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Opposition lawmaker assassinated
Japan Times Oct. 26, 2002


Outspoken DPJ member stabbed in front of his house; attacker flees

In a brutal incident that has sent shock waves throughout the nation, opposition lawmaker Koki Ishii was fatally stabbed in front of his house in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward on Friday morning.

Ishii, 61, a House of Representatives lawmaker of the Democratic Party of Japan, was stabbed at around 10:40 a.m. as he was getting into his car, police said.

He was rushed to a hospital in Meguro Ward but was pronounced dead shortly after midday. He had sustained one stab wound to his chest and a 5-cm-long cut to his chin.

Investigators said they are searching for Ishii's male attacker, who was described as being in his 50s and about 170 cm tall. The man was reportedly wearing a bandanna when the attack took place.

According to staffers at Ishii's office, the lawmaker was stabbed in the chest while trying to get into his official car on his way to attend a meeting with his supporters in the ward. Ishi's secretary and driver were in the car when the incident occurred.

The driver, who had been assigned to Ishii earlier this month following the lawmaker's appointment as chairman of the Lower House Special Committee on Disaster Prevention, told the police he had never seen the attacker before and had assumed that he was a supporter as he approached the car.

Following the car's arrival at Ishii's home at around 10:20 a.m., the man approached the house and waited behind the vehicle, according to police.

Neighbors told investigators that they had seen a man wearing a bandanna watching Ishii's home from around 8:50 a.m. and that a man fitting this description had also been seen in the vicinity over the past few days.

The suspected murder weapon -- a kitchen knife with a blade measuring 30 cm -- was found on the road outside the house, investigators said.

Neighbors said they heard Ishii shouting at someone, then heard him screaming.

His wife, Natalia, was in the house at the time of the attack, police said. She came out to see what had happened and saw her husband lying on the ground, they said.

Most Diet members are not placed under 24-hour police protection. Those that are provided with a 24-hour police guard outside their homes are the prime minister, the heads of both Diet houses, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Cabinet ministers and top officials within the major political parties.

Although Ishii was not provided with a full-time guard, police officers patrolled the area near his home. He often slept at a Diet members' dormitory rather than at home.

There was no immediate proof of a motive, but police said they are exploring the possibility of a political motive, given Ishii's reputation for exposing cash scandals in this arena.

Ishii also played an active role in exposing the activities of the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Russia. Before becoming a lawmaker, he studied law and philosophy at the postgraduate school of Moscow University.

His death prompted lawmakers from across the political spectrum to denounce the use of violence against lawmakers in a democratic state.

Commenting on the murder, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi castigated the use of violence against politicians, particularly when the Diet is in session.

"Under no circumstances should attempts to suppress political activities or erase politicians with violence be allowed," Koizumi told reporters at the Prime Minister's Official Residence. "I feel strong resentment toward the incident."

Meanwhile, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said, "It is abnormal for a Diet member to be killed by violence."

DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama, who heard the news while stumping in Niigata Prefecture, voiced anger at the killing and offered his condolences to the bereaved.

"Mr. Ishii did not forgive injustice, did not let great evil go unpunished and was well-known for his piercing questions in the Diet," Hatoyama said in a statement issued later in the day. "I feel strong rage toward the culprit and toward violence."

The DPJ, Japan's main opposition party, issued a statement in the afternoon urging investigative authorities to do their utmost to unravel the mystery and arrest the culprit.

The party condemned the attacker, stating that it was "absolutely unforgivable" to suppress political activities through acts of violence.

Taku Yamasaki, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, issued a statement expressing surprise at the news and calling for a swift conclusion to the investigation.

"While we do not yet know the circumstances behind the incident, we must never condone acts that suppress speech using such lawless violence," he said.

Mitsuo Horiuchi, chairman of the LDP Executive Council, said it is unbelievable that such an incident could take place in a nation governed by the rule of law.

Takenori Kanzaki, head of ruling coalition partner New Komeito, slammed the attack as "inexcusable."

"It is all the more regrettable because (Ishii) was a very competent person, and I would like investigative authorities to do its utmost to arrest the attacker," he said.

Ishii is the third Diet lawmaker to be murdered in the postwar era. Inejiro Asanuma, chairman of the now-disbanded Japan Socialist Party, was stabbed to death in October 1960 by a rightist, while former Labor Minister Hyosuke Niwa was stabbed in October 1990 and later died from his wounds.

He was first elected from a Tokyo constituency to serve as a Lower House member for the now-defunct Japan New Party in 1993, later joining the DPJ. He was serving his third term.

A by-election for Ishii's Diet seat will be held on April 27.

Kiosks and koban
Japan Times May 6, 2007


Two of Japan's most respected institutions — kiosks and koban (police boxes) — have gone empty in recent weeks, upsetting many who regularly depend on them. The shock waves are still reverberating around the country, but especially in Tokyo, where their essential everyday services were reported closed in numerous areas.

Those who rely on these omnipresent parts of daily life, which includes pretty much everyone at some point, may find it hard to believe that these familiar oases could actually go left unattended. Kiosks are microcosms of Japan's super-convenience, while koban both reflect and ensure a relatively safe society. Both are too much a part of daily life to imagine really being gone.

Even though the operations at most koban and kiosks have not yet been reduced, the hassle of finding another place to buy a magazine or getting somewhere without clear directions will remind many that two of Japan's most basic values are safety and efficiency. Whenever important symbols of a country start to fall apart, people should take notice.

The amazing efficiency of the kiosks is, if nothing else, a remarkable achievement, deserving perhaps a begrudging or bemused respect. Mini-economies in and of themselves, the kiosks offer immediate availability of goods in the best location imaginable. Geared toward those on the go, even newspapers are folded to be easily grabbed by one smooth motion on the run to a train. In kiosks, few human needs go unanswered.

Commuter-consumers know that wherever they wait in line, everything from an allergy mask to a white wedding necktie to a pick-me-up snack can be bought in a five-second transaction. People not need plan ahead too much because anything lost or forgotten can still be found, right on the platform. What kiosks really sell is a little spontaneity, and in a high-pressure, over-planned society, that is a much-needed thing.

Perhaps, though, times are changing. The competition from convenience stores and the transformation of train stations into shopping malls have reduced the profitable monopoly of the ultimate retail space. The rush-around salaryman lifestyle of the bubble years, too, has shifted. The demand for one-cup sake, and an energy drink for the ensuing hangover, may already be a thing of the past.

The kiosk obachan, surely the toughest salesclerks in the country, may even have to be replaced by part-time workers. Perhaps all they need is a marketing makeover, though it is hard to imagine kiosks stocking nose rings, funky hats or music downloads that appeal to fashionable, cash-ready young people. Kiosks seem caught in the middle, not only of platforms, but also of social trends.

Koban, too, may be less used and respected as they once were. Stories of found bags, returned bicycles and casual kindnesses are common, but in recent years, these small, passing successes have too often been taken for granted. Online map services have no doubt lowered the numbers of people asking for directions, but crime is a social trend that will not disappear soon.

It may be a bit of an exaggeration to say that the koban system has worked too well to be needed, but they are clearly effective at what they do. Their diminished presence, however slight, would effect not just crime rates, but how people feel about their daily lives. Koban, like kiosks in a different direction, clearly contribute to the overall quality of life in Japan. The most effective part of any koban is its very presence.

While reports of mistakes and incompetence are well documented, the total lack of local police may be a recipe for disaster. Critics are right to decry the imposing, invasive presence of some elements of the police, yet the local koban is a symbol of Japan as recognized as Mount Fuji, a sign of assurance amid change and a point of reference on every map.

While consumer convenience and a regulated society spring from these humble little buildings, over-consumption and intrusiveness are the flipsides of the benefits. Kiosks encourage unneeded spending. Koban, too, seem excessively controlling, with maps of all residences and more personal information on local citizens than in any other country in the world.

