Tokyo Damage Report




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.  


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.


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.


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:


And these three, written in huge letters:


And another example: on the blackboard of my junior-high-aged son’s classroom:


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.


 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!

Don’t stand up or yell!
Don’t annoy those around you!
Don’t play with the doors!

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.


 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.


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:


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.


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!


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!


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.


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!“


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.


Nakajima’s JAPANESE ARE HALF FALLEN chapter 2



While looking at the MASSES  who walk around oblivious to the speaker noise, the herds of people who would never protest it, I thought to myself, "I really feel like a stranger in my own country." Actually, that's too poetic. I'm just a weirdo.

 When I began my activism, I was convinced that I was in the right, but my convictions are steadily being worn down. Now I just feel sick. My sickness is half spiritual (feeling alienated from my countrymen), but the other half is caused by the very specific kind of violence contained in the constant broadcasts. Imagine if your neighbor, Mr. X, had a dog which barked all day and all night. You can’t sleep during the night, and of course you couldn't sleep during work either. For a while you could try to maintain, but eventually when you couldn't take any more, you'd go to the neighborhood residential association and complain. But the association's representative only said, "Well now, let's send your neighbor a letter asking him to consider his actions." Of course such a letter will have no effect.

 You played by the rules, and got ignored. Wouldn't you burn with humiliation? And more than that, wouldn't the sound of the dog's yapping fill you with an almost physical pain of hatred? So you finally go to the neighbor to complain directly. But the neighbor curtly replies, "You're the only one who's complaining. It's only natural for dogs to bark, after all."

 Everyone else around the barking dog seems to feel it's none of their affair. You talk to another neighbor and he says, "Well, they have to put up with our crying baby, so it's only fair . . ." Your other neighbor says, "Well, I'm not often home, so I don't know anything about it. It should be illegal, but . . . ." Finally you realize that you are the only victim.

At this point, wouldn't your grip on mental health be slipping? The smallest woof would, in your head, turn into a great roaring howl. Even when it was quiet, you wouldn't be able to do anything but wait for the next bark, your heart pounding in your ears. And then you see Mr. X, having a cheerful chat with Mr. A and Mr. B, all laughing. And the disgusting, hateful dog scampers around them, as they pat its head and stroke its fur. Now you begin to despise your other neighbors as well.

The anger turns to a piercing pain, leaving your hands shaking so badly you can't hold things.  Your hatred threatens to go out of control . . . You begin to have fantasies of killing the dog.

Wouldn't you, too, in the end, start feeling as sick as I feel?

This is the power of sound. Sounds just in themselves have the capacity to cause suffering. Sounds in themselves can drive a person to the brink of insanity. Especially since other people can't see your suffering and think you're making it all up, this doubles the pain and feeling of hopelessness.


But, why is it that people who enjoy a certain sound are so totally incapable of understanding how another person is deeply pained by that same sound? Even the most wise, perceptive, and gentle person tends to think that the sound they're making – or listening to – must be enjoyable to those around them. If someone tells them they're being too loud, even such a gentle, wise person can fly into a rage: they instinctively feel that their whole existence is being criticized; they feel indignation. Why is that?

It's because sounds span the divide between "inside me" and "outside me." To return to the previous example, you despise the barking dog so much because its barking is not "outside" you. The barking has wormed its way "inside" you, gotten under your skin. The sound is provoking insanity by directly touching your nerves. But to the dog’s owner, that same sound is so far “inside” them that it’s become a part of them- they think nothing of it.

I’m not speaking in metaphors here. If you go to a concert and close your eyes, you can guess the direction and volume of the music. But you can’t tell the exact location that it’s coming from. If you want to find the outside, origin, you have to use your other senses – eyes or touch. Because the property of sound is, you can’t distinguish between it being inside of you or outside of you.

Just like if you get in a taxi and ask the driver to turn off his radio, he’ll instinctively resent it. To people enjoying a sound, it is coming from within them. Especially people who drive taxis – their working environment is so small, it must feel like an extension of their body, their interior. So when a stranger comes into their interior, and says “That’s too loud!” , the driver gets mad. As far as he’s concerned, it’s the same music he was listening to before, in the same place, so nothing has changed to make the music unpleasant: he’s become lost in an illusion of where “outside” begins and ends.

Everyone knows that music has the power to control one’s emotions to a fierce extent. That’s exactly why cults and totalitarian governments use sounds to brainwash people, instead of visuals. People that were moved to tears by Hitler’s speeches, given using gigantic PA systems, when they later read the text of the speech in a book, would ask themselves, “Why did I get so worked up by that?” There are many reports of things like this.

Or in Japan, before the war, all one had to do was say the phrase, “His Majesty the Emperor!” and people all around would snap to attention, as if an electric jolt had been rammed down their spines. And of course that infamous four-letter word for the female genitals is much more shocking if said aloud than read.

Because sound has the capacity to get under one’s skin! Infiltrating, penetrating, absorbing in. You can’t argue with or protest against a sound. Particularly when people have been born and raised in such a pickled sound environment, it's very difficult to get them to understand my defiant attitude.

It’s very rare for children, who have never experienced a different sound-environment to complain. “It’s too loud in the street!” or “There’s too many announcements on the shinkansen!”

The same way, when these children grow up into adults, it’s very difficult to persuade them that things might be done better another way. As the Don Quixote of SOUNDS, I get to meet many people who are very sensitive to sounds. But frankly speaking, some of the absolutely extremely most sensitive people are a huge pain in my ass. I’m talking about audiophiles and classical music buffs. They are very picky about their speakers and audio recording quality, but care not at all about the sounds outside. There’s nobody left like Kawabata Yasunari, Akutagawa Ryuunosuke, or Shiga Naoya (famously neurotic authors – ed.) who flips out about the loudspeakers on trains or the background music in cafes anymore.

Even myself, when I lived in Vienna, I was very picky about my classical: “This composer is crap! That symphony is crap!” And yet I’d go to any old café, with its  relentlessly repeated back-ground music, and not even mind it. Or I would go to a magnificent Mozart concert in Tokyo, but not even mind when the beautiful music was replaced with the roar of trains and announcements on the way home!


Sometimes I am contacted by “patients” with “very acute syndromes” : “Sensei, I want to commit suicide already,” they write. “But I couldn’t stand it if I was beaten by such a barbaric, rotten-noise country such as Japan.” I understand their feelings, but perhaps the majority does not.

 One such comrade-in-struggle is a manga editor named Mr. I. who moved to Gunma-ken. He sank all his money and effort into building a brand new house there, only to find an unpleasant surprise: no sooner had he moved, than the city built an Emergency Disaster Public Address system on his street which, of course, played announcements all through the day, loud enough to be heard inside.

Mr. I. went to the local city hall to complain, but all the bureaucrat had to do was tap his foot nervously and wait for Mr. I. to run out of steam , and then the “discussion” was over.

This is a typical case of “civic noise harassment,” the kind that has been recently seen on NHK television.

Another comrade-in-arms is Mr. Y, one o the few harpsichord makers in this country. He moved from Tokyo to the rural country town of Tomioka, specifically to have peace and quiet. But right after he moved, the city started building a whole line of Emergency Disaster Public Address system poles on his street. And their broadcasts completely disrupted his work. He fought tooth and nail, but it seems the majority of the residents supported the broadcasts, so he couldn’t have the announcements stopped or even lessened. And what were these important announcements?





Not to mention the daily chimes, with their message of, “IT’S TIME FOR ALL GOOD CHILDREN TO RUN BACK HOME”

And even if the Disaster PA was used for actual disasters, the “disasters” were like this:



The city of Atamishi has announcements every morning saying, “LET’S ALL GO TO WORK CHEERFULLY!”

 To people who think “WTF, who needs these announcements?” , I say: face facts! If you’re thinking that, you are very different from the average Japanese ! This should concern you deeply. It’s easy to laugh at these ridiculous announcements, easy to criticize them. Easy to say “These small-town folks are idiots,” or “The city councils must be retarded!” But you should know it’s a whole different matter to actually try to persuade city government to actually change them. And further: if you are not personally trying to change it, then you have no right to criticize or laugh at anyone.

As for Mr. I and Mr. Y., their enemies are not the city councils of their small towns. Their real enemies are the majority of the population whose complacency makes the town councils’ decisions possible. Once you realize this simple fact, it’s a short step to despising the average Japanese. You lose your goodwill, you lose the desire to return smiles and greetings. You could say that these NOISES help to destroy the sense of community. They leave their wounds so deep in our bodies. We start to imagine that we are strangers in this country, that we are some real weirdoes! 

Personally, I hate the escalator announcements so much, I not only use stairs instead, but I clamp on my headphones, rush to the absolute farthest-away stairs, and rush up them (or down) in a huge hurry. One day, a columnist for the Weekly Bunshu said that until he heard my speech, he thought that HE was the only one who did that!

He didn’t use headphones, but he ran up (or down) the stairs, with a scowl, despising his countrymen who, sheep-like, rode the escalators and tolerated their hateful messages of “LOOK OUT, THE ESCALATOR WILL BE STOPPING SHORTLY!”

As for the shinkansen, with their relentless taped announcements of “THANK YOU AGAIN FOR RIDING US TODAY!”, and their too-long speeches, given by a woman, talking slowly and lovingly, as if addressing a beloved child cradled in her arms, (What is up with that, anyway? Do they think that this honey-sweet maternal voice will make people look forward to a novel-length announcement?), followed by another tape, this time in English, followed by yet another announcement by the conductor, followed by yet another announcement by the food-vending girls . . .it seems as if you’re already at your destination by the time the announcements finish!  Just hearing these endless tapes is enough to make you hate the other people on the train, the kids snickering, the idiots with their rumpled newspapers, the snoring uncles with their folded arms, the people furiously devouring their bento boxes, all the horrible, cow-like people on the train, who seem to be totally oblivious to the announcements. I hate myself for it, but I begin to despise Japan and its “noise culture.” Moreover, I begin to view these countrymen of mine as accomplices to the announcements. It is because of their complicity that the tapes go on. It’s as if they’ve teamed up with the train company to torment me: they are perpetrators!


One time, when I’d reached my limit of endurance, I paced my house, my anger threatening to get out of hand: I wanted to scream, “WHAT HAVE I BECOME ? I’M NO LONGER HUMAN – JUST A BUNDLE OF NEUROSES AND HATREDS!!!” 

All my microphone-grabbing and off-switch flipping had not dispelled the poisonous stress which was accumulating within me. All my protests (such as the time I lectured managers of the Inokashira park for playing an endless loop of PLEASE DON’T SHOOT YOUR FIREWORKS INTO THE LAKE, THANK YOU FOR YOUR COOPERATION IN THIS MATTER PLEASE DON’T SHOOT YOUR FIREWORKS INTO THE LAKE, THANK YOU FOR YOUR COOPERATION IN THIS MATTER PLEASE DON’T SHOOT YOUR FIREWORKS INTO THE LAKE, THANK YOU FOR YOUR COOPERATION IN THIS MATTER PLEASE DON’T SHOOT YOUR FIREWORKS INTO THE LAKE, THANK YOU FOR YOUR COOPERATION IN THIS MATTER) had come to nothing, and I began to consider playing dirty.

Revenge, that’s what I wanted!

 Call up one of these bastards and let him have a earphone-full of Beethoven’s Fifth, at full volume! The neighborhood association chairman who wouldn’t stop the irritating morning announcements, I used to call him at home in the middle of the night. Not say anything. Just call and call. I started to go to the offices of my old enemy, Keio Subways and threaten them: “Since riding your subways causes me so much pain, you should give me a free pass! Better yet, you should pay for all my taxi rides! If you don’t I’ll have no choice but to come back, raising hell every day!”

But eventually, even these petty acts of vengeance didn’t relieve the daily stress. I began to realize that I might be heading down the slippery slope to madness. I began to fantasize about getting my OWN megaphone, hiding it in my handbag, and every time I was forced to listen to an unpleasant announcement on a train, I could whip it out and reverse-yell: SHUT UP! LEAVE ME ALONE!

 Then I fantasized about simply carrying a hidden hammer, with which to smash the speakers, right in front of his patronizing face. I’d then refuse to pay the fine, and use the resulting trial as a forum to publicize my views. Better yet, why not smash his face directly?

I’m not even joking. My thoughts were really spiraling out of control. I began to despise other people even more, then despise my own life. I don’t think I would have committed suicide; if anything it would have been a frenzied murder spree. But I knew such a course would not be advisable. I still had that much sense. I didn’t want to give my opponents the satisfaction of seeing me in jail. I had to find some other way to endure the daily torture.

You may be laughing, I assure you, it’s no laughing matter. Well, maybe a little : “Ha ha ha! Nakajima sensei finally snapped! He finally hit a guy with a hammer!”


Since then, I’ve tried to run away from conflict. I know where all the loudspeakers are on my route to work, and in order to avoid them, my path now has more back-and-forths than a snake’s trail. 

I absolutely can’t pass by my old enemy, the preschool. Same with that fucking pharmacy, and that damned CD shop. Can’t go here, can’t go there. My daily life is like running through a maze. The station near my house is always playing announcements like PLEASE DON’T CROWD ONTO THE TRAIN, AS IT IS DANGEROUS, so on a good day, I’ll walk a whole 30 minutes to this other station – the only one in the whole neighborhood which doesn’t play such ridiculous announcements .

And if I do go there, I have to get on the express train. Why? Because, the local train plays that same fucking announcement at every single station until my stop. Twice. 

When we get to Chofu station, I don’t take the more convenient central exit, I have to take the small north exit, and then run down the stairs. Why? Because the central exit leads to my old enemy, the Paruko shop, with its blaring announcements of bargain sales, which pretty much echo throughout the entire fucking station. But even if I make it out of the station OK, chances are there might be some asshole doing a super-amplified political speech outside. If not, then it’s something else. And if not that, some other damn fucking thing. . . .

And of course I can’t take the main street all the way to the University. That would mean passing the hated CD shop. Instead , I turn the corner at the MacDonalds (who incidentally DID turn down their escalator announcements for me), cut inside the bookstore. Why? Because the street in front of the bookstore is so full of fucking bicycles that one can hardly walk. From the bookstore, I cut back onto the main street, and then enter the University from the rear entrance. But even then I am not safe. The bookstore sometimes plays the Doraemon theme song on their speakers, and the station’s north exit includes an electronics shop that just fucking installed some speakers of their own.  

Merely to enjoy a reasonable chance at peace and quiet, my route has grown torturously long and twisted.

And even when I’m on the train, I can’t enjoy a book anymore to pass the time. I keep getting distracted by the announcer’s voice, the cell phone conversations of strangers, the other passengers’ stupid conversations . . . it’s like I can’t let my guard down even for a second. I want to say, “Won’t you scootch over and make some room for me?” But I can’t. I want to say, “Could you please stop doing such-and-such?” So many things I want to say but can’t! Instead, I do the Japanese thing: stare at the person doing such-and-such, then stare at the notice posted on the ceiling which forbids doing such-and-such, and then stare back at the person again!

Even if it’s fine weather outside, and I can see the sun shining through the windows, inside the train I am in my own personal hell! I keep obsessing about the flickering of the fluorescents, about the crappy way that people sit sometimes, and the assholes that won’t give up their seats for the elderly. . . even when they’re sitting in the special old-people seats!

One time, two old people got on the train, they must have been in their ‘80s or ‘90s. They both had walking sticks and even with the sticks looked about to topple over every time the train shuddered. And all four of the “silver seats” were occupied by a gang of non-elderly people. I stormed over to them and said, “These seats are for the elderly! Don’t you see these two old people? Go somewhere else! Everyone, get out of the damn seats!!” It’s strange to say, but, like robots, all four got up without a word, simultaneously stood, simultaneously turned, and walked away.

Now the seats were all totally vacant. I went to tell the two old people, but they’d already found other seats. There was one more old man nearby, but he merely said, “Well, I’m getting off at the next stop, so. . . “

I didn’t see why I should stop preaching, though: “Well, don’t you think you have a duty to demand the silver seat, when some young person is sitting in it? You have to stand up for yourself, don’t you agree?” The old man said, “I didn’t see the silver seats.” And turned his head decisively away from me.

In the dramatic pause that followed, not one passenger said anything to me. They mostly pretended to be asleep, but were all checking me out when they thought I wasn’t looking. Perhaps they were thinking, “Ah, he must have some strange syndrome that compels him to help strangers,” and then, satisfied, perhaps they went back to sleep.  As for myself, I regretted nothing. I only regretted the poor reactions I’d gotten so far.

So I decided to continue my activities  a little more. I turned to a woman – very pretty, I must admit- who was fixing her makeup. “The train is not a place to do makeup! That’s a really repulsive habit you’ve got!”

The woman started crying, and only then did I realize that the only free seat was the one next to her. I sat there for the thirty remaining minutes of the ride.

I mostly don’t feel any shame about my actions. All I feel was an annoyance with those around me, and their bad habits, which compel me to pay attention to them. I’m not just the Don Quixote of SOUNDS, I’m the Don Quixote of the whole culture that produces the SOUNDS, the whole hateful atmosphere of the country. It seems designed specifically to annoy me, so I have every right to annoy it right back!


From SOUNDS, the scope of my battle has widened to many other things – I realized that I’ve been steadily developing sensitivity to an ever-enlarging number of phenomena. It seems that I’m falling more and more out of step with the average Japanese. What I’m irritated by, they are not, and vice versa. In other words, my enemy is not SOUNDS anymore, it is JAPANESE PEOPLE.

I have to say this clearly!

Looking back on all my “comrades in struggle”, I realize that all along, about half of them were mainly concerned with SOUNDS, but fully half were sensitive to many various things. I used to be mystified by them, but now I am one of them!

