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?