There was an article in the Wall Street Journal about the rise of more aggressive nationalist Japanese politicians. The article gives the example of the recent decision to willingness to challenge China, for instance, in the dispute over natural gas drilling in the East China Sea. These politicians, according to the article, are taking leadership away from the bureaucrats who traditionally ran most of the foreign policy. I haven't read much about this and have been away from Japanese politics for awhile, but if this article is accurate, it's a disturbing trend. I think the move for Japan to become more "normal" is a good thing, but I don't think that a nationalist position is a good one.

However, the Asahi reports that 52% of Japanese polled say Koizumi should halt shrine visits and the Japanese Emperor Akihito made a surprise visit to a Korean war dead memorial in Saipan on Tuesday.

So it appears to me that once again, the central government and the LDP are out of touch with the people and even the Emperor and it's the politicians who are fueling this nationalist mood. I wonder what we can do about it... It's clearly a bad idea.

32 Comments

Perhaps it is just me, but maybe people could vote for thier leaders based on past records and positions on the issues rather than who can shout his name the loudest from soundcars driving around town.

It's pretty obvious that the government is out of touch with the common man in Japan. Polls show the public against Japanese involvment in Iraq, against placating stances towared North Korea, Unhappy with public works scandals, frustrated with stalled efforts at pension reform, and worried about lackluster economic growth.

And who in the world like more taxes followed by the promise of even bigger tax increases in the future?

In spite of this there is no grand referendum. Japanese politicians continue to act as though they have a mandate, but clearly lack the popular support for one and yet no one calls them on it. Ask your average guy on the street in Tokyo if Japanese are superior genetically to other Asians and I bet you get a pretty rational response. Yet every politician in Tokyo seems to want to get a campaign photo of themselves shaking hands a governor who has done more personally to hurt Japan/China relations than just about anyone in recent history (and it's a long an distinguished list)

So is it the politicians who are out of touch with the people, or is it the other way around?

Japan needs a revolution.

Joi,

It is disturbing that nationalists are having a greater influence in Japanese foreign and domestic policy, but this trend is a global one at the moment.

Because of the spectre of 'international terrorism', regardless of whether there is any genuine threat, anyone who does not 'fit in' to a society becomes suspect.

And Nationalists naturally tend to thrive in this atmosphere of fear and uncertainty.

However, the move from having carreer bureaucrats set policy to having elected officials set policy is a good one.

This should make the government more accountable to the people, and responsive to public opinion.

keitaro

Keitaro : Yes. I agree. Politicians should and can be more accountable the bureaucrats. Now we just need to fix Japanese politics, which is probably impossible, but less so than fixing Japanese bureaucracy. Sorry if I sound pessimistic...

I think we should decentralize and give more power to local governments...

The only way a world-class economic dynamo such as Japan can attain any semblance of 'normalcy' is for it to develop and deploy a creditable (redundant, accurate, reliable) nuclear armed deterrence with global reach.

Japan has international political-economic interests to look after and secure, apart from those of her WWII hegemon, the Zionist, JUDEO-Christian, Occupied Government of the USA - whose primary concern appears to be Israel's welfare and survival, not that of the united States.

Japan requires the geo-political diplomatic leverage nuclear weapons affords their possessors; permitting it to act with a greater measure of national independence. With nukes, Japan will have the luxury of opting out of any globalist, Zionist, JUDEO-Christian, policies, schemes, or agendas, by affirming, "NO! Japan declines. Japan's not interested in participating. Thanks, but no thanks."


joi,

i'm with you on the revolution. there is so much that is borked about japanese politics (right down to the noise-harassment candidate trucks we are cursed with at the moment) that a clean sweep does seem to be the only answer.

i've been in tokyo for 4 years now & the steady move to the right is ugly & unsettling.
Kimigayo, Ishihara's popularity, Yasukuni, Tokyo bedecked with the umeboshi flag, even the whaling issue. Nationalism at its worst.

One problem is that many people here feel threatened by north korea (and china) on one hand but also are against the american troop presence on the other. I can count myself as one of those, actually, but i dont see any answers in nationalism. The problem is that the politicians do, and an increasing number of people seem to agree with them.

