Monday, February 27, 2006

The Rules of Japanese News - an initial stab

The English language press has dutifully reported the immanence of an announcement of a pullout from Samawah, based on an article printed in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun.

True? False? Who knows?

It is time someone provides set of basic postulates for sifting through news stories coming out of Japan.

Here are a few of my candidates:

1) If a dubious-sounding story is printed in the Mainichi or the Yomiuri, it is the result of a misunderstanding. If it is printed in the Asahi, it is the result of a misconstrual. If it is in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, it is a lie.

2) If an exclusive interview produces a scoop for the Financial Times , the interviewee probably did not understand the question.

3) Public opinion is what Mino Monta says it is.

4) A political issue almost never works itself out the way Morita Minoru says it will.

5) Beware the Anonymice! If sources are called "important members of the Prime Minister's inner circle" they are persons to whom Prime Minister has not spoken in weeks. If they are called "sources close to the investigation" they are persons with offices in the same building as the investigators or the investigatees. If they are called "members of the executive committee" they are folks who have been hanging around in the hallway for two years.

6) If a Democratic Party member claims something is true on television, it is probably not true. When it is true, it was political suicide for him to have said it.

7) A person who says, "When I really want to know what is going on, I consult the weekly magazines" is--I will try to be nice here--insane.

8) Q -Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? A - Benjamin Fulford.

9) The best Sunday news roundup is the "news for children report" on the education channel. From all appearances, it is the only program with a bona fide research department. Seeing the camera crew in the final shot is a nice gesture, too.

10) Kitano Takeshi hosts the only news roundtable worth a damn. Discuss.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Oh, now they tell us

Last night the executive committee of the Democratic Party refused to approve the sudden resignation of Nagata Hisayasu, bogus email procurer, destroyer of his party's credibility and unwilling savior of the Koizumi Cabinet's collective behinds. The party's leadership instead urged Nagata to take a few days off, rest and recover. Then they will can him.

Nagata has since checked himself into a hospital for his own safety for exhaustion.

The email episode and its aftermath have exposed a secret everyone on the inside of Nagata-cho seems to have known for years:

Nagata is a loon.

Check out this video of the Diet Foreign Affairs Committee meeting of July 22, 2005. Nagata is seated just behind the speaker's right shoulder.

I do not know whether or not his actions qualify as criminal abuse of public documents. They certainly do make it difficult to concentrate on what Socialist representative Tomon Mitsuko is saying.

I cannot get over the initial look of bliss on his face, then the furtive glances to the left and to the right to see if anyone is watching.

This morning's newscasts had whole "greatest hits" packages of Nagata video. Seriously weird and out-of-control stuff.

Which begs the question: why were we not shown these compilations earlier?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


I caught only the tail end of the clash of the titans in the Budget Committee session. What little I saw of the Koizumi-Maehara showdown was a childish free-for-all.

I had been half hoping for Maehara to come out with an apology, killing the email controversy before it swallowed him. He seems a decent enough fellow, with a reasonable head on his shoulders. Someone--the dim-witted rank-and-file, the duplicitous party elders--forced him to continue flogging this dead horse, however.

Still oddly missing from the scene: Nagata Hisayasu, the idiot-savant whose intemperate introduction of the bogus Horie email into Diet interpellation last Thursday initiated this whole mess. No one has seen hide or hair of him since Saturday (The rumor that Nagata's suit jacket was found, complete with a large hamachi stuffed inside, on the grand staircase at Roppongi Hills, is just that--a rumor).

Maehara and his cohorts have made a valiant effort of obsfucation. They bluster and pose, demanding that Takebe have his second son come forth with his bank account records.

In response, LDP opponents have maintained an icy cool. They have stayed consistently on message: as it is the Democrats who are making the charges, it is up to the Democrats to provide evidence that their charges stand up to scrutiny.

