The future is coming

I’m feeling pretty sick this weekend so I”m not going to even try and write anything intelligent.

After years of watching anime and reading manga, there’s an entire image of the future out there that Japan has promised to bring the world. I always thought that Japan would be the first country to use robots on the battlefield, but Korea seems to be beating them.
DMZ robot

Japan in space

At least they are on track to become a real space-faring nation, and after that it’s only a matter of time before the Gundam show up.

[Update!]I take that back, it looks like the Gundam prototype is already in existence. They actually have a video of it firing a gun!

Proof that if the protestors in Beijing are right and Japan really is going to remilitiarize and return to Imperialism, China will have no hope against the robot armies of the 21st century.

WP: Pentagon to Stress Foreign Languages

When I went to a job fair a few weeks ago, an encounter with the woman at the Defense Intelligence Agency counter stuck out in my mind. After giving her spiel about how their agents are given full weapons training and get shipped to a different foreign country every 2 years, she mentioned that they were especially looking for people who spoke foreign languages. When I said I spoke Japanese her eyes lit up and she asked me to stay after and talk with her in more detail. I had to decline though — I’m not ready for that kind of responsibility.

This article gives me an idea as to why they were so interested:

Pentagon to Stress Foreign Languages

By Bradley Graham
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 8, 2005; Page A04

The Pentagon has ordered a broad effort to expand the foreign language skills of the U.S. military, calling for recruitment of more foreign language speakers, higher proficiency levels for linguists and increased language instruction for U.S. forces.

Among measures still under consideration, a senior defense official said, is adoption of a requirement that all or most U.S. military officers understand a foreign language.

This next passage indicates that they have a need for Japanese. While I guess we won’t be fighting the Japanese any time soon, a friend of mine was saying that they often take Japanese speakers and force them to learn how to read Chinese. Kanji gives them a big head start:

“We’re really aiming to move a big part of the force — that would otherwise only know a few words or nothing — up to some kind of middle category,” he said in an interview.

One option under review is whether to require every officer, in Chu’s words, to “have some degree of competence in one or more of what we call the ‘investment languages,’ ” meaning Arabic, Chinese, Japanese or Korean. “We’ve asked the military services for a concept on how we’d do this,” Chu said.

The “defense readiness index” might give us some indication of where we’ll be attacking next:

Titled “Defense Language Transformation Roadmap,” the report outlined a series of directives to the military services and regional commands, with deadlines for action stretching over the next several years.

By the end of the year, for instance, a Pentagon survey is to be conducted to determine how many military and civilian personnel in the Defense Department speak a foreign language. A Pentagon “Language Office” is being established, and a “language readiness index” will be devised to measure the military’s capabilities.

Italy allows Chen entry as president – or do they?

The Taipei Times today published an article leading with the incredible headline Italy allows Chen entry as president. The article states:

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) departed for the Vatican yesterday afternoon to join 200 state and religious leaders paying a final tribute to Pope John Paul II.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday said the Italian government pledged to grant Chen entry to the country in his capacity as head of state.

Chen’s attendance at the papal funeral today will mark the first time a president from Taiwan has visited the Holy See since the establishment of diplomatic ties 63 years ago.

The visit will also make Chen the first president from Taiwan to set foot in a European country.

Is this in fact entirely accurate?

Let’s have a look at the article the BBC published a day before the trip happened.

A Chinese spokesman expressed “strong dissatisfaction” at Italy for granting Mr Chen a visa to go to the Vatican.

Italy has diplomatic ties with Beijing, rather than Taiwan, which China sees as part of its territory.

And later on in the same article-

If Mr Chen goes ahead with his trip, he will become the first Taiwanese president to visit the Vatican – one of only 25 nations that officially recognises Taipei diplomatically, and the only one in Europe

He is scheduled to leave Taipei on Thursday for Rome, and stay in the Vatican until after Friday’s funeral.

In fact, the Taipei Times is making a very subtle, but highly misleading mis-statement. President Chen is being received by the Vatican as a head of state, but he is not, as the Taipei Times implies, being so received by Italy. From where does this confusion arrive?

To understand, let’s go to Zimbabwe for a moment. The NYT reported this morning that-

Zimbabwe’s president, Robert G. Mugabe, arrived in Rome on Thursday to attend Pope John Paul II’s funeral, apparently using a diplomatic loophole to evade European Union sanctions that ostensibly bar him from traveling to any of the union’s member states.


Under normal circumstances, Mr. Mugabe would not be permitted to fly to Rome. He is among 95 Zimbabweans whom the European Union has barred from entering its territory on the grounds that they “commit human rights violations and restrict freedom of opinion, association and peaceful protest.”

Mr. Mugabe appears to have evaded the travel ban because he is going to the Vatican, which is not a member of the European Union. A treaty obliges Italy to grant safe passage to visitors bound for the Vatican, which has no airport.

While I imagine that Chen is certainly not a criminal like Mugabe and has as much right as any Taiwanese citizen to visit European nations as a private citizen, the assertion that he is being received as a head of state by Italy is quite false. Italy is simply giving him landing permission as a head of state on a diplimatic visit to the Vatican, but this is based entirely on their treaty obligations to the Vatican, and in no way reflects their position towards Taiwan.

