Click here to go to Day 1 of the 2012 Japan Election Diary.
"We'll be over our target in 10 minutes, kick back and enjoy the music."
The pilot's hachimaki bandanna fluttered in the ice-cold cockpit.
It was noisy as hell and I was too keyed up, sitting in the rear-gunner's seat, to pay much attention to the music. But sure enough I could make out a tinny Glenn Miller number. The Japanese pilots knew they were getting close to Pearl Harbor when they could hear Chattanooga Choo Choo.
So the pilot told me, but our target today was the Arkansas State Capitol. We circled it a couple of times as if to strafe it, and dived with the sun behind us.
I was sitting in the back of a VAL dive-bomber of the same ilk that had struck on that infamous day. Although whether it was a replica or the real thing I don't recall now. During the week my pilot was a DHL pilot based in Memphis, Tennessee. But at the weekends, he would fly with the Tora Tora Tora air display team re-enacting battles for folks at air shows around America. Though naturally, in their retelling of Pearl Harbor, the US won the day, with a P-51 Mustang chasing the Zeroes out of the sky.
Well, you have to play to your audience.
"How come you get all the good assignments?" my editor said after I got back to the office. That was a joke. Excluding the editor, The Jacksonville Patriot had a news staff of one (me) and a girl who worked three mornings a week, so I pretty much got all the assignments. It was my second paper. I'd quit the Conway Log Cabin Democrat after two years, tired of being thought of the weird foreign guy only good for doing the weather reports, obits and fetching biscuits and gravy for the real journos. Now, I was covering the Little Rock Air Force Base, an Agent Orange incineration plant, not to mention all the Rotary and Lions Club International lunches you could shake a press pass at.
The editor was a pretty good fella, despite being a born-again Christian. But we did have our differences.
He was adamant Paul was better than John. His argument was that if you compared their solo careers, any reasonable man would agree.
"Wings was so much better than the Plastic Ono Band."
"That's not Lennon's fault."
"What about Live and Let Die? Band on the Run?"
"What about Working Class Hero? Imagine?"
"Two words: Revolution No. 9"
"That's three. Two words for you: Frog Chorus."
And so on and so forth, a battle neither side could win. Or risk losing.
The war is still casting a shadow over Japan. It would be nice to think that this election the country could finally put the damn thing to rest, but every would-be PM has his position informed by nationalist agendas.
Ishihara's is the clearest. He told John Nathan in a New Yorker article on the origins of his nationalism: “The Americans could see that we were kids, but they would strafe us anyway, for fun. One day I had to throw myself into a barley field. As I lay there, the Grummans and P-51s came roaring over me, flying low, and I could see that they had pictures of naked women and Mickey Mouse painted on the fuselage. I couldn't believe my eyes! I was scared to death, and angry but I was also thinking what a place America must be, what a culture, and how different from Japan. Then I heard other planes but no machine guns this time; they were Zeros in pursuit, and their insignia was the Japanese flag. I felt like reaching up to embrace that rising sun.”
He denies the Rape of Nanking: ”People say that the Japanese made a holocaust but that is not true. It is a story made up by the Chinese. It has tarnished the image of Japan, but it is a lie.”
Young Hashimoto, Ishihara's understudy, is compared to Hitler by his detractors, but apart from insisting Osaka teachers stand for the national anthem and claiming the South Korean sex slaves were willing participants, the jury is still out.
Abe too has difficulty admitting that the Japanese army made use of Korean sex slaves and has difficulty in believing that "Class A" war criminals (the diplomats and generals who sent Japan to war) are in fact criminals. By the way, his grandfather was a Tojo cabinet member. Just sayin'
That leaves Noda. He too believes the Class A War Criminals are not criminals. I don't know what his views on sex slaves or the Rape of Nanking are, I daren't ask.
I have to admit that my knowledge of the Rape of Nanking, Class A war criminals and Korean sex slaves is sketchy at best. I do note that the war crime trials were hardly impartial and suffered from two massive faults: that their intention was to shift the blame from the imperial family, whom MacArthur wanted to keep clean to help with Pax Americana; and that they had nothing to say about Allied crimes against humanity, you know, Hiroshima? Nagasaki?
But even so. Call Our Man an ignoramus, but he still doesn't get why it is easier for pols to construct elaborate lies than just admit the truth. Can't the politicians just say: "Our ancestors did bad things, under direction of our government of the day, and we cannot hope to hold our heads up high in the world without fear of moral blackmail until we admit that to ourselves. We fucked up, but you can trust us now to never do that again because we have learnt the lessons of our past."
I showed Our Woman my pictures of the men who would be prime minister and she smiled absently.
"Well, what do you think?"
"I think they should all be playing shogi in a park somewhere, not trying to run the country. They are Japanese from a different time. Is this the best Japan can offer? If it is then I'm sorry for Japan. Really sorry."
This blog series
is now a great
Cleaned up and
Guts Pose: Diary of a
features a previously
by me and foreword
by Michael Cucek.
You can buy it here.
Go to DAY 11