We hate the bank and fast food clerks’ pre-programmed banter. We hate vending machines, cell phones! We hate the “set menus” of restaurants, where you can’t choose what appetizer goes with your entrée. We hate “katakana” words like SHIRUBAA SHIITO and PURIPEIDO KAADO. We really really hate field trips, PE class, hospital visits, business retreats with co-workers, end-of-year parties, and all these sorts of mandatory group activities. We hate the “safety campaigns” where leaders lead a chant and we are expected to respond. We hate the old men doing “fire safety” warnings by running around our neighborhoods at night clapping wooden sticks together. We don’t fucking care about baseball. We hate excess layers of packaging. We hate loud children on trains and restaurants. We hate the confusion and chaos of shopping malls. We are fucking sick of all the utility poles and the million types of power cables overhead. We are fucking sick of the billboards, the shops that display their merchandise on the sidewalks, We hate people parking cars and bicycles on the sidewalk. We hate frivolous young people that think they’re so cool. We don’t want your fucking free samples.

You could say we don’t like things that normal people like. We don’t care if the fruit is perfectly shaped. We don’t care of the shop staff is saying their “polite-speak” perfectly or not. We don’t care if people are not seated by rank at the table. We find the “PLEASE DON’T SMOKE IN THIS AREA” banners and announcements far more irritating than the actual smoking. We’d rather spend all fall walking on the colorful leaves than spend all fall fruitlessly trying to sweep up each and every one. We’d rather live amidst lush and verdant forest like trees than live among amputated trees whose tops have all been shaved because “There might be bugs there!!!!!!”

The city is too light at night! The heaters are too hot! The coolers are too cold! A little rain never hurt anyone!

In short, we’ve totally fallen out of step with Japan. We are very conscious that this makes us seem like foreigners, like “others.”  What seems like the background to ordinary Japanese is the foreground to us: we can’t tune it out no matter how we try. It assaults all our senses.


Next to my university is the stately and ancient Nunota shrine. Nunota is famous for its beautiful plum trees, which bloom in early summer, with a riot of bright white and dark vermilion blossoms. The aroma and the sight of them is very moving! But one day, as I approached the orchard, I noticed that each tree had an ugly sign hung around it: THE BLOSSOMS ARE VERY BEAUTIFUL SO PLEASE DON’T HANG YOUR OMIKUJI HERE (omikuji are small wooden prayer cards, upon which you write the wish you’d like to come true –ed.).

I thought this was the dumbest fucking thing I’d ever seen. I passed them quickly so as to keep my temper, but was dumbfounded to discover that the entire next area was full of ugly yellow-and-black flags which announced LET’S AVOID TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS! LET’S AVOID TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS! LET’S AVOID TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS! LET’S AVOID TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS! LET’S AVOID TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS! LET’S AVOID TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS! LET’S AVOID TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS! LET’S AVOID TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS!

These flags were fully a meter tall, and attached to the trunk of each and every beautiful plum tree. Where was the sense in this?!?   I straightaway walked to the shrine office, knocked loudly and marched straight in, my face red with anger, announcing myself as “I’M A PROFESSOR OF LITERATURE, LET ME IN!” 

The abbot came out, wearing traditional pantaloons. “So you want to stop people hanging omikuji, and your best solution is to hang ugly signs and flags on every single tree?!? What the hell are you thinking?!?” I bellowed. The abbot must have sensed danger, for he replied in a huge, Yakuza-style voice, “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? ARE YOU GOING TO DISRESPECT ME IN MY OWN HOUSE/??!?!?!!!11”  

Far from being scared, I simply talked over him, albeit in a more calm voice : “There is certainly a large number of ‘prayers’ for traffic safety, aren’t there?”

My more diplomatic, indirect tone must have paid off: I returned several days later and found the flags gone.

Around the same time, I was riding on my old enemy, the Keio train, when out the window I spotted something which made me stare for a long time: a field with two long rows of plum trees, and in between them, this gigantic two meter square sign that said TOUO REAL ESTATE. The sheer senselessness of such a thing made my blood boil. Another day I got off the train at a nearby station and set out on foot to take a picture of this monstrosity! I wrote down the number and address of the real estate agent, and then called them when I returned home. But they merely said, “Ah! Is that so? I understand what you mean, sensei. We will have to give this matter some serious study.”

 But of course, that meant they would do nothing. But still I felt like checking every time the train passed that field, hoping childishly that they would actually do something. Finally, I had to make a rule to always ride facing the opposite direction!

You must think I’m a fool.

While I was facing the other way, the plum blossoms all withered and went away. And the billboard was still there. A whole year passed, and again the blossoms started to bloom. I resolved to visit the real estate office in person, bearing my year-old photograph. The clerk who took my call the previous year seemed to remember me just from my voice.

So I decided to threaten him.

“So you’ve had a year to “seriously study” the issue, haven’t you? And yet I see the billboard is still there. Exactly what kind of “study” are you people doing around here? If you don’t get rid of that eyesore, I’m going to put this picture in my next book and tell everyone what a dishonorable company you are!” He took a copy of the photo and promised to send it to his supervisor. Sure enough, a few days later, the billboard was gone

(Nakajima published the photo anyway! – ed.)

But even so, how many people had to witness that eyesore of a billboard over the past year? Perhaps a few might have furrowed their brows, but even they didn’t take any action.

There were other cases, though, where my “surprise attack” methods were met with stone cold indifference. For example, the Christian church in Chofu. Every Sunday they put a absurdly huge sandwich-board right in the middle of the sidewalk, announcing their mass. You had to go in the damn street to get around the thing. I went to the nearby police box and explained the situation to the patrolmen there. They told me that, since the sidewalk was still under construction, technically it wasn’t an “official” sidewalk and therefore was not under jurisdiction of the “obstructing the sidewalk” laws!  

I was left with no choice but to take direct action. The following Sunday, I VERY QUIETLY stormed into the mass. Many worshipers were watching the priest give a sermon. I disrupted this as quietly as possible, by saying “Moshi moshi.” (the greeting one usually gives on the telephone!) A cold-eyed middle-aged priest came out of the back to talk to me. I once again explained, quietly, my concerns, and then he said the following ridiculous thing to me: “But you don’t have the right to disturb our services like this, do you?”

“You whine when I interrupt your services for one second, but every Sunday, all day, you interrupt every single person walking on the sidewalk? Do you have the right to do that?”

He said, “I understand,” but clearly he didn’t, because the following Sunday, there was the sandwich-board again, right in the middle of the sidewalk. And every time I see it, I get funny in the head and have to fold it up and set it against the wall.


Perhaps the cooling units aren’t like this, but I really can’t stand the bizarre amount of heat produced by heaters.

As soon as I say this, people misunderstand me. They think I’m simply using “personal experience” or “physiology” as the only reason why I don’t like heaters.

 Perhaps you even think that all of my suffering, all of my complaints, are based on nothing more than my own personal sensitivity. But honestly, you need to know that I always couch my arguments in logic and rational discourse. I never say simply, “I don’t like it because it feels bad.” I don’t make claims based on emotions.

In January, I got on board the shinkansen. It was just hot as hell in there! My hand-held thermometer read 26 degrees. (almost 80 F- ed.) The snack-selling girl wore short sleeves! Even the conductor! But, oddly, the passengers didn’t take off one article of their winter clothing. They stood there in their wool sweaters and layers of undershirts, with stoic faces. Why was that?!?

26 degrees? That’s high noon in the beginning of summer! You guys wouldn’t dress like that on a summer day, would you? Personally, I took off my overcoat, my suit jacket and vest, leaving on nothing but my collared shirt. It was still hot though. (another time, I was so hot I even took my shirt half-off on the train! The conductor looked at me, but I was like, “What?”)   I approached the conductor and asked him if he couldn’t maybe turn down the temperature a little?

“Aah, you’re too hot?”

“It’s not that I think it’s hot, it’s actually 26 degrees in here. That’s like the beginning of summer in full sunlight. And everyone is wearing winter clothes in here. Can’t you just turn the heater down a little?”

But even though I was speaking politely and rationally, he just couldn’t hear me. He made a pouty face and answered, “But isn’t what’s hot for one person actually pretty cold for another person?”

I suppressed a sudden urge to smack him upside the head. I know I’m abnormally sensitive, but here I was using hard evidence and logic, but even that couldn’t penetrate his thick skull! I was going to have to frame the debate in a way that a “company man” like him could relate to.

“But, is it the official policy of Japan Rail to waste energy this way? Especially after Japan signed the Kyoto Protocol on global warming? Japan is in the middle of a “save-energy” campaign, where individual homes are expected to use less power. And yet on public transit, can you really go against the national policy this way?”

But yet, he still made his sour face and said, “Frankly I don’t understand what you are asking me to do.” I had to concentrate very hard on not punching him. I know that my confrontational, logical approach does not go over well in this country, but still.  I couldn’t bear to approach him in this fake-polite way: “Erm, excuse me sir, can I beg you to turn the heat down a notch, perhaps?” . . . as if I asking a favor based on feelings. . . As if it wasn’t a scientific fact that it was 26 degrees in the fucking car.

Finally realizing that there was no way to win with this conductor, I decided to repay his hostility with some of my own:

“Sir! You are an idiot! You can’t understand simple logic. What’s the matter with you? Are you evil or just mentally challenged? If you were born that way, then you shouldn’t apologize for it. There’s nothing you can do, I suppose.”

And so on, in that vein. His face grew beet-red. In his red face, I could briefly glimpse the face of all the cowardly, lazy, spiritually impoverished Japanese who can’t be bothered to explain or defend their point of view. And this renewed my resolve to keep up the good fight!


Let’s look at a different place: the Dotour coffee-shop in Sensaitoriyama. In the middle of winter, I walk in, and it feels like a fucking oven. I’m immediately engulfed in a fierce wind so hot it hurts to breathe. All the staff are in short-sleeves. Who on earth decided on such an illogical state of affairs?!? I turned and glanced at the customers’ , and was surprised to see them sitting there in their thick wool sweaters, jogging suits, with bright-red faces, talking or reading books as if nothing were amiss. I’m sure they were quite comfortable, weren’t they?

I asked the manager what the temperature the heater was set to, and he said 27 (almost 81F). That’s noon in July. I asked the manager to please turn it down a little, and he flatly refused. And yet Japanese people look at me like I’m the illogical one?

“I want to make it comfortable for people who have just come in from the cold winter morning.”

What a splendid specimen this answer was! A juicy fresh platter of Japanese style “service thinking”: the colder it is outside, the hotter we’ll make it inside, so as to cultivate a feeling of welcome. The very essence of service! It won’t do to simply warm the customers up – that’s not sincere enough. We have to show the depths of our sincerity by making it as hot as humanly possible. The internal logic of “service” demands it. And the customers, although they suffer from the heat, understand the nobility of our intentions, so they don’t utter a word of complaint.

This is the same kind of false cultural logic that creates the SOUND situation. The majority wants to be taken care of, immersed in a hot wind of SOUND “I want to be told what to be on the lookout for, I want to be warned, scolded, instructed, informed, and advised!”

So when I say that I absolutely don’t want any of those things, of course I’m not going to be taken seriously by my countrymen.

By and large, Japanese are pretty kind, so they tend to think, “Well, perhaps I’m hot, but the next person might be still cold. So even though I feel the discomfort on my skin, I accept it stoically.” 

The same way that people on a bus might hear an endless parade of messages, none of which apply to them, but think, “Well, I’m sure those messages are important to some other passengers. So even though they sting my skin, I find them acceptable.” This is considered the proper way of thinking, the proper responsibility of an adult to society. 

To state the obvious would be to put one’s self (an individual) ahead of the group, and thus one would be seen as an egoist or an immature person who hasn’t learned his responsibility to society.

Japanese behavior uses this sort of “skin theory” to permit or approve unpleasant conditions: Both sides (business owners and customers) collude in a fait accompli. Society is like a mechanism with a lever that won’t budge.

I asked the young lady seated next to me at the Dotour “Aren’t you hot?” She made a face like I was a pervert and said, “I just got here so I don’t know.” What kind of retarded answer is that?!? You just got here so you don’t know what temperature you are?!?

The icing on the cake: if you complain in summer, they DO turn the air-conditioners down. The Tokyo subway DOES have a “Not-so-cold” train car in summer, but NOT a “not-so-hot” car in winter.

Why is that? I’ll tell you: people who complain “It’s too cold” are thought to have a “hot heart”, but people who complain “it’s too hot in here” are thought to have a “cold heart.”


Presently I suffer from what I call “electric neurosis.”  

In every outdoor shopping street, they keep all the street-lights on even at high noon on a sunny day. This is yet another situation where I’d love to have someone explain the logic to me, but so far no one has. At the Shanowaru chain of coffee-shops, they also keep their lights on right next to the window seats on sunny days.

I asked the passing waitress, ”Isn’t that a bit useless? Can I ask you to turn them off?” but she said, “Huh?” and made a face like she couldn’t believe her ears. Then she hesitantly said, “I’ll ask the manager,” and went away. She returned, looking stressed, and said, “He says there is only one electric switch for the entire coffee shop.” What a careless, half-assed way to construct a shop, you might think. 

But as for me, I was satisfied merely to get a clear, logical answer to my question. My anxiety eased, and soon I could concentrate on other things.

Incidentally, I got the exact same answer at Art Coffee. At that chain, they have no less than ten light-bulbs pointing STRAIGHT TOWARDS THE WINDOWS. Nothing could have less of an effect. The manager let me take him outside. I pointed to through the windows to the lights inside. “Here, my good man. Can you see any luminescence at all?” We agreed that we could not, but since there was only a single switch, there was nothing we could do. But still, I was happy just to get a straightforward explanation.

If you simply walk down the street at high noon, you’ll be surprised at how many electric lights are on. It’s like a whole river of electricity flowing right past your eyes.

In the outdoor shopping malls, too, the street-lamps are on all day. I went to the president of the shop association to confirm this. I then called the Tokyo Power company, and was sarcastically told, “Well, we make a profit out of that, don’t we? Haha!”

I hung up on him, of course, but I’d like the reader to think about his statement for a while. These damn street-lights are on at high noon. And in the trains, too, it’s so bright it hurts your eyes. Think about the amount of energy that wastes. For a long time, I had thought about calling the train companies and asking about it. But finally I realized that the bright lights ensure that customers can see the many advertisements plastering all walls of the train cars. That’s probably why the companies pay the higher electric bills. Especially the ads on the ceiling – direct sunlight might not reach those.

Far from being mad, I was happy – happy I’d discovered the logic behind the decisions. From then on, I didn’t worry about the train lights anymore. I suppose I’m really sick, if that doesn’t make me mad! But all I really want is straight answers. Even if it’s futile, I have to try to see the reasoning that leads to these types of situations.

Perhaps I don’t have “electric neurosis” . . .maybe it would be better to say that I have “logical man syndrome.”


One of the most dramatic episodes I had at the hated Tenjin Doori shopping mall was at the ramen store. Although I accomplished nothing more than making the owner despise me, at least . . .at least . . . well, even I have to admit I was acting pathological that time. 

The whole thing started over their ugly, huge red sign, with not one but two rows of flashing lightbulbs adorning it. What’s more, the sign faced west, so the afternoon sun totally outshone any light the sign might have produced. Every time I passed it, I got more and more concerned: I simply couldn’t look away from this absolutely pointless waste of electricity! 

Eventually it became easier to simply walk in and have a word with the manager. I summoned my resolve, turned around, and opened the door forcefully.

“Hey, you!” (it turned out to be a young couple running the place)  “Can’t you see that your sign’s light-bulbs are having no effect whatsoever? What’s that about?!? Do you think they can outshine the setting sun?”

They both looked absolutely bewildered. The various customers suddenly stopped their ramen-slurping, leaving an eerie silence. Everyone was looking at me, so I continued: “I’m a professor at Dentsuu University, so I can’t forgive your wasting electricity. In fact I am an expert on exactly this topic.”

My sudden comments, as you might expect, left a bad aftertaste in everyone’s mouth. Upon reflection, it might have been my tone of voice that prevented them from hearing the logic of my words. After work the following day, I again passed by the store and its absurd sign. I carefully opened the door, and again saw their surprised faces. They said nothing, so I composed my voice, and said very calmly, “One beer. And some gyoza, and one plate of ramen, please.”   The husband made the food, deliberately not looking at me. He brought it over. The fat wife hid in the back. There were no other customers in the store.

I put on my most polite face, took the food, and sat in the middle of the counter, directly across from them. “Are you surprised I’d come in today like this?”

“It’s a nuisance. We’re trying to do business here.” He said. Just then a customer came in. I said I wanted to talk in private. “Go back there,” said the wife, opening the rear door and indicating a small garden beyond.

 The wife squared her shoulders, and with a pained look on her face, began to speak: “I can understand your point if you’d only speak calmly. But yesterday you rushed in suddenly and yelled. You startled our other customers, don’t you think? Just the other day, some drunk customer had cornered me and was blathering on, but my husband didn’t help me at all. Then yesterday you come in all yelling, and again he doesn’t help me! Yesterday was our anniversary, but we spent the whole night fighting because he’s such a coward. You ruined everything! I hate people with no intelligence!”

“I hate them too,” I involuntarily replied.

“That was wrong of me. But please don’t think I burst in without a logical reason . . .” and then I told her everything that was on my mind. It wasn’t like she was the only victim here. Given the circumstances, there was nothing else I could have done.

“. . . I’m glad we could talk person to person like this. There’s nothing like some calm, unhurried discussion to get a good result.”

She squared her shoulders again, and with a dissatisfied look said, “I have to get back to work now.” I followed her inside, and proceeded to order snack after snack. When it was time to pay, I paid my 2500-yen tab with a 5000-yen bill : “Thank you for hearing me out. In gratitude please keep the change.” However, that was not the end of the story.

