America: Society Iraq War Japan: Living Journal

Japan Joins the Insanity

Add another madman to the soup: Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan is now close to having his way of sending troops to Iraq, in spite of almost all Japanese citizens being against the move. If the Japanese think that the distant news of war is scary now, just wait until the troops start coming home in bodybags. The people’s silence until now will be too late then.

Kenzaburo Oe, the Nobel Prize winner for literature, writes: “I am an Angry Man”.

The Iraqi response to the Japanese government’s announcement about sending troops: Stay out!

Will this anger that I feel never lose nourishment? Why must there be a new source of stupidity and foolishness crawling out of the woodwork each and every day? Are there no leaders with wisdom and courage? Will there ever be a sense of people not letting things get so completely out of control?

Perhaps we all deserve this. When there is such a discrepancy between the haves and the have-nots, really we shouldn’t expect anything less than what is happening today. Serves us all right.

12 replies on “Japan Joins the Insanity”

“Are there no leaders with wisdom and courage?” Not nearly enough. However, you can look at the people behind the Geneva Accord and see some wisdom and courage there. A couple of weeks ago I saw Jimmy Carter being interviewed on television and it really warmed my soul and made me yearn for that kind of wise leadership to give the rest of us hope. He’s seen everything — the stupidity of war-mongering leaders and the waste of innocent human lives that war is all about. Yet he spoke calmly — perhaps his experiences with the Carter Center have instilled in him the knowledge that peaceful resolution can happen if and when there’s enough will. Looking at the Geneva Accord, it seems that the will for peace must have to come from behind the scenes these days, not from those in charge. But those in charge will have to listen if enough people behind the scenes continue to press for peace.


Of course I don’t truly prescribe to the idea that we all deserve the terrible events that are going on or that we deserve to die. And it is true that this has been going on since time immemorial. But the difference is that today we might actually be, seriously, putting our survival at stake. And all of us, including myself, are responsible. It simply is no excuse to whine, “But I didn’t do anything!”, because you did. Each and every one of us did. It is evident in the smallest things, like what we choose to buy or eat. Anyone who is not truly serious about the plight of the desperately poor in the parts of the world where abject poverty exisits deserves the anger of those who must endure it.

The resentments and fury that are brewing throughout the world right now are unprecedented; never in all of world history have so many people been so absolutely deprived and desperate and so murderously angry. I don’t think Americans quite understand what their government has stirred up this time.

In spite of the platitudes that Bush butters on in his pathetic speeches, there are very, very few people in the world who condone what he has done or plans to do. There is an entire world of people and nations against him and his government right now.

The American news and so many of America’s citizens constantly harp on the assurance that “they don’t hate us, just this government”, but fail to understand what Americans themselves constantly preach to the world: that their government is a “free” government, elected by the people, reflecting the will of the people”… if what they preach is true, then Bush reflects the will of the American people, otherwise everything that the Americans preach is a lie. And if Bush reflects the will of the people… well, put two and two together.

All the protests about how there are so many people in America who don’t support the war or all the killing, means nothing to the people in another place who are being bombed or threatened. How much does any American know of how the politics work in another country? Why expect anyone else to understand how the internal pressure of America works, especially when nearly all the news supports Bush’s policies?

The Japanese know better than to join this stupid war. Their leader Koizumi is in America’s pocket, and all Japanese know this. But will they have the wisdon and forthrightness to stop holding back criticism and stand up to demand what they believe is right? Japanese tend to be enormously reticent in political matters, in part because they have deep distrust of anything political (the ultraconservative government before the war put the entire nation in grave danger). But there are points when silence is simply foolishness, and if the soldiers go to Iraq, the Japanese will regret it.


Just to point out that more than half the U.S. population didn’t vote for Bush and he took over anyway. According to polls, 45% now support him, 45% don’t support him. The U.S. is thoroughly polarized. I understand that the rest of the world doesn’t know how disenfranchised almost half of the U.S. population feels – and that very fact is hugely painful to many of us. But remember, not only does Bush have the White House but the Repubicans have both the Senate and House. The Democrats in Washington are lacking the cojones to stand up to them, although I overheard on the news this morning that one Dem was pounding his fist reminding the Republicans that this isn’t a monarchy nor a dictatorship. The Republicans are trying to run the country like it is. And, I might add, succeeding.

