A Russian-speaking friend let me know about the following political cartoon by Sergey Elkin, which has appeared on the popular news site Polut.ru:
President Vladimir Putin is shown trying to grab Crimea, while off to the side a couple racial caricatures of Japanese people are standing by the Kuril Islands (known as the “Northern Territories” in Japan).
The conflict in Crimea puts Japan is a tricky situation. On the one hand, Japan’s postwar governments have always stood against the idea of seizing territory by force, and overlooking Russian aggression towards the Ukraine could set a bad precedent when Japan is facing the possibility of territorial aggression from China. But, on the other hand, the Abe administration wants to improve its relationship with Russia with the hopes of getting back the Northern Territories. And, after the 2011 decision to turn off Japan’s nuclear power plants, the country has become increasingly dependent on gas imports from Russia.
On Friday, animal rights activists in Britain organized a “Taiji Action Day” demonstration in front of the Japanese embassy in London. Carrying Sea Shepherd banners and signs that said stuff like “Shame on Japan,” they marched around and called for an end to dolphin hunting and the use of dolphins in aquariums.
Small protests like this aren’t exactly rare or noteworthy. What is noteworthy is the odd presence of a lone counter-protester. A guy showed up in support of Japan, wearing a German military jacket and waving two large Japanese flags.
The man denounced Sea Shepherd as a racist terrorist group. From the photos, it looks like a lot of the protesters were annoyed.
Photos of his counter-demonstration were picked up by Japanese conservative blogs, where he was praised by readers. Many comments seemed to be focusing on one single question: who the heck is this guy?
Is it “Takeshima” (@StopKInvasion), a British Twitter user who supports Japanese right-wing causes and whose profile links to photos of the counter demonstration?
[hat tip to t65]
Learn more about Sea Shepherd by checking some of these other posts:
During World War II, Japan was an ally of Nazi Germany, a antisemitic state that carried out genocidal policies against the Jews of Europe. Foreign Minister Matsuoka Yosuke of Japan (pictured aboe with Adolf Hitler), one of the chief advocates of the alliance, was clear about Japan’s position on Jewish people:
“I am the man responsible for the alliance with Hitler, but nowhere have I promised that we would carry out his anti-Semitic policies in Japan. This is not simply my personal opinion, it is the opinion of Japan, and I have no compunction about announcing it to the world.”
Japan refused German requests to send Jewish Germans in Japan back to Germany. It also turned down a Nazi suggestion to exterminate Jewish refugees who had settled in China. Although it was allied with Hitler’s Germany, Imperial Japan was not interested in persecuting the Jews.
In both pre-war and post-war Japan, antisemitism has not been popular. Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who helped thousands of Lithuanian Jews escape the holocaust, is celebrated by both the Japanese right and the left as a hero. Japanese right-wingers who deny wartime atrocities by the Japanese military also display pride about how Japan helped save Jews from the holocaust, and are angry when Koreans or Chinese try to equate Imperial Japan’s actions to Germany’s racial extermination policies.
Schoolchildren in Japan are taught about the Holocaust, and many of them read The Diary of Anne Frank. It was a bestseller when it was translated into Japanese and can be found in almost every school and public library in the country.
A few days ago, some shocking news surfaced. Apparently somebody has been visiting libraries across the Tokyo area and tearing pages out of copies of the Diary and other books associated with the Anne Frank. The first media reports said about 200 books had been vandalized, but subsequent investigation have caused the number to rise to 306. The number will probably go up again in a few days, after more libraries check their shelves.
“The geographic scope of these incidents strongly suggest an organized effort to denigrate the memory of the most famous of the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered by the Nazis in the World War II Holocaust,” charged Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish Human Rights organization which also houses a major exhibition on Anne Frank at its Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.
“I know from my many visits to Japan, how much Anne Frank is studied and revered by millions of Japanese. Only people imbued with bigotry and hatred would seek to destroy Anne’s historic words of courage, hope and love in the face of impending doom,” Cooper added.
This has received major news coverage in Japan. The national government even felt compelled to comment on the crime. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated: “This is a shameful act, and I am confident that the police authority is making a thorough investigation.”
Unfortunately, some Western reporters seem to be seeing this story as an opportunity to smear Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Despite that fact that Abe and his conservative friends do not advocate antisemitism or holocaust denial, certain articles are implying that these acts of vandalism are related to their views.
For example, an AFP article that has been published in The Age/Sky News/SBS/Sydney Morning Herald/RawStory contains this paragraph:
“The vandalism comes amid criticism of a shift to the right in Japanese politics under nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with a recent volley of provocative comments about Japan’s wartime past that have sparked accusations of revisionism by China and South Korea.”
Maybe the journalist who wrote the article and the editors who approved it were ignorant of the issue, and sloppily assumed that anyone who has revisionist views about Japanese history must also have anti-Jewish views. Or it could have been an intentional attempt to smear Abe by falsely linking his views to Holocaust denial and hatred of the Jews. Either way, it’s really bad journalism.
Update: Nariaki Nakayama, a former Minister of Education and Minister of Transport – and one of the public faces of Japanese right-wing politics, has denounced the vandalism on Twitter.
Nakayama wrote that he believed that such an act of could not have been committed by a Japanese person. It is against Japanese sensibilities. He also criticizes countries that compare Abe to Hitler, and advocates putting security cameras in public libraries.
[hat tip to Nippon.com]
A Japanese 2channel user recently posted some photo highlighting his experience staying at Osaka’s Hotel Diamond, which offers some of the cheapest rates in Japan.
The receipt, stamped by a hotel staff person, shows that it did indeed cost a mere 800 yen for a single night’s stay.
The room is simple, and while not super clean, doesn’t look too terrible, especially when you consider the price.
A sign on the hotel room tells guests that the those who are having trouble making ends-meet can go to the front desk for some advice. Presumably the hotel staff can provide some information about applying for government assistance of finding work.
Such cheap hotels exist in certain areas of Osaka and Tokyo, and primarily cater to people who are in desperate circumstances. Hotel Diamond is located in Osaka’s Nishinari ward, an area known for its large number of day laborers and homeless people. A lot of the guests at the hotel are probably living from day to day on temporary jobs.
The photos in this post don’t look so bad, but some guests have had bad experiences with the hotel in question. A google search revealed that one non-Japanese YouTuber thought the Hotel Diamond was “The Scariest Hostel in Japan”:
Reviews on Booking.com also provide some details:
“Rooms are the size of closets with just enough space to lay two very thin mattresses on the floor. You can literally reach out and touch the walls. Very limited space beyond the two mattresses and around 1m squared to put your bags. Advertised are TV and bar fridge but they may as well not be there – Dirty linen and questionable whether rooms are cleaned regularly – Smoking smell throughout the establishment but better on the higher floors – It was very difficult to get a decent night sleep on the thin mattresses and the sandbag pillows. I spent the night tossing and turning and did not get a good night’s sleep – Located in a somewhat ‘dodgy’ suburb of Osaka, with lots of homeless around on the streets. It’s meant to be ‘dangerous’ by Osaka standards, although this is laughable when compared to Western dangerous suburbs. I’ve stayed in this suburb 3 times now without an issue.” – Ashleigh from Australia
“The hotel is as advertised. The accommodations are as you imagine them for the price. There are lots of cockroaches, mosquitos, poorly maintained bathrooms, and so on. It is extremely uncomfortable during the summer. I suggest spending a little bit more to gain a significant amount of comfort.“- Dustin from America
A traveler from Uruguay provided a more simple review. For the positives, he listed “the price.” For the negatives: “The rest. The cheapest part is horrible!!”