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  • The Independent (UK) on Japan’s rising nationalism as Japan slips in world rankings

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on November 19th, 2010

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    Hi Blog.  Here’s another article from David McNeill on how the power shift in Asia is fueling domestic xenophobic jingoism.  Although we’ve seen far too much coverage of this raving right-wingnut Sakurai in recent months, the point is still valid that people here are feeling (or at least the domestic media is promoting the feeling) that Japan is being squeezed by emerging neighboring economic powers.  How that will affect Japan’s treatment of its NJ residents is something Debito.org and journalist contributors should keep an eye on.  (A recent Debito.org Poll, currently fifth from the top, indicates that Readers don’t think it will matter much. Hope so.)  Arudou Debito on his way to JALT Nagoya

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

    The Independent, November 5, 2010
    Japan: The land of the rising nationalism
    By David McNeill
    The emergence of China as an economic superpower is bringing out the jingoism in the Japanese

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/japan-the-land-of-the-rising-nationalism-2125690.html

    Most Tokyo districts will fortunately never experience Makoto Sakurai and his noisy flag-waving mob. But the city’s normally quiet Moto-Azabu area is home to the Chinese embassy and there are few countries Sakurai hates more than China. His group’s favourite insult – directed at the embassy via megaphone – is shina-jin roughly equivalent to “chink”.

    “The Chinese are making fools of us,” said Sakurai, a baby-faced 30-something and the unlikely ringleader of what one academic calls: “Japan’s fiercest and most dangerous hate group today.” Like many nationalists, he is infuriated by what he sees as Chinese expansionism.

    “If Japan had any guts, it would stand up to them,” he said.

    Two decades ago, Japan was the rising Asian upstart that was barging its way on to the world’s front pages. “We are virtually at the mercy of the Japanese,” The LA Times famously blared in 1989, after a slew of high-profile takeovers by Japanese companies. Now it’s faltering Japan’s turn to tremble at the power of foreign capital; Chinese capital.

    Japan’s conservative media have been sounding alarm bells all year as the rumblings from China’s economic juggernaut grow louder. In a 24-page feature in March, the right-wing Sapio magazine warned that China is set to “buy up Japan”, noting how Chinese conglomerates are gobbling up real estate and forests and even eyeing uninhabited islands around Japan’s coast. Another magazine ran a front-page story titled “Your next boss could be Chinese”.

    Japan’s insecurity at its reduced status has been hammered home this week in a dispute with another neighbour. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s decision to visit one of four islands off northern Japan, seized by Moscow after the Second World War, was called “regrettable” by Prime Minister Naoto Kan. Sakurai’s followers were more blunt – and bitter. “Russia and China are both taking advantage of Japan’s weakness,” said one. “China has a dagger pointed at Japan’s heart – what are we going to do about it?”

    The disputes could not have come at a worse time. The summer news that China overtook Japan as the world’s No 2 economy – a position Japan had held for four decades – has sparked painful soul-searching in a country that was once seen as a serious economic rival to America. Indications of Japan’s decline are all around. Per capita GDP fell from fourth in the world in 2001 to 22nd last year. Its share of global production has fallen below 10 per cent for the first time since 1982; its economy grew by a pallid 0.8 per cent in the decade till 2009. After years of government pump priming, public debt approaches 200 per cent of GDP – the worst in the developed world.

    Blue-chip firms like Sony and Hitachi have lost their lustre. Last year’s decision by Toyota, once the gold standard of manufacturing, to eventually recall 14 million cars seemed symbolic of a faltering global brand – Japan Inc. Yasuchika Hasegawa, president of Takeda Chemicals, summed up Japan’s sense of crisis this year when he said: “We need a new vision or we face the decline of our nation.”

    Japan is still struggling to deal with the fallout from a separate territorial dispute with Beijing over the Senkaku (as they are known in Japan) or Daiyou (as they are known in China) islands. China pressured Tokyo into releasing the captain of a fishing boat that had collided with a coastguard vessel in waters claimed by Japan, in part by choking off supplies of rare earth minerals – vital for the electronics industry. The timing of the maritime spat confirmed some fears that China’s expanding economic clout is increasingly matched by political and military muscle.