The following day, the sign-light was not lit. I was quite pleased with that. But the day after that, it was on again. Well, it’s cloudy, I thought to myself, so maybe that’s OK for now. But the following day, again, it was on. There must be some misunderstanding! The next day it was on, too, and it was totally sunny! I opened the door and went in. There was the wife, looking at me with alternating expressions of fear and hate. Once again, I spoke in a very calm voice: “You said you’d understand my point if only I spoke calmly. . . were you lying?” She looked like she was about to cry. “Do you not remember saying it? Or what?”

Finally her husband came out from the back room to help her. “Leave us alone, won’t you? Unless you want to pay our electric bill, it’s none of your business!”

This line of reasoning I could not follow – my advice would only lower their electric bill.

“Well then,” I said, “How much is the bill?”

He only turned his head to the side and clucked his teeth.

“OK, well, then I’m going to your University and complain about you!”

“OK, let’s go together. It’s more than I could ever have hoped for! You can talk to the president or anyone you like. “

“Well how about if I call the owner of the restaurant?”

“Go ahead! And how about if you call the cops too? We can all have a sit-down!”

“Either way, I don’t want you coming back here.”

“”Fine! But I want my 2500-yen back. Since you lied to me, I feel that money was wasted.”

Again sucking his teeth, the husband went to the register, withdrew the money, and walked at me waving it like a flag to a bull.

Naturally I didn’t want it anymore. Instead, I shouted, “I’ll be back!” and ran outside.

Of course they kept the sign lit after that! But as always, win or lose, I felt better for having done all I could do. Relieved. Refreshed, even. Even if I had to keep looking at their wasteful sign, I felt better somehow. Really, I’m a sick man.


In fact, the most fierce of my “electricity battles” was fought at my own place of work, Dentsu University. 

For the first time in a long while, I arrived at work in the early morning: around 9 AM. I passed through the front gate and got quite a shock: all the evening streetlamps were still on, just as they had been when I’d left the previous night. Even over the guard’s kiosk, lights blazed. I yelled at the guard, “This electricity is nothing but a waste of energy! Turn it off at once!” The guard looked up and said, “What? Where?” . . .he couldn’t see the lights because they were so ineffective against the fucking mid-morning sun. “Over there,” I said, pointing to one of the few lit lights that I could see . . .“And over there, too, and there!”

He said, “I, uh, I’ll look for them next time,” and I ran off to my office. Much to my shock, the entire outside lights from the neighboring Building A were still on! I telephoned the Maintainance Department at once, and was put through to a young man in the Electricity Department: “What are you guys thinking of over there? Leaving the outdoor lights on all over campus during the day?” Of course, since I had once again started off by yelling, the young man hung up at once. I realized that I had no choice but to go there in person. Upon arrival, it looked like the Director was not present, so I went to the Vice-Director. But as it turned out, I was second in line to complain: the young man who had hung up on me was already there! “Who do you think you are, hanging up on people like that?” I asked him. He looked at me indignantly and replied, “You were too high-pressure!”

Well, I suppose so. But in any case, I gave them a long lecture, followed by this parting shot: “Since you guys have forgotten how to do your jobs properly, I will be watching you from now on! Please don’t try to escape from me!”

But what really worried me the most, as I left my final class of the day, was the many powerful lights that shone – not only from the hated street-lights, but also out of the windows of lecture halls. There was no one in the halls at this time of night, and yet, here, there, and who-knows-where, the windows still spewed electricity! Once I noticed that, I couldn’t un-notice it, until I was unable to do any of my academic work. I called Tokyo Electric company and asked then to estimate the cost of running all our campus’ street- and class-lights all day. They gave me an unexpectedly low answer: only three or four hundred dollars per month.

Well, I decided, it wasn’t a problem of money anyway. The real problem was that the electricity wasn’t helping even one person. Not one person had asked to have those lights on, and yet, there they were, and nobody even noticed! Even one single yen was too much to pay for this useless state of affairs.

It looked as if I’d have to turn them out myself.

In the hall next to my office, there were ten classrooms, the majority of which had the lights still on! And on top of that, they’d left the heaters on too! I went looking for the guard, to talk to him. But he refused to turn anything off, saying his job was to turn the electricity off at 10PM. But the halls are deserted by 6, I thought to myself. I pictured the guards, walking back and forth past well-lit, well-heated rooms for four hours, their faces registering nothing.

Then I had a talk with the Director of Maintenance. He came all the way to my office, only to say things like, “It’s not our problem. It’s a problem of you teachers and the student’s morals. We could put up more signs, saying ‘Please turn off the lights when you leave’?”

Nothing but the typical Japanese way of thinking.

So, I decided to try my luck with the Board of Education : they were normally up for a lengthy and tedious debate on any subject. But it turned out that even they dismissed my claims: “That kind of thing is not going to change easily. You can’t just suddenly alter an entire system.” And so on. But they allowed me to make a leaflet on their official letterhead, which I distributed personally to teachers who had evening classes. But those teachers just said, “I see!” and then proceeded to leave their lights on.

Next, I took my pocket watch and measured exactly when all the classes finished. I showed this information to the University President at the next faculty meeting. But he only said, “It’s impossible to legislate people’s morality.” At one point, I would have simply given up. But I resolved to make one final effort. I resolved to ask, “Shouldn’t we as a University try to economize and save on electricity?”

However, they ended the meeting right before it was my turn to speak again. I stood up and exclaimed, “Why are you all so idiotic?!?” However, even this could not provoke any debate beyond simple counter-attacks.

After that, I sat at the window of my research-room, rolling down my blinds so that I wouldn’t have to look at the useless lights outside. Then I went to the toilet, careful not to look outside on the way there or back. Then back to my room with all the blinds down. No. I couldn’t live like this. Even the merest flicker of outside light was enough to send me into a fit of anxiety, which I had no way of getting rid of.

With grim determination I set out once more for Hall A.  I saw two or three students, outside the building, eating by the light of the empty classrooms. “You kids! Don’t you see what’s become of you?!?” I yelled. They looked scared for a second, but didn’t stop eating. I ran inside the classroom and violently turned off the switch. But clearly just dimming one single room made no difference. I started running around campus switching off all the electricity I could find.

Another day, when I was especially plagued by these lights, I went to see the school nurse, who diagnosed me with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This official recognition of my suffering made me feel a little better.

 My salvation came from an utterly unexpected source: the Campus Fire Prevention Night Patrol. Suddenly they started going around every night, and as part of their duties, they shut off all the lights of unoccupied rooms. You can just do that? It seems my actions of the previous week were not illegal, after all.

But, soon they stopped their activities as suddenly as they’d started. Things went back to normal. I started to think, “To students, night-time is lonely. . . maybe seeing light coming out the windows makes them feel more cheerful.” What kinds of thoughts were these, invading my mind? This was nonsense! They left the class  lights on all day, too – even though there were one to three hours between classes. Good lord – they’re wasting energy even during the day!

The solution was quite simple: all the faculty had to do was turn off the lights and heaters at the end of class. Nothing could be easier.  But why most of them not do it? I remembered seeing a new high-tech toilet on the TV news – a toilet that would not let you out unless you washed your hands. Why not a classroom that would not let you out unless you turned off the lights? Or, better yet, a room that would automatically calculate the electric bill for the unused time, and deduct it from the teacher’s salary? That would be effective, wouldn’t it?


Once again, I’d become a lone wolf, crying out in the wilderness. . . only this time it was my own place of work! I realize how strange this must seem to you. “He picks a fight at work?”

I understand. To help explain, let me explain that there were SOUNDS involved. I did a thorough investigation of the situation on campus, and let me show you the results: (keep in mind that, as I work here, I am probably being unusually lenient on them) First of all, there are a lot of announcements on the school PA. Among them are, PLEASE GIVE BLOOD AT THE BLOOD DRIVE! IT IS 3 O’CLOCK, SO THE LECTURE HALL IS NOW OPEN!

All of these are useless, particularly ones like, TODAY AT TWO, THERE’S A SPECIAL EVENT! PLEASE COME HEAR SO-AND-SO SENSEI’S LECTURE!

On top of that, in my own building (East One), there are loudspeakers in the halls, turned up so loud you can hear them in all the classrooms, all the research rooms, and everything. It’s barbaric! And if you’re in the hallway itself, you’re bathed in its fierce roar. Every time I catch a “direct assault” this way, I call to the General Affairs department to complain. And every time they tell me they’re “Looking into the situation.” And some time will go by without the hated noise, and then BOOM it’s back again.

These meaningless responses from General Affairs are driving me to the brink of madness with rage! (but of course it’s all an act) (isn’t it?)

Eventually I snapped at them:

“If you can’t get an audience for these “special lectures” without yelling at people, you should not give the lectures in the first place! If you want people to be compelled to listen to them, I’ll go and buy you twenty sakura!” (sakura is a kind of fake person that TV producers use to swell the audience ranks, or that people who open up a new Ramen shop hire to make a big line of ‘customers’, or that people running a sexy-email business hire to pose as horny women, etc. – ed.)

The person on the other end was silent.

“Well, then, I’m going to complain to the President in person,” I said and hung up. I went to meet the President, and gave him a vast pile of documents I’d compiled. But I got no reply. I sent him a letter saying, “Sir, I don’t mean to intrude on your time, but I gave you some very important documents, so please reply to me.” Soon, all my documents were returned, as if the President himself had plopped them on my desk with a contemptuous thud. There was a short note which said, “Let’s talk about this sometime.”

My sensible and moderate readers, I beg you!  Even if you don’t agree with me, please at least try to feel my frustration with the situation. I don’t anticipate that things will change for the better. In the end, I went to my dean. I talked to him for half an hour, but it was no good. He told me that all the top people in the University knew my concerns, understood that I was suffering, but merely passed me on to the next person to deal with. Their only concern was avoiding my dissatisfied and combative attitude. (This is something I can understand).


A few days after that, the Director of General Affairs came by my office, wanting a word. “It’s OK if you do your activism off-campus, but doing it here is going to make problems for you.”

“Why is that?”

“In any organization, there has to be a chain of command. And there has to be proper channels for making decisions.”

“I have no idea what that has to do with anything. Even if you don’t like my opinion, I’m merely offering proposals to the group, as a member of the group. If I’m breaking a specific rule, please tell me what it is.”

“All the administrators hate you, Nakajima-san.”

“Besides you, who?”

“Ha, ha, ha , haaa!!”

But really, I knew exactly what he was talking about. Consciously bucking the chain of command does pose problems for an organization. To be honest, if I worked within the system (for instance if I put it to a vote at the Teachers’ Association meeting), I’d lose. If I tried to argue in good faith, most people simply would not share my opinions. On the other hand, sometimes my “rash” actions yield results. For instance, in the elevators in my building, if there are more than X passengers, a tape is automatically played that announces, IT’S VERY PACKED IN HERE, ISN’T IT? IT’S CAUSING A MAJOR INCONVINIENCE. PLEASE ENDURE IT FOR A LITTLE WHILE.

The elevator also had a small plaque with the manufacturer’s contact information written on it. I called them directly: “Can you get rid of that idiotic announcement?” They took me seriously, and I received a reply from their General Affairs, saying “The tapes are built-in, so there is no way to remove them, but we will send a guy to lower the volume to the minimum.”

My harsh words were also responsible for reducing the amount of TODAY AT TWO, THERE’S A SPECIAL EVENT! PLEASE COME HEAR SO-AND-SO SENSEI’S LECTURE! announcements by fifty percent!

Honestly, the only way to obtain reform in a reasonable amount of time is to violate chain of command. And even if one isn’t able to accomplish a reform, it’s still vital that students and faculty are able to express their points of view.

One day, gigantic, ugly yellow recycling bins appeared suddenly all over campus. Not only were they distractingly bright, but they came with “funny” manga illustrations that said LET’S ALL PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT and other such clichés. In all my days I’d never encountered such a gaudy, childish, manga-fied waste bin. What has become of Japan?

Naturally I rushed to the General Affairs office: “Why on earth did you choose such a vulgar model of bin? This is a university, but you’ve made it look like a cheap-ass shopping mall!” Of course none of the other teachers cared. In other words, the University is just like the rest of the world. People seem oblivious to the obnoxious SAFETY IS #1 flags and the DON’T LITTER signs, and the equally vulgar, childish posters of the fire department and train companies. It’s as if we have become aesthetically numb. 

It’s as if we’re trying to save the physical environment by polluting our mental environment and our aesthetic environment instead!


“More than fighting at one’s workplace, fighting with one’s own neighbors must be the most difficult battle of all, even for a Don Quixote like yourself!”

At least that’s what they tell me. But in fact, I do my activism in my apartment complex just the same as I do it everywhere else. If I hear some loud, thundering music, I’ll go to the perpetrator’s unit, pound on their door. The door opens, and it’s a scared-looking teenage girl. I yell at her, “Quit it! You’re making a nuisance for all your neighbors! What are you thinking?!?”

There’s about 80 units in our high-rise, which makes it quite a challenge to pinpoint where that damned loud TV noise is coming from so late at night! Still, I can’t just let it slide. I dash out of the apartment, and go “noise hunting.” Usually it’s possible to trace the source. We live on the third floor. And the unit directly below us, or sometimes one of the units next to it, is responsible. But just to be sure, I go all the way to the first floor to check the TV noise level there. The housewife who opens the door is very logical. She says, “Please check the unit above ours.” She’s definitely not the perpetrator!

Thus I proceed to the second floor, and knock on the door of the unit below our apartment. As the door opens, I’m immediately assaulted by the huge din from the TV inside. I don’t mince my words: “The noise from your TV is a huge nuisance to those around you.” “I guess so . . . “ mutters the perpetrator, an old man, and goes to turn it down. The time before, I complained to the next-door neighbors, a retired couple: “Please don’t blare your TV so early in the morning.” But the thing is, I’m able to continue to greet my neighbors without any lingering resentment or awkwardness. (although frankly I don’t know if they feel the same about me!)

One time, it was my turn to be one of the apartment’s Neighborhood Council members. I took full advantage of the chance to do activism! There was a man who would play his cello at 3 in the morning. His downstairs neighbors complained many times to the Council. The other Council members thought they’d respond by including a notice in the monthly newsletter, or call and ask the man once again to stop, and other such moderate measures. Here is what I had to say: “That kind of thing won’t work on such a man! We need to get the apartment manager, and go together directly to the man’s apartment and tell him in no uncertain terms that he’s not to do it again!”

We put my plan into effect, and the problem stopped immediately.

The monthly general meetings of the Tenants’ Association were also a great place to do activism! One time the man next to me (a Council member, at that!) was smoking. I said, “I have an urgent proposal! Let’s make these meetings smoke-free!”

“Perhaps you’re talking about me?” responded the Council member. “Fine, whatever,” he continued, and snuffed out his cigarette. This incident caused some members to start whispering, so I quickly called for another resolution banning whispering. One old lady continued to whisper, so I walked directly to her seat and told her she was in violation, and if she wanted private talk, she and her friend should go outside. But they continued their conversation right outside the door- I could still hear them. I told them to go home!

As for the roast-potato trucks and the clothes-drying-pole trucks around our neighborhood (with their loudspeakers on a loop), I attempted to introduce that topic at the meeting but was voted down. I replied, “I really hate those guys. I can’t work from home when they’re around. I have chased them down the street, yelling ‘Don’t come around here blaring that noise!’ Perhaps some of you all might think, ‘If I can’t hear the potato-truck’s music, I won’t know when the potato-man is in the neighborhood’. If that’s the case, let’s discuss it rationally. Here is my phone number.”

But nobody wanted a civil discussion. I heard some people snickering at me, though. That’s right : I don’t always win. But in any case, little by little, more and more people are hearing my message.

“But what about your family?” you ask. “Doesn’t your activism make things hard for them?”

Of course, they were against it when I first started protesting. Against all my activities! But in the end, they got tired of resisting; it became clear to them that fighting with me was just going to make things take an even more extreme turn. But that was not all. . . luckily, little by little, they came around. My wife is not afraid anymore to call the police if the bousouzoku ride bikes noisily, and sometimes even tells café staff to turn down the background music! One time in Kyoto, we were out for a walk, and we found a coffee-shop blaring loud music into the sidewalk, even though there were absolutely no people around. My wife found the CD player hidden under the shop’s folding sign, and turned it off! And my son now uses headphones when watching TV. And sometimes I go to the train station master’s office to give a lengthy speech, my son will sit silently at my side.

Their transformation has really been a great boon to me, like an oasis materializing in a vast desert. When even my friends don’t understand me, when society mis-understands me, when strangers look at me like I’ve lost my mind, I can at least draw strength from the fact that my family at last understands me. Without them, I would doubtless give up hope.

Nakajima Yoshimichi ‘s JAPANESE ARE HALF FALLEN chapter one



The topic of this book is not things such as “airplane noise” or “noisy neighbors” (things which are officially recognized as “sound pollution”). I’m focusing on things such as the loudspeaker warnings that accompany escalators and moving walkways, the announcements inside train stations, trains, and busses, the sales patter of loudspeakers inside department stores, the constantly looping tapes playing at bank cash machines and parking lots, the background music and wireless “muzak” played in shopping malls or nightlife districts, and the general loudspeaker output that seems to completely cover our country in a blanket of broadcasts.


This whole category of “Please don’t / please refrain from / please watch out for. ..” messages are the most meddlesome and unnecessary.

I find that I am less and less able to tolerate them. Already the limit of my endurance has been reached. I began my “anti-noise” campaign seven years ago, when I started complaining to the bus company. At that time, I was working at a university, and this particular bus company had a special bus to take students to and from the station to the campus. I tape-recorded all the messages playing on the bus’ loudspeakers, and then analyzed them mathematically. Based on this analysis, I wrote a letter to the president of the bus company, informing him that fully ninety percent of the messages were not helpful. But I miscalculated.

