Wushe, then and now

The Taipei Times reported today that Taiwanese film director Wei Te-sheng (魏德勝) is currently attempting to make a film about the famous Wushe Incident of 1930, in which the aboriginal people of Wushe village rose up in armed rebellion against the Japanese occupiers, killing well over 100 Japanese (and injuring many more) before themselves being slaughtered in retaliation. What I found particularly interesting about the article, aside from the fact that I would very much like to see the film if it is ever made, is that the inhabitants of Wushe are described throughout as “Seediq“.

The Sedeq are an Aboriginal tribe that live mostly in Nantou and Hualien counties.

The film title, Seediq Bale, means “the real person” in their language.

The movie Seediq Bale tells the story of Sedeq warrior Mona Rudao who led a large-scale uprising against the Japanese in present-day Wushe (霧社) in Nantou County.

On the morning of Oct. 27, 1930, Mona led a group of more than 300 Sedeq and launched a surprise attack as the Japanese gathered to participate in a local sports event, killing 125 and wounding 215.

The Sedeq then cut the telephone lines and occupied Wushe for three days, before retreating to their strongholds deep in the mountains.

The Japanese colonial government cracked down on the Sedeq, using more than 2,000 military and police officers, and even used poisonous gas banned by international law.

After being under siege for months, Mona, along with about 300 other Sedeq warriors, killed himself.

The Seediq are one of the smallest, if not the smallest, officially recognized distinct tribe of aboriginal peoples in Taiwan, and before receiving government recognition in April of this year had been considered to be a sub-grouping of the much larger Atayal tribe. During my trip to Taiwan last month, I spent about a week traveling with a classmate at Kyoto University named Yayuc Panay, a member of the Seediq tribe who was back in Taiwan visiting family and doing some field research for a paper she is writing. In between visiting two different aboriginal villages, we actually stopped briefly in Wushe for her to transfer her legal residence (戶口) from her hometown of Puli, where her family no longer lives, to her sister’s house in another part of Nantou County. While she was in the office, I wandered around the tiny area comprising Wushe’s “downtown” and took some photos.

Despite being known almost exclusively for the Seediq uprising of 1930, Wushe is today a small village primarily inhabited by Taiwanese of Han Chinese origin, who settled there due to its convenient location as a trading post for the various agricultural goods produced in the mountains. As you can see in the photos, it looks very much like the main street of other rural Taiwanese communities.

Continue reading Wushe, then and now

Protecting the mentally disabled under Japanese civil law

Another legal tidbit courtesy of the mini-library by my desk.

Under the Japanese civil code, there are three systems for supervising and legally protecting the mentally infirm. Each is imposed by a family court following a petition from the individual’s family, a prosecutor or an existing legal guardian.

The guardian (後見人 koukennin)

Guardians are appointed for the most profoundly disabled individuals: those who have completely lost their ability to reason due to mental illness. Once a person is under guardianship, the guardian becomes their legal agent and can transact business on their behalf. The disabled person becomes completely incompetent for most legal purposes: any transaction they enter, outside of basic daily activities like buying groceries, can be voided at the person or guardian’s discretion. A person under guardianship remains free to enter major transactions of a personal nature, such as getting married or acknowledging paternity of a child.

As in English, the same word is used to refer to non-parents who have legal custody of a minor. Minors have more legal authority (for the most part) than adults with guardians, so legal literature often differentiates between seinen koukennin (adult guardians) and miseinen koukennin (minor guardians).

The curator (保佐人 hosanin)

Curators are appointed in less extreme cases, where a person retains some ability to reason, but where their illness significantly impairs that ability. A person under curatorship can still engage in binding transactions on their own, but they need the curator’s consent to make major binding decisions, such as real estate transactions. Unlike a guardian, a curator cannot act independently on the disabled person’s behalf unless the person specifically requests or consents to it. Think of Dick Cheney and the concept should be pretty clear.

The assistant (補助人 hojonin)

Assistants are appointed where the subject’s ability to reason is impaired, but not to the extent which would justify a curator. Unlike the other two systems, assistance is voluntary and can only commence with the disabled individual’s consent. Otherwise, the system resembles curatorship, in that the person needs their assistant’s consent to make major binding decisions, but is otherwise free to transact business as usual.

Not the most relaxing picnic

I spotted the following item in the Taipei Times Quick Take section earlier.

