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    Some Japan stuff

    If the plane-grounding Icelandic ash cloud hasn’t been sufficient reminder of how vulnerable we are to nature’s vagaries (and how fortunate that we have such an extensive technological arsenal to protect ourselves), check out this story about Japan’s vegetable shortages:

    The government is calling on farmers to speed up vegetable deliveries after cold weather and lack of sunlight led to a poor spring crop and spiking vegetable prices.

    “The vegetables prices may remain high for the foreseeable future. We’d like to ask farmers to bring forward their shipments in a bid to stabilize retail prices,” Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Hirotaka Akamatsu told a news conference following a regular Cabinet meeting Friday morning.

    Also on Friday, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry asked the National Federation of Agricultural Co-operative Associations to bring forward vegetable shipments. Consumer organizations as well as the ministry have also asked farmers to ship malformed vegetables that are usually discarded.

    However, noting the measure will have only limited effects, government sources say they fear vegetable prices are unlikely to decline until May or later, and farmers pointed out that complying with demands for early shipment is difficult.

    “We harvested lettuce and other vegetables earlier than usual in response to an increase in demand from the restaurant industry during the spring vacation period. Even if we are asked to bring forward shipments, it’s difficult to comply,” said an official of the Ibaraki Prefecture chapter of the agricultural federation.

    Shredded lettuce and cabbage come with nearly everything in Japan: you walk into a little restaurant, and the waitress plunks down a small bowl of shredded cabbage and carrots with ginger dressing as your o-tooshi-mono. That there would be a shortage of them is really unsettling. Of course, Japan isn’t facing a famine—you’ll notice that one proposal for making up the difference is just not rejecting too many misshapen cabbages, which is a problem the DPRK would have loved to have around a decade ago. Still, the story is a good reminder of how intricate our supply and distribution systems are. (Of course, you could also take the opportunity to bring up Japan’s insane agricultural-subsidy system, but I’m feeling generous today.)


    It’s a few days old, but the Asahi English site had a good rundown of what’s led up to the current confusion—impasse doesn’t seem to be quite the best word—over the relocation of the Futenma facility in Okinawa:

    U.S. officials certainly have no intention of jeopardizing the decades-long alliance with Japan, but there is growing concern and frustration at the lack of a meeting of minds on such important matters of mutual concern.

    Hatoyama broached the issue of the relocation of the U.S. Marines Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture during a short meeting with Obama on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in the U.S. capital on Monday. Neither Japan nor the United States explained how Obama responded.

    What did come across, however, is that the meeting did not change the U.S. government’s position, which is that the best solution to the Futenma issue lies with a 2006 agreement reached by the two nations to relocate the base to the Henoko district of Nago, also in Okinawa Prefecture.

    Behind this extremely defensive and careful approach of the U.S. government is its resolve not to make the same mistake of 2005, when Washington compromised and accepted current Henoko option.

    During those negotiations, U.S. officials for a long time advocated a plan to construct a replacement facility on a landfill off the south coast of Henoko, Nago city. This plan was commonly known as “Nago Light.” However, during the final stage of the talks, U.S. officials abandoned it and accepted instead the Japanese proposal to build the new facility on the coastline of Camp Schwab at Henoko point.

    Richard Lawless, who negotiated the agreement for the United States as deputy undersecretary of defense, recalled his decision to go along with his Japanese counterparts.

    “They guaranteed that they can implement the proposal,” Lawless said. “I made sure about this point with several people in charge (in the Japanese government) a number of times.”

    Four years after the agreement was reached, the Japanese government has done an about-turn and told Washington the Henoko option cannot be implemented. Japan’s turnaround frustrated not only Lawless, but also current U.S. administration officials. They also share a deep sense of mistrust over Hatoyama’s frequent flip-flops on this issue.

    It’s very difficult to assign blame in this scenario. It’s not possible to indulge the NIMBY-ism of every municipality, but it’s understandable that many towns don’t want the side-effects of a military installation. I’m very much a supporter of the military, but it’s a plain and simple fact that putting a lot of hopped-up kids in their early twenties far from home—in an environment of literal martial discipline in which their violent impulses are deliberately brought to the surface so they can be channeled to useful purposes—nearly guarantees an increase in crime and a tense relationship with the locals, whatever job-creating benefits may come along with the installation. Washington wants the existing agreement to be implemented; Tokyo seems to see the new administrations in both countries as an opportunity to restart negotiations practically from square one. Neither seems likely to have all its expectations met.


