Category Archives: Japan

Japan set for landmark easing of constitutional limits on military

Linda Sieg reports for Reuters:

‘Japan is poised for a historic shift in its defense policy by ending a ban that has kept the military from fighting abroad since World War Two, a major step away from post-war pacifism and a big political victory for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The change will significantly widen Japan’s military options by ending the ban on exercising “collective self-defense”, or aiding a friendly country under attack. It will also relax limits on activities in U.N.-led peace-keeping operations and “grey zone” incidents short of full-scale war, according to a draft government proposal made available to reporters.

For now, however, Japan is likely to remain wary of putting boots on the ground in future multilateral operations such as the 1990-1991 Gulf War or the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, activities Abe himself has ruled out. The change will likely rile an increasingly assertive China, whose ties with Japan have chilled due to a maritime row, mutual mistrust and the legacy of Japan’s past military aggression, but will be welcomed by Tokyo’s ally Washington, which has long urged Japan to become a more equal partner in the alliance.’


Okinawa governor to drop call to kick out U.S. air base

Eric Johnston reports for the Japan Times:

Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima‘Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima will not include a call to kick Futenma air base out of the prefecture at next week’s ceremony commemorating the 69th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa, prefectural officials said Thursday. The move comes six months after the governor approved a landfill project in Nago’s Henoko district needed to build a replacement base for the facility, which angered anti-base activists and a group representing the families of those lost in the battle.

It is also likely to increase tensions between Nakaima, who has indicated he wants to run for a third term this autumn, and his potential challenger, Naha Mayor Takeshi Onaga, who, although opposed to the Henoko relocation plan, is gaining ground among those who once backed Nakaima. More than 5,800 people attended last year’s June 23 ceremony, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Since 2012, the ceremony has included a recital of a peace declaration by the governor that calls on Tokyo to move Futenma outside Okinawa and to revise the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement to give local officials more authority over U.S. military personnel.’


China now has more millionaires than any country but the U.S.

Jason Chow reports for The Wall Street Journal:

totals‘There are now more millionaires in China than in Japan, as the wealthiest Chinese reaped huge returns from shadow-banking-related financial products, a new study revealed. China had 2,378,000 millionaire households in 2013, a rise of 82% from the previous year and almost double the 1,240,000 millionaire households in Japan, according to the Boston Consulting Group Global Wealth 2014 report. China’s millionaire population is now the world’s second-largest, trailing only the U.S., which boasted 7,135,000 millionaire households in 2013. BCG defines a millionaire household as those with $1 million in total liquid wealth, including stocks, cash and other financial investments but not real estate, collectibles or luxury items.’


Okinawa Mayor Takes Fight Against U.S. Base to Washington

Andrew Siddons writes for The New York Times:

‘To some, the long-stalled agreement to relocate a United States Marine base from a heavily populated area of Okinawa, Japan, to a smaller city might finally be seeing the light of day. During his visit to Japan in April, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said, “We look forward to the facility’s construction beginning soon.” A few weeks later at a news conference in Tokyo, President Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed that progress had been made.

But for Susumu Inamine, mayor of the smaller city, Nago, the fight is far from over. In meetings at think tanks and with United States government officials this week, Mr. Inamine said that the government in Tokyo and Okinawa’s governor, who support the plan, did not speak for the island’s citizens. The city of Nago, he said, has the power to slow down or block construction of the base by deciding which roads or ports can be used and by exercising its authority to approve or deny certain permits. “What I really wanted to express here was if they unilaterally push forward this plan against the local people, it will not work well,” he said through an interpreter.’


Japan Moves to Scale Back Postwar Restrictions on the Use of Military Power

Martin Fackler reports for The New York Times:

‘Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may be about to take one of his biggest steps yet to nudge Japan away from its postwar pacifism after a government advisory panel recommended Thursday that constitutional restrictions on the military be eased to allow Japanese forces to come to the aid of allied nations under attack. The panel, which was appointed by the Abe government, called on Japan to adopt a new legal interpretation of its war-renouncing Constitution that would permit an expanded role for its military, the Self-Defense Forces. Those forces have been strictly limited to protecting Japan’s own territory and people since they were created soon after World War II.

