Meidai’s Repeta lecture May 23 on LDP’s likely constitutional reforms: Deletes fundamental guarantee of human rights, shifts from “rights” to “duties” & prioritizes “public order”


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Hi Blog.  We are mere weeks away from the next Diet Upper House election (July 23, to be exact), where half the seats are up for grabs, and at this point it looks like Japan’s rightward swing will be successful and complete.  According to current opinion polls (and they do matter a priori, as Japan’s voting culture rarely supports underdogs), the LDP is far and away in the lead (so far so that the opposition DPJ won’t even bother to field more than one candidate in the Tokyo constituency), meaning they will probably add the Upper House to its collection of majorities in the more-powerful Lower House as well.

With this comes the likelihood of first changes in the Postwar Constitution.  Legal scholar Colin P.A. Jones of Doshisha University has already come out with articles in the Japan Times discussing the LDP’s proposed changes (see here and here).  What I will do in this blog entry is scan and paste in the lecture notes (ten pages) from another legal scholar, Lawrence Repeta of Meiji University, who gave his analysis in a lecture at Temple University in Tokyo on May 23, 2013.  It is less accessible than Colin’s newspaper articles but no less authoritative, so here it is, courtesy of CP (notes in the margins probably also by CP). Repeta similarly holds that we will see a shift in focus towards strengthening The State in the name of “public order”, and prioritizing the duties and obligations of the Japanese public rather than guaranteeing their rights as individuals.

In sum (I argue), we are seeing the return of Japanese as Imperial subjects rather than citizens, where rights and duties are granted from above rather than secured and guaranteed from below.

This is what’s coming, folks.  Be prepared.  Arudou Debito











Also enclosed in CP’s mailing was this curious note from senior Japan scholar Ronald Dore, which fixates on one particular debate held more than 20 years ago (along with snide asides at Japan’s Left), and even gets the former Tokyo Governor’s name wrong:



50 comments on “Meidai’s Repeta lecture May 23 on LDP’s likely constitutional reforms: Deletes fundamental guarantee of human rights, shifts from “rights” to “duties” & prioritizes “public order”

  • Bitter Valley says:

    Very, very creepy. Especially as Abe yesterday, and NHK focused on it, dodged the question about Japan’s aggression. This from the Asahi:

    He said Japanese– including politicians–had a right to pray at Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni war shrine, but refused to say whether he will visit the site on Aug. 15 to mark the end of World War II and pray for the 2.3 million war dead and convicted wartime leaders memorialized there.

    “If I say whether to go or not to go to Yasukuni, that alone becomes a diplomatic problem. I’m not going to say anything on this,” he said.

    Abe has upset China and South Korea by repeatedly making remarks perceived as attempts to whitewash Japan’s wartime atrocities. He has said there is no clear definition of aggression, and raised questions over Japan’s past war apologies.

  • A few days ago there was another article in the JT about a recent symposium in Tokyo, on those same proposed constitutional reforms. One of the speakers, Yoichi Higuchi, hit the nail on the head when he said that LDP’s sinister plans aim to subvert the very essence of constitutionalism:

    Yoichi Higuchi, a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo and a leading authority on constitutional law, says the LDP proposals are fundamentally at odds with the idea of constitutionalism, which dictates that constitutions exist to limit the power of authority, not the power of the people.

    “The premise behind constitutionalism is that government authorities would be naturally inclined to abuse their power if they are left unchecked,” Higuchi said in an interview last week. “So constitutions are there for the people to limit the power of authority.”

    In contrast, the LDP draft would impose a series of new duties on the people, including having to respect the Constitution. And while Article 99 of the current Constitution says that “the Emperor or the Regent as well as Ministers of State, members of the Diet, judges, and all other public officials have the obligation to respect and uphold this Constitution,” the LDP version would free the Emperor and the Regent of this obligation.

    Where I come from, this has a name: it’s called FASCISM.

  • j_jobseeker says:


    Agree 100% Now that I’ve had the chance to read the exact wording of the LDP’s proposals, I can’t help but feel sick to my stomach. I wonder how many of those asked in opinion polls have actually read the LDP’s proposed constitutional amendments? I’m betting not many. Ostriches with their heads in the sand (or other place if you prefer).

    More and more I admire the people of Brazil and Istanbul who feel free enough to speak their mind and raise their voices in protest despite the damaging imagery to the upcoming World Cup or 2020 Olympic bid. It makes you wonder if Japan truly is a “free society.”

    Reading the above proposals, I guess it will become even less so.

    Sad days indeed….

  • Baudrillard says:

    DK, yes it is Fascist, the word, the brand we are supposed to forgive Japan of and forget since its postwar re branding by certain politicians seeking to use American cooperation versus regional revivals (China). Having read the Japan Times article, I thought I would focus on the “denial” and postmodern delusion aspects, and why Abe is living in a dream world unconnected with modern Japan, right wing swing or not.

    “Instead, the LDP-proposed Preamble emphasizes Japan’s uniqueness, saying it “is a nation with a long history and unique culture, with an Emperor who is a symbol of the unity of the people.”

    Ah, the return of that cherished cliche, put in to make Abe and co feel better; more wishful thinking than a true description of reality. Why dont they put in “Japan is a Safety Country” too while they are at it, another blatantly untrue and outdated postmodern sign/symbol. This is of course the opening salvo of the J argument that Japan can do what it wants because it is unique, therefore NJs cannot understand etc, blah blah.

    In complete denial of increasing conformity and a lack of uniqueness in Japan, or even compared to other countries. Unless one counts uniquely in denial about history and right wing nut jobs (Hashimoto). Unique because they say they are? Uniqlo?

    “The Q&A prepared by the LDP states quite frankly that the idea that human rights are natural rights of the people is not acceptable,” Higuchi says. “It basically suggests that (the phrase) ‘the fundamental human rights’ reflects the thinking of Westerners and that Japan should have its own approach to people’s rights. This runs counter to the longtime LDP policy of sharing the basic (values on human rights and democracy) with the West.”

    Actually, au contraire, it is not counter to LDP aspirations. I have been saying on this site before that the LDP has sought to re emphasize duties to the state instead of western imposed “individuality” since the 50s, but just not had enough brazen nutters risking to irk America to do so, until recently.

    Think about interactions you have had in Japanese society. Remember that Ojisan trying to pull rank on you, the NJ, on how/where you sit/stand/eat/talk etc? And to pull rank on the young, especially female, about how they behave? Same old, same old old getting on to the young, using a Neo Confucian Hierarchy to manipulate. A timeless struggle between liberals and conservatives;”the patriarchal family system, which often put restraints on individual freedom”

    “The word ‘individuals’ has an ideology attached to it,” he said, explaining that it is tied to the history of the American Declaration of Independence and liberation of individuals from slavery in the West. In Japan, it was only in the postwar Constitution that individuals were broken off from the patriarchal family system, which often put restraints on individual freedom, he said.

    Higuchi added that Abe’s reform proposals reflect a denial of postwar LDP policy, which has more or less stood by the pacifism outlined in the Constitution.

    Denial of reality indeed. I am still optimistic, that a dynamic and individualistic subsection of Japanese society will continue to do whatever they please, defying the patriarchal kill-joys, and continue to express, engage and even date with the rest of the global community at the microcosmic level.

    My only concern is that by constantly being exposed to this new wave of post-fascist propaganda, these otherwise cool and open minded and free thinking individuals will occasionally also confusingly and paradoxically come out with boorish gaffes learn from High School or early in life, a bit like the Japanese teacher friend of mine I mentioned before who is married to a Chinese, but who still maintains when in her cups that “You White People” have got it easy in Japan (therefore losing the right to complain when discriminated against).

    I suppose the way to deal with it is switch to postmodern mode and treat such out of character outbursts for what they really are-

    confused, in-denial misplaced, postmodern symbols reflecting insecurity and nostalgia for a bygone era.

