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Purist's Point of View: A Graveyard for the Musical Legacy of the West (PART 1)

That myth [about the innate ability of early jazz musicians] is being perpetuated to this day by those who profess an openness to everything - an openness that in effect just shows contempt for the basic values of the music and our society. If everything is good, why should anyone subject himself to the pain of study? Their disdain for the specific knowledge that goes into jazz creation is their justification for saying everything has its place. But their job should be to define that place - is it the toilet or the table?
- from July 1988 New York Times article written by Wynton Marsalis.

Wynton Marsalis,
American trumpeter
and advocate of

Violin-playing robot
developed by Toyota
I was working on the next installment of my Japan Trivia series to be titled something like "The Fecal Truth about the Japanese: How They Eat, and What for" when I realized that I would have to shelve the piece dealing with the eating habits of the Japanese to write a separate post about music.

As any sane person living in this country knows, incessant and pervasive nuisance caused by background music is a real nightmare. Especially as a person who eats out everyday, I have great difficulty coping with BGM while having meals because practically every restauranteur is obsessed with the silly idea that his customer invariably wants to hear piped-in music as an essential part of the saabisu. (Saabisu is the Japanese transliteration of the English word "service" but actually it means any worthless thing that is provided to customers for free.)

For my part, music is one of the few things that are too important to trivialize.

I used to be a self-taught musician mainly noodling around at the keyboards and the guitar. Also I was a star singer at karaoke parlors. But that was many decades ago. Now I am just a lay music lover. Yet, I am still extremely fussy about music because it is something I can't live without.

Reverence for Music

Virtually all wartime songs were tributes to cheap heroism and self-sacrifice for the cause of the holy war. So it was only after the war that I first encountered classical music, and subsequently, jazz.

My maternal grandfather was one of those Westernized samurais once stationed in New York as consulate general when Woodrow Wilson was in office. Against this background, my siblings and I found out, when we were still preteens, that our parents had had a small collection of 78-rpm records of classical music.

I still remember huddling, for warmth, with mother and sisters in the run-down living room while listening to Carl Maria von Weber's Invitation to the Dance. It was the famous orchestral rendition by Hector Berlioz played by the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Leopold Stokowski. It's not only the frosty air in the unheated room, but also the music that made me shiver. I still didn't know Benny Goodman's Let's Dance, but ever since I have developed an overwhelming sense of awe toward music of any genre.

One of the DVDs I have treasured is titled Ella Fitzgerald - Something to Live for. Indeed, good music, such as hers, is something that has made my life worth living, or at least, a little more tolerable than it would have been without it.

I can't but despise those self-proclaimed musicians and music lovers who deal with music so lightly.

Incidentally, it is for the same reason that this blogger always feels disgusted at these professional writers who have no reverence for words. Languages are just tools for communication, but words are not. As I have always said, words and thoughts are inseparable twins.

Culture in a Salad Bowl

Time and again I have discussed what I term "saladization of culture" which has been going on in this country for quite a while.

For example, religions have been saladized here for many centuries.

In his book titled Princess Masako - Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne, which has been virtually banned in this country, Australian journalist Ben Hills describes what he calls trilogy of faiths like this: "Most Japanese of Masako's generation never worship, but happily embrace a trilogy of faiths. They see no contradiction in being taken to the local Shinto shrine to be recorded at birth, marrying in Christian ceremonies (thousands of them in Australian churches as part of honeymoon package), and having their bones buried in Buddhist family tombs."

I have also talked a lot about the linguistic salad. But very few have taken me seriously.

Their typical response to my salad theory is something like this: "What's wrong with cultural salads? Similar things have happened anywhere else in the world. There can be no such thing as a culture of unmixed lineage. In history, different faiths and languages have always influenced each other and sometimes even converged into one."

It's as though they think I am biased against the Japanese people and their culture because I lack education. But if I'm an uneducated person as they think, I don't know what to call these guys whose toolboxes are filled with ideological (i.e. relativist) rubbish that allows them to prattle about sociopolitical issues without the poorest insight into absolute values people are living for.