However, protest against these sides of these two institutions is not the real reason they have gone empty. Mainly, profitability and personnel have conspired to let the services lapse. No more of these little boxes of immense helpfulness should disappear because of budgets. Some parts of social life should be supported regardless of profitability.

Koban and kiosks are already deeply integrated into public life, and remain deeply valuable. The ever-ready convenience of kiosks and the mental security of koban are two of the basic certainties of Japanese life. Without them, many people will have to go without clear directions or between-meal nibbling. Bring back the koban! Bring back the kiosks!

Key Ozawa aide arrested over illegal funds
Japan Times March 4, 2009


The chief secretary of Ichiro Ozawa, head of the Democratic Party of Japan and a leading candidate to be the next prime minister, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of accepting illegal corporate donations, prosecutors said.

Takanori Okubo serves as chief accountant of Ozawa's political body, Rikuzankai, which allegedly took money from scandal-tainted Nishimatsu Construction Co., according to investigative sources.

Ozawa is in line to become prime minister if his party wins the next general election, which must be held by autumn.

Rikuzankai allegedly got the funds from two groups headed by an ex-Nishimatsu official, breaking the political funds control law, the sources said.

Corporate donations are prohibited by law except to political parties or their organizations for managing political funds.

The law also prohibits donations made under the name of another person or body.

Experts said Okubo's arrest deals a blow to the DPJ, which is attempting to promote itself as a viable alternative to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party while the LDP's leader, Prime Minister Taro Aso, is suffering from historically low public support ratings.

"The opaqueness surrounding Ozawa's political funds has been his Achilles heel. The damage to the DPJ will be severe," said Tomoaki Iwai, a political science professor at Nihon University in Tokyo. "Attention may be focused on whether he should resign or be summoned to the Diet as a sworn witness."

While some junior DPJ members called for Ozawa's resignation Tuesday, most in the party appeared to be standing by him.

Earlier in the day, DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama told reporters that the accusation by investigators, already reported by the media before the arrest, is "a frameup" by authorities.

"Ozawa has made clear all the money that was coming in and going out, and there aren't any problems. (The accusation) is a frameup," Hatoyama claimed.

Ozawa has claimed that all the funds were properly managed and that Rikuzankai took the money believing it had come from political organizations, not the construction company.

Mikio Kunisawa, the former president of Nishimatsu, was served a new arrest warrant Tuesday in connection with the allegations by the special investigation department of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor's Office, theinvestigative sources said.

Kunisawa was already indicted in February for allegedly telling subordinates to bring millions of yen into Japan from overseas for slush funds without reporting the money to customs authorities in violation of the foreign exchange and foreign trade law.

Aso declined to comment on Okubo's arrest.

"I believe that the prosecutors are handling (the case) appropriately," Aso said. "I will not comment on individual cases."

However, he strongly denied that this turn of events would affect his decision on when to dissolve the Lower House and call for a general election.

"We are implementing fiscal and economic measures at the moment," Aso said. "The dissolution has nothing to do with this (arrest)."

Uruma recalls no off-record biased remark
Japan Times March 10, 2009


Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Iwao Uruma stressed Monday he does not recall saying the scandal over alleged illicit political donations from Nishimatsu Construction Co. would not implicate lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

But he added that whatever comments he made were off the record and may have been misinterpreted.

"I don't think I made statements that would deny the neutrality or fairness of the prosecutors' investigation by pointing out the tendency of investigations over a specific political party's lawmakers," Uruma told the Upper House Budget Committee. "But I don't know how the reporters perceived my statements."

On Thursday, Uruma, speaking as an unidentified "senior government official," reportedly told reporters that the political funds scandal "would not spread to LDP lawmakers."

At a news conference Monday, Uruma said neither he nor his secretaries remember him making such remarks, but he admitted he has no proof to back up that claim.

"It is either my memory that is wrong, or the reporters' memories that are wrong," Uruma said.

He denied the possibility of someone in his position being able to have contact with investigators openly nor secretly, adding that ever since he became a member of the Cabinet, he has had no interaction with prosecutors.

"I don't think (a deputy chief Cabinet secretary) can have contact with investigative authorities, and I myself have not been in contact at all with the prosecutors over this case," Uruma said.

Uruma, a former police bureaucrat, nevertheless apologized to the budget committee.

"The media did not report the true meaning of my remarks, and I apologize for causing a lot of trouble for everyone," Uruma said.

Prime Minister Taro Aso told reporters Monday that Uruma's statements were inappropriate.

"I think (Uruma) has acted with sincerity" to explain his remark, he said. But "it was inappropriate" for Uruma to make such statements that would cause a misunderstanding, he added.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura revealed Uruma's name on a TV talk show Sunday and said he gave his subordinate a stern warning. Kawamura denied Monday morning that further punishment was necessary, including calling for his resignation.

Uruma, former chief of the National Police Agency, made the statement following the arrest of Takanori Okubo, chief secretary of Democratic Party of Japan leader Ichiro Ozawa, on suspicion of violating the Political Funds Control Law.

Key Cabinet aide under fire for remark
Ssahi Shimbun 2009/3/9


Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura revealed Sunday that the government official who raised tensions with a controversial remark about the political donation scandal involving Nishimatsu Construction Co. was one of his deputies.

On two TV programs, Kawamura named his deputy Iwao Uruma as the source of the comment.

On Thursday, two days after opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa's aide was arrested in the scandal over donations from political organizations linked to Nishimatsu, media organizations credited an unnamed senior government official with saying that prosecutors would not file charges against lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Opposition Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) officials took the comment as an indication that Takanori Okubo's arrest was politically motivated.

Touching upon Uruma's background as a former chief of the National Police Agency and possible misunderstandings that could arise, Kawamura said, "I issued a severe warning because it was an extremely inappropriate remark."

When asked later by reporters why he decided to reveal Uruma's name, Kawamura said, "Even if it came from an off-the-record meeting, there was responsibility to explain it because it came out in media reports."

Uruma talked with reporters on an off-the-record basis about the arrest of Okubo, Ozawa's state-funded aide and treasurer of his political organization Rikuzankai, on suspicion of violating the Political Fund Control Law.

Kawamura said Sunday that Prime Minister Taro Aso also approved the unveiling of Uruma's name.

Kawamura told reporters that Uruma reported to him about the comment. Kawamura said, "He was speaking in general terms. He did not intend to speak definitively about the course of the investigation. He absolutely did not make the statement because he had gained information from prosecutors."

Kawamura told Uruma to explain his comment in a public forum. Uruma will explain himself at a news conference set for today.

Yukio Hatoyama, Minshuto secretary-general, said, "As a former commissioner-general of the NPA, he has easy access to information. We have to suspect there is an open channel between prosecutors and the Cabinet."

Minshuto officials are expected to bring up Uruma's comment at an Upper House Budget Committee session today.

Analysts said Kawamura likely revealed Uruma's name to head off a possible scandal involving the government, at a time when Minshuto is reeling over the Nishimatsu affair.

The Asahi Shimbun had asked Uruma on Friday to admit that he made the comment, but he refused. On Saturday, reporters covering the Cabinet beat made the same request. However, that request was refused on the grounds that a comment made off the record could not be retroactively made on the record.

In addition to Minshuto, ruling coalition officials also criticized Uruma's initial comment mainly because of his background.

Yoshihide Suga, deputy chairman of the LDP's Election Strategy Council, said, "People will look at the comment with bias."

Most media organizations initially reported the off-the-record comment because it is unusual for an official in an important position to speak about a delicate matter involving an investigation linked to a politician.

N Korea spy meets abductee's son
BBC News 11 March 2009


A former North Korean spy has held a rare meeting with relatives of a Japanese woman abducted by Pyongyang 31 years ago to train her.