Barbecue at crematorium

The Taoyuan County Funeral Service Industry Association said that anyone interested in a free barbecue on Mid-Autumn Festival should head for the funeral home in Jhongli (中壢). Last year, the association organized a barbecue for more than 1,000 people at the funeral home, while all six cremation furnaces were working. Because of the smell emanating from the furnaces, very few people, aside from employees and their families, took part in the activity. This year, the furnaces will be closed in the afternoon during the barbecue, the association said. The barbecue will take place between 4pm and 10pm on Friday.

Needless to say, this is often the most entertaining section of the paper.

Military recruiting efforts

Curzon over at Cominganarchy just posted his impressions of his visit to a new Japanese Self Defense Force recruiting center in hip Shibuya (verdict: fail). Just the other day I happened to run into another rather sad attempt at recruiting in Osaka’s Hankyu Umeda Station.

SDF Recruiters in Umeda Station, Osaka
SDF Recruiters in Umeda Station, Osaka

Instead of the ordinary but silly strategy of letting visitors play dress-up, the attraction here was something a little on the bizarre side – a block of ice from Antarctica.

A block of ice from Antactica
A block of ice from Antactica

Indeed, it was very cold. The message seemed to be something about how joining the Navy lets you travel to faraway and exotic places, but I’m not sure that a block of ice was the best way to convey that, even with the helpful diagrams explaining how striation in Antarctic ice is different from that which you grow in your own freezer.

Smiling SDF recruiter
Smiling SDF recruiter

I’m not actually quite sure who does join the SDF in Japan. Back in the US I had quite a few friends from high school who either joined the military proper or the reserves, or had simply been ROTC members before graduation, and in college I again knew plenty of people who were either paying for school through the reserves or were getting scholarships from previous military service, but I can’t say I actually know a single person in Japan who is either a current or past member of the postwar military.

In fact, practicaly the only Japanese person I’ve ever met who wanted to join the SDF here was a guy I met briefly in a youth hostel in Beijin when I visited back in 2004 with my then-girlfriend. 20 years old, buzzcut dressed entirely in camo, giant thick glasses, scrawny, and big black combat boots, he was the perfect incarnation of the stereotypical military nerd who wants to be Rambo but would be lucky to even pass the basic training and get a desk job. The military was quite literally the only thing he could discuss, and even the briefest attempts at smalltalk were immediately sidelined into military talk.

One real exchange I remember:

Me: I’m from New Jersey.

Him: East coast right?

Me: Yeah, right by New York City.

Him: New York… That’s where West Point is. And it’s only a few hours drive from the big naval bases in Virginia.

Me: Uhh, yeah… that’s right. We’re gonna go check out that famous Beijing duck restaurant now – see you later.

And speaking of military otaku, the government sponsored Taiwan Journal has a rather interesting look at the niche publiching market of military themed magazines in that country, which look to me rather similar to the same type of periodical in Japan. Of course, in a country where all adult males are drafted (until they complete the ongoing transition to an all volunteer force sometime in the future) you would expect that the average level of knowledge and interest in the subject might be a lot higher.

Don’t blame the hospital; blame the newswire

In the news today:

A baby with foreign nationality was left at Japan’s first “baby hatch” at a Kumamoto hospital, according to a report on Monday by a panel examining the practice.

A baby hatch, for those of you who don’t know, is a place where people can essentially drop off children who are unwanted or who cannot be cared for, no questions asked.

I was a bit curious when I read this story, asking one question: How do you know the baby is of foreign nationality when someone anonymously left it somewhere? It wouldn’t be right to judge that based solely on physical appearance. In fact, under Japanese law, if a child is born in Japan and the identity of both parents is unknown (or if both parents are stateless), the child is considered a Japanese national–the only way to acquire nationality by jus soli here.

Then Asahi Shimbun added some clarity to the story. According to their report, there are ten cases of baby drop-offs in which the source of the baby was clear. In two of those cases, the mother came by herself and dropped the baby off. There were also cases “where both parents were zainichi gaikokujin,” i.e. special permanent residents of Korean/Chinese descent who are largely indistinguishable from Japanese nationals, “and where grandparents and males deposited [the child].”

So Kyodo was being a bit too vague for information’s sake: the kid was not visibly foreign, but rather they deduced the kid’s foreignness from the nationality of the parents. Now let’s see what happens when a really foreign kid gets dropped in one of these hatches…

Police statism around the world

After my post the other day, it is worth realizing that, despite worrying trends back home there are no shortage of countries that are far, far worse off. Here are some stories that jumped out at me just in the past few days.