Actually what I am talking about has nothing to do with their superstitious belief that something new and better will automatically emanate wherever East meets West. To clarify my point, let me explain my theory one last time.

There had been sporadic cultural exchanges between China and Japan, solely at the court level, until the Shogunate put in place the seclusion policy in the early 17th century. But the bilateral relations were one-sided; at times Japanese emperors sent official delegates to their Chinese counterparts but the Tang or any other dynasty never felt obliged to reciprocate.

When the American warships came along in the 1850s to coerce the Shogunate government to open up its domain to the West, Japan was exposed at a time to everything that had happened outside of China's cultural orbit since a millennium before.

Nothing of this magnitude has happened to any other reclusive regime in history. Even the Soviet regime didn't last more than seven decades.

To effectively cope with the flood of the Western civilization, the Meiji Emperor and his government set forth various countermeasures which all came down to the notions of Fukoku Kyohei, or wealthy nation and strong army, and Wakon Yosai, or Japanese spirit and Western learning. (The word Meiji signifies "rule by enlightenment.")

The success in the Fukoku Kyohei part of their insatiable aspiration for modernization was attributable to the fact that it was solely driven by the government. That way the country could quickly catch up with Europe and America in a matter of several decades.

It was a breeze because the development in sciences and technologies always follow linear paths.

The real difficulty lay with the other part of the drive for Westernization because it was next to impossible for ignorant ex-samurais in government offices to effectively handle the influx of knowledge and expertise in humanities and social sciences which had developed along nonlinear paths. The only thing they could do was to sort them out using arbitrary criteria, put them in a salad bowl, and insist they were effectively weeding out such elements that would go counter to the traditional Japanese values.

For a while, the ingenious art of cherrypicking someone else's cultural heritage, too, looked to be working well. But the deceitful Wakon Yosai policy had to blow up altogether by the time Japan started the suicidal war in the early-1940s.

Disastrous Fallout

Japan's approach for Westernization has left incurable scars on the Japanese culture as a whole. Its consequence is twofold.

Firstly, it fatally damaged what little spontaneity the subjects of the Emperors and Shoguns may have previously had. I'll elaborate on this later.

The other fallout is the fact that over time these people have become unable to distinguish between the ends and the means. The value-creating chain is still there, but it's been fatally damaged. The purpose of life and the tools with which to pursue it are now interlinked in the wrong way.

For one thing, I haven't met a single computer engineer who can tell IT is not a goal in itself. Likewise, English teachers or learners who know that a language is nothing but a tool for communication are rare species in this country.

Today Japan still boasts a huge trade surplus that stood at 24.8 trillion yen as of 2007. But if you single out the trade balance in "services" that include payments for royalties and many other intellectual properties, you will know the country has chronically been running deficits in the range from 2.1 to 6.5 trillion yen in the last 25 years.

This is an unmistakable sign that the overall creativity of the Japanese has run dry, if ever it was once there.

NHK, the Certified Gravedigger

In the course of learning the musical art of the West, the Japanese elite had to become familiarized with every school of classical music all at once. Just imagine what it was like to be exposed to Gregorian chants, Renaissance music, Bach's St. Matthew Passion, Mozart's Requiem in Latin, Beethoven's symphonies, Schubert's lieder, Chopin's piano pieces, Viennese waltzes, Brahms' Requiem in German, music dramas by Wagner before and after he revolutionized tonal music with the "Tristan Chord," along with Auld Lang Syne and My Old Kentucky Home - all in a very short period of time.

Obviously this was already too much to digest for ex-samurais in the Ministry of Education. All they could do to put the flood of European and American music under control was to use selection criteria which were nothing but arbitrary. It's small wonder that they felt more at ease when the anti-West chauvinism came to the fore in the late-1930s. Most of these musical pieces were simply banned although their lyrics had been translated into Japanese or totally rewritten.

