Only in Japan: Yakuza Sued

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 8:26 pm

The New York Times is reporting on tensions between the Dojinkai and the civilians living in the neighborhood of their headquarters. Two features of this are worth noting in the context of the Samurai course. First, the Yakuza are widely acknowledged to be one of the last, greatest bastions of feudal samurai concepts of honor and the utility of violence; comparing the modern yakuza to medieval samurai is shockingly fruitful. Second, the social order represented by the neighborhood association is a modern incarnation of the horizontal alliances described by Berry in The Culture of Civil War in Kyoto, the ikki as described by Ikegami, and the goningumi of the great Tokugawa order.

Even the appeal to law, civil authorities, is quite traditional: though the Japanese are considered “non-litigious” it’s really not true of the present or the past. In the present, a lot of disputes are dealt with through arbitration systems that aren’t that different from small-claims courts. In the past, of course, the petition to authority and the lawsuit were common enough to be one of our best historical sources. [crossposted to Japanese History]

Late Update: Going through old email, I found this McNeill Adelstein report on the current state of yakuza. I was surprised to see that the 1992 law had so little effect: when I was in Japan in ’94-95, it seemed like it had done some good.


Migration, Nationalism, Empire

Tessa Morris-Suzuki’s recent Japan Focus article, “Migrants, Subjects, Citizens: Comparative Perspectives on Nationality in the Prewar Japanese Empire” is an ambitious attempt to integrate identity, legal and strategic issues related to the problem of citizenship in the context of migrations within and between empires.1 The primary comparative material is to British examples, and students of “empire” as a category will find both familiar and new material to work with. Japan itself had such complicated migratory patterns that it really is a whole class of “comparative” study in itself. Morris-Suzuki pretty much covers the whole gamut: Japanese emigration to Hawai’i, N. America, S. America and Asia; Korean, Chinese and Taiwanese migration under Japanese imperium to places within Japan and within the empire.2

What makes the article particularly interesting, aside from the valiant attempt to clarify the various legal contortions of Imperial citizenship3 , is that it parallels some of the arguments I made in January (and June) — that Japanese attitudes towards emigration and immigration are structured by nationalistic and imperialistic narratives which obscure important aspects and which lay the foundation for current problems with immigrant assimilation. Morris-Suzuki is taking a more legal and strategic approach, noting the various places in which the end of Japan’s Empire left former colonial subjects stranded without citizenship, and the political and diplomatic problems, some of which are still unresolved, and seemingly unresolvable.

Some of these problems clearly should have been solved by the US and allies after WWII: full repatriation of Korean subjects in the Japanese home islands, Sakhalin and Manchuria, for example, would have been entirely appropriate. Or would it? Part of me thinks that the diversity represented by Koreans in Japan should have been a good thing for leavening, a bit, Japan’s self-definition as homogenous, but clearly, if it was supposed to accomplish something with regard to multi-cultural understanding, it’s a gloriously failed experiment. The paper almost invites counter-factual speculation: if the lines had been drawn differently, would there have been a significantly different result? Could Japan, in the early 20th century, have developed a version of Imperial Nationalism which wasn’t racialist, or a citizenship system which wasn’t patriarchal and instrumentalist?4

  1. It also contains a citation to one of my own publications, which is always fun, but it’s on a minor point, and her main discussion of material related to my article comes from other sources. Oh, well. []
  2. She does talk about the integration of Okinawans to some extent, but leaves out their anomalous status after WWII. Not a complaint or a criticism, though it does raise fascinating questions. There’s just not enough room in the world to cover everything. []
  3. and in this regard, Japan’s koseki family registration system seems to be arguably simpler and more reasonable than several of the British attempts to both authorize and limit the mobility of colonial subjects []
  4. there was an article in one of my regular journals recently — AHR, JAS, JJS — which argued that Japan’s Imperium forced it to adopt a more flexible definition of multicultural national identity, but I can’t remember which one and the move has obliterated any organization I had in my journals. I wasn’t terribly convinced at the time, and a large part of my reservation had to do specifically with what Morris-Suzuki highlights: the rhetoric of integration was one-sided and the legal status of colonial subjects was never considered a subject for rectification. []


Diasporic Remnants

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 3:22 am

I’m always interested in interesting tales and connections regarding the Japanese diaspora. Here’s a couple that I’ve run across: New research on Japanese settlers in Korea; Jorge Luis Borges, the great surrealist, married a Nikkei Argentinian woman late in life; Japanese post-WWII settlers in the Dominican Republic abandoned by both governments. I love being part — a small part, but nonetheless — of the diaspora studies movement. We’re complicating the history of the world, chronicling the wonderful diversity of seemingly simple things. [continued...]



