Friday, May 24, 2013

The Festival-man Daisuke

I was just reading the news about the local government coercion to prevent cheese rolling (it's for your own protection!), and なんと! who would you believe is centre frame in the second photo of the article but Daisuke "The Festival Man" Miyagawa!

I'm quite fond of Miyagawa's exploits, which include not only chasing cheese, but jumping into icy water, pole vaulting over rivers and all sorts of crazy stuff... I'm not sure how this qualifies him as a "festival man", but he's a laugh to watch in any case.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

More gubenatorial stupidity?

Same s***, different governor? This time its comfort women, who were "necessary" according to the Osaka governer Toru Hashimoto.

I mean, that's just stupid, right? Comfort women aren't necessary! The American's never did th-- oh wait.. Yes, they did, actually. And they got the idea from the Japanese, at that.

Despite shooting down my own argument here, I'm still inclined to say that the comfort women weren't necessary. They might have acted as a "breakwater" between the troops and "regular" women and girls, but considering they recruited the women at exceptionally low wage from a newly impoverished* population does much to blur the lines between "regular" women and comfort women.

So perhaps some of the population at large was protected, but only by recruiting members of the population that likely had little choice.

That said, I never heard of Allied troops with comfort women available during the liberation of Europe. The idea of being shot at making you require a shag is somewhat alien to me**. Surely the best way of letting troops rest is to move them away from the front lines for a while?

So what is the point of this discussion? That Hashimoto is an idiot? Unfortunately, I'm inclined to disagree, no matter how stupid the above is, some of Hashimoto's other ideas are pretty good: he supports cooperation in the case of several island disputes, and tends toward a compromising stance on the Futenma air bases. On the whole though, Hashimoto's nationalist stance, and apparent eagerness to revert rape issues to prostitution ones isn't something I'm willing to overlook.

What really gets to me about this man is that he isn't one of the "old-boys" of Japanese politics, or really an "old boy" of any sort at all. He is the product of late post-war Japan. Born in the 1960s, he's seen Japan's economic rise without having witnessed the destruction that war wrought on his country. There are millions of Japanese who have been brought up in the post-war society, and some of these are becoming the political big-wigs. I fear that they don't have the perspective of their elders, and with the effective censorship of the war in textbooks, I don't see things improving any time soon. From my limited outside view, it seems as though pragmatism is the only thing keeping the right-wingers in check at the moment.

Naoki Inose's (the Tokyo Governor) has come out with some stupid comments, but Inose is pretty harmless. Indeed, Inose exudes an image of cutesy Japanese anime-style stupidity. But people like Hashimoto also exist, who are undoubtedly intelligent, but harbour very dangerous ideologies.

*ie, decimated

**indeed the idea of being shot at in general is alien to me, though I've been in the line of practice fire before (and through no fault of my own, I'll add)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Care for the elderly HTC Tattoo

So, a little while ago I complained that streaming radio through 3G, while pretty cool, ate my HTC Tattoo's ageing battery for breakfast (link).

I was considering getting a new phone, but since my main gripe is actually the ridiculous battery life, I thought I'd just get a new battery. That is when I found this beast. 2600 mAh, thats 130% more capacity than the normal battery, and is so big it needs an extension to the phone case.

I suspected that my phone would look butt ugly after getting its extension, but actually, the shape is OK. Also, since the phone was quite small to begin with, it remains very manageable, though its heavier now (though it doesn't feel any heavier than my old Nokia brick-phone).

My only concern now is that with its low £15 price tag that it might explode or set my pants on fire (lol). But hey, it would just give me an excuse to get a new phone (Android 1.6 gets tiresome, and it would be nice to have a phone that I can use to wirelessly tether my Nexus 7 to).

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Top 5 Heroes of Imperial Japan

Understandably, much like Germany, the role of Japan in the war is almost universally viewed from a negative standpoint. However, unlike Germany, where we occasionally fixate on the daring and righteous efforts of people like Schindler, or romanticise about escaping from persecution (as per The Sound of Music), almost no examples in this vein can be found in the Western consciousness.

Rather than conform to the typical concept of heroes, who are commonly measured in terms of how much damage they inflicted versus their personal risk, this list aims to go some way to rectifying this by briefly introducing some examples of Japanese heroes that put the wellbeing of others before that of their regime.