Were I running the LDP message shop, I would have the LDP talking heads top off their arguments with defenses of a right-to-privacy and a presumption-of-innocence. I think younger Japanese would then grasp the importance of keeping Takebe's son's accounts secret. Right now, the television personalities are pontificating, "If there is no crime, why doesn't Takebe's son just come forth with his bank records?"--without anyone calling them out on the tatami and suggesting that they show their bank records to their adoring audiences.

Without the appeal to a greater good such as privacy or a presumption of innocence, the LDP's toying with the wounded Democrats looks just like that--toying. Reaction to the suspension of the Diet's normal business over the Horie email has not been positive. The LDP leadership group of course wants either Nagata or Maehara to abase himself and beg for forgiveness. Such status and debasement games are the cat's meow to the denizens of Nagata-cho. It seems a dangerous game indeed to bewilder and upset the public, though.

Stepping back, the Horie email brouhaha is but the latest chapter in the seemingly neverending story of Koizumi's infernal luck. Time and time again, when it has looked like Koizumi has been boxed, an accuser/opponent implodes. Nagata, and unless he hits the ripcord soon Maehara, are just the latest victims of the Koizumi monoimi: Tsujimoto got caught with her hands in the cookie jar; Kan discovered his social security record was out of order; Hashimoto's memory of his meeting with dentists was full of holes; the postal privatization rebels missed the demographic shift to the cities; Okada convinced himself that an aura of obvious unhappiness and a promise of further economic hard times were electoral magic.

The Curse even extends to Koizumi opponents who are still relative nobodies.

Kawamura Takashi, one of the princes of the Democratic Party, put on a deranged performance on this morning's TBS newscast. He harangued everyone, muttering while others spoke, jumping up to argue before any of the other guests could finish a sentence. He carried out lengthy shouting matches not only with LDP members opposite him but with a veteran journalist seated next to the host. He also kept interrupting Socialist Party leader Fukushima Mizuho, his ally in this fight. Kawamura's interruptions of Fukushima so offended fellow guest Aisawa Ichiro, the LDP's kanjichodairi, that he ordered Kawamura to shut up and let Fukushima talk.

The normally blank-faced peanut gallery/Greek chorus in the background--newsreader girl, the feature story girl and the weather girl--all burst out in grins at Aizawa's crossing-party lines gallantry--before resuming their stoic demeanors.

Hard as the weather girl tried, however, she could not suppress at look of alarm every time Kawamura opened his slavering jaws.

With leadership hopefuls like these...

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Dum-da-dum-dum. Dum-da-dum-dum-duhhhh...

Oh, on most days I just look forward to my evening swim. Today, however, the headlines are worth celebrating:

Some DPJ lawmakers express doubt about Livedoor e-mail

TOKYO, Feb. 21 - Some lawmakers of the Democratic Party of Japan began to express doubts Monday about the authenticity of an e-mail which fellow party members allege was sent by Livedoor Co. founder Takafumi Horie telling the recipient to transfer 30 million yen to the younger son of Tsutomu Takebe, the secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The development comes after the main opposition party presented a copy of the e-mail to the executive board of the House of Representatives Budget Committee earlier Monday and called for invoking parliamentary investigation rights so the related bank account can be checked.

Yes, Democrats, it is worth repeating: "after the main opposition party presented a copy of the e-mailto the executive board of the House of Representatives Budget Committee earlier Monday and called for invoking parliamentary investigation rights. "


Can you imagine the warm feelings Nagata Hisayasu's accusations must be making in Takebe Tsutomu's ample tummy right now? Mmmm...feeelss goooodddd...

Monday, February 20, 2006

Free, fair and open markets at work

Oh, I am sure this will be just peachy for Japan-China relations:
China excluded from iron ore pricing
Financial Times

By Richard McGregor in Beijing, February 20 2006 -- China will remain excluded from the core negotiations setting global iron ore prices, say officials familiar with the talks, despite the Beijing government demanding that its steel producers be given a bigger role.

