Osaka Mayor Hashimoto two days without offensive remarks

[Osaka] – The front pages of several Japanese newspapers reported today that the mayor of Osaka, Toru Hashimoto, has not made a single offensive remark in public during the last two days.

Chief-editors point out that this is a radical change in policy by Hashimoto, who recently managed to make one or more offensive remarks per day, over a period of more than a week.

The public relations manager of Hashimoto, Takeshi Nakamura, confirmed that the mayor is taking his new policy seriously: “His first challenge is to complete one week without a single offensive remark”, said Nakamura. “After that, we’ll see how it goes.”

During yesterday’s meeting in Osaka City Hall, Hashimoto himself appeared optimistic. “It is surprisingly easy to stop offending people! I mean, I have gone several hours without offending anyone yesterday. Granted, there were short relapse periods in between…” Nakamura confirmed this statement, adding that Hashimoto had indeed made offensive remarks several times even yesterday, but “at least not in public.”

The private offensive remarks targeted the USA, the entire South Korean population, and “an old lady he met on the street”, among others.

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Apprentice Shinto priest at Yasukuni Shrine accidentally enshrines 247 celebrities

[Tokyo] – Confusion and anger at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo today, where a young apprentice Shinto priest made a mistake that is bound to shake the shrine to its foundations, and Japanese politics with it.

The young apprentice, whose name has not been made public, accidentally enshrined the “kami”, or spirits, of 247 international celebrities. The celebrities include a wide choice of actors, singers, and otherwise famous people, from actress Jennifer Aniston to Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook.

Yasukuni shrine is at the center of international controversy, because 14 convicted Class A war criminals are enshrined at the shrine, which is seen as a symbol of Japan’s imperialist past in many of Japan’s neighboring countries. The enshrinement of 247 celebrities, some still alive, is likely to further spread this controversy all over the world.

The family of Michael Jackson, who is among the celebrities who were accidentally enshrined, has made a short public reaction to the enshrinement. “We have no idea what this is all about.” They added that their lawyers are investigating any potential links between Michael and World War II war crimes.

Meanwhile, the chief priest of the shrine has reacted against nearly 500 requests to undo the enshrinement. “Our rulebook – though completely arbitrary – is very clear on this subject: once a kami or spirit is enshrined, it has been merged with the other spirits, and they cannot be separated any more”.

“It is very regrettable, but the spirits of Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Einstein and all the others will be here forever, whether they like it or not”.

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Japanese politicians cause newspaper strikes

[Tokyo] – Several of Japan’s main newspapers, including the Yomiuri, Asahi, and Mainichi newspapers, have issued statements protesting against the behaviour of Japan’s politicians.

Instead of the usual newspapers, tomorrow they will hand out a free, single page, special issue, containing a open letter addressed mainly at Osaka’s Mayor, Toru Hashimoto, and this year’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe.

Hashimoto sparked world-wide criticism earlier this week by commenting on the necessity of the “comfort woman” system during World War II. Just one day later, pictures appeared of a smiling Prime Minister Abe seated inside a training jet marked by the number 731, a potential reference to Unit 731. Unit 731 was a secret Japanese biological and chemical warfare research facility that was active during the war.

In the open letter, the Japanese newspapers heavily criticize both politicians. “They put us in a very difficult position”, one editor told us. “On the one hand, they want us to portay a bad picture of China and South Korea, but on the other hand they want us to keep silent about Japan’s dirty past”. “We just barely managed to spin Hashimoto’s remarks into a rant against the US military presence in Okinawa, as usual, but what shall we do with Abe’s picture?”, the visibly irritated editor continued. “We see no other way but to give a minimal amount of background information on Unit 731.”

Several chief-editors, however, expressed their concern about giving their Japanese readers such raw facts about the war. “Telling them the truth now might become a dangerous precedent. We might be forced to tell the the truth again someday,” said the editor-in-chief of one newspaper. “In Japan we value traditions highly, and we have no tradition of telling the truth in newspapers”, he concluded.

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Osaka Mayor Hashimoto registers daughters as official comfort women

[Osaka] – Toru Hashimoto, Mayor of Osaka, earlier today officially registered his 4 daughters as comfort women for the Japanese Self Defense Force.

This move comes after Hashimoto’s controversial comments earlier this week on the role of “sex slaves” during World War II, referred to as “comfort women” in Japanese. Hashimoto said that “comfort women” served a “necessary” role in keeping troops in check by allowing them to “let off steam”.

“People told me to make my daughters comfort women, and there, I did register them”, explained Hashimoto. “I did it without the girls’ consent”, Hashimoto admitted jokingly, “much in the traditional Japanese way, so to speak”.