The reinterpretation would allow Japanese armed forces to act in limited cases even when Japan is not at risk, such as by shooting down a North Korean missile headed toward the United States, something it cannot legally do now. The proposed change would also allow Japanese forces to play a larger role in United Nations peacekeeping operations, the panel said. Though Japan has sent troops to peacekeeping operations since 1992, they act under severe constraints. If accepted, it would represent a fundamental shift in the stance of Japan’s military.’


The World’s Largest Companies: China Takes Over The Top Three Spots

Liyan Chen reports for Forbes:

G2000 region pie chart 2014‘The FORBES Global 2000 is a comprehensive list of the world’s largest, most powerful public companies, as measured by revenues, profits, assets and market value. We weight the four numbers equally to come up with a composite score, in pursuit of our goal to best capture the full picture of corporate size.  This year, the Global 2000 companies hail from 62 countries, up from 46 in our inaugural 2003 ranking. In total, they raked in revenues of $38 trillion and profits of $3 trillion, with assets worth $161 trillion and a market value of $44 trillion. All those totals are higher than a year ago, with the largest growth being in market value (up 13% year-over-year). These firms employ 90 million people worldwide.

For the first time, China is home to the world’s three biggest public companies and five of the top 10. State-controlled Chinese bank ICBC holds onto its No.1 spot for a second consecutive year, while China Construction Bank takes second place and Agricultural Bank of China moves up five spots to third. They’re joined in the top 10 by the other member of the “Big Four” Chinese banks, Bank of China, at No.9. As China gains ground, its best frenemy – the United States – account for the other half of the top 10 spots. Berkshire Hathaway and Wells Fargo WFC +0.1% both move up four spots to No.5 and No. 9, respectively. J.P. Morgan slides to fourth place as its total composite score slipped behind Agricultural Bank of China. Say goodbye to the two Europe-based companies in Top 10 last year, Royal Dutch Shell  (No.11) and HSBC Holdings  (No.14).’


TPP: China pushes for rival trans-Pacific trade deal

From SINA:

‘China is pressing for a vast Asia-Pacific free trade agreement, a senior official said Wednesday, as a rival US-led deal that excludes the Asian giant has yet to reach agreement. Wang Shouwen, an assistant commerce minister, told reporters at a briefing that China has proposed setting up a working group to study the feasibility of an Asia-Pacific Free Trade Agreement (FTAAP). The proposal comes ahead of a meeting in May of trade ministers from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, which China will host.

…The United States has been trying to secure agreement on a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a grouping of 12 nations including Japan, Australia, Malaysia and Mexico. All belong to APEC. But the US-led trade talks have become hung up on issues related to Japan’s tightly-guarded auto and agricultural sectors. There had been hopes that Tokyo and Washington might break an impasse in the stalled talks during US President Barack Obama’s visit to Japan last week, but they failed to clinch a deal and negotiations continue.

Chinese President Xi Jinping in October said at the APEC business forum in Indonesia that his country will “commit itself to building a trans-Pacific regional cooperation framework that benefits all parties”. The comments were interpreted by Chinese media as criticism of the TPP — a key part of Obama’s economic and strategic policy.’


New economic world order: 1. China. 2. USA. 3. India

Deepak Chitnis writes for The American Bazaar:

‘A new report by the World Bank shows that China is all but guaranteed to surpass the US this year as the world’s largest economy, currently just a hair’s breadth away from claiming the top spot, while India stands at a solid third place.

The study, put together under the World Bank’s International Comparison Program, analyzed the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) of various nations. By using PPP, says the report, researchers were allowed to essentially equalize the disparate currencies of the countries that were studied, and compare “size and price levels of economies around the world.”

The numbers, all of which are from 2011, show that China’s overall GDP was 87% of that of the US, more than double the 43% that Chinese GDP was in relation to the US in 2005. India experienced similar growth, jumping from 19% of US GDP in 2005 to 37% in 2011; in the process, India vaulted from the tenth-largest world economy to the third-largest in the span of just six years.’


