Japan's Conspiracy (3) Reference List 032


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EARLY 19TH CENTURY. THE BEGINNING OF THE RUSSO-JAPANESE TERRITORIAL DISPUTE
Sakhalin Kuriles


In May of 1807 tile Juno and Avos appeared near the shores of Iturup island. On 18 May 1807, Khvostov and Davydov landed troops in Naibo harbor and burnt the litde Japanese setdement Uiere. Then they attacked Shana (present-day Kurilsk), die largest Japanese setdement on Iturup. Khvostov and Davydov's troops routed die formidable 300-man garrison in Shana widi surprising ease and set to plundering die shops of die Japanese merchants and trappers before firing die town. On 27 May, die Juno and Avos left Iturup. After paying call at Urup, Khvostov and Davydov's ships on 10 June entered Aniva Bay and put to die torch any Japanese structures remaining from die raid of die previous year. Sailing toward Hokkaido, diey came across four Japanese ships which they seized and burned near die litde island of Peak de Langle (off die northwest tip of Hokkaido), after capturing the cargo of rice, fish and salt.

The willful actions of Lt. Khvostov and midshipman Davydov were not sanctioned by die Imperial government. As a result, die Japanese returned to Sakhalin in force and rebuilt Uieir fortifications on Iturup. In die end, Khvostov's and Davydov's "exploits" served only to significandy strengtiien die Japanese military presence on Iturup and Kunashir (1000 warriors were stationed diere by 1808), and to prompt die Japanese garrison of Kunashir to imprison die Russian mariner V.M. Golovnin when he chanced mere on 11 July 1811. Golovnin spent more dian two years inJapanese captivity (1811-1813), and was released only after die Japanese received assurances from die Russian administration mat die raids on Sakhalin and Iturup were die result of private initiatives, unaudiorized by me Russian government. StPetersburg was compelled to clearly define the soudiem boundary of its possessions in die Kuril islands. In die new charter, granted 13 September 1821 to die Russian-American Company by Tsar Alexander I, the southernmost cape of die island of Urup was declared the furthest possession of me Empire in die Kurds.

Aso's team digging for 'buried funds'
Japan Times Oct. 23, 2008


With Prime Minister Taro Aso's government and ruling coalition lawmakers busy compiling a second economic stimulus package by the end of this month, the latest political catchphrase has become "Kasumigaseki maizokin," or buried funds in the Kasumigaseki district, the seat of the central government.

The phrase gives the impression there is a mythical buried treasure that can be tapped by the cash-strapped government. But few can explain what it actually is and why it suddenly became the talk of Tokyo.

Following are questions and answers concerning the buried funds:

What are Kasumigaseki maizokin?

They are cash reserves accumulated in 21 special government accounts.

The government has three types of budgets — the general account budget, the special account budget, and the "zaito" fiscal investment and loan programs budget.

The general account budget is used for policy-related expenses, including bond issuance, local government subsidies and social welfare costs, while the zaito budget is used to invest in and extend loans to long-term projects, including road construction.

The special account budget is used for specific government projects, using revenues closely related to that project. For instance, the government uses the gasoline and coal tax to develop new oil and gas fields under a special energy policies account.

Reserves are set aside in each of these 21 special accounts, which amounted to ¥198 trillion as of the end of March.

About ¥138 trillion was reserved for a special account for the nation's pension system, ¥17 trillion for a special account to ensure the stability of the foreign-exchange market and another ¥10 trillion under a special account managing government bonds.

Does that mean the government has ¥198 trillion in financial resources it can use for any purpose?

Not necessarily. The reserves exist for a reason. A large portion is used for pension payments, insurance payments and to repay government bonds.

But politicians claim some of the reserves are too big for their purposes.

When Aso was campaigning for the Liberal Democratic Party presidency, he estimated that about ¥40 trillion of such reserves could be shifted to the general account budget to be used for other purposes.

Politicians are especially targeting the ¥17 trillion zaito special account reserves and another ¥17 trillion in reserves set aside under the foreign-exchange special account.

The zaito special account budget is used to extend long-term fixed interest rate loans to government-affiliated organizations. The reserves are set aside to hedge the risk of future interest rate hikes.

As for the reserves of the foreign-exchange special account, the Finance Ministry claims they are necessary to cover the losses incurred when the yen climbs against the dollar.

But the recent strong yen trend is casting doubt on whether the government can actually tap into those reserves.

Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa told the Diet earlier this month the government will incur about ¥19 trillion in unrealized losses on its foreign currency assets — the same amount it currently has in its reserves — if the yen climbs to 99 against the dollar.

Why have these special account reserves suddenly gained attention?

One reason is many feel a general election may be looming.

The U.S. financial crisis triggered by the bankruptcy of investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in September caused stock markets around the world to nosedive and weakened the global economy.

Japan didn't emerge unscathed, as the Tokyo Stock Exchange's Nikkei average plunged and the economy fell further toward recession.

Aso wants to impress voters with the economic stimulus packages. But the question is, how will he come up with the resources to finance them? This fiscal year's corporate tax revenues will inevitably decline, while social welfare costs continue to balloon.

Aso doesn't want to talk about raising the consumption tax before a general election and it may in any case be a few years before the government can actually hike the rate.

That is why politicians have suddenly started talking about buried funds.

Stalin's appeasement of Hitler was much worse than that of Britain or France, argues Jeremy Black: June 1941: Hitler and Stalin - John Lukacs

by John Lukacs Pp. 169. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2006 Hardback, £16.99

This is an important and valuable book for a number of reasons. Those of content will command attention and praise, but first it is helpful to focus not on the content but on the form. This is a short book. It is not so much that there are only 145 pages before one reaches the appendix, but that these are small pages, with a generous print face and a wide margin.

This is all-too-the good, and Lukacs deserves praise for avoiding the temptation to pad his book out. I read the book in an afternoon and evening, and the ability to do so helped focus my mind on Lukacs' arguments and made the careful structure of the work readily apparent. Lukacs thus differs starkly from the general tendency to produce lengthy works that do not succeed as scholarship, literature, or even books. Like Gilbert and Sullivan's abruptly-punishing Mikado, I leave the task of filling in the names to you, but, as scholarship, such works are all-too-frequently the reheated embers of writings by the author or others, as literature they are indigestible, and as books too long to be read by those who have a busy life.

Lukacs offers a very different fare. He provides not a parallel of lives of Hitler and Stalin, and indeed is very critical of Alan Bullock's work of this type. Richard Overy's book on the two dictators is presumably too recent for comment but follows the Bullock format. Instead, Lukacs seeks carefully to probe the dynamic in their relationship and to do so in order to throw light on a pivotal moment in world history. He is brilliantly successful in so doing, and his account, pared to the bone, and thus shorn of the extraneous material that pads all-too-many books, is both a most useful work for those interested in World War Two and also an important historiographical and intellectual perspective.

For Lukacs puts the focus resolutely on individuals, on their motives and purposes, between which he carefully distinguishes, and on the intended and unintended consequences of their actions. This is not only an implicit theme throughout the book, but also one that is made explicit:

In 1941 and exactly on 22 June 1941, everything depended on two men, Hitler and Stalin. This in itself refutes the social-scientific and current opinion according to which history, especially as we advance into the mass age, is ruled by vast economic and material forces and not by individual persons. The Second World War was not only marked but decided by personalities, by the inclinations and decisions of men such as Hitler, Churchill, Stalin, Roosevelt. This is an important perspective that is all-too-frequently neglected in the tendency to ascribe developments to great forces, not only in terms of social-economic determinism, the traditional approach on the left, but also with reference to the zeitgeist, which indeed offers a comparable form of determinism, and is much favoured in more recent modish writing.

Returning the attention to individuals means the hard work of focusing on their motives and purposes and, as Lukacs ably displays, this requires the careful weighing of evidence, a skill in which long experience as a scholar used to issues of archival veracity plays a major role, and to which many popular authors are totally unsuited. Thus there is an important appendix on the mystery of Hitler's "Letter" and the Courier Plane, which offers a valuable corrective/supplement to David Murphy's What Stalin Knew: The Enigma of Barbarossa (New Haven, 2005).

