International Windsurfing Championship, Enoshima Japan

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Fanny Baumann of Sweden: Photo credit Malcolm Hanes.

This year the International Windsurfing Championship comes to Enoshima, Japan from September 18-23. 

The Windsurfing World Championships, also known as the RS: X World Championship, is an international sailing competition organized by World Sailing, which is the governing body for the sport of sailing. World Sailing is responsible for promoting the sport internationally, and developing the Racing Rules of Sailing. World Sailing is officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee.

Stack Jones interviews Norway’s Sjur Funnemark and Arthur Ulrichsen as they prepare for the upcoming event. Sjur and Arthur make up half of the Norwegian team competing in the world championship.

The trio met in Chigasaki, at Pacific Ocean Blue, a shop owned and operated by Mamoru Kitamura. Kitamura-san has been involved in ocean sports for more than forty-years and was delighted to meet these talented young athletes.

At Pacific Ocean Blue the group checked out the week’s weather forecast on http://windy.com. They discussed the swell direction, the forecast, and Typhoon 18, which was fast approaching. They decided to head to the shore to see if the storm swells generated by the typhoon had begun to roll in.

Sjur is a 20-year-old competitor from Jar, Norway. Arthur, his teammate is 21-year-old, and from Oslo. Both are contenders for a position on Norway’s 2020 Olympic windsurfing team.

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Norway’s RS:X Windsurfing Team Sjur Funnemark and Arthur Ulrichsen. Photo credit Stack Jones.

The Interview

Stack: What do you do to stay in shape, and prepare for a championship like the one you will be in next week?

Sjur: I train super hard physically in the beginning of the winter season in Norway (October-December) before moving to warmer regions to windsurf, and train toward the upcoming events and competitions. I truly love the Olympic windsurfing lifestyle, which includes physically demanding training and racing, alongside the best athletes from all over the world!

Stack: Has the sport created much travel opportunities for you?

Sjur: This season we traveled a lot, from Brazil to Spain, and France; finishing this season with the World Championship here in Enoshima, Japan. 

Stack: What are your plans beyond windsurfing? Are there any plans for more schooling in the future?

Sjur: Yes, I am going to law school.

Stack: That’s fantastic, I have a law degree, and it will always come in handy, no matter what you do in life. What other sports are you involved in?

Sjur: Alongside the windsurfing career we bring surfboards, trying to catch nice waves wherever we travel. The great thing about travel, is I get to experience a variety of cultures. The racing aspect itself is just pure genius; tactical, technical and conditions that are super inconsistent, since we are racing in winds from 4-30 knots. I have to be super fit to pump the sail to generate speed in light winds, and strong and technical to control the standard 9.5 square meter sail in the stronger winds.

Stack: Tell me a bit about yourself Arthur?

Arthur: Although I’m from Norway, I was born in Stamford Ct. My family moved to Norway when I was one-year-old. I’ve lived in Oslo ever since. I started skiing in the winter, and windsurfing in the summer at the age of 10. As I grow older I enjoy windsurfing more and more. By the age of 15, I made the decision to stop ski racing, and focus entirely on windsurfing. I now windsurf in the men’s Olympic Class RS:X. My goal is to represent Norway in the 2020 Sumer Olympic games in Tokyo.

Stack: I want to get into the RS:X equipment in a bit. Right now, tell me more about yourself.

Arthur: We, Sjur and I, represent the youth part of the Norwegian senior sailing team. I train in Oslo and like Sjur, I sail for The Royal Norwegian Youth Club. I made the national team this year, which was truly an honor. The national team is sponsored by Helly Hansen, SAP and Mercedes Benz. I won the Norwegian Youth Championship twice, the RS:X, at 16, and the Youth World Sailing event in 2014 and 2015. I’m currently ranked in the RS:X men fleet in Norway, and hope to place top 40 in the World Championship here in Enoshima, Japan. 

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Photo credit Stack Jones.

Stack: What is RS:X?

Arthur: The RS:X came about so that every competitor in windsurfing used the same equipment. This system was first used in the 2008 Olympic Games in China.

Stack: So everyone uses the same equipment? There are no variations?

Sjur: There are two sizes of sails available for competitors. Men use a 9.5m sail; women and youth use an 8.5m sail. The sail, rig and board were designed to to ensure a high level of design synergy.

Stack: I discovered on the RS:X website that the RS:X is the most affordable yachting class eligible for competition in the Olympic Games. It’s also easy to transport, as it can be carried on commercial aircraft as excess baggage, thus allowing sailors to compete internationally at minimal cost. The RS:X allows for many regattas that can be attended by a large number of sailors from all over the world. For example, the inaugural RS:X World Championships were held at Lake Garda, in Italy, with 244 competitors. Other World Championship Regattas include an event in Cascais, Portugal in 2007, in Auckland, New Zealand in 2008, and the events continue to attract a large amount of sailors. Is the RS:X the best windsurfing board?

Sjur: No, they are not the fastest, or the most technical. But, what makes them a great choice for competition is that everyone has the same equipment. This means that those who receive a lot of money from sponsors would always win merely because they had better gear. By having everyone use the same equipment, the best performer wins.

Stack: Are there any major concerns when actually racing?

Sjur: Trash in the ocean. Plastic can wrap around a fin, and the only way to remove it is to stop racing, get in the water and take it off. Ocean debris has the ability to affect the outcome of a race, it’s really quite profound actually.

As Stack, Sjur, and Arthur strolled along the beach in Chigasaki, a beautiful foreign woman rode up on a bike. It turned out to be Fanny Baumann, a sensational athlete, who is also a talented singer, and musician. Fanny is in Japan to represent her country of Sweden, in the woman’s division of the windsurfing championship. It turns out Sjur, Arthur, Fanny, and other competitors are sharing living arrangements while in Japan.

Fanny was on her way for a bike ride to Enoshima. This, after training twice earlier in the day, and having already gone for a run. Stack posed a question to her before taking photos of the trio.

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Arthur Ulrichsen, Fanny Baumann of Sweden’s Woman’s Team, and Sjur Funnemark of Norway.

Stack: How do you feel about being in a competition where men and women compete separately, and where you know you could beat many of the men in the competition?

Fanny: Actually, the men and women competitions are quite different, for the women, it’s about technique, and for the men, there’s a lot of brute strength involved.

Sjur: That’s true. In the beginning of a race, the men literally battle it out for line position. There’s a lot of that, because where you are positioned at the beginning of a race has the ability to affect the outcome.

Stack: That brings up a question about team racing. When you’re on the water do you work as a team?

Sjur: No, we are competitors. However, sometimes a team member can sacrifice a race for the benefit of the team. However, if not done properly, it can result in disqualification.

Stack: (To Fanny) Tell me more about yourself?

Fanny: I’m from Sandhamn, a town in Stockholm. I’ve been windsurfing ten years, RS:X sailing for five. My sponsors are the Royal Swedish Yacht Club, Ocean Sunglasses and Mystic Boarding Sweden.

Stack: What other sports are you involved in?

Fanny: I love kitesurfing, tennis, running, skiing, and long distance ice-skating.

Fanny reminded the guys that there was dinner at 8:00, as they were all going to a restaurant in Chigasaki to eat Japanese wagyu (a high quality beef).

Stack took a few more photos, and Fanny rode toward Enoshima.

Stack, Sjur, and Arthur headed into the city, where the guys drank fruit juice, and searched for a place to rent surfboards for the next day, their day of rest. Stack took the guys to Kaldi, and Sjur was surprised to be handed a complimentary cup of coffee. Stack told the guys that when they returned home they had to bring a gift for their mother. He suggested Baumkuchen cake, which turns out to be European in origin.

Sjur commented on surfing during his day of rest.

Sjur: Surfing counts as resting doesn’t it?

Stack pondered that only a true ocean sportsman would consider surfing large typhoon swells a day of rest.

The following photos are credited to The RS:X Class / Robert Hajduk.
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The Emperor’s New Clothes

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The current emperor of Japan is Akihito. He acceded the “Chrysanthemum Throne” upon the death of his war criminal father, emperor showa, aka Hirohito, in 1989. The role of the emperor of Japan has changed dramatically from being a god the nation was to fear, to a near insignificant, symbolic, ceremonial role.

Akihito seems like a “nice guy” right? He has denounced the false ideology that his lineage has descended from the heavens. Regardless, given the state of the world today, and Japan’s current political landscape, we much fervently be reminded of Akihito’s father’s role as a mass murderer, and a war criminal, responsible for the worst war, resulting in the most casualties this world had ever witnessed.

Akihito will become the first ruler in two-hundred years to abdicate the throne. He’s expected to do this in December 2018, when he turns 85-years-old.

The questions posed is, once Akihito step down, who will replace this aging relic, and what are their beliefs, regarding the teachings of the Shinto Cult?

The last Japanese monarch to renounce the throne was emperor Kokaku, who stepped down in 1817. Emperor Akihito’s decision was initially met by opposition in Japan, especially those of the religious cult, and Japan’s right wing government, ruled by the strong hand of Shinzo Abe, whose approval rate has plummeted to 29.9%.

Anticipating resistance from conservatives who wanted Akihito to retain his position until his death, the emperor went public last year, which was only his second ever televised address to the nation.

Regardless of Akihito’s position, Japan’s monarchy continues to claim lay claim to being able to trace its lineage back 2,000 years to the sun goddess Amaterasu. The “royal” family is fast becoming a royal pain in the ass to the Japanese as they are rapidly running out of male heirs.

Crown princess Masako, a “commoner” married the heir to the throne in 1993. Yet, Aiko gave birth to a daughter in 2001. Initial public delight was soon quashed through the recognition that Aiko could never become an empress.

Three years later, the pressure on the crown princess to produce a male heir had reached a point that she suffered what the palace has termed an “adjustment disorder.” The truth was probably more likely that she had gone beyond child bearing years.

Apparently, the sun goddess intervened, and the “crisis” was averted in 2006, when princess Akishino, the wife of the emperor’s youngest son, gave birth to a son. Prince Hisahito, became the third in line to the throne.

The Nippon Kaigi front, and prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, has made it clear that he desires to resurrect many of the components of Japan’s pre-war constitution, which includes elevating the status of the emperor to that of a god. Akihito, on the other hand is greatly opposed to Japan becoming a militaristic nation, dislikes Abe, and also dislikes the idea of the Shinto Cult being reinstated as a state religion.

