Thursday, December 30, 2010


Imagine a country where everyone is good at his or her job. Imagine a country where everyone has respect for elders and teachers. Imagine a country where every shop clerk treats each customer like an honored guest. Imagine a country where everyone wears expensive clothing, the food is slurpy, and there aren't any napkins because apparently nobody needs them. Imagine a country where everyone has good taste.

You've imagined Japan....The climate in Tokyo is similar to that of New York City.

Ahhh...another year ends in the Lake Wobegon* of the universe. On the day after Christmas, the 3rd day of winter of 2010-2011, as I walked around weird but wonderful Meguro trying to avoid being hit by mama-chari-ists with good taste dressed in expensive finery while I hoped that other pedestrians would allow me some sidewalk, I was able to enjoy the autumn leaves of the world’s most clearly distinct winter season which is similar to that of New York.

I must finally admit that I have been wrong for years and years. Japan is uniquely unique in some ways, one being the ability of non-Japanese (and the occasional Japanese trying to polish Japan up for the naive) to suspend all trace of common sense about Japan and the Japanese. To say anything less than complimentary about Japan is evidence that one misunderstands the country and is probably a racist. (Does Japan have a separate race from say, China? What is a race?) On the other hand preaching nothing but out of this world goodness about Japan is acceptable. Remember what CIA agent Bryan Woodman (Matt Damon) said in Syriana: “It’s not racist if it’s positive.”

I have spent too much time looking at Japan-related sites and blogs (especially Tumblr) and found that this imaginary Japan is the Japan that many desperately hope exists, for if they were to actually come here and find that it does not exist, they would lose all faith in nirvana. Folks who spend time on those sites/blogs looking at the best architecture, art, manga, cute girls in Harajuku and Akihabara, believe they are seeing Japan. And many whose fantasy comes true and are able to visit see nothing to dispel them of the fantasy.

Just after 9/11, I put an ad for a private Japanese teacher in the magazine Metropolis Tokyo. Some Japanese fellow answered, not to get information about the job, but to try to instigate a fight saying things like: "I am glad that America was attacked. You people come to Japan and think it is Disneyland. I hope you get attacked again.” (paraphrased). He had sent the e-mail to dozens of people who had placed ads. He wrote in English, but his English had tell-tale signs of a less than fluent Japanese person's English. He was certainly correct about many foreigner's views (not only Americans by far) of Japan being Disneyland.

I guess the imaginary Japan is needed as the extreme "other," not an other in the sense of a bad, sneaky, devious, unscrupulous other (at least not until the next trade/whaling etc dispute), but as the "perfect" other.

*The Lake Wobegon Effect as pertains to Japan is not something that Japanese are guilty of, it is foreigners who tend to be.

Impossible in Japan

Edited 2:10 and 2:29pm

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Motivating かな。。。。。

Merry Christmas from PM Kan

Having pretty much given up on being able to do anything but embarrass himself, Kan has reached out to the Shintaro Ishihara's hard right party, tachiagare nippon ("Stand Up" or "Rise Up" Japan, intentionally mistranslated as The Sunrise Party in English*), in hopes of finding friends. Not that the DPJ doesn’t have a few of that flavor already, as some of its members signed the Washington Post ad of a few years ago supporting Shinzo Abe’s non-denial denial that the Japanese military was responsible for the forcing of women into sexual slavery in WW2. The logic of this move is not immediately apparent as even if Stand Up Japan joined with F**k Up Kan, the coalition would still not have enough of a majority to do anything. Considering Kan's track record of late, perhaps not being able to do anything is good.

*Meaning The Rising Sun Party?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Kan maybe not so unrealistic

PM Kan has been reported to suggest that the SDF would go to Korea in case of war. This has been judged to be unrealistic by some in the ROK. It certainly might cause problems for an untested force that has never participated* in exercises with the US/Korea forces (not ground combat anyway), and with no known (at least not widely known) planning for such actions with South Korea or the US. Then one would have to wonder just what the SDF could do that the ROK could not do about 10 zillion times better in a war in Korea. And how would the SDF know where the abducted Japanese are in North Korea? Would it be involved in the war only to protect Japanese? "Oh, a nearby ROK unit is is isolated, outnumbered, and needs immediate assistance. Sorry, we are only here for self-defense and that means Japanese citizens. Gomen ne. Gambatte!"

Of course there just might be some small possibility of a slight objection to Japanese military forces in Korea by the Koreans and Chinese even though they could be reassured by explaining that the SDF is not really a military as Japan is prohibited from having a military by its constitution.

So I thought, but then Martin Fackler wrote this article for the New York Times: Japan to Shift its Military Toward Threats from China

... Japan’s new Democratic Party government has been pulling closer to Washington, spurred by a bruising diplomatic clash three months ago with China over the disputed islands and fears about North Korea’s nuclear program.

.... Washington has proposed forging stronger three-way military ties that would also include its other key regional ally, South Korea...

...During a visit to the region last week, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urged Japan to join American military exercises with South Korea. In a meeting with Japan’s defense minister, Toshimi Kitazawa, Admiral Mullen said the two nations needed to support South Korea after North Korea’s deadly shelling last month of a South Korean island...

Fackler also vaguely notes that the ROK vice minister of defense visited Tokyo last week to discuss "increased bilateral cooperation" with his Japanese counterpart.

*Or if it did, it was kept very much under wraps, so much so that most US military never knew it. In other words, nearly impossible.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wikileaks leaks on Japan

....Singapore's Ambassador Tommy Koh called Japan "the big fat loser" and "stupidity, bad leadership and lack of vision" for Japan's position in Asian region. (Reporting on Wikileaks)

South Korea has dismissed as ``unrealistic’’ Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s comment on sending troops to the Korean Peninsula if a war breaks out.

Speaking to the families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea, Friday, Kan said that in the event of war on the peninsula, he’d send Self-Defense Forces to rescue abductees in the North and Japanese residents in the South
. Korea Times.

Since I have been unable to access Wikileaks, the only question I have is: Was the "stupidity, bad leadership and lack of vision" statement made during the LDP's time in power or the DPJ's and does it make any difference?

P.S. Will the SDF need the Dutch military to protect them during the rescue operations?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Unpredictable, irrational DPRK

A very short history of the DPRK and some possible rational why the unpredictable country that seems strangely predictable is behaving so irrationally is online at PBS. Some parts may be quibble worthy* (was Kim Il-sung really an anti-Japanese guerrilla or could that be part or all myth?), but it might give some insight:

North Koreans have long felt threatened by American nuclear weapons, and sought protection under the Soviet nuclear umbrella by signing a mutual defense treaty with the USSR in 1961. But North Korea does not have a lot of trust in Russia or China either... is surrounded by enemies or, at best, untrustworthy "friends"...

...This modern state of insecurity is built upon an older history of colonialism and traditional isolation to create an attitude of profound suspicion of the outside world...PBS

*Others may argue that Japanese colonialism of Korea was not really colonialism among other things.

PM Kan's TV

Although it is tough to pull away from the antics of the unpredictable DPRK which for some reason seems to be generally predictable, one can entertain oneself with some good TV. Failing that, one can find PM Kan's TV online. This will help folks try to figure out just what the government is doing since it isn't exactly obvious otherwise. It is available in English and in Japanese. (Unfortunately, it cannot be embedded.)

