Thursday, April 30, 2009

Aso gone. Government does something useful. Maybe.

While watching the NHK news, I was somewhat surprised to see that the government is actually doing something in preparation for it arriving in Japan. Whether or not it will work should it become as bad as some say it could is questionable, but at least somebody is on the ball. Maybe it's because MangaMan is in China.

They are setting up special centers for those with suspected flu to go to instead of a regular clinic or hospital. One is supposed to call the local government health department and they will determine which center you should go to. The only problem is, the reporter did not mention how to get the the center. By train? Oh, great idea!

Were I not in Tokyo where I have to ride a train packed up to 198% of capacity (yes, 198% on lines like Denentoshi---what does capacity mean, anyway?) which never, ever, ever,---not even once---fails to have at least one person coughing openly if not giving full bore open-mouth eardrum splitting sneezes and filling the car with their bodily fluids.

But now I do ride the petri-dish system and it's only a matter of time. We already have a supply of masks even though they are said to be next to useless for preventing the transmission of a virus.

How does one properly react when somebody sprays one with sputum if this becomes a dangerous pandemic? Say nothing and pretend everything is OK? Most do that now. Wouldn't wanna make ol' barrel mouth uncomfortable just 'cause he gave you a saliva shower.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ohhh...Fun awaits

Swine flu. Just before Golden Week. Gee, wonder if anyone will bring it back? Not that it would be a problem, because if someone felt a severe cold or flu coming on, they'd stay home and not get on the subway and cough and sneeze all over everyone else and then do the same thing in the office. That would never happen here. And the fellow cooking/preparing/handling your food would wash his hands after he sneezed into them before touching what you are about to eat.

Well, there may be a few exceptions such as the guy at the Starbucks at Akasaka-mitsuke station just across from the subway gates. I mean the fact that a few weeks ago, I watched a guy do that exact thing should not deter anyone from eating there. Being the humorless type, I refused to eat my over-priced factory-built food product with the added germs. Even refused the coffee. I also complained to Starbucks Tokyo. Their reply? Like McDonald's Japan, none. Their way of saying f**k you, I suppose.

Anyway, nobody should worry about a possibly deadly flu virus coming to Japan. Have no fear for MangaMan and the rest are well-prepared and will take aggressive, effective action just like they have for every other problem to hit the country recently. With this on top of all the other problems, perhaps we can find a way to delay elections until all the world's problems are solved. We can't distract our LDP leaders with an election.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Kunio may be immensely angry

"If the report is true, I'm immensely angry... I'll drop him off everything related to terrestrial digital broadcasting," he told reporters. "I'll never forgive him."* AFP

Seems one of the SMAP boys got a little pickled and ran au naturel though a park near Roppongi Mid Town this morning.

Kunio "A.Q." Hatoyama, the ex-Justice Minister turned Minister of TV and Radio Shows, who a few years ago boasted of his al Qaeda contacts might be po'd, but he's not sure until he gets confirmation.

Hmmm. It irritates A.Q.? Sorta makes one wanna get skunked and run leafless through a Tokyo park.

*I haven't seen/heard his original comments and I strongly suspect that they have been poorly translated---sorta like I would do. However, I think that the translation is very befitting of Kuni-kun. The story is on J-cast too, but no mention so far of A.Q. and his inane utterances. Doesn't anyone care?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"Aso Mining's Indelible Past" at Japan Focus

The DPJ's Fujita Yukihisa has a translated article on Japan Focus concerning Prime Minister Aso and his family's mining company. Although I earlier poked fun at him for one of his quirks, Fujita was instrumental in getting Aso to suddenly discover that there actually had been POWs at Aso Mining. Aso, doing his best Sgt Shultz imitation, previously claimed that because he was 5 years old when the war ended:

As Fujita wrote about what Aso seemed to be saying with that excuse: “Prewar events that took place before I was born or things in foreign countries that I cannot see for myself do not concern me as prime minister.” Such behavior by a leader who represents a country is obviously unacceptable.

