Of special interest to translators

If you study/read/translate Chinese literature or Japanese literature, then you already know this name: Burton Watson. Dr. Watson, with a PhD in Chinese studies from Columbia University and numerous awards over a long career including several P.E.N. translation prizes, has finally published his one and only personal memoir. China At Last is available in English and Japanese from Seven Grasses Publishing House (Nana Kusa Shobo) in Japan.

China At Last gets its title from the fact that, although Dr. Watson studied and translated Chinese poetry for over 30 years, it wasn't until old age that cold war politics allowed him (a US citizen) to actually set foot in China. In his memoir, he writes about what he saw and how he felt about modern Chinese realities compared to what he knew from traditional literature. Of special interest to translators is the copy of his lecture on the art of translation included near the end of this memoir.

For more information, please follow the link to seven-grasses.com


Good news, making the world a little bit safer

Japan for first time backs U.N. nuke disarmament statement


Oct 22, 2013

NEW YORK – Japan on Monday endorsed a U.N. statement on nuclear disarmament for the first time, joining more than 120 other countries in issuing a statement expressing deep concern about the “catastrophic consequences” of atomic weapons and opposing their use.

After declining to back similar statements three times in the past, the government decided to endorse a New Zealand-led initiative that drew a record 125 supporting countries, roughly two-thirds of the 193 member states of the United Nations.

Previously, Japan deemed similar statements as incompatible with its security policy due to its reliance on the nuclear deterrence provided by the United States.

New Zealand Ambassador Dell Higgie said “some changes” had been made to the text “at Japan’s request, which has facilitated their involvement.” Unlike last year’s, this year’s text did not mention the “outlawing” of nuclear arsenals. Higgie downplayed Tokyo’s previous opposition to the statements.


An Enviable Statistic

The average age of members of Japan's version of a veterans of foreign wars society is 92. They have decided to disband because, as one 92 year old put it, "There is no one to continue after us, thank goodness."

War is cruel. It kills, maims, and destroys. It swallows national treasuries whole. And worst of all, it leaves the human heart wallowing in the kind of filth that even animals do not know.

May every nation that has ever engaged in war do what Japan has done: make veterans associations obsolete because no new veterans are being made.


Hurray for Putting One's Money Where One's Mouth Is!

Renewable power, not nuclear power! Sounds good, but can it be accomplished? Japan has taken a big step toward making electricity from renewable sources practical--supporting the development of a storage battery for the proverbial rainy day.

Here's how Jiji news in The Japan Times online reports the new development:

Big battery eyed as green energy cure

Six-story Hokkaido cell to keep power flowing on dark, windless days


Sep 25, 2013

Japan will build the world’s largest storage battery system in Hokkaido as early as this autumn in a bid to rectify fluctuations in the electricity produced by renewable energy sources.

The project is aimed at promoting renewable energy by addressing a key defect — inconsistent power generation.

The nation’s utilities are required to buy electricity generated by solar, wind and other green power sources at fixed prices under the feed-in tariff system introduced in July 2012.

But the electricity generated by such sources accounts for only 1.6 percent of the nation’s total, partly because solar and wind power are dependent on the vagaries of the weather.

To raise renewable energy’s role the national energy mix, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry pushed for the development of a large storage system that would store electricity when weather conditions are favorable and dispense it when the weather fails.

Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd. and Hokkaido Electric Power Co. are leading the storage project, and the ministry has provided ¥20 billion to cover all development and manufacturing costs.

“A subsidy in full is the exception of exceptions,” a senior METI official said.


Sounds True

This is what was said about nuclear power at the Japan Foreign Correspondents' Club and reported in The Japan Times online:

Ex-top U.S. nuclear regulator counsels end to atomic power

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Sep 24, 2013

The ongoing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant is a sign that the world needs to seriously rethink nuclear safety and consider possibly ending its dependence on atomic power, the former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Tuesday in Tokyo.

“When you look at what happened around the Fukushima Daiichi (No. 1) area, it’s simply unacceptable,” as tens of thousands of people have been unable to return to their homes due to radioactive contamination, said Gregory Jaczko, who served as the top U.S. nuclear regulatory official for nearly three years until July 2012.

Given that Japan is extremely prone to earthquakes and tsunami, among other disasters, using nuclear power poses serious risks unless some kind of new technology is created to completely eliminate the possibility of severe accidents, Jaczko told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

However, Jaczko also said that creating such zero-risk technology is next to impossible.

Instead, Jaczko said, he hopes Japan pours its resources and energy into coming up with ways to function without atomic power.

“I think the Japanese people have the ability to do that,” he said.


Which is scarier, the news that Japan launched an aircraft carrier on the de-facto national peace day in August, or the fact that our relatively chemical-free, labor-intensive, and totally delicious agricultural sector will be flattened under the Monsanto steamroller? Because that is what opening our "politically sensitive" food lifeline will entail.

Here's what The Japan Times online edition reported today:

Move pressures Japan to open up farm sector

Four TPP members offer to kill all tariffs


Sep 21, 2013

WASHINGTON – Four of the countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative are offering the other members total tariff elimination on all agricultural and industrial goods, a source close to the talks said.

The move by Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Chile is likely to put pressure on Japan, the second-largest of the 12 TPP economies, to open up its politically sensitive agricultural market, the source said Friday.


Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Instead of putting their heads together and finding a way to clean up their mess, why are the authorities still denying the chemical poisons left in Okinawa by the US military? Today's Japan Times online carries a long article by a chemist detailing the chemicals found buried under a kids' soccer pitch on property formerly used by the US for their Kadena air force base. Here is the lead. Please go to the Japan Times online to read all about it. The point is, the chemicals have been found but the denials still continue.

Denials of defoliant at former U.S. base site in Okinawa fly in the face of science

Evidence points to Vietnam-era herbicides in drums buried in field, scientist says

Aug 26, 2013

For the attention of the government of Japan and the people of Okinawa:

As accusations and denials swirl regarding the burial of herbicides employed by the U.S. military in Vietnam during that war, there are irrefutable facts that seem not to have been considered in their true context. Denials of such burials by the U.S. military on land that was then part of Kadena Air Base on Okinawa by Dr. Alvin Young, a hired consultant and purported expert on military herbicides, and the U.S. Department of Defense are disingenuous at the very least, and at worst a blatant cover-up of historical realities.


A Voice backed up by Experience and Wisdom--Yohei Kono

Former leader of Japan’s ruling party against raising defense profile


Aug 13, 2013

Ahead of the anniversary Thursday of Japan’s surrender in World War II, former Liberal Democratic Party President and noted dove Yohei Kono expressed his views on constitutional revision proposed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other issues.

