Wednesday, May 05 2010 @ 03:20 AM CDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
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:
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. · read more (270 words)
Monday, May 03 2010 @ 02:07 AM CDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
Left: Sourced from the stats compiled by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry Right: Sourced from the recent Population Survey Report
While in business I often asked an unusual question of applicants for key
positions in my shop or prospective business partners for important projects.
In a by-the-way tone I asked them, "What's your vice?"
Totally unprepared, some invented impromptu mischievous things they might have actually done
when they were naughty kids; some others just shrugged off my question with a grimace
or wry grin. But any runaround served my purposes because I didn't expect
them to confess to a felony at a job interview.
I just wanted to weed out two types of candidates: perfectionists on one
hand, and those who would easily settle for mediocrity on the other. To
me the single most important thing in business was to clearly identify
pros and cons involved in the courses of action we had in mind and find
out which one would give us the best tradeoff.
I still think my tactic would have worked out had it not been for the fact that very few candidates met my screening criteria.
If they had been honest about their vices, I would have felt obliged to
tell them mine - that I was (and still remain) a nicotine addict, an excessively
amorous person by Japanese standard, and so on. One of my close friends recently diagnosed me as suffering "polyamory." To set the record straight, however, that is not exactly the case with me.
Even today I often ask the same question of new acquaintances in order
to avoid wasting my limited time mixing with morons who don't know there
is no such thing as a free lunch, or an endeavor free of risks and costs.
Last July Hiroshi Nakada hastily resigned as Yokohama mayor seven months
before the expiration of his term to climb the bandwagon of "realignment" going on at the level of national politics. The reason he couldn't wait
until April is obvious; he feared the innumerable crimes he had committed
while in office would otherwise come to the surface to thwart his undeserved
aspiration. · read more (353 words)
Thursday, April 29 2010 @ 03:48 AM CDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
Chinese philosopher Mencius (372-289 BCE)
Very few Japanese adults are self-reliant. Most of them have developed the typically Japanese behavioral pattern of constantly wetnursing each
other since their childhood. As a result they have also lost their innate spontaneity. They act
only in response to external stimuli.
In that sense, the person I'm talking about here is a real exception. I will call him
by a pseudonym "Shohei."
In 2007 I launched a family website, perhaps the first of its kind here,
which initially consisted of three parts: Family Reunion pages, Memorial Service
section and Cyber Museum to commemorate my late father who was a prominent
scientist. The first two have already been closed because my siblings,
sons and in-laws did not understand what I intended to have these sites
for. But the Museum is still there.
Since the onset, I've had great difficulty gathering documents, reports, photos
and 35mm film footages concerning my father's accomplishments. It's this youngish
guy that volunteered to help me out.
At libraries and museums, the dedicated person has been trying very hard to dig out these valuable materials to help beef up the exhibits on my site. Sometimes these materials were buried deep underneath other items piled up in the
basements of these museums, and totally unattended as if they were trash.
I encountered Shohei on the Cyber Museum. He is in his mid-30s.
Since graduating from university where he majored in photographic art,
he has been working at a small shop dealing in traditional cameras.
aeronautics is very foreign to his educational and occupational background.
He says he is still not really interested in aircraft as such. According to him,
the only thing that has made him deeply engaged in what he is doing, after
work, is personal relations he has developed with his customers.
His clientele are predominantly elderly people except for a handful of
professional photographers. And among these old people there are not a
few retired aeronautical engineers. I don't know why, but traditionally
those who specialize in aeronautics tend to become hooked on cameras. (My
father, too, treasured his Leica in his lifetime.)
This is how Shohei has become personally involved in the preservation of Japan's history of aviation.
Some of these retired engineers have already passed away, but those who are still living the last days of their lives keep telling
him the stories about their unfulfilled dreams every time they drop in the
camera shop. They also provided him with materials he had been looking for, to no avail, at libraries and museums.
