Japan Times, Foreign Office organ?

In an 1937 article from the journal Far Eastern Survey, I saw The Japan Times described as a “Foreign Office organ.” There is no mention on the Japan Times’ own history timeline they had ever been anything other than an independent media organization, but a quick Google search turned up this article on the very topic from the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. The following paragraph summarizes the questions discussed in this article.

Here’s what we need to know about The Japan Times: How close was the paper to official Japan, and to what extent did it serve as a mouthpiece of the Japanese government (in itself neither unusual nor categorically inadvisable at times of international tension)? Closely connected to these questions is a third: Were The Japan Times’ acquisitions in October and December 1940 of Japan’s two best-known English-language newspapers, The Japan Advertiser and The Japan Chronicle, motivated purely by the desire for total media control and the need to speak with one voice through one conduit to the Western world, or were other plans afoot? A fourth, more speculative, question is whether The Japan Times could have served a more temperate purpose during the crisis in U.S.-Japan negotiations in 1940-41.

The author discusses the perennial problem of where to draw the line between journalists’ access to government officials and inappropriate cooperation or agreement with them – an issue recently being discussed with great frequency in the United States following various scandals – and concludes that “the reputation of The Japan Times as an official mouthpiece may well have been earned in its early years, but it was less deserved in early Showa, when most other newspapers not only took their lead from government sources but zealously exceeded official enthusiasm for expansion in East Asia and for the cause of ‘Holy War.’ ” This statement includes the period of time – 1937 – in which the reference I discussed at the beginning of the post was published.

On the other hand, the Japan Times’ acquisition of the two rival English language
newspapers in October and December of 1940 was likely orchestrated by Foreign Minister Matsuoka Yosuke, so as “to have an organ close to the Foreign Office in which their opposition to the Military Party could be expressed.”

However, Matsuoka’s access to the Japan Times, and hence his ability to promulgate pro-diplomacy messages to the foreign media through Japan’s sole surviving English language newspaper was eliminated in July 1941, when “the second Konoe Cabinet resigned in order to form a third Cabinet for the express purpose of jettisoning Matsuoka.” (Matsuoka had been trying to persuade the cabinet to abandon the Soviet-Japanese neutrality agreement and join Germany’s declaration of war against the Soviet Union. This would also have complicated the ongoing negotiations with the United States for the purpose of avoiding war between the two countries, in which Matsuoka was attempting to trade a withdrawal from continental China in exchange for recognition of Manchukuo and a guarantee of safety for trade routes of resources through the South Pacific.) This left publisher Go Satoshi to pen editorials which ended up inflaming relations between Japan and the Allied powers, although it is unclear whether this was at the behest of the subsequent Foreign Ministers or not.

The article concludes that “The Japan Times (until Matsuoka’s fall from grace) made a doomed but valiant effort to set up a rational, internationalist alternative to the bellicose rumblings emanating from the General Staff and the Foreign Ministry,” but also brings attention to the fact that after Matsuoka’s departure the paper’s editorials, written by Go, contributed to the climate of mistrust that led to the breakdown of negotiations, which eventually caused Japan’s attack against Pearl Harbor. While the Japan Times of today (which in my experience has a generally liberal and pro-internationalist slant) should hardly be criticized for the ways in which it was used as a vehicle of propaganda during wartime under an imperialist regime, I imagine that the readers of this blog will be as interested as I was to learn a bit about the history of a newspaper whose articles all of us read with regularity. Now I am curious to know if the Japan Times’ close relations with the Foreign Ministry continued after the war, and how the country’s primary English language news source may have been used by the occupying American authorities and post-occupation government of Japan.

On a tangential note, Matsuoka Yosuke was arrested and indicted as a class-A war criminal by the Tokyo Tribunal, but died of tuberculosis before the verdict was read, without his ever having actually appeared in court. Based on the brief biographies of Matsuoka that I have read, I’m not entirely sure on what grounds he was charged. It may have been related to his orchestration of the alliance with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, although Japan was not yet engaged in war against any allied powers by the end of Matsuoka’s term of office. He also advocated war against the Soviet Union, but was ignored and in effect fired for that position. However reprehensible his attempts to promote Japanese-Soviet war may have been, it seems a little bit peculiar to prosecute someone for a policy which was never taken up by the government or military. It also seems possible that his efforts to avoid war between Japan and the US may have been a possible argument in his defense, which due to his premature death was never made. I would be very curious to know exactly what the charges against him were.

Update: I forgot to mention that Matsuoka is also one of the 14 class-A war criminal suspects controversially enshrined in Yasukuni. Apparently Emperor  Hirohito mentioned him by name as one of those who should not have been enshrined, and whose listing caused the Emperor to cease visiting the shrine.

73 thoughts on “Japan Times, Foreign Office organ?”

  1. Matsuoka is widely seen as war monger among Japanese public both now and then.
    It is natural for me to have Matusoka as a war criminal.The charges can be anything.He was an expansionist(supported “aggressive”policies in Manchuria and Northern China)and anti democrat(made a political league for the abolition of the political parties).

    About Japan Times of today,it has an editorial policy bending to the expats(which is the main customer)and hardly reflecting ordinary Japanese view point.

  2. An interesting, if somewhat superficial, article (the linked article, that is). In the final years leading up to the war, most businesses were amalgamated as part of the drive to efficiency, and newspapers were no exception – especially Japanese ones. The two main local ones where I live, for example, despite originally being quite divergent in their views (one Seiyukai, one Minseito basically) were amalgamated and forced to speak with one voice (the central government/military voice) as well, so it’s not at all surprising that the JT (a newspaper I actually no longer ever read) underwent similar.

    Matsuoka Yousuke is interesting – since he died before being executed, and was a civilian, apparently the Imp Palace Agency was opposed to having him enshrined at Yasukuni. At least according to Wiki-Japan. In terms of the Tokyo Trials, which are somewhat controversial anyway in regards to their impartiality and legality, it seems Matsuoka was lumped in with the leaders of Japan as a Class A (“Crimes Against Peace”) and charged with: “promoting a scheme of conquest that “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.” I have not found any specific accusations against him, but considering foreign minister Shigemitsu Mamoru only got 7 years, Matsuoka may well have escaped fairly lightly – but not acquitted, I’ll bet.

    For Matsuoka personally, his charge may have been that he helped bring “about Japan’s alliance with Germany and Italy, whose policies were as aggressive as their own, and whose support they desired both in the diplomatic and military fields, for their aggressive actions in China had drawn on Japan the condemnation of the League of Nations and left her friendless in the councils of the world.” which was considered in Charge 1 of the IMTFE (see http://www.stephen-stratford.co.uk/imtfe_findings.htm)

  3. Matsuoka was certainly a war monger. I’m just wondering how much his war-mongering actually did to incite war, and how much of it was ignored. I’m not defending him, but I would like to see a more detailed explanation. Do you have any sources to recommend?

