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Socotra House Publishing: Purveyor of Glib Words to the World

Socotra House Publishing is a small press dedicated to publishing and distributing the historical works of Vic Socotra, a non-mortal fellow who captures American and military history with aplomb.

Sunday, With Buzzards


It was a slow and slightly disassociated weekend. I am still feeling like crap, kind of a low-grade motion sickness, and can’t tell if it is an effect of an over-ambitious social schedule or delayed reaction to the cautiously good news about the state of my general health.

I came down to the farm after organizing more than a hundred photos of the 50th Anniversary Naval Intelligence Dining In at Fort Myer on Friday night. I remember my misspent middle years when those events cascaded into a late night on the town in formal garb, but that is no longer the case.


I am apparently not alone. I got notes from two highly recognizable former Intelligence Community seniors- you would recognize them if I used their names- who said they liked looking at the pictures of the event, but conceded that it was for the active-duty crowd and they felt a little weird attending with all gold braid on display.

I think I agree, but we can worry about that next year. If the tuxedo still fits, that is. That was the good news about this year- the last thing you need the afternoon preceding a black-tie event is whether the closet gremlins have magically shrunk the formal garb. I am looking forward to a tux-free life-style beckoning in the middle distance.

Which is just where Edgar passed the sunny fall day, in the space between the barnyard and the back pastures at the farm. Naturally, I had patrolled the grounds on arrival and was pleased that none of the four Buzzards who have (illegally and without documentation) set up shop on the property.

I was cautiously optimistic that they had decamped for warmer climes, but with the rising dawn I discovered that fifty percent of the buzzard fleet was very much with me, two of them being perched on the fence that separates the pastures from the farmyard.

I poured some rich Russian-blend Dazbog-brand coffee and ladled some honey produced next door and went out on the back deck to utter an appeal to reason.

“Listen up, Avian-Americans,” I shouted, rapping the handle of the big industrial broom on the railing. “You are not documented, and the cost of hosting you is not in the budget. Hence, I must request resolutely that you collect your belongings and get out. Shoo!”

I was moderately pleased that one of them reacted to my entreaty, and did that odd rotation of the neck by which they scan for their daily diet of road-kill and fixed me with a beady salubrious gaze. I am getting familiar enough with them that I suspected that one was Edwina, and she was obviously not impressed with my reading to her of the raptor riot act.


Dismissively, she turned her head skyward, extended her magnificent wings and leapt into the air from her perch on the top rail of the fence.

I have to tell you that the sound of powerful sweeping motion of her wings as she rose was impressive and clearly audible from my own perch. She arced in a graceful path to one of the Loblolly pines that divides Refuge Farm from the Dacha next door and glared at me with reproof.

Then I spent most of the day on the couch, watching football and looking at Edgar through the glass of the back door. He remained resolutely perched on the same fence post most of Sunday. I wonder if he is OK?

By cocktail hour, I discovered that he had relocated to points unknown. I have no idea where the Buzzards take their respite for the Hour of Happiness, or even if they do. Given their mournful visage and close association with recently departed wildlife, perhaps that is not one of their traditions.

I decided that the opportunity to do anything constructive that day had passed- aside from watching the Lions beat the Redskins- and I could pour a drink and go back to waiting for the election to be over. The whole riotous affray strikes me as being about as much fun as listening to someone drag their fingernails down a blackboard.

Of course, no-one who is actually going to pay for our Social Security actually knows what blackboards are anymore, so maybe this is self-correcting problem.

I know that the Buzzards are not. Accordingly, I sipped and planned my next steps in the battle of the Birds. I decided to take the campaign up a notch, from sweet reason, assorted whistles and banging on metal pots to something higher up the electromagnetic spectrum.

Once the sun was well and truly down, I played with the external lighting on the farm. There are a number of external lights that I rarely use, preferring to conserve energy and minimize the lights that advertise I am home. I alternated between illuminating the mercury vapor security light, the Gnome with the lantern on the porch, the deck lights and the floods attached to the barn itself.

If I managed to confuse Edgar as much as I did myself, it might have worked. I was still here in the morning and he wasn’t. I will keep you posted. I would hate to have to escalate this minor territorial dispute into playing really loud heavy-metal music. This is terra incognita, this epic Battle with the Buzzards.

Hell, for all I know, Turkey Buzzards might like tunes and their own private light show.

More on that sensitive topic from Up North in Blue Arlington tomorrow where things are starting to get interesting.

Copyright 2016 Vic Socotra

Arias on Politics: Alienable Rights

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – Preamble to the Declaration of Independence

It’s time to choose. Despite all the noise, the choice between the two major candidates can be reduced to a discussion about the Constitution. And that Constitutional discussion can be further distilled down to one issue: abortion. This is true whether you’re a conservative Christian, a liberal atheist, or anything in between.

But this isn’t “simply” an issue of reproductive rights; this is more fundamental than that; the issue is where our rights come from.
Prior to Roe v. Wade (1973) William F. Buckley devoted an issue of his magazine to the implications of a Supreme Court decision supporting abortion. One author (I don’t remember who) suggested a pro-abortion decision would lead to euthanasia for the terminally ill, assisted suicide for the depressed, government healthcare plans that prioritized treatment based on costs, abortions for children with birth defects and later for those with complicated healthcare issues, tailored ‘reproduction’ where children would only be “allowed to live” if they were “just right,” etc.

These suggestions were derided as ridiculous. One generation later virtually all of it is true someplace, and may soon be true in the US.

Mrs. Clinton, and Democratic Party leadership, believes in an unlimited right to abortion. And, whenever the issue of any restrictions on abortions has surfaced, she and her peers have vehemently opposed it. Their ardor in defense of abortion rights translates into defense of the authority to define when life begins. And ultimately when it ends. Such an authority expands from there: to support state controlled termination of life support for the ill (even as they argue for state controlled healthcare), is to assert that the state defines not only when life begins and ends, but what quality of life is acceptable, and what isn’t.

But, if the state defines when life begins – which is the very essence of the abortion “right” – and what life is worthwhile (and what life isn’t) and can define when and how life ends, then the state fully controls our first right, the key right of all those derived from God (or nature if you prefer). The unbounded “right” to abortion thus requires supplanting God with the state.

But, when the state defines life, and death, your right to life is no longer absolute. In fact, it becomes contingent on the decisions of the state. Life is no longer “unalienable,” no longer “endowed by our creator.” Rather, it is conditional, and derived from the state. And if government controls our right to life, then all lesser rights – and all rights are lesser than life – are controlled, derived from the state; our rights are nothing but ‘grants’ given to us by benign dictators.

And then the rights protected by the Constitution and Bill of Rights will no longer come from God (or nature); they will come from, and be defined by, government.

The 58 million abortions in the US since 1973 (1.5 billion worldwide) is, if you believe in the soul, a horror of incalculable dimensions. But it might lead to even greater horror. The pieces are already in place; what is happening elsewhere will happen here, beginning slowly, assuming a progressive justice is appointed to the Supreme Court: first, Catholic hospitals will be ordered to perform abortions. Then what? Assisted suicide? Euthanasia? Termination of medical support to ‘ease suffering’ and ‘ending the burden on loved-ones?’ It’s begun in Europe. Perhaps the “right to abortion” will grow and change, until only those deemed worthy by the state will be allowed to give birth. The doors will be wide open, limited only by the imaginations of bureaucrats and academicians.

Progressives will protest this is nonsense, as they did 43 years ago. They were wrong then, they are wrong now.

This election will select a president who’ll either strengthen government’s hold on our rights, or one who’ll defend the premise that rights derive not from the ruling elite, but come from outside us, from God. Mrs. Clinton has firmly stated her position on the side of abortion and government oversight of rights. Mr. Trump, for all his weaknesses, has promised to defend our rights. That is the choice we face.

Dining In


I looked over at the time-hack on the menu bar to the computer and decided it was about time to get organized. I pulled the two tuxedos out of the closet and checked which jacket seemed to fit better, put the other one away, and looked at the single miniature military medal I would wear on the civilian for the white pleated dress shirt with the bigger neck, and organized a square search for the four little studs that fit into the buttonholes on the placket, rummaged in the bag of bow-ties for a plain black formal model, and looked at the cummerbunds- the plain black one seemed to fit my mood better than the one with the hot chili peppers.

Once I was relatively confident that there were no show-stoppers in the wardrobe, I thought a bit about the event to come. There have been fifty of this dinners, commencing in the mid-1960s as the Office of Naval Intelligence sought to institute some new traditions that came along with integrating the Air Intelligence officers from the line aviation community to the land of the Spooks.