...POW issues have never been properly discussed in a political context during the 53 years since the MHLW took charge of the materials. I trembled when I saw the records that were revealed and thought, “God has not abandoned those 300 POWs.” This was because among the source records that survived document burning, for some reason only the 1945 issues of the “Fukuoka Monthly Reports” were found. It was from May to August 1945 that the Allied POWs were used by Aso Mining. Had the records for those months not been discovered, it is highly possible that the 300 POWs would have been consigned to oblivion by Prime Minister Aso and the Japanese government...Full article at Japan Focus.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

But can they understand

Japanese food?

Apart from its economic might, Tokyo is counting on its culinary finesse to woo International Olympic Committee specialists scrutinising its bid to host the Summer Games in 2016. AFP

That was the charge against Michelin when their restaurant rating guide gave Tokyo restaurants such high ratings a few years ago. Some of the more arrogant snobs here claimed that non-Japanese could not possibly understand Japanese food well enough to judge it.* Foreigners could come here and eat foul, slimy, smelly garbage and not know it!**

While on the subject of the Olympics, I was watching the news last week and one program showed Aso speaking in English. They then cut to some blond lady who was in some way connected with the Olympics and she said "The fact that the Japanese prime minister is willing to speak in English is an asset for Japan." I don't really get that, but it seems a bit idiotic to me, and I am quite knowledgeable about things idiotic, according to the resident commie pinko. Knowing how the Olympic process has worked in the past, I would assume that the ability to fork over large globs of money to certain influential folk in the decision making process is perhaps a bigger asset than the language ability of a country's leader.

*Perhaps that's why the "specialists" were treated to Italian at Restorante Aso. Yes, "Aso".

**I am not passing judgment on natto. Honest. It cleans your blood, after all.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

I'm guessing that this would be a mistake

Beijing would welcome direct US-North Korean talks, the Chinese foreign minister suggested in an interview published on Friday, amid international efforts to get Pyongyang to end its nuclear programme. AFP

We've been down that road before (before Japan decided that it had interests there too) and did not it turn out well. The other players, the ROK and Japan in particular would be unlikely to accept any agreement coming out of those talks. Japan might, but then the fine folk on the extreme right would be rattling on about another back-stabbing by their true enemy, the US.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The unmentionable

A curious phenomenon seems have developed in the US which is hard to understand. Perhaps it's nothing new, but I never noticed it much until it was pointed out on Armchair Asia: The US, when discussing WW2, has become reluctant to mention the name of its enemy in the Pacific.

One can understand wanting to move on from the war (although some in power in Japan don't wanna let go), but this is a bit much. We "beat back a danger in the Pacific"? What, a typhoon or something?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Stop the insanity! Done. Next Item?

The world has changed a lot since the days of the Bush administration when it seemed like international diplomacy was run by a group of loony-tunes.

A few weeks ago, Dear Father* Kim Jung Il of North Korea, feeling lonely and neglected, decided to ring a bell by launching a missile---err satellite---while President Obama was in Europe making a speech about (yawn) eliminating nuclear weapons. Like Pavlov puppies , the US and its erstwhile ally Japan immediately began slobbering.

Resisting the urges of the calmer, more rational folks who suggested some military action against North Korea as long as they themselves didn't get their asses shot off, President Obama sprang into action.

Obama rejected the old Bush wimp-out by refusing to merely call Kim and North Korea bad names such as Axis of Evil. No, Obama decided to hit North Korea where it hurts; to do that one thing that all sends the fear of god through the souls of all dictators and tyrants. Obama, with Japan at his side (the Japan that suddenly remembered that the Six Party Talks about North Korean nukes were about more than just hostages/abductees) went to the UN!

Things did not go as planned at the UN, however, for Russia and China stunned the planet by refusing to play along. No problem, says Barack, we'll talk it over. No more pushy USA, we'll get results by drawing upon the natural love and admiration that the international community always had for the US before Bush.

After much deliberation and singing of Kumbaya, the UN issued a fierce statement saying something along the lines that North Korea had done wrong when it committed the heretofore unheard of act of violating a UN sanction or something like that.

