Weekly Reflection of August 14th

The Asahi Shimbun: Japan prepares to intercept stray missiles from N. Korea
11 August 2017



The Japan News by Yomiuri Shimbun: PAC-3 units deployed in Chugoku, Shikoku

13 August 2017



The current top news dominating Japan this week is due to its involvement in the conflict between US and N. Korea. In the face of the current military confrontational situation between the two countries, the escalating verbal war forced Japan in this position. N. Korea threat to air attack US in the waters around Guam, specifically to launch mid-range ballistic missiles into waters within 18 to 24 miles of Guam. Japan is geographically located in the route of this threat.

Guam is an unincorporated US territory in the western Pacific Ocean since the Organic Guam Act of 1950. After this event, citizens of the territory were granted US citizenship, however, they are not allowed to vote for president, and their congressional representative is a non-voting member. Guam house a major US military base and military position in the Pacific region. Andersen air force base played a major role in the Vietnam war,

According to military.com, PAC-3 stands for: Phased Array Tracking to Intercept of Target (PATRIOT) Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3). It is an air defense program via a guided missile system with long-range, medium to high altitude and designed to counter tactical ballistic missiles, part of a defense mechanism system.

Forces are currently stationed in four prefectures in the Chugoku and Shikoku regions, specifically Kaitaichi base, Hiroshima Prefecture; Izumo base, Shimane Prefecture; Kochi base, Kochi Prefecture; and Matsuyama base, Ehime Prefecture.

The Japanese defense minister, Itsunori Onodera, issued on Friday a new specific order to destroy North Korean missiles consolidating Japan’s position as an US ally in this conflict.

July Reflections – Japanese National Narratives Through History

Moving forward: forging new narratives based on responsibility – untying the dynamics of victim and aggressor syndrome onto a healing path


After over two centuries of isolationist policies from western nations during the Tokugawa Period (1600-1868), Japan was forced to open its doors to the west with the arrival of General Perry of US. During the following Meiji Period, the country quickly adopted the values of the powerful nations at that time, and embarked in a conquest as an expansionist power colonizer. As a result, it led to the occupation of large portions of Asia, until the tragic events that led to a full stop in its expansionist endeavors during the second world war.


The colonizing economical and geopolitical interests was fueled by narratives of national identity that supported the country in its endeavors, leading to a sense of legitimacy to the extreme aggression, disruption and destruction in its conquest. On the other hand, similar nationalist narratives were played in the colonizing countries at that time, US and European, to legitimize their colonial pursuits, and the citizens of the respective countries followed. Narratives that have in its core, a dichotomous sense of us and others. And by defining the clear boundaries of the meaning of us, and others, it stablishes the horizontal meaning of us. And in its power of cutting through the barriers of those who belong might have, it concurrently demands the elimination of the diversity of the meaning of us, so the narrative can have its intended relevancy and power.


As a result of its imperialist ambitions, Japan has had an incredible amount of extreme experiences in a relative short period of time. Of conqueror, power, and devastating defeat. Germany could be said to have similar experiences, and to a broader extend, Portugal’s longing for the glories of the past. In the 15th century the country was the world leader, the pioneer colonizer, leader of the nautical technologies, discover and owner of countries in all corners of the glove, braved the European routes to India, Asia, around Cape Fear in Africa, and by 19th century had lost essentially all its acquired richness. But it was a defeat that was done over an extended period, and arguably in a less dramatic and painful fall. The consequences of trauma are less severe.


In Buddhist philosophy, one of the key values shared across different traditions, is that our actions, and the consequences of our actions are our only true belonging. The wisdom that lies in this value can contain a key point for the Japanese society moving forward. Through the extreme events endured by the Japanese society in the 20th century, it has left a great deal of trauma in the community members, and the community members affected by the its military campaigns in Taiwan, China, Korea, and other countries in Southeast Asia. Moving through these traumatic experiences, pulling from the quoted wisdom, we start by acknowledging and aware of the ground in which we stand.