    “Lots of nations disagree, but it doesn’t get down to an eyeball-to-eyeball game of chicken,” says Jeff Kingston, a China expert in Temple University Japan. “It’s about the huge shift of power from Japan toward China over the last 15 years.

    “It’s about who gets to call the shots in Asia – the US or China and China is saying it wants a bigger say and the key issue is for the US to decide if it wants to cede more space to them – and history is not littered with good examples of that.”

    All of which could be used to paint a very bleak picture of one of the planet’s most important bilateral relationships, were it not for cold economic facts. China gobbled up a record 19 per cent of Japan’s total exports last year, while Japan in turn bought 22 per cent of its imports from China. Two decades of often bit

    ter disputes over history, territory and politics have failed to knock the onward march of economic progress off course: China last year overtook the US to become Japan’s most important trading partner.

    In Tokyo’s upscale Matsuzakaya department store, a couple of miles from where Sakurai and his supporters shout racist-tinged invective at the Chinese embassy, a very different picture of Sino-Japan relations is on show. Like thousands of Japanese businesses struggling with inert domestic demand, this crusty shopping landmark is turning its gaze to an alluring new customer and as such has had to hire Mandarin-speaking staff to deal with the influx of Chinese customers. “They turn their noses up at Chinese-made goods,” explains Le Hui, one of the new assistants. “They want Japanese and European brands.”

    Long seen by Japanese companies as a source of cheap labour, China is increasingly now a market for tourism and finished Japanese products. For China, meanwhile, Japan is not only an important market but a source of advanced technologies and investment. “For China to continue along its path of development, it needs a peaceful environment and a good relationship with Japan,” says Zhu Jianrong, a professor of international relations at Tokyo’s Toyo Gakuen University, who is optimistic the current tension can be overcome.

    Still, the political impact of Japan’s growing despondency is unpredictable as it adapts, sometimes uncomfortably, to the growing Chinese bulk. One ominous route for frustrations was on display after the freeing of the Chinese captain, which was greeted with fury by Sakurai and some 3,000 other nationalists, who protested at the Chinese embassy.

    The Yukan Fuji tabloid newspaper branded the release dogeza gaiko – appeasement diplomacy; Tokyo’s right-wing governor Shintaro Ishihara said the Chinese were acting like “gangsters” and that it was time for Japan to seriously consider developing nuclear weapons. One hero of the neo-nationalist movement, Toshio Tamogami – a sacked former air force general – even floated the possibility of war. The end result was to “increase Japanese insecurity on the one hand and greater dependency on the US on the other,” points out Mark Selden, a veteran Japan-watcher based at Cornell University in the US. That twin-punch deals a serious blow to what was once seen as a potentially promising initiative of the centre-left Democrat (DPJ) government.

    The previous prime minister Yukio Hatoyama flirted with what he dubbed Yuai – a fraternal relationship with old enemy China that could have brought both sides closer: more political and cultural exchanges, an EU-style Asian market, even a military alliance were discussed.

    With Hatoyama gone and both sides again in the political trenches, that initiative seems for now to be dead in the water. Prime Minister Kan, under fire for his handling of both the Chinese and Russian disputes, is suffering the consequences with approval ratings now below 40 per cent. Old rivals like former prime Minister Shinzo Abe are making political hay, advocating a much tougher diplomatic line in street protests and editorials.

    Even mainstream publications like the Nikkei business daily are fuelling anti-Chinese sentiment, airing speculation – unproven – that Chinese cash is buying up Japanese land as a hedge against future food shortages at home. Conservative publications have honed in on the scenic area around Lake Kawaguchi, close to national icon Mt Fuji, where Chinese investors this year snapped up 17 luxury houses. Sakurai’s group, the Citizens League to Deny Resident Foreigners Special Rights, is far to the right of the mainstream press advocating, among other things, the expulsion of long-term Chinese residents and a beefed-up military.

