Shove Thy Neighbour

The right-wing fringe patrol: Blaring their message to all within earshot. Doing their bit to spread repugnance and intolerance.
Note: Side translates as 'Spirit of Japan Group'.

There is no such thing as a model or ideal Canadian. What could be more absurd than the concept of an 'all Canadian' boy or girl? A society which emphasises uniformity is one which creates intolerance and hate.
Pierre Elliot Trudeau
Ukrainian-Canadian Congress speech

To highlight the bureaucratic inertia we have the events in 2001 with the Ministry of Education officially adopting into the curriculum a controversial history book. Origionally written by some overtly nationalistic right wingers, it was controversial not because of what was written in it, but rather what was not. Due to Japan's actions as a country during it's "expansion campaign", the neighbours it "attempted to colonise" (read: attacked) are still rather sensitive to certain issues. And they feel that many of the uglier issues of that chapter in Japan's history were not detailed enough. In some cases, they were not even there. Now, The neighbours' populace, some of whom survived terrible circumstances, are becoming increasingly indignant about the whole thing. In this case, one thing led to another. Before long it became a major diplomatic row. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi seemed to be trying to reach a compromise. After all, he was elected by Japanese --not Chinese or Koreans or whoever else was bullied back then -- but the neighbours still figure prominently in an economic strategy. But, try as he might, only a limited number of changes could be made.

Later on, of course, Junichiro really infuriated them by openly paying tribute at a shrine to the war dead. It is not a big shrine, but it is a significant one. While many Japanese don't even know where it is, the media is abuzz with angry neighbours within Japan and abroad every time a PM visits it. Since that shrine is a relatively new one (within the last 100 years), it is seen to glorify past villians as well as heroes (which it no doubt does --within it's compound lie the remains of convicted war criminals). I have come to think of it as a sort of informal initiation of a PM. Perhaps if they succeed in defending their trip to the shrine, the nationalists will view them favourably and will work with them a bit better. And working together in harmony for a common good is quite valued here. So highly valued, that it is, at times, dumbfounding (for all the wrong reasons). But it is always a highly tense political moment. If only because as the neighbours are gaining strength on Japan. A previous prime minister, Mori, had a clever way to help diffuse the situation: He claimed he visited the shrine in a personal (not official) capacity. By contrast, Koizumi's 'official' visit resulted in neighbouring states bristling with anger and indignity. In fact, Koizumi seems to really enjoy it: He has gone to the shrine a number of times.

Every country has some interesting conspiracy stories. Like modern-day folk tales, they exist in a variety of forms. In America, there are tales of extra-terrestrial's abducting citizens in unidentified flying objects. In Japan, few subscribe to UFOs and extra-terrestrial beings. But they do subscribe to the idea of their citizens being abducted by North Koreans in Unidentified Floating Objects (boats). Some Japanese believe up to 100 have been kidnapped or abducted by North Koreans. It is usually mentioned during high-level diplomatic talks between the two countries. And, as expected, with no firm resolution. But, within recent history, ministers have been sacked for publicly making nationalistic statements offending Chinese and Korean feelings on the topic. As recently as September 2002, the LDP government was able to negotiate with the North Koreans to clear up this issue a bit better. Not exactly a miracle though, for the LDP has traditionally had the strongest ties to North Korea. Perhaps, with North Korea pencilled in on Bush' hit list, negotiations were sped up.

Perhaps a more sublime example of this is the continuing xenophobia of Japan. Usually caused by a combination of sheer ignorance together with arrogance, it is quite prevalent in Japanese society. Worse it seems actively propagated by the upper echelons of society. Based on comments made by some government and police officials, many one would think that the country is rampant with crime committed by foreigners. Although a popular newspaper cites manifold professionism concerns within the police department, it also appears to use the same flawed statistics provided by the police . When I first came to Japan, I was told about this 'crime wave'. But, when I was told it was a result of foreigners, I instantly (laughed and) rebuked such nonsense. At that time, I was not aware of the statistics or the discrediting way the statistics were compiled. It was what a simple matter of practicality and common sense. This sort of critical thinking is not catered to or encouraged in Japan (I was to find out). According to the CIA world factbook, Japan is 99.4% Japanese. The remaining 0.6% is Korean. That does not leave much room for others. And, even if we assume a 100% arrest rate (for the year 2000 total criminal offences reported at 2.5 million), that would likely mean that those foreigners who would commit crime in Japan busy beyond belief (and capacity). Just in case my simplistic statistical analysis was wrong, I dropped by the local police station in Shinjuku (one of the downtowns in Tokyo). Not to my amazement, virtually all the wanted posters were for Japanese. There was one for a Chinese (based on sir-name), but overwhelmingly Japanese. I would recommend that the racist xenophobes who make up the police need to use statistical data constructively. At least in Canada, the police are mindful not to poison the racial harmony (pluralism) of communities. (Although pluralism is an alien concept for Japanese). Through the publishing of such libel, the Japanese police only prove how wanting their investigative skills have become. Not surprisingly, this sort of occurrence (and they are not isolated) serves to show not only how their country consistently appears quite apathetic (even hostile at times) to wards other societies and peoples; but also to re-enforce these scarily narrow-minded views among it's own populace. A populace so ingrained to blindly accept whatever information is fed to them (in the appropriate way), most don't even bother to give it a second thought. (And critical analysis is simply out of the question).