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.© Japan Today