Saturday, June 1, 2013

Idio(syncra)tic Japan: Minister in Charge of "Cool Japan" in Gothic-Lolita "Alice in Wonderland" Cosplay

I've been accused by readers of this blog for being "too cynical" about Japan. Well do I have a choice?

54-year-old Tomomi Inada is the Minister in charge of "Cool Japan" strategy. And it was her idea of this strategy to dress up as, as she said, "Alice in Wonderland" in what she called "Gothic and Lolita" fashion, to promote Japanese fashion at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) on May 31, 2013 in Yokohama City.

Photos from Asahi Shinbun (6/1/2013) looks more like middle-aged Disney "Snow White".

Ms. Inada is from Fukui Prefecture, (in)famous for numerous nuclear power plants that dot the rugged coastline and also famous for textile and weaving. Her dress, she says in the Asahi article, cost 170,000 yen (US$1,700, at least the conversion got so much easier thanks to Mr. Kuroda's bungling the JGB market).

Police Clashes with Protesters in Turkey, US State Deparment Says "These freedoms are crucial to any healthy democracy"

According to BBC people in Turkey got incensed over a planned shopping center over a small park in central Istanbul.

Aside from the governor of Tokyo and his supporters who believes Turkey is too dangerous to hold an Olympic in 7 years, I wonder who (think they) benefit.

From BBC (5/31/2013):

Turkey police clash with Istanbul Gezi Park protesters

At least 12 people have been injured after Turkish police used tear gas and water cannon against protesters occupying a park in central Istanbul.

Demonstrators had held a four-day sit-in at Gezi Park, angry at plans to redevelop that part of Taksim Square.

An Istanbul court later ordered the temporary suspension of the project to uproot trees in the park.

But there is wider anger against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the unrest has spread to Ankara.

Protests have also been reported in other cities, including Bodrum, Konya and Izmir.

The US later expressed its concern over the reported number of injuries in Istanbul.

"We believe that Turkey's long-term stability, security and prosperity is best guaranteed by upholding the fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly and association, which is what it seems these individuals were doing,'' state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

"These freedoms are crucial to any healthy democracy."


What started out as an environmental protest in Istanbul became anti-government in tone, correspondents say.

The controversial redevelopment project is aimed at easing congestion around Taksim Square but also involves building a shopping centre over Gezi Park.

Opponents of Mr Erdogan's plans say the park is one of the few green areas left in central Istanbul.

One banner at Friday's protest included a cartoon of Mr Erdogan dressed as an Ottoman sultan with the slogan: "The people will not bow down to you."

"We do not have a government, we have Tayyip Erdogan," political scientist and protester Koray Caliskan told the Reuters news agency.

"They are not listening to us," he added. "This is the beginning of a summer of discontent."

(Full article at the link)

The US should practice at home what they preach to Turkey.

"Abenomics" Growth Strategy: "Government United as One" to Push for Nuclear Reactors Restart, By All Means Necessary

Reading the reference documents for Prime Minister Abe's "Competitiveness Committee" make your head spin, and make you think it is still 1960s Japan for them, right before the Tokyo Olympic (1964), with words like "striving to be the world number one", "international competition", "global leader".

And sure enough, at the core of this "international" growth strategy is nuclear power generation, just like in the 1960s.

Asahi Shinbun reports it has obtained the draft of the "Growth Strategy" of the Abe administration to be finalized and formally announced by mid June. The wording, from little what's reported in the article, confirms my suspicion that the Abe administration and LDP, whose members are second- and third-generation politicians and/or academics who have precious little experience in working in the "real" economy, are stuck in 1960s.

(Real economy? Isn't that another name for the stock market?)

From Asahi Shinbun (5/31/2013; part):


It has been revealed that the draft of the growth strategy to be finalized by the Abe administration in June will contain "utilization of nuclear power plants" and a promise that "the government united as one will make utmost effort" to restart the nuclear power plants. After the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident, there is still a persistent view that Japan should move away from nuclear power. But the administration is going to make its stance clear that nuclear power is indispensable for the economic growth under "Abenomics", the economic policy under the Abe administration.


