Triumph of Tokyo Olympic bid sends wrong signal to Japan’s resurgent right


Blame news cycles, but I’m coming in late to the discussion on Tokyo’s successful bid for the 2020 Olympics. Sorry. The most poignant stuff has already been said, but I would add these thoughts.

Probably unsurprisingly, I was not a supporter of Tokyo’s candidacy. Part of it is because I have a hard time enjoying events where individuals are reduced to national representatives, saddled with the pressure to prove an apparent geopolitical superiority through gold medal tallies. Guess I’m just grouchy about international sports.

That said, this time around, the wheeling and dealing at the International Olympic Committee has been particularly distasteful. Unlike the IOC, I can’t forget Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose’s denigration of fellow candidate city Istanbul for being “Islamic” (conveniently playing on widespread Western fears of a religion and linking it to social instability). This was especially ironic given rising xenophobia in Japan, where attendees at right-wing rallies have even called for the killing of ethnic Koreans who have lived in and contributed to Japan for generations.

Nor can I pretend to ignore the risk of exposing people to an ongoing nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima. Even if you think the science is still unclear on the health effects of radiation in Tohoku, what’s not in doubt is that there will be incredible amounts of pork sunk into white-elephant projects in Japan’s metropole while thousands of people still languish in northern Japan, homeless and dispossessed. When so much work is incomplete elsewhere, this is neither the time nor place for bread and circuses.

All of this has been said elsewhere, and more eloquently. But for JBC, the most important reason why the Olympics should not come to Japan is because, as I have argued before, Japan as a government or society is not mature enough to handle huge international events.

I know, Japan has held three Olympics before (in Tokyo, Sapporo and Nagano), as well as numerous international events (such as the G-8 Summits in Nago and Toyako) and one FIFA World Cup. But with each major event it holds, Japan keeps setting precedents that hemorrhage cash and make life miserable for residents. Especially those who don’t “look Japanese” — Japan’s visible minorities.

Media memories tend to be short, so some refreshers: More money was spent on “security” at Nago’s G-8 Summit in 1998 than at any previous such powwow — by a factor of five (“Summit wicked this way comes,” Zeit Gist, Apr. 22, 2008). Then Toyako in 2008 spent even more than Nago.

When you devote this much time and energy to policing, consider the effects on those being policed. As reported on these pages before (I have gone as far as to call Japan a “mild police state”), Japan’s police forces have inordinate powers of search, seizure, and detention even at the most mundane of times.

Now, bring in the eyes of the world for an international event, and Japan’s general bunker mentality produces a control-freak guest/host relationship, where nothing is left to chance, and nobody will be allowed to spoil the party.

That means Japan’s authorities get a freer hand to smoosh not only alleged threats to social order, but also dissenters in general. Because our media generally ignores contrarians and naysayers for the sake of putting the best face on Japan for guests, they forget their own duty to act as a check and balance against official over-enforcement and paranoia.

But paranoia tends to peak when there are “foreigners” gadding about. Remember the 2002 World Cup, when politicians, bureaucrats and the media declared open season on “foreigners” (popularizing the word “hooligan” among Japanese), justifying enormous budgets and infrastructure to subdue their international guests if necessary? (It wasn’t.)

Years later, Toyako slingshot off that precedent, with “foreigners” equated with “terrorists,” further normalizing the act of subjecting any foreign face to extra scrutiny and racial profiling.

Plus, you might recall, Japan still has no law against racial discrimination, so treating foreigners like crap can happen anytime, anywhere, by any vigilante who can scribble “Japanese Only” on a storefront window.

But wait — there’s something more sinister afoot. In terms of domestic politics, this was in fact the worst possible time to award Japan the Olympics.

Over the past year, this column has charted the re-ascendance of Japan’s right wing into power, and its rout of the more liberal elements who tried to rein in Japan’s endemic corporatism and bigotry.

Now we have government once again run by and for Japan’s ruling class — i.e., the political families, entrenched bureaucrats, corporate conglomerate heads and hereditary elites.

These types can only see the world in terms of power. Their forebears cheered loudest when, for example, Japan triumphed in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. It showed both them and the rest of the world that Japan had become mighty enough to defeat a world power!

This victory transformed Japan into a colonial empire, cocksure that it was on the right track because it could beat white people. This hubris led to enormous suffering worldwide, as the elites led Japanese society to a destiny of total war and utter defeat.

