I was watching "Kaabee" -- Yamada Yoji's 2008 star vehicle for the ever luminous Yoshinaga Sayuri (is is hard to wrap one's mind around the concept that she is 64) on television Sunday night. The story is a familiar one but well told of a saintly mother trying to raise two children in Meiji Constitution Japan, struggling mightily to maintain her dignity and a roof over her family's head as the increasing paranoia, poverty and military adventurism of the state grinds her loved ones and acquaintances into dust.
The scene at the train station, where the family is seeing off the happy-go-lucky uncle whilst all around them families are saying goodbye to their young men being sent to the front in China, all under the watchful eyes of the Kempeitai, prompted my viewing companion to remark:
"It looks like North Korea."
Hmmm... Meiji Japan's occupation of the Korean Peninsula taught the Koreans everything they ever needed to know about how to run totalitarian military dictatorship ruled by living gods...a point Christopher Hitchens fails to make his essay for Slate magazine because he is a) unaware of it and b) it does not suit his purposes.
Renting the "Kaabee" DVD would be a good way to remind oneself of how intensely, sickly weird this blessed land was in its pre-1945 incarnation, and how sick a person has be to think of the Meiji State as representing a more dignified and beautiful Japan.
Later - More bluntly still, just as many in Japan see their country as a preserver of real Chinese culture (see Banyan's piece in this week's Economist on this point) the DPRK should be proud of its meticulous maintainance of the essence and practices of Meiji Constitution Japan.