Kim Hyon-hui, who was jailed for the 1987 bombing of a Korean Air flight, met the son of Yaeko Taguchi in the South Korean city of Busan.

She told him that she believed Ms Taguchi was alive, despite North Korean statements to the contrary.

Ms Taguchi was seized from her Tokyo home in 1978, at the age of 22.

She is one of 13 Japanese nationals that the communist nation has admitted to kidnapping in the late 1970s and early 1980s to train its spies.

North Korea has returned five of the abductees and says the other eight are dead - but Japan does not believe that this is true.

'Fresh hope'

Kim Hyon-hui, the former agent, held a 90-minute closed-door meeting with 32 year-old Koichiro Iizuka, who was one when his mother was abducted, and Shigeo Iizuka, Ms Taguchi's brother.

The 47-year-old has said in the past that Ms Taguchi taught her Japanese language and how to pass herself off as a Japanese tourist - a disguise she used when she planted the airline bomb that killed 115 people.

"She told me quite clearly that my mother ... is still alive, so I have fresh hope for her return," Mr Iizuka told journalists afterwards.

North Korea says Ms Taguchi died in a car accident in 1986. But Japan is seeking concrete proof of her death, as well as information on several other of its nationals it believes Pyongyang kidnapped.

Tokyo wants the issue resolved before diplomatic ties with Pyongyang can be normalised.

Kim Hyon-hui was sentenced to death for her role in the North Korean-ordered airline bombing, but later pardoned by South Korean authorities.

She married her South Korean bodyguard in 1997 and lives in seclusion in a South Korean city, Yonhap news agency said.

New files 'link Chirac to secret Japanese bank account'
The Guardian 25 May 2007


Jacques Chirac came under renewed pressure yesterday to respond to allegations that he held a secret £30m account with a Japanese bank, amid reports that documents had emerged linking the former French president to the funds. Judges quizzed a retired senior intelligence officer for nine hours over documents, described as "explosive", linking Mr Chirac to the account.

Police had swooped on the home of General Philippe Rondot, former head of the DGSE intelligence service, as part of another inquiry but found files labelled Japanese affair, PR1 affair and PR2 affair. PR stands for President of the Republic.

The judges were unable to consult the documents until Mr Chirac handed over power to Nicolas Sarkozy on May 16. After opening the files - two days after he left the Elysée - they called an immediate emergency meeting and ordered Gen Rondot to appear for questioning. Inside the files they reportedly found details of an account allegedly opened in Mr Chirac's name at the Tokyo Sowa Bank in the 1990s and copies of statements.

When allegations first emerged a year ago, Mr Chirac categorically denied having a bank account in Japan. His representatives continue to deny the allegations. However the former president, already facing questioning as part of an inquiry into corruption and abuse of public funds during his time as mayor of Paris from 1977-95, is likely to face fresh investigations when his immunity from prosecution as head of state expires on June 17.

Judges had ordered raids on Gen Rondot's home and questioned the former head of France's DGSE - the equivalent of Britain's MI6 - last year as part of the Clearstream dirty tricks political scandal.

When questioned then, Gen Rondot said intelligence agents had come across the Sowa Bank accounts in 1996 when investigating a Japanese businessman and friend of the president who wanted to invest in France. The general later retracted this, but among his copious handwritten notes, the judges stumbled across papers allegedly showing he had been asked by Mr Chirac in 2001 to find out if French intelligence was looking into claims of a Japanese account.

A source told the French weekly paper Le Canard Enchainé that the two investigating judges were "persuaded of the existence of Chirac's Japanese account". The paper added: "Meticulous as he was, the general wasn't content just to collect these embarrassing documents; he also analysed their contents over 112 pages."

Kunimatsu ambush remains a mystery
March 30, 1998 Japan Times


Three years ago Monday, Takaji Kunimatsu, then chief of the National Police Agency, was shot by an unidentified gunman and seriously wounded as he left his condominium in Tokyo's Arakawa Ward for work.

The unprecedented assault on the highest national police authority remains a mystery, although investigators still believe Aum Shinrikyo was behind it. The ambush took place only 10 days after police launched a nationwide raid on the doomsday cult in connection with the nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 12 people and injured thousands of others.

According to the Metropolitan Police Department, people closely resembling senior Aum members were witnessed near the scene before and after the shooting. The cult members in question do not have solid alibis to rule out their involvement, MPD sources said.

Several former Aum leaders and rank-and-file cultists have also recently hinted the cult was involved, a ranking MPD official said. Since January, the MPD has increased the number of investigators covering the case by 20 to 130.

Still, police have been unable to obtain concrete evidence that could lead to a breakthrough in the case. A former MPD sergeant and ex-cultist later confessed to the shooting and told police he dumped the pistol used in the attack in Tokyo's Arakawa River, but police divers combed the murky riverbed in vain, and the officer was never charged.

"Unless this incident is resolved, we cannot fully regain the public's trust in the police organization," an MPD official said. "Our investigation is not moving backward. It is making progress."

Kunimatsu, 60, suffered three bullet wounds in the attack, and at one time was in critical condition. He recovered and returned to his job as NPA chief until he retired.
1995 shooting of police chief goes unsolved
March 30, 2010 Japan Times


The statute of limitations for the shooting of the National Police Agency chief in 1995 in Tokyo was set to run out at midnight Monday with no one ever being charged in the attempted murder.

The Metropolitan Police Department committed massive resources to the investigation on suspicion that the Aum Shinrikyo cult was involved but never found any hard evidence.

NPA Commissioner General Takaji Kunimatsu was shot and severely wounded in front of his home in Arakawa Ward on March 30, 1995, eight days after the police launched massive raids on Aum following the deadly sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway.

In May 1996, a former Tokyo police officer who was an Aum Shinrikyo follower turned himself in, telling investigators he had shot Kunimatsu. The police department tried to cover up the confession and investigated the officer in secret. He was placed under police "protection" and interrogated without due process of law.

After an insider tip to the media revealed the secret investigation, which wasn't reported to the NPA, Metropolitan Police Superintendent General Yukihiko Inoue resigned to take responsibility.

The police started a new probe from scratch. The alleged gunman and three others linked to the cult were arrested in 2004 in connection with the shooting, but prosecutors later decided not to indict them due to a lack of evidence.

Heihachiro Oshio
ninemsn encarta


Heihachiro Oshio (1793-1837), Japanese philosopher, government official, and rebel. Born into a samurai family of hereditary constables in Osaka, Oshio studied Neo-Confucian philosophy, particularly the action-oriented Wang Yangming tradition, and founded his own school, the Senshindo. After succeeding to his father's post as police inspector in 1800, he zealously pursued bribery and corruption, but resigned in 1830 to teach. His lectures (published 1833) spread his fame nationwide. His teachings emphasized the universality of virtue, which transcends all social distinctions. Moved by the suffering of the populace after the famine of 1836-1837, Oshio first sold his superb library to help the poor, then planned a revolt against rich merchants and officials, aided by commoners and by his disciples. The rising on February 19, 1837 (March 25, 1837 in the Gregorian calendar), caused fires which destroyed one quarter of Osaka, and Oshio's motley forces were rapidly crushed. Oshio and his adopted son went into hiding, taking refuge in a towel-seller's shop. Betrayed by their hosts and surrounded, they killed themselves on March 27. Subsequently Oshio became a model for Japanese extremists of left and right.

In pursuit of 'reality,' TV sinks to new depths
Japan Times March 2, 2003


Last week, a judge ruled in favor of NHK in the public broadcaster's libel suit against Kodansha. The publisher's monthly magazine Gendai ran an article in Oct. 2000 that said NHK persuaded fishermen in Indonesia to re-create a method for catching fish involving explosives for a news report. The court found that the magazine's assertion couldn't be proved and awarded NHK 4 million yen.

The kind of manipulation that Kodansha accused NHK of is called yarase, a word that tends to get thrown around a lot these days, and for good reason.

