» Nippon Speak Victorian, Think Pagan Wed, 14 Nov 2012 22:05:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Japan won’t “just sit and wait for its own death” Mon, 01 Jun 2009 18:36:18 +0000 Continue reading ]]> North Korea’s increasingly bellicose demeanor, a second nuclear weapons test, various short and long range missile tests have prompted some unusually aggressive policy measures from Japan. Via Asia Times:
<blockquote>The Japanese government, led by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), is applying the finishing touches to plans that would enable the Japanese military to to carry out pre-emptive strikes against enemy states as part of the new National Defense Program Guidelines for fiscal years 2010 to 2014, to be compiled by the end of this year.

The 12-page summary of proposals made by a subcommittee of the LDP’s defense policy-making panel on May 26 argue that Japan could use sea-launched cruise missiles in pre-emptive strikes against a hostile nation’s missile sites, having first detected launch preparations in that enemy state with surveillance satellites. The proposals are expected to be officially finalized on June 3.

Japan would not be forced to “just sit and wait for its own death”, read the document obtained by Asia Times Online. Such measures would have to remain “within the scope of Japan’s defense-only policy,” it continued, stressing that the pre-emptive strikes could be used to prevent an imminent attack.

In response to a lawmaker’s question as to whether Japan has right to launch pre-emptive strikes against missile sites after detecting launch preparations in an enemy state with a spy satellite, Prime Minister Taro Aso said: “As long as it is evident that there are no other measures, striking the enemy’s missile bases is guaranteed under the Constitution. It falls within the scope of self-defense. It’s different from pre-emptive attacks.”</blockquote>

You have to wonder how sustainable this technique of shoehorning contingencies into the constrictions of Japan’s constitution will be. Consider the recent reports of an impending North Korean ICBM test some time in mid June. At some point, should North Korea continue this tantrum of military showmanship, Japan will likely consider measures well beyond their “pacifist” constitution. The assertions of former air force chief, Toshio Tamogami, once seen as extreme or taboo, may well find teeth in the Japanese mainstream.

While the concept of Japan beginning a program of militarization that befits a 21st century power may serve a “kick in the ass” to the Chinese regarding North Korea, it could also alter the regional construct of military primacy in an unfavorable fashion. In short, too aggressive a measure could cause China to simply latch onto and even enable North Korea in an effort to meet what they deem to be a challenge to their regional military supremacy. Japan’s nascent military resurgence as described by the LDP defense policy is the first step on a geopolitical tightrope that attempts to balance the threat of North Korea with a historically troubled relationship with China.
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The Character of Japan Wed, 30 Jan 2008 04:58:49 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Which of the following statements comes closest to describing how you feel, on the whole, about the people who live in Japan?

The Japanese people will always want to go to war to make themselves as powerful as possible – 35%
The Japanese people may not like war, but they have shown that they are too easily led into war by powerful leaders – 39%
The Japanese people do not like war. If they could have the same chance as people in other countries, they would become good citizens of the world – 19%
Don’t know – 7%

A US public opinion poll, circa 1946. For the original, see this Frog in a Well post.

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Pleading for calm since 1879 Sun, 22 Jul 2007 17:50:11 +0000 Continue reading ]]> From Donald Keen’s Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852-1912:

President Ulysses S. Grant was the first former president to visit Japan, which he did in 1879. He met with the Meiji Emperor and advised him on a number of matters and was also asked to arbitrate a dispute. The Meiji government had just annexed the Ryukyu Islands [Okinawa], to which China strongly objected. Grant decided that Japan’s claim to the islands was stronger and ruled in Japan’s favor, but also urged Japan and China to withdraw their harsh words about each other.

I can’t help but think that little has changed…

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1973 and 2001 Mon, 02 Jul 2007 20:53:35 +0000 Continue reading ]]> On October 17, 1973, members of Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries chose to embargo the United States, Western Europe and Japan for their support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War. Both the United States and Japan responded by looking into alternative energy sources and improving energy efficiency. However, while Americans quickly forgot the lessons of 1973, the Japanese did not. As Peter Schwartz notes (p145)

In 1973, the United States and Japan were hit with the same challenge: a quadrupling of oil prices. The United States responded with a winners and losers scenario in which it was, it eflt, the winner. “This is temporary, we will surely will,” said American policymakers. “We don’t need to worry about it.” Within a year, the United States was importing half its oil. Japan responded instead by completely rebuilding its capital structure to become the most energy-efficient economy in the world.

Americans still saw environmentalism as zero-sum. You could either have economic growth and prosperity, or more environmentally friendly policies, but not both. This is why we are still struggling with what the Japanese figured out over three decades ago.

Today, while Americans are beginning to realize that environmentalism isn’t zero-sum, we are polarized in another crucial national security debate: terrorism. You can either fight terrorists and failed states with force and be safe, or you can avoid force and be overrun by jihadis and rogues.

