Kono Makes A Discomforting Statement on The Comfort Women And Japan Diplomacy

Yohei Kono, the former speaker for the House of Representatives, spoke at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club last week, and pointed out that the comfort women issue (sex slaves of the Japanese troops in WWII) was not simply about Korea. Despite being one of the only Senior LDP former cabinet members to never have served as Prime Minister, he is known for the Kono Statement, which acknowledged that the comfort women (foreign and Japanese females who often served as sex slaves to the Japanese army) existed and that the Japanese Imperial Army may or may not have been involved. He served as foreign minister under Big Shintaro Abe, father of current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and others for over 1,100 days, making him the fourth longest-serving postwar foreign minister. He came to speak on how the forcefully passed security bills are unconstitutional, but in the end also had some very relevant things to say about Japan’s failure to reconcile with the past and recognize its war crimes. Plus he gave the LDP and Little Abe a lesson in what is proper diplomacy.

Yohei Kono, former Foreign Minister of Japan, sets the record straight on comfort women, security bills, and Japan's diplomacy
Yohei Kono, former Foreign Minister of Japan, sets the record straight on comfort women, security bills, and Japan’s diplomacy. Click the picture for the full press conference.

He was there principally to discuss the recent security legislation and how its passage had circumvented checks and balances and that the new law itself was unconstitutional.

At the beginning of the press conference he was asked his thoughts about China’s submission of documents to UNESCO on the  The Nanking Massacre. He noted that it is definitely an established fact. “The question is how many people were killed—that’s not clear.  The UNESCO ‘memory of the world’ system is opaque. There should be better grounds for submission. To deny the massacre took place is undeniable, but we need accurate numbers and make sure that it’s an objective historical record.” He put in a final jab by noting, “The movement by the LDP to to stop sending money to UNESCO because they accepted the documents is embarrassing. It’s like the previous threats to pressure Japanese firms not to advertise with newspapers or magazines critical of the establishment.”
Here are some highlights of the press conference:

Q:*As a foreign minister, one of the problems that Japan has with neighboring countries, is it has never seems to have reconciled with their past history of oppression and terrible things through out the colonial wars. We know from the writings of Prime Minister Nakasone and the head of the Fujisake Group Shikanai Haruo that the comfort women system wasn’t just a Korean problem, it existed in Indonesia, it existed in other places that Japan was ruling, that there has never been a comprehensive study of the comfort women system across all of Asia. Would Japan benefit from doing a cooperative study with all the countries it used to colonize and look at this problem one more time and issue a report and if so, how would that best be done?

 K:*The comfort women existed through very wide area through out all of Asia, and this is something which I, myself do acknowledge. We have seen, for example in the case of the Netherlands, who conducted various independent studies into this issue and even went so far as to have court cases and also judgements in relation to this. Dutch foreign ministry has also made official announcements in regard to the existance or to the facts about the comfort women history. So of course the situation in each country and as it was occurring in each country at the time is different than the situation now. We do need to question about how such collaboration might actually be possible how this could really be done, but at the very least what can be said is that Japan should be treating these former comfort women who went through such cruel difficult situations in a more sincere way. Of course this is the role on a state to state level which should be done but also on a human to human level. This is necessary as well. We need to have much more value or sincerity being put into how the comfort women are being treated. As you say, a large scale or comprehensive regional study is perhaps one method. I’m not sure how this would be able to be implemented but this is a very important suggestion. How or what kind of steps could be taken to move forward in this, however is something that i can not comment on today.

Q:*In regards to the security legislation, particularly making the use of the right to collective self defence I would like to ask if you really believe that there is majority support of this within the LDP, and given whether there is a majority or not looking at the various exceptions, other than some exceptions such as Mr Murakami , we don’t really hear of other opinions from within the LDP. Not only technical issues such as the electro system or political funding and so on, but I would like to ask your opinion of this overall all LDP situation. We also see the situation of the media, for example, questions at the press club or press conferences from external reporters or freelancers are not being allowed. Also, despite our invitations from the FCCJ, the LDP is not coming here to present, which is quite different from your time in the LDP. I would like to ask your view about these fundamental changes in the party.
Kono: *There are many different reasons for this but there is one in particular which I would like to discuss, and this is indeed the single seat constituency system. I was also personally involved in the creation of this system, so this is something in which I have considered very much since then and actually have some concerns and am wondering how that has contributed to the difficult situation now. If we compare it to before for example, now that we have the case where only one Diet member is selected to represent an entire constituency, where as before there were 2 or 3 representatives coming from each of the localities, the districts as well. In the case beforehand we would see for example one person selected for their agricultural expertise, one for their economic expertise, one for welfare expertise, so people could select based upon the various different policies and different aspects in expertise of the people running in the election. There was more choice available before, however now in these single seat elections, this means that only one person can be selected to represent the people from there. This means that while there may be various different policies , peoples choices are being limited to only choosing based on the official party policies rather than individual polices of the person and their different expertise, which means there are less choice for the voters in the elections and for their representation.
*Translations are approximate rather than literal and based on the on the spot English translation. The Japanese differs from the official translation at points.

