UK-Japan Green Alliance 2022?

There was once upon a time a thing called UK-Japan Green Alliance. That was a project done in 2002 by the British Embassy Tokyo, officially, to commemorate 100th anniversary of a thing called Anglo-Japanese Alliance (1902). The 1902 alliance is mentioned in a school textbook of Japanese history as an occasion for Japan to present herself as one of the major powers in the world.

The 2002 project had nothing to do with international power struggle but it was intended to promote friendship between UK and local communities in Japan by way of the Embassy’s providing baby trees of English oak to be planted. I was directly involved in the project as a Japanese staff of the Embassy’s “Public Affairs” section. Some 200 trees were imported from Somerset, England, and planted in every single prefecture throughout Japan.

Next year (2022) will be 20th anniversary year of the Green Alliance (and, of course, 120th anniversary of the military treaty.)

And I have recently received from a student of Tokushima University in Shikoku a document entitled “Current States of the English Oak Trees planted in 2002”. The student apparently is soon graduating as a specialist of a subject called “Biological Resources” and the document was produced as her graduation thesis.

The document presents the current states of all the oak trees. I am not going into the details of how she came to know the Green Alliance and that I had been involved in the project 20 years ago. Anyway, I thanked her and promised that I would let the Embassy know her efforts for finding out the trees’ situation.

I informed the Embassy of the student’s project. So far no news…In the meantime, I spotted in the Observer’s website an article about tree-planting projects in Yorkshire.

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What is “Mindo”?

Kyodo News Agency, Japan’s news organisation, sent out on 5 June a piece with a title saying, “Japan’s low virus mortality rate reflects social manners: deputy PM.” In conjunction with COVID19, the Deputy Prime Minister, Taro Aso, was quoted as saying in a parliamentary session something like;

“I have received phone calls (from overseas) asking ‘Do you have any drug that only you guys have?’ My answer is the level of social manners is different, and then they fall silent.”

I was puzzled. What was he talking about? What was the connection between the coronavirus mortality rate and what Mr Aso-called “social manners”?

Japan’s mortality rate certainly seemed to be quite low: 927 people had died as at Sunday 14 and the deaths per 100,000 population was 0.73. The figure looks certainly impressive comparing to those of, say, UK where 41,747 people died with 62.79 as “deaths/100k pop” and the US where the figures were 115,436 and 35.28 respectively.

I still did not see why the deputy PM had to refer to the level of “social manners” in order to talk about the reason for the low mortaliity rate. “Social manner” means the way you behave in society, doesn’t it? For example, you should not do things to make a big noise late at night: it will make nuisance to the neighbours. A socially bad manner. Did Mr Aso mean the coronavirus had killed more Americans and the British because they were socially bad mannered!? No, he couldn’t have meant it. He is not that stupid.

I then checked what Japanese language newspapers said about his remarks on the “social manners” and found out that he actually used the Japanese wording “mindo” for what the Kyodo News referred to as “social manners”. The word “mindo” (pronunciate “meendoh”) literally means “people’s level” but actually means something like “the level of social decency” or “cultural standard”.

Still, what on the earth did the deputy PM mean when he said to his foreign counterparts that Japanese rate of COVID19 deaths was due to the higher level of “social decency”?

According to the Kyodo News, the deputy PM went further to say;

The United States imposed fines on people who broke lockdown rules, and France did so too. But we didn’t have to do such a thing, and we made it only by “requesting” that people suspend nonessential businesses and stay at home. We should be very proud of this.

So, he is “proud” of his own people who are willing to accept what their government tells them to accept. No legal enforcement is necessary. And do you know something? Taro Aso is not just a deputy PM but also the Finance Minister in the current Shinzo Abe’s cabinet.

Should I be kind enough to tell this man why his foreign counterparts fell silent without calling him back after he told them how proud he was about the Japanese people with higher “social manners” than those in foreign countries? Should I not explain that it was because they decided it a waste of their time to speak to Taro?

