America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy
- John Quincy Adams
On July 9 Dr. Lee Seung-hun, physics professor at the University of Virginia, spoke at a conference sponsored by Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan.
Truth always hurts. And since nobody wants to get hurt, it never sells
even when it's a giveaway like mine.
That is why I came up with the trivia format several month ago. I thought
facts can sometimes be substituted for truth because, after all, truth is the summation of internalized facts. I also thought by trivializing things, I would be able to make my blog pieces a little more entertaining to my predominantly American audience, and better yet, this way I would be able to help immunizing them against the pains inherent to truth.
Obviously I underestimated the brainpower of these highly-educated Americans. They instantly detected the trap I had set up on them.
Another thing I underestimated is their resolve to bury in oblivion the dark side of the history of their country.
By now I have learned from this experiment that these people have already had
one or more small fish bones stuck deep in their throats and to them that is more than enough.
This is why these guys are so allergic to truth or any clue to it. They always put the reality of Pax Americana before truth.
And this also explains why conspiracy theorists in North America have found a lucrative niche market so easily.
They peddle truth that does not hurt.
If you don't want to become hooked on the addictive substance truth-seekers are markeing, you resort to cynicism, the attitude toward truth typical of highly-educated Americans today. You just keep saying, "Who can tell where to find this thing called truth?" The all-too-familiar line always leaves me wondering whether there is any difference between a prestigious higher-learning institute in the U.S., such as Obama's alma mater, and yet another vocational school or Berufsschule in Europe.
In the past they, their parents and grandparents have gulped down so many fish, including the one from the Gulf of Tonkin where sea battles were fought between the USS Maddox and North Vietnamese torpedo boats in
August 1964. But among other things, the mysterious sinking of the USS Maine
in Havana Harbor in February 1898 is still weighing heavily on their minds, if only subliminally.
As anyone who has studied the history of the United States knows, the particular
incident prompted William McKinley to rush into the Spanish-American War, which
the President had previously wanted to avoid. As a result, the United States
could capture Cuba, instead of liberating it. Equally important, America
could also colonize Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.
Despite the fact that these prizes were officially awarded to the victor
in the Treaty of Paris, the cause of the sinking of the Maine that triggered
the war has remained mysterious to date. Most recently, in 1998, to commemorate the 100th anniversary
of the war, National Geographic Magazine had Advanced Marine Enterprises conduct an investigation into
the explosion that sank the vessel.
The investigators of the institution could avail themselves for the first time of computer
modeling and simulation, the technique which had previously been unavailable.
Yet, they had to conclude: "The sum of [our] findings is not definitive
in proving that a mine was the cause of sinking of the Maine, but it does
strengthen the case in favor of a mine as the cause."
Before they could feel fully vindicated, the Americans went on an expedition to Vietnam. Afghanistan and Iraq followed decades later. And most recently, they started to ascribe the March 26 incident in the Yellow Sea to a North Korean torpedo.
Obama's response to the sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean patrol ship, was irresolute and subdued even more than ever. He has been exercising self-restraint by reducing the sinking that claimed 46 lives
to a matter of empty rhetoric in part because he thought the causeless and endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are more than enough.
Obviously there must have been another reason. Most probably he couldn't be sure that the evidence produced by the Joint Investigation Group (JIG) on May 20 was genuine. The guy must have thought, "This can be yet another 'intelligence failure'."
That is the only way to explain why Obama, Clinton and most other
educated Americans have refused so frantically, sometimes even hysterically, the idea of reexamining evidence shown in JIG's report, which was released just in time for the June 5 local elections in South Korea, and amid the nation-dividing controversy over the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' air station in Japan.
Don't take me wrong, however. I don't care a bit about who was behind the Cheonan sinking. Neither do I care about whether the "provocative act" was actually a conspiracy.
What concerns me most is people's attitudes toward truth.
■ Does one always try to recompose truth by himself from given facts, instead of just swallowing someone else's ideology or theory? ■ Does he have commonsense to weed out fishy elements from given facts before deriving his own truth from them?
These are the questions I ask myself when I interact with anyone I do. Unfortunately, I can seldom answer my own questions in the affirmative.
Especially when it comes to those political racketeers based in the U.S., I don't know what to say.
These politicians and pundits don't normally swallow truth given by others because they have to differentiate themselves from each other for business purposes. But their supposedly proprietary theories or ideologies are all fake because they always take it for granted that any secondhand information that fits comfortably into their intellectual merchandise is genuine.
All I could tell them is that I was not born in the twilight years of the American Century either to warn these mainstream ideologues active and vocal there to adhere to the founding principles of their country, or to make a fortune myself doing conspiracy-mongering business such as antimainstream truth-seekers'.
At any rate I just can't wait until 2110 to know whether or not JIG's theory is substantiated by facts.
By now I have hypothesized that the habitual self-deception of the American people since 1898 has taken a devastating toll on their fate. So I just want to make sure, before I go, that the progress of America's decline is already irreversible. · read more (214 words)
Tuesday, July 13 2010 @ 03:59 AM CDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
Left: In this rare session sponsored by the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan on July 9, a professor of physics at the University of Virginia and an associate professor in international politics at Johns Hopkins University argued that the official report on the Cheonan sinking was fake. But usually members of the FCCJ keep scratching the surface of things happening here to cater to largely biased editorial positions of their head-offices.
Center: Ichiro Ozawa still remains the Shadow Shogun and is getting prepared for a comeback Right: Yoshimi Watanabe is up and coming now
This is to follow up the flash report I posted when the election returns were
Western Media's Take
Once again they are responding to the results of the Sunday poll in a breathtakingly
They say in concert that the outcome of the election will once again destabilize
the situation here. It's as though they think Hatoyama's resignation early last
month had once stabilized it.
Stabilized for 5 weeks? Don't be silly.
These guys also attribute DPJ's defeat to the fact that amid the election campaign,
Kan started to say the consumption tax (Japan's VAT) might have to be raised
from 5% to 10% to prevent Japan from treading the path similar to Greece's.
