Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Sense And Sensibility In The Cabinet Reshuffle Narrative, Part I

No, I do not reference Jane Austen below. Primarily because I cannot. I have never read any of Austen's works and I likely never will.

* * *

Early (it's 4:30 a.m. local time) news reports are providing the last pieces of the puzzle of Abe Shinzo's reshuffle of his cabinet. Minister of Law* and former Liberal Democratic Party president Tanigaki Sadakazu will take over as LDP Secretary-General. LDP Policy Research Council (PARC) council chair Takaichi Sanae, who yesterday was rumored to be the new minister of economics, trade and industry (METI) will instead be taking over at internal affairs and communications (MIC). The youthful Obuchi Yuko, whom the Yomiuri Shimbun two days ago assured us was on the fast track to the new secretary-general post (Link), will instead be named METI minister. (Link - J)

These latest announcements make a great deal of sense. Perhaps not in terms of policy but definitely in terms of individual temperament and the balancing of the prime minister's numerous priorities in leading both the state and the party.

So, after what seems to have been 10,000 leaks, what are the current projections for the revamped (commentators have asked whether after so many shifts of personnel the word "reshuffled" is appropriate) second Abe cabinet and LDP secretariat? And what can one say about the postings?

First, the top LDP posts, which are to announced later this morning, with women officer holders indicated by a (W).

Secretary-General: Tanigaki Sakakazu
Provides the solution to
a) the need for a non-Machimura faction member in the top 3 (prime minister/party president, chief cabinet secretary, party secretary-general) power positions
b) the need for a high-ranking, seasonsed secretary-general (Tanigaki has been LDP party president and finance minister)
c) the need for someone who will not use the secretary-general position as an instrument of personal advancement (Tanigaki is never going to be party president again and has no implementable political agenda)

PARC Chair - Inada Tomomi (W)
By switching Inada out of the Cabinet and Takaichi in, Abe replaces one revisionist highly qualified professional woman prone to indiscriminate spouting of katakana English management jargon and high tech terms for another.

Chair of the General Council - Nikai Toshihiro
Nikai has been masterful in the all-important post of chairman of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, where all of the government's main business is debated and discussed. He has been marching the government's business through the committee all while giving the powerless minority a chance to make its case or poke holes in the government's positions. Such competence and fairness is, of course, inexcusable -- so Nikai is being moved to the LDP's General Council, which has devolved into the party internal complaints department.

Little mention has been made in the press of a new chair for the LDP's election strategy committee, the party's next highest ranking post. NHK is saying this morning that the innofensive and managerial METI minister Motegi Toshimitsu will be sliding over into the post. If that turns out to be yet another failed trial ballooon, Kawamura Takeo will remain where he is, maintaining continuity in planning for a snap House of Representatives election, if Abe deems one necessary. (Shisaku archive)

In the afternoon, Abe will hand out his cabinet posts. The line up so far is:

Chief Cabinet Secretary - Suga Yoshihide
CONTINUING - because Abe cannot find anyone better for the CCS position, even if he tried, which he will not.

Finance (MOF)- Aso Taro
CONTINUING - because Aso's serving in the minister's post is the least offensive way of diminishing to nearly zero the Finance Ministry's influence on government proceedings. It is is best for Abe to keep Aso near at hand and burdened down, for Aso has been unfaithful in the past. Setting him loose poses dangers for Abe in terms of LDP unity.

Foreign (MOFA) - Kishida Fumio
CONTINUING - Abe needed to sweep the faction leaders out of his cabinetto make room for junior members of the factions. However, he has found it hard to get rid of Kishida, who has both been a fine representative of Japan on the international stage and who has never openly differed with the prime minister on any issue. So Kishida stays.

Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) - Ota Akihiro
CONTINUING - The New Komeito used to demand the health, welfare and labor post because it seemed the best faucet from which to shower benefits upon New Komeito voters and potential New Komeitor voters. Then the party discovered the fiscal charms of MLIT. The LDP's partner has coveted the post ever since...and who can blame the NK for wanting to keep it?

Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) - Shimomura Hakubun
CONTINUING -Shimomura is the lone member of the cabinet who can claim to have grown up in dire poverty. He is the least wealthy of the cabinet members and will likely remain so after the revamp. Shimomura's story is an inspiring one of pulling oneself through study, scholarships and hard work -- which makes him Abe's perfect sledgehammer for whatever independence and liberality may linger in Japan's education system. Shimomura was kept on leash during these first two years of Abe 2.0. He is likely to be let loose now.