WHEN YOU WANT TO GET OFF, PLEASE PRESS THE BUZZER . . . . THE BUS MIGHT SHAKE, SO PLEASE HOLD ON TO THE LEATHER STRAPS. . . PLEASE SAVE THE ‘SILVER SEATS’ FOR SENIOR CITIZENS. . . . since there were no more than four stops on the entire route, and all the passengers were university students, these messages were also useless, so the real total is closer to a hundred percent.

But the bus company didn’t change a thing.

I’ve spoken to many officials, and done lots of demonstrations all over the place, but almost no one seems to understand what I’m really talking about. Ten, nay, a hundred times, I’ve met complete resistance.

Every day, ten times a day, the speakers in the malls blare this message:

Even those of us who DO set aside money have to hear this reminder ten times a day forever? I protested to the Tax Ministry, but was told, “We’re absolutely not going to change it.”

The loudspeakers that violently blare THIS WEEK IS ‘SUMMER FIRE PREVENTION WEEK’ THIS WEEK IS ‘SUMMER FIRE PREVENTION WEEK’ THIS WEEK IS ‘SUMMER FIRE PREVENTION WEEK’ THIS WEEK IS ‘SUMMER FIRE PREVENTION WEEK’ THIS WEEK IS ‘SUMMER FIRE PREVENTION WEEK’ THIS WEEK IS ‘SUMMER FIRE PREVENTION WEEK’ THIS WEEK IS ‘SUMMER FIRE PREVENTION WEEK’ – even though they only do it for one week, their sudden, deafening volume and sheer meaningless-ness caused me to telephone the fire department and complain. They told me, “We’re absolutely not going to change it.”

On the subways, there are announcements like, PLEASE STOP PARKING BICYCLES NEAR THE STATION WHERE THEY ARE A NUISANCE TO OTHERS! and other warnings of crimes which are totally unrelated to actually riding subways. I complained in person at the local police box, only to be told, “Go away, we definitely will not change it.”

I went to the offices of the department stores and train stations, to complain about the overabundance of messages such as, THE ESCALATOR IS ABOUT TO BEGIN SO PLEASE WATCH YOUR STEP. THE ESCALATOR IS ABOUT TO BEGIN SO PLEASE WATCH YOUR STEP. THE ESCALATOR IS ABOUT TO BEGIN SO PLEASE WATCH YOUR STEP. THE ESCALATOR IS ABOUT TO BEGIN SO PLEASE WATCH YOUR STEP.  They also told me, “Go away, we definitely will not change it.”

In the public parks, there are already too many redundant signs saying, PLEASE KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR BELONGINGS, AS SOMEONE MIGHT STEAL THEM. Nevertheless, loudspeakers blare this same message at huge volumes throughout the day. I went to the park management office to beg them to stop, only to be told, “Go away, we definitely will not change it.”

I have a hypothesis that many people feel the way that I do about the noise situation. But most people only consider “noise problems” to be things like train motors, jet engines, and noisy neighbors.

In my career as an activist, I’ve received requests for help from over 100 people. But even the overwhelming majority of my “fans” seem to misunderstand my mission! They’re suffering because of dogs, sirens from the hospital next door, noise from the elementary school next door, and so on. In other words, things that are in their neighborhood.

What concerns me, on the other hand, are sounds that invade from outside the neighborhood: the “safety announcements” blared from police and fire trucks, the “speech vans” of politicians during election season, and the mis-use of the neighborhood “emergency evacuation” loudspeakers to blare everyday announcements.

Recently the invasions of traveling salesmen whose trucks blare advertisements for screen doors, laundry equipment, and fried potatoes – this has gone down, because of public outcry. But where is the outcry about the escalator announcements, or the delivery trucks whose speakers roar, I’LL BE TURNING LEFT SOON SO PLEASE BE CAREFUL! NOW I’M TURNING LEFT! STILL TURNING LEFT! BE CAREFUL, HERE I GO TURNING LEFT! or the banks, who have a tape of THANK YOU AGAIN FOR HONORABLY COMING TO SUCH-AND-SUCH BANK AGAIN! THANK YOU AGAIN FOR HONORABLY COMING TO SUCH-AND-SUCH BANK AGAIN! THANK YOU AGAIN FOR HONORABLY COMING TO SUCH-AND-SUCH BANK AGAIN! THANK YOU AGAIN FOR HONORABLY COMING TO SUCH-AND-SUCH BANK AGAIN! playing on endless repeat?!? It’s enough to bring me to the brink of neurosis! This puts me in the extreme of the extremists, I suppose.

Meanwhile, 99 percent of Japanese don’t care about any of this. Nobody cares about my pain and suffering. You all think you’re so rational and calm, just because you have a different sensitivity level than me. I don’t have any real response to you. But I still have a thing I really want to complain about in the next chapter!


I don’t like people who take an intellectual, theoretical interest in problems which don’t concern them personally. Nor do I like those who simply scream, “It hurts! It hurts!” without analyzing their problems. I simply believe people should express their suffering in a logical, and accurate manner. Even if you think I’m too sensitive about noises, I’d like you to acknowledge that this issue of “people who don’t express suffering in a logical manner” is a serious issue that should not be covered up.

My experiences are personal, the experiences of one individual. But how to convince people that individual experiences can constitute a social problem which affects everybody? That’s the aim of this book, in a nutshell.

On this topic, the responses of people who are bound hand and foot by organizational rules are neither illuminating or even interesting. Whether such people agree with me or disagree, either way I find their responses unsatisfying. Why is that? Because they’ve been trained to think exclusively in terms of organizational problems. Even if they agree there is a problem, they can’t deal on an individual level.

They never ask themselves, “What is the right thing to do?” or “What is the right thing to say?”

For example, I went to my son’s elementary school to complain about the loudspeakers used during PE class, which the whole neighborhood can hear, and this is what he said:

“Aww! Yeah, the speakers are loud enough to make your head hurt, aren’t they? We certainly should think about these issues, ha ha ha.”

My heart cried out in protest: “What is there to think about?!? You have no intention of turning down the speakers, do you? Quit ‘agreeing’ with me in this phony way!!!!”

When I hear this kind of patronizing double-speak, I get so mad, my skin crawls like there are worms writhing over my whole body! This kind of double-speak, (which I’ll henceforth call INSTITUTIONAL SPEECH), serves no purpose but to duck responsibility.

Although it is considered “acceptable” by society, considered harmless, it rots our morals. It gets us to stop thinking. And when we are assaulted with it day in and day out, it saps our will to resist. The reason is, these guys have framed the debate so that protest is not an option. If one persists in complaining, they will say, “Well now, let’s take the long view. Let’s take several years to do a very thorough study, including all points of view.”

I have to beat a hasty retreat when showered with this kind of fungal institutional speech.

Another example: a worker for Keio Subway company told me, “Well now, sensei, we respect your opinion and value your follow-up questions.” What jabbering nonsense! I thought to myself: “If that’s your ‘respect,’ then it’d be more helpful if you were ‘against’ me! Put up your dukes!”

And then there are the railway or bank employees, who are fond of saying, “Personally I agree with you fully, but it’s the organization, you see . . . “

This sort of statement, if you use one single nerve cell, you can clearly see is nothing more than “Self-defense speech.”

If I respond lucidly with: “Well, it’s precisely because you’re in the organization that you can have a bigger impact than I. And you have the most to gain by complaining, since you have to listen to that noise day in and day out.” They invariably reply with, “Huh?” They don’t understand the irony at all.

Rather than the baffling “agreements” of “institutional speech”, I much prefer the forthright “muscle speech” of the blue-collar potato vendors: “You faggot! Don’t get arrogant with me! I’ll erase you!” I think it’s much more spiritually healthy for society if people can express themselves directly, that they don’t fool themselves about what they mean. Also, these potato vendors have to take responsibility for their violent words, unlike the “institutional speech” speakers. They are willing to step out of the “safety zone” and risk everything to defend their turf.

But what I hate the most, more than any of these kinds of “speech”, is the enormous amount of people that really DO agree with me, that DO respect my struggle . . . yet do nothing on their own!


Be that as it may, I’m not fighting 24/7 anymore. And when I do struggle, I don’t expect the other party to change. I don’t care if they despise me or hate me, either. All I want to accomplish is to express my outrage, so that I’m not burdened by repressed anger. Whether I “win” or “lose” the argument , I still win! Venting at some noisy scoundrel can make me feel lighter, younger, and refreshed. It’s good for my health! 

When I walk to work, maybe I’ll pass a potato-selling speaker-truck in my neighborhood, and I am OK with it. But then I’ll pass another truck, blaring announcements that I’M TURNING RIGHT! PLEASE BE CAREFUL, I’M MAKING A RIGHT TURN NOW!! . . and I can still tolerate it. But when I finally get to the damn train station, and I have to deal with some lady politician from the JCP (Japan Communist Party), with her deafening speaker-trucks, yelling WE THE COMMUNISTS, ARE STANDING UP FOR THE WEAK, WE PROTECT SOCIETY’S MINORITIES!!! Their announcements cause me such suffering, all without any sense of the irony . . . . I have had all I can take!!! Oh really, you’re doing your thing in my name? For me? Really?

Personally I could give two shits one way or another about the JCP’s politics. I just want them to turn down their volume! I had no choice – if I didn’t protest right now, I’d be up all night burning with anger and regret. I walked right up to the politician – I must say, she was quite attractive – and got in her face.

“I don’t want to hear your political complaints anymore! It’s loud and extremely offensive! Stop it at once!” I said.

She was shocked! Although she’d been trying to capture the attention of passers-by all day, it never for a second occurred to her that someone would try to capture her attention! She had obviously not considered that anyone would ever object to her ceaseless barrage of noise!

She was scared for a second, but quickly recovered, and we started having a dialogue. She said that her volume was below the legal limit, and her announcements were to help the JCP protect the rights of the weak people, and no one else had complained, and other such RUBBISH.

After I endured her idiotic rebuttals, I said, “But you’re causing a huge nuisance for everyone around you, don’t you know that? You think it’s OK to make those around you suffer, so long as you get your way?” Then I told her: “I’d like you to stop making speeches until I’ve left the station.” And she obeyed. That was my “harvest” for that particular day.

 But other politicians are not so easily dealt with. Another day, I was at my home around noon, when I was startled out of my wits by a sudden and unbelievably loud racket. I had been sleeping, using both curtains and earplugs, but the din cut through them like they weren’t even there! It was such a violent sound I couldn’t even think about “waiting it out” – I threw on my clothes and walked to the source of the bother: a political speaker-van parked in front of a vacant lot just thirty meters from my house. The JCP, of course!  

LET’S PROTECT PENSIONS FOR THE ELDERLY! LET’S PROTECT THE HANDICAPPED, and other such vacant, no-duh slogans. When I realized that not only was it unbearably loud, but also unbearably stupid, I really flew into a rage. I charged the van, yelling in my loudest voice, WHAT ARE YOU DOING, MAKING SUCH STUPID ANNOUNCEMENTS?!?!? In response, a lady politician’s head peeped out the window, and we instantly got into an amazing fight.

“You say you’re on the side of the so-called weak people, but what about those of us working night-shifts? What about the home-bound, those who work at home, the sick and handicapped? Why are you waking them up and disturbing them? You haven’t given any thought to your own political mission statement!”

“No one is saying that but you! You’re the only one complaining!”

“Idiot! If I didn’t complain, would that mean everyone in our neighborhood is overjoyed that you’re here? Were you expecting everyone to come out of our houses and hold you a welcome party? You’re interrupting my work. Are you going to admit responsibility for that? I have a deadline tomorrow morning, and have to work through the night. That’s why I was sleeping just now . .. until you came along!”

“We’re fighting for people more disadvantaged than you! We care about their suffering more than you do!”

“If your constituency is so weak they can’t leave their houses, then they’re too weak to come out like me and tell you to shut up! They’re probably inside right now, holding their fingers in their ears!”

After more arguing, the JCP must have felt it was advisable to move to a different location. Even the politician (whoever it was!) stopped speechifying. But I was so mad, I wouldn’t let them escape. As the van started pulling away, I continued to rant to their rear-view mirror where they could still see me. I caught up with the van, and then stood in front of it, yelling, “RUN ME OVER IF YOU DARE!!!!”

 The driver made a polite gesture indicating that I should step aside, but I absolutely did not. And you know what happened next? He started backing up! All the way to the end of the street! Some forty meters. He backed into the main street, as the politician resumed screeching WE THE COMMUNIST PARTY EXPRESS THE OPINION OF THE OPPRESSED GROUPS OF SOCIETY!! No doubt they were just going to annoy people in another section of the city. But I’d made them retreat – they couldn’t stand the wrath of this oppressed person driven to the edge of insanity !!!

Perhaps my wise readers are scratching their heads, saying, “Well, if they only moved and did it somewhere else, then what good did your insane protest do? It would have been better to do nothing.” But I have no regrets at all! It is exactly because my protest was so insane that it was so cathartic. . . I felt cleansed, lightened, empowered, spiritually rejuvenated. Best of all, I didn’t have to go to bed that day, sick with repressed rage, thinking “If only I’d stood up to them . . .”

Plus, I’d made them feel my pain, if only for a little while. Even if they didn’t agree with it, they couldn’t deny how crazy they’d driven me – they saw for themselves the reality that they’d created. That in itself is a substantial victory!


Many people ask me “Why do you keep doing these protests that have no payoff?” and I always answer, “But they do have a payoff!” To me, not fighting hurts more. Not fighting leaves one with a feeling of lingering resentment which only adds to the pain. And even if sometimes these battles escalate into big public scenes, it’s still all justified in self-defense.

For example, the train station near my house has an unusually loud-voiced young worker named Mr. U. Naturally he uses a loudspeaker anyway, to make his announcements. Many times I have told him, “You have a naturally loud voice, don’t you?” but he never turns down the speaker. When he’s working, you can hear him from over 20 meters away from the station! One day, when he was even louder than usual, and I went to tell him to turn down. This must have been the fiftieth time. But he kept on announcing, totally ignoring me. I had reached the limit of my patience. If I didn’t act now, I’d have to spend the whole rest of the day in bed, full of regret and corrosive rage. Heedless of the possibility of oncoming trains, I ripped the microphone from Mr. U’s hand and threw it right on the tracks.

Mr. U. just stood there, following the descending microphone with his eyes, saying “Are-re-re-re.”

It’s pretty funny the way we Japanese react to things. Mr. U. never expected a customer to seize his microphone, so he was unable to promptly decide what to do. His brain stopped working, and all he could do was say that “Are-re-re-re.” I left Mr. U. behind, and went to look for the station master to report the incident.

“I asked Mr. U. I-don’t-know-how-many times to turn down, and he never would, so I threw his mike on the tracks.” The station master’s response was also really interesting. I could read his thoughts: “What an absurd incident! And what’s more –  the perpetrator himself is complaining?!?” 

His brain had frozen up. He looked at me slowly from head to toe, saying, “Is . . . .that . . . so?”

Meanwhile, I was already deep in re-telling the details of the story. But the station master simply stood there and said, “Is . . .that . . . so?”

My act was clearly illegal, so he should have taken me to the police station, but he did nothing of the sort. Mr. U. never even showed up to give his side of the story. He probably just picked up the microphone and continued to announce trains. . . like a sucker! Dissatisfied with this lazy state of affairs, I had no choice but to return to the platform and board the next train.


In this country, individuals fighting on their own behalf is unheard of. Perhaps that’s why it is so unexpectedly easy to get away with it. Let me give you an example.

In Sengawa, there’s the Kaoru Kindergarten. This kindergarten has a dormitory, so the pupils are pickled in loudspeaker announcements 24/7, without a thought as to what kind of miserable, stupid adults this will turn them into. What’s more, this kindergarten is on my way to work. Frequently, I can hear the painfully loud announcements thirty meters away from the heart of the kindergarten! I could not stand the extreme pain this caused me, so one time I charged directly into the kindergarten, yelling, “What is this infernal racket?!?”, and flipped the speaker switch to “off.”

This was yet another instance when people didn’t even try to stop me because they never imagined that someone might attempt such a stunt. The workers around me just looked on dumbly, as I shut off their system. Apparently the boss was not in, so a young male teacher had to confront me: “Is it OK to do things like that?” I told him, “Of course it is!” and he had no response. But they weren’t ready to quit: they just wanted to avoid a confrontation. I was followed by all the students and teachers to the entrance, and the moment I walked out the main gate, the recordings started up again, louder than ever.

Another day, Kaoru Kindergarten’s speakers were blaring the theme song of “ONI WA SOTO! FUKU WA UCHI!” (a traditional children’s game). Of course I had to charge in again. They must have remembered me, because all the teachers ran away. Strangely.

Without hesitation, I grabbed the microphone from a young female teacher, who was staring vacantly, and screamed, “ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL THESE CHILDREN?!?” This time, the boss was present. But he, along with the manger (her husband as it turned out) merely peeped out the windows of their office. If it was me, I definitely would have called the police.

From there, the scenario took and even stranger turn.

The female teacher dropped the microphone and ran headlong into the depths of the kindergarten. She said, “I have a small voice, so I need the megaphone to talk. But, I can scream good!” and with that, she proceeded to run around the playground screaming “ONI WA SOTO! FUKU WA UCHI!” At the top of her lungs.

I was dumbfounded. I followed after, trying to reason: “ What are you doing? Is that a way to act?!? If you use the microphone and just speak softly, everyone can still hear you!” but she wouldn’t listen. Looking as if she were about to weep, she continued to scream hysterically, “ONI WA SOTO! FUKU WA UCHI!” 

I left the kindergarten, and once again, the speakers started up behind me. It was one of those things.


You readers are probably already tired of these stories.

So I’ll just do one more.

