Two recent JT columns (domestic & international authors) revealing the damage done by PM Abe to Japan’s int’l image

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Hi Blog.  I’m hoping to finish off this metathread about Japan’s Right-Wing Swing soon, but good articles keep on coming (thanks to Debito.org Readers for pointing them out).

These two are from the JT, one from a long-time columnist (Hugh Cortazzi) who has written for decades about Japan with a diplomat’s charm.  But he’s recently been quite undiplomatic in tone when assessing the PM Abe Administration.  Excerpt:

==================================
Does right-wing extremism threaten Japan’s democracy?
BY HUGH CORTAZZI, THE JAPAN TIMES, OCT 31, 2014

Extreme nationalism is a threat to democratic institutions and values everywhere. Recent reports in the British media about the growing influence of right-wing extremists in Japan have caused deep concern among friends of Japan here.

On Oct. 22 it was reported that Sanae Takaichi, the minister for internal affairs, had given an enthusiastic endorsement of a book praising Adolf Hitler. The explanations and denials issued have been contradictory and unconvincing.

If any British minister were to say anything that even by implication supported a criminal who had been instrumental in instituting the Holocaust, there would be a public outcry and the minister concerned would be forced to resign.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s alleged statement in April that convicted war criminals were “martyrs” was regarded here as unacceptable. I wrote to the Japanese Embassy in London asking whether Abe had in fact made such a statement. I said that any such statement was highly offensive to British people whose relatives had suffered so much at the hands of some members of Imperial Japanese forces during World War II. As no reply to my letter was received, I have to assume that Abe had indeed made this remark.

On Oct. 18 it was reported that NHK, in a notices to journalists on its English-language services, had banned any references to the Nanking massacre and to the Japanese use of “comfort women,” the euphemism used for sex slaves.

NHK is supposed to be like the BBC and to be both politically neutral and objective. Under the direction of Katsuto Momii it seems to have been turned into a tool of the Japanese government. As professor Koichi Nakano has apparently said it looks “increasingly like a mirror of CCTV,” China’s state broadcaster.

There have been many reports here suggesting that Abe’s right-wing ministers want to rewrite history to provide academic support for their attempts to exculpate Japan’s wartime leaders.

Western historians, basing themselves on unimpeachable evidence, have no doubt about the atrocities committed by Japanese forces not only in Nanjing but elsewhere in China. That Chinese forces, nationalist and communist alike, also committed crimes against civilians is also true, but Japan was the aggressor and Chinese behavior was no excuse for the deliberate policies of oppression adopted by the Japanese high command.

There can be no doubt that members of the Japanese Army not only were responsible for many rapes but also forced women, not only Koreans, in occupied territories to become sex slaves.

The facts about the activities of the Japanese biological warfare unit 731 in Manchukuo are so horrific that its existence and experiments tend to be buried and, if possible, forgotten. This “amnesia” is at least in part due to American connivance; American investigators were told the results of the “experiments” in return for not pursuing the Japanese perpetrators.

The maltreatment, to use an understatement, of the civilian populations in occupied territories including Singapore cannot be denied except by the willfully blind. Nor can historical revisionists justify the way in which allied prisoners of war were mistreated.[…]

In the eyes of Japanese right-wing nationalists, the only crime committed by Japan’s military leaders was that they failed. The rightists lack ethical principles and are opposed to democratic institutions.[…]

It seems that Japan has reverted to one-party government. This could lead to autocracy and the infringement of human rights.

Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2014/10/31/commentary/japan-commentary/does-right-wing-extremism-threaten-japans-democracy/
==================================

Quite strong language, as I said, from a former ambassador to Japan. Now check this out, from a poli-sci professor at Housei University. It’s even stronger:

==================================
COMMENTARY / JAPAN
Perilous spirit of the times
BY JIRO YAMAGUCHI, THE JAPAN TIMES, OCT 28, 2014

Female lawmakers given ministerial posts in the reshuffle of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet last month in the hope that more women on the team would shore up popular support for his Cabinet have turned out to be liabilities. Two of them have resigned after being accused of breaking basic rules in the Public Offices Election Law while two others are under the spotlight for their suspected ties to ultra-rightist groups.