Kono, 76, who was known for being the most dovish among LDP lawmakers, held such key posts as chief Cabinet secretary, foreign minister and Lower House speaker before retiring from politics in 2009.

Q* Abe is keen on revising the Constitution. The LDP, now headed by Abe, in its draft proposal defines the Self-Defense Forces as a national defense force, while allowing Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense. What is your take on this?

A* I do not see the need for revisions. If Japan modifies its Constitution to position the SDF as a national defense force and changes its defense guidelines to allow increased defense equipment, this would be encouraging neighboring nations to alter their defense programs.

There is absolutely no need to set the stage for a never-ending arms race. There are views that the security environment surrounding Japan is changing, but this is exactly the time when more diplomatic efforts are needed.

(There is much more, and I suggest interested persons go to The Japan Times Online and read the whole interview.)


Why build a warship? Why unveil it on August 6?

While major political figures were laying wreaths to peace in Hiroshima, and most people of Japan had their heads bowed in prayers for peace, something strange was happening in the harbor at Yokohama. This was on Tuesday, August 6, 2013--the 68th anniversary of the nuclear holocaust in Hiroshima--a day devoted to renewing Japan's vow never again to engage in the folly of war.

By "vow" I mean popular will plus a national constitution that forbids war and armaments.

So, first question: Who picked this day--of all days--to unveil a new, made-in-Japan warship? Described as a ferry for helicopters, the Izumo has the look and scale of an aircraft carrier.

Second question: Japan does not build it's own aircraft, because aircraft could become instruments of war, and building instruments of war is forbidden. Why is it evil to build a commercial airplane but not wrong to build an aircraft carrier?

Third question: Since a warship on that scale can't be built in an instant, who was in charge of Japan when the project was started in 2009?

I'm not sure of the answer to questions #1 or #2, but the answer to question #3 is Yukio Hatoyama, the prime minister whose grandfather almost single-handedly dragged Japan into WWII.

What a strange coincidence!

Now, on to the fourth question. Some people are excusing the aircraft carrier/helicopter ferrier, saying Japan needs it because China has been maintaining a presence in Japanese territorial waters in the Senkaku island area, near Okinawa. This began in 2012.

Question #4: Which came first, 2009 or 2012?


The Envelope, Please...

Results are in for the upper house elections in Japan. The coalition between the Liberal Democratic Party (Jiminto) and the Komei Party (Komeito) now controls the majority of seats in the House of Councillors. Until this election, while the Prime Minister was from the LDP, the upper house was dominated by the Democratic Party of Japan (Minshuto). Needless to say, this meant there was a lot of opposition to legislation for opposition's sake.

The big winner was, as everyone predicted, the Liberal Democrats. What is new is the emergence of the Komei Party as the second most powerful party.

As for actual votes, in Japanese elections voters cast two ballots: one for a candidate by name and one for a party.

In round figures, this is how the party votes ("hirei-ku") turned out:

18.4 million for the Liberal Democrats (Prime Minister Abe, chief)
7.6 million for the Komei Party (Natsuo Yamaguchi, chief)
7.1 million for the Democratic Party of Japan
6.3 million for Ishin Kai (Toru Hashimoto, chief)
5.1 million for the Japan Communist Party
4.8 million for the Minna no To
1.3 million for the Socialist Party of Japan
0.9 million for the Seikatsu no To (Ichiro Ozawa, chief)
(the rest for miscellaneous small parties)


A Word About the Protest Vote

In the recent election for Tokyo metropolitan legislators, a surprising number of communist candidates were elected. Analysts attributed this result to "protest votes". In other words, people who didn't like the major parties said to themselves something like, "I'd rather vote for a communist than for someone from xx party", and they did.

For those who are thinking of doing it again in the upcoming House of Councillors election, here is one word to contemplate: Aoshima.

In 1995, Tokyo was a metropolis teetering on the brink. Problems were legion, and leadership was lacking. A popular TV comedian--Mr. Aoshima--said something like, "If you don't want to vote for the other candidates, you can vote for me." And people did. In droves. To the surprise and shock of those who thought they were merely protesting, Mr. Aoshima won the election. He himself suffered the greatest shock, because he had no idea how to be governor of Tokyo.

Think carefully, protest voters.

You may be handing the national treasury, Japanese diplomacy, self defense, welfare, health care and human rights
--not to mention education and your children's future--to people who have no idea what to do with them. Why not think a bit, and choose a candidate who has an actual qualification for the job?


New Ambassador?

It would be lovely to have someone like this from the cultural sector for a change...

Kennedy tapped as next U.S. ambassador

Kyodo, JIJI

Jul 13, 2013

WASHINGTON – Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late U.S. President John F. Kennedy, will become ambassador to Japan, sources close to the bilateral relationship said.

Kennedy, an attorney and strong backer of President Barack Obama, will be taking up the post as Washington grapples with contentious defense and trade issues involving its top Asian ally. These include the realignment of U.S. military forces in Japan and negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. Japan is set to join the talks on the free trade pact this month.

The White House will announce the appointment soon, the sources said Friday.

Kennedy, 55, will become the first woman to assume the high-profile post, likely this fall, if the U.S. Senate approves her nomination, they said.


A Little Honesty Would Help

The truth will come out eventually. Why not just own up to hiding toxic chemicals where children play, clean up, and make the world a little safer?

This addition to the ongoing story of toxic chemicals put in Okinawa by the US comes from The Japan Times Online:

Okinawan authorities unearth barrels at onetime U.S. military facility

Finds raise toxic chemical suspicions at ex-Kadena site

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

Jul 3, 2013

The Okinawa Defense Bureau and the city of Okinawa uncovered seven more barrels Tuesday at a former U.S. military installation in the prefecture that may have been used to hold toxic chemicals during the Vietnam War, stoking concern among residents.

Prior to Tuesday’s findings, the city had dug up 19 barrels from the same site in mid-June.

The barrels found Tuesday had been buried about 1 meter deep in a soccer ground adjacent to the Kadena Air Base that had been part of the installation until 1987, the Defense Ministry said.

The barrels had white stripes around their rims and bore “Dow Chemical” markings, a city official said. The Dow Chemical Co. was one of the main developers of Agent White and other herbicides. Some decayed barrels were also marked “30 gallons,” the official added.

The ministry and the city plan by month’s end to complete a study of soil samples and the barrels, checking for any trace of toxic chemicals, a ministry official said. The ministry said it is also considering digging across a wider area to determine if more barrels are buried in the area.