The Ministry of Commerce in Beijing said that China should have a larger say in the annual price talks, as its steel producers were responsible for nearly half of global iron ore imports last year.

However, China's dominance as an importer has yet to translate into a similarly important role in price negotiations with the world's largest suppliers in Australia and Brazil.

Could someone please call up the Japanese steel producers and pass on the hint--you know, in a casual sort of way--that colluding to lock out Chinese producers is, technically speaking, not good--as in zenzen yoku nai for the image of the Land of the Rising Sun?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Honneur et Patrie

Having lucked out in my seat-of-the-pants instant dismissal of the Horie email, I am of a mood to take a shot at fingering the author of the New York Times editorial "Japan's Offensive Minister" ( IHT, February 13).

The envelope please...

And the Fickle Finger of Fate points to...Shanghai-based Times Senior Writer Howard W. French

Oh, I may be wrong in pinning the blame on Mr. French...still, I cannot forget his abbreviated stay in the Times Tokyo Bureau, wherein he managed to win, within only a few months, the coveted official "Not a Friend of Japan" designation.

Besides, who else among the Times writers gives a hoot about the Japanese Cabinet?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Please, somebody explain to me, in simple words... that I might be able to understand.

Horie alleged to have had 30 mil. yen sent to senior LDP lawmaker's son
Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge

TOKYO, Feb. 16_(Kyodo) _ Former Livedoor Inc. President Takafumi Horie instructed in a company e-mail message that 30 million yen be sent to the son of a senior ruling party lawmaker as a fee for electoral consultancy work, an opposition lawmaker told a parliamentary panel Thursday.

Horie, former head of Livedoor, a Tokyo company being investigated on suspicion of accounting fraud, has been indicted along with three other executives for alleged violations of securities market regulations.

The instruction was for sending the money to the second son of Tsutomu Takebe, the secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, according to Yasuhisa Nagata, a lawmaker of the Democratic Party of Japan.

Horie ran in the House of Representatives election last year as an independent to contest an electoral district held by a rebel LDP candidate. Horie received broad support from LDP lawmakers including Takebe.

Click here for the article on the story.

We are being asked to believe that Takebe Tsutomu, the LDP's Secretary General, was willing to collude with Horie Takafumi in a circumvention of campaign finance laws.

We are also being asked to believe that Horie is smart enough to launder ghost profits through Macao and Swiss bank accounts--but is stupid enough to write emails to his staff instructing them to send an illegal campaign contribution to the son of the LDP's Secretary General via a ginko koza-to-ginko koza electronic transfer!

"I got this from persons connected to the case via a journalist," claims the sleuth du jour, Democratic Party member Nagata Hisayasu, the 36 year-old former MOF bureaucrat with a B.A. from Todai and an MBA from UCLA.

Oh my dear bright boy....have you never read Sherlock Holmes? "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder" would be a good one to review right about now.
When life gives you yuzu...

...toss them in the bathtub for effect!
Aegis ship boasts most advanced missile defense system
The Japan Times

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) The U.S. Navy plans to forward-deploy its most advanced missile defense cruiser to Japan later this year, U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Gary Roughead said Tuesday.

The Aegis cruiser USS Shiloh has the most advanced ballistic missile defense system.
The U.S. this summer will conduct its largest naval drills -- with four aircraft carrier strike groups -- in the Pacific in a decade, Roughead said in a speech to the Asia Society.


Roughead told the lunch meeting the 9,600-ton Shiloh will replace a similar ship already in Japan, saying it "will have the most advanced ballistic missile defense capability on board."

The Shiloh has taken part in the initial flight tests of the advanced Standard Missile-3 defense system.

Japan and the United States are jointly developing a larger, upgraded version of the SM-3 interceptor missiles.
I guess Japan should be just panting with excitement--Gosh, the U.S. Navy likes me! It really likes me!-- except that I have the sneaking suspicion that the U.S.S. Shiloh is a something like a prototype Maserati school bus--it looks cool, can deliver the kids the school faster than any bus ever built but it is not quite what the school board wants so where should we park it?