From the reactions of the people I talked to about the recent shelling of South Korea by the North, a little publicity/spin about Kan's achievements* is both long overdue and too late. Somehow, the shelling of the ROK just emphasized the apparent weakness and incompetence of the Kan government. Although none of these folks knew what any of the other parties could have done better, no one said they would do worse.

Now gotta go back online and read opinions of what to do about Korea from folks--- many or most of---whom you just know have less information about what is going than an observant and minimally informed E-1 who is stationed 100 miles south of the DMZ.

*Don't know if this "TV" would ever work in spite of it being spellbindingly exciting and tremendously informative.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

DPRK bids for attention or ?

A bit of a buzz on Twitter as the DPRK has shelled Yeonpyeong island off northwest South Korea. According to a report on MSN Japan (in Japanese), ROK's president believes the shelling may be in response to an exercise the ROK military was holding. The ROK has reportedly returned fire. One South Korean soldier was killed, but I would be surprised if there were not more fatalities after seeing videos on TV (a photo here/a video here). Well, the short 10 or so minute report I saw on NHK before they returned to sumo. I suppose it is understandable that there is more TV coverage of a DPRK test missile that drops into the sea near Japan than an actual artillery attack on the ROK.

No one really knows what the North will do---at least no one in a position to be writing a blog post about it---but we have to remember what the North has done in the post Korean War period. Dozens of attacks around the DMZ, particularly heavy from 1968-69 in which 75 US military were killed/111 wounded while the ROK suffered 299 killed/550 wounded*, the Tree Incident in the DMZ, the seizure of the USS Pueblo, the attack on the Blue House and attempted assassination of President Park Chung-hi, the numerous killings of South Koreans by DPRK agents (gotta be a little careful here, as some of the killings which occurred under Park and his early successors may have only been blamed on the DPRK), the 1983 bombing in Burma in an attempt to assassinate the ROK president, killing 21 and injuring 46, the kidnappings of Japanese citizens from Japan, the recent sinking of a South Korea warship by a DPRK torpedo, the nuclear provocations, now an artillery barrage on what appears to be a civilian area, and....maybe the list can go on forever.

I have heard it said that the DPRK leaders are not crazy and know that they would lose any war with the ROK/US, but the fact that there has been no 2nd war (yet) is due to the restraint of South Korea and the US, not to anything the North has done.

It will be interesting to see China's reaction...

Remain calm. Now, back to sumo. Zzzzzzzzzzzz.....

*Not sure about the time period the figures covers, but I believe they are the 1968-69 period as I understand the linked article.

1815 edited to add: Interestingly---or not---in 1989 or 90, I had a TA from China who argued that the US and ROK had started the Korea War from that vicinity of Korea. As I recall, she believed that we started it from the area on the peninsula just above Yeonpyeong Island.

7pm: edited yet again.

Monday, November 22, 2010

More Chalmers Johnson

The Washington Note has a good article on Johnson:

....Johnson for his seminal work on Japanese political economy, MITI and the Japanese Miracle was dubbed by Newsweek's Robert Neff as "godfather of the revisionists" on Japan. Neff also tagged Clyde Prestowitz, James Fallows, Karel van Wolferen and others like R. Taggart Murphy and Pat Choate as the leaders of a new movement that argued that Japan was organizing its political economy in different ways than the U.S. This was a huge deal in its day -- and these writers and thinkers led by the implacable Johnson were attacked from all corners of American academia and among the crowd of American Japan-hands who wanted to deflect rather than focus a spotlight on the fact that Japan's economic mandarins were really the national security elite of the Pacific powerhouse nation....

The author, Steve Clemons, also writes of Johnson's efforts outside the Japan/China field.

23 Nov: I wonder how Johnson would have felt about called a "Japan hand" as he is in many obituaries.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chalmers Johnson

author of MITI and the Japanese Miracle, Japan scholar, and so-called Japan revisionist has died at 79 years of age. James Fallows has a short obituary at The Atlantic.

22 Nov: Article on Johnson at Washington Note.

Friday, November 19, 2010

All the Devils are Here; ratings agencies and the financial crisis

Not Japan related directly, unless you consider the damage done to the Japanese (and world's) economy a direct result of the 2008 financial crisis*, but PBS has a short segment on the role of US ratings agencies---Moody's etc---in the crisis. They also discuss the responsibility of the US government, both political parties, and Wall Street. Lesson learned until the next bubble.

*Probably a good thing to consider.

Sorry for the delayed responses

to a few comments on my post below, but I have finally made poorly written replies full of grammatical and spelling errors. Blogger does not allow long comments, nor does it allow any editing or correcting after posting, so they are a bit of a mess. Hopefully they are understandable.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ahhhh. Finally something like autumn has arrived. No frost on the pumpkin, but except for Sunday night when I was hunting mosquitoes in the mansion, it has cooled enough and enough leaves have turned to make it seem like October back home.

Luckily for me, autumn brings learning opportunities and I needn't go to school to experience them. Why just yesterday a fellow as telling me about how Japanese enjoyed walking under under the canopy of ginkgo trees. Then he moved on to maples and how Japanese like the red leaves of those trees. I was both happy and confused as since I enjoy those things too, I am apparently turning Japanese. Except that I also enjoyed them before I came to Japan----as do most folks I've ever known. Except my for wife who often responds with something like, "It's just trees." I was worried that I might have confused my friend too, for when he mentioned Japanese liking maple leaves, I thought of the Canadian flag and said, "Oh, Japanese are like Canadians."

Then this morning I read some learned (?) discussion concerning the internationalization (or lack of) of Japan. I discovered that in addition to the many famous entertainers and athletes of non-Japanese background, there are also a lot of restaurants serving foreign cuisine in Japan. Now if that does not show internationalization, I don't know what does.

I was also educated that the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism who wrote the UN report about discrimination in Japan was apparently some sort of lackey for minority interest groups in Japan. These sneaky devils led him around for 9 days or so showing him only what they wanted him to see, and they, unlike some fellow from the government or perhaps even academia, had political interests at heart. Even worse, the Special Rapporteur could not speak Japanese and had to rely on his deceitful escorts. I am not sure if that is unusual, for I doubt that the fellow could speak Swahili if he went there on an investigation, but then again, this is Japan and we must apply different rules and standards here. Always.

I can not be sure what I should think of this until I consult an unbiased, unfettered by personal day-to-day experience person of letters who can explain everything to me in an abstract moonbeam sort of way that seems to have no connection to reality. I certainly cannot trust my own lying eyes as I am a member of a minority group with a vested interest in not being discriminated against.

But best of all, Diane Sawyer took ABC and Hot Stud Reporter David Muir to China investigate just how China is poised to overcome the US in every possible way pretty darn soon if we don't take hints from ABC news. ABC promised to have several of these reports on what China does differently than the US and what we should learn from it to keep from being surpassed in the next few weeks. Wonder if Diane and babe-magnet Dave took a listen to Joseph Nye below (or did any relevant research) before they flew over to China to give us the latest version of the 1980s Japan threat. Doesn't the ABC interview with Thomas Friedman sound almost word-for-word like what was being said about Japan 20-25 years ago?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Joseph Nye: Return of Asia

During and after the G-20 this week, much of the media has attributed the US inability to get its way on every issue as a sign of the decline of the US. Naturally, one has to view this sort of quickie analysis with a skeptical eye.