    It would seem from this article that The Japan Times has always been oriented towards expats. The different, presumably, between then and now is that pre-war it was a mouthpiece for what the Foreign Ministry wanted expats and foreigners to hear about Japan, and today it publishes what the editors think expats and foreigners want to hear about Japan.

  4. Aceface: I have read that the main consumers of the JT are in fact Japanese businessmen etc wishing to improve their English. What, I wonder, are the circulation figures? The articles are very definitely written with the expat in mind though.
    This site: http://www.pressnet.or.jp/english/member/tokyo.htm lists the JT circulation at a mere 46,000-odd. Less than the Daily Fisheries News or the Tax News Service. Perhaps it is largely expats. Though a breakdown of those figures would be nice.

    Incidentally, this page: http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/PTO/IMTFE/IMTFE-10.html is the IMTFE record of charges and verdicts for all Class A suspects that were actually convicted (so Matsuoka is not there, nor is Okawa Shumei, for example).

  5. Aceface, I don’t think the Japan Times’ main customers have been predominantly expats for some time. I haven’t seen any recent statistics but I’ve always understood that the majority of readers are Japanese.

    As the web site has improved, more non-Japanese have probably returned to reading it online but they aren’t paying for the content.

  6. The “readers” are presumably reading it to learn English then.Mulboyne.

    I’ve always wondering how reliable the JT for English speaking Asia hands.
    HK’s The South China Morning Post is considered to be a credible source for China hands and Singapore’s The Straits Times is(in spite of under careful censorship of Ministry of Interior of which owning the paper)considered as the first class analysis of SE Asia.Thailand’s The Nation is the representitive of Thai establishment and was the one of the key factor of toppling Thaksin regime.
    I really don’t see JT is the equivalent of these sister English paper in the region.

  7. Jade- Those circulation numbers are interesting, but I find it very doubtful that the Japan Times is so amazingly low, particularly for a paper available in such a large number of convenience stores. Could they really afford to publish a daily paper with just low numbers? Perhaps it only counts mailed subscriptions (is that what the “m” stands for? What does the “e” column, which JT lacks, mean?)

    I ran across that same site when I was checking up on Matsuoka. Unfortunately, as you said, it lacks info on him. Perhaps he was arrested but was never formally charged before his death? And since he was never convicted, should he still be considered eligible for enshrinement in Yasukuni by people against the listing of war criminals?

    Aceface- I thought the South China Morning Post was an excellent paper the few times I saw it in HK, but unfortunately their website is completely useless unless you pay the subscription fee. I’ve read a number of good articles in The Straits Times and I never knew that it is owned by the government, but I will keep that in mind when I read news about Singapore itself. I did notice that The Nation was extremely anti Thaksin (as was the other English daily), so it certainly isn’t controlled by the government, or it would have forced to support him before his downfall. Any idea who controls it more specifically?

  8. That’s the problem with Matsuoka – he didn’t actually die in the service of the Emperor, but simply from illness. This would seem to disqualify him from Yasukuni enshrinement. As the Imp House Agency said: “1978年に靖国神社がA級戦犯らを合祀した際、昭和天皇の意を汲んだ宮内庁が、「軍人でもなく、死刑にもならなかった人を合祀するのはおかしい」と松岡の合祀に強く抗議したというエピソードもある。”

    Died of war-related death, injury, or illness gets you in, although it seems that being a member of the Foreign Ministry is sufficient anyway, according to the categories listed at Wiki-Japan. It does say that 明治期の著名な軍人では乃木希典や東郷平八郎も、戦時の死没者でないため祀らない。 So Nogi and Togo are not there, as they did not die in war. Nor are former Ishin heroes like Saigo and Eto. Nor are SDF members who die in the line of duty….

    I too do not see how the JT could be that low, but that’s the figures given. Also, I would suggest M and E are “Morning” and “Evening” editions respectively.

  9. I agree that M and E are morning and evening.

    Note that the JT, IHT/Asahi and Daily Yomiuri all have circulation just north of 40,000. Most Tokyo expats I’ve met get the IHT/Asahi if they get a paper at all. When I was living in Osaka about 7 years ago, JT and DY were available everywhere, but Asahi Evening News (as it was called back then) was nowhere to be found. In Tokyo, I see IHT more than anything else in English.

    Granted this is very circumstantial evidence, but I reckon IHT has more expat readers, whereas JT and DY are more for the Japanese audience.

  10. As a Brit I found JT to my read of choice with its regular supply of articles from the Grauniad and soccer coverage (not that I read the latter). The IHT seemed more Amero-centric., not that it was a problem, I just didn’t know so much about the subjects. Don’t know what the situation is like so much anymore mind you.

  11. SCMP does have problem.They kicked out the top china analyst,Willy Wo-Lap Lam.
    Lam was kicked out from SCMP by the pressure from company owner Robert Kouk,Malaysian Chinese tycoon now resides in HK.Kuok has been investing heavily in the mainland since Tienanmen Massacre and close to the CCP.He was not impressed with Lam uncovering scoops relating with the power struggle in the politoburo.Lam is currently teaching in Akita’s Kokusai Kyouyou Univ.Run by his translator and hardline anti Beijing Sinologist Nakajima Mineo and column in rightist Japanese magazine SAPIO(Kobayashi Yoshinori is also the contributer).

    I was also not impressed with their Beijing correspondent Jasper Becker who is the author of “Hungry Ghost”(about PRC’s famine during the great leap forward period”,”Rogue Regime”(about North Korea and Kim Jong Il).Becker write a book on Mongolia named”The Lost Country,Mongolia Revealed)in the 90’s.The amount of factual errors and misleading of eventsin the book were unbearable.Too much sensationalism made me wonder whether he is totally trustworthy.

    SCMP has always been sort of a mouthpiece of the HK authority during the British days(not particulary unusual in China where all papers are more or less belong to some kind of political organs)and there were member of the British Intelligence among the editor there.

    And ofcourse SCMP is highly critical on just about everything regarding Japan.Yikes.

    There is a satire page of SCMP
    http://www.ntscmp.com/

    The Straits Times is reliable paper when it comes to SE Asia politics when NOT talking about Singapore.The best and the brightest from Far Eastern Economic Review got well paid job at ST.FEER is still alive after moved to Beijing by the decision of the mother company Dow Jones,but now a completely different magazine.

    The Nation’s highly anti Thaksin attitude come from the company owner who was ex-business partner of Thaksin who had somehow broke up with Big T.It is said that Thaksin just wanted too much from both business and political empire he created.Thailand,just like Japan do not please one man control everything.The establishment favors shared power.
    The leading columnist of The Nation,Kavi Chongkittavorn was extremely critical of Thaksin and almost demanding the military to raise a coup against democratically elected Thaksin government,something a bit seen skeptically in my office.