 

 

“If she bleeds, she can’t lead…” Sexist, Pro-nuclear, LDP loyalist Masuzoe Elected Tokyo Governor

The association of women who won't have sex with men who vote for Masuzoe
The association of women who won’t have sex with men who vote for Masuzoe

This is an op-ed news bulletin. It does not necessarily represent the views of everyone at the Japan Subculture Research Center but probably comes close.

February 9th, 2014 (updated on February 12th) 

The man who personifies Japan’s gender gap, former health minister Yoichi Masuzoe, 65, with the support of the Liberal Democrat Party, the nuclear energy industry, and the Sokka Gakkai fan club (Komeito),  today reportedly won a four-year term as governor of Tokyo. He beat out his two nearest rivals who had said Japan should phase out nuclear energy. His victory was assured with a voter turn-out rate of roughly 46% , a lapdog media that is in love with advertising money from Tokyo Electric Power Company, and preceded by Tokyo’s worst snowfall in over a decade.  (As if it were a sign of things to come…)

Shortly after polling closed at 8pm, the Japanese media, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe controlled NHK (aka A.B.E News) reported that he had won by a sizeable margin, based on exit polls, wishful thinking, and haste to go home early.

“Women are not normal when they are on their period. They are abnormal.
You can’t possibly let them make critical decisions about the country [during their periods], such as
whether or not to go to war.” – Masuzoe in the October 1989 issue of the magazine BIGMAN

 

With this victory,  Mr Masuzoe will be Tokyo’s “face” for the next four years–even if that face resembles that of a horse with mange. Because of his rabid support of nuclear power as an energy source, Mr Masuzoe’s election is expected to spur  the Liberal Democrat Party’s efforts to restart the country’s idled nuclear reactors. It will also be a boon for politically connected construction firms wishing to get a big share of the unneeded 2020 Olympics construction and plans to demolish interesting parts of the city in order to create a money draining infrastructure that will temporarily benefit cronies of Abe and the Liberal Democrat Party.

“Women are not normal when they are on their period. They are abnormal. You can’t possibly let them make critical decisions about the country [during their periods], such as whether or not to go to war.” – Masuzoe in the October 1989 issue of the magazine BIGMAN
“Women are not normal when they are on their period. They are abnormal.
You can’t possibly let them make critical decisions about the country [during their periods], such as
whether or not to go to war.” – Masuzoe in the October 1989 issue of the magazine BIGMAN, one of many colorful comments by the new Tokyo Governor. 男尊女卑の塊
Yoichi-kun is beloved by Japan’s feminists for his colorful remarks about women and power. In fact, allegations of his domestic violence, abuse of power and his past history of colorful sexist statements earned him his own unique twitter account: 舛添に投票する男とセックスしない女達の会 @Nomasuzoe–which in English would be, “The Association Of Women Who Won’t Have Sex With Men Who Vote For Masuzoe”.

In 1989 during Japan’s  so-called “Madonna Boom” when a surprising number of women became elected officials, Masuzoe stated, “This is an exceptional period in history,  that’s why even these women things are showing up…but those who have been elected are all a bunch of old middle aged hags.” Well, lucky for us Japan has come a  long way since those crazy “women-in-politics” days. Once again, Japan has shown us that with enough voter apathy, a compliant media, and the connections and funding of the nuclear industry, that any middle-aged asshole guy can be the leader of one of Japan’s largest city-states.

How bad a leader will he be? No one can for sure but one thing is certain: there are possibly 3,067 supporters of Masuzoe who are not going to get laid tonight. One can hope. (Because if there’s anyone in Japan who we’d like to see not procreating, it’s the idiots that would vote for this charlatan in the first place.)