Kim Jung Il, upon receiving the UN nasty-gram, immediately went into a panic and began running around in circles screaming "Oh my god, what shall I do now!" After his generals calmed him down, the unpredictable Kim decided to do that which nobody could have predicted: They decided to withdraw from the Six Party Talks and restart the nuclear facility. (clang! clang!)

Meanwhile, back in Japan, the fearless rightwing was shocked and saddened to learn that the US-Japan alliance had failed. That girlie-man Obama had ruled out shooting down the North Korean missile before it reached the Land of the Rising Sun. This was the evidence they needed to do something that they had never done before and start whimpering that the US was an untrustworthy ally. Many had already reluctantly come to the conclusion that had Japan not had Article 9 which prohibits it from having military unless they are called self-defense forces, it would have been able to have defended itself and shot the missile down at launch. It would have been able to have done this even though it was off just a little---about a day---in its detection of the launch.

Had the Japan rightwing had its way, by god, and attacked North Korea it would have ended the problem in a heartbeat. Japan would have been back on track to regaining its rightful position as the much-loved and respected leader of Asia. China would have shown admiration for Japan's new military assertiveness. South Korea, after seeing an attack on its fellow Koreans by their beloved ally Japan, would have been waving the hinomaru and shouting "Go Nippon!"

It's such a relief to have returned to saner times.

*More commonly called Dear Leader nowadays.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Hiroaki Sato again

Sato, whom I posted about below, writes The View from New York for the Japan Times. He also writes occasional book reviews. In addition, he is a translator and an essayist.

He has had a real problem with Herbert Bix and his book, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, for years. I can understand that emotion, as I had a problem with what I had heard was in Fujiwara Masahiko's The Dignity of the Nation too. The difference is that I read the book.* Sato, despite repeatedly attacking what he had heard Bix had written or what he had read in excerpt, still has not bothered to actually read Bix' book. Believe me, if I can go through Fujiwara's nonsense, he should have been able to manage Bix' book in the now nearly 9 years since it was published. He'd then be somewhat credible when he dismisses it completely as he has done.

Wading back through some of his early articles---need I have read them before commenting on the content?---I quickly found at least two in which he criticized Bix using his "haven't read, but if" line of argument. (Just to note: I personally do not believe that it has been proven that Hirohito had the power to start, stop, or significantly influence WW2, but he was hardly an innocent peace-lover either.)

Jan. 29 2001 Was Pearl Harbor Really a Surprise?

I have not read the Shokun article or others pertaining to this particular "myth" that Bix had in mind, but I have the feeling that in this instance Bix is putting the cart before the horse. [Emphasis added]

In that article, Sato also wrote: Yes, Vidal is a novelist, and "The Golden Age" is a "historical novel." But about this category he has something to say for "those who mistakenly regard history as a true record and the novel as invention."

That is interesting if one considers what Sato accused Bix of in his April 5 article:

Positivism in historiography means an emphasis on facts over theory, documentary evidence over deductions from premise...

...Bix believes in the efficacy of the "voiceless order technique," among other things, as he liberally puts his imaginings and assumptions into others' heads where evidence does not exist.

It seems that Sato has somewhat changed his mind since 2001. There seems to be no room for "I have a feeling" or Gore Vidal novels in a positivist approach.

Oct 30 2000: U.S. Reporter misses the mark on Japan: Sato upset at Howard French, former NYT Tokyo bureau chief, wrote: Was Hirohito a "militarily aggressive leader?" I haven't read Bix's book and I am no historian. [Emphasis added]Most of his criticism is directed at French and his comments about the book, but also toward Bix including the hanging curve of a question: What has he [Bix] been reading? The answer: Obviously more than Sato-san.

It's easy, and maybe a bit unfair, to pick out contradictions in what people who write for a living say as there is a record going back years. I think that Sato writes some good columns occasionally. Others, in my opinion, seem to verge on the "Japan as victim," although he can be critical of some of Japan's actions and the extreme right.

A bit too much of what passes for thought for me on the weekend. Why should I even care about this? Is WW2 over yet?

