WRM cheers on the newly found intimacy between USG and Japan. Kerry and Hagel, State and the Pentagon are both now in Japan, where they have signed… something. WRM sees this as proof that USG is putting its weight behind Japan, joining forces against China. And that’s a good thing. Say what you will about WRM, he knows what he likes, he makes it clear, and he says it all over again as many times as he can find excuses for. Pension reform, automation, fuck China, defend Israel, he’s not a single-issue guy, he-s a 5-issue guy. Which doesn’t mean he really has a clue.
I found his article quite surprising, because just yesterday I read in the Japanese press this other article about Kerry and Hagel made a flower offering at the memorial to the unnamed soldier in Chidorigafuchi. Now this is big news for several reasons. First of all no one has ever gone to Chidorigafuchi in decades. It’s a small, inconspicuous place inside the Imperial palace. It was only built in 1959, and the government has given it little attention.
And that’s because Japan already has an official place to pray for the war dead. And that’s Yasukuni shrine. Built in 1869, year of the Restoration, with the explicit purpose of being the holy shrine where those who died for the new regime, i.e. Meiji Japan are enshrined. The Japanese government today considers itself to be the continuation of the Meiji system, e.g. the count of prime ministers starts from 1890, when the Meiji constitution was sanctioned. And thus, all the dead of the many wars that Japan fought since 1868 are enshrined in Yasukuni. And yes, that includes the war dead in WW2. And that includes all of them, i.e. the bad guys too. That evil, evil Tojo guy included.
USG not being known for its imagination and acceptance of actual diversity, after Japan surrendered, a carbon copy of the Nuremberg trials was staged in Tokyo. During the Tokyo trials responsibility for the war was given in different degrees to many individuals, the worst of which were labeled A-class war criminals. Now I’m no expert on WW2, nor the Tokyo trials, and I understand that during the war some soldiers or officers were nastier than others. Still the idea of labeling a few dozen individuals as “super-extra-evil” and leave the others alone sounds quite stupid. And so thought the Japanese, who, after recovering sovereignty back in 1952, proceeded to let them all go one after the other, and one of them, Kishi Nobusuke, was even made prime minister in 1957.
Still, this amusingly Christian idea that some people are declared evil and denied salvation, while the others can go on to heaven, did catch on pretty well. I blame the naming, “A-class war criminals”, which looks quite cool in Chinese characters. Some people on the left soon started to complain about the old ritual where the emperor and high level officials of the government would pay their respects at Yasukuni once a year. That got worse when in 1978, the priests at the shrine decided that the most evil guys of them all, the A-class criminals who didn’t even die in action, but died executed by USG or in prison after the war, also died for the country, and so were to be enshrined too. Now that was a hardcore political statement, a rightist move if there ever was one. The Showa emperor, Hirohito, didn’t like it, and never visited the shrine again, nor have any of his descendants. Since then, visits to Yasukuni have become a political statement, done by prime ministers or other politicians as a way of signaling their right-wing status.
It didn’t create as much domestic controversy, which I think was the aim of the priests, as foreign controversy. When Koizuimi Junichiro started visiting Yasukuni in 2001, after 16 years (with just one exception) with no prime ministers visiting, he did it with the transparent aim of pissing off China. China during the Mao years was distinctly nonchalant about their old war rival, and it’s reported that in 1972, when the Japanese prime minister Tanaka Kakuei went to Beijing and apologized about the war, Mao laughed heartily and said that, on the contrary, the Chinese people are grateful, as without the Japanese invasion, the communists would have never won power. However, after the riots of Tiananmen, the government decided that leftist indoctrination of the youth was counterproductive in the new capitalist environment, and decided to change the fuel of asabiyyah to a nationalist myth based on the Great Victory against Japan. Since the 1990s, all history textbooks have been rewritten to focus on the great Communist Party which deserves power not because of the great profits from agricultural collectivization achieved with Mao’s leadership, but because the Communist Party defeated the evil Japanese Devils. This had the double benefit of leaving open the possibility of rapport with the Kuomintang in Taiwan. The foundation myth of the Communist Party stopped being their victory against the evil capitalists of Chiang Kai-Shek, and became a people’s romance where two friendly factions of noble Chinese fought the foreign invader, and then tragically were deceived by foreign imperialism into fighting each other.
