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Friday, October 05, 2007

Yukio Okamoto's Talk on Japanese Poitics, History, and Sino-American-Japanese Relationship

Yukio Okamoto, an ex-diplomat and a former Special Advisor to Prime Ministers Ryutaro Hashimoto and Junichiro Koizumi, gave a speech in Vancouver on October 2, 2007.

He first talked about the significance of the new Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda. Okamoto had known the man for a long time and said that Fukuda was a honest, trustworthy, and a warm man. Fukuda has difficult tasks to face from the beginning, including Japan's refuelling mission in the Indian Ocean, and the challenge of accounting for 50 million pension accounts misreported, one of the issues that killed LDP in the last House of Councillors' Election and the Abe Administration.

Okamoto emphasized how his former boss Koizumi made great contributions to the Japanese economy because of his 'restructuring.' All the economic indices such as GDP, Price Index, bank lending, showed Koizumi's success in saving Japan from a decade-long recession and deflation. Abe, Koizumi's successor, however, had to pick up all the debris from Koizumi's restructuring. It was mostly the large companies that were increasing their profits, not small to mid-sized companies. The job security diminished as as the rate of part-time contractors rose rapidly against the full-time jobs. In 2006 and 2007, the land prices increased only in big cities like Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. In the last election Ozawa and his JDP party capitalized on the people's frustration over the rising gap between the rich and the poor, and between the urban and rural areas and became the No.1 party in the House of Councillors.

When it comes to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine issue, new Prime Minister Fukuda does not think it is necessary to go there. Fukuda is certainly more moderate and considerate than his predecessors Abe and Koizumi, of recognition of Japan's past aggression in Asia, and the debate over the revision of the Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.

In the early part of his speech Okamoto briefly touched on Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni Shrine saying there were misconceptions around the issue, but did not really elaborate on it. So I asked him during the Q & A session to share what these 'misconceptions' were about. Okamoto said that Koizumi was not a hawk like many people had interpreted. Abe was definitely a hawk, but Koizumi was more of a dove when it came to the recognition of the war-dead. He had no intention of supporting the Class-A war criminals enshrined at Yasukuni, and it was mostly from his naivete that he went there without thinking about its consequences. He simply wanted to mourn for the war-dead. However, once the neighbouring countries started challenging Koizumi for his visit to the shrine, he just could not give in. Okamoto said, to this date Koizumi still does not understand why China was so angry over the issue.

I respected Okamoto's candor in answering my question. As one of those closest to Koizumi, there is credibility in what Okamoto said about Koizumi's intention. If I can think of any analogy, here is one. I often quarrel with my son over his homework, and according to him, I always nudge him to do his work just when he is about to start, so now he doesn't want to do it any more. These proud boys don't want to be told what to do... and I want to respect that. Well in the case of Koizumi, I don't think a man in the Prime Minister's position can use his naivete as an excuse for causing such damage to the relationship between Japan and China. I wish he would have had the courage to listen, and try to understand the perspective of those who were not happy with his visit to the shrine.

It was very interesting that Okamoto said that when it came to before1945, he was a liberal, and when it came to after 1945, he was a conservative. He meant by the former that he admitted that Japan's war in China and in the Pacific was wrong and Japan's atrocities in Asia had to be recognized and learnt more by the younger generations. By the latter, he meant that he strongly believed in the necessity of revision of the Article 9. He said there would be no reason why Japan should not have 'normal' weapons like long-range bombers, missiles and attack carriers while China and other countries could have them. However,Okamoto did not see the issue being in the spotlight in the initial stage of Fukuda Administration as there were more important issues at the moment.

There were a few other questions that stood out for me. One asked Okamoto what he would NOT exclude if he were to develop a book on modern Japanese history for children. He thought for a while, and very carefully and slowly answered: Japan's atrocities in the past war, loss of civilian lives in Okinawa, and heroic soldiers even though they knew that they couldn’t win.... We could easily argue for hours on what he said and did not say in answering this question. For example, as I heard the answer, I thought, wasn't it these 'heroic' soldiers that committed those atrocities in Asia? I, however, again respected the fact that Okamoto took this question very seriously and gave the best answer that he could then.

Another question was about the fact that there were such few women in the new cabinet. Okamoto recognized that compared to other democracies like France, Germany and Italy, Japan by far lagged behind in terms of the ratio of women in the government.

Overall I felt privileged to have attended the event, as the range of topics covered and the depth of discussion held there far exceeded my expectation. I was particularly impressed to know that Okamoto wanted to see the East Asia to follow the path of multilateralization, similar to the one that post-war France, Germany and the rest of Europe achieved. This is exactly where I would like to see East Asia going.

Thanks to Japanese Consulate and all the other sponsoring organizations that made this event happen.

Satoko Norimatsu

7 comments:

  1. さて、岡本さんの講演の敏速なレポート有難う御座います。興味深く読ませていただきました。小泉を鳩、安部を鷹と表現したのは以外でした。そして教科書問題の件は国際的な立場で話す場合はかなり微妙な事であることを彼は認識しているのでしょう。橋本、小泉総理の下で働いた人なので少しはインサイドが覗けるかと私も行きたいと思っていたのですが時間が許しませんでした。最後に聡子さんがおっしゃっておられるように極東多数国圏への実現へ日本政府が真剣に考えてくれる事を祈ってます。

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  2. There is one correction about the question about the history book for children.

