Friday, October 04, 2013

The United States Votes With Flowers

An official of the Department of Defense, currently on an involuntary vacation, yesterday alerted me to the laying of a wreath at the Chidorigafuchi National Memorial by the visiting U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense. I expressed to my friend a confident hope that good weather would encourage the major news organizations to highlight the Secretaries' visit to the Memorial, which progressive elements within the U.S. government and Japanese society have longed argued is the appropriate place for public officials to pay tribute to Japan's war dead.

Well, a day later, it seems I was a little too sanguine in my assessment. Agence France Presse, in its Japanese edition, played up the visit and its significance (Link - J). In English, The Japan Times went hog wild, with a title "Kerry, Hagel visit Chidorigafuchi to diminish Yasukuni," invincible to the ministrations of the mightiest of message massagers (Link). The New York Times in high-minded, above-it-all sobriety, managed to publish a huge photo of John Kerry and Chuck Hagel leaving the memorial without explaining the visit's significance. (Link)

As for the home team, there is very little good news to report. I saw no footage of the visit on any of the news programs I looked at over the last half day. National broadcaster NHK has nothing up in its online gallery (Surprised? No). On Google News, the only domestic news source with a report on the visit is Jiji Press, which has up only a brief account composed of five short sentences. Analysis of the significance of the visit is compressed into the last sentence, and is diffident, at best:

Unlike Yasukuni Shrine, where Class A War Criminals are honored and where visits by members of the Cabinet cause strife with China and other countries, [Chidorigafuchi] does not have a religious aspect to it.

(Link - J)
Perhaps the U.S. government shutdown prevented the U.S. Embassy from drumming up interest in the wreath laying, leading domestic news organizations to feel comfortable in ignoring a very obvious U.S. prod to improve the visibility and popularity of Chidorigafuchi (the Jiji News report indeed felt it necessary to spend two of its five sentences explaining what the hell the Chidorigafuchi National Memorial is, as just publishing "Chidorigafuchi" would have left readers wondering, "Why is anyone talking about a famous cherry blossom viewing site at this time of year?").

So for the visit to have any bite, the newsgoround has to make another circuit. The non-Japanese news outlets have to make a news story out of the fact that Japanese news outlets ignored the wreath laying. This would compel domestic news organization to report on the non-Japanese news media's making a fuss over the lack of coverage of the event when it happened.

T'is is a mad, mad mass media we have in this blessed land, with most peculiar tribal customs.

Later -The online version of the Sankei Shimbun does have a contemporaneous report on the visit of the secretaries to the Chidorigafuchi memorial. According the Sankei account, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, when asked for comment about the wreath laying, said it had no knowledge of the event. (Link - J)

MOFA said it had no knowledge of the U.S. Secretary of State's intent to visit a national memorial on the sidelines of attending a 2+2 Meeting in Tokyo?

Curiouser and curiouser...

Tip of the hat to Michishita Narushige for the link.


Robert Dujarric said...

It was mentioned in Asahi Shimbun (Japanese language paper edition page 2, 4 Oct 2013).

MTC said...

M. Dujarric -

Merci. I will have to check out as regards its length and its depth.

Peace Philosopher said...

See my posts: