Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dear Ada

Maestro, a little Scott Joplin please. (Link)


Dear Ada,

Contrary to your organization's website's claim, I will not be appearing at the Qingdao conference next month, with its millennial title, speaking about the politics of Abenomics. (I do so like the title of the talk - Link)

Too bad, really. A visit to Qingdao is on my list. Maybe someday, if someone pays me to write up at Shinkansen ride to Shimonoseki, then the ferry to Qingdao ( slow journey as a part of "Wanna avoid airplanes?" alternative travel series.

If Sir Christopher Pissarides actually does show up at the conference, please, please, please send me the photo.




Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Morning Eye

Glaring at me this morning.

Wing and abdomen of an Omizuao (Actias artemis) resting on my front door this morning. The full image is:

Image courtesies: MTC

Very Kind Of Them #24

On line radio program Asia Now had me on for a conversation about The Asahi Shimbun's retraction of some of its reporting on the comfort women (jugun ianfu) and role of the issue in the Japan-South Korean relationship.

One correction: at one point I say that Yoshida Seiji began telling his tale of rounding up women in Cheju-do in the "late 1980s." Yoshida published his memoir in 1983.

Later - If you have a comment, please submit it to the Asia Now website.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Who Is Up For A Yasukuni Visit Today?

UPDATE1: as of 09:45 JST, cabinet ministers SHINDO Yoshitaka and FURUYA Keiji have both visited Yasukuni Shrine, with Furuya declaring he signed in as "Minister of State Furuya Keiji." HAGIUDA Ko'ichi has also paid a visit, delivering Prime Minister ABE Shinzo's donation.

UPDATE 2: Minister of Japan Cool And Much Else INADA Tomomi paid her respects in the afternoon in the company of the History and Creativity Association, her small group of Diet member fellow travelers (here is their post-Yasukuni group shot from last year Link)completing the list of the Terrible Trio. Policy Research Council chief TAKAICHI Sanae, as at seemingly every major shrine event, was front and center of the Association of Diet Members For Everyone Making Visits To Yasukuni Together multi-party mass visitation. (Link - J)

Credit Abe Shinzo for having some sense. He has told the press that he will avoid making, either immediately prior to or immediately after the national ceremony commemorating the end of World War II, a visit to Yasukuni Shrine today. With his relations with the leaders of China and South Korea still in the deep freeze (Link), Putin acting like a woman scorned (Link or Link), investors showing less and less confidence in his economic reform program (Link) and world in general in turmoil, he has decided to not set the region on fire with a gratuitous end-of-The-War day visit. (Link - J video)

Instead, Abe will reprise his restraint of last year by having an aide make a a cash donation in his name instead.

So who should we be on the lookout for today at Yasukuni's gates?

Hagiuda Ko'ichi - it has been a quiet couple of months for the man who last year seemed to be speaking directly from Abe Shinzo's limbic system. If the Big Boy from Hachioji (where the Imperial tombs are located, as he will happily tell you) is once again the bag man for Abe's donation to Yasukuni, he should once again be viewed as the wide back door into Abe's chamber of secrets.

The Terrible Trio - Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Shindo Yoshitaka, State Minister for Japan Cool And A Lot Of Other Stuff Inada Tomomi and Chairman of the National Safety Commission Furuya Keiji -- the Terrible Trio -- have said nothing about going but will be going. Shindo and Furuya will probably not survive the Cabinet reshuffle on September 3 (somebody has to lose his/her job to make space for cabinet hopefuls and it is easier for Abe to dump his male Best Friends) so have an incentive to go out in a blaze of glory, signing the registers as "Member of The Abe Cabinet." Inada, who is rumored to be taking over for Taka'ichi Sanae at the Liberal Democratic Party's Policy Research Council (and one cannot think of a better way of cementing the continued irrelevance of the PARC - Link) will visit but probably either early in the morning or in the late afternoon in a private capacity. Not that she has to, mind you: Takaichi herself will be once again the smug front and center of the phalanx of Diet members paying their respects in today's heat.

