KILL THE KINGGGGGGGGGGGG
HOLE IN THE HEAD
DEAD IN A DITCH
YOU'RE GONNA GET YOURS
LYBIAN HIT SQUAD
X IS COMING
KILLING AN ARAB
WELCOME TO HELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
YOU GOT KNOCKED THE FUCK OUT6 comments
CHAPTER THREE: THE FLOOD OF STANDARDIZED SPEECH.
Again I have a syndrome to report to you: I suffer from “slogan neurosis.”
For a long time, the whole length and breadth of my country has been blanketed in these DON’T DO THIS! DO IT LIKE THAT! slogans – what I’d like to call ‘Behavior Management Broadcasts’. I’ve managed to tolerate them until recently, but now they cause me mental suffering! It’s not just that they turn our streets into ugly places.
Warning slogans like PLEASE DON’T THROW YOUR CIGARETTE BUTTS ON THE GROUND and LET’S NOT PICK THE FLOWERS and PLEASE STOP PARKING CARS WHERE THEY WILL BE A NUISANCE TO OTHERS, to say nothing of ‘road-manners’ slogans like LET’S GREET PEOPLE CHEERFULLY TODAY and LET’S WATCH OUT FOR THE CHILDREN ON THEIR WAY TO AND FROM SCHOOL . . .they cause spiritual harm to us all.
Everyone has individuality. Grown-ups should have the mental capacity to make their own judgments and take responsibility for their own actions. But these slogans are trying to destroy that. Our culture is packed to the brim with every possible slogan, but the powers-that-be don’t expect us to read each one, think about it, and accept its message. That isn’t the point. It’s just like promotional signs for businesses: the signs and slogans work subliminally on the passers-by, precisely because we don’t take time to look and judge them objectively. Their messages hover between conscious and unconscious thought, guiding us. That’s the point. That’s why the powers that be don’t want Japanese to develop a sense of self-responsibility and critical thinking: those things are totally opposed to the process I just described.
Allow me to take this explanation a bit further: TV commercials attempt to persuade us to buy certain things without us realizing it. In the same way, DON’T LITTER banners attempt, through sheer repetition rather than logic or instilling a sense of responsibility for one’s actions, to get us to obey. They try to stop the thought of “I’ll drop my cigarette here” from even occurring in our minds, without us even noticing that our behavior has changed or asking why. Surely that is the goal of the behavior management slogans! The same way with the LET’S GREET EVERYONE CHEERFULLY slogans on the street . .. if you see the same slogan every day for years, you’ll start to find the phrase “Hello sir!” coming from your throat as if it was a natural reflex. That’s what the city officials are hoping will happen.
If you think about it this way, they’re taking away our ability to consent. The message is supposed to sink into your body through repetition and be absorbed. That seems to be a central principle of Japanese culture: without exception, Japanese training in everything from tea ceremony to kendo is conducted in this way.
And that’s why we have this magma-like flood of behavior management slogan posters. Back when this type of training was limited to things like kendo and tea ceremony, I think it had beneficial effects. But the dam broke, spilling slogans and posters over the entire surface of Japan! It’s a crisis, because, as I said, the behavior management slogans are designed to operate subliminally. Our bodies cry out in protest, though we know not why. Our critical thinking and individual-responsibility faculties are being suppressed. We’re living in a time of spiritual violence! Instead of strict mental training, from now on we’ll only get simplistic advice. We’re turning into a nation of “body-ism,” where the mind doesn’t matter anymore.
And let me add something else, a little icing on the cake for my more astute readers: my biggest reason for hating these slogans is NOT that they are turning the MASSES stupid by inhibiting their faculties for self-determination, critical thinking, and self-responsibility. I’m not that philosophical. My #1 beef is this: I can’t tune them out!
Unlike most Japanese, I have to stop at each one and ponder if I agree with its message, and weigh it critically to see if it’s logical. I’ve tried to stop doing this, as there are millions of these things and I’m busy, but it’s impossible for me! I can’t stand it anymore! I can’t walk down a simple street without having a mental argument with every flag, poster, banner, sign, and flyer! On the streets, in the trains, at the amusement parks, my place of work. . .the signs are everywhere, there is no escaping them, they assault my body from all sides, leaving me both physically and mentally exhausted.
DON’T FORCE OPEN THE ELEVATOR DOORS, PLEASE
I’m sure you’re sick of me always complaining about my employer, Dentsu University, but fucking West Hall Four was just built and already it’s full of dreadful behavior management slogans: PLEASE DON’T THROW YOUR TRASH ON THE FLOOR, LAST PERSON IN THE ROOM PLEASE TURN OUT THE LIGHTS WHEN YOU LEAVE, and so on. The most absurd of them all is: PEOPLE WHO DO NOT PROMISE TO FOLLOW ALL THE ABOVE SLOGANS ARE FORBIDDEN TO ENTER THE CLASSROOM.
No one is reading these things! Nobody asked for them, either. But, nobody minds them either. Nobody says a word in protest. Sometimes in the middle of class (especially big classes with a hundred students), I will suddenly ask the kids, “Does anybody know what is written up there?” The kids turn to look, but so far not a one has been able to say, “Yes.”
The elevator in the main administration building has warnings posted : CHILDREN, PLEASE DON’T RIDE ON ME WITHOUT AN ADULT and DON’T LEAN ON MY DOORS! But the most ridiculous one has got to be: PLEASE DON’T FORCE MY DOORS OPEN. Perhaps I’m the only person in the whole campus to read this warning! But, it’s better to evaluate them consciously (as pesky as they are) than to be controlled by them unconsciously.
At Narita airport, the immigration station, there’s a hilariously oversized banner reading: INTERNATIONAL PEOPLE, FOLLOW THE RULES!!! (in Japanese, of course). Some hero must have thought this would stop people from trying to bring in drugs or guns.
I could go on forever with these sorts of examples. It seems like in the time it takes to read one of these ridiculous signs, someone installs ten more signs in a row!
In Choufu city, there’s a paved road running along the banks of the Tama river. One day in summer, around sundown, I was walking with some of my friends. Many other people were also out for a stroll. A man and a woman were jogging. We could see endless rows of hills in the distance. I felt freed from my worries, freed from the weight of my anxieties at last.
But even here, there were signs, in letters over a meter high, saying, DON’T RUN FAST HERE, BE CAREFUL OF PEOPLE AROUND YOU. Can’t we call an end to this nonsense? Of course one should be careful about people around one! But as I’ve said before, the signs aren’t meant to be read, or taken literally. . .they exist to make us want more signs! They exist to replace critical thought and self-responsibility, and, little by little, instill a deep craving in our bodies for signs and slogans to tell us what to do at all times.
At the Chofu station coin lockers, there’s a sign reading PLEASE CHECK YOUR BELONGINGS ONE MORE TIME. What does that even mean?!? Oh – I get it: Maybe people put their stuff in one locker but take the key from the adjoining locker. Wait, that doesn’t make sense. Hm. Well, maybe. . . . maybe they have so much stuff that they have to use two lockers? And then they take the key for one locker, and leave, while leaving the other locker unlocked? That’s probably it.
At the newly-renovated Sangawa station men’s bathroom, there’s a sign by each urinal: TAKE ONE STEP CLOSER, PLEASE. Well, that’s easy to understand: that’s to stop urine from splattering on the floor. It’s the OTHER sign that’s ALSO pasted above each urinal that I don’t get: LET’S USE THE RESTROOM CLEANLY TO EACH OTHER. “To each other”?!? Maybe it means to consider the next person to use the urinal when you’re using it? Or does ‘to each other’ include the person before you, who used the urinal improperly? If so, that’s quite a strong message!
At the JR Bakurochou station, there’s a long escalator, and on both sides, there are signs posted at regular intervals, reading BETWEEN THE ESCALATOR HANDRAIL AND THE WALL, THERE IS A SMALL GAP. PLEASE DON’T DROP YOUR TICKET IN THIS GAP.
Just by reading this sign, I am forced to imagine the entire absurd useless sequence of events: I have to imagine customers (how many? One? Three? Half a dozen?) with no common sense, dropping their tickets in the tiny gap. Then I have to imagine the train-station employees stopping the escalator, putting up safety cones, and searching under the escalator until they find it. Then I have to imagine them finally getting fed up and complaining to the station chief, and thus the creation of these signs. How exhausting to even imagine it. . . It’s no wonder no one reads them!
One time I made the mistake of leaving the house with my glasses on, which allowed me to accidentally notice many far-away slogans, forcing me to imagine even more and more of these ridiculous chains of events! I got sucked into them, staring vacantly into the distance. . . I almost was unable to reach my destination!
My own fault, I suppose.
THE JAPANESE-VIENNESE SCHOOL FLOODED WITH SLOGANS
But the fact is, we people with “slogan neurosis” are even more of a minority in this country than people with “cultural noise neurosis.” In a world where we’re all surrounded and suffocated by slogans such as FASTEN YOUR SEATBELTS or DONATE BLOOD PLEASE or THIS BLOCK IS WATCHED BY THE NEIGHBORHOOD ANTI-CRIME PATROL or LET’S NOT FORGET TO LEND A HAND or LET’S MAKE THIS A KIND, INTIMATE NEIGHBORHOOD, almost no one questions it, let alone suffers from the overwhelming amounts of it.
The situation is particularly bad in schools. There’s almost no teachers left who can even imagine doubting the slogan-based teaching methods. They line the children up and bombard them with loudspeaker announcement after announcement with a single-minded fierceness. They pickle the children with their slogans! By the time the children are “educated”, they turn into adults who feel very anxious or uneasy if they’re NOT surrounded by signs: warnings, be careful’s, advice, prohibitions, etc.
My son went to the experimental Meisei school here in Japan, then to Vienna for a year to study (four months at a Japanese-Viennese school, and a further eight months at an American English International School). I confess I was very curious about what effect these various educational environments would have on him!
The Meisei school was dedicated to encouraging freedom of thought and individuality in the children. So, there are none of the usual behavior management slogans that crawl on most school walls, bathrooms, halls, and gardens like so many cockroaches. No “PLEASE OBEY THE XXXX” or “PLEASE STOP DOING YYY.”
Somehow, just by removing these nuisances, the atmosphere of the place seems very un-Japanese. . . .is that really what “Japanese-ness” has been reduced to?
On the other hand, when I went to visit the Japanese-Viennese school, I was taken aback: they had EVEN MORE of the management slogan posters than in Japan! The irony! As if they were trying to protect the children from the foreign European cultures, they tried to cram every single slogan into one tiny room. The room was called, of course, The Japanese Culture Center! You couldn’t set one foot inside the halls without seeing some vertical banners saying something like this:
JUST BY HOLDING HANDS, WE CAN BRING SMILES TO THE WHOLE WORLD
And these three, written in huge letters:
THIS WEEK’S GOAL: GREET OTHERS PLEASANTLY WITHOUT SHYNESS!
