Lo Sheng preservation in doubt

The historic Lo Sheng Sanitarium, built by the Japanese colonial government in 1930 and located in Sinjhuang City, Taipei County, may not be preserved after all. As I wrote about following my visit there this summer, activists have been working to arrange a preservation agreement for the site with the government, following a plan to demolish it entirely to make room for a metro train depot. The government had made a promise to preserve 40 (approximately 3/4) of the buildingds on the site, but now appears to be reneging.

The protest came after the Taipei County Government posted a bulletin on Tuesday in which it said that residents who have not moved out before Monday would be evicted, including residents living in 25 buildings the government had promised to preserve.
The government agreed to preserve 22 buildings at the first site.

“Of the 40 buildings that were to be preserved, the Department of Rapid Transport Systems only guarantees the safety of 15 during construction. It will fence the other 25 buildings, which means residents cannot live there anymore,” the group said in a statement.
They said the government’s sincerity in vowing to preserve the sanatorium was doubtful.

“The preservation agreement was made last May, but until now, the government hasn’t declared the sanatorium a historical site … Before it is declared as a historical site, we will not allow the MRT department to destroy the complex,” the group said.

(From Taipei Times)

Saizeriya burned by yen carry trade

Saizeriya said it signed derivatives deals with BNP Paribas Securities (Japan) Ltd. twice, in October 2007 and February 2008, to procure Australian dollars needed to import food from that country. Under the deals, Saizeriya is to receive 1 million Australian dollars every month, payments of which started in September.

If the yen weakens below the level set in the contract, Saizeriya is entitled to buy the Australian dollars at a discount. But should the yen appreciate beyond that threshold, the purchase price rises.


Tamogami Update

Last week on November 4 I wrote a long post detailing the results of my brief investigation into the various political connections surrounding the (now) infamously ultra-right-wing (now) former General Tamogami Toshio. This article was referenced by several English language bloggers such as Jun Okumura, Tobias Harris, and the anonymous Shisaku, (as well as a very nice plug from Curzon) who all add their own instructive commentary. Best of all though, was a prominent citation by Herbert Bix, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, who gave his perspective on the controversy in an essay in the Japan Focus online journal. Bix’s key piece of analysis regarding Tamogami is that “His aim is to forge a body of activist officers who will participate in political combat, promoting the “true” perspective on history, even if it is not factually true for the particular historical period he cares about.” Based on further evidence that has come out since my initial article, some of which Bix cites (even more has come out since), this certainly seems to be the case.

I wish I had time right now to do another in-depth piece, but I don’t, so I’ll just run down the various interesting facts that I’ve noted in more of a summary list form. There’s a lot more than this around, both in ordinary newspaper articles found online, blogs, and in print-only magazine articles, so I will try and do a few more updates soon. I had started to collate everything into one big post, but after letting it sit for a week I thought I should just hit post on this one and continue adding details in future posts.

  • Tamogami had published a similar article in May of last year, in a magazine for “officers to publish their personal research.” In this article, he described the fact that Japan invaded Korea and China and committed brutalities there a lie, and said of the Nanjing Massacre that “some civilians may have gotten mixed-up in the midst of the chaos, However, there was absolutely no systematic massacre of Chinese civilians by the Japanese army.” (After writing the post I found the article at this excellent blog.) In 2004, when he was dean of the JSDF Joint Staff College, he wrote another article for the same magazine, in which he called on JSDF members to submit articles to ordinary magazines. Neither of these articles made any political or media fuss at the time. (Asahi, Nov. 3)

  • I found a review of the book written by Ochiai Michio (落合道夫), second prize winner of the APA Group contest. The book, “Looking at the Japanese and the Great East-Asian War from the Perspective of Stalin’s International Invasion” endorses the same minority theory of Comintern responsibility for the Xian Incident. Based on the review, it seems to be an expanded version of the thesis proposed in “Mao: The Unkown Story”, which was itself heavily cited in Tamogami’s APA essay. In general, the book sounds as if it reflects a version of history identital that of both Tamogami Toshio and Motoya Toshio. The author seems to have no university affiliation, and in fact his name has no online presence aside from a couple of mentions of this book, or his connection with the current contest. The book is not available in ordinary bookstores, and can be ordered from its publisher, “The Tokyo Institute for the Study of Modern History” only by telephone or fax, as they have no website. They may be some sort of right-wing group, or they may simply be Mr. Ochiai’s living room with a fancy sign on the wall.

  • Hatoyama Yukio, who was photographed at the “Wine no Kai’ with APA Group leader Motoya Toshio and Tamogami claims that, “did appear at the meeting with my wife, thinking that it was not a place for political discussions. The overall mood was and conversation was peculiar, and I took a graceful early exit without having spoken much.” (Sankei Nov. 6)

  • As Curzon helpfuly pointed out, APA Group actually is not a publically traded company, which means that my speculation over possible misuse of corporate funds etc. turned out to be likely unfounded. While there are a variety of banks and other creditors/investors, the company is largely controlled by the Motoya family. For example, this page shows four different members of the Motoya family serving on the board of the Apa Community Co.