There was a war on, at the time, and the powers that be decided that the grand old tradition of a formal wardroom dinner of roast beef and formal toasting would be just the trick to raise morale and encourage esprit de corps. The Director of Naval Intelligence was president of the mess, and he ruled the dining room of one of the Officer’s Clubs through his dedicated master of ceremonies, Mr. Vice President, normally a junior officer dragooned for his services to keep the program rolling along. Known with crisp military efficiency as Mr. Vice, it was widely known that inept conduct from the podium could have significant impact on career viability.

I take it personally, since I was dragged into organizing the annual Dining In from my position as the JO assignment officer at the Bureau of Personnel. It was a ritual of passage in the little office, moving from the new person who knew nothing about how Washington worked to the wily veteran who could convince young officers that a tour in-country in Korea was just the right thing to do.

Along with the organizing and selection of venues came the delight of ordering the favors- in those days, wine glasses etched with the year of the Dining In- and serving as Mr. Vice.

Like many military traditions, the Dining-In grew some, with Mr. Vice being graded by his peers and seniors for his wit and ability to control the Mess to the satisfaction of the President, and of course to whomever had been convinced to share their thoughts on the state of affairs in the Navy’s intelligence corps.

My year- 1986- came off pretty well. I had picked Fort McNair’s Officer Club, conveniently located across from the tennis court where the Lincoln assassins where hanged by the necks until dead. The club had not told me they were going to be painting the facility, and the place reeked of oil-based paint. But it all came off just fine. I forget who the President was- it might have been Bill Studeman or Ted Shaefer- but the problem was that they liked the tempo and the jokes and gags from my place as Mr. Vice, and it turned into an additional duty as assigned.


They were kind enough to not make me do all the logistics- that was left with the Assignments Office, but I wound up as Mr. Vice in all the grades in which I served- including LCDR, CDR, CAPT and eventually as a retired old civilian fart. I think there were nine of them, though I can’t remember with any precision, and finally DNI Tony Cothron set me free with a little certificate that stated I was henceforth freed from that particular military duty.

Now, the only obligation is to keep a list of shipmates who had passed on since the last mess night. It was a relief, but as you can imagine, when I walked into the Fort Myer O Club last Friday, all the memories came rushing back like the wet kiss at the end of a hot fist.

When I was married, the first question that came up when I returned home (no spouses are permitted at these events) was: “Do you still have a career?”

It was a perfectly reasonable question, since the senior officers watched the juniors like hawks, and the culmination of the evening was for all the officers to travel to old town, to Murphy’s Irish Pub, and put on the dog in our mess dress jackets, gold cummerbunds, gold stripes of rank, and thickets of miniature medals.

Retired folks are entitled to wear the formal uniform, if they wish, but most of us old hard corps types dug deep and bought civilian formal rig.

Anyway, there has been a lot going on in the Navy and Naval intelligence in particular. The crowd at Langley stole the term “DNI,” making it “Director of National Intelligence.” Naturally that was an affront, but nothing like the drive to mash all the “information” communities (Communications, intelligence, Cryptology, Meterology) together into one designator called “Information Warfare.”

You can imagine that was just as exciting as the elimination of Ratings for the enlisted troops. Now we just have sailors, Petty Officers and the three flavors of Chiefs. Maybe this will all work- but there are some traditions that won’t die, and those are of the Dining In.

We start with drinks, of course, though many prefer to stick with beer or wine. After about an hour of cocktails, the mess is assembled and directed to take their places in the dining room. The head table is lined up behind the Piper, who leads them in to the strains of bagpipes. We had a distinguished older man who did most of the Dining Ins, and even Mac Shower’s funeral a Arlington, but this year a serious young woman was leading the parade. Once the head table is seated, the President makes some administrative remarks, and Mr. Vice is directed to have the beef paraded in with one of the chefs following behind the piper to have the main course of the meal approved as suitable for human consumption.

Some junior officers are directed to mix the grog, a foul and potent mixture of hard liquor, fruit juice and assorted undetermined ingredients. The point of this being to provide comic relief and punishment for infractions of mess decorum. This was optional, back in the day, since the idea of fun was anathema to some of the senior leadership, and they went out of their way to schedule the Dining In on Thursday nights to discourage staying too late at Murphy’s once the kids were free of the seniors. Eventually cooler heads prevailed, and the dinner was moved to Friday nights, and no one got in much trouble.

Well, except for the night a crusty Fleet LCDR decided to carve his own way to Route 50 from the base by driving his car through the ornamental wrought iron fence.


I am embarrassed that I did not know a couple of the Flag Officers at the head table. I presumed there was a RADM Cryppie, and Lynn Wright was there in her role as Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence. As the senior intelligence officer present, Bob Sharp was President, flanked by Brett Heimbigner. An admiral with the White House Staff ID sat next to Brett, and the Honored Guest was the new three-star DNI- VADM Jan Tighe. I was pleased that she made the effort to honor the tradition, and when she gave them, her remarks were both entertaining and approachable. It was an honor to chat with her during cocktails.

There is, of course, a lot of inside-baseball Navy stuff going on, and it is a relief to not have to concentrate on any of that any more.

Last year, I did the Jimmy Olsen Cub Reporter thing for the Naval Intelligence Professionals and documented the rituals before stealing out before the speeches and formal toasting, which range from honoring the President, Chief of Naval Operations, our ships at sea and the United States of America.

Naturally, the amount of entertainment varies. If you have ever seen a Focs’sel Follies show at the end of a line period of deployment, you get the sophisticated nautical humor I am describing.

It was light, Bob Sharp and Mr. Vice had light touches, Admiral Tighe was gracious and the kids managed not to throw too many of the dinner rolls at other offenders. Bob closed the mess, which is the official signal that everyone is off the leash to do whatever mischief that comes to mind.

It is sad commentary on my part that I had no interest whatsoever in going clubbing, and slipped out to drive home, where no one asked how my career was doing. But I want to say this: the traditions were upheld, the piper was great, the beef edible, and the skits were great fun. If pressed, I would have to say that the 50th iteration of the Naval Intelligence Dining In might just have been the best one.

It is good to see some traditions weather the storms of change. Just so long as they don’t ask me to do it again!

Copyright 2016 Vic Socotra

This Just In- From Japan!

This just in from an Old Japan Hand…. new special feature of the NIP on-line presence. We think it will be a useful connection to the Kanto Plain and the Tokyo-wan that many of us called home at one time, however briefly.

This Old Japan Hand has a made a career of interpreting two amazing cultures together. Without further ado, this inaugural issue about all things Japanese:

“This Just In- From Japan!”


Year: 28th of Heisei Emperor

Month: 10 神無月 “KANNA TSUKI” ( Month of no gods )
Solar Period: 08-23 October, 霜降 “SO-KO” ( Frost Falls )

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== Four Kanji Proverb: 手前味噌 —- Character meanings: Hand + In front of + Soy-bean paste —- “TE-MAE MISO” —- Being overly proud of soybean paste made by one’s own hand … “Blowing one’s own horn — Self-praise is no recommendation”

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Increase efficiency!
Less people, doubling of duties
On organization chart

From: Dai-ichi Life Insurance web-page

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== (1): The Japanese government has started considering postponing to November or later a decision on whether to assign new tasks to Ground Self-Defense Force troops in a U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, it was learned Wednesday (12 OCT). The new duties include coming to rescue foreign troops and others such as U.N. staff working in locations different from areas of Self-Defense Forces activities in the same U.N. mission if they come under armed attack. The government now sees a need to carefully assess the security situation in the African country before making the decision, informed sources said. The expected postponement also seems to be aimed at avoiding gridlock in deliberations on the ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact and related bills at the Diet, Japan’s parliament. A team of about 350 GSDF troops is now engaged in engineering work as part of the U.N. Mission in South Sudan, or UNMISS, while the GSDF’s participation in the mission is scheduled to end on Oct. 31. The government initially planned to take decisions by the end of this month on whether to extend the participation in UNMISS and assign the new tasks to the GSDF, at the time of the planned dispatch of a new GSDF unit to replace the current team on the ground. (Jiji Press)

== (2): Nearly 60 pct of Japanese voters oppose the idea of extending the maximum period for the presidency of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, a Jiji Press opinion poll showed Friday (14 OCT). Of the total respondents, 58.7 pct backed the existing limit of two consecutive three-year terms, while some 30 pct supported a possible extension. The October survey also found that public support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet stood at 49.4 pct, down 1.6 percentage points from the previous month, while disapproval rose 2.1 points to 30.0 pct. Regarding the presidency extension, the survey highlighted a gap between voters and the LDP, which is considering extending the maximum period to three consecutive terms totaling nine years or scrapping the limit altogether. LDP supporters were nearly evenly divided, with 47.1 pct favoring the status quo and 48.2 pct backing an extension. (Jiji Press)