  • j_jobseeker says:


    Any place we can get these scanned pages as a PDF link for social networking purposes. Need to get this out there for the world to see and digest.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    Maybe the Japanese actually want yo be subjects of the emperor in a fascist state. That would prove not only the effectiveness of 50 of education in denial, but also put all this ‘Japan has changed, the war was a long time ago’ talk to rest. I can see Japan’s future, it’s like North Korea, but with more money.

  • At this point, wouldn’t it be better to stop the efforts to “make NJ lives in Japan better” and start to adjust to reality?

    “Get out while you can – Japan is turning ugly again”.

  • j_jobseeker says:


    During the final 2020 Olympic bid presentation to the IOC members, Japan was again touting itself as the “Safest Country in the World.” Which in light of this topic and events ongoing in Egypt, Istanbul, and Brazil, means “there’s no violent protests here!” “The people are all nice and obedient.”

    Which, if Abe gets his way (hell, let’s just say when he gets his way) will be their duty by law.

  • JDG #6,

    “I can see Japan’s future, it’s like North Korea, but with more money.”

    Will it have that much money? Basically, the Japanese state is insolvent, and it seems only a question of time until they implode under the weight of their debt. Now let’s imagine, as some analysts have been warning (e.g., that when this happens and the bond bubble bursts, Japanese retirees lose up to half of their life savings, unemployment soars, and the whole social fabric is torn. What will happen?

    No wonder Abe is so keen on all these constitutional reforms – ASAP. And, by the way, military conscription is also one of his top priorities, even though I haven’t seen it mentioned very often in the media. It doesn’t take too much work to connect the dots, does it?

    “Japan is so far off the bell-curve that no one wants to talk about it.”

    “If you were advising Abe, what would you say?” – “Quit!”

    Hence I cannot but agree with Markus (#7): Get out while you can.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ J_jobseeker #8

    For what it’s worth, Japan has (had?) a higher murder rate than the UK (and almost twice the population=more than twice as many reported murders).

    Leyton, Elliott; Men of Blood, London, Constable, 1995, P.22.

    — Sorry, we need some numbers or I’ll have to delete this comment. Besides, it’s not really germane.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    I agree with Markus #7.

    Abe will win and make changes to the constitution because the only people who care enough (like the 15% who voted LDP in the Tokyo elections) are the crazy ones who believe that Japan is under imminent threat of physical attack from China (if so, a situation they have wholly brought on themselves with the Senkaku purchase), and those who believe/want to believe that Japan can bludgeon respect from the international community with the threat of the use of force, justified because of the alleged uniqueness and therefore superiority of Japanese culture above all others.
    I think that most Japanese don’t understand the concept of ‘quality of life’, and as long as they are told that Japan has international recognition and pride, they will be happy to suffer any loss of personal liberties, as long as ‘Toyota is the biggest car company in the world’, or ‘Panasonic is #1 electrical gods company in America’. That’s the degree of nationalism in play here.
    Of course (as I have been researching for the last couple of years) those Japanese with the brains to see that quality of life in Japan is a joke, and the money to escape, have already done so. Where is the family of the Rakuten president now? They have been living in the US since March 2011.

  • Baudrillard says:

    “quality of life in Japan is a joke”, well it is “Externalized”, a phenomenon I meant to write about in thr 90s. Basically you live in a small, maybe clean, maybe new or not, apartment which is too small to really have guests round, so parties, get togethers etc are all held outside. This contributes to the “no renting to gaijin” syndrome as gaijin allegedly have people round to their place etc etc.

    Thus, public facilities are quite good and clean, tho expensive- the price for keeping up appearances. However, in passing I will shatter one myth which is that in fact Japan’s metro sucks big time compared to say, Hong Kong’s, which is never late, ever. In Tokyo the Yamanote, the Chuo, the Saikyo are more often that not late and overcrowded.

    And plagued by suicides. Hmmm, that speaks volumes about “quality of life” and contradicts the whole “Japan as advanced nation” branding.

    However, as social gatherings are for the main externalized, this puts them under the scrutiny of the authorities, or simply the wannabe patriachical ojisans who in hindsight are a major source of some of the crap we discuss on this site, e.g. Hanami viewing rules, Shibuya bullies enforcing “the rules” etc.

    Whose rules? Their patriarchical rules of course. Behavior is controlled at the company, at the outside get together, you are only really free in your room. Thus, the rising number of hikikomori. Because if you dont like arguments with J Ojisan, you may seek to avoid them. I personally quite revel in them, as a Japanese speaking NJ who for some reason older (or just older looking, I am almost 50) people like to try to push around at times, and who are not used to their beliefs being questioned contructively in their own language. E.g. Mejijigumae

    Patriarchical Oyaji “You cannot sit here, its a public space”
    My friend “WTF?”
    Me (in Japanese) ” Ok, thanks for your work. Please help us then, and tell us where we can sit”
    Wannabe patriach “……” Shuffles off.
    Me (following) : ” Chotto shitsurei, please do wait up and help us find an alternative place to sit”.
    Wannabe Patriarch : “…..” (moves away faster).

    There is no logic to their rules, just the same old getting on to the young, or anyone they think they can push around.

    All under the excuse of “public order”. It takes a clever tongue and an extrovert with little to lose (a NJ?) to actually take these people to task while being able to twist definitions of “public order” or “duties to the state” to include, in my Meijijigu example, how it is the oyaji’s duty to the state, the public, to the customer, to suggest alternative seating rather than just trying to be “the Japan that can say no”.

    But any westerner I know if just visiting Tokyo (not the empty,decaying countryside) cannot fail to be impressed by the squeaky clean sterile streets and shops of Tokyo. No dogshit either.

    Tokyo is the facade, the showpiece that maintains the tatemae of Japan as advanced nation. Hence the often interchangeable labels of Tokyo as Japan. Why its “Pray for Japan” when it should be “Pray for Sendai”, a mislabelling that makes me very angry when earthquake aid is misdirected and swallowed up by corrupt Tokyo bureaucrats.

  • I’ll just put this out here realizing that it sounds like a conspiracy theory or bad movie plot, but after reading Patrick Smith’s “Japan – A reinterpretation”, I wouldn’t rule out an even more sinister scenario. What if: Every cultural, political and economic effort in Japan since WWII was motivated by becoming a power on par with the US with the ultimate goal to remilitarize with nuclear weapons and get revenge (not the economical variety, the geopolitical one) for the lost war, the atomic bombings – when the right day has come.
    The first thing that Japan changed after taking over from US rule was the education system. The school system was returned to its militaristic nature, with school uniforms, rote learning, drill, what have you. The Ministry of Education was run by the same people who oversaw it before WWII (Source: Patrick Smith’s chapter about the education system in above mentioned book).
    The way the big companies are run reminds us more of military organizations than anything else. Huge parts of this society seem to be willfully kept in a state which would make it easy to turn this country into some form of totalitarian or worse form of government.
    And most telling is the complete disregard for national debt and mind-boggling spending of savings. This does not look like a nation whose primary interest is long-term growth and well-being of its citizens, but rather one which is willfully steering towards some sort of big bang or “grand finale”.
    I have said it before: The world should know better than to allow Japan to ever become a nuclear power. I don’t even want to imagine to what heights this would drive the Japanese superiority complex.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Debito,

    Re; murder rates.

    Elliot is saying 0.7 per 100,000 people in Japan vs 0.6 per 100,000 in the UK in 1995.
    I am aware that the ‘official’ murder rate for Japan in 1995 was 0.54, but Elliot shows that the margin for error (intentionally or otherwise) means that this figure is misleading. In any event, with a population of almost twice the size of the UK, at either of those rates, the actual number of murders was close to double that of the UK. Ergo, Japan is safe=’gaikoku is not safe’, is a lie.

  • Another reason (if more be needed) why East Asia in particular and the world at large should be extremely concerned about Abe’s sinister plans and his increasing hawkishness. Things are not looking good. Once again, Japan’s hubris and callousness are appalling – and, once again, they are not going to end well.

    Fresh from the WSJ:

    China-Japan Tensions Flare Again
    The Wall Street Journal July 4. 2013

    TOKYO—Tensions flared up again Wednesday between Japan and China, with Tokyo protesting Beijing’s construction of a natural gas drilling rig in contested waters, and China’s foreign ministry decrying Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s refusal to say whether he believed Japan had really ever invaded its larger neighbor.

