DEBITO.ORG
Arudou Debito/Dave Aldwinckle's Home Page

New ebooks by ARUDOU Debito

  • Book IN APPROPRIATE: A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan
  • Dr. Kitaoka Shinichi, Chair of Council on Security and Defense Capabilities, speaks at UH EWC Oct 11, 2013 on Japan’s need to remilitarize

    Posted by arudou debito on October 12th, 2013

    eBooks, Books, and more from 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)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
    UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
    DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free
    “LIKE” US on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/debitoorg
    http://www.facebook.com/handbookimmigrants
    https://www.facebook.com/JapaneseOnlyTheBook
    https://www.facebook.com/BookInAppropriate

    Hi Blog.  Yesterday I attended the following speech:

    KitaokaShinichiEWCflyer

    I attended because I wanted to see what was making one of PM Abe’s leading advisors tick.  Dr. Kitaoka did not disappoint.

    He spoke in excellent English, and came off as a very articulate, passionate, and fluent advocate of his cause, which is essentially to make Japan strong enough militarily to deter China.  He did not feel a need to be restrained by a diplomat’s training, calling various schools of thought “totally wrong” and “stupid”, nor an academic’s subtlety that should come with a doctorate, where he said with firm certainty at various stages that “no Japanese” wants things like expansion of Japan’s borders (he also called Koreans an “emotional people”).  Almost all of the geopolitical problems he referred to in his talk were traced back to China, and he made a strong, reasoned plea for Japan’s inherent sovereign right for collective self defense in order to “contribute to peace and stability” by being empowered to assist Japan’s friends and allies (particularly, naturally, the Americans).

    Dr. Kitaoka was very smooth.  He pushed all the right rhetorical buttons with an American audience (this one at the EWC quite full of American military brass; the audience was quite emotive), contrasting rich, democratic, non-nuclear, and “peace-loving” Japan with richening, undemocratic, nuclear and unfree China, which is increasing its defense budget every year and seeking territorial expansion (he even mentioned China’s dealings in Africa in that context).  He also smoothed feathers to head off the “Genie in the Bottle” argument (which is one image the US military uses to justify its continued presence in Japan — to stop Japan from remilitarizing) by pointing out five conditions why today’s Japan is different.  (See them well elaborated in his Yomiuri article scanned below.)

    So to this end, Japan would need its first National Security Council, which would hopefully be established by November 2013.

    There were a couple more surprises in Dr. Kitaoka’s talk.  One was that he was arguing that Japan is essentially in the same position today as China was in the early 20th century, where Japan is the one now who should think about how to defend itself from unjustified aggression from China!  The other surprise was his reasoning about why the world should not worry about Japan’s potential renewed territorial expansion abroad — because treaty agreements between the US and South Korea would preclude Japan’s need to invade the Korean Peninsula for defensive reasons (now that’s a novel take on Japan’s colonial history!).

    Oh, and that it would be an impossibility for Japan to go nuclear again, because Japan as a huge developed economy integrated into world markets is particularly vulnerable to international sanctions.  But China, you see, is a member of the UN Security Council, unlike Japan, and they make UN sanctions more “ineffective”.  Less democratic countries, such as China and Russia, have more power in the UN than the democratic countries such as Japan, Germany, India, and Brazil… (and that was a very neat way to allude to Japan’s need for a UNSC seat — told you he was smooth).

    The Q&A was done by people passing papers to the front to be sorted, vetted, and read by EWC staff.

    In the end, Dr. Kitaoka talked like I would expect one of Japan’s elites to talk — seeing the world only in terms of power, and how Japan needs more of it because its neighbors are security threats.  That’s what any security analyst will say, of course (that’s how they’re trained), but Dr. Kitaoka spoke like a trained Gaijin Handler representing PM Abe’s political agenda, not a scholar.  Fascinating in that light, but scary, since these are the people who have been voted right back into power and want to dramatically alter Japan’s future policy.

    Through him we can see PM Abe’s remilitarizing machinations and goals.  And next month, here they come.  Arudou Debito

    NB:  LLK sends links to his full speech (with Q&A) available on vimeo.com. Here’s the link:

    http://vimeo.com/77183187

    Japan’s New National Security Strategy in the Making from East-West Center on Vimeo.

    Here are the handouts that were presented to the audience for Dr. Kitaoka’s talk:

    (click on image to expand in browser)

    KitaokaShinichiYomiuri

    KitaokaShinichihandout1KitaokaShinichihandout2
    ENDS

    53 Responses to “Dr. Kitaoka Shinichi, Chair of Council on Security and Defense Capabilities, speaks at UH EWC Oct 11, 2013 on Japan’s need to remilitarize”

    1. JS Says:

      Hi, Debito. This is not a comment, but rather, I wanted to draw your attention to a good article in the Mainichi which is currently on their English Website. Perhaps you can post it on debito.org, or somehow make reference to it. The link and a copy of the article follow.

      http://mainichi.jp/english/english/perspectives/news/20131012p2a00m0na008000c.html

      The problems of Japanese organizations

      Whether it’s the boost in business climate, a highly anticipated escape from the country’s deflationary spiral, decisive politicians, or an increased ability to send out messages through proactive head-of-state diplomacy, we’ve been blessed with good news under the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the past 10 months. Tokyo’s winning bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics has buoyed us even further. Indeed, the heaviness that cloaked Japanese society a year ago has lightened.

      Japan’s fundamental vulnerability as revealed by the March 2011 triple disasters, however, has changed very little. The vulnerability is merely being obscured by the “good” news of late; Japanese-style organizations are still dysfunctional.

      A handful of recent examples includes Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant from which radioactive water continues to leak; the severely accident-prone Hokkaido Railway Co. (JR Hokkaido); and Mizuho Bank, found to have made loans to yakuza members. They may operate in different industries, but the contexts for their dysfunctions are similar.

      All three organizations are characterized by a lack of transparency as well as a lack of initiative among individuals comprising the organizations. They have all fallen into habits and ruts, and have shown to possess exclusive and secretive corporate cultures. What they also have in common is the inability to imagine and grasp the magnitude of potential damage their actions can cause.

      I can’t help but think, though, that these characteristics are common not only to these three companies, but to most Japanese-style organizations to varying extents. This is because I believe they are a projection of the way in which the Japanese people face and deal with organizations.

      One is often confronted by the dichotomous argument that individual Japanese people are of a high caliber, but not so much as groups. I don’t believe that. An organization comprises individuals, and it goes without saying that the thought processes and behaviors of individuals are reflected in their organizations.

      Yasuyo Iga, a career consultant and author of the book “Saiyo kijun” (recruitment standards), once pointed out that what the Japanese lack is leadership, wherein leadership does not refer merely to the ability of supervisors to provide direction to subordinates. Rather, it refers to the ability to take initiative in solving the problems at hand — something that everyone should be able to exercise regardless of position or office. When we look at Japanese organizations in these terms, it makes sense to characterize them as lacking in leadership.

      Setting aside the roots of the problem for now, however, there’s no doubt that confidence in Japanese organizations is waning within the international community. Observers wonder if TEPCO and the Japanese government can resolve the crisis at the Fukushima plant. It’s said that Japan’s reliability was a hot topic at a recent Japan-U.S. nuclear working group meeting.

      JR Hokkaido and Mizuho Bank exposed afresh the problems of Japanese organizations. Even amid the recent improvements in Japan’s superficial image, we must remember that Japan’s credibility is constantly under global scrutiny. (By Megumi Nishikawa, Expert Senior Writer)

      October 12, 2013(Mainichi Japan)

    2. DK Says:

      Dark clouds are gathering indeed over Japan – and the future of East Asia (the world at large?) for that matter.

      Taking into account Dr Kitaoka’s passionate performance that Debito describes, a fitting quote for the zeitgeist could be the verses:

      “The best lack all conviction, while the worst
      Are full of passionate intensity.”

