Friday, July 11, 2014

tomato vegetable curry (夏野菜トマトカレー)

This tomato curry dish just recently came out at Matsuya.  I think it's good.  Probably not worth a lot more than what  it costs, but I like it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Japan approves larger military role

Associated Press

TOKYO (AP) — Japan took a step away Tuesday from an American-drafted constitution that has long kept its military shackled, approving a plan to allow greater use of a force that was vanquished at the end of World War II.

In one of the biggest changes to Japanese security policy since the war, the ruling coalition gave approval to reinterpret the constitution on military affairs. It now awaits endorsement — a formality — by the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has made raising the country's military profile a cornerstone of his nationalist policies.

The move will allow the military to defend other nations in what is known as "collective self-defense."

Previous governments have said that Japan's war-renouncing constitution limits the use of force to defending Japan.

Abe, who has pushed hard for the change, cites a deteriorating security environment, notably China's military rise and North Korea's missile and nuclear threats.

About 2,000 opponents of the shift protested outside Abe's office Tuesday morning. They said that any changes to the constitution should be made through a public referendum, not simply a cabinet decision to reinterpret it.
"For 70 years, Japan has kept its peace with its constitution," said 67-year-old protester Toshio Ban. "What are we to do with that stupid man trying to trample over the precious constitution?"

Written under U.S. direction after World War II, the 1947 constitution says the Japanese people "forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation." The clause was crafted to prevent a repeat of Japan's invasion and brutal occupation of wide swaths of Asia.
The ban has been relaxed over the years, starting from an introduction of a "police" force in 1950 amid the Korean War, which became a military dubbed the Self-Defense Force in 1954.

The government does not intend to change the constitution, which has remained unaltered since it came out. But Abe and subsequent governments will now be empowered to authorize greater military engagement under a new interpretation of the constitution.
Opponents say the new policy could open the door for Japan's eventual participation in joint military actions such as the war in Iraq.

Abe and other leaders of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party say Japan will stick to its pacifist pledge. The agreement with junior coalition partner New Komeito includes restrictions on when Japan can exercise collective self-defense.

The U.S., now allied with Japan, supports the move. The change could, for example, allow Japan's navy to protect a U.S. warship from an attack.

Takeshi Iwaya, a lawmaker who chairs a ruling party research commission on security, said Japan has said it won't repeat the mistakes of World War II, but that alone is no longer enough to preserve peace.

"What we are trying to do now is to play a more proactive role in cooperating with regional countries in setting up a framework to protect the peace and stability of the region," he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Buddhist-backed New Komeito initially opposed the change, and Tuesday's agreement came after weeks of negotiations between the two parties.
Associated Press videojournalist Koji Ueda contributed to this story.

Monday, June 30, 2014

'Stop war': Thousands protest in Japan over military expansion law change

Published time: June 30, 2014 18:43
Edited time: June 30, 2014 19:19 


Protesters holding placards shout slogans at a rally against Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to expand Japan's military role in front of Abe's official residence in Tokyo June 30, 2014 (Reuters / Yuya Shino)
Protesters holding placards shout slogans at a rally against Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to expand Japan's military role in front of Abe's official residence in Tokyo June 30, 2014 (Reuters / Yuya Shino)
Thousands gathered outside the Japanese prime minister's office to protest constitutional changes that would expand Japan's military role and allow overseas deployment. It comes one day after a man set himself on fire in protest against a proposed law.

Protest organizers have estimated that 10,000 people – including students, pensioners, and women – attended the rally outside Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office in Tokyo. However, police put the number of participants at “several thousand.”

The demonstration comes on the eve of a cabinet meeting, where lawmakers are expected to endorse a resolution that would expand the use of Japan's military by reforming the constitution. 

Chanting “Don’t destroy the Constitution” and “We absolutely oppose reinterpretation of the Constitution,” as well as “We don’t need the right to collective self-defense,” demonstrators expressed their opposition to what they say is a “historical turning point,” the Japan Times reported. 

A protester holding a placard shouts slogans at a rally against Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to expand Japan's military role as police officers refrain him in front of Abe's official residence in Tokyo June 30, 2014 (Reuters / Yuya Shino)
A protester holding a placard shouts slogans at a rally against Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to expand Japan's military role as police officers refrain him in front of Abe's official residence in Tokyo June 30, 2014 (Reuters / Yuya Shino)

Protesters are angered by the fact that Abe’s government is making changes to the constitution – not by the democratic process of referendum, but by changing the interpretation of it in a Cabinet meeting. 

