TokyoFreePress
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Welcome to TokyoFreePress Sunday, March 26 2017 @ 04:14 PM JST
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North East Asian peoples who can never look to the future

On Saturday, April 9, Chinese people took to the streets in Beijing in yet another wave of anti-Japanese rallies staged to protest the newest versions of junior-high history textbooks that the Education Ministry-sponsored screening body had approved, on Tuesday, as compliant with its guidelines. According to the Japanese media the number of people that pelted stones and pejorative and derogatory words at the Japanese Embassy, banks, restaurants and other businesses reached 20,000, the biggest Japan-phobic crowd since the 1972 normalization of diplomatic ties between the two nations. These people were not only protesting against the newly approved textbooks that "gloss over" or "whitewash" Japan's wartime atrocities against their parents and grandparents, but also campaigning to thwart Japan's desperate bid for buying, "at any cost," a permanent seat at the U.N. Security Council. Some say they were just diverting their mounting anger to the wrong government. But they were not really that wrong when they chanted, "(Japan's Prime minister) Koizumi is a dog, and dogs are no good," because from the TFP's point of view, Koizumi is no good at all and he isn't any better than Chinese leader Hu Jintao. · read more (1,436 words)
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TokyoFreePress proposes Japan's Self-Defense Forces be renamed as Koizumi grabs at "straw"

Earlier this month Japan's Ground Self-Defense Forces and Air Self-Defense Forces sent hundreds of their personnel to the hardest-hit Aceh Province of Indonesia in the wake of the catastrophic tsunami following a massive quake that registered 9.0 on the Richter scale. Without doubt they did the right thing, putting aside the question how effectively the rescue corps are carrying out its mission. Even this nagging TokyoFreePress admits they did.

But the dispatch of a contingent to the southern Iraqi city of Samawah is a different story. Since February last year some 550 troops from GSDF have been deployed there to help the local people reconstruct the city's infrastructure. When the special legislation that had enabled the dispatch expired last December, the government decided to extend the Iraq deployment for another 12 months simply because there was no other option for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. He must have decided against the extension if John Kerry had won the November election.
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Human resources and cost associated with them are key to reform in government finances

On December 21 every daily with a nationwide circulation ran a frontpage story on the draft budget for fiscal year 2005 (April 2005 - March 2006). As usual the Daily Yomiuri and its parent daily, the Yomiuri Shimbun, headlined their budget coverage this way: "4th year of belt-tightening." The subhead under it read: "General expenditure to drop 0.7% as govt fights fiscal crisis." To be serious, I want Junichiro Koizumi and his Finance Minister, as well as the Yomiuri reporters, to study real hard what a belt-tightening exercise should be like and how to tighten the belt actually when a crisis is facing you. I think the Prime Minister should read, all by himself, some of the materials I am going to refer to later in this article and never count on those self-proclaimed professionals in the Ministry of Finance for educating him on the basics of reform - "trinity reform" or whatever he calls it. I'm afraid Koizumi won't have time to visit the Yasukuni Shrine on the New Year's Day this time around.

The day before, Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki presented the JPY 82.18 trillion (USD 790 billion at today's exchange rate) draft budget to the Koizumi Cabinet. This JPY 82.18 trillion represents a 0.1% increase over the initial budget for fiscal 2004 although General Expenditures, which the MOF defines as "discretionary policy-related spending," are going to decrease by 0.7% to JPY 47.28 trillion. But thanks to the MOF's "resolve to fight massive deficits in government finances" (the Daily Yomiuri) coupled with a 5.4% increase in tax revenues to JPY 44.01 trillion, new government bond issuance is estimated to shrink 6.0% to JPY 34.39 trillion. And this is what the Yomiuri called belt-tightening effort. On December 24 the Koizumi Cabinet bought the Tanigaki's proposal. So did the Yomiuri.
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Guess why 2 sentences took Prince Akishino a solid 4 minutes

