Category Archives: Japan

Tokyo firebombing: Survivors recall most destructive air raid in history

Julian Ryall reports for DW:

‘[…] A total of 279 B-29 Superfortresses took part in the raid, dropping 1,665 tons of bombs on the Japanese capital. The majority were 230kg cluster bombs that each released 38 bomblets carrying napalm at an altitude of around 750 meters.

The weapons were able to burn straight through the flimsy homes, schools and hospitals in what was primarily a residential district.

As well as the 100,000 who were killed, an estimated 125,000 were injured and 1.5 million lost their homes. The raid killed more people than the comparable attack on the German city of Dresden, as well as the immediate casualties of the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki five months later. The firestorm also destroyed countless small companies churning out equipment for the Japanese war effort.’


Japan vs. the Islamic State

‘The brutal beheadings of Japanese nationals Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa by the Islamic State in January have shocked the island nation and lent momentum to an effort to expand the limitations imposed on its constitution and military after its defeat by the United States in World War II. Leftists in Japan fear that the incident will encourage a departure from the country’s pacifist constitution, whose Article 9 states that “the Japanese people forever renounce… the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.” Right-wingers, meanwhile, see an opportunity to allow Japan to assert itself as a truly sovereign state. In the wake of the Islamic State beheadings, VICE News reports from Japan, where Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to re-militarize the pacifist nation has inspired protests from the left.’ (VICE News)

Japan Mulls Creating Its Own CIA

Mina Pollmann reports for The Diplomat:

Japan Mulls Creating Its Own CIAAs Japan recovers from the shock of the hostage crisis, lawmakers are beginning to consider how they could have responded to the situation better. One of the key issues being discussed is how to overcome Japan’s reliance on foreign intelligence agencies to gather information abroad, because Japan does not currently have an independent intelligence-gathering entity.

A Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) project team is looking into changing that. The team, chaired by House of Representatives lawmaker Takeshi Iwaya, will look at the possibility of creating an independent intelligence-gathering agency like the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency or the United Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Service. The team will meet with U.S. and British experts and learn about the British model firsthand over the summer. They are scheduled to draft a proposal by this autumn.’


Japan Announces Plans for the First Hotel Run by Robots

Natasha Geiling reports for Smithsonian:

[…] The two-story, 72-room Henn-na Hotel, which is slated to open July 17, will be staffed by ten robots that will greet guests, carry their luggage and clean their rooms. According to The Telegraph, the robots, created by robotics company Kokoro, will be an especially humanoid model known as an “actroid.” Actroid robots are generally based on young Japanese women, and they can speak fluent Japanese, Chinese, Korean and English, as well as mimic body language and human behaviors such as blinking and hand gestures. Three actroids will staff the front desk, dealing with customers as they check in to the hotel. Four will act as porters, carrying guests’ luggage, while another group will focus on cleaning the hotel. The hotel itself will also feature some high-tech amenities, such as facial recognition software that will allow guests to enter locked rooms without a key, and room temperatures monitored by a panel that detects a guest’s body heat.’


U.S. Bolsters Missile-Defense Presence in Japan

Brendan McGarry reports for DoD Buzz:

U.S. Bolsters Missile-Defense Presence in JapanThe U.S. is bolstering its ability to intercept ballistic missiles fired from North Korea with the deployment of another missile-defense radar in central Japan.

In a joint announcement on Friday, the U.S. and Japanese governments said a second so-called Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance system, or AN/TPY-2, made by Raytheon Co. has been installed on the island nation.

The announcement follows discussions last year between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe involving deployment of the technology that drew opposition from China.’


Asia’s military budgets surge as armies go high-tech

Hamish McDonald reports for Asian Review:

‘[…] With their economies moving into the so-called middle-income bracket — higher in the case of fully developed Singapore — governments have more to spend on advanced military platforms and weapons. Southeast Asia’s defense spending grew by 5% on the year to nearly $36 billion in 2013, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, just ahead of the 4.7% increase for East Asia to $282 billion.

Meanwhile, established defense manufacturers in Europe, Russia and North America are eager to sell, with lavish export credits being made available to sweeten deals. Closer to the region, Japan and South Korea, the industrial giants of East Asia, are also entering the arms bazaar.

