Does “Regional Revitalization” go well? I do not know exactly what they are doing? What crosses my mind are “Yuru-kyara” (heartwarming characters) and promotion videos for “Machi-okoshi” (revitalization of towns). However, by such means only, how do people who are living in central Tokyo know about people who are living in regional towns? Are there any people in central Tokyo who like to visit regional towns? Does the population in regional towns increase? Regional revitalization is not an issue of regional towns; rather, it is a national issue. The national government sets up “Headquarter for Revitalization, Town, People and Job” (Headquarter) and local governments are also working out their own plans for revitalization.
For example, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is promoting a policy which expedites moving the young people to regional towns, naming the policy “Cooperation Units for Regional Revitalization”. It helps people find jobs and houses in regional towns. If they like to start a business there, they shall be also supported financially. Usually, such scheme is implemented for a few years only, but according to the data of the Headquarter, as of the end of June 2015, about 60 percent of the people , especially the young, who have been moved, continue to stay in the same towns. I think this project is successful since there are actual results already.
Another scheme called Continued Care Retirement Community- (CCRC) was announced by the Expert Committee, according to the data of the Headquarter.. This scheme supports the aged retirees who are living in the Tokyo metropolitan area or big cities when they voluntarily move to regional towns. It is great that the program provides life-supports to the aged even after their relocation. Thus, the aged can stay healthy and keep an active life in their new community. The scheme also aims to maintain a system that will provide medical and personal care to the aged when needed. I think the scheme is helpful and can give a chance to the aged who, after their retirement, are hesitating to decide to live peacefully in regional towns.
Despite a lot of such good programs for regional revitalization, why do I feel a big gap between big cities and regional towns? I am now living in a regional city and I very seldom to go to Tokyo for my job. During my going to and returning from Tokyo, I feel a big difference in temperature (not in climate but in feeling) between Tokyo and regional towns. Tokyo is an energetic city. We cannot feel any dullness there, having a lot of visitors for sightseeing and anticipating the Olympic Games five years later. On the other hand, I do not feel in my town, any atmosphere that people like to revitalize their home town.
It is not so effective when programs for regional vitalization or revitalization are worked out by the government alone. It is important that inhabitants of the region are living happily, able to extend their life-span, and invite, by themselves, outsiders move into their region. For example, if regional residents ask advertising agencies in Tokyo to prepare promotion videos for local revitalization and upload these in “YouTube”, they have to pay certain fees to the agencies in Tokyo. That is reversing the logical order of things. This would not be the case, if the residents, themselves, had prepared the promotional materials. The advertising agencies should, at least, return whatever materials have been prepared by the residents. In this case, the residents should customize those programs, which the government has prepared for them to meet the local situation. Vitalization or revitalization starts at the place actually being operated. There are already differences between areas which are being vitalized/revitalized and areas which do not have this program. It may be my selfish supposition that successful regions for revitalization may be those places where are conveniently accessible to/from Tokyo, as a result of the residents’ efforts.
A sense of urgency is required for regional revitalization hereafter. I am afraid that if regional residents fail to keep up with the current revitalization movement, the depopulation of their regions would advance immediately. Regional revitalization will depend on whether the residents of these regions shall take the initiative or not..
(A full-time lecturer, Kyoai Gakuen University)
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Mac Maquito
SGRA Kawaraban 464 in Japanese (original)
I remember well about a week when the former President, Lee Myungbak, visited “Takesima-island” in August 2012. There were three incidents at that time：(1) a visit to “Takeshima” by President, Lee Myungbak; (2) his statement demanding an apology from His Majesty, the Emperor: and (3) a Korean soccer player holding a placard saying “Takeshima belongs to Korea” during the Japan-Korea match at the London Olympic Games. I had the impression that news and public opinion in Japan about Korea changed a lot after these incidents. I also remember well that I was surprised at such a rapid change. Relationship between Japan and Korea worsened thereafter up to the present day.
Many people asked me if there were no such incidents like the Takeshima visit by President Lee Myungbak, the relationship between Japan and Korea would be different, not like the present. I do not think so. I think there were fundamental issues which both countries have had as pending for a long time and the visit by President, Lee Myungbak was just the turning point. Moreover, I think it is public opinion in Japan, rather than in Korea, that changed a lot. .
Public opinion in Korea has been taking a critical attitude toward the Japanese Government on an issue on the History (historical perceptions) since the founding of the Republic of Korea. It is an old issue. The presence of Korea in Japan was not so significant before the “Korean-wave” and the Japanese media did not report much about news in Korea. Korea was called “NIES” (Newly Industrializing Economies) by the 1990’s and its economic influence was not so strong as we have experienced during the IMF Financial Crisis.
However, the situation changed in the 2000’s by the “Korean-wave” - with the rise of international enterprises like Samsung and the development of internet media. Interest in Korea has increased at the economic and public levels. Volume of information about Korea has also increased drastically. We can say the presence of Korea in Japan increased in the 2000’s because of economic and cultural exchanges between both countries.
As a result, many people have come to know that public opinion in Korea has taken an opposing attitude toward an issue on the History. In Japan, the year 2015 is the 70th year since the end of World War II, but, in Korea, many people do not understand yet the problem in the Colonial Time before the War were solved. Such “time difference” of recognition between both countries about an issue on the History was latent and deepened as the primary factor of conflict in the relations of both countries.