In place of the commonplace stress on mutual hostility, and, crucially, Hitler's anti-Communism, Lukacs argues that opposition to Britain was a key to the policies of both Hitler and Stalin. It is scarcely original to note that Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, was in part designed to put pressure on Britain - Ian Kershaw has recently made this point and suggested that, in part because of anxiety about the USA, Hitler was concerned about his narrowing options - but Lukacs skilfully links this goal to the developing crisis in German-Soviet relations.

Indeed, as he points out, the British were worried that the Germans would succeed in their attack on the Soviet Union. There were fears that the Germans would advance through the Caucasus, putting pressure on the British position in the Middle East. This sharpened up earlier British anxiety about the prospect of a German advance via Turkey and/or Cyprus.

The prospect of either encouraged British planning for a forward defence of the Middle East, in Syria and Iraq, and for the occupation of Iran to add strategic depth to the British positions in India and the Persian Gulf. This occupation was in the event carried out in concert with the Soviet Union, and, in some respects, looked back to the 1907 agreement over spheres of influence in Iran between the two powers. Concern about German options also helps explain the British shipment of matérial to the Soviet Union once the Germans had attacked. In forthcoming work, Alexander Hill, indeed, is to demonstrate that Soviet-converted British heavy tanks made a major contribution to the Battle of Moscow in the winter of 1941.

If Hitler struck at the Soviet Union to get at Britain, repeating Napoleon's attempt to do so in 1812, in order to strengthen the Continental System (his attempt to shut Britain out of the Continent's trade), Lukacs is at great pains to argue that Stalin's response to Hitler powerfully reflected his own animosity to Britain. In each case, there was hostility to Britain's political position, but also a rejection of its liberalism.

This was a product not only of an opposition to liberal capitalism as a domestic agenda for liberty and freedom, but also hostility to it as an international agenda focused on opposition to dictatorial expansionism and, instead, support for the independence of small states. This was seen when Britain entered both world wars in support of such states, Belgium in 1914 and Poland in 1939. To Lukacs, indeed, Hitler and Stalin represented German and Russian (although he presents Stalin as a Caucasian chieftain) reactions against the "Age of Reason" and

against the world of a bourgeois civilization that reached its peaks around the time when they were born. The left-wing tendency to condemn bourgeois civilization as a progenitor of Hitler and to exonerate Stalin is thus cogently dismissed.

Much of the anti-capitalist and anti-liberal animosity and hatred that Hitler and Stalin expressed and sustained is today translated to criticism of the USA, which makes the latter's craven response to tyranny in the late 1930s and 1940 ironic as well as deplorable. The USA did little in response to Fascist expansionism in the 1930s, or when a host of neutral powers were overrun in 1940 by Hitler and Stalin. Indeed, throughout World War Two, Canada made a bigger per capita financial contribution to the cause of freedom than the USA, a key aspect of the way in which Canada was a crucial military power from 1916 to the mid-1960s, especially in 1917-18 and 1940-1.

Throughout the century, as another instance of the ambivalence of attitude, some Americans also provided the key support to Irish terrorism that was similarly anti-capitalist, anti-liberal, anti-democratic and also, in World Wars One and Two, benefited from German backing.

As Lukacs ably notes, Hitler and Stalin shared not only antipathy to Britain, but also many values. There was much mutual respect, including during the war. Earlier, Stalin admired Hitler's brutal suppression of opposition in 1934. As Rodric Braithwaite has recently pointed out, however, in Moscow 1941: A City and its People at War (London, 2006), the Soviets prefigured the Germans in using specially-converted gassing-lorries.

Stalin, as Lukacs emphasises, was also more than willing to subordinate the cause of international Communism, about which he was dubious, to that of state-expansion in concert with Germany. In August 1939, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was celebrated in Moscow with Stalin toasting "the health of this great man", Hitler. This is not an episode much discussed on the left. As Lukacs points out, it is unhelpful to criticise Britain and France for failing to win Stalin's alliance, a constant theme on the left, because, Stalin then, like indeed Japan and the USA,

had no desire to ally himself with the Western democracies [Britain and France] and consequently bear the brunt of an enormous war against Germany. Both dictators were also anti-Semitic and wished to see Poland removed from the face of the Earth. There were differences at least there with Napoleon, who recreated Poland as an anti-Russian and anti-Prussian client state, and was also reasonable in his attitude to Jews.

Lukacs's account of the dinner in Moscow is typical of his successful anchoring of major themes in a fine grasp of the particular. He is also acute on the interaction of personalities, and offers fine short sketches of second-rank players. At times, the dismissals are brutal - Trotsky, for example, as a fool; but they are pertinent. Ideas are also ably introduced and clearly presented, as with the account of how Stalin became a nationalist statesman focused on the state:

by 1939 the word state had become sacrosanct in official [Soviet] terminology… more revered even than the interests of the party. The long-term is then focused on the last stages of the move to war, then on 22 June, and finally on the response around the world, including in London, Washington and Moscow, where Molotov saw the German declaration as "without any reason".

Stalin's monumental failure of judgment is highlighted. He had failed to understand Hitler's intentions, had dismissed intelligence information as British plants, and had ignored advice from his military; in a way that would be impossible in the 2000s when military and intelligence advice is always carefully assessed and handled without preconceptions. In 1940, Neville Chamberlain had fallen when British failure in the early stages of the war had compounded doubts about his pre-war policy of appeasement; and Chamberlain in the spring of 1939 had moved to an anti-German policy.

Stalin, in contrast, made no such move. The nearest equivalent to the British guarantees to Poland and Romania would have been Soviet guarantees in 1941 to Yugoslavia and Greece, followed by a declaration of war when they were invaded, but Soviet policy was very different. Stalin's appeasement was far more craven than that of Britain and France.

Stalin also, characteristically, refused to speak to the people when the Germans invaded, and, instead, relying on coercion, had Moscow flooded with agents. Lukacs takes the story forward to consider Stalin's nervous collapse of will on 28-30 June when the Germans reached Minsk. He also notes possible consideration of a settlement with Germany similar to that reached by Lenin in 1918, which might have been used to vindicate such an agreement.

Stalin's was not the only will to collapse. Braithwaite discusses the panic that occurred in Moscow in mid-October, a panic that owed much to official actions, including the movement of industrial plant. Managers and other officials fleeing were attacked by the workers they were abandoning in scenes described by the head of the NKVD as "anarchy". The underworld profited from the chaos. Stalin, however, decided not to flee, and the NKVD was used to restore order, just as it accompanied the winter Soviet counter-offensive, meting out punishment and terror.

In the conclusion, Lukacs again considers the nature of history. Somewhat surprisingly, in light of post-modernist fallacies, he suggests that the still current misconception of history is that the historian can produce a definitive account. More convincingly, he asserts that the duty of the historian is that of struggle against the prevalence of untruths because, as he points out,

sentiments and twisted statements of "facts" are all too common. For Lukacs, these include the misleading tendency to emphasise the struggle between capitalism and Communism as the organising principle of twentieth-century history, with anti-Communism, he suggests, becoming a substitute for American patriotism. Indeed, Lukacs criticises William F. Buckley for arguing in October 1989 that things … could hardly have been worse had Hitler conquered Moscow. Lukacs also dismisses the notion that the German invasion was a case of preventive war, pre-empting Soviet attack, a view all-too-common among German apologists. He also criticises the related argument that Hitler's war with Stalin was necessary and that Churchill and Roosevelt were foolish not to realise this. Instead, his careful discussion of Hitler and National Socialism in terms other than as a reaction to the evils of Communism helps highlight the danger that they posed to the West, and makes the failure of British, French and American appeasement very apparent.

A gripping read, an important book, a key moment in twentieth-century history. Lukacs deserves much congratulation for his breadth of analysis, his judicious reflections, and his clear prose.

Japan and competition: You gotta have 'wa'?
Japan Times Feb. 17, 2002


Third-century Chinese visitors to Japan were struck by the easygoing equanimity of Japanese women. "All men of high rank," they reported, "have four or five wives; others, two or three. The women are faithful and not jealous."

