Heritage for Hammerheads

Hooey for the world


Sometimes it's frustrating being a South Carolinian in Japan. Reading about the endless bickering over the Confederate flag on our State House makes me want to get up on a flatbed truck with loudspeakers and take my act on the road.

    "It's way late in the wrong century to be having this argument, don't you think?" I'd shout. "That's not the real Confederate flag anyway! It's the lousy naval battle standard! [And what a godawfully lousy navy it was!]

    "There was no one flag for the entire Confederacy because, as a confederacy, the states couldn't agree on one! If you people really cared about our history..."

    Oh, well. At least decent South Carolinians aren't alone in their embarrassment over anachronisms like Confederate naval battle standards and the evolutionary throwbacks who support them. Consider the news from Kochi, a small town 390 miles to the southwest of where I live just outside Tokyo:

    According to an Associated Press wire report in the Feb. 19 Pacific Stars and Stripes, a 27-year-old right-winger crashed his van through the gate of the residence of Daijiro Hashimoto, prefectural governor and half-brother to Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto.

    The AP report (which borrowed from the Kyodo News Service report, which got its information from a local police spokesperson) noted that the attack may have been provoked by remarks Gov. Hashimoto had made in Kochi on Feb. 1.

    And just what could the governor have said that was so van-rammingly offensive?

    Hashimoto had said that there was "something strange" about the national anthem and that it might be a good idea if Japan came up with a new one.

    Those are serious fighting words for Japanese right-wingers who cherish the knowledge that, not very long ago, their island nation once ruled all of the Far East and nearly half of the largest ocean on the planet.

    And, oh, by the way, you do know those numbers at Nanking were exaggerated, don't you? And if Unit 731 did anything out of the ordinary in Manchuria, there most certainly was a perfectly reasonable explanation that got lost in the confusion.

    No, despite all those lies the evil gaijin invaders have spread via their willing accomplices in the liberal media, Asia was indeed grateful for the firm guidance of Our Beloved Emperor.

    I'm not trying to be funny. This is the kind of stuff they holler from vans and flatbed trucks with loudspeaker setups. I've seen these shows on the street outside the main train station in Yokohama, and you don't need to know the language to recognize the tone.

    Try picturing the scene outside the governor's residence in Kochi, where several of these mobile invective platforms with Imperial sunburst battle flags hanging off the sides blocked the street before that hothead got caught up in his passion and made his banzai run through the gate.

    But these people had convictions to defend. The title of Japan's national anthem, "Kimi-gayo," roughly translates to "His Majesty's Reign," and the lyrics are the kind of long-life-to-our-highly-esteemed-infallible-
one-whose-poop-never-stinks blather you find wherever there's a monarchy.

    Never mind that the Japanese emperor, save for a brief period in the MeijiEra, was historically a ceremonial puppet "advised" by a shadow government. As far as Japanese right-wingers are concerned, the Values That Made Us Great went straight to hell when Gen. MacArthur made Emperor Hirohito go on the radio and tell his subjects that, centuries of Sacred Heritage to the contrary, he was not God.

    Of course, Gen. MacArthur felt that executing the emperor as a war criminal -- to undermine a cornerstone of Japan's long national history -- would be demoralizing, and counter to the mission of rebuilding Japan.

    And so the world's longest unbroken succession of royal lineage continues, if only as more overtly ceremonial trapping.

    But given the embarrassment the majority of noncombatant Japanese citizens suffered when it came to light that -- propaganda to the contrary -- Asia was not at all grateful for the infants the Imperial soldiers had tossed into the air and caught on bayonets in the name of the emperor, most Japanese citizens today would prefer to put this rah-rah-to-the-emperor stuff behind them and move on.

    Nothing personal against the emperor and his family, mind you; they're lovely people. But it was all that "A Million Souls for the Emperor" crap which precipitated so many awful misunderstandings, beginning with the occupation of Korea in 1910 through such awkward episodes as Nanking and Pearl Harbor and Bataan. It got them atom-bombed, not once, but twice, and to this day hobbles normal diplomatic relations with China and Korea. It is, simply put, bad for business.

    Hence Gov. Hashimoto's remarks about dumping what he considered an anachronistic and embarrassing piece of music. Hence the attack on his house by someone who regarded the anthem as a precious piece of heritage from a proud history no one should be ashamed of -- slave labor, "comfort girls" and babies on bayonets notwithstanding.

    Incidentally, Gov. Hashimoto and his better known half-brother are members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. (Don't be fooled by the name; the LDP is by no means liberal, and if they're democratic it's only because the postwar constitution forces them into it.)

    Members of the LDP often find themselves shuffling and dancing to keep the votes of those lunatic fringies who want to return to their twisted version of Core Values to the law of the land and resume marching on other Asian capitals -- again, like the rhetorical and legislative sucking up country-club Republicans must do in the United States to maintain broad support among those who suspect witchcraft and secret agendas among high school biology teachers.

    So when Gov. Hashimoto spoke up in favor of changing the national anthem it was seen as a betrayal by some of the twitchier members of his constituency. If South Carolina Gov. David Beasley thinks he caught serious political heat for saying, "Uh, sure, maybe we ought to think about taking that flag down," he doesn't know what he's missing.


    Columbia native L. Roy Aiken married into the military and zaps out his column via mojowire from the eighth floor of a high-rise overlooking the west end of Atsugi Naval Air Facility.

    In his travels he has worked as city hall reporter and columnist for the Imperial Beach (Calif.) Times and contributed pieces to The San Diego Writers' Monthly, The Poetry Conspiracy and (in collaboration with Columbia artist Mike Hoffman) the horror anthology Taboo.

    He is also slogging through his 10th year of writing and publishing his personal zine of commentary and (sometimes) fiction Rockin' Roy's Rage n' Romance!, and hopes to finish that damn novel sometime before he dies.

© Copyright by POINT, 1997
Last modified 4/14/97