In order to improve such relations between the two countries, various measures are considered. For example, improvement of diplomatic relations at the governmental level, close cooperation at the economic level and increasing exchanges at the public level. But these ideas do not always improve public opinions of both countries. I think it is necessary, in order to improve fundamentally, to have mature discussions on an issue on the History or on relations of both countries before such exchanges.
In Korea, domestic discussion about Japan-Korea relations are not yet mature. Especially, an issue on the History is very delicate and it is difficult to say we had various discussions. So, I think we cannot yet find any settlement of the discussion on how to improve Japan-Korea relations concluding the issue on the History. For example, there is difference of opinions domestically about the concrete demand for Japan’s apology etc.. First of all, it is necessary to have a common discussion base in Korea where we can discuss about the various aspects of Japan-Korea relations. It is necessary also to make efforts to discuss calmly and to find a mutually acceptable common solution by ourselves about the issue on the History. It is also necessary for Japan to understand how Korea recognizes and interprets the issue on the History and what kind of “time-difference” was brought about between both countries. In Japan nowadays, it is becoming possible to revise the constitution which might be a turning point historically in terms of national security. I think Japan is also in the turning point in its recognition of history or in diplomatic policy. Needless to say, these factors are basic and important problems to decide, as a nation ought to do. We should not leave the discussion at the political level only, but it is also necessary to have a thorough discussion involving the general public.
After the deterioration of relations between the two countries, there have been anti-Korea demonstrations or “hate-speeches” against Koreans living in Japan. This situation came to the surface after diplomatic problems arose between both countries, but it was mainly a Japanese domestic incident.
Discrimination or violence against nationality or race would be possible not only against Korea but also against other minorities. We are now promoting internationalization and introducing labor from foreign countries. In such circumstances, I think it is necessary to study how we should confront such discrimination which is possible in diversified societies.
Please refer to the public-opinion poll by the Cabinet Office survey about Change of Attitude toward Korea.
(Assistant Lecturer, the Law School, Keio University)
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Mac Maquito
SGRA Kawaraban 461 in Japanese (original)
On May 8, 2015, the 5th Japan-Taiwan Asia Future Forum was held under the title “120 years’ Japan-Taiwan Exchange through Japan Study” at National Taiwan University.
When we look back at the Japan-Taiwan relations over the past 120 years, how shall we reconsider our past experience before the War and legacy of the past? What are the characteristics present in the process of the reconstruction of Japan-Taiwan relations which met a lot of difficulties? What keywords will be necessary when we view the next 120 years? Basing on such awareness of the issues, we had 13 lectures and paper presentations and also had lively discussions. Mr. Li Jia Jin, Chairman of the Association of East Asia Relations and Mr. Mikio Numata, Chairman of the Interchange Association, Japan addressed the Forum, which was a great success with more than 200 participants,
The forum was composed of three sessions: “international relations”, “study of languages and literatures” and “change of societies”. We invited scholars who are active at the forefront in Taiwan, Japan, Korea and China, and they developed hot discussions from their innovative viewpoints.
Keynote speech was made by Mr. Yasuhiro Matsuda, Professor of Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, The University of Tokyo on the subject of “Japan-Taiwan exchange：characteristics and change of its ‘double structure”’. He mentioned first that the relations of the first 50 years were on a suzerain state and a colony system. He pointed out that the characteristics of “double structure” developed during the latter 70 years whereby two countries became independent of each other from a viewpoint of a manifestation of independence of Taiwan. The relations of Japan and Taiwan in the colonial period had such “double structure” as “the central government and the government-general” and “the society of Japan and Taiwan”. He emphasized that it changed after 1952, through several years of transition, to “double structure” of “Japan-China relations on the governmental authorities concerned” and “Japan-Taiwan relations between societies”. He ended his keynote speech with a question: how does the rise of China affect the Japan-Taiwan relations and it will be a key issue how the Taiwan people understand the independence of Taiwan.
The first session was held on the theme “Japan-Taiwan relations under the change of political circumstances and international relations” by adjunct Professor, Wu Mi Cha,Department of History, National Taiwan University, as Chairperson. We discussed about “120 years’ Japan-Taiwan relations” from three viewpoints; Taiwan, Japan and China. The following three essays were announced in the session: “From “Colonial Mother Country” to “International Relations” – Change in the Cultural Independence in Taiwan and Japan-Taiwan relations – “ by Mr. Li Cheng Ji, Assistant Professor, Department of Literature of Taiwan, National Cheng Kung University;
“Japan Study in Taiwan and Taiwan Study in Japan in the early days of the post War by Professor Makoto Kawashima, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the University of Tokyo; and“120 years’ Taiwan-Japan relations from the viewpoints of China” read for Wang Jian, Researcher of Institute of Modern History, Chinese Academy of Social Science.
Every essay was exciting and it was an epoch-making event for scholars and researchers of Japan, China and Taiwan to have convened in one place to discuss about “Japan-Taiwan relations”.
The theme of the second session was “Review and View of Japan Study – Language and Literature –“ and was divided into (A) “Literature / Culture” and (B) “Language / Study of Language”. Chairperson of the first session was Professor Fan Shu Wen, Head of Department of Japanese Literature in Japanese Language, National Taiwan University. Three essays were presented: “A Study of Japanese Modern Literature” by Huang Cui E, Assistant Professor, Department of Foreign Language, Fu Jen Catholic University; “A Study of Japanese Classical Literature in Taiwan – the past, the present and the future“: and “Japan Study in Taiwan – about its thought, culture and history –“ by Lan Hong Yuen, Assistant Professor, College of Humanities and Social Science, National Chiao Tung University. The session was very various. We studied Japanese literature from remote ages to modern ages by “an axis of time” and put our thoughts together by “an axis of field”.
