NHK Reports on Trump’s 2nd visit to Texas Disaster Areas


If it’s one thing Japanese people know, it’s natural disasters. Aside from the big ticket items like erupting volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunami, every year Japan gets hit by both a “rainy season” (the unofficial 5th season!) and late summer tropical storms, both of which cause severe flooding and mass damage throughout the country. Even just a few weeks ago in Akita (where I am) heavy amounts of rain caused flooding that resulted in closure of major roads, home damage, and land slides.

On her 2nd trip down, Mel-T swapped her “FLOTUS” lid for a fly “TEXAS” one. Is that Baylor Green?!
With that in mind, reports of Trump visiting flood victims probably made a good impression in the minds of Japanese citizens.

NHK News web posted an article with video to their website on 3 September 2017 reporting on President Trump’s second visit to Texas’s flood ravaged  areas. The article is basically the video’s script.

The article is titled, “President Trumps makes return visit to disaster area–with attitude of strong support.”

The first paragraph reports that this is Trump’s 2nd visit in a week to the hurricane disaster zone and that he’s there to encourage the victims as well as show strong support for aid sent to the area.

After some basic information about the disaster caused by Hurricane Harvey, the 4th paragraph goes into detail about Trump’s activities during the trip saying that he met in person with a large number of people at a Houston shelter, was seen holding children, served lunches, and cheered up victims. He also visited an aid station where he met with hundreds of volunteers and showed them his gratitude.

The final paragraph reveals WHY this was his 2nd trip in a week: on his first trip on August 28 he did not directly meet with any victims, which drew strong criticism from the media. This time his goal seems to have been to garner appeal by meeting with victims and by showing his support.

This article is a ‘safe’ article and pretty unbiased. No doubt it’s good to see the-man-who-happens-to-be-president at disaster relief centers passing large aid containers into driver’s seat windows of emergency vehicles (WT-?), mingling with people in shelters, and smiling in selfies.

It’s a fairly balanced article as well because at the end, NHK tacks on the note about the criticism Trump received from media on his first trip to the region. I guess the coverage of him avoiding flood damaged areas and not meeting with victims on his first trip wasn’t #fakenews.




Sankei News: What to make of Bannon’s Resignation?


This article  in the Sankei News 産経ニュース, covers the latest (?) shake-up in the Trump White House. It also shows Japanese readers how the event was portrayed in news media outlets both in the US and abroad.

Image result for bannon
Obama Care wouldn’t let him stick with his old dermatologist.

The title is rather long in English, “The Ripple Effect of Bannon’s Dismissal, [Trump’s] Most Influential Advisor–US Papers: ‘The Problem is Now Trump is on His Own,’  Israeli Papers: ‘[Bannon’s] Resignation Poses even Greater Danger.'”

The article begins with really emphasizing how influential Bannon has been, both during the run up to Trump’s election as well as during the first six months of his presidency, crediting Bannon with Trump’s anti-globalization stance and his “America First” policies.

It then continues to show the contrasting coverage in US and Israeli newspapers of Bannon’s early exit . The US papers are said to portray this as a positive step for Trump’s beleaguered administration, while the Israeli papers see Bannon’s departure as threatening.

For the US, Bannon’s sayonara will offer Trump’s administration a chance to re-group and re-organize–to right the ship, so to speak.

For Israel, Bannon’s anti-Israel stance will only be amplified once he is free of the White House’s burden, where veteran GOP leaders presumably have placed a gag order on his most inflammatory ideas.

Sankei News then goes on to provided examples of the coverage as it appeared in the The Wall Street JournalThe Guardian, and Haaretz.

These last six PLUS months, ordinary Japanese citizens have really had trouble trying to understand what to make of [President] Trump. Translators who are tasked with putting his “speeches” into Japanese often find themselves at a loss–not so much with his scripted speech, but with his off the wall free-talking that appears to follow no logical flow and is often unrelated to the topic at hand.

US-Japan policy experts also have had the rug pulled out from underneath them multiple times these last months, as Trump continues to reverse, re-write, and regress US policy with Japan and the greater Asian region.

So when it comes to Trump’s most influential adviser leaving the White House, what I think this Sankei News article is saying to its readers is, “Not even the US, UK, or Israel know what to make of it! We’re not alone in our uncertainty!”

Strange times…


*NOTE: Sankei News describes itself as a “reactionary and center-right political newspaper.” It’s newspaper enjoys the sixth highest circulation in Japan.