The place: the very high-class Ginza shopping district. One day, getting off the subway at Yuurakicho station, heading towards Ginza, my ears were assaulted by a deafening din of speakers. It was so loud, at first I thought some uyoku (right-wing militia groups)  had come through in their giant speaker-vans, but that was not the case. It was the Purantan store (and what an idiotic name that is for a store, in the first place!). They’d erected an enormous stage directly in front of their entrance-way, obstructing nearly the entire sidewalk, leaving just enough room for a single person to squeeze by. They were doing a model-show for their new summer yutaka, but foolishly, all the models were white people.

 The whole stage was surrounded by speakers, which emitted a ferocious din of music. And of course there was a lady holding a microphone in one hand, giving announcements even louder than the music. My whole body was filled with anger to the point of physical pain. I ran to the nearest public phone box and dialed 110 (like 911). “Come quickly! Purantan is having a yutaka show! They’re making a god-awful racket – it must be in violation of city ordinances. Please put a stop to it at once.”

Then, without hesitation, I approached the wings of the stage, and told the young man working there, “I want to talk to the person in charge. One can hear this sound for thirty meters in all directions! What are you people thinking?!? This level of volume is clearly in excess of city ordinances, and furthermore, your stage is forcing pedestrians into the street. It’s impossible to walk around here. And what about the handicapped, in their wheelchairs? I’ve already dialed the police, they’ll be here any minute now.”

Then we exchanged business cards.

“Wait here a second,” he told me, and escaped backstage.

But the person in charge never emerged, and I was stuck waiting in vain. The police will surely take care of these rascals, I thought, but they didn’t show up either. The nefarious yukata show, with its hideous din, kept going on an on.

I snapped.

I ran out in the middle of the street, and stood directly in the path of the first car to come along. Naturally, this being high-class Ginza, it was considered very rude to ever honk one’s horn here. The driver silently sat in his vehicle, finally making a “please get out of the way” gesture. I paid him no mind. Then he slowly edged his car forward until it was almost touching my body. I considered jumping on his hood, but decided against it. Finally, a “snake of cars” stretching well over twenty meters was stopped in front of me. Finally, the “man in charge” showed his face.

In fact, several Purantan workers were looking for me, and when they finally found me in the middle of the road, they called out in surprise: “AA!!” Then: “Excuse me, you’re blocking traffic. Could you move aside, sir,” they implored. But they still wouldn’t come near me. They stayed on the sidewalk, calling, “Excuse me, excuse me, hello!”waving their hands, and bowing at the same time. Why did they not deal with my reckless acts in a more effective, direct manner? I turned to them and bellowed, “There’s no room on the sidewalk anymore, so I’m watching the show from here!”

In response, they resorted to simply saying “Please!” over and over. I paid them no mind. Making matters even more odd, not even a single driver had emerged from his car to accost me. Perhaps they assumed there had been a serious accident, and were prepared to wait a long time.

This stalemate lasted for around ten minutes, when I decided that it was enough, and walked over to them. And then we began the following exchange:

“You people! You turn so pale when I block traffic, but you yourselves block the pedestrians without a second thought! Have you no idea the inconvenience you’re causing all the walkers? How can you be so insensitive?!?”

A man with an armband identifying himself as “Chief Manager of Sales” kept saying, “Excuse me, excuse me, hello!”

“Well, if you are bored with my complaints, then stop your event at once!” I retorted.

 At that point, still more workers emerged from backstage and said, “It’ll be over soon, so could you please . . .?” 

And than after two minutes, it really was over. Several days later, I wrote a letter to the president of Purantan, enclosing a huge amount of supplementary material, including a brochure from the Environment Ministry entitled “Public Noise Handbook”, and my own book, “Urusai Nippon to Watashi.”

I received a reply, written in the now-familiar “institutional speech” : “You have given me a lot to reflect about. Please don’t hesitate to teach me more in the future.”

A few days later, I went to check the source of a horrible din, and sure enough it led me straight to Purantan. They were doing some event to sell cell-phones. I stormed in and yelled at the salesman with the microphone, “GET ME YOUR MANAGER!” I had to wait thirty minutes, but finally the manager of sales came out. In my usual fashion, I confronted him : “How dare you people lie like that! Tell the truth – many people ask you to turn down the sounds, right?” The bastard ducked and dodged my questions like an expert. It was no use dealing with that guy, so I up and left. 

Here I’d like to announce something. Purantan is a dishonorable and barbaric department store. Never mind its prices, it is a fundamentally vulgar place which has no business in a high-class district such as Ginza. May they go bankrupt at once!


One day, I was called to attend a meeting of music teachers at the Osaka University of Art. It had been a long time since I'd been to Osaka, but I'd heard many rumors about the unrelenting announcements on their Midousuji subway line. I steeled myself for battle as I boarded the Midousuji train. And, just as I'd feared, the twenty minutes it took to reach my station were little more than sheer torture.

The train was absolutely flooded with these useless broadcasts. On top of that, every time we pulled into a station, loudspeakers outside the train would inform us that, THIS STATION IS NON-SMOKING SO PLEASE COOPERATE WITH THE RULES AS YOU EXIT THE TRAIN.  Adding to my irritation were the announcements that one would normally get only on a bus:


(in a separate incident, an acquaintance of mine who worked for a bus company told me that "The fees we collect from those announcements keep passengers' fares down.") Honestly, some people are living in an entirely different world from me! 

As the endless subway ride continued, I considered how many different levels of sensitivity that different types of people have. The vast gap between people's levels pains me. And here I'm going to widen my scope a bit: It's a huge mistake to think that no one minds the loud speaker-trucks that roam about during election season. But on the other hand, some people in sparsely populated areas actually phone the politicians to complain, "You guys never come out here!"

But you know what really gives me the "goose pimples of furious detestation"? When the towns use the Emergency Disaster Evacuation speaker network (mounted on light-posts in residential areas) to broadcast a too-cute song every evening, followed with the announcement: IT’S TIME FOR ALL GOOD CHILDREN TO GO HOME FOR DINNER NOW!  It's this horrible Big Brother as sugary-sweet Disney character type of thing.

I asked Mr. O. at my local city hall about it, and he told me, "It's unusual for people to complain that the chime is too loud. Usually people complain that it isn't loud enough."

Well, then! Just do whatever you like, why don't you?!?

It was March 10th, around noon. I was walking towards my local station as always, when I heard a dreadful din from somewhere: TODAY IS. . . . . JAPAN'S SURRENDER . . . . MEMORIAL . . . . DAY! WE LOST . . . THE WAR. . . . AND WE LOST. . . . MANY LIVES. . . PLEASE. . .. TAKE A MOMENT . . . OF SILENCE AND PRAYER. . . .FOR THEM NOW.

Of course, of all the people I could see, not one was praying for the dead. But how many of us had misgivings about this violent, sudden, intrusive burst of advice? How many of us were angry inside? Later that same day, to prevent a build-up of anger (which is very bad for my heart), I paid the city hall a visit. But I doubt they'll change their procedures.


Let's return to Osaka.

The following day, I was walking through the South Entertainment District (Minami no Hankagai), and realized quite clearly that it sucked. Usually when I go walking, I use both my earplugs and my CD player with the headphones. But that day, I decided just as an experiment to go without. To disarm myself, as it were. 

It was really uncomfortable, but it couldn't be helped: my "armor" would have been useless in any case against the explosive power of megaphone-wielding salespeople which assaulted my ears from all sides. On top of that, there was a huge screen next to Ebisu Bridge, and rock and roll music videos were playing at deafening volume. Next to the hateful screen was a Chinese seafood restaurant with a tape loop that chanted COME TRY OUR CRABS! COME TRY OUR CRABS! COME TRY OUR CRABS! Even the used-book stores were playing enka. I felt as if I had gone inside a giant pachinko parlor, or I was trapped inside a video-game center. What surprised me the most, though, was that, in the midst of this "speaker hell," lovers and families walked side-by-side, smirks on their faces, seemingly without a care in the world.

Attempting an experiment, I'd hidden a recorder as well as a decibel meter in my handbag, but the readings were off the scale.

"Enough already," I muttered to myself, and took a side street to Midousuji. To my relief, the streets widened, and there was almost no noise. This little neighborhood is also Japan, I reminded myself. But that terrible shopping district is Japan, too. One has to take both Japans, as if there is no contradiction. Just like West Shinjuku, where the ultra-modern high-rise business district abuts the very cheap, old-fashioned, garish shopping streets. Perhaps we Asians intentionally construct our cities this way.

We feel most comfortable when the noisiest parts are right next to the quietest parts; the more of a patchwork, the better!


Looking for a way out of Osaka, I decided to take the express train to traditional Kyoto. Kyoto people like to look down on Osaka people and say, "We're different from them!" But as far as the SOUNDS go, Kyoto people have nothing to boast about (of course, neither do us Tokyoites). In a test of the "sound environment," Osaka scores a miserable 20, but Kyoto is only 25.

I'd like you to acknowledge this.

I got off the train at Kawaharacho station, went outside, and immediately overcome with rage: it was as if Kawaharacho was the capital of the Roaring Din District. I don't know if it was right-wingers or left-wingers or what, but there was some kind of heavily amplified public speaker lecturing in the middle of the street, throwing a real tantrum.

Instead of arresting the culprit, the police decided to add their own looped loudspeaker messages intermittently: RECENTLY SOME SHOPS HERE HAVE BEEN SELLING DEFECTIVE MAKEUP. IF YOU ARE A VICTIM OF SUCH A SCAM, PLEASE REPORT TO THE NEAREST POLICE STATION! IT’S FORBIDDEN TO RIDE BICYCLES ON THE SIDEWALK. WALK YOUR BIKES IN THIS AREA.  and other such foolish admonitions.   In fact, the former announcement was repeated on a billboard right in front of me, fully ten meters long! Did this add to the legendary beauty of Kyoto? And yet, people were enjoying themselves just as if they were not inundated with the vomit from these explosive loudspeakers.

If one were to gather together us people who find these SOUNDS painful, the smarter of us might say, "Well, who needs an announcement of "Don't be swindled" ?!? Grown-ups should be aware of swindles, that's obvious!" But apparently it's not obvious to the majority of Japanese. Nobody gets the least bit irritated. If anything, people take comfort in it – even people to whom the announcement absolutely does not apply.

To you intellectuals and cultured people who are irritated by all this noise, who feel cursed by a country that doesn't teach people self-responsibility, I say: listen to your hearts! Wake up! Your countrymen love these official warnings! On the street, in the train, in the bus, in the park ,in the malls, the graveyards, the beaches, even in the mountainside, at work, school, they cry, "We want to be told what to do!"

Words from above are automatically assumed to be true and proper, so they pass through the tympanic membrane easily into the brain. If you think I'm lying, go to Shijou Road and ask passers-by, "Do you think this official warning is necessary?" Thrust a microphone at them. They'll look at you suspiciously, and reluctantly answer like this: "Well, yeah, it's good. There are people, victims in trouble and such. They need it."

This isn't the remnant of some feudal custom designed to manipulate or control the average citizens. Nor is it like the strict "control" announcements after the war, which most common people rose up and protested. You can't say that the police are doing them with bad intentions, because these days, average, good-hearted people have come to rely on the announcements.


Similarly, if the police had a sincere desire to prevent illegal bike parking, they would increase the frequency of their patrols, and as soon as they find an illegal bicycle, they confiscate it and charge up to $500 to return it. If they did that, the problem would immediately vanish. But of course, such a law would never be passed. 

Of course, people with a European "individual rights" mentality could not comprehend such a law to begin with. But bear with me please.

The average person thinks nothing of parking his or her bicycle illegally. And if someone – police or just a random guy – tries to confiscate their bicycle, the average person would fly into a rage. That’s how Japanese are.

The police know this, so in order to circumvent such conflicts, they broadcast loudspeaker messages, saying PLESE DON’T PARK HERE. If they hear the messages, Japanese bike-parkers will know that they will be causing a nuisance to those around them. The embarrassment will cause them to follow the rules. This is also how Japanese are, and the police rely on this. Of course it doesn’t work overnight, but over the course of time, people will start to see, “Oh, there’s no bicycles parked here, maybe I shouldn’t park mine, either.” And by being patient, the police can enforce the law without super-strict measures or hostile conflicts with citizens.

I was watching the NHK Morning News one day, and saw a young male reporter standing with his microphone in the middle of a Yokohama rice paddy, smirking, and saying “This morning’s report is good news!”

The camera zoomed back to reveal a row of tall poles, lining the large road running alongside the rice paddy. These spanking new poles each had a loud-speaker which bellowed PLEASE DO NOT DUMP YOUR TRASH ILLEGALLY HERE! PLEASE DO NOT DUMP YOUR TRASH ILLEGALLY HERE! PLEASE DO NOT DUMP YOUR TRASH ILLEGALLY HERE!

The good news was, the illegal dumping had come to a sudden halt.

They cut away to a file photo of the former street, which was lined with trash. Then a short video of a whole line of cars stopping along the street, one by one opening their doors to toss out their huge bags of trash. Doubtless, they had simply found another street in the same city to do their dumping. This was the “super effective” plan the TV was talking about. Naturally I flew into a rage, promptly telephoning both NHK and the Yokohama City office. But who knows if that would make them stop?

First, to me, a road with loudspeakers on a constant loop of PLEASE DO NOT DUMP YOUR TRASH ILLEGALLY HERE! PLEASE DO NOT DUMP YOUR TRASH ILLEGALLY HERE! PLEASE DO NOT DUMP YOUR TRASH ILLEGALLY HERE! doesn’t feel like a place for living things. Two, of course I hate dumpers, but the solution is clearly worse than the problem! If they’re so worried about dumping, wouldn’t it be common sense to hire a guard instead?

But the whole question of, “Is it effective or not?” only serves to distract from the true, fundamental issue.  Sure, the booming tape alone is enough to scare off even the most die-hard dumpers. But, why are Japanese so scared of a tape in the first place? Are we crows, scared of a straw man?

But even the most timid criminals, if they knew there was no real danger of being caught by police, would instantly return to dumping trash. Just like the people who no longer pay attention to the DON’T PARK YOUR BICYCLE HERE announcements or the DON’T USE YOUR CELL-PHONE ON THE TRAIN announcements, it’s inevitable that people in Yokohama will return to their old habits when they realize that there is no danger in ignoring the tape.

Just like a bird who realizes a scarecrow is just made of straw.

Then, presumably, the Yokohama City Council will erect an even more impressive “scarecrow”, which will also lose its effect since it, too, will not be backed up with real police. And then a third, even more fearsome “scarecrow,” and so on. Like a municipal game of whack-a-mole. Japan is becoming a country of scarecrows.

I’m afraid this mentality is much too deep in our Japanese bones for anyone to do anything about it. And the way that I sigh, roll my eyes, and talk down to the MASSES is certainly not going to help matters any.  But the MASSES are clever in their own way – they intuitively know the rules, what behaviors will benefit them, what behaviors will get them shunned by their fellow villagers. They know that, if they should meet a stranger to their town, the wisest thing to do is to ignore him.  This kind of "wisdom" is in their bones, so to speak.  They know to listen to the "voices from above", with their endless stream of advice, rather than their own internal voices.

Please don’t understand me. I’m not endorsing this attitude. And I’m not saying that it will never ever change. I’m just saying this attitude is in our blood, in our bone marrow. And changing it will be very difficult.  The first step is to simply make people aware of this cultural phenomenon. “Oh, I’d never thought of it before, but now that you mention it. . . .” they’ll say. That’s how we can begin our cultural revolution. Although it’s a journey of a million miles, we have to start somewhere.


I want to emphasize how difficult it is to change the situation with social activism. The usual strategies of activist groups absolutely don't apply to the problem of the SOUNDS.

I spoke with Ms. T., a women’s-rights activist who also has run successful campaigns to preserve the names of old cities (apparently some city governments try to change the names to attract investors?!?) . We did a dialogue featured in the pages of AMENITY, the newsletter for “The Society For Considering Megaphones.”

She said, "WTF is up with that endless loop of PLEASE WATCH OUT, YOU’RE ABOUT TO GET ON AN ESCALATOR!!! in Tokyo Shinkansen station? Nakajima, before we write a letter to the station director, let's get a petition going, let's get some famous names to co-sign, let's really do this activism properly. What do you say?"

I replied, "I think even that would be futile. The station master would send back a letter saying, ‘Honored Customer, it is our great pleasure to hear your opinions,’ and that would be the end of it. And do you really think you could get a million signatures? If that many people found the announcements irritating, there would already be a million complaints, and the stations would already have stopped. I don't think famous names would help, either."

After just this one interview, she stopped trying to do the petition. I don’t blame her, however. As I’ve said many times before, it’s wrong to try to force the majority to change. This kind of “scary Big Brother” approach reminds people of the Meiji Restoration, and the Macarthur GHQ government. And those were both ultimately unsuccessful. 

On the other hand, if there was a “culture revolution” led by the leading intellectuals and influential people, perhaps they could influence the MASSES in the nick of time. Perhaps they could persuade the people to cooperate in a national campaign of reform. Fundamentally, majority rule is a good idea, but its narrow focus on “number-based” arguments rules out petitions, when the petitioners are in the minority.

The number of like-minded noise sufferers is small, and frankly most of us shudder at the thought of publicly campaigning for change. However, thanks to the efforts of Mr. Takanashi Akira, and his organization, The Society For Considering Megaphones, the opportunities for activism have increased.

Fifteen years ago, when Mr. Takanashi returned to Japan from France, he found his homeland totally pickled in speaker noise. Instinctively resenting this turn of events, he decided to start the Society newsletter, AMENITY, with the goal of gathering like-minded people. Mr. Takanashi had a skill for organizing people, so his group eventually had branches all over the country. Hokkaido, Kansai, Kyuushuu and so forth. And then, the branches started to meet in person, to discuss counter-measures to the noise in their various cities. And then some organized street marches, which got the group on NHK television. They held many symposia, were interviewed by Akao  Satoshi (??) and Aoshima Yukio, and sent letters to the Diet asking for a suspension of the election-time loudspeaker vans.

