Bigger Than Life

Shooting With Nikon’s AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED Lens

The canopy of Enkaizan Omaru Yama.

There’s a wildlife reserve that’s walking distance from my residence. It’s called Enkaizan Omaru Yama. This location is one of those off the beaten paths that you won’t find in glossy covered tourist magazines, and that’s fine with me.

I decided to shoot Enkaizan Omaru Yama with one of Nikon’s most talked about lens, the AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED. I received it as a points purchase from Yodobashi in Akihabara. It was free! Apparently, it was my reward for purchasing a lot of equipment from that particular electronics chain over the several years I’ve lived in Japan. I would also use Nikon’s D800 for the shoot, and set a few rules to follow regarding the shots I’d be taking for this article. First, all shots were to be taken handheld. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time setting up a tripod, merely hoping that I’d be able to get a good shot. I once spent two entire evenings in Del Mar, California shooting large bumblebees that frenetically swirled around the oceanfront cliffs that were covered in wild lavender. I was using a tripod, and the experience was tormenting. The bees weren’t cooperating. Waiting around in a single position, hoping for all of the stars to align to get a spectacular shot is fine for others, but it’s not one of my greatest strengths. I also wouldn’t be using a technique known as stacking, which is where one takes several different shots, all with different focus ranges, and later bring all those images into software to piece them together, in order to achieve what would appear to be one single sharp image. I also decided not to carry any other lens, and I would limit each subject to only three shots. I first heard about this rule of three several years ago when I discovered that Jimmy Page, the legendary guitarist of Led Zeppelin never took more than three takes of any recorded solo. I’d rediscover this rule in film school where it’s used as an editing technique to aid the writer, or director convey a sense of rhythm in one aspect of telling their story.

Obviously, sharp images make for interesting photos of insects, and plants. Likewise, taking photos with a camera in hand, with a lens of the magnitude of the 105mm, also gives a photographer the ability to create other desired visual effects. Where tack sharp images show off technical expertise, removing that element aids in utilizing other techniques to obtain visual aesthetics.

One of the reasons I decided to go entirely handheld is that Nikon was claiming that the D800 could bring into focus images, which were shot out of focus. I found this to be a marketing ploy, more so than actual fact. Especially shooting subjects in low light, such as Enkaizan Omaru Yama, which is covered in a thick canopy of sprawling branches, which bore fresh sprouts of summer leaves. I also wanted to see how well the vibration reduction of the Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens held up in such conditions.

Before shooting, I performed a ritual that I like to do when I have the option to do so. I had actually never been to Enkaizan Omaru Yama. On my first trip I’d go without a camera, and explore what I hoped would become my target subject. It’s quite difficult to do that in a place like a wildlife reserve, as I may lose a shot that I’d want to preserve. Even so, this technique of going to a shooting location empty handed gave me the freedom to study the area, and consider what I’d like to achieve. This isn’t as easy as it first seems, as weather is often fickle in Japan. The general rule is that it’s sunny one day, and dumps rain for the next three. I’ve also done this at locations where I expected to find something worth shooting, and found none. This saved me from having to lug around heavy equipment under those circumstances upon return.

The sign reads: Removing Plants Is Prohibited.

On my first visit to Enkaizan Omaru Yama, I discovered a steamy environment teeming with insects, and other forms of wildlife. The terrain was hilly, and the forest dense. Much to my delight the variety of flowers were numerous, with each species in full bloom. In contrast to the towering cedar, pine, and bamboo, the flowering plants were tiny. Several of the insects, which helped maintain the ecosystem in that dense environment, were quite small as well. After exploring Enkaizan Omaru Yama, I had a pretty good idea of what I could expect to accomplish, and was pretty excited about returning, which was planned for the following day.

The neighborhood that surrounds Enkaizan Omaru Yama was intriguing, as much of the manmade structures were built prior to WWII. They were rustic, and bore the wear of time. For example, I found an abandoned property, where beautiful mossy covered rocky steps led up to what had once been someone’s home. It was surrounded by a towering bamboo forest. The physical structure remained in pretty good condition. I estimated that it could be restored for about fifty grand. I thought how wonderful it would be to have a quaint house in that location, surrounded by a wildlife reserve on all sides, an abundance of greenery, and strange sounding birds that filled the forest.

I walked around the home, peeking inside the windows, and noticed tatami flooring that hadn’t been walked on in at least a couple of decades. Bamboo blinds tilted because the sun had rotted the twine that had once held them in place. There was no interior toilet, and the thin hallways, and rice paper slat doors left me with the same visual impression I’ve seen in countless Kurosawa films. The river that ran through that small community was not far from that abandoned property. I’m certain that the path that led to the water was where those inhabitants bathed, washed their clothing, and used for other purposes in their daily lives. Today that water, which no doubt had once been a meandering creek, exists as all other bodies of water do in Japan, shored up on both sides by unsightly concrete, and lacking in visual appeal. The water no longer runs freely, and pristine through what the nation calls a wildlife preserve.

Not far from that abandoned structure, and walled up creek, I discovered other housing, the kind that’s never shown in photo blogs, or tourist magazines. Those poorly maintained apartments appeared weathered, rickety, and brittle, yet still provided shelter for those who lived there. There were three large cages, which I noticed as I was on my way to the entrance to the reserve. Inside those cages were cooing creatures. One of those cages had been attached to an exterior wall on the second floor of the apartments. It looked like it had been there for many years, and could come crashing to the ground at any moment. In one of those cages I saw two beautiful white birds that first appeared to be large doves. Yet, they weren’t doves. It’s possible these were some kind of carrier birds, a hobby, or perhaps that evening’s meal. A long board hung over the entry of one of the doors, which were no taller than five feet, and about two-thirds as wide as a normal door. None of the units had air conditioning, and were beyond repair. I became curious as to whom each, and every one of those inhabitants was.

While continuing on my exploration, I discovered a small plum grove that had been carved out of a section of the forest. Lying on the ground under one tree were a hundred or so green plums about the size of quail eggs. An elderly man was in the process of scooping them up into a plastic bag that he brought with him, apparently for that particular purpose. We talked a bit, and I learned he’d been to San Francisco, and even to Yosemite National Park. But that was many years ago. I asked if he was going to eat the plums, however I already knew the answer. He was going to use them to make plum sake. He offered me a bagful, but I politely declined, knowing that he hadn’t taken the effort to remove plums, just to hand them over to a complete stranger, let alone a foreigner. I said goodbye, and went my way. I wasn’t prepared for what I would discover next. As I continued down a particular path, as there were many, I came upon tall cedars, and tall bamboo. It was as if the path was a boundary, and both species of plant life knew not to cross over to the other side. I looked about for signs that this was manmade, but couldn’t detect any.

Protruding petals that appear as tiny fingers.

As I walked on, I found a young lady sleeping on a bench. The sign behind her, which was written in Japanese read, “Resting area.” She heard me approaching on the path, and lighted. We talked a bit, and I learned she was a local girl, and in her third year at a university studying medicine. I can’t recall the name of the university. I took her photo near one of the signs that laid out the park’s extensive walking course. I asked her to show me her favorite area. She did! I find it odd that an attractive young woman would freely venture deeper into a remote area, with a complete stranger. But, that’s how it often is in a country where people don’t have a level of apathy, or distrust that is prominent in the states. Ironically, her favorite area was my least favorite in the reserve. It turned out that this was the place that she often brought her dog, and the animal really enjoyed tromping around in the high grass. I preferred walking amongst the tall bamboo. We said our goodbyes, and I watched as she disappeared down a path I had not previously noticed, and had only moments earlier walked past while following the girl in the long black hair.

I had seen enough of what I had come for, and if the weather held up, on the next day, I would be back to Enkaizan Omaru Yama, shooting what it had to offer, and in a very limited capacity. It was getting late, time to head home!

The next day the air was dry. It was cool, and a bit too breezy for my particular purpose. Trying to shoot images up close as they swayed to and fro would be a challenge that led to dismal results. I thought about holding off until the wind died. Perhaps the following day? This was the second day in a row of clear blue skies. These conditions weren’t going to last, and if it did rain, and I had to wait a few more days, the fresh buds would certainly be gone. I rationalized that perhaps once I was under the canopy of the thick ancient cedar, pine, and maple that the wind wouldn’t be too great a factor. I would be wrong! Shooting would turn out to be more difficult that I thought, but on the opposing side of the dilemma of high winds, and wobbly plant life was the fact that the mosquitos wouldn’t be such a great distraction.

The one thing that displeased me was that I couldn’t get close to the large black butterflies, which were the size of my hands. They seemed to purposely stay high in the canopy. Other insects never rested, not even for a moment, including the honeybees, which were busy fiddlin’ about. I thought about the honeybees in the states, which are currently being wiped out through the use of glyphosate pesticides. I thought about the deplorable TPP trade deal that no one but shareholders of multinationals would benefit from. I shuttered to think that genetically altered seeds that required the soil saturated in that poison would be imposed upon Japanese farmers, who for hundreds of years have protected their seeds. It was already bad enough that the radiation contamination from Namie tainted nearly ever crop in the nation. If the trade deal takes root, then Japan’s agriculture would in my opinion become entirely inedible. Also, if anyone refused to grow it, or consume it, the corporation that produce those mutated products would have carte blanche to sue for loss revenues.

After spending a few hours at Enkaizan Omaru Yama it was time to finish the shooting aspect of the project. I wasn’t sure what I had captured, as the slightest movement in a focal depth that shallow destroys an otherwise perfect shot.

While viewing the photos, I realized that I didn’t know what most of those plants, and insects were called. I contacted, The Japanese Society of Plant Physiologists to see if they would answer those mysteries. But, I received a generic response saying they don’t give out that kind of information. I thought, if an organization that spends its time studying Japanese plant life won’t answer those kinds of questions, who would? It probably took more time to translate the response in English, than to just tell me the names of the plants. Much like The Japanese Society of Plant Physiologists refusal to aid in naming a few plants so I could in turn share that information with the readers of this article, life is all too often absurd.

A bright burst of purple, and orange anther.

After looking at the large blown up images of life that existed in Enkaizan Omaru Yama, I realized just how small many of the flowers that I took actually were. Some as little as the nail on my pinky finger. The insects that were nourished by them were even smaller. Some I could barely see without the aid of the magnification of the lens. As I left, I was reminded of how many creatures that I had discovered, and how difficult it was to try, and photograph them under my self imposed rules.

A week later I returned to Enkaizan Omaru Yama to walk around with my infant son, and to share with him the things that I had discovered. As we entered the reserve I was surprised to discover that every flowering plant that I had photographed was gone. They’d all been cut down to clear away the high growth that had already begun to cover the reserves walking path. That’s where the majority of my photos came from. The flowers, and the myriad of buds that had yet to bloom were cut away. I thought, what form of preservation is this? What flowers hadn’t been chopped to bits had withered away in the hot sun. Even the vast array of insects were nowhere to be found. Everything appeared different. It reminded me of the impermanence of all things. On the other end of the spectrum, several bamboo shoots that were barely head high, were now towering a dozen feet above me. Even so, the land that I stood upon appeared as if a horrible, and tumultuous storm had come, like a land tsunami, and flattened everything. The paths were no longer teaming in apparent life. They now appeared nearly void of it. An image of a Brazilian rain forest came to mind; a bird’s eye view, revealing cattle grazing upon it. Soon enough those cows would end up on someone’s dinner plate. Although these thoughts raced through my head, the time I was sharing with my son was fantastic. He finally had a chance to see real butterflies as they flapped their wings, and flew in their apparent erratic motion. I thought those large ones high in the canopy were wise to remain there. My favorite moment with my son was when I picked up a dandy lion, showed it to him, and blew the seeds away. I watched his face in total enjoyment as they rained down all around him. I handed him a dandy lion, and tried to show him how to blow on it. Instead, he handed it back to me, expecting me to perform that same magical feat. (And again, and again and…)

On our way out of Enkaizan Omaru Yama, I thought of all the microcosms that existed where I had stood. I thought of the unknowing havoc I wreaked upon the microscopic life forms I had trampled upon to get the shots I had taken of the flowers that no longer existed. I thought about the vegans, and vegetarians that proclaim they eat no animals, yet devour trillions of living creatures in every bite of food that goes into their mouths. I then looked up at the canopy above, and caught a glimpse of what lied beyond. A thing we call infinity. Suddenly, the lyrics from a song titled, Don’t You Feel Small written by the group, The Moody Blues came to mind. “Ask the mirror on the wall. Who’s the biggest fool of all, bet you feel small. It happens to us all. See the world as what it’s for. Understanding, nothing more. Don’t you feel small? It happens to us all. Time is now to spread your voice. Time’s to come there’ll be no choice. Why do you feel small? It happens to us all. Look at progress, then count the cost. We’ll spoil the seas with the rivers we’ve lost. See the writing on the wall. Hear the mirror’s warning call. That’s why you feel small. It happens to us all. Ask the mirror on the wall. Who’s the biggest fool of all? Bet you feel small? It happens to us all.

The Enkaizan Omaru Yama macro gallery.

This article originally ran in the June, 2015 edition of the Tokyo Weekender magazine. http://tokyoweekender.com/2015/06/bigger-than-life-a-macro-photography-excursion-in-yokohama.

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Fukushima: The Land Time Forgot, And Other Anomalies

Inawashiro-Ko located in Bandai-Asahi National Park in Fukushima.

This summer’s Golden Week holiday has passed. My family took a trip to Yonezawa, the hometown of my wife. Yonezawa is a mere 41km northwest of Fukushima City. Namie, where the Daiichi Nuclear Facility, and three nuclear reactors melted down, and which are currently continuing to contaminate the Pacific Ocean is only 55km (34 miles) east of Fukushima City. Namie is 88.9km from Yonezawa. It’s only one stop by way of the Tsubasa Shinkansen from Fukushima to Yonezawa; that’s about a fifteen-minute train ride from station to station. Our home in Yokohama is 312km south of that particular location.

Click here to view the entire photo gallery with detailed descriptions.

There were several events that coincided on this particular holiday. The first being the seventh year since my wife’s grandmother passed away. This is an important date, as the first, third, and seventh years are marked with specific traditional matters that family members partake in when a relative passes away, such as the family going to the Hoji (cemetery), to pay their respect by offering food, incense, and prayers. This would be the first of this kind of event that I had participated in. On that day, my wife’s family arrived from all over Japan. In the evening we ate a fantastic dinner that my wife’s parents had chefs prepare at a local traditional restaurant, and delivered to their home.

I got to meet nearly all of my wife’s extended family for the first time, including her grandmother who is 86 years old. She lives in Iwaki, which was nearly wiped out by the tsunami of 3.11.11. Iwaki is also located near the Daini nuclear facility, which was shutdown after it was struck by tsunami waves. Daini was the nuclear plant that was originally thought to be the one that would wreak the most havoc for the nation, and an industry that has such a deplorable track record for operational safety, and which has clearly been proven that shouldn’t exist. I was reminded of this again last week as the Red Forest that surrounds the Chernobyl nuclear disaster area caught fire, and put back into the atmosphere high levels of radiation that sat dormant in the trees of that forest for the past twenty-nine years. Ah, but I digress… I’m discussing something that everyone has seemingly forgotten about, and of course, what one can’t see, hear, or taste, can’t hurt them. Right? At least not immediately, some would say.

The family event described above occurred on May 4th, which was sixteen months to the day that my son was born. The next day was May 5th, another important notable holiday in Japan. May 5th is celebrated as Kokomo No Hi, or Boy’s Day. My wife’s parents had carp kites waving in the breeze at the entrance of their home, and had purchased an expensive samurai armor set for our son, which is now on display in their prayer room. Both are required things to do when a boy has been born into a family. On Boy’s Day, we took our son to Uesugi Jinja Shrine, which is walking distance from my wife’s family home. The last time we walked there was in the heat of winter, and the snow was stacked over our heads. (How’d you like that, the “heat” of winter?)

There are numerous things to do at Uesugi Jinja Shrine, as it’s very large, beautiful, and quite famous. One of the main events held there annually is the Uesugi Yuki Toro Matsuri (Yonezawa Snow Festival), which happens on the second weekend in February of each year. I’ve attended the festival a few times. It’s quite surreal, and very cold. The snow is piled high, hundreds of lamps made of snow occupy the entire temple, and the temperature is always below zero. I’ve had the best amazaki (warm sweet rice sake) at this festival. I don’t like sake, but I could drink a gallon of that concoction. Unfortunately, it’s only available during the festival. It’s really is that good! Makes me wonder what all the fuss is over eggnog?

Yonezawa: Uesugi Jinja Shrine

At Uesugi Jinja Shrine there was a festival underway. Ironically, the weather was much warmer than in Yokohama, although the surrounding mountains were still blanketed in a bit of snow. We saw paper lanterns that little boys from the local community had made. Our son got to play in a water fountain located at the main entrance with my wife’s sister, who adores him. He really enjoyed splashing around in the water, as the photos attest to. He then crashed a Gomo Kusukue booth, but the operator didn’t seem to mind. I got some great shots of him entirely mesmerized by the artificial water current that move hundreds of little toys in a circular pattern. Gomo Kusukue are quite popular with little children who use small nets to try, and scoop one of the gleaming treasures up with. If they catch one, they get to keep it. Our son also got to feed carp (koi) with the aid of a bag of rice that my wife’s father had prepared for this purpose. My wife’s family has been in the rice business for decades, and after eating the rice that he sends us. I quickly discovered that there is a great gulf fixed between rice that is hand selected by an expert, and that, which is sold at the markets. It’s probably akin to trying to explain night, and day to someone who has never seen either. This was the first time our son got to feed fish. However, he was more interested in the pigeons that were snatching up the rice that fell to the ground.

Yamagata: Omoshiro Yama Kogen

On the next day we drove to Yamadera, which is where the famous national treasure, Yamadera Temple is located. This mountaintop temple sits on top of the mountains that separate Yamagata from Sendai. The views from the top are fantastic, and the air quite refreshing.

At Yamadera, we parked, and ate lunch at one of the town’s fine restaurants. We then boarded a train to get to the next stop, which is further into the mountains. We accidentally took a rapid train, which passed our destination. All I could do was look out the window at the waterfall that most people had never noticed on their commutes between Yamagata, and Sendai.

We ended up at a tiny town called Sakunami, which is where the famous Nikka Whisky Company originated. We had an hour to kill before the next train arrived, so we got to learn about the company’s founders. A Japanese man named Masataka Taketsuru had gone to Scotland to study at a university. There he met, and eventually married a young woman named Jessie Roberta, a native of Scotland. The couple returned to Japan where the woman supported her husband’s desire to start an alcoholic beverage company. This was in 1920, at a time when prohibition was in full swing in the U.S. It must have been a sight for sore eyes for the local people to see Taketsuru return with a blond woman from Europe as his bride. Especially, considering Sakunami was in the middle of the undeveloped mountains, and in an entirely remote area cut off from any western influence. The community remains that way, even today. The mountain water in that area is so pure that it can be drunk straight from the river. The beautifully maintained Nikka facility still exists as well, and offers tours, and free samplings of their most sought after products. As I stood waiting on the train platform to head to our original destination, I thought how fleeting life is. That “odd” couple made a business that eventually thrived. They prospered from their vision, and their products continue to win prestigious international awards. It’s ironic that the Taketsuru’s are no longer here to witness the fruits of their labor. To learn more about the Taketsuru’s go to the following link: http://nikka.com/eng/founder/index.html.

We exited the train at Omoshiro Yama Kogen. While my wife changed the boy’s diaper, her sister practiced Hawaiian hula dancing she recently became enamored with. A man in the restaurant apparently took notice, came out, and joined in. So it is in Japan, at least when one manages to escape the entrapments of urban life. People outside of the large cities are generally very kind, and curious. Almost childlike! We learned that this man, who’s name I have already forgotten, had recently undergone back surgery, and was proud to show us how rapidly he had been recuperating. We talked a bit, and then it was time to head to the waterfall, walk along the pristine river, and hike around a bit before heading back to Yamadera to watch the sun set at the top of the mountain temple. Our new friend continued to hula dance back toward the restaurant that his life long friend owned.

During winter, Omoshiro Yama Kogen becomes a snow skiing nirvana for locals. It’s off the beaten path, and only a hop, skip, and a jump from Yamagata, or Sendai. One can literally step off of the local train in their snow boots, exit the tiny station, and step right onto a lift that goes to the top of the mountain. All for a mere 410 ¥. I first discovered Omoshiro Yama Kogen purely by accident several years ago when I was on my way to Sendai. I happened to look out the window, at the right moment, spotting a waterfall in the valley far below. It was only a split second that I got a glimpse of the water cascading down the side of the mountain. The following weekend I went back to investigate. It turned out to be one of my favorite places in Japan. I’ve traveled to Omoshiro Yama Kogen several times when I lived in Yamagata; winter, spring, summer, and fall. It’s incredibly beautiful, and unspoiled, as few people even realize that it’s even there. The trail along the river leads through the mountains, and back to Yamadera. It’s something that everyone who visits Japan should experience. It certainly will leave a better impression as to what had once been the true Japanese way, other than the westernized offerings of Harajuku, Shinjuku, or Yokohama. I took some great shots of my son with a couple different waterfalls in the background at Omoshiro Yama. Soon enough though, the sun began to dip below the mountains, so it was time to head back to Yamadera.

Omoshiro Yama Kogen in Yamagata Prefecture.

Yamagata: Yamadera Temple’s Thousand Steps

When we arrived at the steps to the entrance of the temple, it was already closed. My wife, and sister tried to prevent me from entering. (There’s nothing but a small sign, written in Japanese that says the steps are closed. There are no gates, locks, or security to prevent one from entering.) I can’t read Japanese, and told them that, which they already knew. But they could! I told them, “I only wanted to look around the first turn.” So, I took their photo at the entrance, and off I went, knowing full well, I wasn’t about to drive all the way from Yonezawa, and return without trekking to the top. My wife said, “What if you told our son not to do something, and he did it anyway?”

There are a thousand steps or so to reach the top of the mountain. This gave me plenty of time to reflect on what my wife had asked regarding our son. I concluded that if he ignored something that I told him not to do, and had a legitimate reason to do so, then he was discovering the power of autonomy, and therefore, it would not be improper for him to use his own cognitive skills in determining how to proceed. I also thought that if his reasoning was skewed, ignoring me would be unjustified. In that, I felt justified in ignoring a sign that I couldn’t read anyway, and as far as I was concerned, shutting off access to such a location during the best light of the day was most unjust. This is one thing that really perturbs me about Japan, the often illogic of how things are done. A cursory inspection of the Yamadera photos I took on that evening made me quite pleased that I didn’t go home empty handed. Actually, in defense of the indefensible, I’ve walked past that sign at least three other times in the past, at sunset, never realizing that the temple was closed.

There are numerous sights to discover at the top of Yamadera. Some of the shrines were built into the cliffs hundreds of years ago, and had not been destroyed during the Warring State Period, most likely because of its rural location, and strategic location at the top of the mountain. What most people don’t know when they are visiting most of Japan’s castles is that they were rebuilt for tourism purposes. The facts that nearly all of Japan’s castles were burnt down after the particular daimyo that ruled over it was defeated by a rival clan. The Maruoka Castle is the oldest castle in Japan to survive that era. It’s located in Fukui, where I lived during my first year in Japan. Maruoka Castle was built in 1576. The Inuyama main tenshu began construction in 1601, and was finally completed in 1620. One of the most infamous, yet “true” samurai tales took place in Fukui, and it tells of the destruction of one of those Japanese castles, destroyed by a technology that had never before been seen in the east. Samurai, not with swords, but with rifles attacked the Asakura clan in Ichijodani. Needless to say, the Asakura clan were slaughtered. Today, all that remains is the gate of the once towering structure. Everyone inside was brutally executed, as swords were no match to the new form of weaponry, as those that had vowed to protect those they had united with would discover. After the siege, as usual, the castle was razed. This was the death null to an era where swords were used to determine the outcome of disputes. The Locales photo gallery at my website, http://stackjones.com has a photo of the Asakura gate covered in snow. Ironically, I discovered it, and Ichijodani as I had much of Japan, which was purely by accident.

I was new in Fukui, and had a few days off from work, so I decided to drive to Tojinbo, cliffs that had become infamous for suicide jumping. Tojinbo is located in one of the most beautiful place in Japan, and is situated directly on Japan Sea. Somewhere along the route I had planned on my trip, I took a wrong turn, and ended up heading in entirely the opposite direction. I thought I was driving east, but was actually heading west. After driving for two hours I came upon the mountains of Ichijodani, the Asakura gate, and a beautiful waterfall. I also discovered Imadate, which is a small mountain community that’s famous for making the best paper in Japan. Anyone that has even cursory knowledge of Japan knows that the nation considers paper making a high art.

I visited the museum in Imadate, and talked with an elderly man, a lifelong employee who was responsible for choosing the wood to be used in their paper processing, and for operating the wood mill, which resulted in the manufacturing of fine paper. The paper that was on display in the museum were clearly works of art. An 18” square of Imadate paper hung on a wall in a home would be one of the most beautiful pieces of art on display. It really is that beautiful! Later that day, after complete strangers who could not communicate in English, (I could not communicate in Japanese) made a hand drawn map for me to get to my original destination. That evening as the sun was setting, I would discover the Japan Sea, and finally stand on the cliffs of Tojinbo. I also discovered Oshima Island, and stayed there late in the evening sitting on a grassy cliff, that looked toward Korea. I would later hear these words shrieked at me as I told a young Japanese woman of my adventure. “Manifest ghosts!” Meaning, so many people have committed suicide at Tojinbo, with many of the bodies floating on the currents to the shores of Oshima, that locals will not go there.

Most of my discoveries in Japan were made through error, and getting lost while navigating along roads that often had signs that I could not understand. This would lead to venturing into the unknown, and discovering many locations unknown to foreigners. I’d often leave home with no plans, and intentionally get lost, taking odd turns off of main roads, and heading into unchartered territory, where country folk lived, and where I’m sure I was the first foreigner to go. I would end up doing this on the following day after returning to Yonezawa from Yamadera.

Yamadera Mountaintop Temple.

Tall pines, and cedar cover the path up to the top of Yamadera. A children’s shrine that is located there, and the fact that the temple is located at the top of the mountains that overlook the town below inspired me to write a short story titled, The Crazy Woman, And The Fiery Snow. This is a story about a woman whose young son passed away, and thereafter she went to the top of Yamadera, prostrated herself in prayer, and refused to leave until her son was returned to her. It was the little red, and white amulets that were most inspiring, as each one of the hundreds that were placed around a shrine, along with pinwheels, were placed there by grieving parents who lost a child in some kind of accident, mishap, or disease. These iconic trinkets are said to help protect the children from any dangers they might face in the hereafter. To see all those little statuettes in the hundreds together is quite an emotional experience.

As I headed down from the top of the mountains it was already dark. I walked through the town, took a few pictures as the lights inside homes that sat atop shops that existed on the ground floor began to flicker on. I found my son, wife, and her sister in the car, and waiting for me. Japanese women are nothing like western woman. An American woman would have either left me there, or began shouting hysterically upon my return. The, “nothing was amiss” routine is often worse than a shouting match. I gave my wife the answer to her question she had posed at the foot of the temple steps.

It was time to head back to Yonezawa, where another fine meal was already waiting to be served to yours truly, and the rest of the family. The meal, in part consisted of home cooked udon noodles. Often, home cooked food is far superior to restaurant food. Of all the noodles out there, ramen, soba, pasta, whatever… udon is my least favorite. But, on that evening, they were the best damn noodles I’ve ever eaten.

On the next afternoon, we, that is, my wife, son, and I, drove into the mountains that surround Yonezawa. I would learn the Yonezawa Mountains are called Tengendai Highlands. I had been looking up at those mountains for several years, whenever I was in that region of the country, and had yet to trek into them. I wanted to get a feel of the place that my wife grew up in, but I was surprised to learn that she hadn’t spent much time in that region of her hometown, even though she rode her bicycle to high school in that very same direction five days a week for three years. She vaguely recalled visiting the Mizukubo Dam, when she was in elementary school, and hadn’t even thought about it, until we stumbled upon it that evening, and or course, by accident. This amazing place was a mere fifteen-minute drive from the home where my wife grew up in. It was so incredibly beautiful in the low lying hills that I had already decided to take another drive into the Tengendai Highlands on the following day. On the other side of those mountains lies the infamous Fukushima Prefecture.

The Tengendai Highlands Of Yonezawa

On the next day we drove back into the Tengendai Highlands, and took a cable car to the top of the mountains located on the Yonezawa side. It turned out this was a ski resort. When we reached the top, there was a stroller waiting for our son. When I tried to remove him from it after we reached our first destination, he put up a fit. Apparently, he really enjoyed being in “his” new contraption. Once out, and distracted with whatever I could think of at the moment, he became interested in playing with the rocks that were laid out on the trail to where we had decided to eat lunch. That location gave us a near 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains. The boy cared little for the view. It was rocks, rocks and more rocks for all that he cared.

At the top of Tengendai Highlands I could see the huge mountains that bordered Yamagata, and Fukushima Prefecture. I’ve done a lot of writing about Fukushima, and an industry that stigmatized that region of Japan. I had attended antinuclear rallies, reported on them, and even went inside the exclusion zone shortly after the 3.11.11. triple disaster, and photographed it extensively. I entered evacuated communities, and saw wild animals that had once been domesticated, now wandering the streets, with some living in abandoned homes. I stumbled upon a horse that the owners had abandoned in a corral, and was starving to death. I tried to release it, but I was not able to break the locks, or tear down the metal posts that trapped the animal. All I could do was gather as much grass as I could, and put it inside the corral. I photographed that horse, and felt terrible as I departed, knowing that I had probably just fed that animal its last meal.

I had first discovered the beauty of the Fukushima coastline when I entered the exclusion zone along the cost in the evacuated town of Minami Soma. The ocean was as clear as any that I’ve seen in the Bahamas, Mexico, Hawaii, or Greece. One of the most beautiful women that I’ve ever met was from Fukushima. Today, the city, and its people are treated like lepers were treated a couple thousand years ago, or as HIV carriers were treated in the early 80s. The inhabitants of the city are marginalized, and have become the brunt of jokes that aren’t funny at all. Even today, Tepco’s website continues to blame the tsunami as the reason the reactors they were responsible for maintaining failed, but the truth is the original engineers quit the project during the initial stage of construction because they were entirely aware the facilities design was flawed, that there was no way the facility could withstand a tsunami, and that their concerns were entirely ignored by those that stood to reap huge profits, and the politicians they controlled refused to stand up, and do anything about it. A larger than life disaster was inevitable. It was only a matter of time. That time came on 3.11.11. when the warnings that went unheeded finally became a reality.

Until that day at the top of Tengendai Highlands, I had no idea that the Fukushima Mountains rivaled Japan’s other national treasures such as Nikko National Park, which I wrote about in an article for Tokyo Weekender magazine. In fact, a great portion of Fukushima is a national park, and treasure.

The Fukushima Unknown To The West

The temperature gauge read between 12 and 13 degrees Celsius. But, the sun, and the dry air made it feel quite a bit warmer. Only a few people were skiing at the nearby resort, and most likely enjoying the fact that they had the slopes all to themselves. It was while eating ice cream, which my son was force feeding me, that I decided to drive to Aizu, and to try and get a glimpse of Lake Inawashiro Ko, which sat in the valley on the Fukushima side of the great divide. At the time I had no idea that we’d discover some of the most breathtaking scenery in Japan, including waterfalls, such as the one called, Fudo-Taki. We would also see a lot of snow monkeys, which I managed to get near for a few good shots. One of the larger ones became a bit aggressive, as I got too close for comfort. I had made the mistake of looking it directly in the eyes, and had forgotten that they consider that an invitation to a confrontation. I was a lot closer to the monkey at that moment than the car, and I knew that if it attacked me that it would tear me apart, and surely bite me numerous times. I thought that my wife, and son, who were in the car, would witness this as well. I quickly decided to return to the vehicle with the shots I had gotten, and with my body still in one piece.

The weather was fantastic! It was dry, and cool, but the mountains were still covered in snow. Regardless, fresh, bright green summer leaves were already sprouting. Oddly, they were turning, like it was autumn. It felt more like winter was coming, instead of the dreaded parched, and steamy summers that I long ago left Miami to get away from, and unfortunately rediscovered in Japan.

Inawashiro-Ko is located in Bandai-Asahi National Park in Fukushima. It’s the fourth largest lake in Japan. It also goes by the name Tenkyo-Ko, or heaven’s mirror. The world-renowned doctor, Hideyo Noguchi was born in Inawashiro. He became famous for his research in yellow fever, earning him a portrait depiction on Japan’s 1,000 ¥ note. His parent’s home has been preserved as the Noguchi Hideyo Memorial. In the same general area are the Aizu Folklore Museum, Sekai-No-Garasu-Kan (World’s Glass Hall), and the Inawashiro Jibiru-Kan (locally brewed beer hall), where one can drink beer brewed from the underground spring waters of Mt. Bandai-san. Fortunately, I would discover that this area remained relatively unscathed by the nuclear debacle that took place more than four years ago.

Bandai-Asahi National Park is a short trek from the Tengendai Highlands.

At the foot of Mt. Bandai-san, along the Inawashiro lakeside is a group of hot springs, including Tenkyo-Dai, Omote-Bandai, Ottate, and Bandai Inawashiro-Hayama. During winter downhill skiing takes place from Mt. Bandai to Lake Inawashiro. I saw cyclists speeding along on the lengthy downhill ride from Aizu to the foothills of Yonezawa. When I saw them fly by, I was taken back to memories of riding my bike down Estes Park Mountains in Colorado, where my sister had once been a park ranger. An aside here, she lost that job because she refused to wear a gun strapped to her waist, which was not required at the time she had original obtained that position.

The photos that I took of the Fukushima side of the mountains cannot adequately express the natural beauty of the area, as the lighting, and colors changed nearly by the second. It was cloudy one moment, and then suddenly the sun would shine, way too bright. The visual imagery would go from flat, and one-dimensional, to sudden multiple layers of contrast, and shadows. It was quite pleasing to watch the sunlight hit the landscape, and move rapidly along in that manner. The camera however could not accurately record the greens, and oranges of the leaves that I was witnessing. The colors were so bright in most of the photos, that they appeared to be oversaturated, or even distorted. I had to go into Photoshop, and remove saturation in the pictures that were salvaged, and that I am sharing in the link provided above.

We didn’t have enough time left in the day to venture to Lake Inawashiro-Ko. The gate at the entrance of the park closed at 5:00 p.m. I thought this was as stupid as closing Yamadera at the most beautiful time of day. Any amateur photographer knows that the magical hour of photography is early morning, and just as the sun is setting. Who are these men that draw lines in the sand, and say other men, generally those with more skills, or knowledge may not cross? My wife was keeping close watch on the clock, and reminded me that it was 3:50 p.m. I exited the car for the last time for some final shots of Inawashiro, the valley walls, and the surrounding mountains. I must have looked like the boy in the story, The Five Chinese Brothers, who refused to return to the shore, as he kept scooping up the hidden treasures that he found. I kept moving from position to position trying to find the best shot of the lake that sat far below. Even worse was that fact that yet another bend laid ahead in the road. It would become one of those obstacles in life that I had to begrudgingly deny. If I was alone, I would have gone on, and remained in the park for the night, sleeping on the shores of the beach, and arising to get photos of another phenomenon that Tenjin Beach is known for. I would have also gone to the brewery, and drank a few beers, and been asleep by 8:00 p.m., and up by 4:00 a.m.

On August 18th, 1925, Tenjin Beach was the site of the first Boy Scouts of Japan camping trip. Members of the Imperial Family, attended including Prince Hirohito. He’s the demon responsible for the deaths of 30 million, mostly civilians during the world’s worst war, which the “victors” celebrated this past week. Hirohito’s cousin Prince Chichibu also attended that event. He would be responsible for numerous raids that pilfered, the arts, treasures, precious metals, and riches of the nations that surrounded Japan, including China, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, and the Philippines. None of that wealth was ever returned.