Japanese TV, especially commercial TV, has evolved into what can accurately be called "all reality, all the time." Entertainment programs and news programs overlap so much that it's difficult to tell where one starts and the other ends. But the reason for this overlap has more to do with economics than programming considerations.

Commercial broadcasters are continually being forced to rein in budgets. The average cost of a program that fills an hourlong time slot is about 10 million yen right now. The battle for audience share is fought mainly on the talent front, and if an expensive host is hired and celebrity guests are invited, these costs can take up as much as 70 percent of the budget.

So if anything has to be cut, it's production expenses. Producers either hire an outside production company to provide content at a fixed price, or they buy prepackaged content. In either case, the outside production company has to come up with the content itself, and as cheaply as possible.

This process encourages yarase. An article that appeared in Shukan Bunshun several weeks ago gave detailed examples of the practices independent production companies have developed to keep costs down and content flowing. Of course, Bunshun's word also has to be taken with a grain of salt, especially since the article contains not one named source.

But if one compares the examples given in the article to the stuff on screen, it's easy to believe. As one anonymous producer points out, the goal is to come up with the biggest sensation at the lowest cost. Another producer states that in order to fulfill this goal, "We will do anything, even ruin people's lives."

These companies are after the same things, namely illegal activities or behavior that is uncivil or immoral. Among the most common topics are shoplifting, illegal dumping, illicit sexual activities and domestic strife. The footage is then sold to networks for use in variety shows, information specials and even news programs.

As Mr. A, an independent producer, points out in the article, there are many variables and unknowns involved in documentary filmmaking, and considering the cost of sending out a crew for a day's work, it's risky not to go "prepared."

Shoplifting stories, which are extremely common, use hidden cameras to catch people stealing in supermarkets and department stores, but even when the camera records an actual theft, sometimes it's difficult to see, so the production company hires "criminals" to make it more obvious, but, of course, without telling the security people in the store. After they get the footage they want, they have methods of extracting their hirelings from the clutches of the law.

Another producer, Mr. B, corroborates Mr. A's assertions, but doesn't apologize for them, stating that "many viewers don't really understand yarase." He distinguishes between yarase, preparation (shikomi) and direction. When he shoots videos of teenage girls soliciting sex, he likes to have his subjects weep on camera. According to Mr. B, yarase would be "telling the girl to cry." If you give her onions to draw tears, that's "preparation." And if you tell her to imagine what her "dead grandmother in heaven would think" of her selling her body, that's "direction."

The demand for footage has given rise to a new set of workers called "researchers," who are hired by production companies to find subjects. It is the researcher's job to locate cheating wives, agoraphobics, stalking victims and the like, to go on screen and talk about or re-enact their stories. It is also their job to make sure the subjects don't change their minds before the documentary is aired. According to the Bunshun article, one female researcher believed she was required to cater to a psychologically unbalanced young man's sexual desires to ensure his cooperation.

The anonymity of the professionals quoted in the Bunshun article is mirrored by the anonymity of the subjects of the documentaries, whose faces and voices are usually masked (producers pay subjects, and they pay more to subjects who agree to appear without the masking). In effect, the "reality" of the material is made unreal by its presentation, thus leaving behind a residue of cynicism.

It's this cynicism that seems to be the real sales point. When it's presented as entertainment, as fodder for comments by comedians on variety shows, the material has a built-in phoniness that neutralizes any feeling the viewer may have that he's being fooled.

But the underlying message of these video documents is that civil society is breaking down, especially when they're used on legitimate news shows. A common practice right now is to have reporters directly confront people on the street with their misdemeanors, such as illegal parking and smoking on the street. The only explanation for this kind of "guerrilla reporting" is that it encourages a feeling of vicarious payback in the viewer.

Is that what they mean by "news you can use?"

Small-life, low-name -- let's not talk about me
Japan Times Sept. 6, 2002


There are some aspects of Japanese politeness that baffle even the Japanese. Like the habit of saying: "Kyoshuku desu (I'm terrified and shrinking)" in response to someone doing you a favor. And "Osoreirimasu (Fear has entered me)" instead of a plain "Arigato (Thank you)." Are other people really so terrifying -- or are we just suffering from a collective, colossal, politeness hangup?

The hangup can be observed firsthand in the way the Japanese refer to themselves -- which is to say, we rarely refer to ourselves at all. The personal pronoun is a recent phenomenon and only goes back about a century. Until then, it was considered vaguely rude to call anyone by their given names -- and unthinkable for people to highlight their individualities by using the word watashi (me). The word employed when referring to oneself was temae (in front of the hand), which called polite attention to the person attached to the hand.

And how did we call upon one another? Often, locales and places were used in lieu of names. For example, if one had an uncle who lived in Kojimachi, that uncle would be called Kojimachi-no (Kojimachi's). If you lived around the corner, people would call you yokocho-no (from the corner).

And if you happened to be a woman . . .? Well, that was another can of worms altogether. Newly married, you automatically became goshinzo-san (person who makes new bodies); after the first child, you were nyobo (woman-bag). If you were fortunate enough to be married to a high-class samurai, then you were first goseishitsu (revered and official chamber) and later gobodo (revered mother).

Men were generally referred to by their rank, profession or job: sakanaya (fishmonger), toryo (carpenter's boss), o-buke (of the revered samurai class). In this way, a person's individuality was deflected by his or her fulfillment of a certain function or occupation of a particular space.

Underlying all this, of course, was the thinking that people shouldn't be referred to as individuals at all because they simply weren't worth it. Only when dead was a person referred to by name -- a new one, the kaimyo (Buddhist name). And even this concession was mainly made out of polite consideration for the bookkeepers of Nirvana.

This mind-set has carried over into the modern Japanese language -- there is still a lingering embarrassment over the word watashi, especially among those age 45 and older. This embarrassment has fermented into self-deprecation, and it's astonishing to see the lengths people will go to just to put themselves down.

Take Tomohiro Watanabe, 47, father of two, bucho (general manager) at a major trading company. Watanabe-san isn't some uma-no hone (horse bones) off the street; he studied at Berkeley, draws a good salary, is a homeowner and on weekends presides over wine-tasting parties. Yet, in e-mail messages and over the phone, he refers to himself as "kamei (low name)" or "shoshoku (small job)." In his relaxed moments, he will call himself "shosei (small life)."

In the company of friends, he will eliminate pronouns altogether so it's hard to tell whether it was Watanabe-san who was bitten by a stray dog the other day or his wife. By the way, wives are a part of oneself so they must be devalued as well. Watanabe-san calls his beautiful spouse "gusai (foolish wife)" and his precious boy is "bakamusuko (stupid son)."

This low-name could cite further examples but fears that the column has ome o yosugoshita (soiled your reverent eyes) far too long. Perhaps this conversation can be continued some other time, at a gathering where this small-life will be masseki o kegashite imasu (dirtying the furthermost, humblest seat in the room with my presence) And so I ask you to look for me -- oops!, I mean low-name -- when we meet again.

The Role of the Geisha in Japanese Culture
ASSOCIATED CONTENT February 06, 2006


In the Edo Period (1600-1868) the Tayu arose. They were Japanese Courtesans who entertained with arts of dance, music, poetry and calligraphy, and an educated wit. Due to isolation within closed districts the Tayu became highly ritualized and more removed from changing society. Their clients began to dwindle. It wasn't long before the rise of the Geisha ended the era of the Tayu. The popularity of the Geisha grew rapidly and eventually completely depleted the number of Tayu. The last recorded Tayu was in 1761.

WHAT IS A GEISHA?

Geisha means "artist" in Japanese. Geisha are professional hostesses who entertain guests by performing various arts in tea houses called O-chaya. Throughout their careers Geisha are trained and continue to study and perfect skills such as Japanese ancient dance, singing, playing instruments such as Shamisen, flower arrangement, wearing kimono, tea ceremony, calligraphy, conversation, alcohol serving manners and more.

