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Search Results for 'japanese'

Japanese Air Warfare Footage

[ 94 ] November 14, 2013 |

More Farley’s beat, but this footage of air warfare from Japanese archives in 1945 is pretty amazing to watch.

The Japanese Counter-Insurgency Experience in China

[ 11 ] January 12, 2013 |

This week’s Diplomat column takes a look at COIN in the Second Sino-Japanese War, based on the Murray-Mansoor edited volume Hybrid Warfare:

Yamaguchi suggests that elements of the Japanese Army and a variety of hybrid civil-military organizations took the problem of COIN quite seriously from a strategic point of view, appreciating that the only way to victory in China was the establishment of a self-sustaining, pro-Japanese Chinese government.

However, the Japanese Army suffered from problems of focus and resources.  Rather than concentrating on counter-insurgency operations, the Army needed to prepare for conventional operations against Chiang Kai Shek’s Nationalist Army, defensive operations in jungle and island theatres against British and American forces, and finally the long-anticipated Soviet invasion of Manchuria.  These threats all posed radically different challenges, making training haphazard and incoherent. The Japanese also faced unity of effort challenges, with civilian and military agencies organized around pacification and institution building losing out in intra-agency battles against conventionally oriented officers.

Long story short, the history of Japanese operations in China was more complicated in process, if not in effect, than the “Kill All, Loot All, Destroy All” that has come to characterize the war*.

*Standard caveat: I trust that readers are bright enough to understand that this does not constitute an apology for the Japanese Imperial Army.

And Medicare is like a mini Japanese-American internment program

[ 0 ] August 5, 2009 |

Well, this pretty much beats the shit out of anything Juan Williams has said recently. Given Liasson’s record on Katrina itself, one supposes she ought to avoid mentioning the subject altogether. Is NPR offering its reporters funnel cakes for making stupid on cable TV?

So Why No Fortune at Japanese Restaurants?

[ 0 ] January 18, 2008 |

It seems that the fortune cookie originated in late 19th century Japan:

There is one place where fortune cookies are conspicuously absent: China.

Now a researcher in Japan believes she can explain the disconnect, which has long perplexed American tourists in China. Fortune cookies, Yasuko Nakamachi says, are almost certainly originally from Japan.

Her prime pieces of evidence are the generations-old small family bakeries making obscure fortune cookie-shaped crackers by hand near a temple outside Kyoto. She has also turned up many references to the cookies in Japanese literature and history, including an 1878 image of a man making them in a bakery – decades before the first reports of American fortune cookies.

The idea that fortune cookies come from Japan is counterintuitive, to say the least. “I am surprised,” said Derrick Wong, the vice president of the largest fortune cookie manufacturer in the world, Wonton Food, based in Brooklyn. “People see it and think of it as a Chinese food dessert, not a Japanese food dessert,” he said.

Japanese Defense

[ 0 ] July 23, 2007 |

There’s a good article in the NYT today about Japan’s increasingly aggressive defense posture. In addition to slight increases in defense spending, the deployment of assets farther away from Japan, and the purchase of new weapon systems, the Japanese Self-Defense Force is carrying out more aggressive and realistic training exercises.

For a few reasons, this doesn’t bother me a bit. First, the dichotomy between “offensive” and “defensive” weapons is and always has been nonsense. Almost any weapon (including a wall, or even a missile defense system) can be used for both offensive and defensive purposes. The inter-war arms agreement negotiators tried to ban offensive weapons, but failed to come to any plausible determination of what constituted offensive and defensive. Political scientists have played around with the “offense-defense balance” concept for years, with few sound results. The idea, therefore, of a military organization built around “defensive” weaponry suffers from some serious conceptual problems.

In the specific case of Japan these problems are exacerbated by Japanese dependence on foreign trade. While Japan remains under the US security umbrella, it doesn’t need to worry too much about attacks on its supply lines. If that umbrella ever weakened, or if Japan wished to contribute more, defense would necessarily include deployments well outside Japanese waters. Similarly, an attack on Chinese, US, Korean, or Russian missile or air bases capable of striking Japan could plausibly be defined as “defensive”. Long story short, the idea of a “defensive” Japanese military makes no sense whatsoever outside the context of American military hegemony. As long as the US conducts all of the distant operations for Japanese defense, we can pretend that Japan has a Self-Defense Force instead of a military, but that designation amounts to little more than a charade.

