Lo Sheng preservation in doubt

The historic Lo Sheng Sanitarium, built by the Japanese colonial government in 1930 and located in Sinjhuang City, Taipei County, may not be preserved after all. As I wrote about following my visit there this summer, activists have been working to arrange a preservation agreement for the site with the government, following a plan to demolish it entirely to make room for a metro train depot. The government had made a promise to preserve 40 (approximately 3/4) of the buildingds on the site, but now appears to be reneging.

The protest came after the Taipei County Government posted a bulletin on Tuesday in which it said that residents who have not moved out before Monday would be evicted, including residents living in 25 buildings the government had promised to preserve.
The government agreed to preserve 22 buildings at the first site.

“Of the 40 buildings that were to be preserved, the Department of Rapid Transport Systems only guarantees the safety of 15 during construction. It will fence the other 25 buildings, which means residents cannot live there anymore,” the group said in a statement.
They said the government’s sincerity in vowing to preserve the sanatorium was doubtful.

“The preservation agreement was made last May, but until now, the government hasn’t declared the sanatorium a historical site … Before it is declared as a historical site, we will not allow the MRT department to destroy the complex,” the group said.

(From Taipei Times)

Saizeriya burned by yen carry trade

Saizeriya said it signed derivatives deals with BNP Paribas Securities (Japan) Ltd. twice, in October 2007 and February 2008, to procure Australian dollars needed to import food from that country. Under the deals, Saizeriya is to receive 1 million Australian dollars every month, payments of which started in September.

If the yen weakens below the level set in the contract, Saizeriya is entitled to buy the Australian dollars at a discount. But should the yen appreciate beyond that threshold, the purchase price rises.


Tamogami Update

Last week on November 4 I wrote a long post detailing the results of my brief investigation into the various political connections surrounding the (now) infamously ultra-right-wing (now) former General Tamogami Toshio. This article was referenced by several English language bloggers such as Jun Okumura, Tobias Harris, and the anonymous Shisaku, (as well as a very nice plug from Curzon) who all add their own instructive commentary. Best of all though, was a prominent citation by Herbert Bix, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, who gave his perspective on the controversy in an essay in the Japan Focus online journal. Bix’s key piece of analysis regarding Tamogami is that “His aim is to forge a body of activist officers who will participate in political combat, promoting the “true” perspective on history, even if it is not factually true for the particular historical period he cares about.” Based on further evidence that has come out since my initial article, some of which Bix cites (even more has come out since), this certainly seems to be the case.

I wish I had time right now to do another in-depth piece, but I don’t, so I’ll just run down the various interesting facts that I’ve noted in more of a summary list form. There’s a lot more than this around, both in ordinary newspaper articles found online, blogs, and in print-only magazine articles, so I will try and do a few more updates soon. I had started to collate everything into one big post, but after letting it sit for a week I thought I should just hit post on this one and continue adding details in future posts.