    Sugarpie, I have just found the must-have camp accessory of the year:

    Herman Van Rompuy, the European Union’s first permanent president, has published his first anthology of haiku poems.

    Van Rompuy, a former prime minister of Belgium, said here Thursday that he hopes to compose haiku when he is in Tokyo for the annual EU-Japan Summit, which convenes April 28.

    The book, titled “Haiku,” contains 45 haiku he wrote in Dutch and which have been translated into English, French, German and Latin.

    Can you just…?

    A new commission–
    the joy of its formation
    like freshest spring rains


    Indifference from
    sassy Yank colonials–
    our cries sad, owl-like!


    Dry cicada shell–
    an easy relationship
    would be so empty

    Okay, in all seriousness, van Rompuy could be very good; but haiku is one of those genres that bring out the “I could do that!” dilettantism in people, and the results are nearly always irredeemably precious, in my experience. For some reason, the combination of shortness (not a major time investment!), nature themes (I love Nature—I’m a good person!”), and Japaneseness (aesthete capital of the world!) makes haiku hard to resist, but it also makes them difficult to execute well. Maybe Catherine Ashton will be flogging her first manga this summer?

    Added later: Thanks to Instapundit for the link. I have a half-dozen regular commenters who routinely agree with me, for which I am very grateful; but if you have a dissenting comment to make, I’ll be glad to read it, since I don’t get much dissent around here. (That’s not an aspersion, regular readers.) If you’re wondering where my interest in Japan comes from, I studied Japanese literature in college and grad school, and I lived in Tokyo from the ages of 24 to 36. I am unapologetically American down to the bone, but I love Japan also, and I’m very interested in seeing our alliance not screwed up.

    23 Responses to “Some Japan stuff”

    1. ED-209 says:

      “but it’s a plain and simple fact that putting a lot of hopped-up kids in their early twenties far from home—in an environment of literal martial discipline in which their violent impulses are deliberately brought to the surface so they can be channeled to useful purposes—nearly guarantees an increase in crime and a tense relationship with the locals”

      The idea that a military installation in an area leads to increased crime rates is asinine.

    2. Sean says:

      Well, that’s a pronouncement—do you have any evidence to that effect? Bear in mind that I was talking about military installations in foreign countries, and particularly in Japan, which has extraordinarily low rates of violent crime and vehicular fatalities. Reports of rape and DUI fatalities are more or less unheard of; they make the national news. I concede that that “far from home” could conceivably refer to personnel from Colorado who are stationed in North Carolina, but I did think from context that it was clear what I was referring to.

    3. Joel Mackey says:

      “but it’s a plain and simple fact that putting a lot of hopped-up kids in their early twenties far from home—in an environment of literal martial discipline in which their violent impulses are deliberately brought to the surface so they can be channeled to useful purposes—nearly guarantees an increase in crime and a tense relationship with the locals”

      That is a pronouncement, do you have any evidence to that effect? What are these kids hopped up on? what are these violent impulses that are being deliberately brought to the surface and how are they being channeled to useful purposes, but then in off hours, going astray?

    4. les says:

      It’s interesting that someone coming to this blog has to “prove” an assertion rather than the blogger trying to justify a position that US military personnel are violent and crime ridden in comparison to the local population. I wonder how many US military personnel the blogger has actually met. This attitude strikes me as both uninformed and rather full of a condescending bias against the US military that is seen all to often these days.

      So to the point. Let’s try http://www.dprkstudies.org/documents/asia015.html where some statistics are provided that US military crime on Okinawa is significantly less than the general population. Frankly, it doesn’t take much research on the web to come up with a number of studies about this issue that support the US military on Okinawa.

    5. Eric Blair says:

      Well, that’s all well and good until something heinous happens that the locals can use to whip up the hate–and it will happen, no matter what the actual number of crimes are and who is doing them.

      I saw stuff like that in Korea in the 1980’s.

    6. Paul A'Barge says:

      Right after you quote this:
      “Four years after the agreement was reached, the Japanese government has done an about-turn and told Washington the Henoko option cannot be implemented. ”

      You write this:
      “It’s very difficult to assign blame in this scenario.”

      Very difficult? No, it’s not very difficult. In fact, it’s effortless. Blame the Japanese.