Michael Wolf captures Tokyo’s claustrophobic metro during rush hour


Japan’s Biggest Organized Crime Syndicate Now Has Its Own Web Site and Theme Song

Jake Adelstein and Nathalie-Kyoko Stucky write for Vice news:

Japan's Biggest Organized Crime Syndicate Now Has Its Own Web Site and Theme SongJapan’s largest organized crime group, the Yamaguchi-gumi, recently launched its own website. But if you’re hoping to see guys with crazy tattoos, dramatic gun battles, bloody sword fights, and fingers being chopped off — and who isn’t? — it may disappoint. For starters, the site looks like it was created in the late 1990s. Still, the criminal syndicate is hoping it’ll serve as a recruitment tool as the membership of yakuza organizations shrink and public support for them falls. And the branding reflects this; the site at first appears to be for an organization known as the Banish Drugs and Purify The Nation League — or Drug Expulsion of Land Purification Alliance, as Google translates it. The “purify the nation” thing is potentially unsettling, but it still doesn’t sound like a criminal organization.

But it was founded by one. The then-leader of the Yamaguchi-gumi founded it in 1963 as a group “dedicated to the eradication of amphetamine abuse.” Sources familiar with the syndicate told VICE News that the site was launched under the Banish Drugs… monicker to, one, remind Yamaguchi-gumi members to behave themselves, and two, to convince people that the Yamaguchi-gumi is not “an anti-social force,” as they’re called by police, and are instead a “humanitarian organization.” However, veteran police detective told us that they suspect the site may be a signal that the Yamaguchi-gumi plans to expand their operations. Japan has 21 designated organized crime-groups — the yakuza — each with their own corporate logo, office, and business cards. The groups are patriarchal pseudo-family organizations structured like a pyramid, with the top boss known as the oyabun ["father figure"] and those under him known as kobun ["children"]. They each control different regions of the country.


Japan accepts UN court ban on Antarctic whaling

From BBC News:

The UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ruled that the Japanese government must halt its whaling programme in the Antarctic. It agreed with Australia, which brought the case in May 2010, that the programme was not for scientific research as claimed by Tokyo.

Japan said it would abide by the decision but added it “regrets and is deeply disappointed by the decision”. Australia argued that the programme was commercial whaling in disguise.

The court’s decision is considered legally binding. Japan had argued that the suit brought by Australia was an attempt to impose its cultural norms on Japan.


Chomsky: From Hiroshima to Fukushima, Vietnam to Fallujah, State Power Ignores Its Massive Harm

‘World-renowned political dissident, linguist, author and MITProfessor Noam Chomsky traveled to Japan last week ahead of the three-year anniversary of the Fukushima crisis. Chomsky, now 85 years old, met with Fukushima survivors, including families who evacuated the area after the meltdown. “[It's] particularly horrifying that this is happening in Japan with its unique, horrendous experiences with the impact of nuclear explosions, which we don’t have to discuss,” Chomsky says. “And it’s particularly horrifying when happening to children — but unfortunately, this is what happens all the time.”‘ (Democracy Now!)

If Successful, Fukushima Class Actions Could Wipe Out General Electric

Elizabeth Warmerdam reports for Courthouse News:

General Electric faces two multibillion-dollar class actions from people hurt by the Fukushima nuclear disaster and its aftermath, who say GE and GE-Hitachi failed to properly design and maintain the power plant. One 2-page summons and notice in New York County Supreme Court demands compensatory damages of at least $3 million per plaintiff, but does not estimate the size of the class.

No one died in the radiation leak set off by a tsunami, but more than 100,000 people were evacuated.  At $3 million apiece, damages would come to $300 billion. If granted, such an award could wipe out General Electric, which Forbes calls the second-largest company in the world. GE has 10 billion shares outstanding, and is trading at about $26, giving it a market capitalization of about $260 billion.


Where Have Japan’s Yakuza Gone?