  • The only company in the APA Group not to have APA in the name is the “Japan Finance Development Finance Corporation”, based in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Pref. near the Komatsu base, and near to where APA was founded, and the hometown of Motoya Toshio, who is listed as the representative of this sub-company. (Search here, cannot link directly due to CGI script.)

  • Of the 235 essay submissions, a lage proportion were found to be JASDF members. I believe the latest count is 94. As pointed out by Tobias Harris, when there were still only 78 identified ASDF personnel, the Asahi discovered “hat of those seventy-eight, none except General Tamogami were flag officers, ten were field officers, sixty-four were company-level officers, and four were cadets. Asahi also found that sixty-two had served under General Tamogami when he served as commander of Komatsu base.”

  • The Japan Times did a pretty thorough profile of Motoya Fumiko, wife of Toshio, back in 2005. Fumiko is actually CEO not of APA Group, but of APA Hotels, while her husband is head of the overall corporation. Motoya Fumiko became a celebrity CEO after splashing her en-hatted photo all over advertising, and writing a book about her management style, but interestingly her husband does not even have an article on Japanese Wikipedia-despite his many and not very secretive right wing-activist political activities.

  • One detail I had noticed while doing the research, but then forgot to insert into my original post. One of the honorable mentions in the essay contest is the head of the Risk Management Office of APA. While I see no reason to think there is any particular significance to his selection, corporate contests in general ban all employees and immediate families of employees from participating in a contest, to avoid conflict of interest. Having an employee be a contest winner (an honorable mention includes a small cash prize and APA hotel voucher) is simply another piece of evidence to suggest the generally irregular and suspicious nature of the contest.

Asian Immigrants in Florida

One of the most obscure footnotes to the recent American elections was the failure of little-known ballot initiative in Florida, which would have symbolically removed from the law books a currently inactive 1926 unconstitutional provision of the state constitution which was intended to prohibit Asians from owning land in the state. The 1926 prohibition is specifically directed at foreigners ineligible for citizenship, which at the time applied to Asians-who were at the time barred from naturalization by federal law.

The language before voters did not explain that the laws first appeared around 1913 during a public panic that Asian immigrants, mostly from Japan, would work on farms for less than Americans and buy up vast tracts of land. It failed to spell out that state provisions were intended to work hand-in-glove with discriminatory federal laws that prevented Asian-Americans from becoming naturalized citizens until 1952.

Rather the ballot simply asked voters if they were willing to delete “provisions authorizing the Legislature to regulate or prohibit the ownership, inheritance, disposition and possession of real property by aliens ineligible for citizenship.”

Steve Geller, a former state senator who worked to get the initiative on the ballot, said Florida election rules only allowed a description of 75 words, and required that the language of the old provision — “aliens ineligible for citizenship” — be included. As a result, he said, “a lot of people thought it had to do with illegal aliens, and it had nothing to do with illegal aliens.” (NYT)

Few traces remain in Florida of this brief and ill-fated wave of Japanese immigration, and the most prominent is likely the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. It happens to be located very near to my grandparents’ house (like all Jews from Brooklyn, they eventually retired to Florida) and I went there with them a few years back. The garden is pretty nice, I suppose, although I actually got the impression that it is too big to replicate the feeling of an actual Japanese garden, the design philosophy of which is largely based on a fractal-like recreation of the large on a small scale. The significantly different vegetation of Florida also does not help. But the museum does have some neat exhibits (their temporary one the day I went was a pretty cool collection of Japanese kites, which based on my experience is a dead art form in Japan. I saw kites all over in China-does anyone fly them here?) and resources that could be of great interest to a Palm Beach County resident who wants to learn a bit more about Japanese culture. For me, of course, the most interesting thing was the history of the museum itself. And the iguanas.

Their website has a tantalizing, but brief, history of the Japanese in Florida.

In 1904, Jo Sakai, a recent graduate of New York University, returned to his homeland of Miyazu, Japan, to organize a group of pioneering farmers and lead them to what is now northern Boca Raton. With the help of the Model Land Company, a subsidiary of Henry Flagler’s East Coast Railroad, they formed a farming colony they named Yamato, an ancient name for Japan.

Ultimately, the results of their crop experimentation were disappointing and the Yamato Colony fell far short of its goals. By the 1920s, the community, which had never grown beyond 30 to 35 individuals, finally surrendered its dream. One by one, the families left for other parts of the United States or returned to Japan.

One settler remained. His name was George Sukeji Morikami. A modest farmer, George continued to cultivate local crops and act as a fruit and vegetable wholesaler. In the mid-1970s, when George was in his 80s, he donated his land to Palm Beach County with the wish to preserve it as a park and to honor the memory of the Yamato Colony.

It is sad that a legally meaningless ballot resolution intended only as a posthumous apology to these poor immigrants was accidentally voted down by people who thought they were doing something to hurt current illegal immigrants, but one must admit that the resolution was very poorly worded.