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Hi Blog. As Tokyo is having some elections (or by this time of blogging, had; sorry), I thought it within the role of Debito.org to archive yet another example of xenophobia used as a campaign strategy.
Xenophobic party Ishin Seitou Shinpuu (Restoration Party New Wind) is up to its old anti-foreigner tricks again. This time, front and center, is a candidate for Tokyo Katsushika-ku by the name of Kaneko Yoshiharu, a former employee of Ishikawa Prefecture and former town councilor for O-i Chou in Kanagawa Prefecture, clearly skipping to the other side of Tokyo to rent an apartment and rally up a few fellow fearmongerers.
His slogan, front and center: “More than foreigners, Japanese are first!” (Gakokujin yori nihonjin ga daiichi!), setting up a false dichotomy (the fact that foreigners can’t vote in the first place makes that clear). He’s also calling for limits to foreign products being “dumped” (i.e., being sold overseas for lower than production cost or domestic pricing in order to capture market share — which is kinda rich to say given Japan’s trade record) and for a hardening of policy against Japan’s low birthrate (sorry, potential pun acknowledged). He also wants (see below within his public statement) an end to “superfluous (kajou na) support for foreigners”, whatever that means.
In case you’re wondering whether anyone would have the courage to put this up on campaign poster walls (or wonder whether Japan’s election laws would allow for such divisive language), he does and they do:
(Courtesy RW, photo taken November 5, 2013 in Katsushika-ku, Tokyo)
If you want to know more about what Kaneko wants done, have a look at this:
Keep an eye on this party, folks (http://www.shimpu.jpn.org). It’s the most brazen, but by no means the only xenophobic party of grumpy old Japanese men out there who want to jerk Japan’s political chain hard right. It helps to have somebody extremely hard-line so that other hardliners (such as Ishihara/Hashimoto’s Japan Restoration Party — without the New Wind) look milder by comparison. Helps to normalize the invective. Arudou Debito
37 comments on “Restoration Party Shinpuu’s xenophobic candidate in Tokyo Katsushika-ku elections: “Putting Japanese first before foreigners””
lol “a hardening of policy against Japan’s low birthrate (sorry, potential pun acknowledged).” And just how does he propose to do that?
Would he bring in laws that punish salary men that spend their time/seed in certain entertainment establishments instead of spending time with their wives? Would he lead by example?
I cant see that happening in a male-dominated culture so ingrained with carousing. No, it can only be a misogynist stance. Probably laws further limiting employment opportunities for women so they can stay home and have babies for the fatherland.
The irony of course is that immigration would solve this problem; just the few NJs still here post 3/11 are here because they have put down roots and started a family, helping solve Japan’s demographic crisis as it were.
An inadequate, terse-looking little man who wants the respect he does not deserve, who reminds me in looks of the leader of the Anti-English Spectrum in S. Korea, but I digress.
Finally, “New Wind?” Seriously? They mean they have broken wind again; “Which is why, wherever submission is demanded, the old ideological fart …”” http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/raoul-vaneigem-the-revolution-of-everyday-life
This pathetic little man is a wannabe master in search of slaves.
Let’s hope he makes it, and makes an international scandal in time for the Olympics!
Go GO crazy racist O-yaji!
I’m with Jim here. Only Gaitasu will ever change Japan. Change from within isn’t feasible in any acceptable time frame. It took them hundreds of years to move this little and they are on the reverse course already. No offense to Debito, because if there was no one looking out for foreigners from within, it would be an unbearable bleak situation. But for any real change to happen, the first step is for the mainstream opinion about Japan in the US and Europe, to undergo a huge reality check what this country is and is not.
That photo-op of Abe giving thumbs up in a “731” marked fighter jet could be key. It only needs a little explanation why such a behaviour is not acceptable. Japan should be internationally shamed for publishing such a photo.
The dirt needs to be brought to light – and like Jim said, if Japan wants to ahead and do it by themselves (electing New Wind etc.), more power to them. The only job for us is to spread the news in our respective home countries. As for Germany, very little day-to-day politics is being reported from the “country of punctual and polite people back far east”. The Fukushima cleanup chaos already has destroyed much of the myth regarding Japan as a technologically advanced nation. The groundwork is laid, and I plan to built on it once back home.
— And about that infamous “731 jet” photo: Some people claim it’s mere coincidence or accident. But given Japanese society’s conceit with numerology (to the point where you won’t get hotel rooms ending in a 4 (shi = shinu, or “die”) or birth delivery rooms ending in a 9 (ku = kurushimu, or “suffer”)), one cannot help but think that this was a deliberate pose. Not a thumbs up, but a thumbing of the nose, at China in particular. No proof either way, so I’m going with my gut on this one.
He came in 48th out of 54 candidates with a total of 746 votes. So he was rejected by quite a wide margin. Gives me hope that most people don’t take people like this seriously. The sad thing is there are still 746 people who agree with him.
