Interesting English lesson
The back-and-forth between the rival sea powers will feel at once familiar and unfamiliar to any mariner of a certain, ahem, vintage. The U.S. Navy and Soviet Navy played more than their share of hair-raising games during the Cold War — particularly in the 1970s and 1980s, once Fleet Admiral Sergei Gorshkov’s progeny had matured into a peer competitor of the American fleet.
It was far from unusual for U.S. and Soviet warplanes, surface combatants, and especially submarines to target or maneuver around one another at close quarters. There were a variety of reasons for doing so that had little to do with indulging one’s inner Maverick and Goose. For instance, goading an opponent into taking defensive measures revealed something about the tactics he would deploy in wartime. Such encounters also furnished an invaluable opportunity to collect information about the rival navy’s sensors, electronic countermeasures, and weaponry. Electromagnetic emissions can be recorded and analyzed, with a view toward exposing and exploiting weaknesses. Tactical advantages can accrue.
And yet the run-ins between JSDF and PLA units feel different from their Cold War predecessors. There was a certain amount of flexibility in U.S.-Soviet brinksmanship, if only because the two sides were playing with each other for tactical reasons rather than competing over fixed geographic objects on the map. There was less to fire passions. Ideological one-upsmanship was commonplace. Being a provocateur was fun. But sovereignty — an arena for Thucydidean motives like fear and honor — wasn’t at stake when American and Soviet units met in the nautical commons. Even so, enough near misses took place that Washington and Moscow ultimately felt obliged to negotiate an accord governing incidents at sea.
One hopes warriors on both sides — and their political masters — will exercise discipline in the East China Sea. A deliberate conflict would be bad enough. An inadvertent one that heightened uncertainty, narrowed options, and compressed the decision cycles in Tokyo and Beijing would prove even more parlous. ..read more
THE prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, has suddenly settled a question that has hung over Japanese politics since the summer. He has promised to dissolve the lower house of the Diet, or parliament, on November 16th—so as to hold a general election exactly a month later.
The move was greeted with glee by Shinzo Abe, who hopes to lead the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) back to the position of power it occupied for nearly all of the 55 years to 2009. It raises another big question for Mr Noda, though. Why hold an election, so soon, that polls suggest he is bound to lose?
The answer reveals a lot about the prime minister, a man who seems prepared to take his party down in flames in order to do what he thinks is the right thing. Many within the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) had urged him to cling to power for as long as possible, hoping that Mr Abe, who fluffed the job of prime minister from 2006-07, would stumble again in opposition.
Some decisions confound those in his own party who have seen his government’s support plunge to 18%, according to the latest poll. They also fear holding an election during what may be the start of Japan’s third economic recession in four years. On November 12th it was reported that GDP in the third quarter fell by 0.9% compared with the previous three months. Fourth-quarter data augur ill, too.
Mr Noda may not be all lofty ideals. There may be a smidgen of political calculus there. A swift election would make it hard for Japan’s array of smaller “third” parties to band together and pose a serious challenge. And it would give Mr Abe a chance to mess things up in government before an upper-house election due by the end of July. Some speculate that Mr Noda may have a plan up his sleeve later to forge an alliance of pro-TPP types from both main parties. ..read more
While Japan’s economic challenges in a dynamic Asia-Pacific are considerable, there are also significant political hurdles that its leaders can address through enhanced regional diplomacy. It has been a tough year for Japan’s security establishment, which has been ill-prepared to adequately manage its territorial disputes with China, South Korea and Russia. China has reemerged as the dominant strategic power among states in Northeast Asia. Beijing’s primacy in the region, while still at least a decade away, has only been challenged thus far by the United States. The situation is a bit more nuanced with regard to Russia and South Korea. Both countries have advanced considerably over the past decade but still suffer from a lack of strategic depth in Asia. Russia realizes that the continent is changing and it leaders know must react quickly or risk being left out. Seoul on the other hand has a security policy – focused on North Korea – which limits it ability to free up resources for a stronger economic push into Asia.
