As a G-7 summit venue, Mie sucks, magazine says


Next week, Japan will host a two-day G-7 Summit at Ise-Shima in Mie Prefecture. While the mainstream press cheers and jeers from the sidelines, subculture monthly magazine Jitsuwa Bunka Taboo has decided to fling a few of its own brickbats.

Its first targets are the seven heads of state, which it introduces as "Aho Shuno" (fool leaders). It then ranks Shinzo Abe and his six peers in terms of world influence (Abe is rated 5th, after Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, David Cameron and Francois Hollande, but ahead of Canada's Justin Trudeau and Italy's Matteo Renzi); involvement in scandals (also 5th place, with Obama and Trudeau at the bottom); and education levels (as opposed to leaders who matriculated at Oxford, Columbia and Lepizig, Abe's degree from Seikei University puts him at rock bottom).

Having thus vented its spleen at leaders of the free world, the magazine then turns its target on the host's choice of venue. Mie Prefecture, it grumbles, is an "undeveloped country with zero appeal."

Out of numerous other candidates to host the meet -- including Sendai, Niigata, Hamamatsu, Nagoya, Kobe and Hiroshima -- why on earth, the magazine wants to know, did Abe pick Mie? The ostensible reason was "Its boasting the Ise Grand Shrine, Ise City and Ise-Shima will allow the world’s top leaders to have firsthand experience with Japan’s nature, core culture and traditions."

But the magazine believes that Abe clearly wanted to push Ise City and its Grand Shrine out of his own patriotic, rightist sentiments. Unfortunately, claims concerning the historical importance of the Ise Grand Shrine are spurious, the magazine alleges. So-called "Kokka Shinto" (State Shinto) was only first given legal status in the Meiji Constitution of 1889, and lasted just five and a half decades, until the end of the Pacific War. Once the Allied occupation ordered State Shinto dissolved (and obliged the emperor to deny his divinity), the shrine lost its influence as one of the key props supporting Japan's prewar imperialist nationalism.

So what, then, was Abe really thinking when coming up with the idea to escort world leaders there and magnanimously invite them to clap their hands in worship? Even if the simple or naïve regard the shrine as a "power spot," or a place that will provide visitors with psychological healing, it's ludicrous to think such a visit will have any impact on foreign movers and shakers. One might just as well escort them to a field of pretty flowers instead.

And as for industries that make Mie a major player in the world of trade and industry, well, there are some big, smokey chemical processing plants in Yokkachi -- which provide jobs (and asthma) for nearby residents -- and not much else. Sharp was enticed to build its Kameyama plant through Mie prefectural and Kameyama City government subsidies that came to 13.5 billion yen. These outlays brief promised prosperity, but soon afterward Sharp's fortunes plunged and the company now belongs to a Taiwanese.

In terms of agriculture, Mie used to be famous as the origin of succulent Matsuzaka beef, but after 2002, the steers were downgraded in quality and a cheap grade of cuts, designated C-1, makes up a vast majority of production.

Even retailing giant Aeon, Japan's biggest supermarket chain -- established in Yokkaichi with roots going back to 1758 -- long ago outgrew Mie and eventually moved its corporate headquarters to Chiba.

Mie is also home to the Suzuka racing circuit, but Formula 1 isn't as popular as it once was. The Kumano Kodo, the path used from ancient times by Buddhist pilgrims and part of an area registered as a World Heritage Site in 2004 is too remote to attract many visitors.

When it's all said and done, concludes Jitsuwa Bunka Taboo, among Japan's 47 prefectures, "Mie's got nothing worthy of praise, even if you're in the mood to dole it out." Leading it to wonder: Why is the summit being held there? We can't say, the magazine shrugs. But before something bad happens, maybe they ought to cancel it.

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So what, then, was Abe really thinking when coming up with the idea to escort world leaders there and magnanimously invite them to clap their hands in worship?

Well, his own rightist agenda to revive state shinto and have his agenda validated in the eyes of his home audience by foreign leaders. It is what motivates his very breath.

12 ( +16 / -4 )

I don't like how they knock Mie, which is a beautiful prefecture, just not a compact one due to its length. Isolating one city - Yokkaichi - for its pollution (a reputation which, although no longer true, it has had for over forty years and people just don't know how to let go) - out of so many lovely and vibrant ones - is typical of big city dwellers.

I do agree that the choice of Mie was fixed by the PM for reasons of his own. Still, sun, sea, sand and shellfish, what's not to like?