China’s growing assertiveness in claiming the South China Sea as sovereign territory — against counterclaims from five Southeast Asian countries — has brought encouragement from the U.S., Japan, India and Australia, and help in enhancing the capabilities of regional armed forces and coast guards.

Consequently, the region is seeing large-scale acquisitions of equipment aimed at establishing the ability to contest control and make potential rivals think twice about intruding.’


Japan Is Back and So Is Nationalism

LATEST NEWS: Japan’s Abe re-elected in landslide despite low turnout

Nadeem Shad writes for The Diplomat:

‘[…] For years nationalism in Japan was relegated to the sidelines. Prevalent before and during the Second World War it found intellectual and political space in the Kokugaku School, the works of Inoue Tetsujirō; before being institutionalized by the state in the form of a corrupted version of Bushido or in Japan’s vision of a “Co-Prosperity Sphere.”

After Japan’s defeat, nationalists faced a much more difficult environment, typified by Japan’s new pacifist constitution. For decades after the war, nationalism was kept alive by a relatively small cadre of political and intellectual elites. Incidents included the 1986 school textbook controversy, 2001 textbook controversy, and the concept of nihonjinron. However, none of these small movements gained any traction in mainstream political and social imagination.

Now, under Shinzo Abe, nationalism is making a disconcerting return to the forefront of Japanese politics. This has manifest in several ways. The first example was the lightning rise of the Japan Restoration Party to become the third-largest party in the Diet in its first election in 2012, displacing the NKP in the process. The party is by perhaps Japan’s leading nationalist, former Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, whose his controversial proposal to buy the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands prompted their nationalization by the Japanese state, a move that sparked a serious downturn in Sino-Japanese relations.’


China rebukes Japan nationalists over denying Nanjing massacre

Press TV reports:

‘Speaking at his country’s first state commemoration of the Nanjing massacre on Saturday, Xi Jinping criticized Japanese nationalists for denying the atrocity.

“Anyone who tries to deny the massacre will not be allowed by history, the souls of the 300,000 deceased victims, 1.3 billion Chinese people and all people loving peace and justice in the world,” Xi said, adding, “Forgetting history is a betrayal, and denying a crime is to repeat a crime.”

He, however, stated that while history must never be forgotten, China should not bear hatred against an entire region “just because a small minority of militarists set off an invasion and war.”’


Adult nappies ‘outsell baby nappies’ in Japan

News on Japan reports:

‘Adult nappies are outselling nappies for babies in Japan, analysts at Pew Research Center believe.

Incontinence is a common problem among the elderly population and, with the average age of populations across the world increasing, the Japanese market is leading the way

In Japan, people aged 65-and-over account for around a quarter of the overall population, increasing from 17.4% in 2000..’


Japan: Okinawa elects leader determined to halt new US Marine air base

Justin McCurry reports for Christian Science Monitor:

GraphicPreliminary work on a controversial new US Marine Corps base on the strategically important Japanese island of Okinawa took a blow Sunday when voters there elected a new governor who is fiercely opposed to the base.

The election was dominated by the US military presence, including the long-planned closure of Futenma, a base and runway situated in the midst of a densely populated city, and the construction of a new Marine air base in a remote and pristine offshore location farther north.

But the election of Takeshi Onaga may cast doubt on the base move, which has been the subject of wrangling for nearly 20 years.

Mr. Onaga would like to move the US base entirely off Okinawa. He is the first candidate for governor to openly oppose the US military base and win an election.’


Nomi Prins: Why the Financial and Political System Failed and Stability Matters

Editor’s Note: Nomi Prins is a former managing director at Goldman Sachs and a former senior managing director at Bear Stearns. I would HIGHLY recommend reading her new book “All The Presidents’ Bankers“, quite possibly the best work on the history of America’s financial elite that has ever been written. She is also author of “It Takes A Pillage” and a novel “Black Tuesday“. You can check out more of her work at her website, or via the select links below.