Japanese people silently followed what the government told him to do but it was not because they trusted the government but simply because they did not want to be seen disobedient. They do not wish to make fuss because they did not want to be “isolated” in this impossibly assimilated island. Should I bother to tell him that!? No. It is his problem to be seen as idiot, not mine. The only problem to me is that my foreign friends might see me as one of the people with lower level of “mindo” (level of decency) to have a man with such a low level of “mindo” in a high place like government.

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What might Sir Bill Cash have thought of what was said by Margaret Thatcher in 1975?

I am writing this at around 10:30 in the Tuesday morning, 29 January. It’s the time in Japan and it is around 1 a.m. in Britain. The House of Commons will have another important debate on Brexit in 20 or so hours.

I have in the meantime read an essay with a long title, “In every aspect of British life there are positives to leaving the EU without a deal“. The writer of this piece, Sir Bill Cash, a Conservative MP, seems to be 100% confident that a no-deal Brexit will be good to Britain. After talking about all the great things about a “WTO Brexit” (ie: Brexit with no deal), he concluded his essay by saying;

“With our dynamic skilled workforce, the English language, and our global opportunities under WTO rules, a rejuvenating atmosphere of freedom – both democratic and economic – means an exit without a deal is what Britain can now embrace.”

Sir Bill was born in 1940: a year older than I am. Apparently he became an MP in 1984. Almost ten years before (1975), Britain held a referendum on whether she should continue to be a member of EC. The result was that 67.23% was for the membership with 32.77% against it. Without knowing which Sir Bill voted for I am sure he listened with great interest to what the then leader of the Conservative party (Margaret Thatcher) said about the issue. She said;

“We are inextricably part of Europe. Neither Mr. Foot nor Mr. Benn nor anyone else will ever be able to take us “out of Europe”, for Europe is where we are and where we have always been.”

Sir Bill was 35 years old. I’m curious to know what he thought about what Thatcher said.

Also in September 1986 Thatcher gave a speech at the opening ceremony of the factory of Nissan UK, and she said;

“It was confirmation from Nissan after a long and thorough appraisal, that within the whole of Europe, the United Kingdom was the most attractive country—politically and economically—for large scale investment and offered the greatest potential.”

Mrs Thatcher was perfectly aware that at least one of the reasons Nissan had decided to invest in Britain was that it was a member of the EC where the company could easily export their cars. Again I’m curious to know what Bill Cash thought about Britain’s being a member of the European institution. Did he think that Nissan would have come to UK, with or without her being an EC’s member, because English is her native language and also because she had a “rejuvenating atmosphere of freedom”!?



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Just what are you voting about, MPs, on Tuesday!?

So, the House of Commons’ vote will take place on Tuesday 11/12, and Theresa May seems to believe that the choice for MPs is either a) Brexit with her deal, b) Brexit with no deal (as hard Brexiteers want) or c) No Brexit (as Remainers want). Is my understanding correct? If it was correct, I’m still confused. The Tuesday vote is about Yes-or-No on her deal: nothing else. It will not be a three-way vote. Correct?

If you want UK to remain in EU, you would have to vote No. If you want UK to leave EU straight with no deal you, too, would have to say No. So, No votes will include those by Remainers and Brexiteers. Am I correct?

Ah…I see…the vote actually is not about Yes-or-No to the Theresa’s deal but it is either about further political chaos or settlement with a less bad/less unhappy idea (both to Remainers and Brexiteers). Then, even I know that Theresa will win…Very clever of Theresa!

Sorry, I have just talked to myself.



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Why do I not eat whale meat?

It has been eight years since I posted a piece on the issue of whaling. I have read it again and decided to rewrite it for posting now in conjunction with a recent incident of a “dolphin show” in Japan. Read the Guardian’s piece “Japan apologises for captive dolphin show during Olympic sailing test run” and you will know what I am talking about.

I was in England for about six months in 2010 with my wife who attended a college to learn about animal behaviour. What did I do? Nothing. I was just there. One day Miyako and I were invited for dinner by a young couple next door.

