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    Mishima’s diaries reveal shocking truth about train fares

    Posted by Sean at 04:25, April 2nd, 2005

    Those who know Yukio Mishima’s 仮面の告白 (kamen no kokuhaku: “Confessions of a Mask“) may be interested in this (English, Japanese):

    A diary that novelist Yukio Mishima kept when he was a student is believed to have provided material for his later novels, contradicting previous theories on his works.

    “Railway fare, 1 yen,” and “Nikkan Sports (a sport newspaper), 0.5 yen,” the diary partially reads.

    In the diary he kept from 1946 to 1947, Mishima described in detail his efforts to become a novelist, his relations with another famous novelist, Osamu Dazai, and his reunion with a woman believed to be the model of Sonoko, a woman in his masterpiece, “Kamen-no-Kokuhaku (Confession of a Mask).”

    In the novel, after the main character rebuffs Sonoko’s advances, she marries another man, but they are subsequently reunited.

    Well, you could kind of put it that way. Here’s a hurried translation from part of the café reunion scene, in which Sonoko tells the protagonist that she still doesn’t understand what kept him from marrying her:

    [Warning: clunky literalness below!]

    At that point, my eye was drawn to one of them. He was a very rough-looking, swarthily handsome youth–22 or 23. He was shirtless, and he was retying a white loincloth, dingy and moist with sweat, around his waist. All the while, his chatter and laughter with his friends went on, and he seemed to be purposefully taking his time about winding the cloth band. The thick, taut swells of muscle on his chest were on brazen display; downward from the center of his chest fell more solid bands of muscle, deeply ridged. On his left and right sides were thick chains of flesh, like fast rope bindings. Around this smooth, hot mass of a torso the bleached loincloth was being wound and pulled tight. His naked suntanned shoulders glistened as if oiled. From the hollows of his armpits peeked a black thicket that threw off the sunlight in a glinting gold tangle.

    Seeing these things–seeing, above all, the tatoo of a peony on his toned upper arm–I was assailed by lust. My feverish gaze was fixed on this rough, barbaric–this uncommonly beautiful–body. He was laughing beneath the sun. When he threw his head back, he showed the swell of his Adam’s apple. A dangerous flutter ran beneath my chest. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from him.

    I’d forgotten that Sonoko existed.

    In fact, much of the book is like this: the progtagonist lusts after the nightsoil man, an athletic boy at school, and a print of St. Sebastian. Gay humanists frequently make a big to-do about homosexual content that doesn’t really seem to be there, but there’s no mistaking it in 仮面の告白. Of course, it’s no surprise that a Japanese newspaper would glide over it. For one thing, a lot of people still take the line that there’s no homosexuality here. (I’ll wait for you to stop laughing. Done? Okay.) For another, describing the book accurately might be skirting close to commenting on Mishima’s own sexuality. This is, after all, a country in which you can find articles about Mutsuo Takahashi that don’t mention his sexuality.

    Japan Post bill almost ready

    Posted by Sean at 01:00, April 2nd, 2005

    Japan Post reform is still in process. Yesterday morning, the big news was of PM Koizumi’s growing impatience with the reform panel:

    The outline is based on a plan to place the postal services under a holding company in April 2007 after dividing them into four units–mail delivery, counter services, postal banking, and postal insurance.

    Government shares in the postal bank and the postal insurance firm would be sold by the end of March 2017.

    The outline also includes the following points to gain LDP support in the negotiations:

    — The related bills will spell out that post offices will be established around the country to provide nationwide services and a ministerial ordinance will be issued to require post offices in remote areas not to close.

    — To maintain financial services, the postal bank and the postal insurance firm will be required to contract the counter services firm as their agent for the time being as a condition for receiving a license. After 2017, a fund to cover deficits in provincial areas will be established.

    — A system will be introduced to select postmasters for special post offices.

    How to divide up Japan Post’s current services has been one of the major remaining sticking points. The proposal is supposed to be submitted to the LDP on Monday.

    Temblor in Fukuoka

    Posted by Sean at 08:59, April 1st, 2005

    Fukuoka (the city, not just somewhere in the prefecture) just had an earthquake of 4 M an hour ago. That level of quake doesn’t usually cause damage here in Japan, but I’m sure it did little to cheer the residents, who are still righting things after the earthquake last month. Atsushi probably felt it in city, too, where he’s probably already out with coworkers to welcome the new hires. (Because of Japan’s school year, they start in spring.)

