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December 25, 2012


This will be the last Rapport for year 2012. Including those of you who may be reading this text next year, I send my sincerest wishes in advance that the new year will be a most promising and rewarding one for all of you.

When the new year dawns, it has become customary for newspapers and magazines to extensively publish the coming year’s outlook by prominent individuals representing various fields. Being an eccentric, I have always firmly refused to write any new year’s outlook since most of the notable natural and social phenomena occur regardless of the calendar year made by man. Just because we entered a new year, it does not mean that we can suddenly forecast the occurrence of such phenomena or it does not mean that various incidents that took place this year will suddenly take on different new looks.

We need to keep in perspective that the new year comes as the continuation of this year end. There is no disconnection between December 2012 and January 2013. In light of this, it is fruitless to discuss how events in the world as well as in Japan will develop at the beginning of the year because huge incidents which surpass human prediction may happen any time during the year negating early year forecasts. In short, I consider it a waste of time to extensively speculate the future prospect at the start of the year. This is speaking from past experiences that we all have gone through. For instance, who could have predicted the devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant contamination that engulfed northeastern Japan at the start of 2011?

It is true that there are numerous specialists in every field in every country nowadays and we tend to look upon them to have professional knowledge and/or insights on say the economy or earthquakes. However, at the same time, it is rather bizarre that even among top rate specialists, their assessments differ greatly at times when it comes to predicting or foreseeing the future of the field they specialize in. Taking this into consideration, we might as well give up on the experts’ capacity to predict the future outlook even in the field they specialize in. I, thus, advise that one disregard what the specialists have to say about the future outlook. The most productive way to spend ones New Year’s holiday is to reconfirm ones goal in life, make a new pledge to achieve it and to quietly contemplate on how to realize it.


December 12, 2012


The general election of the lower house is just around the corner, that is this weekend. Although the media’s hype is getting overheated, the people around me, in general, are keeping their nonchalance. From their cool-headed reaction, my take is that the majority of the Japanese do not expect that the result of the upcoming election will improve the current status of our country. Although I do harbor a sense of crisis to a degree that Japan’s democracy may terminate depending on the outcome of the election (i.e. due to political parties’ rapid inclination toward the right), I still cannot muster up much enthusiasm when I think that the ballot I cast will not be enough to bring about change.

As long as we deem that the current democracy is legitimate, the general election of the lower house is the sole method for the public to voice their opinions and wishes to be reflected in politics. However, as long as diet members who administer all aspects of politics as the nation’s highest authoritative power is running as candidates in elections, there is a decisive flaw that politics might succumb to “mobocracy” (in nations where economic standards have reached a substantial level). When I refer to “mobocracy,” I do not mean to say that the voters are at fault but to the inevitably sad consequences which are brought about by the fact that the majority of the candidates are not equipped with the eligibility to lead the country in the right direction.

Among democratic nations, the occupation of parliamentary members is regarded highly when the country’s economic standard is still low. Thus aspiring individuals with notable attributes will run and compete against each other for the parliamentary posts. However, as the nation’s economy grows and matures, the availability of attractive professions increases in accordance. Under such circumstances, it cannot be helped that people who already have rewarding jobs would not take the trouble and opt to become politicians when they take into account the absurdity of election campaigning as well as the unstable future status (i.e. loosing an election or the next one means instant unemployment). This phenomenon has resulted in a satirical situation where the capabilities of politicians continually deteriorate in inverse proportion to the advancement of the people. Excluding very small municipalities where the candidates and the voters know each other on a personal basis, it is almost impossible to exercise the democratic right to elect politicians who are endowed with the required qualities in large elections since the public has no way of actually grasping the true nature of who they are voting for.


December 7, 2012


The fatal accident that took place at the Sasago Tunnel where the ceiling constituted by about 300 concrete slabs weighing more than one ton each collapsed killing 9 people on the Chuo Expressway last week was for me, a regular driver for the past 60 years, the most shocking automobile related accident. However, when I come to think of it, the Japanese transportation network until the 1950’s was not built with automobiles as the major player in mind. In this respect, if one drove by paying close attention to the narrow streets, road deteriorations and pedestrians, a huge accident was not bound to happen.

When I lived in the U.S. from 1960 to 1962 for the first time after getting married, I took full advantage of having an international license and purchased a second hand American car on the day of my arrival and drove it to commute between my home and the university on weekdays and on weekends, I took my wife on drives to the suburbs and had my fill of the motorized American life. Needless-to-say, the transportation network of American cities (and the outskirts) back then was already built with the sole purpose to fully accommodate automobiles and the construction of super highway system linking cities was ongoing at a rapid pace.