Shohei summarizes his part of the story this way: "It is a series
of coincidences that has made me do what I'm doing right now. I take it
as my destiny."
Actually he doesn't look like one who believes in fatalism. So I was still
wondering how come this guy keeps looking for these materials so enthusiastically,
expecting no rewards.
A couple of weeks ago, he sent me a CD that contained an e-book he wrote by MS Word. Properties Dialog Box says these files are as voluminous as 25 MB altogether, including spaces and JPG files inserted here and there. (A Japanese character takes up 2 bytes.)
Again, he says he has no intention to make it a "real"
book bearing an ISBN in expectation of royalty income. At any rate, he knows that given this climate where there is no tradition to hand down intellectual legacies to posterity, it wouldn't sell. · read more (435 words)
Wednesday, April 28 2010 @ 05:18 AM CDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
Japan's political landscape as of 2004
With new political parties mushrooming in recent weeks, the media are
untiringly saying that we are going to see a new Japan emerging through
政界再編成 (Seikai Saihensei, or total realignment of the political landscape) and that will be the
end of the 1955 System.
Up until weeks ago, the same media kept telling their audience that with a "modern two party-system" taking root at long last here, the 55-year-old sociopolitical system was finally coming to an end.
As usual they were lying.
As I have said many times before, it's not a two-party system in the first
place; actually it's a twin-party system composed of the Democratic Party of Japan which won
the last election and the Liberal Democratic Party which lost it.
Now almost in the same breath, they have started talking about realignment aimed at a tripolar system with these new-born parties
forming 第三極 (Daisan Kyoku, literally translated into English as a
If we should take their hogwash seriously, now we are going to see triplets. As you can easily imagine, it's by far more difficult to separate conjoined
triplets than with Siamese twins.
It is true that the above-embedded diagram would have to be brought up to date to reflect the new picture. But
I don't think anyone will bother to work on that. Reason: it's something
like drawing a picture of soap bubbles that form here now, evaporate there then.
Moreover, on the updated chart that would grow even busier to look
at, all you could see would be just an increased number of boxes.
In reality, however, the same old political racketeers are hopping, back and forth, from one box to another.
They claim they are rejuvenating themselves. True, there are an increasing
number of younger lawmakers. Yet, the fact of the matter remains that most
of them are brainless punks as exemplified by those 小沢チルドレン (Ozawa
Chirudoren, or Ozawa Children.) You can see these cultist-like morons in the YouTube video embedded here.
If there are a few exceptions, Yoshimi Watanabe is one. He looks to be a real reformist. Ironically enough, his father was one of those porkbarrel operators of the LDP until he died in 1995. He recently left
the LDP to form みんなの党 (Minna-no To, or Your Party.) But needless to
say, Watanabe, alone, can't bring about real change.
In the past the Japanese have traditionally substituted realignment for
revolution. Every time they hit the wall, they realigned their political
landscape to make it look different. But this unviable polity has always
remained essentially unchanged. · read more (87 words)
Wednesday, April 28 2010 @ 02:49 AM CDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
A couple of weeks ago, it was revealed that Shanghai Expo theme song titled A City with Unlimited Potential "composed" by Eric Suen with Cantonese lyrics by Chan Siu-Kei
was an exact copy of a 1997 song written by a Japanese singer-songwriter named Mayo Okamoto.
Did Okamoto appeal for copyright arbitration by the World Trade Organization?
That's what she didn't. Instead she sent a letter to someone in Shanghai
saying she felt greatly honored to know the tune she wrote 13 years ago
was "selected" to promote Expo 2010.
I think she did the right thing.
She certainly knew her compatriots are as good, if a little more sophisticated, at copying someone else's works. · read more (90 words)
Wednesday, April 28 2010 @ 01:25 AM CDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
When having lunch a couple of weeks ago, I realized my left hand had started
trembling, though intermittently. I thought it will be a matter of time that the right hand starts quivering in sync with the left.
