Rekishika comments

Posted in: What is the best way to settle the Yasukuni Shrine issue? See in context

After digging up some background information, I would like to post the raw data and my conclusions from it here for others to argue about: 1) The Yasukuni shrine is dedicated to those "who died fighting on behalf of the Emperor of Japan." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yasukuni_Shrine). 2) The people who earned their place in the shrine as a result of a conviction in one of the tribunals died as a direct result or during the time served because they were found guilty of any of the charges. 3) People who survived the war and died from other causes as free persons, the 1 in 5 who were found not guilty, even those convicted but released and died later, are not eligible for being added to the list. Therefore it is clear that those added to the list under 2. are not on the list for actions unrelated to what they were charged for. 4) The charges mentioned are well described by the indictment of the tribunal of Tokyo: "contemplated and carried out ... murdering, maiming and ill-treating prisoners of war (and) civilian internees ... forcing them to labor under inhumane conditions ... plundering public and private property, wantonly destroying cities, towns and villages beyond any justification of military necessity; (perpetrating) mass murder, rape, pillage, brigandage, torture and other barbaric cruelties upon the helpless civilian population of the over-run countries." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_Trials). Note that these all deal with what happened in occupied territories and with people who had the misfortune of falling into the hands of the military or government. Therefore the inevitable conclusion from the presence of these people on that list has to be that to those that support the names being on the list, Japanese or otherwise, and who are aware of the above, "fighting for the Emperor" includes "murdering, maiming and ill-treating prisoners of war (and) civilian internees ... forcing them to labor under inhumane conditions ... plundering public and private property, wantonly destroying cities, towns and villages beyond any justification of military necessity; (perpetrating) mass murder, rape, pillage, brigandage, torture and other barbaric cruelties upon the helpless civilian population of the over-run countries."

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Posted in: The United States had been a failure on the immigration front. See in context

To be fair, many of the current policies on foreigners look rather familiar. It has been accepted practice all over the world, from one period to another, to take it out on the outsider, exploiting them as cheap labor when needed and then discarding them as trash if you no longer have need of them, or restricting their movements, or blaming them for everything that´s wrong, and so on and so forth and such like. Equally true this has been just plain wrong everywhere, and fortunately there are some places in the world where at least a little restraint is shown at the moment. But, far from Japan being uniquely bad in this, I´d say that the current turn tears a hole in the Nihonjinron theory of Japanese uniqueness. Perhaps Japanese are all too human, with the same capacity for human virtues, and vices, as everyone else... From what I see, exposure to other ideas would be a good thing to the ordinary Japanese, but - in the short term - not necessarily to the government and bureaucracy (not particularly bad either, but it would likely shift some of their powers around and away). I suppose we could lament this or take it out on the many ordinary Japanese who sigh "shikataganai". Somehow either answer doesn´t satisfy me. From what I observe, part of the answer appears to be in convincing our own governments to change policy on Japan. The western (especially European) mechanisms that are designed to be able to ´agree to disagree´, compromise and otherwise resolve conflicts or prevent them from escalating are well-intended, especially there where power is deliberately limited by law, right, responsibility and so on. In this case it does not work. The Japanese government apparently needs it that other governments vigorously defend the interest of their own people against the government of Japan, and in general apply a fair, but firm and strict hand in their mutual relations. Also, we may have to take action, where this can legally and ethically be done, ourselves. Fingerprinting has been mentioned, it is an example where I have an interest of my own, so I will use this. It´s a very bad move, not so much because of humiliation, but because from what I see the risks of misidentification (false alarms) and identity theft are overlooked. There is circumstantial evidence (based on statistical numbers) that a large percentage of the people refused access have been the victims of misidentification. There is proof that the criminal underworld has already found the economic possibilities that identity theft offers them, at the expense of innocent travellers. On top of this, if you closely examine the Japanese attitude to people trying to protect their interests, you will find quality issues, a lack of openness, transparency, and in general lack of the will to communicate on an equal footing. However, we do not have to say ´shikataganai´. If we are resourceful and willing to invest some time in helping each other, we can find ways to defend our interests and enforce improvements. The FAQ of the immigration department mentions a data protection law, the Act for the Protection of Personal Information retained by administrative institutions. In other sites, I have found reference to the same law, where it is called the Act on the Protection of Personal Information held by Independent Administrative Institutions, probably a translation issue. They do not post a link, but why not work together to retrieve and read it? if someone were to post it in the Community in Japan newsgroup, that would most definitely help me. The law may provide possibilities to give better control over personal information, with the possibility of lawsuits as a backup. If there are people who are suffering as a result of bad policy, let them come forward and tell their story. Resourceful action instead of resorting to violence could net respect and some very bad publicity. For instance, if someone who has been refused access based on misidentification were to cross the Tsushima straits in a rowing boat in protest, that would almost certainly hit the headlines. One person may have access to major European Privacy groups, with direct access to the European parliament. Another may be able to put things on the agenda of the US-based groups. A third may be able to teach how to make duplicate fingerprints for less than 2000 Yen in material and the use of a laserprinter. And so on. This is just an example, but the same holds true for ´sending them home´, ´wearing identity cards´, ´barring from the fish market´, harrassing or anything else. There´s no need for powerless anger and frustration. We can do something about it, but only if we work together. And if there is one thing the Japanese government respects, it is the power to stand up to them. And finally, I´m convinced that in the long run, this helps Japan and the Japanese people too. The EU is one of the few examples where you can see what happens if human beings try to work together instead of fighting each other. There´s a long way to go, but already signs of what good things it can do are visible.