Jon Mitchell, a contributor to The Japan Times who has been investigating the Agent Orange issue in Okinawa, said that although the position of the white stripes on the barrels seems to suggest they’re not Agent White, there is a strong possibility they could be other toxic chemicals.

“Usually, these herbicides’ stripes were around the middle of barrels. But, from the photographs, it seems to be at the top. So that does seem to suggest it’s not Agent White,” Mitchell said.

Agent White is commonly known to be contained in larger barrels than the 30-gallon (114-liter) drums found at the soccer ground, he said, adding, however, there is also evidence suggesting Dow may have used smaller barrels to send defoliant to Vietnam.

“Even if this is not Agent White, then there is a strong chance that it is another type of dangerous chemical,” Mitchell said. “So it’s important that the barrels are checked and also a wider area is checked. There might be more, much deeper around the area.”

The Defense Ministry has asked the U.S. military to confirm what the site was used for when it was part of the Kadena base, but had not received an answer as of Wednesday.

“(The U.S. military) said it doesn’t have detailed documents about it. So we haven’t received an answer. But we will continue to seek an answer,” the official said.

Mitchell urged the U.S. military to be forthright.

“This is an example of American military pollution,” Mitchell said. “This is a soccer ground. This is where children play. It’s time the American government took Okinawa residents’ worries seriously. They need to cooperate fully with the investigation and come clean about the issue.”

In January, a story by Mitchell in The Japan Times shed light on a September 1971 report produced by the U.S. Army’s Fort Detrick in Maryland, the Pentagon’s main center for biochemical weapons research.

It summarized the military’s usage of chemicals during the Vietnam War, and among the locations cited is a reference to “Herbicide stockpiles elsewhere in PACOM-U.S. (Pacific Command) government restricted materials Thailand and Okinawa (Kadena).”


Making Juice--the electrical kind

(There is more to this article. For details, please go to The Japan Times online edition.)


Nuclear safety rules put onus on utilities

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Jul 2, 2013

The Nuclear Regulation Authority on July 8 will begin enforcing new safety standards at atomic power stations, more than two years after Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant experienced three reactor core meltdowns.

Hoping they become the world’s highest safety standards, the new rules reflect what regulators have learned from the Fukushima crisis, which was triggered by the March 11, 2011, mega-quake and monster tsunami.

Utilities are meanwhile hoping that the regulators will be lenient with reactor restarts as long as they agree to upgrade their plants to the new safety regime over time.


Hope and Surgery: A Tiny but Amazing Step Forward

Surgeons transplant part of mom’s lung into 3-year-old son


Jul 1, 2013

OKAYAMA – Okayama University Hospital said Monday that part of a mother’s lung had been successfully transplanted into her 3-year-old son in the world’s first middle lobe transfer from a living donor.

The operation made the troubled boy, whose lung function was declining, the youngest lung recipient in Japan, the hospital said.

“His artificial heart and lung has been removed, and he has begun to breathe with the transplanted lung. I believe the surgery was successful,” the lead surgeon, Takahiro Oto, associate professor of respiratory surgery at the state-run university hospital, said at a press conference after the operation.

The removal of the middle lobe of the mother’s right lung began shortly after 10 a.m., and its insertion into her son began around 1:30 p.m.

Lung transplants from living donors usually involve the inferior lobe, which has greater breathing capacity. But the boy received the middle lobe instead because it is smaller and matched his size.

The mother decided to donate part of her lung because the chances of finding a child lung donor were slim, the hospital said.

The boy underwent a bone-marrow transplant for leukemia about two years ago but later developed graft-versus-host disease, a complication in which the newly transplanted material attacks the recipient’s body, Oto said earlier.

Oto said the middle lobe transplant will pave the way for saving other babies who have not been able to undergo lung transplants.

(from The Japan Times Online)


Tiny Robot to take a Giant Step

From The Japan Times, online edition:

Japanese robot: ISS mission one ‘big stride’ for androids


Jun 27, 2013

A talking robot that will accompany a Japanese astronaut in space this summer says the cosmic tour will be one giant leap for androids everywhere.

In a scene straight out of “Star Wars,” the pint-sized Kirobo fielded questions from curious journalists who asked what it was going to do in space.

“This may look (like) a small step, but it will be a big stride as a robot,” the black-and-white humanoid robot outfitted with bright red boots told a press briefing in Tokyo.

Its creators said they were sending the robot into space to act as a chatting partner for astronaut Koichi Wakata, who is set to arrive at the International Space Station later this year.

Kirobo is to arrive in August in what its handlers say is the first visit for a robot at the space station. Wakata will also be the first Japanese astronaut to command the ISS.

“Kirobo will remember Mr. Wakata’s face so it can recognize him when they reunite up in space,” said creator Tomotaka Takahashi. “He will be the first robot to visit the space station.”

Standing at just 34 cm tall and weighing about 1 kg, the little android is programmed to communicate in Japanese and keep records of its conversations with Wakata.

The robot, which has a wide range of physical motions, will also play a role in some missions, relaying messages from the control room to the astronaut, Takahashi said.

Back on Earth, twin robot Mirata will be on the lookout for any problems encountered by its electronic counterpart.

Takahashi, who said he was inspired by legendary animation character Astro Boy, said he now wants to create a miniaturized robot that owners could carry in their pocket like a smartphone.

“By bringing a robot into space, the development of a symbiotic robot is expected to move along much faster,” Takahashi said, referring to efforts at making robots even more humanlike.

The project’s website can be found at: ⤢kibo-robo.jp


Tokyo as an Olympic City

Tokyo gets high marks in Olympic evaluation report; Inose pleased

Kyodo, Staff Report

Jun 26, 2013

The International Olympic Committee has released its Evaluation Commission report for cities vying to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, giving Tokyo high marks for its proposal for a compact games in which 85 percent of the competition venues would be within an 8-km radius.

Tokyo, which was also lauded for its fluid transportation network and financial soundness, is bidding against Istanbul and Madrid for the 2020 Summer Olympics. The winning city will be announced at the IOC’s general assembly in Buenos Aires on Sept. 7.


A Microcosm

The Tokyo municipal elections are over and various analyses have been made. One commonly held opinion is that the "Abe-nomics" program is working well enough for the LDP to maintain its status as the #1 party. Another often-repeated observation is that the Japan Communist Party did better than it has in years, rising to the level of the #3 party. Before anyone calls this a resurgence, though, they should look at the results from one formerly communist-dominated city: Hino City, in western Tokyo.

In its 50 years of existence as a city, Hino has had only 2 mayors. The first mayor, originally elected through multi-party support, flew the communist colors for most of his very long tenure in office. His successor, a three-term non-communist, had his work cut out for him bailing Hino City out of a sea of red ink, and he succeeded. Hold that thought.

