUTHOR:  Richard McGregor
> CONTENTS:  about Gregory Clark’s life and times here in Japan
> PAGE NUMBERS:  pp. 27 to 41?
> APPROXIMATE DATE:  1993-94 (article mentions Hosokawa as Prime Minister)
> Could you please tell me of the date and issue number etc. for the article
> for proper citation?
> Thank you very much,
> Dave Aldwinckle in Sapporo, Japan
> (your contact details courtesy of Mr Steven Lunn, Tokyo Correspondent)
> =======================

From ???@??? Mon Dec 04 16:39:12 2000

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<25EAA402DE2FD111B8400000F875354809CC63AD@sydexchange.matp.newsltd.com.au>
Date: Mon, 4 Dec 2000 15:49:16 +0900
To: “Magazine,  Australian” <ausmag@matp.newsltd.com.au>
From: Arudou Debito/Dave Aldwinckle <debito@debito.org>
Subject: RE: Inquiry to The Australian about article on Gregory Clark
X-UIDL: 3f533fa822bf35aa7537f6496a033048
At 5:03 PM +1100 12/4/00, Magazine,  Australian wrote:
> Hi Dave
> Well the good news it that I’ve had success in locating the article.  The
> details are:
> The Australian Magazine, 16th October 1993, Edition 1.
> If you need further information, please do not hestitate to contact me.
> Regards
> Mairead Sweeney
> The Australian Magazine.

Excellent!  Thank you very much!
Would it be possible to receive permission from The Australian to reprint
this article in full in our next issue of NPO Japan Association for Language
Teaching (JALT)’s Journal of Professional Issues?
We are a non-profit organization and our publication fees are funded by both
JALT and from our subscribers (about 75 people).
To find out more about our Journal and to see back issues, please see
http://www.debito.org/PALEJournals.html
To find out more about JALT, please see
http://www.jalt.org/

Thank you very much for your time, and we look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,
Dave Aldwinckle
One JALT Journal of Professional Issues Editor

=======================

From ???@??? Tue Dec 19 08:35:29 2000
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From: “Magazine,  Australian” <ausmag@matp.newsltd.com.au>
To: “‘debito@debito.org‘” <debito@debito.org>
Date: Tue, 19 Dec 2000 09:55:31 +1100
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Dear Dave
Apologies for the delay in getting back to you.
There is no problem reproducing the article, as long as credit is given to
The Australian Magazine.

Happy Christmas.
Regards
Mairead Sweeney
The Australian Magazine

============ PERMISSION GRANTED ENDS ==================

From: Arudou Debito [mailto:debito@debito.org]
Sent: Tuesday, 11 August 2009 1:44 AM
To: McWilliams, Gina
Subject: RESEND: Copyright Infringement — Permission granted December 19, 2000 for reprint by Australian Magazine

Hello Ms McWilliams.  It’s been more than a week.  May I have a
response or an acknowledgment of receipt, please?  Arudou Debito

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////

On Aug 14, 2009, at 5:13 PM, McWilliams, Gina wrote:
Dear Mr Debito

As previously noted, my client has no record of permission being granted for the relevant article to be reproduced/communicated on www.debito.org.

If, in fact, authorisation was granted in the terms set out below, I am instructed that my client now withdraws permission for the relevant article to be reproduced/communicated on www.debito.org and requires you to remove the article from the website within 7 days.

My client reserves all rights with respect to publication of the article on www.debito.org.

Yours sincerely
Gina McWilliams   |   Legal Counsel   |  Nationwide News Pty Limited & News Digital Media Pty Limited

////////////////////////////////////////////////////

From: Arudou Debito <debito@debito.org>
Date: August 16, 2009 12:05:09 AM JST
To: Gina McWilliams <mcwilliamsg@newsltd.com.au>
Subject: Re: RESEND: Copyright Infringement — Permission granted December 19, 2000 for reprint by Australian Magazine

Look, I don’t know who you are, and I cannot trace this email’s IP on standard searches.  Until I speak in person to a member of the media corporation claiming copyright over this article (that was granted me in writing fair and square from the actual media outlet several years ago), not just some alleged transmission from an alleged lawyer through an unverifiable email, I feel no credibility may be attached to this communication. Names and contact details.  From them directly.  And get my name right.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////

I received no further response from the organization or Ms. McWilliams.  A friend contacted people within The Australian in March 2010 and unearthed this:

“I had been curious regarding Mr. Clark’s claims that the 1993 article about him in The Australian Magazine was retracted. I called the news desk at The Australian and they searched their archives in the basement. They found a letter to the editor from Clark regarding the article. However, they searched three weeks of issues following the article and they could not find any retraction or correction printed. Therefore, I found no evidence supporting Mr. Clark’s claim that the article was retracted.”

