Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Japanese Government continued dishonesty

toward its WW2 crimes. Foreign Minister Aso's family's company, Aso Mining, is well-known to have used Allied prisoners as slave laborers in WW2. Aso, however, is denying this. He is, in effect lying and the Japanese government is supporting him by lying too. The following quotes are from an article by William Underwood in the Japan Times. Full article here.

One year after media reports that Aso Mining used 300 Allied prisoners of war for forced labor in 1945, Foreign Minister Taro Aso is refusing to confirm that POWs dug coal for his family's firm — and even challenging reporters to produce evidence.

According to the Web site of the Consulate General of Japan in New York: "The Government of Japan is not in a position to comment on employment forms and conditions of a private company, Aso Mining, at that time. However, our government has not received any information the company has used forced laborers. It is totally unreasonable to make this kind of judgmental description without presenting any evidence."

Well, unfortunately, although the current Japanese government is unable to search itself for any documents proving such a thing happened, the 1946 Japanese government was able to do so easily:

On Jan. 24, 1946, Aso Mining submitted a 16-page report detailing conditions at Yoshikuma to the Japanese government's POW Information Bureau, using company stationery and attaching an English translation. Ordered by Occupation authorities investigating war crimes against POWs, the company report claims the Westerners were fed, clothed and housed better than Aso's Japanese workers and Korean labor conscripts. The Aso report includes the company's Feb. 22, 1945, letter to the Japan War Ministry requesting use of 300 Allied prisoners for one year. Camp 26 opened on May 10.

I suppose the debate will be over the normal meaning of "forced labor" versus the "narrow meaning" like Abe's over the word "coercion." Perhaps the POWs did it voluntarily.

The company report also claims that, soon after Japan's surrender, prisoners thanked Aso officials for their kind treatment by giving them gifts.

A survivor, who like the former sex slaves of the Imperial Japanese Army has a different memory of events. He wrote a letter to Asshole---oops!---Aso asking for an apology and compensation for his unpaid work. Aso ignored it.

Aso finished second to Abe in the contest for Prime Minister. You can bet that he plans to try again after "Beautiful Country" Abe gets the boot. Aso is rather notorious for some very extreme statements. (He was once worried that if Japan allowed a female Emperor, she might marry a "blue-eyed foreigner" which would really be bad. He did not mention how serious the problem would be if she married someone of another race---poor Aso would blow a gasket as would "comb-over" Masahiko Fujiwara, and "Blinky" Ishihara).

Ahh. Japan. The Beautiful Country. The Land of Peace. Folks who learned a unique lesson for WW2, that war is not worth it, and who have become a uniquely peaceful folk, because just as Japan was a victim of world misunderstanding and aggression in WW2, it could be again.
Japan's Agriculture Minister committed suicide yesterday apparently over a scandal he was involved in. The news reports have claimed he did it around noon, but I was in that area before 8AM and there was an unusually heavy police presence. It was obvious something was going on. People to whom I have spoken and were also in the area, believe he actually killed himself that morning or earlier, but the press held off reporting it until after the government decided how to handle the situation. Then they still reported the time of the suicide as around noon. They are still reporting that time as far as I know. Nothing like a free, independent press.

Japan to hunt humpbacks

for "science" of course. These are not the minke which they usually hunt and which can arguable withstand some hunting. I haven't heard anyone claim humpbacks are numerous enough to hunt. Regardless, they will be hunted soon. One gets the very strong feeling that it is being done for spite, not science.

Japan said on Tuesday it was pushing ahead with a controversial plan to hunt humpback whales after other nations at the International Whaling Commission refused a compromise offer.

Australia and New Zealand have warned it would be a "provocative act." Article HERE.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Japan's immigration bureacrats are not

necessarily the only ones who sometimes follow a rather seemingly inhuman (subhuman?) technicality over what one would assume would be a common sense solution to a problem. Anyone who has ever dealt with the US INS, knows what an expensive mess it can be. By the way, they are more than happy to screw US citizens too. These bureaucrats serve the citizens? HAHAHA.