Meanwhile, on the national scene, Japan did not fare well during the years when the Democratic Party of Japan (Minshuto) was the dominant party. If a voter did not care for the "Abe-nomics" program, he probably would not choose to shoot the economy in the foot by voting Minshuto. So where would the protest vote go?

It couldn't in good conscience go to the other major party in the race because of that party's leader's verbal shenanigans. That leaves the Communist Party.

But wait...

What happened in Hino?

Hino gets two representatives in the municipal council. One of the winners was the LDP candidate, a long-serving and popular council member whose votes seem welded to him. The other winner should have been the communist candidate, given Hino's history of communist support.

But it wasn't.

Hino voters, with long experience of seeing their taxes frittered away by communists who make lovely speeches but haven't a clue how to govern, voted Minshuto.

When it comes to real consequences versus symbolic protests, Hino chose practical reality.

Those who would like to think that the Japan Communist Party is getting its second wind should think again.


What I saw (2)

What I saw was a young mother with an incredulous look on her face. She'd just come out of the train station, past a campaigner (Ishin no Kai) who was ranting at passersby.

"Why was he thundering at us, as if we were naughty children?" she asked.

Good question.

Do people on their way home from work enjoy being yelled at by strangers? I don't think so.

What's more, do young mothers on their way to pick up their kids from nursery school-- who will then go home and make dinner, supervise homework, put in an hour of miscellaneous housework, and ruminate about how to pay the rent, buy food, keep up their insurance payments, and save for the kids' education (this is the short list of bills) -- want to hear an old man from three generations ago roaring about saving taxpayers' money by eliminating daycare?

Who does this wannabe-leader think the taxpayers are?

A lot of them are working mothers.


What I saw (1)

It is pouring rain. A typhoon is in the offing. The wind is blowing hard. I am walking to the bus stop.
What did I see along the way?

A campaign truck making the rounds for the party sponsored by the guy who made the remark about what Okinawa really needs is prostitutes to keep the US soldiers from attacking normal citizens, speeding through the puddles, splashing the passerbys, asking for votes for the upcoming Tokyo municipal election.

OK, freedom of speech and all that...

What else did I see?

Pedaling for all she was worth, trying to keep up with the campaign truck, tires barely gripping the slick asphalt, rain and spray in her face is-- who? A young woman running for election to Tokyo's municipal council from that party. (Isshin no Kai)

Maybe I was supposed to see high spirits, but what I actually saw was sheer stupidity. If I were choosing a candidate to vote for, I'd pick one with the sense to come in out of the rain, wouldn't you?

This scene also raised a few questions:

Why are the men inside the truck?
Why is the woman chasing AFTER the truck?
Is this what leadership looks like?


Uncle Sam: Leadership or Run-Away-and Hider-ship?

No need to shoot your messengers, Uncle Sam, since they are already dying of cancer.

Former Okinawa military base workers whose claims for health care have been repeatedly denied have opened the rusty barrel and let the truth leak out: the US imported and used Agent Orange in Okinawa. It is still there.

While it is apparently OK to ask young people to lay down their lives for Uncle Sam, it is apparently not OK for US military brass to admit they did a wrong thing and try to make it right.

Read the whole story (with photos) at this link.


See a portion here:

As evidence of Agent Orange in Okinawa stacks up, U.S. sticks with blanket denial

No bases visited, no vets interviewed for Pentagon probe into dioxin in Okinawa

by Jon Mitchell

Jun 4, 2013

In April 2011, these Community pages published the first accounts of sick U.S. veterans who believe their illnesses were caused by exposure to Agent Orange on Okinawa during the Vietnam War era.

Since that initial article, The Japan Times has published a further dozen stories in which retired service members alleged toxic herbicides were stored and sprayed on the island — as well as buried in large volumes on Futenma air station and in what is now a popular tourist area in Chatan Town. Japanese former base workers have corroborated veterans’ accounts and photographs seem to show barrels of these herbicides on Okinawa. U.S. military documents cite the presence of Agent Orange there during the 1960s and ’70s.

Suggestions that these poisonous substances were widely used on their island have worried Okinawa residents, and politicians including Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima have demanded that the U.S. government come clean on the issue.


Hurray for the Octogenarian Challenger!

Yuichiro Miura--the same man who went down Mt. Everest on skiis when he was a younger daredevil--succeeded for the third time in climbing to the peak of Mt. Everest. He is now 80 years plus 7 months old, and is a veteran of heart surgery, broken bones, and joint pain. That makes him the poster boy (one of many, I believe) for challenging one's limits.

In a phone call to his daughter in Tokyo, here's what Mr. Miura had to say:

“I made it!” Miura said over the phone. “I never imagined I could make it to the top of Mount Everest at age 80. This is the world’s best feeling, although I’m totally exhausted. Even at 80, I can still do quite well.”


One more, and I'm done

Please remember these few facts about the now notorious Mr. Hashimoto, Mayor of Osaka:
1. Osaka is not a country. This mayor does not make foreign policy. He in no way speaks for Japan.
2. Mr. Hashimoto is chief of a splinter party. He is not a member of the ruling coalition, another reason why he does not speak for Japan.

With these points in mind, let us now sweep him into the dustbin of history and get on with real life.

Here's sand in your eye?

When a public figure as canny as Osaka's former mayor says something so totally removed from common sense as what Toru Hashimoto has said about the "needs" of military men, past and present, one has to ask why? It's like a street fighter throwing a handful of sand in his opponents' eyes to keep them busy while he gets his dirty work done.

What are we being distracted from seeing? Could it be that, all over the world, there are military people in places where they do not belong? Could it be that, all over the world, there are women being treated as conveniences rather than as human beings?

Look around. What are we not seeing when we are distracted by outrageous words?


Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

I am not going to dignify the ultra-rightist Ishin Kai's Mr. Hashimoto's remarks about soldiers and women by repeating them here. The point is, he is clueless about the basic issue: these military men (no mention of women in the military in the ultra-rightist lexicon) with their "unmet needs" should be home in their own countries, with their own friends and families, meeting their "needs" in socially-acceptable ways. They do not belong in Okinawa.

It's the 21st century, well past the age of colonizing foreign lands. It's time for foreign military personnel to wake up and smell the coffee--in their own homeland.


What, exactly, is TPP?

By now everyone in Japan has heard the acronym TPP, and we know the ruling party (and not its coalition partner) wants Japan to join, but no one seems to know what membership in it involves. According to the following excerpt from a report by an organization called Public Knowldedge, the lack of transparency is deliberate. More alarming, not everyone is excluded from the discussion--only We the People.

