My answer to this question is "Not at all." Intellectually lazy Westerners readily accept the passenger's view that the Japanese are very unique people, and yet they tend to assume our behavioral pattern is essentially the same as theirs. If they bothered to delve more seriously into this culture and its history, they would find out that their apparently self-contradictory premise can't be true, after all. Let's face it; there is a chasm between Japan and the rest of the world. And it's unbridgeable at least until either side shows the courage to face the abyss.
But for now I will try some explanation to make those largely Japanophilic folks think my heresy is not so absurd as it looks.
According to the most recent statistics compiled by Miniwatts Market Group,
Japan's Internet Penetration Rate compares to that of other countries and regions like this:
Note: The dates at which the surveys were conducted vary by region, but no data is older than 2008.
If you are a person who believes numbers speak for everything behind them, you will conclude that Japan has already overcome all the odds caused by its world's most ineffective language and the "double-byte" obstacle associated with it, and now lives up to its reputation as a technological powerhouse.
There's another data that you may think confirms your presumption. Two
years ago a "bizziq.com" website carried a post titled More Japanese
Language Posts than English: Latest State of Blogosphere Report. According
to the contributor by the name of Des Walsh, Japanese topped
the list of blogging languages at 37%. This is astounding because Japanese-speaking
people account for less than 2% of the world population. · read more (1,260 words)
Left: Apology for the AEGIS accident Center: AEGIS-equipped destroyer Right: PAC-3
In the past I have discussed every facet, but technology angle, of defense issues. Now I am going to take up defense technologies in this instalment.
According to Rajan Menon's The End of Alliances (OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2007) the Japan Self-Defense Force is "among
the world's best" especially with its maritime unit featuring 44 mostly
AEGIS-equipped destroyers, 9 frigates, 16 submarines, 4 amphibious ships,
31 vessels meant for mine warfare, 100 P-3C Orion antisubmarine aircraft,
80 combat aircraft and 155 helicopters.
Everyone, including Menon, thinks this will more or less suffice. The stakeholders in the $40-plus billion defense budget, such as U.S. military-industrial complex and head of Democratic Party of Japan Ichiro Ozawa, are contented with the current level of Japan's arsenal because the Japanese people are pleased to accept it as long as the military spending doesn't overrun the ceiling arbitrarily set at 1% of GDP. China is also happy because the current arrangement is the only way to neutralize its archrival forever as Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger promised Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai in the early-1970s.
These people couldn't ask for anything more on the premise that Japan remains
disabled forever to nuclearize itself. So it's been a breeze for media
obscurantists to dupe the general population into believing the status
quo is the ideal arrangement for all, except for Okinawans perhaps.
Technologically speaking, however, it's becoming increasingly evident that fetishism for the state-of-the-art hardware coupled with cutting-edge software is taking a serious toll on Japan's defense capability. Yet, everyone, from military experts to policymakers, is untiringly up to the same old exercise to effectively asphyxiate this nation in the traditional modus operandi of distracting people's attention from the most important element of technologies: human-ware. Therefore, when discussing Japan's preparedness for external threats, the real question to be asked is: "Are these
250,000 toothless troops really able to handle the most-advanced technologies which are predominantly made in America?" To put it differently, you may ask:
"Is there any reason to believe the second round of Fukoku Kyohei (wealthy nation, strong army) pursuit will succeed without repeating the
miserable outcome of the first round (1867-1945)?"
The answer is "No," of couse. It's a delusion to repeat exactly the same thing and expect a different result. · read more (1,422 words)
Left: Mineo Yamamoto, my late father Center: The legendary Koken-ki Right: Ki-78 velocity test machine
In the mid-1850s Commodore Matthew Perry's fleet of four "black
ships" (i.e. steel-built ships) came along to arm-twist the Shogun
and his samurai to coerce the feudal government into signing an unequal treaty. The humiliating event has left an incurable scar on the Japanese people because it was more than just about trade privileges unilaterally given to America. A more important implication was that it only took the "barbarians" from the West such a small fleet to shatter the myth of the bravery of samurai. Not a single live-shell had to be fired because some "gun salutes" already scared them to death.
Meiji Emperor, who soon took over the government from the Shogunate, pursued the fukoku kyohei (wealthy country and strong army) policy, coupled with wakon yosai (Japanese spirit and Western learning) mindset. This mantra had been upheld for almost eight decades until the war defeat.
