So that’s a vote for Hokkaido’s Tomari nuclear power plant restart then

I see in today’s Hokkaido Prefectural election, the anti-nuclear candidate Noriyuki Sato lost. A couple of weeks ago I saw him on the television where he said:


So, since he lost, he will accept the voice of the people. Bonus points to anyone who finds him contradicting that stance in post-election interviews.


Profound or gibberish – you decide

This month’s Just Be Cause left me scratching my head; I’ll probably have to read it two or three more times to see if I can make sense of it. I did note though that this time the target is (or appears to be) Japanese, not foreigners. The one :facepalm: moment I have found so far is:

This is one reason why even the most scientifically trained among us is ready, for example, to take seriously the comment of a single native-born Japanese (rather than trust qualified Japan experts who unfortunately lack the mystical bloodline) as some kind of evidence in any discussion on Japan.

Who on earth could these non-native-born “qualified Japan experts” be?

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose – early 20th century microaggression

In the San Francisco Call newspaper, 24th September 1910, there was a rather entertaining tale of a gaijin manhandling a “little brown [‘yellow’ surely?] trainboy” for looking funny at his wife. I present the conclusion, but note I might have made a small mistake or two:

But he is going to have his revenge. He is going back to Hawaii, where he will write a Japan Times column advising tourists to stay away from Japan, telling them that they can not place any faith in weeaboos’ alluring descriptions or any reliance on the Japanese brand of civilization.

Further entertainment and a tidied-up transcription may be found on reddit.

Japan Times trailer for Japan Focus

It’s a bit odd that half an interview (and a much shorter than the average Just Be Cause column) ends with:

The full Ziegler interview will be up at The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus website in a few days.

This article is actually pretty good in parts, but I suspect it is because Dr Arudou gets out of the way and lets the professor do the talking. The good part is that Dr Ziegler talks about an area where he is fully qualified to comment, another country’s governmental interference into his editorial freedom, but the bad part is that Dr Ziegler also talks about an area where he is unqualified to comment, Japan:

I didn’t know it was there because the first volume my co-author wrote, not me.


I’m not a specialist in East Asian history.

At this point I would expect Professor Bentley to be brought in to fill us in on the parts he wrote and presumably is a specialist on, but no. Will he feature in the Japan Focus version? I’m not holding my breath. No he won’t, he passed on in 2012 according to Wikipedia.

Regarding the meat of the article, as usual the Japanese government seems totally tone deaf to how their actions will be perceived; arguing about Nanking or the Comfort Women is widely regarded as the equivalent of Holocaust denial, despite the 400,000 Nanking death numbers being a figure straight from Party Headquarters, and the East Sea featuring due to (presumably) Korean lobbying.

Abe literally worse than Hitler and other awful articles

There’s been two pretty bad articles recently, one by Jake Adelstein, and another by someone who could easily be his disciple. Let’s skim through and find the :facepalm: First, Jake:

The domestic press hasn’t been controlled by the state to this extent since, arguably, 1937.

Jake Adelstein hasn’t written a worse article since, arguably, 1973.

why the government didn’t seem particularly interested in saving the Japanese hostages in Syria.

That’s an interesting spin – one could claim that the reluctance to hand over $200 million indicated a lack of interest; is that what he wants to say, or is this just criticism for the sake of criticism?

A freelance journalist who attempted to go to Syria last month was even directly threatened with arrest.

That person was a photo-journalist, I believe, and there is an interesting argument about the right of free movement over the duty of the government to protect its citizens, but again, subtlety is abandoned for the sake of criticism.

The Asahi then also retracted important testimony on the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, perhaps out of fear.

Nope, that is nonsense; it was retracted because it was false. Admittedly, the Asahi could have feared being made a laughing stock again, but that’s not what Jake is trying to falsely convince the reader of.

Kenji Goto, the journalist who was beheaded by jihadis after Abe’s Cairo speech.


Now, the Huffington Post:

Japan, it seemed, was increasingly uncomfortable with the nationalist alternative that Abe and others were offering. But Hatoyama himself lasted less than a year — in large part because of U.S. pushback against his unorthodox foreign policy positions 

That’s not why the DPJ got elected, and unless you could Okinawa as foreign, Hatoyama’s only unorthodox (is that a polite way of saying “insane”?) foreign policy was his East Asian EU, and he lasted less than a year due to cocking up Okinawa all by himself.

The visit sends […] a message to Japanese that this prime minister will push his constitutional agenda forward regardless of the domestic obstacles.

Really? It’s not like he came back and said that the ghost of Tojo told him to invade China.

Less publicized was his participation in an important Shinto ritual that happens every 20 years — the rebuilding of the Ise Shrine — that effectively blurred the distinction between religion and state.

That’s an, err, interesting way of describing it.

Last July, Abe issued a cabinet decision — the Japanese equivalent of a presidential order — that committed Japan to collective self-defense, which means that Tokyo can fight on behalf of allies even if Japan itself is not under attack.

That’s not the way I understand it, or at least there are sufficient checks and balances that say they can support allies attacked within Japanese territorial waters. (Of course, please correct me if I am wrong here.)

the Abe document would not just remove Article 9

No, the draft doesn’t remove it.

The rest about Okinawa is interesting, but it fails to mention that by delaying the Henoko project, Futenma is left sitting in the middle of the town it is in; that is a significant point, I feel. (Oh, as for the current test boring stuff, the crushing of coral by the concrete anchors needs to be addressed, and Abe’s speech for the opening of the Diet in January (I think it was) where he said something to the effect of Okinawa’s residents will be treated with respect has been shown to be empty words, but I’ve not seen anyone pick him up on it recently, either in English or Japanese.)