Faithful and not jealous! And the Japanese family lived happily ever after -- and lives happily ever after still, the winds of rivalry stilled by wa, the mysterious harmony lodged deep in the Japanese soul (in the Japanese genes, say some).

But is it true that the Japanese are less contentious than other people? Certainly many believe so. Wa is real enough -- as an imagined quality if not an actual one; a quality both idealized and cultivated.

Though some scholars may quibble, wa was likely first articulated in the famous Constitution, or "splendid law," promulgated in 604 by Prince Shotoku, Article 1 of which states: "Harmony is to be valued." No doubt it is, but at what cost? Must our most natural and spontaneous feelings be suppressed for its sake? Absolutely, Japanese rulers have maintained down the ages, having as they did a vested interest in the inert -- harmonious -- obedience of the masses.

In the timeless war between giri (social obligation) and ninjo (human feeling), giri -- at least in literature -- wins every time. Dying for one's lord was the ultimate virtue, the ultimate goal, the ultimate happiness.

If, as the Meiji revolutionary turned reactionary Saigo Takamori said before his seppuku in 1877, "Life and death are not two things," then what room is there in life for rivalry? After all, if life and death are one, what isn't one? And if all is one, let wa prevail, unto death and beyond. It doesn't, of course, and the ancient Chinese chroniclers surely missed more than they saw with respect to the supposedly unjealous Japanese wives. (We hear even now of dutiful wives, outwardly calm, inwardly seething, laying out their husbands' clothes and overseeing their preparations for a night on the town with a geisha or mistress.)

Be that as it may, the Chinese travelers themselves generated a heated Japanese debate which persists to this day. No one knows just where those first foreigners to record impressions of Japan alighted. Does it matter? It does, for on the location of the first Japanese polity -- called Yamatai -- hangs the question of how culturally indebted Japan is to Korea. Not at all, insist purists; considerably, argue those more willing to follow where the evidence leads -- and if it leads to Kyushu, Japan might (just might) have been founded by the same Asian nomads who founded Korea.

Who cares? Certainly those with an emotional investment in the purity of the Japanese race and its Imperial line. And the rousing controversy over "the lost kingdom of Yamatai" may be a good part of the reason there are more than 4,000 archaeologists in Japan -- 20 times the number in Britain.

Blood-soaked centuries

Most nations ascend the ladder of civilization from militarism to peace. Japan proceeded in reverse order, the effete pacifism of the Heian Period (794-1185) yielding at last to the armed camps of the blood-soaked centuries that followed. Military discipline was unremitting, loyalty and self-abnegation were elevated to supreme virtues, bravery was honed to such a pitch that today we scarcely know whether to be awed or horrified. Fighting was Japan's pride, its glory, its raison d'e^tre.

What did people fight about? Answer: Nothing -- or nothing much. There were always land squabbles to settle and real or imagined insults to avenge, but essentially they fought because it was man's highest destiny to do so. A true fighter pitted himself against an enemy not out of hatred, or in defense of life, property or principle, but to live in the teeth of death. In Zen terms, "Those who cling to life, die. Those who defy death, live." Strange life, strange death!

Perhaps in this peculiar sense, wa really was a guiding and prevailing force: Rival combatants were one in their dedication to combat, their contempt for peace. They battled each other to the death, united in their determination to "hold life lighter than a feather." When the 16th-century despot Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-98), out of no more than passing pique, ordered the revered tea master Sen no Rikyu to cut his belly open, and Rikyu, without a syllable of protest, complied, perhaps it might actually be said that harmony united the two men, rather than any rivalry divided them.

Decadent it may have been, effete it certainly was, but all the same, Heian culture is refreshingly unlike the death-defying swagger and bluster of the centuries of inter-clan and intra-clan warfare that succeeded it. Different, too, from the high-minded (or no-minded, as the Zen men say) sophistry that sought to transmute slit bellies, gushing blood and severed heads displayed on poles into something ethereal and elevated.

Heian rivalry was not among warriors but among lovers, poets, perfume-blenders and gentlemen-statesmen. If their conduct struck later generations as spineless and unmanly, there is at least this to be said for it: It was civilized in our modern sense of the word. They are comprehensible to us. Rulers did not kill their rivals, they banished them -- typically to a government post in the wilds of Kyushu. Betrayed lovers sighed, wept, and composed plaintive poetry, but reached for no sword beneath their voluminous robes. The only lovers' combat in the whole long Tale of Genji is a hilarious mock one.

More to be feared were Heian women. The wandering spirit of Genji's outraged lover, Lady Rokujo, was implicated in the mysterious deaths of three rivals for the Shining Prince's affection. Interestingly enough, the spirit rampaged quite independently of the lady's will. She had no idea, was mortified when she learned the truth, and blamed herself for a resentment beyond her control. One would like to invite the 3rd-century Chinese visitors back for their take on that.

Westerners familiar with their own history of religious wars, hatred and persecution are often surprised at how companionably Japan's two principal religions, Shinto and Buddhism, got along together, despite seemingly irreconcilable differences in outlook. Actually one war did have to be fought on Buddhism's behalf, the only religious conflict in Japan's long, battle-choked history. The champion of Buddhism and, in 587, router of the reactionary forces defending the native gods was Prince Shotoku's grand-uncle, Soga no Umako. Possibly the prince's high regard for harmony reflects a horrified reaction to the bloodshed he witnessed.

By Heian times, two centuries later, the harmony had turned somewhat torpid, broken ironically by monks and priests in battle array swarming down Mount Hiei to the capital in Kyoto, armed with swords and dread-inspiring divine images to press rival claims for land, office and tax-free privileges. But their violence was not motivated by religious doctrine. Even when the Buddhist establishment was decisively crushed in the military upheavals of the 16th century, the issue was not religion but feudal supremacy.

The Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1867) brought a torpor of its own -- welcome respite, no doubt, to a people savaged by centuries of anarchy -- different from that of the Heian Era in its professed reverence, despite an enforced peace, for martial virtues. The clear contradiction here inspired some intellectual juggling and precipitated perhaps the only genuinely philosophical rivalry in Japanese history. This had to do not with where Japan was going, but with where it came from. Scholars who debated the issue -- the key figures in the 17th century were the Confucian-rationalist Arai Hakuseki and the nationalist Motoori Norinaga -- went back beyond Yamatai to the creation myths recorded in Japan's most ancient literature. In questioning these, Arai simultaneously questioned the nation's divine origin. Motoori accepted the myths implicitly. True, they defy reason, he said, but human reason is too limited to probe the cosmos. It was by no means a stupid argument, but it had disastrous long-term consequences, engendering Japan's next great rivalry, that between yamato-damashii (Japanese spirit) and Western materialism, the tragic unfolding of which is well known.

Yamato-damashii lost, which should have been a great victory for the spirit of constructive rivalry. It wasn't. Destructive rivalry had been etched too deeply into the national psyche (or spirit) for anything but rivalry's rival, wa, to appeal. A final spasm of anarchy -- clan armed against clan, faction conspiring against faction, reactionaries and modernizers cutting each other down -- culminated in the Meiji Restoration of 1868, one of history's least bloody revolutions and a model, in its way, of wa. Once-rival clans united against the declining Tokugawa Shogunate; the shogun himself abdicated gracefully. Negotiating the surrender of Edo Castle on behalf of the revolutionaries was none other than Saigo Takamori, he who had meditated on the oneness of life and death. Ten years later he died in an abortive coup against the Restoration he had done so much to bring about.

Contemporary politics

Rivalry is inescapable, it is human nature, but the Japanese experience with it has been bitter. And so wa prevails, an ideal if not a fact. Rivalry, traditionally feared as disorder, is driven underground, its creative potential sapped.

