Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

Deja Vu All Over Again…

July 10, 2006

Well, I guess this is how it begins. Japanese government officials are discussing ways to better defend the country, including setting up the legal framework to allow Tokyo to launch a pre-emptive strike against North Korean missile sites.

“If we accept that there is no other option to prevent an attack … there is the view that attacking the launch base of the guided missiles is within the constitutional right of self-defense. We need to deepen discussion,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said.

Now, anyone who reads this blog knows that I’m no fan of North Korea. Nor am I especially fond of Japan’s weak-in-the-knees constitution. I don’t, however, believe that the Japanese government should be seriously considering making an end run around Article 9 with a pre-emptive attack on their minds. If the Japanese people want to change their constitution through a legal referendum (to my knowledge the only constitutionally legal method), that’s one thing. It’s quite another for the government to embark on a path of ‘creative interpretation’ and by-pass the people altogether.


The Japanese workplace…

July 3, 2006

…can be a little dangerous sometimes. (Go ahead and click, it’s less than 30 seconds!)

I’ve had days like that…

From the Department of the Obvious

June 23, 2006

In an article in the Japan times talking about the apparent lack of sex in Japan resulting in a declining birth rate, a Japanese researcher says that it’s “important for men to have sexual relationships.” About half of the world may be stunned by this news… The other half have known it all along…

North Korea–The Global Village Idiot

June 19, 2006

Not long after I arrived in Japan in 1998, North Korea test-fired a missile, part of which flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific Ocean. Now, according to this Reuters story (you can read about it anywhere, actually), it looks like they’re getting ready to test another missile, this one more long-range capable. If the idiots in Pyongyang are true to form, this one will also likely violate Japanese airspace, not to mention all international norms of civilized behaviour. I was quite aware that North Korea was the nutjob of nations before I came here, but living next door to to the global village idiot is enough to raise anyone’s level of anger and disgust.
Of course these missiles are relatively harmless without a payload, and it’s fairly common knowledge that North Korea has a nuclear weapons program, if not actual possession of one or more nuclear bombs.
From 1977 to 1883 agents of the North Korean government were responsible for the abduction of many Japanese civilians. Most were abducted to teach Japanese language and culture to North Korean spies, some in order to obtain their identities.
For years North Korean spy boats have routinely violated Japanese territorial waters, for the purposes of both espionage and smuggling drugs into Japan.
North Korea can go on ranting all it wants about Japanese war atrocities and the wartime occupation/colonization by Japan, but it doesn’t change the fact that Japan stopped throwing its weight around 60 years ago, while North Korea’s crimes (and that’s what they are) are recent and ongoing. I won’t even go into what this pathetic excuse for a government does to its own people.
Given the above, and the relatively recent news that North Korea has been counterfeiting US currency in order to make a few bucks and destabilize the American/world economy, we Kyklopes are tempted to ask our American friends one simple question: what the fuck are you guys doing getting blown up in Iraq?

What are you smiling about?

June 13, 2006

Apparently a fight broke out after a public screening of Japan’s World Cup loss to Australia last night. According to the report, at the end of the match “[…] about 10 Japanese fans began fighting, with some accusing each other of smiling even though Japan lost.” Luckily for me, I watched the game at home. Even more luckily, my (Japanese) wife was sleeping…

Odds and Sods

June 5, 2006

Several Japan-related items have caught my attention recently. I’m sure if I stare at them long and hard enough some sort of pattern will emerge…

As if it weren’t enough to have an education system whose only apparent goal is to teach its students how to be ‘Japanese,’ it now appears that the government wants to teach the Japanese to be patriotic as well.

The proposal to make education more patriotic in Japan signals the determination of conservatives here to combat what they see as a self-obsessed youth culture, characterized by rampant school bullying and juvenile crime, which they say is eroding the nation’s vaunted social order.
Under proposed revisions to the Basic Education Law, which are being debated in parliament, teachers would be required to instill in students “an attitude that respects tradition and culture, and loves the nation and the homeland that have fostered them.”
The changes alarm liberal critics who worry that a legal duty to teach a love for Japan would override the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of thought and conscience. They argue that mandating educators to teach patriotism echoes the ultranationalism of imperial Japan, which led to the catastrophic error of military aggression and, ultimately, ruin.