In winter, strong winds, and waves form natural ice sculptures on the shoreline vegetation at Tenjin Beach, attracting photographers from around the globe. Kobirakata Shrine, located at Tenjin is dedicated to Sugawara No Michizane for philosophic thought. In mid-winter, Shibuki-Gori, (frozen mist), the phenomenon I spoke of earlier, hovers low along the shores of Inawashiro. The lake water is blown to the shore by strong winds that end up sticking to twigs, and foliage, where thereafter it becomes frozen, forming natural works of art. It enhances the scenic beauty of the lake, and in the not so distant past, mystified the region. The Shibuki-Gori appearance, and size changes by the day, just as the clouds, and sun duke it out for prominence overhead. If one ventures to this location at the right time of year, they may also experience the Omiwatari, which is ice that cracks as it rises on the beaches, and frozen lake surface. For me, that would have to be another jaunt into this previously unchartered territory, as it’s no longer winter, although it seems its quickly approaching. Or is the weather playing tricks on me again?

Is this magical location the dreaded Fukushima that nobody talks about any longer? Is this the place where cancer rates in children have risen 6000% since March of 2011? Is this the large swath of land, called a national treasure that’s become a wasteland? Or is this the paradise that it appears to be; a place where monkeys, and bears roam freely, where waterfalls endlessly run downstream providing water to numerous towns? Is there where stunning terrain, and beautiful, but strange sounding birds abound? Or is it more aptly, a paradise lost? I think the aesthetics of this place speaks volumes. I think that the real losers here are the human kind that care little for what has been given to them, as overseers, or self appointed protectors, who continue to remain negligent in their duties. I think the Fukushima Mountains, Aizu, and Inawashiro are places that are a testament to human folly, and a damning indictment of our inability to accept our role as administrators of this planet. Locations such as the forests that surround Chernobyl, the abandoned communities that once thrived there, Fukushima, and the residents who remain, having to endure constant testing for radiation exposure, and an uncertain future for their children, are mere drops in the bucket of the calamity that awaits us if we don’t pause, reflect, and rewrite the rules for this thing we call civilization.

One of many Omoshiro Yama Kogen waterfalls that cascades into the Yamadera River.

This article originally ran in the June, 2015 edition of the Tokyo Weekender magazine. http://tokyoweekender.com/2015/06/fukushima-the-land-time-forgot-and-other-anomalies.

Click here to view the entire photo gallery with detailed descriptions.

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When World’s Collide: Art And Tragedy

Sendai Route 10. Train And Missing Children.

While preparing a new photo gallery for the anniversary of Japan’s 3.11.11. triple disaster I began to wonder if it was ethical to turn a tragedy suffered by so many into a personal form of artistic expression. To answer this, I needed a clear understanding of what art, and ethics actually are. While researching these terms I would also discover the concept known as truth would be equally as important in making those determinations.

Ethics is often described as a moral belief system that guides the actions of an individual or group. Truth! The Oxford Dictionary defines as “the quality or state of being true.” Well, that designation was as useless as faithfulness, and constancy. The Catholic Church sent Galileo into exile to Siena on the churches determination that the world was flat. Historical records more often than not are consistent in putting forth falsehoods as facts. Even Pilate while having the power to free or execute Jesus pondered, “What is truth?” Art, as it turns out is even more difficult to define than either of the former.

Modernly, art originates in a vast array of forms including music, literature, poetry, film, fashion, architect, and photography. In ancient times, the creators of art didn’t have access to the technological advances we take for granted today. Those creators didn’t have the ability to produce copies of their intellectual property, and as a result had no means to distribute it. Those ancient masters of expression developed real time means of sharing their ideas through various forms of communication. Useful forms included illustrations, painting, sculpting and music as a means to express those ideas. Unfortunately, often those expressions were not those of the artist, but of those who held power over them. Most notably religious, and political powers!

Hugh MacLeod wrote art suffers the moment others start paying for it. Historically, an artist paid with their life if they portrayed an image, even a chord structure in a manner that the powers interpreted as a challenge to their authority. Modernly, once an artist is paid for their creation, they almost always lose the right to control the final product. Remember Gandhi appearing in Apple Computer advertisements that shamefully shouted “Think Different”? In reality, those images were of Gandhi on a hunger strike protesting British control of India. Apple, only interested in selling computers, gave no thought to the activist’s message. Clearly, one who retains the rights to a creative work can manipulate not only that image, but the content of that original image as well.

When money interferes with the creative process can that labor still be considered a work of art? If the creative process has been tampered with can it truly be considered a work of art? Bob Dylan, in his essay, Last Thoughts On Woody Guthrie summed it up:

“And you can’t find it either in the no-talent fools that run around gallant and make all rules for the ones that got talent. And it ain’t in the ones that ain’t got any talent but think they do and think they’re foolin’ you. The ones who jump on the wagon just for a while ’cause they know it’s in style. To get their kicks, get out of it quick and make all kinds of money and chicks.”

Perhaps Prince said it best, “Let the baker bake the bread.”

When a photographer cleans up an image, or enhances features within that image with a program like Adobe Photoshop, does that new creation represent what had originally been captured? Is it the “captured” image that matters, or what the photographer later settles upon as a final work through the creative process? I’ve spent countless hours removing plastic bags, digital blowouts, white distortion, logos, and even people from an image. Did this manipulation destroy the “art” that existed prior to manipulation? Or did it become art the moment the manipulator considered it complete? Finally, is it the creator that determines if it is art or the audience that it was intended for?

Friedrich Nietzsche said, “We have our arts so we won’t die of truth.” André Gide said, “Art begins at the point where resistance is overcome. No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor.” What is therefore art? The final product, or the work involved in obtaining that end? Perhaps art is the creative process itself? A creation shared by both the artist and the audience.

Body bagged Minnie. Where’s Mickey?

When I was an artist agent in Hollywood, I represented scores of amazing talent. One of my daily duties was to meet with artists who were seeking representation. I looked at thousands of portfolios, and often visited graduate school “art” exhibits. I rarely came across something that moved me. If it doesn’t move us is it art?

One artist I eventually represented sent me an image of a box that looked like a stack of old eight track tapes. I deleted that representation query upon receipt. I received it again. I deleted it again. I received it a third time, and due to the tenacity of the artist, I took a closer look, and it turned out to be a Rhino Records, commemorative CD case of several Motown greatest hits that had been released during the eight track tape era. It won a Grammy Award for best packaging design!

If it offends is it art? U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart used a threshold test for obscenity in Jacobellis vs. Ohio (1964). The test was first used in Miller vs. California (1973) where the court held that obscenity could be censored. Jacobellis, the manager of a theater had been convicted, and fined $2500.00 for screening a French film titled, The Lovers. The state of Ohio considered it obscene.  The three-prong test used considered: 1. Whether an average person, applying contemporary community standards would find the work, taken as a whole, prurient. 2. Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable state law. 3. Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. Justice Stewart viewed the film and determined it was not obscene. In the courts majority opinion Stewart wrote, “The Constitution protected all obscenity except hard-core pornography. Stewart wrote, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

So, if we can determine obscenity, or something that offends by simply, “knowing it when we see it”, then perhaps we can understand what art is simply by recognizing it when we see it. The problem here is that today we’re surrounded by “art”, actually bombarded with it as a sales tool, and as a result, we take it for granted. We’ve become blind, numb, or even cynical toward creative work. This is truly tragic. Or is it?

Greek philosopher Sophocles wrote Oedipus Rex, an ancient Athenian tragedy that tells the story of a man who was foreordained to become the king of Thebes. This right obtained through birth led to the murder of Oedipus’ father, and eventually marriage to his own mother. The focus on this tragedy is how destiny contributed to Oedipus’ downfall. Would this classic tale have been considered obscene, and therefore not a protected work of art if the Miller Test had been used during that time? How about the contemporary standards as applied in countries like Saudi Arabia today?

Art in tragedy existed long before modern man walked the face of the earth. The earliest known paintings are petroglyphs that were discovered in Australia, and are approximately 50,000 years old. The most notable original art was discovered in northern Spain and southern France. These cave paintings date back to approximately 15,000 years ago.

In the Lascaux caves, the artist used animal bones and stones to ground earth pigments in hollows on the floor. The clays were then mixed with water, albumen, animal fat and blood to create complex paints. The paints were then applied with chewed ends of twigs, feathers and animal hair, or smeared and dabbed using the hands and pads from mosses and lichen. They were also applied by blowing paint through reeds and hollow bones. Those people traveled great distances to collect the material necessary to create those works, thus putting their life in peril. One can only conclude that expressing thought through painting must have been extremely important to those early earth dwellers. They not only painted the walls and ceilings of caves, but also their tools, clothing and bodies.

There are several theories as to why so much time and energy was expended to create early forms of art. One emphasizes pleasure, and story telling. Another is based on the belief that painting a picture of a successful hunt would help to achieve it. Yet, another is artistic symbolism that represented things that were unfamiliar, had mystical powers, and were difficult to communicate to others.

Sendai. Natorigawa. If one made it to the bridge they survived. If not…

What is truth? Ernest Hemingway, John Lennon and Bruce Lee had one thing in common. All of them were atheists. Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed had one thing in common. They were not!

Today, what is truth to an Israeli is a fairytale to the Palestinians. What’s truth to a protestant is heresy to a Catholic. Writers of the Talmud sentenced Jesus to an eternal vat of boiling excrement. Likewise, Jesus placed his enemies into an eternal lake of fire. Historical revisionists are ridiculed for demanding educational institutions “rewrite” history in an accurate manner, based on fact, not in the perspective of those that have the most to gain financially, religiously, or politically. On the other hand institutions that make billions by continuing to promote historical fabrications are strictly opposed to change. One thing is certain… If there isn’t a whole lot of truth to be told, there certainly is a lot of creative license regarding it.

Is it possible for art to accurately depict truth? Do movies accurately represent the best-selling book the film had been derived from? Does a documentary film accurately depict opposing arguments of a dispute? No! They’re skewed to the perspective the writer/director wants to convey to the audience, or that of the financial entity producing that work.

In an essay by Leo Tolstoy titled, What Is Art, Tolstoy argued against aesthetic theories that define art in terms of good, truth, and beauty. In Tolstoy’s opinion, art was corrupt and decadent, and intellectuals misled the artist who sought their finance, favor and social status.

According to Tolstoy, art must create an emotional bond between the artist and the audience. Tolstoy believed art embraces any human activity. Tolstoy offers as an example, a boy who experienced fear after an encounter with a wolf. He later relates that experience, infecting the listener and compelling them to feel the same fear he had experienced. To Tolstoy this is a perfect example of art as it clearly communicates, is sincere, and is singular, focused on a particular emotion. Tolstoy condemned Wagner and Beethoven as examples of overly cerebral artists who lacked true emotion. Tolstoy wrote that Beethoven’s, Symphony No. 9 merely pretends at a feeling of unity and therefore is not good art.

The music room inside a destroyed high school revealed Ryoh’s Guitar. An aside: I contacted every major music company offering to deliver new equipment to thirty-seven destroyed schools. None accepted the offer. Most never even bothered to respond.

Another problem with a great deal of “art” is that it reproduces past models, and as a result it is not properly rooted in a contemporary and sincere expression of the most enlightened cultural ideals of the artist’s time and place. To cite one example, ancient Greek art extolled virtues of strength, masculinity, and heroism according to the values derived from its mythology. However, Christianity embraces the virtues of the meek and humble. Tolstoy therefore believed it is impossible for modern society to embrace tradition forms of art. He also believed that art should not be considered a means to pleasure or to consider it as one of the conditions of human life. The activity of art is based on the fact that a man, receiving through his sense of hearing or sight another man’s expression of feeling, is capable of experiencing the emotion, which moved the man who expressed it. If a man laughs, and another hears it, he becomes merry. If a man weeps, and another hears it, he feels sorrow.

Steven Pressfield in his, The War of Art wrote, “To labor in the arts for any reason other than love is prostitution.” Elbert Hubbard wrote, “Art is not a thing—it is a way.” Michelangelo said, “The artist must be the sponsor of thought in whatever endeavor people take on, at every level.”

After years of representing artists, studying “art”, and creating music, lyrics, poetry, stories, illustrations, and photography, I’m still no closer to understanding what art truly is. I can only assert in it’s simplest form art is subjective, and therefore means something different to everyone. I do believe however that art and tragedy coexist, and that the former could not exist without the latter.

What is art? Art is a tool. It’s an integral extension of tragedy, and it communicates in a manner that the event in and of itself cannot. A true artist does their best to infect our emotions. Sometimes they’re successful at it, and sometimes they fail. Art forces us to look at what we don’t want to see, or believe, and consider alternatives. I think that’s what art’s greatest gift is.

Art is many things to many people. It’s a snapshot of the world in an expressive form perceived by the creator, and conveyed to the audience. Once submitted, the audience determines to accept it as art, or not. If I may borrow a couple of Japanese words, I’d say that art is, dozo – domo, meaning “here you are” and “thank you”. If these two conditions are met, it is art. Or not!

The following link takes the reader to Stack Jones photography that was shot during Japan’s 3.11.11. triple disaster. Many images have never been exhibited before. The comments in the timeline share Jones’ personal experience while shooting Japan’s worst disaster since experts began keeping records. http://stackjones.com/photography.htm.

Daini: The cheap price of nuclear power. The first nuclear facility to report failure remains offline. The evacuated town remains inside the 30km zone.

This article originally ran in the March, 2014 edition of the Tokyo Weekender magazine. http://tokyoweekender.com/2014/03/when-worlds-collide-art-and-tragedy.

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Jigokudani Yaen-Koen: Snow Monkey Paradise In Hell Valley

A snow monkey takes a dip in the Yokoyu River hot spring. Photo credit Stack Jones.

Jigokudani means Hell Valley in Japanese, and received this moniker long before monkeys began monkeying around in the Yokoyu River. The valley in this region of Nagano Prefecture has steep cliffs, with hot water that steams when it comes to the surface. Jigokudani-koen is the only place on earth where monkeys bath.

The snow monkeys aren’t the only attraction in the park. The Jigokudani fountain of Shibu is a national monument that has been venting hot water for centuries. In 1783, it abruptly halted when Mount Asama erupted. Mount Asama is the most active volcano in the Honshu region and has erupted several times since the early 1980s. 
Eruption of volcanic activities that results in steam is known as Jigoku (Hell) phenomenon. The water that erupts is salty spring yet crystal clear. The pristine water from this area supplies Shibu-onsen and Kanbayashi-onsen. Another onsen, Korakukan opened in 1864 and is considered a therapeutic bathing facility.

About two hundred Japanese Macaque call this place home. The monkeys form close bonds with others in the group. Some of their facial expressions, and mannerism are very humanlike. It’s truly an amazing place to visit.

A mother affectionately cuddles her offspring. Photo credit Stack Jones.

Despite the close proximity between human interaction and the monkey business that goes on at the park, tourists are warned not to touch or to make eye contact with the local inhabitants. This is because the monkeys may feel threatened, and try to scare or even bite in response. In monkey society, direct eye contact is a sign of hostility, and aggression. Visitors are also warned not to feed the animals, as they would inevitably expect a handout from everyone. In the past the monkeys have also been known to steal handbags, and other items. So, keep in mind that these are wild animals. They are not pets. In that, the monkeys were incredibly docile and quite used to the presence of humans.

When did the monkeys begin using the hot spring? Local facilitators of the park began to artificially feed the monkeys as far back as 1964. As a result, the monkeys stay longer in the park, and have more free time to relax while waiting for their next feeding. One cold day, a younger monkey went into the water. Others began to follow. It wasn’t long before the majority of the monkeys started to bath. Despite becoming famous for being water creatures, some do not like bathing at all. However, on very cold days, many will bath for a couple hours at a time.

Monkeys that live in such extreme weather conditions are unique in the world. It’s believed the monkey’s bath in the hot water due to the extreme winter elements, as they don’t seem to bath during the summer season.

Since the establishment of Jigokudani Yaen-koen in 1964, visiting the monkeys has become an attraction for tourist from all over the world. The “snow monkeys” have also become one of the most famous animals of Japanese folk tales, nursery rhymes, and proverbs according to the Jigokudani Yaen-koen website.

The Japanese Macaque has a pinkish face and bottom. Their coloring changes to bright red during copulation. There’s a strong bond between members of a group, especially among females and their babies. There is no noticeable hierarchy among the group. It’s reported that they rely on each other in just about every aspect of their life. The Macaque are not entirely peaceful. They do have conflicts and often receive injuries as a result of those episodes.

At times the Japanese Macaque exhibit very human like behavior. Photo credit Stack Jones.

Usually the larger offspring dominate the others. Not so with the snow monkeys. Among brothers and sisters, younger ones receive a higher ranking under their mother’s protection. This became immediately noticeable to me as during feeding time the younger monkeys were chasing off others that were quite larger. I found that humorous. It’s said that the mother’s protection exists to avoid fighting within the group. This does not infer that the higher-ranking monkeys have superiority over the ones that appear to have a lower ranking.

I discovered through literature provided by the park that the snow monkeys mainly communicate through sight. They read mood by observing other monkey’s expression and emotion. 
Although it’s not considered language, they use sounds to warn other of danger, to intimidate intruders from other groups, and to signal their presence. It’s said they express their feelings through variations of tone and volume. According to the park staff, the monkeys have an amazing ability to “read between the lines.”

The monkeys of Jigokudani Yaen-koen don’t sleep in dens. Of course, animals that sleep in den usually purge outside the den. As a result, the monkeys “go” anywhere. So, be careful where you walk. You’ve been warned.

The Macaque sleep in the safety of steep cliffs or branches of a tree. They huddle with immediate family members or their closest friends. They also hold hands and legs while sleeping together. Few sleep alone.

The monkeys are fed barley, soybeans and even apples, depending on the season. Barley and soybean are a preferred source of food for the monkeys who usually eat grass, tree leaves and flowers. In autumn the monkeys have a greater variety of food such as grapes and chestnuts that they can easily find in abundance in the nearby mountains. To keep them around, the caretakers dole out apples to entice them to stay. I learned that the snow monkeys generally are not attracted to human food. Obviously, feeding is intended to entice the monkeys to stay in the park, which attracts tourists. But it is also a way to keep them under observation, and to study their behavior in as close to a natural habitat as possible.

Things to remember

  • Monkeys are wild animals therefore visitors should follow the rules.
  • Do not show or give monkeys any food.
  • Do not touch
. The monkeys are not pets.
  • Do not make them nervous. Otherwise they may terrorize or bite.
  • Do not stare. Staring and opening one’s mouth is a sign of hostility.
  • Do not get too close to them. 
Curious babies come close. In those cases step away as soon as possible.
  • No dogs, cats or other pets are allowed in the park.
  • Photos and video recordings are permissible. 
Handle equipment with care.
  • Do not get too close when taking photos.

Below is a link to a more in depth reading about the Japanese Macaque that inhabit Jigokudani Yaen-koen. http://jigokudani-yaenkoen.co.jp/english/html/jigokudani_geology.htm.

Directions: From Nagano take a bus or train to Yudanaka. A bus service from Yudanaka runs to Kanbayashi Onsen Iriguchi. There’s a great museum up the hill from the bus stop. It’s free! There are great photos on display in that museum. The walk to Jigokudani Yaen-koen is approximately another thirty-minutes. It’s a fantastic journey in the winter and the entrance fee is insignificant for the amount of pleasure and excitement you will receive. March is said to be the best time to go. So what are you waiting for?

For more information contact:
Jigokudani Yaen-koen Inc.
6845 Yamanouchi-machi Shimotakai-gun
, Nagano Japan 381-0401
Phone: 0269.33.4379.

The Jigokudani Yaen-koen photo gallery. Photo credits Stack Jones.

This article originally ran in the March, 2014 edition of the Tokyo Weekender magazine. http://tokyoweekender.com/2014/03/snow-monkey-paradise-in-hell-valley-jigokudani-yaen-koen.

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Autumn In Tochigi: Nikko Now!

Nikko National Park. A view of Kegon Falls, and Lake Chuzenji from atop Akechidaira cable car ride. Photo credit Stack Jones.

If there were ever an occasion to visit Tochigi’s celebrated Nikko National Park this would be the perfect time to do it. Nikko is at the height of expression this season, exploding in a vast array of yellows, orange, and red hues. Welcome to autumn in Japan! If you’re planning to visit Nikko this autumn, you’ll need to make arrangements soon, as the cool weather has already set in, and the remarkable visuals won’t last much longer.

Some of the most popular attractions in Nikko include Lake Chuzenji, which is located in the Nikko National Park. Lake Chuzenji has some of the clearest, and purest water in the country. Chuzen is also the burial site of Japan’s most famous Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and his grandson Tokugawa Iemitsu. There are also shrines in Nikko that date as far back as 766. The region also boasts some of Japan’s finest hot spring (onsen) locations in Japan.

Irhoha Zaka is the winding road that leads to the top of Nikko National Park, and eventually down into the towns below. It reminded me a lot of Estes Park, Colorado. I was told not to drive to Nikko this time of year due to the large amount of tourist related traffic in the region. As a result, I made plans to take the train, but somehow, at the last moment, literally as I was heading out the door, I decided to take my chances on the crowds, and drive.

Kegon Falls. Photo credit Stack Jones.

Although there is ample transportation in Nikko, such as the local bus that could take you to many of the park’s destinations, there is truly nothing more pleasing than having the freedom to of a car, to stop on a whim. Despite the warnings of heavy traffic, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the roads were nearly empty. The only place traffic got a bit heavy was approaching the top of Akechidaira, and that was only due to limited parking spaces available. After a mere five minutes of waiting, I found an empty space, parked, and was soon on a cable car heading to the top of Akechidaira, and to a wonderful view of Kegon Falls, and Lake Chuzen.

The Akechidaira cable car, which is reasonably priced at 710 yen, welcomes viewers to the most breathtaking view of the park from the top of the mountain. At the top of Akechidaira one shares a breathtaking view of Kegon Falls, Chuzen Lake, and the expansive valley below. If there were only one attraction to see at Nikko this would have to be the one to choose.

Kegon Falls is absolutely beautiful. However, I’d say if there were anything unremarkable about Kegon Falls, it would be the elevator that takes one to the bottom of the falls. The cost is a mere 310 ¥. Some may find this attractive. I didn’t. I feel that if one is to experience such a wonderful natural site, it should be earned by trekking in, like one would expect to reach the top of Yosemite Falls.

Nikko National Park. Photo credit Stack Jones.

The elevator is one of those quirks of Japan that you have to get used to. It appears that during the 1980s bubble era “miracle” economy of Japan someone had nothing better to do with their money that to, uh… build an elevator that lead to the best view of the falls. Other than this oddity, I’d say Nikko is one of the most spectacular places to visit in Japan. It surely rivals some of the world’s most beautiful locations. Therefore, Nikko definitely earned its position as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites. In fact, I’ve already made plans to head back in a couple days. Yes, I’ll be driving.

Nikko is also famous for the Three Wise Monkeys that are located at the Toshogu Shrine. I had my own experience with Nikko monkeys, which are notoriously famous for their aggressive behavior toward unsuspecting tourists.

While driving around Lake Chuzenji, I stopped at a remote area to take photos of an isolated dock that stretched out toward the open, and clear water. To my surprise, I spotted approximately two hundred monkeys, far off in a clearing to my right. I was stunned by the numbers, and thought it couldn’t be too difficult to get a few shots of those capricious creatures.

Nikko National Park forest. Photo credit Stack Jones.

I slapped a 400mm lens on my new Nikon D800, grabbed my tripod, and prepared to take some easy shots. But as soon as I opened the car door to exit, and without my feet even hitting the ground, one of the monkeys howled a warning to the others. Instantly, the entire group bolted up to the top of the steep mountain that was to the south of them. They did this with great ease. In a matter of seconds they disappeared over the top. I thought I’d climb to the top of that mountain, and get a few good shots of monkeys in the obscured valley that stretched out below. Ha! No such luck.

I followed the fresh trail the group had left behind. Huffing, and puffing, I finally made it to the top of the mountain that the monkeys had cleared with great ease. I thought I was about to receive my great reward of the day. Yet, nothing could have been further from the truth. Just as I got a glimpse over the top of the mountain, a lone centurion howled below to the rest of the group. I viewed nothing but an empty valley. I quickly looked back to where the centurion had been, but he too was gone. I looked up into the trees, and all around me. There weren’t any monkeys to be found.

That was a very humbling experience. It was clear those monkeys weren’t about to share in any of my monkey business. The sun was about to set over the distant mountains, and its remaining light cast a final illumination over the quiet and still valley. The colors were breathtaking. I didn’t get a shot of the monkeys, but I did experience some of the best autumn colors I have ever seen. I also had the wrong lens with me for a shot of that valley. Mocking my own ineptness, I suddenly thought about the bears that were known to inhabit that region. I didn’t want to end up a final meal before their long hibernation. So, I decided to take a quick jaunt back to Lake Chuzen for some final evening shots. When I got to Lake Chuzen, not only were there no monkeys, but there were also no people either.  So much for the heavy tourist crowds that I was warned about.

Kegon Falls. A bizarre twist to this photo is that I had to pay, and then ride an escalator to get here. There’s something anti-climatic when no energy is spent trekking to such a location. Photo credit Stack Jones.

I made a lens change, and quickly found myself at the edge of the lake and walking out onto the dock. I thought that it just doesn’t get better than this.  Nature in its purest form, a solitary man, a camera, and diminishing light.

This article originally ran in the November 6th, 2012 edition of the Tokyo Weekender.
http://tokyoweekender.com/2012/11/nikko-in-autumn.

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Tomita Isao: Ihatov’s Utopia Envisioned

A photo of synth composer, Tomita Isao taken during the Nippon Columbia Records interview with Stack Jones. Photo credit Stack Jones.

On January 23rd, Nippon Columbia Records will release Isao Tomita’s Symphony Ihatov, World Premier Live Recording. The project features the smash sensation, vocaloid soloist Miku Hatsune, and will be released via iTunes to forty-one countries.

Isao Tomita’s new magnum opus, Symphony Ihatov debuted November 23rd at the Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall. The performance comprised appearances by Tomita himself, along with Hiroyuki Ito, the president of Crypton Future Media, the creators of the smash vocaloid and visual sensation, Miku Hatsune, as well as Motokazu Shinoda, the synthesizer artist who conducted Miku in this wondrous technically, and aurally pleasing achievement. The concert also included two choirs, and Japan’s finest musicians, courtesy of the Japan Philharmonie Orchestra. This musical masterpiece was conducted by none other than the world-renowned, Naoto Ootomo.

As if that amount of talent wasn’t enough to guarantee an outstanding evening, the entire performance was also broadcasted online, via Tower Records Japan’s new Live Stream Broadcast that’s operates out of Shibuya. The virtual audience that tuned in for this event numbered more than 13,500.

Tomita’s Symphony Ihatov is based on the celebrated Japanese author, Kenji Miyazawa’s euphoric children’s prose. Tomita, as a child, was greatly influenced by the works of Miyazawa. In the 1940’s, during World War II, Tomita turned inward, creating his own euphoric existence, which was the direct result of the world that surrounded him; a world permanently altered by the U.S. relentless air raids that decimated Tokyo, as well as Miyazawa’s hometown in Iwate.

Tomita, who spent his early childhood growing up in China, questioned the harsh environment that surrounded him, as did Miyazawa. Ihatov is the name Miyazawa gave Iwate, in honor of his great devotion for the land of his birth. Likewise, Ihatov is the name Tomita gave to his latest symphony, in honor of Miyazawa’s work.

I first became familiar with Tomita’s synthetic rendition of DeBussy’s Arabesque No. 1 when I was just a child. The music was the theme to Jack Horkheimer’s Star Hustler, a hugely successful astrological TV show that was produced in my hometown of Miami, by the Miami Space Transit Planetarium. The show, which aired on PBS was a mere five minutes in length, but it left the audience with an indelible memory that would forever credit Tomita as the creator of the modern age genre of space music.

On December 12th, I was fortunate to have received an invitation to interview Tomita at Nippon Columbia Japan by Shotaro Kaizuka, who has worked diligently on Tomita’s new release. Of course I jumped at the opportunity to interview Japan’s most celebrated musical genius. Joshua Brown, and Michikazu Ichikawa, who did a great job interpreting the interview, also assisted me in this endeavor.

So here it is, an interview with Japan’s most famous musician, the legendary, (and very cool I might add), Isao Tomita.

Stack Jones. In April of this year, you turned eighty. Yet, you just released this huge production titled, Symphony Ihatov. How long was this project in the works, and when did it first begin to take shape?

Isao Tomita. Actually, I won’t be into my eighties until next April. So, I’m still a very young man. As far as Symphony Ihatov, I began the orchestrations around May, and finalized the project in November.

Stack Jones. What was the inspiration for the project?

Isao Tomita. Back in the 1940’s I was reading books that were written by Miyazawa Kenji. I recall that they had great philosophical concepts that were easily understood by children. So, his work has always stayed with me.

Stack Jones. You used the vocalist Miku Hatsune, which was created by Hiroyuki Ito, of Crypton Future Media. Miku is a hugely popular virtual vocalist. She’s receives millions and millions of views on YouTube. Simply amazing!

Tomita. Yes, I had no idea that she was so popular. So, I was very pleased that she agreed to work with me.

(Everyone at the interview laughed at this statement.)

Stack Jones. Seriously, how did this collaboration come about?

Isao Tomita. Miyazawa’s character was supposed to be a boy, but in reality it was a girl. A tomboy! A very boyish girl! So, in creating the symphony, I wanted a voice that could capture that part of Miyazawa’s character. When writing this symphony, I also felt that the human voice was incapable of capturing that sentiment.

Stack Jones. What I’ve noticed listening to Miku’s voice is that she often projects sexuality, and is very powerful performance, yet in Symphony Ihatov, she’s much more fragile, and her voice, alien, yet more childlike.

Isao Tomita. One of the great qualities of Miku is that this character doesn’t have a defined personality. As a result, the end user has the ability to give her a variety of characteristics. That’s was one of the main reasons that I wanted to work with Miku’s creators. As a result of this attribute, Miku is open to a vast array of individualized interpretation.

Stack Jones. Yes, her voice in Symphony Ihatov blended very naturally with the youthful choir that sang during the live performance.

Isao Tomita. (smiles, and nods in agreement).

Stack Jones. What audience was Symphony Ihatov intended for?

Tomita. I didn’t have a particular audience in mind when I composed this music, or when I decided to work with Miku.

Stack Jones. Did you create this symphony as a memorial to the disaster that took place in Tohoku where Iwate is located?

Tomita. No, this project is based on Miyazawa’s literature. I did have the people of Iwate on my mind when I was working on it, but I didn’t create Symphony Ihatov to give Iwate courage, or to inspire them either. It’s up to the audience to feel as if they are inspired in that way or not. It’s up to the audience to decide for themselves.

Stack Jones. When did you first commit yourself to creating music that would be attributed to Miyazawa’s work?

Tomita. I first realized that I wanted to do something with Miyazawa’s literature about ten years ago. As you know, Miyazawa’s writing did not exist as music; it was just, kind of like a vague character that needed a medium of full expression. So, I decided to create a soloist that could turn his work into something much more tangible. Mostly, though, I wanted to create a character that would actually represent the sentiments of Miyazawa’s work in a musical form.

Stack Jones. Well, you definitely accomplished that.

Tomita. (laughing) Well, actually at the time, I didn’t know that Miku was so famous.

Stack Jones. Until I began to research for this interview, I didn’t know that either. Let’s go back a little in time. On the website tomitaisao.net, you credit Switched On Bach, by Wendy Carlos as the catalyst that drove you toward wanting to create synthesizer oriented music. What was the immediate impact on you when you heard Carlos’ work for the first time?

Tomita Pull

Tomita. It was the fact that music could be created with this new instrument, or machine. That there was now an endless ability to create sounds that had never been heard before, and without limit to shaping their tonality. I was impressed with this new reality, that music could be interpreted with so much color, and this machine, which was called the Moog Synthesizer was the means to this end. Bach was a great composer to work with on this new medium. Bach’s music has many lines that blend together and there is so much room for creativity.

Stack Jones. Your Snowflakes Are Dancing was released in 1974. You recorded this album in over a fourteen-month period, performing each note in individually, or in mono form, which was the only way a synthesizer could be played at that time. This was well before we had polyphonic synthesizers. So, how difficult was it to be the engineer, the producer, the composer, arranger, and musician on this project? And to have such impeccable timing while layering all these tracks together?

Tomita. I don’t make that distinction in my mind between the different roles in creating a final product. I feel it’s more like an artist that applies each of the colors to a painting until the final work is completed. It’s like when someone plays a traditional folk instrument, like the biwa, singing and playing, or performing both roles simultaneously, in addition to the other skills, such as composing, arranging, and the like.

Stack Jones. Rick Wakeman’s synthesizer work on the Yes, And You And I album was one of the pieces of music that drew me into the world of synthesizers. You had the opportunity to work with Rick Wakeman on the Nagoya Sound Cloud Project. How were you introduced to Rick Wakeman, and how did you end up collaborating?

Tomita. On the Sound Cloud Project, we didn’t actually play together. We performed individually, and then I brought the entire project together. The place that this event took place was shaped like a dome, and we placed many video screens around the dome. I wanted it to look like a UFO, and that the video screens were the spaceship windows that looked out onto the universe that surrounded us. Rick’s contribution to the project was Mahler’s Symphony No. 2. He actually played the piano on the piece. Alan Paul of Manhattan Transfer was one of the producers of the event. He has an amazing ability as a producer.

One of the ideas was that Manhattan Transfer was a rock band from outer space, and they would knock on the windows of the spaceship trying to get in, so they could perform as well.

[Some time after our interview Rick Wakeman responded to one of my emails: He says, “I had the great pleasure of working with Tomita in Japan some years ago and it was an absolute joy. The man is a tremendous musician with a unique style that is passionate, and one that he is dedicated to. On top of that he is a true gentleman.”]

Stack Jones. When we think of Tomita, we think of you as the father of synth, space, and ambient music. This began in 1974 when Snowflakes Are Dancing, which was nominated for several Grammys.

Tomita. When I was a child, Japan was closed to western music. This was during the time World War II was happening. At the end of the war, a lot of western music started to be broadcast on the radio. Jazz, pop songs, and classical music was filling the airwaves of Japan. To me, that music sounded like it was coming from aliens in outer space. That was really what I thought. I thought I was listening to music from outer space. It was difficult to find your own identity at that time.

Stack Jones. In 1969, a struggling British musician trying to find his own identity, named David Bowie released a single called, Space Oddity. This song was released at the time the U.S. astronaut, Neil Armstrong was making the first moonwalk. Elton John openly admits that his 1972 song, Rocket Man was a rip off of David Bowies successful tune. I’m curious if Bowie’s Space Oddity played an integral role in introducing you to space music?

Tomita. Is that the song where an astronaut went into space and wasn’t able to return?

Stack Jones. Yes. Was it this new pop genre, or would you credit Holst’s, Planets, composed between 1914, and 1916, as the inspiration that moved you into the direction of this new futuristic medium?

Tomita. It was most definitely The Planets.

Stack Jones. Ironically, Holst’s daughter refused the release of your Planets. Why did she block the release of this work of yours?

Tomita. Holst’s daughter was very rigid about how her father’s work was interpreted. She didn’t object to the synthesizers, she just didn’t want her father’s work rearranged differently from the way he had originally intended. So, it wasn’t the synthesizer that she didn’t like. She also objected to the way the piece was arranged for ballet performances.

Stack Jones. Well, not so surprising your rendition of Holst’s, The Planets has become a collector’s item, and it’s extremely rare to find a copy. Yet, it’s very popular on video sites like YouTube. Ironically, your Planets is in high demand, and all comments regarding the album are extremely positive.

(Tomita didn’t know that his music is shared all over the world and that his music is posted on numerous websites.)

Stack Jones: Your version of Mars, The Bringer Of Wars is led in with electronic voices that sound as if they were communicating in preparation for an attack. It really pulls the listener in. Then, suddenly those voices begin to sing in unison. At that point the audience doesn’t know what to expect. Then… the alarm and a countdown in alien voices, and then an explosion. It was surreal to hear for the first time. Simply genius!

Tomita. I actually recorded those voices in a unique way. I recorded them onto a tape recorder, and then drove up to the 5th station of Mt. Fuji. I broadcasted the voices through a transceiver, and then recorded them as I drove down to the ocean. I learned later that there was a military base nearby. I was worried that I might have interfered with their broadcasting frequencies. Looks like I was OK though. (laughter)

Stack Jones. Do you plan to ever release your version of The Planets?