In today's Japan we look in vain for rivalry where we most expect it. The rivalry at the heart of every modern democratic state -- that between rulers and ruled -- is missing here. Whether that absence is a legacy of wa, or of the premodern culture of obedience, or of the fact that Japan's democracy was imposed from outside rather than fought for and won by a freedom-loving people -- or of all these things and others besides -- it explains much about contemporary politics. Not least, it helps explain the seemingly unchallengeable monopoly of government by the Liberal Democratic Party. Though it fails and fails, disappoints and disappoints, betrays and betrays, the LDP's disastrous performance is never (with one brief and insignificant exception in 1993) quite disastrous enough to incur the ultimate symbol of popular wrath -- the boot.

So, banished from the center, rivalry seethes debased on the margins, trivially, grotesquely or tragically as the case may be. Rival TV networks woo primetime viewers with gluttony contests, headhunting each others' celebrity gluttons with prize money that mocks the depressed state of the economy. The homeless, in rising numbers, scuffle over space in parks and under awnings. In politics, ministry vies with ministry, bureaucracy with bureaucracy, while national policy stagnates.

Meanwhile men and women, once unequal partners in the game of life, are now equally matched rivals in the serious business of snatching personal fulfillment from a finite and shrinking stock -- the sagging birth rate and proliferating sex industry suggest where that's taking us. The 1999 murder of a 2-year-old Tokyo girl by a sometime friend of her mother's was shocking in itself. It was no less horrifying as a symbol of the rivalries poisoning the lives of mothers living vicariously through small children drafted already, though too young to know it, into the hothouse academic rivalries whose narrow focus has formed the minds of a generation of leaders whose only perceptible response to a fast-changing world has been bewilderment.

Are they to blame? Yes, of course -- and yet not entirely. No country in the developed world is more cut off from its past than Japan, its modern life not only different from its traditional life -- that much is true everywhere -- but diametrically opposed to it. Everything Japan once stood for -- isolation, social hierarchy, loyalty, ceremony, poetry, evanescence, love of nature, self-sacrifice, contempt for personal happiness, the embrace of death, the elevation of spirit over matter -- is irrelevant or inimical to the modern way of life. The virtues Japan once strove to attain are now vices, if not crimes. And ancient vices -- acquisitiveness, self-assertion -- are today's virtues. That is present-day Japan's ultimate rivalry: Future versus past.

The crazy thing is that the future, with everything going for it -- not least inevitability -- looks like it's losing.

Was Hitler a common family name before 1945?
What did Hitlers change their names to after the second world war?

guardian.co.uk Notes & Queries
  • Hitler is not a particularly common German surname. In fact, Hitler himself was originally called Schicklegruber. Some have speculated that he changed his name to hide his Jewish descent.


  • Adolf Hitler was never called Schickelgruber. This was the name of his paternal grandmother. His father took the name of his supposed father, which was spelled Hiedler or Hitler according to preference, when he was 40, well before Adolf was born. Adolf Hitler had three surviving siblings. His half-brother Alois lived in Liverpool and had a son called William Patrick, who died in 1987. He changed his name and lived in the USA. He is believed to have left 4 sons, who have decided not to have children in order not to perpetuate the line. His sister Paula never married and had no children. She was known as Paula Wolf for a lot of her life. His half sister Angela married and had a daughter, Geli Raubal, who died in 1930. I believe there was also a son Leo Raubal who died in action in 1942. It is unlikely that the story of Adolf Hitler's father being half Jewish is true. But since Anna Maria Schickelgruber died when her son was 5 years old no one will ever know the real details of what seems a very complicated story.


  • M. James is right in saying that Hitler wasn't a common family name in Germany. A look into the electronic telephone book shows no Hitler in all Germany, but 24 Hittler and still 3 Hiedler. So, possibly, the addition of another "t" (which doesn't change pronunciation) might be the answer to the second question.


  • In checking back for the provenance of the name Hitler, one would be better off looking elsewhere than Germany. Hitler was Austrian.


  • I was born with the Hitler surname. I took the name of my stepfather at my mother's urging when I was 13-years-old. I'm now trying to find out where my former surname came from. My grandfather, on my father's side, used to say that it was of British origin. And, after doing a little genealogical research, I discovered that several Hitlers migrated from Germany to Ohio in the 1760s. My family on my father's side is originally from Ohio, so this seems like a good lead. However, I haven't been able to get much farther in my research than this, as my father has passed away. My grandfather also seems to have no real idea where the name came from. If anyone has any info. it'd be much appreciated.

Why did both Hitler and Napoleon choose June 22?
Axis History Forum 14 Jun 2008


No doubt Hitler was very aware that June 22 was the day Napoleon declared war on Imperial Russia. Hitler had studied Napoleon's battle and defeat in Russia. Napoleon had conquered Moscow but the Russians simply abandoned the city. So Hitler came to the conclusion that Moscow wasn't stategically important and therefore put the Wehrmacht's emphasis on Ukraine. If Hitler wanted to avoid Napoleon's mistake and fate (at least in Hitler's eyes), he still chose to launch Babarossa the same day that Napoleon declared war on Russia, knowing full well the significance of the date. So the decison of the launching date was probably intentional.

Hitler probably had the romantic illusion, or madness, depending on one's view, that he and his pan-European army, was the successor of the Grande Armee of Napoleon's.

Some Nazis, mostly notably Himmer, were into occultism. The SS was Hitler's Praetorian Guard, like Julius Caesar's. Hitler fancied himself in the similar mold of Caesar.

Tough Succession Road Awaits N. Korea`s Heir Apparent
THE DONG-A ILBO JUNE 03, 2009


The selection of Kim Jong Un as the heir apparent to his father and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is expected to accelerate preparation for the power transfer in the Stalinist country. Yet the junior Kim will face a difficult road in the process of succession.

○ Different start from Kim Jong Il

The power succession situation in the North is similar to that of 1974, when Kim Jong Il was unofficially named to succeed his father and the country’s founder Kim Il Sung. The designation process is quite different from the past, however.

Kim Jong Il was named successor through democratic procedures, though they were merely a formality. Figures from the North’s first “revolutionary generation” had urged his designation from 1970 and Kim Il Sung accepted. The unofficial designation was made at the plenary session of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers` Party in 1974.

On the contrary, Kim Jong Il’s youngest son Jong Un appears to have been unilaterally named successor by his father without support from the North Korean elite.

When named as heir, Kim Jong Il was 32 and took control of the Workers` Party while serving as the party’s organizing secretary, head of the organization and guidance department of the party’s Central Committee, propaganda secretary, and party director for propaganda and agitation.

In contrast, Kim Jong Un is in the process of acquiring political skills as a mid-level official in both the party and the powerful National Defense Commission. This means he lacks the ability and legitimacy as a successor, according to North Korea experts.

○ Uneasy power transfer expected

Six years after his unofficial designation as successor, Kim Jong Il was officially named to succeed his father at the party’s 1980 convention.

Experts say the reclusive leader wishes to finish the power transfer by 2012, the target year when the North plans to emerge as a powerful country.

The succession process is fraught with hurdles, however. Kim Jong Il secured legitimacy and full power over the party and other power organizations after his unofficial designation by obtaining exclusive rights to interpret the “juche (self-reliance)” ideology. By contrast, Kim Jong Un has had little time to foster his individual capacity, gain legitimacy, and build his support base in government organizations.

For this reason, speculation is growing that Kim Jong Il will act as a regent for a long time. North Korea expert Lee Seung-yeol said, “Kim Jong Il wants to remain in power by appointing his youngest son his successor.”

If Kim Jong Il’s health suddenly deteriorates or internal dispute arises due to aggravating foreign relations before his son’s official designation, the political situation in the North is feared to go out of control.

○ Opposition to Kim Jong Un’s nomination

Certain North Korean intellectuals have begun voicing their opposition to Kim Jong Un’s appointment as successor, according to sources familiar with North Korea. On Pyongyang’s hard-line policies aimed at smoothing the way for the power transfer, the sources quote the intellectuals as saying a reckless hard-line foreign policy will further deepen the North’s isolation from the international community and undermine the power transfer spanning three generations.

A North Korean defector who was a high-ranking official in the North said, “Since Kim Jong Un’s mother Ko Young-hee is not Kim Jong Il’s legitimate wife and Jong Un lacks communication with the North Korean people due to his study abroad, North Koreans will be reluctant to recognize him as a successor.”