Evidently most Japanese support the revisions, “[…] demanding schools foster civic morality and teach students to show more respect.” It was also revealed that some schools have already begun “grading students on their level of patriotism” and “love for Japan.” Responding to criticism of the plan, Prime Minister Koizumi told legislators, “[we] are not intending a law that would draw us into war,” and noted that the proposed revisions would also require teachers to imbue a respect for other countries.

Aside from inducing loud barks of disgusted laughter from reasonable people, the above story might lead us to wonder, ‘who the fuck is going to be in school here in 50 years’ to study anything, let alone patriotism? More than 20 percent of the population is aged 65 or older, and because of an “abysmally low fertility rate” the population will decrease to below 100 million by 2042. This is not really news, as I have yet to meet anyone here who is not aware of this problem. What makes Japan’s population decline somewhat alarming is its apparent reluctance to do anything about it. Western countries, for example, rely on a steady influx of immigrants to offset lower birth rates. This leads us to our next item…

There is, in Japan, a truly radical thinker (at least in Japanese terms). His name is Hidenori Sakanaka, and he believes Japan should allow the entry of 20 million immigrants in the next 50 years. Until recently Sakanaka, a career bureaucrat, was head of the Tokyo Immigration Bureau. From what I’ve read of him, he seems like a rather interesting chap. Some quotes:

“It is ultimately the Japanese people who will decide this issue, but the problem is that there is no debate. The population is declining and the birth-rate is falling, and there is no way we will solve this just by encouraging more births. Now is our chance to begin talking about it seriously.”
“It’s almost taboo to raise the issue of mass immigration here, […] Japan has no experience of this, only of sending people abroad. Modern Japan almost totally shuts out foreigners and the only people who debate the issue are specialists. Nobody is even researching it.”
“Here’s the problem: The population of the world is over 6 billion, and about half of these people live in Asia. The population of China, India Vietnam and so on is growing very fast at the same time as ours is shrinking. We’re a rich country surrounded by developing countries. If we just say we’re going to stop immigration completely it will eventually overwhelm us, so we should deal with it now; open the taps slowly to qualified, distinguished people. It’s like a dam; we’re sitting behind it and a tsunami is coming. What are we going to do about it?”
“The common Japanese view of foreigners is very unsparing at the moment. Twenty years ago, 3 out of 10 people didn’t like the Chinese; today it is 7 out of 10. Many Japanese fear foreigners because they think they cause crime. Seventy percent of Japanese are against allowing more tourists. That’s ridiculous. Tourists don’t cause crime and the overwhelming majority of foreigners are good people. But negative thinking about foreigners here is strong.”
“The politicians are afraid that if they speak positively about immigration they’ll run up against public opinion. But look: The politicians don’t tackle it, the bureaucrats are divided among different agencies, and there is no policy, so who is going to start?”
“Someone should say: Look, there are good and bad foreigners. We won’t solve this by ourselves, so let’s discuss asking foreign laborers to come here in greater but controlled numbers, and making society easier for them to live. But we haven’t even got to the entry point of that debate.”

By Japanese standards Mr. Sakanaka is a loose cannon. It’s quite refreshing to this gaijin, however, to hear a Japanese speak so frankly and honestly about these issues. There are no doubt many reasons for the negative views Japanese tend to have of foreigners. The media is partly to blame. Any serious crime comitted by a foreigner will be on the front page of every newpaper and the leading story of every newscast. The government is certainly responsible for many policies directed against foreigners, and contains many racist elements. It doesn’t help that the American military is still here. Ultimately, though, it boils down to the fact that the Japanese, as a culture, are xenophobic. Anyone who tries to deny this simple fact is either deluded, a fucking idiot, or a liar.
Do I ‘hate’ the Japanese? Of course not. Should I ‘teach’ them the error of their ways? Most definitely not. Should I express my opinion? Yes, of course I should. The Japanese should take a look in the mirror once and a while. We can’t force anyone to look into the mirror, but there’s nothing wrong with holding it up. Here’s our final item for today. Mr. Sakanaka is back in this one, although it’s a bit older. In this article Sakanaka-san gives us some insight into the problem of human traficking in Japan. I’m not going to comment on it, because I think it speaks for itself.

