Readers' views: Skype's downside for teachers; Senkaku and the ICJ; Arudou's ageist attack on Keene; Abe's nuclear folly

Do we really need to know ages?

Re: “Osaka: What are your hopes for yourself, Japan and the world in 2013?” (Views From The Street, Jan. 1):

Looking at your questions to people of Osaka about their hopes for 2013, I wonder — yet again — about the Japanese obsession with people’s ages? What on earth is the reason for putting the ages of people next to their names? Are their views less or more valuable depending on their age?

Why not have a survey about whether people’s ages in this type of situation are really needed?


Skype has cons too for teachers

Regarding the recent article by Mami Maruko titled “Online English studies benefit Japanese, Filipinos” (Who’s Who, Jan. 8), I would like to make an amendment — it should have read “Online English studies benefit Japanese, Filipinos . . . but not English teachers living in Japan.”

The article came across as a mouthpiece for the business interests of the Skype-based school and failed to point out any possible negative side-effects that such outsourcing may incur.

While I’m not against outsourced Skype-based learning, The Japan Times should point out pros and cons and not merely bombard its readers with what essentially comes down to free advertising for an already affordable school. Even if it is an editorial.

A little more balance, please. Balance.


Senkaku spat unlikely to go to ICJ

Re: “Refer Senkaku issue to ICJ to avoid a train wreck” (Hotline to Nagata-cho, Jan. 8):

I absolutely agree with Brian Victoria that the most sensible approach to the Senkaku Islands dispute, for Japan/China as well as for the rest of the world, would be to seek a resolution at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). At the same time, I believe that the point he advocates is logically more relevant to an addressee other than (Prime Minister Shinzo) Abe.

In my view, Brian’s comparison of the Senkakus to Takeshima is imprecise. They differ fundamentally in that Takeshima is under South Korea’s administration, in contrast to the Senkakus, which are under Japan’s administration. For Takeshima, it makes sense for Japan to take the matter to the ICJ in an attempt to change the current situation (i.e. Korean administration) through a process at a “fair, impartial venue” (as Brian put it).

The same does not apply to the Senkakus. It is China that wants to change the present state. If China truly believes that Japan “stole” the islands from it and wants to rectify the prevailing situation, the country is the one to be encouraged to resort to the ICJ instead of employing tactics that may lead to violence.

Urging China to lodge a case at the ICJ is not only logical but also practical. As is well known, the ICJ can open a trial only with the consent of the countries concerned. For Takeshima, the ICJ is unlikely to be able to play a role in the face of Korea’s opposition to the court considering the issue. However, Japan has a declaration in force to accept ICJ jurisdiction if a case is submitted to the court by another country.

Precisely speaking, the declaration is not relevant to the Senkakus. Pursuant to the ICJ framework, it presupposes reciprocity (i.e. the submitting country must have accepted the same obligation about ICJ jurisdiction, which China has not). Yet, it would be difficult for Japan to refuse the institution of the court’s proceedings.

In this sense, China’s decision to bring the dispute to the ICJ would have a better chance of resolution than Japan’s application to the court, which may not be entertained in the absence of China’s consent.

My comments above do not mean that there is nothing Japan can do. One option would be to run a full-page advertisement to the following effect in reputable newspapers:

Dear Chinese Friends,

Friends do not agree all the time on all issues.

As regards the Senkaku Islands, we believe that there is no room for doubt that they are Japan’s in the light of historical facts and international law.

If you think otherwise, we would like to suggest that you take the matter to the International Court of Justice, instead of relying on means that involve risk of violence. For our two countries to settle the dispute through the ICJ will not only be beneficial to both of us but also set a good example for dispute resolution in the rest of the world.

It is unlikely that China will respond, partly because making use of the ICJ for the Senkakus runs the risk of China subsequently being forced to accept ICJ proceedings in other disputes it is engaged in. Nonetheless, the message outlined above should serve as a deterrent against military aggression on China’s part with respect to the Senkaku Islands.

Unfortunately, the Japanese government will not take such action on its own initiative, for fear of domestic criticism about the lack of firmness in dealing with China. Friendly persuasion by the U.S. will be essential.


Arudou slithers into 2013

Re: “The year for non-Japanese in ’12: a top 10” (Just Be Cause, Jan. 1): The Japan Times started off the Year of the Snake badly with more venomous drivel from Debito Arudou. Arudou slithers over such a broad range of issues that as soon as readers spot one unsupported, misleading or outright false assertion, they are faced with another.

Once a self-promoting “rights activist,” he has evolved into an ever more tiresome, loud-mouthed, pseudo-leftwing ideologue and Japan-bashing bully. He concludes his latest column with a mini-jeremiad, lamenting that his adopted country is sliding toward history-denying, xenophobic, Yamato-ist authoritarianism.

One can pass over such absurdity without comment, but what is truly offensive and reprehensible is his malicious attack on one of Japan’s new citizens: the distinguished Donald Keene. This is not the first time that Arudou has misrepresented what Prof. Keene has said, but instead of retracting his charges, he has repeated them, with a witless, mean-spirited, ageist cartoon appended in a further display of petty jealousy.


Mankind heading for catastrophe

In regard to the Jan. 15 Hotline to Nagata-cho letters, “Advising Abe on the wisdom of a nuclear restart,” it’s doubtful that a narrow-minded ultra-nationalist like PM Shinzo Abe would pay the least bit of attention to any advice from the gaikokujin (foreigner) community, whether resident or overseas, over such a pressing issue as Japan’s future use of nuclear power.

Abe will follow the advice of his friends in the domestic “nuclear village” along with his own political instincts. He’s not overly concerned about the dangers of nuclear waste and what will become of Japan in 1,000 years. Like all the “head in the sand” politicians in the U.S. and Europe, he’ll simply tell himself, “Let future generations worry about the mess, I won’t be here so what do I care?”

This is the universal attitude that has gotten us into this mess in the first place, and by “mess” I don’t simply mean the Fukushima disaster, but the whole global environmental crisis that might bring down the curtain on the human race by 2100.

Every advanced nation would be wise at this critical point in time to forget about everything but restoring the environment, bringing things back into balance and drastically reducing global warming. Read Al Gore’s book “Earth in the Balance”, which is a good primer on the subject.

It was a British journalist who wrote that “oil is the devil’s excrement.” Fossil fuels will be our undoing. Recent reports of pollution levels in Beijing a that are “beyond the index,” the terrible heat wave now igniting wildfires across Australia, and the devastating drought that hit much of America last summer are all reminders from the gods on high that we humans are living on the brink of environmental and ecological catastrophe. And as that old Republican Ronald Reagan loved to say, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”

Be scared, very scared, and pray that world leaders will finally open their eyes to the threat.

Otaru, Hokkaido

Send your comments on these issues and story ideas to The Community Chest at community@japantimes.co.jp .