Three generations later, these elites still have not learned their lesson. The biggest reason why Japan’s ruling class respected and once emulated America is because they lost a war to them. Now that postwar Japan has rebuilt and re-enriched itself, they believe it’s nigh time to re-militarize, restore Japan to its rightful place in the geopolitical hierarchy and rally Japanese society behind repeating a glorious (yet ultimately tragic) history.

If you read the subtext of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s proposals for constitutional reform closely, you’ll realize that this is precisely what Japan’s ruling politicians are calling for. From that will flow the restored trappings of a prewar-ordered Japanese society.

And now, these jingoists have had their mind-sets rewarded with an Olympics. What a windfall! Even if Abe were to step down tomorrow (he won’t — he’s got a good three years left to machinate if his health holds up), he will be remembered positively for bagging the 2020 Games. But now he and his ilk can leverage this victory into convincing the general public that Japan is still somehow on the right track.

Even when it’s not. For the fallout still remains: Abe lied about how “safe” and “under control” Japan’s nuclear industry is. And Japan’s already massive public debt will balloon further out of control. And once again, the invisible slush monies available to fund elite projects will remain unaccountable.

After all, Japan won its last Olympics, according to Time magazine (“Japan’s sullied bid,” Feb. 1, 1999), through blatant corruption and bribery of IOC officials. How much corruption? We don’t know, because Japan burned all of the Nagano Olympics financial records!

Slush clearly didn’t bother the IOC this time either, as they seated themselves at the trough. I guess we can’t expect corrupt bedfellows to police each other. So anyone who outspends, outbids and outdoes their rivals, even to the detriment of their respective societies, gets rewarded for it — precisely the wrong geopolitical incentives for societies in flux.

In Japan’s case, the damage will be political as well as economic: Everyone must get behind the Olympic effort or else. Then, when the party’s over, remember those who got steamrollered: The people living outside of greedy Tokyo; our non-Japanese residents, who will once again be targeted as a destabilizing force; and the rest of Japanese society, who will have to live under illiberal regimes where individual rights will be further subordinated to the maintenance of social order.

In sum, international events undermine Japan’s democracy. Shame on you, IOC, for being a party to it.

Debito Arudou’s updated “Guidebook for Relocation and Assimilation into Japan” is now available as a downloadable e-book on Amazon. See www.debito.org/handbook.html. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community pages of the month. Send your comments on these issues and story ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp.

  • Nobunaga73

    “Slush clearly didn’t bother the IOC this time either, as they seated themselves at the trough.” –

    I’m sorry, could you provide at least a hint of evidence for this claim?

    I suppose these ridiculously biased articles drive page views and comments (guilty!), but it grows rather tiresome. Sweeping statements masquerading as fact:

    “This victory transformed Japan into a colonial empire, cocksure that it was on the right track because it could beat white people. This hubris led to enormous suffering worldwide, as the elites led Japanese society to a destiny of total war and utter defeat.”

    Yes, surely the awarding of the Olympics to Japan merits an insultingly simplistic (and actually quite racist) portrayal of the events leading to WWII for comparison?

    I hope he writes these articles for free.

    • Emi Watanabe

      I completely agree. I am too, tired of these comments that jump from A to Z. I am also so tired of cliche opinions about Mr. Abe and Japan going ultra right. These opinions are so biased and not founded on facts. I only can get that there are a lot of people who has a lot of “hate” towards Japan. If you look in deeper than just getting surface stories, one can come to some understanding of what Mr. Abe is trying to accomplish for Japan. If you compare Japan with other countries, Japan is one of the very few that has not modified the constitution since WWll. US. has amended its constitution 6 times, France, 26 times, Germany 57 times, etc. Japan’s constitution was made by U.S. officials from GHQ. GHQ has hid the facts about atomic bomb from Japanese people until 50’s. Education for Japanese were more less controlled by GHQ/U.S. Tokyo trial was flawed in its process and judgement. The lists go on and on. If you grew up in the country such as Japan, and found out what you were taught all of these years were not completely true.. I believe it is natural for us to want to have our own story or identity. That is not necessary right wing nationalism. And based on the out right hostilities from China and N.and S. Korea, is it so wrong to want to have national security for our own country? Especially we are not sure if U.S. will back us up? Why is it normal for China, U.S., or any other country to have enormous military yet if we want to have something to protect ourselves, we are going back to ultra militarism?? As far as I know, most of Japanese are anti-war. And that is why we want to have something so that we avoid it. Yes, Mr. Abe come from elite family.. but he also as individual have been able to do many things that his predecessor has not been able to accomplish. He is also brave enough to stand up for us;– just like anyone in any country for their own country would want to do. These label only misleads the truth about the country and its people. Like the saying, you really don’t know what its like until you walk on someone else’s shoes..
      I really wonder if it goes both ways.. Yes, maybe Japan needs to learn to be more international and adopt to be multicultural. But is it possible these kinds of attitudes of foreign individuals also create alienation from Japan and its people?