Nikkansports.com Reports on the Shooting attack on RepublicaCongress Members


There was a variety of news related to President Trump in the Japanese media this last week. Headlines ranged from Attorney General Jeff Sessions‘ refusal to testify (or to comment even) on his conversations with Trump (Asahi Shimbun Digital, “U.S. Attorney General: I can’t say what was spoken in conversations with the President“), to the breaking news that Trump blocked author Stephen King from his Twitter account (Cinemacafe.net, “Stephen King gets blocked from Trump’s Twitter Account“). (But he did NOT block J.K. Rowling! What will the neighbors think?)

The Japanese headlines are doing a great job at keeping up with all the scatterbrained, haphazard news coming from the Trump White House.


Being interviewed at the scene–I knew him before he was famous.

Blood Diamond

The article that I’ll write about today (“Trump’s a Traitor’–says the Suspect of a Shooting targeting Congressmen) is about the shooting incident in Del Ray, VA. The shooting took place in public during some congress members’ baseball practice.

The article makes it clear that the gunman targeted Republican congress members, it was a politically motivated shooting (he was shouting “Trump’s a traitor”), and his hostility appears to have trickled over from online to real life.

The article also says that the gunman was moved to take such action out of disgust for the Republican party and Trump.

Not the Land of the Free

No one in the free, civilized world (especially Japan!) understands American’s disgusting gun culture and the violence that gushes forth from it. I’ve been lucky to have met and worked closely with people from all corners from the world. The people whom I’ve met from other countries (excluding those from war torn countries, like from places in Africa & the Middle East) can not fathom how in the world AMERICA–the Land of the FREE– allows people to carry guns in public, much less own them privately. How it is justifiable to own military-grade weapons even further baffles them.

Was this gunman a legal gun owner? That’s beside the point. Was it a rifle or an automatic weapon? That too is beside the point. The fact of the matter is that it’s another mass shooting in public in the “Land of the Free.”

Public Diplomacy

Life in Japan and the US is like night and day. Articles like this cause an even bigger rift between our cultures. Any “professional” diplomat will tell you the importance of public diplomacy–the everyday interactions between common people of different nations. These are the interactions that often times instigate diplomatic relations at the larger scale, so for example between universities, companies, or nations.

Reading about violence in America does not inspire Japanese people to want to come to America to study abroad, sight see, or what have you. Furthermore, it makes Japanese people cautious of excepting Americans into Japan! (Remember this May incident of the American getting in a fight departing Tokyo?)

Let’s Hope Violence isn’t Contagious

Recently I stayed in an APA hotel outside Nagoya. The megalomaniac owner of APA Hotels is a radical lunatic. He stocks the magazine racks of his hotels with his self-published propaganda in the form of books and newspapers.

He and the other nationalist loonies in Japan are trying to change Japan’s constitution in order to grant offensive capabilities to the military. (As opposed to it’s strictly defensive charter now). In one of his books, the APA Hotel chain owner calls for violence against any Japanese parliament member who attempts to block such constitutional changes. He does not just call for violence, but murder. In his books, which are readily available in APA lobbies and hotel rooms, he calls for the out-right assassination of Japanese parliament members!

Let’s hope the latest violence in America does not give disgruntled Japanese people any ideas.


Reports on Session’s Resignation on Jiji.com


Prime Minister Abe Shinzō (LDP) must feel a sense of relief every time he opens the newspaper these days only to see the Trump administration’s latest fiasco. Abe, his close political associates, and even his wife have been drawing the ire of the people and the press lately for a variety of reasons–two in particular.

from The New Yorker
First, his wife, Akie, (and by extension, him) have been at the center of a controversial land deal in Osaka. The Abe’s influence is credited with negotiating a sweetheart land deal for an ultra-conservative kindergarten called Moritomo Gakuen. One may think, “A kindy? What could possibly be the big deal?” Well, consider this: the property is reported to be worth 13 million USD, but thanks to the head of the school’s (Kagoike Yasunori) political connections, they were able to buy the land for only 1.8 million! Heck, if land in Osaka is 86% off, then I’d start my own kindergarten. Hell–university! Which brings us to the next case…

Abe is linked to a second education-related controversy in which a veterinary school was seeking accreditation in Ehime, Shikoku (one of Japan’s four major islands; in western Japan close to both Osaka and  Hiroshima). The private education management company behind the deal is said to have sought accreditation directly from the government (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology–MEXT), without the consultation or even the support of the Japan Veterinary Medical Association (Nihon jūishi-kai 日本獣医師会). Japan’s population has declined by 1 million people in the past five years. Public universities are feeling the crunch as less and less students enroll, while some private universities have laid off large numbers of faculty–some have even gone bankrupt. Why on earth would MEXT grant accreditation to another college/ university when so many are in bad shape (both financially and in terms of student numbers)? The Japan Veterinary Medical Association has spoken out against the establishment of another veterinary school, and rightly so. Hopefully, MEXT will defer to their (the JVMA’s) better judgement.

