Monday, December 24, 2007

And folks thought Japan was backing down

over hunting endangered whales. Ha! Wrong.

JAPAN'S cave-in on its plan to kill 50 humpback whales in the Southern Ocean this summer was not a breakthrough because whalers would continue to hunt the even more endangered fin whale, protesters said yesterday.

Japanese whale hunters will go ahead and kill 50 fin whales, even though they are officially endangered species and a moratorium on hunting them is imposed by the International Whaling Commission. Read more.

Of all the things in the world to get into major disputes about, Japan chooses whale hunting even though few actually eat the meat here. Very few. The government has to push it to get people to eat what little they do. This fight is purely about nationalism. One can see why Japan has the stature and maturity to be on the UN Security Council.

Unlike the production of new technology to fight global warming, there is little money to be made by Japan's industries by not not killing endangered whales. Could that be why Japan's mythically unique love of, and deep relationship with, nature is a little less apparent here?

Oh wait. I keep forgetting, some people hunt kangaroos in Australia, so it's the same as Japan hunting endangered whales. My apologies.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Justice Minister Hatoyama's friend's friends

are very happy this holiday season:

...when Afghan Ambassador to Japan Haron Amin learned Japan was withdrawing its Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels from the Indian Ocean on Nov. 1 and heard rebels supporting the Taliban praising it, he was shocked. (The article indicates that these "rebels" are al Qaeda.)

"To whom was the withdrawal of (Japan's) ships a positive signal? Not to the international coalition against terror and not to the Afghan people. It was encouraging news to al-Qaida and the Taliban," Amin said in an interview with The Japan Times Thursday.

Hatoyama, as many remember, said that he had a friend whose friend was in al Qaeda and this friend warned him away from a terrorist attack in Bali. Kunio, being the Justice Minister of Japan, took this seriously and was able to save his own buttocks. He apparently did a good job of keeping the information secret too as he warned nobody else of the plot until his new conference years after it occurred. No problem as he was not yet the Justice Minister at the time.

(Hatoyama later used the traditional Nakasone /Abe/LDP defense of claiming to have been misquoted and misunderstood. It appears that even Japanese reporters cannot understand Japanese.)

Fujiwara Masahiko

who wrote an absurdly illogical book in which he, among other things, used logic to show that an illogical statement was illogical and then claimed that this use of logic showed that logic doesn't work---especially in uniquely unique Japan must be soiling his panties.

Japan has reportedly been forced to suspend its humpback whale hunt due to pressure from the dastardly US as well as the sneaky Australian plan to use its military to track Japan's whalers. (I thought the latter was especially good, but wondered what some of the Abe/Aso/Fujiwara band of merry nutjobs would say).

What will likely cause Barcode head Fujiwara to have a tissy-fit is that Japan is claiming logic is on its side and its them thar furriners who are all emotional. I guess its just another sign that Japan is becoming a foreign country.

''Given that in a sense this seems to be a problem of differences in national sentiment between Japanese and Australian culture, it's not a matter that can be solved by appealing to one another through logic,'' Komura told reporters. ''I hope to discuss possible measures with the Australian foreign minister soon.'' (OK, Fujiwara-chan would like this part as Japan can avoid logic. It can pout instead like it did to start the humpback hunt.)

Japan argues that the IWC [International Whaling Commission] has become a place for emotional fights rather the setting for calm discussion, and has called for ''normalizing'' reforms that would return it to that function. From the AP on the NYT site here. Link won't last long.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

More gun violence as a massive wave of foreignness

sweeps Japan.

A police officer at the Marunouchi Police box near Tokyo station was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head. Police suspect suicide. A shocked police official expressed his regrets over the means of suicide:

"It is truly regrettable that a police officer tried to commit suicide using his gun," said Tadao Ura, head of the Marunouchi division of the Metropolitan Police Department. More here.

Had the officer done it properly with a sword or knife there would be nothing to regret. Well, except for the bloodstains on the floor.

The deceased officer was found on the floor by a passerby.

Two other officers were assigned to the box at the time of the incident. One was out responding to an emergency call and the other was napping in another room.

Hopefully the officer who was napping was not too disturbed by the sound of a gunshot. At least he didn't have to get up and investigate the source of the sound before a passerby discovered the body.

Quotes from the Japan Times Online.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Japan becoming foreign

Recently there has been a lot of handwringing by politicians such as PM Fukuda and "experts" in the media about the danger of Japan "becoming like foreign countries." This has been especially noticeable since a murderer used a shotgun with rifled slugs (perhaps slugs. Some victims seem to have been hit by shot.) to kill two and wound six others last Friday evening.

It appears that the fact that a firearm was used instead of the much, much more common murder by knife is what set off this worry. It should be no surprise that this incident---entirely Japanese and involving only Japanese---is somehow connected to those dastardly foreign things. Had the murders been committed with a knife or other more "traditional" Japanese methods of murder, I doubt that Fukuda would have had anything to say about it.

On the crime front so far today:

A woman was sentenced to 15 years in prison Monday for starving her 1-year-old son to death by leaving him at home unfed for more than a month. More here.

and

The Tokyo High Court on Monday trimmed two years off the prison sentence of an 18-year-old youth convicted of stabbing his parents to death and causing an explosion at the family's Tokyo residence in 2005, acknowledging the boy suffered at the hands of an abusive father. More here

Complaints prior to the shootings:

...Nearby residents had consulted with a local police officer over the man's possession of guns due to his strange behavior, but the officer apparently never acted on their concerns, the sources said. More here.

and of course more crime/scandals in the government:

Accused bribe-taker Takemasa Moriya was provided with at least several hundred thousand yen out of a ¥160 million Defense Ministry slush fund while he was still vice defense minister, several defense sources alleged.

The ministry has been under fire since recent allegations that it systematically amassed a slush fund for use by senior officials and related departments out of money earmarked for information-gathering, and that some officials used the off-the-books money for entertainment. More here.

Are those foreign too? Or is Japan just being like Japan?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Nanjing Never Happened.

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese must spread the word that they committed no massacre at Nanjing, a film director told a symposium on Friday, a day after China marked the 70th anniversary of the incident in which it says 300,000 died.

Satoru Mizushima's new movie, "The Truth About Nanjing", premieres in January. It is an attempt by Japanese nationalists to counter a series of foreign films, made to coincide with the anniversary, which tell of the carnage which followed the fall of the Chinese Nationalist capital to Japanese forces in 1937. Read more.

Related story at csmonitor.com:

"When [the Allied Powers] opened the so-called Tokyo war-crimes tribunal [after World War II], they needed evidence that Japan committed greater atrocities [than the Tokyo air raids and use of atomic bombs], so they made up the so-called Nanjing Massacre, which was completely unfounded," declares Mr. Kase, chair of the Committee for the Examination of the Facts about Nanjing.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Getting away with homicide

In April 2006, a Yokohama court awarded the family of a young mother who was killed by a wheel which fell off of a Mitsubishi truck 5.5 million yen---about US$45,000. That was the cash value of her life according to Japanese law I guess. At that time the court rejected the demand that a penalty of ¥160 million (about $1.3 million US)be imposed on Mitsubishi. After all, which is more important, a citizen's life or a company's well-being? We all know that a small financial "penalty" like that would be nothing to a huge conglomerate like Mitsubishi.

Yesterday, after an appeal by the prosecution, the full weight of the Japanese legal system struck the final blow to Mitsubishi for its intentional negligence in this case. (Yes, intentional. They knew the wheels were defective and hid and lied about the fact. The same as with other Mistubishi autos and trucks.):

The Yokohama District Court handed suspended prison terms Thursday to two former senior officials of Mitsubishi Motors Corp. for neglecting to take action to prevent a defect-linked accident in Yokohama in 2002 that killed a woman and injured her two sons.

..."The defendants caused the accident to occur by failing to recall the products and unthinkingly neglected the situation when they could have readily anticipated that the wheel hubs were not strong enough," the judge said. Read more.

This is normal for crooked executives in Japan. No jail time. Will they still be working in some capacity for Mitsubishi? Don't know, but I suspect they will be. I am sure this will send a message to all companies in Japan that this sort of thing will not be tolerated. Why, you can't just negligently kill someone and get off nearly scot-free.

I guess nobody is really at fault here. It can't be helped. Thank god that Japan is not like the US where survivors could sue and put some real teeth in the results, and the company would think twice before pulling the same thing again.

The Rape of Nanjing

that never happened according to the more extreme (and dangerous) nutjob right-wingers in Japan. From the Independent UK:

...."I really, really hate the Japanese. I was raped when I was 11 years old. I tried to commit suicide three times afterwards," said Zhang Xiuhong, 81. She was recalling the six-week-long Rape of Nanking....her face flushes as she recalls the events of that grim December 70 years ago.