The draft will be presented at the June 5 meeting of the Competitiveness Committee, which is in charge of compiling the growth strategy for Japan. The draft will be officially decided upon by June 12, and a formal cabinet decision will be made on June 14 to make this growth strategy as official government policy. If "utilization of nuclear power plant" is to be part of the growth strategy, that will mean Japanese economy and society will continue to depend on nuclear power in the medium to long term.


Asahin Shinbun has obtained the draft copy of the "Growth Strategy". In the section for energy policy, the strategy calls for measures to meet the electricity demand after a nuclear accident and to suppress the utility cost from rising because of the increasing fuel cost for thermal power generation so that growth companies can operate easily [without disruption].


The measures will include "resolutely carrying out electrical power system reform", "introducing high-efficiency thermal power generation", and "utilizing nuclear power". Specifically, those nuclear power plants deemed safe by the Nuclear Regulatory Authority "will be restarted, as the government honors the decision [by the NRA]", and "the government united as one do whatever necessary" to obtain the understanding and cooperation from the local communities [where the nuclear power plants are located]. The government will make it clear that its policy is to actively promote the restart of nuclear power plants.

The actual sentence in the draft that Asahi Shinbun quotes in the article:

Utilization of nuclear power generation


"If the Nuclear Regulatory Authority decides it is safe, the government will honor the decision and proceed to restart the nuclear power generation. In doing so, the government united as one will make utmost effort to win understanding and cooperation from the interested parties in the local municipalities where nuclear power plants are located.

The "interested parties" simply mean politicians and bureaucrats in the local municipalities.

There is another thing in the so-called "growth strategy" that I find it personally scary:


Commercialization of methane hydrate

Of all nations, I want Japan to stay out of the risky venture like this.

But that aside, Japan's long-time obsession with "international" this and that is very funny to me, considering how little they actually care about the "international" community, as evidenced by the recent faux pas by Governor of Tokyo and Mayor of Osaka City.

Those foreign "macro" investors (those who invest based on the government and central bank policies of a nation) who have been pouring money into Tokyo Stock Exchange seem to have thoroughly confused these boys and girls of the Abe administration, who have taken the soaring Japanese stock market (until very recently) is the strongest endorsement from the world that so-called "Abenomics" is working.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Case of Genetically Modified Wheat in Oregon That Is Not Supposed to Exist (But Did)

I read the news yesterday that the Japanese government canceled the order to purchase wheat from Oregon because of the wheat was genetically modified. I didn't think much about it.

Then just now, I read a Businessweek article that says that genetically modified wheat is not supposed to exist in the US but it did in Oregon. A wheat farmer noticed some wheat plants that survived glyphosate when he sprayed the field for preparation for new planting. These wheat plants were those that sprout voluntarily from seeds knocked loose during harvest.

(Wait a minute... That means the last year's crop from this field WAS genetically modified wheat...)

The Businessweek article doesn't give any answer to this enigma. But since the wheat in question is resistant to glyphosate, which Monsanto has been marketing as "Roundup" since 1973, it is pretty much a foregone conclusion that it was from Monsanto. Washington Post seems to think so, too.

From Businessweek (5/30/2013; emphasis is mine):

Genetically Modified Wheat Isn't Supposed to Exist. So What Is It Doing in Oregon?

By Justin Bachman

Wheat farmers, advocates of food safety, and pretty much anyone who eats bread or noodles have turned their attention to Oregon, where a wheat farmer found a genetically engineered strain of wheat in his otherwise unmodified crop. He couldn’t kill it in any of the normal ways, so he sent it to the lab for testing, which sounds like the set-up for a farm-belt horror movie. The reality has caused alarm of a different sort: Genetically modified wheat hasn’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and unlike corn and soy and other so-called GMO foods, there isn’t supposed to be any genetically modified wheat in the U.S. food supply at all.