In the (B) session “Language / Study of Language”, Professor Lin Li Ping, Department of Japanese Literature in Japanese Language, National Taiwan University, was the chairperson. Mr. Lai Jin Que, professor, Department of Japanese Literature and Head of Foreign Literature, Soochow University presented his report “Study of Learning Japanese Language in Taiwan on data”. Ye Shu Hua, Dean of Foreign Language, National Kaohsiung First University of Science and Technology, discussed “the present and the prospect of Study of Japanese language in Taiwan – at an international symposium –“(study of Japanese language and learning by Japanese language by use of a keyword, data and symposium). Professor Shin Chung Kyun, Department of Japanese language and Japanese literature, Chunbuk National University (Korea) made an interesting report under the title “History of the study of Japanese language in Korea –Study of old time Japan in Chosun (old Korea) time and now- “
The third session, “The change of societies in Japan and Taiwan and an aspect of their exchanges”, focused on “the change of societies” and “an aspect of cultural exchange” in the history of Japan-Taiwan exchanges. Three essays were reported under Chairperson, Mr. Zhang Qi Xiong, Associate Research Fellow, Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica.
Mr. Yukihito Sato, Ph.D. Institute of Developing Economics – JETRO, clarified the dynamism of reproduction of cooperative relationship among enterprises of both countries from economics viewpoints under the title “Reproduction of trust and cooperation among enterprises in Japan and Taiwan” referring to several examples.
Mr. Zhong Shu Min, Assistant Researcher, Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica, from a viewpoint of identity, reported his reconsideration of an exchange between a Japanese who was born in Taiwan and Taiwan society under an interesting title “Foreign land where I took root becomes my homeland”.
Mr. Wu Rui Ren, Assistant Researcher, Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica, analyzed, from a viewpoint of historical sociology, a phenomenon of linkage of right-wing nationalists of Japan and Taiwan by means of manipulation of historical ideology of realists.
The theme of the last general discussion was “A view on Japan-Taiwan relations of 21st Century”. Under chairperson, Professor Xu Xing-ging, Department of Japanese Literature and Chief of Japan Center, National Taiwan University, six scholars, Fan Shu Wen, Masashi Tujimoto, Yasuhiro Matuda, Makoto Kawashima, Wu Rui Ren and myself who represent each fields, attended. Each of us spoke about our Japan-Taiwan relations and the way of Japan studies during this 120 years first and indicated a direction hereafter.
Starting from Professor Yasuhiro Matsuda who rated this forum as “High level”, many participants also rated this forum high.
I hope our discussion this time will contribute to build a new “Japan-Taiwan relations”.
As to the result of survey, please refer to
As to photos of the forum, please refer to
（Adjunct Professor, National Taiwan University）
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Mac Maquito
SGRA News in Japanese (original)
Last year, I was given a chance for the first time to give a lecture in our university about the history of Japan-Korea relationship. Our lesson put emphasis on the history of Chosun and Korea starting from the end of Chosun-era to the colonial period, in other words, the modern history of Japan-Korea from the middle of 19thcentury to the middle of 20th century. This period was a turning point for both Japan and Korea in the sense that both countries had to open to the world under the influence of great powers in Europe. At the same time, this period was the start of the “modern period” in East Asia. The modern period in Japan and Korea was formed through the period of imperialism based on “empires / colonies” and it was a primary factor that gave rise to the spirit of nationalism of both countries in the fields of diplomacy and education. When I was given a chance to give a lesson in our university in Japan, I had a question, which came across in my mind first, what and how university students in Japan know and understand such past history.
When I start my class, I always asked the students first why they receive my lesson. Most students replied that they like to know more about Korea by the reason of such a boom of Korea wave or they have just visited Korea. There were some exchange students who recently visited Korean universities and I wanted to hear impressions of the student life in Korea.
There was one student who received my class lesson from a different viewpoint He said “I joined this class because I am interested in a phenomenon of ‘hate-speech’ in Japan against foreigners.” According to him, he cannot understand the logic of people who make a ‘hate-speech’ and he likes to study Korea’s modern history by himself.
There was a Korean exchange student, whom. I asked to give me his written impression or question about my lesson. He gave me his written impression saying that he recalled every time the class of “national history” in his high-school time or he was not fully satisfied with my explanation. He seemed to have attended a class for other foreign exchange students about the modern history of East Asia. One day, he appealed to me that the explanation about modern history of Korea at that class was insufficient and he was afraid of giving other exchange students a false impression. I do not say that I cannot understand him but I was a little worried about what makes him so concerned. I tried to relieve him from his doubts by raising the issue of “image of history” which I have emphasized at my first lesson.