LET’S ALL TRY TO BE ON TIME!
LET’S BALANCE OUR STUDY WITH PHYSICAL EXERCISE!
And another example: on the blackboard of my junior-high-aged son’s classroom:
OUR SLOGAN: EDUCATION TO DEVELOP OUR DREAMS!
THIS SCHOOL MAKES LEARNING FUN!
A SPUNKY SCHOOL FOR US!
OUR FUNDAMENTAL MISSION:
ONE: CONSIDERATE CHILDREN
TWO: STRONG HEALTHY CHILDREN
THREE: THOUGHTFUL CHILDREN
FOUR: CHILDREN THAT WON’T LEAVE A TASK HALF-DONE
FIVE: CHILDREN WITH THEIR EYES ON THE WORLD
Of course, the blackboard already had a lot of other slogans crammed in the corners : FREEDOM, COOPERATION, LIVELINESS and mysteriously, in English, PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT.
It was as if there was a bit of “concentrated Japan” floating in the absolutely non-Japanese atmosphere of Vienna.
One day, my son – already 14 years old – brought home the following SAFETY FIRST! Pamphlet from school.
SAFETY WHEN WALKING ON THE STREET:
Make sure to stay on the sidewalk!
Make sure to check both ways before crossing!
Don’t go in parking lots!
Please be safe when riding your bicycle!
If you see someone you know, greet them cheerfully!
If you don’t know them, don’t stop!
SAFETY WHEN RIDING CARS OR BUSES
Don’t stand up or yell!
Don’t annoy those around you!
Don’t play with the doors!
SAFETY WHEN RIDING THE SCHOOLBUS
Say hello to the driver cheerfully!
Fasten your seat-belts!
Don’t stand or yell!
Don’t eat or drink on the bus!
Remember where your stop is!
Don’t do anything else bad!
The pamphlet then went into even greater detail:
Only cross in the crosswalks!
Check both ways before crossing!
Greet people cheerfully!
Don’t do anything that people might think is dangerous!
Treat the bus seats and items carefully! And so on.
A whole page of these stock phrases, fluttering by like zero gravity.
I think the purpose is not bus safety – the purpose is creating the type of children that find this level of BS normal or even trustworthy. Well, there’s nothing I can do about that. That’s what people demand of schools nowadays! That’s how we make Japanese people Japanese. By the time they grow up, they won’t find anything absurd, or petty, or infantalizing about “grown up” signs like THROW YOUR TRASH IN THE TRASH BIN or OBEY THE TRAFFIC SIGNALS or DON’T BRING DANGEROUS THINGS IN THE PARK.
WE GRATEFULLY THANK YOU FOR USING THE KICHIJOJI BRANCH ONCE AGAIN!
It’s not merely that I hate slogans. What really causes problems is that I hate the Japanese-y way that people use the Japanese language. Especially the standardized, robotic politeness – it causes me actual bodily pain!
When I’m working from home, I sometimes get a call. I know it’s not from anybody I want to talk to, because I’ve already told all my friends not to call me at home (I consider it a violation of my private space). But there it was, ringing, so I had to answer it.
“This is Mizuho Bank, Kichijoji branch respectfully calling. Thank you for honorably using our branch for your banking needs! Is this the honorable Nakajima residence?”
“Honorable Mr. Nakajima, I’m sorry to bother you, but are you the head of the household?”
“Are you the honorable husband of the household? Once again, thank you for honorably using Kichijoji branch for all your banking needs. Today, I humbly would like to present a proposal, which is why I have humbly telephoned your honorable residence.”
“The fact of the matter is, I’d humbly like to make you aware of a new form of high-interest account which . . .”
Irritated, I cut him off by saying, “I have no interest in this!” and hung up. Partially because of the cumulative rage built up by who-knows-how-many of these phone calls, but mostly because, as I just mentioned, the insufferable, robotic politeness which runs in direct contradiction to the rudeness of the actual content of the message.
It doesn’t matter who calls me, it’s always the same phrases: “Once again, thank you for honorably using Kichijoji branch for all your banking needs.” I suppose that’s part of their training.
In the time it takes for me to use the ticket machine for the shinkansen, the machine yells at me at least ten fucking times, THANK YOU FOR HONORABLY USING OUR HUMBLE SHINKANSEN SERVICE WE ARE GRATEFUL HONORED CUSTOMER! I absolutely have had it up to here with this phenomenon! It’s a stereotyped politeness with no informational content whatsoever. In department stores and restaurants too, it’s bad enough that they play tapes, but every meaningful sentence has to be accompanied by a stereotyped formal phrase of equal or greater length: THANK YOU FOR HONORABLY USING OUR HUMBLE XXXXX STORE!
And what’s more, many of these announcements are recorded in a cloying, too-sweet voice, like someone trying to coax a cat. More and more, it seems as if the politeness and the anxiety are forming an alliance against me!
My wise readers might by now have realized that it is the very machine-like, rote nature of our business-related language that makes it easy to adjust to actual pre-recorded tapes and announcements. But that doesn’t make the phenomenon natural or forgivable! If anything, my “Mechanical-noise neurosis” stems from the fact that we flesh-and-blood humans are nowadays being raised to imitate the speaking style of the tape machines!!
And this insidious problem is not limited to words, either. The whole “extreme politeness” phenomenon makes a mockery of the individuality of the speaker at the same time that it totally ignores the individuality of the listener. As far as I can tell, far from being ‘tradition’, it’s the most UN-natural thing in the world! The young women working in department stores and banks . . . when they are on their lunch break , they sound absolutely different! When talking to their co-workers, they use a way of speaking and a tone of voice which is natural for them. (when I was a student, one time I worked part-time in a department store, and that’s how I know this). The metamorphosis is so complete, it’s a gut-wrenching thing to watch.
In the West, the manners of sales-girls and bank tellers is less affected. Even at Macdonald’s, the staff don’t have to be as rigid and long-winded as their Japanese counterparts, who say HONORABLE WELCOME! WHEN YOU DECIDE, PLEASE BE SO KIND AS TO LET US KNOW. PLEASE WAIT A MOMENT!
As for Japanese bank tellers, it doesn’t matter what unreasonable demands the customer makes, or how rude he is – they have to respond to any and all treatment with the same wan smile and deferential attitude, to the last drop of their endurance. Their Western counterparts are free to adjust their own attitude in response to the customer’s: they can be as blunt or curt as the situation demands. It’s an altogether more human policy. And when a regular customer comes in, they can greet him or her with informal friendliness, and even make small talk!!
As you can see, I prefer the Western attitude towards customer service, but it’s not merely an issue of personal taste. In Western countries, you absolutely won’t find this nationwide blanket of loudspeaker announcements, and that’s not personal taste, that’s a fact.
In my country, customer-service people are expected to lose their capacity to show emotion. If anything, they’re expected to transform into deferential robots. If you go to any bank, you can hear for yourself that the young woman at the counter talks exactly like the pre-recorded tape at the self-service ATM machine. This “the more mechanical the better” ideal of customer service is probably one of the main culprits of the whole CULTURAL NOISE phenomenon: If we didn’t expect our clerks to talk like machines, then we wouldn’t demand machines that talk in the first place!
Japanese people who have been born and raised in such an environment grow up to expect and even demand this. The mechanical language and the over-politeness, functions just like the slogans, the SOUNDS, and the obsessive signage: we feel anxious and even uneasy without them. I’ll discuss this in more detail in the following section.
STANDARDIZED AND MACHINELIKE, UN-EMOTIONAL SPEECH
The following incident occurred when I gave a lecture at Kyoto’s Bukyou University.
A few days after I returned to Tokyo, I received this letter from Bukyou:
DEAR AND HONORED PROFESSOR,
Please allow us to humbly state that it was our honor to have the honorable opportunity to hear your honorable lecture. Every time you honor our humble educational center with your unforgettable words, you bring us honor and more honor. Allow us to humbly state that the contents of your honorable lecture were sublime and we humbly owe you a huge debt of gratitude. Anytime you honorably wish to honorably return and impart more of your honorable wisdom, please don’t hesitate to honorably let us know. Please allow us to humbly state that we have humbly presented your honorarium fee to your honorable bank account. We wish you the best of luck in your future honorable endeavors, and anxiously await further guidance, should you wish to honorably bestow it upon us. Please look favorably upon our humble educational center.
Please accept our humble and most sincere wishes for good luck in your honorable and great career, as well as our humble and most sincere wishes for your continued good health.
The respectful language aside, I get this exact same letter every time I go there. As does everyone else who guest-lectures there. I don’t know if it gets on their nerves as much as it gets on mine. But to me, it’s a form letter, all the worse for pretending to not be one.
But the majority of Japanese don’t react like I do to this kind of pre-formatted polite language. They prefer their thank-you letters to be superficial and devoid of content. It’s just the same as the loudspeaker announcements that blare THANK YOU VERY MUCH : they understand the sentiments without really thinking about the content. Just like the PLEASE DON’T CROWD ONTO THE TRAINS, AS IT IS DANGEROUS warnings which play all day on the station platforms. People are bathed in these announcements every morning but don’t think about it one way or the other.
Now, let me return to my story about the annoying phone call from Mizuho bank, Kichijoji branch. Seeing as how I was too wound-up to return to work, I decided to use the time to call the branch manager directly. I said, “I’d like to complain about the attitude of the staffer who called me.”
“What’s the matter? Was he rude, sir?”
(Oh, that’s right: in this country, only insufficient politeness is considered grounds for complaint)
“No, he was a nuisance to me because his choice of words was TOO polite.”
“See, I work from home. If he’s going to interrupt my labor, he should come right to the point rather than waste time with phrases like WE GRATEFULLY THANK YOU FOR USING THE KICHIJOJI BRANCH ONCE AGAIN! And other such clichés, again and again and again. Won’t you please make him stop? Can you explain to me how that is supposed to make it more sincere? If anything it strikes me as inginburei ( 慇懃無礼：polite on the surface but actually contemptuous; offensively obsequious)”
“*sighs* I’m very sorry we interrupted your work.”
And that was about the end of the call! The branch manager didn’t understand – make that didn’t WANT to understand – what I was talking about. Perhaps I should have apologized for speaking so rashly. I merely meant to indicate that if they really want to show respect for me, personally, as a customer, then they should show this by taking my personal preferences into account. Of course there’s many different kinds of regular customers, and they all have their own ways of talking. Perhaps some of them like the excessive politeness. Perhaps for some of them it doesn’t cause unease and resentment.
So I’m not asking you to change your whole speech for everybody. Just, if you call me, get to the point like so: THIS IS MIZUHO BANK, KICHIJOJI BARNCH. IS NAKAJIMA HOME? I WOULD LIKE TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT A NEW HIGH-INTEREST ACCOUNT.
Real respect means actually taking the time to learn the individual speaking styles individual customers prefer.
