Foot-in-mouth disease strikes Toru Hashimoto again.
On Monday the brash right-wing politician shocked reporters in Osaka when he said that the so-called “comfort women” (local women forced into prostitution by colonizing Japanese military during the war in Asia) were “necessary” (hitsuyo) for the army’s discipline.
The Osaka mayor then told a story that he had advised a leading American military staffer in Okinawa recently to make use of prostitutes to prevent rapes and sexual assaults between US military personnel and Okinawans. (US military are banned from visiting brothels, and there have been perennial and notorious incidents of rape by soldiers on local women, especially in Okinawa.)
Some 200,000 women are thought to have been forced into prostitution during the war. They were mainly from China and South Korea, but also from the Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan.
China has since responded, “We are shocked and indignant at the Japanese politician’s remarks, as they flagrantly challenge historical justice and the conscience of mankind”
A Korean government spokesperson said, “The wartime violations of women is a grave violation of human rights that is widely shared by the international community. The remarks by Hashimoto reveal a serious lack of perception for women’s human rights.”
Meanwhile, Washington merely said that Hashimoto’s comments were ridiculous.
The founder of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) was formerly a TV celebrity lawyer, before turning governor of Osaka prefecture and then switching to Osaka mayor. During his regime he made his reputation for a blitzkrieg approach to streamlining the public purse, trying to reduce the size of the bankrupt city’s debts. Along the way he has made many enemies, not least the people whose budgets he dramatically cut.
He is also known for his outspoken and frequently provocative comments. In the past he has offended the teacher’s union and more recently declared war on the venerable traditional performing arts of Bunraku, one of Osaka’s few claims to high culture but which is run by a closed, heavily subsidised foundation.
He also was revealed to have had an affair with a hostess last year. He has since staked his claim on the state government by forming a national party, which quickly rose to be Japan’s third largest in the Diet after last year’s election. (For a good take on Hashimoto’s background, starting with his nomenclature, we direct readers to the superb Spike Japan post from 2012.)
Hashimoto is also no stranger to ruthless pragmatism when it comes to money, having declared interest in turning Osaka into a haven for casinos (currently not permitted under Japanese law) and reviving the old style of red light districts (officially prostitution is banned in Japan, though it is still rampant and often not even disguised).
Osaka is home to Japan’s largest community of ethnic Korean Japanese, the so-called Zainichi Kankokujin, which you would imagine should have made Hashimoto more sensitive to the topic of Japan’s imperial adventures in Asia last century. He is also a minority himself — he comes partly from the Burakumin caste, the social strata that historically were forced to live only in particular areas and do certain “undesirable” jobs. (The idiosyncrasies of the Japanese family register system recording family addresses is thus how the caste can still be traced today, despite it not ostensibly being an ethnic division.) The Burakumin may sometimes face discrimination even today, and until recently had a lot of trouble finding marriage partners outside their caste or employment in large corporations. (There is also the infamous Sayama Incident in 1963 case, where the police pinned a murder on a Bunraku caste man to cover up their own incompetence.)
Logically speaking, Hashimoto isn’t wrong. Sex, it has to be said, IS one of the best ways to maintain troop discipline far from home. People have always known this. GHQ and the Japanese government very quickly organized a local version of comfort women to keep the newly arrived American forces from raping “ordinary” women in the first few weeks of the occupation. Needless to say, the women were recruited typically from poorer backgrounds.
Saying that the comfort women were an inevitable and tragic consequence of war is not inaccurate. By a strict definition of Hashimoto’s words, they were thus “necessary” (hitsuyo) — though it is a grossly insensitive phrase.
War always brings death and abuse; no side is ever free of crime, as we are seeing today in Syria. What makes the comfort women issue different is that Japan, though having apologised for the war itself, has never paid compensation to the women that were forced into prostitution. The victims continue to campaign for recognition. The first Abe government in 2007 even went so far as to deny that there is evidence for forced prostitution having existed, which is the equivalent of Holocaust revisionism in the eyes of the Chinese et al. (And this is before we even touch on the even thornier subject of the massacre of Nanking.)
