Hamlet: Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a camel?
Polonius: By the mass, and 'tis like a camel, indeed.
Hamlet: Methinks it is like a weasel.
Polonius: It is backed like a weasel.
Hamlet: Or like a whale?
Polonius: Very like a whale.
- From Act III of Shakespeare's Hamlet
As I have written before, I wouldn't have joined the workforce as a "new grad" fifty years ago had it not been for a bit too optimistic assumption that as a corporate warrior, I would be able to make a positive difference to the community by actualizing my own self. Subsequently I remained fully committed to the things I was working on and
the people I was working with until the end of my 46-year-long career mainly
spent in the Japanese subsidiaries of foreign companies headquartered in
the U.S., Switzerland and Germany.
In early years of my career with these foreign employers, I was torn apart in a situation that always required a dual loyalty. But over
time I acquired a certain set of skills which enabled me to effectively
deal with different business practices, governing laws and the underlying
cultures without compromising on my own principles. I would call this skill set integrity.
When I was overseeing finance and administration at the Swiss company, my direct boss was a self-important macho married to a Japanese woman. With his massive body weighing over 250lb, the egomaniac expat looked like a sumo's grand champion but actually he was a former captain for a tank unit of the Swiss Army. He thought he had a special privilege to reign over us like a tyrant or a colonial governor because so many local employees had spoiled him for more than a quarter century since he first landed in the country which had yet to fully recover from the ashes of the war.
To make sure the supreme power he thought was bestowed on him wasn't a megalomaniac delusion, he always surrounded himself with sycophants. So
it was a big misstep that he hired me as one of his righthand men in the early 1980s. · read more (521 words)
Only dead fish go with the flow. (Sarah Palin, July 4)
Earlier this week the latest figures of average life expectancy were released.
The statistics showed that Japanese women are enjoying the world's longest
life span of 86.05 years while Japanese men ranked No. 4 only next to their
counterparts in Iceland, Switzerland and Hong Kong. This leaves you wondering
what the heck we cling to our empty life that long for.
Here's another citation from The Chrysanthemum and the Sword.. Actually it's a requotation because author Ruth Benedict was just quoting
a wartime broadcast which was all too familiar to the Japanese people of my age or older.
After the air battles were over, the Japanese planes returned to their
base in small formations of three or four. A Captain was in one of the
first planes to return. After alighting from his plane, he stood on the
ground and gazed into the sky through binoculars. As his men returned,
he counted. He looked rather pale, but he was quite steady. After the last
plane returned he made out a report and proceeded to Headquarters. At Headquarters
he made his report to the Commanding Officer. As soon as he had finished
his report, however, he suddenly dropped to the ground. The officer on
the spot rushed to give assistance but alas! he was dead. On examining
his body it was found that it was already cold, and he had a bullet wound
in his chest, which had proved fatal. It is impossible for the body of
a newly-dead person to be cold. Nevertheless the body of the dead captain
was as cold as ice. The Captain must have been dead long before, and it
was his spirit that made the report. Such a miraculous fact must have been
achieved by the strict sense of responsibility that the dead Captain possessed.
Constantly misguided by the dictionary that wrongly defines 民主主義 (minshu-shugi) as democracy, 天皇 (tenno) under the postwar Constitution as a useless but harmless figurehead, and 変革 (henkaku) as change, those arrogant, intellectually lazy, surface-scratching, cherry-picking
Japan experts in the U.S. tend to underestimate our supernatural power to flexibly
cross the boundary back and forth between life and death, or our propensity to roam around the border so aimlessly and interminably. Benedict and her fellow countrymen have always
■ wartime Japanese were so superstitious as to believe in the absurd propaganda
such as this one,
■ but after the war defeat they came out much smarter. · read more (479 words)
The phrase Digital Maoism (aka Online Collectivism) was coined by Jaron Lanier, an American computer scientist, composer, visual artist and author, in his May 2005 essay.
