BETWEEN FIVE WORLDS: CHINA, RUSSIA, JAPAN, LATIN AMERICA, AND AUSTRALIA; 

BETWEEN FIVE CAREERS: DIPLOMAT, ECONOMIST, JOURNALIST, AMATEUR DEVELOPER AND JAPANOLOGIST; 

BETWEEN FIVE LANGUAGES: ENGLISH, CHINESE, RUSSIAN, SPANISH AND JAPANESE


Chapter 27 - Finale

(A) POLITICAL INVOLVEMENTS

1. Past Politicians
2. Prime Ministers too - Miyazawa, Hosokawa, Obuchi, Mori,
3. The Koizumi Disaster

(B) WINDING DOWN

4. Media Access Frustrations
5. A Book on Education Reform
6. Akita International University
7. Foreign Policy Problems - Northern Territories, Trade etc.
8. The Rightwing Strikes - The North Korean Abductee Issue
9. More Rightwing Attacks - Sankei and Komori
10. Reviving Old Interests - China and Russia
11. Creating a New Interest - Latin America

(A) POLITICAL INVOLVEMENTS



Looking back, one of my larger mistakes in Japan was not doing more to get involved in the Japanese political scene (another mistake was not working harder on the Japanese language).

Japanese politicians are usually interesting people, even when they are up to their necks in slush.

But other commitments - the lecture circuit, raising two sons bilingually/biculturally, managing a farm in Boso, looking after a Boso community of over fifty souls (including even their garbage and toilet problems), teaching, writing, and presiding over two universities - meant I did not have much spare time. One waits for things to happen to one, rather than go out and make them happen.

It is not the best way to organise one's life.

---

Similarly with my Japanese. I should have done more.

But when one already has adequate fluency, the extra effort needed to acquire the clever phrases and vocab you need to be a full-fledged commentator does not seem rewarding enough. Particularly when you begin to run into problems with a conservative establishment that would be happy to see the back of you. Add in the usual collection of rightwing abuse and the desire to relate to the culture that creates these kinds of people tends to flag.

When even progressives such as the Asahi group begin to see you as way out (mainly because you criticise their love affair with the disastrous Koizumi policies), you know you are in trouble.

No excuse for the idleness, perhaps, but the reality.
Sometimes one wishes one had found some other avenue - art, history, nature - to relate to Japan, rather than the messy business of economics and foreign affairs.

---

I should also have been writing the definitive version of my ‘Japan is a Tribe' book. But there the constant sniping from the anti-culturalists - the people who deny that culture has anything to do with human behavior - can be discouraging.

The implication from their attacks - that one only emphasises culture (read values) to explain Japan to curry favor with the Japanese who want to believe they are different from everyone else - is even worse. Nor does the fact that their own explanations - the 'rational choice' people, for example, of whom we have seen much lately - get them nowhere do much to ease their criticisms.

One is tempted simply to give it all up and go back to growing kiwi fruit in Boso.

But I will do that book writing, sometime, when I get time, even if only to satisfy myself.

1. Politicians I Have Known

True, I had not been entirely reactive in dealings with Japan.
If we are talking about politicians, the lecture circuit inevitably brought me into contact with a wide range, mainly regional, some also interesting.

And some Europeans, and Latinos, would bring me into their political dealings with Japan.

I once got to debate Northern Territory issues with the LDP politician, Nakagawa Shoichi, at the Swedish Embassy and discovered how hard-nosed rightwing he could be (I saw also how he liked his alcohol).

The Peru Embassy once got me somewhat involved in their efforts to chase down their ex-president Alberto Fujimori while he was on the run in Japan.

There I rediscovered how devious Japan's foreign ministry could be (they were determined to protect him, despite his various crimes).

The Australian Embassy was fairly useless, unless one of my former Foreign Affairs mates happened to be running the show, which was not often.
Otherwise they seemed to want to spend most of their time worrying about Canberra or dealing with conservative, right-wing types, even when Labor governments were in power in Canberra.

Yokomichi, then of the Socialist Party, once sought me out in his efforts to track down Australia's role in the US global submarine detection Omega network.

A mid-level Komeito Diet member in 2001 arranged for me to make a formal presentation on education reform to the Upper House finance committee.

And there were the usual invitations to attend the lectures or join the support groups organized by politicians, both of the left and right.

I did get to see something of Miyazawa Kiichi in the Bubble economy years (then finance minister, later prime minister).
One of his supporters - an over-cashed Shizuoka paper company - used to run dinner parties for him at a top Tokyo restaurant, Kitcho, to which I was often invited.

Since he was a Keynesian - he had studied my father's books in depth - we could agree on fiscal policies. But I found him quite rigid on the Northern Territories dispute (more on that shortly).

