Pictures run riot as manga enters the British Museum

The largest exhibition of manga ever held outside of Japan opened in London this week.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to the preview.

A huge room inside the British Museum holds a striking collection of around 160 pictures, as well as videos, statues, books – and even a place you can dress up in a manga costume and have your picture taken.

The British Museum’s Director Hartwig Fischer said it offers an opportunity to see a “new dimension” of Japan.

Thought provoking

“We give our visitors a lot to look at and a lot to think about,” said Mr Fischer.

He went on to explain that the museum has been collecting manga almost since the genre started and even commissioned an artist called Hoshino Yukinobu to draw a book called Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure.

Mr Fischer said: “Manga tells stories which are relevant and address questions which matter to us all. It also looks at aspects of life which are challenging. In this exhibition, we tried to celebrate the intimate aspects of manga as well as acknowledge its global power and presence.”

The exhibition includes examples of some of the most popular manga series in Japan, including pictures by famous artists such as Tezuka Osamu (Astro Boy and Princess Knight), Akatsuka Fujio (Eel Dog), Toriyama Akira (Dragon Ball).

Ghost story

For me, it was a spooky little painting by the great 19th-century Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai which truly made me shiver.

It shows a ghost about to take revenge on the wife who killed him by raising the mosquito net which protects her from insects as she sleeps. It’s a gruesome picture of a particularly quiet form of murder!

Fertile ground

The exhibition’s curator Nicole Rousmaniere says Hokusai’s ghost picture is an example of the fertile ground from which manga grew.

Another example is a huge theatre curtain created in 1880 by the painter Kawanabe Kyōsai, featuring actors in the form of demons and ghosts, blurring the worlds of fantasy and reality.

It’s a very delicate treasure and Waseda University, which owns it, has decided this will be the last time it will travel outside Japan.

Love stories

A lot of contemporary manga looks at relationships, especially romance. One interesting example in the museum is called My Brother’s Husband described by one reviewer as “an unprecedented and heartbreaking look at the state of a largely still-closeted Japanese gay culture.”

The Exhibition’s curator Nicole Rousmaniere says: “Manga can sometimes tell the stories of people whose stories are not usually told.”

She also believes that the emotional power of manga is important. “It can help relieve pain and has a cathartic quality,” she says.

Skilful hands

Most of the time, readers of manga books flick through the pictures so quickly I wonder if they actually notice them. But looking at the exhibition, I realise the great artistic skill involved in making these works.

Stepping into a museum to see the pictures enables one to appreciate them in a deep way and to share one’s joy with other visitors.

The Citi exhibition Manga will run from 23 May to 26 August 2019 in the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery at the British Museum.

Sea monster ice cream deserves good table manners

Why is it seen as rude to eat snacks, such as barbequed squid, while walking around?

Well, for the polite Japanese, walking and eating at the same time is “a big no no” according to the writer Mercedes Hutton, who’s done a nice article on this topic in this week’s South China Morning Post.

Mercedes claims that visitors to Japan are causing offence through our rude behaviour with food.

Our problem is that we apparently try to do two things at once – eating and walking – and this grieves our hosts, in places such as Kyoto’s Nishiki Market and Senso-ji, in Tokyo.

Mindful eating

According to Mercedes, we foreigners are plainly not following the principle of “Ikkai ichi dousa”, which essentially means “ do one thing at a time”.

She writes: “This is a fundamental tenet of Japanese philosophy that promotes the dedication of particular attention to each aspect of our lives. Whether strolling along Takeshita-dori, in Harajuku, or savouring a Hokkaido soft-serve ice cream, every activity benefits from being singularly focused upon; do both at once and neither can be enjoyed to their full potential.”

While I am all in favour of mindful eating, I wonder what the social rules are when it comes to barbecue squid.

Monster vs ice cream

This treat, known in Japanese as ikayaki, is often sold at outdoor festivals, especially in the summer.

It’s served on a stick so it looks like a cross between an ice cream and a sea monster.

Although it’s very chewy, it tastes delicious. But it’s almost impossible to eat politely and cleanly with chopsticks – or even a knife and fork.

That means scoffing it down while standing up – perhaps while enjoying fireworks or watching a spooky dance aimed at entertaining ghosts, known as obon.

