A Wine Tasting and Discussion about Japan Meeting was held on February 4, 2016 as always at the representative’s home. The guests included Yasuhide Nakayama, a member of the House of Representatives who served as Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs until October last year, and was in charge of the local emergency headquarters in Jordan during the IS hostage incident; Mr. Steve Aklesso Bodjona, chargé d’affaires of the Togolese Republic embassy in Japan, who is planning to publish a book about Japan in March this year; Mr. Kent Gilbert, attorney of the state of California, US, who published the well-received book “The Japanese Have Finally Realized the Folly of a Masochistic View of History (PHP Institute)” in January; and Yoshiro Kishida, representative of the Japanese office of the National Museum of the Pacific War in Texas, who exposed a secret demand by China to falsify historical documents. At the Wine Tasting Meeting, discussions were had regarding the ever churning maelstrom of terrorism and conspiracy darkening the world throughout history and today.
Abe’s administration is facing its last chance to amend the constitution. If they let this opportunity slip by, there will most likely not be another prime minister who could propose an amendment to the constitution for decades, and in that time Japan will be swallowed up by China. Abe will probably bring the constitutional amendment up for vote simultaneously in the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors. The sales tax increase in April next year will surely go through. If not, Abe will lose his prestige. It is in Japan’s best interest that Abe remains as prime minister as long as possible. The LDP should revise the party regulations to extend the term limit from the current two terms (six years) to three terms (nine years). In the United States, the president can serve two terms (eight years). If the president does not serve for a long time, they cannot carry out any effective policies. A one-term system where the president cannot be judged by the people is dangerous. In South Korea, the president serves one term of five years, and it is common that the president becomes corrupt toward the end of the term. Many presidents have even been arrested after their resignation.
After the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, the next big event is the bid for the World Expo to be held in Osaka in 2025, with the Cabinet scheduled to render a decision in April this year. The number one rival for the Expo is Paris. Paris has the advantage of showing their resolution in the face of terrorism, which will garner many sympathy votes. For Japan, Osaka has the potential to be a symbol of regional revitalization, and the Expo is expected to kick-start economic restoration. APA Hotels currently has four projects underway in Osaka. Among the APA hotels already in business, the growth rate is the highest in Osaka, and in Kanazawa thanks to the New Hokuriku Shinkansen Line.
The ones who protest the most verbally against Kent Gilbert’s continued calls for Japanese people to rid themselves of their masochistic view of history are Americans living in Japan. The reason for this is that they read The Japan Times, a left-wing newspaper published in English that puts even Asahi Shinbun to shame when it comes to self-hate. Just the other day, they published an opinion piece by a teacher at an American school demanding that Abe should continue to repent for the issue of comfort women during the war. Most teachers at American schools in Japan are old left-wing hippies.
There are mixed opinions even among conservatives regarding last year’s agreement between Japan and Korea. I received many phone calls from Shoheijuku students. But this compromise was necessary to strengthen the bond between Japan, the US, and Korea. Involving ourselves with this fabricated comfort women issue would only be a waste of time and effort that should be spent focusing on amending the constitution. With this agreement, the comfort women issue is no longer an international issue, and is now confined within Korea. The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan is an organization under North Korea’s control, and it will be worth observing how the South Korean government will deal with them from now on.
What is worrying now is the way Russia is heading, having lost their economic momentum with the drop in oil prices. This year, a large number of VIPs, including Prime Minister Abe, will pay a visit to Russia. In the coming new cold war between the US and China, an alliance with Russia will be essential. Japan will need Russia as another trump card apart from the US. Of course, Putin is a dictator who stages his own terror incidents and will not hesitate to assassinate dissidents, but Japan cannot afford to be overly concerned about this. Japanese conservatives tend to seek the truth, but the international situation is harsh, and it will be necessary to adopt a more utilitarian way of thinking. This is a good chance for Japan to mend relations with Russia, with a view to settling the Northern Territories Dispute.
How to solve the North Korean abduction issue? One idea is to have the perpetrators of the Yodogo hijacking led by Takahiro Konishi living in North Korea arrested and sent back to Japan. They might know the locations of Japanese kidnappers. Even Konishi and the others agree to being arrested. This may be the only way, as it would be physically impossible to dispatch the JSDF to bring them back. Viewing Japan’s and North Korea’s relation solely in terms of abductions is also a problem. This kind of incidents occur all over the world, and quite a few South Koreans have also been abducted. What Kim Jong-un is most committed to is protecting his own life. China needs North Korea as a buffer zone, but they do not necessarily need Kim Jong-un. Sheltering his brother Kim Jong-nam in Macau is so that they can substitute him for Kim Jong-un when the opportunity presents itself. For Kim Jong-un, there are three possible futures: Establishing a firm government, losing power in a coup d’état, or being assassinated by China.