Taiwan is only formally recognized as a country by a few countries around the world, in Europe only by the Vatican. The Vatican’s reasons for maintaining relations with Taiwan over communist China are clear. Unlike the other nations of the world whose responsibilities are the economic and physical safety of their citizens, the Vatican’s primary concern is the spiritual guidance of Catholics around the world. China, despite what they claim, does not allow freedom of religion, forcing Catholics to choose between either a state organized Catholic church, which was forced to cut ties to the Vatican so long ago that they still conduct Mass in Latin, or pray in secret, at risk of prosecution by Chinese authorities.

In the flurry of news related to the Pope’s funeral The New York Times also has an article on this topic. As they say,

China’s 12 million Catholics are mourning the death of John Paul II, but his passing is also a reminder of an unfinished legacy: the division of Chinese Catholics from the rest of the church, and from each other. Indeed, if John Paul II helped bring down Communism in Eastern Europe, the Communist Party that rules China proved resilient. The two sides never came to agree to normalize relations between the Vatican and China and end the diplomatic break that began more than a half century ago under Mao.

On a personal level, the pope never achieved his goal of visiting China.

Of significant interest is that fact that a Chinese spokesman for the laughably named ‘Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association’ is quoted in the BBC article above as saying “The decision to let Chen Shui-bian attend has hurt the feelings of the Chinese people, including five million Catholics.” Clearly the Vatican holds the combined interests of the 7 million hidden Catholics in China, as well as the hundreds of thousands of Catholics in Taiwan, are also worth looking out for.

A reason to be glad I went to the rival public school

Princeton U. bans harassment suspect
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Star-Ledger Staff

Princeton University has banned from campus a graduate student charged with tampering with the drinks or secretly snipping the hair of dozens of Asian women, campus officials said yesterday.

Princeton President Shirley Tilghman officially banned Michael Lohman, a married third-year graduate student, from campus Tuesday. The rarely used power allows administrators to bypass the university’s judicial process for the health and safety of other students on campus, said Lauren Robinson- Brown, a Princeton spokeswoman.

Lohman, 28, was arrested last week after an Asian student reported someone had cut off a lock of her hair while she was riding a campus shuttle bus, Princeton Borough police said.

Lohman was already a suspect in reports of a white male pouring an unknown substance into the drinks of Asian women around campus, police said. When he was questioned last week, Lohman admitted he had secretly cut the hair of at least nine Asian women, according to the police report.

Continue reading A reason to be glad I went to the rival public school

Anti-eachother propaganda in China and Japan?

I was writing a response to Jing’s much appreciatedcomment on my previous post and it began to meander enough so I thought I would post on the front page instead. For full background, read the original article, and the response to it on the excellent ESWN blog.
[Note: I posted the wrong link at first, I apologize, it has been corrected.]

Very interesting. I generally look at ESWN once in a while, but I hadn’t caught this article yet. Based on what he writes at ESWN (and based on what I’ve read there in the past I have pretty good faith in what he writes) the Japan Times article (actually a translated Kyodo piece, I think it’s worth noting) is either deliberately misleading or very factually misinformed (I would wager on a combination).

I would still like to know more about what the books say. For example, does he only visit the most extreme rightist institutions in Japan, or does he also explain how in reality these views are an extreme minority position these days? Were these books even banned for their own sake or was it really something else he did?

Whatever the case, it is still an obvious fact that anti-Japanese sentiment is encouraged by the Chinese government. When I was traveling in China I don’t believe I met a single native person who didn’t cringe a little bit when I mentioned that I studied Japanese, and when asked they all admitted to “hating Japan.” I remember a conversation with one Chinese man working at a youth hostel where I stayed, and after talking for a while and admitting that he got along very well with almost all of the Japanese guests there and has no dislike them on an individual basis, he still hated the country for some unarticulatable reason.

This attitude is common throughout the country, and clearly a result of education and media and not personal conclusions, because people only ever learn one side of the story. I will gladly admit that there is some level of this in Japan as well, but not nearly to the same degree. For example, Japanese textbooks may inappropriately gloss over attrocities comitted in the past by the Japanese, but they do not teach outright hatred of modern China the same way that the Chinese seem to be taught to hate Japan.

Certainly the museum at Yasukuni shrine exhibits some reprehensible attitudes, but there are right-wing nutcases in every country. (excepting a few like, say, China where the nutcases universally call themselves left-wing instead for obvious reasons) There is anti-Japan sentiment in China, and anti-China sentiment in Japan, but the former case seems to have far more encouragement from the government and the media (which is of course all controlled by the government to some degree), and therefore far more of a majority opinion. I am also not saying that there is not enourmous racism in Japan, but it tends to be more universalist in nature (uck, that almost sounds positive!), and not the result of a longterm propaganda campaign against a specific political enemy.

ESWN writes that “Yu Jie as an example of a public intellectual pressuring the Chinese government to become more forceful against the revival of Japanese militarism.” I have no argument at all with working to prevent the revival of Japanese militarism, but China (and North Korea) have a decades old policy of using that as an excuse to maintain Japan as a potential threat to continue to justify their long-corrupted revolutionary demagogy, to fan the flames of their own nationalism.