  12. That august institution of the foreign community, the Kansai Time Out published an article a couple (or 6) years back that claimed roughly half the readership of all English newspapers in Japan were Japanese people wanting to improve their English. They don’t seem to have a lot to say at KTO and the artiocles start repeating themselves if you’ve been in Japan for more than two years, so who knows? It might pop up again.

    Matsuoka is a bit hard to pin down. He seemed to be a bit of a hothead. He was sent to Geneva to tell the League of Nations to get bent, and while there he compared the treatment of Japan to the crucification of Christ. In addition, he basically undermined any possibility for compromise at the League before withdrawing Japan’s membership at Tokyo’s orders. I’m not sure if spirited and stubborn diplomatic representation would have anything to do with the war crimes trial, but as previously mentioned, some of the Allied judgments were somewhat shonky.

    According to Dower it was Prince Konoe Fumimaro that helped GHQ target Matsuoka after the war, basically because Konoe had developed a conspiracy theory placing all the responsibility for the war on Tojo. As Matsuoka was Tojo’s foreign minister (although appointed by Konoe), he had negotiated the axis agreement and they had a whole load of documentation the Allies could use as proof against him, inplicating this other group would take the heat off Konoe, and as a bonus for GHQ, the Emperor. In part, at least, Matsuoka seems to have been deemed guilty (or at least worthy of being judged guilty) by association.

    In any case, Matsuoka did generate one of the more interesting insults of the war. Before he headed to Geneva, Yoshida Shigeru told him: “You should go to an insane asylum, douse your head in water and only leave when you have cooled off.”

  13. Ace: “I’ve always wondering how reliable the JT for English speaking Asia hands.”

    True, even a lot of Japan Foreign Policy experts in the U.S. and elsewhere quote liberally form the JT. If they are indeed experts, they should be quoting from a Japanese newspaper in my opinion, but it seems to be the paper of choice in the we-want-to-write-about-Japan-but-can’t-read-Japanese academic community.

  14. Hotels used to be a good market for the english language papers. They are still available there but a good number of hotels now supply the Financial Times and/or the Asian Wall Street Journal to guests. Both run premium content websites so anyone with net access generally plumps for one of those and scans the JT, Asahi etc online. The Asahi/IHT has made inroads in that market largely at the expense of the Yomiuri. The Japan Times wins on Sunday.

    People do quote from the Japan Times but in many cases it is because they have a more extensive online archive which makes it easier to find a pertinent Kyodo report. This can be taken to extremes though. I was listening to a BBC radio report following the recent murder of the British girl and the Tokyo correspondent mentioned that it was receiving a lot of coverage in the Japanese press. the studio guest, Lesley Downer, was asked about this and she replied “Well, all I can say is that I checked the Japan Times website before I came on air and couldn’t find a single article about the case”. The interviewer had no basis to challenge this absurdity so the conversation meandered into wondering why Japan didn’t think this case was important.

  15. Lesley Dower….You know about the book she wrote on Tsutsumi Brithers of Seibu”The Brothers”.I’ve read the introduction and tranlator’s note and it was like
    She was warned by the British Embassy people not to write about them or she shalll be expelled from the country because this is the ultimate taboo here and so and so.Faded memory and may not be accurate but I peeked that in LIBRO in Ikebukuro.Supposed to be the ground zero of SEIBU empire.The shop was selling the book in dozens.

    Mulboyne,I’m amzed with your comment both here and Neomarxisme.How did a person of such scholarly as yours relate with Fucked Gaijin.Strange.

  16. I’m not too impressed with Lesley Downer although credit to her for finding a publisher for a book about the Tsutsumis. Not because it was taboo but because it was an obscure subject for a foreign audience even in 1994 with bubble memories still relatively fresh. She apparently lived in Japan for some years but I’m reminded of a comment I once read which has always stuck with me:

    “Over the years I have formed the opinion that there are indeed many non-Japanese who have spend a long time living here, know reams about Japan, it’s language and culture but are stuck with attitudes and prejudices they formed during their first year in Japan. Watching them expounding on TV or anywhere else for that matter I always find myself asking have they *really* spent 20 years living in Japan or lived one year in Japan 20 times?”

    That was actually on FG. Although it’s an anonymous forum, a lot of the members have met and there’s a good cross section of people I wouldn’t have come across otherwise with a range of experience in Japan and I like hearing about how they navigate the country. It’s largely unmoderated, with the drawbacks that implies, but it does mean anyone who registers can start a topic or ask a question. People usually seem to help if they can. Anyway, this is Mutant Frog so it’s a bit out of order for me to ramble on about another site.

    Blogs are a different animal and the guys here, like Marxy at Neomarxisme, are a good read because they don’t just respond to today’s headlines, they research and write about subjects that interest them and these topics generally interest me. Heaven knows where they find the time but I’m glad they do. I’ve also recommended Joe’s new Japan Law Blog to a few people in that field and they’ve all found it interesting.

    I don’t think I’ve been called scholarly since a school prizegiving when I was nine.

  17. ** I always find myself asking have they really spent 20 years living in Japan or lived one year in Japan 20 times? **

    That is a great quote. Where did you see it?

    One thing that has stuck with me for a while was a letter to the editor of Canada`s Globe and Mail newspaper. It went something like this `I taught English in Japan for seven years and I can say from experience that nobody in Japan knows about the Second World War and it is impossible to find a book that tells the truth about the Nanking Massacre.`I had just come back from a research trip in Japan and was not able to afford all of the (critical / liberal) books about WWII / atrocities that I needed for my reseach. After laying out about 100,000 yen for 40 plus recent books, I just had to give up. I wonder what the letter to the editor dude was doing for seven years that made him want to share his wisdom with the masses?

    I guess that teaching English, eating yakiniku twice a week, and wathing Buffy re-runs on Skapa for seven years does not mean much in the long run.

  18. `I taught English in Japan for seven years and I can say from experience that nobody in Japan knows about the Second World War and it is impossible to find a book that tells the truth about the Nanking Massacre.`
    That reminds me of the 1995 NHK ETV special on war memory featuring Ian Buruma.
    I remember it starts from Buruma wondering into some bookshops in Kanda and checking out the bookshelf of history section.And there were tons of books relating WW2 in all political spectram(such like Jewish conspiracy theory book right next to holocaust and various version of Nanjing massacre books).Buruma states that with all the streams of new books coming in and out and one would found difficult to choose which book one should read or what position should be taken.

    Funny thing is Sir Hugh Cortazzi made a lecture sometime around regarding the subject and preaching something like “all Japanese should read Mr.Buruma’s work to learn history and so and so”.I thought he knew better of the country.Being intelligence officer during war and all.

    That would take us back to the topic about Japan Times.There is a dilemma here.For GoJ is now want make new international 24 hr TV broadcaster(like France24,or Deuthche welle and Phoenix TV of China)100% government funded.Which the body will inevidably a foreign office organ.
    Should not media be an organ of the government,even if it helps to express the current state of Japanese society more accurate(in a very vague sense)than say Lesley Downer, Nori Onishi or other Asian national media corp?