== (3): Flames have been spotted at two Chinese offshore platforms near the Japan-China median line in the East China Sea, signaling operations are under way there, the Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday (12 OCT). China is developing gas fields in the region. The discovery puts the total number of Chinese offshore platforms where flames have been observed at 12. China has 16 platforms in the area. The ministry uploaded to its website aerial photos of the facilities taken earlier this month by the Maritime Self-Defense Force. Kenji Kanasugi, director general of the ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, protested to the Chinese Embassy in Japan, saying, “China unilaterally proceeding with development is extremely regrettable at a time when demarcation on the sea between the two countries is yet to be finalized.” Flames were confirmed at what the Japanese government calls the 11th and 12th platforms. Construction on the foundations of these facilities was revealed in 2015. They are located on the Chinese side about 60 kilometers from the median line. The installation of a radar at the 12th platform has also been confirmed for the first time. (Yomiuri Shimbun)

== (4): Russia apparently aims to settle its territorial row with Japan by returning only two of four disputed northwestern Pacific islands based on a joint declaration signed 60 years ago. The declaration calls for returning the Habomai group of islets and Shikotan to Japan after the two countries conclude a peace treaty to formally end their World War II hostilities. Russian President Vladimir Putin has been putting particular importance to the declaration in his approach to Japan, describing it as the only document that has been signed and ratified by the two countries. Then Japanese Prime Minister Ichiro Hatoyama and his Soviet counterpart, Nikolai Bulganin, signed the declaration in Moscow on Oct. 19, 1956, to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries following their wartime hostilities. Hatoyama and other Japanese delegates used the foreign ministry guesthouse in Moscow as their base for negotiations with the Soviet Union. (Jiji Press)

== (5): Japan as a whole may be attracting record numbers of foreign tourists, but a report by McKinsey & Co. indicates that the four major historical regions of Nara, Kamakura, Nikko and Ise Shrine are almost unknown among Western tourists. The consultancy’s Japan office surveyed over 3,000 visitors from Western countries on how aware they were of 36 tourist attractions, most of which are listed in major travel guides that cater to both wealthy older Western tourists and their younger counterparts who travel more cheaply. Only 9 percent of those surveyed said they were aware of Kamakura’s attractions in Kanagawa Prefecture, such as the Great Buddha, while 7 percent said they knew of Nara Prefecture’s attractions like Todaiji Temple. Five percent said they had heard of tourism assets in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, such as Toshogu Shrine, and only 3 percent had heard of Mie Prefecture’s assets like Ise Shrine. However, when those surveyed were given explanations on the attractions in the four areas, 42 percent then said they found Kamakura attractive and worth visiting, while 38 percent replied the same for Nara, 36 percent for Nikko and 34 percent for Ise Shrine. (NewsOnJapan.com)

== (6): A Japanese woman believed to have been kidnapped by North Korea decades ago has been admitted to a Red Cross hospital in the capital Pyongyang, a support group for relatives of South Korean abductees revealed Saturday (15 OCT). Kyoko Matsumoto is possibly suffering from severe vision impairment and complications arising from gout, according to the head of the support group, Choi Seong Ryong, citing a source versed in the situation in Pyongyang. Details of her life in North Korea since her abduction were also revealed. Matsumoto, from Yonago, Tottori Prefecture, was 29 at the time of her disappearance in 1977. According to Choi, the State Security Department, the North’s secret police organization, is supervising Matsumoto’s affairs. In July 2013, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service released an analysis that said Matsumoto was in 2011 relocated from the northeastern city of Chongjin, where she had lived for several years, to the North Korean capital. Matsumoto went missing after leaving home in Yonago on the Sea of Japan coast on the night of Oct. 21, 1977. In 2006, the Japanese government added her to its official list of abductees, but Pyongyang has said she never entered North Korea. (Mainichi Shimbun)

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[1] Japan to expand Djibouti military base to counter Chinese influence

(JapanToday.com/Reuters; by Nobuhiro Kubo; October 14, 2016)

Link: https://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/japan-to-expand-djibouti-military-base-to-counter-chinese-influence

Japan to expand Djibouti military base to counter Chinese influence
Japan will lease additional land next year to expand a military base in Djibouti, eastern Africa, as a counterweight to…

TOKYO – Japan will lease additional land next year to expand a military base in Djibouti, eastern Africa, as a counterweight to what it sees as growing Chinese influence in the region, three Japanese government sources said.

China is seeking closer ties with African nations that could help it gain access to natural resources and provide new markets. Beijing said late last year it would pump $60 billion into development projects on the continent, cancel some debt and help boost agriculture.

Earlier this year, Japan also pledged to increase its support to infrastructure, education and healthcare projects in Africa, committing an extra $30 billion in public and private support.

“China is putting money into new infrastructure and raising its presence in Djibouti, and it is necessary for Japan gain more influence,” said one of the sources, with knowledge of the plan.

China in February began construction in Djibouti of its first overseas military facility, a coastal logistics base that will resupply naval vessels taking part in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions.

Djibouti, which is about the size of Wales, is strategically located at the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal. The tiny, barren nation sandwiched between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, also hosts U.S. and French bases.

Since 2011, a Japanese Self Defense Force contingent of 180 troops has occupied a 12-hectare site in Djibouti, next to Camp Lemonnier, the U.S. base at the country’s international airport.

From there, the SDF have operated maritime patrol aircraft as part of an international force, including China, that hunts pirates in the seas of the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia.

A Japanese Defense Ministry spokesman confirmed discussions were taking place.

“In addition to the land Japan has borrowed, it is considering leasing the neighboring land to its east,” the spokesman said in response to a Reuters query. “Japan is now in negotiations with Djibouti government.”

Asked about the plans, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Japan’s military and security policies had garnered attention in Asia for historical reasons.

“We hope Japan can draw lessons from history, conform with the times, and truly follow the path of peaceful development,” Geng told a daily news briefing in Beijing.

Japan is considering deploying C-130 transport aircraft, Bushmaster armoured vehicles and extra personnel to the base but has not yet decided on how many, the sources said.

The size of the extra leased land would be smaller than the existing base and was expected to cost around $1 million a year, they added.

Tokyo will justify the expansion of personnel and aircraft in the Horn of Africa by pointing to a need to have aircraft there to evacuate Japanese citizens from nearby trouble spots or areas hit by natural disasters, the sources said.

Minister of Defence Tomomi Inada travelled to Djibouti in August, where she said Tokyo was considering expanding the “function” of the Japanese base. She didn’t, however, indicate that new land would be added.

A month earlier Japan sent three C-130 aircraft from Japan to stand by in Djibouti for the evacuation of Japanese citizens trapped by fighting in South Sudan’s capital, Juba.

The mission, only the second ever undertaken by SDF transport aircraft, showed the increasing ability of Japan’s military to conduct operations far from home.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is seeking to give the SDF a greater regional and global role as his nation steps back from seven decades of state pacifism.

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[2] Foundation for South Korean “comfort women” to begin disbursing funds

(October 15, 2016; Mainichi Shimbun)

Link: http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161015/p2g/00m/0dm/031000c

SEOUL (Kyodo) — A foundation, launched in July by the South Korean government to support former “comfort women” forced into wartime brothels for the Japanese military, decided Friday to begin paying money disbursed by the Japanese government to the victims from next week at the earliest.

The Reconciliation and Healing Foundation said in a statement that “a decision was reached to make payment from next week at the fastest possible pace after reviewing documents on those victims who are alive.”

Twenty-nine former comfort women have said they will accept the foundation’s project, it said.

The foundation held talks with 32 victims, out of a total of 46 who were still alive as of Dec. 28 when a deal with Japan was reached, and 29 said they would accept the project and the money.

A total of 245 women and their relatives are eligible to receive funds, which will be handed out in cash as expenses for “projects for recovering the honor and dignity and healing the psychological wounds” of all former comfort women, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

Around 2 million yen will be disbursed to each family of any comfort woman who had died by the end of last year, while those still alive will get about 10 million yen each.

Under a landmark deal with Japan, South Korea set up the foundation, into which Japan has deposited 1 billion yen ($9.9 million), to care for the surviving comfort women and their families.

The deal marked a milestone in Japan-South Korea ties, which have often been marred by disagreements over history. Under the agreement, the two countries agreed to resolve the issue “finally and irreversibly.”

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[3] Opposition parties wary of possible lower house dissolution

(October 14, 2016; Mainichi Shimbun)

Link: http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161014/p2a/00m/0na/016000c

Speculation over a possible dissolution of the House of Representatives for a snap general election has been prevailing among the ruling and opposition parties, with one opposition member voicing concern that the chamber may be dissolved even before the end of the year.

