Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dare Ya

On a day in which all the major Western newspapers reported that Japan’s GNP will fall 3.3 % for the coming fiscal year that began on April 1 and that the economic situation is worsening, Japan’s conservative nationalists spent over US$100,000 for a full-page advocacy ad in the New York Times.

Finance and Economics Minister Kaoru Yasano had told the Diet on April 27th that the Japanese economy is rapidly deteriorating.  “Our country,” he continued, “is clearly in a situation that can be described as an economic crisis.” He reported that Japan will experience a nominal growth rate of minus 3%. Private analysts say that this is more likely to be a minus 6%. 

The April 28th ad, DO YOU DARE OVERLOOK THE HELL NAMED NORTH KOREA?, challenged President Obama to press for human rights in North Korea so that it can become a truly democratic state.  Signed by a group of seven generally moderate public intellectuals, the ad demands that the President relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Reportedly “thousands” of individual Japanese donations helped pay for this ad that appeared in the middle of North Korea Freedom Week and the visit of a delegation from Japan of well-known abduction advocates led by Dietmember Takao Hiranuma and accompanied by Keiji Furuya, Ichiro Tsukada, Jin Matsubara, Masahisa Sato, and Shinkun Haku. 

Representing the families of the abducted is Teruaki Masumoto, Secretary General of the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea (AFVKN), whose sister, Rumiko, North Korea admitted kidnapping. 

In February, Masumoto participated in a symposium on abduction and national defense in Nagoya hosted by General Toshio Tamogami’s support group. The General, known for his skeptical views of American influence and authority, was the main speaker. Masumoto reportedly said that Japan should use its economic power to pressure the US into relisting North Korea as a terrorist supporter.

And what economic power would that be?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

North Korea Freedom Week

Today starts North Korea Freedom Week here in Washington.

For seven days (April 26-May 2), conservative nationalist groups from the US, Japan, and South Korea lay aside their natural animosities toward each other and work together to pressure the US government to pay attention to human rights abuses in North Korea. These are the same folks who ignore human rights issues in their own countries and generally have little use for the concept in foreign policy. It is strange to see these conservatives tossing about an traditionally "liberal" democratic ideal as an appeal to the American foreign policy establishment.

I guess they haven't heard that the State Department is taking a more practical approach to human rights by getting its priorities straight.

Stranger is the Japanese delegation that comes every year. It is unlikely that the Americans involved really know who these politicians and "scholars" are. To a man, they are the very same people who vigorously attacked the members of congress they are now stand beside for their views on Comfort Women and Japan 's history issues. If Takeo Hiranuma ever heard Ed Royce's inspiring words on the universality of the comfort women experience he might have another heart attack.

Left out of their biographies are their memberships in Japan's Parliamentary study groups that advocate for the return of the government led by the Emperor and Shinto, that "prove" the US tricked the Japan into the Pacific War,  and that the Tokyo War Crimes Trial were mere victor's justice. All are members of the ultra-nationalist Japan Conference that seeks to maintain Japan's national purity. It goes without saying, none of these men would welcome North Korean refugees to Japan. 

The North Koreans despise these Japanese politicians not for their views on Pyongyang's human rights violations, but for their simple racist views toward Koreans and Chinese. Here is where both Seoul and Beijing agree with the North Koreans. It is odd that American politicians would seek the support of Japanese who so anger our top allies helping us restrain North Korea.

The unfortunate fact is that these Japanese conservative nationalists have "abducted" the abductees families for their own political goals. Human rights are less their interest than proving that Japan has enemies, that these enemies are Korean and Chinese, and that previous politicians in Japan were simply too soft--softened by the America imposed pacifist constitution and the  masochistic history--to defend Japan properly.

Gosh, sorry, that was a mouthful. Maybe later, I will share some quotes from these guys. If I have the time and if anyone cares.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Filling Air Space

Japanese Air Self-Defense Force fighter jets scrambled against foreign airplanes flying too near Japanese air space 237 times in fiscal year 2008 that ended in March. This was 70 times fewer than the previous year, said Self-Defense Forces Chief of Staff General Ryoichi Oriki during a news conference on April 23rd. He noted that Russian incursions dropped to 193 from 253, and Chinese incursions to 31 from 43. 

ASDF scrambles were close to 230 in both fiscal years 2005 and 2006 before jumping to 307 in fiscal year 2007. Thus, the latest figure is a return to average/normal.

It might be interesting to note that General Toshio Tamogami was head of the ASDF from March 2007-November 2008. The General is best remembered for his strong views on history and warnings about the Chinese threat. He was fired on October 31, 2008 for writing a contest essay asserting that the US was the aggressor in WWII and Japan the victim.

General Tamogami was in command of the ASDF through fiscal year 2007 (April 2007-March 2008), which saw the greatest number of Japanese scrambles. He was, however, only in charge through half of fiscal year 2008 (April 2008-March 2009).

As I only know what I read, in English, I am not aware if charts and graphs were presented at the Thursday briefing. It would be interesting to see the number of foreign plane incursions graphed by month.

