Why does Koizumi do it?

A simple, naive question, I know, but when I read stuff like this I have to ask myself what he gets out of it that makes his pilgrimage worthwhile.

After months of speculation about the timing of this year’s visit, Koizumi acted Monday morning to fulfill his promise to pray annually at Yasukuni, a Shinto shrine that deifies Japan’s 2.5 million war dead, including Class A war criminals responsible for atrocities throughout Asia, where the shrine is generally regarded as a symbol of unrepentant Japanese militarism.

The shrine’s officials and its museum have long stood at the center of a movement to justify Japan’s prewar conduct, arguing that Japan tried to liberate Asia from Western powers and was pushed into World War II by the United States, and that war criminals enshrined there were innocent.

As Koizumi has led Japan to adopt a more assertive foreign policy, more and more politicians and public figures have been openly trying to justify Japan’s past. Their message has resonated in a country where anxieties over a shrinking population, uncertain economic prospects and China’s rise have led to an increase in nationalist sentiments.

Koizumi rejected criticism of his visit, saying that he was merely paying homage to Japan’s war dead. “From a long-term perspective, I believe China will understand,” Koizumi said. “No foreign government should criticize the way we mourn our war dead.”

Koizumi is smart and shrewd. He must be getting a political payback that makes the international condemnation an acceptable price to pay for his visit. Is it ramped-up nationalism, or a harmless, from-the-heart desire to honor Japan’s war dead? (Again, I know how naive and dumb these questions sound, but I’ve never really read a satisfactory explanation.)

While I find China’s reaction to the shrine visit out of proportion to the “crime,” I can understand it. Those Shrine officials are scary as hell, and if I were Chinese I’d be upset about them, too. So why does Koizumi encourage the perception that he is somehow on their side (and that is definitely a perception the world gets when he makes his annual visit, whether it is valid or not). Koizumi knows full well he’s playing with dynamite. Why bother?

The Discussion: 38 Comments

I think it’s basically

a) although most Japanese would rather he didn’t go, it isn’t that big a deal in Japan, and

b) he doesn’t like being told what to do by foreign governments (and he’s said so).

c) he’s not up for re-election again, so he can make as many points as he wants, and the next PM can be more “sensitive.”

October 17, 2005 @ 8:47 pm | Comment

boo’s, plus

(c) plays both way.
there are some vote (/power groups) in Japan he might lose if he does not go.
(these voters were not alienated by his not going in Aug, since they knew he had gone a year ago and would go again)

October 17, 2005 @ 9:35 pm | Comment

You know, I don’t want to join on the Japan-bashing bandwagon.


I’d just love to stick Koizumi’s head in a toilet and flush it a few times. He, personally, really deserves scorn and humiliation for this.

October 17, 2005 @ 10:18 pm | Comment

Are the visits in good taste? Not to many outside Japan. Do the visits affect anyone outside Japan? No.
The tape recording that plays from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on a daily basis is most appropriate. The one about not interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.

October 17, 2005 @ 10:38 pm | Comment

But let’s try to see it from the Chinese perspective. It’s a bit disingenuous to say this is strictly an “internal affair,” considering many of the war criminals buried there committed acts of savagery against Chinese people and others. I don’t really buy the internal affairs argument, not in this case and not in China’s own case.

October 17, 2005 @ 10:44 pm | Comment

Well, Richard, even if this is true, China once again has no right to complain. Consider how many lives in lower Mekong countries are being ruined because of damming on the Chinese side (just to take one issue). But we repeatedly hear about how that dams on the Chinese side are “an internal matter” for China. I’m not saying Mr. K is 100-percent right in calling it an internal affair, but once again, the arguments from the Chinese side amount to the pot calling the kettle black.

October 17, 2005 @ 10:54 pm | Comment

Thomas, I can’t argue with you. I’m just trying to be magnanimous and open minded. But your argument is correct.

October 17, 2005 @ 11:00 pm | Comment

Koizumi visits Shenzhou 6

You know, one would think that with blanket media coverage of the launch and return of Shenzhou 6, my students would be going on about it non-stop in classes this week. Not so. I must ask, therefore: how much is the Chinese space program resonating…

October 17, 2005 @ 11:51 pm | Comment

Thomas has a fair point. Whether or not Koizumi should go to Yasukuni, China engages in activities that intefere in other countries’ matters all the time.

