Suzuki Muneo’s Russia Gambit

In October of 2023, Japan’s House of Councillors Member Suzuki Muneo visited Russia. Recently, he sat down with Kenji Yoshida and Jason Morgan and spoke about why he visited Russia, what he heard there, and where Japan-Russia relations are headed.

Suzuki Muneo is a dynamo. When we arrive at his House of Councillors office for an interview in late February, the place is abuzz with activity. While we sit in a meeting room waiting, Suzuki darts about the office and in and out of rooms, taking phone calls, shouting for his secretaries to bring him documents or remind him of appointments, and, occasionally, poking his head into the meeting room to apologize and say he’ll be with us shortly. His office is filled with maps and memorabilia of Hokkaido, where Suzuki’s home district is located.

Suzuki Muneo is also easily the most controversial member of the Japanese Diet. He spent a year in prison on a 2004 conviction for having taken bribes from Hokkaido firms, and for having then concealed those bribes and perjured himself when testifying about them. But the controversy swirling around him today is of much more recent vintage. Suzuki’s constituents live in close proximity to Russia, and many of them want to maintain good relations with Japan’s Slavic neighbor for the sake of, for example, fishing rights and permission to visit family graves in Russia-held territory. So, in October of 2023, Suzuki outraged the political class in Tokyo—including the Ishin-no-Kai, his political base after his exile from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) following the bribery scandal—by visiting Russia and engaging in talks with officials there.

Suzuki insists that he did it for his constituents and for the security of Japan. Tokyo politicians and many in the media saw his visit as consorting with the enemy during a time of war. We saw his visit as a valuable opportunity to learn more about Russia-Japan relations, especially during a time of war in Ukraine. Roughly the first half of the more-than-one-hour-long interview follows.

Kenji Yoshida and Jason Morgan (K&J): What was your main reason for visiting Russia in October of 2023?

Suzuki Muneo (SM): After Kishida Fumio became prime minister, the Ukraine problem burst onto the scene. America announced that it would be imposing economic sanctions on Russia, and Japan followed suit. I think this was a mistake on Japan’s part.

Suzuki Muneo (Photo: Kenji Yoshida).

Japan and the United States are allies, but our countries lie on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean, separated by ten thousand kilometers. Russia, China, South Korea, North Korea—these are Japan’s neighboring countries. For Japan, the United States is like a relative—being our ally—but it is still a distant relative. Japan’s survival depends on its relations with countries with which we are not related in that sense, but which are much closer geographically than America.

On a personal level, if I don’t like someone, I can just ignore him. In the worst case scenario, I can move away if I really don’t like him and don’t want to have anything to do with him. But countries can’t move. They have to come to terms with one another. That is the only way.

Japan followed the Americans’ lead on Russia, and, because of that, the good relationship that Japan and Russia had been cultivating and trying to improve was ruined. The relationship between Japan and Russia today is the worst it has been at any point in the nearly seventy-nine years of the postwar.

I thought this was unacceptable. If there was even the slightest chance of improving the situation, then I think that somebody had to try.

K&J: What else motivated your visit?

SM: There is the energy issue, for instance, which is the most vulnerable issue for Japan. Russia is the most energy-rich country on earth. Even now, approximately one-tenth of Japan’s energy comes from Russia.

On marine products, as well, [there is] cooperation between Japan and Russia on fishing. This has a very big effect on the supply of food to people in Japan.

Japan is number one in the world in applied technology. If Japan can partner with Russia, which leads the world in energy, then Japan can contribute to the stability of the world.

When I thought about the importance of the Japan-Russia relationship, I felt it was imperative to convey to the Russians the current realities facing Japan. This is why I went to Russia.

K&J: Did the Russians share any views with you about the current situation in Ukraine or the position of Washington vis-à-vis Russia?

SM: When I went to Russia in October I met with Andrei Rudenko, a deputy foreign minister in charge of Japan and the Far East. The Russians wondered why the Americans didn’t meet with the Russians or the Japanese as they had before, such as when Abe Shinzo was prime minister and there were negotiations concerning both Minsk I and Minsk II during the Obama administration.

During the Minsk negotiations, President Obama was on the phone quite often with Prime Minister Abe. Obama said he would be imposing sanctions on Russia [over the 2014 unrest in Ukraine], and demanded that Japan cooperate. Abe refused, on the grounds that Russia and Japan were working on solving the issue of the Northern Territories, and were also negotiating a peace treaty [to formally end hostilities during World War II]. Japan cannot move forward by following the interests of the United States, Abe said. Prime Minister Abe stood his ground against the president of the United States. It seems that President Obama hung up on Abe when he heard this.

[In 2016], Japan was to host the [G7] Ise Shima Summit. A Foreign Ministry official in Japan told Abe that Obama wouldn’t attend because of what had happened during the phone call between Obama and Abe over Russia. The official was very pessimistic about it. But Obama did attend the Ise Shima Summit.

Prime Minister Abe forthrightly articulated Japan’s national interests. He very clearly communicated Japan’s position. It was on this basis that he was able to build relationships of trust. Abe said plainly to Obama what Japan was going to do, and the United States dealt with that.

The vice president during the Obama administration was, of course, Joe Biden. The Russians are wondering why President Biden has not been able to undertake the same kind of decision-making and to employ the same kind of situational awareness as Abe.

For their part, the Russians, in their own way, are making efforts to maintain a relationship with Japan. This is reflected in energy policy. Russia sends Japan some ten percent of Japan’s energy. Also, Russia is sending Japan four times the amount of wheat that it was sending before the start of the Ukraine war. Under normal circumstances, one might have expected the Russians to cut off the wheat and energy supply, but they didn’t.

Also, Japanese people love eating crabs. The Russians are exporting crabs to Japan now just as they were before the war. I see in this the generosity of the Russian people.

K&J: What else can you tell us about the history of the Russia-Ukraine conflict as the Russians see it?

SM: Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Galuzin is the former ambassador to Japan (2018-2022), and is now in charge of Ukraine and central Europe. Galuzin confirmed that on April 15, 2022, two months after the war started, Russia was prepared to sign a peace deal that Ukraine had proposed. On that morning, however, Ukraine withdrew the deal.

K&J: Due to influence from the West?

SM: Yes, the United Kingdom and America. The UK and the United States told Ukraine not to accept a cease-fire, that they would support Ukraine. On October 4, 2022, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky signed into law that it is forbidden to negotiate a cease-fire with President Putin.

Galuzin says that Russia does not want to fight, that Russia wants to end the war, but that Ukraine will not come to the table for discussions. Galuzin also explains that Zelensky is unable to make decisions on this by himself at this point, because the forces which are stopping him from negotiating—America, NATO, and so forth—are very strong.

Galuzin also says that the one who created the conflict in the first place is Zelensky, with the suicide drones [Ukraine launched] in October, 2021. Zelensky provoked Russia by sending suicide drones into [the Donbas], where many Russians live. It was after that that President Putin sent a hundred thousand troops to the border, to protect Russians from being killed. But President Biden exacerbated the situation by saying the Russians were massing to attack. Biden should have told Zelensky to stand down, but instigating conflict with Russia was, I think, part of the Western strategy.

Galuzin laid out the historical facts very clearly. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on February 19, 2022, Zelensky called for renegotiating the Budapest Memorandum. Read between the lines, and what he was calling for was for Ukraine to be allowed to have nuclear weapons. Putin heard this speech, understood that Zelensky was asking for nuclear weapons, and decided to act preemptively. The result was the February 21, 2022 meeting of the Russian Security Council. There, President Putin announced that Russia would be initiating a Special Military Operation on February 24, 2022.

France and Germany were taken aback by this. France intervened and offered to mediate talks with Putin. Putin responded favorably. However, Zelensky rebuffed the offer, only to come back [later] saying he would talk [with the Russians]. By that point, though, Putin brushed him off, vowing to continue with the Special Military Operation as planned. Hence, the war in Ukraine that we have today.

I think that Japanese politicians have no inkling of the history behind this war. In the Diet today, there is not one person who has a good understanding of the Budapest Memorandum, or of Minsk I or II.

K&J: Taxes paid by the Japanese people are being directed to funding Ukraine. What is your opinion of this?

SM: It would be a different story if Ukraine were a respectable country. But—and here I am thinking also of [former president Petro] Poroshenko—is Ukraine not a country of corruption? Even today, the weapons being sent to Ukraine are ending up in Gaza. Half of the money America sends to Ukraine is paid out to Ukrainian officials. Some of the money simply disappears. There is much unrest in Africa now. Some of the weapons sent to Ukraine are said to be ending up there as well.

If Ukraine were a trustworthy country, then I would argue in favor of supporting Ukraine. But until Ukraine is fundamentally overhauled, money sent there is wasted.

Compared to NATO, Japan’s financial support [for the Ukraine war] has been extremely low. I think this is because the Japanese government is worried about provoking Russia. Of the G7 countries, Japan is the only country not providing [Ukraine] with weapons or with materials that are the equivalent of weapons… I think Russia understands what this means. At first, Japan sent Ukraine foodstuffs, canned goods—but probably the people of Ukraine didn’t eat the canned goods, as they were things like Japanese pickles! Zelensky would have been justified in telling Japan to get serious, but he didn’t. I see in this the weakness of Ukraine.

Since the Ukraine-Russia war broke out, there have been just two positions taken inside Japan: Russia is bad, and Ukraine is good… I think this is mistaken.

Japanese politicians and the Japanese media are stuck in the entrance to the war. I want to find the exit. There is no war that doesn’t end. The thing to do now, instead of saying which side is right and which side is wrong, is to stop the fighting. Immediately. Put down the weapons. Look to the future and discuss what can be done from here on.

When I say things like this, people say, “Suzuki is a Russian spy.” “Suzuki is Putin’s lapdog.” But I will never back down. Russia is the world’s superpower when it comes to energy reserves. It’s Japan’s neighbor.

And, I want to find a resolution to the Northern Territories problem. We must find a resolution. Japan and Russia are two great nations, but they have no peace treaty. This is bizarre. It’s exceedingly unnatural.

K&J: Is Russia seeking a speedy conclusion of a peace treaty with Japan?

SM: Under the current circumstances, no. But, I believe the current circumstances won’t continue indefinitely, so I want to find a conclusion [to the status quo].

K&J: What will happen with the Northern Territories when a treaty is eventually signed?

SM: The proposal which former prime minister Abe made [during a summit meeting] in Singapore, in November of 2018, is the only viable proposal. President Putin is on board with that proposal. However, Prime Minister Abe left the office of prime minister thereafter [due to health reasons]. Had Prime Minister Abe been healthy, I think the Northern Territories issue would have been resolved.

One other thing. When I listen to how Zelensky talks, it reminds me of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters from seventy-nine years ago. They wanted to fight to the last man. They gave bamboo spears to women and children and commanded them to fight the Americans. But there was no chance of victory. Zelensky is telling the Ukrainian people that women and children are to take up arms. It’s the same as what happened in Japan seventy-nine years before. If, seventy-nine years ago, Japan had surrendered six months earlier [than it did], there would have been no firebombing of Tokyo. Two hundred thousand lives could have been saved [then]. There would have been no battle for Okinawa. There would have been no atomic bombing of Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

In war, the biggest victims are children, women, the elderly. Each one of their lives is precious. I want to avoid any loss of life. I am speaking on this from Japan’s experience.