However, I was not able to actually tell him that on the phone. As a Japanese, I know how extreme – how violent – such a demand would sound. Most Japanese have been raised with pre-formatted speech to the extent that it’s soaked clear down to their bones. To them, having to deal with the individual speaking style of each customer would be the most difficult thing in the world.
That’s why the current rule exists: “be so polite that none of the many personality types could possibly find anything to object to.” In other words, ‘idiotic politeness.” The ultimate aim is not to actually respect the customer – if anything, it’s just self-defense measure. That’s why I find it so discomforting.
Another example: the asinine messages one gets when the phone lines are down: For instance, NHK (telephone company’s) message: THIS IS NHK. WE HUMBLY THANK YOU FOR YOUR COOPERATION EVERY DAY. YOU ARE NOW USING OUR HUMBLE TELEPHONE, HOWEVER AT THIS TIME WE CAN NOT ACCOMMODATE YOUR WISHES TO BE CONNECTED TO THE HONORABLE PERSON ON THE OTHER END. WE ARE TERRIBLY SORRY ABOUT THIS. WE HUMBLY BEG YOU TO HONORABLY TRY YOUR CALL AGAIN SOMETIME BETWEEN NINE AND TEN O’CLOCK.
All I wanted to know is, what time will the phones be on again! But instead, because of the politeness-speak, I have to wait a full thirty seconds to hear a two second message!
WHAT, HE’S OBJECTING TO GREETINGS TOO, NOW?!?
I’m aware that my hyper-sensitivity to the clichés of politeness is, out of all my hyper-sensitivities, the one least likely to elicit any sympathy in Japan!! The majority of people like to be thanked for anything and everything, over and over again, even if it’s just a tape. But if they don’t get an arigatou gozaimasu, they are hopping mad. If the conductor makes an announcement of the train’s schedule but omits such formalities as THANK YOU ONCE AGAIN FOR CHOOSING SUCH-AND-SUCH TRAIN LINES, people will feel disrespected. To the average Japanese, service-industry people are expected to behave like slaves: in their choice of words, they should humble themselves as low as possible and exalt the customer as much as possible. That is what “service” means. People take this at face value: that they are valued, that they can feel safe and relax at this store.
According to a Western economist, Japanese consumers are treated badly by Japan’s economic policies. Perhaps that’s true, but it’s also true that Japanese consumers have entirely different expectations than their Western counterparts. Japanese place less emphasis on things like “whether the goods are overpriced” or “are they good quality?” . . .instead we mainly care about “Is the service attitude correct and sincere?” We constantly complain to each other, saying things like, “That train-station worker’s choice of words was wrong!” or “That bank teller lacks proper knowledge of politeness-speak!” So rather than concentrating on more choices for consumers or lower prices, the stores exhaust all their energy on raising their politeness levels to the point where no one can possibly find anything to object to.
A particularly unbearable example is when the train stops due to some sort of accident. Instead of explaining the cause of the accident, they say WE ARE DREADFULLY SORRY TO CAUSE A NUISANCE FOR THE HONORABLE CUSTOMERS ESPECIALLY AT THIS BUSY TIME. PLEASE FORGIVE US. ACCEPT OUR SINCERE APOLOGIES!! On top of being stuck, we are now assaulted on all sides by these ceaseless announcements, buffeting our heads as they whirl through the air above us. Well, I’m sure my fellow passengers are perfectly satisfied!
It’s the same way with the ceaseless signage that we all must swim through when we leave our houses. Most people have come to need the signs – without them they don’t feel comfortable. The examples are too numerous to mention. So I’ll just do this one:
At the Mita station, when a train pulls to a stop, the loudspeaker blares, A TRAIN BOUND FOR WEST NAKAJIMA HAS ARRIVED AT NUMBER THREE PLATOFORM. PLEASE WAIT FOR THE TRAIN DOORS TO OPEN. PLEASE BE CAREFUL OF THE GAP BETWEEN THE PLATFORM AAND THE TRAIN DOORS. And other such too-obvious warnings are broadcast one after the other. One day I stood watch and this is what I found: This tape is played once every two minutes all day. The people entering the train show not the slightest concern for the gap between the platform and the doors. Perhaps because they’ve been so reassured by the tape? In any case, people have heard this tape so many times that it is regarded like a gust of wind, a cloud in the sky, a drop of rain: a natural sign, which has nothing to do with them and yet constitutes their entire world. Something about which they can’t do anything.
This is true of all stations, especially the Narita Airport Express stations. When it’s time for the train to leave, AFTER everyone is on board, they play the following announcement: HONORABLE RIDERS, PLEASE WAIT ANOTHER FEW SECONDS FOR THE TRAIN TO START MOVING. This drives me up the wall!!!
In the Keio Train stations, their ticket machines play this tape: PLEASE WAIT, YOUR TICKET WILL COME OUT SHORTLY. Japanese people, having put money in the machine, can’t wait even the three seconds for their ticket! They need some kind of official sign to reassure them, or they get nervous!
In the cash machines at banks, too, there is a continuously-looping tape which says WELCOME! THANK YOU FOR SHOPPING WITH US AGAIN TODAY! WELCOME! THANK YOU FOR SHOPPING WITH US AGAIN TODAY! WELCOME! THANK YOU FOR SHOPPING WITH US AGAIN TODAY! WELCOME! THANK YOU FOR SHOPPING WITH US AGAIN TODAY!
Again, people have come to need this to feel safe. If they didn’t hear it, they would think, “Oh, the machine must be broken!” and break out in a sweat. (Viennese bank machines, on the other hand, are dreadfully slow to use, but they have no taped announcements whatsoever).
A few years ago, banks and post offices started using a “take-a-number” system, complete with automated loudspeakers that would say, COULD THE OWNER OF NUMBER SUCH-AND-SUCH PLEASE PROCEED TO THE FRONT WINDOW NOW? Apparently just displaying the current number on the LCD display was not enough to satisfy the neurotic and insecure Japanese customers’ obsessive desire for announcements. (in Vienna, the take-a-number systems only used LCDs, not tapes).
Even our language-instruction tapes have announcements! When the tape runs out, a voice tells us to turn the tape over. And the voice on the tape is invariably a grating, un-naturally shrill, “cute” voice which goes poorly with the actual contents of the textbook. A little cuteness never hurt anyone, of course, but with a textbook, one has to replay the same voice over and over, lord-knows-how-many-times as one studies, so even a small irritation can grow and grow until you are at the brink of violence! (as far as I know, there are no Western tapes-accompanying-a-textbook which have this problem)
But I suppose that’s what we Japanese crave and long for: to be bathed in limitless signs and warnings from cradle ‘til grave. I guess you must understand this by now. And the whole service industry, and the people in it, are accomplices in this conspiracy. It’s so omnipresent that it seems natural.
WHY CAN’T WE ONLY HAVE WARNINGS ABOUT APPROPRIATE THINGS?
This next example has a very deep flavor to it! One time I was drinking a bar near the University.
There was a drunk young couple next to me, and I could hear their loud conversation. The young woman was complaining: “That time, it was majorly snowing, and yet the fire department kept saying ‘THIS WEEK IS SUMMER FIRE PREVENTION WEEK’. What’s up with that? It was snowing right in front of their eyes! They should have been saying, ‘IT’S SNOWING, PLEASE WATCH OUT SO YOU DON’T FALL DOWN!’ I mean, what were they thinking? It was so totally snowing! And yet they kept saying. . . .”
At first, I thought, “Well! This is exactly what I’ve been all along hoping that someone would say!” But upon further consideration, I realized that the young lady was saying the OPPOSITE of what I’d hoped: She would never object to the warnings on escalators. Her only objection was that the constant fire department announcements were the WRONG KIND OF announcements. She still wants to be bathed in announcements.
Aha! I thought, feeling like Earnest Satow or Erwin von Balz – or one of the other foreigners who first “discovered“ Japan at the beginning of the Meiji period. “Wow! I’ve discovered some really interesting people! Their logic is so unusual! I can’t wait to tell people in my home country about this!“
I WORRY ABOUT HOW TO TEACH JAPANESE WHAT “APPROPRIATE” MEANS
Recently, I was sent a copy of the magazine Japanese Language Monthly, which contained an interview I did with respected teacher Haruhara Kenichirou. This interview was on a topic I am very interested in: teaching Japanese to foreigners. Mr. Haruhara said that he wanted to try to teach his students natural Japanese, but this of course was a catch-22: the more natural it was, the more ambiguous and elusive it became for the students.
He had to teach them never to speak anything but ritualistic clichés to strangers. To erase their desire to make lively or individualistic conversation. To only ask the most clichéd questions, and to give only the proper answers, even if they were not the truth. The more “natural”, the more “Japanese” his lessons became, the less the students could comprehend.
The students would complain that, outside of class, they would get the same ritualized questions again and again: “Where are you studying Japanese?” “Why are you interested in Japan?” and other such safe but harmless questions. And they would never get asked anything else! And after the clichés had run dry, the conversation would stop altogether. In other words, the cliché questions ultimately took the place of anything that could be considered communication.
Haruhara said that Japanese, who have very little direct contact with other cultures, often ask him: “I’m going to such-and-such a country. What should I avoid talking about ?” or “I’m dating a person from such-and-such country – what subjects should I be careful of?” They saw language primarily as a means of self-defense. They wanted to talk like the boring speeches of Japanese overseas diplomats!
Allow me to supplement Haruhara’s commentary in my own way: Learning “proper” Japanese is another way of saying, learning “public discourse.” Colorless, invisible, ritualized phrases devoid of individuality. The ultimate aim is to speak at all times in a manner guaranteed not to surprise or offend anyone, even a total stranger. Language which hides your true self even as it prevents you from asking your partner about his or hers. This is the “true” essence of Japanese language, regardless of what is written in textbooks.
Grammar is not the issue. . . Even such questions as “What school did you go to?” or “What company do you work for?” – spoken with perfect grammar – mark the asker as a novice of Japanese. Because for many people these questions are too personal for a stranger to ask. Of course, it depends on who you’re talking to!
But for some Japanese, even questions like “What city do you live in?” are “outside the cliché zone” and thus cause surprise and discomfort. And of course if the foreigner is asked, “What do you think of life in Japan?”, answering at length is not “correct Japanese.” The “correct” answer has nothing to do with grammar. Once again, the “correct” answer is to reply to the cliché with another cliché, hopefully a short one. The true ‘master’ of Japanese would reply simply: “I get along somehow!”
Even if the foreigner is asked a provocative question such as, “When you were young, did you fight with your parents a lot?” the “correct” answer is not “Yes” or “No”, but “I really don’t remember.”
The trick is to neither ask nor answer in a direct fashion. Even if you are in the right, you should say “Excuse me!” and assume an apologetic stance. And even if the other person is wrong, you should not blame them. If the other person’s explanations are too ambiguous, it’s not “correct” to keep asking them “Why? Why?” and trying to pin down their meaning.