Look at his profile. He wants to do something about Japan’s birthrate in order to guarantee regular employment for Japanese???
And one of his two “achievements” in government thus far have been shooting down welfare for NJ?
I hope he doesn’t accept taxes that have been paid by NJ residents – that would be hypocracy!!
I’m curious as to how he fairs/faired.
— As RS noted above, he came in 48th with 740 votes, according to official Katsushika-ku figures. As there were 40 seats to fill, he lost. That said, look who came in a clear first: Ishihara/Hashimoto’s Japan Restoration Party (Nihon Ishin no Kai), beating out even the LDP. Not that this is reflective of much more than local politics (I’m impressed that there are so many party affiliations being declared: I’ve found that the more local the politics, the less likely a party affiliation because they can sell themselves as individuals in their communities without party baggage or predisposition), but this is, after all, a section of Tokyo with close to half a million residents.
This isn’t mere xenophobia: call it for what it is–RACIST! We need to make that message loud and clear. These people are RACISTS, and must be fought as such.
OK Japanese first. What about the definition of “Japanese”? For instance you, Debito, should be OK under your new citizenship…
what about 2nd/3rd gen Zainichi? Other small ethnic groups?
Ironically “Kaneko” family name sounds like a Zainichi family name to me.
That’s not a new wind, it is the oldest wind of all, sakoku wind.
Will see where they get, even I think they will end up parading and shouting with black vanettes in Tokyo.
I wonder if it would be challenging for us to find this weird party. To me, it’s kind of like sniffling a crack-pot in the backyard. Katsushika is located at the upper right edge of the city, bordering with Chiba prefecture. So, it’s a bit off from my district. No offense for those of you living out there.
Ishinseitou-Shinpu is one of the tiny minority parties that can be elusive from the public dragnet, because of its weak foundation and skimpy funding. People can choose to ignore or pick up for scrutiny, depending on their motives.(I bet most of us here will keep this party on the radar.)
I personally don’t think this party will make a big deal out of their shameless racial epithet–at least for now. But, why not keeping the eyes on them? I learn that the founder Nobuyuki Suzuki is a hair brother (!) of Ted Cruz. “Noted Screws,” if you put them together.
My view will change, if this party would grow like the Tea Party by getting a large sponsor such as Koch Brothers (any equivalent in Japan?), Gates or Walton-like private foundations, or pro-nuclear big-J corporations, or the ALEC-like legal lobbyist.
Trying to understand the logic in “Gakokujin yori nihonjin ga daiichi!” We foriegners are something like 2%, if that, of the total population. I have surely never felt that I was daiichi, more like on the level of a day worker or burakumin at times. Whats this guys point? Foriegners are taking jobs like picking cabbage, cleaning or construction? and he would rather do those jobs?
>And one of his two “achievements” in government thus far have been shooting down welfare for NJ?
Note the 棄却 at the end of that line. He sued Kanagawa Prefecture to eliminate welfare for NJ, but lost the suit.
Baudrillard – “An inadequate, terse-looking little man who wants the respect he does not deserve…” That is similar to how Hitler was described in the late 20’s and early 30’s. Sometimes the worst tyrants come in unimposing packages.
Max – don’t look at the world (especially Japan) through your open-minded eyes. See it through their race-based eyes. Anyone not Japanese (race) is not Japanese. It does not matter what the passport says. And it does not matter how many generations they have been in Japan.
Kirk – it is not the actual %, but the perception. Remember when foreign companies were “buying all of Japan!” – it turned out total foreign investment had reached 1% – but lots of the establishment panicked – “the end is near!” This is the real Japan. It is not open minded, and it does not run on facts. Rather, it is superstitious, gossipy, and petty.
It is only a matter of time until an ‘incident’ electrifies the nation – and possibly unifies average Japanese people around the anti-foreign cause.
Two months ago I met with a senior (Japan) Olympic committee member – he was quite animated about the 2020 Olympics restoring Japan’s pride. He said that Russia and China are making fun of Japan (馬鹿にしている)… and the Olympics is a chance to reassert their superiority. Until this meeting, I had always found this person to be very open minded (or so I thought).
Yes, the islands Japan took from Russia in the late 1890’s, and then the Russians took back in 1945 – those are the open wound on Japan’s pride.
Thanks for the stats.
Thanks for the note.
Which means both of his political “achievements” were actually not achieved. (I wonder if I can work things like that into my resume “Olympic Gold medal, 100m [didn’t win]” etc)
It is, however, somewhat disturbing that Nihon Ishin no Kai won that particular election. They have the famous faces and names working in their favour, and attract votes from everyday people – that’s what makes them so dangerous.
I think his slogan is not specifically calling out “foreigners in Japan”, but just foriegners in general, be they overseas or not.