Another example. China says that countries must not impose sanctions on Sudan because it is interfering with its internal policies – but China sells it weapons (that it can then turn on its own people). China wants to have its cake and eat it.

October 18, 2005 @ 4:02 am | Comment

Thomas has a fair point. Whether or not Koizumi should go to Yasukuni, China engages in activities that intefere in other countries’ matters all the time.

Agreed, but…it’s not just China that see this visit as a bad thing. And two wrongs don’t make a right, either. Just because China does crappy things doesn’t mean it’s okay for Koizumi to follow suit. Yes, there’s some pot/kettle here, but taken by itself, Koizumi’s visit to Yasukuni strikes me as an unnecessary and in-your-face confrontation, definitely a form of “Fuck You.” Wouldn’t it be cool if he called China’s bluff and stopped going?

October 18, 2005 @ 4:11 am | Comment

Of course people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. I’m looking in your direction, Beijing.

And world leaders shouldn’t be a**holes. *Cough* *Koizumi*.

According to the BBC, China has responded by saying Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura can make other plans instead of coming to Beijing on Sunday. The BBC says 200 parliamentarians went to the shrine as well. Actually, it was 100 reps and 92 aides functioning as proxies. Same difference. The parliament has 722 members, so that’s more than a quarter.

Trade Minister Shoichi Nakagawa said:

“I admire Mr. Koizumi who stood by his beliefs,” Nakagawa said. “All China has to do is show a mature reaction. It’s not for us to predict whether (the visit) had an effect or not.”

I think saying you don’t feel like talking right now is a perfectly mature reaction. Sounds like China might be moving more towards the high road in dealing with Japan, instead of yelling and throwing things. Good on you, China!

October 18, 2005 @ 4:32 am | Comment

I can’t make much sense of his actions, and have concluded that he makes his visits out of some strangely obsessive personal feeling of obligation. I think ACB cited that he has a cousin or other relative enshrined there. That would seem to provide a legitimate basis for a personal visit. (That is assuming it is “personal” and not in the capacity of prime minister, thus obviously making it a state visit to a religious institution, but that’s a different issue.)

China’s criticism may be reduced to three issues. First, is its outrage morally justifiable? A big yes, since the shrine certainly does glorify a savage chapter in Japan’s history in a way that is reprehensible. The shrine is a center of fascism. Yet the issue is made complex by the fact that the shrine also serves multiple functions, chief being that it has been a shrine to the war dead for over a century. This makes it difficult to extricate the different symbolisms attached to it by all the parties involved. Is an attack on visits to the shrine an attack on respecting the war dead? (As an aside, I think talk of building a secular shrine is a good thing, though under the circumstances it will take a long time to accomplish. Nonetheless it is good that such talk has begun.) Second, is China’s hypocritical in its firm stance that any criticism directed at it is de facto an “internal matter” that others should butt-out from? Yes. It is relevant? Yes, since it engages in the very behavior in many different instances, which it defines as inexcusable. (In the end though, very few matters, especially pertaining to war or how history is taught, would qualify as strictly internal.) Third, by putting forth this criticism it opens the door to international criticism directed at itself, regarding the same issues which underlie the Yasukuni controversy. Yasukuni glorifies war, it teaches a skewed state-religion-centered ideology, it twists historical facts, and promotes a nationalist ideology which denigrates other countries. Well, these same issues underlie a lot of the problems with China’s own state-sponsored history (or fiction), foreign policy, state-sponsored nationalism, lack of freedom of expression as it pertains to the subject of WW2 and host of other subjects, etc. In other words China engages in action and in substance, the very same things that are objectionable about Yasukuni.