14 ( +15 / -2 )

Mie is a wonderful place to go hiking and other things.Beautiful coastline.I think the area where the summit is , is self contained hence making security easier.Thats all

8 ( +11 / -3 )

I agree with other posters - Mie is very nice. Very beautiful with a countryside feel. And while there may be cheaper cuts of Matsuzaka beef, it's not like they stopped producing the high-quality Matsuzaka beef - it can still be purchased if you are willing to pay the price (I am).

6 ( +9 / -3 )

There is always Watakano Island in Matoya Bay, just an hour or so away from Ise. A very scenic island, with a long history of entertaining foreign visitors and locals.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Mie is a beautiful prefecture once you get out of the cities. The greenery, rice fields, persimmons, plums, grape orchards, tea plantations, lakes, rivers take your breath away. The Miyagawa river is probably the cleanest river in Japan and Mie has a wonderful coast of Ise Shima. And while visiting Ise shi, remember to visit the town of Tamaki just outside Ise, a charming town with historical significance.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

There is always Watakano Island ... A very scenic island, with a long history of entertaining foreign visitors and locals.

Ha! I wonder if you would have got those "Good" votes if the people who's read your off-the-cuff comment had known that Watakano's traditional business is prostitution, and "entertaining" visitors -- mostly men from Osaka and Nagoya --- involved rolls in the hay?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@wordstar - who knows? - their original trade was entertaining sailors, and the US Secret Service are famous for supporting local businesses! There are still 6-8 'houses of assignation' on the island. When I tried to take the ferry a few years ago, the guys with missing fingers were checking people out.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Abe is into Shinto and heads the league of politicians friendly to Shinto (Shinto Seiji Renmei ). According to Shinto mythology Mie is home to the national symbol of Japan -- the Sun Goddess and her mirror -- which is ostensibly the holy of holies of the Shinto Parthenon. it represents the goddess herself (she tells her descendent, the first emperor to take it to Japan and worship it as if it were herself) and the heart of the Japanese, which likewise, in the mythology is described as a mirror, presumably the same mirror as that of the Goddess, since they imbibe her in the form of mirror-rice-cakes at the most important festival, at New Year, in her honour. So Ise Shrine houses the supreme god and the heart and soul of the Japanese people.

The notion that the Japanese have a mirror in or as their mind is not merely a religious belief, but was demonstrated experimentally by our paper ("Mirrors in the Head") which found that "Objective Self Awareness" effect of looking at oneself in a mirror (which makes people more moral, more "prosocial") is robust among Westerners but absent among the Japanese. We concluded that the Japanese are always in front of a mirror, because and hence, the title of the paper.

It is strange to me that in-spite of the fact that the Japanese appear to have the ability to see themselves by this means, and are found to enhance themselves visually in their purikura, selfies, fashion, architecture, wigs, surgery, car after parts and extra long girls-love-tall-men shoes, Abe still insists that the Japanese have a low self-esteem since they don't brag like Westerners. Abe professes to love Shinto, but at the same time distance himself from it. I really hope Abe can see himself.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Typical city view of the countryside. Didn't they have one of the summits in the middle of nowhere in Hokkaido? What is the difference?

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Mie (Tsu and a couple of other places) have a bus service to international airports around Nagoya (though I don't suppose that any G-' leader will go to Mie by Limosine Bus, limosine maybe though).

Kochi has nothing of the sort.

Maybe it could be better than Mie, but it also could be worse.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Mie is by far my favorite prefecture in the country. The scenery is breathtaking and the people- my god- the lovliest by far in Japan.

Anyway, what do you expect from a magazine so stupid it ranks Shinzo Abe in terms of world influence as 5th??

1 ( +4 / -4 )

It's always been one of those places where I've only driven through. Just a case of foot down, get out of there to somewhere better. Might have to give it a go though, sounds like it might be worth seeing.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

What is the difference?

It is even more photogenic.

The big difference is that it is home to the 2000 year old sacred national symbol of Japan. Looking back at list the last time a summit was held at such a place was perhaps the 8th G7 summit in 1982 at the Palace of Versailles. Ise is a bit like the Japanese Palace of Versailles, Eiffel Tower, or Statue of Liberty, except like Tōyako in Hokkaido, Iseshima in Mie is in a very remote location.

Hundreds of thousands of Japanese, or about 5% of the population, would visit Ise each year in the Edo Period and in this century 14 million visited Ise shrine in 2013 the last year it was last rebuilt. That is not quite half as many as Tokyo Disney Land but more than Universal Studio's Japan, ordinarily the second most popular tourist attraction.