Does anyone out there really like the sound of "special interests" in the same sentence as "privileged access"?

Here's the salient part of the Public Knowledge commentary:

"The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement ("TPP") is a free trade agreement currently being negotiated by nine countries: The United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Although the TPP covers a wide range of issues, this site focuses on the TPP's intellectual property (IP) chapter.

The TPP suffers from a serious lack of transparency, threatens to impose more stringent copyright without public input, and pressures foreign governments to adopt unbalanced laws.

Many of the same special interests that pushed for legislation like SOPA and PIPA have special access to this forum—including privileged access to the text as well as US negotiators."


A Strange Thing to Say in Someone Else's Country

Isn't this a strange thing to say in the Japanese prefecture most dedicated to peace, in a country for which dialogue and win-win negotiations have traditionally triumphed over military bluster?

Japan learned a bitter, bitter lesson about military bluster some 60 years ago, while the American side hasn't seemed to learn a thing from Viet Nam, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc, etc. Instead of macho pep talks, maybe it is time for the US side to use the eyes and ears (of which there are two each) instead of the lone and ever-ready mouth.

It seems the US military is very much out of step with what most people in this part of the world are aiming for. When people really want peace, then peace is what they prepare for. Peaceful trade and tourism that includes China and Korea is what Okinawa lives by.

(for the full article, go to The Japan Times online)

Here's what the news says:

U.S. not backing down, Dempsey tells troops at Yokota


Apr 26, 2013

America’s top military officer told U.S. troops based in Japan on Thursday that “the best way to avoid war is to prepare for it.”

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, made the comments at Yokota Air Base amid heightened tensions in the region after repeated threats from North Korea.

In response, the U.S. has deployed an antiballistic missile battery to Guam, while the Japanese government has deployed Aegis-equipped cruisers and land-based missile interceptors around Tokyo.

While there has been a lull in rising hostility between the two Koreas in the past few days, prospects for dialogue dimmed after North Korea demanded the lifting of U.N. sanctions and the end of U.S.-South Korea military drills as conditions for resuming long-suspended talks aimed at defusing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

But Dempsey said the U.S. would continue military exercises with its allies.

“We’ll continue to do whatever exercises we need to do to make sure we have the right command and control, the right skills, the right collaboration, interoperability with our allies in the region in the event that there is a miscalculation,” he told the military personnel during the visit, his first to Japan since assuming his post in 2011.


We like it. Why change it?

Reader Mail

This is from the Japan Times online. Serious business.


LDP out to undermine Constitution

Apr 18, 2013

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party are stepping up a call for changing Article 96 of the Constitution, a clause designed to prevent an imprudent revision of the Constitution.

Their call shows that either they do not understand or they are deliberately ignoring the fundamental principle of modern constitutional politics, which is that a constitution is an important mechanism to prevent the power of the government from subjecting people to arbitrary policies or autocratic rule.

Article 96 says that amendments to the Constitution must be initiated by the Diet, through a concurring vote of two-thirds or more of all the members of each House, and then must be submitted to the people for ratification, which requires the affirmative vote of a majority of all votes cast at a special referendum. Mr. Abe and the LDP want to change the article so that amendments to the Constitution can be initiated with a concurring vote of a simple majority in each House.

Article 96 at present makes it difficult to change the Constitution. Its purpose is to prevent politicians and political parties from eliminating the Constitution’s most fundamental clause, which states that sovereignty rests with the people, and from weakening crucial constitutional rights — freedom of thought, speech and expression, the right to choose public officials, freedom of assembly and association, freedom from arbitrary arrests, etc.

The Japan Restoration Party supports the stance of Mr. Abe and the LDP on Article 96, and both parties are striving to win the coming Upper House election so that proconstitutional revision forces can win two-thirds or more of the Upper House seats to enable the Diet to initiate a revision of Article 96.

The current situation in which politicians and political parties are casually talking about changing Article 96 is highly dangerous. Citizens should be wary of the rhetoric and moves of these politicians and parties.

The argument that the Japanese Constitution is too difficult to revise is wrong. Constitutions of many developed countries including the United States include a mechanism that prevents haphazard constitutional revisions.

The LDP’s call for weakening Article 96 without officially making proposals in the Diet to change particular constitutional articles is just an act of public deception. The party’s draft constitution, which proposes changing the war-renouncing Article 9, enables Japan to deploy the “Defense Military” overseas for military actions almost without any restrictions. The draft also restricts freedom of assembly and association and freedom of speech and expression by prohibiting activities and organizations “that harm public interests and public order.” It even intrudes into the sphere of citizens’ private lives by saying that “family members must help each other.”

It cannot be emphasized too much that the LDP is trying to impose a constitution that runs counter to the principle of modern constitutional politics as well as postwar Japan’s no-war principle.


Always Read the Fine Print

Isn't the act of inserting conditions like "replacements within the prefecture" against the spirit of returning what was supposedly only borrowed? Isn't it a kind of de-facto acknowledgement that neither government has any intention of replying sincerely to the Okinawan people?

Here is the story of the "return" of Okinawan territory loaned to the US as reported by The Japan Times online:

Okinawa U.S. land return plan inked

Reversion of five sites south of Kadena to require replacements

by Mizuho Aoki and Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writers

Apr 5, 2013

Tokyo and Washington agreed Friday on a road map for the reversion of five U.S. military sites in Okinawa, pledging to accelerate the handover of Camp Zukeran, the Makiminato Service Area, Camp Kuwae, the army port in Naha and Kuwae Tank Farm No. 1.

The two sides also assented to transfer the operations, in fiscal 2022 or later, of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the heavily populated city of Ginowan to an airstrip to be built in the Henoko coastal area in the city of Nago, farther north on Okinawa Island, once the replacement site is operational.

By showing Okinawans concrete schedules and plans for the return and redevelopment of the five sites, all situated south of U.S. Kadena Air Base, the central government apparently hopes to resurrect the plan to replace the Futenma base within the prefecture, a move already stymied for 17 years by local opposition.

“We were able to reach an agreement on plans to return (facilities and land now used by the U.S. military) south of the Kadena Air Base. It was (an) extremely meaningful (agreement) to lessen the burden on Okinawa,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters, adding the accord demonstrates to the world that the mutual trust between Japan and the U.S. is on solid ground amid an “increasingly severe national security environment.”

According to the plan, however, four of the five complexes will be returned only after alternative sites are secured within existing U.S. military facilities in Okinawa or a large number of the U.S. Marines in the prefecture are redeployed overseas.


Something to look forward to ...