For some graphic illustrations of what can, does, is happening to sovereign states without a credable nuclear weapon deterrence visit Crisis Pictures, and see for yourselves.

http://crisispictures.org/

I have Japanese friends, have done business with Japanese companies and have read a little on Japan. I would not like to see Japan become more nationalist. Here's something I read recently that might be of interest to some of you:

"For Japan to rearm or to acquire nuclear weapons is politically unacceptable at home and abroad. The lingering concern in Europe about a potential military threat from Germany is infinitesimal compared with the fear in Asia that Japan might again become a major military power. North and South Korea, the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Indonesia have one thing in common: All have been enemies of Japan in the past and fear that they could become enemies of Japan in the future. If Japan decided to increase its military forces above the level necessary to defend its home islands, all the countries that suffered under Japanese occupation before and during World War II would increase their defense spending. Such an arms race would make the U.S.-Soviet competition pale by comparison."

Joi, what kind of revolution do you have in mind?

Japan needs its nationalism, but the focus needs to be away from the past military/warrior history and rather on its cultural, technological and creative strengths.


Japan's government reminds me to some degree of Quebec (and to a lesser degree France). Silly initiatives to preserve language and culture, isolationist attitudes, and grasping for the past have made their governments impotent to make the most of internal demographic shifts and world trends. Still, Quebec is a culturally amazing place but they don't know how to leverage it.


I can't imagine what my co-workers would be without their pride in being japanese. When times get tough and they're able to work with other people they understand, they tie that handkerchief around their head and have a faith and a work ethic that lets them really do amazing things. Throw some (scary) external people into the mix and they're intimidated, and sub-par performers at best.


At heart, I'd say that the Japanese are inherently more nationalistic than Americans. Just look at the World Cup, the Olympics, Video Game markets, etc. The news media are unabashed at promoting the local athletes, thousands of people wear the national soccer jersey on game days, and so on.


There's nothing wrong with the energy that comes with nationalism. It's a question of where it's directed. The revolution needs where government largely becomes invisible and secondary to artists, industry, academia, and culture. Successful Japanese companies and individuals can lead with enlightened ideas and global communications without relying on government. The role of government needs to be minimized so that it exists to maintain the peace and public services but otherwise just needs to get out of the way of the real world leaders like Miyazaki, Toyota, and (soon) Joi.

Nationalism breeds nationalism among other nations. For example Japans political stance on the Liancourt rocks influences the beliefs of Korean school children.
http://zo-d.com/blog/archives/propaganda/it-starts-young.html
What will this bring as these generations grow?
To what extent are any nationalistic trends in Japan related to growing up/maturing in a post-bubble economy? So many questions, but it does appear that history does repeat itself.

Yeah. If I could just open up this can of worms and then close it up again real quick... I think the US needs a revolution too.

"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."

-Thomas Jefferson

I really hate to answer your good question with another question, but what is the state of online democracy in Japan?

We keep reading here in the U.S. that you're ahead of us in terms of broadband penetration, but has that made any impact on how people try to control politicians through their own power to speak, to write, and to act?

If it hasn't, is there anyone you'd work with to get it started? (That last is just an odd bit of curiousity on my part.)

I think the problem is that Japanese voters are not using their votes to assert their wishes. If they did, there wouldn't be any problem. Before Japan can be more assertive, Japanese citizens need to take more interest in politic and learn to assert their wishes. In other words, Japanese citizens are the problem as well as the solution.

The *world* needs a revolution.
And *not* the kind that takes us around the sun...

The Japanese Emperor news puzzled me a while until after I did a detail google research because I couldnot tell if the Emperor was paying respect to the Japanese soliders as the prime minister does, or the Emperor was showing his apology. My google research turned out there was an official statement saying
"Japanese officials emphasized that it is the imperial couple's first trip outside Japan for the purpose of mourning war dead. Officials said the imperial couple is mourning all those who lost their lives, not just Japanese nationals."