The Geisha tradition evolved from the taikomochi or hokan, similar to court jesters. The first Geisha were all male. When women began to take the role of Geisha they were known as onna Geisha (women artist). Today Geisha are all female, besides the Taikomochi. Taikomochi are becoming extremely rare. There are only three still registered in Japan.

To be successful a Geisha must demonstrate beauty, grace, artistic talent, charm and impeccable etiquette and refinement. Guest with a long time connection to the tea houses are the only ones allowed. It is rare for the tea houses to take on new clients without an introduction. The Geisha profession is very expensive. A Geisha party can easily cost thousands of US dollars.

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Geisha
History


The geisha's arts were developed in the Tokugawa period (1600-1868) in Japan, but geisha as such didn't really flourish until the Meiji era (1868-1910's). Geisha were originally men called in to entertain in the "flower and willow world" (karyukai), also called the "water world" or the "floating world," which contained prostitutes, entertainers and their patrons. Soon all geisha were women, however, and while they were prohibited from competing with the prostitutes, there is evidence that they did. Geisha and prostitutes separated their activities after the geisha became more popular and were called to entertain at other teahouses and outside the walled confines of the flower and willow world. Geisha came to occupy the top levels of the water world, and were the leaders in defining chic fashion and the arts in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Part of the reason for this popularity was the important role geisha played in the changing of government from Tokugawa to Meiji; the revolution was planned in the teahouses of Gion and Pontocho. The geisha involved remained silent about the revolution and even occasionally protected the revolutionaries from the officials. The revolutionaries rewarded the geisha's support by patronizing them after the successful change of government (Liza Crihfield: The Institution of the Geisha in Modern Japanese Society thesis (Stanford University, 1978), page 65.)

With the coming of the Taisho and Showa periods (1920s to '30s), Western material culture and ideology was imported into Japan. The geisha at first tried to modernize along with the rest of society, but soon realized that they would lose everything that made them special and become just another type of jokyu (bar hostesses and caf・girls) if they did. This period was one of confusion for the geisha, and with the coming of World War 2, the geisha establishment was even disbanded for some years. After the war, the geisha returned to their old neighborhoods, but not in the same numbers as they had had before. Increasing competition with the Westernized jokyu led to the geisha forfeiting their place as the queens of the fashionable world and instead became the preservers of the traditional arts and entertainments. The situation was complicated by the fact that "The geisha were dismayed at the number of prostitutes who called themselves "geisha girls" for the benefit of the American troops, and the G.I.'s of course, were unaware of such nuances." (Crihfield, page 100) This confusion of true geisha with prostitutes had long-lasting repercussions, as will be discussed later. Nowadays the true geisha numbers have dwindled even further and there is some doubt as to how much longer the geisha can maintain their unique way of life.

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Geisha and prostitution
WIKIPEDIA


There remains some confusion, even within Japan, about the nature of the geisha profession. Geisha are portrayed as prostitutes in much Western popular culture. However, geisha do not engage in paid sex with clients. Their purpose is to entertain their customer, be it by dancing, reciting verse, playing musical instruments, or engaging in light conversation. Geisha engagements may include flirting with men and playful innuendos; however, clients know that nothing more can be expected. In a social style that is common in Japan, men are amused by the illusion of that which is never to be.

Geisha have been confused with the high-class courtesans of the Edo period known as oiran, from whom they evolved. Like geisha, oiran wore elaborate hairstyles and white makeup, but oiran tied their obi in the front not, as is commonly thought, for easy removal, but, according to anthropologist Liza Dalby, because that was the practice of married women at the time. During the Edo period, prostitution was legal. Prostitutes such as the oiran worked within walled-in districts licensed by the government. In the seventeenth century, the oiran sometimes employed men called "geisha" to perform at their parties. Therefore, the first geisha were men. In the late eighteenth century, dancing women called "odoriko" and newly popular female geisha began entertaining men at banquets in unlicensed districts. Some were apprehended for illegal prostitution and sent to the licensed quarters, where there was a strict distinction between geisha and prostitutes, and the former were forbidden to sell sex. In contrast, "machi geisha", who worked outside the licensed districts, often engaged in illegal prostitution.

In 1872, shortly after the Meiji Restoration, the new government passed a law liberating "prostitutes (shōgi) and geisha (geigi)". The wording of this statute was the subject of controversy. Some officials thought that prostitutes and geisha worked at different ends of the same profession—selling sex— and that all prostitutes should henceforth be called "geisha". In the end, the government decided to maintain a line between the two groups, arguing that geisha were more refined and should not be soiled by association with prostitutes.

Also, geisha working in onsen towns such as Atami are dubbed onsen geisha. Onsen geisha have been given a bad reputation due to the prevalence of prostitutes in such towns who market themselves as "geisha", as well as sordid rumors of dance routines like Shallow River (which involves the "dancers" lifting the skirts of their kimono higher and higher). In contrast to these "one-night geisha", the true onsen geisha are in fact competent dancers and musicians. However, the autobiography of Sayo Masuda, an onsen geisha who worked in Nagano Prefecture in the 1930s, reveals that in the past, such women were often under intense pressure to sell sex.

Ambassador to Switzerland resigns
Japan Times Dec. 18, 2002


The government approved the resignation of Takaji Kunimatsu as ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein on Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry said.

The resignation, endorsed by the Cabinet, takes effect immediately.

Kunimatsu, 65, a former commissioner general of the National Police Agency, was named Japan's top envoy to Switzerland in September 1999.

In March 1995, when he was heading the NPA and directing the investigation into Aum Shinrikyo, he was shot by a gunman in front of his residence in Tokyo's Arakawa Ward and severely wounded.

Police have yet to make an arrest in the case, but NPA officials have said it is one of their priorities.

The mysterious 'Merchant of Death'
BBC News 16 September 2007


The name Victor Bout first came on my radar in the late 1990s when, in my job as a BBC reporter in Africa, I found myself spending an inordinate amount of time with soldiers.

The region had more than its share of wars and armed men.

I spent time with scruffy rebels in the Guinean bush and smart Indian UN peacekeepers; I sought out a United Nations commander at a golf club in Liberia one Sunday morning and met a Nigerian general later the same day in a hotel bar; I counted British majors, Nigerian colonels and South African mercenaries as my friends.

Almost all of them had heard about a (to me) mysterious man called Victor Bout, a Russian businessman who apparently traded in Africa and beyond.

To me it seemed rather odd that so many soldiers knew this Russian. Odd, that is, until 2003, when Mr Bout's name was included in a UN Security Council resolution travel ban list.

Victor Bout appeared on the list - along with the then Liberian President Charles Taylor and some of his ministers - as "Victor Anatoljevitch Bout alias Butt, Bont, Buttee, Boutov, Sergitov Vitali", and was described thus:

"Businessman, dealer and transporter of weapons and minerals. Arms dealer in contravention of UNSC resolution 1343. Supported former President Charles Taylor's regime in efforts to destabilise Sierra Leone and gain illicit access to diamonds."

For sale

A new book on Victor Bout by American journalists Doug Farah and Stephen Braun contains allegations that the Russian had a much wider remit than just Africa.

The authors describe a hydra-headed network of companies which emerged from the ashes of the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s - all of them associated in some way, the book says, with Mr Bout.

The business allegedly started from the large number of former Soviet army and air force planes that were sitting on airfields more or less redundant. In the chaos of the collapsing state, these Antonovs and Illyushins - along with their crews - were up for sale.

More robust and easier to maintain than American aircraft, the former Soviet air fleet was perfect for delivering goods to bumpy wartime airstrips around the world.