There are two reasons to care. Food safety folks lobby hard for labeling of genetically modified foods, saying that the jury is out on the long-term health and environmental effects and consumers deserve to know what they’re buying. The companies that make the seeds say they’re perfectly safe. And for wheat farmers and exporters, this potentially cripples the export market: Many foreign buyers don’t want genetically modified wheat and can switch their buying to Russia, Ukraine, Australia, and other large exporters. Japan reacted quickly, canceling an order today for nearly 25,000 tons of wheat, Bloomberg News reported, and wheat futures dropped on the Chicago Board of Trade.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which is responsible for keeping unapproved GMOs out of the food supply, has begun testing the wheat. In a full-court PR press, the agency has also released a Q&A (PDF) and video to address the issue. Here are a few points to consider:

It’s probably too late to do much about this.

The U.S. has some 1,000 field trials for new gene-altered crops each year, most in multiple sites. The protocols for containing those genes are lax, argue such critics as the Center for Food Safety, which wants a moratorium on field testing of gene-altered crops. ”I would not be at all surprised if there are a number of experimental genes that have contaminated and are happily being passed along at low levels in the food supplies of various crops already, but nobody’s testing,” says Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington. “It’s really a ‘don’t look, don’t tell’ situation. We just really don’t know.”

After all, this isn’t the first time.

In 2000, a strain of corn called StarLink, engineered by Aventis (SNY) to kill caterpillars, was found in taco shells. In 2006, Bayer’s (BAYN) LibertyLink experimental rice made its way into the food supply, leading to lost exports. In 2012, the German company agreed to pay $750 million to settle claims from 11,000 U.S. farmers in five states. Restoring genetic purity to a crop is a very expensive process and takes time.

Is there a public safety issue?

That’s a matter of debate. Regulators were quick to jump on the Oregon discovery with a battery of tests and extensive investigations that are under way now. Monsanto (MON) designed the Roundup Ready wheat to withstand its Roundup herbicide used to keep fields free of pests, and the gene isn’t considered harmful. “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed the food and feed safety of Roundup Ready wheat more than a decade ago,” Monsanto said in a May 29 statement.

Critics of gene-altered food argue that the periodic crop discoveries highlight a regulatory system that is woefully inadequate to monitor the expansion of modified crops and to detect any dangerous genes that could materialize. “The question is why APHIS does not tighten its procedures for field trials. It’s incredibly lax, whatever APHIS may try to say,” says Bill Freese, a science policy analyst with the Center for Food Safety.

(Full article at the link)

Monsanto seems to be able to do whatever they want to do anyway. They have the US Supreme Court siding with them, and President Obama keeps the former VP of Monsanto as his Food Safety Czar.

Foreign markets don't want GM crop? Poor Monsanto, suffering from 'baseless rumors'...

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Freeze Soil to Block Groundwater

I can honestly say "I knew that", because that's what one of our long-time readers, netudiant, suggested some time ago.

From Yomiuri Shinbun (5/30/2013):


Control contaminated water by impervious wall of frozen soil, the government committee is to request


As a drastic countermeasure against the contaminated water that continues to accumulate at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, the government committee on contaminated water treatment countermeasures (chairman Yuzo Onishi, professor emeritus at Kyoto University) has decided to propose the installation of the "shield wall of frozen soil", whereby the soil around the reactor buildings will be frozen in order to stop the groundwater from leaking into the buildings.


The final decision will be made in the meeting on May 30, and the government will tell TEPCO to implement the plan.


400 tonnes of groundwater per day are leaking into the reactor buildings, and it is the biggest contributor to increasing contaminated water.


The impervious wall of frozen soil was proposed by a large general contractor. Rows of pipes will be driven into the ground, and coolant at dozens of degrees below zero Celsius will be circulated in the pipes to freeze the soil around the pipes to a certain depth. That will become the shield that will block the movement of groundwater. Even the underground structures won't be much of an impediment, and the wall could be set up in 1 to 2 years.


Unlike the impervious wall made of concrete, the wall of frozen soil will be built in a short period of time by burying all the pipes and freeze the soil all at once. Therefore, there will be little danger that the contaminated water leaks out from the reactor building, as could be the case if the level of groundwater inside the wall gets lower during the construction of the concrete wall.