    But he believes the political tide is turning his way. “Japan has been asleep for a long time,” he says. “It’s time we woke up.”
    ENDS

    24 Responses to “The Independent (UK) on Japan’s rising nationalism as Japan slips in world rankings”

    1. jjobseeker Says:

      The current rows with Russia and especially China has been the opportunity hawkish conservatives like this Sakurai, “Ishi-baka” Shintaro, Abe Shinzo and the like have been waiting for. Already afraid of the reforms the DPJ are trying to enact domestically–the kind that might just turn this country around in a decade or two–this is the political equivalent of “going for the jugular vein.” Stirring up public fears of external threats has always been the most effective tool for ultra-conservatives. It makes them look strong in the face of national threats (perceived or otherwise) and many times leads to their taking control of the government. Sadly, it seems the public are buying into this fear considering Kan’s popularity numbers are not below 30%. Thankfully, Kan doesn’t seem to have the slightest inkling of quitting who become the latest revolving door PM. However, the pressure is on him and when the mainstream media begins to shift in favor of more paranoid-ish reporting when it comes to China, I fear that it will be only a matter of time before the Right take over again and Japan takes another step backwards.

    2. john k Says:

      “China has a dagger pointed at Japan’s heart – what are we going to do about it?”

      Simple….change!

      It is clear the current methodology and “the Japanese way” is not working. So either stuff ones head in the sand and whinge moan and blame others….or, do something positive about it.

      The total inflexibility of the education system and politicians, with their hearts dreaming of sakura and other such romantic nonsense coupled with the antiquated Caste system (hierarchy)…or Class system in old UK money, is the one of the main reasons for this decline.

      Change, have a proper civil revolution, give people the power to change their lives, and for the better rather than coercing them to accept what they have is what they have and don’t ask for more. Without some form of civil revolution that gives the people the power for change, real change and advancement, China will just grow and grow at Japan’s expense.

      So stop whinging and do something positive…..look to the future and the possibilities instead of constantly looking at the past.

    3. Dan Kirk Says:

      Like Sony’s Morita said in 1989, “If you don’t want Japan to buy it, then don’t sell it.” Replace Japan with China.

    4. John (Yokohama) Says:

      More fear stoking…

      http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/niigata-freezes-plan-to-sell-land-for-chinese-consulate-office

      “Niigata freezes plan to sell land for Chinese consulate office
      Friday 19th November, 04:16 AM JST

      NIIGATA —
      The municipal government of Niigata said Thursday it has decided to freeze a plan to sell city-owned land for construction of a Chinese consulate general as the citizens’ feelings toward China have worsened following the maritime collision near the disputed Senkaku Islands. According to the city, it has received more than 1,000 calls and e-mails opposing the selling of the 15,000-square-meter area since the September collision of a Chinese trawler and Japanese patrol boats in the East China Sea.

      The municipality has told the Chinese side, which asked the city to sell the lot in August, that it is difficult to do so within this year as it cannot sell the land without public backing. It will consider how to deal with the issue further down the road, an official at the city government said. The Chinese Consulate General in Niigata was established in June. It had planned to construct its new building at the site, where there used to be an elementary school.”

    5. sonicgg Says:

      Of course the money shot is:
      All of which could be used to paint a very bleak picture of one of the planet’s most important bilateral relationships, were it not for cold economic facts. China gobbled up a record 19 per cent of Japan’s total exports last year, while Japan in turn bought 22 per cent of its imports from China. Two decades of often bitter disputes over history, territory and politics have failed to knock the onward march of economic progress off course: China last year overtook the US to become Japan’s most important trading partner.
      ———————————————————–

      Growing up in So. Cal., I know well the dynamics of immigrant bashing although the case of Japan-China is quite different in many ways than that of the US-Mexico. Chinese have always been the largest group of immigrants in Japan but remained somewhat “hidden”. About 10 years ago I lived in Shimane Pref. and saw census info. on foreigners where there where maybe a few hundred westerners versus some 2,000 Chinese. I think the bulk worked in factories but now they are entering into society at all levels from the 7-11 to owning their own restaurants to working in companies that deal with Japan. There are a few at my translation company, which is trying to break into the language services market in China, and, I find them very interesting in that they can “blend” with the Japanese culture but are also very proactive (I’m thinking 積極的) and I think there may be good reason for Japanese to fear them- the lackluster “protruding nail” philosophy needs a kick in the ass.
      Anyhow, sorry for rambling but as the need for foreigners to fill in for the declining Japanese population (workforce), immigrant issues and dynamics should be quite interesting to watch but, not to sound like a strident Marxist, it is important to keep an eye on the economic perspective to see what is really going on.

      gg/Hiroshima

      – Quick correction. Koreans were the largest group of NJ until a couple of years ago. Unless you’re meaning “immigrants” to mean people born abroad coming here to reside. That was also the Koreans until they became Zainichi generational NJ born in Japan.

