Mineo Yamamoto Left: Caricatured by political cartoonist Hidezo Kondo Right: On the eve of WWII in Berlin
It is true that there are a small number of people who are interested in what my father left behind. Ironically though, most of them are non-Japanese. Worse, to a handful of Japanese who know Mineo Yamamoto, he is just a name their fetishes bear. It looks as though a human being by that name has never existed.
In 2004 he was posthumously inducted into the Japan Automotive Hall of Fame, but during his lifetime, he was not rewarded in the right way for what he could achieve, let alone what he couldn't.
Sometimes, he received a well-deserved acknowledgment, but recognitions, more often than not, came from a wrong person and for a wrong reason.
In 1973, Emperor Hirohito, demigod-turned the symbol of national unity, decorated him for his prewar and wartime accomplishments in aeronautics and postwar contribution to lay the foundation of Japan's car industry. Throughout his lifetime, though, my father could not conceal his contempt for the Emperor. But unfortunately for him, by that time Alzheimer's had started affecting his brain so seriously that he couldn't refuse to accept the decoration. My mother dragged him to the Imperial Palace.
As his eldest son, I was adversely affected by a fallout from his disdain for the Emperor. When I was 6 or 7 years old, he already started giving me an enormous pressure to make me get into the fast track to a top-notch scientist. I would later call his excessively demanding and coercive education method a double-edged sword. Totally defenseless, I finally collapsed after a futile attempt, for most of my formative years, to regain my own self. It took a long feud between us until I came to realize his aberrant obsession with the idea of making a first-rate scientist out of an ordinary kid was not so abnormal as it looked. He certainly knew that would have been the only way to avoid sacrificing his offspring for Hirohito if the Manhattan Project had delayed for ten years or so, or Japan had become nuclearized before the U.S.
Up until the war defeat, the emperor was so cold-hearted as to let his 3 million subjects die just to protect him and his kin against the barbarians from the West. When his shogun and samurai finally succumbed to the Allied Powers, he transformed himself into something that would wince at a single drop of Japanese blood shed to defend whatever his subjects want to defend. In 1945, I was a 9-year-old kid but I think I was also a victim of this bastard.
fell on the 70th anniversary of the legendary plane that set the world
record for flight range. But no other newspaper than The Japan Times commemorated
I very much appreciated the Japan Times article written by staff writer Akemi Nakamura. But she wasn't quite accurate on one point; she subtly misquoted me as telling her: "[Mineo Yamamoto Cyber Museum I launched in 2007] is one of the things I'm doing to tell people about the aircraft. It's our task to preserve the intellectual legacy that my father and his colleagues left." To me, preserving hardware, or software, is the smallest part of man's endeavor to hand down the intellectual legacy, which is often intangible, from a generation to the next.
In the same article Ms. Nakamura quoted Shigezo Oyanagi, director at Misawa Aviation and Science Museum, as saying, "The plane's technology was not particularly outstanding." The question the director couldn't have answered is, "Then, what was particularly outstanding of Koken-ki?" Oyanagi boasts that he built Japan's only full-scale "replica" of Koken-ki several years ago. But this is nothing but a mock because you can't actually fly it. Ms. Nakamura should not have expected any discerning remark from a fetishist such as Oyanagi. Kazuyoshi Suzuki, a senior curator at Japan's largest National Museum of Nature and Science, once scornfully told me that the full-scale "replica" is nothing but a pricey toy Oyanagi built at the expense of the taxpayers of Aomori Prefecture, where his museum is located. Suzuki was (uncharacteristically) right.
Suzuki's museum is run by a quasi-governmental entity. His projects must be funded much more affluently than Oyanagi's. So can I expect him to outdo the fetishist in the Aomori museum in one way or the other? That's what my late mother must have assumed some ten years ago when she generously permitted Suzuki to take away all the materials (drawings, reports, 35mm films, etc.) my father had left behind. But when I visited him in 2007, I found out that was not the case at all. It's not only that none of these materials were exhibited there, but also he effectively admitted that because of the "budget and manpower constraint" chronically facing him, most of these materials were thrown into the storage in the basement and left there unattended.
Last year I met the president of a publishing company (names withheld) who is well-versed in Japan's history of aviation. His company has published some Koken-ki-related books. He whispered to me that in a sense Suzuki had been telling me the truth. According to the president, more than 100 curators are working for the national museum, but Suzuki is the only guy working on aviation. Besides, his area of responsibilities includes IT, robotics, dinosaurs and many other areas. I asked the president: "What the heck, then, are all other guys working on?" His answer: "Please keep this strictly to yourself. Other people
are working solely for the Emperor and his kin."
· read more (514 words)
To almost all professional writers, the Key Performance Indicator is money.
Consequently, their Key Success Factor is artfully disguised prostitution. Let us face this fact very squarely. Otherwise we would be further undermining our freedom of speech.
I don't necessarily think it's wrong for one to make his living from prostitution. Basically it's none of my business. If I had to give him an advice, however, the following would be it:
Just stop writing, if once in a while, to think there were times when great
writers never chased after money, if sometimes money chased after them.