Tomita. Actually, Columbia has rereleased The Planets with new horns parts. I was never happy with the original ones.

Stack Jones. Switched On Bach was credited to Walter Carlos in March of 1968. Of course, Walter turned out to be Wendy who had worked with Robert Moog to create the first synth demonstration for his new product. That first Moog appeared on the cover of the album, which you credited on your website for introducing you to synth music. Your website says your first synthesizer was a Moog III synth. Do you recall that particular equipment?

Tomita. I didn’t even know there is a Tomita website.

Stack Jones. Do you recall your first synthesizer? The name?

Tomita. The Moog was sold in modules, not as a single piece of equipment. So, the modules didn’t have any particular name as I recall. Plugging those different modules into the tower and creating different sounds was something that each musician had to do themselves. It was hard work, but you could also create your own unique sound and skill that way, it was a part of the creative process.

Stack Jones. Today, most original analog equipment is extremely difficult to find, and if it is found, and in good working condition, extremely costly for the average musician.

Tomita. In those days it was very expensive to obtain that equipment, as the rate of exchange was ¥ 366 to 1.00 U.S. dollar. When the equipment was shipped to Japan, it couldn’t be categorized as music equipment, so it would often spend weeks held up in customs. I went into great debt to purchase those modules. I really don’t want to talk about that. But, rather, I’d like to say that one could purchase those various Moog modules in pieces, and combine them together. That’s what I did.

Stack Jones. For years, artists and the industry pushed digital equipment and digital productions. At one time you abandoned the analog world in favor of this new medium as well. Do you find it ironic that all that classic equipment is finding its way back into production?

Tomita. No. Because there are no limits to what sound can be created with that equipment.

Stack Jones. Today, which medium do you prefer?

Tomita. Most definitely the analog equipment, but today all of it is useless. None of the equipment that I had works any longer.

Stack Jones. In your earlier years, did you feel restrained in creating as a result of expensive analog equipment that was generally out of the financial reach of an average musician? Also, how difficult did you find it to create single – mono notes in multi-chord structures?

Tomita. That equipment was extremely difficult to use. For example, there were no presets back then, so when you created a sound, it was very difficult to go back and recreate it. As a result, you couldn’t make any errors in recording, because there would be no way to go back and get that same tone again. Recording was very troublesome as recording tracks, on top of each other, in multiple layers was extremely difficult. I had to master timing. I had to record in perfect time. That was extremely difficult.

Stack Jones. Do you have any advice for people who create music today? Should they be using the analog equipment everyone is trying to find, or is the digital medium preferred?

Tomita. I think it doesn’t really matter whether one has a collection of digital or analog equipment. What matters most is putting together sounds that people will enjoy hearing. I don’t think in terms of digital and analog, I think that digital music is really just a continuation, another extension of the analog music that came before it.

Stack Jones. My favorite Tomita albums are:

1974. DeBussy’s pieces which created Snowflakes Are Dancing.

1975. Mussorgsky, Pictures At An Exhibition.

1975. Stravinsky, The Firebird Suite.

1976. Holst, The Planets.

1984. Pachelbel’s Canon In D MajorCanon Of The Three Stars.

Stack Jones. Incredibly, any of these albums could be released today, and still sound as if they were recently produced. This is an astonishing feat. There is a definite timeliness to the albums you have created.

Tomita. (smiles)

Stack Jones. Many people credit you for introducing them to classical music; music they otherwise had no interest in. Does that make you feel you’ve accomplished something unique?

Tomita. If that is true, then I do feel good about that.

Stack Jones. What do you feel is your most significant work?

Tomita. Holst’s, The Planets.

Stack Jones. Is there anything you’d change if you could? Is their something different that you would have liked to have done creatively, or professionally?

Tomita. I’m pleased that The Planets was recently rereleased. This was a very difficult project, and now with the new horns, I’m pleased with the results.

Stack Jones. Do you get more pleasure from your own work, or interpreting a classic?

Tomita. I enjoy both, but The Planets is my favorite work.

Stack Jones. What is your favorite piano, or synthesizer today?

Tomita. I believe feelings, hearts, and emotions are important to creating music. Not the instruments, or the equipment.

Stack Jones. What future projects do you have planned?

Tomita. I’m continuing to work with Columbia on updating some of my albums and remixing them to 5.1 surround sound.

Stack Jones. Is there a studio recording planned for Symphony Ihatov?

Tomita. This is a live recording project.

Stack Jones. When I was a child the American TV show, Jack Horkheimer Star Hustler, which ironically was produce in my hometown of Miami, used your rendition of DeBussy’s Arabesque No. 1 as the shows musical theme. This show, which was a mere five minutes in length, introduced millions of Americans to your work. Although Snowflakes Are Dancing was nominated for several Grammy’s, it was Star Hustler that introduced your work overseas. Are you aware of this show?

Tomita. I don’t know that show.

Stack Jones. Jack Horkheimer died in August of 2010. Did you ever have the chance to meet him?

Tomita. I have never heard of him.

Stack Jones. How do you feel when you’re working on a musical project? Do you get emotional, do you find yourself laughing, at something you’ve discovered? Are you filled with other emotions? What emotion would you say best describes how you feel during the creative process?

Tomita. There are errors in everything I have done. It’s frustrating. So, I do the best I can to cover those mistakes in the mix.

(I asked the translators if there was anything they’d like to ask Tomita. Michikazu Ichikawa made the following statement, in which Tomita responded.)

Michikazu Ichikawa. Your work has received great praise from people worldwide. When The Planets, and Pictures At An Exhibition were released I was a university student. I’ve been listening to these albums for almost forty years now. Much of your work is based on the classics, not Japanese music. But when we Japanese listen to your music, we feel something nostalgic and are impressed deeply, even though these are European pieces. What is the origin of your creative ability?

Tomita. When I was a child, it was during the war. I, like all Japanese had no information except that which was broadcasted by the national military. In order to receive bombing alert information, and where the U.S. had been targeting, we had to turn on the radio and listen during all hours of the night. On one occasion I recall hearing new sounds which were alien to me, and which I had never heard coming from the radio before. I think those sounds were from U.S., and allied aircraft carriers that were getting closer to the Japan islands. I was inspired by those sounds, and this was the catalyst that began the creative spirit within me.

During World War II, we Japanese had nothing and were poor, but we kept our rural culture and traditions and relationships alive. I spent my youth during that time being filled with that rural culture. So, both those foreign new sounds, and the rural Japanese culture was my origin, the beginning of me as a creator of music.

Stack Jones. Is there any music, such as a musical that you recall, or that you really enjoyed?

Tomita. When I first heard The Sound Of Music, I really thought it came from another planet. Today it’s hard to imagine, but it really seemed like it was music from another world.

Stack Jones. Are there any other musicals you enjoy listening to?

Tomita. I like Pajama Game, and South Pacific, as well as The Sound Of Music.

Stack Jones. One last thought… How would you like to be remembered?
Tomita. (smile) No response.

For more information on Tomita’s musical releases visit: http://columbia.jp/ihatov.

This article originally ran in the January, 2013 edition of the Tokyo Weekender magazine. http://tokyoweekender.com/2013/01/isao-tomita-qa.

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Takashi And Maru

The blue plastic tarp shantytown that exists near Senju’s Arakawa River. Photo credit Stack Jones.

I received an email last Friday from Ric O’Barry simply stating, “I’m on a plane heading to Tokyo. Call when I get there.”

Ric is a man of few words, but as many of us know, he works tirelessly for an important cause. As he likes to put it, “If we can’t protect the environment of an important species like dolphin, then we can’t protect ourselves.” While some might say this is a doom, and gloom approach to a possible future scenario that we all will face, Ric remains optimistic. “We can do this, it’s not difficult. We just have to care.”

Ric was on his way to Japan to work on his next project. A concert that could end up being larger than the Rolling Coconut Review, which took place in April of 1977. RCR was the first concert to have Japanese and western superstars performing on stage together. At that time Japanese acts were relegated to the opening slot.

The RCR was a benefit concert for Japan Celebrates the Whale, organized by Ric. The concert featured Jackson Browne, John Sebastian, Richie Havens, Odetta, Warren Zevon, Eric Andersen, Lonnie Mack, Japanese folk singer and actor Izumiya Shigeru, and a jazz-funk band with keyboardist Richard Tee, drummer Steve Gadd, guitarist Eric Gale, guitarist Cornell Dupree and bassist Gordon Edwards.

What people didn’t know about that concert, was Japanese products were being boycotted, and Japanese abroad were getting beaten as a result of the boycott. Ric stepped in to stop the violence aimed at the Japanese.

By now you’re probably starting to wonder, how all of this relates to an article titled, Takashi And Maru? OK, fair enough!

While heading to Shinjuku to meet Ric, I passed Minami Senju, as I have done so many times before. I always look out across the Arakawa River, to get a glimpse of the ever expanding, plastic blue tarp homeless community that exists, right there on the river. I also notice that the Japanese, never notice, or pretend not to notice. Today, armed with two cameras, and HD video, I decided that I would be going there after meeting Ric.

The nearby Edo River. Photo credit Stack Jones.

The Arakawa River sits between Kita Senju, and Minami Senju. Most people in that region pass over the river on either the TX Line, or the Hibiya Line, with the homeless shantytown in full view. Often, people going to Kita Senju will be on their way to Disneyland, “The happiest place on earth.”

At the end of my interview with Ric, I made my way back to the river. I got off the Hibiya Line at Minami Senju, and walked toward the Arakawa River, which was actually a lot further than I thought.

I finally came upon a huge wall with fences, and steep hills that obscured the location. I climbed the steep hill, to get a bearing on where I was, and there it was, right before me. I stood there for a few minutes, taking it all in, as endless trains passed overhead. It wouldn’t be long before the sun would set, so I have to hurry.

The first thing I noticed was a huge pile of trash, neatly and properly broken down in the myriad of categories the Japanese government expects. Then, I realized that these invisible people took the effort and expense to properly store their debris, yet the government hadn’t bothered to take the time to haul it away.

Then I noticed a bicycle, or footpath leading to the makeshift homes. It was clear of debris. I took that path, and quickly found myself surrounded by several blue tarp sites that looked more like camps than a home. Most were very clean and organized. Some were very sophisticated with solar lights, radios, sleeping areas, furnishings, and areas to sit, relax and eat. There was even a smoking area.

It was especially touching for me to see how these people adapted to their surroundings, because when I was in law school, I lived in San Diego, but commuted to San Bernardino to attend classes. The commute was five hours in normal traffic, impossible if it was backed up. I often stayed late into the evening studying at the library, and was often the last person to leave. I drove a truck, and decided to purchase the equipment necessary to sleep in the back of my truck. There was a YMCA gym very close to the school, which was perfect for working out, and showering. Fortunately, my traveling lifestyle made this arrangement quite easy for me to adapt to. In that, I survived the California wildfires snowing gray ash on me for several days, a few snow falls, rain, bitterly cold winter nights, and even a late night car (truck) jacking attempt by gang members wearing hats and hoods that covered their faces. (I held up my cell phone pretending it was a gun. Luckily for me, I didn’t accidentally hit one of the buttons that would have lit up the phone, and revealed its true purpose. The criminal miscreants bought the act, and moved on.)

A garden maintained by the homeless who reside on Senju’s Arakawa River. Photo credit Stack Jones.

As I made my way through the shantytown, I quickly found myself at the river’s edge. Here, there was an impressive array of fishing poles, and everything one would need to fish. I noticed that the river was very polluted. This was not the result of the people who lived at the camp. This is what I have come to understand as Japan’s incredible indifference toward river’s and oceans. One of my earliest memories of Japan is how shocked I was when I went to the beach for the first time, and seeing more trash than any third world countries I have ever visited. Little wonder Ric O’Barry has great difficulty educating Japan regarding mercury contamination, lead, pesticides, herbicides, coal fire plants, dioxin and other toxins that are wreaking havoc throughout the region and the world.

Oddly, nobody appeared to be “home”. Then, I suddenly stumbled upon a man sitting at a table at his site. At first, I backed away, not wanting to disturb him. Then, I thought, this is what you came here for; to discover who these people are. I gathered myself and returned to the place where that man was sitting; having no concept as to how I would be received.

As I approached, I said, “Konichiwa.” A well-fed cat jumped up on a table and greeted me. The cat was healthy, and quite friendly. He stayed at my side for quite some time, purring and seeking affection. I used the cat encounter as a means to begin conversing with the man, who had kind eyes and a ready smile. I would come to know him as Takashi. The cat was Maru. Takashi and Maru!

I noticed that Takashi had a genkan, and that his boots were free of any mud or debris. I noticed that his clothes were clean, his hair trimmed short, and he was freshly shaved. I asked if I could take a photo of Maru. “Of course.” I asked if I could take a photo of him. He agreed.

Takashi offered me a chair. His best one! I sat down. We talked briefly, and I offered him some money for allowing me to take photos. He staunchly refused. I asked if I could buy him a beer. Takashi said he didn’t drink so much, and it was quite clear he hadn’t been drinking at all that day. He looked healthy, and he was mentally, and physically fit.

I told him I was thirsty and wanted to go get a drink. I asked him what was his favorite drink. He politely replied, nande mo, which means, anything’s OK!

Takashi and Maru have been residents on the Arakawa River for three years. Photo credit Stack Jones.

I headed over the steep wall, and toward Senju, which has a brand new and very nice shopping area. I got some beer, and went to a trendy Chinese noodle shop. As usual, I couldn’t understand a damn thing on the menu, let alone figure out how to use the machine to purchase it, so, I asked the employee what her favorite noodles were? She pointed to something, and I said, “OK, two take our orders, please. While I waited for the noodles, I picked up some Krispy Kreme donuts, and a piece of KFC chicken for Maru.

I got back to the steep hill and discovered a high school student taking photos of the shantytown. I invited him to come and get a closer look. He replied, “Abunai”, which means dangerous. I laughed and headed down the hill toward Takashi’s home, and gestured, “C’mon!” To my surprise, the kid followed. I asked his name. He said, “Daisuke.”

We approached Takashi’s camp, and I shouted “Kombanwa!” Takashi responded and so did Maru. Daisuke introduced himself, while I took off the breading of the chicken and gave the meat to Maru. Maru happily ate it, and then took off, and I didn’t see him again for the entire evening. Typical cat! I wondered how many lives he still had left?

I offered Daisuke a donut, and he readily accepted. I asked if he wanted a beer. He didn’t readily accept! We all laughed at that. I handed Takashi a beer, (I had purchased four), and he bowed with his hands together, which is always an uncomfortable feeling for a foreigner. Especially, for an intruder, oh dear reader, which I recognized myself to be. I gave Takashi noodles, and we both ate. We both said, “Oishi” a dozen times, as those noodles were really good! I finished my noodles and my beer before Takashi. I’m sure I was hungrier.

I then ate a donut, and opened a second beer. Takashi had barely drunk from his, but he had finished the noodles. Daisuke having a good look, up close and personal, probably had enough, and politely bowed out.

Takashi had a cell phone, and he showed me a photo of Maru when he was a kitten. The picture was perfectly cropped and adorable. He obviously loved Maru, and it was apparent Maru shared the same affection toward him.

I asked if it was OK to record our conversation. He said, “OK!” I wanted to know who this man was, and what is was about him that his own people refused to recognize. I learned Takashi lived on the river for three years now.

I asked him how he ended up there. I couldn’t understand all that he said, but he used to be a truck driver and somehow lost his license.

I asked how he currently earned a living. He said he collects electronic goods, and aluminum, and makes pretty good money.

One of the well maintained sites of the invisible people living on Arakawa River. Photo credit Stack Jones.

He had a cell phone, his camp was stocked with solar lights, radios, a sturdy wood closet he built, which locked and where he stored his valuables. He also had a comfortable place to sleep that was water tight, and which he had designed and built himself.

I asked how he bathed, and he said he goes to the public bath house and pays 400 ¥ to bath. (Which I think is pretty expensive). I asked his age. He’s 52, and has two children. His daughter is 19, and his son is 28.

I asked if they know where he is. There was silence, and I could see he was holding back an emotional flood. I stopped prodding into this man’s personal life, and felt like a jerk for pushing too hard, and intruding into this man’s life. His children don’t know where he is, as, in Japan’s unforgiving culture, he lost his job, had no income, so his only option was to leave home. A self-imposed exile!

During the entire conversation, trains rolled overhead. Again, and again, and again and again and… It was now getting dark, but the lights from the trains lit up the campsite, and were actually very attractive. They also lit up the river, which shined, and shimmered in red, yellow, and gold. The sound of the endless train of trains, and their metal wheels on the metal tracks beat out a steady rhythm. Honestly, it felt as if I had been on holiday, and was camping at Waipio Valley on the Big Island of Hawaii, or on the Baja in Mexico.

I asked Takashi what time he went to bed, he said, usually around 7:00 p.m. or 8:00 p.m. I asked what his hobby was. He didn’t understand. So, I said I like surfing, writing, and photography. He still didn’t understand. I then gestured, that I played the guitar. Takashi understood, and said he likes to go fishing. I asked if he liked river fishing or ocean fishing. He said both. I said, “How about fishing here.? Pointing to the river. Takashi said there are huge “Chinese” fish (I can’t remember the name), about 4′ (four feet) in size and easy to catch with bamboo poles. He showed me the bait he uses. I asked if he ate the fish he caught. He said no, as the river was too polluted. I asked when was the best time to catch those fish. He said in August.

An elderly man suddenly appeared, and just as quickly disappeared when he saw Takashi had a “guest”. Takashi said that was Grandfather. Takashi said, his son committed suicide a few years back, a work related death, and Grandfather had no place to go, as he believed he was now a burden to the rest of his surviving family. So, Grandfather made his way to the river one day, and started to piece meal together his own blue, plastic tarp, river front existence. Takashi said, Grandfather, refused to let anyone help him build it. Apparently, he never intended to be a burden to anyone again.

The trains run endlessly over the Arakawa River in Senju Japan. Photo credit Stack Jones.

So, Grandfather went to the river, as many have done before him, and surely will after. At Grandfather’s age, he should be enjoying his final years in the security he was taught to believe in, by the society that now rejected him, and whom he rejected. Instead of having that security, Grandfather had to start a new one. The kind of life all Japanese people fear and shutter to think about. Even to the point where they act as if it doesn’t exist.

I thought about my five-year relationship with my girlfriend who is very dear to me. I thought about all the thousands of times she has asked me, if we got married, could I protect her, could I give her security. Thinking about Grandfather, I wondered if anyone could answer that question in the affirmative, and be honest in doing so.

Takashi suddenly excused himself, and as he did, I realized that it was getting close to 7:00 p.m. I thought I should probably get going. Takashi quickly returned and to my surprise offered me a gift. He said, because you are a photographer, you can use this to put photos in. It was a brand new photo display that would light up a photo beautifully. I knew that he was offering it to me in exchange for dinner. What Takashi didn’t realize, was that he had already given me a life-long gift, and it had more value than anything tangible. I knew that I would never again be able to pass over the Arakawa River, and not think about Takashi, Maru, and especially Grandfather.

The public image of men like Takashi is that they are drunkards. Takashi barely drank the beer I gave him. The public image is that these people are insane, dangerous, outcasts, misfits, degenerates, low-life and deserving of their plight. Clearly, his eyes are kind and he was generous to put up with an uninvited intruder, and answer a myriad of personal questions that I myself would have refused.

I personally don’t believe in the dyslexic dog, we call god, but I shutter to think of the scores of millions and millions that go to shrines, churches and temples and pray to their grandfathers, and grandmothers who have passed away, in the Shinto and Buddhist tradition, but laugh at, mock, and ridicule to scorn people like Grandfather, and Takashi.

I said I should probably get going. We stood. I called out for Maru, but he was having none of it. Takashi laughed. He bowed and thanked me. I walked over to him and said, let’s do it American style. I hugged him, and he hugged me too. We patted each other on the back and looked closely at each other’s face as the train passed by overhead. We smiled, and I promised to return to to go fishing with him. Takashi said he would like that!

Takashi’s solar light began to dim, so I grabbed my camera bag, said goodbye, and made my way back to the train station. But, not before stopping and turning around and taking in the sounds, images, and smells of the camps that were huddled in the darkness, with their dim lights shining within, and the river glimmering from the passing trains crammed full with kaisha workers that didn’t even have enough space to sit.

Senju’s invisible people exist in plain sight near Arakawa River. Photo credit Stack Jones.

I laughed, but I wanted to cry, realizing those people hate, and fear the likes of Takashi and Grandfather. Hate, because their “way” was something that society has taught them to shun. In reality, society has taught them the hard lesson of circumventing true freedom. Fear, because everything down there, at the bottom of that hill, and on the river, in that dark, and dimly lit, blue plastic tarp town is the possibility of an unknown future for us all. While that the endless cattle car society turns that alternative into something shadowy, degrading, vicarious, reprehensible, and horrific.

How can I ever pass over the Arakawa River without thinking about Takashi, Maru, and Grandfather? When will I do return? In August? Next week? I want to meet Grandfather. I want to see his face, and listen to him speak about his life.

The train was packed solid as I returned home. I stood in the crowd, taking in foul smelling winter coats that had been in countless smoky bars, and restaurants. I saw the empty faces, all staring at and endless array of electronic devices. There wasn’t a sound, except that of the train wheels, clicking out the same rhythm I heard while in conversation with Takashi.

Upon returning home, I immediately contacted my friend Dr. Ebihara. I told him that he must return to the river with me. I told him he must check on the health of Grandfather. Dr. Ebihara, who is a wealthy, prominent, and successful owner of a rather large clinic, said he often goes to Senju to stand at the bar, and drink with the people of Senju. He said it is one of his greatest joys.

Apparently, I still have much to learn about Japan.

This article originally ran in the February, 2013 edition of the Tokyo Weekender magazine. http://tokyoweekender.com/2013/02/takashi-and-maru.

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Japan’s Invisible People

A shirtless woman sits at the top of the stairs at Shimbashi Station during the heart of winter.

Homelessness is on the rise in Japan, as not seen since WWII. Blue tarp communities are springing up all over the country, yet the Japanese go about their daily lives as if these people don’t exist.

Being homeless in Japan has to be much worse than in western nations like the U.S. The level of despair, and hopelessness is far greater because there’s a  social stigma attached to it, like none I’ve ever seen. Simply, the Japanese not only don’t, but absolutely refuse to help those who are down on their luck. This is a perplexing dichotomy considering Japan’s teaches the importance of the community over that of the individual. Sadly, a great gulf is fixed between reality, and philosophy in this seemingly buddhist nation.

In America, there exists welfare programs implemented by employment departments that are designed to help those who genuinely want to get back on their feet. Those services offer much more than an unemployment check. They also provide educational funding as part of the unemployment benefits package that is available to those that are out of work. Most U.S. citizens aren’t even aware that these programs exist. People who do participate in these programs receive skills necessary to aid them in their search for new employment opportunities.

Giving educational opportunities to the unemployed not only helps to get them off the streets, but it also helps them to become productive members of society. It’s a simple concept actually; when a government program pays for people to obtain the skills needed to become employed, over the lifetime, that employed person will pay much more in taxes than the government paid out in the initial educational investment. The result is obvious, the unemployed ends up with a new skill, and as a result of their employment, they end up living a healthier, and better quality life.

Japan’s invisible people gallery.

How tragic it is to have no place to go, no money to support yourself, and to have calloused officials heap an even greater indignity by taping a notice that your property will be destroyed if you don’t find another place to take it.

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Origins Of The English Language

I grew up in Miami, Florida. The city is a hodgepodge of communities that coexist, offering up a variety of cultural nuances, and exhilarating ethnic experiences. However, it’s also a tropical environment, and the high humidity can be a catalyst that causes temperatures to boil over. As a result of the sweltering heat that the city is famous for, rational processes often fail, and hostilities arise between one who perceives themselves to be an American, and another, most likely a Cuban, and who had probably lived in the city for a longer period of time. When the former found they were unable to express themselves, as they desired during one of these heated exchanges, they would often resort to intolerable obscenities, racist slurs, and almost always ended up commanding the latter to speak English!

I speak one of a vast array of dialects that has come to be recognized as the English language. But, what is this English language that I speak? What is its origin?

The language spoken two thousand years ago by those that dwelt in the land that’s known as Britain today wouldn’t be decipherable by contemporary English speakers. It would take another thousand years before the ever-evolving English language would become recognizable in today’s England, a land that received its name from the Saxon invaders. Today, what has developed into the English language has become the vernacular of the world. This is possible because the English language has the ability to absorb other languages almost seamlessly, and is amenable to nearly every other tongue in the world. The adaptability of this manner of speech has made the English language capable of producing new dialects, and new forms of expression that continue to evolve, all over the world.

What started as a guttural tribal dialect has become the language of more than one and a half billion people today. More people speak English than any other language on earth. Yet, the English tongue nearly became extinct on numerous occasions as successive invasions of the island nation not only added to its ever-expanding vocabulary, but also threatened to destroy it completely.

For three hundred years the English language would be forced underground. Nonetheless, it would emerge as the language of William Tyndale, the writer of a vast majority of the King James Bible, William Shakespeare, and William Wordsworth, the master of prose. Oddly, what is dubbed the “Queens” English today is in reality a language forbidden to the ruling classes for three centuries. It was the farmer, and the peasant that lived far from the courts, and the royal facades that kept the language alive. Against all likelihoods, the language of the English empire would eventually become the language of another powerful nation. America! English would also become the international language of business, and diplomacy, despite its rather humble beginnings.

Friesland is a province in northern Netherlands, which originally was part of an ancient region known as Frisia. The Friesland dialect is the closest relative of today’s English, which evolved some 1500 years ago. Words such as three, four, frost, freeze, mist, and blue originate from this region. Other words that began in the Germanic forms of languages include butter, bread, cheese, meal, boat, snow, see, and storm. The people who spoke these words lived in today what are known as Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

Modern English can be traced back to the Germanic family of languages dating back to the 5th century. The Germanic people were nomadic, warlike tribes that moved throughout Europe a thousand years ago, and eventually settled upon what today is known as Holland, Denmark, and Germany. The original Germanic tribes consisted of Jutes, Anglo, and Saxons, and after mastering the art of fashioning together seaworthy vessels they sailed to the English shores in search of conquest, plunder, and to take advantage of abundant resources. However, the Germanic people weren’t the first to invade the shores of England. More than a thousand years earlier, the Romans invaded the land claiming it for Emperor Claudius, and to expand the Roman Empire. The Romans named this newly discovered land Britannia. Yet, when the empire crumbled, the native inhabitants, known as Celts at the time, were left to fend for themselves.

The Celts were subsequently conquered by the Germanic invaders, and were given the name Weelah (Welsh), which meant foreigner or slave. The only way the Welsh could gain in social status within these varying Germanic cultures was to assimilate into it. This meant the Welsh has to adopt the Germanic languages as their own. As a result, the Celt language became more, and more marginalized, and began to fade away almost entirely, as the language of the victors prevailed. Few Celtic words have survived into the modern English langue. Among them are crag for rock, combe for valley, tor for peak, fortress, and the caer of Carlisle, which at the time meant a protected place. The Celts also left many names that remain to this day, including Thames, for the Thames River, London, and Dover.

By the 6th century Germanic tribes occupied much of the southeast, and about half of Britain as well. The tribes broke off into territories, Essex (east), Kent and Sussex (south), and Wessex (west). These regions would form Saxon tribes. In East Anglia, it would be the Saxon’s who bequeathed England with its name.  East Anglia (the Anglos), territory included Mercia, and North Umbria. The “ing”, meaning, “the people of”, was used in these regions, and exists unto this day, such as in the towns of Reading, and Worthing. Other language examples that remain from this period include “ton”, which meant village. So today, Bridlington would mean, the people of the village of Bridl, or the people of the village of Chess, for Chessington. Birmingham today used to be known as Birmington. Another example of the language that survives today would be “ham”, which meant farm. So, today Birmingham would have meant, the farmers of Birm.

Each word you’re reading now is from Old English!

Hundreds of worlds used today in the English language originated around 1500 years ago. From all of those Germanic tongues, and all of their various dialects, a single language would begin to emerge. This emerging language would be known as Old English. And English speakers from all around the world speak Old English everyday. Samples include nouns, such as youth, son, daughter, field, friend, and home, prepositions, like, in, on, into, by, and from come from this time, participles a, and the, also originated from Old English. Our verbs, drink, come, go, sing, like, and love also can be traced to their origins in the Germanic languages. Today there are approximately 25,000 worlds that originate from Old English. This may seem marginal when compared to modern dictionaries that contain approximately 100,000 words. But, the average educated person today only has about 10,000 words in their vocabulary, and those ancient people didn’t have terms like hairdryer, television, computer, electricity, stationary, telephone, and technology to bolster their vocabulary.

Verbim: The Word

Tribal roots in the English language had already begun to fade with the revival of Christianity in England. In 597, Augustine led a mission from Rome to Kent, and around that same period Irish monks were establishing churches in the north of England. Within another century Christians were already building churches, and monasteries throughout the island. Christians (Catholics) also brought with them the international language of scholars, which was Latin. From this point on religious terminology would become permanently imbedded into the English language. Words such as apostle, altar, mass, monk, and verse became used in daily life. Absorbing words from other languages would become a pattern, as the English tongue would continue to evolve from a diversity sources.

The written form of the Jutes, Anglos, and Saxons would end up giving way to the Latin custom. Earlier written forms did not utilize script, as we know it today. The Jutes, Anglos, and Saxons used the runic alphabet, and symbols, which were formed mainly of straight lines, so that letters could be carved into stone or wood, as this was the medium to communicate at that time. Runes were mainly used for short practical messages. The Latin alphabet however, was different, as its curves, and bows allowed for words to easily be written on parchment or vellum using pen and ink. Pages could then be gathered into a book, and widely circulated to convey the writers intended message. It was Christianity that brought books to the English shores. Yet, the text of those books were written in Latin, and the common people could not decipher its meaning.

It wasn’t long before a native culture of scholarship began to flourish in the region. However, the written language would be based on Latin, and not on the ever-evolving language of the English speaking people. The famous Lindisfarne Gospels would be created on the island of Lindisfarne, which was just off of the northeast coast of England. A few miles south of Lindisfarne, at the monastery of St. Paul in Jaro, the European monk Bead, born, and educated in North Umbria, would begin documenting the first recorded history of the English speaking people. Although Bead wrote in Latin, which was the language of scholars at the time, the prevailing language of the land was still Old English. Beginning in the 7th Century, the English language was beginning to appear on parchment, and vellum as well. Thanks to the written form of expression the English language was now able to record a variety of subtle nuances, and express in great depth the human experience.

An Epic English Language Poem

Beowulf is the first great poem ever written in the English language. Its author remains unknown. This stylistic masterpiece was written between the 7th and 10th century, and celebrates the glory days of the Germanic warrior. The work was written in a traditionally oral form that would lend itself to other legendary English writings such as that of Shakespeare. The surprisingly extensive, and expressive language found in Beowulf leaves no doubt that even the earliest forms of English had the ability to utilize a wide variety of creativity, and expressionism. Beowulf contains around 40,000 words. English speakers today speak a less elaborate form than that found in the language of Beowulf. By this time, written English was already fully developed, and had become the perfect vehicle to express action, and descriptive speech. Writers were now capable of articulating great depth, detail, and subtle nuances due to the fusing of so many different languages. Around this same period, the Anglo Saxon Chronicles were also recording England’s historical events.

Invaders From The North

By the late 8th century, just as the English language began to evolve into an elaborate form of communication, a great destructive force from the north had already begun to lay siege. The Vikings had arrived, and sacked, and burned the religious centers that were recording the new English era. First to go was the religious center located on Lindisfarne Island. One year later the Vikings returned, and sacked the Abbey of Jaro, where the monk Bead had been the writer of one of the greatest libraries in English history. Bead was one of the scholars instrumental in writing in Latin, as well as English. Jaro was burned to the ground, and as at Lindisfarne, all its books were destroyed. For the next seventy years the Vikings ruthlessly attacked the eastern half of England. Few stories endure as to what had occurred because few survived the invasions to live, and tell about them. At first, the Vikings were content upon plundering the fortresses of their wealth, and returning home. But, in 865 the Vikings decided to annex East Anglia as well. Within five years the marauders, now known as Danes, controlled the entire north, and eastern part of the country. Of all of the early Anglo Saxon kingdoms only Wessex remained. Old Norse, the language of the conquerors was now spreading throughout the land. Old English now faced the same fate as the Celtic language it had supplanted, which was virtual extinction.

The English language needed a champion. It found one in King Alfred the Great. He would become known as the great defender of the English language. Alfred came to the throne within one year of the Danes numerous attacks on the northeast. In 878, the Danes defeated Alfred in a decisive battle that took place at Chipidome in Woocher. Alfred fled the battle with only a few surviving men. If Alfred’s kingdom fell, then the entire country would fall into the hands of the Danes, and be controlled, and settled by the conquerors that would inevitably crush the English language. His situation was desperate. Alfred began mounting guerilla warfare against the Danes, and in the spring of 878, he sent out a call for all inhabitants of the land to join him in a battle against the Danes. Four thousand men from Woocher, and Summerset would answer the call. The famous battle would result in the Danes being defeated, with the Danish king being baptized as a Christian. A peace treaty followed, and Alfred, and the Danes would divide the country into two regions, establishing a border that divided the land from the Thames to the north. The land to the north would be known as Danelagh, and it fell under Danish rule. The land to the south, and west was English territory ruled by Alfred.

Over the course of time the Danes, and English would trade in goods, and as a result, began to intermarry. Communities mixed, and so did the languages. The English began to absorb the Danish language, and culture. The extension, “by” had been the Danish name for farm. Today towns like Swanby, Runby, Faceby, and Kirkby, that had been vast farmland, still carry the same Danish names. Thorpe, meant “village”, and villages that grew into towns like Westhorpe still have their roots in Danish tradition. “Waite” is a section of land, such as in Huthwaite. “Son” was a Danish way of adding to the father’s name. Harrison, Robinson, Gibson, Simpson, and Watson are but a few examples. The Danish influence exists on many aspects of the English language, and culture even to this very day.

Old Norse remained in the dialect of some northeastern parts of England. Words such as beck (stream), and the sound “sk”, for sky began to appear in the English language. Other words that originated from the Danes include anger, knife, neck, root, scowl, and window. When the English, and the Danes had different words that meant the same thing, often both would survive such as in craft/skill, hide/skin, and sick/ill. These, and other foreign words were helping to build a powerful English vocabulary, and added to the richness of the language’s expression. Words like law, egg, husband, leg, ill, die, and ugly, are all from Old Norse. The pronouns they, their, and them are also Old Norse in origin. Even today, Old Norse affects the English language more than any other. Old Norse actually resulted in restructuring the way English speakers form sentences. Old English had no prepositions like “to.” Instead they added special endings, which meant the same thing. In English, gunum, meant (to man), and un (many), added to blanc (horse), blancun meant, many horses.

Through the great efforts of King Alfred, the English language survived, but the written form remained in a state of ruin. Written English had been on the decline ever since the early Viking raids. In his capital city of Winchester, Alfred began to promote literacy, and the restoration of the English tongue. “We should promote certain books for all men to know, into a language we can all understand. And also arrange it, if we have peace, so that all free men among the English people can devote themselves until the time when all men are able to read English writing well.” Alfred had five books of religion, history, and philosophy translated from Latin into English. Copies were sent to the twelve Bishops of his kingdom to be taught, and spread as widely as possible amongst the people. Alfred truly made the English language the jewel in his crown. King Alfred the Great died in 899, but at the time of his death, the English language had become more prestigious, and more widely read than ever before. Alfred’s legacy was to produce English text that could eventually be read by all who spoke the language.

By the mid 11th century English seemed secure as a language in both written, and spoken form, but the language itself was about to face its greatest threat yet.

The Battle Over Hastings. Painted by Philip James de Loutherbourg.

The Norman Invasion

The English king Edward the Confessor, spent many years in Normandy, and regarded William Duke of Normandy as his son. In 1066, Edward named William as his successor to the English throne. Harold, as Earl of Essex, the most powerful of the English lords was summoned to Normandy, where he was to pledge his loyalty to William. He did! However, when Edward was laid to rest, Harold had himself crowned as the king of England on the very same day of Edward’s death. William responded with a full invasion of England. The Norman, and English armies met near Hastings where a fight would ensue. Harold would fall, fatally pierced through the eye with an arrow. The site where the incident took place would be named with the French word battle. The Battle of Hastings! England had a new king, and a new language. Harold would be the last English-speaking king for three centuries.