Well what can Koizumi do? Nothing. While he can point out some of these issues, he has no ability to change China’s criticism, and the hostile environment. He has the right to associate with whomever he wants, to say what he wants, and to protest or visit whatever he wants. Just because it is objectionable behavior does not mean that it should be illegal. The Ku Klux Klan for instance, is highly objectionable, but it has the right to protest, hold marches, spew its hate speech, within its First Amendment constitutional limits. Koizumi should choose not to engage in his right, since his freedom to do so is curtailed by his status. He is first and foremost, prime minister, he is no longer a private citizen. This is a huge responsibility; the office requires that you put the interest of your country above your own. A cost-benefit analysis easily would point to NOT visiting the shrine. Visiting the shrine endangers the safety of your citizens in China, most certainly worsens political relations, dampens economic ties, and it fuels already high anti-Japan nationalism and racism. He can choose not to visit the shrine, and not set off a chain reaction, or he can choose his own selfish wish and to do so. Despite being criticized by his own people, having a court ruling declaring his visits unconstitutional, he still nonetheless “follows his heart.” That is why, it seems to me that is he obsessive compulsive.

October 18, 2005 @ 5:39 am | Comment

The primeminister J.Koizumi visit in Yasukuni Shrine. He said “This is private thing so foreign govetments don’t have right to say any complainment.” And, naturally, Korea and Chinese people oppose ageinst this statement. I also agree with the point of “Stopping visiting in Yasukuni” but it …

the following is in my blog. Please visit here later.


October 18, 2005 @ 5:52 am | Comment

Everlasting, I’m willing to aigree with most things you say except this:

First, is its outrage morally justifiable? A big yes, since the shrine certainly does glorify a savage chapter in Japan’s history in a way that is reprehensible.

Disgusting though the shrine may be, at least in the hands of its officials, I do believe there is a Chinese over-reaction to the visit. We all know the misery they went through at the hands of the Japanese. But the ballistic reaction this shrine arouses isn’t commensurate with the history of the shrine, even if some awful barbarians are buried there and some loony officials are trying to rewrite Japan’s military history. Unfortunately, a lot of the reaction in China appears fanned by the government as a tactic to divert attention from its own deficiencies. That is is why I think it would be so brilliant for Koizumi to call China’s bluff and announce he has reconsidered and feels it’s not in Japan’s interest for him to make official visits to the shrine. (Of course, knowing the Asian psyche I know this isn’t going to happen anytime soon.) This is the lynchpin that always sets China off, and when you point out all the apologies, the reflex reaction is always the same: What about the shrine!!?? Take that out of the picture, and we’ll know soon enough if it’s actually the shrine that’s behind all that blind rage, or if the shrine simply provides a convenient excuse for keeping old wounds festering, to the government’s advantage. I don’t know which it is, but it would be enlightening to see.

October 18, 2005 @ 6:07 am | Comment

My gut reaction is that if the shrine ceased to be an issue, China would very soon start hyper overreacting to the Diaoyutais, or to the Chunxiao gas fields, or to Japan’s constant declarations that Taiwan is a part of its security interests. (They complain a lot about these things now. I just have a hunch one of them would become THE issue that shows Japan has hostile intentions.)

Actually, I am split on Koizumi’s visits. The thing is, none of us knows what is going on in his mind and where he sees his interests lie. And it is true that the history of the shrine makes it difficult to claim Koizumi is glorifying Japanese militarism. Perhaps he needs a face-saving way out and has not found it yet. Who knows? But it is the incapability of fathoming his actions that makes me agree with Richard in seeing this as an overreaction on the part of the Chinese. His visits certainly COULD be seen as honoring Japanese militarism. And of course, the visits DO hurt some people’s feelings. So I think some complaints on the part of the Chinese are justified. But there is no need to take those complaints to the level the Chinese do since Koizumi doesnt seem to be a militarist, has apologized for his country’s actions, and is visiting a shrine that honors a lot of people who died for his country that had nothing to do with the nastiest of WW2 actions.

October 18, 2005 @ 10:48 am | Comment

Unfortunately, given Koizumi’s conflicting signals, and given the soreness of this topic, and given the shrine’s symbolic value, China’s hardly going to be predisposed to think the best of his motivations.

Oh god this whole thing so needs to be over…what’s the point? I’m sure there is a point, but I just can’t fathom it. On neither side.

October 18, 2005 @ 11:58 am | Comment

China did not earn the right to criticize because they are still going to worship the monster in the Mao ZeDong Mausoleum in TianAnMen Squre in Beijing. Mao had killed far more people than the Japanese army ever did in China. South Koreans earn that right but China has yet to earn it.

October 18, 2005 @ 6:27 pm | Comment

I basically see two points here.