With this in mind, last week’s reports of the Trump administration’s latest whispered turmoil may have given Abe the sense that he is not alone if the world of world-leaders and corruption. As Jiji.com‘s article “Is the U.S. Attorney General Resigning due to a clash with Trump?” says, Attorney General Sessions was a supporter of Trump early on in the latter’s presidential campaign, which put him in Trump’s close inner-circle. However, in March Sessions recused himself  from any investigations into the Trump campaign’s connections with Russian officials. The article says that Sessions has become increasingly unsatisfied with the administration and has put in his resignation.

At home, Americans may think that the Trump administration’s blunders and controversies do not extend past the evening news and SNL skits, but the foibles and outright blunders are being well covered all over the world.

The Trump administration’s instability and haphazardness detracts from America’s authority and leadership in the world. Controversy and corruption surrounding the leaders of Japan and the US, both at the same time, is not good for stability in Asia.

NHK Reports on Trump’s Quitting the Paris Agreement


Before the horrible terrorist attacks in London, President Trump pulling the United States out of the Paris Agreement was the big US news in Japan.

…an image from CNN

Just as with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the US leaving the Paris Agreement does not mean that the initiative is doomed, but the conspicuous absence of a major player such as the US will surely be felt.

Before I  continue to summarize a little bit about NHK’s report (トランプ大統領 パリ協定脱退の方針を発表, 2 June 2017), I want to make two points clear:

One is that the US emits the 2nd highest amount of COemissions in the world (15% of the global total), behind… drum roll… China! (at 30% of the global total). India is at 3rd place with approximately 7%. Since the US is the 2nd highest contributor of COemissions in the world, you would think that its leader would step up and take some responsibility.

If a country emitting 15% of CO2 emissions drops out of the agreement, then what is to keep countries that emit less (like Japan at 4%) from wanting to participate? Those smaller countries add up quickly.

Second, not only did the participating countries rely on the US to reduce it’s CO2 gas emission, but they also relied on the US’s financial support. Participating in the Paris Agreement costs money–infrastructure needs to change, especially in areas like manufacturing and agriculture. Poorer countries participating in the agreement entered into the pact with the hopes of getting financial support from the US and other wealthy nations. The US is leaving the table and taking its wallet with it.

NHK Reports

The title of the report from 2 June 2017 translates as “President Trump announces his plan to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.”

  • The article drives home the fact that the US is the 2nd highest emitter of green house gasses behind China
  • The article says that the US’s withdrawal will have a huge effect on the agreement
  • Trump’s rational is that the agreement is unfair to American workers and manufacturers
  • The article mentions that during his campaign, Trump was a Global Warming denier–so this is a reflection of his campaign promises
  • Trump’s stance on the Paris Agreement is OPPOSITE of President Obama’s 
  • Trump is revisiting all environmental reforms that the Obama administration passed and will most likely repeal them
  • Pulling out of the Paris Agreement fulfills the promise Trump made during an April 2017 speech in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (an old coal & steel city)
  • Finally it shows the contradictory nature of the Trump-beast: at the last G7 summit in Italy Trump said that the environment was a very important thing and something that he is concerned a lot aboutWhich begs the question why pull out of the Paris Agreement?

Since the Tohoku Disaster, energy has been a key issue in Japan. Fukushima’s TEPCO nuclear reactor is still in a critical stage. Ten’s of thousands of Japanese people all over the country have been protesting against the further use of nuclear energy.

Cleaner energy, and hence cutting back on fossil fuel emissions, has been a hot topic in Japan. Seeing the US take a leadership role in the Paris Agreement would have encouraged Japanese people looking for greener energy sources in the future. The US leaving the Paris Agreement could lead to Abe LDP to re-consider its internal energy policies.

TV Asahi sets a High Bar for Trump’s 1st Overseas Visit

This TV Asahi link, posted on May 20th, is an optimistic pre-departure report on President Trump’s 5-nation overseas trip. It touches on all the good things that one would expect to hear about the President of the United States. It mentions how Trump will be visiting the holy places associated with Islam, Judaism, and Christianity with the aim of encouraging world peace. It goes on to describe Trump’s goals in Saudi Arabia (where he’ll be pushing for policy to be written against both ISIS and Iran), in Israel (where he’ll be looking for a common thread for peace between Palestine and Israel), and in Italy (where he’ll have an audience with the Pope, who has been openly against Trump’s immigration policies, and then of course attending the G7).

