Monday, September 22, 2014

"The Meaning of Robots," on the MIGA Website

Originally meant to be posted it as a Japanese-only column elsewhere on the MIGA website, I'm roasting an old chestnut from the "Japan as Number One" days.  Frankly, I was surprised that this particular old culturalist take on robots was still thriving. The conclusion is a little forced, and that is reflected in the even more unsatisfactory title "The Meaning of Robots," but there it is.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Japan Conference OMG/WTFBBQ

Members of a certain Japan-themed forum is up in arms because a good number of Prime Minister Abe’s new batch of cabinet appointees include a large number of Japan Conference members. As a genetically hardwired skeptic and descendent of the peasant farmer class (although my paternal grandfather claimed that we Okumuras could trace our lineage to a samurai family that exchanged swords for ploughshares after finding themselves on the wrong side of the Battle of Sekigahara), I laugh at the claims made on behalf of the right of the Japanese state to force every couple to choose a single surname, in effect demanding mostly women to change their legal names on marriage, and also have no love for many other trappings of the largely top-down nationalism that Western liberals have abandoned that Japan Conference may be advocating. I am also appalled at the groundswell of radical nationalism, both state-sponsored and populist, that has been sweeping much of East Asia. Folks, this is the 21st Century!

Still, you have to be skeptical of the allegedly recidivist tendencies of the Abe cabinet when the culprits include (according to Wikipedia) Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, an avowed moderate on good terms with China, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Takehide Suga, a moderate who counseled Mr. Abe against visiting Yasukuni last December. Then there is Finance Minister Taro Aso, an advocate of segregating the Class-A war criminals enshrined at Yasukuni so that the emperor can pay his respects there in good conscience, a “special advisor” to the Japan Conference. Looking beyond the cabinet, there is Sadakazu Tanigaki, the new LDP Secretary-General and notable dove, counselor to the Japan Conference. Takeshi Noda, the chairman of the powerful LDP Tax Committee, is even further to the “left.” The ultimately irony, though, turns out to be a non-political connection: The only identifiable Japan Conference member turns out to be the chairwoman of an Asahi Shimbun subsidiary.

Japan Conference members appear to bear more than a passing resemblance to American Catholics. You know, contraception, Papal infallibility… in fact, Mr. Aso is a Roman Catholic.