The association of women who won't have sex with men who vote for Masuzoe
The association of women who won’t have sex with men who vote for Masuzoe

 

 

Viva la Révolucion? The Japanese Communist Party: Still Red And Not Dead

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(Tokyo) – By Douglas Miller*

Communism as an ideology would appear to be fading out of our world. Most of the Cold War revolutionaries have died off, and China, Vietnam, and even Burma are becoming market economies. The communists are still going strong, however, here in Japan. Although the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) has dwindled in political stature since its heyday in the 1980s, the latest numbers show that there still are 320,000 JCP party members, as well as 1,300,000 subscribers to the party-run (しんぶん赤旗)Akahata newspaper. When you tally the Sunday and daily editions, the number is close to 1.5 million subscribers.

Think about it: over three hundred thousand registered party members and over a million subscribers to their newspaper. These numbers are staggering if one takes into account that these numbers are those of communist sympathizers. Well, that may not be exactly true. The name of the party is indeed the Japanese Communist Party. But the policies, far from being communist, are center-right social democrat. The American Japanologist and one-time ambassador to Japan E. O. Reischauer stated in his book Japan in Reischauer’s Eyes (ライシャワーの見た日本) (1968) that the JCP was not to be equated with the Soviets or the Chinese.

The JCP is not moving towards any revolution of the kind that we would perceive to be a necessary component of any communist movement. Rather, its goal is to become the majority party in Japan’s national parliament. If the JCP were to call for violent revolution and for the abolishment of multiparty systems and of capitalism itself, few of its hundreds of thousands of members would be supportive.

What the JCP stands for are noble causes that resonate with the Japanese people: (i) the abrogation of the US-Japan Security Treaty, (ii) economic sovereignty, (iii) correct historical understanding and subsequent necessary apologies to victims of Japanese aggression in World War II (iv) an end to nuclear power.  The US-Japan Security Treaty imposes an especially heavy burden on Okinawa, where the majority of the US military bases are located. The JCP has always been a strong supporter of Okinawan voices, together protesting and working toward getting rid of the bases altogether.

The JCP has also been sensitive to the plight of small enterprises that are getting run out of business by multinational corporations that thrive on globalization. The protection of economic sovereignty is not necessarily a complete denial of globalization but, rather, a plea for “democratic rules that protect the lives and basic rights of the people.” The JCP accepts capitalism as a workable system and is not against it in principle.

 

A problem with history

Questions of historical correctness have proved more difficult for the JCP to finesse. Japan has adopted a highly revisionist interpretation of what occurred during the years leading up to World War II and during the war. There are two main issues of contention regarding historical correctness: “comfort women” and territorial disputes. The Japanese military was partially involved with the rounding up of large numbers of females in occupied territories to serve its troops as so-called “comfort women”, a euphemism for prostitutes. Many of these women were essentially sex slaves, forced to work and treated inhumanely, without freedom to choose their customers or quit their jobs. Internationally accepted accounts of the war years treat that practice as historical fact. But conservative Japanese politicians, often from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, have denied that forced prostitution occurred and have insisted that any women who served the troops with sexual favors did so of their own volition. These comments routinely cause understandable uproar in China, the Koreas, and other states that were victimized by the Japanese.

The JCP acknowledges what the Japanese forces did during the war and has been working to encourage government accountability: acknowledge the existence of the comfort women, make a formal apology, and pay reparations to those who are still alive. Recently  a South Korean diplomat met with JCP chairman Kazuo Shii to discuss the comfort women issue and other issues that the JCP has addressed. The diplomat expressed respect for the JCP’s stance on historical correctness and voiced high expectations for their policies. The JCP exhibits a mindboggling inconsistency, however, in regard to the very commitment to historical accountability lauded by the Korean diplomat. Witness its incomprehensible stance in regard to territorial disputes.

Japan currently has one official territorial dispute: a disagreement with Russia about four islands near Hokkaido—known to the Japanese as the Northern Territories and to the Russians as the Southern Kuril Islands—seized by Russia in the waning days of World War II. It also has two unofficial territorial disputes of note. One pertains to the Liancourt Rocks (claimed by Japan as Takeshima and by South Korea as Dokdo), a group of tiny islets in the Sea of Japan (the “East Sea” to Koreans). The other dispute pertains to a group of islets in the East China Sea claimed by Japan as Senkaku and by China as Daioyutai.

The JCP—the self-styled voice of historical accountability, the party lauded by the South Korean diplomat for its historical correctness—has parroted the conservative Liberal Democratic Party and other factions in asserting that all three of the disputed territories belong “indisputably” to Japan. Official party literature presents dubious historical data in support of the claim that these islands have long been under Japanese control and that the occupation of any of the islands by non-Japanese, as in the case of Takeshima/Dokdo and the Northern Territories/Southern Kurils are unjust. The sight of the JCP voicing the questionable history concocted by the conservative establishment is indisputably bizarre.