American Filmmaker Arrested in Nigeria

Andrew Berends, a New York-based freelance filmmaker and journalist who was working on a film about the oil-producing Delta region, was arrested on Sunday and held overnight. “They didn’t let me sleep or eat or drink water for the first 36 hours,” he said Tuesday night.

Taiwan Society receives inquiry letter over rally

The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) yesterday rebutted accusations from the Taiwan Society and others that it was breaching freedom of expression by issuing a letter of inquiry to the group that organized a major rally held last Saturday.

The rally drew tens of thousands of participants protesting the government’s cross-strait policies, and called on President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to defend Taiwan’s sovereignty, save the economy and help to accelerate the adoption of “sunshine bills.”

Thai Government Cracks Down on Rebellious Websites

The ICT says that 344 of the websites it listed had content it deemed “contemptuous” of Thailand’s royal family, five were considered “obscene,” two featured religious content and one hosted a sex video game.

Thai courts issued orders to shut down about 400 of the websites on the ICT’s list, while the remaining 800 are expected to be blocked by ISPs. The ICT also asked police to help round up sites’ owners, noting that it wants to “bring all violators to trial.”

Chinese Muslims cower under secret police crackdown

Being seen talking to a foreigner is enough to earn a Uighur a minimum of five years in prison and the confiscation of his business. “Please leave here,” said one man in a tea house around the corner from the scene of the attack. “We did hear things, but we cannot talk or we will be taken away.”


Fearful of the growth of an independence movement, and of the motivating effects of religion, the Chinese government has imposed debilitating measures on the local mosques. One popular mosque was even padlocked shut yesterday.

No one under 18 is allowed to visit a mosque, and schools deliberately schedule their classes over the 1pm call to prayer. Nor are imams allowed to broadcast over a tannoy.

Uighur passports are now held by the police, who refuse to let many Uighurs travel abroad. Since May, any Uighur travelling inside of China has been stopped and sent home by the police. They are not welcome at any hotels or guesthouses, under stringent regulations designed to protect Beijing or the other Olympic cities from a possible separatist attack.

And so on. This is just a small sampling of countries besides the US where the government is stepping beyond any reasonable bounds to stifle political dissent. Of these four countries, three are significantly less free than the US today and serve, in various ways, as examples of what governments should not do (the case of Thailand is extra complicated, since with their eternal coups and factions it’s hard to even tell who should be considered the government at any given time.) The fourth country, Taiwan, is particularly complicated case. A military dictatorship and full on police state until fairly recently, Taiwan is a new democracy that was ranked an impressive #32 in last year’s Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index. But the current administration is a return to the formerly dictatorial KMT, and there are serious worries over the possibility of recidivism. In the same ranking, the US was given a dismal 48- having slid precipitously from #17 in the 2002 Index.

Protesting in a police state

In July of 2005, when I was living in New Brunswick, NJ, finishing up my studies at Rutgers University, the apartment shared by my friend Ted and his then-wife Janice (they have since divorced for unrelated reasons) in neighboring town Highland Park was raided by a SWAT team of the FBI and New Jersey Joint Terrorism Taskforce, which took a wide variety of their property including any computers or related material, as well as their BBQ. Ted himself was never charged with a crime, and in fact was not even being investigated or targeted, but Janice had been targeted for her animal rights protest activities, which naturally included a lot of relatively harmless shouting at people who did not want to be shouted at, and in places where they did not want outsiders to enter. The actual charges against Janice were, in fact, the real offenses of trespassing and criminal mischief (i.e. spray painting graffiti on the fence of an executive of a company responsible for animal testing), but the police response to these minor offences was grotesquely out of proportion.

Continue reading Protesting in a police state

Fukuda Yasuo

I just got a message reading:


Definitely very big news, if true.

On the other hand, Yahoo News Japan is reporting that “40% of 2 Channel users are women, mainly in their 30s and 40s“.

Update: The news is actually published now, a couple of minutes later.



So, as of 9:30, Fukuda told a press conference that he’s gone, having finally decided last weekend. Is Japan back to form in brevity of governments, following the unusually stable Koizumi years?

Update 2: Seriously? They’re going to let Aso do it? Japanese political parties should all be glad they don’t have a presidential system, because it would be awfully embarassing when nobody showed up to vote for any of the clowns any of the parties have to offer.