First, Koizumi’s personal character definitely plays the biggest role.

He has kept saying that he really doesn’t understand why he must not visit the shrine and why anybody, not just the Chinese and Koreans, could intervene his religion based on their disagreement with the teachings of his religion. It is likely that he will stick to his own belief, no matter who tries to convince him otherwise, as he demonstrated it when the bill of the postal services privatization was dismantled in the last regular parliament sesseion.

Secondly, what has Japan actually lost as a result of the deterioration in the diplomatic relations with China and South Korea?

Not much in reality, as far as I know. Did it hurt businesses? Maybe a little, but the Japanese economy has been getting better and better with the huge bad loans repaid and disappeared. Student demonstrations, boycotts, accusations, rejections, etc. did not cause much trouble after all.

The membership in the U.N. Security Council? Japan was not a member and there was nothing to lose in the first place. Instead, the Japanese government now has a good reason and opportunity to reduce its financial commitment to the U.N. by demanding to transfer the financial responsibility to China and South Korea, both of whom are big economies now.

At the current level of interactions both in the public and private sector, it appears that Japanese, Korean, and Chinese people are all doing all right with their own lives. What else do we need more? Simply becasuse we are close in geographic proximity deoen’t necessarily mean that we must be very good friends at the natinal level.

I don’t know if others here in Japan feel the same way I do, but the poll shows that 42 percent supported the visit while 41 percent didn’t. Yesterday, after Koizumi’s Yasukuni visitation, more than a hundred parliament members, mostly LDP members, visited the shrine.

October 18, 2005 @ 7:38 pm | Comment

Richard, a minor point, but I don’t think anyone is “buried” at the shrine. Rather their spirits are commemorated there. I attended a Korean memorial service for anti-communist North Korean guerrillas killed up there during the war a few weeks ago, and noted that each guerrilla unit or band had a separate black granite stele erected in honor of their dead, with a small funeral mound behind each stele.When I asked if any remains were interred there, I was told that they were interred “in spirit”. As for Koizumi’s motives, I believe he is playing to a strictly Japanese audience. Perhaps the most painful memory for the Chinese government is not the number of Chinese who lost their lives, but rather the very dominating presence in wartime China of a Japanese military power, a people viewed by the Chinese as decidedly inferior, and little better than barbarians. I would hardly suggest that they be “grateful”, but without Japan’s intervention in China, an event that exposed and exacerbated all the flaws in China’s nationalist government, the Communists would never have gained power.

October 18, 2005 @ 8:33 pm | Comment

Reference the Korea aside above, I omitted to say that my impression is that Japanese war shrines are similar, despite the fact that the underlying religion is Shinto.

October 18, 2005 @ 8:35 pm | Comment

Maybe he just likes the attention….

October 18, 2005 @ 10:19 pm | Comment

CCP should be demanding the destruction of the tombs of both Mao and CKS, who together are responsible for far more deaths in China than the Japanese Imperial Army.
Or is the message that it’s okay for Chinese to kill each other?

I also agree that the shrine is just a convenient excuse. Take that away and there’ll be another. And another. Next thing you know, your foreign policy is being set in Beijing. I don’t applaud Koizumi for visiting the shrine, but I applaud him for ignoring Beijing’s whining on the subject.

October 18, 2005 @ 10:36 pm | Comment

According to http://news.independent.co.uk/world/asia/article320321.ece
apparently “(d)ozens of online bulletin boards in China alleged that Mr Koizumi deliberately timed his trip to steal Beijing’s thunder” concerning the ‘glorious return’ (amazing after that topic above concerning Chinese cars) of their rocket ship.

October 18, 2005 @ 10:40 pm | Comment

Richard said:

We all know the misery they went through at the hands of the Japanese. But the ballistic reaction this shrine arouses isn’t commensurate with the history of the shrine, even if some awful barbarians are buried there and some loony officials are trying to rewrite Japan’s military history.

This time around I think the reaction hasn’t been so ballistic. The Foreign Ministry basically said “Fine, if you’re gonna be like that then don’t come over this weekend”. I find it interesting that the shrine visit happened just before the Japanese foreign minister was supposed to go to Beijing. October 17th, 18th and 19th are the dates of the Autumn festival for the shrine. That means the Japanese Foreign ministry and Beijing scheduled a meeting knowing full well that it would be less than a week after one of the two most likely times for Koizumi to visit! Seems fishy to me, both sides oughta have seen the outcome and scheduled, oh, maybe the week before – if they really felt like talking, that is. I don’t think either side does.