No one has ever given me instructions on how to eat barbequed squid, so I assume that the etiquette is this: it’s OK to eat it standing up but not while moving around. Stay in one place and throw the stick away afterwards – and probably aim to clean one’s face as soon as possible!

Too polite

Mercedes notes in her piece that the Japanese probably won’t tell you this advice for fear of causing offence.

She concludes that this suggests “Japan has a problem with politeness.”

A more direct approach, she feels, would help avoid the simmering resentment caused by our bad table manners.

She suggests we follow the locals’ lead and hang onto our waste until it can be properly disposed of.

She says: “Doing so not only saves face for the long-suffering Japanese, it also helps to give tourists a better rep at attractions on the verge of being overwhelmed by visitors (masticating or otherwise), which can only be a good thing.”

 

What is the Japanese army doing in Egypt?

Japanese soldiers are taking up positions in Egypt.

Admittedly, it is not a large army. Only two officers are going there, for now.

But it’s a significant point because for many people, sending soldiers to foreign countries in any capacity goes against the pacifist spirit of Japan’s constitution.

In fact, it’s rather controversial to even call them soldiers or an army – they are members of Self Defence Force and their job is to defend the Japanese homeland.

Change of approach

The journalist Jeffrey Hornung explores the implications of the Egyptian deployment in an excellent article Foreign Policy magazine.

He says the men will join the Multinational Force & Observers (MFO) which monitors the cease-fire between Israel and Egypt.

(At least I am assuming they are men – although I was told the other day that gender equality is high on the agenda of the Self Defence Forces, so they could be female officers.)

So is this another example of the constitution being ignored?

As Foreign Policy points out, Japan has dispatched troops to work with U.N.-controlled peacekeeping operations nine times.

Abe’s plan

When it comes to the future of the Self Defence Force, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has two clear goals.

Firstly, he wants to maintain a solid alliance with the United States.

He also wants to the reform of the constitution in order to change the status of the Self Defence Force into an army with the capacity to fight internationally.

On that point he is running out of time.

Political battle

Constitutional change requires a majority in parliament, which should be possible, given the dominance of Mr Abe’s LDP party in both houses of the Diet. However, it also needs agreement through a referendum. Public opinion is divided on the issue, so it is doubtful that the government will press for a vote it could end up losing. Mr Abe’s term in office must conclude by September 2021.

Japan’s former enemies, China and South Korea, oppose a constitutional change which would empower the military, due to their bitter memories of being attacked and occupied. Japan will not wish to upset its neighbors, just as it hosts the Olympic Games next year.

Furthermore, it is inconceivable that Japan would reopen the debate about developing its own nuclear weapons, given the delicate relations with its neighbours.

Mr Abe recently told his party convention that the LDP “will lead concrete discussion towards proposing amendments to the constitution.”

Such discussions are likely to be as far as he can take the matter before he departs, almost certainly to be replaced as prime minister.

But quietly, behind the scenes the status of the Japanese armed forces is changing.

As Jeffrey Hornung puts it in Foreign Policy “While it may not seem like much now, we may be witnessing the start of a different kind of new era for Japan.”

Peacemaker or Pacifist: What was Emperor Akihito’s view on war?

I have been very moved by watching the abdication of Emperor Akihito this week. The media coverage has reminded us of his deep commitment to peace.

However, I’m wondering if it’s appropriate to call him a “pacifist” – a word which appeared in many foreign correspondents’ reports, including one by the BBC’s Laura Bicker, who said: “As pacifists, the Emperor and his wife have travelled the world to help heal Japan’s wartime reputation.”

Expression of remorse

This refers to the way in which the Emperor has expressed deep remorse for Japan’s invasion and occupation of parts of Asia. This was acknowledged by the spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the South Korean President Moon Jae-In, who each praised the Emperor for his peacemaking efforts.

Indeed, the Emperor’s final words before he abdicated this week were: “I pray for peace around the world.”

But is praying for peace a pacifist thing to do?

What is pacifism?

Pacifism covers a spectrum of views. For some it means the total rejection of all violence. For others, it means an impassioned quest to resolve disputes peacefully.

The religious organisation the Quakers puts it his way: “Pacifism is not simply the refusal to fight: it includes working actively to bring about or preserve peace, by removing the causes of conflict.”

