White House Assails Donald Trump Proposal to Let Asian Allies Get Nuclear Weapons – First Draft. Political News, Now. – The New York Times

WASHINGTON — A White House official said on Thursday that it would be “catastrophic” to adopt a proposal by Donald J. Trump, the Republican front-runner, that Japan and South Korea manufacture their own nuclear bombs to deter North Korea.

Benjamin J. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser and one of President Obama’s closest aides, said, “Frankly, it would be catastrophic were the United States to shift its position and indicate that we somehow support the proliferation of nuclear weapon to additional countries.”

Source: White House Assails Donald Trump Proposal to Let Asian Allies Get Nuclear Weapons – First Draft. Political News, Now. – The New York Times

Coming-of-Age ceremony held for LGBT people in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward | The Japan Times

A Coming-of-Age ceremony for young people in the LGBT community was held in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward on Saturday, where the participants and their family members had the chance to exchange thoughts about moving into adulthood.

Source: Coming-of-Age ceremony held for LGBT people in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward | The Japan Times

Not great coverage, but this article piqued my interest.

Coming of Age Day is a national holiday in Japan, when all of the children who have or will reach the age of majority (20 years old) get all dressed up and have various parties and ceremonies in communities all around Japan.  It’s a very strongly gendered event with emphasis on wearing a very fancy kimono– imagine if Prom were a national holiday!  So, it’s definitely good news that LGBTQ Japanese folks are carving out their own spaces to celebrate.

Michelle Obama Going to Asia to Push Education – NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON — Michelle Obama will travel to Japan and Cambodia this week to kick off the administration’s new effort to promote the education of millions of girls worldwide.

The first lady will leave Wednesday for a five-day trip to talk about Let Girls Learn, an international effort aimed at enabling millions of young women to attend, and stay in, school. President Obama, in introducing the initiative two weeks ago, said it would focus the government’s disparate actions to improve girls’ access to education through cooperation with other nations.

In a conference call with reporters on Monday, Tina Tchen, the first lady’s chief of staff, said Mrs. Obama would stress the importance of responding to community needs, like providing uniforms, that would help get more girls — particularly adolescents — into the classroom. Ms. Tchen said the initiative would also offer training on handling gender-specific issues.

Michelle Obama at a Veterans Day observance at Arlington National Cemetery. Her best-known initiatives to date have focused on good eating habits.

Mrs. Obama will use stops in Tokyo and Kyoto to talk about a partnership with Japan to improve education for girls in developing countries. The Peace Corps and its Japanese equivalent, the Overseas Cooperation Volunteers, will work together on improvements at the community level. She will appear with Akie Abe, the wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Mrs. Obama will then travel to Siem Reap, Cambodia, where she and Carrie Hessler-Radelet, the director of the Peace Corps, will meet with students and volunteers and see some of the community programs that are already expanding girls’ access to education there. The first lady will also appear with Bun Rany, the wife of Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia.

Asked about the decision to send Mrs. Obama to Cambodia, a country widely criticized for its human rights record, Evan Medeiros, the National Security Council’s senior director for Asian affairs, said the visit would offer her the opportunity to reinforce the progress Cambodia has made in promoting education and the need for a more inclusive government. She will be the first sitting first lady to visit the country, he said.

Cambodia is one of 11 countries that the Peace Corps will focus on under the Let Girls Learn program during its first year. The others are Albania, Benin, Burkina Faso, Georgia, Ghana, Moldova, Mongolia, Mozambique, Togo and Uganda.

As first lady, Mrs. Obama has not often traveled abroad without Mr. Obama; this trip will be her fourth. Last year, she visited China with her daughters, Sasha and Malia, and her mother on a trip that focused on education and culture.

Neither Mrs. Obama’s mother nor her daughters — who she and the president said had motivated their interest in girls’ education worldwide as they announced the Let Girls Learn effort — will join her on this trip.

via Michelle Obama Going to Asia to Push Education – NYTimes.com.

