Wednesday, October 31, 2007

PM Fukuda warns al Qaeda buddy Hatoyama

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Japan justice minister claims al Qaeda connection

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 26, 2007

Revisionist appointed chairman of the board of education

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

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

NOVA files for bankruptcy protection

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

Kim Dae-Jung kidnapping

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

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Nihonjinron and the baka gaijin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Yet again, another food fraud???

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Another Scandal

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

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

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

Friday, October 19, 2007

"Japan Inc" is in good hands

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

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

Recycled garbage sold as food again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...Tourists visiting Ise Shrine expressed anger.

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

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

Saturday, October 13, 2007

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

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

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

More rotten fraud in the Japanese food industry

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 12, 2007

Former Ambassador wants Fukuda to visit Yasukuni

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

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

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

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

Unique love of nature: Japan

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

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

Reuters story here while it lasts.

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

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Shisaku, a political blog covering Japan

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

Justice Minister Hatoyama doesn't want to be bothered

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

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

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Japan's elitist right-wing against the Japanese

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt from the NYT story:

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

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

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

Friday, October 05, 2007

Japanese Language Proficiency Test

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

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

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

Homicide in sumo

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

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

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