      • Ron NJ

        Japan’s diet passed the constitution proposed by the occupation forces – if they felt it was inadequate, they could have obviously refused to do so. If they felt such an option was untenable at the time, remember that Japan has been a completely sovereign nation without an occupation (except for a minor island chain which did not grant the occupying powers control over the central government) for sixty years and have had plenty of time to rectify any points of contention; the responsibility for a lack of any change in the constitution, as well as its present content, rests squarely on the shoulders of the Japanese people and their elected representatives. You can’t blame something you’ve had full control over for sixty years on something that occurred prior to that.
        Japan’s military expenditures, for a “self defense force” are already fifth largest in the world, a mere 1.5 billion USD from overtaking Britain – a nation which has obligations on every continent and in every major body of water on the planet, to put that in perspective. Japan’s obligations end at the borders of Japan, and noting that the security treaty with America exists, and the American secretaries of defense repeatedly confirming that America will come to Japan’s aid, even in its defense should conflicts arise over territorial disputes (which don’t exist, according to the Japanese government) like those in the Senkakus, it is hard for people outside Japan to understand why Japan, a country which has “forever renounced war”, needs to expand its military even more when it is already under the largest nuclear umbrella in the world but also repeatedly given assurances that the existing partnership is neither temporary nor insolvent.
        You are correct that the Tokyo War Trials were flawed – far too many people went unprosecuted, and unlike Germany, Japan never underwent any sort of stringent “cleansing” as Germany did with de-nazification; in fact, many current politicians, mayors, and even our own prime minister are sons and grandsons of what would be war criminals had they been German instead of Japanese. Perhaps worst of all, the king of Japan – let’s not kid ourselves, what kind of emperor has no empire? – was left not only alive, but also in place, which was perhaps the greatest tragedy of it all.

        Really, Japan and the Japanese people couldn’t have hoped for a better end to the war. Not only did it get “off the hook” without being occupied for decades, split between occupying powers, or losing a third of their territory as Germany did, but its society did not go through a massive deprogramming phase as the Germans did with denazification either. Rather, they got a comparatively short occupation, at a mere five years, a new constitution which empowered the people and realized their collective dreams of “forever renouncing the right to wage war”, a partial tear down of the monopolistic zaibatsu system and a move toward open, free markets, they were quickly welcomed back into the international community, freed from the necessity of funding a military capable of waging war, were able to funnel that money into the economy and society and help rebuild the nation along with generous assistance from their former enemies in the war, and were, perhaps most importantly of all, not annexed into some sort of slave nation-state in a “Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere” and made a colony of their enemies, as would have been the case had the tables been turned.
        Really, it’s hard to sympathize with Japan when you put it all into perspective like that.

      • Emi Watanabe

        I am reluctant to get into some kind of battle of who is
        right in these matters, so I’ll simply do my best to elaborate on my previous
        post in response to Ron’s comments.

        First I do realize by reading Ron’s comments that our point
        of views, and what we base our argument upon, are coming from completely
        different places. I do believe Ron’s
        interpretation of the history regarding WWII of the “Winners” point of view. From
        that perspective, I acknowledge that what Ron is saying makes some sense. However, understanding history from a
        complete and all-encompassing position is a very difficult and tricky thing to
        do. It is not black and white, as many
        people are led to believe. Please keep in mind that speaking one’s truth, which
        may not be popular, takes courage, but I do think the time is right for Japanese
        people to speak our story, and clarify another facet of the Truth.