    6. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      Somewhat tangential, but…

      From the article:

      His group’s favourite insult – directed at the embassy via megaphone – is shina-jin roughly equivalent to “chink”.

      I remember Tokyo mayor Ishihara being excoriated for calling China 支那 Shina a few years ago; how exactly did this word become so disparaging? I see it all the time in older books and it had no negative connotation at all then. As far as I know it comes from 秦, just like many western languages’ names for China going all the way back to Latin Sina.

      Using the word 中国 could even be construed as unfairly China-centric, as China is only the “middle country” in relation to itself.

      When did Chinese people start taking offense at the word 支那? Chinese people in the audience, do you genuinely dislike this word, or is it just political correctness?

    7. Doug Says:

      My post takes a bit of a different spin but please bear with me.

      Whether you agree with Sakurai’s tactics or not (I do not agree with his tactics and use of racial insults) he is correct. The world dynamics have been slowly shifting over the past 25 years and Japan can do little about it in the near term except sit back and watch. My opinion is that Japan relied on its unhealthy overly dependent relationship with the U.S. for much too long. A recent example of this is the fingerprinting (biometric) requirements instituted in 2007 (under pressure from the U.S.).

      As an older person I watched the “New World Order” unfold under President G. Bush (41st President – that is the 1st Pres. Bush for those not familiar with US governence). If you recall Bush Sr. had very close ties to China and many of the trade policies detrimental to the United States were incubated at that time. This accelerated during the Clinton years when the U.S. signed several free trade agreements not necessarily benefecial to the middle class. During this time China entered the WTO and was formally accepted in December 2001. The rest is history as they say. Corporations (many of my clients as well) shipped jobs and entire factories to China to exploit the cheap labor and better service a growing Asian market. This has not bode well for the middle class in Japan, the U.S. and EU.

      Japan’s historically dependent relationship on the U.S. has not helped the Japan’s situation. Sure in the Showa period Japan experienced tremendous economic growth as a manufacturing economy with the U.S. consumer being the fuel that fired the engine.

      Remember, Japan was once considered by the U.S. (and other European countries) what China is now – a cheap source of labor for mass production of lower technology items. Japan’s economy then started to mature and Japan became a leader in electronics manufacturing, precision machinery, and automobiles, and it still is a leader in these sectors. Unfortunately Japan’s society/social structure did not mature and the love/hate unhealthy relationship with the U.S. really did not change much either.

      Now back to the article – the most important fact is in the middle:

      “All of which could be used to paint a very bleak picture of one of the planet’s most important bilateral relationships, were it not for cold economic facts. China gobbled up a record 19 per cent of Japan’s total exports last year, while Japan in turn bought 22 per cent of its imports from China. Two decades of often bitter disputes over history, territory and politics have failed to knock the onward march of economic progress off course: China last year overtook the US to become Japan’s most important trading partner.”

      That is the new reality. John K. (#2 comment) hit it right on the nose. I hate to say this as an American but it is in Japan’s best interest to slowly decouple from the U.S. and look to the future – Asia. I say this as someone that once worked in our intelligence community during the cold war and also has run a business in Japan where many of my clients are large Japanese corporations.

      Sakurai-san is correct in his premise. He says, “If Japan had any guts, it would stand up to them,”. Sakurai-san would be better advised to take John K’s advice and react more with his brain rather than his emotions and re-phrase his statement to say “If Japan had any guts, it would adapt and change to meet the new global reality”.

      Unfortunately the landscape of human history is littered with the ruins of societies, cultures, and nations that chose emotion and nationalism over logic. It hurts me deeply that the U.S. is on this slippery slope as well.