      (W.B. Yeats, from “The Second Coming”)

    3. Enginerd Says:

      slick arguing, indeed. I assume the main body of the talk elaborated on the contents of his essay, or were there any additional interesting bits (like for example Q/A’s) ?

      regarding the analysis of Japanese wartime aggression, I actually found not much to disagree, insofar it pretty much echoes the common western academic wisdom on the subject:
      - Japan operated under a “lebensraum” paradigm of expansion
      - the moment was opportune because of the industrial advantage over their neighbors
      - the state was run by the military

      sure, he’s a rightist, so you’d expect him to be obviously wrong about everything, but so far that’s almost surprisingly bullshit-free. However, possible points of contention are:
      - basically just covers the sino-japanese war, not so much mention of the american pacific war. Now, that may be considering his audience he rather left that out, because we know otherwise the nationalists’ apologetics on that is that poor widdle Japan was “forced” into that war by big bad bully America through sanctions etc (and anyways Hiroshima was much worse etc.)
      - also telling in its omission is how much of the war was driven by belief in racial superiority, or the justification of “freeing Asians from western imperialists”. Again, this may be because this isn’t intended audience, but that motivation is a too important factor to leave out
      - meanwhile, some paragraphs were spent on contemporary dissidents, why though ? It may serve to illustrate the point about lack of freedom of speech, but can also come off as a fig-leaf attempt to paint the picture of a peace-loving populace who didn’t really want the war and it’s all just the fault of evil overpowered militarists. Again, this might be tempting, but it’s too simple. A full honest story would mention the popular pro-war sentiment who really believed they were fighting a right and just cause.

      -bonus points for calling the chinese war an unjustified aggressive invasion, though. Probably the most telling part that this was produced for foreign consumption, I can’t imagine someone of his position doing this for his (japanese rightist) audience. Another aspect of uchi-soto perhaps ? To then turn that argument on its head is so boldly audacious, that… it might just work, heh.

      As for seeing the world “only in relations of power”… I don’t know, that’s not something I’d fault a strategic analyst for, in fact I’d rather expect it. Realpolitik and all that. I harbor no illusions that this isn’t also behind any (american, for example) fancy talk about ideology, morals and whatnot.

      In that respect, the most savoury argument Kitaoka can give american generals is not how nice and peace-loving Japan is (because they don’t care), but that Japan has been, is, and will be, a dependable lackey for the US domination powerstructure, and this will be the lynchpin for any remilitarization (or do you really believe the decision will be made in Tokyo rather than Washington ?). America wants more support for its global adventures, and a too-pacifist Japan isn’t really in their interest (after all, if Japan wants no military, they might even dare to want no american military either). So rightists present this as a win-win: the big point is containment of China, obviously, while I guess Japan gains some regional clout and possibly tighter domestic control (and we can argue how much America cares about human rights or “freedom” as long as the dollars keep flowing – I wouldn’t put much stock in it), now they just need to figure out how to do it with the least amount of possible friction: That is, smooth domestic transition and least (economic) fallout from the neighbors. China obviously; sure Korea may throw a fit (however justified or not) but in the end will be reigned in by the common US-dominion. I can already see it done by a two-birds-one-stone scenario: Take the next senkaku island “crisis” (and it will come, or rather, will be made), brinkmanship stokes domestic fears, militarisation is pushed through on a wave of popular support (further marginalizing pacifists as airheaded at best, traitors at worst, in face of the situation), after a round of dickwaving everybody goes home like the last time and Japan can congratulate itself on its new shiny toys. I’m sure the policy documents are already sitting hot in the drawers.

    4. Bayfield Says:

      quoting from your article:
      “….he said with firm certainty at various stages that “no Japanese” wants things like expansion of Japan’s borders”

      —> tell people that you don’t want war? forced into it?
      fatalist victim mentality pitch. check.

      “….He did not feel a need to be restrained by a diplomat’s training, calling various schools of thought “totally wrong” and “stupid”,…”

      —> label and single out opposing views with prejudice, check.

      “…defend itself from unjustified aggression from China!”

      —> scare people that an enemy attack is imminent, check.

      I think someone used this tactic before:

      “Why of course the people don’t want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don’t want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But after all it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or fascist dictorship, or a parliament or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peace makers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

      ― Hermann Goering

      http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/33505-why-of-course-the-people-don-t-want-war-why-should

      Oh yes, once the LDP gets rid of article 96, Kitaoka will have to think of new reasons as to how Japan will be different than its Showa past. The reasons that Kitaoka stated above claiming that Japan will not fall back to its Showa style dictatorship requires that Japan’s current constitution remain fully intact. This and people’s rights to voice their opinions.

      Also reasons 4 and 5 have some current issues. The hierarchical structure of Japan’s society discourages the commoner from having any say against those of a higher rank. i.e. criticizing your boss is viewed as rude and unprofessional and your voice will be disregarded.

      As for number 5, freedom of speech means that as long as your opinion caters to the official LDP party line then its okay. For Kitaoka and his party, it is the right to shout down, name-call, label and silence others, just like how Hatoyama was labeled a traitor for voicing a non-party-line opinion.

    5. Winning Gold at Dressage Doesn't Count Says:

      >now that’s a novel take on Japan’s colonial history

      The interpretation that Japan annexed Korea out of fear that an expansionist Russia could swallow weak neighbors and then pose a threat to Japan is actually pretty much mainstream opinion. Pyle notes that security was the primary calculation for Japan’s annexation of Korea, as does LaFeber and several others. Yamagata Aritomo and most of the other genro were not wide-eyed nationalists out for glory for the sacred land, but modern rationalists. In fact, the Meiji statemen, while viewing a Korean invasion as necessary, actually restrained true nationalist-expansionalists (like Saigo Takamori) who thought invasion would be good for the national spirit. Ironically, it’s the latter who was glorified by Hollywood. So this allusion by Kitaoka is not so far out of line. What he apparently forgets is how batshit crazy the Army went when it was ensconced on the Asian mainland.

      Anyway, what pisses me off about Kitaoka and his friends is their disingenuousness. The argument about Chinese military expansion requiring collective self defense on Japan’s part is bogus. First, Japan is entitled under current constitutional interpretations to defend its own territory if that territory is under attack by a foreign power. Working with the United States during such an attack on Japan is not collective self defense at all, and thus not outside of those current constitutional arrangements. As for positing collective self defense in other areas as a quid pro quo for the U.S. aiding Japan in times of crisis, why the hell aren’t the bases that Japan allows on its sovereign territory and, by and large, pays for, a big enough quid pro quo? Those bases aren’t just there to defend Japan, after all.

      No, what Kitaoka and company essentially want is for Japan to engage in collective self-defense so that it can be seen as an important player on the world stage. And to some extent I get this. It is probably a bit embarrassing to have the Dutch and Australians babysit your armed forces when they are on reconstruction missions in places like Iraq because they can’t legally protect the people under their care. But if this is their goal, they need to prompt a national debate, bring people on board, and change the constitution. If they can’t do that, they have no legitimacy, so they shouldn’t go around sneakily “reinterpreting” things. Especially so in this case, because the collective self defense as part of “minimum necessary use of force” argument is legally pretty weak. Look at what he is saying: “we need to do this because it enables Japan to engage in peacekeeping and helps us get along with the Americans better.” I’m sorry, but Japan is only allowed to use the “minimum necessary use of force” in SELF DEFENSE–that is, the ability to ward off or respond to clear and imminent threats. Neither of the rationales mentioned falls into that category. And getting involved in dust-ups in Afghanistan or whatever just because you want to maintain your alliance with the U.S. cannot realistically be squared with the current wording of article 9. Farting about with “reinterpretations” therefore just undermines the rule of law.

      The bit at the end is really galling. Perhaps it wasn’t article 9 that guaranteed peace in Japan, but it sure as hell wasn’t that group of nationalist conservatives centered on Kishi who in 1960 represented everything that Abe and Kitaoka want today.