“The strong winds for a lower house dissolution are blowing. Make sure you prepare yourselves for it,” Renho, leader of the largest opposition Democratic Party (DP), told a meeting of an intraparty group she belongs to on Oct. 13. One attendant of the meeting voiced a complaint, saying, “Debate over constitutional amendment should start with a proposal to create provisions aimed at keeping the prime minister from abusing the right to dissolve the lower house.”

While the DP had earlier anticipated that the lower chamber could possibly be dissolved in January, one party member said, “Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may go ahead with a lower house dissolution by the end of the year, before opposition parties get ready for election campaigning.”

Senior officials of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior coalition partner Komeito have been fueling the momentum for a lower chamber dissolution at an early date. “The winds for an election are picking up,” LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai said on Oct. 10, which was echoed by LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura, who remarked on Oct. 12, “The wind for a (lower house) dissolution has started blowing.” Komeito Secretary-General Yoshihisa Inoue stated on the same day, “You can never be prepared unless you believe there’s a 100 percent chance for an election.”

It is uncommon for senior ruling party officials to make so many remarks about a lower chamber dissolution, whose right solely lies with the prime minister. Starting Oct. 19, the LDP will hold study sessions on election campaigns for junior lower house legislators who are serving their first or second terms.

The opposition camp, meanwhile, is growing increasingly wary of the ruling coalition’s moves. The rift between the ruling and opposition parties is certain to deepen further over the possible passage of a bill to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact in the lower chamber between late October and early November. Many in the DP suspect that Abe may dissolve the lower house at that point with the TPP issue as the focal point of contention. One party official surmises the voting day could fall either on Dec. 11 or 18.

The DP, however, is far from being ready for an election, with no candidates eyed for 85 of the 295 single-seat constituencies for the lower house. The party has yet to hold full-scale discussions with the Japanese Communist Party and other fellow opposition parties over election cooperation. At a meeting on Oct. 13, Rikio Kozu, president of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, commonly known as Rengo, that acts as a support base for the DP, asked Renho and other DP top brass, “The Nagatacho district (of Tokyo) is always a battlefield. Please accelerate the move to field candidates (for a lower house race).”

It remains unclear whether “the winds of lower house dissolution” are authentic. One source close to the prime minister’s office said, “It is just a gesture aimed at raising morale among junior party members. There’s no such atmosphere (for an election) at the prime minister’s office.”

Ruling party members, however, are apparently setting their sights on an early election. A former Cabinet member of the LDP said, “Now that everyone is preparing for an election, it would be hard to stop them.”

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[4] Japan may speed missile defense upgrades in wake of N. Korean tests

(Asahi Shimbun/Reuters; October 17, 2016)

Link: http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201610170025.html

Japan may accelerate around $1 billion (104 billion yen) of planned spending to upgrade its ballistic missile defenses in the wake of rocket tests suggesting North Korea is close to fielding a more potent medium-range missile, three government sources told Reuters.

The outlays, currently in a budget request for the year starting April, includes money to assess a new missile defense layer–either Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system or Aegis Ashore, a land-based version of the ballistic missile defense system used by vessels in the Sea of Japan.

It also covers money to improve the range and accuracy of PAC-3 Patriot batteries, said the sources familiar with the proposal, who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to talk to the media.

Any rollout of THAAD or Aegis Ashore could, however, still take years, the sources noted. Accelerated spending on Patriot missile batteries is also unlikely to deliver upgrades much quicker because of the limited capacity of the companies involved–Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Raytheon Co.–to speed up already tight production schedules.

“It nonetheless has symbolic value,” said one of the sources.

As much as 300 billion yen ($2.9 billion) of defense funding will be included in a third supplementary budget, the Sankei newspaper reported earlier. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has yet to say whether it will ask lawmakers to approve additional outlays before deliberations begin on next year’s budget.

Officials at Japan’s Defense Ministry were not immediately available to comment.


Pyongyang’s apparent technological progress on missiles has been faster than anticipated, exposing Japan to a heightened threat, a senior Japanese military commander told Reuters earlier this month.

Tokyo and Pyongyang have been locked in an arms race for two decades after North Korea fired a missile over Japan in 1998.

North Korea has test fired at least 21 ballistic missiles and conducted two nuclear tests so far this year. On June 22, a medium range Musudan rocket reached an altitude of 1,000 kilometers on a lofted trajectory, potentially beyond the range of Aegis destroyers the Sea of Japan that are armed with SM-3 missiles designed to hit warheads at the edge of space.

That leaves older PAC-3 Patriot missiles protecting major cities including Tokyo as a last line of defense. Their upgrade program will not deliver the first improved batteries until the 2020, in time for the Tokyo Olympics.

Warheads from missiles such as Pyongyang’s Rodong, with an estimated range of 1,300 km, travel at speeds of up to 3 km a second. Payloads on rockets like the Musudan, that can fly as far as 3,000 km, plunge from space at least twice as fast.

Japan next year plans to acquire a more powerful version of the SM-3 it is jointly developing with the United States, dubbed the Block IIA. It has not, however, said when the first will be deployed.

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[5] Japan withholds UNESCO dues over listing of Nanjing Massacre file

(JapanToday.com/Kyodo; October 14, 2016)

Link: https://www.japantoday.com/category/politics/view/japan-withholds-unesco-dues-over-listing-of-nanjing-massacre-file

TOKYO – Japan has been withholding this year’s financial contributions to UNESCO totaling some 4.4 billion yen ($42 million), Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday, following Tokyo’s criticism of the U.N. body for last year listing Chinese documents relating to the 1937 Nanjing Massacre as a Memory of the World.

Kishida told reporters that the decision to withhold the dues was made after weighing the matter in a “comprehensive” manner. Japan has been urging the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to improve the heritage program’s screening process.

Japan has been the de facto top UNESCO funder over the past few years, with the United States having frozen its payments from 2011 onwards due to its opposition to Palestinian membership.

Washington is responsible for 22% of this year’s UNESCO budget while Tokyo is asked to provide 9.6%. China is the third-largest contributor, accounting for 7.9%.

Japan has earmarked 3.85 billion yen ($37 million) in the fiscal 2016 budget as mandatory dues to the U.N. body and was also set to offer additional funds on a voluntary basis to be used for projects such as restoring ancient ruins.

The dues are usually disbursed around spring when the budget is approved by the parliament but for this year, the funds have not been paid yet.

Looking ahead, Kishida said the government will “comprehensively” decide on the matter. A UNESCO member state loses its right to vote in the U.N. body’s general conference if it does not pay its dues for two years.

The Chinese documents, submitted by Beijing in 2014, concerned the widespread killings of Chinese citizens and soldiers following the 1937 capture of Nanjing by the Japanese military. The three-part documents were included in the heritage list last October.

Tokyo has claimed UNESCO “unilaterally” registered the documents without allowing Japan to access them for verification, slamming the U.N. body as lacking fairness and transparency.

Tokyo disputes the number of Chinese civilians and soldiers killed in the incident, citing historians’ estimates ranging from tens of thousands to 200,000, while Beijing claims over 300,000 were killed.

Japan’s cautious stance toward its UNESCO contributions comes as an international alliance of civic organizations, including those from China, is bidding to have over 2,700 comfort women-related documents listed as a Memory of the World. Screening for the application is set to commence at the start of next year.

Many women were forced to work in Japanese military brothels before and during World War II. They were mostly from Asian countries, such as Korea and China, and were called comfort women.

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[6] Japan’s defense contractors get to grips with foreign military buyers

(JapanToday.com/Reuters; by Tim Kelly; October 16, 2016)

Link: https://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/japans-defense-contractors-get-to-grips-with-foreign-military-buyers

TOKYO – Until recently, public meetings between Japanese defense contractors and uniformed foreign military delegations would have stirred controversy in Japan, but last week’s aerospace show in Tokyo saw plenty.

With the nation stepping back from decades of state pacifism amid concern over China’s growing power and a deepening North Korean threat, Japanese defense companies are finally shedding their reluctance to sell arms abroad.

At the ShinMaywa Industries booth, Indonesian air force officials quizzed the company about its amphibious plane. In another corner of the Japan Aerospace 2016 show, Saudi Arabian military officers pored over military transport and patrol aircraft brochures handed out by Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

“The Indonesians are very interested in our plane,” said a ShinMaywa salesmen, as one of his colleague went through US-2’s specifications with the six-man Indonesian delegation. He asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

The US-2 is one of the home-built military platforms that the Japanese government has identified as a candidate for foreign sales after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in April 2014 lifted a ban on overseas arms sales.

The exhibition in Tokyo, which was last held four years ago in Nagoya, is the first major aerospace show since Abe came to power. The show drew some 800 companies as well as representatives from numerous of international militaries.