Koike Yuriko

On her route to the top Koike Yuriko used to make occasional contact. She seemed keen to revive our friendship years earlier when she was a humble TV announcer for the NTV Sesso Kodan program back in the seventies/eighties.

Then she had been politically neutral, as far as I could make out. Later she turned strongly rightwing and nationalistic, which no doubt helped her career in Japan's increasingly rightwing and nationalistic political circles.

In this respect she resembled the ultra-nationalistic commentator, Sakurai Yoshiko, whom I had also known many years earlier.

Sakurai in her youth had worked out of the Foreign Correspondents Club, reporting progressive news for a very progressive Asian news agency.

There she had met and married an Australian journalist acquaintance of mine, Rodney O'Brien (they later separated/divorced, he has disappeared, and today she makes no mention of him).

As she gradually established herself as a competent public speaker I could see her move firmly to the right. On China she now waxes close to hysterical.

----

Koike seems to have travelled much the same route. There seems to be little future at the top in Japan for progressive politicians or commentators.

Her natural coquettish charm - she had that ability to make you feel her strongly feminine attention was focussed on you even when she wanted to be doing other things - also must have helped her.

As Koike gained political clout I regretted not taking up her offer to have me join her support group. It would have been a good chance to see politics from the inside, where she very definitely has been in recent years (factions were competing for her attention, and some were even predicting she could be the next prime minister).

But I always found it hard to take her seriously, given the way she switched party affiliations whenever the occasion demanded. And the contrived rightwinger-ism turned me off.

2. Prime Ministers Too

The Hosokawa Connection

My one close political involvement began on a flight from Kumamoto.

Next to me was the young Kumamoto prefecture governor, Hosokawa Morihiro, making waves nationally with his calls for greater regional autonomy.

With his boyish charm, and strong pedigree, he was already on the escalator to national politics.

His regional autonomy pitch gained fame when he revealed that Tokyo approval was needed not just for changes in the bus timetables but even for shifting a bus stop several meters on a remote country road.

Hosokawa was from Sophia University, which gave us something in common. He was also a Christian, possibly because of his Kumamoto origins.

(That was the area in Kyushu where the "hidden Christians" had survived for centuries, avoiding Tokugawa repression.)

On my next lecture visit to Kumamoto he invited me to his tasteful ancestral home for dinner with his wife, whom I got to know later when she became a key organiser for the Para-Olympics.

----

We saw more of each other after his successful launch into national politics. When, following the 1993 political shakeups he eventually became prime minister, he made me a member of something he called his Action Committee.

But apart from the occasional drinks party, we never got to see much action. He seemed to want to be generally progressive in his fiscal and foreign policies. But we never got round to discussing details, and his weakness in economics left him vulnerable to the fiscal conservatives around him on every side.

Bungei Shunju, that devious and diligent destroyer of liberal, mid-road politicians with enough popularity to threaten continued conservative/rightwing rule, ran an ugly piece aimed at destroying his reputation.

(Bungei ignores leftwingers and communists, no doubt regarding them as non-threatening to the conservative mainstream.

(Bungei did a similar knife job on Kato Koichi - in foreign affairs another reasonably progressive conservative whom I knew quite well since he spoke good Chinese and we had had very similar diplomatic careers with him being trained in Taiwan and myself in Hongkong at roughly the same time.)

(But Kato knew little economics. And in his desire to show he could be as pro-American as he was pro-China his willingness to buy US supply-sider theories did great damage during the Hashimto regime where he had much policy power.).

Chastened, Hosokawa resigned rather than fight, and headed for his Shizuoka-prefecture Yugawara hideout to practice pottery.

Many regretted his fall. But from the beginning it was clear he was not suited to the rough and tumble of national politics.

Some years later we used to meet for golf occasionally, where he told me with some pride that he was the only ex-prime minister who had renounced special police protection.

He had given up politics so completely, including even political commentary, that he was sure no one would want violently to attack him.

(He was also a rather neat golfer, and a potter of quality. But I could not draw him much on politics during our rounds of golf, other than an admission there was little future for progressive politicians in Japan.)

Obuchi, Mori

Later in 1999-2000 I got to see and deal with some LDP and Komeito politicians while serving on the Obuchi education reform commission.

As mentioned earlier, I was impressed by Machimura Nobutaka's sharpness and intelligence, despite his rightwing bias. I was also impressed by the commonsense and balance of Ota Akihiro from the Komeito (soon to be their leader).

And while I did not relate to them personally, I liked Obuchi Keizo, for his gentle and intelligent moderation, and respected Mori Yoshiro (prime minister after Obuchi's sudden death) for his blunt directness (which eventually was to cause his demise at the hands of Japan's ever light-headed, scandal-hungry media).

3. The Koizumi Disaster

With Koizumi replacing Mori in 2001, my largely peripheral involvements with political insiders came to an abrupt end.
A new crowd, mainly rightwing and conservative, were running the show and apart from Takenaka Heizo I did not know them very well.

