Monday, December 31, 2007

Does Japan downplay sex crimes?

Deseret News (Salt Lake City), Jun 29, 2003 by Howard W. French New York Times News Service

HAYATO, Japan -- Two years ago, a 16-year-old high school girl who lived near here was hospitalized with a high fever. After doctors found that she had an acute case of genital herpes, she told her parents that her teacher had had sex with her.

When approached by the parents, the teacher denied the claim, warning them that their daughter would be expelled if they reported him.

Experts say molestation and statutory rape are commonplace in schools across Japan and that victims rarely come forward. To do so would violate a host of powerful social conventions, said Akiko Kamei, a retired teacher who is the country's only nationally known expert in classroom sexual abuse.

"In Japan there is a rape myth, which says that the victim of a rape is always to blame," Kamei said. "Moreover, women are told that if you suffer molestation or groping, you have to be ashamed. If you talk about it to anyone else, you are going to be tainted for the rest of your life."

Beyond that, even when they are identified and caught, molesters rarely receive more than a slap on the wrist.

Speaking at a public symposium, a member of Parliament, Seiichi Ota, recently made light of reports of gang rapes at a Tokyo university. "Boys who commit group rape are in good shape," Ota said. "I think they are rather normal. Whoops, I shouldn't have said that." (The legislator's comments were carried in many Japanese newspapers.)

Recently, however, the public tolerance for rape has begun to change as a handful of victims or their families have pressed charges against classroom molesters. The mother of the girl infected with herpes, for example, went to the police, which led not only to the dismissal of the 49-year-old teacher but to a one-year prison sentence for him as well.

In an interview about the incident, the mother requested anonymity, as do most people involved in such cases. She said that if her identity were revealed, she would be ostracized and could even lose her job.

As if to underline the family's concern, the daughter has left Japan, fleeing the taunts of fellow students and the cold shoulder of teachers at her former school.

"Whose interests would it serve for us to go public?" said the mother, who asked not only that her name not be used but that the name of her town, which is near Hayato, in western Japan, not be revealed. "We would have liked to receive solidarity from other people, but that is not how it works in Japan. I grew up in this community, and although a foreigner might not understand, it is a fact that the victim is always cast in a negative light."

The number of reported molestations in Japan schools rose from 27 in 1992 to 122 in 2001, the most recent year for which data are available.

Copyright C 2003 Deseret News Publishing Co.
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.

LDP lawmakers oppose voting right for foreigners

This article is old, yet shows you the thinking of many
in the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan. Perhaps long-term
foreign residents in Japan should be allowed to vote?
What about those born in Japan but having Chinese or
Korean nationality, shouldn`t they be allowed to vote?
What do you think?

Japan Policy & Politics, May 21, 2001

TOKYO, May 15 Kyodo


Members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) failed Tuesday to reach a compromise on a pending bill to grant permanent foreign residents in Japan the right to vote in local elections, party members said.

They said the LDP members failed to reach agreement because many lawmakers expressed opposition.

About 15 lawmakers aired their opinions at a meeting of the LDP's Research Commission on the Election System, held at the party's headquarters in Tokyo. Some spoke strongly against the measure, saying giving non-Japanese residents the right to vote would infringe on Japan's national sovereignty.

Another opinion to surface during the meeting was that non-Japanese residents should acquire Japanese citizenship if they wanted to vote, and that the Diet should move to relax the conditions for obtaining Japanese citizenship to promote this course.

Only a handful of lawmakers supported the bill, advocating a full discussion be held on the issue. They said permanent residents should be given the right to vote in local elections in the communities where they were born and raised, but stopped short of supporting granting them voting rights in national elections.

The LDP leadership had hoped to nurture a consensus on members' opinions as soon as possible because the New Komeito party -- one of the LDP's two coalition allies and a major sponsor of the bill -- is hoping the Diet will vote on the matter before the end of the current 150-day ordinary session in late June.

The LDP leadership was seeking a compromise by which the Diet would vote on the bill in the current session, with party lawmakers given a free vote.

However, that idea was rejected by some LDP members at the meeting who said a free vote would cause an unseemly spectacle by openly splitting the party during the Diet session.

Former Construction Minister Masaaki Nakayama who chaired the meeting, told reporters after the meeting that he will convey the results of the debate to the LDP's allies -- the New Komeito and the New Conservative Party (NCP). He said another meeting will be held soon to try and find a workable compromise.

Meanwhile, the LDP has approved a bill to scrap the current screening process used in granting Japanese citizenship to permanent residents and instead accept applications via the justice minister.

The ruling coalition parties will jointly submit the bill to the current Diet session.

The amendment will simplify the complicated application process for obtaining citizenship for permanent residents hailing from former Japanese colonies on the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan as well as their descendants.

Some LDP members are calling for the bill to be presented as an alternative to the New Komeito's proposals to give permanent residents the right to vote in local election. The New Komeito, however, insists its bill should be considered separately.

There are 630,000 permanent foreign residents in Japan, most of them Koreans born in Japan.

Two separate but almost identical bills to grant permanent foreign residents the right to vote in local assembly, mayoral and gubernatorial elections were proposed to a previous parliamentary session last July, one by the New Komeito and the NCP, the other by the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan.

The Diet did not vote on the bills in the previous session, carrying over them to the current session.

The South Korean government and the pro-Seoul Korean Residents Union in Japan are both strong backers of the legislation.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Kyodo News International, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group

Buraku Liberation League

Buraku Liberation League is a movement demanding a national policy on Buraku problems. Email: Web:

Buraku Liberation and Human Rights Research Institute (BLHRRI) aims to eliminate all forms of discrimination, particularly against the Buraku, in Japan. 1-6-12 Kuboyoshi, Naniwaku, Osaka City, Japan 556-0028. Tel: +81-6-6568-0905; Fax: +81-6-6568-0714. Web:

COPYRIGHT 2005 New Internationalist Magazine
COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group

Kierkegaard & Japanese Philosophy

The Danish Philosopher Kierkegaard (1813-1855) is an enigmatic thinker whose works call out for interpretation. One of the most fascinating strands of this interpretation is in terms of Japanese thought. Kierkegaard himself knew nothing of Japanese philosophy, yet the links between his own ideas and Japanese philosophers are remarkable. These links were spotted quickly by Japanese thinkers and Japanese translations of Kierkegaard appeared long before English translations did. Yet, strangely enough, the Japanese relation to Kierkegaard has been all but ignored in the West.
--James Giles, author and University Professor

Naoko Hashimoto on Japan & the Future of Japan

Pictured: Asakusa Gong

"I think one of the issues is going to be environmental issues. Right now Japan is doing a lot of work trying to find ways to save energy and also to recycle. And recently, there's been a car that was a project by the Kao University and it's called Eli-ca and it doesn't use any gasoline, it just operates on battery. And so there's been a lot of research on finding out ways to save energy."--Naoko Hashimoto

"I recently read Iris Chang's Rape of Nanking, and there were things in that book that the Japanese people probably don't know about, and so I think that the majority of Japanese people are almost oblivious and they don't know the kind of violence that took place in the Rape of Nanking. I can understand and sympathize with a lof the Chinese people's anger after reading that book, but before, because the Japanese people aren't told what happened exactly at the Rape of Nanking, we don't know why they are so angry, and so now I think I can sympathize with the Chinese."--Naoko

"Well technologically speaking, [Japan is] getting better, but spiritually, it's not so strong. A lot of people have a lot of emotional problems, there are a lot of people committing suicide, and there are a lot of students who are too stressed out about entrance exams for college and there seems to be and also now we have a problem where there's not enough...babies being born and so I think that's saying something about the situation in Japan and that young people find it hard to live in Japan."
--Naoko Hashimoto,

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Is this Japan?

Pictured: a temple in Japan

by Robert Upland

Mariko Suzuki shivers as she teaches at a local Japanese
junior high school. She isn`t allowed to turn on the heater.
That costs money. The students bundle up as best they can
and try to concentrate on the lesson. It is difficult
to write kanji when your fingers are blue.

At a junior high school in Odawara, the children shiver.
The small stove heater in the room is not strong enough to
heat it. Several children will go to hospital that day
suffering from frostbite.

Mariko gazes out the window at the expanse of dirt where
the children play. A grass
field too, costs money it should be assumed.
Yet this spartan existence is touted by the government
as building strength and sacrifice in Japanese youth.
I see it as short changing the people who will be the
future of this country.

It is interesting that in one of the richest nations
of the world, the conditions
one finds at times for students and teachers, smacks
of less advantaged nations like
North Korea.

Further, it is notable what our politicians choose
to spend our tax money on. Routinely it would seem,
the banks of rivers are cemented. Police are paid to
stop motorists for seatbelt violations, but not to stop
the motor cycle gangs known as the bosozoku, who routinely
terrorize and endanger the populous by their
actions. (Note: See our other article about bosozoku,
"The Tribes of Midnight," also at Japan Living)

Japan routinely places in the top ten in military
spending amongst nations. She is often in the top 6
and a large exporter of weapons as well. Again, what
this says to us is arms are more important than our youth.
Of course you will never hear a Japanese politician
actually say this,...
but actions do speak louder than words.

Japanese Idiots

"Gang rape shows the people who do it are still vigorous, and that is OK."
--Seiichi Ota (BBC News)

Kiichi Inoue, minister for disaster management, suggested that the murder of a classmate by an 11-year-old schoolgirl indicated a sign of women's progress.

"Men have committed thoughtless, harsh acts but I think this is the first for a girl," Mr Inoue told reporters. "Recently the difference between men and women is shrinking." He said "vigorous" women were increasing in society.

He joins a long list of Japanese politicians who have succeeded in inflaming a painful incident by making inappropriate comments.--BBC News

"Yoshitada Konoike said the parents of a boy suspected of killing a small child should be beheaded as a warning to parents who do not control their children effectively.