The range of countries Mr Bout has allegedly dealt with is breathtaking. UN documents, many fed with information by a tenacious Belgian arms researcher, Johan Peleman, have named him in connection with wars in Angola, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

The new book also details his activities in Afghanistan, Iraq and Colombia. It explains how, at one point, the man had a palatial residence in South Africa - only to have it attacked in an apparent gangland fallout.

On the run

But the most extraordinary thing about Mr Bout is that he is still at large despite

having been sought by senior officials in the former Clinton administration (the Bush administration appears to have taken its eye off the ball) having an arrest warrant issued against him in Belgium being named frequently by the UN in connection with illegal arms deals being publicly condemned as a "Merchant of Death" by the British MP Peter Hain while he was a Foreign Office minister The book explains Mr Bout's success by his undoubted vision and ambition as a businessman, but also by two broad strokes of luck. The first was that he emerged as a serious business player, with military connections, at a time when a lot of hardware was available for sale from the former Soviet bloc.

Washington now had different interests, given its greater emphasis on Iraq

The second stroke of luck was that Mr Bout came to be best known to - and named by - UN investigators at a time when the only remaining superpower, the US, was concentrating on its own "war on terror" rather than on countering arms trails which terrorised Africans, Asians and others.

Indeed, one of the most surprising sections of the new book details how the US military used planes allegedly subcontracted to companies associated with Mr Bout to deliver supplies to the American war effort in Iraq.

By this time, the informal cell of US officials working on tracking Mr Bout, set up under the Clinton era, had lost clout.

It wasn't that the US overtly wanted to deal with Bout-associated companies but that Washington now had different interests, given its greater emphasis on Iraq.

His planes were available, at the right price, and his crews were ready to take the risks - like elsewhere in the world, in other eras. And maybe - given that he is still at large - like now.

Aum Shinrikyo Has More Members In Russia Than In Japan
The Ross Institute Daily News Bulletin (Moscow)/August 12, 2003


The Aum Shinrikyo sect has more members in Russia than in Japan, Metropolitan Kiril, head of the Moscow Patriarchate's Foreign Relations Department, has announced.

On Tuesday, Metropolitan Kiril met with the chief priests of the six largest Japanese churches. The Japanese delegation expressed regret that members of the Aum Shinrikyo sect, who organized a terrorist attack in Tokyo eight years ago, continue to influence the spiritual health of Russian citizens.

After a gas attack in the Tokyo subway on March 20, 1995, in which 12 people were killed and over 5,400 suffered, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office opened a criminal investigation into the activities of the Moscow branch of this Japanese sect. In a month, the Russian and Moscow branches of the sect were closed by a court ruling "in the interests of the state."

Metropolitan Kiril and the Japanese delegation agreed that a campaign against sects should be waged.

Metropolitan Kiril said that "deeper cooperation between the two countries' religious leaders could facilitate Russian-Japanese rapprochement."

North Korea fires rocket over Tohoku
Japan Times April 5, 2009


North Korea fired a long-range rocket over the Tohoku region Sunday, but Japan did not try to shoot it down because its debris posed no threat to Japanese territory.

The missile, which Pyongyang claimed was carrying a satellite, blasted off from the Musudan-ri launch facility at 11:30 a.m. despite warnings from Tokyo and Washington that it would violate U.N. resolutions banning the North from ballistic activity. The Defense Ministry said the rocket's first booster fell into the Sea of Japan approximately 280 km west of Akita Prefecture at around 11:37 a.m.

The Self-Defense Forces finished tracking the rocket at 11:48 a.m. after it had crossed the Tohoku region and was about 2,100 km east of Japan over the Pacific. The SDF said a second booster could have dropped into the Pacific. Thirteen SDF planes were dispatched to the Tohoku region to look for damage, the ministry said.

"I have just given orders first to confirm safety, and to quickly gather and disseminate information," Prime Minister Taro Aso told reporters at a hastily prepared news conference minutes after the launch.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura expressed deep dissatisfaction over North Korea's launch.

"I cannot help but say that the launch, carried out by North Korea despite repeated requests to refrain from doing so, was a grave provocative action from the viewpoint of security," Kawamura said. "It is a violation of United Nations Resolutions 1695 and 1718, and it is extremely regrettable."

Kawamura, the government's top spokesman, added that the government has already decided to extend sanctions on Pyongyang for a year from April 13, including a ban on North Korean-flagged ships from entering Japanese ports and all imports of North Korean goods.

But whether Japan will implement additional sanctions, Kawamura said, depends on the reaction of the U.N. Security Council and the international community.

He said the government filed a protest with Pyongyang through its embassy in Beijing.

"We strongly protested to Pyongyang that the launch is a serious issue from the viewpoint of security," Kawamura said.

He said the government was in the process of confirming whether the rocket was a satellite launch or a long-distance ballistic missile.

Prior to the launch, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada had mobilized Japan's ¥800 billion missile defense system and ordered the SDF to shoot down any parts of the rocket that could cause damage to Japanese territory.

In addition to moving Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) interceptor batteries to Akita and Iwate prefectures, the destroyers Kongou and Choukai, both equipped with antiballistic missile defense systems, were dispatched to the Sea of Japan.

In response, Pyongyang warned that any attempt to shoot down its rocket would be seen as an act of war and provoke retaliation.

The Defense Ministry issued its first alert after receiving a U.S. Shared Early Warning missile-firing signal at 11:31 a.m., a minute after the actual launch. At 11:38 a.m. the ministry announced that the missile defense system was not activated during the incident.

Sunday was the second day of a five-day time frame that North Korea had set for the launch. Pyongyang had notified the International Civil Aviation Organization and International Maritime Organization that the first two stages of the rocket could fall in the Sea of Japan off the Tohoku region and in the mid-Pacific between Japan and Hawaii.

Anxiety at the Defense Ministry was palpable as reporters and officials awaited the looming launch. PAC-3 launchers were set up outside the ministry with dozens of SDF jeeps and cars standing by for emergency duties.

The strain reached its first peak at noon Saturday, when the government mistakenly announced that the rocket had been fired from the Musudan-ri launch facility. The alarm was retracted five minutes later, with an explanation that a radar in Chiba Prefecture mistook unrelated signals for the rocket launch.

"It is very regrettable that such incorrect information was released," the government said, with Hamada telling reporters that such mistakes were "inexcusable."

Many were left questioning both the timing of the launch as well as the accuracy of government announcements, but weather conditions near the launchpad in Musudan-ri is believed to have caused Pyongyang to delay the launch until Sunday.

North Korea has repeatedly caused tensions to rise in the East Asian region through its nuclear and missile tests. In 1998, the communist state launched a Taepodong-1 missile over Japan.

Hope, Criticism Greet Obama in Turkey
Washington Post April 6, 2009


ANKARA, Turkey, April 5 -- At the tail end of a maiden overseas trip that has stretched from London to the western fringes of Asia, President Obama arrived here Sunday night amid widespread Turkish hopes for improved relations with the United States, a powerful show of police force and plans for demonstrations against U.S. policies.

Air Force One landed in darkness at this Turkish capital's airport just after 9 p.m. local time. For the first time on his trip, Obama appeared at the plane door without first lady Michelle Obama, who left for Washington after the couple's visit to Prague earlier in the day.

After briefly greeting dignitaries, Obama got into the presidential limousine, adorned with U.S. and Turkish flags, for the 45-minute drive to his downtown hotel.

The high-profile visit to Turkey signaled the critical role Obama hopes Turkey could play in U.S. outreach to the Middle East.

A staunchly secular nation of nearly 77 million Muslims, Turkey is a key player in regional politics, particularly with regard to countries such as Syria and Iran, with which Obama is trying to create openings for dialogue.

Obama has planned meetings with the Turkish president and prime minister, as well as a speech to the Turkish parliament Monday. He is due to arrive Monday evening in Istanbul for visits with key religious leaders and a round-table discussion with students, many of whom will participate via videoconference from Europe and the Middle East.