Shimomura Hakubun - The arch-conservative and token poor person in Abe Shinzo inner circle has had a very quiet one and a half years, indulging in his inner revisionist only once in a florrid and ultimately pointless bid to stop the tiny Okinawan town of Taketomi from using a social studies textbook of its own choosing (Link). Oddly, he has not been mentioned among the cabinet members who are going to be retained in the reshuffle, despite his incredible patience in not carrying out the wholesale smashing of the education system long promised by Abe Shinzo loyalists and allies. If Shimomura shows up at Yasukuni today he will be signaling that he knows he will not be leading the revolution after September.

Any Other Cabinet Minister - If any other of the Cabinet's members pay their respects, it will be pretty much a declaration of his/her being in the "Shatter and splatter/Pitcher and platter/What do we care?/We won't be there!" category of September non-survivors. Since having the image of being "better than Abe at least" in terms of sensitivity to Chinese and Korean sentiments is one of the few selling points a challenger can offer, one cannot expect any of the bigwigs or factions leaders (Tanigaki, Ishihara, for example) to show up.

Ishiba Shigeru - If LDP Secretary-General Ishiba Shigeru shows up today, it means he is most definitely trolling for a "even more patriotic than Abe" reputation. Ishiba is looking to challenge Abe for the LDP presidency in September next year if the LDP's performance in local elections over the next nine months is less than stellar -- which is looking pretty likely (the  next two big tests, the Fukushima and Okinawa gubernatorial elections, look incredibly tough for the party). Ishiba has already planted his flag in more militant territory than Team Abe in the matter of a Diet examination of the recent recantations by The Asahi Shimbun of certain of their stories on the comfort women (Link). A Yasukuni visit today would indicate Ishiba is making a serious play for the affections of the radicals in the party.

Later -Yes, I too will be glad when this day is over, so I can stop talking about The War -- at least until December when Abe does make his annual pilgrimage to Yasukuni.

Image: Prime Minister Abe Shinzo laying a wreath at the atomic bombing memorial in Nagasaki on August 9, 2014.
Image courtesy: Abe Shinzo official Facebook page.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How The Comfort Women Came Into Being: A Sketch Of A Racial/Legal Entity

Yes, they really called it that.

Imperialism and racial fears and sex and commerce and legalism mix badly, it turns out.
International Convention for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic (4 May 1910)

Article 1

Whoever, in order to gratify the passions of another person, has procured, enticed, or led away, even with her consent, a woman or girl under age, for immoral purposes, shall be punished, notwithstanding that the various acts constituting the offence may have been committed in different countries.

Article 2

Whoever, in order to gratify the passions of another person, has, by fraud, or by means of violence, threats, abuse of authority, or any other method of compulsion, procured, enticed, or led away a woman or girl over age, for immoral purposes, shall also be punished, notwithstanding that the various acts constituting the offence may have been committed in different countries.



International Convention for the Suppression of the Trafficking of Women and Children (30 September 1921)

Article 1.

The High Contracting Parties agree that, in the event of their not being already Parties to the Agreement of May 18, 1904, and the Convention of May 4, 1910, mentioned above, they will transmit, with the least possible delay, their ratifications of, or adhesions to, those instruments in the manner laid down therein.

Article 2.

The High Contracting Parties agree to take all measures to discover and prosecute persons who are engaged in the traffic in children of both sexes and who commit offences within the meaning of Article i of the Convention of May 4, 1910.

Article 3.

The High Contracting Parties agree to take the necessary steps to secure the punishment of attempts to commit, and, within legal limits, of acts preparatory to the commission of, the offences specified in Articles 1 and 2 of the Convention of May 4, 1910.


Article 14.

Any Member or State signing the present Convention may declare that the signature does not include any or all of its colonies, overseas possessions, protectorates or territories under its sovereignty or authority, and may subsequently adhere separately on behalf of any such colony, overseas possession, protectorate or territory so excluded in its declaration.


Japan: The undersigned delegate of Japan ... declares that his signature does not include Chosen, Taiwan and the leased territory of Kwantung.




The government of Japan eventually acceded to the 1921 Convention in 1925. It expanded the original list of exempt territories to include Japan's South Pacific trust territories and the Japanese half of Sakhalin Island. (Link)

So, according to treaty, someone tricking a Japanese woman or woman residing in Japan into transport abroad to serve as a prostitute, or using force to do same, was illegal.