Americans once thought “sustainable development” was a contradiction. Economic growth and environmental quality couldn’t go together. Yet, we’ve learned they can. What will be our “sustainable counter-terrorism” ?

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Core/Gap Talk by Japan’s Top Ministers Wed, 16 May 2007 12:05:34 +0000 Continue reading ]]> The story below is blockquoted in full. Man, you couldn’t sound more like Tom Barnett no matter how hard you tried.

Japan to nurture new foreign policy with India, Turkey

Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Shotaro Yachi set off on Sunday for India and Turkey – two nations that hold important positions in Japan’s new international outlook, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“In his visit in India, a wide range of topics is expected to be discussed, including the issue of how to operate the East Asia Summit, as well as issues of energy and climate change, and economic partnership,” said an official privy to the India-Japan relationship.

“The vice-ministerial talks with Turkey were requested by the Japanese side as we recognize Turkey is a very important democracy which can be a core of our ‘arc of freedom and prosperity’ concept,” another official said.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso uses the term “arc of freedom and prosperity” to describe a global zone stretching from Japan through India and moderate Middle Eastern states into Europe.

“The talks with Ankara will focus more on cooperation in the region surrounding Turkey rather than cooperation with a NATO member country,” the official said.

Officials denied that Japan’s new foreign policy is aimed at containment of non-democratic countries such as China but is a broad policy concept to promote democracy and economic success.

Aso, who attended as an observer of a summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SSARC) last month, has said Japan will continue support democratisation in Nepal and Bhutan.

On the security front, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised to visit India this year and proposed the creation of a strategic forum involving Japan, the United States, Australia and India when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh came to Tokyo last December.

Abe also pledged to play a wider role in NATO’s peacekeeping and stability missions during his visit to Europe in January.

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Abe in ME Sat, 05 May 2007 05:54:57 +0000 Continue reading ]]> After his first visit to the US, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took a seven day trip through the Middle East visiting Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Egypt. Two interesting things (in my mind) happened on this trip.

First, in Saudi Arabia Abe offered King Abdullah the “use of oil storage facilities in Okinawa”: in exchange for preferential purchasing rights in case of an emergency. Large storage tanks in Asia could help with distribution of Saudi oil in Asia. Abe is looking to deepen Japan’s energy relationship with Saudi Arabia. After having to back out of the Iran deal and getting hosed on the Russian deal, Japan’s search for a stable energy supply is leading them to “the Devil” as Robert Baer would say. Echoes of Japan and America’s special security relationship.

Second, in Abu Dhabi Abe “met with MSDF crew”: supporting anti-terrorism ops in the Gulf. He told them he hopes they will help “write a new chapter for Japan on the frontlines of international contribution.” Abe is staying on message here (e.g. on Constitution Day last week Abe’s office “released another statement”: calling for constitutional revision) with his goal to reform Article 9 and the Japanese constitution. The interesting thing here is he is bringing his message directly to troops on the “front line.”

All in all the trip abroad wasn’t terribly exciting. As usual Abe remains determined to push for a “Beautiful Japan.” Maybe not so usual is the new move to field alternative policies to protect Japan’s oil supply. Since this plays right into my thesis I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

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I’m free! Sat, 28 Apr 2007 02:43:10 +0000 Continue reading ]]> YH sings, “No more sailors, no more boats, no more bunker delivery notes!”

Today was my last day as a “bunker agent”: By far, the worst experience in my life. If you want to know why, read my post “On Leadership”:

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In Formation Mon, 23 Apr 2007 15:49:37 +0000 capt9a8cec1d8765407e831c5bd0c3c21ed4japan_us_navy_ny107.jpg

Planes from the USS Kitty Hawk, based in Yokosuka, Japan, flying in formation near Mt. Fuji, from a Yahoo! news file photo.

Read about my tour of the Kitty Hawk here and here.

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Nagasaki Mayor Assasinated Wed, 18 Apr 2007 00:19:29 +0000 Continue reading ]]> US and international newspapers are headlining with the tragedy at Virginia Tech two days ago when a student went on a shooting rampage that left at least 32 people dead.

In many developed countries, 0417_mayor.jpgit’s easy to think the gun violence issue is one limited to America, where guns can be purchased and carried in public. This is especially true in Japan, which is one of the safest countries in the world. But just 36 hours after the Virginia Tech tragedy, the mayor of Nagasaki city, Itcho Ito, was shot twice in the back in the centre of the city just outside of his campaign headquarters. He died several hours later.

The assasin, who admitted to the murder on the spot, was a member of the Yamuguchi Gumi, the largest yakuza crime syndicate in the country. The motive for the slaying appears to be the mayor’s crackdown on the involvement of organized crime in public works contracts. Mr Ito was campaigning for re-election (voting takes place on April 28th) for a fourth term as mayor of Nagasaki, and was extremely popular. It is not yet clear how this will affect the upcoming election.