When I returned, Japan was in the preliminary stage of rapid economic growth and roads in major big cities and their surroundings as well as roads connecting major cities were being constructed with the purpose of accommodating automobiles as the main carrier. At the time, I remember harboring deep concerns at the road infrastructure being built rather than having high hopes for the country’s motorization. What triggered my concern was the geographic features of Japan. In contrast to the U.S., the majority of land in Japan is mountainous or hilly which inevitably resulted in an overconcentration of people to inhabit small plots of flat land. This demographical characteristic led the country to nurture a distinctive history and culture. In short, I felt that Japan is fully equipped with all the disadvantageous conditions to enhance a culture of motorization.

The accident at Sasago Tunnel proved that my hunch was right. Considering that the highways running in central Tokyo and Osaka as well as highways connecting major cities in Japan were constructed under conditions that do not suit them, future occurrence of fatal accidents which exceed our anticipaton are unavoidable. Having said this, we should take to heart that driving on highways in Japan is risky business.


November 23, 2012


In the U.S., President Barack Obama was re-elected to serve his second term earlier this month but the threat of the so called “fiscal cliff” seems to be increasing by the day. In China, Xi Jinping was appointed as the new General Secretary of the Communist Party of China but as the exceptional delay in holding the party congress implies, the possibility of the country facing a “political structure cliff” due to economical and social instability is beginning to become a reality. As we turn our eyes to our own country, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s decision to dissolve the lower house seems to trumpet the lame end of the incompetent and irresponsible administration of the Democratic Party of Japan. As a consequence, the confusion within the already chaotic political scene has further deepened and the public’s current interest seems to be concentrating on the upcoming general election. What can be said of present Japan is that the country faces “cliffs in all directions.”

What determines the rise and fall of human collectives, regardless of their size and goal, is the “capability of the leader.” A collective group that does not possess or cannot possess a great leader (despite the fact that the group is constituted by talented members), after all, can be considered as an undisciplined mob. Putting aside the debate whether nation-state can be regarded as a gigantic collective group, everyone by birth is a member of a certain nation-state today and the lives of most of the individuals are heavily subject to the fate of that nation-state. In this respect, the Japanese citizens who were not lucky enough to have a capable leader have no choice but to become a disorderly mob as a whole.

The sole consolation is that Japan, at present, is a democratic nation unlike prewar time and that the world, again unlike prewar time, is embracing an open framework commonly known as globalization. In other words, under the current circumstance, it is possible for any Japanese to give up on ones own country (although there may be difficult obstacles to overcome) and opt to spend ones life in any country of his/her choice (under the premise that the foreign country will accept the individual). In fact, there has never been a time in history than now where so many Japanese are playing active roles in a wide array of professions in so many overseas countries. I take special note that the faces of those Japanese living and working abroad, in general, look happier than those living in Japan.


November 12, 2012


The synopsis of the first lecture given by Dr. Shinya Yamanaka after winning the Novel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, “Changing Japan which Excels in Dissertation but Looses in R&D - The Reason Why I Ran the Kyoto Marathon,” is published in the December issue of the Chou Koron magazine. All the readers of the article will, no doubt, further deepen their respect for Dr. Yamanaka but at the same time will realize the serious problems confronting research at Japanese universities.

Aspiring to become an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Yamanaka became a resident after receiving his M.D. from the Kobe University. However, (fortunately or unfortunately), he had to give up on his initial dream since his surgical skills were rated poorly and decided to devote himself to fundamental research of human cells which specializes in finding new cures for illnesses and injuries which are considered incurable by current medical science. In order to do so, he pursued his studies and received his Ph.D. at the Osaka City University Graduate School and further spent three years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Gladstone Institute for Cardiovascular Disease in San Francisco. As he could not find a full-time position in the U.S., he returned to Japan with a broken heart. He was already 37 years old when he found a full-time job as an Assistant Professor at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology after overcoming depression which was caused when he encountered the discouragingly inferior conditions which fundamental research was under at the time of his return. In this respect, Dr. Yamanaka is not a prodigy who led a glorious path but a struggling runner who won the marathon called life.

The reason why Dr. Yamanaka, who is currently the Director of the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application at Kyoto University, was awarded the Nobel Prize this year is that he was the first person to generate iPS cells from human tissue (i.e. “for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent”) which cultivated a whole new perspective on how cells and organisms develop. But Dr. Yamanaka,who has the humility of a struggling marathon runner, emphasized that this remarkable achievement was not solely due to his own efforts but was made possible through the relentless cooperation of his colleagues and students. Furthermore, he stressed that the ultimate goal of iPS cell is for the technology to be put into practical use to actually cure and save patients with illnesses or injuries which are currently considered incurable.