On February 19, 2024, Japan hosted a symposium on the rebuilding of Ukraine. [Suzuki here is referencing the Japan-Ukraine Conference for Promotion of Economic Growth and Reconstruction, at which Prime Minister Kishida gave the keynote address.] But shouldn’t there be a ceasefire before a symposium on rebuilding Ukraine is held? Fighting and supporting [rebuilding] simultaneously is like stepping on the gas and the brake at the same time.

The NATO countries are now jockeying for position to get the best deal in the Ukraine recovery operation. Japan is in the least advantageous spot. So, I think Japan should get out of the competition now.

It’s the people of Japan’s tax money that’s being used. So, I don’t want to waste any of it—under any circumstances.

Game of Clones: Japanese Politics as Great Power Puppet Plays

Japan is now four months into a massive political scandal.

Although it had been reported in a communist newspaper and in other minor outlets since November of 2022, in December of 2023 the mainstream media here blew up with news that members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had been getting kickbacks from the sales of tickets to supporter gatherings and other political schmoozing events. Much of this money went unreported. By law, cash received from ticket sales, as with all such income, must be catalogued, and taxes must be paid. But as anyone from any other country that has politicians could tell you, that is of course not what the LDP pols did. Many of them siphoned off some of the cash and used it for getting votes and God knows what else. Each week brings new revelations of dirty dealings and sordid cover-ups in Tokyo.

Pretty rich behavior for a political class that last year started cracking down on unreported income for the hoi polloi. A new invoice law came into effect in 2023 requiring us little people to create invoices and pay sales tax for even the most piddling of interpersonal cash transactions. The politicians seem to have had no intention of following the rules they impose on the rest of us, however. Many of them have used their clout and standing for quick personal enrichment while we have spent hours filling out additional tax paperwork. And so, we in Japan have been rather enjoying watching the criminals who run the country sweat and squirm under the glare of media scrutiny. Recently, I watched late-night NHK with no small degree of Schadenfreude as Takagi Tsuyoshi, member of the House of Representatives and former head of the LDP’s Committee on the Diet (Parliament), mopped his brow taking hard questions from opposition politicians. They were grilling him, and rightly so, about the more than ten million yen (some 67,000 US dollars) in unreported slush money he had received from the kickback scheme.

Takagi is far from the worst offender. Hagiuda Koichi, a big-name politician and former head of the LDP’s Policy Research Council, took at least twenty-seven million yen (nearly $180,000 US).

Matsuno Hirokazu, who once had the prime ministership in his sights as the powerful Chief Cabinet Secretary (kanbo chokan) under current prime minister Kishida Fumio, like Takagi took more than ten million yen. Matsuno fell much harder than either Takagi or Hagiuda. He was stripped of his position and roasted almost daily in the Diet and in the media for his inane non-answers to questions about how much he took and when he took it.

Nishimura Yasutoshi, who was once the very powerful Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, admits to having taken one million yen (some 6,500 US dollars) in under-the-table money, but is suspected of having gotten much more. Seko Hiroshige, who was also once Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, failed to report at least eight million yen (more than 55,000 US dollars) in slush money.

Ikeda Yoshitaka, House of Representatives member and former State Minister for the influential Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, may have taken forty-eight million yen (around 319,000 US dollars). Ono Yasutada, former Chairman of the House of Councilors Committee on the Cabinet, is suspected of having taken upwards of fifty million yen (more than 330,000 dollars). In January of 2024, Ono was charged by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office with violating the Political Funding Regulation Law (Seiji Shikin Kisei Ho). In the same month, Ikeda was arrested, along with a political secretary, for conspiring to break the same law, and was charged with such. More arrests may follow for others who have embezzled cash.

The scandal has produced the usual run of buffoonish sideshows. Tanaka Makiko, who was once Minister for Foreign Affairs and who has led a charmed political life as the daughter of postwar prime minister Tanaka Kakuei, came out of retirement to chastise the bumbling LDP politicians for their carelessness with money. This was ironic in the extreme. Tanaka Kakuei left the prime ministership in 1974 amid scandal, and then was hit headlong with a much bigger uproar, over bribes from Lockheed, two years later. Tanaka Kakuei’s political career ended in crookedness, and began in it, too. Tanaka made his way in politics through the support of the classic populist-kickback constituents group, the Niigata-based Etsuzankai. Tanaka got his start running with the Tokyo big boys under Kishi Nobusuke, who was a bought-and-paid-for Washington lapdog. To make the farce even thicker, Tanaka Makiko served in the cabinet of Koizumi Jun’ichiro, who was arguably even more of a Washington toady than Kishi was.

There is more to the hypocrisy than just Tanaka Makiko’s lack of familial self-awareness. The way the LDP kickback scandal has been portrayed in the media should be of note to Americans who follow what is going on in Japan. The reason is that the current screaming match in the Diet conceals a much deeper truth about who really runs Japan, and why.

On the surface, the scandal of the hour is about political discord. Everyone is fighting everyone else. Tune in to just about any Japanese television station or pick up just about any newspaper, and you will learn that the people who apparently misappropriated tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in unreported funds belonged to this or that ha, or “political faction.” Takagi, Hagiuda, Ikeda, Seko, Nishimura, Matsuno, and Ono were all part of the “Abe-ha,” that is, the faction of politicians who cluster under the policy aegis of the late Abe Shinzo, Kishi Nobusuke’s grandson. While Abe was alive, his Abe-ha minions declared themselves (whether sincerely or not) to be loyal to his political positions. The official name for the pro-Abe group is the Seiwa Seisaku Kenkyukai, or Seiwakai for short, and its members are known to be among the most conservative in the Diet. The way the story is sold in the Japanese media—and the way Tanaka Makiko and other opportunistic pols are framing it—is that the legacy of Abe Shinzo is coming undone (or coming home to roost, depending on which side of the aisle you cheer for). One side versus the other in the rough-and-tumble world of Tokyo politicking.

Indeed, faction as the ugly backstory to the kickback scandal has come to overshadow even the misappropriation of funds itself. For instance, the media reports that the Shikokai, the faction led by and supporting former prime minister Aso Taro, also apparently failed to report “party ticket” income. (Aso was personally and ideologically very close to the late Abe Shinzo.)

Others who took shady political cash include Nikai Toshihiro, a House of Representatives member and lifelong politician (he first entered the Diet in 1975). Nikai is said to have taken a staggering five billion yen (some 33 million US dollars) for “political activity” over five years as LDP Secretary-General from 2016 to 2021. Nikai is the head of the Shisuikai, the faction which supports his political views (largely sympathetic to China). More factionalism.

Also on the China-faction front, Kadota Ryusho, a journalist colleague in Japan, reported in December of 2023 that Chinese nationals once crowded into events for the Kochikai, the storied (and elitist) faction which now rallies behind Prime Minister Kishida. In January 2024, Kishida announced that he was dissolving the Kochikai after sixty-seven years in operation. Factionalism eating its own.

Even Yamaguchi Natsuo, head of the Buddhist Soka Gakkai-backed Komeito party which bills itself as the “clean government” alternative to crooked Tokyo politics, has gotten caught in the scandal. In late 2023, Yamaguchi publicly agreed to lower reporting requirements for “party ticket” sales and other such income from 200,000 yen (about 1,300 dollars) to 50,000 yen (about 300 dollars). This is a strong indication that Komeito members had not been reporting slush money. There is a China-angle to the Komeito news, as well, as it is often whispered in Tokyo politics that the Komeito is soft on China. The Komeito votes with the LDP in a bloc on most issues, so the media focus on the Komeito is another way of saying that factionalism is what is driving the dysfunction of the Japanese Diet.

It is true that the scandals are partly about factions, about which politician belongs to which stable and how the various groups collude behind the scenes to frustrate open parliamentary debate. That is all readily apparent, and the extent to which factions act against the interests of voters cannot be discounted. At the same time, though, there is something very misleading about how the media covers the “party ticket” slush money brouhaha. The fractious factionalism that helps decide who gets how much of what kind of kickback and who gets appointed to which coveted position is camouflage for the almost complete one-dimensionality of the political world here. Nikai Toshihiro and Yamaguchi Natsuo are piffled about in the media as being tools of the Chinese, yes. And LDP members Arimura Haruko and Nagashima Akihisa are rather notoriously slavish to Washington. So there is a kind of factionalism to how the political class in Tokyo is said to interact with foreign powers.

But the truth is that there is little daylight between any of the factions, even the ones which appear to be serving the Chinese Communists and the ones which appear to be pro-American. The much more salient truth in all of this is that the LDP is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Deep State. It was born that way—as a vehicle for American interests in Japan. No pro-China group, or pro-any-other-country-group, and certainly no faction centered around the fortunes of this or that LDP politician, comes remotely close to challenging the one faction that determines every major policy in Japan: namely, the faction which also controls Washington, DC. The entire postwar, in which unelected American bureaucrats run Tokyo, is structured around the docility of the LDP, its thralldom to Potomac logic and worldview.

Prime Minister Kishida, possibly the most LDP-like LDP politician in history, has consistently prioritized the interests of Washington, DC, over the people of Japan. This may explain why Kishida is hated by right-wingers. It certainly explains why I hold him in contempt. He is not the prime minister of Japan—he is Washington’s satrap, Vidkun Quisling in spectacles and a necktie. Many other conservatives here are growing angrier by the week over the extent to which politics-as-usual in the Tokyo political neighborhood of Nagatacho serves the American uniparty and the Japan handlers in the permanent government, over and against the people whose “blood taxes” (ketsuzei) the Japanese government sucks up and uses to buy big-ticket military hardware from American defense contractors. Or sends off to prop up Washington’s losing war of attrition in its other client state of Ukraine.

Ukraine is the perfect lens through which to view Japanese politics, to reveal how tightly the LDP’s lips are affixed to Washington’s behind. In February of 2024, Prime Minister Kishida and his cabinet hosted a “Japan-Ukraine Conference for Promotion of Economic Growth and Reconstruction,” which is a polite way of saying “an invitation to the rebuild-Ukraine pork barrel buffet.” The month before, in early January, Kishida’s foreign minister, Kamikawa Yoko, traveled to Ukraine, where she took the usual melodramatic tour of a bomb shelter and promised to send millions of dollars of Japanese tax money to NATO (of which Japan is not a member, but wants to be). Outside observers could be forgiven for thinking that Kamikawa, and Kishida, and the rest of the LDP were working for the Ukrainian government, and not for an archipelago off the eastern coast of Asia. Japan has already provided Ukraine with more than 1.2 trillion yen (nearly eight billion US dollars) since hostilities with Russia began in February of 2022. At the February 19 Ukraine-pork smorgasbord, Prime Minister Kishida promised the grifters visiting from Kiev that he would send billions of dollars more. There is no country on earth, not even Ukraine itself, that has been more desperate to please Washington since February of 2022 than Japan. And it has been that way since the second half of August, 1945. The LDP serves Washington. And no one else.

What has Japan’s client-state status done for the Japanese people? Ask the ones living in the Japan equivalent of Trump Country, the people about whom Tokyo politicians could not possibly care less. On January 1, 2024, a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit the Noto peninsula, part of Ishikawa Prefecture on the Japan Sea-side of the main island of Honshu. As of this writing, electricity still has not been restored to much of the affected area. Municipal water is also out, as the earthquake buckled the ground and caused massive landslides and structural collapses, resulting in untold damage to water pipes and other infrastructure. People were crushed when their homes fell in on top of them in the violent shaking. There has been no Conference for Promotion of Economic Growth and Reconstruction in Noto. But then again, why would there be? Washington hasn’t ordered its eunuchs in Nagatacho to do such a thing yet, and so there the people of Ishikawa sit, forgotten. Money that could go to help rebuild Japan is sent off to rebuild Ukraine.

