Yasukuni all over again

As if the Niagara Incident wasn’t bad enough (there’s currently a huge controversy in the Japanese media over whether it should be labelled the ナイアガラの滝の事件 or ナイアガラの滝の事変), and now this report!

The “King” never came to Japan, but Japan’s prime minister is making a pilgrimage to Graceland.

Elvis fan Billy Morokawa says Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will likely feel the power of Presley’s enduring energy when he tours the rock-and-roll legend’s home in Memphis, Tennessee, Friday with President Bush.

Did you see that? “Pilgrimage” There’s no way this visit is going to pass the church/state test, and visiting it alongside President Bush the “I was only going in my capacity as a private citizen” defense is never going to fly, particularly when considering his personal history in this cult.

Koizumi, 64, is an Elvis devotee who not only shares a January 8 birthday with his idol, but picked out his songs for a 2001 charity album, “Junichiro Koizumi Presents My Favorite Elvis Songs.” The prime minister appears on the album’s cover standing next to Elvis outside Graceland in a composite picture.

Back in 1987 when Koizumi was a mere lawmaker, he and his brother Masaya, now a senior adviser to the Tokyo fan club, helped raise funds to erect a status of Elvis in the Japanese capital to commemorate the 10th anniversary of his death.

Three years ago the prime minister, an eclectic music lover whose favorites also include German composer Richard Wagner, sang his favorite Elvis hit — “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” — with actor Tom Cruise, then in Tokyo to promote his movie “The Last Samurai.”

Let’s just hope that this time the Supreme Court actually has the guts to face the real constitutional question and not skirt the issue on technicalities.

Supreme Court: Stop your sniveling about Yasukuni

The Supreme Court of Japan dismissed a 278-plaintiff appeal against Koizumi yesterday, holding that his visiting Yasukuni “is not something that interferes with others’ religious faiths” and therefore cannot be the basis for a damage award.

However, they declined to rule on the constitutionality of the visits, stating that since there was no standing for the claim for damages, there was also no need to make a constitutional ruling. It’s another case of squirming out of the hot seat: the Supreme Court has used this tactic before to avoid addressing sensitive political questions, most notably whether the Self-Defense Forces are permitted under Article 9. (See my earlier post on the subject.)

Full story at the Japan Times if you’d like to know more.

Imperialist cuff links

I bought these on a hanami (flower viewing) excursion to Yasukuni Shrine last weekend. Tie pins aren’t quite my style, but the cuff links are great. (And Lady Curzon, a true aristocrat, gives her approval.)

Other items on sale at Yasukuni:

* Japanese flag cuff links. I didn’t buy these because they seemed too loud. I now regret that decision, and plan to purchase them the next time I visit.
* An authentic-looking Imperial Rescript on Education you can put up in your home for that classic fascist feeling. (Framed with a portrait of Hirohito: ¥9,000. Unframed: ¥1000.)
* Special manju, packaged with a caricature of Koizumi on the box and parodies of LDP slogans. Here’s a photo, because I love you:

Anyway, if you see a honky walking around Tokyo wearing chrysanthemum cuff links, you’ll know it’s me, so be sure to say hi.

KSG students do a good job of keeping up stereotypes

Some Harvard kids got some intimate time with Shinzo Abe and Seiji Maehara. So guess what the Korean wanted to ask about?

Wait for it…

A student from South Korea said Abe’s stance on visiting Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead as well as Class-A war criminals, did not come up during the meeting due to time constraints.

Hahahahaha. Riiiiight.

“If he (Abe) becomes the next prime minister, there would be no improvement in Japan’s relations with South Korea and China,” the student said on condition of anonymity.

However, the student also said Maehara was an engaging politician who gave “clear comments” on the party’s stance against acts of worship at the contentious Yasukuni Shrine by top Japanese political figures.

Meanwhile, the Anglosphere types are more concerned about different issues:

Andre Stein of Australia held a different view, criticizing the DPJ’s contradictory stance on national security.

“While Maehara agrees with U.S. (military) protection of Japan, the party is not interested in supporting the allied forces in Iraq,” he said.

One’s concerned with mismanaging the past; the other’s concerned with mismanaging the future. To be fair, the Japan Times only published two opinions; perhaps they’re just looking for what they think is most conventional.

Saipan, Desperate for Japanese Tourist “reparations,” Offers to Open its Own Version of Yasukuni

The governor of Saipan has made a morbidly cynical offer to the Japanese families of those who died in the bloody Battle of Saipan:

Banzai Cliff as cemetery for Japanese war dead?

By Agnes Donato

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Banzai Cliff in Marpi could soon turn into a cemetery for the Japanese war dead, with the governor offering the property to the families of World War II soldiers who lost their lives on Saipan.

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial announced Friday that he had received two pledges of donation amounting 10 million Japan yen (about $84,000) each for the planned cemetery.

A separate offer of $100,000 has also been made for the sole benefit of the Public School System, he said.