Despite these formidable challenges, both Russia and South Korea have seized the opening provided by an assertive Chinese foreign policy to pressure Japan with unprecedented measures on their territorial disputes. Essentially, both states have exploited Chinese actions for their benefit and are engaged in tacit “free riding” on the heels of Beijing. Why are Russia and South Korea taking this approach? It seems that Seoul and Moscow have made a calculated gamble that Japan will buckle or – at the very least – make concessions as a result of the overwhelming pressure from its neighbors. Good relations with Japan are too important to South Korea and Russia for them to confront Tokyo directly. As a result, both states have opted to shield their provocations under the scope of Chinese policy and the dynamic power architecture in Northeast Asia. ..read more
Demonstrating the long standing grouping of women into two opposing “professional” and “chaste” camps, Japanese officials went about recruiting an organization of sex-workers who might act as a “female floodwall” to protect “daughters from good families” from the rapacious sexual appetite of the foreign occupiers. Registered sex workers as well as poor young women with no other options for survival were recruited to serve in the Recreation and Amusement Association (RAA), comprising a series of establishments designated as “restaurants,” “dance halls,” and “beer halls” but essentially serving as brothels for the incoming military personnel.
Licensed prostitution was legal in Japan and the authorities had had a great deal of experience in providing “comfort” facilities for the Japanese troops. The RAA was thus set up “with extraordinary speed and showed a remarkable ability to secure buildings and facilities in short supply.”
The recruitment procedure was anything but clandestine; indeed, advertisements for “special female workers” were placed in mainstream newspapers. In most prefectures throughout Japan it was the police who were ordered to recruit both licensed and unlicensed prostitutes and encourage them to cooperate as well as supervise the establishments to make sure that things did not get out of hand. Although, unlike the comfort system set up for the Japanese troops, most of the women recruited by the RAA offered their services out of choice, it was a choice made under duress. The offer of free food and housing came at a time when “the entire population of Japan was suffering from food shortages, and malnutrition and starvation were widespread.” For many young women, including some who were still high-school girls, there were no other options available.
The most notorious facility set up by the RAA was known as the International Palace, or “IP,” described by an eye-witness as “probably the largest brothel in the world.” Its “assembly line” set up which enabled a soldier to deposit his shoes at the entrance and “pick them up, cleaned and shined, at the other end” after he had finished his business was reminiscent of the barrack-like comfort stations set up for Japanese troops in the colonies. In an attempt to prevent the spread of venereal disease the Japanese authorities released a stockpile of one-million eight-hundred-thousand condoms for use in this and other similar facilities. However, given the scale of women involved (some 10,000 in Tokyo alone), it proved impossible to prevent venereal disease, which soon spread out of control among the sex workers as well as the troops. Alarmed by the sudden increase in infections among the Occupation forces, SCAP introduced a range of measures, including compulsory health checks among women working in the “service industry” and the release of its valuable supply of penicillin to treat infections. At the instigation of the Army and Navy Chaplains Association, which was worried about the “moral degradation” that mixing with prostitutes would engender among the troops, the authorities also began to place more emphasis on education programs. A series of seminars and workshops was set up, aimed at promoting “continence, character, guidance, provision of religious education and physical education” in an attempt to stem the VD epidemic through “building character.” From this point onwards the American authorities devoted ever-increasing energy to attempts to educate their men about correct attitudes toward sexuality.
SCAP, was also embarrassed at how the long lines of young men queuing up outside these “leisure facilities” looked in reports in the American media, and ordered the “licensed prostitution system” to be disbanded at the beginning of 1946. The result was that sex workers were either driven onto the streets or into unlicensed and unmonitored premises and it became even harder to monitor their health or prevent the transmission of sexual diseases. SCAP responded by ordering the forcible round up of women who were found out on the streets after a certain hour, detaining them over night, and requiring them to undergo medical examination at the Yoshiwara hospital, “sometimes with snickering MPs nearby.”