Of course I’m not saying that these rules are always true at all times! Like anywhere else, correct behavior depends on the person and the situation. But if you don’t know, you’d better err on the side of caution. Going over “the cliché line” will mark you as a gaijin! In other words, “correct” or “native-level” Japanese is not just a matter of grammar or listening comprehension. A crucial skill is being able to read the vibes of a given situation and intuitively understand how far one can go beyond clichés into the realm of conversation, without causing surprise or discomfort.
And in any case, none of their very passionate arguments ever overflows the classrooms and affects anyone of the MASSES No matter how much they may sigh, wring their hands, and write their little essays, they still haven't figured out the answer is: to FIGHT. If they really think that "Musical education is 100% impossible these days!" then they should either go on strike until the education system is reformed, or they should quit their jobs! Have some dignity, people!
While reading all those "explaining the dark side of Japan" books I posted about a while back, I noticed that most of the authors used really fucked-up, depressing kotowaza (old sayings) to show the traditional roots of self-defeating Japanese behaviors. These kotowaza are important because they are the only things that directly express deep cultural assumptions that are usually hidden. Also they're hilarious.
Of course, all cultures have sexist/racist/just plain rude old sayings. Children should be seen and not heard! And not all "old sayings" are actually indicative of how most people in the culture feel ("If she's old enough to bleed, she's old enough to breed."). So, keeping that in mind. . . .
mukoumizu no kanshakumochi
truly women are reckless and hot-tempered
tsuma wa shita yori erabubeshi, tomo wa ue yori erabu beshi
Choose a wife from a lower station in life, and friends from a higher station in life.
kawaii ko wa bou de sodateyo
spare the rod and spoil the child (lit.: raise your beloved child with a stick)
Onna sannin yoreba kashimashii
wherever three women gather it is noisy (this is a pun based on the kanji for noisy, which consists of , literally, three women)
yuujo no makoto to tamago no shikaku wa nai
a sincere whore no more exists than does a square egg
[おんなのちえはさるじえ, onna no chie wa sarujie] a woman’s wisdom is monkey wisdom
nyoubo to kutsu wa furui ga ii
wives and shoes are better when old (i.e.once they have been "broken in")
compare to . . .
nyoubo to tatami wa atarashii ga ii
wives and tatami mats are better when new (i.e.: they are more attractive)
nakanu neko wa nezumi o toru
the cat that does not cry catches mice
Kiji mo nakazuba utaremai
the pheasant that keeps its mouth shut is least likely to get shot
Iwanu ga hana
lit: Not-speaking is the flower. (i.e. some things are better left unsaid;
Silence is golden)
Yabu wo tsutsuite hebi wo dasu
Poke around in a bush and a snake will come out.
wazawai wa kuchi yori kitaru
misfortune comes from the mouth (i.e.: the words we speak, which cannot be taken back once spoken, cause great harm)
waratte sonshita mono nashi
there is no loss to be had by laughing (i.e. better to laugh since complaining might cause offense)
mimi tookereba inochi nagashi
a deaf person lives long (since they don't hear what they're not supposed to)
tori o nakazuba uraremaji
there is safety in silence
kao ga kokoro no kagami
the face is the mirror of the heart (so the average Japanese person keeps a calm face) (interesting and depressing because other cultures, like (at the risk of offending folks) Mediterranean cultures believe the same exact thing, but draw the exact opposite conclusion: the face is the mirror of the heart SO one should accentuate one's speech with dramatic facial expressions) The Japanese interpretation of this idiom is not just colder but much more paranoid: the heart is something you DON'T want people to see.
when two quarrel, both are in the wrong
aite no nai kenka wa dekinu
you cannot have a fight alone
These last two are both tied to the concept of "wa". Usually "WA" is translated as "harmony" but as you can see – wa really means "blame the girl who got punched for shattering the harmony". Wa makes no distinctions between perpetrator and victim.
GENERAL HATRED / BAD REPUTATION
Kaeru no ko wa kaeru
A frog's son is still a frog
motoki ni masaru uraki nashi
no branch surpasses the trunk; no fountain can rise higher than its source
Binbou nin no ko takusan
The poor have a lot of children
Matsudai no haji!
Samurai insult: “the shame till the last generation of the IE”
mi wa ichidai, na wa matsudai
life is for one generation, a good name is forever
nikumarekko yo ni habakaru
the world shuns a hated child (n.b.: but such children often grow up into people with strong personalities, for better or worse)
nikumarekko yo ni habikoru
a hated child will run wild through the world (n.b.: he may therefore be successful and live a long life, though often becoming arrogant in the process)
toshiyori ni hiyamizu:
“like cold water drunk by an elderly person”.
Japanese believe that drinking cold water makes olds cramp up and get sick.
This expression means, “Old folks should not try to have an active life or go out and have fun since they will only get hurt and it’s their own fault.”
DON’T BE DIFFERENT
Kusai mono ni futa
To put a lid on something that stinks (mentally or physically handicapped family member, for instance. Or one's own sexual abuse, domestic violence situation. Remember what I said about wa?)
nou aru taka tsume o kakusu
the capable hawk hides his claws; a talented person is modest
deru kui ga utareru
don’t make waves; don’t rock the boat, (lit.: the protruding peg gets pounded down) Used to indicate that being distinct, different, or obvious is not a good thing.
Most gaijin think that this means specifically THEM: people who are different looking or have an obviously different lifestyle. But actually, it's even more fucked: "Deru kui" traditionally refers to regular-looking people, ethnic Japanese people, who are doing socially acceptable jobs . . . . but they do the jobs BETTER or FASTER than their co-workers, which makes the co-workers jealous. That's it.
Yanagi ni kaze.
A will before the wind. (i.e. Follow the path of least resistance.)
Sato ni haitte ha sato ni shitagae
Literal: Entering the village, obey the village.
U wo mane suru karasu mizu ni oboreru.
“The crow that mimics a cormorant is drowned.”
ichijou no ya wa orubeku, juujou wa orubekarazu
in union there is strength (lit.: one arrow may break, but ten will not)
kazu ookereba, anzen nari
there is safety in numbers
akashingo, minna de watareba kowakunai
“red light: if we all cross together we have nothing to fear.” Apparently this one is used by drunk beuracrats behaving badly.
kaze ni mukatte tsuba suru
He who spits against the winds spits in his own face
DON’T TAKE RISKS
korobanu saki no tsue
taking all necessary precautions (lit.: a walking stick before you fall)
Hitomishiri wo suru
lit: Look at people and know.
Wait and see what everyone else thinks.
abunai koto wa kega no uchi
lit.: dangerous things invite wounds
homerareru yori soshirareru
rather than being praised, avoid being slandered
According to the book INSIDE THE KAISHA, this belief motivates most of Japanese decision making. For instance, if you are working at any organization (from a rock band to a major corporation), and you notice a faster, better way to do things, you think to yourself "If i try it the new way and fuck up, I will never in a million years be forgiven for deviating from the path. But even if my new way is a huge success, I will not really get a lot of credit or praise for it." That's why Japanese society is so slow to correct its faults: there is no incentive to innovate.
minu ga hana
not to see is a flower (i.e. ignorance is bliss)
mi no hodo o shire
literally; know the boundaries of your own body (i.e. know your limits)
ishibashi o tataite wataru
cross a stone bridge by tapping on it (i.e. be very cautious, to; be doubly cautious)
nen niwa nen o ire
one cannot be too careful
BE A GOOD SLAVE
ryouba wa benei o mite yuku
a good horse runs by watching the shadow of the whip (i.e.: the horse needs only the slightest instruction as to what to do)
(a smart person will know what to do even with very little instruction)
ichi o kiite, juu o shiru
a word to the wise is sufficient (lit.: hearing one and knowing ten)
Again according to INSIDE THE KAISHA, this (and not sheer stubbornness) is why most salarimen work such long hours: if the boss hints that maybe he wants to know about minerals for tomorrow's meeting, it's the responsibility of his staff to prepare 100 reports on every concievable type of mineral, regardless of if that's what the boss actually wanted. Because to just ASK him would be unbearably rude.
slender and long (describes a long and frugal life)
mi o koroshite jin o nasu
lit : a candle lights others and consumes itself (i.e. sacrifice one’s life to do good)
enryou hidaruishi, date samushi
lit.: being reserved makes one hungry, and being a showoff makes one cold
nagaiki sureba haji ooshi
if you live a long life, you will have much to be ashamed of
kerai o naraneba, kerai o tsukaenu
lit.: you cannot use a retainer unless you have been a retainer (i.e. by obeying we learn to command)
asobi-nin ni hima nashi
pleasure seekers have no leisure (their time is consumed by all their activities)
Ishi no ue nimo sannen
Lit: Sitting on a stone for three years. (i.e. endure a shitty job or terrible athletics club or general peer hazing for three years, THEN decide if you like it or not)
naranu kannin suru ga kannin
to endure what is cannot be endured is true endurance (i.e.: bearing what is unbearable is true forbearance)
first distress, later pleasure
“Silent worms dig holes in the walls.”
Anyone know the Japanese for this one?
kabe ni mimi ari, shouji ni me ari
the walls have ears and the paper screens [shouji] have eyes.
shinin ni kuchi nashi
a dead person has no mouth
hiru niwa me ari, yori niwa mimi ari
the day has eyes, the night has ears
magaraneba yo ga watarenu
unless you are crooked, you cannot get along in the world
lit.: if defeated, you are a traitor (i/e/ history goes to the victors)
rika no kanmuri o tadasazu
lit.: do not adjust your tiara while under a peach tree (i.e.: do nothing suspicious when you might be seen by others)
lit.: the superior wins, the inferior fails (i.e. survival of the fittest)
Shiranu ga hotoke.
Lit: Not knowing is Buddha. (i.e. Ignorance is bliss. / What you don’t know can't hurt you)
Soron sansei, kakuron hantai
in general, yes. In this case, no. (the core of the so-called "situational morality" of the Japanese)
Makeru Ga Kachi
Sometimes the best gain is to lose
fuku wa uchi, oni wa soto
in with fortune, out with demons (said on the festival Setsubun)
It's just a kid's game, but that didn't stop me from getting into a huge fight with my girlfriend over the issue of :"Is childhood really the best time to teach people to hate outsiders?"
She was like, "No, the outsiders are demons, so that's ok. And we try to bring good luck inside!" I was like, "Yeah, exactly! Can you really not see why that might push a button on outsiders like me?"
inochi no sentaku
lit.: laundering of life (a very feudal way of referring to recreation, fun. . .you know. . .WHAT LIFE IS SUPPOSED TO BE) Just give the peasants enough recreation so they don't rebel, and then return them to the fields. . .
yoitewa honshou o arawasu
when drunk people reveal their true selves
Tabi no haji wa kakisute
on a journey, cast off shame (I assume this is the one said by businessmen going on sex tours in Thailand?)