A concept of “image of history” is quoted from a book written by Ryuichi Narita, a Japanese historian. Mr. Narita wrote “When we think of history, we select a certain occurrence basing on a certain understanding, and explain and write it having a certain meaning on it. We call it ‘ image of history’ in this book.” (“Modern and Current Japanese History and Historical Science – a rewritten past” Ryuichi Narita) (Chu-ou Shinsho, 21012) page ii)
Such explanation about “image of history” is quite normal for the people who study history. (I did not major in history but I majored in literature and thought adjoining history) Ordinary people think that studying history is to study or to remember historical facts. But a concept of “image of history” gives such people different viewpoints. Especially, I think it is useful for university students in terms of flexible thinking. When people face history, it is necessary for them to realize that selecting a certain occurrence should be based on their own viewpoint. And it is necessary also to have certain appropriateness which can persuade others. Those are presuppositions of a concept of “ image of history”.
Such a way of thinking contains a tolerance of different viewpoints. In other words, there exist, to begin with, various viewpoints and understandings for any occurrence in the world. It makes possible by an image for differences. And such an image for any differences does not come from simple and empty situation. It makes possible first by having definite knowledge about a certain occurrence. By such a knowledge, people can image their own viewpoint and their viewpoints become persuasive. I would like my students to understand, even just a little bit, imaginative power which comes from “image of history” and to suspect their attitude which they try to understand their own history and society, which they are taking part in, having their own viewpoint. This is an ultimate objective of my lesson and task hereafter.
It seemed the Korean student, mentioned above, did not satisfy my principle. He might be satisfied if I could explain concretely referring to persuasive historical documents. It might be possible if I could explain using ample volume of knowledge and refined discourse. However, by only my explanation by concrete knowledge, we might not be accepted each other at ultimate level. I think there exists only “an attitude and a trial which like to understand each other” amid friction of misunderstanding and different opinions. An attitude which seemed to come from gloomy feeling of this Korean exchange student may be on the stage of such understanding and trial.
There are certain differences in the writings of impression of the first and the second term. At first, they raised questions about historical facts or they just summarized my lessons. And lastly, they gave their opinions referring to some materials. For example, a student wrote about cruelty under colonial rule. Another student wrote about economic progress in colonial time of Korea referring to statistical materials. It was my pleasure to have seen such change of attitudes that they have tried to write their own viewpoints basing on some materials apart from its historical meaning.
This year is the 70th anniversary for Japan from the Post-war period. At the same time, it is the 50th anniversary for both Japan and Korea for their normalization of friendship. It is sure scholars of both countries have deepened their understanding through their interchange during this half century. On the other hand, there still exists strong atmosphere of nationalism at the level of ordinary people. When students of both countries have different and various attitudes and imagination having their own “image of history”, social atmosphere may change after 50 or 70 years later. There may be a different atmosphere which accepts different viewpoint with breadth of mind rather than the present nationalistic viewpoint which tries to unify present thought about not only Japan-Korea relation but issues of East Asia.
(Project Researcher, Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, the University of Tokyo)
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Mac Maquito
SGRA Kawaraban 459 in Japanese (original)
All Japanese friends of mine, who are living overseas and travel to Japan for temporary visit, say that it is very cold in winter and hard to live in Japan. Though they are living in countries or areas colder than Japan, they say that Japanese houses (mainly their parents’ houses) are cold. I had assumed that everybody enjoy “Kotatsu de Mikan“ (taking a tangerine at Japanese foot warmer with a quilt over it). But this was not true. The countries where my friends are living are colder than Japan in winter, but they say whole houses there are kept warm. It is different from Japan where once they go out of a heated room, they have to walk through a cold passage and go to a cold lavatory. I remember it is colder in Beijing, where I have been living, in winter than in Japan, but it is too warm inside the room. In Japan, home appliances are developing day by day and new technologies are being applied one after another. Why are Japanese houses kept cold ?
According to my friend who returned from New York for a temporary visit, the owner of an apartment house has to keep his house over 20℃ as ordained by the state law of New York when outside temperature falls below 10℃ in winter (from October to May). And heating cost is included in the house rent. He praised highly that whole houses are already heated by central heating system when he comes home. I was surprised that such systems are ordained by law. I checked other cold areas neighboring New York and found that there are similar regulations for minimum temperature of houses not only in the states of the east coast of America but in Canada and England also. Such laws are passed considering the health of the population. There is no such regulation in Japan.
I thought I have found a pitfall of Japan where infrastructures are well-regulated and everything are completed. We can see television programs on health every-day and people are actually keenly interested in health issues. But it is still cold in houses in Japan.We hear the news very often that an aged person has died of heart attack in the bathroom or in the changing room. The cause of the heart attack is called “heat-shock” which is a physical condition resulting from a sudden change in temperature which happens when, after soaking in a heated bathtub, the bather goes out to the cold changing room. According to a report of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, it is estimated that more than 19,000 people have died yearly while taking a bath.
To avoid such accident, Japanese homes in winter should be changed. A thermalization (insulation) of Japanese houses should be required by regulations as in western countries. As costs of light and fuel are high in Japan, devices for controlling home temperature will be necessary. I guess the aged in Japan are hardy and can survive being cold a little. It is meaningless if they do not use heating appliances despite being provided. Above all, differences in temperature among rooms in houses are dangerous. It is important to keep temperature in each room at certain level. They say ”heat-shock” are scarce in Hokkaido where rooms are kept warm.
I think they should bring in easier style of living in winter and improve their styles. By doing so, the aged in Japan can be protected and decrease of population shall be moderated. There are a lot of health freaks in Japan which is said to be an advanced country. It is regrettable to lose a lot of lives too quick in every winter by such accident which can be prevented.