* I must confess: I have not read the last two chapters of Fujiwara's book. I am going take a wild leap and assume that the last two chapters do not negate what he wrote in the others. Perhaps I am partially guilty of Satoism.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Over and over and over

Japanese liberal teachers and historians voiced concern Friday over the approval of a history text written by a group of nationalistic scholars, saying it would whitewash the country's wartime past. AFP

Same old story. One hopes that the country can stop fighting WW2 sometime this century.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Sato-san as book critic

I always loved this fellow.** Now I have found yet another reason to admire him:

I have read neither Dower's introductory essay nor Bix's tome [Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan], but I'd like to comment on the latter...

...I think Bix is wrong if his premises include, as Akita says they do, that Hirohito possessed immense powers and, because of his kami ("someone above") status, assumed his commands or demands would be obeyed. The suggestion is that he should have been on top of the list of Japanese war criminals...

Akita does not say whether Bix cites Honjo on the event that changed the course of prewar Japan. But, if Bix does,...Japan Times

I seem to recall Sato-sama criticizing Bix's book years ago in his Japan Times column when he had not read it. My recollection of the book leads me to think that the above overstates what Bix wrote---maybe I'll have to review. And maybe someday Sato will actually read the book and then he would know what Bix wrote and be able to give some valid criticism---something that readers might possibly expect from a person writing a newspaper column.

Akita's book sounds interesting if one ignores Sato:

...Akita relates how and why he decided to adopt a positivist approach and explains what he means by the term as it applies to humanistic studies. He enumerates the difficulties linked with reading primary sources in Japanese by looking at a variety of unpublished and published materials and identifying a major problem in reading published primary sources: the intervention of editors and compilers. He illustrates the pitfalls of such intervention by comparing the recently published seventeen-volume diary of Prime Minister Hara Takashi (1856-1921), a photo reproduction of the diary in Hara's own hand, and an earlier published version. Using documents related to Yamagata Aritomo (1838-1922), a figure of central importance in Japan's post-Restoration political history, he demonstrates the use of published and transcribed primary sources to sustain, question, or strengthen some of the themes and approaches adopted by non-Japanese scholars working on modern Japanese history. He ends his inquiry with two "case studies," examining closely the methods of the highly acclaimed American historians John W. Dower and Herbert P. Bix. From the Publisher

Unlike our esteemed Japan Times columnist, we can actually read a book although at the ¥6000 price, nowadays it might be best to hope against hope for a soft-cover.

1:36PM: A little googling results in more information . The impartial Asiatic Society of Japan hosted Professor Akita in November 2003 and provides a very professional write-up of the event here. The Society provided its most devastating insight into the motives of Professor Bix:

On the question of Bix's ideological affiliations, Prof. Akita said that Bix was a disciple of E.H. Norman, and was a member of the Committee of Concerned Scholars who praised Mao's revolution and supported revolution in Asia.

Eeewww!! If that doesn't prove Bix wrong, nothing does. Bix has associated with lefties, and may even be tainted with the stench of Marxists! Friggin' Commie!*

Using that "logic" I wonder if I should buy Akita's book or not? After all, he has proven connections to the Imperial Family through the Asiatic Society of Japan (Prince and Princess Takamado were patrons of the Society. After the Prince's death, the Princess continues in that role). Doesn't that prove something?

*Note that Dower is considered by some to have a somewhat liberal/leftist point of view. Are two examples enough to imagine a bit of a pattern emerging? Could we assume that without reading Akita's book?

ASJ's new site is here.

**April 11: I am referring to Hiroaki Sato who writes the column The View from New York for the Japan Times as well as the occasional Book Review of books he may or may not have read. According to the Japan Times, he is a translator and essayist who lives in New York.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

News not making major headlines in Japan (yet?)

A 43-year-old Japanese man was arrested Monday for allegedly throwing hot coffee at U.S. Consul General Kevin Maher at a Naha coffee shop, Okinawa prefectural police said Tuesday. Kazuo Yamamoto of Naha approached Maher at a Starbucks at about 4 p.m., throwing coffee on Maher’s trousers and shoes before pushing him and demanding he leave Okinawa, according to the police report. Stars and Stripes

What year is this? When did WW2 end? Why are we still there? The answer to this sort of problem is simple: Pull US forces out of Japan and garbage-can the one-way Security Treaty and allow Japan to handle its own defense as it decides. If it wants allies and security treaties, then perhaps it'll figure out a more conventional alliance.