On Christmas day in 1066, William was crowned king. Although his coronation was in English, and Latin, William spoke French throughout the entire proceeding. A new king, and a new language were in authority in England. Approximately ten thousand words of the Old French vocabulary would find their way into the English language. The Normans however, no longer spoke Old Norse. They spoke the language of what today is called Old French, which had its roots in Latin. Over time, many words that originated from Normandy would become unpleasantly familiar to the English.

French words became an integral part of the English language. Enemy, and castle would be new words added to the English language immediately. The French built many castles throughout the conquered land, and used them to impose Norman rule over the English-speaking people. By blood the Normans were the same as the Norsemen, who had invaded Lindisfarne, and Jaro centuries earlier, but the language had become very different. Old French, Norman words such as army, archer, soldier, guard, crown, thrown, court, Duke, Baron, nobility, peasant, servant, governor, liberty, authority, obedience, traitor, felony, warrant, arrest, judgment, jury, accused, acquit, sentence, condemn, prison, and jail were words that proved who was in authority over the land. Words such as city, market, salmon, mackerel, oysters, pork, sausage, bacon, fruit, olive, appetite, plate, mustard, salad and dinner, all Old French were absorbed into the English language as well.

The Norman takeover of the English was pervasive, and absolute. The native ruling class was slaughtered, banished, or disinherited. Half of England was now in the hands of one hundred, and ninety men. Only eleven of those held half of that, and not one of them spoke English. The writing of English became increasingly more rare. Even the writings of the Anglo Saxon Chronicles ceased to exist. In a country of three languages, English became the least communicated in any form. As the English language was forced underground, it would take another three hundred years for it to reemerge, and when it finally does, it changed dramatically from when Beowulf had been written.

The Normans took over power in every important aspect of English life especially in positions within the government, and the church. No longer were Englishmen Earls, Bishops, or Abbotts. The last recorded record of English writing during this period was in Peterborough Cathedral Abbey in the year, 1154. For the past six hundred years, the Anglo Saxon Chronicles were written in English, the language of the people. The Peterborough Chronicles would be the last official English text, recording that the new Bishop, was a Frenchman. These would be the last words written in the English language for the next three hundred years. Old English ceased to be the language of record throughout the land. Nevertheless, the spoken language remained the language of ninety percent of the people. Over time, the language became simpler. Plural forms were becoming more prevalent. Despite English being the officially ignored language, it was continuing to evolve and change, and would endure, resisting, and absorbing the invaders tongue, until it would someday become the prevalent language it is today.

New words began to pour into the English language. Words such as, honor, damsels, jousting, and tournaments were absorbed into the language through the French Court. The vocabulary of romance flourished in England. Eleanor, the French queen of England was considered the most cultured in all of Europe. She patronized the troubadours, and poets whose verses, and songs painted the romantic image of the middle ages. This would be known historically as the age of chivalry, but it was never realized outside the pages of literature. One hundred years earlier, chivalry meant something entirely different, it meant cavalry, as it was the warriors of the Normans that carried the day at the Battle of Hastings. Since then, the English considered the Normans as little more than thugs, and bullies, who ran the country by force, terror, and intimidation. But to the Normans, the mounted warriors became known as Knights, and chivalry represented a whole new paradigm of ideals, and behaviors. As a result, the English culture became infused with words, and concepts such as honor, and altruism. Ideas shifted, and words went with them. It was through Eleanor that the stories of Arthur, and his Knights made their way into history books, as the concept of French romanticism, cultivated the region, adding new words that were richer than those of the Normans who had invaded the northern region of the island. This new language would run through the sonnets, and poems of Shakespeare, and the pop songs of today’s hit singles, which have all, in some way, been inspired by Eleanor’s heart of the court of courtly love, and the imagery of fair cruel ladies.

It was William the Conqueror that introduced the system of feudalism to England, and along with it came words such as village, vassal, labor, and serfs. But, the French language did not trickle down to the common people. The native Englishmen were concerned with things related to their less than exalted condition. They sang of matters that related to their daily lives, and sang in their own tongue. English words like summer, sow, seed, spring, and wood sprang from Beowulf. Merry, sing, and loud, words authorized by Alfred remained as part of the language as well. In the country, where 95% of the people lived as serfs, tied to their lord’s land for life, at the subsistence level, lived in cottages, or huts, while their French masters lived in castles. The modern form of English still holds these distinctions. On the farm the English tended to cattle, and raised oxen, and cows, while the French dined on the preferred meats that came to their table. The French ate beef. The English used sheep, while the French dined on mutton. Calf was veal; deer was venison, and pig, pork. English animals were French meat in every case. The English labored as the French feasted. Apple in Old English meant any kind of fruit. The word fruit is introduced into the language, absorbed, and becomes a way of describing a variety of different foods. As a result, apple takes on the characteristic of describing a particular kind of food. English words begin taking on a more narrow meaning, giving the language more descriptive expressions, flexibility, and preciseness. Sadly though, after 150 years, the written form of English, which was the labor of Alfred, was all but dead. But, the balance of power within the languages was about to shift.

Where the French masters, and their English subjects lived together, the boundaries in language began to wither away. The court, and countryside began to mingle, as French words continued to enhance the English vocabulary. But, not the grammar as the Danes had. As trade grew so did the towns with London merging as the center of commerce. Its population doubled during the 13th century, and French craftsmen came to England from Normandy to ply their trade, as the city continued to expand. Feudalism began to loosen its grip. English speakers in masse migrated to the city, looking for opportunity, and a better life. Already established were the French court officials, administrators, lawyers, and merchants. Craftsmen gave French names to the tools of the trade including, measure, mallet, chisel, pulley, bucket, and trowel. As the population, and trade grew so too did the vocabulary. Business opportunity brought in new business oriented words such as, merchant, money, price, discount, bargain, contract, partner, and embezzle became part of the English language. The English didn’t just absorb the French vocabulary; they took their names from it as well. Then as now, names are taken out of fashion, and the fashion of the 13th century was French. French names like, Richard, Robert, Simon, Steven, John, Jeffrey, and the most popular William became the leading names of the English, as well as the French. With this much French influence, one would think the English language would be engulfed entirely, but that didn’t happen. Because of particular historical events, French speakers in English became cut off form their cultural, and linguistic roots.

In 1284, John, the reigning king of Normandy lost his land in a war with the much smaller kingdom of France. The Normandy Dukedoms, and ancestral lands of William the Conqueror became part of another empire. Many French Englishmen were cut off from their ancestral lands, and when they lost that contact, the ruling class began to lose connection with their homeland. Their identities began to change, and their language began to lose its grip on the French-English. French speakers, even from the noblest of families began to marry English wives. When they did, they married English speakers, and into the English language as well. Now, the French aristocrats children were learning English from mothers who spoke the language as their native tongue. As a result, children of Anglo-French families began to grow up bilingual. By 1250, many children were struggling to learn French from language instructors, as had to grapple with what was effectively a foreign tongue. Many French living within the English society were beginning to speak English as well. As Normandy became a foreign land, those with French blood, and French names began calling themselves trueborn Englishmen. The French language was becoming a foreign tongue even to the French, but its vocabulary was streaming into the English language. Words like attire, defend, figure, malady, music, person, sacrifice, scarlet, spy, stable, virtue, park, reign, beauty clergy, cloak, country, food, and air all became part of the English language. The French court would introduce legal terms, such as plead, defend, and marshal while the religious order used clergy, and pillory. As trade with the east began to open, Arabic words also became part of the English language; words such as saffron, mattress, hazard, camphor, lute, amber, syrup, and alchemy were absorbed into English. The chess game term checkmate entered the English language from the Arabic word shazmat, meaning the king is dead.

Fine nuances became part of the language as well. Answer, and respond did not mean the same thing. Neither did, begin and commence, or liberty and freedom. As new words poured in English words remained steadfastly, adding to the richness of the language. Words like swan/signet, as/hatchet, ask/demand, bit/morsel, wish/desire, might/power, room/chamber, on the surface appear similar, yet they began to represent shades of meaning, new thoughts, and expressive details, adding more precision, and flexibility, to the language, which allowed speakers, and writers to carefully choose the right world to express their desired form of communication. Rather than replace English, French was equipping the language with its ability to communicate more powerfully.

The old language was beginning to be revived, and by now was a rallying cry for a new people. Edward I of Scotland, a direct descendant of William the Conqueror, known as the hammer of the Scots, used the English language to unite the kingdom, when the French King Phillip threatened to invade England in 1295. Edward used the English language as a symbol of national unity to galvanize support. “If Phillip is able to do all the evil he means to, God protect us, he plans to wipe out our English language entirely from the earth.” The invasion of Phillip never came. Despite the threat of yet another invasion, Latin, and French remained the official language of those who governed the nation. As the 14th century approached English became the one language everyone knew, and used in their daily lives. Even the French troubadours were now singing in the English language.

By William of Nassyngton

In englysch tonge I schal you telle
Yif ye so longe with me wil dwelle
Ne latyn wil I speke ne waste
Bot englisch that men usen maste
For that is youre kynde langage
That ye have most here of usage
That kan eche man understonde
That is boren in engelonde
For that langage is most schewed
As wel among lered as lewed
Latyn as I trowe can nane
Bot thoo that have it at scole tane
Somme kan frensch and no latyn
That used have court and dwelled therin
And somme kan of latyn a party
That kan frensch ful febelly
And somme understonden englysch
That kan nouther latyn ne frensch
Bot lered and lewed olde and yonge
Alle understonden englysch tonge

The Great Pestilence: Black Death

It would be a rodent that gave the English language its greatest boost. In 1348, black rats began to arrive on the shores of England from France. They carried with them a deadly cargo. The disease became known as the great pestilence, or the Black Death. Black rats shed infected fleas that fed on their blood. This would then transmit the bubonic plague to humans who would likewise be bitten by the contagious fleas. An estimated one-third of England’s four million died from this terrible plague. In some places, entire communities were wiped out. This set into motion a social upheaval that aided in the restoration of the English language as the recognized language of the nation. At the local level, priests who performed mandatory services in Latin either caught the plague or ran away. Many of their replacements were laymen whose only language was English. They began to perform religious rituals, such as Masses, and baptisms in the English tongue.

After the Black Death, England became a very different country. In many places there was hardly anyone that could work the land, or tend to livestock. The acute shortage of labor meant those that did have the requisite skill, and who could perform the work suddenly had the power to demand better working, and living conditions, and higher wages as well. As wages rose, the price of property fell, and the fortunes of the common people began to rise. By 1385, English replaced French in the schoolrooms, and as literacy spread, so did the demand for books written in English. It was during this time that the English language would find its place in the state, and in the law. In 1362, for the first time in three hundred years, English was acknowledged as the official language of business, and the language of the state because too many lawyers, judges, and officials had died from the plague. As a result, cases could now be pleaded, defended, and judged in English. That same year Parliament opened in Westminster, and for the first time ever the Chancellor addressed the assembly, not in French, but in English. Soon English would become the language of the kings. Since 1066, during Harold’s brief stint, England had not had an English king. In 1399, Henry Duke of Lancaster deposed King Richard II. Henry Duke of Lancaster became known as Henry the 4th. He made his coronation speech in English. Once again, the English language was the royal language of England.

Catholic Control: The Dark Ages

The Catholic Church controlled all aspects of life. In the church, Latin was the spoken language, but nobody understood it except the church leaders themselves. When one went to church, and everybody did because it was compulsory, common prayers, the service, hymns, and everything else was spoken in Latin. Only the clergy were allowed to read the word, and they even did that silently. Absurdly, a bell would ring to let the congregation know when the priest reached the important parts. Although the masses were forced to attend church, they weren’t even allowed to know the words of the faith that was imposed upon them, under the threat of death. The authority of the Catholic Church sought to hold all power, and language was power, so it was vital that the clergy stood between the believer, and the Catholic bible, which was written in Latin. But, all of this nonsense was about to change dramatically.

In the 14th century, there was a movement that would tear the church in two. It would mark the end of the middles ages, and cost the lives of millions. This would be the battle for the language of the bible. The English wanted access to the language of the kingdom of heaven. They wanted a bible that belonged to them, and they wanted a religious teaching that was in their language. They were also willing to fight, and die for it. So, English set out to become the language of God. This struggle would be a violent one, as the lay demanded access to the bible in a tongue they understood.

John Wycliffe, a theologian, and philosopher was fluent in Latin. Wycliffe believed everyone should have access to the knowledge he held. The church in Wycliffe’s time was corrupt, and he was fiercely opposed to the power, and wealth of the church. “When men speak of the church they speak of priests, monks, bishops, friars, but it should not be so.” “Whether a hundred popes, and all the friars turned to cardinals, their opinions, and matters of faith should not be accepted except in so far as they are found on the scripture itself.” Wycliffe railed at the corruption, and complacency of the Catholic faith. Wycliffe believed man had the right tot examine the bible for himself. This meant an English bible that was unauthorized by the church. To the church this very thought (an opinion crime) was heretical, even seditious. Wycliffe set out to produce an English language bible. The work had to be done in secrecy. Its aim was to not only produce an English language bible, but to also overthrow, and end the reign of the Catholic Church. By 1380, Wycliffe had completed, and authorized the first English bible translated from Latin. The work was done at Oxford University, with numerous translators. Hundreds of English language bibles were copied by hand, and distributed throughout England. Today, one hundred, and seventy copies have survived, which means there must have been armies of faithful followers that believed in the cause who were secretly transcribing, and passing them on, knowing their discovery meant certain death.

Eventually, hundreds would be martyred as a result of Wycliffe’s English bible. B But, many believed it was worth dying for, as it was “God’s” work that they were performing. Because of Wycliffe’s bible, many phrases made their way into the English language, and continue to this day. Some of those words, and phrases include, woe is me, an eye for an eye, barbarian, birthday, child bearing, cock crow, communication, crime, dishonor, envy, godly, graven, humanity, injury, jubilee, lecture, madness, mountainous, pollute, tramp, unfaithful, and zeal. These, and other words, and phrase first appeared in Wycliffe’s bible. In fact, there are more than one thousand Latin words that first appeared in Wycliffe’s bible, and those words would become a pertinent part of the English tongue. Other words from Wycliffe’s bible include, emperor, justice, city, cradle, suddenly, angel, multitude, and glory.  Wycliffe’s bible immediately became the best selling, and most sought after literary work in the English language. The church immediately condemned it. “The jewel of the cleric is turned to the sport of the laity, and the pearl of the gospel is scattered abroad, and trampled under foot by swine.” Clearly, the Catholic Church thought of the English as nothing more than mere farm animals; chattel to labor for the churches coffers. By keeping the masses in the dark, regarding scriptural content, contradictions that existed between the Catholic Church, and the scripture could not be known. However, once the English bible became available, people began to question the churches doctrine, and authority, and the foreign faith that was imposed upon them. Moreover, the swine that the church spoke of were now becoming illiterate, and learned.

Wycliffe trained an order, and dispatched them throughout England. There purpose was to spread the word all across the land. They were determined to win the battle against the church, and preach against its corruption. They did this reading from Wycliffe’s bible. Those who read from Wycliffe’s bible became known as Lollards, which meant, the whisperers. The Lollard’s remained a secretive, but influential movement that was hated by the Catholic establishment. The Lollards went straight to the people, cutting out the middlemen. The following text is from the book of Mark, which Wycliffe had interpreted directly from the original Greek, and Hebrew:

Blessed be poor men in spirit, for the kingdom of heavens is theirs.
Blessed be mild men, for they shall wield the earth.
Blessed be they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed be they that hunger, and thirst rightwiseness, for they shall be fulfilled.
Blessed be merciful men, for they shall get mercy.

On May 17th, 1382, a special organization of top church leaders met to examine Wycliffe’s work. It was as much a show trial, as the Nuremberg trials held in Germany after WWII, as the conclusion was preordained. Wycliffe was condemned as a heretic. The Catholic Church ordered his arrest, and the arrest, and imprisonment of all of Wycliffe’s preachers. The church also secured a parliamentary ban on all of Wycliffe’s bibles. Wycliffe fell ill. The stress defeated him. He was paralyzed by a stroke, and would die two years later. Regardless, it was already too late for the corrupt church leaders, because after Wycliffe’s death, the movement continued, as the faithful avoided captivity, keeping their faith, and their English teachings alive. Wycliffe’s bible became a national political movement, and its cause was an English language bible.

The church was not satisfied with Wycliffe’s death. In 1414, the Catholic Church declared Wycliffe a heretic once again, and in the spring of 1428, his body was ordered exhumed, and posthumously burned. Wycliffe’s remains were burned near a tributary of the Avon River. His ashes were then scattered into it. Officially, the bible would remain in Latin, but a Lollard prophecy rang true:

The Avon to the Severn runs
The Severn to the sea
And Wycliffe’s dust shall spread abroad
Wide as the waters be

The Church Of England

In 1417, King Henry V, began writing letters in English. His English letters started a movement to standardize spelling throughout the entire country, because each region spelled even the simplest of words differently. Take for example the word church, which could have been spelled sixteen different ways. The following are those different spelling forms, church, churche, cherche, chirche, church, chyrch, cherge, chyrche, kirk, kirke, kyrk, kyrke, kerk, kire, kerke, schyrche. The Chancellery was given the task to standardize spelling because it was crucial that all official documents that were written in London, could be read elsewhere. Because government documents had legal status, they had to be consistent. The Chancellery had the task to impose this new standard upon the entire nation. Congruency within the language became one of the nation’s top priorities. The Chancellery had to choose, which form of a word, and which spelling would become the standard. Thousands of documents were written, and sent all over the country explaining this new legal procedure. The language was becoming clearer, more modern, and congruent. I, (previously Iche) found its modern form. So did any, but, ought, and such. Lond became land, chirche (and the rest) became church, xal, and schal became shall. Rithe became right. Hath, and doth became has, and does. Everyone spelling words the same way doesn’t mean the language became logical though. Anyone trying to rationalize the English language text realizes immediately that the final determination is in reality not logical at all.

We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes
But the plural of ox should be oxen, not oxes
Then one fowl is a goose, but two are called geese
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese

You may find a lone mouse or a whole nest of mice
But the plural of house is houses, not hice
If the plural of man is always called men
Why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen

The cow in the plural may be cows or kine
And the plural of vow is vows, never vine
If I speak of a foot and you show me your feet
And I give you a boot would a pair be called beet

If one is a tooth, and a whole set are teeth
Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth
If the singular’s this and the plural is these
Should the plural of kiss ever be keese

Then one may be that and three would be those
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose
We speak of a brother, and also of brethren
But though we say mother, we never say methren

Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him
But imagine the feminine she, shis and shim
So the English, I think, you all will agree
Is the strangest of languages you ever will see

The Power Of The Press: Gutenberg Germany

The print medium gave writing its true power. The ability to print is the most technological seismic change western civilization has ever known. In 1435, printing was invented in Guttenberg, Germany. This would be the beginning of the information age. Print also made it hard to control the spread of ideas. As in England, where the Chancellery decided how words would be spelled, it would be the owners of the presses that determined what words would be used.

Early in the reign of Henry VIII, the king remained adamant on burning Wycliffe’s bible, and followers. Wycliffe’s bible was circulating relentlessly in hand copied form. The Catholic Church continued hunting down, and executing all books they alone considered heretical. It was during this time, an ordained priest, educated at Oxford, named William Tyndale began to preach against the Catholic Church. History was repeating itself. The presses would play a major role in bringing about a radical change in the English language, and what was to be read. When one cleric challenged Tyndale regarding his intention to make a new English language bible he responded, “I will cause a boy who drives a plow to know more of the scriptures that thou.” It would be Tyndale who finished the work that had begun with John Wycliffe.

William Tyndale: A Stranger In A Strange Land

In 1524, at the age of 29, William Tyndale left England. Unknown to him at the time, he would never return. He settled in Cologne, Germany, and began to work on translating the New Testament, not from Latin, but from the original text of Hebrew, and Greek. By 1526, six thousand copies had been printed, and were about to be smuggled into England. Henry VIII, and the Catholic Church were alerted, even terrified of this perceived threat. The nation’s entire political, and religious authority was put on alert. Naval ships patrolled the coastal waters, and searched boats for the latest heretical conspiracy against the church, and a great number of Tyndale’s books were intercepted. Nevertheless, hundreds of copies of the first run of Tyndale’s Bible would eventually make their way through. The king sought to purchase the entire print run so he could have them burned. “Oh, he will burn them”, Tyndale was known to have said. “Well, I am the gladder, for I shall get the money for these books, and the whole world will cry out for the burning of God’s word.” The books were purchased, and burnt. Tyndale would use the proceeds to prepare, and print a better version of his bible, and all at the church’s expense. Tyndale’s work would later become 85% of the King James Bible, and native English language speakers all use Tyndale’s words, and phrases unto this very today. Words, and phrases such as, scapegoat, let there be light, the powers that be, filthy lucre, my brother’s keeper, fight the good fight, flowing with milk and honey, sick unto death, a man after my own heart, signs of the times, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, ye of little faith, eat drink and be merry, broken hearted, clear eyed, and hundreds of other phrases, and idioms are accredited to Tyndale. Words like, beautiful, fishermen, stumbling block, two-edged viper, Jehovah, and Passover also come to the English language through Tyndale. Tyndale’s language not only refined the English speaker regarding their external experiences, they also taught them how to communicate concerning their internal condition.

Before long there were thousands of copies of Tyndale’s Bible in England. These new bibles were produced in pocket-sized books and were easily concealed. He passed them on to city officials, and universities, even to young boys who plowed the fields. The authorities, especially Thomas Moore railed against Tyndale’s work. But, it was too late, the damage to the Catholic Church was done. The English had their bible. Tyndale, of course, was condemned as a heretic, and the hunt for him continued until 1535 when two hired assassins trapped Tyndale in Antwerp. Tyndale was captured, kidnapped, and smuggled out of the city, and taken to Vilvoorde Castle near Brussels, where he was imprisoned. In his last letter, Tyndale asked, “That I might have a warmer cup, for I suffer greatly from the cold. A warmer coat also, for what I have is very thin. A piece of clothe for which to patch my leggings, and I ask to be allowed to have a lamp in the evening for it is wearisome to sit alone in the dark. But, most of all, I beg and beseech your clemency that the commissary will permit me to have my Hebrew bible, my grammar, and my dictionary, so that I might continue with my work.” Tyndale did continue to work, his work would also give the English language phrases such as, a prophet has no honor in his own country, a stranger in a stranger land, a law unto themselves, and, let my people go.

In August, of 1536, Tyndale was found guilty of heresy by an inquisitional court in the Netherlands, and as was the case with John Wycliffe, the determination was already predetermined. On October 6th, Tyndale was tortured yet again, strangled while tied to a stake, and burned. His last words would be, “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes.” Within one year the Catholic Church would be ousted from England, and Tyndale’s bible placed in every parish throughout the land. The ousting of the church wasn’t based on corruption, or even morality. It would be based on a king that sought an annulment of his marriage. A decision the Catholic Church wasn’t willing to make.

The Pope’s refusal to grant Henry VIII a divorce from Catherine of Aragon led to a confrontation with the Catholic Church. Suddenly, Henry VIII objected to Catholic rule. Precipitously, scripture became more important to the king than Catholic authority. As well, Thomas Moore would be executed for refusing to a meeting of the minds with the king. King Henry’s new advisors, Thomas Cromwell, and Thomas Cranmer, pushed for ecclesiastic reform. The split with the Catholic Church also meant a split from Rome. The English reformation was now in its infancy. The English language would now become the language of the court, the language of literature, and now the language of religion. Ironically, at the time of Tyndale’s martyrdom, Henry had authorized the first legal English bible, the Coverdale Bible. Soon there would be so many competing versions of the bible that King James of Scotland would order a standardized version, which today is known as the King James Bible, completed in 1611. The interpreters of the King James Bible reviewed all of the competing versions, but it would be William Tyndale’s Bible that made up the majority of the English text. In fact, 85% of the King James Bible is in reality, Tyndale’s work.

Henry The Eighth And His Many Wives

Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon, who had previously been married to the king’s brother Arthur. Arthur had been the original heir to the throne. Henry, and Catherine’s first son died, and a series of miscarriages followed. Catherine therefore failed to produce an heir to the throne. Henry being much younger watched as his wife became bloated as a result of numerous pregnancies. The marriage however was able to produce a daughter. Mary! Catherine, being of Spanish blood was a devote Catholic, as her daughter would grow to be. During Henry’s reign, Thomas Woolsey was the churches supreme leader. Woolsey rose from a butcher’s son to the hold the highest position in the Church of England. Woolsey would be the architect of Henry’s victories in the French campaigns, known as the Battle of the Spurs. Henry took control of two French cities at that time. Also, during this time, in Germany, Martin Luther had risen in power, and began condemning the corruption of the Catholic Church.

Henry was adamant to defend Rome, and won the title of Defender of the Faith when he wrote his book, In Defense of the Seven Sacraments. This was the first book written by a king since Alfred. Thomas Moore, a friend who held great sway over Henry requested Henry to take a more moderate stance on religion. The king steadfastly refused. King Henry would eventually fall for the sister of one of his mistresses, Anne Boleyn. Anne refused Henry sexual relations, only unless he agreed to marry her. The difficulty was that he was already married, and Catherine refused to grant a divorce. So, Henry, and Anne began searching for a legal loophole to resolve the marriage. Their best hope laid in the bible. The book of Leviticus forbade a man to marry his dead brother’s wife. Henry argued that when Rome permitted his marriage to Catherine, the Pope exceeded his power, and the marriage was therefore invalid. That matter was then turned over for disposition to the man who was both the Pope’s representative in England, and Henry’s own chief minister, Cardinal Woolsey.

On May 17th 1527, the first trial of the marriage of Henry the VIII began. It was a secret trial, as Catherine had no knowledge about the proceedings. All were confident that Woolsey would rule the marriage invalid. To everyone’s surprise, on May 31st, Woolsey adjourned the court indefinitely on grounds of the difficulty of the case. Woolsey defied the king who felt betrayed. The fact is that matters in Rome at that very time made it impossible for the Pope to rule in favor of Henry. The troops of Charles V had sacked Rome, and pillaged the city. The Pope was driven out of the city, and sought refuge at Castel St. Angelo, which was the property of Catherine’s nephew. While the Pope waited in exile at the Castel St. Angelo, Henry’s desire to receive an annulment was quashed.

Henry, and Anne had hoped for a quick marriage, but the matter had stretched into years. In the second divorce trial held in 1529, Henry’s patience was at an end. Woolsey knew his power, and life was at stake. He wrote Henry’s case, in his own hand, “never rising to eat or even piss” according to his valet. But, not even the Cardinal of England had the power to sway Europe’s political powers at that time. Given the condition of the Pope, Woolsey was unable to persuade the Pope to grant Henry, and Catherine’s annulment. Woolsey would lose his position, power, and prestige, and shortly thereafter died, but not before cursing Anne, and blaming her for his swift downfall. Woolsey predicted the downfall of the Catholic Church as well.

Anne, a sympathizer of Luther, encouraged Henry to turn to Rome’s English opponents for guidance, and that led to a meeting with Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury. Henry was told that he had been going about the divorce proceeding the wrong way. Cranmer said he had been treating it as a legal matter, but it wasn’t, according to Cranmer, it was a moral one. Cranmer said the bible supplied absolute answers as to what was right, and what was wrong. Cranmer suggested Henry seek the knowledge of theological experts to get his answer, which all of Rome, as well as the Pope would have to recognize. Experts gathered at Cambridge, and delivered the verdict Henry desired. Henry’s envoy was then sent to pit the argument against the authority of the Pope. The entire power of the Tutor state bribed, and bullied the European universities to rule in favor of Henry. But, Catherine wasn’t without her own defenders. One of them was Thomas Able, her personal minister. Henry sent Able on a mission to Catherine’s nephew, but Able acted as a double agent. Outwardly, he was working for Henry’s cause, but secretly he was undermining the king’s strategy, on Catherine’s behalf. When Able returned to England, he became Catherine’s outspoken propagandist. He wrote, Invicta Veritas, which attacked the verdict of the university scholars. Henry read the book, and was furious, he wrote, “The whole basis of this book is false. Therefor, the Papal authority is empty save in its own seat.” Despite this, Able continued to rail against the king. This led to two arrests, and imprisonment in the tower. Able would subsequently be executed as a traitor to England in 1540.

Henry being king, and emperor of England felt he was subject to no authority on earth. Not even that of the Pope. Henry, once the stoutest of proponents of papal authority, turned his back on the church, all because of the matter of a divorce. Henry held that the truth was not found in Rome, but in the words of the bible itself. Those same words that the church had tried so desperately hide from the English people.

The Pope’s interest in preserving his own position, and the five years delay in obtaining a divorce had taken its toll. The church was now Henry’s enemy, and what stood between him, and Anne. Henry argued that there were no Popes in scripture, but there were plenty of kings. Cranmer also argued that it was kings who were God’s anointed. Henry’s wrath against the Catholic Church would transform the monarchy from that point on, and forever. On January 19th 1531, the Archbishop of Canterbury proposed that Henry should be the head of the Church of England. The announcement was met by a stunned silence. The Archbishop took it to mean consent. Henry was now head of the Church of England. By becoming the head of the English Church, Henry broke Magna Carta, the first clause of his coronation, which was his allegiance, and devotion to the Catholic faith. Henry, still married to Catherine became a bigamist. In December of 1532, Anne became pregnant, and in January of 1533, Henry, and Anne married. The following month Cranmer was made Archbishop of Canterbury, and declared Henry’s marriage to Catherine unlawful. Charles V of Spain became furious upon learning of the announcement, and the Pope excommunicated Henry.

Henry’s old friend and counselor, Thomas Moore, warned him regarding his defiance to the church. Laws now required opponents to swear a double oath, to accept the kings second marriage, and to object to Papal supremacy. To refuse the oath meant treason to England, and certain death. Moore refused the oath, and was imprisoned for more than a year at the tower. At his trial, Moore said he could not be guilty because the English Parliament did not have the power to make Henry the supreme leader of the church. Moore argued that all of Christianity had given that authority to the Pope, and had done so for more than a thousand years. The law chief justice responded, “English law was whatever English Parliament said it was.” Moore was condemned, and beheaded on July 6th, 1535. Working with Parliament, instead of against it, as his father had, worked in Henry’s favor. In 1536, the monasteries were plundered of their wealth, and dissolved under the guise of reform. Henry would then face the greatest threat to his power, known as the Pilgrimage of Grace. By 1540, the last standing Abbey was gone. This provoked shock, outrage, and open revolt. The largest army England had ever seen, since the Battle of the Roses, some thirty thousand with twelve thousand reserves marched toward London from the North. They were prepared for war. Henry only had eight thousand men. Wisely, he chose to negotiate a deal. Henry also offered pardons to all, and the revolt dispersed. A few months later Henry broke his promise, and exacted revenge. The leaders of the revolt were arrested, and sent to London. The trial was especially harsh on the clerics, even those who were coerced into joining the revolt. Many religious leaders were drawn and quartered, or hanged. Henry’s church, which condemned Rome for all its barbarity was now the new form of tyranny, and terror.

Anne was unable to produce a male heir to Henry’s throne. After only three years of marriage, she was executed on trumped up charges of adultery, incest, and sexual perversion. Anne’s real crime however, was that she failed to produce a male heir. Henry soon married Jane Seymour who produced a male heir, Edward. However, Jane would die shortly after giving birth to Edward. Henry’s two disputed marriages, and the lack of a male heir were now resolved. Edward succeeded Henry in 1547. Edward then removed his half sister Mary from succession because of her staunch Catholic religious faith. On Edward’s deathbed, Lady Jane Grey was named queen of England. Mary formed an army based out of East Anglia, and backed by the Catholic Church, and successfully deposed Jane, who was subsequently beheaded. In 1554, Mary married Phillip of Spain, and thereby began the 4th Tutor dynasty. Mary restored Catholicism to England, and during her five-year reign, executed more than two hundred and eighty protestant dissenters, who were burnt at the stake. Upon her death, Mary’s half sister, and successor Elizabeth returned England to Protestantism.

Prevailing Winds

John Locke’s, Essay Concerning Human Understanding was a conceptual work where Locke believed that if a definition of all words could be agreed upon, this would bring an absolute understanding between nations, and as a result, peace would prevail, and wars would be avoided. “Dispute would end of themselves.” Locked also believed that a uniformity of language would lead to pure reasoning. Latin remained understood as the international language of scholarly work, and regarded as the only precise way of communicating science, and other serious works. Members of the Royal Society wanted to make England the language for scholars. In 1687, Isaac Newton published his first work, Principia Mathematica, which was published in Latin. But, his next work, Opticks, published in 1704, was written in England. Newton gave the English language new terms such as flexibility, and other terms began to take on new meaning, transmission became, passing through a medium, opaque had meant unlit, but now was understood for not allowing the passage of light. Newton also gave us indistinctness, and well defined. English scholars by now were redefining the meaning of many English words.

For the first time, daily newspapers began to circulate, and articles were short, and concise. By this time the work of Geoffrey Chaucer’s, The Canterbury Tales, was becoming difficult to understand, even tedious to read. Jonathan Swift, the writer of the bogus travel diaries, known as Gulliver travel’s, while writing under the name Lemuel Gulliver, (a surgeon and captain), criticized these new changes, he argued that these new terms could hardly be understood unless one had aces to an interpreter. Swift hated “the vulgar liberties” these English scholars were having with the English language. Modern scholars also began shortening words, and this shortening was considered crude. Examples include, mob, from a French word that was shortened to mean common people. Swift also hated modal words such as, bully, banter, shuffling, cutting, and sham. Swift said Latin, and Greek had survived because they never changed. Swift said he would save the English language by “putting an end to changes.” He wanted to take control of the language, and to take it away from the “anarchy” of the class bloods, and their slang. In 1712, Swift proposed the foundation of an academy, for ascertaining, improving and preserving the English tongue. This new form of academia was to replace the bastardization of the language the aristocracy was responsible for. Swift took his case to Queen Anne, however she died shortly thereafter, and George III, took her place. George III was a German king who spoke little English, and cared about the matter even less. Swift’s plans died a miserable, and humiliating death. Dr. Samuel Johnson, an effortless eccentric would become the English language’s next champion.

Samuel Johnson took seven years to put 43,000 words, and definitions, etymology, and quotations into a dictionary. He confessed to omitting words he didn’t understand, “Many terms of art, manufacturing, and trade were omitted. But, for this deficit, may I boldly allege it was unavoidable. I could not visit caverns to learn the miner’s language, nor take a voyage to perfect my skill in the dialect of navigation.” Johnson’s dictionary is lacking in the language of law, medicine, and the physical sciences. He left out rude words, and when two society ladies asked him why, he responded, “What my dears? Have you been looking for them?” In 1755, Johnson’s dictionary was finally published in two volumes. This dictionary, with all its omissions gave a sense of national pride. For it was not put together by a French committee, but was the efforts of one man alone, an Englishman. One inclusion into Johnson’s dictionary is the word, Tarantula, which described the creature as, “an insect whose bite is cured only by music.” Johnson also defined his trade as a, lexicographer, “a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge.” Today the dictionary is still read, and enjoyed in all its eccentricity, and antiquated glory. Despite the humor attached to some of the definitions, like the examples given above, Johnson’s goal was to fix the pronunciation of words in the English language. But, by the time he finished his work, Johnson was convinced that no dictionary could pin the language down.

The printed form of English was being regarded as the correct way to speak the English language. But, what did the written English sound like, and who decided? One idea was that all the letters that were written should be spoken. This was to help in how to pronounce vowels. But, what of the many English inconsistencies in the written form? Truly, the English language is a nightmare. There are at least seven ways to pronounce the vowel, e. Free, these, leaf, field, seize, key, machine. The four letters ough, have six different sounds, cough, though, through, thorough, bough, thought. Johnson omitted pronunciations from his dictionary stating, “Trying to fix it was like trying to lash the wind.”

The Select Society held. “Pronunciation is proof someone has kept good company.” Thomas Sheridan believed his new book would teach everyone how to speak the same, and make everyone equal. That didn’t happen. His book divided people’s, especially the Scotts who were made to feel their dialect was inferior. Robert Burns would be the bearer of the Scot standard. Born in 1759, to a poor farming family, Burns worked as a plowboy until he was 15. It’s said he loved women, Scotch, and Scots. His first publication was a collection of poems, Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect. Burns made the Scots proud of their own language. Burns died at 37, but he left four hundred songs, and other admired Scottish works.

