In February a new Japanese language magazine, called Real Japan, went on sale. The initial print run was 50,000 copies. The cover featured former prime minister, Yasuhiro Nakasone. Inside there were stories by many prominent writers, including members of the FCCJ.
If the magazine sells well, it will become a quarterly and then a monthly and would become a good place for foreign correspondents to recycle some of their best stories (we will translate them). The magazine is being financed by an independent publishing house called East Press. I will be the editor in chief.
Why start a new magazine in this day and age when the business of putting out information in the form of ink on dead trees is in peril?
The answer is that it is part of a quixotic multi-media campaign to help Japan. In the future the plan calls for a documentary movie, a multi-media website, blogs, chat zones and more. The aim is to provide the Japanese people with the unvarnished truth so that they can make better choices about how they want their country to be.
When Uwasa no Shinso magazine was closed after years of pressure from rightwing gangsters, one of Japan’s last truly free publications vanished forever. It needs a replacement. That is part of the role Real Japan hopes to play.
The Japanese government has a long tradition of what is called dai honei happyo, the name used for announcements made by the military regime during World War II. The classic one was the announcement of a great naval victory at Midway. The tradition did not end when the war ended. One memorable such postwar announcement was back in the early 1990s, when the government announced the banks had a few trillion yen in bad debt.
In fact a man who was then a governor of the Bank of Japan and others told me they already knew at the time the bad debt was over ¥200 trillion.
If the Japanese government had told their people about the defeat at Midway, Japan might have sued for peace then and Sakhalin might still be part of Japan. Likewise, if they had admitted the true nature of the bad debt problem back in 1992, the problem could have been solved in two to three years instead of taking close to 15.
The reason I mention this is because the big lie now being told is about Japan’s fiscal situation. You may have read many times, and many of you have probably written many times, that Japan’s government debt is ¥775 trillion, or around 150 percent of the GDP.
That is false. All you have to do is check on the Finance Ministry’s own home page and add up the totals of stuff they arbitrarily decided not to include in the total debt number approved for use in newspapers and on television. These include such things as government-guaranteed loans by private banks, special types of bond (such as zaitosai), and ¥200 trillion in direct borrowing from the postal savings system.
You also need to add in stuff (such as regional government debt) that has been put on other ministry’s home pages. You will find the real number is at least ¥1006 trillion and more likely ¥1206 trillion. This debt is growing to the tune of ¥80 trillion a year. Japan has ¥1433 trillion in domestic savings. That means it is headed for bankruptcy.
Economists talk about how great the Japanese economy is now, but all they are doing is adding up stuff such as machinery orders and exports and grinding out numbers. Japan’s workforce will start shrinking to the tune of 700,000 workers a year starting this year. With all these people retiring in deep debt and no young people to support them, what is the government going to do?
In private politicians, finance ministry officials and others admit they are in a deep funk. And yet, there is no real public debate (i.e. one using real data) on an issue so vital to the future of this country.
That is where the magazine comes in. It will provide a forum for real debate outside of the government/rightist approved parameters. For example, why is there no serious discussion of the obvious solution to Japan’s problems: immigration? Also, why not talk about a real privatization of 60 percent of the Japanese economy that is government controlled so that the domestic debt can be cut?
Another big taboo topic that needs serious discussion is the police/pachinko/North Korea/LDP nexus of underground money. Why is this subject not being seriously discussed?
Perhaps the biggest taboo is to question Japan’s relationship with the United States. Nakasone himself admits Japan’s relationship with the US is like the one between Poland and the USSR back in the Cold War days.
How about a look at the hidden postwar history between Japan and the US? The Cold War is over, so do we still need those right wing gangsters out there intimidating people who question the current order?
Finally, the issue that really gets me going: Japan’s overseas financial holdings. Japan has the largest accumulation of international cash that any country has ever had. Some estimates say Japan has close to US$5 trillion sleeping overseas (they cannot bring it to Japan without destroying the global financial system). That is enough money to end world poverty and save the environment.
Why is Japan just handing this over to the Americans so they can finance their military machine?
President Eisenhower warned in his famous Military Industrial Complex speech that Americans would have to suffer to support, over the long term, a vast military because of competition with the USSR. Who is the enemy now? Terrorists are a police matter, not an excuse for a new ramping up of the military.
Every day 25,000 children starve to death. Japan can save them all. Extinction is happening at a rate not seen since the dinosaurs were wiped out. Japan has the power to put an end to this. Why shouldn’t the Japanese have a forum to discuss how to wisely spend all the money they have squirreled away overseas since the end of the war?
Real Japan will be neither rightwing nor leftwing but, hopefully, it will become a place for new ways of thinking. The overall philosophy: people who know the truth can make a better, happier world.