A sign of Japanese ambiguity about the issue came in the respected Yomiuri Shimbun...."Recently, even some Chinese scholars say scholarly debate should be deepened on the number of victims. Such a flexible stance has started to be aired....

....While the editorial has a balanced and seemingly rational tone, it is in sharp contrast to the kind of debate that one sees in Germany on any issues relating to the Holocaust. What would happen if a German historian were to accuse a Jewish historian of inflexibility on the number of people who died at Auschwitz, or if someone were to write that the number of Jews who died in Europe was only 600,000 and that only a fraction of those deaths were murders that violated international law? Read more.

That there are many in the government and other elite who subscribe to the view that Nanjing was either blown entirely out of proportion or completely false ought to send a warning to the rest of the world of what certain elements would do were they able to get their way. Abe, although not publicly going so far as saying Nanjing never happened, perhaps gave us some clues. Aso is another. Fujiwara Masahiko appears to be another who believes Japan did nothing especially or exceptionally wrong in WW2. What is this group's view of the world in the future? What world goals/views do they have in common with the US, Australian, or European views?

Fukuda seems like a huge improvement over Abe, mainly because he is one of the old-style politicians who sort of blend into the background. He has not been out trying to relive WW2 and offend every other country in the region and world with stories of Japan's innocence. But the nutjobs have not gone away. They have been in government at least since the reversal under SCAP after WW2. I understand why one of the past commanders of US forces in Japan said (I am paraphrasing from memory) one of the reasons for keeping forces here is to keep an eye on Japan.

Trans-Pacific Radio has a good article on Nanjing from last year here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A tale of 2 Japans

Many courageous Japanese World War II veterans, historians, teachers, and others of moral conscience are frustrated and penalized when they attempt to inform an apathetic Japanese public....

...Does the Japanese Government intend to deny the documented war crimes until the last victims and witnesses finally die off? Yes, because the Japanese view themselves as innocent victims of WWII. Culturally, Japan believes that its victimhood is more relevant than the unpublicized evils inflicted upon millions who suffered under its cruel military rule.

Japan's response to the outraged cries of survivors and astonished historians echoes the comic’s retort when caught in the act: "Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?" But no laughs are found in this insult to truth. Full article here.

From Ron Wulkan, the author of a new novel about Japan. What distinguishes this writer from most is that he was a military policeman during the Occupation and he worked with Japanese who had witnessed or participated in war crimes. Because he was interested in Japan, some fellow soldiers called him a "gook lover," which he took as the title of the book. His interest in Japan appears not to have become a mindless acceptance of everything Japanese like so often seems to happen. Instead his book is "a pro-Japanese, pro-Asian, but anti-Imperial Japan novel."

On the other hand, Ms. LaVel Daily, an ikebana expert, was recently awarded the Order of the Rising Sun by Japan. In a newspaper interview with the Houston Chronical she was asked:

Q: We did fight a war with Japan. How does that square with the civility of the people you describe?

A: I must say, I was young enough that I didn't know very much personally about that war, but I was in Japan about three or four days after 9/11. When they learned I was from the United States, they expressed extreme grief. I was in Japan when the newspapers and television showed Japanese military boarding transport aircraft to go to Afghanistan (for a support role). I've always felt the Japanese were our friends and supported the United States, totally.

From this answer and others during the interview, one can guess that she is a very deep thinker. Forgot to answer the question though. Didn't personally know about the war, you see. Never read a history book either, I suppose. And certainly does not want to say anything that she thinks might offend certain folks (Abe, Aso, and assorted LDP et al nutjobs and emperor worshippers) in Japan. Something implying some kind of guilt on Japan would do that.

Which person do you think is more honest, accurate, knowledgeable, and thoughtful when it comes to Japan, the WW2 vet or the ikebana teacher? Which person do you think really has the best interests of Japan---and the rest of the world---at heart?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Another whining foreigner, James Fallows,

who was one of the so-called "revisionists" to the E. O. Reischauer et al sugar-coated version of modern Japan in the late 80s and early 90s when he wrote for Atlantic magazine (he still does) visited Japan over Thanksgiving. Unlike some of our resident apologists, he did not especially appreciate Japan's new policy even if America does it too. My god, does he not know that if the USA does it, right or wrong, that it provides justification for everyone?

Japan's way of ushering in the Thanksgiving holidays has been to institute mandatory fingerprinting and photographing of all foreigners entering the country. Let me put this bluntly: this is an incredibly degrading, off-putting, and hostility-generating process. The comment is not anti-Japanese: when the U.S. does this to foreigners, it's wrong and degrading too (as many people, including me, have pointed out over the years). But Japan has just ushered in this procedure, and they deserve to take some heat for it....


....It’s one thing, and wrong enough, for the U.S. to apply similar measures in the panicky, immediate, “we’re for anything that is called ‘anti-terrorist’ ” mood of the 9/11 aftermath, which is when the U.S. began discussing similar “biometric” measures. It’s even worse to do it six years later, after a chance for cold deliberation about the prices society is and is not willing to pay to keep itself “secure.”

I learned of this from debito.org where I often find similar interesting material.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Useful Idiots pt 2: The anti-democratic (baka) gaijin

In the recent debate over Japan's new fingerprinting law for tourists, residents, and permanent residents, a few non-Japanese seem extremely offended that a non-Japanese resident, permanent resident, or even visitor exercises his/her right---even in Japan for now---of free speech or peaceful protest.

Many of these non-Japanese claim to be Americans from the US. Yes, the same US that promotes democracy and free speech rights throughout the world? (OK, in some cases it is more lip service than much else when US interests may not match its ideology.) I wonder if these folks, Americans or not, hold the same beliefs about non-US citizens in the US. (Or non-citizens in their home countries.) For example, does that mean that one who is not a citizen in the US has NO right to say anything no matter what actions the US government takes that affects them? Would these same folks expect their spouses who may be permanent residents of the US to passively accept everything the US government does in the name of "security"? Would these folks also insist that all Japanese residents of the US also keep their mouths shut or leave? Have non-military Americans actually become such a frightened, quivering crowd?

If not, why do they demand non-Japanese residents passively accept everything the Japanese government says? Do they expect less of Japan? Do they assume that Japanese citizens cannot deal with free speech or peaceful protest? Or do they just want to go along to get along and be a nice, passive, smiling subject in the mistaken belief that everyone---even Ishihara and the nutjobs in the soundtrucks---will like them and call them good little (baka) gaijin?

I would assume if one does not like free speech that instead of telling others who are practicing free speech to leave, that they could themselves leave and go to one of the nearby countries which do not permit free speech. Then they could be happy living under a government in which they must accept without question everything they are told to do in the name of security.

And they could still be (baka) gaijin.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Useful Idiots

Supposedly, Lenin came up with this---or something similar in Russian---to refer to Westerners who believed in the communist system and excused (or denied) the police-state terror he was imposing on Russia at the time. Of course Japan is nothing like that and the Japanese government is imposing nothing at all like the police state of those times.(I am not being sarcastic here.)

However, for decades there have been plenty of apologists/ "useful idiots" who will swallow/excuse/explain apologize for anything that Japan does. E.O. Reishauer in some his writing and claims seemed to be one of the most useful. If anyone recalls the 80s during the bubble years and the trade friction between the US and Japan, Eddy was running around claiming that the problem was mainly that of Americans misunderstanding Japan---not because Japan was protectionist. (Especially see early editions of his comedy The Japanese.) Later, in one of his last TV appearances, he went on PBS (?) to defend Hirohito at a time when historians were first beginning to challenge the old claims of Hirohito's naiveté and innocence concerning WW2 were less than perfectly accurate.

The Japan Times online has a few folks whom some might accuse of being "useful idiots" who wrote in concerning the new fingerprinting law similar issues. Many seemed to believe any claim that it is for "security" is unquestionably valid and that it will be successful at providing security just because the government says it will. Others appear to agree that non-Japanese (including themselves?) are the sort who do have innate criminal tendencies and should be watched closely.

But my idea of the near perfect apologist, and if I may, the most "useful idiot" for his response to an article about the widespread use of security cameras in Japan goes to:

B. Panagouliashy: Why is it every time I read or listen to foreigners in Japan rant on about the change in Japanese security precautions it's all about them? Japan is trying to protect and serve its own citizens.

(Two reasons: 1) You don't read much; 2) Just a guess...because foreigners are the ones who are targeted by many of these "security" precautions? Japanese aren't being fingerprinted, photographed, or constantly called criminals or potential terrorists, because there are no Japanese criminals or terrorists? It is wonderful that Japan is trying to protect and serve its own citizens. How about legal residents? Protecting them by targeting them because they are more likely to be terrorists and criminals? Prove that one.)