Reportedly Japan's prime minister had hinted at a consumer tax hike in the G20 meeting
in Canada to prevent budget deficits from further ballooning. At the same time he seems to have promised the leaders from other countries that he would lower corporate tax rates so as to ensure economic growth. It's appalling to
know the former finance minister didn't know the value-added taxes in Greece were already
in the range of 8-19% when the crisis broke out there.
It is true that Kan himself attributed DPJ's defeat, in retrospect, to
the fact that he had once again broke his previous campaign pledge by carelessly
mentioning the tax hike. But this doesn't explain why then the major opposition LDP, which also made it clear that doubling the tax rate would be necessary, could regain part of lost ground.
The fact remains that the real cause of the setback suffered by his party is that he didn't really address, let alone propose any solution to, the key issues ranging from corruption that persists, to the U.S.-Japanese security treaty that increasingly proves irrelevant in the post-Cold War era, to the dole-out policy that has gone over the top by now.
The consumption tax was just a decoy.
Needless to say Tokyo correspondents of foreign media are at a loss what to make of the sudden rise of the fledgling Your Party.
When will the media in the West ever learn they are largely misguided by their empty-headed Tokyo correspondents?
Committee for Inquest of Prosecution
At this moment Ozawa's fate all hinges on the Committee's second verdict due at the end of this month and Prosecutors Office's response to it.
The Committee consists of eleven members who are periodically picked "randomly"
from among "ordinary citizens." For an obvious reason, occupations,
genders and ages of those who are picked at random remain undisclosed on
the pretext of protection of privacy.
Of course "at random" can mean anything. At best it's a roulette,
Russian or not. And at worst, it can mean that the committee is totally
fictitious and nonexistent in the first place.
It still remains to be seen whether or not Ozawa can make a comeback in style at the plenary convention of the party scheduled for September. But I am reasonably sure there is no chance for Kan to get reelected at the convention and that although Ozawa can't even run if he is indicted, that's not the end of his political career.
As some have already started speculating, it's fairly likely that the most powerful intra-party faction headed by Ozawa seeks to spin off from the DPJ to form yet another new party. Time and again has he come out of similar crises by resorting to this tactic.
Not a single one can outmaneuver the Shadow Shogun.
Rapid Rise of the Your Party
Admittedly the strong showing of the Your Party was really phenomenal. Head
of the newborn party Yoshimi Watanabe has been able to convince millions of voters that it can serve as the real alternative to the old parties all bound by strings of particular interest groups. He kept saying
the only way out of the deepening crisis is to drastically downsize the
legislature and restructure the bureaucracy. Only by these measures, he said, the Japanese can bring their nation back on the right track.
Yet it is important to note Watanabe's prescription for sustainable growth still falls way short
of reinvigorating the failing nation.
His father, Michio Watanabe, was the Minister of Agriculture and Fishery (1978-79,)
the Minister of Finance (1980-82,) the Minister of International Trade
and Industry (1985-86) and the Foreign Minister (1991-93.) In those days,
his ministries were solely mandated to protect the private sector, especially
major financial institutions and other key industries, from foreign competitors.
· read more (157 words)
NOTE 1: The two parties shown in red font have formed the ruling coalition. NOTE 2: Komeito is a legitimized cult which was a minor coalition partner of the Liberal Democratic Party until August last year.
I was not really interested in knowing the results of the Upper House election. Neither did I think the outcome would be report-worthy at all
On second thought, however, I felt an urge to post a flash report because so many self-styled Japan experts in the West have been misleading their audiences to believe the resignations of the former prime minister Hatoyama and the "former"
Shadow Shogun Ozawa have paved the way to the rebirth of Japan as a sound and viable country. For an obvious reason these guys are determined to defy the fact that the misogi ritual can't have changed anything about the corrupt and disoriented regime.
Let me repeat one last time that no matter how often the Japanese replace
their leader, their nation remains unchanged as long as they refuse to
change themselves as they have done in the last 13 centuries.
As of writing this piece, yet another allnight dibeto ritual is going on on TV Asahi with media mogul Soichiro Tahara acting as
the priest. As usual the debaters go in circles around the "issues" with the U.S.-Japanese alliance, widespread corruption, impediments to sustainable economic growth, ballooning sovereign debt and the bankrupt welfare programs. It's as though they are addressing different issues than those facing them before the election. They are getting nowhere before the daybreak because the priest is skillful enough at getting around the real issues. · read more (256 words)
Saturday, July 03 2010 @ 05:48 AM CDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. - George Washington
So many people talk about the Okinawa issue these days. But very few of them really care about the suffering of the 1.4 million Okinawans, which actually constitutes the gut issue with the alliance between the U.S. and Japan.
Based on the false premise that Okinawa is just the forty-seventh prefecture of Japan, politicians and political analysts on both sides of the Pacific keep scratching the surface of what's really going on out there.
These political racketeers make every possible effort to get around the real issue simply because they know very well that delving into the heartache of the Okinawans as second-class citizens will jeopardize, in one way or the other, their ideological cause on which they make their own living.
In my view, you can't really understand the predicament the Okinawans have been going through in the last 65 years under the partial occupation of their lands by the U.S. armed forces without further tracking it back to the early-17th century when Satsuma clan annexed the Ryukyu Kingdom on behalf of the Tokugawa Shogunate based in Edo, the city named Tokyo today.
Sixty-five years have passed since the Tokyo government yielded its rule over the islands to Washington. The "return" of Okinawa thirty-eight years ago has made little difference to the situation; the people are still suffering under a two-tiered oppression - something really unprecedented in modern history.
But for now, let me focus on the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between U.S. and Japan and SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) signed on January 19, 1960 between U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower and Nobusuke Kishi, a CIA agent.
Delusion on Delusion
The single most important question the Japanese must ask themselves is what the U.S. Marine Corps are deployed there for.
The rubberstamp answer they hear from policymakers and political pundits of the two countries is that they are stationed there to protect Japan against its enemies or deter them from launching an attack on the country.
Give me a break.
It's too touching to be true that the USMC units based in Okinawa are poised to risk their own lives to protect the Japanese living more than 5,000 miles away from their own home country. This is a fairytale especially when the Americans have increasingly proved incapable of even taking care of themselves.
The USMC's missions defined by the National Security Act of 1947 do not include defense or deterrence in the first place. And in reality, the marines deployed in Okinawa are spearheading amphibious and expeditionary warfare in and around Afghanistan and Iraq.