    The tussle over China’s energy exploration is emerging as the latest flash point between the two countries, whose relations have deteriorated sharply in recent months.

    Yoshihide Suga, Mr. Abe’s chief spokesman, said Tokyo has conveyed to Beijing that it had “grave concerns” about the construction of the new rig, which is taking place in an area claimed by both nations as their own exclusive economic zone.

    “Our government has confirmed that China is using a large floating crane to conduct activities that appear to be the construction of a new offshore platform,” Mr. Suga said at a regular news conference. “It is unacceptable if this means China is engaged in unilateral development” of natural resources in the area.

    The area is located between China’s southeastern coast around Shanghai and Japan’s Okinawa islands, and lies north of the contested islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

    The dispute over those islands, controlled by Japan but claimed also by China, has caused a major disruption to diplomatic and economic relations between the two neighbors since September and heightened security concerns in East Asia.

    Another source of tension between the two countries has been a continuing dispute over how to portray Japan’s wartime behavior toward China—a long-lingering argument that has flared up with new intensity since Mr. Abe took office in December. A proud nationalist, Mr. Abe is a member of the school of Japanese politicians who have contended that previous Japanese leaders had been overly apologetic about the country’s occupation of China and Korea before and during World War II.

    Mr. Abe again stoked China’s ire during a political debate in Tokyo on Wednesday, held between party leaders in advance of the official start of the campaign for parliamentary elections slated for July 21.

    In the debate, he refused to take a stance on whether he believed Japan invaded China and established colonial rule on the Korean peninsula in the 20th century.

    “I’m not saying that there was no colonial rule or aggression. But I’m not in the position to define” those terms, Mr. Abe said in the televised debate between the heads of nine political parties.

    Mr. Abe stuck to his position that matters of history should be left to experts.

    “Judging and defining history can develop into political and diplomatic problems. It’s wrong to interpret history measuring the potential problems it will cause,” Mr. Abe said.

    The prime minister last caused controversy over the issue in April, when he raised the question of the difficulty of interpreting history after a lawmaker asked whether he supported an official 1995 apology for Japan’s past behavior.

    “The definition of what constitutes an ‘invasion’ has yet to be established in academia or in the international community,” Mr. Abe said at the time. “Things that happened between nations will look different depending on which side you view them from.”

    The statement set off fierce protests in South Korea and China. Six months into office, Mr. Abe has yet to meet his counterparts in Beijing and Seoul, partially because of such differences on historical matters.

    Asked to comment on Mr. Abe’s latest remarks, China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters Wednesday: “The war of aggression committed by Japanese militarism brought untold suffering to its Asian neighbors.” She added: “There is irrefutable evidence about that and history is not to be denied.” Without a more clear admission of its history, she said, “I believe that there won’t be a bright future for the relations between Japan and its Asian neighbors.”

    At the same briefing, Ms. Hua also pushed back against Mr. Suga’s complaints over the gas rig. “China is carrying out exploration activities in waters under its own jurisdiction,” she said.

    One reason for the territorial disagreements is a desire by both energy-hungry countries—the world’s second and third-largest economies–to control some of the potentially valuable natural resources lying under the region’s vast waters.

    The two nations agreed in 2008 to begin developing natural gas in the area, but negotiations have been suspended because of the bilateral territorial tensions in recent years.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Markus #13

    Yeah, it does sound crazy, doesn’t it?

    However, a few months ago I linked a Gavin McCormack article on a different thread, that described how Japanese policy makers are totally defined by the loss of the war, and have no other vision for the country. They are obsessed with ‘returning Japan to it’s (rightful?) place of international importance and power’, and that what this really means in effect, is that that Japanese international relations are defined by an ‘agree with us totally, or you are our enemy’ approach, which often leaves Japan sulking on the sidelines because it doesn’t want to play anymore.
    Again, the goal is international power rather than quality of life.

  • @#15
    The problem with using Japan’s murder rate is that the numbers are self-reported, and the tatemae of the police here is to have a ridiculously high clearance (and conviction) rate in order to tell the people “look, we’re doing our jobs really well, Japan is the safest country!” However, in doing so, they obviously only classify murders as murders if they are able to clear the case – thus the huge, huge number of “illegal disposal of a body” and other cases in Japan that are used as an easy way to move homicides and other suspicious deaths into less controversial categories. To go further down that rabbit hole, consider how few incidents are even properly recorded by the police here – in the interest of “protecting the wa”, police often act as mediators between parties and may even attempt to sort out a jidan on the spot in many cases; I would be frankly astonished if these incidents were routinely recorded.

    No discussion of Japan’s murder rate is even approaching reality unless these facts are considered, which I would have serious doubt believing the UN did. Then you have to look at the other cultural issues at hand, such as the UK being much more open and having more oversight by the public, media, NGOs and other organizations over the police and crime in general, versus Japan, where shedding light on anything bad about Japan Inc. is severely frowned upon and the media (and the public) will quite literally follow the pied piper blindly wherever he leads them so long as it allows them to keep buying into their mass delusion.

  • Well, this is deeply disheartening. I may have developed the ability to challenge individuals’ nationalism and ethnocentrism, what is that if The State effectively mobilizes the physical and ideological force promised in these revisions? Anyone living in Japan should attend study groups, protest, or otherwise reach out to the various groups working to prevent 破憲. Though these revisions may feel like a forgone conclusion, acting as if they were will only assure the reactionaries’ victory.

    I did wonder about this particular provision:


    Does this mean that we non-kokumin are free to desecrate the flag and anthem? Failing all else, there may be a place for subversive foreign court jesters in neoauthoritarian Japan…

    — Are you kidding? Oh yeah, you are.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    I was just thinking about Japan in international relations terms…

    You ever read in the J-news one of those stories where a woman leaves her husband/boyfriend because he’s kind of a d*ck (maybe some DV involved), and then he can’t accept that she doesn’t love him, and he sends her hundreds, thousands, of e-mails, and phone calls, telling her he loves her, and that he’s changed, so she blocks his number, and goes to the police, and they have a chat with him, and tell him to stay away, and then he stalks her family members and threatens them too? You never seen those stories in the J-press? Ex-partner turns stalker, and the J-police are slooooow to take real action, and then the stalker kills someone?

    I was thinking, that’s kind of an apt metaphor for the way Japan behaves in international relations; like a stalker who can’t let a finished relationship go.

    The war ended 68 years ago, and all other parties would be happy to let it drop (look at Germany and her neighbors), but Japan just can’t let it go. They have to keep throwing it back in their neighbors faces with a ‘it’s not me it’s you’ attitude. Completely unable to see themselves from an objective point of view. The question is, will Japan (like so many J-stalking cases reported in the press) finally use violence to get the attention they want?

    I said on before, the thing that Japanese politicians and public seem to crave (international power, recognition, and influence) is exactly the thing that they will not get from this kind of ‘international relations stalker’ approach (I might write a paper about this model). Finally, other people are starting to come to the same conclusion;

    ‘China and South Korea appear to be strengthening ties, fueling concerns that Japan is being isolated in the region.’

    ‘China and South Korea share a common dissatisfaction with Japan over the issue of historical perception and territorial disputes. If they deepen their bilateral relationship, Japan’s position in Northeast Asia could suffer. The U.S., China and South Korea might also form a united front to deal with North Korea, excluding Japan.’

  • Baudrillard says:

    ” Failing all else, there may be a place for subversive foreign court jesters in neoauthoritarian Japan…”

    I ll bite and say that seriously, you might have a good point there. I recall Douglas Copeland’s postmodern classic, “Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture” in which the main character recounts how he used to work for a Japanese company (based on Copeland’s own real experience), His co-worker, a Japanese OL, bemoans how she is not free, just a Japanese person stuck where she is, but he-the outsider- has a kind of freedom (the freedom to leave).

