Friday, January 24, 2014

Afghanistan in the 1960s

You hear over and over how “Afghanistan is stuck in the thirteenth century” (or some other medieval century).  Well, no, its not.  The reality is more complicated.  Would you believe, the pictures posted here: are from Afghanistan? Well, I’ve encountered this part of the Afghan history before, and can assure you its all real.  Modernity is fragile.  I think it is very important for us to view photographic collections like this because they show us something we Westerners tend to overlook about Afghanistan.  I have had shouting arguments with people who refused to believe Afghanistan had ever been different from the one they saw on the news for the last thirteen years.  Well, here is my proof. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Play Ball!

           I need a break from politics.  So let’s talk about something else.  Since my round-up of the new anime season is not finished yet, let’s talk about something else Japan and the USA share a love for; baseball.  I’ve never been much of a sports fan, but once in a while I will claim a team as my own.  Since I come from a family of Yankees fans, I tend to pick that team.  Its not bandwagonning if your family is into it.  When I was little I would root for the Phillies, but they sucked in those days so I turned my back on them.  When I lived in Miyagi I adopted the local Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.  And now the Yankees have signed the Eagles’ pitcher, Tanaka Masahiro.  The Eagles have a bad few years (and that’s going back before the earthquake), so I can’t imagine the fans are too happy to lose a good player.  At least it isn’t to the Yomiuri Giants. My brother tells me Tanaka’s contract is normal for a pitcher.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Abe Goes to Yasukuni Jingu

         Last month the Prime Minister of Japan, Abe Shinzo, went to Yasukuni Shrine
(Jingu in Japanese) to pay his respects to the enshrined military dead. At first, I thought I had nothing to add to this story. After a few weeks of reading the same arguments over again, I realized I do have something to add: I find fault with the way English-language writers portray the Yasukuni issue and describe the shrine itself, I find fault with the difficulty we have with Yasukuni’s whole context, but I do not find fault with the rest of East Asia’s grievances over everything Yasukuni Jingu represents.
Whenever a Japanese prime minister visits Yasukuni Shrine, one of the more common recurrent responses (besides outrage) is a befuddled ‘why?’ Why go through the same drama over and over again, risk the ill will of the neighbors, and endanger Japan’s foreign affairs. Well, Abe Shinzo, despite all the work he did on his visit around Southeast Asia last month, seems not to care how he comes across overseas. Or he is gambling that the states of Southeast Asia are worried enough about China to overlook the pain of war memories. It is an interesting contrast to Abe’s foreign policy actions from last fall. The deal over Okinawan bases announced last week would suggest that Abe and his advisors want to minimize the amount of risk they want to take.