Mar 25 2021

How Football Can Change

By Fred Varcoe

When Marco Van Basten was Technical Director at FIFA, he came up with a number of ideas to change the game. These included sinbins, no offsides and foul counts for individual players. He didn’t stay long at FIFA, probably because he knew that it is one of the least progressive sports organizations in the world. It still thinks penalties are a good way to decide a World Cup (more on that later).

FIFA is not alone. Many sports organizations are run by fusty old men with no imagination and a misplaced idea of sporting purity. “That’s not football” is probably their motto. But they can still come up with this season’s laughable handball rule. Some sports – rugby, volleyball, cricket – have changed with the times and recognized when rules, even the sport itself, had to change. FIFA is change averse, but many fans also have their heads stuck in the sand.

Football desperately needs to reform itself. Even the Premier League is becoming boring and not just clubs managed by Jose Mourinho. Contrast the dirge that is Tottenham with the energy and positivity of Leeds. It’s almost two different sports.

Football has become too predictable and we can probably trace this to Spain and Barcelona, who believed that doing nothing for 85 minutes of a game was entertainment. You can’t argue with results, can you? Can you?

I don’t know, but when I think of great teams, I think of the Arrigo Sacchi’s AC Milan, Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United and Bob Paisley’s Liverpool – winning teams who were great to watch over extended periods of time. Their free-flowing football made them fans around the world and fans of any club watched them with wonder. This was football.

Try watching Tottenham’s Ben Davies or Southampton’s Kyle Walker-Peters (ex-Tottenham) without gnawing your hands off in frustration. I would like to see their stats on passes played forward and passes played backwards. I’m sure backwards wins.

And they’re taking football backwards. In the old days, full backs would hoof the ball forwards. Back passes on pitches in the ’70s were dangerous. But Route 1 was actually exciting. It brought an element of randomness and chaos to the game. Predictable, it wasn’t. And, statistically unproven though it is, I don’t believe teams lost possession any more playing football that way than they do with the brain-numbing taki tiki taki crap. Bring back chaos, I say.

The game needs an element of unpredictability and the rules need to change to help that. Other rules also need to change and the people who make the rules need to change. If you have no imagination, you’re not going to improve the game. The geniuses and innovators in our world didn’t succeed by making small adjustments to their products, they brought something new to the table. So let’s try and see what new things could be brought to football’s table. Some are practical, conservative even; others might seem a little strange, but they work for me, but probably because I haven’t wasted energy overthinking them.


The Changes

1. No offside

Van Basten says: “I think it can be very interesting watching a game without offside. Football now is already looking a lot like handball with nine or 10 defenders in front of the goal. It’s difficult for the opposition to score a goal as it’s very difficult to create something in the small pieces of space they give you. So, if you play without offside you get more possibilities to score a goal.”
It’s been tried before, but I don’t think anyone took it seriously. But why shouldn’t it work? When you see the amount of goals ruled out for marginal offsides, it is frustrating. Defenders should be marking players, not an invisible line on the pitch. How would it change the game? Defenders would still have to mark players and the most efficient way of marking them is to be goalside. Attackers would still be trying to get past the defender. Not having an invisible line to worry about would give the attacker an advantage and that’s what football wants. And it would, as Van Basten says, open up the pitch, make the game wider and more attack-minded. And it would allow referees’ assistants to monitor more important aspects of the game. Ditto for VAR. It would make life a lot easier and keep football flowing.

2. No offside running into your own half
Bit of a dumb rule at the moment. You can’t be offside in your own half unless you run from an offside position into your own half. Pointless, isn’t it. If you are going to have offsides, this shouldn’t be part of it.

3. No passing back over the halfway line
The horror of possession football is the pass back. Not a little pass to a guy behind you or lateral from you, but a series of pass backs that takes the ball from the corner flag all the way back to the keeper. This is my No. 1 choice for a rule change. It also gives the linespeople something to do. Cut out the safety first pass back to your center-half or goalkeeper and the game will liven up. The attacking team will have to look forward instead of backward. It will make life more difficult for them, so adding danger/ chaos/ unpredictability to the game. It will also put Ben Davies and Kyle Walker-Peters out of a job. Next time you watch a match, think how they dynamic of that match would change if this rule was introduced. You know it makes sense.


4. No penalties
After watching VAR for a season, this one’s a no-brainer for me. Again, there’s limited logic to the penalty area. You get penalized the same for a little (sometimes accidental) trip or handball in the corner of the penalty area by the byline as you do for a deliberate goal-stopping handball. Even with VAR (especially with VAR?), the merit of a free goal is, more often than not, not disproportionate to the offense. The penalty area should actually be the goal area with the side lines extending from the goalposts. If there’s a foul in there, you get a regular penalty. Outside of that, it’s just a free-kick as per the rest of the pitch. The penalty area will then just be the area where the goalkeeper can handle the ball.