A more or less similar thing happened in 1945 when Japan was once again forced to open herself up to the outside world. This time around they had to deal with modern classics such as the works of Bela Bartok, Carl Orff, Olivier Messiaen and Samuel Barber, along with all schools of American popular music ranging from New Orleans jazz, to swing jazz in the Big Band Era, even to bebop - once again all at once.

Since the government had been too battered to lead the way by that time, NHK, the same organization which had served as a mouthpiece for the Imperial Army until August 1945, took over the task of Japan's cultural restoration.

The government-owned broadcaster was founded in 1925 although its official website puts its birth at 1950 as if to whitewash the war crimes it had committed not long before. At least, "the new NHK" claims it has modeled itself on the BBC of the United Kingdom.

However, if you take a look at the Royal Charter under which the BBC has been operating, you will know the two public broadcasters have nothing in common at all.

For one thing, the 2007 Charter says one of the goals for the BBC should be to "stimulate creativity and excellence" among its audience. On the other hand, what NHK has been doing throughout its 85-year history in business all comes down to serving the political regimes of the times.

It is true that in the postwar era, nation's polity looked to have undergone a significant change, with the demigod opportunistically transforming himself into a mere symbol of national unity. Yet to date, the broadcaster has remained the propaganda machine. The only thing the "new-born" NHK had to do was to make the same recipe of the cultural salad re-attuned to the postwar regime which resembles democracy only on the surface. Obscurantists in NHK still feel mandated to manipulate the hearts and minds of their audiences under the guise of enlightenment.

Andrei Jdanov was a Soviet politician who, in the 1940s through '50s, put into practice Stalin's idea that every art form should serve the cause of the proletarian revolution. But even Jdanov would pale before NHK.

By the early-1950s, all the newspaper publishers, who had also gotten away with due punishment, set up their broadcasting arms. These commercial broadcasters just joined forces with NHK to systematically deform and destroy the cultural heritage imported from the West.

Art of Nipping Homegrown Talents in the Bud

Throughout the history of radio and TV broadcast in this country, the overriding norms have always been conformity, mediocrity and homogeneity.

On the one hand, they have diligently neutralized potentially poisonous elements of music and all other art forms originated in the West. But on the other, these grave-keepers have been watching out for homegrown talents sprouting here and there.

For six years from the late-1940s through early-'50s, Seiji Ozawa and I were attending the same high school. With his unusual desire to excel, he already outdid the rest of us in music, and rugby.

As anyone who loves classical music knows, Maestro Ozawa eventually achieved a phenomenal success as the music director of the prestigious Boston Symphony Orchestra (1973-2002.) Since early 2010, he has been on a leave of absence from the Vienna State Opera due to esophageal cancer, but he still does not look ready to call it quits because he is too much in love with music.

In the early days of his career, Ozawa briefly served as the regular conductor of the NHK Symphony Orchestra. He had already been known for his unrivaled talent and un-Japanese style of dealing with music and musicians. But that was exactly where NHK found him outrageous. The young guy was virtually ostracized in December 1962.

When he landed in the U.S., Newsweek magazine (or it may have been TIME) wrote that as a Japanese proverb goes, the nail that stuck out had to be hammered down in his home country.
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Ozawa Has Got the Japanese in between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

The Shinto priest always
prays for an immutable world
As always, you didn't take me seriously.

You thought that there was no reason to believe in the heretical argument made by the humble blogger, especially when any reputable analyst wouldn't subscribe to it.

But obviously, it was my fault if you couldn't predict that Ichiro Ozawa and Yukio Hatoyama would re-emerge from behind the curtain, where they had been sitting out since early June. Ozawa now seeks the leadership of the Democratic Party of Japan and possibly of the country - the positions Naoto Kan has miraculously held in the last three months.

Presumably, the hardest part for you to understand was the implication of the symbolic double-suicide committed by Hatoyama and Ozawa. Actually it was just part of the political kabuki.

But my English writing skills were too poor to convince you that misogi can't make any difference to the trajectory of this nation because avoidance, not promotion, of change is what misogi is all about. No matter how many times the same ritual is repeated, that won't bring about any fundamental change.