Crown Prince Naruhito, currently 58-years-old, will become the 126th emperor of Japan. Naruhito has said that he will devote himself “body and soul” to his job as emperor, after it took legislation to allow his father to abdicate. Naruhito defied palace officials when he married Masako Owada, a Harvard, and Oxford educated diplomat. Masako, beyond child bearing years, is said to be suffering from depression brought on by the stresses of palace life, which demands she bear a royal heir. Masako “continues” to undergo mental treatment for her mental illnesses. Why is it that “royalty” always seem to have mental, and emotional problems?

Naruhito’s father, Akihito, is the first emperor to refuse to accept being considered divine. Naruhito, has stated that he had been “extremely moved” by his father’s desire to step down. Naruhito also claims he would continue in the steps of his father’s work. Hopefully, this means that he doesn’t want to impose on the Japanese the false beliefs that he is a deity. Unfortunately, however, Naruhito, was a student of mediaeval studies.

Stack Jones is an award winning writer, photographer and musician. In contrast to his music, Stack’s social, religious and political commentaries are scathing. He simply tells it like it is, without allowing external influences to mar his perspective. For more information visit http://stackjones.com.

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Japan’s Apathy Towards The Natural World

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Chigasaki Beach. Photo credit Stack Jones.

When I first arrived in Japan a decade ago, one of the first things I did was take a stroll down a path that was adjacent to the Katsumata River. The river connected to the Kugigaura Bay, which empties into the Pacific Ocean.

The further I travelled along the Katsumata River trail, the more the household garbage, and toxic industrial waste piled up. The murky water of the river, which men fished out of, was covered in human oriented waste. Among the debris included metal wiring that protruded from garbage that had been intentionally dumped, and partially burned. Farmers also used the river to dump agricultural waste that included partially filled bags of fertilizer, and pesticides. There were hill size stacks of discarded greenhouse frames that still had glass fragments, or whole sheets of glass still attached to them. There were piles, upon piles of obsolete electronics. By the time I arrived at the shore, I was reeling by the deeply disturbing environmental catastrophe that surrounded me. This location wasn’t Dhaka in Bangladesh. This wasn’t Kalimantan in Indonesia. This wasn’t Mumbai in India. This wasn’t Xingtai in China. This was a small town in Shizuoka prefecture, Japan, a country  long touted to be orderly, and well maintained.

Not long after that initial experience of discovering Japan’s disdain for the natural environment, the typhoon season began. During the first typhoon that hit Shizuoka, the wind blew strong, and a hard rain fell. I grabbed my surfboard, and thereafter drove along Japan’s southeastern shores, looking for the perfect spot to ride the large waves that pounded Japan’s Pacific coast. My first destination was to return to where the Katsumata River flowed into the Kugigaura Bay. I was not prepared for what I was about to experience.

I began my approach toward the open sea, heading down a winding road that was parallel to the Katsumata River. Even before reaching the ocean, I was overwhelmed with sickening grief. Even through the hard rain that pounded the windshield of my car, the sight of hundreds of thousands of plastic bottles were apparent. They flowed down the Katsumata River, heading straight toward Kugigaura Bay. Nearly all of the bottles had their tamper evident bands, and twist caps removed. All labeling was removed as well. These bottles had obviously been in the recycling process, which meant they had to have been intentionally dumped into the river. The entire Katsumata River, which is quite wide, was covered, end-to-end in plastic bottles. The bottles moved rapidly, bobbing up and down on the river’s swells, as if they were on a conveyor belt. The bottles effortlessly made their way toward the open ocean. At the place where the Katsumata River merged with the Kugigaura Bay, the huge pitching waves pushed the bottles back into the river. This resulted in a massive pile-up, as bottles frenetically surged toward the ocean, and large waves forced them back into the mouth of the bay. I watched this for more than an hour, hardly believing what I was witnessing. Sickened by the sight, I finally left that location, and headed to Ooi River. Upon arrival, I witnessed the same pattern repeat itself, as endless waves of plastic rolled from the mouth of the river, into the open sea. So much human garbage covered the shore that it was nearly impossible to see the sand that lied underneath. Surfers carefully tip-toed over mounds of debris as they made their way toward the shore.

What goes around, comes around.

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was released in 1962. The book exposed the hazards of pesticides, and examined blind faith in unproven technology that was supposed to improve the quality of our lives. The book also exposed corporate sponsored junk science, and questioned why humanity was being subjected to consequential experimentation, without their knowledge, or consent.

Even before the release of Silent Spring, the chemical giants teamed up, and initiated a worldwide smear campaign, which was aimed at discrediting Carson, and her research. Even today, more than fifty years after the publication of Silent Spring, agrochemical giants continue to discredit Carson’s work. Monsanto went so far as to parody the first chapter of Silent Spring. Monsanto’s tripe, is mockingly titled, The Desolate Year. It can be read here.

At the time that Silent Spring was being released, CBS announced that it was going to air, The Silent Spring of Rachel Carson. Three of the network’s major sponsors backed out as advertisers of the episode. Regardless, the investigative piece was televised, helping to raise awareness of environmental causes, and aided Silent Spring to become an instant best-seller.

Carson died before discovering that her book resulted in President John Kennedy establishing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Today, however, the EPA has become a revolving door for unethical, and corrupt officials like Jess Rowland, who aid chemical giants in destroying research that connects their products to a variety of maladies, including neurological diseases, immune diseases, endocrine diseases, and numerous forms of cancer. Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas worked as an attorney for Monsanto. In October 1991, law professor Anita Hill testified in front of the U.S. Senate Judiciary committee about sexual harassment she endured while working for Thomas, as he awaited his Supreme Court confirmation. Thomas called the proceedings, “high-tech lynching.” Once appointed, Thomas sat on several cases where Monsanto was the defendant. Thomas had not recused himself in any of those cases, and in each one, sided with Monsanto.

If Carson was alive today, she would immediately recognize that what she had warned against, with dire consequences has, in fact, become a stark reality. Earth’s numerous biomes are truly being impacted to the point of massive contamination, and extinction. In David Bowie’s song, Five Years, he sang about how he knew Earth was dying, because the news guy wept when he said so. Today, the MSM do not permit themselves to have an independent, ethical voice. They are all mere talking heads, pundits, scared of incensing their controller-employers, and finding themselves in the unemployment line. What a terrible way to fake a living.

The agrochemical giants of today include, BASF (Germany), Bayer (Germany), Dow AgroSciences (U.S.), DuPont (U.S.), Nufarm (Australia), Makhteshim Agan (Israel), Syngenta (Switzerland), and Monsanto (U.S.). Others include Sumitomo Chemical, and Arysta Lifescience, both Japanese corporations.

In 2016, a mere 365 days, the world lost more than 30% of its coral reefs. Half of the world’s coral had already died off prior to that. The die off is the result of agrochemicals, pesticides, and fertilizer runoff, as well as a rise in ocean temperatures, caused by global warming. It matters not whether the warming of the atmosphere, and oceans is the result of man, or if these things are not caused by man. What matters is that global warming is occurring, and at an alarming rate. Meanwhile, all politicos can deliberate over is Islam, and Russia’s feigned influence on U.S. elections that have already come, and gone.

The oceans today are rapidly being bled of life due to toxins that leach into them from rivers, estuaries, and other bodies of water that have long been contaminated by agrochemical products. Aiding the irreparable harm to the oceans of the world are microbeads, and microfibers. Companies like Patagonia, which profess to have concern for these byproducts, still manufacture overpriced goods that start as microbeads, and end up as the microfibers, which find their way into food webs. Microbeads, marketed as “exfoliants,” and microfibers are so small they easily pass through drainage systems, and end up in the world’s oceans. Once there, these manmade pollutants are gobbled up by microorganisms, which are then eaten by shrimp, crabs, and other organisms in various food chains. Through this process, those beads and fibers work continue up the food chain, and end up on your plate, and in your stomach.

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Microbeads marketed as exfoliants are banned in the U.S.

Manmade micro particles, these beads and fibers, have a propensity to absorb DDE, DDT, PCBs, PVCs, and other toxins, which are resilient to diluting in the world’s oceans. Microbeads have been banned in the U.S. This measure was far too late, as the damage has already been done. Ironically, microfibers continue to be manufactured in a variety of products. Microbeads and microfibers have even found their way in the sea salt we consume. Once consumed, about the only way the accumulated toxins can leave the human body is through mother’s breast milk, which fed directly into an unborn fetus, that has as of yet formed an immune system. Numerous studies show that the endocrine system, and the reproductive systems of children are permanently altered through contact with minute amounts of these contaminates.

There are truly only a few who are responsible for the environmental calamity we all face. Only a few! These include corporate board members, and their miserly shareholders who demand quarterly profits on their investments, at any cost to others. There are judicial officers that habitually, and irrationally side with corporations in litigation, and who reap hefty speaking fees, which in reality are bribes for their legal determinations. Others, guilty through association, include legislatures who take, take, take, money dolled out by lobbyists who act as shields against liability for the corporate giants they represent, and regulators, who fail to enforce laws provided for by agencies, such as the EPA. The broken wheel seemingly cycles ceaselessly, even as the tires tread gets thinner, and thinner and thinner.

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Society of the Plastics Industry’s, Resin Identification Code.

In 1988, the Society of the Plastics Industry introduced the Resin Identification Code (RIC). The RIC system was designed to make it easier for workers in recovery and recycling facilities to separate obsolete, and discarded items according to their resin category. The RIC numbers broadly refer to the type of plastic used in a particular product. There are only seven plastic categories. Yet, there are thousands of plastic resins in use today, with more, and more introduced in consumer goods every year. The vast majority of these new plastics don’t undergo any kind of testing before being released into the stream of commerce. Many plastics are used for a short span of time by the consumer, but after being discarded, remain in the environment for up to several hundreds of years. A typical used baby diaper is said to remain in the environment for approximately 450 years.