5. Three seconds for keepers to release the ball
And talking of goalkeepers handling the ball…. there’s a rule that’s crying out for change. The keeper is meant to release it within six seconds. Nowadays, nobody’s counting. When did you ever see a ref penalize a goalkeeper for holding on to the ball too long? You didn’t. So, the new rule is: three seconds. That’s three seconds from the point where the goalkeeper is in control of the ball and unimpeded and on his feet with the ball in his hands. Failure to release the ball hands the opposition an indirect free-kick from any spot on the perimeter of the penalty area. I get the impression referees don’t want to count to six, but three would be easy.

6. No goal kicks
They’ve become a bit of joke, but that’s partly because players aren’t as clever as they think they are. Simple answer: no goal kicks. The keeper merely has to get rid of the ball from anywhere in the penalty area to another player in any way he likes. We’re trying to get the game moving. This does it.

7. Free throw-ins
Why do we have such a formalized method of throw-ins? I don’t think we need it. It would be far more exciting and probably less time-consuming if the thrower could just chuck the ball back into play any way he wants. The ball could go further and it would take less time. And it would be an advantage to the team in possession. Throw-ins now are often so heavily defended (often in a confided space), they are often a liability. Free throws is the answer. As with the goalkeeper above, there should be a time limit. For throw-ins, four or five seconds once the thrower has the ball under control. And he’s not allowed to pass it off to another player to waste time. And if no one moves to take the throw, the nearest player to the ball gets a yellow card.

8. Corner kicks
The area from which corners are taken should be extended from 1 meter to 2 meters and most of the ball should be within the line markings, not 1 millimeter inside the outside of the line. Personally, I would like to see time limits for taking corners: 20 seconds should be enough. The extremist in me would also limit the number of players who can be in the box when the corner is taken to four from each team plus the defending goalkeeper.

9. No penalty shootouts
OK, the purists will say I’m being extreme here, but actually, I’m the purist. The penalty shootout is a curse on the game. OK, it’s decisive and can be exciting in a masochistic kind of way, but it’s a terrible way of deciding a World Cup final or two-leg European Champions League semi. The fact that FIFA hasn’t even thought about changing this shows their lack of imagination and sheer incompetence. So, how do you change it? I always liked the idea of sudden-death goals, but apparently TV companies didn’t because it left empty air time. But it still doesn’t guarantee a finish to the game. My solution should, although it’s not guaranteed. If extra time is needed, the first session should be 20 minutes. The difference is each team has to lose two players. If there’s no result after 20 minutes, you play another 20 minutes. This 20 minutes is sudden-death – the first goal wins – AND there are no goalkeepers, although multiple substitutions can be made. That should get a result. If not, maybe I’ll allow penalties, but there is a better alternative….

10. Corner shoot-outs
Van Basten has suggested the old American style shootout where a player dribbles the ball unopposed from outside the box and has to score within 10 seconds, but if you want to avoid extra time, there’s a better way: corner shoot-outs. Each team gets 10 corners from which they can score within 10 seconds after the kick is taken. Only four players from each team is allowed plus the defending goalkeeper. The corners are taken in groups of five. If there’s no result after 10 corners, you just keep going until you get one. You could also reduce the number of players to three, two or even one from each team. My ideas involve much more real football than the penalty shootout, so the purists should be on my side, not FIFA’s.

11. Rugby rules
Rugby has a pretty disciplined approach to the rules and football should have the same, so we need to adopt some of rugby’s rules.
A. Sinbin: I haven’t figured this out exactly, but sometimes two yellow cards is not equivalent to a red. Players are getting red-carded for treading on people’s feet, while Jordan Pickford gets nothing for turning the best defender in the world into a cripple. The good thing about the sinbin is that it is instant justice affecting the two teams as they play;
B. 10-yard rule: This has been mentioned but never seriously considered. If a team is awarded a free-kick against them then the rule should be that no opposition player can touch the ball until the free-kick is taken. Also, if a player fails to make an effort to retreat 10 yards from the ball, the attacking team can move the ball forward up to 10 yards. It should be the responsibility of the player to get away from the ball, not the responsibility of the referee. Penalty for not doing so: another 10 yards and a yellow card;
C. No complaining: Only the captains can question a decision by an official and all players must keep a distance of at least 2 meters from the referee. Players swearing at the officials shall get a yellow card;
D. Bonus points: It’s about time teams were rewarded for scoring goals. I would prefer to see a system of, for example, 10 points for a win, five for a draw and a point for each goal scored. Hopefully, this would end the pathetic system of deciding a league on goal difference. No major league placings should be decided on goal difference. If two teams are equal on points, have a playoff.
E. Don’t stop for injuries or substitutions: Medical staff should be allowed to enter the field of play at their discretion, but play should not stop (except for certain extreme circumstances). Likewise, the fourth official can take care of substitutions instead of the referee. Again, play needn’t be held up.