I inherited the disease from my father who died in 1979. In the last days
of his life he was a wreck because of Parkinson's coupled with Alzheimer's.
I had long been suffering rigidity of muscles, sleeping disorder (sleep
fragmentation in particular,) disabling exhaustion and depression, but
Fortunately or unfortunately I'm right-handed. So I will still be able
to keep glued to the computer for the time being. · read more (36 words)
Monday, April 26 2010 @ 03:56 AM CDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
Left: Hatoyama keeps apologizing to everyone for everything he has done, or has not Center: One of the brethren of this old man is governing Japan behind the scenes Right: Pro golfer Ai Miyazato has already won two LPGA tournaments this spring
My friend Jack asked me about my take on the rally staged yesterday in
Yomitanson, Okinawa Prefecture, in which 90,000 people participated to
protest against the recent move by the government to keep the U.S. Marine
Corps' "helicopter" unit in their islands. Prime Minister Yukio
Hatoyama looks to have backed down on his pledge to relocate it to 県外
(kengai, or outside of Okinawa) or 国外 (kokugai, or outside of Japan) in the wake of the April 18 rally in Tokunoshima
island, Kagoshima Prefecture.
I don't see a lot of differences between the two rallies. Protesters in
both prefectures had equally ambivalent sentiments; on the one hand, they
were opposed to any plan to have U.S. military bases in their respective
prefectures, but on the other, they were receptive of them deep inside. Their behaviors were
also similar in that they were discouraged from expressing their honne openly.
The Okinawa Governor is a good example. Hirokazu Nakaima was elected the governor basically on his campaign pledge to keep U.S. military bases in the prefecture while gradually trying to reduce the burden on the citizens. Yet, he somehow felt obliged to attend the April 25 rally to deliver a half-hearted and vaguely-worded address in support of the kengai relocation of the Futenma Air Station.
The reason behind their mixed feelings toward the U.S. presence in their lands
is because Okinawa's base-related income accounts for 20% of the prefecture's GDP, whereas these bases cover only a little more than 10% of the total area
of 2,276 sq.km or 879 sq.mi. Kagoshima Prefecture, too, could have expected a handsome amount of windfall from the $26 billion already funded by the previous administration had it not been for the April 18 rally.
However, there is one crucial difference between the peoples in Okinawa and other areas that include Tokunoshima.
Okinawa is Japan's last colony.
You may have been so brainwashed as to find it totally unimaginable that someday the Okinawans may seek independence from Japan. Yet, that is a little more likely than the Native
Hawaiians seeking secession from the United States. To say the least, if and when Japan's first-ever civil war breaks out, Okinawa will be the major battleground.
From 1429 through 1879, these islands were an independent kingdom under
the reign of the Ryukyu Dynasty. Even after Satsuma Domain, the fiefdom that is called Kagoshima Prefecture today, virtually
annexed it in 1609, the rich and diverse culture has still been flourishing
there among the bright, straightforward and self-respecting people.
Given their ethnological and cultural background, the Okinawans, except those who have chosen to abandon their ethnic identity to become assimilated into this nation where the process of disintegration is already irreversible, are a quite different people than the Japanese main-islanders. If you are skeptical about my argument, you just have to carefully observe any individual of Ryukyu ancestry. Just take Ai Miyazato for example; it's easy to tell the up-and-coming
LPGA pro golfer has nothing in common with Hatoyama except how many eyes,
nostrils and mouth they have.
In the last days of the Pacific War, Hirohito's Imperial Army killed or forced to commit suicide thousands of Okinawan women and children to shield the Honshu island against the all-out offensive being launched by the U.S. soldiers.
In 1972, twenty years after Japan's nominal independence, these islands were finally
"returned" to this country. Yet, these bases have remained there
as the "cornerstone" of the U.S. strategy in this region.