ENDS

Tangent: A debate I’ve been having on whether birthdays are to be celebrated or not. Discuss.

mytest

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Another complete tangent, but hey, it is January 13 where I am and it’s my birthday and my blog, so…

Did I mention it’s my birthday?  Well, I’m the type of person who loves to be wished “Happy Birthday!”, so I even go out of my way tell people that today is the day.  And as my Facebook shows, people very kindly respond with greetings and best wishes.  Thanks!

But since I broached the subject , I’ve had interesting conversations yesterday and today with people who take a dim view of birthdays.  No, it’s not for the reason you might think (i.e., growing older and more clearly one day, month, year closer to death).  They put it down to modesty, even culture.

One friend I talked to today never advertises his birthday because he’s afraid that doing so will invite somebody to give him a present.  Then he’d feel obligated to give something back and that causes him stress.  He prefers his birthdays and his celebrations be immediate family affairs celebrated only by the people who care enough to remember it’s his birthday without being told.  Telling other people kinda spoils something.  He’d rather enjoy fruit fallen from a tree due to a windfall, not because he deliberately shook the tree.

Another friend talked about how birthdays are to him an artificial Western invention — who celebrated birthdays in days of yore, and in his Eastern culture?  He also feels that a celebration of oneself on one day is silly, when every day that one is alive should be a cause for celebration.  Why focus in on one day?

To them I said that we celebrate birthdays because in days of yore we had no birth certificates, thus most knew not exactly when they were born (making hard to celebrate).

More important to me is that birthdays are an unusual type of celebration.  Holidays or festivals celebrate, for example, a significant community event (e.g., an independence or foundation day, a notable person’s birth or death, a historical remembrance of ancestors and what they did or went through), the advent of a season, a person’s specific position in our lives (a parent or child), or other things cultural or temporal that the individual has no real control over.

A birthday, on the other hand, celebrates the individual.  It is the only event of the year that allows the individual to claiim his or her own special day, and allows said birthday person to bathe in Lake You and feel appreciated for being alive and part of other people’s lives.

And unlike festivals where people feel obligated to carry a large palanquin, stand in a parade, throw coins in a box, deck the halls, or engage in some cultural festivities that the individual has little control over, birthdays are nearly completely up to the individual.  Hell, as argued above, the individual can choose NOT to celebrate himself at all by just keeping schtum about his DOB.

But to me, the birthday is the most important day in the calendar year in terms of psychological recharging because it heralds the triumph of the individual, and the things that make her or him special, over the larger impersonality of culture.  I instinctively support that, because individuals generally get subsumed in the maintenance of the imagined community.  The national holiday can happen without you.  Your birthday cannot.

And why not celebrate every day you’re alive, not focus on one day?  What other day but a birthday will most well wishers be on board to wish you well?

What do other Debito.org Readers think?  Turning the discussion over to you.  Enjoy the tangent.  Dr. Debito

Holiday Tangent: Hanif Kureishi on UK’s Enoch Powell: How just one racist-populist politician can color the debate in an entire society

mytest

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Hi Blog, and Happy Impending Holidays. As a Holiday Tangent, the Guardian offers an excellent account of life for migrants, immigrants, and citizens of color in a society in flux (Great Britain in the 1970s, as it adjusted to the effects of a post-empire Commonwealth).  It depicts well how one racist-populist politician, Enoch Powell, could affect an entire society, and though fear-mongering invective effectively accelerate the othering and subordination of residents.