Nomi Prins writes:

‘The recent spike in global political-financial volatility that was temporarily soothed by European Central Bank (ECB) covered bond buying and Bank of Japan (BOJ) stimulus reveals another crack in the six-year-old throw-money-at-the-banks strategies of politicians and central bankers. The premise of using banks as credit portals to transport public funds from the government to citizens is as inefficient as it is not happening. The power elite may exude belabored moans about slow growth and rising inequality in speeches and press releases, but they continue to find ways to provide liquidity, sustenance and comfort to financial institutions, not to populations.

The very fact – that without excessive artificial stimulation or the promise of it – more hell breaks loose – is one that government heads neither admit, nor appear to discuss. But the truth is that the global financial system has already failed. Big banks have been propped up, and their capital bases rejuvenated, by various means of external intervention, not their own business models.

In late October, the Federal Reserve released its latest 2015 stress test scenarios. They don’t even exceed the parameters of what actually took place during the 2008-2009-crisis period. This makes them, though statistically viable, completely irrelevant in an inevitable full-scale meltdown of greater magnitude. This Sunday [Oct 26th], the ECB announced that 25 banks failed their tests, none of which were the biggest banks (that received the most help). These tests are the equivalent of SAT exams for which students provide the questions and answers, and a few get thrown under the bus for cheating to make it all look legit.

Regardless of the outcome of the next set of tests, it’s the very need for them that should be examined. If we had a more controllable, stable, accountable and transparent system (let alone one not in constant litigation and crime-committing mode) neither the pretense of well-thought-out stress tests making a difference in crisis preparation, nor the administering of them, would be necessary as a soothing tool. But we don’t. We have an unreformed (legally and morally) international banking system still laden with risk and losses, whose major players control more assets than ever before, with our help.’


The Top Censored Stories of 2014: Interview with Mickey Huff

Abby Martin interviews, Mickey Huff, Director of Project Censored, about some of the top 25 censored stories of 2014, covering everything from the lack of police brutality statistics to the impact of ocean acidification.’ (Breaking the Set)

Debunking the Myth of Why the Atomic Bombs Were Necessary

Abby Martin reflects on the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and explains why this wasn’t a necessary action in order to end World War II.’ (Breaking the Set)

Japanese Governor Says It’s Too Soon To Restart Nuclear Reactors After Fukushima

Mari Yamaguchi reports for the Associated Press:

‘A Japanese governor said Wednesday the country should not restart any nuclear plants until the cause of the Fukushima meltdown is fully understood and nearby communities have emergency plans that can effectively respond to another major accident.

Hirohiko Izumida, governor of central Niigata prefecture — home to the seven-reactor Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant — said regulators look at equipment but don’t evaluate local evacuation plans.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing to restart two reactors in southern Japan that last month were the first to be approved under stricter safety requirements introduced after the Fukushima disaster. Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka has called the new standard one of the world’s highest.

Abe has said he will restart all reactors deemed safe, reversing the previous government’s policy of phasing out nuclear power.’


China’s Neighbors Are Going On a Military Shopping Spree — In Japan

Kyle Mizokami reports for VICE News:

‘It’s no secret that China’s rise as an economic power has been miraculous. Over the past few decades, hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty, BMWs have replaced many bicycles on the streets of Beijing, and China’s is now the second-largest economy in the world.

This economic explosion has in turn boosted the fortunes of China’s regional neighbors and trading partners — but they’re not entirely happy about China’s newfound power. Because in addition to having the world’s second-largest economy, China is also the second-largest spender on arms in the world — with a military to match.

Neighboring countries feel they’re being pushed around by an aggressive Chinese foreign policy, and as a result, they’re continuing to beed up their own militaries. And it’s Japan, China’s historical rival, that is quietly providing assistance to many countries that — like Japan itself — are feeling the heat from China.’


Tokyo trader has £381bn share orders cancelled after a spectacular ‘fat finger’ error

Jonathan Prynn and Jamie Dunkley report for The Independent:

‘Share trades worth more than the size of Sweden’s economy had to be cancelled in Tokyo after what is believed to be the biggest “fat finger” error on record.

It is thought to be the most extreme example of a trader in financial markets inputting hopelessly wrong figures while working under intense pressure. The identity of the trader is not yet known.