The abandoned people of the Noto Peninsula are resilient, and are not begging anyone for sympathy. The grit of the people living in the rough Japanese equivalent of East Palestine, Ohio, is inspiring. Those farmers and fishermen are the salt of the earth. On February 28, there was a concert in Suzu, a small city in Ishikawa Prefecture, at one of the elementary schools still being used as a shelter for people left homeless by the New Year’s Day disaster. Fifteen elementary school students stood in the unheated gym of their school and sang a beautiful song of hope for the people assembled on makeshift seats before them. The children’s breath was visible in the cold air as they sang. The audience members, many of them elderly and nearly all of them destitute, shed silent tears. The children’s song helped them, they said after the concert ended. They wanted to keep moving ahead, to hold out for a better tomorrow.

Nobody from the Kishida cabinet was there, of course. They have very important work to do evading taxes for slush payments and figuring out how to get more taxpayer money to Kiev.

On the other side of Honshu from Ishikawa, in the dimly-lit back halls of a Tokyo government controlled by the United States, Japanese leaders schemed how to line the pockets of politicians in Ukraine, arguably the most corrupt regime on earth. The only benefit for Japan in throwing tax yen into the black hole of an unwinnable war started by Washington is that it wins “sontaku” (kiss-up) points for Kishida, who apparently sees it as his life mission to please Joe Biden.

Tokyo’s prejudices are Washington’s, too. Even the most irrational ones. In late February, my colleague Kenji Yoshida and I interviewed Suzuki Muneo, a member of the House of Councilors who was lambasted by the media and left his former political party, the Nippon Ishin-no-Kai, over a visit to Russia in October of 2023. We spoke to Suzuki for more than an hour, and learned much about why he decided to visit the country which Washington, and its puppets in Japanese politics and in the Japanese media, portrays as the second coming of the Third Reich. Suzuki was passionate about how important it was for the people in his home district, on the northern island of Hokkaido, to maintain dialogue with Moscow. There are fishing rights at stake for Hokkaido fishermen, for instance. People in Hokkaido want to visit the graves of their ancestors in territory which the Soviet Union took at the end of World War II and which Russia continues to occupy. Russia is an important source of energy, Suzuki explained. And Russia has a point about Minsk II, he insisted. In any event, one must speak with one’s adversaries, Suzuki argued. In a time of war, especially, one must reach out to the other side. [The Postil has published this interview]

For his trouble, Suzuki was pilloried in the press. He was called a “traitor” (kokuzoku). He has long been maligned as a “Russian lackey” (Roshia no daibensha) by the Japanese media, and his October, 2023 visit to Russia helped confirm that there is still no love lost between the Hokkaido politician and the press corps. Yoshida and I wanted to bring some balance to the coverage of Suzuki. We tried running our interview with a so-called “conservative” outlet in Japan. The editor there slammed the virtual door in our face, saying that there was no need to listen to anything any Russian had to say, and, by extension, no need to listen to Suzuki Muneo. That is correct. The “conservatives” here are not just against Putin. They’re against all Russians. Sound familiar? As you might have guessed, the same “conservative” outlet in Japan pushes the pro-Ukraine line even more shamelessly than does the Pentagon.

Is Suzuki Muneo a traitor, a running dog of Russian imperialism? After talking to Suzuki, it struck Yoshida and me that, of all the politicians in the Diet, the one routinely insulted as a foreign dupe was the one most patriotically trying to help Japanese people outside of the political class. If only there was a Suzuki Muneo for the Noto Peninsula, then maybe there would be some accountability and people there wouldn’t be freezing, hungry, and crying. If only there had been more politicians like Suzuki these past eighty years while Washington has been running the show here. Suzuki Muneo went to prison some two decades ago when he wouldn’t kowtow to the neo-liberal Washington tool of the hour, then-prime minister Koizumi Jun’ichiro. Or at least, that’s how many see it. Suzuki also vaguely hints that refusing to bend the knee to Koizumi was what got him, Suzuki, sent up the river for a spell. But there is some truth to this interpretation, I believe. Who else in the Koizumi years was willing to go as far as Suzuki to stop Japan’s being Washington’s plaything?

The irony is thick, and depressing. Suzuki Muneo, a patriot to my mind, is said to be a cat’s paw of Putin. People inside the LDP say this. But it’s the LDP, with its fake factionalism and its shameless truckling to Washington—as a matter of policy, as a matter of existence from day one—that is the real sock puppet.

It’s a game of clones, this political business in Tokyo. The politicians here in Japan appear to be riven by faction, battling one another tooth and nail in the Diet. But the entire thing is a farce. Those who pretend to be warring in the parliament are, in fact, players in a sad puppet play, Japanese marionettes dancing around on Yankee strings.

Jason Morgan is associate professor at Reitaku University in Kashiwa, Japan

Russia did not Lose the Russo-Japanese War

War against Russia was necessary for Japan, both for territorial gains and for acquitting the status of a world power. The idea of the inevitability of war with Russia had been implanted in the minds of the Japanese people long before 1904. The famous Irish writer Lafcadio Hearn wrote back in 1895 that when the Japanese move on Russia, even the dead Japanese soldiers and sailors who died in the recent war with China will come to their aid. The ambitiousness of Japanese politicians was supported by Western powers interested in weakening Russia. The U.S., Germany, and England provided Japan with enormous assistance in rearming, training, and military supplies for the army.

By 1904, Japan had concentrated five times more armed forces in the Far East than the Russian armed forces. They were equipped with the most modern Western European and American weapons. The Japanese fleet was at least twice as large as the Russian Pacific fleet.

Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II foresaw the war with Japan and prepared for it, but, unfortunately, Russia by 1904 did not have time to re-equip the Siberian and Far Eastern railroads for military transportation, which was one of the decisive reasons for the defeats of the Russian army at the beginning of the war.

Tsar Nicholas II was not a bellicose man and considered war the greatest evil, so he tried in every way to avoid it. In negotiations with Japan, he was ready to make major concessions, up to the lease of part of the island of Sakhalin. But, as noted by S. S. Oldenburg, “Russia could avoid the struggle only by surrender. By self-removal from the Far East. No partial concessions—and a lot were made—could not only prevent, but also postpone the war.”

And war broke out. On the night of January 26-27, 1904, Japanese ships treacherously attacked the Russian squadron in Port Arthur. In his manifesto to the people, Emperor Nicholas II stated:

“In our concern for the preservation of the peace dear to our heart, we have made every effort to strengthen the tranquility in the Far East. For these peace-loving purposes, we have agreed to the revision of the existing agreements on Korean affairs between the two empires, proposed by the Japanese Government. The negotiations on this subject, however, were not brought to an end, and Japan, without even waiting for the receipt of the last reciprocal proposals of Our Government, announced the termination of the negotiations and the severance of diplomatic relations with Russia.

Without warning that the interruption of such relations would mean the opening of hostilities, the Japanese Government ordered its destroyers to suddenly attack our squadron, which was moored at the naval base of the fortress of Port Arthur. Upon receipt of the report of our Viceroy in the Far East, we immediately ordered an armed response to the Japanese challenge.”

Some Russian politicians of that time doubted the expediency of the war. And the liberal-revolutionary public immediately declared that Russia did not need territories thousands of versts away and, in order to have good-neighborly relations with Japan, it had to “withdraw from the Far East.” However, Russian politicians and public figures understood the significance of the Russo-Japanese war. This understanding was later expressed by Sergei S. Oldenburg:

“Since the days when Peter the Great cut through the ‘window to Europe,’ no war was as much a struggle for the future of Russia as the Russo-Japanese war. The question of access to ice-free seas, of Russian predominance in a vast part of the world, of the almost unpopulated expanses of Manchuria was being decided. Otherwise, having made its mark on its entire future in Asia, Russia could not evade this struggle.”

In addition, we can say that Russia’s war with Japan was predetermined in heaven. This is evidenced by the following mystical cases. Seven days before the war began, one Valaam elder had a vision, later recorded from his words and kept in the archives of the Valaam Monastery.

In this subtle vision an angel in the form of a young man appeared to him and foretold the coming calamities. Here is how the elder himself told about it:

“One night a bright Young Man came to me and said: ‘Come with me, and you will see something that no one on earth understands.’ The Young Man turned the other way, and I saw a huge beast walking in the distance, and behind it a dark cloud went over the Russian land. I became afraid, and I took a step back. But the Young Man said: ‘Where will you go? There is nowhere to hide from it. But know that it does not concern you.’ Then I felt a kind of strength within me and I began to look at everything. I asked: ‘What does it mean?’ The young man said: ‘One, the beast is war, and two, the cloud is punishment.’”

In addition to this vision there was another mystical incident, confirming the predetermination of the war with Japan. Two months before it began, a pilgrim, an old Russian sailor, a participant in the famous defense of Sevastopol in 1854, during the Crimean War, came to the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra. At the Kiev shrines he prayed diligently for the Russian fleet in Port Arthur. And then, one day, he had a vision: the Mother of God standing with her back to the bay, who was holding an oblong shawl in her hands. With Her feet She was trampling naked double-edged swords. The sailor was very frightened by this vision, was struck with fear, but the Mother of God calmed him and told him that the war would soon begin, in which Russia would face severe trials. And in conclusion She said that it was necessary to paint an icon, which should exactly reflect this vision, and send it to Port Arthur.

When the old sailor began to speak of this vision everywhere, few believed him. And only after the attack of Japanese ships on the Russian squadron in Port Arthur did the Orthodox believe in the truth of Our Lady’s apparition to the sailor. Ten thousand Kiev worshipers collected the sum necessary to paint the icon, “Solemnity of the Mother of God,” or, as it is called otherwise, the icon of the Mother of God “Port Arthur.” Soon this icon was painted and sent to Port Arthur. But by that time, it was already besieged by the Japanese, and attempts to deliver the icon there ended in failure. And so it was sent to the Headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief, General Kuropatkin.

From the failure of the spiritual order, the beginning of the war was also unsuccessful for Russia in other respects. In March 1904 near Port Arthur there was a battle between Russian and Japanese squadrons. By tragic accident, at the very beginning of the battle, the Russian battleship Petropavlovsk, on which Admiral Makarov, Commander-in-Chief of the Fleet, was stationed, exploded on a mine. The ship sank in a matter of minutes. Among the dead was the Admiral himself. Left without leadership, Russian ships were defeated. The death of a remarkable naval commander, Admiral Makarov, was a heavy, irreplaceable loss. With his name, Russia reasonably associated hope for victory in this war. But the death of the Russian squadron in many ways predetermined further defeats, as after that Russian troops were deprived of support from the sea. The strategic position of the Russian army and fleet worsened. Taking advantage of the situation, the Japanese inflicted a heavy defeat on the Russian troops at Mukden and defeated the squadron in the Tsushima Strait.

Nevertheless, these defeats did not bring Japan victory over Russia. Sergei S. Oldenburg writes:

“The Russian army even after Mukden remained a formidable fighting force, and the Japanese were severely exhausted, despite the victory. They took the advantage of their earlier readiness for the last time – and yet they did not achieve a decisive result. Talk of Mukden as an unprecedented and shameful defeat was explained by political considerations – to show the unfitness of Russian power.”

After Mukden, the Japanese army could no longer fight actively. The economy and finances of Japan were undermined. Military losses were enormous:

“In the hostilities, Japan lost 270,000 men, including 86,000. The number of dead on the part of Russia was 36,000 thousand less. The economic and financial situation remained stable.”