NOTE: Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force has "bought" six AEGIS-equipped destroyers to defend the Japanese archipelago from possible missile attacks. But since this is a different issue from the USMC deployed in Okinawa, I don't touch on it in this post. These vessels are said to be filled with state-of-the-art technologies all sealed off in a black box. But actually it's a Pandora's Box which is the subject I'm addressing here.
Aside from the definition of their roles, what enemies are they supposed to defend Japan against?
Maybe the People's Republic of China is at the top of their list of potential enemies.
What a delusion.
Just for one thing, a record 481,696 Chinese tourists flocked to Japan in 2009, up 20% from 2007. Each of them spent an average 110K yen ($1.2K) for shopping a wide range of consumer goods from appliances, to cosmetics, to high-end nailclippers. The Japan National Tourism Organization is now expecting the influx of cash from the continent to accelerate in the years to come.
Another example of Japan's dependency on China is imports of raw materials. Although Japan at present has to depend more on Chile than China for the supply of lithium, the country's morbid culture centered around the keitai (handset) technology will fall apart if China further lowers its export quota on the rare metal mainly excavated in Tibet.
So, make no mistake - automakers are not alone in increasingly getting addicted to the world's most populous and prosperous marketplace. It's not China's problem, but Japan's.
In the wake of the deepening economic doldrums, Japan couldn't withstand a single day without China. China, too, has to count on Japan to sustain its growth path, but only to a far lesser degree.
Amid the campaign for the upcoming Upper House election, Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, as the "cheerleader" of the Rise-Up Japan Party, has been repeatedly warning the voters that if they don't support the newborn party he roots for, Japan will be demoted to the 24th province or 6th autonomous region of the People's Republic of China from the 51st star on the national flag of the United States. The old cretin at the helm of the metropolitan government should know this won't make any difference to Okinawa's status as Japan's 47th prefecture.
In short, you've got to be totally out of your mind, or out of touch with reality, to foresee a military conflict between the two countries in the first half of this century.
Maybe China's ambition to capture Taiwan is a little more real, but there is no reason the Okinawans have to suffer the consequence from the possible conflict in the Taiwan Strait.
What about North Korea, then? It's another baloney that the tiny republic whose defense budget is estimated at the vicinity of $6 billion poses a threat to Japan whose military spending always tops $40 billion. The American fortress in Okinawa is nothing but superfluous.
True, you can't rule out Ryu Murakami's scenario in which North Korea successfully subverts the ailing Japanese regime, but there will never be a nuclear warfare as the novelist expressly stresses.
I don't care a bit about the reason why on earth the U.S. has had to turn down so frantically North Korean U.N. Ambassador Sin Son Ho's request to reopen the probe into the Cheonan sinking. Neither do I care exactly why the U.S., notwithstanding, has stopped short of calling it an act of international terrorism.
But one thing is for sure; the incident in the Yellow Sea has nothing to do with Okinawa.
NOTE: According to the recently declassified documents, even Nobusuke Kishi, the traitor, confided to some officials in the Foreign Ministry his fear that Japan would possibly get embroiled in a military confrontation between the U.S. and a communist regime in the Far East.
To gloss over all this hocus-pocus, politicians and pundits on both sides of the Pacific have invented a lot of red herrings about SOFA.
Their modus operandi is to single out isolated incidents such as sexual crimes committed by U.S. servicemen stationed there, or the 1959 crash of the U.S. jet fighter (F-100) into an elementary school that left 17 dead and other 210 injured. It's as though Japanese men have seldom raped their female compatriots, or car accidents caused by locals haven't killed much more civilians in the last 51 years.
To that end they make believe that the single most important issue involved in Japan's part of SOFA is which party should have civil and criminal jurisdiction. Even the anti-U.S. leftists here have never failed to raise their voices to demand the transfer of jurisdiction every time a U.S. serviceman raped a Japanese girl.
Actually the media-salient topic of how to handle criminal cases around the military bases is yet another red herring because it has nothing to do with the core issue with the islands of Okinawa.
Regime for Dual Oppression of Japan's Tibet
It seems to me that self-styled American experts in the Okinawa issue, and their Japanese minions as well, feel mandated to perpetuate the dual oppression regime for another half century. To that end they keep pontificating on the necessity for the Tokyo government to remain under the wing of America.
I don't know any other word than a colony to describe what Japan is to the U.S. and what Okinawa is to Japan.
In general terms, a colony is defined like below:
■ A colony is a territory which is politically controlled by people living
in a geographically separate land.
■ The natives who inhabit the region have ethnic, cultural and historical
background which differs from that of the ruling group. Despite the inevitable progress of assimilation over time, their distinctive identity is retained for many centuries.
■ A local governing body may or may not exist. Wherever there is one, it looks like yet another local government on the surface. But essentially, it is totally subordinated to the government of the mainland. Its autonomy is largely a nominal thing.
■ A minority group among the natives willingly collaborates with the government of the suzerain power solely because of the financial interests they are vested there, while the vast majority of the people have nothing but to suffer from the subservience.
No sane person can deny both Japan and Okinawa meet these descriptions, though to varying degrees.
The beauty of this regime is that the U.S. government doesn't have to deal directly with the Okinawans who have been going through all this predicament in the last sixty-five years. So the Obama administration seems fully determined to preserve the mechanism of exploitation without running counter to the nation's founding principle. In this respect the incumbent president is no different from his predecessor.
And that is where American pundits who claim to be well-versed in Japan's sociopolitical landscape kick in. Now they have rallied behind Washington's absurd foreign policy both from liberal and conservative camps. This is a real bipartisan effort.
The primary mandate these bastards are given by Washington is to constantly mix up legality with legitimacy by always putting laws and legal documents before people. In fact, though, we all know it's men that sign them - not the other way around.
To that end, these Japan experts try hard to prove that America's Far Eastern ally is a sovereign and viable nation with a legally competent government. It takes a special set of skills to defy all the evidence indicating that the successive Tokyo governments have always acted like a dupe.
To be more specific, skills required from them can be summarized as below:
■ They have to have a good enough memory to name 7 prime ministers of Japan who
came in and went out of office through its revolving door since the turn of the century.