Tomb of Christ: Next Left

May 29, 2006

Now this is something I didn’t know. According to this aricle in The Times, the village of Shingo, in northern Japan, claims to be the final resting place of Jesus Christ.

According to the account in the Christ Museum next to the tombs, Christ arrived in Japan at the age of 21 and learnt Japanese before returning to Judaea 12 years later to engage in his mission and preach about the “holy land of Japan”. The official Shingo history is that Jesus’ place on the Cross was “casually” taken by his brother, leaving Christ free to return to Japan. On his return he fell in love with Miyuko, a local girl, and lived happily with his family among the rice fields until dying aged 106.

The Times’ article is a bit skimpy on historical details, but a quick Google search of japan christ’s tomb brings up a long list of links with more ‘information’, including one of my personal favorites from Learn the Bible, which calls the entire notion a “blasphemous heresy”. Here you’ll read about more “false” and “blasphemous” stories of Christ, from the “African Legend” to the “Mormon Myth” to “The Da Vinci Hoax.” “Here is the question to ask yourself,” the author says. “Which one is true? The answer is clear ? they can’t all be true. They are all false.” Well, I can’t argue with logic like that…


May 26, 2006

I’ve never quite been able to figure out what to do with this blog; I haven’t been able nail down a certain writing style or even any sort of vaguely thematic content. Yeah, the Japanese angle is certainly ripe, but my feelings about Japan are so damn ambiguous at this point that I don’t have any confidence about writing coherently about it. In many respects Japan is a shithole when I compare it to Canada. Yet there’s no doubt in my mind that coming here was the best thing that could possibly have happened to me. My wife and daughter are daily reminders. After eight years I still don’t know what to make of this place that has given me so much. And that’s the essence of my problem–it would be unseemly to make fun of a place in which I’ve become, well, successful, but it would, at the same time, be remiss not to talk about all the fucked-up things I see here. My own ambiguous feelings are mirrored in how I’m perceived by the Japanese who know me. I’m neither an insider nor an outsider. I occupy some limbo-like region of social existence that I haven’t quite come to terms with. It would probably help if I put more effort into my Japanese language studies, but there’s a creeping fear: the more familiar I become with the language, the more obvious it becomes that the Japanese don’t have anything to say–at least not anything I’m interested in. To be fair, that is an as yet unproven hypothesis…
Anyway, I haven’t given up on this blog yet. Actually just writing this post has given me some ideas for a new approach. In the meantime, I’ve started a new blog about something I love: rock n’ roll. It’s called Rocklops, and you can find it here.


May 14, 2006

It occurred to me tonight, after several beers and while listening to Opeth, that I’ve become too polite. Obviously a symptom of living in Japan for the past 8 years, this ‘politeness’ is, in fact, not a true reflection of the ‘real’ me. I’m not talking about open-the-door-for-little-old-ladies, common-decency-to-your-fellow-man, “sorry-I-stepped-on-your-foot”- type of politeness. No, I’m talking about the insidious type of politeness that keeps you from saying what’s on your mind for fear of offending someone.
Fact is, I think that 99% of what goes on in the world is shit. It goes without saying that I only interest myself in the 1% of things that happen in the world that are, well, interesting. You may not like Opeth, but I don’t really give a shit. I’m quite pleased that, at the age of 47, I can listen to a good death/prog metal band and enjoy them. Beats the fuck out of Eric Clapton Unplugged or Queen with Paul Rodgers or whatever.
I’m generally a left-wing type o’ guy, but speaking of Japan, I think it’s time they renounced that pathetic, peace-loving constitution of theirs. Let’s get real here, how can Japan participate in world affairs if their ‘soldiery’ can’t go and be killed in foreign countries while ‘keeping the peace’ wearing the blue beret of the UN? Permanent Security Council seat? Up to now all Japan has done is pay protection money, they have not shown that they’re worthy to have a permanent seat on the Security Council (the notion of ‘permamnent seat’ itself is worthy of another post…). I pay taxes in Japan, I pay into the social security system here, and my wife and daughter are Japanese citizens. I think I have the right to speak about these things… (and I will in my next post…).