Nagasaki is best known to the world for having been destroyed by an atomic bomb in World War II. But this is the second time in the last twenty years that a mayor has been shot. The last time was in 1990, when then-mayor was seriously wounded after saying that Japan’s Emperor bore some responsibility for the Second World War.

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Crowded in Tokyo Mon, 16 Apr 2007 02:55:55 +0000 Continue reading ]]> I was up in Tokyo over the weekend for a very special event. One thing never ceases to amaze me about Tokyo: the amount of people! Besides the regular throngs of shoppers, goths and ugly maids this weekend was particularly crowded as the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao was in town. This is the first time in six years a Chinese prime minister has visited Japan. There was a heavy police presence on the ground around the Diet and the Imperial Palace.

Chinese flags up around the Imperial palace
Chinese and Japanese flags were on display near the Imperial Palace.

The Indian Navy was also in town preparing for a trilateral naval exercise with Japan and the US on April 17th. Announced at the end of last month, this “large-scale maritime exercise” is the first of its kind. It was originally scheduled to be executed before the Wen visit, but was pushed back. India has been careful to calm suspicions that this is some sort of show of strength. The Assistant Chief of Naval staff stressed, “We are not engaging in these deployments to pass messages to any country nor will it be a regular exercise.” Speak Victorian and think pagan, right?

The naval exercise is particularly interesting because of recent talk that there will be an official visit to Japan by the Chinese navy later this year. Can you imagine seeing a ship flying a Chinese flag pull into Tokyo Bay?

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Japan Roundup Mon, 09 Apr 2007 03:09:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Some interesting news happening in Japan right now, summarized below:

1. Shintaro Ishihara won reelection to a third term as governor of Tokyo. The 74-year old faces waning popularity. From my own soundings of plenty of residents, plenty of people are tired of Ishihara, but as is often the case in elections in Japan, the opposition was hopeless and divided. Sunday also saw a number of local gubernatorial elections in Japan, in which most incumbents retained their seats.

2. The South Korean Chosun Ilbo is outraged that Mr. Abe is clarifying the comfort women issue to the US only.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apparently called U.S. President George W. Bush on Tuesday to clarify any misunderstandings over his stance regarding Japan’s use of military brothels during World War II. According to Japanese media reports, Abe said in the 20-minute phone call that he had apologized to women forced into sexual slavery during World War II and his remarks on the issue hadn’t been accurately conveyed.

[Japan] says it apologizes, but it neither admits to its forced mobilization of women to serve as sex slaves nor does it take responsibility for such actions. If he truly wishes to apologize for Japan’s use of military brothels during World War II, he must express such intentions publicly to Korea, China and other Asian countries who suffered under Japanese aggression, as well as to the women who were forcibly mobilized into sexual slavery. But Abe just dialed up the president of the United States, which is just a third party, to make the apology. This is simply ridiculous.

3. Several Japanese naval officers — one with a Chinese wife! scandalous! — is being investigated for potentially leaking classified data about AEGIS destroyers that could jeapordize Japanese and US national security.

Police launched a probe last week after a navy officer married to a Chinese woman was found to have taken home a computer disk containing information about the high-tech Aegis radar system, domestic media said.

Aegis is used on Japanese destroyers that are to be fitted with SM-3 missile interceptors from this year as part of the missile defense program.

The officer told police he accidentally copied the confidential data onto his computer’s hard disk when copying porn from a computer belonging to a crew member from another destroyer, the Yomiuri newspaper reported.

A third officer was also found to have copied data on the Aegis system alongside pornographic images, the Yomiuri said.

Police suspect senior officers were also involved in the swap because none of the three were authorized to access the confidential information, the Yomiuri said.

Japan sped up the implementation of its missile defense program after
North Korea fired a volley of ballistic missiles last year. Last Friday, its first ground-based interceptors were trucked into Iruma air base in Saitama prefecture, north of Tokyo, to protect the capital.

Any defense leak could potentially affect Japan’s biggest ally, the United States, whose navy also uses the Aegis system.

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Impressions on China (and Japan) Mon, 02 Apr 2007 14:10:24 +0000 Continue reading ]]> As some of you know, I used to be a “professor” at a state university teaching a course on Japan-US relations. A few weeks ago, one of my former students and his friend traveled to Japan and stayed at the la casa de Curzon in Tokyo, after which they traveled on to China. Below are some impressions from a young American’s first trip to the Far East, seeing three of the region’s greatest cities: Tokyo, Beijing, and Shanghai.

* * *

China was an amazing experience and one which was even more interesting with the ability to draw some comparisons between Japan and China. I have to say the Japanese do it so much better than the Chinese. Food, bars, drinks, food… did i say FOOD. It wasn’t necessarily the flavors but the quality, especially the meat which was abysmal. Don’t even let me think about the health standards back-stage which I am sure there are absolutely zero.

