The Crab Cannery Ship (2013)

Finally we have a solid translation of the classic story, The Crab Cannery Ship, by Kobayashi Takiji (1903-1933) translated by Zeljko Cipris, with an introduction by Komori Yoichi, published by the University of Hawai'i Press. Do find it in your local bookshop or on the Internet. Plus two additional short stories published in English for the first time, Yasuko and Life of a Party Member.

Look Inside (Amazon)

Mark Schilling explains:

Why does a novel about exploited workers on a crab cannery boat, published 80 years ago by a young communist writer, later tortured to death by the police, become a hot movie property now?
The program for “Kani Kosen” (“The Crab Cannery Boat”) explains that a store poster, inspired by Takiji Kobayashi’s eponymous novel, became a media sensation last year and, before you could say “bubble,” indie veteran Sabu scripted and directed a film. “Kani Kosen,” however, is not another pop culture throwaway, made to capitalize on a fad. It is also not agiprop from another era, with nostalgic value only. In a time of deep recession, with the middle class fading out of reach for millions of young part-time and temporary workers, its advocacy of mass struggle sounds like a real-life call to action.

When this story on the misery aboard a crab cannery ship north of Hokkaido was released again around 2008 or 2009 there was a lot of interest, with manga, a movie and a play released here. The 2009 movie by director Sabu was more of a youth flick while an earlier version released in 1953 was a lot more realistic.

Rather than scenes from these old films, here is a karakoke version of Kani-kousen by Murata Hideo.... Dokkoi-dokkoi!

This video appears to have footage from the 1930s of the ship mentioned in the book, and the small boats or barges that supplied the cannery ship with fresh crab.

We tend to get addicted to food that is not healthy, and certainly not sustainable for the environment. The commercial interests behind such food are clearly outlined in The Crab Cannery Ship, first published in 1929.

Seems to me that farmers and fishermen today may be a lot better organized than Japan's labour. Farms and fisheries here have proper unions that are keen to engage in battle when their interests are at stake, with bonds to Japan's many consumer organizations.

Factory unions meanwhile, like elsewhere in Europe or North America, have a different flavour from the ones with guys and gals more connected to the soil and sea.

The TPP campaigns here in Japan recently are a sign of that (similar to the anti-NAFTA campaigns in Mexico and Canada, and of course the U.S.). You think we are not going to be exposed to rigid rules that favour corporate interests?

The Japan AgriNews: Japanese negotiators briefed by TPP countries day after its TPP debut (July 25, 2013)

KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia – Japan received a briefing on Wednesday, July 24, by other members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations about the current status of the talks.
As Japan became the 12th member in the already over 3-year-old negotiations the day before, the TPP participants specially arranged the “Japan session” to help Japan catch up with the negotiations. They were briefed on 7 fields, including market access covering tariff elimination, out of 21 fields covered under the pact, and briefings on the remaining fields will be given on the following day.
In the session scheduled until Thursday, July 25, Japanese negotiators hope they can explain the country’s fundamental position based on the government’s pledge to protect its sensitive agricultural products by retaining tariffs on those products while seeking to eliminate trade barriers to boost its exports of manufactured goods.
“We expect to ask various questions and present our opinions there,” Japan’s chief negotiator Koji Tsuruoka told reporters before the session.
But with little time left in the current round of talks, it would be difficult for them to address their negotiating stance in detail, as they will be busy analyzing the documents of past negotiations which they gained access of after official admission to the negotiating table.
After the session, Kazuhisa Shibuya, Japan’s deputy chief domestic coordinator for TPP negotiations went only as far as saying that they hope to hold “constructive discussions” concerning Japan’s fundamental policies for negotiation.
Referring to the tariffs on the 5 key agricultural products which Japan deems sensitive, Shibuya said that full-scale discussion on the issue is yet to start, indicating that there still remains room for negotiation. Asked whether Japan can maintain tariffs on the products, Shibuya said the Japanese negotiators “will negotiate to realize the national interest as a whole by strategically using the offensive and defensive tactics at the right place.”
Shibuya refused to comment on whether the Japanese negotiators explained that the upper and lower houses of the Diet adopted resolutions concerning the TPP talks, saying that he cannot specifically describe what they have talked about.
Regarding the documents of past negotiations which Japan obtained the day before, Shibuya said that there is no indication so far that they will not be able to participate in the rule-making process on the key topics of interest for the country.
The first day of the Japan session dealt with 7 fields including market access, textiles, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, investment and financial services. Briefings on the rest of the negotiation fields will be given on Thursday, July 25, the last day of the Malaysia round of talks.
In the morning of Wednesday, July 24, before the Japan session, Tsuruoka attended the chief negotiator session and received explanations on the procedures of the negotiations and discussed how to proceed with the talks in the future.
Other Japanese negotiators attended meetings of working groups on 4 fields, including government procurement to discuss bid requirements for public works projects, and rules of origin which deals with requirements to qualify for reduced tariff benefits.
On the sidelines of the talks, the Japanese government held a briefing session for some 20 Japanese stakeholders including agriculture and business organizations who are visiting Malaysia to gather information on the talks. Some 40 participants of the session included officials of organizations of stockbreeders and sugar manufacturers, the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), the Japan Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo).

As pointed out in the book, exporting canned crab was important for imperial Japan back in 1920s and 1930s, as well as the venturing into northern naval seas claimed by Soviet Russia. Also, the ship was legally neither a "ship" or a "factory" thus the abuse. Seems very similar to the conditions in, say, garment producing entities ("factories?") that today provide us with clothes or shoes - or maybe even food - from, say, Bangladesh, Burma, China, you name it. Rules? Protecting the young people who put their lives on the line? 80 years ago, Kobayashi Takiji had his own ideas about this matter.


Pandabonium said…
Can't say as I have any sympathy for any people or business exploiting animals, whether land or sea mammals, fowl, or fish. Not good for the animals, human health, or the planet.

Sugar? We shouldn't produce it or consume it.

Unless we figure out a truly beneficial way of life, how can we negotiate a beneficial trade scheme?

It makes no sense to defend local industries if those industries are destructive to us and the earth as a whole.

Martin J Frid said…
If I were to award Best Comment prizes this would win, cutting to the chase. Thanks P.

One discussion we had among the NGOs was how this all requires a pure mathematical mind frame, and how negotiations at this level are more like quantum physics. The degree of complexity is multidimensional. No wonder the politicians cannot keep up and impose the usual safeguards to protect human health and animal, environmental protection.

What I cannot accept is that the complexity is hidden behind a shroud of secrecy.

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