  • Tamogami had published a similar article in May of last year, in a magazine for “officers to publish their personal research.” In this article, he described the fact that Japan invaded Korea and China and committed brutalities there a lie, and said of the Nanjing Massacre that “some civilians may have gotten mixed-up in the midst of the chaos, However, there was absolutely no systematic massacre of Chinese civilians by the Japanese army.” (After writing the post I found the article at this excellent blog.) In 2004, when he was dean of the JSDF Joint Staff College, he wrote another article for the same magazine, in which he called on JSDF members to submit articles to ordinary magazines. Neither of these articles made any political or media fuss at the time. (Asahi, Nov. 3)
  • I found a review of the book written by Ochiai Michio (落合道夫), second prize winner of the APA Group contest. The book, “Looking at the Japanese and the Great East-Asian War from the Perspective of Stalin’s International Invasion” endorses the same minority theory of Comintern responsibility for the Xian Incident. Based on the review, it seems to be an expanded version of the thesis proposed in “Mao: The Unkown Story”, which was itself heavily cited in Tamogami’s APA essay. In general, the book sounds as if it reflects a version of history identital that of both Tamogami Toshio and Motoya Toshio. The author seems to have no university affiliation, and in fact his name has no online presence aside from a couple of mentions of this book, or his connection with the current contest. The book is not available in ordinary bookstores, and can be ordered from its publisher, “The Tokyo Institute for the Study of Modern History” only by telephone or fax, as they have no website. They may be some sort of right-wing group, or they may simply be Mr. Ochiai’s living room with a fancy sign on the wall.
  • Hatoyama Yukio, who was photographed at the “Wine no Kai’ with APA Group leader Motoya Toshio and Tamogami claims that, “did appear at the meeting with my wife, thinking that it was not a place for political discussions. The overall mood was and conversation was peculiar, and I took a graceful early exit without having spoken much.” (Sankei Nov. 6)
  • As Curzon helpfuly pointed out, APA Group actually is not a publically traded company, which means that my speculation over possible misuse of corporate funds etc. turned out to be likely unfounded. While there are a variety of banks and other creditors/investors, the company is largely controlled by the Motoya family. For example, this page shows four different members of the Motoya family serving on the board of the Apa Community Co.
  • The only company in the APA Group not to have APA in the name is the “Japan Finance Development Finance Corporation”, based in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Pref. near the Komatsu base, and near to where APA was founded, and the hometown of Motoya Toshio, who is listed as the representative of this sub-company. (Search here, cannot link directly due to CGI script.)
  • Of the 235 essay submissions, a lage proportion were found to be JASDF members. I believe the latest count is 94. As pointed out by Tobias Harris, when there were still only 78 identified ASDF personnel, the Asahi discovered “hat of those seventy-eight, none except General Tamogami were flag officers, ten were field officers, sixty-four were company-level officers, and four were cadets. Asahi also found that sixty-two had served under General Tamogami when he served as commander of Komatsu base.”
  • The Japan Times did a pretty thorough profile of Motoya Fumiko, wife of Toshio, back in 2005. Fumiko is actually CEO not of APA Group, but of APA Hotels, while her husband is head of the overall corporation. Motoya Fumiko became a celebrity CEO after splashing her en-hatted photo all over advertising, and writing a book about her management style, but interestingly her husband does not even have an article on Japanese Wikipedia-despite his many and not very secretive right wing-activist political activities.
  • One detail I had noticed while doing the research, but then forgot to insert into my original post. One of the honorable mentions in the essay contest is the head of the Risk Management Office of APA. While I see no reason to think there is any particular significance to his selection, corporate contests in general ban all employees and immediate families of employees from participating in a contest, to avoid conflict of interest. Having an employee be a contest winner (an honorable mention includes a small cash prize and APA hotel voucher) is simply another piece of evidence to suggest the generally irregular and suspicious nature of the contest.

Asian Immigrants in Florida

One of the most obscure footnotes to the recent American elections was the failure of little-known ballot initiative in Florida, which would have symbolically removed from the law books a currently inactive 1926 unconstitutional provision of the state constitution which was intended to prohibit Asians from owning land in the state. The 1926 prohibition is specifically directed at foreigners ineligible for citizenship, which at the time applied to Asians-who were at the time barred from naturalization by federal law.

The language before voters did not explain that the laws first appeared around 1913 during a public panic that Asian immigrants, mostly from Japan, would work on farms for less than Americans and buy up vast tracts of land. It failed to spell out that state provisions were intended to work hand-in-glove with discriminatory federal laws that prevented Asian-Americans from becoming naturalized citizens until 1952.

Rather the ballot simply asked voters if they were willing to delete “provisions authorizing the Legislature to regulate or prohibit the ownership, inheritance, disposition and possession of real property by aliens ineligible for citizenship.”

Steve Geller, a former state senator who worked to get the initiative on the ballot, said Florida election rules only allowed a description of 75 words, and required that the language of the old provision — “aliens ineligible for citizenship” — be included. As a result, he said, “a lot of people thought it had to do with illegal aliens, and it had nothing to do with illegal aliens.” (NYT)

Few traces remain in Florida of this brief and ill-fated wave of Japanese immigration, and the most prominent is likely the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. It happens to be located very near to my grandparents’ house (like all Jews from Brooklyn, they eventually retired to Florida) and I went there with them a few years back. The garden is pretty nice, I suppose, although I actually got the impression that it is too big to replicate the feeling of an actual Japanese garden, the design philosophy of which is largely based on a fractal-like recreation of the large on a small scale. The significantly different vegetation of Florida also does not help. But the museum does have some neat exhibits (their temporary one the day I went was a pretty cool collection of Japanese kites, which based on my experience is a dead art form in Japan. I saw kites all over in China-does anyone fly them here?) and resources that could be of great interest to a Palm Beach County resident who wants to learn a bit more about Japanese culture. For me, of course, the most interesting thing was the history of the museum itself. And the iguanas.