The mention of the Shiloh's participation in the SM-3 tests is curiously weak. The Shiloh did not just take part--it was the launch platform.

Also the simultaneous mentions of "the most advanced missile defense cruiser," " the most advanced ballistic missile defense capability on board" and the SM-3 are somewhat misleading. Whatever system the U.S.S. Shiloh will have on it when it deploys to Japan, it will not be the SM-3--and it I suspect it will be the same system installed on the U.S.S. Cape St. George and the U.S.S. Lake Erie.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Isn't it ironic, don't ya think?

The Mainichi Shimbun has printed every scurilous rumor and moronic innuendo leaked by the Tokyo Prosecutor's Office in the Livedoor affair. On February 10th, however, the paper celebrated the "vindication" of one of its reporters who had been subject to prosecutorial abuse in the 1970s.

In a front page article and longer article on the inside pages, the February 10 morning Mainichi Shimbun trumpeted its scoring of a journalistic coup: an 86 year-old former MOFA American Affairs Division chief had confirmed that a $4 million payment for farmland restoration in 1971 had been included in a $320 million budget for restoration and remediation costs associated with the return of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty.

I know, the revelation sent shivers up my spine too.

In early 1972, Nishiyama Takichi, a Mainichi Shimbun reporter, got his hands on documentary proof of a open secret: the U.S. government was refusing to pay the full restoration costs associated with the reversion of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty. The amount under dispute was trivial--$4 million for the restoration of agricultural land--but the U.S. Congress balked at appropriating money for the improvement of land the U.S. was giving away, particularly since that land had been seized in a war at a considerable cost in terms of blood and treasure.

In order to prevent the unraveling of the pacts guaranteeing the reversion of Okinawa to Japan, the Japanese government agreed to pick up the tab for the restoration, hiding the costs inside its own $320 million contribution to restoration and remediation. Mid-level officials sealed the deal in a series of side letters appended to the main Okinawa Henkan agreement.

Because they violated the terms of the official agreement, these side letters were kept secret. Technically, they did not exist.

Now Nishiyama acquired copies of these side letters from a young female official inside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He then leaked the contents to the then Socialist Party Diet member Yokomichi Takahiro. Yokomichi confronted the government with the information contained in the side letters in parliamentary session in March 1972. Within days, Nishiyama and the female government official were arrested for violations of the secrecy provisions of the National Civil Service Law.

Now since the contents of the letters had been discussed in the Diet and the pair had been arrested for revealing their contents, one would expect that the government would, in shame, admit that it had misled the Japanese people.

One would be wrong.

According to the government, the side letters still did not exist.

The ever helpful public prosecutors office not only arrested the pair on the charges of revealing secrets that did not exist, they spiced up the arrest warrants with the claim that the reporter had invited the official to a hotel where he "showed her sympathy" and that this "demonstration of sympathy" played a part in her willingness to pass the secret information on to him.

A huge public outcry broke out over the sleazy, unethical tactics of...yes, that's right, the Mainichi Shimbun--for stooping to employing adultery as a means of acquiring news.

The female MOFA official admitted guilt and accepted a six month suspended sentence. Nishiyama pleaded not guilty, arguing that it was impossible for him to have conspired with an official to reveal secrets if those secrets did not exist. He was nevertheless convicted and given a four month suspended sentence.

Nishiyama and his lawyers fought the decision all the way to the Supreme Court. Despite the whopping logical impossibility of it all, the Supreme Court confirmed the decisions of lower courts, finding that the existence or non-existence of the secrets was irrelevant to the legal issue of whether or not the secrets had, indeed, been divulged.