Japan has a constitution which is pacifist in spirit. It was drawn up by the Americans after the Second World War and bans Japan from ever again amassing an army which could launch an attack like the one on Pearl Harbour.

Ever since, there has been a great deal of compromise. Japan now has a large and well-armed Self Defence Force.

Furthermore, the United States has a duty to defend Japan if it is attacked and could even use nuclear weapons in the event of war.

Constitutional revision

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would like to revise the constitution but time is running to do that out before he retires in 2021.

In the view of NPR reporter Anthony Kuhn: “Akihito’s pacifist views are believed to have created simmering, if unspoken, tensions with a government that has tacked to the political right and wants to cast off postwar restraints on its military, government and monarchy.”

The NPR piece also quotes a political scientist named Koichi Nakano from Sophia University in Tokyo who says: “Akihito has in some ways become a surprising sort of democrat, a surprising pacifist, who is not necessarily feeling comfortable with the government of the day and that sort of mistrust is mutual.”

In Professor Nakano’s view, Prime Minister Abe would like to upgrade the emperor to head of state rather than a symbol of the state.

Next generation

That nuanced debate about the role of the Emperor will no doubt continue into the next generation. Emperor Naruhito did not touch on it in his inaugural speech. “[Akihito] showed profound compassion through his own bearing,” he said.

“I swear that I will reflect deeply on the course followed by the Emperor Emeritus … and fulfil my responsibility as the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people of Japan.”

Meet the monster that devours dreams

I learned this week that Japanese people frequently encounter “wild, violent beasts” in their dreams.

These monsters leave a deep impression and are more troublesome than other nightmares about school, repeatedly failing at some challenge or being paralysed by fear.

I think I’ve probably had nightmares about all these crises, although I must admit my memories are hazy. So that raises the question; what, if anything, is distinctly Japanese about these kinds of dreams?

The American dream

A study found that compared to the Japanese, Americans are more likely to dream about being locked up, losing a loved one, finding money, being inappropriately dressed or nude, or encountering an insane person.

All this research was presented by a reporter called Ben Healy in an article for the Atlantic magazine entitled “Bad Dreams Are Good – how your night life prepares you for tomorrow.”

Given that the Atlantic is quite an old fashioned, rather learned magazine, I was quite surprised by some of the racy information which appeared in the piece.

It says that eight percent of our dreams are about sex – a rate that holds for both women and men. However women are twice as likely as men to have sexual dreams about a public figure while men are much more likely to dream about multiple sexual partners.

Animal dreams

The Atlantic also informs us that “the dreamiest member of the animal kingdom is the platypus which logs up to eight hours of REM sleep per day.”

Platypus look to me like something out of a dream, as their heads and feet appear to have come from a duck, their tales look like those of a beaver and they are covered in fur, like an otter.

They also lay eggs and have venomous feet. According to the wildlife TV presenter David Attenborough, when naturalists first showed pictures of them to incredulous people in the 19th century, there was a widespread view that the platypus was unreal.

Dream eater

Even stranger than the platypus is a mythical creature which lives in Japan called a baku. It has an elephant’s trunk, rhinoceros’ eyes, an ox’s tail, and a tiger’s paws. (I thought it was Japanese but apparently its origin is China.)

A child having a nightmare in Japan will wake up and repeat three times, “Baku-san, come eat my dream.” Legends say that the baku will come into the child’s room and devour the bad dream, allowing the child to go back to sleep peacefully.

Loss of hope

However, we are warned that calling to the baku must be done sparingly, because if he remains hungry after eating one’s nightmare, he may also devour one’s hopes and desires, leaving one to live an empty life.

I am pleased to say that for the most part, these horrible consequences are not dwelled upon. Pictures of baku are often drawn on children’s pillows in Japan and China to promote a good night’s sleep.

With that, I wish you sweet dreams, whichever country you are from.

Is speaking Japanese more tricky than making marmalade?

I have a mixture of curiosity and jealousy when it comes to the British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

I wonder how, as a very senior British politician, he finds the time to practice the Japanese language?

It’s an impressive achievement, especially as he’s married to a Chinese person and has a young family.

Marmalade lessons

Mr Hunt used to live in Japan and at one point had a job trying to import British marmalade – a business which ended in failure, apparently, but which he claims was a useful learning experience.

This week he was back in Tokyo and paid a call on a high school in Hibiya.