        Mr. Abe states that he would “leave the issues of history to
        scholars,” as he realizes that the understanding of history differs from country
        to country; and that in regards to some matters, we will simply have to agree
        to disagree. We must first acknowledge
        this fact, or there will be no moving forward.
        Regarding the modification of our constitution, the need wasn’t evident
        until the recent East Asian regional conflicts. From our point of view, the
        hostilities expressed towards Japan
        from China, as well as North
        and South Korea,
        did not become a serious concern until the1990’s. Japan
        views that, because of their stagnant economy, and the Democratic Party (Minshu
        tou)’s inept handling of foreign affairs, Japan’s
        relationship with the United
        States have been weakened. After all, and this point cannot be disputed,
        the United States’ primary
        concern has always been economic, and with the rise of China’s economy,
        their allegiance has shifted. The United States also has showed ambivalence
        regarding the East Asian Regional Conflicts in many other ways, which is not surprising, considering that the U.S. military budget is at its limit due to their
        own self-generated military engagements in Iraq
        and Afghanistan.

        Regarding the Tokyo War Trial, I am stunned by your
        comment. The trial itself was invalid,
        due to the fact that it was a case of “Winner judging Loser.” The verdict was already formed, not without
        some coercion, before the trial, and this fact was hidden. And one cannot compare Germany
        and Japan,
        except on the fact that both countries were the losers in the war. People in Germany elected Hitler and his
        agenda of ethnic cleansing. Hitler went
        to war because he wanted to go to war.
        Tojo was against going to War and tried to negotiate with U.S. until the
        end. Now, I am not going into the
        details here, but those who want to learn more about the causes that brought Japan to war
        should review the official CIA Venona File (declassified in 1995). Tragic
        Deception, by Hamilton Fish, also discusses these matters. I
        could go on and on with facts regarding how Western nations have colonized, and
        have committed many injustices to, Asian nations prior to the war, and how
        these actions also played a part in Japan’s involvement. I’m not trying to
        justify War, which is a terrible thing.
        It brings out the worst in people, regardless of country.

        Having said that, I am not at all trying to change anyone’s
        opinion regarding this matter. One can never know the whole story without considering
        all perspectives.

      • Nobunaga73

        “Tojo was against going to War and tried to negotiate with U.S. until theend.”

        You seem to be completely forgetting that prior to going to war against the US, Japan invaded China, Korea, Taiwan, etc.. leading directly/indirectly to the deaths and suffering of millions of people.

  • OlympicsNay

    I normally find Arudo’s tone too strong, but I can’t disagree that I found Tokyo’s Olympics bid deeply, dishonest, not to mention the amount of jingoism that came with it. I constantly hear people on Japan saying that they’re going to show the world “how great” Japan is. That’s not what the Olympics is about – that’s not what hosting the Olympics is for. It’s not Japan’s chance to strut and preen – it’s Japan’s chance to host the entire world and let EVERYONE shine. Not to mention the persistent “banzai” cheers. (Is it wrong of me to think they should have abandoned the banzai decades ago?) The entire attitude surrounding this bid is just uncomfortable for me.

    • “I constantly hear people on Japan saying that they’re going to show the world “how great” Japan is.”

      That’s what the Turks and Spaniards were saying too – especially the Turks. Now, your point is well taken, but this is/was hardly a Japanese phenomenon.

      “(Is it wrong of me to think they should have abandoned the banzai decades ago?)”

      Considering it is a Chinese term, still used in China, Taiwan and both Koreas, yes, it is wrong of you to think that.

      • OlympicsNay

        Um, yes, but the “banzai” was also a rallying war cry during WWII. Nazi salutes are illegal in Germany – Japan uses the banzai every day. The same banzai they used to rally themselves to war nearly a century ago.

        So, no, it isn’t a Chinese and Korean phenomenon, it’s 100% Japanese in the sense that I’m referring to. I’m sorry I didn’t explain that – your point is well taken, since you’re right – “banzai” would have naturally come from China, as a word.

        But as an action, as a symbolic gesture imbued with meaning, it was once a Japanese war cry – now so bowdlerized that Abe uses it to cheer the Olympics and mothers use it to put shirts on little children.

        So, thank you for your patronizing little history lesson (I kinda knew where the word “banzai” came from), but you were addressing a completely different issue and missed my point entirely (he historic, symbolic meaning of banzai, not the linguistic origin).