Many factors can contribute to an increase or decrease in foreign probes of Japan’s air space, with weather being one of them. Yet, I am curious if the number of scrambles against Chinese and Russian planes began to drop beginning in November 2008. But what do I know, I'm just a girl.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Band Concert

Last night was my daughter's band concert. Her school makes all the children learn French, Latin, and an instrument. They also have to sing, act, and take religion. Faced by many demands, the young musicians are not always practiced or harmonious. Despite the often jarring noise, the parents in the audience are always pleased. This is very much like today's LDP.

Over the weekend, former Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa said that Japan should consider possessing nuclear weapons as a response to North Korea's missile test. He reportedly said "It is common sense worldwide that in pure military terms, nuclear counters nuclear." The headline in the Japan Times read, Nakagawa Floats Sobering Option: Going Nuclear...[ha, ha]

This of course prompted the Aso government to issue a quick rejection of Japan ever going nuclear.  Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said “It is clear that nuclearization is not an option.” Kawamura told reporters “Japan’s policy has always been the three non-nuclear principles of no production, no introduction and no possession.” 

Back in Washington, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a cast of many of his former foreign policy advisers such as Shotaro Yachi (who is now advising Aso)  were making the rounds in Washington. One memorable stop was a meeting  with Vice President Joe Biden to deliver a letter from Prime Minister Aso giving support for President Obama's desire to eliminate nuclear weapons.

Abe used the meeting to remind Biden that Japan was the only nation to experience the effects of nuclear weapons. It was not lost on those present that the hint was for Obama to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki and apologize. And maybe that would also be the quid pro quo for the Emperor's visit to Pearl Harbor.

Returning to Tokyo, Abe continued on this nationalist bent (according to Observing Japan). He addressed Ichita Yamamoto's study group for "thinking about strengthening Japan's deterrent capabilities against North Korea."  Abe was decidedly supportive and emphasized that Japan needed both the technological capabilities and legal mandate to strike back  at Pyongyang. In addition, he added, these independent abilities would just strengthen the US-Japan Alliance. 

As the band members in my daughter's class, the LDP's politicians are reading the same music just with differing abilities. Being first flute, does not necessarily mean that you are good, only that you are the best they got. For now, Aso and Abe are the best the LDP got. And my daughter is first flute.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In Absentia

Joe Nye, Harvard professor, Chairman of Pacific Forum CSIS, and much-rumored next US ambassador to Japan, was unable to attend the Third US-Japan Sea Power Dialogue or its companion public conference last week.

Instead, he had distributed a page and a half of his thoughts. He began,
As Richard Armitage and I  noted in the second Armitage-Nye report..."Asia is key to a stable, prosperous world order that best advances American interests." I have long believed, like all of you here today, that the future of the US "requires a robust, dynamic relationship with the new Asia of 2020, and the keystone of the United States' position in remains the US-Japan alliance."
He then goes on to cite the importance of "smart power" and cooperation for today's new transnational challenges. And he concludes that the US and Japan have a "special role to play" in securing regional peace and leading a consortium of seafaring nations bound by shared values.

Nye is indeed the Democratic yang to Dick Armtiage's Republican yin.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Abe Shinzo Returns

Asahi Shimbun's Washington reporter Yoichi Kato clapped enthusiastically along with Sankei Shimbun's Washington eminence grise Yoshihisa Komori. They joined the others in the packed auditorium at Brookings applauding Shinzo Abe's speech, A New Era Requires a New Political Will.

Surely, the former prime minister knows a lot about "political will." 

Strobe Talbot, Brookings' president, introduced Abe as a "statesman of great stature" and a "voice of experience and wisdom."

Abe then said all the things an Alliance manager yearned to hear (or wrote to be read aloud). He was decidedly internationalist and emphasized how Japan was working to be a responsible international partner. Japan would learn from its past mistakes, appreciate what has been done for it, and contribute more to the global community.

He began his speech with an appreciation of the work of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was contrite about Japan having not listened to American's financial advice during Japan's 'Lost Decade.'

He touted his accomplishments with better relations with China, with promoting the environment, and emphasizing innovation for tomorrow's Japan. He was all about "I." He was the innovator and risk taker; he was the one who knew what needed to be done:

I was the one who made a fence-mending trip from Japan to China. Indeed, Beijing was the destination I chose to visit first as Prime Minister. I can now admit it was fun to disappoint those pundits who had argued for some time, that Shinzo Abe, as Prime Minister, would damage Japan-China relations. On the contrary, my trip laid the foundation for a bilateral relationship that is win-win for both sides. The Japanese and the Chinese are now enriching what we call our "mutually-beneficial strategic relationship." I think that I did a job that was vital because as I said just now, China must work with us. 

And he spoke, as he always has, of the importance of statesmen who had the will to transcend the people's short term comforts for a greater vision:
In democracies, statesmen are a critical part of the system. They hear the vox populi, and do what ought to be done, though it may be bitter, rather than easy to digest. Therefore, the strong wills of the statesmen count most. That is what I tell myself, every day when I wake up
So ended Abe's speech. He took questions and showed a bit more of his dogmatic side when talking about the abductees or China's military build up.

