Abe down, otaku up?

So, it turns out that Abe Shinzo had supporters the way the fictional band Flight of the Conchords had fans (or rather, “fan”), and yet after managing to survive longer than some expected, still gave up the ghost suddenly and with no clear immediate reason. While most people are probably concerned about such things as when the next lower house election will be called, what this means for Japanese constitutional revision or the future of overseas troop deployment, or whether the grandson of “The Bismarck of Japan” will be the next prime minister, others are speculating on it. That is to say, the prospect of famously geeky Aso Taro assuming the prime minster-ship has sent shares of manga and otaku related stocks soaring.

On Wednesday, shares of manga publisher Broccoli shot up 71 percent, while those of second-hand comic store chain Mandarake climbed 13 percent. Shares of We’ve, which produces a Japanese version of Sesame Street, rose 14 percent.

Although Olympic sharpshooter and manga aficionado Aso Taro would probably be a more entertaining premier than Abe was (although certainly no Koizumi), he would likely still be a disaster and a half. To remind everyone why, I would like to briefly revisit some things we’ve posted about the man in the past.

First of all, here are some items from what Joe described as his “colorful past.”

  • Aso’s father, Takakichi Aso, was a big businessman: he owned a large cement company, Aso Cement. He later entered the Diet and was buddies with Kakuei Tanaka, the Nixonian prime minister of Japan who spent half of his life amassing political capital in Niigata and the other half split between running the LDP from the shadows and fending off prosecution for corruption. (Tanaka’s daughter Makiko is the short-lived foreign minister who called Bush an asshole.)
  • Takakichi’s wife (Taro’s mother) was Shigeru Yoshida’s daughter—Yoshida being the postwar prime minister who set up Japan’s foreign and domestic policy for much of the Cold War era.
  • Yoshida’s wife’s father was Nobuaki Makino, a Meiji-era diplomat and politician; Makino’s father was the famous samurai Okubo Toshimichi.
  • Back to Taro Aso himself: he represented Japan in the shooting events at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, while still president of the cement company he inherited from his father (he gave it up to run for office in 1978, and now his brother runs the company).
  • He was appointed Minister of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications in 2003, and Koizumi apparently likes him, because he’s survived two subsequent cabinet reshuffles.

Then there were these statements:

  • “Japan is one nation, one civilization, one language, one culture, one race, none of which can be found in any other country.” (Direct quote)
  • Claimed Koreans wished to change their names to Japanese names during colonial rule (an attempt to justify the Aso Zaibatsu’s colonial-era actions). Also claimed Japan helped spread the use of Hangul writing.
  • When inaugurated as MIC Minister in 2003, made the bold prediction that office paperwork would disappear with the development of information technology and that everything would be done by magical new floppy disks in the future.
  • “Japan is treated like a nouveau-riche child because it has no military power but does have economic power. All the G8 countries are White, and Japan is the only Yellow Race country there. So we teamed up with the best fighter, America. This should be obvious!” (Originally posted here.)

He also made a proposal to “de-religicize” Yasukuni to avoid “all this fuss.”

“It’s about expressing our respect and gratitude for those who died for their country and praying for the peace of the souls of those who died…without all this fuss,” Aso told a news conference.

“The tens of thousands of soldiers who died crying ‘Long Life to the Emperor’ filled those words with deep emotion,” Aso said in a statement outlining his idea. “So I strongly pray that the emperor can visit Yasukuni.”

Since the plan made no mention of removing the Class A war criminals who are the cause of “all this fuss,” I fail to see how taking away the shrine’s tax exempt status or whatever would actually change anything. In another speech, Aso had this to say on the Yasukuni issue:

‘From the viewpoint of the spirits of the war dead, they hailed ‘Banzai’ for the emperor—none of them said ‘prime minister Banzai!’

But Aso isn’t all bad. On the plus side, his appointment as Foreign Minister, to replace himself, would apparently be Astroboy.

22 thoughts on “Abe down, otaku up?”