Prose And Cons

William Wordsworth, an ordinary man wrote, Lyrical Ballads And A Few Other Poems. He said, “Poetry should be written in the language in the language really used by men.” Wordsworth lived in the same manner that he wrote. He planted his garden using wildflowers, instead of the cultivated hybrids of the upper class. It was much the same with the language of his verse; the natural variety that men used in their daily lives. Wordsworth warned that readers who were used to gaudiness, and inane phraseology, of many modern writers would perhaps have to struggle with reading his works. For daring to write poetry in the language of the ordinary person, Wordsworth was reviled by the critics, and contemporary poets. Thomas Paine’s, The Rights of Man, was written in the plain language of the common people, as well as, Answer’s to Mr. Burke’s Attack on the French Revolution. Today it’s hard to imagine a world of art without the likes of Paine, Wordsworth, and their predecessors. Wordsworth gave a lasting legacy to the language of ordinary speech. Despite this, among the privileged, and “educated”, how one spoke was a key to their social status.

Jan Austin wrote novels that were aimed at the woman reader. Her subjects were always a well off businessman in search of a wife who had the same social status. Her works carried with it the concept that, if certain words were removed, the thought regarding those words follow. For the male penis she used terms, such as: tailpipe, Pilgrim’s shaft, silent flute, pike of pleasure, mutton dagger, cupids torch, chink stopper, Nimrod the might hunter, his majesty in purple cap, pick lock, pump handle, pleasure pivot, dear morsel, and Dr. Johnson, “because there was no one that he wasn’t prepared to stand up to.” Trade terms had no place in the works of Austin. But, those terms were about to reinvigorate the English language once again.

The Industrial Revolution

In 1851, an exhibition held at the Crystal Palace in London, displayed manufactured a plethora of goods, and inventions from the modern industrial world. For the first time ever, every conceivable device was on display. This era of industrialization also ushered in, and introduced new words into the English vocabulary. Those trade words included, hydraulic power, centrifuge pump, lithograph, electro-plating, dynamo graph, and anhydrohepsetarion. Craftsmen, usually watchmakers brought word of their trade into common language as well, wheels, pins teeth, and horsepower the new standard of energy output. New words that originated from Greek, and Latin were absorbed into the new world, which was now the leader in science, the technology such as: biology, petrology, taxonomy, morphology, paleontology, ethnology, gynecology, histology, agronomy, phytology, and entomology. Engine in the middle ages meant skill or talent. It would change to mean machine, or weapon, and again to mean motor, or locomotive. The world was moving on, and taking with it many words. The word industry itself moved away from initially meaning, individual ideals, to large factories or mills, which had originally been trading post. Now, factories were something that churned out products en masse. Words like labor, capital, and industry were not just changes in meaning, but also changed the way people lived. Untold millions would learn new words, from the slang of the poor, including slum. The economic miracle of the industrial revolution was also a curse with large-scale squalor, and poverty on every corner, never before seen in any society considered civil. English was using new words to describe social standing. Status, or rank changed to class. The slum was the realm of the working class, the lower class.

In the late 16th century, the language police sneered at urban dialect, such as Cockney, which was regarded as the speech of the “vulgar provincialists from metropolis”, or “a speech that lacked literary propriety.” The journalist, Henry Mayhew writings would change all of this when the Cockney rhyme eventually gave the street language the cherished characteristic it still enjoys today. Slang means street language. It’s code speech. A way a group speaks to itself, without being understood by the rest of society. Marie Lloyd, was reviled for using the following line, “She sits among the cabbages, and peas.” Lloyd then changed the words to, “She sits among the cabbages, and leeks.” Speech was changing; people were changing, their speech was designed to hide its true meaning, behind masks of respectability. Charles Dodson, who wrote under the pen name of Lewis Carroll, invented the fictional character of Humpty Dumpty, “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean.” In 1871, Dodson wrote, Alice In Wonderland, Through The looking Glass. He then took the written form of the English language into a new realm, with his poem, Jabberwocky, which was considered intellectual nonsense. Dodson once said, “A word means what the writer intends it to mean, and what the hearer understands it to mean, and that is all.”

Pygmalion, a work of Bernard Shaw is the story of a Cockney girl who’s coached how to speak “properly”, like an upper class lady. Shaw intended to show that there was no magic in this perceived “good speech.” At the time Shaw broke one of the cardinal rules of polite society, which was to never use a certain word on stage. That word was “bloody.” The use of this word brought outrage at the time, but that outrage would soon fade, as the outbreak of WWI would bring about the long decline of social order, an order based merely on language, and speech. From this time on, no longer would one be considered a better person simply based on the manner of their speech. WWII would follow, and the new mediums of radio, and television brought the realities of the horrors of war right into the living room of every home. Soon the Korean War, Cuban Missile Crisis, and Vietnam were to follow, and terms like, communism, red scare, cold war, and nuclear bombs were added to the vocabulary of anyone that spoke the English language. People could now sit in the comfort of their own home, in their favorite reclining chair, while eating a bowl of vanilla ice cream, and partake in the ritual of becoming desensitized to the realities of the new world that surrounded them. Next it would be Palestine, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the “terrorist”, both theirs, and ours, as the high-speed “information age” ran so fast at us that everything had to be abbreviated. 911, and WMDs are phrases that were intended to put us in such a perplexed state of fear that nearly everyone was ready to give up all their freedom in order to keep their liberty. Soon, “smart devices” came along, and anyone that had learned to type at 60WPM, could suddenly express themselves while clumsily typing on a keypad the size of a thimble with only their thumbs. CUL8TR, LMFAO, and OMG will no doubt become dictionary entries, if they haven’t already in this age of de-evolution. No longer would one have to leave their desk to communicate to another warm body. One can now LOL while the entity on the other end contemplated it the former was laughing out loud, or sending lots of love their way. I’d LMFAO at the entire scenario if it wasn’t all so very pathetic.

This new era, this “information age” is in reality anything but that as how much information one is allowed access to is strictly controlled by those that own the airwaves, the television networks, cable networks, magazines, newspapers, marketing, and PR firms. I think you get the picture. I hope you do.

As much as the English language has grown, absorbed, and expanded in this age of talking heads, visual manipulation, enhanced audio, and double spin, all of this in reality is designed to bombard the senses with senselessness, and mystify the bovine masses with a sophisticated form of controlling the way we perceive, and react to intentionally illusory contrivances. The age of technology, and a refined, and well-crafted form of propaganda has arrived. It too has brought the English language a myriad of cryptic terminology. But… who cares? Let’s go shopping!

I’ve heard it said that journalism is a form of communication that is usually untrue, unreadable, unlearned, paid for, and intentionally misleading. On the other hand, I’ve also heard it said that literature is expressive, stylized, and dynamic yet it is seldom read, and even less understood. What is communication? What is language?

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Japan, Child Abduction, The Hague And Sanctions

The above image was provided by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Note: The first image shows a xenophobic Japanese child surrounded by foreign children all with big noses. The image below it shows a foreign man being arrested for committing a crime against a child. The middle image shows a Japanese woman in financial ruin because she married a foreigner, and is unable to provide for her daughter. The top right image shows a foreign male abducting his daughter, with the Japanese mother pleading for her return. The image below that shows a foreign male beating a defenseless child, taken from her mother who remains in Japan. This despicably racist propaganda was designed to aid the Japanese in understanding the implications of Japan ratifying The Hague Convention on Child Abduction. This twisted message exposes the depths of depravity Japanese officials are known for, and the irrational message they desire to portray to their own citizens. In reality, it’s the Japanese that abuse, and abduct children, more than just about any other nation.

Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi married Kayoko Miyamoto in 1978. The following year the U.S. Congressional Subcommittee on International Child Abduction had its first hearing. Japan was one of the nations of main concern during that hearing. Koizumi’s marriage would end four years later in divorce. However, prior to the termination of the failed marriage, the couple had two sons, Kotaro, and Shinjiro.

It’s often said that in Japan custody of the children always go to the mother. The father almost always voluntarily cut ties with his children, and forever. While those in the west would find this arrangement appalling, Japan continues to pretend that this is perfectly acceptable conduct. In the case of Koizumi, his families political connections, along with Japan’s notoriously corrupt judiciary awarded sole custody of both sons to him, allowing his ex-wife sole custody of the six month, unborn fetus that she was carrying at the time of the marriage dissolution. Yoshinaga Miyamoto was born three months later. He became the third son of man who would be prime minister, and to this day has yet to meet his father, who has never acknowledged him. The divorce terms forbade contact between the mother, and her one, and four-year-old children who in reality were abducted from her by Koizumi. Neither of her abducted sons have ever met with their mother again, even though they live less than an hour away from one another. In an article for the L.A. Times Miyamato said, “I’ve been hoping to be reunited with my sons for nineteen years. All I can do is wait.” It’s been thirteen years since that story was published in 2002. The following is a link to that article: http://articles.latimes.com/2001/oct/02/news/mn-52341.

When Yoshinaga was newly born, Koizumi failed in a planned abduction attempt of his third son. When he was pressed on the issue Koizumi responded with speech characteristic of political jargon, stating, “It’s a matter of privacy, I’d like to refrain from commenting. However, I thank the Japanese public for entrusting the important duty of prime minister to a divorced politician. I feel a change flowing in Japanese society.” Change occurred indeed. Across Japan the rate of divorce skyrocketed. So did the rate of child abductions.

Kotaro, and Shinjiro are now both adults. One is an aspiring politician; the other is a talentless pop star. Although Yoshinaga has never met his famous father, he somehow admires the man, and continues to hope that one day he would be able to meet him. For Kayoko, seeing her abducted son plastered on billboards, advertisements, and performing on TV shows is too much for her to endure. Yoshinaga became a fixture on morning talk shows with his repeated pleas to meet with his father entirely ignored. Silence! That’s how Japan deals with the myriad of social injustices, and morally reprehensible conduct that continues to plague the nation.

The former prime minister is a man who intentionally, and irresponsibly shirked his duty to raise a son, who loved him unconditionally. Regardless, during Koizumi’s televised campaign for the prime minister’s seat, Yoshinaga, who was a young boy at the time, would be heard by his mother shouting, “Come on, Pop, win this one!” Sadly, those shouts would be absorbed by the wind!

 

One thing Koizumi, and Jong-il have in common is that they’re both child abductors.

After Koizumi won the office of prime minister, on September 17th, 2002, he visited North Korea to meet with Kim Jong-il to address the issue of Japan’s claim that North Korean agents had abducted hundreds of Japanese citizens, to train spies so they could communicate in Japanese, and to understand the culture. Unlike Koizumi, and every prime minister that would follow in his footsteps, North Korea would admit culpability to a handful of abductions, apologize, and return five victims. Japan, on the other hand has never acknowledged any of the thousands of kidnappings its responsible for, and has yet to return any of the known victims that have been abducted from nearly every nation on the face of the planet. In the U.S. alone, and ever since congress began holding hearings on child abductions, those kidnappings amount to more than four thousand.

A celebrated history of child abduction

Japan’s first shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu whose descendants ruled Japan until the Meiji Restoration, was a victim of numerous abductions. Ieyasu was the son of Matsudaira Hirotada, the daimyo of Mikawa of the Matsudaira clan, and Odai-no-kata, the daughter of a neighboring samurai lord, Mizuno Tadamasa. The majority of Ieyasu’s family had ties with the Imagawa clan. Family feuding over regional pacts resulted in the murder of Ieyasu’s paternal grandfather. Tokugawa Iemitsu, the third shogun of the Tokugawa dynasty, and grandson of Ieyasu ruled from 1623 until 1651. Iemitsu was responsible for shutting off relations between Japan, and the rest of the world for two centuries. In the process, Iemitsu destroyed thousands of families, separating fathers, and mothers from their children by not allowing Japanese citizens who were overseas to return home, under the threat of execution. This decree commonly called the Sakoku Policy did not only affect Japanese families, foreigners caught up in the irrational decree were also forbidden to leave Japan, thereby affectively cutting them off from reunification with their wives, and children as well.

The abductions of Ieyasu

In 1548, when the Oda clan invaded Mikawa, Hirotada, Ieyasu’s father turned to Imagawa Yoshimoto, the head of the Imagawa clan for help to repel the invading forces. Yoshimoto agreed to help under the condition that Hirotada sent Ieyasu to Senpu, where he would be held as a hostage to assure Ieyasu’s father remained loyal to Imagawa. Hirotada agreed to this unconscionable term. Oda Nobuhide, the leader of the Oda clan learned of this arrangement, and had Ieyasu abducted while he was en route to Sunpu. Ieyasu was merely six years old at the time. Nobuhide threatened to execute the child unless his father severed all ties with the Imagawa clan. Hirotada replied that sacrificing his son’s life showed his determination to remain loyal to the Imagawa clan. Despite Hirotada’s refusal, Nobuhide chose not to murder Ieyasu, but instead held him hostage for the next three years at the Manshoji Temple in Nagoya. Ieyasu would never be reunited with his father, or mother ever again.

By 1549, when Ieyasu was seven years old, his father died of natural causes. At about that same time, Oda Nobuhide died during an epidemic outbreak. The death of Nobuhide weakened the Oda clan. Imagawa Sessai sent an army to lay siege on the castle where Nobuhide’s first son now ruled. With the castle about to fall, Sessai offered a deal to Nobuhide’s second son, Nobunaga. He promised to end the siege if Ieyasu was handed over to the Imagawa clan. Nobunaga agreed. Ieyasu was once again abducted, and taken to Sunpu, his original abduction destination. There the boy was held hostage until the age of fifteen when his abductor passed away.

I had a chance to visit Ieyasu’s remains, which are housed in a lavish shrine in Tochigi Prefecture. I had gone to Tochigi to write an article for Tokyo Weekender on Nikko’s National Park in autumn. The following is a link to that article: http://tokyoweekender.com/2012/11/nikko-in-autumn. I shrugged off taking the time out of my schedule to visit Ieyasu’s final resting place. I was not interested in visiting the grave of man who through fraud had faked his own royal lineage to persuade Kyoto’s religious leaders to sanction his appointment to shogunate.

Today, Ieyasu is celebrated as the man who ended Japan’s Warring State Era. In reality, Ieyasu, and his offspring were mass murderers; sociopaths responsible for the destruction, and pillage of an entire nation, as well as the continued policy of abducting children to ensure the Tokugawa’s remained in power. Ieyasu was also responsible for the mass beheadings of those who sought refuge in Osaka Castle when he took siege against a child he had sworn an oath to protect. The Tokugawa’s were also responsible for the genocide of Christians who joined forces with peasant farmers known as the Shimabara Uprising. Both Christians, and peasants were executed en masse because they refused to bow to the Tokugawa’s as deities, and refused to pay excessive taxes, that in reality were causing the peasants, and their children to starve to death.

No doubt Ieyasu’s childhood trauma played a significant role in his inability to understand the importance of family relations, and his vow to protect an innocent child that was incapable of protecting itself. Ieyasu would write the Buddha’s name ten thousand times in an attempt to absolve himself of the lack of integrity that was a clear part of his character. He could have written the Buddha’s name a million times, it wouldn’t change the fact that he was a liar, and a murderer of children who were incapable of defending themselves. Ieyasu’s lack of integrity remains an inherent aspect of the Japanese mindset, as Japan continues to dishonor international treaties the nation has ratified, including The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Regarding the folklore, and myth known as the Japanese honor code, made famous in books, poetry, and movies, it holds no real position in factual history. There simply is nothing honorable when it comes to the nation’s refusal to address the myriad of child abductions that continue to stain the nation’s xenophobic reputation. Unfortunately, that lack of integrity, and the lack of honor is the true “way” of the Japanese, where the samurai, or “warrior” code has long been exposed as for what it really is, a fallacy.

 

A painting of Tokugawa Ieyasu, Japan’s first shogunate, and victim of multiple abductions as a child.

Japan’s irrational ideology on child abduction

U.S. congressional committees on international child abduction have been going on since 1979. With Japan being one of the most egregious violators in bilateral relations regarding this subject matter. H.R. 3212 was passed into law in the U.S. to ensure nations complied with the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction by countries with which the U.S. enjoys reciprocal obligations to establish procedures for the prompt return of children abducted to other countries, and to impose stiff sanctions on nations that do not comply with this law. Japan signed this agreement in April of 2014, and is subject to sanctions as a result of being in violation of these terms.

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ) spent five years fighting for the passage of a law known as The Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2014. Smith stated, “Many children, and parents have tragically lost years separated from each other in violation of U.S., and international law,” He added, “They have missed birthdays, holidays, and family time that they can never get back. H.R. 3212 ensures that they will now receive significant help from the U.S. government in their fights to recover their children. Every day a child is separated from his or her rightful parent, and home in the United States brings immense suffering to both parent, and child. The Goldman Act is designed to right the terrible wrong of international child abduction, and heal enormous pain, and suffering, and bring abducted children home.”

More than one thousand international child abductions are reported to the State Department’s Office on Children’s Issues each year. Between 2008, and 2013, at least 8,000 American children were abducted, according to the State Department. Earlier this year, the National Center for Exploited and Missing Children reported that there have been at least 168 international child abductions from New Jersey alone since 1995.

In a March 2015 hearing on Capitol Hill, Congressman Smith stated that, “Japan is breathtakingly unresponsive on U.S. child abductions.” He called for immediate sanctions. Smith stated that unless sanctions are imposed, which are the consequences of The Goldman Act, for non-compliance, the law would be toothless. Smith called on Tokyo to comply with its international obligations.

Despite Japan ratifying the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, it has yet to comply with any aspects of the treaty regarding the return of the more than four hundred known U.S. cases of child abduction. The accord requires the Japanese government to set up processes for legal appeals from foreign parents seeking either visitation or the return of their children to the country where those children were abducted. Ironically, Japan has used the treaty to have five children returned to Japan, yet continues to fail to acknowledge parental rights abroad, even where abductors have been placed on Interpol, and the FBI’s Most Wanted List. This double standard is repugnant, and harmful to international relations, and national security. Further, Japan has received sixty-seven requests for the return of abducted children since ratifying The Hague terms, from the U.S. alone, and has yet to take any action. As of this writing, the FBI Most Wanted List include Japanese child abductors, Ryoko Uchiyama, and Reiko Nakata Greenberg-Collins both have international warrants out for their arrests.

There are currently more than four hundred known cases of children kidnapped to Japan since 1994 from the U.S., a number Smith called “unconscionable.” What is equally unconscionable is during that same hearing on Capitol Hill, Representative Smith requested the actual number of children returned from Japan to the U.S. Susan Jacobs, the Special Advisor for Children’s Issues at the State Department responded by saying, that she didn’t know representative Smith was going to “ask for numbers.” Smith ridiculed Jacobs for not having that information readily available. The truth is that Jacobs knew exactly what those numbers were. None! No child has been returned to the U.S., which proves that Jacobs is entirely inept in handling the responsibilities of the position that she holds, and should be removed from office for gross incompetence, and for failing to take adequate steps to address this with Japanese officials. Ridiculously, Jacobs would also state, “I talked to Ambassador Kennedy yesterday, and she is energized and she is ready to launch.” Kennedy has been the Ambassador to Japan since November 2013. Did it really take this long to get energized on one of the major topics of friction between U.S., and Japanese relations? Jacob’s empty rhetoric has been going on for several years now. Smith was obviously frustrated at Jacob’s inability to understand the gravity of the situation. Jacobs would then tell Smith that she “shared his frustration”, and was planning to visit Japan in June, where she, and Ambassador Kennedy would discuss the annual report with Japanese officials.

In 2013, Representative Cardin (Maryland), of the Foreign Relations Committee spoke to Kennedy on the topic of child kidnapping, and Japan, and the four hundred pending cases of American abductions. Mr. Cardin asked Kennedy if she would use her office to help resolve those open cases. Kennedy stated, “As a parent I certainly understand the emotional aspect of this issue,” and “That everyone at the State Department is really committed to making that happen, and to bring these issues forward, and resolve these cases.” This comment was made nearly two years ago, yet Kennedy has not taken any steps in dealing with this matter. Kennedy did Tweet regarding other inhumane conduct the Japanese engage in, and which is internationally condemned, the Taiji dolphin slaughter.

Cases of child abductions prior to April 2014 fall outside of the scope of The Hague Agreement on child abductions, which Smith blasted as outrageous. Parents in those situations may still apply to Japan for visitation rights, but almost no parent has ever received such rights, and when they do, they are treated as if they are an imprisoned felon, with police, lawyers, Japanese officials, and the other bawling, and objecting parent in a separate adjacent room doing their best to interrupt the reunion, while all view the short visitation through one-way glass. Children who haven’t seen their non-abducting parent in several months, to several years, and probably have been brainwashed with horror stories, and may no longer be unable to communicate in their native tongue, no doubt would cry due to the high level of stress associated with the circumstance. If they appear detached, Japanese officials take that as a sign that the child wants nothing to do with the non-abducting parent. Anyone that has obtained even basic child psychology knowledge would immediately recognize that a child who had been separated from their parent for such a long time, needed an adequate adjustment period, and most likely psychological counseling as well. Thirty minutes or so just doesn’t equate as an adequate parent-child reunion.

Is the State Department assisting parents in the return of their abducted child?

Unfortunately, history has taught us that if anyone wants to get something accomplished, they have to take matters into their own hands. The recent action of the State Department proves that if the U.S. government is not willing to assist citizens whose lives are in peril in Yemen, they certainly aren’t going to aid someone to get their abducted child back, despite laws that are written regarding the scope, and degree of the State Department’s duties in such matters. U.S. citizens stranded in Yemen had to resort to filing a lawsuit against the Department of State for abandoning them. Meanwhile, other countries including, China, Russia, and India, have conducted large-scale evacuations, including aiding in evacuating numerous U.S. citizens.

On August 24th, 2011, 14 year-old Mary Lake, a U.S. citizen, who was kidnapped by her mother, and taken to Japan in 2005, in one of the most high-profile international kidnapping cases in U.S. history, walked into the U.S. consulate in Osaka, and asked to be rescued, after being held captive in Japan for six years. Indifferent, and incompetent consular staff refused to aid in the child’s rescue, and instead sent her back to her kidnapper. Mary’s father, William Lake, would later be informed of his daughter’s attempted rescue by caseworker Virginia Vause from the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues. Lake would learn that the consular office attempted to make only one call to him at his residence. They didn’t leave a voice message, nor did they contact him on his cell phone, or send an email. When Lake brought up the issue of why his daughter was turned away, he was told that the consulate would not assist in his daughter’s escape because they needed to have his written authorization to take her into custody. Furthermore, if his daughter were taken into custody the consulate would have to assign a staff member to stay with her until she was returned to the U.S., an inconvenience that the State Department refused to accept. They also required an agreement in advance for Lake to repay any airfare costs. This was the third episode of gross negligence on the part of the Department of State toward Lake, and his daughter. Twice previously they illegally issued passports for his daughter without obtaining his required signature, even after it had been established that her father was the lawful parent, and the mother was wanted for kidnapping. Generally, all cases involve at least one parent who is Japanese. In Lake’s case, neither the victims, nor the abducting mother are Japanese. It’s should be harshly apparent when it comes to the crime of child abduction that the Department of State clearly values the relations with foreign nations over the safety, well-being, and lives of U.S. citizens being held captive in Japan.

Jeffrey Morehouse has spoken on Capitol Hill numerous times regarding child abduction. He was granted sole custody of his son in 2007 due to his former wife’s alcohol abuse, psychological issues, violence, and because she was a flight risk. Restraining orders against the mother traveling with their son were in place when she fraudulently obtained a passport from the Japanese consulate in Portland, after being turned away in Seattle. U.S. consular officials have refused numerous requests to pursue prosecution, and adamantly refuse to aid in the return of Morehouse’s son based on his former spouse’s violation of both Japanese, and U.S. laws regarding child abduction. Since Morehouse’s son was abducted, all communication ceased between them. The boy’s whereabouts, mental, and physical condition remain unknown. In March 2014 Morehouse was granted sole custody by a Japanese court. Yet, he still has no contact with his son, and has no knowledge as to where he is being held. Morehouse operates an organization called BACHome: Bring Abducted Children Home. In the following link, Morehouse testifies before a congressional hearing that took place in March of 2015, regarding child abduction, Japan’s ratification of The Hague Convention on Child Abduction, The Goldman Act, the facts regarding the disappearance of his son, as well as the imposition of sanctions on Japan: https://youtube.com/watch?v=4eHITnrRMFA.

On March 11th, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed House Resolution 125 by a vote of 418-0, condemning Japan for its actions on International Child Abduction. This congressional resolution described Japan as “a United States ally which does not recognize intra-familial child abduction as a crime, and though its family laws do not discriminate by nationality, Japanese courts give no recognition to the parental rights of the non-Japanese parent, fail to enforce U.S. court orders relating to child custody or visitation, and place no effective obligation on the Japanese parent to allow parental visits for their child.”

On May 21st, 2009, the U.S., the UK, France, and Canada released a joint press statement condemning Japan for it’s inaction regarding international child abduction, and called on Japan to sign the Hague Convention. These four nations acting with one voice stated, “left-behind parents of children abducted to or from Japan have little realistic hope of having their children returned, and encounter great difficulties in obtaining access to their children, and exercising their parental rights, and responsibilities.” These countries urged Japan “to identify, and implement measures to enable parents who are separated from their children to maintain contact with them, and to visit them,” and described the “failure to develop tangible solutions to most cases of parental child abduction in Japan particularly troubling.”

On July 13th 2003, Erika Toland was abducted from her home at Negishi Navy Family Housing in Yokohama, Japan. Her mother, the abductor, Etsuko Toland, subsequently died of suicide on October 31st, 2007. Since the death of the child’s mother, her maternal grandmother, Akiko Futagi, has refused Erika any contact with her father. The child’s father is, Commander Paul Toland, a highly decorated U.S. Naval officer. Since his daughter’s abduction he has been trying to see Erika, to no avail. On June 25th, 2009, Congressman Chris Smith discussed Erika’s case on the floor of the House of Representatives. He stated, “The international movement of our service members make them especially vulnerable to the risks of international child abduction. Attorneys familiar with this phenomenon estimate that there are approximately 25 to 30 new cases of international child abductions affecting U.S. service members every year.”

More than a decade later, Erika remains held as a hostage from her father, as government officials tasked with the duty to address these issues remain staggeringly indifferent. Toland has spent his life savings trying to have his daughter returned to him. His Japanese attorney told him via email, “Please understand that your case is not a piece of cake due to the racism, and irrationality of the Japanese legal system. It might be like defending the Taliban in the U.S.” Toland said while speaking at a congressional hearing, “I flew to Japan, and waited on a street corner to greet Erika on her way home from school, because this is the only contact with dignity that is possible. I knew that if I had tried to take Erika to the embassy, and attempted to get a passport, I would likely meet the same fate as Christopher Savoie, when he attempted to retrieve his children from Japan. I would likely be blocked at the gates of the embassy by a state department that was more interested in preserving a relationship with Japan, over the welfare of U.S. citizens. I’d likely end up in a Japanese jail, as Christopher Savoie did.

In the following link, Navy Commander Toland testifies before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington D.C. on December 2nd, 2009: https://youtube.com/watch?t=23&v=f9lfTWFX0f8.

The Department of State and Japan’s nuclear debacle

After the third nuclear explosion at the Daiichi Nuclear Facility in Namie, Fukushima, the U.S. consulate finally made the determination that American citizens were in peril. If U.S. citizens wanted to leave the country, they could board planes that were available at Narita airport. At the time I was appearing on MSNBC with Brian Williams, and my photography, and videography was appearing in several media outlets. I contacted the U.S. Embassy, and inquired into the conditions for U.S. citizens to board one of those planes. I stated that April was the beginning of the work year in Japan, and there were thousands of new teachers stranded, and probably unable to pay for flights back home, as they had just arrived, and most likely were recent university graduates. The embassy staff told me that if citizens were unable to pay for the flight back to the U.S., their passports would be confiscated, and unless they paid the State Department back the airfare, plus interest, they would never be allowed to leave the U.S. again. I was shocked, and couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The entire nation was shut down including all forms of transportation, store shelves were empty, and Tokyo’s water spiked with high level of radiation contamination. It was finally disclosed that Daiichi was using MOX Fuel, and high levels of plutonium were released into the atmosphere, as Japanese officials played the silence game, telling everyone to remain calm, and that there was “no immediate threat to life.” Professor Koide from Kyoto University, a nuclear physicist, and long time adversary of the reckless, and grossly negligent energy company, TEPCO stated that the plutonium alone released from those three explosions were the equivalent to 200,000 Hiroshima bombs. I had a friend who had direct contact with Nancy Pelosi. I informed them what was happening, and they immediately notified her as to what the embassy was scheming in Tokyo. The next morning it was one of the top news story that Pelosi had gotten planes on Narita’s tarmac, and they were available for free to any U.S. citizen who wanted to leave the country. The threat of passport confiscation ended, as well as turning U.S. citizens into homeland prisoners due to no fault of their own.

The Department of State’s complicity in kidnapping children

Julian Assange’s trouble began when WikiLeaks released thousands of classified documents that exposed not only U.S. war crimes that were occurring in Iraq, but also diplomatic communications that were taking place at the State Department. I took an interest in the topic as most Americans did. The government’s position was that the release of those documents “placed American overseas in imminent danger.” Some of those documents I read exposed communications between U.S., and foreign diplomats, exposing U.S. involvement in the abduction of third world children, and turning them over to foreign diplomats, who were pedophiles, so those children could be used as sex slaves. In exchange for those “favors”, the foreign diplomats engaged in “international cooperation”, and assisted those U.S. officials who worked for the State Department in business transactions they would benefit from. None of those diplomats have ever been brought to trial, as they enjoy immunity from prosecution. Yet, Assange who exposed these outrageous crimes remains on self-imposed lockdown in the Ecuadorian Embassy of London, which is monitored around the clock by U.S., and UK government agents. Private Manning who turned over those documents to WikiLeaks was convicted for violating the Espionage Act, and sentenced to thirty five years imprisonment, forfeiture of all pay, and dishonorably discharged. Ironically, Assange, who is not a U.S. citizen, and who was guilty of nothing more than what the mass media often does, did exactly what the corporate media would have done with that information if it had been turned over to them, which was to publicly expose that very same information, except they would have profited nicely from it, and continued to enjoy their freedoms. American officials, and media hacks continue to call for Assange to be extradited for “aiding the enemy”, and for “treason”, a crime that is exclusively reserved for citizens of that country, which Assange isn’t.

Prejudicial double standards

Parental child abduction is not a crime when Japanese nationals do it, yet when foreigners attempt to have contact with their children it’s handled as a felony

Chris Savoie, who had custody of his two minor children left them with his former spouse Noriko for visitation purposes. That was the last time he would see them in the U.S. Noriko defied a Tennessee state court order, which barred her from leaving the state, and ordered her to turn over her passport to officials. This order occurred after Savoie received an email from her, which read, “It’s very hard to remain here watching my children lose their Japanese identity.” Savoie filed a restraining order. He subsequently contacted his former father in law, who told him the children were in Japan. Savoie’s only hope to ever see his children again was to go to Japan, and try to get them back in the same manner his former spouse had taken them. As his children were walking to school he placed them in his car, and drove off to the U.S. Embassy. The media would say that the Japanese police arrested Savoie as he was about to enter the American consulate. But, the true facts are the U.S. Embassy officials turned Savoie over to the Japanese police, who treated the case as a kidnapping. Savoie struggled with Japanese police, who literally ripped the terrified, and screaming children from his arms. Savoie was handcuffed in front of his children, and taken into custody at one of Japan’s notorious Daiyo Kangoku detention centers where the use of torture, and coerced confessions are daily matters with corrupt police, prosecutors, and a judiciary that sanctions all of it. Savoie was charged with abduction of a minor, and faced five years in prison for merely attempting to enforce a U.S. custody order. Savoie’s story was the last one that made international headlines regarding Japan, and child abduction. International, legal, and media pressure forced the prosecutors to release Savoie who returned home, and filed a false imprisonment action against his former wife. Savoie was awarded a 6.1M verdict. He said the money was a hollow victory. “Anything about this just reopens a lot of wounds. It’s bittersweet.” Savoie said he hasn’t been allowed to speak to his children in more than a year. That was back in 2011. “At the end of the day, I’d much rather have one afternoon in the park with my kids than one penny of this judgment.”

The return of an abducted child to the U.S.

No thanks to any intervention on the part of the State Department, Caroline Kennedy, or Susan Jacobs, one Japanese abductor got a taste of American style justice.

Emiko Inoue being led into court where she faced 25 years for child abduction.

Emiko Inoue thought she was clever when she abducted Moises Garcia’s daughter Katrina to Japan. After three years, and only one visit with his daughter in Japan, Garcia caught a break. His ex-wife flew from Japan to Hawaii to renew her U.S. green card. Inoue was unaware that her U.S. immigration file had been flagged because of a Wisconsin arrest warrant issued a few months earlier. Inoue was arrested, and extradited to Milwaukee, a city she once called home, where Karina was born, and where she, and Garcia were married. Milwaukee prosecutors ordered Inoue to return Garcia’s daughter to the U.S. within 30 days, or risk spending the next twenty-five years in prison. After eight months in prison she plead no-contest to felony child custody interference by a parent for fleeing America with Garcia’s daughter. Karina, was six at the time, and Inoue’s decision to circumvent U.S. family court set in motion an unprecedented criminal case, making her the first Japanese citizen to be arrested in the U.S. for child custody interference. It’s a felony in most states, but not considered a crime in Japan, unless the parent happens to be non-Japanese. Garcia gained full custody of Karina shortly after Inoue left the country in 2008. Eventually, he would also be granted full custody by a Japanese court, although it would reverse that decision, saying it was in the best interest of the child to remain in Japan.

Garcia successfully convinced the Milwaukee prosecutor’s office that although he had legal custody in both countries, there was no way for him to get his daughter back or even get visitation rights. The Milwaukee police department then issued a warrant for Inoue’s arrest in February of 2011, even though it was unlikely that Japan would agree to extradite her to face felony parental child abduction charges in the U.S. Unlike Japan’s Ministry of Justice, known for its corrupt, and prejudicial determinations against foreign nationals, the prosecutors in Inoue’s case allowed her to remain in the U.S., instead of deporting her for having a felony conviction. Inoue could also travel freely outside of the country with permission from the court, but not with her daughter. Inoue’s attorney in Japan, Haruki Maeda, said that Inoue only “very reluctantly” agreed to the deal. Under the plea bargain Katrina was sent back to her father, who had remarried. Maeda questioned whether, “Separating Katrina from her mother, and forcing her to live with her father, and stepmother, will lead to the well-being of the child?” Unlike in Japan, where a child has no right to make any self determination, in the U.S., when Karina turns twelve, she has the right to tell a U.S. judge what parent she desires to live with.

Garcia arranged for a Japanese tutor for his daughter, and for psychological counseling to help her cope with the transition. On the other hand, foreign parents that haven’t had any contact with their abducted children have noted that, when they do manage to obtain contact, the child can no longer communicate with them, and that no measures were taken to ensure the child smoothly integrated into Japanese society, which in reality calls children with two nationality parents, “hafus”, racist jargon meaning the child is somehow defective because they are not fully Japanese. Another well-known fact about Japan is that Japanese children will almost never associate with hafus, who suffer varying degrees of bullying, and are ostracized by Japanese children who can only learn such level of xenophobia, ignorance, and hatred from the parents who raised them that way.

Are parents of abducted children doing enough to gain custody, or visitation rights with their children?

From The Shadows is a documentary film highlighting several parents who have had their children abducted to Japan, including Paul Toland, and Regan Haight. I’ve contacted the producer, and directors Matt Antell, and David Hearn numerous times attempting to receive a viewer copy of the film for this article. I’ve never received a response from either of them, and the website http://fromtheshadowsfilm.com doesn’t seem to be a valid link. I can’t find this documentary anywhere, and it seems those that took the effort to produce it don’t consider it important enough to promote it. Another film titled, Sayanara Baby, which is an Australian News Special can be found online. The following is a link to the film: http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XNDA2MzE2Nzcy.html.

