Monday, April 16, 2007

Shinzo Abe comes to Koriyama

On Friday night, I accomplished the task of losing my keys yet again, forcing me to return downtown to fetch them. Having gone to a welcome party for the new Katahira JHS principal the previous night, This was followed by beers with Sanpei Sensei and the guys, and finally God’s Bar, the grimy foreigner’s watering hole.

It was about noon before I finally realized I had lost my keys. I decided to kill two birds with one stone (figuratively speaking) by running all the way down to the station and getting my workout in at the same time. I returned to all three places, finally locating my keys at the place I visited with the other teachers after the party. I emerged onto a far too crowded street with everybody staring and half heartedly cheering at something.

I asked some people what was going on, and they informed me that none other than Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan, was soon to emerge from the Koriyama View Hotel Annex into his motorcade. Cops were everywhere, and suddenly things made perfect sense. I was somewhat surprised, because I didn’t think the small motorcade was significant enough for a man of his position.

People described what he was wearing, so I waited and watched like everyone else, hoping to get a glimpse of the political figurehead of Japan. Soon enough, he emerged from the hotel and got into his car, and everyone was cheering and clapping for him (I can’t imagine why, because I get the feeling he isn’t that popular). The motorcade soon drove off with police cars, and the crowd dispersed. While I didn't get to shake his hand or get an autograph, I was somewhat proud of myself for seeing the Japanese Prime Minister on Saturday, April 14, 2007.

Japan’s government more closely resembles the British Parliamentary system than the American government. Consequently, Shinzo Abe’s job aligns with Tony Blair’s more than Presiden Bush’s job. He took over from his predecessor Junichiro Koizumi just a short while ago. Koizumi was disliked for bowing to pressure from Bush and sending Japanese troops to Iraq. Koizumi also managed to anger the Chinese for visiting the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, which houses the remains of Japanese war criminals known for reprehensible deeds throughout much of Asia during World War 2.

I’m not sure I like Shinzo Abe so much. I have no idea whether he is good for Japan or not, but two things have given me a very negative impression of the man. Awhile back, his health minister got into trouble for calling women “baby making machines,” or something to that effect.

Shinzo Abe also managed to infuriate the Chinese, Koreans, (and most of the rest of Asia for that matter) by claiming that 200,000 or so WWII “comfort women" were not forced or coerced into sexual slavery for the Japanese Imperial Army. Women from many nations, China, Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, etc, were forced into military brothels. Abe's denial of these historical facts would be amusing, were it not such a serious matter.

A British article summarizing the comfort women and Shinzo Abe's comments is here.

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