    The person asked what he would not exclude if Mr.Okamoto were to developed 'a book on modern Japanese history for children', not a history texbook for children in Japan.

    I am sorry for the error.

    Satoko

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  3. David McIntosh9:56 am

    Hi Satoko.

    Thanks for your report on Mr. Okamoto's lecture. Your comments about Okamoto's long-pause response to the question, "What would you NOT exclude from a new history text for Japanese students?" caused me to pause for thought, too.

    Recalling my own education in history--I wasn't a keen student of history until I entered my 40s--I can't help but wonder whether the world would be in the state it is today if there was more information in my texts/classes about who profitted most from WWII, and how, on both sides. For example, if students were taught about Prescott Bush, financier of the Nazis, would we have had two bushes in VP and President of the world's richest, most powerful nation for a total 20 years? Or, if students were taught more about KISHI Nobusuke, Manchukuo "development" overseer, wartime Industry Minister, war criminal (untried) and Prime Minister, would we have had his son-in-law and grandson leading Japan through massive financial scandals and angling toward armed engagement abroad? Indeed, would 9/11 have happened at all, and would there be any need for VSA9? I think not.

    I have no doubt Mr. Okamoto knows much more than any of us about such details of history. I bet that's what was going through his mind during his long pause. It is the omission of THESE details, much more than the details of Japanese atrocities (which are important, too), that led Japanese, American and Canadian citizens to forget their history and thus repeat it today: False flage terror events, racial scapegoating, lies told to march into foreign lands, sending soldiers to die and kill for financiers' profit, media distortion of facts, and celebration of sacrificial lambs as "heroes." (Like on last night's CBC news.)

    So, as much as I agree it is a step forward for someone such as Okamoto to SAY he would include atrocities in his history text--talk is cheap--it is far too little, far too late. He would still exclude the information that would contribute most to long-lasting peace, by keeping warmongers out of office. If you know the person who asked the very good question, please forward this response. And to Mr. Okamoto, if you have his card.

    This is why I now regularly say, we must BE the media. Lord knows corporate media aren't doing their job. Which reminds me--have I said this before?--Mussolini's definition of fascism is, "the merger of state and industry."

    Peace, I still hope,

    David McIntosh

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  4. Anonymous9:57 am

    Hello David & Satoko,

    The intricacies we all face in trying to expose poitical spins and ideolgies that has shaped our world to date will be an never ending challenge. I appreciate both your points of view. Regarding Mr. Okomoto's long-pause on atrocities committed during the Second World War, I was not suprised, that he did not include two of the greatest single acts of wanton destruction the world has ever known....Hiroshima & Nagasaki. At least we can credit Koizumi withthe final recognition and extension of benifits to Atomic Bomb Suvivors living abroad.......Keep up the good work
    Warmest regards..Dave Laskey

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  5. David Laskey9:58 am

    Hello David & Satoko,
    The intricacies we all face in trying to expose poitical spins and ideolgies that has shaped our world to date will be an never ending challenge. I appreciate both your points of view. Regarding Mr. Okomoto's long-pause on atrocities committed during the Second World War, I was not suprised, that he did not include two of the greatest single acts of wanton destruction the world has ever known....Hiroshima & Nagasaki. At least we can credit Koizumi withthe final recognition and extension of benifits to Atomic Bomb Suvivors living abroad.......Keep up the good work
    Warmest regards..Dave Laskey

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  6. Just so there is no misunderstanding, Mr. Okamoto's pause after the question was probably less than 3 seconds. I did not mean to describe it as long. I originally wrote 'silent and tense,' and that 'silent' probably gave readers an impression that it was long. I eliminated that sentence. Well, how time is perceived, whether long or short, all depends on one's expectation and often cultural programming. In my perception, I imagined the question would be one extremely challenging to answer especially to the multinational, multigenerational Vancouver audience. You can't possibly satisfy everyone's expectation on what aspect of history should be included in a book for children. I think Mr. Okamoto tried his best to be truthful to his own belief and at the same time to be considerate to the expectations of the majority of the audience.

    Satoko

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  7. 金田千寿3:13 pm

    デイヴィッドさん、

    ご意見をシェアしてくださり、ありがとうございました。大企業体の報道機関からの情報は、体制側に都合のいいものしか流さないから、私たち自身が報道とならなければならない、というご指摘に、大きくうなづきました。

    この点は、最近になって市民の間で成就されてきていると言えるでしょうか。メーリングリストやネット上の新聞などによって、普通の多くの人たちが大企業体の流さない情報を手に入れることができるようになってきた、と言えるでしょうか。そうした情報を手にした人の数がある程度に達したら、次は自ずと、その情報をもとにした行動が生まれ出てくるはずですよね。今はその行動を生み出すための、人数の培養段階と言えるのでしょうか。

    私も、自分自身が報道のできる知識とネットワークと勇気を培っていきたいと思います。

    金田千寿

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