Last July, Joseph Nye made a presentation at TED discussing global power shifts in two aspects: the shifting power of states from west to east (i.e. US-China), and what he calls the diffusion of power---the shift of power from states to non-state actors. Rather than calling the shift of power "the Rise of Asia," he calls it the "Return of Asia."

"...this metaphor of [US] decline is often very misleading ..." ..."cycles of belief in American decline come and go every 10-15 years or so..."

"Why does it matter? Who cares?... ...It matters quite a lot, because if you believe in decline and you get the answers wrong on this, the facts, not the myths, you may have policies which are very dangerous... Joseph Nye

Remember the late 80s/early 90s when Japan was going to surpass the US and the fear, fear-mongering, and overreaction? Oops. Slight miscalculation. (apx 18 minutes):

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Coast Guard crew member caught leaking

After being hunted for the better part of a week, the culprit who leaked the videos of the Chinese fishing vessel/Japanese Coast Guard collision to YouTube has confessed. The government is now able to breathe a sigh of relief that the person who made it look like the country was being run by the Three Stooges will possibly suffer the consequences of violating relevant laws and regulations.

There is still the worrying feeling that the apparent public support for this scoundrel may in some way resemble that of the 5/15 Incident* and that this is an attempt by the bureaucracy/military (Coast Guard) to undermine the elected government by, well, making people wonder why the tapes were being kept secret to begin with. (Not definitive enough? Didn't want problems with China?) The government will now have to explain itself in a way that does not cause people to laugh and throw rocks at the spokesperson. That may take awhile. Or forever.

"The fact that the video was leaked is a big mistake for the government," Hiroshi Kawauchi, a legislator of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, said last week. "It is totally different from presenting it to the public in an official manner, and it leads the people's further erosion of faith in Japan's government." CNN World
You just know that someone, somewhere in the government, at some point has had the following conversation since the beginning of the Senkaku mess:

CIA Boss: So what did we learn, Palmer?
CIA Agent Palmer: I don't know, sir.
CIA Boss: I don't fucking know either. I guess we learned not to do it again.
CIA Agent Palmer:
Yes, sir.
CIA Boss:
I'm fucked if I know what we did.
CIA Agent Palmer:
Yes sir, it's, uh, hard to say.
CIA Boss:
Jesus fucking Christ.
*OK, I only read of one person who admitted to sensing such a resemblance.

Edited 1010pm and again at 1155pm.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Another Youtube Senkaku collision video source (six part) in addition to previous post:
5/6 (Collision here)

Senkaku collision video

From Japanese patrol point of view. Collision at about 1:20:

More distant view from second ship:

Hmmm...who is fibbing? Not hard to tell from those videos.

More at Japan Probe

A word of warning: It has been reported that the government did not want these videos released as they might cast doubt on China's version of the incident, thereby making China look bad and causing a pissy fit. Thus it is possible that these videos could be removed from Youtube in order to prevent them to falling into civilian hands. Foreign policy is for bureaucrats, politicians, and experts, not for armchair amateurs. What would happen if a bunch of non-professionals had been handling the Senkaku dispute in the beginning? You might have had some local yokel (supposedly) deciding on his own to release the arrested ship captain or something.

Therefore, under no circumstances should anyone download these videos using readily available free software such as Download Helper for Firefox or similar and save it to their computer. It would be undemocratic.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Japan as Number One again

Since the sub-prime crisis began in 2008, we've seen story after story on the supposed lessons Japan holds for the US.

Most of these seem to be of use to those who want to push their own political/economic agenda at home using Japan as evidence to support their opinions. On his NYT blog recently, Paul Krugman used Japan as an example of why Friedman's monetarism does not work. However he has not, to my knowledge, used Japan's experience with Keynesian stimulus to claim that Keynesian economics do not work except to say that not enough was done and what was done was not soon enough---just as he says is the problem in the US.*

R.Taggert Murphy has posted a short piece on Japan Focus, Japan as Number One in the Global Economic Crisis: Lessons for the World?, which looks at Japan from another perspective. My short, overly simplistic summary of his piece is that Japan may have been the first country to experience the "New Normal."

*Krugman's blog, his NYT column, and perhaps his ABC This Week appearances are where he pushes partisan political opinion and probably should not be regarded in the same light as his economic work.

Good service

I dropped by the Denenchofu Maison Kayser bread shop at noon to pick up some expensive pizza for lunch. Until recently, most shops in Denenchofu have not seemed to be very enthusiastic about actually attracting customers---I have heard unproven rumors that some may have been set up for tax purposes---but MK has always seemed to be interested in doing business. Perhaps they let their prices select for them.

Like almost every shop in Tokyo, they offer point cards where after you buy a few zillion dollars worth of products, you get something "free." At MK, you get ¥500 off your purchase after 20 purchases at a certain minimum price.

I don't go for these things much as the payoff is minimal, and I don't want to carry dozens of point cards around. However, I do like to use one for this shop, not because the ¥500 yen discount is anything special, but because they seem so reluctant to offer one to me.

Today I forgot mine and went ahead and made my purchase without it. The clerk said nothing but the usual thank you. The Japanese guy in the line next to me was asked if he had brought his point card as soon as he stepped up to the register. I suppose I could consider it an oversight on the part of the lady who served me except that I have been going to that shop for 4 years and have only once been asked about a point card. When I got my first one, I had to ask. If I want a new one, I usually have to ask. If I lose mine, I have to ask for a new one.

Perhaps the staff and management is worried about my comfort and do not want to embarrass me by asking me a question in Japanese as they figure that I could not understand. But then again, I always speak Japanese there, and they speak Japanese to me. Perhaps they assume the point card system too complex for me to understand, so they are reluctant to offer one. Perhaps they consider me rich and don't want to offend me by offering a discount.

Not really sure why I get this extra special customer service, but it must be a good thing.

1.000 Thing(s)...

OK. I sorta stole the title from another Japan blogger, but I figured that she would miss posting about this because, well, because she is a she.

Ever bought men's underwear at Uniqlo? Why not, right? It's cheap and of decent quality. Why go to Ito Yokado and pay more for something not as good and only available in the color and style which are guaranteed to make birth control and/or Viagra irrelevant?

The only down side is that some of Uniqlo's shorts haven't the opening in front. I suppose this helps keep costs down. Anyway, why would a man need the opening? I understand that in Japan (I swear, I read a poll somewhere) that a number of men sit to...ummm...tinkle? For fellows who consider themselves too manly for that, it is pretty simple to just pull the elastic waistband down while doing the business.

The problem is, that should a fellow let the elastic band slip from his grasp during that time, the results will be more or less unpleasant in a number of ways.

I won't miss men's underwear without an opening in front when I leave.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ever looked at some of the photography which is popular in Japan and wondered why? Not just because like lots of art you have to be steeped in a gazillion years of art history, and art, and have much experience using such terminology as "texture" and tonality and such to explain something that you really don't get, but because it is really outside what you observe or practice yourself. (In other words, you wonder what makes photos of overhead electric lines art.)