Panagouliashy continues:

Another point in Mr. Hassett's article was about the police detaining a Canadian for numerous days. There is a drug problem in Japan now. A large percentage of foreigners proliferate the drug trade, either by being consumers or selling. This is a fact.

(Uhh...the Canadian was held for nearly 3 weeks and released as he was the wrong guy. His only crime was that he was a non-Japanese and so the cops decided he must have been the non-Japanese they were searching for. Pangouliashy thinks that his arrest was justified---after all he claims "a large percentage of foreigners proliferate the drug trade." I wonder, what that percentage is? Are a large percentage of users and dealers also Japanese? Should the nearest Japanese be arrested and held anytime a Japanese criminal is being hunted? Is Pangouliashy volunteering? After all, how do we know that he/she is not involved in drugs since he/she is obviously not of Japanese origin. OK, I am assuming that based on the name, but why not? The mere possession of a foreign-sounding name is, in itself, suspect.)

Second place goes to someone who, of course, does not live in Japan, but "visits" a lot from Singapore (no, not ex-PM Lee Kuan Yew), but a Mr. or Ms. Soon Hock:

Japan should be allowed to do what it deems best for its country.

(Anything goes. Summary executions?)

There are pros and cons to this unwelcoming fingerprint policy. Japan's reasons — minimizing crimes and terrorist attacks — are valid reasons and the end results speak for themselves.

(What end results??? It just started. Or is Soon Hock telling us that the end justifies the means?)

Not an apologist, but the question must be answered:

Giko Jayashi: Why is this (fingerprinting and photographing) system only for foreigners? Is it that no crimes are committed by Japanese citizens? (Yes, that is the reason.)

The full article which includes statements by others, who like Giko Jayashi are not so willing to uncritically accept everything the government says here.

Friday, November 30, 2007

I feel his pain

as Billy "give-me-some-nooky" Clinton used to say. This guy appears to be a long-term resident of Japan who has gotten fed up with being called a criminal, a terrorist, a disease-laden sub-human by the democratically-elected representatives of Japan and their kneepad wearing lackies in the media:

Preventing the summer Olympics going to the likes of Ishihara is something I will make my life's goal if necessary. If they are going to treat me like a criminal, insisting on fingerprints and a photo, then there is a price to pay. Loud, peaceful protest.

So he put up a website about refusing Japan (Tokyo and "Blinky" the bigot Ishihara) the Olympics in 2016:

Let's not reward a nation which honors its unrepentant

Class "A" War Criminals, and still glorifies its past regional aggression with an event whose aim is to promote international peace and understanding.


Click to visit the site and read the "ABCs" of why he thinks Japan should be denied the Olympics.

Some will think he has gone overboard---that he is exaggerating---but then again, it sounds no worse than what the rightwing nutjobs of Japan say about non-Japanese. What comes around, goes around.

Quite a number of long-term, law-abiding residents seem to be much more upset at Japan's latest anti-terror, anti-crime, anti-foreign resident move than anything in years. I wish I could believe that it will make a difference. It won't. Japan---the nutjobs and others---doesn't give a damn what a bunch of non-Japanese think. That is unless Uncle Sam leans on Japan a bit. It won't in this case as Sam pushed the basic idea of finger-printing visitors and tourists which gave the bigots in power license to go to extremes.

Mean Canadians pick on Japan

Yes, now even Canada has entered the sex slave issue. Months after the evil US did (when I-quit-cause-I-gotta-sh*t Abe was still PM), the Canadian Parliament has asked Japan to apologize over something that Abe and his rightwing loony birds claim never happened. Or at least if it did happen, the Imperial Japanese Army was not responsible for it.

Apparently, Canada does not understand that although Abe denied Japanese government responsibility for coercing women into sexual slavery, he later (under evil US pressure) claimed that he stood by the 1993 unofficial apology in which responsibility was accepted by the government. Why would anyone be confused by that? Even George Bush accepted Abe's apology although most did not know that little George had been a sex slave in WW2.

I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to Abe and his ilk in Japan for the continued misunderstanding and harassment of poor Japan. I deeply regret that some things happened to Japan concerning some things which may have occurred in WW2 (although everybody did it) which caused foreigners to misunderstand the pure intentions of Tojo, the wartime government, Emperor Showa, and the the Imperial Japanese Army. We non-Yamato-types are all so stupid.

The Reuters article is here---while it lasts.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Japan Times has an interview with the author of one of the better Japan blogs, Observing Japan.

His blog is especially interesting because he actually served as a foreign policy adviser to a DPJ member---something I assume to be extremely rare for non-Japanese.

Harris recently completed an internship year as a foreign-policy adviser to Democratic Party of Japan Diet member Keiichiro Asao, giving him an inside perspective that has helped make his blog a must-read for followers of Japanese politics.The full article is here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A stabbing even when gun control is being toughened!!!!

I mentioned this sort of thing Monday---anytime the US media mentions crime in Japan they always refer to Japan's gun control laws whether or not the crime has anything to do with firearms or not.

The AP has thoughtfully provided an example. Yesterday, the yakuza thugs had a field day of killing one another. One was shot and one was stabbed. The AP reports:

TOKYO (AP) — A reputed organized crime leader was shot to death and his driver was fatally stabbed Tuesday in a brazen attack in southern Japan, police said, even as the country moved to toughen firearms laws....

...They also follow moves to toughen punishment for owning guns in a country that has long prided itself on crime-free streets. More
here.

I can see a relationship between a shooting and firearms and perhaps gun control, but I don't get what it has to do with stabbings.

On a related note, police did find the man who stabbed a grandmother and her 2 granddaughters---age 3 and 5---to death. He was the grandmother's brother-in-law, Masonori Kawasaki. One wonders: Had he not had easy access to a knife, would these children still be alive? Would the new, tougher, gun law have prevented these murders had it been in effect earlier?

Since most gun crimes are committed by the yakuza, it would seem that even if the new gun laws work, they'll have little effect on violent crime overall. Why? Because most murders one reads/hears about are committed with knives. Kitchen knives.

So why doesn't the government do something about the readily available assortment of knives in Japan. Anyone can walk into an knife store and pick up a razor sharp knife with a 7 inch or more blade, no questions asked. Does the average citizen need a knife that big and sharp? A 4 inch blade can take care of most cooking chores. For jobs requiring bigger knives, we could have a licensed butcher do the cutting. So why doesn't the government restrict or ban these assault knives which are good for only one thing----slicing flesh. If we could save but one life, wouldn't it be worth it? Is there a knife lobby in Japan stopping such sensible legislation?

Or is murder less of a problem as long as firearms aren't involved? Or, could it be that in order to pretend to be doing something about something for which there are no easy answers, we gotta do something which won't really inconvenience anyone.

(Need I tell anyone that I am being sarcastic?)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

McDs Japan joins the food fraud crowd

Why not? Not mislabeling food would make a company a nail the sticks up and, as we have all heard ad nauseum, in Japan the nail that sticks up gets banged down.

We could blame this on the US. After all, McDonalds is a US company. However, McDonalds Japan is independent from McDs US. Plus, from the events of the last several months, we have to assume that mislabeling food is sort of common here. Maybe even universal. Perhaps it's just another thing that makes Japan uniquely unique.

McDonald's Japan acknowledged Tuesday that several of its franchise restaurants intentionally mislabeled the production date of salads to extend their shelf life, exacerbating food safety worries in Japan.

The company will cancel its franchise agreement with Athlete Co., a Japanese company that admitted to the mislabeling at at least two of the four McDonald's outlets that it runs in central Tokyo, according to Shotaro Shimizu, a McDonald's spokesman.

Read more
at IHT.

Monday, November 26, 2007

But what about the new gun control laws?

In every article about crime in Japan, the US media always starts off by referring to Japan's strict gun laws and implying that this is the reason ( and apparently the only possible reason) for the relatively low crime rate in Japan. Usually, our reporter will say something like: "Japan, with its strict gun control laws which restrict firearms to police and military, is concerned about the increasing number of thefts of green tea from vending machines." (By Ima Dufus of the Boston Glob). Not only are these articles factually incorrect---rifles and shoguns can be legally possessed by licensed hunters outside of Tokyo and perhaps other large cities---guns often have no relationship with the crime being discussed in the article.

Earlier this year, the government decided it was time to crack down on firearms crimes (the vast, vast, majority committed by yakuza and their rightist buddies) by making the strict firearms laws even stricter. Of course this impressed the yakuza who make a habit of strictly obeying laws.