Their website has a tantalizing, but brief, history of the Japanese in Florida.

In 1904, Jo Sakai, a recent graduate of New York University, returned to his homeland of Miyazu, Japan, to organize a group of pioneering farmers and lead them to what is now northern Boca Raton. With the help of the Model Land Company, a subsidiary of Henry Flagler’s East Coast Railroad, they formed a farming colony they named Yamato, an ancient name for Japan.

Ultimately, the results of their crop experimentation were disappointing and the Yamato Colony fell far short of its goals. By the 1920s, the community, which had never grown beyond 30 to 35 individuals, finally surrendered its dream. One by one, the families left for other parts of the United States or returned to Japan.

One settler remained. His name was George Sukeji Morikami. A modest farmer, George continued to cultivate local crops and act as a fruit and vegetable wholesaler. In the mid-1970s, when George was in his 80s, he donated his land to Palm Beach County with the wish to preserve it as a park and to honor the memory of the Yamato Colony.

It is sad that a legally meaningless ballot resolution intended only as a posthumous apology to these poor immigrants was accidentally voted down by people who thought they were doing something to hurt current illegal immigrants, but one must admit that the resolution was very poorly worded.

Excellent rebuttal of Tamogami in Asahi — but not on the Internet

Page 15 of today’s Asahi, the opinion page, has run three excellent articles analyzing and rebutting the controversial arguments and actions of recently dismissed ASDF Chief of Staff Tamogami. I’ll quickly summarize their points:

(UPDATE: In case you missed it, you can read Tamogami’s full, six-page essay here (PDF))

Shinichi Kitaoka — Professor at Tokyo University specializing in Japanese diplomatic history

Tamogami is wrong and uses questionable secondary sources (such as Mao: the Unknown Story) to support theories that are widely rejected by the historical community. Tamogami’s views on politics appear subtly masochistic and emotional. For example, his complaints that Roosevelt tried to lure Japan into firing the first shot are “shameful” since international politics is by nature a game of trickery. Most military leaders around the world are well-educated and act gentlemanly, and in these respects Tamogami has failed miserably to meet the conditions for leading a branch of the armed forces. The incident has done enormous damage to the public’s faith in the Self Defence Forces.

Shunichi Karasawa — commentator and member of the Tondemo Gakkai, a group dedicated to debunking urban myths and conspiracy theories

Tamogami is a classic conspiracy theorist — despite the presumed access to primary information that would come with high office, Tamogami instead chose to use secondary sources that supported his theories without examining them, and then failed to prove his point. Writing about politics or history requires one to avoid the temptation to simplify complex situations, but apparently Tamogami lacked the patience. Maybe this is an expression of the SDF’s frustration over the unclear status of the force during a time when the US-Japan relationship is changing.

Tamogami has a reputation as a capable man of action. This preference for quick resolutions makes it easy for someone like that to get caught up in conspiracy theories since they are always looking for someone to blame.

After publishing the essay, he has displayed an attitude that he is more or less satisfied that he did something significant. This pattern of saying something and not seeing much need for followup or verification is also typical of conspiracy theorists.

Perhaps part of the reason his arguments have generated support on the Internet is because they offer simple answers in a complicated world. But we should not just laugh off his essay. It’s a dangerous world indeed when officials in high office can so easily be led astray by wild theories.

Toshiyuki Shikata — Teikyo University professor and former vice president of the National Defense Academy

Shikata argues from the perspective of a former officer and notes that Tamogami quite clearly did not follow the proper procedures when writing his piece. He notes that normally pieces related to work require vetting by the Chief Cabinet Secretary, and if he had gone through proper channels this inane essay never would have seen the light of day. Of course Tamogami knew that, somehow claimed the essay was unrelated to his duties, and decided to go for maximum political effect by publishing through the contest route while still in office. He then echoes Karasawa in stating that the SDF is “depressed” over its unclear status, but goes further to suggest that the constitution be revised to clarify things.

All well and good, but you won’t find any of these arguments on the Internet, at least not until I typed them up (we might see a translation in the English edition, but not the original Japanese). As usual, the right-wing has a leg up on more level-headed commentators in terms of Internet outreach. Tamogami did not hestitate to make his thoughts known in full on the Internet (possibly because he couldn’t have published them elsewhere), and the impact has been astounding. But Asahi, a mainstream media dinosaur, can only trot out its heavy hitters in the dead-tree edition.