(A full-time lecturer, Kyoai Gakuen University)
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Mac Maquito
SGRA Kawaraban 449 in Japanese (original)
I learned a word “Madei” for the first time. This word expresses behavior and consciousness of good-natured farmers who have supported traditional societies, diligently since the Edo period (1603-1868), or earlier. It seems to me a good expression. I, as a scholar of environmental problems, am appealing strongly every day to the general public, as the most important issue, that our objective is a sustainable society.
This objective can be achieved if the whole society would change to “Madei” and, at the same time, if we could outgrow from the use of fossil fuel and nuclear power. In that sense, a trial of Iitate resurrection is an entrance for sustainable society and the Iitate villagers are bearing their role, without being noticed; their example may lead Japan to this direction.
I think it is quite natural for the Iitate villagers to have a strong determination to abandon nuclear power generation. We cannot find such determination in other villages. The Iitate villagers have both objectives of establishing a sustainable society and abandoning nuclear power generation. We, who are living in Tokyo where we have not suffered from the nuclear accident, forget completely what the Iitate villagers who live a “Madei”-like life think their suffering is natural. If you listen to Mr. Kanno, it will be a good chance to understand what city-dwellers lost. The villagers’ “Madei-spirit and positive “trial-and-error attitude”, even in a situation where they fall into the bottomless pit or in deadly contamination by invisible radioactivity, will become steady and motivated for resurrection. I am sure that a village where such people are living can recover someday even if its population would decrease.
It became clear, from the administrative confusion this time, that many people in governmental offices (Kasumigaseki) or in major companies in a city or in Tokyo lack in the qualifications to deal with such an emergency. We cannot find such reliable person or persons like Mr. Kanno. Actually it was a serious situation but, at the same time, it was also invisible and dangerous that many people did not consider it seriously. Strangely enough, invisible contamination by radioactivity coincides with invisible irresponsibility in a city. I am afraid such coincidence will compounded the danger.
There is a similar situation in universities. I cannot criticize it, as I cannot do anything anyway in my own organization. As is often the case, we cannot do anything or are not allowed to do anything of a dampening effect, being bound by old set of rules or we cannot make flexible use of them. Teachers and administrative officers escape from such situations by saying that both of them are not the leading parties and do not like to be responsible for results. It was the same in the UK. I do not know how the situation in China is now, though it seemed opposite that of a few years ago.
I have painted in watercolors landscapes in the agricultural countryside since my high-school days. There was a sympathy in my mind with Japanese original life in which people live together with nature being unified and blessed which is symbolized by “satoyama” (rural natural areas). I have been attracted to farmers and their villages and houses as “Madei-like” life places. I, as a specialist in environmental issues, am returning to a world of pictures which I have painted in my youth. I think my sense of values has made a change in my life which seems to have been half- scheduled. It is clear, as my reserve in my mind, that there exists what I can do and what I cannot do as a mission which is given by God.
Owing to Atsumi International Foundation, Sekiguchi Global Research Association, I could visit Iitate at last and have gotten a chance to experience being in the disaster-stricken area at first after three and a half years. I was able, unexpectedly, to meet there Mr. Tao, who is an old acquaintance of mine. I could not help but think that our meeting was due to something beyond coincidence, which was concealed. We studied together at the Ojima laboratory at the Department of Science and Technology, Waseda University around the year 2008. I understand that such past acquaintance gave us the chance of meeting this time unconsciously. I came to know for the first time that Mr. Tao is playing a very active part there as an NPO activist for the resurrection of Fukushima. Prof. Ken-ichi Kimura, as my mentor for my doctoral thesis at Waseda University, also participated in this tour. This was another reason why I decided to participate, though I was busy. I also happened to meet Mr.Inoue at the house of Mr. Kin-ichi Okubo in Komiya District, which is said to be an area with a high degree of radioactive contamination. He is taking care of a ninety-year-old lady and working at the Shonan Central Hospital (in Tsujido, Kanagawa Pref.). According to him, he knows my father Toyohiko Tonooka coincidentally. I cannot help but feel again there exists something destined behind such coincidence.
I talked with Mr. Kanno of Kahoku Shinpo (Japanese newspaper in Tohoku Area) at his house. He said that the young people who evacuated during the disaster do not intend to return to their own village since the last three years. He also said that their village cannot maintain their administration because only the old folks have remained and their population is diminishing. Such severe situation is coming. I have to seriously consider again about the special circumstances which have occurred from the nuclear accident and the resulting difficulties. Conversely, however, I might say that people who like to manage agriculture will be able to get a chance to practice their skill even though they are not generation of farmers. And we can see even a possibility of changing this mind-set into a big hope.
If a village cannot be organized without outsiders or the young, they should receive newcomers who transcend conservative habits of the village. It will be a good chance to establish new agricultural villages by outsiders which have fresh disposition and have modern knowledge. We may be able to establish another new Japanese society remote from a bad influence of world economy which is in a dead end. As implied in a sharp decline of the New York Stock Market for these few days, a Great Economy Crash may happen in the near future. It may lead to a World Crisis whose scale may be bigger than the Fukushima Nuclear Accident. Trials at Iitate may be preliminary and precedent correspondence to avoid such world crisis. Coping with immediate crisis in “Madei-like” and its accumulation would receive unsought divine protection.
I think (or rather “I hope”) “Madei-like” Iitate shall be a gleam of hope for Japan and the world.