Koizumi confirms plan to retire, pass torch to son
Japan Times Sept. 28, 2008


Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Saturday formally announced his intention to retire from politics and said he will not run in the next House of Representatives election.

Koizumi, 66, also named his second son and secretary, 27-year-old Shinjiro Koizumi, as his heir apparent to the Kanagawa No. 11 district.

"I believe I have served out my role as a Diet member by carrying out the grave responsibilities of a prime minister," Koizumi said before a crowd of supporters at a meeting in his home district of Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Speaking about his son, he said: "I might be called a silly parent, but I think he is more reliable than I was when I was 27 years old. I would appreciate it greatly if you could provide Shinjiro with your generous support."

Taking the podium from his father, the younger Koizumi declared that he will run in the next Lower House election from Yokosuka and Miura, his father's constituency.

"I will do my best so I can become a politician who can allow to have high hopes about politics. I would like to ask you for your continued support," he said.

Shinjiro Koizumi has been working in his father's office as a secretary since June last year, following graduate studies at Columbia University in New York and a job at a think tank in Washington.

New Prime Minister Taro Aso is seeking to dissolve the lower chamber at an early date to call a snap general election.

Although he is retiring as a lawmaker, Koizumi said he plans to continue being active in "political activities," which he said would include using his advisory post at a think tank specializing in international affairs.

He said he wants to focus his energy on two policy areas — environmental protection and economic development and food safety.

As for his timing, Koizumi said he'd been waiting to do this for a long time.

"After finishing my tenure as prime minister, frankly speaking, I also wanted to quit as a lawmaker immediately afterward . . . but I thought it might be problematic if I quit without serving out my term."

Koizumi, serving his 12th term, was first elected to the Lower House in 1972 and was subsequently re-elected 11 times. Besides prime minister, he also served as the health minister and posts and telecommunications minister.

Experts ponder whether Kato felt disenfranchised from society
Japn Times June 10, 2008


The deadly stabbing rampage Sunday in Tokyo's Akihabara district stunned the nation, but experts said the carnage was just another example of a young man unhappy with his lot in society.

Tomohiro Kato, a 25-year-old temporary worker at an auto parts factory in Shizuoka Prefecture, was arrested at the scene for allegedly stabbing seven people to death after running into a crowd of pedestrians with a rented truck.

This is the third major random killing or attack resulting in injury apparently perpetrated by a young man this year, following one in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, in January and another in Ibaraki Prefecture in March.

Police quoted Kato as saying he was "tired of the world" and wanted to kill indiscriminately.

Although his motive remains unclear, Akira Sakuta, a visiting criminology professor at Seigakuin University in Ageo, Saitama Prefecture, speculated Monday that Kato is a sociopath who blames society for his unstable life as a temporary worker.

An Aomori native, Kato reportedly was a good student in junior high school and advanced to a highly competitive high school in Aomori Prefecture. But as of the weekend he was a temporary worker living in a condominium provided by his temp agency.

"Something must have gone wrong after graduating from high school, and he came to find the real world tough going," Sakuta said. "He probably was suicidal. Such aggression can sometimes be targeted at others.

"People must have paid attention to him when he was young, and he must have thought he could still gain attention by (doing something evil)."

Sakuta said many young people are selfish and immature, and such violence is a manifestation of this.

"When things do not go as well as they hoped, they blame the people around them," he said, noting it could be that the parents of violent people failed to instill in them a sense of self-control.

Echoing Sakuta's view, Masafumi Usui, a psychology professor at Niigata Seiryo University, said Kato may have been dissatisfied with his lot and simultaneously jealous of other young people who hold better jobs and enjoy life.

"Some young people these days don't attempt to achieve their goals, and think taking low-paying jobs is ridiculous," Usui said. "They are not satisfied with ordinary jobs. They want to become someone special."

People who do not feel they were loved by their parents, friends or teachers may also lash out violently, he said.

"It's a side effect of a wealthy society," in which parents can easily spoil their children, Usui said. "If they don't feel loved, they become anxious" about themselves.

The recent widening economic gap in society may also be a factor behind the stabbing sprees blamed on young people in recent years, said Susumu Oda, a psychiatrist at Tezukayamagakuin University in Osaka Prefecture.

"Young people may feel they are at a dead end, with no way out," he said.

Kato may also have felt isolated living in a Shizuoka Prefecture condo, Oda said.

Random acts of murder may be a way for such a person to feel like a participant in society and achieve personal fulfillment, according to Oda.

There is also speculation about why Kato chose Akihabara. It is Japan's electronics mecca and the main venue for "otaku" animation geeks.

Sakuta said Kato may have thought otaku are insignificant members of society, while Oda said he might have targeted the district because he may be a heavy Internet user.

60' Color TV!
NHK


The year 1960 brought political upheaval with the revision of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. TV screens flickered with images of controversies that were shaping Japan's future. Television also entered a great period of growth in the 60's with the spread of color TV.

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The first U.S.-Japan satellite relay The TV industry strove to develop technology and upgrade facilities in time for the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.

In 1962, the first successful trans-Atlantic TV relay was conducted via the Telstar 1 telecommunications satellite. The first U.S.-Japan satellite telecast was carried out on November 23, 1963 using the Relay 1 satellite. This happened to be the day of President John F. Kennedy's assassination (November 23, Japan Time), so the people of Japan were introduced to the satellite telecast era via the shocking news of this tragedy.

Japan police probe stab 'warning'
BBC NEWS 9 June 2008


Police in Japan are examining whether a man who went on a stabbing spree in Tokyo warned of his actions on an internet site, media reports say.

Seven people died and 10 others were injured in the attack in central Tokyo's Akihabara shopping district on Sunday.

Twenty-five year-old Tomohiro Kato was arrested by police at the scene.

Mourners have begun to leave tributes at the site of the attack, which has shocked Japan.

'Crash my vehicle'

The incident happened on Sunday afternoon when the district, known for its electronics outlets, was crowded with shoppers.

A man drove a rented truck into a crowd and then began stabbing people at random.

Six men, ranging in age from 19 to 74, and a 21-year-old woman were killed, Kyodo News agency said.

Paramedics erected makeshift tents to treat the injured on site before rushing them to hospital.

Mr Kato, a factory employee from Shizuoka prefecture, was overpowered and arrested by police at the scene.

They said he told them he came to Akihabara to kill people because he was "tired of life".

On Monday, investigators said that they were looking at a series of messages sent by mobile phone to a website that appeared to foretell the attack.

"I'll crash my vehicle into people and if the vehicle becomes useless, I'll get out a knife. Goodbye everyone!", Japanese media reports quoted one posting early on Sunday morning as saying.

Subsequent messages appeared to chart the suspect's journey from Shizuoka to Tokyo.

"No postponement because of rainy weather," said a later message, Kyodo news agency reported.

Another posting, some 20 minutes before the attack, simply said: "It's time," Kyodo added.

Japanese police said that they were investigating what may have motivated the attack.

At a news conference on Monday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said the government was considering tightening restrictions on large-bladed knifes in response to the attack.

"We need to think of the possibility of discussing tightening the control of guns and knives," he said.

Once rare in Japan, there has been an increase in knife crime in recent years.

In January, a 16-year-old school boy armed with two kitchen knives injured several people on a crowded shopping street in Tokyo's Shinagawa district.

The Akihabara attack occurred on the same date that a man with a history of mental illness stabbed children to death at an Osaka primary school in 2001.

Yearend ban planned for 'amakudari,' 'watari'
Japan Times April 1, 2009


The government approved an ordinance Tuesday to ban by the end of this year its ministries and agencies from playing a mediatory role in finding jobs for their retiring officials.

The ordinance will abolish the "watari" system, in which retired bureaucrats take a succession of jobs at entities connected to their former ministries and receive considerable retirement packages at each one.

The ordinance also aims to eliminate the practice of "amakudari," in which senior bureaucrats land postretirement jobs at entities related to the sectors they formerly supervised. Amakudari has long been blamed as a source of corruption.

The government set up a job placement center in December to help officials land positions, but opposition parties complain amakudari will continue under the newly introduced system.

