As I have been posting to this blog for the past six months, Japan is increasingly becoming more nationalistic, and as I suspect will continue growing closer to Russia gradually pulling out of the Anglo-American sphere. The other day, I posted a long study on how Japan’s powerful PR firm Dentsu is moving outside of Japan into the Asia-Pacific region (APAC) to extend Japan’s influence over the East Asian countries.
There is increasing cooperation between Russia and Japan and it is often overlooked or simply not known unless foreign news sources are scoured for news on the developing relations between Japan and Russia. Think about the fact that Russia went from a backward “third world” economy in the early 1990s, to a “first world” economy with the 6th largest economy in the world in about five years. I don’t pretend to know what’s coming but I sense intensifying nationalist interests are increasingly and rapidly taking control in all countries and especially in Japan.
Behind Abe’s slap down of Obama at the G-7 summit
The shock came early at the Group of Seven summit in Japan with an indelicate choice of words from Shinzo Abe in protesting the rape-murder of an Okinawan woman by a U.S. military contractor. At a joint press conference with President Barack Obama, the Japanese prime minister said with unusual forthrightness: “I feel profound resentment against this self-centered and absolutely despicable crime.”
His harsh tone was reminiscent of a drill sergeant dressing-down a downcast rookie at a boot camp. There was political capital to be gained from being offensive in front of the lame-duck president. From a Machiavellian angle, the crime couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment, shifting the onus of an unpopular U.S. military base relocation plan from his own Liberal Democratic Party back onto the White House and Pentagon.
Visibly embarrassed, President Barack Obama struggled to keep his composure. In an excessively polite society where evasiveness is the norm, Abe’s blunt accusation conveyed popular stereotypes of Americans as loud, rude and demanding individualists with a clumsy disregard for the Japanese sense of decorum and manners. The gap in cultural characteristics cannot be wider than between the Japanese whose self-restraint is reinforced by the dread of shame and Americans who are fearful only of the risks of being caught breaking the law. In the darker recesses of the Japanese mind, Americans are conniving criminals by nature in dire need of stern training in morality and civility.
The stereotype is primarily based on depictions of U.S. nationals in manga comic books as thuggish gangsters, power-hungry militarists, arrogant diplomats or hen-na gaijin (eccentric foreigners obsessed with Japanese culture). The minority of Japanese who actually have real-world friendships with Americans may know better but rarely if ever speak out in their defense against abusive comments due to the risk of being scoffed at as dupes, apologists and even traitors. Nonetheless every stereotype is based on a grain of truth, and American conduct overseas has not ingratiated them as the most welcome visitors in many foreign countries.
The shocking castigation from, Abe who studied at Stanford and has worked in New York, was obviously a calculated ploy to boost his poll ratings at home as a bold leader who can stand up against Western liberal do-gooders to chart an independent course for Japan. Resentment of an “absolutely despicable crime” can also be perceived as a double entendre in reference to the unforgivable atomic-bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With crafty transference of war guilt onto Washington. Abe deftly co-opted the anti-Americanism of opposition leftist parties and pacifists, along with their supporters among liberal historians in the U.S, mouthing platitudes about peace and friendship before Obama’s visit to Hiroshima.
By coming to Hiroshima without any intention of apology, the White House played into Abe’s revisionist view of the Pacific War:
• by enabling the prime minister to dodge a reciprocal visit to Pearl Harbor, thus preserving intact his revanchist view of the global conflict as a Japanese campaign to liberate Asian and other oppressed peoples from the unequal treaties and racial discrimination imposed by Western colonialism; and
• providing justification for resumption of Japan’s quiet policy of “deterrence”, a code word for its covert nuclear-weapons program, which was setback by the Fukushima disaster.
Abe’s tirade, which reinforces nationalism across the political spectrum to his party’s great advantage, undoubtedly brought deep satisfaction to his supporters in the revanchist movement called Nippon Kaigi (Japan Conference). The rightist bloc ideologically dominates the ruling Democratic Liberal Party (LDP) and is gaining momentum in the Diet for removal of the postwar Constitution’s Article 9, which forbids war-making as an instrument of state policy.
For all his bluster and grand-standing, Abe is not a one-dimensional radical rightist with a bullhorn and rising-sun headband. Prior to his political career, he was a managerial technocrat at Kobe Steel and then worked at the Japanese trade office in New York. His twin idols are the samurai revolutionist Yoshida Shoin and his grandfather Nobusuke Kishi, who served at the wartime Munitions ministry. During the era of unfair treaties under a weak shogunate in the first half of the 19th century, Yoshida advocated a campaign of repelling the foreign powers by importing their weapons technology. In both terms as prime minister, Abe followed the Yoshida strategy by secretly lobbying the Bush and Obama administrations to transfer dual-use nuclear technologies to Japan for production of warheads.
In contrast to Abe, the radical rightists, who are influenced by the legacy of nationalist writer Yukio Mishima, put greater stress on Shintoist spiritual values and the warrior code of bushido than on advanced weaponry. If anything, right-wingers disdain Americans as spineless cowards for dropping the atomic bombs rather than affirming their principles by sacrificing their own lives in battle. In interviews for my former newspaper, rightist spokesmen expressed their uneasy distrust of the mainline conservatives including the late Yasuhiro Nakasone, Kishi and Abe for being supplicants to American military strength and financial power.
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