"The parents (of the 12-year-old boy) should be pulled through the streets and their heads should be chopped off," Mr Konoike told a news conference."
--BBC News

"…senior politician Takami Eto sparked complaints from China after suggesting that the Nanking massacre during World War II was a "big lie".

China says that 300,000 Chinese died at the hands of Japanese troops in Nanking, but some Japanese nationalists contest whether the massacre happened at all." BBC News

"Seiichi Ota, a lawmaker with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), said at a debate on Japan's declining birth rate that at least gang rapists had a healthy appetite for sex.

Then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, commenting on Mr Ota's remarks, suggested women who are raped are "asking for it" by the way they dress."--BBC News

"Possibly the most gaffe-prone of all Japan's politicians, former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, also drew fire… for suggesting childless women should be denied welfare payments in old age."--BBC News

"Hosei Norota, senior lawmaker and former Defence Minister, sparked controversy in 2001, when he said his country was not to blame for its entry into the war, and had been forced into action by the US."--BBC News

Mr. Norota obviously believes nations should shoot first before negotiating.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

30 Years After Abductions, Questions Haunt Japanese

NIIGATA, Japan -- Megumi Yokota was walking home from badminton practice here in Niigata, on the northern coast of Japan, when North Korean agents grabbed the 13-year-old and packed her off to a waiting ship.

That was 30 years ago.

North Korea says she is long dead, a suicide. But her parents -- and millions of Japanese -- refuse to believe it. They regard Yokota as very much alive, a woman now in midlife, deprived of her freedom in a closed communist state.

Monday, October 29, 2007

On Fingerprinting Foreigners.....

by Kevin Burns

How is fingerprinting me or anyone for that matter going to prevent terrorism in Japan? As well, the worst terrorism in Japan has been committed by Japanese. Yet Japanese will not be fingerprinted.

The Aum Shinrikyo of course were largely a Japanese group--the vast majority were Japanese. Indeed in Japan, all the members were Japanese.

Further, I think blindly following in the footsteps of George Bush is not a good idea. I hope the Japanese leadership will start to think for themselves soon.

Plus the paranoia we see about foreigners is a shame. I see it slowly
ending but things like this make me realize it is far from dead.

Back to the fingerprinting: you fingerprint a terrorist then let him into the country? Is that the strategy?

I think a better one simply is to do background checks and to realize you will never be able to close the borders totally. And why would you want to? Most of the people coming in and out of Japan are good people. With background checks and intelligence, hopefully you can catch a few of the undesirables before they come into the country.

Moreover, I think if your nation acts well, and doesn`t upset other
nations or religious groups to a large extent, then probably you
are pretty safe. If you go around attacking other countries and
rattling the sabre as Bush has done the last eight years, it leads
to the potential for more terrorism in America. I think Japan should
follow her own heart and not blindly follow Bush.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Why DO the Japanese Have The Longest Lifespan?

Pictured: English class in Japan

by: Peter McGarry

A recent statistic in the World Bank Group states that the Japanese have the longest lifespan in the world. Japanese men live be 78 years old on average while the average lifespan of a Japanese woman is 85. How do the Japanese do it?

After personally experiencing the Japanese lifestyle in Tokyo for five years, I learned a little about why Japanese people live so long and will share a few of their secrets. This month will feature Part 1: It’s All in the Food. Part 2: Live the Lifestyle will appear in the April edition of eNews at

Part 1: It’s All in the Food

The Japanese diet does not center on delicacies eaten solely for taste. In fact, most dishes are consumed based on the health benefits people gain from them. Conscious decisions are based on ‘What would be good for me?’ as opposed to ‘What do I feel like eating?’ This leads one to contemplate what is the diet for the average Japanese person and what are their secrets?

Secret #1: Eating fish instead of red meat lowers the risk of heart attacks.

For a source of protein, fish is a common staple in most meals. Red meat is significantly more expensive and less frequently consumed. Fish is healthier and the fresher it is the better. Keep in mind that not all fish in Japan is consumed raw, there are many ways that fish is prepared (grilled, baked, fried, poached, etc) and served. Furthermore, Japanese women believe that the skin on fish helps bring out the natural beauty of their skin and improves their complexion.

Secret #2: Soy products help reduce heart disease and high blood pressure and are a great source of protein.

Tofu and soy products are also staples in the Japanese diet. Considering that saturated fats from meat and dairy products increase cholesterol, it is encouraging to know that foods derived from plants such as soy actually have the opposite effect. Soybeans provide adequate protein without the saturated fat and cholesterol of meats and high-fat dairy. Soy sauce, tofu, and natto (soy beans mixed with raw egg served over rice) are a few examples of soy products consumed daily.

Secret #3: Wheat and buckwheat flour helps in the digestive process.

The consumption of starches is at a minimum and usually contains no white flour. Japanese noodles are made from wheat flour or buckwheat flour. Both are significantly healthier than enriched white flour. Rice is a staple in the diet but consists of a small bowl at meals. The significance is to cleanse the mouth when changing dishes. Rice will remove the flavor in one’s mouth much like cheese and crackers when sampling wines.

Secret #4: Smaller portions reduce the opportunity for excessive eating.

Traditional Japanese meals are about half the regular portion of western dishes. Even though most dishes are viewed as healthy, portions are still relatively small.

Secret #5: Oolong tea counter balances some of the effects unhealthy food has on the body.

Finally, the consumption of Japanese green tea or Chinese oolong tea, served hot or cold, has numerous health benefits. Tea has half the caffeine of coffee. Oolong tea, in particular, helps to break up oil in the digestive system and is usually consumed at mealtime, particularly when fried or breaded foods are being served.

These five secrets help to explain why the Japanese are so healthy and have the longest life expectancy. Part 2: Live the Lifestyle will appear in next month’s edition of eNews at, and will describe daily life habits in Japan. If you have any comments or questions please send them to:

Here’s to your health!

Peter McGarry

About The Author

For additional free information on health issues regarding fitness, nutrition, environment and financial well-being please visit This site is a guide to improving your quality of life.

Why DO the Japanese Have the Longest Lifespan? Part 2: Live the Lifestyle

Pictured: Octoberfest in Chigasaki, Kanagawa

by: Peter McGarry

Why do the Japanese have the longest lifespan? Last month you learned to eat the things Japanese people eat, and now you will learn how to live like they live. Fast, long, and lively best describes a usual day in Japan. The country is geared towards an active lifestyle, as the ‘couch potato’ concept is completely foreign. This lively lifestyle centers around three key aspects: work, socializing and recreation.

The workday begins early due to the commute by train that most people endure. This can range from 20 minutes to over two hours with the majority of people standing, as there are not enough seats. Walking is the focal point in the daily exercise regime. On average, people walk one to two kilometers to the train station in the morning. After arriving at the closest station to their office, people typically walk another one to two kilometers to their place of business. At the end of their long day, workers go through the same routine. All in all, the average Japanese individual will walk between three to five kilometers per day. Interestingly enough, these walks generally occur immediately or soon after meals, which helps with the digestive process.

Socializing is also different than that for western culture. As homes and apartments in Japan are considerably smaller, people opt to entertain outside of their home. This is one of the primary reasons clubs; hobbies and leisure activities play such an important role in the culture. In fact it is very uncommon to have dinner parties or get-togethers in Japanese homes. A popular alternative is to meet at public establishments for events and parties.

Automobiles do have some purpose, however they are viewed as a hobby or a luxury. Parking in Japan is costly and limited with simply not enough parking spaces for everyone to park. Cars are used for longer excursions to other cities or the countryside. The most common recreational activities are active ones. Trips to the mountains, lakes or open spaces are most popular.

Although the pace of life is fast in Japan, we can learn from certain aspects. Changing our eating habits is an important first step and combining low impact exercise after eating, such as walking, will have a greater impact. Involvement in clubs or activities that are active will also create an opportunity to engage in activity. Finally, being less reliant on our vehicles will require more effort for some daily physical activity.

So perhaps if you do what they do and eat what they eat you could be extending your lifespan. Your life is what you make it.

Here’s to your health!

Peter McGarry
For additional free information on health issues regarding fitness, nutrition, environment and financial well being please visit This site is a guide to improving your quality of life.

About The Author

Peter McGarry, BASc, is the Editor/Publisher for Magnetic Revolution's monthly newsletter.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Tokai University Ranked 3rd Best Private University

Tokai: Tokai University ranked third best private university in Japan.
Friday, 26 January 2007
The THES (The Times Higher Education Supplement) QS World University rankings released World Top University Rankings 2006 and ranked Tokai University as the third best private university in Japan, following Keio University and Waseda University. Tokai University was ranked the 322nd of top 500 universities and 33 of them are from Japan (26 public universities and 7 private universities)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Robert A. Burns was a Good Man and my Father


Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light

Dylan Thomas

On October 6th, 2007, Dr. Robert A. Burns (known to all his friends as "Bob"), passed away at the Delta Hospital after a long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease. He was 86. He was a gentle soul raging for a time but accepting the dying of his light with characteristic grace and dignity.

He was born in Wilkie, Sask., in 1921. He grew up and attended high school in that small prairie town along with his sister Eunice, brothers Gordon and Stan. During his childhood, he developed a love of hockey which he continued well into his later years. When war broke out in Europe, he took flight training in Manitoba and became a flight lieutenant with the RCAF. For most of the war he was stationed in Gibralter piloting a Hudson bomber out over the North African coast in search of German and Italian submarines. Toward the war’s end, he was transferred to a base near Prestwick, Scotland, where he met his future wife, Sylvia Kathleen Ludgate from Ayr. They were married in 1944 and returned to Canada shortly thereafter.

They took up residence in Saskatoon, where Robert began studying Pre-Med at the University of Saskatchewan. In 1946, their first son, Wayne was born. On completion of his Pre-med studies, Bob with Sylvia and baby son, moved to Toronto where he built a small house and buckled down to complete his M.D. at the University of Toronto.

