The Wall Street Journal's Japan Real Time (wsj.com/japanrealtime) this week looked at support for Okinawans contesting U.S. Marine bases from an unlikely corner, the declining number of foreigners in Japan, and a row over tightening curbs on adult manga. Excerpts:
Okinawa? Marines out, says Barney Frank
Okinawans seeking to oust the U.S. Marines from their midst have a prominent new advocate in Washington: Veteran Democratic Congressman Barney Frank.
The aptly named Mr. Frank, one of the most quotable politicians from either of America's big two political parties, has been hitting the talk-show circuit over the past week with memorable one-liners on the matter. "Most people, I think, that I talk to, thought the Marines left Okinawa when John Wayne died," he said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" show on July 8, referring to the long-gone Hollywood star's World War II movies. "It's unclear to me what they're doing there."
He went on: "I don't want to see China given a free hand over there vis-a-vis Taiwan, but 15,000 Marines aren't going to land on the Chinese mainland and confront millions of Chinese soldiers. You need some air power and sea power."
"We don't need 15,000 Marines in Okinawa," Mr. Frank told National Public Radio on July 10. "They're hanged-over (sic) from a war that ended 65 years ago."
Many American policy makers would beg to differ, as would the Marines. Lt. Gen. Keith J. Stalder, commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific. He told The Wall Street Journal in February that the Marine presence in Okinawa was a crucial part of American force projection in Asia, a factor preserving broader regional stability. "There is nothing that happens in the region that will not affect Japan in a very negative way if it's not contained quickly or prevented," he said.
Jacob M. Schlesinger
Fewer foreigners call Japan home
The number of foreigners who officially call the Land of the Rising Sun home has fallen for the first time in nearly half a century, a Justice Ministry report said this month. In another blow to the country's graying population and impending labor shortage, the number of registered foreign residents fell 31,000 to 2.186 million as of the end of the 2009.
The last annual decline occurred in 1961.
Smaller urban areas saw the biggest declines, reflecting the reality of factory towns shedding thousands of jobs as the financial crisis turned into a full-blown economic maelstrom. Aichi prefecture, home to industrial heavyweights such as Toyota Motor /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM +0.17% Corp. and Central Japan Railway /zigman2/quotes/205638698/delayed JP:9022 +0.66% Co., took the biggest hit, with the number of foreigners dropping 13,600, or 6%, from the previous year to 215,000.
Beyond economic factors, is Japan simply a tough haul for nonlocals? Those that have stayed on now make up just 1.71% of the overall Japanese population. That is a relatively tiny slice, meaning that for some, it's hard not to feel like an outsider.
One group has bucked the trend. Overtaking the number of Korean residents, Chinese nationals became the largest minority group living in Japan in 2005. The group grew 25,140 over the last year and makes up nearly a third of the foreign population.
Row brews on tighter adult manga curbs
While Japan's mainstream manga industry continues to enthrall adults and children alike with innocent adventures of spies, sportsmen and even salarymen, authors and publishers are concerned at Tokyo authorities' latest attempt to curb explicit content in adult manga—heavily restricting the sale of comics that show what are described in the plan as "nonexistent juveniles" in sexual acts.
A joint statement released by 1,421 manga authors and 10 major publishing companies, including heavyweights Kodansha Ltd. and Shogakukan Inc., argues the vagueness of the "nonexistent juveniles" term makes it possible for authorities to restrict the publication of books at their discretion. They argue that it will restrict freedom of speech protected under the constitution.
But the Tokyo Primary School PTA organization said in a statement: "[Do you think] adults interpreting children as sex objects and hurting them is 'protecting human rights' and 'protecting our freedom'?"
The stakes are potentially high for publishers. Once a manga is labeled "unwholesome," it can no longer be carried in convenience stores. Non-bookstore purchases account for about 60% of total sales of comic magazines, says the Japan Book Publishers Association.