“We were visited by other foreign uniformed representatives apart from the Saudi military,” a salesman for Kawasaki said, also asking not to be identified. “The exhibition is still mostly civilian, but it has more of a military feel than four years ago.”

By ending seven decades of military industrial isolation, Abe is hoping to widen arms production to lower costs through greater economies of scale and share the expense of developing new weapons with other nations.

India began discussing a possible purchase of ShinMaywa’s US-2 soon after restrictions on arms shipments were eased, although no agreement has yet been concluded.

Indonesian interest could provide an earlier opportunity to sell the plane abroad, but Jakarta is so far keeping its cards close to its chest.

“We are looking around at all the stalls,” said an Indonesian general in the delegation, who declined to give his name.

Japanese companies have been reluctant to highlight their arms businesses, wary of reputational damage to their other commercial businesses.

Japan’s population remains sensitive to any perceived reversion to the militarism that many still blame for wrecking the country during World War Two.

Kawasaki, which is better known for making motorbikes, had models of a heavy lift military transport, the C-2, and a sub-hunting patrol plane, the P-1, both of which it makes for Japanese military. Japan’s government believes both those could compete for overseas sales.

“The foreign military delegations were mostly interested in the C-2, and they most wanted to know the price,” said the Kawasaki salesman.

Fuji Heavy Industries, better known for its Subaru cars, also builds military helicopters.

At the aerospace show it showed of a full-sized model of a planned new transport helicopter, dubbed the UH-X, and an experimental unmanned surveillance jet. Both have been ordered by the Japanese military.

“We haven’t wanted our defense work to damage our Subaru brand. But things are changing since the change to export rules,” said a Fuji Heavy official at the booth. “The foreign military delegations came by here too,” he added, also asking not to be identified.

Other companies that avoid advertising their defense work include ball-bearing maker Minebea Co, which also makes 9mm pistols, and air conditioner company Daikin Industries, which has a sideline in rifle grenades.

Komatsu Ltd builds military-green armored vehicles in addition to its yellow excavators and dump trucks.

After decades insulated from the competitive pressures that have forced Western firms to group together into a handful of big makers, Japan’s defense sector remains fractured, with work spread among hundreds of companies.

Military sales even at major defense contractors rarely amounts to more than a few percent of overall revenue.

Even at the largest contractor, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), military sales amount to only a tenth of revenue.

Most of its booth at the aerospace show was devoted to civilian products, including space launch vehicles, models of Boeing aircraft it help builds, and a mock-up of the interior of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, which represents Japan’s bid to establish itself as a regional jet maker.

MHI’s defense business was confined to two small models on a small display stand at the side of the exhibition. One was a marine patrol helicopter; the other, an experimental stealth prototype that could evolve it a $40 billion project to build a new fleet of frontline fighters for Japan, and perhaps even overseas air forces.

“Foreign military representatives visited our booth,” said the MHI official in charge of the display. “I think that is the first time that has happened at a show,” he added.

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BONUS (In Case You Scrolled Down This Far):

— Tokyo, Kyoto named world’s 2 best cities in U.S. magazine poll

(October 19, 2016; Mainichi Shimbun)

Link: http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161019/p2g/00m/0dm/065000c

NEW YORK (Kyodo) — Tokyo and Kyoto have been picked as the world’s best and second best cities outside the United States, the U.S. travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler said Tuesday.

Magazine readers cast more than 100,000 votes for their favorite cities in the 2016 poll, according to the website of the magazine, and Japan’s current and ancient capitals climbed the ranking from 15th and ninth the previous year, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

Italy’s Florence ranked third in the poll.

The magazine highlighted Tokyo’s variety encompassing modern skyscrapers, historic temples and shrines, adding it is “one of the world’s best food destinations.”

Kyoto was described “one of the most well-preserved cities in Japan” and “well known for kai-seki, the traditional multi-course meal that changes seasonally.”

Also in the poll, the Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo, was named the top hotel in Northern Asia, while All Nippon Airways came in fifth in the “Best Airlines in the World” ranking.

More than 300,000 readers made their voices heard via computers, tablets and smartphones in this year’s Readers’ Choice Awards, which started 29 years ago, according to the magazine.

The total number of foreign visitors to Japan this year is expected to top 20 million for the first time and the government has doubled its annual target of overseas visitors to 40 million in 2020, the year Tokyo hosts the Olympics and Paralympics.

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— Narita’s main stumbling block is its indifference toward travelers

(JapanToday.com; October 13, 2016)

Link: https://www.japantoday.com/category/kuchikomi/view/naritas-main-stumbling-block-is-its-indifference-toward-travelers

TOKYO – A “group of four” composed of officials of the national government, the Narita International Airport Corporation, Chiba Prefecture and local government bodies convened on Sept 27 to discuss plans for construction of a third runway, to be 3,500 meters long, at Narita Airport. The participants also confirmed guidelines for the shortening of the late-night and early morning curfew hours currently in force, made possible by relaxation of noise restrictions. Currently arriving and departing flights are banned between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Once agreements are ironed out, plans are to reduce the time by three hours, from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.

Writing in Yukan Fuji (Oct 8), business pundit Kenichi Ohmae writes that the day’s first arrival at Narita is usually from Australia, but the arrival time had to be adjusted to deal with the airport’s curfew, making for wasted time at both ends of his journey.

Most of the world’s major airports operate round the clock, and Narita’s being hobbled by the curfew has caused it to lose out in the competition among Asia’s regional hubs. Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, by contrast, boasts four runways and operates on a 24-hour basis, making it Asia’s top airport. And once flights directly over the city commence, Haneda will become even more convenient.

The decision back in the late 1960s to proceed with Narita rather than expand Haneda through land reclamation in Tokyo Bay was based on a study by a certain research group (Ohmae’s not naming names) which found that building costs at Narita would be 5 billion yen cheaper. But when total costs are taken into account concerning the move from Haneda to Narita and various noise-abatement efforts, 5 billion yen is just a drop in the bucket.

Actually a similar situation existed in Kansai, since the old Itami Airport required planes to fly over residential areas. But travelers found that despite its round-the-clock operation, the new “floating” Kansai International Airport was inconveniently located, so Itami remained in use. Naturally after the new airport was completed at horrendous expense, the public was clamoring for someone in the former Ministry of Transport to blame it on. (Shades of the current flap over the Tsukiji fish market move!)

Ohmae accuses the airport operators of being “mushinkei” (insensitive). A prime example is Narita’s inconveniently located third terminal, built to service travelers on LCCs (low-cost carriers). As it’s not served by the rail lines that terminate in the airport’s basement, access requires a long bus ride from Terminal 2 (or a half-kilometer hike). The dining facilities at Terminal 3 also seem to say, “If you blokes are so poor, this is all you get to eat.” Is such a parsimonious approach really necessary?

As long as the people running Narita continue to display this kind of insensitivity, Ohmae sums up, it stands no chance of competing for international air travelers. Even, say, if flights from Australia are able to land an hour earlier, at 5 a.m. instead of 6 a.m., Narita’s operators might as well be telling them, “The trains aren’t running yet. Please start walking to your next destination.”

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— Gov’t seeks to integrate Japan’s regional airlines

(October 15, 2016; Mainichi Shimbun)

Link: http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161015/p2g/00m/0bu/079000c

TOKYO (Kyodo) — The government has requested Japan’s two largest airlines to help smaller regional carriers integrate operations to cut costs amid weakening demand as the nation’s population declines, sources close to the matter said Saturday.

The move could see at least five regional carriers, each of which has a business or capital tie-up with either ANA Holdings Inc. or Japan Airlines Co., setting up a joint holding company to improve profitability by reducing equipment and fuel costs, the sources said.

Bringing all five firms under one wing would involve ANA and JAL in rare cooperation with each other. Both are expected to consider the request, the sources said.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is hoping to put plans on the table by next summer after hearing from regional governments.

The five airlines are Hokkaido Air System Co., ANA Wings Co., Oriental Air Bridge Co., Amakusa Airlines Co. and Japan Air Commuter Co. They are currently offering minor routes such as flights to and from islands off the country’s main islands of Kyushu and Hokkaido, mainly operating propeller aircraft with 30 to 70 seats.

Weakening demand for such routes amid the aging and decreasing population of regional areas is behind the latest initiative by the government, which is already subsidizing some smaller airlines to keep them afloat.

There were around 70 regional routes in Japan in 2014, down some 40 percent from a decade earlier. Analysts say the decrease will continue.