I wouldn’t dismiss this as just a few loonies, either. Granted, the Japanese public doesn’t really agree with the right wingers in Japan, but the right wingers do hold a great deal of power and as I pointed out, a quarter of parliament went with Koizumi. I get the impression they’re like the neocons; a tiny group with a great deal of political power whose wackier ideas are dismissed or ignored by the general public. Look how far the neocons got with that deal. The right wing nationalists have everything to gain from the scheduling of the canceled Beijing visit, too, since the date sabotaged it. I bet nationalists in Japan and China had a hand in arranging a meeting just so it could be canceled, and they could both stoke the home fires.

As for the shrine itself, it’s not a neutral site. It’s clearly in the hands of people with a particular political agenda. Go to the official website. Here’s some quotes:

While I know that I will surely not return after taking off, a great number of my fellow pilots have set out to scatter their bodies in the skies with a smile on their face. I will also follow them and scatter myself magnificently.

I had hoped to visit home one last time but at this belated hour I cannot think about such things….

There is only hitting our target with a single blow for us. We have no thoughts of life and death. For us the greatest glory is to simply die for the country.

Yuzuru Sogabe Mikoto
Ensign, Japanese Navy
Second Ryusei Squadron, Kamikaze Special Attack Corps
Killed in Action on August 9, 1945 in the seas southeast of Honshu
Born in Ehime Prefecture
Age: 21

That’s as foaming nationalist as anything else I can imagine. That’s not put up as a deterrent either. Further down:

This matter is drawn upon the judgment professed by the Military Tribunal for the Far East that Japan fought a war of aggression. Can we say that this view is correct? We must pass judgment on this matter in the same manner of a tribunal that passes judgment after gathering credible proof. We cannot help but feel that the possibility of ulterior motives have not been discounted. Isn’t it a fact that the West with its military power invaded and ruled over much of Asia and Africa and that this was the start of East-West relations? There is no uncertainty in history. Japan’s dream of building a Great East Asia was necessitated by history and it was sought after by the countries of Asia.

That’s not just apologist for Japanese imperialism, that’s a strong endorsement of it. I’d like to see a European museum say that their carving up of Africa was “sought after” by its indigenes. Again, China indulges in plenty of historical fiction as well and its repugnant. But bullshit should be called no matter where it comes from.

October 19, 2005 @ 1:53 am | Comment

Dave, the “ballistic” I referred to was in regard to the Chinese bloggers and a lot of students, not the government, which is careful never to go too ballistic over Japan (the hand that feeds them and all that). And maybe the reaction this year was toned down across the board, since so much steam was let off last April.

The radicals who run the shrine are really scary and as I said, I can well understand why the Chinese (and everyone else) would feel upset by their cause and their fanatacism. I condemn the shrine and Koizumi’s visits. I’m still surprised, however, at how logic seems to evaporate on certain message boards and blog threads at the mere mention of the shrine. It’s like hitting a nerve with a sledgehammer.

October 19, 2005 @ 2:44 am | Comment

I don’t agree with the rumors Keir reports, that Koizumi did it all to ruin China’s spaceman party. That makes even less sense since when Yang Liwei got back, I remember not a single Chinese person I knew cared. I thought it was cool, and every Chinese person I knew was like “uh huh”. Now they get excited, I guess because the govt. said “Everyone will be excited – NOW!”

I do think, however, that since this was an annual festival visit, that the scheduled trip to Beijing for the foreign minister was deliberately timed to be canceled. Both sides couldn’t have been so dumb as to not realize they were scheduling a high-profile foreign ministers meeting a week after a window-of-opportunity-closing holiday. That’s like scheduling your wedding after your divorce.

October 19, 2005 @ 2:57 am | Comment

Please will people stop relating the shrine to the handful of war criminals that are in it, and stop seeing this as any comment on the war. It is true that there are some very nast people named there, but they are in the minority. Shrine visits are not a sign of nationalism. To pray there is to pray for PEACE and to remember the sorrow and the loss of war, not to glorify it.