I had seen Koizumi distantly at various gatherings, and disliked what I saw intensely.

In the first place, how can anyone respect a man who on the advice of his elder sister walks away from his intelligent wife pregnant with his third child and refuse to see either her or the child ever after?

Koizumi, I decided, was a flaky ignoramus with an unbalanced personality, from a family and district with strong gangster connections. It is to the eternal discredit of the ignorant Western media that he was somehow seen as Japan's savior simply because of his 'structural reform' mantra repeated at every corner and juncture of the political scene.

That he and George Bush admired each other says it all.

That he was also able to mesmerise the Japanese public with his flinty gaze, thick mane of hair, reform mantra, and 'theatre politics' also said much about Japan - some of it rather alarming.

His knowledge of, and interest in, foreign affairs was close to zero. In economics he was also ignorant.

The damage he did to Japan was great, and not just because he antagonised China and much of the rest of Asia by his visits to the militaristic Yasukuni Shrine.

He promised to clean up the bureaucracy.

And some of the reforms - putting the knife into the corrupt and wasteful HIghways Corporation for example - made sense.
But its successor was only slightly better.

Japan's worst bureaucratic scandal - the pensions affair - occurred when he was minister in charge of the Health and Welfare ministry.

His efforts to centralise policy decisions away from Japan's tribalistic, ever-competing ministries were also interesting.

But centralisation does not help much if the decisions, mainly on the economy, are wrong.

He claimed to want to reform the LDP old-boy faction system.

But he seemed mainly concerned with settling old LDP and bureaucratic scores.

That major bureaucratic evil – the amakudari system - remained fairly intact during his long regime, as did quite a few tokushu hojin – wasteful bureaucratic agencies.

His disastrous policy of cutting public works into a severe economic recession seemed aimed mainly at castrating the powerful Tanaka Kakuei faction in the LDP.

That faction probably needed to be cut down to size, but not at the expense of an entire economy, and society.

His push for post-office privatisation was a meaningless, but very successful, attempt to expand further his 'theatre politics' for electoral and personal gains.

Some have suggested, and everything I know confirms, that some powerful US financial firms, including Lehman, were very happy to show him, and his acolyte, Takenaka Heizo, gratitude for allowing them to get their grubby claws into the 340 trillion yen's worth of privatised post office savings and pensions.

Be that as it may, it is a fact that the semi-privatised post office system ended up with heavy Lehman losses.

Later also we discovered that the revamped post office corporation was paying Morgan Stanley 10 million yen a month to advise it to sell off assets at rock-bottom prices.

Other suspicious activities emerged when Hatoyama Kunio (whom I had known in his younger days when he was secretary to Tanaka Kakuei and had married the daughter of my acquaintance, the Australian ex-sergeant, Jimmy Beard) as Somu (General Affairs) minister tried to dismiss Nishikawa Yoshifumi, the head of the semi-privatised corporation.

True, many in the LDP and media were eventually to react against that piece of Koizumi theatre. But the fact they went along with it at the beginning said much about the mood-dominated giddiness and lack of consistency in Japanese politics.

In any case, Koizumi negated whatever reformist credentials he might have had by nominating his son to take his Diet seat when he retired from politics.

During his period in office Japan's slump from being a forward-looking, still fairly vibrant society into something that in part of central Tokyo reminded me of dirty, depressed London during bad periods of the sixties and seventies, was palpable.

Opposition to Koizumi

During the recession induced by Koizumi policies I did get to see and advise some of the LDP people opposed to him.

As mentioned earlier (Chapter 23) Hiranuma Takeo had me talk to several LDP policy committees. His views on the need for expansionist fiscal policies matched mine, and for the same reasons.

He did not seem to mind that I was not greatly in tune with his strongly rightwing and nationalistic attitudes.

And he was at least logical with his rightwing views. For example, he said that if Japan wanted to answer criticisms over Yasukuni, it should first renounce the San Francisco peace treaty clause obliging it to accept the Tokyo war crimes tribunal verdicts.

(Visiting the LDP headquarters in Nagata-cho to give these talks to the Hiranuma groupings was an experience. Only about a half the audience would manage to sit still from beginning to end. The rest would be constantly moving in and out as they answered various calls.)

......

Kobayashi Koki, who was to lose to a Koike Yuriko sent to 'assassinate' him in the 2005 Lower House election based almost entirely on Koizumi's phony post office privatisation issue, once went out of his way to invite me for a talk.

He struck me as just the kind of solid, sincere politician (as sincere as any politician can be) that Japan needed.

Kobayashi, like several of the more intelligent LDP politicians, had opposed the privatisation issue, partly because of its suspicious origins and partly because it simply did not make much sense.