    6. Winning Gold at Dressage Doesn't Count Says:

      Having said that–and even having heard from friends that Kitaoka was something of a dick at the talk when it came to dealing with views he didn’t accept himself–I take his general point that Japan today is not the Japan of the 1930s. People who go on about how Abe is trying to take Japan back to the good ol’ days of fascism actually make it harder to challenge him. Moderate members of the DPJ who are concerned about the impact of these reinterpretations on the integrity of the constitution often get dismissed as they are accused of being in cahoots with pacifists who think that if you give an SDF member a gun he’ll attempt a military coup.

    7. Loverilakkuma Says:

      Good for him to come to Hawaii to talk about the national issue. Like it or not, he’s privileged to have his say without compunction, and the attendees were given an opportunity to get access to his speech (I assume the EWC will post it via vimeo on the website pretty soon).

      Seems like he has made speeches (in English) numerous times, but I just found only one available on the Youtube, so far. He talked about the needs of dispatching SDF to Sudan to watch over the Somali pirates (international police mission as the pre-text for revising the Article 9 !?)

      Anyway, I’ll wait for his speech being posted on the EWC Website. It will help us to learn more about Abe administration’s rhetoric of enemyship under the name of self-defense.

    8. Markus Says:

      We of course have to remember how power is structured in Japan (van Wolferen et al), to understand that nothing that comes from such a obfuscated system in terms of foreign policy can ever be trusted.

      As this is Japan, and nobody can be sure if this isn’t just 100% lip service, let’s simply continue to judge them by their actions, not by their words. I think that’s the policy of the US and European administrations as well. Very little consideration is given about the grand speeches coming from Japan, because the cat has been long out of the bag that the image Japan presents to the world, and what goes on behind the scenes, are two very different things. People like him like to think of themselves as cunning, but they are tricking nobody into believing Japan’s self-image has actually changed since before WWII.

      If Japan took actual steps to improve relation to their neighbours, then the world should acknowledge, but there’s no point in wasting thought on words.

    9. Karjh12 Says:

      The groundwork is being laid on many fronts !!!

      http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/10/aboott-invites-abe-japan-friend

      http://www.asianmilitaryreview.com/australia-japan-and-us-concludes-first-exercise-southern-jackaroo/

      http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/policy/australia-hosts-japan-in-first-live-fire-exercise/story-e6frg8yo-1226653316109#

    10. Ast Says:

      There’s nothing wrong with re-militarizing… I mean it already is militarized, except in name. What’s wrong with it is everything else. China being the boogeyman, etc.

      It’s funny that you mention Wolferen, Markus, because in some of his recent books he is supportive of getting rid of Article 9 and re-militarizing, although I don’t think he wants LDP to do it. He has also called SDF “Ironically more democratic than most organizations in Japan”, and that Japan has very few likelihood of becoming an expansionist state. He has suggested that Japan should rewrite Article 9 in a way that allows Japan to own military, but will never start a war on expansion like they did before in WW2.

    11. Chris B Says:

      We need to consider the money side of this, a lot of the US military spending caused by the influence on politicians of arms companies and their owners. Of course it’s not just military spending that is influenced by such forces, but entry into wars as well – nothing like a war to boost “defence” spending. How much influence do arms companies have on Japanese politicians and what methods do they use? I assume golden parachutes are used, are the companies able to finance politicians or their campaigns directly as they are in the US? How about the revolving doors between the civil service/politics and the arms companies?

    12. Markus Says:

      @Ast (#9) Re-militarizing is definitely a misleading moniker for what Japan is trying to do. They’d only have to change the branding of their SDF efforts and – “boom” – they have their military. Explosive materials are not “offensive” or “defensive” by nature anyway.
      My opinion is that Japan is aware that they already have most of what they need, and the ultimate goal (which isn’t revealed yet) is to go public and admit to their ongoing atomic weapons programs. Or, if that in fact doesn’t exist (which would surprise me), be officially given green light to start building nukes.

      I agree that we’ll not see Japan invade neighbouring countries anytime soon. What Japan wants NOW is to be respected and feared again as the most powerful nation in Asia and to be seen as “on par” with the US, Russia, and the UK. I said above that the self-image of Japan as a “superior to all” nation (based on evil concepts like the alleged genetical superiority) has never really changed, but is artificially being suppressed by the “unfair” constitution and crippling of the military.

      With people like Abe or Ishihara being elected over and over again, I think it is safe to say that the majority of Japanese are supporting ultra-nationalist ideas to correct the allegedly unfair treatment of Japan after WWII. And people who don’t vote against it can only mean to at least condone this course of action.

      Once Japan has nukes, we’ll see a dramatic change in communication and policy, and Japan will, at the very least, claim all “disputed” territories – because that’s not “expansion” but simply “claiming what’s your’s anyway”, right?

    13. Baudrillard Says:

      ” Japan as a huge developed economy integrated into world markets is particularly vulnerable to international sanctions. But China, you see, is a member of the UN Security Council, unlike Japan, and they make UN sanctions more “ineffective”.

      Oh, so he is in effect arguing against Japan having that permanent security council seat? That’s one of the 5 reasons for not reverting to militarism?

      Oh OK then. As the USA did not support Japan’s bid for the permanent seat even after Japan’s involvement in Iraq, I think we can all go along with that…..

    14. Kirk Says:

      @Markus:

      You present an excellent analysis, however I think that Japans bark will mostly come from within, in order to control its masses with the usual racial superiority propaganda from the right. The powers that be, way up on top of the hill in the diet etc., will realize that former colonies are watching. If Japan goes nuclear, and declares itself equal/superior to the more advanced nations, it will alienate itself even further in Asia. Escalation of tensions, which is what the right wants, will cause China to preempt any threat from Japan before they become a member of the new world order. I would hope that this alone would provoke some logic from the powers in charge, but might just be the thing to start with new excuses. The scene looks familiar to 1937 in Japan, when the facist took control. This time, however, there is a stronger system of checks and balances in place with a pacifist populace. How far the evil hand of the right can move them into something more aggressive remains to be seen. Im seeing allot of counteraction in Japan at demos, through music etc. Unfortuanetly, its like everything else in Japan- indirect. In any worst case scenario, it will once again be the right who destroys Japan.

    15. Ast Says:

      Markus
      >I agree that we’ll not see Japan invade neighbouring countries anytime soon. What Japan wants NOW is to be respected and feared again as the most powerful nation in Asia and to be seen as “on par” with the US, Russia, and the UK. I said above that the self-image of Japan as a “superior to all” nation (based on evil concepts like the alleged genetical superiority) has never really changed, but is artificially being suppressed by the “unfair” constitution and crippling of the military.

      I really doubt that is the case, if it were, they would have done so already through their economic power. But they haven’t. In fact, Japan has deliberately underplayed their role as a leader after the WW2. Diplomatically they have always stressed that they are “a member of Asia” (and not a leader) and they act as “a bridge between other Asian nations”. They have clearly stayed away from playing any role at all in Asia or the world.

      It would be a GOOD thing if Japan (and now with China) played a leader role in Asia with their economic power. But they haven’t.

    16. Jim Di Griz Says:

      Speaking of Japan’s ‘developed economy’, this is interesting.
      Having paid the Nikkeijin to go home and never come back, now there is an interest in asking them to return? Well, I hope for the sake of the Nikkeijin that it’s a case of once bitten…

      http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/10/15/national/ban-lifted-on-nikkei-who-got-axed-airfare/#.Ul1q6xwSFMs

      In any event, I thought the goal of Abenomics was to make jobs and increase wages for Japanese workers, so that they could go shopping and boost the economy. Doesn’t really work if you fill those jobs with Nikkeijin at minimum wage and leave the Japanese unemployed, does it?