Four years later, a growing number of Netizens are becoming fascinated with a new literary format named six-word stories. The slogan there is,
"Brevity is a virtue." The one who has led the way to the kiddy stuff since last year gives Ernest Hemingway
credit for his inspiration. According to him, the shortest-ever story in the history of literature is the one written by the American Nobel laureate. It goes like this:
For sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.
This crap is supposed to be considered profound simply because it's Hemingway. But I suspect that the new breed of American Netizens owe Japanese haiku poets their literary movement more than they owe it to Hemingway.
As I explained in a TokyoFreePress story titled Seamless Transition from Haiku to Keitai, nothing illustrates the essence of Japanese culture better than their obsession with the myth of homogeneity. In literature, the same pathological trait has translated into the 17-syllable format since the 17th century. Without the delusive belief that all the community members shared the same set of word associations, they would never have thought a minimal number of words would be enough to have their messages get through to the receiving ends. This is how the haiku mentality has taken root in this climate.
The myth was invented in the early 8th century by a couple of successive emperors as a tool for pacifying the Japanese archipelago. Ever since their successors have taken advantage of the mental defect to the fullest by leveraging the same method. Even today the media keep implanting into their audience a logic circuit that always ensures a standardized response to a given stimulus.
To Japanese, it has always been true that "less is more." But before long we will be hearing them say, "Nothing is everything," because the typical distortion of Buddha's tenet is an inevitable consequence of the pursuit of brevity. This is where the world's most hive-minded people are destined.
It is also interesting to know that if you compose a good haiku (there are some,) you'll get a favorable review which is often hundred times longer than your piece, whereas if you choose to give a full-length elaboration on your thought, as I often do, the longest feedback you can expect from your audience is a 17-syllable-long review. Most typically it's as short as 12-syllables: nagasugite yomu-ki ga shinai, or I don't want to read such a wordy piece. It's against this backdrop that manga now accounts for more than 70% of all the printed publication in Japan. And as you may know, manga are much less wordy as compared to comics in the West. Sometimes they have no speech bubbles.
As Lanier feared four years ago, the same thing is happening in America. The country is now rapidly transforming itself from a diverse culture to a hive-minded society. Small wonder that the six-word format is flourishing in the Obama Nation.
Lanier's May 2005 essay discusses a lot about the pros and cons of the
Wikipedian way of thinking, but actually Digital Maoism refers to the general attitude of a broader Internet population. So let me give you a different perspective on
this trend here.
You are often asked, or ask yourself, these questions - whether you approve
or disapprove of things such as:
●Democracy as against autocracy
●Republicans as against Democrats (in America)
●Liberal Democratic Party as against Democratic Party of Japan (in Japan)
●War as against peace ●Multilateralism as against unilateralism
●Resort to military option as against the "keep dancing at the U.N. ballroom" option
●Free market system as against centrally controlled economy
●Right to carry firearms
●Proliferation as against the oligopoly of the nukes
The list of FAQs goes on and on. Actually it's as long as the hyper-extensive agenda of the sufferer of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) in the White House. · read more (758 words)
Recently I stick around in the neighborhood of Yokohama China Town, where I live,
because I'm physically too weak to take an excursion every time I eat out, I can't
afford to have a meal any more decent than livestock feed, and now it wouldn't make any
difference to my health whether or not I avoid oily, stinky Chinese food. That's
why these days I have befriended many local Chinese. Since most of them are quite
intelligent, I can learn from both mainlanders and Taiwanese much more than I can from my brain-dead compatriots.
Last night I had a talk with a Chinese student working in a nearby eatery.
The guy majoring in business administration here told me that he remembers
what it was like to see the Tiananmen tumult even though he was a preschool kid in
1989. At the end of our stand talking in Japanese, he concluded: "I think our
policymakers are no different from their foreign counterparts. They all stink." I
said, "That's why you are studying business administration rather
than political science. Is that right?" "You bet," exclaimed the guy.
Actually, if you compare the two governments between China and the U.S., it's almost a toss-up, but in a way Beijing has outdone Washington in recent years. In China their memories of the June 4 massacre are fading away
by now. On the contrary the Japanese have yet to get over the scar from WWII because
the "umbilical cord" that has connected us to America since 1960 is still there. Now totally eroded, it has started festering all over. As a result our entire nation remains crippled.