A knack for local politics

Incoherence in the national political arena does not seem to be undermining the JCP’s standing in prefectural and municipal governments. At the national Diet, the JCP lost yet another seat in the lower house last year, and its presence there has dwindled to a measly eight seats, a 45-year low. The party remains strong, however, in local politics.

Typical of the JCP’s loyal members is one who described his reasons for joining the party as follows, “The JCP was the only party that never compromised its principles, that never succumbed to political expediency.” The JCP is the last resort, adds the party member for a lot of people who can’t get help elsewhere for problems with things like workplace disputes and unmanageable debt. “When the police can’t help and the banks can’t help, you go to the Japanese Communist Party.”

The JCP has won government recognition of workplace injuries and fatalities, and its legal assistance has helped secure compensation for workers and their families in several instances of such accidents. Alone among Japan’s political parties, the JCP openly goes head to head with multinational corporations, such as Toyota, Sony and Mazda, to protect the rights of workers and their families. This principled support of ordinary people is a reason that the JCP has several long-serving public officials in local government.

One long-standing public official from the JCP was Kenzo Yamada, the mayor of Nanko town, Hyogo Prefecture, (1980 to 2005.) Yamada was reelected six times and served until Nanko town and three other towns merged to become the present municipality of Sayo town. His policies for promoting social welfare in the town generated tangible benefits. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, for example, recognized the town for its large percentage of over-80 residents who still had at least 20 of their original teeth.

Another long-standing public official from the JCP was Yutaka Yano, the mayor of Komae City in Tokyo, (1996 to 2012). Prior to his election as mayor, he had been a city councilman for 21 years. He replaced Sanyu Ishii, whose tenure had been riddled with accusations of corruption and of chronic gambling trips to South Korea. Ishii unexpectedly resigned on June 12, 1996, and Yano won the subsequent special election.

Yamada and Yano exemplify the JCP’s capacity for winning fair democratic elections. Support for the JCP’s national agenda may be wavering, but the party remains highly relevant in local constituencies all across Japan.

*The Japan Subculture Research Center does not support any one political party or political faction in Japan. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.


How The CIA Helped The Yakuza & The LDP Get Power & Promote Nuclear Power

I just finished re-reading Tim Weiner’s magnum opus, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA ,which is perhaps the best book ever written on the Central Intelligence Agency, and its general history of dismal failures. On the eve of the LDP’s retaking of power, December 16th 2012, I thought it might be interesting to take a look back at the LDP and how they came into being in the first place. It’s like a story out of a John Le Carre novel, but as is often the case, truth is stranger than fiction–and more interesting.

Operations in Japan turned out to be one of the Agency’s rare success stories. Not only did the CIA put their party of choice in power, according the book 原発 正力 CIA-機密文書で読む昭和裏面史 (What Secret Documents Tell Us About The Hidden Showa-Era History of Ties Between the Nuclear Industry, Matustaro Shoriki–the former president of the Yomiuri Shimbun and founder of Nippon Television) published by Shinchosha, but using the Japanese media, they were able to convince Japan to invest in nuclear energy. Of course, US firms reaped the profits. But that’s another very long story.

Legacy of Ashes is a phenomenal book, especially in how it documents the CIA’s many, many failures–but operations in Japan were something else.

Chapter 12: “We Ran It In A Different Way” is a must for anyone interested in the shadow history of Japan. It details how in post-war Japan, the CIA, using large amounts of cash, reinstated former war criminal Kodama Yoshio and hand-picked one of Japan’s Prime Ministers–in order to supress communist/socialist movements. Kodama had extensive yakuza ties and huge amounts of capital made in the black markets in China. ($175 million estimated). The Tokyo CIA station reported on September 10th, 1953, “(Kodama) is a professional liar, gangster, charlatan, and outright thief….and has no interest in anything but the profits.” It still didn’t keep the CIA from doing business with him up to that time and behind the scenes later. The chapter also notes how the CIA was able to ensure that Nobusuke Kishi became Japan’s prime minister and the chief of its ruling party, in order to ensure that Japan didn’t go red. The president himself seemed to have authorized huge cash payments to Kishi and his other lackeys within the LDP.