To make it worse, that was something you were fully determined to ignore, for an obvious reason.

As a result, you thought the exit of the two had paved the way to a new Japan. That is why you assured your friends, clients and audiences that with the revolving-door situation dissolved by the 8th Prime Minister since the turn of the century, Japan had finally become a reliable partner to do business with.

I'm afraid you may have found it really embarrassing, or even shocking, when you found out the two co-founders of the DPJ had not been dead yet. So let me apologize if you lost face over Ozawa's move in one way or the other. · read more (570 words)
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[FEATURE] Japan Trivia 11: A Nation of Living Buddhas

As I always point out in relation to the annual rituals staged in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan is a surreal country where the dead and the living are "living" together. Believe it or not, I am not exaggerating or analogizing the situation.

Especially at this time of the year, the threshold between life and death almost melts away like asphalt in the sweltering heat of midsummer particular to this monsoon climate.

On July 28 in Tokyo's Adachi Ward, a mummified body was discovered lying in bed when an old woman stepped into the room to celebrate her father's 111th birthday. According to the ward office, the remains were identified as those of the "111-year-old" who had holed up in his room since 1978. The last words the mummy's family heard from him 32 years ago were:

"俺は今から即身成仏する (Leave me alone; now I'm becoming a living Buddha.)"

This prompted municipalities across the nation to carry out onsite investigations into the actual conditions of all those who are supposedly aged 100 or older. As a result, it was learned that at least hundreds of Japanese "centenarians" are actually missing for many years, most of them presumably dead.

POSTSCRIPT September 10: According to the data released today, 234,354 "centenarians" were found to be missing. The oldest one among them came into being around the time Polish composer Frederic Chopin was born.

If you have commonsense, you can tell for sure that the missing centenarians must be the tip of the iceberg. Yet, the Japanese have since singled out "centenarians" to avoid questioning the actual situation for all other age brackets, from 0 to 99. They know that otherwise they would certainly have to gaze into the abyss lying before them - if they haven't hit its bottom themselves yet, that is.

In this respect, let me add something below:

■ "Living Buddha" here is the Shamanistic way to refer to a zombie, and has nothing to do with Gautama Buddha.

■ According to the official statistics, roughly one-million people die every year, including more than 30 thousand who kill themselves. On the other hand, as Newsweek's Japan edition once reported in its cover story, there is no coroner system in place here. The reason is because more often than not the bereaved are superstitious enough to believe a corpse is the place where a deity dwells. That's why it's widely considered blasphemous to have the body of the deceased autopsied. As a result, 15% of dead bodies are cremated leaving the cause of death undetermined. Another fallout from this is the fact that a good part of those who die mysterious deaths remain unidentified.
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Akihito Mourns for Dead Cows and Pigs on the 65th Anniversary of Hiroshima

Two new dolts, Ban
Ki-moon and John
Roos, made 55,000
mourners' prayer
ring even more
There was nothing particularly new in the way the 65th anniversary of the A-bombing on Hiroshima was marked yesterday.

Any sane person could tell that two important things were still missing: attendance of Emperor Akihito (Hirohito's son) and sanity on the part of his poor subjects.

On the same day in his nicely air-conditioned palace, the bastard opted to see the governor of Miyazaki Prefecture where the emergency situation with the foot-and-mouth epidemic had just subsided after killing 289,000 livestock.

Do I have to explain why he felt like having a chat with the governor over the dead cows and pigs while U.S. Ambassador and U.N. Secretary General, both in mourning attire, were being baked under the scorching sun at ground zero?

Although the blank and sulky faces were betraying their indifference to what happened in the city sixty-five years ago, both Roos and Ban were dutifully offering a silent prayer for the 140,000 human beings incinerated for the cause of preserving the imperial institution.

As usual, not a single news reporter or commentator mentioned Akihito's absenteeism. (Postscript: On the contrary, when Roos skipped the ceremony in Nagasaki three days later giving an implausible excuse, Japanese media did not conceal displeasure.)