      (Disclaimer; I never believed in the wishful thinking panacea that is all Abenomics really is to the average Joe- the money’s in the stock market bubble that Abe created earlier this year, and that’s it).

    17. Loverilakkuma Says:

      Here’s an update by a local columnist. Fact check:

      http://www.civilbeat.com/posts/2013/10/14/20147-the-rising-east-japan-pleases-us-angers-china-and-south-korea/

    18. DeBourca Says:

      @15:
      “(Disclaimer; I never believed in the wishful thinking panacea that is all Abenomics really is to the average Joe- the money’s in the stock market bubble that Abe created earlier this year, and that’s it).”

      I’d largely agree, but I also think there’s something else going on. Basically, the powers that be in Japan have realised that the country is on its way down. Due to the plummeting, aging population, racial discrimination, work practices and all the other things we know about, Japan is going to get a lot poorer very quickly. So “Abenomics” was really about making sure a large part of the wealth was transferred to the hands of the business/political elites/families before it was too late.

      This whole thing about Japan being a middle class country is rubbish. It already has one of the worst relative poverty rates of any remotely developed country in the world* and it’s getting worse by the year. So, Abenomics is really about recasting the old feudal Pre-Meiji era Japan where you have a tiny wealthy elite, propped up by well connected merchants and beuraucracy, sitting on a vast population of what are essentially impoverished serfs. That’s the optimistic prediction BTW. The doomsday scenario is that these serfs will be conscripted into a revitalised military.

      * (approx.16 percent:
      http://theglobalintelligence.com/2012/04/03/poverty-in-japan/)

    19. Kirk Says:

      @DeBourca,

      There isnt any increase in jobs or salaries, not that I have recongnized, so I agree with you that Abenomics really hasnt benefited anybody. There is allot of hustle bustle, more than before anyhow from weekend shoppers spending their yen. Its probably due to the tax increase on the way. Tokyo Olympics might provide lots of short term employment to mafia owned construction types as well as legit service providers, hospitality sector, vendors etc. I agree with the first poster on this thread. There are troubling times ahead for Japan. The best thing they can do is open up to the world, there are some signs of that happening but its very limited.

    20. Jim di Griz Says:

      @ Kirk #18

      While the masses seem blissfully placated by Abe’s promise to eventually make the reforms of the third arrow, which will lead to the economic benefits reaching the average guy by way of pay rises; a process that Aso has said would be unfair to expect in less than a few years, I remember that earlier in the year department stores reported a bump in sales of luxury products like kimono, and here is Rolls Royce saying that Japan sales are up on the back of Abenomics;

      http://www.japantoday.com/smartphone/view/business/rolls-royce-sees-asias-desire-for-luxury-driving-growth

      Abenomics was nothing more than an asset bubble, and the rich got richer. ‘Naoki Average’ just hasn’t caught on that he’s being played yet, is all.

    21. Markus Says:

      @Kirk (#18) Kyle Bass, who might not be the type guy who you’d want to have hanging around your house, but seems to be well-respected in macro-economic circles, says,

      “Olympics don’t have any material impact on our investment philosophy in Japan. They are at best a net neutral for Japan”
      http://blogs.marketwatch.com/thetell/2013/09/16/hayman-capitals-kyle-bass-investing-japan-is-not-worth-the-risk/

      I remember him being extremely pessimistic about “Abenomics” and Japan’s mid-term economic prospects. He basically said: “They need to get immigration going as fast as possible, but who are they going to let in – they hate everybody!”

      See:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kFcDKBpdII (I think this has been linked before but is worth a watch if you haven’t seen it).

    22. Kirk Says:

      “They need to get immigration going as fast as possible, but who are they going to let in – they hate everybody!”

      Its the crux of the problem that the mainstream media avoids. Until this changes, nothing will ever change in Japan. Its the root of it all; unless its Japanese then it wont be accepted. There will be careful manuevering by Abe to put schemes unique to Japan in place, but I agree, most of it is wont amount to much of anything.

    23. DK Says:

      Kitaoka’s remarks are scary but fascinating indeed, in that they are deeply revealing about the numerous ways in which China has been, since time immemorial, the splinter in the mind, the thorn in Japan’s side.

      And the reason why the two are so hopelessly enmeshed in each other and engaged in this never-ending mutual demonisation is because, as has been pointed out here before, they are more similar than they’d like to admit, particularly in their self-perceptions and views of the outside world. And such self-perceptions and world-views are predicated on an overblown sense of exceptionalism and particularism that blinds both cultures to any traits, needs and interests they may have in common with the rest of humanity and makes them thus unfit for any enlightened world leadership role (which is, interestingly, the recognition both seem to crave, more and more).

      Two countries separated by a common mindset – and utterly incapable of conceiving a healthy interaction with others outside their rigid hierarchies of master-servant power relationships.

      Not that I’ve ever endorsed the self-serving American world order, but heaven help us all if either China or Japan will ever have a say in world affairs again.

      Talk of jumping out of the frying pan into the fire…

    24. Kirk Says:

      My thoughts exactly @ DK. Your analysis might also explain why there is little innovation ever coming from either country, drab buildings and landscape, unquestionalbe authority from above and in Japans case a society seeking to fill an empty void with gaijin clowns.

    25. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ DK #22

      I agree with you completely, and (not to derail the thread), believe that the root cause lies in Platonic v’s Confucian social theory.

      Whereas Platonic approaches are built on challenging everything (critical analysis), including (gasp) the teacher (!) and your social ‘betters’, confucianism locks people into rigid vertical social structures of power and subservience with no checks on authority (explains a lot about Japan’s problems, and China’s corrupt officials, doesn’t it?).
      Platonic thinking produces social discourse, whereas the aim of confucianism is maintaining ‘harmony’ (the status quo).
      Since democracy in the western sense is a product of platonic discourse, it is directly opposed to confucian (and in this sense ‘asian’) values. Hence Abe’s desire to rewrite the constitution and do away with this pesky gaijin ‘democracy’.

      China might have the edge over Japan in the democracy stakes in the long run, since the explicit social rules of it’s communist period were egalitarian (or so the official propaganda went- after all, China beats Japan in the gender equality stakes), which has given the average Chinese citizen a greater awareness of his ‘rights’ as an equal partner in society than the average Japanese. When corruption is exposed in China, they use social media to organize a protest or a riot. In Japan, it’s all ‘shouganai’.

      Communism wasn’t great for China, but it broke the back of the confucian explicit master/servant relationships. In Japan, they are still unable to say ‘no’ to illegal unpaid overtime.

    26. Baudrillard Says:

      I just interviewed the top guy of a certain major Chinese investment institution, and he thinks it is too risky to invest in Japan because

      1.(ironically) “The J Govt controls everything” i.e. this Abenomics boom is completely artificial and does not follow the natural law cycle of economics

      2. Earthquakes to come

      3. The Japanese character/way of doing business, which he calls “lose/lose.” He says he wants a win-win outcome.

      I can relate to “lose/lose” in Japan. Think how many times a deal has not gone ahead over intransigence of tiny details, from everything from business, to delaying an English lesson time by 30 minutes so the client could retain the teacher they want.

      Far too often in Japan deals fall through over one petty, tiny stylistic error, like not putting the full yuubin bango on their invoice, etc.

      Its the “I must have it all my way and the way I want it at the cheapest price” which I expect from middle aged spoilt housewives haggling over e.g. paying by American express and getting Am Ex points and getting a discount too, with home delivery, etc, but not from serious business people.

      But the Japanese way is called “aggressive” by this Chinese CEO.
      I would interpret that to mean their continued nagging (stalking even? a la Britney Spears case) insistence of just bothering you again and again with no concession for months or even years in the hope of wearing you down.

      They have made up their mind exactly what they want- no matter how unrealistic (e.g. Britney stalker again)- and will then just relentlessly pursue this goal, no matter how impossible.

