Monthly Archives: December 2012

Japan Times writers had a bit too much sherry this Christmas!

I had a wee click around the JT web site tonight, and here are a few of the gems I found.

1. Christopher Hobson, Ph.D., a research associate at the United Nations University, Tokyo

(First of all, I didn’t know there was a UN Uni in Tokyo.) It’s the usual "the public have spoken, the bastards!", with some choice quotes like:

This led some hopeful pundits to propose that it might even be the beginnings of a Japanese version of the "Arab Spring," in which large protests and active civil society movements could bring about a major political opening.

I’ve seen this mentioned in a few other articles, and I think it’s an amazing insult to the Arab people who laid their lives on the line to enact change within dictatorships, versus in Japan where all they need to do is to turn up at the ballot box for free and fair elections. We had the Japan Communist Party, Tomorrow Party and the Green Wind Party (or did they merge with the TP?) all promising immediate or early decommissioning, and we all know where they ended up. Why didn’t people like Ryuichi Sakamoto, Kenzaburo Oe and all the rest of the big names stand up and support the formation of a party to exploit this "major political opening"?

2. Editorial – 2012: a year of low points

This is utterly atrociously written.

Mr. Shinzo Abe, who was re-elected again

Nope, he’s only been re-elected Prime Minister once, and he’s never been re-elected as leader of the winning party at a general election. The sentence also starts and finishes with the word "December".

After Americans returned Democratic President Barack Obama to a second four-year term, Japanese voters dumped the Democratic Party of Japan for politicians who expressed conservative and hawkish views.

That’s a bit of a non sequitur.

But the election campaign also saw the rise of a new party, Nihon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) under the guidance of Mr. Shintaro Ishihara, who had quit the Tokyo governorship to join Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto at the party’s helm.

That’s quite badly written, and it seems to suggest that the JRP is Ishihara’s party.

The new party seemed set on stirring up confrontation with China and South Korea rather than on actually offering serious solutions to Japan’s problems.

I think you need to get out of the FCCJ and start listening to Japanese sources.

Record lows were also reached this year in other social issues such as bullying, with a doubling of the number of cases reported from the year before.

That seems more like a "record high" to me.

The increase from 70,000 cases of bullying reported at schools in 2011 to 140,000 cases in 2012 may signal a more accurate confrontation with this chronic problem.

What does "signal a more accurate confrontation with this chronic problem" mean?

The Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine went to Japanese scientist Dr. Shinya Yamanaka for his work on pluripotent stem cells.

When I was on holiday this month and watching BBC World in the hotel, I was confused for a moment when they mentioned that Sir John B. Gurdon won that Nobel Prize. I would have expected the Japan Times to note that he was a joint winner.

Furthering the sense of hope, Tokyo Skytree opened to great enthusiasm and huge lines last summer, becoming the second-tallest structure in the world.

Despite problematic behavior by some of the visitors to the new tourist site,

I know it’s a bit picky, but surely noting it is the tallest tower would have been better? And what problematic behaviour? Tell me more! Or is it that the author cannot bring himself to write anything positive without a counter-balance?

The Japan Times would like to wish its readers a prosperous, safe and joyful New Year in 2013.

I don’t know about the first two, but to have a joyful 2013 not reading the JT would be a good first step.

3. This year’s highlights and lowlights

Is the whole country, as the foreign media implies, turning "to the right"?

Full marks for pointing out that it’s the foreign media (I would include JT here) making the noise, although I’d replace "implies" with "states", as there is more often than not no ambiguity.

Picking up on conservatism’s rich entertainment potential, critics applied a punning label to the three most prominent figures of this so-called shift — Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara and Liberal Democratic Party president Shinzo Abe — dubbing them "Raito Sankyodai,"

Who are these critics? This Google search for "ライト三兄弟" 橋下 石原 安倍 returns only five hits, neither relevant.

Hashimoto was genuinely incensed by a magazine article that tried to explain his psychological evolution as a public figure, but which he interpreted as a concerted attempt to connect him "genetically" to social undesirables.

The author of this article has previously defended the Asahi and their accusation of criminal DNA, but the JT has also printed a more neutral report on the Asahi’s apology.

4. As the new year approaches, Japan still reels from 2011

His Osaka Ishin no Kai (literally Osaka Restoration Society) grew into the Nippon Ishin no To (Japan Restoration Party).

It’s pretty sad that no-one in the editing process noticed that JRP is also a Kai, not a To.

Can Japan be "reset"? Hashimoto’s plans for doing so include abolishing the Diet’s Upper House, giving local governments more power and having the prime minister elected directly instead of, as now, appointed by the leading party.

But, I read in an article above that his plans were:

  1. Invade China and both Koreas
  2. ???
  3. PROFIT!

Furthermore, the Prime Minister is elected by the lower house.