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— Why Japanese students excel at mathematics

(By Walt Gardner; Special To The Japan Times; October 17, 2016)

Link: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2016/10/17/commentary/world-commentary/japanese-students-excel-mathematics/#.WAXLDja9rxg

LOS ANGELES – Ever since the Common Core state standards were introduced in the United States, teachers for good reason have been under pressure to improve outcomes in math. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the nation’s report card, there were no score improvements in math for any student group in 2015 compared to 2013.

In desperation, officials have looked abroad for a solution, which they believe they’ve finally found in Japanese math. Unlike traditional methods in the U.S. that stress memorization, Japanese math emphasizes problem solving. Its sansu arithmetic aligns with the Common Core standards, providing a strong incentive for teachers to adopt the pedagogy.

The irony is that Japanese math is actually based on a method first advocated in the U.S. by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in the 1980s but never fully adopted by classroom teachers. As a result, memorization continued to be the predominant strategy, with heavy reliance on worksheets.

In contrast, Japan immediately recognized the benefits of teaching students how to invent solutions. Teachers provide a context for the lesson so that what follows has greater meaning than merely getting the correct answer on a worksheet. The objective is to engage students through hatsumon (question addressing a concept). When done effectively, students see the connections between what they’re learning and real life situations. In the process, they gain self-confidence and enthusiasm.

Part of the reason for the success of Japanese teachers is the use of jugyokenkyu (lesson study). It’s an invaluable way for teachers to improve their instruction. A teacher first prepares a lesson, and then teaches it in front of students, other teachers, and at least one university professor. The observers meet to discuss the lesson with the teacher. Without this feedback, teachers are forced to rely on their own judgment, which is not always accurate.

What ultimately emerges is that the way math is taught determines how much students learn. That may seem obvious enough, but it has been given short shrift in the debate. Although the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has endorsed the Common Core standards, teachers on average have been given fewer than four days of training, and those four days included training for the language arts standards as well.

This pattern has been seen before. Math instruction in the U.S. has undergone several iterations. In the 1960s, the “new math” was introduced in reaction to the post-Sputnik news. But little changed because teachers were not provided proper training. If the past is any indication, the excitement will be followed by confusion and a return to conventional practices.

It’s not that math teachers in the U.S. don’t want to change, but they don’t know how to do so. In Japan, teachers have been given far greater support in implementing new approaches. The results are reflected in scores on tests of international competition.

It’s too soon to conclude that Americans suffer from incurable innumeracy. But time if running out. The demands of the global economy are increasing pressure on schools to produce far better educated students in math.

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— Shinto shrines hoping luck in many languages attract tourists

(Asahi Shimbun: September 28, 2016)

Link: http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201609280001.html

Foreign visitors can count themselves lucky, or perhaps unlucky, that from now on at many Shinto shrines in Japan they will be able to read a fortunetelling slip in their native languages.

With nearly 20 million tourists flooding into Japan annually, the shrines are starting to translate what are called “omikuji” into various languages.

“Excellent luck! Yeah!” roared John Fitzhugh when he unraveled a slip and read his fortune in English at a shrine in Kanagawa Prefecture.

“With a positive mind, you will be able to overcome any difficulties,” was also written on his omikuji.

Fitzhugh, 36, from the United States, said it was fun to draw out and read the omikuji at Enoshimajinja shrine in Fujisawa, which was bustling with tourists in the middle of July.

— Shrines offer multilingual “omikuji”

Other than in English, the fortunes at Enoshimajinja are translated in Chinese–traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese–and Korean.

This form of fortunetelling is beginning to be offered in many shrines across Japan. There are generally six levels of luck that you may pick out. The best is known as “daikichi” in Japanese, which translates into English as “excellent luck.” Other translations are “good luck” for “kichi,” “uncertain luck” for “suekichi” and “bad luck” for “kyo.”

The slips include such details as business fortune, whether the recipient will locate a lost item and also, of course, how lucky they will be in relationships.

Jinja Honcho (the Association of Shinto Shrines), a religious administrative organization that oversees about 80,000 shrines throughout Japan, has started expanding efforts to provide the multilingual service in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Madeleine Graham, 28, who drew out the fortune slip with Fitzhugh, said she had lived in Japan for a long period of time and enjoyed visiting shrines and temples, but had frequently encountered difficulties with guide maps or signs at the sites because they were not written in English.

For omikuji maker C project, based in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, these inconveniences have been a stroke of good luck and boosted its business.

C project, established in May 2010, said the number of inquiries about its multilingual omikuji began rising around two years ago.

Shrines that attract many foreign tourists, such as Sumiyoshi Taisha in Osaka’s Sumiyoshi Ward, snap up such fortune slips.

It’s unclear when the first multilingual omikuji appeared at shrines, but it was at least 15 years ago, according to Jinja Honcho.

“The shrine boom was created by various media featuring shrines as spiritual spots or power spots,” said an official of Jinja Honcho.

Three years ago, Jinja Honcho created an English-language brochure titled “Soul of Japan” to introduce Shinto. It was downloaded 3 million times from its website, mainly from overseas.

“We didn’t expect such a high demand for the English brochure,” said the official. “We decided to make serious efforts to meet the demand.”

Information such as brochures and signboards have been written in foreign languages at shrines at tourist spots in Japan. However, they are often translated literally and therefore confuse visitors.

Cultural or religious concepts require careful translation for the proper meaning to be grasped.

For example, the principal objects of worship in Shinto are deities known as “kami,” which are divine beings or spiritual forces. The sacred spirit is said to dwell in all nature such as mountains, wind and rocks. So, in Shinto, people revere oceans and rivers and other natural objects and natural phenomenon in which kami are believed to reside. However, Christianity is monotheistic. Therefore, if kami was translated into simply “god” in English, it can puzzle foreigners.

Exceptional human beings are also sometimes considered kami, reaching divine status after death, such as Sugawara no Michizane (845-903), a leading scholar, poet and political figure of the Heian Period (794-1185), who is considered the patron saint of learning.

Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616), the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, which ruled Japan through the Edo Period (1603-1867), is worshipped as a deity at Nikko Toshogu Shrine in Tochigi Prefecture.

This can also lead to foreigners saying: “Is it a personality cult?”

— Conversation booklet with illustrations

“Inappropriate and unkind foreign language services for overseas tourists will negatively affect the image of Japan,” said an official of Jinja Honcho.

The association has created a travel conversation booklet in both Japanese and English with illustrations after taking into account the views of Shinto priests and foreign visitors.

In June, the booklets were provided to about 23,000 priests across the nation.

The booklet was designed to enable foreign visitors to communicate with people who speak Japanese by pointing at appropriate illustrations and translations.

It explains various types of amulets as well as helping visitors decipher maps and guides regarding facilities at shrines.

Kasumi Yamamoto, who works at Zamajinja shrine in Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture, and is next to the U.S. Army’s Camp Zama, said that foreign tourists frequently asked her what kami meant.

“I sometimes use the online translation function. But I can’t fully explain the meaning of kami in English,” said Yamamoto. “The conversation booklet is useful as it enables me to convey subtle nuances in expressions to English-speaking people.”

English teachers have been invited to instruct priests and “miko” (female attendants) at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture.

The shrine has also held a gathering for foreigners to introduce them to aspects of Japanese culture.

It also plans to set up a visitor center where it can introduce Shinto to visitors.

“We want to keep actively spreading Shinto and Japanese culture,” said Shigeho Yoshida, a chief priest of the shrine.

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— An unchanged culture at Dentsu?

(October 16, 2016; by Kentaro Tanaka and Yuji Kimura; Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers)

Link: http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003285133

The advertising giant Dentsu Inc., which was raided Friday over an employee’s suicide linked to overwork, vowed to change after a similar incident 25 years ago. Why, then, did this latest tragedy occur?

Inspectors from the Tokyo Labor Bureau and other authorities carried out a surprise raid on Dentsu’s Tokyo headquarters over the Dec. 25 suicide of 24-year-old Matsuri Takahashi.

— Tragedy repeated

“The same thing has happened at a company that pledged another suicide from overwork would never occur. We will conduct a rigorous investigation into the culture of the company and where responsibility lies,” a senior official of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Friday, explaining the purpose of the raid.

In 1991, a 24-year-old man who was in his second year with the company killed himself due to overwork. Dentsu settled a damages claim from the man’s family in 2000 and also apologized.

“We regret this incident and will strive to ensure such an unfortunate event never again occurs,” the company said at the time.

The firm said it subsequently put in place measures to reduce long working hours, such as by instituting “no overtime days” and laying down guidelines so individual departments could manage workloads appropriately.

However, Takahashi’s family and lawyer have said they suspect fewer hours than she actually worked were entered on her time reports.

“Dentsu’s culture has not changed,” said Takahashi’s mother, Yukimi.