As Obama arrived Sunday night, police barricaded roads around the round tower of the Sheraton Hotel, where Obama was to stay. Large trucks were parked across the main access road, snipers were posted on rooftops, and police armed with automatic weapons were stationed every few feet.

Turkish attitudes toward the United States tumbled under the Bush administration, falling from 52 percent favorability in 1999-2000 to 12 percent last year, according to the Pew Global Attitudes survey. But the vast majority of Turks in this cheerful, bustling city seemed to eagerly welcome Obama on his first visit as president to a predominantly Muslim country.

Still, police appeared to be taking no chances. Local news media reports said police planned to use electronic jamming equipment to guard against the possibility of radio-controlled explosive devices along Obama's motorcade routes.

In a country that has had strained relations with the United States since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, police will also close many major roads Monday to guard against attacks by Islamic extremists or others.

Sunday afternoon in Kizilay, a busy shopping area often used as a protest site, those planning demonstrations seemed to be largely idealistic young people angry more at "American imperialism" than at Obama.

"We don't have a personal problem with Obama, but Obama represents imperialism, so we are against him," said Kubilay Akcay, 23, a leader of the Public Independence Party, which set up a booth in the Kizilay center where members passed out literature about Latin American revolutionaries Fidel Castro and Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

Nearby, pasted to a utility pole, was a flier featuring Uncle Sam with Obama's face and the slogan "Yankee Go Home." The poster also featured a shoe stuck on the end of a pole and said, "Obama is coming, prepare your shoes."

It was a reference to an incident last year in Iraq, in which an Iraqi journalist threw a shoe at then-President George W. Bush -- an especially insulting gesture in Muslim countries.

"There is no difference between Bush and Obama," said Mustafa Bayyar, 25, who was working the booth with Akcay. "Bush killed people in Iraq. Obama seems to be more moderate, but he has the same ideas. It is the same imperialism, but it has a different face."

Most people who were asked about Obama responded positively and said they welcomed the visit. Still, the streets were littered with anti-NATO and anti-Obama fliers. "Leave NATO -- get rid of the gladiators," one flier said, demanding that Turkey abandon the alliance.

Several promoted protests for Monday, when Obama is scheduled to visit the majestic tomb of Turkish founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and give his address in parliament.

Obama Makes Surprise Visit to Iraq, Meets With Top Commander
FOXNews April 07, 2009


President Obama all but declared victory in Iraq in a surprise visit to U.S. troops outside Baghdad.

President Obama all but declared victory in Iraq Tuesday, telling U.S. troops during a surprise visit to Camp Victory that they had given the Arab nation an opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country. That, he said, is an extraordinary achievement.

"Here's a couple things I want to say. Number one, thank you," the president bellowed as he addressed troops at a stopover at the tail end of a marathon overseas trip. After capping his visit with meetings with top U.S. military and Iraqi officials, he then left Baghdad on Air Force One for Washington.

Obama told the troops the next 18 months are critical to the mission. U.S. troops are expected to be out of the country by the end of 2010.

"You've kept your eyes focused on just doing your job and because of that, every mission that's been assigned, from getting rid of Saddam to reducing violence to stabilizing the country to facilitating elections, you have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country. That is an extraordinary achievement and for that you have the thanks of the American people," he said.

Obama also met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who said afterward that he had "assured the president that all the progress that has been made in the security area will continue."

Obama said he had "strongly encouraged" the Iraqi leader to take steps to unite political factions, including integrating Sunnis into the government and security forces.

Obama, who opposed the war in Iraq, said earlier that it is time for the Iraqis to "take responsibility for their country and for their sovereignty," which will require political accommodations. He said the U.S. "can't do it for them but what we can do is make sure that we're a stalwart partner that we are working alongside them."

Obama said U.S. troops will be committed to training security and civilian forces, which will help Iraq achieve a more effective government. He said the Iraqis will know that "they have a steady partner with us."

"You will be critical in terms of us being able to make sure that Iraq is stable that it is not a safe haven for terrorists, to make sure that they're a good neighbor and a good ally and we can start bringing our folks home," he said.

Obama spoke for just six minutes with the nearly 700 troops who gathered at the base that was formerly a palace for Saddam Hussein. Obama met with National Security Adviser James Jones; the head of command in Iraq Gen. Ray Odierno; and others before walking out into the glitzy, over-the-top main room where troops gathered under a huge chandelier and intricate gold work.

Obama's appearance pleased troops interviewed by reporters. They said they were gratified the new president came to visit so soon after taking office.

"We love you," shouted a few troops. The president shouted he loved them back.

"We have not forgotten what you've already done. We are grateful for what you will do, and as long as I'm in the White House you're going to get the support that you need and the thanks that you deserve from a grateful nation. So thank you so much everybody, God bless you, God bless the United States of America," he said.

Obama landed in Baghdad late Tuesday afternoon for his first trip to Iraq as president -- his third overall. His visit comes as he begins to execute plans to shift U.S. troops from Iraq, a war he opposed as a candidate, to Afghanistan.

"There is still a lot of work to do here," Obama said, but he praised the "significant political progress" he's seen in Iraq.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama chose to visit Iraq rather than Afghanistan because it was closer to Turkey, where he was flying from, and provides Obama to opportunity to consult with Iraqi officials about critical "political solutions." Gibbs said Obama also wanted to visit troops still fighting in the country.

"Our men and women who are in harm's way, either in Iraq or Afghanistan, deserve our utmost respect and appreciation," Gibbs said.

Obama flew into the country hours after a car bomb exploded in a Shiite neighborhood of the capital city, a deadly reminder of the violence that has claimed the lives at least 4,266 members of the U.S. military since March 2003.

In his briefing, Odierno told the president that despite the recent uptick in violence, bombing incidents are still at their lowest since the war began.

The visit came at the conclusion of a long overseas trip that included economic and NATO summits in Europe and two days in Turkey.

Shortly before leaving Turkey, the president held out Iraq as an example of the change he seeks in policies inherited from former President George W. Bush.

"Moving the ship of state takes time," he told a group of students in Istanbul. He noted his long-standing opposition to the war, yet said, "Now that we're there," the U.S. troop withdrawal has to be done "in a careful enough way that we don't see a collapse into violence."

In office only 11 weeks, Obama has already announced plans to withdraw most U.S. combat troops on a 19-month timetable. The drawdown is to begin slowly, so American forces can provide security for Iraqi elections, then accelerate in 2010. As many as 50,000 troops are expected to remain in the country at the end of the 19 months to perform counterterrorism duties.

Tuesday's trip was Obama's third to Iraq overall. He met with U.S. commanders and troops last summer while seeking the presidency.

Because of security concerns, the White House made no advance announcement of the visit, and released no details for his activities on the ground.

It was the last stop of an eight-day trip in which Obama sought to place his stamp on U.S. foreign policy. He and other world leaders pledged cooperation to combat a global recession, and he appealed with limited success for additional assistance in Afghanistan, a war he has vowed to intensify.

The new president drew large crowds as he offered repeated assurances that the United States would not seek to dictate to other countries.

"I am personally committed to a new chapter of American engagement. We can't afford to talk past one another, to focus only on our differences, or to let the walls of mistrust go up around us." Obama said before leaving Turkey. The visit to a nation that straddles Europe and Asia was designed to signal a new era. He had pledged as a candidate to visit a majority-Muslim nation in his first 100 days in office.

Berlusconi says Italy’s quake victims should see calamity as ''camping trip''
TopNews 04/08/2009


L''Aquila (Italy), Apr. 8 : Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has advised traumatised earthquake survivors to view living in emergency tent accommodation as like being on a "camping weekend".

His statement is unlikely to go down well with an estimated 17,000 people who have been made homeless by the powerful earthquake which struck the Abruzzo region of central Italy on Monday, with many of them enduring freezing temperatures in tent cities put up by the army, reports The Telegraph.