There are two types of plastics, thermoplastics and thermosetting polymers. Once molded, thermosetting polymers do not soften when reheated. Therefore, they cannot be reshaped, and are difficult to recycle. BPA is used to harden plastics. It is an xenoestrogen, which mimics estrogen. Estrogen affects heart function, bone growth, ovulation, and disrupts the endocrine system, and reproductive organs. Ironically, one of its main use in toys for children. Thermoplastics, are plastics that do not undergo chemical change when heated, and therefore may be reprocessed, remolded, and used again and again. Thermoplastics include polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene and polyvinyl chloride. Polyvinyl chloride, also known as poly vinyl, or vinyl, commonly abbreviated as PVC, is the world’s third-most widely produced synthetic plastic polymer, after polyethylene, and polypropylene. From both an environmental, and health standpoint, PVC is the most toxic plastic ever created. According to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), vinyl chloride, the chemical used to make PVC, is a known human carcinogen. Regardless, its used in dishes, utensils, plastic glasses, food trays, produce and meat wrappers, and baby bottles.

It is estimated that eight percent of all oil based products begin as raw plastic resin pellets. These pellets form approximately 260 million tons of plastic the world uses each year. Only a small percentage of these plastics products are actually ever recycled. The vast majority, nearly 90%, end up in landfills, and the oceans.

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How many microbeads can you locate in this organism?

Lightweight, and small, plastic pellets escape in large volume during manufacturing, and transportation. Plastic resin pellets are also intentionally introduced in soaps, toothpaste, makeup, shampoo, shaving crème, face lotions, and other products consumed by the ill-informed hordes as, “exfoliants.” There are no health benefits that can be obtained by the use of exfoliants, whatsoever. Once introduced into habitats, animals eat the resin pellets, instinctively supposing them to be a source of food. Due to corporations recklessly including microbeads in their products, they are now found in the tissue of all animals in the food web. This includes humans!

Incinerating plants burn plastics, which are dumped into storm drains, deposited directly into the oceans, and also blown out of smoke stacks. They mingle with dioxin, bleaching agents, mercury, and other contaminants. Through these processes, burnt plastic is introduced into the atmosphere, drifts onto the land we live on, and into the air that we breath.

Resin pellets cover Japan’s shores. Once these pellets find their way into the ocean, they suck up a variety of persistent organic pollutants, including, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and DDEs, which are highly toxic groups of industrial chemicals. DDE, is a degraded form of the pesticide DDT. Though PCBs are banned in many countries, they are still in regular use. DDT is extremely difficult to breakdown, and much of what was produced still remains with us, in our cellular tissue, and in the environments that surround around us. Neither PCBs or DDT breaks down in seawater. Numerous studies show that these toxins have accumulated on sea beds. Frequent storms stir them back into the water, giving them the ability to be absorbed into floating plastic debris. Once the debris breaks down, it’s eaten by sea life, and birds. It now affects every organism on the face of the planet.

Both PCBs and DDE have been proven to disrupt the endocrine system, which is an extremely sensitive set of glands, and hormones that regulate functions such as insulin production, metabolism, and sexual development. PCBs and DDEs show up in plastic garbage, acting as magnets, leaching the chemicals out of the marine soup.

A recent US Department of Health and Human Services report provides greater cause for concern. In June, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of HHS, added styrene, the chemical used in the manufacture of Styrofoam cups, and food containers, to its list of substances “reasonably anticipated” to cause cancer. Styrene had already been linked to neurological disorders, and hormonal disruption. Styrofoam is made from the plastic polystyrene, which is based on building blocks called styrene monomers. When somebody drinks hot coffee, or eat soup out of a Styrofoam cup, they are also ingesting the chemicals that leach from it, which are known carcinogens.

Styrene is used to make latex, synthetic rubber, and polystyrene resins. These resins are used to make plastic packaging, disposable cups, disposable containers, insulation, and other products. Styrofoam, and styrene are used for food trays in meat, produce, and is disposed of through incineration. Long-term exposure to styrene causes brain disease, liver damage, nerve tissue damage, effects on kidney function, occupational asthma, damage to the central nervous system, impaired hearing, altered color vision, and reproductive effects. Skin contact with liquid styrene causes first-degree burns.

According to the Cancer Research UK, there is “No convincing evidence to show using plastic bottles or plastic containers increases the risk of cancer.” The group claims, there is no scientific evidence that microwaving food in plastic containers or wrapped in cling film affects the risk of cancer. The CRUK also claims there is no evidence that Bisphenol A (BPA) causes cancer either. The European Food Safety Authority claims to have performed a full scientific review of BPA and concluded as well there are no health risks. Despite what the CRUK has to say, this link is a recent article on the effects of the seven types of plastics, and the inherent dangers they pose.

In the 1950s and 60s, the chemical giants that held the patent for DDT ran advertisements, and songs that touted, “DDT Is Good For Me.” This same type of illusory marketing persists today. One advertising campaign, “Bag The Ban”, operates a website titled, “The Truth About Plastic Bags.” See: http://bagtheban.com/multimedia/item/the-truth-about-plastic-bags. The company that operates this deceptive website is Novolex. Novolex manufactures plastic products that are make their way into food chains, and which are responsible for the dying off of numerous species, including the Midway Atoll Albatross.

Summer has arrived in Japan

TEPCO announced that it’s going to dump 770,000 tonnes of nuclear waste into the Pacific Ocean. Thankfully, the U.S. Federal Court has finally permitted a lawsuit to move forward against TEPCO, for knowingly subjecting U.S. military personnel to high levels of radiation. Several of the plaintiffs in that matter have already died from radiation exposure. Fukushima can be added to the Guinness Book of World Records as having the world’s most toxic shoreline. Further south of Fukushima, Odaiba in Tokyo, is recognized as being one of the world’s most toxic beaches. Odaiba’s toxicity has nothing to do with radiation contamination. It has everything to do with Japan placing nearly all of its industry on the shores of its rivers, and the beaches.

Chigasaki, where I currently reside, has produced not a single day so far this summer where the ocean has been fit for swimming, surfing, or other water related activities. After waiting for the long cold season to end, I had looked forward to the time that I could spend teaching my child to surf. Those lessons will have to be put off.

Japan’s shores from Shizuoka, to Hiratsuka, just south of Chigasaki, are covered in debris, and dead animals. From Tokyo, to Ibaraki, to Fukushima, and northward to Sendai, and beyond, Japan’s shores are not fit for sea life, seafood consumption, or human recreational purposes. The reddish-brown, putrid decaying water oozes a pus-like matter. The exuding matter appears as the disease that poured out of the flesh of the victims in, Edgar Allan Poe’s, The Masque of the Red Death.

The debris that is not sucked out of the Pacific in drag nets, trawling, and long line fishing, ends up in a vortex that carries the woeful concoction upward to Alaska, and across the Pacific to Canada’s west coast, and southward to the U.S., and Mexico.

What does Japan’s Ministry of Environment have to say about all of this? According to Japan’s Ministry of Environment’s 2016 Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Study:

The assessment found that biodiversity in Japan continues to be in a state of long-term decline. The four major drivers indicated were: 1.) development and other human activities; 2.) the reduction in use/management of nature; 3.) invasive alien species, chemical substances, and other things introduced by humans; and 4.) global climate change. Examples of each of these drivers of the decline in biodiversity include the following.

The first driver is the result of continued habitat alteration of the Japanese ecosystem, including forests, farmlands, wetlands, and tidal flats, due to development during the period of high economic growth, with around 40% of tidal flats having disappeared. River crossing structures are affecting the continuity between upstream and downstream, and between rivers and oceans, and deterioration of the continuity of rivers may be obstructing the movement of animals going upstream. Furthermore, development and exploitation were indicated as drivers of extinction for the 26 species so far confirmed extinct in Japan. In the case of the second driver, there has been a loss of Satochi-Satoyama, the secondary natural environment formed through human intervention in nature, such as farmland and grassland. For example, the loss of secondary grassland is indicated as a driver of the dramatic loss of grassland birds and butterflies.

With regards to the third driver, the effects of alien species are a concern, for example, as indicated by the increase in agricultural damage caused by raccoons. With regard to the fourth driver, cases have been reported of disruption of phenological synchronism relationship between biological cycle events and seasonal variation, such as mismatches in timing between the flowering of alpine plants and the appearance of the bumblebees that pollinate them. Also, average coral coverage around the Okinawa Main Island is reported to have decreased to 7.5% due to factors such as rising ocean temperatures.

Many of the provisioning services in Japan were assessed as being in decline, particularly with agricultural and fisheries products and timber, which are seeing major declines compared to historical levels.

Both the supply and demand sides contribute to the decline of provisioning services, with the former responsible for the deterioration of resources through overuse, habitat destruction and other factors, and the latter responsible for underuse of resources as a result of change in lifestyle and increased dependence on imported food and resources.

One of the causes of underuse is Japan’s exceptionally heavy dependence on imported food and resources. Decreased domestic production of food and resources leads to an increase of abandoned farmland. The number of workers in the agricultural/forestry/fisheries industries is falling due to a shift in economic structure and resulting population flow from rural to urban areas, which could result in the loss of traditional knowledge and skills necessary to harness the bounties of nature.

Soil erosion control and other regulating services of artificial forests are sometimes compromised due to lack of management. In addition, reduced human activities in Satochi-Satoyama are creating conflicts with wild animals, thereby increasing disservices to humans, including attacks by bears.

Interregional food diversity is gradually being lost throughout Japan along with landscape diversity that creates a colorful mosaic of different vegetation and ecosystems. This fact suggests the loss of cultural services as well, which are rooted in each locality and its natural environment.

Interaction with nature has positive effects on our physical and mental well-being. While urbanization has deprived children of opportunities to interact with nature on a daily basis, many people are still interested in nature and are increasingly looking for ways to reconnect with rural communities and get back into nature through eco-tourism, etc.