It is inexcusable for Cabinet ministers to provide financial and material benefits to voters in their home constituencies. Neither former Trade and Industry Minister Yuko Obuchi nor former Justice Minister Midori Matsushima was qualified to assume Cabinet positions in the first place.

Even more serious are the reported ties of Sanae Takaichi, internal affairs minister, and Eriko Yamatani, head of the National Public Safety Commission, to ultra-rightist organizations that are accused of engaging in acts of racial discrimination. One of these groups has repeatedly threatened and harassed Korean residents in Japan, and some of its members have been accused of criminal offenses.

Yamatani has been photographed with one such offender. When she spoke at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, Yamatani avoided giving her opinion when asked by members of the foreign press what she thought of the Zaitokutai group’s activities.

Political leaders in a democracy bear an obligation to maintain the fight against terrorism, which threatens freedom and diverse values. If lawmakers like Takaichi and Yamatani are committed to protecting freedom and democracy, they need to condemn the activities of ultra-rightist groups like Zaitokukai or Neo-Nazis. If lawmakers exhibit stances that allow such groups freedom of speech and recognize their existence within the realm of value relativism, such lawmakers could, under the common sense of Western countries, be viewed as enemies of freedom.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with his intention to counter China, has reiterated that Japan shares such Western values as freedom, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law. He has also reportedly proclaimed Japan’s intention to seek permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council as part of an attempt to expand his diplomacy on a global scale. Such remarks are an indication that his stupidity and egocentrism are beyond redemption.

The permanent members of the UNSC are an exclusive club comprising the victors of World War II. It is hardly possible that they would welcome a nation whose leader denies its wartime aggression and atrocities. The head of a Cabinet whose members sympathize with racial discrimination and historical revisionism can hardly win international trust by merely voicing his support for freedom and democracy.[…]

What he wanted to say, I presume, was that Japan’s freedom and democracy could be shoved aside when the nation’s deep-seated tendency of conformism spreads like wild fire.

It is pathetic that we have to quote the foreign media to criticize what is going on in this country. It is the job of members of the media and academics to tell people immersed in narcissism that they, in fact, have ugly aspects.

Entire article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2014/10/28/commentary/japan-commentary/perilous-spirit-times/
==================================

It’s nice when a Japanese academic in his field makes statements like “the nation’s deep-seated tendency of conformism”, because at least he can get away with saying them without being accused of racism, cultural imperialism, or ignorance. When Japan’s media follows a trend into intolerance to extremes not seen much in Japan’s Postwar Era, it’s time for denunciations to happen. Because they’re not going to happen from within at this point. They must come from without. And to that end, Debito.org is happy to report when others are seeing it that way too. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

8 comments on “Two recent JT columns (domestic & international authors) revealing the damage done by PM Abe to Japan’s int’l image

  • Excellent articles. And oddly enough at first glance unrelated, but the thrust of both those articles are at the heart of this one too:

    “..Tokyo Olympic stadium: Sports cathedral or white elephant?..”

    “..”They want to show off shining technology so that people will marvel at it. It is exactly the same mentality in our government.”

    “We have a very modernised country but we still have a bureaucracy that governs everything,” the designer of the 1964 gymnasium added. “We are not a civil society where citizen voices can be critical.”….”

    * http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-29828973

    Japan is indeed going off the rails, and to paraphrase “..It is pathetic that we have to quote the foreign media to criticize what is going on in this country..”

  • John (Yokohama) says:

    Idiots like Kaneko don’t help either.

    http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201411020019

    “INSIGHT: Assemblyman’s Ainu remarks ignore long history of discrimination – AJW by The Asahi Shimbun

    SAPPORO–A Sapporo assemblyman infuriated indigenous people in Hokkaido, contradicted the central and local governments’ position and offended his colleagues so much that they demanded his resignation.

    But Yasuyuki Kaneko, who implied that Ainu people are cheating the welfare system, has refused to apologize or retract his comments.