The Ashahi survey is very inspiring in that sense it is showing one third Japanese are not aware of the war crime in WWWII. It explains why the Chinese and Korean protest on the Japanese textbook is really necessary.

The positive side of both news is Japanese is showing the world there is a strong positive voice in Japan as well side with the unwelcomed Japanese goverment's position.

I beleive, Joi, as the role model of the Japanese youth, you could do more to help this positive progress.

@ Jack Dahlgren (10):

Nationalism breeds nationalism among other nations. For example Japans political stance on the Liancourt rocks influences the beliefs of Korean school children...

I believe this is a very good point. It is exactly why the Japanese must resist the urge to lash out via nationalism against the mindless and malicious anti-Japanese sentiment on the Asian mainland.

If the Japanese can keep their cool, (unlike we Americans) the Asian mainland will inevitably emerge as puerile and fully culpable aggressors. Face it, if they ever lay their hands on Tokyo, the world will be united in unleashing Hell on the Asian mainland. It can be arranged. The best strategy for the Japanese might be to maintain a delicate balance between protecting their interests and keeping their cool.

You wanna know what you can do Joi? Its simple. Dont vote for these bastards. Take pity on us poor wetback laborers and vote against the men who make things worse. Oh, didnt you catch the news that they are submitting a plan to make all foreign residents in Japan carry IC chip ID cards with biometric ID data? And we'll have to "ask permission" of the govt before we move or change jobs? Bascially if you dont vote, I blame you.

Well, Japan's never really had an uprising of the people. Changes have always been top down. People here don't know how to cause a revolution. Also, I think the days of revoution with pitchforks is over. I think that in the information age, revolutions happen when the people get so upset that the "process" breaks and we get to rebuild from scratch. Sometimes this requires a completely meltdown in the economy. I think the collapse of the USSR was another such example.

I'm not sure exactly how it will happen in Japan, but one thing will be when the aging population and other factors hit and if/when the economy gets so bad that people wake up and realize they have to take over. The problem is, the Japanese political system and government is so complicated and process oriented that you can't vote your way to a revolution. Something more fundamental has to change. The democracy is basically broken and it is like a huge truck going full speed with no driver. The wheels could fall off and it would still keep moving the same direction for decades...

Local politics matter and voting actually works. Chris, I have consistantly voted against the LDP and have even marched the streets trying to get people out to vote. So you can't blame me, at least on the voting part.

I am hoping blogs and other changes in communication will help wake people up, but I'm not THAT optimistic.

You might try approaching the bootstrap problem as a brand marketing campaign. Start an non-profit online group (I like the name WE as in We the People) whose goal is to empower voters and start selling it as a brand, signing up sponsors to put on their product boxes, running ads and so on. Seemingly harmless in the beginning but, at some point, a threshhold will be crossed and your bulldozer will have plenty of traction to, well, bulldoze over anything that stands in your way.

Some comments on the peculiar wording used by Martin Fackler in his article in the WSJ, who labels as “nationalist” those Japanese lawmakers who are simply showing some normal concern about protecting or asserting Japan's national interests, e.g. undersea gas fields. In that respect, these politicians are certainly not out of touch with the majority thinking in Japan.

“[..] When a Chinese nuclear attack submarine entered Japanese waters last fall, Tokyo chased it with destroyers and aircraft in one of its biggest military operations since World War II.”

Such a sentence tends to convey an innuendo here that Japan's military are becoming much more assertive (and hence potentially dangerous for its neighbors here). Let's get real. A foreign submarine has no business covertly loitering in another country's territorial waters. If detected, most countries in the world would trail / chase it away with one of their own submarines or surface vessels, and might force the mysterious submarine to surface and reveal its identity by pinging it, or if it shows no signs of complying, by dropping warning depth charges. Japan's response has been fairly restrained in that regard, just monitoring the whereabouts of the submarine with destroyers and ASW aircraft until it reached the open seas. One wonders how China would have reacted if it had detected a foreign submarine in its own coastal waters...

“[..] When China announced it wanted to help build a pipeline to buy Russian oil, Japan suddenly offered Moscow a richer deal to try to win the oil for itself.”