Gaijin Gulag: “prison is better”

As is my wont, I went looking at the UK experience, and found that at one of the UK’s “immigration removal centres” (that sounds rather ominous to me!), an inmate reckoned:

She tells me that being in prison was better than staying at Yarl’s Wood [immigration removal centre].

There are tales of being denied medicines, no privacy, sexual abuse, etc. A separate BBC report describes slave labour-like conditions for the inmates, being paid just one pound per hour for working in the centre. The detainees in the UK may have more access to the outside world – mobile phones and the internet are allowed – but the problems do seem rather similar to the ones that Hindpal Singh Bhui from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons described for Japan.

And for a bonus, the right-wing prime minister praises people many consider to be war criminals.

Jeff Kingston beats Martin Fackler with a vengeance

Following up on Martin Fackler’s dodgy translation, the Japan Times allows Jeff Kingston to publish his usual Abe hate, winding up the hate from “pay the price” to “vengeance”, not just once but three times. Here is the evidence he is quoting Fackler:

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe […] vow[ed] retribution and justice by “making the terrorists pay the price.”

Yup, straight from the horse’s arse, and as I mentioned in the comments there, at least Mr Kingston managed to get one word correct, “justice”.

New York Times’ dodgy headline and quotes

First we get the title of the article, “Departing From Country’s Pacifism, Japanese Premier Vows Revenge for Killings“, which to the casual reader may suggest there’s already a squadron of Kamikaze Zeros on their way over.

Next, the body text has the quote that forms the basis of the headline:

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reacted with outrage, promising “to make the terrorists pay the price.”

However, reading the official English translation of his comments, the closest I can find is:

I will never forgive these terrorists. I will work with the international community to hold them responsible for their deplorable acts.

It is possible, I admit, to abridge the full quote to get the shorter one offered by the New York Times, but given that the article author is Martin Fackler, I believe he has deliberately twisted the meaning. Note that on Twitter, he acknowledges that the headline (not the quote) is flawed click-bait:

The headline is not exactly what I wanted to say, but it gets attention

Talking of official versus unofficial translations, I saw this interesting look at another hostage-related issue.  His view is:

It is my experience that non-native speakers of the language being translated tend to produce more fluid but less accurate text

A rather more generous opinion that I have given!

Foreign expert tries to line up cushy government commission

From Christmas Day in the Japan Times, someone perhaps trying to set himself up as the next Alex Kerr fixes Japan’s tourist industry. Reading the article I got a similar feeling as to when I read Kerr’s Lost Japan, of a man a bit too full of himself and his achievements of knowing Japan better than the Japanese. 

“If love for Japan is indeed a worldwide trend, as Japanese people themselves say, why is it that only 13 million people visited the country this year, while in France they had some 83 million visitors?”

Umm, does anyone not know the answer to that one?

Most have little real engagement with Japan during their visit. Only 3 to 4 million of the total, he said, truly explore the nature and culture and form a real connection.

Sounds a bit like a “No true Scotsmantish Tourist” argument, and 25% sounds like a healthy percentage to me, indeed if anything is greater than I would guess if “true exploration” meant venturing further than Ginza department stores and a few photos at the Meiji Shrine.

Its priorities should include […] installing signs in English that have been proofread by a native speaker

In particular by this guy’s company, perhaps? Korean and Chinese would be more important, of course.

producing souvenirs that match foreigners’ lifestyles

I agree than most often souvenirs appear to be targeted to Japan day-trippers, but just last night on the news I saw that in New Chitose Airport, mainland Asians were buying snack boxes by the carton and delaying flights as the baggage handlers couldn’t keep up.

Many souvenir dishes, for example, are simply too small to be used in foreign cuisine.

“Western”, not “foreign”? Expecting a chawan to be super-sized doesn’t quite feel right to me.

Tourists place no great value in some of the qualities Japanese often brag about, including safety, clean streets and the punctuality of public transportation, Atkinson said.

Really? Getting to where you are going on time without being robbed is of no great value?

These things “may be interesting to see once or twice. But visitors don’t come back” to see them again.

That’s different from “no great value”, and visitors don’t tend to come back if they feel unsafe.

It is “embarrassing” for Japan to be proud of such small things while its government is not spending enough to maintain and restore cultural properties, he added.

In other words, “I want my government contract!”

Fortunately, Japan is blessed with four assets any nation aspiring to be a successful tourism destination must have: a culture, a history, a mild climate and glorious nature, Atkinson said.

“A mild climate”? I’m freezing my nuts off here! The list sounds a bit four season-ish to me.

“If they can collaborate more with foreigners and listen to a bit of what they say, I think Japan can be more attractive,” he said.

Preferably foreigners (a) from target countries and (b) without vested interests. I’m available!

Japanese Only: at least they keep the Muslims out

I hope you don’t all choke on your mochi when you read this extract from a random blog:

The country legitimately has policies in place to keep Muslims out of the country. It is impossible to get residency, pretty difficult to get any sort of visa, and bordering on impossible to find housing if you are Muslim. They site “neighbor discomfort” as one of the main reasons for housing discrimination in this case.

Err, “legitimately“? It’s bad enough that the author seems to have accepted at face value a stupid rumour doing the rounds of the web, but it’s pretty awful that they would praise it. And, putting my pedant hat on, it’s “cite”.