      Thus, in my example above, the client will just keep asking for the same teacher even if said teacher has said countless times he is not available at the exact times they want, and how about delaying it for 30 minutes, but they do not want to even concede this but still “want” the same teacher. They just keep asking him the same thing again until its borderline harassment.

      Just an endless pursuit of near impossible goals and ideals with no flexibility.

      This may be harsh or untrue, but this is how major investors perceive Japan, and this isn’t good.

      The Chinese CEO went on to say Japan was a sort of free economy, freer than China (he admitted) but that it was “militaristic” i.e. regimented, and top down.

      Thus, the current “boom” is completely artificial, superficial, and cannot be sustained.

      China and Japan are often strikingly similar in thought and deed, but in terms of the economy, no one would argue against the huge changes China is now seeing and even encouraging.

      In Japan it is the same old, same old. “Not dynamic at all”, as one Japanese VP at a financial institution bemoaned to me.

    27. Bayfield Says:

      DK #22 says:
      “Two countries separated by a common mindset – and utterly incapable of conceiving a healthy interaction with others outside their rigid hierarchies of master-servant power relationships.”

      Yes, I agree with you, and to reinforce your viewpoint that Japanese are related to its neighbors:

      http://discovermagazine.com/1998/jun/japaneseroots1455#.UmCq-1PYM7D

      To sum up it up, the article suggests that modern Japanese where direct decendants of Koreans. Art, technology, language and culture where likely imported from the mainland. The article also states that although there is a possibility that Japan was greatly modernized at the end of the Jomon period when a large influx of immigrants came from the mainland.

      Also, the article also states that this theory is highly un-welcomed in Japan due to modern day political issues. Which is expected behavior of Japan, ethnocentric J-nationalists to go to great lengths to paint Japan as “unique”(TM).

    28. Markus Says:

      @Baudrillard (#25) Very good observations by the interviewee. It confirms the one central aspect of business in Japan that I wasn’t aware of before actually living here (only two months left – Yay!), i.e.:
      The Japanese who are taking part in western-style capitalism seem to be in over their heads. They absolutely need these rigid, militaristic structures and concepts to function at all. If they weren’t clinging to formal, external structures such as absolute punctuality, “Kaizen”, “Toyota Production System”, or the dreaded “preparing documents” (and storing them in archives) for every minor thing, doing things “exactly, without fail the way Sensei said / Senpai does”, and even the completely inflexible attitude to personal attire such as suits and haircuts, then all hell would break loose in the sense that Japan would fall back into being the chaotic and unorganized place they love to accuse China of being.

      If we look at the private life circumstances (and therefore, the real story) even of well-salaried Japanese adults, these are more often than not extremely chaotic:
      - Apartments that are cluttered up to the ceiling. Sleeping where you eat, or on the subway, the streets, etc.
      - A non-existing family life.
      - No intellectual interest in exploring other cities or countries other than the amassing of meaningless status symbols (which only add to the clutter back home).
      - Addiction to hours after hours of watching brain dead variety shows on TV in your free time.

      I personally think this paints a truer picture of the modern Japanese, one that is opposed to the “cunning, hardworking, punctual salary man”. That is just a role, and playing this role is understandably extremely exhausting. It is because of this universal tiredness with a culture that they weren’t really made for, that the economy is not sustainable, birth rates are down, and hate (which may be just externalized self-hate) is on the uprise.

      It’s a shame that they respond to this dilemma with more nationalism and an even worse complex of superiority instead of reaching out and trying to get others to help them with the huge bite they took out of the West, but can’t chew.

    29. Jim di Griz Says:

      @ Bayfield #26

      You are correct.
      There is a Nara-era census of the population of Nara, that is in the Diet Library, available to anyone who requests to see, that shows 9 of every 10 people living in Nara at that time were born in Korea. Of course, most Japanese would never request to see it, since they would never accept that such a document exists as it defies their world-view. No academics would endorse, support, or publicise this document for the same reason: they would be attacked and criticized, have their ‘loyalty’ questioned, lose their job, and possibly be in physical danger.
      The result is that this document remains largely unknown and ignored. Very Stalinist approach to history, I think. I actually had a Japanese colleague who taught history at a national university. She once made a comment in class that ‘all Japanese came from Korea’, and that was it, she was finished.

      – Please give us a source of some sort corroborating that this document exists.

    30. Baudrillard Says:

      @ Jim “China might have the edge over Japan in the democracy stakes in the long run” -before some right wing apologist jumps up here and says “You guys cannot be serious. OF COURSE Japan is more democratic than Communist China”, lets just think about civil disobedience for a minute.

      It is a rare occurrence in Japan, except ironically with increasingly violent demonstrations from the right (because they have been given free reign until recently)

      Now I read here that there were 180,000 riots in China in just 2 years. Think about that figure. 180 000.
      http://www.godlikeproductions.com/forum1/message2038783/pg1

      So much for monolithic communist rule (the cliche western and Japanese media would have us believe). In fact, go anywhere in China and you can immediately see civil disobedience at the microcosm. Masses of people crossing the street at a red light, a passenger giving lip to some busybody in a uniform in the subway, etc.

      How do you control 1 billion people? Mao was canny enough to impose his will-by manipulating one section of society against others-for a time.But tacit approval is always required, as we see now with the unspoken social contract of rising living standards in return for the CCP being unchallenged.

      There was a cartoon in Japan post Tiannanmen of 2 scenes; in the China scene, people actually stop and listen to student demonstrators speaking with a megaphone. In the Japanese scene the students wave a banner wildly, but the people just ignore them. The cartoon actually portrayed the Japanese students (or anyone who spoke out) as acting foolishly and therefore to be ignored,and some of my Japanese friends unfortunately took the deferential interpretation of “the Japanese students are baka” but I interpret it differently now:

      The people in the Japanese segment of the cartoon just wanted to get on with their “dreamy day”. No eye contact, no communication with “soto”, nothing to do with me, I m alright Taro, just passing through on the way to work or pachinko….

    31. DK Says:

      Mark #27,

      Do you know the writings of Ango Sakaguchi (1906-1955)? If not, I vividly recommend them, as they pretty much corroborate what you say, but in a broader context. It’s great stuff. Needless to say, he’s now a completely forgotten figure in Japan.

      To my knowledge, Sakaguchi was the first to have described Japan as a “culture of deceit” (sorry, Debito! ;o)), in his Darakuron/A Theory of Decadence (1946), in which he analyses at length the role of bushido during WWII. Among other things, he argues that the country’s postwar decadence is more truthful than a wartime Japan built on dangerous illusions and lies like bushido with its extolling of self-restraint and self-sacrifice as not only virtuous but also beautiful (美徳/bitoku). Definitely not Abe & Co’s cup of tea!

      But my favourite passage from Darakuron is this one:

      “What is true human nature? It is simply desiring what one desires and disliking what one dislikes. One should like what one likes, love the woman one loves, and get out of the false cloak of what is said to be a just cause and social obligation, and return to the naked heart. Finding this naked human heart is the first step toward restoring humanity.”

      How far removed from this realisation Japan seems these days, as it plunges again into its worst past delusions. It’s all so sad.

    32. DK Says:

      Baudrillard #29,

      Yup, the Chinese do riot a lot, though not always for.. .er… noble causes. ;o)))

      With apologies to Debito for the detour, here’s a (fairly) recent example:

      Riot after Chinese teachers try to stop pupils cheating

      What should have been a hushed scene of 800 Chinese students diligently sitting their university entrance exams erupted into siege warfare after invigilators tried to stop them from cheating.

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/10132391/Riot-after-Chinese-teachers-try-to-stop-pupils-cheating.html

      Sic transit…

      In this, China and Japan radically different indeed.