John F. Kennedy’s legacy may finally come to Japan

by Robert D. Eldridge

Special To The Japan Times

Apr 5, 2013

CHATAN, OKINAWA PREF. – If Caroline Kennedy, whose name apparently is being floated to succeed John Roos as the next U.S. ambassador to Japan, is nominated and confirmed, she will be completing, in a sense, a journey that was started almost 50 years ago by her father, President John F. Kennedy, and his staff.

JFK, the popular and young president, was tragically assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, in his third year in office during a visit to Dallas, Texas. As a result, he was not able to fulfill some of his plans and goals for the remainder of his first administration, and those of his second, had he been re-elected.

One of the first things on his agenda in 1964, despite its being an election year, was to visit Japan. In fact, on the day of that national tragedy, several members of the Cabinet were already flying over the Pacific on their way to Japan.

Secretary of State D. Dean Rusk and members of the White House staff were to begin coordinating the president’s visit when they reached Japan, but they, too, never made it there. They turned around in midair to attend the funeral and join their compatriots in mourning.

The idea of Kennedy visiting Japan seems to have been in the works for a while. The reasons for doing so were many, particularly after President Dwight D. Eisenhower had to abort his plans to visit Japan because of the Japanese government’s inability to guarantee his safety in the middle of the riots surrounding the ratification of the revised bilateral security treaty.

If JFK had been able to able to visit Japan, he would have been the first sitting U.S. president to do so. Importantly he was also a very popular president in Japan, symbolizing a youthful and vibrant United States full of promise.

Japan at the time was also very much vibrant, too, and optimistic. In the fall of 1964, it was to host the Olympics, symbolizing its return to the international community after World War II. The bullet train and expressways were coming on line, and the nation, now past the divisive security treaty revisions riots of 1960, was now united behind the moderate Hayato Ikeda administration focusing on economic growth.

For Kennedy, who had visited Japan in the fall of 1951 with his brother, Robert, Japan would have looked dramatically different in 1964.

After JFK’s seven-week trip to the “Middle and Far East,” he wrote, “The East of today is not the East of Palmerston and Disraeli and Cromer. Were it so, we might accept Kipling’s dictum that East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet. But this we dare not do. We want, we may need, allies in ideas, in resources, even in arms, but if we would have allies, we must first of all gather to ourselves friends.”

Of course, historical “ifs” are not really permitted, but I have always wondered how U.S.-Japan relations might have developed in the 1960s had JFK been able to visit Japan. His brother’s visit as attorney general in February 1962 brought a huge amount of good will and publicity, particularly for his willingness to engage in frank discussions with radical students during a visit to Waseda University. Certainly, the level of good will at the national level and deepening of the personal relationships between the president and prime minister would have been furthered.

Because JFK was not able to visit, nor did his two successors, the two countries had to wait another decade before a sitting president, Gerald R. Ford, came to Japan. During that time, relations became frayed between the two countries over the handling of the Vietnam War, basing issues, Okinawa’s reversion, trade friction and recognition of China, to name a few.

JFK is probably looking down proudly at what his 55-year-old daughter, who is the sole survivor of JFK’s immediate family, has accomplished over the years, particularly in the arts, literary world and education, in addition to foundations and nonprofits. His legacy may guide her in her new assignment in Japan, but her experiences and connections will have to power her through these difficult and less-than-optimistic times.

Robert D. Eldridge, Ph.D., a former tenured associate professor of U.S.-Japan relations at Osaka University, was a recipient of the JFK Presidential Library Research Travel Grant in 2000. He is currently working on a book about the reversion of Okinawa.


Kabuki lives!

Revamped Kabuki-za theater aims to charm a new audience

by Tomoko Otake

Staff Writer

Mar 29, 2013

The Kabuki-za is back — with big ambitions and aspirations to make the nation’s classical theatrical entertainment more attractive to a 21st-century audience.

The reopened kabuki theater — now reconstructed for the fifth time — in the upscale shopping-entertainment district of Ginza, will roll out a new monthlong program from next Tuesday, three years after it was torn down to be replaced with a more earthquake-resistant structure.

The new building, designed by renowned architect Kengo Kuma, retains the Japanese-style facade of its previous incarnations, the first of which opened at the same site in 1889. Improvements include barrier-free toilets, and less seats at 1,808, but bigger ones that also offer a bit more leg room between the rows. The ticket booths are now located on the second basement floor, which is linked directly to Higashi-Ginza Subway Station and is complete with a souvenir shop and a cafe.

The first three floors — which house the stage and the seats, as well as more souvenir shops, restaurants and cafes — maintain the previous building’s ambience, with its red-carpeted flooring featuring an elaborate symmetrical rhombus pattern of four birds, a design inspired by the one adorning the Byodo-in Temple’s Hoodo (Phoenix Hall) in Kyoto. For people interested in getting just the taste of kabuki, the fourth floor offers makumi seats (good for a single act) for ¥800 to ¥2,000 per person, a fraction of the prices you would pay to watch the entire show (¥4,000 to ¥22,000).

What’s markedly different about the new building, compared with the past four buildings, is that it comes with a 29-floor office tower at its rear. A gallery space on the fifth floor has also been created to introduce kabuki to a broader spectrum of people, many of whom, while recognizing the cultural and entertainment value of the art form, have shied away from actually visiting a kabuki theater.

Kabuki was originally started in 1603 by a female performer named Izumo no Okuni, who organized performances on the dry bed of Kamo River in Kyoto. And it has survived to this day as popular entertainment — with no financial assistance from the government. Dealing with themes dating as far back as the Sengoku Period of the mid-15th century through the late 16th century, kabuki is characterized by stories that are sometimes comical, at times tragic and at other times scary. It’s performed by actors wearing extravagant makeup and costumes, while live music and sounds from taiko drummers, flute players and wood-clappers amplify the mood. Some fans of kabuki say they are fascinated by the characters and plots that, four centuries on, still resonate with many, while others are mesmerized by the acrobatic feats of the actors, who often jump around on stage, emerge and disappear through trap doors, and switch from one costume to another in the blink of an eye.

Yet, despite the enthusiasm, it’s no secret that the world of kabuki — whose actors today are male-only and mostly inherited through blood lines — is at a crossroads.

“Kabuki has been staged solely by the private sector, which means we must make it commercially viable,” Junichi Sakomoto, president of Shochiku Co., told a news conference in Tokyo last week. Shochiku, founded in Kyoto in 1895, is the only production company for kabuki, while it also produces movies and distributes anime films. “We aren’t interested in merely preserving it as a traditional art form. We must make it relevant as modern-day entertainment.”

(go to The Japan Times online for more story and a photo)


It could happen...