They petitioned then-minister of Transportation Ishihara to declare certain shinkansen cars “quiet cars.”  That petition was not successful, but they were, among other actions, able to get rid of the excessive chimes in the schools. They even did some lawsuits, for instance a suit that forced the Odakyuu subway to stop audio advertisements for stores near the stations. Mr. Takanashi’s real strong point was as an essayist.He wrote many articles on this topic in a music magazine.

When I first joined the organization, eight years ago, I thought, “We can change Japan pretty quickly if we all get together, can’t we!” How naive I was! After a while, I had to admit we were simply getting  nowhere. None of the regular people, before and behind us, to our  left and right, seemed to care what we were saying.
Some people cared about the announcements in trains. But nobody understood about the street loudspeakers, to say nothing of the escalator announcements. Naturally, people began to quit the group in discouragement. The core people fought on, like soldiers outnumbered in a war, dropping one by one.

The newsletter, AMENITY, became even more focused on noise, and nothing else : not activism so much as people consoling one another. The articles were nothing more than, “I hate this noise!” “Well, I hate that noise!” “Let me introduce you to the great sound-environment of north Europe.” And so forth. What was even the point anymore, I wanted to ask.

It was in this atmosphere that Mr. Takanashi announced, “I have said all that I have to say on the subject, so I’m retiring from the organization.” Some of the other members vowed to continue publishing the newsletter, but I couldn’t see the point. Sometimes there would be meetings – a whole ten people – but again, I didn’t understand why.

Personally, I was not as devastated as Mr. Takanashi. Unlike him, I never wanted or expected a total social revolution. I think it would be extraordinarily difficult to solve this problem with revolution. But it’s precisely because I agree it’s a serious issue, that’s exactly why I’m very picky about the way in which to fight it.


My main point is this: I’ve fallen totally out of step with the vast majority of other scientists and theorists complaining of “the noise hell of today’s Japan” . . .they all come to different conclusions than I.

The theorists who talk about “soundscapes of society” use acoustics and human physiology to make their case, and on that basis they classify certain sound environments as “good” or “bad” (in some cases they even classify silence as bad!).   But I’m here to warn you that this kind of thinking can be very dangerous. It doesn’t allow for how different individuals have different sensitivity levels – the goodness or badness of sounds doesn’t reside in the environment but in our heads!

But perhaps that’s why the government likes their plans more than my plans! Already the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Culture are considering implementing the “Japan’s 100 best sounds” campaign (based on these theorists’ theories) in parks, cities, and so on. But what IS a “good sound environment?”

Perhaps the answer is, “Whatever the majority says it is!” Or, even more dangerously, “whatever the normal people say it is!” So whatever sounds the scientists select (with their acoustics and physiology research), if you don’t agree with them, you are automatically “abnormal” and therefore your opinion doesn’t count. “Seeing things from others’ point of view” no longer applies to you.

Of course these theorists would reply, “It’s not that simple, Nakajima!”

But if you talk to the people who design urban sounds and announcements, they will tell you that it IS that simple: their fundamental rule is: design what the average people want. Despite all their aesthetic sense and training, they can’t deviate from that fundamental rule even a little. I'd like them to admit that making  public spaces full of violent and evil sounds is part of their training, part of their occupation. I'd like them to admit that they cause suffering to some people, even if it is a tiny minority. And I'd like it if this newfound knowledge caused them to suffer a little (a lot!?) every time they designed a new "public sound" .
In a recent issue of the Asahi morning newspaper (1998, August 13th), there was the following report:

People calling themselves “noise fighters” think that the sounds you make are noise.
 In the train station, the alleyways, department stores, our cities overflow with loudspeaker sounds.  The urban sounds have drifted too far from real music, say a group of rebellious classical music percussionists, dubbed the “Japan Percussion Association”. The JPA has started a mission to save the world from “noise!” Counting the students of music schools, the JPA has over 1,000 members and they have begun an all-out hunt for bothersome sounds.  They are cataloguing and measuring them throughout the city. To try to have a lasting effect, though, they are preparing to work with government agencies on new regulations.
 I don’t disagree with the JPA. I think everyone should fight for what they believe in. But I’m a bit confused by their activities. Their solution seems to be: asking the the government to replace "bad" (non-musical) noises and announcements with "good" (musical) ones. But to people such as myself, this is no improvement at all, is it?!? What we resent is the fact that strangers are cramming our ears with sounds every second of the day, that strangers in faraway rooms have decided what we shall hear from morning till night. The actual "content" of the sounds is immaterial!

Some colleagues of mine at Osaka Music University say it’s already impossible to teach music education anymore in this society. “Modern Japan is so musically inferior!” they scream. !Not only do the kids raised in the modern “sound environment” lack the subtlety to understand classical music, they have even lost the ability to appreciate the many nuances of traditional Japanese sounds! Their sensitivity level is so low!” I sympathize with them 100 percent. At a faculty meeting, one sensei said, “Everyone! Isn’t musical education nowadays in a shameful state?!? Shouldn’t we blame ourselves?” I’m glad he said that! He continued, “We should begin to emphasize the role of quietness, silence, and dynamics in music.” I applauded him from the bottom of my heart. Just a small change like this is enough to give me courage to go on!

But, and maybe I’m being too picky here, even such passionate senseis and musicians don’t notice the SOUNDS once they go out into the street.

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!




JAPANESE ARE HALF FALLEN by Nakajima Yoshimichi

This is a translation of a Japanese book. You can buy the original book here.

In 2005, professor Nakajima Yoshimichi published JAPANESE ARE HALF FALLEN (日本人を<半分>降りる), which was an amazing 250 page rant against all the signs and pre-recorded announcements that pervade Japanese society. Even better, he is totally aware that his beliefs mark him as a cranky old coot, and he embraces that persona, alternating between reasoned logical discourse and insulting his readers. As you will see, the book starts off as almost comedy-  he recounts all the times he has physically and verbally assaulted Japanese officials that are yelling into their megaphones!!!
But then he gets more philosophical in the second half of the book:  beyond the simple noise and arrogance of the constant loudspeaker announcements, what are they doing to peoples' minds? Nakajima argues that the "loudspeaker culture" infantilizes the Japanese people, creating a "comforting blanket" of rules and slogans, so that people don't develop any sense of individual responsibility (as adults do in all other countries):  people don't take responsibility for their own actions or try to help strangers in trouble, because "The stranger should just read the signs and listen to the announcements and they'll know what to do." Nakajima asserts that, on account of being raised by signs, announcements and slogans, Japanese people don't develop the ability to think critically or develop their own ideas. The constant slogans convince people through sheer repetition, rather than logic and debate. The idea of "consent"  is lost. 
Nakajima  likes to repeat himself, likes to dwell on the same themes with obsessive ferocity, which makes parts of the book dull. But on the other hand, the monotony of the writing drives home his point about the suffering of people who cannot ignore the monotony of their society. 
I'll be posting my translation of this book in 5 parts, starting with the introduction, here:


I’d like you to imagine that you’re in a fictional country. You enter a restaurant and immediately hear loudspeakers giving you instructions, warnings, requests and admonitions, and expressions of gratitude. It starts from the moment you push the door open, and the door says WELCOME! THANK YOU FOR VISITING US AGAIN! And then, from somewhere else, another pre-recorded tape saying, PLEASE WAIT HERE. A WAITER WILL ARRIVE MOMENTARILY. PLEASE TAKE A SEAT IN THE LOBBY. PLEASE WAIT HERE. A WAITER WILL ARRIVE MOMENTARILY. PLEASE TAKE A SEAT IN THE LOBBY. PLEASE WAIT HERE. A WAITER WILL ARRIVE MOMENTARILY. PLEASE TAKE A SEAT IN THE LOBBY.

The tape repeats indefinitely until a waiter finally appears. She smiles politely but says nothing, since the speakers do all the talking: PLEASE FOLLOW THE WAITER, HONORED CUSTOMER. PLEASE WALK BEHIND HER UNTIL YOU ARRIVE AT YOUR SEATS.

And then, when you arrive at your seats, yet another loudspeaker announces, YOUR TABLE NUMBER IS TEN. PLEASE BE SEATED. Then, TABLE TEN! PLEASE PRESS THE BUTTON WHEN YOU’D LIKE THE WAITER TO TAKE YOUR ORDER.

After you order, the waiter silently bows, once again without saying a thing. Instead, the loudspeaker announces, in a high-pitched, too-cute voice, THANK YOU FOR YOUR ORDER, HONORABLE TABLE TEN! PLEASE REMAIN SEATED UNTIL YOUR FOOD ARRIVES. Where is the speaker hidden? You can’t see it.




These instructions continue throughout the whole meal. And that’s not all. Some other customers are eating Japanese food, so they receive a separate set of instructions looping from different loudspeakers: PLEASE BE CAREFUL WHEN PULLING YOUR CHOPSTICKS APART! CHECK TO MAKE SURE YOUR HANDS ARE IN THE APPROPRIATE SPOT, AND THEN PULL STRONGLY APART USING BOTH HANDS. IF YOU WANT SUGAR, PLEASE TURN THE SUGAR JAR UPSIDE-DOWN OVER YOUR FOOD AND SHAKE IT, BUT NOT TOO HARD, AS YOU’LL GET TOO MUCH SUGAR.

To add to the absurdity, another exceptionally loud announcement adds: PLEASE DON’T TALK LOUDLY DURING DINNER AS IT COULD CAUSE ANNOYANCE TO THOSE AT NEIGHBORING TABLES.


The announcements, with their inorganic patter, become entangled with one another, making the atmosphere confused and dehumanizing. They begin to drown one another out, so that they lose all meaning. To compensate for this, they are all turned up in volume gradually. They swirl, echo, and careen above your heads, trapped as you are in this artificial, mechanical sound-hell!

But you’d like that restaurant, wouldn’t you? After all, you can’t choose any other kind of restaurant in this country. They all have the same sound environment.

What’s more, even if you are determined to complain to the manager about how you couldn’t enjoy the food, he will definitely not understand your point! “You’re the only one who complains about this. It’s all in your head!” he will say, as if gently setting you straight about something painfully obvious.

“But,” you press your case, “You can’t really defend announcements like ‘Here’s how to pull chopsticks apart’???”

The manager says, “Those announcements are for westerners, who often come here – we have to be kind to them.”

“OK fine,” you say, “But telling us to chew our food thoroughly? Are you mad?”

“Well now,” the manager says, “All our announcements are carefully selected, and that particular one is among the most popular. Parents of small children really like that one, because then they don’t have to scold the children themselves. In fact we get many requests for even more announcements of that sort: EAT YOUR VEGETABLES, or DON’T COMPLAIN ABOUT ‘I-LIKE-THIS-ONE-I-DON’T-LIKE-THAT-ONE’ and so on. We’re considering adding these announcements also.” And so on. The manager can answer all of your questions in this fashion, without batting an eye, as if the announcements were the most natural, logical thing in the world.

My wise readers are no doubt able to imagine all this.

Now I’d like you to imagine what it’s like to be me, in real life: every time I go on the bus, the train (especially shinkansen), the bank, department store, supermarket, parking lot, amusement park, or pretty much anywhere in Japan, I feel like I am in that fictional restaurant.

“What?” you say, “You think Japan is that extreme?” Well, you can go see for yourself if you’d like. Next lunch-break, go to any bank, or to Tokyo train station, and spend ten minutes listening to ALL the announcements. Now see for yourself how many speakers are bombing you with their sonic assaults. See for yourself how the announcements never end. See for yourself how few of them actually say anything useful. Then you’ll know the truth!


These sort of SOUNDS (in this book I use “sound” in the sense of, “the sounds with which I have a fucking problem.”) which I keep going on and on about . .. what do I propose to do about them? Well, frankly, there seems to be no solution or salvation for those of us whose “sound sensitivity level” is out of step with the majority. I should just give up, I suppose. Only those with an average “sensitivity level” can be comfortable in society. The rest of us either have to go live in a cave, or live in the world while suffering every single minute. We can’t do anything except complain amongst ourselves.

Our sufferings are three in number: FIRST, the actual SOUNDS that assault us at all times, everywhere. SECOND, the fact that nobody understands what we’re upset about causes more suffering. THIRD, our victim hood marks us as social outcasts, as people who are nothing but a burden on society. Our pain (all three varieties) – if it’s thought about at all – is considered funny. We’re the butt of the joke.

“Funny” is not, as you’d assume, the opposite of “serious” or the opposite of “painful.”  In fact, they’re all on the same vector. If person A is suffering from serious pain, that’s precisely what makes A funny to person B. The only time “serious” or “painful” is NOT funny is when it’s happening to YOU as well. If anything, sharing someone’s pain makes you TOO empathetic – you lose your sense of logic. But such situations are just an exception to the rule.

Even with something as horrific as the sarin-gas terror attacks, many Japanese people would joke about it: peering into their drinks, saying “Hmmm. Hope this doesn’t have sarin in it!” They joked about it – not because they didn’t understand that the terror victims felt pain – but because they personally weren’t victims of the attacks. This is the way humans deal with all sorts of pain. Even Hiroshima or Nagasaki can be the butt of jokes. Even Auschwitz. A young man committing suicide by jumping off a waterfall can be the butt of the joke. Philosophers and revolutionaries are often the butt of jokes, but no one more than the guy who writes a book with the totally futile, Quixotic premise of getting rid of all the SOUNDS.

(I’m talking about myself here!)

My BODY (in this book I use “body” in the sense of, “that part of me where my sensitivity lives.”) is in a state of psychic pain from all these “Do it like this! Don’t do it like that!” announcements. My BODY instinctively wants to refuse them. Whenever I go out, I use earplugs, and on top of those, I have headphones playing music . . . but still the SOUNDS penetrate! PLEASE DON’T ALL RUN ONTO THE TRAIN AT ONCE, AS IT CAN BE DANGEROUS. PLEASE DON’T ALL RUN ONTO THE TRAIN AT ONCE, AS IT CAN BE DANGEROUS. PLEASE DON’T ALL RUN ONTO THE TRAIN AT ONCE, AS IT CAN BE DANGEROUS. Hearing this sort of thing makes my BODY instinctively fly into a rage. Instinctively I fill with passionate hate, then wilt with embarrassment and powerlessness. The whole experience is exhausting and disgraceful. It’s real true suffering, so bad I almost want to cry. I’m really a sick man, but you treat me like I’m just the butt of a joke?!?

Right now, you’re furrowing your eyebrows, thinking to yourself, “I can’t make heads or tails of what he’s saying!” Well, take a look at your own life. Your mother told you, “Study harder! Have you finished your homework?” day in ,day out, with the same exact words. Do it like this! Don’t do it like that! Ten times a day, even! You got mad, didn’t you? And now, every day your wife nags at you, the same things, over and over: “Are you a lawyer yet? Are you still in bed? You should stop drinking!” Every day and every night! Don’t you start getting mad? Don’t you start to suffer a little? Don’t you want to say, “I get it already! Stop saying that already!” but even if you do, she definitely will not stop. If anything, she will grow even more fierce: “If I stop yelling at you, you’ll have no motivation to ever do anything! You’ll never fix your behavior on your own! If you want me to shut up, you should follow all my commands! Why haven’t you been promoted to section chief yet? Probably because I’m not reminding you enough how important that is! I’ve been too easy on you!”

Launching these violent words at you, salvo after unceasing salvo! You, who are bathed from dusk till dawn in this flood of abuse, wouldn’t you feel disgrace and shame after a while? Well, you know what? You’re funny! Your suffering and shame is funny to me!

HA HA HA HA, motherfucker!


I’ve let my theme expand too much. Let’s return to the matter of the SOUNDS. After a long time of suffering, a long time of activism, and a long time spent considering the situation, I finally had an insight: although our country is flooded with SOUNDS, in the West there are almost none. So in order to properly understand why our country is shaking with such fierce noise, we must first pause to compare our own “civilization level” to others.

The SOUNDS that fill me with a rage (which burns like hydrochloric acid!!!) seem to be central to our culture. Just as everyone likes to see the grand landscapes of nature and exciting scenes of the city, Japanese seem to need an audio scene at all times – what they call a “sound-scape.” So what I’d like to propose is: these meddlesome broadcasts are a unique point of our culture, and can be thought of as “JAPANESE CULTURAL NOISE.”

Here let me pause to address some objections you might have.

Yes, I’m aware that there is a lot of loudspeaker noise in various Asian countries, and the phenomenon is growing in Europe as well. And I’m afraid they might well catch up to us at some point. So I’m absolutely not saying “We should copy the West, the Western sound environment is better.”

This  ‘copy the West’ attitude began with the Meiji Restoration. And there’s still a lot of cultural critics who have this attitude. Even in daily life, I’m sorry to say I’m surrounded by such simple-minded people. And I’d like nothing more than to jump on the bandwagon, but my conscience won’t let me. It would be simply negligent to reduce my argument to just: “Copy the Western sound-scape!”

Certainly, as a Japanese citizen, I have a fervent desire to reduce the sound pollution, but I don’t want to be thought unpatriotic by my fellow countrymen. I know the majority doesn’t share my views, and I’m not such a fool that I would try to force everyone to be hyper-sensitive like me.

Of the Japanese who do share my views, I’m aware that most are professors, artists, authors, musicians, architects, in other words, the kind of people who have spent time in the West. To say nothing of translators or other people who make a living speaking Western languages. 

When this kind of ‘elite’ person asks for quiet, people instinctively get mad based on ‘elitist source’ of such comments, without really listening to the substance. People naturally think, “Oh, he’s trying to enlighten us dumb masses! What an attitude this guy has!” or, “Being sensitive to the SOUNDS is a mark of being very high-class, so I guess they must think we’re very low-class and insensitive.” This angers people, especially in a country like Japan, where equality is very important. And getting accused of such sentiments cuts me to my very marrow, so I want to be careful here.