Although Emperor's aspiration to catch up with the West is quite understandable, his assumption couldn't have been sillier; he thought that by carefully opening up his domain to the West, he could skim military and other technologies from the Western civilization without giving up anything essential on his part. In doing so, he took utmost precaution so he could weed out every harmful element entailed in imported technologies. Centuries earlier his predecessors had habitually used the same opportunism with the Chinese, the Portuguese and the Dutch. The Japanese people thought or
were taught to think they could cherrypick someone else's cultural output while keeping their Asiatic backwardness intact.
By August 1945 this tactic had ended up in a complete failure. Appallingly, though, these learning-disabled people once again fell into the same trap set up by Douglas MacArthur. The general is sometimes referred to as the Second Emperor, but actually he was the Second Perry as was evidenced by the incongruous security treaty Japan entered into with the U.S. after his retirement.
Mineo Yamamoto, my father, was born in 1903, the year that saw Wright brothers' Wright Flyer flying high for the first time. He was a descendant of ninja serving the Tokugawa Shogunate as an intelligence agent. Although his appearance differed a little from his compatriots, his ethnicity was 100 percent Japanese. However, his way of thinking was quite un-Japanese. He always refused to swallow anything that couldn't be explained logically, or verified scientifically. He also hated servility to authority, and would never go along with the crowd because he thought that would be the surest way to settling for mediocrity.
One episode has it that during his 15-year tenure as a senior researcher
at the Aeronautical Research Institute (ARI) attached to the Tokyo Imperial
University, he fired as many as 70 assistants as incompetent. This is
something a normal Japanese wouldn't have thought about doing, or wouldn't think about doing even today, in this land of absolute job security. Small wonder that he was always feared and sometimes hated not only by
his subordinates but also by his peers and bosses for his intransigence about the quality of work.
On the eve of WWII, the ARI was mandated to achieve world-class records
in flight range, altitude and velocity.
In the first project devoted to achieving the world record in flight range,
he played a pivotal role, working, in an unconventional approach, on the wings, the fuel tank
and the covers of the retractable landing gears. In those days, there was
no development methodology that we now call "concurrent engineering," let alone its enabler (i.e. interconnected computers.) As a result, brawls
among project members were commonplace. Mineo was a versatile sportsman
but not good at martial arts. Hence, he was always on the losing side. Nevertheless,
he would never give in when it came to the design concept for what he was in charge
Left: Hollerith Tabulating Machine Right: Wiring Panel embedded in it
I fell in love with the computer in 1963. It's been 46 years since then, but my love affair with her is still going on. Sometimes I fantasize that on the last day of my life,
I will collapse onto the keyboard while my finger keeps hitting "M."
In the early days of the computer age, people were fetishizing hardware
in part because the computer was actually a "precious metal mine"
of gold, platinum, silver, palladium, rhodium and tantalum.
Another reason for the hardware fetishism was that although people were gradually realizing that "the computer without software is nothing but a box," they still found it difficult to distinguish software from hardware. In the tabulating machine, the precursor of the "electronic data processing" system invented
by Herman Hollerith (photo on the left) they were one and the same thing. Before the arrival of the IC-powered machines, most business
computing was performed by the tabulators. They processed particular jobs,
such as summarizing census results using firmware which was then called the "wiring panel." (Photo on the
In those days, huge machines run on thousands of vacuum tubes were sweating from internally generated
heat. But they were soon to be supplanted by far smaller and much more powerful ones. Hardware prices per byte were dramatically coming down. Yet the same old hardware fetishism lingered on even after the emergence of Microsoft as the leader of the IT industry. The software giant artfully hooked us all on software without really getting emancipated from hardware fetshism.
Today there still is something that makes the vast majority of people look away from a third element which by far outweighs hardware and software. I call
it human-ware. · read more (736 words)
Saturday, March 21 2009 @ 02:59 AM CDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
This is to follow up my previous post titled From a Psychiatric Perspective..... Here I just wanted to elaborate on my point that the projection strategy, which often leads you to a false objectivity, will not work to really solve any problem facing us today and what happens when it failed as it always should.
You can hardly name a war in history that was not ignited by Freudian projection. If you want to make sure that war is the unavoidable consequence of a futile attempt to externalize one's inner problem, TokyoFreePress recommends you read Occidentalism co-authored by Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit. This is an extraordinarily intriguing book. If there is a flaw, it's the fact that Buruma and Margalit one-sidedly analyze the Occidentalist trait whereas Occidentalism is nothing more than a mirror reflection of Orientalism - and vice versa.