In this regard, after the Battle of Tsushima, the Japanese Emperor appealed to U.S. President Roosevelt with a request to begin negotiations with Russia on the conclusion of peace, as Japan was unable to continue the war.

Emperor Nicholas II did not want to make peace, realizing that the defeat of Japan was inevitable and everything depended only on time. Nevertheless, he was forced to enter into peace negotiations, as internal turmoil began in Russia, which turned out to be more dangerous than the Japanese armies. The enemies of the Russian Orthodox monarchy provoked the revolution of 1905. The Russian Orthodox Church sounded the alarm. “There is a difficult war going on,” wrote Metropolitan Anthony (Vadkovsky) at that time, “it will be necessary for all to unite in high self-sacrifice, full patriotic feeling; but instead of this, internal turmoil reigns in our land. Native sons of Russia, under the influence of harmful teachings of enmity, unknown in the old days, tear her maternal heart. There is no love for the Church, reverence for authority has disappeared… This is where the real grief and misfortune of Russia.”

It must be said that huge foreign funds were involved in the organization of anti-state demonstrations. “Japan allocated money for the organization of strikes and riots in Russia,” writes historian Oleg A. Platonov. “Through front men and organizations, Japan financed trade union funds to support the strikers… In addition to Japanese money, Russian revolutionaries received huge sums from anti-Russian organizations and individuals in Europe and America.”

Of course, it should not be stated unequivocally that the revolutionary riots were organized with the help of foreign money. They became possible because a part of Russian society, infected by socialist teaching, decided to build a state according to human reasoning, and not according to the Divine gift, which for Russia is the monarchy, the power of God’s Anointed One—the Tsar. This position was a consequence of unchurching, a retreat from the Orthodox faith. People wished to live “freely,” without Gospel laws limiting them in action, so, as St. Righteous John of Kronstadt said about that situation, “faith in the word of God, in the word of truth has disappeared and has been replaced by faith in human reason; the press in the majority has become corrupted—there is nothing holy and honorable for it… there is no obedience of children to their parents, of students to those who teach them… Marriages are ruined, family life is decaying; there is no firm politics—everyone is politicking… everyone wants autonomy. The intelligentsia has no love for the Motherland and is ready to sell it to foreigners, as Judas sold Christ to the evil scribes and Pharisees.”

Departure from the Orthodox faith, forgetting of moral and ethical principles led to the possibility of using foreign money in the Russian revolutionary movement. And it was used at full scale, bribing educated Russian people and directing their activities to the struggle against the Orthodox monarchical statehood. The remarkable pastor of that time, Archpriest John Vostorgov, wrote directly about the betrayal of national interests by the intelligentsia during the Russo-Japanese war: “Never since the beginning of Russia has the absence of the most mediocre reason of state, patriotism and simple decency, been discovered to such an extent in people who consider themselves representatives of Russian thought. In this moment of grief and upheaval of the Fatherland, they found it convenient to destroy all the foundations of power and order… They welcomed and fanned each of our failures, they infected the troops going to battle with despondency; it finally came to the point that Russian students sent greetings to the Japanese Mikado (on Japanese victories—the author); they sent from Switzerland, to the Japanese army, to General Kuroki, the most detailed map of Northern Manchuria, so that the enemies could inflict harm to the Russian army without error… Cains, Hams and Judases have raised their seats in Russia. Cains killed the best Russian people—the Tsar’s servants: the Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich was killed, Bobrikov was killed in Finland, Pleve was killed. The Hams rejoiced at the humiliation of the Motherland and mocked its suffering. The Jews took Japanese money, bought weapons with it for rebellion inside Russia, organized strikes of workers in factories that prepared military supplies, in shipyards that built military ships, on roads that transported troops.”

Today we can say with all certainty that whoever and however one evaluates the outcome of the Russo-Japanese War, the Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II should be honored and praised for the fact that in the conditions of outright sabotage, secret political intrigues and moral and spiritual betrayal on the part of liberal society, he managed to bring Russia to the threshold of victory, and only the burgeoning revolution of 1905 prevented this war from reaching its victorious conclusion.

Igor Evsin is a ooet, writer and journalist. He is the author of twelve books. He is a monarchist who lives and works in Ryazan. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Ruskline.

Featured: The Theotokos Port Arthur, 1904.

Nagasaki: An Act of State Terrorism

August 9, 2023 is the 78th anniversary of the destruction of the oldest, largest and most historic Catholic community in Japan, that of the Urakami District of Nagasaki, whose Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception lay 1,650 feet beneath the airburst of the 21 kiloton Fat Man plutonium bomb.

Faith and Martyrdom in Nagasaki

The Catholic Faith was first brought to what is now the Nagasaki Prefecture by Saint Francis Xavier, following his arrival in Japan in 1549. The first Catholic missionary to evangelize the town of Nagasaki was a Portuguese Jesuit, Father Gaspar Vilela, who erected a church on the site of a pagoda in 1569.

The harvest of conversions was plentiful. By 1587, there were three parish churches and numerous chapels in the former fishing village, which was then growing into a city and a major seaport. Buddhism and Shintoism had all but disappeared from within its municipal confines.

By 1588, the year that the first Catholic diocese was established in Japan — the Diocese of Funai, centered on Nagasaki — there were at least 200,000 Catholics in the Land of the Rising Sun. Some place the figure above a half million.

Persecution however, would soon follow. Beginning in 1587, the Imperial Regent and Chancellor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, influenced by the Bonzes — Buddhist monks — issued the first prohibitions directed against the missionaries.

The pagan monks, affronted by the dramatic growth of Catholicism in their country, bore false witness against the Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries, accusing them of territorial ambitions within Japan, on behalf of the then united Spanish and Portuguese Crowns.

In this lethal calumny they were to be abetted, later, by Protestant Dutch and English merchants and sea captains who hated the Catholic Faith.

In 1597, the Twenty Six Martyrs of Japan — Saint Paul Miki and Companions — were crucified in Nagasaki, the first of hundreds of thousands of Catholics to suffer for the Faith in Japan.

In 1614, Catholicism was proscribed in Japan and would remain so until 1873. For the next two and a half centuries, Nagasaki would give seed to the Church through the blood of her martyrs.

Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits and lay Catholics would die there in 1622, followed by Augustinian Recollects in 1632. Martyrdoms would continue until the end of the 1850’s.

When the first Catholic missionaries returned to Japan in 1865, they discovered the extraordinary phenomenon of a clandestine church, the church of the “Hidden Christians,” consisting of thousands of secret Catholics living near Nagasaki, and existing, impoverished, on the very margins of Japanese society. They kept the Faith, without priests and without most of the sacraments, and without contact with the outside world, for 250 years.

It is no wonder that Nagasaki has been described as the “heart and soul” of Japanese Catholicism and the “Cradle of the Catholic Church,” in Japan.

After several years of de facto toleration, the ban against Catholicism in Japan was finally lifted in 1873. Nagasaki then resumed its place as the religious and cultural center of the Catholic community.

As early as 1866, the Apostolic Vicariate of Japan was located in Nagasaki. The Diocese of Nagasaki was erected in 1891. By 1925, the great Romanesque Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Christian church in East Asia, was completed, to the immense joy of the Catholics of the city.

A saint of modern times was among those who preached the Gospel in Nagasaki. Saint Maximilian Kolbe spent six years in Japan, from 1930 to 1936. In 1931, the Polish martyr founded a Franciscan convent on the outskirts of the city.

The Bomb

Shortly before 11 am on Thursday, August 9, 1945, three Silverplate (nuclear capable) Boeing B-29 Superfortresses of the 509th Composite Bombardment Group, of the Twentieth United States Army Air Force, approached the City of Nagasaki, at an altitude of 29,000 feet.

The aircraft had left Tinian, in the Marianas, eight hours earlier. Upon the completion of their mission, they would land in U.S. occupied Okinawa.

The lead plane, the weather reconnaissance plane, was the already famous Enola Gay, which had dropped the first atomic bomb, Little Boy, on Hiroshima, three days before.

The second plane, the observation aircraft, carrying cameras and measuring instruments, was The Great Artiste.

The third B-29, Bockscar, carried a plutonium implosion atomic bomb named Fat Man. The aircraft was piloted by Major Charles W. Sweeney, an Irish American Catholic from Lowell, Massachusetts.

At 11:02 am, 43 seconds after its release from the bomb bay of the B-29, Fat Man exploded, with force of 22,000 tons of TNT, over Urakami District of Nagasaki, 1,650 feet above Immaculate Conception Cathedral.

The population of Nagasaki in 1945 was, officially, 263,000. Because of conventional bombing raids, thousands of children had been evacuated to the countryside. There were, perhaps, less than 200,000 residents remaining in the city on August 9th.

Of these, 40,000 were vaporized in a millisecond. Another 34,000 would die from burns, blast injuries and radiation poisoning before the end of the year. Because of the long term effects of radiation sickness, and the cancers it engenders, the total fatalities, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, may have approached 140,000.

Nothing survived within a kilometer of the epicenter. Everyone in the Cathedral died. The physical destruction was horrific, with 14,000 homes incinerated.

Saint Maximilian Kolbe estimated that there were a 100,000 Catholics in Japan in the 1930’s, of whom 60,000 lived in the Diocese of Nagasaki. Of these, 12,000 lived in the city itself, in the Urakami District.

Mortality estimates for the Catholic community range from 8,500 to 10,000 dead. This means that somewhere between 71% and 83% of the Catholic population of Nagasaki was destroyed, with perhaps as much as ten percent of the entire Catholic population of Japan killed in a single mass casualty event.

Statues found among the ruins of Urakami Cathedral.

Ironically, only 150 Japanese military personnel died in the bombing, but the bomb killed 2,000 Korean forced laborers.

Although the plutonium bomb used at Nagasaki had, at 21 kilotons, a 40% higher yield than the uranium device detonated over Hiroshima, it produced less than 29% of the initial fatalities.

This was because the port city of Nagasaki, like the American seaport of Boston, is a geological basin, surrounded by a ridge formation. This contained the blast. Providentially, Saint Maximilian placed his convent on the reverse side of the mountain overlooking the city. It survived.

Why Nagasaki?

Suspicions remain as to why and how Nagasaki became a target for the atomic bomb.

Nagasaki was added, at the last moment — on July 24th or later — by an unknown hand, to the target list.

St. Agnes, from Urakami Cathedral. Found in the ruins of the cathedral after the nuclear attack.

According to U.S. Army Air Force protocols, it should never have been on the list at all, as it was not pristine, having been firebombed four times by the B-29s of the Twentieth Air Force.

The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey wanted only completely undamaged targets to measure, more accurately, the blast and incendiary impact of the atomic bomb.

Another mitigating factor was the presence of 884 Allied prisoners of war in the city — British, Dutch and Australian — who worked as forced labor in the two Mitsubishi factories.

Major General Leslie Groves, the head of the Manhattan Project which developed the A-bomb, was the chairman of the target list committee. He later claimed, implausibly, that he had no idea of how Nagasaki made the list.

Nearly eight decades on, the Nagasaki target map remains missing from the National Archives.

Kyoto, Hiroshima, Yokohama, Kokura and Niigata were on the initial target list. Yokohama, with its navy yard, was removed because of the extensive damage it suffered from the conventional munitions dropped in B-29 raids.

Kyoto, with its 2,000 Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, was removed from the list after Secretary of War Henry Stimson personally interceded with President Harry Truman. Stimson said that the destruction of the religious and cultural capital of Japan would permanently alienate the Japanese people, whose support the United States might need in a future conflict with the Soviet Union.