Koizumi’s visits to the fascist shrine produced loud shrieks of condemnation from China, and South Korea. The story of Korea’s hate against Japan is also quite interesting. Obviously Korea was annexed by Japan in 1910, and they will never forgive the ignominy that represented. They will never forgive that Japan delivered them from the almost certain fate of becoming a Russian vassal. They will never forgive that Japan build them railways, dams, schools, industrialized the country and doubled the population in 30 years. They will never forgive that Japan standardized their dear alphabet, Hangul, and created a working writing system for the language for the first time. They will obviously never forgive that, because Japanese were the masters and they were second class citizens. Not de jure of course, but I’m sure the Japanese transplants in Korea weren’t always very nice to them. It sucks that you’re not the boss, even if the boss is feeding you and teaching you a job.
And human nature being what it is, people remember best the most recent events, and the late years of the Japanese Empire were quite horrible indeed. The militarist rampage that started the unwinnable total war against China and the West, spilled over into the colonies with policies of forced assimilation, abolition of local language education, name changes, and forced labor. Koreans have not only not forgiven that, they claim that every single one of them was victimized by force, and not even a single one ever voluntarily thought that maybe assimilation was a good deal.
All this understandable hate kept quiet for a long while. Many decades. First because both Japan and South Korea were American satellites in the Cold War, so they had to be friends. Second, because after the restoration of relations in 1965, South Korea was able to industrialized basically by taking Japanese money and copying Japanese industrial policy and technology. And third because, like Park Chung-Hee, most of the South Korean elite were people who had already been well off during Japanese rule, and didn’t like people to think about that time too much. All that changed after democratization in the golden Reagan era. The democratization was led by student demonstrations and political dissenters who almost to the man were hard-left sympathizers. Which is a funny thing to be when North Korea is across the corner. After the democrats won, communism was not in the cards, so they had to come up with another foundation myth. And what can be better than “we deserve power because we will dispossess all those rick fucks, who owe their money to the evil Japanese”? The SK left found out that accusing people of being Japanese sympathizers was the rough equivalent of calling a modern American racist, and soon a leftist singularity was started, where the whole country eagerly endeavored to dig out even the faintest trace of goodwill towards the occupiers 100 years ago.
That left Japan in a very awkward situation. As you might imagine, the Japanese have little love for the Koreans, now or before. But the Cold War order required that the only US satellites in a dangerous neighborhood had to be friends. Japan had a sizable population of Korean laborers in the country, although most went back to Korea after 1945. Not all of them left though, and those who remained were soon joined by a huge influx of Korean migrants into Japan, many leftists fleeing Jeju after the 1948 communist riots were squashed by the army, and hundreds of thousands also fled the peninsula after the Korean War started in 1950. Soon Japan found itself with around 1 million Koreans in its midst, and didn’t know what to do with them. Rounding them and send them back packing wasn’t an option, Korea was devastated, and the US wouldn’t have been pleased with such treatment among Allies of Freedom. These new Korean migrants soon started to claim that they weren’t recent migrants, they were the laborers enslaved during the war and forcedly brought to Japan to man the mines and factories. As such Japan had a duty to repay their debt and treat them nicely. No talk of leaving such a hateful country and go back to their homeland.
As it is the Korean community organized, mostly in two groups, led respectively by representatives of the governments of North and South Korea, the Chosen Soren and Mindan, respectively. Membership in either North or South Korean organizations has no relation to the actual place of origin of the migrants. Up to 90% of Koreans in Japan come from the South, as it happens to be closer. Still, back in the 50s and 60s, North Korea had some allure as the paradise of the proletariat, and belonging to them was a more in-your-face statement against the once evil, now pussified Japanese. It was, and still is, a political statement. Both North and South Korean organizations have their own schools, where the children are taught Korean, and in the former case, a photo of the Great Leader, Kim Jong-Un these days, presides over every single classroom. That’s in Japanese territory. Koreans also have the legal privilege to take a fake Japanese name to use in their daily lives, so they can hide their Korean identity without having to naturalize and take Japanese citizenship.
The Korean organizations of course had to take care of the livelihood of their people, which before the war were pretty much the underclass in Japan. Soon the Koreans found a profitable niche: Pachinko. Pachinko are a sort of gambling machines, which are wildly popular in the country. Asians in general have a thing both for games (millions of videogame addicts in the region) and numbers; and it’s known that Asians are overrepresented in casinos all over the world. The funny thing is that gambling is forbidden by law in Japan, with the exception of the state-run horse races. Somehow the pachinko industry, dominated by Koreans of both sides, found a way to go around the prohibition, and Pachinko has a quasi-monopoly of casual gambling in the country. As such it’s massively profitable.