    7. Paul A'Barge says:

      Prior to writing this:
      “a lot of hopped-up kids in their early twenties far from home—in an environment of literal martial discipline in which their violent impulses are deliberately brought to the surface so they can be channeled to useful purposes”
      You write this:
      “I’m very much a supporter of the military”.

      No you’re not. If fact, in pretty much no way are you “much of a supporter of the military”. If you were, you would understand the meaning of the word “honor”, which appears in the triad “duty, honor, country”.

      Honor, sir. Not “hopped up kids with violent impulses”. Honor.

      As your your honor, we will leave that as an exercise for the reader.

    8. Tony A. says:

      I am a big fan of Instapundit (which linked your site) and a Japanophile. I’m also a Marine Captain stationed in Okinawa. Your comment on the military was quite unsettling yet understandable.

      Understandable because a large military presence generally does come with “side effects” that create tense relationships with the locals. I’ve seen this firsthand with the discipline problems among my Marines in Okinawa.

      More importantly, your statement was unsettling because it that soldiers, airmen, sailors, and Marines “nearly guarantee[s] an increase in crime and a tense relationship with the locals” suggested that the military does not seriously address the problems associated with having a large group of mostly young, single males. Bottom line: we just don’t care about good order and discipline and let the testosterone of young, single males run wild on Okinawa.

      Nothing could be farther from the truth. Here on Okinawa, the military leadership places a high priority on good order and discipline among the troops and the relationship with the local Okinawans. We mandate midnight curfews for a majority of the young troops and show no mercy to drunk drivers.

      Most importantly, military culture has changed drastically from the military culture of the 80’s and early 90’s. Back then, bad behavior was given a slap on the wrist. Today, a single incident of bad behavior can and most likely will destroy one’s career.

      Practicing good conduct and fostering strong relationships with the local Okinawans are not just punchlines. We here in Okinawa live and practice those values everyday and do so honorably. And if you want proof, go here: http://www.okinawa.usmc.mil/BigCircle/BigCircle.html

    9. Brendan says:

      I lived in Japan from 1989 to 2002. I used to go on the base occasionally, and I thought the relations between the Japanese and the military were fairly good. The problem is that the really bad crimes, as Eric mentioned, were spread all over the country and various leftist elements used them as a way to try and get the military to leave. The military provides a lot of economic value, especially for small country towns in Japan. But that is a source of resentment as well.

    10. Tblakely says:

      So paraphrasing using slightly more inflammatory language “but it’s a plain and simple fact that putting a lot of programmed, crazed killbots whose violent impulses are barely held in check by military discipline amongst hapless civilians—nearly guarantees various atrocities being committed said locals.”

      Wow, you think highly of our military don’t you?

    11. Maureen says:

      So we’re all worried about military installation/town problems, but we’re not worried about town and gown anymore?

      Given the new American leftist tactic of registering college kids to vote in their college town, and then taking over the town government and laws when the kids don’t even live there full time, I think I’d be a lot more worried about the domestic town and gown problem. I mean, one subverts your whole system of government, while the other gives the Japanese a socially sanctioned thing to complain about.

      Truth is, Okinawans are madder at the Japanese government than at the US military. (They used to be their own independent country, remember? Not to mention how many have relatives killed by Japanese soldiers in WWII and before.) But they can’t complain about that without getting shushed. However, they _can_ use their complaints about the US installations as a sock puppet, to constantly embarrass Tokyo. (Not the only reason they complain, of course. There’s also some honest annoyance and fear.)

    12. Sean says:

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to approve first-time comments; I don’t blog on company time, and as you might infer from the fact that yesterday’s were my first new posts in over a week, my attention’s been occupied elsewhere.

      Normally, I respond to comments individually, but normally, I hear from one person every three days, and there are obvious common themes here, so my general answer is this:


      Suppose I’d written this:

      “I’m very much a supporter of accountants, but it’s a plain and simple fact that giving people the keys to the counting house with minimal oversight, training them to think about money-money-money all day, nearly guarantees a greater rate of embezzlement.”

      Would any of you be taking me to mean that accountants in general actually end up committing embezzlement? Wouldn’t you instead assume I was doing…well, exactly what I was doing in the passage I actually wrote: pointing out that a given job in a given environment will play into some human weaknesses, and under those circumstances, those weaknesses are likely to out in people who are prone to them? Is there something generally considered controversial there (as an overall principle, I mean; I threw that accounting example together quickly as an analogy, so I’m sure you could punch holes in it pretty easily)?