Blogger-economist Nobuo Ikeda argues that the Asahi Shimbun, as the longtime promoter of the comfort women issue and the Nanking Massacre, two incidents that he feels are overblown, has lost credibility to criticize Tamogami, since Asahi has a history of engaging in the same sort of demagogy.

But I would say the Asahi suffers from more than just a credibility issue, if indeed they do. They just are not actively engaging the Internet audience, and this should be a real cause of concern if they want to maintain any status as a forum for opinion leaders.

CSIS says appoint Al Gore as Japan ambassador — um, what?

I haven’t posted my reaction to Obama’s election, but suffice to say I voted for him and I am delighted to see a damn fine human being leading my country. That out of the way, I have an opinion I would like to share.

A CSIS Asia policy hand has this suggestion for Obama with regard to Japan policy:

President-elect Obama also needs to send some early signals of reassurance to Japan. For reasons not entirely clear or logical, there is a widespread perception in Japan that Republicans like Japan more than Democrats do and growing concern that an Obama administration will continue the U.S. “tilt” toward China that many in Japan perceive (in my view wrongly) as already underway. Making sure a few well-known Japan-hands are in senior positions at the State Department and National Security Council will help in this regard, as will naming a prominent, well-respected former official as ambassador to Tokyo – names like former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Joseph Nye or even former (Republican) Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage come immediately to mind. Former Vice President (and Nobel Laureate) Al Gore would be a particularly inspired (but probably unrealistic) choice.

I appreciate the attention paid to these issues by Mr. Cossa, and obviously Obama needs good advisers in the Asia policy realm.

And I’ll accept that there is much hand-wringing in Japan and at the Japanese embassy on Mass Ave on how well the US will value the US-Japan relationship, the tilt toward China, and all that. But why do unclear and illogical concerns justify throwing them a bone like Al Gore? That assumes consequences for not making conciliatory gestures by giving an auto-pilot ambassadorship to one of the US’ most active and valued elder statesmen. But what would Japan do if a relative lightweight is appointed? Japan is inextricably linked to the US for the conceivable future, and unless Obama makes a series of truly humiliating and harmful decisions, nothing about that will change. The wish for high-profile appointees in the Asia policy realm is justified only by the self-interest of the policy wonks themselves, and how worthless is that from a class of people whose job it is to make objective assessments of US national interest? To venture a conjecture, Cossa may be throwing out the most obvious choices and one ridiculous choice as a way of offering an indirect recommendation for someone within his organization, Michael Green, the CSIS Japan Chair and a former Bush adviser on Asia-related national security policy.

And even if Obama did put in Armitage or Green or another figure beloved by the Japan policy circles, would that do anything to alleviate the impact of the potential friction points, such as divergence on the NK issue, favoring China, or trade problems? I doubt it.

I also don’t see much reason for putting people with very strong opinions like Armitage, Green, or Nye into the position of ambassador, which is really more about being inconspicuous and conciliatory than the leading thinker on the state of the US-Japan alliance. Japan policy circles might swoon, but there’s little reason to bend over backwards to please them.

Behind the WaiWai scandal at Neojaponisme

In a FIRST-EVER collaboration with Global Voices Online’s Chris Salzberg, my translation of an article by tech journalist Toshinao Sasaki is up at Neojaponisme. As a preview, here are the key introductory paragraphs:

No doubt WaiWai is something of a household name among many Néojaponisme readers. For those who missed the recent absence of sensational, sex-fueled articles on the Mainichi English website, however, WaiWai was the name of a now-defunct feature that published sleazy, often plainly false articles loosely translated from Japanese tabloids. For years a guilty pleasure to millions in the English-speaking world, the fun came to an end this spring when a firestorm of outrage over the content broke on Internet forums such as the popular 2-Channel, leading the Mainichi to take the articles down and apologize.

While anyone can find the superficial details of what happened to WaiWai on Wikipedia or the apology on Mainichi’s website, a discussion of the larger significance of this incident has been harder to find. And significant it was — this appears to be the first time backlash from Internet-based readers posed a real threat to the business of a major media institution: a development that, as Sasaki describes, could prove “the milestone that turns the relationship between the Internet and the mass media on its head.”

Chris’s translation of the second half will follow. Now go read the rest!