Earlier this month, a rather stupid gangster decided to murder another rival gangster who was a patient in the hospital. Our idiot took his illegal piece into the hospital room and illegally fired it illegally murdering a man. Unfortunately for the thug---and more unfortunately for the murder victim---he killed the wrong man. Seems the guy he intended to murder had checked out earlier and another patient was in the room. He was arrested today with 2 illegal handguns after illegally firing one into the air when the police tried to arrest him.

A real yakuza thug was also gunned down (illegally) today by rival thugs in front of another hospital. I am guessing he was the intended target and not another yakuza mistake. More gun control is the answer. Not addressing the yakuza issue. I don't know though, with gun control laws already quite strict, just how will making these laws stricter reduce the number of murders among criminals for whom murder is an thing of honor?

Let's acknowledge the explainers: In Japan the yakuza is a good thing because it gives young thugs a place to go and develop into hardened killer thugs while providing a disciplined environment. This is better than just letting them run wild on their own. (And there is not and never has been any relationship between the authorities---LDP and law enforcement---and the yakuza and their right wing nutjob buddies.)

Read more
in the Japan Times online.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Pride, tradition, special love of nature and killing endangered animals

Defying international pressure and a global whaling ban, the government of Japan launched its whaling fleet Sunday morning for an international whale sanctuary around Antarctica, where it intends to kill more than 1,000 whales over the next four months....

Japan has announced that the fleet intends to kill 50 endangered fin whales, 50 threatened humpback whales and 935 minke whales this season. Read more here.

I have mixed feeling on whaling. I don't oppose it if it is done in a humane and sustainable manner. That it is done that way is questionable here. So from what I have read, it would seem that some harvest of minke whale would could be tolerated. The problem comes from killing threatened or especially endangered animals, which Japan is doing. Of course claiming it is for scientific research (everyone knows that this is a joke) is another problem. If Japan is going to defy "international pressure," why not just openly say that they are killing whales for a somewhat mythical Japanese tradition? After all, this is Japan where real or imagined tradition excuses/ trumps everything. (We also have to keep in mind that during the last IWC meeting Japan threatened to start killing humpbacks out of spite if the IWC did not give Japan its way.)

Of course, we must acknowledge the explainer/apologist argument: Other countries allow hunting too (say squirrels in the US), so nobody can say anything about Japan.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Brrrr. 52 degrees out

I am beginning to feel like I am in Texas---where I spent a few years some time ago. Back then, after suffering through summers of repeated days of lows of 75 and highs of 95, when October came and the temperature dropped to the 80s, I could convince myself it was cool. By the time temperatures dropped to the mid 70s, you'd see folks breaking out jackets. I never went that far.

Tonight there is a strong wind blowing and you can smell winter in the air. Or winter as it is in Tokyo. Snow is rare here, maybe once or twice a year. Occasionally, a big storm will hit and drop deep, wet snow which pretty much paralyzes the city. I have been very lucky and not been caught in that on a work day.

I read something by a nihonjinron fundamentalist the other day that the seasons were becoming less distinct in Japan due to global warming. That must explain it. Soon, Japan will be like all the other places on earth with no clear distinctions between seasons. You'll be able to go outside in October and wonder if it is autumn or summer or winter. In old Japan this confusion never happened.

Strangely though, when I lived here in the early 90s, I never noticed the especially distinct seasons. Even when I lived in Toyama. It snowed a lot, but it never really got cold. About freezing was as cold as it got. They even kept the sidewalks clear of snow with water. There were nozzles in the sidewalks which they turned on when it snowed and the water kept the snow from sticking. Gotta go up north to hit real cold.

My very first trip to Japan was in 1977. It wasn't really a trip to Japan, we just transferred at Haneda. I don't remember much about it except for the fact that I thought it was unusually warm for November compared to November at home. Global warming has been around longer than we realize, I guess, and it has probably affected Japan in a unique way.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The safety country

I have long wondered about the repeated, mostly unchallenged claims about Japan's being one of the most (or as some seem to believe) the most crime free country on earth. The later is obviously not true. There is a big problem in comparing crime stats---or most others---country to country. Laws are much different. Conviction rates, investigation methods, the willingness of the police to investigate reported crimes, the relationship between the populace and the police are just a few things that could affect reported crimes.

In the early 90s, the Japan Times had a long article on the police in Japan concerning how the cops would often refuse to take action on criminal complaints. One non-Japanese, who had been assaulted by a shop-owner was told by the cops that if he were in the US, he would have been shot implying that being assaulted by a guy with hedge trimmers wasn't so bad. The shop owner was not charged with any crime. Also in the article, the attitude of the Japanese police toward rape victims was addressed, which was basically the idea that the woman was responsible in some way. (Yes, I know that this is a problem in many countries, but that does not in any way excuse it in Japan. Sorry.) Most of us have seen cops either on TV news shows or in real life being assaulted by people---pushed and shoved. Now in the US, that is a crime and you are gonna be arrested after being introduced to the pavement. Apparently not in Japan. I watched a TV program earlier this year in which the cops were investigating graffiti "artists." With a TV crew in tow, they confronted a group which included a young French guy. When the Japanese guys were shoving and shouting at one group of cops, the French kid was sitting on a short concrete barrier and took out a marker and made a 2" or so mark. Immediately, Tokyo's finest jumped him with the reporter screaming---and I mean SCREAMING---into the mic about the "gaijin" being arrested. The others who would have been arrested for assault, thereby increasing the crime stats in the US, were not arrested in Japan.

The LATimes has an article about this sort of thing, but I cannot get my registration to work on their site, so it can be accessed at debito.org. Scroll down to LA Times how J Police Ignore...An excerpt:

Police discourage autopsies that might reveal a higher homicide rate in their jurisdiction, and pressure doctors to attribute unnatural deaths to health reasons, usually heart failure, the group alleges.

Odds are, it says, that people are getting away with murder in Japan, a country that officially claims one of the lowest per capita homicide rates in the world… “All the police care about is how they look to people; it’s all PR to show that their capabilities are high,” Saikawa says. “Without autopsies, they can keep their percentage [of solved cases] high. It’s all about numbers.”…

I am very skeptical about most stats, especially Japanese government stats which show how Japan is in some way ahead of, uniquely different than, or better than other countries. Japan is not a crime-filled, dangerous country, especially as far as foreigners are concerned. But I'd bet it ain't as safe as believed and that the most dangerous criminals ain't non-Japanese.

Japan is owed yet another apology

by the US (naturally, as it is the root of all evil) and, somewhat surprisingly, by Europe. Let's just say by the West in general.

Over the last few weeks I have had several folks---Japanese, but I am sure there are plenty of non-Japanese who will agree---have told me about reading that until several years ago, Japan used a processed-on dating system on food as opposed to the use-by system now in place. Why the change? Why, according to the stories, the US and Europe pressured poor little Japan to change to make it easier to sell imported goods. The imported foods were at a disadvantage under the old system due to the shipping time required for products to reach Japan.

Obviously, had the foreigners not interfered, there would have been no food scandal in Japan, and Japan would have still been producing pure food. No manufacturer would have altered the produced-on date for their benefit. None of them would have mislabeled food or committed other frauds.

Just another bad thing going on in Japan that can be attributed to foreigners. Curiously, I remember that one of the companies involved in a recent scandal said they had been doing it for over a decade. If so, you have to assume that the evil foreigners were involved even earlier.

But anyway, so far nobody has been proved to have gotten sick from any of these products. So I hear from explainers.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ex-PM Abe regains bowel control

"I quit 'cause I gotta sh*t" Abe returned to the Diet for the first time since his resignation. He didn't really say much of value. Perhaps he is still a bit unwell, or perhaps he has nothing to say.

One can understand his digestive disorders when one considers the pressure the right winger was under. It turns out that his statements last spring that there was no credible evidence that the Imperial Japanese Army was directly involved in forcing women to become sex slaves during WW2 were his real, honest beliefs. His later illogical attempts to back away from that claim and say that he stood by the 1993 unofficial "apology" were a result of the most evil country on earth, the enemy of all good everywhere---the United States---forcing poor innocent Abe to to do so:

The United States warned Japan in March that Washington could no longer back Tokyo on the issue of North Korea's past abductions of Japanese...The warning, delivered by U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer to a senior government official, prompted Abe to change his stance and announce that he stands by Japan's 1993 official statement of apology to the "comfort women," as they are euphemistically known, the sources said. ( From JTonline here.)