It was incredibly interesting to see the historical aspects of Beijing which was an improvement over Japan which really can’t compare to Beijing in terms of cool historical buildings. Of course I know the Japanese had the disadvantage of the destruction of the city twice in recent history [Curzon: 1923 and 1945]. Tiananmen Square was insane. It was a lot larger than I had ever expected or imagined. We were lucky to also be in town while the People’s Congress was in session. There were many soldiers and police moving around the square guarding the building and lots of activity. I also didn’t expect the sheer scale of the buildings around the square either. You know you read about the goal being to make the individual feel insignificant, well they have accomplished that quite well.

The Forbidden City was also wonderful. We had the good luck of meeting an english speaking tour guide who approached when he realized we spoken english and were not part of a group. For 100 yuan for the both of us he showed us around for a good portion of the day. What made it interesting was not his tour but how freely he spoke with us once we moved away from crowds. “Thomas” (as I am guessing that is not his birth name) told us a lot of things I felt many times if someone heard this would have landed him in trouble. We talked about how there were so many problems in China with many things very un-socialist with regard to Health care social security things of that nature. It was quite interesting. It was a stark contrast with our second english tour guide for the great wall who was state controlled. He conveyed only happy news of the greatness of China.

In retrospect, I wish we would have stayed one more day in Beijing because we had too much time in Shanghai. The train ride btw, was fun and comfortable. We managed to buy the ticket which was an experience in itself as 10 chinese people literally stood 2 inches from our backs in order to be next in line for a ticket or maybe just to try and rob us. Shanghai was spectacular in terms of its architecture. The only problem for me was that after you get over the pretty buildings it didn’t seem as there were as many interesting things to see in Shanghai when compared to Beijing or Tokyo. I also didn’t like chinese night life or at the very least, we did not find the right places. We went to places from word of mouth and the tour book but they were overrun with older white men and whores. The difference between the girls coming up to you in Japan and China is that in Japan they just like western men, in China they ask you if you want a massage.

All in all, China was great but I enjoyed Japan far better. I think it matches some of my personality a little better than China. China did have great historical and modern locations which were interesting and worth the visit.

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Tale of a bunker agent Sun, 01 Apr 2007 12:16:26 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Since the new year many of you may have noticed a dearth of posting on my part. As those who follow CA closely know, I had moved to Japan to work at a firm that deals in the delivery of fuel oils. This has kept me extremely busy as I learned the ins and outs of the domestic fuel trade. Now that I am proficient in my work I have moved to a part-time schedule so that I may continue grinding away at my elusive master’s thesis which deals with the intersection of Japanese defense policy and energy security, particularly the importation of crude oil.

Today I would like to elaborate on what exactly I have been doing here on the docks of Japan. What follows is a relatively detailed (and dry) account of my experience as a bunker agent which will give you an idea of how crude oil makes it to your gas tank, and what keeps international shipping running.

First, the nitty gritty. My firm deals in fuel of the following types: fuel oil (FO), diesel oil (DO), gas oil (GO), regular gasoline (RG) and kerosene. We have three types of customers (factories, fuel distribution centers and international ships) and two types of jobs (ship-to-land and ship-to-ship) but first, let me outline the basic framework of the oil industry in Japan.

Unrefined crude arrives in Japan from the Middle East or Indonesia. The crude is refined into a variety of fuels at “31 refineries”: located around Japan. The refined fuel is then shipped by coastal tanker ships all over the country to storage facilities and distribution points. From there the fuel is transferred to tanker trucks that haul the product to local gas stations etc.

Three refineries (Cosmo, Showa Shell and Idemitsu) are located in the Ise Bay area, to the north of which lies Nagoya. The Nagoya area is highly industrialized with various heavy industries such as “steel”: and “car”: production. The “Port of Nagoya”: is ringed by numerous factories with piers and wharfs jutting out into the bay. There are generally two types of factories: the regional fuel distribution centers that I mentioned above, and factories that actually produce something. Production factories need fuel to power generators which drive the assembly lines. The piers are built to accommodate tanker ships. The pier will have a series of lines running from the massive fuel tanks inside the factory to valves that a docked tankers can easily connect to with a 6″ rubber hose.

Tanker barges carrying fuel from refineries both within Ise Bay and from far off ports will dock at the piers of these factories and proceed to pump hundreds and thousands of kiloliters of fuel in just a few hours. For example, a 3000kl tanker barge (which is pretty big) might take about four hours (at 800kl/hr pumping rate) to unload its cargo. If that is C fuel oil, which goes for about 50 yen a liter (discounting taxes), then we are talking about 150,000,000 yen or about 1.28 million dollars. Remember, C fuel oil is the cheapest sludge money can buy.

So, we are talking about a lot of cash here, nevermind the safety precautions that need to be taken and the mountain of paperwork that needs to be filled out for moving that type of cargo from one place to another. That is where I come in. I am the interface between the tanker barge and the receiving installation. The shipping company — the company that owns the barge — hires me to make sure that the delivery of the fuel goes smoothly. I am responsible for ensuring that safety measures are observed by all parties, and the filling out of all documents related to the delivery of the cargo. I will do everything from catching the lines to measuring and calculating the exact amount of fuel in the barge to bringing the seamen a copy of the local paper. This is an example of the ship-to-land type of job, dealing with factories or fuel distribution centers. The second type of job, ship-to-ship, is much more complicated.