12. More cards
I believe it was before the 1994 World Cup when FIFA said they wanted more aggressive refereeing. So the refs got more aggressive and started dishing out lots of cards. FIFA, spineless as ever, told them to stop showing cards so liberally. It was a golden opportunity to make the game better. If FIFA had had the courage of their convictions, football would have changed. They just had to stick with the program. My idea of strengthening the position of referees is for infractions to have a points system. Sounds a little complicated, but it’s not. A bad foul is five points. If you get 10 points, you’re off. Oh, and failure to leave the pitch immediately is another 10 points. In fact, the ref can keep adding points until he’s got a degree in maths. Kicking the ball away or swearing at the ref could be two points. Time wasting is one point (it’s not really much of an infringement as the ref can always add time on – more if he’s vindictive). It won’t be hard on the refs. All they have to do is put the points total on the card and show one to five fingers to the player. And it’s the responsibility of the player to check, not the responsibility of the referee. To help the referee, the fourth official should be allowed to advise on or even make decisions in the event that the referee misses something or makes a mistake.

13. VAR
There are those who say that the offside rule is clearcut, so if your fingernail is in front of the defender’s toe, you’re off. But is the letter of the law defeating the spirit of the law? If you’re going to draw lines across the pitch to check for offside, then go all out. My answer is to draw lines from points on the head, chest, hip, knee and toe. If three of the points are offside, it’s offside. Otherwise, it’s OK. Can VAR handle this? I actually suspect VAR technology isn’t very good, but if it is good, then use it properly. Going the other way, perhaps there should be no lines at all and no slow motion (others have suggested having a player making the call as well as an official). At least then you’re getting a more realistic on-pitch decision. But you’d still want VAR to determine the really big things, like did the ball go into the net.

My image of the football that I love is that it is basically a non-stop game with a large helping of unpredictability combined with skill. My current view is that most teams are intent on playing by numbers and the backpass is now a tactic rather than an act of desperation. The chaos of my cherished football also led to more moments of inspiration. Football used to be an organic game; each match had a life and identity of its own, and players had identities, not like some of the plug-and-play mercenaries of today. Football needs to move itself and its players out of the comfort zone and rediscover its imaginative qualities.