Because of a long affinity for British Columbia, he and Sylvia decided to move to the coast and Dr. Robert Burns interned at the Vancouver General Hospital. In 1951 their second son, Graham was born and the young family moved to Port Alberni, a bustling pulp, paper and sawmill town at the time. Over the next thirteen years in Port Alberni, Dr. Burns practiced family medicine, became a respected member of the local medical community and participated in various community organizations, the PTA, the Boy Scouts and Alberni Valley Rotarians. He became a vocal member of the School Board. The family had a cottage on Sproat Lake where they spent memorable summers. There were vacations in Parksville, Qualicum Beach and Hornby Island with their many friends. In 1963 his third son, Kevin was born.

In 1964 after a long search for a place to further his studies toward a specialty in skin diseases, Dr. Burns and family embarked on the next four years for further studies in Dermatology at a Veterans’ Administration Hospital in Long Beach, California. While the work was intense, the four years were productive. But with the war in Vietnam, race riots in Watts and the political situation in the USA seeming more and more precarious, the family decided to return to the sanctity of Canada in 1968. They settled in Tsawwassen. Dr. Burns began practicing Dermatology in offices in both Richmond and later, Tsawwassen. He quickly built a thriving practice which he continued until he was 77 when he retired. He loved the daily routine of his office and was a reluctant retiree. Throughout his active years, he was an enthusiastic member of the local golf and tennis clubs and a proud Rotarian. His other loves were listening to jazz, playing the piano, traveling around the world on frequent trips with Sylvia, charting the ups and downs of the stock market, telling a good joke, and plying the local waters in a boat he co-owned with another doctor. He was a compassionate, caring and generous doctor all his life, delivering hundreds of babies in Port Alberni, administering to the needs of the native people on the reserve in Alberni, and frequently going out on call at all hours of the night. In Richmond and Tsawwassen he built up a large and loyal patient base as a Dermatologist, receiving referrals from most of the general practitioners in the two communities.

He is deeply missed and remembered by Sylvia, his wife for 63 years of marriage, his three sons, Wayne, Graham and Kevin and his six grandchildren. The Burns family would like to thank his caregivers at the Waterford and the staff at the Palliative Care ward of the Delta Hospital. A Memorial will be held in his honour for friends and family, on Sunday, October 14th from 2 to 4 PM in the reception room at Fairway Estates on Hunter Road in Tsawwassen. Anyone who wishes to attend is welcome and should call [604] 731-6317 for details and directions.

Obituary written by Wayne D. Burns

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

On Being a Teacher at Public Schools in Japan

"Is it any wonder there is a teacher shortage, when teachers are forced to teach lies and half-truths by the government? And why are teachers forced to attend school during the holidays? Daft rules, low pay and government meddling combine to make teaching an unnatractive career to many."
-SJG at Japan Today Forum

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Truth about AEON

A former Aeon teacher has compiled some articles on his experiences of teaching there:

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

On the Blacklist of English Schools

by John Foster

I`m not in favor of blacklists. I think Senator McCarthy showed clearly how they can be abused. Moreover, you will find that invariably, the people who engage in blacklisting on the internet, will not tell you their name. They don`t have the guts to stand up for what they believe by even telling you who they are. So it is difficult to trust what they state.

Arudo Debito (Dave Aldwinkle) is one of the exceptions. He tells you who he is and stands by what he says. I respect him for that. He has a blacklist of Japanese universities. He points out some of the problems at this site.

I think if you are going to have a zine, you need to have the courage to tell others
who you are and what you stand for. Anyone can hide behind an internet nickname.
By telling people your real name, you lend credibility to your site.

There is a blacklist of English schools in Japan, but predictably, the owner doesn`t list his or her name. He or she uses a pseudonym. It is difficult to believe what is said at such a list.

Who are you? What are your credentials? How are you going
about blacklisting schools?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Chinese and Japanese

"I feel that a lot of the time, generation after generation — for us and for Japanese young people too, we seem to have a hard time understanding each other. It's like we don't want to understand each other because of this history, so we stay on the superficial level."
--Violet Du Feng, a Chinese co-producer of "Nanking," a U.S. documentary about the 1937 Japanese occupation of the city, now known as Nanjing. She said she hopes that the film, which uses only firsthand accounts to tell its story, can help jump-start stalled communication between young Japanese and Chinese. (Kyodo)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Announcing the Games Workshop Club for Japan

An unofficial club for arranging to play Games Workshop games in Japan.
Post what games you like to play and arrange to play with others. We will announce GW events in Japan as well!

If you are new to GW, our members can teach you how to play. If you are a veteran of
GW games then come and enjoy!

Kevin Burns

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Genetic Diversity

They tell me that there is more genetic diversity among the chimpanzees on a single hillside in Gombe than there is in all the human race, worldwide - features and skin color notwithstanding!

I think that there is a semi-instinctive urge to divide people into "us" and "them" groups - it seems to have been done by every tribe and civilization from the dawn of time. In the case of people who exist in smaller, tribal communities, the name of the tribe often simply means "the people" in their language. As though the "other" group, if their existance is known, were something - less than people. Of course, this trait is capitalized upon by our leaders when they wish their people to make war or to compete in some way . . .

I should think that living on islands would make the "us" group seem tighter and more homogeneous, and the "them" group seem farther separated from "us", and perhaps by extension, less "human".

I do think that as the world grows smaller, and we travel and meet people of other cultures, their humanity and their sameness will become more evident - and as we meet and make friends with people around the world through the internet, the world's communities will change - for the better!

My $.02 - YMMV.



Japanese often cling to the view of being unique. We Japanese can
often be heard, as if all Japanese are the same. A good friend of
mine recently commented that we are 99.9% the same genetically. In
terms of that does race even exist? Does it matter except in the
realm of diseases where certain groups of people are more prone to
sickle cell anemia and diseases like that?

My philosophy is all about bringing people together, as opposed to
emphasizing small or false differences. What do you think?

Kevin Burns

Japan and Obesity

Japan and ObeAuthor: James Kirby

Japanese food conjures up images of fish, rice, miso soup and tofu but recently fitness in the Land of the Rising Sun appears to be deteriorating. Unfortunately, an increasing number of Japanese are adopting unhealthy eating patterns and eating like Sumo wrestlers. The Japanese used to eat food high in protein, but over the past few decades there has been a shift towards eating more animal fat, and western fast food. Experts warn that Japanese children are leading increasingly sedentary lives, and foregoing tofu for burgers and instant noodles.

The Japanese are traditionally known for their restraint: their old adage is Hara Hachi bunme or “stop eating when your’re 80% full” . This restraint has led to it being the country that has had the world’s longest life expectancy: 86 years for women, 79 for men. The new trend of eating could one day jeopardize Japan's status as the home of the world's longest-living population. If eating habits change, life expectancy will shorten and this has already been made clear. According to the WHO, globally, there are more than 1 billion overweight adults, at least 300 million of them obese. Obesity and overweight pose a major risk for chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke, and certain forms of cancer. The key causes are increased consumption of energy-dense foods high in saturated fats and sugars, and reduced physical activity.

While Japanese waistlines have a long way to go before they start to overtaking the Americans: about 24% of people aged 15 and over are considered overweight, compared with 65% in th US, this change in eating patterns has led to an alarming rise in obesity. As the country leaves behind traditional food habits people in all age groups have grown heavier in the past two decades. The highest rate is among men in their 40s: 34 percent were overweight in 2003, up from 23 percent in 1980, according to the National Health and Nutrition Survey. While older women are growing fatter, younger fashion-conscious women tend to be underweight. Among children, 8 percent were obese or at risk of obesity in 2004, compared with fewer than 6 percent in 1980. Diabetes is a leading concern. While the number of deaths from the disease has fallen in the past decade, more than 2 million people are being treated for it -- an increase of about 53 percent from 15 years ago.The number treated for high blood pressure has also grown about 9 percent in the past 10 years, the Health Ministry says.

People in the Far East want to get anything American -- including all the fast food chains, With their adoption of the Western diet, their plant food intake tends to go down while fat and animal protein intake has gone up.This rise should serve as a wake-up call for Americans and the Japanese to rediscover what helped make Japan lean and healthy in the first place. The Japanese government have released a new nutrition chart recently that encourages eating more carbohydrates -- such as rice -- and vegetables as main sources of energy, while cutting down on meat to reduce the intake of fat. The chart specifically targets overweight men, singles, and those raising children. The government has set aside about 72 million yen in the 2006-2007 budget to tackle child heft. The Health Ministry also plans to research the link between parents' lifestyle and overweight children, and support selected towns to promote healthier eating habits.

Source: Submit Articles at

About the Author:

A look at the changing face of Japanese food culture and an increase in childhood obesity. Firstmed is the leading online male impotence clinic in the UK and specialises in genuine, prescription Viagra, and other leading erectile dysfunction medications.

Work Abroad In Japan: Working At An Eikaiwa

James Allen

If you do a search on all the major eikaiwa - chain English cram-school companies, you'll find their websites, and then you'll find endless websites and forums totally SLAMMING them. It seems like every English teacher in Japan hates those guys. But should you pay attention?

Actually, take everything you read with a grain of salt. That goes for the websites, but also the haters too. I worked for an eikaiwa a long time ago, and I have some friends who work for them. I want to give you a little run down, considering the pros and cons, which I hope will help you make an informed decision.

I worked for one of the more famous one - which I won't name here. (But it shares the same name as a famous model of Chevy car from the 70's). I can't totally hate them, because they hired me and set me up in Japan. I also got paid pretty well, and got lots of experience teaching in a short period of time, much more experience than if I'd gotten an education degree back in the States. So, if you look at it from a totally utilitarian standpoint, those big eikaiwas will get you here and get you set up. When people back home say they want to teach in Japan, I always say it's a good way to get over here.

Basically, at an eikaiwa, you will teach 6-8 lessons a day (depending on the company). You will have tiny 10-15 minute breaks between lessons, but you have to use that time to write evaluations and get the next lessons ready. I don't know about other schools, but mine had it streamlined so that you didn't really have to do much evaluation or preparation. The hours are usually afternoon or evening, which is great if you're a night person.

