It'd been a while since I last went out to the Chung-cheng (Jhong-jheng) Park 中正公園 area to do some walking, so this afternoon I rectified matters. I was expecting to see a lot of damage from the two recent typhoons, but surprisingly, there wasn't much at all. What I wasn't expecting to see, however, was how overgrown with vegetation one section had become since my last visit. It seemed like very few walkers had passed through in the interim, as I was constantly brushing away spider webs that had been spun across the path. There were also a lot of ants around - whenever I stopped to have a look at something, my feet and ankles would get stung by aggressive ants in the vicinity of my sandals. Something was definitely different about the Chung-cheng Park area. For one thing, I kept coming (no pun intended) across insects in the act of making more insects, such as these butterflies and spiders (I'm assuming the male spider is the small red one):
In fact, the whole area was crawling (pun intended) with bugs:
Meanwhile, back in the human realm, the Japan Times ジャパンタイムズ had an interesting article today for those who fret over the "rise of Japanese nationalism" (gasp!). "Nationalism isn't an issue in Japan" http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/eo20080730a1.html begins by stating:
"As Japan renews its claim on Takeshima 竹島 (Dokdo to Koreans) and prepares to mark the Aug. 15 anniversary of the end of the Great East Asia War 第二次世界大戦, we can expect more Asians — and some Americans — to warn against the dangers of rising Japanese nationalism. What is striking, however, is the absence of nationalism in Japan compared to its Chinese and Korean neighbors and its American ally. Regardless of the metric used, Japan scores very low on nationalism. Its investment in its armed forces as a percentage of national income is small, especially for a country living in close range of two potential war zones (the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan). Moreover, in the past two decades the offensive capabilities of North Korea 北朝鮮 against Japan, namely its ballistic missiles and nuclear program, have grown significantly. China, another potential adversary for Japan, clearly has a much stronger military than 20 years ago. But Japan continues to keep its military investment at around 1 percent of national income (perhaps a little more if other expenses are included). The phenomenal waste in Japanese procurement programs also shows that the military budget is as much a funding mechanism for Japanese businesses as a tool to build up a strong military. Moreover, when it comes to dealing with the outside world, Japanese diplomats are as unlikely as those of the Holy See to resort to threats of force. There are no John Boltons ジョン・ボルトン in the Japanese Foreign Ministry 外務省. This peaceful, low profile reflects a basic fact often ignored by outsiders: Japanese voters favor candidates who care about bread and butter issues over those whose concern is Japan's greatness and military might."
There were certainly no belligerent threats made by the Japanese side during last month's farcical standoff over the Senkaku Islands 尖閣諸島. The same could not be said for the administration of Mr. Ma (Ba Eikyū) 馬英九. The writer then proceeds to break down the reasons behind nationalist sentiment, and how Japan differs in these regards:
"Nationalism often arises out of a sense of national victimization. A major cause of Chinese and Korean nationalism is a belief that foreigners preyed upon and humiliated their countries. As a result, many Chinese and Koreans want to see no insult to their national dignity go unpunished, however insignificant. A case in point is South Korea's quixotic campaign to rename the Sea of Japan 日本海 the East Sea."
The last point has definitely not been one of South Korea's brighter moments. The Sea of Japan is called so because the body of water is defined by the geographical presence of the Japanese archipelago 日本列島. Remove Japan, and you're left with...the Pacific Ocean 太平洋. Furthermore, the sea is only to the east if you're a Korean. Should the Japanese call it the "West Sea", and the Russians the "South Sea"? Is cultural myopia a side effect of nationalism?
"In Japan's case, however, there is no sense of victimhood. Yes, Japanese either experienced or know about U.S. terror bombings during the war. But, with a few exceptions, this pushes them toward pacifism. It fuels their contempt for the Japanese militarists who led the nation on a war that destroyed the country. It may also make them dislike the alliance with America, but it does not make Japanese long for a new Imperial Japan armed to the teeth ready to conquer lost territories."
Actually, the Japanese have a strong sense of victimhood over the war, but the writer's point is valid in that they tend not to blame outsiders for their devastating defeat.
"Another foundation of nationalism is a belief that one's country has a destiny to lead the world, or at least its region. This helps explain the support of Americans for military intervention and the conquests of Revolutionary and Napoleonic France. Though Chinese nationalism lacks the universalistic ambitions of America's, many Chinese think that history gave China a right to regional primacy. In Japan, however, there is none of the messianic urge found in Western cultures. Nor do Japanese have the same sense of civilizational and historical greatness that is common in China."
In other words, Japanese never considered their country to be the Middle Kingdom (although the Western Honshū region is called 中国). So why aren't there more articles about the "rise of Chinese nationalism"?
"There are also domestic factors that energize nationalism. One is fear for the country's territorial integrity and/or a belief that there are still unredeemed provinces. In the Chinese case, anxiety about Tibet チベット, Xinjiang 新疆 (Chinese Turkestan), and Inner Mongolia 内モンゴル fuel Han 漢民族 nationalism. Moreover, for most Chinese, Taiwan is a Chinese island that must be brought back into the motherland. In the Korean case, national division can only encourage nationalism, even though South Koreans are lukewarm toward actual unification. Memories of Japanese aggression in both nations also generate a nationalist reaction in China and Korea. In Japan, however, there is no domestic separatism to be afraid of. And, despite the pro forma Japanese claims on the Northern Territories 北方地域 and Takeshima, few Japanese care about them."
One reason memories of Japanese aggression still get people riled up in China and Korea is that the governments there use history as a way to divert attention away from current problems in the respective countries. And while the Japanese right wing 右派 is very vocal about things like the Northern Territories (as anyone who has heard their sound trucks could tell you), the rightists are completely unable to mobilize mass demonstrations involving thousands of angry protesters. Most Japanese have more important things to do than slaughter innocent birds:
(You can read some of the comments about this video on this link to Japundit: http://japundit.com/archives/2008/07/19/8722/)
"A second domestic issue is nationalism as an alternative tool to confront the government. In autocratic China, nationalism is an indirect way to oppose the ruling party. When demonstrators throw rocks at the U.S. embassy or attack Japanese diplomats, they are also criticizing their rulers for being weak-kneed. Moreover, simply by marching through the streets, or gathering virtually on the Internet, they demonstrate to the Communist Party that the people can mobilize on their own. Though South Korea is now a liberal democracy, many of its leftwing nationalists came of age when anti-American (or anti-Japanese) nationalism was fused with the fight against the military regime. Japan, however, has been a free society for well half a century, if its citizens are unhappy they simply go to a voting booth rather than seek alternative forms of mobilization. Japanese society may have problems but nationalism is not one of them."
In other words, Black-billed Magpies (the national bird of Korea) can rest easy in Japan.