TOKYO BLOWHARD

TOKYO BLOWHARD

By Robert Whiting

I have had hundreds of book reviews in my 40 plus years as a writer—both good and bad—but I have yet to respond to any of them. My philosophy has been that the work should speak for itself and let the chips fall where they may. But Jason Morgan’s piece on Tokyo Junkie for Japan Forward, and queries from fellow journalists about its appropriateness, require me to make an exception to this rule. His was not a review but a political rant.  

In his monograph, Morgan, a professor at Reitaku University, and a right wing apologist,   rails about a  reference to the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom index showing Japan behind the curve  citing a study which termed the index an “utter fraud” done by fellow gadfly Earl Kinmonth. While the index may indeed have a “neo-liberal bias”  against developing countries with state controlled media with wild swings in the rankings not uncommon,  it is also a  barometer that has  been accepted around the world for the past two decades. There is a reason that  Japan, a country that is about as highly developed as they come,   regularly falls well below the top tier of countries  (as does, I might add, the United States). Both Japanese and foreign journalists alike can attest to this.

One could start  of course  with the Kisha (Reporters) Club system in Japan wherein every major institution has its own Press Club through which it dispenses news  about that organization’s activities. The Prime Minister’s office has a Kisha Club. The Foreign Ministry has a Kisha Club. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has a Kisha Club and so on. The respective Kisha Clubs are comprised  solely of reporters from the mainstream daily newspapers and TV outlets whose job it is to  report only on that institution.  It is a system which subtly  controls the daily narrative in the news business in Japan. A case in point—minor,  but nonetheless instructive –was the Yomiuri Giants Kisha Club whose member reporters  were compelled  to report inflated attendance figures they knew to be false (namely the 56,000 per game capacity number supplied by the team, as opposed to the actual 46,134 figure supplied by the Fire Department), presumably so the organization could claim attendance records. Think about that.  This went on for years, from 1987-2004, until a new revenue tax law forced club’s owner, the  Yomiuri Shimbun, the largest newspaper in the world, to start reporting the truth. There are similar stories about self-censorship in the government ministry  Kisha Clubs which the highly respected veteran journalist Soichi Tahara  has  called the ‘most serious problem in Japanese journalism.”  Reporters and their editors don’t want to lose access so they play ball. (Rules prohibiting foreign correspondents from joining most Kisha Clubs is another  issue that has been well discussed and reported over the years.)

Historically, the really important stories in Japan  have surfaced first in the  periodicals such as the weekly magazines  Shukan Bunshun and Shukan Asahi and the  monthly Bungei Shunju, which   are not eligible for Kisha Club membership   Perhaps the most famous case in this regard involved a Bungei Shunju research project into former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka’s finances. No establishment journalist would take the job, although the allegations were well known, so it went to freelancer Takashi Tachibana who went on to become famous for reporting that triggered a Diet investigation and resulted in Tanaka’s resignation.

The MSM in Japan also avoided reporting on  misdeeds involving the Japan Red Cross and the Japan Animal Welfare Society out of respect for Imperial family members serving as honorary heads of those organizations, as well as one of the nation’s most famous coverups, the government’s freeze on media coverage of  an event in the 1980’s when thousands of hemophilia patients in Japan contracted HIV via tainted blood products. High ranking government officials were eventually convicted of manslaughter and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was moved to make a full apology. It was left for the periodicals to tackle these subjects with material often fed to them by Kisha Club reporters who had no other way to tell their stories.

There is more. The Russian film titled The Sun  was shunned in Japan because of the film’s depiction of Emperor Hirohito and his historical meeting with General Douglas MacArthur, in spite of the presence of major Japanese actors in the cast  (including Ogata Issei and Momoi Kaoru). No main distributor would touch it, fearing right-wing retribution due to the films depiction of the Emperor. It was a case reminiscent of  John Frankenheimer film Black Sunday, about a Black September attack on the Super Bowl,  which was also banned in Japan, because of  fears by  the Japanese government that its oil supply from the Middle East might be disrupted.

Morgan refers to “baked in prejudices” at the left-leaning Foreign Correspondents Press Club of Japan, but he might have better aimed such charges against  the government friendly Japan National Press Club. Over the years there have been numerous  political protestors and refugees visiting Japan who have been given the cold shoulder  by the  JPNC yet welcomed at  the FCCJ and other international institutions. In addition to   the Dalai Lama, one could count activists from Hong Kong and high-profile speakers from Taiwan among individuals whose presence in Japan made the Japanese government so concerned about damaging ties with China that the  JNPC  felt pressured not to host them.