        As for the whole, “Look how great Japan is” I’m not talking about the bid, I’m talking about now that they have the Olympics. You may be right that this is typical for all Olympics – “Now is our chance to show the world!” I guess. I don’t recall London coming with that kind of jingoism; did it? Did the London Olympics bid get welcomed with a hearty WWII war cry from the British Prime Minister? Cuz Abe sure as hell was on TV banzai-ing.

        I stand by my discomfort. I didn’t say that this would usher in a new era of WWII-like destruction. I said I’m uncomfortable with the attitude surrounding it. I’m uncomfortable with Abe.

        I think the thing I take issue with most is that Japan IS a great place. Sure. I love it. I live here. I raise Japanese children.

        But when Abe starts bragging, he always brags about horrible things. Things that Japan ISN’T great in, things that Japan DOESN’T surpass the world in. Things that, as an American, I feel like saying, “No, Abe, that aspect of Japan is pathetic.”

        I’m all for cheering on Japan, but Abe is always WRONG. He went on TV and LIED about Fukushima – blatantly lied. Why did he even mention it??? He could have listed a DOZEN great things about Japan, and he chose to lie about Fukushima?

        So, I’m also looking at this in the context of Abenomics, not just the Olympics. In any other context – if Fukushima, for example, weren’t still in crisis, for example – or if Abe weren’t calling for a sales tax hike – or lowering corporate taxes – if Abe hadn’t already established a jingoistic tone, I’d be 100% behind the Olympics.

        As it is? It makes me uncomfortable. Sorry, GMwainring; I’m looking at a larger context than you are, apparently. I don’t need your Japan apologism, because you’re not telling me anything I don’t already know.

      • “Nazi salutes are illegal in Germany – Japan uses the banzai every day.”

        Thank you for going Godwin on me.

        The Nazi salute was just that – *Nazi*. Not “German”, although it was popularly used elsewhere in pre-Nazi days. Look up the Bellamy Salute, for example.

        “Banzai” may have been used by Imperial Japanese Troops during the 1930s and 1940s, but it was also used by Japanese long before and since, and as I said by other nations. It is in no way analogous to the Nazi salute.

        “now so bowdlerized that Abe uses it to cheer the Olympics”

        Well that’s the point now, isn’t it? It is not simply a fascist war cry, it wasn’t in the 19th century and it isn’t now, anymore than “Hip, hip, hooray!” is.

        “mothers use it to put shirts on little children.”

        You must live in an interesting neighborhood….

        “I don’t need your Japan apologism”

        You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.

      • Mark Makino

        The banzai thing is real. In war movies you see soldiers saying “banzai” with both hands high up above their heads – moms have their kids do this (“banzai shite!”) so they can change their shirts.
        The question of whether banzai is simply an idiomatic expression (like “Geronimo”) with no more historical implications is not necessarily related to its etymology, and meanings of words in general cannot be reliably divined from their histories. What matters is what current speakers of that language think when they hear that word. If most people don’t consider it an imperialist expression anymore then it’s not one, at least until rightists reclaim it.

    • Toolonggone

      I don’t think people should be blamed for the bid. There’s nothing wrong with local government and host organizers who did what they are supposed to do. What makes it awkward is the presence of a national leader. Abe was not attending the meeting as a VIP guest. He was participating in the bid by functioning as a part of the team.

  • Happy Knees

    I see your point but much the same article could have been written about any country that wins the Olympic games. Winning the games always seems to lead to a restriction on freedoms. The same goes for G8 summits held anywhere around the world. I agree that these are bad things.
    Also I really think you are stretching your point. Japan hosting the Olympics is not going to have any effect on foreign policy. At least I don’t think you have provided any evidence that it will. Sure the Olympics is vastly overrated in terms of improving relations between countries but when Tokyo hosted the Olympics the first time I don’t think it resulted in a military build up in Japan.

    • “Tokyo hosted the Olympics the first time I don’t think it resulted in a military build up in Japan.”

      No, it didn’t. And neither did either of the two Winter Games Japan has hosted since then.

      There were some clampdowns related to the G8 Summits at Nago and Toyako, true. However there were also no injuries or deaths as there have been when the summits have been held by what I assume Mr. Arudou considers to be more “mature” governments and societies in Europe.