The after-dinner conversation somehow was turned to the subject of “whaling in Japan”. I was asked by the wife whether I ate whale meat. She somehow knew that the Japanese “killed” whales and wanted to know whether I myself ate whale meat. My answer was No. She looked (to me) rather relaxed. I imagined that she was thinking, “Thank God, I don’t have to be with a whale-eating barbarian.”  I should have changed the subject right there. I didn’t.

I found myself saying to the couple, “I don’t eat whale meat, but it is not because whales are at the danger of extinction as many of the animal welfare people claim. It is just that whale meats are not as easily available in Japan as they used to be some 60 years ago…” I did not (and do not) really know whether I would in fact eat the meat if it was more readily available. If I don’t, it is most probably because I do not like it: nothing to do with animal welfare.

The English couple looked shocked but kept quietly listening. Decent people indeed. I then found myself going further to talk about a conversation I had had in Tokyo with an Australian diplomat a couple of years before.

The Australian insisted that it was morally wrong to catch whales as they were in danger of extinction. I said something to the effect that nobody had the right to decide which animals should be protected and which ones could be slaughtered. I insisted that it was an animal discrimination and a double standard hypocrisy to say that killing chicken was OK because they were not at extinction but that killing whales was unforgivable because they were disappearing from the earth.The Australian said nothing. He just looked at me with disgust and disbelief (I thought).

Now back to the dinner in England. When my talk ended the English man said quite clearly and firmly, “Protecting animals at the danger of extinction is our duty as custodians of animals.” “But who said that you were custodians?”, I asked. “The Bible says so,” the English man said. I said, “Oh…” and finally decided to be silent.

Then the English man said something extraordinary: he said that although he believed in the moral duty as an animal custodian he did not mind at all cutting wild grass and trees. I was shocked and said, “What? You feel nothing about cutting plants as you want to while you have a sense of duty to protect animals at extinction?! Isn’t that a double standard?” He then explained that it was OK to cut plants because they are not animals with four legs!!

The conversation finally ended.

No, this is not the end of the story. About two weeks after the dinner I had an opportunity to meet in Oxford an English language teacher from Norway. Norway was, as you know, a whaling nation as Japan and Iceland were. I was curious to know what he might think about the discussion I had had with the English couple.

Because he was a citizen of the whaling nation I half-expected him to say how silly the English couple were to say that they were animal custodians. I was wrong. He plainly said, “I agree with your English friends. People should be custodians of animals. That’s what the Bible says. I am a Christian.”

Feeling slightly puzzled, I said “Oh…so, you don’t eat whale meat even if Norway is a whaling nation, do you?”

And I was totally confused to hear the Norwegian say, “Of course I do. I do eat whale meat and like it. Great thing about whale meat is that it is not as heavy and stodgy as beef, chicken and pork are. The only problem is that it is a bit expensive.”

I did not know what to say. And he went on to say, “You do eat whale in Japan, don’t you? You have no restaurants where you can eat the meat? What about supermarkets? Can you not buy it there?” I explained that it was difficult to find whale-meat restaurants and that supermarkets did not sell whale meat in Japan as far as I knew.

So, I now knew that there were three different views on the issue of whaling.

  • The English couple: they seemed to believe firmly that people had moral duty to protect animals at extinction and therefore that whaling must be banned. Eating whale meat is out of question.
  • The Norwegian teacher agreed with the English couple that people were custodians of animals at extinction but saw nothing wrong about whaling and eating its meat because whales were not at extinction.
  • The Japanese old man (Jiro): people were not custodians of animals and therefore not in a position to decide which animals should/could be protected/slaughtered. It did not matter whether whales are in fact at extinction. If you want to eat its meat nobody should stop you from doing so. But when you do eat it you should feel just a small amount of sense of remorse so that you will not over-consume it.