But that was just one person.  Imagine the effects of a proliferation of Enoch Powellesque racists and fearmongerers throughout a society, such as the leader of a party (Hiranuma Takeo), the governor of the capital city (like Ishihara Shintaro), or the Prime Minister of an entire country (like Abe Shinzo), or Japan’s entire national police force (see here, here, and here in particular).  Enoch had his effects, and Kureishi can now look back with some degree of “the past is a foreign country” relief.  Japan cannot.  Not right now.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

///////////////////////////////////////

Hanif Kureishi: Knock, knock, it’s Enoch
The novelist and screenwriter remembers the effect of Enoch Powell – it’s impossible not to summon his ghost now that immigration is again centre of the political stage
The Guardian, Friday 12 December 2014, courtesy of PKU
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/dec/12/enoch-powell-hanif-kureishi

I was 14 in 1968 and one of the horrors of my teenage years was Enoch Powell. For a mixed-race kid, this stiff ex-colonial zealot – with his obscene, grand guignol talk of whips, blood, excreta, urination and wide-eyed piccaninnies – was a monstrous, scary bogeyman. I remember his name being whispered by my uncles for fear I would overhear.

I grew up near Biggin Hill airfield in Kent, in the shadow of the second world war. We walked past bomb sites everyday. My grandmother had been a “fire watcher” and talked about the terror of the nightly Luftwaffe raids. With his stern prophet’s nostalgia, bulging eyes and military moustache, Powell reminded us of Hitler, and the pathology of his increasing number of followers soon became as disquieting as his pronouncements. At school, Powell’s name soon become one terrifying word – Enoch. As well as being an insult, it began to be used with elation. “Enoch will deal with you lot,” and, “Enoch will soon be knocking on your door, pal.” “Knock, knock, it’s Enoch,” people would say as they passed. Neighbours in the London suburbs began to state with some defiance: “Our family is with Enoch.” More skinheads appeared.

It was said, after Powell mooted the idea for a Ministry of Repatriation, that we “offspring”, as he called the children of immgrants, would be sent away. “A policy of assisting repatriation by payment of fares and grants is part of the official policy of the Conservative party,” he stated in 1968. Sometimes, idly, I wondered how I might like it in India or Pakistan, where I’d never been, and whether I’d be welcomed. But others said that if we were born here, as I was, it would be only our parents who would be sent back. We would, then, have to fend for ourselves, and I imagined a parentless pack of us unwanted mongrels, hunting for food in the nearby woods.

Repatriation, Powell said, “would help to achieve with minimum friction what must surely be the object of everyone – to prevent, so far as that is still possible, a major racial problem in the Britain of AD2000.” It was clear: if Britain had lost an empire and not yet recovered from the war, our added presence would only cause more strife – homelessness, joblessness, prostitution and drug addiction. Soon the indigenous whites would be a “persecuted minority” or “strangers” in their own country. It would be our turn, presumably, to do the persecuting.

The influence of Powell, this ghost of the empire, was not negligible; he moved British politics to the right and set the agenda we address today. It’s impossible not to summon his ghost now that immigration is once again the subject of national debate. Politicians attack minorities when they want to impress the public with their toughness as “truth-tellers”. And Powell’s influence extended far. In 1976 – the year before the Clash’s “White Riot” – and eight years after Powell’s major speeches, one of my heroes, Eric Clapton, ordered an audience to vote for Powell to prevent Britain becoming a “black colony”. Clapton said that, “Britain should get the wogs out, get the coons out,” before repeatedly shouting the National Front slogan “Keep Britain White”.

A middle-class, only child from Birmingham, socially inept and repressed, Powell had taken refuge in books and “scholarship” for most of his life. He was perhaps happiest during the war, spending three years in military intelligence in India. Like a lot of Brits, he loved the empire and colonial India, where he could escape his parents and the constraints of Britain. Many Indians were intimidated by and subservient to British soldiers, as my family attested. Like most colonialists, Powell was a bigger, more powerful man in India than he’d have been in England. No wonder he was patriotic and believed giving up the empire would be a disaster. “I had always been an imperialist and a Tory,” he said.

On his return in 1945, Powell went into politics. Like the grandees he aspired to be, he took up churchgoing and fox-hunting. Before his speeches on race, he was an obedient, relatively undistinguished servant of the state. But he was also, in fact, a proto-Thatcherite: a supporter of the free market and lower taxes with a utopian vision of unregulated capitalism where, miraculously, everything people required would be provided by the simple need for profit. Soon, as Thatcher said, there would be no alternative.