  19. Bryce,You are not in Japan now,Are you?Why are you such an early riser?

    NO.NHK WORLD is not good enough for Japanese AlJazeela.
    Because:
    a)NHK WORLD is NOT 100% GoJ funded.

    b)Basically NHK WORLD is Japanese program with English translation.Not made
    for international audience nor intended to show Japanese view of the world.

    c)GoJ wants to make new broadcaster with more internet friendly station.While
    NHK is restricted by the current broadcasting law.

  20. I didn`t send a letter to the editor of the paper because I didn`t no what to say. How can you write a summary of Japanese popular discourse on war atrocities in 75 words? It is a lot easier to make silly suggestions that there is no reaseach on the Nanking massacre or that all Japanese are evil because they kill whales (or some other such BS that makes it into letter to the editor pages more frequently than it should).

    Does anyone know if Ian Buruma reads / speaks Japanese? I assume that he speaks Japanese but he does not really use many Japanese sources in his non-fiction writing. He also seems to look mainly at films and literature that has been translated into English.

  21. Buruma’s own site suggests his linguistic abilities are: “English, Dutch, French, German, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese.” But to what extent is the question. He spent two years at Nihon Daigaku, so I assume he speaks to some extent, but how well does he read it? I haven’t read much of his work, and consider “Inventing Japan” at least should have been printed on perforated and scented two-ply for maximum usefulness. But if he at least admits to the variety of discourses then I suppose he’s not too bad. Inventing Japan’s excuse for a bibliography notes two Japanese books among a couple of dozen English ones, but the book is clearly aimed at the non-specialist reader (who would be better off with the books Buruma mentions as having plagiarised – I mean “used extensively”) and so he might be putting the emphasis on sources easily read by the average reader.

    I also picked up Downer’s book on Geisha dirt-cheap at a remaindered books place and never got past the long intro section, which was pretty terrible in its mixture of self-congratulatory earnestness and “orientalism”.

    Nice quote about the 20 years thing. I hope that doesn’t apply to me (not that I have been here twenty years yet). If they’re on TV, those gaijin probably find that it’s the “new off the boat” enthusiasm that sells (them). I tried to find the original comment on FG, but don’t really like that place, so didn’t stay long.

    With letters to the editor, reasoned rational discussion has no place. Much more exciting for the paper’s readers, who don’t really care about issues but want some fun bold statements that appeal to their sense of stereotype, to have letters about those “whale-eating surrender monkeys”.

  22. Bryce – I could have talked some $hit but they would not have printed my letter if I did. In any case, a Canadian historian soon wrote and and, I assume, using his knowledge of the history of New France, informed everyone that the Japanese do in fact have no historical memory. Bad debate. In any case, you also have to use your real name in most circumstances when writing letters to the Editor. Not my thing. At this point, I won`t put the real name on anything that I spend less than 3-4 months researching / writing.

    Buruma may very well be one of those Japan experts who reads Japanese but chooses not to for some reason.

  23. For what it’s worth, to go back to an earlier part of the discussion, a paper I’m reading now from 2000 describes the Straits Times as “the English language vehicle of government” of Singapore.

  24. I don’t mind Buruma. He gets a lot of criticism because people think he poses as an academic but as far as I can tell, he’s quite open about being primarily a journalist. Seen in that light, his writing can be interesting and he tends to make his biases and prefeernces pretty clear. It doesn’t help that “Inventing Japan” is part of the Modern Library Chronicles series which has the sales pitch “featuring the world’s great historians on the world’s great subjects”.

    If there is a concrete Government plan for a funded 24 hour news channel then it would be interesting to know who they would see as the target audience.

    The 20 years comment above was written on FG five years ago by a bloke called Steve Bildermann who was one of the early members and a long time Japan hand with many excellent insights. Definitely someone who didn’t settle for living the same year over and over.

  25. Any newspaper with a large circulation in Singapore needs to comply with the government’s restriction on press freedoms so it’s not surprising that it is regarded as a state mouthpiece.

    The Japan Times doesn’t really belong in the same discussion as the SCMP and Straits Times since both those papers had/have major circulations in territories where English was/is an official language. I don’t know what role it played during the Occupation but Stars & Stripes probably has a larger circulation in that period.

  26. I second with Mulboyne on Buruma.He studied Japanese cinema in Nihon Univ’s Faculty of Art,nation’s leading and probably the only place you could study motion picture in the 70’s.That will explain his bent toward movies on his writing.
    Buruma also studied Chinese history in Univ.of Leiden.So I guess he has no problem with Kanji and reading his “The Missionary and The Libertine”or “Behind the mask,aka Japanese Mirror in the “Behind the mask,aka “The Japanese Mirror” in the U.S(good book)you just have to assume the man can actually read Japanese.
    His “Inventing Japan”‘s Japanese translated version has recommendation note from
    Todai’s Kato(Nojima) Yoko,historian specialize in Japanese modern war.Kato passionately praise the book for putting so much in a small book.I agree with her.

    Buruma,however did criticized group of Japanese intellectuals in NYT magazine 20 years ago of which sparked series of debates on Chuo Koron at the time.Buruma’s main target in the article,Umehara Takeshi who at the time head of International Research Center for Japanese studies in Kyoto.IRCJS was founded by Nakasone Yasuhiro of whom Umehara had lobbied heavily.Problem was the photographer of
    NYT took picture of Umehara with Torii of Yasukuni shrine in the background.I think part of the problem lies with Umehara had his pictrure taken with the controvertial shrine behind him(and Umehara is not a right wing,but a sort of Nihonjinronist)

    I found a webpage by William Wetherall on this issue.
    http://members.jcom.home.ne.jp/yosha/nationalism/Yamatoism_and_yamatoists.html

  27. I haven’t really ever had a problem with Buruma. He kind of reminds me of those people who write popular and entertaining little historical romps on odd topics like trade in salt, the culinary uses of cod or white guys who get stuck in Japan during the Tokugawa period. I wouldn’t quote him, but I’ve read him from time to time for fun.

  28. Hmmm. The last book I read on white guys stuck in Japan in the Tokugawa period was the excreble “Samurai William”. Buruma at least is far better than that. I was just very disappointed by his Inventing Japan, as I was under the impression it was a much more rigorous book than the superficial overview of stuff I generally already knew from previous works it is. It came off as “Japan Lite”, whereas “Samurai William” is just painful. (Also a problem I had was that I paid good money for the book, new, and could have used that for something more important. I did NOT buy the Will Adams book though.)

    There’s nothing wrong with a book on the history of salt as a topic: it’s not the topic, it’s how it’s approached. Often some of the most interesting insights can had via the oddball topics.