■ They ought to have a nerve to look back at the 14 remarks each of them made one week after and six months after each transition of power without blushing for a split second.
■ They should be able to ignore the fact that these prime ministers have invariably left in the air the gut issues with the convoluted trilateral relations between Washington, Tokyo and Okinawa islands. In other words, they should be able to skate over people issues because it's next to impossible to mold living people in an ideological context even with their special skills to falsify the truth. · read more (405 words)
Tuesday, June 22 2010 @ 05:40 AM CDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
The sparrow language he tweets at the Starbucks terrace is more compre- hensible than Jangrish. Here's why.
ESS stands for English Speaking Society.
Some 50-60 years ago, every high school or college had an ESS or two primarily because it was considered trendy or highbrow to speak what they thought was English even among Japanese students.
If they had any other reason to learn colloquial English that way, it was because
they wanted to befriend gaijin (foreigners, especially those with blue eyes) and socialize nicely with them.
In those days the Japanese people fantasized about mixing with gaijin even more than their children and grandchildren do today. They joined an ESS in the expectation that they might be introduced to a gaijin by a group member.
It's also noteworthy that their burning desire for crosscultural interaction had nothing to do with the way WWII ended. Even Germans would serve their purposes.
There may have been a handful of exceptions. They had more down-to-earth reasons such as using the language on actual business scenes after graduation. Even so they were practicing English in
the wrong way because fluency in small talk wouldn't help a bit in real business.
In general the Japanese have never understood that English, or any other language for that matter, is
nothing but a tool of communication. When you don't have your own thoughts or feelings really worth sharing with others, the tool is totally useless.
Don't misunderstand me, however; I am not subscribing to ESP, or English (learning) for Specific Purposes, the "proprietary" method some professors and researchers at Tokyo's Aoyama Gakuin University have been advocating in the last ten years.
From my first-hand experience working with retarded faculty members of the AGU and its Business School, I can tell for sure that the education system does not make any difference to Japan's disastrous showings in English proficiency.
Take education on information technology, for example. What will happen if you cram your student's empty brain with English IT jargon? Absolutely nothing, because IT is not a goal in itself, either, but a tool with which to pursue it. The same can be said of literacy in any other area of expertise.
Despite the claim by the AGU professors that ESP is an innovative methodology, it actually dates back to Japan's catch-up era which started in the 1860s. But as everyone knows, the nationwide drive for fukoku kyohei and wakon yosai all proved an unworkable prescription by 1945.
150 years have passed since the seclusion policy was lifted, and it's been 65 years since the war defeat. Now the entire nation has grown into a huge ESS, as if thousands of English Speaking Societies have all been converged there.
So I was really surprised when I saw a bill on a bulletin board in this neighborhood
that read: "Why don't you join our ESS where you can discuss various topics with Japanese citizens and foreigners every Sunday? You can attend
our meeting at the minimal cost of 1,000 yen ($11) per session."
Momentarily I developed an illusion that my clock had been turned back to the 1950s.
Wondering what's going on there, I called the organizer to ask if I would be allowed to bring up any topic in his ESS. He was a Japanese and about my age. He affably answered my question in Japanese: "Basically yes - but we don't take up political or religious issues. We have had a bitter experience in the past when someone raised touchy issues."
I said: "So you are just chitchatting there, right?" He quickly
modified what he had said seconds earlier so I wouldn't hang up. "But
it really depends," he said, "We just want to keep a harmonious atmosphere among group members."
That's why I have made it a rule to join in only when I have nothing
particular to do, feel physically strong enough to take a ten-minute walk
to the place and the weather is not so lousy.
The first time I joined them, I learned the basics of their code of conduct
and practical rules associated with it.
The man I had talked with over the phone turned out to be the organizer as I had assumed him
to be. He also looked like one of the founding members of the group since
its launch twenty years ago.
The self-appointed organizer seems to have authority to decide who to take the chair in the next
session. Small wonder he has never told (and will never tell) me to take
my turn, although I have already handed the Internet-illiterate guy some printouts
of my blog pieces carefully excluding poisonous ones.
The person who is arbitrarily selected by him is, in turn, given the right
to determine the next topic(s). He or she is supposed to prepare photocopies of an article picked from a newspaper (e.g. The Japan Times) or a magazine (e.g.
Newsweek.) It's out of the question to bring in his or her own writing.
A guy from California and a woman from the U.K. whose husband is Japanese show up alternately as the moderator and English teacher.
Other members are predominantly Japanese citizens living in the city of Yokohama.
Their age and background vary on the surface, but they have one thing in
common: they all suffer from a psychogenic illness which I have named Post-Black-Ship
Stress Disorder. Unlike other types of PTSD, it's infectious and hereditary.
No wonder they do because the port city is the place where
the unequal treaty called Convention of Kanagawa was signed 152 years ago.
They are only sitting there, wearing a mysterious smile all the
time. They feel at ease because all they are supposed to do is to read
out in turns a paragraph or two of the given material.
I can't but accept all this stupid arrangement. But in the first session
I attended, I suggested that at least the chairperson should give us photocopies
of the material a week before it is discussed so that we can save time
to be spent for reading out these sentences in awful accents and intonations
as if we are schoolchildren.
I muted out the last ten words of my suggestion because I thought it would be counterproductive to insult them unnecessarily. Yet, the moment I said this, I got caught in a crossfire not only from the organizer and the moderator, but from all other attendees. The change-resistant folks turned down my request for a farfetched reason: it's impracticable for the chairman to do so because he never knows how many people will come back and how many of those
who aren't present this week will come in the next week.
Especially I can't stand the British woman who is much more of a Japanese
than I am. She says she has been in Japan for more than two decades. The
only thing where she differs from the Japanese is her arrogance. On the surface she sounds like a caring person, but essentially, she is one of those benevolent colonialists.
She is too used to servile locals, perhaps including her husband, who constantly snuggle up to her just because she has blue eyes. She has been spoiled so much that she believes deep inside Caucasians are superior to Mongoloids.
It seems as though she thinks: "Even though the Japanese sometimes outdo us, we always reserve the right to determine whether to say: 'You did a good job,' or 'There are many things we should learn from the Japanese.'"