IDK why the hell is meant by putting and end to supporting the foreigners too much… also other points are somewhat unclear to me, nor do I have the respective knowledge to take them on in the first place, but as for trade barriers, in case you haven’t noticed that is the direction in which many countries are going to… protecting the domestic industry, it’s not racism, it’s economic patriotism! I would love to see the politicians of my home country do the same thing; unfortunately, relying on cheap imports is the norm, and what was a solid industrial economy once is now just a service-reliant paper tiger… to give some recent examples of countries doing this and profiting from it: China, Germany and Argentina are all “guilty” of protecting their economy one way or another – this is definetely to the benefit of the respective local populace, doesn’t matter whether they’re actually citizens or not!!
my resume “Olympic Gold medal, 100m [didn’t win]” etc) -oh yes, Uso mo houben yo. I think you could also change ¨didn’t win¨ to ¨participated¨, or list the ranking achieved. All par the course of postmodern signs in Japan. I am unemployed, but my meishi says that I am company president of my own company, with Sony and other big names in parentheses. These are in fact companies I have taught English at in the last 10 years. I think I am quite honest considering a lot of Japanese put meaningless slogans on their personal meishi which e.g. just describe their mood or philosophy like ¨Dreamy Day Corp.¨
It is, however, somewhat disturbing that Nihon Ishin no Kai won that particular election. They have the famous faces…
-again, par the course and nothing new here. Back in 1990 Powers (Working in Japan) analyzed that as ¨Japanese tend not to trust their own feelings they buy on celeb recommendation´. So, oh yeah Ishihara, he is FAMOUS.
At least we now have Fujiwara Norika on our side. If only she would stand as an opposition candidate, she might get a lot of lusty, frustrated middle aged men to defect from Ishin no Kai (their main demographic).
R.Sakamoto probably appeals less as his music is ¨too weird¨ for the average Japanese, to quote a former Sony producer, plus he lives overseas so he may appear to be a deserter or ¨no longer Japanese¨ in the minds of these nihonjinron xenophobes. I was surprised how dismissive and blasé most Japanese I met on arrival in Japan were about his output. Some were kind offended by his international mix and mash of cultures approach, maybe not ¨ethically pure¨ enough for them. Kind of like, oh yeah I know his name but lets move on to discuss bland, harmless pop like Hamasaki Ayumi or Komuro etc.
All that really matters is looks/appearances and famous brand names in Japan. Tatemae meshing into commodity fetishism and The J·Society of the Spectacle.
Looking at Yoshiharu Kaneko’s campaign poster, I cannot help laughing my ass off at this man’s clumsiness. As shown in the poster, he puts a couple of lawsuits in 2010 and 2011 as his political activities. Is that all? Sounds like he didn’t do anything meaningful while serving as the prefectural bureau in Ishikawa and city councilor in Kanawaga, huh? Funny he thinks he can give credit to his own petty anti-foreign initiatives that didn’t even come out to the public. Note the word “棄却.” WTH?? No Japanese politicians would put the activities that do not work out. And, he’s a Todai graduate. Oh dear.
Second, his track record implies that he’s not from Tokyo–not even a long-term resident of Katsushika ward. He’s just relocated from the rural area of Kanagawa to the northeast suburb of Tokyo. Wonder what makes him move to the place which seems more expensive than Kanagawa.
— Politics. I know from my research and experience with Japanese political parties that in order to field candidates in areas where there are none for their party, they either a) find a local (not always a good idea, since representatives who have not been properly schooled in the party line could become loose cannons), or b) find someone properly schooled within their ranks, rent him an apartment in the electoral district with enough time in advance so he qualifies as a “resident” with a juuminhyou (even if that apartment is merely his campaign HQ and he commutes from his actual living space), and run him. That’s probably what this guy did. The Party of Wind needs to look viable by fielding candidates, even if they almost always lose. Same idea as establishing shell branches of a company overseas to make the company look bigger.
It’s too bad みんなの党 isn’t more popular. They seem to be more pro-free markets and open to foreigners coming to Japan.
@Debito response to #5:
If you look at the results overall you’ll see a much better headline.
“Hard right groups including Nihon Ishin no Kai and other rightest groups receive least votes of all non-local political factions.”
#1 is the only candidate for Nihon Ishin no kai, so he got all of their votes but only 1 seat.