Shinto mekkyaku sureba hi mo mata suzushi
clear your mind of mundane thoughts and you will find even fire cool.
Tenjo tenga yuiga dokuson
in heaven and in earth, only I am lord.
What does that even mean??
Mukashi no joushiki wa ima no doutoku
Better a dead tree on a mountaintop than no tree at all. Imagine all the faces of the kids that heard THAT one.
JUST PLAIN GROSS
rengi de hara kiru
lit.: commit harakiri with a pestle (i.e. do something in an ineffective way)
ikimi wa shi ni mi
to live is to die (lit.: a living body is a dying body)
for a huge dictionary of kotowaza (not all depressing) go here (all in japanese, I'm afraid. . . .)
OK – here is about 100 songs where ODB had one verse, edited down to JUST his verses. The kids probably have a name for this sort of thing.
This includes all the Wu albums, but it's mostly one-off random collabos. Part two also has the whole Osirus mixtape edited down. Honestly man that Osirus was kind of a rip-off. If you only have 8 bars of ODB, don't copy and paste it until the song is 3 minutes.
Main points of the book:
1) Techniques that were invented in the far-flung colonies by Japanese yakuza and criminals then got copied and institutionalized by the “legitimate” Japanese colonial governments, and then finally got implemented in mainland Japan during the war years. From criminal to “legitimate businessman” to official government policy.
2) Most of the "sophisticated, modern" cultural trends of Tokyo in the `20s and `30s actually started in the very rural colonies. And from the periphery of the empire they spread to the center.
- Gangster capitalism
- Industrialized prostitution (karayuki to ianfu to jappayuki)
- Japanese-style Feminism
- Fascism and centrally planned war economy
- Grotesque as entertainment (particularly war porn and drugs)
3) The whole Japanese empire would not have been possible without organized crime laying the foundation and, in some cases, providing the capital for running entire nations' puppet governments.
4) Having an empire isn't as simple as just saying, "OK, I killed your army, now all your stuff belongs to me!". In Taiwan, Japan took over without a shot, but they had to find a way to turn an expensive military occupation and giant administrative staff into a profitable colony. And in Korea and Manchuria, Japan spent DECADES in a state of SEMI colonization. . . they could trade, they had some cops there to "protect the traders", but they didn't own the country outright. So how to turn semi-colonization into REAL colonization? BUSINESS AS WARFARE. That's the middle step I never knew about.
5) If you read the book and live in America, it's hard not to see parallels between BUSINESS AS WARFARE and what is going on right now.
Anyway, instead of a review of the book, I decided to do something different this time:
a TIMELINE, to help you when you read the book. A supplement or something.
Meiji Restoration overthrows the Shogun government. Also a major goal of the restorers: open Japan to trade with the world. Not just to compete with Whitey, but also they aim to win a trade war with China, which at that time was THE king of all Asian commerce. But how? The Chinese have literally thousands of years of experience in international trade, and Japan has like 2 weeks of experience.
Korea signs the Treaty of Ganghwa, allowing Japan to trade at four port cities. Basically Japan pulled a Perry and Black Shipped the formerly closed country of Korea.
Chinese pimps operating out of Japanese port cities kidnap poor Japanese women and ship them to brothels in China. These women are known as karayukisan (kara being an old word for China, yuki meaning, to go to)
Japanese are allowed to settle and do trade in all of Korea. Although in practice only the tekiya (fore-runners of the Yakuza, tekiya were organized clans of traveling merchants pushing carts full of iffy merch. You can still see them at festivals) really bothered to make the trip. The tekiya would use violence and intimidation to coerce Koreans into buying shoddy goods and fake medicines. They were “soon joined by drug traffickers and sex workers.” All backed up by the official Japanese consulates, who would “protect” them from retaliation by the Korean citizens. Even though Korea was still run by the Korean government. The more money the thugs made, the more they could spend on lobbying the Japanese government for more “protection”, which would allow them to rip off even more Koreans. Another fore-runner of the yakuza, the bakuto, also showed up in Korea. Originally traveling gamblers, in Korea the bakuto did predatory lending scams, loan-sharking, and so on, which always ended in them foreclosing on Korean farmers’ land, helping Japan colonize one rice paddy at a time.
Muraoka Iheiji was hired by the Japanese consulate in Shanghai to travel around China and make a secret report about money-making opportunities : businesses and industries that Japanese businessmen could try to muscle in on. At this time, most trade was flowing from China to Japan and the Japanese government wanted to reverse this trend. Muraoka quickly realized that the biggest moneymaking opportunity was in prostitution and human trafficking. After he finished the report, he resigned from government service, to become a pimp and kidnapper.
Japanese pimps and human traffickers fight it out with the Chinese, for domination of the karayuki business. Pimps like Muraoka are outraged that Chinese are kidnapping “their women” and vow to “save them” from these gaijin – by re-kidnapping them and selling them at a profit to other Japanese pimps. Muraoka relates several stories in his autobiography about going to Hong Kong and snitching on a Chinese brothel to British police. The Brits shut down the brothel and hand over all the workers . . . to Muraoka.
On more than one occasion, a whole group of kidnapped women was found dead in the locked boiler room of a ship – a scene straight out of The Wire.
One estimate is that between between 1870 and 1930, around 100,000 Japanese women are kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery.
One Japanese ship captain is quoted as saying, “Japan’s most well-known exports are coal, raw silk, and women.”
As the Japanese pimps spread their business and brothels throughout east Asia, other Japanese merchants follow – setting up small stores to sell overpriced Japanese goods to the karayuki and their customers. The pimps regard themselves as patriotic, and are proud that they are enabling Japanese to expand their trade overseas.
“The prostitutes needed JPanese food, beverages, clothes and many other Japanese products. Their demand was met by the J-variety-goods store,which peddled a wide range of products. As the store also sold to non-Japanese, Japanese commodities became wildly popular. The strength of Japan’s southeast Asian trade today is not thanks to the large merchant houses like Mitsui; the trade was first developed by the variety-goods dealers and behind these merchants is the shadow cast by the Japanese prostitutes.
Japan wins a fight with China and is given Taiwan as part of the booty. However, the question remains: how do we turn this expensive military occupation into a profit?
(also, as part of the booty: all Chinese merchants have to leave Korea, putting it more under the thumb of Japan and ruthless, yakuza-connected Japanese traders).
The civilian doctor Goto Shinpei is appointed governor of Taiwan. He likes to use the native Chinese principles to govern the natives. He uses spin rather than brute force: he re-interprets Chinese sayings and customs to justify Japanese rule in terms the Taiwanese can accept. Also he legalizes opium, and immediately grants the Japanese government a monopoly on it. Thereby solving the “profitability” problem. Opium is pretty much the one single commodity that turned Taiwan from a huge money loser to a money earner in seven years. The USA couldn’t do that with all the oil in Iraq in 10 fucking years.
Japan wins a fight with Russia, and by way of apology, Russia gives Japan part of China. How the fuck does that even work??? Anyway Japan now has a bit of Manchuria under its direct control. But they also got the Russian-made Manchurian RAILWAY as part of the deal. So now they’re in this weird position of being SEMI colonial overlords. They only own a tiny slice of China outright, but millions of miles of railway, and the right to set up trade and businesses in all the cities the railway goes to. But in those cities, although “Chinese” in theory, are run by puppet regimes, who allow the Japanese secret police to run rampant. Thus, Japanese citizens and “businessmen” can break any laws and get away with things native Chinese can’t do. This climate attracts every Yakuza, tekiya, mercenary, pimp, and nutcase who has not been nailed down. The issue is: how to parlay this trade agreement with China into outright colonialism?
Another funny thing about Manchuria: there weren’t even many Chinese there. Most of the Chinese who WERE there were immigrants from the center of China. The fact that they were immigrants made them more easy to exploit, and added to the general feeling of Manchuria as being a free-for-all anarchy zone, not a “real” state.
First answer is: legalize prostitution and put a Japanese monopoly on it. By this time, Japanese pimps and human traffickers have pretty much beat the Chinese. The pimps had gotten their start providing prostitutes to the Japanese army during its 1905 war with Russia. The 1906 “legalization” law re-tooled the industry for civilian life, and mandated monthly health inspections.
Second thing : Japanese government creates the South Manchurian Railway corporation. This was supposed to function like the Dutch East India Company, as the main tool of colonizing. It’s technically a business but operates like an independent fiefdom or small government.
Also, Goto moves from Taiwan to Manchuria to run the SMR, bringing with him his “scientific” principles for making Chinese colonies profitable. Principle number one : bunsouteki bubi (literally, “military arms in civilian disguises”). In other words, business as warfare.
ex-prime minister and ex-governor of Taiwan Katsura Tarou, starts the Oriental Society (Touyou Kyoukai), a sort of policy group dedicated to coordinating different aspects of Japan’s imperialism (military, diplomatic, business, crime, etc.) Well he didn’t start it, but he changed the name from Taiwan Society to Oriental Society. Katsura’s #1 priority: taking Mr. Goto’s profitable hookers-opium-Japanese-medicine-and-Chinese-philosophy program and implementing it in other colonies. He also wants to get Japanese farmers to come and settle in the territories, much as Israel is doing in Palestine, so that the Japanese can say, “We legitimately belong here, this is our ancestral land.” This program doesn’t work out because who wants to farm when you can just steal?
Korean “armies of righteousness” attempt to fight back, but lose.
The independent, self-employed frontier women in Taiwan, and Manchuria basically invent Japanese feminism, which later spreads to the mainland. Japanese men run things behind the scenes, but the women are the “public face” of Japanese trade, since they are the ones that actually learned how to speak Chinese and they work in occupations where Chinese are the customers. Nurses, hairdressers, schoolteachers, small businesswomen and shop owners, social workers, and police.
In other words, the colonies were not only for Yakuza and men to go to seek their fortune, and rise above their lowly social class: plenty of Japanese women made the trip too, for those same reasons.
This presents a dilemma for the Japanese men: they like that Japanese women are putting a nice, kind face on the colonialism, and they like all the money the women are making for the motherland. But they don’t like how “their” women are too friendly with the natives, and learning too many Chinese customs. Thus there are a lot of predictable scandalous articles about “hysterical” women. This buzzword ALSO eventually catches on in Tokyo womens' magazines, AFTER it is popular in the colonies.
Japan conquers Korea. I’m not sure how this went down. I think they didn't invade but just intimidated the Korean emperor into signing a treaty?
after six years, the main infrastructure in Manchura is completed. Millions of miles of train tracks have been added, and gigantic, super-advanced ports have been constructed. Now all they need is some Japanese investors and big businesses to come in and take advantage of the infrastructure (and the almost free coolie labor) and Japan can basically double its economy. If they can find investors and companies. Help!