Chapter 12 “We Ran It In A Different Way” has a fascinating account of US backing of gangsters and their politicians in post-war Japan

Kishi’s links to the Yamaguchi-gumi and other organized crime groups are well-known. His former private secretary was instrumental in organizing the deal between former Yamaguchi-gumi Goto-gumi boss, Goto Tadamasa, and the FBI; it was a deal in which Goto shared intelligence on organized crime groups within Japan and information on North Korea in exchange for a visa to the the United States. He received a liver transplant at UCLA, a transaction which the FBI did not set up or was involved in. Some of this is discussed in Tokyo Vice.

According to the excellent book, The Japanese Mafia by Peter Hill, and other sources,  Kishi also once put up the bail money for a Yamaguchi-gumi boss accused of a felony.  Goto Tadamasa, the ex-yakuza boss (currently a Buddhist priest doing charitable work) in his memoirs Habkarinagra (Pardon me but…) also discusses his close ties to ex-Prime Minister Kishi. Robert Whiting in the seminal Tokyo Underworld also covers US political connections to organized crime  in Japan in great depth and quite entertainingly. Whiting-san worked for the National Security Agency at one point in his life and what he says has great credibility as far as I’m concerned. (I’m not outing Robert by writing that he once worked for the NSA; it was mentioned in a Japan Times article several years ago and proved to be correct.) David Kaplan’s groundbreaking Yakuza:Japan’s Criminal Underworld was probably the first book to really examine the shadowy ties between the yakuza, the LDP and the US after the occupation. What makes Tim Weiner’s small chapter so impressive are the extensive notes, documents obtained from the CIA, and that he apparently conducted interviews on the CIA side as well. Impressive work.

Kodama, the right-wing industrialist mentioned above,  is notorious for his gangster connections but perhaps what best illustrates the point is that in the early sixties, Kodoma, Taoka Kazuo (田岡 一雄氏), the third generation leader of the Yamaguchi-gumi, and Machii Hisayuki  (町井 久之) head of the once powerful Japanese-Korean mafia, Toseikai(東声会) all served as board members of the Japan Professional Wrestling Association at the same time. They were all good buddies. As noted in Legacy Of Ashes, and in other sources, the Liberal Democratic Party was founded with a mixture of criminal proceeds, yakuza money, and US funds. The days when the US were able to exert control over Japanese politics are long gone but the yakuza have managed to maintain their own ties and connections to politicians across the board. For the Japanese government, they are still a useful entity, at times, and before the APEC summit, calls were sent out to all the major yakuza leaders urging them not to get into any gang wars and to keep an eye on anti-American lefties. After APEC ends, the aftermath of someone lobbing a hand-grenade into the headquarters of the Yamaguchi-gumi Yamaken-gumi headquarters will probably result in a bloody gang war. But for the time being, the yakuza are keeping the peace.

Full Disclosure Memo: In the worst of the Japanese press and blogosphere, I’ve been accused of being an agent of the CIA several times. Or the Mossad. Take your pick. This is untrue. I’m not a Mormon, have been very promiscious, and I am not totally inept, all things which disqualify me off the bat. However, in 2006-2007,  as part of a US State Department sponsored study on human trafficking in Japan,  I worked with a company which has many retired CIA/NSA employees and has been accused of being a front company for the CIA. I don’t know if they are or aren’t a front company and I don’t really care. The study and the Human Trafficking report that came out of it had a positive impact on Japan’s attitude towards dealing with human trafficking isssues and that’s really all that matters.

If you’re interested in the outsourcing of intelligence, pick up a copy of Spies For Hire: The Secret World Of Intelligence Outsourcing *by Tim Shorrock. The CIA contractor card on the cover has a partial picture of a Jewish looking fellow but I don’t think that’s me. Not unless someone issued me a nifty little card and didn’t tell me about it. It’s an incredibly well-written book which is now back in print. (Thanks to Mr. Shorrock for letting us know.)

* I was contacted by a yakuza fan magazine journalist roughly two months ago who asserted that it was me on the cover of Spies For Hire and tried to shake me down for cash, obliquely.  So by writing this post, I’m also saying “f*ck you very much.”  Personally, what’s the most insulting thing about being accused of being a former CIA agent, and no offense to anyone working for the agency intended, but they have such a dismal success rate that it’s kind of like being accused of working for post-Bush FEMA. It wounds my pride. Most people who are in “the intelligence community” would argue that actually the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has the best actionable intelligence of any agency .

Anyway, if you’re a serious Japanologist, Legacy of Ashes is worth having on yourself for that chapter alone. (This is a revision of an article originally posted on November 14th, 2010).