Calling the comfort women “necessary” sounds like he was condoning the practice, but I suspect Hashimoto is not as insensitive as that. He was merely speaking of grim realities — not advocating or justifying what happening. “If proof does appear, we have to apologize. At the moment, it is the opinion of the government that there is none. However, a recent Cabinet decision seemed to indicate new proof would soon appear and I think it’s good that related organizations are making efforts to gather it,” he said.
The co-leader of Hashimoto’s party, the equally provocative and strident Shintaro Ishihara (pictured below, with Hashimoto), backed up his younger peer and stated that what he had said was essentially correct.
It’s not been a good time for Japanese politicians and their propensity for gaffes. Ishihara’s successor to the governorship of Tokyo, Naoki Inose, broke Olympic rules by criticizing Tokyo’s rivals for the 2020 Games, Madrid and Istanbul, suggesting in a now infamous New York Times interview that their facilities were not up to scratch, and that in particular Islamic countries tend to fight each other. “So, from time to time, like Brazil, I think it’s good to have a venue for the first time. But Islamic countries, the only thing they share in common is Allah and they are fighting with each other, and they have classes,” he was quoted as saying.
Former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is perhaps best remembered for making outlandish eco claims to the UN, being the first DPJ premier, and suffering the infamy of being labelled as “loopy” by the Washington Post while in office.
Hatoyama famous rode the wave of enthusiasm that ushered the DPJ into power in 2009, and then promptly screwed everything up. It soon became apparent that the new government had no concrete plans or means to implement most of its promises, perhaps most notoriously his vow to deal with a much-hated U.S. base in Okinawa.
He left office after a year and recently sided with his mentor Ichiro Ozawa over the dispute over whether to raise sales tax. He retired from politics at the end of last year.
Already oft mocked for his wealthy upbringing (he also comes from a political dynasty; his brother is a politician in the rival LDP and his grandfather was PM in the Fifties) and avian appearance, Hatoyama has now taken the brave and possibly salutary decision to visit the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall.
The museum commemorates the Nanking Massacre (or “Nanjing Massacre”) in December 1937, much disputed by both scholars and ultra-nationalists in Japan. It is a fact that thousands died — likely hundreds of thousands — and the Japanese government has admitted as such, but the exact numbers are a matter of debate and the whole incident is a symbol frequently cited by Chinese nationalists when they want to attack Japan.
Hatoyama’s wife, a former Takarazuka actress who took charge of her husband’s awful wardrobe during his time in power, accompanied the ex-leader on his trip, in which he wrote characters on a banner saying “fraternal peace” (yuwa aihei).
China, of course, is the original source of Japanese ideographs and it is a nice touch to the spirit of the message that is can also be universally appreciated in the so-called Kanji-ken Sinophere nations (Taiwan, Korea, Japan, China).
With border disputes dominating so much of the headlines in 2012, perhaps this is a nice gesture to start the new year?
Well, it isn’t quite clear why Hatoyama was even there (he’s not a lawmaker now so he can’t really represent Japan) and he will certainly earn only the ire of the extreme rightist groups. He has already acquired new enemies online amongst Japan’s right-leaning netizens.
Don’t come back!
This makes me angry.
This one becoming a politician was the biggest of failures.
It’s amazing that in Japan this kind of trash isn’t killed.
Just a regular guy doing calligraphy in China.
I want to wait for him at Narita and throw rotten eggs.
Hatoyama is the third former PM to visit the hall in the eastern Chinese city.
Musician and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto (The Last Emperor, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence), perhaps the most respected person in the Japanese modern classical music world (or for that matter, in the entire Japanese music world), has been dedicating himself to politics of late.
Whether it’s the polemic of the environment — promoting reduced carbon emissions and green thinking — or the fundamental question of the day, nuclear power, he is much more interested in using his stature to promote public reactions to issues — rather than, say, plug CDs like AKB48 and all their cohorts.