Regan Haight, a mother of two who’s featured in both documentaries mentioned above was married to Shuta, Japanese national. Haight returned home one day to find her children, and her husband gone. He abducted the children to Japan, and they weren’t ever going to return. Haight soon discovered that Japan, which claims to always award custody to the mother, wasn’t about to here her legal argument. The perverted Japanese family courts are always stacked heavily against those who are not Japanese, and those who are not the abductor. The Japanese officials sided with her former spouse, the abductor of her two children. Haight turned to a former British military special forces operative, Steve Johnson who is known in the business as a child recovery specialist. Johnson told Haight that Japan has the reputation of being impossible to recover children from. Johnson joined Haight in Japan, and Shuta claimed the children had been abducted a second time by their Japanese grandmother who was holding them for ransom. Haight said “At one point she told me that I had to sign over the house, and that I could see the kids. So, I did that. Then she wouldn’t let me see them. Next, we had to pay her fifty thousand dollars to see the kids. I didn’t have that money.”

The legal definition of kidnapping is the unlawful carrying away of a person against their will, usually to hold them for ransom, or in furtherance of another crime. Shuta, and his mother engaged in a conspiracy to extort as much as they could from the grieving mother. Captured on videotape, the children’s father was handed an ultimatum from Johnson, release the children to Haight or the matter would be turned over to the media, the police, and Interpol. Shuta, and his mother, realizing that they could be imprisoned for criminal extortion, and kidnapping, turned the children over to Haight. Today, the children enjoy a safe, and loving relationship with their mother. Haight is the only woman who has ever succeeded in having her children returned from Japan, a nation that would rather protect kidnappers, and extortion conspirators, than to protect abducted children who are in imminent danger, while being held for ransom. Japanese officials never brought charges against the criminal monsters the children had previously called, Otousan (father), and Obaachan (grandmother).

Australian Chayne Inaba, a trauma medical specialist had been battling the system in Japan to gain access to his daughter Ai. He tried to negotiate with his wife, and her family for visitataionrights, but they threatened him with violence if he didn’t stay away from her. One evening upon returning home from work, Chayne was attacked from behind in his own home, and beaten nearly to death with a brick. “I walked inside, closed the door, walking down towards the living room and I was attacked by a brick from the bathroom. I had two black eyes, skull fractures, a lot of damage”. Chayne has strong suspicions about who was responsible, and the message they were trying to send. “There’d be major problems if I went to the house where my daughter is being held. The police would be involved, a lot of nasty things would happen.” “The brick had skin, hair, and blood on it, and (the police) told the Australian consulate that the brick wasn’t the weapon”.

Craig Morrey, a man who defines the word hero perhaps more than any other person in the history of humankind became a single parent, sacrificing everything to care for his profoundly disabled son, after his pregnant wife ran off. She abandoned her disabled son, and abducted the healthy child, with no intention to ever allow Morrey into the child’s life. Morrey first saw his infant daughter in a courtroom when she had already reached six months of age. Morrey was attempting to gain visitation rights to his daughter. Although Morrey’s wife had abandoned her fist child, the Japanese court awarded her sole custody of Morrey’s daughter. The following link provides more information about Dr. Morrey: http://childrenfirst.jp/content/dr-craig-e-morrey. Dr. Morrey also operates a website in honor of his children, and other children that have been abused by Japan’s morally bankrupt judiciary: Forever Your Father. The following link is a CNN article about the life of Dr. Morrey, and the son he cherishes, Spencer: U.S. Father’s Japanese Custody Heartache.

After nineteen years in Japan, Alex Kahney packed his bags to return to the UK, leaving behind everything he cared for, which were his two beautiful daughters who were abducted by their Japanese mother. “I thought she can’t kidnap my kids, I’ll just go to the police. The first two or three months I was shattered, the first six months I was numb. I’ve been disowned. I might as well be a ghost.” In the documentary, Sayonara Baby, it’s painful to watch Kahney attempt to speak to his two daughters who were clearly being brainwashed to fear their father, and who are seen running away from him as they walk home from school. Two children that once adored their father were being taught by their Japanese mother to hate, and fear the man that spent years trying to regain them into his life, and to be the father that he always wanted to be for them. The following link is a BBC article on the ongoing plight of Mr. Kahney: http://bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-12358440.

Support groups for parents of abducted children

Bruce Gherbetti is the father of three children who were abducted to Japan in 2009. Since that time, he has moved to Japan to maintain contact with his children. He has also helped to form two organizations to fight for children’s rights in Japan, and has lobbied Diet members including former Justice Minister Satsuki Eda. Apparently, his efforts have been fruitless. Regardless, he presses on. The following link is a website Mr. Gherbetti operates in honor of his son: Bring Sean Home Foundation.

John Gomez, chairman of Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion, a group of Japanese, and non-Japanese parents, friends, and supporters advocate for the right of children to have access to both parents. Mr. Gomez understands that Japan simply ratifying the Hague Convention will not solve anything if the nation continues to take a one-sided approach to domestic custodial rights. The Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion website is located at: http://kizuna-cpr.org.

Eric Kalmus helps to operate Children’s Rights Network. The website is a major source of exposing the depths of Japanese injustice, and is located at the following link: http://crnjapan.net. Kalmus’ ceaseless work related to child abduction resulted in his own daughter, who had been abducted to Japan several years ago, discovered his work online, and reunited with him shortly thereafter.

I’m betting you didn’t know that it took thirty two years for Yoko Ono to be reunited with her kidnapped daughter. During the period when Richard Nixon was attempting to have John Lennon deported permanently from the U.S., the famous couple was enduring another legal battle, and that was over the abduction of her daughter, Kyoko. The children’s Rights Network has posted a link to that story here. John, and Yoko discuss the kidnapping on the David Cavett show, and videos of this interview can be found on YouTube.

Applicable U.S. laws

A 1993 U.S. federal law makes it a crime to prevent a person from exercising their parental rights by removing a child from the U.S. or keeping a child outside the country. A federal grand jury in Virginia charged Walter Benda’s former wife with kidnapping, a felony offense that carried with it a penalty of up to three years in prison, or a $250,000 fine. Japan refused to extradite the abductor stating that it does not treat parental child kidnapping as a criminal offense, and is not covered under the U.S.-Japan extradition treaty.

Article 766 of the Civil Law, revised in 2011 specifies that visitation rights, child-support payments, and other matters must take into consideration the welfare of the child first.

Section 19 of The Goldman Act addresses pattern of noncompliance, and defines the term pattern of noncompliance as the persistent failure to inter alia, abide by provisions of the Hague Abduction Convention, and where thirty percent or more of the total abduction cases in such country are unresolved, and where the judicial or administrative branch of the national government of a Convention country or a bilateral procedures country fails to regularly implement, and comply with the provisions of the Hague Abduction Convention or bilateral procedures, and where law enforcement authorities regularly fail to enforce return orders or determinations of the right of access rendered by the judicial or administrative authorities of the government of the country in abduction cases.

Under Title II of The Goldman Act, Subsection, Actions by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of State has an obligation to promote the best interest of the abducted children, and to ensure enforcement for their prompt return. It’s been over a year since Japan joined the rest of the G8 nations regarding The Hague. Japan’s dawdling can no longer be tolerated. Sec. 202 of The Goldman Act addresses nations such as Japan that are in noncompliance with the terms of international child abduction. Actions that must be taken by the State Department include public condemnation, delay or cancellation in bilateral working, official, or state visits, withdrawal, limitation, or suspension of United States development assistance in accordance with section 116 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, withdrawal, limitation, or suspension of United States security assistance in accordance with section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, a formal request to the foreign country concerned to extradite an individual who is engaged in abduction and who has been formally accused of, charged with, or convicted of an extraditable offense. Currently, Susan Jacobs, and John Kerry are in the position to handle the abduction issues, and both are well aware of them, yet neither has taken any action to aid U.S. citizens to have their children who were kidnapped returned to them. These useless career politicians need to resign, and get out of the way. There is however, one champion in Washington that has the best interest of the abducted children at heart, and that is Representative Chris Smith from New Jersey, who, for years has been a thorn in the side of nations like Japan.

Japan’s racist immigration policies and the deportation of responsible parents

”Dear Walter, please forgive me for leaving you this way,” read the note from Walter Benda’s Japanese wife. Benda’s unsuccessful efforts to get information from his wife’s family, the Japanese police, and his children’s schools, left him feeling as if he was trapped in a Kafka novel. After months of unsuccessfully searching for the whereabouts of his children, his visa expired, and he was forced to return to the U.S. Mr. Benda, and Brian Thomas, a Welshman involved in a similar abduction case, began fighting back. They identified a dozen cases of child abduction by Japanese parents. In most cases, they were Japanese women married to foreigners, but there were also several involving Japanese men, and foreign wives.

Deportation laws are often what former Japanese spouses rely on to get the other parent out of the way, and Japanese authorities are more than willing to accommodate. Deportation proceedings mean the children’s foreign parents may never be allowed to return to Japan. These “legal” measures are criminal, and violate human rights, and the right of parents, and children to be able to continue in their relationship undisturbed by a vindictive former spouse, or racist, segregationist, immigration policies. Just as in the days of the Tokugawa’s, Japan continues to act as a vile, and repugnant isolationist state that seems to enjoy participating in the destruction of families, instead of preserving them, which is another farce the west has become accustomed to believe about the primitive, and world illiterate island nation.

Repugnant terminology

Often the term “spirited away” is used to describe a child that has been kidnapped. Writers, and advocates should stop using this aesthetic jargon, and use the terms kidnapping, or abduction instead, because these are legal terms that don’t trivialize the severity of the unconscionable criminal conduct. “Left behind parent” should also fall by the wayside, because hundreds of responsible, and caring parents were not forgotten, as if this was another release in a serious of “Home Alone” flicks. These grieving parents had their child kidnapped, and their life entirely destroyed as a result, often with the entire contents of the home, accompanied by the pilfering of the family bank account. The criminal perpetrators don’t just “leave behind” an unwilling participant, they ruthlessly destroy that person, and trash the fundamental rights they share with their child. This is a sure sign that the abductor is also engaging in systematic psychological abuse of the kidnapped child, and perhaps even physical violence. Terminology such as those stated above trivializes the harsh realities of child abduction, and they should no longer be associated with this form of criminal conduct.

The Civil Rights movement as the paradigm to address Japan’s unwillingness to end abductions

I’ve viewed numerous documentaries made on this topic. I’ve read countless articles, and interviewed scores of damaged parents who have lost their child due to abduction. I have watched hours of congressional hearings on international child abduction, and met with those at the forefront of the movement to end Japanese officials condoning conduct that violates international law. I have taken juvenile law, and family law courses in law school, and worked in both adult, and juvenile public defenders offices in southern California. I also worked at a family law clinic inside the Pomona Court while attending my final year of law school. Government officials, on either side of the issue are not doing enough, that, or they are not doing anything at all to help grieving parents to be reunited with children who each day grow further apart, due to the loss of communication, and physical closeness. The only recourse a non-abducting parent has is going the route Regan Haight did, hiring professionals to aid in the return of her children. Or is it? My suggestion to those whose children have been abducted is to follow the paradigm set by Martin Luther King. Fill Japan’s prisons with parents who are no longer willing to wait around for a disinterested third party to intervene.

If my child were abducted, I’d join ranks with approximately thirty other parents, and engage in collective civil disobedience. I’d prepare safe houses set up in various communities scattered about Japan where the children are being held. In groups of ten, I’d head for Japan, and I’d go after my child. I’d use whatever force was necessary to take back possession of my abducted child. If anyone failed, and the police got involved, I’d make sure to know enough Japanese language to inform them that this was a family matter, not a criminal matter, and remind the police what they have always claimed, which is that they have no jurisdiction over the matter. If the police arrested any of these individuals anyway, they’d be in good company, as certainly others in the group would be detained as well. I’d have a full statement prepared for the consulate officials, and the media. I’d have lawyers in the home country demanding the release of the children who are being held as hostages, and have those legal advocates demand the release of the parent who are being illegally detained. As soon as that first group’s story hit the media, I’d send a second wave of determined parents in another group of ten, and continue in the same manner. Surely, some would make it to a safe house, while those that were detained, and threatened with criminal prosecution, trained in civil disobedience, refused to participate in any police, or prosecutorial proceedings against them. They should also refuse to wear any prison garb. This would place extreme external pressure on the humiliated Japanese officials, forcing them to finally kowtow, and address the international consternation, and political ramifications for failing to address the matter after signing the child abduction aspects of The Hague. I’d have the arrested parents go on a hunger strike, and refuse to submit to legal proceedings, staunchly claiming the nation had no subject matter jurisdiction. Collectively, these parents would demand Japanese officials release the whereabouts of every child that had been intentionally hidden from their non-abudcting parent. Finally, I’d send the third wave of parents, and initiate the same procedures, crushing Japan’s illegitimate claims of sovereignty over the fundamental rights of non-abducting parents, and their children who remained in hostile conditions of psychological, emotional, and possibly physical abuse by their abducting tormenters.

Japan is no Goliath. Japan is an occupied nation that is nearly always on the wrong side of international disputes. Japan has proven over the past seventy years that it cannot be trusted as an autonomous, and rational behaving nation, and should remain occupied perpetually, as a result.

There is nothing more powerful than the bond between a parent, and a child that relies on both parents for security, love, and assurance. I believe there is nothing more honorable than a parent who is willing to sacrifice their freedom, and go to prison for the right to hold their child in their arms again, and to let them know what they were willing to resort to in order to hear their voice again, to listen to their laughter, and to smell the scent of their hair, and the very breath that they breathed. I believe this is a parent’s ultimate duty. Those who sit overseas, licking their wounds, and endlessly copying, and pasting articles that we’ve all already read, to the few “friends” on Facebook that may, or may not even bother to look at them, will continue to wait as the years pass without any contact with their children who may no longer even have the ability to communicate with them in their native tongue.

Preemptive protection of parental rights

Before marrying, and having children with a Japanese spouse, enter into a prenuptial agreement that include terms where neither parent could seek, or obtain sole custody of the children if the marriage were to be dissolved. Include a clause that states that neither party could abduct the children, nor prevent the other from having access to their children. Include another clause that states, if the children were abducted by one parent, in violation of that agreement, the non-abducting parent would determine, which country had both subject matter, and procedural jurisdiction over the matter. These kinds of agreements are binding in Japan, as well as most western style, civilized nations. Be sure to have two witnesses sign that agreement, and supply both parents with their own copy. Always obtain birth certificates for your children, and ensure they have citizenship in the non-Japanese parent’s country. Also, always have a valid, non-expired passport for your child at all times.

I conclude this article with a conversation that I had with former public prosecutor Hiroshi Ichikawa. Ichikawa became infamous when he was working for the city of Yokohama as a public prosecutor. Ichikawa had threatened a foreigner with death if he did not sign a false confession that Ichikawa had prepared for him to sign. When this matter was exposed, Ichikawa faced criminal charges, and was forced to resign. After that, he found a conscience, and began to publicly speak against the depths of government corruption that exists in Japan’s Ministry of Justice, and the fact that foreigners are not considered human beings by Japan’s prosecutors, and judiciary. When we spoke he admitted that foreigners have no human rights in Japan, and prosecutors are taught this as part of their training. In fact, foreigners are not even considered human beings. Foreigners that have had their children abducted should drink deep from this filthy well of knowledge, and never permit themselves to be subjected to any court proceedings in Japan, due to the prejudicial outcome of the proceedings that is sure to follow. Finally, retired judge Hiroshi Segi who recently released a book exposing the depths of depravity, and corruption in Japan’s judiciary, said the entire Japanese legal system should be scrapped because of its inherent, and systematic flaws. Segi also stated that every prosecutor, and judge in the nation should be removed from office, and that Japan should follow the model of justice as proscribed in the U.S., and the UK. Perhaps then, grieving parents, and their abducted children would finally have their fundamental human rights properly addressed in a court of real law, and their pleas for reunion granted with a binding judicial decree, and the banging of a gavel.

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The TPP And Its Implications On Food, Intellectual Property And Trade

The Farmers Cooperative which represents the majority of Japanese farmers want no part of the TPP.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a multinational trade agreement that threatens to extend restrictive intellectual property laws, patents, and rewrite international laws to enforce them. If not stopped, the TPP will eventually cover more than 40% of global trade. The TPP is the most aggressive trade plan in the history of the Asia-Pacific region. Despite the broad scope and far-reaching implications of the TPP, negotiations for the agreement have taken place in secret. Vandana Shiva, one of the world’s most respected authorities on agriculture, and biodiversity said the TPP is nothing more than an extension of the WTO, and deepens its implications in an even more perilous manner. Shiva stated that the impact of globalization, free trade and the deregulation of commerce in her native land resulted in 270,000 Indian farmers committing suicide. Shiva also said that each country that is currently in negotiations, or considering joining the TPP should understand that the only participants that will benefit from the TPP are U.S. corporations that have infiltrated and corrupted certain U.S. government branches, namely the FDA and the EPA, as well as other multinationals that are interested in privatizing, and exploiting national resources. As a result of the WTO every fourth Indian is now starving, and ever second child is wasted and stunted. The WTO has done nothing to benefit India, and the TPP will do nothing to benefit the people of Vietnam, Chile, and the other nations currently involved in secret negotiations. Shiva also stated that before the WTO, India went from being the top producers and exporters of oilseeds and pulses (lentils and beans), to the top importer of those products.

Who Would Benefit From The TPP?

Big pharm, Monsanto, Cargill, multinationals, World Banks, entertainment conglomerates, and lobbyists that corrupt congress and the senate of the U.S. legislative branch.

Criticism Of The TPP

The TPP is non-transparent. Like the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), the TPP is being negotiated rapidly with little transparency. During the TPP negotiation round in Chile in February 2011, negotiators received strong messages from prominent civil society groups demanding an end to the secrecy that has shielded TPP negotiations from the scrutiny of national lawmakers and the public. Letters addressed to government representatives in Australia, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand and the U.S. emphasized that both the process and effect of the proposed TPP agreement is unconscionably undemocratic. Despite the broad scope and far-reaching implications of the TPP, negotiations for the agreement have taken place behind closed doors and outside of the checks and balances that operate at traditional multilateral treaty-making organizations. The TPP raises significant concerns about freedom of expression, due process, innovation, the future of the Internet’s global infrastructure, and the right of sovereign nations to develop policies and laws that best meet their domestic priorities. In sum, the TPP puts at risk some of the most fundamental rights that enable access to knowledge for the world’s citizens. The U.S. Trade Representatives (USTR) is pursuing a TPP agreement that will require signatory counties to adopt heightened copyright protection that advances the agenda of the U.S. entertainment and pharmaceutical industries agendas, but omits the flexibilities and exceptions that protect Internet users and technology innovators. The TPP will affect countries far beyond the eleven that are currently involved in negotiations. Like ACTA, the TPP agenda is to create new heightened global IP enforcement laws. Countries that are not parties to the negotiation will likely be asked to accede to the TPP as a condition of bilateral trade agreements with the U.S. and other TPP members.

What Does The TPP Affect?

Everything from foreign ownership of land, mining licenses, media laws, control of agriculture, trade tariffs, treaty settlements, control of financial speculation, the price of medicines, compulsory labeling of food, plain packaging of cigarettes, privatization contracts for water, power, prisons, schools and hospitals. The U.S. trade office publishes an annual hit list of ‘trade barriers’ in each country including:

  • Restrictions on sale and manufacture of GMOs and labeling of GM foods.
  • Strict quarantine and labeling rules.
  • The importation of music, movies and computer programs.
  • Intellectual property protection in the digital media and pharmaceuticals.
  • Pharmaceutical schemes for buying drugs and subsidies.
  • Dominance of Telecom over competitors and new entrants.
  • Easing restrictions on foreign investments.

Regarding intellectual property the main problems are two-fold:

  1. Intellectual Property: Leaked draft texts of the agreement show that the IP chapter would have extensive negative ramifications for end users freedom of speech, right to privacy and due process. This will hinder the public’s ability to innovate.
  2. Lack of Transparency: The entire process has shut out multi-stakeholder participation and is shrouded in secrecy.

Why is the TPP being described as a “trade” agreement?

It’s clever branding. In reality it’s an agreement that guarantees rights to foreign corporations that operates from within any of the TPP countries like entertainment (Warner and Sony), pharmaceuticals (Merck and Pfizer), mining (RTZ and BP), tobacco (Philip Morris), retailers (Wal-Mart and Woolworths), finance sector (Merrill Lynch, Westpac, AIG, Macquarie, JP Morgan), agro-business (Cargill, Monsanto), private water operators (Bechtel, Veolia) and much more.

Special Rights. Foreign investors Can Sue Governments To Change Laws That Benefit the Multinationals

This works on several levels.

  1. Laws that allow foreign investment would be locked so they could only be weakened, unless the government reserves the right to strengthen them before it signs the agreement.
  2. It would guarantee foreign firms are consulted over proposed new laws and the government would have to show how it had considered their client’s views. Citizens would have no right to change laws that negatively impact the nation.
  3. If the government goes ahead with a new law that the foreign investors doesn’t like they could sue the government for billions of dollars for breaching their rights, thereby trumping domestic laws.
  4. If the matter did go to court, the case would be heard in a secret international court run by the United Nations or even worse, the World Bank, not a domestic court.

Examples of new laws considered for the TPP include a ban on plain packaging of cigarettes, tighter regulations onshore and offshore mining exploration, banning the sale of the kind of toxic financial products that fuelled the financial meltdown of 2008, restrictions on sale of strategic assets to foreign firms, and a tax on ‘hot’ money flowing into and out of the country. In New Zealand, the familiar and worn out pitch that the country would benefit where Fonterra’s milk powder would be introduced to the huge U.S. market. As U.S. economist Joseph Stiglitz said, “Most of these ‘free trade’ agreements are made for the sole benefit of the U.S., which has the bulk of the negotiating power.” There is no real negotiation for the TPP nations, and “New Zealand would never gain anything that would benefit the nation.”

The TPP Will Rewrite Global Rules on Intellectual Property Enforcement

All signatory countries will be required to conform their domestic laws and policies to the provisions of the Agreement. In the U.S., this is likely to further entrench controversial aspects of U.S. copyright law (such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and restrict the ability of Congress to engage in domestic law reform to meet the evolving IP needs of American citizens and the innovative technology sector. The recently leaked U.S. proposed IP chapter also includes provisions that go far beyond current U.S. copyright law. The eleven nations currently negotiating the TPP are the U.S., Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Canada, Mexico, and Brunei Darussalam. The TPP contains a chapter on intellectual property covering copyright, trademarks, patents and even geographical indications. Since the draft text of the agreement has never been officially released to the public, we know from leaked documents, such as the February 2011 draft U.S. TPP IP Rights Chapter, that the U.S. negotiators are pushing for the adoption of copyright measures far more restrictive than currently required by international treaties, including the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The leaked U.S. IP chapter includes many detailed requirements that are more restrictive than current international standards, and would require significant changes to other countries’ copyright laws. These include obligations for countries to:

  1. Place Greater Liability on Internet Intermediaries: 
 The TPP would force the adoption of the U.S. (DMCA) Internet intermediaries copyright safe harbor regime in its entirety. For example, this would require Chile to rewrite its forward-looking 2010 copyright law that currently establishes a judicial notice-and-takedown regime, which
provides greater protection to Internet users’ expression and privacy than the DMCA.
  2. Regulate Temporary Copies: Treat temporary reproductions of copyrighted works without copyright holders’ authorization as copyright infringement. This was discussed but rejected at the intergovernmental diplomatic conference that created two key 1996 international copyright treaties, the WIPO Copyright Treaty and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.
  3. Expand Copyright Terms: Create copyright terms well beyond the internationally agreed period in the 1994 Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Here, the owner of a creative work would be the life of the creator, plus seventy years for works created by individuals, and following the U.S.-Oman Free Trade Agreement, either 95 years after publication or 120 years after creation for corporate owned works (such as Mickey Mouse).
  4. Enact a “Three-Step Test” Language That Puts Restrictions on Fair Use: The United States Trade Representative (USTR) is putting fair use at risk with restrictive language in the TPP’s IP chapter. The U.S. and Australia are both proposing very restrictive text, and Peru is willing to accommodate the bad language.
  5. Escalate Protections for Digital Locks: It will also compel signatory nations to enact laws banning circumvention of digital locks (technological protection measures or TPMs) that mirror the DMCA and treat violation of the TPM provisions as a separate offense, even when no copyright infringement is involved. This would require countries like New Zealand to completely rewrite its innovative 2008 copyright law, as well as override Australia’s carefully-crafted 2007 TPM regime exclusions for region-coding on movies on DVDs, videogames, and players, and for embedded software in devices that restrict access to goods and services for the device, a thoughtful effort by Australian policy makers to avoid the pitfalls experienced with the U.S. digital locks provisions. In the U.S., business competitors have used the DMCA to try to block printer cartridge refill services, competing garage door openers, and to lock mobile phones to particular network providers.
  6. Ban Parallel Importation: Ban parallel importation of genuine goods acquired from other countries without the authorization of copyright owners.
  7. Adopt Criminal Sanctions: Adopt criminal sanctions for copyright infringement that is done without a commercial motivation, based on the provisions of the 1997 U.S. No Electronic Theft Act.

In short, countries would have to abandon any efforts to learn from the mistakes of the U.S. and its experience with the DMCA over the last 12 years, and adopt many of the most controversial aspects of U.S. copyright law in their entirety. At the same time, the U.S. IP chapter does not export the limitations and exceptions in the U.S. copyright regime like fair use, which have enabled freedom of expression and technological innovation to flourish in the U.S. It includes only a placeholder for exceptions and limitations. This raises serious concerns about other countries’ sovereignty and the ability of national governments to set laws and policies to meet their domestic priorities.

According To The BBC

The TPP is one of the most ambitious free trade agreements ever attempted. Its supporters have billed it as a pathway to unlock future growth of the countries involved in the pact. The critics have been equally vociferous, not least because of the secrecy surrounding the negotiations of the agreement. Despite the criticism, the countries involved have been pushing for a deal to be reached soon and they are confident that even more economies will want to join the pact in the coming years. The pact is aimed at deepening economic ties between these nations. The TPP is expected to substantially reduce tariffs, and even eliminate them completely in some cases, between member countries and help open up trade in goods and services. It is also expected to boost investment flows between the countries and further boost their economic growth. The member countries are also looking to foster a closer relationship on economic policies and regulatory issues. The eleven countries that are currently part of the negotiations have a combined population of more than 650 million.

A free trade agreement could turn this into a potential single market for many businesses. Criticism of the deal is on various fronts. Like many other free trade agreements, there are fears over the impact TPP may have on certain products and services in member countries. Some campaign groups have raised concerns about the impact such a wide-ranging agreement may have on intellectual property laws and patent enforcement. They fear the deal may extend the scope of patents in sectors such a medicine and prevent the distribution of generic drugs. Meanwhile Japan, which has expressed an interest to join the negotiations, has raised concerns about the agreement impacting its agriculture sector. But the biggest criticism has been of what the campaigners allege to be secretive negotiations. They say that the delegates have not been forthcoming about details of the issues that they have been discussing, and what the scope of agreement in those areas is likely to be, and how it will impact trade. Last year, a group of lawyers even sent a letter to Ron Kirk, the U.S. Trade Representative, to express what they called “profound concern and disappointment at the lack of public participation, transparency and open government processes in the negotiation of the intellectual property chapter of the TPP.” However, those working on behalf of the TPP organizers say the reason why the negotiations have not been made public is because there is no formal agreement as of yet. They also state that free trade agreements attract a lot of criticism from campaign groups, and that in this case the delegates may be wanting to keep the discussions under wraps to avoid any pressure from such groups.

The stated goal of the TPP is to unite the Pacific Rim countries by “harmonizing” tariffs and trade rules between them, but in reality, the “intellectual property” chapter in a massive trade agreement that will force changes to copyright and patent rules in each of the signatory countries. Accepting these new rules will not just rewrite national laws, but will also restrict the possibility for countries to introduce more balanced copyright laws in the future. This strategy may end up harming other countries’ more proportionate laws such as Chile, where a judicial order is required for ISPs to be held liable for copyright infringement and take down content. Such systems better protect users and intermediaries from disproportionate or censorship-driven takedowns.

If the final TPP text forces countries to adopt a privatize notice and takedown regime, this could imply the end of the Chilean system. It would also undermine Canada’s notice-notice regime. The content industry can, has and will continue to pay and distort facts to affect changes in laws that protects their sole interests, and what they want more than anything is for us to remain passive as they tighten the screws. They did it with SOPA, ACTA, and now it’s the TPP. I The TPP is slated for conclusion this October, but it should be our main objective to get the worst of these copyright provisions removed from it. Demand an open transparent process that allows everyone to analyze, question, and probe any initiatives that will make new regulations to the Internet. The secrecy of this agreement is not acceptable.

TPP And The GMO Horror Show

The TPP would force Japan to accept an unlimited amount of GMO foods and seeds. Additionally, rules dictate that the Japanese government can not require GMO foods to be labeled, or disclose the origin of the foods to ensure that consumers will not be able to even guess whether the food they are about to feed their children are genetically modified or not. While politicians use tax dollars to pay extravagant subsidies that are designed to gain farmers support for TPP, it would be better for the Japanese people to focus on the quality and safety of the food that will enter the market. Currently, around two-thirds of all crops grown in the U.S. are genetically altered. More than sixty percent of the food consumed in Japan comes from the U.S., and China. Japan should expect that most of the food imported from the U.S. would be genetically modified. Japan’s acceptance into the TPP will result in the U.S. agricultural giants taking over Japan’s farmland, and forcing farmers to pay licensing fees for patented GMO seeds, courtesy of Monsanto, the same company that brought Agent Orange to S.E. Asia, and Okinawa, DDT’s to the world’s farmlands, lawsuits against farmers that didn’t want their crops contaminated by GMO cross-pollination in the first place, and the total destruction of the once booming agricultural industry of India. Monsanto, or other biotech companies fund nearly all GMO research. This means that truly independent data is not available. Independent scientists claim that people are being used as human guinea pigs. Professor Terje Traavik is in a rare and privileged position in the world of genetically modified research. As scientific director of Norway’s GenØk Centre for Biosafety, he presides over the only research institution in the field of gene ecology, which is completely independent of funding from biotech companies like Monsanto. Professor Traavik has been giving speeches all over the world and for many years stating that 95% of scientists working within genetically modified research areas (genetic engineering, molecular biology and genetics, synthetic biology) are directly, or indirectly, working for the biotech industry. Despite widespread reports of intimidation, threats and career destruction of scientists who produce negative results, Professor Traavik says, “There is no shortage of techniques, methods and technologies within life sciences, but there is a shortage of critical minds and original hypotheses,” he said. The most famous incident involving intimidation, and the destruction of an independent researchers career is the case of Dr. Arpad Pusztai, one of the world’s top researchers in his field of lectin proteins and a senior researcher at the prestigious Rowett Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland. Ironically, Monsanto’s CEO, Hugh Grant is from Scotland as well. Hmmm…

When Dr. Pusztai fed genetically modified potatoes to rats, they developed pre-cancerous cell growth, smaller brains, livers, and testicles, partially atrophied livers, and a damaged immune system. Dr. Pusztai stated during a televised interview, “If I had the choice I would certainly not eat it”, and that” “I find it’s very unfair to use our fellow citizens as guinea pigs.” Two days later, his 35-year career at the Institute was ended amid persistent phone calls to the director from Downing Street. Dr. Pusztai was silenced with threats of a lawsuit, but eventually, he was invited to speak before Parliament, his gag order lifted, and his research published in the prestigious Lancet. In Latin America, the research by the embryologist Andrés Carrasco, director of the Laboratory of Molecular Embryology, at the University of Buenos Aires, had a similar occurrence. In 2010, he showed that Roundup, the Monsanto herbicide sold in conjunction with most genetically modified crops, caused defects in the brain, intestines, and hearts of amphibian fetuses. His research confirmed reports from peasants that they suffered adverse health consequences after using Roundup. Later, a violent gang prevented him from giving a speech on his findings.

In an interview with GM Watch, Professor Carrasco said, “The findings in the lab are compatible with malformations observed in humans exposed to glyphosate during pregnancy. In spite of the evidence, they still tried to run down thirty years of my reputation as a scientist. “They are hypocrites, lackeys of the big corporations, but they are afraid. They know they can’t cover up the sun with one hand. There is scientific proof and, above all, there are hundreds of affected towns, which are living proof of this public health emergency. I have confirmed that glyphosate is devastating for amphibian embryos, even at doses far below those used in agriculture. Roundup causes many, and varied types of malformations.” Ohio State University plant ecologist Allison Snow was one of many scientists to have their supply of seeds terminated after she discovered problematic side effects in genetically modified sunflowers, Pioneer Hi-Bred International and Dow AgroSciences blocked further research by withholding access to genetically modified seeds and genes. Marc Lappé and Britt Bailey suffered the same fate after they found significant reductions in cancer-fighting isoflavones in Monsanto’s genetically modified soybeans. After publication, Hartz, the company that supplied the seeds told them they would no longer provide samples. And when Hungarian Professor Bela Darvas discovered that Monsanto’s GM corn hurt endangered species in his country, Monsanto shut off his supplies. Dr. Darvas later gave a speech on his preliminary findings and discovered that a false and incriminating report about his research was circulating. He traced it to a Monsanto public relations employee, who claimed it mysteriously appeared on her desk, so she faxed it out. A further problem in the industry is conflict of interest. Many individuals have switched between jobs with responsibility for regulating the biotech industry, and working for Monsanto.

The following are some examples: Dr. Michael A. Friedman, formerly the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deputy commissioner for operations, joined Monsanto in 1999 as a senior vice president. When Linda J. Fisher left her role as an assistant administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), she became VP of Monsanto, from 1995 to 2000, she then returned to the EPA as deputy administrator the next year. William D. Ruckelshaus, former EPA administrator, and Mickey Kantor, former U.S. trade representative, each served on Monsanto’s board after leaving government. Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas was an attorney in Monsanto’s corporate-law department in the 1970s. He wrote the Supreme Court opinion in a crucial G.M-seed patent-rights case in 2001 that benefited Monsanto and other seed companies.

What does all this mean? The U.S. agricultural industry is one of the biggest proponents of the TPP and has the political clout to ensure that any trade pact will pay big benefits. The truth is that no one really knows what the long-term effects of GMO on humans are, mostly because few scientists are looking for those answers, and when those few scientists find results that negatively impact the bottom line of companies like Monsanto, they are discredited, sued, financially ruined, and run out of town. Much like what Monsanto does to farmers that don’t want their crops contaminated with genetically modified cross-pollination. With all this evidence staring in the face of Japan’s agricultural industry, the TPP advocates are willing to trust Monsanto and other politically connected companies that GMO foods are safe for the Japanese populace. Unfortunately there is no scientific evidence to prove that genetically modified foods are safe.

Monsanto, Obama, and the TPP trade negotiations with Japan

President Obama knows that agribusiness cannot be trusted with the regulatory powers of government. On the campaign trail in 2007, he promised, “We’ll tell ConAgra that it’s not the Department of Agribusiness. It’s the Department of Agriculture. We’re going to put the people’s interests ahead of the special interests.” Nothing could have been further from the truth. Much like Obama’s promise to get out of Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, that campaign rhetoric turned out to be nothing more than lies. Starting with his choice for USDA Secretary, the pro-biotech former governor of Iowa, Tom Vilsack, President Obama has let Monsanto, Dupont and the other pesticide and genetic engineering companies know they’ll have plenty of friends and supporters within his administration. President Obama has taken his team of food and farming leaders directly from the biotech companies and their lobbyists.