I would tell him this not because by heeding my tip, he would become a great writer, but because the worst type of prostitute is one who doesn't think he is a prostitute.
Believe it or not, I don't intend to tell my sour-grapes story here, but my KPI and KSF are 180-degrees different from professional writers'.
This is not to say I need not closely measure my own performance so that I can improve the quality of this blog. I do need to improve it both in terms of writing skills and content. That I don't habitually trade trash for cash, alone, doesn't mean I'm a great writer. And after all I'm not doing all this just for vanity's sake.
Because of some shortcomings involved in the statistical function of my
blogging software named Geeklog, I have been using a more advanced analysis
tool named Google Analytics (GA) since the beginning of this year.
Unfortunately, though, I can't afford the prohibitively high cost to take
an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) measure. So I've had to substitute
my own trick to improve the traffic every time I identify a problem. Over
time I've found out my cheap trick, such as using eye-catching (sometimes
un-PC) words and phrases, more often than not, outdo pricey SEO tools.
Another reason I don't go for an SEO software is because it tends to artificially
inflate access counts to make money-driven site owners happy.
Below here I'll show you how I am evaluating my own performance as an independent
Web journalist against my own measurement criteria.
Aside from the readings on GA, the stats page of Geeklog tells me that 1,086,068 people have "hit" my website since I launched it 56
months ago. It's true Geeklog tends to largely overstate my performance
in this respect because it can't exclude my own accesses as well as spammers'. Besides, by a rule of thumb, you can arrive at the number of visitors by dividing the number of hits by something like 3-5.
All in all, the reading on Geeklog is conservatively estimated to translate into 150,000-200,000 real visitors or 450,000-600,000 page views. Yet I think this is something when taking into account the fact that I have always avoided prostituting myself. More specifically, I have taken no-nonsense
approach toward socio-political issues and taken up issues
of lasting relevance, rather than just responding to media-salient topics of the time, which are often red herrings.
Analysis by Country
The largest number of visitors came from the United States. This is
exactly what I intended when launching my blog because freedom of speech
isn't really dead in that country. The following chart shows the top 10
countries in the last 3-month period:
Friday, April 17 2009 @ 07:18 AM CDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
One of my American friends is a literary agent. She is a very intelligent person. A couple of days ago I received a mail from her in which she commented on some of my recent pieces like this:
"I particularly found fascinating your writing about your father,
his knowledge about airplanes and his unheeded warning to the Japanese
command of the need to develop an air force. I think in order to tell your
father's story to the widest possible audience you have made the right
decision to do so online. [But] you may find that the impact of what you
are publishing online leads a publisher to contact you to write a book
based on this information."
I know her comment was well-intended. But I am afraid she misunderstood me. Firstly, the fact that Japan did not have its Luftwaffe (Air Force) was the smallest part of my father's problem. Secondly, I'm fighting against my own enemies, not my father's. It's just that most of my foes happen to be the descendants of those who stood in my father's way. And lastly, but most importantly, I have no intention to use my website as a stepping stone to something more "real."
After the "dot-com bubble" burst in the early-2000, we saw signs
that new crops of Netizens were emerging on the horizon of the cyberspace.
In February 2005, Steve Chen and two other young men founded YouTube, LLC.
In December 2006, TIME magazine selected You as its Person
of the Year. These events gave us a good reason to be upbeat about our future.
But this didn't last long. We've been experiencing a serious setback in
the Internet-driven revolution ever since.
In November 2006, Google Inc. acquired YouTube, LLC. Its co-founders may
have earned $1.65 billion from the deal, but we Netizens lost much more
than that because Google's move actually signaled a counterrevolutionary move to defuse the fledgling Netizens' Republic.
For the part of TIME magazine, it picked Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama
as the persons of the years 2007 and 2008, respectively, as if to retract
its previous support to independent bloggers, selfless Wikipedians
and open-source software developers.
Obviously, the likes of Google and TIME are trying to artfully domesticate
and neutralize these wild animals so that the old media empires can claim dominance over the emerging Netizenry. Indications thus far are that the media establishment
wants to see independent Netizens eventually go extinct.
In order to show you my way of analyzing the current situation of this
warfare, let me try classifying the millions of videos you can watch on
YouTube into 9 different categories as below:
Examples include Paul Potts, a former employee of a carphone warehouse company and Susan Boyle, a Scottish church volunteer.
Most famously the YouTube Symphony Orchestra was formed through online
audition to stage a concert at Carnegie Hall earlier this month. I don't think this is what the co-founders had in mind when they employed the "Broadcast Yourself" slogan.
Many people are advertising their books, CDs and DVDs, for free, in order
to broaden their audiences.
Many people have uploaded TV programs ABC, CNN, etc. have run in the past.
Rare Film Footage or Recording
My own video about the
legendary aircraft falls on this category.
Political Campaign by Independent
Maverick Republican Ron Paul is the best example. I have embedded
some of his videos in this blog.