Of these three views, I must admit that mine is the least persuasive. You can eat it but should feel guilty and hesitant? That does not make sense, does it? If you feel guilty for doing something, you should not do that something in the first place. To that, I would say “people sometimes make no sense. That’s what human being is all about…people are irrational and unreasonable”. To that, Christians (British or Norwegian) would say, “Jiro, try to make sense. Try to do the right thing. That’s how human being ought to be and you are a human!”

I am and will be silent to my Christian friends. I would not bother to remind them of so many wars and conflicts in the human history that have led to the destruction of people’s and animal’s lives, not to mention the plants’. No, I would not trouble to remind them that at lease some of the miseries had taken place because of (not despite) their sense of “justice”. Why would I not do so? Why should I even try to speak if I knew that I would not be listened to?


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Is Mr Kim more dangerous than Mr T?

So, what was that fuss about? Yes, I am talking about the “historic” summit in Sigapore. That day, 12 June, all the Japanese TV news programmes were occupied by the flood of “live coverage” (which in fact was just repetition of same things).

What was achieved by the summit? The editorial piece of the recent edition of the Economist magazine seems to sum it up. It says to the effect that Trump put “showmanship first” in order to push up his ratings and that the winner of the summit was definitely Kim Jong-un. The article concluded by saying;

Striking any sort of deal with such a figure (ie: the North Korean leader) is unpleasant. Striking a bad one would be a moral and diplomatic disaster.

Japanese people have been abducted by the North Korean agents and many of the victims are still there. We see even today quite a few North Korean boat people arriving the coast areas and stealing some electric appliances storaged in the fisherman’s huts. They are certainly not quite welcomed visitors here and I did find it rather unpleasant to see the young dictator flying victoriously back to his home country after the victorious event.

But did I see any articles or news programmes to discuss the role played by the media to drum up the insane excitement? I even had an unpleasant suspicion that all the excitements were played up by the media whose intention was to increase viewing rates and copy sales.

I have, however, a different kind of question to ask. Which is more dangerous to people in the entire world, Kim or Trump? Which poses more danger to the world? My own answer, with no doubt at all, would be the latter: Trump, that is. This particular US president is more dangerous to the world than the North Korean leader.

Mr Kim and his father and grandfather might have done terrible things to their own people for the past six or so decades but it is fundamentally their domestic problem. The current one might have made arrangement for his own brother to be killed by poison but again it is their problem for the justice to be done. Mr Kim has not attempted to kill Japanese prime minister. Have he or his predecessors ever dropped bombs on foreign countries including Japan? He has threatened many times he would very soon be able to shoot missiles to America. Has he actually done that? Was my beloved San Francisco bombed by Mr Kim?

Despite all the threatening words, Seoul has never been the “sea of blood”. No Japanese towns have yet been hit by Mr Kim’s missiles despite Shinzo Abe’s hysteric warnings. Is it not, in any event, reasonable to assume that Mr Kim is aware of what might happen to himself if he did hit other countries by his missiles?

What about Trump? Well, he has dropped bombs on Syria in April together with UK and France on the ground that the country’s leader had allegedly used chemical weapons on his own people.

He said on 14 April 2018;

A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!

But he had said five years before;

Don’t attack Syria – an attack that will bring nothing but trouble for the U.S. Focus on making our country strong and great again!

Is it not fair to assume that he attacked Syria because it would help “making America great again”, nothing to do with the welfare of the Syrians, meaning that the president is quite willing to drop bombs anytime/anywhere if He thinks it will help making his country great again.

I repeat my question: which is more dangerous to the entire world, Trump or Kim? For your information North Korea’s military spending in 2015 was $3.5 billion, about 23.3% of their GDP. What about Mr Trump’s country? They spent in 2014 $581 billion: more than 100 times as much as Mr Kim’s country. Yet, America’s spending was just 3.5% of GDP.

Don’t you think that Kim is idiotic to spend such a big share of GDP for the military spending rather than welfare for the people? But my question is not which is more idiotic but which is more dangerous to the world. For your information, Japan spent 0.9% of its GDP in the same year.

This is getting far too long. I must stop.

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Theresa May, the Judge!?