Here is an article which describes how the US Immigration Service (I guess it is now called the Citizenship and Immigration Service) treats folks when they get the opportunity. A Japanese woman married an American citizen in 1998. Before the wedding, her and her fiancee were awaiting the fiancee visa which was late in arriving. They asked a US bureaucrat what to do, and was told to go ahead and get married and change the visa status after they got to the US. (BIG MISTAKE. Unless the bureaucrat puts it in writing---which they won't---one should use extreme caution in following any advice. Until the late 90s, for example, if a citizen asked the IRS for tax advice and the agent gave the wrong advice, the taxpayer could still be held legally accountable for following the advice. In that case, even incorrect written advice was little or no defense. (Their website is here.)

Anyway, after fighting a charge of fraud for years, the US government told the Japanese wife that her new status and permanent resident visa was approved, but she had to fly back to Tokyo to get it. Guess what? Uncle Sam's hired flunky lied. What a shock!!! Next thing you'll know, we might find out that Uncle Sam lied about WMD in Iraq too.

When she and her 2 young children got to Tokyo went to the embassy, they were told that there was no visa and that she'd never get one. Neither she, nor her American husband have many rights when dealing with the INS.

I used to think that it was none of the government's business whom I married. That's why I was very much a libertarian politically, and why I never trusted the Democrats. The mistake was, that I trusted Republicans to some degree---which most libertarians know better than to do. It was a choice of the lesser of 2 evils. I no longer view either party as a lessor evil. We American's have a fantasy that citizens really control the government, but we don't. In the end, after the laws are passed, a group of people whose main motivation is job security do. And they get pretty good pay too, compared to most jobs. Is Japan any worse in this area, or any other? I am tempted to say, probably not. So far they have not recently invaded another country and started a four plus year war for a false reason.

If my wife and I return to live in the US, I will hire a good lawyer to get her visa and green card taken care of. I did it myself when we got married and it was a huge hassle. It is no doubt much, much, worse now. Gotta keep out them thar terrorists from Japan who marry US citizens and have kids, I guess.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Latest news flash

A 2 year old girl has been stabbed by a 29 year-old woman in Yokohama station. The woman was from Niigata and apparently may have been nuts. Well, anyone who stabs a 2 year-old is either nuts or a creature which should be removed from this world. The mother grabbed the girl and tried to fight off the violent felon with her free hand. The little girl is in serious condition with stab wounds to her back, but expected to survive. This is from the Channel 6 evening news. Mainichi Shimbun story here.

In another incident, a woman was stopped in her vehicle by the police and she bit an officer on the leg. Story here.

And from the newspaper (Mainichi): 90 year-old wheelchair-bound man busted for molesting women. Here.

Watch out for dangerous non-Japanese foreigners.

Another tough case for the police

Yomiuri Shimbun received a package with a revolver, 13 rounds, and drugs in it. The police have not yet confirmed whether or not the handgun is genuine according to an article in the Japan Times.

There must be a mistake. It doesn't take much to determine if a firearm is real or not. It should be especially easy for the police, one would assume. I guess not.

The box was supposedly sent to let them know that a former crime boss is selling guns and drugs in Japan. OH MY GOD!!! What a shock!!! Well, Abe is going to tighten gun control on already banned handguns. That will solve the problem.

(It was written in Chinese claiming that the crime thug stole drugs and money from other thugs in Hong Kong.)
I just realized how rare it is to hear birds in Tokyo or Kawasaki/Yokohama. On TV this morning, there was a program about a woman who had walked from Nihonbashi in Tokyo to some small town several hundred kilometers away. It took since April. Of course it was for TV and the crew went with her. They had been walking through some woods and heard a bird. As usual on these types of programs, there was some over-reaction/over-acting when she heard it. I almost thought she had never heard a bird before. Perhaps she hadn't.

You can hear crows and pigeons every morning in Denenchofu. When we lived nea Kawasaki, it was the same. But I almost never hear or see songbirds. Along the Tamagawa (river) you can see maybe 2 or 3 other species of birds, but they don't seem to sing much and there aren't so many of them. It those types of things, things to do with nature and wildlife that I miss more than anything else in Japan. Naturally, Japan has both---but not much near Tokyo.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Quick Japan news

SOS stickers going up in every car: ("JR East took the move after an incident last summer on the JR Hokuriku Line in which a man managed to rape a woman in a train because none of her fellow passengers alerted railway personnel.") From the Japan Times. Bushido?

Have today's Japanese lost their empathy? (Call to a suicide counciling hotline: "What do you think you are accomplishing by sitting there?" some have shouted. "Why don't you stop wasting your time on this useless counseling!" and ...."the percentage of Japanese who said it was important to help one another was the second lowest among the 18 countries surveyed."Is this new? Has Japan moved up a notch?) A hand-wringing editorial about them thar' ornery youngsters and others by the Yomiuru Shimbun.