Here’s the vote tally by party affiliation:
自由民主党 (LDP) 44,570
公明党 (Koumeito) 36,780
無所属 (Unaffiliated) 27,321
日本共産党 (Communists) 17,929
みんなの党 (Everyone’s party) 5,756
日本維新の会 (Nihon ishin no kai) 4,061
葛飾・生活者ネットワーク (Katsushika residents network) 1,079
維新政党・新風 (Crazy new wind) 740
無給党 (Guy on a scooter campaigning with no staff, according to a quick google) 417
Looks like the hard right fringe, even Nihon Ishin no Kai, is the least popular group among the parties that have any presence outside the ward. I would exclude 1-candidate and local parties with no outside of katsushika affiliation, i.e., 葛飾・生活者ネットワーク and 無給党. It seems from the election results that most Japanese people continue think such hard right figures are crazy, and they are not at all mainstream, compared with anti-immigrant parties in much of the developed world these days if you look at poll results for example in France or the US. May be due to the relatively low unemployment rate – people tend to turn more against immigrants when there is high unemployment or disaffected former workers, as is the case now in the US and Europe. Let’s celebrate that Japan’s electorate doesn’t buy the anti-foreigner BS and hope that the situation continues.
— Point well taken, thanks for this. Yes, I always find it fascinating how organized the Koumeitou is to get their followers to apportion their votes out so that the maximum number of Koumeitou candidates get in. One thing: Where’s DPJ?
Further to his “hardening” and probable misogynist stanceon the low birthrate issue, he really does not need to do any less for Japan’s women, there is already a severe lack of effort by Japan’s ruling elite:
However, note the bit about foreign managers hiring J-women instead of J-men, who apprently cannot think as critically (pride issues?):
“These managers see Japan Inc.’s self-inflicted wound as their gain.”
NOte also Korea at least tries to do something about it, while Japan does nothing, and Abe just talks.
From Wikipedia: “Led by Yoshimi Watanabe, who split from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the party was founded on August 8, 2009 after then-Prime Minister Aso dissolved the lower house. One concept behind the party is to make the government more democratic, and to eliminate control of the government by non-elected members established in the bureaucracy. In this respect, Watanabe has repeatedly stated that his position is compatible with the Democratic Party of Japan.
However, in most other respects, such as its favorable view toward lower taxation, free enterprise, smaller government, and less regulation.”
From their website: http://www.your-party.jp/policy/manifest.html
Used Google Translate because my Japanese is 悪い
4. I will promote and ensure the development of global human resources
I actively support the international exchange of students for the purpose of unit acquisition cost and degree study abroad, in foreign countries.
To double (currently about 14 million people) to 300,000 the number of foreign students.
Expands the class in English at university to do so. In addition, to expand the credit transfer system international, to enhance the environment of Japanese education.
For international students attract, to carry out promotional active and effective in conjunction with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
To promote the establishment of Japanese school foreign university.
I create an environment of college fall enrollment.
These guys are way ahead of their time. They are definitely the best party in Japanese politics right now.
— Okay. But I call them the Tatemae Party, as they keep shifting their fundamental policy platform with every election (and they’re basically LDP defectors, so same wine, different bottle). In addition, as this is the purview of Debito.org, what are they proposing to help NJ residents? All I see above are the hackneyed chestnuts of “expose more Japanese to the outside world” kokusaika mantras that justify many a bureaucratic junket. I’m a little too old now to fall for these slogans anymore. Especially given the xenophobic antics of at least one of their members, Kawada Ryuuhei.
Abe and cronies get one wish fulfilled; history white wash in textbooks.
Revisions to facts that are ‘open to interpretation’, like Unit 731, the Sex-slaves, and the Nanking Massacre, so that Japanese students can ‘be proud of their traditional culture’.
Quite frankly, IMHO, the Japanese SHOULD be ashamed of their war-crimes, and I don’t see what connection that shame has to ‘being proud of traditional culture’, unless it is the right-wing’s opinion that rape and murder IS traditional Japanese culture (actually, for the record, in Turnbull’s ‘Key Papers on the Samurai Tradition Vol. 1’ there is a summery of a Nara-era record of a vendetta between two aristocratic families that ends with one family attacking the others at night with fire, and killing all the men as they try to escape, and raping all the women to death when they run out of the burning compound, so maybe rape and murder is traditional Japanese culture after all?).
I think that this is intended to appeal to those who sympathize with the claims of the Zaitokukai (在特会). The whole idea of the Zaitokukai is that so-called Zainichi are accorded “special rights” (特権). To those who accept that extremely problematic and ahistorical premise, this poster surely makes sense. One characteristic of the Zaitokukai and those who are basically on the same wavelength is that they see so-called Zainichi as merely foreigners. That is to say that they don’t recognize the historical factors that have led Zainichi to be given social benefits that normally only accrue to those with Japanese citizenship. The LDP’s KATAYAMA Satsuki is a good example of this. She has made a big fuss about how “foreigners” (Zainichi and some others with permanent resident status) can receive social welfare (生活保護).
So, this is all code. If you are familiar with and sympathetic to the arguments of the Zaitokukai, KATAYAMA Satsuki and others, you “get” this poster.