The broad once warned me that it was impermissibly rude to point my finger
at the person who I was speaking to. I swallowed my objection to her lecture
on good manners because at that point I recalled their code of
conduct: harmony should be put before anything else, just as Shotoku Prince said 14 centuries ago. A beat-up Japanese broad sitting next to me had already started glaring menacingly at me as if to say: "Just one more verbal attack on the British lady, I'll kill you, dirty dotard."
Actually I wanted to say: "We are all grownups. We did not congregate here to
listen to your lecture on how to behave. Gestures vary from country to country. For instance, a Japanese tends to feel insulted when someone motions him over with a beckoning sign particular to Westerners. But that's something we should learn to tolerate."
Another thing where I find her attitude utterly abhorrent is the fact that she always interrupts me when I speak out too much, or too often - by Japanese standards, that is. I am a person who thinks it's a total waste of time to discuss nonissues, and to keep quiet whenever he finds the topic more or less relevant and worth discussing.
The reason she stops me so frequently is because her role there is to encourage,
or force, to be more precise, other people to speak up as often as I do
whereas deep inside she knows they don't have their own opinions to share
with the rest of the group - which is evident from the reaction of these supposedly shy and modest
people. They keep fidgeting for 15-30 seconds before mumbling out an incomplete sentence or two.
Most typically, they say: "Oh, yes, ... but ..." Sometimes they use the conjunction "so" in place of "but." Either way, the rest of the sentence is always left unsaid because most probably they have
nothing to add to begin with, or at best, they think they are understood by the perceptive gaijin listener without spelling out their unorganized "thought."
It is true that there are a few people who seem to have a lot of experience dealing with gaijin. They certainly know how to complete a sentence. Yet it is obvious that they are just parroting, strictly on an ear-to-mouth basis, what they have heard from their gaijin bosses in the past. A rally of words never keeps going any longer than five seconds because gaijin's answer always settles the problem instantly like Vox Dei.
But from the Japanized Briton's point of view, that is enough presumably because that's exactly what's going on in Japanese gradeschools, or even Japanese companies doing business internationally.
The guy from California is a little better. He has a certain amount of
When introducing myself for the first time, I said that one of my favorite pastimes is to play devil's
advocate. In response, the Californian said he shares the same pastime, but other people did not have the slightest idea about what a devil's advocate
should mean. Some of them quickly produced their handsets to consult an online dictionary.
The last Sunday, the chairperson of the week gave us yet another bland story from Newsweek titled something like "Love is a battlefield." It's about
the "tragedies" American soldiers and generals returned from
Iraq and Afghanistan are going through back home. According to the article, not a few returnees are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and some of them have ended up in divorce as a result, and so on and so forth.
While other group members kept saying, "What a pity," "I sympathize with them," etc. as they
were supposed to say, I raised a question: "Don't you guys think they
deserve all these consequences? The draft system is no longer in
place in the U.S., or does it? They all volunteered to do what they did in Iraq and
A couple of weeks earlier, the British woman had asked us how each of us would describe business practices and ethics of the Chinese. I said: "I was really impressed when I heard the president of a Chinese manufacturer of 'ePad' telling a Japanese TV reporter that Apple Computer has pirated his proprietary tablet computer technology. He said if and when Apple started selling its iPad in China, he would certainly file a lawsuit against the American company. When compared to Japanese businesspeople, I can't but respect such a guy."
Actually I just wanted to say it's sickening to see the Japanese people always act so weakkneed and compliant with their Western counterparts. But the moderator looked really stunned at my comment because she didn't understand I was just playing devil's advocate at that time. She just said, "Mr. Yamamoto's view is very interesting." (Thank you for taking my joke so seriously.)
But this time I really meant what I said about U.S. soldiers who have returned from Iraq. Just the same they all raised eyebrows. · read more (503 words)
The art of losing isn't hard to master; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster. Lose something every day. Accept the fluster of lost door keys, the hour badly spent. The art of losing isn't hard to master. - from One Art by American poet Elizabeth Bishop
You don't have to be a good physiognomist to tell the Japanese can expect absolutely nothing from the new State Minister in charge of national strategy (国家戦略担当大臣) or the prime minister who has appointed the bastard to fill the key cabinet position
At first their arrogance made them learning-disabled. Then, as a result, they grew helplessly ignorant. Or it may have happened the other way around - I'm not sure. But that
doesn't really matter.
Time and again the Americans have failed to learn their lessons given everywhere they have been.
In 1945 they attempted to transform Japan into a sound and viable
nation just by hanging seven Class-A war criminals - if you don't subscribe to the conspiracy theory, that is. They virtually acquitted the Emperor of his responsibility for driving more than three million people to death, while in fact the bastard in the palace was the first one to have climbed the thirteen steps to the gallows. They thought it was enough to time the seven executions to the 15th birthday of the heir to the throne.
Sixty five years later they still refuse to admit that what their parents and grandparents did to Japan hasn't brought about any change at all. They certify Japan as a democracy.
Then they applied more or less the same method to Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, sometimes decapitating the regime, some other times showering defenseless peasants with defoliant. But they invariably ended up in equally disastrous results.
Still defying the obvious fact that their assumption is fundamentally wrong, they cling to the delusive idea that they have magical power to change foreign countries either by removing the upper layer of the existing regime or incinerating civilians.
If they have learned something from past failures, they have understood it in the wrong way.
In 2008 they thought that at least they should be able to change their own country by ousting Bush from power. Based on the same invalid assumption, they sent a man with a permanent sun tan, as the outspoken Italian prime minister named Obama, to the White House for the first time in U.S. history.
To their dismay they saw the same outcome when the black messiah proved unable to walk on the water, especially when it was covered with spilled oil.
The only thing they can do today is to look away from it all.
On the other side of the Pacific, Japan keeps struggling as if it still deserves a viable statehood.
After the four consecutive prime ministers left office through its revolving door in less than four years, Naoto Kan was automatically promoted from the deputy premiership in the Hatoyama administration.
As usual, initial indications are that Kan will serve out his term with the media fully determined to manipulate public opinion in favor of him.