I don't give much credence to the East is East and West is West and ne'r the twain shall meet way of thinking, and I have a knee jerk reaction to "Japan is the only country..." but some of the photography is puzzling to say the least. (OK, so is some---much---of Western photography outside of landscape/wildlife).

Anyway, there is a new online magazine called Trans Asia Photography Review, which in it's inaugural issue promises to look at the relationship of culture with photography. Not that everyone accepts the East-is-East stuff:

Non-Asia looks at Asia in a certain way, and therefore Asia looks at, and projects itself, like that too. A couple of centuries ago, this was called Colonialism or Imperialism. Then Edward Said called it Orientalism.

Now it is called Context, and the right-minded, well-intentioned, academically respectable sound of the word obscures the structures of power/knowledge/funding that create this primacy of Context.This is why I am profoundly uncomfortable with the notion of Asia (or any other region) as context – especially when that notion is created and sustained in the non-Asian parts of the world, and then globalized. Aveek SEN, Trans Asia Photography Review.

Written from a more academic perspective, it still promises to be of interest to anyone interested in Asia and art, especially photography. And believe it or not, Japan is considered part of Asia on that site!!!!

For some reason, I cannot get links to stick without going into HTML. Is blogger run by JAL?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lookin' for trouble and finding it.

Most folks around these parts go out of their way to avoid trouble, such as some idiot hanging around in back alleys in the rain taking pictures.

Others do not hesitate to look for it. For them, the NYT and Martin Fackler have published the second in the series on Japan (or is it the US?) and the "Great Deflation." Today, the never before discussed well-worn theoretical possibility of the US turning into Japan is explored in a nice quick way that answers no questions: U.S. Hears Echo of Japan's Woes. Could there be a better way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon in Tokyo?

I guess we should just be thankful that Japan is even mentioned in a major US newspaper.

31 Oct: edited to correct spelling as neither blogger spell check nor I can spell.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Economic afterthought Japan.

Today's yen rate: ¥80.57/$1

Investors, having purchased enough pesos but having spare change left over bought a few yen as an afterthought.*

A few days ago, I was in a discussion with 3 fellows--2 in their 20s and myself and another guy in our 40s discussing the economy. The young fellows had a relatively poor view of the future of Japan, especially concerning the competition from China. I and the other old geezer (Japanese---him, not me) argued that their view of the Japanese economy was too negative. In fact, I mentioned---to the young whippersnapper's disbelief---that I thought at present Japan's economy was in much better shape than the US. This was off the top of my head as I hadn't exact figures, but I been led to believe this from watching and reading US news reports about the US economy. (9% plus unemployment is not encouraging, nor are the interviews with regular folk who have lost their jobs or homes, nor the prediction that I just heard that it would be at least 2011 before US unemployment dropped below 9%). We won't even mention the New Normal.

As my age group peer said, you can't let news reports on the economy guide your life, because they are almost uniformly negative.

I would not disagree with Fackler's report (previous post) as far as the feeling of malaise (ohhhh...I smell peanuts) and the negative view of the future that many have in Japan, but I almost dropped into depression after I read it for the first time. Geez. I knew that there were problems, but I didn't realize we were goners.

Then I began to hear and read things on the Internut written by folks who had been silly enough to have wasted large chunks of their lives specializing in Japan and economics. I found---being too much in a malaise to check Fackler's data myself---that much of his data was simply wrong.

For example, we know that Japan has been on a long downward spiral since the bubble burst back in 89 or so, except that it has not really been in a long downward spiral since '89 or so. Growth slowed after the bubble, but increased slowly until the US originated Lehman Shock of 2008. Japanese language students (university level) have actually increased in part due to the popularity of manga.* (By now I am sure that there are sources all over the web countering the NYT stats. But check around NBR for just a few.)

Anyone who denied that Japan has serious problems, economic and otherwise would be a fool. But to make the country look like a desolate basket case is no less foolish.

I am fortunate enough to be able to occasionally speak with a few fellows in high positions in a large Japanese corporation which is having a very difficult time due to the high yen, Chinese and European competition, high cost of raw materials, and other serious problems. They aren't "ordinary people" in the sense that they don't have to worry about their jobs unless the company goes bankrupt (which ain't very likely---I suspect Uncle Taro would step in), and they haven't given in to despair, nor are they anywhere close to giving up. Renho's "What's wrong with being number 2," pisses them off to no end.

Perhaps it's a generational thing, or perhaps it American optimism transferred to Japan. Perhaps it's hardheaded foolishness, but I don't think Japan is dead, dying, or willing to roll over and die, in spite of what seems to be poor political leadership. (I suppose I could say the same thing about the US.) I think what the anonymous poster on my previous post implied was right: The article was as much more about the US or where we fear it may be heading than it was about Japan.

6:37 pm: A late thought: I am not sure, but I believe it was John Dower in War Without Mercy, who said something like: The US swings between thinking that the Japanese are invincible supermen, or quaint, incompetent, Orientals who can do nothing right. Apparently, we are in the latter stage now.

*I realize that things ain't that simple, but people with money to protect, gain, or lose tend not to be total fools with it. But then again, we did have the subprime crisis....

**One of my high school classmates has a son in university studying Japanese. Why? Manga. MangaMan Aso was not a complete aho after all. My old Japanese tutor is now in the US getting requests from manga fans to study Japanese. I thought this stuff was a bit goofy, but in fact, it is no goofier than those of us who studied Japan in the late 80s early 90s thinking that it was the economic way of the future.

I admit that I have a bad taste left over for the NYT and MF after the vending machine costume article of a few years ago. Fact checkers my ass.

1730: As always, edited after posting.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Great Exaggeration

A few weeks ago (Oct 16), the increasingly irrelevant and soon-to-be-an-afterthought like the rest of the dead-tree press New York Times published yet another controversial Japan article by the unflappable Martin Fackler.

On first read, without even looking into the data Fackler and the Times provided, it smelt of overkill and predictably included required specialized Japan story jargon such as "Godzilla." It has been analyzed and criticized quite a bit* by folk who know a hell of a lot more about that floating world known as economics than I.

But those critics are most likely clueless. After all, the NYT has fact checkers who would not allow inaccurate and/or overwrought nonsense through in anything other than an editorial.

In answer to these whining nitpickers who "object to exaggeration" especially in the publication that they believe to be "the last bastion of reliable journalism" (giggle-giggle Fackler's NYT?) , the Public Editor(s) published a response. Apparently, the biggest problem was the use of the word Godzilla, and calling Japan an "afterthought." Other than that it was all hunky-dory, I guess.**

The Regional Editor for East Asia, Kyle Crichton (no known relation to the Japan expert Michael Crichton***), agrees that Japan is an "afterthought" because the "Japanese economy is no longer a source of anxiety in Washington or anywhere else." Compare that to the 80s when Godzilla was buying up the US and you will understand like Kyle does.

Hmmm. Regional Editor for East Asia. (Note to self: Disregard all NYT reports from East Asia.)

