Japan's Conspiracy (1) Reference List 006

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(this is a translation of the related Japanese Wikipedia page.)

This day is nothing particular.

October 10th

In the former clause, we said that October 10th was chosen as the opening day of the Tokyo Olympic Games because the day had been a special day for nice weather. But, in fact, the reason began to be said just after the Olympic games. According to the statistics of the Meteorological Agency, the nicest day in October used to be October 14th, not October 10th. Probably, October 10th was chosen because the temperature around the day was appropriate for sports.


10月10日 前段に「かつては東京の晴れの特異日であったことから、1964年の東京オリンピックの開会式の日に選ばれた。」とあるが、10月10日が東京の晴れの特異日であると言われるようになったのは1964年以降のことであるらしい。昭和34年発行「気象学ハンドブック」によれば、10月の特異日は14日とされており、事実ここ30年ほどのデータをみても、雨が全く降らなかった日で10月9日が17回、10日が19回、11日が14回と、大きな差はないと読める。なお、10月10日が「東京オリンピック開催日」となったのは、「暑くも寒くもない10月上旬が適する」との判断からではないかと言われている。

Wife of 'Japanese Schindler' sues
Japantimes Aug. 15, 2002

The wife of Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who helped thousands of Jews flee Nazi persecution, on Wednesday sued a Tokyo publisher over a book she claims libels her dead husband.

Yukiko Sugihara asked the Tokyo District Court to halt sales of the book and demanded 10 million yen in damages.

The book, "Chiune," is the Japanese translation of "In Search of Sugihara," written by Hillel Levine, a Boston University professor, published in August 1998. Its translated version is put out by Shimizu Shoin Co.

Sugihara has complained the book contains more than 300 distortions and fabrications about her husband. She disputes, for example, the author's claim that Sugihara presented himself as a hero by asserting he had acted in defiance of his government.

In 1940, Chiune Sugihara issued about 2,000 transit visas to Jews at the Japanese Consulate in Lithuania against the wishes of the Foreign Ministry. He was asked to resign from the ministry after the war, and died in 1986.

The government honored him on the centennial of his birth in 2000. Sugihara is referred to in Japan as the "Japanese Schindler," after Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who worked to save Jews during World War II and on whose life the 1993 movie "Schindler's List" was based.

The Fugu Plan
The untold story of the Japanese and the Jews during World War II

Between 1934 and 1940 a secret policy was devised in the highest councils of the Japanese government. If it had succeeded, it might have saved a million Jews from the Holocaust and even prevented the war between Japan and the United States. This policy was the Fugu Plan – Tokyo’s idea of enrolling the talents and skills of European Jewry, plus the capital, influence, and sympathy of American Jewry, in the building of Japan’s 20th-Century empire, the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. This is the only book on the subject, written by a rabbi who served in Japan and based on interviews and documents hitherto unknown. It is a fascinating and intriguing story, well written and supplemented by photos. Jehuda Reinharz, Library Journal

Here is a spectacular plot for a motion picture: the dramatic escape across Asia, the intrigue of Jewish leaders with the Japanese and with the Nazi “Butcher of Warsaw,” who followed them to Shanghai.Rabbi Marvin Tokayer and Mary Swartz met in Japan, laboriously pieced together this wonderful saga, and wrote it with the verve of a thriller, which it is. Raymond A. Sokolov, New York Times

U.S. envoys involved in '60s secret nuke arms pact
Japantimes Nov. 21, 2007

U.S. ambassadors to Japan in the 1960s repeatedly reminded senior Japanese officials, including Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, of a secret agreement for Japan to allow nuclear-armed U.S. vessels to call at the nation's ports or pass through its territorial waters, according to a recently declassified U.S. State Department document.

The government, which maintains the three principles of not possessing, producing or allowing atomic weapons into its territory, has never admitted an accord existed.

But other declassified U.S. documents have already shown that the two nations secretly exempted port calls and passage through Japan by U.S. vessels carrying nuclear weapons in revising the Japan-U.S. security treaty in 1960, and subjecting U.S. transportation of nuclear arms into Japan to prior bilateral consultations. The two sides confirmed the position in April 1963.

The latest document, obtained by the independent U.S. think tank National Security Archive, indicates the U.S. remained concerned in the late 1960s as Japanese officials domestically told the Diet that such port calls or passages are not allowed.

Dated Jan. 26, 1968, the document is in a "top secret" telegram sent by U.S. Ambassador Alexis Johnson to the State Department about his discussions the day before with senior Foreign Ministry officials over his meeting earlier that month with Foreign Minister Takeo Miki.

In the telegram, Johnson reported that after the meeting with Miki, "I was most gravely concerned that there was perhaps basic misunderstanding between the two governments that must be cleared up soonest," and that he spoke of the concern to the Japanese officials.

"Until Miki had spoken to me, I had been proceeding on the assumption that senior levels of the government of Japan, at least Prime Minister Sato, understood our position and government spokesmen were saying what they had said in (the) Diet for their own purposes," Johnson quoted himself as telling the officials.

The Japanese officials mentioned were Vice Foreign Minister Nobuhiko Ushiba and Fumihiko Togo, head of the American Affairs Bureau.

Referring to the April 1963 confirmation of the position between Foreign Minister Masayoshi Ohira and U.S. Ambassador Edwin O. Reischauer, Johnson told the officials Japan has never since indicated it did not "at least acquiesce in that position."

He cited Reischauer's talks again with Ohira in September 1964 and with Sato that December, plus another U.S. effort the same month to confirm that its position was shared with Foreign Ministry officials.

Neither Ushiba nor Togo challenged Johnson's interpretation of the situation, and told him Tokyo had a record of Ohira's April 1963 talks with Reischauer, according to the document.

The matter was left for Ushiba to again talk with Ohira, and Ushiba, indicating he would discuss it also with Sato, specifically asked Johnson not to raise the issue with Miki until he heard from either Ushiba or Ohira, it showed.

In a Diet session in late 1967, prior to the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise's first call at Japan in January 1968, Miki, in the face of the opposition alleging the ship was carrying nuclear weapons, said the flattop would not call with nuclear arms, citing what he called a U.S. promise.

Tokyo's decision to allow the Enterprise to enter Sasebo port in Nagasaki Prefecture triggered a bloody student demonstration against the government.

The document indicates the framework of prior consultations over the nuclear issue has been crippled and that the Japanese government was giving consent to port calls by nuclear-armed U.S. vessels, said Masaaki Gabe, a professor of international politics at the University of the Ryukyus.