Toyohiko Kagawa

Toyohiko Kagawa was a Christian reformer and activist who deserves mention for his sense of humanity during the peak and fall of Imperial Japan. He showed his Buddha/Orwellian side by abandoning the luxuries of modern Japanese life to experience poverty in the slums first hand.

That might not sound like much, but Kagawa went through a good deal of persecution in Imperial Japan, both from the police and his countrymen. Despite this, Kagawa set up the Anti-War League, and publicly apologised to China for the invasion. For this, Kagawa was arrested and briefly imprisoned.

It's this kind of selfless, righteous* tenacity that epitomises true pacifism.

Chiune Sugihara

Chinue Sugihara was the ambassador for Imperial Japan in Lithuania for some time during the holocaust. Thousands of Jews fled to Lithuania to escape persecution by the Nazis, however they became effectively trapped there because obtaining passage through the Soviet Union was very difficult. A great crowd of refugees surrounded the Japanese embassy in the hopes of obtaining a transit visa.

Sugihara contacted Japan several times, and failed in all cases to obtain permission to provide the visas, but after some contemplation decided to write the visas anyway. With the visas in hand, many thousands of refugees were able to pass through the Soviet Union and Japan, undoubtedly saving their lives.

Sugihara is fairly well known in Japan, and by numbers alone Sugihara should be at the top of the list, but I've given him the number two spot. Why? As much as he was a Japanese national, his only act of antagonism towards Imperial Japan was writing the visas, which you might argue was a dangerous thing to do; however I'd question the likelihood of Imperial Japan to go so far to persecute him. More than anything, I'd describe Sugihara as a hero of Europe, rather than Japan.

FYI, here is an essay of spectacular scope** regarding Sugihara: informative link.

Kijuro Shidehara

Shidehara was the foreign minister of Imperial Japan for two terms, and constantly pushed for cooperation and the expansion of cultural links with China, while making attempts to avert military intervention. Hats off to Mr. Shidehara, but the overpowering rise of the military essentially rendered him an impotent force.

Nevertheless, one might argue for Shidehara's heroism in the face of the assassination attempt on his contemporary by ultranationalists, and its this argument for which I include him in this list, even though there is much more to talk about regarding Shidehara.

Sokichi Takagi 

Sokichi Takagi was a Japanese Imperial Navy officer with powerful friends. It was because of his unique position within earshot of the "high and mighty" of Imperial Japan that he caught the attention of Shigetaro Shimada, who wanted a reliable assessment of Japan's trajectory in the war.

Takagi's ability to evaluate Japan's position in the war lead him not only to realise the inevitability of defeat, but to conclude that peace must be made with America, and that to do so the Prime Minister (Hideki Tojo) must be assassinated.

Knowing Tojo to have a great affection for open-top cars, Takagi planned to barricade, or block the Prime Minister's car, then open fire using a machine gun. The plan might have succeeded, considering Takagi's powerful supporters, however the plan was never invoked due to a mass resignation within the Tojo cabinet over the loss of Saipan. Takagi spoke later that "Had the assassination taken place, the resulting increase in tensions between the army and navy would have made peace-making difficult"***.

Unable to carry out the plans, Takagi still worked towards a peaceful end to the war, though as evidenced by the near-destruction of Japan, his efforts were not entirely successful. Nonetheless, I think Takagi's powerful resolve, which would likely have gotten him killed had it been exposed, earns him a place in the top 5.

Sanzo Nosaka

Sanzo Nosaka was a communist politician. In Imperial Japan, communism was fairly high on the list of "things not to do... Or else", and indeed, Nosaka was imprisoned more than once, and even tortured. Nonetheless, this appears only to have strengthened his resolve.

Nosaka joined Comintern and eventually was ordered to help China's resistance to Japan. This lead to Nosaka helping in the indoctrination of captured Japanese troops. Apparently, he was so successful that the Japanese army made attempts at assassinating him.

In this light, Nosaka appears the very embodiment of heroic resistance against Imperial Japan, but as the Wiki points out, there are a number of darker aspects to Nosaka's career.

Firstly, it was found that Nosaka had close ties to Stalin's regime, worse, it appears he used that position to exact personal vengeance on his friend after hearing they may have slept with his wife. The alleged adulterer was ultimately killed by firing squad.