“You sure like listening to yourself talk about nothing – I never met a man with so much free time as you!”

“If you like Europe so much, why don’t you move there?”

Honestly, communication is just getting more and more difficult.

This instinctive anger of the MASSES (in this book I use “masses” in the sense of, “the majority of Japanese who are tolerate the SOUNDS, or who think that it has nothing to do with them”) is only natural, I think.

The MASSES – they walk through this daily shower of “behavior management broadcasts”, with their “do this, do that!” messages, quietly, obediently, as if nothing is amiss. And after much reflection, I’ve realized: I can’t deny that I don’t respect the MASSES. Not only that, but if you put it to me that I scorn them, I couldn’t deny that, either. I think I’m in the right, and that’s that. So there it is, I’m arrogant. I want to blame the MASSES, then enlighten them, then lead them to the “correct” way. If that’s not arrogance, what is?

After more self-reflection, I’ve also realized that, in my arrogance, my reckless and indiscriminate blaming of everyone, that I might have hurt some feelings. Probably I’ve hurt a lot of people with my protests and yelling. Even my business card, with its pompous title of “TELECOMUNICATIONS UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR AND PHILOSOPHER” probably repels more people than I can count.

I know this. And I really hate myself for it. But I can’t quit my campaign. Why is that?

It’s not easy for me to keep fighting. And I’m positive that it’s not easy for me to hurt you thick-skinned people. I’m confident that I’m the number-one victim here. I’m positive that my struggle will never end, and confident that I’ll lose. 
But, self-consciousness of one’s own futility is a prerequisite for being Don Quixote! It’s this self-consciousness that gives me the courage to continue tilting at the windmill named Japan!

This concludes the introduction to JAPANESE ARE HALF FALLEN. I will be back next time with all of Chapter One.
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 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.

  kenka ryouseibai

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.



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.”



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


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 


ryouba wa benei o mite yuku

ryouba hito-muchi


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.



hosoku nagaku

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)



Sen’yu koraku

first distress, later pleasure



“Silent worms dig holes in the walls.”

Anyone know the Japanese for this one?

壁に耳あり、障子に目あ り
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

makereba zoku

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)

yuushou reppai

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

yesterday's common sense is today's moral. Meaning that some people follow some rules with great self-righteousness, without even understanding the real reason for the rule anymore.

My pal's grand-dad explained this one to me, but I can't find it anywhere on google.


Kareki mo yama no nigiwai.

Better a dead tree on a mountaintop than no tree at all. Imagine all the faces of the kids that heard THAT one.


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. . . .)


mp3 post: old dirty bastard edits

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.


 part one

part two


JAPAN BOOK REVIEW #12 : absolute erotic, absolute grotesque by Mark Driscoll


Yet another book about "erotic grotesque" where the author arbitrarily invents his own meanings for those two words. Ero refers to evil capitalists manipulating peoples’ natural urges for a better life, using biological drives to make fat profits. Guro refers to the cruelty of colonial slave labor and drug addiction.

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
  • "Sexology"
  • 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.

1887 – 

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?

1911 :

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.

1913 –

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)

1920s :  

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.

1927  –

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.

1930 – 

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.

1931 –  

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.


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?

1933 –

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.

1935 –

“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.

1936 –

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.

1937 –

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.

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I’m just saying

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

on the subject of videos

Here's the long-in-the-making Conquest For Death video, filmed in Japan, Indonesia, Africa, Singapore, and the USA!



still more gunka

満州国皇帝陛下奉迎歌 (the "Manchuria Welcomes His Highness The Emperor" song)



(thanks to Ted Natsume for help with the difficult parts!)

作詞 町田敬二
作曲 石塚寛


国を挙ぞり迎へ奉れ 燦たり聖駕に

くにをこぞり むかえまつれ さんたりせいが(天子の乗り物)に

桜花渡れし 麗らよ今日の日 ひつべしぜんり

おうかわたれし うららよ(晴れ晴れとした)きょうのひ
日満親和いよよ厚し 慶び溢るる日本のこの歌

にちまんしんわ いよよあつし 

供へ奉れ 高らかにいざ
そなえまつれ たからかにいざ
We made our national commitment to welcome his majesty.
In clear nice weather the cherry blossoms bless the shining vehicle of his majesty.
With the strong relationship between Japan and Manchuria deepened
we proudly dedicate our joyful song to his majesty.

襟を正し迎へ奉れ 凛たり英姿に

Straighten those clothes and present a respectful welcome to the dignified and noble figure!
Let the fragrance of orchid blossoms declare the dazzling beauty of this day!
The friendly nations clear and pure,
We celebrate the success of governing policy by the majesty.
In the solemn atmosphere, let the majesty hear the voice of Japan filled with joy.

旗を翳し迎へ奉れ 煌たり玉歩に歴史は光れり
朗らよ今日の日 ひつべし聖邦東洋平和 

Hold high the flag in welcome! Reverently present it to He whose radiance glistens throughout history!
Today is a wonderful day, for the peace of the Holy Country has been brought to Asia
We, as a citizen of Japan, offer ourselves humbly to Japan that is filled with eternal enjoyment and rapture.

遂げたり神風 (Carry Out the Kamikaze!)


This song is NOT about kamikaze, the suicide bombers. This is about a top-of-the-line new Japanese warplane which the PLANE was named Kamikaze. Back in 1937, when Japan was still optimistic about the future.

The chorus of this song refers to the famous pilots Iinuma and Tsukgoshi, who flew Japanese-made planes all the way to London to show Whitey that Japanese aviation engineering was capable of such a feat.


作詞 北原白秋
作曲 村山美知子

遂げたり鵬程東の神風 西へと勢へば遮ぎる空なし
輝く銀翼轟く爆音 今こそ享げや航空日本
享け享けこの声 飯塚越沼 涙ぞどよめく

Carry out the mission! The divine wind of the East blows a very long way. Blowing westwards with great force, no clouds to obstruct it.

The glittering silver-winged roar of the explosions, Now is the time to strike! Japan, with your mighty airforce.

Strike, strike! Make them hear the voice of  Iinuma and Tsukagoshi. Japan echos with tears of joy!

A hundred million people, standing as one.

駆けたり敢然我等が神風 肝あり細心向かへば敵なし
衝きゆく荒天貫く酷熱 閃け日の丸新鋭日本
享け享けこの声 飯沼塚越 涙ぞどよめく

Moving so fast! We fearless kamikaze. No one can match our guts and accuracy.

Carry forth the Rising Sun flag, let no storms or heat stay your course! Japan, with your new and powerful planes!

Strike, strike! Make them hear the voice of  Iinuma and Tsukagoshi. Japan echos with tears of joy!

A hundred million people, standing as one.

超たりたちまち国産神風 欧亜の一線征して雲なし
輝く秒刻記録の更新 見よ見よこの国躍進日本
享け享けこの声 飯沼塚越 涙ぞどよめく

The superior made-in Japan Kamikaze, striking all at once.  In one great battle formation, to erase the obstructing clouds of Europe and America.

We broke the world record for speed. Behold! Japan,with your rapid advance!

Strike, strike! Make them hear the voice of  Iinuma and Tsukagoshi. Japan echos with tears of joy!

A hundred million people, standing as one.



進め一億火の玉だ (Advance of the Hundred Million Shooting Stars)

instrumental. So THIS is where Lucas got the Imperial March from.


(Again with lyrics)


OK, so THIS song is about kamikaze, the suicide bombers.  Happy now, you morbid weirdos?

行くぞ行かうぞ ぐゎんとやるぞ

Let's go! Let's do this! Charge!

That's the real Japanese spirits

Let them see, let them feel your true power!

We've been so patient

But now we can't take any more


拍手打って ぬかづけば
今だ たのむと声がする
おいらの胸にゃ ぐっときた

Can you hear the clapping?

Your parents, children, siblings and wife stand in front of Yasukuni Shrine

applauding you, asking you to do it now.

Can you feel it in your heart?



That's right! One hundred million shooting stars

One man after another, strike our Suicide Corps.

Our fighting strength unites us strongly

No matter what, we will accomplish our mission


Go on, you hundred million jewels!

Go on, you hundred million, BOOM, go on!


You know what? Fuck this.

It's time to get the stink out of my eyes and mouth.

Let's balance the scales with some anti-emperor rock and roll – but not just any rock and roll.

3 rock songs that were banned by the government.

東京イズバーニング Tokyo is Burning by ANARCHY

(Japan's first punk band)



Tokyo is Burning!


Jesus Christ, I'm so fucking angry.

All he does is eat, it's a carefree life for him

Just because he comes from a good family, he can goof off

He was raised well but doesn't know a damn thing



Why is he the symbol of Japan?

He doesn't know anything, it's rediculous


He 's never known hardship, that dried plum Highness

Little brat,  raised up like a bean sprout, dick

In his fancy clothes, so frivolous

Just because he was born in that family.


Jesus Christ, I'm so fucking angry.

Little brat,  raised up like a bean sprout, dick

In his fancy clothes, so frivolous

Just because he was born in that family.


The bleeped words were censored by the record company, but even the bleeped version got banned by right-wing militia groups, presumably with the backing of police.

Just in case you're curious what the original words were:

First bleep was  象徴 (symbol)

Second bleep was  殿下 (Your Highness)

WTF man, WTF.

赤軍兵士の詩 (Poem for the Red Army Soldier)




Trampled and devastated, this is our hell

While the rising sun celebrates

We sneak out of our dark hole

To sneak a peek of what you assholes call Heaven

水も無けりゃ 血も出てこない
Our wounds washed with freezing sand

If we have no water, we can never bleed.

Someone, give us something for our hungry stomachs

We don't have time to spare for hunger


We ran away from the north wind,

??? we are the bright-red sons of summer

Appearing suddenly without any historical precedent

It can't be helped; we were hiding underground for long enough!


For us, there is no morning, no noon

There is only glittering eyes and silence

We don't speak of the future

It's better to chew your own tongue than open your mouth.


Passing through the streets crumbling with despair

Seeing the fire of the sunset on the horizon

Straddled by a shit-stained rainbow

Right before the eyes of our troops


We are thirsty, our dreams are turbulent

Drool comes from our mouths as we sleep

The stars call from a iron blue sky

???? asshole painter???


We'll burn your blood-soaked flag

When morning comes, we'll hide ourselves

Our flesh is obsessed, possessed by corruption

Even firing one bullet is a luxury for us


Singing to ourselves a tune whose theme we've forgotten

But we single-mindedly keep walking

Better than looking at that tangled map, is to

Keep dragging our tired feet along


Trampled and devastated, this is our hell

While the rising sun celebrates

We embrace animosity and anxiety

Just searching for the next hell.


Our eyes which no longer glitter

We embrace our burst-open hearts

In the rain, which seems like a dark tunnel

We are still trying to get a peek of what you assholes call heaven.


「世界革命戦争宣言」 (Declaration of World Revolutionary War)

AKA 銃を取ろう (Get Your Guns!)

Also by Zuno Keisatsu.














我々にも ニクソン(当時の米大統領)、佐藤(首相)、キージンガー(たぶんキッシンジャー)、ドゴールを殺し






我々は最後の戦争の為に 世界革命戦争の勝利の為に

君達をこの世から抹殺する為に 最後まで戦い抜く!



君達をそそのかし うしろであやつる豚どもに向けて

我々を邪魔する奴は 容赦なく抹殺する!


Ladies and gentlemen of the Bourgouise!

In order to make a clean sweep of you all,
we're attacking you all over the world at once.
This is an official declaration of war.
We already know too much of your history
Your history is soaked in blood, isn't it?
In your time, you started war after war for plunder, and then deceive us about it
Killing and killing each other
Don't lie to me and deny it!
We won't be deceived or tempted by you any longer!
You think you have the right to kill Vietnamese just because you want to?
Well, then we have the right to kill you too, just because!
You kill the Black Panthers too.
You think you can simply roll your tanks into the ghetto to crush people?
Well, we'll kill Nixon, Sato, Kissinger, and De Gaulle too!
We have the right to blow the Pentagon, the Japanese Defense Agency, the Police Headquarters, and all your individual houses to bits!
You think you can kill the people of Okinawa with your bayonets?
We have the right to stab you to death with our knives!
It was your great mistake to think you could continue to do everything you wanted forever.
Your era is already over!
In order to end all wars, In order to win the World Revolutionary War,
In order to erase you people off the face of the earth,
we will carry on to the bitter end!
To the ladies and gentlemen of the Japanese army, the riot police, and the Western armies, we openly wave our guns in your face
If you don't want to be killed, you ought to get your guns too!

God damn, hippies don't play. If you want to know more about the whole Zuno Keisatsu scandal, there's an extensive interview here.

3 comments Tags: , ,

hardcore gunka

Last post was the regular gunka  (WWII fight music) that you can still get at any record store in Japan.


This time is the stuff that YOU CAN'T FIND nowadays, since it's a LITTLE un-PC.

However, thanks to youtube, there is an entire subculture of  maniacs who find the original 78s, digitize them, and post them for the whole internet to see.

Translations are mine, as are the mistakes.

Strap in, people, it's going to be a rough ride.

米英撃滅の歌 (the 'Destroy America And Britain' Song)

and then

アメリカ爆撃 (Bomb the hell out of America)

(youtube clip has 2 songs)



the 'Destroy America And Britain' Song


濤は哮る 撃滅の時は今だ
空母戦艦 断じて屠れ
海が彼奴らの 墓場だ 塚だ
海が彼奴らの 墓場だ 塚だ

Hear the roar of the waves! The time of destruction is now!

Absolutely destroy their aircraft carriers and battleships!

The ocean shall be their cemetery, their burial ground

The ocean shall be their cemetery, their burial ground

風は咆える 覆滅の時は今だ
魔翼 妖鳥 断じて堕とせ
雲が彼奴らの 経帷子だ
雲が彼奴らの 経帷子だ

Hear the wind roar! The time of ruination is now!

The wings of the demon and the impundulu (*) absolutely knock them out of the sky!

The clouds shall be their Kyokatabira (**)

The clouds shall be their Kyokatabira

草は燃える 殲滅の時は今だ
鬼畜米英 断じて斃せ
山が彼奴らの 墓標だ墓石だ
山が彼奴らの 墓標だ墓石だ

The Grass is burning, the time of annhilation is now!

The American and English beasts, absolutely crush them!

The mountains shall be their gravestones, their headstones!

The mountains shall be their gravestones, their headstones!

時は今だ 決勝の時は今だ
興亜聖戦 断じて遂げよ
み民われらの 命が的だ
み民われらの 命が的だ

The time is now! The final conflict is now!

The Holy War for the Development of Asia, absolutely carry it out!

We Japanese, we will give our lives for this!

We Japanese, we will give our lives for this!


* = the impundulu is a South african magical bird that witches can summon through nutty rituals.

** = Kyokatabira= white kimono that dead bodies are dressed in


Bomb the hell out of America!



Bomb the American mainland!

This is the day we've been waiting for.

As we pray we listen

The siren begins to wail

It's the American funeral song

There is no time for them to scream

We Japanese are the eagles of war!


America is the enemy of all Asians

Keep it up until they scream and wail

This is the day we've been waiting for

Training and improving our fighting skills

Comrades in arms laugh and tell each other, "Let's go already!"

Beat them all up!  Really give them hell!

We Japanese are the eagles of war!


(the Youtube poster adds: "Just so you know, America had a song called "Bomb the hell out of Tokyo" too!)

Anyone know that ditty?

比島決戦の歌 (The 'Decisive Battle of the Phillippines' song)


作詞 西条八十
作曲 古関裕而

いざ来いニミッツ マッカーサー
出てくりゃ地獄へ  逆落とし

Daybreak in Asia is glittering! The decisive battle is here

The young sakura have no fear for their lives.

Now, they are ready to bloom and battle in the Phillippines

Hey now, Where are you, Macarthur?

Come on and meet us, you'll take a trip to hell!

いざ来いニミッツ マッカーサー
出てくりゃ地獄へ  逆落とし

On the continent, General Yamashita is as fierce as a tiger

On the seas, Admiral  "Iron Blood" Oogawauchi rules!

Behold, our bases will bring certain death!

Hey now, Where are you, Macarthur?

Come on and meet us, you'll take a trip to hell!

正義の雷 世界を撼わせ
我等一億 共に往く
いざ来いニミッツ マッカーサー
出てくりゃ地獄へ  逆落とし

The thunder of our righteousness moves the world

Now is the time for the kamikaze to go forth!

A hundred million of us together proceeding as one

Hey now, Where are you, Macarthur?

Come on and meet us, you'll take a trip to hell!

いざ来いニミッツ マッカーサー
出てくりゃ地獄へ  逆落とし

Radiant with glory and divine authority, our bretheren number ten billion!

Through the ups and downs of battle

Aah, the spurt of blood in the Phillippines

Hey now, Where are you, Macarthur?

Come on and meet us, you'll take a trip to hell!

万歳ヒットラー・ユーゲント (Banzai Hitler Jugend!)



ハーケン クロイツ

Shining with glittering radiance

The swastika

Our sworn friends to the West, we bid you welcome from afar

Well now, look now! We greet you in the morning sun

We East Asian young men

Banzai (long life) to the Hitler Jugend!

Banzai to the Nazis!

ハーケン クロイツ
響けよその旗 この風 この夏、
防共ひとたび 君我誓はば、

Listen to our jubilation!

The swastika!

The echo of your flag, this wind, this hot summer

All you who have taken the vow of anti-communism

To establish a new century of fairness and justice

Banzai (long life) to the Hitler Jugend!

Banzai to the Nazis!

ハーケン クロイツ


Shining with glittering radiance

The swastika

A country laboring with unwavering spirits

Well now, let's do this completeley! The Yamato mountains and rivers

Together with the honorable German volk!!!