Abe and Japan. Victims again. It must have been so humiliating for Shinzo and his merry band of nutjob sympathizers in the LDP to withdraw the truth and go back to living a lie about poor Imperial Japan's guilt in forced sex slavery in Asia. Obviously, this caused an upset stomach and diarrhea. Some may not understand why a case of the runs would cause the PM to resign 3 days after he said he wouldn't, but if one is full of sh*t a case of diarrhea can be a very messy affair.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

False food labeling case 1 trillion

Or thereabouts it seems:

Police on Saturday raided meat packer Hinai-Dori in Odate, Akita Prefecture, on suspicion of processing and selling chickens and eggs falsely branded as the "Hinai" variety in violation of the unfair competition prevention law.

"It is too costly if we really use Hinai chicken," he (the company president) told reporters.
Full article here.

Friday, November 09, 2007

More mislabled food fraud

Just on the news this evening Senbakicho (?) has been caught selling mislabeled chicken, beef, and more. Earlier, they had been caught falsifying dates. It never ends.

Ministry of Justice Human Rights hearing

Somehow, the Ministry of Justice in Japan and the term "human rights" don't seem to fit well together, but Debito Arudo at Trans-Pacific Radio writes of a MoJ sponsored Human Rights meeting he attended earlier this year. Seems the right-wing nutjobs attended and were able to disrupt the meeting with little to no interference from the MoJ bureaucrats running the show. Even more interesting is what happened as the meeting ended which shows exactly how many Japan---and non-Japanese view discrimination in Japan:

The last straw was when one of the attendees referred to a famous Korean born to a Comfort Woman as a “bastard child” (shiseiji). Our side demanded the representative from the Ministry of Justice do something. It was within his ministry’s mandate to silence hate speech. He remained silent.....

....It almost came to blows. Even then, no security was called, and nobody was asked to leave. The meeting was brought to a close a half-hour early.

But here’s when it got really interesting. I was about to leave when one of disrupters actually came up to me with a smile and a friendly tone of voice. He turned out to be an assemblymember from Hino City, near Tokyo, and was quizzical as to why I was here.

After all, this is his view: White people in Japan have it good here because of Japan’s inferiority complex towards them. So discrimination cannot happen towards them. It only happens towards the lesser peoples of the world, and they’re only here taking advantage of the Japan we Japanese built up. They shouldn’t be here asking for anything. Therefore I as a superior Caucasian should have nothing to complain about.

I have seen and heard this attitude a lot. Several years ago, after Shitaro---oops, how childish of me---Shintaro "Blinky" Ishihara went into one of his bigoted rants about the Chinese and (shockingly) it was covered by the foreign press, a Japanese apologist wrote to the International Herald Tribune and explained it away because Blinky was talking about Chinese. Not Americans (synonymous with white folks in Japan, though many will tell you a few repressed minorities live there as do the rich Jews who control the country). Therefore, there should be no problem for white folks since it was the Chinese who Shit (hand slipped, sorry) Shintaro was insulting and demeaning.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

December fund raiser for Japan child abduction documentary






When my son finally came out of the house, I yelled, 'Kento, are you OK? " then the gangster pushed me away and eventually jumped on my back. The whole time he was repeating in English 'This is Japan!'"
-Steve Christie, Left behind father.

From the trailer of this film: Every year 100 American children, 10 Canadian children and ?? German, ??Australian children...are abducted to Japan. None have been returned.

More information on the fund raiser (December 11) at takaandmana.com

Ready for the big one?

Most know Tokyo is located in a major earthquake zone. Most also know that Japan has various laws on the construction of earthquake resistant buildings. My understanding is that if you live in an apartment built after 1981, you are in one of the more modern earthquake resistant jobs. In theory. In reality, you may be living in a shoddily built piece of crap that will turn into a death trap with any sort of strong quake.

Last year a Tokyo architect was convicted of designing numerous buildings with substandard reinforcement in order to save money. He appealed and has just lost the appeal (No surprise, this is Japan, after all.):

In Wednesday's decision, presiding Judge Kunio Harada stated that the accused "not only attempted to dodge liability, but tried to put the blame on others" by lying under oath that he was pressured to fake construction blueprints. The disgraced architect also stated at the Diet that the fabrications began in 1998, when in fact they started in 1996.

The perjury "was an attempt to selfishly protect his own interests, which leaves no reason to consider extenuation," Harada told the court, adding that the false testimony resulted in delayed inspections of substandard buildings Aneha designed. (From JTonline.)

I know a few folks who are employed as architects and who have a pretty good knowledge of the industry. Most of them are Japanese. There is quite a bit of doubt among them that he actually did lie when he said he was pressure to fake the blueprints. According to one of these people, this sort of thing is not likely an isolated case, but the government cannot possibly address all of the defective buildings. I just recently heard a story from someone in this industry about a building which a US company was interested in leasing in the Shibuya area. His company was being asked to bid on the project to help the US company set up an office there. He had to decline as the building, although brand-new, was very poorly constructed with chunks of concrete already falling off the interior walls and ceiling, and massive water leaks were already weakening it. He felt the yakuza was likely involved in the construction of the building. Again, something not exactly unusual in the construction/real estate industry.

I did get to see some photos of the fine workmanship at this site. It sort of makes me a bit less confident in the earthquake resistance of buildings here. I guess if one is lucky and lives or works in a building/home designed and built by honest people who followed the law, you make come out OK. If you live in a shoddy, cheaply made piece of junk, you may have just enough time to kiss your a** goodbye before it collapses on you and yours. The wonderfully exciting thing is that there is no way to know without actually having your place professionally inspected. Since this usually requires some cutting and other invasive/damaging methods, this ain't likely to happen unless you own the house/building. And then, if you find that it is not built to standards, what are you going to do? Sell it? Sue the builder? That last option is a joke, of course. Unless you have 300 years for it to crawl through a Japanese court.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The love of nature and lack of discrimination

are characteristics of the essence of Japan in the minds of some such as Fujiwara Masahiko-chan and many non-Japanese neo-Last Samurai ninja wannabes.

C.W. Nicol, who is a naturalized Japanese citizen who has written about the outdoors and nature in Japan (as well as been on many TV programs) and who has put his money and actions where his mouth is has an interesting article at JTonline:

For many years the Ainu were forbidden to hold any traditional ceremonies, even funeral rites, and although the right to conduct a salmon thanksgiving ceremony has been granted by the Japanese government in recent years, Tokyo has continued to be downright mean and stingy, allowing only a ridiculously small number of wild salmon to be taken in the traditional ways dictated by the ceremony and the whole Ainu people.

Prejudice and the denial of rights to the Ainu have continued long after they were deprived of their land, hunting and fishing rights. It is a truly disgraceful record for the Japanese government, which still refuses to recognize the Ainu as an indigenous people, despite a United Nations Declaration that insists on recognition for these rights...

...Here, Japanese officialdom turns a blind eye to poaching, whether of wild salmon, rare flowers and insects or whatever. But it still niggles and haggles about traditional Ainu fishing rights....

...we came to what Haruzo wanted to show me. He got out of the vehicle and spread his arms with an expression of disgust on his face. A whole mountainside had been denuded of trees and crisscrossed with bulldozer scars. Already the streams were running the color of miso soup with the erosion.


It's all OK though, because other countries do bad things too.

More semi-rotted food and shoddy, fraudulent products.

The scandals involving Japanese food producers continue and are now so frequent that one who is concerned about food safety might have to turn to foreign food (eeeeewwww!) of even worse Chinese food in order to have any level of confidence. At least that evil foreign food has passed some type of inspection. The same cannot be said for Japan produced "food" products.

Japan's Mister Donut chain recently got caught using old, out-of-date juice in some of its drinks. I suppose this could be understood as Mister Donut was originally an evil foreign company, so since all foreign companies do that sort of thing---unlike the pure Japanese companies---this is no surprise. Except that it only seems to have happened in Japan in shops under control of Japanese management. Well, what's a little out-of-date juice? So far, nobody is known to have died.

As to corporate fraud and greed, (NOVA has been pretty well covered recently) Toyo Tire was the second company found to have cheated on fire tests for some of their flame resistant building materials. Turns out they only used the real fire resistant materials to pass government tests, but then sold substitute material---much of which is used in schools---which were not at all fire resistant. So what's wrong if a few kids get roasted? At least Toyo Tire is not an evil foreign company, although any sort of fraud or wrongdoing that they were/are involved in is likely the result of Western (especially US) influence. Anyway, the executives apologized, so everything should turn out fine.

What about the poor kids who have to eat old, out-of-date, falsely labeled food in a school with fake fire proofing. This seems like what happens all the time in foreign countries. How could it happen in pure Japan? Damned foreigners!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

PM Fukuda warns al Qaeda buddy Hatoyama

that by saying that he had a friend who has friends in al Qaeda, Hatoyama was speaking in "an inappropriate way without taking into account where he was." He did not mention that a member of the Japanese government who had such an association with al Qaeda members and had knowledge of terrorist bombings without informing anyone, might perhaps be an untrustworthy idiot or even a terrorist sympathizer. It is just wrong that he said it in public.