The BBC’s Tokyo Correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes went to the school with him said that Mr Hunt gave a speech in extremely fluent Japanese and then took questions from the children about Brexit.

“He certainly did a very good of charming them and I think the Japanese are very flattered that Britain has a foreign minister who speaks such good Japanese. He has a good public image here,” said Rupert.

Apology due

But Rupert also said that the Foreign Secretary may need to apologise for a letter which was sent to the Japanese government in February, in which the British urged the Japanese to get a move on with trade talks post-Brexit.

“Time is of the essence” was one of the phrases used.

However, as Lianna Brinded explains in an excellent piece on Yahoo Finance, Prime Minister May has tried to pass the Brexit deal through parliament three times, and each time it was massively rejected by politicians within her own party and opposition MPs.

The Yahoo report points out that Japan is the third largest economy in the world and is one of the UK’s biggest investors. Japanese companies employ 150,000 people in Britain. Trade between the two countries totalled £28 billion in the past year, according to the government.

Bewildered

The Japanese are now “bewildered” by Brexit, according to the former chief executive of UK Trade and Investment.

Sir Andrew Cahn told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “The Japanese are really very disappointed about Brexit, probably of all the countries in the world, they are the ones which have reacted worst to Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.”

Sir Andrew  said that foreign secretary Hunt has a huge task on his hands, as Japanese firms use the UK as a gateway to the EU. This would be “significantly closed” if the UK left on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, he warned.

So, although I am jealous of Mr Hunt’s language skills and his VIP treatment in Tokyo, I am not the least bit jealous of him when it comes to the arduous task of justifying the Brexit to a key trade partner. That’s a tough call in any language.

The disappearing salaryman

Do you sometimes feel sorry for the poor Japanese salarymen, slaving away selflessly for the good of their corporation and never allowed to be creative or take risks? If so, perhaps your pity for the poor souls is based on an outdated stereotype. Nowadays in Japan, entrepreneurialism is valued – although old ways of thinking die hard, as this week’s guest blogger Lucy Kikuchi explains.

There is a prevailing stereotype about the men who work in Japan.

They are often presented as conservative, risk-averse salarymen who sacrifice their own happiness for the good of the company. This is a contrast with the stereotype of the maverick westerner, who voices his opinion and follows his dreams.

These cliches appeared in a news story by Bloomberg, when it covered the major deal struck between Panasonic and Tesla earlier this year. Panasonic has begun manufacturing batteries for Tesla Model 3. The piece began, “They’re the oddest of couples: Elon Musk – the free-wheeling co-founder of Tesla Inc – and Kazuhiro Tsuga, the buttoned-up salaryman who runs Japan’s Panasonic Corp.”

Bloomberg suggested the two businessmen are borne from different psychologies. In Japan, ‘success’ is synonymous with ‘security’. Entrepreneurship on the other hand is risky; risk is the polar opposite of security.

The birth of the salaryman

After Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II, companies like Panasonic helped propel Japan into the modern era. To gain employment with a company like that was to enjoy a lifetime of job security. Toyota, Sony, Panasonic – these were the companies to aim for. Mr Tsuga joined Panasonic in April 1979 (at the time, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd.) after graduating from Osaka University. He is the epitome of Japan’s traditional notion of success.

Then there is Tesla, founded by Elon Musk.

Musk is one of the ‘PayPal mafia’ and was a young millionaire thanks to his startup Zip2. From linking online searchers to businesses then disrupting banking in his early twenties, he now plans to save humanity by sending us to Mars courtesy of SpaceX. Some of the risks he has taken may prove to be unsuccessful, but he succeeded in Silicon Valley when many others floundered as the dot-com bubble burst.

Old and new

One of the things I love best about Japan is how traditional ways exist parallel to high-tech modern life. I’m not sure anywhere else in the world manages to pull this combination off so effortlessly. Many westerners are fascinated by the Geisha who totter through the streets of Kyoto, then they flock to Tokyo as the mecca of everything high-tech. Yet despite the country’s global and long-standing reputation for innovation and high-quality products, it seems that’s not enough to keep Japan globally competitive in the future.

The country can no longer expect the large corporations to fuel innovation, productivity and growth. But if they can’t do this, it means the security of lifetime employment becomes less of a guarantee.