      Sakurai-san has it right in one case – China is not looking out for the best interest of Japan (or any other country) – China is looking out for China period.

      HOWEVER if Japan chooses to react emotionally rather than logically it may well find itself in that wasteland of lost nations.

      Interesting times we live in!! The global elite are playing with our future. I look forward to telling my grandchildren about these times. I only hope the story ends well.

    8. Yamato Says:

      @ Mark in Yayoi

      Is not calling you gaijin only PC? Same slant.

    9. tianchaodaguo Says:

      @Mark

      Back in the day they used kanji to phonetically spell out all countries. 支那 is what they called us during the Sino-Japanese wars, so it’s taboo.

      The reaction in China and Japan over the whole being-passed-economically thing was pretty tame. They’ve known it was going to happen since the last century, and Chinese media didn’t run a single “gloating” piece. As for the nationalism, if it isn’t militarism I don’t care. Xenophobia is what’s kept Asia, Asian for the last few thousand years, and it will continue to be that way. If they desire an Asian union, the first step is to kick out American bases. Then we’ll talk.

    10. carl Says:

      “how exactly did this word become so disparaging? I see it all the time in older books and it had no negative connotation at all then.”

      I assume it happened through roughly the same process by which the “n word,” which was once in common usage and had little or no racist connotation at that time (AFAIK. Note usage in Huck Finn), became practically the worst word in the English language.

    11. Norik Says:

      Mmm…maybe this tendency has similar grounds with the rising disapproval of acceptance of East European immigrants (even quite qualified ones) in the UK, or the uproar against Mexicans in the US ,or the Algerians in France. It is very easy to channel the negative feelings of a nation to the outside instead of inside (where the real problems lie).
      By the way, I think the grounds for the current situation were laid by LDP, so Abe and co have no right to protest.

    12. adamw Says:

      the “n word,” which was once in common usage and had little or no racist connotation at that time (AFAIK. Note usage in Huck Finn),

      ?

      no racist connotation ,carl?

      really?

    13. iago Says:

      …the “n word,” which was once in common usage and had little or no racist connotation at that time…

      Really? You sure?

    14. eyeinthesky Says:

      “I hate to say this as an American but it is in Japan’s best interest to slowly decouple from the U.S. and look to the future – Asia. I say this as someone that once worked in our intelligence community during the cold war and also has run a business in Japan where many of my clients are large Japanese corporations.”

      I fail to see the logic in that, other than being wishful thinking. The U.S. wrote Japans constitution, occupied them and even was involved in the establishment of the JSDF. How can you decouple from something that help create you? Ok, they decouple, then what? What direction to go in? There are plenty of old guard ready to hijack and take Japan right back to its pinnacle in Asia. Japan looked towards Asia once before, seems they didnt have its best interest at heart, and many Asians hold that against Japan. What Japan needs to do is be the leading democracy in Japan and open up its markets, academia and many other areas. Then we will see changes.

    15. carl Says:

      “no racist connotation ,carl?”

      Well, I’m sure there was some, but am I wrong in thinking that in the 19th century the dreaded “n word” wasn’t seen as nearly as offensive as it is now?

    16. anonymous Says:

      Carl’s answer to Mark in Yayoi’s question is true, both words changed over time from non-derogatory to derogatory, so let’s not get mad at Carl for pointing out a forgotten fact.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigger

      “The word originated as a term used in a neutral context to refer to black people, as a variation of the Spanish/Portuguese noun negro, a descendant of the Latin adjective niger, meaning the color “black”.[1][2][3][4]”

      “Nineteenth-century English (language) literature features usages of nigger without racist connotation, e.g. the Joseph Conrad novella The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ (1897).”

      It seems that word changed from non-derogatory to derogatory soon after 1897.

      Now, can someone find an answer to Mark in Yayoi’s question about when the word Shina changed from non-derogatory to derogatory?

    17. jon Says:

      tianchaodaguo, “Xenophobia is what’s kept Asia, Asian for the last few thousand years, and it will continue to be that way”?

      It sounds like you approve of xenophobia. Care to clarify?

      How do people of mixed race fit into your charming paradigm? Once a gaijin always a gaijin if they re not 100% Asian?