METI - Obuchi Yuko (W)
Though most reports identify Obuchi-sensei as a former state minister for population and gender equality, her most recent government post was not the not insignificant one of Senior Vice Minister of Finance (Dec 2012 to Aug 2013)

MIC - Takaichi Sanae (W)
With Takaichi taking over for Shindo Yoshitaka, one possibly has to call MIC the "ministry posting for those Diet members who pay frequent, ostentatious visits to Yasukuni"

[to be continued - MTC]

* The official English translation of Homusho is "Ministry of Justice." However, as anyone who has ever dealt with the nation's judicial system can tell you, "justice" is just about the worst description possible of the outcomes of Japanese juridical practice.

Monday, September 01, 2014

A Bogus Cabinet Reshuffle?

The big news this week is Prime Minister Abe Shinzo's planned reshuffle of his Cabinet on Wednesday. The cabinet lineup is looking rather long in the tooth; it is indeed the longest-lasting unreformed lineup in history (Link). It has had to weather some rather nasty fights -- the initiation of construction of the Futenma replacement facility at Henoko, the constant grind of bad news out of Fukushima Daiichi, the forcible passages of the Special Secrets Act and the Cabinet decision on collective self defense -- and looks a bit ragged for all its continuing popularity as measured against the support numbers of previous Cabinets. There is also a huge cohort of mid-career Liberal Democratic Party members who have never served in a cabinet post (not surprising: there was a change in government in 2009). Finally, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo feels compelled to matching his rhetoric on greater opportunities for women in public life with action, increasing the number of women in his cabinet from two to perhaps six (the pool of candidates is too small to go any higher).

Given the importance of the atmospherics, rather than the policy preferences of the various candidates for office, in the selection process, the buildup to this cabinet reshuffle has been inadroit. No, let us not be coy. It has been a farce...and it is not getting any better.

Abe mulling Obuchi as LDP's No. 2
Yomiuri Shimbun

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering appointing junior lawmaker Yuko Obuchi as secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party as he is set to reshuffle his Cabinet and party executive lineup, party sources said.

The prime minister hopes to form an internal consensus about his idea of granting Obuchi, 40, a House of Representatives member, the second most important position in the LDP, by confirming the wishes of the leadership of the LDP’s Nukaga faction to which she belongs, according to the sources.


Obuchi is the second daughter of the late former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi. If her appointment is realized, she will be the youngest LDP member and first woman to take the post of party secretary general.

The sources said Abe aims to demonstrate his stance of proactively promoting women and create an image of the LDP renovating itself.

By gaining support from the public with these steps, Abe aims to overcome political battles over the security legislation and the next unified local elections...

(Link to article)
The last time I looked, and that was today, Secretary-General of the Liberal Democratic Party is a serious, serious job. It requires an intense understanding of policy, party financial and personnel matters. It is a lightning rod, having to deal with intra-party resentment, political feuds, local versus national politics and demands for funds. It is also a very public post, with the secretary-general frequently having to interact with the news media as the party's top representative.

A nightmare, in other words.

Into this spot Abe purportedly wants to slot a five-term (5 terms is the usual minimum number of elections for consideration for a first cabinet posting) House of Representatives member, a legacy member with but a single stint in a minor, invented cabinet post, as not just the first woman but the youngest person ever to serve as secretary-general of the only party in Japan which really matters.


I know that the Fukuda, now Machimura, Faction -- Prime Minister Abe's and Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide's faction -- is fundamentally at odds with the Tanaka, now Nukaga, Faction. However, even as an act of exquisite historical spite, the appointment of Obuchi as the LDP's Secretary-General is beyond the pale. Everyone likes Obuchi-san; no one is frightened of her or feels intimidated by her. One does not have to read Machiavelli to realize how the drama will end.

Indeed, the entire process of selecting this new Cabinet and LDP party officer lineup has been surreal.

First, the process of sculpting a new administration and party leadership, which was supposed interspersed and intertwined with rounds of golf, was completely overwhelmed by the landslides of Hiroshima. Abe had to commute from his vacation home to the Kantei, where he could do exacly nothing about the number of those who died and the on-again, off-again rescue and recovery efforts.