As Japan LOST the war, you cannot actually glorify dead war criminals. They have no glory to honor.

For anybody who doesn’t know, Prime Minister Koizumi was visiting the shrine at the time of an annual autum festival that is held there. He was NOT there because of war criminals, and his presence there is his own busines, not China’s and not even other Japanese. He has the right to attend religious ceremonies as he pleases.

You should also note that he hasn’t visited the shrine for several years, and that in all of that time China has not once seen his absense from the shrine as being a positive thing, instead they chose to dwell on the handfull of times that he went there in the past.

October 19, 2005 @ 3:53 am | Comment

“To pray there is to pray for PEACE and to remember the sorrow and the loss of war, not to glorify it.”

I’m not so sure about this, though. The problem is everything we hear in the media (Western or Chinese propaganda) about the Yakasuni shrine has been so filtered through the hypercharged politics surrounding it, that I can’t be sure of its true meaning nor purpose for the Japanese people.

October 19, 2005 @ 9:09 am | Comment

Nausicaa, think of it this way: there are almost 2.5 million souls commemorated at that shrine. I’m pretty sure Koizumi has relatives among them, as do a very large proportion of the Japanese population. That’s what they think of when they go there or see Koizumi there.

Only those who don’t have relations to the shrine have the luxury of thinking about 14 or so souls out of the 2.4 million there that the Chinese dictators don’t like, and think they can use as a reason to order Koizumi not to visit the place.

October 19, 2005 @ 12:35 pm | Comment

“As Japan LOST the war, you cannot actually glorify dead war criminals. They have no glory to honor.”
Unless you’re a Southerner….
Yeah, I don’t believe that Koizumi did it tospoil China’s party- that’s INSANE! But that’swhy I mentioned it…

October 19, 2005 @ 4:53 pm | Comment

ACB said:

Shrine visits are not a sign of nationalism.

What about those quotes from the Shrine’s official website? As I posted before, since apparently none of you bothered to read it:

There is no uncertainty in history. Japan’s dream of building a Great East Asia was necessitated by history and it was sought after by the countries of Asia.

That’s on the shrine front page, in an essay by Kenji Ueda, President of Kokugakuin University.

ACB said:

To pray there is to pray for PEACE and to remember the sorrow and the loss of war, not to glorify it.

Funny, since on the front page is a 22 year old kamikaze pilots last message saying:

There is only hitting our target with a single blow for us. We have no thoughts of life and death. For us the greatest glory is to simply die for the country.

This stuff doesn’t glorify war?

The Shrine is clearly under the control of a right wing faction that espouses an extreme viewpoint, going so far as to say the rest Asia wanted Japan to invade them. Has Koizumi ever distanced himself from these views? Does he visit the Shrine but say that he disagrees with some of the extreme views the museum holds? Maybe he’s praying for peace, but praying for peace in a place that justifies a brutal invasive imperialist war is hypocrisy.

October 19, 2005 @ 5:35 pm | Comment

Also, the name Yasukuni means “peaceful” place, doesn’t it? But it was built originally to honor those who died in the Boshin Civil War – only those who fought for the Emperor, those who fought “for the sake of the nation”. So all those other Japanese people who were on the losing side of the war – no peace for them. Wouldn’t a war shrine truly dedicated to peace take in the former enemy, especially those who are Japanese?

And that’s a nationalist origin, by the way – being built to enshrine those who restored the Empire.