The 2007 amendment to the national public servant law bans ministries and agencies from playing a mediatory role in finding jobs for retiring officials. During a three-year transition period to 2011, however, both entities would be able to continue to engage in such arrangements.

Facing harsh criticism over amakudari and watari, Prime Minister Taro Aso decided to shorten the transition and said in February he aims to stop both practices before the end of this year.

The government also planned to approve related bills to revise the national public service law and set up a new Cabinet bureau to transfer the personnel functions of senior officials at ministries and agencies.

The bureau, to be set up 12 months from now, will integrate the personnel functions of the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry and the National Personnel Authority to give the Cabinet a stronger grip on the civil service personnel system and to streamline administrative functions.

Silencing the ’voice from heaven’
Japan Unlimited


Amakudari (descent from heaven) Japan’s public servants on the gravy train.

It was known, said the prosecutors, as the "voice from Heaven", and it could not be disobeyed. When his bureaucrats heard Fujio Takeuchi whispering a name down the telephone, that was the company that won the construction contract, no matter what.

For nearly 20 years, Takeuchi, the 75-year-old former five-term governor nicknamed "the Lord of Mito", ruled the farms, factories and dormitory towns of Ibaraki Prefecture, 100kms east of Tokyo.

Above all, he controlled its huge public works budget - bigger than those of Victoria and NSW combined - and doled out contracts worth tens of billions of dollars to those companies that came calling at his official residence in the city of Mito carrying shopping bags stuffed with banknotes.

But now Takeuchi is on trial for bribery, one of an ever-growing string of big names arrested in the biggest scandal ever to rock the country's political and construction establishment, a scandal that has put a new word in the vocabulary of international trade negotiators - "dango", or bid-rigging Japanese-style.

On a global scale, probably only drug smuggling rivals the dango as a criminal concern. The Japanese construction industry is worth $1.3 trillion a year (a third of this is public works contracts), it involves 500,000 companies, six million workers and about a fifth of the country's gross national product.

The bribes are on the same colossal scale. The construction industry is conservatively calculated to pay crooked politicians and bureaucrats more than$500 million a year. Takeuchi's arrest was the most important so far by a special task force of untouchables from the Tokyo District Prosecutors' Office which has been trying to clean up the institutionalised corruption that pervades the industry.

So far, they have locked up two prefectural governors, two mayors and nearly 30 construction company executives.

Almost every week, television shows a procession of up to 100 prosecutors, in identical black suits, carrying hundreds of boxes of documents from high-rise office buildings around Tokyo. The names of the companies raided are a Debrett's Peerage of the Japanese construction industry, seven of the country's leading builders, including the three largest: Shimizu, Kajima and Taisei corporations have all had top executives arrested.

And, if evidence already given and official leaks from the prosecutors office are Continued correct, this is nowhere near the end of the investigation that began last March after the arrest of former Liberal Democratic Party powerbroker Shin Kanemaru. "We are determined to get to the bottom of this dango system and put all those responsible on trial," said one prosecutor.

There is no telling where this will lead. The construction industry contributes in a big way to more than half Japan's members of parliament, and the names of former prime minister Noboru Takeshita and current coalition power-broker Ichiro Ozawa have already been dragged into the scandal.

The stain of corruption reaches from the highest to the lowest in the land. Not long ago, 18 of the 21 council members of the little town of Haga were arrested for bribery, two more admitted themselves to hospital (a favourite ruse in Japan to avoid questioning by the police) leaving only the lone Communist councillor untouched by the scandal.

Dango literally means "discussion group" but the characters can also be read as a pair of rice dumplings sticking together - and this is how the system really works. Every important government contract is cooked up by collusive tendering between the large companies and their "families" of sub-contractors - almost invariably lubricated with large amounts of money and other favours for the politicians and bureaucrats who have the final say.

You don't have to travel more than a couple of hours from Tokyo to see the effects of the dango system. Drive along Route 117 through the mountains of Niigata Prefecture, and you are on a perfect paved highway with an extra lane for the snow-ploughs, concrete overpasses and culverts everywhere, the footpaths bathed with reticulated hot water in winter to melt the ice. But the moment you cross the border into Nagano Prefecture, the road -still National Route 117 - has no footpaths, not even a centre-line, and in places it is too narrow for two cars to pass. Niigata, you might have guessed, was the electorate of the corrupt former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, who built the dango system into the money machine that was to fund the LDP's 38 unbroken years in power.

The bribery is as simple or as sophisticated as the participants desire. Takeuchi (so the prosecution alleges) used to be the guest of honour at geisha parties at an exclusive $1,000-a-head restaurant, where construction company heads seeking special favours would be forced to listen to hours of his off-key karaoke singing, before passing him a carrier bag containing anything up to $70,000 in cash.

But for Kajima, Japan's second largest construction company, the method of winning "the voice from Heaven" was a little more devious. For decades, the family-founded company has made a practice of marrying its daughters into politics and the bureaucracy and promoting their husbands to company sinecures.

At last count, the company had no fewer than seven former Construction Ministry officials on its board - the men who were in charge of the country's national public works budget one day "retired" the next to take well-paid jobs at Kajima, a process known as "amakudari", or descent from heaven.

Politicians are generously treated in other ways - Wataru Hiraizumi, MP, a former director-general of the powerful Economic Planning Agency, has no fewer than nine staff members directly paid by Kajima. Shinichiro Shimozo, a former Welfare Minister, retired to a $700,000 a year research institute set up for him by Kajima not long after giving the company planning permission for a golf course.

The multi-member electorate system, where it can cost an ordinary back-bencher as much as $2 million or $3 million to get re-elected, is held to be the cause of Japanese politicians' widespread susceptibility to this sort of bribery. Whether the new Prime Minister, Morihiro Hosokawa, can change the system by year's end will be the first major test of his reform agenda.

"Paying off politicians has been seen like committing a traffic offence,"says an industry expert, Tokunosuke Hasegawa. "You know it's against the law, but it is not seen as unethical." To add insult to injury, the massive bribery is subsidised by Japan's taxpayers. Each of the major companies claims a tax deduction every year for what is called "shito fumeikin", literally"unaccounted-for expenditure", which is mainly bribes for which no receipts can be produced.

Shimizu, Japan's largest construction company, wrote off no less than $34 million under this heading last year. The total for the construction industry(according to the National Tax Agency, which conveniently compiles bribe totals for each industry) was an extraordinary $540 million.

Given just how lucrative these government contracts can be, even payments on this scale are small change for Japan's crooked building barons. There is really no "price mechanism" at all in public works bidding, according to Hasegawa, for 25 years a construction ministry bureaucrat who now heads an industry research institute. The contractors just charge whatever they want.

A ministry survey last year found that major construction jobs in Japan cost between two and three times as much as similar jobs in New York or London, which adds up to a rip-off of the Japanese tax-payers of as much as$200 billion to $300 billion a year. The amounts of public money involved simply boggle the mind. Tokyo's Metropolitan Government last year opened a new city administration complex that cost $2.3 billion - more than twice the cost of Australia's Parliament House.

The contracts that even a humble governor (the equivalent of a State Premier) like Takeuchi was handing out like lollies included a dam worth $540 million and a $315 million medical school. The anticipated prices of the projects are leaked in advance to the selected tenderer, sometimes with embarrassing consequences. Just last week, for example, the tenders clerk at a council near Tokyo made a mistake - he costed a paving job with the price per tile instead of per square metre. The lucky contractor pocketed a neat 5,000 per cent on top of his normal profit.

Foreign companies, it goes without saying, are banned from the cosy dango clubs that carve up these amazingly lucrative jobs by the use of a "designated bidder" system. They are simply excluded from bidding by secret rules.

Of the $400 billion in public contracts awarded last year, a little over$200 million went to US companies - compared with around $20 billion of US work that went to Japanese companies, something that has not escaped US trade negotiators.

The United States had been concerned about Japan's virtually closed construction industry long before this latest round of scandals broke, and President Clinton has given the Japanese until January 20 to clean up the industry - or face sanctions against Japanese doing construction work in the US.