“I am making land available at Banzai Cliff for Japanese groups to build a temple. This temple will be a token of our appreciation for the Japanese people visiting Saipan. I am also offering the same property to all the families and relatives of 47,000 war heroes who lost their lives here on Saipan to come and erect monuments,” Fitial said during his weekly press conference.

I can’t think of a more depressing idea. The Banzai Cliff was what hundreds of Japanese civilians jumped from in the aftermath of the battle. They chose to end it all rather than be raped and tortured by the Americans (UPDATE: …or so they may have believed. Another blogger, objecting to this “spin” – though it was unintentional – helpfully pointed out some of the sacrifices US soldiers made to save Japanese civilians in Saipan. Take a look.). I remember seeing on the History Channel a mother jump with her child no more than 50 feet from the American soldiers who looked on with a video camera rolling.

But will this save Saipan’s embattled tourist industry? It remains to be seen:

Tourist arrivals from Japan continue to drop as a result of Japan Airlines’ decision to cease all regular, scheduled flights to Saipan in October 2005.

Data from the Marianas Visitors Authority showed that the CNMI received only 25,555 visitors from Japan in January 2006. This represents a 29-percent decline compared with the 35,795 Japanese who came to the islands in January 2005.

But MVA is hopeful that the Japan market would recover when Northwest Airlines increases the frequency of its Tokyo flights beginning next month.

Northwest, which currently operates seven weekly flights between Saipan and Narita, will have 10 flights a week between the two points starting April 24, 2006.

The new service will operate a second Boeing 747 jumbo jet from Tokyo, flying three times a week. The aircraft will carry 400 economy and 30 business class passengers.

Homework assignment: Does anything similar exist in the world? There are certainly things like the Normandy memorial or Auschwitz, but are there any war memorials designed almost purely as tourist traps? I’m kind of offended — maybe Saipan does suck!

Gaimusho fires back

This is a bit out of date, but I thought it was worth posting anyway.

Gaimusho’s response to the NYT 02/13/05 editorial (click here to read) criticizing Foreign Minister Aso Taro:

To the Editor:
Re “Japan’s Offensive Foreign Minister” (editorial, Feb. 13):

Foreign Minister Taro Aso has neither justified nor denied Japan’s past history of colonial rule or wartime aggression. His recent speech on Asia made this crystal-clear, and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s statements on the subject on numerous occasions have reflected this notion. History classes in Japan do as well.

Nor did Mr. Aso say the emperor ought to visit Yasukuni Shrine in the present circumstances. He simply pointed out the need to consider a way that government representatives, as well as the emperor, could naturally honor the Japanese war dead without causing discomfort to neighboring countries.

Japan, by adhering to strictly defensive security policy, has never posed any threat to any other countries, including China, for the past 60 years. Mr. Aso welcomes China as a responsible partner, and its rise as an opportunity. He simply referred to international concerns over China’s consistent and nontransparent military activities and buildup. Given the regrettable incident of the trespass of a submerged nuclear submarine into Japan’s territorial waters, China must strive to meet your criterion of “no recent record of threatening Japan.”

Japan continues to encourage China to improve transparency in its military affairs in accordance with the Japan-United States Joint Statement issued by our countries’ foreign and defense ministers in February 2005.

Hiroshi Sato
Acting Consul General of Japan
New York, Feb. 18, 2006

Aso Backs off of Tactless Emperor-Visit-Yasukuni Speech PLUS

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Aso Qualifies Remark Calling For Emperor To Visit Yasukuni

TOKYO (Kyodo)–Foreign Minister Taro Aso clarified Tuesday that his call over the weekend for the emperor to visit the war-related Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo was not meant for the emperor to go there ”in the current situation.”

”I made the remark from the standpoint of the spirits of the war dead enshrined (at Yasukuni) because they died for the emperor. I never said that (I wanted) the emperor to make the shrine visit in the current situation,” Aso told a news conference.

Aso said Saturday in a speech in Nagoya that ”From the viewpoint of the spirits of the war dead, they hailed ‘Banzai’ for the emperor — none of them said long live the prime minister. A visit by the emperor would be the best.”

Nothing witty to say about this guy, but I have discovered a wonderful site dedicated to the man. This site is as fascinating as it is jam-packed with information. Some quick highlights:

  • – He reads 30 comic books per week. 30! (Was once caught reading Rosen Maiden in the VIP room at Haneda Airport, and had comics shipped to him when he was in America)
  • – In addition to comics, he reads a ton of normal books and is an intelligent man with lots of stories to tell (Yet another counterexample to the facile notion that problematic politicians are simply fools)
  • – Visits Yasukuni Shrine every year despite being a Christian (Christians are, of course, forbidden to worship other gods as one of their most basic tenets)
  • – Is apparently aware of the existence of 2-channel as a “problem forum site on the Internet”
  • – Was voted best dresser in the political world in 1977
  • – Speaks English, having studied at Stanford and London University after graduating from Gakushuin, which before the abolition of the peerage in 1947 was an exclusive finishing school for the Japanese nobility
  • – Lived in Sierra Leone for 2 years developing diamond mines but left after a civil war erupted
  • – Once said, “I think the best country is one in which rich Jews feel like living.”
  • Continue reading Aso Backs off of Tactless Emperor-Visit-Yasukuni Speech PLUS

