Saturday, November 21, 2009

Not to be Missed

Sedition is not a word usually associated with the U.S.-Japan Alliance. It is especially not considered in reference to Japan’s Self-Defense Forces. They are Washington’s solid partners in Asia.

So it is always interesting to learn how members of Japan’s armed forces refer to World War II and their former American foes. A lot of emotions can be at play in these references. And in some countries their expression can be considered inflammatory and even seditious.
At Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Forces Fleet Week in October, a Japanese friend was taken aback by the historical narratives given to the guests on board the ships he visited. The JMSDF briefers referred to the War in the language of Imperial Japan. It was the Great East Asian War (Daitowa Senso) and not the contemporary, alliance-friendly Pacific War (Taiheiyo Senso).

This elderly Japanese Baron wrote me: “I had considered Japanese Navy having slightly better conscience than our Air Force until I heard the announcements on board. No self-reflection. No grip of history. No realization of the great divide of August 15, 1945, the paradigm shift. Great disappointment!”

Language matters.

Former Japan Air Self-Defense Forces Chief of Staff Toshio Tamaogami, won an award last year for an essay calling Japan’s Daitowa Senso just and the Americans deceitful. His strident, revisionist views were brushed aside as an aberration in Japan’s armed forces. After all, experts pointed out, he was fired from his post almost immediately.

Yet, he remains vocal and a hero to many. His slick website , where he appears in uniform (picture above courtesy of this website), promotes a constant stream of speaking engagements. There is even an upcoming dinner cruise in New York City (March 26, 2010) He continues to make news. Worse, those who question him are attacked and threatened.

The story of one such instance will be told on November 26th at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. Pierre Pariseau, President & Founder, ONG Terre des enfants* and his lawyer, Shunji Miyake, will hold a press conference on M. Pariseau’s encounter with General Tamogami.

On August 15th, the Japanese speaking Pariseau, a French Canadian citizen and resident of Japan, was on the grounds of the Yasukuni Shine. There he found Tamogami speaking to supporters. After his speech, Tamogami was interviewed by Channel Sakura, a satellite outlet sympathetic to right-wings views.

Pariseau apparently could not contain himself any longer and decided to pose the General a question: "Do you realize that if you would be in Germany you would be in jail for what you said?"

Pariseau was referring to Germany’s hate speech law or Volksverhetzung ("stirring up the populace," "agitation of the people," seditious speech). It is a concept in German criminal law that bans the incitement of hatred against a segment of the population. It often applies in, though it is not limited to, trials relating to Holocaust denial in Germany.

The question set off a commotion that saw Pariseau head for the exit of the Yasukuni park. But he was pursued by a Channel Sakura camera and several of Tamogami's supporters. M. Pariseau got shoved around a lot.

The melee attracted the police who began questioning Pariseau and eventually took him to a police station. You can hear the rightist sounds trucks outside playing nationalist songs. He was forced to write apology statements. Sakura TV shows one of these letters that apologizes for disturbing the peace. Oddly it is in English, not French or Japanese.

According to Pariseau and his lawyer these acts are illegal and lasted for about three hours and involved over 50 officers, detectives and riot police. He has decided to sue the Japanese Government and seek damages from the Police.

Amazingly, Sakura TV put the entire broohahah on a YouTube clip. See below.

*My French is not good enough to find a solid reference linking Pariseau to this French nonprofit. Further information is welcome.


  1. Not exactly top tier sources -- but they did report on the encounter at Yasukuni.

    Canadian confronts right-wingers at Yasukuni

    Gaijin Gang-Attacked by Uyokus
    This gaijin said to Tamogami "You will be arrested in Germany." and that angered Uyokus.
    It seems that his name is ピエール・パリゾ in katakana and he is Canadian.

    Goodies in Tokyo
    November 06, 2003 By Pierre Pariseau

    Canadian citizen challenged Gen. Toshio Tamogami

    Sunday, Jan. 11, 2004
    Diplomats too easy on Koizumi

    I seem to recall reading at the time that Pariseau visits Yasukuni on August 15 annually. Naturally I didn't find that item in my 15 minute search today.

  2. Thank you. These are interesting.

    I actually only did a search in French to see what Terre des Enfants came up with. But, I my French is not good enough, especially without a dictionary, to discover much. Maybe you know French too?

    Do report if you go to the press conference.

  3. I walked by this brouhaha on August 15, 2009. I had no idea what was going on, thanks to your post I do now though! I felt bad for Pariseau when I saw him on the street as he was surrounded by an overwhelming amount of cops and he had no support. Good for him challenging Tamogami though. I recently visited the War museum in Yasukuni and was disappointed to see displays stating that Japan was forced into World War II because the U.S. refused to sell them any oil. Give me a break.

    Posted a pic of what I saw on flickr, where I also referenced your post:

  4. The same video with English subtitle:


If I am unamused, your comment will not be posted.