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Claims that Tokyo’s governor, Shintaro Ishihara, is racist because he recently described Asians here as “sankoku-jin” (third-country nationals) — a fairly neutral Occupation-era term used to distinguish resident Koreans and Taiwanese from Westerners — were a bit far-fetched.

And many of the critics failed to note that the original agency report of Ishihara’s remarks had distorted the fact that he was only talking about “furyo” (non-law abiding) Asian immigrants.

Ishihara’s point was that Tokyo has suffered a severe rise in the activities of these people, illegal Chinese immigrants in particular — a perfectly valid point. Indeed, Japan should be much more concerned than it is over the sudden rise in Asian immigrant crime, and the fact that areas of Tokyo are now unsafe at night as a result.

But according to some of our purist critics, even to note such things is a form of racism. These, incidentally, are the same people who successfully pilloried an Otaru bathhouse owner who had reluctantly put up a “no foreigners” sign after suffering repeated and severe material damage from drunken Russian sailors, and as a result we now have major Western newspapers claiming that the racist owners of bathhouses and “onsen” all around Japan arbitrarily exclude foreigners.

Indeed, if the purists had their way we would not even be allowed to note that part of the reason for increased Asian immigrant crime is that Chinese code and lock breakers or Korean pickpockets are much more skilled than their Japanese equivalents. That too is a form of racism, I am told, though I am not sure in which direction it is supposed to be working.

Meanwhile the critics have largely ignored far more worrying aspects of Ishihara’s comments. One was his call for the Self-Defense Forces to be brought out to control furyo sankoku-jin in the event of a major disaster. And here the concern is not whether the Chinese and others would in fact cause problems, such as looting.

Rather it is the way Japan’s conservatives and rightwingers have embraced the trendy concept of “kiki kanri,” or crisis management, in a bid to enhance their own role and that of Japan’s controversial SDF.

In the wake of the nuclear radiation spillage at the JCO facility in Ibaraki Prefecture last year, another rightwing commentator, Susumu Nishibe, also said the troops should have been called out to deal with the “crisis” in the area and calm the population.

LDP conservatives are pressing hard for the Defense Agency to be elevated to a full-fledged Defense Ministry. The fact that the agency has recently moved its headquarters into a grossly expensive complex of buildings far larger than those of any ministry is not enough, it seems.

Concern over the constant scandals surrounding the agency is papered over with constant reference to how the agency must handle the “crises” caused by North Korean spy boats and rocket tests in recent years.

Crisis management got its first major boost in the wake of the 1995 Kobe earthquake. The fact that the quite unprepared SDF took a lengthy three days to swing into action from large bases nearby, by which time much of the city had burned down, is ignored. Instead, we are told that action delays of a few hours by the central and local authorities showed a glaring lack of crisis-management consciousness.

So a large crisis-management headquarters was installed in the prime minister’s residence so the government could move immediately the moment any future crises should emerge. During the alleged “crisis” following a recent Tokyo train derailment that caused four deaths, the late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi was criticized for leaving the bunkers for 15 minutes to have a haircut, as if his presence might have changed something.

The April eruption of Mount Usu in Hokkaido saw Obuchi forced to spend days in the headquarters. When he collapsed soon after from the strain and fatigue caused at least in part by his having to join these quite meaningless charades, we discovered there was no preparation for appointing his immediate successor.

We also discovered that while the residence had to have its self-aggrandizing crisis-management operation equipped with chart rooms, experts and instant military communications, no one had bothered to put in a medical facility.

If the claims about the nature of Obuchi’s subsequently fatal stroke are true then it is quite likely he could have recovered with immediate medication.

In effect, the artificial fuss over phony crisis-management crises had left Japan vulnerable to real crises.

True, it is not for us foreigners to decide whether Japan needs to improve its crisis management. But if it does want improvement it should at least try to get rid of the ulterior motives.

Even more worrying has been Ishihara’s call for the breakup of China, beginning with Taiwan, Tibet and Sinkiang. Rightwing Japanese and some of those mysterious U.S. “research” agencies operating out of Hawaii and elsewhere have for several years been playing with this dangerous concept.

If it ever gets off the ground Japan will face a crisis far larger than anything that could happen in the streets of Tokyo.

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