A tribute to Bill "Ampontan" Sakovich; Light Gist Apologism

With the sad news that a top English-language political blogger (one of the few who reads the weeklies and their more scurrilous political articles) and unapologetic apologist has passed away at an all-too-young age, let me tackle a recent Light Gist on the Japan Times, an article billed as 25 quotes that defined the year, but which reads more like lots of reasons why the LDP and JRP suck.

1. "I want to make sure that Japan does not become another Tibet," said then-Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara in April

OK, that’s fine.

2. In November, Ishihara said it was "high time" that Japan considered possessing nuclear arms as a deterrent against China, a country he repeatedly called "Shina," a term widely considered derogatory, if not racist.

Ampontan translates Tomofusa Kure saying:

This usage was prohibited in Japan in 1946 through a notification from a deputy foreign minister. At that time, Japan was occupied by the U.S. and the other Allied powers. News reports were submitted for screening prior to publication, and the publication of printed matter was suspended. With this as a backdrop, this unusual restriction on speech was issued requiring that the country be called Chugoku. The notification also included the frightening phrase that Shina was not to be used, “with no argument”.


3. "I have said (repeatedly) that there was no Nanjing Massacre," Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura told reporters

Yup, denying Nanjing is offensive.

4. It was another rich year for whitewashers of history. In August, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto tweeted at length about the "comfort women" issue, urging the "Korean side to produce proof" they actually existed.

Perhaps this makes me a whitewasher too, but Ampontan has convinced me that the Korean story is very suspect. See his recent parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 of an article by Tsutomu Nishioka.

Furthermore, Hashimoto asked for proof that "the comfort women were assaulted by the army, threatened, and led away."

6. Ishihara led the calls for Niwa’s head, saying he failed to make clear the islands are "an integral part of Japanese territory." Before heading into the diplomatic sunset, Niwa made another stab at speaking truth to power

Is Mr McNeill implying that they aren’t part of Japan? Or is he just assuming everything Ishihara says is false by default?

9. Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan ended the year losing his Tokyo constituency seat, a humiliating turnaround for a politician feted by some for saving Tokyo.

Feted mostly by foreigners.

10. But Kan’s decision to confront Tepco amid rumors on March 15, 2011, that it was preparing to abandon the Fukushima No. 1 plant was "critical," Shiozaki acknowledged. "The worst would have happened, for sure. Fukushima would totally have gone out of control. Six power plants exploding. Four spent fuels evaporating. And east Japan would probably have been a disaster."

A recovery for Saint Kan, but I wonder if these two quotes are out of context?

15. In a September editorial, The Yomiuri Shimbun called Seoul’s claims to the Senkaku/Dokdo Islands "far-fetched" and sniffed that South Korean President Lee Myung Bak had gone "beyond acceptable limits" by visiting them the month before. Lee then infuriated the Yomiuri and conservative Japanese when he reportedly said the Emperor would have to "apologize to victims of Japan’s colonial rule" before he could visit the country. (It wasn’t clear if this is what he actually said.)

This is my favourite of these far-fetched claims from Ampontan:

One is a relief map at the entrance that claims Usan = Dokdo. The relative positions of Ulleong and Usan are shown based on the oldest surviving map of the Korean Peninsula, Paldo Jido (or Chongdo) (1530). To the left (west) is Ulleong, and to the right (east) is Usan, with a distance between them of 87.4 kilometers. But the actual map itself shows Usan to the left and Ulleong to the right. It is intentionally falsified material to show that Usan = Dokdo.

And "it wasn’t clear […] what he actually said" because he claims he was misquoted (although this was a videotaped speech), and it wasn’t the Emperor, but the "King of Japan" that Lee talked about, a term that is offensive to Japanese of both right and left, barring republicans, I would guess.

16. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda lamented that Lee’s hardline stance against Japan was "regrettable and hard to understand," though it was in fact perfectly understandable: Lee was playing domestic politics after three meetings with Noda failed to produce any further Japanese apology or compensation for Korea’s wartime sex slaves, known euphemistically as "comfort women."

Ampontan on apologies.

22. In December, Japan’s electorate trudged to the polls again for what has become a grim annual rite of passage.

What? It’s been three years since the last lower house election. And what is a "rite of passage" in this sense? I suppose it’s supposed to mean picking a new Prime Minister, but that is not done by the public either every year or this year.

  1. Good find on the Light Gist column. Some interesting stuff there. I guess they’re not big fans of the Yomiuri, then…

    11. “Japan is going to destroy itself by building nuclear plants in such an earthquake-prone country,” said a man at Tokyo’s biggest protest in a generation…

    Yup. Said a bloke in a park… In depth reporting at its deepest.

    19. But Kitano later tried to explain, apparently mindful, says Japan Times’ columnist Philip Brasor…

    Well, I suppose at least he wasn’t referencing himself, so a step ahead of other JT contributions.