On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the incident, U.S. Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton reportedly touched on her pet subject, calling on the Beijing
government to release all those still imprisoned in connection with the
protests, stop harassing those who took part and begin a dialogue with
the victims' families. In response, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang
said Clinton's remarks amounted to "crudely meddling in Chinese domestic
Gang was right. Clinton has no moral authority to give the Chinese her
annual lecture on human rights. · read more (95 words)
Some of you will say the Holocaust and Truman's version of genocide are not really comparable. Some
others may think the Holocaust was more brutal because its victims by far outnumbered the Japanese civilians incinerated in
the last days of the war.
I agree that a superficial comparison between the two war crimes does not
make a lot of sense. Yet I am inclined to juxtapose them because what I
witnessed from 1944 through 1945 was the single most important event in
my 73-year life.
Unlike Holocaust survivors or descendants of its victims, not a single
Japanese has called atrocities ordered by Harry S. Truman an act of genocide.
Even A-bomb survivors and their offspring always stop short of calling the unforgivable crime by that name. There are two reasons
for their forgivingness.
Reason 1: The Japanese don't understand that one crime you committed against your enemy does not offset against another committed against you by another enemy. As Ruth Benedict pointed out, they have no moral absolutes. So they always relativize things. Japan's Communist Party is no exception.
In his April 5 speech, Obama said, "As the only nuclear
power to have used a nuclear weapon (sic) the United States has a moral responsibility to act,". His remarks were well-received here. On April 28 Kazuo Shii, president of the JCP, sent a letter to Obama to express his gratitude for his "initiative."
Earlier this week, Shii received a reply letter, signed by an Undersecretary of State on behalf of the U.S. President, which said Obama was pleased to know the JCP shares with him the same enthusiasm for a nuclear-free world. Shii looked really exhilarated because this is the first letter the U.S. government has ever sent to the communist party. Maybe Obama doesn't know JCP's "enthusiasm" was first ignited by the Soviet Union. JCP-led Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs used
to be in favor of nuclear tests conducted by the USSR.
It's regrettable that either president has no brains to understand there's nothing wrong with just possessing or even using the nuke. As is true with conventional weaponry,
the real problem always lies with when and where to use it, and to what end. It's all the more tragic because the JCP is the only party that has not officially approved the Imperial Institution and the U.S.-Japanese security treaty. Shii was in a position to have told Obama that the U.S. has a moral responsibility not for using the bombs, but for not using them in Tokyo to decapitate Japan. But he didn't. · read more (451 words)
Top: The genocide guidebook disguised as an anthropological work Bottom: Its author Ruth Benedict
I read this book in Japanese translation when I was 13 years of age. Our teacher at the social studies classes was a son of Kazuo Aoki, former minister in charge of the Great East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere in Tojo's junta. He told us to peruse it because we would find our own selves exquisitely described in the reading assignment. As he had promised, I found a lot of stereotypical characterization of "Tanaka San, the Japanese 'anybody'," as Benedict put it, but didn't find myself or my father at all there. I concluded that The Chrysanthemum and the Sword is an anthropological rubbish.
Sixty years later, however, I somehow felt an urge to revisit the same crap because these days things on both sides of the Pacific seem to be unfolding as if people are still suffering the aftereffects from overdose of a toxic agent administered by the author. In recent years it's increasingly evident that people of my generation, and our children and grandchildren alike, feel deep inside that something has remained unsettled and that it's long overdue by now.
As for the U.S., Obama's silver tongue is on a roll more than ever. On April 5 at the Hradcany
Square in Prague, Czech Republic, he announced a bold plan to negotiate a new
strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia by the end of this year. As
usual he tried to get around the most sticking points involved in the issue he was talking about.
exception of START I signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, any arms reduction deal has not been effectively implemented to date for various reasons. And more importantly, the hypocritical and unrealistic anti-nuke frameworks such as the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty and the multilateral talks over the nuclear programs
of Iran and North Korea have long proved dysfunctional.