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Posted in: What is the best way to settle the Yasukuni Shrine issue? See in context

An interesting issue, which as usual sparks heated debate. It appears that some points are overlooked. First of all, yes, other countries have memorials for people who did some nasty things too. However, one can wonder if two wrongs make a right? Something that is often overlooked too is the sheer amount of losses. Let us just compare the Chines and Japanese losses (civilians only, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties#Casualties_by_country). Japanese civilian losses are around half a million, of whom 393,367 due to bombing. Chinese civilian losses due to combat of all sorts (I take it including bombing) amount to some 3,808,000, with about an additional 3,549,000 dead from war crimes (otherwise said, dead while not fighting, but in the care of the Japanese government). While I tend to agree that China is using this situation for their own political gain (a tendency that seems common in the region), perhaps the simple fact that almost 19 Chinese civilians died for every Japanese has earned them some right of speaking... Perhaps the number of Chinese civilians who died from maltreatment while under Japanese rule shows what the important point is. In my view, human life and the ability to live it and be happy as human beings should be the one thing that has priority over culture, any culture, western, muslim, hindu, Chinese, Japanese, whatever. If culture, or ...-bashing is the defense of a course of action that stands in the way of life and the most fundamental forms of happiness (like friendship, love, freedom of movement and so on), something is wrong. I feel all countries still have much to learn in that respect. Japan is no exception from what I see. Let´s try to help each other as much as possible in that way, and listen to each others´ criticisms with an honest desire to improve ourselves. The Japanese government as much as any other.

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Posted in: Instead of being apologetic, Japan is becoming more and more brazen. This worries me. It has to stop. See in context

Well, international border disputes happen all the time and everywhere, and most of the time each side drags in feuds from the past as political expedients.

There appears to be no point in letting this escalate. Is there any value except prestige or losing face in these islands?

In the meantime, there is a good reason to be critical of Japans dealings with the past. Japans main partner in the war, Germany, caused even more misery and consequently was treated even harsher, and for decades too had to face mistrust. Both countries decided to do better, to put more attention to abstracts like human rights, international responsibility, democracy and so on.

The difference appears to be that in Germany this has taken root in everyday life. The abstracts have grown a soul and a heart. Enough people believe with all their heart in their own freedom, in that they should be treated in a certain way and should treat others the same way they want to be treated themselves. Wether from their own government or anyone else, those who hurt other people will find stubborn opposition in Germany.

And that works. When there is a true heart and soul of living and letting people live, the people recognise that. Germany has earned her place among the most respected bastions of freedom today, not by making endless apologies or groveling or by some institutions or by rigidly being against something, but by asking themselves constantly the question if they are doing the right thing now. And sometimes that meant letting bygones be bygones and letting the matter of territories which are infinitely more valuable than these areas and where 2 million Germans lived happily before the war rest, because making a fuss of it now was incompatible with the desire to be friends with their neighbours.

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Posted in: Countdown to the collapse of the LDP See in context

What started out as a discussion on the near-future fate of the LDP has understandably turned into a far more interesting discussion on the possibility of more democracy in Japan. What is democracy in the first place? Some think of free elections, parliaments and institutions like that. Other think it's pro-US or capitalism. Basically it's not so much those things, the first is the outward looks, the second is propaganda in one way or another). Basically democracy is a society where the people themselves take charge of how things are run, and also teach themselves and each other to be good rulers. It doesn't really matter in which way they do so precisely. Is that possible in Japan? I like to believe it is. It sometimes takes a lot of searching, but some groups can be found who do openly discuss or protest for what they believe is right (which is one step). And on a whole, it's important to realise that this road is a difficult one (the really good things don't come easy). It took many European countries between two and six centuries to get anywhere near to a form of democracy, and still there are some lessons that have to be learned again, and setbacks (the US was mentioned a few times as a setback IIRC). At the most, one can say that Japan started out perhaps about 6 decades ago. Perhaps the best thing that may help a little from the outside is to learn ourselves what freedom is truly about, and to talk with those people who are interested in talking.