Mistaken orders for shares in 42 major Japanese companies, including household names such as Toyota, Honda, Canon and Sony, totalling ¥67.78trn (£381bn) were overturned, according to data from the Japan Securities Dealers Association.’


Poll: More than half of Chinese expect future war with Japan

Kyoko Hasegawa reports for AFP:

‘More than half of Chinese people think their country could go to war with Japan in the future, a new poll revealed Wednesday, after two years of intense diplomatic squabbles.

A survey conducted in both nations found that 53.4 percent of Chinese envisage a future conflict, with more than a fifth of those saying it would happen “within a few years,” while 29 percent of Japanese can see military confrontation.

The findings come ahead of the second anniversary Thursday of Japan’s nationalization of disputed islands in the East China Sea that have formed the focus of tensions between the Asian giants.’


China says South China Sea land reclamation ‘justified’

BBC News reports:

BBC Map‘China says its land reclamation work in the South China Sea is “totally justifiable” as it has “sovereignty” over the area. Its foreign affairs ministry spokesman Hua Chunying was responding to a BBC report which documented China’s construction work in disputed waters. The Philippines has accused China of illegal building in the area.

China is locked in a dispute with several countries over maritime claims in the South China Sea. The BBC report by Rupert Wingfield-Hayes said China was building new islands on five different reefs. He and his team documented Chinese work to dredge tonnes of rock and sand from the sea floor to pump into Johnson South reef in the Spratly islands, which are also claimed by Manila.’


Taxpayer-Guaranteed: Nuclear Power’s Insanities

Ralph Nader writes for CounterPunch:

‘The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) – the corporate lobbyist in Washington, D.C. for the disintegrating atomic power industry – doesn’t have to worry about repercussions from the negative impacts of nuclear power. For nuclear power is a government/taxpayer-guaranteed boondoggle whose staggering costs, incurred and deferred, are absorbed by American taxpayers via a supine government regulatory and subsidy apparatus.’


Japan defence ministry makes largest-ever budget request

BBC News reports:

‘Japan’s defence ministry has made its biggest ever budget request, amid severe tensions with China over a maritime dispute in the East China Sea. The ministry is seeking 5.05 trillion yen (£29.4bn; $48.7bn) for the year – a 3.5% rise. If approved, it would mark the third year the defence budget had been increased, after a decade of cuts.

Earlier this month, the ministry described the security environment around Japan as “increasingly severe”. Beijing and Tokyo are engaged in a bitter dispute over islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. In its annual white paper, the ministry spoke of “great concern” over China’s activities in the East China Sea and also cited North Korea as a security threat.’


Effects Of Radiation From The Fukushima Disaster On The Ecosystem Are Being Slowly Revealed

Chris Pash reports for Business Insider:

‘A range of scientific studies at Fukushima have begun to reveal the impact on the natural world from the radiation leaks at the power station in Japan caused by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Biological samples were obtained only after extensive delays following the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant meltdown, limiting the information which could be gained about the impact of that disaster. Scientists, determined not to repeat the shortcomings of the Chernobyl studies, began gathering biological information only a few months after the meltdown of the Daiichi power plant in 2011.

Results of these studies are now beginning to reveal serious biological effects of the Fukushima radiation on non-human organisms ranging from plants to butterflies to birds. A series of articles summarising these studies has now been published in the Journal of Heredity. These describe widespread impacts, ranging from population declines to genetic damage to responses by the repair mechanisms that help organisms cope with radiation exposure. “A growing body of empirical results from studies of birds, monkeys, butterflies, and other insects suggests that some species have been significantly impacted by the radioactive releases related to the Fukushima disaster,” says Dr Timothy Mousseau of the University of South Carolina, lead author of one of the studies.’


VICE Mini-Documentary on Fukushima

Mao’s archenemy Chiang Kai-shek part of mainstream Chinese culture, sort of

Louise Watt reports for The Associated Press:

‘Photos of Mao’s archenemy Chiang Kai-shek adorn the walls of a Beijing restaurant, and his face looks up at diners from the menu. Online, the deposed Chinese leader’s image is used to sell the kinds of lamps and swords he might have used. A liquor brand has patterned its bottle on Chiang’s memorial in Taipei. Twenty years ago, Chiang was considered an enemy of the people on mainland China. Today, he has become part of mainstream culture — sort of.