I have friends who are talking about leaving the country if Bush gets reelected. I have many more friends who are simply angry and embarassed. You may think we have the power to say what direction our leaders are taking us. Almost half of all Americans would beg to differ.


Leslee, I agree with you completely. I’m a lucky one though, who has grown up and lived in the States; I understand how things work there. Half my family and most of my friends live there and sit on the side of those who didn’t vote for Bush (many of whom actively protest against the war and Bush). I guess I was just trying to paint a picture of how it all looks to people who have no access to what is actually happening in the States. I think part of the way to change the politics in the States right now is to get everyone there (not just those who already try) to understand part of the reason behind so much of the antipathy toward the U.S., though I’m getting more and more cynical; I doubt that many of the “might-makes-right” Americans are going to listen to much of what I am trying to say here.

But I am like Kenzaburo Oe, an angry man. Every day. This beloved world is being threatened by people who don’t care to think about the health of the planet or our community, on both the American side and those who feel threatened by America.

I wonder what will happen if Bush is re-elected? And even worse, what would happen if someone succeeded in causing yet another tragedy in the States? I fear it will be the end of modern civilization. Bush might become a warlord patterned after our worst nightmares. That scenario is terrifying. It keeps me up at night. And yet the possibility is very, very real now.


Yes, we need leadership that can mount a real challenge to what Bush is doing. Anger’s good if it can be channeled into positive action. Unfortunately, many people respond to anger by giving up – not wanting to spend their lives angry and frustrated and powerless. Others take the anger to the worst extreme, as we’ve unfortunately seen. We need political leadership that can give people a voice to channel the anger and outrage in a positive direction. That’s why it was good to hear Jimmy Carter and to hear about the Geneva Accord – to show that something can be done in even the most intractable situations. Here in the U.S. people who are behind Howard Dean feel very politically empowered because he has involved them in the process. I don’t know if he can win, but it’s looking more and more like he’ll be the Democratic candidate. It’s certainly a different model from the Bushies’. In both the case of the Geneva Accord and the Dean campaign, we have examples of hope. Anger without hope is deadly. It’s what drives terrorism.

I guess the other positive way to use anger is to keep writing and photographing and stirring things up. By showing people how beautful the earth is and writing about what we’re doing to it I think you’re doing your part. Just continue to also have hope and find examples of good wherever it can be found. Good things need all the attention they can get.


While I agree with everything you are saying here, I think Koizumi’s hands are tied. Japan relies on the US in so many ways it simply cannot afford not to send troops. You can be pretty certain Koizumi himself doesn’t want to send them. The key here is to get Bush and his gang out of the White House.


Setsunai (nice name, by the way), you’re probably right about Koizumi. It’s bitter watching the Japanese government and the people like this. All my life the government here in Japan has ‘had its hands tied”, with no one ever really making an effort to truly change things, the people included. While part of that comes out of having had twenty years of great peace and prosperity, and the people don’t want to risk losing them, at the same time it is time for Japan to make its claim in the international community, to be able to say no and yes when they want to without constant American pressure. The only way to make these changes is for somene to come forth and take a stand, otherwise America will always have its way.

Then again it does cost to make that stand, and with the economy the way it is right now, perhaps that isn’t very wise.