Life’s a beach

The Sagami River begins flowing from Tsukui Lake, in Shiroyama. The Tsukui Lake is dammed, with the flow of water moving downstream being controlled. The Tsukui Lake is fed by seasonal snows, and rainfall. Ironically, the first obvious perpetrator of dumping into the river is the Tanigahara government. A Google Maps view shows a partially secluded building, and some wooded area being used to dump directly in the river. From this point onward, the river has to endure passing through, Shonan Seaside Country Club, Shonan Seaside Golf Club. Hayamajima Golf Club, and yet another gold center. These courses contaminate the river with pesticide, and fertilizer runoff. Other forms of businesses along the river include, Sagami Riverside Marina, Shonan Marina, Riverport Marina, and Kamakura Boat Marina. All very clearly dumping waste oil, oil filters, waste, debris, and other contaminants directly into the Sagami River. There are six different auto body, and auto supply shops along the river, and a variety of convenient stores. There are two hospitals, Jinaikaikondo Hospital, and Tana Hospital. Various other businesses include, a Home Improvement Center, the Shibuya Landscape Supply Company, an automobile factory, Atsugi Plant, a chemical Plant, Cosmo Science, other chemical companies, Sony Corporation, five large recycling Centers, two propane suppliers, and various used car dealerships. Numerous “sport fields” are responsible for the massive amount of sports related trash that exists along the coastal shore. Those include, Furukawadenkikogyo Field, Tabata Sports Park, Sagamigawa Riverside Sports Park, Nashiki Tennis Courts, Shiritsuoguram Tennis Center, two other tennis courts, Shoingakuenshonan Campus Field, Kurami Sports Park, Sakai Sports Square, Ebina Sports Park, Atsugi Baseball Field, Saragashimaya Baseball Field, Showahashi Sports Park, Kamigo Sports Park, three unnamed baseball fields, and several soccer fields.

Farmers, and local residents use the river to dump just about anything that comes to mind, as if the river was part of the private property that they poorly maintain. All of the toxic waste, the debris, the discarded auto, and marine products, and various other trash, continue downstream creating a volatile, and toxic soup. By the time it reaches the shore, the water is unsafe to come into contact with any form of life, including human. Once the Sagami River reaches the shore, the toxic soup combines with the emissions that originate at the Hiratsuka Incineration Plant, which operates two incinerators that dump directly onto the shore of the Pacific Ocean.

The water of Tsukui Lake begins relatively pristine at the top of the mountains in Shiroyama, and by the time it reaches the ocean is entirely contaminated. This, after a mere few kilometers of travel.

Standing on the Katabira Bridge that connects Hiratsuka to Chigasaki, one can easily see the consequences of the debris that surges from the Sagami River, and the Hiratsuka Incineration Plant into the Sagami Bay. The estuary that had once formed in this area where fresh water met the ocean, creating a unique biome, has long been destroyed. The putrid mess that is left behind today a fingerprint that points directly at the perpetrators, that use the Sagami River recklessly, and wrongfully. The Sagami River will probably bring to Japan its next Minamata. Compared to the disaster in Namie, Fukushima, the Japanese will consider this disaster, inconsequential.

The Hiratsuka Incineration Plant burns kitchen waste, food scraps, tissue paper, instant food containers, plastic trays for food, cooking oil containers, rubber gloves and boots, toothpaste tubes, soft toys, wooden toys, and plastic toys. When it rains heavily, the plant opens flood gates, and dumps straight into the bay. This includes what has already been described above as well as cardboard, books, magazines, cassette tapes, video tapes, clothing, footwear, CDs, DVDs, floppy disks, garden waste, and unrecyclable waste paper. The plant burns disposable diapers, ketchup containers, cellophane wrap, shampoo containers, and Styrofoam. All of these items that originate at the Hiratsuka Incinerator Plant can be found strewn all along Japan’s beaches, which are used for swimming, surfing, windsurfing and other activities.

Non-burnable garbage makes its way into the Sagami Bay as well. This includes spray containers for hair spray, spray paint containers, paint cans, insecticides, lighters, cooking gas canisters, fluorescent lights, incandescent lights, thermometers, glass, glasses, glass sheets, broken bottles, frying pans, pots, eyeglasses, small home appliances, such as radios, audio players, word processors, hair dryers, including the batteries that ran them.

The debris that flows out of the river, and incineration plant has resulted in an ecological nightmare. The stench of the chemicals used at the Hiratsuka Incinerator Plant, bleaching agents, fill the atmosphere, making the air difficult to breath. After merely standing along the shore in Hiratsuka, the contaminated air stench clings to hair, and clothing. After belching into the Pacific, the putrid, contaminated, and garbage filled water hitches a ride in the vortex that carries the concoction slowly northward along Japan’s Pacific coast, from Hiratsuka, through Chigasaki, through Tsujido, to Enoshima, from Yuigahama, to Kamakura, and further north. The diabolical concoction continues toward Tokyo, accumulating in Odaiba, and other Kanto regions. The shores along the way are covered in toxic waste, dead birds, and dead sea life. The odors that waif off of the putrescent water is not something one associates with nature.

Japan’s Ministry of Environment inaction to address the crisis continues

Earlier this summer, as is the case every summer, shanty-like shacks are haphazardly thrown up all over Japan’s shores.

The summer “lifeguards” prevent ocean related activities from 800 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. During that time the drunkards take over the beaches, chain smoking, passing out, puking all over themselves, get into brawls, and recklessly, and uncaringly toss their litter about. The families that  pretend not to notice make their way to the shore. These are usually women, dressed from head-to-toe in synthetic cloth that shed microfibers. The covering is intended to prevent the woman from having any contact whatsoever with the sun. The woman often holds an umbrella overhead in one hand, and a child in the other. The family skirts around, and steps over every manner of product that had ever been devised through the entrepreneur that had intended to bring good things to life. Once at the shore, if the bacterial level permits entry, the family stands waste deep, in debris that moves with the current. It soon begins to wrap around legs, wastes and flailing arms. Large pieces of plastic, some nearly the size of bed sheets cause panic. As fast as one piece of debris is appallingly ripped from the body, the next piece soon takes the formers place, wrapping around exposed limbs while simultaneously painting the body with slime that had accompanied the debris along its journey to nowhere particular. Happily, those mom’s, filled with good intention, doesn’t know that the plastics they have come in contact with is covered in DDT, DDE, PCBs, PCVs, and other things detrimental to their good health.

Japan is said to have one of the top economies in the world. Japan is said to be a first world nation. If these are facts, the Japanese have no excuse, whatsoever, for existing in such abject and abominable conditions. Apparently, the Japanese believe technology will somehow come along, and save them in the end. Wishful thinking!

Japan is a lost cause. For the health, safety, and well-being of my child, I am relocating my family. I cannot justify raising a child in anything remotely close to what the Japanese consider important.

Chigasaki is Honolulu’s “sister” city. While Japan suffers from a lack of tourism, which is mostly due to inhospitality, failing infrastructure, dilapidation, contamination, and filthiness, Honolulu, albeit a tourist destination, is well maintained. Hawaiian officials understand that clean environments draw tourist dollars. Japan has never, and will never understand this.

The following text was craned from Japan’s Ministry of Environment’s website

The history of pollution in Japan dates back to around the 20th year of the Meiji Period. The mineral pollution case of the Ashio Copper Mine came to be known as the first pollution case that occurred in Japan. Since the end of World War II, Japan upgraded the industrial infrastructure and developed heavy-industrialization. A large amount of pollutants had been emitted because of the massive increase in industrial manufacturing.

Factories were built on waterfront areas to increase production efficiency, making the sources of pollutant generation more concentrated. Terrible pollution-related diseases occurred, including four major diseases, Minamata disease, and Yokkaichi asthma.

Basic Law for Environmental Pollution Control was enacted in the 42nd year of the Showa Period in order to promote pollution control measures comprehensively and systematically. In this law, the target coverage for pollution and responsibility of waste producers, the national and local governments were specified.

A special Diet session in the 45th year of the Showa Period conducted intensive debates regarding the pollution issue. Fourteen bills related to pollution laws and regulations, including the Basic Law for Environmental Pollution Control were passed. The Environmental Agency was established in the 46th year of the Showa Period. After that, in the 5th year of the Heisei Period, the Basic Environmental Law was enacted which evolved from the Basic Law for Environmental Pollution Control. However, it didn’t declare the end of pollution, but generally addresses pollution as one of the major environmental issues.

A report comparing the damages and expenditures for pollution called Japan’s Pollution Experience as started in 1991 by the Society for Global Environmental Economic Research. In this report, they compare annual damages to annual expenditures for three of Japan’s major pollution cases; they are Yokkaichi City, the Minamata area, and the Jinzu River watershed. According to estimates, 21.07 billion yen for damages and 14.795 billion yen for expenditures in the Yokkaichi City case, 12.631 billion yen for damages and 123 million yen for expenditures in the Minamata area case, and 2.518 billion yen for damages and 620 million yen for expenditures in the Jinzu River case. In order to prevent health damage, investing sufficiently in environmental preservation measures from an early stage of pollution production is the rational choice, financially speaking. Without proper pollution control measures, and only considering short-term benefits, basic human activities such as economic growth might be harmed; in the long term, a sustainable economy cannot be achieved.

The following gallery photos are are a testament to the Ministry of Environment’s unwillingness to address Japan’s toxic beaches.

 See: Chigasaki: Honolulu’s “Sister City.”
© 2017 Stack Jones All Rights Reserved.
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The Cult Of Shinto Exposed

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The cult of Shinto, which is Japanese in origin, is a polytheistic religion that grew out of superstitions that are animist in nature. Shinto’s prehistoric beginnings were not based on moral ideology. Despite this fact, Shinto was declared a state religion forced upon the entire nation of Japan. The declaration of Shinto as a state religion came long before the emperor was elevated to the status of a god.

In the past tyrannical dictators, pretenders to the throne, and maniacal monarchs professed that they descended from the heavens. Jesus said, “I am he that sent me.” King Louis XIV of France was held out to be the sun king. The Catholic Church resolutely proclaimed that popes were infallible gods manifest in the form of human beings. For those that didn’t adhere to those “prophesies” they were tortured, and thereafter tried as heretics. Protestants and non-believers weren’t just crucified throughout all of Europe, but in Japan as well. Today, Japan and North Korea are the only nations that continue to claim that its emperor is a god that descended from heaven.

For centuries the Japanese have claimed they are a divine, and unique race, especially where it concerns the Yamato clan. This includes the current emperor, and his father Hirohito, a WWII war criminal, known to the Japanese as Showa, a name that originated out of the Shinto cult.

In the cult of Shinto, all human beings who are not Japanese are inferior. Those who maintain power over the cult continue unto this day to profess that the Japanese are a divine, unique and superior race destined to rule the world. From this foundational pretext, one question must be addressed. How did these absurd notions originate?

In the beginning…

Shinto originated as a cult religion based on a belief in, and worship of kami. What are kami? Kami may be elements of the landscape, such as a mountain or a river. They may also be powerful natural forces, such as a storm upon a raging sea, or a tornado ripping through a terrorized community. The worship of objects, and elements began in pre-historic times when people were incapable of understanding, rationalizing and explaining everyday natural occurrences.