There are still not enough tents to accommodate all the homeless and some people have spent the last two nights sleeping in their cars, struggling to stay warm in an upland area which is surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

Berlusconi appeared to dismiss the discomfort, telling German television station N-TV: "They have everything they need, they have medical care, hot food... Of course, their current lodgings are a bit temporary. But they should see it like a weekend of camping."

Berlusconi made the remarks while touring some of the tented encampments that have sprung up around the city of L''Aquila, which was severely damaged by the quake.

His breezy assurance that the homeless had all they need was in stark contrast to the experience of many survivors.

As the death toll from Italy''s devastating earthquake passed 250, more than 200 people were last night unable to find shelter at camps because tents were already packed with people.

"Shame on you!" screamed a woman at one of the tent cities.

The Italian government estimates that at least 1.3 billion euros will be needed to repair or rebuild the 10,000 buildings damaged in the quake.

The Apple Song (1945) by Namiki Michiko
Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities


"The Apple Song" was the theme song for Shochiku Studio's first postwar cinematic release, Soyokaze. Although the movie made little lasting impression, "The Apple Song," sung by Namiki Michiko, quickly became a hit. Coming from the same radios that had first brought news of impending air raids and then the emperor's speech, the bright and simple melody and lyrics of "The Apple Song" gave many Japanese a sense of hope and courage at a time when many could not even think of eating, much less buying, something as extravagant as an apple.

Court OKs retrial over wartime law
Asahi.com November 1, 2008


YOKOHAMA--The district court here decided Friday to retry the case of a now-deceased journalist convicted of violating an oppressive wartime law, the latest development in attempts to absolve those wrongly labeled as subversive.

Two children of Yasuhito Ono requested the retrial at the Yokohama District Court over the so-called Yokohama Incident, the worst case of oppression of freedom of speech in wartime Japan.

Ono, who worked in the editorial department of the Kaizo (Reform) magazine, was among about 60 journalists, publishers and others who were arrested in the case between 1942 and 1945 for suspected subversion under the Peace Preservation Law.

About 30 of them, including Ono, were indicted and found guilty in August and September 1945.

This is the fourth request for a retrial from former defendants and bereaved family members to clear their names. Only the third one was approved.

The Supreme Court in March this year upheld lower court rulings to close, without a verdict, the retrial for five people found guilty, on the grounds that the Peace Preservation Law was abolished in October 1945 and the defendants were granted amnesty.

The top court did not include a verdict of innocence in its decision, which the defendants and bereaved family members had sought.

Lower courts handling future retrials in the Yokohama Incident are expected to reach the same conclusion without handing down verdicts.

But Ono's daughter, Nobuko Saito, 59, said the Yokohama District Court's decision to hold a retrial was "groundbreaking" because the court acknowledged that investigators at the time likely made up the case against her father and others.

"It's made our hard efforts worthwhile," said Saito, who along with her brother, Shinichi Ono, 62, filed for the retrial in March 2002.

Hiroshi Sato, one of the lawyers for the Ono family, said: "It's a decision that acknowledged that the court at that time was partly responsible. It's significant in that it can be interpreted as practically a not-guilty verdict."

Saito said she learned about the Yokohama Incident about two years after her father died in 1959. Her mother showed her daughter Ono's accounts of being tortured by wartime police.

Wartime authorities determined that an article written by political scientist Karoku Hosokawa and proofread by Ono in 1942 enlightened the public on communism.

Ono was arrested by a special political squad of the Kanagawa prefectural police in May 1943 and was found guilty of violating the Peace Preservation Law in September 1945.

The verdict came a month after the end of World War II and a month before the notorious law was abolished.

Wartime police authorities had said a 1942 meeting attended by Hosokawa, editors and others in Toyama Prefecture was arranged to discuss the reconstruction of the Communist Party.

In deciding on the retrial, the Yokohama District Court said the 1942 get-together was "nothing but a friendly meeting among editors."

Yokohama prosecutors, who have been fighting the retrials, said in a statement: "We are sorry our argument was not accepted by the court."(

Well-known people with suspicious name, birthday or deathday

(strong suspicion)


Junichiro Koizumi
Nicolas Sarkozy
Jacques Chirac
Tatsuya Ichihashi
Kyu Sakamoto
Miki Nakasone
Fusako Shigenobu
Nariaki Nakayama
Masumi Hayashi
Kim Jong-il
Kim Il-sung
Ruhollah Khomeini
Nicolae Ceauşescu

(some suspicion)

Olusegun Obasanjo
Barack Obama
Masumi Hayashi
Osama bin Laden
John McCain
Emperor Taisho
Emperor Akihito
Charlie Chaplin
Emperor Hirohito
Emperor Meiji


Dark side of structural reform
Japan Times April 18, 2006


Most economic pundits still support the idea of free competition in the market as the key principle of the society. As Japanese society becomes increasingly Americanized, however, a number of "fakes" have appeared in the market.

Among the fakes exposed by the media in the past half year are structural designer Hidetsugu Aneha, who falsified quake-resistance data for designs of apartment complexes and hotels; Takafumi Horie, former president of Internet startup Livedoor Co., who stands accused of violating the securities and exchange law by falsifying financial reports; and Norimasa Nishida, president of the hotel operator Toyoko Inn, who gave illegal orders for the removal of mandatory parking space for the disabled at hotels after they had passed building inspections.

These fakes are all "outsiders" in Japanese society. Nevertheless, their opinion and conduct are basically the same as those of the "insiders." In other words, the conduct of the insiders, if stretched a bit, coincides with that of the outsiders.

The situation makes me think of the Moebius strip. Take a long rectangle piece of paper, give it a twist, and join the ends. When you examine the strip, the outside of the strip eventually becomes the inside of the strip, which will become the outside once again.

So it looks as if the Japanese society is wrapped around by the strip, on which it is difficult to distinguish the inside and the outside. The icon of the information-technology revolution, for example, turned out to be nothing but a con man.

In becoming insiders, the outsiders gave society a twist of illegality and immorality but were eventually exposed to have violated law. Before the exposure, their wrongdoing was hailed as an embodiment of "venture spirit." Their "global perspective" "cost-busting" strategies and tactics exploiting "structural reform" were built on the "venture spirit" advocated by insiders.

Their activities inevitably led to illegal and immoral conduct. Laws and morals are nothing but rules based on past value systems. Once reckless challenges for unexplored horizons are recognized as legitimate activities running ahead of the times, doubts arise over interpretations of the existing rules whenever interests clash.

Thus in the free-competition market, where challenges for new horizons are encouraged, lawsuits are bound to multiply over the interpretation of laws and morals.

However, court proceedings to seek judgment on unprecedented cases on the basis of old rules often become a power game in which participants take advantage of all available financial, informational and organizational resources. The game of free competition, which should be fair in principle, becomes a brutal "survival-of-the-fittest" battle. Without trying to protect their national characteristics, Japanese unknowingly are plunging into a power game at which they are poor.

In my view, these self-injurious acts were hailed in the name of "structural reform" because the economy has been eroded by democratic "principles." As public opinion has paramount importance in politics, market indicators have come to assume similar importance in the economy. In the stock market, for example, the most important indicator is the market capitalization of a stock.

Prices of stocks and all commodities depend on long-term expectations on the supply and demand sides. To attain the establishment of the principle "vox populi, vox Dei" in the market place, expectations for the long-term future must be established in a "reasonable way" -- or in a way acceptable to the public.

Information technology will have revolutionary effects only when its use makes it possible to establish long-term expectations in a reasonable way. However, historical events, as part of a chain of once-only events, are always irreversible. Therefore using information technology to make probability estimates for future events is foolhardy.

Following the proliferation of demagoguery in democratic politics, fakes brazenly violating law have mushroomed in the market economy. This phenomenon stems from the structural reform of recent years.

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