Startup scene

Although Japan’s startup scene is a long way behind that of the US, economic, stagnation is forcing a change.

According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Stanford University in April 2015, saying he wanted to “soak up all that Silicon Valley has to offer and take the lessons to Japanese.” He also reminded those present that Japan’s largest and most prestigious corporations set the global agenda back in the 1980’s and said that Japan can do this again.

As Mr Abe delivers tax incentives for businesses to invest in venture capital, and finance becoming more readily available to startups. But progress towards a more entrepreneurial culture requires a shift in the psychology of a nation.

More and more successful Japanese entrepreneurs are emerging and they become role models to the younger generation. Some young people believe that they can follow a new career path. Success to them is no longer synonymous with security. Perhaps it means being the fastest to deliver the smartest solution?

There’s never been a better time to take a risk. If Tsuga San can do it with Tesla, so can Japan’s next generation.

Lucy Kikuchi lived in Tokyo for six years working as a translator both on the agency-side and in-house for a Japanese manufacturer. She now lives with her family in the UK and is married to a self-employed Japanese businessman – not a salaryman!

Burgers on the menu for Japan’s new era

I’ve often wondered why in a land of beautiful food, like Japan, people want to eat burgers and chips.

This week, I am especially wondering why anyone would want to eat a burger which weighs three kilograms and was apparently created with patriotic pride as Japan enters a new era of “beautiful harmony.”

A chef called Patrick Shimada has made the enormous burger using beef made from Wagyu cattle, which according to legend, enjoy drinking beer and receiving massages from their human masters, in order to keep their bodies tender.

The meat is served between gold-dusted buns and is also “topped with foie gras and freshly shaved black truffles.”

It costs an eye-watering US$900.

“Myself in a bun”

Chef Shimada workers at the Oak Door steakhouse in Tokyo’s Roppongi district, near my former home.

He says he created the burger to mark the crowning of the new Japanese emperor, Crown Prince Naruhito. It’s the sort of rather crazy story about Japan which the media love and it’s obviously been stoked up by a clever press officer.

The press release came with some nice pictures of Mr Shimada preparing the dish, along with quotes, such as: “We wanted to do something to celebrate the new emperor and a new era for Japan.”

Mr Shimada, a fourth generation Japanese American, said: “It also gets me more in touch with my Japanese roots.

“Doing this through an American-style burger using Japanese ingredients – it’s kind of like myself in a bun.”
MOS burger

I actually think that the food in fast food restaurants in Japan is nicer than in many other countries and the service is great. My personal favourite is the Japanese chain, MOS Burger.  According to its website, its corporate goal is to “make people happy through food.” It says it provides “safe, healthy and delicious food” with “cordial service and a smile.”

MOS Burger is more Japanese in atmosphere than the big players, McDonalds and Burger King, which are in the process of are opening yet more restaurants in Japan. McDonalds already has around three thousand branches around the country.

It might seem odd to open more, given Japan’s falling birthrate and changing dining habits. However, according to the business newspaper the Nikkei, the hamburger business is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise bleak restaurant industry.

McDonald’s aims to open as many as two hundred new branches in the next three years and Burger King aims to triple its Japanese locations by 2022.

The Nikkei also says the burger joints are hoping to target the many tourists who visit Japan, including large numbers of visitors from other Asian countries.

These people, says the Nikkei, include “a steady stream of fresh customers looking for familiar flavours in an unfamiliar land.”

Unruly, exotic and strange. Is that the Japanese view of foreigners?

Are Western people regarded as exotic, funny or unruly by the Japanese?

I’ve been considering that question since reading an excellent editorial in the English-language Japan Times by Elenor Sezar.

She’s disappointed by Japanese TV.

“The exaggerated image of people from other cultures is maintained by stereotyping and caricaturing. Foreigners are reduced to others – the ones who are not us.”

Invisible presence

At least foreigners have some presence on television, whereas in other media we’re almost completely invisible.

It’s rare to see a foreign character in a Japanese film, unless they are an American soldier or an English language teacher.

This is an awfully narrow perspective. It’s a bit like seeing all Japanese women as geishas or all the males as salarymen.

Why did you come to Japan?

Elenor has a bone to pick with the TV show Why did you come to Japan?

It encourages foreign guests to praise Japan’s food, politeness or cherry blossoms.