The first inhabitants of Japan migrated from China’s mainland. These people did not arrive as a divine race, or with an emperor leading the way. These first people that arrived in Japan crossed frozen ice as mere nomadic hunter-gathers who subsisted off of the land. The early inhabitants of Japan brought with them prehistoric rituals that originated from animism, which was a form of religious practice that prevailed throughout all of prehistoric Asia at that time. Legendary individuals, significant places and other phenomena, such as a mountain or a powerful river became objects of reverence. These people and forces would become known as kami.

The rites associated with the worship of kami would eventually become known as Shinto. Early on the religious practices culminated into a profusion of local deities worshipped and prayed to as kami. Kami is translated into meaning, the way of the gods. With the emergence of a strong unity between clan groups, each provided special honors to kami, most notably ancestors of the ruling clan. The practice of turning ancestors of clan rulers into deities, gave those in power prestige and the ability to maintain power and control over clan members.

A clan known as Yamamoto did not migrate to Japan in the classic nomadic sense. The Yamamoto fled the mainland of China because more power tribal bands had defeated them in battle, and pursued them with the intention of eradicating them from planet Earth. For the Yamamoto, their arrival in Japan was as an exiled group. By the 4th century AD, the Yamato had achieved imperial status, with the emperor being elevated amongst even the most prominent kami. In order to maintain this elevated status, and for the Yamamoto to hold power over the growing population, a narrative had to be created. That narrative came in the form of a sun goddess the Japanese named Amaterasu. Over time, Amaterasu became the most powerful and well known of all kami. It was in the 4th century that the Yamato began claiming there ancestors were the descendants of the goddess of heaven. It was in this manner that the imperial family politicized religion so as to maintain complete control over the Japanese. Shinto teachings become the driving force for Japan’s imperial family to haughtily claim a divine right to rule over the inhabitants of the nation, and over all of the barbaric hordes of the world.

In the 6th century CE Buddhism was imported into Japanese religious life and Buddhism and Shinto together began to play a role in Japanese government. The emperor and court were required to perform religious ceremonies they believed would ensure that the kami protected Japan and its people. Over the next few centuries Buddhist influence in government grew stronger.

The 17th century of Japan’s politics was dominated by a state imposed Buddhism that continued to hold on to several aspects of Shinto practices. This would be no different than when the Romans became Christians, and changed Roman gods, or Greek origin into Christian spirits. The winter solstice of Rome became Christmas, the birth of the Jesus child. The worship of Diane became the worship of Mary, and Easter came out of fertility rites. The 17th century Japan saw elements of Confucianism emerge into politics. By this time popular religion consisted mainly of Buddhism and Shinto practices. There was a movement toward an unmodified Shinto faith during the next two centuries, culminating in the Meiji Restoration of Shinto toward the end of the 19th century, when Shinto became the established religion of Japan.

The rise of the cult of Shinto

The Meiji Restoration in 1868 brought an abrupt change in the religious climate of Japan. The aim was to provide a sacred foundation and a religious rationale for a modern Japan that was struggling to formulate its own identity. Shinto was seen as a way to centralize the administration of governmental affairs. It was during this time that the cult of Shinto was entirely separated from Buddhism, and brought within the structure of the state administration. Amaterasu, who until then had not been a major divinity, was popularized, and used as propaganda to validate the role of the emperor, not only as the ruler of Japan, but also as the high priest of Shinto. Many shrines were supported by through state funding. One result of reformation was that it was no longer tolerable for kami to be identified with Buddhist deities, and a considerable reorganization of the Japanese pantheon of spirit beings had to take place. Shrines were cleansed of every trace of Buddhist imagery, apparatus, and ritual, and Buddhist deities lost their godly status. Buddhist priests were stripped of their status, and Shinto priests were appointed by the government to take over Buddhist shrines with an implicit mission to purify them from any foreign influence. Shinto became the glue that bound the Japanese people together with a mix of devotion to kami, ancestor worship, and group loyalty to those that held regional power.

Shinto became inseparable from the imperial way, and the fundamental code of Japan. To officials this made Shinto superior because they claimed that human beings created other religions. Therefore, to them, Shinto held a unique non-religious status due to its “true” heavenly origin.

The officials in Japan operated their government during the Meiji Period in three distinct branches. This allowed a handful of the elite to maintain total control over every aspect of the ordinary Japanese. First, there were the courts, which based legal determinations on control and fear, not the rule of law. Second, there was the political and military branch, which were inseparable. Finally, the state sponsored cult of Shinto, which was the force that greatly influenced military determinations. Together these forces ruled over the people of Japan with an iron thumb and instilled enormous fears for those who were subjected to the indoctrination of the cult. Anyone that opposed even the smallest of whims of the emperor found themselves in a death march procession, which led to the other side of the Bridge of Tears, and into the untouchable land of the Burakumin, who were tasked with disposing of the corpse of the condemned. Even today, it remains an unlawful act to even walk on the shadow of Japan’s emperor.

The myth of Japan’s emperor as god

The idea that the Japanese emperor has Korean blood irks even the most liberal of the Japanese. Removing this fact presents the Japanese with an “unstained” origin, which hailed from the heavens. The cult of Shinto, aided by government, instilled into the people that the “first emperor” of Japan, Jimmu had descended from heaven as the greatest desire of the sun goddess. Amaterasu The sun goddess was none other than Jimmu’s grandmother, who had given birth to kami who were Jimmu’s parents. This means that Jimmu was born out of incest, as most Japanese deities. It must be noted that the constant reference to incestual relationships in the cult of Shinto may have played a significant role in Japanese pornography, which is obsessed with violent assaults and rapes by fathers toward their daughters, and mothers who seduce sons that are socially inept.

Amaterasu, the grandmother of Jimmu is considered the greatest of all kami who had many children and grandchildren. In consultation with other senior kami she decided that an imperial family should rule Japan forever. This divine ancestry of the emperors of Japan acknowledges the power of the female, something that is at odds with gender roles in Japanese life, and Nippon Kaigi, which intends to remove the constitutional protection of equal rights for women, and to make them subservient to their male counterparts as a constitutionally required duty.

Shinto has been a major part of Japanese life and culture throughout the country’s history, but for the greater part of that history, Shinto has shared its spiritual, cultural, and political roles with Buddhism and Confucianism. It must be noted that before the arrival of Buddhism to Japan there was no formal Shinto religion. There were only local cults that for convenience today are grouped under the Shinto moniker.

Like many prehistoric people, the first inhabitants of Japan were animists. Animism is the belief in the existence of individual spirits that inhabit natural objects and phenomena. This means that the early inhabitants of Japan were devoted to the spirits of nature. In their case these were the kami that were found in plants and animals, mountains and seas, storms and earthquakes, sand and all significant natural phenomena.

The early Japanese developed rituals and stories which enabled them to make sense of their universe, by creating a spiritual and cultural world that gave them historical roots, and a way of seeming to take control of their lives, in what would otherwise have been a fearful and puzzling landscape.

Other cults that are grouped into Shinto arrived in Japan from Korea with the Korean tribes that arrived in Japan in late prehistoric times. Religions were highly localized, and not organized into a single cohesive faith at this point.

The creation of Japan according to the cult of Shinto

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Izanami and Izanagi. A painting by Kobayashi Eitaku. Circa 1885.

According to early Shinto teachings, in the beginning there was chaos, and out of that chaos the universe was established. Out of this newly created cosmos a number of gods simultaneously, and miraculously appeared. Of those gods a brother and sister named Izanagi and Izanami fell in love, married, and discovered sexual intercourse, which they greatly enjoyed. These two gods are then said to have plunged a jeweled spear into the ocean on planet Earth, and through that act, land began to form. The first place that the spear touched the water would be the central island of Japan, which today is known as the island of Honshu, where Tokyo is located.

Izanagi and Izanami continued to have sexual relations, and because of this, a child was born. They called that child Hiruko, which is Japanese for leech because he was born grossly deformed. Because of this deformity his parents considered him inadequate, and abandoned him, setting him adrift in a reed boat on the ocean. The myth claims that Hiruko’s deformity was due to Izanami speaking first during the intercourse, which conceived the child. Throughout Japanese history, the act of abandoning an imperfect child has been justified because the creators of Japan had done the same thing.

The brother and sister gods continued to enjoy sexual relations, and other offspring include all other Japanese islands as well as many other kami. Izanami suffered a significant injury while giving birth to one child. The cult of Shinto claims that her vagina was severely burned while giving birth to the kami of fire. As a result, she died from those injuries. Izanami’s death resulted in the first death on Earth. Izanagi, overwhelmed by sorrow, became furious, and beheaded the newborn child whom he blamed for the death of his wife/sister. Other kami were born out of the blood of the execution of fire. Thereafter, the grief-stricken Izanami traveled to the underworld in search of his wife/sister. The underworld was known as Yomi, which is where all of the dead are consigned at the end of their life. Izanagi managed to locate Izanami, but she had already eaten the fruit of the dead, and because of this was doomed to remain in Yomi perpetually. When Izanami saw Izanagi approaching her, she compelled him not to look at her, but instead to give her time to consult with the rulers of the underworld so as to see if they could be persuaded into allowing her return to the land of the living. Izanagi did promise not to look upon his sister/wife but reneged on that promise discovering that Izanami’s body had rotted, and was full of maggots.

Izanagi was horrified at the sight of Izanami, and attempted to flee to the land of the living, but Izanami grew angered and was ashamed at being seen in a state of decay. She pursued Izanagi, wanting to capture him so as to force him to live with her in the underworld forever. Izanagi managed to escape Yomi, and thereafter blocked the entrance to the underworld with a large boulder, so that Izanami could not follow him. That boulder formed a chasm, a permanent barrier between the worlds of the living and the dead. Izanami became enraged as a result, and vowed from that day forward to execute one thousand people every day. Izanagi created fifteen hundred newborn babies each day as retaliation for the deaths of the innocent victims of Izanami. 

The origination of purification rituals in Japan

Izanagi’s time in the underworld, and coming been in contact with the dead required his purification. This was due to his belief that having ventured into the underworld plagued him with misfortune. Izanagi decided to bathe in the ocean to wash away the pollution of death, and to restore providence. The cult of Shinto teaches that Izanagi’s act of bathing, known as a harae purification ritual, was the first time the ritual had been performed.

