The Year in Quotes: “Much jaw-jaw about war-war” (my latest for the JT), Foreign Element column, Dec. 23, 2015


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Hi Blog. Here is my latest for the JT. I love year-end roundups, and this year I was given the privilege of compiling the year in quotes.  Fuller version follows with more quotes that didn’t make the cut and links to sources. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Much jaw-jaw about war-war: the year 2015 in quotes

Published version at

The past year has seen a number of tensions and tugs-of-war, as conservatives promoted past glories and preservation of the status quo while liberals lobbied for unprecedented levels of tolerance. This year’s Community quotes of the year column will break with tradition by not giving a guided tour of the year through quotations, but rather letting the words stand alone as capsule testaments to the zeitgeist.

“I cannot think of a strategic partnership that can exercise a more profound influence on shaping the course of Asia and our interlinked ocean regions more than ours. In a world of intense international engagements, few visits are truly historic or change the course of a relationship. Your visit, Mr. Prime Minister, is one.”
— Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe’s December trip to India, where agreements were reached on infrastructure investment (including a much-feted high-speed train), nuclear energy cooperation, classified intelligence sharing and military hardware sales to deter China from encroaching upon the Indian Ocean.

“Since taking office, I’ve worked to rebalance American foreign policy to ensure that we’re playing a larger and lasting role in the Asia Pacific — a policy grounded in our treaty alliances, including our treaty with Japan. And I’m grateful to Shinzo for his deep commitment to that alliance. He is pursuing a vision of Japan where the Japanese economy is reinvigorated and where Japan makes greater contributions to security and peace in the region and around the world.”
— U.S. President Barack Obama, during a joint press conference marking Abe’s visit to the United States in April, during which he became the first Japanese leader to address both houses of Congress.

“If Japan gets attacked, we have to immediately go to their aid. If we get attacked, Japan doesn’t have to help us.”
— Donald Trump, U.S. Republican presidential candidate, on the stump.

“Administrative bodies must leave records. Without records, how could the public as well as experts examine the process in the future?”
— Shinichi Nishikawa, professor of politics at Meiji University, commenting in September on the Abe administration’s lack of records on internal discussions behind the historical reinterpretation of the Constitution in 2014, which led to the lifting of the long-held ban on collective self-defense, potentially enabling Japanese troops to fight overseas for the first time since World War II.

“I have been really annoyed by this issue. … I have nothing to do with the design. Whatever (stadium) might be built, my committee would not have anything to do with it.”
— Yoshiro Mori, head of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games’ Organizing Committee, handling flak in July over plans for the new National Stadium, which were eventually abandoned after its budget doubled without any public explanation.

“Does local autonomy or democracy exist in Japan? Is it normal that Okinawa alone bears the burden? I want to ask (these questions) to all of the people [of Japan],”
— Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, criticizing the Japanese government in December for its plan to relocate US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Henoko, despite strong popular protests about environmental damage and Okinawa’s disproportionate hosting of American military bases in Japan.

“Despite the principle of separation of powers, the judiciary in Japan tends to subordinate itself to the administrative branch. I think it will be very difficult for the prefectural government to win the suit.”
— Former Okinawa Governor Masahide Ota commenting in November on the lawsuit between Okinawa Prefecture and the central government over the Henoko Base construction plan, based upon his experience twenty years ago when he lost a case in Japan’s Supreme Court over denying leases of local lands for US military use.

“In March, an internal document of the SDF was exposed in a Lower House Budget Committee meeting, showing a plan to permanently station about 800 Japanese Ground Self Defense Force troops at U.S. Marine Camp Schwab at Henoko and other U.S. facilities in Okinawa.”
— Sentaku monthly magazine, commenting in July on the probable future use of US bases by the Japanese military in light of increasing tensions with China.

“Should we leave terrorism or weapons of mass destruction to spread in this region, the loss imparted upon the international community would be immeasurable… I will pledge assistance of a total of about 200 million U.S. dollars for those countries contending with ISIL, to help build their human capacities, infrastructure, and so on.”
— Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, pledging non-military assistance for Middle-Eastern Countries battling Islamic State, in January.

“Abe, because of your reckless decision to take part in an unwinnable war, this knife will not only slaughter Kenji, but will also carry on and cause carnage wherever your people are found. So let the nightmare for Japan begin.”
— Terrorist “Jihadi John” of the Islamic State, in a video message to the Government of Japan in January showing footage of journalist Kenji Goto’s beheading after being taken hostage.