University student arrested for abandoning newborn baby. Mainichi Daily News.

Woman stabbed to death in front of her Tokyo Home. Mainichi Daily

Japan promises it won't export toxic waste to the Philippines. Mainichi Daily (How thoughtful! "Environmental groups such as Greenpeace have urged the senators to reject the pact because of a provision allowing the trade of articles "which are fit only for disposal," as well as scrap and waste from manufacturing or processing operations.")

Foreign students can't start ekiden. Asahi News. Discrimination, racism in Japan?? NOOOOO!!!!
They have a real good reason for keeping non-Japanese out of the All Japan High School Ekiden Champonships. It's to make the race interesting for Japanese. If ya can't beat 'em, cheat!! Keep 'em out. Ware ware Nihonjin!! Damned baka gaijin anyway.

Baby found in garbage collection site
. Asahi News

UN criticizes Japan on sex slaves. Foreigners are such a nuisance. Forbes.

I am confused. Wasn't long ago when we were hearing how dangerous non-Japanese in Japan are, but it seems nearly all the crime and nasty things done are done by Japanese!!!Perhaps foreigners should be afraid of Japanese.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Girl power

Not long ago, I was in downtown Tokyo going down a flight of stairs to the subway. The stairs were probably a 20 foot climb. A mother and a little girl of maybe 2-3 years old approached the bottom of the stairs. The little girl gave the stairs a very quick once over and said (in Japanese) "Bothersome" and immediately turned around and walked away. Her mother followed after her and they apparently found another route to street level.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Speaking of nutjobs

I saw a new English language book published by Sankei Shinbun, a very, very conservative newspaper that does things like whitewash Japan's WW2 record, about Emperor Hirohito. (Showa). On the back cover, Hirohito was credited with being directly responsible for Japan's economic ascendancy. That's interesting. I would have bought the book and read it, but I much prefer nonfiction.
I have noticed that the idea of sharing a sidewalk is not well-developed in Tokyo. I am sure someone would say that this is because sidewalks here tend to be narrow, but even in areas with wide sidewalks folks tend to spread out and take up the entire sidewalk if possible, or at least walk down the middle crowding everyone else. Several years ago a guy told me that he recognized yakuza because, among other things, they would walk down the middle of the sidewalk and force others into the gutter. I wondered then if everyone in Tokyo wasn't in the yakuza.

Arrows on the sidewalks designating which side to walk on are ignored. You can notice this especially on stairs in train stations, and it doesn't have to be during a crowded rush hour either. People walk willy-nilly where ever they want, usually without watching where they are going. Folks will perhaps yield to someone coming the other way at the very last minute just before colliding head on.It sort of looks like something out of a Three Stooges movie, both dancing left and right trying to decide which way to go as there are no general rules which are regularly followed that I can see. (You have to be goofy to follow the arrows on stairs anyway. They may switch sides themselves, like they do in parts of Shibuya station. If people followed them, they'd be running into one another more than they do now. Fujiwara may be right about logic in Japan, at least as far as the arrow painters are concerned.)

Nobody seems to care about this. It is just the way it is. I once was talking to a guy who had returned from New York after his first trip and he remarked about what a "good system" it was that people tended to stick to the right side of the sidewalk. And he generally disliked anything about the US. (Ex-school teacher. In the past in Japan the counterpart of a right wing nutjob. A left wing loonybird. The loonybird teacher's union now has been properly tamed by the nutjobs. The union was a much-needed balance. Too bad the nutjobs have it so easy now.)

I was walking in the rain several months ago on a narrow sidewalk near Shibuya. A middle-aged guy with a couple of middle-aged women was coming the other way. They were spread out blocking the entire sidewalk and showed no signs of moving to one side to let me by. I guess I was supposed to walk into traffic to avoid inconveniencing them. Being a rude, ill-mannered foreigner I didn't. I just stopped directly in front of them and finally, after a bit of shock and confusion, they were kind and polite enough to move over and let me have a portion of the sidewalk. I was so impressed with such traditional Japanese good manners, that I now often do this in similar situations.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Quick Japan news update

Japan "buys whaling support" It can buy US elected representatives, so Laos is a piece of cake.