That large general contractor is Kajima, who has also created the unmanned debris removal system for the Reactor 3 operating floor. Kajima is famous for huge civil engineering projects like tunnels, and this method of freezing the soil is very well known to them. The other major general contractors, Taisei and Shimizu also submitted their proposals, which involved concrete walls like TEPCO has been contemplating and included a study of overseas examples of such impervious walls.

Let's see what TEPCO says, because, as "Happy", unnamed former worker and journalist Ryuichi Kino said in the AP interview, cost-saving comes first for TEPCO. This frozen soil method looks faster and cheaper than the concrete wall or underground bypass.

From TEPCO's 4/26/2013 document on "How to prevent groundwater from coming into the reactor buildings" pages 36-47 , Kajima's excellent presentation (compared to the other two):

Plane view. Surround the reactor buildings and turbine buildings of Reactors 1-4 with frozen soil wall of about 1,400 meters in circumference.

Sectional view.

How to create frozen soil wall.

How continuous wall is possible with frozen soil wall.

According to Kajima (from the presentation),

  • As long as the frozen soil remain frozen, the coefficient of permeability is zero (100% block of groundwater from flowing in).

  • Even if power is lost, the wall remain frozen for several months up to a year.

  • The wall self-repairs.

  • Small footprint for installation equipment (2x2 meters, as opposed to 15x15 for normal wall construction), easy to remove.

  • There is very little contaminated soil resulting from the construction of the wall.

  • Construction of frozen soil wall won't interrupt decommission work

  • By regularly replacing the coolant and pipes, the wall can be used for a very long time.

  • Remote monitoring of temperature is possible.

  • Continuous wall is possible.

Almost too good to be true!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

US State Department's Response to Osaka Mayor's So-Called "Apology": Nothing but Unspoken Disdain

The State Department Acting Deputy Spokesperson Patrick Ventrell said they don't comment on the remarks by a mere local official in a foreign country.

From Daily Press Release transcript at the US State Department (5/28/2013), "Comments by Local Official" (emphasis is mine):



QUESTION: Osaka Mayor Hashimoto retracted his remarks that U.S. servicemen in Okinawa should use the adult entertainment industry to avoid the sex crimes, and he apologized to the Americans and the U.S. military. Do you have any comment?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, we’ve addressed his comments previously and really don’t have anything new to add. The one thing I’ll say is that we can’t be commenting on every state and local and provincial official around the world when they make outlandish or offensive or reprehensible comments. So we really can’t say much more beyond that. This is a local official.

QUESTION: Just one more: He canceled his U.S. trip. You have anything to say on his --

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I’m not going to comment on every move or action of some local official. We’ve been clear that the U.S.-Japan alliance remains strong, and we’re committed to that alliance.

QUESTION: Okay. So does that mean that the bar has got to be – it’s got to be a national official? A mayor doesn’t do it for you, but if the guy’s a cabinet minister or a --

MR. VENTRELL: When we have concerns --

QUESTION: -- member of parliament or something like that, then you’ll talk more?

MR. VENTRELL: When we have concerns about somebody at the national level who’s made comments that are disparaging or difficult, we may make a comment.

QUESTION: Can you – where is the bar?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, again, my point being, Matt, is that there are hundreds and thousands of mayors and local officials around the world. We can’t respond to every single one of them.

QUESTION: Yes. Are there hundreds of thousands of local mayors around the world that run a municipality where there are large amounts of U.S. troops?

MR. VENTRELL: Are you trying to make some broader connection about the importance of the mayor of --

QUESTION: I’m saying that I think the mayor of Okinawa – right? That’s who we’re talking about?

MR. VENTRELL: No, this is the mayor of Osaka.

QUESTION: Oh, mayor of Osaka, okay. I stand corrected.

MR. VENTRELL: I was trying to figure out which American troops were in Osaka, but --

QUESTION: I apologize. So, okay – all right, well, if the mayor of Okinawa said something, would that not meet your bar?

MR. VENTRELL: (Laughter.) Now we’re going into wild hypotheticals here.

Ouch. And the reporter thought Hashimoto was the mayor of Okinawa... Ouch.

