Speaking of Japanese Korean relations….

I know as well as anyone that the blogosphere is a self-selected and decidedly non-standard sample of any population (except, of course, bloggers). But, apropos our vigorous discussion of Jared Diamond on Japanese origins, comes an analysis suggesting a rising tide of anti-Korean patriotism among Japanese bloggers. [via Kirk Larsen] At the risk of sounding snippy, apparently several decades of research on the common origins of Koreans and Japanese, popularized in the best English-language venues, has made little difference…


A Poll on U.S.-Japan Relations

Filed under: — tak @ 3:17 pm

Goyaboy, or “the binary identity fo Gerald Figal,” alerts us to the incredulity of the recent AP-Kyodo News poll meant to take the pulse of the U.S.-Japan relation. (see also this Japan Times article)

In his post he astutely points to the hidden bias in the questions surveyed by the pollsters. Why did this poll end up surveying the public opinion concerning the justification for dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Here’s what Goyaboy writes:

According to this AP article, a survey done by the AP-Kyodo News indicates that 60% of Americans polled believe that WWIII is likely within their lifetime while only 33% of Japanese polled believe this. Is this a function of Japan’s atomic-and-fire-bomb-induced pacificism and American warmongering or are Japanese just more optimistic? And what use is such a poll anyway? What’s lame about such polls and the reporting of them is that they imply (or they willingly allow the reader to infer) that rather than a measure of public attitude (at best) such polls are predictions of the future. What’s even lamer about this article is that it devolves into a debate about the justification for the use of atomic bombs on Japan in WWII. Huh? How did that get mixed into the survey? Wanna know? I bet it’s because the pollsters had preconceived pop-psych theories about how being atom-bombed induced pacifism in Japan, and that in turn makes Japanese think that any reasonable person would want to avoid WWIII and therefore it won’t happen. Contrawise, the American public basically knows shit about the experience of war because no meaningful war has happened on American soil since that Between the States and The Oldest Confederate Widow is already dead. Thus, Americans can blithely assume that a WW is bound to happen again.

But all this depends on one more factor: how many percentage of Americans really know which country Japan is?


Sex, Lies, and Okinawa

Filed under: — tak @ 10:03 am

For anyone interested in Okinawa and the history of journalism in Japan, David Jacobson over at Japan Media Review has recently reported on a new lawsuit by a journalist who 30 years ago was slammed for uncovering a “secret pact” between the U.S. and Japan.

Disgraced Journalist Seeks to Revisit 30-year-old Scandal
More than 30 years later, a Japanese court is reconsidering an epoch-making media scandal that raised the question of whether unethical conduct by a reporter in obtaining the news should outweigh the significance of the facts he uncovered, no matter how earthshaking they might be.

The first oral hearing took place Tuesday in a suit brought by disgraced Mainichi Shimbun political reporter Takichi Nishiyama. Nishiyama, now 73, sued the government in April, claiming that it had destroyed his reputation. He seeks a government apology and 33 million yen (roughly $300,000) in damages.

The case concerns Nishiyama’s reporting on the negotiations between the United States and Japan over the reversion of the southernmost islands in the Japanese archipelago, Okinawa, to Japanese sovereignty (For a detailed chronology, see Wikipedia’s entry). Nishiyama uncovered documents in 1971 that revealed that Japan had secretly made a pact with the U.S. to absorb $4 million of the cost of returning Okinawa – which had been a U.S. protectorate since World War II – to Japan.

However, it was later learned that Nishiyama had obtained the documents through an affair with a married Foreign Ministry secretary. Both the secretary and Nishiyama were arrested, she for revealing state secrets and he for abetting her efforts. Each was convicted, though he appealed his case as far as the Supreme Court, which upheld his conviction.


It’s final’s week: Discuss

Via HNN’s Breaking News, a New York Times quickie:

JAPAN: HOLIDAY FOR HIROHITO Japanese lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to honor Emperor Hirohito by renaming a national holiday to be celebrated in his honor starting in 2007. Showa Day, as it will be called, will be held on Hirohito’s birthday, April 29, which is now a holiday called Green Day. Hirohito, whose rule lasted from 1926 until his death in 1989, is regarded by most Asians and some Japanese as a symbol of Japanese militarism and aggression in Asia, and he is still a revered figure for Japanese nationalists. But most Japanese now associate him with the postwar years of the Showa era, during which Japan rebuilt itself and became the world’s No. 2 economy. Two previous attempts to rename the holiday, in 2000 and 2002, were shelved in consideration of Asian sensitivities, but growing nationalism allowed the law’s enactment this time. The holiday had been known as Emperor’s Day before Hirohito’s death, but was changed to Green Day to avoid an Asian reaction and to honor the emperor’s interest in nature. Norimitsu Onishi (NYT)

