New anime film highlights Soviet ethnic-cleansing of Kuril islands

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    A new anime film called Giovanni’s Island (ジョバンニの島) will hit theaters across Japan tomorrow. Here is the Japanese language trailer:

    And here is an English language description of the movie, from the website of the New York International Children’s Film Festival:

    Japan, Mizuho Nishikubo, 2014, 102 min
    Recommended Ages: 12 to Adult (Subtitled)

    NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE – Screening for the first time outside of Japan, Giovanni’s Island is the latest grand opus from famed anime studio Production I.G (A Letter to Momo, Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade). Spanning multiple generations and locations, the film delicately weaves the complex true-story of two young brothers whose life on the small, remote island of Shikotan becomes forever changed in the aftermath of WWII.

    Giovanni and Campanella, nicknamed after characters in the beloved Japanese novel Night on the Galactic Railroad, live a free-spirited island life, chasing each other along beach-side cliffs and endlessly dreaming about adventures on the Galactic Railroad. But when the Red army occupies their tiny island following Japan’s surrender, they are suddenly confronted with an influx of foreigners – including a peculiar and enticing new neighbor, the golden-haired Tanya, daughter of the Soviet commander. Learning about each other’s exotic and strange cuisines, music and language creates a quick bond for the children – even while the occupation brings on heavier implications for their families. An elegance and beauty permeates the hand-drawn animation and symphonic score of the film, creating a timeless drama where moments of emotional impact are tempered by animated flights of whimsy and fantasy, as the brothers prove much larger in spirit and strength than their rosy-cheeked, small frames would suggest.

    Comment: The film deals more with the hardships of war than the horror – and there is no overt violence on screen. But there is a true to life sense of the loss of home and family, as the film shows how kids readily adapt to even the most difficult circumstances, the way they are asked to take on larger responsibilities, and how they are blameless for the difficult situations that adults sometimes create for them.

    Shikotan island

    Judging from the trailer, it looks like it will touch on some serious historical issues. The territorial dispute over the “Northern Territories” of Japan continues with Russia to this day, and this movie will show some of the worst aspects of the Russian invasion. The Soviet military is shown taking away the children’s father to a labor camp, a fate shared by thousands of Japanese, many of whom were worked to death years after the war had ended. The Soviet Union forced Japanese residents of the island to leave and replaced them with Russian settlers, and the scenes of in the trailer of Japanese people crammed into a boat appear to show part of the ethnic cleansing campaign.

    3 comments - What do you think?  Posted by James - February 21, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Categories: Politics

    Crazy internet conspiracy theory: Japanese politicians who drink “Korean-style”

    korean drinking style

    While randomly surfing through Japanese blogs the other day, I came across a post that was telling readers that the new mayor of Tokyo, Yoichi Masuzoe, drinks like he is a Korean. Apparently covering ones drink with a hand and turning to the side whole drinking is the polite way to drink in front of one’s elders in Korea, and Masuzoe was showing this “Korean-style” politeness when taking a drink from a glass of water during a speech at the National Diet in 2011.

    Masuzoe drinking

    Masuzoe is disliked by many right-leaning people because he supports granting voting rights to non-citizens, a move that would give political power to Korean residents of Japan who refuse to naturalize. According to the blog post, Masuzoe also allegedly admitted on TV that his parents were Zainichi Koreans. (Is there any actual video clip of this?)

    But wait, there’s more! The conspiracy deepens! It turns out that Masuzoe isn’t the only major politician who drinks in a “non-Japanese” manner.

    Naoto Kan (Prime Minister 2011-2012) is also one of them:


    Kan drinking

    Kan’s successor, Yoshihiko Noda, drank like that too:

    Noda drinks

    Noda drinking 2

    And former Prime Minister Hatoyama!

    Hatoyama Korean drinking

    Katsumasa Suzuki (formerly of the DPJ) is one too:

    Korean drinking Katsumasa

    And, anti-nuclear actor-turned-politician Taro Yamamoto is a “Korean” drinker too:

    Taro Yamamoto

    The photos document that on at least one occasion, each of the politicians drank in a manner that sort of resembles a Korean custom. In the mind of crazy conspiracy theorists, this “non-Japanese” drinking style, combined with the fact that their policy views are seen as “anti-Japanese,” is evidence that these politicians must be secret Koreans, or at least under the influence of Korea.

    9 comments - What do you think?  Posted by James - February 15, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Categories: Odd / Strange, Politics

    Yoichi Masuzoe faces “sex strike” over misogynistic comments


    All the polls seem to show that Yoichi Masuzoe is going to win the Tokyo gubernatorial race when the votes are counted on Sunday night. Could some scandal bring him down at the last minute? The people who are bankrolling the “The Association of Women Who Don’t Want Yoichi to Become Governor” seem to be hoping for such a result.

    They’ve dug up some misogynistic quotes that apparently can be attributed to Masuzoe. And they’ve even taken the trouble of translating them into English, so Masuzoe can be easily bashed in the international press! And they’ve said they are holding a “sex strike” against men who vote for Masuzoe, a move that is sure to get them media attention.

    About Women

    Women are not normal when they are on their period. They are abnormal.
    You can’t possibly let them make critical decisions about the country [during their periods], such as
    whether or not to go to war
    .” – Masuzoe in the October 1989 issue of the magazine BIGMAN

    In 1989 during the so-called “Madonna Boom” when a number of women became elected officials,
    Masuzoe stated, “This is an exceptional period in history, that’s why even women are able to come
    out of the woodwork…but those who have been elected are all a bunch of old middle aged hags.”

