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Sunday, May 10, 2009

What Have the Japanese...

I was reminded of this scene from "Life of Brian" when reading the following Kyōdō News 共同通信社 article in Japan Today ("Taiwan honors late Japanese engineer amid tensions with Tokyo"):

"Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou 馬英九 commemorated Friday a Japanese colonial engineer who in 1930 built one of Taiwan’s most effective reservoirs, at a ceremony meant to underscore the island’s friendship with Japan but which also hinted at fresh tensions. Ma honored Yoichi Hatta 八田與一 with bows, flowers and a speech at the engineer’s burial site near the Wusantou Reservoir 烏山頭水庫 in southern Tainan County (Tainan-ken) 台南縣, where the reservoir has tamed waters and kept cropland fertile for nearly 80 years. Ma called the reservoir the foundation for the modernization of Taiwan’s agricultural industry. 'Although Mr Hatta’s work came amid Japan’s colonial rule over Taiwan, we should recognize the contributions some colonial officials made to the island,' he said, adding, 'Although Taiwan and Japan broke off official relations in 1972, in the past 30 years our exchanges have nonetheless flourished.' Ma also announced plans to build within two years a memorial park near the reservoir in honor of Hatta, who died in a U.S. submarine attack while traveling to the Philippines by boat in 1942. While the 67th anniversary of Hatta’s death on Friday offered an occasion to celebrate relations between Taiwan and Japan, the conspicuous absence of Tōkyō’s 東京 de facto ambassador to Taipei (Taihoku) 台北 from the ceremony hinted at new strains in the bilateral relationship. Masaki Saitō, who directs Japan’s Interchange Association—Tōkyō’s representative office in the absence of diplomatic ties with Taipei—was nowhere to be seen in the audience of association deputies, Hatta’s descendants and other Japanese dignitaries. The reservoir holds political significance for Saitō, who visited the dam in September soon after arriving in Taiwan. He and Taiwan’s top representative to Japan, John Feng, toured the site together in a meeting that marked a recovery in bilateral ties after a diplomatic row involving the disputed Senkaku Islands 尖閣諸島 last year. Under Ma, who took office last year, the reservoir has become Taiwan’s most touted site symbolizing positive relations with Japan. Saitō was also absent Wednesday during a meeting between Ma and Japanese lawmaker Mitsuhide Iwaki 岩城光英 at the presidential office. A government insider said Taipei increasingly regards Saitō as irrelevant after the representative said last week that Taiwan’s international status 'remained unresolved'—a remark that diverges from Japan’s official stance on the island. Publicly, Japan has refrained from commenting on Taipei’s international status, merely stating Tōkyō gave up all claims to sovereignty over its colonial possessions, including Taiwan, after World War II. Japan ruled Taiwan from 1895 to 1945."

Apart from hydraulic engineering, sanitation, roads and railways, industrialization, education, cuisine, hot springs (and regular bathing), public health and order, what had the Japanese ever done for Taiwan?

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