But, in 1968, that great year of newness, experimentation and hope, when people were thinking in new ways about oppression, relationships and equality, there was a terrible return. This odd Edwardian figure popped up into public life, and decided to became a demagogue. Richard Crossman, in his diary of 1968, worried about Powell’s celebrity appeal to “mass opinion, right over our parliament and his party leadership”.

Appealing to the worst in people – their hate – is a guaranteed way to get attention, but it is also fatal. Powell talked in whole sentences and was forever translating Herodotus, so was known for his cleverness. But he wasn’t smart enough to resist the temptation of instant populism for which he traded in his reputation. Racism is the fool’s gold, or, rather, the crack cocaine of politics. The 1970s was a dangerous time for people of colour – the National Front was active and violent, particularly in south London, and it was an ignoble sacrifice for Powell to attack the most vulnerable and unprotected, those workers who had left their homes to come to Britain. He elevated his phobia to a political position, and there was no going back.

Like many racists, Powell was nostalgic in his fantasies: before all this mixing, there was a time of clarity and plenitude, when Britishness was fixed and people knew who they were. Powell refused to allow his certainties to come into contact with reality. He had wanted to know India, but barely troubled himself with Britain and, apart from some weekends in Wolverhampton, lived most of his life in Belgravia.

In contrast to the crude caricatures of people of colour perpetrated by Powell, the Guyanese-born, Cambridge-educated writer ER Braithwaite – who served in the RAF before becoming a teacher in the East End because he couldn’t get a job as a engineer – writes in detail about race between the late-40s and the mid-60s. Three important works in particular, To Sir, With Love, Reluctant Neighbours and Choice of Straws engage with this era. From this clear-eyed, brave novelist we learn about the everyday humiliations, abuse and remarks that people of colour had to face after being invited to help run the NHS and transport system. To make the future it wanted, Britain needed the best doctors, engineers, architects, artists and workers of all kinds, and it imported them, before insulting them.

Powell liked to complain about every vile “imputation and innuendo” made about him; he was keen to be a martyr and victim. Braithwaite, for his part, really suffered. He catalogues the systemic and degrading exclusion from jobs and housing that so disillusioned immigrants about the British with their babble about fairness, liberty and the mother country. His books describe the rage and hate that relentless humiliation inevitably engenders – as colonialism did, in its time. Powell probably intuited the simple idea that tyranny creates resistance, and grasped that future conflicts would be caused by the tyranny he supported, hence his apocalypticism.

Powell developed his own schoolmasterish look. Always in black, sometimes in a long overcoat and occasionally in a little homburg, he was punky and subversive, and came to enjoy making everyone furious with his provocations. And he had the cheek to call us “a roomful of gunpowder”. He didn’t fit in; but he certainly liked to disorientate and traumatise us. After he spoke, we were in freefall; we didn’t know where or who we were. Powell wanted to confirm us as outsiders, as unintelligible and unwanted, but this helped us clarify things and created resistance. Out of Clapton’s statements, for instance, came Rock Against Racism, created by artists, musicians and activists to combat fascism. Then there was identity politics. We were not nothing; we had histories and, unlike him, we had futures.

Powell was creating the conflict he claimed to be the solution to. He soon found himself supported by the National Front. Powell had called himself a Nietszchean as a young man, but Nietzsche would have hated the wretched appeal to the mob or herd. Powell was merely addressing the bitter rabble, and, for so fastidious a man, this would have been distasteful, and he must have considered how incapable our intelligence can be when it comes to protecting us from the temptations of self-destruction.

He cheated his followers, because all he gave them was the brief thrill of superiority and hatred. Nothing substantial altered in the world, and the wild, amoral capitalism that developed from his Hayek-inspired economic vision created wealth for some, but otherwise had no respect for the homes or jobs of Powell’s followers, nor for the other things he cared about – tradition, national borders, patriotism or religion.

Although he was attacked and condemned by students wherever he went, he didn’t trouble himself to think about the profound social changes sweeping the country, as young people attempted to liberate themselves from the assumptions of the past. Britain wasn’t decaying, it was remaking itself, even as it didn’t know how the story would end.

In London now, if you stroll through the crowds on a bright Sunday afternoon near the museums and decorated shop fronts, even for those of us who have been here for years, this multiracial metropolis – less frantic than New York, and with more purpose than Paris, and with its scores of languages – seems like nothing that has ever been made before. And it grows ever more busy, bustling and compelling in its beauty, multiplicity and promise, particularly for those of us who remember how dull and eventless London could seem in the 70s, especially on Sundays.