In all, Abe left the crowd wondering if the failed prince was running for prime minister again. If so, why is the campaign starting in Washington? Would his gracious carefully choreographed reception by Americans help impress the voters back home? 


NB: If I can find the time I will relate more on the rest of Abe's week.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Assigned Reading

Vice Admiral William Douglas Crowder, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information, Plans and Strategy (N3/N5) gave the luncheon address on Friday at a Japanese-funded Washington conference on an/the US-Japan maritime alliance. He quoted heavily from a new book by George Friedman,  The Next Hundred Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century.  

Next time, the Admiral might want to read the book before he makes it the focus of a speech.

It is, however, easy to see why the Admiral's speechwriter wanted to use quotes from the book. Dr. Friedman contends that it is through the dominance of the seas that the US will maintain its security and prominence. Naval power and naval alliances will secure the peace for the next century.

This is indeed a confirming message to a conference about forging an alliance of "like-minded" maritime nations, especially with Japan.  And Friedman is a well-known purveyor of open source intelligence, consultant to the Pentagon, and prognosticator. His book was on a best-seller list.

The speechwriter, however, might have been wise to read deeper into the Friedman book*. If so, he would have found out why the US is destined to rule the seas. 

Friedman predicts that by 2050 the US and Poland will go to war against Japan and Turkey. Japan, instead of accepting immigrants, will turn to expansion for growth and labor. Once again Japan will take advantage of China disintegrating. Japan will retake China's coastal regions for labor and resources. Turkey apparently will benefit from a similar implosion of the politics and economy in Russia.

Fearing that the US will check its expansion, Japan will initiate on Thanksgiving Day a surprise attack that cripples US Space Forces (we will have 3 manned Battle Stars by then).  Their Turkish allies will invade Poland, the other power, to take parts of Russia and are barely held back by the Poles. The Turks then persuade the Germans to invade Poland from the west but are startled when Britain enters the war by attacking Germany. The US-Polish-British team, through sea and space power, wins. The US establishes itself as the dominant world power and peace breaks out.  I am sure I missed a lot, for I understand that Mexico becomes a world power, and we go to war with them again.

I cannot properly recall the scenario, but the US going to war with Japan over resources and sea lanes is similar to Dr. Friedman's first popular book, The Coming War With Japan (1991). 

So I sat through the speech, cursing myself for not getting more of those good cookies from the buffet (The Willard has nice desserts) and wondering what exactly was the message that the Admiral was trying to convey.

Admiral Crowder began his speech with how lucky he was that his father was one of the few survivors of the sinking of the USS Evans during the battle of Okinawa. The story of the USS Evans enduring Kamikaze attacks is legendary in the US Navy. He pointed to his Japanese counterpart in the audience and said that he too was there because his father survived the sinking of his ship, but instead by US planes. But now, the US and Japan are "partners and friends."

That is, until the next war.

*Now my friend at Japan Without the Sugar is going to give me hell for this, but I have not actually read Mr. Friedman's new book (nor do I have the time to waste). I have only read the reviews and his first book on Japan. So like Mr. Sato of the Japan Times, I am winging this. But in Washington there is a time-honored tradition of not reading books, except for the dust jackets and depending on the comments of the one or two people who actually do read. Most important, you need to first check the index of any new book to see if you are mentioned. If not, the book is definitely not worth much more of your time.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Still Marching

Lester Tenney, the last Commander of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, has fought the long fight. Nearly 90, this Bataan Death March survivor and former POW of Japan still badgers the Japanese government for justice.  

It is not for the pain or torture or depravations he faced daily as a POW. After all he is a proud soldier. It is for the injustice of the Japanese government selling him to a private Japanese company, Mitsui Mining, that allowed its employees to beat and belittle him while he toiled in an unsafe mine for no compensation. It is for the sub-human living conditions Mitsui maintained for its slave laborers. And it is for Mitsui's unwillingness to acknowledge or redress this dark history.

But, Lester who is nearly 90, is forgiving and hopeful. He thinks now that the Prime Minister of Japan Taro Aso has acknowledged his family's own company used POW labor, other Japanese companies will follow. He is also hopeful that the apology the Japanese government gave to  a House of Councilor's member for the POWs will be translated and stated directly to his surviving fellow POWs and himself.

We shall see. For now, read what he has to say in the Japan Times, April 15, 2009.

The end of the long march


Special to The Japan Times
CARLSBAD, Calif. — Sixty-seven years ago this month, on April 9, 1942, I was surrendered to the Japanese Imperial Army on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines. At my first prison camp, the Japanese commandant turned to the American prisoners of war (POWs) and told us that we were "lower than dogs" and "they (the Japanese) would treat us that way for the rest of our lives." Then he said, "We will never be friends with the piggish Americans.

For a long time I thought he was right. But we have both changed. This year, I welcomed the Japanese government's first official apology to the American POWs, 63 years after our liberation.