  29. Also, in `Inventing Japan` didn`t Buruma just give us a summary of the work of a few scholars like Gluck and Fujitani? Gluck has presented `dumbed down` versions of her major points in a variety of forms anyway. With `Inventing Japan` I couldn`t help but feel that we were getting sloppy seconds.

  30. The Modern Library Chronicles Series consists of small primers which are supposed to lead you towards more authoritative accounts. The editorial board includes people like Salman Rushdie, A.S. Byatt, Gore Vidal, Maya Angelou, Jon Krakauer and Charles Frazier with not many professional historians in sight so the emphasis is very much on the literary style of the authors selected. Bryce is right to be reminded of books about cod: Mark Kurlansky is also an author in the series. “Inventing Japan” doesn’t say anything new to readers who are already familiar with Buruma’s sources but it nevertheless fulfils the requirements of the series.

    By the way, The Japan Times has been up for sale on and off for a few years but no deal has been done. I don’t know what the current situation is but the owners did sell InterFM to TV Tokyo.

  31. ”Gluck has presented `dumbed down` versions of her major points in a variety of forms anyway. ”

    Ah,Carol Gluck…..

    Wasn’t that in Davos,Switzerland couple of years ago,Gluck told the crowd of the international chattering class that situation in Japan should not be represented by “the elite class of Japanesebusiness world,bureaucrats and politicians”?
    If my memory serves that was at World Economic Forum’s discussion on Japan and the 90’s. No Japanese were at present there.

    She also claimed SAPIO magazine misrepresented her interviewed talks for translating  ~ですわ like feminine in Japanese.She found that was sexism.Also complained was the term 天皇陛下 for simple Emperor, saying Gluck had no intention of calling emperor with any honorific title.She was saying it was stupid of her to trust “right wing magazine like SAPIO”.
    However I felt these minor political gesture may means much in ivory tower,and it doesn’t make much difference in the content of the discourse and could easily lost in translation.
    Because I liked her “Japan’s Modern Myth”,alll these were quite depressing along with her occasional commentary in ON JAPAN at NEWSWEEK JAPAN.

    “it’s not the topic, it’s how it’s approached. Often some of the most interesting insights can had via the oddball topics.”

    Buruma is currently more interested in hot potatoe topic like Islam in Europe and
    middle east affairs than Japan.I didn’t like his “Occidentalism”.For he keep quoting wartime Japan to understand radical islam in broader perspective. I thought that was a bit oddball.

  32. I actually have Occidentalism, though have yet to read it. It’s on my list, but after IJ it’s kinda down there a way.

    The Sapio stuff is interesting. So they translated her talk into “feminine” Japanese – this is an interesting translation issue. Should it have been done, or should it remain a more neutral form? She might have a point about 天皇陛下 vs “Emperor” – it’s not an accurate translation: it is perfectly possible and acceptable to refer to the Emperor as just 天皇 (although perhaps not to his face, or rather the Grand Chamberlain, who is more likely to take offence), and adding 陛下, no matter what your views, is simply not an accurate translation. If it walks like a Gluck, quacks like a Gluck, then it is a Gluck…

    “Small primers”. Bugger. I wish I had known that before I laid out the cash. I got it through Amazon, so didn’t even have the chance to read it in the shop…. Oh well. It wasn’t expensive…. Live and learn. Or live and don’t learn, in this case, as the book didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know….

  33. I’ve got all night working hours today.
    Some killing time question for MTF old timers.
    Give me three recommendation of the most sappy books on Japan.

    My shot.

    Japan,A reinterpretation.By Patrick Smith.

    Yen!.By Daniel Bernstein

    I’m thinking whether to choose”In the Realm of the Dying Emperor”By Norma Field
    or “Emptiness of the Japanese Affluence”By Gavan McCormack.
    Well I’ve got all night……sigh.

  34. Aceface wrote: “Give me three recommendation of the most sappy books on Japan.”

    Most books on finance in Japan are pretty awful but they are easy to ignore. It is when a book becomes a vogue topic outside Japan that it becomes annoying because you have to address it. I submit Michael Zielenziger’s “Shutting Out the Sun: How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation”.

    I can’t say I’m a fan of Takeo Doi’s “Anatomy of Dependence” either.

  35. There is a hikikomori blogger who got interviewed by Zielenziger for the book in ’01 and ’02.I too think hikikomori won’t explain everything about malaise in Japan.
    His blog.
    http://d.hatena.ne.jp/ueyamakzk/20070125
    Obviously the guy is not pleased with Zielenziger handling his story through interpreter.Funny thing is in Zielenziger ‘s own blog,Z claims he can speak Japanese.

    I second on Doi.That along with Nakane Chie’s “Personal relation in the vertical Society” and Ruth Benedict’s “Chrysantemum and the Sword” are the three worst
    dedications to Japanology from cultural anthropology,

  36. Crappy Japan books? The prize for worst title is easy `The Gnomes of Tokyo`.

    Shocking moment when reading a Japan book — finding out that Donald Richie had been in Japan for 20 years and still hadn`t learned any Kanji (while reading `The Inland Sea`). His bit about how if Japanese stopped reading their `garbage` and read Proust, they would be all better people is pretty amazing, given that the guy switches to giving a primer on how to get around Japan without being able to read….

    Rather than books, why don`t we toss out some of the most stupid things that we have seen about Japan online?

    – `There is no good place to eat out in Japan.`
    – `Books are very, very expensive in Japan.`
    – `Japanese movies like Kurosawa`s are ripped off from Chinese Kung Fu movies.`
    – `Japanese women aren`t allowed to wear their shoes in the house.` This one was a real hoot.
    – `I wouldn`t eat in a Japanese restaurant because they don`t understand hygiene.`
    – `The Japanese army killed 30,000,000 Chinese civilians at Nanking.`
    – `I`ve lived in Japan for 5 years, I`m 5`10 and I`ve never seen someone in Japan taller than me.`
    – AP article two days ago (about Internet Cafes) – something like `These establishments often have hundreds of manga comics`. The one that I go to has 75,000. Golgo 13 and Kochi-kame alone make hundreds.
    – The best was `There are still samurai. A British guy last year went to Japan and learned their martial arts and talked to their emperor and he made him a samurai.` This guy must live in the same world where `Karate Kid 2` took place.

  37. The hikikomori informant interviewed by Zielenziger is puzzled by extended analysis on state of the nation through singularly on hikikomori.”I had a little confidence in telling such a complex thing through an interpreter.”the infromant says.
    search for FREEZING POINT blog.

    I agree with Doi.Also NOT recommending Nakane Chie’s “Human relations in the vertical society”.

    Richie is getting worse in his “JAPAN JOURNALS”.Had been in Japan for 60 years and still hadn`t learned any Kanji .

    Online commentary on Japan?heck it is getting worse and worse.It is getting increasingly nasty year after year.

