"Japonesia Review" is a progressive English-language journal launched in 2006 in Tokyo and published twice a year to convey to the rest of the world alternative voices from the Japanese archipelago.
"Japonesia Review" No. 2 features topics that characterize the beginning of 2007, among others, the ominous implications of the emergence of a far-right government led by Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. Under this administration, Japan is taking a dangerous warlike path that may harm the interests of its own people as well as other peoples.
In the three months following Abe’s assumption of power, Japan’s militarization has progressed at an unexpectedly rapid pace, a buildup largely rationalized by the North Korea nuclear crisis and implementation under the new military arrangement with the United States made during the Koizumi period. This thrust is linked with violent neo-liberal globalization processes that generate serious social injustices. Gender and labor are two of the major areas where open reactionary attacks are rampant.
"Japonesia Review" No. 2, carries in-depth critical analyses of these trends and people’s activism resisting U.S. military base reorganization, the women’s movement against the emperor system and activities for peace and gender justice through vitalization of historical memories. >>>Read more and start your subscription
Japan's Willing Military Annexation by the United States — "Alliance for the Future" and Grassroots Resistance
by Muto Ichiyo
It is hard to believe that it happened but it did. In an 18-month working process begun in February 2005 and completed in June 2006, Japan willingly surrendered command over its military forces to the United States, committing itself unconditionally to the American empire's global strategic imperatives. It is surprising that the Japanese government made this commitment at a time when the U.S. war chariot was sinking into the bog of a "long war" it had unleashed.
If military command is the most essential element of national sovereignty, one could argue that Japan having made its military an integral part of a foreign power can no longer be considered a sovereign state. Has then Japan become a new U.S. colony? Certainly not. Nor is it ruled by the U.S. occupation as it was in the 1940s. What then is taking place? >>>read more
“Revise the Peace Constitution, Restore Glory to Empire!”–Ultra-right Takes Initiative in Changing the Postwar State
by Muto Ichiyo
The Japanese state-remaking project with the reinstatement of the Japanese empire as a major pillar faces a crisis as it is causing serious deterioration of Japan’s relations with its Asian neighbors. As regards China, the problem drastically came into the open as “anti-Japan” demonstrations exploded and spread throughout China in April. The demonstrators were protesting against recent Japanese government actions justifying and glorifying what the Japanese Empire had done to neighboring Asian peoples. About simultaneously, the South Korean government also came out with renewed criticism of the current Japanese political stance in its new Japan policy guidelines. President Roh Moohyun, referring to recent Japanese government actions, said that it was a great tragedy for the whole world to have to live with those who glorify their past – one of aggression and victimization. He rightly pointed out that although Japan had apologized more than once, it recently began to nullify its apologies. (Frankfurter Algemeine, interview, April 9) Given the worst imaginable relations with North Korea and absence of any warmth in Russo-Japanese relations, Japan now risks total isolation from all its neighbors. >>>read more
Bashing Gender Equality: Establishing a System that Skews the Population on All Sides
by TAKENOBU Mieko
Demeaning counter-movements that “bashes” gender equality are spreading quietly but rapidly in Japan. Certain media publish demagogues which undermine gender equality movements. Legislators in both national and municipal assemblies employ such demagogues as leverage to attack gender equality movements. Some municipalities have even appointed known anti-gender-equality speakers to give talks at local “gender equality” teach-ins. Boards of education here and there, typically the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education, squeeze out sex education from the sphere of public education. To top it off, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) suggests that a “review” be opened on Article 24 of the Japanese Constitution, the clause that upholds gender equality within households [by stating that marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife]. All of these bashing movements are aiming towards a set of new standards of national integration which will divert public anxieties arising as a result of [the destructive impact of neo-liberal] globalization. I would call this “a new system that skews the population on all sides to adapt to globalization”. This article will report the reality of ongoing attacks on gender equality in Japan, and investigate the underlying aims of the system. >>>read more
The Okinawan Anti-base Movement Regains Momentum
–New U.S. Base Project Off Henoko Beach Met with Effective Non-Violent Resistance on the Sea
by YUI Akiko
After several years of doldrums, the anti-base movement in Okinawa regained its momentum in mid-2004, winning the hearts and minds of many Okinawa people and proving its great power of resilience. In Okinawa island, dominated by an extremely heavy presence of U.S. bases, the anti-base struggle now competently wrestles with the Japanese and U.S. governments (and also the Okinawa Prefectural government) on base issues. The struggle tackles four major issues. The first is about the Futenma Air Station of U.S. Marine Corps, which is located in the midst of Ginowan City in the central part of Okinawa Island. There, citizens’ long-voiced demand for removal of the base has intensified since a U.S. military helicopter belonging to that base crashed on a local university campus in August 2004. This incident not only aroused fierce protests by citizens but also exposed a series of grave issues embedded in the regime of U.S. military domination.