By the way, though this guy may be dismissed as a “nut” (at that’s how I would regard him), it is important to note that KATAYAMA Satsuki has become a reasonably high profile politician and her arguments give credence to the arguments of the 在特会. Thus, this trend is not merely about the fringes of Japanese politics.
P.S. I see that, on the back side of the poster, he explicitly refers to the social welfare (生活保護) issue I described — definitely following the lead of KATAYAMA Satsuki and the Zaitokukai.
I think that Kirk Marsden #22, #23 makes a valid point about this guy being a one issue nasty little hate freak with little widespread appeal or policies.
HOWEVER, we should be careful; I am sure that the apologists will make the exact same points in order to prove that we are exaggerating the rise of popular xenophobia in Japan.
If Kaneko was one man in isolation, the apologies would be correct. But he isn’t. He has to been seen in the wider context of the Namakura’s, Hashimoto’s, Ishihara’s, Aso’s, and Abe’s on the political scene in Japan. This is a seemingly endless list of politicians who share blatantly racist attitudes, and a list that seems to never stop growing, with yet one more ‘fringe nutter’ after another making an ‘ill-judged statement’ that we are supposed to believe ‘is not representative of the vast majority of Japanese’. The simple fact is that these people say what they say to get elected, and more often than not, it works (how many terms did Ishihara serve as mayor before being returned to the Diet by the voters?).
Viewing these people as ‘the loony right’ belays the truth; the Japanese public have chosen a prime minister and government that still believes in the social values of Imperial Japan, and is actively making the social changes towards a distorted vision of such, with no meaningful opposition from the Japanese public or media. In making that right-wing recidivism the new ‘normal’, it has left a space on the extreme right for Kaneko and Zaitokukai (and such like), who public voice comments so repulsive that only 5 years ago it would have shocked the Japanese with it’s extremity. Not anymore.
Hi Jim! Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear. The reason I connected this guy to Katayama Satsuki is to show that he’s not merely on the fringes but that what he is saying has connections to what other politicians who are considered to be more mainstream are saying. In scanning the comments made by others, I got the impression that one or two of the commenters saw Kaneko as being too minor to worry about. I wan’t to argue that his approach has more support among people already in office than one might imagine. On the other hand, though, while the connections to the other politicians you mentioned can be made in a general sense (part of Japan’s general shift to the right), I’m not aware of Abe, for example, making speeches about the welfare issue specifically or more generally about the “rights of foreigners” issue. I would be very interested to learn about such statements if he has made them.
For some recent comments by Katayama on the foreigners and the welfare issue see:
(To understand who Katayama is appealing to, you need to read the comments as well.)
I didn’t mean to sound critical of you in any way. Sorry if I gave that impression.
I only wanted to say that with imperialists in power, the traditional right has become mainstream, leaving the unoccupied extreme right to become filled with much more extreme rightists.
JDG: While I agree that Abe personally holds repulsive views, I would be careful to note that he has been subject to media criticism when he gets out of hand and has tempered his public statements to be more palatable to a public that is largely not as xenophobic or racist as members of zaitokkai and the crazy new wind party. If the votes were there (and show me the votes if they are there, keeping in mind that working class towns like katsushika are perversely the best breeding grounds for right wing nutter votes in any democracy), it would be one thing, but they seem not to be. I think it’s good to pay attention and denounce the people who think we should be rounded up in the next earthquake, but it seems to me to be dishonest to say there’s a silent majority, or even a very large silent minority, that shares these views. Ishihara’s popularity is not limited to his racist views but I think rather limited by it; I think he gets popularity for his perceived “guts” in saying whatever comes to his mind and his perceived good stewardship of Tokyo prefecture (both of which I question, of course). If the populace wanted to round up and expel the foreigner, they would vote in people who would do it and effect those policies. Just don’t see it happening in Japan unless the global economy goes completely into the gutter and we’re reduced to eating rats, etc. I certainly don’t consider myself to be an “apologist,” as I very much do speak out when I see an injustice here. I think there will continue to be a slight rise in xenophobia in Japan as Abenomics disproportionately hurts the poor and widens the wealth gap, but I don’t think we are in any kind of danger zone yet. Do think the textbook thing is an abomination and worrying, though I don’t think modern Japanese under 80 years old or so should feel “shame” for something they didn’t personally take part in (or pride for the industrial revolution they didn’t personally take part in, either), since I am an anti-nationalist anti-racist. Why should a 20 year old Japanese person feel shame or pride for things that happened 3 generations earlier?
— Regarding the last sentence: I think the point is, they can feel what they like about it. But they should know about it. Historically accurately.
Hello Bob #28,
I’m just going to try to address some of the points in your post in the order that you made them.