Japan has claimed that no nuclear arms have been brought into its territory on grounds that no prior consultations have been requested by the U.S. side, but that would not convince the public as long as bilateral relations are based on such secrets, Gabe said.

Kazuhiko Togo
PSI in print

KAZUHIKO TOGO is Visiting Professor of International Affairs at Seoul National University. He joined the Foreign Ministry of Japan in 1968 as a Sovietologist and served as the ambassador of Japan to the Netherlands. He has taught at the universities of Moscow, Tokyo, Leiden, Princeton, Tansui (Taiwan), and the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of Japan's Foreign Policy 1945-2003: The Quest for a Proactive Policy and The Inside Story of the Negotiations on the Northern Territory: Five Lost Windows of Opportunity (in Japanese). Ambassador Kazuhiko Togo is the grandson of the wartime Japanese foreign minister, Shigenori Togo, who is enshrined as one of the A-Class war criminals in Yasukuni Shrine.

Reporter arrested over train groping
Japantimes Nov. 27, 2001

A veteran journalist with the Washington Post was arrested for allegedly groping a high school girl while riding a subway in Tokyo, police said Monday.

Shigehiko Togo, 56, a correspondent with the newspaper's Tokyo bureau, was arrested on the spot Nov. 13 for allegedly violating a municipal ordinance on harassment prevention, police said.

Togo is suspected of touching the 18-year-old inside a train on the Chiyoda Line in Chiyoda Ward, police said. He has already been indicted.

Togo reportedly confessed to investigators that he touched the girl because he thought she was "cute." He also apologized for the incident, police said.

Togo became a reporter at the Washington Post in 1976 after a stint at the Asahi Shimbun.

He drew attention in 1993 when he scooped the engagement of the Crown Prince and Crown Princess.

Koizumi sacks Tanaka, Nogami; Suzuki also walks following row
Japantimes Jan. 31, 2002

Ogata floated as successor to embattled foreign minister Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's government officially relieved Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka of her post Wednesday in the wake of the battle over who caused two nongovernmental organizations to be barred from last week's Afghanistan reconstruction conference.

Koizumi also sacked Administrative Vice Foreign Minister Yoshiji Nogami, Tanaka's archrival in the NGO dispute and the Foreign Ministry's top bureaucrat. Liberal Democratic Party bigwig Muneo Suzuki, Tanaka's longtime foe in the Diet, also said he would resign as chairman of the Lower House Steering Committee.

Although the three ousters may ease the government-ministry rift, it will likely weaken Koizumi's administration, which has had a high public support rate in part thanks to Tanaka's popularity.

Sadako Ogata, Japan's special envoy for Afghanistan who chaired the two-day ministerial conference on reconstruction aid for the war-torn country, tops the list of candidates to replace Tanaka, government sources said.

Koizumi said Wednesday that he hopes to name his new foreign minister prior to Saturday's scheduled talks in Tokyo with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov over a bilateral peace treaty and a territorial dispute.

Koizumi, who is doubling as foreign minister until he makes the appointment, probably by Friday, told reporters at the Prime Minister's Official Residence that he wants someone with "excellent insight" to be his foreign minister.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told a news conference that the government is considering a wide variety of candidates, including nonpoliticians.

"In a word, we want to select a 'good' foreign minister'," the top government spokesman said, suggesting he had difficult relations with Tanaka.

Earlier in the day, Koizumi told the Upper House Budget Committee that Tanaka bears the primary responsibility for the brouhaha, explaining that if the ministry had been able to settle the dispute by itself, such problems would not have taken place.

In addition, Koizumi voiced reluctance to further shed light on the facts surrounding the conflicting remarks made by Tanaka and Nogami, saying this will lead to an endless dispute until one side gives up its claim.

Commenting on Tanaka's performance as foreign minister, Fukuda said Tanaka was an "outstanding" minister who carried out various measures in issues "we could not come up with."

Toshiyuki Takano, 57, a deputy foreign minister for political affairs, is expected to succeed Nogami, government sources said, while Diet officials have decided that Suzuki's replacement as head of the Lower House Steering Committee will be Kunio Hatoyama, an LDP member and a former farm minister. He is the brother of Yukio Hatoyama, leader of the Democratic Party of Japan.

Koizumi moved to sack Tanaka and Nogami Tuesday night right after the ruling bloc rammed the second supplementary budget for the current fiscal year through a Lower House plenary session, despite failing to resolve a Diet standoff over the NGO row.

The budget vote was taken in the absence of opposition party lawmakers, who refused to take part in deliberations without first clearing up the NGO controversy.

The rift exploded last week with Tanaka, Nogami and Suzuki giving differing accounts over the barring of Japanese NGOs -- Peace Winds Japan and Japan Platform -- from the talks. Tanaka claimed Nogami told her Suzuki pressured the ministry into barring the NGOs. Nogami later denied this. The groups attended the second day of the conference as observers after Tanaka intervened.

Koizumi hastily called a news conference early Wednesday morning and explained that the ousters were necessary to have the budget enacted as swiftly as possible amid the stalling economy.

Meanwhile, sources close to Koizumi said the prime minister began considering getting Tanaka to step down as foreign minister around Sunday.

But the plan was "kept secret" between Koizumi and Fukuda until shortly before 11 p.m. Tuesday, when Koizumi's secretaries were told after the prime minister determined he must go through with it due to the delays in Diet business, a government source said.

Tanaka meanwhile appeared Wednesday morning at the Foreign Ministry while her parliamentary secretaries carried out boxes of her personal items from the office.

She called in senior officials to her office and told them she had been sacked by the prime minister and thanked them for their job, according to officials who were present.

"Thank you for teaching me various things since I became foreign minister in April," an official quoted Tanaka as saying. "I wish the best for the Foreign Ministry."

Ogata: no comment NEW YORK (Kyodo) Former U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata declined comment Tuesday on rumors that she may succeed Makiko Tanaka as foreign minister, a U.N. diplomatic source said.

Ogata's name came up as a potential candidate after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi sacked Tanaka and the top Foreign Ministry bureaucrat over squabbles within the Foreign Ministry.

Ogata served 10 years as head of the U.N. refugee agency until last month and cochaired the Afghan reconstruction donors conference held last week in Tokyo.

Ogata is now back in New York, where she serves as a fellow at the Ford Foundation.

Is Koizumi's political star waning?
Prime minister's requests for more time for reforms wearing thin
Japantimes April 26, 2003

Last weekend, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was on the campaign trail alongside Liberal Democratic Party candidates fighting Diet by-elections in Tokyo and Ibaraki Prefecture.