In case a war should break out between Japan and a neighboring country, the 4 girls will serve to entertain the male members of the Japanese Self Defense Force, which counts about 250,000 active personnel. Asked about his opinion about the promised services, one officer said that if it was sure that war would break out, he hoped it would be before the daughters turned 20 years of age. A second officer stated that he had no idea what the girls look like, but that in case they are good-looking he supports the idea. “I really need to let off some steam already…”, he added.

Asked about his opinion, former Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara said that he was mainly surprised that Hashimoto was willing to admit the existence of the “comfort women”, which he stressed “are 100% fictional”.

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Pine tree in Gifu Prefecture to be UNESCO World Heritage site

[Gifu] – Following last week’s recommendation of Japan’s iconic Mount Fuji for World Heritage status by the International Council of Monuments and Sites, the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs (JACA) has made public its plans for a new application to UNESCO for a pine tree in the Gifu Prefecture.

This new candidate World Heritage site is situated in Kashiwabara, a small village located about 4 km from Sekigahara. It was in Sekigahara that in 1600 AD a decisive battle was fought between the forces of Toyotome Hideyori and those of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who won the battle.

“But, it was in Kashiwabara, on the eve of the battle, that Tokugawa Ieyasu fastened his horse to a pine tree.”, explains a local member of the JACA committee the importance of the site for world history. “If this tree had not been here at that time, Tokugawa’s horse might have run off, and the future Shogun of Japan might have shown up late at the battlefield the next day.” The actual pine tree is naturally no longer there, but a plastic replica is being prepared.

Government officials are planning to support the application and are considering the construction of a large-scale red light district near the site in order to convince the UNESCO officials. The district will be referred to as “Nadeshiko Sekigahara”. The Japanese government has set aside a 4 billion yen budget for the 3 year project.

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Data leak hits Japan National Security Institute

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[Tokyo] – Japan’s National Security Institute (NSI) says it is investigating a potential data leak about its new security checks in airports.

NSI said it started its investigation after TV Tokyo made public posters advertising its new show called “Why did you come to Japan?”. The problematic posters picture foreigners inside an airport giving answers to the question “why did you come to Japan?”.

“The content of the posters was suspiciously similar to our plans for the new security checks”, explains Keishin Kuroda of NSI. “Not only the general setting, but also the answers printed on the posters showed a high similarity to our plans”, says Kuroda, adding that the similarity was “too high to be explained by mere chance”.

Answers featured in the poster include “I want to meet Japanese lolitas”, “Maid cafes are great”, and “I love the Japanese ‘kawaii’ “. “When I saw these answers, I nearly had a heart attack”, says Kuroda, “These answers are exactly the answers which our plan regards as answers with the lowest possible security threat.”

The NSI regards the leakage of these answers to the public as highly dangerous. “It’s a dangerous world out there, filled with foreign terrorists. If these guys get access to what we consider as acceptable answers, they can easily circumvent our security system”.

Photograph by Mark Buckton; from Japan Today. Link.

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Poll among 168 lawmakers reveals motifs for Yasukuni visits

[Tokyo] – Earlier this week a group of 168 Japanese lawmakers made their annual visit to the controversial Yasukuni shrine. Visits to the shine, a symbol of Japan’s imperialist past, regularly leads to increased tensions between Japan and many of its East Asian neighbors.

In a poll, we asked the 168 lawmakers about their motifs for visiting the visit. The results show that there is more to this shrine than blatant Japanese nationalism.

The most popular motif seems to be the free advertisement that a visit to Yasukuni shrine brings with it. A stunning 38% of the polled answered that they regard the visit as “a change to get my face on television and on the front page of newspapers”. Another popular motif is the will to gain votes from right-wing nationalists (17%). Right-wing nationalists, which represent a large part of the Japanese electorate are widely regarded as easy to impress by actions that “annoy China and South Korea yet do not require any political skill”, to use the words of one lawmaker.

This leads us to the second most popular motif. About 21% of lawmakers stated that they feel a certain urge to “piss of people”, with an additional 6% explaining that it is part of the Japanese culture to piss people off. The opinion that it is in Japan’s best interest not to get along too well with its neighbors was selected by 15% of the polled. “In times of economic crisis, it’s always good to do something that negatively affects the public opinion among your main trading partners”, explained one lawmaker, adding that “this is what Abenomics is all about”.

Several of the lawmakers already expressed surprise and amazement about the negative reactions their visit would cause the next day, one day in advance. One lawmaker, who wished to remain anonymous, said that he is amazed how a visit to Yasukuni shrine can lead to such negative reactions. “I don’t think anyone would care if 168 German lawmakers would go pray in front of Hitler’s grave. Why is it always only Japan that gets criticized?” he added.

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