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Posted in: How effective do you think the lay jury system will be when it starts in Japan next year? See in context

Lay jury systems have a history of causing injustice. The reason is to let untrained people decide the often complex cases of guilt or innocence. If there is a problem with prejudice of any kind in any society, a lay jury will bring it to light. That being said, I agree it can only work where there is outspoken disagreement, and where people feel free to disagree. Has this condition been met...?

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Posted in: S Korea reportedly plans to build hotel on disputed islets See in context

A difficult one. There are always some unclarities over borders and territory. Where there's also bitterness over the mutual past, these can quickly erupt into bitter disputes. In this case, one government is in denial over the past and goes to great lengths trying to teach it's people to be in denial too (in many ways less than successful though). The other people find it difficult to forgive. Both tendencies constantly add fuel to the fire on both sides. But from the outside, the sad feeling is that both sides are wrong and no one is right. These kinds of conflict are pointless. Perhaps there is some value to the islands. But there is more value for both sides in harmony, harmony being something different than 'friendship on our/their terms'. I hope both sides find a way out of this. There won't be war over this, but it's not even worth sacrificing what hope of friendship there may be...

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Posted in: Japan ranked 5th most peaceful country in world See in context

Ranking 5th in this list, with only having to look up to countries with a long-standing peaceful tradition like Iceland and Norway, is certainly a very good achievement. It is difficult to say if Japan can work it's way up still further, the conditions are less in favour than with the comptitors on top of the list, and they truly are formidable competitors, countries like Iceland traditionally scoring high across the board in peace, human rights, social policies and more pleasant things. Still, the challenge is there, and worthy of trying.

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Posted in: US official urges Japan to boost defense spending to keep forces on ready status See in context

Isn't this the third time in about four weeks? Regardless of any opinion on Japanese defense spending, for which there are many good ways as long as they fit in with what you want to achieve, this must be becoming a bit tedious. Someone in the Pentagon seems to think you have a hearing problem. Perhaps there is a good diplomatic phrase for explaining that you don't have?

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Posted in: From war to peace - Japanese style See in context

It seems like a strong debate has flared up about the defense policy in Japan this week. Let's say it first that the choice how to deal with that is the Japanese choice to make, for better or worse. It may help though to have an outside view of the circumstances that interact with this decision. As far as I can tell, there are three circumstances that are just there. 1) North Korea. We are talking about a very oppressive regime that lets it's own people starve and is likely to be capable of doing anything to stay in power, without so much as a second thought for their own people. With a military budget of only $6 billion in 2004 (http://borgenproject.org/Defense_Spending.html), and probably about the same in the following years, their ground and naval forces shouldn't be too much of a threat, even small countries like The Netherlands ($10 billion) shouldn't have too much trouble fending off a land or naval attack. But that regime does have ballistic missiles and a nuclear capability, perhaps not the most comforting sight to have next door. 2) Taiwan. The problem here is that China claims this country as a province. Should they act out on that, then for better or worse, Japan is the closest country remotely capable of doing anything about it, at the very least buy some time for other friends of Taiwan to arrive on the scene. People will generally look to what Japan is doing in such an eventuality, and governments will look in that way even before that happens. To a certain extent, Taiwan is under the massive military umbrella ($522 billion in 2004, or almost half the spending of the world), but what when their economy finally collapses under their enormous military burden (something economists are expecting to happen sooner or later)? 3) UN missions. UN missions allow for chances and risks alike. It has everything to do with helping other people and public relations. If one country helps other people, and they generally do it right (you know the story, fighting the bad guys, protecting the innocent, spreading justice, showing respect to other cultures, and so on and so forth and such like), that creates goodwill, people generally will tend to want to be your friends. How important goodwill can be is shown by Britain, where a very big part of their position in the world is caused directly by their large network of friends around the world. Goodwill, for Japan, is a scarce thing. Alright, in the western countries, people on average 'kinda' think that Japan is OK, but they're not entirely convinced. In the Asia-Pacific region, most people on average think Japan sucks (just ask the Chinese, the Koreans, the Thai, the Burmese, the Indonesians and so on). And what reasons should they have to think differently anyway, at least for now? In the rest of the world, it's more like: Japan who? We know of a country with that name, but we don't really see them. These are averages of course, people wildly enthousiastic about Japan in APAC or hating Japan in the west don't have to feel left out. These are the main factors you have to deal with. Any decision will affect all three of them one way or the other. There's no absolutely right way, there's no completely stupid way. But I would like to give one more thought into consideration. There's a lot of focus on the weapons as the cause of all the things that went wrong in WWII. But it sometimes looks like other factors, that are in many ways more important, are a bit overlooked. And I think it's important to especially look to fear or hate of other people, and also to unequal treatment (treating other people in ways that you would simply hate to happen to yourself, or finding it OK to do so). If you want to see those at work today, look to the United States, and you'll find more than enough examples. Half the world's defense money, anyone? Ever went into the country? Two fingerprints? Why not ten? There goes your $500 laptop, when do you get it back? Don't ask difficult questions or you'll end up in Guantanamo bay! Anyone a little coloured doing something unexpected? Send a small army to round him up (Bruce Schneier collects these examples on his blog, his collection of "the war on the unexpected" is great reading). Arabic sounding names? No way they're going to fly! There's someone with a gun, throw a bomb at him. O dear, it was a kid with a toy gun... See here what fear for anything different does... I think any way is a good way, as long as it's based on what I see here in this forum, that other people are your friends until (person by person) they prove otherwise.