Ise Bay is a fairly major shipping port for Japan. Every day countless cargo ships, car carriers, container ships and the like arrive in the ports of Ise Bay to load and unload cargo. Examples of such cargo include coal and coke, aluminum coils, farm equipment, “scrap”:, sand, timber, new and used cars, dried corn, bananas, ribar and crude oil. As ships are loading or unloading their cargo they usually require refueling. This involves their charterer calling a fuel consignment firm and ordering a certain amount of a specific type of fuel. The consignment firm then contacts the fuel shipping company which in turn contacts the refinery to see if the fuel is available. If it is available, the shipping company then lines up a tanker barge (which are sometimes owned by the individual operators, or other small companies) which will go to the refinery, load up, and then head to the ship that needs refueling. Lastly, the shipping company needs someone to oversee the delivery of the fuel, and that is where I step in.

“Bunkering” is the act of refueling a ship. The word comes from the old coal bunkers that used to keep coal dry on the ships of yore. A bunker agent boards the ship and acts as the director of the refueling process, giving orders to both the ship’s and the barge’s crew. For example, if the ship were docked, I would board via the gangway and make my way to the control room which is in the “engine room”: I would find the Chief Engineer and have a quick meeting with him. The meeting consists of confirming the amount of fuel ordered, and determining the size of the fuel tanks on the ship to make sure that there is enough capacity ensuring no overflow will occur. I then make my way to the bunker station (where the fuel manifold for the ship is) and direct the deck crew and catching the lines of the tanker barge which comes alongside the ship. Once the barge is alongside, the ship’s crew will lower a Jacob’s ladder that the barge crew can climb to board. The barge crew will climb up the ladder while the captain of the barge will use a crane to raise the barge’s hose up to the level of bunker station. The barge’s crew will grab the hose and attach it to the main ship’s manifold in preparation of pumping. (See “this Flash animation”: for an illustration)

As you can imagine, some of the ships that come into port are pretty big, “much bigger”: than the tanker barges. “Here you can see”: a picture I took from the deck of a barge. In the center of the photo is the hose that snakes up to the bunker station of the ship, which happened to be shipping iron ore from Australia to a steel mill south of Nagoya. The longest ladder I have had to climb so far is about 60 feet. That isn’t that high up on land, but remember that you are on a rope ladder swaying in the wind and have the ocean or the hard deck of a tanker barge below you to fall on.

While the hose is being connected I will take the 3rd engineer down the ladder to the barge and measure the amount of fuel the ship brought to make sure that it fits the order. You can imagine being the engineer of a ship going into an unknown port in a strange country and having to depend on strangers that speak a language you don’t understand to properly fuel your ship so that you can make it to your next port and not get stuck at sea. Needless to say, there is a lot of mistrust between the ship and the the barge and it is my job to make sure everything is smooth. Once the 3rd and I confirm that the barge has the fuel required we commence pumping. At this point I make sure that the flow is okay and that there is no spillage. Then I proceed back to the control room where I type up the receipt and prepare the customs documents for the chief to sign once everything is finished. After the last bit of fuel is pumped I send the 3rd down for a “dry check”, to ensure that the barge pumped all the fuel it brought and isn’t trying to sneak away with some. This also covers my ass when the ship claims that all the fuel never made it to their tanks, when in fact they had opened the valve to a different tank to see if they can get more fuel out of me for free. Like I said before, there is a lot of mistrust between the ships and the the barges. Once I get the okay the barge can separate and I head down to the control room to get all my documents signed and stamped. That is the rundown of the ship-to-ship job. Sometimes the main ship is docked, and sometimes it is anchored at sea, which makes boarding all the more fun because it means I have to ride the tanker barge for an hour and a half out to the anchorage and be the first one up the rope ladder.

On average my small company (8 employees, four going out on ships) will have 3 or 4 ship-to-ship jobs and 3 or 4 ship-to-land jobs. That’s about $4M of fuel a day, which is a big responsibility — not to mention the massive damages if there ever was a spill. I have boarded about 140 different ships over the past three months. Mostly the crews are Filipino or Indian, but often officers are from Greece or Eastern Europe. It helps that I am a native English speaker with decent Japanese. The chief engineers all feel a lot better since they can communicate with me and with the barge captains through me. I am probably the only non-Japanese bunker agent working in Japan right now. What an honour. (;_;)

Well, if you made it this far in this long post I congratulate you, and will surely answer any questions you may have. Thanks for reading!