Many women on other business, including women working for GHQ, one female member of the Diet, and even a cross-dressed man were caught up in these roundups. One young woman was so humiliated by the treatment she received that she later committed suicide. A report in the Asahi newspaper noted that the autopsy had revealed her to be a virgin. SCAP responded to this negative publicity by transferring the responsibility for the roundups onto the Japanese police thus inadvertently reinstating their wartime duty as guardians of public morals. ..read more
Myung Bak keeps stirring the pot
SEOUL (Jiji Press)—South Korean President Lee Myung Bak said Tuesday that the Emperor needs to apologize to victims of Japan’s past colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula before he possibly visits South Korea.
If the Emperor hopes to visit South Korea, he should truly apologize to Koreans who died in the independence movement during the Japanese rule of the peninsula before and during World War II, Lee said at a meeting with officials engaged in education.
Lee had previously sounded positive about the Emperor’s visit to South Korea, although no concrete plan for such a visit has ever been made.
This latest remark follows Lee’s unprecedented visit Friday to Sea of Japan islands known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea.
The Emperor need not visit South Korea if he comes only to express his deep regret, Lee said, citing the rhetoric the Emperor used to mention the two countries’ past at a banquet held at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo in May 1990 for then South Korean President Roh Tae Woo.
Lee denied that his visit to the disputed islands was based on a sudden decision. He said he made the trip after considerable thought about possible adverse effects.
Lee said he was trying to give some advice to Japan, which is one of the world’s leading countries but does not sufficiently understand the positions of the victim and victimizer.
Poor taste from the Koreans as they beat Japan during the olympics.
And the history card gets played again..
SEOUL, South Korea — Faced with mounting political pressure at home, the South Korean government on Friday abruptly postponed the signing of its first military cooperation pact with Japan since World War II.
Now the fate of the agreement has become uncertain as South Korea’s political parties look ahead to a presidential election later this year.
The government and opposition parties agreed Friday to convene the National Assembly on Monday, and the Foreign Ministry said the session would give it a chance to explain and seek parliamentary support for the pact…read more
Westerners have been confounded by Japanese TV for decades, ever since Clive James amused millions in the 80s with clips from a gameshow called Endurance, in which contestants had to undergo a series of increasingly painful and humiliating ordeals. For British viewers, much of the fun came from sheer outraged disbelief that watching people being physically tormented and degraded was considered entertainment.
But of course that was 100 years ago, before I’m a Celebrity transformed low-level torture into mainstream British fare. Nonetheless, you don’t have to watch Japanese TV for long until you see something shocking. The other evening I watched a programme in which a man was shown spooning boiling molten metal into his mouth. This was followed by footage of a man being mauled by a tiger and a rib-tickling sequence in which a studio guest was deliberately poisoned by some kind of sea creature.
Generally though, the TV here is surprisingly dull. The vast majority of programmes consist of several seriously overexcited people sitting in an overlit studio decorated like a novelty grotto made from regurgitated Dolly Mixture, endlessly babbling about food.
Seriously, it’s all food, food, food. People eating food, answering questions about food, sometimes even just pointing at food and laughing. It’s as they’ve only just discovered food and are perpetually astonished by its very existence. Imagine watching an endless episode of The One Show with the colour and brightness turned up to 11, where all the guests have been given amphetamines, the screen is peppered with random subtitles, and every 10 seconds it cuts to a close-up shot of a bowl of noodles for no apparent reason. That’s 90% of Japanese TV right there.
For a nation so preposterously hi-tech, it’s a curiously old-fashioned approach to television. People talking in studios. Forever. Like it’s the 50s. And yet it’s insanely agitated: as though the participants are simply too wired to make a proper TV show, and have subsequently just switched the cameras on and started yelping. ..read more
The popular status of outlaws logically relates to the integrity of the legal system outside which they operate. Putting it simply, for villains to look bad, the police need to look good. Tamura Eitarō has shown how the chivalrous image enjoyed by nineteenth-century yakuza stemmed in part from public disgust for corruption and violence by the police squads who hunted them. A similar problem confronts the NPA today. Since the early 2000s police corruption has been the subject of increasingly numerous academic articles and media reports. Ichikawa Hiro, a lawyer who gave testimony on police corruption in the Diet, says, ‘There is an institutionalized culture of illicit money-making in the NPA, and since it has gone on for so long it is now very deep-rooted’ (Akahata 2004:116). In 2009 a veteran police officer named Senba Toshirō, while still serving on the force, published a lengthy exposé of police corruption: financial scams, fabricated evidence, forced confessions, beatings of suspects, drug abuse by police officers, embezzlement from police slush funds, and much else. Senba’s sensational conclusion: ‘The largest organized crime gang in Japan today is the National Police Agency’ (Senba 2009:73).