Sigmund Freud died in exile in London, weeks after the breakout of WWII and a little more than one year after the annexation of his home country by Hitler. The Fuehrer hated Freud not only because he was a Jew but also because his theory about projection directly pointed to Hitler's mental illness. No one has ever substantiated it, but many biographers have pointed out that Hitler's paternal grandfather was a Jew. No matter whether the dictator was 25% Jewish, it's for sure he projected his self-hatred to something else.
There's more to it. It's just the kind of joke Charlie Chaplin would have liked to say that the Austrian psychiatrist should have sat the dictator on his couch. Although Freud was unable to explain why the madman could mesmerize so many people so efficiently with the help of his Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, the effectiveness of hypnotism hinges more on the suggestibility on the part of the general population than on the skills of the mesmerist. And one's inability to internalize things always underlies his susceptibility to a fanatic dogma.
With all this in mind, let's take a brief look at Japan's trail from the workout in its backyard countries such as China to the nuclear apocalypse at the end of the unwinnable war. · read more (457 words)
Thursday, March 19 2009 @ 07:26 AM CDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
Sigmund Freud theorized that projection is one of the self-defense mechanisms man turns to especially in the face of a crisis.
Some Freudian psychoanalysts explain: People, more or less, have the tendency
to project their own thought or emotion to someone or something else to avoid facing up to the real problem. The Freudian self-protection theory fell
short of clearly distinguishing a pathological projection from a "normal"
one. But that doesn't really matter because anything produced by projection is more or less delusional.
Basically you can substitute the word externalization for projection in the Freudian sense. But in this "information age,"
what you project is, more often than not something you have received from someone else. This is especially true of those who process information
on an ear-to-mouth, or eye-to-fingertip basis. So I think that it will
be more precise and relevant today to reword Freud's projection as the refusal
We are facing one serious problem that the Austrian psychiatrist did not know. He died in September 1939 in exile in London. In those days, there were no more than millions of pundits all over the world, I guess. But today, everyone is acting like
a pundit. Aside from innumerable people who make their living by writing
and speaking, hundreds of millions, or even billions, of self-styled pundits are discussing
political, economic and cultural issues. I always ask myself: "They
are as talkative as myself, but are they internalizing these issues before they talk about them?" Most of the time, I can tell they aren't.
That is evident from the way these know-it-all surface-scratchers are constantly relativizing values. They don't seem to have their own absolute values anymore. (By the adjective "absolute" I mean "internalized.") Islamic fundamentalists are no exception to this climate. In the absence of absolute values to uphold even at the cost of their own lives, these cowardly fanatics are constantly driving their children to martyrdom. Likewise, in more industrialized countries, professional and nonprofessional commentators alike, are passing around superfluous (i.e. non-value-adding) information about this value and that value under the guise of objectivity. Isn't this more than enough? · read more (887 words)
Tuesday, March 17 2009 @ 05:23 AM CDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
As most Americans, from conservatives to liberals, have fallen into an
absurd delusion that the Harvard-educated black Messiah can walk on the
water, I am quickly losing interest in politics. Originally TokyoFreePress
was meant to be a political blog, but now I suspect it no longer deserves
to be called one. I no longer share with these political pundits the same pastime of untiringly scratching the surface of what's going on in Washington, let alone in Tokyo.
I couldn't care less, indeed, what's to become of America or Japan.
But do you understand what I really mean when I say politics doesn't matter to me anymore? If you are Japanese or American, you certainly don't understand
the real implication of my political apathy. I'll tell you why I feel that
Throughout my 73-year life, I have never belonged to a religious group
because I haven't been dumb enough to take part in the nationwide endeavor
to relativize values by saladizing various religions. Moreover, I suspect man's faith is something that should not be institutionalized in the first place. Hence, when I die,
I refuse to be incinerated and buried either in Buddhist or Christian format.
This, however, is not to say I haven't been influenced by the teachings of Jesus
Christ and Gautama Buddha.
Admittedly my take on Christianity is a little heterodox in that to me, Mary
Magdalene is the central figure in the life of Jesus. Some say she was
a prostitute. Some others hypothesize that she was Jesus's mistress, or even his wife.