Second, the seemingly all-important replacement of Ishiba Shigeru as Secretary-General spun out of Team Abe's control. Even a child could see there was zero chance that Ishiba would accept the thankless made-up job of minister of revising legislation to implement of the July 1 Cabinet Decision on collective self-defense. When economic developments and ugly, incoherent, lurching management of nuclear reactor restarts, the Special Secrets Act (due to go into effect in December) and collective self defense have darkened the outlook for Abe, the incentives for Ishiba all point to turning down the offer and preparing for a run at the LDP presidency next fall. That run to replace Abe as LDP leader is still alive and indeed chances for it are improved by Ishiba's supposed turnaround on Friday. At a highly anticipated "summit meeting" between Ishiba and Abe at the Prime Minister's Residence Ishiba agreed to consider accepting a cabinet position other than the military legislation one (Link). The breadth of the grin on Ishiba's face as he spoke to reporters at the Kantei showed it was the prime minister who was in the desperate, sweating wheeler-dealer role and Ishiba in the role of magnanimous and harmonious party magnate...

...all of which absolutely no sense because whoever is serving in the post of secretary-general will be responsible for success or failure of LDP candidates in three incredibly difficult and highly visible elections: the Fukushima gubernatorial contest, the Okinawa gubernatorial contest and the April 2015 unified local elections. The chances of the LDP's candidates prevailing in all three races are basically nil. The question facing the party's secretary-general is how to minimize the losses.

To whit: why forcibly replace Ishiba, when events are likely to usher in his disgrace and resignation?

UNLESS, of course (and I am indebted to my friend T.K. for this line of reasoning) the cabinet reshuffle is just a front, a slapping up of freshly painted, smiling faces for an abbreviated Diet session where the only work done is the decision to proceed with the rise of the consumption tax from the current 8% to 10%, followed by a Diet dissolution. The consequent House of Representatives election would then be billed as a virtual referendum on the tax decision and the first two years of Abe 2.0.

If that is the game afoot then a lot -- the muted Obuchi appointment, the desperate need to get Ishiba out of the way -- starts to make sense. The LDP is likely to get its butt handed to it in local elections over the next few months due situations (the continuing environmental disaster at Fukushima Daiichi; the presence of U.S. Forces on Okinawa; rural economic decay) beyond any immediate solution. So why let the calendar and chronic problems rule the party, when the prime minister/LDP president can just derail the train of events? Why not change the subject, in a big way? Why wait, when the opposition parties which have few institutional supporters and zero inspiring leaders, are unready to defend even the few seats they control in the House?

So what we are to see on September 3 is not perhaps not so much a bogus cabinet reshuffle as a mendacious one -- tactically mendacious, as I am fond of saying.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Choshu Rules, Again

The donjon of Hagi Castle, prior to its destruction in 1874

Kawamura Takeo is a seven-term House of Representatives member from Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture. If news reports are accurate, he is the number one candidate to replace Ishiba Shigeru as Secretary-General of the Liberal Democratic Party. (Link - J)

If Kawamura is appointed Secretary-General, Yamaguchi Prefecture, with its 1.4 million inhabitants and 4 House of Representatives members, will be providing the nation with:

President of the LDP and Prime Minister: Abe Shinzo

Vice president of the LDP: Komura Masahiko
(also Japan's top China hand and leader of the government's side in the battle over the exercise of the right of collective self-defense)

Secretary-General of the LDP: Kawamura Takeo

The rest of Yamaguchi's Diet delegation does none too shabbily, posting-wise. The final member of the House of Representatives delegation, Kishi Nobuo, the prime minister's younger brother, is Parliamentary Senior Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs. House of Councillors member Hayashi Yoshimasa competed with Abe for the post of party president in September 2012 and is the current Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

[So what is wrong with Eguchi Kiyoshi, the final member of Yamaguchi's Diet delegation? Nothing. He is just new on the job, having taken over remaining House of Councillors seat when Kishi Nobuo moved to the House of Representatives in 2012.]

For those keeping score, this means the han of Choshu (castle town: Hagi) which with the han of Satsuma (modern day Kagoshima Prefecture) and Tosa (Kochi Prefecture) overthrew the Tokugawa bakufu establishing a new political order that became so thoroughly monopolized by Satsuma and Choshu leaders the period is called "the era of Satcho dominance," is in pretty much in charge of Japan 146 years after the Meiji Restoration.

Bring's to mind William Faulkner's observation that the past's not only not dead, it's not even past.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A New Comfort Women Statement? Uh-oh

This is PARC chair Takaichi Sanae at her happiest. Really.