    Sure enough, when the Oyaji President comes to visit, he immediately notices the younger token gaijin and is keen to impress him, showing the main gaijin character his secret and most prized possession (which turns out to be an up skirt photo of Marilyn Monroe that the president had taken in his youth), but when the main character introduces him to the Japanese co worker, the President just “grunts a bare acknowledgement of her existence”.

    I think part of the package deal of the whole Abe demographic’s revisionism back to the “glory days” of the 80s and earlier is the whole “Gaijin as pet visitor” theme. Or, to quote Powers (1990),

    “Gaijin are like puppies, cute and every home should have one, but they shouldnt be taken seriously”.

    Ishihara thinks like this too. He would probably deny he is “anti foreigner” (i.e. westerner) or racist, but he doesnt think NJs or even those of possible NJ heritage have any right to comment on things that matter in Japan: dismissed a letter sent by environmentalist Paul Coleman about Japan’s Olympic bid (oh the irony here!!)…by angrily stating Coleman was ‘Just a foreigner, it does not matter’.

    So, being a “gaijin guest/visitor” means for them
    1. you dont settle here
    2. your temporary stay and wellbeing here is completely dependent on the goodwill of the Japanese friend/lover/patron/yakuza/employer (in the 80s you could get a visa if sponsored by a “hoshounin”)
    3. Importantly,you self censor, as you should feel you are a guest, in some cases perpetually so. So you dont say anything critical of anything Japanese at all.

    4. You are forgiven any “faux pas”, which actually has the extended meaning of even daring to be in Japan longer than a short visit and attempting to interact with Japanese; partly connected to the having a Japanese guide/sponsor/hoshounin/husband/wife to keep you at heel and apologize for you, while simultaneously looking after you quite well (as you are an honored guest “so long as you leave when you are supposed to” as a member of Debito’s favorite band famously said).

    Powers recounts how an American female ad exec in the late 80s was sent to a Japanese ad agency and when asked by a client what she thought, proceeded to do just that! Immediately the room was full of coughs, scraping of chairs, and apologies for the “woman gaijin” who had dared to offer an opinion; her and their job was in fact to just flatter the client and maintain the relationship.

    What Abe and Ishihara etc dont like is gaijin integration, with the real rights and representation that must follow. And they hate gaijins with the cheek to offer an opinion on Japan.

    Hence, “you are a foreigner so you can never understand”. A catch-all devised and cherished to other the opinions of the perpetual other.

    The South China Morning Post had an article last week called “Mr Abe’s missing fourth arrow”, which is referring to immigration.

    All of Abenomics’ arrows necessitate immigration, but nowhere is immigration mentioned. Because they do not want “Gaijin” with rights and opinions becoming Japanese. (Couldn’t find net link exactly but – En cache – Pages similaires
    BBC South East Wales, – ‎54 minutes ago‎ …. Japan is not ready for the fourth of Shinzo Abe’s arrows.)

    They just want talento to act baka as the “Court Jesters”mentioned by XY above and then go home a few years later, hopefully as an advocate of Japan- hence the honored, “guest” treatment for the honored “gaijin san”.

    Like it was back in their “good old days” of the 70s and 80s. When gaijin were gaijin in awe of Japan’s power.

    — The “fourth arrow” is being referred to as a rise in the consumption tax in the Financial Times (naturally).

    But immigration is the fourth arrow for the WSJ
    and for The Economist:

    Nothing found in SCMP. You are welcome to do this research yourself and revise your argument/evidence before you post here. There is no deadline.

  • Baudrillard says:

    @Debito, yes it was the article in the WSJ by Joseph Sternberg. Maybe what I read in the SCMP hard copy was a reprint, or I am mistaken.

    “Immigration will facilitate foreign direct investment, boosting productivity.

    All of that makes immigration reform precisely the kind of bold and deep change Mr. Abe promises. But the thing that makes immigration reform most emblematic of Abenomics is that despite its importance to Japan’s future, it is almost entirely absent from the agenda. ”

    (Frankly then I think Abenomics is just a short term fix to gather support for Abe so he can follow his first love; neo fascist revisionism)

  • Baudrillard #12,

    “But any westerner I know if just visiting Tokyo (not the empty,decaying countryside) cannot fail to be impressed by the squeaky clean sterile streets and shops of Tokyo. No dogshit either. Tokyo is the facade, the showpiece that maintains the tatemae of Japan as advanced nation. Hence the often interchangeable labels of Tokyo as Japan.”

    I’ve just returned from a trip to Niigata pref., to visit a couple of art projects in the Tokamachi region and surrounding towns & villages (there are still some visionaries there who manage to put such things together, somehow, against all odds). While the satoyama landscape remains beautiful and touching, I was struck by how thin people are on the ground: you can walk for hours on end through a village without seeing a living soul.

    At the deserted eki plaza in one of the towns, I saw only a group of elderly people – and, goodness gracious, they were ancient – sitting in their wheelchairs and staring into the void while waiting to be loaded onto a van.

    Amidst the crumbling facades of former shops and restaurants, you could see the brand new posters of Abe’s propaganda: 日本を、通り戻す。/ Nihon wo tooru modosu.

    No wonder the LDP has so many gullible supporters here.

    This is the real Japan – not Tokyo.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Hoofin #23

    My, wouldn’t that put the cat among the pigeons!

    @ Baudrillard #24

    ‘Frankly then I think Abenomics is just a short term fix to gather support for Abe so he can follow his first love; neo fascist revisionism’. Precisely. His LDP handlers knew that nationalism alone wasn’t enough to win an election, but who could resist the glittering lie of a miracle cure for the lost decades? If Abenomics is such a great thing, why didn’t Sick-note ‘release the third arrow’ about a month ago when the Nikkei was around 16000, and the JPY at 110 to the USD? Why is he making us all wait until September? I think that there is no ‘third arrow’ of any meaningful substance, because there was never meant to be. Abenomics was a last minute idea to shove the LDP to the front of the queue in the Dec ’12 election.

    @ DK #25

    Japan, walking backwards facing into the future, oblivious and willfully unprepared for the road ahead.

  • 21, 22: insightful, thought provoking posts.

    Take a deeper look at J society. Not the masses – just the ‘leaders’. ‘Japan inc.’ is still producing rigid, uncompromising Japanese leaders to keep the masses in line. How many times have you encountered a Japanese person with a title (of any rank) who “knows” their place on the totem pole? This is how J society is organized – like a military organization. Dissent is treason, not to be tolerated. Any complaints are countered with “shigoto desukara” – which in and of itself is meaningless. Your work is whatever your boss/the company decides it to be. unpaid overtime? shigoto desukara. An openly abusive boss who delights great joy in your suffering? shigoto desukara.
    Essentially, know your place, and do not complain.

    By the time an average Japanese person has risen to a position of power and influence, they have been shit on plenty. Like fraternity hazing, it just keeps getting passed on year after year.

    These ‘leaders’, through business or government, approach foreigners and foreign affairs the only way they know how – the way they were raised/trained – if you are bigger, more powerful, etc. you do what you want. If smaller, shut up and take it.

    The problem is that foreigners just don’t understand Japanese ‘culture’. They don’t give their Japanese counterpart the respect they ‘deserve’. Japanese people don’t understand that respect is earned, not awarded based on pedigree or lineage. And this has been where the disconnect occurs. The ‘Japanese way’ is incompatible with other cultures/races (because it is inherently racist, among other things).

    So when Rakuten requires all employees speak English, they still want the Japanese mindset – obedience, unpaid overtime, not contradicting your boss – so all their directors and upper management are Japanese. BTW, for those of you who wonder, the higher-ups speak Japanese to each other when the cameras are off.

    My point? The mold is cast, the deck is stacked. Bucking the status quo in Japan is similar to chemotherapy – you have to kill a lot of good cells to get to the bad ones.

    The people in charge of Japan today are products of decades of training. They are set in their ways. They will hold onto the system that keeps them at the top. The people not on top are conditioned to not voicing their complaints – against anyone above them (which makes foreigners a great target – NJ are automatically below Japanese people! All Japanese people know this) Any plan that will “revitalize” Japan will have to be compatible with the ‘cultural’ interests of Japanese leaders. So I don’t expect Abe’s plans to work. What comes after his efforts fail is more frightening. Japan is reaching into its tool box looking for a solution. The biggest tool they have that will be palatable to the entrenched leaders is nationalism. Slippery slope anyone?