If my fellow soldiers or I had known the consequences of being a POW of the Japanese, we would have fought to the death. After three long months of jungle fighting against a better-equipped invasion force, the American and Filipino troops were starving, sick, exhausted and out of ammunition.

At surrender, we were immediately forced to march 105 km through the steaming Bataan Peninsula without food, water, medical treatment or rest. Today, the Bataan Death March is remembered as one of the worst war crimes of World War II.

I will never forget my buddies who were shot simply for trying to get a drink of water; crushed by a tank for stumbling; bayoneted just because they could not take another step; or forced at gun point to bury alive the sick. I bear a deep scar where a Japanese officer on horseback brought his samurai sword down on my shoulder.

Those who survived the Death March faced over three years of unimaginably brutal imprisonment. Many, like me, were herded into "Hell Ships," packed shoulder to shoulder without food or sanitation and shipped to factories, mines and docks across the Japanese Empire. The survivors were literally sold to private Japanese companies to work sustaining wartime production.

I dug coal in a dangerous Mitsui Corporation-owned mine. Like all POWs, I was overworked, beaten, humiliated and starved. The damage and suffering we endured from these companies' employees were comparable to, and sometimes worse than, that inflicted upon us by the Imperial Japanese military. Among World War II combat veterans and former POWs, those who were prisoners of the Japanese have the highest percentage of post-traumatic stress disorders. To say the least, we POWs had and still have intense feelings about Japan.

Yet the Japanese commandant who belittled his American captives was wrong. The United States and Japan have become friends and close allies — a result we welcome. My anger has been tempered by the many Japanese people who have welcomed me to Japan. Personal friendships and common goals heal many wounds.

Our unfortunate history came largely to closure in a personal meeting with the Japanese ambassador to the U.S. and his wife last November. I was finally able to tell a Japanese official my story. He heard of my humiliations, saw my scars and learned of my Japanese friends who have helped me overcome my POW trauma.

I asked for the ambassador's help in requesting three things from his government so that justice is achieved for POWs: (1) an official apology; (2) an appeal to companies to apologize for their wartime use of POWs; and (3) a reconciliation project.

In December, the ambassador wrote me with news for which I have waited decades. His letter said that Japan's government extends "a heartfelt apology for our country having caused tremendous damage and suffering to many people, including those who have undergone tragic experiences in the Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor Island in the Philippines."

This acknowledging gesture was followed in February by a Cabinet-approved statement to a member of the Diet that extended the apology to all "former POWs." It is the first official apology specifically to mention POWs or any particular group hurt by Imperial Japan.

We POWs accept these long-sought apologies and now ask Japan to state them for all to hear and understand. I trust that my two other requests will be fulfilled soon. It has taken nearly seven decades, but Japan's recognition of its mistreatment of POWs attains historic justice and brings fullness to the U.S.-Japan relationship. A future of a peaceful alliance is what we really wanted in the first place.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Japan Untarnished

Before Congress left for recess, freshman Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced legislation, S.768, to mint a Congressional Gold Medal to be exhibited (maybe) in the Smithsonian Institution in honor of only American soldiers who were prisoners of war at Bataan during World War II.

It is likely to succeed as it is one of the very few pieces of legislation on the Pacific War ever supported by the powerful head of the Senate Appropriations Committee Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI).

Besides historians who will have some serious quibbles with the legislation's historiography, the specific exclusion of Filipinos who made up at least 75% of the US fighting force on the Battle of the Bataan Peninsula (and who were just awarded their pensions from the US Government), and that almost no surviving members of the Bataan Death March will feel honored by a piece of gold gathering dust in a museum, there is a curious flaw in the legislation.

Japan is mentioned no where in the legislative text. The phrase used instead is "the enemy."

The "enemy" is the same phrase used by President George W. Bush in his 2008 Pearl Harbor Day remembrance ceremony. President-elect Barak Obama was even more ambiguous in his commemoration statement and simply said that Americans "beat back a danger in the Pacific." Both men never identified Japan as the country that sank our fleet to the bottom of the ocean.

In talking with survivors of the Battle of the Philippines, the Bataan Death March and Japan's infamous prisoner of war camps, I doubt if they will appreciate the gold medal. They will appreciate even less that the legislation does not recognize Japan as the enemy.

They want their legacy remembered, both in Japan and in the US. They want people to understand the horrors of war and in particular the unforgiving brutality of Imperial Japan. By ignoring who the "enemy " was, the bill's drafters also dismiss the legacy of human spirit, victory, and reconciliation by those captured by Japan.

The Gist of the Statement

Japan’s Ambassador to the Philippines Makoto Katsura last week expressed his “heartfelt apologies and deep sense of remorse" over the damage the Japanese army caused in the Philippines during World War II, at the annual commemoration of the Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) on Mt. Samat in Pilar town in Bataan province.

This is the Filipino national holiday that remembers the beginning of the Bataan Death March, April 9, 1941 and the fall of the Philippines. The solemn ceremony was also attended by President Arroyo, US Ambassador Kristie Anne Kenney, local government officials and war veterans.