Eight lessons a day is ridiculous, but you get used to it. It's amazing how quickly you get used to it. If I had to go and do eight lessons tomorrow, I probably couldn't do it, but when I was working for that cram-school I never even felt it.

It's tough, but on the positive side, you get tons of teaching experience. Not only do you learn about students, you also learn what kinds of activities and lessons work and don't work. I use that knowledge all the time to this day.

Now that I teach on my own and prepare all my own lessons and do all my own scheduling, I kind of appreciate that the school I worked for did all that for me. At those big companies, you just walk in, do your lessons, and walk out. You never have to take anything home with you, or worry about what you're going to teach the next day.

On the down side, these schools often use lousy teaching materials and have little concern for students' progress. In spite of that, if you are a good teacher, you can make the lessons valuable for the students. You can still care about students, even if the company doesn't.

At the end of the day, these companies are interested in MAKING MONEY, and little else. If you really want to be a teacher, this can be depressing. The lessons, the teachers, the students, the staff, are all interchangeable. This is why it's called "fast food English." For me, eventually this became a really negative environment and that's one of the reasons why I finally left.

Source: Submit Articles at

About the Author:

If you teach abroad at a large chain English cram school like I did, try to get the most out of it you can. Get ideas, learn about teaching, and have fun. If you think something's not right, figure out why, and keep that in mind for future English teaching jobs. Then, when you're ready, you can learn about decent non-eikaiwa positions at sites like:

Monday, June 18, 2007

Bring Out the Star in You with Karaoke

Pictured: Asakusa Tokyo courtesy of Fuji Film staff
by Horace Jurdon

If music soothes the savage beast, then the karaoke phenomenon can be credited with pleasing party animals all over the world.

With karaoke, anyone can be in the spotlight. Singing is a great stress reliever and the perfect way to leave your worries at the doorstep. Besides, singing makes you feel good and it's just plain fun. A karaoke machine is a great way to have a blast with your friends and family and it's the perfect starting point to building your own in-house jam session.

The Japanese word Karaoke is derive from two words: Kara, which means "empty", and Oke, short for okesutora, or orchestra. Karaoke entertainment systems provide pre-recorded musical accompaniment of popular songs. In most cases, karaoke performers follow the lyrics on a video screen as the music plays on.

After karaoke music and parties fully swept Asia, they began to form a solid presence in North America. Since the first virtual concert machine was introduced in Japan in the 1970's, karaoke parties have become favorite pastimes for small time stars of all types. In fact, karaoke became so popular that the media adopted the term to use for all occasions when live music was replaced by "canned" or pre-recorded music.

This history of Japan is rich with artistic elements, including music. Traditional Japanese music is present in ancient culture, mythology and history. Japanese Samurais are even known to use dancing, singing and music as an element in their training and education.

The history of karaoke can be traced back to the early 1970's, and a singer named Daisuke Inoue. A crowd favorite at a bar called Utagoe Kissa, Inoue was often asked to provide recordings of his music so that fans could sing along. Realizing the potential, Inoue created a tape recorder that played a song for a 100-yen coin. At that time, 100-yen was about the price of two typical lunches, so it was considered expensive to use this new music machine. Even so, the combination of old-time jukebox and future karaoke machine proved to be a huge hit in Japan. Inoue decided that instead of selling the machines, he would lease them so that the stores and bars would not have to purchase new songs on their own.

The invention of the karaoke machine was intensely important to the culture of modern Japan; so much so, that Daisuke Inoue was awarded the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for "providing an entirely new way for people to learn to tolerate each other."

The act of singing karaoke is known as "Karaoke Time", and has been a popular form of entertainment in East Asia since the early 1980's. The karaoke phenomenon quickly spread to other parts of the world, and its popularity soon reached record heights. Before long, the karaoke craze reached North American shores, took the entire continent by storm and opened brand new opportunities for enterprising individuals.

The new entertainment import industry flourished in the Western world. Enterprising Americans were quick to see the investment potential in a brand new type of entertainment that provided cool, relaxing fun, as well as bringing people together in a tolerant, patient manner. Karaoke bars and nightclubs known as "KTV boxes" opened across North America, providing eager would-be performers with fresh new venues, software and equipment.

Since its inception in the United States and other western countries, people have begun to take karaoke more seriously. American bars are unlikely to have karaoke seven nights a week as they do in East Asia. Many however, have upgraded their equipment from the small, standalone machines that started the craze over two decades ago. Crowds can follow song lyrics on television screens displayed throughout the bars, and some even offer big screen TVs.

The karaoke sensation has also entered our homes. From inexpensive children's versions to high-end machines, home karaoke systems can be connected to a pre-existing entertainment center and families can join in the fun. Karaoke music can be downloaded from the Internet, and fans can sing along with their computers if they do not have a personal karaoke machine available.

If you've got song in your heart and just need to sing out loud, find a karaoke machine and bring out the star in you.
About the Author

Horace Jurdon loves writing for some of today's most popular web sites, on creative recreation and recreation and leisure issues.Feel free to grab a unique version of this article from the karaoke Articles Submission Service

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Accupuncture: The Japanese Way

Pictured: Tanzawa area in Kanagawa

by Tom Tahiki

Japan has been world-renowned for its breakthroughs in electronics. Need proof? Just take a look at all the cellular phones and other technological gadgets around you with Japanese brands. In terms of medical breakthroughs though, Japan is definitely not lagging behind. For centuries now, traditional Japanese healing arts have been used to address root causes of many diseases, restore balance and maintain overall health. Examples of these ancient arts are moxibustion, shiatsu and acupuncture. For this article, we will focus on the Japanese style of acupuncture.

First, let us talk about what acupuncture is. Starting more than two thousand years ago, acupuncture is a branch of medicine practiced worldwide both as a primary and adjunctive treatment for a wide range of health conditions. With thousands of years of research and practice backing it up, the basic method of acupuncture is to insert needles in various parts of the body to relieve pain and treat diseases. Different types of the practice exist in all parts of the world, each with various styles and applications.

While acupuncture has its roots in China, Japan gave this medical practice its own twist, which was accepted immediately in the world of medicine. The general concept of Japanese acupuncture is using the least amount of stimulation to create the greatest effect in the patient. As opposed to traditional Chinese medicine, Japanese acupuncture uses thinner needles that are barely thicker than human hair. These needles are inserted in the body not deeper than 1 or 2 millimeters, if they are inserted at all. Less points and stimulation is basically the trick. Hence, the Japanese technique demands much greater care and precision than the Chinese technique, making it a challenge to the practitioner but an advantage to the patient because of the reduced pain. The Japanese style of acupuncture also requires more training than the traditional Chinese medicine.

While there are the general rules, different styles in the Japanese practice exist as well. Examples are the two methods developed by two acupuncture legends of the twentieth century: Yoshio Manaka and Kodo Fukushima. Manaka is a surgeon who has developed an effective and versatile form of Japanese acupuncture therapy. Fukushima, an active pacifist, refined the non-inserted needling techniques which have become known as “toyohari”.

Toyohari is a refined system of Japanese meridian therapy. It is different from other types of acupuncture in the sense than it uses more delicate and specialized needling treatment methods. Focusing on the use of pulse diagnosis and palpation skills, the theoretical foundation of Toyohari is based on the classic medical theories of Nei Jing, Su Wen, Ling Shu and Nan Jing.

Here’s a bit of history: Considered one of the main pillars in Japanese acupuncture is Waichi Sugiyama, or the “blind acupuncturist”. Upon his death in 1964, Sugiyama has developed 100 acupuncture techniques and has established 45 acupuncture schools for the blind in Japan. Through books read to him, he has studied and simplified volumes of ancient medical texts in his goal to make medical knowledge more accessible to the blind.

About The Author
Tom Takihi is the proud owner of Japan Discovery, the largest portal of information of Japan on the web. To learn more about acupuncture and other forms of Japanese traditional medicine, please visit-:

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Tuna Hero

by Shawn Thir

Pictured: Odawara Castle Moat

One of my joys of living in Japan is the food. The variety in the Japanese diet is nearly endless as they eat just about anything. The emphasis on quality, freshness and appearance has been an awakening for my taste buds long dulled by the instant, ready- to- go fast food back home. When I first came to Japan, I spent many a weekend wandering around town checking out a bar here and there, getting lost and occasionally stumbling upon a great eatery. I'm not talking about some Ginza sushi shop where it costs 20,000 yen to dine, but a place that has a certain atmosphere, a warmth that keeps bringing you back.

A friend showed me one such place, a small kaitensushi-ya (a cheap rotating conveyor sushi bar)called Tuna Hero. How he found the place, I'll never know. Probably just dumb luck. It was cheap to eat and if your bill topped 1,500 yen, well, you knew you had just pigged out. Kon-chan, the master, had a conveyor belt in his small shop, but he never really used it. He'd just slice up some fish and bring it over.

The walls of Tuna Hero are plastered with pictures of children. In my poor Japanese, I asked the master why there were all these kids on the walls. He said that they were birthday pictures- the kids come in to celebrate on their birthday and he gives them some ice cream as a "present." Being a smart-ass, I quipped that I wanted my picture on the wall, too. And with that, the master produced a camera, lined me up against the wall and took my picture.

A few weeks later, the photo was on the wall under the clock with a message saying, "Come and study English with us!" The fact that it is under the clock is important- it's in a postion where everyone will notice it ergo, it's a place of "honor" if I may use that word. There I was, immortalized in customer lore for eternity. I frequented Tuna Hero since it was close to where I lived. It wasn't necessarily the food that brought me back, it was the fact the master would chat me up even though I couldn't understand a lick of what he was saying. When the shop wasn't busy, he'd duck out into his garden and bring out some fresh edamame(green soy beans. A perfect match with a cold beer!). On one occasion he gave me whale sashimi and on another, it was aloe sushi.