  • My, my, the whitewashing of Japanese War history and the Emperor continues unabated on various fronts and seems to be escalating. Now Abe has found new allies… on the artistic front.

    I haven’t seen the new “Emperor” film yet (just the trailer, here:,

    but I couldn’t help gasping when I read this interview in today’s edition of JT. In it the interviewee, Yoko Narahashi – “a casting agent, producer, sometimes director and, in recent years, all-round interpreter of Japan for U.S. movies” – portrays Hirohito as nothing less than a Jesus-like figure, a martyr who was altruistically ready to sacrifice himself to save his people, against a background of cherry blossoms, a tearful MacArthur, &all that paraphernalia:

    Q: Do you think that, with regard to the Emperor’s role, it’s just not possible to get beyond that “fuzziness”?

    A: There are two stories that I’d like to share with you. One is from my uncle and the second from my mother. They are just oral stories, so there is no proof or anything. The first is about when the Emperor had his famous private discussion with MacArthur (during their first meeting, at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, on Sept. 27, 1945).

    MacArthur was Christian, right? When he spoke to the Emperor, he was apparently surprised to find a person in this distant island country who spoke like Jesus. You know, the Emperor told MacArthur, essentially, you can put me on the cross, but please save my people. MacArthur was so moved that, according to my grandfather, there was a stain on his khaki shirt, from a teardrop.

    We didn’t put this in the movie, but it is a story I heard.

    The other story I heard from my mother, who escaped from Tokyo as the aerial bombing intensified. It was early 1945, and her father — my grandfather — stayed in Tokyo, working close to the Emperor. My mother was in the country and she remembered seeing the cherry blossoms — she had a strong impression of them — and at that time a messenger came from her father saying that the Emperor wanted to surrender, so she could go back to Tokyo now.

    Q: You say that was at cherry-blossom time — several months before the atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Japan eventually surrendered?

    A: In April, yes. So something happened between April and August, but I believe that what my grandfather told my mother would have been true; that it was the Emperor’s wish to end the war at that time. Why he couldn’t follow through on that — because of conflict with the militarists, or something, I don’t know.

    You won’t find this story in any history books. But it is in my heart.

    Where have we heard of this “fuzzy” history rhetoric before?

    While I’m all for artistic freedom and don’t want to surrender to cynicism and conspiracy theories, I can’t help feeling that these things are not happening by chance and that this is part of a concerted effort to manipulate, whitewash and prepare the ground for something really sinister, of which Abe’s proposed reforms are a key part.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Dude, good point “they don’t give their Japanese counterpart the respect they ‘deserve’. Japanese people don’t understand that respect is earned, not awarded based on pedigree or lineage.”

    After 10 years in Japan, I finally realized that in my former job as “sensei” the way to be successful was to pretend to give the clients “the respect they did not deserve” (note I dont say students, a lot of them were there for an ego massage even if their companies, not they themselves, paid). I dont think anyone Japanese has ever come out and spelled this out for any NJs directly, although this is what they refer to when they say “You (short term) NJs do not understand J culture”.

    Its basically a Confucian hierarchy but taken to extremes. Titles in China are important, and receptionists will often fawn over superiors just for that reason, even if the superior isn’t paid that much at all, as its not even always about money. I have seen this in China, Korea and Japan in various situations.

    Sure, I could pretend to respect or flatter older students (who dont want any correction as loss of face blah blah) for a couple of hours if I am paid to do it. But it takes a humble NJ (with little self respect or self identity?) indeed to be able to do that ALL THE TIME.

    And in return what do you get?

    Now multiply this trend in society to the international level. Japan wants “the respect it does not deserve” based on pedigree and lineage..because of an ill defined notion that it is somehow “special”?

  • Baudrillard says:

    Yoko heart speak! “You won’t find this story in any history books. But it is in my heart.” Sorry, could not resist the flashback that the fuzzy J history of this Yoko Naruhashi produced in me while she produced a fictional account of Hirohito and MacArthur; we used to have an eccentric, middle aged bar lady as an English student in the 90s in a dodgy eikaiwa in Yokusuka, and she was also synchronicitically called “Yoko”.

    She used to rattle on and rave in her directly translated Engrish, not at all interested in learning and listening, and certainly not interested in learning cultural faux pas,thus she pi$$ed off all the instructors with her “heart speak” with such gems as “England is weak now, USA is strong” (she was ahem, “dating” a US marine half her age). A wonderful ambassador for her culture!

    Wait a sec. This sounds strikingly like the boorish, ignorant gaffes uttered by Aso, Abe, Mori, Ishihara, Hashimoto, etc etc. Sarah Palin also comes to mind.

    So now you have it, its “heart speak”. As our Yoko was not educated to university level and the latter mentioned J leaders presumably were, I conclude the Japanese education system is seriously lacking in cultural awareness or international studies. It has no effect on prejudices learned in childhood

    But hey, we are being earnest (majime?) here, its Heart Speak!

    To continue with a source and not just an anecdote, the “Foreign Workers handbook” produced in English by the labor office does say that we “Japanese are not accustomed to written contracts” (that old chestnut); Heart Speak dovetails with this, as does the whole NJ needing to rely on the goodwill (“heart”- there is the sub-belief in Japan that consciousness resides in the heart, not the brain) of Japanese individuals to reside in Japan rather than a set of (internationally imposed) rules.

    I have even heard Japanese students claim by the same logic that a Jury system is not needed in Japan as the Judge will always do the right thing, although these were always in a small minority, at least in international companies where I taught. I fear that this view might be more prevalent in other parts of society.

    So Abe wants to go back to this bubble era “heart speak”- fuzzy, ill defined notions of what it is to be Japanese and your neo confucian duties to your male elders who will then hopefully reciprocate by being “nice” to you from their “heart”, rather than a codified and rationalized international Bill of Rights for individuals. If you appeal to a set of rules, this strikes this retro conservative type of Japanese person as “cold”, as you are basically ignoring the relationship with them (i.e. not ingratiating yourself enough with them) by appealing to an “impersonal” set of rules.

    The trouble of course with Heart Speak and a lack of clarity in rights and rules is that it is prone to abuse or interpretation by individual employers or leaders.

    Does anyone else have any insights or opinions on “Heart Speak”?

  • Baudrillard says:

    I would like to share a possible cultural insight I would like to share with people here, its open for debate if Debito does not mind.

    Abe and co. are from the vocal minority in Japan who dislike “western imposed” rationalism as for them it is “cold”, inflexible (and also cannot be abused by elites should the situation demand it or their bank accounts need it, but hey, they are elites so they are “allowed” to do this). They prefer the fuzzy notion of “heart speak” as it is where they *feel* consciousness lies, and makes them feel good about themselves, and self esteem, respect etc. Pedigree and lineage, as well as titles are all highly prized. Because it gets them domestic respect they have not earned in a western way, through work, intelligence or even money.

    In the 19th century money was seen as “dirty” in Japan, it is still a “warui hanashi” for some. For the pop culture reference watch the opening scenes of “the Last Samurai” and how the USA is seen as “a nation of merchants”) Hence old fashioned Japanese sales techniques avoid direct mention of money, involving the building a relationship and obligation through many “free services” as opposed to coming out and trying to close a deal;

    it is this whole J preference for the “fuzzy” or “gray”, of never completely closing the door on (business) possibilities (even when none may exist), or can be open to interpretation later. I.e. if you never come and out and ask for a sale then you will never face an outright rejection. Both parties just flatter each other with proper attention to “received rank”.

    The tatemae explanation of this is that it is “customer friendly”- the customer can choose when he wants to take up the offer rather than being pushed into one. The reality is it is incredibly selfish and hedonistic for the salesman as well, arguably for both parties as it means you never have to experience rejection or feel pressured.It also strikes me as gutless, but then hey, I am a ruthless westerner looking for a result. Or for the truth, or a final decision, not an endless “gray area” – the Japanese revisionists want this “gray area” applied on their take on WW2, because as they see it subconsciously, both sides cannot agree, so therefore it should be left “open”.