(Professor of Faculty of Economics, Saitama University)
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Mac Maquito
SGRA Kawaraban 438 in Japanese (original)
The year 2015 is to be remembered in the history of Singapore, not as 50th anniversary of Singapore but as the year we lost the Founding Father.
If I use a word “Great”, I shall be misunderstood to be a guy who worships a dictator of his country enthusiastically like people in some country. But if you know me, you understand easily that I will never be such people no matter what I do. And I dare to use a word “Great” to Mr. Lee Kuan Yew although this expression may be misunderstood.
There are a lot of publications, books, essays and articles of newspapers and magazines analyzing merits and demerits of his results. Please read such publications, if you are interested in his leadership, his oppressive political skills or his dictatorship. As a citizen who was born and raised under one-party dominant regime of PAP (People’s Action Party) , I like to express my faithful feelings here.
Whenever I visit developing countries in Asia, I feel “déjà vu”. I open an album in my memory and remember such scenes like houses in bad repair, electric cables networks laying out on the ground like spider’s webs, a lot of unclean stalls and water channels which dark water flow, all of which I have looked in my childhood in Singapore. I cannot imagine such scenes in Singapore where per-capita GDP is about US$60,000 and it exceeds that of Japanese US$40,000 and we are always ranked in the tenth in the statistics like IMF and the World Bank. No Singaporean has an objection to the opinion that Mr. Lee Kuan Yew is the greatest person who has made Singapore possible to change surprisingly. I cannot deny this fact no matter what as a generation after the independence who have grown up together with the progress and prosperity of Singapore and have received its favors. However, there is no such thing as perfect in the world.
Perfect people or perfect nation would be an illusion. It is true that even Singapore which seems to be managed well has various issue like other countries. It is rather mysterious to me that, in Singapore where the land is limited and resources are scarce, we are coexisting happily with people whose culture, habit, language and religion are different in such complicated situation like multi-racial, multi-lingual and multi-religion, A mosque is built near a church, there is a Mausoleum of Taoism 50m ahead and we can hear prayers from temples of Hinduism. It is very usual in Singapore now. If we recall our history of racial distrust and religious riot, it may be a miracle. Every people in Singapore knows that there was Lee Kuan Yew with no religious faith behind.
Of course, Lee Kuan Yew is not perfect. People who hate him is not a little. As a matter of fact, I also dislike him. He was ultra-rationalist and elitism and has often aroused criticism saying that:
―we should change such tendency that university graduated ladies bear less children
after marriage than ladies of lower-education,
―electoral system which give one vote to one person is not always best and we should
give two votes to one person who has family and children,
―it is quite natural that prime minister or ministers and high government officials who
are responsible to the government and its future, which has no natural resources,
should be paid the highest salary in the world,
―opposition parties will be unnecessary if they would oppose always and have no
abilities to propose better policies.
Sometimes I feel pleasantly when he expressed his opinion straightforwardly without
hesitation which ordinal leaders would never put into words even though they have in
his mind. If we think it calmly, we can feel freshness and boldness as there is a point
in his creative idea. I do not like him, but I respect him profoundly.
He was, so to speak, a strict father.
This strict father was, at the same time, an affectionate grand-father. Lee Yee Peng,
one of his grand-children and a son of Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister and the eldest
son of Lee Kuan Yew, and his late wife, was “albino” and has visual disturbance and in
“Asperger’s syndrome. Lee Kuan Yew has wrote in his memoirs that he loved Yee Pen
most. When his coffin was brought to the House of Parliament to receive calls of
condolence of the people, Yee Peng lead the row holding a photograph of his grand-
father. The row was so long as it took eight hours which was longer-than-expected and
the Government recommended the people to refrain from calling of condolence.
A few years before he has passed away, he replied to an interviewer “Are you asking me what I have got? It is a success of Singapore. Are you asking me what I lost? It is my life”, acknowledging there were some who opposed to or dissatisfied with his difficult political decision.
A bronze statue of Lee Kuan Yew may be built somewhere in Singapore in several years later. A portrait of bills may be changed from Yusuf bin Ishaq to Lee Kuan Yew.
Anyway, his name will be remained forever in the mind of Singaporean, even though there would not be a statue or bills.
(Associate Professor of Showa Women's University)
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Mac Maquito
SGRA Kawaraban 454 in Japanese (original)
I joined the “Iitate Study Tour” for three days and I became aware that it is irresponsible and simply whitewashing to say lightly, three and half years after the horrendous Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station 1 disaster, that “let’s go for resurrection as we are behind you” to former Iitate villagers who lived in government-declared “difficult-to-return zone” where they spend sleepless nights.
There was a good reason, though it was not entirely clear in my mind for joining this tour, all the way from Taiwan. I wanted the Taiwan people, particularly university students to know the extent of damages from radioactive contamination wrought by nuclear accident and to share the feeling of pain and suffering of the surviving victims – from which they have not yet recovered. The “scenery” which I saw with my own eyes just after I arrived in Iitate was entirely different and completely tragic, from the scene which I have seen in beautiful Tohoku where I visited very often when I was studying in Japan. There were lot of empty houses, alongside otherwise remarkable streets, weird shadows of loose black vinyl bags in what was erstwhile a beautiful rural “SATOYAMA” (undeveloped woodland near populated area). Even under such dire circumstances, I noted that autumnal color was starting to bloom. However, also noticeable were stumps of dead “Igune” (grove of trees surrounding a residence) which should have been rising now into the blue sky of early autumn; corpus of bugs on spider web in deserted cowsheds, and other evidences of death and destruction.