I don't know exactly what she was. But I do know she was much more than
just a disciple of Jesus Christ. Other disciples are said always to have been jealous about her and kept asking Jesus, "Why do you love her more than all of us?"
I sometimes think God sent Jesus to save the beautiful woman, alone, or God
sent her to save Jesus.
Equally important to me is Buddhism. Among other teachings of Buddha, I
think his central tenet is this one: 色即是空. 空即是色.
You find these eight characters in one of the sutras translated into Chinese
from Sanskrit. One English translation of these words reads:
FORM IS EMPTINESS. EMPTINESS IS FORM.
A more explanatory translation goes:
EVERY FORM IN REALITY IS EMPTY, AND EMPTINESS IS THE TRUE FORM.
I would rather compress this tenet this way: NOTHING REALLY MATTERS. · read more (606 words)
Friday, March 13 2009 @ 03:05 AM CDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
I tend to go personal even when working on a book review because I don't believe
there is such a thing as impersonal truth.
One year or so ago I was writing a book about the fate of my home country to have it
published in the U.S. It was out of the question to use a Japanese publisher
because the book to have been titled The Unviable Japan was going to delve into the very core of the absolute taboo issues such as illegitimacy of the imperial institution. At the beginning, the American literary agent I was talking to was saying
it would become a bestseller. But the moment I gave the agent a preview
of the first draft of the synopsis, he changed his mind and started talking me out of further writing on. Over the telephone he subtly turned down my proposal even though the final proposal package had not been submitted yet..
He implied that I would not be accepted in the U.S. before establishing myself in my home country. From the beginning he had
known that I would not be accepted on my home turf. So he must have thought it was unfair to decline my proposal on that ground.
He tried to reinforce his rationale by saying American publishers and
their customers were too preoccupied at the moment with the presidential election and
the Iraq quagmire to show interest in Japan's fate - which was also what
he had already known when he said my book would become a bestseller.
American people I used know were very direct and straightforward in responding to me, either in the affirmative or in the negative, and giving the reason for that.
Most of the time they were confident about what they were talking about. They had not yet developed the American disease symptomized
by cynicism and hypocrisy dominating today's America. The literary agent should have saved me a lot
of time and money I spent for exchanging nicely worded e-mails and for placing lengthy collect calls for roundabout conversation.
Earlier this month I came across Bernard Goldberg's most recent book titled A Slobbering Love Affair when I was up to my daily routine of video mining on YouTube. I was looking
for newest pieces of info about his take on the post-election climate of the United States. Some six years ago, I was quite impressed by the bestselling Bias (2002, Medium Cool) authored by the former star correspondent with CBS News soon after he was fired by Dan Rather
because of his op-eds in the Wall Street Journal (1996 and 2001.) In these op-ed pieces he accused the mainstream media of their liberal bias
A Slobbering Love Affair bears a lengthy subtitle that goes: The True (and Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama
and the Mainstream Media. One of my American friends warned me that I would learn nothing new from
the book, but I went ahead and placed a rush order for my copy with Amazon.com
at a price of $17.13 plus $26.98 for shipping and handling. I knew my American
friend was right, but I thought I might want to resume working on the once
mothballed book if ever I could learn some secret from Goldberg to make my book truthful
and salable at the same time. While its subtitle promises the author is
telling the true story, the book made the NYT list of bestselling books,
albeit temporarily. · read more (1,125 words)
Thursday, March 05 2009 @ 04:14 AM CST
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
More often than not the head of the Democratic Party of Japan wears
a geeky mask presumably because he is determined not to let
out the truth about his venal political career and the collusive alliance
between the U.S. and Japan, on which he has made a fortune.
AS USUAL the revelation of what will possibly lead to the fall of Ichiro Ozawa came too little and too late. On March 3 the government-paid 1st secretary of the head of the Democratic Party of Japan was arrested by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on suspicion of receiving donations from the now scandal-tainted Nishimatsu Construction Co., in violation
of the Political Funds Control Law.
At first the prosecutors were saying the bribe had totaled 25 million yen,
but in a matter of 24 little hours, the amount ballooned to 300 million.
Actually the prosecutors and the members of the press club attached to
their office needn't have used the roundabout method to gradually immunize the general
public. Everyone had known that to Ozawa, 300 million is nothing but peanuts relative to the total amount he has collected throughout his 40-year career in politics.