In the realm of bad ideas, the latest one to erupt out of the Liberal Democratic Party's Policy Research Council (PARC) is a doozy: a request to Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide that he provide a revision of the Kono Statement in light of the recent retractions of some articles on the comfort women by The Asahi Shimbun and in time for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. (Link - J)

Press reports of the meeting of the Council yesterday read like a festival of provocation and point scoring. "We must summon those connected to The Asahi to testify in the Diet" and "We must disseminate with determination the results of the government's investigation into the composition of the Kono Statement" were among the demands from the floor. ( J - video)

It is unsurprising that the moderately crazies in the LDP, particularly the hardliners in the freshmen classes of 2012 and 2013, would be clamoring for a party response to the Asahi admissions of error. The extreme revisionists contention has been that the comfort women are a fiction concocted by The Asahi Shimbun and anti-Japan non-government organizations in South Korea. The Asahi's long overdue retractions would, in their eyes, require a government response, as a remorseful Statement like Kono's may indeed no longer be necessary.

What is somewhat surprising is how quickly and avidly PARC Chair Takaichi Sanae has taken up the banner of a demand for a new Statement.

Takaichi is considered a shoo-in for a significant Cabinet post in the upcoming Cabinet reshuffle (Link). She has a long record of being a loyal retainer to Prime Minister Abe Shinzo (she was the most junior minister of his first Cabinet in 2006-7; she sat next to him during the LDP party meeting where Abe was elected party president in 2012), is a True Conservative (she is always in front and center of the phalanxes of Diet members of the "Let's Visit Yasukuni Together" league on their shrine visits - see above) and a prominent female member of the LDP at a time the PM wants to make a show of appointing women to the Cabinet (Link). Securing a Cabinet post at this point would seemingly require her to sit tight, make no trouble and have the prize drop in her lap.

So why embrace a movement demanding a change in a fundamental building block of Japan's relationship with South Korea at a time when the prime minister and his advisors are trying to bridge the gap between the two countries? One that furthermore puts an onus on Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga to craft a new Statement when he has way too much on his plate already?

If one wanted to mess up a potential Cabinet appointment, making Suga Yoshihide's life difficult would seem a great way to do it.

One explanation for Takaichi's enthusiasm, and the reason I use the "somewhat" above, is that she is probably tone deaf when it comes to what she believes are matters of Japan's dignity. She has her own small group of lawmakers -- the Association of Creativity and Tradition -- that brings together lawmakers who style themselves innovative iconoclasts with a fantabulist, knee-jerk defensiveness about pre-1945 Japan. The cognitive dissonance of the ideals -- believing at once in the value of disruption and the beauty of traditional order, as is reflected in the group's name -- indicates that in matters pertaining to the constructed concept "Japan" Takaichi-san may not be prone to deep thought.

Another possibility for Takaichi's unshaded embrace may come from a gnawing sense of her having achieved very little in her present position. Despite Takaichi being one of the longest-serving PARC chairs, even close watchers of politics would be hard pressed to think of a single, significant initiative she led during her tenure. Policy making under Abe 2.0 has been almost entirely in the hands of the bewildering forest of commissions, councils and private advisors reporting directly to the prime minister. Movement of legislation through the PARC has been largely a pro forma affair. When political observers think of Takaichi at all, it is for her skirmishes with General Council chair Noda Seiko, diminishing the power and value of both of the institutions they have headed.

In forwarding the PARC's request for a new Chief Cabinet Secretary's Statement to Suga, Takaichi can claim at least one signatory achievement during her tenure, one endearing her to radical, unthinking revisionists -- her only constituency within the party.

Assuming that the PARC's request is forwarded to Suga early next week as scheduled, what happens? As a direct request from the party, Suga cannot reject the request as unhelpful, no matter that it is. He could shelve the request for a while but not indefinitely. The request is for a new Statement in time for the August 15, 2015 anniversary -- which means at some point Suga will have to come out with a clear position on the question of whether he will provide a new Statement or not. The most likely scenario is Suga turning down the request on the grounds that it would detract from the prime minister's new, "forward-looking" Statement on the end of the World War II which the PM hopes will replace the Murayama Statement as the definitive Japanese government view of the war.

Until Suga moves decisively against the PARC's request, his inaction will be read or portrayed by South Koreans as a prelude to a revision of the Kono Statement and thus one more reason to delay the reestablishment of more normal relations between the governments of Japan and the ROK.