Fukuda probably knows that Hatoyama was simply trying to concoct a line of horse s**t in order to convince the foreign press that was interviewing him that the Bush-derived fingerprinting was a valuable tool to protect folks in Japan against them thar sneaky foreigners/terrorists. He likely knew that Hatoyama is just a rather stupid man who cannot even be counted on to make up a halfway believable lie.

Apparently, Hatoyama "thinks" that it is more dangerous to Japan to have unfingerprinted tourists/residents in the country than it is to have a Justice Minister who is connected to al Qaeda. About his friend's terrorist buddy, Hatoyama said:

"I have never met this person but up until two or three years ago he seems to have been visiting Japan so often,'' Hatoyama said through a translator at the Foreign Correspondents' Club yesterday. ``Every time this person enters Japan he uses different passports and moustaches and therefore customs officials are unable to recognize him. It is undesirable for security reasons that such people can enter Japan so easily.'' Full article here.

What if al Qaeda recruited a Japanese national? Say the al Qaeda member whose friend's buddy who is Japan's Justice Minister? Since the fingerprinting does not apply to Japanese, how effective would the law be? Don't worry, one suspects that Hatoyama would could not meet the minimum IQ standard for a terrorist. And there has never been a Japanese terrorist anyway.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Japan justice minister claims al Qaeda connection

That's the headline of an article at OnSanDiego.com. He originally stated that he had heard about a plan for the terrorist bombing in Bali from a friend whose friend was a member of al Qaeda. Later he must have realized that it would look bad if a person who later became Justice Minister had connections with al Qaeda and prior knowledge of a terrorist attack did not warn anyone of said plans. He then held another news conference to explain his claimed al Qaeda ties. In this conference, he said he only heard about the warning months after the attack from his buddy's friend in al Qaeda.

The whole story is confusing---I understood the above version from a report on the NHK news last night, but other media have somewhat different versions. He got into this because he was trying to explain why the government would adopt the US approach of photographing and fingerprinting every non-Japanese when the enter Japan.

Perhaps his views on non-Japanese could be better understood from his own statement---if he actually knew and meant what he was saying:

Hatoyama earlier on Monday also expressed opposition to the pro-immigration stance of his predecessor, Jinen Nagase, who called for more foreign workers to make up the shortfall as Japan's population ages and shrinks.

'Japan is not a country that can become a 'melting pot', he said, arguing that allowing more foreign laborers into the country would lead to a rise in crime. Full article here.

He is also the guy who got in a little hot water a few weeks ago when he suggested that he should not have to sign execution orders in order for convicts to be killed, instead he prefered a more automated process which would eliminate the need for him to deal with such unpleasantness.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Revisionist appointed chairman of the board of education

in Saitama. He is one of the key players in insisting on whitewashing Japan's WW2 actions in school texts. Apparently, those who appointed him either agree with his views, or at the least find no problems with him. Abe may be gone, but his extremist buddies ain't .

Shiro Takahashi, a professor at Meisei University and former deputy chairman of the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, will be the first member of the group, which has sparked controversy with its nationalist history textbooks, to chair a prefectural board of education. From the JTonline.

NOVA files for bankruptcy protection

Probably no surprise to anyone who has been following this. Turns out that the company is much deeper in the hole than originally thought---43.9 billion yen. The president, Nozomu Saruhashi has sort of become unable to be located and was removed by the board last night. This is so big, that it has even made Japanese newspapers. I just saw it on the front page of one at a local Lawsons. Some of the best information on NOVA's problems is at Japan Economy News & Blog. It's sort of mixed news for employees as they will be out of a job, but will be able to get unemployment (or some type of assistance. I have read that the Australian government may have Australian nationals) in most cases as I understand it. Of course the students are out of luck. The government has stopped credit card charges to NOVA. I'll bet NOVA's eikaiwa sisters will be salivating over the news. GABA, Berlitz, etc.

Kim Dae-Jung kidnapping

Below I wrote that there had been rumors that the Japanese government had been somehow involved in Kim Dae Jung's kidnapping from Tokyo in 1973. That is not correct. The rumors were that Korean members of the yakuza in Japan were involved. This information is from the book: Yakuza, Japan's criminal underworld, by David E. Kaplan and Alec Dubro.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Nihonjinron and the baka gaijin

I suppose one can understand the belief in nihonjinron---the myths of Japanese unique uniqueness--among many Japanese. After all, it is nearly a religious belief, and religious beliefs tend not to be strongly supported by science or evidence which would hold much water among non-believers. (I know, I grew up a believer---though not much of a follower---in a very religious area of the US. Then I done screwed up and got an education which helped me turn agnostic.) However, I have a special problem with non-Japanese followers of nihonjinron. You would assume they might be naive waifs just off the boat, perhaps with a special interest in becoming another Karate Kid, or some other Zen-seeking ninja-type.

But occasionally, you can find them among long-term residents. Rare, but they're around. I found one this evening. I overheard a conversation between an American guy from a mid-Rocky Mountain state in the US discussing weather in his home state. He has been in Japan for a decade or so, and he started going on about how he especially liked "Japan's four clearly distinct seasons." I damned near puked. I could hardly resist saying something like "Is that unusual? Is it unique?" But since I was not a part of the conversation, I figured I'd better keep out. He might have called me a rude baka gaijin had I said something. Perhaps the seasons are only clearly distinct compared to his hometown in which they all blend into one (?) I still have trouble understanding how it could even be possible for Japan, at its latitude, to have such unusually distinct seasons, but that is part of the "science" of nihonjinron. Like religion, a non-believer/non-member, can't understand until he/she is washed in the blood. Or sesame oil or whatever.

It ain't the first time either. I found an essay on the internet written for some Japanese competition in which the author----a Finn---wrote about Japan's four most clearly distinct seasons.

Anyway, I have to enjoy the world's most uniquely distinct autumn in Tokyo. I will look out my window tomorrow morning at the colorful green trees after a crisp 62 degree night and thank the gods Izanagi and Izanami for creating such a magical place. The fact that the Japanese have a special connection with nature will allow me to see this change in all the vast, unspoiled parks and natural areas in Tokyo.

Fortunately, I am not back home where I could barely tell the season except for the big change in temperature, the increasing differences in day/night temperature, the colorful leaves in the many forests, the first frost on the grass in the morning, and other such barely noticeable indistinct things.

Japan asks South Korea to apologize for kidnapping??!!

Japan has asked South Korea to apologize for the kidnapping of then opposition leader Kim Dae-jung in Tokyo in 1973, and take measures to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents, a report said Wednesday. Full article and hereand also here.

Wonder if South Korea will pull an Abe and again pretend that there is no evidence that the ROK government was involved. (Sorry if by "pull an Abe" anyone was mislead into believing I meant to suddenly resign.) Deniability of any responsibility could be established if, as one of the commentors suggested, Kim Dae-Jung had his status changed to "comfort man." (Were he a comfort man, then the ROK could claim that he was not kidnapped but voluntarily went to South Korea to be imprisoned and nearly executed. Or perhaps they could claim he kidnapped himself. Besides, was his prison cell under Chun Doo Hwan all that bad?)

As I recall, there was/is some suspicion that the Japanese government was involved in the kidnapping too. That, of course, would be impossible. The Japanese government would never do such a thing.

Correction: The rumors were that the yakuza, specifically the Korean descendants in the Japanese yakuza, were involved---not the Japanese government.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Yet again, another food fraud???

This time chicken. A chicken/chicken product company in, I believe, Akita in northern Japan has been caught mislabeling ordinary chicken as a special breed of chicken which they could charge more for. This special type became famous because it supposedly had a consistently excellent flavor. Nobody seemed to be able to tell the difference however, once the company began to lie, cheat, and steal by fraud.

In addition, the use-by date was faked as is apparently very common, maybe even standard, practice among food companies here. Eggs were also affected.

They also bought old, tough birds which had passed egg-laying age and smoked them and sold the smoked meat as that of the special yardbird. They explained the unusually tough meat as a unique characteristic of the special breed.

We may have to start eating leaves as any other source of food is apparently untrustworthy. Those damned foreigners! Oh, wait...these are Japanese companies! Well, it has to be a result of foreign, especially Western, and MOST especially American influence. A Japanese company would never do such a thing otherwise. (Hint: sarcasm.)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Another Scandal

This one by a Japanese firm which was given a contract by the government to clean up WW2 era chemical weapons which remain in China. It didn't. Instead, Abandoned Chemical Weapons Disposal Corp. stole the money.

