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Top: On August 15, 1945,
people went down on
their knees in front of the
Bottom: On September 27,
Douglas MacArthur gave
an audience to Emperor
Honesty is the only virtue bestowed upon me. Unlike many of you, I just can't cherry-pick things that make me look good or right. It's not because I am an exhibitionist that I constantly talk about my marriages and education of my biological sons which all ended up in failure.
The first feud started between my father and me around the time Japan launched a "surprise" attack on the obsolete Pacific Fleet Franklin Delano Roosevelt had moved to Pearl Harbor from San Diego. I was a 6-year-old kid at that time. The feud lasted until two decades or so later.
The second one started in 1968 when I fathered my first son. By that time I had already gotten over the first one I experienced as my father's eldest son.
I don't want to oversimplify my saga the way I would possibly do by ascribing the failed part of my life to someone else's fault. I think that by doing so, I would discredit myself and my argument that Japan had been a dead country long before I was born.
As I told my audience in the above-linked post, and on some other occasions, my father was obsessed with the idea that the only way to avoid sacrificing his eldest son for Emperor Hirohito, most typically as a Kamikaze pilot, was to make a top-notch scientist out of his dull-witted kid.
I was still 9-years-old when the imperial government accepted the Potsdam Declaration. But the intransigent aeronautical scientist wouldn't change his abnormal principle on which to educate his son, presumably because the imperial institution had still been kept intact, and on top of that, Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, had enthroned himself as the "Second Emperor."
My dad was a born scientist from tip to toe. But I sometimes suspect he was a crazy man.
Every time I look back on my wartime and postwar nightmare, I have this flashback. In those days, the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers (GHQ) often summoned my dad to interrogate him about his wartime research and development activity. At least on one of these occasions, he took me along to the GHQ building that had used to be the head office of Daiichi Life Insurance Company. I don't know why he wanted me to be with him. And I can't recollect where he made me wait inside the building until he was through with the interrogator(s) and what I was doing while awaiting.
But I remember that when crossing the Hibiya Park, which had reduced to a mere green field, diagonally toward the GHQ building, he gave a grudging look at the Imperial Palace which still stood upright in the center of the flattened city just across the moat from GHQ. When people were starving to death, Emperor Hirohito was doing very well although he kept a low profile so he wouldn't be hung upside down in the street like when Benito Mussolini had been executed in Milan a year or two earlier.
Actually the bastard in the Palace didn't have to fret about the possibility of following the same fate as the Italian dictator's. When MacArthur ordered the Japanese to model their Constitution after his country's, he ruled out the idea that the Second Amendment to the U.S. constitution should also be incorporated in the fundamental law. On the other hand, the SCAP thought it would be harmless if his Japanese subjects wanted to have articles equivalent to the First Amendment because it would be a piece of cake for the extra-constitutional general to override the Japanese Constitution whenever he felt like it. Actually the Second Emperor suppressed freedom of speech from GHQ very effectively. I still remember my father showed us incoming letters delivered to him with their envelops already opened, and many words and sentences blacked out.
Things remained essentially unchanged. I think that is why he did not change his education policy with his eldest son long after the war defeat. His principle all came down to this: "Always be different from your friends and never go with the flow because that's the surest way to sacrifice yourself for the Emperor." If I'd had a strong confidence in myself, I would have realized much earlier than I actually did that his principle was a double-edged sword. I would have interpreted his words a little differently and learned to assert myself much harder.
Instead, I simply resorted to weak perverseness and defiance. It never crossed my mind that I had the right to sometimes have fun with my friends a little more than just playing baseball after school hours. As a result, I collapsed in my early teens and never regained my self-confidence until I was in my mid-20s.
To me 1968 was one of the greatest years in my life. I fathered my first son. MacArthur had long been gone, and in the U.S., France and everywhere else in the world, anti-war movements were in full bloom. But nevertheless, the Japanese youths were still acting like their parents and grandparents had. True, they were protesting against the status quo, but only on behalf of the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China. None of their movements were home-grown. They were just importing irrelevant ideologies from foreign countries which were not governed by a war criminal like Japan's Emperor.
When my first son was born, I said to myself, "Don't repeat my father's mistake by going to extremes as he did to me." But by the time my son became a schoolkid, I realized my guiding principle for educating my son could not be that different from my father's. It's not only his mother (my ex) but also his maternal grandparents, teachers, friends and neighbors that wanted him to be a people person, i.e. conformist.