Way to go, Takaichi-san.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Golf Is Just A Four Letter Word

It is 4:35 a.m. I am wondering whether the paper man has left my morning paper in the mailbox.

Yes, I still get news the old fashioned way. Though perhaps not for long, for as of August 1, the Tokyo Shimbun has electronic delivery.

If and when I do go downstairs, I will turn to the inner pages, ignoring the immense tragedy in my old hometown, the humble city of Hiroshima.

One of the ignored aspects of the rural-vs-urban struggle in Japan is the number of medium-sized cities like Hiroshima with insanely high quality of life. Hiroshima is a modern city, with a reasonable economic mix and a fairly stable outlook where hiking trails and verdant seclusion are a 30 minutes's walk from midtown. Unlike most of Tokyo and the central Kanto, the mid-sized cities have retained, like Kamakura and Zushi, the forested hills, sending green fingers deep into the residential and even business areas.

It was, of course, these hillsides that came crashing down on the valley floor housing in the downpour two days ago.

But I digress.

My purpose in going downstairs would be to open the paper to the inner folds, where, in a tiny feature, the full listing of the prime minister's day yesterday will be printed. The PM is on vacation right now, up at his villa in the lakes region of Yamanashi Prefecture. Vacation time means barbecue, hanging out with allies, working out the details of the September 3 Cabinet reshuffle and golf.

Lots of golf.

Damn near daily rounds of golf.

Monday was an exception. The PM and Akie-sama spent the morning at the villa, with probably a smattering of security officers and aides milling about. Just after lunch the PM went for a soak at the local hot springs, coming home just after 3 p.m.

Just before 5, the pace at the villa kicked up into another gear entirely. Tanaka Kazuho, the head of the Ministry of Finance's budget bureau, showed up in advance of what an early (5:36 - probably a barbecue) dinner of with Abe and his aides. The group was joined at 5:43 by Honda Etsuro, one of Abe's two main economics advisors and a fervent critic of Finance Ministry thinking fiscal consolidation. Discussion of next year's budget and the economic outlook, with probably a pretty intense debate over the advisability of a further rise of the consumption tax went on for hours afterward. Most of the guests left just after 10:30, with Honda the last to leave at 10:47.

Those of the "growth first/tax rise whenever" persuasion might want to take heart in Honda's having the last ten minutes of the prime minister's attention to himself and presumably the last word on the subject of the consumption tax rise.

However, Prime Minister Abe in his second run has been extremely savvy as regards the management of personnel. Giving special attention to an advisor is just as often an indicator that Abe will be ignoring that advisor's counsel as he will be taking special heed of it. Remember that in the midst of the initial staged "debate" on whether or not to go forward with the rise of the consumption tax, Abe made the time to have a private lunch with Honda and Hamada Ko'ichi, the PM's other big economics advisor who like Honda was against the 3% jump in the consumption tax scheduled for April this year. Abe gave the pair a big chunk of face time. In the end it seems it was only so the two would not feel humiliated by their inevitable defeat in the rigged contest of ideas.

Knowing how to let people down without alienating them: a really important skill for someone wishing to stay in power a long time.

Just to hammer home the point on collegiality and remaining friends, the next day the prime minister and Akie-sama brought Honda, Tanaka, and Hie Hisashi, the CEO of Fuji Television, together for a round of golf.

In the evening, the PM attended what one should call, I suppose, the gathering of the tribe at the villa of Sasakawa Yohei, the head of the Nippon Zaidan. Also at the dinner pow wow were:

Former Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro
METI Minister Motegi Toshimitsu
Senior Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kishi Nobuo (also the PM's brother)
Senior Vice Minister Nishimura Yasutoshi
Cabinet Parliamentary Secretary Kato Katsunobu
Representative Hagiuda Ko'ichi (the PM's August 15 offering carrier to Yasukuni, just like last year)
Representative Yamamoto Yuji

as well as Fuji TV's Hie-san.

The PM arrived back at the villa from the party just after 10 p.m.

Rounds of golf occupied most of the PM's waking hours on the weekend as well. On the first day of his vacation, Saturday the 16th, Abe was out on the golf course with his closest political aides. Why he should spend his first day off with all the same persons he spends his every working day with is beyond me (then again, much is beyond me).In the evening he had dinner with his mother and his wifein the restaurant of a members only resort hotel.