Small wonder that self-styled Japan experts in the U.S. insist in concert that the country is quickly getting back on the right track with its health miraculously turning around overnight. To them the chaotic political situation before and after the transition of power from the Liberal Democratic Party to the Democratic Party of Japan was nothing but a spell of hiccups.
True, Kan will most probably withstand longer than his predecessor's. In fact, though, the longevity of an administration does not serve as an indication of the stability of a regime or the viability of a nation.
The overall quality of people does.
American pundits, who have quickly jumped at Kan on the pretext of his soaring approval rating, should explain why then they don't praise Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin and Fidel Castro as great leaders.
To that end they are determined to downplay the fact that in a matter of a week since its launch, the new administration was faced with formidable problems cropping up one after another.
For one thing Shizuka Kamei resigned as Minister in Charge of Banking and Postal Services in Day 4 of the Kan government, because of the feud between his People's New Party and Kan's Democratic
Party of Japan. Kamei complained that Kan had made him lose face over the re-nationalization of what used to be the Japan Post.
Aside from Kamei's departure, a couple other scandals have surfaced in the meantime.
One of the small-time thieves involved there is Satoshi Arai, State Minister
in Charge of Civil Service Reform and Declining Birthrate (photo on the top,) whose expense
statement was found filled with the vouchers for purchases of "NANA," manga (a cartoon) said to be popular among girls in
grade schools, lingerie items such as a sexy camisole and many other filthy and/or kiddie stuff.
As usual the media are trying to trivialize the revelation by asking their favorite legal "experts" and morons from law schools a false question: whether or not
these expenditures are legally reimbursable with taxpayers' money in the
light of Political Funds Control Law.
But actually nothing like that is really at issue. The real issue with Japanese policymakers lies in the fact that not a single one of them has integrity.
Kan's inaugural address of June 4 was an unmistakable sign that Arai's case is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg. It lacked integrity and was filled with empty and wornout words. If there was something not so banal there, it's a weird phrase with which he described his goal; he said he will bring about 最小不幸社会, or "a least unhappy society."
Needless to say, American pundits have shrugged off the series of
revelations as something for my Japan Trivia series on the pretext that these irregularities pale before the unscrupulous crime committed
by former Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa.
Incidentally, Ozawa's resignation as Secretary General of the DPJ means nothing. The "Shadow Shogun" is just sitting out until the dust settles.
Despite all these fallacies we hear on both sides of the Pacific, I see yet another evidence that the terminally ill nation is further sinking into the bottomless abyss.
The Japanese should know that they can't do anything about that anymore.
But at the same time they should ask themselves why on earth the American people cling so desperately to the same old delusion that the U.S.-Japanese strategic alliance is still functioning.
You have to sink yourself to keep pace with a sinking partner.
Even though pundits have difficulty agreeing to the law of physics, a kindergarten kid can easily understand it.
The progress of the decline of the U.S. is also irreversible now. And the Japanese should feel responsible for that.
Ironically enough there's something the brain-dead Japanese still can do for the Americans in that respect: the United States can find an important lesson in its failing ally.
Whether or not the Americans feel like learning something there is a different story. I'm just tipping them off because I owe them so many things I've learned in my lifetime. Maybe I'm only talking about their parents or grandparents. They were people who had high self-esteem, and yet were open-minded toward new ideas. Among other things, I admired their inventiveness.
The lesson I am talking about is how to sink, certainly not how to avoid sinking deeper.
There is a universal truth about the beginning of an era and its end which can be summarized
You can do it in your way when you are on the rise, but you can't when
you are on the decline.
Another way to say the same thing is that you know when to rise, and how, but you can't
tell when to sink, and how. As a matter of fact, though, the Americans have grown too arrogant to admit they are no longer entitled to tell when and how the final curtain should fall
These days not a few Americans admit they are living in the twilight years of the American century. But nobody is ready to accept the idea that their nation's collapse is at their doorstep.
Take a look at the GDP race between the U.S. and China. If you apply rules of thumb and assume nominal GDP of the two nations to grow at an annual rate of 3.5% and 9.5%, respectively, you will know China will catch up with the U.S. by 2030. The American people think they still have twenty years to pull away from China.
In fact, though, you never know from statistics whether China rises while America stands still or
America sinks while China stands still. That's basically why I wrote we
should forget the showings in the Economic Olympics when talking about
the real standing and fate of a nation.
And who knows if America's downslide will not accelerate as was the case with Japan? All we can tell for sure is that it is very unlikely that the progress will decelerate. This is another law of physics.
If there is a little more comprehensive and relevant measure to quantitatively gauge nations' vigor, it's the showing in International Competitiveness.
There seem to be two or more different ways to indexize a nation's competitive edge. But apparently the method employed by IMD World Competitive Center based in Lausanne, Switzerland is considered the most reliable one.
Take a look at the following ranking table based on the IMD Yearbooks:
NOTE: I could not locate on the web the 1990 data for the U.S. and China.
Japan was an indisputable No. 1 back in 1990, just on the eve of the burst
of the bubble economy in the country. But by 2009 it had fallen to No. 17
and the latest IMD Yearbook further downgraded it to No. 27.
Some savvy economists here have termed what has happened in the lost 20 years "Japan's Galapagosization."
Actually, Japan's dramatic decline shown here holds two important lessons for the Americans.
Lesson 1:.All along the Japanese didn't realize that their relative position to
other countries was plummeting so rapidly. It's as recently as a couple of months ago that
they became aware even the Thais had outperformed them. · read more (527 words)
We devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be. - from "The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money" by John Maynard Keynes
Keynes used a beauty contest analogy when he described the mechanism to determine stock prices
I am not going to get really used to this sense of alienation.
Now I see a growing number of my kin and local friends on the other side of the
chasm lying before me.
Also I see there some American names and faces which were on this side before Obama's way of thinking (or not thinking, to be more precise) swept them away.
On Sunday I spent the whole afternoon at my elder son's place. He is a
very caring person. From time to time I have to count on him to do physical
tasks this Parkinson's sufferer can't do himself, such as cleansing the
filters of the air conditioner.
Sometimes I even ask him for a small subsidy. But I find some consolation in the fact that if money should matter in life at all, he still owes me much more than I owe him.