Attention is being paid to what are called “Dentsu’s 10 devil rules,” which were created more than 50 years ago by the company’s then president.

These enumerate 10 guidelines for Dentsu employees, such as, “Once you start something, don’t let go, even if you’re killed.”

After the suicide of the male worker 25 years ago, these rules were taken out of training texts for new hires, but they remain part of the employees’ pocket notebooks.

Takahashi was formally hired in October last year and was soon given a heavy workload.

She frequently did not leave the office before midnight up until November of that year, when she began to show signs of depression.

She spoke with her friends about her situation, reportedly telling them, “I’ve lost all feeling except for the desire to sleep.”

On Dec. 25, she jumped to her death from a company dormitory.

Raised by a single mother, Takahashi spent a period studying in China during her time as a student at the University of Tokyo’s Faculty of Letters. After graduating, she is said to have chosen an advertising company so she could make use of her communication skills.

At a press conference after her daughter’s death was recognized as work-related, the mother said, her voice trembling, “She told me Dentsu paid a good annual salary, so she could make life easier for me.”

— Never-ending stream

A 2014 survey by the Japan Productivity Center’s mental health research institute found that 51.2 percent of companies had introduced stress checks to help employees maintain good mental health. While this represents an increase of 12.4 percentage points over a 10-year period, only 9.2 percent of companies said cases of depression and other problems had decreased. Fifty-eight percent said the number of such cases was about the same.

Hiroyuki Nakano, who coordinated the study, said factors such as the spread of results-oriented pay systems and discretionary working-hour schemes were factors.

“Without closer labor management, mental issues at the workplace will never be resolved,” he said.

In 2014, a law to promote measures to prevent deaths from overwork, which stipulates the state’s obligations in this area, was enacted. The government last year set a goal of eliminating deaths from overwork as part of a policy framework. This fiscal year, it is moving forward with its first fact-finding survey on the subject, which is expected to cover 20,000 people.

Based on the new law, the government on Oct. 7 released the world’s first white paper on death from overwork. According to the report and other data, claims were filed linking 482 suicides, other deaths and attempted suicides to overwork last fiscal year.

Third Thursday With Jake







Gentle Readers: if you were expecting a blow-by-blow on the Debate, or an account of how many sips and slugs it took to get through the drinking game to go along with it, you will be waiting a while. Possibly until one of the candidates accepts what is going to happen in the polls in only a handful of days. Then all this nonsense will be over. In the meantime, I am happy for the Cleveland Indians and the lovable Cubbies from Wrigleyville. But for a change of pace, this tale came over the transom from another era, and I thought you might get a kick out of how intelligence used to be done by our dauntless corps of Attaches, assigned to hot spots around the world since the Office of Naval Intelligence began sending them our nearly 150 years ago. This is a story of the unique partnership between the intelligence professionals, enlisted and officer, in places where there are no rule books and everything is done flying by the seat of the pants. – Vic

20 October 2016

1st Class Petty officer REX RUMLER (CAIRO)


Reminiscences of an old school Intelligence Officer.
By Bill Bailey

It was during the 1960’s, during the period when Nasser ruled Egypt, when the Soviets were well entrenched in the United Arab Republic.

The profession moves along so quickly nowadays, that one often forgets the lessons of the past. As I sit and wax nostalgic in a more quiet moment or two, I often think back to the close partnerships one creates over a career. One of those , in a time not so long ago, as a Cold War Attaché in Egypt, , my closest intelligence partner was a first Class Petty Officer, with whom we shared many adventures which I can only tell after years have passed.

As basic intelligence requirements were increasing and current intelligence was becoming more urgent, it was obvious there was an increasing need for expanded road trips. The old embassy cars were hardly suitable for over desert, rough terrain, and sandy beach travel, so a more suitable four-wheel drive vehicle was requested. Unfortunately, it was during the period of concern over the “gold flow” issue, thus our request for a Land Rover was ignored (a vehicle that blended in nicely amidst the locals ). We could only buy American. So what the hey, though conspicuous, a jeep would do. Unfortunately it was during the Vietnam War, so no jeeps were available for attaché duty. A heavy-duty Dodge power wagon was to be sent…but after several months we were provided a Navy Grey International van.

So much for being conspicuous.

Every week or so, I would drive from Cairo to Alexandria to liaise with the U.S. General Counsel and to check out the Egyptian Naval base and Eastern Bloc Russian activity at the port. During a break in trip for the new vehicle, I decided to try some beach studies along the Mediterranean towards Libya. On our travel request, I listed Mersa Matrouh as our destination. Along the way, Rex and I did some beach and road studies, but once done, we still had to complete our requested travel destination. We reached Mersa Matrouh just as the sun was setting. I turned to Rex and said that since we were here, we might as well go down to the tiny harbor and look around. So we drove on to the small pier….only to be greeted by the unbelievable sight of four Komar Missile Patrol boats with missiles in the tubes. Thank goodness it was dark by then, as our Navy Grey International would have been a dead give-away. We boogied out quickly, checked into our sleeping quarters, rose early the next morning to see what was what.


Through my binoculars, I could see an Egyptian Navy contingent loading vehicles and the Komars were just leaving. We raced to a point, took pictures, and then I decided to follow the trucks to see where they were going. It was clear they were headed for the one major road toward Alexandria, so I decided to conduct a “front tail” by keeping several miles ahead of them, while Rex kept an eye on them a few miles behind us in the desert.

This went on about an hour, everything copasetic ……….When suddenly, there was big bang, a lurch, and our vehicle just jammed to a stop, throwing us against the windshield. What was that?…..we got out only to find that the rough road had jostled the engine mounting bolts and had sheared two of them. The engine had fallen onto the road! Oh my……and the group we were tailing, was rapidly approaching. I crawled under the vehicle and told Rex to smear dirt on the diplomatic license plate, cover all the cameras and binoculars and anything that looked Navy and to look sufficiently nonchalant that they would drive on by.


But no! The small convoy stopped and a young officer asked me (under the vehicle) if we needed help. What could I say….”Yes, thank you”. He hollered back to the officer in charge, who dispatched a team of mechanics (after all they were a Komar support group), who remounted the engine, secured it and started it up. To show our gratitude, we rode along with them for a while, until the unit commander, forcefully beckoned us on away from them. And that my friends, was the first verification of Komars being in Egypt.

When the Dodge Wagon finally arrived and it was travel tested, the two of us applied for a drive to Libya. The wagon was fitted for the trip and parked within the embassy grounds. That was Thanksgiving…….an evening where we became cocktail hoisters to other embassies. Just as I was sitting down to the Thanksgiving repast, the phone rang for a LT Bailey. The embassy was under attack by rioters angered over America’s stance on Patrice Lumumba in the Congo.

The attaches being the second line of defense to the Marine Security Guard, I was on my way, By the time I arrived the Embassy was on lock-down and all gates were locked. While fighting through the crowds and finding no entry, and ran toward the embassy wall and leapt to a handhold at the top. The crowd below watched with great delight and an English speaker called up to me and asked “Why didn’t you use the gate?” It seemed that after I had found it locked against the crowd, the security guards had opened it to allow other embassy personal in. Oh well! I dropped down on the inner side only to find that our vehicle had all of the windows broken by the rioters. There goes the trip…until I recognized that the nearest source of a replacement windshield was Wheelus Air Base in Libya.

I convinced the powers that I had to go…repairs, travel permit, and the mission. OK! I called my partner, Rex, then got the motor pool to replace the broken windows with plywood and to knock out the broken windshield. We left the next morning.

I drove. While enroute, we measured the entire road from Alexandria to Wheeles, entered every culvert, bridge, gavel road and took pictures of every change in the road surface, while slipping, where appropriate, to the beaches and took innumerous pictures, measured the beaches and the water depths, etc. But, at one beach, long off a road, I noticed a tent on the cliff above, where an Egyptian soldier had just emerged with a rifle in hand. Whoops; we jumped in the vehicle and took off down a ravine. Front wheel drive? Yes, but you had to adjust it at a stop outside the Dodge Wagon!
I told Rex to hunker down and put the vehicle to the floor board. Quite a ride…but it got more exciting when I heard shots and a couple of bullets came through the plywood and hit the floor between us. I peeked up to through the vacant windshield and steered while reaching blind from the floor. We made it!!! But, I said to Rex breathing heavily, “ You know, Rex, I think I’ll leave this beach to my successor!” As to our time in Libya; that is a different but memorable story for another time

Rex is long deceased now; but there were so much of Egypt and Libya we had shared, camping in a two man tent and eating tins of rations left from WWII and washing with salt water soap in the Red Sea and the Med.

