Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Nationalist Tide

Koichi Kato repeated again that a right-wing nationalist tide threatens Japan. He told the Foreign Correspondents Club yesterday that the right-wingers are like drifting balloons. Interesting comparison.
Kato said Japan had lost its moorings and that individuals, disconnected from traditional family, work and community anchors, were floating like helium balloons on air currents.

"Even in the slightest breeze they will all start floating in the same direction," the one-time prime ministerial candidate said.

"And if there is a nationalistic mood that takes over the country, all of these balloons will begin to drift in a very strong way along this current."

Right-wing nationalist tide threatens Japan, warns political veteran (The Age 2006/08/29)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Wereldnet 23 augustus

Gisteren was het alweer Wereldnet. Ditmaal met de drie Belgische correspondenten van het Nederlandse Wereldnet: Bart Van Bockstaele in Toronto, Canada , Armando Janssen in Venezuela en mezelf in Japan. Dit was een van de laatste middaguitzendingen van Wereldnet op Radio 747. Vanaf 4 september verhuist het programma naar de nachtprogrammering op Radio 1.

Voor Japan heb ik gesproken over: 1. Obon-verlofperiode; 2. Het Japanse kroonprinsenkoppel in Apeldoorn; 3. Overstromingen en tyfoons; 4. Het populaire baseballtornooi tussen middelbare scholen

Audiobestand via de Wereldnetsite (of download hier – 9376kb)

Elderly Foreigners

I do not intend to go back to my country. Probably I will die in Japan. Hopefully at an old age after a rich life. What is my wife dies first and I'm left behind as an old man? There will to many old people in Japan. The health care system will be under pressure. Will foreigners get similar levels of medical and nursing-care services as the Japanese? I'm not sure:
"Terri Nii, who has lived in Japan for more than 20 years and speaks fluent Japanese, is far from being dependent on her Japanese husband. But the 49-year-old resident in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, is concerned what her life in Japan will look like in another 20 years.

She fears that the Japanese government may single out foreigners as the first target when it reduces medical outlays, nursing-care benefits and pension payouts.

Japan is expected to become unable to maintain the same level of social security benefits because of its aging population and declining birthrate, unless it slashes expenditures and raises taxes.

Nii, a California native, is arguably one of the most visible foreign residents in Kanagawa Prefecture. She runs a company in Fujisawa and sits on advisory panels to the municipal and prefectural governments.

But she said foreign nationals are in a sense invisible in Japan, where they are not granted what she calls regular status.

One reason is that foreigners are not covered by the resident registration systems, managed by local governments.

"I am a producing, tax-paying citizen in Japan, but I am not considered an official resident," said Nii. "I am uneasy about my status in the future when I may need to receive benefits rather than pay into the system.

Growing Old in Japan: Future care (Asahi – 2006/08/12)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Lovely Voices

A Japanese man was arrested this week after making 37,760 silent calls to directory enquiries because he wanted to listen to the 'kind' voices of female telephone operators.

"When I made a complaint call once, the operator dealt with it very kindly, so I wanted to hear these women's voices," the daily Mainichi Shimbun quoted him as telling police in Hiroshima, western Japan.

Japan man makes 37,760 calls to 'kind' operators (Reuters – 2006/10/06)

Local Tokyo Shopping Street: Past and Present

Roger Pulvers in The Japan Times:
"In 1983, I conducted a survey of all of the goods and services offered on the kilometer-long shotengai (shopping street) running from the station up to the turnoff to our little flat (...)": See article (JT - 2006/7/30)

"Now I have gone back to resurvey the shotengai, to find out how a Tokyo neighborhood has changed over the course of a generation": See article (JT - 2006/8/06)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Japanese should worry about Yasukuni 'in defense of their own freedoms'

Foreign Minister Taro Aso proposed on Tuesday making the Yasukuni Shrine for Japanese war dead a secular, state-run memorial. This could clear the way to remove the 14 Class-A war criminals from the lists of those honored there.
(See: Japan’s Aso wants state to run Yasukuni war shrineReuters 2006/8/08).

In my humble opinion Aso’s proposal is totally useless. First of all, I’m not sure that a state-run Yasukuni state-run would be a good idea as it will remember some of the wartime policies when Yasukuni was used by the government as a political tool to indoctrinate the population.

But more importantly, even if the 14 Class-A war criminals are removed the controversy around Yasukuni will not end for reasons Ian Buruma explained very well in an opinion article several months ago:
"To focus only on the Class-A war criminals is to ignore the essence of the shrine. Koizumi's claim that Japan is now a peaceful nation with no military designs on its neighbors may be true, but it is beside the point. And he is either ignorant or dishonest when he claims that visiting the shrine is simply 'a matter of the heart.'

For Yasukuni Shrine is in fact a deeply political institution, established in 1869 to remember the men who died for the emperor. Japan did have an ideology that glorified militarism, racial superiority, and emperor worship. Going to war to bring Asia under the roof of the divine emperor was promoted as a sacred mission. Dying for the emperor was propagated as the highest virtue. That is why soldiers believed that they would meet after death at Yasukuni Shrine.

The glorification of militarism was not unusual at that time. Most European countries did the same, at least until the end of World War I. The association of monarchs with military glory was not unusual either. What made Japan unique was that this association became both a state religion and a political ideology, of which Yasukuni Shrine is the prime symbol.

The Japanese should care more about this, not because of Chinese or Korean protests, but because it did such harm to Japan itself.

For the blend of religion and ideology represented by State Shinto and emperor worship not only justified military aggression in Asia but also destroyed every attempt by the Japanese to establish a liberal democracy at home.

It deprived the Japanese population of the right to free speech. It demanded blind obedience of the Japanese armed forces to the emperor, and not to elected civilian governments. It led Japan into a brutal war, and it wrecked any chance for Japanese civilians to stop it.

Walking around Yasukuni Shrine today, you get the impression that none of this ever happened. Instead, a visitor to the museum is subjected to the same old excuses used by the military leaders of wartime Japan: Japan was forced into a war by foreign powers; Japanese soldiers fought bravely for freedom in Asia and peace in the world; their sacrifice should be a shining example to future generations, who owe their prosperity to these selfless martyrs of the imperial cause.

This is what makes the shrine such a disturbing place. Not the Class-A war criminals, but this destructive ideology, which has survived intact, despite war crime trials, democratic government, and more than half a century to analyze, debate, and reflect on the catastrophes of the past.

Japan is a free country, of course, and if people want to continue believing in emperor worship and wartime propaganda, they should be allowed to do so.

But if the prime minister himself insists on paying his respects at a place that represents these views, then it is not only other Asians that should worry about whether the Japanese have learned the lessons of the past. The Japanese should worry about it too, not to appease foreign critics, but in defense of their own freedoms."

Ian Buruma: The Yasukuni Problem (Kyodo News- 2006/1/30)
I think that the only solution will be to create of a new secular state war memorial totally separated form Yasukuni symbolism.