The second and the hottest issue is the confrontation over the construction of a new U.S. base off Henoko beach in Nago city in the northern part of Okinawa. People have launched vigils, a sit-down strike, and non-violent actions against the Japanese government’s attempt to carry out drilling surveys at the bottom of the sea as an initial step to build the new offshore air base. As more and more people have come to support the immediate return of Futenma Airbase after the helicopter crash, the Naha Defense Facilities Administration Bureau (NDFAB), the local arm of the central government, made up its mind to accelerate the construction of the new Henoko base. The logic was that the Futenma base could be closed only in exchange for the new base. Since April 19 when local residents and supporters frustrated the NDFAB’s first attempt to start drilling operation, the number of people who came to the sit-in tent and joined the protest has increased, bringing the battle to a stalemate.
The third issue is the surfacing of the U.S. plan to use a civil airline airport in Shimoji Island belonging to the Miyako Islands, located way south of Okinawa main island. The governments and citizens of the six cities and all towns in the Miyako region have organized to prevent the U.S. military from using the civil airport as a relay point for its operations to the south.
The fourth issue entails the construction of a new training facility for urban warfare inside the U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Hansen, which sits next to Camp Schwab. Residents of the nearby Igei Ward in Kin Town adjacent to the camp launched protest sit-down in front of the gate to Camp Hansen. The sit-down demonstration held every morning except Saturdays and Sundays has been continued for seven months. Now the circle of people who support their protest is beginning to grow.
Of all these interlinked actions having developed since the middle of 2004, the most intense and serious is being taken in Henoko where people confront the NDFAB forces by courageous nonviolent direct action. >>>read more
Upper House Elections Mark the Beginning of the End of the Koizumi Era
–A Major Confrontation is Impending over the Peace Constitution
by MUTO Ichiyo
The three-year reign of Japan’s rightwing populist Prime Minister was dealt a heavy blow as Japanese voters expressed clear non-confidence in him and his party in the House of Councilors (Upper House) elections on July 11, 2004. The major opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) won 38% of the votes cast in the proportional representation (PR) ballot while the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) obtained only 30%.
All observers have long agreed that the LDP is in long-term decline and that it has only been thanks to Koizumi’s extraordinary popularity (70% or more in his first year) that the LDP was able to stay in power. Now his magical aura that once won the hearts (if not the minds) of the people has faded, and for the first time in three years, those against his cabinet outnumber those for it. Various polls put support for him in the range of 35% or so while opposition stands at around 45%. Even the 30% support that the LDP enjoyed in the elections was only made possible with the help obtained from the LDP’s coalition partner, the Komei Party, which, fielding candidates only in certain strategic districts, mobilized its members to support LDP candidates in other districts. But it was the ruling coalition as a whole who failed to win a majority, garnering 25 million votes compared to the 29 million won by the four opposition parties in the PR ballot. The gap was greater in the district electorates: 22 million to 29 million.