The Japanese government hires Mr. Aioi to do a report on Manchuia, to persuade Japanese businesses to come there and start milking this here cow. Aioi reports that there’s now over a million immigrant coolies in Manchuria, they work dirt cheap, and what little wages you pay them, you can get back by selling them Japanese stuff. In fact most coolies are so poor, they cannot afford even dormitory housing and they sleep outside in the bitter cold. Migrants from central china traveling to Manchuria by boat not only sleep in the hold, but are classified on shipping documents as a type of cargo.
Journalist Ishimori Seiichi writes a bunch of really unique articles for the KOREA REVIEW tabloid. He goes undercover as : a North Chinese coolie, an elderly Korean male drifter in Seoul, a Japanese hooker in Seoul, a French detective tracking Russian criminals in Manchuria and Russia, an elderly Russian man in Dailan, and a poor Japanese migrant worker in Seoul. Aside from being brave, crazy, and super “Black Like Me” style, the popularity of Ishimori’s articles reveal a sort of paradox of his readers’ state of mind: colonial Japanese want to dominate the natives, but they also kind of dream of wanting to be the natives, to be “down,” to see what only the natives want to see. They want Japan to take over Asia and “civilize” it, but also delight in the down-and-out perversion, violence, and ghetto craziness of the frontier.
The magazine KOREA REVIEW has a monthly column called KIKI KAIKAI HENGEN SHUTSU BOTSUSEN (STRANGE UNCANNY ILLUSIONS THAT APPEAR AND DISAPPEAR) by Ishimoi Seiichi. This column – far from saying colonies are great – does exposes on the most gritty, ghetto, wild-west parts of colonial life. But this makes it much more popular than simple propaganda would have been. Hysterical women, female gangsters, black markets, corrupt colonial authorities, Chinese warlords, Russian gangsters, and all.
Nakamura Kyoko starts a sexology journal called ABNORMAL PSYCHOLOGY, which runs until 1926, kicking off the “sexology boom.” He says lot of things, but the main one to remember here is: modern living makes everyone hentai, and that’s ok.
Japanese human traffickers now kidnapping Chinese women. The number of pimps / traffickers in North China is estimated to be around 400. One pimp is later quoted after the war as saying that “2/3 of the big Japanese businesses in Manchuria were started by former pimps who made enough money to go legit.”
The “Oriental Development Company” (run by Katsura Taro’s Oriental Society), which is supposed to be encouraging Japanese farmers to move to Korea, is actually replacing yakuza groups as the main Japanese landlord, in taking over family-owned Korean farms. Less than 50% of Koreans own their own land at this point. This is an example of “business practices” moving from the yakuza/underworld to becoming official Japanese colonial policy.
World War One is over. Japanese Big Pharma companies,who have made a mint off of selling morphine to European armies, now dump their excess supplies in the Japanese colonies, serving the dual purpose of “pacifying and incapacitating the colonized while making huge profits for the colonizers.” In Korea, Japanese government outlaws opium, and legalizes morphine. “In a few short years, 100,000Koreans were addicted.” Flooding Manchuria with cheap dope also pays dividends when Japan finally decides to conquer Manchuria in 1931.
Koreans again attempt to overthrow the Japanese colonial government. The army suppresses them, killing around 7,000.
Kitano Hiromi starts another sexology monthly journal: SEX RESEARCH (SEI NO KENKYUU)
modernism hits Japan! Movies! Magazines! Western fashions! Cafes! flappers! Jazz! Many new leisure time pursuits. But all this stuff is made possible by three things: opium, karayuki, and coolie labor. In other words, semi-illegal totally exploitative industries IN THE COLONIES. The profits from which finance the modernization of Japan. So even though modernism is often seen as something that filtered out from Tokyo, actually it filtered INTO Tokyo from the colonies. After all, leisure time is something you do if you have money left over to spend on fun. And that money has to come from somewhere.
Another effect of modernism: people instantly become jaded as fuck. Urban dwellers have such hectic, fast-paced lives compared to the country villages. And they’re exposed to such nonstop stimuli all day: traffic sounds, neon lights, beeps, honks, the clank of machinery, and so on. So, the thinking goes, urbanites get super desensitized by all this and crave ever more extreme thrills in their new leisure time. Plus they are super stressed out by living cheek-to-jowl with a million strangers, in defiance of millions of years of human nature. And so they seek out sexual perversions to release some of the crazy urban tension building up inside them. Thus is born the ERO BOOM. And a whole cottage industry of “sexology” magazines – some more scientific, some more tabloid – to explain about all the new urban perversions, and how they are necessary to make urban life, with all its stress and neuroses, bearable.
Also, Japanese sexology was very pro-prostitution and pro-hentai. The “sexologists” generally thought Western morality re:maritial fidelity was naive and that seeing as how guys were going to cheat anyway, the superior Japanese way to deal with the issue was to industrialize and governmentally control prostitution the same way that Japan was industrializing all its other industries at the time.
Also, Japanese scientists in Harbin, China, start mass-producing heroin and morphine, which are cheaper than traditional opium. Addicts now have three opiates to choose from.
Akiyama Yoshio and Sawada Junjirou launch yet another sexology monthly, just called SEX. Unlike the previous sexology journals, SEX is Eurocentric. That is to say, more sex-phobic : moralizing, preaching, and openly “hey, look at all the freeeeaks!!!”
Tanaka Kougai, one of the main “sexologists” starts his climb to fame by publishing the journal MODERN SEXUALITY (HENTAI SEIYOKU). His articles are often about “frontier women” as hysterics, Chinaman-lovers and “female supremacists.” As well as s/m, vampires, and cannibalism. Also: Tanaka was a doctor who used to work with Goto (the doctor who ran Taiwan and later the South Manchuria Railway company).
Habuto Eiji starts (sigh) yet another sex journal called SEXUALITY AND HUMAN NATURE (SEIYOKU TO JINSEI). This one is also more Eurocentric. That is to say, more moralizing, preaching, and sensationalistic.
Tanaka publishes a book, THE SHADOWY ASPECTS OF HUMAN SEXUALITY (NINGEN NO SEITEKI ANKOKUMEN), and a scholarly sexology magazine MODERN SEXUALITY, in which he argues that, given the stress of modern industrial livin’ , it’s not only natural to legalize prostitution, but also sadism, masochism, fetishism, and necrophila. Necrophilia and fetishism are like other new modern inventions that entertain urban dwellers: movies, radio, and French cafes. And if we get all prudish and shut off the sexual “safety valve” of necrophilia, then we’re REALLY going to see some weird sex-crimes happening. Or something.
In MODERN SEXUALITY, the “modern” refers to this new, decadent, industrial-capitalism urban lifestyle. Tanaka says basically, modern city living makes everyone a perv, and that’s just fine, since sex can also be industrialized. New perversions are being rolled off the assembly line of our culture daily, let’s embrace them! (provided that cash changes hands. Doing it outside the marketplace would be simply barbaric and abnormal – now THAT’S hentai!)
Edogawa Ranpo publishes a novel called HUMAN CHAIR (NINGEN ISU), a surreal critique of capitalism in which a chair-maker at a furniture factory becomes so obsessed with the commodities he makes that he eventually turns into a chair himself.
Not to be outdone, Umehara Hokumei publishes the most fucked up, most ero-guro novel of the whole era (immediately censored by The Man, only 100 copies printed, and even those have most of the cannibalism cut out): SATSUJIN KAISHA (THE KILLING KAPITALIST KONGLOMERATE). This is about a guy who works for a company (which operates mostly in the colonies, naturally) that sells only one product: death. They kill the clients, take their stuff, and then return to Tokyo to have wild sex-and-death-and-opium orgies. There are secret initiations, rapes, murders, necrophilia, mah jongg games where the loser gets disemboweled and then people have an orgy on the corpse’s intestines, etc. In one way this seems to be kind of just shock-for-the-sake-of-shock, but in 1924, this must have been some crazy shit indeed. Like if GWAR happened at the same time as Elvis or something. Also interesting: even though Umehara was trying to write satire, actually the stuff that REAL Japanese corporations were soon to do in Manchuria would make the novel look like some Garrison Kellor shit.
Tanaka publishes a book called SEX MANIACS (AIYOKU NI KURUU CHIJIN), advocating for industrialized prostitution: how can the nation harness men’s desire for sex to grow our economy?
Kon Wajiro, a sociologist, starts a new movement: “modernology”: he and his team of assistants do “field work” in Tokyo department stores (department stores were a new thing back then) and write down every little detail of shoppers’ behavior: posture, what they buy, what they wear, the routes they take, etc. Honestly this guy is boring.
Umehara Hokumei takes over the art journal ARTS MARKET and openly says “Fuck you artists who cry ‘sellout’ – you’re just jealous because no one wants to pay cash for your stuff. In these sophisticated times, people will pay good money for subversive or even left-wing art, if you have any talent. Let the market decide what is good art! We can change the system from within and make some loot while we’re at it!”
Umehara publishes a super controversial translation of Italian author Boccaccio’s THE DECAMERON, which basically had a huge influence on all subsequent ero-guro authors, artists, critics, etc.
A drug dealer (pen-name GIONBOU) writes an autobiography, where he talks about how the Japanese consul and Japanese police keep him from getting hassled by the Chinese police when he comes into Chinese turf to buy and sell heroin. Why are there two sets of police in the same cities? Driscoll doesn’t say. Further, the drug dealer says that the Japanese-run South Manchurian Railway actually helps him smuggle his product. He goes on to say that over half, and in some places almost all, of Japanese merchants in Chinese cities are in the drug game to some extent.
Umehara and his friend Sakai Kiyoshi spend a year in Shanghai, getting into opium and Chinese hookers, and generally trying to out-do each other in feats of degeneracy. They launch KAMASHASTRA, an ero-guro magazine specifically for Japanese living in the colonies. It’s about what you think it’s about.
KAMASHASTRA starts a new trend which catches on in all the ero-guro magazines: drug reports! “I traveled to an actual, no-foolin’ opium den with crazy Chinese junkies!!!” type of gonzo journalism. These gritty, dirty, grimey accounts of Chinese junkies were a new way to shock and titillate Japanese ero-guro audiences. And again, this new layer of grotesque came FROM the colonies INTO Tokyo “modern” society.
Edogawa Ranpo publishes THE STRANGE TALE OF PANORAMA ISLAND (PANORAMA TOUKIDAN), a horror novel about a guy who fakes his own death in order impersonate a rich kid who inherits his own island. And then he populates the island with the taxidermied bodies of his murder victims, turning it into a “sculpture garden”.
Umehara starts an ero-guro journal called PERVERSE MODERN DOCUMENTS (HENTAI SHIRYOU). To get around the censors, he makes it a special-order, subscriber-only affair. A zine, if you will. In a harbinger of things to come, one feature of issue #1 was a reprint of some German anti-war photos (dead bodies, missing limbs, the suffering of war!) . . .but with the German captions taken out and new Japanese captions mocking the victims and making fun of everything. Decadent nihilism! Aren’t we terrible?!? This shift from grotesque to outright war porn, marks a gradual political shift from “shocking revolutionaries” to “right-wing war cheerleaders.”