His exact words were:
As I stand before this venerable shrine on Mount Samat, let me first of all reiterate my greatest tribute to all those who fought and fell, and my heartfelt apologies and deep sense of remorse over the damages caused by the Japanese military in the Philippines during World War II, including the tragic Bataan death march. Let me also state that after the war, Japan was reborn as a peace-loving nation, and that post-war Japan has firmly resolved to contribute to the peace and prosperity of the world, without allowing the terrible lessons of the war to erode.
Nice, but they were the very same as the year before.

And that was a mere modification of what was said in 2007 by his predecessor, Ryuichiro Yamazaki: who very very carefully read them as you can see from this video.
At the outset, allow me to express again my heartfelt apologies and deep sense of remorse over the atrocities committed by the Japanese military in the Philippines during World War II. Let me also reiterate the Japanese government's determination not to allow the lessons of that terrible war to erode, and, our determination to contribute to the peace and prosperity of the world without ever waging a war.
The previous year, Ambassador Yamazaki was invited for the first time to the commemoration of the Battle of Manila. There he said,
The terror that each Filipino man, woman, and child must have experienced in Manila 61 years ago is beyond the imagination of any sane human being. With this historical fact in mind, I would like to express my heartfelt apologies and deep sense of remorse over the tragic fate of Manila.
Later that year, during the commemorative program of the Leyte Gulf Landings' 62nd anniversary in Palo, Yamazaki said, "I would like to reiterate my heartfelt apology and deep sense of remorse and reflection over the tragic fate of all those who fought to defend this country against Japanese military aggression and the atrocities committed by (its army)."

In 2000, as spokesman for Japan’s Foreign Ministry, Yamazaki wrote a letter to the New York Times: 
The fact is that Japan has repeatedly expressed its remorse and stated its apology for wartime actions with the utmost clarity. A notable example is then Prime Minister's official statement in August 1995, based upon a Cabinet decision. In the statement, Mr. Murayama said that Japan 'through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations,' and he expressed his 'feelings of deep remorse' and stated his 'heartfelt apology.' As recently as 1998, then Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi reiterated gist of this statement to Chinese President Jiang Zeming when he paid a state visit to Japan.
In each "apology" there is the careful repetition of the 1995 Murayama apology that Amb. Yamazaki correctly points out is the only one Cabinet approved, which makes it the only official government apology. And in each apology, there is a slight variation in the predicate. Thus, Japan’s one "comprehensive apology" is fungible.

I will let my readers draw their own conclusions from all this.


This morning the front page of the Washington Post's Travel section resurrected a memory from my childhood. An article on Depression era artwork in post offices featured a photo of a mural by Anton Refregier.

Refregier was a Woodstock artist and friend of my parents. I own many of his works. He was always an object of some fascination to me as he spent his summers, in the middle of the Cold War, in the Soviet Union. I never could understand this, but I had some notion that he was some sort of communist. Well, he was until his son died in a motorcycle accident. 

After that, his artwork was filled with images of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit--and grief. One particularly touching print is in my daughter's room. In pastel colors and simple lines,  the silk screen shows a large hand extending out to protect a young girl holding a daisy.

My daughter, when she turned 10, covered it with a poster of Harry Potter.

Above is one of woodblock prints in my collection. Everything I "own" were gifts to my parents.

Happy Easter

Marc Chagall, French, born Russia (1887-1985)
Oil on canvas, 154.3 x 139.7 cm
Gift of Alfred S. Alschuler, 1946.925 
The Art Institute of Chicago

Saturday, April 11, 2009

From Their Hearts

The other day I had an audience with one of Washington's premier Japan managers. It was the usual 10 minutes interrupted by personal phone calls. It was the great man's necessary gesture to ensure that I never ask him for something again. After all, his friends don't like me.

He told me that I was working on the history issues: "important work" and "is not being done" and I am "adding to the debate." He had no idea what I have been doing. How can I add to any debate when no one, including him, invites me to the discussion table or reads what I write? He did do an impressive save when I mentioned my New York Times op ed: "Oh, yes, that was the article I was referring to..." He had not the slightest idea, and I am safe knowing he will never look it up.

OK, I have ranted enough. The point of this is his question to me. He asked, not really wanting my answer, "why do our Japanese friends continue holding these views on history; what is wrong with their society?"

I answered anyway. I responded that it is wrong to paint all Japanese as having reactionary, non-logical, afactual views of their history. In fact, I suggested, the majority of average Japanese citizens do not. Those who do, I said, are Japan's elites, the very people that Americans do business with, the ones with whom we manage the alliance. There are a host of reasons for this.

One, I noted was that there was a curious generational change occurring among Japan's elites.

In a study I did for this very Japan manager a few years back*, I said, the current leadership generation is more like their grandfathers' and not their fathers'. These men in their 50s and 60s look back and admire their grandfathers. These wartime memories of a successful respected Japan are the ones the emerging leadership look to as models. The postwar time was not one of much happiness or order or one's father being available.