Another point of connection, the constructed sense of national identity that leads to the sense of belonging, togetherness, was described in Durkheim’s mechanical solidarity resulting in a sense of collective solidarity, of interdependence. What Durkheim had originally ascribed to early societies pre –industrialization when the natural bonding on solidarity results from the strong interdependence the members of the community had in each other, of each other’s work to attend the needs and survival, can to some extend apply to the nature of the solidarity voiced by the national sentiment of post-war Japan.

June Reflections on Japanese Nationalism

Nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness: it invents nations where they do not exist – Anderson, pg. 49.


Right after this quote, the author quickly points out to differentiate invention to farce or fabrication. The dissemination of nationalism as the result of the expansion of capitalism caused by the expansion of accessibility to print materials, has led to another type of manipulation of interests. If during pre-industrial printing and the dominance of Latin that served the role of solidifying the dominance of the Catholic Church in Europe, with the advancement of the printing technologies, Protestantism beneficiated from this new phenomenon to widespread its values. And other values followed.

Anderson points out that the notion of nationalism also beneficiated, as a reflection of the changing societal values from religious to secular, to benefit in its construction another group. This time, nationalism serves as a complex subjective category that fulfills a nations identity that encompasses values and questions that in the past was attributed to religion to solve.

Today, the invention of the nation values that in its essence it reflects the values of an imagined community that is propagated to legitimize a predominant voice, such as the case in Turkey when Ataturk imposed the compulsory Romanization of the language, that disregarded or purposefully to silence any wider Islamic identification in the beginning of the 20th century.

Sugimoto deconstructs the different layers of the Japanese national identity identifying the different narratives. Historically, the fact that territorially its current range was integrated as recently as 1972, the cultural racial values that reiterate a complex duality in western European and American superiority and what we would call white supremacy, and the Japanese purity that leads to an overt racial and ethnic segregation in the identity rhetoric shapes most of the national identity narratives. But those narratives are also influenced by the current political and private sector corporate interests and outcomes, reflecting Anderson’s argument of serving the capitalist interests. Japan is now to the point that the society depend in it survival by foreigners due to aging and lack of labor, and the acceptance of new narratives are imperative. Conversely, the US whose society is multiracial, also struggles with a historically dominant racial dominance that translated by the main voice and interests served by the white population. Particularly after the last presidential campaign and the current administration, the US similarly have not found a sense of nationalism that have incorporated multiculturalism and still struggles with its systemic abusive past and today, and hear the voices of the minority.


Personal Lens



I have always questioned my identity growing up as a third generation Brazilian-Japanese. It is an interesting lens of a minority group within a multi-ethnic society, and yet a different dynamic that I face today as an American-Brazilian Japanese. As an ongoing racially and ethnic outsider perspective, I became sensitive to the marginalized communities and the dynamics that led to this structure. It felt natural to gravitate towards a sociological, anthropological field of study, in a pursuit to understand the root cause and consequences that led to how our society functions today.

My family, like most Japanese descent families around us in Brazil, is somewhat deeply rooted in Japanese culture, and even as a third generation, I have experienced that. Throughout the years, my challenge has been to break the biased perspective of my diluted understanding on Japanese culture, the difficult reality of not being accepted as a Japanese by Japanese standard, and try to approach this understanding with a different perspective.

What is Japanese culture then, and who is Japanese and why? What are the identity factors that have determined this standard, the fluidity and intersectionalities that it entails, and how then do I feel about it with a different understanding? Where do these sections intersect with my sense of belonging in these different nationalities and ethnicities, and how they determine my perceived sense, cultural and social capital in different societies? How universal can these assumption be transferred by these experiences of different communities?

I have been challenging myself to take advantage of my perceived outside status and use it as a scientific tool to approach these inquiries. I am also deeply interested in art manifestations and community trauma and healing. I see an artist as a philosopher, who feel, understands and can translate those societal values, particularly deviations and marginalization, and being able to externalize in its own craft, and by doing that, we can see and find insights of these complex issues.