Gasshuku Thoughts

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The gasshuku (合宿) experience encapsulates the quintessential aspects of idealized Japanese behavior into a tidy package: the welcoming of new members into a group, journeys out to the countryside, baseball, onsen, mandatory fun, drinking until 3am only to get up the next morning at 6:30 for breakfast and a factory tour. The system has its merits, but combining work and play is generally exhausting.

We went out to Ibaraki-ken, which looks exactly like Chiba, Saitama, Tochigi, Kanagawa, Shizuoka, or Yamanashi. Kanto’s pretty homogenized economically and geographically.

Yesterday morning waiting for the bus, I watched the news footage of last weekend’s anti-Japanese riots in China. I don’t know much about the exact political motivations of the protesters, but I fear further deterioration of Japan-China relations. At the moment, the LDP’s only mission seems to be historical revisionism — textbook changes, island grabbing, Yasukuni shrine visiting, re-arming. The right-wing appears to think that the only way towards a new Japanese nationalism is to completely erase the specter of WWII, and this tacit support of old imperialism obviously doesn’t sit well with the Korean/Chinese contingents. They in turn can exploit the perceived image of Japanese remilitarization to ease domestic discord. I don’t want to throw my support for either side (if those are the only two choices), but I question whether this is the best time for Japan to try to reclaim a 20th century version of nationalism when their Eastern neighbors have never forgotten the past and the West lauds Japan for being a pro-environmental, pacifist neo-Internationalist nation.

Later in the day we toured a Hitachi turbine factory. Like most Japanese industrial workspaces, the plant was littered with “quality control” (QC) campaign posters to boost morale. Japanese QC management took Deming’s ideas and perfected them, but my worry is that the system is too good: Can this management system guarantee high quality goods even made in lower-skilled markets (read: China)? If so, Japanese firms may be in good shape, but the Japanese worker may no longer be necessary to Japan’s economic success. This will radically alter income distribution if it hasn’t started already.

W. David MARX (Marxy)
April 12, 2005

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

48 Responses

  1. Chris_B Says:

    marxy: I think you already made it crystal clear which “side” you are on, why try and pretend otherwise? What was the point of inserting this second topic between two connecting paragraphs about the main topic?

  2. Patrick Says:

    I can attest that most of the quality control posters and logos are pretty pointless. About every week we get the visit of a group of intruders who walk around the office and look for trouble of all sorts. Today it’s the cleaning bunch who come to check if they can find any dust. Of course we don’t ever do any cleaning except right before they come.

  3. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    At the moment, the LDP’s only mission seems to be historical revisionism – textbook changes, island grabbing, Yasukuni shrine visiting, re-arming. The right-wing appears to think that the only way towards a new Japanese nationalism is to completely erase the spectre of WWII, and this tacit support of old imperialism obviously doesn’t sit well with the Korean/Chinese contingents.

    Yes the faction dominating the current administration is, unfortunately, disgusting as far as these matters go. There really needs to be a change of party or at least faction (is this more reasonable?). A few years ago there were some challengers. They were all crushed. Nothing hopeful on the political horizon is there.

  4. marxy Says:

    I think you already made it crystal clear which “side” you are on, why try and pretend otherwise?

    I don’t agree with throwing rocks at the Japanese embassy, and I surely don’t agree with whitewashing the history about WWII.

  5. Momus Says:

    The Americans are not blameless in the current tension between China and Japan. Their encouragement of Japanese remilitarization, and the prospect of Japan getting a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, are what really angers the Chinese. Those protests were encouraged by the Chinese authorities, whose views you can read in The People’s Daily:

    http://english.people.com.cn/200503/22/eng20050322_177750.html

    The trigger for this has been Condoleezza Rice’s statement “I support Japan’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.” China, already on the council, does not want rivals in the area.

  6. Chris_B Says:

    marxy: please clarify “whitewashing”

    momus: it goes alot deeper than that.

  7. marxy Says:

    It seems to me that the US wants to use Chinese and Japanese economic power simultaneously without having China and Japan become an economic alliance on their own. That’s to say, the US is happy to talk about Japanese militarization knowing that it will only drive Japan and China farther apart.