    Experts say the assemblyman’s remarks show a complete ignorance of not only cultural ethnicity issues but also the prolonged discrimination against Ainu people that led to the need for such assistance programs.

    The uproar started on Aug. 11, when Kaneko, 43, posted on his Twitter account: “There are no such people as the Ainu anymore, are there? (But) they constantly demand rights they don’t deserve. How can this be reasonable?”

    In response to his tweet, organizations representing Ainu people lodged a protest and jointly sent a questionnaire and demands for an apology to Kaneko.

    “Ainu people have faced discrimination from childhood, but we have not surrendered to it and defended the cultural traditions of our ancestors,” the questionnaire said. “Do you still think that we have become extinct?”

    Kaneko, a native of Chiba Prefecture, moved to Hokkaido about 15 years ago and was elected to the assembly in 2011 with the endorsement of the opposition Your Party. He joined a caucus of ruling Liberal Democratic Party members in May.

    In September, the assembly adopted a resolution demanding that Kaneko resign.

    He left the assembly members’ group, but he has refused to give up his assembly seat.

    In a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Kaneko again defended his remarks, arguing that the way in which Ainu heritage is determined lacks objectivity.

    “An ethnic group means a group of people who have an indigenous language, religion and living practices and tend not to assimilate into other groups,” Kaneko said. “There isn’t a way to objectively prove that you are an Ainu.”

    Masayuki Yamauchi, a historian and professor emeritus of the University of Tokyo, said Kaneko’s argument is archaic and based on an obsolete definition of an ethnic group.

    Even if people lose their distinctive language and territory, they can still be seen as an ethnic group if they maintain a sense of self-identification that they are culturally different from others, Yamauchi said.

    The Ainu people are indigenous to Hokkaido, Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands and have maintained their original language and culture today.

    After Japan started developing Hokkaido in the late 19th century, the discrimination and harsh treatment meted out to the Ainu took a toll on their living conditions and culture.

    In its report released in 2009, the central government’s expert panel concluded that Ainu people have been deprived of their hunting grounds, fishing banks and habitation areas during the process of Hokkaido’s development. They continue to face discrimination and have been driven to live in poverty.

    They have also lost many of their cultural traits, which were deemed as “evil customs,” and have been forced to assimilate into Japanese mainstream culture and society, the panel said.

    In 2008, both houses of the Diet adopted the Resolution to Recognize the Ainu as an Indigenous People, officially acknowledging the Ainu as the original inhabitants of Japan.

    According to a survey by the Hokkaido government, 16,786 Ainu people were living in Japan’s northern main island as of October 2013.

    The government defines Ainu as “people who have blood ties with the Ainu ancestors in their communities and those who belong to the same household with the Ainu people through marriage and adoption.”

    The Hokkaido government and municipalities have established programs to support the Ainu, such as low-interest mortgage loans and scholarships.

    But the effects of the long history of discrimination remain. The poverty rate among Ainu is disproportionally high, as seen in their rate of receiving public livelihood assistance. The ratio of Ainu children who advance to high schools and universities is also lower than the national average.

    Assemblyman Kaneko apparently opposes public support programs for Ainu people. He has said that cases exist in which Ainu people unjustly receive welfare assistance and fail to pay back public loans.

    Yamauchi of the University of Tokyo said it is an “abrupt leap” to connect problems related to some welfare recipients with the issue of Ainu ethnicity.”

  • Kaneko is a perfect example of how poisonous and sick the myth of homogeneity is. “Japan is a homogenous nation” seems like an innocent statement, but anyone who perpetuates the “homogenous nation” myth is really just helping hide a history of genocide. “Japan is a homogenous nation because they murdered and raped the minorities until they were dead or bred out of the gene pool.”

    We really need to stop saying that Japan is “homogenous” and start talking about reality. We don’t necessarily have to wallow in the death and misery that Yamato Japan wreaked on the archipelago – really, we can put that behind us – but we have to stop lying about the diversity here.

    Is not, never was, never will be homogenous.

  • Well, not 100% homogenous, but let’s admit the amount of racial diversity here is less than elsewhere.