"Japan [trying to] ... win the oil for itself" ? How so ? A pipeline that ends in China will, in practice, only be able to supply China. A pipeline that comes to the coast can open as export markets for Russian oil, besides Japan, countries like Korea, China or South-East Asian countries...

A Chinese government official has recently qualified as undesirable and “an act which could lead to serious consequences” the Japanese preparations for drilling for natural gas in proximity of the gas platforms installed by China near the Japanese separation line in the East China Sea. The Chinese declaration is mildly amusing as, from a legal perspective, Japan is entirely within its rights to prospect for gas in its own seabed... Unfortunately, China's aggressive attitude also means that Japan's drilling survey ships might have to be accompanied by Japanese Naval Self-Defence vessels to protect them against possible interference from China...

As for these islets subject of a dispute between Korea and Japan, which sparked a recent bout of anti-Japan sentiment in Korea after the Shimane prefectural assembly in Japan re-affirmed that the islets were within the prefecture's jurisdiction: it should perhaps be reported more widely that Japan's long-standing and unchanged attitude is that this territorial problem should be resolved by talks. Japan has proposed to Korea to let a court adjudicate the issue. Korea, which has effective control of the islands and happens to have armed personnel stationed there, of course adamantly refuses to have the case referred to an international court...

MostlyVowels, I think we've already seen what China would do if foreign entities encroached on it's land. Remember the plane that made an emergency landing?

China I feel is the bigger threat in the mainland than Japan in all honesty. There procurement of military hardware is alarming over the last couple of years.

they're just taking a play from the US playbook (or any foreign policy playbook). nationalism, or any form of "us" versus "them" is compelling and unifying. especially if it includes fear and uncertainty. as long as their is a threat to our identity or to our safety, we must ban together against "them". or perhaps in this case there is a sense of injustice or privilege that "they" are standing in the way of.

you'd think as the world gets smaller and smaller - and more interconnected - it would be easier to see that "they" fundamentally have the same wishes and desires as "us" and we're not all that different. the nationalism card seems to require that we ignore that.

Davee (22) - Dunno for sure, but as long as the Earth's resources are finite, there were probably always be an "us" vs. "them".

The recent territorial disputes aren't so clear cut. To a random observer looking at a map, I'd wager that most people would say that the territorial waters for gas drilling, fishing, and the such that Japan claims look much closer to Taiwan (which of course China claims to own) than to Japan.


Take a look at the map of the fishing dispute at:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4113384.stm

And for a little perspective, take a look at this map:
http://www2r.biglobe.ne.jp/~rokumaru/okinawa/landscape/japane.html


And for the Gas drilling islands. One island is only 1.6 square meters (1 jo or tatami mat) while the other is 4 jo. If you were take an old ship and sink it it'd be a more substantial mass.

excuse my views if their terribly outdated, I'm new to Asia and it's cultures but...

Japan's government reminds me to some degree of Quebec (and to a lesser degree France). Silly initiatives to preserve language and culture, isolationist attitudes, and grasping for the past have made their governments impotent to make the most of internal demographic shifts and world trends. Still, Quebec is a culturally amazing place but they don't know how to leverage it.

I’m not sure how accurate this generalization is, but one of my students told me (this is in korea) that she wants to hold on to her traditional values but thinks letting in foreigners is good for the economy. i.e. foreigners = necessary evil. From what I understand, many in rural japan are the same way, viewing foreigners as a necessary step for economic development, but ultimately not welcome in their country.
Nationalism breeds nationalism among other nations. For example Japans political stance on the Liancourt rocks influences the beliefs of Korean school children.
http://zo-d.com/blog/archives/propaganda/it-starts-young.html
What will this bring as these generations grow?
To what extent are any nationalistic trends in Japan related to growing up/maturing in a post-bubble economy? So many questions, but it does appear that history does repeat itself.
I’m a teacher here and the first day in class I was asked this exact question. What do you think of Toto? I thought it was absurd. I might add the Japanese are using this “rocks as islands” ploy to counter the Chinese’s efforts to drill in the pacific. They built concrete pylons around a set of rocks and claimed them as Islands.