Is this like renaming “President’s Day” something like “19th Century America Day?” “Progressive Era Day?” Or just “Carpetbaggers’ Day”? It’s already a celebration in honor of the Showa Emperor: it was his birthday, and it became an environmental holiday after his death in honor of his scholarly interests. Why didn’t they rename the other ones “Meiji Day” and “Taisho Day” while they’re at it?

Also at the New York Times, a discussion of early 20th century dramatists including Kishida Kunio.


Nationalistic Internationalism

Prehistory: You could almost write Japan’s entire modern history as the drive for respect from the rest of the world. Starting with the unequal treaties of the mid 19th century, and the Meiji era drive to modernize and industrialize — fukoku kyōhei [Rich Country, Strong Military] was the equation — culminating in Japan’s evolution into a regional power and full-bore Imperialist state. Japan was a member of the Allies in WWI and participated in the Versailles conferences, which allowed them to shut out Korean and Chinese representatives, and then became an active participant in the Wilsonian diplomacy — known as “Shidehara Diplomacy” in Japan, after the man who served as Foreign minister and Ambassador to the US for most of that period — of the 1920s, signing several arms control treaties and the Kellog-Briand Pact and participating in the League of Nations.

Though Japan was a respected regional power, some in Japan felt that the arms control treaties were intended at least partially to contain Japan’s power at the second-tier. This was compounded to some degree by growing American anti-Asian sentiment and legislation, which reinforced the sense that Japan needed to be stronger and more respected in order to be treated fairly in the world. This, along with a myriad of other factors, led Japan into Manchurian occupation, an attempt at brute force nationbuilding which caused more problems than it solved. Among other things, the condemnation of the Manchukuo puppet regime by the League of Nations led Japan to leave the League and join up with other expansionist pariah states — Italy and Germany — which were on the outs with Wilsonianism. Japanese rhetoric in response to the League’s condemnation was harsh — and correct — when it pointed out that Western nations had long histories of conquest and atrocities, but that was OK because they were White.

Present: Japan’s attempt to unify Asia against Western Imperialism, in support of Japanese wealth and power, under the rubric of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere still resonates in Asia today. Whether it’s protests over Japan’s textbooks (Note: China’s current riots need to be seen in the light of two trends: official support and consent for anti-Japanese historicism; rising rates of domestic disorder in China, mostly ethnic and economic) or official visits to the enshrined war dead (and pro-war museum) at Yasukuni, court decisions against former sexual conscription victims, or just reluctance to sign on to “Yen Bloc” plans, Japan’s leadership in Asia has been undercut since the war. Nowhere else in the world is historiography so central to political and international affairs: nobody denies Japan’s economic power, but nearly all of Asia believes that Japan’s ongoing official refusal to acknowledge past atrocities means that Japan lacks the capacity for moral leadership.

Japan’s role in the world continues to be limited by WWII in other ways. In the aftermath of the war, Japan was disarmed not just literally, but figuratively: the US-written constitution includes the famous Article IX, repudiating war and weaponry as tools of international problem-solving. Japanese leaders, particularly PM YOSHIDA Shigeru, premised post-war Japan’s national policy on non-militarization, non-entanglement, economic growth policies. Among other things, it makes it very difficult for Japanese troops to participate in UN peacekeeping missions; though they do regularly join relief aid (Africa, Iraq) and monitoring groups (Golan Heights), they go very lightly armed and rely on other UN forces and their own post-war reputation for non-violent generosity for protection.

That hasn’t stopped Japan from being an actor on the world stage. Japan is the second-largest economy in the world, and has been sharing the wealth with underdeveloped nations for several decades now, making Japan the world’s largest development donor in absolute terms. The US nearly got caught flatfooted, for example, when Japan’s government announced a post-Tsunami Indonesian aid package a full order of magnitude larger than our own. And Japan gave the US so much money in support of the first Gulf War against Saddam Hussein in Kuwait — because they couldn’t send military forces — that we nearly turned a profit. Of course, Japan’s economic strength means that economic decisions made in Japan echo around the developed world as well. And in a less official capacity, being members of the only nation to experience atomic bombs as a weapon of war has given Japanese peace activists a status in the world second to none. One of Japan’s few Nobel Prizes was the Peace award to Prime Minister SATO Eisaku, for his anti-Nuclear “Three Principles”: that Japan will not develop or possess nuclear weapons, or allow them in Japanese controlled territory.