Britain survived Powell and became something he couldn’t possibly have envisioned. He was a pessimist and lacked faith in the ability of people to cooperate with one another, to collaborate and make alliances. The cultural collisions he was afraid of are the affirmative side of globalisation. People do not love one another because they are “the same”, and they don’t always kill one another because they are different. Where, indeed, does difference begin? Why would it begin with race or colour?

Racism is the lowest form of snobbery. Its language mutates: not long ago the word “immigrant” became an insult, a stand-in for “paki” or “nigger”. We remain an obstruction to “unity”, and people like Powell, men of ressentiment, with their omens and desire to humiliate, will return repeatedly to divide and create difference. The neoliberal experiment that began in the 80s uses racism as a vicious entertainment, as a sideshow, while the wealthy continue to accumulate. But we are all migrants from somewhere, and if we remember that, we could all go somewhere – together.

ENDS

Quiet NJ Success Story: Go game master and naturalized citizen Seigen Go dies at age 100

mytest

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Hello Blog. Here’s something that might go relatively unnoticed unless we bring it up here at Debito.org:

//////////////////////////////////////
Go master Seigen Go dies
The Yomiuri Shimbun
December 01, 2014
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001757079, courtesy of JK.

Go master Seigen Go, heralded as the strongest professional player in the Showa era, died of old age early Sunday morning at a hospital in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture. He was 100.

Funeral services will be held with only close relatives in attendance, but a more public farewell ceremony is expected to be held at a later time.

Go was born in 1914 in Fujian Province, China. His talent at go was recognized at an early age, and in 1928 he came to Japan at the age of 14. Go became a disciple of Kensaku Segoe, a seventh-dan player, and was quickly promoted to third dan the following year. He was granted the ninth dan in 1950 and became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 1979.

In 1933, Go and fifth-dan player Minoru Kitani announced a new strategy focusing on the center of the board, which has become the basis of modern go strategy.

Go dominated professional circles until his retirement in 1984, waging fierce battles with top players.
ENDS

/////////////////////////////////////////

Why does this matter to Debito.org? As submitter JK notes:

Hi Debito: IMO there’s more going on here than just a typical obituary — to me, the article is an NJ success story. BTW, it’s a shame the article doesn’t detail Go’s decision to naturalize at 65 instead of earlier (e.g. 1950 when he reached ninth dan).

Quite. We hear all sorts of provincial navel-gazing whenever somebody foreign dominates a “Japanese” sport like sumo (to the point where the Sumo Association has to change to rules to count naturalized Japanese as “foreign”, in violation of the Nationality Law). Maybe there was that kind of soul-searching when Go ascended, I don’t know (it was two generations ago). But it is a remarkable legacy to leave behind, and I wonder if there are any Go-nerds out there who might give us some more background. Like JK, I think there’s a deeper story here. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Tangent: Economist: China to become world’s largest economy by end-2014. Will USA react to being overtaken similar to Japan?

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Bit of a tangent here, but when we saw Japan drop behind China to become the #3 largest economy, we saw reactions of craziness that still reverberate today (not the least sour grapes, but more heightened security issues).  I wonder how the Americans will react to this news.

The Economist (London) tells us like it is, with the aplomb of a former world power itself, declaring the American Century over.  China will be the world’s largest economy years at the end of this year, nearly half a decade ahead of schedule.

Myself, I think this is (or should be) inevitable:  China has the most people, so it stands to reason that it should have the most capacity to produce and be rich if not richest.  After all, the Pax Americana Postwar goal of helping countries become rich and developed is that they’ll become more stable economically, thus more likely to suppress warlike urges in favor of the mutual profit motive.  Plus the Americans always held out hope that an emerging middle class would agitate for democratic reforms, and shudder at the thought of the Chinese system in its current form becoming the global hegemon.  Will it react similar to Japan and see China as a threat, or will it keep Postwar historical goals in perspective and see it as a form of mission accomplished?