The shop never really got crowded and I assume that he did a fair amount of business in sushi deliveries in his Tuna hero mobile- a little Suzuki mini-car(probably had a lawn mower engine in it) with a Tuna Hero logo( kind of a Kintaro-looking kid triumphantly holding a tray of sushi) on the doors. I'd see him in the street and he beep his horn and give me a wave. For a guy thousands of miles from home and unable to speak read or write Japanese, he friendliness helped me deal with culture shock and adjust to live in Japan.

The moral of the story is this: find a restaurant, be it an izakaya, sushi-ya or yakitori shop to call your own while you're in Japan. It's a place to really get to know the average Japanese. It's a chance to get out of your English bubble- the gaijin bars and friends. Get out and see something for yourself. It will do wonders for your social standing. I once took a date to Tuna Hero and my stock with her jumped 10,000% when she saw that not only was my picture on the wall of the shop(thereby granting me some fame), but that the master actually knew me. In her eyes, that was something incredible.

Tuna Hero is still there and 5 years after the fact, the pictures are still on the wall. It's a little trip down memory lane. No...scratch that. Hitting the haunts of my early days in Japan is more like a soldier sifting through the burned-out wreckage of a battlefield. You look around, tip your hat back and think: "God damn. I f----ing made it in this country."

Shawn Thir

Shawn is the webmaster of Lets and has a favorite yakitori joint whose location he will never divulge. Let`s

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Visiting the Japanese Home

Pictured: A Japanese Castle

by: Tom Takihi

So, you plan to visit a Japanese home? Well, before you do such you must first learn the etiquette in Japanese homes. The Japanese home culture revolves around three values: courtesy, cleanliness, and graciousness. Learning to apply these values whether in the Japanese context or not benefits you not only as you deal with the Japanese - it will allow you better dealings and communications with other people as well.

Courtesy. The first thing you have to do is greet the family. Bowing slightly as you greet them would be the best move, for shaking hands is still an awkward formality in Japan. The lower you bow the more respect you give.

If you could bring a small present, do so, especially a food souvenir called “omiyage” in Japan to delight your hosts and immediately create a warm atmosphere. It is preferable to bring local culinary specialties from your home town or country.

During conversations, remember to be more subtle than usual with your thoughts and emotions. Compared to people in the Western culture, the Japanese are more reserved during talks. In Japanese discussions there is what they call the honne (real opinion) and the tatemae (public opinion). In most situations it is the tatemae that is expressed to not disturb group harmony or cause any offense. This is why the Japanese are considered bad at public debates. Do avoid interrupting people when they are speaking or are in the middle of thinking. The Japanese don’t mind short periods of silence during discussions.

Cleanliness. Leave your shoes outside the door, on the spot where others have left theirs. Wearing shoes inside a Japanese home is considered unclean. If you are not immediately provided slippers, you can wear your socks inside the house. So make sure you are wearing nice and socks without holes! If you are wearing slippers, remember to remove them as you enter a room with tatami mats on the floor, for slippers could damage these mats. There are special slippers especially designated for the toilet area, so remember to take off your slippers when entering such.

As in most Asian countries, it is rude to blow your nose in front of other people. It is especially rude to blow your nose in a handkerchief and then stuff the handkerchief in your pocket afterwards. The Japanese use paper tissue when doing such. Excuse yourself if you feel the urge to do this deed to avoid offending anyone.

Graciousness. During mealtimes, the Japanese will offer you to try everything served on the table. Make sure to amiably try even just a bite of each of the food. Place your chopsticks on a special holder and do not stick them up in your rice. As opposed to Western manners, Japanese slurp noodles. It is actually preferred that bowls or plates be brought up the mouth when slurping rather than bending your head towards it.

Of course the Japanese will know and understand that you are from another culture, but knowing their traditions before you set foot on their door helps your visit to go more smoothly. Most Japanese families that host visitors of other races are “spoilers”, meaning they want to give you everything you need in all efforts to please. Hence, always remember to be gracious and please them in return.

About The Author
Tom Takihi is the proud owner of Japan Discovery, the largest portal of information of Japan on the web. To learn more about the Japanese home etiquette, please visit-:

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Shitamachi Museum in Ueno Park, Tokyo

by Shawn Thir

I wouldn't call it a getaway but I spent a day
wandering around Tokyo.

I hit Ueno and the Shitamachi area.
Ueno Park is really nothing to look at but, boy, the
line up for the zoo was incredible! You'd think
Japanese had never seen animals before.

I recommend
going to the Shitamachi Museum in Ueno Park. The museum
is a replica of a typical Shitamachi neighbourhood
and you are encouraged to take your shoes off, wander
around inside and handle any of the articles/utensiles.
It was great peek at some local history. The museum
also has bilingual pamphlets explaining the exhibit so
there's no need to worry about the language

"The small Shitamachi Museum is located on the edges of the Shinobazu Pond and is fun to visit for both adults and children. Shitamachi was the traditional downtown area of Tokyo but disappeared fast after the rebuilding of Tokyo following the end of the Second World War. In an attempt to preserve some of the spirit of the bygone era, this small museum was created by the people of Taito Ward, in which Ueno is located."

* Address:
2-1 Ueno Koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo, 110-0007
* Phone: +81 (0)3 3823 7451
* Website:

Near Ueno Station on the Yamanote Line.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Winning the geopolitical game?

Pictured: The boardgame, "Pacific War," by Victory Games


Like many Westerners, I suspect, I was surprised to read in Hisahiko
Okazaki's Feb. 24 column, "Telling the truth at Yasukuni," that "It is
a historical fact Roosevelt induced Japan to carry out a first strike"
against Pearl Harbor. I first dismissed this as historical revisionism
along with the recent denials of wartime atrocities in China and
Korea, but Okazaki's piece inspired me to research this further.

I now concede that there would indeed seem to be a very strong case
that the U.S. government did all it could to induce an attack, in
order to bring the United States into the war. Furthermore there is a
strong argument that the commanders at Pearl Harbor were deliberately
kept in the dark.

This prompts a further question: How far is a government prepared to
go in terms of sacrificing its own people in order to win the
long-term, geopolitical game?

Originally published in The Japan Times.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Big Sized Shoes

Where can I buy big sized shoes? I take size 13!

Yesterday when I was taking the train up to
Tokyo there was an ad for a store that specializes in large size shoes (28—35/5E to 7E). Their closest branch is in Kawasaki. Here’s their website: Check it out!

--from one of our Japan Living members

Friday, March 16, 2007

On the Modern Media in Japan and America

Pictured: Zentokuji Temple, courtesy of the Fuji Film staff

by Kevin Burns

One function of the modern media is to ask questions and bring to account. This of course acts as a counter-balance to overly ambitious
politicians and those who are corrupt. This kind of media is rare in Japan with its` entrenched press club system, and has gone AWOL in America since 9/11.

We now see politicians acting in ways that transgress how the electorate feels. One example was Koizumi`s action of sending the troops to Iraq
despite protest. And his quip that "...sometimes politicians know best," in response to an opinion poll which clearly showed that the vast majority of Japanese were against sending the troops to Iraq.

If the modern media refuses to ask the questions and does not bring the power brokers to account when necessary, the society we live in starts to look startlingly like fascism.

There are many questions that I would like to ask. For Japanese politicians what
proof do you have that the atrocities like the Nanking massacre did not occur?
What about unit 731? Can you prove it did not exist and did not propogate horrible
experiments on the Chinese people and other nationals. There are many more questions.

For the American government I have many questions about 9/11: Why haven`t you released the video of the Boeing 757 hitting the Pentagon? What are the reasons why
this has not been released to the press? Who sold short the shares of the airlines
that supposedly hit the World Trade Center? Where is the wreckage of those planes?
There are many more.

I just cannot understand the media in America these days and their refusal to ask
these and many more questions that have a bearing on all the many young people who
are now loosing life and limb in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If you cannot understand this either, I urge you to ask your media to start doing their job, and ask the appropriate questions. Before it is too late.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Why Japan Must Keep Apologizing

"...How many more anniversaries of August 15 must pass before Japanese participation is taken for granted in commemorative events at Nanjing, Seoul, Pyongyang, Singapore? Only when it comes to share a common understanding of the past will Japan be able to play a full role, with its neighbours, in building the future of Asia..."

--Gavan McCormick

Tell and Sell Japan -- The Buy & Sell of this Island Nation

Tell and Sell, Japan is for foreigners living in Japan who want to
sell, buy, trade or give away new or gently used merchandise and other
personal items such as:
-Brand new items ordered from overseas, but the size/style/colour was
-Quality clothes for special occasions you have worn only once or
twice, a formal dress, suit, etc.
-Maternity clothes, or outgrown babies' or children's clothes
-Unwanted gift items, unused cosmetics, etc.

So ladies and gents, this is the ideal time to start clearing out your
closets! TELL everyone what you have, then SELL it!

Please see our website for details about participation in this group.

Monday, March 12, 2007

What Really Happened? Pearl Harbor

Pictured: Nara Pagoda, courtesy of Fuji Film staff

by Brent Sutherland

"The first step was to place oil and steel embargoes on Japan, using
Japan's wars on the Asian mainland as a reason. This forced Japan to
consider seizing the oil and mineral rich regions in Indonesia. With
the European powers militarily exhausted by the war in Europe, the
United States was the only power in the Pacific able to stop Japan
from invading the Dutch East Indies, and by moving the Pacific fleet
from San Diego to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Roosevelt made a pre-emptive
strike on that fleet the mandatory first step in any Japanese plan to
extend it's empire into the "southern resource area."


