Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I Interrupt My Work to Solicit Your Views on Yoshiko Sakurai and JINF

A respected international relations expert solicited my views on Yoshiko Sakurai and her Japan Institute for National Fundamentals . Mindful of his specific purpose, I tried to give as nonjudgmental an assessment as possible of her place in Japanese politics. My answer was necessarily brief (free samples always are), rendering it appropriate in size and subject for this blog, so I’ve left out the irrelevant bits and lightly edited the remainder and posted is below. If anyone has any opinions of their own, feel free to comment. I’ll answer them to my own satisfaction and ask the expert to look in.
Yoshiko Sakurai is the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals as far as I see it. In my view, she is a prominent member of the nationalist-conservative wing of mainstream Japan, as are the JINF board members whose names I recognize. As such, the graceful, unflappable award-winning investigative journalist and pioneer female newscaster espouses views on history issues that are deeply inimical to Western liberals, as well as embarrassing to their conservative counterparts who agree with her views on, say, dealing with North Korea's nuclear weapons and other security issues. But she is not a fringe figure, nor a demagogue. Among the dailies, the Sankei editorial board likely supports her, and the Yomiuri board would give her a respectable hearing. The Asahi board probably thinks she's nuts, while the Mainichi board lies somewhere between Yomiuri and Asahi. Many of her views on history issues are shared—I use the word in a broad sense; history is never either-or, never black-and-white—and given respectful hearing by mainstream conservative politicians, including some recent prime ministers.

You may not agree with her on history issues, in fact may think little of her views in that respect. But think about it this way: Would you dismiss as irrelevant Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara (who is on the JINF board)? Or Kyoto University Professor Terumasa Nakanishi? Ex-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe? Ambassador Hisahiko Okazaki?

One thing: If you want to debate her, you'd better come to the table with a full brief. She has a most impressive command of the facts, like an evangelical preacher with the Bible. Also like a preacher, indeed most advocates, she tends to ignore or make light of inconvenient evidence and facts, but you still have to be prepared to match her chapter for chapter, verse for verse.


Zach Baran said...

I don't know much about Sakurai's association with this nationalist fundamentals group, which is to say that I obviously don't know much about her at all, other than I've seen her on TV ever now and then.

I will say that I would dismiss Shintaro Ishihara, not because he's irrelevant, but because he's a crook. I would dismiss Abe for every reason imaginable, including all the reasons his own grandfather dismissed him for.

Jun Okumura said...

Thanks for commenting, Zach, but I’m not sure what you mean by “crook”. And you wouldn’t “dismiss” Nixon even if you think he is a “crook”. In any case, I don’t think that Ishihara is any more dishonest than your average politician. In fact, my take on Ishihara is that he is a larger-than-life figure whose character flaws are almost as big as his talents. If he had a little more patience with lesser beings and the humility to admit—at least to himself—to making a mistake once in a while, he would have reached even higher reaches of political power than the governorship of Tokyo.

For all Abe’s visible flaws that have little to do with ideology, he still has influence among conservative-nationalists in the LDP and the media. You can’t “dismiss” that. BTW, I wasn’t aware that Nobusuke Kishi had anything to say about his grandson. He’d been long dead before his grandson got elected.

Zach Baran said...

"I don’t think that Ishihara is any more dishonest than your average politician."

Sorry. I was giving him extra points for having set up a disastrous bank that's been serving as a conduit for loans to his friends. Some of whom are perhaps the average politicians you speak of.

As for Abe, is his influence something he amassed himself, or did it come part and parcel with being part of the big tangly Kishi/Yoshida/Sato/Aso consortium? I am always still learning about him, and although I think his ministry was a flop, I will say that it seemed he could have been a contender.

BTW, I cannot find the quote on the web, but at some point Kishi made a remark that he didn't think his third grandson was PM material.

Zach Baran said...

In any event, this post is about Sakurai...

Jun Okumura said...

So true.

I'd go a little easy on Ishihara though. The bank was a financial and political debacle that attracted some pretty shady people and the problems appear to have been rooted in Ishihara's arrogance and stubbornness. But like so many fiascoes, it was started with the best of intentions.