Today I went to see Governor Masuda of Iwate. Iwate is physically the largest prefecture in Japan. Iwate is also my "home town" where my mother's side of the family is buried. Our family house is there, the schools that my great grandmother and grandmother built, and our grave. I *think* we've been at the same grave for 14 generations. (I have to fact check this. I know it is between 14-17 generations.) The last time I visited my grave was to pour my mother's ashes into the grave. We pour the ashes on top of the ashes of our ancestors. You can see the hundreds of years of ashes when you move the stone. The generations of people buried under the stone are etched in the stone side by side. Looking at all of the names on the stones sort of puts my life into perspective. A blip in a lineage of rather interesting people.

After our family property was parceled out to the locals during the Meiji Restoration, our money poured into the war effort in WWII and our heirlooms "confiscated" by the occupation, our family became a "normal" family and the city erected a little stone plaque in front of our house saying, "the former Ito residence." As an Ito who still owns the house, that's a bit disturbing. All that remains are the schools that my feminist great grandmother started building. She build one of the first trade schools for women during the war and my grandmother built a nurse school. My uncle reminded me that I must some day take over the school. I decided it was time to meet the Governor.

Luckily, we have many mutual friends and Professor Takemura made an introduction. I visited the Governor today. I talked about Creative Commons, the Internet Archives and the Bookmobile. I explained that Professor Takemura and I have been trying to get support from some local governments and libraries to try to sponsor an effort in Japan. We talked a lot about the future of local governments.

Governor Masuda was sharp, motivated and obviously on top of things. He is also a good friend of Governor Domoto of Chiba, who I know well. After meeting Governor Domoto of Chiba, Governor Tanaka of Nagano and Governor Masuda of Iwate, I think that the Governors of the strong provinces in Japan should start taking more control from the central government. I realize there is still a lot of reform required to allow the local governments to take more control. They need to become more financially self-sufficient. From a political perspective, the Governors are so much more accountable and representative of the people that it's a pity they don't have more resources...

PS 6 hours in the train to go to a 45 minute meeting scheduled 3 months ago is UBER M-Time... ;-)

12 Comments

Joi--
You honor your ancestors in all you say and do. We're all proud of you too.

Iwate is where the pro wresteler The Great Sasuke was elected to parlament and he attends with out taking off his mask.

http://www.8bitjoystick.com/archives/jake_the_great_sasuke_lays_the_smackdown_in_parliament.php

There are more "Iwate as no.1" items listed here. Sorry in Japanese....

http://www2.odn.ne.jp/~car96710/iwate.htm

Iwate prefecture is as large as total of four prefectures in Shikoku island! Wow!

Joi,

I have a strong feeling that if there is hope for the future generations here, it will come from "inaka" people rather than from Tokyo. Taking over a provincial school where you might even be able to make a difference in the lives of young people sounds like a good thing.

Thanks Chris. If I do, will you come and teach? ;-)

"After our family property was parceled out to the locals"

I am reminded by a quote from Lloyd-George:

"To prove a legal title to land one must trace it back to the man who stole it."

Apologies for the impertinence if your mother's side accumulated its holdings through perispacity and not as part of the feudal-era kleptocracy.

Joi,

Might consider that, but it will have to wait till I pay off my mortgage in Tokyo at least.

Troy,

If you are not aware of how the GHQ era government embarked on a plan of land redistribution with no regards to the owners of the land or how it was put to use, you may well want to consider a nice cup of STFU. I'm not standing up for Joi with this, I'm speaking for my own family in Japan which had a similar experience.

Another piece of info for you; property taxes are based on the size of the house not the ammount of land. Houses were built to hold the number of people proportionate to the land as well. Obviously this means that larger families which could work larger ammounts of land had larger houses. Take away most of the land and you still have a large house. The taxes are still apportioned based on the size of the house. No land, big house, big taxes. It may be easy to say "blame the tax system" but what about the families who had their land stolen and still have to pay what ammounts to taxes on land they dont own anymore?

I also wonder if the phrase "feudal-era kleptocracy" was supposed to be tounge in cheek? If so you may have wished to type in some smilies so as not to confuse readers. If you were serious, do you mean formal feudalism which ended here at the beginning of the Meiji era? Or are you attempting to extend the metaphor in some way?

If I've mistaken what seems like blatant ignorance for what is actually very clever, please excuse me. Show me you know what you are talking about and I'll be happy to retract my words.

I was talking about the bakufu(s) parcelling out land rights to their supporters at the point of the sword.

I am influenced by the argument that Land, and its resources, being essentially fixed in supply, should be held in the commons, and those who wish to exploit land should pay rent to the community of ownership, and that land speculators and titled landlords exact a hidden tax on those who actually produce goods and wealth from the land.

The is unalloyed Georgism, btw.

Troy,

Please be more specific in your historical reference. The word "bakufu" basically means government although the common understanding is the Tokugawa Shogunate.

As for the concept of land being held in the commons, I'd suggest you read up on how that concept put in practice caused famines in the USSR and China.

Yes, bakufu means military government.

If Joi's forebears received their land grants from the Tokugawa shogunate, then IMV they really don't have my shoulder to cry on when that government goes kaput.

I assume you are not aware of Georgist arguments about public land value taxation policy. Suffice it to say I don't know if it is a workable public policy, but find its philosophical underpinnings -- that unimproved land, being the product of no person, and in essentially limited supply, belongs to the commons, and those who wish to monopolize land tenancy owe compensation to the community.

This is far from communism, and many libertarians are attracted to this, they call it "geolibertarianism".

meant to say "I find its philosophical underpinnings...morally unassailable."

Here's some interesting quotes on Henry George and Georgism.

As I said, I can't find fault with his philosophical bases, and suspect that in a more perfect world his tax policies would have the same currency today that they had 100 years ago.

"Henry George is the capitalist's last ditch."
- Nicolai Lenin

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