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Welcome to TokyoFreePress Friday, August 29 2014 @ 11:11 PM CDT
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Japan Trivia 10: An ESS (英語同好会)


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 intelligence.

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 Afghanistan."

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.
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The Only Lesson Americans Can Learn from Japanese: How to Sink

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.

Breathtakingly stupid.

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.

My answer:

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 like this:

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 on them.

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:

1990 2009 2010
United States Not Available 1 3
China Not Available 20 18
Japan 1 17 27

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.
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No Thanks for the "Least Unhappy Society"

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.

Japan 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.
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Japan Trivia 9: 禊 (Misogi)



In Japan it's so easy to get purified.

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 prime minister.

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.
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Japan Trivia 8: Harakiri Ritual

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 his chair.

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 Japanese tradition.

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.
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Sooner or Later Someone Had to Open It


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 change-disabled.

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.
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Work Hard on the Whodunit with a Fresh Eye; It's the Only Effective Way to Prevent Senile/Juvenile Dementia


Left: This picture illustrates what happened in the Yellow Sea in March 2010
Right: Reichstag fire in February 1933

I have never been a conspiracy theorist myself.

Yet, I share with these "truth-seekers" the same skepticism about official announcements and reports. This is why I feel much more kinship with them than I do with mainstream "social scientists" and "analysts." I have practically nothing in common with these guys who take everything for granted wherever the pieces of information at hand came from an authoritative source and can serve their ideological purposes.

They always shrug off my heresies presumably because I am a nobody. That's quite OK with me, but don't take me wrong; I am not deprecating myself. On the contrary I'm so proud of my nobodyness. That I remain uninstitutionalized means I have absolutely nothing to lose, let alone gain, whether or not my theories prove wrong at the end of the day. Nothing prohibits me from telling what I believe is true.

Actually these mainstreamers have good reason to brush aside my thoughts. They say the premises on which I base my seemingly far-fetched arguments are unsubstantiated.

But I think anyone, heretic or not, has the right to talk about his take on an issue without full knowledge of the facts concerning it. It's unrealistic to expect him to fully substantiate his hypotheses before expressing his opinion - unless he is a CIA agent, that is.

I know that most of the time I can substitute my commonsense or business sense for proven facts.

Another thing mainstream analysts should keep in mind is that their orthodox arguments, too, remain unsubstantiated all the time.

By comparison, the predominantly Japanese members of a local discussion group I participate in take me a little more seriously. And yet, I'm often inclined to play devil's advocate in our weekly session because otherwise no one would wake up. To that end I often emulate conspiracy theorists who shed light on the unfamiliar side of things - because who said it's the reverse side?

For that reason, most group members frown at this argumentative old man all the time.

They are too brainwashed to question widely accepted premises that war should be avoided at any cost, job security should always be ensured, the higher the population growth rate, the better off the nation, American marines are deployed here to defend the Japanese at the cost of their own lives, and so on.

Every time I ask them what's wrong with war, what's wrong with unemployment, or what's wrong with the shrinking and aging population, they are at a loss over what I am getting at. They quizzically look at me as if I'm saying, "The sun rises in the west."

These are basically why I always side with heretics and throw provocative words at "ordinary" people.

But this is not to say there isn't an unbridgeable chasm between conspiracy theorists and me.

Actually I have always distanced myself from truth-seekers despite the sense of affinity I feel toward them. I have never wanted to join in the lucrative conspiracy-mongering business.

In fact, their business is really prospering these days with millions of cultist-like dupes flocking around them. Today, if you make a Yahoo! search using [9-11 conspiracy] as keywords, you will see more than 95 million URLs coming up. Ironically enough, this is something that discredits self-proclaimed truth-seekers.

It's a shame, for my part, that according to the statistics page of my Geeklog, the 10 most viewed posts include 3 stories dealing with Benjamin Fulford, prominent C-theorist based in Tokyo. Even among my 63 YouTube videos, the top 3 videos have his name in their titles.

They may still refuse to accept a proposition just because "everyone says so," but now they side with a huge crowd of gullible people who instantly bite at anything from a conspiracy theorist just because "he says so."

Actually I haven't been in touch with Fulford since November 2007.