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The Other Fascist Candidate for Governor of Tokyo Mon, 26 Mar 2007 16:32:09 +0000 Continue reading ]]> CA readers who also follow comrade blog may have noticed that it has been down for a few days — they are currently facing difficulties with stunningly crappy host service

In the meantime, Adamu of MF forwarded me this video, with this commentary: “Check out this video of the anarcho-fascist candidate for Tokyo governor’s officially-sanctioned policy speech. Gentlemen, meet Koichi Toyama.”

I’ve translated the first few lines so you can get an idea. Perhaps some of you Japanese speakers would like to provide a complete translation in the comments section?

I am Toyama Koichi.
This country is the worst.
What kind of reform is political reform? I have no interest in such things.

Number of views on Youtube: 299,595. Hillary 1984, step aside!

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The Imperial Household Council of Japan Tue, 27 Feb 2007 06:10:24 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Japan has been an effective Constitutional Monarchy since 1947, but it remains the only country in the world with an Emperor. The Parliament and the Cabinet control politics, but the Emperor performs select actions at the invitation of the Cabinet.

The Council and other laws regarding the Emperor are governed by The Imperial Household Law, which came into effect the same day as Japan’s modern Constitution in 1947. The affairs of the Imperial Palace are run by the Imperial Household Council (çš”¡Ã¥Â®Â¤Ã¤Â¼Å¡Ã¨Â­Â°Ã¯Â¼”°, composed of ten members defined by law:
* Two members of the Imperial Family
* Chairman of the Lower House
* Vice Chairman of the Lower House
* Chairman of the Upper House
* Vice Chairman of the Upper House
* The Prime Minister
* The Head of the Imperial Household Agency
* The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
* A Judge of the Supreme Court

This council is the controlling body of the affairs of the Emperor and the Imperial Family, not subject to any outside review or appeal. It’s powers are broad: for example, the council _chooses_ the spouse of the Emperor and the Crown Prince (or at least approves the Emperor or Crown Prince’s choice). It’s the last vestige of imperial government in Japan, and one that shows no signs of changing anytime in the near future.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Anyone have information on how the affairs of the British royal family are managed and governed?

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Pot? Kettle? Black? Slavery and Comfort Women Mon, 26 Feb 2007 09:16:31 +0000 Continue reading ]]> The US House of Representatives, now under the control of the Democrats, has wasted no time since taking control two months ago to address the most important crisis in America: passing a resolution criticizing Japan for not apologizing for the wartime Imperial government’s alleged involvement with “Comfort Women” (overview here, insight here).

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso, known on this side of the Pacific for his brashness, has been unusually calm and measured in his response, probably because he’s dealing with America and not an Asian neighbor:

[Aso called the] draft resolution on World War II comfort women before U.S. Congress “extremely regrettable”Â? and “not based on objective facts.”Â? The resolution, calling for an apology from the Japanese government for drafting thousands of women across Asia into sexual slavery, was submitted to Congress in late January. He made it clear that Tokyo will seek to prevent passage of the resolution, which he said does “not reflect views of the Japanese government.”Â? He said Tokyo will try to make Congress understand its position even though the resolution is not legally binding.

Exactly what business other countries have sticking their beaks in how other country’s treat history is beyond us here at CA, and it’s been addressed previously here. To go a step further, I personally think it’s batshit crazy for another country to criticize another country’s history for no other apparent reason than to 1.) appeal to domestic interest groups, and 2.) pat themselves on the back for being so self-righteous, especially when, such as in this case, the result will be nothing other than piss off Washington’s only remaining major geopolitical ally, and reward a country (ROK) whose people loathe America.

Of course, in this vein it’s worth noting that Virginia just become the first state to pass a resolution expressing “sorrow and regret” for slavery. No mention has been made of reparations, and of course, Congress has yet to lift a finger on this regard. Yet if we follow the logic of the current resolution, foreign countries should be passing resolutions to demand the US apologize for slavery. If the geopolitical argument noted above doesn’t win out over these blockhead Congressman, perhaps this will.

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Mt. Fuji in February Wed, 21 Feb 2007 22:16:43 +0000 From a recent weekend trip to two areas near Mt. Fuji (Hayama/Zushi, and Hakone, for those of you who know the area)

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Japan’s Diplomatic Strategy Against China Sun, 04 Feb 2007 15:36:16 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Interesting article in the Epoch Times about the stategy of both China and Japan in defrosting bilateral relations:

Recently the CCP has strongly attempted to win over Japan. This move is seen by many as a CCP attempt to protect its crumbling dictatorship in China.

That’s a tough opening line, and I wonder what a lot of China hands would think of that.

When Koizumi was the Japanese prime minister, Chinese-Japanese relations were very tense, although the CCP did take a very arrogant attitude; it was actually bad for Hu’s leadership position inside the regime. Since the change of leadership in Japan, Hu has tried to construct a better relationship with Abe, to build up his political influence in the regime.

In recent years, the CCP has tried to strengthen diplomatic ties with other powerful countries. Japan is perceived as a strong economic, military and technological power. In recent years, Japan’s international political strength has been growing as well. So to the CCP, it is very important to handle the relationship with Japan well. Since Japan is very good at financial and trading matters, Sino-Japanese economic and trade relations would greatly benefit the CCP in further technical and economic development.

