Wednesday, June 27, 2007

That Old Imperial Standard

You could read the level-headed round up of the implications of yesterday's action in the Foreign Affairs Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives (here and here).

Or you could bend an ear to the gnashing of teeth and feral howling at the moon of the correspondents of the Sankei Shimbun (no link, my translation)

Women...Human Rights...and Misperceptions of Historical Facts Too

Sankei Shimbun
June 27, 2007

By Yamamoto Hideya, Washington

This Resolution that criticizes Japan as regards the Comfort Women Problem, the one to be voted upon in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, has been in the works since September of last year. The advocates of this legislation--Representative Honda, South Korean-American organizations and the like--lifted up the political "imperial standards" (nishiki no mihata) of "Women" and "Human Rights." This stance bowled over Japan's apologies- and historical facts-based arguments.

The nishiki no mihata (here is an image of one) were the silk standards embossed with a single, giant gold imperial chrysathemum that the forces of the fledgling Imperial Army carried before them at the battle of Fushimi-Inari. For some reason the symbolic power of nishiki no mihata--and not the oh-well-what-the-hell desperation of the irregular Imperial Forces under Okubo Toshimichi--was the key to the surprise victory over the better trained and better equipped Tokugawa bakufu army.

After Fushimi-Inari, the nishiki no mihata became the terror weapon of the Bōshin War. Held aloft, they notified all upon the field of battle that imperial blessings now rested upon the Satsuma, Chōshū and Tosa warriors and not the Tokugawa forces. Indeed, like Mito Kōmon's fabulous tobacco container of ultimate power, the nishiki no mihata so demoralized Tokugawa adherents that they would surrender, realizing the futility of fighting against the glory of His Imperial Majesty.

Now you have to be in a pretty tighly wound snit in order to be imagining South Koreans AND Mike Honda holding aloft imperial house banners, albeit ones embossed with the words "Women" and "Human Rights." (So Honda and the South Koreans are Imperial forces...which would make the Embassy of Japan in the United States the...)

But you have to be in an even more bizarro state of anger when you spit out the words "Women!" and "Human Rights!" as expletives.

I can't help myself. It immediately reminds of this guy.

"You set me up over a woman. A WOMAN! You must be insane."

Later - Ken Worsley over at Trans Pacific Radio has checked in with his two yen's worth. He decides the problem is pyromania.


N.B. - Heard of a nishiki no mihata before? I hadn't. I know now that when the term appeared in one of Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichirō's email magazine messages, the Kantei staff thought it sufficiently obscure that they felt it necessary to post a picture of one these banners on the Kantei website.


Anonymous said...

"South Korean-American organizations and the like..."?

Did the article really say, "South-Korean..."? When it would have been more apt for Mr. Yamamoto to refer to the organizations as "Korean-American"? Or simply "American" since as far as I know South Korea had nothing to do with this resolution. Please correct me if I'm wrong here.

"...imagining South Koreans AND Mike Honda holding aloft imperial house banners..."

And here the author (Yamamoto) seems to imply that somehow "South Koreans" and Mike Honda was conspiring with each other. Yet no mention of the Jewish-American organizations and the like that were consulted by these "South Korean-American" organizations nor no mention of the Japanese-American organizations and the like that opposed it.

MTC said...

You ask a great question.

In American English, the emphasis seems to be more on ethnicity. A person is categorized as a Korean-American, despite the obvious reality that damn near zero percent of those living in the U.S. made there way there from above the 38th parallel.

In this article and most Japanese reporting, however, the emphasis is on the national origin of the members of the groups, but with an ethnic twist. The organizations are specifically referred to as kankokukei dantai -- "South Korean lineage organizations." -- whatever a "South Korean lineage" could be.

So which is the better translation--South Korean-American or Korean-American? For the purposes of highlighting the Sankei's paranoia over Japan being surrounded by hostile states, the former seemed the better choice.

Anonymous said...

As an American that has lived in Japan for the last 14 years I take everything that Mr. Yamamoto says with a grain of salt.
In his case, he loves to live in America and use all his freedoms that were paid for with American blood and complain about how Japanese are viewed and treated in the US.
In fact, in Japan discrimination laws are a joke. Korean people that were born in Japan, Brazillian people that are of Japanese decent, other foreigners, are discriminated against here. If you try to rent an apartment you will find listing that says "No pets and no foreigners".
The Japanese criminial system has a 99.9% conviction rate against foreigners. They also are not obligated to provide you with a translator during the trial or any police questioning.
Further more there are business' with the sign "Japanese Only" all over the place. Don't believe it? Look it up on google for examples.
In Japan, foreigners are treated like trash. Even the Governor of Tokyo is quotes as making several racist statements. I don't hear Mr. Yamamoto mentioning any of that. He is fortunate to live in a country where he has a voice. Where he can speak against the machine. Maybe he should realize that fact and before pointing a finger at the Americans he should fix what is wrong with Japan first.