    Whitewashing: the LDP is trying to reduce information about imperialist agression within Japanese education. Meanwhile, they’re pushing for an aggressive foreign policy against both Koreas and China that looks very similar to the imperialist history they’re erasing.

    I’m not pro-China by any means, and this leads us again to that eternal question: can you be anti-LDP without being anti-Japan? I very much doubt that most Japanese care about these tiny islands or support the right-wing’s agenda, but I fear that every time Ishihara makes a provocative speech about the “sangokujin” rioting after an earthquake, his support rates goes up.

  8. Chris_B Says:

    I’m sorry but I’m going to have to ask you for more clarification. All I’m seeing so far is the same sorts of propaganda the Chinese government issues and educates their populace with. If at all possible lets leave the US out of this part of the conversation and just stick to the facts of the matter between Japan and China.

  9. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    The Americans are not blameless in the current tension between China and Japan. Their encouragement of Japanese remilitarization, and the prospect of Japan getting a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, are what really angers the Chinese.

    Yes I go along with this too. China is shaping up as the main possible challenge to American supremacy. If there is going to be conflict in East Asia, the USA probably wants to have it sooner than later because China is growing stronger and richer all the time. So it wouldn’t surprise me if the USA is content to see these tensions build. Why haven’t they put diplomatic pressure on Japan to clear up the whole Nanjing denial/Yasukuni visit thing and get past it all?
    Things would be much better if the current administration could better represent the Japanese people’s wish for peace and not be so supportive of the US administration’s violent ways.

  10. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    If at all possible lets leave the US out of this part of the conversation and just stick to the facts of the matter between Japan and China.

    Wouldn’t that be nice if the US would stick out of this? Perhaps you should write a letter to your countries government and ask them to do so?

    Fact of the matter, and you know this as well as we all do, the history of the LDP is wrapped up tightly with the USA. And the main American military presence in Asia is in Japan. America is
    the crux of the Japan/China/Korea situation.

  11. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    That’s to say, the US is happy to talk about Japanese militarization knowing that it will only drive Japan and China farther apart.

    Yes.

  12. marxy Says:

    All I’m seeing so far is the same sorts of propaganda the Chinese government issues and educates their populace with.

    You know all the information about Japanese atrocities that Ienaga Saburo writes about in The Pacific War? The LDP wants that left out of Japanese education: the Nanking massacre, comfort women, etc. I agree that China’s atrocities may be more recent, but I don’t quite understand why Japan is reaching back to WWII to find a new national pride. Does it really matter that Koizumi goes to a shrine other than to create a certain image of allegiance to the hard right? Are everyday Japanese inspired by this?

    I don’t think that being against the Japanese war atrocities in WWII somehow stems from Chinese propaganda. However, the reason I can’t support China in this matter either is because they’re clearly manipulating Japan’s current right-wing leanings for their own domestic uses.

  13. c79 Says:

    Also, I don’t think it is unwarranted to say that the CCP is very interested in tacit support of anything to draw attention away from questions of legitimacy with respect to its current economic structure.

  14. Momus Says:

    “Look, those people over there are getting richer than us quite quickly. Let’s stir up old grievances between them and sell them weapons!”

  15. marxy Says:

    Momus, I think we agree for once about the U.S. being up to no good, but I think over-focusing on American foreign policy ignores that the decisions are ultimately being made by the Japanese and Chinese governments. There’s no one forcing Japan to choose militarization or China to use anti-Japanese sentiment to quiet the masses.

  16. Chris_B Says:

    c79 hit the nail on the head. Lets not forget that the CCP limits pretty much all info available to their citizens. Wonder how many of the currently riled up Chinese citizens know of the 17 official appologies the Japanese government has issued? It helps the CCP for them not to know.

    marxy: There are indeed issues regarding how much information should be provided to children at what stage of their education. The recent controversy stems from the MOE’s textbook group not wanting detailed mention of sexual slavery to middle school students. Perhaps this is quite reasonable. I am not an expert, but it would seem to me that details of such information are best suited to later stages of development.