Of course, all things military are also political, and Japanese defense re-organization (Japan is already heavily armed, so re-armament doesn’t make any sense) has political effects at home and in the region. Rightist politicians have long argued for a more substantive military profile, but such arguments don’t weaken the case itself. China and the Koreas have expressed a lot of concern about Japanese revanchism, and could meet a more aggressive Japanese military posture with additional spending of their own. Since China is already increasing its defense spending (and orienting that spending around Taiwan, rather than Japan), and North Korea is pretty much tapped out, this puts South Korea on the spot. Call me a sap, but if Japan and South Korea go to war again in my lifetime, I’ll buy every reader of TAPPED and LGM a Coke. Nationalist politicians in China, South Korea, and Japan have become remarkably adept at playing off one another for domestic political gain over the past twenty years or so; re-organizing or re-titling the Self-Defense Force isn’t going to change that, or even affect the dynamic very much.

Cross-posted to TAPPED.

. . . and somewhere in Omaha, the Chunichi Dragons are the lords of Japanese baseball

[ 0 ] February 4, 2007 |

I’m not sure why I found this article so irritating and compelling at the same time. I’ve known for years that the losers of major sporting events have their “championship” t-shirts swiftly dumped on Romania or Thailand, so the substance of the piece isn’t really surprising. What struck me, however was the degree to which the NFL wants to flush the offending apparel down the proverbial memory hole.

By order of the National Football League, those items are never to appear on television or on eBay. They are never even to be seen on American soil.

They will be shipped Monday morning to a warehouse in Sewickley, Pa., near Pittsburgh, where they will become property of World Vision, a relief organization that will package the clothing in wooden boxes and send it to a developing nation, usually in Africa.

This way, the N.F.L. can help one of its charities and avoid traumatizing one of its teams.

There’s a side of me that loves counterfactuals, and so I would probably pay decent money for a 1997 Cleveland Indians shirt or a 1980 Los Angeles Rams Super Bowl hat. I would pay even more for New York Yankees’ shirts from 2001 or 2003, or Atlanta Braves merchandise from 1991 or 1992 — though my motives there would be of a purely spiteful nature.

There’s also a side of me that thinks this is one more reason that terrorists are correct to hate our freedoms. Post-championship marketing is so aggressive that we can’t wait a few minutes to see the MVP in his victory paraphernalia? How long can it possibly take to silk screen a fucking pile of t-shirts?

Of course charity is the big winner here, obviously. If we didn’t send our losers’ gear to the third world, what on earth would they wear? Nice of us to send them our ships and broken computers, too.

The Times didn’t mention whether Larry Summers is behind this, but I have my suspicions.

Japanese F-22

[ 0 ] February 25, 2006 |

Ryan at Capital Cadre highlights this story on the F-22:

Momentum is building within the Air Force to sell the service’s prized F-22A Raptor — which is loaded with super-secret systems — to trusted U.S. allies, with Japan viewed as the most likely buyer, service and industry officials tell Inside the Air Force.

A Lockheed Martin official heavily involved in the Raptor program told ITAF Feb. 14 that a proposal to alter course and sell the Raptor to Japan is working its way through the Air Force. Lockheed is leading development and production work on the service’s newest fighter.

Several interesting things are going on here. Obviously, it’s no surprise that Lockheed and Boeing like the idea of selling the F-22 on the international market. It’s a little bit more puzzling that Air Force brass like the idea. The notion of selling the most advanced aircraft in the US arsenal even to a committed US ally would seem to make them mildly twitchy. However, given that so many different countries are part of the Joint Strike Fighter research, perhaps this isn’t the case.

Another way to think of this is to interpret it in terms of the more general expansion of Japan’s military role, and of the slow redefinition of the US-Japanese military alliance.

Japanese Normalization

[ 0 ] September 13, 2005 |

I disagree with John Ikenberry. I don’t believe that Article 9 of the Japanese constitution serves any further purpose, and I think it should be abolished.

Ikenberry’s case is built around three arguments. First, the Japanese ought to resist normalization because normalization is being strongly pushed by the United States. The United States is pursuing this in order to make Japan a more useful military ally, and presumably to free up forces that could more profitably be used elsewhere in the world. Ikenberry’s second argument is tied to his first. Rather than becoming “normal” by establishing a set of regular military institutions, Japan ought to fulfill its global responsibilities through more peaceful means, thus setting a good example for the rest of the world. Finally, Ikenberry suspects that a remilitarized Japan will destabilize East Asia. I find all of these arguments uncompelling.