The more I think about this whole "FDR had specific
foreknowledge of an attack at Pearl Harbor" theory the
more I think it doesn't stand up to reason and logic.
Here's why, in no particular order:

1. FDR's wanted war with Germany, not Japan. There was
no way he could know in advance that Japan's
declaration of war would cause Germany to declare war
on the US. The Tripartite Pact only required that it's
members respond to an attack on another member. Hitler
could quite reasonably say that Japan had attacked the
US first, therefore he was under no obligation to
declare war on the US. That's precisely the reason
Japan did not feel obligated to declare war on the
Soviet Union and UK when Hitler did. Given the way
Hitler had betrayed Stalin, no one could predict
exactly how he would respond to a Japanese attack on
the US.

2. It just wouldn't be possible for FDR to micromanage
naval operations at Pearl Harbour from the White House
in order to create an enticing target. The president
just does not make the decisions concerning which
vessels are in port on any given day, or how aircraft
are parked, etc.

3. The decision to declare war on the US had already
been made by the Japanese cabinet. The Pearl Harbor
attack was just the military expression of the
cabinet's intention to commence hostilities. The idea
that Japan declared war on the US just because Pearl
Harbour was a juicy target does not make sense. There
were larger issues such as the oil embargo that had
nothing to do with the inadequacies of day to day
operations at Pearl.

4. An attack at such long range by carrier was totally
unprecedented. That it was outside the imagination of
USN planners only proves that they didn't have very
broad imaginations.

5. If the USN had of engaged Nagumo's fleet at sea,
the war would have commenced in any case. FDR and the
USN would have looked very good, instead of
incompetent and the declaration of war still would
have been delivered in Washington. I'm pretty sure a
JIN fleet sneaking up on Hawaii would be a good enough
reason for war to suit the average American at the
time in any case.

6. Buy the fall of 1941 isolationist sentiment was
ebbing in the US. The USN had already depth-charged
U-boats in the Atlantic and lend-lease was in full
swing. Therefore US entry into the war in Europe was
already becoming inevitable, regardless of events in
the Pacific.

7. There was no way FDR could be assured of winning a
war with Japan. The idea that FDR would intentionally
seek a two-ocean war does not make sense. In fact, the
momentum in the Pacific war did not shift in favour of
US/Commonwealth forces until the battle of Midway in
June 1942.

8. What if USN patrols or merchant vessels had of
spotted the Nagumo fleet by chance? Did FDR have a
plan where Nagumo would be advised that his cover was
not blown despite, say..that Catalina that flew past?
After all, the Japanese were surprised at just how
lucky they got in avoiding detection. Was every
American fishing boat, etc. operating out of Hawaii in
on the whole scheme?

9. There was no way FDR could have known that the
Strike South faction had won out over the Strike North
faction back in Tokyo. Richard Sorge was well aware of
the situation, but it's very unlikely that Stalin
would have passed on Sorge's intel to the US.

10. A total catastrophe is very bad way to start a war
no matter how much said war is desired. The notion
that the loss of a vessel such as the USS Arizona
could be written just because she was "old" is absurd.
She was 25 years old at the time of her sinking. She
had her systems upgraded over the years and in fact
was undergoing radar installation at the time she was
sunk. The present USS Nimitz is now 32 years old, but
I doubt the USN brush off her loss. FDR was an
intelligent man of good character, so planning to have
the JIN sink a few battleships at Pearl just wouldn't
be his style.

"Roosevelt boxed in Japan just as completely as Crassus had boxed in
Spartacus. Japan needed oil. They had to invade Indonesia to get it,
and to do that they first had to remove the threat of the American
fleet at Pearl Harbor. There never really was any other course open to

This was originally published as a post at our Japan Living Forum.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Japanese Cooking

by Jonathon Hardcastle

Do you love Japanese food? The funny thing about Japanese food is that you either love it or you hate it. There is no in-between. And chances are, if you hate it, you probably haven’t really tasted Japanese food yet or haven’t given yourself a chance to sample it enough. Japanese food is hard to appreciate after only one bite. And sometimes, the idea that you are tasting raw food just won’t escape your mind that you are already predisposed to hating Japanese food even before you actually taste it.

Personally, I love Japanese food. There really is no other cuisine like it in the world in terms of its unique taste and presentation. Who would believe that something so raw could be so delicious? For those of you who have not yet discovered the pleasures of Japanese food, allow me to present the following primer.

The standard Japanese meal always involves a bowl of white rice as well as soup and side dishes such as pickles, vegetables, meat and fish. Japanese food is classified by the number of viands or “okazu” that are served with the rice, soup and side dishes. A meal with one okazu is called ichiju-issai and a prime example of this is the traditional Japanese breakfast which consists of miso soup, rice, grilled fish and one pickled vegetable.

The regular Japanese meal usually involves three okazu to go along with the soup, rice and pickles. Traditionally, each of these three okazu are cooked in a different way from the others. They can either be served raw or grilled, simmered, steamed or deep fried.

Another hallmark of Japanese food is seafood, which is the most popular and most widely consumed food in Japan. The most popular dishes include all types of fish as well as shellfish, squid and octopus. Crab is another favorite delicacy and so are whale and seaweed. Despite the fact that Japanese are not heavy meat eaters, you will hardly find any vegetarians among them either probably owing to their deep fashion for seafood. Beef and chicken are also popular among the Japanese.

About The Author
Jonathon Hardcastle writes articles for - In addition, Jonathon also writes articles for and

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Sakamoto Ryoma: The Indispensable "Nobody"

Sakamoto Ryoma, one of the most beloved men in Japanese history, was a key player in the overthrow ofthe Tokugawa Shogunate in 1867.(key words and phrases)Japanese historysamuraisamurai historySakamoto RyomaRyomaMeiji RestorationTokugawa ShogunateshogunshogunatebakufuTokugawaJapanese military historymilitary historyhistorybushidokendoJapanese sword

Sakamoto Ryoma

The Indispensable "Nobody"

by Romulus Hillsborough

In June 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States Navy led a squadron of four heavily armedwarships into Sagami Bay, to the Port of Uraga, just south of the shogun's capital at Edo. What the Americans found was a technologically backward, though intricately complicated, island nation, under therule of the House of Tokugawa, that had been isolated from the rest of the world for two and a half centuries.

Whether or not the Americans realized the far-reaching effects of their gunboat diplomacy, they now set into motion a coup de theatre which fifteen years hence would transform the conglomerate of some 260feudal domains into a single, unified country. When the fifteenth and last shogun, Yoshinobu Tokugawa, abdicated his rule and restored the emperor to his ancient seat of power in November 1867, Japan waswell on its way to becoming an industrialized nation, rapidly modernizing and Westernizing in a unique Japanese sense.

Quite a transformation in just fifteen years, and much of the credit goes to a lower ranking samurai fromthe Tosa domain named Sakamoto Ryoma. When Ryoma fled his native Tosa in spring 1862, he was a"nobody." Although he was a renowned swordsman who had served as head of an elite fencing academyin Edo, and was also a leader of the young samurai in Tosa who advocated the radical slogans Expelling the Barbarians, Imperial Reverence and Toppling the Shogunate, in the eyes of the power that were hewas a "nobody." He had never held an official post, and he never would. When in the following Octoberthe "nobody" met Katsu Kaishu, the enlightened commissioners of the shogun's navy, it might have beenwith intent to assassinate him. But, of course, Ryoma did not kill Kaishu. Instead, this champion of samurai who would overthrow the shogunate and expel the barbarians became the devoted follower of the eliteshogunal official. Kaishu opened Ryoma's eyes to the futility of trying to defend against a foreign onslaught without first developing a powerful navy; and to this end Japan desperately needed Western technology and expertise. Ryoma now worked with Kaishu, whom he called "the greatest man in Japan,"to establish a naval academy in Kobe, where he and his comrades studied the naval arts and sciences under their revered mentor. But certain of his hotheaded comrades called Ryoma a turncoat for siding withthe enemy, which, of course, was not true. As if to belie the false accusation, in the following June Ryoma vowed, in a letter to his sister, to "clean up Japan once and for all." What he was talking about was overthrowing the military government, which Kaishu loyally served. Earlier in the same month, ships of the United States and France had shelled the radical Choshu domain in retaliation for Choshu's havingrecently fired upon foreign ships passing through Shimonoseki Strait. News of the attack deeply troubled Ryoma, who was concerned about possible designs among the Western powers, particularly France and England, to colonize Japan as the latter had China. When Ryoma learned that the foreign ships that had bombarded Choshu were subsequently repaired at a Tokugawa shipyard in Edo, he was fighting mad. "It is really too bad that Choshu started a war last month by shelling foreign ships," he wrote his sister. "This does not benefit Japan at all. But what really disgusts me is that the ships they shot up in Choshu arebeing repaired at Edo, and when they're fixed will head right back to Choshu to fight again. This is all because corrupt officials in Edo are in league with the barbarians." But, now, through the good offices ofKatsu Kaishu, Ryoma too was in league with some very powerful men. "Although those corrupt shogunalofficials have a great deal of power now, I'm going to get the help of two or three daimyo and enlist likeminded men so we can start thinking more about the good of Japan, and not only the Imperial Court.Then, I'll get together with my friends in Edo (you know, Tokugawa retainers, daimyo and so on) to goafter those wicked officials and cut them down."

Ryoma was not opposed to boasting, and he had a big ego, declaring to his sister: "It's a shame that there aren't more men like me around the country." For all his boasting, however, Ryoma was also a realist. "Idon't expect that I'll be around too long. But I'm not about to die like any average person either. I'm onlyprepared to die when big changes finally come, when even if I continue to live I will no longer be of anyuse to the country. But since I'm fairly shifty, I'm not likely to die so easily. But seriously, although I wasborn a mere potato digger in Tosa, a nobody, I'm destined to bring about great changes in the nation. But I'm definitely not going to get puffed up about it. Quite the contrary! I'm going to keep my nose to theground, like a clam in the mud. So don't worry about me!"

It seems that Ryoma was also an incredible visionary who foresaw his own destination. Four years later the "nobody" from Tosa forced the peaceful abdication of Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu, and the restoration of the emperor to power - the event that historians call the Meiji Restoration.