  38. M-Bone – I’d love to see some sources for your quotes. Not as I doubt them, just as I want to read them in all their original glory. Here’s one to add: “Ive never been to japan but I have a pretty good understanding of their culture from watching FF Tokyo drift.” (source: http://www.mattromaine.com/2007/02/22/
    creepy-crawlies-comin-out-o-the-woods/).

    However a list of “Stupidest Online Stuff About Japan” is going to be very long indeed….

    I assume “The Gnomes of Tokyo” is a gardening treatise…?

  39. Comment on Zielenziger`s informant is interesting.

    That reminds me, what do you guys think about `Speed Tribes`?

    I don`t know what to say about it, really. It is billed as sociology, but many of the stories in it are obviously fake. The author takes as much from manga and movies as from interviews and his own experience and puts together some fantasies. It IS a great read, however.

    About Richie – 60 years and no kanji? At 20 kanji a year he would be able to get the gist of a newspaper editorial. What a waste of time. Perfect example of a guy who has thought way more about influencing the way that other people understand Japan than broadening his own understanding.

    I agree about Doi as well. I wish that I could get away with that type of crap in my own writing, come to think of it. Sure beats things like `evidence`.

  40. I can’t believe that Richie thing. I mean, I can believe that he can’t read kanji, but can’t see how he could possible have avoided it in so many decades. Doesn’t he even want to know what is going on around him, or is he one of those ‘repeat the year’ types wearing chrysanthemum-coloured glasses who prefers his constructed fantasies?

    Found this from a review by Richie: “…Japanese-language manga-illustrated edition of the “Kojiki” (Record of Ancient Matters) dating from 712 and Japan’s oldest book. The publication is intended for primary-school children and all of the kanji comes with its furigana for easy reading.
    For some foreign readers, perhaps unable to read Japanese, the major interest will lie in observing the considerable violence with which the conventions of eighth-century Japanese narrative collide with those of our 21st century.”
    I assume Richie can at least read kana. The rest of his review focuses on the pictures, notably.

    Found a couple of quotes that might explain his mindset: “All in a language I could not understand, but when you look at films and don’t have titles, and have no idea if it’s a mother or a lover that the hero’s involved with, you learn something else. You learn about the choices that a director has, you learn about why he makes the movements that he has, you’re undistracted by story, you’re undisturbed by understanding dialogue — all of these things give you another way of learning, another way of finding out — which in the case of film is more true. And so you learn exactly what the director wanted to do and then you can judge how well he did it.” and “And through the language of their cinema, you learned the other more important language of … oh, the body language, the moves, the looks, the expressions, the assumptions — all of this you learn. Narrative, and understanding it, would only have been an impediment to this.” So Richie claims that understanding the Japanese language is actually a hindrance to understanding Japan. Though he can speak the language. “He long ago learned how to speak Japanese well enough to chat with the empress but, like many foreigners who spend decades in Japan, he can’t read or write it. “Lazy,” he explains. ” (http://www.robertfulford.com/ 2004-11-30-richie.html)

    Hmm. Further evidence that Richie is a tossface: “The other day I did what I thought had been proper — I had to pay somebody some money, so I put it in a piece of paper, which is traditionally done — white paper, and then give them the money. And he laughed. He said, “What are you wasting the paper for?” He got the paper and pulled the money out and put it in his pocket. Ah, gone! There went a whole section of the [culture]. I see a hole, this whole museum disappearing.” Like Kerr, he wants Japan to be this quaint little museum of tradition and gets upset when it isn’t. And projects one person’s action into a generalisation about an entire people.

    These other quotes are from http://globetrotter.berkeley.edu/ people/Richie/richie-con6.html.

  41. The hikikomori guy at freezing point is a sharp minded young man.He can always quit being hikikomori and work for media,I think.
    Zielenziger in his book found Korea as model East Asian democracy where Japan should see it as a role model.
    Not that I’m challenging that would-be status,however he had wronglly idealized the country for there are no social disease as in Japan,like suicides,women don’t have babies,politically apathetic middleclass,jobless youth and such.In fact Korea has all of these,perhaps not hikikomori for the existence of draft to the military for
    more than 2 years.

    Donald Richie:
    Maybe not “any Kanji” but he still doesn’t read much Japanese as well as his buddy
    Karel Van Wolfren(has been in Japan since 1962).

    Karl Taro Greenfeld:
    I think SPEED TRIBE is NOT translated into Japanese(his newest on emerging virus in China is).Haven’t read it myself and I cannot comment on it.Not a big fan of his writing over SALON.COM though,
    I was actually shocked to find out while I was reading David Goodman’s work on anti-semitism in Japan and KTG’s mother and writer Yonetani Fumiko is being accused of anti-semite.Goodman’s accusation has got to do with a description in one of her short stories of which I have not read.So can’t make judgement about it.But Yonetani’s husband and American writer,Josh Greenfeld is,as I understand a Jewish American and Yonetini had converted to Judaism after their marriage.Bizzare.

    Looks like this thread is destined to become a long one.

  42. `Zielenziger in his book found Korea as model East Asian democracy where Japan should see it as a role model.`

    I guess the more politicians slashed in the face and the more dirt about their friends from the north covered up before it makes the press, the better. (I`m just being a jerk, Korea has a real, solid democracy, great standard of living, etc., however, I don`t see their current situation as being something that Japan should aspire to…. there are good and bad points in both countries).

    Korea may not have `hikikomori` by that name, but they do have thousands and thousands of kids hooked on online games…. some who never see the light of day. I had a bunch of Korean students in my class when I was talking about hikikomori, come to think of it, and they seemed to agree that it was far from a Japan only thing. I was also amazed at how guys from different cultures had similar hikikomori experiences. Not so much with the women. Hikikomori is a very male thing, I think.

    That `ideal Korea` stuff sounds like a problem that I see in academic writing quite a bit. Scholar will study country A, find a lot of problems, and, knowing little about country B, make a lot of comparisons that favor B. A number of books about `happiness` have come out suggesting that people in the Pacific Islands are the happiest in the world and that Westerners and Japanese, etc. have to learn from them. Then came those coups and explosions of violence last year as well as lots of revelations about substance abuse, domestic violence, etc. I think that constant refs to the wonders of Korean society fall into the same boat (ie. locals can see the warts, even as the country is idealized for ideological purposes by some scholars). Korea = fine place. Korea as an ideal for Japan? Why?

  43. I’d have to agree. Korea and Japan, and also Taiwan and Hong Kong are really on more or less the same plane these days in terms of quality of life. Sure there are good and bad points in each region but all in all I would say that they’re in the same general category when compared to the rest of Asia. (Maybe we can throw Singapore in also, but I’ve never been there so I won’t comment.)

    As for hikikomori, I have a friend from Hong Kong whose brother was a classic hikikomori for a couple of years, until he totally shocked everyone by going out and getting some sort of job.