Although Dr. Yamanaka is a researcher himself, what he currently envisions goes beyond reinforcing basic research. He has a far bigger framework in mind. While steadily improving the social and economical status of core researchers in Japan, he feels the urgent need to reshuffle this country’s traditional but out-dated system of research where only researchers and administrative staff are involved. For basic researches to achieve what they should, he thinks it is necessary to summon a comprehensive team of professionals from both in-house and outside sources who are experts in the fields of intellectual property/patent right, regulation, finance, publicity, etc. with industry-university collaboration as well as international cooperation in perspective. I, too, believe that fundamental research’s contribution to society can be realized through such synergy.


October 30, 2012


The Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) which is held every year in the fall ended in success on October 28th while it celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. Since Japan has continued to release movies that are tastefully original after World War II, the country is deemed highly among those involved in the film industry. Thus, TIFF has increasingly attracted various foreign film nominees to compete as well as numerous attendees that its status is now considered as nearing that of the world’s three most prestigious international film festivals that are held in Cannes, Berlin and Venice. Ever since my friend, Mr. Tatsumi Yoda, became the Chairman of TIFF, I receive an invitation to the opening ceremony of the festival although I have totally no association to the film industry. On October 20th evening, the night of the opening event, I wore a tuxedo together with a green bow tie and a matching green pocket-handkerchief which I received together with the invitation (the festival rolls out the Green Carpet to symbolize ecology so the color of the required-to-wear bow tie and pocket-handkerchief are in sync) and headed for Roppongi Hills with anticipation.

I must admit that the main purpose of attending the dinner party was to watch “Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away” which was scheduled to be premiered at the festival’s opening (reputed highly as being the summit of 3D films). However, as has been the case every year, besides the opening remark by the Chairman of TIFF, I found the speeches which followed given by the prime minister, the minister of METI, Japanese and foreign guests and introductions of distinguished guests which went on for more than an hour before the movie’s showing to be horribly boring again this year. Setting film festivals aside, I feel that procedures at these kind of events held in Western countries are very efficiently and effectively organized including the role of the MC, speeches by guests and the order of the program that compared to the actual time consumed by the event, the time burden felt mentally is considerably shorter.

Cirque de Soleil which was founded in Canada at the end of the 20th century is a circus as the translation in English, “Circus of the Sun,” implies but it does not feature animals or acrobatics which are standard features at a circus. Instead, the show has continually developed remarkably huge and elaborate installations and entirely devotes the show to express the splendid dexterity of the human body’s physical movements as well as the beauty of the human bodies themselves which intermingle with the magnificent background music. By mesmerizing the audience with the dazzling splendor, it is an innovative form of entertainment. When I first saw Cirque de Soleil’s Zed performance several years ago at a theater in Tokyo Disneyland, I was deeply impressed and I have become a fan since then. After watching the overwhelmingly powerful 3D Cirque de Soleil’s new performance film premiered at TIFF, I felt new energies being infused into both my body and soul.


October 23, 2012


Have you read the first installment of a series in Shukan Asahi Weekly Magazine (October 26th edition) which is co-authored by non-fiction writer Mr. Shinichi Sano and the magazine’s reporting staff with the title of “The True Nature of Hashishita?” No, this is not a typo of ‘Hashimoto’ but a rather discriminatory term used as a pun on the mayor’s last name since the Chinese character “橋下” can be read both as Hashimoto or Hashishita. As the nature of the article was extremely radical, I thought that the Asahi Shimbun (newspaper) finally declared war on Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and the two Restoration Associations he heads. However, it came to me as a surprise when Asahi Shimbun's October 20th morning paper published a nonchalant apology on page 36 as if it was not the firm’s own fault that last week’s edition of Shukan Asahi Weekly Magazine published by Asahi Shimbun Publications Inc. contained an inappropriate article pertaining to Osaka Mayor Hashimoto and that they will suspend the series. On the same page, the editor in chief of the magazine reiterated his deep apologies.

As Asahi Shimbun Publications Inc. is an important subsidiary of Asahi Shimbun, the latter will have to take responsibility for the blunder made by Shukan Asahi Weekly Magazine. But from the way the newspaper article referred to the incident, it seems like they will reprimand the magazine's editor in chief as well as those related to the Hashimoto bashing article very shortly and unless the public's criticisms do not proliferate in an unexpected manner, this will end the matter. I further predict that Asahi Shimbun’s stance towards Mayor Toru Hashimoto and the Osaka and Japan Restoration Associations which he leads will subtly tone down from now on. So, did the oversight of mighty "Asahi” bestow Hashimoto’s Restoration Association an unexpected advantage?

