Thursday, May 17, 2007


I was thinking about the recent Comfort Women resolution before the House of Representatives this morning, considering if Abe would apologize or not.

I don't think that is the point.

I then thought of this scene from "A Few Good Men." A bit longer, but as famous as "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!"

Abe, and the Japanese government, is highly unlikely to apologize. But that doesn't have to happen for something positive to come out of this. Perhaps it is more like this scene.

By continuing to pound away at this and related issues, it can only be hoped that the curtain can be pulled aside, and the skeletons can be revealed. More importantly, through dialog among Japan, China, Korea, the United States, and others can common understandings be achieved. Only then can real trust be created.

The same holds true for Yasukuni. The more the shrine and Japan's conservatives attempt to define the shrine, the less of an appetite Japan's own people not to mention its allies will have for the beliefs that are not so secret, nor so well known outside Japan.

It is an issue that will not go away. When these dirty little nuggets of knowledge do bubble to the surface, Japan's MOFA and Japan handlers in the US sweep it under the rug in order to preserve the status quo. However, I see them more as a cancer - sometimes it flares up, but usually it is benign, but merely in remission. Cancer, however, can be either treated aggressively (in this case by airing the laundry) or the US-Japan alliance can constantly be put at risk for another flareup.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Oh my....

The Earthtimes had an interesting article today. It seems that some Japanese tourists had trouble getting to Afula, and ended up in Ofra - in the West Bank. Oops! Those tricky Ls and Rs.

I guess they'll have to read the "ass taimzu" to get the humor. I'd recommend some more eikawa...

Blonde Hair and Tall Noses

An interesting string on "othering" was raised this morning on the NBR Japan-US Forum. Specifically, Victor Fic asked:

I wonder if Japanese television or movies have ever had a respectable foreign character, showed a foreinger speaking Japanese for non-entertainment or even a Japanese conversing in English? My sense is that there is no debate in Japan on how the Other is portrayed.
There are two places where I have seen foreigners portrayed in Japan, and thought "this would never fly in other countries." The first is a recent comedy duo: one wears black face, an "afro wig," and a really big fake nose. His partner has a wavy blonde wig, but also the big fake nose. I know that the "tall nose" is something Japanese are fascinated with, but I cannot imagine this in another venue outside Japan. Certainly, black face in America is no longer funny.

The other place where the "other" is portrayed is in the classroom. Especially since the introduction of the "period of integrated studies" in elementary schools in 2002, foreign AETs have been paraded in front of school children. I am of two minds as how to feel about this. On one hand, the JET Program (and now private endeavors of the same stripe) have helped to sensitize many Japanese to foreigners living in Japan. Reading John Nathan's book, Japan Unbound, I was reminded that it wasn't all that long ago that a foreigner outside one of the major port cities or Tokyo was indeed a rare sight indeed. I am sure others have first hand experiences, as I have, of people screeching their bicycles to a halt in order to gawk. Certainly, this is an area where the JET Program has been effective. No longer are foreigners so foreign. However, I also question the model of parading foreigners at "international day." Is it really a way to confirm ones own stereotypes of foreigners, especially when asked "can you use chopsticks" and the like? Note too that Blonde hair and blue eyes have also been used as a job qualification in recent months in Yamanashi.

However, to put the shoe on the other foot... I am often upset when I see American shows about Japan that tend to focus on the strange - be it penis festivals, harajuku girls, or strange food and such. The recent spread of a false news report that a Japanese actress was naive enough to have ordered a poodle, only to discover it was a lamb... which was proven to be false, is an example of this as well. So I must ask - are the Japanese alone in their focus on the weird when portraying the other? Is it done to a different degree than in other places?