In his first appearance before a crowd since October, Koizumi shouted what has now become something of a cliche: His reform initiatives are making steady progress, but he needs more time before they show tangible results.

"I've been prime minister for two years now, and some people think that's too long and I should quit," Koizumi said in front of some 3,500 people in Setagaya Ward. "But the reforms need a little more time."

Behind Koizumi's words are his desire -- and confidence -- that he will be re-elected LDP president in September and thus remain prime minister.

But on Saturday, which marks the start of his third year in office, Koizumi stands at a crossroads. Will he simply fade away due to declining influence within the LDP? Or will he manage to cling to power in the absence of a suitable replacement?

Crawling pace of reform Koizumi's structural reform plans basically call for a shift to a downsized government with reduced spending, and privatization of government-affiliated entities. Easing regulations and transferring tax revenue sources to local governments are another element of his proposals.

Most observers agree by now, however, that the pace of Koizumi's reforms has been too slow.

Norihiko Narita, a professor of political science at Surugadai University, says the only visible result Koizumi has produced is the creation of special deregulation zones in municipalities.

The first batch of 57 special zones were inaugurated Monday, with more applications to be accepted in the coming months. The program is intended to reinvigorate the economies of local communities by increasing competition in highly regulated fields, including medicine, education and agriculture.

"Koizumi should be given credit for his deregulation efforts, but the pace of overall reforms has just been too slow," Narita said.

He argues that Koizumi's reforms will not progress unless local autonomy is increased by shifting tax revenue sources and administrative power from the central government to local entities.

Local governments are heavily dependent on national resources, in the form of subsidies and local allocation taxes.

"If this structure continues, lawmakers will continue to indulge in pork-barrel politics and local governments' dependence on public works will never change," Narita said.

Koizumi has ordered his economic policy panel to make a breakthrough on reforms to local autonomy, but a clash between the finance and the home affairs ministries has prevented constructive discussion.

The Finance Ministry, which wants to retain its power to collect taxes, argues that administrative power should be transferred first, while the home affairs ministry, which has control over local governments, says the tax revenue sources have to be shifted first.

Faced with this level of discord, Koizumi is apparently unable to display the leadership qualities required of a prime minister. "The finance and home affairs ministries should not simply emphasize their differences. I just want them to seek a breakthrough in any way," Koizumi said earlier this month.

Other major items on his reform agenda -- privatization of postal services and public highway companies -- have also been put on hold due to resistance from bureaucrats and ruling party lawmakers looking out for their vested interests.

Koizumi established third-party panels to discuss these matters, "but the problem is that the panels' recommendations are not directly presented to the Diet but to the bureaucrats, who simply reject the proposals," said Yoshiaki Kobayashi, a political science professor at Keio University.

The road panel's final report, which called for a major reverse in the nation's expressway construction plans, has been shelved by the land ministry. The privatization of postal services is nowhere in sight as Koizumi's panel has been unable to agree on a clear direction on how to best achieve it.

"When opinions are divided, be it on road or postal services, the prime minister needs to be a leader and indicate a direction," Kobayashi said.

To accelerate his reforms, the professor says Koizumi must present a grand design for improving conditions for new industries, in such fields as robotic engineering and environmental protection, which will create jobs and generate new sources of tax revenue.

"Merely cutting government spending does not work," Kobayashi said. "The prime minister has to present a model that will wipe out worries about the future, otherwise people will only feel the burden of fiscal reform."

Political power ebbs away Two years ago, Koizumi won the public over by creating an image of one man confronting old-guard LDP politicians, whom he branded as "resistance forces."

This tactic worked when the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan supported his reform initiatives. The prime minister even threatened his opponents within the LDP by saying he and other reform-minded LDP lawmakers could link up with some DPJ members to form a new party.

But that option disappeared when internal bickering over the party's leadership threw the DPJ into turmoil. Eventually, the DPJ -- desperate to win back voters -- opted to turn against Koizumi.

During their one-on-one debate in the Diet on Wednesday, DPJ leader Naoto Kan criticized Koizumi sharply for failing to carry out the reforms he had promised.

"Over the past two years, the economy has not gotten any better, it has only got worse," Kan barked at the prime minister. "The stock average that was around 14,000 two years ago is now down to nearly 7,000. Can you say you have achieved anything at all?"

Koizumi also appears to have deviated from his initial pledge to do away with the LDP's factional politics.

Defying party tradition, Koizumi initially chose members of his Cabinet without consulting faction leaders.

Recently, however, Koizumi had to seek the cooperation of leaders of rival factions as he tried to find a successor to agriculture minister Tadamori Oshima, who resigned over a financial scandal involving former secretaries. Koizumi was snubbed by each of his prospective candidates to replace Oshima, only to end up naming Yoshiyuki Kamei, a member of the faction led by longtime ally Taku Yamasaki.

"To remain in power, Koizumi will have no choice but to make some kind of compromise with the resistance forces," predicts Jun Iio, a professor of political science at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.

The degree of that compromise remains a tricky question.

Koizumi's opponents within the LDP want a major shift in economic policy. They advocate high levels of government spending and changes in the Cabinet to reflect their views -- but if Koizumi yields completely to these demands, many would perceive that he has given up his reform campaign and public support would evaporate.

Mikio Aoki, secretary general of the LDP's Upper House caucus, the key man in coordinating policies between the party and the government, reportedly reminded Koizumi over dinner Monday night that the party will back Koizumi if he changes his confrontational stance.

Alternatives thin on ground At the moment, despite the slow pace of reform and his fading influence within the LDP, Koizumi still enjoys relatively stable public support of around 45 percent, the same level as a year ago, although this is down sharply from the 80 percent to 90 percent in the initial months of his administration.

A recent Asahi Shimbun poll showed that more than 70 percent of the public wants Koizumi to remain prime minister for at least a year after the September LDP election. A Kyodo News poll showed that of the 46 percent who support the Koizumi Cabinet, 56 percent said they do so because there are no suitable alternatives.

Experts predict Koizumi's support rate will remain between 40 percent and 50 percent until September, unless a personal scandal or other unexpected problems crop up.

"It's true that people are getting frustrated with Koizumi, but if you ask who else should be the prime minister, no good alternatives come up in the public's mind," Iio said.

The LDP is also apparently unable to find a strong candidate who would be able to top Koizumi's public image.

Among Koizumi's most vocal opponents within the LDP is former policy chief Shizuka Kamei, who has publicly declared his intention to defeat Koizumi in September. But Kamei's preferred political style -- a return to pork-barrel spending -- is far from popular with the public.