Now that the number of the participating countries has reached a record 74, it's increasingly obvious that none other than this mass-stupidity has hindered the progress of nonproliferation, instead of expediting it. I wouldn't be surprised if the 66th anniversary is attended by some new faces such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Below here I'm going to re-post the body text of the essay I wrote one year ago under the title of Obamitis Virus Hits Its Cradle - Japan's Ground Zero.

Japan is a country which is inhabited by innumerable gods. We used to be talking about yaorozuno-kami, or 8 million gods. But with Japan's living population steadily shrinking in recent years, I am sure the nether world here is having a population explosion by now because every Japanese is believed to be given the citizenship out there as soon as he dies. They also believe that these gods make a homecoming trip during obon yasumi, or the bon holidays which fall on mid-August.

Things are quite confusing at this time of the year with family reunions between the deceased and their living descendants taking place across the nation. It's next to impossible to tell who are dead and who are still alive. For my part, I'm reasonably sure that I'm still awaiting my turn at Grim Reaper's waiting room. Yet, I may be wrong. Who knows?

To avoid misidentifying the dead as the living, or vice versa, Tokyo-based conspiracy theorist Benjamin Fulford generically named the Japanese zombies, before he became extremely popular among none other than these zombies, that is.

Heralding the bon holidays every year are the annual ceremonies solemnly held at ground zero of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The people have not found it particularly necessary to make August 6 and 9 national holidays because the two events are only part of their activity for the month solely devoted to the dead at large in this land of shamanism.

Past several decades have seen the same proceedings repeated at ground zero of the two cities according to a long-established agenda and format with the successive mayors reciting their empty and bland "Peace Declarations" as the priests presiding over the rituals. Watching my fellow countrymen going through these formalities, I always get a surreal sense of attending my own deathwatch.

If there was anything new in their Peace Declarations 2009, it's the citations from Obama's speech in Prague. Both mayors must have found the April 5 speech by the U.S. President irresistibly sexy. That's why they couldn't help parroting Obama's most famous line at the 64th anniversaries of the bombings. It goes:

As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon (sic), the United States has a moral responsibility to act.

Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba felt that it was not enough just to repeat after Obama. When concluding his declaration, he suddenly switched to what he thought was English to read out the following sentences:

We have the power. We have the responsibility. We are the Obamajority(!?). Together, we can abolish nuclear weapons. Yes, we can. (The exclamation mark and question mark are mine.)

You may be inclined to call the Mayor a moron. But I suspect that is not the case with him. Actually he completed his doctorate in mathematics at MIT some 40 years ago. How can a Ph.D. from the prestigious school be an idiot? And more importantly, he and his counterpart in Nagasaki are not alone.

So, I want you to look at the following fact sheet about a deadly mental illness to be named something like Obamitis before jumping to a conclusion about their pathological problem.

1 Name of Disease Obamitis - so named after the U.S. president who has disseminated the newest strain of the virus all over the world.
2 First Outbreak Observed in Japan a long time ago.
3 Symptoms Sufferers lose their ability to internalize things using their own brains. As a result they always talk about their own problem in vague generality as if it were someone else's. The inability to address problems specifically and systematically always leads the patients to utter inaction in the face of a complicated situation. They often develop echolalia in complication.
4 Worst Possible Consequence Brain-death.
5 Etiology The Obamitis virus causes the disease.
6 Diathesis People with shamanism background are far more likely to become infected with the Obamitis virus than Christians and Muslims. For example, the Japanese traditionally think politics are like weather. When Mongolians attempted to invade Japan in 1274, kamikaze, or Divine Wind from a ferocious typhoon, blew their fleet against the rocks while Japanese had been freezing in total inaction. Ever since they have become susceptible to the idea that the only thing their leader has to do in the face of a crisis is to pray, as a priest, for a change of the weather. When the incantation doesn't work, they leave things adrift until the problem solves itself. The apocalypse in the two cities is an excellent example that shows how effectively a problem can solve itself.
7 Transmission The main pathway for the viral transmission is through excessive intake of ill-defined, bland and empty words such as peace, democracy, nonproliferation, dialog to promote mutual understanding, common values, etc.
8 Environmental Factors There is a good reason to believe the monsoon climate provides the optimum for the virus. Especially, the steamy weather of August in East Asia is considered to be the most favorable condition for the growth and reproduction of the virus. However, the recent pandemic situation in the U.S. indicates that the newest strain of the virus is viable in other regions, as well.
9 Cure None.
10 Statistics TokyoFreePress estimates that there are more than 100 million patients in Japan right now. In the United States, there were at least 69,456,897 adults suffering from Obamitis as of November 4, 2008. The numbers are still growing on both sides of the Pacific.
11 Japan Trivia The Japanese people all believe their fortunes have been predetermined by astrology, Zodiac signs or blood types. Given their extremely superstitious and suggestible trait, every TV station with nationwide network thinks it's essential to spare at least 5 minutes every morning to provide its viewers with the forecasts for the day. This is the secret behind Akiba's Obamajority stuff.
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It Takes a Retarded Journalist to Juxtapose Elizabeth Bishop to the War Criminal

