Gaffs aren’t that innocent

My passport country never ceases to offer weird entertainment, and instead of an innovative English lesson or a human bowling ball game, let’s see some memorable “Ouch” political moments in recent months.


Osaka’s outspoken mayor stirred up anger both at home and abroad by declaring that comfort women–who were forced to serve as prostitutes for Japan’s imperial army–were a vital part of the nation’s war effort.


Japan’s human rights ambassador told delegates in Geneva to ‘shut up’ in an angry outburst that has brought his career into question.


Japan’s gaffe-prone deputy prime minister has said Tokyo could learn from Nazi Germany when it comes to constitutional reform, prompting a rebuke from a Jewish human rights group.

Aside from their horrific comments and attitude, there is a recurring theme I see in all of the above cases: ignorance. It is as if each person is living inside a cocoon, separated from the real world, both in time and space. Even the late Steve Jobs might have admired their reality distortion field.

Seen from a distance, those series of incidents at times appear as half-decent entertainment: A bunch of middle-aged government officials ass-dancing while burying their heads in the sand. Aren’t they even adorable (in Japanese lingo Kawaii) considering their primitive and utterly nonsense worldview?

But—here is a big BUT—so were the dictators accused of leading a country or region into an utter turmoil: Chairman Mao, Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, et cetera. None of them was trying to destroy the world. On the contrary, in their mind they were crusaders to restore order and peace using whatever power the “higher will” bestowed upon them. They just did not have a clue how real societies and people functioned.

Unlike in Hollywood movies, a chaotic and destructive era does not arise from one super-villain’s crooked plan. It originates from a detached idealist’s desire to “purify” the messy reality surrounding his cocoon. Of course, the real power that decides whether to tell him to “Get real” or to “Make it real” belongs to each of the citizens. A crazy leader is just a harmless ignition until the followers add fuel.

And that was exactly the reason why the Japanese house of councillors election in July, which resulted in the current ultra-wing administration securing the majority in both the upper and lower house, was a huge letdown for me and my circle of friends. (Imagine the Tea Party taking over the majority of seats in both the Senate and The House of Representatives.)

We, the Japanese people, collectively decided to lend power to a group of “idealists” who seem to have no idea of what they are doing or the memory of previous group of idealists who drove the entire Asian region into a pool of blood some 80 years ago (even though many of the current administration members are sons or grandsons of wartime leaders). Maybe the voters just wanted to secure enough food on the table after the disastrous era of the opposite party. There is nothing wrong with that logic for vote swinging—except that the new administration isn’t providing real food either, other than crunchy numbers on financial charts.

I have been a nomad for a while, but I guess I always had a hidden anchor in Japan which kept me from “drifting” too much. That mental anchor has disappeared. Fortunately for me, this May I received permanent residency status in Taiwan and therefore I no longer need to rely on a visa sponsor to avoid being deported. I am on my own in a free world—hopefully.

Meanwhile in Japan the unfortunate political and economic reality as well as huge amount of tensions looking for a reason to explode continue to worsen. I used to joke that Japan’s real hope is its fast-aging society which should fail to produce enough number of young and willing soldiers when a military conflict arises. Now maybe I mean it.