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03 May 2012

Book "Memoir of a Trustbuster: A Lifelong Adventure with Japan

A story of an American economist named Eleanor M. Hadley who contributed to Japan's post-war democratization, especially in the field of redistribution of wealth of the nation.

She visited Japan before the war between the two nations started. She was an exchange student and studied Japanese. During the war, she studied economics in Harvard. After the war she was hired by US Occupational force, so called G.H.Q.

The book described her life experience in Japan. She toured Japan and witnessed severe poverty in rural areas. In those days poor peasant families had to sell their children to prostitutes, Geisha or servant house to earn living.

After second world war, what she was involved in was dismantling of Zaibatsu (Corporate conglamour) such as Mitsubishi, Sumitomo, Mitsui, and Yasuda. She, her colleagues and her superiors thought that was best way to rebuild Japan's economy. Pre-war time Japan was much like Plutonomy. Small portion of the population dominated most of the wealth. Dismantling of Zaibatsu was to hike tax on the rich and dissolve their share-holding companies to re-allocate the wealth to number of people in the country.

The below is photo of former residence of Mitsubishi Zaibatsu family.

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It was like "Gone with the wind" for the family. Actually their residence was even occupied by the Yankees. They lost huge part of their asset by post-war economic reform. They did protest that but G.H.Q. actually did it with her advice.

Interesting thing is that kind of reform was even objected within G.H.Q. because this type of reform was more like communism. Forcibly taking away wealth from the rich, did not match with US free market economy ideology.

She and her colleagues were later dismissed from public office on suspicion of communist activity and treason. Her name was cleared 20 years later.

Thanks to G.H.Q's reform, Japan has become relatively egalitarian society among advanced nations. Ironically the U.S. at present has become plutonomy society. That is why "Occupy Wall Street" movement occurred. Only top 5% of the population dominates 60% of the nation's total wealth. Top 400 richest households wealth is equivalent to that of bottom half of the population.

The rich can do anything they want in the world's most democratic nation because they finance President, Senators, and Congressmen. They can even control media to shut down unfavourable information for them to manipulate mass-population. 

Recent Micheal Moore's film described how plutonomic American society is and in contrast the film showed President Roosevelt's proposal of Second Bill of Rights during second world war.

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

 

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

Micheal Moore said it did not come to realization in the U.S. because Roosevelt died before the war ended. In fact Japan acquired the above rights. They are written in Japan's post war constitution.

Article 25. All people shall have the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living.
In all spheres of life, the State shall use its endeavors for the promotion and extension of social welfare and security, and of public health.

Article 26. All people shall have the right to receive an equal education correspondent to their ability, as provided by law.
All people shall be obligated to have all boys and girls under their protection receive ordinary education as provided for by law. Such compulsory education shall be free.

Is it because of G.H. Q. people including Ms. Hadley?

If so, we should be thankful to her and the U.S.

I recently come up with the idea of my new novel. The title would be "Second Bill of Rights." The main character is a son of Japan's notable Zaibatsu family. Before the war he met a brilliant young American woman who was an exchange student like Ms. Hadley in Tokyo. He and she became good friends discussing arts, culture, politics and economical system of Japan, U.S. and rest of the world.

After the war, his family ruined. They saw each other again in Tokyo, this time she was a G.H.Q's economist. But the two got deeper relationship than pre-war time.

Doesn't it sound interesting?

07 December 2011

Book on US Occupation of Japan after WW2 "Washington Heights"

A book "Washington Heights" is written by a female journalist, AKIO Satoko. She studied how the United States government managed occupied Japan after the country defeated his enemy. Then she spotlighted on "Washington Heights," which was exclusive residential area for the U.S. military personnels located in the center of Tokyo. The area was built after the war was over by the order of U.S. occupational force. Before the war, it was Japanese imperial army's property. It was located next to Meiji Jingu Shrine, memorial shrine for the Meiji Emperor (crowned between 1868-1912) .

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After the Olympic the place turned to famous public park, Yoyogi Park and Japan's public broadcasting station, NHK building.

