Yes, “The Legend of Koizumi”, a completely gonzo comedy manga in which international affairs are all settled by world leaders playing mahjong that was once described by an eminent critic as “the best manga ever,” has finally seen n anime adaptation. It is being released as an OVA instead of being shown on TV, and will go on sale in late February for ￥2940. (Watch this space for news.) In the meanwhile, the first section has been uploaded to Youtube, and with English subtitles for those, like myself, who can’t follow all the mahjong talk.
Incidentally, I love all the little references in there, like Kim Jong Nam’s Mickey Mouse ears, recognition that Taro Aso was on the Olympic rifle team, and a GWB reference everybody will get, but what I really want to see is an adaptation of the storyline that shows Pope Benedict employing ancient Catholic magic to win at mahjong.
The DPJ has agreed to submit a bill that would grant foreign permanent residents of Japan (let’s call them PRs) the right to vote and run in local elections. Getting voting rights without having to give up Korean citizenship has long been a goal of zainichi Korean activist groups. But this proposal would apply both to “special” permanent residents that include the population of “zainichi” Koreans and Chinese from Taiwan who remained in the country after WW2, and to any foreigner granted permanent residency.
The bill has stirred up a firestorm of criticism, most loudly from the right wing. However, in support of the bill are some powerful forces, first and foremost DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa, whose job it is to ensure a lasting majority for his party. According to at least one critic, the decision to offer suffrage to all PRs may be an attempt to secure a more permanent voting base because the zainichi population has been falling precipitously as the original group dies off and their decendants naturalize.
Personally, although I could potentially benefit from this bill if I one day am granted permanent residency, I don’t think it’s a good idea. Except for unique circumstances, only the citizens of a country should be allowed to vote.
The right wing and their allies in the opposition LDP have mobilized against this bill. Right-leaning Sankei Shimbun has run features pointing out the “big problems” with the bill. Financial services minister and conservative People’s New Party President Shizuka Kamei is against the proposal, noting he would refuse to sign a cabinet decision on the matter. In a statement, he worried that some areas with large foreign populations would see an upheaval of political power. He also suggested the compromise measure of loosening the requirements to naturalize, without being specific.
Protests have been common, and generally have taken a highly xenophobic tone. The crux of the argument is that there is no good reason to give PRs the vote and that almost no nations unilaterally grant foreign citizens the right to vote (some EU countries allow it for other EU citizens, along with some other exceptions made for special groups (PDF)). Some of the criticism veers into the paranoid, however. In addition to the long, long list of furious red herring arguments documented by Debito, here is a video of one activist calmly explaining that this is an attempt by China to take over Japan by populating the country with foreign voters.
Almost non-existent support
It’s obvious enough that these protesters are making ridiculous arguments and have cranked the outrage way out of proportion. But what is the case for giving PRs the vote?
In addition to expected support from zainichi Korean groups, we have some uncharacteristically half-baked support from Debito, the well-known human rights agitator: “Debito.org is in support, given how difficult it can be to get PR in Japan, not to mention how arbitrary the naturalization procedures are.” But just because it’s tough to get the status, that doesn’t mean one should get the right to vote and be elected. I am not accusing foreigners in Japan of being spies or degenerates, but a basic tenet of a country and the Japanese constitution is that it is to be governed by its citizens. That requirement helps assure those who will be involved in politics are committed citizens of the country. Permanent residents are already protected under the law and do not need to renew their visa to stay in the country. I think if they want more than that they should be ready to give up their original passport and become citizens.
In an article in Japan Focus, professor Chris Burgess praises the zainichi suffrage movement as “multiculturalism in practice” but makes no mention of the expanded proposal.
I can understand giving the special permanent residents the vote because they are for all practical purposes citizens of the country. The current DPJ proposal would essentially exclude those who did not explicitly take South Korean citizenship (朝鮮籍維持者), if I understand correctly. But I would not even have a problem with these people getting the vote as it was an tragedy of history that put them in the country in the first place. If Japan would permit dual citizenship that would be one thing, but absent that letting them vote one way to let them participate in society.
