Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Nation, Pacified

I agree with the Tokyo Shimbun* - let us all hope we do not have to go through that ever again.

Today, the visit to Yasukuni is the subject of a plague of editorializing, some fair, some balanced (do not let the title of the op-ed deter you) and some beyond redemption (For those into self-abuse, catch the article Deborah "It's Not About Me, It's About the Looming Pagodas" Cameron wrote about her visit to Nara).

The looming prospect of a Yasukuni sanpai on August 15 has subsidized a minor industry of U.S.-based Japan scholars offering advice to the Mssrs. Koizumi and Abe. The increase in total tonnage of commentary produced in Japan itself will undoubtably affect GDP growth figures in the third quarter, partially offsetting an expected drop in exports to China.

Like Liberace, I will accentuate the positive:

1) Institution building - Koizumi Junichiro's primary goal upon winning the LDP presidential election was the restauration of the prime ministership. At the time Koizumi took over, the position had deteriorated into the display case for the latest brand of stupid favored by the greasy heads of the factions. His goal may have been narrow - transform the position of prime ministre into a political force for itself--but he attacked it from all angles. Visiting Yasukuni was not just a politician keeping a campaign promise. It was establishment of a tradition--that a prime minister's speech and his actions should be as one.

2) Neutering the right - "I feel light, like a mist over my heart has burned away!" exclaimed Tōjō Yūko yesterday.

Oh, how light will she feel tomorrow, or next year? Have she not heard of the proverb that warns when God wishes to punish you, He answers your prayers?

The perception of the existence of an international ban on Japanese prime ministers visiting Yasukuni has been a key psychological drawing point for the right. As long as prime ministers stayed away from Yasukuni, outsiders were clearly meddling with Japan's sovereignty.

Koizumi has shown that no ban exists--a prime minister goes or or does not go based on his own personal desire.

So if the next prime minister (Abe) does not go--because cold calculation tells him such a visit will a deleterious effect on Japan's national interests--what will the right's excuse be? That Abe was given bad directions? That he has lost his cojones? That he has lost his mind?

3) Educating the people - The weeks and months of buildup to a date certain August 15 sanpai gave the press ample time to present the issues in exhausting detail. The public received a rare chance to reexamine an issue they had not faced as honestly as they should have in 2005: Japan's part in the War Against Which All Other Wars Shall Be Judged II (WAWAOSBJ 2). The controversy over the enshrinements exposed the public to the issue of assigning blame for the start of the war--without everyone getting bogged down in maudlin arguments over the moral equivalencies of the incendiary bombings of Japan's cities, the atomic bombings, the entry of the Soviets into the war and the surrender. The number of tokushū and tokuban willing to plunge up to their elbows in the muck of the War on the Asian Continent seemed to far exceed the number willing to do so last year.

Funny thing - the more leeway the press gave the rightists to air their grievances and repressed thoughts, the less popular the sanpai explanations of the fundamental blamelessness of Japan's pre-1945 leadership became.

Maybe sunlight is the best disinfectant... even in the Land of the Rising Sun.

And speaking of sun, there really are better places to spend one's days in mid-August than central Tokyo.

Looking north from the summit of Myōgisan
Ashikaga-shi, Tochigi Prefecture. August 13, 2006.
Click on the image to open in a new window.

* The title of today's editorial in the Tokyo Shimbun was Kore de owari ni shitai (With this, we want to make an end of it).

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