[Japanese] feel pressure from the United States to “step up to the plate” and be a more fully capable ally. Even before September 11, the U.S. has been urging Japan to breakout of its old postwar straightjacket. The so-called Armitage report – a bipartisan group of Japan foreign policy specialists and diplomats – called for the U.S. and Japan to transform their relationship into something akin to the U.S.-British special relationship.

I don’t see a problem here. Why is it a bad thing for anyone if one of the world wealthiest states, and one that has a deeply vested interest in maintenance of the political and economic status quo, takes more vigorous military steps to maintain that status quo? Why, exactly, would it be bad for the Japanese to become a military power on par with Britain or France (or, likely, even stronger than that)? Ikenberry does not present a compelling argument, but seems concerned that a stronger Japanese military will simply become a pawn in some neoconservative fantasy. This is absurd; whatever foreign policy goals Japan could be imagined to have, invading countries and installing liberal democratic governments can’t possibly be one of them. Japan is never going to be a driver of US military adventurism, and I doubt very much that it will even be an enthusiastic participant. Neocons are idiots, and just because they think that a re-militarized Japan will enable them to further pursue their fantasies doesn’t make it a reality. Indeed, I would expect a re-militarized Japan to be less amenable to US hegemony, rather than more. If the Japanese military can solve problems on its own, it will need to rely less on the United States. Moreover, I’m not really even sold on how strengthening the hand of the United States in hegemonic maintenance is a bad thing.

Ikenberry is concerned that international responsibility is being defined to narrowly by advocates of re-militarization:

I agree that Japan ought to be a “responsible” power. But I think it is incorrect to simply equate “responsibility” with the ability to use force. Is Japan being responsible when it alters its constitution so that it can more fully join the Bush administration’s war on terrorism – or is it being responsible when it engages America on its own terms and articulates its own vision of security and international community?

It seems to me that this is rather a question for the Japanese to answer. I am uncompelled by the argument that Japan ought to pursue some kind of pacific form of responsibility while it is obviously dependent on the military force of other nations for the maintenance of the global economic system on which its prosperity is contingent. Sure, there are plenty of ways to influence world politics without using military force, and certainly the Bush administration would be well advised to learn at least one. There are also lots of ways in which military force is a useful tool of statecraft. I see no reason why Japan should eschew this tool while Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia, India, and the United States do not.

Finally, Ikenberry uses a form of the old argument about Japanese war guilt:

I am not convinced that Japanese national identity – particularly as it is manifest in military/constitutional terms – is strictly an internal matter. Nor is Chinese, Korean or American national identity, for that matter. As is international politics more generally, national identity is profoundly relational. In Japan’s complicated historical case, this is all the more true. The revision of Article 9 is a major “regional event” – and Japan is headed for trouble if its leaders say:

It’s true that Japan has not evaluated its behavior in World War II as clearly as, say, Germany. It’s also clear that the Japanese have done a much better job of assessing their responsibility than, for example, the Russians. Yes, I am certain that the abolition of Article 9 will disconcert many of the Asian countries that suffered from Japanese imperialism sixty years ago. I am just as certain that Japan has no interest in reasserting the imperial project, and doubt very much that it could even if it wanted. I suspect that the abolition of Article 9 will arouse a fair amount of indignation at first, and will then be largely forgotten. I doubt that the Chinese, for example, put much trust in the argument that a constitutional clause will restrain Japanese imperialism in any case. Because Chinese defense policy is oriented around the conquest of Taiwan rather than defense against an outside aggressor anyway, I’m unconvinced that the Chinese leadership view Japan as a genuine threat, rather than as a useful sounding board for nationalist rhetoric.

Again, I see no further use for Article 9. If Japan wishes to build a more powerful military, capable of foreign intervention and hegemonic maintenance, then it ought to be able to. To be quite honest, I think that the world will benefit from a more militarily capable Japan.