    I cant recall the age when I learned about Hiroshima & Nagasaki or the firebombing of Dresden, but I suspect it was in high school. I defninitely did not learn of the extermination of villages in Korea or Vietnam in school. The only parallel I can think of to the question of when Japanese children should be educated to the nation’s militaristic past would be to find out when German children are educated about similar matters.

    By reaching back to WWII are you referring to Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Jinja? Is this in any way different than the visits of any of his predecessors? If he is indeed visiting in the capacity of a “private individual” as he claims, I cant see a problem with it officially. The question raised about this by my japanese friends is that even a “private” visit may violate the constitutional seperation of church and state.

    As to your claims of “re-arming” the published defence budget is shrinking and there will be a reduction of forces all across the SDF. Not that the approx US$50 billion budget is small in any way, especially compared to the publicly released Chinese figure of US$20 billion, but the thing is if you make claims like this, be prepared to substantiate them with facts. Are you specificallly referring to the proposed Japan/US joint R&D on a missile defence shield or what?

    In the end what if both sides are wrong on the surrounding issues? In my book it is a bit more wrong to play up your victimhood to your own advantage, but thats just my opinion, not an assertion of fact.

    sparkling: its so nice that you and momus can agree on something!

  17. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    This editorial, Lee should avoid Yasukuni, from today’s Japan Times, may interest some readers of this thread.

  18. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    sparkling: its so nice that you and momus can agree on something!

    The pleasant surpriseo of this thread is the admission by Marxy that the USA is aggravating Japan/China relations.

  19. marxy Says:

    I’m pretty anti-CIA, anti-Bush foreign policy. You’re just not asking the right questions. One of my first suspicions of the LDP is that the CIA was financially supporting them for a long time. That’s as bad as getting money from the mafia for your music production company.

  20. Chris_B Says:

    sparkling: the author of that column keeps pointing to the death of Lee’s brother, but to what end?

  21. r. Says:

    somebody said: The trigger for this has been Condoleezza Rice’s statement “I support Japan’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.” China, already on the council, does not want rivals in the area.

    and i say: of course the only reason that the US want japan on the UN SC is that it wants a ‘puppet vote’ so that it can leverage its currently heavy-handed voting records against most of the other members. naturally japan will vote its own way on japanese domestic matters, but on international matters, of course japan will just sit up and bark for the US. what was that i was saying about letting lose the chihuahuas of WAR. sick ’em ku-chan.
    best,
    r.

  22. Chris_B Says:

    y’all are just a laugh riot!

  23. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    It was something of a revelation to me that Yasukuni figures in this way in Taiwanese politics. Kind of sad really. There should be a campaign to get rid of the place and replace it with a John & Yoko “Imagine” Peace Memorial.

  24. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    r.: Nice image.

    Off topic but something that’s been bothering me: if you’ve renounced your American citizenship, how do you get in and out of Japan without a passport?

  25. Chris_B Says:

    sparkling: why dont you just take a big ol’ dump right on the families of Japanese veterans instead?

  26. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    The veteran’s family I am most closely familiar with are my ex-gf’s. Her grandfather was nearly killed by Chinese soldiers but they saved him when he started to recite a sutra (he was a zen priest). The Chinese soldiers recognized the sutra and decided not to kill him.

    He lived the remainder of his years strongly anti-war.

  27. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    why dont you just take a big ol’ dump right on the families of Japanese veterans instead?

    BTW that’s precisely what K-san, Lee-san and the others are doing by making a political stink out of Yasukuni.

  28. Chris_B Says:

    having a family member enshrined at Yasukuni Jinja or at Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery does not automatically make one pro or anti anything. My point is your comment was assenine and disrespectful to anyone who has a family member enshrined there no matter what their current political stance is.

  29. porandojin Says:

    you can find a few interesting links there

    http://www.danwei.org/archives/001464.html

  30. Chris_B Says:

    porandojin: thanks.