      When you put people in a foreign country, where they have no permanent ties and are aware that they’ll eventually be skedaddling, they often feel in a place where neither the home rules nor the local rules entirely apply. That’s true of high-school kids on their Spanish Club trip to Madrid; it’s true of expat bankers in Roppongi. Is there any reason it’s not true of military personnel blowing off steam in the entertainment district? (And I’m not talking about rules of conduct, exactly—the armed forces are obviously going to do what they have to to enforce those stringently. I’m talking more about interacting socially with the locals.)

      Also, has some breakthrough method been developed for training people to go charging into dangerous places to kill the enemy without somehow summoning up and channeling their aggression to the purpose? If so, I’d be very interested to hear how that works. Along those lines, if I’m not supposed to be calling anyone “hopped up,” do I take that to mean the armed forces are only taking the most laid-back, least horny guys in their teens and twenties? I’m not sure I find that comforting.

      I’m taking a somewhat jokey tone here, but my underlying point is a serious one: I do not dispute that the vast majority of military personnel serve with honor and distinction, and they do a necessary job for which we should all be grateful. But when there is a bad apple, or a generally good guy who goes off the rails in a weak moment, somewhere like Okinawa, it seems to me to be perfectly understandable (not excusable, but understandable) that the explosion should take the form of a sexual assault or other crime of passion. How is that an aspersion on the military in general?

      As for the specific counter-argument about higher crime rates, thanks to les for the link. I’m not sure that’s the exact document I’ve seen before, but if not, it’s similar. Here’s the thing that disquiets me: comparing total percentage of crimes committed to relative population is certainly useful, and the result is a good response to anyone who starts in on the poor-Okinawans-terrorized-by-US-military-personnel routine. What I’ve never understood is why, if the figures are on the pro-US side, no one seems to split out the figures for assault, especially, if possible, stranger or near-stranger assault. It’s those figures that would really get to the heart of the matter. No one who complains about base crime, in any report I’ve read, is afraid our military are involved in the ore-ore scam, or in stealing Mrs. Fukuda’s stash of cash from under the tatami mat where everyone knows she keeps it. It’s bar brawls and sex crimes that are the sore spot.

      Even leaving that aside, I don’t think the total crime statistic really reaches the very specific point I was making, which was that if you have a town with no or minimal military presence now, and it’s contemplating the possibility of having a large installation built within it in the future, is it really unreasonable for its government to say, “Look, with the military come bar culture and noisy Ame-jo and the sort of rowdiness that seems to lead to a community-riving sexual assault every several years. Do we really need that, or can we have the place built elsewhere and be left in peace, to deal with the occasional housewife who offs her husband for his life insurance?” I’m at a loss to understand how granting that point requires thinking of military personnel as soulless killbots.

    13. Eric Scheie says:

      Sean was not denigrating the military. I read his blog daily and he does not deserve the criticism he was getting here. I spent enough time in Japan to realize that there are huge cultural differences. They have virtually no crime by our standards, and see Americans as inherently more criminal-minded by their standards. Sean is simply commenting on a reality (of Japanese perception), and I didn’t see him as judging anyone.

    14. Julie says:

      Gee, isn’t it fun when the ideologues come out to play?

      My father was a Marine and served honorably for over 10 years. In the interest of brevity (the soul of wit!), let me just say that I did not find your description of hopped up kids and violent impulses, etc., to be inaccurate. If my father had not had violent impulses that he could channel usefully, he would have died in Vietnam. He and other soldiers I’ve known have described–well, let’s call it a tension between the preparations they make for violence, developing the skills and tactics necessary to kill better than anyone else can, and regular pedestrian life. I don’t think this is really incredible, and I don’t think it’s a slur on the military. I think it’s an admission that what the military does and prepares to do is an ugly–necessary, but ugly–business, and sometimes the tension is going to make a few people snap, even though most not only serve honorably but are also honorable and ethical members of civilian society as well. I think some elements on the right tend to overlook this and think that any admission that the military is not all sunshine and puppies is disrespectful, but as the daughter of a Marine, I disagree.

      LOL, brevity. It was longer. Trust me.

      But I do think that much of the problem with the bases in Japan has to do with the surrounding culture and the problem of perception. Since there is not much crime in Japan and since Marines are almost never of Japanese descent, when one base-related crime happens, it’s a huge deal, and the locals seem to want to summon Momotaro to come and fight the hairy oni off. For the purposes of your point about problems with relocating the bases, I don’t think it matters whether there is an actual increase in crime or just a perceived one. Most of my Japanese friends want an American military presence in Japan, but almost none of them want to actually meet those soldiers, and none of them really want to live near the bases.