"Protect the constitution!" the demonstators shouted, according to AP. "Stop war. Stop Abe. Abe quit right now!"
The change will significantly widen Japan's military options, as it will end the ban on "collective self-defense," or aiding a friendly country under attack. 

Protesters holding placards shouts slogans as they gather at a rally against Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to expand Japan's military role while police officers stand guard in front of Abe's official residence in Tokyo June 30, 2014 (Reuters / Issei Kato)
Protesters holding placards shouts slogans as they gather at a rally against Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to expand Japan's military role while police officers stand guard in front of Abe's official residence in Tokyo June 30, 2014 (Reuters / Issei Kato)

Since the end of World War II, the Japanese constitution has forbidden the use of military force against other nations. It may only use its armed forces in self-defense. Japan's military has not engaged in combat since 1945. 

But the prime minister says the change is needed because of regional tensions – particularly China's military expansion, and missile and nuclear threats from North Korea.
The move, however, is opposed by at least half the population, according to the latest polls. 

A recent survey published on Monday by Nikkei Asia Review shows that 50 percent of respondents oppose dropping the ban, while 34 percent support the change. 

In a dramatic act of protest, a middle-aged man set himself on fire on Sunday to express his opposition to the government’s plans to change Japan’s pacifist constitution. 

As the activist finished his speech, he doused himself in what appeared to be gasoline and set himself ablaze in front of hundreds of onlookers. A video showing the protest appeared on YouTube. 

Abe’s cabinet could finalize a resolution as early as Tuesday, as his ruling Liberal Democratic party [LDP] has secured the support of its junior coalition partner, New Komeito, which has a strong pacifist tradition and was previously against the change.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Tokyo man sets himself on fire in protest against Abe


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe listens to a question during the Upper House's audit committee session at the National Diet in Tokyo on June 9, 2014 (AFP Photo/Jiji Press)

A Japanese man set himself on fire in central Tokyo on Sunday after giving a speech opposing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's plan to reform the country's pacifist constitution, police and reports said.

The middle-aged man doused himself in what appeared to be petrol before setting himself alight outside the main train station in Shinjuku, one of Tokyo's busiest shopping and entertainment districts, the Metropolitan Police Department said.

The man was taken to hospital with burns and his condition was not immediately known, police added, without giving further details.

Such incidents are extremely rare in Japan.

The Jiji Press news agency reported that the man, presumed to be in his 50s or 60s, climbed the frame of a pedestrian bridge and spoke through a megaphone for about an hour against Abe's drive to expand the use of Japan's military.

Photos on Twitter showed the man dressed in a dark suit and tie. Two plastic bottles were beside him.
The premier is pushing to reinterpret Japan's strict pacifist constitution to allow its well-equipped armed forces to fight in defence of an ally, something currently prohibited.

Social networks were abuzz with reports and photos about the fire which happened in front of several passers-by.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Japan set for landmark easing of constitutional limits on military

To read article at source, go to

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan is poised for a historic shift in its defense policy by ending a ban that has kept the military from fighting abroad since World War Two, a major step away from post-war pacifism and a big political victory for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The change will significantly widen Japan's military options by ending the ban on exercising "collective self-defense", or aiding a friendly country under attack. It will also relax limits on activities in U.N.-led peace-keeping operations and "grey zone" incidents short of full-scale war, according to a draft government proposal made available to reporters.

For now, however, Japan is likely to remain wary of putting boots on the ground in future multilateral operations such as the 1990-1991 Gulf War or the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, activities Abe himself has ruled out. 

The change will likely rile an increasingly assertive China, whose ties with Japan have chilled due to a maritime row, mutual mistrust and the legacy of Japan's past military aggression, but will be welcomed by Tokyo's ally Washington, which has long urged Japan to become a more equal partner in the alliance.

Abe's cabinet is expected to adopt as early as Tuesday a resolution revising a long-standing interpretation of the U.S.-drafted constitution to lift the ban after his ruling party finalizes an agreement with its junior partner.

Legal revisions to implement the change must be approved by parliament and restrictions could be imposed in the process.

"If this gets through the Japanese political system it would be the most significant change in Japan's defense policy since the Self-Defense Forces were established in 1954," said Alan Dupont, a professor of international security at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

Since its defeat in 1945, Japan's military has not engaged in combat. While successive governments have stretched the limits of the U.S.-drafted pacifist charter not only to allow the existence of a standing military but also to permit non-combat missions abroad, its armed forces are still far more constrained legally than those in other countries.