In mid-August seven activists from Hong Kong landed on one of the Senkaku Islands claimed held by Japan, but also claimed by China (the Chinese call them Diaoyu). Five were arrested and deported. Days later, a dozen Japanese nationalists of the rightwing group Gambare Nippon swam ashore from a 20-boat flotilla and raised the Hinomaru flag.

I’ve talked before about the bias here of "activists" versus "nationalists", and there is no mention of the flags the Chinese carried.

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.

I want to write a browser plugin

One that will detect pages like this letter to Japan Times, and on detecting a mention of EneNews (or Arnie Gundersen prefixed with distinguished scientist, etc), pop up a health warning before allowing me to read…

According to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission documents released under the Freedom of Information Act (as reported in ENENews.com), the No. 3 reactor is empty of all its MOX fuel.

It would have been nice to have had a proper reference to the original story as Google is quite polluted with anti-nuke sentiment. My understanding is that number 3 had some MOX in use; does this report say that there was none in use at the time of the meltdown? Or what?

Winds blew radioactive materials south toward Tokyo and Shizuoka Prefecture for 10 hours on March 14, 2011.

Now, the writer is implying (or deliberately trying to mislead) that all the reactor MOX fuel was dispersed by these winds.

That means the entire region needs to be thoroughly tested for contamination.

Err, what do you think the government and NGOs like SafeCast has been doing for the last year and three-quarters?

The area of contamination is probably not just 10,000 sq. km

"Probably"? Is that shorthand for "pulled out of my arse"?

Otherwise, the health of the population and subsequent generations will suffer.

Yes, by a statistically undetectable amount.

Redistribution of contaminated food carries the same risks.

I agree, if "same" means "another statistically undetectable amount". However, I guess you mean "OMG WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE".

Picoaggression

I flew back yesterday on Emirates, and in the cabin when they hand out landing cards, they ask everyone in English who is not Japanese-looking if they are Japanese or not before handing out the form.

Japanese-looking people don’t get asked, however.

Sock puppets and Google jiggery pokery

Three points I am as sure as I can be of:

  1. Eido has never employed sock puppets on Japologism, and is most certainly not James of Japan Probe, VK, Level3, nor the man on the grassy knoll.
  2. However, Japan’s greatest journalist, Christopher Johnson has employed many, from the recent A Concerned Citizen, via RollingWagon to imcanjapn.
  3. Accusing Eido of fiddling Google search rankings is as rational as accusing your bank manager of popping down to the Royal Mint/Department of the Treasury/whatever in the evening to run off a few fivers.

Now, some free advice to CJ; if you actually stopped making wild accusations that draw negative stories your Google (and Bing) rank might improve. Furthermore, cutting and pasting the same text over half a dozen blogs, author profiles on Amazon, etc, sets off the alarm bells at Google for spamming, and also trips the duplicate content penalty.

Why no Japologising?

Here’s an interesting article from Time entitled "Why Japan Is Still Not Sorry Enough", which started off in a predictable tone, but gets a lot better when it starts an interview with Thomas U. Berger, who has written a book looking at the post-war apologism or lack thereof to the neighbours. Here’s a few choice quotes:

Japan has apologized for waging aggressive war and oppressing its neighbors, but those apologies have fumbling and awkward, and often been undercut by revisionist statements from senior politicians. […]

But Japan has been far more repentant than is often credited. Prime ministers have repeatedly offered apologies for their country’s misdeeds. Japan has sponsored joint historical research with both South Korea and China. Most Japanese school textbooks deal with issues like the Nanjing massacre and the colonial oppression of Koreans in a fairly open manner.

The last sentence is of particular interest; as I mentioned in my last post, there is a common belief amongst English-speaking foreigners at least that Nanjing and colonialism is whitewashed at best.

Apologies tend to be given when there is a belief that those apologies will be accepted, at least in part, and that dialogue between the two sides will be advanced.  So unless there are strong reasons to do so, most leaders avoid it.

Indeed, South Korea is not interested in hearing anything but total capitulation, and I don’t think there would even be any improvement in Korean attitudes anyway.

With the Koreans, there has been an unwillingness to help the Japanese find ways of reconciling when the Japanese have tried to do so. This was most apparent with the Asian Women’s Fund, which the Korean government did not support and in fact subverted by establishing a separate, rival support system for the former comfort women.

Yup, it takes two to apologise as well as to tango.

Anyway, it’s well worth a read, although give the comments a miss unless you wish to indulge in a bit of :headdesk: .

Do Mr Arudou a favour: don’t stop being an apologist

Here we go again – straw men and old chestnuts get knocked down.

We must now teach a sanitized version of Japanese history, or young Japanese might just find a reason not to "like" our country.