    Of course, the Indian Ocean had yet another earthquake last week. Despite the high number of deaths, it looks as if the frame of mind that lingered after the December tsunami helped minimize losses. Still, there are fears of more disasters ahead:

    Seismologists are already sure that Monday’s magnitude 8.7 quake off Sumatra island was a direct result of raised stress levels in the earth’s crust caused by the Dec. 26 tremor.

    And they say there is now a heightened risk of further large quakes — not just aftershocks — in the area, although predicting them accurately remains impossible.

    “Unfortunately that is a real possibility — the world works that way,” Professor John McCloskey, head of environmental sciences at the University of Ulster, told Reuters by telephone.

    I don’t think it can ever be proved either way, but one explanation submitted by scholars for the rapid decline of Mycenean civilization is an “earthquake storm,” which is pretty much what it sounds like: a series of quakes resulting from a long period of built-up pressure. Not everyone accepts that explanation, of course; the traditional one involves invasions from the “Sea People.”

    Closet space

    Posted by Sean at 08:30, April 1st, 2005

    Michael uses a locution you see a lot in regard to outing:

    I’m in. My perspective on outing is simple. If you are a public figure, like a politician or whatever, I’m tentatively ok with it as long as it’s done to expose some hypocrisy.

    Some months back, I was taken aback to see Dale Carpenter use it, too, in establishing what he thinks are the criteria for justifiable outing:

    First, the outed person’s homosexuality must be directly relevant to some matter of public policy.

    Hypocrisy by an officeholder meets this test, as when a closeted politician opposes gay equality for homophobic reasons.

    Second, there must be credible evidence made available to the public that establishes the person is probably homosexual.

    The word that gets me is hypocrisy, an extremely useful term that unfortunately is extremely easy to use as a catch-all. Hypocrisy is acting in a way that clearly and directly goes against your professed beliefs. Someone who advocates a law against homosexual conduct and still indulges in it is a hypocrite.

    Just about everything else is a grey area, though. Opposing pro-gay legislation for “homophobic reasons”? Who gets to decide what’s homophobic? Does a politician just have to be “probably” homophobic the way she has to be “probably” homosexual? I’m afraid I still don’t think this is sufficient justification for revealing things about people’s private lives.

    The way to treat people you think are hypocritical and up to no good is to shun them. This seems to be the last move anyone thinks of nowadays, what with all the opportunities to sue people or sell their stories to tabloid shows. It’s still the best course, though. People who are just interested in tricks are unlikely to feel the sting, but those who act straight in public and then want to be all matey and down with the Family behind closed doors would, I think, get the message. And if they don’t, there’s not a whole lot we can do. It simply isn’t possible to stick it to everyone who deserves it, and we all lose when the boundary between public and private becomes even more blurred than it is now.

    Connecticut civil unions bill ready for Senate

    Posted by Sean at 08:48, March 31st, 2005

    Gay News reports that Connecticut’s civil unions bill has passed its three General Assembly committees and is ready to go to the State Senate:

    Gov. M. Jodi Rell has endorsed the concept of civil unions, though she said last week she would like the bill amended to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Rell has not said failure to adopt such an amendment would provoke a veto.

    If the bill becomes law, Connecticut would become the first state to allow same-sex civil unions without the threat of court action.

    Wouldn’t that be cool?

    The libertarian question

    Posted by Sean at 01:51, March 31st, 2005

    Oh, great–this discussion again.

    I’m not sure if I’m a neolibertarian or not, but I think I’m awfully close to what they’re driving at.

    Speaking of libertarianism in general, I’ve long thought of the hard-core libertarians–the really serious, no-compromisers–as the Marxists of the right. Interestingly enough, Scott Kirwin sent me an article in The American Conservative recently which makes that exact point, and makes it quite well: Click here to read Robert Locke’s “Marxism of the Right.”

    Dean’s correct. The article is good. I do think, though, that it only addresses those who are hard think-tank/political-activist libertarians:

    Free spirits, the ambitious, ex-socialists, drug users, and sexual eccentrics often find an attractive political philosophy in libertarianism, the idea that individual freedom should be the sole rule of ethics and government.

    Wacko Libertarian Party types might believe that, but Virginia Postrel, for example, certainly doesn’t. As you read Locke’s article, it becomes increasingly clear that what he’s refuting is only the perfectionist libertarians, who can’t see any grey areas in anything at all. Those people annoy the living bejeezus out of me, as they do a lot of other people, and I found very satisfying Locke’s temperate-but-vaguely-aghast tone in pointing out their flagrant idiocies.