Considering the ludicrous packing of Abe schedule the day before, the end-of-war day (no, he did not have his hair done after the memorial service like last year) his kicking back and hanging out with his family and underlings on his first day of what is projected to be a near postwar record length prime ministerial summer vacation deserves an "OK, so he's kind of dull" shrug.

The next day, Sunday the 16th, was a full day of Abe 2.0 recreation strategy at its purest. In the morning the PM was on the golf course with:

Chairman of Nippon Keidanren, former chairman of Toray Industries Sakakibara Sadayuki

Former chairman of the Nippon Keidanren (Sakakibara's predecessor but one), chairman and CEO of Canon Mitarai Fujio

Honorary advisor and former CEO, JX Holdings Watari Fumiaki

Wait a minute, you might be saying, each of these hefty executives has made his name in the past few years using his position to preserve/resurrect the foreign investor-suspicious, government coddled and coddling Japan Inc. big business model. Does a foursome like this one not send a terrible message to the outside world what kind of economy Abe favors? Is not Abe also setting himself up for having a very skewed view of his country's path forward, too?

Yes and yes.

Dinner in the evening was a relatively restrained affair, with the PM and Akie-sama joining Hie-san and Kato-san for dinner at a French dining area of the Hotel Mount Fuji.

Wait a minute, longtime readers of this blog might be again saying, this is exactly the same group of cronies and power brokers Abe vacationed with last year. (Link)


Indeed, in his first four days of vacation, Abe has spent quality time with virtually all of his tight circle of cronies and family member. And basically no one but his cronies and family members.

Which is why I am itching to go downstairs and fetch the paper, to find out the answer to my impertinent question:

"OK, but does the prime minister have any new friends?"


But upon picking my newspaper up, and checking the political news, I learn that yesterday for Abe, like for Mori before him, golf became a four letter word. (Link - J video)

N.B. The title is an allusion to the Robert Allen Zimmerman song making an even more provocative assertion. (Link)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Morning Eye

Glaring at me this morning.

Wing and abdomen of an Omizuao (Actias artemis) resting on my front door this morning. The full image is:

Image courtesies: MTC

Very Kind Of Them #24

On line radio program Asia Now had me on for a conversation about The Asahi Shimbun's retraction of some of its reporting on the comfort women (jugun ianfu) and role of the issue in the Japan-South Korean relationship.

One correction: at one point I say that Yoshida Seiji began telling his tale of rounding up women in Cheju-do in the "late 1980s." Yoshida published his memoir in 1983.

Later - If you have a comment, please submit it to the Asia Now website.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Who Is Up For A Yasukuni Visit Today?

UPDATE1: as of 09:45 JST, cabinet ministers SHINDO Yoshitaka and FURUYA Keiji have both visited Yasukuni Shrine, with Furuya declaring he signed in as "Minister of State Furuya Keiji." HAGIUDA Ko'ichi has also paid a visit, delivering Prime Minister ABE Shinzo's donation.

UPDATE 2: Minister of Japan Cool And Much Else INADA Tomomi paid her respects in the afternoon in the company of the History and Creativity Association, her small group of Diet member fellow travelers (here is their post-Yasukuni group shot from last year Link)completing the list of the Terrible Trio. Policy Research Council chief TAKAICHI Sanae, as at seemingly every major shrine event, was front and center of the Association of Diet Members For Everyone Making Visits To Yasukuni Together multi-party mass visitation. (Link - J)

Credit Abe Shinzo for having some sense. He has told the press that he will avoid making, either immediately prior to or immediately after the national ceremony commemorating the end of World War II, a visit to Yasukuni Shrine today. With his relations with the leaders of China and South Korea still in the deep freeze (Link), Putin acting like a woman scorned (Link or Link), investors showing less and less confidence in his economic reform program (Link) and world in general in turmoil, he has decided to not set the region on fire with a gratuitous end-of-The-War day visit. (Link - J video)

Instead, Abe will reprise his restraint of last year by having an aide make a a cash donation in his name instead.

So who should we be on the lookout for today at Yasukuni's gates?

Hagiuda Ko'ichi - it has been a quiet couple of months for the man who last year seemed to be speaking directly from Abe Shinzo's limbic system. If the Big Boy from Hachioji (where the Imperial tombs are located, as he will happily tell you) is once again the bag man for Abe's donation to Yasukuni, he should once again be viewed as the wide back door into Abe's chamber of secrets.