There has been a grudging acceptance of Chiang’s historical role in fighting against Japan following its invasion in the lead-up to World War II. Chiang later lost to Mao Zedong’s Communists in the Chinese civil war and fled in 1949 to Taiwan, where he ruled until his death in 1975. His revival on the mainland points to how China’s Communist Party uses history to make points about present-day politics. Chiang is doubly useful in that sense because China’s relations with Taiwan have been warming, while those with Japan are in steep decline.’


Aged Japan veterans voice concerns about military policy shift

Kiyoshi Takenaka reports for Reuters:

‘Tokuro Inokuma, a former Imperial Japanese Army soldier, got his first taste of the horrors of war in 1945 when he scrambled to gather up the scattered limbs of his fellow servicemen, blown apart by a U.S. air raid in Japan. He was 16. One of a dwindling number of World War Two veterans, Inokuma now finds troubling echoes in Tokyo’s policy shift away from the pacifist ideals adhered to after 1945. “I find it quite dangerous … This is the path we once took,” said Inokuma, who fought in China soon after the deadly air strike, and survived two years in concentration camps in the then-Soviet Union following Japan’s surrender.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last month took a historic step by ending a ban that has kept the military from fighting abroad since 1945. The move has riled China, whose ties with Japan have been frayed by a territorial row over East China Sea islets. “We have neither killed nor been killed (in battle) for almost 70 years. That’s unprecedented. It’s important we think hard about that,” Inokuma, 85, told Reuters in an interview. Proponents say Japan needs to be able to exercise its right of collective self-defense, or helping a friendly country under attack, to respond to a tougher security environment. Critics say the change makes Japan more likely to get sucked into overseas wars.’


If Hiroshima was unnecessary, how to justify Nagasaki?

John LaForge writes for CounterPunch:

If shame is the natural response to Hiroshima, how is one to respond to Nagasaki, especially in view of all the declassified government papers on the subject? According to Dr. Joseph Gerson’s With Hiroshima Eyes, some 74,000 were killed instantly at Nagasaki, another 75,000 were injured and 120,000 were poisoned.

If Hiroshima was unnecessary, how to justify Nagasaki?

The saving of thousands of US lives is held up as the official justification for the two atomic bombings. Leaving aside the ethical and legal question of slaughtering civilians to protect soldiers, what can be made of the Nagasaki bomb if Hiroshima’s incineration was not necessary?’


“War Makes Everyone Crazy”: Hiroshima Survivor Reflects on 69th Anniversary of U.S. Atomic Bombing

‘Sixty-nine years ago at 8:15 a.m., the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Destruction from the bomb was massive — shock waves, radiation and heat rays took the lives of some 140,000 people — nearly half of the town’s population. Three days later, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on the Japanese Nagasaki killing another 74,000. At Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, we hear from blast survivor Koji Hosokawa, who was 17 years old at the time. His 13-year-old sister, Yoko, died in the bombing. Hosokawa spoke to us next to the A-bomb Dome, one of the few structures in the city that survived the blast.’ (Democracy Now!)

Photos: Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Anniversary

An atomic cloud mushrooms over Hiroshima, in this photo taken from the Enola Gay flying over Matsuyama, Shikoku


Japan still clearing World War II bombs from Okinawa

Matthew M. Burke and Chiyomi Sumida report for Stars & Stripes:

280714OKINAWA_BOMBphoto04‘World War II ended 69 years ago, but shells are still exploding off the coast of Okinawa. Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force explosive ordnance disposal technicians detonated two dozen U.S.-made munitions Wednesday morning about 800 yards from shore in Kadena town’s Mizugama district, an area known as the “sea wall,” close to Kadena Air Base.

Nineteen of the 24 rounds were 5-inch shells found near the mouth of Hija River in Kadena town along with an 81 mm mortar shell, according to Kadena Town official Nobukazu Kobashigawa. They were accompanied by four 5-inch shells found on the Yomitan Village side. “It is not surprising to find those shells because the beach is where the allied forces first landed during the Battle of Okinawa,” Kobashigawa said. “I am sure there are lots more.”’


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.’