My ex-father-in-law was a former Tekiya. An English entry to Wikipedia defines a Tekiya as one "who primarily peddled illicit, stolen or shoddy goods" to serve as one of the major sources of funds for a Yakuza syndicate. He once told me proudly that his merchandise had included "Philopon," methamphetamine-based illegal stimulant which had often been used on Kamikaze pilots. It's this former Yakuza who in later years siphoned a good part of my alimony which was primarily meant for the higher-learning tuition for my sons. As a result, my elder son dropped out from the university where his paternal grandfather had taught decades earlier.
On top of the fight against the Yakuza mentality rampant among my former in-laws, I also had to fight a fierce religious war when my ex signed up to Soka Gakkai under the influence of this Tekiya and his wife.
With more than 10 million members in Japan and another 192 million in foreign countries, SG claims to be the most powerful and the only authentic "lay" religious movement within Nichiren Buddhist sect. Its political arm Komei-to is also powerful enough to have been the coalition partner of the Liberal Democratic Party when the LDP was in power.
In fact, though, SG is nothing but a legitimized cult, which has nothing, whatsoever, to do with Buddha's tenets. In 1995, some members of Aum Supreme Truth, SG's cousin, released deadly sarin gas in subway trains leaving 13 passengers dead. As a result the group was virtually disbanded. On the contrary, SG has been legitimized quickly and steadfastly in the last several decades because of, rather than despite the fact that it spreads more poisonous substance: superstition coupled with conformism.
I think I might have tolerated my ex's superstitious belief if she hadn't involved our sons in it when they were still in their preteens. Throughout the 1970's, I had to see every night our sons sit alongside of their mother before Butsudan, the family altar, to chant the abracadabra particular to Soka Gakkai. In 1981, I said to myself, "Enough is enough."
When I call it a religious war, I'm not exaggerating the situation which led to our divorce. Take a look at the official statistics recently compiled by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, MEXT for short. According to the MEXT survey, people who belonged to lawful religious organizations totaled 209 million, more than 1.6 times of the total population of this country, which stands at some 127 million. And we know this is a gross underestimate because MEXT confined its survey to tax-exempt organizations. There are many other non-tax-exempt groups, tens of thousands of them. Deep inside, everyone knows at least 300 million Japanese hold on to religious faiths. This vouches for the observation of Australian journalist Ben Hills that the Japanese embrace the "trilogy of faiths" and do not feel particularly uncomfortable with the religious salad.
Given this climate, if I have to identify the specific group of people I have been at war with, it's none other than the entire population of this country who are enlisted in Tennoist cult (the Emperor cult) at their birth. As shown in the picture embedded at the top of this post, their parents and grandparents went down on their knees and wept on August 15, 1945 at the plaza in front of the Imperial Palace. Believe it or not, they were offering their sincere apologies to the super class-A war criminal for their inability to defend him against the U.S.-led allied powers. Not a single Japanese thought Hirohito "deserved ten thousand deaths" (万死に値する) for driving more than 3 million subjects to death as a human shield for the bastard in the unwinnable war.
Throughout his formative years, my elder son, as well as his younger brother, was brainwashed by my ex-wife to believe in false stories that we broke up because of my incessant womanization, and he had to drop out of university because I was a deadbeat dad. Nothing was farther from truth. But learning a wrong lesson from his father's life which was actually filled with relationships with unforgettable women, he now seems to have chosen to bind himself to one and the only woman who has long been bound to the wheelchair herself. Like all his fellow countrymen, he believes that self-sacrifice is more important than anything else. To him it's an abhorrent crime to pursue personal happiness. I don't think he will someday emancipate himself from the pathological obsession with self-sacrifice. Simply, he never wants to be a free, self-reliant and wholesome man.
Guided by the same spirit of self-denial, he has grown into a perfect people person. His biological dad has almost always been hated or feared by his peers, subordinates and bosses. In stark contrast, my son is liked by everyone he meets. Unfortunately for him, though, he has never been really loved or admired. Who would wholeheartedly trust someone who thinks he can be committed to so many people at a time?
On the surface, my son's philanthropy is extended to his dying father, as well. But I know that deep inside he feels he can't punish me enough for leaving his mother for a brighter and more charming woman when he was a 4th grader. A couple of years ago, he insisted I move to his place to live with him, his wheelchair-bound, CRPS-suffering wife, their dogs and my ex-wife. He promised that he would see to it that my privacy would be fully respected. But I knew there was no such thing as a free lunch between us, and that I was supposed to reciprocate in one way or the other. Now in the wake of the hypertensive crisis I've been going through, he seems to think I'm suffering the well-deserved consequence of refusing the invisible strings attached to his offer.