    18. Doug Says:

      Eyeinthesky

      I would agree with you if the United States is the nation it was 30 years ago (or longer). But unfortunately it is not. Not even close. And it is not because of “Obama” or “Bush”. The problems are much deeper.

      The U.S. has devolved into a quasi tyrannical fascist state. Between what is happening with the TSA now (TSA basically telling Americans to “sit down and shut up”), senseless wars, political corruptness as we have never seen (Rangel still has a job? you got to be kidding), an economic system that is completely broke, and finally a Federal Reserve Chairman that simply answers “No, I will not” when asked by a Congressional committee where the TARP money went,I would say the U.S. is not a good bet. I say this as a patriotic American (as defined by the founders – not by the farcicle politicians of today).

      Regarding the issue of the constitution – I have always been a proponent of Japan rewriting the constitution. I believe this is the first step and is necessary for Japan to regain some national pride (I am not talking about the dudes in the black trucks either).

      You are right, there are plenty of “old guard” in Japan. However I might be wrong but I am of the opinion they will die off fast and a SLOW decoupling could bring in a new era for Japan. There are also plenty of new folks with some good ideas. A majority of the middle age Japanese business folks that I talk to that are aware of some of Shintaro Ishibaka’s comments think he is an idiot.

      There is a great deal of resentment in China towards Japan. However the leadership of China is certainly not stupid. Yes they fail in many aspects of the human rights department, but they are slowly improving (they have to – once you open the door of freedom it is very hard to seal it again). As long as Japan does not repeat their mistakes of becoming a militant nationalistic state I think things could go well not only for Japan but for all of Asia.

      Regarding your question of decoupling from something that helped create you. You must be kidding, right? History is full of successful decouplings. India from the UK is one of the better examples (I am a big fan of Gandhi). Most of East Asia – decoupling from the British and French empires – successfully keeping some of the better ideas and forming their own governments incporporating their own cultures, and lastly the US decoupling from Britain (although that required war). Japan has it easy – rewrite the constitution and go. In today’s environment the US could not and would not do anything about it.

      Eyinthesky – if we knew each other I would make a bet with you – I would wager a friendly bet with you – a night of good beer drinking and food – that this WILL happen within 2 decades (I will be a bit old and feeble and you might need to push me in a wheelchair).

      Anyway I do not see this as “wishful thinking” – not at all – I do not wish my country to weaken (the US) and I do not wish a country where I started and run a business to decouple from my native country, but I am a realist and I see this as reality and almost a necessity for Japan.

      Cheers

    19. eyeinthesky Says:

      Doug-
      Agreed on many points. The US gov is full of idiots, I worked with many. So much waste and stupidity, then Americans wonder why we have such a huge deficit. Scores of them work on bases here, doing absolutely nothing. Ive seen gross criminal activity completely covered up. The problem is there is no accountablity and most US citizens are unaware of what really goes on. Then we have US governers snd senators here in Japan begging Japanese companies to come the US, while you never see any US companies over here and the few that are here are run by Japanese. The average dumbed down American will yell at you “stop buying Made in China or Japan” never realizing the people they voted for are over here in Asia cutting deals to get factories for their state, while the corporate japanese and Chinese are grinning ear to ear. I disagree with you on this issue however-
      “Regarding the issue of the constitution – I have always been a proponent of Japan rewriting the constitution. I believe this is the first step and is necessary for Japan to regain some national pride (I am not talking about the dudes in the black trucks either).”

      There are many Japanese politicians who would agree with you as we can see in the media, but they want to be able to make nuclear weapons. Rewriting the constitution in these times is scary stuff. It might start off as defensive, but could easily escalate to something more in the future, all justified by the new constitution. tianchaodaguo speaks the truth when he says “Xenophobia is what’s kept Asia, Asian for the last few thousand years” This is a fact about all the Asian countries, but I hope Japan can be a leader for peace over here. Right now I just dont trust Japan with nukes, we see the outrage that went down after the boat incident. International pressure from China and Japans own economic interest kept that in check. If Japan had the ok to do as it pleased, that situation probaly would of turned out different.