The other place that vies for being the most iconic built structure in Japan are Miyajima shrine gate and genbaku dome in Hiroshima, which is the other place the world leaders will be visiting.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Mie was chosen because largely due to security fears -- the place has a well-established, by Japanese standards, system in place for when the Emperor or other dignitaries meet, and so it is not hard for them to set up and put into play. That's the main reason. Secondary reasons include right-wing sentiments related to Ise, but I don't think those trump the primary reason.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

To balance Ise in the east, remember Izumo in the west, Japan's oldest Shinto shrine.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@ timtak

the holy of holies of the Shinto Parthenon...

Unless the ancient Greeks were secretly into Shinto, I suspect you meant Shinto pantheon


6 ( +6 / -0 )

I like the sites and the people of Mie esp the old folks. Never been to Ise shrine but I want to see the place one of these days. Not too rural nor urbane. good choice, I think.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

True, Mie is a beautiful prefecture and the location was chosen for security reasons; but the Japanese are famous to leave 'contents' aside and want to show off their history and culture. Media will report a lot on "Obama eating Matsuzaka beef," "Angela was presented with a pearl brooch," "President so and so clapped his hands at Ise." Abe and gang will be more than happy to dig into coffers again to show G7 countries how advanced and cultured they are. As an added bonus Obama will visit Hiroshima; but watch out, Mr. Abe, did you get an invitation to attend the 75h anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Ha, I heard about the red light part is Use. Long ago and today still. With permission of course. Wonder if international media will shine a red light on this sidebar of herstory?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My in-laws are from Tsu, Mie and I always love visiting. It is a great place for hiking and cycling. It also has some .Ninja sightseeing spots. I think everyone should visit Ise -Shrine once, but best to avoid the tourist trap street that is next to it. Behind Ise-Shrine there are some beautiful roads for cycling.

The comment about Yokkaichi is stupid. Yokkaichi's factories cleaned up many years ago and it is an hours drive from Ise. Can you name a big city that doesn't have an industrial zone an hours drive away?

Abe probably choose Ise because it is easier and cheaper to secure than any other place in Japan. It would cost a lot of money and many people would be an inconvenience to many if the summit was in a big city

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The day after this is finished, most will have already forgotten where it took place. Without looking it up, can most or many (any?) people name the venue for the last G-7 summit? How about the one before it? Sadly, the local people will be sold a bill of goods that their area will suddenly become an internation mecca because of this event.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Mie is a nice prefecture in terms of nature, but that is the sort of thing you can really only enjoy on a relaxing, slow moving holiday, which is not what the G7 leaders are on.

I think the article is generally right, but for a slightly different reason. This strikes me as one of those cases where a Japanese host (Abe) has decided on the location of his guest`s visit based solely on what he is interested in showing them rather than on what they would be most interested in seeing.

Ive been to Ise shrine and while its reasonably nice, from the perspective of a foreign visitor it is way less interesting than what Kyoto or Nara have to offer. The buildings are reconstructed every 20 years (and were just rebuilt a couple years ago) so its all brand new. While its cool that they keep alive the traditional building skills, this isnt something a casual visitor from overseas is going to be too impressed by (and none of the actual buildings are themselves much to look at).

This is the G7 summit equilvalent of those elderly volunteer guides who want to show foreigners around famous areas based exclusively on what the elderly guide thinks the foreigner should see rather than on what the foreigner actually wants to see or do.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Mie is a nice prefecture in terms of nature, but that is the sort of thing you can really only enjoy on a relaxing, slow moving holiday, which is not what the G7 leaders are on.

rainyday, what do you want the G7 word leaders do? Sit down and talk about the problems of the world or ride a roller coaster at Disneyland or go hiking in the woods?? The site doesn't matter too much as long as it is secured and doesn't cause too much of a hassle for the locals in the host country. Ise resorts being tucked on an island in the corner of Mie is a perfect place.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The site doesn't matter too much as long as it is secured and doesn't cause too much of a hassle for the locals in the host country. Ise resorts being tucked on an island in the corner of Mie is a perfect place.

Well if the only criteria is that the site be secure and doesn`t cause hassle to the locals, they might as well have had it in some abandoned industrial site in the suburbs of Kitakyushu or Kawasaki.

I was just addressing it in terms that the article itself describes. My mistake.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It may be a beautiful place to go and have a conference in, but avoid at New Year unless you enjoy the crowds.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Mie is beautiful - No Doubt about that, but they could've simply had the G-7 in Roppongi.

After all they are Foreigners right?

The Hard Rock Cafe is a delightful establishment.

Menu would've been easy too: Chicken Wings and a Pitcher of Bud..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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