As a footnote, all of the Uyghur I spoke to in the far west province of Xinjiang had very different attitudes. While they probably learn about the evils of WW2 just like any other student in the country, they seemed to be of the universal opinion that hating the Chinese for what they are still doing to to the Uyghur up this very day is a far more pressing issue. The professional guides who tend to receive a lot of Japanese tourists in Turpan all agreed that the portrayal of modern Japan in the Chinese media was quite unfair, and also said that they found the tourists from Japan far more agreeable than the domestic ones, who are often blatantly rude and racist to the local Uyghur people. (One of them, who spoke fluent Japanese and no English, mentioned he was particularly fond of young, single Japanese women, but this is another matter entirely, which would probably receive rather more popular support from the average Chinese man on the street.)

Japanese Lessons from the Chosun Ilbo

Sekitani and Shimizu

Do you know what a talker that guy is?!


Sekitani: You don’t know what a talker that guy is.
Shimizu: How so?
Sekitani: You say this, he says that, you say that, he says this. If you say one thing, he comes back with about 10 things to say.

Thanks, Chosun Ilbo! (I get it for free at the Korean market).

“Kuchi ga tassha” describes a person who is a good talker, or as ALC puts it, has “the gift of gab.” BTW, if you don’t read kanji so much and want to learn more about the vocabulary used, try putting the permalink in

School conducting most classes in English opens in Gunma

From Japan Today. I think they need to make all schools in Japan like this. Why is Japan so afraid to let its people become fluent in English??

School conducting most classes in English opens in Gunma

Thursday, April 7, 2005 at 07:26 JST
MAEBASHI — An elementary school that will teach nearly all subjects in English opened Wednesday in a Gunma Prefecture city that has been authorized to run schools emphasizing foreign language education under the state’s deregulation initiative.

Gunma Kokusai Academy, a privately run school funded in part by the Ota city government, admitted a total of 166 pupils in the first and fourth grades. The school has no students in the second and third grades and plans to fill up the remainder of classes up to the sixth grade in the next two school years. (Kyodo News)

Watch Diet Sessions on the Internet ネットで国会テレビ?!

The first little tidbit I’d like to share with you all that I found from JANJAN is their feature Kokkai Watch. It covers all events related to the Japanese Diet.

Some Interesting links I saw:

衆議院TV (Lower House TV)

参議院審議中継 (Upper House Live)

These are like a Japanese C-Span — watch any meeting of Japan’s legislature at your leisure.

Whenever something important comes up I’ll be sure to keep an eye on these. I also like the UN’s video archive, while we’re on the topic.

Foreigners Required to Register Once More at Japanese Lodgings

MF was telling me the other day that he read in an old tourism guide that foreign visitors used to have to register at hotels when they wanted to stay the night. But now that Japan has modernized that kind of suspicious behavior would be unthinkable right? Wrong:

Registration Procedure at lodging facilities in Japan
to be changed as of April 1, 2005

March 2005

Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare

As of April 1, 2005, foreign nationals who visit Japan will be required to do the following when they check in at lodging facilities such as hotels and inns in Japan for the purpose of effective prevention of infectious diseases and terrorism.

* To fill in their “Nationality” and “Passport Number” in addition to “Name”, “Address” and “Occupation”, which are already required, to the guest registration form.

* To present their passports to be photocopied (The proprietors of lodging facilities will be obligated to keep the photocopies).

Your understanding and cooperation will be appreciated.

Unbelievable. Where was this policy when SARS broke out? I saw on the news they were scrambling in the dark to find some Chinese guy who went to Universal Studios and might have spread the disease. And really I think Japan should be worried more about domestic terrorists than foreigners, despite some empty-sounding threats from al-Qaida. The government must be jittery about the influx of foreigners coming to see that half-baked exposition that no one is talking about.

There’s so much lip service paid to bringing more foreign tourists to Japan these days, but I can’t help but suspect trepidation on the part of some sectors of the government in accepting the new visitors.

Here are some helpful ideas on what to do if the hotel staff gives you a hard time.

JANJAN — Media by, for and about the people

I recently came across this great web site, JANJAN — Japanese Alternative News for Justice and New cultures. It’s kind of like Korea’s OhMyNews, which as some of you may know is an Internet-based “citizens’ journalism” site. All the reporters are amateur, and content is regulated through an editing staff and the following of a set of rules called the “Citizen Journalist Code“.

The site, as I learned belatedly, got some international attention when one of its reporters, Imai Noriaki (18 — the link is actually not a story by correspondent Kwan Weng Kin but a translation of a Japanese tabloid story that paints the three abductees in a negative light) was abducted in Iraq and threatened with beheading. While I certainly don’t support the fact the he and the other two abductees (Takato Nahoko and Koriyama Soichiro) needlessly put themselves in harm’s way, the idea of citizens’ journalism is refreshing, especially in a country such as Japan with a relatively controlled, passive, and reactionary media.
Continue reading JANJAN — Media by, for and about the people