Indeed, world peace is something all Americans (regardless of their support for Trump or lack thereof) and Japanese people can get behind. With this in mind, visiting Holy Lands of the world’s three major religions certainly sounded like a nice gesture. But then to go on and say that Trump will be looking towards Saudi Arabia for support in anti-Iran policy does not really sound like a solid plan towards world peace–just more of the ‘Us vs Them‘ that we have been hearing all along. ISIS is just as much an enemy of Iran as it is with America. Remember the idea that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend‘? The President would be wise to remember this.

As for brokering peace between Palestine and Israel–yeah, good luck with that.

And meeting with the Pope–I can not for the life of me understand why Trump would want to meet with the Pope, however this blogger is glad that he is. The soft power of Pope Francis is not to be under estimated. God willing, the encounter will have some positive effect on at least one person in the Trump entourage–hopefully enough of an effect to sway the administration’s course.

As for this trip’s effects on Japan, Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and participation in the G7 will cause the most concern. Japan has a benevolent relationship with Iran. There are quite a few Iranian scholars and researchers in Japan, including here at Akita University. Any new, stricter US sanctions against Iran that Trump wants to hash out with Saudi Arabia could cause problems for Japan.

As for ISIS and the greater threat of terror, Japan has not been immune. A few Japanese citizens were killed in an Islamic terrorist attack in Bangladesh last year, and a Japanese reporter (Kenji Goto 後藤健二) was taken hostage and murdered by ISIS in 2015.

Japan would be happy with any measures the Trump administration could take against ISIS, but nobody benefits from Trump refusing to at least trying to make US-Iran relations more amicable.


Surviving the Trump Presidency

After Donald Trump’s November 2016 election, the future looked bright for the US’s alliance with the Land of the Rising Sun. The first foreign leader to visit the US and meet personally with then President-elect Trump was Japan’s Prime Minister Abe Shinzō, who flew to New York to congratulate The Donald in person. Shortly after that in December, Trump met with Japanese telecom mogul Masayoshi Son, founder and CEO of Softbank, and discussed major investment opportunities for Softbank in America–music to Trump’s ears. The two billionaires were quite comfortable in each other’s company, showing a degree of informal-ness that took the Japanese public off guard (Trump referred to Son time and time again in interviews by his nickname “Masa,” which is contrary to Japan’s strict etiquette). Abe visited Trump a second time shortly after his inauguration, when the two put business aside and hit the links in Florida, just like old buddies. Despite these promising encounters during Trump’s first months as President-elect and later as President, a recent article appearing on Nippon.com seems to hint that the 65 year Japan-US alliance is doomed to set.

The article, Can the Japan-US Alliance Survive the Trump Presidency? by Nakayama Toshihiro (Professor of American politics and foreign policy, Keiō University), highlights concerns over Trump’s erratic foreign policy–surely Japan is not alone in their uneasiness. Japan had been enjoying eight years of an Obama presidency and his policy of “rebalancing toward Asia.” This rebalancing came at a time when Japan, too, was making moves to improve ties with its Asian neighbors–not only with South Korea and China, but also with smaller countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. This renewed confidence in Asia may have been what spurred the creation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a multilateral, multi-continental trade agreement among twelve nations bordering the Pacific Ocean.

Under Trump’s policy of America-first, the US’s pivot to Asia seems to have come to an end. The fact that on his first day in office Trump kicked the legs out of any possibility of the US’s participation in TPP drove home the America-first message. Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was banking on the success of TPP to both strengthen Japan’s manufacturing exports to places like Central and South America, while at the same time boosting its agricultural imports from southeast Asia. Now that the US has pulled out of the deal, a few of the remaining  nations, whom Japan depends on, may also follow suit.

Trump took his first overseas diplomatic trip this past week, choosing to go to Saudi Arabia of all places. Although this may appear to be yet another example of his pivoting away from Asia and thus a deescalation of the Japan-US alliance, it is the opinion of this blogger that Prime Minister Abe and Japan have nothing to fear in terms of garnering future favor from the US. New construction of US military installations in Okinawa is continuing according to schedule, and as long as North Korea’s boy-leader Kim Jong-un keeps playing with fire, Japan will remain the US’s strongest and most important ally in Asia and the greater Pacific region.