Moving on to the US angle:

There are also U.S.-Japan security issues to consider. In Asia, the U.S.-Japan alliance is a force which helps stabilize regional tensions. The United States is the leader and initiator of this relationship. Japan was seen as the follower. However, Japan is slowly coming about and becoming an equal partner with the United States. The United States itself also wants to enhance Japan’s position. With Japan upgrading its status, the U.S.-Japan security relationship will further increase international pressure on the CCP.

Communist China, for its part, has been attempting to weaken U.S.-Japan security in the region. Its ideal first target is Japan and its acquaintances. It could use political pressure to undermine, and diplomatic ways to weaken, the US-Japan alliance. However, for the present, the CCP mainly targets Japan’s Prime Minister Abe using soft tactics instead of hard tactics.

We must therefore realize that any diplomatic relationship only serves the purpose of benefiting domestic affairs. The CCP has tried hard to curry favor with Japan. It must be kept in mind that on top of its own need to balance political pressure among different countries, its ultimate goal is to preserve its crumbling dictatorship.

The former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi maintained a tense relationship with China when he was in power. Koizumi had a tough attitude toward China. The current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also has a tough political standpoint. A few years ago, North Korea launched a few missiles. Abe, being a Chief Cabinet Secretary at the time, released a strong public speech before consulting Koizumi. This incident increased Abe’s prestige in Japan.

The article concludes that Abe is playing tough guy and nice guy at the same time — and these two approaches cover and help each other.

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Making up for lost time? Sat, 27 Jan 2007 18:53:57 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Abe “took the first steps”: towards the “normalization” of Japanese foreign policy last week with the introduction of his constitutional revision plan at the opening of the spring parliamentary session. Said Abe, “Now is the time for us to boldly revise this postwar regime and make a new start.” It’s about time, I say. But some are of a more extreme opinion and want to _rewrite_ history. Satoru Mizushima has “recently announced”: the production of a film denying the “Nanjing Massacre”: The film, which will “correct the errors of history”, is to be released this August. Talk about a quick start!

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A strange encounter… Thu, 18 Jan 2007 12:57:47 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Tonight I was stopped on the street by a Japanese policeman for questioning. He came up to me and asked me how long I had been in the Nagoya Port area (I was picking up a _bento_ and heading back to my office, which is in the Port area) and what I was doing in Japan. I told him I have only been here for a few weeks and that I work in the area. I asked him if I had done anything wrong. He told me that there had been a mugging in the Port area this evening and they attacker was described as being a foreigner with blue eyes. I pointed at my eyes and said “I don’t have blue eyes.” He replied that the body type was similar and asked me my height. I told him my office was around the corner and I could easily provide an alibi for every minute of the day. He said that wasn’t necessary. I told him to hold on a minute and called Lady YH to double-check what my rights are. I am a supporter of police have no problem helping them catch a a criminal. On the otherhand, the Japanese police and foreigners haven’t mixed well in the past, and I do want to know my rights. Unfortunately my mobile battery died before the Lady could give me any guidance. The policeman looked terribly uncomfortable and told me that I didn’t have to answer any questions at all if I didn’t want to. I told him I have no problem answering certain questions but there was a line (even though I wasn’t sure exactly where that line was at this point). I answered a few more questions and then Lady YH came running up (the office is literally 1 minute away). She talked to him while I paid for my _bento_. When I came back out of the store the Lady said everything was okay and we could go. I called out to the officer and asked him for his card (common sense in Canada, but he seemed surprised so maybe it isn’t common in Japan). Lady YH asked if our information was going to be put “in the system.” He said “No.” I asked him if he was going to write a report, to which he replied “Yes.” And what happens to that report? He explained that it would be passed up to the detectives working the case. Umm… isn’t that considered being “in the system”? Good thing this guy is not leading the investigation.

Anyways, that is my first experience be questioned by police for armed assault inside or outside of Japan. I was caught off guard and have never really thought about how to handle such a situation. Do you think I was paranoid? What did I do wrong? What could I have done better? One thing I do regret is not asking if anyone was hurt during the robbery. Please relate any similar experience in the comments.

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All aboard! Tue, 16 Jan 2007 23:30:28 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Via Adamu comes this attrocious political ad from the opposition Democrats of Japan.

For context, the party chief is steering the wheel; two influential -henchmen- predecessors are working the ship; the final words that come up are “Life Restoration” (a play on the “Meiji Restoration”).

And people wonder why Japan doesn’t have a two-party system.

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Sea of Peace? Mon, 08 Jan 2007 13:39:34 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Via Marmot:

In his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo during the APEC summit in Hanoi on Nov. 18, President Roh Moo-hyun proposed that the East Sea (otherwise known as the Sea of Japan) be called instead the “Sea of Peace.”Â?…

According to the source, the Japanese were caught off guard by the suggestion and avoided an immediate reply, saying only that they needed time to think about it.