Compared to the high level of foreign ambassadors stationed in Japan, there are quite a few diplomats in the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs that have many scratching their heads. In the old guard there are some outrageously pro-Chinese members, like Mr. M, whose son is currently serving as a diplomat for the Ministry, and seems to consider his father an example of how not to do things. The opera “KAMIKAZE” composed by Shigeaki Saegusa was scheduled to be performed in the Carnegie Hall in New York this January. However, in the wake of the agreement between Japan and Korea, the performance was cancelled at the insistence of the consul general stationed in New York, for fear that the opera might stir up violent reactions from the Korean community. This opera conveys the Japanese spirit and anti-war message very well, and it is a shame that the performance was cancelled. I really wanted as many Americans as possible to see it. I can hardly contain my indignation with how poorly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs handled this situation.
From March 31 to April 30, a Togo Culture Festival will be held at fourteen locations across Japan, including Tokyo, Sendai, Yokohama, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka. King Mensah, Togo’s most famous singer, will also be performing. This will be a great chance for people to experience Togo’s culture.
What will become of Toru Hashimoto? Although a remarkable talent, there are some concerns regarding his views on the nation, the world, and history. He is young and vigorous, but lacks organizational skill. He is confident in his abilities, and thus tries to do everything himself. But politics require organization. Prime Minister Abe was discontented when even the Osaka branch of the Japan Innovation Party supported the vote of non-confidence against the Cabinet last year. That is why he sent half of his cabinet members and four top party executives to the Osaka gubernatorial and mayoral double election. It is all well and good that Hashimoto has a tightly knit relationship with Abe, but Abe will need to keep his wits about him to avoid any betrayal in the future. In the end, the Japan Innovation Party splitting up was a good thing. Even if the DPJ and the Japan Innovation Party were to collaborate, they will not get more votes. The DPJ’s Representative Mr. Okada’s actions are off the mark.
Becoming a scholar in Japan is merely a matter of besting the educational system, which favors high grades and memorization. In America, there is a saying: “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Among university professors, this is especially true for those who teach business. If they were really talented, they would be out there doing business successfully. Today, really bright people do not become teachers. There should be an institute of higher education for educating teachers that requires no tuition fee, and perhaps even offered a salary, similar to the Defense Academy. This is something I would like Minister Hase of MEXT to consider.
IS differs completely from prior terrorist groups. In lieu of a specific spokesman, various members use the Internet to spread their propaganda. When IS captured two Japanese citizens last year, the Japanese government negotiated with the authorities of Jordan. As confirmed by the G7, no ransom was paid. Following the murders of Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto, a video of First Lieutenant Muath Al-Kasasbeh of the Royal Jordanian Air Force being burned to death was released online on February 3rd. However, the Jordanian authorities knew that Al-Kasasbeh had already been murdered on January 3rd. His plane crashed on December 24th the previous year, and Al-Kasasbeh was captured and tortured until he was killed. IS made it seem like he was still alive for a month after his actual death, releasing an image of Kenji Goto holding a photograph of Al-Kasasbeh. However, this photograph had been edited in Photoshop, adding a beard to Al-Kasasbeh’s face to make it seem like he had been living in captivity for a month. IS has technological knowledge of computers and the Internet that sets them apart from conventional terrorists. They even uploaded a video in which Kenji Goto was made to read out a threatening letter which cited things said by Yasuhide Nakayama at a press conference. This video was meant to prove that Kenji Goto was still alive. Much like the Tokyo subway sarin attack orchestrated by the Aum Shinrikyo organization, the meeting of terrorism and technology is the true threat in the modern age.
It is often said that IS do not kill Sunni Muslims, but only kill Shia Muslims and non-Muslims. This is a lie. IS kill indiscriminately. What they are doing is not religious opposition, but barbaric criminality. At the time, Japan was criticized for establishing its emergency headquarters in Jordan rather than Turkey. The reason for this is that Jordan is a constitutional monarchy. Public administration and the head of state’s power over the people is much greater in a monarchy than in a republic. The king of Jordan treated Al-Kasasbeh and the Japanese hostages as equals, in a way the people could accept. The reason for IS trying to trick people into believing Al-Kasasbeh was still alive is because they were attempting to start a revolution in Jordan. By spreading rumors that Goto was to be released, they tried to sow seeds of doubt in the populace, giving them the impression that the king cared more for the Japanese hostages than one of his own subjects, thus sparking an insurrection. Indeed, Al-Kasasbeh’s family and relatives were quite upset. But the king maintained his stance that all the hostages should be freed, and suppressed the people’s agitation. No doubt this approach was possible due to his knowledge that Al-Kasasbeh was in fact already dead.
This May, the G7 Summit will be held in Shima, Mie Prefecture. Likely targets of terrorist attacks are not places with tight security such as the location of the summit, but world-famous sites like the Shibuya crossing, where terrorist countermeasures are difficult. If you’re sporting a beard, you might be suspected of being a Muslim, but shave it all off, and there is no way to tell you from other foreigners. Since taking weapons into the country is difficult, terrorists will probably use tools already available in Japan, like propane gas tanks. Another threat to be reckoned with is that of cyber-attacks over the Internet. Government offices have high security, but terrorists may target civilian hospitals, and cause death by rewriting charts, prompting medical personnel to administer the wrong drugs. Preventing terrorism is extremely difficult. If someone who obeys the rules fights someone who ignores them, the one who ignores the rules is at a significant advantage. In Japan, people have come to take their safety, water, and air for granted. We need to change this perception, and realize the due cost of safety.