Also, Umehara and Sakai collaborate on the grand-daddy of all ero-guro magazines: GUROTESUKU (GROTESQUE). Fetishism! Sex crimes! This magazine leads the new trend: away from erotic (played out, plus highly censored), into grotesque (new, more extreme, and a much more broad category). People begin using “ero-guro” as a single phrase. Also GUROTESUKU highlighted “the way that eroticism was present in otherwise nonsexual acts, such as war and crime.” This was a good 2 years before J.G. Ballard was even fucking born.
Umehara publishes another book (do they have a fucking typewriter installed in the VIP room of the whore-house, next to the opium pipe? WTF), this time a translation of a German novel called BALKAN KRIEG (in Japanese: BARUKAN KURIIGU) . BALKAN KRIEG is straight-up war pornography. For dudes who get a boner thinking of killing. The trend is clear: as Japan marches ever closer to world conquest, ero turns into ero-guro, and then into straight-up guro, and finally to war and death.
A telegram from Japanese government puts the number of “ronin” (Japanese criminals : pimps, dealers, extortionists, swindlers, and mercenaries) in Manchuria at 10,000.
Nakayama Yuigorou publishes USER’S GUIDE TO MODERN HENTAI (HENTAI SHOSEIGEI). This is a 1,300 page encyclopedia of scams that city-folk use to rip off country people and noobs. Every possible hustle is contained. Human traffickers, loan sharks, extortionists, scam artists, fake advertising . . .Also urban legends, and the usual perversions.
Also: huge depression and economic meltdown in Japan. Millions unemployed. Elite people start asking themselves, “How can we continue to buy coal, oil, and steel that we need to grow our economy, and get our unemployment numbers back down?” Answer : conquer people. In this scenario, militarism is just the means . . the end is a strong economy. So if you believe this particular theory of Japan’s imperialism, you’d have to conclude that Japan WON THE WAR.
The “Oriental Development Company” (run by Katsura Taro’s Oriental Society) now owns over half of ALL land in Korea.
Noma Jirou published RESEARCHING PERVERSE ERO (HENTAITEKI ERO NO KENKYUU), a sort of encyclopedia of ero-guro cultural trends, both real and “urban legends”, of the time. Such as human slaves being forced to be window mannequins to pay off debts (urban legend!). This is one of “the main texts of the genre.”: rape, beastiality, necrophilia, promiscuity, “Noma insists that the final outcome will be ‘a major contribution to human culture.’”
Edogawa Ranpo AND Jou Masayuki both bust out with novels called VAMPIRE, starting the “vampire eroticism” boom. Driscoll notes that Japanese vampires, (unlike Euro ones) are the same ethnic group as their victims. Everyone’s an “insider,” no one’s an “other.” Perhaps because of this, Japanese vampire stories tend to feature “victims” that cooperate with the vampires in their own demise. And how the victims, once bitten, tend to help the vampire.
For instance, in the Ranpo novel, some of the victims are nobodies who attain tabloid newspaper fame after death. Could this, asks Driscoll, be Ranpo’s critique of mass media and how capitalism gives people an incentive to die?
Buzz-killing leftist critics waste no time in drawing parallels to you-know-what-ism.
Ranpo also publishes THE CULMINATION OF EROTIC GROTESQUE (RYOUKI NO HATE), which “both critiques consumers’ demand for more sensational images and contributes to it.” It’s about a young rich kid with nothing to do so he decides to become a “student of perversion”, but nothing is ever enough for him, so he winds up joining a snuff-sex satanic ritual club. Not only that, but in order to catch the murderers, the detective himself has to join the club. The detective barely manages to regain his good judgment at the end and arrests the club members, but not until after he’s participated in a few murder orgies himself.
This theme of “complicity” is, along with “jadedness and over-stimulation”, a big part of all the critiques of modernism and capitalist entertainments.
The Manchurian Incident. A rogue and clandestine group of Japanese army officers (led by Ishihara Kanji and Itagaki Seishirou) stage a fake “terrorist incident” (tnt on Japan’s railroad tracks), blame it on “Chinese terrorists” and use it to force the Emperor to declare total control of all Manchuria (rather than just control of a small fraction of it, and trading / train-operating rights in the rest), as well as a general land war with Regular China.
Fun fact: in order to get money for the explosives, they asked the mob! They got 50,000,000 yen from Fujita Osamu, a heroin ealer.
author Edogawa Ranpo publishes his masterpiece BLIND BEAST (MOUJUU), about a blind Tokyo masseuse, who lures his female clients into his apartment, murders them, taxidermies their bodies into statues, and then has a “special room” that he chases his victims through: it’s pitch black and full of giant, cabinet-sized sculptures of disembodied female body parts that he makes his victims run through, so they can feel what he, as a blind pervert, feels, before they die.
Sociologist Akagami Yoshitsuge publishes THE FACE OF EROTIC GROTESQUE SOCIETY (RYOUKI NO SHAKAISOU). He is a left-winger, who argues that this new form of industrial, urban capitalism is turning all our natural wants and needs into disposable artificial commodities. Our real desires, in contrast (for, say, love, trust, community, spirituality, meaning in life) can NOT be reduced to stuff on a shelf, so the modern “new breed” of human is cut off from them altogether. He says the unnaturalness of it all, plus the tendency to view other people as mere commodities, makes modern urban people more perverted, and thus erotic-grotesque. Capitalism is not content with owning us during our time at work – now it wants to control our leisure time, control our tastes in music, art, and fun, control our nervous systems, even! Freak shows, titty-bar peep shows, escapist Hollywood fantasies, and perms for all! The new urban dweller is jaded, over-stimulated, always searching for a more extreme thrill. Thus the slide from erotic into grotesque.
Most commies are buzz-kills who enjoy carping on anyone having fun anywhere, but Akagami manages to out-do even his fellow reds. Way to go.
THE ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO THE HYPER-BIZZARE (GENDAI RYOUKI SENTAN ZUKAN). Not sure what is in this.
Gonda Yasunosuke, the premier sociologist of Asakusa (Tokyo’s #1 most “modern” hood), publishes A THEORY OF PEOPLE’S PLEASURE (MINSHUU GORAKURON), arguing that, far from being a place where working folks can have a bit of fun and experience the latest in new forms of entertainment, Asakusa is a trap of evil capitalists to ensnare Joe Sixpack, offering a factory of fun where mass-produced shiny shit and fast food rolls off a conveyor-belt and into your lap. WWhat are we to make of human life, buried as it is underneath all these commodities?” Real thinking, feeling humans have been replaced by soul-less materialistic consumers. You are what you own! Settle down, Ian Mackaye. Gonda was like the most famous guy to be straight up, “fuck moga and mobo (modern girls and modern boys).” For a different view of Asakusa and of moga, please check my review of EROTIC GROTESQUE NONSENSE.
November – the magazines CRIMINAL SCIENCE and CRIME DIGEST feature – between grisly true-crime stories and tabloid sex headlines – accounts written by Japanese Imperial Army officers in the colonies, detailing how crazy things are out there. It’s odd because these are not political magazines. They’re pulp, trashy, true-crime, low-brow things with tits everywhere. So the articles by army officers are another example of what Driscoll calls “war pornography.”
Sakai Kiyoshi (Umehara’s pal and co-editor of GROTESQUE) writes DEMON MAGIC (KOUREI MAJUTSU). What is that about?
Who is Amakasu Masahiko? He’s a famous secret-policeman, assassin, ex-con, and now leader of Manchukuo’s kenpentai (secret police). He hires 100 “military contractors” (i.e. crooks) and forms a mob called Uchifuji in Fentian city, a second syndicate in Harbin, and an “incipient drug and intelligence operation in Shanghai.” Through his Chinese underworld contacts, he obtains military secrets which help the Japanese army win battles. To give his gang total control of Harbin’s underworld, he has to get the Japanese army to invade Harbin (thereby driving out the Chinese cops, and rival gangs too). So, dressed as a Chinese terrorist, he drives around BY HIMSELF IN A FUCKING CAR FULL OF HAND GRENADES, going on a 3-day-long drive-by. While his friends call the Japanese army and beg for help.
In March 1, as a result of the Manchurian Incident, Japan formally takes over all of Manchuria. This sets in motion a whole chain of dominoes: instead of trying to battle China economically, trade wars, using businesses as soldiers, Japan is now actually fighting China with real soldiers. Chinese laborers in Manchuria are now routinely enslaved, and forced to work until death, in a totally unsustainable manner. Why? Because Japan has embarked on a course of world conquest, and needs Manchuria to make enough army equipment to do that. This is called “mobilization for total war.”
To accompany the army across the globe, they would need many prostitutes. They set up the first “comfort women” station in Shanghai. This is just another instance – one of many in the book – of the government copying what the Yakuza/underworld had been doing in the colonies all along, and turning it into official policy.
“Japan’s Guandong army desperately needed revenue to establish the new state, in addition to requiring useful intelligence from on-the-ground Japanese sources with experience in dealing with Manchuria. The only Japanese in control of these previous commodities of intelligence and drugs were the hustlers and traffickers, who were now joined by yakuza groups.”
The gangsters got cushy, legit jobs as “military advisers”, or pencil-pushers in the official government Opium Monopoly Corporation (!!!) Everyone called them “sensei.” Bureaucrats helped them set up “legitimate” businesses, and launder their drug money. Also – as “government advisers,” these hustlers were immune to customs searches.
Military leaders such as Amakasu Masahiko and Itagaki Seishirou teamed up with yakuza syndicates operating in Manchukuo such as the Kokusuikai and Seigidan.
The number of “ronin” in Manchuria is now over 30,000 (including yakuza).
The Kenpeitai were in charge of coordinating the local yakuza, making Amakasu (leader of the kenpeitai) a big guy in the opium game.
The Kempeitai were like the craziest guys in the whole thing – the main link between official government and yakuza. A sort of “official” gang: they could kill anyone, steal anything. They were in charge of disarming Chinese police, confiscating property, and taking over Chinese banks. Here, the “inside information” that the yakuza possessed came in handy. The yaks – who knew because local Chinese gangsters told them- told the kenpeitai “This family looks poor but they’re rich, and their gold is hidden here.” Or “That family is ripe for extortion,” and the kenpeitai would move in and get the loot, afterwards sharing some with the gangsters. Also, the yaks showed the more independent kenpeitai how to make “extra money” setting up their own prostitution and drug rings.
Driscoll says that without the revenue from heroin, opium, and morphine, Japan could not have waged WWII: he estimates that between 50 and 55% of all Manchuria’s GDP came from drugs.
Applying the same rules laid down by Goto in Taiwan, financial minister Hoshino Naoki starts the Opium Monopoly. Legalizing dope, but only the government is legally allowed to sell it. This is done in the guise of “regulating drugs” and “reducing crime.” In practice, this meant that gangsters – excuse me, “advisors” would rob Chiense dope dealers at gunpoint, then turn around and sell the dope themselves. Chinese dope dealing was illegal. Meanwhile, entire neighborhoods of Japanese-owned supermarkets turn into out-and-out opium houses almost overnight.