    15. Tblakely says:

      Sorry, I’m not getting it. You’re still trying to make a case that military people are more likely to be violent in a civilian setting than ‘normal’ people because of their training. Also, you are stating that since said military are in a foreign country they are even more likely to be thuggish. I really wish you could present some evidence to back up those assertions. I could argue that most people are more hesitant to stir up trouble in a foreign country because they aren’t sure what could happen to them.

      Are Japanese xenophobic? Yup, I think WWII demonstrated that in full, and because of that xenophobia the Japanese will over react to any crimes committed by foreigners much less crimes committed by their conquerors.

      See, I can postulate just like you did.

    16. Amanda says:

      Wow, it takes a lot to bring me out of lurkdom and this post has done it. No, let me correct that, the comments have done it. Unlike those who have taken umbrage with what Sean wrote, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Sean for awhile now and I can assure you he is one of the strongest supporters of our military and of this country that I know. But he also happens to have an insight into the Japanese culture that most of us don’t. Because of that, I’m more than happy to read what he says, take time to consider it and then frame a response to his post instead of running to the keyboard to respond without taking a moment to think.

      That said, I can see where the “hopped up” comment put some backs up. But what we have to remember is that this is the view many people around the world have of our military, whether it is accurate or not. That assumption does color how people living in an area where a base is proposed to be built will react. If you doubt that, think about how people in this country react when they learn a rehab house, a homeless shelter or low income housing is going to come into their neighborhood.

      As for Sean’s comment about it “being difficult to assign blame”, again, on the surface it’s not. But we do NOT know all the facts. We don’t know everything that has gone on behind the scenes. Nor do we know how the Japanese leadership is applying what they see happening in Washington now to their decision.

      So, instead of jumping all over Sean and saying he isn’t supportive of the military, etc., check all the facts and read his past posts. I believe, if you do, you will see that he wasn’t trying to stir up trouble, denigrate the military or anything else. His purpose was merely to inform and, hopefully, get us all thinking instead of reacting.

    17. Sarah says:


      From the top — because I know Sean and it never occurred to me that he was “anti-military” I’m a little shocked by this stuff which seems to have sprang from very little.

      Sean is not making a case that military people are more likely to be violent in a civilian setting than any other red-blooded American teenager. Possibly a little more because of training, (to which I have to add: but a little less because of discipline. I’d say it comes out in the wash on average.) He is stating that military or ANY TEENS in a foreign country is more likely to engage in loud and rude.

      I DO know whence he’s coming from because I first came to the US as an exchange student — from Portugal, before you ask. You’d think, particularly since this was the early eighties and the US was painted as the big-bad in Europe and our prisons were considered terrible, etc, people would be a well behaved lot. But crossing NYC, guys who wouldn’t say boo to a goose in Portugal were leaning out the windows of the bus and calling racial insults to passing people. Now, I know the military has better discipline than that, but SOME effect will still be visible away from superiors. In my experience, foreigners alone will be sweet and well behaved, but foreign teens/early twenties IN A GROUP will be rowdy and obnoxious.

      Also, as someone that lives in a military town, the CONCENTRATION of young men makes a difference. Our town probably has more clubs, more chance for brawls, etc. Possibly also less serious crime, as there’s no part of town that’s really dangerous as such. But if there’s a crime of passion and a murder/suicide it’s almost always relating to the base. Young. Men.

      Sean can’t be Japanese xenophobic. Your postulate is great, except Sean is American. But he did live in Japan for quite a while and I think he forgot to mention the Japanese side of the equation — because we, his regular readers, know it and take it into account and because for him it is a given. Of course the Japanese overreact to American crime. He also didn’t mention but — if my co-foreign students were any indication — Japanese think ALL of us Westerners are pretty rowdy and loud and rude and from that to “violent” is a step. So they would react badly to any concentration of young American males in their midst.

      And before I get accused of being anti-American or some similar nonsense because I was born abroad and I do think American teen males away from home can be rowdy (guys, the military are not a flower appreciation society!) I naturalized twenty years ago and I am an American by inclination, choice and passion. Also the mother of two d*mn fine American young men, rowdy though they can get.