He was one of the people behind a massive anti-nuclear power protest concert in the summer and in general has become a prominent post-3.11 dissenting voice. However, in his usual sophisticated way, rather than just being belligerant or dissenting, his appeals have always been creative and thoughtful.
The No Nukes 2012 concerts was one example and now here’s another. SKMT Social is his typically meditative and non-aggressive Tumblr blog, featuring the messages of like-minded artists, writers, actors, designers, activists, photographers… it’s an endless as the Tumblr scroll seems to be.
“From Ryuichi Sakamoto to the politicians” is how the top banner begins.
“Please do not forget Fukushima. Please make a Japan without nuclear power plants. Policitians who aspire to get rid of nuclear power plants, please co-operate. Please protect the children of Japan’s future.”
Cynics could argue that Sakamoto, who lives safely esconced away in New York and will not feel the effects of any Fukushima radiation, is in no position to make such bold statements — and every time he flies over for his events, arguably his own carbon foot print is counter-productive to any green publicity he raises — but no, let’s leave the cavils to the captious.
He has unquestionably rallied a very ecclectic and compelling selection of people for this project, including famous model Ai Tominaga and Jakucho Setouchi, probably the best known Buddhist monk in Japan.
With the recent election landslide returning the LDP to power, I think it’s safe to say that nuclear power — and for that matter, all interests of big business — are going to be protected for some time to come. This is why the voices of Sakamoto et al are so vital for providing some necessary dynamic protest.
It’s also fascinating how Tumblr, Twitter and social media are playing such an important role in the anti-nuclear power movement. In the same way, communication media was essential during the last movements major periods of civilian dissent in Japan, such as the Beheiren anti-Vietnam War movement and the campus protests of the Sixties, in both of which television and leaflets (bira) assumed prominent roles.
Former Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara launched his new political party yesterday, The Taiyo no To (The Sunrise Party), ahead of the Lower House elections anticipated to be held soon.
The name and the logo are clearly milking the nostalgia that has kept Ishihara popular with Baby Boomers and still in office after all these controversial years.
Ishihara wrote a (very bad) novella in the Fifties called Taiyo no kisetsu (Season of the Sun) about young rich brats fooling around on Shonan beaches, boxing, drinking and chasing skirt.
It made its author a star, as well as his brother, who starred in the movie version. Together they became icons of the so-called Taiyo-zoku “Sun Tribe”: happy-go-lucky dandies laughing in the face of post-war austerity.
The same generation who lapped up the “rebellious” frolics of Season of the Sun then enjoyed the fruits of Japan’s economic and cultural recovery, seemingly crowned and symbolized most neatly first by the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics and then by the World Expo in 1970, held in Suita, north Osaka.
The visionary event, until recently the most attended and successful World Expo ever (over 60 million visitors!), was overseen by such people as artist Taro Okamoto (a political opposite of Ishihara) and architect Kenzo Tange.
Still standing in the Osaka park today is the Tower of the Sun (pictured above, left), Okamoto’s incredible ethnographical and quasi-primitive toten pole, and one of the most famous of the expo’s many structures and exhibitions.
Ishihara’s party’s logo seems to be a rather faux copy of Okamoto’s design and has already come in for particular criticism from Japan’s netizens, with many seeing the obvious similarities with the Tower of the Sun, not to mention Kojima, a discount electronics store, and even a packaging for a Morinaga yoghurt.
I guessed it just shows that whatever is happening politically or socially, some things are constant. Namely, carnal needs.
Amidst all the riots, marine clashes and statesmen-spouted hot air in the Japan-Taiwan-China three-way Senkaku Island diplomatic crisis, Japanese corporations have been experiencing trade problems, tourism has suffered and cultural events been cancelled (and we know who is to blame for igniting all this mess).
And yet, what has still to be affected? Porn.