Japanese reporters found copies of the side letters in the U.S. National Archives in 2000. This triggered an "investigation" of the incident by Foreign Minister Yohei Kono. Fortuitously, Kono's exhaustive investigation, including an interview with Yoshino Bunroku, the American Affairs Bureau chief during the period in question, "proved" that the letters did not exist.

When more U.S. National Archives material regarding the side letters became available in 2002, Foreign Minister Kawaguchi Yoriko reiterated the government's assertion that the letters did not because, well, her predecessor Yohei Kono's "research" had demonstrated they did not exist.

On February 9th of this year, the aged and feeble Yoshino confirmed to Mainichi Shimbun reporters that the $4 million had been included in the $320 million budget.

The next day, reporters asked Chief Cabinet Secretary Abe Shinzo about the Yoshino admission. Abe, perhaps a bit surprisingly, did not issue the standard government denial that the letters did not exist. All Abe was willing to admit was that according to what he had heard, the letters did not exist.

In April of 2005, Nishiyama filed a defamation suit, contending that the hints of adultery in the original indictment had injured his career as a journalist. Nishiyama also insists that the insinuation in the indictment had been a government ploy to turn attention away from the existence of the secret side letters.

Where did Nishiyama ever get that idea?

And where is the Mainichi Shimbun's sense of irony, since it has served as the Tokyo Public Prosecutor's Office's chief rumormonger in the Livedoor case?
Aso wins the Golden Ass award

Well, now it is official: Aso Taro is a bad man.
Japan's Offensive Minister
The New York Times

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2006 -People everywhere wish they could be proud of every bit of their countries' histories. But honest people understand that's impossible, and wise people appreciate the positive value of acknowledging and learning from painful truths about past misdeeds. Then there is Japan's new foreign minister, Taro Aso, who has been neither honest nor wise in the inflammatory statements he has been making about Japan's disastrous era of militarism, colonialism and war crimes that culminated in World War II.

Besides offending neighboring countries that Japan needs as allies and trading partners, he is disserving the people he has been pandering to. World War II ended before most of today's Japanese were born. Yet public discourse in Japan and modern history lessons in its schools have never properly come to terms with Japan's responsibility for such terrible events as the mass kidnapping and sexual enslavement of young Korean women, the biological warfare experiments carried out on helpless prisoners of war, and the sadistic slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians in the city of Nanjing.

That is why so many Asians have been angered by a string of appalling remarks Aso has made since being named foreign minister last autumn. Two of the most recent were his suggestion that Japan's emperor ought to visit the Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 Japanese war criminals are among those honored, and his claim that Taiwan owes its high educational standards to enlightened Japanese policies during the 50-year occupation that began when Tokyo grabbed the island as war booty from China in 1895. Aso's later lame efforts to clarify his words left their effect unchanged.
Now begins the betting phase--who at the New York Times ghosted this fine piece of criticism? It does not sound Kristoffian...and he would not so shallowly characterize the transfer of Taiwan to Japan under the Treaty of Shimonoseki as "grabbed the island as war booty from China"...

So who has the China itch among the otherwise Mideast-obsessed upper echelons at the Times? Any guesses, anyone?

Friday, February 10, 2006

It ticks me off...

...when the FT does this:

Call to end BoJ's 'quantitative easing'
Financial Times

By David Ibison and David Pilling in Tokyo. Published: February 9 2006 18:54--

Nobuo Kuroyanagi, president of MUFG, the world's largest bank, yesterday urged the Bank of Japan to end its five-year ultra loose monetary policy as soon as possible and start raising interest rates.

The comments by Japan's most powerful banker are the latest sign of growing impatience among members of the BoJ's policy board, influential business people and politicians for an end to the central bank's policy of "quantitative easing".

I understand the imperative to put the "new" in "news"--but FT pushes the envelope with its aggressive packaging of its interviews. When you put an individual in a room, ask him leading questions, then frame his comments as elements of a non-existent event, you are not reporting the news, you are manufacturing it.