Returning to my office, overwhelmed completely by my insignificance, I found an email waiting from one of my activist girlfriends. As if to provide a footnote to my observation of about Japan, she gushed on about the successes of her Japanese friends in pushing through resolutions in local government councils supporting an apology to the Comfort Women. She wrote:

Last month, Fukuoka City Council in southern Japan passed a resolution asking the Japanese government to recognize and apologize for establishment and management of the Comfort Women system for the Japanese military during the Pacific War.

This was the fourth local council in Japan to pass such a resolution.

Takarazuka City (Hyogo Pref.) March 3, 2008
Kiyose City (Tokyo Metro Pref) June 2, 2008
Sapporo City (Hokkaido Pref.) November 11, 2008
Fukuoka City (Fukuoka Pref.) March 25, 2009

Other local councils in Japan are expected to follow soon. These local resolutions initiated by Japanese grassroots activists and NGOs are profoundly meaningful to those who care about the issue.

The pressure to pass a resolution of apology is coming directly from hearts of Japanese citizens. From the bottom up using the democratic process. This avenue of raising awareness on the Comfort Women and other issues of war history can go along way toward a permanent Japanese reconciliation with their past.

"Coming directly from the hearts of Japanese citizens" is a long way indeed from the political discussions at bar of the Hotel Okura.

*It was never published as he did not like its conclusion, that I spent time defining "generation," and that I used extensive polling data as sources. I did not think interviews with 20 "elites" that were personal acquaintances of the original undergraduate researchers were good enough to base a paper on, so I did some of my own research. Mistake.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Minding the Control

Next week, Shinzo Abe will be in Washington. He will not be alone. Several of his former advisers will be with him, such as Shotaro Yachi and Masahiro Agawa.

They are being hosted by two of the Sasakawa family foundations, the Ocean Policy Research Institute and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. He will speak at CSIS Pacific Forum conference on US-Japan Sea Power or as the Sasakawa folks call it An Alliance of Maritime Nations

Abe will also speak at Brookings. In his previous Washington presentations he has memorably justified his conservative views. Mr. Abe is not a fan of Japan’s constitution and uses his talks to highlight the document’s inadequacies and ways it might be circumvented. As he said in 2004, to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI):
Perhaps it was because of the trauma of defeat that postwar Japan looked upon its Constitution as an immutable code of laws. In this climate, the dominant sentiment was one that claimed that the Constitution should not be touched or changed in any way. In a sense, the whole nation was victim to a form of mind control. I believe that these tendencies must definitely be abolished.
His view of Japan’s constitution as a form of American “mind control” is common among his conservative nationalist allies. Fired Air Force General Toshio Tamogami and his supporters use that phrase often.

But what did the people who helped draft the Constitution think? The other day on a discussion group for scholars who study Japan’s relationship with the Islamic world, one of them reflected* on the legal antecedents they wrote.

Grant K. Goodman, a Professor Emeritus in History at University of Kansas and former translator for SCAP, wrote:
As a surviving member of SCAP who was present at the creation of the present Japanese Constitution, I have a slightly different take on the events in the Indian Ocean which seem to include a "stretching" of Article IX. To me, having lived as long as I have, I am still astonished and, indeed, overjoyed, that our handiwork of 1946 remains intact in 2009. Certainly in 1945-1946 we were dreamers who envisioned a Jeffersonian democracy springing up on Japanese soil, and our efforts both official and personal were directed to that end. However, I doubt that any of us had the temerity to imagine that nearly seven decades later the Japanese would still be operating under our Constitution. True, we made the amending process as difficult as possible. Nevertheless, once the Occupation ended and Japan was on its own from 1952, anything could have derailed the original document.

Thus to have the broadening interpretation of Article IX does not frighten me given the overall longevity of the Constitution and what I observe to be its almost incredible durability.

I wonder if Mr. Abe understands the aspiration for a Jeffersonian democracy.

*Professor Goodman's original comment was posted in the discussion following Shingetsu Newsletter No. 1338 (April 9, 2008). This is part of a free e-mail list, but it won't appear openly at the Shingetsu Institute webpage until about the end of June. If you are interested, there are two alternatives. First, you may join the Shingetsu Newsletter e-mailing list yourself and receive the messages directly, or else you can return to their webpage at any time after the end of June when the April Newsletters will be posted. See Website:

Monday, April 6, 2009

Speaking Out

Tokyo readers may want to attend a program at Temple University Law School this evening, April 7th. The speaker is deeply involved in peace, security, and history issues.

A subtext to Japan's desire to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council is accountability to international law and the UN's evolving human rights regime. The scrutiny given to Japan by the UN's human right's bodies has not always been kind; and Tokyo has not been necessarily responsive. The 2008 review criticized Japan for its death penalty, illegal incarcerations, wartime forced labor, and comfort women.

The internationalization of the Comfort Women issue came via the UN and its Commission on Human Rights (now call the Human Rights Council). In February 1992, Japanese lawyer Totsuka Etsuro through the UN-recognized NGO International Educational Development (IED), made the first oral intervention before the UN Commission on Human Rights in which Japan was condemned for its crimes against humanity onto the Korean and other Asian "sex slaves" (UN doc. E/CN.4/1992/SR.30/Add.1.).