Must "we"? I think there is a common perception amongst foreigners that the early 20th century history taught in Japanese schools runs something along the lines of "There were some unpleasantnesses, then Japan got nuked", but I’ve heard enough to suggest this is incorrect.

My point is that reducing public debate to "like or dislike" is too unsophisticated for thoughtful social critique — especially when it is being enforced from above.

A great big Wicker Man.

Remember the oft-cited axiom of "putting a lid on smelly things" (kusai mono ni wa futa o shirō) to explain away censorship and coverup?

No. Can you give us an example?

How the Olympus and Fukushima fiascoes were handled are but two examples.

OK, two concrete examples. For Olympus I agree that there was self-censorship in the mainstream press when Facta initially broke the story, but the covering up by the board would not be covered by that set phrase. For Fukushima, that set phrase is too easy a dismissal of a very complicated set of occurrences and actions.

Ever notice how you are supposed to say "I like Japan" at every opportunity?

I really ought to get a Wicker Man icon for these articles.

I was even compelled to devote an entire column (JBC, Feb. 6) to what I like about Japan.

:?: I’m not sure what is the best icon to put in here.

The common retort to any criticism is, "Well, if you don’t like it here, why don’t you leave?"

:lol:

Because, linguistically, you can stigmatize and shut them up for walking on the wrong side of the dichotomy.

It sadly hasn’t worked for you. Furthermore, Debito.org is the home of the one-dimensional "Apologist!" shouters.

So do Japan some good: Offer some fresh ideas.

We’re still waiting…

Oh, as a bonus the letters page has a reply to last month’s article from:

GEORGE MAINWARING
Walmington-on-Sea, England

He probably has something else to say to Mr Arudou.

Each party’s manifesto on foreigner issues

I found this page linked to everyone’s manifesto (the Happiness Realisation Party doesn’t have a link – I suspect that means if you have to ask you won’t want to vote for them), so I decided to try to find how each stands on immigration and the like.

Democratic Party of Japan

The only mention of foreigners directly is in increasing the number of visitors to Japan to 18 million by 2016, by promoting eco-tourism, easing visa restrictions, Cool Japan TV programs to promote Japanese culture, etc. However, in the human rights section there is vague wording about ratifying international protocols, which could include the Hague Convention on Child Abduction, and explicitly mentions the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Incidentally, 9 out of 10 for their web presence. A rather dull front page, but it has links to the PDF (with full searchable text), a text version, and an audio version.

Liberal Democratic Party

On their rather over-designed manifesto page there is talk of introducing a lecturer internship program to train (Japanese) global leaders, which perhaps might imply more temporary foreign lecturers? However, apart from some Cool Japan nonsense, barely a thing on internationalisation in any form.

2 out of 10 for their web presence. A CSS/HTML 5 flashy presentation, but all graphical and not searchable, then a tiny link to the PDF, which has no searchable text either.

Nippon Future Party

They are pro joint custody for children of divorcees, and they explicitly mention they wish to rid Japan of the image of being a Nation of Abductors by rapidly ratifying the Hague Convention, and also forbidding domestic abduction.

1 out of 10 for their web presence. A single page that looks hacked up in a basic page builder, and their manifesto is one enormous GIF!

New Komeito

They target 25 million tourists by 2020, with the usual Cool Japan, easing of visa restrictions, etc. Regarding education, they will offer financial support for high school and university students to study overseas, and support job-seeking activities by foreigners who graduate from Japanese universities. Furthermore, they will support foreign kids who wish to enter the Japanese school system.

7 out of 10 for their web presence. Nothing flashy, nor Flash-y, but it does the job and is all lovely searchable text.

Japan Communist Party

Surprisingly, about the only mention of foreigners was regarding making all international schools (that means the North Korean ones especially) free.

5 out of 10 for their web presence. Very basic and plain presentation, but everything is text searchable. I was tempted to take a point off for the downright creepy photo of the party leader on their manifesto cover.

Your Party

One interesting international issue was to make it mandatory for ministers and the prime minister to attend international conferences and not use attendance at the Diet as an excuse for not attending them. They also wish to test Japanese teachers of English against TOEFL, etc, although they don’t say what they will do with people who don’t come up to scratch. They also wish to increase foreign university students from the current 140,000 to 300,000. Regarding the TPP, they are very much for it, and as part of that they want to improve working conditions and visa regulations to make it easier for foreigners to work here, but while cracking down on illegal immigrants; they also want to crack down on Yakuza and foreign gangs. They also wish to urgently increase the number of foreign nurses and caregivers. Foreigners will not get the vote; they should naturalise.

4 out of 10 for their web presence. Very basic and plain presentation, but everything is text searchable. One point off for the party leader doing a duck face on their manifesto cover.