The three crucial election issues were: the new pensions program which the Koizumi administration had forced on the Diet (the Japanese parliament) immediately before the election, Japan’s military participation in the U.S.-led multinational forces in Iraq, and Koizumi’s go-it-alone style. >>>read more
Okinawa Disagrees — A historic Turning Point in the Struggle for Peace and Dignity
by YUI Akiko
Okinawa in 2006 faces a crucial ordeal that calls for a new struggle as Japan has made a new commitment to the global U.S. strategy meting out a yet more cruel fate to Okinawans. This commitment goes not only against Japan’s Peace Constitution but even against the existing U.S.-Japan Security Treaty that geographically delimits the scope of U.S. -Japan military cooperation.
In a U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee meeting that took place in Washington DC on May 1, 2006, four high-ranking Japanese and U.S. diplomatic and military leaders—Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs ASO Taro, Japanese Minister of State for Defense NUKAGA Fukushiro, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, dubbed two-plus-two —agreed on measures realigning U.S. forces in Japan and the Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF). This was to put into force recommendations contained in a protocol earlier signed by the two-plus-two on October 29, 2005, titled, “U.S.-Japan Alliance: Transformation and Realignment for the Future.” The Japanese Cabinet on May 30 2006 adopted a decision to implement “in a prompt and appropriate manner” what Japan had agreed on with the U.S.
The treatment of Okinawa in this series of arrangements is reminiscent of the historical incident called the Ryukyu annexation (Ryukyu Shobun) in which the Meiji government abolished the Ryukyu Kingdom and annexed it as a prefecture of Japan. It also reminds Okinawan citizens of the fact that toward the end of World War II, Japan sacrificed Okinawa in order to protect mainland Japan from U.S. military attacks. Today we, many Okinawan people, are deeply aware that we are at a critical turning point of our history. Late SHIMAO Toshio, a novelist, stated that when the Ryukyu archipelago was disturbed, it was an indication that a major transition was occurring in Japan’s history. We are now witnessing such a moment. It is time for all Japanese people to reexamine and confront the Japan-U.S. Security system. >>>read more
"Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace" –Creating a Space for Hub of Activism for Peace and Gender Justice
Interview with Ms. Nishino Rumiko: Co-representative of the Violence Against Women in War Network-Japan (VAWW-NET Japan)
Muto: The Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery held in December 2000 was of great significance for post-war Japan. In many ways, we were entering a new period of the post-war era during this time. The trend towards legitimatising pre-war nationalism and glorifying the Japanese military became obvious especially after the tribunal. The tribunal was an epoch making event, shedding new light on the Japanese Empire by piercing through it not only with general war crimes but also with gender justice from a women’s standpoint.
In 1991, for the first time in history, Ms. Kim Hak-Sun revealed herself as a former “comfort woman.” Since then, many people from various countries have begun conducting research on the issue. Matsui Yayori and others proposed the idea of the tribunal and gathered power from Korea, the Philippines, and elsewhere. How would you evaluate the tribunal right now?
Nishino: The purpose of the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery was as follows: to make clear what kind of crime the “comfort women” system [hereafter referred to as Japan’s military sexual slavery system] was and who will bare responsibility for it; to hold the Japanese government legally liable for the war, including reparations; to end the cycle of impunity for wartime sexual violence against women; to contribute to the advancement of women’s human rights around the world by preventing such violence.
At the tribunal, we made a decision to accuse high-ranking officers of the military as individuals for their criminal liability because we thought it was important to clarify the criminal responsibility of those who were in charge of the military sexual slavery system. At that point, about 40 people headed by the Showa Emperor Hirohito and Tojo Hideki, the wartime prime minister, were prosecuted. Then we also emphasized the state responsibility of Japan for its crimes committed during the war, as well as for its postwar dealing of the crimes. Moreover, we brought charges against the governments of former Allies as well. The final judgment of this tribunal stated that former Allies were also responsible for the current problems leftover in the aftermath of the Tokyo Tribunal of War Criminals, in which the Allies found exempt the Showa Emperor of his responsibility for the military sexual slavery system, and failed to impeach the system as a war crime, despite its recognition of the existence of “comfort stations” in the process.