Musical Performance by Amateur or Semi-Pro
Innumerable people are generously sharing their performances just for fun. I have favorited dozens of them on my YouTube channel. A smile-inducing video uploaded by German girls is embedded below as an example. A world filled with their music makes your life really worth living.
You can watch tutorials, lectures, religious preaches and many other visual
presentations of educational materials. You may generically call them a
visualized Wikipedia. Among other things, I found Daniel Barenboim's masterclass
series (embedded below) quite impressive, although I don't particularly want to be a master of the instrument.
Some people are working on visualized versions of their blogs.
Tuesday, April 14 2009 @ 06:47 AM CDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
This is to review, at a time, some books that I have read and some others
that I haven't - and will never.
Recently my friend John H. (Jack) Wiegman sent me a thick copy of The Obama Nation - Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality authored by Jerome R. Corsi (Threshold Editions, 2008.) Although Jack
had warned me not to expect too much from the book, I found it sickeningly entertaining as well as dizzyingly revealing.
The author devotes a good part of the book to revealing how deliberately
Obama falsified the stories about himself and his father, who was an alcohol-addicted
polygamist, in his autobiography titled Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (Three Rivers Press, 2004.) To that end, Corsi cross-checked and double-checked every detail of Obama's accounts of his family background. Thanks to the thorough scrutiny Corsi carried out on our behalf, I could avoid a wasteful investment of time and money to buy the book Obama
wrote when he was seeking a Senate seat.
The Obama Nation also helped me save some extra bucks. No one with commonsense would assume that Obama had been reborn to be an honest man by the time he got started with The Audacity of Hope; Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (Vintage, 2007) in the midst of the presidential campaign. So I deleted this book, too, from my Amazon shopping cart.
On the other hand I found Corsi's book really worth reading. Yet the fact remains that it only gives us a half-truth about the Obama nation. When you are through with the book scrupulously sourced with some 680 footnotes, you have been reassured that the 44th President of the United States is an outright swindler. Then this question might crop up in your mind:
But so what?
There are millions of bandits in this world. Obama is just one of them. So the real problem lies with the voters, almost 70 million of them, who thought this guy could be the savior no matter whether he had deliberately misidentified himself. There are even signs that an increasing number of people are favorably disposed of the President even after witnessing his spendthrift habits.
This is something Corsi tried to avoid discussing in his book with the all-too-familiar trick of shifting blame to an easier target. He must have thought if he dared to address this side of the issue, his book wouldn't sell or his publisher Threshold Editions wouldn't buy the copyright. Actually it's quite understandable that he had to settle for just questioning his eligibility for the presidency amid the sweeping Obama craze, knowing it's almost crying over spilt milk.
My memory is too poor to keep track of the extraordinarily messy
family history of the U.S. President and contradictory statements he has
made on various occasions. But that doesn't really matter because after
all he has succeeded in duping the American people into sending him to
the White House, and more importantly because Corsi has proved that today's "professional" writers can't do any more than what he could in The Obama Nation. · read more (1,134 words)
It looks as though the American people are now in the firm grip of a cult.
Out of fear of a virtual ostracism, none of them have dared to come forwatd to say that one can't expect a losing poker player to stay cool-headed. In fact you've got to be a cultist yourself to deny the obvious things such as: ● Obama's multi-trillion dollar stimulus package is the surest way to a catastrophe. ● Coloring part of it green won't help a bit because these anti-environmental degradation measures are based on something that hasn't been substantiated scientifically. ● On the contrary, it will aggravate the hangover the Americans are to suffer in the end to blend such an unscientific belief into an economic stimulus package which, in itself, is based on an absurd assumption.
In the past the world's most oil-addicted American people have been lagging behind other peoples in terms of eco-craze. But now the U.S. is quickly overtaking other industrialized countries. Its people keep chanting Obama's gospel that his green stimulus plans will be paying off someday.
Basically the disease the American people are suffering is none of our business. Why don't we just let them further go downhill? But it's our problem if this trend is going to spill over to the rest of the world.
Japan has been one of the most environment-conscious countries, at least
on the surface, since the 1992 Kyoto Protocol. But the government has now
stepped up its eco-hype, taking a cue from Obama's move. It's becoming
less and less like science and more and more like a cult, or just a gamble.
Any green technology falls on a disruptive technology as it is defined by Grant Norris because it is intended to dramatically "change the way people live
their lives or the way businesses operate." That means that its development
should entail an enormous amount of investment of human and financial resources
at all levels. Therefore, it's insane
to get started with a green project before carefully assessing its technological viability and financial feasibility. You've got to be a gambling addict to just conjecture that you can avoid misplacing funding priorities without strenuously working on a preparatory study.
Given the magnitude of the investment to be involved in such a project, you can't afford to fail and start over. Along the way, you may be able to produce an intended hardware and software, just by chance. But as we have already seen in this series, you can't achieve good enough a tradeoff to justify the massive investment if you don't address the challenge at hand in a very methodical way. In fact, though, the Japanese people are just beating the bushes. · read more (955 words)
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)