Yes, the thought is childishly naive and probably dangerously nutty. It won't happen because the US never voluntarily---well, almost never---closes bases and removes all military personnel from foreign countries. Rightly so, for to do so would result in disaster for the country the troops are pulled out of and probably a regional/worldwide conflict causing the moon to fall from the sky. Remember the hell that resulted from our withdraw from Taiwan and later from the Philippines?* The fact is that stationing US troops all over the planet is so vital to the US that the military turns away millions of concerned people every year. It's especially tough to keep college kids, the wealthy, and our future "experts" out.

*We are back in the P.I. to some degree, so that probably saved the P.I. from sinking into the ocean.

Blinky Ishihara's Japanese citizen buddy goes to the pokey

Blinky is blinking more rapidly today as news comes that his old friend and comrade, Alberto Ishimori, has been convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to 25 years in the slammer:

Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori was found guilty of mass murder and kidnapping Tuesday and was sentenced to 25 years in prison, a rare instance of a former head of state being found guilty in his own country on human rights charges. LA Times.

Now how can this be explained? Is this criminal the usual dangerous foreigner with the criminal DNA common to the species, or is he Japanese? Will the Japanese media refer to him as a Japanese citizen? We'll have to watch for this---I missed the noon news. And what will ol' Blinky say? Talking about Mr. Fujimori will be "interesting".

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Satellite launched

North Korea says it did launch a rocket at 11:20AM on April 5.

Unha-2, which was launched at the Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground in Hwadae County, North Hamgyong Province at 11:20 (0220 GMT) on April 5, accurately put Kwangmyongsong-2 into its orbit at 11:29:02, nine minutes and two seconds after its launch. Reuters.

Intellektual Philosofyin'

There is a fellow in the DPJ---the goofy party which we are hoping will replace the beloved goofs of the LDP---who is trying to crack open the US government/CIA/US media/BBC/E.T. conspiracy concerning Sept 11, 2001. Now I admit, when I read about this, I had just a wee bit of doubt about Yukihisa Fujita. To be blunt, I thought he was a doofus. Then a few weeks later, I read some of the readers' responses to that article and was surprised at the number of doofuses folks who agreed with him. I have no doubt that a number of them have suffered UFO abductions too.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the office with a deep-thinking buddy from Down Under. As usual the subject turned to the US and how it is just pure evil and stupidity. To avoid such things as hurt feelings and broken jaws, we don't directly trash the US. Instead, we trashed George Bush. It's gettin' a little dated now, but doing so allows people from outside the US to indirectly call Americans fat, stupid, and greedy (completely the opposite of the rest of the planet), and allows Americans to avoid any responsibility for anything by blaming it all on Bush.

I brought up the tired old subject of Republicans having no ideas for anything except to cut taxes, and my buddy agreed, "Yea, I don't mind paying taxes, how else are we gonna pay for everything!" I was a bit surprised to hear that Uncle Sam was so aggressive as to collect taxes from Australians who live in Japan, but knowing the IRS, I figured it could be true.

Then, after we went through the "think of all the wars that religion has caused" cliche, he brought up an online documentary concerning the 9/11 cover-up that he had spent 4 hours watching last weekend. Being a real documentary fan---Michael Moore, Oliver Stone, X-files---he knows and believes his documentaries.

It seems, you see, that the planes which crashed into the Pentagon and into the ground in Pennsylvania did not exist. That's why there were no traces of either found.

Having had online experience with conspiracy theorists in the past, I was reluctant to reply for to do so is like trying to wrestle an oiled fishing worm---no matter how you try to pin it, it squirts away in another direction. But after gathering up my courage, I mentioned that I recalled seeing parts of the wreckage on TV at that time. "No, they never found anything," he quickly replied.