Gen. Tamogami Toshio, Motoya Toshio, and Abe Shinzo

Note: I have followed up this post on November 21st, and then again on December 1st.

The publication of an essay denying Japanese aggression in the Pacific before and throughout the WW2 by Japan Air Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff Gen. Tamogami Toshio (pictured below) could have led to another major international diplomatic incident. This seems to have been curtailed by his immediate firing, and a reaffirmation of the Government of Japan’s official stance of acknowledging Japanese aggression.

General Tamogami Toshio

The essay was published on the website of APA Group, a large construction and real estate conglomerate best known for scandals involving inadequate earthquake proofing and falsification of records, as the grand prize winner of an “essay contest.” (The essay can be found on the award page, in both Japanese and English. Oddly, none of the lesser prize-winning essays are available.)

Almost all of the news coverage I have seen reports simply on the contents of General Tamogami’s essay, the fact that it was a contest, his prompt dismissal, and some half-hearted complaints about the essay from overseas (clearly headed off by the rapidity of his firing), but aside from this article at Mainichi virtually nothing about the contest itself. My first reaction was to wonder what the background story here was.

Naturally I started poking about online. I’ll start with what the Mainichi story had to say about the contest:

Watanabe etc. on the selection committee

According to the APA Group web page, essays were solicited for the purpose of “steering Japan towards a correct understanding of history as an independent nation”, and a prize of ¥3 million (Note: around $30,000 USD) was awarded as the grand prize. The head of the selection committee was Sophia University Distinguished Professor Watanabe Shouichi, a conservative commentator. APA Group CEO, Motoya Toshio, writes essays on historical perceptions under the pen name Fuji Seiji (藤誠志).

Mr. Motoya does not simply write essays under this pen-name, but actually publishes them in the APA corporate newsletter, Apple Town (“Fresh Information For Your Best Life”). He has also published a number of books under his own name, which you can order through the APA website, most notable “Modern History The Media Doesn’t Report on: Postwar History is an Argument over Nuclear Weapons”, for which he has a promo page on the APA site. (There are also a couple of books written by his wife, Motoya Fumiko CEO of APA Hotels.) Incidentally, another of Mr. Motoya’s books, “Business is Romance”, appears on a “Japanese National Bibliography” page on the National Diet Library website.

As you can see from the above screen capture of the contest website, the essay contest actually appears to be a promotion for his book. In fact, the grand prize is self-aggrandizingly named the “Fuji Seiji Prize Award”, after Mr. Motoya’s pen name. Although APA Group is a publicly traded company and not a family business (I believe this is the case, but I am not 100% sure, so I would appreciate someone checking), CEO Motoya is not only using the corporate website and magazine to promote his right-wing political agenda, but may also very well be using corporate funds for the contest prize money. According to this blog post, the book is also being promoted and sold in APA hotels.

At or near the bottom of the sidebar present throughout the entire APA Group website (some pages have other links below), there is also a link to an external political organization run by Motoya, the “Kanazawa Friends of the Komatsu Military Base.” (小松基地金沢友の会) The purpose of the group, according to a statement from Motoya on the front page is “get the entire citizenry of Japan, in which there is yet a shallow understanding of the importance of national defense, to understand that a balance of power involving military deterrent leads to international peace,” and to “support the Komatsu Base, which covers the entire Sea of Japan region, which is close to such countries as Russia, China and North Korea.” Googling a few sample names from the members list produces what would be expected: old men from Ishikawa Prefecture involved mostly in business, and one LDP Diet member who had held a minor position in Koizumi’s cabinet.

The website is located on a domain which appears to be independent of APA Group, at jasdfmate.gr.jp (Japan Air Self Defense Force Mate at the Japanese secondary .gr domain for volunteer groups). They also appear to be hosted at different locations, as the traceroute path is significantly different. However, the WHOIS database indicates that the contact person for both websites is a Nishikawa Harumi (西川 治美), who according to the apa.co.jp WHOIS entry is an employee in the Business Section of APA Co.,LTD. and according to the jasdfmate.gr.jp WHOIS entry is a “Clerk” for “Air Self-Defense Force in Komatsu, Kanazawa Mate.” Ms. Nishikawa has been listed as the contact person for the sites since at least 2001.01.16 and 2000.03.21 respectively, when the contact information was last updated. The shallow attempt at separation of private form corporate breaks down, however, when the JASDFMate site lists the contact email address as office@apa.co.jp. You too can join the group, and go on their various activities-such as tours of the base-for a mere ¥10,000.

