Some readers’ letters in response to Debito Arudou’s Oct. 2 Just Be Cause column, “Revisionists marching Japan back to a dangerous place“:

Your bias is showing, Arudou

As a professional in international politics and security, and a longtime resident in Japan, reading Arudou’s column, I sincerely hoped most people would not be duped into thinking he knew what he was talking about.

Your concerns that Japan is returning to the militarism of the early Showa Era borderline on the ridiculous. The term “happō bijin” has negative connotations, and is hardly something that Japan should strive for in its foreign policy. While some politicians may push for a greater degree of assertiveness, the overwhelming public sentiment that emerges when the JSDF (Japan Self-Defense Force) undertakes any operation overseas (Indian Ocean refueling, etc.) is fretful and negative.

China loves to trot out the specter of Japanese militarism, much as the Soviet Union used to make false protestations about West German rearmament back in the Cold War. If you’re looking for a real threat to regional peace and security, you might want to look across the East China Sea — to the good folks who are currently embroiled in territorial disputes with no less than 10 neighboring countries, whose military budget has grown by 400 percent in the last 10 years (that’s the officially published one), and managed to kill off 40 million of their own people between 1949-1975 (and I’m not even including the 600,000 dead in Tibet, or the deaths in North Korea that can be attributed to their support for the Kim regime’s nuclear gulag).

It’s like looking at a small cat facing a growling pit bull, and seeing that the cat has deployed its claws, and calling it “jingoistic.”

But, the second portion of the column gives more insight into your motives in writing this piece. Japan’s territorial issues are just another excuse for you to engaging in a “woe are we poor foreigners in Japan” diatribe.

You speak of “liberal and illiberal” policies as if they were direct corollaries to “good and bad,” when there is no such association. The Japanese people, as any free people, are entitled to rule their own country in as liberal, or conservative, fashion as they desire.

It is a guilty pleasure of foreigners living in Japan to fancy they are subjects of persecution. Your self-serving bias shines through quite clearly. Would you lecture a family on how they should behave in their own home? What you do here is much the same.

Koshigaya, Saitama

It depends who’s listening

Getting to the bottom of Japanese wartime history depends not so much on who you ask but who’s listening. Occasionally Japan’s leaders have acknowledged the suffering it caused when addressing the neighbors or foreign press, but the establishment has continued to whitewash history and deny atrocities in the media and education at home.

Sometimes, to grease the wheels of diplomacy these leaders have even — reluctantly — issued apologies. However they inevitably rush back to Yasukuni shrine to placate the nationalists and that hideous camp of revisionists that call themselves the War-Bereaved Association. No, that’s not what we meant at all, it was just to keep the foreigners quiet. Wink wink.

To understand how deeply offended the world is by denials of the Rape of Nanking, the systematic enslavement of comfort women and the brutal murder of prisoners of war, civilians and the human shields of Okinawa, the Japanese need consider but one question: How would you feel if the U.S. leadership refused to even acknowledge the atomic bombing of Hiroshima?


Picture doesn’t reflect reality

In Debito Arudou’s Oct. 2 article, he characterizes the recent diplomatic discourses by “revisionists” as “belligerent,” and depicts the “revisionist” view of history gaining political leverage by rekindling national “hopes and dreams.” I doubt his evaluation of the recent politics is accurate.

It is even difficult to evaluate that the ideologies of the “revisionists” are gaining popularity. (Former Tokyo) Gov. (Shintaro) Ishihara has been served as the governor for more than 10 years. Increasing popularity of (Osaka) Mayor (Toru) Hashimoto can only be understood in the context of Osaka people’s frustration toward the old regime. (Shinzo) Abe’s reelection as president of the Liberal Democratic Party cannot be understood without taking the LDP’s intraparty politics into consideration. The results of the recent polls by several news agencies also do not show any clear ideological trends among voters.

In addition, it can be misleading to evaluate the discourse claiming that Takeshima or Senkaku belong to Japan as “belligerent.” Under the sovereign state system, a geographic territory is independently and legitimately authorized by the state of the country where the territory belongs; the country can exclusively enjoy the resources from the territory until it comes to belong to another country. Whether “Japan has a lot to lose” can be evaluated only after the author takes this characteristic of the disputes into consideration.


On the side of the neo-Philistines

Whatever the political issue, whatever the social ill, real or imagined, Debito Arudou’s line is drearily predictable: The xenophobic, racist, reactionary Japanese establishment and its benighted collaborators are the cause of it all.

I always look forward to his rambling rants for the admittedly perverse pleasure of seeing the world from his topsy-turvy perspective, but I was particularly eager to get his always-blame-Japan take on the territorial disputes with South Korea and China. I was not disappointed.

Contrary to Arudou’s absurd claim that the Japanese government has cooked up these crises to distract the much-abused and gullible citizenry, it is the South Korean and Chinese authorities who have cynically turned to the tried-and-true device of Japan-bashing in order to stir up a nationalistic frenzy. The overall response from the nation, including editorials and other commentary in The Japan Times, has been calm and restrained — perhaps even to a fault.

Earlier this year Korean immigrants to the land of “E Pluribus Unum,” Arudou’s native land, recycled the “comfort women” issue by erecting a highly misleading and divisive monument. Its purpose is not commemoration, let alone reconciliation; it is simply more grievance-mongering.

And now rampaging mobs in China have caused many hundreds of millions of yen in property damage. Japanese living in China must be careful not to be speak their native language in public. In several of Chinatowns in the United States, anti-Japanese demonstrations have been held. By way of contrast, how many stone-throwing anti-Chinese hooligans have been seen in Yokohama’s Chinatown? Do Chinese tourists whisper to each other as they wander through Tokyo Disneyland? Have California’s Little Tokyo residents paraded through the streets screaming anti-Chinese slogans?

Arudou may think of himself as a modern-day Debito against Goliath. In fact, he is on the side of the neo-Philistine bullies.


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