  31. Chris_B Says:

    I’m really dissapointed here. This thread degraded into blame the USA for East Asia’s troubles yet there was so little in the way of concrete facts stated. Why is it when facts are brought into the picture that everyone runs away or just waves some anti establishment magic wand as though that justifies a position?

    BTW, it seems that in Germany, students are given manditory education of Germany’s position in 20th century history first at 9th grade then after graduating high school if they are going on to higher education. I could not find details of what facts are provided at the 9th grade level, but I did find out that the details of the education vary by “state” with a loose federal guideline overall. I cant read german but I’ll email some of my friends in North Rhine Westphalia to see what they have to say on the matter.

  32. marxy Says:

    From what I’ve heard from Germans, the history of Hitler is very important in German education and studied intensely for almost two years. WWII history is taught in Japan, but it starts with Hiroshima and Nagasaki in elementary school. I think the bigger problem is not what they are teaching about WWII history but how they are teaching history itself. History is worthless if it’s just a set of facts for later testing.

  33. Duncan Mak Says:

    Here’s an interesting page cataloging the attempts by the Japanese government to apologize to the paper of China and Korea:

    http://muninn.net/blog/2005/04/japans-apologies-to-korea.html

  34. marxy Says:

    As you can see from those lists, Japan’s apologies have been rather recent, and mostly under the brief non-LDP coalition government.

    There’s a (possibly apocryphal) anecdote about Japan apologizing to China in the 70s. The Chinese delegation said, no need to apologize, because the Chinese have done something much worse to Japan: we gave you kanji and Confucianism.

  35. Momus Says:

    Why is it when facts are brought into the picture that everyone runs away or just waves some anti establishment magic wand as though that justifies a position?

    Look, Chris, it’s hardly discarding facts or “waving an anti establishment wand” to say that the salient fact here is the new position by Condi Rice on Japan’s seat in the permanent UN Security Council. This is a hard, factual and realistic stance on the issue of the recent disturbances in China, where the view is:

    “We think that Japan does not have the qualities or the qualifications for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. First of all, one cannot but be suspicious of Japan’s plans after becoming a permanent member.”

  36. Chris_B Says:

    marxy: non LDP officials aside, the current and past emperors count for what in your book?

    momus: it aint new. There has been talk of Japan seeking UNSC status for a good while now. Of course China is upset at the idea. I see China’s protests at this as part of their long term overall broken record litany of complaint. It would be interesting if the CCP ever stated exactly what sort of appology they would accept. Anyways, for once my criticism was more directed at marxy, r & sparkling than at you. Personally I’d be just as happy to see Japan get a seat at the table as India. Japan has at least contributed manpower and ¥ on a variety of UN peacekeeping & nation rebuilding projects and India is a heck of a large democracy to not hear from, whereas I see China as having only made things worse with their support of the DPRK. Of course India has issues around the NPT and there is the ongoing debate about Japan’s imperialist past, but hey, no one is perfect.

  37. porandojin Says:

    Marxy,there’s another (possibly apocryphal) anecdote about Japan apologizing to China in the 70s. The Chinese delegation said, no need to apologize, because the Japanese actually have helped Mao to conquer Kuomintang …

  38. mmm Says:

    So should the UK soccer hooligans be blamed for the riots in the PR of China after Japan’s victory against them during the Asian Cup? That was the PR of China’s official stance: “The fans just got excited at bad officiating, it wasn’t political. This happens all the time in soccer.” Or, perhaps we should be blaming the US?

    Chris B seems to be making a lot of sense today.

    I’m not pro-China by any means, and this leads us again to that eternal question: can you be anti-LDP without being anti-Japan?

    Are you claiming that the LDP is the embodiment of everything Japanese. That is similar to “patriots” who find it incomprehensible that you can be anti-Bush without being anti-American. You are starting to sound like a country music singer. Will there be a honk tonk rendition of Kimigayo on the next Marxy album.

    …because the Chinese have done something much worse to Japan: we gave you kanji and Confucianism.

    True dat!

  39. marxy Says:

    Are you claiming that the LDP is the embodiment of everything Japanese.