Elizabeth Bishop,
American poet
Hirohito, the worst
war criminal in
man's history (1901-89)

In his recent article on The Times, Matthew Parris quoted some passages from Elizabeth Bishop's poetic work and Emperor Hirohito's declaration of war defeat.

Apparently the piece titled "Like Hirohito, we need to find the right word for losing" was written to tell British Prime Minister David Cameron how to expostulate with Obama about the impasse of the Afghan War.

Parris wrote: "We are losing Afghanistan. Losing, all losing, gets harder, then it gets easier. Losing in Afghanistan will get easier after we pass that point when the truth, just saying it, first sticks in the throat and then is finally acknowledged. As our Prime Minister headed for Washington to see Barack Obama, we were nearing that point."

What a nonsense.

I was not interested in discussing such a journalistic crap from the gay pundit. Neither was I concerned about the outcome of the talks between the two leaders.

And yet, I wanted to set the record straight for the American poet because she is one of my favorite literary figures. At the same time I wanted to point out that it's about time the Brits dropped all the silly jokes about the Japanese counterpart of Queen Elizabeth II. The bastard didn't have the foggiest idea about the art of losing in the face of Japan's moment of truth.

Parris's citation of Bishop's poem titled One Art was so incomplete and inaccurate, I'll show you its original text here:

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.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster;
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three beloved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Some more stanzas follow but as you can already see, One Art sounds a little like Buddha's tenet about impermanence. A helplessly shallow journalist as he is, Parris didn't know he should not have expected the equally superficial guys in Downing Street and the White House to apprehend such a profound concept as the art of losing.

Alongside of Bishop, Parris also quoted the Japanese Emperor.

I can't afford the time to double-check, but according to Parris, the concession speech Japan's principal war criminal mumbled out on the radio on August 15, 1945 went like this:

"To our good and loyal subjects, the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage. *snip* The thought of those officers and men who died at their posts of duty, or those who met with untimely death and all their bereaved families, pains our heart day and night. The welfare of the wounded and the war sufferers are the objects of our profound solicitude. However, it is according to the dictate of time and fate that we have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable."

Parris concluded his article with a ridiculous remark that "the Emperor was right."
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Fish Bones Stuck Deep in Their Throats Are Now Killing Americans and Their Asian Minions

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.
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Further to the Election Report

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 being finalized.

Western Media's Take

Once again they are responding to the results of the Sunday poll in a breathtakingly stupid way.

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.
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Is This Anything New?

Party Pre-election
Gain/Loss on
Contested Seats
New Seats
Democratic Party of Japan 116 -10 106
People's New Party 6 -3 3
Liberal Democratic Party 71 +13 84
Komeito 21 -2 19
Japan Communist Party 7 -1 6
Social Democratic Party 5 -1 4
Your Party 1 +10 11
Other 15 -6 9
Total 242 0 242

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.
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Where Okinawa is Headed

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.

Red Herrings

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.
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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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