    20. Mumei Says:

      Mark in Yayoi wrote:

      > When did Chinese people start taking offense at the word 支那?
      > Chinese people in the audience, do you genuinely dislike this
      > word, or is it just political correctness?

      tianchaodaguo wrote:

      > Back in the day they used kanji to phonetically spell out all
      > countries. 支那 is what they called us during the Sino-Japanese wars,
      > so it’s taboo.

      While correct, it is too simplistic. The word 支那 was used in Japan to refer to China since the middle of the Edo period. It is found in many Buddhist texts, deriving from Indian “Cina” (ultimately going back to 秦) which was then “translated” into 支那, 斯那 etc. Arai Hakuseki (新井白石, 1657-1725) is often credited as the one who introduced to the word to Japan. The word in itself was not offensive, but it just happened to still be in use during the wars after which people started to take offense at it. The word itself is a causality of history.

    21. DR Says:

      I can’t help but see parallels here with the neo-Nazi skinhead types who march in Germany, Poland and Russia denouncing immigrants’ taking of their jobs. Jobs that the shorn and shiny yobs either can’t do or don’t want….but let’s not get confused with facts! And I also see parallels with the various Aryan brotherhoods across the USA, wielding automatic weapons and training militia style, vowing to take their country back. Happy to fight, they won’t work at jobs they feel are beneath them. Again, it’s immigrants and other minorities who are the target, yet who are, often, doing an honest day’s work for less than an honest day’s pay.
      When Ishihara’s black-van people wail and holler like this, and claim that China and Korea are making fools of Japan, they are partially correct. They are. But not for the reasons they state. Japan is almost addicted to and ossified by “Wa”, the unchanging, to the point that it would seem to be unable to change when it absolutely should, and needs to, just to survive. Change is the only constant in a dynamic Asia, and that bus seems to have been well and truly missed by those who would rather lament than re-invent. PM Kan was on cable TV here in Saudi yesterday promising a new an reinvigorated strong Japan within ten years. He’s obviously growing his own at the official residence, because he’s started believing his own propaganda.

    22. Jonadab Says:

      >> …the “n word,” which was once in common usage and
      >> had little or no racist connotation at that time…
      > Really? You sure?

      The racism (which certainly did exist, obviously) was bound not to the word, but to the skin color itself. If you’d called such people “black” or “colored”, that would have been if anything *more* derogatory and racially insensitive, in the nineteenth century. (Not that most of society would have been very bothered by said insensitivity. What can I say? It was a bad time to be dark-complected.)

      Like the other poster said, read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Tom, Huck, and the narrator all take a very obvious anti-racism stance, so much so that it becomes one of the major driving issues in the plot. (I would not go so far as to say it is primarily what the book is _about_, as such; the book is fundamentally an adventure story; nonetheless, the social theme is obviously very important to the story.) Tom and Huck treat Jim as essentially an equal (insofar as they treat *anyone* as an equal, that is; both characters do obviously have a bit of an ego). They all use the N word, but they use it for instance when discussing how to avoid getting caught (since they are helping Jim escape, which at the time was illegal; the two white boys could have simply struck out on their own, but they did not consider leaving Jim to fend for himself to be a reasonable course of action; he was their friend; they could not leave him to face danger alone). There is plenty of racism in the story, obviously, but Tom and Huck and the narrator are if anything anti-racism activists. You can see, if you read the book, that the racism was not at the time, attached to the word itself; it was a feature, rather, of American society.

      Today, however, we associate use of the N word with the attitudes that were prevalent in our society at large during that time — not with the attitude taken by Tom and Huck, but more with the attitude taken by the various antagonists they encounter. The word has become (probably irretrievably) sullied by its association with that time period and with the history that played out therein, some of which is rather regrettable. In some circles (especially, wealthy liberal WASPs) the N word has even become the *most* offensive single word in the language, which is significant for a racial epithet in a language where most of the really offensive words involve parts of the body normally covered by clothing, actions involving said parts, or things that come out of said parts. When we hear the N word today, we think of that period of time and those racist attitudes and everything that goes with them.

      Which I guess is indeed probably similar to the reason 支那 is perceived as racist today — it is associated, at least in the minds of some people, with a time period during which some unpleasant history played out.