[ 94 ] August 4, 2014 |
"Japanese battleship Nagato" by IJN - The Maru Special No. 29 "Japanese Submarine Tenders and Auxiliary Submarine Tenders". Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons -

“Japanese battleship Nagato” by IJN – The Maru Special No. 29 “Japanese Submarine Tenders and Auxiliary Submarine Tenders”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - 

As occasionally hinted over the past year, I’ve been considering a book project built around a collection of Sunday Battleship Blogging posts of yore. This project may finally be coming to fruition, but I’m struggling with the title. As Thucydides once said, “when you’re too lazy to think for yourself, crowdsource it.”

Thus, my query to all of you: What would be a good title for collection of sixty-some-odd vignettes on battleships? The winning entry (if any) receives an autographed copy of the book, assuming it all comes together.

Conserative White Male Resentment of the Day

[ 447 ] June 26, 2014 |


All those liberals driving Priuses make big strong tough American white men feel threatened
. So they typically have to bully others.

In small towns across America, manly men are customizing their jacked-up diesel trucks to intentionally emit giant plumes of toxic smoke every time they rev their engines. They call it “rollin’ coal,” and it’s something they do for fun.

An entire subculture has emerged on the Internet surrounding this soot-spewing pastime—where self-declared rednecks gather on Facebook pages (16,000 collective followers) Tumblers and Instagram (156,714 posts) to share photos and videos of their Dodge Rams and GM Silverados purposefully poisoning the sky. As one of their memes reads: “Roll, roll, rollin’ coal, let the hybrid see. A big black cloud. Exhaust that’s loud. Watch the city boy flee.”

Aside from being macho, the rollin’ coal culture is also a renegade one. Kids make a point of blowing smoke back at pedestrians, in addition to cop cars and rice burners (Japanese-made sedans), which can make it dangerously difficult to see out of the windshield. Diesel soot can also be a great road rage weapon should some wimpy looking Honda Civic ever piss you off. “If someone makes you mad, you can just roll coal, and it makes you feel better sometimes,” says Ryan, a high school senior who works at the diesel garage with Robbie. “The other day I did it to this kid who was driving a Mustang with his windows down, and it was awesome.”


Katie Surrence: The Sonic Life of a Giant Tortoise

[ 9 ] June 23, 2014 |

[Here's Katie introducing herself for those who missed her first post. Enjoy! --SL]

I feel uncomfortable “reviewing” experimental theater. I’m not sure which of my values apply; I don’t have a core sense of what the important elements of good experimental theater are. But maybe I don’t have to be evaluative, exactly, and can just describe the show and the experience of watching it, even the experience of getting to it and sitting in the seat, which felt on this last occasion more than usual like part of the show. The play was The Sonic Life of a Giant Tortoise, a translated work by Japanese playwright Toshiki Okada, that is running till July 3 at JACK theater in Brooklyn.

My friends told me they were going, but I waited until the last minute to buy my ticket and they were sold out. I had spent too much of the weekend pent up, and I nearly cried: “This is it. I am missing my life.” I hemmed and hawed about whether I would venture to Brooklyn on the offchance I could get in. An hour before the show, I decided: “I live in New York City. If I spend all my time grinding out my chem homework I am not sucking the marrow out of every day. I have to at least try.” I arrived the minute the play was to start, and I did manage to buy a student rush ticket, though not to sit with my friends. I was carrying an overstuffed backpack with my backpack and assorted school and work materials, a Duane Reade bag with some extra clothes, and a yoga mat, and I tripped over a bunch of legs and stuffed myself into my seat. Just as the play started I realized that I had made a fatal error in not putting the Duane Reade bag under my chair, and I had to stay very still for the 65-minute runtime in terror of disturbing anyone with a crinkle.

Then it turned out the play was about this, in a sense, about living in a big city and not knowing how to spend your time. A multiracial cast of five men and women rotate playing a couple, who are most of the time in separate reveries and only interact in a single scene. I wasn’t totally clear of the gender of the protagonists, or whether and when the perspective changed, but this authoritative source made it clear to me in retrospect: the actors play the man, then the perspective switches and they play the woman. The opening monologue by one of the male actors is a confession, which he stammers over a bit, and finally allows: “What I’m relating now, what’s going through my head, I have never told anyone before. It’s a secret, no one knows it. I will say what the secret is. I would like to have a better life.” One of the actresses takes up the thread: he’s having a dream that his girlfriend has died. It’s a beautiful dream, the kind that you don’t want to wake up from, because the nostalgia is so sweet. If he woke up to his live girlfriend, he would be heartbroken to have lost it. I thought of the recent Louie episode when the doctor tells Louie, “Misery is wasted on the miserable.” Louie’s pain is the good stuff, he says, the real thing to value about love, and the really depressing thing is not giving a shit.