Yet China, as the second article below indicates, is downplaying that kind of future.  Although global development theories are something I studied in grad school, China isn’t my field.  So Debito.org Readers. any thoughts as to why?  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

/////////////////////////////////////////////////

Daily chart
Crowning the dragon
The Economist, Apr 30th 2014 by J.M.F. and L.P.
China will become the world’s largest economy by the end of the year
http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2014/04/daily-chart-19?fsrc=scn/tw/te/pe/ed/dailychartppp

UNTIL 1890 China was the world’s largest economy, before America surpassed it. By the end of 2014 China is on track to reclaim its crown. Comparing economic output is tricky: exchange rates get in the way. Simply converting GDP from renminbi to dollars at market rates may not reflect the true cost of living. Bread and beer may be cheaper in one country than another, for example. To account for these differences, economists make adjustments based on a comparable basket of goods and services across the globe, so-called purchasing-power parity (PPP). New data released on April 30th from the International Comparison Programme, a part of the UN, calculated the cost of living in 199 countries in 2011. On this basis, China’s PPP exchange rate is now higher than economists had previously estimated using data from the previous survey in 2005: a whopping 20% higher. So China, which had been forecast to overtake America in 2019 by the IMF, will be crowned the world’s pre-eminent country by the end of this year according to The Economist’s calculations. The American Century ends, and the Pacific Century begins.

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China doesn’t want to be recognized as such:

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2014/05/18/commentary/world-commentary/china-plays-down-gdp-size/

China plays down GDP size
BY FRANK CHING
THE JAPAN TIMES, MAY 18, 2014

More than a week after new World Bank figures indicated that China would overtake the United States this year and become the No. 1 economy comes the news that, for the first time, the world’s three biggest public companies and five of the top 10 in the Forbes Global 2000 List are Chinese.

American companies accounted for the remaining five on the top 10 list. The biggest U.S. companies were JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway, in fourth and fifth place respectively, trailing Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Agricultural Bank of China.

There are no European companies among the top 10. Royal Dutch Shell and HSBC Holdings, among the top 10 last year, have been edged out.

Xinhua, the official Chinese press agency, reported the news without comment under the headline “China has world’s 3 largest companies: Forbes.”

This was unlike the treatment given to the report the previous week that China would become the world’s largest economy this year. Then, the news was played down, if reported at all.

In fact, the official People’s Daily newspaper made clear the disdain with which the Chinese government held predictions using purchasing power parity by declaring, “Chinese want a better life, not an artificial ranking as world’s no. 1 economy.”

It cited “another report from the World Bank” that “indicated that the GDP of the U.S. was about $16.8 trillion in 2013, ranking first, while China’s GDP was only $9.18 trillion, ranking second.” It then put things in better perspective by saying: “China’s per capita GDP ranks only 99th in the world.”

Clearly China not was comfortable about its elevation to the world’s No. 1 economy by the end of this year. Being in second place is more comfortable and can be used by the government to urge the Chinese people to work harder.

The People’s Daily recalled that “catching up with the United States” was once stated as the goal of the Chinese people. But it added pointedly, “this meant not only the pursuit of economic strength but also a strong demand for self-esteem and self-confidence.”

Rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2014/05/18/commentary/world-commentary/china-plays-down-gdp-size/
ENDS

Japan’s Right-wing swing taking on NJ media: Foreign correspondents ‘blindly swallowing’ anti-Japanese propaganda, writer alleges

mytest

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Hi Blog. As Japan’s right-wing swing begins to be noticed and acknowledged overseas (I predicted this swing would happen quite a while ago), foreign media are increasingly taking off the kid gloves, and dealing forcefully with Japan’s perpetual historical amnesia. So much so that it’s making some Japanese opinion leaders uncomfortable, and, as the article below attests, they’re pushing back against the apparent gaiatsu by claiming the foreign correspondents are succumbing to “propaganda”. Have a read.

Within, note how opportunist NJ panderer Henry Scott-Stokes is being tossed around like a ball in play as evidence of something (hey, revisionism has more credibility if someone, anyone, from the NJ side will parrot their views). Debito.org has already covered the profiteering that some NJ (particularly those who have no idea what has been written for them in Japanese) will engage in. Shame on them for becoming the monkey to the organ grinder.