Younger potential successors to Koizumi, notably four lawmakers in their seventh term in the Diet, also lack charisma. These are policy chief Taro Aso, trade minister Takeo Hiranuma, former Secretary General Makoto Koga and former Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura.

"What has changed under the Koizumi administration is the level of people's expectations for both economic and political reforms, and their interest in politics," Iio said. "The LDP can no longer put up old-style politicians who do not appeal to the public."

Koizumi's fairly strong diplomatic position is also helping him to stay in office. On top of strong support from Washington after Koizumi expressed his unequivocal support for the war in Iraq, the crisis in North Korea makes a political power vacuum in Tokyo out of the question.

If he is re-elected in September, Koizumi will have three more years as party president. Traditionally, Japanese politics will not let him stay in power that long, but Koizumi himself seems confident that he will.

"Prime ministers are prone to being easily thrown away, like disposable lighters," Koizumi told reporters Thursday evening. "But my enthusiasm for reform still burns strongly and I want to work harder in the years ahead."

University probed over 'donations' made to secure backdoor admissions
Japantimes Dec. 31, 2001

Parents of candidates trying to enter Teikyo University's medical department are believed to have paid more than 2 billion yen a year in a suspected backdoor admission scandal, according to sources familiar with the case.

Staff at a prep school for medical universities, relatives of the university president and brokers are suspected of soliciting anxious parents for huge "donations" ahead of the announcement of test results.

The money was distributed to the private university's affiliates through several bank accounts at a branch of a major city bank in Tokyo's Itabashi Ward, where the university is located, and the branch manager took direct care of the account, the sources said.

The parents were instructed to fill out application forms for donations to the university leaving the line for the recipient blank, and those involved in orchestrating the scandal later filled in the names of the university's affiliates, without obtaining the consent of the parents, making the donations appear legitimate, the sources said.

Donations from parents were also accepted after their children enrolled and the money was distributed to the university's affiliates.

Teikyo University has denied it received donations from the parents before their children enrolled, but Shoichi Okinaga, president of the university, is set to resign as chairman of the board of trustees, according to sources close to the school.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has already questioned Okinaga on the suspected backdoor admissions.

Although Okinaga has denied the allegations, the ministry has denied a request from the university to open new departments and instructed it to conduct an internal probe into the matter.

The sources said several brokers, other officials associated with the prep schools or Okinaga's relatives allegedly approached parents of examinees who applied to the medical department, saying they would make arrangements so that the students could enter the university.

They then received donations ranging from 30 million yen to 50 million yen.

In cases where the examinees failed the entrance exams, all or part of the money was returned, depending on who had solicited the money.

The university's medical department has a capacity of 100, and the amount of pre- and post-enrollment donations totaled 5 billion yen a year, the sources said.

Bureaucratic Corruption in Japan

There is a persistent myth in Japanese studies that politicians are dirty but bureaucrats are clean. Though bureaucrats have been involved in all of the major post-war scandals and have been the primary culprits in many, the myth persists.

Nonsense is hard to stomach, no matter who dishes it out, but it is especially distasteful when disingenuously offered up by a government in the guise of an official report. Japan's Foreign Ministry (Gaimusho) recently issued such a report, on a senior official's embezzlement of huge sums from a secret fund ostensibly designed to help diplomats build relations with foreign countries. The official, Katsutoshi Matsuo, headed the Gaimusho's Overseas Visit Support Division between October 1993 and August 1999, where he helped organize trips by prime-ministers, diplomats, and other high-ranking governmental officials. But Matsuo routinely deposited secret Gaimusho funds in his personal bank accounts, from which he then paid for his own trips and trysts with various mistresses. He also purchased eight golf club memberships, five of which together cost 43 million yen, fifteen racehorses for some 140 million yen, and a luxury condominium in Tokyo's Bunkyo ward for a mere 80 million yen. Until his arrest in late January, 2001, Matsuo had obviously been living beyond his salaried means.

The Foreign Ministry's report maintains that Matsuo is a single bad apple in the Gaimusho barrel.2 But the notion that Matsuo could conduct this massive embezzlement-- measured in millions of dollars-- while other Ministry officials remained unaware and uninvolved is implausible in the extreme. Money is mother's milk for the Ministry, and it stretches credulity beyond the snapping point to suppose that Matsuo is the only official who illicitly stole from the $47 million (5.6 billion yen) in classified annual funds.

There are three plausible possibilities: Ministry managers either knew about and condoned the crimes, or they were grossly negligent in managing their budget, or both. The Ministry's report is couched in convenient euphemisms that obscure the secret nature of the funds. Its "bad apple" theory is not only incredible; it is also inconsistent with what anonymous Ministry officials have revealed to reporters-- namely, that Japanese diplomats think nothing of using official funds for purposes that have little to do with their work. Indeed, several Gaimusho officials have acknowledged that proficiency in embezzlement is one fast track to success. "The more a non-career official can squeeze cash through unofficial channels for high-ranking officials to spend freely," one bureaucrat reports, "the more likely it is for that person to be promoted. There are many government officials both inside and outside Japan who could easily become another Matsuo."3

Readers of the Japanese press may recall similar revelations about fiscal misconduct in other parts of Japan's bureaucracy. To take only the most troubling example, the creation of slush funds-- uragane-- by cooking the books through illicit accounting -- fusei keiri -- has been practiced for decades by Japan's most powerful administrative agency: the police.4 Notwithstanding the prevailing view that police in Japan are as pure as the driven snow, the evidence that they misuse tax money is abundant. In 1984, for example, Tadamitsu Matsuhashi, a former supervisor of superintendents in the National Police Agency, wrote a book revealing that "police organizations all over Japan are manufacturing slush funds."5 In subsequent years reporters have documented police slush-fund crimes in Tokyo, Nagoya, Nagasaki, and elsewhere.6 In just the last two years, emboldened by revelations in several police scandals, ex-cops have authored books documenting how police organizations systematically divert money from their budgets to cover under-the-table transfers to senior police officials and to pay for gifts, entertainment, and other illicit purposes.7

Then there were the Ministry of Finance (MOF) wining-and-dining scandals that were uncovered in 1997-98. Although the subsequent investigations revealed that hundreds of MOF officials engaged in illegal and unseemly acts, precisely one official on the elite career track was charged with a crime. Internally, MOF itself disciplined at least 112 officials, but the punishments were light and were directed only against personnel who accepted entertainment from financial institutions and insurance companies. Budget Bureau officials who were wined and dined by bureaucrats from other agencies (kankan settai) got off scot-free.8