Another Public Editor for the Times, Arthur S. Brisbane, acknowledged the problem Fackler faced of how to "bring alive" Japan's economic decline for a "wide audience." Since Martin was for some unknown reason unable to include homeless ninja in the article to bring it alive for the masses, he was left with Godzilla and selected interviews with ordinary people. The story was a tremendous success according to Art, for it was a page one story in the paper version and reached the top of the most e-mailed list. Wonderful!!!! Congatulations!!!! That is certainly more important than accuracy when one talks about success for the New York Times!!!! Whooo Hooooo! You go Gray Lady!!!

I feel for these guys. I remember the good old days, just 12 or so years ago when newspapers did not have to take time out to respond to riffraff. Back in those days, they never had to admit any weaknesses at all, except for an incorrect address or misspelled name. A simple "We stand by our story" was all that was required, no matter how obviously flawed, absurd, or insane.

Oh, the name of the article? Carrying the Facts too Far. What does that mean I wonder? How can you carry facts too far if they are facts? Is that sort of like exaggeration? And isn't an exaggeration sorta like inaccurate or even untrue to some degree? No problem, it is a Japan story after all.

*A check of NBR's Japan Forum (link in Japan Links) will give a taste.

**So as not be accused of carrying the facts too far, I have to say that they were responding to a reader who complained about the use of those terms and who had expected "at least a passing resemblance to the truth."

***Sorry, that was uncalled for. A cheap shot. Very childish of me.

1055PM: Edited

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chatting with the neighbor lady

About 2 months ago, an elderly lady moved in with her family about two houses down from me. I knew something was different about her, because I always see her on the street in front of her house, greeting everyone who passes by. She always has a good morning, a good afternoon, or a good evening for me and sometimes gives me friendly advice, such as "Be careful walking by the intersection, it's very dangerous." She doesn't duck away or ignore me because I am not Japanese. This sort of thing isn't very common in Tokyo. In fact, I don't believe I have ever seen anyone else like her here.

This morning as I was coming home for an early lunch, I met her again, and exchanged good mornings. But today she stopped me, crossed the street to where I was, and began by apologizing for being out on the street so often. While I considered whether or not to forgive her, she did another very un-Tokyo-like thing and began talking to me as if I were something other than a Special Person from Afar. She wasn't using her grade school English nor her half-Japanese/half-katakana English, but rattling off in regular Japanese just throwing in an occasional "wakaru?"

I'll admit, I didn't catch 100% of everything that she said, but I learned that she was outside everyday walking up and down the street for exercise. She seemed a bit proud of how far she walked, pointing to the intersection with Kanpachi-dori 2 blocks away and the one in the other direction about 1/2 a block away. In fact, she showed me 3 times.

She was ill, she said, with a bad heart, but she (perhaps un-Tokyo-like) enjoyed exercise. She had done a lot of sports when she was in school, and especially loved running. Now she was walking up and down the street to get well again.

A few minutes into the conversation, she mentioned that she was 86 years old and from Hiroshima. She had been there when the bomb was dropped killing 6 of the 9 people in her family, who as I understood it were sake brewers. Only she, her mother, and her younger sister survived. "The war was terrible for Japan," she said, and I did not disagree.

"Where is your family from," she asked. "The US," I replied. After inquiring about my age, she assured me that I was too young to remember the war. "I am 86 years old," she said.

"After the bomb [how long after I did not get] we moved to Tokyo." "Six people in my family died, and only 3 lived." "The war was terrible." "My son now teaches at Keio. Do you know Keio?"


"It's a university.... I am 86 years old.... I became sick with a bad heart, so I come out here everyday for exercise. I liked to run when I was young... It's not good that I come out dressed in a robe. I'm sorry."

"Well, you'd better go, it's getting cold. I'm sorry for bothering you. Be careful of the intersection, it's dangerous."

I always remember (and value) when these types of things happen in Japan, since they are so very, very, rare. And it's almost always old people.

I wish I had brought a recorder...

Of course, I could not remember or write everything we discussed. We talked for 10-15 minutes...a record for me in this sort of encounter.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Window cleaning, Jiyugaoka. Gotta say that this year there is no doubt that fall has really arrived. Now if only tree leaves changed colors before late November/early December...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Thank you for your service. Now bugger off.

Ahhh. Saturday night. A full moon. Cool, fall weather (only available in Japan). The OWWISAM (The One with Whom I Share a Mansion) in her room watching YouTube continuing a nearly 4-month war of silence. And me, having not had the sense to accept an invitation to take a trip to an onsen in Abiko, now sitting around reading the news on the Internet. Who ever said life in Tokyo was not exotic?

While not reading about things Japan, I sometimes---actually usually---read things about other weird, unscrupulous places such as the US. Really, the US is actually harder to understand than Japan even though I was born and raised there.

Reading Bob Herbert's latest column, The Way We Treat Our Troops, almost makes a wasted Saturday night worth it:

...for evidence that the United States is letting its claim to greatness, and even common decency, slip through its fingers, all you need to do is look at the way we treat our own troops...The idea that the United States is at war and hardly any of its citizens are paying attention to the terrible burden being shouldered by its men and women in uniform is beyond appalling.

...I would bring back the draft in a heartbeat. Then you wouldn’t have these wars that last a lifetime...(Careful Bob, that is gettin' mighty close to being unAmerican.) NYT

Unfortunately for Mr. Herbert and the US, this will never, ever change. Not only do we not pay for our wars---well, not right away instead we borrow from other countries---we make sure that mostly poor and lower middle class fight them while sloganeering "Support Our Troops," then assume them to be dangerous crazed nuts (and make movies and all kinds of "documentaries") when they get back.

It has become fashionable since the wars began 10 years ago to tell any veteran, "Thank you for your service." I have heard that---or actually read it in e-mails and on Facebook etc, since no American in Japan ever said it to me---but I never know how to respond. I am sure people are sincere in saying it, but I have no idea what it really means.

I once applied for a part-time job back in the US after getting out of the USAF and starting college. The fine patriot read my application saw my military service and asked, " You're not in the National Guard or anything are you?"

"No," I replied.

"Good," said the worm, "We don't need any of that shit (meaning he did not want to have to give time off for annual drills etc)*.

I would almost bet that he is now all supportive of the folks fighting in Afghanistan, as long as they stay in Afghanistan or at least not bother him with any of that military "shit."

*I did not take the job.

Blogger spell check does not accept Facebook as a properly spelled word.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Your tax ¥ at work

Being unable to locate any foreigners in Japan, the government will: travel allowances to about 100 native English, Chinese and Korean speakers to visit key cities and come up with ideas on how to make it easier for travelers to use public transport, stay at local hotels and eat at local restaurants, said an official at the Japan Tourism Agency. Reuters

Far be it from me to accuse whomever came up with this as being someone who is out of touch with the country in which he/she lives, for I am sure that there is a good reason for it. Perhaps Uncle Taro figures he could get better advice from someone who doesn't actually know Japan and just drops in out of the blue and gets to experience the kid-glove visiting gaijin treatment. Besides, anyone who has been here long enough to know much about the country might make some embarrassingly uncomfortable suggestions, for example, "Maybe you should begin by firing the folks who came up with this idea."*

Anyway, anyone who has read @Tyler Bru^le`! *would know that Japan's tourist facilities are already nirvana.