    No, I was always saying that it is possible to be anti-LDP and pro-Japan, but was often shouted down for this idea in the past. I think the LDP wins only on the back of mass political apathy – they work on consent but not consensus.

  40. Chris_B Says:

    mmm: thanks, but dont forget about Johnny Cash, he was never afraid to stick it to the man.

    marxy: of course it is possible to be against the ruling party but not against the nation, that is a basic tenet of democracy. I am dissapointed with your comment on consent not concensus however. What exactly are you implying with this? I realized you qualified the statement with I think, however I hope you are above the sort of soft skulled reactionary liberal thinking which seeks to blame the establishment without reason as a last resort when linear reasoning fails. That line is really no better than the right wing nationalism you seem to despise.

  41. marxy Says:

    What exactly are you implying with this?

    Look at the four socio-economic classes in Japan: capitalists, new middle class (salarymen, white collar workers, service industry etc.), old middle class (independent store owners, farmers), and working class. The LDP supports the interests of the capitalists and the old middle class, and if you look at voting patterns, those two groups vote overwhelmingly for the LDP. The working class votes mostly for the left parties, but the new middle class has almost 0 political affliation with anyone – no political consciousness. The old middle class has been shrinking since the end of the war, but with no counterbalance, their political power has always dominated Japanese politics. (Until the 90s, there was real gerrymandering with rural counties than always tipped the balance towards the conservatives.)

    The new middle classes don’t vote en masse like the other classes and end up just consenting to the government opposed to being an active part of its power. It’s like if the Democratic party lost all of its educated, upper middle-class voters.

  42. Chris_B Says:

    marxy: so you are saying that middle class voter apathy creates the consent situation you describe? It certainly cant be for lack of other parties campaign efforts as evidenced by the ever present posters all over the nation and the election season sound trucks for candidates of all parties.

    Your broad description of the “new” middle class as having “almost 0 political affiliation” would indicate far lower voter turnout than evidenced this decade and should then imply a greater swing towards minority parties. Almost all analysis I’ve seen indicate that the recent gains by the DPJ are more due to party mergers than changes in voting trends.

    Given that there are no barriers to voting and that more information is available to voters than ever before, could the fact that non LDP parties are not showing grown perhaps be attributed to electoral approval of the LDP?

  43. mmm Says:

    I think the LDP wins only on the back of mass political apathy – they work on consent but not consensus.

    I actually tend to agree. From the lack of the parties on the left to join together, and the seemingly lack of change caused by it, comes the apathy.

    I know that the two party system does have its faults but one of their benefits is the possibility of a change of leadership and direction every once in a while. With the DPJ absorbing voters and politicians from the socialist and communist parties perhaps things (eventually) will change. The DPJ will of course have to quit imitating the LDP first.

    (Marxy, your blog is fun to read by the way. I don’t think I have said that yet.)

  44. robotar Says:

    Momus:
    Though I agree with you that part of China’s official response to the Japanese texts is motivated by UN politics, you’re also ignoring a few other things: Korea is involved; this happened a few years ago and Korea and China withdrew their ambassadors (the event wouldn’t be sparked by Condi); the large public response preceedes the government response and shows that the entire event strikes something deeper in the heart of the people besides UN politics.

    I’ve studied Japanese and Chinese history and know a little bit of Korean and I can tell you that you are simply overlooking facts. You can’t blame everything on the United States, especially when you look at the big picture.

    My penpal recently sent this passage to me:
    ” Do you read news paper everyday.I hate Japan very very much.They are
    shit!!!!!Their country is a zoo and japanese are annimals!!!My God!I cant
    believe they don’t acknowlege the history!!!!!”

    I find it hard to believe that that kind of deeply ingrained sentiment is the result of US remilitarization of Japan. Perhaps it has something more to with their imperialism, the death of 300,000 chinese in two weeks in Nanking (the nazis had to tell the Japanese to calm down), or the fact that in many schools in Japan they still fly the rising sun flag. Or will you simply ignore it all?