It seems, sequentially at least, that Nagasaki was placed on the target list following the removal of Kyoto, possibly as its replacement. Its inclusion came in the form of a hand scrawled note, by an unidentified person, which was added to the already typewritten list.

On August 9, 1945, Kokura was the primary target. As it was socked in — no visibility — Major Sweeney, running low on fuel, turned to the secondary target. That was Nagasaki.

There Was Widespread Opposition in America’s Military
Leadership to the Atomic Bombing of Cities

Conservative writers, journalists, intellectuals and media talking heads — including the putatively Catholic George Weigel — continue to defend the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, despite its clear contravention of Catholic just war doctrine, first expounded by Saint Augustine.

For decades, conservatives maintained that it was a binary choice between the A-bomb and the invasion of the Japanese home islands.

They cited Winston Churchill, who claimed that the invasion would cost the lives of a million American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, the lives of a half million British Commonwealth forces and the lives of untold millions of Japanese soldiers and civilians.

In recent times, their arguments have become more refined. Some now claim that the maintenance of the American naval blockade of Japan would have resulted in tens of millions of Japanese deaths from starvation.

Overlooked in all of this is the fact that while modern day opinion givers justify the use of nuclear weapons on civilians, most of America’s military and naval leadership at the time opposed it.

Of the six Allied Supreme Commanders in the Second World War, all three Americans, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, and Chester Nimitz, opposed, on moral or practical grounds, the atomic bombing of Japan.

In his memoirs, President Richard Nixon said that what impressed him most about Douglas MacArthur was the General’s principled opposition to the indiscriminate killing of civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

As MacArthur would have led the invasion of Japan, and would therefore have been acutely aware of the potential for massive American casualties, this is no small thing.

President Eisenhower, in his 1948 memoir, Crusade in Europesaid he “disliked seeing the United States take the lead in introducing into war something as horrible and destructive as this new weapon.” Fifteen years later, in a second memoir, he charged that “Japan was already defeated and . . . dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary.”

America’s senior officer in World War II was Fleet Admiral William Leahy, who was the Chairman of the Joint Board of the Army and the Navy and the Chief of Staff to the President — the 1940’s equivalent of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and National Security Advisor.

Leahy called the atomic bombing “an act of barbarism.”

The entire leadership of the Navy was opposed to the bomb. Besides Leahy and Nimitz, the Chief of Naval Operations, Ernest King, and Nimitz’s two Pacific fleet commanders, Admirals Halsey and Spruance, were critics of the bomb.

Even the Twentieth Air Force commander, Curtis LeMay — whose planes dropped the bombs — said it was unnecessary.

LeMay’s objections were operational, not ethical. General LeMay always maintained that the war would have ended with a Japanese surrender in September of 1945. That is when his target list, for the obliteration of Japanese cities through conventional firebombing, would have been completed.

Stalin Did We Asked Him To Do

One of the more fatuous arguments made by defenders of the A-bomb was that the Soviet Union rushed, opportunistically, to enter the war against Japan after the U.S. bombed Hiroshima. This is an imbecility.

It presumes that the plodding and ponderous Russian Army was suddenly transformed into the Wehrmacht, ready to launch a blitzkrieg against the Japanese in Manchuria within 48 hours of the bombing of Hiroshima.

The truth is quite different.

At Yalta, in April of 1945, three months before the successful test of the atomic bomb in New Mexico, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill were supplicants to Joseph Stalin, cajoling him and wheedling him to declare war upon Japan.

Suitably bribed with territorial concessions in the Far East, Stalin agreed. He promised to enter the Pacific war against Japan three months after the European war against Germany ended.

VE Day was May 8, 1945. Russia entered the war punctually, exactly on time, as Stalin said he would, three months later, on August 8, 1945.

If the bombs were dropped to shock the Japanese into surrender, then the question remains of why the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Japanese civilians two days before Japan’s greatest fear—a Russian declaration of war—materialized, which we knew was coming? And why did we drop a second bomb the day after the Russian entry into the war?

We will also examine the moral compass of Major Charles Sweeney.

C. Joseph Doyle is the Executive Director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts. Since 2019, he has also served as the Communications Director of the Friends of Saint Benedict Center. This article appears courtesy of Catholicism.

Featured: Urakami Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Nagasaki, January 7,1946.

The Paradox of Japanese Modernity

Modernity, as it appeared in Japan in the 19th century, baffles the Westerner who might consider questioning it. Because it is often wrongly perceived as an exclusively European phenomenon, its Japanese expression is reduced to an attempt to imitate it in order to make up for economic, political and military backwardness. Yet, in Moderne sans être occidental: Aux origines du Japon aujourd’hui (Modern without being Western: At the Origins of the Japan of Today), Japanese history specialist Pierre-François Souyri demonstrates that Japanese modernity, far from being an ersatz of Western modernity, has an identity and genesis of its own.

The identity between modernization and westernization of Japan is one of the most commonplace points of view. Writers, filmmakers, but also, more seriously, historians often describe a feudal archipelago that embraced Western modernity by discovering the new power of the expanding European empires in the mid-nineteenth century. The British gunboats created a sense of urgency and weakness in this traditionally isolationist people, forcing them to catch up technically, economically and politically. This approach thus holds that Japanese modernity is the product of the West; that the deep causes of the transformation of Japanese society are exogenous and that this radical change can be understood in the mode of pure and simple imitation, in particular through new tendencies, such as nationalism, imperialism or Japanese-style capitalism.

However, defends the thesis of an autonomous development, by underlining the internal causes that pushed the archipelago to embrace a specific and, precisely, non-Western modernity. In his opinion, if modernity has its origins in 16th century Europe, it also found its expression in 19th century Japan which, independently of the arrival of the Americans on its territory, experienced upheavals that profoundly redefined the organization of Japanese society, as well as the very mentality of its people. According to him, “the European vision of modernity… permeated Japanese discourse, to the point that some see it as a ‘spiritual colonization from within’ that polluted their historical imagination for more than a century.” In other words, the Japanese themselves were until recently unable to think of their own modernity outside the Western paradigm. They “long sought to conceive of the gap between Japan and the paradigm, consciously or not, by doing ‘Eurocentric comparatism.’”

It is not a question here of affirming that Japanese modernity owes nothing to Western modernity; rather, it is a question of restoring the originality of a historical phenomenon, by avoiding a systematic comparison with the European model. “For the past twenty years, this way of looking at things has been revisited in Japan, to the point that the history of Japanese modernization is now conceived at a pace identical to that of the ‘great powers,’ with shifts that were often less relevant than one might have thought.” From then on, Japanese modernity was no longer to be apprehended negatively, i.e., by always looking for what Japan does not have compared to Europeans, but positively, i.e., by reflecting on the nature of this modernity. In short, it is no longer a question of reasoning in terms of failure but of difference. “History indeed invites us to see that specific forms of modernity were born in Japan, with their own dimensions, hybrid and heterogeneous, and that they can sometimes be exported.”

The Japanese “Enlightenment”

The change of regime is decisive to understanding this period of Japanese history. The Meiji Restoration (1867-1912), the return of the emperor to the forefront, after more than two centuries of rule by the Tokugawa shogunate (1603-1867), is part of the Japanese “Enlightenment” (bunmei kaika). In the ninth century, with the failure of the central state to defend the provinces, the political power of the emperor had faded to give way to a feudal Japan, dominated by daimyos (lords) and several centuries of civil war, until the arrival in power of Tokugawa Ieyasu in the early seventeenth century. The authority of the Tokugawa shogunate had been based in part on its ability to pacify Japan; but, faced with the military and technical superiority of the West, the regime no longer seemed to have the means to protect the country. From then on, only a central state with a modern army could ensure the security of the Japanese people against a possible invader.

The supporters of the Japanese “Enlightenment” were particularly impressed by Bismarck, during the Iwakura mission, which toured Europe from 1871 to 1873. The restoration of the Emperor was thus part of a context of modernization and “civilization;” but, unlike Western modernity, it did not involve the creation of a new type of regime, as in France or the United States. The writer and political theorist Fukuzwa Yukichi refers to this as “revolutionary restoration.”

From the outset, Japanese political modernity had something “conservative” about it; and Westerners were perfectly comfortable with the authoritarian character of the new regime. The Japanese case is thus very different from the French and American cases marked by intrinsically progressive revolutions. Moreover, if the West appears as a model in technical and military terms, it is also a rival, an enemy that must be imitated in order to better protect Japan. It is thus a double movement, both xenophilic and xenophobic, which conditions the advent of Japanese modernity.

That said, many supporters of the “Enlightenment” felt that political change was insufficient and that it was also necessary to transform society in depth by influencing mentalities. This is the case of the Society of the Year VI, which imported from Europe the practice of public debate, which had been completely absent in the archipelago. “We knew the palabra or the informal discussion in small groups; but confrontational debate was hardly in use. It would even have been shocking,” explains Souyri.

Muragaki Norimasa, deputy head of the Japanese delegation that went to Washington in 1860, was very surprised by the verbal violence of certain exchanges in parliament. “A minister who was taken to task by a member of parliament replied calmly, whereas a samurai would have drawn a sword!” Feudal Japan was administered by the samurai who respected a strict code of honor. The elites were forged by a warrior mentality and not a politician one. Insults were answered with weapons. There was therefore a long way to go to move from a society of hierarchy and honor to a society of free individuals practicing public debate and exchange between equal citizens.

Some members of the Year VI Society understood the link between the nature of the political regime and individual mindsets, as despotism was not really able to produce “civilized” individuals as in the West. The philosopher Nishi Amane said: “Docility is an important quality for the Japanese. In a despotic regime, it is indeed a highly prized quality.” Nakamura Masano, on the other hand, believed very early on that assemblies and councils elected by the people should be created to break with this despotic tradition and awaken the Japanese to the practice of politics.

The “Doctrine of the Quintessence of the Country”

Japanese modernity was also characterized by the emergence of nationalisms of different kinds. If the first intellectuals of the Meiji period wondered about the possibility of a change of regime to allow the Japanese to have more individual rights (freedom of assembly, association, expression) and real political freedoms, the debate then turned to the question of defining this new Japanese identity. “From the years 1887-1888… the terms of the debate evolved and henceforth crystallized around the question of identities within the nation, with a balancing act between three elements, the West and its always fascinating and threatening influence, the East (but this is mainly China) which became a kind of land of utopia or expansion, and finally Japan, whose essence had to be constantly redefined between the two previous poles.”

What is particularly interesting in the Japanese case is that nationalism, which is par excellence a modern political doctrine, was not only formed from the Western model. This is particularly true of a trend called the “doctrine of the quintessence of the country” (kokusui shugi). “They wanted to be the defenders and promoters of a pure national identity, of a form of nationalism of a new nature, of a national idealism,” Souyri emphasizes. From then on, we must not blindly imitate the Western model, which destroys what makes up the Japanese identity, but build a nationalism capable of grasping and respecting Japanese history and ethos. By adopting Western mores and techniques, Japan risked losing its soul, losing what is specifically Japanese. Those who defended the “doctrine of the quintessence of the country” believed that Japan should not be absorbed by modernity but should invent its own modernity, especially by preserving what is specifically Asian.

The Meiji government used an ancient concept to define the nature of the Japanese nation in order to confront popular demands and the supporters of the old feudal system: kokutai, which “refers to the national peculiarity of the imperial dynasty that has ruled the country forever and ever.” However, kokutai originally meant only the form and identity of a state, Japanese or not. It was a form of mystical nationalism in the 19th century that gave kokutai a new and specifically Japanese meaning: a conservative, national and anti-feudal doctrine. The idea of kokutai disrupted the old feudal hierarchies that structured society under the Tokugawa dynasty. It was used to build a strong central state that advocated the equality of all subjects before the deified person of the emperor, a particularly effective way to foster the emergence of a modern nation. “The emperor combines political authority with prestige of a spiritual nature. He is both the German Kaiser and the Pope of Rome embodied in one individual.”