I, absolutely, do not think so. As Mayor Hashimoto asserts, although the freewheeling lives led by his father and some of his relatives have no direct influence on his own personal integrity, the public’s image of him which were formed by the media’s exposure of the scandal he was involved in (which Hashimoto himself could not deny) as well as his numerous abusive remarks has further darkened as the aforementioned article in last week’s Shukan Asahi shed light to the naked truth regarding his birth and parentage.

Since we know that we are not saints when reflecting on our own selves, it is more than natural for us to yearn for a national leader whom we can wholeheartedly trust and respect. The virtues expected of an individual who govern the nation is expressed in an ancient Chinese proverb “修身斉家” (i.e. cultivate oneself first, then put one’s family in order). This still remains a universal hope among people in societies where information access has become excessively democratic including Japan.


October 16, 2012


When it comes to being able to jokingly introduce Ms. Judy Ongg as “my daughter” to my friends, I consider my elderly age as a blessing. Needless-to-say, Judy’s attributes are countless; besides being an enchanting actress and a brilliant singer,she is gifted with intelligence being able to fluently speak 5 languages, good-natured personality which everybody takes a liking, etc. Her talents were recognized in the world of entertainment since she was still a child and built a solid reputation for herself in the industry when she was still young. However, her talent is not limited to the entertainment world. In fact, Judy started to study woodblock prints in her twenties and within a fairly short time-span, she mastered the art and her unique landscape woodblock prints are regarded highly by experts and through her outstanding accomplishments, she is now considered as one of the internationally renowned woodblock print artists.

Taiwan is celebrating her 101th anniversary of the country’s founding this year and as one of the events to commemorate the Taiwan National Day on October 10th, Judy’s woodblock print exhibition is being held at the Chungshan National Gallery of the National Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei (from October 3rd to 24th). To coincide with Judy’s return to Taiwan to oversee the exhibition, her older brother, Mark, and his wife invited my wife and me to visit Taiwan so there we were in the country from Monday to Thursday of last week. In the afternoon of the day of our arrival in Taipei, Judy guided us through her woodblock print exhibition. As I was marveling the display, I saw many attendees admiring Judy’s work and from their glances, I strongly recognized that Judy is revered deeply by the people of her motherland.

On the second day of our stay, we visited numerous tourist attractions in Taipei. On the third day, upon my request that I wanted to see the New Taichung Station which Mark designed as an architect, Mark, his wife, my wife and I hit the highway early in the morning and headed south. On our way, we dropped by Hsinchu City to tour the city’s famous Science and Technology Industrial Park, relished a gorgeous lunch at a first-class hotel at Sun Moon Lake (which no longer retains the remnant of an artificial lake but has turned into a scenic resort area which resembles Hakone) and even enjoyed a cable car ride after lunch. On our way back, after a thorough tour of the New Taichung Station Building, we took the Taiwan High Speed Rail back to Taipei.

Every evening during our stay, Mark and his wife generously hosted a dinner party for my wife and me inviting various notable Taiwanese. This provided me with excellent opportunities to cultivate friendships with numerous Taiwanese and I, in my own way, am excited in building a new Japan-Taiwan relationship in collaboration with my new friends in Taiwan.


October 9, 2012


I wonder if you know a company by the name of Club Concierge which offers a wide array of high-class services 24/7 whose targeted customers are households with more than 300 million yen in asset. Of course, their services include gourmet dining, luxurious entertainment and travel plans, medical care, education, etc. that are beyond the realms of normal citizens. Only members of the club have access to the services and those who wish to join the club must go under severe scrutiny to prove their eligibility. Although I have no idea why, I received a request from this exclusive club to write an article under the title of “Message to the Japanese People” in their quarterly magazine. Needless-to-say, I was surprised and a bit perplexed at first but my innate curiosity won over me that I ended up writing the manuscript over the weekend with the above-caption as the subtitle. The wrap up conclusion of my article reads as follows.

“Although Japanese people are not an exception to confuse ‘country’ and ‘nation state,’ I think that at least among the British and the Americans, they intuitively differentiate that country is a place of birth (origin) while nation state is a governmental entity (as versus the Church). In other words, nation state is perceived as the supreme public power (where sovereign political entity is established in a territory to control the people inhabiting the area) whereas country is a place where love is instinctively nurtured. As totalitarianism is a political form where the ‘nation state’ becomes the ultimate governing body, those who have experienced democracy will find it suffocating if their free speech and behavior are intervened by the government. Furthermore, the nation state’s control will eventually expand to regulate the individuals’ consumption activities and personal assets. Under such oppressive circumstances, it is natural for them to abandon their homeland but time may have run out when they realize what has happened. This is what I refer to in my subtitle.

