Mr. Aso’s leisure reading

Does it matter what our leaders read?

In another publicity stunt, Aso Taro made an appearance at a bookstore in the Yaesu district of Tokyo on Saturday evening.

Yomiuri reports that Mr. Aso bypassed the manga section and went straight for the economics section, pausing only to admire his books on display. He supposedly bought four economics books, including Hasegawa Keitaro’s Reading the general situation 2009 and How good a country is Japan? by Kusaka Kimindo and Takayama Masayuki (the latter a conservative freelance journalist, known for broadsides against both Japan’s neighbors and the US, as well as the usual suspects domestically, in the familiar roster of conservative publications).

What does Mr. Aso’s decision to read these books tell us, and why does Yomiuri feel the need to share? Is the Japanese public supposed to be impressed that Mr. Aso is foregoing his usual manga for heavier fare (and foregoing his usual evening entertainments to visit a bookstore)?

There is something to be said for political leaders taking time out of their schedules to engage with big ideas — but not too much time, and the choice of book matters.

Let’s look at one of Mr. Aso’s choices.

Messrs. Kusaka and Takayama’s book is a discussion between them. Judging by the table of contents, this book is typical cultural conservative twaddle; Mr. Aso did not, in fact, purchase four economics books.

The section headings offer a collection of the Japanese right’s favorite arguments: “The perverse media that discharges ‘false images’ of Japan;” “The good fortune of a collective endowed with ‘wisdom'” (this section’s subheadings reveal that this section refers to the blessings of the Japanese people, and they don’t just mean Japanese culture — one section addresses America’s “inferiority complex” and “trauma” from being a country of immigrants); “The Great Illusion of ‘Asia is one'” (one sub-section suggests that Japan should “fear ‘slavery’ more than ‘isolation,'” while the rest of the section appears to celebrate Japan’s role in bringing about racial equality in Asia, especially in the first half of the twentieth century); the next section continues the theme of the previous one, arguing, “Japan’s power ended the era of ‘absolute white [rule];” “Again, becoming ‘a country that bears the fears of the world’;” and finally, “Japan decides the countries with which it keeps company.”

In short, this book appears to be representative of the most belligerent, the most narrow-minded, and the most revisionist segment of Japanese conservatism. I don’t want to read too much into this, not having read the book, but it is a farce that Mr. Aso is somehow illustrating his interest in economic problems by reading this book (as Yomiuri suggests).

But more importantly, shouldn’t we — or more properly, the Japanese media — be asking what Mr. Aso finds of value in a book with content so different from the confident, forward-looking conservative internationalism that Mr. Aso himself espouses?

2 thoughts on “Mr. Aso’s leisure reading

  1. Anonymous

    Harrisさんがおっしゃるとおり、「大東亜戦争史観」を無批判に信奉している者は極例外的な偏狭的右翼に限られます。自民党の党是は自主憲法の制定であり、その中心は第9条改正ですが、半世紀以上に渡って与党の地位にありながら、改正どころかその手続法の制定さえ実現していません。日本国民の総意がそれを許さなかったわけです。だからといって、その他多くの者が、日本が全て悪であり連合国側は全て善であるといった「東京裁判史観」を支持しているというわけでもありません。アジア諸国に対する関係と欧米列強に対する関係とを区別して考える立場はむしろ優勢であるといってもよいでしょう。実際、左派を含む多くの日本人は、戦前の軍国主義体制を批判すると同時に、東京裁判自体に対しても批判的です。この問題に関する日本国内の思い・考えはとても複雑なのです。加藤紘一議員も「敗者の矜持」として東京裁判を受け入れるべきといっており、その正義・公平性を認めているわけではありません。もしHarrisさんが、「東京裁判史観にたてつく日本人はすべて極右・妄信的民族主義者である」といった単純なお考えであるのならば、それは現実に則しているとはいえません。

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  2. Accepting the Tokyo Tribunal verdict for speeding up the process of ending the war, while promoting the survival of Japan in as favorable a term as possible can be easily viewed as a common political maneuver.It\’s similar to the fact many nations in the past had been forced to sign to be annexed.History is and should be more objective, and is likely nothing but a series of revisions, if we are truly trying to gain a real understanding of any past event.The rationale of annexing Hawaii was given and had to be swallowed under the US military threat, but is this what you call \”history\”?

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