TT-475 -- The Bonins, ebiz news in Japan

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A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, June 29, 2008 Issue No. 475


- What's new
- News
- Candidate roundup/Vacancies
- Upcoming events
- Corrections/Feedback
- News credits

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Several evenings ago, NHK ran a "News Watch 9" item on the
eradication of goats and lizards (the Carolina Anole) on
Chichijima Island in the Ogasawara group, far to the south
of Tokyo. Apparently the animals are both foreign
introduced species and over many years they have caused
substantial environmental damage -- to the extent that the
lizard is killing off local butterflies and other insects
at a rate which is endangering the ability for Nature to
cross-pollinate island plants.

While trying to protect the local flora and fauna is an
admirable pursuit, what was striking during the NHK program
was the repetitive mention of the exterminators' role to
"remove these foreign species" -- with the emphasis on the
Carolina lizard in particular. Although the commentator
didn't say WHO introduced the lizard, given its obvious
name, the audience would have to imagine it was the
Americans while they administered the territory.

So that got us to thinking.

Believing that NHK is fundamentally a political
organization, when you hear a seemingly innocuous
message repeated to the point of it becoming a rant,
you can't help thinking: "So, who is this piece of
propaganda serving?"

And although you may think it's a stretch, we think the
answer may possibly be found in Japan's four to five island
border disputes to the north, west, and south of the main

[Continued below...]

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[...Article continues]

You've no doubt hear about Japan's disputed border islands
in the news on a regular basis. They're a great reason for
the Rightists to get out in their trucks and decry the
Russians, Chinese, and Americans. There are the disputed
Kuril Islands to the north of Hokkaido, where Japan wants
three islands back from Russia; the Senkakus to the far
south, near Taiwan; and Takeshima to the west, near

In most cases, these islands are uninhabited and often not
much bigger than rocks -- with very little economic value
above water. But what's underneath is of vital importance
to Japan. The Senkakus in particular provide Japan with the
right to claim a huge territorial zone that includes
potentially rich oil deposits in the East China Sea.

The reason why Japan is even having these disputes goes
back into history. After the Meiji Restoration in the
mid-1800's the Japanese went on a crash course to modernize
themselves. One thing they took a lot of interest in was
the techniques used by other world powers to create and
establish colonies. Back then, and this is our
simplification of some complex law, if an island was
inhabited and administered, then it belonged to whichever
country was administering it. If the island was uninhabited,
however, then the real owners became those who claimed
sovereignty first, and had the where-with-all to defend it for
an acceptable period of time.

This led to the Japanese government embarking on a number
of military adventures and colonization programs to move
populations into areas that might otherwise be disputed.
They also created elaborate histories and claims of
discovery and thus ownership of far-flung islands.

A classic case of the thinking at the time was Japan's
rapid and massive colonization of Hokkaido in the face of
fears that Russia might beat them to it. Any Ainu
resistance to being overrun was quickly dealt with, they
were then forced into a repressive asset and cultural
management program. As a result, their rights were
effectively removed and their culture almost destroyed. Of
course none of this was unusual for that era, and the motto
"Might is right" was practiced everywhere.

After an overzealous adoption of the colonization construct
led to the disaster of WWII, and after its defeat, Japan
was required by the American victors to give up most of its
non-core possessions and had its territory defined as the
main island group plus an envelope encompassing the
Ryukyus and Yaeyamas to the south (although under US
administration). The idea was that Japan could then
negotiate for any other smaller islands on a case-by-case
basis with its neighbors -- something which has turned out
to take a few more generations yet to

Which brings us back to the Ogasawara islands.

Several months ago a local minister here in Tokyo, Rev. Ken
Joseph Jr., who is familiar to many readers as the person
behind the JHELP disaster relief organization, was invited
by some Ogasawara people to visit and investigate their
claims that rather than being Japanese, they are of
American and European lineage, have lived in the Ogasawaras
much longer than the Japanese population, and are now being
discriminated against by the Japanese government.

While this would be a strange tale -- western settlers in
Japanese territory several hundred years ago when Japan was
supposed to be closed to all foreign contact other than the
Dutch and Chinese traders, the tale of present-day
discrimination is not surprising at all. After all, the
government only removed its own discriminatory control of
Ainu assets in 1997, after most of them had seen their
tribal identity lost over 100 very tough years.

Anyway, Rev. Joseph traveled to the Ogasawaras and came
back with a story of European whalers then a colonist ship
landing in the Ogasawaras in the early 1800's, indeed, long
before the Japanese settled the place, and the sailors set
up a small township called Port Lloyd on Chichijima -- then
called Peel Island. A good recounting of the story can be
found in a recent Japan Times

To very briefly recap the article, the Ogasawara island
chain is about 1,000km south of Tokyo and was considered
remote enough that even though the Japanese knew of its
existence in the 17th Century (and possibly earlier
according to Japanese claims), they did not see fit to do
anything with the islands until the Meiji Restoration, by
which time they had been claimed first by the British in
1827, then subsequently through a US$50 land purchase by
Commodore Matthew Perry (of Black Ship fame) by the
Americans around 1853. In between these two dates, in 1830,
a small group led by Nathaniel Savory, an American from
Massachussetts, settled Chichijima Island. They consisted
of several Europeans, 15 or so Hawaiian islanders, and not
a Japanese person in sight.

