Japanese government party honours war criminals again


This video says about itself:

European right-wing politicians worship Japanese war criminals in Yasukuni Shrine

AFP – European right-wing politicians, including French National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, visited a controversial war shrine in Tokyo on Saturday ahead of the anniversary of Japan’s surrender.

The shrine, which honours 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including 14 top war criminals from World War II, has often been regarded as a symbol of Japan’s wartime aggression.

“It doesn’t bother me to honour veteran soldiers of a former enemy,” 82-year old Le Pen, who will retire in January 2011 after the party elects his successor, said Thursday. …

The ‘election’ turned out to be that Jean-Marie appointed his daughter Marine Le Pen as his successor.

The European politicians arrived in Tokyo earlier this week at the invitation of Japan’s Issui-kai movement, which organised a two-day conference to discuss the future of nationalist groups.

Among other participants were Adam Walker, the British National Party‘s number two, and other representatives from far-right parties of Austria, Portugal, Spain, Hungary, Romania and Belgium.

From AFP news agency:

Japanese lawmakers visit Yasukuni war shrine on eve of Obama trip

By Agence France-Presse

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 9:04 EDT

Nearly 150 Japanese lawmakers on Tuesday paid homage at the Yasukuni shrine which honours the nation’s war dead, raising the stakes in an already tense region on the eve of US President Barack Obama’s visit.

A cross-section of parliamentarians — including at least one cabinet minister — paid their respects at the shrine, which honours those who have fought for Japan including a number of senior military and political figures convicted of war crimes.

China and South Korea see the shrine as a symbol of what they say is Japan’s unwillingness to repent for its aggressive warring last century. The United States tries to discourage visits, which it views as unnecessary provocation.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry said it “deplored” the mass visit as the shrine is a “place that enshrined war crimes that caused a war and destroyed peace.”

“I think it is such an empty gesture to talk about the future with neighbouring countries while paying respects to such a place,” ministry spokesman Cho Tai-Young said.

Japan’s conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stayed away from Yasukuni, having offered a symbolic gift on Monday at the start of the three-day spring festival.

However, the right-leaning minister for internal affairs and communications, Yoshitaka Shindo, was among the worshippers early Tuesday, paying his second visit in 10 days.

Shindo’s grandfather was General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, the figure sympathetically depicted by actor Ken Watanabe in Clint Eastwood’s “Letters from Iwo Jima”.

The mass visit will inevitably further aggravate strained ties in East Asia, and could irritate the White House, coming the day before Obama arrives on the first leg of a four-nation trip which also includes South Korea.

Washington would desperately like Japan and South Korea — its two chief allies in the region — to bury the diplomatic hatchet and stand together against Beijing’s increasingly confident regional swagger and against unpredictable Pyongyang.

‘Like Arlington’

Abe’s own visit to the shrine on December 26 soon after a trip to Tokyo by US Vice President Joe Biden immediately sparked fury in Asia and earned him a slap on the wrist from Washington, which said it was “disappointed”.

The Japanese premier’s gift on Monday provoked a Chinese charge that he was offering “a slap in the face” to Obama.

Conservative lawmakers make regular trips to the shrine during spring and autumn festivals, and on the August 15 anniversary of Japan’s World War II defeat.

They compare the site with Arlington National Cemetery in the US, where America’s war dead are honoured.

“Speaking personally, my father is enshrined here,” said Hidehisa Otsuji, an upper-house lawmaker who was at Yasukuni.

“The souls revered here are the people who lost their lives purely for the sake of the country.”

About 160 lawmakers visited the shrine during the spring and autumn festivals last year.

Sanae Takaichi, the policy chief of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, who went to the shrine as a member of the group, said politicians’ display of reverence should not provoke diplomatic difficulties.

“It happens to be the time for the spring festival,” she told reporters. “We welcome the US president’s visit to Japan from the heart.”

Others paying their respects at the shrine were some vice ministers and a special adviser for Abe, Seiichi Eto.

Chief Cabinet Secretary and Abe’s righthand man Yoshihide Suga said the administration would not interfere with shrine visits by members of the government.