Thank you for agreeing that Abe has repulsive views, but ‘subject to media criticism’? Seriously? In the Japanese media? Since he was re-elected? Can you give me a link? As far as I can make out, thanks to the lie of Abenomics, he is the ‘annointed one’ who will save Japan…
As for ‘the silent minority’, have you been living here/reading the news? Japan’s biggest three cities have chosen war-crimes deniers as their mayors. What-ever their other policy stances are, denying Nanking or Korean sex-slaves just isn’t enough of an issue to cause your ‘silent minority’ to be repelled by them, is it? No, rather because of (no, as you claim, in spite of) such comments, they are very popular- the Japanese can’t get over the napoleon syndrome of losing the war, and equate rubbing it in that they are unrepentant with ‘strength of character’ (guts, as you say).
I know, I know, you’re going to say something like ‘but 76.6% of voters didn’t choose Abe’, yes, but an even smaller number actually bothered to vote against him, whilst over half the voting masses stayed at home. This is crucial; Do not confuse apathy towards voting with an active rejection of Abe’s agenda.
To elaborate; you must know the Chinese saying ‘May you live in interesting times’ (‘Oh, I wish!’, I can hear you all say), but despite not being an accurate translation of the Chinese original, the point is that it this proverb is, in fact, a curse on your enemies. In relation to the issue at hand, what we have seen recently is not that the masses are opposed to Abe; after all, where is all that negative media coverage, and protests against constitutional revision? Rather, what we are seeing is typical Japanese hallucination by consensus; they don’t want to live in interesting times, they want to sleep walk down the imagined cat-walk of the dreamy day! And in order to continue to abdicate responsibility, and put off for today the ever so disruptive behavior of actually doing something about the way the country is going, most of them are quite happy to let it continue to snow-ball into even more fascism (secrecy law, anyone?). I hate to invoke Goodwins Law, but most people didn’t vote for Hitler, they were just too afraid of the hassle of speaking out against him, and that is exactly what we are seeing in Japan.
The vast majority of the populace (as you put it) may not want to round us up and expel us, but they won’t intervene when your (presumably) tiny minority attempts to do so! Remember, choosing not to speak out against Abe IS the same as endorsing him and his policies. Choosing not to make a decision (e.g. Fukushima?) IS making a decision.
‘I think there will continue to be a slight rise in xenophobia,…… but I don’t think we are in any kind of danger zone yet.’ Only a ‘slight rise’, that’s been simmering in the public eye since the days of GHQ, and still hasn’t been put to bed?
Question; How bad will the level of xenophobia have to be before you decide to take action? Maybe, by then, it will be too late, and speaking up will earn you a brick through the window, or a legitimized police baton in the face? Again with Goodwins Law but I don’t think many Jewish shopkeepers saw Krystal Nacht coming, do you? What makes you think you have a better ability to read the zeitgeist?
Finally (maybe), I don’t think you are an apologist yet (we’ll see soon enough if I’m wrong), but I do think that you suffer from a common complaint amongst people; the sheer unwillingness to accept that bad things are happening (damn! It’s that ‘dreamy day’ syndrome again! Curse having to make decisions for myself!).
I admire your anti-nationalist anti-racist stance. I am a cynic in all things (N.B. this is not the same as being a pessimist), and would regard myself as a cynical patriot; my motherland is not perfect, and I can admit that, but it is still my mother land. Can you say the same of most Japanese? I would say that I cannot. For whilst almost all Japanese have gripes about Japan that they would share in private, woe betide the NJ that dares to mouth such utterances of ‘the beautiful country’!
Even worse than that, excommunication awaits the Japanese who does not (with North Korean fervor) join the ‘Banzai!’ and ‘Ganbare Nippon!’ of any international event! Cynicism? Oh please, not in front of NJ OR the ‘wa’ of the group.
‘Why should a 20 year old Japanese person feel shame or pride for things that happened 3 generations earlier?’, yeah, good question. Have you tried asking any of them? Witness the immense pride the Japanese have at the smallest of international achievements, or some imagined ‘Japanese first’ from history (wow, you can make paper! Never managed to invent glass though, did you? Though TBH my favorite fake Japanese firsts are manned flight, the TV, and the light bulb, but whatever), experience the myths and lies upon which the ‘Japanese culture is unique’ trope is borne, and you should see that the Japanese take immense personal pride in achievements that they had no hand in, just because it is ‘Japanese’, so why then, shouldn’t they also feel a constant shame for the crimes of the past that they equally had no hand in committing? Rather, by *choosing to forget* they should feel more shame, IMHO.
@Bob, I think accepting and arguing inside the logical fallacies of Japanese society, i.e. that they do *not* have a special responsibility to make sure history isn’t repeating itself, is dangerous. Nobody argues that young Japanese people should feel ashamed of themselves. But they should show that they’ve learned from the past and that they are responsible voters.