      Stand down. I can understand what prompted your alarm, but Sean is NOT the enemy and he does NOT think our military is a bunch of undisciplined thugs. At most he over-intellectualized his explanation of why the Japanese resent our base, and didn’t add the Japanese flaws because he’s on OUR side and therefore takes them for granted.

      There are people out there who think that our military — any military — is a problem. There are people out there who think we are an aggressor nation and therefore should be defenseless before an armed world. Go pound on them. This is blue on blue. (Or if we take the new, revamped, totally wrong colors, red on red.)

    18. Sarah says:

      Gee “sprung” and “are” and probably another half dozen typos. Mild fever and lack of caffeine. Sorry.

    19. Kate says:

      Wow. Just… wow.

      Could someone please explain to me, using small words so that this dopey expat Australian now living in the USA and contemplating citizenship can understand, what part of “concentration of noisy, ‘undisciplined’ young foreigners will upset the locals” leads to “the author of this piece hates the military”?

      Oh, and by ‘undisciplined’ I mean by Japanese standards, where as I understand things there’s a huge emphasis on courtesy and self-control – as well as a culture with degrees of deference and formality that make my poor mind boggle. What I’d see as normal letting off a bit of steam probably looks like borderline if not actual criminal behavior to your average Japanese person because of the culture. So no nastiness about military discipline – that’s different.


    20. Sean says:

      Paul A’Barge:
      “No you’re not. If fact, in pretty much no way are you ‘much of a supporter of the military.’ If you were, you would understand the meaning of the word “honor”, which appears in the triad ‘duty, honor, country.'”

      Tony A.:
      “Bottom line: we just don’t care about good order and discipline and let the testosterone of young, single males run wild on Okinawa.”

      “Wow, you think highly of our military don’t you?”

      Yes, I do, actually—and what you wrote is not a paraphrase of what I wrote, by any stretch of the imagination.

      Look, everyone, I understand that the US armed forces get crapped on, publicly, all the time, and by many of the very people they’re protecting. I was not crapping on them, and while I don’t mind a question (even an adversarial question delivered in a severe tone) about whether I meant to say whatever you think some single sentence of mine meant, I find myself ill-inclined to explain myself to people who are willing to inform me of what it is I meant to say.

      For anyone who’s never been here before who actually wants to know what my approach to the blog is, you’re welcome to refer to this post. Note that it’s almost a half-decade old—not something I just whipped up to show that I’m not anti-military.

      And as for taking Japan’s side when it comes to its WWII victimization scenarios, don’t make me laugh. My views of Nagasaki and the related arguments around nuclear disarmament are nothing I’ve hidden. And for anyone who hankers for any more proof that I’m not any kind of leftist, I posted once on then-Senator Obama’s bitter-clingy routine and, hell, many times on same-sex marriage.

      Now, read all that, then come back and tell me it’s so damned clear from a single sentence that I’m saying the armed forces suck and that I mindlessly assume they don’t care about discipline.

      Tblakely, you could indeed argue that “most people are more hesitant to stir up trouble in a foreign country because they aren’t sure what could happen to them,” but, uh, I lived in a foreign country for eleven years, and reality as I observed it is that that’s not the way it actually works.

      More importantly, it doesn’t need to be true that military people are more likely to be violent in a civilian setting than non-military (normal was your locution, not mine) people in order for the very specific, explicitly delimited point I was making to be reasonable. Since it’s violent crime that I was, indeed, thinking of, let’s say that the crime rate for military personnel is one-quarter of the rate for Okinawans.

      The thing is, most of the time when we talk about crime rates, we’re talking about places, not just demographics. You might be able to argue, with all the stats in the world to back you up, that bringing a military base into town will produce a lower crime rate averaged over everyone who’s now there. But it’s not ridiculous for the town council that answers to the local electorate to say, “Uh, maybe, but the fact is that we’re going to have a bunch of guys at their hormonal peak running around here who wouldn’t be here otherwise, and the additional rape that happens every six years within our municipal limits when one of them blows a gasket under all the pressure isn’t worth it just for a decrease in the number of bicycle thefts. Sorry, but we’re just going to take our chances that none of the rapes that are randomly distributed through the native population will happen here for the next half-dozen years.” It’s not necessary to assume that the armed forces will fall down on the job in discipline; it’s just necessary to expect that when someone goes off the rails, he’s going to go the whole way and commit the sort of outrage that could have been avoided by just saying no to the base. I’ve thought about this again and again over the last few days, and I’m still not sure what’s so difficult to understand about it.