Once again, we observe that Japanese political modernity was built by borrowing and recasting notions inherited from tradition, not by wiping the slate clean. The term kokutai appeared in the Imperial Constitution of 1889. Its first article states: “The Empire of Greater Japan is under the government of the emperor whose lineage has ruled our country since the beginning of time. The historical continuity of the Japanese Empire, despite periods of displacement, notably under the Tokugawa shogunate, allowed the defenders of the new Meiji regime to make themselves the guarantors of an absolute political authority, capable of resisting Westerners and defending a threatened ancestral Japanese identity.” Paradoxically, this new form of nationalism, out of rejection of Western values, turned in particular to Confucianism. “If there is a doctrine, it is rather a form of syncretism in which the most conformist Confucian thought is allied with the national precepts of autochthonist thought, mixed with forms of social Darwinism and modern nationalism,” says Souyri.

Japanese Anti-Modernism

In 1886, Shiga Shigetaka founded a new type of nationalism of cultural type. In Landscapes of Japan (1894), he explained that the beauty of Japanese nature is superior to that of Western countries and that from this aesthetic superiority should come a feeling of pride. “Shiga bridges the gap between a poetic and impressionistic discourse, and a naturalistic discourse that is scientific but based on the comparison, implicit or not, with the rest of the countries.” The objective of this book was to decompress the Japanese towards the Westerners by insisting on the natural beauty of the archipelago but also by praising the greatness of their poetry. Shiga’s thought thus went against the universalism of the Enlightenment to develop a new form of particularism but without falling into the xenophobia of the “doctrine of the quintessence of the country,” in which he did not recognize himself. “More than a political ideology, it is a thought with a cultural vocation,” insists Souyri.

In the same vein, we can cite Okakura Tenshin, famous for his Book of Tea, who understood early on the importance of valorizing Japanese art in the establishment of the new state. He participated in the creation of museums, the protection of heritage and the teaching of art. In his eyes, “fine arts are the quintessence and splendor of a nation.” While the Japanese were fascinated by Western art, Okakura Tenshin, who was a connoisseur of Western art, had the ambition to bring the importance of traditional Japanese art to the West. He “[was] at the origin of this image of an anti-modernist Japan, based on a mysterious and refined Japanese culture.” In this, Okakura Tenshin’s modernity can be compared to the anti-modern modernity of a Baudelaire defined by Antoine Compagnon. His anti-modernism is a reaction to Western cultural domination that sought to reactivate, within the framework of the development of the modern state, the aesthetic forms of Japanese tradition. In doing so, he participated in creating “a kind of invariance, the ‘eternal’ Japan'” as well as his “own orientalism.”

Pierre-François Souyri’s book allows us to understand that Japanese modernity was structured as much by imitating the Western model as by rejecting it. If there was indeed, in the history of Japan, a first movement influenced by the European Enlightenment, it was quickly counterbalanced by political doctrines that sought to preserve the spiritual and cultural identity of Japan, drawing on heterogeneous elements: Asianism, Confucianism, but also on a reinterpreted kokutai. This book is thus an invitation to detach oneself from any ethnocentrism in order to better understand the conditions of possibility of the emergence of a specifically Japanese modernity. “This forces us to assimilate in our mental schemas this simple idea: we are not the sole depositaries of modernity. Modernity was not invented once and for all by Europeans, and European modernity is perhaps not an exceptional and almost miraculous phenomenon. Other forms of modernity have manifested themselves elsewhere, and particularly in Japan.”

Matthieu Giroux is a Dostoyevskian sovereignist and the editorial director of PHLITT. This article appears through the generous courtesy of PHLITT.

Featured: “Founding of the Nation,” by Kawamura Kiyoo; painted in 1929.

The Use and Misuse of Yukio Mishima

The mode of death of a novelist is rarely a cause for concentrated attention by a public beyond that of his or her readership. When, on November 25, 1970, the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima died, it was in a manner that made an impression on the cultural world quite out of proportion to his diminutive physical stature.

On that date, Mishima, accompanied by several subordinates in his private militia, stormed into the Tokyo headquarters of the Jieitai, the Japanese Self-Defense Force, and took a general hostage. He then demanded an audience with the assembled soldiers from the attached garrison. When this was granted, he called for them to throw off the post-WWII ‘Peace Constitution’ of 1947 and return Japanese sovereignty to the Emperor.

The soldiers, young men already a quarter-century from the nationalist Japan of the pre-war period, jeered him. He cajoled them, to no avail. Finally, in disgust, he shouted the traditional salute of nationalist Japan—Tenno Heika Banzai! (Long Live the Emperor!)—and returned to the room where the general was held hostage by his compatriots. There, he committed seppuku, the samurai form of ritual suicide, disemboweling himself with a dagger. The rite was botched, however, by his second or kaishakunin, whose job it was to behead Mishima with a single blow from a sword immediately upon completion of the abdominal cut. His first strike landed on Mishima’s back, and two more were needed to remove his head from his body, before the kaishakunin himself was beheaded by another member of the militia group.

Mishima’s final act–not only the suicide but the effort to rouse the troops and bring about a popular uprising—was a total disaster by any reasonable estimate. But owing solely to this spectacular, scandalous end, his reputation in some circles of both left and right grew and evidence for this can still be found a half-century later. Most of his political admirers on the right—at least if my own anecdotal experience interacting with them online is indicative of anything–have read little of his writing. But it is there, if anywhere, that we must look for evidence if we want to evaluate his contribution to conservative ideology.

Mishima wrote a voluminous amount over a career of a quarter-century, but it is the work of his last five years that is most relevant for our purposes. In 1965, he began work on a multi-volume novel, titled The Sea of Fertility, that dealt with one remarkable individual incarnated four times in different human forms. Each incarnation is personally known by another character, Honda, who appears in every volume of the novel and reflects through the various reincarnations of his friend on the meaning of human life. In August of 1967, after the completion of the first volume, Spring Snow, Mishima wrote a short interpretive commentary on Hagakure, a classic text from the early 1700s on bushido, the samurai code of war and ethics. This work displayed Mishima’s interest in the traditional principles that informed the Japanese warrior class during the country’s feudal period. A central theme emphasized in his commentary is the superiority of honor to mere survival. A vision of one’s own death should be before one’s eyes daily, as the samurai pledged, in situations of uncertainty during battle, to choose always to wade into the fray and embrace death rather than calculate and strategize to survive solely for the sake of surviving.

The next year, 1968, Mishima completed both the second novel of the tetralogy, Runaway Horses, and an autobiographical book that may well be the key text in understanding his view of life, art, and politics, Sun and Steel. Runaway Horses told the tale of the reincarnation of Kiyoaki, the male in the couple from Spring Snow, as Isao, a militant student who carries out an act of political violence Mishima closely modeled on an historical event. In 1877, a group of former samurai revolted against the Meiji government and what they saw as the Westernizing influence it represented, striking against military and political targets until the authorities brutally put them down. Several of the rebels committed seppuku rather than be taken by the enemy. Isao engages in a similar plot, killing a businessman who represents the destruction of traditional Japan for profaning a religious shrine, then, at the novel’s culmination, taking his own life by the samurai rite as the sun rises before him and the police close in. This novel is perhaps the most striking literary document Mishima ever produced. The dramatic narrative is enthralling, and Isao is a compellingly committed character, precisely because Mishima has written him in such a way as to present his actions as more purely rooted in a traditional ethic than was likely the case in the author’s own ostensibly similar final act.

Sun and Steel describes autobiographically Mishima’s commencement, in his third decade of life, of the ascetic and aesthetic regime of physical training that he presented as his modern effort to reinvigorate bushido. Here and in the commentary on Hagakure Mishima expresses abhorrence of the way the American presence in Japan was corroding Japan’s unique world of beliefs and values. He also rejects the manner in which the modern division of labor has caused scholars and warriors to separate themselves one from the other with a completeness that warps both callings, and negates the very possibility for a man to fully know how to live and how to die. The writer or scholar separated from the martial practice and values, in Mishima’s analysis, can only be a flabby, weak wordsmith, and a soldier without wide reading and aesthetic cultivation will not escape vulgar barbarism.

These themes—the rejection of cultural imperialism and embrace of the organic cultural originality of each nation, and the critique of the dilution of the potency of traditional masculinity—are frequently encountered in some Western conservatisms. To this degree, Sun and Steel might be read as a properly right-wing text. Yet, much of the book is dominated by the narcissism that had marked Mishima’s personal life from his sensitive, emotionally withdrawn, and rather sickly youth. There is much evidence of the extra-political motivations for the ethic he expresses here, specifically, in his pathological and sexually perverse obsession with the violent death of young men, and especially soldiers. Physical vigor and fearless disdain of death are presented as values here, but they are corrupted by the deep nihilism that infects the entire text. The ethic of Sun and Steel accepts and even longs for annihilation in the void.

This nihilism is made apparent in the final two major books he wrote prior to his death. Throughout 1969, Mishima worked on the third novel in The Sea of Fertility collection, The Temple of Dawn, which is dedicated to a lengthy discourse on religion, specifically the doctrine of reincarnation that informs the entire tetralogy. The Kiyoaki/Isao character reappears here as Ying Chan, a young Thai princess who dies, like the earlier two incarnations of the same individual, at the age of 20, this time from the bite of a cobra. The last year of Mishima’s life was dedicated largely to completion of the final volume, The Decay of the Angel, which was mailed to the publisher on the very morning of the assault on the Tokyo military compound. In this final novel of The Sea of Fertility, Honda returns as an old man to visit his friend Kiyoaki’s mistress from Spring Snow, Satoko, who is now an old woman and the abbess of a nunnery. To his astonishment, Satoko claims never to have known anyone meeting Kiyoaki’s description. Honda’s entire worldview and his sense of his own identity melt away to nothingness: “If there was no Kiyoaki, then there was no Isao. There was no Ying Chan, and who knows, perhaps there has been no I.” The novel concludes with Honda being led by Satoko to a sunlit garden, where cicadas call and carnations bloom, “a place that had no memories, nothing.”

This nothingness is where the Western conservative necessarily takes his leave of Mishima as a political theorist, even if he might yet find aesthetic value in the brilliant literary expression of an ethic that he finds so personally unacceptable. The goal of human striving as the nothingness of escape from the cycle of rebirths is an Eastern value with no resonance in our traditions.

The culture of the Christian West—not the materialist consumer culture Mishima despised in its imperial strangulation of Japan, but rather the West’s traditional culture of order and faith—offers another way toward the purity of action Mishima described in his writing, and Mishima himself recognized the fact. In his commentary on Hagakure, he cites Toynbee favorably on Christianity’s power to “gather…so many avid converts so suddenly…because these people had fervently wished for a goal worth dying for.” Purity of action is, according to Hagakure, the only value in human life worth pursuing. The outcome of the action—success or failure in external terms–is purely secondary to that fundamental. It perhaps would not have escaped Mishima’s attention that some number of those early Christians to whom he affirmatively alludes were the first martyrs of the faith, who, hearing their captors tell them that if they would but make a sacrifice to one of the Roman idols their transgressions as Christians would be forgiven, haughtily shook their heads and walked to the stake or the crucifix to die—not to cease existing, but to refuse the very power of death. Later, on numerous occasions, many took up arms to defend their church and their civilization against cultural invaders at least as formidable as the ones Mishima opposed.