He is a typical people person. Perhaps he doesn't have his own set of values. Even if he has one, he buries it deep inside so he can get along very well with everyone surrounding him. To borrow Keynesian words, he always follows "the average opinion."
It is true that I can attribute his group orientation and propensity toward mediocrity to the education he received from my ex, former in-laws and teachers in his early childhood.
On the one hand, the guiding principle for Japanese educators is something similar to the No Child Left Behind policy in the U.S. But on the other, also at work there is a Japan-particular way of thinking that any child who sticks out of the standard should be mercilessly hammered down.
At the end of the day, I must admit that it's me who was really at fault for what my sons have grown into. Simply put, I shouldn't have fathered them in this country in the first place.
Over time I've had to learn how to avoid futile disputes with him. The
most important thing is not to discuss politics or any other serious issues. Whenever it's unavoidable to touch on a serious topic, I always make believe I'm just cracking a joke.
I do know he is opposed to the policy lines of the two major political
parties and that his take on the Japanese way of life as a whole is not miles apart from his dad's. But that does not help because in our heart of hearts, we are divided over fundamental values. He is on the other
side, too. By now I've chosen to remain just his friend.
Recently he is trying to talk me into moving to the apartment he plans to purchase
to live with him, his CRPS-suffering wife and
mother, i.e. my ex. (CRPS stands for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.) He says he would never interfere with my life. Yet
I find his terms and conditions unacceptable because I know by experience that his Laissez-Faire
policy is a trick, if a well-intended one. I would certainly lose more than I would gain if I complied.
Not that he would win. Any proposition is doomed to end
up in a lose-lose deal in a society where everyone has lost his innate
spontaneity and attitude of self-reliance.
All these people do is what they are supposed to do.
In those turbulent years on the eve of the revision of the U.S.-Japanese
security treaty, I majored in economics in Keio University. More often
than not I skipped classes because they were intolerably boring.
Like anywhere else, lectures Keio professors could deliver were empty theories
they had borrowed or stolen from John Maynard Keynes or Karl Marx. In fact,
though, Japan has never been a capitalist or socialist state.
By the same token, this country has never been a welfare state in the sense the postwar U.K. was under the Labour administration.
has remained Japan all the time.
The only lecture that impressed me was one about Adam Smith I was listening to in my sophomore year. His theory said that only the Invisible Hand ensures a world where prevails what
German philosopher Gottfried Leipniz termed the "preestablished harmony".
On the contrary I have never been really convinced by the Keynesian theory which the British economist thought was the only workable prescription for the problems facing the post-Great Depression world. · read more (450 words)
If you draw the Old Maid, however, you get penalized for what you are not really responsible for. But don't worry too much because Japan is a civilized
country - so they say. From time to time, you have to perform a harakiri ritual, but a symbolic disembowelment will suffice these days.
They call the whole process of ablution 禊 (misogi) or お祓い (oharai.) Although these words have their origin in Shinto terminology, they still remain
everyday words because this is an essential part of Japanese life. Even
when a construction company builds a modern high-rise building, the centerpiece
of the groundbreaking ceremony (photo) is purification of the site conducted by
a 神主 (kannushi or Shinto priest) or two.
In Act 5 of the political kabuki, Naoto Kan takes center stage as the new
His past misdemeanors included a case in which it was revealed that he had neglected his duty to pay pension premiums. In 2004, he had to step down as head
of the Democratic Party of Japan as a fallout of this "scandal."
Then he took a long pilgrimage (photo) to cleanse himself.
Now fully purified, he came back as the DPJ chief and Japan's prime minister.
When it comes to Kan's predecessor Yukio Hatoyama and his de facto boss
Ichiro Ozawa, hordes of kannushi in the media are saying in concert that they are quite OK now because they
have already gone through their part of ablution ritual by symbolically
stabbing each other to (feigned) death.
The only thing the mainstream media were concerned about was how Kan could
distance himself from Ozawa who is still on parole, so to speak. But the sticking point quickly dissolved when Kan said,
as he was supposed to say: "Despite everything we owe him, I will
ask him to sit out and keep quiet for a while."
For a while means until the dust settles.
Along these lines they are now saying --
Let's forget about all the money Ozawa has stolen from taxpayers because
it's all over now.
Let the thief retain his latent power as the Shadow Shogun because otherwise
the most powerful Ozawa faction might spin off from the party.
Let's put the lid on Pandora's Box carelessly opened by Hatoyama to seal off what the Okinawans and some other Japanese glimpsed inside. · read more (446 words)
Thursday, June 03 2010 @ 06:28 AM CDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
腹切り, or harakiri, literally meaning belly cutting, must be familiar to you if you have seen 歌舞伎, or kabuki, Japan's overly stylized, intolerably boring dramatic show from the early 17th
century. Sometimes Giacomo Puccini's Madame Butterfly can be substituted
if you think you can claim to be an expert
in the Japanese "culture." only by scratching its surface.
In fact, though, Westerners, especially Americans, have never really understood that harakiri is not just suicide by disembowelment. Actually it's more of a ritual - one very unique to Japan. You can see nothing like this anywhere else in the world.
In the 1960s in Vietnam, not a few Buddhist monks set themselves on fire.
A couple of years ago some Tibetan monks did the same thing. Even to shallow-minded
Americans, these "barbecue shows" were not really unfathomable
because these monks immolated themselves in protest against the brutal
aggressors from America and China. The same can be said, perhaps to a
lesser degree, of suicide bombers from Islamic countries.
On the other hand Japanese people never kill themselves to protest against anything. Neither do they cut their bellies in the depths of despair. Maybe Yukio Mishima, the rightwing nut still touted as the most important literary figure
in postwar Japan, is a rare exception in that respect.
In November 1970, the homosexual
writer stormed the Tokyo headquarters of the Eastern Command of Japan's
Self-Defense Forces accompanied by four members of his private army named
Tate-no Kai. They barricaded the office of the commandant and tied the officer to
Then Mishima, together with his catamites, stepped onto the balcony
to address the real soldiers gathered below. After his attempt to incite a coup d'etat failed, he returned to the commander's office to perform a harakiri ritual. There he eviscerated himself and ultimately died when one of his men did the preplanned task of 介錯, kaishaku or suicide assistance, by beheading the commander of Tate-no Kai with a samurai sword.