Mental illness growing in Japan. Would it be unfair to say that this explains Masahiko Fujiwara and his popular book refuting logic?

Couple in Japan arresting on baby dumping.
Abe's beautiful country falling a little short? Thank god he and his ilk are fighting that by denying WW2 actions. However, this will give the nutjobs more ammo to return to a more authoritarian government.

Gunman allegedly kills policeman in Japan One of the officers has died. This will not cause much of a long term crack down on the yakuza and its rightist allies.

Cop sent up for post office robberies. Other countries have crooked cops too, so it's ok.

Father's retrial may never come: Nepalese family standing a lonely vigil. Guilty or not, it seems that Japanese courts will accept circumstantial evidence to convict a suspect. Just not in the Lucie Blackman murder. I am sure there is a logical explanation---or maybe not. After all, Masahiko Fujiwara the mathematician, more or less claims logic doesn't really fit Japan.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Today's news in Abe's Beautiful Country

Boy hacked off mother's arm as well as head.
Decapitated mother's arm put in a flower pot

2 Osaka restaurant workers arrested for raping customer

Boy, 3, left in "baby box" for newborns

As I write this, there is an incident on TV, apparently a shooting of some type.

18 May. The incident was just another shooting by a "ex" yakuza/rightwing type. Shot 2 of his kids and 2 police officers. I can see why Abe wants more gun control in a country in which handguns are already banned. Except those who want them can get them illegally. The yakuza has no problems and since they have a glut, I am sure their rightwing buddies can get them too. Make guns more illegal, it's better than actaully doing something. Story HERE.

Deriliction of duty

would be what the type of police work done in the Obara case. (Obara was acquitted of the murder of Lucie Blackburn last month.) Another victim's---Carita Ridgeway---mother, Samantha, talked about police "professionalism" in the investigation of another murder by Obara. There seems to be a pattern of incompetence in law enforcement here. If they can't force a confession, they have a hard time getting coping with suspects.

From a Japan Times Online article byBy Eric Prideeaux and Jun Hongo:

...despite repeated pleas for an inquiry into Nishida, the family said police ignored, and even harassed, them, meanwhile apparently never seeing fit to arrange an autopsy following 21-year-old Carita's death. Local and municipal police, prosecutors and hospital officials refused to speak to The Japan Times about the case, citing privacy concerns.

...two detectives instead began accusing Samantha's boyfriend of dealing drugs and Carita of overdosing on drugs he provided.

Find article HERE

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Japan plays the race card

Nothing unusual though. Any criticism of Japan, valid or not, sooner or later is answered with charges of racism, at least when it involves Americans. In the past, many of these charges were expressed in English by western apologists for Japan.

Congressman Mike Honda who is the author of the resolution calling on Japan to expresslu and officially apologize for forcing women into sexual slavery to entertain the Japanese military is of Japanese ancestory. He is no being accused of being a racist, but since race is one of the most important things about people to many in Japan, some think that he should not criticize Japan in any way. (Yes, a huge percentage of folks here consider the Japanese to be a separate race.) He has also been accused of being a Chinese agent---most likely by the nutjob rightwingers here.

The resolution was also drawing sometimes surprising reaction in Japan, making Mr. Honda one of the most famous American congressmen in his ancestral land and riling Japan’s conservatives. They have accused a bemused Mr. Honda, 65, of being an agent of a Chinese government bent on humiliating Japan on American soil. During one television interview, an announcer asked Mr. Honda how he could back such a resolution when he has a Japanese face.

“I told her I could have a black face, a brown face, a white face — I could be Mexican, I could be Indian — it doesn’t matter,” Mr. Honda recalled. From the New York Times by Norimitsu Onishi here

I can't believe that he really expects Japan to apologize for the sex slave issue or any other atrocity/war crime it has been found to have committed. The trend is very strongly in the opposite direction. It is trying to deny more and more of what it did. This year, the government ordered school textbook publishers to remove references that the Imperial Japanese Army ordered Okinawan civilians to commit suicide during the invasion there. Unfortunately for the nutjobs in power, many survivors who have Japanese faces say otherwise.