“When a minister visits the shrine personally, it is a matter of an individual’s freedom of faith. The government should not step into it,” he said.

Justin Bieber apologises for visiting Yasukuni Shrine in Japan: Site at centre of international row honours convicted WWII war criminals: here.

Just days before US President Obama’s arrival today in Tokyo, the Japanese government provocatively announced the establishment of a new radar base on the southwestern island of Yonaguni—a move calculated to further raise tensions with China: here.

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Okinawa musicians against United States military base


This video is called Lucy Nagamine: Okinawa‘s folk music heritage.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Okinawa‘s musicians provide a focus for Japanese protest against US bases

With Barack Obama visiting Japan in April, resentment at plans for the US Futenma military base is finding a musical voice

Justin McCurry in Okinawa

Thursday 17 April 2014 15.50 BST

If an island of 1.4m people can be summed up in a sound, it is that of the sanshin. Where there are people on Okinawa, a Japanese island almost 1,000 miles south of Tokyo, the distinctive tones of the three-stringed instrument are never far away.

Music is deeply rooted in Okinawa’s tragic place in Japan‘s history and the conduit for its modern grievances against the glut of US military bases on the island. As Barack Obama prepares to visit Tokyo to meet Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, later in April, the anti-war message of sanshin players such as Shoukichi Kina and Misako Oshiro is back in vogue as the subtropical island confronts its biggest political challenge since it reverted from US to Japanese rule in the 1970s.

In his mid-60s, Kina cuts a controversial figure as spiritual leader of Okinawa’s activist musicians. Since the release of their first single Haisai Ojisan (Hey, Man!) in the 1970s, Kina and his band Champloose have done more than any other artists to secure Okinawan music against competition from mass-market Japanese J-pop and the more innocent musical motifs of the mainland folk genres minyo and enka.

“Our job as musicians should be to celebrate the good and do something about fixing the bad,” said Kina, who some have called Okinawa’s answer to Bob Marley. “That’s why I hate the military bases here, but I love Americans.”

Though it accounts for less than 1% of Japan’s total area, Okinawa is now home to about 75% of US bases in Japan and half its 50,000 troops. Military facilities take up a fifth of the island. Obama and Abe are expected to discuss the controversial relocation of Futenma, a sprawling US marine base, from a heavily populated part of Okinawa to an unspoiled location on the island’s northeast coast, as the allies attempt to lessen the island’s military burden. The move is opposed by most islanders, including the residents of Nago, whose city lies near the proposed site for the new base.

The spirit of resistance pioneered by Kina is to be found in the more eclectic music of Tatsumi Chibana, a quietly spoken 33-year-old university graduate and perhaps the most visible of Okinawa’s new generation of rebel artists, fusing traditional sounds with rock, reggae and hip-hop.

After a US military helicopter from the Futenma US marine base crashed into Okinawa International University in 2004, Chibana was moved to write his best-known song, Tami no Domino (People’s Domino), a collaboration between his band Duty Free Shopp and local rapper Kakumakushaka.

The incendiary lyrics reflect the feeling of many residents towards the ever-present threat to safety posed by the island’s 27,000 US troops and their hardware: “Surrounded by weapons in the land of disorder; what the hell can you tell me about peace in a place like this?”

Most of Chibana’s music eschews the sanshin and other traditional instruments, but his background looms large, he said. “I’m always aware of my Okinawan identity when I make music. OK, so I wasn’t brought up listening to folk songs, but the spirit of that old music is in mine. It doesn’t matter whether I play reggae, hip-hop or rock, it’s still Okinawan music.” …

Like Kina, Chibana occasionally sings in the Okinawan language Uchinaguchi – an artistic choice that renders his lyrics unintelligible to many Japanese, but which exemplifies the island’s historical and emotional sense of detachment from the mainland.

In the 16th century, where the sanshin’s origins lie, Okinawa was part of the Ryukyu kingdom, which, while politically independent, had tributary relations with Ming dynasty China. Forced annexation by Japan came in the late 1800s, followed in the 1940s by the carnage of the Pacific war.

