Japan Right Now–And the USA
EDITORIAL, 13 June 2016
#432 | Johan Galtung
Except for a dark shadow, all is normal in the land of Japan.
The local levels function very well with diligent Japanese working together to lift them up. Except for those with nuclear power plants, particularly one of them, on the coast, hit by a tsunami. Except too for rural communities laid waste, people aging, leaving, empty villages, hit by having to import rice instead of cultivating it.
Ride the trains, walk the streets with the Japanese; as brisk and busy as ever. A little older, more canes, fewer bicycles, more cars, better streets and roads, cars run faster. In addition, a little fatter, sharing aging and putting on weight with developed societies all over.
Missing are older ladies on bikes navigating the narrow streets with elegance, skirting pedestrians by a centimeter or two–bikes ride on sidewalks in Japan not on the streets–heads high, unperturbed.
Not missing are school classes of lovely children following the teacher with a flag–the small girls being as sweet as anywhere in the world or more so. Judging by their faces the future looks bright.
Tokyo has modernized almost to the extreme. From a concoction of villages with scattered houses of all shapes and colors to a megalopolis of skyscrapers. Totally void of any charm, but mega-modern. We all pray they can stand an earthquake or two. There was a small one during the night; maybe just informing us all that “we are still here”.
Restaurants are filled to the brim, food as delicious as ever. Plus a more recent phenomenon: tables just for women, or having the room that evening, joking, laughing, self-assertive, accompanied by no males. Next, tables only for children; accompanied by no parents?
Ancient Japan shows up as temples and shrines and gardens, as beautiful, as spiritual as ever. It is all there, to our delight.
But under the shadow of the relation to the USA, occupied for 70 years, a colony, micro-managed in the smallest detail and spied upon.
The leading author and politician, governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, caused a major stir in 1989 with his book, The Japan That Can Say No. But very few say no. They do not say yes either, they may prefer not to know. Or deep down to suffer from a servility that may one day explode in a burst of anger and violent revolt. How come?
One interpretation: the USA-Japan war from 7 December 1941 Pearl Harbor till the Instrument of Surrender 2 September 1945 ended with not only military but spiritual defeat. After the Meiji Restoration Japan had constructed a state Shintoism using Western Christian models with a divinity, the Sun Goddess, bestowing divinity on her offspring, the emperors. However, she was defeated by a Western rex gratia dei–emperors, presidents, PMs by the grace of God. Defeated by FDR-Truman by the grace of a US God that proved stronger than Amaterasu-o-mikami. That God resided in Washington DC, USA. The theory explains not only the submission, but also the strong desire to learn and internalize things American; to be one with those higher and victorious forces.
Another interpretation is more geo-political, realist. It would pick up how USA-FDR decided long before Pearl Harbor to defeat Japan, having watched Japan imposing itself on the Ching dynasty 1894-1905, Russia 1904-05, then growing economically and expanding territorially; very far from just being “opened up” by a Perry to trade with USA. This is the story of provocations, preparations for war and more importantly for occupation of Japan, showing how some were warned and some not–like the commander of the fleet in Pearl Harbor who was sacrificed with a fleet with the youngest ship being 27 years old and no aircraft carrier–to prove to the world that Japan had attacked.
The two theories do not exclude each other; in fact, they support each other. At the level of geo-politics, Japan fell into the well-prepared trap, was not only defeated but also genocided; at the spiritual level Japan underwent a conversion that made the defeat acceptable.
More than that, maybe even desirable. If the USA is really as so many Americans believe a chosen people directly under God, superior to Japan as proved by the war contest, by how that war came about, submission, even servility, under such power follows. Moreover, if USA is threatened by Satan’s forces–as it looks right now–it becomes not only a duty but also an honor to be called upon to share the burdens as “collective self-defense”, shoulder to shoulder, around the world.
The USA has become a Patron, a Lord, Japan a dependent vassal.
As such, the USA has not only the right but also the duty to impose itself on Japan, including micro-managing and spying. By doing so on Japan, not a small power itself by any means, USA confirms its divine status–the Americans call it “exceptionalism”–and Japan’s closeness to Higher Forces. Like Archangel Gabriel, who carries out the Father’s will–or like the Son called upon to “judge the living and the dead”? Under, yes, but to be under the Highest does not mean to be low.
To reduce USA to a geo-political power-greedy state reduces Japan not only to a defeated outcast in this world, but to a Japan so stupid as to have fallen into the Pearl Harbor trap, and on top of that to be duped into de facto colonization and accepting it. There will be very strong forces of denial from the top of the major ministries (finance-foreign-defense), themselves conveyors of the US demands on Japan and the vehicles of their realization. A hard battle due to come.
However, demystification of USA-Japan relations is bound to come. But only from the source acceptable to “The Japan that Says Yes” (yes-yes-yes-yes–): from the USA itself. From a USA losing one war after the other since Korea 1953, a USA of war fatigue, for whatever reason. To a Japan deeply worried about Trump not only for pulling troops out leaving Self-defense to Japan itSelf, but for becoming Great alone, not bestowing indirect greatness on others. Making Japan ordinary.
We will see. Probably quite soon. And hopefully nonviolently.
Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 13 June 2016.
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