Secondly, there is the fact that he was working under orders from Comintern. I'd like to think that Nosaka was working to mitigate the evils of Japanese occupation of China, but I wonder to what extent this was just to further the communist cause. That is to say, was Nosaka aiding the Chinese people, or just trying to impose his own world view?

Whatever the case, Nosaka highlights the fact that some Japanese soldiers, when educated on the evils committed by Imperial Japan, were happy to take up the cause of the Chinese. A fact that seems entirely overlooked in the popular memory of the war. In this light, even if Nosaka's own heroism is vague and tainted, I'd like to think that perhaps he produced a few heroes, no matter how they may have faded from history.

*I'd like to stress that I say righteous here without any invocation of mythical/theoretical beings

**at least in terms of what is freely available on the internet

***information from this paragraph can be found in Japanese here

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Paypal nonsense

It wasn't intended to be a rant. But it became one. You have been warned

My frustration demands some venting, so please excuse my tentative inclusion of this post as "technology" related..

I got an email from paypal saying I'd set up some automated billing with ebay, which was not the case. Presumably someone had gained access to my account and set that up "on my behalf", perhaps to make me a more generous person.

But, because I don't like to give money to thieves, I signed in to paypal and changed all my security details to something so unguessable I'll probably have to meditate to remember it. I also sent an email to paypal (was past call centre closing times) to find out what the hell was going on.

Luckily no money had been taken (I find that spectacularly strange, but hey, if the thieves are going to give me a running start, thank you very much...), but the next day I get an email saying (predictably) please phone us.

So, I phone, and explain the situation. They seem confused about the fact I was making an enquiry when clearly no actual transactions had been made, but they were helpful, and assured me that my precautions the previous night had made my account secure again. They also said an investigation would be filed to find out exactly what happened.

Two things greatly annoy me about this: 1) according to the call centre guy, paypal don't track IP addresses. Why not? It would be very handy to know whether the access attempt was made from another country or my own workplace or house. Because if its the latter, it means the security problem isn't isolated to paypal. 2) I get an email saying that my "claim" has been refused following investigation due to lack of evidence...

What? What do they mean my claim is refused? Its not like I'm claiming for an actual commodity, nothing was stolen, I'm claiming so you can investigate, which you say you've done, so what are you refusing?

Well, this is all very gods-damn Zen, isn't it. "If paypal refuses your claim to nothing, what have you lost?". Its so mind-blowingly nonsensical that my shell-shocked brain might just attain full-blown bloody enlightenment.

If someone had taken the time to write a proper email instead of dulling their brain on the problem of "Hmmm, which pre-made email best suits this situation?", then frankly we'd all be better off.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Tokyo gubernatorial stupidity: Naoki Inose

Ah Japanese politicians. The outside world must seem so confusing to them. Yes, I'm thinking of Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose's remarks on Istanbul's Olympic bid (go ahead and click that link, the picture is great: looks like they're trying to use the mics to push him over backwards*).

Its almost embarrassing to read what he said, and it shows an outspoken ignorance of the outside world that would get you fired from most jobs in the public eye over here. I find it a bit funny that not so long ago he was warning against complacency over winning the Olympic bid.

Well, its obvious that Tokyo has now screwed its Olympic bid to Pluto and back, but I doubt that will do much to mar Inose's reputation at home, considering his predecessor was completely outrageous, and still was able to resign on his own terms.

But for my part, I'm not going to lose all faith in Inose-sensei. Even if he is a complete pratt, reading his wiki page (Japanese) gives the sense of a reformer, and if nothing else, he played a part in the rescue of several people in the 2011 Tohoku earthquake.

That said, the guy needs to get a bookshelf for that ¥4.5 million toilet of his. Perhaps he can then learn something about how Istanbul was a major seat of civilisation for hundreds of years (maybe thousands of years including the other civilisations that existed there. Hell, I need that book too)...

EDIT: Somehow, Tokyo managed to win the 2020 Olympic bid, though I suspect it has more to do with this person, than Inose.

* I hope you'll forgive my being light-hearted. As much as anything this post is just an excuse to use the word "gubernatorial"** which I can't imagine a single way of pronouncing that doesn't sound ridiculous.

** a word so strange to me that I initially thought it was a cute Japanese corruption of some other word that doesn't sound stupid. If only English were so sensible...