    Thus we see the “shut up shut up” tantrums at the international level when the tatemae is not respected by outsiders. I think a lot of these behavioral insights at the consumer and corporate level explain Japan’s behavior at international level.

    Contrast this “conservative” type with a sub trend of J society since WW2 are those who have bought into the rights for individuals mantra, the kind of people prevalent in international companies I have taught at over 20 years, with a sizable minority of the “domestic” Japanese still preferring the “belief system” that the Judge (The Emperor) will always “search his heart” and “do the right thing”.

    Individual injustices are denied or whitewashed as they embarrass this system, bizarrely like when Kyle in an episode of South Park is an “unfortunate casualty” of the girl’s popularity list. (see the episode, it reminded me of Japan’s inflexible bureaucracy and how things cannot be changed ever, for “just one person”).

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @DK #28

    Thanks for the link. I agree with your analysis.
    This is interesting;

    ‘MacArthur was Christian, right? When he spoke to the Emperor, he was apparently surprised to find a person in this distant island country who spoke like Jesus. You know, the Emperor told MacArthur, essentially, you can put me on the cross, but please save my people. MacArthur was so moved that, according to my grandfather, there was a stain on his khaki shirt, from a teardrop.’

    This story is purely anecdotal, but let’s examine it in some detail.

    ‘the Emperor told MacArthur, essentially, you can put me on the cross, but please save my people’.
    Not literally?
    If not literally, then the cross metaphor (in the Japanese language BTW, I can’t find a metaphor that includes the Japanese word for crucifixtion or cross from pre-1945) wasn’t ever uttered, was it? In which case, why would MacArthur have immediately jumped to a ‘Jesus’ analogy, and shed a tear? Doesn’t stand up to me, it’s a fairy tale. And it strikes me as typical Japanese literary embellishment to add the tear stain in question. Why not just say that he shed a tear? This allegedly real incident has been romanticized according to Japanese literary tastes (where’s Don Keene when he could actually be really useful!!). In addition, notice that it’s Tokyo, Sept 27th, when the average high is 28 centigrade…with no air con. Maybe it was sweat?

    And as for this;
    ‘Q: You say that was at cherry-blossom time — several months before the atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Japan eventually surrendered?

    A: In April, yes. So something happened between April and August, but I believe that what my grandfather told my mother would have been true; that it was the Emperor’s wish to end the war at that time. Why he couldn’t follow through on that — because of conflict with the militarists, or something, I don’t know.’

    ‘I don’t know’? What the hell? You get told a deeply personal anecdote of potentially historic importance (and let’s remember how politicians like Abe are still defining the nation by their opinion about that war), and you just ‘don’t know’? Never thought to maybe pick-up a book? Do a little reading? Question what you were taught at school? No? After all, you have earth shattering first hand revelations of the emperors culpability in the war and just toss it aside (or something)? It’s just ‘I don’t know (but it must be true because my Grandpa told me?)’.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Oh! I get it!
    MacArthur was weeping for the emperor and the people of Japan! This serves show that the Japanese are the victims of the war, and also demonstrate MacArthur’s admitting his own guilt in winning the war at the same time. MacArthur is shamed by what america has done, and full of admiration for the ‘Jesus-like’ purity (read: innocence) of the Emperor. Yeah, it’s all BS, written to cater for Japanese tastes, and the way J-nationalists want to believe history was; Japan the pure victim, America the violent aggressor, racked with guilt and shame, and admiration for the moral superiority of the foe.
    I wonder if they will show the sky over Tokyo blacked out with the smoke of government officials burning incriminating documents by the thousand in the days between the surrender announcement, and the start of the occupation?

  • Baudrillard & JDG,

    Another interesting point in the film (Emperor, 2013) is that the only Japanese atrocity mentioned is, it seems, the attack on Pearl Harbour. Why say more? Its overall message serves, not historical truth (does Hollywood ever do that?), but cultural relativism – “things are not black and white” – and a sort of ethnic condescension on the American side: OK, terrible things happened, but the Japanese deserve to be forgiven because what they did ultimately stems from their ancient and *unique* culture of honour, blind obedience and sacrifice, of which we should all be in awe.

    But reverting to the specific topic of this post, I can’t resist sharing a recent finding. I’ve been so fascinated by this slogan of Abe’s propaganda, 日本を、通り戻す / Nihon o, toori modosu, which no doubt informs his proposed constitutional changes, that I very much wanted to find a gloss that leaves us with no doubt as to what his true plans are. I’ve just found it via another blog, and it’s worth quoting the statement, from Abe’s deadly tome Atarashii kuni he / Towards a New Country, a sequel to his Utsukushii kuni he / Towards a Beautiful Country:



    Here goes the blogger’s translation and very perceptive comment:

    In the last general election, the LDP held aloft the slogan, “Japan, We’ll Take It Back!”

    This does not simply mean taking Japan back from the administration of the Democratic Party of Japan. If I dare say so, it is the fight to return *the country called Japan* to the hands of the citizens of Japan *from out of the grip of postwar history*. [emphasis added]


    How much does Abe Shinzo despise post-1945 Japan, that is to say Japan as it is? So much that he seems to not even admit that the country called “Japan” is the actual Japan. He has to qualify, using the locution Nippon to iu kuni — “the country called Japan” — because calling Japan “Japan” would be a…travesty?

    As for freeing “the country called Japan” from the clutches of postwar history…

    A little passage to quote to anyone who tries to peddle the line that Abe Shinzo has mellowed or learned to keep his revisionism private.


  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @DK, #28

    Thanks for providing the link to us. I think it’s right time to engage in conversations about Hirohito’s political/diplomatic role in Japan’s wartime. I understand the challenge of providing authentic account of Hirohito’s
    role in Japan’s war, due to little availability of document archives and credible first-hand accounts from the imperial family. So, it makes sense to me that the film best functions as oral history with visual aids for illustrating the contexts.

    @Jim Di Griz

    Honestly, I don’t have a problem with the film for portraying Hirohito as a genuine humanitarian figure. I wouldn’t say he’s 100% free of guilt or accountability. He may or may not have had a heart for the people in reality. It’s quite hard to verify this with extant document archives and secondary sources, since most historical documents were gone. There’s very few credible account or testimonies provided by government insiders or anyone who had close contacts with Hirohito at the time of war.

    I agree that Narahashi’s portraying Hirohito as father figure is problematic. Hirohito as Jesus Christ to Japanese people? What is she talking about!? It just sounds like Glenn Beck promoting his phony conservative ideology through his endorsement of Rick Santorum for 2012 US presidential nomination, you know. I didn’t feel comfortable with equalizing Hirohito as God the savior. He wasn’t capable of doing anything to defeat or frustrate a reckless political machine dictated by the military sects. He didn’t even give a try for that. That’s where I find it blasphemous in reifying him as an ultimate father figure, despite his ineptitude in discernment.

  • Loverilakkuma #35

    “I think it’s right time to engage in conversations about Hirohito’s political/diplomatic role in Japan’s wartime.”

    The debate has been going on for decades now, but not on terms that please the Japanese Far Right. Just have look at what the Hollywood Japanese lady says about two key works in this respect:

    “There was another reason I wanted to explore this topic, which is those books about the Emperor that have got Pulitzer Prizes in the U.S. One is by (Herbert P.) Bix (“Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan”) and one is by (John W.) Dower (“Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II”).

    When I read those books, they struck me as all very logical. The information, the facts are all laid out — and yet I feel there is something wrong. You know, I had been to the resort house of the Emperor when I was small, with my mother. And having watched my mother, too — the way she talks and acts; she went to the Peers School (aka Gakushuin, a school in Mejiro, Tokyo, for children of the upper classes), and her friends were all cousins of the Emperor.

    There is a certain sense to that whole world and I don’t think it has much to do with logic. I don’t think you can judge the Imperial family just by the historical material that is available. In any case, most of the historical material is destroyed. So, if somebody who has seen the film says to me, “You’re wrong on this or that” — well, were they there at the time? How could we really know?”

