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!!”
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.
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.
The Olympics were created with the intent of bringing the world together to celebrate peaceful athletic competition. However, for many countries it has become a opportunity to vent nationalist hate. Especially when South Korea, one of Asia’s most nationalistic countries, is facing off against Japan, a country that its schoolchildren are taught to hate and despise.
In the days leading up to women’s figure skating competition – which would once again see Korean Yuna Kim face off against Japanese skaters, 2channel and Japanese blogs were getting in on the hate-fest. They highlighted how the nationalistic South Korean media was aggressively “stalking” and insulting Japanese figure skater Mao Asada, doing stuff like bluntly asking her questions that implied she would fail in an attempt to mess with her mental state. Japanese netizens also expressed glee about Korean media reactions to a Russian figure skater who supposedly slighted Yuna Kim by telling Korean reporters that that she was not interested in watching the Korean skater’s past performances. They also focused upon examples of ugly Korean nationalism in other Olympic sports, such as the Korean threats against British speed skater Elise Christie.
When the competition actually began, Mao Asada performed very poorly at first, so she was out of contention for a medal. So Japanese netizens who disliked Korea were left to hope that Kim would be denied a gold medal.
Their wish came true. A Russian skater won the Gold medal instead, dashing Korean hopes. No doubt some Korean nationalist netizens are complaining somewhere online about unfair judging (an accusation that could be true, given past scandals that have shown figure skating to be a very corrupt “sport” – but if Korean fans are going to start agreeing that figure skating judging is biased, it also makes it possible to doubt the fairness of the amazing scores that Kim got in the past). Since their country lost to Russia, I imagine that most of the hatred will be directed at that country.
Since I cannot read Korean, and this is a blog about Japan, I will instead introduce how their Japanese counterparts have celebrated with online posts gloating about Kim’s misfortune. Here are a couple examples of stuff that has been popular with anti-Korean netizens.
1) Other figure skaters hate Yuna Kim
Screen captures after Adelina Sotnikova’s gold medal victory show her and bronze medalist Carolina Kostner being very friendly to each other. It looks like the other two friends, hugging and high-fiving, or maybe Kostner is just a very gracious about accepting her 3rd place finish. Yuna Kim is off to the side, looking like a loner who is either unfriendly towards her fellow skaters, and/or is disliked by them. (Maybe the screen captures were deliberately selected to leave out Kim’s more friendly side?)
Alongside the images from yesterday, Japanese netizens have also posted old video clips that supposedly back up the “nobody likes Yuna Kim” theory. The above clip is from 2010, and shows Kim awkwardly being left out of the other skaters’ group hugs.
Even little kids are shown to avoid hugs with Kim…
2) Korean fans de-face a Mao Asada banner
A screen capture from the NHK broadcast of the competition shows a Mao Asada banner that has literally been defaced by Korean fans. Somebody has placed a South Korean flag directly over Asada’s face. The placement is too perfect for it to be a mere accident.
3) It’s not all anti-Korean stuff
Amid the anti-Korean feeling of certain Japanese netizens, there are some examples of popular articles that were somewhat positive towards Korea. One article from Searchina notes that the Korean media criticized the manners of Russian fans, who apparently cheered and laughed when Mao Asada fell during her performance. Somebody also translated comments from Korean netizens who praised Asada’s second day performance, which was a career best for her.