Every passage in the play is a layer that can be cast as a fantasy by an actor beginning another monologue. It’s never clear when anyone is awake, or if anyone ever is. The characters are vexed by a feeling of wishing to be elsewhere, which seems in some instances like the seed of a vibrant impulse, a healthy desire to escape from a box, and in other instances like alienation from their lives, without any motive force toward something better. The woman attends a fantasy party she gets to by taking the subway far underground. She at first believes she’s dead, and she says in cocktail party chatter that her regret is that she wished she’d had a friend from another country, so she could hear them say how they loved the energy of Tokyo. Then she might have been able to feel a little bit of that sentiment too. These characters want to love or value something, to love a place or a person, but aren’t sure that the places they’re in or the people they’re with are what they can love and value. Since their expressions of longing take place while they might be asleep, we don’t know whether their waking selves have access to the sharp feeling that something is missing. Even the perverse escapist fantasy of wishing for your girlfriend’s death so you can miss her might be more awareness than this man has when he’s moving through his day. And there’s no answer to the question of how to wake up.

Occasionally this show was funny. Sometimes it managed to confront me with something I know I struggle with: the feeling that I’m doing something wrong with the time I have, that there’s another life a few shades fuller that I’m meant to be living and I either don’t have the people to do them with or I don’t have the time. My anxieties are slightly askew from these characters’. I have a characteristic New York dilemma: being so intent on fulfillment. that I reach a frantic energy. When I sat down next to my friend afterward for the talkback with the playwright, I whispered to him how embarrassed I was to be carrying so much stuff at the theater. He joked, “But see, you’re living a full life.” And all the stuff I had with me did reveal a certain level of activity, but that hardly erases the implicit challenge of this play: can you find a way to love and value where you are and who you’re with? Sometimes this play was boring, but in this particular instance the feeling of boredom felt thematically appropriate, and I could ask myself: can you tolerate a little bit of boredom in exchange for the other things this experience can give you?

During the talkback with the playwright, I asked him to comment on the title and the tagline “Youth is not the only thing that’s sonic.” Through his translator, he said that in Japan, there was a term “galapagosation”, which referred to the isolation of Japanese culture; the “tortoise” was the Japanese people. “I love Sonic Youth,” he said, “but it isn’t just youth that goes by fast. It’s all of life.” And then he told a fairy tale, which he said was very familiar in Japan that the tortoise in the title nods to, and is referred to in the play with the story of a woman who takes a subway ride down through the earth to attend a party. A man rescues a tortoise from attackers The tortoise invites the man to a beautiful undersea kingdom, and marries him to a princess. Eventually he becomes nostalgic for his old life, and returns home, only to find that 250 years have passed, and everyone he knows is dead. The most powerful part of this play for me was hearing that three line summary of a fairy tale, and it also managed to suffuse the play I’d just seen with more emotion than it had before. It’s terrifying to think you could just get distracted, and miss everything passing by.

Capturing the Spoils of World War I

[ 70 ] June 20, 2014 |

My latest at the Diplomat discusses how the course of World War I in Asia helped set the board for World War II:

However, the events of 1914 were watched closely in East Asia, where many believed that the war held the key to the future of the continent. Japan, in particular, saw the war as an opportunity to improve its position at the expense of Germany, which Tokyo quickly appreciated would not be able to defend its Pacific positions. On August 7, 1914, the British government asked for Japan’s assistance with securing Pacific sealanes. On August 23, Japan declared war against Germany, and began operations against German territorial possessions in the Pacific.

Japan quickly seized this opportunity by laying siege to the German Concession at Tsingtao (Qingdao). The primary German forces in the area consisted of a cruiser squadron commanded by Vice Admiral Maximilian von Spee, but when the war began, Spee and his cruisers were touring German island possessions. Seeing the writing on the wall, Spee determined to avoid the Royal Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy, and started a long set of adventures that would end in the Falkland Islands.

If you really dig arguments between Japanese and Chinese nationalists, you will LOVE the comment thread on this one.

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