BY the way, Onishi has written numerous articles this year critical of Abe and Japan's distortions and denials. Its lies. He has a Japanese face too. Does that mean he is not really Japanese? Is there, or is there not a tradition and acceptance of free speech in Japan. Only if you are a rightwing nutjob.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Japan just fine with the free ride

As much as people criticize Abe, he does have a tough job to bring Japan into reality by recognizing that Japan does need a military (it has one, but we must play word games and call it Self Defense Force) and cannot just rely on the US and recently Australia.

Under Japan's current reading of its US written constitution, it cannot engage in collective defense. For example, if Japan went to war and the US was defending it, the Japanese military could not use force to defend an American ship, or aircraft, or soldier under attack by Japan's enemy. 62% of Japanese polled see nothing wrong with this. America as Japan's mercenaries, now with Australian help. Poll here.

Maybe Abe knows what he is doing by denying WW2 crimes. Perhaps there is no other way to get Japan to come into reality. Or, it could be that people are smart enough to see that with the US getting into military messes more and more often, that they don't want to be involved at all. And why should they? Pay a few bucks to the US to give the Americans a change to spout the nonsense that it is cheaper to station US troops in Japan than the US and get a low cost defense. If the US government places no higher value on the lives of its military men and women than to send them to possibly die for the second richest country on earth and expect no reciprocity, then why should Japan?

It really should be entirely up to the Japanese. The US should not be involved anyway. I would love to see the US withdraw from Japan and tell it to solve its own problems and defend itself. American men and women should not be involved in any war defending a so-called ally that would not risk a single drop of Japanese blood to defend them.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Thirty years ago

I saw a young girl and her sister with their parents the other day in Isetan, the department store of choice for young, hip families in the Tokyo area, probably shopping for Children's Day (Kodomo no Hi), which was last Saturday.

They were looking at clothes in the kids section where designer T-shirts and jeans are sold with price tags to the tune of 25,000 yen or more.... Japan Times Online

Kaori Shoji writes about some of the differences in children's lifestyles between now and 30 years ago.

I wasn't living in Japan 30 years ago, but I certainly remember my first visit at about that time. And I know what my wife's childhood was like through her stories and old photos. It has been a huge change in the Tokyo area. People tend to believe that the Japanese are rich or at least fairly well off. This isn't completely true today, but 30 years ago, it was even less true.

I grew up in a pretty rural, isolated part of the U.S. but all-in-all, my family was much better off than my wife's lower-middle class family. They were relatively lucky in that they had a house and did not have to live in a flimsy apartment (I mean apartment, not the so-called "mansion" of Japan. Mansions are better built and more expensive.) They could not afford a camera, so the photos she has are from her schools or the occasionally photo taken by a friend whose family was wealthy enough to afford a camera. Naturally, her family owned no car, and hardly ever traveled outside Kanto. Japan in the 70s and earlier was not rich. One could argue that most folks were poor, especially compared to Americans.

Given that, it is amazing how far the country has come in that time. It's easy to criticize trade policy, education, "Japan Inc." or other things, but it has worked out pretty well so far for Japan.

Rules for English- Speaking Women and ian-jo

and men too (to some extent) who are working for a Japanese company.

We've heard a lot about how stressful the Japanese workplace is. Harassment by male colleagues or even your boss can be very common if you're a foreign English-speaking woman. Here are some rules she may need to be aware of:

....if you think you took a day off as part of your sick leave, get ready to work an extra day for that.

* Gossip: Both men and women, young and old, adore your privacy. Don't ever share a personal story with your colleagues if you don't want the cleaner talking about it.

The rest are in a letter to the editor of the Japan Times Online here

Another letter discusses the meaning of the word ian-jo which former prime misister Nakasone claims was a recreation center for men to chat, gamble, and knit. OK, he didn't actually say knit. But he was trying to wiggle out of an embarrassing part of a book he had written years ago in which he stated the he had established an ian-jo for his men. Most people thought that meant a place where his men could visit so-called comfort women (often sex slaves), but Nakasone set everyone straight by explaining that it was all innocent fun.

The writer stated that ian-jo, used in the context that it was used in the Imerial Army had a "special meaning" with a "sex element" added. The writer is Japanese.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Every time the wind blows, people blame it on global warming. Well,the wind is blowing very strong right now in Tokyo---about 22 mph---and the weather has been unusual recently. I cycle a lot, around 4,500 to 5,000 miles a year and keep a log in which I record the weather during training among other things. So I do have some basis for comparison.