700 people have petitioned in four days to disbar Mayor Hashimoto from the Osaka Bar Association, and the the Association says it is quite surprised at this unprecedented event, reports Kouta Kinoshita (who is apparently at the press conference of the Bar Association).

Monday, May 27, 2013

At Least 4 Nuke Plants Will Apply for Restart Under the New Safety Regulations to Be Implemented in July

If they are approved, there will be 8 additional reactors, including one with MOX fuel, will be online in Japan, in addition to two reactors at Ooi Nuclear Power Plant.

These plants are:

  1. Takahama Nuclear Power Plant: Reactor 3 (MOX), Reactor 4, operated by Kansai Electric Power Company;

  2. Ikata Nuclear Power Plant: Reactor 3, operated by Shikoku Electric Power Company;

  3. Sendai Nuclear Power Plant: Reactor 1, Reactor 2, operated by Kyushu Electric Power Company; and

  4. Tomari Nuclear Power Plant: Reactors 1, 2 and 3, operated by Hokkaido Electric Power Company.

Hokkaido Electric has postponed the plan to use MOX fuel for Reactor 3, but the plan is not abandoned. With local municipalities counting on MOX fuel subsidies to the tune of 6 billion yen, big money for these small municipalities, there will be a strong pressure for Hokkaido Electric, once the plant is back in operation, to pursue MOX fuel.

Shikoku Electric's Ikata Nuclear Power Plant sits near the tail end of the Median Tectonic Line, one of the biggest fault lines in Japan.

NHK News (5/28/2013) says the operators of these plants are going to apply anyway even though the plants may not satisfy the new safety regulations being compiled by the Nuclear Regulatory Authority.

Some of the problems that even NHK seems to recognize are:

Risk evaluation and the safety countermeasures for the maximum size of tsunami or for volcanic eruptions that will be newly required haven't been completed, they are "under consideration";

How much safety can be ascertained in less than two months is not known;

There are cases [NHK doesn't say which ones] where "emergency headquarters" as mandated by the new standard will be substituted by other facilities;

There are cases where the operators says there is no need for "seawalls" because the expected height of tsunami is lower than the site elevation.

Uh... have we heard the last one before?

I think it is a clever ploy by the plant operators to apply at the same time for 4 plants with 9 total reactors, because the Nuclear Regulatory Authority lacks manpower to be able to assess the safety of each as they solidify the new safety regulations that are still evolving.

According to NHK, the operator of Tsuruga Nuclear Power Plant Reactor 2, Japan Atomic Power Company, says it will apply for the restart of that reactor anyway, even though the reactor has been declared by the Nuclear Regulatory Authority's panel of experts to be directly above the active fault line.

And there is TEPCO, who wants to restart Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant with 7 reactors in Niigata Prefecture, even though they too may be sitting on the active fault line.

Fukushima happened, so we're safe for another decade or two at least. That must be the thinking.

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto Appears to Have Failed to Impress the Foreign Correspondents Over His Stance on "Comfort Women"

Instead of playing a politician, he played an attorney or bureaucrat, in the fine tradition of Sir Humphrey in the fictional world and Sir Humpphrey's more recent apprentice Jay Carney, President Obama's press secretary.

The tradition is this:

  • Never answer a question in a direct way;

  • Keep talking, no matter what you're talking, as long as you can until the reporters forget what they asked;

  • If they happen to remember what they asked, keep repeating the same, only tangentially relevant talk any way until they give up.

Hashimoto went in there, in front of the foreign correspondents, confident, with his interpreter in tow and his prepared, bilingual statement.

What he may not have noticed is that many of these foreign correspondents are fully bilingual, and they also include fully bilingual and bicultural Japanese correspondents working for major foreign news outlets. They are very well aware what he has been saying in Japan in Japanese, as the UK's Financial Times article makes it rather apparent.

From Financial Times (5/27/2013; emphasis is mine):

Toru Hashimoto: ‘Comfort women’ gaffe wounds Osaka mayor

By Jonathan Soble in Tokyo

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Six months ago Toru Hashimoto, the young, blunt mayor of Osaka, was threatening to upend Japan’s political establishment, the Restoration party he founded in the country’s second city rapidly becoming a national force.