Nor has it stopped Japan from being a significant force in Asian and Pacific affairs. On the plus side is cultural and economic influence in South Korea, economic aid to North Korea, investment and education in China, development assistance in the South Pacific; still, all of that, it could be argued, rebounds to Japan’s benefit at least as much as it costs. There are territorial disputes as well, mostly over worthless-looking rock islands of immense strategic and economic importance — Sakhalin and Kuriles (Russia, with whom Japan still does not have an official post-WWII treaty of peace); Tokdo/Takeshima (Korea); Senkaku/Daiyou (China, Korea, Vietnam, etc. I’ve long argued that this was the most likely — after North Korea — flash point for a regional conflict) — disputes which seem to be heating up significantly in recent weeks in no small part because of Japanese actions.

Roots of the Future: The present campaign to get Japan on the UN Security Council is the culmination of two decades of diplomatic efforts, going back to the groundbreaking work of PM NAKASONE Yasuhiro, who turned Yoshida’s non-entanglement policies on their head. Nakasone’s kokusaika [internationalization] campaign seemed unfocused to some, but it really consisted of three crucial components: national pride in economic and cultural achievements, present and past (Nakasone was the first post-war PM to visit Yasukuni); international action both economic and political (Nakasone was an aggressive negotiator and worked hard to present distinctively Japanese views at meetings like G-7 and in the UN, plus his relationship with Reagan, Thatcher, etc); expanding Japan’s capacity to understand and influence the world through expanded foreign language and overseas study (this aspect always seemed kind of squishy and multiculturalist, but it was really integral to an expansion of Japanese power in the world). The campaign has been largely independent, though at times there were coordinated efforts with Germany, and has consisted in no small part of leveraging Japan’s ODA in places like Africa into UN support.

The present campaign is a very clever one: by including India and Brazil as Security Council candidates, it looks less like a resurgence of the reformed Axis Powers and more like a “Southernization” (to abuse a term), a legitimation of the success of 20th century decolonization and economic globalization. Moreover, including India makes it harder for China to maintain its traditional rejection of Japanese power. Article IX is still a sticky point: maintaining it makes it easier for Japan’s former and present competitors to deal with Japan without fear (not entirely without fear: Japan has one of the best-equipped militaries in the world, though it lacks significant force projection capacity), while it hobbles Japan’s ability to play a security role (which, since they’re looking for a seat on the Security Council, is significant); moreover, the majority of the Japanese population supports retaining the article as is (a bare majority now, whereas before Gulf War I it was an overwhelming one) and Japanese political leadership have been able to slip in more and more militarized activity under UN rubrics over the last decade (it’s highly unlikely that the Japanese courts would step in, being very, very conservative with regard to challenging legislative action).

Japan has been a peaceful, responsible, democratic society for over a half-century, and it is an economic superpower. But it has significant historical and ongoing tensions with its neighbors, one of which already sits on the Security Council and has a pretty good claim to being the natural representative of East Asia. On the other hand, it has good relations with the rest of the Security Council membership, and the example of the 1920s-30s suggests to some that trying to “keep Japan in its place” could well produce a nationalistic backlash in Japan that would exacerbate tensions.

[Thanks, Sepoy for suggesting this! Crossposted to Cliopatria]

Addendum: Konrad Lawson has compiled a very impressive list — with texts and commentaries — of Japan’s leaders attempts to apologize to Korea without entirely losing the support of Japan’s nationalistic elements. It complicates somewhat the question of how comprehensive “apology” and “historical recognition” needs to be to satisfy Japan’s critics.


Bamboo v. Lonesome

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 2:25 pm

Japan Focus has a “three-fer” this week on the Korean-Japanese dispute over a rock. Well, technically “islets” but it’s just rocks about big enough for a large playground: What the Koreans call Tokdo (Lonesome Island) and the Japanese, less literally, call Takeshima (Bamboo Island) , has been a matter of territorial dispute for years, mostly because of the attendant fishing rights that come with the extension of territory. There’s a nice short introduction with maps and two articles from the Japanese press. Both countries have issued competing commemorative stamps (both of which sold out in record time), activists in both countries are calling for boycotts, and diplomatic relations are at a recent low, even as the countries are moving towards NAFTA-style integration.