But how could Ryoma - who had plunged from the status of "nobody," to that of outlaw, and one of the most wanted men on a long list of Tokugawa enemies - be of sufficient consequence to force the abdication of the generalissimo of the 267-year-old samurai government? And what were his reasons fordoing so, even at the risk of his own life? To answer the second question first, and to put it quite simply,Ryoma was a lover of freedom - the freedom to act, the freedom to think, and the freedom to be. Thesewere the ideals that drove Ryoma on his dangerous quest for freedom - which, of course, was nothing less than the salvation of Japan. But the greatest obstacle to this freedom, and to the salvation of Japan from foreign subjugation, was the antiquated Tokugawa system, with its hundreds of feudal domains andsuppressive class structure, which men like Katsu Kaishu and Sakamoto Ryoma meant to replace with arepresentative form of government styled after the great Western powers, and based on a free-classsociety and open commerce with the rest of the world.

While Ryoma was painfully aware of the necessity to eliminate the shogunate, the means for revolution eluded him. Having abandoned Tosa, he was a ronin, an outlaw samurai - a status which at once aided and confounded him. Unlike his comrades-in-arms from Choshu, Satsuma and other samurai clans, hewas not bound to the service of feudal lord and clan. On the other hand he did not enjoy the financial support and protection of a powerful feudal domain. After much trial and tribulation, and as his first giant step toward realizing his great objective, Ryoma devised a preposterous plan of convincing Satsuma and Choshu to join forces with one another as the only means to topple the shogunate. But Satsuma andChoshu were bitter enemies whose hate for one another surpassed even that hate which they had historically harbored toward the Tokugawa. What's more, the braggart Ryoma had a reputation for exaggerating. When he told his friends of his plan, some initially dismissed it as so much "hot air," while others simply thought he was crazy. But in addition to many other talents, Ryoma, a truly Renaissance man, was endowed with an uncanny power of persuasion. After a year of planning and negotiation, inJanuary 1866, Ryoma, now an indispensable "nobody," successfully brokered a military alliance betweenSatsuma and Choshu, which more than anything else hastened the collapse of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Although the shogunate had not yet learned of the secret alliance, Tokugawa police agents strongly suspected that Ryoma was up to no good. On the night after the alliance was sealed in Kyoto, Ryoma was ambushed by a Tokugawa police squad, as he and a samurai of Choshu, who had been assigned asRyoma's bodyguard, celebrated their great success in a second-story room at Ryoma's favorite inn, theTeradaya, on the outskirts of the Imperial capital. A young maid servant at the inn, named Oryo, had been soaking in a hot bath when she heard the assailants break into the house. Oryo immediately ran from thebathroom stark naked up the dark staircase to warn the two men upstairs. The scene is a very famous one, as is the ensuing battle, during which Ryoma wielded a Smith & Wesson revolver, his bodyguard alethal spear, to fend off their assailants and escape through the backdoor. Equally famous is the wedding between Ryoma and Oryo, which took place soon after, and their subsequent trip to the hot-spring baths in the Kirishima mountains of Satsuma, which was supposedly the first honeymoon in Japan.

In spring 1867, Ryoma established his Kaientai, Japan's first modern corporation and the precursor to the Mitsubishi. Based in the international port-city of Nagasaki, the Kaientai was a private navy and shippingfirm through which Ryoma and his men ran guns for the Choshu and Satsuma revolutionaries.

In the previous June, Ryoma had commanded a warship in a sea-battle off Shimonoseki, in which heaided Choshu's Extraordinary Corps, Japan's first modern militia, comprising both samurai and peasants,in a rout of Tokugawa naval forces. While Ryoma's anti-Tokugawa comrades from Satsuma and Choshuprepared to crush the shogunate by military might, the "nobody" from Tosa devised a plan to avoid bloodycivil war and foreign intervention. Ryoma's "Great Plan at Sea," an eight-point plan which he wrote aboardship, called for the shogun to return the reins of government to the Imperial Court; for the establishment of Upper and Lower Houses of government; for all government measures to be based on public opinion, anddecided by councilors comprised of the most able feudal lords, court nobles and the Japanese people atlarge. Rather than merely saying that Ryoma was once again "blowing hot air," or that he was "crazy,"there were now some among his comrades who felt betrayed. These men advocated complete annihilation of the shogunate to assure it would never rise again, and felt that Ryoma was a traitor. But Ryoma convinced one of his more level-headed friends, Goto Shojiro, who was a close aide to Yamanouchi Yodo, the influential Lord of Tosa, to urge Yodo to endorse the plan. Meanwhile, Ryoma continued to run guns for the revolutionaries, because he knew that the only way to convince the shogunto abdicate would be to demonstrate that his only alternative was military annihilation, which, of course, was no alternative at all. Lord Yodo took Goto's advice and sent Ryoma's plan to the shogun, as if it werehis own brainchild. Eleven days later, on October 14, 1867, in the Grand Hall of Nijo Castle in Kyoto, asSatsuma and Choshu hastened their final war plans, the shogun announced his abdication before his adversaries had the chance to strike.

With the overthrow of the corrupt and decrepit Tokugawa regime, the "nobody" from Tosa had made goodon his vow to "clean up Japan" - although, unfortunately for his country, he would pay for it with his life. Sakamoto Ryoma was assassinated one month later, on November 15, his thirty-second birthday, in the second-story room in the house of a wealthy soy dealer in Kyoto which he used as a hideout.

Equally unfortunate for Ryoma's country was that cleaning up Japan "once and for all" proved to be too long a period of time, even for a genius like Ryoma. This is why, amidst the rampant corruption in Japanese business circles today, many people in Japan have expressed their wish that a leader of Ryoma's caliber would somehow miraculously emerge. A couple years ago executives of 200 Japanese corporations were asked by Asahi Shimbun, an national daily newspaper, the question: "Who from the past millennium of world history would be most useful in overcoming Japan's current financial crisis?" Sakamoto Ryoma received more mention than any other historical figure, topping such giants as Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, Saigo Takamori, Oda Nobunaga and the founders of NEC and Honda. Evidently many Japanese people today think their country needs a good scrubbing once again.

Copyright(c)2002 Romulus Hillsborough

Romulus Hillsborough is the author of RYOMA - Life of a Renaissance Samurai (Ridgeback Press, 1999)and Samurai Sketches: From the Bloody Final Years of the Shogun (Ridgeback Press, 2001) RYOMA isthe only biographical novel of Sakamoto Ryoma in the English language. Samurai Sketches is a collectionof historical sketches, never before presented in English, depicting men and events during therevolutionary years of mid-19th century Japan. Reviews and more information about these books areavailable at

Katsu Kaishu: The Man Who Saved Early Modern Japan

Pictured: A bridge in Hakone, Kanagawa

by Romulus Hillsborough

Katsu Kaishu ‹consummate samurai, streetwise denizen of Downtown Edo, founder of the Japanese navy, statesman par excellence and always the outsider, historian and prolific writer, faithful retainer of the Tokugawa Shogun and mentor of men who would overthrowhim ­ was among the most remarkable of the numerous heroes of the Meiji Restoration.

Kaishu¹s protégé was Sakamoto Ryoma, a key player in the overthrow of the TokugawaShogunate. Surely Ryoma would agree that he owes his historical greatness to Kaishu,whom Ryoma considered ³the greatest man in Japan.² Ryoma was an outlaw and leader of a band of young rebels. Kaishu was the commissioner of the shogun¹s navy, who took the young rebels under his wing at his private naval academy in Kobe, teaching them the navalsciences and maritime skills required to build a modern navy. Kaishu also imparted to Ryoma his extensive knowledge of the Western world, including American democracy, the Bill of Rights, and the workings of the joint stock corporation. Kaishu was one of the most enlightened men of his time, not only in Japan but in theworld. The American educator E. Warren Clark, a great admirer of Kaishu who knew him personally, called Kaishu ³the Bismark of Japan,² for his role in unifying the Japanesenation in the dangerous aftermath of the fall of the Tokugawa. Like Ryoma, Kaishu was an adept swordsman who never drew his blade on an adversary, despite numerous attemptson his life. Indeed the two men lived in dangerous times. ³I¹ve been shot at by an enemyabout twenty times in all,² Kaishu once said. ³I have one scar on my leg, one on my head,and two on my side.² Kaishu¹s defiance of death sprung from his reverence for life. ³Idespise killing, and have never killed a man. I used to keep [my sword] tied so tightly to thescabbard, that I couldn¹t draw the blade even if I wanted to.² Katsu Kaishu, who would become the most powerful man in the Tokugawa Shogunate,was born in Edo in January 1823, the only son of an impoverished petty samurai. The Tokugawa had ruled Japan peacefully for over two centuries. To ensure their supremacyover some 260 feudal domains, the Tokugawa had strictly enforced a policy of nationalisolation since 1635. But the end of the halcyon era was fast approaching, as the social,political and economic structures of the outside world were undergoing major changes. The nineteenth century heralded the age of European and North American capitalism, and with it rapid developments in science, industry and technology. The development of the steamship in the early part of the century served the expansionist purposes of the Western powers. Colonization of Asian countries by European powers surged. In 1818 Great Britainsubjugated much of India. Through the Treaty of Nanking, which ended the first Opium War in 1842, the British acquired Hong Kong. The Western encroachment reached Japanin 1853,when Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States Navy led a squadron ofheavily armed warships into the bay off the shogun¹s capital, forcing an end to Japaneseisolation and inciting fifteen years of bloody turmoil across the island nation.Until Perry¹s arrival, pursuers of foreign knowledge existed outside the mainstream of Japanese society. Kaishu was an outsider, both by nature and circumstance. But when hissword master urged him to discontinue fencing to devote himself to the study of Dutch,with the objective to learn Western military science, the young outsider balked. That it wasfrowned upon for a direct retainer of the shogun to study Dutch had little, if any, impact onKaishu. He was innately inquisitive of things strange to him. He was also filled with a burgeoning self-confidence. But the idea of learning a foreign language seemed to him preposterous. He had never been exposed to foreign culture, except Chinese literature. It wasn¹t until age eighteen that he first saw a map of the world. ³I was wonderstruck,² herecalled decades later, adding that he had now determined to travel the globe. Kaishu¹s wonderment was perfectly natural. His entire world still consisted of a small,isolated island nation. But his determination to travel abroad was strengthened by his discovery of strange script engraved on the barrel of a cannon in the compounds of Edo Castle. The cannon had been presented to Edo by the Netherlands, and Kaishu correctly surmised that the engraving was in Dutch. Thus far he had only heard about ³those foreigners, the Dutch,² who lived in a small, confined community in the distant Nagasaki.³Those foreigners² had occasionally fluttered through his mind as mere phantasm, the stuff of youthful imagination. But now, for the first time, he saw in his mind¹s eye, howevervaguely, the people who had manufactured the cannon, and who had engraved in their own language the inscription upon its barrel. Those undecipherable letters of the alphabet,written horizontally rather than vertically, served as cold evidence of the actual existence ofpeople who communicated in a language completely different from his own, but who until now had only existed as so much hearsay. Since these foreigners were human beings likehimself, why shouldn¹t he be able to learn their language? And once he had learned theirlanguage, he would be able to read their books, learn how to manufacture and operate their cannon and realize his aspiration to travel the world.