Today, the man many thought would be a kingmaker after elections last December is fighting for his political life – part of a broader withering of Japanese opposition parties under the rule of Shinzo Abe, prime minister, who has led his own efforts to restore Japan as an economic and diplomatic power.

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On Monday, Mr Hashimoto appeared before foreign journalists in Tokyo to explain comments he made about Japan’s wartime use of “comfort women” – the tens of thousands of women who worked in brutal conditions in Japanese military brothels, often after having been tricked or coerced into service.

Mr Hashimoto caused outrage this month when he appeared to defend the exploitation as a necessary and even justifiable outlet for soldiers in wartime. His statements were criticised by everyone from victims’ groups to Mr Abe – a man who has himself questioned the degree of official responsibility Japan bears for the abuse the women suffered.

Support for Restoration has fallen sharply: in one survey only 3 per cent of respondents said they would vote for the party in elections for the upper house of parliament this summer. It is a humiliating collapse for a party that came within a handful of seats of becoming the largest opposition group in December’s lower-house poll.

Some in Japan see Mr Hashimoto’s provocations as a deliberate attempt to rekindle enthusiasm for his cause – an attempt that went too far and backfired. A lawyer who first gained public attention as a sharp-tongued television commentator, he has built his career on a rare and often bracing contrarianism and may have overestimated the public’s appetite for attacks on what he sees as suffocating political correctness.

Masatoshi Honda, an independent political scientist, noted that public support for Restoration was falling even before the comfort women controversy, as Mr Abe and his Liberal Democratic party pursued an aggressive economic growth agenda and co-opted Mr Hashimoto’s appeal to national pride by declaring that “Japan is back” on the global stage.

“Abe says his ultimate goal is to restore Japan,” Mr Honda said. “He is trying to do exactly what [the Restoration party] wanted to do.”

Other opposition parties are also suffering, with the Democratic party Mr Abe defeated in December in disarray and polling at about 6 per cent. The LDP is the preferred party of about half of voters, and 70 per cent say they approve of the job Mr Abe’s administration is doing.

Such numbers give Mr Abe hugely favourable odds of winning the upper house, where the LDP is in the minority, and consolidating his power.

Mr Hashimoto claimed on Monday that he had never endorsed the wartime brothels but had merely described the thinking of military commanders at the time. He called the use of comfort women, many of whom were recruited in Japanese-ruled Korea, “an inexcusable act that violated the dignity and human rights of the women”.

The explanation appeared to conflict with Japanese press transcripts of his original remarks, which quote him as saying that, given the stress and danger experienced by soldiers in battle, “anyone can understand that the comfort women system was necessary”.

Mr Hashimoto further undermined his credibility by saying that US soldiers on Okinawa should use the island’s “adult entertainment industry” in order to reduce incidences of sexual assault on local women.

He apologised for that remark on Monday but stood by a number of other contentious assertions, including that Japan had been unfairly singled out over the comfort women given that other countries’ armies were also guilty of sexual abuses.

A 1993 apology that Japan offered to former comfort women should be “clarified”, he said, to shield Japan from exaggerated claims of state responsibility for the system, which relied heavily on local middlemen, and suggested the International Court of Justice be asked to settle a dispute with South Korea over compensation.

Yun Byung-Se, South Korea’s foreign minister, called the latter suggestion “embarrassing and shameful” and called on Japan to engage in direct reparations talks.

Hashimoto apologized to the US military but told Korea to feel free to take the case to the International Court of Justice, effectively telling them to go take a hike.

Hashimoto also seems to think "comfort women" are only about those from today's South Korea.

Japan's J-Cast News reports reactions from the foreign correspondents at the press conference after an Italian reporter asked about his former client, the so-called "Restaurant Association of Tobita Shinchi", a red-light district in Osaka City where Hashimoto is the mayor where prostitution has continued on even after the Anti-Prostitution Law was enacted in 1956:

「かつては顧問弁護士だったことは事実。それは、飛田の組合という『料理組合』の顧問弁護士。日本において違法なことがあれば、捜査機関が適正に処罰する。料理組合自体は違法でもない」 と主張。記者席は失笑の声がもれた。

[Mayor Hashimoto] insisted, "It is true that I was their legal advisor to "Restaurant Association" in Tobita. If there is anything illegal going on in Japan, the law enforcement will punish appropriately. The Restaurant Association itself is nothing illegal." Some snickered in the audience.