*Gonna knock off the yokoso Japan fingerprinting too?

**Does the world envy Tokyo Midtown yet?

Only in Japan

Friday, October 15, 2010


from conversations this week:

"I'm worried that foreigners will think Japan was wrong (on Senkaku) because we gave in to China."

"I think Ozawa, Hatoyama, and Kan are terrible. They gave in to China. We need to show the world Japan's 'will.'" (Discussing Senkaku).

"If China had done that to the US, I think there would have been a war." (Senkaku dispute.)

"I think there should be mandatory military service in Japan to bring patriotism to the young." (US born, LDP supporter. Very "patriotic" who admires the US. Unfortunately, he has an often simplistic or outright wrong view of the US. Decent guy, not a nut. I would say he is simply politically conservative.)

"All Americans have to go in the military if there is a war."

"America is very important for world peace" A reply to my statement of fact that the US cannot continue funding it's current contribution to "world peace" via the military. Time for the "peace country" to show us how it is done?

"We Japanese promised the world we would have no more wars." Same conversation as above. (Was that the US written article 9 he was referring to?) Bottom line: the US is forever supposed to "protect" Japan.

"We shouldn't have to go in the military because we would lose time for learning job skills and foreign languages." (Perhaps Japanese are just as ignorant about the military as Americans. I suppose the lack of opportunity to learn a foreign language is more accurate for the SDF, but folks who work on F-16s might just have a few skills. They surely as hell have more marketable and practical skills than some goofball who majored in such things as Asian Studies).

Gee, nothing totally insane this week. Just enough to reinforce my opinion that most Japanese whom I know---nah, in general---haven't the slightest clue of what the US is or is not.* And little attention is paid to possible repercussions of Japan showing it's "will" or saying "no." Just the mere act of Japan doing so, will somehow impress the hell out of the rest of the world, and Japan will then...ummmmm...what? Win?

Several years ago there was a CM on TV with a popular comedian---I forget his name, but one of a pair who often appear on TV---who was at a meeting full of non-Japanese. He was in some disagreement with them and stood up and shouted in English "No!" The foreigners were taken aback that this Japanese fellow could say "no." A common fantasy that goes no further, it seems.

The US media does a terrible job covering Japan. The Japanese media is little better as far as the US is concerned. I am often amused by folks who claim that Japanese know much more about the US than Americans (US) do about Japan. Yes, people may be familiar with the names of all of the states, some US history (The One with Whom I Share a Mansion is extremely knowledgeable about US history and was even before she attended a US university. She is a rare case though), but as the unquestioning acceptance of Fujiwara Masahiko's book of pure horsepooky proved, most haven't a clue.

What a slow week. It might improve tomorrow as I go drinking with The Oz Lady.

*after nearly 11 years here, neither do I.

1600: Edited to add a few more that I remembered.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Nah, it's not that!

There's a perfectly innocent explanation.

Imagine, if you will, that the following was written about Tokyo instead of New York:

Almost invariably, after I have hustled aboard early and occupied one half of a vacant double seat in the usually crowded quiet car, the empty place next to me will remain empty for the entire trip...

...I can rule out excessive body odor or bad breath; a hateful, intimidating scowl; hip-hop clothing; or a hideous deformity as possible objections to my person...

...I can’t accept the bounty of an extra seat without remembering why it’s empty, without wondering if its emptiness isn’t something quite sad. And quite dangerous, also, if left unexamined... The Seat not Taken: NYT Opinion

Apologists and explainers, both Japanese and non-Japanese, would be all over the fellow explaining why the reason for this in the US is not the reason for such behavior in Japan. No, it would have to be tradition, innocent naivety, provincialism, or maybe zen.

And no, it need not be examined by the citizens of this special land.

Edited to correct nativity to naivety.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

No objections voiced as Japan turns extremist

At least that is what I gather from reading this fine, well-written, and thoroughly researched piece from a professional paid journalist for the Globe and Mail (Canada).*

Somehow, I had missed the significance of the rise of the extreme right in Japan. I have even missed the rise itself, thinking it no more than the usual rightists and fellow travelers rattling off their poison. I never noticed that the anti-foreign sentiment---although always present among some, including the media and gov't---was any worse than it had been under Koizumi and Abe when it seemed that neither the government or the media could resist labeling crime, criminal tendencies, and non-Japanese in the same category. And of course we have heard the old bigot Ishihara and his oral bowel movements for about a million years.

But the Globe and Mail has found that things are turning truly sinister. So sinister that even the Old School extreme right is concerned. Concerned not with the beliefs of the newer more extreme nutjobs, but with the way they express their beliefs:

“These Net right-wingers have no rules, no restrictions … . I’m against this kind of hate speech, these ugly comments. Their thoughts and ideas are okay, but the way they express them is not,” said Mr. Kimura, whose own Issuikai movement made headlines earlier this year by hosting an international gathering of right-wingers...

Noting that some nutjobs reacted to the Senkaku incident by the usual "smokebombs" at an offending foreign consulate; concealed weapons near the residences of non-rightwing-extremist politicians; anti-Chinese demonstrations etc, our fine reporter observed that these run-of-the-mill events:

... highlight a tide of rising nationalism that is just one of the new social ills afflicting a country that 20 years ago was the richest** and most stable** on the planet.

But an even more frightening bit of evidence was uncovered by that sharp-eyed fellow, while watching (?) a demo of 2700 folks organized by the web-based New School extremists with whose ends the Old School agrees:

“Throw illegal immigrants into Tokyo Bay!” he yelled to loud cheers from his fellow marchers and silent stares from shoppers who paused to watch the procession. If anyone disagreed with the sentiment, no one said so publicly. [Emphasis mine]

There it is. I had mostly missed it. I knew of the newer more openly racist*** and extreme groups and their still small but reportedly growing numbers. I knew that many people in a historically xenophobic country exhibited xenophobia to some degree or another. I knew of the anti-Chinese sentiment, especially after Senkaku, but I never had evidence of the silent acceptance of extreme beliefs by the public until I read that last sentence.

Shoppers did not publicly disagree with a large group of noisy nutjobs!!!! What else can one conclude from this but that they must have agreed?

Somehow though, I as a foreign resident do not feel like "other foreigners":

...while other foreigners – including some long-term residents of Japan – say they also feel increasingly unwelcome, and complain of police harassment and rules that prevent non-Japanese from renting homes or gaining professional tenure.

for I don't see anything especially new. I don't feel "increasingly unwelcome." I never felt especially wanted nor loved here to begin with. I will have to keep a closer eye on this evil trend.

I must admit that I learned something about myself from reading this piece. I too, am an anti-foreign extremist, for had I been at the demo, I doubt that I would have publicly disagreed with the goofballs either. Blinky Ishihara, old buddy, lets go out for a few drinks...

*A black sun rises in a declining Japan, by Mr. Mark Mackinnon.