Police Corruption

Police corruption is a double problem: it reinforces a culture of secrecy and deceit that is itself a breeding ground for police abuses ranging from perjury to brutality, and it prevents police from properly enforcing criminal laws against other bureaucratic wrongdoers. Police responses to allegations of misconduct take two main forms. Usually they attempt to "kill complaints with silence" (mokusatsu suru), in large part because police managers strictly enforce a code of silence against their subordinates. As former Tokyo Metropolitan Police officer Akio Kuroki has written, cops who tell tales out of class, no matter how truthful, are certain to suffer severe career consequences.9

When silence fails to quell the criticism the police resort to their second strategy: they issue nonsensical "reports" of the kind the Foreign Ministry recently produced. These reports pin police problems on one or a few individuals, thereby denying the need for change in the police's organizational culture and the need for creating external organs that would hold police more accountable for how they spend their huge budget and exercise their formidable powers.

In December 2000, Japan's Management and Coordination Agency finally said enough is enough. For the first time in the postwar period it conducted an administrative inspection of the police and issued a report and advisory of its own. The latter mandates that police redo their inquiry into police misconduct and produce another report, minus the nonsense.10 Time will tell whether the police comply. I am hopeful but not optimistic. There is plenty of reason for pessimism. At the end of the year 2000, for example, during which Japan had experienced an unprecedented number of police scandals, the Asahi Shimbun surveyed thirteen prefectural police departments in order to ask what they considered the year's top ten news stories from their respective beats. Almost all the departments responded with resounding success stories, from big cases cracked to well-run security at official events. As one cop critic succinctly summarizes the situation, everyone fears the police but the police fear no one.11


There are at least two lessons to be learned from these tales of bureaucratic corruption. First, it appears that students of Japan-- and academics especially-- have been mistaken about one big fact concerning that country's leaders. We knew that politicians were dirty, but we also believed that bureaucrats were unsullied by the grime of crime and corruption. We were wrong.

Second, the opaqueness of decision-making in Japan's bureaucracy is a recipe for robbery of the taxpayers' money. This, more than anything, is the thread that connects abuses in the Foreign and Finance Ministries and in various police departments. The treatment for this disease arises directly from the diagnosis. Transparency must be the first and biggest plank in any platform proposing to solve government graft.

There is good news and bad news about the prospects for reform. The good news is that in April 2001, when Japan's new freedom of information act goes into effect, disclosure of how taxpayers' money is spent will become, in principle, the rule. This law is long overdue. The bad news comes in two installments. First, the police remain, in crucial respects, "beyond the scope" of the new law's purview. Even in Miyagi prefecture, where the citizens' ombudsman has fought valiantly for greater police openness, the government eventually capitulated to almost all police demands for sustained secrecy. The closure of police and diplomatic budgets to outside scrutiny is a problem to which the answer is known. Unfortunately, the political will to implement the answer is absent.12

There is more bad news. The new freedom of information law, like the many laws already on the books that could be used to target financial improprieties, will be only as strong as its enforcers are skillful and vigorous. Judging from recent history, there is more than ample reason to believe that the big gap between "the law on the books" and "the law in action" will continue to yawn wide even after the new law goes into effect. For example, the Board of Audit (Kaikei Kensain), which is constitutionally charged with overseeing how tax money is spent, has been singularly unwilling to follow any of the many leads it has had into police slush funds and illegal accounting. Indeed, every year for the last half-century the Board has exposed not a single case of improper police accounting.13

The Prosecutors' Office has done no better. Between 1980 and early 1999, prosecutors had received eleven complaints about illegal accounting in various administrative agencies (these are just the complaints they accepted; prosecutors refused to hear many more). Of the nine cases prosecutors have decided so far, all ended in "no indictment."14 It appears that leniency in the procuracy arises in part because prosecutors create and misuse slush funds as much as other bureaucrats do. For instance, investigative reporters for a Japanese monthly magazine recently revealed that the procuracy receives about two million dollars each year for special "information gathering" and "investigative activities." These funds are known as chosa katsudohi, or chokatsu for short, and neither prosecutors nor their bosses in the Ministry of Justice are obligated to divulge how the money is spent.

Reporters found that Shunsuke Kano, the current chief prosecutor (kenjisei) of the Osaka District Prosecutors Office, embezzled thirty to fifty thousand dollars from this account when he was chief prosecutor of the Kochi District Prosecutors Office between July 1995 and July 1996. Kano is said to have spent the money on meals at high-class restaurants, entertainment at bars and nightclubs, and golf. As in the police department, this misspent money was mobilized by subordinates who concealed it in a second set of account books. And as in the police department, embezzlement resulted in excessive leniency toward other white-collar offenders.

In May 2000, after a three-year investigation into alleged embezzlement by twenty-five officials in the Osaka prefectural government, prosecutors in Osaka found "insufficient evidence" to indict three of the twenty-five officials but adequate proof to charge the other twenty-two with crimes. However, none was indicted. "In consideration of extenuating circumstances" (the embezzlers returned the stolen loot during the course of the investigation) prosecutors suspended charges (kiso yuyo) against all the wrongdoers. Front-line prosecutors wanted to proceed to trial but their boss -- the same Kano -- killed the cases. In the procuracy, as in the police department, corruption debases justice.15


Students of Japanese government disagree over the prospects for purifying a system that has been characterized as "rotten to the core."16 Some contend that "there is far less corruption now than there was in the past" and predict that corruption is "almost certain to continue to decline in importance" in years to come.17 Others argue that corruption "will continue to flourish in Japan" because its cultural roots are deeply imbedded in government and society.18 I doubt that corruption in the bureaucracy has declined. If anything, the number and seriousness of bureaucratic scandals have increased during the last decade (although the relationship between "corruption revealed" and "real corruption" is famously difficult to discern). Whatever the long-range realities, one may still ask who, ultimately, is responsible for the dirty messes Japan's government so frequently finds itself in. For me at least, this question admits no easy answer.

According to one popular view, if the Board of Audit, prosecutors, police, and various ministries are misusing or tolerating the misuse of taxpayers' money, they are able to do so because of a permissive public, apathetic voters, and timorous media. It follows that if Japan is a democracy that affords its citizens ample means of expressing their preferences, then voters have only themselves to blame for the present state of their government. But this analysis begs the question: Is Japan that kind of democracy and are voters to blame?