“Modern History The Media Doesn’t Report on” was published on April 18 of this year, and a combination publishing celebration party and birthday party was held in early June, which is commemorated at this page on the APA site. This page contains some videos which were screened at the party, the third of which finishes off with a list of the party’s sponsors. The list is long, but contains quite a few names of note. Some of the ones that jumped out at me were (in order of appearance):

  • Asao Keiichiro (DPJ Shadow Defense Minister)
  • Abe Shinzo (former LDP PM)
  • Ikeguchi Ekan (Shingon-shu leader)
  • Koh Se-kai (Former Taiwan representative to Japan, Taiwan independence activist)
  • Ko Bunyu (Japan-resident Taiwanese independence activist and writer, darling of Japan’s far right)
  • Dewi Sukarno (Japan-born former wife of Indonesian dictator Sukarno)
  • Tamogami Toshio (just-fired JASDF chief)
  • Hatoyama Kunio (LDP politician, currently Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications)
  • Bobby Valentine (Former MLB baseball player and manager, current manager of Japan’s Chiba Lotte Marines baseball team)
  • Jose de Venecia, Jr. (Speaker of the House of the Philippines)
  • Mori Yoshirou (Former LDP PM)
  • Watanabe Shouichi (Sophia U. Distinguished Professor of English and right-wing commentator, and head of the essay committee)

According to this Sankei article on the party, over 1500 guests were in attendance, of which several dozen were thanked by name in the video.

In this photo of the party (again, from the APA page) you can see General Tamogami was not merely a guest at the event, but actually addressing the crowd. This was just under a month after the contest had been announced, on May 10. According to the above-linked Sankei article, Tamogami jokingly referred to himself as a “controversial figure” and said that:

After the war, speech arguing to defend our country was suppressed, but speech that was anti-Japan or badmouthing Japan was free. As long as the fundamental problems of security are not dealt with, it is impossible to be ready to protect this country in the manner it deserves.

This is a reference to constitutional revision to eliminate or revise Article 9-Japan’s famous pacifism clause. Essentially, the grand prize winner of an “essay contest” was a speaker at an event which was both the launch party for the book the essay contest was promoting, as well as the birthday of the author, expressing essentially the same opinion later given in that essay.

Tamogami and Motoya actually had a political association dating back some time, at least to a “Wine no Kai” (Wine Party for Discussing Japan)documented in Motoya / APA’s own magazine. (Click here for PDF of the article, originally copied from the APA web site.) In this photograph you can see Tamogami , Motoya, Hatoyama Yukio (one of the leading hawks in Japan’s opposition Democratic Party, which differs little from the permanent ruling LDP on substantial matters, his family name ironically means “Dove Mountain”) and his wife, as well as Sankei Journalist Oshima Shinzo.

Wine no Kai 2004
Wine no Kai 2004

I am actually slightly unclear whether the article text is a summary of the discussions had at the party or simply yet another of Motoya’s essays, but it is probable that the participants at least agreed with the ghist of it. The article concludes by stating that “the statement that ‘Japan must absolutely not equip itself with nuclear weapons’ is absurd.” Japanese nuclear armament seems to be one of Motoya’s main issues.

Motoya has apparently hosted a number of annual sessions of the “Wine no Kai,” including a session the following year attended by not-yet Prime Minister Abe Shinzo.

Wine no Kai 2005
Wine no Kai 2005

That’s Abe sitting there in the middle, flanked by Motoya Toshio, with the horrific grimace and weirdly out of place striped shirt, and Mrs. Motoya Fumiko, wearing one of the silly hats she is famous for. PDF of the entire article is here.The article contains nothing nearly as inflammatory as the previous year’s call for nuclear weapons, but I would like to share this brief and bewildering excerpt.

A certain Japan-born Korean said that “The Japanese value respect. Japanese culture is excellent on the inside. But I shed tears when looking at today’s Japan.” The lazy attitude of young people is particularly offensive. Korea still has a military draft system, and although I am not saying that Japan should revive militarism, I will say that the draft system should be introduced. They would not need to serve for two years, but let them live for a year in a group to teach them rules and endurance. If you invite a young person today to say “let’s go drinking” they refuse saying, “that’s OK.” In the old days, they were happy to get an invitation from an elder.