Dr. Totsuka Etsuro is a Professor of International Human Rights Law at Ryukoku University's School of Law. Dr. Totsuka has dedicated his legal career to defending human rights and has won several awards recognizing his commitment to justice in this area.

He advocates for mentally ill patients in Japan and successfully advocated for the 1997 amendment to the Mental Health Act. He frequently appears before UN bodies in defense of victims of human rights abuses, including the Comfort Women, and represents UN NGOs, such as the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) and the Japan Fellowship of Reconciliation (JFOR). He currently serves as the main Geneva representative for the JFOR developing overseas educational programs at the United Nations for students of Ryukoku University. He also serves as the General Secretary of the Research Institute of International Human Rights Law Policies.

Dr. Totsuka is speaking on the evening of April 7th at 8:00 PM on Korean Comfort Women: The Pros and Cons of Using International Human Rights Law as an Advocacy Platform. If you can attend, please send back a report.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Back to Your Regular Programing

In prime time, the DPRK shot off its rocket.

The Japanese were thinking about lunch and Americans were hoping the game would be over in time for Saturday Nite Live. Josh Rogin was going to be host, you know. So, everyone, who mattered, was wide awake waiting for the news bulletin. And President Obama? Well he was asleep and there is nothing the Norks like to do better than to disturb someone's rest.

Prime Minister Aso was delighted. Seven minutes of happiness as his citizens looked to him for leadership. The damn thing even splashed down more or less where it was supposed to.

The Opposition party is faltering and the North Koreans sent him a present. So what if no one could pick him out of a crowd at the G-20. The Norks are so reliable. They always seem to come through for the LDP. In 1998, the US-Japan Guidelines were stuck in the Diet and like a miracle a North Korean missile/rocket flew over Japan. An enemy was born. In 2006, a weak young man with strong national security ideals was becoming prime minister. As if to confirm that the enemy was still there and that Shinzo Abe's tough leadership was needed, another projectile was hurled toward Japan and for good measure a nuclear test was made.

Now, there are plenty of other good reasons for the DPRK (btw Washington's Korea hands love to say DPRK, especially quickly) to test its hardware. But it is a curious coincidence that these experiments are always helpful to the LDP. The Dear Leader certainly does not like change.

Adding to Sunday's fun, was former Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa's observation: "I'm not saying that Japan should discuss the option of going nuclear. But I think Japan should discuss measures against the nuclear threat firmly, such as striking an enemy base and the question of shelters in the event of a contingency. What can be done for the security of Japan must be discussed." In the past, the not always sober Nakagawa, has noted that Japan's Constitution does not prohibit nuclear weapons.

No matter, it was a good day for Mr. Aso. A new poll showed that 66% of the respondents did not agree with DPJ President Ozawa's decision not to step down. The Nork's "flying object" hit nothing and JSDF did nothing. No harm done. A few good sound bites were had by all. Thus, by 4 pm Aso went off to have his haircut at Barber Sato at the Hotel Pacific Tokyo in Takanawa.

The Burial of the Dead

Everyone’s favorite April poem is T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. It is more about death, however, than springtime hope. Like the beautiful crab apple tree above, the poem memorializes many confusing feelings. Under the tree, which is across the street from my house, my beloved Abyssinian cat is buried. Along with him is buried a friendship that I had hoped would flourish.

Osiris, as he was called, would wake me every morning so that I could let him outside. He spent his days hunting on the grounds of the historic home outside my door. In the evening he would return with some “present.” Often he slept curled up at my side. He was not a cat that would sit on your lap and purr; he was independent and selective with his attentions. Sometimes he purred for me.

When Osiris died one April from a horrible wasting disease, my friends did what they could to console me. They indulged me and conceded to my grief. All except one. And of course it was the one I wanted to hear from most, and the one whose opinion always meant the most to me.

But, as I have warned my daughter, beware the man who does not acknowledge the loss of your cat. He will never care for you, let alone respect you. You will not be remembered. And time proved me right. Never did I receive a birthday note or a nengajo card. He never initiated a conversation and was quick to point out my many mistakes.

Yes, I should have been more guarded, but I work every day alone on issues of apology and torture and rape and genocide. What I do is neither popular nor recognized. I do this because I believe that it is important for man to aspire to his better nature. And it was an irrational exuberance for me to be so charmed to find that rare someone who shared my values and interests.

But “the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief, And the dry stone no sound of water.” As it turned out, he said, “sharing values does not make us friends” and knowing me was a professional liability, thus he concluded that “we should stop” being friends. And we did.

I rarely get beyond the first section of The Waste Land. I don’t really understand the details; there is just too much to look up. Does Eliot mention the Starnbergersee because Mad King Ludwig died there or is it just another symbol of Germany and WWI? Who the HECK is Marie? Do hyacinths really symbolize resurrection? Maybe they just cover up the stench from the rot. Stanza after stanza is of death and disillusionment.