      > I have always been a proponent of Japan rewriting the constitution.

      In principle I agree, but in practice I tend to think that it would still be (slightly) premature at this point. To be blunt, ideal timing would be to wait until almost all of the WWII vets die (both in Japan and elsewhere, for different reasons). I don’t mean any disrespect to the people who fought for their countries in the war, but I think even they would agree that WWII was a particularly difficult time in history (especially for Japan) and one that produced a lot of problems and a number of irregularities. It is because of the influence of the war that Japan today has the constitution it has, the one that you advocate replacing. It would be unfortunate if the replacement constitution were also significantly influenced by the war. Respect for living veterans is one major factor resulting from the war that might influence the new constitution, and I think the net effect on the quality of the resulting document would not be positive.

      Another ten years ought to be long enough, I think; fifteen years would certainly do it. At that point a whole passel of thorny political and social problems just goes away, which would otherwise (at least potentially) plague the process of drafting the thing. Once that point is reached, it would be a good idea to have a home-grown constitution. Most developed countries do, and I do not believe this is a coincidence.

      Of course, rewriting it today would be much better than rewriting it in, say, the sixties. That could have been disastrous. The question of how long to wait is arguable, but I tend to prefer erring on the side of caution.

    23. Doug Says:

      Eyeinthesky

      Your take on rewriting the Japanese constitution is interesting. I do not disagree with many points you make in your argument. If in fact Japan reverted back to a militant state, that would be a tragedy and would destabilize a relatively peaceful part of the world.

      On the other hand I still believe that Japan should proceed to rewrite their constitution. I will elaborate on my thoughts a bit more below.

      I have spoken to many Japanese friends of mine (tend to be 45 years old or older) about the loss of the war, the occupation, Showa Japan, etc. Typically we will start with the subject of what Japan did prior to the Pacific War (Nanking, the Malayan peninsula, etc.). We usually then move on to the normal discussion about oil embargoes and Japan being choked by these embargoes and the necessity of taking action at Pearl Harbor. Finally we progress to the end of the war (firebombing of Tokyo and other major cities and then Hiroshima and Nagasaki). After that we finally get on to discussion the occupation and what happened after the war.

      Once we get into the post war events, many of my Japanese friends start to speak of their feelings relating to the fact that their fundamental governing document was drafted by an occupying force. One of my Japanese friends that has lived overseas and is truly bicultural tells me he thinks that the under the surface resentment regarding this issue actually contributes to xenophobism and racism. As I am not Japanese I cannot say whether he is right or wrong, but I do certainly see his point and I could see how this would lead to many of the older Japanese folks wanting to absolutely exclude foreigners and foreign influence.

      I feel I have been very lucky to have had the chance to develop good relationships with several Japanese folks around my age and get to the point where we are comfortable enough to discuss these issues. I would be really interested to see if others have heard similar comments from middle age and older Japanese folks.

      Anyway back to the point. I am certainly not the authority about what is right or wrong for Japan, but I think sooner or later Japan must make this leap. I still hold some optimism that if this is done by some of the younger more enlightened politicians in Japan it would be a very positive thing for Japan.

      Perhaps the compromise between our positions would be to have this done after a few of the “old guard” types go by the wayside.

      Whatever happens it will certainly be interesting. I am not sure whether it is good or bad but I believe that our generation is witness to major historical events, now slowly unfolding, that will be a major turning point in world history.

    24. eyeinthesky Says:

      “One of my Japanese friends that has lived overseas and is truly bicultural tells me he thinks that the under the surface resentment regarding this issue actually contributes to xenophobism and racism.”

      Im sure it is and its a way to deal with it by the Ishihara types. Debito had posted something on this site about how Ishihara and some of his generation had been so tramuatized by the effects of losing that they lash out now with xenophobia. Sorry I dont have the link to it. Many never talk openly about the occupation or constitution, instead its atacking the foriegner community etc. Ive found that allot of the younger generation in Japan follow what their elders pass on to them, so I say tread carefully into any territory that allows Japan to stand up its own forces and be a strategic player in this region.

      – I think you’re referring to this article. http://www.debito.org/?p=6634

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