Apart from anything else, the post offices operated a range of financial services far more efficiently, and cheaply, than Japan's stuffy, bureaucratic banks (one reason was they employed intelligent high school graduates rather than the pumped up products of low grade universities found in the banks).

No wonder the banks wanted to get rid of that competition.

And with post office savings and pensions funds usually committed to construction projects of national interest, no wonder quite a few sticky fingers wanted to get rid of that commitment.

Critics said construction projects were a source of corruption and waste - true to some extent. But what happened when the funds were freed up to seek higher returns abroad and ended up in the Lehman and the US sub-prime disasters?

For the 'crime' of opposing this dubious deal, with its devastating implications for rural areas where post offices, even if small and unprofitable, had served as crucial community centers, Kobayashi and others were to be expelled from Koizumi's LDP and subjected to 'assassination' attack in their electorates.

Quite a few other worthwhile politicians were to lose their seats in the same election, and for the same reasons.

(One of the 'assassins' the Koizumi people tried to install was the young, media-worshipped stock-market manipulator and general fraudster, Horie Takafumi.

(Fortunately that stunt was stopped by his arrest, and later conviction. And this was supposed to be the election to reform Japan!)

(But that did not stop anyone who opposed this fraud or the many other Koizumi eccentricities, from being labeled by both domestic and foreign media as 'old-guard reactionaries' - teiko seiryoku.)

That Japan's emotional electorate could so easily be won over by Koizumi's grand-standing appeals on an issue of such marginal importance or even harm to Japan was an eye-opener, even for this jaded observer.

That the foreigners went along with was even more of a surprise and disappointment.


WINDING DOWN

4. Media Problems

As readers may now understand, my distress over the way the economic mistakes of the Hashimoto and Koizumi eras were allowed to destroy Japan’s fine economy was large.

But how to get something published in a media besotted with reform slogans?

My article in Voice back in the late nineties had been virtually my last chance to say in detail what I thought was needed to rescue the economy.

That article had had a good response. But as they say in journalism, you are only as good as your last article. Memories are short.

The Nikkei blacklist ban soon after kept me largely silent for years as Japan went off on its course of economic self-destruction.

Today, of course, many accept that Japan's economy suffers severe lack of domestic demand and that former deflationary fiscal policies were a mistake (just as almost everyone now accepts that Japan's wars against China and in the Pacific were a mistake too, thank you very much).

Even the obstinate Nikkei group are changing their tune.

But too late. The damage has already been done.

Later I was finally able to find a group that shared my views on the economy and how to save it - the Association for Japan Economic Reform, a group of rightwing Keynesians who realised the need for fiscal stimulus, and that government had the right to create its own funds if needed.

But it was not till the US sub-prime disaster that they finally began to find voice in Japan, and by then too it was too late.

---

True, my lecture circuit was continuing on and off. But it too was clearly in decline, as both the economy weakened and as Japan became less interested in what the foreigners thought about them.

(Much of my earlier lecture circuit had come from companies and other organisations flush with Bubble era funds and looking for ways to use them.)

I would still be pulled in for the occasional TV talk show. Enterprise management was a popular topic (the idea was that Japan should move from its traditional style to something more American - an idea that I did not greatly want to endorse).

(Management styles depend on culture, and Japanese culture clearly did not match the individualistic, every man-for-himself, get-rich-quick US culture.)

(But the mood in Japan at the time said US management was the key to seeming US relative prosperity at the time when Japan was in trouble.

(No doubt that particular tune too is also changing as conditions change)
---

Official life also continued, for the most part in the form of visits to Tama university a few times a week to sign documents, give classes and meet up with other teachers.

The other main diversion was continuing to attend the many fairly irrelevant committees I had been appointed to years earlier. (In Japan once they make you a member of a committee often you stay there virtually for life.)

Few seemed to want to appoint me to any other committees; maybe they knew about my distress over most of the policies of the day.

So maybe it was time for me for me to turn to other interests, away from foreign policy and the economy.


5. A Book on Education Reform


When I finished at Tama I felt I had to publish something about Japan's education system, from primary school through to university.

Here I would be relying directly on my own very varied experiences, not to mention those of my sons.

After all, very few foreigners could claim to have spent the best part of thirty years in the system, not to mention any number of official committees devoted to the topic.

I might not be able to influence thinking about Japan's messed up economy. But maybe I could do something in the education area.
Or so I thought, hopefully.

---

My key theme was the need to introduce motivation to the classroom, and the various ways this could be one.

I had been very much influenced by the energy Japanese students could show when they doing what they wanted to do - school festivals, clubs, scientific experiments, interesting research projects.

Also I had much on how to reform teaching of English.

But I rather foolishly relied on a personal connection to link up with Toyo Keizai as publisher. (I knew they were concerned mainly about economic and business issues, but they did have a progressive reputation and had been good to me in the past).

Yasuko, as ever, did her uncomplaining best to put the text into good, readable Japanese.