Abe and Motoya are reputed to have far stronger links. Although it seems to have been rarely discussed in the mainstream media (keep in mind that Japanese newspapers keep articles online for a very short time and I am not actually going so far as to check archives), it has been repeatedly claimed on blogs (most notably Kikko’s Diary, but also many smaller ones) that Motoya was vice-chair of Abe’s political support committee known as the Anshinkai, (安晋会, J-Wikipedia article). The name “Anshin” is a pun derived from part of Abe Shinzo’s name, which also sounds like the Japanese word for “safety.” neither the existence of Anshinkai nor Motoya’s membership in it has ever been publically acknowledged, but the above photograph of the “Wine no Kai” is often cited as evidence of both.

One blog wrote in February 2, 2007, that “mentions of Anshinkai have finally started appearing off-line as well,” indicating that this story actually began in the blogs before being taken up by the offline media, in a pattern considered to be generally un-Japanese. Another blog, on the same day, has a roundup of weekly news magazines (traditionally these magazines and not daily papers is the place for news that is more based on investigation or rumor) which had recently mentioned the Anshinkai, including Shukan Post, Shukan Bunshun and Shukan Asahi. The blog says that Shukan Post had been the first to report on Anshinkai, in February 10, 2006, alleging a connection with the Livedoor scandal.

Another blog, from January 31, 2006, has some more information on the Livedoor connection, notably that HS Securities VP Noguchi Hideaki, who committed suicide after falling under suspicion, was director of Anshinkai. The same article contains a dizzying chart of connections between various persons, groups and companies, which does not include Motoya/APA but does include another interesting name – HUSER (Human User Company). Huser had been involved in a construction inspection scandal, seriously enough so that President Ojima Susumu was actually called to testify before the Diet, where he admitted to meeting with Abe Policy Secretary, Iizuka Hiroshi.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this increasingly long post, APA Group is now infamous for their involvement with a similar scandal. I don’t want to spend more time on this, so I recommend you read the good English coverage of at Shin Fukushige’s blog (note that Adam commented on this post.) The CEOs of both Huser and APA are allegedly members of Anshinkai, and there has much much suspicion that Abe and his people deflected as much heat as he could. The connections between Motoya and Abe are strong enough that Kikko titled one January 2007 post “APA Group is Abe Group.”

As I write this, the US 2008 election results are coming in and I want to wrap this up so I can concentrate on that, so let me summarize briefly.

Motoya Toshio is a very successful construction and real estate entrepeneur, with extreme right wing views, an obsession with political leaders and celebrities (he brags about having met a wide variety of famous people, starting oddly with Castro), and an otaku-esque fascination with military things (he also brags about having taken a test flight on a fighter plane). Having built his company into the massive APA Group, he used his company’s publicity apparatus to promote his political ideas, and his significant financial leverage to support Japanese politicians supportive of his militaristic agenda. He appears to have also used those political connections to promote large business projects, and when his company became embroiled in a serious construction inspection scandal, he also turned to his political allies for help.

Combining his attraction to both power and military, he invited ASDF General Tamogami Toshio into his circle, bringing him to the Wine no Kai and to address the launch party for his latest right-wing tract. Motoya then had APA sponsor an essay contest promoting his book-possibly an illicit use of corporate funds-with the grand prize awarded to Tamogami , in a decision I suspect was actually arranged by Motoya personally, with the “selection committee” only choosing the lesser prizes. Motoya was probably hoping that Tamogami , who had a history of making controversial public statements and escaping serious censure, would be able to step up and continue the main-streaming of right-wing militaristic views, but his gamble failed. His friend Abe Shinzo was no longer Prime Minister, having perhaps spent too much of his political capital defending Motoya’s APA Group and Huser during the earthquake proofing inspection scandals, and Aso’s government was just not interested in risking blow-back by defending a general who had so egregiously violated the rules on political speech by uniformed officers and the supremacy of civilian leadership. Fukuda Yasuo had worked to improve relations with China and other neighbors following the Abe administration, and perhaps newly appointed Prime Minster Aso Taro, despite his right-wing views and his own well-earned reputation for making gaffes decided to take the pragmatic route and declined to protect Tamogami .

Halloween in Tokyo

Apparently the Halloween party train on the Yamanote Line went off without a hitch:

This year’s story is rather interesting because of the crazy 2channeler element — check out the organizers’ assertion that the police showed up to protect the drunk foreigners from crazy organized otaku. Guess the latter get more scrutiny than the former these days.