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Saturday, October 13, 2007

In the news ニュース

It seems Japan and Taiwan have a problem with eels ウナギ, according to this article from Friday's Daily Yomiuri, "Taiwan plans eel fry export ban". Eel is a popular dish in Japan, and is traditionally eaten on the day of the summer solstice 夏至 as it is thought to provide stamina with the onset of the hot, humid summer. What I didn't know was that Japan relies on Taiwan for 10-20% for its imports of eel fry ウナギの稚魚. The fry are then raised on farms in Japan, and sold as domestic eel.

The problem is that, beginning next month, Taiwan's Economic Affairs Ministry will impose an embargo on eel fry exports to Japan, in an effort to stem the decline in local eel stocks. Combined with a European Union 欧州連合 decision in June to reduce eel catch, it's probably inevitable that the price of eel in Japan will rise. The ongoing crisis in marine resources is going to have a great impact on the eating habits of the Japanese, who now produce less than 40% of their caloric food intake domestically.

On a different matter, the Japan Times had a strange article entitled "Fukuda could resolve issue over Yasukuni by visiting". As is often the case with articles written by Japanese commentators and academics, the logic takes a tortuous route at times. However, there are a couple of relevant points concerning Taiwan:

"Since the Tiananmen incident, China has been trying to direct people's primary concerns from the democracy movement to patriotism, putting particular emphasis on avenging national humiliation in the past century, symbolized by the loss of Taiwan. That policy has been a resounding success. As a result, anti-Japanese feelings have become so strong a national passion that the Chinese government cannot control it. When it takes the form of mass demonstrations, there would be the possibility that it will become tied to complaints prevailing among the Chinese population and turn into a large antigovernment movement."

The constant threats made by Beijing against Taiwan are more often than not aimed squarely at the domestic audience. What better way to divert the attention of the people away from calls for more democracy than by appealing to their baser nationalistic instincts?

And this:

"Another reason why I believe that a chance has emerged to resolve the Yasukuni problem is the precedent set by former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui's recent visit to Japan. The result was that Lee achieved a visit to Japan without any political constraints imposed on him. And China's protests have not had any carry-over impact on subsequent Japan-China relations."

As this paragraph shows, despite some ridiculous opinion pieces that appeared a while back in the JT on the "dangers" of letting Lee Tung-hui 李登輝 visit Japan and Yasukuni Shrine 靖国神社, in the end...nothing changed. There's a lesson here, but it's doubtful most people learned it yet.

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