July 30, 2007 at 12:15 am | Posted in Government, Ultra-Nationalism | Leave a comment

Japan’s Abe vows to stay after defeat

By HIROKO TABUCHI, Associated Press Writer

TOKYO – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed Sunday to stay in office despite leading his scandal-stained ruling coalition to an unexpectedly severe and humiliating defeat in parliamentary elections.

Exit polls showed Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party losing the majority it held with its coalition partner in the upper house, a stunning reversal of fortune for a ruling party that has controlled Japan virtually uninterrupted since 1955.

The leading opposition Democratic Party of Japan made huge gains, the exit polls showed.

It would be unusual for a prime minister to step down after an upper-house defeat, but calls for Abe’s resignation from within the Liberal Democratic Party were expected to grow.

Looking grim and chastened, the prime minister called the results “severe” but dismissed questions about whether he should resign.

“I must push ahead with reforms and continue to fulfill my responsibilities as prime minister,” he said at his party’s headquarters. “The responsibility for this utter defeat rests with me.”

His ruling party maintains control of the lower chamber, which chooses the prime minister, and Abe dismissed opposition calls for an election for the lower house to test his mandate.

“The nation has spoken very clearly,” Democratic Party of Japan leader Naoto Kan told reporters. “Naturally, our sights are on the lower house and our final goal is a change in government.”

Sunday’s defeat was worse than expected for Abe. Exit polls by major television networks showed the LDP and its junior coalition partner, the New Komei Party, emerging with 102 seats — a 30-seat loss that left it far short of the 122 needed to control the house. The Democratic Party appeared set to win 112 seats, up from 83. Official results were not expected until early Monday local time.

Abe’s top lieutenant, party No. 2 Hidenao Nakagawa, said late Sunday he would step down to take responsibility for the party’s setback.

“If the results are as projected, we have suffered an utter defeat,” Nakagawa said hours after the polls closed.

Abe took office in September as Japan’s youngest-ever prime minister, promising to build a “beautiful Japan,” and won points for mending strained diplomatic ties with South Korea and China.

But his honeymoon was short-lived.

In the first in a series of scandals, Administrative Reform Minister Genichiro Sata stepped down in December over charges of misusing of political funds. In May, Abe’s agriculture minister killed himself amid allegations he also misused public money. The new agriculture minister became embroiled in another funds scandal.

The government was severely criticized again last month when Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma suggested the 1945 U.S. nuclear bombings of Japan were justified. Public outcry led to Kyuma’s speedy departure.

Perhaps the final straw for voters was Abe’s brushing off warnings by the opposition late last year that pension records had been lost. That inaction came back to haunt him in the spring, when the full scope of the records losses emerged. Some 50 million claims had been wiped out.

“I don’t like Abe or the LDP. I don’t get the feeling things have gotten better,” said Masayoshi Miyazaki, 58, a Tokyo retiree, after polls closed.

Party officials said last week they would keep Abe no matter what happens, and resigning in the face of a heavy election defeat is rare, but not unprecedented.

In 1998, then-Prime Minster Ryutaro Hashimoto was forced to step down after the Liberal Democratic Party won just 44 seats out of 121. Sousuke Uno lost his job as prime minister after winning only 36 seats in 1989. Abe himself resigned as secretary-general of the party in 2004, when the Liberal Democrats won 49 seats, two short of their goal.

Some unconventional candidates from neither of the two major parties also fared badly Sunday. Alberto Fujimori, the former Peruvian authoritarian leader; Yuko Tojo, the granddaughter of the executed wartime general who ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor; and the popular inventor Dr. Nakamats were all headed for defeat, according to projections.


Only in Japan…

July 28, 2007 at 2:54 am | Posted in Government | Leave a comment

Only in Japan can a former authoritarian president from a foreign nation but of Japanese descent get a chance to run for office while he’s under house arrest in a different country.

Kamikaze Sucked

July 24, 2007 at 10:47 pm | Posted in Government, Ultra-Nationalism, WWII | Leave a comment

That according to the pilots who survived and came home.

TOKYO, Japan (Reuters) — Ordered to sacrifice themselves for the nation by crashing their planes into U.S. warships as Japan vainly battled to stave off invasion in the final months of World War Two, some young pilots instead returned alive.

As a documentary released in Japan on Saturday shows, not all the young men trained for the suicide missions that struck terror into U.S. servicemen faced their almost certain death gladly.

“I wanted to live,” Kazuo Nakajima, one of the now elderly ‘failed cherry blossoms’ tells the filmmakers with an embarrassed laugh. “I didn’t want to die.”