Fuji eruption may displace 750,000


Mar 24, 2013

SHIZUOKA – Some 750,000 residents in 14 municipalities in Yamanashi and Shizuoka would need to evacuate in the event of an eruption of Mount Fuji, which straddles both prefectures, a recent estimate shows.

The forecast was presented at a meeting Friday of a joint council of the two prefectures and Kanagawa Prefecture, which adjoins both Shizuoka and Yamanashi. The council plans to draw up evacuation plans by autumn.

The estimated number of people who would be required to evacuate is the largest, at 130,000, in Shizuoka Prefecture areas, including the city of Fuji.

The estimate was based on simulations of lava and pyroclastic flows, or a mix of high-temperature fragments of volcanic origin such as molten rocks, ash and gas, from 3,776-meter-high Mount Fuji, an active volcano.


Two plus Two = (Wow!)

Thinking about recent news, it all adds up. A few days ago, Korea was nearly shut down by multiple, simultaneous computer mischief. No missiles, no troops, no osprey helicopters—and no human casualties—were involved. Isn’t this what 21st century warfare will look like?

This is just one person’s opinion, but doesn’t it seem that spending a fortune on military bases and military hardware—and ruining the beautiful environment that is Okinawa’s sole natural blessing—is an obsolete way to go about defending a country? If cyber attacks are the way of the future, wouldn’t it be better to defend ourselves by sending our best and brightest to computer school? Job training and national defense, all in one neat package: Wow!


Faster than a Speeding Bullet Train

One of the nice things about Japan is that you can get from almost any Point A to almost any Point B (unless it's in Okinawa) by train. Another nice thing is that the trains are getting faster and faster. Here's the latest:

320-kph Hayabusa matches world speed record


Mar 17, 2013

Hayabusa ("hawk") bullet trains began running Saturday at a new top speed of 320 kph on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line, equalling France’s TGV as the world’s fastest train in operation.

Meanwhile, a new red E6 series bullet train debuted on the Akita Shinkansen Line the same day and part of local train lines in Miyagi Prefecture resumed operation for the first time in two years, providing a sliver of good news for the disaster-hit Tohoku region.

The E5 series Hayabusa, which links Tokyo with Aomori Prefecture on the northern tip of Honshu, now reaches speeds of 320 kph between Utsunomiya and Morioka — the capitals of Tochigi and Iwate prefectures.

The Hayabusa’s previous maximum speed — 300 kph — was eclipsed Saturday as operator East Japan Railway Co. revised its service schedules. The bullet trains now cover the 714-km distance between Tokyo and Shin-Aomori stations in two hours and 59 minutes — 11 minutes faster than before.

“I felt the scenery fly by. If more people come and go (to Tohoku) it will help revive the disaster-hit areas,” said Kazuo Saga, a 39-year-old company worker who rode the Hayabusa from Sendai to Tokyo.

The maximum speed of the new E6 series, dubbed Super Komachi, is 300 kph — up from the 275 kph clocked by the E3 series.

Many train enthusiasts took photos as the first Super Komachi departed from Tokyo Station at 6:56 a.m. Saturday.

Also Saturday, operations resumed between Watari and Hamayoshida stations on the Joban Line and between Watanoha and Urashuku stations on the Ishinomaki Line, both of which were badly damaged by the March 2011 quake and tsunami.



Even though almost everyone in the real world of Japan is against it, our Prime Minister has declared Japan will join the TPP. Never mind local sourcing of food, some aspects of the economy might possibly rise by a fraction of a percent, he says. He also is quoted as follows, concerning Japan's ability to persuade the TPP people to allow Japan Japan's rules: Abe admitted that “it will be difficult to overturn rules already set” by the 11 TPP member countries in past rounds of talks.

It is frightening to think that the land that currently has the world's greatest longevity--due largely to food culture--is turning over rules concerning food supplies to the land that gave the world fried butter.



It was especially cruel that our Prime Minister's announcement of his intention to have Japan engage in foreign military adventures coincided with the anniversary of the devastating tsunami and earthquake of March 11, 2013--and the budget hearings allocating Japan's money. When people are still living in emergency housing, when the infrastructure that supports the local economy has not been replaced, do we need to hear that our money is going to be used to destroy other people's homes and infrastructure? (that's what military adventures usually accomplish)

Shouldn't Japan be a nation that stands up for its peace principles and chooses life over war? There is still time for Japan to do the right thing. Or is the clause in the constitution about the people's right to a decent standard of living going to be the next to go?

PS: If you have never read Japan's constitution, why not google it? It's a lovely document and can be read in its entirety in about 20 minutes.


Oh, Really?

I can't believe a sitting Prime Minister said this about his own country's constitution. Japan has taught the world to love sushi, sumo, anime and all manner of alien cultural offerings. Why not share with the world what Japan learned the hard way, ending in 1945: Grown men aka hawkish governments waging war on women and children is immoral. Japan, the only country with peace spelled out in its constitution, needs to own its own history.

Shame on Prime Minister Abe for saying:

"The war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution should be revised so that Japan can participate in collective military action authorized by the U.N. Charter, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared Saturday." (from the Japan Times online)

Is this something that should be said by someone who is meant to be guided by that very constitution?


Let's Talk!

One of humanities' greatest blessings is the ability to talk and listen. We should do it often, like this:


Xi vows to better ties despite isle row


Jan 25, 2013

BEIJING – Chinese leader Xi Jinping expressed his willingness Friday to improve relations with Japan despite the strain over the Senkaku Islands.

In a meeting with visiting New Komeito chief Natsuo Yamaguchi, Xi said he would “seriously consider” Yamaguchi’s proposal that Japan and China hold high-level dialogue, including a summit, according to Yamaguchi.

He quoted Xi as saying that despite the competing claims to the islets in the East China Sea, it is important that both nations address issues involving the territory “through dialogue and consultations.”

Xi also said China “wants to promote the strategic relationship of mutual benefit with Japan from broad perspectives.”

Yamaguchi is the first senior lawmaker in the new ruling bloc to meet Xi since he became general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in November. Xi is set to replace Hu Jintao as the country’s president in March.

Yamaguchi handed a letter to Xi from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Xi meanwhile asked Yamaguchi to send his regards to Abe.

The meeting in the Great Hall of the People represents the highest-level political contact between the two countries since the Japanese government purchased three of the five islets in September, sparking a wave of anti-Japan protests in China and an increase in China’s maritime and airborne activities around the Senkakus.

“A personal letter is proof that Prime Minister Abe strongly wants to improve Japan-China relations,” Yamaguchi told former Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan on Wednesday.