With the Bush “with us or against us” dualism (no reconstruction contracts to Old Europe etc.) and the dire state of the Japanese economy, as you mentioned, I really believe it is just not possible now for Japan to refuse point-blank. But is there some method to Japan’s madness on this one? Could Japan be using the US “War on Terror” to slowly distance itself from the US? Remember the Special Antiterrorism Law that was pushed through the Diet to enable the SDF to be sent to provide logistical support in and around Afghanistan? And now this next step, sending them to what will clearly be a combat situation. I wonder if Japan is making the most of a bad situation here. As you say, Japan has been dependent on the US for a long time now. But if Japan had permission to have an army, it would be a whole lot less reliant on the United States. It’s an odd one: if Japan had the potential to be an aggressor again, it would also have the potential to take principled stands. I may be well off the mark here, but I think that is what we are seeing is a highly pragmatic (and perhaps also worrying) response by Japan to the events post September 11, 2001–a calculated movement toward the Japanese SDF becoming the Japanese Army, using the US war on terror to create “precedents” that are fuzzy in terms of constitutionality but will remain precedents nonetheless.

Incidentally, your weblog is excellent–quality writing and beautiful photos.


Setsunai, first, thanks for the compliment. I also wanted to voice my appreciation for your painting the Japanese in an intelligent and open-minded light (both here and on your site), trying to understand them from the inside, rather than just doing the usual “you Japanese got it all wrong” approach. Too many non-Japanese come here and, without even being able to speak the language, let alone knowing any of them as friends, blather on and on about how the Japanese are this and that, then, after perhaps one year of residence, write a book about “what Japan is all about”. It bothers me no end when I see, for instance, these comments about Japan being “The Land of Unspoiled Nature” and such… exactly which fantasy island these people were on, I haven’t a clue…

Anyway, your comments about Koizumi and the possibility of Japan’s having a hidden motive for what they’re doing has made me think more carefully about the SDF deployment. I’m not sure if it is true or not, but if so, then perhaps the present Japanese government is actually taking the reins this time. Like you said, I’m not sure this is a good sign, but it would be heartening to see Japan take on a leadership role in the world. So often Americans react in horror when I suggest, for instance, that the yen become the world standard currency, rather than the dollar. Why not? I don’t know enough about economics to argue this point, but it seems to me that if another currency were to balance the world economy better than the wildly fluctuating dollar, wouldn’t that be a good thing? Why must the U.S. be the standard for everything?


Thanks for the compliments Butuki. I don’t really know how open-minded I am about Japan though. I have good days and bad days when it comes to living here. Your talk of “The Land of Unspoiled Nature” reminds me of Alex Kerr’s book, Dogs and Demons. I thought some more about the SDF deployment and posted them on my site, with a trackback reference to your post. I hope that is ok. I am actually surprised about how few people in the Japan blogging community are writing about this.


Part of blogging is the connections we make and links are vital, so naturally I’m pleased with being linked to through your site.

I have my ups and doesn about Japan, too. I have a love-hate relationship with the country, at times I can’t imagine a better place to live, in terms of some of the attitudes about life that Japanese have, but at other times these same attitudes can drive me crazy.

I’m wondering if people are weary of war talk in many cases, and that perhaps the Japan blogging community, being mostly non-Japanese, have enough to worry about with Bush tramping around their home lands. Tony Anthony at Beneath Buddha’s Eyes has raised the question about the origins of war three times in his last few posts, with no one answering. For me it was a need to take time to think about his questions and try to word them in something coherent, but it is really tough. As soon as I can find the right words to say what needs to be replied to in his post I will write, but it is war we are talking about.

Then again, the lack of talk about the deployment of the SDF could be that the Japanese themselves, as usual, are silent about it. How can you really get a balanced view of what the Japanese think when they aren’t going to discuss it? Telling me “muzukashii” (“hmmm, difficult to say”) surely is not a very constructive way of addressing some pretty big issues.


Thanks for the link to Tony Anthony’s site. He is posing some very big questions there, which I am nowhere near capable of answering. I think you’re right that people are weary of war talk. I also think the non-Japanese blogging community is naturally disenfranchised when it comes to this issue–no right to vote on it and so on.

As for getting coherent answers from Japanese people on issues like that, it is a very difficult thing indeed. I remember coming to my office on September 12, 2001, and nobody bringing up the attacks in New York for the whole day. This kind of cultural difference is one of the things you have to accept when living in Japan, but it is one of the more difficult ones to accept.

Anyway, I think I’ve left enough of my mark on your weblog for now. Keep up the good work.


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