      “Oh, and by ‘undisciplined’ I mean by Japanese standards, where as I understand things there’s a huge emphasis on courtesy and self-control – as well as a culture with degrees of deference and formality that make my poor mind boggle.”

      Kate, you’re right in the main, but the major exception is, as it happens, one that’s very important to this particular argument: being drunk after hours is considered license to suspend most of the rules. The amount of boorishness that’s permitted—saying nasty things about the boss or colleagues, staggering all over the place, being loud and obnoxious, throwing up in the gutter (or next to a pillar in the subway station, or against the convenience-store wall), falling asleep splayed over a bench on the train station platform—is unthinkable in American terms, at least for grown-ups. Here, you’re supposed to get that stuff out of your system in college. Once you’re in the work force, you can get tight, but you’d better be able to control yourself, or you’ll be considered vulgar. In Japan, there’s a tacit agreement that whatever you do when you’re schnockered after work, short of murder or armed robbery, is politely forgotten the next morning. Really, it’s something to see. (There are many ways in which Okinawa isn’t like mainland Japan, of course, but that wasn’t one of them in my experience.) Those rules don’t really apply to foreigners, but most of us from the Anglosphere and Europe can hold our liquor hours after our Japanese buddies are near death from alcohol poisoning, so it’s generally not an issue.

    21. Sean says:

      It’s after midnight, but there are two more points I’d like to make before retiring:

      First, thanks to my friends for rising to my defense here. You didn’t have to do so—I’d be unworthy of having a political blog if I couldn’t handle opposition without backup—but it means a great deal to me nonetheless that you think I deserved it.

      Second, I had to decide years ago, sometime after 9-11 when commenting became a regular feature on the blogs I read, whether I was going to use my full name or a pseudonym. I chose to use my full name, and I’ve never looked back. What you’ll see on every comment I’ve ever left elsewhere and on the “About” page of this site are the first name my mother gave me and the surname I inherited from my father. Whatever I post can be attributed directly to me by my parents, my brother, my elder relatives, my employer, the government, and whoever else knows Mr. Google and may be keeping track of these things—friend and foe alike. I don’t click the “Submit” button on anything I’m not willing to man up and stand behind.

      That doesn’t mean I don’t think I’m ever wrong, but it does mean that if you use a pseudonym or other vague user name to comment, you can jolly well show some respect. This site is my property; it is not an open forum.

      If what you think is that I seem to be saying something unconscionable, by all means tell me so and challenge me to clarify what I meant; you may find out that you were right all along, or you may actually get something to think about yourself. If you’d just prefer to do a sententious little drive-by, fine. I can take it. I’m an open homosexual who voted for Rick Santorum for senate in 2000, George W. Bush for president in 2004, and John McCain for president in 2008; you are exceedingly unlikely to come up with any vituperation that no one’s already flung at me to my face multiple times. But you will kindly start your own blog, link me from it, and then say whatever you like about how distasteful I am. I don’t owe diddly—morally, ethically, contractually, other-ly—to some wraith who appears in my comments section to go off half-cocked to tell me what I think.

    22. Julie says:

      Hear friggin hear!

      I’m about to start a *serious* blog with a friend, and I’ve been debating about putting my real name up there. It’s not that I’m not willing to stand behind what I write or think, but I’ve heard of some bloggers getting real-life death threats and things like that over something they posted on their blog, and I have kids…who would be traceable by our (very rare) last name. I don’t really know what to do. I’m all for openness and honesty, but people are just out of control anymore.

      On the other hand, it’s going to be very serious and discuss a lot of philosophy, so, ya know, probably no one will read it. :)

      You damn well did deserve to have your readers rise to your defense, and not only because you have no doubt had to endure years of tasteless *Santorum* jokes.

    23. Sean says:

      Julie, I think the important thing is being aware of the trade-offs you’re making and then sticking to them. It’s perfectly understandable that you’d not want to expose your family to the unpredictable consequences of having your name on stuff that anyone anywhere in the world can read. By using a pseudonym, you can post about anything, but then you have to have very good self-discipline if you don’t want to start throwing half-formed ideas around with impunity. By using your own name, you may find that your obligations to your family or employer mean you can’t always write things you’d really like to write, but you also have a built-in incentive not to post anything you’re absolutely sure you mean. That doesn’t hold true across the board, naturally; there are pseudonymous bloggers who are always thoughtful and respectful, and heaven knows there are bloggers who use their real names and still act like jerks and ninnies.

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