Category Archives: Japan

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.


US biological weapons reportedly tested in Japan’s Okinawa in 1960s

Rice cropFrom AFP:

The US army reportedly conducted field experiments of biological weapons, which could harm rice cropping, in the Japanese island of Okinawa in the early 1960s.

The same experiments were also conducted on the US mainland and in Taiwan, Kyodo news agency reported, citing US military documents it said it had obtained.

The US is “believed to have had China and Southeast Asia in mind in developing such crop-harming agents”, the report stated.

In the tests conducted at least a dozen times between 1961 and 1962, rice blast fungus was released over rice fields and data was collected on how it affected rice production, Kyodo said, citing the documents.


Fukushima Responders Starting To Get Sick

Cenk Uygur’s quote from around two and a half minutes:

I was on MSNBC at the time when this happened, I said, “Don’t trust what the Japanese government is saying, they’ll say trust what the electric power company is saying. Go, go, go, get outta there. Get as far away from that plant as you can. It’s literally a core meltdown.” And they always don’t want people to panic, so they were always like, “Oh it’s going to be okay.” [...] I’m like, “You’re crazy man, don’t be anywhere near that reactor.” And I remember at the time, of course not at The Young Turks, but on cable news, people were like, “Hey Cenk, you know, I don’t know that you want to say that, because the official government position is that it’s safe.” Oh, is that the official government position? Now go explain that to the people who served on the USS Ronald Reagan.

USS Ronald Reagan sailors report cancers after Fukushima rescue mission

Seaman Nicholas A. Groesch/U.S. Navy From Al Jazeera:

Fifty-one crew members of the USS Ronald Reagan say they are suffering from a variety of cancers as a direct result of their involvement in Operation Tomodachi, a U.S. rescue mission in Fukushima after the nuclear disaster in March 2011. The affected sailors are suing Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), alleging that the utility mishandled the crisis and did not adequately warn the crew of the risk of participating in the earthquake relief efforts.

Crew members, many of whom are in their 20s, have been diagnosed with conditions including thyroid cancer, testicular cancer and leukemia. The Department of Defense says the Navy took “proactive measures” in order to “mitigate the levels of Fukushima-related contamination on U.S. Navy ships and aircraft” and that crew members were not exposed to dangerous radiation levels.


How one woman helped uncover the Rape of Nanking

Measuring Fukushima’s Impact: How Geeks and Hackers Got Geiger Counters to the Masses

Photo by Safecast.Erika Lundahl writes for Yes! Magazine:

In March 2011, an unknown amount of radiation was released into the atmosphere after a powerful tsunami slammed into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors on the Pacific coast in Japan. Because people had little access to detailed information about radiation levels, they bought up every Geiger counter they could find in stores and online. Soon the counters were all but sold out worldwide, and in Japan a grey market of shoddy Geiger counters sprouted up, some with faulty or fake parts.

Now, as workers at the plant attempt to move 1,500 highly radioactive spent fuel rods from Unit 4, the most heavily damaged reactor, the risk of radioactive contamination is escalated. The rods, housed in a damaged and leaking concrete pool 100 feet above the plant’s floor, are being moved to a second enclosed pool where it’s hoped they’ll be secure if another earthquake hits Japan’s coast.

The situation at Fukushima has received limited coverage in the Western media, but many scientists have grave concerns about the health and safety ramifications of the procedure—which has never been tried before—should something go wrong.


Japanese Senator: ‘The path that Japan is taking is the recreation of a fascist state’


Credit: AFP

From The Daily Beast:

The Japanese government, which already has a long history of cover-ups and opaqueness, is on its way to becoming even less open and transparent after the lower house the Diet, Japan’s parliament, passed the Designated Secrets Bill on Tuesday. With new powers to classify nearly anything as a state secret and harsh punishments for leakers that can easily be used to intimidate whistleblowers and stifle press freedom, many in Japan worry that the if the bill becomes law it will be only the first step towards even more severe erosions of freedom in the country.

[...] Even politicians inside the ruling bloc are saying, “It can’t be denied that another purpose is to muzzle the press, shut up whistleblowers, and ensure that the nuclear disaster at Fukushima ceases to be an embarrassment before the Olympics.”

[...] Outspoken Upper House Councilor Taro Yamamoto, who is known to be a strong supporter of investigative journalism, minces no words: “The path that Japan is taking is the recreation of a fascist state. I strongly believe that this secrecy bill represents a planned coup d’état by a group of politicians and bureaucrats,” he warned.

While his statement may seem alarmist, even a senior official of the National Police Agency agrees. “I would say this is Abe’s attempt to make sure that his own shady issues aren’t brought to light, and a misuse of legislative power.


Two explosions outside U.S. military base in Japan, ‘ultra leftist Japanese guerilla group’ suspected

China To Engage In ‘Six Inevitable Wars’ Involving U.S., Japan, India And More, According To Pro-Government Chinese Newspaper

From The IB Times:

China’s announcement last weekend of an Air Defense Identification Zone, which includes disputed areas of the East China Sea, has ratcheted up tensions between China and her neighbors, leading some to believe war is imminent.

The new air defense area includes the airspace above the hotly disputed cluster of tiny islands known as the Diaoyu to China and the Senkaku to the Japanese. International reaction to the ADIZ, particularly from Japan and its ally the U.S., has been uniformly defiant. In addition to official statements from Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Reuters reported Tuesday that two U.S. military aircraft have flown around the disputed islands in direct defiance of China’s ADIZ.

“We have conducted operations in the area of the Senkakus,” spokesman Col. Steve Warren said, using the Japanese name for the islands. In addition to declaring the zone’s wide boundaries, Chinese military forces announced that all air travel in the designated ADIZ must be reported to avoid “emergency defensive measures in response.” The U.S. did the flyover without addressing the demands made by China. “We have continued to follow our normal procedures, which include not filing flight plans, not radioing ahead and not registering our frequencies,” Warren continued.

The new ADIZ has brought added tension to one of China’s several current territorial disputes. As pointed out in Shanghai-based news-blog, The, earlier this summer, a particularly strident pro-government local newspaper, Weweipo, published a war-mongering article describing the “Six Wars China Is Sure to Fight In the Next 50 Years.” The article essentially predicts that most of China’s current border disputes will eventually lead to war.