    Recollections of a Former Wife

    “He suddenly screamed in outrage, ‘How dare you come home so late!’ He would throw whatever
    was at hand at me. I once found the cover of the rice cooker broken. Another time, he laid out a
    bunch of knives, including survival knives, in front of me. He liked to collect knives as a hobby.
    Once he even pointed one of the knives at me. It was more than enough to be a threat.” — Interview
    of Satsuki Katayama, an MP in the House of Councillors, in the May 6/13, 2010 issue of the weekly
    Shukan Shincho

    “After three months of being married, I decided to consult a lawyer about getting a divorce. Then I
    found out that he had a lover, and that she was pregnant with his child. But already I didn’t care at all.
    I just wanted to get divorced as quickly as possible, I only thought about getting away from him.” —
    Interview of Satsuki Katayama, an MP in the House of Councillors, in the May 6/13, 2010 issue of
    the weekly Shukan Shincho


    “The rate of consumption tax should be over 10%… Those guys have money… Half of Japan’s
    savings is held by old men and women… If the rate of consumption tax is raised then we can extract
    money from old people.” — TV interview, December 24, 2005

    [If insurance premiums are not charged for those over 75 years of age] “Their children and
    grandchildren will revolt, saying ‘Hey Grandpa and Grandma, my insurance payments increase
    because you live so long!'” — On a NHK debate program, May 25, 2008


    Masuzoe has a salary of JPY 17 million and has JPY 300 million in assets. Yet when he lost JPY 8
    million betting at horse races, he asked to reduce child support payments for his severely disabled
    child born out of wedlock. The case is now in court. — News Post Seven, December 2, 2013

    When Masuzoe was the Minister of Health (2007-2009), he promoted a vaccine for cervical cancer,
    and the vaccine was approved for use during his term. Since then, the vaccine has been causing
    serious side effects among a large number of young women.

    Is that last point meant to spread fear about HPV vaccines? The quotes and the gossip about his personal life are interesting, but I am no fan of anti-vaccine campaigns. If the HPV vaccine is the same as the one being used abroad, it shouldn’t be dangerous. Apparently the Japanese Health Ministry withdrew its recommendation for the HPV vaccine in 2013 because of concerns about side effects, a decision that drew criticism from science bloggers:

    “…the health ministry is going to withhold recommendation of the HPV vaccination because they notice 43 cases for which they couldn’t establish a causal relationship to the vaccine. In other words, 0.0013% of cases, a number so small that it’s pretty close to impossible to affix any statistical significance to it. In fact, random background “noise” (that is that some whole body pain could be expected in any random sampling of vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals) of this type of observation is as plausible as correlation (let alone causation) to the vaccine. In fact, the Health Ministry failed to provide us with data concerning the level of these side effects in the general population. Nor how soon after vaccination. Nor anything potentially useful in a scientific analysis.

    What’s worse is that, according to the same article, about 2700 women in Japan die every year from HPV related cancers. So, because of complaints from the antivaccination lunatics in Japan (didn’t know they had any, but I shouldn’t be surprised), and bad statistics (43 potential cases of “body pain” out of 3,280,000 vaccinations), the Health Ministry stops recommending the vaccine. Exactly what were these people thinking?”

    So, enjoy the Masuzoe gossip, but let’s not spread anti-vaccine propaganda, folks.

    1 comment - What do you think?  Posted by James - February 7, 2014 at 11:09 am

    Categories: Politics

    Toshio Tamogami’s gubernatorial campaign plagued by vandalism: posters torn down across Tokyo

    toshio tamogami election

    The 2014 Tokyo gubernatorial election campaign is entering its final week. Among the candidates is Toshio Tamogami, the former general who lost his job in 2008 after he published an essay that was in total contradiction to the history-related policies of his country’s government, a public act of disloyalty to his civilian bosses. He has since become a bit of a big shot among Japan’s right-wing, having published a few books and gone around the country on speaking tours in support of nationalist causes.

    A lot of his views are not shared by the majority of Japanese voters, and most polls indicate that he will come in a distant 3rd or 4th place in Sunday’s election. Despite his slim chances of victory, some of his opponents seem angry enough about his candidacy that they have resorted to petty vandalism.

    The Tokyo Sports Shimbun reports that there have been about 40 reported cases of Tamogami election posters being vandalized or torn from designated advertisement boards. While some of the posters may have fallen victim to Tokyo’s windy weather, when all the other candidates’ posters remain on the board, it’s enough to raise legitimate suspicions.

    missing election poster

    They also received an envelope from Osaka containing ripped-up images of Japanese flags. In addition, they received a suspicious package containing some kind of trash and a smart phone, and although they didn’t open it, they had to place it outside because it supposedly made a campaign staffer get a headache.

    target tamogami

    The campaign claims that they have been getting strange phone calls. Some callers hang up as soon as they call is answered. There was also a caller who claimed to be a supporter of Tamogami and wanted his campaign to confirm that they agreed with some racist statements. The campaign believes that the caller was trying to get them to endorse “hate speech” so that Tamogami could be branded a racist. ( Tamogami may make speeches using the idiotic and looney “they’re gonna take over our small islands” fantasy to voice his opposition to giving voting rights to non-citizens, but he won’t support racists who call for the death of Koreans.)

    1 comment - What do you think?  Posted by James - February 3, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    Categories: Politics

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