I don't know if it is as related to global warming as we all seem to think, but today's strange weather is not so bad. The strong wind blows some of the pollution out of Tokyo and perhaps tomorrow morning we might even be able to see Mt. Fuji which is a rare event this time of year in Tokyo. It also smells very clean tonight, I can actually detect a trace of pine in the air. It reminds me of northeastern Washington state, and makes me wonder why I ever came back to Tokyo. I often miss the outdoors, and nature, and wild places, things, and animals. They exist, of course, in Japan but you have to get pretty far out of Tokyo to find it.

We are taking another trip to Nagano this weekend. Maybe, if it doesn't rain for two solid days, we can actually enjoy some more or less natural environment. Of course where we are going there will be other people too. walking in the woods chatting and laughing loudly, singing---in general acting like the typical urbanized folks and wondering why they can't see any wildlife. I suppose this shows the unique relationship with nature here. Somehow.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Council on Foreign Relations article

on the basic background of Japan's military post WW2. Includes a brief description of Article 9 and remilitarization. There is nothing especially new or deep in the article, but it does give an idea of the bare basics.

....much of what is perceived internationally as Japanese "nationalism" or "militarism" might simply be political posturing. "The political class may talk in nationalistic terms, and the world press will pick up on it," he says. "But the basic point is, the population is much more moderate. The military policy, the public is really not excited about it." From

I think this is true to some extent, but one wonders if the elites continue their posturing and continue to get their way, how long will the public remain "moderate"? I could not prove it, but my experience in talking to people over the last year or two is that they tend to be buying and repeating a lot of what Abe, Fujiwara, and others are pushing. But as the article notes, as long as the US is providing a military for Japan, most Japanese will be happy to rely on it, while complaining about the bases---in other words, have it both ways. And the US will be happy to stay forever. Once we establish a military base somewhere, we will never leave.

Be a hostess or teach

English at an eikaiwa? Which is better (or worse)? I don't really know, but have have spent a lot of time doing what could be best described as being a language whore. A hostess doesn't have to be a whore but:

Some nights I'd meet up to 10 different men. Each introduction meant having the same boring conversation once again. Where do you come from? When did you come to Japan? Do you like Japanese food? Do you like Japanese men? Do you have a boyfriend? Oh, you're Canadian; can I ask you to sing Celine Dion? From today's Japan Times Online Confessions of a Hostess, by Ivy Emerson here.

I repeatedly had those types of "conversation" in Toyama at the YMCA in the early 90s. One need not do either to have that conversation though, because that is pretty much the limit of conversation with someone whom you don't know very, very well in Japan. And it seems not to get much deeper than that. When you do find a Japanese friend or acquaintance who can carry a deeper conversation about things possibly controversial---in other words a real conversation--- not just trying to satisfy someone's myth that Japan really is the most uniquely unique country and people in the universe, you have to value that relationship.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Kyoto Protocol and Japan

I have to admit, once agin' I'm all confused. Sort of like when I repeatedly hear how polite folks are in Japan and then notice that it ain't exactly true.

Anyway, as everyone knows, people in Japan have a deep mysterious (and genetic) respect for, and love of nature that no other people have. It's the only country with four clearly distinct seasons so this is natural.

But I wonder if this is true, then why don't we get homes with effective insulation? Hot water pipes are bare, so we waste energy by losing the water's heat much more quickly than we would if they were insulated. Walls and ceilings have a bare minimum of insulation too. Windows are often single-pane. Our apartment costs as much as an apartment in Manhattan cost me in the fall of 1999, but 2 of our windows are not even designed to close tightly---air always leaks through. Not loving nature as much as the natives do, I had to put plastic sheeting over them to keep heated or air conditioned air inside.

I wonder why things are wrapped individually at the grocery store checkout in smaller plastic bags. Why do I get a plastic straw with every small 500ml juice or milk carton? Can't we just open it and drink from the carton? Why do the clerks at Precce wrap each glass bottle in a sheet of plastic foam? Do the bottles often break when carrying them in Japan? If so, does that small thin piece of foam help? Naturally these things originate in ancient Japanese tradition and culture, but one would assume that with such a great love of the natural environment that perhaps nature's health would take precedence over customs. But then again, I am not a pure Japanese, so I probably misunderstand the purity of heart that allows this seeming contradiction.