But Toyo Keizai were simply looking for a short, sharp quick-seller.

They wanted, they said, something the average salaryman could skim through without too much effort.

When they insisted a cartoon was needed to introduce each chapter I realised we were in trouble.

They did little in the way of publicity or courting book reviews. It was typical Japanese publishing gangsterism - rely on the name of the author simply to sell enough to cover costs, with a small profit and a minimum of expense.

A lot of effort, and ideas, went into that book for virtually no result, which was a pity since those who did get to read the book were very positive about the ideas.

But I was writing at a time when Japan was already moving away from wanting to hear the ideas of the foreigners anyway, particularly if they are critical.

(And looking back maybe I was a bit too negative about Japan's university system. It does have its occasional merits - the close teacher-student relationship that can develop in the zemi, or seminar, system for example - even if they are hard to find.)

I decided it was time for me to give up on trying to reform Japan's messed-up systems. I would begin to focus more on other things.


6. Akita International University

One hope, I thought, would be my involvement with the new university in Akita (Kokusai Kyoyo Daigaku) I mentioned earlier.
It promised a new approach to education. It would also be developing a strong network of foreign relationships, including China and Russia.

In particular I had hoped from the start to get involved with the language teaching efforts there.

Maybe that would be an area where I really could do something useful, since we were attracting good students, many keen to master language, and not just English.

A book I had published in Japan many years earlier on the processes and techniques for language acquisition had had a good reception.

Here would be a chance to test out some of those techniques, and maybe get enough material for another book, or so I thought.

---

But once again frustration was waiting.

Those PhDs in linguistics employed to teach English (partly at Education Ministry insistence; even the PE teachers have to have PhDs nowadays it seems), were determined to do things their own academic way.

Many of these people have yet to learn what every mother knows - that language is sound and sentence repetition, not print and grammar textbooks.

And with the invention of the tape recorder and the CD machine the role of these over-qualified people is even less.

Teachers of languages other than English also had their own ideas. They were in any case bound by regulations that said they had to concentrate on classroom teaching for students who could better have spent the time listening closely and meaningfully to tapes and CDs.

(Focussed listening was my word for it, and I was glad they did at least create such a class for students learning English, even if it was not run quite along the lines I would have preferred.)

I had also hoped that for students who planned to enter the real world later, whether in Japan or elsewhere, there would be more emphasis on economics and current affairs.

(My idea of the ideal current affairs course is simply to require students to read newspapers every day and examine them on the contents at the end of term. No lectures or classrooms needed.)

And for the many foreigners we had learning Japanese I would dearly have liked to revive the kind of course that had worked so well for my Sophia students.

But if I could do little to influence the teaching of English there was even less I could do to influence the teaching of Japanese.

The most I could do was to claim some of the credit for having helped the university to get set up and running.
---
Meanwhile I could also look forward to spending more time organising my Boso affairs.

There I could enjoy a life of seiko-udoku as they say in Japanese (and Chinese). Cultivate in good weather; read books when it rains.

However another and much larger cloud was developing on the personal horizon - one from which I would not escape as easily, if at all.

7. Foreign Policy Problems

As mentioned earlier I had always found Japan's conservative audiences surprisingly open to my various criticisms of Japan's foreign policies, provided I kept away from the delicate topic of China and war guilt.

(But with the occasional progressive audience, mainly school-teachers, even the topic of war guilt was not taboo.

(My suggested remedy was to admit bad things happened prewar and wartime, but blame them on 'bad Japanese'. At the same time give much praise to the 'good Japanese' - of which there were some, mainly in the Navy, and hold them up as role models.

(In so doing Japan would not only preserve some self-esteem and gain some international understanding; it could also begin to lay the foundation for a guilt rather than a purely shame morality, at least among students.

(Three birds with one stone.)

(But that idea was too complicated for most. And it conflicted with the concept of Japan as one, happy, unified familial society.

(In a tightly-bound family can anyone admit they live in a group where one of its members is evil and whose evils should be exposed to the outside world?)

---

In short, I had tried to keep the criticisms of foreign policy questions gentle, and in the context of cultural difference.

I would say that while I could understand why the Japanese acted as they did, their way of acting was bound to be misunderstood by us more rationalistic foreigners - right hand versus left hand, as I mentioned earlier in the Nihonjin-ron discussion.

War guilt was one issue - and one far more important than many Japanese realised, unless they had had actual experience of living in the rest of Asia other than Thailand.

Another issue was the territorial dispute with Moscow (about which my JT articles carry much material, some of it so far unknown in Japan even though much of it was taken from Japanese sources).

Northern Territories

Here too I had thought I could say something un-offensive to Japanese ears.

I could say that Japan should make a principled demand for a return of all the Kurile islands. That would be much more effective than Japan's haphazard demand for just the two disputed territories in the southern Kuriles (which together with two Hokkaido-related islands and groups constituted the so-called Northern Territories).