The way the Koreans have kept Pachinko going is by co-opting the police forces. Pachinko machines have to be licensed by a government agency, which is aptly staffed by elder members of the police department. Ex-officers of the police can be found in Pachinko machine manufacturers and pretty much every link in the chain. Pachinko companies are also known to be generous political donors, and give billions in advertising to newspapers and TV. As such they are untouchable, even though Pachinko has ruined millions of lives. It is also widely known that the profits of Pachinko parlors run by North Koreans are sent to the North Korean government, and are a sizable part of the meager state revenue. Yet nothing is or can be done about it.
Still, for all its smart organization and legal privileges, the Korean community in Japan is dwindling. Most Koreans have already been in the country for 3 generations, can’t speak Korean or have ever gone back, and intermarriage rates are soaring. As things stand, in 30 years the Japanese-born Korean community will mostly disappear. That is a dire situation for the thousands upon thousands of ethnic activists who make their living through leftist agitation in the name of the Korean community. Lately they have grown increasingly desperate, and have started importing American terminology, such as “racist” or “hate speech”, both used untranslated, with English pronunciation. The terms didn’t exist just 5 years ago.
The increasing anti-Japanese climate in Korea had also the double benefit of serving to create much goodwill in China, which has become the biggest trading partner of Korea, the biggest receptor of Korean students, and an indispensable industrial partner for Korean industry. The slightest displeasure by China against South Korea could make the Korean economy collapse in weeks. And Koreans know it: more than half of students of Chinese in the world are from South Korea.
Even if you ignore the historical details, it’s only natural that South Korea becomes a Chinese satellite. That’s what it’s been for 2000 years. It is also no surprise that China and Japan are enemies. Japan has a trade surplus with China, the Japanese avoid Chinese products like the plague, and Chinese students who go to Japan seldom come back. There is little benefit for China in being friends with Japan, and much in being enemies. And enemies they are.
My impression is that modern China needs, craves a military victory to crystallize it’s recent economic rise. Japan had it’s great moment in 1895, when an expeditionary force utterly humiliated the great Qing empire, and they got Taiwan, a shitload of money, and the biggest grin ever. It was the best culmination of the 1868 Meiji Restoration, clear proof that the Restoration was a success, and Japan was a mighty nation. That must have felt good. Well China has made great strides lately, but they haven’t done anything that feels good at the gut level. Yeah, the economy is better, people can now eat and clothe themselves, but life is still hard and all the people see is the horrible pollution, and the damn plutocrats showing off their Ferraris and 20 year old mistresses.
Now if China could have a small war against Japan, and win, man that would feel awesome. Orgasmic. The country would stop for a week to party. All opposition to the Party would disappear for a decade at least. Oh man. Screwing with those annoying Japs. What would they not give for that. There’s a problem: the US military is in Japan, and we can’t mess with those guys. As things are, the US has taken an increasingly defiant attitude towards China, and it looks as is the military-industrial complex has pretty much placed China as the new USSR, the big threat against American Freedom used to lobby the government for ever expanding funding. As long as the Pentagon has the upper hand in China policy, there is nothing China can do against Japan. So the obvious strategy is to use diplomacy to try to lure USG into abandoning Japan.
It might seem farfetched, but this strategy actually makes a lot of sense. The People’s Republic of China owes it’s very existence to the goodwill of the US State Department towards the Chinese Communists. It was through the infamous China Hands that the Kuomintang was backstabbed, its supply of weapons and money suddenly cut. And if you go further back, China and the US were allies against Japan during WW2. The Great War Against Fascism! Chinese media has started using the phrase again these year for the first time since Mao’s death. China and US were fellow progressive nations fighting the evil fascists. How can USG defend the evil Japanese militarists today?
And that’s a very good point. During the Cold War, the left-right axis in Japan was obviously defined as being pro-Soviet or pro-American. But of course the Japanese right was also the home of the war apologists, the Yasukuni visitors, the actual descendants of the power structure during the war. Which means that the pro-Americans were also the descendants and apologists of those who fought the US in 1941. After the USSR collapsed, the Japanese left did so too, and foreign policy stopped being a major issue, but recently it has coalesced in a sort of pro-Chinese coalition. Part of the reason that Abe, pretty much the uber-rightist figure these days, won such a massive victory in last year’s elections was the fallout of the September riots, and the real threat that China might declare war.