Consider that at the beginning of 2001, only 9 percent of Japanese adults had confidence in their Diet and only 8 percent had confidence in their national bureaucracy. The comparable figures for the United States, where trust in government is hardly a venerated tradition, were 63 and 51 percent. Moreover, according to a survey jointly conducted late last year by the Yomiuri Shimbun and the Gallup Organization, 75 percent of U.S. voters said they have been able to get their opinions heard in their nation's politics. In contrast, a scant 10 percent of Japanese voters thought likewise. It appears that many Japanese citizens feel utterly alienated from government, particularly citizens living in urban areas, where representation in the Diet does not reflect population strength. Japan's electoral system remains badly malapportioned, as it has throughout the postwar period. In single-seat constituencies in the most recent Lower House election (June 25, 2000), the Liberal Democratic Party won 60 percent of the seats with only 40 percent of the vote.

However, there is compelling evidence that the public's crisis of confidence in government is best explained not by malapportionment, nor by Japan's moribund economy, but by perceptions of misconduct in government. In short, the more people learn about their leaders' misconduct in office, the lower their faith and trust in government.19 Despite this it remains to be seen whether the public's deep discontent with government will usher in a period of real reform of Japan's corrupt bureaucracy.

Japan continues to deny wartime crimes
CHINAdaily 2006-02-20

Fundamental questions linger in Japan over the international tribunal 61 years after the country surrendered on August 15, 1945.

Two Japanese politicians tried to clear their country's Class-A war criminals of the crimes they committed during World War II.

At a session of the Lower House's Budget Committee on February 14, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso and Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe claimed that Class-A war criminals are not criminals under Japanese law.

Aso said the definition of war crime was the opinion given by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, also known as the Tokyo Tribunal. In jurisdiction of Japanese law, these people were not criminals, he said.

Abe echoed the foreign minister's argument, adding his country did not give verdicts on these people. The government should not judge history.

Aso and Abe disputed the validity of the tribunal, which convicted 25 wartime Japanese leaders. They were convicted of offences that included conspiring to wage a "war of aggression" and committing "crimes against peace."

The tribunal defined three categories of war crimes and criminals. "Class A" charges of "crimes against peace" were brought against Japan's top leaders who had planned and directed the war. The war criminals of this class were tried at the tribunal in Tokyo.

Class B and C charges, which were levelled at Japanese of any rank, covered "conventional war crimes" and "crimes against humanity," respectively. Criminals of the two categories were convicted in the areas where the crimes had been committed.

On November 4, 1948, the Tokyo Tribunal announced that all of the 25 defendants had been found guilty. Seven were sentenced to death, 16 to life terms and two to lesser terms.

They were all Japanese political and military figures of high rank, headed by Hideki Tojo, prime minister of Japan through most the war.

The defendants were accused of conspiring between 1928 and 1941 to wage "aggressive war," in order to gain "domination and control of East Asia." Japan stood by the outcome of the tribunal.

However, some of the criminals had their lost honour restored by becoming cabinet members.

Unlike Germany, which employed intensive de-Nazification procedures to prevent former Nazis entering parliament and the bureaucracy, Japanese war criminals were allowed to enter parliament and find employment in the government bureaucracy.

A striking example of this different approach between Japan and Germany is the case of convicted war criminal Nobusuke Kishi, who was able to rise to the office of prime minister of Japan in 1957.

Shigemitsu Mamoru, who was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment as a Class-A war criminal, became a deputy prime minister and foreign minister under the administration of then prime minister Ichiro Hatoyama in 1954.

Kaya Okinori, who was given a life term as a Class-A war criminal, served as justice minister under the administration of prime minister Ikeda Hayato. A criminal became a guardian of the Japanese law.

Fourteen Class-A war criminals were enshrined in 1978 at Yasukuni Shrine, which Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited every year in his office term.

This is the way Japanese politicians have addressed their country's war atrocities. The open defence from Aso and Abe for the Class-A war criminals is the continuing refusal by the country to acknowledge it.

City official: Fatal Kunming bus blasts 'not terrorism'
CHINA DAILY 2008-07-22

KUNMING - There was no evidence to show that two bus explosions that killed two people and injured 14 on Monday in Yunnan Province were connected to terrorist attacks or aimed at next month's Olympics, a local official said here on Tuesday.

Du Min, vice mayor of Kunming, the Yunnan capital, said at a press conference it remained unclear whether the blasts were conducted by many people, or one individual.

Police still had no clues to the backgrounds of suspects and were investigating the case, said Du, also the Kunming Public Security Bureau chief.

The explosions occurred on two Route 54 buses during Monday's morning rush hour in Kunming. One blast was on West Renmin Road at 7:10 a.m., while the second was at the nearby intersection of Changyuan Road and West Renmin Road at 8:05 a.m..

"This is the worst case that has occurred in Kunming in 30 years," Du said.

In a local rumor going around two to three hours prior to the blasts, some residents had received a text warning message saying "Citizens who receive this message are advised not to ride the buses of routes 54, 64 and 84 the next morning."

"In fact, there was no such a text message," Du said.

The bureau has announced a reward of 100,000 yuan (about US$14,280) to anyone who offers information that can help solve the case.

Typhoon Fung-Wong lashes Taiwan
BBC 28 July 2008

A typhoon with winds of up to 140km/h (87 mph) has hit the east coast of Taiwan bringing heavy rain, and causing schools and businesses to close.

The country's stock market has shut for the day and transport have been severely disrupted.

Taiwanese stacked sandbags and boarded up windows as typhoon Fung-Wong approached.

Taiwan is still reeling from tropical storm Kalmaegi earlier this month which left 20 people dead and six missing.

Rain and wind lashed the east coast of the island, causing a rock slide in the Taroko Gorge that injured a man, police said on Sunday.

Coastguard officials said they were searching for a fishing boat carrying four Taiwanese and a Chinese man which went missing on Friday near Matsu, off China's south-eastern coast.

In northern Taiwan, winds whipped up giant waves and hundreds of fishing boats took shelter in port.

Shadows Dancing: Japanese Espionage Against the West 1939-1945

This work relates the story of Japanese espionage and spy activities during World War II. In particular, it details the activities of the Japanese spy network TO, which functioned through Japanese embassies and consulates in a number of European and South American countries. Although most of the records of this organization's activities were destroyed by order of the Japanese government at the end of the war, information concerning them continues to exist in the form of decrypted messages gathered by U.S. counterintelligence forces during wartime. These reports, known as " Magic Summaries," allowed U.S. and other Allied authorities to obtain important information regarding Axis military operations without revealing to the enemy that it had broken its code. Matthews uses these now declassified documents to tell his story. Overall, the work is well researched and well written, making fascinating reading for those interested in wartime espionage and related subjects.