Though the word yakuza today denotes a gangster, its original meaning was ‘useless’: the yakuza are the useless garbage at the bottom of society. The men who, in the early 1900s, banded together to form the first yakuza gangs were mostly day-laborers and migrant workers. Yakuza historians assume that these early gangs would have included large numbers of so-called Burakumin, socially stigmatized Japanese who are said to be descended from feudal outcastes. A century later, the connection between yakuza and Burakumin remains strong in the public consciousness. In Japanese libraries, books on the yakuza are invariably stacked alongside books on the Burakumin, as if they address the same fundamental issue. The yakuza themselves exploit the situation by posing as Burakumin rights groups and pressuring businesses to pay them compensation or hush money.
Another minority group commonly linked to the yakuza is Japan’s Korean community. This link is more recent: before the war, anti-Korean sentiment was so intense that Koreans did not even have the freedom to join the yakuza. In the postwar black market economy Koreans in Japan took advantage of their overseas connections to secure lucrative smuggling routes, and many of these Korean smuggling gangs were eventually subsumed into the big yakuza syndicates. For much of the postwar period Burakumin and Koreans suffered similar forms of social discrimination, being kept at the bottom of the work pile and often living together in impoverished areas where gambling, smuggling, and gang activity were common.
Today, it is very difficult to quantify the ethnic or genealogic composition of the yakuza. The Burakumin population is known to be particularly dense in Hyōgo prefecture, home of the Yamaguchi-gumi. On the other hand, the second largest yakuza syndicate, the Sumiyoshi-kai, has for decades been based in central Tokyo and operates heavily in Ginza, an area not known for Burakumin slums. The importance of Korea as a transshipment point for Japan’s drugs will naturally have created opportunities for Koreans resident in Japan. Kiyota Jirō, who became fifth godfather of the Inagawa-kai in April 2010, is a Japan-born Korean national; he is, however, the first Korean to lead the syndicate in its 60-year history. ..read more
The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief
Welcome to The Great Happiness Space: Rakkyo Café. The club’s owner, Issei (22), has a staff of twenty boys all under his training to become the top escorts of Osaka’s underground love scene. During their training, they learn how to dress, how to talk, how to walk, and most importantly, how to fake relationships with the girls who become their source of income. Join us as Osaka’s number one host boy takes us on a journey through the complex and heartrenching world of love for sale in the Japanese underground.
According to the Miss Universe pageant, Japanese women are kimono-clad, sword wielding ‘beauties’.
In 1955 Pan American World Airways began recruiting Japanese American women to work as stewardesses on its Tokyo-bound flights and eventually its round-the-world flights as well. Based in Honolulu, these women were informally known as Pan Am’s “Nisei”—second-generation Japanese Americans—even though not all of them were Japanese American or second-generation. They were ostensibly hired for their Japanese-language skills, but few spoke Japanese fluently. This absorbing account of Pan Am’s “Nisei” stewardess program suggests that the Japanese American (and later other Asian and Asian American) stewardesses were meant to enhance the airline’s image of exotic cosmopolitanism and worldliness.
As its corporate archives demonstrate, Pan Am marketed itself as an iconic American company pioneering new frontiers of race, language, and culture. Christine R. Yano juxtaposes the airline’s strategies and practices with the recollections of former “Nisei” flight attendants. In interviews with the author, these women proudly recall their experiences as young women who left home to travel the globe with Pan American World Airways, forging their own cosmopolitan identities in the process. Airborne Dreams is the story of an unusual personnel program implemented by an American corporation intent on expanding and dominating the nascent market for international air travel. That program reflected the Jet Age dreams of global mobility that excited postwar Americans, as well as the inequalities of gender, class, race, and ethnicity that constrained many of them.