Japan isn’t exactly a clean canvas. It has a fascist past, and still has a caste of people who are exempt of public scrutiny. Most of the utterances of Abe, Aso, Ishihara, Hashimoto, and earlier, Tanaka, would mean instant political death in most Western countries, and especially my own where history education is almost exclusively about teaching children about the moods and events that led to Nazi Germany and how to make sure it will never happen again. From primary school until gymnasium, I didn’t learn much about pyramids and neanderthals, but about political constellations of the Weimar republic and the methods of demagoguery.
Your proxy apology for the modern Japanese is the exact fallacy that led to WWII and the Holocaust. While I agree it is too early to tell if Japan will repeat history, it is definitely already too late for the Japanese to show that they have learned from the past and are acting responsibly as political being and as a society.
Most Germans back then also didn’t vote for “Hitler, the crazy suprematist”, but “Hitler, the job creator”, always assuring themselves that “he’s just talking, it won’t become that bad anyway.”
The point that Germans and Japanese, of all people in the world, should have learned is to not ignore the warning signs. But that’s exactly the mistake that the silent majority is currently making. Your assessment about the majority of Japanese being opposed to ultra-nationalist ideas is just wishful thinking, imho.
>Do think the textbook thing is an abomination and worrying, though I don’t think modern Japanese under 80 years old or so should feel “shame” for something they didn’t personally take part in (or pride for the industrial revolution they didn’t personally take part in, either)
It totally depends on the way national history is written and shared. Knowing the fact–no matter how it is brutal, tragic, and irrevocable–does not make them guilty. One of the problems with history textbook dispute is many critics on both sides conflate the sense of feelings people have toward the historical past with the sense of belonging for nationality.
So, answering your question in the last sentence, no, young people don’t have to feel “shame,” or should not feel ashamed of themselves just because their ancestors joined in the imperial army for war. Still, there is always collective responsibility for the authorities to allow ordinary people to share, and engage in unpacking an unknown account of historical event. Government’s recent move is without a doubt, manifestation of national scrutiny, and will likely enable them to avoid such accountability.
Markus 30 et al,
I think you and Bob are both correct, to a point. However, I think the context of “education” cannot be underestimated in this. Since if one is 100% totally ignorant of such facts, one can hardly blame them. As noted by Mariko Oi, the BBC’s Japanese educated journalist here:
“..Japanese people often fail to understand why neighbouring countries harbour a grudge over events that happened in the 1930s and 40s. The reason, in many cases, is that they barely learned any 20th Century history. I myself only got a full picture when I left Japan and went to school in Australia….”
That tells a picture itself. It is very clear the J.Govt and their hacks all wish to control the narrative to their own views on the matter. So much so, they do not even write such events into their own history books, thus the average J citizen is truly ignorant of what has occurred, and thus defends the J line without question. Ergo social control has worked.
As Mariko very ominously notes here when noting what is, or rather is not, written about the Rape of Nanking:
“…There was one page on other events leading up to the Sino-Japanese war in 1937 – including one line, in a footnote, about the massacre that took place when Japanese forces invaded Nanjing – the Nanjing Massacre, or Rape of Nanjing…”
So, on the one hand, it is hard to say they are all in a dreamy state of ignorance by choice, since this is what they are, or rather, not taught. And with the J.Govt consistently and continuously wishing to keep and control that narrative I fear little will change.
What is abysmal, is after confronting such a person whom denies such events (towing the J.Govt line) whether they feel they are sufficiently piqued by such an assault on their “happy friendly” nation state to ascertain whether they have actually been told the whole truth. Just as Mariko notes she only learnt about such events when educated in Australia, NOT in Japan.
I think being ignorant once, is fair cop mate, since they are not taught about such. Just like going to any Catholic country and saying there is no god…it’s what they are taught. But once exposed to another view, which is also supported by facts, then that is a different matter all together. One can no longer be ignorant, Pandora’s box has been opened. If they choose to ignore such, then yes, they are complicit in accepting the past as being “okay” by being passive and not wishing to ensure such events do not occur again. Long live the dreamy world..
So in this case, yes, then said person can be accused of being in a dreamy state of denial: it’s better than facing up to the reality. But one should be cautious by painting everyone with the same brush without knowing whether one has been exposed to a differing set of facts which is widely accept through the world, save for Japan. Being ignorant of facts, is sometimes, just that, and nothing else; go to the Bible belt in the US and say there is no God!! Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water in an attempt to highlight such grave misconducts of history to others…Mariko’s article highlights the mass ignorance.
What can be said though, the J media is aware of such real facts that are at variance with the J Govts line that is peddled to the masses, yet they continue to take a laissez-faire attitude. This is not being dreamy, it is far far worse, they have become complicit in the lie and all that is associated with the atrocities. As Markus points out, such could never occur in Germany…such a contrast to that in Japan.
The constant mollycoddling and control exerted by the J.Govt and J.Media should be in the dock…yet nothing happens. If all one knows, is all that is around and taught, being ignorant is just sometimes that, ignorant, as sad as it may seem to non-J’s.