The Americans - and a growing number of increasingly vocal Japanese critics- have been unimpressed by the Government's response to date.

So far, penalties have been small. Companies charged have been "suspended"from bidding for public jobs for between two and four months; they have cancelled autumn TV advertising schedules; the Construction Ministry has"advised" bureaucrats not to take jobs in the industry; "open bidding" has been recommended for a few larger contracts. Probably the most bizarre spectacle of recent weeks has been the coalition Construction Minister - a Social Democrat named Kozo Igarashi who probably never saw one yen of the bribe money that poured into LDP coffers - promising that he and his senior bureaucrats would "reflect on the scandal".

It is widely expected that they will volunteer for minor pay cuts for a few months to show their contrition. However, this is not going to satisfy the US, and Hasegawa believes that Japan will soon be forced to offer a genuine reform package - open tenders for public jobs worth more than $10 million, and a new and independent watchdog agency to ensure the process is transparent and above-board.

If it works - still a big if - the end of the dango system will represent the first major victory of the Hosokawa Government, and will open the Japanese market to foreign competition. However, Hasegawa is sceptical about whether this will put much of a dent in Japan's massive trade surplus - the US, he believes, will capture less than 1 per cent of the market for design and engineering, although the Koreans could make serious inroads.

But when the new rules are announced they will at least unblock the public works programs which have been virtually paralysed by the crisis.

For the sixth straight month, public works contracts have fallen and along the length of the country work has stopped on roads, bridges, sewers and other elements of the latest fiscal stimulus package.

Frightened of risking further attention from the prosecutors, Japan's thousands of national, regional and local governments have gone on "contract strike", suspending the start of any new work until the guidelines are been promulgated. If nothing else, the silencing of the voices from heaven may help get Japan's long-overdue economic recovery on the road.

Aso seeks 'amakudari' ban in '09
Japan Times Feb. 4, 2009


Prime Minister Taro Aso said Tuesday he plans by year's end to effectively ban ministries and agencies from being go-betweens in finding "amakudari" and "watari" jobs for their retiring officials.

The government meanwhile said a new bureau to be established at the Cabinet secretariat in April 2010 will assume the personnel functions of administrative agencies now handled by the National Personnel Authority.

In a road map approved by a Cabinet task force earlier in the day, the government set a three-year transition period through 2011 before banning amakudari and watari. But Aso moved the schedule up, telling the House of Representatives Budget Committee, "I would like to create a government ordinance to ban it by the end of this year."

Amakudari, often deemed a source of corruption, is the practice of senior bureaucrats landing postretirement jobs at entities related to the sectors they formerly supervised.

Watari is the practice of retired bureaucrats landing successive posts in semigovernmental bodies for short stints and walking away from each with a lucrative retirement package.

In deciding on the envisaged transfer of authority over civil servants during the task force meeting, the government brushed aside protests from the NPA.

The transfer is a key part of the four-year road map for reforming the national public service system. The government plans to submit bills in March to achieve the goals.

The road map involves the government launching a new public service personnel system in 2011 with an eye to formally abolishing amakudari.

"We would like to work hard on reforming the public service system," Aso said at the task force meeting, telling his ministers to make every effort to proceed with the reforms presented in the road map.

He asked them to work out the areas in which the government remains at odds with the personnel authority.

The authority is the independent administrative commission that advises the prime minister and the Diet on central government civil servants, notably recruitment and salaries.

NPA President Masahito Tani, who attended the meeting, expressed opposition to the decision.

He has said that transferring authority to the Cabinet side, which employs bureaucrats, could violate the rights of employees and lack fairness.

The road map was initially supposed to be adopted last Friday, but no meeting was held because Tani boycotted the proceedings.

Aso apparently decided on the transfer despite the backlash from the authority because there is growing concern that a prolonged row inside the government would undermine his leadership.

"It is unfortunate that the government could not gain full understanding from the authority," at the task force meeting, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said.

Under the road map, the Cabinet personnel and administrative bureau would integrate functions of such ministries and agencies as the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, the Finance Ministry and the Cabinet secretariat, as well as the authority.

In the bureau, the post of national strategy officer will be created in 2010 to serve as an aide to the prime minister, and the job of political affairs officer will be established to assist Cabinet ministers.

On ways to eradicate amakudari, the reform plan would ban every government ministry and agency from playing a mediating role in finding jobs for retiring officials after the new public service personnel system is put in place in 2011, although Aso hopes to effectively have the practice banned by year's end.

Cabinet councils to be consolidated
Japan Times Dec. 29, 2007


The government said Friday it will scrap or merge 14 of 80 Cabinet councils and headquarters to reduce them to 66 in an effort to achieve more flexible policymaking.

The number will be further reduced to 65 by March 31 by merging two more bodies, government officials said.

The government reached the decision in a Cabinet meeting Friday after an order issued in September by Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura to consolidate such bodies under the Cabinet Secretariat and the Cabinet Office.

The prime minister or the chief Cabinet secretary is required to attend meetings of those councils and headquarters. But many of these groups have already served their purposes, or some of their missions overlap.

Among the bodies to be abolished are the Strategic Headquarters for Industrial Revival and Employment Measures and the Japan Investment Council.

Two councils each on Okinawa affairs and on North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals will be consolidated into one each, the officials said.

Undoing a recruitment knot
Japan Times Sept. 5, 2008


The Oita prefectural board of education, rocked by a corruption scandal centering on teacher recruitment, has decided to have 21 teachers quit "voluntarily" after their recruitment test scores were found to have been artificially boosted. While the decision appears to be a correct one, it leaves some important questions unsolved.

Acting on instructions from higher up, a former recruitment official for the board, who has been indicted on a bribery charge, is suspected of having inflated the scores of about 40 applicants in 2006 and 2007. People close to the applicants applied pressure on or made requests of education board officials and, in some cases, sent bribes.

A reform project team of the board analyzed data left in the recruitment official's personal computer and succeeded in finding out the original scores of applicants in 2007 and details of the score-tampering process. On the basis of these findings, the board decided to have 21 teachers quit "voluntarily." If they do not comply, they will be fired. But they will be allowed to continue to work as "temporary lecturers" if they wish so. As for the results of the 2006 recruitment test, the board decided to take no action on the grounds that definitive data are not available.

A strong possibility exists that many of the 21 teachers did not know that other people had applied pressure on, made requests of or even bribed education board officials on their behalf. In addition, the fact remains that some other applicants whose scores were high enough were unable to become teachers because of the scandal. Those who asked board of education officials for special treatment in recruitment should reflect on how their actions caused many people to suffer.

Another problem is that compared with the actions taken toward the 21 teachers, the actions the board of education took toward its officials seem lenient. Although several arrests were made, the heaviest disciplinary measure so far is suspension from work. It is imperative that all prefectural education boards nationwide take effective measures to make the recruitment process transparent.

Steps urged for police to regain public trust
Japan Times July 14, 2000


A government panel on police reforms recommended Thursday that police make greater efforts on information disclosure and require officers to issue written responses to complaints as measures to regain the public's trust in the nation's scandal-tainted force.

The Council on the Reform of Police Systems submitted its recommendation report to Mamoru Nishida, chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, based on the concept that police should make themselves more "visible to the citizens."

The council, chaired by Nippon Television Network Corp. President Seiichiro Ujiie, met 11 times between March 23 and Thursday and held two regional public hearings on police reform in light of the recent police scandals.

The nation's police have come under fire for the scandals, including the involvement of top Kanagawa police officials in the coverup of an officer's drug use as well as improper Niigata police handling of a kidnapping case in which a woman was rescued after more than nine years in captivity.

The National Public Safety Commission and the National Police Agency are expected to formulate a proposal to revise the police law in line with the recommendations.

In the report, the council described police as having a "closed" nature shielded from criticism by outside parties, and lack the ability to deal with changing times.

To secure transparency in police organization, the panel is calling for "aggressive disclosure of information" and obliging officers to provide written responses to complaints brought by citizens.

Over the past year, examples of police inaction toward suspected stalking or kidnapping cases came to light, in which relatives of crime victims said their kin may could been saved had police reacted promptly to their complaints.