Before he was transferred back to the U.S. we shared one last quick adventure. As I essentially planned my own lintel trips, neither one us really knew what would be ahead of us in our travels. By the third year in Egypt, I drafted my travel requests rather loosely. The various embassies knew that Nasser was toying with Yemen, but to what extent? Planes would return from the south on a regular basis and more leaving the reverse direction. But, to where? It was obvious that troops had also been sent and there was a war brewing in Yemen.

I filed a transportation request for my routine visit to the Red Sea in a regular embassy sedan, which was approved, and Rex and I started off to the Port of Suez and turned south along the Red Sea coast, occasionally stopping to study a port or another beach. At one area, I would send Rex one direction and I would go another. We were out roaming for about two hours and I returned to rejoin Rx. Only to find, he was in the custody of an Egyptian guard with a rifle pointed at Rex’s head. What to do? Hmm! I walked hurriedly to the Egyptian guard and hollered at him accusing him of laxness. He replied in Arabic and I told him that we had been here for over two hours and you had not noticed us.

“ I will notify your officer of your laxness and report you to Cairo!” He lowered his rifle and Rex probably thought I was nuts, but things changed rapidly. The soldier said go…go and please do not report me.

Did we….? You guess.

Now what…back on the road, I had a thought. We had brought two full jerry cans of petrol, so “let’s see how far we can go south.” Covering the jerry cans, off we went. About an hour later, we ran up to a blockade and the sentry made it clear we could go no further. Since we were on the outskirts of a large village, I pleaded with him to permit me to buy gas there. “NO!” I showed him my gas gauge, which was on empty (It was actually inoperable). We argued as to what we were to do. The soldier finally relented and raised the gate after receiving a promise that we would be back quickly. Once on the road, I opened it up and finding an isolated spot filled the gas from one of the cans and took off. After about another hour plus we found ourselves in Ras Gharib and by driving a bit further, finding our selves at a huge air field, well equipped and very busy. Oh Wow! We took two rolls of film and got out of there as quick as we could.
By the time we had returned hours later at the blocked gate, we had used the other jerry can to refill any of the gas we had used and apologized for being so late, for we had run out of gas. I got out of the car and chatted with the sentry for about ten minutes and then pulled out a cigar, which I presented to him as a friend and thanked him again before we drove off to Cairo.

To the best of our knowledge……We were the first ones to locate Nasser’s operating base in his war in Yemen…….Well, we would like to think so!

Partnership…….officer, chief, enlisted, man, woman, etc.; the important lesson is that one does well when they are on the same wave link. Thank you, Rex!

William (Bill) Bailey, 1630 CDR Retired


Debate Drinking

Bottoms up, Gentle Readers!




Well, I suppose we could talk about what the Terrible Candidates will try to pull off tonight in the last debate, and Mrs. Clinton gets ready to pack her bags for Disney World or wherever it is that successful candidates go.

I was listening to the satellite radio on the way back from Physical Therapy, which frankly kicked my ass under the knowledgeable hands of Justin, my therapist. The polls appear to demonstrate the unusual perception amongst the electorate that neither of them are to be trusted, and both of them rouse strong feelings of antipathy. On that matter, at least, there appears to be little debate.

Finally, a poll I can agree with!

Justin and I have spent enough time together to know that he is the father of an 18-month old boy, husband of a wife who is under the weather today, and he looks forward to getting home and relieving her of care-giving duties and getting the tyke outside to play in the last of this beautiful weather.

With each visit, Justin loads me up with a couple new torture routines I am supposed to be doing at home. I have a little sheaf of papers that have detailed outlines of the stretching and pulling exercises, where to put the bolster behind my knees to maximize the torture, and how the latex bands are tied to provide implacable resistance to my stretching.

So far, the ones dealing with my cervical vertebrae have had the biggest impact; Justin has me looking left and right, up and down, rinse and repeat a few times a day.

He is such a harsh taskmaster that I had to wander down to the Storage unit and look for the yoga mat I bought last year in the fever of continuing a regimen of low-impact but strategic exercise that thankfully passed swiftly and without comment even before the New Year’s resolution week.

The legs are a completely separate matter, osteoarthritis coupled with the blown quadriceps that were a cause of some puzzlement to Justin.

“Taken apart, there is nothing unusual about your presentation,” he said, pushing the dark frames of his glasses up on his nose. “But it is very unusual to have them present together.”

“It is not unusual in here,” I responded, pointing in the general direction of my chest. “I have spent a lifetime running into other men at high rates of speed, crashing on skis and otherwise abusing all the joints and connective tissues between them. But I have noticed marked improvement in being able to see the mirrors when I drive the car.”

“That is a generally good sign,” said Justin. “Though in Washington, you may not want to see what is bearing down on you.”

I could have said something about the election, but whatever the words would have been, the conclusions would naturally be debatable.

I will try to watch the candidates slug it out, mostly out of a certain dread fascination with whatever the outcome is going to be. In deference to the grand traditions of the American political process, I am going to go over to The Front Page and do my debate preparation with whoever shows up.

The Regulars of the South Side have our obligations to meet, and having already voted, I intend to take this with the seriousity and truthiness it deserves.

Copyright 2016 Vic Socotra

Better Than X-Box

I patrol in the rugged hills
And valleys of a dusty,
Distant land, which kills
The careless — Searching
For the enemy hunting me…

Brutal blood sport thrills
Pursued kinetically, relentlessly,
By high-school graduates,
Valley-to-valley, door-to-door,
What more excitement
Could a young dude ask for…

copyright J.P.N. | Poetry, Etc., From Kanagawa, South of Tokyo, Japan

Binnacle List: Jim Champagne


I am glad I went out to Las Vegas a couple months ago. My pals Old Jim and Chanteuse Mary made the decision to retire to the desert last year, before we knew that our little world was about to end. It was a splendid run at the World’s Greatest Bar Restaurant, and the Champagnes had a delightful little condominium just up the block, which is one of the factors that drove our decision to hang out there after work for nearly a decade.

Jim’s presence at the end of the bar caused us to flock there for gossip and conversation, and even attracted a modest following of folks who liked to hear Jim’s views of the world, and the changes in it since he was a young many in Northhamption, Mass, and stints of creative activity in the Nixon Administration, as speech writer for auto mogul Lee Iacoca, and a few things that can be left unmentioned, since they may still be looking for Jim.

We had a nice visit, and I was already planning on another drive-and-fly-by visit in a few weeks.

That changed on Friday when Mary sent the Willow Refugees a note informing us that Jim had taken ill, and was now resting at Mountain View Hospital:

(702) 233-5300 · 3100 N Tenaya Way Las Vegas, NV 89128

Mary mentioned that he had a foot infection and aFrib- Atrial Fibrillation- a pesky heart condition that can have a variety of outcomes. Naturally, I was alarmed and wanted to do something to ensure that he knew his pals were concerned, and that he was very much in our thoughts and prayers, for those that do so. At Friday’s happy hour session on Friday, we talked about what we might want to send to the hospital to let him know we were thinking of him.

As you may have gathered over the years from the musings that originated at the Amen Corner of the Willow Bar, Jim is a bit of a curmudgeon, better in my mind than Andy Rooney.

The florist that serves the hospital can be found here.

I looked through the various offerings- Roses, (which I thought were a little inappropriate), Daisy Daydreams, Polka Dots and Posies, that kind of thing. I looked in vane for an arrangement that featured an appropriate balloon, an ice bucket and a six-pack of Budweiser. No dice, for some reason, and a bit poignant, since I still have the better part of a case of Bud long neck bottles in my fridge down at the farm, pre-deployed to accommodate a party that never materialized before the moving van swept them away from Arlington to the vastness of the southwestern desert.

I didn’t think I could get cold beer to Jim via FedEx, so I kept looking for something that might resonate with him, and support the recovery process, which Mary says may take a few days for the Quacks to identify and start working on.

I was scrolling through the variety of options and found the perfect arrangement. It would have startled him, if it we still had Willow as an option to surprise him with a mylar balloon set placed at his regular seat at the bar, wishing him “a good day,” and to “Get well soon,” both held by a little stuffed bear.


I figured that would be irritating enough to get Jim to get on the mend, though I think the Budweiser arrangement would have been better.

Plus, the Lovely Bea and Jamie were already airborne on Friday to pay a visit. It was complete happenstance on the timing of the trip: Bea had a conference to cover, and Jamie is one of those peripatetic travelers to whom a weekend in the air for a brief visit is an opportunity to socialize with old pals and see some new sights.

Anyway, the below arrived yesterday and I include it to let you know that Jim is capable of sitting up and receive guests. I have a reservation out there already for early December, and can move the ticket around if necessary.

In the meantime, think of Jim and pray for his speedy recovery. He is one of the best pals a guy could have.


Copyright 2016 Vic Socotra