As Takahashi reports, Japan claimed the islands in 1905, around the time that it forced Korea to become a Japanese protectorate (annexation would come in 1910), and though Korea proclaimed the islands reclaimed after liberation in WWII, the specifics of control of the islands have been left unresolved by mutual agreement in every agreement signed between the two countries since; a temporary agreement in 1999 for joint control remains technically in force. The matter has been heating up since the early 1980s, with South Korea taking the strongest practical steps (declaring the islands a national park, for example) but rogue Japanese elements actually trying to occupy the rocks have kept the matter actively disputed.

Tokyo U Emeritus Historian WADA Haruki has been actively working for closer relations, including normalization of relations with North Korea, in East Asia for years, and points out that it is difficult to imagine this region stabilizing without settling the three major territorial disputes Japan is involved in. Takeshima/Tokdo, Daiyou/Senkaku (Japan v. China, Vietnam, Australia, Taiwan, etc) and Kurile/Sakhalin dispute with Russia. The first two have economic consequences: fertile fishing ground in the first case, and potentially valuable natural gas reserves in the second; the third one is more about honor and diplomatic technicalities than anything else.

Non Sequitur: According to a recent poll

…a generational divide emerges when Americans are asked whether they approve of the United States’ decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan in 1945. Six in 10 Americans 65 and older approve of the use of the atomic bomb at the end of World War II, while six in 10 from 18 to 29 disapprove. Albert Kauzmann, a 57-year-old resident of Norcross, Ga., said using the bomb in 1945 “was the best way they had of ending” World War II. Overall, 47 percent of those surveyed approved of dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki while 46 percent disapproved, according to the poll of 1,000 conducted by Ipsos-Public Affairs from March 21-23 with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

I want to note that, if my math is correct, the 29-65 year olds were dead even on the question, and given the margin of error reported even the generational divide itself could be less than reported. No word on whether this represents a change from the past, whether people change their minds about these things as they grow older, or what we should do about it. The rest of the poll is about contemporary nuclear weapons issues, and is quite interesting for the disconnect between policy and popular preference….

[crossposted at Cliopatria]


China’s use of Japanese history

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 6:15 pm

Young Chinese aren’t well educated in history, and there’s little evidence of much interest. They know what the state wants them to know (“post-Communist” China still retains tight educational and publishing controls and retains a strongly Marxist-Nationalist narrative of history), and apparently the state mostly wants them to know and care about Japan’s WWII atrocities. In fact, it’s a major topic on the Chinese internet, with thousands of Chinese participating in detailed and fervent discussions of wrongs done to their grandparents/great-grandparents’ generation. [via Claire George]

Strategic? Most likely. Illegitimate? Well, yes, in the context of China’s overall historical revisionism; no, in the context of Japan’s leadership’s failure (and much of general society) to come to terms with that history in a meaningful fashion.


Japan’s contribution to nihilistic Islamism

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 5:50 am

The AHA’s flagship journal American Historical Review doesn’t run Japanese articles all that often and, to be honest, interesting ones even more rarely. But the current edition’s foray is quite worth reading, though I’d like to know if other people’s reactions to it were as reserved as mine. The article is Japan’s Global Claim to Asia and the World of Islam: Transnational Nationalism and World Power, 1900–1945 [AHA membership required] by Selçuk Esenbel, whose previous publications are mostly in the field of Tokugawa peasant studies.

She chronicles decades of intellectual, military and cultural contacts between Japanese and Islamic activists in a variety of fields, but most sharing an anti-Western (or anti-colonial or anti-imperial) modernism. Many of the Japanese names involved are familiar to scholars of Japan’s early-20c right wing, but the degree to which they concieved of political Islam as an ally and bulwark against Near/Middle Eastern colonialism is quite striking. It shouldn’t be, I suppose: these thinkers were so ambitious and global in their ideas that they must have had some concept of how a major world religion fit into the scheme of things, and Japan’s affinity for (i.e. sense of leadership of) modernizing societies in this period was still strong.

There were two main directions to the interaction: scholarship of Islam in Japan (including a surprising number of conversions) and spreading Japanese anti-Westernism in Islamic regions. Pan-Islamism, as Esenbel describes it, isn’t that different from Pan-Asianism as the Japanese preached it, and figures like Ōkawa Shūmei made the connection explicit in print and in personal contacts.