  • Michael Taylor former Monsanto Vice President is now the FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods.
  • Roger Beachy is the former director of the Monsanto-funded Danforth Plant Science Center. He’s now the director of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
  • Islam Siddiqui. Siddiqui is currently the U.S. Trade Representative’s Chief Agriculture Negotiator, was Vice President of CropLife America, the notorious lobbying group that represents pesticide and genetic engineering companies, including the six multinational corporations that control 75% of the global agrichemical market: Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, Dow and DuPont. CropLife is the group that infamously chided the First Lady for planting a pesticide-free organic garden at the White House. Siddiqui should be of great interest to Japan’s concerns about Monsanto and GMO patents. As part of the U.S. Trade office, Siddiqui would have considerable influence over the terms of the TPP free trade agreement, if not a personal hand in the negotiations. Remember that the U.S. advocates the elimination of food labeling that would allow consumers to avoid genetically engineered food products. Before CropLife, Siddiqui was a chemical farming and biotech booster in Clinton’s USDA. It was his idea in 1997-98, rejected by the organic community to allow GMOs, sewage sludge and irradiation in organic production. (The Organic Consumers Association spearheaded the successful campaign to save organic standards from Siddiqui.) Siddiqui was an Obama campaign donor and fundraiser.
  • Rajiv Shah is the former agricultural-development director for the pro-biotech Gates Foundation (a Monsanto partner), served as Obama’s USDA Under Secretary for Research Education and Economics and Chief Scientist and is now head of USAID.
  • Elena Kagan who, as President Obama’s Solicitor General, took Monsanto’s side against organic farmers in the Roundup Ready alfalfa case. She now sits on the Supreme Court.
  • Ramona Romero corporate counsel to DuPont, has been nominated by President Obama to serve as General Counsel for the USDA.

Click to graphic above to enlarge it.

One of the interesting aspects of Monsanto’s push to sow its genetically engineered seeds across the world is the issue of contamination. Cross-pollination of crops is not something anyone can control. So an organic farmer who sits adjacent or downwind from a field of GMO crops will easily become contaminated. This causes several problems for the organic farmer. For example, genetically engineered seeds do not reproduce viable seeds for the next planting season. So, farmers will discover that their contaminated crops do not yield viable seeds. Monsanto sees this as a feature and not a problem as their intent is to force farmers to purchase licensing agreements to gain access to GMO seeds every year, ensuring a market in perpetuity. Organic farmers would also not be able to sell their contaminated crops as organic. Worse, however, are patent laws, which protect Monsanto. Of course, these patent laws will be part of the TPP free trade agreement. Over the past decade, Monsanto’s aggressive marketing tactics, political lobbying and promises of increased yields have swept the farming world by storm. Don’t ever believe that farmers care about healthy crops. They care only about healthy profits.

Farmers who refuse to switch to Monsanto’s expensive seeds and chemicals are targeted for lawsuits under the guise of patent infringement. In reality, it’s the farmer’s crops that have become contaminated through cross-pollination, often intentionally to force those farmers to join the “club” or be financially ruined. As the wave of GM crops spread, many independent farmers who did not buy into the hype were discovered to have patented genes in their fields, and were then financially ruined by expensive lawsuits brought on by Monsanto’s army of litigious lawyers. An independent farmer cannot stand against a corporate giant that has infiltrated every government agencies, and the courts that are supposed to protect that farmer rights. Between 1997 and 2010, Monsanto admits to filing 144 lawsuits against America’s family farmers, while settling another 700 out of court for undisclosed amounts. Due to these aggressive lawsuits, Monsanto has created an atmosphere of fear in rural America and driven dozens of farmers into bankruptcy. So, the winds, bees, butterflies, and birds, which are part of the pollination process and owe no allegiance to either side, contaminate the organic farmer’s crops, ruin his business and Monsanto sues them for growing crops containing their patented genes. Must I add that bees, which pollinate most of the world’s food are dying in mass numbers, all due to being poisoned by Monsanto’s Roundup pesticides.

No bees, no food. No food, no seeds. No seeds no profits. No profits, no people. No people, no shareholders. No shareholders, no Monsanto. Any questions?

Our anonymous farmer speaks out. “We have a right to be secure on our farms and to be free from Monsanto’s GMO trespass. If Monsanto contaminates us, not only is the value of our organic seed crop extinguished but we could also be sued by Monsanto for patent infringement because their contamination results in our ‘possession’ of their GMO technology. We have farmers who have stopped growing organic corn, organic canola and organic soybeans because they can’t risk being sued by Monsanto. It’s not fair and it’s not right. Family farmers need justice and we deserve the protection of the court.” It’s a situation only a corrupt government could create. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that president Obama, who is desperately pushing for Japan to join the TPP free trade agreement, is one of the leading proponents of Monsanto’s GMO scheme. Former Monsanto executive, Michael Taylor, who serves in Obama’s administration as the “food czar.” His duties to the public include ensuring that food labels contain clear and accurate information, overseeing strategy for food safety and planning new food safety legislation. Taylor is the first individual to hold the position and he has failed miserably. Instead, he does all he can to see to it that Monsanto receives everything it desire for domination, ownership and control of the world’s seed supplies.

Mary Christ Massacre from the GMO masters of delusion.

The problem for Japan, and other nations is that the provisions within the TPP eliminate labeling for GMO, meaning that the consumer would have no way of knowing if the food was genetically engineered or even where it was grown. In Japan, food may be labeled as containing GMO ingredients or as being GMO-free, but this would change if a key clause in the TPP agreement was to be implemented. According to the Sustainability Council of New Zealand, “The U.S. has made clear that a priority for it in the proposed TPP is the abolition of laws requiring the labeling of GMO foods, as well as the acceptance of the import of such products.” This clause would apply to the Japanese market and Japanese consumers as well as any other country that agrees to the terms of the TPP.

Critics of the GMO business claim that many health hazards exist, but that they have been swept under the rug by the companies involved, and by systematically infiltrating key government positions. Japan is an isolated nation, with little knowledge of what goes on outside of the island chain. Acceptance of the relative terms of the TPP would force Japanese farmers into paying huge royalties, and entering into perpetual patent agreements. Farmers would be told that their crops yield would increase, and as a result receive greater profits. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A 2003 study showed that Monsanto’s GMO cotton grown in India produced between five to seven times less net incomes than the indigenous variety according to an official governmental report. This resulted in hundreds of thousands of farmers taking out expensive loans they could not afford, and when their crops did not yield the results they were guaranteed, they could not pay back the debt incurred against those loans. Many lost their lands, and to date more than three quarters of a million farmers have committed suicide. Are these the prices that unsuspecting small farmers, and the consumer of foods must continually pay in order for a company that is responsible for millions of deaths to continue to report quarterly profits, and for corporate criminals like Hugh Grant to receive multimillion dollar bonuses?

The TPP is about to change life in Japan forever. Yet, there will be no benefit for the Japanese people. The TPP will only result in importing the corruption of the U.S. government into Japan’s agricultural industry. Japan already has enough problems with the corruption within its own government and is a nation still reeling from the affects of TEPCO and the radiation debacle. There is significant opposition to the introduction of biotechnology outside the U.S., especially in Japan, the EU, and Australasia. According to the UK’s Soil Association 2008 report, GMOs have cost the U.S. farmer 12 billion in lost exports since 1999. Monsanto, has a large stake in this aspect of agribusiness, but suffered a setback in 2003, the British government released the results of three studies on the effects of GMOs, wherein lasting damage to the environment was predicted if GMOs were introduced. In addition, a British poll showed that 93% felt that not enough was known about the long-term effects of the so-called GMO Frankenstein food products, and 86% said they would not eat it. This popular reaction and these findings forced an effective halt to Monsanto’s research operations in the UK, and in other European nations as well.

It would seem imperative for the Japanese TPP negotiators to be aware of the ramifications associated with this aspect of the partnership, and to think carefully before allowing Japanese consumers and the Japanese ecology to be unwittingly exposed to a technology imposed from outside, the effects of which have yet to be objectively and definitively assessed. Already protests from Sendai to Tokyo have been underway. Recently, 3,000 protesters staged a rally in Tokyo’s Hibiya Park that was organized by agricultural and consumers groups. “If the government announces Japan’s participation in the TPP without building a national consensus, it can only be described as an act of betrayal against its citizens,” their joint statement said.

According to a recent article in the Japan Times, Akira Banzai, who heads the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives, accused the government of being high-handed and deliberately only disclosing information that casts Japan’s potential entry into the TPP negotiations in a positive light. “Unless the government gives up on its plan to join the discussions, our fears will persist,” he said. The Japan Association of Corporate Executives issued a statement the same day urging the government to participate in and advance high-level talks on free-trade agreements, including the TPP.

The renewed momentum among both those in favor of and against the TPP was triggered last week, when Tadashi Okamura, chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, appealed to trade minister Yukio Edano for the government to arrive at a swift decision on Japan’s participation in the multilateral TPP discussions. You may remember that Edano was the chief liar communicating to the world that there was no meltdown concerns at Fukushima’s Daiichi nuclear facility. Since that time we have learned that there were already three meltdowns occurring, he was aware of this, but kept lying to the public. Expect Edano to continue in massive distortion when it comes to the TPP, Monsanto, and free trade. Japan formally announced the nation’s interest in joining the TPP talks as of November 2012. Officials have since held a number of consultations with countries already involved in the negotiations to win their approval over Tokyo’s participation. Recently, those nations, including Canada, and the U.S. have officially invited Japan to become the 12th TPP nation.

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3.11.11. Revisited: Photos From The Vault

A school owner tries to prevent me from taking photos of a kindergarten that continues to operate in a highly contaminated radiation zone.

The link below goes to a detailed description of the photographic reportage I did during Japan’s 3.11.11. triple, Japan’s Triple Disaster. Of all the death, and destruction that I witnessed, the most unconscionable was where adults in authoritative positions continued to permit children to attend schools that were known to be highly contaminated, and allowed them to play on, and come in contact with contaminated soil. At one school in Koriyama, Higashi High School children were practicing sports on a field, while at the same time, the adjacent junior high was having top soil removed by workers in hazmat protective gear. The wind was blowing steadily, and the dust from that field was being lifted into the air, and blown onto the high school children as they practiced baseball, soccer, cheerleading, and archery. I asked a coach that was present, “Is it Ok for these children to be practicing with the radiated top soil being removed next door?” He responded, “I don’t know!” I would learn that teachers in Fukushima are forbidden to discuss the disaster, and the radiation contamination in their communities under the threat of being fired, and blackballed from working for the Ministry of Education.

While the mainstream media ignores events that continue to plague the region, it should be noted that it was recently reported that there are more than 1300 storage tanks located at the Namie Nuclear Facility, with an estimated 10% of them leaking, and at risk of a hydrogen explosions. This was reported to the Nuclear Regulation Authority, which raised concerns surrounding the potential hazards of accumulated hydrogen building up in the containers warning that “a spark caused by static electricity could cause a container to explode.” TEPCO officials reassured the public that they “think the possibility of an occurrence of hydrogen explosion from these storage facilities is extremely low, since there is no fire origin, or anything that generates static electricity nearby,” but this is the same company that a recent IAEA report blasted for “failing to implement adequate safeguards at Fukushima despite being aware of the tsunami risk.” Here’s an article in the The Asashi Shimbun that discusses the possibility of an imminent hydrogen explosion.

The following images are a constant reminder to anyone living in Tohoku, Fukushima, and Ibaraki that they’re living in a highly contaminated area, with cancer rates that have soared to more than 6000% above normal levels. Especially in children.

Daini Nuclear Power Plant. The first nuclear facility that reported failure immediately after being slammed by tsunami waves. The town exists inside the original 30km evacuation zone.

I asked the hazmat outfit clad soldier on the right if he was afraid of being exposed to toxic levels of radiation? He responded by saying, “I didn’t sign up for this.”

Military personnel awaiting orders to return to the no go zone.

The wall that is visible in the foreground on the left had a class of students in it. All windows, and doors were open.

These playground rings were located inside the no go zone. This brand new school was evacuated so rapidly that the desks still had open books, pen and paper on them, and the bicycle racks were completely full of children’s bikes.
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3.11.11. In High Dynamic Range Photography

The following photos are of Japan’s 3.11.11. disaster, shot with HDR technology. All photos Stack Jones. © 2011. All rights reserved.

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Anti-Nuclear Rally Tokyo

No Nukes! Meiji Park Antinuclear Rally 2013. Photo credit Stack Jones.

Thousands of protesters gathered at Meiji Park in Tokyo last Sunday to mark the second anniversary of the world’s worst nuclear disaster since a systems test failed at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the former USSR.

A sea of colorful banners swayed in the light wind, displaying a variety of slogans including, No Nukes For All Of The Earth. And Unevolved Apes Want Nukes. There was a diverse crowd of supporters including a strong showing of elderly citizens, and associations that arrived from all over the country to show their support for the cause.

Event organizers who are bitterly opposed to the continued use of nuclear power ripped into Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party condemning it for having a cozy relationship with Obama’s pronuclear administration. Speakers also voiced their objection to the continued construction of nuclear reactors being built on known fault zones. Singled out were reactors currently in the construction phase at Tsuruga, Ohma and Shimane.

 

Anti-Nuclear rally. Taking it to the streets. Photo credit Stack Jones.

Presenters refused to accept that their government, and those that benefit from the nuclear industries have the nation’s best interest at heart. They called for an immediate abolition of nuclear power, not merely phasing it out by the 2030s.

At 4:00 the participants took to the streets. Police were clearly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of demonstrators and attempted to control the march by breaking it up into smaller groups of several hundred. At one point a fight broke out between police and participants who opposed to the police strategy. There was one arrest, but nobody was injured.

One group of demonstrators marched straight to the Diet building in Chiyoda Ward and presented petitions that demanded the immediate elimination of nuclear power. Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan was one of the receivers of those appeals.

Police were overwhelmed by the massive scale of marchers. A fight resulted in one arrest. Photo credit Stack Jones.

Another large group marched to Harajuku carrying signs in support of the 150,000 Fukushima residents that remain refugees to this day. Miyuki Suzuki, whose grandmother lives in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, and who had to be evacuate from her home, was concerned about the future of Japan’s children. “Children in Fukushima have already being discovered to have cancer directly related to the disaster. What does the future hold for them?”

Others protesters were infuriated over the lack of government action, slow clean up of radiation infested communities, adequate disposal, and the inability to be heard.

Many voiced their contempt for TEPCO’s continued dumping of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean, while others showed concern for all of the spent nuclear fuel that continues to accumulate with no plan as to how to store it.

The sign read, No Nukes! Meiji Park Rally. Photo credit Stack Jones.

One thing that both sides can agree on regarding nuclear energy is that it’s a harsh reality. It’s not a cheap energy source as it has been marketed, and it’s clearly not safe especially when profits take precedence over safe operation of the facilities that produce the energy. In that, everybody wants a computer, an iPhone, a warm shower, air conditioning in the summer, heating in the winter, a hot meal, and a cold drink whenever they desire.

As of January 2013 there are four hundred and thirty seven nuclear reactors in thirty-one countries. There are one hundred and four nuclear reactors operating commercial in the U.S. alone. Another thirty four are managed by universities. These numbers do not reflect reactors operated by the U.S. military.

The U.S. Department of Energy projects that U.S. electricity demands will grow by 28% by 2040. This means the U.S. will need hundreds of new power plants to provide electricity for that growing demand. Maintaining nuclear energy’s current 20% share would require building one reactor every year until 2040. Source: Nuclear Energy Institute.

Over sixty reactors are currently being constructed in thirteen countries including the U.S., China, India, Pakistan, Taiwan, South Korea and Russia. It doesn’t seem that there will be a nuclear free world any time soon.

 

Thousands march to the beat of the same drum. No nukes! Photo credit Stack Jones.

This article originally ran in the March, 2013 edition of the Tokyo Weekender magazine. http://tokyoweekender.com/2013/03/anti-nuke-rally-in-tokyo.

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Ric O’Barry: Everything Starts With A Dream

Ric O’Barry and advertisement promoting Taiji as a “World Heritage Site.” Photo credit Stack Jones.

Recently Ric O’Barry was in Japan to monitor the situation in Taiji, and to discuss his new project, a musical event that could end up being larger than the Rolling Coconut Review, which took place in April of 1977. RCR was the first concert held in Japan that had western superstars sharing the spotlight with Japanese. Before that, Japanese artists were relegated to the opening act.

The Rolling Coconut Review was a benefit concert known as, Japan Celebrates the Whale. The concert was organized by Ric, and featured Jackson Browne, John Sebastian, Richie Havens, Odetta, Warren Zevon, Eric Andersen, Lonnie Mack, Japanese singer and actor Izumiya Shigeru, and a jazz-funk band with keyboardist Richard Tee, drummer Steve Gadd, guitarist Eric Gale, guitarist Cornell Dupree and bassist Gordon Edwards.

Many of those artists are no longer with us today. However, Ric, at 74 is still grinding away at important environmental issues. What people didn’t know at that time when Japanese products were being boycotted, was that Japanese living abroad were violently targeted as a result of that boycott. Even children were being beaten at school, so Ric stepped in to do all that he could to stop it.

Boycott Japan poster circa 1970s.

On my way to meet Ric at the Keio Plaza Hotel, which is located in Shinjuku, I was trying to find a good location to shoot for the interview. Ironically, I didn’t have to look far, as a stone’s throw from the hotel was a huge advertisement that promoted tourism in Wakayama Prefecture. Wakayama is where Taiji is located, and where the dolphin slaughter takes place every year. In a surrealistic, and ludicrous manner, the brightly lit advertisement boasted Wakayama as a “World Natural Heritage Site” sponsored by Tokyo Metropolitan Islands Promotion Corporation. First, Tokyo is nowhere near Wakayama, which is more than 500km away. Second, the advertising is misleading in that it includes a beautiful underwater shot of several Bottlenose dolphins, which are the mammals Ric is trying to prevent from being chopped up as a toxic food source, and from being sold off to dolphinarium shows. After meeting Ric, I told him about the advertisement and we went back to take a look.

On our way, I asked Ric if there had been any concessions from the mayor and fishermen in Taiji after the documentary film, The Cove won the Academy Award for best documentary film.

Ric. No, there has been no change at all. They’re still out there doing the same thing. Only now, the public beach where they slaughter the dolphin has been turned into an impenetrable fortress. And if anyone goes there, they will get arrested. It’s public property, a public beach, but if you go there, you will get arrested.

I then asked Ric about how the RCR concert came about.

Ric. I didn’t have any money, just an idea. From that, it grew into one of the largest musical events in Japan’s history.

We reached the “World Natural Heritage Site” advertisement. Ric began to shake his head in both amazement and disdain. I stepped back and began to take photos.

We headed back to the Keio Plaza Hotel, and found an empty table in the restaurant. Ric said he’s done hundreds of interviews at that very same spot. He was about to do another!

I hail from Miami, Florida. I’m a surfer, and diver, and grew up on the ocean. My father, grandfather, great grandfather and uncles all came from the Miami sports fishing industry. Fishing for sport has gotten so out of control that the state of Florida now has a moratorium on it. Prior to that moratorium my entire family had already left the fishing industry because reckless people who worked in that industry fished it out.

Ric has lived in Miami for 73.5 years of his 74 years. My family goes far back as well. In fact, the city of Miami Beach has placed two historical markers at Haulover Beach that honor my family for their contribution into the sports fishing industry.

I feel a bit uneasy about those honors. As a kid, I won Metropolitan Miami Sport Fishing Tournaments, and my father has won more international sport fishing tournaments than anyone in the history of the sport. He still holds several world records.

We used to fish out in the Gulf Stream, and anything the fishermen caught was hauled back to the docks, and laid out in front of the boat to lure tourists into booking parties the next day. However, when it got dark, and all the sunburned tourists headed back to their hotels, the garbage trucks would arrive, and haul away the carcasses of the dead fish, including sailfish, black marlin, blue marlin, sharks, dolphin (mahi mahi), bonita, wahoo, barracuda, etc.

That form of advertisement and entertainment went on for decades from Palm Beach to Key Largo. No wonder there’s almost no fish left in the ocean today. If Taiji and places like it continue to kill off dolphin, which is what tourist want to see, then advertisements like the one in Shinjuku will become virtual displays like that of the vocaloid singing sensation Miku Hatsune. Oh, did I mention that Ric and I both were born on October 14th? Not relevant you say? Maybe! Probably.

Miami Beach Sports Fishing Memorial located at Haulover Beach. Photo credit Stack Jones.

I asked Ric what it was like to encounter customs officers when he arrived in Japan.

Ric. I’m taken to a holding room. Since I’m usually travelling from Miami, about 17 hours, I’m exhausted and lay on the floor. After several 4-5 hours they bring me into another room where there’s a speakerphone and somebody asking questions to the officers who are interpreting for me. “What is your purpose here?” “I’m a tourist.” “Where are you going?” “I’m going to Wakayama” “What are you going to do there?” “I don’t know? Do you have any suggestions?” “Are you going to Taiji?” “Yes, I’ll be going to Taiji.” “What will you be doing there?” “Praying for the dolphins that are dying there.” This response always catches them off guard.

“Are you getting paid while you are here?” “If I say I am going to meet with you, for example, they would call you and ask you questions. One time my friend C.W. Nicol wrote a note for me in Japanese that said something to the effect, “This is my friend Ric O’Barry, please leave him alone. They actually let me pass through on that occasion. However, one time they called him and woke him up. So, anyone I name that lives here will be questioned upon my arrival. Now I just say I’m alone and I’m traveling alone.”

Stack. This reminds me of the time I went to Oarai Beach, when they were reporting on closing it down due to the radiation contamination. Ironically, across the street from Oarai is the Japanese Atomic Energy Association (JAEA). I stopped to take some photos, because the day before there was a huge protest of Japanese citizens that wanted the JAEA, and their experimental reactors in the area shutdown. The police, dressed in black suits, and looking like secret service, approached me and asked for my passport, which I gave them. First, they claimed they couldn’t speak English and then clearly stated, “Your visa is expired. You’ve overstayed! This is a crime.” Of course my visa had recently been stamped, so I laughed and said, “Oh, honto?” which means really? They could see that I wasn’t intimidated. That is the key to this kind of harassment. Never allow them to intimidate you. The officer’s gave me back my passport, and the one that said he couldn’t speak English told me to go swimming at Oarai,

Ric. I’m here to work with the Japanese people. I’m not against them. When I came here back in 1977, it was to end the boycott of Japan. That was my purpose. At that time, there was a large anti-whaling movement happening in America, and Europe. Save The Whales, had taken out full-page newspaper ads in the New York Times, the Miami Herald, and the Los Angeles Times, which must have cost a fortune. The article’s read, Save The Whales Boycott Japan. What was happening in America was Japanese, Asians I should say… children were getting beaten on playgrounds and called Jap Whale Killers. Dr. Clifford Uyeda, a pediatrician, who was also the president of the Japanese American Citizen League who had been treating many children for beatings, contacted me to find out how to stop children from being targeted. He asked me to go to Japan with him, and help stop this boycott. We began to put together the Rolling Coconut Review, in Sacramento. Actually, California governor Jerry Brown put that performance together. Joni Mitchell performed there, Jackson Browne, Country Joe McDonald, and Fred Neil. Fred Neil was really the heart of it. When Fred got involved, everybody wanted to jump on the bandwagon. We then came to Japan and it got too big. So, we had to slow it down. It had to be paid for; I had to find money to pay for it. Which is what I have to do for this next one. I’m putting this one together with no money as well. At this point, it’s just a dream. But, everything starts with a dream.

My son Lincoln is in L.A. is working to put together some money to do a live street concert, and Dave Wiederman from the Guitar Center, is working with Matt Sorum from Guns ‘N’ Roses to get an advance so we can get an office in L.A. We have five months to put this all together, and get everybody in Japan to do a performance. Frankly, I don’t know any of these people. I just do what I do. I’m not the type of guy to run around asking people to help. The drummer from the Grateful Dead, Bill Kreutzmann came to my home in Miami, asking me how he could help out? I can’t keep in touch with all of these people. It’s too difficult. I get 100 emails a day from people asking me how they can help. I’ll get 20 just while I’m sitting here with you.

Japan is only one issue I’m working on. We have the Solomon Islands, Singapore, Indonesia; we had the mini-series, which was my son’s show.

Stack. Where’s the footage from that RCR concert?

Ric. After 35 years, I finally found it in my attic. I have it all on 35mm film. I just spent $6000.00 having it transferred to digital format.

Stack. You’re talking a lot about this past music event. Is this new concert is the thing on your mind for Japan?

Rolling Coconut Review Concert Ticket circa 1970s.

Ric. Yes. Before coming to Japan, I was in L.A., having meetings at the Sunset Marquis Hotel discussing this concert.

Stack. You just returned to Tokyo from your stay in Taiji. Have you had any meetings with the Mayor of Taiji?

Ric. No, he refuses to meet with me. He doesn’t answer my letters.

Stack. As you know, when you and I first began communications, I had contacted every university, fisheries universities, agricultural universities, Japanese film festivals, Japanese nature organization, and every one of them either never responded, or flat out rejected having you as a speaker, and refused to show The Cove. None of them even wanted to discuss the matter. Tohoku University told me that if they showed the film, and allowed you to come as a guest speaker, the Japanese National movement would come with their vans, and loud speakers, protest the event and interrupt the community.

Ric. There’s no pay off in any of that. But, I still think the mercury poisoning issues is important. The fishermen were giving the dolphin meat away for free to schools, to keep the “cultural” argument alive. First, this is a bogus argument because they’ve only been doing this since 1969. I did meet with two Taiji councilmen who saw the scientific evidence that dolphin meat is toxic, and they acted on that information and removed it from the compulsory school lunch menu. If they took it out of the school lunch program because it wasn’t fit for their children, then it shouldn’t be sold to unsuspecting, innocent Japanese people. They continue to do that, and the Taiji mayor is guilty of that. So, now it’s not an animal rights issues, from that day on, it became a human rights issue.

At a Nagoya school gymnasium I spoke with a thousand kids. I said, “Here’s what you can do as a school project. Go to Taiji. I’ll pay for your transportation. Across the street from where they slaughter the dolphin you’ll find a market that sells the meat. Take some of it home, and have it tested for mercury. If it tests positive for mercury, methyl mercury, PCB’s… I suggest you write a group letter to minister Noda, the minister of Japan’s health and safety, and ask why it is not labeled as poison. At least the consumer can make an intelligent decision of they want to buy it or not.” Of course, none of them ever did that. Their teachers probably discouraged them. It’s called Kata. You don’t break ranks. You don’t take sides with the foreigners. We’re all like blades of grass. We’re all in this together. So, that’s why nobody does anything.

Stack. There are two distinct societies in Japan. Gaijin means “not one of us.” We’re outsiders. But, we can’t really bash Japan for that. Look at America, there is an air or arrogance and ignorance that permeates every aspect of that culture. American’s simply believe that they have some kind of unalienable right to all of the world’s resources. Anyway… are you accepted in Taiji when you go down there?

Ric. It’s just like if you go there. You’ll never be accepted either. Even Enson Inoue who’s an MMA champion and has lived here for twenty-five-years, reads, and speaks the language but he’s from Hawaii. He’ll always be a gaijin. So, they don’t accept me and I don’t expect them to. My job is to keep this issue out there. It’s hard to keep any issue alive. It’s like the Fukushima radiation disaster. It’ll be in the news for a while but then the media moves on to some other issue. Haiti is a really good example. When the earthquake happened all the media of the world merged on Haiti. Today, there are still 400,000 people living in the mud, but the media has moved on. We’ve been very lucky to keep Taiji in the news. We had the Empire States building lit up in red for three days. I have to keep pulling rabbits out of the hat to keep Taiji in the news.

Stack. Why is the focus on Taiji and not Iwate? Taiji slaughters about 2000 dolphin a year. In Iwate it’s about 20,000.

Ric. It’s difficult to photograph Iwate’s activities because their action takes place off shore.

Stack. What happened in Taiji when you were down there the past few days? Did you go down there alone?

Ric. I went there alone, but I have two Japanese teammates that are there.  There is also another guy down there from California, so I have three people monitoring. When I was down there this time, I saw approximately 100 dolphins including Bottlenose dolphin slaughtered. It’s a schizophrenic cove. Some days, it’s peaceful and one of the most beautiful places in the world. It’s a National Park first of all, and what these guys are doing is probably illegal.

Stack. It sounds like they’re turning public property into a private enterprise.

Ric. Exactly! They’re putting up signs that warn against trespass, and they’ve installed barbed wire fences. There is also a trail for walking. It’s one of the most beautiful trails I have ever seen. It goes on for miles, actually going right through the cove, and a gorgeous cave. And these guys have painted it over, and blocked it all with barbed wire.

Stack. Is it shut off more than it was two years ago?

Ric. Much more. Unfortunately it would take a Japanese person to file a lawsuit, and challenge the legality of the park’s private use.

Ric showed me a photo of the entrance to the walking path, which was completely impassible.

Stack. What would happen if someone tried to go around it?

Ric. They’d be arrested for trespassing. There are probably 30-40 police there. The police are from Wakayama, there are national police in plain clothes… When I was down there, there were seventeen Sea Shepherd people. They do get arrested!

Stack. How do the police treat you when you’re down there?

Ric. On the morning I showed up, it was still dark, approximately five in the morning. When the sun comes up, is when the boats go out. So, we’re there documenting it. As soon as our car pulls up, all the police surround us with their lights on. They always have their lights on.

Stack. So they have advance notice that you’re coming?

Ric. As soon as I arrive in Japan and put my fingers in the customs machine, they’re on notice, because everything’s computerized. Anyway, it’s like a welcoming committee. They take off their hats. They bow, “O’Barrysan you’re here.” They’ve been chosen because they speak English. It’s not like we’re the enemy. I wish the Miami police were as polite and professional, and respectful. They couldn’t be more respectful, and friendly. They’re just doing their job. Their job is to keep the peace.

Stack. Do you feel threatened when you go down there?

Ric. Only by the young yakuza wannabees that want to make a name for themselves. Or an angry fisherman that makes a bad decision. But, I know how to avoid that kind of stuff.

Stack. Have you had any physical altercations down there?

Ric. Many times! In The Cove, my wife is with me, in that scene where that kid is shooting the bird at us, we were literally locked in the car, and surrounded by people who have chased us to the car. At that time there was only one police officer in Taiji, and he’s actually a fisherman in a police uniform. That was before The Cove movie. Today, it’s absolutely safe to go down there. In fact, there’s a police station right at the cove.

Stack. What ever happened to the two city councilmen down there that stopped dolphin meat from being given to kids at school?

Ric. One of them is a hero in my opinion. He was ostracized in the community for being outspoken against it. He became a taxi driver in Tokyo. His career was ruined.

Stack. You’ve talked a lot about mercury contamination in the dolphin meat. How about whale meat is that safe to consume?

Ric. All the dolphin and whale meat that we’ve tested have all come back positive for high levels of mercury. Boyd Harnell, who won two Genesis Awards for his journalistic work in the Japan Times, came down with me to Taiji, and we tested the meat, which was sold at local stores. The meat tested extremely high in methyl-mercury. All of the whale and dolphin meat that is caught around the coastal areas of Japan is contaminated. We then went back to the store, which is a chain grocery store in Japan, and confronted the manager. We showed him the data, and told him, you’re selling poison. The manager took us into the back room, and got on the phone with his boss. The end result was we got the meat taken out of 136 supermarkets.
Stack. Is it still not being sold in those markets today?

Ric. Yes.

Stack. So, that’s a success.

Ric. Yes, but now the fishermen are angrier, because this hits their pocketbook. At the cove today, they have a police station that taxpayers are paying for, there’s a Coast Guard vessel, scores of police. They’re spending millions on security.

Stack. For a handful of guys?

Ric. For a handful of guys. For bringing shame to the entire country. The bottom line is, when you break it down, it’s to sell the meat.

Stack. Do you feel that it’s an us versus them mentality?

Ric. I can’t answer that question because I don’t know what they’re thinking. I’ve been to most other countries in this world. That acronistic, barbaric practice would be have been shut down in a matter of hours in any other country. I’ve come to believe that only the Japanese people can stop it. We just have to get them together on this issue and that is what we’re planning to do with this concert.
Stack. Has the amount of dolphin being slaughtered gone down since the release of The Cove?
Ric. It has. It’s gone down dramatically.

Stack. In Taiji?

Ric. Yes, because the consumers are learning about the facts. If the Japanese housewife, because that’s who buys it, had any idea it was contaminated, they wouldn’t buy it. It’s like the supply and demand of any product. These people are more concerned about clean food that we are in the west. They just don’t have the information available to them that we take for granted. Because they’re not given the information, which is controlled by the government. As you know.

Stack. How about the tuna, and other fish in Japan that has been found with high levels of radiation?

Ric. We’ve been testing dolphin, and whale meat from the north, but we haven’t found any yet. Is there radiation in the fish? Yes, but we haven’t found it in dolphin and whale yet. Yet!

Stack. I just read a couple days ago that officials are finding high levels of radiation in California kelp now.

Ric. If you go to DolphinProject.org, or SaveJapanDolphins.org, and look under blog, there you’ll find a wealth of information on that subject. In fact, if you give them your email, you’ll get that information as it becomes available.

Stack. What can Japanese people do? What do you want Japanese people to do? It’s obvious that foreigners are aware of all of this, but what about Japanese?

Ric. Japanese should be responsible consumers and stop buying tickets for dolphin shows, and stop purchasing the meat. It’s the capture of the dolphins that’s the economic underpinning of the dolphin slaughter. The dolphin slaughter is not economically viable any longer. They’re only getting about 4-5 hundred dollars for a dead dolphin’s meat. I know they’re getting at least 154,000 dollars for a live dolphin. I know that because I have a contract for Ocean World Casino in the Dominican Republic. I don’t like throwing numbers out there unless I have absolute proof.

Shinjuku, Japan. Ric O’Barry. Photo credit Stack Jones.

Stack. What happened to the Ocean World lawsuit against you? That was dismissed wasn’t it?

Ric. No, I’m still dealing with that. We’ve been through three. There are currently five lawsuits against me. Well, there’s a new one against me in the Philippines for interference with commerce. These are frivolous slap suits, acceptable in Broward County. If they were filed in California, they would’ve been thrown out.

Stack. My ex-brother-in-law used to be the chief of police in Broward County, so I’m familiar with that. There also was a corrupt court system years back where judges and district attorneys were sending kids to drug programs for kickbacks. A place called The Seed. What a racket!

Stack. (Continuing) I used to live on the west coast of Japan, in a place called Fukui. Fukui has a place called Tojinbo, which is a well-known suicide jumping point. It’s unbelievably beautiful there. But, next to Tojinbo is a dolphin show. The dolphins are kept in small pool size tanks, and it’s really rundown.

Ric. There are fifty-one of them here. In a country the size of California, that’s amazing. There aren’t that many in all of Europe!

Stack. As bad as places like the Seaquarium are, at least they are clean environments. Here, they’re rundown. The water is filthy dirty.

Ric. Case in point, is the Taiji Whale Museum. The dolphins get caught, but here they don’t pay 150,000. Foreigners do. Most of the one hundred or so that were caught last week will go to various shows around Japan. These are disposable dolphins for our disposable society. As long as people keep paying to see these shows, they’ll keep brining them in.
Stack. So, it’s no different than throwing a few goldfish in a bowl, and when they die, just simply replace them.
Ric. Exactly! It’s the same thing, but people won’t pat to see goldfish, but they do pay to see dolphin.

Stack. What’s your next plan? You’re off to Indonesia tomorrow. Why?

Ric. The worst dolphin show on the planet is in Indonesia. It’s a traveling dolphin show. It’s unbelievable. We’re talking about a portable tank, where dolphins ride in a truck. They put a tent up, and bleachers, take the dolphin out of the truck and put them in there. They get as much money as they can, and then move on to the next town.

Stack. How do they transport the dolphins?

Ric. In a box. Like a coffin. We’ve partnered with a really good group of young people over there. They don’t have any money. I don’t know how they do it because Indonesia is where corruption is the worst. So, for some reason it’s the Department of Forest that’s responsible for protecting dolphins. It’s kind of like the fisheries department protecting trees. The group is called JAAN, Jakarta Animal Aid Network. They’ve signed a contract with the government to confiscate all fifty-four dolphin in the Indonesian shows. There’s a dolphin in a swimming pool in a restaurant in Bali, in really bad condition, for example. Their job is to confiscate them. Bring them back to the national park in Karimunjawa, Java to rehabilitate them. My son built a huge sea pen that’s a mile off shore, it’s in the national park, and is exactly where they were captured. Our plan is to confiscate these dolphins and bring them back to the sea pen, rehabilitate them and release them into the national park. However, the rug was pulled out form under us, as the people that own the traveling dolphin show, put a stop to it.

Stack. But, you said that JAAN has a government contract to confiscate those dolphins?