  • thedudeabidez

    Tokyo already ranks at the bottom of major cities in terms of green public space per capita, and now they plan to demolish even more of the little that remains to build Olympic facilities. Under current plans, Kasai Rinkai Koen — with its bird sanctuary — will be paved over; get involved to save one of Tokyo’s precious parks. Petition link below:


  • FightBack

    The comparisons with WWII are apt and correct. Japan will use these games to rally the population into a nationalistic frenzy. Military era flags will be displayed, jingoistic commercials will be played on the television stations, and the general public will be instructed to increase microaggressions against incoming NJ.

    When the selection was announced I saw not a single Japanese who engaged in subtle reflection or self-criticism, instead the response was uniformly jubilant. What the 2020 Olympics will come to mean to denizens like myself is still unclear but Debito is absolutely correct that we must be vigilant against what will come given Japan’s constant lurches toward the right.

    • Steve Novosel

      This is a brilliant comment.

  • Toolonggone

    I don’t have a problem with the organizers and people supporting the bid. What I have a problem, however, is the way Abe frames the Olympic as a part of national narratives to justify the government’s attitude toward a sloppy re-construction progress. I am quite disturbed by his remark on TEPCO’s ability to control the situation of Fukushima. It’s apparently not true (even TEPCO executive admitted it’s not). He doesn’t really understand what is going on out there at the Daiichi nuclear power plants, after all. More importantly, he also plans to cut corporate tax for re-construction while raising consumption tax to put more burdens on Japanese people, who are being affected by increasing taxes for pension, residency, medicare, and post-disaster recovery. I wonder how many people will have to share more tax charges under shoe-string income in the next seven years.

    Good news is that Tokyo Gov. Inose is a reasonable person than the previous one (Good riddance of Ishihara!). Unlike Ishihara, I can have a room for sympathy in him. Inose is from working class, living his hands to mouth by working as a sanitation engineer (ahem) –e.g. cleaning building and floors, nine to five in his early career until he made himself as a book-prize winning author in the late 1980s. He showed his conscience by admitting his mistake and apologizing to other bidders for inappropriate remarks. It’s true that he has some character flaws just like any politician, and, he has a lot of things to work on. I don’t know how much he can make a difference in the next several years. But, I would give Tokyo a high credit, if he’s willing to reach out to those who get affected by devastating earthquake and tsunami in North Japan to offer any good service for the international event, such as giving free tickets to the opening/closing ceremonies, games, and invitations to meet-and-greet with athletes at the pavilion.

  • Steven R. Simon

    Simon says I’m shocked, shocked, shocked – corruption in the IOC – Brother Abe is playing the hand he was dealt – so get off his back – he’s doing the best job he can.

  • disqus_Gvs3G32z1K

    The thing I never understand is the constant argument used by apologists that “X is not strictly a Japanese phenomenon”. So what? I don’t think anybody here is saying that. It certainly doesn’t make it any less excusable.

    Personally I’m more concerned with the disregard for those still suffering in Fukushima and those who will become homeless as a result of the games.

    • OlympicsNay

      Especially since the aspect of the banzai to which I was referring is in no way Chinese or Korean, and, yes, actually, starting WWII in Asia was a 100% Japanese phenomenon.

      But, yes, in general, the argument that X is not a Japanese phenomenon is always, in every argument, a non sequitur. I mean, defend Japan if you feel I’m being unfair to the nation – I don’t claim to be objective, and I’ll gladly hear other opinions, but don’t waste our time by trying to pull a tu quoque and derail the conversation.

      • “yes, actually, starting WWII in Asia [banzai] was a 100% Japanese phenomenon.”

        I really think you should review your history knowledge with external sources before continuing to make such statements. I don’t know why you continue to make such as claim that can be disproven so easily with a web search, which turns up tens of millions of real life examples in many languages and many mediums (text, images, and video), both contemporary and old.

        I’ll give you a hint so you can learn a little more language & history: “Banzai” in simplified Chinese is written as “万岁 [wànsuì]”. You can see the word everywhere in modern day 21st century PRC (and Taiwan): from the Great Wall to Tiananmen. Try copy/pasting and searching for it.

        You getting all worked up over how the Japanese usage of the word suggests to me that you’ve probably seen a lot of war movies but you haven’t heard as much real life Japanese used in peace time, where the word is used in non-violent situations as an innocent expression of jubilation and celebration all the time. Passed the test and got into your first choice school? Banzai! Got accepted for that job you wanted? Banzai! Successfully got a date with that cutie you’ve had your eye on? Banzai! Japan Times decides to stop publishing Just Be Cause? Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!

