Three noteworthy articles from Waiwai

The Waiwai section of the Mainichi newspaper’s English language website is usually nothing but a collection of sleazy but entertaining lasciviousness, but this week they actually have three very interesting and more serious stories translated from the Japanese weekly magazines.

First, Shukan Shincho reports on newly discovered documents that allege Hitler actually had plans in place to escape to and hide out in Japan after the Reich fell.

As the Soviets relentlessly pounded the German dictator and his cronies holed up in the subterranean fortress in the German capital, moves were apparently afoot to whisk away top Nazis on long-range Condor airplanes to Japan, journalist Eiichiro Tokumoto writes in the prestigious weekly.

Tokumoto cites a top secret letter dated April 24, 1945, that Toshikazu Kase, then Japan’s Ambassador to Switzerland, wrote to Shigemitsu Togo, Japan’s Foreign Minister at the time.

Kase, a career diplomat whose CV would later include stints as Japan’s first ambassador to the United Nations, was then involved with top secret peace negotiations with Allen Dulles, an operative with the U.S.’ Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of today’s Central Intelligence Agency.

Kase’s letter to Togo shows the diplomat was worried that an already struggling Japan was about to be lumbered with a bevy of nasty Nazis.

Second, Asahio Genio reports that Yoshinori Watanabe, the Kumicho (Don, Godfather) of the Yamaguchi Gumi, Japan’s largest Yakuza clan, has unexpectedly retired.

Hundreds of yakuza gang bosses from across Japan went to the Yamaguchi-gumi’s Kobe headquarters for the July 29 meeting as they were watched by scores of police and media representatives.

Watanabe, 64, announced his retirement in a statement read out by Saizo Kishimoto, general manager of the syndicate’s headquarters.

“I’ve been kumicho for 16 years, but been sick for the past four years and can no longer fulfill my responsibilities, so I’m retiring,” Asahi Geino quotes Kishimoto saying on Watanabe’s behalf.

Apparently, the huge meeting room where the gang bosses sat in silence while the announcement was made, with the hush broken only when some broke down in tears.

This resignation is particularly big news because, according to the article, “Watanabe was the first ever leader of the Yamaguchi-gumi to be alive when his successor assumed office.”

I get such a kick out of the fact that the Yakuza are such a public organization. Can you imagine Tony Soprano’s stereotypically sleazy Jewish lawyer going on Channel 11 Eyewitness News and reading a statement that he has taken over the organization following the arrest of his uncle Junior?

Lastly, we actually do have one about sex. Shukan Post reports that, for the first time ever, Japan’s Administration Commission of Motion Picture Code of Ethics will allow un-mosaiced human genitals to appear onscreen.

But, with the Japanese premiere in late August of “Kinsey,” local moviegoers will get their first unadulterated glimpse of both male and female reproductive organs.

“We discussed it quite a bit internally before deciding the scene where the organs appear is really important for the overall movie and that we wanted it to be screened uncut and without a mosaic,” a spokesman for Shochiku, the distributor of “Kinsey,” tells Shukan Post.

Eirin, which has a strict policy of prohibiting the display or genitalia or pubic hair, has bent when it comes to “Kinsey,” a biopic of U.S. sex academic Alfred Kinsey.

“It’s not on screen for long and, overall, we decided that the scene did not touch on Eirin’s regulations,” a spokesman for the movie ethics committee tells Shukan Post.

I thought Kinsey was a very good film, and it seems a rather appropriate film to break the barrier of onscreen genitalia in Japan. Will they embrace Kinsey’s example in the future? Can Japan’s film board lose their juvenile attitude towards the human body, or will they revert to their old ways and continue to contribute to Japan’s culture of sexual fetishism by blocking ordinary and healthy depictions of sex? Stay tuned.

Japan’s Arlington

Defenders of Prime Minister Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine inevitably compare the shrine with America’s Arlington National Cemetary.

Yasukuni enshrines the spirits of all of Japan’s war dead. Reporters tend to misunderstand what that means. Yasukuni does not contain the actual remains of these people, instead it contains a number of large scrolls on which the names of the dead are ritually inscribed, allowing the shrine to be a vehicle through which prayers and offerings can be given to the spirits of the dead.

While Yasukuni’s rolls contain the names of over 2.5 million deceased soldiers, the controversy stems from the 1068 convicted war criminals honored in the shrine, particularly the 14 class A war criminals whose names were secretly added to the list of souls honored by the shrine in 1978. Clearly, Yasukuni’s official policy is to allow the enshrinement of any former soldier or military official, regardless of the crimes that they have committed.

How does this actually compare with Arlington’s policy?

A recent and ongoing stink over Arlington’s acceptance of a convicted murder reminds me of the Yasukuni controversy. This Washington Post article on the Arlington scandal gives us some insight into their policy. The most important bits are highlighted.

Although Wagner’s criminal history came as a surprise to the cemetery, his crimes do not necessarily exclude him from an Arlington burial.