  1. Just three quick comments/questions, as I know little about contemporary Japanese politics.

    1: with the “one nation, etc” quote, did Aso mean that no other country had such “one-ness” or that Japan’s culture etc were unique to Japan (“no other country” having them)? He does have a point about the spread of hangul, too, in that Japanese Korea media increased and spread writing as a whole, and that writing was often in Hangul (hangul newspapers etc). Of course Japan did not do this out of the goodness of its heart….

    2: Seems a bit odd to refer to Okubo Toshimichi as a “famous samurai” when it was not his exploits as a samurai as such (in fact it was his rejection of the samurai system – the bakuhan system in particular) that made him famous, as an early political leader of the Meiji state. At least until he got killed – by disgruntled ex-samurai, ironically enough.

    3: Aso does have a point about Yasukuni, since he notes it was for the Emperor the people died, not anything else. Yasukuni enshrines those who gave their lives for the Emperor, not the state.

    However for Japan’s image, Aso should not be PM. Can you imagine the jokes in Da West? “Ah-so, ah-so!” “Arsehole!” Hmmmm. However, he would certainly be a brief but interesting addition to Japan’s list of prime ministers….

  2. If we avoided picking leaders because of funny names then we would be left with no awesome names to make fun of (Boutros-Boutros Ghali anyone?)

    Yes his tenure would be brief and he already seems to be dominating the sudden and short race to succeed Abe. One hopes he’ll have the sense to hold a general election as it seems like the government just cant function without the same party controlling both houses. It needs to go to the DPJ and then Hatoyama (an advocate of abolishing the upper house or merging it into the lower house) needs to lead a campaign to reorganize the upper house to avoid this broken state of affairs.

  3. If we avoided picking leaders because of funny names then we would be left with no awesome names to make fun of (Boutros-Boutros Ghali anyone?)

    Yes, and my own country is run by Dick and Bush these days. Huh huh.

    I haven’t seen a whole lot of noise about the prospects for a rift in the LDP, but I think that possibility is there.

  4. When (if) Dick and Bush get joined by an ‘Asshole’ then we really will be living in Team America: World Police’s New World Order….

  5. You are missing one important family member of Taro. His uncle,son of Yoshida Shigeru,the writer Yoshida Kenichi.I’m a fan.

  6. A fan of Aso, or a fan of Yoshida Kenichi?

    Anyway, like Jade, I’m not entirely sure that many of those statements are that controversial. Most non-Japanese seem to regard Japan as some sort of unique cultural identity, although often they don’t really know what they are talking about. Samuel Hunington, for one, thought Japan stood as the only example of a state that happened to be its own independent civilisation, whatever that means.

    Anyway, if not Aso then who? Would Fukuda be much better? Less inflammatory, perhaps, but either way, the LDP seems stuffed.

  7. I think I can understand what Huntington is getting at, but do not agree. I mean, the Japanese civilisation is hardly ‘independent’, with its strong Chinese roots. China itself might be a better call, ‘China’ being generally the land of the Han civilisation (also, the Mongols and Manchus moved in, rather than moving China to them), but still arguable. I’d call Australian Aborigine culture about as independent as you can get, isolated for about 40,000 years, but then again they never achieved either civilisation or nationhood.

  8. Jade Oc – you’re probably some Whitey from the North of England, huh?

    That’s like saying that the English are not really English, really, especially their Crown – the Crown having roots in Russia, Australo-Hungary and being buggered 45 generations ago by the Romans and then the French, then the Nordic Vikings and Germanics, and so on and so forth………

    Ozzie Aborigines? Are you totally thick-skulled like them Neanderthals? Is that supposed to be some sort of put-down? You fail yourself, miserably! It’s not even funny.

    I’m a Yank, and a mixed one at that, a Caucasian, they call me, but I’ve got German, French, and English in my blood, supposedly, but that English blood could be some mixture for all I know for I’ve got slightly darker brown hair, so I’ve probably got some Roman or Spanish in me as well, who knows?

    I’ve decided that you’re a total moron. Mongols, Manchus – is that ALL you know? You ignorant TART, you are.

    I wouldn’t say that any of the Commonwealth nations to be “independent,” do you? They’ve all got the Queen on their money, for fuck’s sakes.