But demanding all the Kuriles would have required Japan to admit some of the US skull-duggery at the 1951 San Francisco peace treaty conference, where Tokyo had been forced to renounce all of the Kuriles, including the southern Kuriles.

The Foreign Ministry would also have had to admit its mistake in concentrating only on the southern Kuriles and claiming Japan had never renounced them (when it was clear that it had, under duress).

Besides, Japan's past record of negotiations for the territories simply did not make sense.

At first in 1954 it simply asked Moscow to return the two Hokkaido-related territories (Shikotan and the Habomais) it lost to the Soviet Union in 1945. But as soon as Moscow said yes, in 1955, it immediately escalated its demand to include the return of the two southern Kurile islands of Etorufu and Kunashiri.

Clearly that was not going to impress Moscow, who said no.

Then soon after accepting in 1956 that its claim to Etorufu and Kunashiri was weak and reverting to the Hokkaido pair claim, it then revived the claim to all four when the US said it would not need to return Okinawa if Japan backed down from the all four island demand.

Clearly it served the US interest to force Japan to make the four island demands it knew Moscow could not accept, and in this way keep Japan firmly on the US side in the Cold War. But no one in Japan seemed to realise this.

In short, Japan would end up losing all its territory, semi-permanently, simply to serve the US interest while sacrificing its own interest from better relations with Moscow. Brilliant!.

Meanwhile Tokyo did not seem even to want to know the original cause of the problem -since uncovered by researcher, Hara Kimie  - namely the secret pre-San Francisco deal between Washington and Moscow whereby in the UN Security Council the Soviets would accept US military use of the northern Maianas (mainly Saipan and Itnian)  in exchange for a promise the US would later follow through on its February 1945 Yalta promise to have Japan renounce all the Kuriles

Indeed it is only in this way can we begin to understand the extraordinarily hard line Dulles took at San Francisco in rejecting Yoshida Shigeru's efforts to retain Japanese control over  the Kuriles - the southern Kuriles especially.
 

That an issue with such a murky background could be presented as a clearcut case of Japanese virtue versus Moscow evil staggered me.

Yet the issue was being raised constantly by Tokyo, and in the media, on the bland, unargued assumption that Japan’s case was 100 percent correct simply because in the past Japan had owned the two southern Kurile islands (koyu no ryodo - traditional territory - was the mantra) whose ownership it had formally renounced in 1951.

In the face of such illogicality Moscow had no choice but to continue to say nyet. To have agreed without good reason would have done serious precedent damage inter alia to its position in a number of other postwar territorial settlements.

---

For a while I was marginally involved in efforts to find a compromise agreement - the return of the Hokkaido pair plus alpha (joint development of the other two etc.)

But that too was swiftly axed. All four territories or nothing, was Tokyo's unyielding position. Somehow it had convinced itself that by continuing to refuse to have a serious economic and politicial relationship with Moscow it would force the Russians to say yes.

It was a classic example of Japan’s dangerously illogical, non-principled approach in handling foreign policy problems.

---

Surprisingly, many in my audiences seemed to accept what I had to say (though often audiences will often seem to want to go along with you simply because they do not understand you or do not want to offend you.)

As well, and as mentioned earlier, was the fact that the anti-US rightwing (surprisingly vocal at times, Ishihara Shintaro especially) were happy to have me blame the US for the problem.

Trade Frictions

On trade questions, I would say Japan should be more assertive in blaming mistaken US policies for the imbalances.

But it should also do something about the weak domestic demand that was harming its economy and forcing expanded exports.

That too got a reasonable response, as did articles along the same line.

(One article entitled 'the enigma of Japan's trade surpluses' seemed to have helped provide the title for a much publicised book blaming everything on evil power and policy rather than economics, a subject of which the author seemed rather ignorant.

(But as ever with Japan in those days, conspiracy theories played better in Peoria, and Europe, than boring economics) .

And so on.

8. The Rightwing Strikes

With time, however, I began to feel the audiences were not reacting quite as sympathetically as before.

Maybe it was partly my fault; my irritations over Japan's foolish economic, foreign policy and education policies were beginning to permeate my lecture style.

Suffice it to say that one day I got a fairly blunt request from my Jiji sponsors to keep away from the Northern Territories question.

There was also a sharp reduction in their lecture requests.

----

The Jiji warning I could have lived with. They were a fairly rightwing news-agency outfit, and their lecture circuit was less than greatly rewarding or exciting.

(Kyodo, their more interesting, progressive but less prolific rival, had dropped me years earlier when they knew I was with Jiji.)

But it was not till I ventured into the Korean abductee issue that the shutters really began to come down.

