China yanks books about ties with Japan

Continuing along the lines of my recent posts, I present the following article from today’s Japan Times.

Two books on Sino-Japanese history and modern political relations have been pulled from shelves in China for undisclosed reasons, after selling about 50,000 copies apiece.

“Ambiguity’s Neighborhood” and “Iron and Plough,” both by author Yu Jie, disappeared from major bookstores in late December after four months of normal circulation, Yu said this week.

In the runup to the annual National People’s Congress plenary session that began March 5, independent booksellers were also told to stop selling it, Yu’s Beijing distributor said Wednesday.

Yu, 32, argues in “Ambiguity’s Neighborhood” that Chinese should learn more about modern Japan before saying they “hate” the people — common parlance for today’s younger generation influenced by anti-Japan media reports and school texts that discuss Japan’s 1931-1945 conquest of China.

“The two countries are so close, so this hate, this lack of understanding, doesn’t help at all,” Yu said, citing “arrogance” for the lack of more understanding. “Chinese people should understand the situation before they criticize it.”

Clearly there are some people in mainland China, who like many in Taiwan are willing to believe that the sins of the dead do not dictate the the actions of the living. Unfortunately, this seems to be considered dissent requiring punishment. Please read the remaining two-thirds of the article on the original site.

Now I have to run off in a few minutes to meet Curzon and Debito for dinner in Newark.

Crappy Japanese Textbook Sparks Protests in Korea, China

Well, it’s happened again. From the BBC report:

Japan has approved a set of new school history text books whose version of past events has already sparked complaints from South Korea and China.

One of the eight texts is an updated version of a book which triggered diplomatic protests in 2001.

Seoul said the new books sought to glorify Japan’s war-time past, a continuing source of regional tension.

It goes on for a while about the problems in the new book, the protests, the history of Japanese Imperialism and so on, but what is to me the most important fact is buried towards the end of the article.

This book is currently in use in fewer than 0.1% of Japan’s schools, but this time the authors are hoping for a better response.

Why is the adoption rate of this textbook so low? I think the answer is clear-few teachers are interested in giving their students a piece of shit biased textbook that overlooks such major historical facts! The protestors would have a valid position if this was a government issued textbook, but they are blatantly misunderstanding the situation.

In Japan textbooks are not written by the government. In the case of this history book, the author is a minor right-wing group named The Society For the Creation of New Textbooks,
which is no more catchy in Japanese. The job of the Ministry of Education in Japan is not to choose the textbooks that schools use, but to check the content that they do have for factual accuracy, not to mandate exactly what they teach. This is a marked contrast to the situation in all of the protesting countries, where primary school textbooks are created and issued by the government. [Update: Nora Park tells me that textbooks in South Korea are actually written by private companies following government guidelines.] The Japanese Ministery of Education in fact approves a number of textbooks, from which public schools are free to choose.

But this raises the question of why? Why do they have this semi-controlled market, instead of either opening up the market completely or just mandating textbooks? I can’t answer that, but I do think that they should reconsider the practice. Clearly their vetting process does nothing to keep utterly worthless textbooks off the market, and contributes to one of Japan’s worst ongoing diplomatic crises in years. If the book in question was simply on the market, instead of sort of govermnent approved would this even raise eyebrows in Beijing or Seoul?

Oh, and does anyone else find it interesting that there have been no protests in Japan’s other major former colony, Taiwan? Could their feelings for Japan actually be that much friendlier?

For some more, hopefully not too biased, information on the Nanjing Massacre itself, see as always the Wikipedia article.

Abiru Yuu to continue career as entertainer

Just a quick follow-up to my earlier posts on the subject:

Abiru Yuu to continue career

Abiru Yuu (18) who had been suspended for a comment made on a television program, reported the timeline of events and announced her return to show business on March 31 (tr: late, I know). “Now that I am returning, I would like to show some more maturity in my activities,” she explained.

Abiru got in trouble when she announced she was involved in shoplifting/theft in her past on the program “Coming Doubt”.

In other news, there’s a really good article about the “talent” scene on Japan Today’s Metropolis section that will help put the Abiru Yuu incident in persepctive:

They are everywhere—on TV variety shows, in dramas, singing at concerts, endorsing products on billboards, in commercials and attending glittery events. No matter what channel you watch or which magazine you read, you’ll see the same faces: Aya Ueto, SMAP, Yuko Takeuchi, Ayumi Hamasaki, Yukie Nakama, Becky, Papaya Suzuki and countless more.

The “talent” business in Japan is very different from the West. Someone like 19-year-old Ueto, for example, would seem to be making a fortune. After all, she is the TV commercial queen, a movie star, as well as a regular at promotional events. Yet she’s just an employee of her agency, Oscar Promotion. She is paid a wage and gets a percentage of what Oscar negotiates with its clients—the opposite of the US, where it’s the stars that pay their agents a percentage.

The production companies recruit hopefuls at a young age, train them and then supply them to the media, movies and events. When a new TV show or product endorsement is announced, the media get faxed invitations to the press conference, which they dutifully attend. The photos are then used to fill the tabloid magazines, while the TV variety shows replay the same footage four or five times on each segment. “It’s like a revolving sushi restaurant or a ‘UFO Catcher’ at a game center: There is a never-ending selection to pick from,” says Dave Spector, an American who has been a commentator on TV variety shows in Japan for 20 years.

Companies like Oscar, Johnny’s Jimusho, Sun Music and Yellow Cab have tremendous power when it comes to their talents, so much so that very few newspapers, magazines or TV stations dare carry negative stories. “The production companies are money-making machines,” says Tario Cham, who has operated the website since 1996. “They work very hard to create an image that sells but also work very hard to protect that image.”

I encourage you to read the whole article, very interesting stuff!