Color Us Orange: Agent Orange

Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013

(You have to go to The Japan Times Online to see photo of the document itself)

Paper trail: Part of a 1971 document recently released by the Pentagon has a single sentence saying the U.S. military stored toxic herbicides, including Agent Orange, in Okinawa during the Vietnam War. COURTESY OF STEVE HOUSE

Kadena kept Agent Orange: '71 army paper


Special to The Japan Times

A single sentence buried among 7,000 pages of documents recently released by the Pentagon might well be the needle in the haystack that conclusively proves the U.S. military stored toxic herbicides, including Agent Orange, in Okinawa during the Vietnam War.

American veterans have long claimed that large volumes of these chemicals were present on Okinawa Island and hundreds of them are suffering serious illnesses they believe were triggered by their exposure. But the U.S. government has repeatedly denied the allegations by insisting it has no records related to the issue.

The latest discovery in a 1971 report titled "Historical, logistical, political and technical aspects of the herbicide/defoliant program" indicates the Pentagon's denials might not have been entirely correct.

The document, produced in September 1971 by U.S. Army Fort Detrick, Maryland, the center for the Pentagon's biochemical weapons research, summarized the military's usage of these chemicals during the Vietnam War and among the locations cited is a reference to "Herbicide stockpiles elsewhere in PACOM-U.S. (Pacific Command) government restricted materials Thailand and Okinawa (Kadena)."

The U.S. government already admits that it stored military herbicides in Thailand during the Vietnam War but it denies their presence in Okinawa. At the time, Kadena Air Base (near the city of Okinawa) served as the Pentagon's key supply hub through which weapons and ammunition were flown to the conflict in Southeast Asia.

The Fort Detrick report was among a cache of U.S. Army documents declassified last October under the Freedom of Information Act at the request of Steve House, one of the veterans at the center of the 2011 investigation into the burial of Agent Orange in South Korea.

House discovered the reference to Kadena along with Michelle Gatz, a Minnesota-based veterans services officer who has been researching herbicide usage in Okinawa.

"While I am sure the U.S. government will try to discredit the report, it will help to prove veterans' claims that they were exposed to herbicides on Okinawa,"Gatz told The Japan Times. "It might even be enough proof for them to receive government benefits for the health problems they're suffering."

Fort Detrick drew up the report in response to a 1970 Washington ban on the military's use of Agent Orange due to evidence that the defoliants the air force had been spraying in Vietnam for almost a decade caused birth defects. The report chronicles the military's confusion as to how best to dispose of its surplus stocks of millions of liters of herbicides following their prohibition.

Some of the proposals floated in the report include using the toxic defoliants in "undeveloped nations" under the auspices of U.S. aid programs or "burial in soil pits or settling ponds."

The latter suggestion will be of particular concern to Okinawa residents since U.S. veterans stationed in the prefecture have claimed such burials of unwanted herbicides took place on the premises of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and on former military land in the town of Chatan, northeast of Naha, Okinawa's capital.

According to experts, the dioxin contained in the herbicide can contaminate the ground for decades and cause serious harm to people living nearby. In Vietnam, land where the U.S. military stored Agent Orange during the war remains dangerously polluted and the Vietnamese Red Cross estimates that approximately 3 million people are suffering from the effects of exposure to these chemicals.

The discovery of the Fort Detrick document comes soon after the release of another U.S. military report implicating the air force in the storage of Agent Orange in Okinawa.

"An Ecological Assessment of Johnston Atoll," revealed in a story in The Japan Times last August, stated the U.S. Air Force transported 25,000 barrels of Agent Orange from Okinawa to Johnston Island, west of Hawaii, for disposal in 1972.

When confronted with the Johnston Island report last September, Washington was quick to distance itself from the contents. It told the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo that it had reinvestigated its own records and had come to the conclusion that "the description that '(Herbicide Orange) was stored in Okinawa' is inaccurate and contradicts with the facts that the U.S. government acknowledges."

In reply, Japan stated it believed the U.S. explanation and it has been reluctant to pursue the matter further.

Masami Kawamura, environmental justice director of Citizens' Network for Biodiversity in Okinawa, the NGO calling for a full investigation into Agent Orange usage in the prefecture, is not convinced by Washington's reply to Tokyo.

"For many years, the U.S. government had been saying there were no documents related to herbicides on Okinawa. But in August the Johnston Island ecological assessment turned up and their reaction was to call it inaccurate. Now this new report has been uncovered. Will they try to say it is inaccurate, too?" Kawamura asked.

When asked for comment for this article, Lt. Col. David Honchul, director of public affairs at U.S. Forces Japan, reiterated the Pentagon's commitment to investigate allegations of Agent Orange in Okinawa.

As to the latest Kadena allegations, he declined comment in detail about the Fort Detrick report, but concluded, "It doesn't change our position that there is no documentary evidence that Agent Orange or similar herbicides were ever used in, stored on, or shipped through Okinawa."

Kadena Air Base remains the largest U.S. Air Force installation in the Pacific, and is home to approximately 22,000 service members, their families and civilian contractors. Some 180,000 people live in the adjoining municipalities of Chatan, Kadena and the city of Okinawa.


Remember iPS cells?

Here is more about them, post-Nobel Prize:

Team at Riken taps iPS cells to kill cancer
Japanese researchers said Friday they succeeded in efficiently regenerating T cells capable of destroying melanoma from induced pluripotent stem cells, an achievement that could make cell-based anticancer therapy more powerful.

The current cancer immunotherapy tries to stimulate the immune systems of patients to increase T cells, a type of lymphocyte, in their bodies. But its effects are limited because T cells do not increase dramatically.

The researchers, headed by Hiroshi Kawamoto of the national research institute Riken, said their newly developed iPS-based method is efficient enough to mass produce T cells with specific functions.

T cells have millions of variants with unique receptors, depending on their genetic configurations. T cells react to other cells by using the receptors on their surface. One type, cytotoxic T lymphocyte, is known to attack viruses and cancer cells.

According to the Riken-led team's article published in the U.S. journal Cell Stem Cell, the group established iPS cells, which are premature cells that can develop into any type of tissue, from mature cytotoxic T cells specific for the melanoma epitope and differentiated the iPS cells into cells with a T cell receptor specific for the epitope. After stimulating the differentiated cells with an immunosuppressive antibody, the team saw a large number of cells specific for the original epitope generated.

A different team led by Hiromitsu Nakauchi, professor at the University of Tokyo, also reported in the same journal that it has reprogrammed clonally expanded T cells from an AIDS patient into iPS cells and regenerated HIV-killing cells from the pluripotent cells.

The Japan Times: Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013