In case you don’t know (and there is no reason why you should), I have a Japanese language blog magazine entitled “musasabi journal“. It is updated every other Sunday. The first edition was “published” on 23 February 2003. It’s now fifteen years old.

I recently have taken a look at the very first (23 Feb 2003) edition just to see what is in it, and found that one of the articles posted was an excerpt from BBC’s Newsnight programme in which Tony Blair was grilled by Jeremy Paxman about his project of invading Iraq together with his American colleague, GW Bush. During the Paxman interview, my journal recorded Blair as insisting to the studio audience, “I do believe I’m doing the right thing.” 25 days later, 20 March 2003, the Iraq War started. Within three weeks, the Saddam Hussein’s regime fell and on 1 May the American president gave his “mission accomplished” victory speech.

Fifteen years have passed since. Some 300,000 Iraqi people and more than 4,000 American soldiers were killed. It is also said that the fights with IS have killed 7,000 Iraqi civilians, 20,000 security personnel and more than 23,000 IS fighters. It would surely be fair to say that the IS-related deaths would not have taken place without the collapse of the old Iraqi regime led by Saddam Hussein who was executed in December 2006.

In the meantime, I recently have read a piece of article in the Economist magazine entitled “Iraq is getting back on its feet“, presenting various facts and figures to show positively how the Iraqi’s lives have improved in recent years. The article gives the impression that the Iraqi people are in much better shape than they were fifteen years ago under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

I am not interested in talking about would-have-been or might-have-been but do wish to ask a bit more fundamental (ie: amateurish) question that I ought to have been asked 15 years ago in my magazine. Tony Blair insisted that he was doing the “right thing” by trying to get rid of the dictator. Was he really right to invade into another country to topple their leader? Was he asked by the Iraqi people to do so? Did Saddam Hussein try to attack Britain? Nobdy asked him to do so. Nobody even seemed to attack Britain or America (as the Japanese attacked the Pearl Harbour in 1941).

Fifteen years later in April 2018 another British prime minister, Theresa May, gave a press conference stressing the importance of her action of joining (again!) American president to attack Syria, the neighbouring country of Iraq, to “punish President Assad for gassing his own people”. Fifteen years ago, the Iraqi people had their leader executed. Today, the Syrian president is labelled by the American president as “Monster”. Might President Asad be bound to be in the same destiny as his Iraqi predecessor?

Today I ask PM May the questions I ought to have asked Mr Blair fifteen years ago. What right does she have to shoot missiles to and drop bombs on Syria, being perfectly aware that they might kill people as well as destroying the chemical facilities. Was Syria attacking Britain by chemical weapons? She did it because Asad was “gassing” his people? So what? If Mr Assad was in fact doing what was allegedly doing, it is surely the Syrian’s business, not the British or American’s, to fight against the “dictator”. Am I not right? She said she had done what she did to “punish” Assad. Punish!? When was she appointed for a judge?

I should quickly add that John Bolton was the US ambassador to UN fifteen years ago and is now the National Security Advisor.

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Shinzo doesn’t like it. How about you, Donald?

In case you do not know there will be a general election in Japan on Sunday 22 October. The snap election was called by Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, for the country to “survive and overcome national crisis”. What national crisis? One of them, it seems, is the “rocket man” in the Korean Peninsula. Japan needs a very strong leadership to survive the “North Korean aggression” and, of course, the even more aggressive Chinese. Who has that strong leadership? It is of course Mr Abe (according to Mr Abe.)

In case you do not know, Japan has had the problem of abduction with North Korea for the past forty or so years. Many Japanese citizens were abducted by the North Korean spies in 1970s and 1980s and have been held hostages there as tutors to teach Japanese language and culture to Pyongyang agents.

Read the 13 October edition of the Guardian and you will find that Donald Trump will meet some of the abductee families during his visit to Japan in November. The meeting has been arranged by Shinzo Abe who boasts about a very friendly “Shinzo-Donald” relationship with the current US president. Abe said in his election campaign speech, “He (Trump) promised he would do his best to rescue the Japanese abduction victims.”