“The Japanese government didn’t make due efforts to save my son. It was simply remiss in its duties. I believe my son died a tragic death because the government did nothing. I demand that it conduct a thorough soul-searching.”
— Junko Ishido, mother of Kenji Goto, in a statement in May denouncing the Japanese government’s handling of the hostage crisis.

“差別のない世界を子どもたちに” “難民歓迎” “民主主義を肯定“
“Give children a world without discrimination.” “Refugees welcome” “Reaffirming democracy.”
— Slogans shouted by 2,500 demonstrators at a third-annual Tokyo Democracy March in November in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

“There are 100 million voters in Japan. What percent of them are protesting in front of the Diet? The number is insignificant. I’m not denying their right to protest. But it’s wrong for the national will to be decided by such a small number of demonstrators.”
— Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, regarding a demonstration in August that organizers said drew 120,000 people to protest security legislation that paves the way for the deployment of Japanese troops abroad to fight in defense of allies even when Japan is not directly threatened.

“Their claims are based on their self-centered and extremely egoistic thinking that they don’t want to go to war. We can blame postwar education for such widespread selfish individualism.”
— LDP Diet Member Takaya Muto, 36, criticizing university students protesting the aforementioned controversial security bills in August.

“Since we started our activities as an ‘emergency action,’ and many of our members are slated to graduate from universities soon, SEALDs will dissolve after next summer’s Upper House election. After that, if individual persons want to take action or create another movement, they are free to do so.”
— Mana Shibata, 22, organizer of the prominent Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy, speaking at a news conference in October at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

“It’s not only pre-war nostalgia. He needed to step up the rhetoric for the election. But I don’t think it’s coincidental that something related to wartime propaganda came up.”
— Sven Saaler, history professor at Sophia University, on Abe’s new goal of building a “Society in which all 100 million people can play an active role,” and how it is redolent of an old martial mobilization slogan.

“People come up to me every day and ask, ‘What happened to women’s empowerment?’ ”
— Masako Mori, former cabinet minister in charge of grappling with Japan’s declining birthrate, noting how as soon as Abe launched his “100 million active people” catchphrase in September, his previous one about empowering women disappeared.

“There’s something wrong about exploiting underprivileged women from abroad to do household work in the name of boosting female labor participation in Japan. Men’s share of housework has not yet been discussed sufficiently.”
— Motoko Yamagishi, secretary general of Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan, speaking in November about the foreign workers being imported as maids and household workers on an experimental basis in Osaka and Kanagawa, which have been designated as “special economic zones” where some labor protections do not apply.

“International Court of Justice judges are not necessarily experts in marine resources.”
— An unnamed Foreign Ministry spokesman in October, confirming that Japan will no longer respond to lawsuits filed over whaling issues. Japan later announced it would resume “research” whaling in 2016 despite the ICJ having ruled that the program was anything but scientific.

“When I was a member of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, I had a bitter feeling that foreign reporters who don’t understand the Japanese language are filing biased ‘anti-Japan’ articles worldwide. How about Japan making Japanese language ability a condition for issuing a visa? That might lead to a correct understanding of Japan.”
— Author Noburu Okabe in a column earlier this month in the conservative Sankei Shimbun.

“In Japan, the postwar generations now exceed eighty per cent of its population. We must not let our children, grandchildren, and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize. Still, even so, we Japanese, across generations, must squarely face the history of the past. We have the responsibility to inherit the past, in all humbleness, and pass it on to the future.”
— Shinzo Abe’s Statement on the 70th Anniversary of the end of World War II, in August.

“But, focusing on the vocabulary, some observers failed to notice that Abe had embedded these words [of apology and remorse] in a narrative of Japanese history that was entirely different from the one that underpinned previous prime ministerial statements. That is why his statement is so much longer than theirs. So which past is the Abe statement engraving in the hearts of Japanese citizens? …The problem with Abe’s new narrative is that it is historically wrong.”
— Historian Tessa Morris-Suzuki commenting shortly afterwards on how Abe’s WWII Statement fails History 101.