The weakness of the article comes when she tries to make a case for the importance of these theories and contacts. Aside from the interesting new depth it gives to Pan-Asianism, and filling in some of the gaps in the “they really thought they could win these wars?” lists, Esenbel tries to draw some connections to late-20c/21c political Islam, particularly violent Islamist groups. This seems like a huge stretch to me, without making much more explicit personal or intellectual connections between modernist anti-westernism and nihilistic traditionalism in Islamic radical circles. Contemporary Islamism isn’t akin to Ōkawa’s pan-Asianism, but something more like Kita Ikki’s agrarian nationalism: positing a perfect (unattainable) protean socio/cultural/economic “moment” against which the present does not measure up and the “re”establishment of which will require revolutionary and violent action. As others have argued, Islamism isn’t anti-Orientalist as much as it is Occidentalist, and I don’t see that emerging clearly in this history.

Am I looking for the wrong things here? Missing something fundamental?


Faith and Foreign Policy

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 11:52 pm

There is lots of talk about the importance of faith and the use of religious or crusader vocabulary in the US president’s justification of his foreign policy. While reading Louise Young’s Japan’s Total Empire I came across a rather unexpected parallel to this in 1932, when the Japanese delegate to the League of Nations, Matsuoka Yôsuke responded to the Lytton Commission’s report on the Manchurian Incident.

…Humanity crucified Jesus of Nazareth two thousand years ago. And today? Can any of you assure me that the so-called world opinion can make no mistake? We Japanese feel that we are now put on trial. Some of the people in Europe and America may wish even to crucify Japan in the twentieth century. Gentlemen, Japan stands ready to be crucified! But we do believe, and firmly believe, that in a very few years, world opinion will be changed and that we also shall be understood by the world as Jesus of Nazareth was.1

1. Found in Young p. 154. Original apparently from Japanese Delegation to the League of Nations. The Manchurian Question: Japan’s Case in the Sino-Japanese Dispute as Presented before the League of Nations. Geneva: League of Nations, 1933. p. 166.


Joint Press Conference Predictions: Little Asia

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 4:17 pm

It’s not a debate, in any meaningful sense of the word, unless they break the rules. It’s a joint press conference, and the only thing that makes it interesting is that they will be in the same room and might react to each other (within prescribed limits). But it’s great political theater, and there are a lot of people who really do seem to care about how the candidates perform (and that is the right word) under these conditions, conditions which are relevant only to past and future debate-like appearances.

That said, I have a few predictions about how the Thursday debate, on Foreign Policy, will go.

  • Japan will be mentioned, at most, twice: once as a member of the coalition of the willing (bribed, not bullied), and once in regard to the Six-Party North Korean nuclear crisis negotiations.
  • China, the largest country in the world, will be mentioned only in connection with North Korea. They won’t talk about (mostly because they won’t be asked about) their rapid industrial growth or consumer growth (and rapidly rising demand for oil), our import-export imbalance, their strategic position, Taiwan (ok, there’s about a 1/5 chance Taiwan could come up), internal ethnic tensions, rising nationalism, or the recent shift in power from (rather US-friendly) Jiang Zemin to (Euro-friendly) Hu Jintao. Our China and Taiwan policies have had exactly one noteworthy shift since Nixon-Kissinger — dropping human rights issues because they weren’t listening anyway — and it isn’t likely to change anytime soon unless China does something dramatic.
  • India, the second largest country in the world, might be mentioned in connection with its tensions with Pakistan over Kashmir and nuclear weapons, but otherwise we’ll have to wait until they talk about the economy, when outsourcing will come up.
  • South Korea will get the usual mention if North Korea comes up, as well as a mention if military force redistribution is raised.
  • North Korea will almost certainly be discussed, which will make Kim Jong Il very happy, particularly as neither of them seem inclined to say (or do) anything concrete. I doubt Kerry will contrast North Korea and Iraq policy but it would be fun to see how the spin on that played out if he did.
  • Vietnam….. boy, I hope not.
  • South and East Asia will not get any other substantive mentions.
  • A few other Asia-related topics they won’t talk about:
    • HIV/AIDS (except perhaps with regard to promises to Africa that were not kept), either Thai successes or the coming explosion in China and India
    • SARS and the threat of new communicable diseases
    • immigration policy (that’ll be a domestic issue, if at all, and mostly Mexico)

I’d love to be wrong. [crossposted at Cliopatria]

Post-event update: Aside from a mention of Koizumi’s upcoming Iraqi Donors’ Conference, I was pretty much on the money. Oh, well.

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