The Final Judgment issued in The Hague was massive in volume, consisting of 1,094 paragraphs (265 pages in English). Ten defendants, including the Showa Emperor, were found guilty, and the Japanese government was found liable for compensation for its unlawful acts both during and after the war. The criminal liability of the perpetrators in the military sexual slavery system was recognized and the state responsibility of the Japanese government was clarified. In addition, the Judgment presented a universal precedent for the world to follow. That is, the idea that wartime violence against women is a crime and that exempting anybody who commits this crime from penalty is unacceptable. It was significant that the court decided that the actions of the Wartime Japanese Military were war crimes even without retrospective application of the current international law. Precisely because this decision had such a significant implication, however, the mass media and the authorities in Japan ignored the tribunal and avoided dealing with it. >>>read more
Organizing Japan's Urban-Industrial Underclass –Homeless and Day Laborers Forge a New Anti-globalization Alliance
In modern Japan, the urban-industrial underclass has always been at the mercy of state labor policies and market fluctuations, finding work when and where it benefits big industry, barely surviving the rest of the time. The lowest rung on this shaky social ladder is occupied by two groups. The first are day laborers, who alternate between the flophouses of impoverished working-class quarters (yoseba) and isolated construction sites, complete with temporary dormitories (hanba). The second are homeless workers, who live from hand to mouth, taking odd jobs during the day when they can and bedding down on the street at night.
Day laborers constitute a pool of surplus labor that can be freely exploited and then dismissed by employers as the need arises. Gangsters (yakuza), acting as labor brokers, hire these workers by the day, dispatching them to the most dangerous and demanding construction sites, where they remain for periods ranging from one or two days to several weeks or even months, receiving the same day-rated wage. When these workers are past their prime and no longer able to perform under such onerous conditions, they are discarded unceremoniously. The social safety net does not adequately cover unemployed day laborers; with no steady source of income, they end up living in the street, where many die lonely, miserable deaths. >>>read more
Rightist history Textbook Emerges as the Focus of Political Struggle Over Japan's Future Course
by NARUSAWA Muneo
It is no exaggeration to say that Japan's future path largely depends on how many public schools are going to adopt a particular history textbook this summer. This peculiar situation is due the major struggle over the future course of Japan currently being fought in the arena of education. While the official screening and adoption of public junior high school textbooks, held every four years, takes place this year, the rightist forces are fully mobilizing their energies into ensuring that The New History Textbook, a controversial textbook their writers have penned, will be adopted by a significant number of public junior high schools throughout the country. This textbook passed the Ministry of Education screening in April this year, and in August it is local boards of education that are to select one out of several textbooks on the shopping list for use at public junior highs in their respective jurisdictions. Four years ago, the rightists' similar drive ended in miserable failure as only 0.039% of public junior high schools adopted it and they are determined to make a successful turnaround this year, taking advantage of the prevailing political climate which is extremely favourable to them. >>>read more
The Critical Juncture of Japan's Defense Policy vis-a-vis the U.S. Strategy
by Akira KAWASAKI
Japan's defense policy is presently undergoing a comprehensive review for the first time since the attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001 and the subsequent launch of the global "war on terrorism" – meaning that this policy is now at a critical juncture.
The Council on Security and Defense Policy, which is a private advisory body to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, issued a report on October 4, 2004 recommending a fundamental transformation of Japan's military stance. The report adopted the concept of a "Multi-Functional Flexible Defense Force" to address the threats from military tension in Northeast Asia, as well as new threats such as terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and transnational organized crimes – threats that are often described as "asymmetrical." A new version of the National Defense Program Outline was adopted by the Cabinet on December 10, 2004 based on this report.