        What it sounds like you’re really saying is, “every time I see Japanese people celebrate a victory or accomplishment or celebrate too jubilantly, I get flashbacks from war movies. Thus, I really think Japanese should stop celebrating so joyously when they are successful. Because it makes me uncomfortable as I reflexively associate Japanese winning anything with the Imperial Army and war.”

        It’s okay if you’re not objective. But please try to get your facts straight. Because making false claims of history and language can derail the conversation.

      • Kamiko

        Actually, Koreans use it too, except it’s pronounced “manse-” and they use it in basically the same way as the Japanese do.

    • “apologists”

      You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means

      • Toolonggone

        Not unless you are a kind of politician or media mogul leaning toward right or for-profit business.

  • Dan Li

    Well, on one hand it is difficult to disagree with Arudou. “Gaffes” seem to be picking up in rate. However, the IOC ( corrupt or otherwise) did not have much of a choice between the three main contestants. Spain’s broke and may not be able to really commit enough resources, the government is in a precarious state, unemployment may lead to social problems, etc. Also, Turkey’s human rights record is somewhat worse than Japan’s ( recent riots / protests & the govt response to them, kicking monks out of their ancient monastery with claims that it was built over a mosque even though it is older than Islam, etc.)

  • Toolonggone

    I generally give this author the benefits of the doubt, although I don’t always agree with him on any issue he discusses. Regarding this piece, however, I have to say, the author makes a confusing message to JT readers by pushing his personal angst toward the national government too much. What troubles me is his attempt to illustrate the historical context for Japan’s national narrative in a very limited space for making his argument. What does the Olympic bid relate to Japan’s possible re-militarization, which is yet to be convinced? Also, it is not very clear which agents he is referring to “resurgent right” in the article.

    I wouldn’t say war history is unnecessary, but it certainly requires a lot of pages to make your point clear and concise. JBC doesn’t have enough space for 3,000-4,000 words essay. It’s even smaller than Harper’s magazine or the New Yorker. Right?

  • The Apologist

    Contrary to what some people in this thread are saying, it is often a perfectly logical argument to point out that certain behaviours and practices ascribed to Japan are normative elsewhere. In fact, showing that other countries share the same alleged negative traits as Japan is often the most obvious and effective means of mitigating unwarranted overreaching claims about Japan.

    This is particularly true when the claim is that a certain behaviour or practice is somehow 1) essentially Japanese—that is, the behavior is explained as being something fundamentally rooted in Japanese society, education, culture, or national character, 2) when it is claimed that the behavior/practice is egregiously Japanese—that is, if it is made to seem like
    a given problem is far more widespread in Japan than elsewhere and thus must be attributed to some local cause, and/or 3) when it is claimed that the practice is
    endemic to Japan, usually some combination of the two points above.

    Since the raison d’etre of virtually all Debito’s articles, as well as the comments of the great majority of his supporters, is to locate the foundation of some negative behavior or practice within Japanese society (i.e., its ‘immaturity’), both he and they are ipso facto arguing that this behavior/practice is essentially Japanese. In other words, the basis of the problem is unique to Japan, since it is explainable and analyzable only in terms of Japan’s internal qualities. It is a kind of Japanese ‘exceptionalism’, an intellectual bedfellow of the Nihonjin-ron school of thought― which Debito and his fans clearly subscribe to.

    When people like myself argue that such behaviours
    and practices are in fact normative or standard, by reference to other countries, we are cutting this ‘essentialist’ argument down, noting that this problem is often not attributable to some essentially Japanese element, but instead seems to be standard social or political behavior (such as hosting the Olympics being treated as a source of national pride or as a showcase for a country’s alleged greatness). To continue to isolate Japan as a target for that which is not essentially a ‘Japanese’ problem simply comes off as bashing.

    If one wants to argue that they are merely pointing out a human problem that happens to occur in Japan, then, for goodness sake, don’t try to make the argument that it is somehow essentially or egregiously endemic to Japan unless you can show beyond a reasonable doubt that it is!

  • Rebane

    Thanks. I was and still am against the second Tokyo Olympics. I am old and may be moving out of