In 1996, then-Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto promised that he would rid
Okinawa of the Futenma Air Base at latest in seven years. But well before
2003, he was forced to retire from politics because of a bribery scandal.
In 2006, the LDP government reached an accord with the Bush administration
that the air station should be downsized by relocating 8,000 marines to
Guam and the rest of them should be moved to Camp Schwab in a less-populated city of the same Okinawa Prefecture.
It is the Democratic Party of Japan that promised to tear
up the 2006 accord and seek a kengai or kokugai alternative. When opening Pandora's box, Hatoyama should have been prepared
to ultimately invoke Article 10 of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and
Security between the U.S. and Japan. In fact, though, the termination of
the 50-year-old treaty was the last thing Hatoyama would think about doing.
That is why the equally loopy President of the U.S. called him a loopy
prime minister. These guys will never learn what really underlies all this
ado about nothing. As I have repeatedly argued, the gut issue with the
bilateral alliance lies with the fact that at least for the Japanese, there
are no real enemies to fight against and there are no values to defend
On the part of the Okinawans, their honne is certainly that they have had enough with the colonial rule by the Japanese. And now that the Americans, too, think of Okinawa as if it were their colony, they think serving two colonial masters at a time is way too much to tolerate. · read more (210 words)
Saturday, April 24 2010 @ 03:05 AM CDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
I was a good forecaster in the 1980s but had yet to grow into a mature planner
Today, it's a little better, but weather forecasters are warning that unseasonable
cold waves will come back over the weekend.
The Japanese archipelago is seated in the temperate zone except its northernmost and southernmost areas, but actually we are living in the cool-temperate zone these days. I think Hokkaido and Okinawa have now been moved up to the Arctic and temperate areas, respectively.
To me the biggest fallout from this climatic aberration is the further
deterioration in my health. Among other things, I'm suffering from an aggravated
sciatica. It involves intolerable pains just to move around or even
sit at the computer. Actually I have been creeping around.
At first I was cursing weather forecasters for their failure to foretell this. It's outrageous that my sciatic nerves sometimes outperform the state-of-the-art super computers and weather satellites they are equipped with.
But now it has dawned on me that Prime Minister Hatoyama may be the real culprit for the freezing weather.
In the 1970s I was trained to be a professional financial planner. I did
a lot of shortterm and midterm planning for the corporate balance sheets
(financial positions,) income statements, S&A (sources and applications
of funds,) and nearterm cashflow forecasts.
In the 1980s through the first half of the '90s, I was a local Chief Financial
Officer of a Swiss trading company. At that time I was concurrently working
on foreign exchange. As you may know, managing currency positions is critically
important for an international trading company. · read more (400 words)
Friday, April 23 2010 @ 05:38 AM CDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
Left: They are supposedly getting rid of wasteful spending without knowing how to identify redundancies Center: Management guru Peter F. Drucker Right: Father of Business Process Reengineering Michael Hammer
When the Liberal Democratic Party was in power, quasi-governmental organization
mushroomed. Today there are more than 100 of them. They call them 独立行政法人
(Dokuritsu Gyosei Hojin) or independent administrative legal entities. The reason why government
agencies jettisoned what had been parts of their organizations and gave
them nominal autonomy was twofold.
Firstly they thought that by doing so, they could look slimmed down to taxpayers. By that time government agencies had grown way too bloated with their redundant manpower. Secondly they still wanted
to secure cushy post-retirement positions so high-ranking officials could still keep "descending from heaven."
The newly installed Hatoyama administration has so far failed to deliver
on its campaign pledges which were characterized as a dole-out policy, simply because it belatedly realized it is unable to fund these lavish programs.
The only exception is the makeshift system in which the government pays parents a monthly child-rearing allowance of 26,000 yen (US$280).