In the meantime I think his list of malicious schemes plotted by the likes of the Jewish cabal headed by David Rockefeller has grown longer very quickly.

He started off his conspiracy revealing business with 9-11, which he theorizes was a hoax, and computer viruses which he believes are created and spread all over the world by anti-virus software vendors such as McAfee. But now he is talking about many other things including the earthquakes in Niigata (July 2007) and Sichuan (May 2008.) According to Fulford, these calamities were artificially caused by the cutting edge technology called HAARP. (HAARP stands for High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program.)

Mine has also been growing longer. It started with the "selective genocide" abetted by Ruth Benedict, the 1955 System artfully designed by Dwight Eisenhower and CIA, and the revision of the U.S.-Japanese security treaty signed between Eisenhower and his henchman Nobusuke Kishi.

Recent additions include the Moscow subway bombings (March 2010) which I think may have been instigated by former KGB spy Vladimir Putin, and the sharp plunge in stock markets (May 2010) which I suspect was possibly caused by something else than an erroneous transaction by a "fat-fingered" trader from the Citigroup. And there is the "global warming swindle".

But among other things, I find the March 26 sinking of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan most intriguing. It seems to me that other possibilities than what the May 20 investigative report has indicated cannot be totally ruled out.

On Sunday Japan's prime minister Yukio Hatoyama made his second trip to Okinawa. Japan's last colony.
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The Road to Ruin



Luca Pacioli (photo) was an Italian mathematician and Franciscan friar.

In 1494. just two years after Columbus discovered the continent that has now reduced to a land for second-class nations such as the U.S., he wrote a book titled Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalita (Everything About Arithmetic, Geometry and Proportion.)

The book consists of five sections. One of them was intended to systematically describe the book-keeping method which had been practiced by merchants in Venice during the Renaissance period.

Actually I haven't read Summa in my life. Neither have I read any accounting primer based on Pacioli's theory. Instead I taught myself on the job about these boring and tricky debits and credits just because I wanted to understand what was really going on underneath the surface of business and my personal life. It has never crossed my mind to become a CPA.

Nevertheless, I have learned from Pacioli's double-entry accounting method one important thing I could never have learned anywhere else. It can be summarized like this:

Everything that happens to me, or I make happen, involves, without exception, two or more distinctively different aspects in it, which are, at the same time, totally inseparable from each other.

People of all occupations, even including professional accountants, always single out one facet at a time as it serves their purposes. If they want to make a thing at hand look good, they opportunistically shed light on the good aspect and try to pass it off as the fact, so they can label me a negativist. When they want to make the matter look bad, they selectively focus on the bad aspect and call me a daydreamer.

I've had enough from this false factualism in my lifetime. By now I've grown sick and tired of ideological notions disguised as facts.

Six days ago I browsed through the web looking for demographic and economic data for the top three economies to write Forget about Other Olympics. At that time I also took a look at such figures as the population, GDP, per-capita GDP, Gini Coefficient and sovereign debt for Hellenic Republic, better known as Greece, in part because the modern Olympics have its origin in that country.

Below here I summarize the results:

GDP in Billion $ Public Debt in Billion $ Public Debt in % of GDP Rank Remarks
Greece 338.3 365.7 108.1 9
U.S. 14,430.0 7,633.5 52.9 54 See Note 1
China 4,814.0 876.1 18.2 103
Japan 5,108.0 9,812.5 192.1 2 See Note 2
Source CIA Report for 2009 Inverse Calculation CIA Report for 2009 ditto

Note 1: According to the most recent estimate, it's a matter of time that U.S. public debt tops $10 trillion.
Note 2: Japan ranks No. 2 only next to Zimbabwe.

For the U.S., China and Japan, I concluded that a comparative look at these figures doesn't tell anything, unambiguously, about the problems facing them, let alone their fates.

Even if I had been able to find reliable data for the accumulated shortfalls in these countries, that wouldn't have made the total picture any clearer except that when taking into account astronomical deficits which still keep ballooning in the U.S. and Japan, the situation would have looked even closer to catastrophe than the above figures indicate.