    33. Winning Gold at Dressage Doesn't Count Says:

      Baudrillard: Never heard of teachers refusing to sing the national anthem at schools then? Or precariat protests? Or Article 9 Associations and their rallies? Or Okinawan base fences littered with protest signs? Or environmental protests? Or anti-TPP marches? Or the sudden prevalence of Iwamano Kiyoshiro/Timers covers in the wake of Fukushima? Or indeed, the anti-nuclear protests that anti-nuclear advocates liked to state were huge, and which still meet (though in diminished numbers) every Friday outside the PM’s residence?

      I would suggest that the reason rampant civil disobedience of the 1950s-70s has waned in Japan is the same reason that it has waned in Northern Europe. People don’t feel that their democratic rights are being usurped across the board. People do, however, feel threatened in niche areas and protest accordingly. Whether or not this is a negative aspect of the atomization of society caused by capitalism is an interesting discussion, but not one relevant only to Japan.

      What one can say, however, is that if your golden standard of democratic expression is Tienanmen Square, then your perspective is a little off. But then again, French post-structuralists think of everything in terms of oppressive power structures, so there really is no escape, is there?

    34. Jim di Griz Says:

      Hi Debito. This is the book;
      http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/1873410220/ref=redir_mdp_mobile

    35. Jim di Griz Says:

      @ Winning Gold #32

      ‘Never heard of teachers refusing to sing the national anyhem’?

      What, do you mean the teachers who refused to sing and were penalized with pay reduction, so they took the case to court, and the court ruled in their favor, and then the Board of Education took it to a higher court and got a ruling against the teachers, and now says it will fire teachers who didn’t sing? Those teachers, right?

      And what did the teachers and their ‘left wing’ union do next? Organize a media campaign to raise awareness of the trampling of teachers constitutional right to freedom of speech? Make connections with a left wing political party to build greater anti-fascist consensus? Go on a protest march with concerned parents? Riot outside the Ministry of Education?

      No.

      They shrugged their shoulders and said ‘it can’t be helped’, because it takes effort to get up and do something, and the public would criticize them for upsetting the ‘wa’.

    36. Markus Says:

      @Winning (#32) At least two of the “riot” examples you gave of course must be chalked up to primitive anti-Americanism / xenophobia, not democratic activism.
      But they were good examples for the notion that “critical thinking” is absent in the majority of Japanese being another myth. The Japanese can be plenty critical, as long as subject matter has even the slightest connection to something / someone foreign.

    37. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      @Jim Di Griz #28 – Another piece of trivia that often goes unnoticed in Japan is that Nara is the Korean word for “country” and corresponds to Japanese 国. Somehow this doesn’t get mentioned much when people talk about how Nara got settled back in the 5th-6th centuries AD.

    38. Winning Gold at Dressage Doesn't Count Says:

      Jim di Griz,

      The thing about challenging The Man, is that sometimes The Man wins. It wouldn’t be an act of resistance were it otherwise. But the point is that there is a challenge. That last court decision was one month ago. Given that there have been some ten or eleven separate court cases in the last few years on various aspects of this issue, it is therefore a little early to be saying that they’ve packed up and gone home, no?

      But if you want to take education and court cases as your example, how about the case of a school that was set up to instruct local children in the ideology of a regime that is virulently hostile to the Japanese state winning its court case against a bunch of Japanese who spewed hatred at its teachers? How about the issue of hate speech being discussed by the prime minister, and having his words feature in their own section in a major interview in Bungei Shunju, a major conservative Japanese monthly, while that court case was ongoing? Does it look like people are ignoring issues that challenge some sort of rigid conservative consensus?

      Nevertheless, I have no problems with methods that approach social research from the position that there are “truth regimes” or a “manufactured consensus” or a “culture industry” which saps resistance. However, what you have to understand is that these methods were developed in and are primarily applied to bourgeois democracies to tackle the particular problem of why enlightenment thinking in these societies had not led to universal emancipation among their members. To claim that despite, or indeed because of, the fact that Japan has formal constitutional guarantees on the freedom of speech, the “powers that be” have to act in more subtle ways to produce a pliant populace is more or less to accept that Japan is a bourgeois democracy. And that’s sort of the point about the odiousness of the China/Japan comparison. In Japan (as in any bourgeois democracy) there are ways of placing societal pressure on people who criticize the state directly, but in China you may well be thrown in jail no matter how much you’ve previously asserted your freedom while crossing while the light is red. It’s actually a little bit insulting to imply that there is more of a culture of freedom in China because you see more people there arguing with the station master over the price of train tickets.

      Where I also part company from many here is the notion that Japan is special in this regard. There is a sort of switching tactic among those who comment here–I call it the “Wolferen shuffle”–whereby even signs of resistance are seen as proof of an all-encompassing Japanese mindset that wouldn’t apply elsewhere. How is it, for example, that when farmers in Canada and the United States, health care professionals in Australia and New Zealand, and unions in all these countries complain about TPP, citing concerns about transparency and, variously, issues related to agricultural protection, the private insurance market, and wage pressure, it’s a case of sectors protecting their vested interests. Yet when farmers, health care professionals and unions in Japan raise the same issues it is their “primitive anti-Americanism / xenophobia” driving them on. When Americans protest outside bases in Nevada, they are anti-war/anti-pollution etc. activists. When Japanese do it in Okinawa, their “primitive” racism blinds them to what is good for them. It’s all ingrained, you see? Eighth century census data from Nara tells us so! The Japanese are special, and thus our theories have a special meaning when applied to them.

      I’m sorry, but this type of thinking is just Nihonjinron.

    39. Baudrillard Says:

      @ Winning, I take your point for sure. There are examples of individuals in Japan who stand up and demonstrate, and I definitely admire Iwamano Kiyoshiro (an anti nuclear activist before Fukushima and before it was trendy, RIP).

      but these are arguably exceptions that prove the rule. Like I said, 180 000 riots in China and these acts pale in comparison at the sheer scale of civil disobedience in China.

      And I absolutely agree with you when you say the following: “I would suggest that the reason rampant civil disobedience of the 1950s-70s has waned in Japan is the same reason that it has waned in Northern Europe. People don’t feel that their democratic rights are being usurped across the board. People do, however, feel threatened in niche areas and protest accordingly.”

      Indeed. Japan and other “westernized” countries (or countries who perceive themselves to be so, or to be middle class, never mind the reality of the poverty gap etc) will never have a revolution, as Guy Debord (a French post modernist) postulated, because they are too comfortable, too hypnotized by the TV, the internet, their entertainment, the media, and in Japan; the dreamy day.

    40. Winning Gold at Dressage Doesn't Count Says:

      The theory is that when you’re up against authority and the consent of the governed, resistance is always the exception that proves the rule. That’s why they call it resistance. Anyway, when I said I had no problem with postmodern methods that highlight regimes of truth, that doesn’t mean I buy into them. Where some people might see “hypnosis,” I see people engaging in leisure activities. And popular media can, of course, be used as a force for potent critique and protest just as much as they can be used as a force to solidify the orthodoxy.

    41. Markus Says:

      @#Winning The main line of defense for most apologists and many Japanese who are aware of the criticism of their society today is “bad things exist, just like in any other country”. They accuse critics of unfairly singling out Japan. But who really wants to argue that both the quantity and quality of xenophobia and racism (based on quack, racial theories long debunked in the enlightened societies) isn’t exceptional in Japan?

      The only societies that could be compared are South and North Korea. North Koreans don’t have a choice. South Koreans have a choice, but not since long. The Japanese have had plenty of opportunities, but so far chose xenophobic, ultra-nationalist, and revisionist leader almost without fail.

      Maybe you really believe in what you say (although I don’t think you are), but I’ll rather stick to the numbers than to your positivist attitude. The majority of voted for Abe / Aso twice last year, in full knowledge of their agendas. The people who chose to go not vote in such a fragile system can be counted as condoning the status quo.