One day last fall, I mailed to my son to say, "Why don't we visit my dad's burial place the next weekend? It's been a long time since we last went there." Several years earlier, I had parted ways with the Buddhist temple in Tokyo where our family tombs had long been located. At that time I moved the urns that supposedly contained the ashes of my parents to a secular burial place atop a hill in Gunma Prefecture, 70 miles away from Tokyo.
Before I moved the ashes, I was a little better off, financially, than I am today. But now I'm broke because I had to purchase the "permanent" leasehold right on the new burial place, and at the same time, I launched Yamamoto Family Website, Japan's first website of its kind. I've had no intention to have my bones buried in the grave, but these projects cost me more than a fortune. I just thought the virtual and real sites would help bring my family together once again. But actually, my sons, siblings and in-laws did not show enthusiasm to my idea of restoring family bonds.
When I asked my eldest son if he felt like joining my trip, I knew he would comply because that was something he was supposed to do in this society. But at the same time, I knew he would comply only out of a sense of obligation. He even sounded like he was wondering if he still owed me something.
He insisted to give me a car ride. I preferred the train ride because it would be much faster, and more importantly, much safer. When I knew he wouldn't give in, I thought I had to prepare myself for the danger inherent in sitting in a passenger seat when a people person is at the wheel.
The Japanese people are known to be prone to an untimely sleep. The reason is because a people person has too many obligations to fulfill with too many people in a matter of 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. The only time he is reminded that he needs some sleep is when sitting in a business meeting, which is nothing but a ritual here, or sitting at the wheel. My role would, therefore, be to keep my son awake during the 5-hour-long roundtrip.
The hardest part was to throw an uninterrupted stream of words at the back of my chauffeur while making sure to carefully weed out a thought-provoking issue such as politics, culture or religions. He wrongly believes that like his paternal grandpa, and unlike his dad, he has a profound insight into technology and science. If I had dared to take up a political issue, he would have said, "Oh no, not again, dad. You know I'm not interested in talking about subjective matters." Actually, not once has he visited his father's website. The reason: "My English proficiency is too poor for that." This is a standard excuse you hear from a Japanese all the time. As a matter of fact, his Japanese proficiency is also very poor. It's just that he doesn't want to use his own brain to THINK in the way a human being in his right mind does. Another tacit rule for the selection of topics is that I have to refrain from bringing up any real and relevant issue. I'm always supposed to talk about false or irrelevant issues.
For instance, I thought the GPS was an ideal topic to take up with my moody driver on our way to the burial place at the mountaintop. On the surface it looked to have a certain relevance to our trip which sometimes had to be guided by Kaanabi, the car navigation system, but actually had nothing, whatsoever, to do with his paternal granddad for whom he was writing off the whole Saturday. I kept talking to his back everything I knew about the GPS. The system needs to have two satellites to gauge a horizontal distance with Pythagorean equation in use; it needs another satellite to know the vertical distance; a fourth satellite is needed to adjust time differences. These pieces of information had been stored somewhere in my brain since I received them from someone else. And now I was just sending them out to the next receiver purely on an ear-to-mouth basis. I might have discussed the same topic with a taxi driver.
My son answered over his shoulders in a drowsy voice: "Dad, I already know all that stuff." His back was asking: "What the hell are you getting at?" Yes, certainly he knows everything, except that to an ordinary citizen, the GPS is nothing more than a nice-to-have. It's a must-have only for the military and perhaps for the police. But I stopped short of telling him what I was really getting at because I wanted to avoid a traffic accident.
Five hours of this was more than enough. I learned all anew that I have nothing to communicate with him, or any other Japanese for that matter, who doesn't see any problem with applying technologies of the 21st century to business practices and personal lives which have all remained unchanged since the 19th century.
The situations I've gone through in my 76-year life are not really atypical of those experienced by the Japanese of my generation. Even so, I suspect a Westerner who is not a resident here has great difficulty clearly visualizing the weird things that have happened to us in those turbulent years. He may say he agrees to my heretical theory about the terminally-ill country where I was born. But he never fails to add, almost in the same breath, that Japan is ahead of industrialized nations in the West in many respects, nonetheless, especially in technological development. I can't but give up.
At any rate, these are why I have subtly disowned my offspring since the time I told them never to look for the corpse when they've lost touch with their father. Simply I don't want to be incinerated and buried in the fake Buddhist format. I hope my sons, too, will soon write off their biological father so I can leave this imperial shithouse for good without feeling as if I'm leaving my heart behind.