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Posted in: Gov't looks to immigrants as population shrinks See in context

The LDP's idea is understandable, but like it's being said, it has been tried before. The results have not alway been stellar. It is one thing to provide human beings equal protection and equal opportunities. That balancing such a policy out without falling for the trap of the euphemistically called 'positive discrimination' is more difficult than it sounds has been shown enough by several people reacting to this topic already. At best, it's an 'advanced level' balancing act. However, I get the impression that the LDP seeks a solution to an economic problem that other countries have faced before, that because of labor shortage some work isn't done. Mostly, this is the work that is less than appealing, and where labor exploitation is normally at it's highest. As enough people have said here, the experiences of other countries with bringing in people instead of doing their own dirty work have been less than happy. In too many cases, such a policy has created lasting problems. This is intended as just a little background which may come in handy.

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Posted in: Japan in need of moral education See in context

The discussion about moral decline is something of all places and all times. Interestingly enough, the same two arguments always rise to the surface about the source, that is comes from the modern age and that it comes from other cultures. These things are not exactly the same thing. Every time and every culture has it´s problems. And it´s certainly a good idea not to adopt the bad things about a certain culture. But too often the arguments tend to turn in such a way that it keeps people from investigating and adopting the good things in another culture. Just as an example, it is western traditions that bring about such things as freedom of expression, freedom to critisise the government when needed, freedom, within limits, to fight unjust laws. To be sure, this brings a lot of responsibility. In many cases there is no one telling what to do, you have to learn that yourselves and teach that to your children. That´s part of the work. And to be sure, just copying things like that is not very likely to work. It only works if each people takes out the essence of what they like, and adapt it so that it works for them. That being said, education and informing people from a young age about what is right and what not, again and again, with great patience, is always a very good idea. Learning people to think for themselves, to understand difficult questions, to be critical, to ask questions (especially the ´why´ question), is also always a good idea. I think we, around the world, don´t always enough, especially the part on thinking and finding the right answers for oneself.

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Posted in: Back in the 1940s, every newspaper, every magazine, the movies, the radio, everything was geared that the Japanese were short, myopic, everyone wore glasses, they all had buck teeth, they were all int See in context

It´s interesting that Japan Today chooses this particular comment. Looking up the article´s introduction (http://www.palmbeachdailynews.com/news/content/news/MONdonaldmates0407.html), it turns out that this Donald Mates will take part in a Japanese documentary on Iwo Jima, the battlegrounds where he met them so long ago under such different circumstances. Regarding the motives, there´s more than a hint that he might have been crippled in that battle ("his thighs were decimated"). I would also like to refer to the comment made by Midori Yanagihara, the reporter making the documentary, on his motives for making it. As he says it: "We want to state that war is bad on both sides," she said. "War is ugly." I think that is the lesson in this comment. If either side, or both, sticks to the "they were the bad guys and we were the victims" attitude, that causes a problem. Also, as Mates and Yanagihara seem to agree, more important than laying blame is to talk about things in friendship and learn about the mistakes (like for instance the propaganda on both sides that the other people were somehow sub-human), so that we can avoid the same mistakes happening all over again.

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