Everyone of us had also known why the wrongdoing by politicians always dribbles out to the surface this way. These prosecutors seem to worry that this society could not withstand a laparotomy which would create a sea of pus across the board. More importantly, Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama, who heads the prosecutors office, certainly knows that the entire edifice would instantly fall into pieces once a thorough investigation were to be launched leaving no sacred cows. Given the reluctance inherent to the prosecutors, normally disguised as prudence, it looks quite likely that they had a very special reason for targeting Ozawa this time around. They seem ready to run a risk of accidentally hitting the core of the root problem. For those who are unfamiliar with the convoluted political landscape here, the grandfather of the Justice Minister is Ichiro Hatoyama, a former prime minister, and a younger brother of Yukio Hatoyama, Secretary General of the DPJ (not a typo.)
Actually this is Ozawa's nightmare finally coming true. In the past, every time the nation's premiership came within his reach, he recoiled in fear of this scenario. But this time, even Prime Minister Aso had looked prepared for cession of power to the DPJ, until the offices of the crook, alias the "champion of reform," were raided.
In the last couple of years the ruling coalition between the Liberal Democratic
Party and Komeito has constantly trod the path to self-destruction. (Komeito is a party backed by a legitimized cult named Soka Gakkai.) As a result, the DPJ,
which was formed when the defectors from the LDP such as Ozawa joined forces with the former mainstream
faction of the Social Democratic Party, is now facing a windfall opportunity to grab power.
Against this backdrop, Ozawa and the elder Hatoyama are now saying that the arrest of the secretary of the party head must be a conspiracy of the Aso administration. This cannot be true, however. We are already seeing the list of the recipients of donations from the construction company rapidly growing so long as to include big figures in the ruling LDP, such as former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori. And if you have a certain amount of commonsense, you are inclined to believe that what is going on between the Hatoyama brothers is a fixed bout, at best.
A little more plausible conspiracy theory has it that now the entire bureaucracy
is striking back against the legislature which has grown more and more defiant to it in the "theatricized politics" staged by the media. Now the bureaucrats feel that their vested interests are endangered. Although this theory has some point, they have no reason to single out Ozawa's camp. One of its most powerful support groups is the Federation of Public Corporation and Government
Enterprise Workers' Unions, which was the most important tribute to Ozawa from the defectors of the SDP. In Japan's public sector, there is no conflicts
of interest between employers and employees. From the taxpayers' point of view, both are parasites. · read more (992 words)
According to Ron Paul, there are 90 million vacant houses in America
today. (At first I thought I heard the maverick Senator say there are 19 million unoccupied houses, which was already something that threw me into consternation, but a transcript reads 90 million houses are in that condition.) On the other hand there are
tens of millions of people who only have a house or apartment that doesn't
meet the minimum living standard, or no place to live in at all.
More than half a century ago, American Marxist Leo Huberman (1903-1968) pointed out that in America the
practice of dumping "excess" grain into the ocean was commonplace
when millions of people were combating malnutrition. He said this was something
inherent to capitalist society. That is not really true but just the same,
the same incongruous thing can happen in today's America when a supplier of goods or services teams up with the Federal Reserve to manipurate the market mechanism.
Basically there are three tested ways - almost always tested unworkable - for the government to handle an oversupply
1. Let the supplier destroy the goods while leaving the potential customer
unprovided with necessities.
2. Subsidize either side or both so that the excess products can find their way to consumers at a price substantially lower than market.
3. Destroy both.
Since it's too obvious that the first option is doomed to further widen
disparity, any government in history hasn't really encouraged suppliers to destroy
Option 3 can be pursued most typically by means of a destructive war. Everyone knows the
Great Depression paved the way for the authoritarian and belligerent regimes
in Europe. But even for America, it took WWII to fully recover from the protracted downturn in economy since the 1930s.
Now that Obama, misguided by those multilateralists, has precluded the
warring solution, the Harvard-educated Santa Claus will certainly go for Option 2, which is the easiest, but the worst way (even more destructive than the warring option) to close or narrow the gap. Obama seems to believe this alternative is the only practicable course of action for
the United States, not only at home but also abroad. The president is right, on the premise that he is not really determined to seek a fourth way to bring about change. In fact he doesn't look prepared to step into an uncharted course. His lack of integrity prevents him from doing so. · read more (463 words)