The comments are worth reading for a good chuckle. Perhaps Japan was asking for it with SDF recruitment videos such as this:

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Christmas Eve at Nittaiji Sun, 24 Dec 2006 11:07:25 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Nittaiji pagodaIn 1904, as a sign of good relations between Thailand and Japan, King Chulalongkorn the Great (Rama V) of Thailand, honoured Japan with a gift: one of the bones of the Buddha. Japan built a temple to house the bone. Today Lady Younghusband and I visited the temple of Nittaiji. Japan has countless temples and shrines, many of them have strange backgrounds. Nittaiji (日泰寺 ”Japan” “Thailand” “Temple”) is located in the east of Nagoya, in central Japan. It is a very new temple by Japanese standards, and is unique in that it is non-denominational. Thailand is mainly Theravada while Japan is Mahayana, never mind the numerous sects within Japan. Nittaiji is non-denominational so that all Buddhists may enjoy the sacred artefact.

Well, that is what I did for my Christmas Eve… how about you?

More of Nittaiji can be seen “on Flickr”: Also, I have decided to start moblogging my next year in Japan with my new 3.2mp cameraphone. You can “see”: “some”: “daily life”: pics from here in Nagoya. Stay tuned! And finally: Happy Holidays!

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Stealing steel Fri, 08 Dec 2006 16:49:01 +0000 Continue reading ]]> From the Economist’s weekly newsletter on Tokyo:

Tokyo’s street furniture is falling prey to thieves. Mountains of pavement gratings, storm-drain covers and electrical cables are being moved from the capital along the bay to Yokohama, where ships are said to arrive from China to carry it away.

Yokohama police believe the crime spree is related to preparations for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which have sent the prices of metals and alloys used in construction soaring. Chinese companies have learned how to convert waste alloys into stainless steel, creating an unforeseen demand for scrap. Japan’s metal street furniture is barely secured, owing to the country’s low levels of crime, so much of it has gone missing, particularly metal doors and aluminium fencing. Scrap dealers in Tokyo suspect stealing is at an all-time high because it is not the industry practice to ask questions over provenance. There are no authorities charged with monitoring the scrap trade.

Japan is a very safe country, and as such has been caught off-guard by various unseemly elements as globalization changes the world. The past decade has seen the country experience, and respond to, overseas crime syndicates, foreigners flouting the train ticket system, local business operations funding North Korean, and illegal drug-smuggling. Success in tackling these threats has been mixed. How will Japan stop the scrap metal thieves?

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The nationalist arms race in NE Asia Tue, 21 Nov 2006 20:04:50 +0000 Continue reading ]]> “The Power and Interest News Report”: — a new to me site that provides geopolitical analysis from an IR realist point of view, “leaving the moral judgments to the reader” — “offers an analysis”: on Japan’s leadership and regional relations:

bq. Nationalism has been rising in all three countries [Japan, China, Korea], and reversing this trend will require political capital from each country’s leadership. Business interests can be counted on to support further political integration in the region, but each country has powerful domestic constituencies eager to spoil this trend. In Japan, Abe will need to demonstrate tangible results before the 2007 elections if he hopes to hold on to the prime minister post. If he is unable to produce results before then, he may return to the Yasukuni Shrine in the lead up to the elections in order to shore up support from nationalist groups. This would have negative results for Japan’s relations with China and South Korea, and all three countries will be eager to avoid such an incident.

As far as foreign policy is concerned, this could be the nearest milestone to mark the future path of the Abe premiership. Thus, in order to not rock the boat, Abe will have to postpone constitutional reform (particularly the thorny issue of A9) until after the 2007 elections. But even then it seems to me that this is a one-way path leading to Yasukuni. The primary conundrum of Japan’s foreign policy lies in the acheiving of it’s own security (in the absence of a security guarator. ie. the US) within a regional paradigm in an unfriendly neighbourhood. This is a sort of face-off between realist self-interest and idealist internationalism.

PINR says that Tokyo will try “to calm Beijing’s concerns as Japan moves to bolster its defense capabilities.” Sure they will, but this isn’t a solution. Japan will only get so far until that invisble line is crossed (that line being drawn by the boundless nationalism on the Asian mainland). Barnett’s Asian NATO is a dream solution, in that it would fix the problem perfectly but only in a dream world. I argue that the best way to prevent outright regional war is for the US to maintain it’s Leviathanic presence until the foreign policies of both China and Korea mature enough to allow a more constructive debate over the security of individual countries in the region. It is either that or Japan is forced to balance the mainland by itself, abandoning its internationalism and increasing its national power (ie. by reforming/expanding its military). Being as pessimistic as I am, I think this route has only one destination. So while Abe is making nice with China he better be making nice with the US, which means getting more of his citizens supporting the US presence in Japan and NE Asia. Japan’s foreign policy really does start at home.

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