I came here to Itate, though I am foreign to this area, recalling the past when I visited Fukushima as a tourist, but I could not stop suffering from the dreary and tragic scene in front of me. And I was at a loss for words, imagining the pitiful and helpless heart-rending cries of the victims in the midst of the disaster. I also thought of how to give comfort to the inhabitants whose ancestors settled here since a few hundred years ago, and who had continued to keep their land and dearly oved dense forests I also pondered how these venerable ancestors would consider the total loss of their homeland which was their proud legacy to their descendants. I was utterly overwhelmed by such scenes. In my musing, I regretted and blamed myself for not being able to do anything and of my thoughtless arrogance for not clearly understanding the purpose of my visit here.
However, in the midst of such a whirlpool of self-hatred, I was able to meet the heroes who risked life and limb in the post-disaster rescue and resurrection effort and who provided a lot of dazzling lights of hope.
These heroes include members of the “Fukusima Saisei no Kai (Resurrection of Fukushima)” team, headed by Mr. Yoichi Tao, who are undertaking head-on the fight against radioactive contamination, with persistent challenging spirits using the latest available high-technology; Mr. Muneo Kanno who leads an activity of resurrection communities, with a cool and collected judgment and strong leverage, though he has been irritated at the situation whose ending nobody can predict; Mr. Hideya Terashima, journalist, who runs the media front in order to send messages to the world global network about the progress of the effort at radioactive contamination control/eradication in Fukushima. It is noteworthy that the contamination is fading away with the passage of time. Other noteworthy heroes are: Ms. Yuiko Oishi who embraces people around her with affection, keeping the faith of “Madei” which is originated in the Soma area and means “slow life”, by which men live together with nature, wholeheartedly; and Mr. Kenta Sato who has a youthful spirit and keeps up his thoughts and memories of home lands even as he despairs of his loss. Not to be forgotten are the volunteers who frequently visit the contaminated areas, at the risk of their lives, to render moral and physical labor support to the grief-stricken folks. This compassionate outpouring of support for the people of Fukushima will be long-remembered for the next fifty or hundred years.
As I watched the volunteers and the villagers doing their resurrection and rebuilding tasks calmly and vigorously, I began to think what I can do to help, instead of whining uselessly. Seeing such brave effort and determination by these people to confront difficulties even with possible tragic consequences, and overcoming personal fears, I was filled with the feeling to join and go with them and help in whatever way I can.
I might have joined this tour without fully understanding the situation at the Itate village and relied mainly on my emotion. But, when I saw the sincere and courageous effort of the villagers and volunteers, I got a chance to face my own weakness, especially the fear of radioactive contamination. I came back to Taiwan with a big issue, as a small gift to myself, that I cannot help anybody in their resurrection project in Iitate if I cannot get over my personal weakness. At that time it was still difficult for me to say what I could do specifically. But, after returning to Taiwan, I took every opportunity to speak to university students about what I saw and experienced in Iitate and I shared information with interested people about how the Iitate villagers were going about their resurrection activities.
There is a long way to go to continue sharing the pain of the people in the Soma area and the Iitate village. But we cannot and must not give up. It is important to dispatch to the world a cry of the soul of the Fukushima sufferers. I deeply realized in this tour that we have to shift our eyes to their down-to-earth activities and support their effort for resurrection. Taking advantage of a little change in the minds of each participant, including myself, I hope that our activities would lead to practical results.
(Assinstant Professor, Department of Japanese Language and Culture, Sooohouw University)
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Mac Maquito
SGRA Kawaraban 435 in Japanese (original)
Recently, I find the word “Children’s Poverty” on the headlines of newspapers or other medium very often. I didn’t understand first which country have such poverty, and it was incredible to know that it was in Japan. All the children in Japan have game machines and smartphones from schoolchildren time. I can’t believe also that their appearances are poor.
According to the Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Japanese leading economic newspaper),
“Comprehensive Survey of Living Conditions” (国民生活基礎調査) by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare shows that Japanese poverty rate rose to 16.3 percent, record high, in 2012. It is 0.6 points lower than the previous survey. I understood the figures shows clearly.
*poverty rate : a ratio of children under 18 years old who are living in the families
which is under half of average income
As children do not work and have no income, above figures were calculated on the basis of incomes of their parents. As the reason for rising poverty rate, the survey points out that the number of farther-less families are increasing. As mothers are working as temporary employees (from agencies) or under irregular employment, we can say that it is natural that their incomes are low. If we judge the poverty of children by the family income, difference between families which have fathers who are lifetime employment or two-income families and farther-less families are big. Frankly speaking, I have been thinking that Japanese children are blessed as I told above and parents spend money with no stint to cramming schools and lessons. Apart from rising poverty rate, I began to be anxious about such income disparities. Disparities between the children who are blessed with good opportunities and who are not blessed may affect bad influence to the future of Japan.
Even if the income of their parents would have disparities, it will be all right as long as children can get equal opportunities for education without any disparities. It is natural for children to go to cramming schools in Japan. Is it difficult for the poor income families to let their children get good habits to learn because of their poor income?Why do Japanese children go to cramming school? First of all, it may be for their preparation for examinations. Next is a decline of educational power by school. According to the survey of OECD, incredible to say, expenditure for education by the government is the 31st out of 32 countries. If education in Japan is not enough, children will continue to go to cramming schools for the time being. And if children in Japan are played by disparity of income of their parents, how will Japan be?