Jake Adelstein and Nathalie-Kyoko Stucky write for The Daily Beast:

The number of yakuza, Japan’s organized crime group members, hit its lowest record since the country’s first anti-organized crime laws passed in 1992, the National Police Agency announced this week. The number of yakuza had hovered around 80,000 for almost 18 years up to 2011 but the nationwide criminalization of paying the yakuza or doing business with them has dealt a blow to these quasi-legal organizations. However, like many things in Japan, the statistics and the reality are always slightly askew.

According to the National Police Agency, yakuza membership peaked in 1963, at approximately 184,100 members. Since the implementation of the anti-organized crime laws in 1992, the number of active members “has been approximately at the same level” of roughly 80,000. But by the end of 2011 membership was starting to seriously decline down to 70,300 members. (32,700 regular members and 37,600 associates.)


Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Three Years Later, Who is Responsible?: Interview with Chiho Kaneko and Arnie Gundersen

‘Nuclear power engineer Arnie Gunderson and journalist Chiho Kaneko discuss a lawsuit to hold General Electric and other reactor manufacturing companies responsible and the Japanese public’s attitude toward nuclear energy.’ (The Real News)

Japan: Robot to take top university exam

From BBC News:

Japanese scientist can now talk to robotsScientists in Japan are trying to create a computer program smart enough to pass the University of Tokyo’s entrance exam, it appears. The project, led by Noriko Arai at Japan’s National Institute of Informatics, is trying to see how fast artificial intelligence might replace the human brain so that people can start training in completely new areas. “If society as a whole can see a possible change coming in the future, we can get prepared now,” she tells the Kyodo news agency.

But there’s also another purpose behind the Can A Robot Get Into The University of Tokyo? project, which began in 2011. If machines cannot replace human beings, then “we need to clarify what is missing and move to develop the technology,” says Noriko Arai. Last year, a robot passed a mock test for Japan’s most competitive university entrance exam – but fell short of a 50% score. In a recent interview with the Observer newspaper, Google’s director of engineering, Ray Kurzweil, predicted computers would outsmart humans by 2029.

George Takei on Life Inside a Japanese Internment Camp During WWII

‘Legendary actor, author and activist, George Takei, best known for playing Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek, appears on Democracy Now! for an extended interview. In this excerpt, he talks about his role as World War II veteran Sam Kimura in “Allegiance: A New American Musical.” The musical tells the story of a Japanese-American family who is relocated from their farm after the attack on Pearl Harbor and placed in an internment camp in Wyoming. This parallels part of Takei’s own family history. At the age of five, his family was shipped to a Japanese-American internment camp in Rohwer, Arkansas.’ (Democracy Now!)

US scientists were “accomplices after the fact” in Japanese doctors’ war crimes

Michael Cook writes for BioEdge:

All of contemporary bioethics springs from the Nuremberg Doctors Trial in 1947. Seven Nazi doctors and officials were hanged and nine received severe prison sentences for performing experiments on an estimated 25,000 prisoners in concentration camps without their consent. Only about 1,200 died but many were maimed and psychologically scarred.

So did the US do to the hundreds of Japanese medical personnel who experimented on Chinese civilians and prisoners of war of many nationalities, including Chinese, Koreans, Russians, Australians, and Americans? They killed an estimated 3,000 people in the infamous Unit 731 in Harbin, in northeastern China before and during World War II – plus tens of thousands of civilians when they field-tested germ warfare. Many of the doctors were academics from Japan’s leading medical schools.


Well, almost nothing. Twelve doctors were tried and found guilty by the Soviets in the Khabarovsk War Crime Trials in 1949, but they were all repatriated in 1956. American authorities dismissed the trials as Soviet propaganda. Many of the doctors in Unit 731 went on to successful careers in Japan after the War. The commander of the unit, Shirō Ishii, lived in relative obscurity but his successor late in the war, Kitano Masaji, became head of one of Japan’s leading pharmaceutical companies.

How did the Japanese doctors escape justice?