The corollary is that all Western Govt.s and Media of course are not so ignorant. Thus where is the pressure from such Govt.s and media to keep raising the issue to ensure a debate, a wider public debate is raised with the aim of getting a full national debate and atoning for ones sins and being truly repentant, as in the case of Germany. Until that occurs, Western media/Govts must also take some of the responsibility should any fascists/imperialism take hold here….since isn’t that the duty of others, via the UN etc? The British PM has just done so with Sri Lanka; noises made by the US about Pakistan talking (or attempting to) to the Taliban etc…yet there is a deafening silence when aimed at Japan…that is equally worrying in my opinion.
Well, Taro Aso certainly doesnt feel any shame for what his family and grandfather did in WW2, i.e. using POW slave labor in their mines for economic gain.
A group of Aussie POWs came to Japan recently asking for an apology, and old “Aso(‘le)” refused to see them or even acknowledge them.
OR maybe this is because he feels shame? So he is too ashamed to admit the mistakes of the past, and its a “cultural difference”?
(twisted apologist argument pre-empted).
I agree with Debito @ 28 and JDG @ 29, and I incorporate those comments by reference into my post at 28 to make it more correct and complete. Thanks.
However, Markus @ 30: I am not apologizing for modern Japan. Further, you are assuming things about modern Japanese that are not correct based solely on their ancestry, and thus repeating the crime you would accuse Japanese and Germans of. This is the misery of the human condition: People gather in groups and get worked up about what the “other” did in the past to justify why they must be stopped now, using it to justify unspeakable atrocities. Let’s move away from othering and what happened 3 generations ago talk about modern reality. Surely we don’t want to repeat the past, and every student in the world including in Japan needs to be educated about fascism in Japan and Germany, but just because lightning struck here once before doesn’t mean it will again. In fact, if you look at the poll numbers I think you will see that most of the western world is a richer ground for fascist political parties than Japan is at present. We should get the right facts in the text books, criticize those in denial of reality and maintain a strong dialogue to improve the status of minorities in Japan, but let’s be realistic about the present situation to avoid looking like crazy people. If we look like crazy people, our legitimate complaints about the situation will be discounted by the extent of our perceived craziness.
@31: I agree people should know the facts, and hiding it is shameful. Don’t think anyone should feel responsible for something that happened (a) at a national political level, outside of their reasonable control, or (b) before they were born, let alone both.
@32: I agree people should know the facts. That applies also to the horrors inflicted by the West on the rest of the world that are largely covered up in normal history classes in the US and Europe. It’s tragic that nation-state governments get to play such a large political role in education. Hope the nation-state ends in the next few generations and gets replaced by something better.
@33: He shouldn’t feel shame, because he wasn’t there and didn’t make that decision. Whether he should have met with them is another matter, and likely much more complex than what is put out in the news, which generally consists of lies regardless of the subject matter.
@Bob (#34) Hm. I tried to, but I don’t understand what you are talking about. When I ask for modern Japanese to accept the responsibility for never repeating history, how is that “assuming things about modern Japanese that are not correct based solely on their ancestry”. That the Japanese lack a willingness to face their history like others already have is canonical. The people in Japan who don’t agree with the official (LDP) party line sure could do more to make themselves heard. That they choose not to, is interesting in its own right. They are either scared, or culturally inhibited, but it’s unfortunate either way.
“Just because lightning struck here doesn’t mean it will again” – but it also doesn’t mean it won’t. I don’t know what point you’re trying to make. I am basing my guess that it’s rather more likely to strike again on facts – people have elected Abe (who has photo-ops in fighter jets with the number 731 painted on them) and Aso (who admires Nazi tactics) and gave a beating at the polls to the somewhat more liberal wing of the ruling caste. Those are numbers, and therefore harder currency than your musings about “being realistic”.
“In fact, if you look at the poll numbers I think you will see that most of the western world is a richer ground for fascist political parties than Japan is at present.” – you want to “avoid looking like crazy people”, yet you’ve included that sentence. I am sure you can back it up with numbers.
There are still many sedimentary historical issues still to be addressed :-
For a detailed analysis :-
Nemesis.The Battle for Japan 1944-45
Harper Press 2007
IBSN 978 0 00 721981 0
It was published in Abe’s initial term at the helm . It is a massive read however the final chapter “Legacies ” is prescient .
“but let’s be realistic about the present situation to avoid looking like crazy people.”
Sorry, I have trouble understanding what you mean by this. Who are behaving/acting like “crazy people” in Japan?
Honestly, I’m not 100% sure if LDP leaders’ recent move for constitutional revisions in the future. There are several factors that deter the nation from pre-war state: Article 9, the US military presence, etc. But, you’re right. The twin crooks(Abe & Aso) have the record of controversial war remarks that make people crazy.