October 19, 2005 @ 5:40 pm | Comment

Please don’t miss the big picture here. The shrine visit is just a small wave in the new conservatism tide in Japan. I am surprised that ACB and soudenjapan didn’t mention this background at all. The new conservatism promotes that Japan should get rid of the outdated influence of WWII history and pursue a political status in this world that will match up its economic status, and finally make Japan a genuine normal country. Sounds like an OK theory. However it is very sad that they’ve decided to choose some very controversial activities to symbolize the success of new conservatism in Japan. Shrine visit is a symbol of independence in their definition. The next symbol of independent and genuine normal country will be the successful revision of the present anti constitution. I am sure that the bill will passed sooner or later in today’s environment. Then the remilitarization will be just ahead.
Let me point out Koizumi’s motive again just in case you still didn’t figure out what I am saying. The shrine visit is just an opening remark for a huge new conservatism movement in Japan. The Koizumi wants to make the visit as routine activity for Japanese leaders, and by repeating it, he wish to obtain the general acceptance of Japan’s public and even China’s and Korea’s public. Once this acceptance is achieved, the conservatism movement can be smoothly operated later.
However I should point it out to ACB and soudenjapan: it is very ironic to know that a movement for an independent and genuine normal Japan relies on certain US-Japan treaties and US military bases. In this sense, even India is more respectful than Japan. If Japan can not quit being a little brother of US, how could you guys expect others treat you as a genuine normal country? Are you gonna be a genuine normal bully in Asia only or what? The new conservatism has gone to the wrong direction by choosing the wrong logo in the first step. Anyway I wish you guys eventually could succeed in making yourself normal in your own definition. What China can do is very little except some yelling. Resisting accepting your own identity, history and origin doesn’t guarantee that you will find a new one. Avoiding the problem is not the same as solving the problem. Is it really impossible to move out all those war criminals and delete those offensive comments from the shrine as Korean suggested at all?

October 19, 2005 @ 6:29 pm | Comment

Japan remilitarize? I had to break the bad news to ya Lin but once you factor out the US the Japanese military is the big kid on the block in East Asia. you don’t get much more remilitarized than that.

October 19, 2005 @ 7:05 pm | Comment

The Japanese SDF? Big boy on the block?

Hmmm … the navy, maybe. But I’ll take the ROK Army over the SDF any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Even arrogant U.S. Marines view ROK Marines with respect. And unlike the Japanese, the ROKs actually train to fight a real war and have officers with combat experience.

October 20, 2005 @ 6:43 pm | Comment

I feel a huge wave of relief wash over me whenever I read Westerners’ reactions to all this (as on this blog). When I lived in Japan I was anything but sympathetic to the Japanese in WWII and the dominant Japanese reactions of (1) not wanting to know anything about it, (2) feeling victimised by the dropping of the A-bomb, or (3) still believing some of the pre-war rhetoric.

Having come to China, I seem to have done an about-face. In the face of the ‘national hatred’ that the Chinese have for the Japanese, which treats Japan and the Japanese as a monolithic enemy, the constant harping on the past (a twisted and one-sided version of the past), the inability to give credit to Japan for having moved on, the hypocrisy of criticising Japan for things that apply more to China itself, and the shrill unreasoning tone of Chinese nationalism, I find myself defending the Japanese.

All too often I find myself in quaking in anger and despair at the unquestioning acceptance of such ethnic hatred and nationalism, and the ability of these ugly sentiments to stir people to such belligerent heights.

October 20, 2005 @ 9:09 pm | Comment

The last time I did a comparison, the Japanese SDF was the 23rd (or 24th) largest military force in the world. Within an Asian context, they are well below China (#1), India (#4), North Korea (#3, 4, or 5, depending upon the source), South Korea (#6), Vietnam (#10), and Taiwan (#14). (Various sources, but a ranking can be found in “The Economist” Pocket World in figures (my desk copy is 2003). Lin makes some very cogent points, as does Dave, but the rhetoric on all war shrines is fairly similar. A Colombian friend, who later rose to prominence is his country’s armed forces, once remarked that all true military men were at heart Fascists. Not in the Nazi sense, but in the Nietschian sense. Courage, Honor, Sacrifice, unflinching Devotion to Duty in the face of overwhelming odds, coupled with a cult of athletic youth and the bonds of comradeship. He thus felt a closer bond to the guerrillas he hunted down than with the “perfumed pansies” of the Bogota General Staff. All the more reason to shudder at Lin’s warnings, while remembering that a nation should be allowed to remember the sacrifices of its dead.

October 21, 2005 @ 12:04 am | Comment

It isn’t the number of soldiers in the military that makes the army strong unless of course y’all are contemplating human wave attacks… again. It is the equipment.

If there is a conflict just where do y’all think the battlefield will be? I’ll give you a hint, it won’t be on dry land. it will be a conflict between the airforces and navies. Which brings us back to Japan’s SDF being the big dog on the block.


October 21, 2005 @ 2:19 am | Comment

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