North Korean Abductee Issue

I had badly under-estimated the degree to which national sentiment - humanitarian concern for lost citizens to some extent, but mainly a nationalistic dislike of North Korea - had been stirred up by this issue, with Tokyo doing all it could to inflame the dislike.

I had thought that since Koizumi (or rather his handlers) had done so well with the initial 2002 request to North Korea to release some abductees, one could safely criticise the nationalists who came later, Abe Shinzo especially, and who in effect were undermining the Koizumi success by angrily demanding release of more people, including some whose very existence in North Korea was doubtful.

In the process they had happily broken all the promises Koizumi had made to North Korea over the initial batch of returnees, while insisting that the bad faith was coming from North Korea.

I tried to point out how keeping faith with the Koizumi 2002 promises and opening relations with Pyongyang would have made it that much easier to get more abductees released - if indeed they existed and were both able and willing to go to Japan.

I had also pointed how two leading Western scientific magazines - Nature and Science - had claimed it was very likely Tokyo's DNA data had been faked to prove the continued existence of at least one claimed abductee - a Yokota Meguni - who almost certainly had died many years ago.

But even as I spoke I could feel the audiences freeze. They did not want to hear such details.

Before long the rightwing, whose existence and power I had always felt but from which I had felt immune because of the way Japan Inc. had liked my theories about Japanese culture and success, began to move.

The First Attack

The first move came with a vicious attack on something I had written for a conservative business magazine, Zaikai-jin (business circle people).

In the context of the abductee question I had pointed out that Japan had also abducted Chinese and Koreans to work in Japan in the war years, and their work had been a lot more strenuous than acting as language teachers.

The deathrate among forced Chinese laborers working in Japanese mines and factories had been as high as 50 percent in places, and that was just in two years.

(Japan used to complain bitterly about the ten percent death rate for its prisoners made to work in Siberia for years, and they were soldiers whose job was to kill other people, not innocent farmers press-ganged from the fields and families.)

(But then the Japanese never saw the Chinese as humans deserving treatment equal to themselves or Westerners. Some rightwingers such as Sakurai and the Sankei stable still seem to think along those lines.)

A powerful rightwinger deep into construction industry corruption wrote to the magazine demanding a retraction and apology.
He said the Koreans had simply been conscripted for labor in Japan (yes, but not for the brutal labor imposed on them and without right of return) and that the Chinese had come willingly seeking higher wages.

(In fact the press-ganged Chinese had been put into camps in China and then onto boats to Japan where the death rate was almost as high as in the places where later they had to work.)

My column with the magazine was cancelled. They clearly did not want to give offense to their rightwing sponsors.

But I could live with that. I should not have been with them to begin with (my initial contact came from them wanting me to get Rupert Murdoch to accept their award for top international businessman of the year).

What I had not expected was the flood of hate mail sent to my university and Akita prefecture, asking why this anti-Japan type was being allowed to pollute the minds of young Japanese.

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Overnight all lecture and interview requests began to cease.

My university was good enough not to bow to the pressure, but it was clear that for them too I was damaged goods.

Around the same time an approach to have me offered a palace award for services to education and to understanding Japan was also vetoed.
(Talking of awards, I did however get a cultural award years earlier from Tokyo Metropolis.)

9. More Right-wing Attacks - Sankei and Komori

The ugliest cut of all came in year 2008, at the hands of the rightist Sankei Shimbun and its favorite hatchet man, Komori Yoshihisa.

Fresh from destroying the reputation of an eminent scholar, Tamamoto Masaru, who had dared to suggest there were problems with Japan's Yasukuni Shrine 'cult,' Komori picked up some purely personal comments I had made in an Internet discussion forum.

The comments were based on the way Tokyo had almost certainly faked the DNA evidence over Yokota Megumi's remains, in its bid to prove that the woman still existed and that North Korea was addicted to lying on all and every abductee question.

My remarks were lifted from the discussion forum and distorted by both Komori and his paper, to make it look as if I, as the vice-president of Akita International University, had come out publicly to denounce the entire abductee issue as faked (dechiage).

The paper refused a retraction, in the charming way that rightwing publications like to behave generally, but especially in Japan.
Being rightwing is never having to say sorry, it seems, at least until someone runs a court action against you.

Deep in their hearts they know that they, the rightwing, are pure (even when they are wrong), and we non-rightwingers are wrong (even when we are right).

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Komori's blog completed the damage.

Hundreds of blog posts backed up his demand to know how and why this heretic and diehard leftist, Clark, was allowed into Japan in the first place, and then employed by a publicly funded university.

Once again, my university supported me. But this time the damage had really been done.

The final proof that I was in trouble came when an offer to join the board of one of Japan's top and best-known companies as an outside director for two years was suddenly withdrawn.

The company was quite happy to admit they were under right-wing and other pressure to do this.

They offered me instead a well-paid titular position elsewhere in their domain (they at least had some kind of conscience).