In the face of Perry¹s demands, the shogunate conducted a national survey, calling forsolutions to the foreign threat. The shogunate received hundreds of responses, themajority of which, broadly speaking, represented either of two conflicting viewpoints. Onone side were those who proposed opening the country to foreigners. Their opponentsadvocated preserving the centuries-old policy of exclusionism. But neither side offered aconstructive means for realizing their proposals. In contrast, the memorial submitted by one unknown samurai was clear, brilliant, progressive, and included concrete advice for the future of Japan. In his memorial Kaishu pointed out that Perry had been able to enter Edo Bay unimpeded only because Japan did not have a navy to defend itself. He urged theshogunate to recruit men for a navy. He dared to propose that the military government break age-old tradition and go beyond birthright to recruit men of ability, rather than the sons of the social elite ‹ and certainly there was nobody in all of Edo more poignantlyaware of this necessity than this impoverished, brilliant young man from the lower echelons of samurai society. Kaishu advised that the shogunate lift its ban on the construction ofwarships needed for national defense; that it manufacture Western-style cannon and rifles; that it reform the military according to modern Western standards, and establish militaryacademies. Pointing out the great technological advances being achieved in Europe and the Untied States, Kaishu challenged the narrow-minded traditionalists who opposed the adoption of Western military technology and systems. Within the first few years after the arrival of Perry, all of Kaishu¹s proposals were adopted by the shogunate. In January 1855, Kaishu was recruited into government service. InJapanese chronology this corresponded to the second year of the Era of Stable Government, to which purpose Kaishu dedicated the remaining forty-four years of his life. In September, Kaishu sailed to Nagasaki, as one of a select group of thirty-sevenTokugawa retainers to study at the new Nagasaki Naval Academy, where he remained fortwo and a half years.In January 1860 Katsu Kaishu commanded the famed Kanrin Maru, a tiny triple-masted schooner, on the first authorized overseas voyage in the history of the TokugawaShogunate. Captain Katsu and Company were bound for San Francisco. They preceded the Japanese delegation dispatched to Washington aboard the U.S. steam frigatePowhattan to ratify Japan¹s first commercial treaty. After the arrival of the Powhattan, they would return to Japan to report the safe arrival of the delegation. But more significantly for Captain Katsu and Company was the opportunity to demonstrate the maritime skills theyhad acquired under their Dutch instructors at Nagasaki, ³for,² as Kaishu emphasized, ³theglory of the Japanese Navy.²Kaishu remained in San Francisco for nearly two months, observing American society,culture and technology. He contrasted American society to that of feudal Japan, where a person was born into one of four castes ­ warrior, peasant, artisan, merchant ­ and, for the most part, remained in that caste for life. Of particular interest to Kaishu, who was determined to modernize and indeed democratize his own nation, were certain aspects of American democracy. ³There is no distinction between soldier, peasant, artisan or merchant. Any man can be engaged in commerce,² he observed. ³Even a high-ranking officer is free to set up business once he resigns or retires. ²Generally, the samurai, who received a stipend from their feudal lord, looked down upon the men of the merchant class, and considered business for monetary profit a base occupation. ³Usually people walking through town do not wear swords, regardless of whether they are soldiers, merchants or government officials,² while in Japan it was a samurai¹s strict obligation to be armed at all times. Kaishu also observed the peculiar relationship between men and women in American society. ³A man accompanied by his wife will always hold her hand as he walks.² The immense cultural and social gaps notwithstanding, Kaishu, the outsider among his countrymen, was pleased with the Americans. ³I had not expected the Americans to express such delight at our arrival to San Francisco, nor for all the people of the city, from the government officials on down, to make such great efforts to treat us so well.²In 1862, Kaishu was appointed vice-commissioner of the Tokugawa Navy. He establishedhis naval academy in Kobe in 1863, with the help of his right-hand man, Sakamoto Ryoma.The following year Kaishu was promoted to the post of navy commissioner, and receivedthe honorary title Awa-no-Kami, Protector of the Province of Awa. In October 1864, Kaishu,who had thus far enjoyed the ear of the shogun, was recalled to Edo, dismissed from hispost and placed under house arrest for harboring known enemies of the Tokugawa. Hisnaval academy was closed down, and his generous stipend reduced to a bare minimum. In 1866 the shogun¹s forces suffered a series of humiliating defeats at the hands of the revolutionary Choshu Army. Kaishu was subsequently reinstated to his former post by Tokugawa Yoshinobu, Head of the House of Tokugawa, who in the following December would become the fifteenth and last Tokugawa Shogun. Lord Yoshinobu did not like Kaishu, just as Kaishu did not like Lord Yoshinobu. Kaishu was a maverick within the government, who had broken age-old tradition and even law by imparting his expertise toenemies of the shogunate; who openly criticized his less talented colleagues at Edo fortheir inability, if not blind refusal, to realize that the years, and perhaps even days, ofTokugawa rule were numbered; who in the Grand Hall at Edo Castle had bravedpunishment and even death by advising then-Shogun Tokugawa Iemochi to abdicate; andwho was now recalled to service because Yoshinobu and his aides knew that Kaishu was the only man in all of Edo who wielded both the respect and trust of the revolutionaries. In August 1866, Navy Commissioner Katsu Kaishu was dispatched to Miyajima ­ Island ofthe Shrine ­ in the domain of Hiroshima to meet representatives of Choshu. Before departing he told Lord Yoshinobu, ³I¹ll have things settled with the Choshu men within one month. If I¹m not back by then, you can assume that they¹ve cut off my head.² Kaishu was aware of the grave danger to his life as an emissary of the Tokugawa, but nevertheless traveled alone, without a single bodyguard. Shortly after successfully negotiating a peace with Choshu, the outsider resigned his post, due to irreconcilable differences with thepowers that were, and returned to his home in Edo.In October 1867, Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu announced his abdication and therestoration of power to the emperor. But diehard oppositionists within the Tokugawa campwere determined to fight the forces of the new imperial government. The leaders of the newimperial government were equally determined to annihilate the remnants of the Tokugawa,to ensure that it would never rise again. Civil war broke out near Kyoto in January 1868.Although the imperial forces, led by Saigo Kichinosuke of Satsuma, were greatly outnumbered, they routed the army of the former shogun in just three days. The newgovernment¹s leaders now demanded that Yoshinobu commit ritual suicide, and set March 15 as the date fifty thousand imperial troops would lay siege to Edo Castle, and, in sodoing, subject the entire city to the flames of war.The services of Katsu Kaishu were once again indispensable to the Tokugawa. Kaishu desperately wanted to avoid a civil war, which he feared would incite foreign agression. Buthe was nevertheless bound by his duty as a direct retainer of the Tokugawa to serve in thebest interest of his liege lord, Tokugawa Yoshinobu. In March 1868, with a formidable fleet of twelve warships at his disposal, this son of a petty samurai was the most powerful manin Edo. And as head of the Tokugawa army, he was determined to burn Edo Castle rather than relinquish it in battle, and to wage a bloody civil war against Saigo¹s forces. When Kaishu was informed of the imperial government¹s plans for imminent attack, he immediately sent a letter to Saigo. In this letter Kaishu wrote that the retainers of the Tokugawa were an inseparable part of the new Japanese nation. Instead of fighting withone another, those of the new government and the old must cooperate in order to deal withthe very real threat of the foreign powers, whose legations in Japan anxiously watched thegreat revolution which had consumed the Japanese nation for these past fifteen years.Saigo replied with a set of conditions, including the peaceful surrender of Edo Castle,which must be met if the House of Tokugawa was to be allowed to survive, Yoshinobu¹s lifespared, and war avoided. At an historic meeting with Saigo on March 14, one day beforethe planned attack, Kaishu accepted Saigo¹s conditions, and went down in history as theman who not only saved the lives and property of Edo¹s one million inhabitants, but alsothe entire Japanese nation.

Copyright©2002 Romulus HillsboroughThis article originally appeared in the Summer 2002 issue of Tokyo Journal.

(Romulus Hillsborough is the author of RYOMA - Life of a Renaissance Samurai (Ridgeback Press, 1999) and Samurai Sketches: From the Bloody Final Years of the Shogun (Ridgeback Press, 2001). RYOMA is the only biographical novel ofSakamoto Ryoma in the English language. Samurai Sketches is a collection of historical sketches, never before presented in English, depicting men and events during the revolutionary years of mid-19th century Japan. Reviews and more information about these books are available at

Romulus Hillsborough is the author of: Ryoma ­ Life of a Renaissance Samurai &
Samurai Sketches