Mishima’s nihilism posits non-existence as the final goal toward which political action—indeed, all action—moves. Western conservatism, at least insofar as it is infused with the spiritual energy of the chief religious system of the West, defies this void and, in the manner so eloquently expressed by Miguel de Unamuno, overcomes it in its furious willful refusal to come to terms with mortality. The dangers of Mishima’s ethic are only too apparent: empty, narcissistic embrace of death for the sake of nothing more than death itself. Our danger in the West is something quite different: it is the quietism that can descend upon us when we are too assured of the gift of immortality. The victory over death is not given passively in our tradition. It must be won through furious striving, even if the striving is only internal. And even a solely internal striving will inevitably and necessarily lead to action in the world when others attempt forcibly to rob us of the cultural scaffolding within which such spiritual pursuits are taken as the highest good. When cultural decay erodes the space within which such striving is to take place, men will have to act, or the striving will die along with the culture that envelops and shelters it.

The ethic from which Western conservatism draws its deepest inspiration is evidently more consistent with the furious striving of humankind than nihilist aestheticism such as that we find in Mishima. It must not however forget the physical vigor and the fervent desire so vividly expressed in his literary work. Of course, it is not the specific form of Mishima’s action—a ritual suicide—that might inspire Western conservatism. It is the principle of the pursuit of vigorous action that is worshipful of honor and tradition. In the West, too much of what is left of our religious tradition today fails in its inability to provide real motivation for courageous action in resistance to the cultural demolition of our traditions, and one can see the results in the ranks of young men on the contemporary right who contemptuously reject forms of passive, feminized Christianity that offer no space for vigorous, masculine affect and action. Too much of contemporary Western Christianity in its more liberal forms has effectively embraced the secularizing processes that have led, in the United States specifically and throughout much of the West more generally, toward the same kind of cultural suicide to which Mishima’s Japan fell victim after the conclusion of World War II. Here, though, it is not an external military conqueror who oversees the death of our own traditional culture, but rather a deeply radical internal cultural elite who impose on the country an anemic, destructive doctrine of multiculturalist pluralism in a manner only slightly less vigorous than the occupying American pressure on Japan post-WWII.

I remember, long ago, when I was a young student just discovering Mishima’s writing, seeing a wheat-pasted poster on the wall of a building on the university campus where I was enrolled, put there by some radical leftist student group or another. It read “No Guts, No Revolution.” I thought then and now that this is a call to action that might be admired by conservatives, even if the revolutionary goal is abhorred. From the combination of our own cultural ideals and the Hagakure-inspired ethic of Yukio Mishima, the American right might perhaps fashion our own such slogan: “No Guts, No Counter-Revolution.”

Alexander Riley is a Senior Fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization. He writes at Substack.

Featured: Yukio Mishima delivers a speech on the balcony of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) building in Tokyo, before committing Harakiri with a short sword, on November 25, 1970.

Yukio Mishima: The Pen and the Sword

If Yukio Mishima remains a key figure in Japanese literature and beyond, it is undoubtedly because he was able to weave a perfectly fitting samurai costume. The writer rejected the mechanization and modernization of Japan to the death. He embodies the spirit of sacrifice in the service of an age-old aesthetic and a nationalism rooted in the smoldering ruins of imperial Japan.

On November 25, 1970, after submitting the manuscript of his tetralogy to his publisher, The Sea of Fertility, and its fourth part, The Decay of the Angel (a somewhat clumsy translation after Marguerite Yourcenar, who suggested “the rotten angel”), Mishima went to the Ministry of the Army accompanied by three of his disciples. He took the General Commander-in-Chief of the Self-Defense Forces hostage and had the troops summoned. He made a speech in favor of traditional Japan and Emperor Hirohito. Very quickly, he was forced to give up in front of the hostile reaction of the soldiers. He then proceeded to his ritual suicide by seppuku, following the tradition of bushido (“the way of the warrior”), and was decapitated by one of his acolytes. More than a ritual suicide, it was a real ritualized and theatrical killing, because it was filmed and photographed. Until death, Kimitake Hiraoka remained Yukio Mishima; that is to say an artist, the “Japanese Jean Cocteau,”, as he was sometimes nicknamed. Marguerite Yourcenar even said that “Mishima’s death is one of his works and even the most prepared of his works.”

Born in 1925 in Tokyo, Mishima appears both as an anachronism, and as a synthesis of European and Japanese classical genius. It was perhaps even in the European classical genius that he found a hope to rectify a Japan that was modernizing (he wrote mainly in the 1950s and 1960s) and Americanizing at full speed (the country is a quasi-American protectorate since the Japanese defeat following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki). Mishima was therefore undoubtedly the last samurai of Japan. This is how he thought of himself, paying homage through his book on Japan and the Samurai aesthetic, a critical essay on Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s Hagakure. He was the last to have cultivated this synthesis of the literate spirit and the cult of the body.

Mishima’s Obsession with Death

Mishima was haunted by the idea of death as a memory. This can be seen in three major facts: the first is the memory of burned Tokyo, which did not begin to haunt him until many years after the end of the war. This vision, as well as the two American nuclear bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, influenced Mishima’s entire generation, down to today, in cinema and literature. The bombings forged the relationship of the Japanese to the war, to the foreigner and to this brand new nuclear energy, in the Kaiju films, starting with the first of them, directed by Ishiro Honda in 1954, Godzilla (Gojira/ ゴジラ in Japanese).

Then, this culture of death also influenced and nourished him through his fascination with figures of European classicism—how can we forget the striking photo of Mishima as Saint Sebastian, hands tied, pierced with arrows, the body tense and muscular?

In the end, it was in the cult of the way of the samurai that he was able to find a means out of a Japan in decline. Mishima, a fearful, solitary child, refusing the modern Japan that was thrust on him, nevertheless decided to be a samurai of his time, the only authentic way for him to go his way and go to his end; by refusing modernization and mechanization, he chose the time and the way of his death. Between the code of chivalry, philosophy and religion, doesn’t the Hagakure say “I understood that the way of the warrior is death?” Every day, he “followed the way” and trained with a sword, even though the use of swords was forbidden at the end of the Edo period.

Therefore, how can we not understand his distress and anger, especially through his novel After the Banquet, which denounces the vanity of the behavior of the new Japanese bourgeoisie and especially the parliamentary system that Mishima hated. Similarly, in his novella, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, he evokes themes of traditional Japan—beauty, ugliness and community.

In 25 years, Mishima wrote about a hundred works: plays, short stories, novels, essays. This is not the work of a man lost in an era that is not his own, wandering aimlessly, but that of a man who realizes that feudal Japan and the samurai are no more.

The Samurai and the Martyr: A Sense of Duty and Self-Improvement

But Mishima is also the paradoxical synthesis between Japanese samurai education and European classical literature. He loved Racine, Balzac, Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde and many others. In his quest for excellence and, again, for a lost ideal, since Europe had stepped into the midst of industrial and mechanical modernity, Mishima found a bridge in the figure of Saint Sebastian. Indeed, the Christian martyr, like the samurai, dies when his time has come, without shirking. Yamamoto Jōchō, in his Hagakure, writes: “True courage consists in living when it is right to live, and dying when it is right to die,” insisting precisely on the necessity to do one’s duty and not to run away from death. If the deep reason for Mishima’s morbid and almost erotic fascination with Saint Sebastian remains to be determined, the link between self-sacrifice and surpassing oneself, dear to the martyr and the samurai, undoubtedly enabled him to create this character, which is now almost mythical.

Antoine Pizaine is a historian, monarchist and Maurrassian. This article appears through the kind courtesy of PHILITT.

Genetics And The Dynamics Of History: A Conversation With Kenya Kura

We are so very pleased to present this conversation with Kenya Kura, who is Associate Professor at Gifu Shotoku Gakuen University in Gifu prefecture, Japan. He holds a PhD from the University of California, San Diego, and has published in the area in genetics and history. Some of his publications include, “Why Do Northeast Asians Win So Few Nobel Prizes?” and “Japanese north–south gradient in IQ predicts differences in stature, skin color, income, and homicide rate.

He is here interviewed by Grégoire Canlorbe, the French philosopher, whose work has appeared often in the Postil.

Grégoire Canlorbe (GC): Could you start by reminding us of your main findings about IQ differences?

Kenya Kura (KK): My first motivation about IQ study, basically, came from the simple fact that some IQ researchers, way back, like Richard Lynn and Arthur Jensen among others, reported that East Asians are higher in their IQ. And I was just wondering if it was true or not, and then, I went into the field of whether or not there is some kind of gradient of intelligence among Japanese prefectures.

And so far, what I have found is very much in line with other findings that the Northern Japanese are somewhat more intelligent than the Southern residents on these islands. As for the gradient amount for the Japanese people, what I have found is not at all unique. In Northern Japan IQ tends to be probably about three points higher than the average Japanese.

Kenya Kura.

And in the Southern Island of Okinawa, for example, it is like seven points lower than the average. And pretty much, it varies. A type of stylized pattern which I figured out many times and very consistently. That’s pretty much it. Also, I’ve been probably more interested in the psychological differences between East Asians and Europeans than most of the European psychologists.

GC: Could you comment on the dysgenic patterns (i.e., the factors of genetic decline at the level of things like fertility gaps) in contemporary Japan – compared with the West?

KK: Actually, Richard Lynn has been asking me for probably more than a decade, probably 15 years or so, if I can get some kind of evidence about this genetic effect in Japan. But unfortunately, I haven’t got a very solid dataset on the negative correlations – the so-called and famous dysgenic trend found almost everywhere in the world that more intelligent women tend to have fewer children.

But, having said that, it’s very, very obvious that in Japan, this genetic effect is going on as much as in Western society. For example, Tokyo has the lowest fertility rate – precisely where most intelligent men and women tend to migrate when they are going to college or when they get a job. So, it’s apparent that most intelligent people are gathering in the biggest city areas like Tokyo; and Tokyo has the lowest fertility rate.

So, it gives us some kind of evidence but, unfortunately, this is not a really solid analysis. I also figured out that the more educated you are, the fewer children you have. This is a very much a stylized or prominent sort of phenomenon also found in Japan. So, I’m sure about this genetic effect.

GC: Is it true that the taboo about genetic differences in intelligence is far less prevalent in Japan (and the other East-Asian countries) than it is in the West?

KK: I have been working on this subject matter for at least 20 years, and I got the impression that the real taboo of this kind of research is pretty much the same as in Western society. But there is one very big difference – in Western culture you can always pursue your scientific theme or scientific field and prove you are right. And it’s a very Western idea: individuals have a right to speak up and try to prove they are right.

But Asian culture doesn’t have that. So, the problem is that Japanese scholars are scholars in some sense, including myself; but, actually, most of them are just mimicking or repeating what Western people are doing. So, there aren’t many Japanese scholars actually trying to show or present their own thesis, their own theory. So, in that sense, if Western society or Western science says A is right, B is wrong, Japanese society will be subordinate to this Western conclusion.

So, I would say that mainstream Japanese scholars tend to just follow the mainstream Western culture. Personally, as for this sensitive scientific field, I really don’t have any friend working on this topic. People, including myself, are afraid of being regarded as a very strange, cranky person who is saying: “look, in group data, we are so different that there isn’t much we can do to, for example, alleviate poverty in the third world or in developing countries.” If you say that, then people think, “What?” Even though you might be right – and many people think you might be right – but it is not part of our culture to speak up. That’s why I don’t expect anything to come out of the Asian scientific community that will have an influence on the Western scientific community.