    I’m pretty shocked to hear that Richie can’t read Japanese. I haven’t read much of his writing, but I always assumed he was an expert based on the frequency with which I see his name. I haven’t actually read all of the “skewed image of Japan” books being tossed around so I don’t have much to contribute right now, although I did read a pretty amusing book about the sex culture of Japan last summer when I was visiting Adam in Thailand-which I picked up at a used bookstore in Kanchanaburi run by an absolutely massive man from America or something. I can’t remember the name now (Adam might remember) but it had some very very odd theories about how rural Japan back in the day was some sort of nonstop orgy party, where teenage farmgirls would leave their windows so all the boys in town could come in and have sex with her night after night, like an extra pornographic version of the Tale of Genji.

  44. Is the sex book that you read entitled `Pink Samurai`? Not a bad book, really, although too anecdotal to really be considered seriously.

    About the farm orgies – There is actually quite a bit of evidence about this. Young men and women used to `get together` to pick marriage partners (believe it or not, all of this `traditional Japan` means omiai, virgins until marriage, etc. is pretty much wrong, this was the SAMURAI tradition which has been adopted as the JAPANESE tradition, farms were very randy places it seems). For a GREAT movie that touches on this theme see Imamura Shohei`s `Ballad of Narayama` (Narayama Bushiko) which, in my opinion, is one of the handful of finest Japanese movies ever. Come to think of it, it is probably my second favorite movie of all….

    Richie has written mostly on Japanese film (and mostly on those few films that have been translated into English). In any case, this is not just us saying that Richie can`t read Japanese – he actually BRAGS about it in some of his works. In a lot of ways, Richie cannot be as well informed as Japan bloggers like the Mutantfrog crew. Pretty sad that he is one of the most read `Japan hands` of his generation (ie. of all time). This is serious stuff. Just stop for a second and think about what you would understand of your own country if you could not read the language. Pretty scary. I`d also say that not being able to read can be a fatal flaw for a film reviewer. Richie, for example, may not even be able to read a title like `Manchuria, 1943`. One of the best movies of Richie`s prime `The Human Condition` (Ningen no Joken) had a lot of spoken Chinese subtitled in Japanese. When he was reviewing movies like this, was he just faking it?

    It pisses me off a bit that it was my fire for Japanese film that drove me to learn the language in the first place and that the dude considered to be `the man` on Japanese film in the English speaking world couldn`t even muster the mojo to learn some kanji after 60 years in the country to fill in a big, big, big hole in his film understanding. Come to think of it, Richie`s dismissal of anime as crap is also very suspect. How can you understand something like `Ghost in the Shell` (攻殻機動隊 koukaku kidoutai in Japanese, who the hell is going to understand what a koukaku is without knowing kanji?). Anime are full of stuff like that.

  45. “Korea favor” comes from two roots.Japanese progressive and American Japan watcher belongs to”containing Japan”school.
    I think it was Chalmers Johnson who originally stated Korean democracy>Japanese
    democracy in the 90’s by quoting Japanese labor union activist.He was also saying asia has three “real” democracy.South Korea,Taiwan and The Phillippines,for they
    overthrow the tyranny.

    Japanese progressive has this “revolution”complex.
    1)Meiji restoration is a failed revolution because it was started by semi-feudal samurais.
    2)Freedom and civil rights movement had failed because Meiji government oppresed it,therefore pre-war democracy was imcomplete.
    3)We couldn’t stop military from invasion in Asia and total war.
    4)It was GHQ who restored democracy and Japanese progressive was nothing but a bystander.
    5)Could not stop the” red purge” and “The reverse course”.War criminals and emperor is still in power and all that.

    For above reasons,back then envy was shed on Soviets.Then you have Stalin denouncement.So,target had shifted to Mao’s China.But Deng Xiaoping had dismantled “gang of four”and cult of personality of chairman Mao.Naturally South Korea gets all the credit because they were fighting against military regime for democracy.Added to all this guilt mentality over colonial experience and discrimination to zainichi.Korea,to Japanese babyboomer,become sacred cow.
    That is one of the reasons Korea bashing is the popular pastime on 2ch.

    And for Americans including Johnson,Korea’s anti-Japanese nationalism seemed as an asset for post-cold war Asian geopolitics where Japan can be either friend or foe.

    Richie:
    I’m becoming a bit cautious about “complete illiterate Richie” theory.However,that is what I got from countless description from writing.But Japanese perception of Richie is an expat king.Nothing more,nothing less.His criticism on Ozu Yasujiro is totally overlooked now.and he is not at all informed (or interested)of achievement in Ozu study in Japanese film criticism from the 80’s.He was pissing in “Journal”about him not invited in centennial symposium held by Asahi Shimbun,conducted by the august film critic and ex-dean of Todai,Hasumi Shigehiko.Anyway the panelist were highly partisan in my eyes,so there were little chance Richie got invited.

  46. Yes, “Pink Samurai” was the book. There was definitely plenty of believable stuff in the book, but the general tone was just hard to take too seriously-especially when he was writing about the modern day.
    “Young men and women used to `get together` to pick marriage partners”
    Yes, that’s one thing- but he was describing full blown orgies under the moon, as a matter of course at certain festivals. I guess it’s not impossible, but it had the ring of fantasy to me.

    On another note- I just read that the Kyoto Protocol classified South Korea as a developing nation. Who was crazy enough to believe that in 1997?

  47. I’ve seen Pink Samurai in the bookshops, and have flipped through it there, but not been tempted to buy it. Too smutty for my tastes.

    “Traditional” Japanese weddings are about as traditional as The Mikado. Prince Yoshihito – the Taisho Emperor – was the first person to get married in the “traditional” Shinto ceremony. In 1900 or so.

    Since my interest in Japanese film is entirely secondary (or even tertiary) to my interest in the country, I never read a lot of Richie, and didn’t miss much it seems.

    I’ve heard similar about the farmgirl sex thing, though Pink Samurai may be overstating the case somewhat – haven’t read it (I tend to stay away from books that look as if they sensationalise the Weird and Wacky parts of Japan) but there is a term for it that temporarily escapes me. Yobai or something… 夜這い. I think that is it. Yup – there’s a short Wiki-Japan article on the subject that may be of interest. Now I am tempted to go and rent Narayama Bushiko….

  48. It’s a Korean tactics.They demand “developing” status when international responsibility is involved like free trade agreements.

  49. Narayama Bushiko:
    I hate to say but it is not my favorite Imamura film.(my reccomendation is Human Vanishes人間蒸発”.Imamura is pretty much orientalize Japanese folk culture there.
    Not to denying yobai and all though.Ichikawa Kon had also made Narayama Bushiko of which I have not seen.perhaps I might like it though.

  50. “Scholar will study country A, find a lot of problems, and, knowing little about country B, make a lot of comparisons that favor B.”

    In this case the “scholar” didn’t seem to know much about country A either.