During Izanagi’s bath a number of kami were created. This included Izanagi’s daughter, Amaterasu, who would become the sun goddess. It is also taught that Izanagi gave birth at that time to Amaterasu’s younger brother Susanoo. The myth teaches that Amaterasu was born when Izanagi washed his right eye. Susanoo was born with Izanagi blew his nostrils. Other children born from that washing include the kami wind and storms.

Over time, Amaterasu would become the most powerful legendary figure of the Japanese. Shinto priests teach that the entire imperial lineage can be traced all the way back to Amaterasu, through one hundred and twenty five births, beginning with the grandson Jimmu. Because of this, the followers in the cult of Shinto teach that because Japanese emperors originated from heaven, they are divine and by rights are to be worshipped, and prayed to for spiritual guidance. It is taught that Jimmu was sent to Earth, as Japan’s first emperor to reign over the Japanese. The Shinto myth claims even today that the native Japanese descended from the kami who were present at the founding of Japan. Because of this supernatural connection to heaven, which no one but the Japanese have, they are destined to rule over the eight corners of the earth, and over all of the barbarians hordes (non-Japanese.) In the late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries Shinto became an established state religion, inextricably linked to the cause of Japanese nationalism, and was significantly involved in the false flag operation, the Manchuku Incident, which initiated Japan’s aggressions toward all neighboring states during WWII.

Amaterasu as goddess of heaven

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Amaterasu is coaxed out of a cave, bringing light back to heaven and Earth.

Izanagi gave Amaterasu authority to rule heaven. Susanoo was disheartened at this appointment, as he was a male child, and his sister, merely a woman who often acted out of pettiness. Susanoo’s tantrums led him to behave so badly that he was banished from heaven. One such act led to Amaterasu hiding in a cave, and being the goddess of light, caused the heavens and the earth to remain void of light so long as she remained hidden in a cave. Regardless of his bad actions, Susanoo remained an important and powerful kami. Although Susanoo has dreadful powers of destruction, he is worshipped at many shrines for having the power to prevent disasters.

What led Amaterasu to hide away in a cave? The story is told that one day, Susanoo was in a drunken rage, trampled Amaterasu’s rice fields, emptied all of her irrigation ditches and threw excrement inside her palace and shrines. The omikami asked Susanoo to stop but he ignored them, going so far as to throw the corpse of a giant skinned horse through the roof of Amaterasu’s castle, and at her handmaidens who were weaving at the time. The women were killed by the wooden when it broke apart and pierced their bodies. This caused Amaterasu such grief that she ran into a cave and began moping about therein. Immediately, thereafter the universe, as well as the heavens and Earth below fell into darkness. Hundreds of kami then gathered outside, and pleaded with Amaterasu to leave the cave. Still sulking, she refused to consider their desires. The kami then brought thousands of roosters to the entrance of the cave, and placed a mirror at the entrance. The kami then threw a party of debauchery, during which a particular female kami decided to perform a striptease. As this female kami was engaged in removing articles of her clothing, the other kami began to hoot and holler. Amaterasu became curious as to what was happening outside of the cave, and opened a door that had been blocking the entrance. She wanted to see what was going on. One kami who was large in stature grabbed Amaterasu, and prevented her from returning to the cave. He also placed a large object at the entrance to block the door from being opened again. As Amaterasu exited the cave, light immediately entered the world again; thousands of roosters cock-a-doodle-dooed. Amaterasu saw her reflection in a mirror for the first time, and became enthralled at her beauty. Susanoo offered his sister a sword as a token of apology. A gemstone was offered to Amaterasu’s by her brother/husband as a way to amend for murdering her friend Mochi, the goddess of food. After being presented with these three gifts, the kami persuaded Amaterasu to take her proper place in the cosmos. Susanoo was asked to rule over Earth, which he refused. Amaterasu would later ask her grandson Jimmu to rule over Earth, which he accepted. He brought along with him the three, royal regalia to prove his heavenly origin.

The most important kami have many stories associated with them. None of the stories told about any Shinto kami are based on morality. There is no concept of sin, right or wrong, or even common sense. The book of Proverbs in Judaism give profound lessons such as one found in the book of Proverbs 20:1, which states, Wine is a mocker, and strong drink is raging and those who are deceived thereby are not wise. The New Testaments in Luke 6:37 states, Judge not and you shall not be judged, for what measures you mete, they shall be met unto you. Buddhist and Confucian teachings are filled with intellectually based teachings. The cult of Shinto had no moral teachings whatsoever until Buddhism became part of Shintoism. As shown above, the stories told by Shinto priests, as truths are as absurd and petty as Greek mythology. State sponsored Shinto eradicated all aspects of Buddhism, leaving the Japanese with nothing more than endless rituals, which are as hollow and empty as an urn with a large hole in its bottom.

Shinto kami include Mochi the goddess of food, who was murdered when she began to defecate food. Benten, a female kami with Hindu origins, who is associated with music and the arts. Ebisu is a kami who is said to bring prosperity to the Japanese. Ebisu was originally the abandoned leech-child of Izanami and Izanagi. This kami provided the Japanese the justification to abandoned unwanted children, and aging parents, which continues to this day. Hachiman is the god of archery and war. Izanagi and his wife/sister Izanami gave birth to Japan. Konpira is the kami of safety at sea, but was originally a Buddhist deity who was the protector of sailors, fishermen, and merchant ships. Tenjin is the kami of education. Tenjin was in reality the Shinto scholar Sugawara no Michizane (845-903 CE). Students taking exams in Japan often ask Tenjin to grant them good scores. Student prayer tablets can be seen at shrines throughout Japan. Those prayer tablets are scribbled on with pen or marker, and placed on thin, rectangular wooden blocks, often stamped with the image of Tenjin. A student prayer tablet can be purchased by anyone at a cost of about 500 ¥.

Despite what is readily accepted, for most of Japanese history the emperor’s status as the direct descendant of the founding kami was not reflected in his political power. In fact, until the Meiji restoration the emperor had little power, and instead was a largely unknown and ceremonial figure. Japan was actually run by feudal noblemen, known as Daimyo, and the emperor lived in either seclusion, or at times in imprisonment, being held as a political pawn.

From the 6th century CE the beliefs that are now known as Shinto were greatly altered by the addition of other ingredients, especially Buddhism, which arrived in Japan from India. From then on Shinto faiths and traditions took on Buddhist elements, and later Confucian elements as well. Some Shinto shrines became Buddhist temples, and coexisted within Buddhist temples, or had Buddhist priests in charge. Buddhist temples began to spring up all over Japan, and Buddhist ideologies began to be explored as the population increased.

The ruling aristocracy saw advantages in harnessing Shinto, Confucianism and Buddhism in order to maintain rule over the people of Japan. At the same period, government took a role in religion with the establishment of the “Department for the Affairs of the Deities.”

Shinto became greatly disadvantaged to Buddhism and Confucianism because it lacked intellectual doctrines. This meant that the development of Japanese theology and philosophy inevitably drew on the comparative intellectual richness of Buddhism and Confucianism. Buddhism began to expand significantly, and was given a role in supporting the growing influence of central government. The idea was put forward that humans should follow the will of the gods in political life. The rule of the state was referred to as matsurigoto, a word very close to that for religious ritual, matsuri that was used to refer to both government and worship.

The emperor and the court began to have distinct religious obligations, and ceremonies that had to be carried out meticulously to ensure that the kami protected Japan and its people. These ceremonies, which included as many Buddhist and Confucian elements as they did Shinto became part of the administrative calendar of the Japanese government. As time went on, the Japanese became more and more accustomed to including both kami and Buddhist ideas in their spiritual lives. Philosophers put forward the idea that the kami were transformations of the Buddha manifested in Japan to save all sentient beings.

During the 7th and 8th centuries the spiritual status of the emperor as the descendant of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu became official doctrine, and was buttressed by rituals and the establishment of the Ise shrines as the shrines of the divine imperial family. Over the next few centuries the Buddhist influence in government grew steadily stronger, despite the Dokyo Affair that took place in the middle of the 8th century. Between the 11th and 15th centuries Japanese government was in the hands of three interdependent power blocs: the court, the aristocracy, and the religious establishments, although there is some debate as to whether the various religious groups were ever able to present a united front, or whether they ever had as much political muscle as the other two blocs. The 16th century was a time of conflict in Japan, but religious establishments continued to play a part in the administration of the various territories of the country. Missionaries arrived in Japan during this period and started converting people from Shinto and Buddhism to Christianity. Christianity was seen as a political threat and was ruthlessly stamped out. The 17th century was dominated by Buddhism heavily laden with Shinto partly because anti-Christian measures were forced every. Japanese civic religion retained elements of Confucianism in its political and administrative thinking. Buddhist temples came under the control of the state, and the training of priests and the management of temples and the hierarchy was effectively state supervised.

In the two centuries before the Meiji period there was a movement towards a purer form of Shinto, with a particular focus on the Japanese people as being the descendants of the gods and superior to other races. Due to state supervision of churches, including licensing requirements, Buddhist and other influences were filtered out of institutions and rituals. This was done to create a unified faith from a group of many ideas, beliefs and rituals.

It was during the 1930s that Shinto priests taught that the emperor was god, manifest in the form of a human being in which the property of kami nature was perfectly revealed. The emperor’s qualities of kami nature together with his direct descent from Amaterasu, the highest of the kami, made him so superior that the Japanese thought it entirely logical that people should obey the emperor and worship him.

Despite the westernization of Japan’s mythological religious thought, Shintoists continue to claim, as they always had, that human are incapable of understanding the true nature of kami, because kami are not like the gods of other faiths:

  • Kami are not divine like the deities found in other religions.
  • Kami are not omnipotent.
  • Kami are not perfect, they make mistakes and often behave badly.
  • Kami are not inherently different from human beings or nature.
  • Kami are a higher manifestation of life energy.
  • Kami don’t exist in a supernatural universe.
  • Kami live in the same world as human beings and of nature.

Kami are sometimes applied to spirits that live in things, but they also apply directly to things themselves, so the kami of a mountain, or a waterfall may actually be the mountain or waterfall itself, rather than the spirit of the mountain or waterfall. Finally, not all kami have names!

In principle human beings, birds, animals, trees, plants, mountains, oceans, and divine entities may be kami. Whatever seemed strikingly impressive, possessed the quality of excellence, or inspired a feeling of awe, this was kami.