In my September 14 piece titled "Culture of Apology", I discussed this unique culture we are living in. In that article I focused solely on those press conferences where wrongdoers offer ritual apologies before the press. But as you can see in "Guidebook to Japan" written by Amy Chavez, famous Japan Times columnist and owner of a website named "Japan Lite" (you will find the RSS link at the bottom of this page), apologies are not confined to those press conferences devoted to ceremonial bows. Even in our everyday life we are apologetic almost around the clock. This may leave you wondering why we apologize when there's no reason at all for being so apologetic. You may end up concluding that we are thanking you for what you actually didn't do because your Japanese teacher has told you the Japanese word sumimasen can mean either "Thank you" or "I apologize", or even both at the same time. More often than not, however, that is not the case. We are, in fact, apologizing for having "misled" you to expect something nice from us, on the pretext that we are not yet good enough at cross-cultural communication. Over time you will learn that we always have a good reason or two to apologize for having misled you, i.e. lied to you. You are prone to be misled by us because a Japanese "yes" accompanied by a lot of bobblehead doll-like nods means nothing more than "I heard you."

In fact we keep apologizing primarily because most of us are habitual liars. Just like those criminals giving press conferences for ceremonial bowing offer their apologies for having committed sinful acts in the wrong way, most of us sound apologetic especially when we lied in the wrong way. Just lying is permissible in this culture as long as you adhere to the right way of lying. Among ourselves we often say: "You better lie more plausibly." So, the good news for good liars is, they don't have to apologize to anyone. The bad news for good liars is, they've got to try hard to internalize the necessary skills, and yet, it sometimes takes a tremendous amount of mental effort and time (e.g. 2 minutes for one sentence) even for skilled liars to give a false story that is consistent with its previous versions, if there are any, and more importantly with the set of values supposedly being shared by everyone in this monolithic community.
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China's nuclear sub accomplished its mission, anyhow

Let us reconstruct from available news reports how the things unfolded around the recent intrusion of a Chinese nuclear submarine into Japanese waters:

November 8, afternoon - The government was informed by the U.S. that a nuclear sub of unknown nationality had been spotted.

November 8, late at night - Maritime Self-Defense Force P-3C reconnaissance aircraft spotted the sub in the Pacific Ocean, south of Okinawa. The Defense Agency determined it was a little outdated Han-class nuclear sub from the Chinese Navy judging from the characteristic screw sounds. P3-C continued to trail it around the clock.
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National unity goes hand-in-hand with diversity

On the morning of November 3, the people of the U.S. and the whole world could confirm the system called the American Democracy is still at work, despite the occasional hiccups in recent years. Senator John Kerry's decision to swiftly deliver his concession speech, to prevent Michael Moore, the busybody, from adding some more million bucks to his fortune, is really laudable. As Kerry said America is in need of national unity and to that end a healing process should soon begin. If Kerry has proved gifted only at conceding with grace, it's not him, but Moore that lost the Election 2004. It's heartening to know the Americans are still sound enough to seek national unity after being so divided over war on terror, war in Iraq, same-sex marriages, abortions, tax cuts, or whatever the presidential race was all about.

What about Japan, the nation caught in a trap of the dysfunctional 1955 System coupled with the Imperial System? They say: Don't be worried too much about ourselves, because Chapter One of the Constitution says the Emperor ensures national unity in all his demi-deity. It's always there since two millenniums ago. That's why in early morning talk shows here, those laid-back commentators are Monday morning quarterbacking on the Bush's victory on the other side of the Pacific as if it's beyond question that still Japan's systems are more or less functioning. · read more (492 words)
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Culture of apology

It's not an exaggeration to say that not a single day has passed these days without our witnessing a press conference that is more like a ceremony for apology. People from various quarters, ranging from doctors to government officials, to police chiefs, to bureaucrats, to CEOs, apologize before the media for their misconducts, medical malpractices, abuse of human rights, lack of professional integrity, gross negligence, mismanagement of corporations, fabrication of educational background, corruptions, failure to pay the pension premiums, etc., etc. The more serious the consequences of their sinful acts are, the deeper they are supposed to bow. When the deepest bow doesn't work, they sometimes kneel on the floor. When Yamaichi Shoken, one of the then Japan's Big 4 securities companies, had to file for bankruptcy in late 1997 in the wake of the revelation of irregularities such as habitual "stock shuffling", its CEO literally burst into tears. Lawmaker Junichiro Koga did the same in January this year when he couldn't produce the diploma he had claimed to have gotten from Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA. · read more (267 words)