**Huh and double huh?

***The more openly racist (is that possible?) newbees reject the idea that their racism is racist.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Ex-newsman spills the beans

I have always like Fridays. I usually only have to work at things I enjoy. I can look forward to a either an Yebisu black or an Asahi "The Master" Pilsner* for lunch. Even Precce, the world's most overpriced, never-stock-a-new-item supermarket, has some early weekend food out. And the little old lady who seems to stand out in the street in front of her house every day, all day, very pleasantly bowing to and greeting everyone who walks by makes the run-em-down-and-let-god-sort-em-out, sidewalk-hogging young princesses of the Denenchofu private Junior High for girls tolerable for an hour or so.

I also have a little more time to leisurely check out other blogs. Today, I discovered the answer to the question that I have had for years---no, nearly 2 decades: Why do journalists, authors, even bloggers, write so many stories about an inscrutable, uniquely-unique, fantasyland Japan that few people who know the country (at least the Japan I live in) recognize?

The answer is that there are guidelines for Japan-related writing, a sort of a style-guide for the Japan as Disneyland crowd.

Our Man in Abiko has the until now well kept secret here. That explains it all.

Japan writer's required image of busy
crossing in front of Shibuya station

*As yet unexplained, why does Japan's version of Miller Lite, Asahi Super Dry, sell at the same price as the vastly superior Asahi "The Master" Pilsner?

Another mystery: Why does Adobe Lightroom 3 occasionally refuse to watermark photos. Answer: Who cares, just don't buy version 4 until it has been out for 27 years and the bugs are semi-worked out. Ruined my #*#$% Friday fixing Adobe's buggy crap.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bring in the clowns

I made a mistake.

No, I didn't make a mistake when I went out for an early lunch by expecting people who were walking down the sidewalk-less street not to try to force me to into traffic because they didn't want to give me any room. I ain't that dumb.

No, it wasn't a mistake I made a few days ago by not responding to the fellow who informed me that "Japanese don't like to make mistakes. It's both a strong point and weak point of Japanese culture." I did not bother to ask which nationalities do like to make mistakes, because asking such a question would have been a waste of time.

No, the mistake has not been because I have rarely bothered with the predictably simplistic responses of my associates about the Senkaku Island dispute. No surprises there.

My first mistake of the day was to turn on my fine Victor flat-screen TV, wait 5-8 plus seconds for it to load garbage (including spam!) before I could change channels, reduce volume or do anything but curse the day I first saw it.

But the real mistake was to watch what is jokingly referred to as "news" in the US. CBS news in particular.

For this morning CBS' Katie Curic, who is being paid millions of dollars for something, explained to the world what the US could learn from the Japanese education system.

"First thing in the morning, Japanese children bow to their teachers. It's a small gesture that says a lot, reports CBS News correspondent Celia Hatton. "

But wait! It gets even more simplistic and irrelevant to education in the US. Many Japanese would likely call it simplistic and irrelevant to education in Japan.

And ineffective teachers aren't fired or sidelined -- they're given extensive retraining, explains the president of Japan's teachers' union.

"It's impossible for someone to get through the system who is incompetent," said Yuzuru Nakamura, president of Japan's Teachers' Union.

I need to check the definition of the word "incompetent." So do many Japanese who would disagree with Mr. Nakamura. Look at English language teaching in many schools. Remember the stories about JET a few months ago, where one Japanese English teacher used his JET assistant only to read from a book in order to teach pronunciation? Isn't there something deeply wrong with that?

Several years ago, a teacher who repeatedly made racist comments about a student of mixed heritage was retrained and reinstated after 6 months. On the other hand, I have heard of the case of a teacher who, in front of his students admitted to smoking marijuana while in university overseas, was put on administrative duty and banned from ever teaching a class again.

How could any of this be applied in the US? No wonder nobody in their right mind watches that garbage anymore.

Wonder if Katie and friends would be interested in looking at TV news in Japan for lessons US TV news could learn?

Well, at least I did not watch ABC and info hunk David Muir pose, mug, and primp for a story mainly about himself.

Edited 3PM

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Whaling bites back

Apparently having no life, and having run clean out of Torikai shochu, I have spent too much of a cool, clear, harvest-moon evening reading comments on English language news reports concerning the Senkaku dispute. One theme which I have noticed is the number of folks who doubt Japan's version of the collision of Coast Guard and the Chinese fishing vessel because they claim Japan cannot be believed since one of its ships rammed a Green Peace vessel and then falsely reported that Green Peace had rammed it.

No matter the truth behind the claim, Japan's reputation as a bad guy in whaling is working against it. I don't know how serious or widespread the view is at present, but one has to wonder if whaling is really worth the damage it is doing to Japan's image, especially the whaling in the Antarctic.

Of course, Japan could just ignore any damage and continue in order to show its "strong will" to other countries.

*I have read that the Japanese Coast Guard has video to support it's claim of being rammed by the Chinese vessel, but I have not been able to find any videos online. I have not watched TV much in the last few weeks and have no idea if it was shown on the news.

Rambling about Senkaku

While we wait to see just how the release of the Chinese captain in the Senkaku dispute plays out in domestic politics, it interesting to read the readers' comments* on US news reports on the subject. I have noticed this pattern since the problem began---lots of folks with your typical American name like "Johnson" from Nebraska who show an unusual grasp of the history---generally backing China's views or more extreme---supporting China in this argument. Those comments which support China seem to get "recommended" much more than others no matter how extreme or absurd they are.

I am impressed. I never dreamed that your average American was so interested in East Asia, not even the Asian-Americans who live there.

Somewhere over the past week I read about the power of nationalist bloggers and their ability to pressure the Chinese government. Wonder if some of those folk speak and write English well enough to post all over the Internet. (Answer: Yes)

We can hope that China overplayed it this time, by showing how far they are willing to push, and how much they are willing to go outside of what much of the world would consider a reasonable reaction.

In June, PBS News Hour produced a report on the growing dependency of the US on Chinese production of rare earths and how a few companies were trying to get government assistance in reopening some of the mines which had been closed earlier due to environmental concerns** and low-priced Chinese competition. Maybe China's cute little ploy of threatening to cut off? (or to have actually cut off?) rare earth shipments to Japan will give those efforts a much needed boost. If the US continues being distracted by such things as whether or not masturbation is a sin, then it will have to worry about a China that now produce 95% of the world's supply and obviously has little hesitation about using that for leverage.

Methinks (along with many, many others) that China is at least a temporary loser, exactly because it did play the unreasonable bully so well. Obama spoke of the importance of the US-Japan alliance in a way which was obviously a warning---or at least a strong hint to China---and Sec of State Clinton assured Foreign Minister Maehara that the Senkaku Islands were included in the US treaty obligations. And then we even had Obama bring up the continuing problems with the renminbi with the Chinese prime minister. Any plans by China to exploit a DPJ/Futenma rift in US-Japan relations certainly fell flat.

Unfortunately, China does not yet view things that way as it continues to force the issue by demanding an apology and compensation from Japan.

Of course I am biased, and I have no idea how things will play out. I do have an idea, however, that although there may have been a number of very good reasons for Japan to have let the captain go, that the DPJ is going to (already is) be seen as giving in to China. Maybe I just hang out with a strange group of people, but I can almost guarantee to a person that they will view it as caving in to China. The Oz Lady will gain more evidence for her theories about the naturalized citizens Kan & Ozawa as handing the country over to China. A few other fellows will view it as a failure to show the world Japan's "will" without regard to potential consequences.

