Springtime for Japan

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Spring is in the air here in Japan and the entire country is celebrating the release of the three hostages that were being held in Iraq.

Well, not exactly….

It is being reported in the local press that, two of the hostages want to remain in Iraq. This has caused much consternation and fury among the government who held their nerve and refused to give in to the demands of the freedom fighters, er, I mean terrorists.

Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi was cackling like a Rhode Island Red the morning the news came of the hostages release. He was vindicated for his tough stance. He’s shown himself to be a reliable ally. He showed his detractors! Japan will never be held hostage by having Japanese people held hostage by evil-doers. Japan will never give in to the demands of a small groups of thugs.

Well, kind of…

After the news came out that two of the former hostages wanted to stay in Iraq, the entire government was in a tizzy. Koizumi was mad. And now he looks like someone hit him with a pie in the face.

Freelance photojournalist Soichiro Koriyama told his mom that he wanted to stay in Iraq to take photos. Of course his mom was all upset — mom’s are like that. One other high-ranking government official said upon hearing this news (and I’m not making this up):

“Since we’ve paid so much from the state coffers, I feel they should compensate us for it.”

Uh, pardon me? Could you repeat that statement? You paid money?

So much for not giving into the demands of the bad guys and standing strong with George W. Bush.

All the Japanese press jumped on this little “off the cuff” remark and started demanding to know how much money the Japanese government paid in ransom money for the freedom of these three people.

Of course, Mister foot-in-mouth went on to try to cover his slip of the tongue, but it was too late. Tetsuzo Fuyushiba, secretary general of the New Komeito party, the junior partner in the coalition, cited the possibility of urging the three hostages or their families to shoulder the cost the government has paid.

The U.S. government is completely in the dark (as per usual) on this case too as Colin Powell praised Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for not bowing to terror.

Uh, hello? Now it’s turning into a Keystone Cops adventure.

Hey! Who threw all these banana peels on the floor?

And speaking of people slipping and crashing into walls, how about that Iraqi Shia cleric, al-Sistani? I notice that he has told our cowboy forces in Iraq to stay out of Najaf.

But it looks like the U.S. forces are going to do what a man’s gotta do. That town ain’t big enough for the both of ‘em. Someone’s going to be run outta town pretty soon. And it ain’t gonna be a pretty sight.

But it looks like the weather’s been good for a showdown down on main street. I saw the Baghdad report yesterday and it was a hot and sunny 104 degrees, and it’s only mid-April! Nothing like hot air to get a man’s blood boiling.

I’m going to make a wager that the U.S. forces will be routed out of Iraq by September 30 of this year. Any takers?

This entire situation, and how poorly it has been handled, on both sides of the Pacific ocean, has actually played into the hands of the man who is, arguably, the second most powerful man in Japan. And a possible future prime minister: The governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara. You might remember him. He was the guy who wrote the book, The Japan That Can Say No: Why Japan Will Be First Among Equals.

If you thought Prime Minister Koizumi was a little nutty, then here’s a surprise: Compared to Koizumi, Shintaro Ishihara looks like the fruit basket on Carmen Miranda’s hat! Ishihara is an ultra-nationalist and wants Japan to build the most powerful military in the world. Why? He says (and he might be right) that what America is doing now, shows that American world leadership is incompetent. He worries that America won’t (can’t?) protect Japan in a war. And he has some bizarre idea that China has designs on Okinawa.

Hate to bring out the “W” word. But Koizumi is a wimp compared to this Ishihara guy.

Ishihara is a lot like George W. Bush: Confused. But even though he is confused, I would imagine that, if Ishihara ever became prime minister, he’d put his thumb on little Georgie’s head real quick.

George W. Bush doesn’t even read books. Ishihara became famous as a writer and novelist and his books are translated and sold around the world.

But, like I said, Ishihara and G.W. do have a lot in common: They both think they were chosen by God.

In a magazine interview here in Japan, Ishihara said:

“I think that anybody should make up his mind to do anything he wants if he perceives he is someone chosen. I, I do believe that Japan will disappear as a nation once I was dead. So to speak, I have a sense of unity with Japan in my body.

"Japan’s postwar Constitution should be annulled and replaced with a new one to raise the Emperor as head of state and to have Japan become the world-strongest defense nation.” (Sapio magazine, August 25 and September 8, 1999 editions.)

He also said:

“Once I am elected governor (of Tokyo), I can do whatever I want for 4 years. The position has more legitimacy than those of the prime minister or other cabinet ministers. So I can exercise executive power.” (Voice magazine, August 1999.)

So this is great, eh? Yep, that’s what we all need. Let’s force these Japanese to re-arm so they can help out G.W. and his friends with their imperial dreams. The more the merrier, I say.

Ah, but let’s face it. Radicals like these guys can’t get into power. Nah! No one takes them seriously enough.

But Ishihara is making all the Japanese children stand up and take notice. Defying a supreme court order, he has issued an executive directive that requires all elementary schools in Tokyo to sing “Kimigayo.”

You might remember Kimigayo? It was that big hit sensation here in Japan between 1931 and 1943…. When Japan was winning the war.

Ah, the good old days. When will they ever return?

Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has worked as an independent writer, producer, and personality in the mass media for nearly 30 years.

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