Monday, April 21, 2014

Prior To President Obama's Arrival - A Question Of Atmospherics

Source: Clay's Flickr photostream, under a Creative Commons License.

The Sunday visit to Yasukuni Shrine by Chairman of the National Public Safety Commission and Kishi family retainer Furuya Keiji (Link), the April 12 visit to the shrine of Minister of Interal Affairs and Communications Shindo Yoshitaka (Link), Prime Minister Abe Shinzo's sponsorship yet again of a masakaki decoration for the shrine during its Spring Festival (Link) and the battalion of members of the Diet scheduled to pay their respects at the shrine on Tuesday, all right on the eve of the Obama visit should not necessarily be viewed as provocative pandering to revisionist, fantabulist followers in defiance of the United States's message of disappointment at Prime Minister Abe Shinzo's visit on 26 December 2013 (Link)and the laying of wreaths at Chidorigafuchi by visiting U.S. Secretaries Chuck Hagel and John Kerry on 3 October 2013. (Link)

Instead getting all the visits of those who are just hell bent to pay some sort of tribute to Japan's loyally self-sacrificing imperial subjects out of the way before President Obama's plane touches down is supposed to be as a concession of sorts to the United States.

The insistence of the current level of reverence as moderation will suffer a loss of credibility if

a) either Finance Minister Aso Taro, State Minister for Administrative Reform Inada Tomomi and/or Education Minister Shimomura

b) any Liberal Democratic Party member of the Diet shows up at Yasukuni during the Obama visit.

Aso has been keeping his head down ever since his infamous "Is there not something to learn from the overthrow of the Weimar Constitution?" musings of last year (Link) and Inada and Shimomura deferred their visits. If any of these three ministers pops up in Kudanshita any time between now and Wednesday noon -- then we should not be surprised to see fireworks -- which in this blessed land are usually a summer phenomenon.

Incidentally, I recently visited the attached Yushukan (Link). I had long eschewed going, not wishing to give a yen to the shrine or its affiliates. However, when a certain officer of the Congressional Research Service asked if I were available to tag along on a visit, I broke my longstanding vow.

On the whole I found the place a lot less lurid than I expected, with the arguments more allusive and evasive than I could have imagined. Some parts are heinous -- the description of the fall of Nanjing, for example. However, on the whole, I came away with the feeling of the hopelessness of Japan's imperial enterprise, with all its jury-rigged suicide systems and walls of the faces of, as Steven Stills once wrote about a different time and a different struggle, "All the brave soldiers |That cannot get older." (Link - video)

If the goal of the Yushukan is to fill one with a sense of awe or sadness, it fails. What even the mildly questioning mind comes away with is a sense of the essential and obvious stupidity of the Japanese imperial enterprise.

The section of the museum on the build up to the Pacific War, with the focus on Japan's resources crisis in the face of U.S. embargoes, is a window into the fear Japanese conservatives have about energy, particularly nuclear energy and the nuclear fuel cycle. Looking at the exhibits at the Yushukan it is not surprising that the present generation -- who have never known anything but abundance -- are nevertheless paranoid about Japan ever being pushed into making a strategic choice out of a want of raw materials.


Ἀντισθένης said...

I can almost understand the enthusiasm of Japan's 'elites' for the symbolisms of Yasukuni: they are well-served by that species of lunacy, after a fashion. What I cannot rationalize, much less sympathize with, is the enthusiasm of members of the classes of cannon-fodder. As true of Americans and others as of Japanese.

MTC said...

Ἀντισθένης -

When I first studied Japanese history I could not fathom how the Japanese people, enjoying the first buds of democracy in the Taisho Era, let their freedoms and lives wash away after the Great Kanto Earthquake.

My own countrymen's and countrywomen's enthusiastic descent into madness after the overthrow of Afghanistan's Taliban government set me straight. It was not only easy to let those in authority steal away one's peaceful life, liberty and right to be left alone -- a lot of folks would demand it.

Ἀντισθένης said...

It's a lonely vigil having one eye in the land of the blind, but no throne...