2007: Japanese Works Now in the Public Domain

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 4:33 pm

Matt over at No-Sword has listed and linked to a few Japanese authors who, due to the life+50 years copyright rule, now have all of their works released into the public domain:

Public Domain Day: Japan

Also take a look at a list of many other authors whose works are now in the public domain at Copyright Watch.

Matt links to the author entries at Auzora Bunko, where you can read various full texts of authors. It is also where I first heard about a movement to oppose a lengthening of the copyright term in Japan to life+70. I must admit I was ignorant that there was an attempt to extend the copyright protection in the works. I don’t know how far it has come but I find it deeply troubling. Already the life+50 rule has kept out of the public domain a great many out-of-print, rare, and historically valuable materials that would never see the light of a computer screen, let alone publication which could be easily shared and appreciated much more widely. Some works, such as the writings and recorded musical performances of my favorite traitor, Kawashima Yoshiko, are only in the public domain because she was executed at a young age in the early postwar, and even then it is really hard to get out of the restrictive licenses of archives that contain her now, ostensibly, public domain works.

As has been the case in the United States, which has a ridiculously long, complex, and stifling copyright regime, the main benefactor of any extension would be large corporations. In other cases, I am personally completely unconvinced that the benefits of providing the mere possibility of royalties for several generations of descendants can come close to outweighing the benefit to society as a whole of releasing works into the public domain in a timely manner.

You can read more about the movement against the extension here. They even have their own icon:

You can read more in the Japanese news about the attempt to extent the law here. I personally liked this quote in the article:

著作の多くをフリーで公開することで知られている評論家・翻訳家の山形浩生さんは、保護期間延長に反対の立場だ。「私が2050年に死ぬとして、2100年まで守られていた著作権が2120年まで延びると言われても、『すばらしい! これで安心して創作活動できる!』などと思うわけがない」(山形さん)

In this quote an author by the name of Yamagata Hirô, who is active in the free culture movement says, “If I were to die in 2050 and my copyrights, which are currently protected until 2100, were extended to 2120, I would hardly say, ‘Great! I can now put my mind at ease and be creative!’”

Some more links on the topic:
Wikipedia: 著作権の保護期間
「著作権保護期間の延長を」——権利者団体が要望書 ネット時代も意識
Authors By Year of Death Index


Shades of Mori Arinori

Filed under: — Nick Kapur @ 2:03 am

Recently the Japanese Diet has been debating several competing bills to revise the Fundamental Education Law of 1947.  One of the most contested issues is an effort by the LDP to make instilling patriotism an explicit goal of Japan’s national education system, as it was under the education system devised by Mori Arinori in the 19th century and in force in Japan up until the US-led education reforms following World War II.  Reportedly, the original language was even stronger, but the LDP-backed bill that finally made it out of committee and onto the Diet floor still contained the relatively strong phrasing by Japanese standards, 我が国と郷土を愛する態度を養う (“to instill an feeling of loving our country and homeland”). Critics of this clause argue that it will promote militarism and inject further tension into already heated Japan-China and Japan-Korea relations, but the LDP-backed bill seems likely to pass largely as is within the next week or so.

In related news, it was reported this week that many Japanese schools are grading students on “love of country”.  A recent survey in Saitama prefecture found that at least 45 local schools evaluated “love of country” on report cards for 6th-grade students. Under current policy, individual schools are free to decide how report cards are structured and which categories are graded. Officials have argued that the practice is not objectionable because “instilling a feeling of love for one’s country” has already been one of the Ministry of Education’s stated objectives for 6th-grade social studies students for some time.


Data: Personal v. Historical

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 3:36 pm

A recent initiative in the US to limit access to birth and death records [via] along with other personal data would severely limit the ability of historical and geneaological researchers, not to mention the epidemiological studies mentioned in the article.

This reminded me that I’d meant to blog a long time ago about Sharon Domier’s H-Japan announcement that a similar law in Japan passed last year was hindering historical researchers. I’ve removed a few of the URLs she provided because they don’t seem to work anymore, but I’d be happy to provide them if anyone wants to root around in the archives.

The Japanese government recently enacted a Personal Information Protection Law that is having a significant impact on both publishing and research. In Japanese it is called Kojin Joho hogo ho.

