Glimpses of Japan: Links & comments 8/15/13

These linked articles are from the Japan Times, which is published in English in Japan.

Inside Japan’s ‘Suicide Forest’ by Rob Gilhooley.

Japan has the world’s highest suicide rate, and suicides have been on the increase since the world financial crash of 2008.  One of the favorite places for Japanese to commit suicide is the beautiful Aokigohara Jukai forest in the foothills of Mount Fuji.   Visitors to the forests now and then come across the bodies of suicides.

Authorities have posted security cameras.  Somebody posted signs saying “Think carefully about your children, your family,” with the telephone number of a law firm specializing in debt counseling.

Suicide also is on the increase in the United States.  Starting in 2009, suicide overtook automobile accidents as the leading U.S. cause of death by injury.

Gender bending in Japan by Michael Hoffman.

Japanese men have long honored the feminine that lies within the masculine.  But will Japanese women be able to honor the masculine within the feminine?

The bittersweet taste of Japanese words by Makiko Itoh.

Japanese idioms don’t always mean what I would think they mean.  It is not a compliment to call a woman “sweet” nor a slur to call a man “bitter”.

Papers that pushed for Pacific War revisited by Reiji Yoshida.

In August, 1941, President Roosevelt announced an oil embargo against Japan unless the Japanese government withdrew its forces from China.  Since Japan depended on the United States for 70 percent of its oil, the Japanese government was faced with a choice of giving up its attempt to conquer China or invading Southeast Asia and going to war with the U.S.

The Japanese government opted to attack the United States after Lt. Gen. Teichi Suzuki, head of the Planning Board for the Japanese military, told them that this was feasible.  The manuscript of his presentation has recently come to light, and it shows that he apparently ignored key facts.

The Japanese government had 7 million tons oil on hand in July, 1941, enough to last through December, 1942, at the rate of using 10,000 tons a day.  After that Japan would have depend on oil from the Dutch East Indies and other territories it conquered.  Suzuki’s figures indicated that Japan could expect losses of 800,000 to 1 million tons of shipping per year, while only having the capacity to manufacture 600,000 tons.  But Suzuki’s papers indicate this wasn’t revealed to the Emperor Hirohito or the Imperial War Council.

Actually I don’t think the Japanese strategy was crazy.  It was wrong, but not crazy.  The plan was to destroy the U.S. Navy in the Pearl Harbor attack, and then to rely on superior Japanese valor to resist a counterattack until the enemy grew weary of war.  This is much like Confederate thinking at the start of the U.S. Civil War.   But the U.S. Navy was not completely destroyed, and American determination to fight on for total victory was greater than the Japanese figured on.

Hat tip for the links to Jack Clontz.

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