So Abe had two things to do. One, he had to go to Yasukuni to show his supporters that he’s still on their side. Second, he needed to go to America and make sure he had America’s back. But of course it’s hard to justify to the Cathedral the existence of a shrine devoted to the evil, evil criminals which masterminded Pearl Harbor. Abe disingenuously tried to convince USG by saying that, hey, you guys go to Arlington, and Yasukuni is sort of the same thing. Then came August 15, anniversary of the end of the war, and Abe didn’t go. It’s obvious that USG told him not to, and he had to comply. Then this week, Kerry and Hagel come to Japan, and out of nowhere decide to go to the small Chidorigafuchi cemetery. Which means that USG is making clear that they want Japan to scrap that evil Yasukuni shrine, and go pray to these other places which they prefer.
That’s a huge rebuff from the Cathedral to the Japanese right. Of course USG is not yet considering backstabbing Japan and allying with China. But USG is still boss and they don’t like making friends with fascists. The Cathedral’s bread and butter is ideological submission. And Japan has to date been very, very bad about that.
Ideologically speaking, the Cathedral’s natural allies are China and Korea. They are both countries founded by leftist movements, have a history of victimization, and they send thousands upon thousands of students every year to the empire, where they naturally absorb the Cathedral’s ideology. They also have millions of co-ethnics with US citizenship, and they have recently started to mobilize them in service of their homeland’s foreign policy.
South Korea has been an advanced student of Cathedralism. They understand that you need to become a victim, then pour shitloads of money into local politicians and NGOs to promote your view and denounce your victimizer. Korea and Japan signed a treaty establishing relations in 1965, and it was explicitly remarked that Japan would pay reparations to the South Korean state, in exchange of Korea renouncing the right for its citizens to demand individual compensation. Fast forward today, and the new democracy of South Korea is pushing its citizens to demand compensation for every wrong they can come up with. First it was forced labor, but most of the laborers are dead already. So then they came up with the most brilliant piece of progressive agit-prop in the recent decades, the comfort women.
The Japanese army recruited whores all over the Empire, most of them were Japanese, but of course they bought some from local pimps in Korea, China, or whenever they went. Some brutal commanders were known for taking local women forcibly, as it happened in Indonesia with some Dutch women. But back in those days, there were plenty of men willing to sell their daughters for money or food, and Korea being quite poor at the time, the Army had little need to go house by house to take Korean girls by force.
Of course Koreans won’t admit that, and in their mind, virtuous, chaste, heroic Korean women were kidnapped by force by the evil Japanese, and Korean’s being so incredibly attractive, they were explicitly targeted in comparison with other ethnicities. Transparent bullshit, but it fits the zeitgeist nicely, and women having longer lifespans in average, there are enough old hags from the time to be used as media mouthpieces. South Korea demands individual compensation for each woman, and an official government apology for the “sex-slavery”. As Japan didn’t comply, the government built a bronze statue of a Korean “sex-slave” in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. And if that wasn’t enough, they have been using local Korean communities in the US to bribe state legislatures and city councils to press the issue, and build statues all over the US. The NYT of course loves the idea of poor women enslaved by fascists 70 years ago, and has pressed the issue often.
Japan is of course not amused by any of this, but there is little they can do. Yasukuni shrine is a fascist shrine, the Japanese government does regard itself as continuing the pre-war regime, and China and Korea have massive leverage with the Cathedral to use against them. Seeing not only Kerry, but Hagel too snubbing the government and transparently telling them who and where to pray is a very powerful and worrying move. The USA started with separating church and state, but is now in the business of enforcing its religion over unrelated countries tens of thousands of miles away.
Abe will probably refuse to play ball and pray at Chidorigafuchi, but if in the next years, the left happens to win an election, it is likely they will dump the official cult at Yasukuni and pledge allegiance to the Cathedral by praying where told. The other question is what will happen with the Japanese military. Right now Abe is pushing hard for a constitutional revision, changing the Self-Defence Forces’s name to “Japanese Military Forces”, and trying to increase independent operability without relying on US power. The nuclear fuel processing plant at Rokkasho in the north is widely rumored to be a nuclear weapon manufacturing plant, and it will start operations later this year. Of course the endgame the Japanese right envisions is obtaining nukes, kicking out the US military and standing on their own. Will the Cathedral let them?