Now in the GDP contest of the economic Olympics, China is overtaking Japan
to become the silver medalist thanks to its huge population. And yet, the
Japanese have learned no lessons from this. They still don't understand
what really matters is the overall quality of the people, and not the headcount. So Hatoyama doesn't really care if it's not totally unlikely these parents
actually spend this 26,000 yen to buy themselves extra bottles of booze,
or even an extra dose of marijuana.
The only headache for the Democratic Party of Japan, therefore, is how
to secure the source of funds to be appropriated to the pointless program.
That's why a special task-force headed by Yukio Edano has been desperately
working on 事業仕分け (Jigyo Shiwake,) or budget screening, since the DPJ took power. Edano's team kicked off its second round yesterday, reportedly zeroing in on these independent administrative bodies.
At the onset of the cutback exercise, the specially assigned budget assessors were saying they would cut back on wasteful spending, be it the project
cost already funded by the former administration, the maintenance cost for
a finished project, or standing charges (personnel costs and overhead) to maintain the organization of
a government or quasi-government entity as a going concern, leaving no sacred cows.
Of course, they were lying. One example was the huge, but useless dam which
is now under construction in Iwate Prefecture, Ichiro Ozawa's constituency.
Now the budget screening team assigned to the National Museum of Nature
and Science, one of the independent administrative entities, has started
to review, on-site and off-site, the museum's activities to know specifically where
to find fat.
A couple of days ago, I saw on TV Kazuyoshi Suzuki, senior curator singlehandedly in charge
of aeronautics, robotics and other technologies, unenthusiastically explaining
to the inspection crew something about YS-11, a Japanese-made airliner
which was recently retired, standing between the mothballed aircraft and the inspectors. · read more (385 words)
Left: Bird's eye view of Tokunoshima Island Right: Protest rally of April 18
The logic of the Japanese people always loops over everything they think is at issue. This is a telling evidence that they don't know what exactly they are talking about.
Yukio Hatoyama, for one, keeps saying he has a miraculous plan which he
believes will break the impasse over Futenma relocation to everyone's satisfaction.
Yet, he still refuses to disclose his fukuan (secret plan) to the residents of the island he has in mind. The only
party he says he has confided to, certainly on deaf ears, is Washington.
The Japanese way of decision-making is frustratingly slow because in fact
it's not a decision, but consensus-building. To gauge the public response to his plan beforehand, Hatoyama has been leaking, little by little, pieces
of information that point to the new place to accommodate the widow-making
By now everyone knows:
■ it's Tokunoshima Island of Kagoshima, the prefecture neighboring Okinawa,
■ Kagoshima Governor Yuichiro Ito is one of Ichiro Ozawa's henchmen,
■ Ito is enthusiastic about accepting Hatoyama's fukuan because he would be able to claim a handsome share in the economy-boosting
deal which is estimated to involve hundreds of billions of yen (close to ten billion in US$,)
■ the three town mayors of the island are not so enthusiastic, and have
organized protest rallies because they somehow felt they had lost face. They felt insulted by Hatoyama just like Obama felt pissed off when he became aware his Japanese counterpart wasn't serious about delivering on the now-famous "Trust me" stuff,
■ on April 18, 15 thousand out of 26 thousand islanders took part in a
■ these people are unlike the self-respecting and straightforward residents of Okinawa Prefecture, Japan's last colony. So an estimated 50% of the protesters actually want to have the U.S. Marine Corps' Air Station in one of their villages,
■ in honne, they are expecting to have tiny leftovers from these profiteers such
as Ito, Ozawa and civil engineering and construction companies,
■ those villagers, who actually favor Hatoyama's fukuan and yet felt obliged to participate in the rallies, did so out of fear
Washington's take on this alternative, which the loopy Prime Minister says
he has already whispered to someone in charge there, is that it can't accept
any plan which is not supported by the local residents, or makes the distance between Okinawa and the new site any longer than 120km, or 75mi. For your reference, the ground forces will, in any case, remain stationed in Okinawa which is 200km, or 125mi, away from Tokunoshima. · read more (123 words)