That's one extreme "tatemae", Hashimoto knows it, the reporters know it.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Reuters: Japan's wartime brothels were wrong, says 91-year-old veteran, who says these women were indeed "sex slaves" with no means of escape

Boy-wonder mayor of Osaka City, who used to be the lawyer for Osaka's red-light district Tobita Shinchi, is busy justifying himself in front of the foreign correspondents in Tokyo right now.

Here's a 91-year-old World War II veteran who was in China during the war as a medic, and he was recently interviewed by Reuters.

He says "the women had no means of escape from the walled town where his military unit was headquartered and were in fact sex slaves."

"No matter if they wanted to flee, there was no way to escape".

Well, Mr. Hashimoto?

From Reuters (5/22/2013; emphasis is mine):

Japan's wartime brothels were wrong, says 91-year-old veteran

By Linda Sieg and Ruairidh Villar

SAGAMIHARA, Japan (Reuters) - When Masayoshi Matsumoto joined the Japanese army in 1943 and was sent to occupied China as a medic, he thought he was taking part in a righteous war to free Asia from the yoke of Western imperialism.

Seven decades later, the 91-year-old retired Christian pastor says it's his mission to speak out about the injustice of the war and the sufferings of women, mostly Asian and many Korean, forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels.

"I feel like a war criminal. It is painful to speak of such things and I would rather cover it up. It is painful, but I must speak," the slender, white-haired Matsumoto told Reuters in an interview at his daughter's home about 40 km (25 miles) from Tokyo.

"I think that to speak out is the meaning of my being alive," added Matsumoto, who returned to Japan in 1946 and later became the pastor of a Christian church. He is one of a dwindling number of veterans with experience of the brothels.

Outspoken Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto sparked a firestorm of criticism at home and abroad when he said last week that the military brothel system was "necessary" at the time and that Japan has been unfairly singled out for practices common among other militaries during wartime.

The remarks outraged China, where many suffered under Japan's military occupation, and South Koreans, where bitter memories of Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule run deep.

They also sparked a backlash in Japan. Support for Hashimoto's right-leaning Japan Restoration Party, already sliding, has fallen further ahead of an upper house election just two months away and another small party has broken off ties with it.

As a medic stationed in Yu County in China's Shanxi Province during the war, Matsumoto helped doctors examine a half dozen Korean women who provided sexual services for officers and non-commissioned officers, part of an effort to stem the spread of venereal disease among soldiers.

Whatever the rationale at the time, Matsumoto said, the system and the treatment of the women - known euphemistically as "comfort women" - were inexcusable.


"It is not just Japan that did something wrong. But Japan also did something wrong ... Just because someone else is a thief, is it all right to be a thief? Because someone else kills people, is it all right to be a murderer? That is no excuse," Matsumoto said.

"The prime minister of Japan should apologize properly as the representative of the nation and compensate those who should be compensated."

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe caused controversy during his first 2006-2007 term by saying there was no proof that Japan's military had kidnapped women for the brothels. Such doubts are common among Japanese ultra-conservatives.

But Abe has sought to distance himself from Hashimoto's remarks, saying his government's stance is different.

"The stance of the government on this issue is that, as we stated previously, we are deeply pained when thinking of the women who experienced immeasurable pain and suffering. On this point, the Abe cabinet has the same position as prior cabinets," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference last week, although he declined direct comment on Hashimoto's remarks.

The issue has often frayed ties between Tokyo and Seoul. Japan says the matter of compensation was settled under a 1965 treaty establishing diplomatic ties. In 1995, Japan set up a fund to make payments to the women from private contributions, but South Korea says that was not official and so not enough.

Matsumoto said the women had no means of escape from the walled town where his military unit was headquartered and were in fact sex slaves. "No matter if they wanted to flee, there was no way to escape," he said.

