Friday, November 08, 2013


That is what this brief video of Yamamoto Taro's press conference, as produced by Makiko Segawa and Michael Penn, is. (Link - video)

The Yamamoto letter incident, which Mari Yamaguchi has effectively covered for the Associated Press, including the all-important resonance Yamamoto's intemperate and simple-minded action has with the self-sacrifice of Tanaka Shozo at the beginning of the 20th century (Link), has been a real test for the news media.

The Yomiuri Shimbun, in default umbrage at everything a progressive does, has demanded Yamamoto be severely punished. It also implies he should be either resign immediately or be deprived of his Diet seat (Link). Contrary to its image as the slavering mad dog of right wing vengeance, the Sankei Shimbun merely lays out the facts of the incident and the reactions triggered in the political classes, then only asks that Yamamoto's punishment be commensurate (so'o) with his offence. (Link - J)

[If the Sankei's request for a "commensurate" punishment brought to your mind the signature verse of "A More Humane Mikado" in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado (Link video) -- what are you doing in this century?]

The Mainichi Shimbun, contrary to its recent more confrontational stance, sidestepped offering judgment, seeking instead to answer the question of whether or not Yamamoto's Diet colleagues can or will actually do anything significant to him (Link). The real world answer seems to be no, as according to news reports this morning, President of the House of Councillors Yamazaki Masaaki has decided to ban Yamamoto from attending any event in which the Emperor is a participant (pretty harsh, since one presumes this includes the Diet closing and opening ceremonies). Yamazaki seems to have had to act his own authority, as a punishment for the crime of handing a letter to the Emperor seems not covered by any House of Councillors rule. (Link - J)

As for liberal side of the ledger, the Asahi Shimbun has to this point avoided addressing the letter episode in an editorial (it is all so far below them, I guess...). By contrast, Tokyo Shimbun, which has elbowed aside the communist party organ Akahata as the go-to paper for the ticked-off progressive view, concedes that Yamamoto's actions were lacking in grace and imprudent, possibly hurtful to the very causes he espouses. However, the meat of the TS editorial is a blistering attack upon Yamamoto's Liberal Democratic Party and Democratic Party critics. "Excuse us," the editors write,"but do the members of the LDP and the DPJ who have been criticizing Yamamoto for 'making political use of the Emperor' have any license to condemn even the minimum ethical qualifications for a condemnation of him?" (Tada, Yamamoto-shi o hihan suru jimin, minshu ryoto ni 'tenno no seiji riyo' o danzai suru shikaku ga aru no ka? - Link - J)

The editorial points out that the Abe administration and the LDP used the Imperial Couple as props in the first public celebration of Return of Sovereignty Day. The Abe government also drafted Imperial Princess Hisako to be the keynote speaker for the presentation that sealed the deal for Tokyo's successful bid for the 2020 Olympics. As for the DPJ, the editors point out that when it was in power it forced the Imperial Household Agency to arrange, against protocol, an intimate interview between the Emperor and then Vice President of China Xi Jinping.

If you think you have heard this list of recent naked uses of the Imperial Family for political gain before, you have.

As for Yamamoto, whose life story Penn explores in his most recent newsletter, he has stumbled more than a few times during a rough-and-tumble journey. The stress of his life since his anti-nuclear activities took flight has indeed caused his hair to fall out. However, this incident, like the odd bald patch on the side of his head, will just be one more mark of a person who really cares, and who, despite the forces arrayed against him, prevails.

Let us hope the radical, xenophobic rightists -- and whoever shields them from being properly investigated and registered as anti-social elements -- quickly lose interest in Yamamoto, the caravan of silliness rolling on to a new purported outrage.

Later - A thanks to reader Philippe for alerting me to my royal error.


Philippe said...

I don’t like to be the one to nitpick, but here you go. You write:

The Abe government also drafted Imperial Princess Masako

Did they take that her on an outing as well? According to news reports at the time (I know, news reports, are those ever accurate?) it was princess Hisako, the widow of Prince Takamado who was drafted manu militari into serving the Abe propaganda machinery.

PS - good piece otherwise. TY for supporting Mr Yamamoto.

MTC said...

Philippe -

Keep on nitpicking. I need the extra set of eyes and the critical faculties.

David J. Littleboy said...

Speaking of nitpicking, "shikaku" is more a matter of "standing" or "moral right" than license. You are right that it's blistering, but it's more blistering than you let on.

MTC said...

David J. Littleboy -

You are right, of course, regarding shikaku. I have struggled with the sentence, trying to capture the nuance. Tell me what you think of the latest iteration.