    While no country can claim to be 100% anything, we must admit some countries have less diversity than others.

    For example, “Japan’s level of homogeneity is higher than America’s level of homogeneity” is admittedly true.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/files/2013/05/diverity-map-harvard.jpg

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/05/16/a-revealing-map-of-the-worlds-most-and-least-ethnically-diverse-countries/

    I agree with your main point though, that Japan’s PRIDE in this relative-lack-of-diversity is dangerous.

    An analogy: a nation with a comparatively-higher-percentage of tall people can honestly claim “We are tall(er)!” but the problem is when that PRIDE leads that tall(er) country concluding that taller is better, and thus tall people have more of a RIGHT-TO-LIFE and a RIGHT-TO-RESOURCES than shorter people do, and then invade neighboring countries and raping and killing them, and then 70 years later are still discriminating against short people.”

    I think saying “Japan is NOT relatively more homogeneous” is like saying “Race doesn’t exist.”
    Nobody is perfectly one race or another, but some folks have lots of mixture, some folks have less.

    In actuality, the Harvard study above showing Korea and Japan to be lacking gene diversity should NOT be a point of pride. In both plants and animals hybrids are stronger and healthier. Relative-Inbreeding does produce Relative-Homogeneity which produces Relative-Genetic-Problems.

    Imagine someone like Kaneko saying:

    “My Yayoi+Jomon blend is more well-blended, more pure, because we basically only procreate with our cousins. Purity pride!”

    “The other countries are less well-blended, less pure, because they choose to procreate with a wide variety of genes. Silly Mongrels!”

    The correct answer to such statements is not “No, you’re just as heterogeneous as us!” (because that comeback, while well-intentioned, doesn’t describe reality correctly.)

    The correct answer to such statements is “Yes, you’re making the mistake of in-breeding too much, which is going to lead to health problems for your great-great-grandchildren. Nature has decided that the higher degree of continuous hybridization leads to a higher degree of health. Procreate with exotic genes or die, that’s the rule of nature. You want to win the Olympics? More hybrid athletes are needed.”

  • @Anonymous:

    “Yes, you’re making the mistake of in-breeding too much, which is going to lead to health problems for your great-great-grandchildren.”

    While I agree that this is the more accurate answer, it’s important to keep the discussion away from concepts of superiority.

    “Yes, you’re more pure, but that’s also why you’re weaker” is an openly racial supremacist sentiment.

    I think it’s much more important to focus on the disingenuous nature of the statement. That “We are pure” is good because it indicates…well…purity.

    When, “We are pure” in a Japanese context actually means “We wiped out and oppressed all our minorities so thoroughly that we, the majority, can claim racial purity with complete impunity.”

    For example, an American claiming that America is a “white nation” would be shouted down within seconds. In Japan, the racist majority is free to claim racial purity with complete impunity – there is no minority group strong enough to stand up and say, “Sorry, but no.” Why?

    Because the majority in Japan went to great pains to both wipe out the minority groups through genocide, both physical and cultural, and through simply denying that such groups exist.

    It’s all well and good to talk about gene diversity, but that puts us on a “my race is better for its gene diversity” track that we don’t want to go down.

    My goal is to call Japan out for its genocidal and colonial history – to say, “No, Japan, you SPECIFICALLY said a hundred years ago that Japan was open to ALL OF ASIA, and that ALL OF ASIA must come together to band against the Western menace. You still claim to this day that Japan is somehow better than the rest of Asia – when will you put your money where your mouth is?”

    I really, really, really DON’T want to make Japan’s dismal performance at the Olympics a race issue (because it is clearly a cultural issue of training too much with too few breaks).

  • Re: Japan’s cultural problem with sports, look at Ma-kun. He blew his shoulder out the second he got to America, why?

    Because he spent his last season playing way too much with too few breaks. And now he’s on the bench.

    So that’s not at all about genes or diversity – it’s about the fact that, in Japan, people think that “gaman” is the key to success, when in fact, “gaman” is a good way to injure yourself and get benched.

    So, yeah. Let’s really, really be careful about bringing genes into something that is clearly a cultural, personal choice issue.

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