The Terrible Trio - Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Shindo Yoshitaka, State Minister for Japan Cool And A Lot Of Other Stuff Inada Tomomi and Chairman of the National Safety Commission Furuya Keiji -- the Terrible Trio -- have said nothing about going but will be going. Shindo and Furuya will probably not survive the Cabinet reshuffle on September 3 (somebody has to lose his/her job to make space for cabinet hopefuls and it is easier for Abe to dump his male Best Friends) so have an incentive to go out in a blaze of glory, signing the registers as "Member of The Abe Cabinet." Inada, who is rumored to be taking over for Taka'ichi Sanae at the Liberal Democratic Party's Policy Research Council (and one cannot think of a better way of cementing the continued irrelevance of the PARC - Link) will visit but probably either early in the morning or in the late afternoon in a private capacity. Not that she has to, mind you: Takaichi herself will be once again the smug front and center of the phalanx of Diet members paying their respects in today's heat.

Shimomura Hakubun - The arch-conservative and token poor person in Abe Shinzo inner circle has had a very quiet one and a half years, indulging in his inner revisionist only once in a florrid and ultimately pointless bid to stop the tiny Okinawan town of Taketomi from using a social studies textbook of its own choosing (Link). Oddly, he has not been mentioned among the cabinet members who are going to be retained in the reshuffle, despite his incredible patience in not carrying out the wholesale smashing of the education system long promised by Abe Shinzo loyalists and allies. If Shimomura shows up at Yasukuni today he will be signaling that he knows he will not be leading the revolution after September.

Any Other Cabinet Minister - If any other of the Cabinet's members pay their respects, it will be pretty much a declaration of his/her being in the "Shatter and splatter/Pitcher and platter/What do we care?/We won't be there!" category of September non-survivors. Since having the image of being "better than Abe at least" in terms of sensitivity to Chinese and Korean sentiments is one of the few selling points a challenger can offer, one cannot expect any of the bigwigs or factions leaders (Tanigaki, Ishihara, for example) to show up.

Ishiba Shigeru - If LDP Secretary-General Ishiba Shigeru shows up today, it means he is most definitely trolling for a "even more patriotic than Abe" reputation. Ishiba is looking to challenge Abe for the LDP presidency in September next year if the LDP's performance in local elections over the next nine months is less than stellar -- which is looking pretty likely (the  next two big tests, the Fukushima and Okinawa gubernatorial elections, look incredibly tough for the party). Ishiba has already planted his flag in more militant territory than Team Abe in the matter of a Diet examination of the recent recantations by The Asahi Shimbun of certain of their stories on the comfort women (Link). A Yasukuni visit today would indicate Ishiba is making a serious play for the affections of the radicals in the party.

Later -Yes, I too will be glad when this day is over, so I can stop talking about The War -- at least until December when Abe does make his annual pilgrimage to Yasukuni.

Image: Prime Minister Abe Shinzo laying a wreath at the atomic bombing memorial in Nagasaki on August 9, 2014.
Image courtesy: Abe Shinzo official Facebook page.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How The Comfort Women Came Into Being: A Sketch Of A Racial/Legal Entity

Yes, they really called it that.

Imperialism and racial fears and sex and commerce and legalism mix badly, it turns out.
International Convention for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic (4 May 1910)

Article 1

Whoever, in order to gratify the passions of another person, has procured, enticed, or led away, even with her consent, a woman or girl under age, for immoral purposes, shall be punished, notwithstanding that the various acts constituting the offence may have been committed in different countries.

Article 2

Whoever, in order to gratify the passions of another person, has, by fraud, or by means of violence, threats, abuse of authority, or any other method of compulsion, procured, enticed, or led away a woman or girl over age, for immoral purposes, shall also be punished, notwithstanding that the various acts constituting the offence may have been committed in different countries.



International Convention for the Suppression of the Trafficking of Women and Children (30 September 1921)

Article 1.

The High Contracting Parties agree that, in the event of their not being already Parties to the Agreement of May 18, 1904, and the Convention of May 4, 1910, mentioned above, they will transmit, with the least possible delay, their ratifications of, or adhesions to, those instruments in the manner laid down therein.

Article 2.

The High Contracting Parties agree to take all measures to discover and prosecute persons who are engaged in the traffic in children of both sexes and who commit offences within the meaning of Article i of the Convention of May 4, 1910.

Article 3.

The High Contracting Parties agree to take the necessary steps to secure the punishment of attempts to commit, and, within legal limits, of acts preparatory to the commission of, the offences specified in Articles 1 and 2 of the Convention of May 4, 1910.