A mother of one of the abductees has said, “Purpose of our campaign is nothing other than bringing the abduction victims back. I hope the activities such as this one(Trump’s meeting with her) will lead to the early coming home of our families.” She of course meant to say, “I’m not interested in meeting Trump. I want to see my daughter.”

Trump always talks about the possibility of military action. Shinzo Abe talks nothing but “strong pressure”. Might these two men be able to do anything useful to bring the abductees back? I doubt it.

The Abe’s government also seems to be set to win the enough number of parlimentary seats for Shinzo to make it possible to materialise his long-held ambition to change the current “pacifist” constitution to permit Japan normal military powers. Japanese voters care little for the government party but do not trust opposition parties to deal with matters such as North Korea, says an Economist’s article.

I am curious to know what the American president would think about Shinzo’s dream of throwing away the current constitution “imposed” by the Americans on Japan. The article 9 of the constitution says;

Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

Shinzo doesn’t like it. How about you, Donald?

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Trust your distrust

Very quickly (despite that this is the very first posting since November 2016!!.)

So, what did the election 2017 results tell you about Britain? What they did seem to tell me was that fanaticism does not work in Britain. You don’t really like extremism and fanaticism imposed by people like Farage and Gove. Believe me, they aren’t really your kind of game. Your kind of game is “muddling through”. I’m serious, not joking or ridiculing at all. You have this instinctive dislike and distrust against dogmatism. Just trust your distrust. I’M SERIOUS! Please mind you, though, “muddling through” would make sense if (only IF) you are willing to share your destiny with other peoples. You can’t “muddle through” alone. OK?

I hope I’m making sense…

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Brexit does not mean Brexit (yet)

14980648_10154718614277417_2424991511600423422_nFollowing the 5 Nov posting, Simon Jenkins of Guardian says, “The judges’ ruling confirms it – Brexit must go ahead, no ifs or buts.” He also says, “Parliament, warts and all, is sovereign. It can deny withdrawal and face the consequences.” He sounds (to me) like intimidating MPs. Am I wrong to read his message as saying;

“You (MPs) can legally reject what the voters said on 23 June. Do that and the entire country will be upside down and it will be your responsibility. OK? Do you still want to do that!?”

17 million people voted for OUT and 16 million for IN. If this was an issue you can revisit in future I would have accepted it even if I don’t like the result. Think about a referendum, for example, on whether Britain’s railway system should be re-nationalised. Suppose that 17 million people voted for YES and 16 million for NO. Then you should do as the majority say. It’s a people’s will. Of course, people make mistakes. Even the 17 million people might prove to be wrong: train service might be even worse than before nationalisation, in which case you reprivatise it. No problem.

What about BREXIT? You go out of EU and there will be no way to come back in the foreseeable future. Do you have to go out only because 17 million say so? How do you know they are right and 16 million wrong? Nobody knows. That’s why you have MPs employed for more substantial discussions. Of course even MPs make mistakes. British MPs voted, after lengthy discussions, for Blair’s motion for bombing Iraq in 2003. Although there is nothing you could do about those killed in the war caused by the wrong decision you could still sack all the MPs who made the mistakes.

MPs are not “delegates” (ie: agents) of their constituencies. They are “representatives” whose job is to give careful and intelligent thoughts on issues on behalf of the people. That’s why they are paid salary.

I have no idea why Theresa May, an MP, had to say, “Brexit means Brexit” just because 17 million voted for it. If referendum result was anything absolutely final to which MPs have to stick, what do you have a parliament for?

Having said all that, might it be unfair to expect British MPs to be courageous enough to stand up against the editors who are quite willing to labelled them as “enemies of the people” for pleasing their readers and increasing the circulation figures? The figures look terrible to the tabloids. Daily Express who used to sell 4 million copies fifty years ago now seems to sell only 400,000…Even the Sun who sold 3.7 million in 1976 now sellls just 1.8 million.

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