The readers of this magazine must already be taking precautionary measures to transfer financial assets to overseas countries but the majority of the readers probably have not gone far as to consider leaving the homeland as a family if worse comes to worst in Japan. However, since the coming of totalitarianism is sudden, I highly recommend that the readers start planning ahead to abandon Japan for a non-totalitarian country. On the other hand, for those of you who are strongly reluctant to leave Japan, I advise that you thoroughly examine Japan during World War II as well as the actual status of current North Korea and ask yourself again in earnest whether you still want to stay on or not.”


September 26, 2012


It was near noon last Friday when I boarded the Hibiya metro line heading towards downtown at Hiroo Station. As the coach was sparse with passengers, I leisurely took my seat in the middle of the row. At Roppongi, the next station, an attractive looking couple in a highly sophisticated attire and manner boarded the coach. True to their stylishness, they did not even look for vacant seats that were in abundance but stood closely to each other and continued to talk intimately.

As I quietly chuckled to myself that, “This is indeed the neighborhood of fashionable Roppongi,” my eyes casually made contact with those of the beautiful lady as the couple was standing across me. At that moment, she, to my big surprise, smiled and with a voice full of familiarity called on me by exclaiming, “Oh, professor....”? With her enchanting smile, I suddenly recalled that she was a former Chinese actress who visited my office several years ago upon the introduction of film director Ms. Naomi Kawase. When I returned her smile with a nod and invited her to take a seat, she whispered something into the ear of the handsome man standing next to her. Then, very naturally, they took their seats with me in the middle.

I immediately exchanged name cards with the good-looking young man and I found out that he was Mr. Li Ying, a Chinese film director residing in Japan. As I came to fully grasp the identities of the attractive couple, I first inquired how the actress has been doing and went on to ask if she has encountered anything unpleasant in Japan recently due to the ongoing dispute over the Senkaku Islands. To this, I was relieved to hear her say, “Totally nothing. All the Japanese people have been extremely kind as always.” We, thus, continued our friendly conversation until the train arrived at Kasumigaseki Station, the stop that I had to get off. I bade them goodbye by saying, “Do visit my office together.”

With regards to the current territorial dispute between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands, the Chinese political leaders may have succeeded in instilling a strong anti-Japan feeling among her people. However, the violent demonstrations which were more akin to riots that took place in China were in stark contrast to the calmness of the Japanese society. The riotous incidents must have left an imprint in the minds of many in the world that “China is still an unstable and scary superpower.” However, the person who triggered the disturbance was Governor Shintaro Ishihara (he ignited the dispute by declaring that Tokyo Metropolitan Government will purchase the Senkaku Islands which prompted the Japanese government to step in and purchase the islets from their private owner). It is hard for me to believe that a man who is constantly blinking his eyes as if to reveal his inner timidity and looking down on China by deliberately referring to the country as “Ching chong” is the Governor of Tokyo.


September 17, 2012


Ever since I turned 85 years old, I have no clue why but I have been exceptionally busy that I could not even spare time to write my weekly Rapport for the last three weeks. This being the case, I received calls from several of my acquaintances who, with genuine good intention, inquired as to my well-being. However, please rest assured. I am totally fit and am spending my days engaged in numerous activities in various locations. For example, last Monday, I went on a 3 days/2 nights business trip to the Kansai region where I was able to complete all the must-to-do on my workload list there.

One of them was to present my candid advice on the Osaka Prefecture’s tourism promotion policy which I received a request for since last month. On last Tuesday afternoon, officials of the Osaka Prefectural Government guided Mr. Hideo Sawada (Chairman of H.I.S Co., Ltd), several executive members of the Asia Leaders Association which Mr. Sawada serves as the Chairman and I to visit 7 entertainment districts and after the tour, a meeting was commenced at 4:30 pm at the Osaka Prefectural Government’s headquarters office where we presented our advices on the prefecture’s tourism promotion strategy to Governor Ichiro Matsui. Since I found that time was not as tight as I anticipated, I had two opportunities to impart my views regarding the Osaka Restoration Association to Governor Matsui. I said, “As one of the living witnesses who have experienced pre-war Japan, I have mixed feelings toward the Osaka Restoration Association (which Governor Matsui is deeply involved in). On the one hand, I have positive expectations that the Association will rejuvenate Japan's politics which is in abysmal decline. On the other hand, I cannot help but harbor an anxiety that an authoritarian state will finally enforce itself in post-war Japan. At any rate, even in the worst scenario, it is my hope that the Restoration Association will not pave way towards “Right-wing totalitarianism.” As Governor Matsui’s response towards my assessment was, to my surprise, quite gentle, I felt reassured.

However, as soon as I returned to Tokyo last Wednesday, my office and my home’s phone received calls from numerous newspapers and magazines requesting an interview with me. Although all of them seem to have wanted me to reveal the real intention behind my aforementioned remarks to Governor Matsui, my answer to them was short and simple. “My real intention is literally as expressed in my remark. I suspect that Governor Matsui himself has not taken my words seriously. Nothing more, nothing less.” The unexpected oversensitive reaction of the media made me realize how strong the Japanese public’s interest is towards the Osaka Restoration Association.