But really, what constituency of non-zainichi PRs is actually asking for the right to vote? The only one who really stands to gain is the DPJ itself which would earn itself an expanded and loyal voter base. That’s an irresponsible way to decide election policy in this country, and as much as it pains me to side with rabid right-wingers who may wish me ill will, they are right on this issue. There are more important issues in my opinion (allowing dual citizenship, establishing an immigration policy) that should be given more priority.
I was just reading the 1938 edition of “Social Education in Taiwan,” published by the Japanese colonial government, when I came across this rather neat line in the middle of a section (page 76) on how the civilian population was being taught to aid the war effort (Second Sino-Japanese War) on the home front.
The value of gold held by an individual merely possesses the value a piece of jewelry, or of causing vanity, but should that ownership be transfered to the state, then it will not serve a function in resolving the international balance of payments, but also serve as a grand contribution to the development of the fate of the nation.
It then goes on to recommend that citizens (or perhaps “subjects” is a better word)
think of their own personal finances and sell their gold to the government, as it will not only be highly profitable to sell at the current high market price, but that by exchanging the gold official currency, it can be invested in other ways such as bank deposits, where it will bring about a natural increase in wealth [i.e. through interest], which will be far more profitable than letting it going to waste sitting at home. [Error in my original translation corrected thanks to Aki’s comment below.]
I don’t feel 100% confident about my translation of the latter part, so if anyone has a better translation for 「之を貨幣に換へ、貯金其の他の方法にて運用せば自然財産の増加を来すを以て徒に死蔵し置くに比し極めて有利になること」 than please let me know. Incidentally, this isn’t a section I plan to use in what I’m working on now, just that I thought it would be of interest to all of you.
Now, I wonder how the value of the original gold vs. the paper money held up over the course of the next several years.
Jade Mountain, or Yushan (玉山), is the tallest mountain in Taiwan at 3,952 metres (12,966 ft) above sea level. It had previously been known as Mount Morrison in English, after an American sea captain in the mid-19th century, it was given a new name after Taiwan’s annexation by Japan. As Yushan is taller than Japan’s tallest mountain, Mount Fuji at 3,776 m (12,388 ft), it was renamed Niitakayama (新高山), which translates to “New Tall Mountain.”
Apologies for the lack of English but I don’t have time to try and translate the little poem right now, but wanted to post it anyway.
Update: Commenter Sublight reminds us that “Climb Mount Niitaka” was the secret codephrase transmitted by the Japanese Navy to signal the attack on Pearl Harbor. I found a Japanese page that has some nice info on the message, including the original text on the Japanese side, and the intercept analysis on the American side.
『新高山登レ一二○八』 was the message, and it was analyzed as follow:
Combined Fleet Serial #10.
Climb NIITAKAYAMA 1208, repeat 1208
Comments; Interpreted freely, above means “Attack on 8 December”
Explanation; This was undoubtedly the prearranged signal for specifying the date for opening hostilities.
However, the significance of the phrase is interesting in that it is so appropriately used in this connection.
NIITAKAYAMA is the highest mountain in the Japanese Empire.
To climb NIITAKAYAMA is to accomplish one of the greatest feats.
In other words undertake the task (of carrying out assigned opertations).
1208 signifies twelfth month, 8th day, Item time.
It is often said that had the intercepted message been decoded before the attack, Pearl Harbor would have managed to defend themselves, but I wonder if anybody would have actually correctly interpreted “Climb Mount Niitaka” as an assault on US forces.
Secretary for Food and Health York Chow was in Japan last week to visit Tokyo-based Nichiryoku Co.’s mechanized columbarium, as facilities used to store urns are known. Families swipe a smart card and the ashes of the deceased are lifted mechanically within 60 seconds from an underground vault, with 8,545 tomb spaces, to one of 10 viewing areas.
The seven-story building in central Yokohama, a port city 16 kilometers (10 miles) from Tokyo, uses less space per urn than a facility where all are on permanent display. Each tomb can hold as many as three urns and 95 percent are taken.
The Yokohama columbarium, built by Shimizu Corp., Mitsubishi Corp. and Murata Machinery Ltd., was the first of its kind, according to Nichiryoku. Since then, the company has built three more in Japan, and rival companies are doing the same, according to employees who guided York’s tour.