This article provides an overview of Japan's defense policy and an analysis of the ongoing military transformation. The focus is on the expansion of Japan’s interoperability with U.S. forces that has taken place since the 1990s in the context of the U.S.' post-Cold War global strategy, as well as the widening gap between the concept and the reality of Japan’s "exclusively defense-oriented policy,"which it has been officially committed to under Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. >>>read more
Toyota: A Corporate Monarch Shaping Japan in its Image
by KANEKO Fumio
Toyota Motor Corporation, Japan’s best-known multinational enterprise, is striving to develop a global strategy to take the top position in the world automobile market. Toyota became the second largest motor company in 2003, overtaking Ford, and expects to catch up with the world’s number one General Motors (GM) in 2006 in terms of car sales. The Toyota production system has penetrated into other companies and industries, promoting further efficiency and competitiveness among Japanese companies.
It is remarkable that Toyota’s leadership in Japan is not limited to the business community. Toyota wields extensive political and social influence on Japanese society as a whole in initiating and propelling neo-liberal structural reforms and globalization. Toyota Chairman OKUDA Hiroshi has a large say in national policy-making as President of the Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), the powerful big business federation whose policy recommendations to the government can scarcely be ignored. Okuda is also a member of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, which formulates the basic policies of the administration of Prime Minister Koizumi.
Here, I would like to reveal how widely Toyota’s political and social influence is implemented, and give an overview of its corporate strategies. >>>read more
Okinawa in 2004 –Peace and Environment Movements Coming Together on the Henoko U.S. Base Issue
by YUI Akiko
In Okinawa, the period from April to June is a time when people cannot avoid thinking about war and peace, and a time for renewing one’s resolve in the struggle for peace. In this three- month period are concentrated a series of anniversaries symbolizing the last 60 years of our history: the war and the postwar period. Right in the middle of this period is April 15, commemorating the day Okinawa was reverted to Japan after 27 years of U.S. military rule. Every year many events and peace actions are planned around this date.
But this year during just this period we have been forced against our will into a crucial and bitter struggle that will determine whether Okinawa will continue to serve as a foothold for American wars, or whether we can choose peace and protect the rich environment that has been the blessing of our livelihood. >>>read more
Why are the Japanese Self-Defence Forces in Iraq?
by Douglas Lummis
Ignoring strong public protests, ignoring majority public opinion, ignoring the nation's Constitution, the Japanese government has dispatched Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to Iraq, the first time since World War II that armed Japanese troops have been sent into a war zone. This is an event that is likely to have profound reverberations in Japan, in Asia, and throughout the world.
Japan's Constitution, popularly called the Peace Constitution, has a clause renouncing war, threat of war, and preparation for war. Enacted in 1946, the Constitution was hated from the beginning by the right wing, but has been immensely popular among ordinary people, who had seen enough of war. Very soon after it was enacted the conservative government began trying to figure out how to change it, in particular the war-renouncing Article 9. Unable to build public support for an amendment (which requires approval by 2/3 of both houses of the Diet and by a majority of votes cast in a national referendum) the government began a process that came to be called "amendment by interpretation." This despite the fact that Article 9 is not written in such a way as to lend itself to more than one interpretation. It reads:
Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of thenation and the threat or use of force as means of settling internationaldisputes.