Nagasaki memorial adds British POW as A-bomb victim
Japantimes June 25, 2005

A British airman who was being held as a prisoner of war in Nagasaki and died in the atomic bombing of the city in World War II has been added to the list of A-bomb victims at peace memorial hall, a Japanese historian said Friday.

Royal Air Force Cpl. Ronald Shaw, who was 25 when he died, is the first POW to be listed at the Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, the hall said.

Shaw is the second foreign victim of the bombing to be listed at the hall. The first was a Chinese civilian, according to the hall, which opened in 2003.

The hall collects portraits of those who died in the blast on Aug. 9, 1945, and of those who subsequently died of radiation exposure, along with the notes and journals of those who survived.

The pictures, notes and journals detail the impact of the bombing. So far, the hall has listed 5,023 victims and collected 3,811 photographs, it said. Shaw's photograph also has been provided for display.

Shigeaki Mori, a 68-year-old historian in Hiroshima, came across Shaw's record while doing research on American POWs who were killed in the bombing.

Shaw was captured after his plane was shot down by Japanese forces near the island of Java in what is now Indonesia, and was sent to a prison camp in Nagasaki, where he died in the atomic bombing, according to Mori.

Mori said he was contacted by Shaw's relatives after several British newspapers reported on his research in May. Until then, the family did not know Shaw died in the atomic bombing, he said.

Meanwhile, the Nagasaki Municipal Government said it has asked countries that possess nuclear weapons, including the United States and Russia, to send delegates to take part in an annual peace memorial service on Aug. 9 as the city marks the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing this year.

Nagasaki group gathers A-bomb survivor stories
Japantimes Dec. 29, 2006

A Nagasaki civic group has published a book containing the testimonies of about 40 atomic-bomb survivors that were selected out of over 1,000 it collected over the past 38 years.

Nagasaki no Shogen no Kai (Association for Testimonies in Nagasaki) compiled the book "Shogen: Nagasaki ga Kieta" ("Testimonies: Nagasaki has Vanished") as many of its 60 or more volumes containing interviews with survivors of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima nuclear attacks have gone out of print.

The latest volume contains accounts by ethnic Koreans as well as Americans and Dutch nationals who were exposed to the atomic-bomb blasts while they were in prison camps.

The book also includes a list of the about 1,000 people interviewed in the past to serve as a reference for books that have already been published.

"Among the people who were included in the latest book, 10 of them are no longer alive," said Hitoshi Hamasaki, 75, a representative of the group.

"An increasing number of people have forgotten about the tragedy of the atomic bomb. I definitely want young people to take a fresh opportunity to read the testimonies," he said.

The group was established in 1968 by the late Dr. Tatsuichiro Akizuki, who treated atomic-bomb survivors while he himself was being exposed to radiation.

Nagasaki prison's Urakami branch's remnant

Nagasaki cathedral chapel enshrines A-bombed statue of the Virgin Mary
Japantimes Aug. 10, 2005

A small chapel has been completed to enshrine part of a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary that was destroyed in the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.

The chapel in Urakami Cathedral was opened with a ceremony Tuesday, the same day the city held its annual ceremony on the 60th anniversary of the attack.

The United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and another on Nagasaki three days later.

"I hope this place will be used to pray for the souls of the departed and for world peace," said Isamu Hirano, 68, the parish priest at Urakami Cathedral, which was rebuilt in 1959 after being destroyed in the atomic bombing.

In the cathedral, two priests hearing confessions and some 30 parishioners were killed by the atomic bomb, which exploded at 11:02 a.m.

The wooden statue used to be atop the altar in the old cathedral, which was located about 500 meters northeast of where the bomb detonated. Some relics from the cathedral are kept at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Memorial Park.

Fragments of the head of the statue, whose face was badly burned on the right side, were found by Kaemon Noguchi, a monk at the Trappist monastery in Hakodate, Hokkaido, while he was searching through the rubble during a visit to Nagasaki after World War II.

Noguchi took the head back to his monastery as a memento, but after learning that the church was looking for relics that survived the bombing he returned it to Nagasaki in 1975.

According to Hirano, the chapel was built at the prompting of parishioners, who wanted the statue enshrined for public view to serve as a symbol of the bombing.

Parishioner Isao Nishimura, 71, who worked since January to make the altar for the statue, based on photos of the old one, said he feels a special connection with the statue as both of them are A-bomb survivors. "I feel very blessed and thankful for being entrusted with this kind of work," he said.

Chinese A-bomb victims honored
Japantimes July 8, 2008

A monument for 33 Chinese forced to work in Japanese coal mines during World War II and killed in the atomic bombing of Nagasaki was unveiled Monday.

Three of their relatives from China attended the unveiling ceremony of the 1.9-meter monument, completed with public donations, at Nagasaki Peace Park.

About 60 people took part in the unveiling, including former Nagasaki Mayor Hitoshi Motoshima, 86, who led the group that erected the monument.

"We built the monument in the hope of offering even small compensation for the sorrows of the Chinese people who suffered the Japanese wartime aggression. Such a monument should have been erected right after Japan's defeat in the war," Motoshima said in his address to the ceremony.

Qiao Aimin, 67, one of the relatives of the Chinese victims, touched the name of her father engraved on the monument and cried.

"I think my father will rest in peace from now," she said.

Some 1,000 Chinese forced laborers were working at coal mines in Nagasaki Prefecture during the war, of whom 33 were held in a prison on suspicion of spying. All 134 people at the prison, including Koreans and other inmates as well as prison officials, were killed in the August 1945 atomic bombing, according to the citizens' group.

The monument now bears the names of 32 of the Chinese. The 33rd is to be added later when his official status as a bomb victim is confirmed.

Motoshima, who as mayor was shot and seriously wounded by an ultranationalist in 1990, played a key role in collecting the donations to build the monument.

Definition of A-bomb sufferers to be broadened
Japantimes March 18, 2008

A Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry panel agreed Monday to introduce in April a new, broader standard for recognizing sufferers of atomic-bomb diseases, panel officials said.

Under the new standard, the ministry will recognize as radiation illness sufferers those who were exposed to radiation within a radius of 3.5 km from ground zero in Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the days of the bombings in August 1945 and have consequently developed one of five designated diseases — cancer, leukemia, irradiation cataract, hyperparathyroidism and radiation-induced heart infarction.