“Usually these things are handled by local priests and temples, and in our case we also cooperated with a local temple to open this facility,” said Hisayoshi Teramura, the company’s president. “It’s been a very successful venture for us and we’re getting interest from other cities.” A delegation from Shanghai visited last year and this year, he said.
Nichiryoku’s shares have gained 17 percent this year, against a 3.4 percent rise in the benchmark Topix index. Shares in the only Hong Kong-listed provider of funeral services, Sino- Life Group Ltd., have more than doubled since their debut Sept. 9. The company operates in Taiwan and is expanding into China, where growing wealth is fueling demand for traditional funerals.
At the Nichiryoku’s 24-hour Yokohama columbarium, urns are stored in a “tomb” box that slots into one of the designated viewing areas, decorated with a backdrop of floral designs including cherry blossoms, snowdrops, cosmos and roses. People can bring food and flowers, which must be removed when they leave — in contrast to the tradition of graveyards in China.
If people are supposed to bring offerings back home with them when they leave the columbarium, that’s not just different from the Chinese tradition, it’s a lot different from the typical Japanese graveyard as well.
But I quibble. I’ve never heard of anyone using such a facility, but I did just see an ad for Nichiryoku this morning. It’s a cheaper option than getting a family plot at a graveyard, so I can see why some would go for it.
I am kind of amazed that a tomb operator is listed on the stock market, though. Maybe as Japan gets older the death business will get more and more lucrative.
Robert Kneff of the Marmot’s Hole blog has a neat article in the Korea Times re-telling the little known allegation that Japan tested a nuclear bomb in what is now North Korea shortly before the end of WW2. To be fair, I’ll excerpt the same portion as the Marmot’s Hole did.
It is common knowledge that on October 9, 2006 North Korea tested a small nuclear bomb. But there is debate as to whether or not this was the first atomic bomb test done in Korea. Ever since the end of World War II there have been rumors that Japan, just days before its surrender, tested a small atomic bomb off the coast of modern Hamheung.
I came across this story while doing research on one of my Western gold miners in northern Korea. This gold miner used to take his gold to the smelter at Konan – in the Hamheung area – and the story eventually encompassed other Westerners working at the this Japanese industrial center including one who, after he returned to the United States, was arrested by the FBI following the attack on Pearl Harbor. This scientist was deemed so valuable that he was allowed to continue to work in a top secret plant and was eventually one of the scientists sent to Korea to investigate the possibility of Japan building and testing an atomic bomb in Korea.
This story always starts the same way – regardless of who publishes it – so why should I be any different?
Allegedly, on the evening of August 11, 1945, a number of ancient ships, junks and fishing boats were anchored near a small inlet by the Japanese. Just before dawn on August 12, a remote controlled launch carrying the atomic bomb known as “genzai bakudan” (greatest fighter), slowly made its way through the assembled fleet and beached itself.
Nearly twenty miles away, observers wearing welders’ glasses were blinded by the bomb’s terrific blast. “The ball of fire was estimated to be 1,000 yards in diameter. A multicolored cloud of vapors boiled towards the heavens then mushroomed in the stratosphere. The churn of water and vapor obscured the vessels directly under the burst. Ships and junks on the fringe burned fiercely at anchor. When the atmosphere cleared slightly the observers could detect several vessels had vanished.”
While this is a good story, there isn’t really any reason to believe it, and no serious evidence aside from this single interview with an anonymous source, which itself may very well have been fabricated in the first place. One detail that jumps out to me as peculiar is the alleged name of the bomb, genzai bakudan, which according to the article means “greatest fighter.” Except of course that translation is total nonsense. In no possible way that I can think of does either genzai or bakudan mean either “greatest” or “fighter.” Bakudan in fact means bomb, which while reasonable as part of a name for a-well- bomb, is completely different from what was claimed. And genzai means either “present time” or “original sin”, neither of which really makes much sense at all.
On another note, this has reminded me that I need to finish the post I started writing on the book “Let’s drop an atomic bomb on Kyoto”, about why Kyoto was not nuked in the war, that I picked up at a used bookshop near Waseda several months ago.
Interesting move by NK to crack down on the burgeoning market activity in their country:
North Korea revalued its currency for the first time in 50 years and strictly limited how much old money could be traded for new, moves that appear designed to confiscate much of the cash people earned in market activities the country’s authoritarian government doesn’t like.