Conservatives say the charter's war-renouncing Article 9 has excessively restricted Japan's ability to defend itself and that a changing regional power balance including a rising China means Japan's security policies must be more flexible. 

Abe, whose first term as premier ended when he abruptly quit in 2007, returned in triumph in December 2012 pledging to revive Japan's stagnant economy and bolster its global security clout. He has pushed for the change despite surveys showing voters are divided and wary.

"In my view, Japan is finally catching up with the global standard of security," said former Japanese diplomat Kunihiko Miyake. "Japan can now do as every other United Nations member under the U.N. charter."


According to the draft cabinet resolution, Japan could exercise force to the minimum degree necessary in cases where a country with which it has close ties is attacked and the following conditions are met: there is a threat to the existence of the Japanese state, a clear danger exists that the Japanese people's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness could be subverted, and there is no appropriate alternative.

Precisely how the change might work in practice remains unclear. Junior coalition partner New Komeito is stressing that the scope of revision is limited, and Japanese voters are still wary of entanglements in conflicts far from home.

"Symbolically, it is a big step. The fundamental change to post-war Japanese security and defense policies which basically said we would defend ourselves but not help others by using force - philosophically this will be a fundamental change," said Narushige Michishita, a security expert at the National Graduate School for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Tokyo. 

But he added: "The Japanese people are not going to support a significant military commitment of Japan to foreign contingencies and wars, quite apart from how you could interpret the words."

Examples floated by the government of what the change could allow Japan's military to do range from defending a U.S. ship evacuating Japanese nationals and aiding a U.S. ship under attack near Japan to shooting down a ballistic missile headed for U.S. territory and taking part in international mine-sweeping operations when a conflict has closed vital sea lanes.


Some of the scenarios, however, have been dismissed by experts as a public relations exercise to persuade wary voters of the need for the change, rather than realistic possibilities.

Japan might, for example, be too busy coping with North Korean missiles headed for its territory to shoot down ones headed for America, some experts said.

Unforeseen contingencies, meanwhile, could also well arise.

"The idea of identifying specific cases is a red herring, because we never really know," said Richard Samuels, director of the Center for International Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "What we need to know is whether an ally will help us."

The change will make it easier for Japan to take part in bilateral and multilateral military exercises with countries other than the United States, including Southeast Asian nations such as the Philippines that have maritime disputes with China and are welcoming Japan's expanded security role, GRIPS' Michishita said.

"It is not for joint war fighting, but for capacity building. It would be a very difficult step if we were to fight together," Michishita said.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino said after meeting Abe this week that Manila welcomed Japan's more assertive policy.

Critics say revising the interpretation of the constitution will gut pacifist Article 9 and make a mockery of formal amendment procedures, which are politically much tougher.

"Cabinets can change often. If we change the interpretation of the constitution each time the cabinet changes, the stability of law will be fundamentally overturned and we will be unable to exist as a constitutional state," Seiichiro Murakami, a ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker who is a rare, outspoken critic of Abe, told a news conference.

Still, experts say the impact of Article 9 remains strong.

"They are still genuflecting to the constitution," said MIT's Samuels. "I think there is a lot left of Article 9. The Japanese public has made it clear that it is 'not so fast' in getting rid of it."

(Additional reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Minami Funakoshi; Editing by Dean Yates)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Japan’s Women Told to Breed, Not Lead

To read this article at the source, go to

Japan’s Women Told to Breed, Not Lead

The Daily Beast
“Hey idiot, hurry up and get married!”
Japan is up in arms about insensitive and sexist remarks made by male members of The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly (the equivalent of a U.S. State Government Assembly) toward a female representative during her presentation earlier this week. She was speaking on issues of raising children in Japan.

Ayaka Shiomura, a 36-year-old member of the opposition Your Party, called for the Tokyo metropolitan government to support women who need assistance while pregnant or raising children during a June 18 assembly session. She also suggested that the government should help Japanese women who have fertility issues to conceive children.
Japan is wrestling with a declining birth rate and growing elderly population. It has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world.

While she was speaking, men in the section for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) began jeering at her with lines like: “Hey you, should hurry up and get married!” and “Can’t you have babies?”

Shiomura continued to speak even though she had to choke back tears at one point. After the session, Minoru Morozumi, the secretary-general of Your Party’s assembly members, lodged a protest with his LDP counterpart, Osamu Yoshiwara.

Osamu Yoshiwara told the press that he wasn’t in a position to confirm whether or not it was a member of his party who yelled out the comments, but he asked assembly members to behave in a “in a dignified manner.”

