Nobel laureate Oe calls for reducing U.S. bases in Okinawa

I met Japanese writer Kenzaburo Oe in Lund, Sweden back in 1994. He told the audience that he had woken up that morning, in south Sweden, to the noise of some demonstration or other, thinking they were protesting against him. He said it gave him quite a fright! Turned out it was just a regular animal rights march or some labour union thing. He got a laugh out of that.

Back then, I also wrote about the book he did together with German author Gunther Grass, as the two of them wrote letters to each other about their experiences of being German and Japanese, during/after WW2. As it turned out, Herr Grass wasn't very honest about his past, as he had served in the SS, but had decided to keep very quiet about that for a long time.

I wonder how Oe feels about that exchange, today.

Of course, he is very political. From the NYT:

In a closely watched ruling, the Osaka District Court threw out a $200,000 damage suit that was filed by a 91-year-old war veteran and another veteran’s surviving relatives, who said there was no evidence of the military’s involvement in the suicides.

The plaintiffs had also sought to block further printing of Mr. Oe’s 1970 book of essays, “Okinawa Notes,” in which he wrote that Japanese soldiers had told Okinawans they would be raped, tortured and murdered by the advancing American troops and coerced them into killing themselves instead of surrendering.

“The military was deeply involved in the mass suicides,” Judge Toshimasa Fukami said in the ruling. Judge Fukami cited the testimony of survivors that soldiers had handed out grenades to civilians to use for committing suicide, and the fact that mass suicides had occurred only in villages where Japanese troops had been stationed.

But that also misses the point entirely. Oe has been a strong voice for the left in Japan, and also a beacon of reason who feels Japan is "ambiguous" especially in its dealings with defense and war.

あいまいな日本の私 (Aimai na Nihon no Watashi) Japan, the ambiguous, and myself. The Nobel Prize speech and other lectures:
During the last catastrophic [war] I was a little boy and lived in a remote, wooded valley on Shikoku Island in the Japanese Archipelago, thousands of miles away from here. At that time there were two books by which I was really fascinated: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Wonderful Adventures of Nils. The whole world was then engulfed by waves of horror. By reading Huckleberry Finn I felt I was able to justify my act of going into the mountain forest at night and sleeping among the trees with a sense of security which I could never find indoors. The protagonist of The Adventures of Nils is transformed into a little creature, understands birds' language and makes an adventurous journey. I derived from the story sensuous pleasures of various kinds. Firstly, living as I was in a deep wood on the Island of Shikoku just as my ancestors had done long ago, I had a revelation that this world and this way of life there were truly liberating. Secondly, I felt sympathetic and identified myself with Nils, a naughty little boy, who while traversing Sweden, collaborating with and fighting for the wild geese, transforms himself into a boy, still innocent, yet full of confidence as well as modesty. On coming home at last, Nils speaks to his parents. I think that the pleasure I derived from the story at its highest level lies in the language, because I felt purified and uplifted by speaking along with Nils.
Anyway, here is Oe in the news this weekend summer of 2010:
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Kenzaburo Oe, the 1994 Nobel laureate for literature, on Saturday called for reducing U.S. military bases in Okinawa Prefecture and establishing amicable ties with other nations, particularly with China and also with the United States, in accordance with the ideal of the pacifist Constitution.

"While we are under the nuclear umbrella of the United States, the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty will become unnecessary if we could pursue peaceful relations, rather than relying on military deterrence," Oe told some 2,000 people at a meeting of the Article 9 Association in Tokyo. "I want to achieve this."

The meeting was held on the 50th anniversary of the automatic enactment of the revised bilateral treaty on June 19, 1960, following a 30-day Diet stalemate after the government under then Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi railroaded the revision.

Oe, one of the nine founders of the association, also said, "I have to ask myself if we have kept the principle of Article 9 and if we have taken advantage of it. I believe it is necessary to recreate the treaty in accordance with our Constitution."


Pandabonium said…
"I have to ask myself if we have kept the principle of Article 9 and if we have taken advantage of it. I believe it is necessary to recreate the treaty in accordance with our Constitution."

Wise words. Japan spends over US$50 billion on a military which is largely designed not to defend Japan against potential threats, of which there are few, but to augment the US military in the area - a cold war relic.

Not only is this not fiscally sustainable, it does not help to secure peace for Japan. To the contrary.
Martin J Frid said…
The Pentagon announced its projected budget for 2011. The Defense Department will request from Congress $708 billion in their 2011 budget...

As bad as Japan's spending may seem, it is less than 10% of what the United States will spend. And all of it is tax payer subsidized.

If you pay tax, your dollar is going to more guns and bombs, and more Osprey helicopters and unmanned drones.

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