The book mainly described episodes of Japan's Occupied era (1945-1952) and economic booming era until Tokyo Olympic in 1964. When the U.S. force arrived in Japan, they occupied many places in Tokyo for its administration purpose. The General Head Quarter was placed in Dai-ichi Life Insurance Building near the Imperial Palace.

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But they needed housing for soldiers and staff working for the G.H.Q. So they ordered the Japanese government to build housing block for Americans, requiring facilities and equipment  equivalent to American standard of that time. That was the hell of a big job for the Japanese government because the places were all burnt down, and shortage of goods.

The Washington Heights, American style housing provided Japanese new culture and lifestyle. Because American personnels and their family living there wanted entertainment, many Japanese entertainers were recruited for performances for them. That caused a big entertainment icon, Journey's Production, which has released many great talents to Japan's showbiz until now. Morie Hana, a famous Japanese fashion designer opened clothing shop for women living in the residential area. She studied most sophisticated western clothing during that time. As for food culture, Japanese learnt fresh vegetable farming to meet demands from Americans. Japanese learnt how to farm vegetable for the fresh salad taking sanitation into account.

As for how Americans thought about occupying Japan was described as well.

When Americans first arrived in Japan after the war, they were surprised because their former enemy citizens were so friendly to them. Many Japanese in fact, felt liberated when the war was over. So occupation worked more smoothly than expected. The U.S. occupation in fact provided democratization of Japan including women's suffrage, reform of biased wealth distribution towards elite class. The U.S. aim was to demilitalize Japan so they thought cracking down feudal customs and elite class power was best way to do.

The U.S. at that time were so worried about communist threat from Soviet Union. So they treated Japan nicely although Japan was a former enemy.

Most interesting episode noted in the book was that a former Japanese military officer met Afro-American man working as lower rank staff of G.H.Q. who told him that Blacks were glad when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

The conclusion of the book was U.S. occupation provided Japan great things but we have to remember Japan has been controlled by U.S. since that time and even after Japan recovered independence, we are always facing indirect occupation by the U.S. such as military bases in Okinawa, Tokyo, and diplomatic pressure to liberalize trade and commerce.  

Recently the U.S. hegemony has been on the edge as you see "Lehman Shock" and "Occupy Wall Street" movement. The U.S. can no longer function as a role model for Japanese.

Thanks to the U.S. we could have developed the nation acquiring many great things from them but it is time we develop us ourselves in our own way.

19 June 2011

"Gone with the Wind" on Stage played by Japanese

I went to the Imperial Theatre near the imperial palace to view the stage show of "Gone with the Wind." As you know this is based on America's most famous novel written by Margaret Mitchel. It was written and made into film in 1930's.

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I've seen the film version many times and read some parts of the original novel. The stage show was 2 hours and half long. It was like summarized fairly tale version of the novel and film. It is surprising to know such show was played by Japanese actors. It is like Americans playing Samurai and Geisha.

Overall the show was well-done. I do not have to compare that with the film version or original novel. Stage version has its own flavour. This story has good essence of making good story telling. Like contrast of characters, contrast of situations. Good transition and developments so that viewers can easily follow.  

 However, I do not enjoy the story as much as before.

The story is in fact, unrealistic in the following points.

1. Egoistic and moody girl like Scarlett could attract so many men.

2. Such spoiled girl growing up in a wealthy family could take care of giving birth of a child and live through turmoil after the war.

3. Such young lady fell in love with much older guy like Rhett.

Furthermore this story has been criticized for romanticizing the slavery time in the South.

Afro-American people were portrayed as loyal slaves reveling with their oppressors. In the original novel the word "nigger" was repeatedly used. There was an event that Scarlett was assaulted by a Afro-American robbery and her second husband, Frank Kennedy took a revenge of that being Koo Klax Kuran.

Indeed the story was written from the viewpoint of conservative white people in the South. Slavery shouldn't be romanticized.