To gloss over the real issue, Obama said: "As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act." The empty incantation, of course, heartened equally empty-headed Japanese people, especially the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It's appalling to know these learning-disabled people still think we can undo what we've done in the past. If we could, still we shouldn't - because it's looking away from the ever-changing reality.
In Japan, the approval rating of the coalition government between the Liberal Democratic Party and Komei-to (the party backed by the legitimized cult Soka-Gakkai) has inched up since March thanks to the revelation of the wrongdoing
of Ichiro Ozawa, head of the Democratic Party of Japan, although his collusive
relations with the construction company is nothing but a sideline business
for the crook who has milked Japan's Defense Ministry in the last four
On May 11 Ozawa finally announced to step down as DPJ head to take responsibility for the irregularities he would never admit to. You won't understand his queer logic, if there is any logic at all, until after you read Ruth Benedict's book. This is a typical way a bandit takes responsibility in this country. On Saturday,
Yukio Hatoyama, one of Ozawa's henchmen, was "elected" to succeed
him as the party head.
As a result, by this fall we will see a general election for the House
of Representatives fought between the LDP headed by the grandson of Shigeru
Yoshida and the DPJ now headed by the
grandson of Ichiro Hatoyama. Yoshida always bragged about his "friendship" with Douglas MacArthur, but in fact, he was one of those who gave the general an indelible impression that all Japanese adults were 12 years old. Ichiro Hatoyama was the first prime minister under the 1955 System. As you already know, the political system known by that name is a trap artfully set up by MacArthur against the Japanese people.
This is an unmistakable sign that this nation has been going around in circles for the last 64 years amid the sea change you've seen everywhere else.
All this indicates that the unviable Japan is really invincible now. This country can't even collapse on its own, let alone change. That's why I made up my mind to part ways with 1.3K yen to purchase The Chrysanthemum and the Sword in its 2005 paperback edition from Mariner Books. I just wanted to have a fresh look into the collusive relations between the two peoples. · read more (2,135 words)
Saturday, May 09 2009 @ 09:33 AM EDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
This is to provide my audience with some tips on how to deal with
Swine Flu in the wake of the announcement by the WHO that it raised the
alert level to the second highest Phase 5.
Rule 1: It was quite OK to call the disease caused by the H5N1 virus Avian
Flu. Don't ask me why. Also it was permissible to call Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy mad cow disease, thanks to the maturity and torelance shown by Hindus. But make
no mistake; it's wrong to call the new pestilence Swine Flu. If you break the rule, that will prompt Muslims to slaughter hundreds of innocent piggies, as Egyptians actually did a couple of weeks ago. Instead of putting the undue blame
on these pious Arabic people, you should strictly observe this rule. This is the only way to keep peace. By the way, the correct way to refer to the disease is H1N1 Influenza Type A.
Rule 2: Be courageous enough to expose yourself to those people, such as
Mexicans, who are likely to bring you H1N1 viruses. If you are American and dare to insist
to close the borders with Mexico, you will be labeled
a racist. If you are Japanese, don't refuse personal contact with
Americans just because they are most exposed to the viruses coming from the
south of the border. Always bear in mind that you are obliged to reciprocate
their favor of protecting your country against possible attacks from neighboring rogue nations at the cost of American lives.
Rule 3: Wash your hands every nook and cranny every time you came home.
If you don't know how to wash your hands, watch Japanese TV. Around the
clock every newscaster is repeatedly telling you the procedure you have to go through
in the bathroom very precisely. They invariably say you shouldn't be through
with the hand-cleansing ritual at least until 15 seconds elapse. But when taking into account the pathological obsession of the Japanese with cleanliness on the outside, I think 12 seconds are enough for foreigners. If you are Japanese and
break the rule, the consequence can be graver than just infected with H1N1.
You will be considered to have contracted more serious disease by the name
of Anti-Conformism. Most probably you will be detained in an isolation ward. As a matter of practice it will be like you are deprived of your nationality.