It should be noted that this isn’t the first time the leaders of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government have made sexist and inappropriate remarks; it’s almost a tradition. LDP backed Shintaro Ishihara, who was governor of Tokyo from April 1999 to October 2012, remarked circa 2001, “It’s a waste and a crime for women who have lost their reproductive powers to go on living.” (PDF) The current governor of Tokyo, Yoichi Masuzoe, also backed by the LDP, has said in the past such classics as “Women are not normal when they are on their period. They are abnormal. You can’t possibly let them make critical decisions about the country [during their periods], such as whether or not to go to war.” He also has commented that women elected to office were “all a bunch of old middle-aged hags.”

The incident might have passed quietly but what began as a protest about inappropriate behavior by Tokyo Assembly members quickly grew into a roaring wave of resentment and anger from women all over Japan—and some men as well.

A online petition, which calls for punishment of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly  members who hurled those sexist comments, gathered more than 32, 000 signatures throughout Japan in under 24 hours.  The petition was posted on, a website which provides a platform for citizens to gather signatures and support for popular causes. The number of signatures is expected to exceed in 60,000 in the next day.

The jeers were also disturbing in that they seemed to echo the sentiments of the 10 Precepts for Marriage issued by the Ministry of Health and Welfare in 1939 during the period of military rule in Japan. The guidelines concluded with the infamous line:  For the sake of the country, give birth and grow the population.

The petition is the fastest-growing campaign ever placed on Japan, according to Emmy Suzuki Harris, Campaigns Director for Japan at

Surprisingly the creator of the petition is a man. He corresponded with The Daily Beast on conditions of anonymity. He feels that the signatures are not enough.

“We should know why something that the citizens cannot really forgive happened. However, to see people in other regions showing the same anger at what happened touched and reassured me.”

“I’m deeply angry not only as an individual, but as a male. Because pressure and discrimination against women reflects badly on men as well.”
“These sort of taunts fly around and there are assembly members who laugh in an assembly where members who say ‘we’ll promote the social advancement of women!’ or ‘we’ll work firmly toward providing child care support!’ gather,” Shun Otokita, a colleague of Shimomura’s wrote on his blog. “This is the reality of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly in the capital of our country.”

The Mainichi Shimbun reported that Yoshiwara said that he hadn’t heard the comments and suggested, “Perhaps each assembly faction makes sure its members don’t make rude comments.” The Daily Beast called the LDP faction for comments on the incident, but our reporter was disconnected twice and then told to call the public affairs office of the General Assembly.

Shiomura wrote on Twitter “ I was debating about pregnancy, giving birth, and infertility when the jeering began….As a woman there were very regrettable things said. The heartless taunts made me teary-eyed. I will take taunts about my policies, but I don’t think these are things you should say to women who are suffering (over child raising issues).”

Japan is  very far behind the rest of the developed world in terms of gender equality. Japan was ranked 105th last year in the 2013 Global Gender Gap Report, which  ranks women’s equality in 136 countries. Under the Shinzo Abe (LDP) administration, Japan’s ranking in press freedom has also fallen to new lows. 

Shiomura is reportedly going to seek punishment for the person who yelled the comments at her. Judging by the huge numbers of people signing the petition and that her protest tweet has now been retweeted nearly 30,000 times—-she may have a lot of support.

On Friday, the organizers of the petition when to the assembly's council secretariat bearing a box filled with 42,580 signatures and 6,390 comments from supporters. The group demanded that the LDP punish the person responsible for the remarks by June 25. If this is not done, "The Tokyo branch of the LDP would be widely recognized at home and abroad as a group that accepts discrimination against women," wrote the petition's organizer on the webpage.

Prime Minister Abe, the most powerful person in the LDP, who has made anemic but sincere proclamations to promote gender equality may find himself in a position where he has to support an opposition party member and slap down his own rank and file. 

Related from The Daily Beast


Thursday, June 19, 2014

"Japan's 'Patriotic Wives': praise for Abe, censure for China, South Korea"

Japan's 'Patriotic Wives': praise for Abe, censure for China, South Korea


File photo of Japan's PM Abe being led by a Shinto priest as he visits Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) is led by a Shinto priest as he visits Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo …
By Linda Sieg

TOKYO (Reuters) - One by one, women take the microphone near a crowded crossing in a popular Tokyo shopping district on a hot and humid weekday, denouncing Japan's pacifist constitution, blasting China's "recklessness" and mocking the South Korean flag.

"The Japanese constitution that cannot protect our children's future is more dangerous than nuclear power," said a banner held by members of self-styled patriotic women's group Hanadokei, which sponsored the event.