    Is this an intellectually honest, valid argument, you think?

    “So, it makes sense to me that the film best functions as oral history with visual aids for illustrating the contexts.”

    If you want a more honest and genuinely humanitarian account that is amply based on oral accounts of Hirohito’s role – but not from Japanese aristocrats and emperor stewards – then I recommend Norma Field’s In the Realm of a Dying Emperor (NY: Vintage, 1993).

  • @35 (Loverilakuma): Well, Hirohito was the “top guy” so therefore he would have been obliged to accept responsibility. It comes with the “job”. There was no need for him to visit MacArthur and “offer” because he really wasn’t in a position to offer anything. If he indeed wanted to take responsibility, he could have made a quick effort in privacy without much ado. That would have been the honourable thing to do. The notion of “please save my people” can be attributed to fairy tale as well, because after the war there were no plans to do anything to the Japanese people they would need saving from. So – “save” from what exactly? Evil, actual democracy?
    @30 (Baudrillard) – you have a good point about obfuscation and fuzziness in Japanese culture. This is owed to the (imho, highly underrated) influence of organized crime in politics and the economy.
    Criminal organizations put great effort into keeping power structures and money flows obfuscated, so the guy at the bottom, who may be easily caught, must never have the insight to tell on the guys above him. Fuzziness (in speech, in contracts, in company or political hierarchies, in law) is the basic element that provides ground for illegal activities, because without it, there would be accountability and no “wiggle room”.
    The Japanese use, and have used this element of fuzziness to great effect. Hence the need to “discuss” even the smallest decisions in Japanese companies with who-knows-who. The indirectness of speech. The wiggling around the non-question whether the head of state must take responsibility for a war of aggression. The obfuscation of history and determination to whitewash those who have already been identified for their deeds beyond any doubt.
    It’s absolutely clear that the enemy of fuzziness and obfuscation is critical thought. Which explains the miffed reactions to an outsider asking questions or looking at the “ura” of things.
    This smoke-and-mirrors state of affairs of course serves the people at top only. Why the rest of the people subject themselves to this so willfully is still a mystery to me, and the only explanation I have is fear of change.

  • If anyone saw the movie, did it mention about Hirohito approving the use of toxic gas against the Chinese on 375 different occasions? (October 1938). Maybe that could not be found out in ten days.

    The later scholarship mostly shows that Hirohito was very much part of the war. That he got off has been taken note around the rest of Asia, and it has left an impression about the United States, which is not entirely good. Of course, America “chooses its own friends”, and there is something to be said for post-war Hirohito. But those are two different personas, and it sounds like the movie wanted to meld post-war Showa into wartime Showa.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    @DK #34

    Was the screen play written by a Japanese, do you know? Not mentioning Nanking, 731, or the sex slaves makes a deliberate attempt to deny the historical veracity of those crimes. After all, Tommy Lee Jones is in this film, and he is an American, so by extension, Japanese audiences will judge this as an indirect endorsement by Americans as a whole, that other *alleged* war crimes are not universally believed AS FACT in America, and the western world.
    I wonder if TLJ has considered the fact that he may be assisting in the facilitation of racist right wing J-propaganda? What would that do to his image back home?

  • Baudrillard says:

    Perhaps then some postwar Americans (Keene) in charge of re branding Japan are also to blame for buying into the “honorable, unique” Japan cliche and incorprating it into the Japan 2.0 brand. Thus the seeds of J democracy’s own downfall were retained in the system once the right wing nutter quota had reached critical mass, as it has now with Abeasohashimotoishihara.

    DK says they thought “but the Japanese deserve to be forgiven because what they did ultimately stems from their ancient and *unique* culture of honour, blind obedience and sacrifice, of which we should all be in awe. ”

    As I wrote before, the 80s “good gaijin” stereotype of which I was constantly reminded of whatever the conversational topic or situation was 1. a guest 2. one with a Japanese sponsor 3. someone in awe of firstly “unique, ancient Japan” and thus self censoring, though in my experience it was a constant case of biting my tongue!

    Then in the 80s this “unique, ancient, honorable, different moral code so atrocities allowed/they ll bow deeply in apology like at the end of Robocop” got re branded as “economic superpower Japan”

    Then they tried “cool Japan”, although Britain had already done “Cool Britannia”, so that came off a bit like copying (another old cliche).

    See the re branding generational pattern here, to impress the West? Also I would like to correct my use of the word “awe” as now it seems, with sour strawberries, pseudo slavery/abduction and a chronic labor shortage, “in thrall of Japan” might be more appropriate.

    American Heritage Dictionary on “thrall”:
    a. One, such as a slave or serf, who is held in bondage. (Chinese trainees?)
    b. One who is intellectually or morally enslaved. (Donald?)
    2. Servitude; bondage: “a people in thrall to the miracles of commerce” (Lewis H. Lapham). (post war J miracle/bubble?)

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @DK, #36

    I don’t know the answer. What I can see from the JT article is that she has some partial knowledge of the imperial family from her family history. But, virtually, she doesn’t have close connections with imperial family. I don’t see any problem with her suggesting the difficulty of analyzing the detailed account for the truth because most authentic records are gone. That is fair statement, to me, at least. It doesn’t make her an apologist or a right winger, unless she has some link with whacky conservative historians like Ikuhiko Hata or Shudou Higashinakano and/or die-hard atrocity deniers.

    @Hoofin, #38

    >Hirohito approving the use of toxic gas against the Chinese on 375 different occasions? (October 1938).

    That’s a part of undisclosed evidence that might have been covered up and eventually destroyed by the imperial government at the end of war, like Unit 731. I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s abominating. Why not put the lid on their dirty, stinky closet? It’s just so naïve to assume the authorities to disclose such classified information after the war.

    @Jim di Griz, #39

    Peter Webber (the director) has a couple of screenwriters for the film. They are David Klass and Vera Blasi. Klass has some life experience in Japan. But it’s unknown for Blasi.

    See from here.

  • JDG #39 and Loverilakkuma #41,

    It’s also worth noting that the film is a joint American-Japanese production. But what’s really interesting is that the screenplay is based on Shiro Okamoto’s novel His Majesty’s Salvation, which has not been translated into English. Maybe Ms Narahashi, as one of the producers, gave the screenwriters a hand, since it’s a subject of her heart…


    It’s not my intention to attack Narahashi personally – and I’ve been careful, so far, not to. I just think that some of her answers to the questions asked by the JT interviewer are not very good, which make her sound indeed an apologist, even if unwittingly.

    However, I do have problems with a film that propagates ethnic stereotypes while professing cultural relativism, and conveniently reduces Japanese WWII atrocities – and the emperor’s (eventual) responsibility – to the attack on Pearl Harbour. It’s self-serving and ethically dubious, to say the least. And, of course, it serves both sides of the establishment, Japanese and American…

  • @Loverilakumma (#41)

    “I don’t see any problem with her suggesting the difficulty of analyzing the detailed account for the truth because most authentic records are gone.”

    But that’s not what she is doing, is it? In fact, she offers an alternative “theory” backed by nothing but the alleged social proof that she comes from a family that had contact with the persons in question.

    As she says herself, she has no proof for any of this and therefore she could as well have said nothing at all – if this wasn’t just another attempt at obfuscation by a (easy to tell) attempt to introduce bogus “new ideas” into the discussion.

    If the best the apologists of Hirohito can come up with is hearsay, then I don’t see any reason to not go with the known facts, and those facts pose the question why Hirohito, if he indeed was a man of honour, didn’t take responsibility as head state, regardless of the details of his personal involvement. See my post above.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Markus #43,

    I’m with you on this. She is using anecdotal ‘evidence’ to portray Hirohito as a martyr for his people, deliberately creating an ambiguous space in which to begin discussion in Japanese society aimed at normalizing his image from that of complicit by direct action (or lack thereof) in Japanese war time atrocities. This is possible only due to the fact that post-war Japanese education has been so deliberately lacking in regards to facing up to Hirohito’s wartime accountability. For example, my wife (despite having attended several ‘high level’ private schools) had never known that two of Hirohito’s brothers, whilst serving in the Japanese army in China, had been involved in the activities of Unit 731 (which she had always thought was just a Chinese anti-Japanese lie), and she had never even seen perhaps the most famous photo in the world of Hirohito (that of him attending a military parade, in full Army uniform, astride his white horse) until we visited the museum at Yasakuni jinja together.