The panel also proposed in the report the reinforcement of inspections of activities by regional police as well as the National Public Safety Commission.

As ways to make police activities correspond with the times, the panel urged personnel and training reforms, such as doubling the time it takes for "career-track" officers to gain promotion, and increasing regional police staff.

So-called career police officials, or those who pass the Category I exam to become elite bureaucrats, occupy the position of chief at most prefectural police headquarters, because they are on a much faster promotion track than their "noncareer" colleagues who were hired locally.

In conclusion, the report says, "We demand that the authorities take our recommendations to heart, come up with a new reform plan that meets the needs of the current times and strive to regain public trust in the police."

The council comprised five members -- Ujiie; Hirotaro Higuchi, honorary chairman of Asahi Breweries Ltd.; Masasuke Omori, former chief of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau; journalist Eiko Oya; and lawyer Kohei Nakabo. Masaharu Gotoda, a former NPA official, served as adviser to the panel.

Confidence in Japan's police organization, which used to maintain a fairly high level of public trust, plunged sharply after the seemingly endless string of scandals that began last year.

It started last September, when mass abuses of new recruits by Atsugi police officers on the Kanagawa force came to light. In the subsequent revelation of the drug coverup, former Kanagawa Police Chief Motoo Watanabe was given a suspended 18-month prison term in May.

In the Niigata kidnapping case, it was revealed that when Koji Kobayashi, the chief of the prefectural force at the time, heard the abducted girl had been rescued, he continued playing mah-jongg at a hot spring hotel with a senior NPA official from the Kanto regional bureau who was visiting Niigata for an inspection tour.

The National Public Safety Commission, which oversees the police organization, also came under fire when it handed down what was widely perceived as too lenient a punishment on these officials.

Critics who have watched the police scandals say the panel's report was disappointing in that it failed to call for reform of the NPSC.

Journalist Akihiro Otani said he would give "close to a zero" mark on the report, pointing out that it fails to cut into the core problem that lies in the structure of police organization.

Critic Moeko Tawara said, "Current members of (national or prefectural) Public Safety Commissions are appointed by (central or prefectural government) heads, and they do not have any responsibility to the people.

"There appears to have been no discussion as to what kind of people are selected for the commissions or why," Tawara said.

A History of Japanese Journalism
Kisha Club as the Last Obstacle to a Mature Japanese Press Kisha Club as the Last Obstacle to a Mature Japanese Press

Asia Bookroom

The Japanese press has a history that is hardly a century old. In this relatively short period it has acquired the reputation of being one of the world's most advanced mass-media industries which has at its disposal some of the most sophisticated and advanced technology. Yet, at the same time, at the very heart of the Japanese journalistic system, we can still find a distinctly anachronistic phenomenon which, with certain qualifications, can be said to be a uniquely Japanese one: it is, in fact, in the existence and history of the kisha- (press) club that the difference between Japanese and Western ways of journalism is best expressed. In Japan, the kisha-clubs are the focal point between the authorities and the media - they are not the counterpart of the leisurely, informal nature of Western press clubs of which the free access to information is of the essence., This is the first book in English to look in depth at the history and development of journalism in Japan as well as the current status of the kisha-club structure; understanding the historical development of the press in Japan - an alien Western cultural component evolving out of the flood of newspapers and magazines introduced by the Treaty Port Powers in the late nineteenth century - is an essential element in examining the 'control' mechanism exercised today by the kisha-club phenomenon.

Popularity of DPJ double LDP's: poll
Japan Post flap hurts Aso's rating


A Kyodo News weekend poll released Monday found 38.5 percent of voters voicing support for the Democratic Party of Japan, compared with a record-low 19.8 percent backing Prime Minister Taro Aso's Liberal Democratic Party.

The support rate for the Cabinet was just 17.5 percent, down 8.7 percentage points from last month, according to the weekend survey of 1,039 randomly called voters.

The result is expected to deal a severe blow to the Cabinet and possibly prompt some LDP members to campaign for Aso's ouster as LDP president before the next Lower House election, which must be held by October.

Asked what party they would vote for in the next House of Representatives election's proportional representation blocks, 47.8 percent of the pollees named the DPJ and 18.7 percent said the LDP.

The disapproval rate for the Cabinet was 70.6 percent, up 10.4 points from the poll in May.

Aso effectively dismissed Kunio Hatoyama as internal affairs and communications minister on Friday over a high-profile row concerning the reappointment of Yoshifumi Nishikawa as president of Japan Post Holdings Co. The survey found that only 17.5 percent of the respondents approved of Hatoyama's exit, while 74.8 percent said they disapprove.

The Cabinet's support rate, which had been dwindling since its launch last September, had been recovering in recent months due to a fundraising scandal involving former DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa.

As for Nishikawa, 75.5 percent of respondents said he should step down, while 17.2 percent said he should stay on as the head of the postal body.

Hatoyama, one of Aso's closest allies, opposed Nishikawa's reappointment. He says Japan Post attempted to sell the Kampo no Yado nationwide resort inn properties at excessively low prices.

In the portion of the poll on who is more suitable as prime minister, DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama garnered support from 50.4 percent, while Aso was backed by 21.5 percent. The opposition leader is the elder brother of the sacked minister.

A total of 35.9 percent of those surveyed said a DPJ-led coalition would be desirable, while 14.9 percent said they would prefer an LDP-led governing bloc and 14.7 percent said they want to see a coalition between the LDP and DPJ.

Twenty-eight percent said they prefer a new ruling party framework as a result of major political realignment.

Among those who support the Aso Cabinet, 44.3 percent said there is no other choice. Asked why they disapprove of the Cabinet, 23.0 percent cited Aso's lack of leadership.

The DPJ-backed candidate meanwhile was elected mayor of the city of Chiba in a landslide Sunday, giving the largest opposition force further momentum before the national election.

Toshihito Kumagai defeated a candidate also backed by the opposition and a candidate supported by the LDP-New Komeito ruling bloc in the city of some 950,000 people.

The DPJ's victory in Chiba followed mayoral election wins in Nagoya and the city of Saitama.

Kumagai, 31, a former city assembly member who also received backing from the Social Democratic Party, will be the youngest mayor in Japan.

The two other candidates were Kojiro Hayashi, 63, backed by the ruling bloc, and Fusae Yuki, 65, of the Japanese Communist Party.

Voter turnout was 43.50 percent, up 6.30 percentage points from the previous mayoral election.

"I think my will to change the city matched that of many people, and that enabled me to win," Kumagai told supporters at his campaign office after declaring victory. "I'm looking forward to tomorrow as a citizen as well, as I know a new political era will begin."

Kumagai got 170,629 votes, while 117,560 went to Hayashi and 30,933 to Yuki.

The focus now is on whether the ruling bloc can recover from the consecutive losses in mayoral elections in the upcoming Shizuoka gubernatorial race and Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly poll in July.

"We were certain he would win," Kaname Tajima, a DPJ member of the House of Representatives, said at Kumagai's campaign office. "I think it really showed people that the city is actually going to change, and I'm sure they will get the message that this is the dawn of a change of administration."

Supporters at the office cheered the news that Kumagai would achieve a solid victory. He won nearly 30 percent of the votes of LDP supporters.

The campaign that began with Hayashi declaring his candidacy in April took a sudden turn when the incumbent, 69-year-old Keiichi Tsuruoka, was arrested later that month on suspicion of accepting bribes from a construction firm, just months before the end of his second term.

The arrest of Tsuruoka, who resigned May 1, hurt Hayashi, who had served as his deputy mayor and was seen as his successor. It prompted the DPJ, which initially was not expected to field a candidate, to suddenly look for a contender to challenge Hayashi.

The DPJ characterized Kumagai as "young, with no experience in politics and no money," and therefore different from Hayashi.

Yuki, meanwhile, criticized money politics and said the JCP is the only party that has not accepted political donations.

The main issues in the campaign were how to restore public trust in the city government after Tsuruoka's arrest and how to deal with municipal more than ¥1 billion in city debts.

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