Tricking a Taiwanese or Korean woman or child, or even having a Taiwanese or Korean child go voluntarily, was not illegal.

If you were in the procurement business, let us say for a large institutional client who also was in charge of regulating said business, where and how would go about your business?


The comfort women system was not sui generis, a product of diseased national mindset. It was in many ways an unintended consequence of international conventions put forth by Europeans attempting to prevent women of European extraction ending up in the brothels of brown-skinned peoples -- and Europeans not being confident they had the resources or legal precedent to extend the writ of those conventions to the many peoples and cultures residing in their colonies. Europeans, because they were racists, unthinkingly opened a huge hole in the first international trafficking agreements -- which Japanese and the Japanese military, because they were not racists, proceeded to exploit.

Imperialism and colonialism were the roots of the problem though. It was these fundamental insults to human dignity and human life that made the best intentions and noble sentiments go wildly astray.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

After The Asahi Shimbun Retractions

"It's an old habit....I spent my whole life trying not to be careless....Women and children can afford to be careless but not men."

Vito Corleone, The Godfather (1972)
Now replace "men" with "liberals" and "women and children" with "conservatives and libertarians" and you have a pretty accurate picture of the world we live in.

After decades of resistance, The Asahi Shimbun three days ago began the painful process of retracting a series of articles it had published over the years containing the undocumentable and likely false statements of a former civilian labor recruiter. The late Yoshida Seiji had claimed he had organized a forcible round up of 200 women on the island of Cheju-do for service as prostitutes in "comfort stations" for the Imperial Japanese Army. Unfortunately for the Asahi and news organizations quoting the Asahi on the story, investigations into the accuracy of Yoshida's claims found no evidence of their being true.

Conservative publications and commentators have been going to town on The Asahi Shibun's about face (Link). The humiliation of the right's "Class A War Criminal" as regards the comfort women and the Kono Statement has stimulated some...oh let us say "opportunistic" leaders of certain demand Diet investigation of the Asahi's reversal. (Link and Link J video)

The overdue repudiation of Yoshida's claims has of course hurt the cause of those urging an East Asian entente on the comfort women issue. Yoshida's claims and their debunking have focused attention in Japan on the issue of whether the comfort women were recruited "forcibly in the narrow sense" --, i.e. kidnapped by government employees or their direct agents -- leaving underexamined the larger issue of the impossible-to-defend trafficking of women from colonized or occupied areas to provide sexual services to soldiers, sailors and officers at or near Imperial Army and Imperial Navy installations. It is an absurd assertion of Japanese revisionist circles that the only reason the comfort women issue has existed as an element of international relations has been The Asahi Shimbun's printing of articles on the subject. The idiotic domestic debate on "coercion in the narrow sense" has, of course, made the Japanese government and people look like a creepy bunch of sniveling, moon-eyed automatons obsessed with the avoidance of blame or the appearance of remorse.

When latest matsuri sawagi of hooting, hollering and "I told you so" dies down, of course, Japanese of all stripes will find that the Asahi's retractions matter not one jot in the way the world perceives the issue (Link). The world outside Japan's borders focuses, unsurprisingly, on coercion in the broader sense, which is:
Recruitment of non-national women or boys to provide sexual services for an occupying or colonial government's employees, whether through cash inducements, deceit or abduction, whether by government personnel or agents, in colonized or occupied territories, is a coerced act, no matter the legal status of prostitution in the occupying country.

That brutal reality, one of the many brutal, horrifying realities of the way the Japanese Imperial forces operated, has not changed in the aftermath of the Asahi's publication of retractions of some of its stories.

Later - Did not see this until now but it seems the good folks at JapanRealTime clicked in with a report yesterday. (Link)

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

What I Wish I Had Told Al-Jazeera

I appeared on Al-Jazeera yesterday, offering two minutes worth of thoughts, such as they may be, on the new Defense White Paper. (Link - and Link J)

What I managed to blurt out was, well, solid, moderate, perhaps even far-seeing -- but definitely not great television.