A fascinating answer appears in the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics. The broad outline of the story has been well documented, even if it is not widely known. To cut a long story short, the Americans struck a deal with the doctors. They traded immunity from prosecution for access to scientific information from the ghastly Japanese experiments – many of which are too grim to detail here. (If you have the stomach for it, a remorseful doctor describes, at the age of 90, some of his vivisection experiments in an article in the Japan Times.)


Japan Mystery: Anne Frank’s Diary Torn Apart

Ripped copies of Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl and related books are shown at Shinjuku City Library in Tokyo Friday, Feb. 21, 2014.Arden Dier writes for Newser:

More than 100 copies of Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, plus many other related works that make mention of her or the Holocaust, have been ripped apart recently in Tokyo—the capital of a country where sales of the diary are second only to those in the US. Per Kyodo News, some 265 books in total have been vandalized at 31 libraries since last month, with one library describing its affected books as “unusable” after some 10 to 20 pages were torn from them. A library worker in West Tokyo adds, “Each and every book which comes up under the index of Anne Frank has been damaged at our library.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has called for an investigation, and points out that “the geographic scope of these incidents strongly suggest an organized effort to denigrate the memory of the most famous of the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered by the Nazis in the World War II Holocaust.” For now, “we don’t know why this happened or who did it,” Japan’s library council head tells the AFP. A BBC correspondent points out that Japan has neither a history of Jewish settlement nor a history of anti-Semitism.


Decades after internment, Japanese-Americans warn of what’s still possible

Japanese-American Internment Remembrance DayMassoud Hayoun writes for Al Jazeera:

Japanese-Americans are holding a Day of Remembrance this week for community elders who were unlawfully locked in internment camps during World War II. But for many people — including U.S. judicial authorities — the specter of the camps is hardly a thing of the past. “You are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again,” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told University of Hawaii law students earlier this month. “In times of war, the laws fall silent.”

For many former detainees who will tell their stories during remembrance events Wednesday [Feb 19th], Scalia’s words are a sobering reminder that national security at times trumps constitutional rights. They think of the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance of private communications or the indefinite detentions of alleged terrorism suspects — mostly Arab and Muslim men — under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The Day of Remembrance marks not only the day in 1942 when President Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order allowing the internment of 120,000 people of Japanese origin after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor; it also serves as “a reminder to our communities — our civil rights are still not protected,” said Karen Korematsu, whose father, Fred Korematsu, famously challenged his detention in the landmark Supreme Court case Korematsu v. United States in 1944.

Karen Korematsu cited the NDAA’s indefinite detentions as one attack on civil rights now faced primarily by American Muslims. Among the other issues they say they face are the mass infiltration of mosque communities by law enforcement and harassment by Transportation Security Administration staff at U.S. borders. “Even (Scalia) said this could happen again. That’s why education (on Japanese-American internment and civil rights) is so important,” Korematsu said.


Japanese Protest U.S. Military Presence In Okinawa

Gar Alperovitz: Nuclear Attack on Japan was Opposed by American Military Leadership

Stone and Kuznick: Japan tilts right

stoneOliver Stone and Peter Kuznick write for USA Today:

At the end of World War II, the world understood the viciousness of Japanese militarism. Japan had left a bloody trail from Korea to China to Southeast Asia and well beyond. Under the guidance of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, postwar occupation authorities drafted a constitution for Japan, which includedArticle 9 renouncing warfare and offensive military capabilities.

Tribunals across Asia led to thousands of war criminals being jailed and as many as 900 executed. But U.S. authorities pardoned some war prisoners, believing they would be useful to fight against communism. Among those pardoned was Nobusuke Kishi, who became prime minister. A defense pact Kishi struck with the U.S. was so unpopular, he was driven from office.

Today, Kishi’s grandsonShinzo Abe, is prime minister and is doing to Japan what Attorney General John Mitchell predicted Richard Nixon would do to the U.S. — drive the country “so far to the right you’re not even going to recognize it.”