  45. Chris_B Says:

    robotar: its pretty much pointless to tell momus not to blame the US and point out that he overlooks facts. Its just his nature to do so. As far as your comments on Nanking, looks like you are either fanning the flames yourself or you have access to some information I’ve never seen. How exactly do you figure nazi involvement?

  46. marxy Says:

    ” Do you read news paper everyday.I hate Japan very very much.They are
    shit!!!!!Their country is a zoo and japanese are annimals!!!My God!I cant
    believe they don’t acknowlege the history!!!!!”

    This is an interesting piece of first-hand info. The penpal hates Japan in the same way as someone hates a rival baseball team, and from the other quotes of Chinese youngsters I’ve seen in the media, they’re all pretty superficial.

    Now, I agree that current Japanese historical revisionism is loathsome, but from all the links provided here (thanks porandojin), there’s a pretty strong case that the Chinese side’s anger is not particularly historical nor deep. I mean, Japanese imperialism was certainly beastly, but is Japan today really “like a zoo?”

  47. Robotar Says:

    How exactly do you figure nazi involvement?
    I believe this was recorded somewhere in The Rape of Nanking. If I can find it, I’ll post the citation. Nazis were allies, etc. etc.

    As far as Japan being “like a zoo,” certainly it was an emotional exaggeration on behalf of my friend. At the same time, however, I’ve heard several accounts of how when Chinese students have classes with Korean and particularly Japanese students, they are enraged at the lack of “discipline.” Perhaps that’s what my friend is talking about– I don’t know. I’ve emailed him, asking him to clarify.

    Regardless of the depth of this “hatred,” however, Japan is still guilty of revisionism and imperialism, something that would be important to be acknowledged from all parties. Just as Israel and Palestine can’t begin to move on until both admit their faults, neither can Eastern Asia begin to move on until Japan (and her supporters, ahem) acknowledge past transgressions.

    But I’m sure you all already knew that :) ::steps off soapbox::

  48. Reason Says:

    Living and working now in HK, I have to clarify one really important issue – the Chinese don’t need their govt to stoke their anger against Japan.

    They are not brainwashed or some such nonsense. There were 20 millin Chinese killed by Japan during the war. Almost every ethnic Chinese person I’ve talked to has a personal familial tragedy to tell. They are in fact angry at Mao for refusing to pursue war reparations, like the Jews did with the German govt. By assuming that they behave like sheep, you are insulting their integrity and intelligence. I also asked them about the Culture Revolution and Great Leap. Although their families have suffered greatly, none have had their family members killed, which leads me to question the oft-cited figure of “70 million” killed by Mao. Can this be another form of propaganda? Has anyone conducted a population census on this in China?

    Another myth is that they are angry now over the past. They are in fact angry over the present provocations, the new revisionism, the Yasukuni visits, the racist slurs of Ishihara and many other like-minded top politicians.

    Let’s compare and contrast:

    Germany paid 80 billion in war reparations, Japan 30 billion in aid

    It is a crime in Germany to whitewash Nazi crimes or revise history. In Japan, books, politicians, the Yasukuni, regularly advcate the view that Japan did it in self-defense and to “liberate” inferior Asians from Western powers.

    Germany built war memorials to their victims. The Japanese built memorials to themselves, with not even one to their victims.

    Germany gave up 20% of their prewar German territory to Russia and Poland. Japan still claims territory it annexed from China and Korea at the start of the war. What about the annexation of independent Rykyu/Okinawa? Isn’t that as bad as China annexing Tibet?

    Ultimately, with all the revisionism going on with very public support and its unrepentent stance, the 17 apologies [unofficial as they weren’t backed up by the Diet] and $30 b aid ring hollow.

    If it weren’t ethnic Chinese, but Jews protesting and demanding a stop to revisionism and the worship of the Japanese equivalent of Hitler, Himmler and Goebbels, I wonder if their motives would be similarly derided.

    Also, would the checkered human rights records of Israel with the Palestinians have negated the rights of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust?

    You have to separate your personal feelings and animosity for the Chinese government or people from the righst of all victims [Chinese, Koreans, Philippinos, Allied PoWs, Comfort women, etc.] to demand for an acknowledgement of their history.