Less than a century after it was forcibly made part of Japan, Okinawa was the scene of one of the second world war’s bloodiest battles. An estimated 240,000 Japanese and Americans died, including more than a quarter of Okinawa’s civilian population, after US forces invaded in June 1945. Japanese troops distributed grenades to civilians, urging them to commit suicide or risk being raped and murdered by American soldiers.

“There are lots of songs about how terribly the Okinawans were treated in the war,” said John Potter, the author of the only English-language book on Okinawan music and a prolific blogger on the subject.

Okinawa’s return to Japan in 1972 – almost three decades after the war – fuelled the local sense of “otherness” from the mainland.

Not all Okinawan musicians draw inspiration from the island’s bloody past, Potter said. “Many songs come back to what a fantastic place Okinawa is. Lots of artists sing about their culture and being island people, and their pride in being different.”

Poverty – Okinawa is Japan’s poorest prefecture – and the looming clouds of conflict sent many people in search of new lives overseas, creating a diaspora whose youngest members are making their presence felt on the island’s contemporary music scene.

Lucy Nagamine, a Peruvian-born singer whose grandparents left Okinawa shortly before the war, learned classical Ryukyu music from her grandmother and picked up her deceased grandfather’s sanshin at the age of 10.

Before settling in her ancestral homeland several years ago, Lucy often sang for Okinawan immigrants in Peru who were desperate to preserve the emotional ties with home. “Now I’m here in Okinawa, away from the country of my birth, I know how my grandparents and other immigrants felt,” she said in between songs at her regular venue, a restaurant in Naha.

“In those days immigrants had nothing to do except sing and play the sanshin. It was a central part of their existence, and why music and the Okinawan lifestyle are closely intertwined, even today.”

Less polemic are Nenes, a group of four whose lineup has gone through several reincarnations since they were formed by the legendary artist and producer Sadao China in 1990. Nenes perform classic Okinawan songs for groups of tourists from the mainland.

One rare departure from their otherwise “safe” repertoire is their stirring version of Keisuke Kuwata’s Heiwa no Kyuka, which simmers with resentment over Okinawa’s bloody wartime sacrifice. “Who decided this country was at peace,” the song asks, “Even before the people’s tears have dried?”

“Now that we’re confronting the base issue again, this is a good time to sing about peace,” said 24-year-old Mayuko Higa. “It’s important that the people who come to see us perform know why it’s an important subject here.”

Nenes’ tourist-friendly melodies can seem a world away from Kina’s ceaseless quest for social and political change, an artist who implores the world’s armies to swap their weapons for musical instruments. His decade-old feud with NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster, proves that Japan’s mainstream media and firebrand politics can be uncomfortable bedfellows.

“They demanded that I drop any references to peace from my performance,” Kina said, his arms in motion again as he recalls his incredulity. “I refused, of course, and they haven’t invited me back since. The message for Okinawan musicians has always been that if you want to get on in this industry, then keep your mouth shut. But I’ll say what I like.”

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Fukushima disaster commemorated in Britain


This video is called Children Of The Tsunami: The Heartbreaking Stories Of Fukushima‘s Survivors.

By Luke James in Britain:

World marks Fukushima anniversary

Tuesday 11th March 2014

Ministers urged to learn the lessons of Japanese nuclear disaster

Anti-nuclear campaigners told Con-Dem ministers yesterday to learn the lessons of the Fukushima disaster “before it’s too late” for Britain.

Activists issued the demand before the third anniversary today of the incident which has left 160,000 Japanese people refugees in their own country.

Tens of thousands of people have rallied in Japan urging their government not to make the same mistakes again.

More than 15,000 people lost their lives in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake and tsunami that swept away homes along Japan’s coast.

And the radiation released by the wrecked Fukushima plant has left the surrounding area empty.

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament leader Kate Hudson warned a meeting in Parliament yesterday that it presents a “stark lesson” for Britain.

“Just because the UK doesn’t experience earthquakes or tsunamis doesn’t mean we’re safe from the kind of catastrophe which occurred in Japan,” she told the Morning Star before the lobby.

“The Fukushima Daiichi plant suffered three meltdowns ultimately because power was lost to the cooling systems.