"Those profiteers were taking advantage ... preying on the very victims who should be helped by this project," said Norio Minami, a Japanese lawyer supporting Chinese injured by the poison gas. "Japan's loss of credibility is inevitable." AP article here.

It's a good thing this is Japan though, where this kind of thing is not standard like it is in those foreign countries. One has to suspect that this sort of crime, as well as the Akafuku garbage-as-food scandal is somehow a result of foreign influence. Anyway Japan can't be spending time cleaning up poison in China when we have to worry about poisoned-food sold by Japanese companies. Oh, sorry, perhaps that is a bit overblown. It's been 40 odd years since a Japanese company negligently mass-poisoned Japanese. (Chisso Corp in Minamata.)
At least as far as we know.....

Friday, October 19, 2007

"Japan Inc" is in good hands

From talking to the average Japanese, I sometimes get the sense that there is absolutely no understanding of even basic economics. I'm not talking Econ 101, that too high of a level of knowledge to even assume possible---at least from folks I have talked to. (Well, ok, I once worked at Berlitz and showed a Berlitz teacher Berlitz' annual report---when Berlitz still issued such reports---in which they had lost millions over the previous year. He said, "But it's a paper loss!" He often taught Berlitz "business English" courses. Bahahaha. He was from Chicago.)

However, don't worry. The folks at the Bank of Japan are especially sharp. At Ken Worsley's Japan Economy News there is a quote from the Financial Times in which one of the members of the BOJ, Ms. Miyako Suda, is reported to have warned that the BOJ should not delay too much in raising interest rates because she fears that the economy is in danger of overheating!!!

Recycled garbage sold as food again

Akafuku, which got caught last week faking use-by dates, has now admitted that they recycled old, unsold food and sold it as new. (This was on Tokyo channel 6 this evening.) Again, and again, and again. There seems to be no end to it. I wonder if any Japanese food products company produces food that is safe to eat. The Japanese government has very strict checks on Chinese imports---which is effective enough that the US is interested in Japanese inspection methods for Chinese food---but seemingly does little to ensure any safety in Japanese food. (Interestingly, although the US FDA is interested in Japan’s inspection process of Chinese food of which the Japanese government is boasting to the US is very good, the Japanese media reporting leads one to believe all Chinese food is suspect of dangerous. How can the inspection be so good if it lets such dangerous food into Japan?)

The Japanese government seems to take a much more laid-back, hands-off approach to crooks in the Japanese food industry who fraudulently sell old garbage as food fit for humans. Ironically, just after the channel 6 news, the next program on that station focused on the dangers of foreign food. Many Japanese interviewed said that they don't buy foreign food products, only Japanese. These folks must enjoy the taste of rotted food. But, as Fujiwara Masahiko-chan says, logic doesn't work here.

***According to the 9pm news, the local (Mie prefecture) government did order Akafuka to cease business until it passes inspection. The company had been retrieving unsold products, removed bean paste from the mochi (rice cake) center and reusing some of the bean paste in "new" products; also reusing the mochi and selling the rest of the old bean paste to the president's son's company. The president apologized last week for the first incident---which had been a 30 year long activity---and lied about any further problems. Tonight he "apologized" for his incorrect information (lies) last week.

How many companies have been caught in this type of behavior this year? I can think of 3-4. And those are only the ones which have been caught. Obviously, it has put no fear into companies trying to sell shit for food. This company was over 300 years old. Their reputation is, for now at least, as filthy as their food.

20 October: Japan Times article on the garbage recycler, Akafukyu,---misspelled, I meant Akafuku---is here.

At a news conference Thursday night, Akafuku chief Hamada apologized, saying, "I am sorry for our consumers and related people that this has happened."

Hamada acknowledged that there was systemic falsification, saying, "Reusing of withdrawn products has been habitually conducted."...(Does he mean that he personally is a flat-out liar?)

...Tourists visiting Ise Shrine expressed anger.

"We absolutely can't count on the company just because it's a major, long-established firm," said Noboru Oda, 65, from Chiba Prefecture.

Well Oda-san, at least it isn't evil foreign food!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I have found a lot of very good blogs on Japan recently. Many of them surpass anything available in MSM. A really good one for anyone interested in the Japanese economy who doesn't want to rely on some non-sense written by a naive, air-headed Boston Globe reporter on quick drunk/shallow reporting trip should read Ken Worsley's Japan Economy News Blog.

There is more there than just some smart-ass making the quick sarcastic comments that some bloggers do. Of course that sort of thing doesn't go on here.

Ken Worsley also writes a column (Back & Forth) for the magazine Japan Inc.

More rotten fraud in the Japanese food industry

Sweets maker Akafuku Co. has been lying to its customers for 30 plus years by selling them sweet jams with misleading dates. Nothing new as this sort of thing seems to come out every week. Moral? Do NOT trust use-by dates on Japanese food. You may be eating products way beyond their safe life span. You may be eating something which is not even the type of food claimed on the label.

It is a repeated, recurring problem which the government appears to be doing little to nothing about. Too worried about that thar evil foreign food when the biggest problem is food companies in Japan.

Akafuku President Noriyasu Hamada apologized before reporters in Ise for the production and expiry date falsifications.

Akafuku is said to have begun selling the bean-jam cake in front of Ise Shrine in 1707.

In August, Hokkaido confectioner Ishiya Trading Co. was found to have falsified expiry dates for its chocolate cookies, while meat processor Meat Hope Co. was found in June to have falsely labeled its meat products....The Hokkaido meat processor is suspected of mixing pork and beef and selling it as ground beef, and falsifying the expiration dates on labels for meat products. Japan Times story here.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Former Ambassador wants Fukuda to visit Yasukuni

Hisahiko Okazaki, the former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, thinks Fukuda could resolve the Yasukuni shrine problem with China by visiting. No, it is not April 1. Yes, he seems to be serious. No, he has not found work as a clown. (Oops...sorry cheap shots.)

Since Fukuda is not a right wing nut ball like I'm-tired-so-I-quit Abe, Okazaki thinks it would be Nixon-like (referring to Nixon, a conservative being able to go to China, Fukuda by not being a right winger, pull a similar trick. Apparently, Okazaki's standard of judging the diplomatic success of such a visit would be based on whether or not there were violent, wide-scale protests in China. Simple as that.

You can check out Okazaki's "logic" (but remember, the neo-bushidoist Fujiwara Masahiko suggests logic is pretty unreliable anyway since he himself has none) in an opinion piece in The Japan Times here.

A quick Google search will display many results for Okazaki. His is a right winger who has been after Yasukuni visits for years. In fact, he designed some of the displays there. (Read more here.) I thought I recognized his name. Another revisionist. They're baaaackkk! The nutjobs aren't and never, ever will be done until they get Japan into another disaster.

Unique love of nature: Japan

To show how much the country loves and respects nature, Japan is going to kill up to 50 humpback whales. Normally Japan has hunted minke whales which could arguably be repsonsible as the evidence suggests that minke are not threatened or endangered. Of course, if it is true that Japan has to use that meat for pet food and allows a lot to go to waste in warehouses, then there is no possible justification or excuse.

But now they have gone to humpbacks as threatened months ago during the IWC meeting when Japan went into a pout because it could not get its way. Ahhh, but those without the genetic connection to, love and respect for nature that in part of Japanese DNA don't understand. Poor Japan. A victim of foreign misunderstanding again. And anyway, they hunt kangaroos in Australia, so its ok for Japan to kill humpbacks.

Reuters story here while it lasts.

Remember: Tradition, real or not, home-grown or recently imported, explains and excuses everything in Japan.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Shisaku, a political blog covering Japan

Just found a new blog---via the Economist---about Japanese politics. A very interesting blog and one that is much needed. The author discovered something that I always suspected existed, but could not put my finger on it. E.O. Reishauer may have been one of the original officials, but we have a lot more around quite often posing as journalists on a sort of drunken, jetlagged, simple-minded, believe-everything-you-hear reporter's backpack through Tokyo. It is the Department of Imaginary Japans. My thanks for the author of Shisaku for finding this!

Justice Minister Hatoyama doesn't want to be bothered

by signing death warrants---execution orders---so he'd prefer a more robotic system be put in place so that the state could kill people without troubling him and future "Justice" Ministers.

Many find his comments somewhat bordering on distasteful or even disgusting. Read the full article at the Japan Times here

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Japan's elitist right-wing against the Japanese

A few months ago, I wrote about Abe's and his merry band of loony-toons' effort to rewrite the history of WW2 in Okinawa. Not only was Abe and crowd trying to lie about the Imperial Japanese military's role in kidnapping and forcing women into sexual slavery, they were trying to claim---and force Japanese teachers to use school texts which said---that the pure Japanese Imperial Army had no connection to civilian suicides during the Battle of Okinawa.