  9. “Ozzie Aborigines? Are you totally thick-skulled like them Neanderthals? Is that supposed to be some sort of put-down? You fail yourself, miserably! It’s not even funny.”

    What the hell are you going on about here? In fact in your entire ranting ad hominem post? If you can’t discuss rationally without resorting to pointless and baseless statements that say nothing and achieve nothing, then your rants have no more validity than a crying baby.

  10. Jade, I wouldn’t feed the trolls.

    But to clarify, for those who might be confused like “K,” if less inclined to assholery, the term “independent” here is a reference to civilizational groupings as defined in Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations,” and has little to no relationship with political independence or groupings.

  11. I’m now reading Wang Gangwu(Ex-dean of Univ.of HongKong)’.”中華文明と中国のゆくえ”sconcepts of Chinese civilization there are difinitely diffrent from that of Huntington of whom regard it as “Confucius”civilization.

    And reading all that and I have a feeling that these authors,mostly Chinese,now consider the Chinese civilization is much more of a polity that those who identify with belong.Perhaps because Wang was born in Indonesia and raised in Malaysia,woeked in HongKong and now in Singapore,he may be cautious about expanding the category to the neighboring countries like Japan and Vietnam for that may create “China Threat syndrome”.

    I have been purchasing”and 創元社’s “図説 中国文明史”(total of ten volumes and each costs about 3500 Yen,but definitely worth for).And that is a lot more sino-centric.Adding Mongols,Tibetans and Manchu’s into Chinese civilizations.Something people in the independent Mongolia would dare not to say.

    Yomiuri is doing the series of interview of Umezao Tadao梅棹忠夫,ethnologist and former director of National Ethnological Museum in Osaka.He regards Japan had become it’s own civilization after Meiji restoration by cutting the umbilical cord from Chinese civilization.He has been proclaiming of abolishment of Kanji.
    These thesis are for some reason,pretty common among Japanese academics expertised in Mongolian studies.(I.g Tanaka Katsuhiko,Okada Hidehiro,Sugiyama Masaaki and many more).Perhaps the idea of “Mongolian civilization”had gave them intellectual inspiration of independent “Japanese civilization”from Chinese influence.These academic ideas are being popularized by the works of say,the
    management guru and ex-Economic Plan Agency director Sakaiya Taichi堺屋太一.He has been writing novel of life of Chinghis Khan on Nikkei for the past few years and volume 1 and 2 is currently in the top sellers list in the booshops of Tokyo.

  12. I think what K was trying to say is that Jade Oc’s statements are exactly that – ad hominems.

    “What the hell are you going on about here? In fact in your entire ranting ad hominem post? If you can’t discuss rationally without resorting to pointless and baseless statements that say nothing and achieve nothing, then your rants have no more validity than a crying baby.”

    You said it yourself, buddy, about yourself! Jade Oc needs to stop going around sounding so higher-than-thou, know wot I mean?

  13. I’m actually reading “Clash of Civilizations” right now. I read the first half of it about two months ago, and then I lost the book behind some furniture until recently so I need to backtrack and finish it when I get through the two books I’m currently working on. I don’t want to say more until I’ve finished the book and thought about it some more, but my impression at this point is that I find his categorization of civilizations, and in some cases what civilization a particular group belongs to, probably the worst part of the book. For one thing, although he admits the existence of minor and isolate civilizations (Japan being his sole example of a non-minor, yet isolate civilization) and even lists a couple of examples (most notably Haiti,) his map of the world still shows only the 8 or so major ones, and glosses over the marginal cases in a way that I find very damaging to some of his larger points.

  14. “What exactly did Jade Oc say to get people pissed off? I’m just not following that at all.”

    “Me either, frankly. But in the interests of “not feeding” I haven’t bothered to directly respond.”

    I am relieved to know that it wasn’t only me who couldn’t understand that and also that it was not because of my poor English quality.

  15. I also have no idea who Jade was supposed to have been attacking. But, for what it’s worth “You ignorant TART, you are.” is a prime example of an ad hominem attack.

  16. Where did my last post go?
    Oh well,let’s not waste too much time on some rogue posters,the target could have been anybody.

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