"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."
-Thomas Jefferson
nice qoute
I beleive, Joi, as the role model of the Japanese youth, you could do more to help this positive progress.

I don’t think Joi could be a role model of the Japanese youth unless he joined a noise-pysch band, began wearing overtly decadent outfits, and rode a bike everywhere =) On the other hand is there a name for the Japanese counter-culture/ dis-enfranchised? Do they have an over all political view or agenda like the hippies? I know the indies in the u.s. don’t

Also, I think the days of revoution with pitchforks is over. I think that in the information age, revolutions happen when the people get so upset that the "process" breaks and we get to rebuild from scratch.

Well in China the revolution seems to be happening with pitchforks as the rural people are fucking sick of pollution from rampant industrialization and the relative inequality of wealth of Beijing and the rest of the country (except hong kong).

“I'm not sure exactly how it will happen in Japan, but one thing will be when the aging population and other factors hit and if/when the economy gets so bad that people wake up and realize they have to take over.”

This is the problem. I feel the same way about the u.s. but while we wait for that “ageing” population to squander off their voting habits for Medicare and funeral parlors “they” are doing irreparable damage to the system. I think this is a really bad way to think. I think a better way to think is to get the Conservative groups discussing things online or reaching the elderly through other means. People aren’t dogs, they can learn new tricks. If you wanna incite revolution in a society these days (and man do we need it I mean just think of all the cool things you can with a democracy if you take the beaurcracy online) you can’t just go, “hey we’re a bunch of young kids hell bent on revolution etc.” you have to reach a broader demographic. That’s the problem in the u.s. today we beat the south like the British used to beat “the devil’s poor,” as if their views are un-assailable and what we blame on religion what is ultimately a class issue. Over 50% of Atlanta, Georgia is transplants, look at these facts for Seattle http://www.ci.seattle.wa.us/dclu/demographics/popsize_growth.asp
When Seattle’s population growth along with a “national increase of 10 percent growth in central cities.” concentrated liberal votes, Bush was elected. The more concentrated liberals get the more the conservatives in lesser areas get empowered. I see the same thing in Japan, I mean it’s not like a smart dude in the rural proveniences can stay there, they have to move to Osaka or Tokyo for work. If you want a revolution in Japan you need to reach rural areas like the democrats did in the u.s. for years before Rove discredited them (or caught them sitting on their laurels), or they discredited themselves (in Alabama democrats were caught at voter fraud that makes Florida look benign although Rove was part of the campaign behind these allegations.)

I gotta go. The office is closing. Wish I could talk more.

anon write @24:
To a random observer looking at a map, I'd wager that most people would say that the territorial waters for gas drilling, fishing, and the such that Japan claims look much closer to Taiwan
To a random observer who thinks that Okinawa's main island (沖縄本島), Miyako Island (宮古島) and the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands (尖閣諸島) don't belong to Japan, that is.

Besides, the Senkaku islands' position isn't really relevant to the determination of the China/Japan/Korea midway line (the dahsed line on the map below) argued for by Japan in the gas drilling area in the news.
China's drilling platforms are located much more to the North, clustered near the midway line. This is a potentially gas- and oil-rich area which Japan has refrained from developing on its side, wary of the political repercussions of exploiting undergbround reservoirs which are likely to extend to China's side of the separation line.
As China obviously shows no such restraint, it's hardly surprising that some Japanese politicians have started to mutter that Japan should also maybe install a drilling platform or two on its side of the line, protected against possible Chinese interference by armed vessels, if needed.

http://www.cnfc.or.jp/j/proposal/asia00/hiramatsu_fig4.jpeg


wanted to post one final note about my post seeing as how reading it now I noticed an Americanism in it. when i talk about rural areas obviously I'm extending american folk-lore to japan which is probably untrue (I mean it's more concentrated and the linkage between people is probably more intense in japan than the u.s.) but I do think the point still stands when it comes to reaching out to an older demographic. i mean people are living longer and waiting on them to lapse into apathy (or greater apathy) is hardly a good political stance. these are still thinking people and addressing them would probably go a long way to addressing many of the views not to mention that many older people are more politically active and savy these days as they rediscover leisure time and politics in retirement. also on the china issue the post above me about the chinese obviously not respecting drilling rights i hadn't thought of and it does seem like a good idea in that context. it also raises the greater issue that while europe devestated itself with modern warfare and now is somewhat clustered together, the east still holds many thousand year grudges against each other.

peace,
a

I think you guys are really off base with the criticism of Japan.

