Amazing video of the Japanese tidal wave

March 27, 2011

I may have seen this one before, but, still, this is just incredible:

via Verum Serum

Japan turns its guns from the Bear toward the Dragon

December 23, 2010

The New York Times recently published an intriguing piece on Japan’s strategic focus: having directed their self-defense forces toward the USSR/Russia since being allowed to rearm after World War II, they are now turning their  attention towards a growing threat – China:

In what would be a sweeping overhaul of its cold war-era defense strategy, Japan is about to release new military guidelines that would reduce its heavy armored and artillery forces pointed north toward Russia in favor of creating more mobile units that could respond to China’s growing presence near its southernmost islands, Japanese newspapers reported Sunday.

The realignment comes as the United States is making new calls for Japan to increase its military role in eastern Asia in response to recent provocations by North Korea as well as China’s more assertive stance in the region.

The new defense strategy, likely to be released this week, will call for greater integration of Japan’s armed forces with the United States military, the reports said. The reports did not give a source, but the fact that major newspapers carried the same information suggested they were based on a background briefing by government officials.

The new guidelines also call for acquiring new submarines and fighter jets, the reports said, and creating ground units that can be moved quickly by air in order to defend the southern islands, including disputed islands in the East China Sea that are also claimed by China and Taiwan. These disputed islands are known as the Senkakus in Japanese and the Diaoyu in Chinese.

Read the whole thing, not only for general interest, but for a good glimpse  of the evolving strategic game in East Asia. Don’t let the mention of Taiwan claiming the Senkakus distract you; Taiwan is not what Japan worries about, not when Taiwan will need the help of Japan’s patron, the US, in any confrontation with China. (And Tokyo’s, too, even if just diplomatic and political.)

China, a rising, potentially hypernationalistic power with global ambitions and an increasingly offensively oriented military, poses much more of a strategic threat to Japan than declining Russia. Small wonder than that, faced with China’s growing challenge to the 65-years old total dominance of the Pacific by the US Navy, America is encouraging Japan to rearm and expand its strategic mission.

And it’s not just China Japan is worried about: Beijing’s obstreperous protege North Korea has repeatedly caused jitters in Tokyo, with its recent nuclear tests and violent acts against South Korea. While the history between Japan and Korea (both of them) is difficult to say the least (colonization, sex slavery, and kidnapping tend to spoil even the best of relationships), the US has been working to encourage a greater strategic cooperation between the two, and there are some signs of early efforts to reach an understanding.

All things considered, this represents a significant change in Japanese policy with important strategic implications  for the region and America. Japan may be on the verge of a serious demographic decline, but it is a technological powerhouse of the first order and has in the past shown an amazing ability to adapt to new circumstances. (Its one failure to adapt, during its war with the US, lead to Japan’s only defeat. Don’t think they haven’t learned that lesson.) Should the Japanese feel threatened enough by China, where anti-Japanese feelings frequently erupt, or the mountain bandits in Pyongyang, I have no doubt they would find the will to quickly amend their constitution to allow for a larger, more active military. And if they felt the need to go nuclear? Regardless of the memories of the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they could do it within month, folks. Within months.

While the Jihadi War is our immediate concern, our strategic competition with China is a long-term crucial issue. Japan is one player to keep a very close eye on.

And to keep on our side.

via DaveedGR on Twitter

RELATED: Like Japan and Russia, China is facing its own demographic decline. Like Imperial Germany prior to World War I, this may lead China to feel the need to strike for domination before its position weakens.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

Happy VJ Day

August 14, 2010

Today is the 65th anniversary of the Allied victory over Japan in World War II, announced by President Truman to a war-weary nation over the radio. Iowahawk has posted fascinating color footage shot in Hawaii that day of American servicemen and civilians celebrating one of the greatest military victories in history. Go watch The World Was Happy.

Obama’s bow not so bad?

December 6, 2009

President Obama was roundly criticized and mocked when, on his trip to Japan last month, he bowed low before Emperor Akihito:

For example, in an article at, Warner Todd Huston wrote that the bow was a particularly self-debasing one that even embarrassed our Japanese hosts and was representative of an overall failure of the summit meeting:

Before we get to his other multiple fluffs and diplomatic errors, let’s explain what Obama was telling the Japanese people with his absurdly low bow. The sort of bow that Obama made is almost that of a “dogeza” bow. This is a sort of bow that is so low as to be considered a prostrated position. It is seen as an apology, a supplication, not a sign of respect. So, as we see, Obama once again showed that he wants to be known as the less-than president, that he is representing a prostrated people, and that he feels that to everyone he meets overseas he must apologize for this horrible U.S.A.

The inappropriate bow, however, wasn’t the only mistake that Obama committed in Japan. According to the mainstream Japanese weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun the visit was termed “miserable,” and “the worst US-Japan summit meeting in history” by Japanese insiders. Worse, the Japanese government was so upset at the visit that it retaliated at various points issuing slights right back to President Obama during his stay on Japanese soil.

As fortune would have it, however, I could check this story and analysis for myself: a friend teaches English in Japan and has been there for a couple of years, now, so I thought I’d ask him how the bow was seen there and how representative of Japanese opinion Shukan Bunshun really was. His reply was as follows:

So I had never heard of this mainstream weekly they refer to, but seeing as how I don’t read many Japanese magazines I decided to ask around. I started with some English teachers and then worked my way up to asking Social Studies teachers and they all gave me the same answer: they had heard of it but had never read it themselves. One Social Studies teacher even went so far as to say that, “no normal person would read something like that.” So while I don’t doubt that the publication made such remarks, it is definitely not an accurate portrayal of Japanese opinion.

In fact, most news stations out here were pretty much wooed by Obama’s visit, and practically everyone I talk to is rather satisfied regarding his visit.

Also, another glaring mistake that the article makes is in reference to Obama’s bow. The “dogeza” that they mention is an actual prostration where you kneel on the ground and bow. Obama’s bow was nothing of the sort, and if anything, was very polite and made no reference of kowtowing or inferiority. In fact, in Japan, being humble like that is a sign of strength. They have an old saying that says “even grains of rice bow their head.” Meaning that something as powerful as Japan’s staple food is humble enough to bow lowly (stalks of rice actually do bow down because the rice grains are too heavy for the stalks to support).

Though, an amateur mistake that Obama made was shaking hands while bowing. It’s one or the other.

Emphasis added.

To be honest, it seems we on the Right hyperventilated a bit at the bow. Fair enough. Consider it a mild case of Obama Derangement Syndrome. I still don’t think he should have bowed, however.  As pointed out in several places, heads of state do not bow to each other, because it’s interpreted in diplomacy as a sign of deference and inferiority, not as a meeting of equals. Also, in the specific American context, the President heads a republic founded in an anti-monarchical revolution and that at its birth loudly proclaimed the principle that all men are created equal. He should never bow to a monarch, as The New York Times itself observed in a similar situation.

So, the bow, while evidently fine in Japan, was still a gaffe. Just not a total facepalm moment.