Banzai (long life) to the Hitler Jugend!

Banzai to the Nazis!


感謝す 朗らに、
ハーケン クロイツ

With gratitude and good cheer

the swastika

An exchange of courtesies and traditions

We samurai wish you good luck on your journies


Banzai (long life) to the Hitler Jugend!

Banzai to the Nazis!






英国東洋艦隊潰滅 (Annhilate Great Britain's Oriental Fleet)



作詞 高橋掬太郎
作曲 古関裕而

沈むレパルス 沈むプリンス・オブ・ウェールズ

Ruination, ruination to the opponent's Asian fleet!

The Murray Peninsula, the Kuantan Sea

Now is the time! They are sinking to the bottom

Our wild eagles roam valorously over the ocean

Sink the Rapels (?), sink the Prince of Wales

荒ぶ波に 沈め去りぬ

Fighting and fighting, our warriors

You bear the weight of imperial destiny!

The arrogant British fleet

Sink them beneath the raging waves

沈むレパルス 沈むプリンス・オブ・ウェールズ

This everlasting day shall never be forgotten

Go forth and massacare the enemy ships in one swift attack!

Achieve our aims within three days of war

Sink the Rapels (?), sink the Prince of Wales



勲仰げ 仰げ勲

興亜行進曲 (The Develop Asia March)




興亜の使命 双肩に
担ひてたてり 民五億

Now is the dawning of a new century

the rising sun brings prosperity!

glittering over the four seas

the mission of developing Asia rests on our shoulders

We will carry these five hundred million people




Hear it! Heaven and Earth echo

with our "Develop East Asia" battle cry!

Our blood burns with the fire of our ideals

Now is the time to go to the natives of Asia

Send the navy forth with great ambitions!


The melody of joy echoes

Celebrate the glorious departure (of the troops)

Holding up the flag of unity

Our cherry, orchid, and peony blossoms

You can bloom even in the strongest storm

かはらぬ盟ひ かんばしく

Well now, united we will build it

An everlasting and glorious Greater East Asia.

We have taken our ete vow, the omens are good!

Developing Asia to ripen its bountiful harvest

And show to the world our greatness.



ハワイ大海戦 (The Great Hawaiian Naval Battle)


作詩 北原白秋  
作曲 海軍軍楽隊

天に二つの日は照らず しのぐは何ぞ星條旗
大詔降る時まさに この一戰と衝き進む
疾風萬里太平洋   目指すはハワイ眞珠灣

Two suns shine in the sky, surpassing the so-called "star-spangled banner."

Now is the time for the Imperial Decree to descend upon them, attacking with one decisive strike

A mighty  hurricane that blows thousands of miles across the Pacific

たれか思はん暁の 夢おどろかす爆撃を
つんざく雲の切れ間より 見よ轟々と攻め襲う
必殺の雷 海の鷲 しんしん迫る潜航艇

At daybreak, a bombing raid awakens the unsuspecting from their dreams

Bursting forth from between the clouds, behold the thunder of our attack!

The thunder of certain death! The eagles of the sea, the approach of our mini-submarines!

神か人かも身を棄てて 千古に徹るその命
何をか哭かん盡忠の ああ荒み魂火の柱
地軸も裂けよ艦ともに たちまち碎く敵主力

Gods or men have their bodies pierced, shattering into a thousand pieces

Our souls aflame with unwavering devotion, fighting until we die without crying

The instant destruction of the enemy's main fleet tears the earth from its axis!

天も碎ける轟爆音 今こそ知れや米艦隊 
正義の決意すでにして 凱歌は揚がるこの八日
一望萬里太平洋   われあり望む大東亞

The roar of the explosions rips Heaven apart, now the Americans must realize it!

The eighth day! Let them hear our victory song, of justice and determination

For ten thousand miles of the Pacific, a view uncluttered by Americans, this is our wish for a Greater East Asia.


打倒米英 (Overthrow America and Great Britain)






作詞 西条八十
作曲 古賀政雄

待ちに待ったる時は来た 腕が鳴る鳴る血が躍る
さあ来いアメリカ さあ来い英国
ハワイの堅塁なにものぞ なにものぞ

The time we have waited for is finally here –  time to  put our skills to use, to hear the ringing of blood in our ears

Come on then, America, come on, England!

See the glittering of the flag of righteousness!

Didn't you see what we did to your stronghold in Hawaii? What's it worth now?

降るよ火の雨鐵の雨 とうに覚悟は出来ている
さあ来い空襲 さあ来い敵艦
烏合の敵勢 なにものぞ なにものぞ

Feel our flames rain down, our iron rain down on you!  We have been preparing for this day!

Bring on your air-raids, bring on your enemy ships!

We are ready to give our hundred million lives

The fighting power of your rabble, what is it? What is it worth now?

神の亜細亜を白人の 手から亜細亜に取戻す
尊い使命だ光栄ある戦だ 八紘一宇 理想の前に
汚れし米英 なにものぞ なにものぞ

The Gods of Asia proclaim: take Asia back from the white man!

It's an honor for us to fight in such a precious mission. In the name of  uniting all Asia!

You filthy Americans and Brits! What are you worth now?


大東亜決戦の歌 (the 'Decisive Battle For Greater East Asia' song)







作詞 伊藤豊太
作曲 海軍軍楽隊

起つや忽ち撃滅の 勝どき挙る太平洋 
東亜侵略百年の 野望をここに覆えす 

Rising up all at once, we bring destruction and victory over the Pacific!

You can't disguise your hundred years of aggression in East Asia. (???)

Now is the time for a decisive battle!

征くや激しき皇軍の 砲火は叫ぶ大東亜 
一発必中肉弾と 散って悔いなき大和魂 

Hear the gunfire of the Imperial Army, passionately conquering Greater East Asia

Our human bullets will succeed on their first attempt,  winning without fear, in the true Japanese Spirit

Now is the time for ultimate loyalty!

見よや燦たる皇国の 歴史をまもる大決意
前線銃後一丸に 燃えて轟くこの歩調

Behold! The brilliant Japanese Empire, as foretold by history!

The home front and the front-lines, together we march as one, roaring

Now is the time for our civilization to prosper!

いざや果たさん十億の 亜細亜を興す大使命
断乎膺懲堂々と 正義貫く鉄石心

Well now! It is our great mission to raise up these one billion Asians

Our majesty and righteousness, our iron will shall punish the enemy

The time for the decisive battle has come!




大東亜聖戦の歌 (the 'Holy War For Greater East Asia' song)



作詞 中村 粲
作曲 高澤 智昌

作詞された中村 粲氏曰く「二十世紀最後の軍歌」だそうです。

This song was released in 1999 (?!?!?)

According to the lyric-writer, Mr. Nakamura, it's "Late-20th century gunka."

1. 黒竜江の流血に 二十世紀の東洋は
妖雲の下明けゆけど 支那は眠れり朝鮮も

2. 四百余州と大八洲 共に睦みて栄えんと
声励ませど耳貸さず 泰西人に阿りて

3. 満漢侵す露を討てと 皇師は進む鶏林を
はた黄海の波分けて 旅順奉天対馬沖

4. 萎えゆく東亜救はんと 差し伸ぶ手をば逆恨み
洋夷赤露の威を恃み 我を蔑する支那なれば

5. 広袤千里満洲は 扶餘高句麗の昔より
兵争絶ゆる暇なきが 大同協和の国建ちて

6. 銃声響く盧溝橋 隠忍の我侮りて
抗日叫ぶ蒋と毛 わが喉元に刃擬す

7. 遂に来れり決戦の 火蓋切つたる真珠湾
シンガポールもフィリピンも ジャワも一撃なびき伏す

8. わが皇軍の進撃に 凱歌は上る大東亜
白き鉄鎖を断ち切りて 十億の民起つところ

9. 満蒙支那に南溟に はた朔北に山ゆかば
草むすかばね海ゆかば 水づくかばねと若きらが

10. 四歳に亘る勇戦も 衆寡敵せず皇軍は
矢弾盡き果て花と散る されど揺がず大亜細亜

11. 武運拙く敗れしが 見ずや亜細亜のこの歩武を
一髪土に残らずも 嗚呼大東亜聖戦の


The singer goofed, saying "our pride" instead of "our hearts," as written.

※ 歌ってらっしゃるのは三鷹淳さんだと思われます。


今 年の「昭和の日」にたまたまテレビで「異国の丘」を聞いて、≪昭和の日―「異国の丘」が懐かしい≫(4/29)を書き、それがきっかけで幼少年期に耳に した軍歌や満州国時代の歌をYou Tubeで集め、≪「昭和の日」に軍歌を歌う≫(5/01)、≪満州想えば 曇りがち≫(5/03)を書いて、あれからときどき集めた歌を聴いてなつかし んでいるのです。

ところで、戦前の軍歌だと思って集めていた曲の中に、平成11年(1999年)に中村 粲という方が作詞し、高澤 智昌という方が作曲した「大東亜聖戦の歌」という戦後に作られた軍歌が入っていました。Wikipediaによると「自称、二十世紀最後の軍歌」だそうです。

その歌を何度も聞いてると、右翼の方々のおっしゃるお考えがとてもよくまとめられ、凝縮されているなあ、と思いました。そこで中村 粲という方を調べてみましたところ、この方の代表作は『大東亜戦争への道』だそうで、「(この書)は、600ページを超える大著で、平成8年( 1990年)の刊行から十五年以上経た現在もなお版を重ねており(2006年10月、14刷となる)、大東亜戦争肯定論支持者の間では特に重要な書籍と位 置づけられている」とのことです。私はまったく存じていませんでしたが、とても有名な方なのですね。本職は大学の英語の先生で、和英辞典の編集・執筆とか 日本史資料の英訳など、英文学者としての業績も多数あるそうです。

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gunka, gunka, gunka!

Gunka is a style of propaganda music from the "Let's conquer the world!" days: '35 ~'45 (ish). It comes from the characters 軍 (army) and 歌 (song).

The songs were not FOR soldiers, they were for the folks back home, to whip up enthusiasm for war.

That's why a lot of gunka sounds like childrens' music.

You can still buy lots of gunka at mainstream places like Tower Records.


Sit back and enjoy some memories of how tough  Japan was before Anime and AKB48.




大八洲 (Ooyashima = an archaic word for Japan)



The country that  the Gods gave birth to

Ooyashima, with its pure mountains and rivers

Far and wide to the ocean's limit

Our authority and might extends throughout Greater East Asia


The country established by the Gods

With its rich bountiful fields of reeds

Swelling with abundance and life

Respected and venerated by all Greater East Asia



The country that protects God,

The mighty port of Urayasu

With its constant traffic of huge vessels

Forever protecting the peace of Greater East Asia


(Greater East Asia was the PC term for "parts of Asia that we control, or will control soon." )


出征兵士を送る歌 (a Song for the Departing Soldiers)



You who honorably do it  for our Emperor

On a morning full of life and glory

We extol you! Let forth a hundred million jubilations to strike the sky!

Well now, we send you forth, you sons of Japan!


Deep emotions bloom in your bodies like gorgeous flowers

Your battle clothing fastened securely to your chests

To the place where the Campaign for Righteousness is waged

Let no one stop you, it's just a short distance away

Well now, we send you forth, you sons of Japan!


Following after our radiant and honorable flag

Crossing many rivers and mountains until achieving victory

The unrivaled military might and heroic deeds of Japan

Will be shown to the world, the time is now!

Well now, we send you forth, you sons of Japan!

四、 守る銃後に憂いなし

Protecting the homefront, without gloom

Displaying Japanese spirit, without trembling

Defending the country in the name of peace and harmony

Guarding us with rock-solid fortifications

Well now, we send you forth, you sons of Japan!

五、 ああ万世の大君に

AAAAAHHH!!! The Emperor for all eternity

The grass is wet all over with  unswerving loyalty ????

You who have taken the sacred vow, now is the time to depart

Displaying courage as you leave your homes

Well now, we send you forth, you sons of Japan!

六、 父祖の血汐に色映ゆる

You have the blood of your ancestors coursing through you brightly

The glory of our "rising sun" flag,

Raise its brilliance over all the sky of Asia for a hundred years!

Well now, we send you forth, you sons of Japan!

加藤隼戦闘隊 -Kato Hayabusa Fighter Wing-

同期の桜 (Brothers of the Sakura)




作詞:西條 八十


You and I, we are Brothers of the Sakura

Blooming in the garden of the  same Naval Academy

We are resigned to have our petals fall after we bloom

For the sake of our country, we will make it a splendid fall, scattering petals beautifully


You and I, we are Brothers of the Sakura

Blooming in the garden of the  same Naval Academy

Our bond is stronger than flesh and blood

A mysterious bond which can never be broken


You and I, we are Brothers of the Sakura

Blooming in the garden of the  same Flying Corps squad

The majestic setting sun of the southern sky

Now is the time to go forth and never return


You and I, we are Brothers of the Sakura

Blooming in the garden of the  same Flying Corps squad

We can't wait for the day to fulfill our vows

Because when we scatter our petals is the day we die


You and I, we are Brothers of the Sakura

Although we may drop our petals far apart,

We will be reunited at the Capital of Fallen Flowers, Yasukuni Shrine

We will meet again in spring, at the tip of the same branch


麦 と 兵 隊 (Wheat and Soldiers)


作詩 藤田まさと  作曲 大村能章
1 徐州徐州と 人馬は進む
  徐州居よいか 住みよいか
  洒落た文句に 振り返りゃ
  お国訛りの おけさ節
  ひげがほほえむ 麦畠

To Xuzhou, to Xuzhou, the men and horses advance

"Xuzhou, is this an easy place to stay? Is this place a good place to live?"

We grumble as we look back over our shoulders

We hear their dialect, see their native dances

Their abundant fields of wheat blowing to and fro.

2 友を背にして 道なき道を
  行けば戦野は 夜の雨
  兵の歩みの 頼もしさ

Along the trackless path, being carried upon my comrade's back

When we reach the battlefield,   it's night and raining.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," we say to his backside.

"Don't talk foolishly!" he replies, and keeps on carrying me.

The soldier's march is reliable

3 腕をたたいて 遥かな空を
  仰ぐ眸に 雲が飛ぶ
  遠く祖国を はなれ釆て
  しみじみ知った 祖国愛
  友よ釆て見よ あの雲を

Fighting with skill under a distant sky

Clouds honorably float through

We've come so far from our fatherland

And so realized the true meaning of patriotism

My comrade, come and gaze upon these clouds

4 行けど進めど 麦また麦の
  波の探さよ 夜の寒さ
  声を殺して 黙々と
  影を落して 粛々と
  兵は徐州へ 前線へ

Advancing through wheat and more wheat

Feeling the waves of wheat in the dark and cold of night

Advancing silently, killing the voice

Advancing silently, not showing our sillhouettes

Soldiers on the front line of  Xuzhou

(this song is about the battle of Xuzhou, wikipedia here.)

月月火水木金金 (No Saturday or Sunday, just Two Mondays and Two Fridays)



作詞 高橋俊策
作曲 江口夜詩


At the first crack of dawn, breathing in the tides,

Absorbing the bronze color in our chests

We boast of the vigor of our youth

The men of the Navy Armada are always on duty

No Saturday or Sunday, just two Mondays and two Fridays!


Sweating in the reddening sun

Smiling as we prepare the cannons, wiping sweat from our brows

The Pacific has waves, waves, waves

The men of the Navy Armada are always on duty

No Saturday or Sunday, just two Mondays and two Fridays!


Our training gives us courage like a flame

The flag calls to us, the trumpet echos

Our warship of the Rising Sun, let's go!

The men of the Navy Armada are always on duty

No Saturday or Sunday, just two Mondays and two Fridays!


The raging waves strike us with their song

As we lie in our swaying hammocks we dream

of testing our ability in tomorrow's battle

The men of the Navy Armada are always on duty

No Saturday or Sunday, just two Mondays and two Fridays!


元寇 (Mongol Invasion!!!)

(Wikipedia: The Mongol invasions of Japan (元寇 Genkō?) of 1274 and 1281 were major military efforts undertaken by Kublai Khan to conquer the Japanese islands after the submission of Goryeo (Korea) to vassaldom. Despite their ultimate failure, the invasion attempts are of macrohistorical importance, because they set a limit on Mongol expansion, and rank as nation-defining events in Japanese history. The Japanese were successful, in part because the Mongols lost up to 75% of their troops and supplies both times on the ocean as a result of major storms. The invasions are referred to in many works of fiction, and are the earliest events for which the word kamikaze, or "divine wind", is widely used. With the exception of the occupation of Japan at the end of World War II, these failed invasion attempts are the closest Japan has come to being conquered by foreign power in the last 1500 years.)


All of China rose up

Over a hundred thousand enemies

Cause crisis for our nation

In the fourth year of the Kouan era

WIthout showing any fear

The young men of Kamakura

In the name of righteousness and militarism

Showed the world what Japan can do!

そは何 蒙古勢

There's many barbarians on the beaches

It's the mighty Mongolians!

Arrogant and insolent

They want to conquer heaven and earth!

Our  loyal boys set forth from their homes

Strong from diligent training

For this country of ours

The swords of Japan will be put to the test!


Through the seas of Kyuushuu,

forcing apart the waves they go

Led by Takeo

They went to attack our enemies, caring not if they would make it back home

Fighting and dying like demons, for the sake of their country.

Warriors of (the city of) Hakozaki, they took the vow

To serve the Gods which reign over us.

They had the spirit of  true Yamato! (Yamato = the Japanese majority ethnic group)

玄界灘 月清し

Heaven was filled with wrath at the invaders!

The seas raged, the huge waves came

The enemies of our country were no more!

Over 100,000  of the Mongolian soldiers

Sank to the bottom of the seas like so much seaweed

Only three Mongolians survived

Unnoticed, the clouds parted,

It was the will of the Gods. ???


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