The ministry will also grant eligibility to those who entered the vicinity of ground zero within 100 hours of the Aug. 6 and 9 blasts, or entered the area of a radius of about 2 km 100 hours after but within two weeks of the blasts and stayed there for a week or more, and are currently suffering from the designated diseases.

Out of those who fail to meet the conditions, the ministry will make assessments on an individual basis.

The ministry aims to boost the annual number of recognized sufferers to 1,800, about 10 times more than the current level. Toward that end, it will set up special committees under the panel to specifically deal with each of the five designated diseases.

With the new standard, the ministry will effectively eliminate the probability-of-causation formula that has determined how much radiation exposure affected the disease risk, based on the estimated amount of exposure calculated from how far the survivor was from ground zero and other factors.

In response to requests by survivor groups, the ministry has made it clear the standard is "aimed at offering redress to atomic bomb sufferers."

However, plaintiffs who have filed group lawsuits across Japan as well as antinuclear organizations are seeking to further expand the relief, saying the new standard would still fail to cover all the plaintiffs.

"The new standard will lead to recognition of only about 200 of the roughly 300 people" taking part in the lawsuits, Hidenori Yamamoto, the 75-year-old leader of the nationwide plaintiffs' group, told a news conference. "This will not put an end to our legal battle," said Yamamoto, who was about 4.2 km from ground zero when Nagasaki was hit.

"It is indeed progress, but it does not provide relief to our suffering. I am disappointed," he said.

Terumi Tanaka, head of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, also said, "The standard draws a line between sufferers and does not offer enough relief."

Tanaka called for a "political decision" by Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda "so that all plaintiffs would be recognized as sufferers of atomic bomb diseases.

The plaintiffs and lawyers had demanded that the government offer the idea of "relief to atomic bomb sufferers," recognize unconditionally people suffering from leukemia and recognize people with hepatic dysfunction as well.

People who are recognized as hibakusha will be eligible for ¥137,000 in special medical allowances a month.

A-bomb survivor in U.S. sues for medical benefits
Japantimes Dec. 18, 2003

A survivor of the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima now living in the United States filed a lawsuit Wednesday demanding that the mayor revoke the city's denial of a medical allowance because she was living abroad when she applied.

Teruko Morinaka, 71, who was born in the U.S. and has an atomic bomb survivor's health card issued by the city in 2002, requested the allowance through her lawyer in September. She said she was rejected because she was not living in the city when she applied.

Along with Morinaka, Chisato Kuramoto, the widow of a bomb survivor, filed a suit with the Hiroshima District Court, demanding that the mayor revoke a decision not to provide fees for her husband's funeral.

Kuramoto's request was turned down by the city because she and her husband were living in the U.S. at the time of his death in July 2002, she said.

Her husband, Tokuzo, obtained his atomic bomb survivor's card in 2000, according to her claims.

The funeral fees and medical allowances are promised for survivors of the atomic bombing under the Atomic Bomb Victims Relief Law.

Citing similar cases in the past, the two plaintiffs claim they are entitled to receive services promised by the law even if they are living abroad.

In March, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry decided not to distinguish between atomic bomb survivors in Japan and those overseas with regards to medical benefits.

The ministry's decision followed an Osaka High Court ruling last December that a South Korean survivor of the Hiroshima bombing was entitled to receive benefits.

Taiwan hit by Typhoon Kalmaegi
BBC 18 July 2008

At least six people were killed as Typhoon Kalmaegi hit Taiwan, bringing flooding and landslides.

A baby girl and her brother were killed, but their mother survived, after a landslide hit their home in Kaohsiung county, said AP news agency.

Another four more people are feared to have drowned, and six people are missing, reports said.

The storm packed winds of up to 90 km/h (56mph), but has now lost power and has been downgraded to a tropical storm.

It has now turned away from Taiwan, and is forecast to brush the south China coast and veer towards the Korean peninsula.

Kalmaegi delivered up to 112cm (44in) of rain in a 24-hour period, officials said, according to AP.

In Tainan county, water supplies were cut off because of the heavy rain.

Rescuers have been using ladders to help people stuck in their homes and trapped drivers.

Kalmaegi means "seagull" in Korean.

Preventing Disaster: Quake prediction said overemphasized
Japantimes Sept. 1, 1998

In a country with frequent and sometimes devastating earthquakes, it is natural for lay people to want to know when and where the next one is going to hit.

Unfortunately, that desire is probably crying for the moon, according to Robert Geller, an associate professor of geophysics at the University of Tokyo.

"When people talk about earthquake prediction, the popular image they have is that some government agency will issue a warning within the next two or three days that a large earthquake will occur in a particular region, and that you should immediately evacuate the city or stop business," he said in a recent interview at his office. "It would be nice if it were possible, but the outlook for such accurate and reliable prediction is bleak."

The majority of seismologists around the world have reached the consensus that short-term earthquake prediction is inherently impossible. So, Geller's claim is perhaps no surprise for those living in countries where many quake prediction research programs have lost support due to findings that earthquakes are more random than deterministic.

But here in Japan, the public, mass media and government authorities still overestimate the ability of scientists to provide warning of an imminent damaging temblor, said Geller, 46, an expert on seismic wave propagation.

A native of New York, Geller has held his current university post since 1984, when he became one of the first foreign teachers hired on a permanent basis rather than as a guest.

Geller, an outspoken opponent of earthquake prediction, has long criticized the solid faith of a group of seismologists and government officials in the possibility of predicting earthquakes. The earthquake research program, which includes satellite-based monitoring of the earth's crust in the Tokai region, will cost the government nearly 19 billion yen in fiscal 1998 alone.

Seismologists have long predicted a powerful earthquake will hit the Tokai region, including Shizuoka, and that a huge tremor in the region would result in serious damage to the Tokyo metropolitan area.

"The myth of the Tokai earthquake was established in the 1970s on shaky grounds, and ever since then, optimistic views on predicting quakes have swept the country without solid scientific grounds," Geller said, adding that because so much attention has been paid to the Tokai region, people in other places have come to misunderstand that they are safe.

His arguments mostly have been ignored by Japanese seismologists. Since he first criticized the earthquake prediction project due to "his conscience as a scientist" in his article in the scientific journal Nature in 1991, almost no Japanese scientists have published counterarguments in academic papers.

But the attitudes of experts changed, partly due to Geller's efforts and partly because of the Great Hanshin Earthquake, which hit Hyogo and neighboring prefectures -- an area largely overlooked by seismologists.


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