Archive for the 'Politics' Category

Obama, Japan, cheers on Obama, the man

7 March, 2008

Despite Barack Obama’s recent setback in the Democratic race, the people of Obama continue to provide him with their unwavering support, as this news report shows:

See also: “Japanese town goes Obama-crazy

Right-wing activist commits suicide in front of Japanese parliament

5 March, 2008

 Imperial Japanese WWII-era propaganda poster

A suspected right-wing activist arrived at the Japanese parliament building by taxi, got out and shot himself this morning, in an apparent protest against Japan’s warming ties with China.

Police discovered two letters on the dead man’s body: one addressed to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and one to the Japanese media.

Fukuda is known for his willingness to forge stronger links with near-neighbour China, and his refusal to visit Yasukuni, a shrine dedicated to Japan’s war dead. Prime Ministerial visits to Yasukuni are a particularly sensitive issue for Chinese and Koreans, as 12 convicted World War II class A war criminals are enshrined there.

For the right-wing nationalists (uyoku), Yasukuni remains a rallying point and symbol of Japan’s imperial past, despite former Emperor Hirohito’s to visit the shrine from 1978 until his death because of the enshrinement of war criminals. The current Emperor, Akihito, has never visited Yasukuni.

(See Wikipedia’s pages on Yasukuni Shrine and  Japanese nationalism for history and background information to supplement this story.)

Japan looks to developing countries for whaling support

4 March, 2008

Whale of a time

With most of the developed world clearly set against Japan’s continuing whaling escapades, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs flew delegates from twelve developing countries to Tokyo on Monday for a seminar in the hope that they may join the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and increase support for the resumption of “sustainable” whaling.

Unsurprisingly, Greenpeace was not in the least bit pleased:

“[This meeting] is a clear signal that Japan’s only concern is to roll back decades of protection for whales and resume commercial whaling.”
-Rob Nicoll, whales campaigner for Greenpeace Australia and the Pacific

Full story from BBC News Online: “Japan seeks new allies on whaling

Japanese town goes Obama-crazy

17 February, 2008

A small Japanese town has suddenly found itself under the media spotlight in recently, thanks entirely to its name: Obama.

With the Democratic race neck and neck, the 32,000 residents of Obama have gone all-out in backing the man himself:

Whaling ain’t what it used to be

13 February, 2008

Bit ‘o humpback, sir?

As mentioned in our previous report on Japanese whaling (“Why Japan hunts whales“), the market for whale meat in Japan is negligible. An article in today’s Daily Telegraph (Australia) provides further evidence for this today, claiming that Japanese whalers are going bankrupt thanks to a lack of demand for their “scientific” produce:

JAPAN’s whale killers are going broke and have been forced to slash prices because no one wants to eat their growing mountain of whale meat.

The farcical truth of Japan’s whaling industry was exposed yesterday by Japanese media reports that the Institute for Cetacean Research is struggling to repay $37 million in government subsidies.

(Daily Telegraph Article: Japanese Whalers Going Broke)

Japan’s “Chinese dumpling scandal” intensifies

6 February, 2008

Further to Saturday’s story, “Chinese dumplings off the menu in Japan. Again“, the Japan Times is today reporting that a second toxin has been found in Chinese-made gyoza:

Another type of pesticide has been detected in “gyoza” dumplings made by Tianyang Food, the Chinese company under fire over its suspected link to recent food poisonings in Japan, a distributor of the dumplings said Tuesday.

The Japanese Consumers’ Cooperative Union said the dumplings, which were produced June 3, contained an organophosphate pesticide called dichlorvos in concentrations so high — 110 parts per million in the dough and 0.42 ppm in the ingredients — that eating only two could affect a person’s health.

Read the full story: “Second toxin found in Chinese ‘gyoza’

Chinese dumplings off the menu in Japan. Again

2 February, 2008

Gyoza

The biggest news story in Japan this week was – and still is – the gyoza (Chinese dumpling) food poisoning scandal:

On Wednesday it was reported that at least 10 people suffered vomiting and diarrhoea after eating dumplings imported from China, which were alleged to have been contaminated with insecticide. By Friday afternoon the Yomiuri Shinbun was reporting that that 511 people nationwide claimed to have been affected.

The manufacturer, Tianyang Food Processing, has been told by the Chinese government to halt production and exports, and recall all of its products. Meanwhile, four officials are to be dispatched to Japan to aid in investigating the matter.

Needless to say, the media frenzy surrounding the incident has led to the general public steering clear of imported Chinese food. Scandals such as this tend to rear their head at least three times a year here; in July last year a vendor in Beijing was found to be selling dumplings stuffed with shredded cardboard (link). There was absolutely no link between this incident and food that had been exported to Japan, but still, it was enough.

In other countries, a minor food-poisoning scare would seem an unlikely cause for a major diplomatic spat, but it appears that politicians are having a field day:

Japanese Chief Cabinet Minister Nobutaka Machimura said on Friday he thought Beijing was taking the incident seriously.

“China’s response has been very speedy. It’s stopped production and started inspections,” Machimura told a news conference.

Experts are also calling for careful handling of the issue so as not to harm ties between the two countries.

China Daily

More from the China Daily: “Officials to visit Japan over food poisoning“.

Why Japan hunts whales

24 January, 2008

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda today defended his country’s “scientific” whaling programme to the BBC, claiming that Japan was not breaking any laws by continuing to hunt whales around Antarctica. He also levelled criticism at environmentalists’ and foreign governments’ reactions to the issue:

“I don’t think it is right for the discussions to turn emotional, especially with the recent violent act against the Japanese research vessel. Should that lead to more emotionally-charged debate, then I feel that would be very unfortunate. So we should try to continue with our efforts to try to explain that we are engaged in this research whaling activity from a scientific viewpoint.”

Despite the extensive news coverage, many Japanese I spoke to about whaling had no firm opinion: some were strongly opposed to it, of course, but the majority – especially the older generation – viewed the killing of whales as no better or worse than killing other marine species (it is worth noting that young people in Japan hardly ever eat whale meat, in fact few I spoke to had even tried it).

Whale meat is not exactly the most popular – or most expensive – food on the menu in restaurants. In 2005 schools in Wakayama began offering whale meat to their students. However, the meat first had to be fried in breadcrumbs or minced into burgers before before the kids would even touch it.

So, why does Japan spend so much time and money with whaling, when it is so damaging to its reputation among the international community? “Preserving traditional Japanese culture” is a common excuse, though it’s more likely due to the incestuous nature of relations between the Japanese government and the fishing industry. Employees from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestries and Fisheries often land themselves cushy jobs in the private sector for a much higher salary than they could ever achieve as a civil servant. Companies in the fishing industry, on the other hand, gain valuable inside knowledge and, hopefully, a sympathetic ear in the halls of power.

(BBC News article: “Japanese premier defends whaling”)