The Moritomo Gakuen incident in which a Finance Ministry official committed suicide after obeying orders from above to forge documents about a shady real estate deal involving former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie, was the biggest scandal of the Abe administration. Yet a key principal, Moritomo schoolmaster Yasunori Kagoike who implicated the first lady in the scheme, was not asked to appear at the JNPC. He was however invited to speak at the FCCJ where he was the biggest draw in years.

One might  further note the attitude of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Communications Minister  who in 2016  threatened to shut down media  broadcasting outlets over politically biased reports—prompting an outcry from  Tahara and  other leading journalists and statements of “deep and genuine concern” by U.N. special rapporteur David Kaye about declining media independence in the world’s third largest economy. The monthly magazine Facta reported that the Abe government surveilled  the lawyer who had helped Kaye while in Japan, while giving the UN rep the cold shoulder. In 2019  NHK boss Katsuto Momii decreed after assuming office that his news network, which is technically supposed to be politically neutral, should not criticize the government.

Morgan also complained about the lack of citation in Tokyo Junkie  for the “rape, arson and mass murder of an estimated 300,000 men women and children in the winter of 1937” in Nanjing. But  as I  stated in the opening pages of the book that since it is a memoir I would dispense with the usual notes, sources and bibliography I normally include in my  works and that if readers wanted to know where I got some specific item, they were welcome to contact me via my website, the address and link of which were clearly displayed, and  I would provide that information. However, Morgan chose not  to ask me but go for the cheap shot instead–perhaps to please his right wing paymasters.  For those  interested,  the “300,000” figure came from Nanjing Massacre War Memorial and the Nanjing War Crimes Tribunal citations. Since the  number is disputed  I used the term ‘estimated’ in the quote above and “by some accounts” in another part of the book where Shintaro Ishihara called it a “fabrication.”  There are disagreements among serious scholars over the actual figures, which range from 40,000 (Hata, Rabe), 50,000-100,000  (Hora), 200,000 (IMTFE, Kasahara, Yoshida) to 300,000 (CCP, NWCT) and which depend on the time frame (days, weeks or months  in the period from August to February) as well as the geography (within city walls, or including the areas outside the city, or along the invasion route from Shanghai). US State Department archival documents show estimates of as much as  half a million.

The focus on numbers, however,  is a distraction from the actual horrors inflicted, and it is quite clear from the various accounts of POW’s rounded up on banks of river and machine gunned down, attested to  even by Japanese war veterans who had been  there and who had been surveyed by a Japanese veterans association in 1984, as well as the photos of beheadings,  people being buried alive, and babies being bayoneted, that something terrible did happen and the Chinese, for their part,  have never forgotten it

Saying that the Nanjing Massacre “never happened,” as Ishihara does, would be akin to the Americans saying the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki never happened, or that the Japanese dropped it on themselves.

Morgan further  complained about liberal dezinformatsiya  but is guilty of  his own fabrications when he states  that Yomiuiri Shimbun honcho Tseuneo Watanabe is not, as I described him, ‘conservative’,   ignoring—or perhaps he is unaware of–Watanabe’s long relationship with LDP bigwig Bamboku Ono and Yasuhiro Nakasone, both dyed-in-the-wool conservatives. Nakasone became prime minister and he might not have achieved that post without Watanabe’s help. Similar distortions by Morgan label me a progressive when most people who  know me are well aware  that I am a conservative and a registered Republican-but also know that I am  someone who doesn’t pick his friends and professional  associates by their party affiliation.

Finally, Morgan lecturing me on gender political correctness is comical given that he himself is infamous for indignantly refusing to take gender awareness training when he was a grad student at U Wisconsin, something required for all teaching assistants. This and his rejection of transgender students, have caused him to receive an embarrassingly low rating by  fendnow.org.

There is more, but suffice it to say that gaijin uyoku,  thought police captain and white savior Jason Morgan is a walking embodiment of delusional right wing orthodoxy. He reminds me in a way of the finger-wagging church elders and McCarthyites who surrounded me while growing up with in the 50’s telling me what things I  could and could not read and what opinions I could and could not express. With thinking this twisted one wonders what kind of students Morgan’s classes will produce.

END

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