Since no member of the BOJ was present at the time of the interview, Kuroyanagi-san was not "urging" anyone to do anything. Since he was not delivering a speech, he is not "calling" for anything. His responses to questions put directly to him are not "a sign" of anything--they are his responses, nothing more.

FT compounds the misdeed in its Asian print edition by plastering a huge photograph of Fukui Toshihiko next to the article and slapping a "Banker calls on BoJ to raise rates" headline on top--making it seem that the "banker" in question is Fukui.

Bad FT! Bad! Bad!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The four and a half minute gap

What was Abe Shinzo thinking? Why did he not immediately confer with the PM about dumping the revision of the succession law?

It turns out that Abe knew about the announcement of the imperial pregnancy but did not inform the PM--despite being seated directly behind him in interpellations.

The noontime NHK broadcast made the announcement at 12:08 p.m. The Prime Minister was not informed until 12:12:30.

In the now-famous video the PM receives a note from his aide, a Mr. Yamazaki. A look of complete shock and amazement sweeps over his features. As the two pour over the text of the note, Abe leans into the frame, then nods his head repeatedly in agreement, saying, "So, so."

Just when was it that Abe was going to mention this little detail to his superior?

Incidentally, the wording of the note provided a moment of brief comedy and probably added to Koizumi's initial surprise. Instead of saying, "the Princess Akishino is expecting a child," the note read, "the Prince Akishino is expecting a child"--raising the possibility in the PM's mind that "Mr. Fast Hands" had really messed up the succession issue.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

We shall fight on the beaches; we shall fight on the landing...oh, never mind...


I am not going to say that I told you so.

But, of course, I told you so.
Japan PM cools on succession bill
BBC News

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has indicated he may no longer speed a bill through parliament to allow female royal succession.

Mr Koizumi's slower approach came one day after the news that Princess Kiko was pregnant, raising hopes a male heir may yet be born into the royal family.

"I want to proceed cautiously so as not to make this a political tool," Mr Koizumi said of the controversial bill.

True, it was a no-brainer. However, the PM's brain trust has appeared particularly brainless of late.

It was a long Oshogatsu. Maybe the team got a little soft.

Welcome to February, gentlemen and ladies! We still have eight months on this thing!
Storks take flight

Oh Susano-o, the entire Japanese media world has gone gaga about the New Years poems.

Both Akishino-no-miya and Kiko-sama composed poems about the ceremony last fall reintroducing the Oriental White Stork to the wild in Japan (Amaterasu knows, it is damned difficult to type "the wild in Japan" without gagging).

The prince and the princess about wrote about how the sight of a stork taking flight brings a smile to the faces of the people.

Coincidence, or were they sending us a message?

Oh, spare me. (De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine!)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Ripples in the waters, the tide turns

There, after broadcasting a video collage of the Prime Minister getting hammered in Diet interpellations by Okada Tatsuya and others, the first little glimmer of sympathy from Furutachi Ichiro:

"Gee, the Prime Minister sure had no spark today."

"Well," replied the commentator, "With the livedoor incident, the beef importation affair, the Huser-Aneha affair and the Defense Agency collusion scandal the LDP has scored four own goals over the first month of the year."


Now if tomorrow morning Mino Monta shakes himself awake from the high authoritarian paternalistic dudgeon he has been floundering in since his release from the hospital, then maybe we can start seeing some of the populist bounce back in the PM's step.
The other tabi drops...

One conspiracy-mad would scream, "Aha! I knew it!"

Or perhaps, more correctly, "They knew it!"
Japan princess pregnant: reports
From correspondents in Tokyo
February 07, 2006

PRINCESS Kiko, the wife of the Japanese emperor's second son Akishino, was pregnant, reports said today, potentially influencing the debate on historic moves to end male-only succession.

Princess Kiko, 39, would have her third child in the autumn, Kyodo News said, quoting the Imperial Household Agency.

