Friday, October 27, 2006


Took a quick trip to Kyoto, but unfortunately there was a big festival going on Sunday which met it was extremely crowded. Had to cut some of our plans. In a way it was like Tokyo, people pushing and shoving us, cutting in front, generally being rude But of course they were tourists, most likely from Tokyo. What else could we expect? An occasional "excuse me"? Not in Japan!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Americans will die for Japan...

should Japan be attacked. No problem. Don't sweat it. We've plenty of American troops to send to their deaths for you. This is basically what Condoleezza Rice told Foreign Minister Aso today. It is important that the US renew and reaffirm its promise (treaty obligations) to defend Japan to America's last drop of blood while asking no commitment from Japan in return. I guess that is what the US government assumes young American men and women are raised for---to be killed fighting another country's war. We never even got a clear promise this time that Japan would not go nuclear. Uncle Sucker rides again. Oh, where is the UN and all of the European critics and know-it-alls in the North Korean nuclear problem? (They agreed to go along with an embargo against North Korea, and did so quickly. What a shock. Perhaps they can give the US advice on how to proceed with this after the embargo starts and likely fails.)

Why doesn't the US just hand these problems to the UN (bah ha ha, what a joke), or say another country--China? Japan? (double ha, ha, ha ha)---and let those folks deal with it. Seems everyone else knows what the US is doing wrong all over the world and has all the answers and solutions, so where are they here? The Korean armistice, and the 38th parallel is under UN responsibility. Perhaps they should actually do something other than whine about the US, or that the "US won't let us do nuttin'."

One can bet that few Japanese think that defending the US would be worth even one Japanese life, but again and again I talk to people (Japanese and American) who believe that America has some moral obligation to send its men and women to die for Japan. That would be interesting to explain to a mother in Iowa why her son died fighting for a country (Japan) in which many don't even believe their own troops should die for.

Japan however, is a uniquely peaceful people and country (easy to say since the US has provided a military for Japan for 60 years). The Japanese are morally superior and must leave the fightin' and dyin' to the barbarians. Them gaijin (derogatory term) like war and killin' anyway. The NYT article about Rice's one-sided promise is here.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

To Kyoto

Not much to write about as we are going to spend some time in Kyoto. the leaves haven't really turned there yet, but they have likely started. Kyoto is actually cooler (People from Tokyo often claim it is "cold") than Tokyo. And the thing I notice most is the clean air compared to Tokyo. And it seems much quieter---well, not seems, it is.

We have to get out of here at least a few times per year, or we'd go nuts. Even nuttier than now.

Monday, October 09, 2006

North Korea sets off its first nuke

I guess by now, nobody is surprised. It has been all over the news on Japanese TV since it occurred around 1130AM Japan time. Abe was in Seoul after leaving China and declaring with President Hu of China that they would strongly oppose North Korea's planned testing of a nuclear device. Kim Jung Il showed how much respect he had for their---and any other world leader's---opinion. None.

I guess Abe will have his leadership quickly tested. Let's hope he doesn't pull a Bush and invade say, Bangladesh. I was surprised that Abe was able to restart Japan's relationship with China so quickly. Perhaps it is because, as many have said, the bar was so low after Koizumi's part in damaging the relationship. In a press conference tonight, he mentioned going to the UN Security Council and insisting on more sanctions---for all the good they would do---and placing more restrictions on North Korean visitors to Japan. South Korea's president has even suggested that perhaps the South Korea emphasis on talking and talking and talking (Sunshine Policy) with Kim Jung Il is becoming a questionable policy.

The big question is: Will the US send Jimmy Carter to North Korea again to kiss Kim Jung Il?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Abe: War criminals are not war criminals

We are beginning to see how Abe et. al. plan to instill pride in Japan's past (WW2) and get a hint of what the future holds.

Yesterday, Abe said that the 14 class A war criminals enshrined in Yasukuni shrine are not war criminals under Japanese law. (The total number of war criminals is 1068) See the Japan Times. The Tokyo War Crimes tribunal certainly had some serious problems, but Abe seems to be saying that the folks directly guilty for such things as Nanjing and other atrocities are not really criminals as far as he and Japan is concerned.

He is being honest. Unlike its World War Two ally, Germany, Japan has NEVER pursued nor prosecuted a Japanese for war crimes which occurred in WW2. The trial is often viewed like Abe views it, victor's justice forced upon Japan. Additionally, there is a feeling---or even outright belief---that Japan was a victim of the war.

All this is to make Japan a "normal" country again. A normal country with a uniquely unique culture that non-Japanese can never understand---and certainly can not be a part of. A normal country even though it is the only country in the world with four seasons. ( One of the bizarre and arrogant nihonjinron beliefs in Japan.) A normal country where everything that happens has a cultural explanation. There are no economic reasons nor other reasons for anything in Japan.

Think about what Abe's statement means. It's long been taught---and accepted---that the Emperor Hirohito and his subjects were tricked and misled into WWII by the military and its leaders, as well as selfish politicians. Like Hirohito, the people were naive and innocent. They done had no idear! Now Abe is saying that the war criminals were not really criminals, so basically no Japanese did anything wrong in the war. At least no Japanese was responsible for any war crimes. Nanjing? Bygones. Forget it. Couldn't be helped. Exaggerated Chinese lies anyway.

This is the renewed pride we can look forward to. As far as the other part of cultural pride, why would the Japanese need more? All one hears about is the wonderful, uniquely unique Japanese culture, seasons, language, food, Unit 731---oops! Scratch the last. Nobody was responsible for it---at least no Japanese. Perhaps it was an evil foreigner.

Friday, October 06, 2006

History in Asia

It seems that many of the disputes in northeast Asia are about events that happened decades, or even centuries ago. Even if one leaves out the fact that Japan's apology for WWII may not reflect a truly sincere feeling of wrongdoing on the part of Japan's elite, you still have to wonder why other countries in the region cannot just accept the fact that for better or worse, Japan has done all of the "apologizing" for its past behavior that it's ever going to do. It would seem that with the developments in the region today, perhaps they should concentrate on the present actions/motivations of the countries in the region. They do to some extent, but history---and nationalism---still seem to take a very prominent place.

An article in Japan Focus, explains why history is so much a focus in the region. Although Japan is not specifically discussed in the article (it concerns China and south Korea), it does show how historical events and their interpretation (and manipulation) affect international relationships. You can read the article here
in Japan Focus.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hints of Autumn

Although many Japanese believe that Japan is the only country with four seasons, it can be difficult at times to tell which season it is without checking the calendar. Due to its latitude, the distinctions between seasons are not as clear as they are in more northern areas, despite the fantasies of some nihonjinron fundamentalists.

It's October 5, and a few trees are just beginning to change to autumn colors in the Tokyo area.