Japanese-American director Risa Morimoto sought out former kamikaze after discovering her much-loved uncle had been among those prepared to carry out what were called “special attacks.”

Instead of finding the fanatics she had expected, she met a group of gentle, elderly men who confessed their mixed emotions about the past, she says on the film’s Web site.

One veteran even criticized the emperor, treated as a living god until Japan’s defeat, for failing to surrender sooner.

The film, “Wings of Defeat,” has already been shown to some surviving crewmen of the U.S.S. Drexler, a destroyer sunk by kamikaze near the end of the war.

“They said, ‘We were told we were killing madmen. We were lied to,'” producer Linda Hoaglund told a recent news conference.

She and Morimoto have arranged for two 81-year-old U.S. survivors to meet some of the former kamikaze in Japan next week.

The film struck a chord with one elderly Japanese man who said he trained in the same suicide unit as one of the pilots in the documentary.

“It was exactly like that. We thought we were fighting and giving our lives for our families and our comrades,” said Masaaki Kobayashi, 79, after watching the film with a group of his former comrades. “As soldiers, that was the only thing we could do.”

The film’s release coincides with controversy over efforts by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other conservatives to shed what they consider a masochistic attitude to Japan’s wartime past.

Last month, lawmakers from the southern island of Okinawa — site of a bloody 1945 battle that killed some 200,000 civilians and soldiers — blasted the government for deciding to tone down school textbook references to soldiers ordering civilians to commit suicide rather than surrender to U.S. personnel in the war.

Abe also drew criticism when he denied that the military or government had hauled Asian women away to serve as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers before and during the war, although he has said he stands by a government apology to the women who suffered.

The documentary is being shown two months after a feature film on the kamikaze penned by Tokyo’s nationalist governor Shintaro Ishihara, celebrating the young kamikaze as heroes.

Many Japanese say wartime reality should be taught to a younger generation too young to remember.

“We shouldn’t beautify it, but we shouldn’t forget it either,” said a 34-year-old system engineer who watched the film.

Vice-Admiral Takejiro Onishi conceived of the the desperate kamikaze strategy when Japan was on the verge of losing the Philippines to U.S. forces.

The first attack took place off the coast of the island of Leyte in the Philippines in 1944 and its success inspired Onishi to recruit more young men for suicide missions.

Roughly 4,000 kamikaze pilots died and 34 U.S. ships were sunk in the last few months of the war, according to the filmmakers.

“They thought they were doing it for their country, but if you think about it now, they never should have adopted that strategy,” said one 82-year-old woman, who served as a nurse during the war and cried as she watched the film.

“Everyone knew Japan was losing. They should have surrendered sooner.” 


Mothercoat Review

July 23, 2007 at 2:07 am | Posted in Indie Rock | Leave a comment

I recently did a review of the Mama Matter EP by Mothercoat for J-Music Ignited. It was a pretty solid rock album, reminded me a lot of Acidman, but more complex and quicker transitions. I’ve been listening to it a bit lately

The Best Japanese Album EVER?

July 20, 2007 at 6:52 pm | Posted in Indie Rock, Quruli | Leave a comment

The World Is Mine - Quruli

When I saw my friend had The World Is Mine by Quruli with him during printmaking class earlier this year, I asked him if I could borrow it (I lent him a Fujifabric and Sparta Locals CD in exchange). I had been meaning to listen to Quruli for the past year but never got to it because I thought they were a nationalist rock band (“Go Back To China” sounds a bit nationalist to me). But boy was this a great album!

For the past few months I’ve been listening to it non-stop. Except for the occasional break to listen to the Mama Matter EP by Mothercoat and Bloc Party’s self-titled EP, I’ve only been listening to this.

It has the solid alternative rock songs like “Go Back to China”, “Thank You Mu Girl”, and “Suichuu Motor”. It has the dance songs like “World’s End Supernova”, “Buttersand Pianorgan”, and the Cornelius-like “Mind the Gap”. It has the nice ambient pop songs like “Hoshi no Suna”, “Pearl River”, and “Amadeus”. And it has the deep, slow pop rock songs like “Shizuka no Ami” and “Army”.

 The World Is Mine is one of the most diverse albums I’ve ever heard in my life. Quruli were pushing into different boundaries with this album, not afraid of using electronics or sampling. This is one of the greatest albums ever made in Japan.

A Little Inspiration

July 17, 2007 at 7:28 pm | Posted in Government, Student Riots | Leave a comment

Tokyo ’69!

Ah, the Japanese student riots. The Japanese government raised tuition and suddenly they had a large Marxist movement on their hands…

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