Recalling the conditions in which the women lived, Matsumoto said soldiers lining up for sex would unfasten their leg wrappings and lower their trousers so as to waste no time when their turns came. "It was like they were going to the toilet," he said.

Only years later did Matsumoto come to believe his country had done something wrong. "We were taught that it was the mission of Japan, the mission of the Japanese people, to liberate Asian countries from European colonialism," he said.

"So we went to war gladly then. When I think of it now, it was monstrous, but I didn't think so then."

In the video, Matsumoto says if these women refused, it was the death sentence.

Osaka City Mayor Hashimoto at Foreign Correspondents Club in Tokyo to "Apologize" on His Remarks to US Military, Protest the Use of "Sex Slave" Word by the World Media

(UPDATE 5) The very first question was from an Italian reporter who asked about his contract with Tobita Shinchi, and Hashimoto was visibly uncomfortable.

(UPDATE 4) By the way, Boy-wonder used to be the legal advisor to the association of Tobita Shinchi, a red-light district in Osaka City where prostitution is effectively allowed as "free love" between the waitresses and the customers who visits the "restaurants", circumventing the Anti-Prostitution Law of 1956.

(UPDATE 3) Asahi English has his entire prepared statement in English, here. Boy-wonder seems to think "comfort women" are just about some old gripes from South Korea. I'm more interested in what the foreign media writes up tomorrow.

(UPDATE 2) Hashimoto, through an interpreter (not very good, reminds me of NHK's interpreters in the first few days of Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident), just declared he won't answer questions later unless the reporters first thoroughly read the English document that details his points of view. He's blah blah blah-ing how he has met with the media every single day of his mayorship, and how he values the freedom of speech.

(UPDATE) It has just started. And I forgot to mention that Boy-wonder's "daddy" Shintaro Ishihara will be there, watching over him. A old-looking woman is doing the translation.


It will start at 12:30PM on May 27, 2013, Japan Standard Time.

Hear all about it!

Link to NicoNico Channel:

Jiji Tsushin (5/27/2013) outlines what Boy-wonder is going to say, and that sure doesn't sound like any apology. Not to me at least:


Toru Hashimoto, co-president of Japan Restoration Party and mayor of Osaka City, will hold a press conference at Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Yurakucho, Tokyo in the afternoon of May 27. Mr. Hashimoto is going to withdraw his remarks recommending the US military in Okinawa to make good use of Japanese sex industry as "inappropriate", and apologize to the US military and the US citizens. On the other hand, he will stand by his comments on the comfort women system during the World War II as "necessary at that time", and emphasize that "it was a violation of human rights of women, and not permissible", in the effort to win the understanding [from the reporters].


Hashimoto's remarks have been heavily criticized both inside and outside Japan. Hashimoto wants to explain his true intentions to the foreign media directly in order to wind down the controversy. During the press conference, he will distribute the document that summarizes his viewpoints, along with the English translation of the document.


In the document compiled on May 26, Mr. Hashimoto says, regarding his remarks on comfort women, "What I said was that all military forces in the world needed [comfort women], but it was reported falsely that I condoned such a system." He is expected to make a similar statement in the press conference. Also, he is going to point out that "it is a solid fact that soldiers in armed forces worldwide have used women", and object to the translation of comfort women as "sex slaves" in the foreign media.

Either he doesn't know, or he knows but pretends he doesn't know, that the "comfort women" that the Japanese military "recruited" were not entrepreneuring women willingly offering services.

We'll find out how the foreign correspondents in Tokyo treat him. Perhaps they've been in Japan too long.

It's not that Wikipedia is neutral on all subjects (it is not), but the difference between the Japanese entry on "comfort women" and the English entry is rather significant. If you read both, check them out.

The opening sentence in Japanese wiki entry on comfort women:


Comfort women, as the system, conducted commercial transaction of "managed prostitution" for military personnel, and comfort women were paid for their services.

The opening sentence in English wiki:

Comfort women were women and girls forced into a prostitution corps created by the Empire of Japan.

Mind the gap...