A Japanese TV news report about some recent foreign currency investment scams:
The video mentions two cases. The first case took place in Hokkaido, where a 73-year-old woman received a phone call from a person claiming to be from a company that helps people invest in foreign currency. He assured her that if she invested in Uzbek currency, she would no lose any money. The woman was tricked into mailing cash worth 20 million yen to the man.
A 71-year-old woman in Fukuoka prefecture fell for a similar scam. She was told that she could double her investment if she bought Afghan currency. She paid about 32 million yen and received a package of currency that was worth only about 50,000 yen.
The Japanese government has a website that warns people against these kinds of investment scams. Unfortunately, the targets are mostly elderly people, an age group that isn’t exactly known for being able to look stuff up on the internet.
A few days ago, the New York Times printed an article by Martin Fackler that claimed that the country was “shifting further away from pacifism.” But is that really the case? Several online commentaries have taken issue with Fackler’s narrative.
The most interesting response is from Corey Wallace of Japan Security Watch. He notes that the article contains some “memes” that commonly appear in international media reports about Japan’s security policies:
As with many media commentaries, the problem often resides in the framing rather than the information itself. First, any reference to Japan “moving away from pacifism” will be an inherently loaded characterization, and while not all who do refer to it buy into the idea that this is necessarily a bad thing, it will unfortunately reaffirm the knee-jerk narratives around Japanese remilitarization which prey on pre-existing stereotypes regarding Japan.
First, the concept/frame of “moving away from pacifism” is kind of a meaningless distinction to make in the first place. Japan has never been formally “pacifist” and has never been as purely idealistic (or naive, if you take your cue from DC) as many believed. In this sense, the “moving away from pacifism” is a double fiction. Defensive-orientated defense (senshu bouei 専守防衛) and certain antimilitarist norms, established in the public imagination and institutionalized politically much later than 1947, are a better starting point for understanding Japan’s initial “non-offensive” security doctrine. I wonder if it would be so hard for commentators to use language such as “Japan’s security doctrine continues to incrementally evolve in line with regional developments and Japan’s changing international identity after periods of societal debate.” Of course, that would be boring. But appropriate.
Second, the specific claims about Japan’s security evolution, while not incorrect per se, are probably not quite as meaningful as they might seem at first glance, at least as conceptualized within the frame of “weakening pacifism.”
Another noteworthy response to Fackler’s article comes from Thomas U. Berger of Boston University:
“…If anything, it has been startling how slow Japan has been to respond to the changing threat environment, although that can be attributed to the fact that Japan still feels that it has a certain margin of safety to work with with regard to the Chinese and North Korean threats.
The analytical problem comes from the use of the term “pacifism.” While there is indeed a pacifist streak in the way Japan thinks about defense and national security, it has always been a minority view. Even in the 50s and 60s there never was a consensus in favor of unarmed neutrality, and there is virtually no support for it today.
A more accurate term for Japanese attitudes is what I have called anti-militarism. The Japanese are extremely skeptical about the use of forces because of their historical experiences of the 1930s and 40s. These experience have been institutionalized in various ways in Japan’s legal and bureaucratic systems and they are reinforced supported by popular attitudes that are periodically reinvigorated by books, movies as well as the way Japanese people – both elites and on a popular level – talk about the past.
This does not mean, however, that the Japanese have completely foresworn defending themselves. There has always been a readiness to defend Japan and its territory….”
In another NBR Forum post, Todd Kreider examines the statements Fackler writes about Japan’s public opinion and defense spending. As others have observed, defense spending increases are tiny and public opinion has barely changed over the last decade. Buy why let that get in the way of a good story?
Remember Christopher Johnson, the freelance reporter/photographer who became infamous in early 2012 after he threatened bloggers and journalists who were critical of his poorly-written account of being detained and expelled from Japan?
Also in attendance was Hiroko Tabuchi of the New York Times. It is not clear if they actually talked to each other at the event, but Tabuchi posted the following public Tweets today:
Christopher Johnson replied to her first Tweet by claiming total ignorance of any harassment. He then stated that he was being “framed.”
(Despite acknowledging that his tweets were public and thus would be fair game for bloggers to quote, Johnson continued to post tweets directed at Tabuchi.)
It didn’t take long for Johnson to shift towards what some might read as physical threats. He called on Tabuchi to meet him tonight, promising that he would stop his partner from tearing Tabuchi’s hair out. Woah.
Johnson described the information from Tabuchi’s friends as “false accusations from dubious sources,” and questioned her integrity as a journalist.
It’s an interesting turn of events because Johnson has frequently praised Tabuchi’s articles. This drama feels like a repeat of Johnson’s falling out with Jake Adelstein. In that case, Johnson’s public meltdown on Twitter led to a long-winded “investigative” blog post that viciously attacked Adelstein. Should we now expect an article attacking Tabuchi?
Update: Johnson is now complaining about this blog post.
His call for settling the matter in private is supremely ridiculous, as responded to Tabuchi’s post with public Twitter messages and continues to make more public posts, many of which could appear crazy or threatening to third-party observers.
Today, he has spewed out Tweets denying that he threatened Tabuchi. Johnson has also condemned Tabuchi’s “patho liar” friends.
Despite the fact that Tabuchi made a public twitter post stating that she would no longer directly communication with Johnson, he has continued to direct his Tweets at her, demanding an apology for her “false accusations.”
Johnson chooses to make public tweets to the NYT instead of contacting them privately via e-mail. Hilariously, he thinks he is so important that the NYT will read his tweets and then send him an e-mail!
There were also tweets directed at me, demanding that I edit this post to reflect “reality.”
It’s odd that Johnson feels the need to describe Hiroko Tabuchi as a “junior reporter” who is “unknown.” Regularly writing major articles for one of the world’s most well-known newspapers, she is is hardly unknown, and not exactly “junior” either. But, I suppose almost any reporter is “junior” compared to the illustrious Christopher Johnson…
Update 2: Somebody else noticed Johnson’s emphasis on Tabuchi’s lack of importance. Johnson claims that he is not “belittling” her, but is instead pointing out the truth. And making a public spectacle of his disagreement with Tabuchi’s supposedly untruthful accusations is “showing respect” for her. Um, okay. Whatever you say, man.
On February 23rd, the city of Mito held its 12th annual Natto eating contest. Speed eaters tried to finish a bowl of fermented soybeans as quickly as possible. The bowls contained no rice. Contestants were allowed to drink water.
The 62-year-old woman in these videos came from Oita prefecture to visit her kids, and ended up competing in the contest. She won by downing a 210 gram bowl of natto in 48.67 seconds:
The winner of the male section, a 26-year-old Ibaraki native, won by downing 350 grams of natto in just 22.08 seconds.