“A capital crime and being sentenced to life in prison without parole, or a death sentence, would preclude him from being buried in Arlington,” Calvillo said. Anything lesser would not.

According to a spokeswoman at the Washington County judiciary, Wagner was eligible for parole.

Furthermore, as someone who served on active duty in the armed forces and was honorably discharged, he was eligible for a “standard” burial there
(for “full” honors — including a band, a caisson and a military escort — more stringent requirements have to be met). For an Army private first class, as Wagner was, pallbearers for his service would have been provided by the 3rd Infantry at Fort Myer.

The cemetery does not do background checks on those buried there, Calvillo said, adding that it is up to their families to share such information. Wagner’s sister could not be located for comment.

In the 1960s, the Department of Defense denied an Arlington burial to a decorated World War II veteran who had been chairman of the New York State Communist Party and had been convicted for advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government.

After a three-year legal fight by his family, he was buried at Arlington.

In 1997, Congress passed legislation barring those convicted of capital crimes from being buried in a national cemetery. The law was enacted to preclude any possibility that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy J. McVeigh, a Persian Gulf War veteran, would be buried at Arlington.

For most convicted criminals, however, there are no restrictions.

So does this mean that others among the 290,000 people buried in the cemetery could be convicted killers?

“It is definitely a possibility,” Calvillo said. “If you’re eligible, you’re eligible.”

Of the 14 Class A war criminals, 7 of them were executed by hanging and 4 were sentenced to life imprisonment. One was sentenced to a term of 20 years, and two died of natural causes before sentencing.

It would seem that even if Yasukuni operated under Arlington’s rules, 3 of the 14 Class A war criminals would still be eligible for honors. It is also worth noting that Arlington’s rules became significantly more stringent in 1997. In 1978, when the 14 were enshrined in Yasukuni, there were no comparable rules in place, and it seems none of the 1068 war criminals would have been turned away. Of course, this is based on civilian convictions. Does anybody know how convictions by military courts affect a soldier’s right to burial at Arlington?

Photos of homemade Gundam

Saw this page listed over on Gizmodo with a plea for translation, so here we go.

According to their report page, these photos were taken July 30 2000 in a field in the middle of nowhere, Okayama prefecture. The Gundam was constructed not out of “Gundamania” but because they “wanted to build a bipedal walking vehicle.”

Gundam photos in Kume, Okayama prefecture.

For now we just picked it up.
It was heavy, but we managed…
You won’t get any larger photos by clicking.
Sorry, next time.

Photographer: Yohman
Taken from below.
Cockpit closed.

Photographer: Hamu
Rear-view. Bad angle (sweat)
Taken from a nearby field.

Photographer: Yohman
View of the scenery from inside the cockpit.
Continue reading Photos of homemade Gundam

Amusingly bad editing

Example one:

I spotted an AP article on with the headline ‘Bush Holds Latin American Ally at Ranch.’ Maybe I’ve just been reading a lot of stories about torture at Gitmo and in US controlled prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan, but no matter how many times I read the headline it still gives me completely the wrong impression.

Other versions of the headline used by other news outlets reporting the same story:

Colombia president to meet Bush – BBC

Bush Welcomes Colombia’s Uribe at Ranch – Manchester Guardian

Bush Hosts Latin American Ally at Ranch – Manchester Guardian running the same AP story as Salon. Extra points for fixing the headline.

Bush welcomes Colombian leader – San Antonio Express

Let me suggest in the future that the editors at the Associated Press and/or Salon try and remember the difference between the words ‘hold’ and ‘host.’

Example two:

I was on the website, looking for some illegal downloads (of course, an activity I only engage in when I’m outside of the United States) when I spotted this article about the possible re-legalization of medical LSD in Russia. I don’t have any particular fascination with LSD, having never even bothered to try it, but it is a topic of moderate interested and so I proceeded to skim the article. Nothing about it really stuck in my mind until I got to the following bit:

Barbara Streisand signed the above-mentioned petition. The actress confessed that LSD helped her survive the nervous breakdown she had after discovering that her only son was a faggot.

I may actually have done a double-take; when was the last time you saw somebody called a faggot in a newspaper article?

I looked up the original source of the article, the English version of the Russian Pravda. The same line at reads:

The actress confessed that it was LSD, which helped her survive the nervous breakdown, when the star discovered that her only son was a homosexual.

I’m glad to see that they corrected that gaff. As offensive as it was, I can actually believe it was an honest mistake by a Russian translator whose linguistic command of English surpasses his cultural understanding. On the other hand, Salon still has their truly lousy headline.

The current issue of Newsweek apparently contains a large special on methamphetamines, which included what I personally find to be the most unintentionally hilarious web poll of all time.

Have you ever used crystal meth?
Yes 8%
No 90%
I don’t know 2%

Don’t miss your chance to vote before they replace it with the next survey.


I’m sitting here with the rain pouring down outside my window, waiting for typhoon Matsa to come in full swing. I’m not actually praying for a day off tomorrow (like during the last typhoon), although if I seriously thought it would help I’m not completely averse to sacrificing a small animal. Not one of the wild dogs in the empty field next door though-they’re actually quite friendly.