GC: While any evolutionary psychologist will agree, in principle, that human individuals are not tabula rasa genetically; most evolutionary psychologists nonetheless refuse to admit that it applies to groups as well, i.e., that human groups exhibit as much specific genetic characteristics as do human individuals.

In other words, all agree that a human individual (whoever he is) is endowed with a specific individual genome that contributes to shaping his psychological identity; but only a minority agrees that a human society (whatever it is) is also endowed with a specific collective genome that contributes to shaping its cultural identity. How do you account for this duality?

KK: On this sort of question, I have pretty much the same opinion as other IQ researchers of this kind. Basically, as you said, many people agree about the genetic differences between individuals; whereas, when it comes to group differences, they try to negate the existence of genetic differences.

So, yes, there is a dichotomy, here. But I also understand why this is so – because everybody wants to be a nice person. Right? So, if you are seeking the truth only as a scientist, that is fine. But we do not live some sort of abstract existence with no relationship to physical reality – everyone around you will feel awkward, probably, if you say – Yeah, but, you know, group difference makes a lot of sense. And most of the sort of talk that inequality existing in this world is probably explained by genetic differences, as Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen said, makes all the people around you feel very, very awkward or strange about you or your political views. I can say only probably this much. So, many people are just politically persuaded not to mention – and not to recognize – with a lot of effort the difference, and try to negate the fact. That’s my understanding.

GC: It seems the Indo-European cultural pattern that is the tripartite hierarchy of society for the benefit of a warlike, sacerdotal aristocracy with a heroic ethos (i.e., the ethos of self-singularizing and self-immortalizing oneself through military exploits accomplished in contempt of material subsistence) has been present or paralleled in traditional Japan. Do you suspect an Indo-European influence in Japan?

KK: Oh, I have sort of an idea. It’s not very much proven, but Japanese society or Japanese people are basically a hybrid, about 30 percent of the original so-called Jomon, before the Chinese or Koreans came, about two thousand years ago. And this Korean or, I would say, Chinese genetic factor constitutes about 70 percent.

So, 70 percent of Chinese plus 30 percent of indigenous Japanese people is the basic genetic mix of current Japanese people. And this huge 70 percent explains the East Asian characteristics. Basically, it gives us looks like mine, right? Probably, any European can notice that Japanese, Korean, Chinese typically have different facial characteristics. And although, as I said, Japanese people have 70 percent retention of this genetic tendency, the 30 percent remains in our genetic structure.

And I suspect that this natural 30 percent gives us more of a war-prone personality than the Chinese or the Koreans. So, that’s why we put a lot of war emphasis, like the Samurai theory, as you might know – more martial arts, real battle and war, and real domination, all over Japan. That’s my understanding.

GC: The traditional Japanese have been highly creative and sophisticated in the martial-arts – to the point of surpassing the Westerners in this regard. Yet only the traditional Westerners have come to transpose to the field of science the art of fighting, i.e., to transpose to science the spirit of competition, innovation, and assertiveness associated with physical combat. How do you make sense of it?

KK: It’s a very good point – an interesting point for me, too. My understanding about it is that, for example, French people seem to like judo a lot. I have heard that it’s very popular. So, for example, judo, or we have a similar sort of art that is huge called kendo. But that kind of martial art, as you said, has been very sophisticated in this country, and also in China, to some degree, maybe even more so.

But that brings to mind the idea of science itself, because science itself is equally divided into both natural reality and the analytical approach for every kind of phenomenon. For example, we in Japan don’t have social science, and so we just import it from the West. It’s the same. I mean, natural science was imported from the West. And when it comes to science, it’s also based on logic – a heavy dose of logic and mathematics, usually.

None of the Asians were interested in mathematics, at least not as much as Western people had been. So, when it comes, for example, to geometry, even the ancient Greeks were very much interested in it. The Chinese people never developed the equivalent of that kind of logic. And it’s also true that mathematics has been developed almost exclusively in Northern Europe within the last five hundred years. And Chinese people, although they were in higher numbers than White Europeans, they didn’t develop anything. Neither did the Japanese or the Koreans.

So, the problem is that East Asians tend to neglect the importance of logic. They don’t see that much. They just talk more emotionally, trying to sympathize with each other, and probably about political rubbish, more than Western people. But they don’t discuss things logically, nor do they try to express their understanding and make experiments to determine if something is true or not.

Scientific inquiry is very much unique to Europeans. That’s my understanding. So, although it seems like East Asians are very quick to learn things – the Chinese are probably the quickest to learn anything – but they’ve never created anything. That’s my idea. So, they don’t have the scientific mentality, that ability of inquiry or sufficient curiosity to make science out of sophisticated martial arts.

It may be true that the “traditional Japanese have been highly creative and sophisticated in the martial-arts field – to the point of surpassing the Westerners.” But I guess nowadays even judo or any kind of martial arts is more developed or more sophisticated, a lot more sophisticated, in European countries.

The Japanese or Chinese created the original martial arts. But their emphasis – especially the Japanese – is too much on their psychic rather than physical power. So, when you look at any kind of manga or anime, the theme is always the same: the rather small and weak main character has got some kind of psychic power and a special skill to beat up the bigger and stronger enemy. And it’s pretty much like “the force” in the Star Wars movies. But in the case of Japan, it’s a lot more emphasized. So, they tend to think less about physical power and more about the psychic personality. That’s the sort of phenomenon that we have, which shows some lack of analytical ability, from my point of view.

GC: A common belief is that the Japanese people are both indifferent to the culture of Western peoples – and genetically homogenous to the point of containing no genius. Yet contemporary Japan is displaying much ingenuity in videogames (like Shigeru Miyamoto), music (like Koji Kondo), etc., and is quite open to the Western world culturally. Videogames like Zelda and Resident Evil are highly influenced by the West (Western heroic fantasy in the case of the former) and George Romero’s movies in the case of the latter. Some Japanese actors (or movie directors) enjoy worldwide fame, like Hiroyuki Sanada who portrays Scorpion in the new Mortal Kombat movie.

KK: Regarding personality and the intelligence of geniuses, that is Dr. Templeton and Edward Dutton. I’m sure that you talked with him – Edward Dutton wrote a very good book about why genius exists and what kind of mixture of personality and intelligence we need to make a real genius.

And I do agree basically with Edward Dutton’s idea that we don’t have the sort of good mixture of intelligence and, at the same time, a sort of very strong mindset to stand out from other people. The Japanese tend to be like others too much. So, they can’t really speak up and have a different kind of worldview from other people. As I said, Japanese scholars tend rather to avoid discussion or serious conflict with other scholars; so, that’s why there is no progress or no need to prove what you’re saying is true or not. That is a problem.

Yes, this is only a partial answer to your question. And the other thing is – and as I’ve been talking about science – in order to be a scientist, you have to basically propose some kind of thesis and at least show some evidence that your thesis is right or proved piecemeal. But when it comes to fine arts or Manga, Anime or literature, movies or games, you don’t really have to argue against other people. You just create what you feel is beautiful or great – whatever.

So, because Japanese culture basically avoids discussions or arguments against each other, the Japanese are more inclined to create something like visual arts. That’s why I believe Japanese manga or anime has been very popular also among Europeans. Probably including yourself, right? I’m sure you’ve played video games from Japan.

You mentioned Hiroyuki Sanada. He’s one of the most famous action movie stars, a Tom Cruise type. So, I understand what you mean. And the other thing is – it’s pretty much the same. In the Edo period, about 300 years ago, there was a type of fine art called, ukiyo-e. These paintings and prints were sold to the public. And the French impressionists in the 19th century were, as far as I know, very attracted to the ukiyo-e and they got some inspiration from them, how to draw the lighting or nature itself.

So, I do believe that Japanese people are probably genetically talented to some degree. I would dare to say they’re talented in the visual arts. But it does not mean that they are talented in science. These activities are totally different, which gives me a very interesting sort of contrast.

GC: In intergroup competition, the Empire of Japan was highly successful militarily – until the 1945 nuclear bombing, obviously. How would you account for this success?

KK: A German soldier was a very effective soldier, even compared with Americans or Swedes. So, I believe it’s very similar in the case of Japan. The Japanese tend to be tightly connected to each other, which gives them a very high advantage in military activity. That’s why they first tried to really dominate the whole of Asia, and, eventually, they had a war against the US in order to sort of get the whole of the Chinese mainland. And, of course, Japan was defeated.

But Japan is not so much endowed with natural resources like oil or coal, and so forth. In some sense, we’re very strong in military acts. That’s true. So, it’s very similar to the story that the Chinese are probably more inclined to study and learn original things like Confucius or the old stuff, in order to show how intelligent they are; whereas the Japanese tend to be more war-prone, more warmongers. They think more seriously and put more emphasis on military actions than the Chinese or Koreans.

So, that’s why Japan, in the last century, first invaded Korea, and then, moved into the Chinese mainland and defeated the Chinese army. That’s just how I understand it. It’s very similar to German history.

GC: Democracy is commonly thought to allow for an “open society” in which every opinion can be discussed – and in which ideological conflict can be settled through exclusively peaceful, electoral means, without the slightest drop of blood. Does the democratic regime in Japan since 1947 corroborate that vision?

KK: You’re right. Exactly. You are French, so you have a serious understanding of how people can revolt against the ruling class because of the French Revolution, which is the most famous revolution in human history. So, you have a serious understanding of the existence of conflict; and that the product of this conflict may be fruitful, good for all human beings. But, unfortunately, Asia does not have that sort of culture; that if you say something true and then have a serious conflict of opinions about it, it may turn out to have a fruitful result. That’s very Western to me.

GC: Thank you for your time. Would you like to add a few concluding words?

KK: I’ve probably said pretty much everything in a scattered manner, but let me emphasize one thing – usually, for any kind of European person, the Chinese, Koreans and Japanese look very similar or the same; but genetically, we are probably somewhat different, much as, for example, Slavic language people and the Germanic language group. So, there might be some kind of microdifference of this kind which may, especially in the future, explain the dynamics of history. That is what I want to know and what I try to understand.

Some recent publications of Dr. Kura:

Kura, K. “Japanese north-south gradient in IQ predicts stature, skin color, income, and homicide rate”, (2013), Intelligence, 41, 512-516. doi10.1016/j.intell.2013.07.001

Kura, K., Armstrog, E. & Templer, D. “The cognitive functions among the Ainu people”, (2014) Intelligence, 44, p149-154.

te Nejenhuis, J., Kura, K. & Hur, Y.M. “The correlation between g loadings and heritability in Japan: A meta-analysis” (2014) Intelligence, 44, p. 275-282. doi: 10.1016/j.intell.2014.07.008

Kura, K., te Nijenhuis J. & Dutton, E. “Why do Northeast Asian Win so Few Nobel Prize?” (2015), Comprehensive Psychology, 4, 15. doi: 10.2466/04.17.CP.4.15

te Nijenhuis, J. Kura, K. &Dutton, E. “Spearman’s Hypothesis Tested Comparing 47 Regions of Japan Using a Sample of 18 Million Children”, (2019) Psych 2019, 1(1), 26-34. doi:10.3390/Psychology1010002

Kirkegaard, E. Lasker, J. & Kura, K. “The Intelligence of Biracial Children of U.S. Servicemen in Northeast Asia: Results from Japan” Psych 2019, 1(1), 132-138.

The featured image shows, “Sudden Shower over Shin-Ōhashi bridge and Atake,” a print by Utagawa Hiroshige, 1857.