Elenor thinks that it embodies everything that is wrong with the depiction of non-Japanese people.

“Close contact with non-Japanese people in Japan, while increasing, remains a rarity for a majority of the Japanese population, despite a rise in tourists from overseas (their numbers reached 31 million last year).

That means most Japanese people’s knowledge of non-Japanese has been left almost entirely in the hands of the mass media – and the results have not been good,” she says.

Banning foreigners

Perhaps this explains why some Japanese attractions are refusing entry to foreigners.

The Daily Telegraph claims that “a small number of unruly visitors are threatening to ruin things for everyone.”

It reveals that the Nanzo-in Buddhist temple in Sasaguri, Fukuoka has banned groups of foreign tourists due to their bad behaviour. (It doesn’t say what they did wrong – or which countries they are from.)

I have never previously thought of that temple in Fukuoka as being one of the great “must-see” attractions of Japan. But it is frustrating to find the famous temples in Kyoto overrun with tourists, both from Japan and abroad.

Selling rubbish

In my view, it is not poor behaviour by the visitors which is the problem.

The problem is that almost no consideration has been given as to how to preserve the temples’ special, holy atmospheres.

Throngs of tourists are preyed upon by vendors selling greasy food, sugary drinks and tacky souvenirs.

And the temple staff – who are supposed to be nurturing our spiritual growth – fleece visitors by selling lucky charms to make us money, pass exams or find a lover.

Many of my Japanese friends buy this rubbish with a smile on their faces. However, they have never shown me a shred of evidence that their lucky charm have brought them any real good fortune.

Why do they tolerate this tawdry trade? I say: “Overturn the tables and throw these charlatans out of your temples!”

If I share my view on Why did you come to Japan? I am sure there would be consequences.

But if I am banned from a few temples as a result, I doubt my spiritual health will suffer.

Trump and Kim have stopped talking, so things may be safer for Japan

Many people in Japan were worried when Donald Trump walked out of the recent meeting in Hanoi with the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Un.

Previously, the two leaders had threatened to start a war – an unimaginable horror for Japan. Yet peace is still holding and the experts I’ve met say the summit may have a silver lining.

Positive Step

Professor Hyun Bang Shin from the London School of Economics told me: “The Hanoi summit was a failure only if you approach it from the point of view that success means an agreement signed by the two leaders.

“That obviously didn’t happen but I think this meeting will turn out to be one of many stops along the road towards the eventual goal, which is a positive outcome for all the parties involved, including South Korea, North Korea and the US.”

Professor Shin told me that after the Hanoi summit, North Korea’s propaganda did not angrily denounced the US, as it has often done in the past. This eaves the way open further talks, with South Korea as mediator.

Abe’s mission

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to join the negotiations. He demands verifiable checks on claims of disarmament and also hopes to raise the issue of Japanese citizens who were abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.

Professor Takako Hikotani from Columbia University told me: “Japan is being left out of the loop in the current negotiations because North Korea wants to talk directly to the United States. As a result, Japan’s fate rests with how well things go between Trump and Kim.”

She is pleased that the leaders didn’t make a deal focussed on North Korea’s intercontinental missiles, which target the US, at the risk of overlooking the threat posed to Japan by medium-range rockets. In the end, the US showed no compromise on either front.

Weakened Triangle

For decades, South Korea, Japan and the United States have formed a security triangle, focussed on containing the North Korean threat. However, the US and South Korea recently scaled back their joint military exercises. There is also tension because of a poor diplomatic relationship between South Korea and Japan.

There is angry rhetoric from South Korea about Japan’s occupation in the last century. Japan’s government has responded by firmly stating that no more apologies are required.

Professor Hikotani says. “Of course, there are often ups and downs in the relationship but normally there is a way to seperate the political disputes from the issue of military cooperation.”

Political change

Professor Shin says: “Japan has been ruled by the same political elite since the end of the Second World War, while South Korea has democratised. It seems as though they are unable to adjust to the new geopolitical order.”

Professor Shin notes that there is strong resistance within Korea to Prime Minister Abe’s plan to change Japan’s constitution, so that its armed forces can fight abroad. But he says: “If there is any kind of war on the peninsula there would be complete annihilation of both countries and South Korea – not Japan – is the most vulnerable place.”