    Markus, IIRC, you are a German national. I wonder how German society (never mind the world at large) would react, if based on the memoirs of the daughter of Hitlers secretary (for example) a film was made that portrayed Hitler simply as a fan of Wagner and a dog lover?

    @DK #42,

    Thank you for the information.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @DK, #42

    I see your point. Since the film primarily focuses on a limited period–i.e., post A-bomb apocalypse to national surrender on 15 August, it surely provides us with a different context from other films featuring WWII–i.e., Pearl Harbor, Letters from Iwo Jima. Be reminded that this is Hollywood film–not a historical documentary. There’s always the benefit of doubt about big-budget movie for its outcome, for it typically promotes historical narratives as hyper-sensitive cultural consumption for raking in millions of dollars.

    @Markus, #43

    >In fact, she offers an alternative “theory” backed by nothing but the alleged social proof that she comes from a family that had contact with the persons in question.

    I’m not sure if it is called ‘theory’ or she creates/uses ‘theory,’ whether deliberately or not, for whatever motives she might have. What you call ‘alleged social proof’ is exactly a salient characteristic of the film, that is–‘oral history’ based on fiction (As DK mentions that the film is based on the novel written by a prominent Japanese author). I think the point she’s trying to make in the article is that it’s almost impossible to make micro-analysis of emperor’s role in wartime due to little availability of first-hand accounts (i.e., inside information/classified documents and records available from the imperial family especially in a pre-war period). That’s probably the reason why critiquing emperor in wartime seems more challenging than identifying Japan’s state responsibility for war atrocity, in general.

  • @Loverila (#45)

    “I think the point she’s trying to make in the article is that it’s almost impossible to make micro-analysis of emperor’s role in wartime due to little availability of first-hand accounts.”

    Well, that’s the point I was trying to make – there is no need to have a “micro-analysis” when the “macro-analysis” already leaves no doubt. What defines a first-hand account, and why should it even be considered necessary in this matter. That’s where I think the intent to obfuscate comes in. In my opinion, she is trying to direct attention away from the facts that are already undisputed by creating a faux “argument” that is besides the point to begin with and needlessly introducing new “theories” (i.e. the idea that a minuscule analysis of Hirohito’s day-to-day activities was somehow “needed”).

  • @JDG (#44) I would say that works showing or describing Hitler as anything else as the psychotic evil monster he was would not find an audience in Germany, apart from the usual nutjobs from the few far-right fringe groups such as the “NPD” ( that – unfortunately – are allowed to exist. Even if someone made a movie, or wrote a book such as this, I am sure that there would be demonstrations in front of every movie theater / book store participating and a public outcry in the media and whole political landscape against it.

    In contrast to Japan, the victorious powers did a pretty good job of freeing Germany from the evil elements (and the Red Army discarded much of what was still left in the late 60s). Revisionist ideas might exist in some underground right-wing movements, but have never gained traction beyond them. Whenever they try to rally in public, there will be, without fail, ten times the number of decent people rallying against them, effectively acting as democratic citizens.

    To illustrate your example, nobody in Germany would dare to introduce ideas into the public discourse such as “we can’t close the file on Hitler’s responsibility until we know exactly how he held his spoon when eating soup or what time of the day he usually got his moustache trimmed. We need these first-hand accounts to make up our minds about his guilt!” – because such a person would expose himself as a complete fool not worth anyone’s time.

    On a side note (and tangent, I fear – sorry Debito), I highly recommend the documentary “Hitler’s children” as an account of what role the descendants of the upper Nazi ranks play in modern Germany today – spoiler alert – none of them has ever been elected “Prime Minister” (or Chancellor, rather), unlike a certain descendant of the “Showa monster” Nobosuke Kishi.

  • Strange to say, but Yukio ‘The Hangman’ Hatoyama looks like a moderate, in retrospect, when compared with Shinzo Abe’s band of thugs. Who’da thunk it? Were they the ‘good ol’ days’?
    What’s next? Conscription? The return of the kenpetai? Marching lessons for school kids? Forced singing of the national anthem every morning as the flag is raised? NSA-style snooping on everyone in the country? The jiji-kai groups are just a step away from being the Stasi anyway. (I always referred to them as the Taliban.)
    But seriously, is democracy about to be ‘done’ TO the Japanese people again, or is there any hope at all that it can be something that they do FOR themselves?
    Scary developments indeed. Glad to be watching at a safe distance.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @Markus, #46

    >the facts that are already undisputed by creating a faux “argument” that is besides the point to begin with

    Sorry. I’m confused. What facts are you referring to? You seem to conflate the facts about emperor into the facts about Japan’s war responsibility. The former is NOT the same as the fact about Japan’s war crime. It doesn’t make significant changes with what Japan did in the past. Otherwise, you can blame some whacky revisionists, rightists, Yamato supremacists, and conservative political leaders for historical fabrication. That’s their problem with cognitive dissonance, which I call ‘chronic pathology’ in social construction. Just because you see someone suggesting Hirohito’s innocence does not necessarily mean s/he is rightist or conservative defending Japan from war responsibility. There’s not enough space in the JT article to critique Ms. Narahashi’s ideas for me.

    If you have an issue with her, I think that’s the matter of film production. Remember the film focuses primarily on the two American generals–not army or battalions in a war combat. It’s not the same old reproduction of war film illustrating Japan’s war aggression or A-bomb apocalypse.

    All I can say about her is that she’s terribly wrong for describing Hirohito as ‘Jesus Christ.’ Putting his life on the cross!? What a BS! He’s the one hiding behind the Pharisees who were asking people for mandatory sacrifice(suicide). That really gets my goat. And that’s it.

  • Further to our discussion concerning the multiple sinister implications of Abe’s proposed reforms, I vividly recommend Tessa Morris-Suzuki’s latest article on APJ/JF:

    Tessa Morris-Suzuki, “The Re-Branding of Abe Nationalism: Global Perspectives,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, Volume 11, Issue 28, No. 1, July 15, 2013.

    “Abe’s core goal, inherited from [his grandfather Kishi Nobusuke], clearly set out in Towards a Beautiful Country, and echoed in the manifestos of groups like the Shinto Association of Spiritual Leadership, is to “escape from the postwar regime”: that is, to reverse the political reforms introduced to Japan during the allied occupation. In his view, these reforms undermine Japan’s traditions, which are centred on the figure of the Emperor. What Abe’s nationalist vision means in practice is best understood by examining his party’s far-reaching proposals to rewrite the postwar Japanese constitution. The proposed changes include removing the reference to “respect for the individual” and making it constitutionally impossible for foreign permanent residents to be given national or local voting rights. Freedom of expression and freedom of association would not be protected where these “have the purpose of harming the public interest or public order”. The same formula would be used to limit the right of citizens to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. The revised constitution prepared by the Liberal Democratic Party contains no guidelines as to how, and by whom, “public interest” and “public order” would be defined, leaving an alarmingly large loophole for the repression of civic freedoms by the state. A new article would also be added to the constitution to give the state sweeping powers to declare prolonged states of emergency, during which constitutional rights could be suspended. With the prospect of an LDP super-majority in parliament for the next two to three years, there is a strong likelihood that the ruling party will push forward with an attempt to carry out these changes: changes so profound that they should probably be described, not as plans for constitutional revision, but rather as plans for a new constitution.

    The current popularity of the Abe administration in no way reflects public enthusiasm for these grand political designs. It is, instead, a response to the government’s economic stimulus package, and to Abe’s skill in making optimistic statements, which convey a sense of leadership to a population weary of political uncertainty and economic malaise. In the end, the Abe government’s performance should and will be judged, not on any political labels, but on the impact that it has on Japanese society and on Japan’s relations with its region and the world.”

    – See more at:


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