With China growing stronger and more ambitious every day, its critical for Japan to become less nationally aware and potentially less dependent on its American allies for diplomatic and military affairs.

With increasing American commitments in Southwest Asia, a disturbingly high amount of US debt held by China and Korea, and the cracks that are beginning to show in American power and prestige, the Japanese would be fools to not begin to build up their military and embrace their national character.

With increasing American commitments in Southwest Asia, a disturbingly high amount of US debt held by China and Korea, and the cracks that are beginning to show in American power and prestige

Indeed. However, I hope/believe we may have a surprisingly dramatic reversal in all these areas once we get a new President.

La Kakutani

Oops, he did it again. Jewish-American novelist Norman Mailer, a
grumpy old man at 82, took a swipe at Japanese-American literary
critic Michiko Kakutani in a magazine interview recently. [PHOTOS OF
BOTH HERE: http://www.nydailynews.com/front/story/323790p-276748c.html]
Kakutani, 50 and the daughter of a retired Yale maths professor who
came up with the "fixed point theorem," is a Yale graduate and has
been a book reviewer for the New York Times for over 25 years, even
winning a Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1998. In the interview,
Mailer, whose books have often been dismissed by Kakutani, used
several racist and politically incorrect terms, calling the Times
reporter a "one-woman kamikaze" and an "Asiatic, a feminist," who was
a "token" minority hire at the popular newspaper. This led the Asian
American Journalist Association
[http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000972112]
to issue a protest letter over Mailer's "racist" comments. So who is
Michiko Kakutani? Click here [http://kakutani101.blogspot.com] and read
an informal, gossipy blogsite about her.

The magic of the Internet has made people all over the world increasingly more aware of how interrelated all of our lives are. The 'powers that be' - obsessed as they are by maintaining control at any cost, are trying to nip that in the bud by promoting the old tired cliches of nationalism and scarcity. The truth is that the 21st century will be a century of unimaginable abundance.. indeed, it will be the century that mankind (if we choose to) eliminates the need to work, eliminates world hunger, the 'energy crisis', etc. We may even figure out how to avoid dying..

That's why the nationalists scream.. They know their era is ending..

They have seen national borders as a convenient tool for carving up their respective fiefdoms, and nothing more, for a long time.. What is radical, is that the common people are finally beginning to figure that out too..

In Orwell's 1984, the entire world was held hostage by a ruling elite that endlessly staged mock wars between three 'nations' Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia. It was all a scam, designed to keep the 'proles' in a state of poverty and submission..

'Opposition Parties' were fake.. they only functioned as a means of trapping dissidents..

Room 101, anyone?

The problem with most of my fellow Americans is that we think in discrete rather than integrated patterns and fail to see the contradictions in our foreign policy.

If Israel's 1967 attack on Egypt and Syria was a "pre-emptive strike," why was Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor a "day of infamy?" If the presence of Iranian "foreign fighters" in Iraq is an act of aggression, as former president George W. Bush alleged, why was it permissible for Franklin Roosevelt to release men from their obligations in the Army and Air Force reserves, so they could fight for China against Japan while our two countries were at peace with each other?

I am reminded of the words of John P. Marquand, who, speaking through his admirable Imperial secret agent Mr. Moto, said: "You Americans are so sentimental, when you are not using flame throwers and napalm."

Unfortunately, our American culture infests whatever it touches. Recently I visited Takashimaya on Fifth Avenue, New York City, after many years. It was so westernized, they should have called it, Takashimata. What sadness.

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