Friday, March 21, 2008

"Pride" is not just the property of the LDP

In this post earlier this month, I discussed the importance of "pride" — hokori (誇り) — in the thinking of the Japanese right.

In this vein, Younghusband at Coming Anarchy writes of a dispute between the DPJ and The Economist over the recent cover that featured the pun "Japain."

Iwakuni Tetsundo, head of the DPJ's international bureau, wrote to complain about the cover:
...I strenuously object to the title on the cover of your Asia edition, 'Japain'. Japan is the official name of our nation, registered and acknowledged by the United Nations and other international bodies. It is completely outrageous that you combined the word for our nation with 'pain'. You made fun of our respected nation's name on a cover that is sold on newsstands all over the region. This conduct is equal to burning a national flag, which is base and inconsiderate. No nation's name should be treated like this.
I disapprove of the utter lack of humor on the part of Mr. Iwakuni, and, presumably, the DPJ, since Mr. Iwakuni seems to have written in an official capacity. Please take a deep breath: this is nothing like the burning of a national flag, and this stance makes the DPJ look silly and irrationally nativist.

This episode goes to show that a national pride that occasionally borders on chauvinism is not the unique property of the LDP and conservatives like Nakagawa Shoichi. This is a reality of Japanese politics today. I suspect Japanese politicians — and the Japanese people — may have a bit of a chip on their shoulder as a result of the slights and put downs the country endured during the lost decade. (Of course, the Japanese establishment engaged in ongoing self-criticism throughout the 1990s.) This suggests that nationalism and related-foreign policy issues will not be the basis for a new cleavage in a realigned political system. A certain degree of nationalism — if not loyalty to the nationalist agenda proposed by the LDP's conservatives — may be common to most Diet members.

This episode may also reflect a certain powerlessness on the part of the Japanese establishment, prompting officials and businessmen to lash out like this: it is difficult, after all, for Mr. Iwakuni to take issue with the substance of The Economist article, although he attempts to refute the magazine's criticism of the DPJ. Japan is mired in intractable social and economic problems that have diminished the country's international profile. As such, the DPJ and the establishment as a whole should not vent its frustrations at foreign critics, who for the most part have Japan's interests at heart.

4 comments:

Younghusband said...

I agree with your post title absolutely, which is one of the reasons I posted that letter. Are you familiar with him? This is what I found on him:

http://www.dpj.or.jp/member/?detail_5=1
http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/岩國哲人
http://www.1892.jp/html/

The d00d is 71! Cantankerous! As you are in the political know, what is the Haneda Group? Can you fill us in about this guy at all?

Japan Observer said...

It's not the Haneda group — it's the Hata group, meaning the DPJ faction of Hata Tsutomu, who was briefly prime minister in 1994.

Mr. Noah said...

It occurs to me that if Prince Komatsu Akihito wasn't offended by "the Mikado" in 1886, modern Japanese leaders shouldn't be offended by a run-of-the-mill British pun.

Confidence apparently breeds a thick skin.

www.japaneconomynews.com said...

It does seem a tad oversensitive, and Tobias is 100% right - there's no arguing with the contents.

Did anyone write in over these:
http://www.nysata.org/img/adv_200401-01_mag-cover.jpg
http://worldhealthnews.harvard.edu/images/2007/4.25.2007/economist_cover.jpg