“That can happen anywhere and for a multitude of reasons, from a targeted attack, to technical malfunctions, to natural disasters causing power failures and structural damage – as recent flooding in the UK has made all too clear.”

Ms Hudson pointed out that recent flooding and earthquakes were near the proposed site of the new Hinkley C reactor.

She accused government ministers of making nuclear the “foundation” of their energy policy despite the risks and “exorbitant” cost.

“Nuclear power has shown itself to be a dangerous and expensive form of energy – we should learn the lessons of Fukushima before it’s too late.”

But campaigners will continue a week of action this evening with a candle-lit vigil outside the Japanese embassy in London to show solidarity with families still suffering the effects of the disaster.

Japanese Against Nuclear UK spokesman Shigeo Kobayashi said it would also send a message to Japanese PM Shinzo Abe to stop his bid to restart nuclear reactors.

He said: “Quite a majority of Japanese people here are against restarting mothballed nuclear power plants.

“But the Abe government is trying to mix the energy source and open them up again.

“All these nuclear power plants in Japan are coming to the end of their life and any similar nuclear accident would be a complete tragedy – the end of Japan.”

The Ghost cities of Fukushima — 60 Minutes: here.

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Good whale news from Japan


This video is called Humpback Whales – BBC documentary excerpt.

After bad news from Japan about taxpayer-funded killing of whales … and good news about Japanese demonstrating against whaling … now some more good news.

From Wildlife Extra:

Japan saves humpback breeding grounds

March 2014: It’s good news for humpbacks as Japan has designated the Kerama Islands and surrounding waters in Okinawa Prefecture as the country’s 31st national park and the first in three decades. These waters are also famed as a breeding ground for whales, including humpbacks who migrate to the tropical waters for mating between December and April every year.

The designated area includes 30 islets and reefs, and covers 3,520 hectares of dry land and 94,750 hectares of ocean. It lies 35 kilometres west of Okinawa Main Island and is famous for its rich aquatic environment. It is home to 248 species of coral.

A report in the Japan Times says that the ministry will also designate surrounding waters shallower than 30 metres as a marine park and will strictly restrict development within them, such as the extraction of sand. It also plans to build coral restoration facilities to counter the damage done in the past.

Blue whales and many other marine animals will receive important new safeguards by Chile’s declaration of two new marine protected areas (MPAs) along its southern coast: here.

March 2014: The future of Japan’s whaling activities in the Antarctic could be reviewed as the International Court of Justice in The Hague has announced that it will deliver its preliminary judgment in the case between Australia and Japan at the end of the month: here.

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Fukushima news update


This video from Japan about Fukushima says about itself:

March 11, 2013 2 year anniversary of man-made nuclear accident and tsunami

Hiroaki Koide, Master of Science in Nuclear Engineering, Assistant Professor at the Kyoto University Research Institute, Nuclear Waste Management & Safety Expert:

The cesium-137 that was released into the atmosphere by Units 1 through 3 was 168 times that of the Hiroshima bomb, according to the Japanese government report to the IAEA, an international organization which promotes nuclear power.

Very high levels of accumulated radioactive cesium have been detected in the mud of hundreds of reservoirs used to irrigate farmland in Fukushima Prefecture, where agriculture is a key industry: here.

”As if the hazards at Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant needed to worsen, more highly radioactive water has leaked in one of the reactors. Wayne looks at growing international unease in the aftermath of the meltdown and the surrounding political winds. Colin follows up with Arnie Gundersen, a former nuclear industry executive and now chief engineer at the Fairewinds organization“: here.

Fukushima disaster, USS Ronald Reagan sailors, and Alaskan ringed seals: here.

As the third anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake approaches, new studies of the ongoing effects of the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown show that the disaster is far from over: here.

Illegal nuclear dumping in Shiga raises alarms: Culprits not ID’d; 8,700 tons of cesium-tainted chips missing — The Japan Times: here.

U.S. Military personnel sickened after Fukushima face long recovery: here.

Three years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Japanese government is moving to restart the country’s nuclear plants, all of which remain shut down. A draft energy plan released late last month officially designates nuclear power as a long-term base power source, setting the stage for the resumption of nuclear plant operations: here.

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