August 28, 2012


The international community is not as kind as to offer sympathy towards Japan where political confusion, economic stagnation and social malaise have become norms. The consecutive incidents pertaining to territorial disputes which happened recently, namely the visitation of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to Takeshima Islands and his insulting remarks towards the Emperor of Japan to apologize for Japan’s past colonial rule upon his return as well as the landing of Hong Kong’s radical activists on Senkaku Islands obviously depict Japan’s decline in national prestige among neighboring countries which was brought on by the country’s internal troubles. We must be prepared that these territorial disputes (although it may not be the national consensus of the citizens of both countries) are only preludes to further conflicts with South Korea and China.

As countermeasures, what Japan merely did was for Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to write a personal letter (in protest) to President Lee of South Korea and to deport the 14 Hong Kong activists who landed on Senkaku Islands for illegal entry into Japanese territory (without questioning their offensive actions). However, the Prime Minister’s personal letter was not accepted by President Lee and mailed back to Japan and the deported activists received a hero welcome by their supporters in Hong Kong. Things did not end there. Even the Japanese government’s “peaceful settlement” of the issues aroused feelings of hostility among many South Koreans and Chinese that anti-Japanese demonstrations sprung up in numerous regions while angry protestors threw stones at Japanese stores.

The question in point is how to deal with the situation hereafter. Last week, the Lower House passed a resolution (by re-emphasizing that both Takeshima and Senkaku Islands are integral part of Japanese territory) by a narrow majority vote by the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the opposition Liberal Democratic Party criticizing South Korea for “illegal occupation” of Takeshima Islands and warning China to refrain from taking further provocative actions in Japan-administered Senkaku Islands. Although the nation’s response was a mild one, what concerns me is the sudden conspicuousness of hawkish remarks hinting of nationalism within the country fanned by some of the media and the social networks. During the confusion after Japan’s defeat in World War II, the country’s four northern islands were taken over by the Soviet Union (current Russia) and during the confusion which took place right after the peace treaty in San Francisco was signed, the Takeshima Islands continues to be illegally occupied by South Korea via the Syngman Rhee Line (former MacArthur Line which was abolished in 1951). Japan, to this day, has been compelled to bear the losses of these autonomous sovereign territories in silence.

If the extremely right wing administration which is likely to rule Japan in the near future issues an order to mobilize the 240,000 members belonging to the National Self-Defense Forces (army, navy and air forces which now ranks 6th in the world in terms of military budget) with the aim to preserve the country’s territorial integrity, the illusion that Japan is a “peaceful nation” may finally vanish.


August 20, 2012


The next general election has further increased its reality with Prime Minister Noda’s remark that it will be held “In the near future.....” Under this circumstance, the Osaka Restoration Association is attracting a lot of attention. Although it is still a regional political party, when the association tried to recruit 400 students to the “Ishin Seijijuku” (a training school for politicians founded by the association) with the aim to win 200 seats in the Diet’s Lower House which is a majority, more than 3,000 individuals, 8 times the posted enrollment, applied. The association assumes that the students who wish to run as candidates at the election will fund their own campaign fee and pay 10,000 yen to listen to lectures held once a month at the school. The lectures started this spring after the students’ application were reviewed and narrowed down to 2,000.

Of the 2,000 students, the school further narrowed down the official enrollment to 888 individuals (from various professions, gender, age group, etc.) by judging their attitude in class and evaluating their report papers. Among them, the school intends to hand-pick 300 students to run for the next general election. Amid the unpopularity of the Democratic Party of Japan as well as all the other existing political parties, there is a huge possibility that a substantial number of the Osaka Restoration Association members will win the Lower House seats. Although they may be better than the so called “Koizumi Children” and the “Ozawa Girls” (which I hope will be wiped out after the next general election), the fact remains that most of them are amateurs in politics.

In general, politicians known as diet members constitute the highest authoritative power which determines the fate of our country. Most of the students of Ishin Seijijuku are individuals who pay a monthly 10,000 yen membership fee to listen to lectures held once a month. Needless-to-say, having just heard 8 lectures do not qualify them as being professional politicians. I believe that the very fact that the Japanese citizens do not question this issue symbolizes that democracy is in a critical state in current Japan. When one considers that any “profession,” without exceptions, requires decades of devoted discipline and pursuit of knowledge in order to reach top-class level, lawmakers cannot be classified as a decent profession. In other words, the majority of them are identical to movie extras who are considered as disposable staff once the film is shot. I wonder the legitimacy of paying enormously high annual allowances to such unprofessional folks and continue to have them take absurd actions.