Being even less clever than him, I tried yet again and explained that when a jet hits something head on at 600mph, the results are going to be different than when one crashes at a low angle and relatively low speed while landing and gave as an example a fighter jet crash at a steep angle. "No, they rig those with explosives to blow up so that the enemy can't get secrets." Huh? 8 years in the USAF and I had never heard such a thing nor had I seen any evidence of that at crash sites I had been to. I admired the quickness of his mind and his ability to come up with such horse dung without batting an eye.

"You gotta watch it," he excitedly told me, "it'll make you think!" It made him think, but, he admitted, not enough to actually research anything to see if an Internet documentary by a utopian* might possibly be a little suspect.

I haven't been able to get the time to watch the film yet----it's on my things-to-do list just after "finish the last 2 chapters of Fujiwara Masahiko's tome" at #567 trillion. I did, however, google a little about the conspiracy theory.

It seems that there are conflicting conspiracy theories. One side claims that there were no planes involved in the Sept 11 attacks. It was done by the gubbermint, using such things as computers in the WTC rigged to blow the buildings down and a missile, not a plane, to hit the Pentagon.

The other side, the anti-no-plane-conspiracy-theory theorists, believe that aircraft were involved and claim that the no plane theory is a distraction possibly created by the government to hide the fact that the government knew about the attacks and took no action. Bush et al wanted them to happen in order to have an excuse to go to war in the Middle East. Sorta like Roosevelt tricking Japan into attacking Pearl Harbor, knowing that it was coming, then doing nothing in order to get the US into WW2. America does that a lot. Looks like we and the rest of the world would catch on sooner or later. Perhaps my friend already has.

*According to my friend, the documentary provided a utopian solution to the world's problems.

**I first learned about the rigged WTC computers in reader responses to the article about Fujita. I stopped reading at that point. I mentioned that to my colleague as an example, I thought, of how absurd some of this stuff was. Didn't work. Apparently, he already knew the computer bomb fact.

Disclaimer: Since I was once in the military and thus a part of the military industrial complex, I may be involved in the conspiracy. Beware.

Oops! Luckily, Japan isn't considering a retaliatory strike

A false alarm was sounded in Japan Saturday when the government announced North Korea had carried out an expected rocket launch. Japan quickly rescinded the announcement but not before the report had been widely disseminated both in the country and internationally. Full VOA report.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Minoru Morita on North Korea

I'm beginning to like the old guy.

Commenting on Japan's reaction (over-reaction?) to the likely North Korea missile launch, Morita said:

"If Japan fails an intercepting attempt, it would be a serious setback for the country's defense policy, because people would think the costly missile defense system is not reliable,"...

...after taking it this far, Japan dare not actually try to intercept debris and fail and end up losing everything, including their credibility." Full story AP

Then, what would be the point?

UNITED NATIONS/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China and Russia are all but certain to stymie a U.S. push for new U.N. sanctions on North Korea if it fires off a rocket, leaving tighter enforcement of existing penalties a likelier outcome.

Wouldn't it be just as effective for the Security Council to threaten to throw spitballs at a photo of Kim Jong Il?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Don't go away mad, just go away

Japan needs you to help it with its rapidly aging society. Unless, of course, your presence becomes inconvenient:

Japan began offering money* Wednesday for unemployed foreigners of Japanese ancestry to go home, mostly to Brazil and Peru, to stave off what officials said posed a serious unemployment problem. Story from AP.

This way, Japan can push its unemployment problem off on other countries. A novel way to say "Thanks for your hard work. Now bugger off."

Only those immigrants from Peru or Brazil of Japanese ancestry are eligible.

*¥300,000 to workers plus ¥200,000 to each family member. Anyone accepting this "must forgo" returning to a grateful Japan.

More great news

An article at the NYT reports on Japan's attempts to boost exports and notes that the domestic market is pretty much hopeless even for Japanese producers.

In even more encouraging news:

The Japanese are also becoming poorer, relatively speaking: Japan’s income per capita, once among the top five in the world, slipped to 19th in 2007, far behind the United States and many European countries.

With this, and the idea that non-Japanese are suspect if not outright criminals that some in the government and media have, what type of people would want to come here to live and work as the population ages? And of those who, who will want to stay long term? (OK, not sure that they would be wanted long-term.*)

*2 April 09: This question was answered in the post above.