I also wonder, when I walk through Akihabara---Akiba---or other such areas in the middle of the summer, why are many shops operating their air conditioning full blast with the front doors open? Yes, the cool air is very attractive and can make one want to enter the shop, but wouldn't a nature-loving, Fujiwara-reading, neo-bushidoist be more concerned about the waste and environmental damage?

These are just a few things which seem to contradict the love of nature and the stance against global warming attributed to Japan. It seems that the only motivation for energy conservation is the extraordinary expense to consumers. Wow, that seems so human. I am sure that there is an explanation for all this. I am also pretty sure it is all just cultural thing and even though this stuff seems like waste, it really isn't and my perception is all due to the fact that I don't understand Japan. It's different here. Up is down. Black is white. Coercion is not coercion.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Child porn not so bad either

Several years ago the Japanese government was embarrassed into taking action against the huge child pornography industry in Japan. (The troublesome US was going to put Japan on a watch list.) It was one of the largest sources of child porn in the world. (I remember going to a so-called "love hotel" in the late 80s and turning on the TV to a video of naked 10-12 year old girls swimming. How erotic.)

However, as with everything else, child porn in Japan can be explained and excused by referring to culture and tradition. Especially among some men---don't say "perverts," it shows a lack of cultural sensitivity. That would be using western values. I don't see or hear of many adult Japanese women clamoring for child porn. But let's remember Fujiwara's bushido. Women didn't really have an equal position under the wonderful pure ethics of bushido. So who cares what they think? Shut up and serve the tea woman, then maybe you'll find a good man to serve as a wife.

Magazines focusing on preteen girls in thongs may not be pornography since it is hard to define legally. I wouldn't doubt that you could find similar images in other countries too, so therefore it must be ok.

Anyway, The Japan Times Online has an article about the latest trend in cutting edge Akihabara Japan. One of the mothers of a child model in this article has no problem with he daughter posing in a magazine which sexually arouses men. She thinks her daughter has a "neutral sexless beauty" (Is she an idiot?) and:

"The industry doesn't want me to talk about the details of what's going on behind closed doors," she said. But she hinted that she has seen some mothers forcing their crying children to put on sexy swimsuits for the camera.

The really bad, disgusting thing to many folks here is not this, but women touching up their makeup on a train. Oh, horrors!

From the Japan Times Online by Jun Hongo HERE

Bataan Death March not so bad

After all, there are bad people and bad events in every society, so despite the fact that:

The Bataan Death March took place in 1942, when Japanese forces made about 75,000 POWs, the bulk of them Filipinos and around 12,000 Americans, travel inland on foot to prison camps. An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 prisoners died during the march.

Japanese actions weren't anything out of the ordinary. One could not blame Japan for anything especially bad because:

While [Professor Lester] Tenney tells the story of Japanese soldiers decapitating weakened POWs, he also points out there was discrimination against blacks and Jews in U.S. society, suggesting there is no national border in terms of the dark side of humanity. (From the Japan Times online, article by Takami Hanzawa.)

You have to wonder how intentional murder, torture, war crimes and atrocities compare to discrimination in the US at that time. By the way, was there discrimination against minorities in Japan then (or now)? I also wonder why the author included this in the article which is about an American man who survived the death march and who is at 87 still speaking about it.

Actually, I don't wonder why, it is standard practice in Japan. Sure, Japan may have accidentally killed a few Chinese in Nanjing, may have taken advantage of women who wanted to be taken advantage of (we didn't force them to be sex slaves though, they were comfort women), but we were trying to save the world from western imperialism by establishing Japanese imperialism. A few bad things may have happened, but everybody else did bad things too. Therefore, we can "understand" (excuse) Japan's actions. And we must never forget, Japan was the main victim of the war due to Allied aggression.

Quotes in italics from Hanzawa's article here.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Our allies

Nope. Nothing about Japan. One can criticize Japan (well, some folks think that you cannot) but there is no comparison with anything here with out allies or enemies in Iraq. If Bush's plan had been successful, and we had been able to make Iraq a functioning democracy with human rights respected, certainly the area would have been a better place. It's pretty obvious that isn't going to happen.

One of the areas of Iraq in which we reportedly have had some success is in the Kurdish area. But, from this news report and videos, it appears that we may have a long way to go. In fact, it appears that we are deceiving ourselves there much more than anywhere.

This report and embedded videos are brutal. A group of 1,000 men beat a teenage girl to death while the police watch (and help kill her) because she was running away from her family to marry a Muslim. From AINA here.