“Regarding the ‘comfort women’ issue, I can’t see an official government stance on it yet. So for that reason, I think it’s very important to consider very prudently whether it is appropriate for us to take it up for broadcast.”
— NHK Director-General Katsuto Momii, revealing the national broadcaster’s lack of independence from the government vis-à-vis reporting on issues surrounding Japan’s government-sponsored wartime sexual slavery.

“After 20-30 years knowing the situation in The Republic of South Africa, I have come to believe that whites, Asians and blacks should be separated and live in different residential areas.”
— Ayako Sono, novelist and former Abe Cabinet adviser on education reform, in another Sankei Shimbun column, this one in February advising that a similar policy be instituted in Japan.

“Already we have more foreigners than registered dogs.”
— Hiroaki Noguchi, a Liberal Democratic Party assemblyman in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, while asking questions earlier this month about the number of foreign residents who had allegedly not paid their taxes.

“Municipalities can offer the biggest support to same-sex couples who face hardships in everyday life. We want to deliver this message: Don’t worry on your own, we are with you.”
— Tomoko Nakagawa, mayor of Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, which announced in November that it was joining two Tokyo wards in legally recognizing same-sex partnerships as being equivalent to marriage.

“Our children will still be around in 2100, and that’s the perspective we need to remember.”
— Japanese Environment Minister Tamayo Marukawa, speaking in the lead-up to the December Paris talks on climate change, which led to a historic agreement by 196 countries to limit carbon emissions and forest degradation before global warming reaches irreversible levels.

“Other advanced countries prioritize political education. Things like mock elections should be promoted for students in Japan. If young people aren’t encouraged to participate in politics, we’ll end up with politics only for the elderly.”
— Tokyo University education professor Shigeo Kodama, an education professor at the University of Tokyo, commenting in the lead-up to the lowering of Japan’s legal voting age from 20 to 18 in June.

“Young people aren’t hanging around places for a long time as much as they used to. It’s tough to know what they’re doing and where. Police haven’t been able to keep up with the spread of social networks. It’s getting harder to grasp what’s happening.”
— An unnamed senior National Police Agency official speaking in March about the ills of social media on Japan’s youth.

“If you come across children alone at night, please ask them, ‘What are you doing?’ If this is difficult, it’s also OK to contact the police and other authorities.”
— Mieko Miyata, director of the Japan Research Institute of Safer Child Education, speaking after two junior high school children were found dead after they had spent a night hanging around the streets of Neyagawa, Osaka Prefecture, in August.

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) establishes in the Asia-Pacific a free, fair and open international economic system with countries that share the basic values of freedom, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law.”
— Prime Minister Abe, in a response to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement struck between 12 Pacific Rim economies in October.

“The TPP could violate the Japanese right to get stable food supply, or the right to live, guaranteed by Article 25 of the nation’s Constitution.”
— Masahiko Yamada, Agriculture Minister under previous Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, filing a lawsuit against the government to halt Japanese involvement in TPP talks in May.

“Japan is full of Chinese, they ask to go to places with none. That’s a difficult one to handle.”
— Yasushi Nakamura, President of Hato Bus Co., commenting in November on the ubiquity of Chinese tourists in Japan in 2015.

“In the trash collection areas on each floor, you’ll see veritable mountains of discarded boxes for cosmetics, shoes, small electrical appliances and so on. And they don’t even bother to flatten and tie them up for pickup. I had to go to the building custodian for assistance.”
— Unnamed resident complaining about Chinese tourists engaging in bakugai (“explosive buying”), leaving their rubbish in apartment complexes they have rented out to avoid recently-inflated hotel prices.

“The Self-Defence Forces are trying to brainwash students without leaving any evidence behind.”
— Parent of a school student in Shiga, complaining in October about the SDF distributing recruitment messages on toilet paper to six junior high schools in the prefecture.


3 comments on “The Year in Quotes: “Much jaw-jaw about war-war” (my latest for the JT), Foreign Element column, Dec. 23, 2015

  • Brilliant article as always! You are a excellent writer who always hits the nail on its head.

    Happy New Year!

    Thanks very much. I hope you like the fuller version now even more. Happy New Year back to you as well.

  • Great summary of the year…very unique in allowing the words to resonate, reminding people of the context in which they were made and how they relate to the current circumstances. Looking forward to your first 2016 article which I believe will be about….Comfort Women. Have a happy New Year.

    — The first JBC article of the year will be on, as always, the Top Ten Human Rights Issues of 2015. Stay tuned.


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