Taiwan’s National Weather Bureau has a really amazing typhoon tracker on their website.

Update: Tv news says 明天不上班不上课

Paekche and Kudara

I don’t usually like to just provide links to things on other blogs, but the Marmot pointed out this amazing article that’s just the sort of thing I love.

A research on the name Kudara
Here’s a random excert.

For these characters Karlgren reconstructs the archaic and ancient Chinese pronounciations: *χmwət / χuət for 忽 , – / mai: for 買 , *nâd / nâi- for 奈 and *nəg / nậi for 乃 50, from which we can obtain the pronounciations in Paekche’s language *xol for “fortress”, corresponding to the Mongolian qorga “fortress 51, fence”, to the ancient Turkish qurγan “fortress” and koriğ “enclosure” 52 and to the MK 53 .ulh “enclosure, fence” 54, *mai for “river”, perhaps to be connected to the MK mɨl “water”, and with the Mongolian mari “great river” 55, *nai for “land”, corresponding to the Jurchin náh, to the Manchu na, to the Goldi na and to the ancient Japanese *na, all with the meaning of “land”.

The already cited 56 Chou-shu passage mentions for the king of Paekche the names Wolaγa 於羅瑕 and Kjʌnkitsi 鞬吉支 and for the queen the name Woljuk 於陸 57. Let’s reconstruct, always with the help of Karlgren, the northern Chinese pronounciations of the 6th-7th century of these names.

Japan to drop visa requirement for Taiwanese tourists

Today’s Taipei Times reports that advocates for Taiwanese independence are renewing calls for a formal declaration of a Republic of Taiwan and the promulgation of a new constitution. I found this quote particularly interesting.

“The good news that Japan has agreed to waive the visa requirement for Taiwanese tourists shows that Japan recognizes Taiwan as a nation,” Wang said. “It also shows that our promotion of correcting the country’s official name and writing a new constitution has made some preliminary achievements.”

As for the visa waver plan.

The bill was initiated by the head of the lower house’s legal affairs committee and passed with the support of the Liberal Democratic Party and its ruling coalition partner, Komeito, and the opposition Democratic Party of Japan.

As Japan does not maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the bill is necessary if Japan wants to offer a permanent visa waiver for Taiwanese citizens. Japan’s existing exit and entry regulations only authorize visa waivers for citizens from countries that maintain diplomatic ties with Japan.

It seems that from the Japanese side this is more about promoting tourism than endorsing Taiwanese independence, but it is true that with relations between Japan and China becoming increasingly tense, Japan has recently become more supportive of Taiwan. The bill passed unanimously, showing that whatever policy differences Japanese politicians may have, this was a completely non controversial decision.

As a side note, due to the English language Taiwanese press’s extremely helpful habit of including Chinese characters for proper nouns, I now know that Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) famous quote that there exists one country on each side of the Strait of Taiwan is written “一邊一國.”

A Model for Japan?

The Washington Post has this article on the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to deport gang members who have immigrated to the US. The big ingenious move here was to have local law enforcement call customs and let them know that there is a Guatemalan gang hanging out in Adam’s Morgan or what have you:

Customs Jails 1,000 Suspected Gang Members

Federal immigration and customs officers have arrested more than 1,000 suspected gang members and associates so far this year as part of a nationwide campaign aimed at deporting illegal immigrants with suspected ties to violent criminal organizations, officials said yesterday.

Much like similar efforts after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to target suspected terrorist sympathizers, the Department of Homeland Security’s anti-gang program seeks to use immigration laws to remove many alleged gang members from the country rather than pursue them through U.S. criminal courts, officials said.

The campaign, dubbed Operation Community Shield and overseen by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division, has resulted in arrests of 1,057 alleged gang members over the past five months — including 582 suspects apprehended during a concerted push in the last two weeks of July. Eleven of the suspects were arrested in the Washington area, officials said.

The operation got its start in March as a way to target Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, a violent street organization active in Northern Virginia and other parts of the South. But the program has quickly expanded to encompass alleged members of 80 gangs in 25 states, including Latin Kings, Asian Boyz and Jamaican Posse.

The crackdown comes as part of a renewed concentration on violent street gangs by the federal law enforcement agencies after several years of focusing primarily on terrorism issues.

Under the ICE anti-gang program, local and state police departments have supplied federal immigration and customs agents with the names of thousands of suspected gang members. Federal agents are comparing those lists with federal immigration databases to target members or associates who are in the country illegally or who have committed serious crimes that make them eligible for deportation, officials said.

Chertoff said that more than 900 of those arrested so far are eligible for deportation. The rest will probably be prosecuted for crimes including immigration violations and illegal possession of a firearm, officials said.

Perhaps Japan could try something like this to deal with its Chinese gang problems. Of course the cops are probably in bed with the mobsters so it probably won’t work. But it’s an idea.