Prof. Jeffery Sachs, the chief of the Earth Institute of the Columbia University, has been regarding this (children’s poverty is greatly affected by poor surroundings of their parents ) as questionable from many aspects since before. He insists that we should get out of the chain which poverty in America infects through generations. According to his monograph, they are in the cycle that children whose parents are unemployed, sickened or incarcerated, regardless of being divorced or not, are living in poor regions and go to schools of low educational standards. And such children who are brought up under such circumstances have no choice but to grow up to poor man, in other words man of poor skill and cannot get respectable jobs. Such negative chain should be cut. He warns also that increasing of such poor children may affect economic growth of America.He emphasizes further that it happened in an “affluent society, America”.I do not think such negative chain is not possible in Japan.
How to check poverty of children and how to cut such negative chain before it comes too late? Prof. J. Sachs shows how to solve. He advises, according to his monograph published last year titled “children and country suffered from poverty”, that public money should be invested to give equal opportunity for education thoroughly.There is “Kodomo Teate Law*” in Japan. (*It gives legal guardians of children under 15 years old.) Is it functioning well?
I hope poverty rate in Japan would decline when I investigate next time.
(A full-time lecturer,Kyoai Gakuen University)
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Mac Maquito
SGRA Kawaraban 437 in Japanese (original)
I participated in “the Fukushima Study Tour” two nights stay, and I could understand thoughts of villagers and real situation of Iitate from exchange and co-working with villagers and volunteers in Iitate. I could hear also about ecology, economy and population of Iitate from academic viewpoint.
I have been keeping a feeling ‘déjà vu’ which I myself could not catch after I have talked with displaced persons at Matukawa temporary houses which I visited first this time. Such ‘déjà vu’ became stronger after having exchange between such people who were struggling for finding out any light of hope, who are making pathetical effort to find out any rebirth of living circumstances in the situation that they cannot find out, and habitants there, volunteers, learned men and the young who are aiming at improvement of an image of Fukushima through works of art.
Such feeling ‘déjà vu’ was similar with the one which I have seen the people in Georgia in early 1990’s who were in similar situation and feelings with Iitate. In Georgia at that time, there were a lot of such people that displaced persons who have been forced out from their homes, habitants who have been fighting desperately for recovering their home land and artists who have been active for letting the people forget such tragedies even for a moment. It was not from nuclear accident which has resulted from natural phenomenon but from war which human being has started.
Alike a part of the land in Georgia which are occupied by foreign armies, Fukushima Prefecture are partly covered by invisible enemy “ radioactive substance”.
During our conversation with Iitate villagers, we heard very often the words “war for returning to home village”, “war against radioactivity” and “war in our heart”.
I have got a strong impression that Fukushima is “in the midst of the war”. But it is different from the war in Georgia in the point that, in Fukushima where they are fighting with the “invisible war” negotiation or diplomacy which ease a relation between “the war” and “invisible enemy” are useless. The only solution for this is perfect removal of “invisible war”, in other words, Iitate cannot revive without removal of radioactivity.
The war in their heart is the most difficult war among every kinds of war. I have heard very often that if they lose the war in their heart, they would lose the war against radioactivity too. On the other hand, it is said that they do not know how they should fight against radioactivity. A reason why Iitate villagers have been fighting in their heart may become vicious circle if they cannot find any solution for removal of radioactivity and it is only a matter of time that they would lose the war in their heart.
The problem which became clear to be difficult in this tour is a poor linkage between government and habitants in the disaster-stricken area. A scale of decontamination work done by the Government seems impressive at first sight for the people who do not know the details. However, as I got detailed explanation about the situation of Iitate, I realized that it is ineffective.
Of course, some people say that it may be impossible to make an objective judgment for the work without listening to the government opinion. I am not a specialist but I think it natural that they thought doubtful about effectiveness of decontamination when I saw many black plastic bags which are full of soil, contaminated by radioactivity and stripped off from the surface of the ground, and are piled up everywhere in the village.Moreover, it will be natural also that villagers feel doubtfulness about the purpose of the works by the government if they look such bags are put in front of houses and fields. There is no such official plan that Iitate villagers watch out the work and can participate in the process of establishing working policies and decision of the plan itself.I think it will be one of the reasons for the above.I think it very unreasonable and unnatural that there is no set-up in the reality which villagers cannot remove radioactivity which poured on their land and they cannot check the work by themselves.
There is one non-governmental body called “Resurrection of Fukushima(Fukushima Saisei no Kai)”. It was established for the purpose of filling a gap between the government and people and is composed of habitants in the disaster stricken area, volunteers and scientists of various fields. Members of this body, after understanding well about difference between safe and secure, promote such project that gathering and analysis of the pollution data, decontamination work of farm land and forest, resurrection of agriculture. We cannot say all projects are going well, but it is sure that such works are contributing to villagers who are fighting against the war of despair.
There are still many doubts in this theme which we have discussed during this tour: decontamination works by the government, relation between the government and people, consciousness about contamination problem, necessity of nuclear power plant and construction and operation of nuclear power plant.
After returning from this tour, I strongly realized and deepened my conviction that we should not despair even in a hopeless situation.
(2014 Scholarship student, Georgia)
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Max Maquito
SGRA Kawaraban ??? in Japanse (original)