Fortunately, however, other areas of interest were to open up - some of them more than enough to make up for disillusion and the loss of interest in Japan.


10. Reviving Old Interests - China and Russia

Reviving my Chinese and Russian connection was one option.

My Akita university was quite happy to have me visit China to sign up universities there for exchange agreements.

That helped greatly to revive my interest in China and the language.

I also got to deal with the Chinese exchange students, and found them very worthwhile.

Similarly with Taiwan and its students.

Chinese study harder and have wider interests that their Japanese equivalents.

I was also delighted to find that much of my Chinese was intact - that language, once it enters the subconscious, can survive in almost pristine condition provided one has occasional chances to use it in later years, in my case more than forty years later.

Languages learned properly are like songs. Does anyone forget the songs they learned as children?

Russia

I had never been very close to the former Soviet embassy people in Tokyo, which did not worry me too much since they probably had my KGB dossier.

But I would have liked to revive my Russian, and my liking for Russian people.

With the Soviet breakup I got a commission from my old Tokyo journalist rival, Max Suich, to visit Yeltsin's Moscow for a week or so to write something for his new magazine.

The Australian Embassy in Moscow, under an old friend, Cavan Hogue, helped me greatly with introductions.

I was appalled by the chaos and hopelessness in the streets outside. But I did manage to do some worthwhile interviews and dig up some very interesting opinions.
The educated Russian can be devastatingly frank at times.

If I say so myself, the article I produced was quality (this website has a copy) considering I had less than a week for the legwork.

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More recently, and via an old contact - Togo Takehiro, third secretary in the Japanese Embassy in Moscow when I was there in the sixties, and later ambassador there - I have been invited regularly to conferences, mainly in Greece, organised by a richly-financed Russian outfit trying to rival the World Economic Forum, but using World Civilisation rather than economy as the catchword.

There I met up with the former Russian ambassador in Tokyo, Alexander Panov, now head of the Moscow Diplomatic Academy.

He had been very close to the affair I mentioned earlier - the activities of the small group of Japanese bureaucrats and politicians trying to work for the two islands plus alpha solution to the Northern Territories dispute, but who later under Koizumi had been rounded up, transferred to other duties, dismissed, or even put in jail on rather flimsy misspending charges.

Their leader, Togo Kazuhiko, had gone into semi-exile abroad.

Because they wanted some softening of Tokyo's rigid southern Kuriles demand, they had become traitors to the nation, we were told.

Panov, it was clear, had given up on the issue. But he did invite me to give a talk to his Academy and stay for a week or so in Moscow.

This in turn gave me an excuse to brush up my Russian. There too the subconscious worked its magic, with words and expressions I had not used for decades being rediscovered.

I spent as much time as I could traveling around Moscow.

The vitality and progress of the new Russia was impressive, even if it had corrupt underpinnings. So too was the anger over the way the West had distorted the recently-ended Ossetia affair.

11. A New Interest - Latin America

During the boom years of the eighties and early nineties Japan had taken a more relaxed attitude to foreign workers entering on tourist visas and then over-staying to work in farms and factories.

We saw many of these people in Boso, where the fish factories and electrical assembly plants were constantly short of staff willing to work the long hours in poor conditions.

Among them were a number of Peruvians, many well educated and middle-class. They had come to escape the poverty and disorder sweeping their country at the time.

I got to know some of them. Even in distant Japan they had preserved their Latino zest for life and love of music.

They would come to my Nakadaki outfit for parties and dances.

For this stiff-backed gringo it was a glimpse of a very different way of life and living.

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When Tokyo at the turn of the century began to clamp down on visa overstayers I found myself on the Justice Ministry committee discussing visa policy.

While we not able to stop Japan's sudden move to expelling all visa overstayers, we were able to do something about moderating the previously harsh punishments imposed on them.

As a result I was able to tell some of my Boso Peruvian friends that if they could lie low for another year or so the law would be changed to allow them to return home without fines or imprisonment, and apply for visas to come back to Japan a year later, provided they admitted to the authorities that they had over-stayed.

In gratitude, the two sisters of one family I had helped were to invite me to visit Peru after their return.

I was to get to know Peru well, visiting several times.

Later I was to visit some other Latin American countries, Mexico especially.

And so began the glimmerings of a new interest, and with it the study of an exciting new language, using and testing the techniques I had learned from other languages.

At this moment of writing I am not sure where it will all take me eventually - maybe not just the cultural differences but also the seasonal differences between northern hemisphere Japan and southern hemisphere Latin America, Peru especially, will lure me into a nomadic lifestyle.

I wish I could do the same with Australia, the country I still call my home. But too many bad memories linger.

But wherever it is, it will be a change from the ugliness of Japan's increasingly powerful rightwing, and the difficulty in dealing with Japan's lack of logic in handling issues of vital importance to its future.