Rule 4: Don't fail to wear a mask whenever you go out. Here, too, you can count on Japanese newscasters for invaluable tips. They boldly assume that all the TV viewers know how to put on a mask. Yet they think it's expecting too much from the neotenized viewers to assume they are good at undoing it as well. So they quickly add this to their instructions: "When you are back home and removing the mask, never touch
other parts of the mask than straps, because its surface can be contaminated by H1N1." Maybe you just have to cross your fingers that straps are not contaminated. There is one thing that even attentive instructors seldom mention; the mask can also serve as a gag that prevents you from transmitting to others another deadly virus
named the truth. That is why many Japanese wear a mask throughout the year. · read more (221 words)
Thursday, May 07 2009 @ 08:55 AM EDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
Reporters without Boarders (or Reporters sans Frontieres) was founded in
1985 in Montpellier, France. Ever since the self-proclaimed press freedom
watchdog, now based in Paris, has kept a watchful eye on the mainstream
and web-based media worldwide.
In the past RSF earned a good reputation for its relatively unbiased way of providing
comparative data about how far reporters of each country were allowed to
exercise press freedom. But in recent years RSF has been increasingly discrediting
Let's take a look at the press freedom ranking RSF publishes
every year. The following list shows how G-8 countries and China fared in comparison with other
countries in 2004 and 2008:
Anyone in his right mind will have difficulty understanding how
RSF came up with its "Press Freedom Indices" when press freedom
is something that you can't readily quantify - unless you are prejudiced against
some regimes and in favor of some others.
In fact the press freedom watchdog relies primarily on the statistical
figures available to it, such as:how many journalists and bloggers were killed, arrested,
physically assaulted, threatened and how many media outlets and websites
were censored, blocked, shut down and suspended. That means that RSF has
to use arbitrary criteria when it comes to nations where such an overt suppression
of free press is not commonplace.
Looking at the apparently politicized ranking, you certainly feel like recollecting
what happened in these nine countries between 2004 and 2008.
France sank to No. 35 presumably because the pro-American Nicolas Sarkozy became the 23rd President of the French Republic in May 2007. No other event would explain France's sharp descent. · read more (699 words)
Tuesday, May 05 2009 @ 10:59 AM EDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
Left: Hotel New Grand where Douglas MacArthur checked in on August 30, 1945 to prepare himself for the September 2 surrender ceremony aboard the USS Missouri Center: The Second Perry loved New Grand so much that the hotel survived repeated airraids. By the same token, the compassionate general acquitted the Emp- eror of his heinous crime of claiming 3-million Japanese lives for the absurd cause of preserving the imperial institution Right: You don't have to be a good physiognomist to tell Yokohama Mayor Hiroshi Nakada is a moron who doesn't understand there was nothing to celebrate in the forced ratification of the Convention of Kanagawa 150 years ago
I am a Tokyo native and stayed in the capital city for almost 60 years
until the burst of the bubble economy somehow brought me to Yokohama, the
port city my political blog TokyoFreePress is currently based in. The reason
I decided to settle down here was because I thought if someday the modern
history of this nation is to be rewritten strictly based on facts, Yokohama
should be the right place to witness the milestone. As the emperor-retained
historians totally fabricated Japan's ancient history in the early-8th
century, this municipality has deliberately taken part in the falsification
of the nation's modern history since the 1850s.
On Sunday afternoon, I was sitting at my computer when I heard an exhilarating tune played by a marching band passing by the nearby Yamashita-Koen seaside park. This year the City Hall had been planning to
jazz up, more than ever, the annual International Costume Parade to make it the centerpiece
of the 150th Anniversary of the opening-up of the port after more than
200 years of sakoku (the seclusion policy.) I knew something to party about has yet to come. But whenever I hear a duple-meter music such as this one, I get a compulsive sensation that makes me act like a Hamelin kid lured by the Pied Piper. The weather was fine, and I was relatively in good shape. So I hit the streets carrying my digital camera with me.
My father 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)