When asked out how the White Paper defines Chinese actions in the East China Sea, what I should have said was:

"This year's White Paper declares that certain Chinese actions, such as the unilateral declaration without consultation of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) to be 'profoundly dangerous acts.' Non-Japanese media organizations like the Financial Times have flagged the operative adjective here, calling it a condemnation. (Link)

All apologies to the editors of the Financial Times but calling what the Chinese government has been doing 'dangerous' is not a condemnation: it is a simple statement of fact. Indeed 'dangerous' all by its lonesome is an understatement. The authors of the report should have been more prolix, describing China's moves as 'profoundly dangerous, provocative acts, the kind of stupid crap that leads to the therts of wars and stuff' -- and even that would have only been a simple statement of fact."

Oh well, better luck next time...

Later - Writing in The Diplomat, Clint Richards sees the language of the Defense White Paper as unhelpfully incendiary (Link). Richards seems to be arguing that in order to secure of a face-to-face meeting between Abe Shinzo and Xi Jinping the Japanese government should suppress a public accounting of national policies and official interpretations of current events.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Prime Minister Abe Returns

"Mr. Prime Minister, given how well both your teams did in the just-concluded World Cup, is this shot not kind of, you know, weird -- not to mention, wide?"

Yesterday just before 10 a.m., Prime Minister Abe returned to Tokyo from his week-long trip to Latin America and the Caribbean. He had an audience with the Emperor informing his Majesty of his safe return (why does no one question the preservation of this Victorian relic, the requirement that every minister stop off at the Palace to tell the Emperor that he/she is leaving the country and, upon his/her return, go to the Palace to check in? How about just notifying His Majesty via Facebook?).

After the 15 minutes with His Majesty, Abe went to the Diet Member's Building #1 to the dentist's office therein to have some work done on his teeth.

What is unbelievable about this schedule?

That after the visit to the dentist's office, Prime Minister Abe and Mrs. Abe went home to their private home in Tomigaya AND THE PM TOOK THE AFTERNOON OFF.

For anyone who peruses the PM's hyperactive-to-the-point-of-almost-parody daily schedules, the news that he came back on a Monday and proceeded to do basically nothing both astounds and instill fear.

Is the PM OK? Could he not have convened a meeting of yet another important-sounding obscure economic reform panel? Receive a visit from the Chiba Kiwi Fruit Marketing Association Kiwi Festival queens? (Link)

Perhaps the otherwise unoccupied hours gave the PM time to reflect upon some eternal truths he has seemed to have been ignoring of late:
- if I ever listen to what my fellow Liberal Democratic Party members are telling me to do, my term in office will be abbreviated and the LDP will go down to ignominious electoral defeat only three years after winning an unassailable victory. To live long and prosper I must remember Koizumi Jun'ichiro's contempt for LDP conventional wisdom!

- if I reward my friends for their loyalty, they will repay me with either incompetence, larceny, treachery or all three combined. I have a terrible taste in friends.

- I have to tell domestic audiences that I am sincere when I
a) hand out Cabinet posts in September based on faction affiliation

b) ram through the Diet an emergency spending plan to boost rural development just in time for the mid-April local elections (Link)

c) say I learned the lesson of the Shiga gubernatorial election and will redouble my efforts to guarantee LDP candidates win the upcoming Fukushima and Okinawa gubernatorial contests

and signal to international audiences that I am doing all of these things for utterly insincere and cynical reasons and so please ignore them, they are not the real Abe Shinzo -- otherwise one side or the other will drop me like a piece of Shanghai-processed chicken.


Photo image of Team Abe in Brazil courtesy: Abe Shinzo official Facebook page.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Memory Whole: When The Aliens Landed In L.A.

Thirty five years ago today.

Good luck with your cancer treatment, Sakamoto-san (Link). Your country needs you, now more than ever.
Link: "Cosmic Surfin'" from the Yellow Magic Orchestra's August 4, 1979 performance at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, YMO's first North American concert appearance.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Taking A Break

Lotus. Shinobazu Pond, Ueno Park. Taito City, Tokyo Metropolitan District on August 2, 2014.

Image credit: MTC