It's unlikely that a similar thing happens again in part because the Japanese
people have no guts to remove anymore. But more important, the idea of protesting
against something by committing suicide is quite foreign to the
Time and again I have called Japan a culture of apology. Not just that these people are excessively apologetic. More often than not their apology is worded like this: "I'm awfully sorry for everything I did. But actually I didn't do anything wrong. Just the same I apologize because that's what I'm supposed to do."
By the same token the Japanese commit suicide, if only symbolically, to punish themselves. It doesn't matter whether or not they are actually at fault when something goes wrong. The only thing they have in mind when performing the ritual is to save the defective organizations they belong in by putting all the blame on themselves.
Just remember that in 1945 it never occurred to them to punish the Emperor. They punished
themselves, instead, as if 3 million lives sacrificed for Hirohito had not been enough.
That is exactly what Yukio Hatoyama intended to do on Wednesday. In his supposedly touching farewell address, the outgoing prime minister effectively said that he was willing to take responsibility for what he had not done wrong, or not at all.
It's for this very reason that Japan has had six prime
ministers since the turn of the century. By the end of their terms, they almost invariably developed a sense of guilt over something that anyone else couldn't have handled in the right way, either.
Needless to say, Hatotama's guilty conscience stemmed from the fact that he had casually opened Pandora's Box from which cropped up the gut issue with the U.S.-Japanese security treaty. He was just too careless, or too bold.
As recently as nine months ago, the media hailed him as a change agent citing his approval rating that topped 70% at that time. But now they have started calling him a loopy policymaker, just as he actually is from the beginning, quickly lowering the approval rating below 20%. As usual, they don't feel obliged to apologize for misleading their audiences once again.
If Douglas MacArthur and Harry
S. Truman had brought in here a presidential system in which the leader
is elected directly by voters, that wouldn't have made any difference to this climate.
U.S. president and his counterparts in the G8 nations other than Japan
are now complaining they have difficulty memorizing the name of the incumbent
prime minister of Japan. · read more (318 words)
Saturday, May 29 2010 @ 03:50 AM CDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
Mizuho Fukushima, head of Social Democratic Party
Apparently it's Obama who first opened Pandora's Box. On its lid I see a fingerprint that looks like his.
Thus far so many unmanageable things have been unleashed from the Box, such as the immense buildup of nuclear arsenals in the five-plus-four Nuclear Weapon States (NWS), unstoppable proliferation stemming from the utter hypocrisy inherent in the NPT, and yet another quagmire in Afghanistan.
Obama has been digging out these problems, one by one, in an arbitrary sequence and haphazard way. It looks as though we can't expect the guy to understand they are inseparable from each other.
These things you find inside the Box are so entwined that you can't disentangle them unless you address the whole issues at a time using a comprehensive and systematic approach. That is something the cherry-picking president will never think about doing.
For one thing the chemical weapons possessed by North Korea and many other countries still remain to be dredged up from the bottom of the Box presumably because Obama thinks the issue is too sticky to be listed as his pet subject.
This way he is doomed to fail to identify, let alone solve, a single issue.
Or, perhaps, the U.S. president, himself, is just one of those unpleasant things that came out of the Box opened by someone else.
Yukio Hatoyama, famously dubbed the loopy prime minister of Japan, did not hesitate to follow suit although the two leaders are quite different personalities.
Hatoyama's maternal grandfather was the founder of Bridgestone Tyre Company. At the age of 63 he is still receiving from his mother a monthly "child allowance," as they call it, of 15 million yen, or $170K, free of tax at least until the recent revelation of the fact. When compared to the scion of the Bridgestone founder, Obama is a pariah who even has difficulty establishing his identity in an honest way.
And yet both men have one thing in common; they have the guts to open up Pandora's Box without caring too much about the consequences. It only takes first-rate arrogance and ignorance like Obama's to think about lifting the lid of the black box so casually.
On the other hand, Hatoyama can't do this without shedding tears over the series of nightmares from the past because he is not so arrogant as the U.S. president. But that doesn't really matter; he is ignorant enough to think his predecessors, including his paternal grandfather Ichiro Hatoyama, have done basically the right thing.
Actually, as recently as early this month, the Japanese people were taken aback when Hatoyama admitted that he had promised the Okinawans to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps' "helicopter" unit to somewhere outside of the prefecture simply because he was completely in the dark at that time about why it should remain deployed there. He added that as he looked into the subject of deterrence, it dawned on him in hindsight that it should stay there in Okinawa.
In fact, though, defense experts keep saying in concert that the prime minister still remains a geopolitical novice. Retired admiral Timothy J. Keating, for one, has told Japanese reporters that Marines don't necessarily have to be stationed in Japan from a purely military point of view.
In August Hatoyama's Democratic Party
of Japan won the snap election on the campaign pledge it had borrowed
from the Democratic Party of America. Hatoyama said he would play the role
of a change agent as if he hadn't known the Japanese people are totally
After the fuss over relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station, and many other ill-defined issues in the last eight months, the prime minister announced last evening, in between his signature apologies
to everyone, that earlier in the day Tokyo and Washington had reached an
agreement that was supposed to supersede the 2006 accord on the relocation plan.
He had to do that before the weekend simply
because the defense budget deliberations in the U.S. Congress are scheduled
to start in early June.
At the last minute, he looped back, like a boomerang, to a plan that is almost identical to that of the 2006 accord only after further entangling the problems
with the U.S.-Japanese "strategic alliance."
Although Hatoyama could meet the deadline, he had a lot of reasons
to sound apologetic.
As he almost admitted himself at the press conference following his announcement, the "new" plan would now be utterly unworkable in the wake of the recent upsurge of anti-American sentiments in Okinawa.
For one thing all these structures, including the V-shaped runways, need a Governor's permit which he says he would never give to the Hatoyama government.
Yet you can tell for sure that in his telecon with Obama earlier in the day, Hatoyama boldly said, "Trust me," for the third time.
It's small wonder the only sane person in his cabinet, Mizuho Fukushima
from the Social Democratic Party, flatly refused to sign the cabinet resolution.
Reportedly a tearful Hatoyama reluctantly gave her a pink slip. · read more (499 words)