The action triggered chaos, according to news outlets in South Korea that specialize in obtaining information from the North, as people rushed to banks and offices of the ruling Workers Party to get information, make exchanges or trade existing North Korean won for euros and U.S. dollars.
Initial reports indicated the government would allow only 100,000 old won to be exchanged for new. That would potentially wipe out the holdings of people who have earned and saved in won from market activities for years. Those who have saved in foreign currencies — which, though not illegal, is difficult for ordinary North Koreans — would appear unaffected.
According to an account by NKNet, a Seoul-based Web service focused on North Korea, people in Pyongyang on Monday night pressed party officials to allow more money to be exchanged. In response, according to the report, the officials lifted the exchangeable amount to 150,000 won in cash and 300,000 won in savings accounts.
While the revaluation could simply be aimed at inflation – Vietnam recently devalued as well – the really low per-person limit seems all but certain to wipe out most private wealth. Because in Stalinist North Korea money spends you!
About two weeks ago I talked about how the protests in Taiwan over the importation of American beef are more about anxiety over a loss of sovereignty to the People’s Republic of China than about any serious concerns over possible mad cow disease. Well, this has only become more obvious as the debates and protests continue. For example, DPP caucus whip Pan Meng-an says “The [lifting of restrictions] on US beef became effective spontaneously, without legislative approval, as did the financial MOU with China. Will [the government’s plan to sign an economic cooperative and framework agreement] be next?” And whether or not allegations that DPP Chairperson Tsai Ying-wen secretly met with American Institute in Taiwan (the unofficial embassy) director William Stanton to promise that the protests were purely an election ploy to discredit the ruling KMT and not a sign of anti-Americanism turn out to be true, that is also clearly a major impetus for the protests.
But what is a mass political protest without a little crazy? Well, some was provided by Chu Cheng-chi (朱政騏), a PhD student at National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of Sociology, who posted a video of himself eating a “burger” made out of actual cow-shit to youtube as a symbol of…something I guess.
Chu Cheng-chi (朱政騏), a graduate student at NTU’s Graduate Institute of Sociology, lay down outside the legislature’s front gate and covered himself with a straw mat — a gesture Chu said symbolized how the poor cover the body of a deceased person.
He said he would continue his hunger strike to protest a proposal by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus to amend the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法).
Chu was referring to a proposal the KMT put forward last Tuesday to authorize the government to “draw up measures to inspect beef products from areas where the risk of mad cow disease has been under control,” instead of two other prosoals for a ban on “risky” beef products from the US.
Chu began a “lie in” protest in a coffin in front of the legislature on Saturday and vowed to stage a hunger strike until today, but police fined him and forcibly removed the coffin on Sunday night, saying Chu had violated the Road Traffic Management and Punishment Act (道路交通管理處罰條例).
Huang Tai-shan (黃泰山), a doctoral student from National Tsing Hua University, who also covered himself with a grass mat next to Chu, said five more doctoral students would join the protest should police forcibly remove Chu and Huang.
But of course, you really want to see the video itself. Enjoy.
After the opening vignette of him tasting a cow patty is the opening title of:
I eat cow dung, I protest!
My rough translation of his monologue is as follows:
I have in front of me some delicious edible beef.
After the Ma adminstration opens the door to American Beef, it will turn into beef that one could fear is poisonous.
I am just an ordinary youth who decided to protest against the government.
I have no power to change things, I am only able to make my own body suffer.
This is the most serious kind of protest!
I am now going to take Taiwanese cow dung and prepare it.
Consuming American beef will absolutely be scarier than eating the dung of a Taiwanese cow!
Followed by another title reading:
Eating American beef is scarier than eating Taiwanese cow dung!
They then drive out to Qingtiangang (擎天崗), a ranch area created during Japanese occupation, now part of Yangmingshan National Park to collect the fresh cow dung as cloying music plays in the background. You finally see him sit in front of the presidential building, prepare the burger, and eat some of it while reciting more nonsense about how he can “absolutely guarantee that it is still safer than American beef” and that “the Ma Yingjiu administration is opening up to American beef and not protecting the safety, well-being, and health of the people.” He then pukes in the bushes.
