Pattern of denial in leadership

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto insulted people worldwide with his repeated denials and justifications of the Imperial Japanese Army’s sexual slavery system during World War II. These and many other idiotic statements from Japanese politicians give us real insight into the thinking of much of Japan’s leadership.

Psychologists will tell you that patterns of behavior are important to watch. Over the past two decades I’ve noticed a pattern of denial and obfuscation whenever a Japanese male is caught doing something objectionable: (1) deny the problem, (2) blame the victim, (3) minimize the problem and (4) play the victim.

Hashimoto’s responses to angry criticism fall squarely into this pattern, but they are far from original. We hear the same weaseling whenever Japanese bigwigs have conflicts with foreigners — from the decades of international trade friction to the predictable denials issued by Toyota when it faced the recall of millions of its cars.

Hashimoto’s style has been called “Hashism” for good reason. His attitude dovetails with that of Japanese revisionists advocating a new school curriculum that whitewashes Japanese history to promote patriotism. Hashimoto’s protests that everybody is picking on Japan are false arguments that illustrate the pre-adolescent level of thinking that fascism promotes.

The attitudes that enslaved thousands of girls and women in countries occupied by Japan before and during World War II persist to this day. Before the 2011 nuclear disasters, the biggest intellectual argument in Japan concerned the production and availability of comic books about raping little girls. This is not coincidental. It is what psychologists would call a pathology.

donald feeney
fujisawa, kanagawa

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

  • Frank Bennett

    That pretty well nails Hashimoto’s rhetorical strategy in this odd circus: we’ve clearly entered Phase 4 in preparation for the meeting at the Foreign Press Club.

    At today’s round-table on Fuji TV, there was a lot of talk from establishment pols about the need for historical accuracy and a more elevated discussion — framed by Hashimoto as primarily a question of whether there is direct proof that the military, by its own hand, kidnapped individual women to be turned to this work. That’s very perceptive: it’s hard to see much of anything from that end of the telescope.

    The frame is fixed in place with a very strange collection of reasons for a regimented, uniform system of high-volume sexual servicing to troops in the field: preventing the spread of venereal disease among the troops; preserving good relations with local communities by siphoning off soldier libido in-house; and boosting morale by giving war-weary soldiers a bit of rest from the stress of field operations.

    Reading that catalog under the influence of certain chemical compounds, one might be tempted to think that the sole purpose of this brutal system was public welfare and the preservation of community harmony.

    What is “obvious to anyone” is that the military in a drive toward colonisation (or outright annex) must be insulated from fraternisation with the local population, both for security (“Loose Lips Sink Ships”) and to prevent unwarranted sympathy for the locals. Setting aside the happy-families explanations, this must indeed have been a core necessity. It is not pretty and has nothing to do with public welfare.

    If you want an analog to the “comfort” system, look to Pizza Hut and Burger King on bases in Iraq: it doesn’t get you very far to argue that these are private companies. The same goes for the abuses of Blackwater and other mercenaries operating in Iraq. The whole line of argument put forward, not just by Hashimoto but by the entire conservative phalange, is set in fantasy-land. It is amazing that anyone can listen to these arguments with a straight face.

    Apart from that, the legal form of fuzoku that Hashimoto now says he was recommending to US troops would amount to strip-tease establishments. As a means of reducing sexual crime against women? His “apology” to the US military was far shy of the mark. This isn’t an insult to American morality: it is an insult to the intelligence.