In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized. >>>read more
An Appeal for the Peoples’ Tribunal on the Dropping of Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
by Yuki Tanaka
Give me back my husband
Give me back my children
Give me back my youth that was burnt and destroyed
Throw all the A-bombs possessed by America and Russia right to the bottom of the sea
This is excerpted from the poem that Sadako Kurihara, an A-bomb survivor from Hiroshima, wrote in 1952. Shortly after, an intense competition in nuclear arms development began, involving, not only the U.S. and the Soviet Union, but also Britain, France and China. As a result, in 1986, the number of nuclear missiles reached its peak of more than 69,000. However, by the end of the cold war in the early 1990s, the number of nuclear warheads had rapidly decreased. Yet today it is said that there are still about 30,000 nuclear warheads on the earth. >>>read more
North Korean Abductions: Rampancy of the Right and the Silence of the Left
by OTA Masakuni
Japan is at a pivotal moment in its postwar history. The Left is in retreat, intellectually and organizationally in disarray, while the Right is vigorous and on the move.
This trend dates from 1989-91 and the collapse of the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc in Eastern Europe. The cruel demise of socialism, a symbol of Japanese idealism since World War II, shattered many convictions. Once in the forefront of political change, young people now look askance at left politics and have lost interest in social activism. Meanwhile, conservative forces are energized and triumphant.
Many reasons can be cited for this ongoing drift to the right and they must be dealt with on this website, but in this article I shall look at the shift in the context of relations between Japan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (hereafter DPRK or North Korea) as a spur to the rampancy of the Right. For several years, the Japanese government has used various “threats” from North Korea as a pretext to move the nation to the right and prepare for military actions. The alleged threats include the Kim Jong Il regime’s moves to become a nuclear power, unidentified vessels in the Japan Sea (called he Eastern Sea by both Koreas) suspected of being North Korean spy ships or drug trafficking vessels, and the abduction of Japanese citizens by DPRK agents. The public accepts official and media explanations that new security policies are designed to protect them from dangers posed by North Korea. >>>read more
The Hostage Crisis Brought the Iraq War Home–A Report from the Peace Movement in Hokkaido
by KOSHIDA Kiyokazu
It was a week of shock, anger, disappointment, and joy to us in the peace movement in Hokkaido. On April 8 2004, we learned from an Aljazeera TV report carried on Japanese TV that an Iraqi resistance group calling itself Saraya al-Mujahideen had taken three Japanese civilians hostage near Baghdad. The captors declared that the hostages would be killed unless the Japanese government announced withdrawal of Japanese troops from Iraq within 72 hours. We were shocked as the names of the hostages were revealed and their pictures shown. They were all peace activists, two of them from Hokkaido where I am based. The other was a free-lance journalist from Kyushu who had been reporting on the sufferings of the Iraqi people under the American war. Of the three, Ms. Takatoh Naoko and Mr. Imai Noriaki from Hokkaido are friends who campaigned with us against the dispatch of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to Iraq. Takatoh is an activist who had worked in Iraq for a long time helping street-children, mainly in war-ravaged Baghdad. She was on her way to Baghdad to resume her work with street children when she was abducted. Imai is an 18-year-old boy, just graduated from high school in March, and an ardent anti-depleted uranium (DU) weapons activist. He was also going to Baghdad to collect information and data on the hazards to Iraqi citizens from the U.S. military’s use of DU weapons. On learning of their abduction, we launched an intense campaign for their release and for the withdrawal of Japanese troops. >>>read more
Japan's Deteriorating Labor Market–Workers are Degraded as Dispensables
by TAKENOBU Mieko
In the past, it was said that the strength of Japanese society was its high quality workforce supported by a system of stable employment. Amidst tougher global competition within the present wave of globalisation, however, our society is now facing a problem that may be characterized as the “deterioration of employment.” During the decade from 1992 to 2002, the unemployment rate in Japan rose from 2% to 5%, and the ratio of unstable temporary employees increased from a fifth to a third. Similarly noteworthy, moreover, is the fact that temporary employment became the norm for the majority of working women last year.
Problems such as damage from job losses, overwork from the reduction in the number of employees, and hardships due to unstable employment have also led to a sharp increase in the number of suicides in Japan during these last ten years, from 17 to 25 per 100,000 (more than 30,000 suicides a year). In addition, there are now an increasingly frequent number of accidents in the workplace. >>>read more