Friday 6 March 2015

A Cunning Plan


Unexpurgated minutes there from the most recent meeting of Prime Minister Abe’s Senior Advisory Panel.

We begin with a quick recap for those of you who remain blissfully unaware of the latest spasms jerking through the Japanese body politic’s shambling corpse as this brain-dead-yet-somehow-still-animate organism continues its lifelessly inept attempts to interact with the wider world. A few months back Aso Taro, the finance minister and deputy prime minister (and ex-prime minister to boot), saw fit to pass comment on the potential for revising Japan’s constitution. To say that this is a hot-button topic is to understate things fairly dramatically, but it’s certainly a legitimate issue for public discussion and debate and a man in Aso’s position frankly should be talking about it. Trouble is, what he said was the exact opposite of this: basically that they wanted to avoid debate as much as possible and try to sneak constitutional revision in by the back door. Then he went and auto-Godwinned himself all to fuck by holding up Nazi Germany as the model to copy.

Well done Taro.

Fast forward a few months and it’s the turn of Sono Ayako to grab the Hoary Old Bigot Baton and pelt around the well worn track of idiocy, castigation, and half-assed point-missing, back-peddling, and denial. In a ‘think piece’ in the Sankei Newspaper (which is a very rough parallel to the UK’s Daily Mail, just without the obsession with house prices and cancer) she posited that Japan needs more immigrants.

So far so good. She then went on to suggest that maybe Japan should ease up on the restrictive language requirements for potential incomers, which is less clear-cut but still generally unobjectionable. Then, clearly bored with making sense, she suggested that any old idiot could enter the caring professions provided they could muster an appropriately sweet and gormless smile and that the rise of the Islamic State proves apartheid was the right thing for South Africa. I paraphrase, but really not by much.

Well done Ayako.

Ms Sono is apparently a successful author, but then so is Dan Brown. However, until fairly recently she was also an invited member of a governmental panel on education reform. People were thus unhappy with her views as expressed, and she in turn professed herself shocked -- shocked! -- that anyone could have misinterpreted her words as support for apartheid; apparently she just really likes Chinatown. Here’s piece that with a politely brutal clarity exposes her original article for the unmitigated and incoherent horseshit it is, but I really have little interest in detailing all the ways her response made things worse, not better. We’ve been here so many times before. So, so many times.

Ms Sono is 83. Mr Aso is 74. In many ways it’s quite exciting being part of this bold new experiment in governance: you can keep your representative democracies, your totalitarian dictatorships, your monarchies, your oligarchies, and your theocracies. Governance by the Few, Governance by the Many, Governance by the Military and the Rich and the People; all these have been tried and found wanting. What we have here is Governance by Embarrassing Elderly Relative at a Family Gathering, and I can’t help but feel a tiny thrill of anticipation about what will happen next time Great-Uncle Ryugo feels the need to hold forth with opinions which ‘you’re not allowed say any more’ even though he’s clearly not going to let that stop him, more’s the fucking pity.

Anyway, they’ll all be dead soon.

All this sarcasm is clearly unbecoming and unhelpful in the wider scheme of things, but last week my eldest got called ‘foreigner’ at nursery school for the first time so this is part of me processing the whole shitstorm clusterfuck that is race and identity in Japan. Please don’t anyone be interpreting this as an opportune time to point out faults in my reasoning.


  1. All in Japanese.

    Arististhenes to his then three-year old son: "Where is mommy from?"
    Son: "Japan!"
    Arististhenes: "Where is daddy from?"
    Son: "Daddy is a gaikokujin!!"
    Arististhenes to his J-wife: "At least that nursery school is using teineigo..."

    1. Another anecdote. I was having a conversation with two grade four students of Japanese-plus-one heritage at a Tokyo international school: both of them bright, well-spoken, clearly going to grow up to be attractive (an unrelated girl and boy).

      One of them introduced the topic of their background and said, "My (Japanese) father said I'm not 'haafu', I'm both."

      Arististhenes said, "Your father is a wise man." I made sure to tell the (American) mother how impressed I was when I met her.

      But I call mine 'hybrids', because nothing is sacred.

    2. Yeah, trying to cultivate a suitably robust attitude to all this (helped in no small part by reading about the experiences of people like yourself and Mr S below), but must admit so being taken aback that it's all starting so early. Thought we'd have another year or so at least before a serious conversation with staff would be needed. I guess on the upside the kids will be more inured to things if/when something genuinely unpleasant happens, which is a funny kind of 'up side'.

  2. Seriously though, kids are all nasty predators who will hunt out anything that stands out, fat or thin, glasses, different name, single parent and foreign-relation are all fair targets.

    Your kids are probably going to hear much nastier things the older they get and unfortunately I am pretty certain that there is pretty much nowhere you can shield them from it. I grew up half Asian in Sweden and in the era of Vietnam movies you can probably imagine some of the things I've been called and stuff said about my mother... Hopefully your kids will be comfortable enough in themselves to realize that the problem is not in them. Half-kids have a tougher time in some ways of never really fitting in, but a lot going for them in the long run!

    1. I grew up with an unusual name that kids made sound like a disease all over the news in the eighties. Sure found out quickly who was an asshole. My kids being hybrids (in Toronto) will be good for that: an asshole detector. As you allude, people suck everywhere. Better they learn to recognize them.

    2. Kids can be little shits, absolutely. The other up side to this (which really is an upside,this time) if that my wife really came out swinging at stuff. I'd hoped/figured she would, but must admit to a nagging little voice that worried the cultural-conditioning would kick in when the time came. Happy to report that's not the case.

      Thanks to both of you for popping by this time and blogging about things previously, btw. I'm finding it much more reassuring than I thought I would.

  3. Hooray for Seattle, where everyone is hybrid or wishes they were.

    And yeah, Government by the Horrendously Old never loses its entertainment value. I rail against my generation for completely checking out of everything in Japan, but really, who can blame them?

    1. It's good for a laugh at least, I'll give them that. Even better I should link you to this, which was so batshit that even Aso balked -