Social Democratic Party

As befitting social democrats, they mention foreigners often in their manifesto, as they wish to give them equal access to services as citizens. They particularly single out Kawasaki City Representative Assembly for Foreign Residents as a model for the rest of the country.

2 out of 10 for their web presence. There is no web site, just a straight link to the PDF, 62 pages of densely-packed text.

Japan Restoration Party

Not a single word about anything foreign, except for China and the Senkaku islands.

3 out of 10 for their web presence. No web site here either, but an easily-digestible 10 page summary of their policies.

People’s New Party

Not a single word about foreigners.

2 out of 10 for their web presence. Exceptionally basic web site that links to an unsearchable PDF.

New Party Daichi

As befits a one-man party from Hokkaido, his very brief policy statement includes the elimination of discrimination against the Ainu (Hokkaido’s aboriginal people) and other minorities.

3 out of 10 for their web presence. At least the manifesto is short (one page) and to the point.

New Party Nippon

Not a single word about foreigners.

0 out of 10 for the web presence. It looks like the party leader’s 10 year old kid designed the PDF.

New Renaissance Party

They want to double the number of foreign university students coming to Japan.

2 out of 10 for the web presence. A rather text-dense PDF, but at least it is searchable.

How undemocratic! It’s not a single-issue election

Reuters published a rather strange analysis/opinion piece on nuclear power and the forthcoming general election. Lets have a look at some of the more curious parts.

[I]t would underline a lack of credible anti-nuclear political standard bearers in Japan and the ability of the LDP to focus the debate on security matters and the stalled economy.

The first clause is correct, but I’d disagree with the second. The economy, along with pensions and benefits, are the most important issue with the population according to surveys, and although I feel Abe talks a lot about national security, I don’t really think it is much of a focus.

An LDP win would also signal successful lobbying by Japan’s "nuclear village"

That doesn’t seem to either fit in with what I understand by the term "lobbying" or explain how the nuclear village could make the LDP win.

"Since Fukushima, Germany rejected nuclear power and Italy rejected nuclear power. If Japan can’t, the world will be amazed."

Neither of these countries rejected it at the polls, and Germany only decided, if I understand it correctly, to accelerate their decommissioning schedule. Is the world amazed by the UK, USA, France, etc not rejecting nuclear power?

"The LDP is the likely winner and is pro-nuclear, but it will not win because it is pro-nuclear but because the DPJ is so hapless and the economy is in trouble and people figure it is time for a change," said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University’s Japan campus.

Yup, I agree.

The DPJ swept to power in 2009 for the first time, promising to put more money in the hands of households through such steps as child allowances and to boost the economy by re-orienting spending and cutting waste. But critics say its promises were honored mostly in the breach

"Critics"? The whole population, and even Noda himself, said that they didn’t keep any of these promises!

"It’s as if public opinion doesn’t matter at all," Kingston said, referring to the sidelining of the nuclear issue by the main opposition party. "It reinforces perceptions about Japan’s democracy deficit."

Well then, why aren’t the DPJ and the rest making the running? Do parties have to ensure that all their policies have majority support before putting them in their manifesto?

Yukiko Kada, the female governor of Shiga Prefecture in western Japan.

Why is she the only one worthy of having their gender noted?

Critics say the veteran deal-maker Ozawa, who quit the DPJ over Noda’s plan to raise the sales tax to curb debt, lacks credibility given his checkered record of political flipflops, although Kada might offset his negative image and help bring together disparate anti-nuclear mini-parties.

I’d say that Ozawa and Kamei (I’m not convinced of his anti-nuclear stance) hiding behind Kada indicates more of a "democracy deficit" that Mr Kingston’s example.

A new party set up by popular Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto to woo disaffected voters also blotted its anti-nuclear copybook by dropping a target for ditching nuclear power after merging with a small pro-nuclear party led by the nationalist octogenarian ex-mayor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara.

I was never convinced that Hashimoto was or is committed to No Nukes.

Some changes are already afoot, including the introduction of a feed-in-tariff (FIT) program under which utilities must buy power from suppliers of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power at pre-set premiums for up to 20 years and moves toward more competition in the utilities sector.

The feed-in-tariff is being cut or dropped by many countries as they realise it is far too expensive, even at a lower premium than in Japan. The issue of breaking up transmission and generation is barely touched in manifestos (I think Your Party only?) but I think it is the best way to cut costs.

"There are a number of factors that would likely stand in the way of a return to business as usual. But it’s not impossible," DeWit said. "I think we can’t dismiss the capacity of the nuclear village to ram through a ‘back to the future’ scenario."

I do find that rather offensive to assume that the only people who could support nuclear power are those with a direct financial stake in it.