Leading adult movie star Sora Aoi (28) is extremely popular in China, greeted by screaming mobs of (male) fans wherever she makes public appearances (see image below). Her Chinese Weibo account (a version of Twitter) has some 13 million followers.
Now rumored to be retiring from porn to become a mainstream actress, Sora (or Sola) Aoi has so far managed to avoid being caught up in the dispute. A slogan spread among Chinese men earlier this year: “The Senkaku Islands belong to us; Sora Aoi belongs to the world!”
However, a newbie threatens to overshadow Sora. Rola Takizawa (20), a half-Russian, half-Japanese adult movie actress, made her debut in July and then immediately “retired” — but not before igniting the passion of hundreds of thousands of men on the Asian continent.
Rumors that she is now working as a prostitute for the princely sum of 120,000 yen ($1,500) for 90 minutes have fueled feverish excitement on Chinese web forums. “I’m going to Tokyo!” said one user. “I’m going to kidnap her and take her back to China,” was apparently another slightly sinister response.
This is being reported on Japanese tabloid websites so we should take things with a pinch of salt, though it is rather nice to think that in spite of all the nationalistic ire, men will always be united when it comes to a certain something.
Earlier this year, another adult movie star, Hotaru Akane, who is also popular in China, decided to weigh in on the side of her main market. She tweeted in Chinese that the Senkaku Islands historically belong to China and that tax money should not be spent on purchasing them.
The media is reporting that notorious Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara is resigning from his role as head honcho of the capital city in order to form a new party and try to become prime minister.
Remember, this is the guy who almost singlehandedly started the current Japan-China diplomatic relations crisis by absurdly declaring his intentions to buy the disputed Senkaku Islands first with city cash, and then later with donated funds.
This is also a guy who is eighty years old, an age when he should be sitting quietly at home with his family, not running an economy the size of many other nations and stirring up trouble with Japan’s neighbors.
Ishihara has designated his successor as incumbent Vice Governor Naoki Inose, a writer who has recently moved into politics but with a more leftist and reformist approach than his bullish boss, who comes from a wealthy background.
Ishihara became famous for writing a novella called Season of the Sun in the Fifties, which was later made into a film with his brother in the starring role. He is a nostalgic “dandy” icon for the Baby Boomer generation, who make up a dangerous proportion of the electorate.
In his seemingly endless four terms as governor he has also become well known for his insensitive tongue, such as saying the 2011 tsunami was punishment from heaven, and for his ill-fated schemes, such as moving Tsukiji Market, setting up a city-owned bank, and perennial campaigns bidding for the Olympic Games.
Now he is apparently hoping to link up Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s new Japan Restoration Party and go for the biggest job in the land.
Our verdict? Ishihara as Prime Minister would be a total disaster for Japan.
A Japanese tabloid has published a June 2008 picture of Shinzo Abe, president for the second time of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, showing the politician alongside former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and Icchu Nagamoto, a reputed Yamaguchi-gumi gangster who was recently arrested.
Abe, the former prime minister (2006-2007) who is tipped to beat the grossly unpopular current premier Noda whenever there is finally another election, has denied the allegations that he is in bed with the mafia.
“As to close connections, there are none,” he has apparently said. So… there are some connections that not so close?
Well, that’s Abe in the middle there with his trademark smirk. He is flanked by at least one shady character.
[Photo via Tokyo Reporter]
Abe is also an outspoken nationalist and a potential victory for him and the LDP would likely only make all the recent brouhaha with China, Taiwan and Korean over territorial disputes even more sulfurous than at present. Though Noda gives off an appearance of the otiose bureaucrat, at least he has seemingly done his best to curb the escalatory and inflammatory pronouncements of Tokyo Government Ishihara through quiet diplomacy.
However, much of the attention on Abe so far has focused on his tendency to have super expensive curry lunches, a habit which has irked the Japanese web savvy Precariat.
Considering that officially the cause of his sudden resignation in 2007 was a bowel condition, he would be wise to watch what he eats!