Ibuki sticks greasy foot in mouth

Readers of The Japan Times may already have noticed Japan Education Minister Bunmei Ibuki’s controversial statement that “Japan has been historically governed by the Yamato (Japanese) race. Japan is an extremely homogenous country. In its long, multifaceted history, Japan has been governed by the Japanese all the way.” While there is plenty to criticize about this quote (for example, exactly how far back is “all the way?” most of the criticism is really pretty obvious and not that interesting.

However, what has not yet been reported in English is another statement that Ibuki made in the same speech.

According to the Yomiuri:

He went on to compare human rights to butter. “If you just eat nothing but butter every day, then you will develop metabolic syndrome [ed: like diabetes I guess]. Human rights are important, but if you eat too much of it, then Japanese society will develop “human rights metabolic syndrome.”

I would like to thank Minister Ibuki for that delicious metaphor.

6 thoughts on “Ibuki sticks greasy foot in mouth”

  1. I heard him say the same ‘butter remark’ a few months ago on ‘NHK News Watch 9’ concerning the changes in the Fundamental Education Law. Only, a that time he was not speaking of ‘butter’, but of ‘eggs’: “If you just eat nothing but eggs every day, then …”. Not much imagination, I guess…

  2. I too was going to (well, still am going to) blog about Minister Ibuki’s wonderful metaphor.

    Check out the Asahi piece (http://www.asahi.com/politics/update/0225/010.html) for another choice quote which has him saying that the Basic Education Act was overhauled to include blurb about respecting the value of public-mindedness in the preamble because “Japan has over-emphasised the status of the individual hitherto”.

  3. Replace “Basic Education Act” with “Fundamental Law of Education” for the approved translation of the relevant Law in my post above.

    Re Vincent’s comment above, I’m guessing he got harassed by the Battery Farming Association of Japan (ok, I made that one up) or Japan Egg Producers Association (this one actually exists) and powerful egg producing businesses (such as JA Zenno Tamago Company (part of the JA LDP block voting machine)) or someseuch who protested that such irresponsible comments are likely to reduce egg consumption and have an adverse impact on their business. (and hinting that political donations would also go elsewhere, naturally)

    Will we see the Japan Dairy Association making similar protests? If so, what other foodstuff will Ibuki choose next to fill his metaphor?

  4. The term メタボリック as it’s popularly used in Japan these days seems to refer mainly to the visceral fat component of the syndrome, rather than all of the related conditions taken as a whole. At least that’s the sense I get from watching a falsified-data “health” program every now and then. I would be tempted to translate that comment from him as nothing more than “you’re gonna get fat.”


    Throw the human rights bit into the mix, and I’m not so sure how to translate it in a way that makes sense. Too many human rights will make use flabby girly men! Or “There ought to be limits to freedom,” maybe? It’s the excessive focus on human rights that makes our educational system turn out flabby-minded kids? Bah.

  5. In a good way, he’s getting sick of the liberal left-wing PC crap that seems to pervade so much of the western world.
    In a bad way, he’s your typical Japanese politician who seems to get elected primarily on his ability to cram both feet in his mouth at the same time he inserts his head in his rear. Seriously, it’s amazing how good many of them are at it. Just recently we had the Baby Machines one after all.

    His comments about public-mindedness are nothing new. People have been complaining about that ever since the concept of western civil and political rights first entered Japan. However from the West (that mythic beast) such comments look very odd and in fact rather disturbing thanks to our handy stereotypes of the Japanese as conformist automatons. “How much less individual can they get?” Mr Reddnek asks. Whereas some of us here kinda wish they were a little more civic-minded, especially when they drive loud bikes down quiet residential streets at three in the morning….

    However we also need to realise that these words were not ignored: the Yomiuri, which I gather tends to the right of centre, did after all headline its article with the dubious quote, and paid most attention to the wacko quotes, ending with a reminder that when Nakasone said something similar about Japan being homogenous in 1986, the Ainu got very upset.

    And he does have a point: as he states, all those that have ruled Japan have been Japanese (with the slight exception of SCAP perhaps). The Ainu, after all, are definitely 日本人….

    As an aside, I wonder if his use of Metabolic Syndrome was designed as a dig at the West – it seems to be the disease associated with a western-style lifestyle: grease, sloth, and so on, couch spuds eating pizza and cheeseburgers, gut the size of Butte. Montana. So is he saying that 自由民権運動 (or whatever) is not merely a disease but a disease of the West/of Westernisation? Butter too, of course. He didn’t say “too much miso will raise your blood pressure sky-high with all that salt” for example.

    BTW, according to that Wiki Japan article on 代謝症候群, men with waists over 85cm are considered subcutaneously obese. Hmmm. I’m over 85cm. Does it matter at all that I am also over six foot in height? Or is height and body proportion just not an issue? I’m not a medical doctor, so maybe they’re right, but it reminds me of the CDC definition of obese based on the BMI: which means Arnold Schwarzenegger at his prime was “obese”….
    Wait a mo’ – looking at the English article, it looks like the Japanese one is a mistranslation:
    Japanese: 腹囲の測定により代用し、男性85cm以上、女性90cm以上を内臓脂肪型肥満と診断する。(Using waist circumference measurement to fill in, over 85cm for men, over 90cm for women, is used to diagnose internal adipose obesity or whatever the technical medical term is in English.)
    English: “waist:hip ratio > 0.90 (male), > 0.85 (female)”
    Not only is that a different thing – waist-hip ratio as opposed to pure waist circumference (腹囲), it’s not centimetres but a ratio, and they muddled guys and gals. The English makes more sense, I think….

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