As a bracing counterpose, check out this other extremely angry article by Robert Fisk in the UK Independent on the Abe Administration and Japan’s burgeoning (and hypocritical) revisionism; he’s clearly commenting outside of his comfort zone, but this is what will increasingly come out as the mask of “peaceful Western ally” that Japan’s elites have shamelessly worn for two generations continues to slip.  And this generation of elites, who have never known war (and will never have to serve even if there ever is one), will continue to extol the glory of it.  Arudou Debito

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Foreign correspondents ‘blindly swallowing’ anti-Japanese propaganda, writer alleges
JAPAN TODAY KUCHIKOMI APR. 10, 2014, courtesy of MS
http://www.japantoday.com/category/kuchikomi/view/foreign-correspondents-blindly-swallowing-anti-japanese-propaganda-writer-alleges

TOKYO — In his “East Asia Anemometer” (an anemometer is a device for measuring wind speed) column for the Sankei Shimbun column of March 29, Takao Harakawa accused foreign correspondents based in Tokyo of harboring “blind belief” in the anti-Japanese propaganda being generated by China and South Korea. He bases this on his observations from a recent press conference that in his view descended into a “blame-Japan” fest.

China, he alleges, has ordered its embassies in various countries to engage in a worldwide campaign to criticize prime minister Abe for visiting Yasukuni Shrine last December. And South Korea recently went so far as to use the venue of an international comic exhibition to lambaste Japan over the sex-slave (“comfort women”) issue.

These two neighboring countries’ persistent efforts to discredit Japan, suggests Harakawa, may finally be starting to show results, as the press event held in mid-March at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Yurakucho, Tokyo, turned into a one-sided affair.

The event was intended to publicize the activities by a delegation of Japanese legislators in local government assemblies who had visited Glendale, California to protest Korean lobbyists’ installation of a statue of a comfort woman in a public park.

But when it came time for questions, Harakawa didn’t like the tone of the reporters at all.

“During the war, Korean laborers worked in the coal mines in Oita prefecture. Do you think they were sent there forcibly or not?” was one question.

“We’re not here today to discuss laborers, this is a press conference about ‘sex slaves,’” replied Yoshiko Matsuura, a councilor in the Suginami assembly, in an attempt to deflect his question.

Matsuura pointed out that the 1993 “Kono Statement” apologizing to the sex slaves was based on “completely vague testimony, and also noted that as a result of the controversy there, Japanese children residing in Glendale had been subjected to “bullying and harassment” by Korean children.

“The statue of the ‘comfort woman’ erected in Glendale will leave a huge bill to be paid in the future,” she warned.

The questions fired back by the correspondents in attendance, however, were “conspicuous in the way they were either based on insufficient understanding or bias.”

Another correspondent’s remarks that “You’re saying that the ‘sex slaves’ are a fabrication, but as opposed to merely making that statement, how many facts are there to support it? Presently Japan is continuing to lose sympathy throughout the world,” is given as another example.

Tomoko Tsujimura, a member of the Komae City assembly who also attended the gathering, was quoted as saying “Since the Japanese government is not completely responding [to the allegations], Japan’s position is being outweighed by propaganda from South Korea, and I feel the foundations have been laid for many members of the foreign media to harbor feelings of disgust toward Japan.”

After the event, Kawahara said a sympathetic foreign journalist said to him, “Today’s event was not to ask questions to you, but to cast blame on Japan.”

In the background of the journalists’ mindset, believes Harakawa, was a viewpoint echoing the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal.

Details from the press event have appeared in the online versions of TIME magazine and Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post. Neither of them were inclined to support Matsuura’s views. TIME’s reporter even wrote that the speakers’ efforts to take the offensive over the sex slave issue was “likely to do them more harm than good.”

Interpreter at the event was Hiroyuki Fujita, an international journalist and translator of Henry Scott-Stokes’ recent book (in Japanese) titled, “Falsehoods of the Allied Nations’ Victorious View of History, as Seen by a British Journalist.”

“Foreigners, especially citizens of the Allied nations (during WW2), tend to view the historical truth in terms of judgments handed down by the Tokyo war crimes tribunal,” said Fujita. “According to that view, Japan must be the villain, and anyone who attempts to assert something at odds with that is stereotypically tarred as a revisionist who is attempting to gloss over history. One of the very few correspondents who’s an exception to this would be Mr Henry Scott-Stokes, who has really done his homework on the issues.”

Japan faces an urgent need to assume a state of readiness to counter propaganda from China and Korea, including additional budgetary measures for issuing information, Harakawa concludes.

ENDS