Enjoy the e-coli, chu. E-coli, for those who forget, is a bacteria found mainly in the digestive tracts and feces of animals, which generally poisons humans when it is transmitted by accidental contamination of meat by feces from the same animal when it is slaughtered. According to the CDC, e-coli poisoning kills at least 60 Americans and sickens 2000 every year. For comparison, take a look at the CDC’s own stats on mad cow disease-showing only 3 confirmed cases in the US to date. And note that these are the numbers of cases in COWS, to date there have been exactly zero cases of humans contracting the disease from cows raised in the US.
Via the Marmot’s Hole, it appears that South Korea is currently drafting a law that would finally allow for dual citizenship of adults. The dual citizenship law in Korea is currently more or less the same as Japan, i.e. that it is only permitted for minors who are theoretically forced to choose upon reaching the age of majority. In Japan that age is 20 and in Korea is 22, but the principal is the same.
Those who obtain foreign citizenship by birth will be allowed to maintain it if they submit a written oath by the age of 22 not to exercise the rights and privileges of foreigners in Korea by using their second passport.
After the age of 22, men will be allowed to maintain multiple citizenship only if they complete their military service here. Under the current law, dual citizenship holders must choose one nationality by the age of 22 and submit a written pledge to give up their foreign citizenship if they choose their Korean nationality. The revision is aimed at blocking a drain on military manpower.
Those caught using their foreign passports to enter international schools or invest in Korea as foreigners will be ordered to choose a single nationality and automatically lose their Korean nationality if they fail to give up their foreign citizenship within a specified period.
The regulations also apply for other groups such as foreigners who have immigrated through marriage with Koreans; highly skilled foreigners; senior citizens living overseas; those who have regained Korean citizenship after being adopted by foreign families; and Chinese nationals who were born and have lived here for more than 20 years.
Under the current law, foreigners have to give up their foreign citizenship within six months after they obtain Korean nationality.
There are a couple of complications that I’m curious about, however. First, I assume that military service has a maximum age as well, and if so, are older men allowed to acquire dual-citizenship without doing it? The second case is more complicated though-the so-called Zainichi Koreans. Republic of Korea citizens who are permanent residents of Japan, particularly those who came during the pre-WW2 colonial period and their descendants. Will they also allowed to become dual nationals? And if so, what about military service?
Well, as it currently stands Zainichi Koreans, as well as Korean permanent residents in other countries, are exempt from the draft. However, should they “return” to Korea with the intention of becoming a permanent resident there, they lose this exemption.
But will overseas Koreans, such as the Zainichi, even be allowed to acquire dual citizenship? There would probably be no significant issues in a country like the United States, which tolerated dual citizenship-even with countries that require military service, as long as they are a military ally like Israel. But what about Japan? I really can’t say. Although later-arriving Korean immigrants are also technically lumped in with Zainichi, the term is mainly concerned with those who, as I mentioned above, came over as colonial subjects, and their descendants, who were granted an unusual “Special Permanent Residents” status as a diplomatic compromise between Japan and Korea. (Note that the population of Zainichi who “came over during the colonial period and their descendants” is actually larger than the number of Special Permanent Residents, as some thousands returned or moved to Korea when it became independent, but later decided return to Japan, where they had spent most or all of their lives. Those who left Japan and returned were legally counted as new immigrants, and did not qualify for Special Permanent Residency.)
Many have wondered why neither country has ever allowed dual citizenship in the past, particularly for this minority. In fact, when Japan and South Korea were originally discussing the legal status of the Zainichi Koreans, the idea of allowing dual citizenship was floated, but was allegedly vetoed by the US government. As domestic politics in both countries, as well as their relations, have changed a lot over the decades, (and the US probably doesn’t care, or have the power to set policy anymore) a similar conclusion would not necessarily be foregone today, but I still can’t see Japan tolerating South Korea to unilaterally change their citizenship policy in a way that potentially hundreds of thousands of Japan residents. Zainichi Koreans (a group which actually consists of both South Korean citizens and quasi-stateless/quasi-North Korean citizens) have no problem naturalizing as Japanese citizens (they used to), but (at least anecdotally) are also forced to give up their Korean citizenship more strictly than westerners. I can’t see this changing until Japan also changes their own law to allow for adult dual citizenship, and I have yet to see any sign that they plan to do so.