The fact that there were non-Japanese living in the
Ogasawaras well before the Japanese arrived with their
thousands of colonists in the late 19th Century could
potentially create a sticky situation, should anyone care
to note that according to the laws at the time, land masses
which were not uninhabited were supposed to remain the
possession of whomever was administering the territory.
Japan could say that no one was administering the islands,
which technically is true since the locals didn't want
outside interference.

However, looking at the history books, the British did
attempt to write up a set of laws for the islands and the
local residents did fly the British flag in Chichijima --
showing that they considered themselves British subjects.
The Americans went even further in establishing a legal
claim when Perry bought land from Savory -- establishing
that the Commodore recognized his ownership, and Perry
subsequently appointed Savory as the local governor.
Further, the community at that time adopted a constitution
-- which should have proven that they were properly

Luckily for Japan, the British renounced their claim to the
Bonins in 1861 as part of a larger deal for a Japanese
alliance, while the Americans decided in 1968 to return the
territory, also as probable "payment" for loyalty in US
military and political endeavors elsewhere in the region.
Unfortunately, no one thought to ask the original settler
descendants on Chichijima Island what they thought of
the proceedings.

So it is with these thoughts in mind, and particularly with
the assimilation efforts of Tokyo to deal with other
"ill-fitting" cultures (such as the Ainu and to a lesser
extent the Ryukyus), that we believe the NHK program was a
subtle effort to shape public opinion about eradicating
literally and figuratively anything foreign in the
Ogasawaras that might interfere with claims on the island
chain in the future. Although they were talking about
troublesome lizards, one wonders if the descendants of the
original settlers are not seen as being equally annoying
and troublesome... :-)

Here are some interesting histories on the Bonins, which we
can recommend if you want to know more about this unique
part of Japanese history.

...The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

- New tax rules for foreign funds
- Possible toxic waste exports to Indonesia
- Aiful to sue Lehman?
- Household spending falls
- Butter shortage prompts emergency imports

New tax rules for foreign funds

Japan has just completed a change in the tax code which
previously made international hedge funds liable to tax in
Japan if they maintained an office here. Now the new rules
allow foreign-based funds to not have their local office
classified as a permanent establishment, providing certain
requirements are met, and therefore will not be subject to
local Japanese tax. The move is hoped to spur an increase
in the number of funds operating out of Japan, instead of
the currently preferred centers of Singapore and Hong
Kong. (Source: TT commentary from, Jun 27,

Possible toxic waste exports to Indonesia

Although still speculation at this point, environmental
groups such as the Basel Action Network (BAN) are saying
that Japan's push to have toxic waste re-classified as "goods
or commodities" in its recent Economic Partnership Agreement
(EPA) signed last year, appears to represent an intent by
Japan to engage in such exports in the near future. Among
the "goods" that can be exported to Indonesia are sewage
sludge, medical waste, chemicals including CFC's, nuclear
and other hazardous waste and vessels to hold such waste,
incinerator ash, and enriched U235 Uranium. ***Ed: In
1996 Japan generated about 405m tonnes of industrial and
hazardous waste, about 50% of this was sludge. There don't
appear to be any figures on how much of this is exported.**
(Source: TT commentary from, Jun 26,

Aiful to sue Lehman?

Japan's largest consumer finance firm (by assets), Aiful,
has said that it may sue Lehman Brothers after an analyst
at the investment bank said Aiful may be insolvent,
indicating that shareholders should stay away from the
company. This caused a run on Aiful shares and dragged its
market price down by 25%. Aiful says that in fact it is
completely solvent and that the Lehman analyst's comments
are "false". ***Ed: Other analysts are saying that Lehman
called it right and that Aiful really is in trouble. But
this doesn't mean that the matter won't wind up in a
courtroom.** (Source: TT commentary from,
Jun 27, 2008)

Household spending falls

Given that more than more than 50% of Japan's GDP depends
on consumer spending, the news from the Ministry of
International Affairs that overall household spending fell
3.2% y-o-y in May was not good news. The Ministry said that
this was the third month of decline. Of the roughly 20m
households with wage earners, the spending figure fell 0.9%
y-o-y in May. (Source: TT commentary from, Jun
26, 2008)

Butter shortage prompts emergency imports

The Ministry of Agriculture has said that it will permit
the import of 5,000 tons of extra butter in an attempt to
forestall an ongoing shortage of the product throughout
Japan. The country is suffering from a bout of butter
hoarding, coupled with a recent shortage of raw milk --
both of which have cleared butter from many supermarket
shelves recent weeks. (Source: TT commentary from, Jun 26, 2008)

NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.

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