‘Emperor,’ starring Tommy Lee Jones as Gen. Douglas MacArthur– the latest in a string of films using Japan as a proxy for the US Military’s ideological battles still in progress in Asia

‘Emperor,’ starring Tommy Lee Jones as Gen. Douglas MacArthur – NYTimes.com.

This film, like last year’s Lincoln seems to have less to do with an accurate depiction of historical events than it does with molding the American public’s view present-day politics.  In this case the filmmakers take on the question of how the US military metes out global justice.  Of course, the parallels between figures like Hirohito and Bin Laden or Obama and MacArthur are less important than the larger image of the US military as a force for global justice.  This is especially true in this type of mainstream fictionalized film genre where facts are obscured in favor of presenting a shiny narrative surface about international justice being done.

As one commenter points out on this NYTimes review page, no such investigation into the liability of the Emperor for the attack on Pearl Harbor took place.  This is a fantasy built up around the 21st century mainstream view of the American military as a force for bringing the terrorists responsible for the World Trade Center bombings to justice.  The present-day reality of US military intervention in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Africa is MUCH more complicated and messier.  This film sits dangerously astride the boundary between escapist historically revisionist war-thriller and out and out propaganda for the United States Military’s present day role as a police force in Asia.

It would be interesting to look back at all the major Hollywood films which have come out since 2001 which use Japan as a proxy setting for US military war-on-terror propaganda.

A few that come to mind are:

Pearl Harbor (2001) Poster  Pearl Harbor— released a few months before Sept. 11– ultimately received an Academy Award for sound.  The timing of the release of this film, I think primed the pump for comparisons between the United States’ last self-righteous hot war (WWII) fought in defense of the “Homeland.”

Then there was The Last SamuraiThe Last Samurai (2003) Poster

On the heels of the US invasion of Iraq.  Tom Cruise portrayed an American military captain sent to Japan to train the Japanese military against his will.  This film has some interesting back-story alluding to the United States own Imperialist project on the North American continent.  Just as it was the European settlers’ manifest destiny to control all Native American territory from sea to shining sea, the Iraqis would surely greet the US invaders as liberators, and likewise, Tom Cruise could infiltrate those few remaining Japanese isolationists.

Memoirs of a Geisha might fit into this list as well.

Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) Poster But it’s not as overtly a war story… perhaps more of a cultural war.  Perhaps this didn’t make it into the film version, but there is definitely a US military presence in Golden’s book.

Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima may complicate matters even further.  I actually should watch this one before I make a judgement.  Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) Poster Apparently the screenplay was written by a woman of Japanese ancestry.  I suppose it’s possible that this film may actually break the pattern of Japan as a proxy location for films on the War on Terror.

Of course, by 2006, Hollywood was already beginning to process the history of the War on Terror more literally with films like Flight 93 and World Trade Center.

The last title that I can think of off hand was not a Hollywood film, but a TV mini-series– The Pacific.  But it was produced by Steven Spielberg’s DreamworksSKG.  So, it’s close.

The Pacific (2010) Poster

So, I realize I’m lacking in close analysis of these films I list off here.  Maybe it’s obvious to say that these films about war released during war time will necessarily reflect attitudes, not only about the historical wars depicted in fictionalized form, but also attitudes about the present war.  But I think there is something significant about the use of Japan as the symbolic place-holder for Hollywood’s engagement with the War On Terror, particularly in years when films like Jar Head came under fire for realistic depiction of the war in progress.  (Cries of “Too soon!  Too soon!”– in fact this meme arose during the post-9/11 period, I think precisely in response to depictions of violence deemed inappropriate in ad hoc heckler fashion by audience members, who were either too squeamish or otherwise not yet ready to have the wound of their ideological attachment to the official 9/11 story of heroism/patriotism prodded by comedians or other entertainers).  I’m looking forward to taking a closer look at Emperor to see thematically if it’s more similar to Three Kings or Zero Dark Thirty.