I am recently interested in an actress, Hattie McDaniel in the film version who won Academy Supporting role award. The film was clean-up version compared to the novel. Not using the word "nigger," Scarlett being assaulted by white man instead of Afro-American. Scarlett's Mammy played by McDaniel did played a very important and active role in the film.

I guess it was because the producer Selznick was Jewish and sharing some oppression experience with her. The film was made in 1930's when Nazi-Germany arose in Europe.

McDaniel made a speech that she was glad to receive the award on behalf of Afro-Americans. She did the great job in that sense although she had to play a sterotype role.

I guess it would be more interesting to make a film of how she lived and how she acted in the fim during that time. Such thing should be focused.

On the Stage version I saw slave role actors put black paint on their skin to look like Afro-American. Scarlett screamed at a slave "Kuronbo (meaning Nigger)." Scarlett was assaulted by Afro-American robbery. These are wrong things, aren't they.  

30 April 2011

Dear Tomodachi, Thanks but No Thanks!

Tomodachi means "friend(s)" in Japanese. The U.S. military in Japan is undergoing "Operation Tomodach" after the earthquake of magnitude 9.0, tsunami and nuclear power plant explosion occurred in our country.

Yes, the U.S. has been our greatest and closest friend, especially in a turmoil caused by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant disaster.

The U.S. government and military helped us a lot by sending air craft carrier, Ronald Reagan to the disastor area coast to transport commodities and equipments in order to rescue refugees in the disaster areas. The U.S. goverment provided expertise and machines to crippled nuclear power plants.

We do appreciate that. But the U.S. is not only country that provides assistance to us. China, Russia, France, Israel and a lot of other nations do so. We do appreciate those nations as well.

I do know for the U.S. Japan is not just a friend, rather very important ally in terms of politics and economics. Japan is 2nd largest owner of U.S. treasury bonds next to China. Japan is one of the biggest trading partner for the U.S.

As for crippled nuclear plants, the U.S. should be very much concerned about this issue because the U.S. is heavily dependent on nuclear power generation having more than 100 plants in the nation. In fact crippled nuclear plants in Fukushima-Daiichi contains U.S. made reactors, designed by General Electronics. The same type of reactors are used in 23 plants in the U.S.

Like the U.S. France is very concerned as CEO of France's biggest nuclear power plant corporation came to Japan to fix the problem. France is much more heavily dependent on nuclear power generation, 80% of its electriciy comes from nuclear power, while 20% in the U.S. and 35% in Japan.

Just recently the U.S. and Japanese government agreed to relocate U.S. Marine in Okinawa. The plan is relocate around 8000 marines to Guam and newly building base inside Okinawa island. That plan has been disapproved by local Okinawans. Even the Okinawa governor demanded the change of plan.

But the both governments seem to go ahead despite the protest movement there because the "Operation Tomodachi" can ease the tension there. But it seems not.

We feel the U.S. is taking advantage of this turmoil to get what they want. In our country such act is called "stealing things from burning house." Later you will be demised.

Don't do that, please if you want to continue to be good friend to us.

Under this plan, Japanese government not only provides the area for the new base but the budget to build the new base. This is huge money.

You know we are now in a big crisis. We need so much money to rebuild the disaster areas and fix and safely abandon nuclear plants. How come you can receive such benefits from troubled nation?

In Yokosuka, USS George Washington evacuated from Yokosuka, home port for the ship right after the earthquake and nuclear power plant explosion happened. Now he returned.

Funny, that ship was deployed for the purpose of defending Japan. This time he did not. Ironically, the nuclear powered ship which contains so much of radioactive materials got away from radioactive.

After he returned, they say the ship is safe. But localies in Yokosuka cannot agree. People have been so concerned about radioactive since its home porting in 2008. Now we've got one from our own.

My advice as your Tomodachi is to rethink the whole package of US-Japan defense treaty and its operation.

We do appreciate great friendship so in order to stregthen such friendship why not just rethink about this issue?  

Especially after the earthquake disastor, our nation's financial and mental situation has greatly changed. We do not want to suffer any more.

So be nice TOMODACHI!