    But still. I voted for Bush. I’m in favor of free markets, private gun ownership, school vouchers, the WOT, strict readings of the Constitution, and social security privatization; I’m against hate-crimes laws, campus speech codes, campaign-finance reform, the push for gay marriage, the ruthless secularization of the public sphere, UN-worship, and Richard Gere. I’ve had plenty of people tell me, “Dude [or sometimes Bitch], whatever you call yourself, you’re a conservative,” and that’s fine if they feel that way, but I persist in referring to myself as a libertarian, not a conservative.

    It’s not something I have a hang-up about. It’s just that, in the grand scheme of things, I think liberty is more fragile and needs more protection than tradition. The reason so many sensible people are calling themselves conservatives is that, at this historical moment in America, tradition has taken a bruising, with insights passed down through the ages flung aside or simply ignored over the last 40 years. Recapturing that wisdom is a big and important job, but I don’t think it’s the vast mission that animates civilization. The world is chock-a-block with societies that respect tradition just fine but offer their citizens miserable lives. It’s our liberty that makes us different and makes us a beacon to them. For the use of the word, it’s worth being occasionally mistaken for a LP head case; and it has the added advantage of alerting people that they’ll have to listen to you to find out what you actually believe.


    Posted by Sean at 08:16, March 30th, 2005

    The cherry blossoms have started to open in Atsushi’s city. They’re late again this year and are still closed in Tokyo, so the following is anticipatory:



    negawakuba/hana no moto nite/haru shinan/sono kisaragi no/mochidzuki no koro

    Saigyō Hōshi

    If I have my wish,
    I will die beneath the boughs
    laden with blossoms–
    Spring, the night of the full moon,
    second moon of the new year.

    The Priest Saigyo

    All right, I had to shove the “spring” after the caesura and pad the part before the caesura with “boughs” (in case you don’t know where the flowers on trees grow). And Saigyo doesn’t actually indicate that he’s talking about 夜桜 (yo-zakura: “night viewing of cherry blossoms”). Anyway, I think the point gets across. This is one of Saigyo’s most famous poems, and it has an uncharacteristic swooning tone (not that there’s anything wrong with swooning occasionally). It antedates the practice of appreciating the cherry blossoms by getting mortally tanked and singing karaoke, rather than dying, beneath them.

    Actually, I suppose they were getting tanked back then, too. I’m pretty sure they weren’t singing karaoke.

    Taking away the performance

    Posted by Sean at 01:11, March 30th, 2005

    See, if I were able to write headlines as hilarious as the one on this post, I wouldn’t just slap on the first song lyrics that come to mind and consider my entry finished. As Samizdata’s Johnathan Pearce says, “God forbid that alcohol should be sold on the basis that it is to do with fun, ooooh noooo.” Fun might lead to not only sex but also spontaneity and the formation of irreverent individual opinions. Then where would we be?

    BTW, I see that the old nannyculture.com has been transformed entirely into consumerfreedom.com, which is missing the fabulous finger-wagging-granny logo of old but is still depressingly informative.


    Posted by Sean at 11:00, March 29th, 2005

    Japan is contemplating an environmental tax:

    On 29 march, the government’s advisory body on global warming policy (Chair: PM Koizumi) decided on a new proposal for achieving environmental goals; the purpose is to hit targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions set by the Kyoto Protocols. The main pillar of the plan is to urge industries to make efforts independently, so factory-based reduction targets were increased and home- and office-based targets were relaxed. The proposal names an environmental tax as an possibility to be investigated but does not specify whether such a tax will actually be introduced. The proposal contains few concrete policy recommendations, so some have raised concern that targets are in danger of not being achieved.

    Should we laugh or cry? All of this is in response, of course, to the realization several weeks back that the Kyoto Protocols were going into effect, but Japan had no plans in place to implement them.

    Another Mitsubishi Fuso recall

    Posted by Sean at 09:58, March 29th, 2005

    Apparently under the assumption that any publicity is good publicity, Mitsubishi Fuso is taking the tack of spacing out its revelations of product malfunctions to make sure there’s always a new one circulating:

    The transport ministry started questioning executives of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck & Bus Corp. on Monday about suspicions the commercial vehicle manufacturer had hidden defect-induced accidents yet again, this time under new leadership.

    The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport summoned three executives, including Hideyuki Shiozawa, senior executive officer in charge of recalls, for questioning over suspected violations of the road transportation vehicles law.

    After a spate of scandals over defect cover-ups as well as pledges for improvement, it was discovered that Mitsubishi Fuso had delayed by six months reporting a series of vehicle fires and other problems involving its large trucks.

    It was not until March 18 that the company reported 22 incidents, including seven fires, that took place after it filed for recalls of 4,454 large trucks due to faulty suspension parts in September 2004.

    It’s literally been years that these recalls have been in the news.