Three types of kami are important to the cult of Shinto:

  1. Ujigami are ancestors of clans. In tribal times, each clan believed a particular kami. These were deceased ancestors, and were the protectors of the clan. Clans dedicated their worship to that particular spiritual entity.
  2. Kami are natural objects, living beings, and forces of nature.
  3. The souls of dead humans, while living, accomplished some kind of outstanding achievement.

The end of the fairytale

Three key documents dismantled Shinto as the state religion of Japan after the Second World War. The documents parallel Shinto purification rituals, since their purpose was to restore purity and cleanliness to a religion that had been polluted by political action. Those documents are:

  • The Directive for the Disestablishment of State Shinto. (1945)
  • The Imperial Rescript renouncing Divinity. (1946)
  • Japan’s post-war Constitution.

The first of these documents is one of the most powerful condemnations of the abuse of religion ever written. The purpose of The Directive for the Disestablishment of State Shinto was not to destroy Shinto but to prevent recurrence of the perversion of Shinto theory and beliefs into militaristic and ultra-nationalistic propaganda designed to delude the Japanese people and lead them into wars of aggression.

The restructuring of the Japanese education system was a key initiative in the religious reforms. Although Shinto is no longer a state religion many Japanese still regard Shinto as the national religion, but post-war Shinto is very different from the pre-1946 version, having been cleansed of the political, nationalistic and militaristic elements that were included in State Shinto.

The present Japanese Constitution guarantees freedom of religion in Article 20: Freedom of religion is guaranteed to all. No religious organization shall receive any privileges from the State, nor exercise any political authority. No person shall be compelled to take part in any religious acts, celebration, rite or practice. The State and its organs shall refrain from religious education or any other religious activity.

Further protection of religious freedom is given in Article 14, which forbids “discrimination in political, economic, or social relations because of creed”, and Article 19, which states, “Freedom of thought and conscience shall not be violated”. Article 89 adds further separation of religion and states that no public money or other property shall be expended or appropriated for the use, benefit or maintenance of any religious institution or association, or for any charitable, educational or benevolent enterprises not under the control of public authority.

Shinto was disestablished in 1946, when the emperor lost his divine status as part of the Allied reformation of Japan. This constitutional mandate was established in Article 89 of Japan’s constitution. The main objective of Article 89 was to ensure that the Shinto cult was stripped of its ability to use religion as a pretext to indoctrinate the masses, and to use that indoctrination as a political tool. In the Imperial rescript on January 1st, 1946, the emperor wrote, “The ties between us and our people have always stood on mutual trust and affection. They do not depend upon mere legends and myths. They are not predicated on the false conception that the emperor is divine, and that the Japanese people are superior to other races and fated to rule the world.”

Despite the loss of official status Shinto remains a significant player in Japanese life, and a dark force in political determinations. Most notably is the recent exposure of a group known as Nippon Kaigi, which will be discussed in more detail further in this article. Despite the non-divine status of the emperor, considerable religious ritual and mysticism still surround many imperial observances.

The allied forces at the end of WWII, attempted to ensure that the Shinto cult was permanently eradicated from the conscience of the Japanese people. The allied mandate to abolish the Shinto cult as a political tool was voted into law by two-thirds of both houses of the Japanese political establishment. Any changes to the constitutional provision of the separation of church and state requires a two-thirds vote of both house and a referendum by the majority of voters.

The priestly status that the emperor inherited ceased to exist. His ritual functions ceased being national tasks and instead have become private Shinto devotions designed to preserve the good fortune of Japan, and the continuity of the imperial line.

The return of a delusional mindset

In 2000, the Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshiro Mori, sparked a controversy by once again describing Japan as a divine country centered on the emperor. Mori made the statement during a meeting with pro-Shinto politicians. Mori later apologized, claiming his reference to the divine emperor was about the importance of tradition and education.

As of 2016, in direct violation of the constitutional requirement of the separation of church and state, the vast majority of Shinto shrines have been displaying banners calling for Japanese to support Nippon Kaigi and their affiliates, and the Liberal Democrat Party’s constitutional amendments. Part of the constitutional rewrite restores the Shinto cult as a branch of the Japanese government, and to its state of former glory.

The Liberal Democrat Party currently has control of more than two-thirds of representative seats in both houses. Shinzo Abe, Japan’s current prime minister, as part of his economic plan, nonsensically called, “Abenomics” is in reality Nippon Kaigi’s agenda to rewrite Japan’s entire constitution. Nippon Kaigi’s constitutional draft amendment includes provisions that are quite disturbing. They include the removal of free speech, free press, equality for women, no rights for foreigners, and justification unconstitutional acts that the courts, police and prosecutors already engage in, under the guise of “new human rights.” Abe has already stated that The Declaration of Human Rights, the most basic tenet of a nation becoming a member of the United Nation is “not the law, and not enforceable upon Japan.” The Asian Pacific Journal recently wrote that if Nippon Kaigi, and the LDP get their way, Japan’s will return to a totalitarian dictatorship, with the emperor at the head.

Nippon Kaigi was exposed by one of its former key members, Sugano Tamotsu. Tamotsu, disgusted with the organizations repugnant views on human rights exposed the organization in his book titled, Nippon Kaigi no Kenkyu. Abe called Tamotsu a “traitor” and fervently attempted to block the release of the book, which exposes Abe, the LDP, and Nippon Kaigi’s true agenda. Tamotsu calls Abe and the other members of Nippon Kaigi, delusional old men who have become mentally ill through the guilt, and humiliation they suffer as a result of their family names being permanent stained for the war crimes they are responsible for, and their total lack of remorse. Tamotsu stated that, Nippon Kaigi members seek nothing more than to exonerate their families, to return the Yasakuni Shrine to a place of reverence, and to rewind the clock back to the Meiji era when Japan was a nation that threatened regional stability. Click here to learn more about the cult of Shinto, and how they are secretly running the nation of Japan.

The cult of Shinto’s return to political and religious power would restore the religion to a government branch that highly influences national policy. The method they would use to gain that power would be to instill a constitutionally created obligation for all Japanese to adhere to religious, and financial duties owed to the state. The cult would use the same techniques that were used successful prior to, and during WWII. They would indoctrinate young children through compulsory education, and compulsory worship practices that include reciting prayers in school that are directed at emperor worship, and to sing national anthems that are currently prohibited. The indoctrination requires all Japanese to worship the emperor as a god, the imposition of reciting daily prayers to the emperor, and to sing imperial inspired anthems that are warmongering by design. These rituals would instill in the mind of the Japanese that they are superior to all other life forms on planet Earth.

The Supreme Court of Japan has already held that Japanese teachers must perform the “duties” proscribed herein, or face hefty fines, or termination. There already exists, government paid “listeners” who are dispatched to schools who engage in government sponsored eavesdropping, so as to ensure that teachers participate in government mandated activities, and do so vigorously. The teachers unions of Japan, which were originally organized by foreigners, are despised by the Japanese government, and Japan’s Ministry of Education.

Today, Shinto is experiencing an increase in popularity amongst Japan’s aging relics. This is due to the ambitions of the descendants of Showa worshippers.

The separation of the Shinto cult and government are detailed in the Directive for the Disestablishment of State Shinto, which was an order issued by the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers to Japanese officials at the end or WWII. It was presented on December 15th, 1945, and went into effect immediately. The directive details the requirements of the abolition of state sponsored religion. The entire document is available to read below.

Directive for the Disestablishment of State Shinto 

Orders from the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers to the Japanese Government:

15 December 1945

MEMORANDUM FOR: Imperial Japanese Government

THROUGH: Central Liaison Office, Tokyo

SUBJECT: Abolition of Governmental Sponsorship, Support, Perpetuation, Control, and Dissemination of State Shinto

  1. In order to free the Japanese people from direct or indirect compulsion to believe or profess to believe in a religion or cult officially designated by the state, and

In order to lift from the Japanese people the burden of compulsory financial support of an ideology which has contributed to their war guilt, defeat, suffering, privation, and present deplorable condition, and

In order to prevent recurrence of the perversion of Shinto theory and beliefs into militaristic and ultra-nationalistic propaganda designed to delude the Japanese people and lead them into wars of aggression, and

In order to assist the Japanese people in a rededication of their national life to building a new Japan based upon ideals of perpetual peace and democracy,

It is hereby directed that:

  1. The sponsorship, support, perpetuation, control, and dissemination of Shinto by the Japanese national, prefectual, and local governments, or by public officials, subordinates, and employees acting in their official capacity are prohibited and will cease immediately.
  2. All financial support from public funds and all official affiliation with Shinto and Shinto shrines are prohibited and will cease immediately.
  3. All propagation and dissemination of militaristic and ultra-nationistic ideology in Shinto doctrines, practices, rites, ceremonies, or observances, as well as in the doctrines, practices, rites, ceremonies and observances of any other religion, faith, sect, creed, or philosophy, are prohibited and will cease immediately.
  4. The Religious Functions Order relating to the Grand Shrine of Ise and the Religious Functions Order relating to State and other Shrines will be annulled.
  5. The Shrine Board of the Ministry of Home Affairs will be abolished, and its present functions, duties, and administrative obligations will not be assumed by any other governmental or tax-supported agency.
  6. All public educational institutions whose primary function is either the investigation and dissemination of Shinto or the training of a Shinto priesthood will be abolished and their physical properties diverted to other uses. Their present functions, duties, and administrative obligations will not be assumed by any other governmental or tax-supported agency.
  7. Private educational institutions for the investigation and dissemination of Shinto and for the training of priesthood for Shinto will be permitted and will operate with the same privileges and be subject to the same controls and restrictions as any other private educational institution having no affiliation with the government; in no case, however, will they receive support from public funds, and in no case will they propagate and disseminate militaristic and ultra-nationalistic ideology.
  8. The dissemination of Shinto doctrines in any form and by any means in any educational institution supported wholly or in part by public funds is prohibited and will cease immediately.

1) All teachers’ manuals and text-books now in use in any educational institution supported wholly or in part by public funds will be censored, and all Shinto doctrine will be deleted. No teachers’ manual or text-book which is published in the future for use in such institutions will contain any Shinto doctrine.

2) No visits to Shinto shrines and no rites, practices, or ceremonies associated with Shinto will be conducted or sponsored by any educational institution supported wholly or in part by public funds.