    More on the Aso Speech

    There was a very interesting part of Aso’s speech calling for the emperor to visit Yasukuni that didn’t make it into English reporting so far:

    “Japan is treated like a nouveau-riche child because it has no military power but does have economic power. All the G8 countries are White, and Japan is the only Yellow Race country there. So we teamed up with the best fighter, America. This should be obvious!” (Source: NTV News 24, paraphrased from memory)

    The statement repeats a theme emphasized in Aso’s most recent essay on his official website:

    If you analyze the current situation, unrelated to the anti-American feelings of left-leaning Japanese and the mass media, isn’t it Japan who has no choice but to take a basic national policy attitude of relying on America? Even children know the everyday wisdom that if there’s a dangerous person in the seat next to you, protection, if you can’t provide it yourself, become friends with the best fighter. This is a little too simplistic, but please consider this one “differing opinion.” 

    Unfortunately, the video has already been taken down. If anyone can find me the full text of his speech I would really appreciate it!

    Foreign Minister Taro Aso’s Foot-in-Mouth Disease Takes a Turn for the Worse

    Remember this guy? Well he is still perhaps the scariest Japanese politician in recent memory:

    Saturday, January 28, 2006

    Emperor Should Visit Yasukuni: Aso

    TOKYO (Kyodo)–Foreign Minister Taro Aso said Saturday it is desirable for the emperor to visit Yasukuni Shrine and told China to stop complaining about Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visits to the Shinto shrine in Tokyo.

    ‘From the viewpoint of the spirits of the war dead, they hailed ‘Banzai’ for the emperor — none of them said ‘prime minister Banzai!’ A visit by the emperor would be the best,” Aso said in a speech in Nagoya.

    The remarks by the hawkish foreign minister risk further damaging chilled relations with China and South Korea, victims of Japanese militarism before and during World War II who have strongly protested Japanese leaders’ visits to the shrine that honors 14 Class-A war criminals along with the war dead.

    The last visit by an emperor to Yasukuni was in November 1975 by Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa.

    The Class-A war criminals, including executed Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo, were enshrined Oct. 17, 1978.

    On criticism against Koizumi’s visits, Aso said, ”The more China voices (opposition), the more one feels like going there. It’s just like when you’re told ‘Don’t smoke cigarettes,’ it actually makes you want to smoke. It’s best (for China) to keep quiet.”

    (Slightly modified from Nikkei Net, photo plucked randomly from Google images)

    Alternative Memorial for War Dead Left Out of 2006 Budget

    The “Group to Consider a National [War] Memorial” is a rare ruling-opposition (LDP, Komeito, and DPJ) caucus of lawmakers that is campaigning for the Japanese government to establish an alternative to Yasukuni shrine. The idea, proposed by a 2002 advisory panel and supported by South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, is popular among those in the Japan Policy Community (including influential types in Washington) who would prefer to see a speedy, concrete solution to the Yasukuni issue rather than all of Koizumi’s useless (and possibly dangerous) saber-rattling.

    Well, don’t count on it this year, based on this year’s budget requests. This was covered in slightly less detail in the Japan Times, but you can enjoy my abstract of the Yomiuri:

    Memorial Facility Survey Funds Left Out, PM Firms Stance: “Public opinion not ripe”

    PM Koizumi has firmed his stance not to include funds to survey the possibility of a national war memorial in the national budget draft, a move seen to be caused by a lack of public interest.

    Government sources explained that the “environment has not been prepared to include survey funds in next year’s budget,” which will be formally decided on Dec. 22. The funds were not included in the MOF’s budget recommendations, released the same day.

    Another part of the decision, say government officials, was that including the funds would not likely have contributed to repairing relations with China and South Korea.

    The govt plans to continue deliberating on the merits of including the funds while “carefully watching public opinion.” There is momentum within the “Group to Consider a National [War] Memorial,” which crosses party lines to include members from the ruling LDP and New Komeito as well as the main opposition DPJ, to demand the inclusion of such funding in next fiscal year’s revised budget or reserve funds. However, it is unlikely to be included in a budget during Koizumi’s tenure.

    When SK President Roh Moo-hyun asked that Koizumi consider the establishment of a national war memorial during the Korea-Japan summit on June 20, the Japanese leader accepted, saying he would “consider it taking into consideration circumstances including public opinion.” However, the PM’s October 17 visit to Yasukuni Shrine is quickly becoming a diplomatic problem due to China and SK’s strong protests. It seems as if the PM thought that it would look like he would be giving in to their pressure if he included such funds in this year’s budget.

    According to a November poll conducted by Nikkei, 49% of Japanese people would approve, while 31% would disapprove of a national war memorial. I guess in the Land of Consensus even clear numbers in favor of such a memorial smack of “divided public opinion.” Of course, Koizumi didn’t let a little thing like internal division stop him from pushing through postal privatization, did he?
    Continue reading Alternative Memorial for War Dead Left Out of 2006 Budget