    The all time silliest book about Japan *must* be Peter Carey’s “Wrong about Japan”. Boy, was he ever. The book that probably had the largest amount of negative influence is Wolferan’s “Enigma…”. Iris Chang gets shittiest cover.

  51. I don`t think that Narayama is Orientalist. I think that it is a shockingly gritty depiction of life in a small pre-modern community. I don`t think that there is anything in there that is `Japanese` or `Asian` to the point where something similar would not have been taking place in similar communities elsewhere (infanticide, wretched conditions for second sons who don`t inherit the farm, etc.). The themes explored fit with many of Imamura`s other films as well (Nippon Konchuki `The Inspect Woman` and `Fukushu suru no ha ware ni ari` or `Vengence is Mine`) – we see people who struggling to survive and see their passions sated. Narayama is one of the most raw movies ever (makes other hard period films like `Unforgiven` or `The Proposition` look soft by comparison). Of course, this is one of the real strengths of Japanese film, directors have had the stones to look at some very dense and in no way commercial themes.

    Korea has painted itself as a developing country when it needs to… but… much of its present nationalism is based on being part of the developed club.

    China is pulling a bunch of fast ones as well. When they calculate GDP, they count things assembled in China every time they cross the border (ie. back and forth from Vietnam for different stages of assembly, etc.) but they count these same things as being of foreign origin when calculating trade surpluss (to make surplusses like the one with the US of A seem smaller). Come to think of it, China also, from time to time will state that they are a developing country so they have to do A and nobody can say $hit and at other times they (the government) say that they are a major player so that they can do B and nobody can say $hit.

    Here is a general question on the Asian conditions point –
    does anyone here think that Korea and Taiwan have a big `advantage` over Japan, either in a lifestyle area or otherwise?

  52. Imamura Shohei:
    OK,”orientalize”maybe a bit of an overkill.But there is a criticsm on Imamura idealizing “folk culture”and “asiatic pathos”with comparison to “modernity”or “conventionalism within today’s Japan”or “paternalistic emperor system”.Part of the blame comes from Imamura is a born and raised(and died as) Tokyoite and never really in touch with the rural Japan.Big town intellectual fancy on country side seeking “real Japan”is the basic tone.
    “Profound desire of Gods”(68)was filmed on location in Yonagunijima,the most westward island of Okinawa,before returned to Japan from U.S military rule.Locals were pretty pissed with the way Yonaguni(in the film,the island in the drama is anonymous.)and islanders life being portrayed.

  53. Yeah, but does Imamura really idealize anything in Narayama? Considering that I almost vomited at two scenes, I`d say no. I wouldn`t want to live in that village….

  54. ”Big town intellectual fancy on country side seeking “real Japan”is the basic tone.”
    Sounds a bit like Yanagita Kunio….
    If so, then perhaps 常民化 rather than “orientalise”. Folksize? Checked out what 楢山節考 is about – obasute and such pleasant things: one user-review said “don’t watch this while feeling down” so I gather it’s about as upbeat as Hotaru no Haka….

  55. “Considering that I almost vomited at two scenes, I`d say no.”
    Okay, I guess that (a) it’s not quite Yanagita, and (b) I’m not going to rush off to rent it….

  56. Going back to village orgy thing,There is a serial murder case in Japan called Tsuyama Thirty massacre.Sort of Virginia Tech univ shooting in the 30’s remote village in the middle of nowhere in Okayama,Japan.There is a hypothesis that the killer,Toi Mutsuo,who was 21 at the time was rejected from yobai circle for Toi having tuberculosis.And that had made Toi into massacre.The incident become all time popular Japanese thriller film 八つ墓村”The Villege of eight graves”.Ichikawa Kon who had made the orginal Narayama-Bushiko had done one of the remake in the 90’s.

  57. I always call that one the `Yatsu haka mura satsujin jiken` – the image from the 1970s film of a dude running around a town with two candles tied to his head (occult thing) and a shotgun in one hand and a katana in the other, is one of the more interesting things in Japanese film history.

    Didn`t Kinoshita Keisuke (24 Eyes, Carmen Comes Home, etc.) do the original Narayama? I`m not a huge Kinoshita fan (he is the guy who beat out Kurosawa and Ozu in the critics polls in the 1950s but has been mostly forgotten in the West and is now considered to be inferior to the masters in Japan).

    Has anyone here seen Ichikawa`s remake of his classic murder movie (featuring Kindaichi, the same detective who shows up in Yatsu Haka Mura) `Inugami-ke no Ichizoku`? I didn`t have a chance to see it when it came out because I was not in Japan.

  58. Huh, so that’s what that movie is about. I saw it without subtitles back in like my first year of study abroad and didn’t really understand the story. I should really watch it again some time.

  59. I’ve been mistaken Kinoshita with Ichikawa.My bad,Ichikawa Kon never made Narayama.Yes you are correct as always M-Bone.

  60. Hey,

    Sorry to backtrack a few messages, but I see van Wolferen has done an interview in a certain mouthpiece of the foreign office.

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20070506x1.html

    He is now turning his penetrating analysis to the United States, which – he still has his “Enigma” glasses on – he claims is the same sort of large amorphous kafka-esque web of non-responsibility that dominated his Japan view. Ho hum. Is there nothing that this guy can do that isn’t based on something that Chalmers Johnson wrote? At least Johnson focuses on particular policy areas (industrial policy for Japan, military base politics for the United States – see Empire of Sorrow). Van Wolferan has to go for the whole shebang.

    I wonder how many conservatives who thought van wolferan was the best thing since sliced bread when “Enigma” came out will now be willing to endorse his views on “America”.

    Some of his comments about Koizumi/Abe were interesting.

  61. Sorry I missed this thread!

    Re: Taro

    I wrote this a while back:
    http://www.pliink.com/mt/marxy/archives/2006/02/book-report-spe.html

    I think you have to read Nakane whether you believe it or not. Does set a lot of themes of Japanese studies.

    Also, dumbest book I have read about Japan for a while: 「国家の品格」 Seriously, I was trying to be fair when I reviewed it in length, but the guy is a total fucking moron who can’t complete a single thought. Whether you agree with his politics or not, it’s a mess.

  62. Bryce:
    I’ve got a lot to say about KvW and Johnson.I’ll write a long post after Icame back from Korea.

  63. 国家の品格 is bad but I`ve just been reading a book called 国民の教育 by Watanabe Shoichi that is similar but worse. At one point, he describes American primary education as being more far right than wartime Japanese education. That is what he thinks Japan should be going for at present. Watanabe Shoichi: A guy for whom militarist Japan was not militarist enough.

  64. Another of those “Kokumin” books, I see. Amazon Japan has it as four stars, due to the number of Uyoku sympathisers posting reviews. The sort of book that “「古事記、日本書紀から話は始めるべきだ」とご指摘されております。” The same old same old, really.

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