The Manchukuo government uses this dope money (and the promise of more profits to come) as collateral for billions in loans from Japanese banks. Yes, they straight up told the banks, “This is dope money.”
Here’s how the industry works: Japanese army robs Chinese opium farmers at gunpoint, giving them pennies on the dollar, if even that. Then Japanese factories process the dope, and sell half of it to lisenced, Japanese-run opium dens. But, oops! They “lose” the other 50%! This is where the profit comes in: the “lost” 50% is sold to Yakuza at an insane markup: between 10 and 30 times the “official” price, and the yaks sell it to illegal Chinese opium dens at an even huger markup.
Financial minister Hoshino Naoki then gets together with the kenpeitai and designates the one hundred biggest Japanese dope-dealers as “government liscenced wholesalers.”
254??? So complicated.
Bureaucrats like Furumi Tadayuki and Hoshino set up the Manchukuo Central Bank (opened with assets looted from the four main Chines banks in Manchuria), and was totally self-contained. No other banks (not even Japanese banks) could check its books. They also set up a Bureau for Special Financial Assets (dope money). This bureau was a “tunneling facility that shuttled money earned on the black market into the Central Bank.” And they use this laundered cash to form a “second budget” for the army. Not unlike the LDP’s “zaito.” They kept some for themselves, their bars, hookers, hot cars, etc. But most was needed to simply keep the government running, since all the drugs and corruption was (not surprisingly) slowing down the economy. Money was also set aside for more wars: China, Russia, America, whoever.
The bidan (glorious soldier) genre of samurai fiction, long out of fashion, is re-vamped and unleashed on the public as part of a wartime propaganda campaign. Suddenly there are “based on a true story” novels everywhere, detailing the “heroic deaths of our soldiers in Manchuria”. No one cares if the deaths mattered or if the soldiers had any tactical common sense, all that matters is they died well. For example, TRUE STORIES OF HUMAN BULLETS FROM JAPAN’S MANCHURIAN ARMY (MANSHUUGUN NIKUDAN JIKKI) was published in King magazine.
Noted asshole Shinobu Junbei writes a propaganda book, WAGA MANMON NO TOKUSHU KENEKI (OUR SPECIAL RIGHTS AND PRVILEGES AS JAPANESE IN MANCHURIA), which encourages Japanese to cheer on the colonialization, and maybe invest in it, or come to Manchukuo themselves and try their hand. The gist: the Chinese are so barbaric and anarchistic they can’t run their own country, so why not us?
American diplomat Nicholson reports that in Andong, there are 145 legal (i.e. Japanese run) opium dens. 700 more (Chinese-run, illegal) in surrounding towns. Just two years before: there were no more than 10!
Japan invades Rehe province of China (bordering on Manchukuo) : Rehe has some of the most abundant opium fields in all north China – as well as a opium factory owned by a local warlord.. Also, Japan builds new heroin factories in Harbin and Xinjing.
Umehara Hokumei, having spent seven years fighting the censors, then two years incognito, re-emerges on the Tokyo scene, having become a right-winger and war supporter. He gets a job as a historian at Yasukuni shrine.
“ash heaps” become commonplace in Manchurian cities: giant mass graves just outside of town, where dead junkies’ bodies are dumped by the thousands. “many Chinese addicts were required to have a rope tied to their wrists before gaining entry to the more than two hundred Japanese shooting galleries near South Gate; if they weren’t able to physically walk out, they would be dragged out by the rope and depositied on the ash heap to die.”
The Umezu-He and Doihara-Qin Accords in June 1935 facilitated a rapid expansion of the Japanese drug trade north and south of the Great Wall, and at this point Mitsui and Mitsubishi publicly diversified their product lines into opium, which they purchased from Iranian and Turkish sellers.
dope is so common, the price of a hit is now a THIRD of what it was before the Manchurian Incident.
Nicholson, the American observer, estimates that the rate of addiction had risen to 18 percent of everyone in the whole city of Chunghe to 35 percent of everyone in Fengcheng.
Kishi Nobusuke gets the top bureaucrat job in Manchukuo. Who is Kishi Nobusuke ? Besides a money launderer and “future founder (!!!) of the LDP? Since Manchukuo doesn’t have a president or legislature, that means Kishi runs the show. He got the gig because he went go Germany, where he learned a combination of racism and “industrial rationalization” which appealed to Japanese Army guys. He immediately sets about drafting a five year plan. He’s good friends with Amakasu, every hooker in Manchuria, an accomplished money launderer , and a big Kita Ikki fan.
Along with Ishihara Kanji (the “total war” guy) and MIyaaki Masayoshi (“Who?”), Kishi drafts the FIVE YEAR PLAN for developing Manchukuo, and turning it into one giant factory for producing arms for the upcoming world war. Here’s where Kishi is different from a capitalist or gangster: he’s not about making maximum profit. He wants businesses to be controlled by the government and profits to have low limits. All the extra “profits” should be plowed right back into more development : more factories, more tanks, more bombs, more drugs. All for the war and the country! Capitalists were too greedy and self-centered. Regular people were too dumb and naive to be trusted with democracy. The only good, fair rulers were bureaucrats – since they sit in the center and can see how all the pieces fit together. Central planning for all!
Here is where Driscoll drops the bomb: The economic preparation for a system of total war (economic central planning, profit ceilings, etc) . was put in place FIRST by the civilian elite in Manchukuo BEORE this colonial template was subsequently used in Tokyo.
But all this industrial rationalization depended on Japanese companies actually coming there in the first place. And, with strict profit limits, how was Kishi to induce the corporations to come? Answer: reduce the price of coolie labor from “cents a day” to “free.” With free labor, the corporations could make an easy profit.
As a result, pretty much all criminals were sent to do forced labor. Regular Manchurian men were obliged to do forced labor for six months every three years for free. And their women and children were forced to work the family farms by themselves.
Also : full-scale war with regular China. Chinese POWs forced into labor camps along with criminals and immigrants.
But also a lot of Chinese immigrants tricked into coming to the “paradise” of Manchukuo and its “abundant, well-paying jobs”. Japanese recruiting companies are all over the place in North China. Among other recruiting tools, they use movies: info-mercials produced by guess who? Amakasu Masahiko . He’s been promoted to Minister of Public Relations.
Around a million a year. A total of some 4,000,000 by the end of the war. A little less than half are supposed to have survived.
According to the confessions of Chinese collaborators later arrested by the Communist Chinese, “Forced laborers weren’t allowed to keep anything they had brought with them, including the clothes on their backs. All personal possessions were stolen from them and sold. With nothing left but explsed flesh, the y resorted to cutting holes in the bottom of paper and hemp bags used for mortar and this would be their only protection in the harsh winters. They often worked completely naked in summer, without shoes. Workers were fed sorghum and grass for food, and thirteen- and fourteen-hour workdays were standard.
17 December 1937 p. 281 Ayukawa Yoshisuke NISSAN becomes MANGYOU
a new decree says that anyone found loitering can be classified as a “delinquent” and hauled off to a labor camp.
Mangyou Industries takes over Manchurian Iron and Steel industry. The number of forced laborers in the Iron factories goes from 144 to 690 in one year. Only half survived that year.
Even “non-forced” labor (i.e. “jobs”) were not what you’d imagine: at the same iron factory, from 1938-1944, at the Fushun site, 25,000 of the 40,000 “nonforced” Chiense workers needed to be replaced annually, mainly as a result of death on the job and execution for insubordination, in addition to a smaller percentage managing to escape alive.
labor camps and “coolie work ethic” which had been perfected in Manchuria was now brought back to an increasingly desperate Japan, with some native Japanese now doing forced labor “for the war effort.”
Back in Manchuria, forced laborers (of which there were some 7 million at this point) had a yearly mortality rate of 50 percent.
the Manchurian men now required to serve 12 months of forced labor every three years.
Manchukuo institutes an “anti-drug” campaign: anyone found to be a junkie is required to report to the nearest “treatment station” – these are nothing more than bus-stops leading the junkies to slave-labor camps, where they are worked and starved to death. Also given drugs. Amphetamines.
Chinese laborers who were making military bases were routinely massacred after their work was done, to “keep military secrets.” “The Japanese military or military police would reoutinely have a celebration ceremony for the finished structure, and hand out food and alcohol. After the Chiense got drunk, the soldiers would murder them.” One such incident : 6,000 Chinese workers , forced to build fortifications in Xinganling, went ‘missing.’
“I estimate that in addition to the millions drugged and starved to death in the colony, no fewer than 2.5 million Chinese forced laborers were eorked to death in Manchukuo.”
Including heroin, opium, and morphine, roughly 20 percent of the colonized Chinese population is now addicted.
2 comments Tags: empire, ero guro, yakuza —
Back in August 19th, the Israeli army killed 3 Egyptian police. Apparently the Egyptian cops were killed in the crossfire of some kind of gun-battle between an Israeli helicopter and Gaza militants on the run. Egyptians are mad because Israel killed their border cops and then – according to the story – "apologized" but did not take any substantial action. This according to the Jewish Daily Forward's website.
It's September 9th, and I just googled "2011 israel kills egyptian police" In the first 5 Google results pages, there was ONLY ONE news report from a mainstream American news agency (ABC) about how the Israeli army killed 3 Egyptian police on August 19th.
Wait, I take that back – it wasn't even "real" ABC. . . a local ABC affiliate in Philadelphia was the ONLY American news agency to report this. So – as far as Google is concerned – not even ONE major national USA news agency bothered to report the story.
Now, I just googled "2011 egypt israel embassy", and in the first 5 Google results pages I found like basically EVERY American news agency – CNN,NYT, MSNBC, FOX, ABC, HUFFPO, etc. covering the subsequent invasion of Israel's Egyptian embassy by outraged Egyptians. I then pulled a Noam Chomsky and read the FOX, CNN, MSNBC and NYT reports, but there was no mention in ANY of them about the – oh you know- the REASON Egyptians were upset.
The whole "Sorry we blew up your policemen by accident, right when relations between our two countries are at a total crossroads, but shit happens Egypt, get over it." thing.
Both "left-wing" MSNBC and "right wing" FOX basically cut and pasted the same exact article onto their websites, and both ignored what was probably the main reason for the attack on the Israeli embassy. Because, you know, Muslims just like to go crazy and attack shit for no reason.
Also interesting: on the very first page of Google results for the August 19th incident was an article by the Jewish Daily Forward (which they copied from the Israeli Haaretz news service) – so ironically, the Israeli media itself was more fair to the Egyptians than the American media.
I'm just saying.1 comment
Here's the long-in-the-making Conquest For Death video, filmed in Japan, Indonesia, Africa, Singapore, and the USA!