Major Taiwanese Politician Visits Yasukuni- Better Relations Ahead?

Since learning that I am very likely going to study Chinese in Taiwan this summer I have naturally been paying closer attention to the situation in and around that country. Naturally any story on the relations between the Republic Of China (ROC, aka Taiwan) and Japan is an eye-catcher, especially one as dramatic as a major Taiwanese politician visiting Japan’s controversial Yasukuni shrine. Today’sTaipei Times reports that Shu Chin-chiang (蘇進強), chairman of the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) political party made a “pilgrimage” to the controversial Yasukumi Shrine. Incidentally, although the English language press is not pointing it out, the Japanese media describes Shu’s TSU party as part of the ‘pro independence’ faction in almost headline.

Shu immediately came under fire at home for the visit where he was accused of dignifying Japan’s militarism in the early 20th century.

Shu, dressed in a business suit, was cheered on by supporters who unfurled the flags of Japan and his party as he entered the Yasukuni shrine which is dedicated to 2.5 million war dead, including 14 convicted war criminals.

The latter figure is slightly innacurate. The shrine is dedicated to all Japanese war dead (including soldiers drafted or recruited from former colonies such as Taiwan and Korea), and this function is all-inclusive, actually including over 1000 Japanese soldiers convicted as war criminals. The controversy does not stem so much from the fact that the shrine lists include executed war criminals, but from the fact that in 1978, decades after the war’s conclusion, 13 class A war criminals were enshrined as ‘martyrs,’ and the shrine issued a statement saying that these men had been wrongfully convicted. Wikipedia has a good summary of this basic controversy.

He called on Asians to “move beyond the grudges and animosity of the past.”

“As one Taiwanese and as a leader of a political party I have come here to pay my respect to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for Japan,” Shu said.

It may be perfectly reasonable for Shu to honor the long neglected Taiwanese dead, but to point out that they “sacrificed their lives for Japan” seems to me to be a mistake.

“At the same time, as one Taiwanese, I have come here to pay my respect for 28,000 Taiwanese,” whose names are enshrined, he said.

Supporters said it was the first known visit to Yasukuni in modern times by a party leader from Taiwan, which was ruled by Japan from 1895 to 1945.

I believe that this is actually the first formal visit to Yasukuni by a leader from ANY former colony, if not from any Asian country period.

The Yasukuni shrine controversially lists the names of 28,000 Taiwanese and 21,000 Korean soldiers, most of whom were forced into service under Japan’s colonial rule.

The holy site also lists the names of Japanese civilians who died in fighting.

The populist Koizumi has visited the shrine four times since August 2001, saying he has the right as a Japanese person to choose how to honor the dead.

What has been overlooked in virtually every article I have seen on the Yasukuni issue is that even the Emperor himself has refused to visit Yasukuni Shrine since their special recognition of class A war criminals was made public over 25 years ago. It’s a little ironic that the very symbol of right wing Japan has taken a stand against the nationalists while the “populist Koizumi” evokes international ire by pandering to the rightists.

In Taipei, Aboriginal legislator Kao-Chin Su-mei (高金素梅) angrily objected to Shu’s pilgrimage.

“Japan launched over 160 battles to destroy Taiwan’s Aboriginal tribes during its 51-year colony on the island,” he said in a statement.

“We strongly protest the TSU visiting the Yasukuni Shrine,” he said. “It is already an insult to Taiwan’s Aboriginal people that our soldiers were enshrined there.”

TSU spokesman Chen Chien-ming (陳建銘) said that Su’s visit was timed ahead of today’s holiday to honor the dead, called Tomb-Sweeping Day.

“We do not agree with the acts and invasions of the Japanese militarism [during World War II] but we should not let hatred persist,” Chen said in Taipei.

I tend to agree with Chen. Certainly Japan’s behavior during their imperialist period was reprehensible and unforgiveable-but the generation responsible for that is largely dead and gone and it is hardly serving anyone to bring up old grievances to damage relations with one of the few strong allies (or at least near-allies) that Taiwan may have against China. Not to say that the past should not be addressed, but it should be studied as history, not for politicians to use as emotional bait during election season.

Welcome to The World: What a shitty waste

Continuing our ongoing coverage of Rod Stewart’s every move, the singer has apparently purchased a private island shaped like the UK off the coast of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Click the link to see a bunch of manmade islands positioned to look like a map of the world from an aerial view. The islands are being sold for resorts and mansions and whatever. In recent years, the Emirate of Dubai has been plunging headfirst into the upscale tourism industry, and they seem intent on both destroying the environment and showcasing a shocking lack of good taste in the process. (via BoingBoing)

Koizumi and Richard Gere finally meet — space time continuum remains intact… for now

OK, they look a lot less alike than they did when Koizumi first took office, but god damn:

UPDATE: For those who don’t see the resemblance, you may now shut the hell up and bask in the awe that was once the Mane of Richard Gere:
Look at all its...majesty!

It’s like an older white version of Koizumi came back to warn him about some future disaster… or maybe just dance the night away…

But seriously: what is going on? Assuming for a minute that Gere is the future Koizumi (and, just so we’re clear, I believe in this as surely as I believe in the tastiness of unagi-don), theoretically there should be a big problem. Movies have taught me that if the you of the future encounters the you of the past, there will be a rift in the space-time continuum and all existence shall be erased forever. Or could BTTF be wrong, and it’s totally OK for you to meet your future self (or even have kids with women from the past who are destined to liberate your people.. in the future…)

Or maybe it’s some combination of various sci-fi movies.. What if, for example, the BTTF warning about meeting your future self is true, but the space-time continuum doesn’t rupture instantly, instead taking 29 days to unravel a la Donnie Darko? The end may be coming folks… Feel free to share your own theories of what the Gere-Koizumi meeting portends for the survival of the universe!