Unfortunately for the nutjobs, many Okinawans who were there disagreed with the whitewash. Whereas Abe et al could freely call foreign women who had been victims of Japanese atrocities liars and well-paid whores, it was a bit more inconvenient to do so to Okinawans as they are Japanese citizens (although quite often discriminated against). This sort of "confusion" is always a problem for the government in general and the LDP in particular. Confusion usually results from people not accepting the tatemae and their calling bullshit what it is: bullshit.

After Abe, the son of a former prime minister and war crime suspect, resigned suddenly, the less extreme government under the new prime minister (who as far as I know has no family connections to WW2 war criminals or profiteers--how rare recently) may back down without admitting to government interference in text selection, or that the military actually did do anything wrong. The government will still be able to claim textbook selection has no political interference and later can come back and try to lie and decieve again and claim that the Japanese military was purity itself.

This story has been on TV and in newspapers over the last few weeks, but the New York Times has an article today by Norimitsu Onishi here.

It ain't over though. The right wing is still around and will be back. They'll be back even stronger as more Japanese of WW2 age die and memories fade.

Excerpt from the NYT story:

...Toshinobu Nakazato, chairman of Okinawa’s assembly. Angered by the revisions, Mr. Nakazato broke a 62-year silence and talked about his own wartime experiences.

Inside a shelter where his family had sought refuge, Japanese soldiers handed his family members two poisoned rice balls and told them to give them to Mr. Nakazato’s younger sister and a cousin, he said. Instead, his family fled into the mountains, where his younger brother died.

“I’m already 70,” he said in an interview, “and the memories of those over 80 are already fading. So perhaps this time was the last opportunity for us to resist.”

Friday, October 05, 2007

Japanese Language Proficiency Test

Yes, you're right. The JLPT was written by a bunch of linear-thinking, anal-retentive academics who sit in their ivory towers all day reading Nihonjinron essays about why the Japanese are unique and have purposefully made the test more difficult than it has to be. Yes, it was designed for Asians who can speed read kanji, there's tons of obscure grammar and vocabulary, and it doesn't test your speaking ability, writing skills or pronunciation at all. From a very interesting site here.

But it can be somewhat motivating as it gives you a reason to study seriously. You'll pick up grammar, kanji, and vocabulary that will be useful to know, but which you ay not be able to use when speaking for quite a while.

The test itself and your score on it don't have much, if any, relevance to your speaking ability, so to call it a language proficiency test is a joke.

Homicide in sumo

Sumo, like boxing, has always been a sort of murky world with rumors of fixes, performance enhancing drugs and the like. There was even a pair of mysterious deaths of former sumo wrestlers who had spoken publicly about fixes and conveniently died soon afterwards---I would google for a link, but not right now. (OK, I found one conspiracy theory or not here.)
The reason that many people believe they were murdered is that they had published a book alleging wild-sex parties, drug use, and most importantly bout-rigging.
Today retired sumo wrestler and stable master Tokitsukaze was expelled from sumo for his part in the beating death of a 17- year old apprentice wrestler in his charge last June. Seems Tokitsukaze has bashed him across the head with a beer bottle, and encouraged other trainees to beat him with baseball bats over a period of 30 minutes. Of course, more such "training" had occurred prior to the fatal event.

Interestingly, just as the police saw nothing suspicious about the two former wrestlers suddenly dying shortly after suggesting fixed matches, they have not seen it necessary to arrest Tokitsukaze and hold him while they are investigating the homicide. Usually, they take people into custody for the usual 20 some odd days and then find a friendly judge to indefinitely extend the period. I guess even with the decline of sumo---which many of the blue-hairs attribute to them thar foreigners---the sport still gets special, kid's glove treatment from the elites in power. Why, this sport must certainly embody all the fantasies of Fujiwara's neo-bushidoism.

Amazingly, The Japan Times on-line has no recent articles on this story even though it has been all over the TV and in Japanese language newspapers lately.
I just found a new site, One Life Japan, offering very reasonably priced tours in rural Nagano. This somewhat irritates me, as starting this type of business has been a fantasy of mine for years. And now, I have been beaten to it. THis is nothing new, I had an Amazon.com type of idea when I lived in Toyama, but sort got beaten there too. Hopefully, he will be successful with it---I hope to get time to take advantage of pone of his tours soon. It is something like what I have been looking for---there is only so much city life I can endure.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Columbia University's international awareness?

One's own country looks a lot different when you live overseas, or at least have lived overseas. You get to see how other people view it and that view generally has nothing to do with the myths you are fed in school or by the media.

Apparently, the president of Columbia university has never lived anywhere else except for the US, or if he did, he lived in some sort of "gaijin ghetto"(apologies for the use of this bigoted term, but as I mentioned, I gave up on trying to discourage it) where he was given the special treatment that real people don't get.

After inviting the president of Iran to visit---knowing fully well what he believed and what he stood for---Lee Bollinger (Columbia president) decided to use the occasion to insult him to his face. What exactly did the fool hope to gain? No matter how dangerous one believes Ahmadinejad to be, Bollinger's remarks and ad hominim attacks came across as extremely rude. Perhaps Bollinger is extremely rude anyway, but in this case, he makes the US look bad while doing nothing to damage Ahmadinejad's reputation. In fact, he likely made him look good by comparison.

But frankly, one can't expect much from a university president as they all seem to live in a fantasy world. I remember ours, something "Smith" at WSU in Washington, seemed to be in orbit around Mars, but who really gives a flying f**k what a university president says in normal situations?

Anyway, latimes.com has an article commenting on space cadet Bollinger's public rant: Bollinger's denunciation was icing on the cake, because the constituency the Iranian leader cares about is scattered across an Islamic world that values hospitality and its courtesies as core social virtues. To that audience, Bollinger looked stunningly ill-mannered; Ahmadinejad dignified and restrained.

Bollinger however, showing his razor sharp awareness of how his actions look outside of the US, thinks it was a wonderful idea and apparently remains very proud of himself as he continues to circle around Mars. From an AP article:

Bollinger doesn't see these disputes as anything unusual for an intellectually robust college campus....."All we can do is say, 'We are committed to a principle of wide open discussion about issues," he said. (As long as he can personally insult folks to their face first as a way of encouraging wide open discussion.)

A fact of life in Japan

This sounds so familiar:

But I had had no difficulties whatsoever in numerous tries. Which meant the post office was due.

I knew this the second I greeted the clerk in Japanese and he answered me in English. A bad sign. We were not going to communicate.
(Japan Times Online)

This not only happens in Japan. When I was in Manhattan before coming to Japan, I went to get my visa. I had had a spousal visa before, so I thought I knew the procedure. The guy who waited on me was Caucasian---perhaps a Japanese citizen, perhaps not. He was working for the Japanese government though as a bureaucrat. He rejected one of my forms and told me I had to take another form home and fill it out. When I got home, I discovered that my only mistake had been to write the wrong heading or something on the first form---a simple mistake that I could have corrected on the spot. However, as an officious dork, he couldn't have simply said so, although it was obvious that he knew. Not that US bureaucrats are one bit better. It appears to be a mental illness common in the profession. Oh, wait---there is nothing professional about a bureaucrat is there?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Stop China!

As in many countries, the media have focused on recent safety issues with some Chinese-made products and food. Some have gone into hypocritical hysterics over it. It's about normal for the media I guess since it is primarily interested in scandal and entertainment (unless the scandal is from within the media.)

A week or so ago I noticed a new magazine in the cooking magazine area of the book store near Denenchofu station. The title is Prohibit China (中国禁止). On the cover it warns "don't eat", "don't buy," and "dangerous China." Inside it covers about every kind of real or imagined danger in China. Filthy, dangerous food, dangerous products, fake brand name products, bird flu, AIDS, etc.

It is published by Oak Mook (#169) which appears to publish a lot of similar stuff and looks to be part of the revisionist right wing nutjob fringe. (There is no evidence that the suddenly-resigned PM Abe is on the staff. ) More of their mags here.

Meanwhile, the repeated food safety scandals in Japan have faded from view. Nobody seems concerned about how the government addresses the Meat Hope scandal. (Meat Hope is yet another Japanese company caught using old food and relabeling it as new, labeling pork as beef, and much more. More recently, a famous candy maker in Hokkaido was caught using out-of-date ingredients.)

This happens enough that I am very concerned about buying frozen foods or foods such as milk which seem to be close to the printed use by date. Whereas the press and most consumers seem to have forgotten about Japan's own food safety issues to go nuts over China's, I cannot. I can avoid imported Chinese food (provided that I can trust the Japanese importer to properly label it---which may or may not happen), but I cannot avoid Japanese food. What do the nutjobs do, I wonder?