*Not all of these NYT comments are, of course. But a read through them should reveal plenty.

**Rare earth mining is reported to be a huge environmental problem in China too.

Edited: 6:20PM

blogger spell check does not recognize the words: bloggers, renminbi.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Six years and this is my most popular post?

My Yes Man, Males Escorts, and the English Conversation Club.

I still get 10-15 or more visits to that post every single day, 3 years after I wrote it as more or less a joke. I am sorry.

I am sorry to say that guys hoping to come to Japan and make a million yen being a male escort/English conversation host might just make a million yen should such a job exist. Of course, you will starve on a million yen too.

Those golden years are over. Forget it. The odds of getting women to pay you large globs of money to do nothing other than chat them up in English and then take them to a love hotel for a bit of fun is about a gazillion to one. Were it possible, I would have tried it myself.*

Ain't gonna happen now, if it ever did. And really, look in the mirror and ask yourself why any woman would pay you for that. Would women where you are from pay you just to chat and bed them? If yes, take a shot. If not, gomen ne...

Should I be wrong, please put me in contact with one of those establishments.

Sept 25: I have learned that there are some bars call b*tl*r bars where one might find employment as a host, though I am not so sure that foreign men who don't speak Japanese could work there. And I hear they wouldn't want to even if they could.

*The One With Whom I Share a Mansion probably would not have objected much back in the day had I got "big money" for it. Now she would probably try to sell me to such a place for about ¥300.

Never say no to Panda

Via Twitter Hiroko Tabuchi of NYT. Never say no to Panda. This (release of the ship captain involved in the Senkaku dispute) does not look good domestically for the government....Or for anyone else, I would guess without knowing any better.

Replaced after the original went private. Censorship always fails, you know....

Twitter reports

that Japan has released the captain of the Chinese boat involved in the Senkaku dispute. Ohh, this does not look good for domestic politics, I fear.
And Obama has called the US-Japan alliance "a cornerstone of world peace and security." Perhaps it means a bit more than Blinky's pout in the Senkaku dispute---the non-existent dispute which just may exist after all.

The gloves come off

China has gone too far. It may take a month of research and a specialist's knowledge* of The Law of the Sea to determine who is correct in the-territorial-dispute-which-does-not-exist-except-that-it-does** concerning the Senkaku Islands and to figure out why China has decided to escalate the incident to the (increasingly risky) level that it has, but men-of-more-words-than-action like our hero Shintaro "Blinky" Ishihara have no time for such wimpy school-marmish nonsense.

Earlier this week, Ishihara, upon learning of China's cancellation of a visit of 1,000 young Japanese to the Shanghai Expo, issued this bone-chilling response: "Even if they ask me to come, I will not go." (Japan Times)

OH. MY. GOD. We have gone beyond the point of war now. We have gone Blinky. Imagine the fear and regret that such a comment from a novelist-turned-politician must have struck in the hearts of the Chinese leadership!

Just suppose you were holding a party in your home, and Blinky, who has spent decades insulting you and your family, refused to come if for some reason you suddenly decided to invite the crusty old bigot. How would you feel?

I call for calm.

*Another Futenma?

**Newly appointed Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara has stated: "There is no territorial dispute in the East China Sea....The Senkaku Islands are an integral part of Japan's sovereign territory." Japan Times

Thursday, September 23, 2010

日本茶党, birthers, and the Oz Lady.

Yes, 茶党, not 茶道*。

And here I thought the Tea Party and the Birthers were some sort of "Only in America" thing. But on the day of PM Kan's victory over Ozawa, I was chatting with my old friend and ex-tutor whom I shall refer to as the Oz Lady as that fits both her name and her interesting ideas.

Claiming to speak no English--which, of course is not exactly true but very close in her case---she only knows what she reads in Japanese---or hears via the rumor mill. She has some strong political opinions, many of which have to do with the threat of foreigners to Japan. She once asked me about non-citizens' ability to vote in the US (the US is only standard that counts) before going into a mini-rant about the DPJs proposal to let non-citizens vote in local elections. (Her teaching experiences have not reduced her fear of foreigners although she does not dislike non-Japanese people---only the abstract idea of resident foreigners plotting to harm Japan). She has expressed concern about the rightwing's claim that the US would not defend Japan in case of attack, but would somehow instantly pull its troops out and abandon the country in the midst of it all. She also wants a strong Japan that can say no to any country without any repercussions. Naturally, China is a huge threat to Japan, as are those hidden "panda-huggers" in the Japanese government who are handing the country to China.

You would never know or suspect her true beliefs if you did not know her quite well. She seems like a somewhat typical mid-30s gal from the hills of Nagano who is not a member of the college educated white collar workforce. This is what makes her interesting---more interesting in a way than many of the folks I speak with. I like to believe her thoughts represent a different group, although they may only represent her.

In a discussion of the Kan/Ozawa contest, she seemed pleased when I told her that Kan had won. Then she asked me about US politics and if a naturalized US citizen could become president. When I said no, she asked about members of Congress. Naively believing she was actually interested in US politics, I went into an overly detailed answer to a question that she cared not a whit about anyway. It turns out that she was only asking about the US so that she could establish where Japan stood in relation to The Gold Standard of the Universe.

She let me in on a secret. Neither Kan nor Ozawa are Japanese! It seems both are naturalized Japanese citizens with Kan being Korean and Ozawa being Chinese (or visa versa, I was so surprised to hear her say this, I forget which is which). Not only did she say that with a straight face, she was obviously angry about it. Either would sell the country to China, she said, without explaining why a Korean would do so.

We soon moved on in our chat, but I must say that I was disappointed after our conversation. Extreme goofiness is neither an Only in America phenomenon nor something uniquely Japanese.

Anyway, I am still trying to absorb the fact that several years ago she looked at me with her "black eyes" and informed me that I have red hair. All my life, people had lied to me and said it was brown. How could a southern barbarian have anything but red hair?

This is meant not to disparage her. She just gets some interesting ideas from somewhere. I grew up with folks like her...

*Humor, or what must pass for it. 茶道 generally means tea ceremony (the way of tea), but 茶党 would mean Tea Party if it were a real word.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Unapologetic and ain't even gonna discuss it.

A group of six American former POWs ended their official visit to Japan today. Earlier this week, soon to be ex-Foreign Minister Okada* apologized to the men for the treatment they had received as POWs. The treatment included being forced into slave labor for certain Japanese companies and enduring beatings at the hands of people at the said companies, which the POWs said were worse than what they received from the understandably angered soldiers whom they had been fighting.

They have not received an apology from the corporations (or their successors) for the brutality they endured. In fact, those corporations have refused as much as a meeting with these men. Which corporations?

Nippon Steel

Mitsui Mining Company (Now Nippon Coke and Engineering Company)

Kawasaki Heavy Industries

and a number of so far unnamed others. Up to 60 companies used POWs as slave labor. None made any public comments on the visit of the former POWs/slave laborers.

I hope to never hear again about some supposed special Japanese honor---at least concerning those who run these companies.

I am personally embarrassed about Nippon Steel being listed here.

Related article here. I hope to get a fuller listing of the 60 companies later.

*Okada will be replaced by Seiji Maehara---not related to the apology