      The first step for the Japanese should be to stop voting for (neo) fascists who get into fighter jets with the number “731″ on them for photo-ops. Oh, they only voted for him because they thought his policy of printing money and then see what happens would save the economy? I see, that’s not primitive at all.

      You stories may be “cool”, bro, but let’s stick to the data.

    42. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Winning Gold #38

      ‘Given that there have been some ten or eleven separate court cases in the last few years’. Yeah, they’ve done a really great job at getting organized and working together. Oh, sorry, my mistake- they aren’t organized or working in concert. Piece-meal, local issue, mind-set in play. What a fail; of course they will lose to ‘the man’.

      ‘But if you want to take education and court cases as your example’. No, I don’t really. You brought up the teachers in a reply to Baudrillard, that was IMHO a misrepresentation of actual events, and now you are doing the same with the allegation that I brought education into the discussion, and by this (again, misrepresentative and out of context) reference to the Kyoto court ruling against hate-speech outside the N. Korean sponsored school. Way to play dirty, Winning Gold.

      And to top it all, you bring other countries into the discussion and invert the ‘damned if you do/don’t’ argument on me, in order to accuse me of espousing nihonjinron giron (which you know I am meant to take as an insult), and therefore labeling me as a racist.

      You’re a nasty little piece of work. I haven’t got the slightest clue why Debito let’s you repeatedly spout apologist clap-trap here.

    43. Winning Gold at Dressage Doesn't Count Says:

      Actually, I gave a number of examples, JDG. You focused on but one. And, by the way, the teachers unions are all over this, so, yes, coordinated.

      http://sankei.jp.msn.com/west/west_life/news/130920/wlf13092000180000-n1.htm

      As for casting spurious assertions, in the time I’ve “known” you, you’ve generalized more than any other person in comments on this blog about the “nature” of the Japanese, using some hokum about “their” eternal and unchanging historical character. My jibe about eighth century census data was a bit of sarcasm and somewhat misplaced, but it doesn’t take long to find you doing it here again. In this very thread, we have you spouting off about how some sort of ingrained lack of critical thinking is down to Confucianism as opposed to superior western Platonic philosophy. Of course it is. As if Japanese high school students don’t read about Plato, and Japanese university students don’t read Kant, Hegel, Marx, Saussure and Foucault.

      As for me being an “apologist,” I’m not actually sure what that term means. It seems to be something like “an accepter, defender and enforcer of the status quo,” as per one of Debito’s articles. Well, OK. Perhaps occasionally I think that there are opinions expressed here (often by you) that perhaps unwittingly, given your generalizations about “the Japanese,” misrepresent events or cultural phenomena in Japan so as to ascribe them a perniciousness that they don’t deserve. But citing all those protesters above, did I say I was actually against any of their causes? Actually I’m all for a Japan with a vibrant civil discourse and the possibility of social change. And hey, guess what? I believe it exists! It is you who is spouting nonsense about Confucianism as if there were some ingrained culture guiding the immutable Japanese hive mind. If it really were that simple, then no social movement would have a role to play, including the one represented by this blog.

      So yeah. If the Nihonjinron shoe fits…

      Markus:

      As an aside, I am no fan of Shinzo Abe, and I find his nationalism quite bizarre at times. But it’s hard to see that 731 “photo op” as anything but a really bad gaffe. A really really bad gaffe. The 731 atrocity is about the only major war crime that Japan’s strident nationalists will actually own up to (I mean the ones who have their work published–you can find anything on the Internet). Plus, Abe’s view of Japan’s war experience was that Japanese men were fighting the good fight abroad liberating their Asian brethren. How likely is it that he is going to sit in a plane and essentially say: “Thumbs up for a unit that was conducting biological warfare experiments on other Asians!”? He wouldn’t. Unit 731 is an unpleasant detail for him because it contradicts his narrative of the war. He would hardly seek to emphasize it. Of course, he should be dragged through the wringer for not noticing it at the time, but I hardly think he sought to go out and take a huge dump all over relations with not only China, but the United States as well–remember, they are a special part of the 731 atrocity.

      In any case, my main point: The “bad things exist, just like in any country” (so it is okay in Japan) line is not one I am pursuing. If you read carefully, you’d that I am criticizing those who ascribe some sort of ingrained or primordial (as in use of the term “primitive”) explanation to the behavior of one set of people, and then ascribe a set of rational motivations for similar behavior elsewhere. That is, I am criticizing those who say “this is about racism when the Japanese do it, but not when we do it.” It is a different thing altogether.

    44. Loverilakkuma Says:

      @WGADDC

      >Nevertheless, I have no problems with methods that approach social research from the position that there are “truth regimes” or a “manufactured consensus” or a “culture industry” which saps resistance.

      As long as you are capable of discerning the reality created by the regime from the reality that ordinary citizens experience on a daily basis. Or not, you will instead follow Milton Freeman’s free market ideology or Ayn Rand’s SF fantasy for the sake of(or detriment to) your argument, and end up finding yourself raising a voice of “manufactured resistance” created by a mass culture (i.e., big corporation, popular media).

      >It’s actually a little bit insulting to imply that there is more of a culture of freedom in China because you see more people there arguing with the station master over the price of train tickets.

      Who’s making that argument? Insulting to whom/what? State control and manipulation are exactly what people in any society are facing today. The regimes don’t have to be autocratic like China, Myanmar, Iran or Syria. Are you trying to say that critics should shut up on Japan’s problems and be grateful to the politicians for protecting us from the threat of war by China, which is yet to be confirmed at this stage?

    45. DK Says:

      Another recent analysis of Japan’s predicament vis-a-vis China:

      “Abenomics Humiliated Again As Japan Posts 15th Consecutive (And Record) Trade Deficit”
      http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-10-21/abenomics-humiliated-again-japan-posts-15th-consecutive-and-record-trade-deficit

      This passage in particular caught my eye, as it ties up with the present discussion:

      Every month we say it, and every month it just keeps getting worse: RIP Abenomics… until next month, when it will be RIP-er.

      . . .

      The biggest irony, however, was in Japan’s trade relationship with its nemesis China, which has once again outsmarted its island neighbor. Instead of escalating militarily over a bunch of rocks in the East China Sea, China is now intent on using Japan as a mercantilist source of GDP growth. And, alternatively, Japan’s GDP is getting clobbered thanks to its soaring deficit with China: Japan’s trade deficit with China jumped 87 percent to 620 billion yen ($6.3 billion) as imports of such items as cellphones and solar panels surged 31 percent to 1.68 trillion yen ($17 billion) while exports were up 11 percent at 1.06 trillion yen ($10.8 billion). Japan’s shipments to China, Japan’s biggest trade partner, grew 11.4 percent to 1.06 trillion yen in September, while imports from China soared 30.9 percent to 1.68 trillion yen.

      So even as Abe preaches his propaganda pomp while his policies and economy are imploding all around him, China is laughing all the way to the bank as it is sucking its militant neighbor dry.

      . . .

      In short: with every passing month Abenomics does merely more of what it was meant to do – cripple the economy, destroy the workers and hurt end consumers, while the soaring stock market helps just the ultra wealthiest. Good job Goldman Sachs advisors to the BOJ.

      (DISCLAIMER: no schadenfreude on my part, though. I feel truly sorry for Japan and what’s in stock for the majority of the Japanese people in the coming years. This is not going to end well.)

    46. Markus Says:

      @DK (#45) Same is true for Japan’s trade balance with the EU:

      Exports to the EU: Up 14.3% (645.5 billion Yen)
      Imports from the EU: Up 30.7% (669.9 billion Yen)

      (Source in German only, sorry)
      http://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/soziales/japan-verzeichnet-rekordhandelsdefizit-a-928969.html

      A raised sales tax will be another blow to the domestic spendings as Japan’s consumer prices are already mind boggling high.

      I am quite sure we’ll see the government ask the populace to give up on all their savings (government bonds, savings in postal bank accounts) or the “sake of the nation”. And it might just work with a widely nationalistic society like this.

