Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Yasukuni Shrine was the perfect Christmas gift for the domestic press, which around this season usually falls back on yearend puff pieces and redundant bulletins about holiday travel.

The Asahi Shimbun alone dedicated five pages — not five articles, five pages — to Abe's stunt, including a strongly worded editorial enumerating everything wrong with the decision, both practically and morally. Almost all media outlets condemned it, even the knee-jerk-conservative Yomiuri, though their editorial insisted that China and South Korea had no right to complain since "how the prime minister of one nation mourns its war dead is not a matter for interference from other nations." What they found regrettable was that Abe would so recklessly give those two countries ammunition to attack Japan.

But what really rankled the press was the reaction of the United States, which said it was "disappointed" in Abe's pilgrimage. The choice of adjective was thoroughly parsed, since the Japanese equivalent, shitsubō, is hardly used outside of literature and translations of English text. In that context it conjures up visions of 1960s American family-oriented sitcoms. "I'm not mad, son," says Dad gravely to the miscreant teenager, "just . . . disappointed."