Angered by demands from China and South Korea that Japan apologize again for wartime misdeeds and mistrustful of mainstream media and politicians, ultra-conservative Japanese housewives, mums and working women are speaking out.

One of the few leaders to win their praise is Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Conversations with members of Hanadokei and another group, Soyokaze, offer a window into the mindset of ultra-conservatives who back Abe's push to revise Japan's post-war constitution and recast the country's past with a less apologetic tone.
"In the past, Japanese people stayed silent no matter what," Machiko Fuji, Hanadokei's deputy head, told Reuters as she and her colleagues later grabbed lunch.

"But after others kept telling us over and over that we are wrong ... we have passed the limit of our endurance."

Like U.S. Tea Party activists, the women use the Internet to share information, link up with followers and proselytize.

While their numbers are small, their views - which echo those of larger male-dominated nationalist groups - could at the margins affect policies from diplomacy to immigration, although Abe faces pressure to appeal to a broader base.

"They are still small groups, but their impact might be bigger than their size because they seem to resonate with average Japanese feelings to an extent," said Mari Miura, a political science professor at Sophia University in Tokyo.

While Abe wins kudos, the women are disappointed at what they see as his bowing to diplomatic pressure on some issues. And they are less pleased with his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

"Even inside the LDP there are people who want to denigrate Japan and are acting on behalf of the interests of China and South Korea," said Hanadokei leader Makiko Oka. "I support Abe, but I can't really support the LDP."

Hanadokei, which literally means "Flower Clock", and Soyokaze, or "Gentle Breeze", trace their origins to the advent of the centrist Democratic Party of Japan government that ousted the dominant conservative LDP in 2009. 

Many members were galvanized by fears the DPJ would give foreign residents the right to vote and legislate the rights of spouses to keep separate family names after marriage, both anathema to ultra-conservatives.
Soyokaze, with some 500 members nationwide, was founded in 2009 and Hanadokei, which boasts about 840 members including 300 men, sprang up in the following year.

Soyokaze's members tend to be older than those of Hanadokei, many of whom are in their 30s. Both groups include housewives and working women.

High on their agenda is a campaign to revoke a 1993 apology by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono acknowledging the involvement of authorities in coercing women, many Korean, to work in military brothels before and during World War Two.

"Did Japan's wartime heroes make Korean women sex slaves? This is a huge lie," a Soyokaze member said through a microphone one Sunday near Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine for war dead, as members urged passersby to sign a petition to revoke the apology.

South Korea and China say Japan has not sufficiently atoned for the suffering of the "comfort women", as they are euphemistically known in Japan. 

Many Japanese conservatives say there is no proof of direct government involvement in coercing the women - a stance adopted under Abe's first 2006-2007 administration - and that other countries also exploited women in wartime.

Persistent criticism of Japan by China and South Korea has angered the ultra-conservative women, as well as irritated more moderate Japanese. "Why should Japan keep being singled out?" Soyokaze member Harue Sato asked Reuters in an interview.

Abe has questioned the Kono Statement in the past and in what many saw as a nod to his conservative base, the government is reviewing it. But mindful of potential diplomatic fallout, Abe has said he would not revise it.
Anger at Seoul's demands spilled over into demonstrations last year in a Tokyo district home to many Korean restaurants and shops, in which some protesters called Koreans "cockroaches" and shouted "kill Koreans". Several members of the women's groups said they took part.

Central to the tenets of the nationalist women's groups is a belief that mainstream Japanese media are biased toward the left and report lies and distortions - the reverse of liberal criticism that media are too eager to toe the government line.

"I realized that pro-Japanese media were very few," said one 54-year-old Hanadokei member. "It's the same in politics. There are lots of pro-China politicians and lots of pro-America politicians, but very few pro-Japan politicians."

Like many other right-wing groups, the women's organizations want Abe to regularly visit Yasukuni Shrine, seen by critics as a symbol of past militarism because Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal are honored there along with war dead. 

Abe paid his respects at the shrine last December, sparking criticism from China and South Korea, where memories of Japan's occupation and colonization persist, and an expression of "disappointment" from Washington.

He has declined to say if he will go again.

While Abe doesn't get a perfect score from the nationalist women, his return to power 18 months ago has given them hope that their views are shared by a silent majority. 

"They are a minority but since Abe took office, they are supported by an atmosphere that makes them feel they are the majority," said Minori Kitahara, a feminist author who has written a book about the groups called "Patriotic Wives".
(Editing by Dean Yates)