China criticizes Japan over comments doubting Nanjing massacre

From Reuters:

China’s Foreign Ministry has criticized remarks by a board member of Japan’s state broadcaster who said a massacre carried out by Japanese troops in China’s then-capital of Nanjing in 1937 did not happen.

China consistently reminds people of Japan’s historical brutality, such as the Nanjing Massacre in which China says Japanese troops killed 300,000 people. A post-war Allied tribunal put the death toll at 142,000, but some conservative Japanese politicians and scholars deny a massacre took place.

Naoki Hyakuta, a member of NHK’s board of governors who is also a novelist and commentator, was quoted by Japanese media this week as saying the Nanjing Massacre did not happen. In a later follow-up on Twitter, he said it was unclear how many people had been killed in Nanjing.


Japanese parents react to the technological prowess of their digital-native kids

DN 7

From Rocket News 24:

When the size and price of computers first dipped low enough to make them viable for private use, they were primarily used for business applications. Things have changed, though, and while computers are still used to crunch numbers and calculate data, today their primary use is arguably to store and disseminate information, or in other words, communication.

So while young kids aren’t likely to set up a spreadsheet detailing their sales targets for the upcoming fiscal year, if they want to read a story, listen to a song, or watch a video, they’re more than likely going to do it with a PC, tablet, or smartphone, given that those are the same avenues society as a whole is employing.

Multiple Twitter users in Japan said they were surprised at how often they see children young enough to still be pushed around in strollers confidently swiping away at smartphones or tablets. If you’re old enough to remember when only top of the line cell phones came with cameras, this is an amazing development. But from a different perspective, it’s no different from what kids have always done, and for that matter what their brains are programmed to do: implement the means at their disposal to satisfy their curiosity.


Japan: China ships in disputed waters after Abe’s WWI claim

Chinese state-owned ships and aircraft have approached the Senkakus on and off to demonstrate Beijing's territorial claimsFrom The Economic Times:

Chinese ships sailed through disputed waters off Tokyo-controlled islands on Monday, days after Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe caused an international stir by comparing Sino-Japanese relations with the run-up to World War One.

Around 9:00 am (0000 GMT), Chinese coastguard vessels entered the 12-nautical-mile territorial waters of one of the Senkakus, which China claims and calls the Diaoyus, Japan’s coastguard said.

It came as Abe was in New Delhi, where he and Indian counterpart Manmohan Singhaffirmed plans to strengthen defence cooperation, including conducting joint maritime exercises on a “regular basis with increased frequency”.

His three-day visit to India is being keenly watched by China, analysts say. Beijing is sometimes uneasy about what it sees as an attempt by the US-backed Japan to encircle it.


Still Report: Davos 2014

US Military Dictatorship Owns 20% of Okinawa: Interview with Peter Kuznick

Japan WW2 Soldier Who Refused to Surrender Until 1974 Dies

From BBC News:

A Japanese soldier who refused to surrender after World War Two ended and spent 29 years in the jungle has died aged 91 in Tokyo.

Hiroo Onoda remained in the jungle on Lubang Island near Luzon, in the Philippines, until 1974 because he did not believe that the war had ended.

He was finally persuaded to emerge after his ageing former commanding officer was flown in to see him.

Correspondents say he was greeted as a hero on his return to Japan.


Japan to nationalise 280 remote islands

From The Yomiuri Shimbun:

The government will nationalize about 280 islands whose ownership is unknown out of the about 400 remote islands that serve as markers for determining Japan’s territorial waters, the state minister for oceanic policy and territorial issues has announced.

Under the plan, announced Tuesday, the government will complete its search for the islands’ owners by June. Islands whose owners have not been tracked down by then will be registered on the national asset ledger.

The move aims to clarify the government’s intention to protect territories and territorial waters by designating remote islands as “important national territories,” and to reinforce the management of marine resources and national security.

The search for owners was started in August last year by the Headquarters for Ocean Policy, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. About 50 of the islands are inhabited and about 350 uninhabited. Owners of about 70 uninhabited islands have been tracked down. However, it remains unknown whether 280 islands have owners.

The Civil Code stipulates that land with no owner will be attributed to state coffers.