August 6, 2012


I spent the first half of last week in Sendai. In the afternoon of the first day, I gave a speech at a gathering hosted by the supporters of Governor Yoshihiro Murai (of Miyagi Prefecture) where there were more than 500 audiences. This was followed by an evening reception where I was accompanied by the Governor and his wife and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and conversing with countless invitees. On the second day, I delighted in playing golf with three close friends under the scorching sun and on the third day, I actively spoke out at a three-cornered talk with Governor Murai and Mr. Hidesaburo Kagiyama (founder of Yellow Hat Ltd., a retail chain of auto accessories) which will be featured in the September issue of “Riraku,” a leading local magazine in Miyagi Prefecture. Indeed, the three days were most rewarding and enjoyable.

After getting deeply involved in founding the Miyagi (Prefectural) University, I became the first President and spent 4 years as a business bachelor in Sendai. At the same time, it was a most turbulent period in my life. The “public university reform” which I aspired vigorously to implement at Miyagi University after founding the Tama University and getting it into successful orbit must have had every reason to be unacceptable to many of the faculty members who were recruited via public advertisement. One prefectural assembly member, most probably upon the solicitation of the faculty members who were against my reform, went as far as to ferociously attack my legitimacy as the university’s President at the prefectural assembly meeting and this incident became the talk of the town in Sendai.

During this period, the former Governor of Miyagi who was actively pitching for “reform” suddenly started to distance himself from me. However, there were several prefectural assembly members who consoled and encouraged me in various ways. One of them was Mr. Murai, the current Governor. As rumor spread that "President Noda will resign the post in indignation and return to Tokyo," a group of sympathetic citizens who were concerned about me, out of spontaneity, formed the “Kazuo Noda Fan Club.” The friendship between Governor Murai and I have further solidified over the years and the fan club has continued to exist even after I returned to Tokyo having completed my term as President and whenever I visit Sendai, the fan club members still always give me a tremendously warm welcome.

My father who was a typical “man of the Meiji Era,” despised the easygoing way to deal with life as expressed in the proverb “Wake not a sleeping lion.” I, who wholeheartedly respected my father more than anyone else in the world, have led a life as a revolt and now that I have finally become a person of advanced age in a peaceful state of mind, I feel gratified with deep satisfaction.


July 31, 2012


After 3.11 (the day the massive earthquake devastated northeastern Japan in 2011) and the secondary disaster which followed, namely the anxiety of radioactive contamination, foreigners residing in Japan, like the ebbing away of the tide, have fled this country and headed toward their homeland. Furthermore, the numbers of foreigners visiting Japan has dwindled. In a way, this can be perceived as a natural phenomenon. However, at the same time, it is necessary to contemplate to what degree this has been a “natural” consequence. When huge disasters occur in Japan, both the Japanese media and the social networking services (SNS) report them in an exaggerated manner and as these reports reach overseas countries, the “magnifying effect” takes place and inevitably heightens the foreigners’ risk awareness and fear towards Japan. If these feelings of uncertainty keep inflating among foreigners and become by far more than that of the Japanese who live outside the radioactive contamination warning zone but fear radioactivity hazard from the contamination designated areas mostly from “false rumors,” can this magnifying effect be still considered “natural?”

Speculations such as “What will be the scenario if a magnitude 10 earthquake directly hit Tokyo?” “What will happen if Mount Fuji erupts?” “Dangerous active faults are found under almost all the nuclear power plants” have become routine reports among the Japanese newspapers and T.V. stations. When these information reach the foreign media and SNS and if the foreigners in general perceive that the possibility of these disasters happening are more likely and that they will happen earlier than what the Japanese public anticipate, it may be difficult to explain that their perception and the behavior based on their assumption are only “natural.”

By exaggerating the disasters that have happened or may happen in the country, I cannot help but think that the Japanese people themselves are immensely magnifying Japan’s disadvantages in the international community. Mr. Takeo Doi, in his masterpiece work “The Anatomy of Dependence,” analyzed the peculiarity of the Japanese mentality from the viewpoint that the Japanese need to be in good favor with, and be able to depend on, the people around oneself. From his perspective, the reason why the Japanese expect excessive sympathy towards the disasters that have happened or have the possibility of happening from foreigners may be interpreted as a manifestation of this “dependency.”“Dependency” in one sense can be a form of self-humiliation. We should remind ourselves of the old Japanese proverb which cautions us that, “Those who look down on themselves will be looked down by others.”