    47. Loverilakkuma Says:

      Hi folks,

      His full speech(with Q&A) is available on vimeo.com. Here’s the link:

      http://vimeo.com/77183187

      Japan’s New National Security Strategy in the Making from East-West Center on Vimeo.

      – Thanks very much for this!

    48. Bayfield Says:

      I feel a large part of the reason for all this nationalism and border security is mainly to divert people’s attention away from Japan’s internal problems.

      Japan ready for Olympics? Abe did say something along the lines
      of “daijobu, daijobu” right?

      dated: october 25th
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24677578

      another Fukushima scandal
      http://rt.com/news/fukushima-workers-violations-yakuza-730/

      More problems about Japan getting leaked to the outside world… ah that can’t be good. So the LDP remedies their problems with… more nationalism.

      dated: October 26th
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24684683#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

      A small earthquake hit Fukushima on October 25th amid other scandals that are also reported close to that time. Then on October 26th, Abe starts banging the war drums and talking about external threats and diverting attention.

      Seems like to the LDP, nationalists and apologists alike are trying to convince everyone else that NJ are a bigger threat to Japan than a triple nuclear meltdown. Which is why I believe Abe was so swift in making a “stand up to China, take back Japan” speech immediately after a string of Fukushima scandals popping up one after another.

    49. Bayfield Says:

      Oh I forgot to quote a very important piece in one of the links and don’t want anyone to miss it.

      “Mr Abe was reported to approved defence plans to intercept and shoot down foreign unmanned aircraft that ignore warnings to leave Japanese airspace.”
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24684683#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

      So.. approval as in approval for a pre-emptive attack? What Abe says he will approve of fits the description of pre-emptive attack as stated here

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-emptive_attack

      So even if Abe gives a green light to open fire to what he “thinks” as an enemy invasion, its still pre-emptive because Japan’s side shot first.

      Things are probably going to get more dangerous from now on.
      With all this nationalism going on, all it takes is a little accident and all hell will break loose.

    50. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @WGADDC #43

      Sorry, just noticed your comment.

      Ok, let’s start with this;
      ‘you’ve generalized more than any other person in comments on this blog about the “nature” of the Japanese’.
      I think I’ve made clear on Debito.org a number of times (and at least once to you) that when I write ‘the Japanese’, it’s short hand for me having to type out ‘most Japanese people, most of the time’- it makes sentences so much easier to digest. Please don’t be willfully obtuse.

      Next!
      ‘occasionally I think that there are opinions expressed here (often by you)’. By all means, please feel free to take off. There are plenty of ‘happy clappy Japan sites’ you can go and gush all over. I don’t know why you read this site if it makes you so unhappy…

      And this…
      ‘I’m all for a Japan with a vibrant civil discourse….it exists!’ Because the J-press is ranked so highly as an example of press-freedom, right? Oh, no it’s not, is it.
      I’ve lived in Japan, who do you think you’re kidding? Food scandals, teenage exploitation, corrupt government destroying the value of people’s savings and wages, a triple nuclear meltdown that we were all lied to about. No civil discourse. A hurrumph from the masses at best.

      And last;
      ‘So yeah. If the Nihonjinron shoe fits…’
      Sorry, what’s your point? I don’t get it? It’s perfectly ok for the Japanese to use the ‘ware ware nihonjin’ routine when the want to elevate themselves or put down NJ, and it seems that it’s ok for apologists to buy into nihonjinron giron when they want to gush over something positive like ‘Japanese people are so polite! And safe! And clean!’, but it’s racist of me to use the same contextual framework to fight back? No, you are wrong. The means do not matter, only the end.

    51. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Bayfield #49

      You should watch Slavoj Zizek’s videos on Youtube about Nationalism & Violence. When he talks about Burlusconi’s model of society (popular buffoon leading a country in which the people can enjoy all perversions, but without freedom of social discourse), he could almost be writing the textbook on Abe.
      It’s very interesting if you watch from a position of knowing who Abe is and what he is up to. It explains that inflation and war are essential ingredients for fascism, and we know that Abe belongs to (even leads some) groups that have policy goals aimed at returning Japanese society to 1930′s values (i.e. fascism).

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjgWoA25ohs
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlHpNXP7IA0

      Also very interesting is Zizeks attack on buddhism, in which he singles out buddhism’s role in normalizing Japan’s war-crimes (in the process showing that D. T. Suzuki, though popular in the west, actually was a prime-mover in rationalizing, even inciting the Japanese to commit war-crimes).

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kwm_dR-XMSY

    52. DK Says:

      JDG (#51)

      Many thanks for the precious – and timely – Zizek links. His remarks on the sacred cow D.T. Suzuki are spot on and should be more widely discussed.

      Another Japanese sacred cow that should be equally uncovered for his central role in wartime nationalism and the building up of nihonjinron is Watsuji Tetsuro. It’s quite amazing how he is still lionised by some European scholars for his ecological and ethical views. (I wonder, with some perversity, what Zizek would make of them…)

      I’ve just re-read this brilliant essay by Harumi Befu (one of the few scholars who has cut through the crap of Watsuji’s nihonjinron) and found a most amazing quote from Fuudo (Climate and Culture, in the available English trans.), Watsuji’s masterpiece published in the 1930s. In it Watsuji contrasts his highly flattering characterisation of Japan with his dismal view of “anarchic” China, even though he acknowledges both as “Monsoon” cultures. Here it goes:

      “There is here [in China] a close affinity with the anarchic tendency of the Chinese, who submits to no restraints other than those based in blood or regional association. The Chinese has no mind for tax burdens imposed by the state; he escapes his obligations in the matter of military service; he ignores orders and treats the law as scrap-paper; he gambles and smokes his opium. In short, he evades all state control and conducts himself at his own will.”

      This speaks volumes of Japan’s self-perception vis-a-vis its nemesis – up to the present day. Well, no wonder then that, as Zizek points out in one of his talks, the Japanese construed their invasion of China as a “merciful” intervention to teach those people some manners and save them from themselves.

      As Befu observes in his concluding remark, it’s no wonder either that Watsuji’s Fuudo has remained so popular in Japan: “it is constructed on ‘we-philosophy’, which fits the Japanese mode of thinking like hand and glove”. Abe, Kitaoka & Co. would certainly endorse it!

      The full reference: Befu, Harumi. 2004. “Watsuji Tetsuro’s Ecological Approach: Its Philosophical Foundations”. In Asquith and Kalland (eds.), Japanese Images of Nature: Cultural Perspectives. London: Routledge.

    53. Baudrillard Says:

      @ DK, Watsuji, Abe, Aso’le and co. just dont get civil disobedience. They are frightened of it, of individual freedoms.

      Japan could benefit a bit more from e.g. the alleged “chinese evasion of state control” but this is all Pot and Kettle.

      Lots of crooked Japanese little companies and businessmen (I can say mostly men, in misogynist Japan) ignoring laws like paying health insurance for their NJ workers etc.

      And what is pachinko? Its gambling.

      “has no mind for tax burdens imposed by the state”- you mean like those crooked Japanese corporations that have no paid tax in the UK recently?

      This can be traced back even to Ito Hirobumi. His limited revolution ushered in some change, but a bit like Deng Xiaoping and not like Gorbachev, human rights were never part of it- the Prussian model/German law etc was the order of the day.

      Ditto the recent official in Japan who said “the people might get the mistaken idea that they govern themselves” (sorry, forget who).

      Can you really believe that these bluebloods, who inherited their seats, are democrats? Their whole mission since 1955 has been to roll back individual freedoms in favor of citizen obligations to the state. And now they are getting their way.

      Fascism is linked with corporatism; that is, the subordinance of individuals to large company/state interests. Yes, that sounds like Japan, and it becomes more so with each new item of the Abe agenda.

    Leave a Reply