  1. Circulation by the government of “The Fundamental Principles of the National Structure”, “The Way of the Subject”, and all similar official volumes, commentaries, interpretations, or instructions on Shinto is prohibited.
  2. The use in official writings of the terms “Greater East Asia War”, “The Whole World under One Roof”, and all other terms whose connotation in Japanese is inextricably connected with State Shinto, militarism, and ultra-nationalism is prohibited and will cease immediately.
  3. God-shelves (kamidana) and all other physical symbols of State Shinto in any office, school institution, organization, or structure supported wholly or in part by public funds are prohibited and will be removed immediately.
  4. No official, subordinate, employee, student, citizen, or resident of Japan will be discriminated against because of his failure to profess and believe in or participate in any practice, rite, ceremony, or observance of State Shinto or of any other religion.
  5. No official of the national, prefectural, or local government, acting in his public capacity, will visit any shrine to report his assumption of office, to report on conditions of government, or to participate as a representative of government in any ceremony or observance.
  6. a. The purpose of this directive is to separate religion from the state to prevent misuse of religion for political ends, and to put all religions, faiths, and creeds upon exactly the same legal basis, entitled to precisely the same opportunities and protection. It forbids affiliation with the government and the propagation and dissemination of militaristic and ultra-nationalistic ideology not only to Shinto but to the followers of all religions, faiths, sects, creeds, or philosophies.
  7. The provisions of this directive will apply with equal force to all rites, practices, ceremonies, observances, beliefs, teachings, mythology, legends, philosophy, shrines, and physical symbols associated with Shinto.
  8. The term State Shinto within the meaning of this directive will refer to that branch of Shinto which by official acts of the Japanese Government has been differentiated from the religion of Shrine Shinto and has been classified as a non-religious national cult commonly known as State Shinto or National Shinto.
  9. The term Shrine Shinto will refer to that branch of Shinto which by popular belief, legal commentary, and the official acts of the Japanese Government has been recognized to be a religion.
  10. Pursuant to the terms of Article I of the Basic Directive on “Removal of Restrictions on Political, Civil, and Religious Liberties” issued on 4 October 1945 by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers in which the Japanese people were assured complete religious freedom,

(1) Shrine Shinto will enjoy the same protection as any other religion.

(2) Shrine Shinto, after having been divorced from the state and divested of its militaristic and ultra-nationalistic elements, will be recognized as a religion if its adherents so desire and will be granted the same protection as any other religion in so far as it may in fact be the philosophy or religion of Japanese individuals.

  1. Militaristic and ultra-nationalistic ideology, as used in this directive, embraces those teachings, beliefs, and theories, which advocate or justify a mission on the part of Japan to extend its rule over other nations and peoples by reason of:

(1) The doctrine that the Emperor of Japan is superior to the heads of other states because of ancestry, descent, or special origin. (2) The doctrine that the people of Japan are superior to the people of other lands because of ancestry, descent, or special origin.

(3) The doctrine that the islands of Japan are superior to other lands because of divine or special origin.

(4) Any other doctrine which tends to delude the Japanese people into embarking upon wars of aggression or to glorify the use of force as an instrument for the settlement of disputes with other people.

  1. The Imperial Japanese Government will submit a comprehensive report to this Headquarters not later than 15 March 1946 describing in detail all action taken to comply with all provisions of this directive.
  2. All officials, subordinates and employees of the Japanese national prefectural, and local governments, all teachers and education officials and all citizens and residents of Japan will be held personally accountable for compliance with the spirit as well as the letter of all provisions of this directive.

For the Supreme Commander:

[Signed] H. W. Allen

Colonel, A.G.D.

Asst. Adjutant General

Why the mandate was crucial for regional stability and why it should remain

Prior to, and during WWII, Japan’s Shinto cult had been a propaganda, and brainwashing tool of the political/military branches of government, and the dark forces that controlled them. Shinto teachings were compulsory and forced upon every Japanese. The consequences for refusing to comply with these duties to the state were similar to those that rejected the instructions of the Roman Catholic Church; heresy proceedings, imprisonment, torture and death.

The secular forces that gained the most from these constraints were the imperial family, the military, and three main shrines that facilitated the myth through espousing the belief that royal regalia, which they claimed, and continue to claim originated from heaven, and as a result proves that the emperor of Japan, and his lineage were in fact deities that could be traced back to Amaterasu, and their heavenly origin. Those shrines still exist today and have waited over seventy years to regain their prior significance. The royal regalia the followers of the cult claim to exist include a sword, a jewel, and a mirror. It is said that these objects are housed at the Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya, the Three Palaces Sanctuaries in Kyoto, and the Ise Grand Shrine in Mie Prefecture.

The shrine of Ise had once wielded great political power, and they want it back. The Ise shrine, which is the main shrine to Amaterasu is rebuilt every twenty years to the tune of millions of dollars, all money donated from the cult’s adherents. The mere size of the shrine, which is about the size of the city of Paris, reflects the power that the cult once enjoyed. It’s been more than seventy years since this shrine was stripped of its political might. The shrine continues to lure visitors under the continued claim that the shrine houses one of the royal regalia the “first” emperor of Japan, Jimmu, brought with him from heaven, being guided by his grandmother Amaterasu. Ise’s priests claim to engage in thousands of religious ceremonies each year. The sole purpose of all of these prayers, according to the shrine’s website is to pray for the prosperity of Japan’s emperor, and of course the return of their power.

Now, before rushing to visit one of these shrines so as to get a glimpse of these heavenly artifacts, I have to warn you… You can’t see them! Why? Because you are a mere mortal! If you were to look at any of those items you would immediately go blind. The only beings capable of viewing the heavenly objects are the emperor himself, and of course, the priests that perform the ceremonies performed who benefit greatly by adhering to the falsehoods of the cult. In “fact” the last time these items were brought out for viewing was when current emperor Akihito, succeeded his war criminal father Hirohito/Showa, on January 7th, 1989.

Conclusion

The origins of the cult of Shinto and its involvement with WWII are virtually unknown to the Japanese today. This included my wife, who is Japanese. She knew almost nothing about Shinto. This is because Article 89 of Japan’s constitution had done what it was supposed to do. To protect children who are easily misguided through false teachings. Upon learning what the Shinto Cult asserts as fact, my wife said, “Who would believe any of that?” I had to remind her that nearly every person in Japan believed in, or were forced to pretend to believe in the false teachings of the cult until its powers were stripped away at end of WWII, when it was banned from government affairs, school textbooks, etc. I had to show my wife that the Japanese government had always interfered in the freedom of religious practices. This included the banning of Buddhist faiths, and the genocide of Christians, which is addressed in Martin Scorsese’s latest movie, Silence. The Japanese government seized all properties which were not Shinto, and delicensed, and deloused temples and shrines under the guise of purification. Buddhist priests who refused to convert to Shinto were imprisoned, tortured and murdered. It must be noted that if Nippon Kaigi, and the LDP had their way, every Buddhist temple, every Christian church, even the Chabad Houses in Tokyo and Kyoto, would be banned, and their property seized, and turned over to operators of the Shinto cult.

When Shinto was reconstructed in 1868 the imperial legend was moved center stage, and Amaterasu who until then was only revered in parts of Japan was promoted as the most important of the gods, given a national role in the new system of state Shinto. This new status was intended to validate the role of the emperor, not only as ruler, but as the high priest of Shinto. This gave the emperor a divine right to rule not only Japan, but the whole world. Furthermore, it became official doctrine that since the Japanese were descended from the gods, they were superior to all other races.

The cult of Shinto continues to preach this hateful, unconstitutional, and illegitimate rhetoric. The Japanese people must condemn the teachings of the Shinto cult and the dark powers they wield over officials who have become drunk in priestly pretentions. The Japanese must ensure that the constitutional provisions that have given them freedom of religion, and thought for more than seventy years must continue provide them with the right to worship in any manner they choose, without being subjected to government interference, intimidation and control.

© 2016 Stack Jones All Rights Reserved.
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Bigger Than Life: Shooting Macro Photography In Japan

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

The canopy of Enkaizan Omaru Yama. Photo credit Stack Jones.

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. Photo credit Stack Jones.

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. Photo credit Stack Jones.

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. Photo credit Stack Jones.

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.

© 2015 Stack Jones All rights reserved.
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Fukushima: The Land Time Forgot, And Other Anomalies

Inawashiro-Ko located in Bandai-Asahi National Park, Fukushima. Photo credit Stack Jones.

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. Photo credit Stack Jones.

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. Photo credit Stack Jones.

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.  Photo credit Stack Jones.

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 cascading into Yamadera River. Photo credit Stack Jones.

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.

© 2015 Stack Jones All Rights Reserved.
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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 fearful “hafu” 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 here to link to that article.

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.

© 2015 Stack Jones All Rights Reserved.
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When World’s Collide: Art And Tragedy

Sendai Route 10. Train And Missing Children. Photo credit Stack Jones.

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? Photo credit Stack Jones.

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.

If one made it to the Natorigawa Bridge they survived. If not… Photo credit Stack Jones.

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 Yuriage High School. An aside: I contacted every major music company offering to deliver new equipment to the destroyed schools in Sendai. None accepted the offer. Most didn’t even bother 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 evacuated town of Daini, inside the original 30km evacuation zone, hosted the first nuclear plant to report failure after 3.11.11. The plant remains offline today. Photo credit Stack Jones.

This link takes the reader to Stack Jones photography, which was shot in the aftermath of Japan’s 3.11.11. triple disaster.

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.

© 2014 Stack Jones All Rights Reserved.
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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.

This links to a more in-depth reading about the Macaque that inhabit Jigokudani Yaen-koen. 

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.
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.

© 2014 Stack Jones All Rights Reserved.
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Tomita Isao: Ihatov’s Utopia Envisioned

Tomita Isao, Nippon Columbia Recording artist. 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.

Isao Tomita’s final interview

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 an email stating, “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?

Graphic design credit Stack Jones.

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.

© 2013 Stack Jones All Rights Reserved.
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Autumn In Tochigi: Nikko Now!

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.

I had to pay for an escalator ride to access Kegon Falls. 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, 2012 edition of the Tokyo Weekender.
http://tokyoweekender.com/2012/11/nikko-in-autumn.

© 2012 Stack Jones All Rights Reserved.
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