    Interestingly, it also looks like some re-branding is in order:

    From Jan. 1, the Tuesday Zeit Gist column and its monthly sister feature, Light Gist, will be merged under a new name: The Foreign Element… Also from next week, the Have Your Say letters column will become The Community Chest…


    And, presumably as an alternative to harsher punishments:

    What’s Up, the free listings, will be reborn as Community Service.

  2. 3. “I have said (repeatedly) that there was no Nanjing Massacre,” Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura told reporters after he astonished a visiting delegation of officials from Nanjing, Nagoya’s sister city, by saying he “doubted” Japanese troops had massacred Chinese civilians there in 1937. The reason? His father was there in 1945 and was “well received.”

    His statements on Nanjing are more nuanced than that.

    Here is the video with the delegation of officials from Nanjin

    The group trying to make Kawamura retract what he said about Nanjing Massacre quotes him as saying “it was regrettable that there were battles but I doubt if (so called) Nanjing incident took place.



    And here is the news report in which Kawamura is talking to the reporters. In it he said, ” there were battles as seen in the war, but I am of the opinion that so called Nanjin Massacre didn’t took place. (一般的な戦闘行為はあったが、いわゆる南京虐殺はなかった、という立場)”

    He later explained what he meant.



    河村・名古屋市長:南京事件否定発言 発言修正「被害者30万人、なかった」


     河村市長は「南京ではあたかも何もなかったと誤解された。南京市民にも誤解があったと理解してもらいたい」と強調した。事件の被害者数についての認識を問われると、「非常に多くの意見がある」と明言を避けた。毎日新聞 2012年2月28日 



     河村たかし名古屋市長は5日の市議会本会議で、共産党の山口清明市議から南京事件についての認識を問われ、「30万人に及ぶ市民を大虐殺したという南京事件はなかった」と改めて述べた。さらに、「多くの非戦闘員の殺害や略奪行為等があったことは否定できない」とした日本政府の見解に触れ、「(政府見解は)自分の言っていることとほとんど同じことだと思っている」と答えた。朝日新聞 2012年3月5日

    He said he meant to deny that the number of civilian casualties was 300000 as is often alleged.

  3. 15. In a September editorial, The Yomiuri Shimbun called Seoul’s claims to the Senkaku/Dokdo Islands “far-fetched” and sniffed that South Korean President Lee Myung Bak had gone “beyond acceptable limits” by visiting them the month before.

    This does not make sense at all.
    There is no Senkaku issue with Korea.
    We have Takeshima /Dokdo issue with Korea.

    And not just yomiuri but almost all the major Japanese newspaper showed disappointments at Lee’s action.














     ・(「竹島」提訴へ)日本領有の正当性を発 信せよ(18日付)







    J government’s stance, as well as the major newspapers’, is that takeshima and Senkaku belong to Japan, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that we don’t know but we only know that Japan, Korea, and China have territorial issues.

    If Japanese PM visited Senakaku, wouldn’t it be most likely that McNeil blames Japanese PM ?

    Lee then infuriated the Yomiuri and conservative Japanese when he reportedly said the Emperor would have to “apologize to victims of Japan’s colonial rule” before he could visit the country. (It wasn’t clear if this is what he actually said.)

    It is not just Yomiuri but left leaning Asahi say, with then PM Noda, that “it is hard to understand”

    朝日社説 2012年8月16日(木)付


    I wonder why Mr. McNeil can’t blame Korean ultra-nationalism and why Japan Times can’t even do the simple fact-checking.

  4. There are big differences between Bill Sakovich and Mac Neil.

    Bill was proficient in Japanese while Mac Nil is not;I doubt if McNeil is reading Japanese newspaper in Japanese.

    Since Bill was familiar with Japanese people and Japanese media, he knew that Japanese are not as antagonistic to Korea as western media would have you believe;he knew western stereotypes of Japan/Japanese are twisted..

    Bill’s writing are against western stereotypes of Japan/Japanese while MacNeil writes mostly based on them.

    Bill’s love of Japan was evident in every writing of his while McNeil’s colonialist attitude— ironically— sometimes shows off through his writings.

    I didn’t agree with Bill on everything but I respected the way he respected Japan and Japanese people.


  5. @空
    Even though his writings are continually being updated, I miss him already…

  6. uh oh, 空 is back. This site is about to get as pedantic as hell, and too tedious to bother reading once a week.

  7. @davejohnson: And your contributions are always much appreciated as well.

  8. @: Thanks for filling in a few more details! Sigh, it is easier to be lazy and stick to the Abe=Ishihara=Warmongering Atrocity-denying Nationalist script than actually go out and find the rather more mundane truth behind the headline quotes.

  9. @davejohnson: There is a scroll bar on the right hand side of your screen…


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