The Japan Media Review is a good place to read about the effect of the new law on publishing. Here is an article in English: http://www.japanmediareview.com/japan/media/1060286367.php

What this means to libraries is that many are withdrawing meibo (registers) that contain personal information. School yearbooks are off limits as are many biographical registers. If you subscribe to online databases that include biographical information, you may find that the content has changed significantly in order to comply with the law. Many of the librarians that I have talked to in my recent travels are grappling with how to preserve materials and be in compliance with the law.

For an article that explains how one library handled historical material (court cases from the Meiji-Taisho period), please see this Asahi Shinbun article in Japanese. http://www.asahi.com/national/update/0414/OSK200504130060.html [I can't seem to find this, either at Asahi or in Lexis-Nexis, sorry]

Please note that libraries are removing the bibliographic records from OPACs so that there is no public trace of the materials that are problematic.

As I replied to Domier at the time, My research probably will be affected, but I haven’t done a Japanese archive trip in a while, so I can’t be sure. It sounds like some of what I had access to — official records with names and addresses — might well be included, so I’m sitting on a stash of “gray market” evidence. One of my concerns — aside from the obvious — is that research already done with these records will now be unverifiable by future researchers. Have you run into a problem in the last year or so? Let us know.

This is a serious issue: privacy and personal information protection are indeed valuable principles worthy of care and protection. But there has to be some way to preserve those principles without seriously compromising our ability to do legitimate research.


Revision and Revisionism

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 4:42 pm

Deep in the middle of a roundtable about constitutional revision and neo-nationalism in Japan, comes a bit of discussion of historical revision and popular beliefs

John Junkerman: Returning to the Nanking issue, we were at a bookstore the other night, filming there. They have huge stacks of a new book by Higashinakano Shudo, who’s one of the key and very prolific Nanjing massacre deniers. His new book, which argues that a Guardian correspondent named Harold Timperley, who was responsible for many of the reports to the West of the massacre and wrote a book called What War Means, was on the payroll of the KMT and therefore he was writing propaganda. This is based on a fundamental historical error. Timperley was apparently hired by the KMT to write foreign press releases and such in 1939, but he wrote his book in 1938, before he was on the payroll. But that doesn’t really matter to Higashinakano. The point is that there were stacks of these books laid out flat at the end of the aisle with a big display, “the latest book by Higashinakano.” One of his other books has sold 80,000 copies. Another example of rising chauvinism is the recent Hate Korea manga that has sold 650,000 copies.

David McNeill: That to me is much more dangerous than academic books. I know that academic books have an influence, as well. We went on holiday last year, my wife and I, with her son who’s 21, and he’s a smart kid and his mother’s a progressive and his grandfather’s one of the most famous activists in Japan, so he has every reason to have a different take on the way things work in this country. But all of his attitudes and beliefs were pro-Koizumi. “Why should he not visit Yasukuni? The Nanking Massacre has been exaggerated, it was not a massacre. There were no comfort women.” All of it. Somehow he got all of these ideas, and he didn’t get them from school. Because, if you read the students’ essays, they say over and over again, “Well, actually, we don’t remember covering the war issues.” They spend so much time covering the long glorious history of Japan, for 2000 years that they often don’t have a lot of time to cover the war. So they get it from popular culture, they get it from manga, they get it from TV.

The core of the discussion is about Article 9 revision and the relationship between that, the Fundamental Education Law revision and the creation of a very restrictive constitutional amendment process (the outlines are in the Constitution itself, but concrete procedures have never been laid out in law). Junkerman sums it up pretty well here (emphasis added)

It depends in part on how the referendum law shapes up. The original versions of it were quite draconian, very restrictive/ But even the modified version, if it goes through, would prevent showing my film in Japan, for example. Public employees and teachers won’t be allowed to speak about the proposed revision, the media will be expected to observe self-restraint, all sorts of restrictions, which could create an environment in which people would be unable to discuss it in any substantial way. They will also be looking for the right, strategic moment. There is fundamental support for Article 9, but it’s very mushy and weak. If there were to be another incursion from a North Korean boat, or if there was a clash with Chinese forces over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, , that support would crumble overnight. Then they’ve got their referendum law, they take the revision to the Diet, you’ve got 60 or 90 days to hold the referendum, and the constitution gets revised in the heat of the moment.

I’m not sure how I feel about the Weimar comparison which comes shortly thereafter: I think there’s some more elements of comparison which could be made, but it’s too offhand to be a really serious historical analogy at this point. I don’t know why they don’t make the analogy to Japan of the 1920s instead: internationalist, democratic, cosmopolitan, but also Imperial, nationalistic, anti-Leftist, and politically adrift. Then you don’t need to posit a Great Depression — when the Japanese economy seems stronger than it’s been in fifteen years — to argue that things could easily go in the wrong direction (the Depression did contribute to the sense of crisis in Japan, but not to the mass mobilization the way it did in Germany).

