JIN-342 -- Waiting for a New Symbol of Japanese Diplomacy

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T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R
Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News
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Issue No. 342
Wednesday October 19, 2005 TOKYO

+++ VIEWPOINT: Waiting for a New Symbol of Japanese Diplomacy
1. Seal of Diplomatic Approval
2. Koizumi: More than a Suit at Yasukuni

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+++ VIEWPOINT: Waiting for a New Symbol of Japanese Diplomacy
1. Seal of Diplomatic Approval

Japan's fourth national museum opened in Dazaifu, a Kyushu port
once the gateway to continental Asia, on October 16. The jewel of
the Kyushu National Museum's present exhibition is a gold seal
given to Na, a former state believed to have been located in what is
now Fukuoka city, by the Latter Han dynasty in China in AD 57.
The seal, familiar to Japanese through its introduction in school
textbooks, was discovered on Shikanoshima Island, Fukuoka
Prefecture, in 1784, and now belongs to the Fukuoka City Museum.

The brilliant gold 2.3-centimeter-square seal, with a knob in the
shape of a snake, gets museum visitors pondering the greatness
of the Han civilization and the depth of its historical connection with
the regions of East Asia. It also reminds visitors that the exchange
of symbols, like the seal, once drove diplomacy, and that such
a symbol took on different hues, which is to say it caused wide
repercussions.

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2. Koizumi: More than a Suit at Yasukuni

On Monday the 17th, the day after the Kyushu National Museum
opened, Prime Minister Koizumi worshipped at Yasukuni Shrine.
Reflecting consideration for an Osaka High Court ruling that his
previous visits were in violation of the separation of religion and
state, as they were in the line of his official duties, the prime
minister attempted to give the impression it was a private visit,
not entering the shrine's main hall or signing its register, and
wearing a nondescript gray suit rather than formal crested black
kimono. But China and Korea, who have demanded the PM not visit
Yasukuni, enshrining Hideki Tojo and other A class war criminals,
immediately lodged vehement protests.

Koizumi said he visited Yasukuni "to offer sincere mourning to the
war dead and to express the resolve never again to wage war."
However, not a few Japanese question his motives. It is no secret
the visits shore up support from the right wing of his Liberal
Democratic Party (LDP).

Whenever he worships at Yasukuni, Japan's image suffers in
neighboring countries; for he is not a man in a gray suit but the
Japanese PM. Japan needs a fresh diplomatic symbol -- one that
reflects shared interests rather than rubs salt in wounds.
Unfortunately, Koizumi has painted himself into a corner by
promising to visit Yasukuni every year. So the birth of such
a symbol will have to wait until at least 2006, when his second -- and,
under LDP rules, last -- term as PM ends.

Japanese businessmen with interests in Korea and especially China
will not mourn the end of Koizumi's prime ministership.

--Burritt Sabin

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EDITOR
Written and edited by Burritt Sabin (editors2@japaninc.com)

(C) Copyright 2005 Japan Inc Communications KK. All Rights Reserved.

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