July 18, 2012


On July 16th which was the last day of a three-day holiday weekend and commemorating a national holiday, the “Sayonara Nukes 1000000 Rally” organized by citizens’ group and labor unions was held at Yoyogi Park. It was an unusually clear day for the time of the year in Tokyo and recorded the highest temperature so far this summer. As the anti-nuclear power plant demonstration was spearheaded by public figures such as Kenzaburo Oe (winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1994) and Ryuichi Sakamoto (famous musician and composer), the rally seems to have been a huge success. The rally organizers announced that the number of participants was 170,000 while the police department announced that it was 75,000, a big difference which is not unusual when reported by opposite parties. Whatever the real number, the fact that such a huge crowd congregated at the mass demonstration surprised me.

As for myself, I do not intend to participate in this kind of event at this point in time. It is because of the vivid memory of seeing a gathering under the slogan of “Rally to Destroy the American and the British Demons” by chance from afar when I was a senior high school student and happened to be passing through Hibiya Park. It was a time when Japan’s defeat at the Pacific War was dense in the air. What I saw was a group of middle-aged men whose faces were all uniformly excited to the point of extremity. As one man who was standing on the stage shouted, “Destroy the American and the British demons!” everybody attending the gathering responded by shouting the same phrase and the man and the crowd kept taking turns in refraining the words. I have, never to this day, forgotten this bizarre sight and how I felt at the time. The same middle-aged men, most probably must have welcomed the GIs who came to occupy Japan after the country’s defeat by waving U.S. flags with their faces all smiles. This discrepancy of anti-American stance suddenly turning to pro-American sentiment can be explained only by the perception that at any given period in history, the public is prone to be driven by what is dominant at the time.

I, however, do not necessarily deny the significance of the public’s uprising to voice their opposition against the national authority. As seen in the recent public upheaval in the Middle East countries which started out in Tunisia as the “Jasmine Revolution,” if the target of the protest is the unforgivable national authority which is worth to give up one’s life to overthrow, even I, at the age of 85 years old, will join the people’s movement in high spirits as a member of the intellectual public. But when I ask myself whether the country should immediately decommission all nuclear power plants, I honestly cannot come up with a rational answer to back up whether I am for or against it. As this is the case, I cannot commit myself to the anti-nuclear power plant movement by just being swayed by a one-time emotion or because I cannot swim against the current tide. I believe that this autonomy expresses the pride of being a generation who lived through World War II.


July 4, 2012


Recently, the Japanese public is undoubtedly overreacting and becoming excessively “disaster-phobic.” It is clear as day that this is the aftereffect of the Great East Japan Earthquake which devastated a vast region along the picturesque Sanriku Seashore with a monumental tsunami and took almost 20,000 precious lives. As if this was not enough, the meltdown and hydrogen explosions of the 4 reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant left a horrifying by-product of severe radioactive contamination in northeast Japan.

As a result, the voices of seismologists who claim that it is impossible to predict when an earthquake will occur for the time being and nuclear power specialists who assert that it is impossible to decommission all the existing nuclear power plants have virtually been shut out. On the contrary, remarks by seismologists who advocate that massive earthquakes will hit Japan (recognizing that there is no verifiable scientific evidence to prove their statements) and specialists who decisively assert that Japan should immediately shift the emphasis to relying on “renewable energy” (knowing that there are various and numerous hurdles to overcome in order to actually realize this) have been widely publicized and amplified by the irresponsible media. This has prompted the trend, with the backing of public consensus, to implement disaster preparedness policies toward earthquake and tsunami of huge magnitude as well as to hastily decommission nuclear power plants throughout the country.

Under such circumstances, I renew my deep reverence towards Mr. Hichihei Yamamoto, a prodigious social critic who belongs to the same generation as myself. He regretted that, “Since the Japanese language does not have a future tense, ‘how things ought to be’ which must be articulated in future tense is misunderstood and considered as being identical to ‘how things stand as of now’ which is in the present tense.” As an example to illustrate his stance, he cites a time in Japan when environmental pollution was becoming a serious social issue. As the national leaders could not accurately convey by when they intend to resolve the problem, the infuriated demonstrators demanded that Japan should close down all the manufacturing plants which were causing the contamination. Another exemplary case which took place before WWII; the anxiety that the import of petroleum from overseas countries may be suspended sometime in the future metamorphosed into an urgency that it is better to immediately engage in warfare if the import is abruptly stopped by unjust reasons. We must take to heart and repent that this kind of mentality, i.e. not being able to accurately formulate the immediate present vis-a-vis future prospects, led Japan to recklessly get involved in the Pacific War.

Even if there were legitimate reasons to go to war, the catastrophic tragedy ruined the entire country of Japan to ashes and more than 3 million lives were lost. With democracy, brought about after WWII’s defeat, even the Japanese people’s mindset seems to have temporarily changed from prewar times but the true essence seems to remain unchanged.

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