Memorials don’t always do the job that they are intended. They mean to symbolize hope and the endurance of the human spirit (and I will write more about this later). Every April the tree outside my home blooms a beautiful pink, memorizing the pain from my two losses. Like Eliot, I feel no hope only defeat and miss even more what is gone.

Friday, April 3, 2009

April's Fool

The G-20 have taken a measure of Japan. The British organizers apparently placed Prime Minister Taro Aso at the bottom of the protocol order at the G-20.

The Sankei, which keeps track of such measurements reports on April 3rd that:
The rank order of participants in terms of the order of their making a statement and the like is decided in the order of head of state and then chief executive, as well as in accordance with the length of the time since taking office. Prime Minister Aso is the chief executive. His tenure is the shortest among the 20 leaders. For this reason, he is the first among the G-20 leaders to enter the conference hall for the financial summit-related meetings and the last person to leave.

He is taking it as a matter of fact, saying, "That is the rule." However, some sources accompanying Aso on his visit to London said with a sigh, "Japan is a major donor, and yet ..."
Clearly, the Sankei folks use different measuring tools than the British.

Later: It should be noted that this is really of another case of Sankei misusing facts to fit their ideology. For those who actually read Japan's constitution, they know that the Emperor not the PM is the head of state. Aso is a head of government, thus of a slightly lower protocol order. For example, if a head of state visits the White House an "official" not "state" dinner is held. The head of state vistor gets a 21-gun salute, while a head of government gets just 19. This article discusses some of the slight, albeit amusing differences.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Cruellest Month

A lot of cruelty happened in April.

Hitler and Hirohito were born in April.

The genocides in Darfur, Bosnia, Rwanda, Cambodia, Nazi Germany, and Armenia began in April.

The Bataan Death March began April 9, 1942.

The bloody battle of Gallipoli was fought April 25, 1915.

This year, some commemorate April's designation as Genocide Prevention Month. This morbid gesture is the work of The Genocide Prevention Project, which is the next venture of the team behind Dream for Darfur, the campaign that used the Olympics to urge the Chinese government to use its influence with the Sudanese regime to bring security to Darfur. [I have the t-shirt and stickers...]

Jill Savitt, the head of the Project says the group hope their advocacy will prevent future genocides. "What we want the month to show is that there is a support among genocide survivors to try and prevent such crimes from happening by rallying support from the international community," she said.

It appears that Miss Jill has teamed up with the Armenians. It is a good thing she had gotten practice dealing with aggressive governments, like China, who don't feel guilty about much. The Turks will put you in jail if you say the massacres of the Armenians were genocide.

She is going to find the Turks as tough or tougher. Unlike the Chinese, the Turks have been able to intimidate Congress. Every year the Armenian Genocide Resolution comes up for consideration and the Turkish Government plays take-no-hostages-street-fighting mean politics. Japan likes to point to Turkey as an example of lobbying in Washington done right. In fact, Japan's representatives now whisper wistfully that Tokyo should start acting more like Ankara if they don't get their way in Washington.

The current champion of Armenians in the U.S. House of Representatives is Adam Schiff (D-CA), whose district holds the largest concentration of Armenian Americans. On March 17th, he again introduced a House resolution, H.RES.252, "calling upon the President to ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the United States record relating to the Armenian Genocide, and for other purposes."

If you look at the Resolution, you will see that it is a mess. There are 30 "findings" stridently condemning Turkey and the declaration requested is simply to ask the President of the United States to denounce and shame Turkey. The cause may be just, but it is a resolution without a constructive goal. It acerbates instead of ameliorates a problem of history. There is no suggestion as to how this difference of opinion over history can be resolved or to what end.

Schiff preceded the resolution with a letter on March 12th to President Barack Obama commending him on his record of supporting the "truth about the Armenian Genocide" and urging the President to make a strong statement of recognition on April 24th. Schiff wrote:
But, of course, the importance of speaking unequivocally about a matter as grave as genocide is a human rights imperative affecting us all. Whether it is today’s Sudanese government or yesterday’s Ottoman Empire, the perpetrators of genocide, as well as the victims, must know that the United States will not shrink from confronting the truth.
In contrast, Cambodia is now conducting its tribunal to prosecute members of the Khmer Rouge for genocide. The effort is to better understand the mass murders and to try to determine responsibility and set out accountability. On the 31st, Durch, once commandant of Cambodia's most notorious prison camp, S-21, testified "As a member of the [Khmer Rouge] I recognise responsibility for what happened at Tuol Sleng,"

He forthrightly said,"May I be permitted to apologise to the survivors of the regime, and also the loved ones of those who died brutally during the regime." And then told the court, "I ask not that you forgive me now, but hope you will later."

"Dry bones can harm no one," wrote T.S. Eliot.

I am not sure if that is true.

N.B.: If you happened to look at this post earlier today, then you know I pressed the publish instead of the save button. And you also now know I research my post. Just like a woman, I am professionally cautious. Personally? Well, all bets are off.