An agency spokesman had no immediate comment.
While the sex of the child is unknown, this pregnancy removes the imperative to examine the Imperial House succession law. Nothing needs be done during Koizumi's remaining days in office.

Koizumi and his remaining loyalists must be thrilled: revision of the succession law was becoming a costly distraction. Aso's and Tanigaki's defections were especially painful and divisive.

Now if Mr. K can get Nakagawa to fall upon his sword over the tardy beef inspections, Horie sprung for lack of evidence and links uncovered between corrupt Defense Agency officials and some of the Cabinet's political opponents, he will be right back in the swing of things.

"If only," you say.

But who says lightning cannot strike the same place twice...

[Later] Well, he sure was not one of those in the know

Just around two o'clock, in the middle of interpellations, an aide showed Koizumi the news of the Princess Kiko's pregnancy. From the look of surprise on his face, the PM clearly had heard nothing of this story before today.

As Koizumi read through the note passed to him and began asking questions of his aide, the Diet member asking him questions grew increasingly agitated, nearly popping a Tsujimoto with his angry "Sori!...Sori!" demands for the PM's attention. After confirming the authenticity of the message about the pregnancy, Mr. K could not help himself. He stared straight ahead, with more than a hint of a smile upon his lips.

The news of the pregnancy led Okada Tatsuya to change tack in his questions regarding the succession reform bill. The PM and other members of the Cabinet, to their credit, stuck to their talking points, even though all of them knew the birth of son to Akishinomiya and Kikonomiya would render the whole parley moot.

When the PM knows nothing is at stake, he indulges himself with great whispy castles of fantastic, impassioned, argumentative nonsense. Today's improvised riff on why serious discussion of the succession bill should still go forward as scheduled:

"If it is not decided whether or not Aiko is eligible for the throne before she is old enough to start school, how will anyone know whether or not it is proper to teach her what she needs to know to be empress?"

Hmmmm....What aspects of imperial rule are appropriate for first-graders?

There were no classes in how to be an emperor or empress at my elementary school. I had to wait until Imperial Rule for Dummies came out.

Monday, February 06, 2006

What is it with the Finance Minister?

Here is a guy with all the attributes of a cool dude...the rack of racing bikes at home, the shelves of Chinese literature...and he has been up to now such an unconvincing non-entity.

Hilariously, at his appearance tonight on Hodo Station, anchor Furutachi Ichiro started off the conversation with a review of Minister Tanigaki's extraordinary seven year quest to finish his Bachelor's degree and his multiple failures to pass the bar.

To his credit, after uttering the ultimate platitude about tax reform ("We need to look at all taxes, then come to our decision about which taxes to raise") Tanigaki did smack down the default option of raising corporate income taxes:

"We live in an era of globalization. Our corporate taxes are basically at the same level as those of other advanced industrialized nations. If we were to raise corporate taxes, companies would probably just move operations overseas."

Now if I can only understand how he segued from Japan's increasing Gini coefficient to the heartwarming outburst of volunteer activity after the Kobe earthquake, I might be happier.
Oh Nishida san, don't be so sad

OK, so you were caught taking advantage of the handicapped...and you did not feel any remorse until now. Why the tears? Go out smiling. Dance--because you still can.

So Toyoko Inn got caught constructing fake handicapped access to its hotels, which it then demolished after building inspectors departed.

Now, the management feels oh so very sorry.

Gosh, if Horie had put on such a maudlin show, he might be at home at his apartment right now.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

How foreigners are depicted in manga is really important

Or perhaps not.

Shouldn't The New York Times be alerted...or are we going to let the shocking truth seen below just get buried by the Chrysanthemum Club?

Cringing and weeping Americans, led by Commodore Matthew C. Perry, present the Uraga bugyo with a letter from the "King of America" to the Emperor of Japan at Kurihama on July 14, 1853.
From the Matthew Perry Shiryokan, Kurihama, Kanagawa-ken. (click on image for larger view)