Ric. Yes, but that doesn’t mean anything. It’s only good if the government honors it. So, you’re asking what I’m going to be doing. Well, there’s an event sponsored by the U.S. Embassy, and they’re going to show The Cove. I’m the guest of honor and all of the journalists are going to be there. Of course the Forest Department is going to be there as well. I’m going to point at those corrupt mother fuckers and name names and I’m going to be in a lot of trouble when I do that, because they’re going to be coming after me. That’s the reason I’m going there, to expose those guys. They don’t know I’m going to do this. I’m going to need a bodyguard, because after I do, I’m going to be in a lot of trouble. Then we go to Bali because there are a couple of really bad facilities down there. Of course the media will go along, as we’re going to expose them as well.

Stack. What are you doing to protect yourself?

Ric. I don’t know. I’m hoping the U.S. Embassy has that covered. Anyway, let me tell you how I operate. When I’m in Taiji, it’s so intense, so over the top that I can’t think about Indonesia. I’m thinking about what’s in front of me. I’m still in Japan, but at this time tomorrow, I will actually be in Indonesia. That’s when I’ll be able to answer your question. It’s all about showing up. What I have to do is usually made known to me, just before I actually do it. It’s not like I actually have a plan.

Ric turns his focus on documents regarding the concert in Japan.

Ric. I just put one foot in front of the next, and show up and… I don’t have a magic wand. It’s all about showing up. I had no idea that an Academy Award winning movie about Taiji would be made. I just show up!

Stack. How did you ever find out about that particular spot in the first place?

Ric. It would show up in newspapers once every few years. There would be a graphic photo that would hit the wire services.

Stack. That was before The Cove, when they were dragging the dolphins behind trucks to be slaughtered in the processing facility.

Ric. Right! I just assumed there were other organizations working on stopping it. I didn’t realize it until I went there that there was actually nobody doing anything about it. I won’t mention names, but there were some groups in Europe, it would be on their websites, these graphic photos, and I’d assume they were working on that issue. Not realizing, they had never been there. Their sites would say, this is happening, we’re against it, send us money. There’s an animal welfare industry out there making a lot of money by the way, I’m not a part of any of that. But, that’s how I learned about it.

It wasn’t until we showed up that we realized that there was actually nobody doing anything about it. We thought, this would be easy, all we have to do is make a short video, which I made called, Welcome To Taiji. It’s very graphic. It’s not for public consumption. It was made for the media. We called all the media and showed it. We came to Japan and showed it to the media. We would go down there at two or three o’clock in the morning. I had a few gorilla nests in the trees, and we’d watch what they were doing. I showed it to Kyung Lah, who used to be a correspondent here. She didn’t know that was happening. She sent her film crew down there, I put them in the gorilla nests, and I started doing that; bringing journalists down there.

One day I got a call from a guy named Louis Psihoyos, who I met at a marine animal conference in San Diego. He said, I just saw your DVD. Can I follow you around with my camera? I said sure, that’s why I made it, if you’re a journalist. He said, I’m not a journalist, but I want to make a TV series. He said, have you ever seen the Jacques Cousteau series? I said, sure everybody has. He said, Well, I want to do that. I want to feature you in the first episode. I said, great c’mon, but I’m leaving tomorrow morning. He said, I’ll meet you there.

He hung up the phone, and went out and took a three-day crash course on how to make a move. He never made a movie before in his life. He’s a great photographer. He was at National Geographic for seventeen years. He’s a brilliant photographer. But he never made a film. So, he took this course and then showed up. And, I’ll never forget it. We were in a restaurant the first day that I met him and he leaned across the table and said, “So, what’s this movie about?” He’s asking me what it was about, and he’s the filmmaker.

But, it was very refreshing, because in my experience, most journalists aren’t looking for the truth. They’re looking for a story. So, I just said to him, it is whatever it is. So, he stayed down there a couple weeks, and then came back a few more times. Then he announced to me that “we” decided to make a feature film. At that time it was called, Mercury Rising. It wasn’t called The Cove. So, he turned it into the guy that started Netscape, Jim Clark who didn’t care what the topic was, he just said, “Make a difference.” Jim was the one that told me the whole story. We were at Sundance, and… I have never actually seen the whole movie of The Cove. I’ve been to a lot of festivals, and I’ve seen bits and pieces of it, but I’ve never actually seen the entire film. I usually go in at the last fifteen minutes of a screening.

One night, he, Mark Palmer, and myself were having a glass of wine and Mark said he couldn’t turn it in to Sundance. It had a lot of graphic footage. It had a lot of beautiful photography. But, there wasn’t a story. So, Jim brought in his friend, Fisher Stevens who is a real documentarian. So, he looked at all of the footage with fresh eyes and said, “That’s not the story. This is the story.” He probably should have been given equal credit as a director because the final product was as much his, as it was Louie. So, they submitted it to Sundance unfinished, it didn’t have any music, and it won. Robert Redford told me that it was the first time he ever saw a standing ovation for a documentary. Since that day, I must have been to one hundred screenings of The Cove; film festivals around the world, France, Germany, Holland, you name it… Where ever! Every one of them, a standing ovation.

Stack. Doesn’t that help you feel that you accomplished what you wanted. Not, the notoriety of it, but the exposure to the issue?

Ric. Yes. What it did was create and allegiance to that issue around the country. That’s what it did. It’s a revolutionary film in that way. People were jumping out of their seat and saying, “What can I do?” That’s why the people that saw that film are currently down in Taiji. That’s why they are there. That’s why seventeen people from the Sea Shepherd are there now. I keep my distance from them by the way, because we do different things. The volunteers would call me aside, and say, “I saw the film, that’s why I’m here.” And there are thousands of people like that around the world. So, it was very helpful, and it will continue to be. It’s like Rachel Carson’s, Silent Spring. It’s the kind of story that will be around forever. Eventually, people will see it in Japan.

Stack. I’m not sure how much you were involved in distribution, but The Cove was licensed to Medallion Media in Japan. I spoke several times with Nao Uematsu, of Medallion Media, and he said the company bought the rights for $10,000 dollars. I was shocked when I heard that because at that time the film had already been nominated for an Academy Award. A few weeks later, it won.

Medallion Media had been interested in partnering with another company to get theatrical release. So, I took The Cove to Junichi Mimura at Wides Pictures, screened it at their office and was told that nobody would touch that film here. Since I wrote many features for Mimura, and knew that he always dealt honestly, I began to see that there was going to be a problem with getting this film seen in Japan. Did you know The Cove sold for only ten grand here?
Ric. No, and that angers me to hear, because Louie had always promised me that it would be distributed freely over here. We’ve tried to post it online in Japan several times, and it always gets taken down. Selling it to a distributor in Japan, defeated the entire purpose of making that film.

Stack. How often do you get to go to Miami and rest?

Ric. That’s the hard part. I was just there recently for a short while. But, it’s not really home.

Stack. My question is how long do you get to go home and just relax?

Ric opens his cell phone and shows me a photo of his wife and his daughter.

Ric. This is my wife and my daughter. My daughter emailed me during this conversation and asked me the same question you just did. “Daddy, when are you coming home?” For a moment, I was lost. I was thinking, what does she mean?

Stack. My next question is about Florida’s moratorium on fishing. Apparently, there’s no fish left in the ocean. The entire Atlantic Ocean is nearly fished out, and the Gulf of Mexico incident with BP, which was the ecological calamity before Namie, helped to usher in the demise of countless shellfish as well. Some experts are saying we have about forty years left before the ocean really does become a watery desert. So, what’s the big picture in all of this?

Ric. We’ve got to change. And that is what Louie’s next project is about. It’s a 3D movie about the mass extinction that is going on right now.

Stack. We’re in the midst of the sixth great mass extinction. That’s what’s happening at this time, but this one is caused by humans.

Ric. Yes, this one’s man made.

Stack. Actually, currently animals are dying faster than at any time during the prior five mass extinctions.

Ric. Yes.

Stack. We have to change. We’re the cause of it.

Ric. We have to change. We have no choice. We’re going to die. It’s that simple. And I think we will.

Stack. Well, Frank Fenner, emeritus professor of microbiology at the Australian National University has predicted that human’s will be extinct within the next one hundred years.

Ric. He’s probably right, unless we change. Unless there’s a revolution.

Stack. This reminds me of the dustbowls in mid-America. Who would’ve ever thought that turning the soil in the great grasslands from Canada’s border to Mexico, to plant wheat would result in such cataclysmic changes as they did during that time?

Ric. Yes, but it’s not like that any more. People changed! So, that might be a microcosm for people to look at to show that people can change. They must, and I think they will. I’m optimistic. There’s coming a tipping point where we will have to.

Tokyo, Japan. Japan’s “World Natural Heritage” Advertisement. Photo credit Stack Jones.

Stack. How bad it is really for dolphins at this point?

Ric. I can switch. I can eat something else. I can become a vegan. Dolphins don’t have that option. They eat fish. If fish are gone, they’re gone. We’re destroying their habitat.

Stack. What are your thoughts on energy?
Ric. There is a new coal fire plant going online every week in China. Most of us live downstream from them. They’re the reason, every river, every stream, every lake in America is contaminated with mercury. That’s absolutely shocking.
Stack. Everything in Japan comes downstream from China as well.

Ric. People don’t know how serious it really is.

Stack. That’s why people that still talk about organic farming baffle me. The entire planet has been contaminated with radiation, mercury, fertilizers, herbicides, dioxin, PCBs, DDT, biosolids… The whole world is contaminated. There’s no such thing as organic any more. So, how do we turn it around?

Ric. Well, if we can’t fix the cove, we can’t. That cove is a microcosm of the rest of the world. When I stand there, as I did yesterday, looking down at it, one day it’s tranquil and peaceful, and the next it’s the most violent body of water you ever saw in your life. And it’s very small, not much larger than this room here. If we can’t fix that, what goes on there, how can we fix the bigger picture? That’s why I stay focused on that. What’s the point in moving on to bigger issues, when we can’t even fix that small body of water?

Stack. Here’s my final question. In Tokyo there’s a ghetto called Sanya, it’s near the town of Senju where many people live in blue tarp tents along the Arakawa River. You can’t find it on a map, and the Japanese government pretends it doesn’t exist. It dates back to the burakumin, and where the condemned were slaughtered and buried in mass graves, a place called the Bridge of Tears, in Namidabashi.

Ric. I never heard about it. I’m surprised to hear that.

Stack. Do you think the Japanese government is treating The Cove like the ghetto in Tokyo, like it’s something that doesn’t exist?

Ric. It sounds like it to me.

Stack. These burakumin were an unfortunate caste, forced to work in blood related trades like butchering, skin curing, and cemeteries. Even today, the larger Japanese corporations have a list of these burakumin sites, and if anyone came from these places, the corporations won’t hire them. It’s an outcast society that still exists in Japan today.

Ric. I think the government knows it’s true. That dolphin meat is contaminated with mercury, methyl-mercury, and PCB’s. I think they know that. They knew that in Minimata but covered it up.

Stack. Minimata is still a problem down there today?

Ric. Yes. Governments protect corporations. They’re not concerned with people and animals. The government was found guilty by the Supreme Court for covering up the Minimata crisis, and protecting the Chisso Corporation. That’s what’s happening in Taiji, because guess what… It isn’t just mercury that’s contaminated with mercury. It’s tuna, swordfish…

Stack. Sabba, mahi mahi, shrimp, crab…

Ric. The Cove has a graph showing the contamination in the food chain. So, think about that. We in the west eat fish about once a week. The Japanese eat it three times a day. If they ever learned the truth, that everything they’re eating is contaminated; their entire economy would collapse. That’s why I think they have covered up The Cove. To protect this secret that it’s not just dolphin. It’s not just dolphin. It’s nearly everything in their diet. It’s huge!

Stack. Any last words before you go? Any thing else that you’d like to say?

Ric. Not really. It just goes on and on and on and on.

Stack. When are you going to retire? (laughs)

Ric. Retire?

Stack. When are you going to sit in your Miami Beach home and…

Ric. I wish I could. I don’t really like doing this. It’s not like I want to be doing this. I never set out to do this. You know, one thing leads to another. There’s a phone call, and OK, I’ll do that. And it leads to the next thing, and the next thing and before you know it, forty-five years have gone by.

Stack. What would you rather be doing?

Ric. Hanging out with my eight-year-old daughter. There’s nothing more important than that. Nothing! She’s growing up without me. I got my priorities all fucked up.

Stack. But your daughter is only eight. Aren’t you doing this to protect that generation?

Ric. I don’t know anymore. It’s like breathing. Do you think while you breath? You just do it? You get caught up in it and… I don’t know. It doesn’t make any sense to me. Does it?

This article originally ran in the February, 2013 edition of Earth Island Journal.
http://earthisland.org/journal/index.php/elist/eListRead/everything_starts_with_a_dream_an_interview_with_ric_obarry.

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Senkaku Islets And The International World Court

The dispute over the Senkaku Islands is a long and contentious one that has recently strained relations between three nations that claim a territorial right. The disagreement over sovereignty existed long before the 1969 United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East discovery of the possibility of natural gas deposits around the small group of islets.

China’s claim to the islets goes all the way back to the 14th century. Chinese offers proof by showing maps that date back to the Ming Dynasty. Beijing officials are quick to argue that Chinese fishermen have used the islets for hundreds of years. Long before Japan ever attempted their first voyage out onto the sea, or had even known that the islets even existed.

Japan claims it discovered the islands in 1884 and annexed them in 1895 after attacking, and defeating China in the First Sino-Japanese War. China rejects Japan’s claim, arguing that the nation was forced to sign the post-war treaty after Japan invaded the mainland. The San Francisco Peace Treaty (SFPT) officially renounced any of Japan’s claims that had arisen from the Boxer Protocol of 1901.

The problem that exists today began when Japan signed the SFPT, which gave Washington a temporary trusteeship over the islands. The U.S. had invited forty-eight nations to attend but failed to invite China, which arguably suffered the most from Japan’s imperial aggressions during the war. The U.S. contends that since China was in the throws of a civil war it did not know which government should attend. As a result China has never recognized the SFPT.

Clause 14 of the treaty allowed allied forces to confiscate all assets owned by the Japanese government, Japanese corporations and Japanese organizations, as well as any property owned by Japanese private citizens. Clause 14 land seizures included all colonized, or occupied countries that had been in Japan’s control, including China. Clause 21 of the article gave China exclusive authority over all Japanese assets located in Mongolia and China’s mainland. The treaty officially renounced any of Japan’s claims to Korea, Formosa (Taiwan), Hong Kong, the Pescadores, the Kuril Islands, the Spratly Islands, Antarctica and Sakhalin Island in the North Pacific.

In 1969, the U.S. authorized the transfer of the Ryukyus to Japan, an order, which was to take effect in 1972. That order included ceding of control of the nearby Senkaku Islands. Both the People’s Republic of China, and the Republic of China argue that the agreement between the U.S., and Japan had not considered the ultimate sovereignty of the Senkaku prior to turning control over to Japan. The question that many are asking is what can be done to resolve this territorial dispute, and return relationships between the two nations to normal? The clear answer is to turn the matter over to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

International Court Of Justice Rules

According to Article 38 of the Statute of the ICJ, if Japan and China agree to ICJ jurisdiction over the matter, the Court shall apply the following four legal standards (see below). If the parties choose not to use these rules the ICJ can decide the case ex aequo et bono (according to what is right and good, rather than according to the law). Another term that is more frequently used regarding land disputes is the term equity, which means fairness.

Article 38 of the Statute of the ICJ (in part)

  1. International conventions, whether general or particular, establishing rules expressly recognized by the contesting states;
  2. International custom, as evidence of a general practice accepted as law;
  3. The general principles of law recognized by civilized nations;
  4. Subject to the provisions of Article 59, judicial decisions and the teachings of the most highly qualified publicists of the various nations, as subsidiary means for the determination of rules of law.

The former Senkaku “owners” brother, Hiroyuki Kurihara, who represents the family which appears to have pitted Tokyo’s nationalist governor Ishihara, and Japan’s central government against each other in a frenzied bid to “purchase” the islets at a premium made a public statement that the Kurihara family believes Japan should take China to the ICJ. Well, if Japan truly believes that China has no legitimate claim to the islets then what is Japan waiting for? According to Chinese officials, China has already submitted their evidentiary material.

The ICJ And Its Function

The World Court is officially known as the International Court of Justice. It is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. Its seat is at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, and was formed in 1946 when it replaced the Permanent Court of International Justice. According to the ICJ website, its functions include settling in accordance with international law the legal disputes submitted to it by States, and giving advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by duly authorized international organs and agencies.

The Court is composed of fifteen judges, which may not include more than one judge from any nationality. The United Nations General Assembly and Security Council elect the judges to nine-year terms. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, an island is a naturally formed area of land, which is above water at high tide. This means that the ICJ could have jurisdiction over the matter.

Resolution Under The Concept Of Equity

The islet dispute would best be resolved under the well-established laws of possession over territorial claims. Clearly, both Taiwan, and China claim Japan has taken possession of the islands adversely. Despite an unclear historical record, Japan claims it doesn’t have mere possession, but has sovereignty over the land.

At common law, adverse possession existed where title to another’s real property is acquired without compensation, by possessing it in a manner which conflicts with the true owner’s rights. Averse possession must have taken place over a specific statutory period for the adverse possessor to have a legitimate claim to the land’s title. The law of adverse possession is entirely statutory, arising from a concept referred to as statute of limitations. A statue of limitations is an amount of time that is determined by statute that bars a party from bringing a legal proceeding against another.

The requirements of adverse possession are actual possession as if the adverse possessor owned the property. Adverse possession must also be open, notorious and exclusive. This means the adverse possessor held the property in a manner that was capable of being observed by others and had not shared in that possession with the actual owner. The land must also be held in a hostile manner. Hostility exists where possession of the land of another is held regardless of the true boundary line. The adverse possessor must hold the land continuously and uninterrupted for a stated statutory period. The statutory period is the amount of time the claimant must hold the land in order to successfully claim legal title.

Japan has a strong claim under adverse possession because it has been in possession of the islets without China ever taking any action against Japan to prevent that possession. Japan also openly operates a lighthouse one of the islands, and pays for its repair, and upkeep, such was when it’s damaged by a typhoon. Japan had once operated a factory on the islands, however that operation was abandoned long ago, so Japan could not claim continuous possession for that duration. What really matters is, if the ICJ would make a determination based on possession, what statutory determination would be applicable? Statutory limitations differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and this would be a contentious matter for any nation involved in territorial disputes.

All common law jurisdictions require that the action of trespass be brought within a specified time, after which the true owner is assumed to have acquiesced. The effect of a failure by the landowner to evict the adverse possessor depends on the jurisdiction.

In some jurisdictions such as England, the title of a landowner will automatically extinguish once the relevant limitation period has passed. In other jurisdictions, the adverse possessor acquires merely an equitable title where the landowner remains a trustee on behalf of the property.

Adverse possession however does not automatically work against property owned by a government agency. The legal concept has applied to territorial disputes in the past. For example, in the U.S., Georgia lost an island in the Savannah River to South Carolina, when that state used fill from dredging to attach the island to its own shore. Since Georgia knew of this but did not take action to prevent it, the U.S. Supreme Court held in favor of South Carolina, even though the Treaty of Beaufort (1787) explicitly specified that the river’s islands belonged to Georgia.

Common Defenses To Adverse Possession

The following is a list of defenses that are often brought in adverse possession cases:

  1. Permissive Use. If the actual owner has granted permission to use the property, the claim of adverse possession cannot be considered hostile and would fail. (Here, China may argue that operating the lighthouse on the islands was permissible since its own nation benefited from it during storms.)
  2. Public Lands. Government-owned land may be exempt from adverse possession. (China could refuse to allow the doctrine to be used in an ICJ determination.)
  3. Insufficient Acts. Although it is conceded that the claimant engaged in some use of the property, it is alleged that these acts were not sufficient to amount to acts claiming ownership. (China may argue that operating a lighthouse is an insignificant use.)
  4. Non-Exclusive Use. Although it is conceded that the claimant engaged in some use of the property, it is alleged that others (usually the property owner) also used the property in a manner consistent with that of the landowner. (Here, Japan could make a clear showing that Japanese controls the islands military. China could argue that it has fished in that region for centuries.)
  5. Insufficient Time. Even if various elements of adverse possession were met, it is alleged that the adverse possession did not last for the full statutory period, or that the adverse possession was interrupted by a period of non-use. (All nations making a territorial claim over the Senkaku dispute would have to agree to the ICJ rules of equity.)

Conclusion

Japan is almost entirely responsible for the current chaos over the insignificant set of islands. As a result of Japan’s untimely action, its own corporations are suffering the blowback of plummeting sales, and rebuilding factories that had been destroyed in numerous protests that has happened in China. The Chinese perceive Japan’s actions as an imperialistic aggression against China and its sovereignty claim over the disputed territory. However, what is really at stake is 365 Billion USD in trade between the two nations if the matter is not resolved quickly and amicably.

Whether of not this matter is ever resolved, one thing remains, Japan’s failed nationalistic ploy has done nothing but cause economic turmoil for both nations. The furious Chinese are now relentless in refusing to purchase Japan goods, as auto sales have plummeted, as well as the purchase of nearly every other Japan made goods.

Japan’s nationalistic determination was unwise, and has caused relations between the two nations to be at its lowest level since before signing the Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty on September 29th, 1972, that normalized relations.

What has really occurred is that Japan’s central government has been entirely inept in the handling of the 3.11.11 triple disaster, and Japan’s failing economy. The false spirit of nationalism has no other purpose than to sway voters to keep the incompetent politicians propped up in their official capacity. A position they have not earned, and do not deserve to hold on to.

Clearly, the dispute can only be resolved through a proceeding held at the ICJ, and every nation that has a claim must be involved including Taiwan. These nations must agree to Court’s final determination no matter what the outcome.

This Senkaku matter has also caused a stir in Korea over the uninhabitable set of islets known as Liancourt Rocks, which are located 216.8 kilometers from Korea’s mainland, and 250 kilometers from the Honshu island of Japan.

It must be mentioned that the overtures Russia had been sending to Japan regarding territorial disputes in the northern region are now mute.

Japan can also probably kiss the 2020 Olympics goodbye, as it would probably need votes from China, Korea, Taiwan, and Russia to win its bid. The last two Olympics between Sydney and Beijing, and Paris and London were determined by a mere one or two votes.

Once again China, Korea, and Taiwan are openly calling for Japan to acknowledge it’s abhorrent imperialistic past, and to start teaching its true history to its people. A history that it seems the entire world is aware of, but its own people are not.

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Senkaku Islands: A Historical Perspective

The Senkaku Islands are a chain of eight small islets at the center of a long territorial dispute that exists between China, and Japan. The islands are known in Japan as Senkaku, Diaoyu in China, and Tiaoyutai in Taiwan, the uninhabited archipelago are located in a gas rich region that is also believed to contain large oil reserves. The area is also surrounded by rich fishing waters, and has a landmass of approximately six square kilometers.

After the Second World War, a Chinese Civil War was fought for control of China between the Chinese Nationalists, led by Chiang Kai-shek, and the Chinese Communist Party, led by Mao Zedong. By 1949, the Chinese Communist Party had defeated Chiang’s Nationalist army on the mainland. Chiang and his supporters fled to Taiwan, making Taipei the “temporary” capital of the Republic of China. As a result China’s “ongoing” civil war, the Republic of China claims to be the legitimate government. Taiwan’s territorial claim includes sovereignty over China’s mainland, Mongolia, and all other territories controlled by China’s communist regime, including the islands of Tiaoyutai.

The dispute between Japan, and China is a long one that has often strained relations between the two countries. Japan claims that China only became interested in the islands when natural gas, and possible oil reserves were uncovered. However, the disagreement over sovereignty existed long before the 1969 United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East discovery of natural gas deposits around the small islets chain.

Territorial Dispute. A Snowballing Fiasco

China claims the islands have been part of its territory since the 14th century. Chinese maps that date back to the Ming Dynasty support proof of this claim. Beijing officials are quick to argue that Chinese fishermen have used the islands since ancient times. Japan claims it discovered the islands in 1884, and annexed them in 1895 after winning the First Sino-Japanese War. China objects Japan’s claim, arguing that it was forced to sign the post-war treaty after Japan invaded the mainland.

Japan had control of the islands until the end of the Second World War, after which the defeated nation signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty, which gave Washington temporary control of the islands. Forty-eight nations attended the conference but China wasn’t invited, did not attend, and therefore does not recognize the Treaty of San Francisco. China had not attended the conference because it was in the throws of a civil war between the Republic of China Nationalists, and the People’s Republic of China’s Communist Party.

Clause 14 of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, allowed Allied forces to confiscate all assets owned by the Japanese government, Japanese corporations, Japanese organizations, and any property owned by Japanese private citizens. Clause 14 land seizures included all colonized, or occupied countries that had been in Japan’s control. Clause 21 of the article gave China exclusive authority over all Japanese assets located in Manchuria, and Mongolia.

The San Francisco Peace Treaty officially renounced any of Japan’s rights that have been derived from the Boxer Protocol of 1901, and any of the nations claims to Korea, Formosa (Taiwan), Hong Kong, the Pescadores, the Kuril Islands, the Spratly Islands, Antarctica, as well as the Sakhalin Island. Article 3 of the treaty left the Bonin Islands and the Ryukyu Islands, which included Okinawa and the Amami, Miyako and Yaeyama Islands, under a U.S. trusteeship.

On December 25th, 1953, the Amami Islands were returned to Japan. On April 5th, 1968 the Bonin Islands were returned to Japan’s control. In 1969 the U.S., authorized the transfer of authority over the Ryukyus to Japan, which was to take effect in 1972. In 1972, the U.S. reversion of the Ryukyus occurred along with the ceding of control over the nearby (uninhabited) Senkaku Islands. Both the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China argue that this agreement between Japan, and the U.S. had not considered the ultimate sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands, prior to turning control over to Japan.

Since the early 70s, minor skirmishes between China and Japan have broken out over the islands territorial claims.

With China’s growing demand for oil, and world reserves declining, no doubt the discovery of gas, and possible oil reserves are what lies beneath the recent clashes. Until recently the disputes had been minor, and existed merely between fishing vessels from the two countries.

In 2010, a serious diplomatic episode developed after Japan arrested the captain of a Chinese fishing boat when it collided with a Japanese coast guard vessel near the islands. Japan eventually released the captain, but only after Beijing postponed bilateral talks, and suspended some trade.

Although the U.S. does not have an official position on the merits of the competing sovereignty claims, the islands are included within the U.S. Japan Security Treaty. This means that Japan may compel support from the U.S. military to help defend security of the islands.

More recently, Tokyo’s controversial, and often objectionable mayor Ishihara offered to purchase the disputed islands with public funds. Ishihara proposal included the construction of hideous concrete structures Ishihara claimed would safeguard fishermen if a typhoon were to approach the islands. This ploy sparked outrage from Chinese authorities who are utterly opposed to the building of any structure on the pristine islands. It must be noted that Japan’s coastlines, which are 70% covered in appalling, and poorly designed concrete structures, are without a doubt, the most aesthetically unpleasing to be found any where in the world. The building of such structures would no doubt provoke China to take strong measures against Japan.

In August of 2012, Japan arrested fourteen Chinese activists who planted a flag on the islands. The protesters were released after being detained for two days. Later that same month, at least two people were involved in taking the Japanese flag from Uichiro Niwa, the ambassador of Japan’s vehicle, as he was returning to the Japanese Embassy in the Beijing.

Earlier September 2012, it was reported that Japan’s central government had purchased the three of the eight islands for 2.05 billion yen. China Foreign Ministry Hong Lei said his country has been closely following the issue, and has vowed to take necessary measures to protect its territorial sovereignty, including bringing the matter to the world court. China, Taiwan, Korea, and Russia are strongly opposed to Japan’s position, and as a result, this could probably cost Japan its bid for the 2020 Olympics.

Most recently the People’s Republic of China has allowed front-page photos of Chinese citizens protesting Japan’s control over the islands. Protests are increasing across China over the islands issue. As of September 2012, China has dispatched military vessels to the Senkaku region. Taiwan has sent ships as well.

As of September 15th there has been five straight days of anti-Japan rallies, which are growing in size, and number daily. Many protests have been organized via the Internet. Angry crowds have destroyed Japanese made cars, ransacked Japanese restaurants, and vandalized chains such as Jusco, and Heiwado. Protestors shout slogans such as, “Slap economic sanctions on Japan.”

The scale of the protests is the largest between the two nations since diplomatic relations normalized in 1972.

Evidentiary Claims Of Ownership To The Island Chain

According to China, the islands were under their control since 1372, and it had referred to the islands as part of Chinese territory since 1534. China claims control of the Taiwan, and the Senkaku Island as early as the Qing Dynasty. The earliest written record of Diaoyutai dates back to 1403 in a Chinese book, Voyage With The Tail Wind, which recorded the names of the islands that voyagers had passed on a trip from Fujian to the Ryukyu Kingdom.

By 1534, all the major islets of the island group were identified and named in the book Record of the Imperial Envoy’s Visit to Ryukyu, and were the Ming Dynasty’s (16th-century) sea defense frontier. One of the islands, Chihweiyu, marked the boundary of the Ryukyu Islands. This is viewed by both China, and Taiwan as meaning that these islands did not belong to the Ryukyu Islands.

In 1785 a Japanese map called, Sangoku Tsuran Zusetsu was designed by Hayashi Shihei. He adopted the Chinese kanji (Diaoyutai) to annotate the Senkaku Islands, which were painted in the same color as China.

Following the Meiji Restoration, the Japanese government annexed what was known as the Ryukyu Kingdom as Okinawa Prefecture in 1879. The Senkaku Islands, which lay between the Ryukyu Kingdom and the Qing Empire, became the Sino-Japanese boundary.

In 1885, the Japanese governor of Okinawa, Nishimura Sutezo petitioned the Meiji government to take control of the islands. However, Inoue Kaoru, the Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, commented that the islands were near the border of the Qing Empire, and that the islands had already been given Chinese names. Inoue was concerned that if Japan proceeded to erect a landmark stating its claim to the islands, it could stir up a conflict with the Qing Empire. Following Inoue’s advice, Yamagata Aritomo, the Minister of the Interior turned down the request to incorporate the islands.

On January 14th 1895, during the First Sino-Japanese War, Japan incorporated the islands, stating that it had conducted surveys since 1884, and that the islands were no man’s lands. Japan took the position that there was no evidence the islands had ever been under the Qing Empire’s control.

After China lost the First Sino-Japanese War, both countries signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki in April 1895 that stipulated, among other things, that China would cede to Japan the island of Formosa (Taiwan) together with all islands belonging to it. The treaty would later be nullified when Japan lost the Second World War, and signed the Treaty of San Francisco, which nullified all prior treaties.

Disagreements Over Sovereignty

There is a disagreement between the Japanese, and Chinese governments as to whether the Senkaku Islands were ever part of the islands belonging to Formosa. China and Taiwan dispute Japan’s claim by citing Yamagata Aritomo’s decision to turn down the request to incorporate the islands in 1885. Today, both Taiwan and China assert sovereignty over the islands.

China and Taiwan first made their territorial claims during the 1970s after a 1968 study showed that oil reserves might be found under the sea near the Senkaku Islands. The two countries argue that the sovereignty dispute is a legacy of Japanese invasion of China, and complicated by the civil war between the Chinese Communist Party, and the Kuomintang over control of China. Both countries argue that early recordings found in numerous maps prove their claims.

The islands were also used by China as offshore defenses against Japanese pirates during the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911). A Chinese map of Asia, and a map compiled by a Japanese cartographer in the 18th century, also show the islands belong to China.

Further proof offered by China, and probably the strongest, that the Senkaku Islands belong to it is supported by the Potsdam Declaration, which announced the terms for Japan’s surrender, and stated that Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as “we” determine. The “we” referred to the victors of the Second World War that had attended the Potsdam Declaration. The participants were the U.S., the UK, and the Republic of China. It must be noted that Japan accepted the terms of the declaration when it surrendered. The declaration included strong language, warning, “We will not deviate from them. There are no alternatives. We shall brook no delay.”

Today, Japan takes the position that the islands had been uninhabited and showed no trace of having been under the control of China prior to 1895. Japan also claims the islands were neither part of Taiwan nor part of the Pescadores Islands, which were ceded to Japan by the Qing Dynasty of China in Article II of the May 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki, thus were not later renounced by Japan under Article II of the San Francisco Peace Treaty. Japan also states that the U.S. between 1945 and 1972 controlled the islands, and after the occupation, Japan exclusively exercised administration over the islands.

Japan also alleges that China and Taiwan only started claiming ownership of the islands in 1971, following a 1969 United Nations report that large oil and gas reserves may exist under the seabed near the islands. Japan further claims that former president of Republic of China, Lee Teng-hui, said that the Senkaku Islands are part of Okinawa.

Japan erected a marker on Kubajima, and Uotsurijima to incorporate the islands as part of its territory. This was widely publicized in 1950. Koga Tatsushiro and his family then “developed” four of the islands with permission from the Japanese government.

Kentaro Serita of Kobe University points out that an official history book called the History Of Ming compiled during the Qing Dynasty, describes Taiwan as a foreign country.

After a number of Chinese were rescued from a shipwreck in 1920, a letter purportedly sent to Japanese fishermen by the Chinese Consul Feng Mien in Nagasaki on behalf of the Republic of China on May 20, 1921, made reference to Senkaku Islands, Yaeyama District, Okinawa Prefecture, the Empire of Japan. The letter is on exhibition at Yaeyama museum.

From 1895 to 1940, there was a Katsuobushi factory that had employed approximately two hundred Japanese residents on the islands.

In 1953, the People’s Daily, a newspaper that is controlled by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, had published an article that stated the Senkaku Islands were part of Japan’s territory.

In November of 1958, a World Atlas published by the Map Publishing Company of Beijing, treated the Senkaku Islands as Japanese territory.

In 1969, The Washington Times claims it obtained a classified map made by the People’s Republic of China map authority listing the Senkaku Islands as part of Japan’s territory.

In October of 1965, a World Atlas published by the National Defense Research Academy and the China Geological Research Institute of Taiwan records the Diaoyu Islands with Japanese names: Gyochojima, Taishojima, and Senkaku Gunto. In the late 1970s, the government of the Republic of China tried to recall these books, but the information was already available to interested sources.

In 1970, a state-prescribed Taiwan textbook treated the islands as Japanese territories.

In 1978, a Japanese nationalist group, Nihonseinensha built a lighthouse on Uotsuri Jima, which was subsequently handed over to the Japanese government in 2005.

Conclusion. Japan’s Actual Issues Undermined

Whatever the outcome of this long, and ongoing dispute there is one thing for certain, Japan’s untimely publicizing, and arranging of the islands purchase, has done nothing but cause turmoil around the region, and it is unwise.

Japan has not acted properly with its looming triple disaster. What has the Japanese officials done with all the charity money it has received for the victims of the earthquake, tsunami, and the nuclear disaster? There are still more than 340,000 people living in makeshift shelters, and the residents of Fukushima are very vocal that the local, and central government has failed miserably in handling the matter. In Fukushima about 114,000 people are forced to live in 52,000 temporary housing units. It seems logical that Japan would benefit much better if it spent 2.05 billion yen on cleaning up its own mess, before stirring up another one between neighboring nations.

Japan has major economic woes with mounting unpaid debts. Having a good relationship with China, the world’s second economy is paramount to Japan’s recovery.

Alienating China, and provoking the nation over trivial matters such as the Senkaku Islands will only damage Japan in the long run. One example is the probable loss of the 2020 Olympics, which would cost the rebuilding nation multiples of billions of much needed yen in revenue. The Olympics in Japan would also help promote tourism, an industry that has plummeted since 3.11.11.

Another serious issue is in Japan’s import requirements of China’s rare earths. If China’s measures against Japan would include the suspension of such trade, this would bring about even more dire consequences for a nation that already has immense mountains to climb.

The Senkaku Islands have been around forever. They’ll be around for a long, long time to come. Both nations fish the waters, and both enjoy those benefits. The timing of Japan’s actions, and its implications regarding the Senkaku Islands are troublesome. In the long run, the taking of possession of a few uninhabitable islands that may, or may not have energy reserves, will only hurt Japan in the long run.

This article originally ran in the September, 2012 edition of the Tokyo Weekender magazine. http://tokyoweekender.com/2012/09/senkaku-island-dispute.

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