As to the Greece Crisis, analysts, pundits and many others are saying it has been more or less contained with the rescue funds offered by the EU and the IMF although they admit additional measures are needed to prepare themselves for another wave of crises possibly triggered when other member countries such as Portugal, Spain and Italy become insolvent.

But the fact of the matter remains that these bailout funds and newly-planned Euro-defending mechanisms are actually aggravating, rather than easing, the situation.
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Forget about Other Olympics


Ordinary - not too smart, not too dumb - people don't give a damn. The only Olympics they are interested in are the athletic events the IOC stages every leap year.

On the contrary, social scientists and analysts can't wait until the next time they can wave the national flags and sing the national anthems in euphoria. That is why they are so anxious to be updated on the standings of their respective countries on a yearly basis.
Now it looks as though they think analyzing quantifiable aspects of life is what social sciences are all about. Their obsession with what I call the Demographic Olympics and the Economic Olympics can only be explained by their inability to drill down on the root problems facing each contestant.

Yesterday I unenthusiastically spent the whole afternoon to compile the following tables of standings for some popular games.

Exhibit 1: Population

Contestant Total Population in Mil. Rank
Gold: China See Below
Silver: India 1,181 2
Bronze: U.S. See Below
U.S. 309 3
China 1,339 1
Japan 127 10

Exhibit 2: Population Density

Contestant Total Population in K Area in Sq Mi Population per Sq Mi Rank
Gold: Macau 542 11 48,110 1
Silver: Monaco 33 1 43,375 2
Bronze: Singapore 4,988 274 18,190 3
U.S. 309,212 3,794.101 81 ca 172
China 1,338,613 3,704,427 361 ca 74
Japan 127,380 145,925 873 ca 32

Exhibit 3: GDP (Nominal)

Contestant GDP in Billion $ Rank
Gold: U.S. See Below
Silver: Japan See Below
Bronze: China See Below
U.S. 14,256 1
China 4,909 3
Japan 5,068 2

Exhibit 4: GDP per capita

Contestant GDP in Billion $ Total Population in Mil. GDP per capita in $ Rank
Gold: Luxembourg 52 1 103,018 1
Silver: Norway 383 5 78,832 2
Bronze: Qatar 84 1 64,102 3
U.S. 14,256 309 46,104 11
China 4,909 1,339 3,667 ca 98
Japan 5,068 127 39,786 ca 17

The Japanese, and Japan experts in foreign countries as well, have been saying that the nation is losing its vigor as a result of the shrinking and aging of population. But as I have repeatedly said, losing vigor is not the result, but the cause. They constantly turn the causal relationship upside down simply because they are totally at a loss over where to find the cause. · read more (667 words)
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The Man of Preface


When I was with that Swiss company named Siber Hegner, I was known as the Man of Preface because every time I addressed the predominantly Japanese and Swiss audience, the introductory section of my speech was by far longer than the main part. For the same reason, my e-mails tended to be something they likened to ふんどし (Fundoshi or Japanese loincloth.)

For that reason, I was extremely unpopular, hated, or even feared among my bosses, subordinates and peers.

In Japan, or any other country to a lesser degree, there are so many red herrings being dragged around to distract attention from the real issues. They include:

■ how to realize a nuke-free world,
■ how to counter the global warming,
■ how to stem the shrinking and aging of population,
■ how to attain a vice-free world,
■ how to create jobs to bring down unemployment rates,
■ how to redress income disparities at home, and between developed countries and underdeveloped countries,
■ whether to part ways with the "modern 2-party system" to go for a postmodern tripolar system,
■ whether to amend the Constitution,
■ where to identify wasteful spending and which 独立行政法人 (Dokuritsu Gyosei Hojin - Independent Administrative Entities) to eliminate to that end,
■ where to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps' V-22 Osprey unit.

The list of decoy issues, or nonissues, goes on and on until the end of time.

The only question they would never think about asking is:

"How practicably can we make justice prevail?"

I think there are two reasons why red herrings keep proliferating all the time:

■ without the lure of the scent from these fish, even the rhinitis-suffering bloodhounds could easily track down the foxes, e.g. the Emperor,
■ no politicians, pundits, analysts, journalists, or scholars could live a single day without them; they would be out of work altogether.
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