Article 14.

Any Member or State signing the present Convention may declare that the signature does not include any or all of its colonies, overseas possessions, protectorates or territories under its sovereignty or authority, and may subsequently adhere separately on behalf of any such colony, overseas possession, protectorate or territory so excluded in its declaration.


Japan: The undersigned delegate of Japan ... declares that his signature does not include Chosen, Taiwan and the leased territory of Kwantung.




The government of Japan eventually acceded to the 1921 Convention in 1925. It expanded the original list of exempt territories to include Japan's South Pacific trust territories and the Japanese half of Sakhalin Island. (Link)

So, according to treaty, someone tricking a Japanese woman or woman residing in Japan into transport abroad to serve as a prostitute, or using force to do same, was illegal.

Tricking a Taiwanese or Korean woman or child, or even having a Taiwanese or Korean child go voluntarily, was not illegal.

If you were in the procurement business, let us say for a large institutional client who also was in charge of regulating said business, where and how would go about your business?


The comfort women system was not sui generis, a product of diseased national mindset. It was in many ways an unintended consequence of international conventions put forth by Europeans attempting to prevent women of European extraction ending up in the brothels of brown-skinned peoples -- and Europeans not being confident they had the resources or legal precedent to extend the writ of those conventions to the many peoples and cultures residing in their colonies. Europeans, because they were racists, unthinkingly opened a huge hole in the first international trafficking agreements -- which Japanese and the Japanese military, because they were not racists, proceeded to exploit.

Imperialism and colonialism were the roots of the problem though. It was these fundamental insults to human dignity and human life that made the best intentions and noble sentiments go wildly astray.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

After The Asahi Shimbun Retractions

"It's an old habit....I spent my whole life trying not to be careless....Women and children can afford to be careless but not men."

Vito Corleone, The Godfather (1972)
Now replace "men" with "liberals" and "women and children" with "conservatives and libertarians" and you have a pretty accurate picture of the world we live in.

After decades of resistance, The Asahi Shimbun three days ago began the painful process of retracting a series of articles it had published over the years containing the undocumentable and likely false statements of a former civilian labor recruiter. The late Yoshida Seiji had claimed he had organized a forcible round up of 200 women on the island of Cheju-do for service as prostitutes in "comfort stations" for the Imperial Japanese Army. Unfortunately for the Asahi and news organizations quoting the Asahi on the story, investigations into the accuracy of Yoshida's claims found no evidence of their being true.

Conservative publications and commentators have been going to town on The Asahi Shibun's about face (Link). The humiliation of the right's "Class A War Criminal" as regards the comfort women and the Kono Statement has stimulated some...oh let us say "opportunistic" leaders of certain demand Diet investigation of the Asahi's reversal. (Link and Link J video)

The overdue repudiation of Yoshida's claims has of course hurt the cause of those urging an East Asian entente on the comfort women issue. Yoshida's claims and their debunking have focused attention in Japan on the issue of whether the comfort women were recruited "forcibly in the narrow sense" --, i.e. kidnapped by government employees or their direct agents -- leaving underexamined the larger issue of the impossible-to-defend trafficking of women from colonized or occupied areas to provide sexual services to soldiers, sailors and officers at or near Imperial Army and Imperial Navy installations. It is an absurd assertion of Japanese revisionist circles that the only reason the comfort women issue has existed as an element of international relations has been The Asahi Shimbun's printing of articles on the subject. The idiotic domestic debate on "coercion in the narrow sense" has, of course, made the Japanese government and people look like a creepy bunch of sniveling, moon-eyed automatons obsessed with the avoidance of blame or the appearance of remorse.

When latest matsuri sawagi of hooting, hollering and "I told you so" dies down, of course, Japanese of all stripes will find that the Asahi's retractions matter not one jot in the way the world perceives the issue (Link). The world outside Japan's borders focuses, unsurprisingly, on coercion in the broader sense, which is:
Recruitment of non-national women or boys to provide sexual services for an occupying or colonial government's employees, whether through cash inducements, deceit or abduction, whether by government personnel or agents, in colonized or occupied territories, is a coerced act, no matter the legal status of prostitution in the occupying country.

That brutal reality, one of the many brutal, horrifying realities of the way the Japanese Imperial forces operated, has not changed in the aftermath of the Asahi's publication of retractions of some of its stories.

Later - Did not see this until now but it seems the good folks at JapanRealTime clicked in with a report yesterday. (Link)