The article ends with a statement of appeal from the “Article Nine Association,” signed by Nobel Laureate Oe Kenzaburo, “New Left” novelist Oda Makoto, literary critic Kato Shuichi and philosopher Tsurumi Shunsuke, among other luminaries. It’s an interesting ongoing discussion, but it’s very important to separate out the tendentious past, partial present and speculative future in this argument….


Akihito as the Sovereign of Japan?

Filed under: — tak @ 10:19 pm

Asahi Shinbun reports that the LDP has accepted plans to push for changing the name “Self-Defense Force”(「自衛隊」) to “Self-Defense Military” (「自衛軍」). This is a bit alarming and I am sure that, if not already, there will be harsh criticism from Japan’s neighbors in the coming days.

But what made me shiver in reading this news was not so much Japan inching toward militarization, which had already been happening for a while now, but rather an effort by the LDP to (re)instate the emperor as the “sovereign” of the Japanese state. According to this Asahi article in Japanese, the commision almost approved a proposal to transform him into a mere symbolic figure to someone who would actually represent Japan in diplomatic settings.


When I read this, I could not believe my eyes. Is this really happening? What year is this?????


The word that I translated as “sovereign” here is genshu (元首). (Wikipedia translates it as either “head of state” or “sovereign”). It is a word that comes from the pre-war constitution, The Great Japanese Imperial Constitution, which was promulgated in 1889 and revised during the Allied occupation (1945-51). [The image shows the first page of the original constitution, taken from here.]

In the old pre-war constitution, the fourth article stipulates that the emperor is the genshu of Japan. This comes right after an article that declares the emperor to be divine.

So it has really come to this? Can someone wake me up from this nightmare? Are they soon going to start hailing Akihito as, indeed, a god?


Updates: Textbook and Constitutional revision

The Tri-national textbook I wrote about here has been published. The South Koreans, at least, are taking it pretty seriously [via Ralph Luker], with national distribution in the works.

The Constitutional revision question I wrote about here has expanded, apparently, to include the gender equity clauses, which are being blamed by social conservatives for “promoting egoism… collapse of family and community … a plunging marriage rate, an anemic birthrate and increasing delinquency in schools.” (OK, I followed it pretty well up to the last one: anyone who wants to explain to me the connection between gender equality and educational disorder is welcome to try)

Non Sequitur: A virtual gallery of Japanese Manhole Covers [via Ralph Luker] reveals some extraordinary public art. Now, can anyone tell me how this began, or why Japan does this and nobody else, as far as I know, does? Or is the US the only country whose underground access portal covers are boring?

History Carnival #9 is a rich collection (in spite of finals, it’s been a fine fortnight), including Craig’s essay (it’s much to substantial to be just “a post”) on Karate, which Sharon Howard graciously (and accurately, I think) calls “one of the outstanding posts of the month.” I will be talking about historians in cyberspace at ASPAC, and I’m grateful that I have so much to work with.


Stealing 9.99 ryō

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 3:23 am

In his new book on Punishment and Power in the Making of Modern Japan, Daniel Botsman mentions that it became customary in the Edo period to report the theft of goods or money which exceeded 10 ryō in value as being worth nine ryō two bun and three shu. Apparently, this grew out of a growing public realization that the One Hundred Articles, a set of unpublished legal guidelines for punishment compiled under the direction of the eighth shogun, Yoshimune (1684-1751), recommended a death penalty for theft of amounts greater than 10 ryō while lesser amounts were punished with a combination of flogging and tatooing. “This practice could not have continued without the acknowledgment and support of Bakufu officials, who routinely recorded this obviously fictional figure in their official reports.” (46, he cites Hiramatsu Yoshirō’s Edo no tsumi to batsu 86-7 for this)

The legal articles themselves are supposed to be “secret” and official copies only available to higher Bakufu officials, but it looks as though unofficial copies were circulated widely among bureaucrats and Botsman cites one study by a Takahashi Satoshi in which a wealthy peasant named Gin’emon was able to secure a private copy of the laws at a “legal inn” (kuji yado) in Edo where he was staying to represent his village in a murder case. (34)

Together, these snippets are interesting for two reasons. On the one hand it loosens up a bit our perception of a completely mysterious legal regime administering the lives of people who had to depend on the grotesque examples of previously punished criminals described on signposts for their legal knowledge. Secondly, not only do we see examples of serious information leakage, but a fascinating example of how reports of crime were tailored precisely to limit punishments.

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