Sep 16 2020

New Nissan Z, a study in ugly


Aug 23 2020

The moustache that offended Korea


By Fred Varcoe

Korea, how can I offend thee?
Pretty easily, as it turns out. Just grow a moustache. The Guardian reported a few months ago that “Harry Harris’s facial hair is vying with denuclearisation as the defining theme of his tenure as U.S. ambassador to South Korea.” Seriously, Korea? I think you can do better than that.
Of course you can. In October last year, The Guardian reported, “South Korea is intensifying its campaign to ban the Japanese ‘rising sun’ flag from being displayed at next year’s Tokyo Olympics, in the latest diplomatic row linked to the countries’ bitter wartime history.”
Meanwhile, Japan Today reported that Seoul and Busan were to pass a bill to boycott Japanese companies they feel are guilty of “war crimes.”
And, of course, Korea is permanently mortified by the denials of wartime atrocities by Japanese right-leaning politicians such as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and, well, all of them really.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to find a more odious bunch of war-crime apologists than Japan’s blinkered “conservatives,” but Korea’s knee-jerk reactions don’t do anything to resolve diplomatic tension or, indeed, practical issues such as compensation for Japan’s wartime sex slaves. And yes, you should be offended every time you hear them referred to as “Comfort Women.” Of course, Korea is not alone at being offended. In December, Kyodo News reported: “Japanese and South Korean lawmakers will cancel their annual meeting aimed at deepening bilateral ties this year following a controversial remark by a Korean lawmaker on Japan’s emperor.”
Japan objected to South Korea’s National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee Sang’s suggestion in February that it would be a nice idea if then-Emperor Akihito would apologize for the “sins” of his father, the sex slaves and any other thing that offended Korea in the previous 100 years or so.
Moon was 100 percent right to make his suggestion.
Those of us who have studied the guarded remarks of the Imperial family are convinced that the now Emperor Emeritus – he abdicated last year – would relish the chance.
In conversations with Korean Embassy officials in Japan, I have suggested many times that Japan’s Emperor should visit Korea. The government of Korea does not need to demand or even suggest that the Emperor Emeritus or the current Emperor, Naruhito, make an apology. That will happen simply because both emperors understand history and understand humanity.
Korea has to do one thing above all others: Get the current Emperor or the Emperor Emeritus to visit Korea.
The opportunity was missed in 2002 when it was suggested that Emperor Akihito visit Korea for the opening of the FIFA World Cup. With Akihito retired and a forward-thinking Naruhito in his place, now is as good a time for Korea to obtain an apology from someone who matters and who won’t withdraw it when political disputes arise.
Asking the government of Japan for an apology is a waste of time, partly because they are so easy to get and partly because they are absolutely meaningless. Wikipedia has a page titled, List of war apology statements issued by Japan, a sad indication of how facile they are.
The Emperor formerly known as Akihito has made a number of remarks that suggest he despises the likes of Abe, his right-wing ministers and the far right in Japan. Most astonishing of all was his declaration in 2001 when he said: “I, on my part, feel a certain kinship with Korea, given the fact that it is recorded in the Chronicles of Japan that the mother of Emperor Kammu was of the line of King Muryong of Paekche.”
In relation to Confucian and Buddhist teaching and cultural aspects, Akihito added: “I believe it was fortunate to see such culture and skills transmitted from Korea to Japan.”
You would think that would set off a genealogical and cultural bomb in Japan. But, of course, almost none of the media in Japan reported the remarks in detail.
Being offended by Japan’s refusal to acknowledge its war crimes is easy enough, but essentially futile. One alternative is just to ignore Japan and its haters. It would probably have as much effect. Many commentators in the West are frustrated by the ease with which Korea becomes offended, with the result that many think Korea is in the wrong to pursue claims against Japan when quite clearly it isn’t.
The hurt that Korea feels often results in damage to the relationship between the two countries at a human level. It’s quite shocking to see Korea cancel trips to Korea by Japanese schoolchildren, academics, etc., when this is the kind of interpersonal communication that can enlighten the Japanese and actually change people’s perspectives. Korea’s soft power – food, fashion, pop groups, TV, etc. – has had an extraordinarily positive effect on the way the people in Japan view Korea.
There is one wartime memory in the West that is inviolable and from which Korea can take a lesson: The Holocaust.
Let’s not equate the two. While Japan did carry out a form of ethnic cleansing, it was never as forensic as Germany and the Holocaust.
But who would deny the Holocaust?
In Europe, none but the most virulent of haters. And if they do, they face criminal prosecution. Most countries in Europe have laws making Holocaust denial a criminal offence.
So, my final suggestion to Korea is to take a leaf out of Europe’s book and make the denial of Japan’s wartime sexual slavery a criminal offence.
Ambassador Harris’s moustache may be no more – he recently shaved it off – but that won’t stop Koreans being offended by the memory of it.


Jan 20 2020

Japan’s brutal police state: 45 days in the hole for walking into a lobby

 

By Fred Varcoe

Prosecutors demanded that Australian Scott McIntyre be imprisoned for six months for walking into a lobby.

Much to their disgust, they had to be satisfied with torturing him for 45 days and giving him a suspended sentence. Because he walked into the lobby of the building where he believed his kidnapped children were being held. Two minutes of parental concern translated into 45 days of life on the chain gang.
Scott’s two children were born in Australia and spent the first half of their lives there. The family moved back to Japan, but Scott and his wife didn’t get along and she started divorce proceedings. The children were 10 and 7 at the time. In May 2019, Scott’s wife disappeared with the children after a visit to their in-laws who lived 100 meters down the street. He was unable to find them or see them. Child abduction is against the law in Japan and runs counter to a United Nations convention that Japan has signed. But in Japan, it’s a regular occurrence and one that rarely gets punished. And one the police don’t want to get involved … unless a foreign dad walks into a lobby.
After a couple of seriously violent typhoons, Scott wanted to make sure his kids were safe, so he went to his in-laws’ apartment building and gained access when a resident came out. He wasn’t able to find out anything about his kids and left the building after a couple of minutes. The police arrested him.
One. Month. Later.
Bad enough, you might think. But it gets much worse.
In a civilized country, the cops might have given Scott a warning. More likely, they wouldn’t have bothered. In fact, in a civilized country, the cops would have gone after the wife for abduction and the in-laws for conspiracy to kidnap children. Remember, the couple were still married and the wife had no right to abduct her children and prevent Scott from seeing them. What if she was a lunatic and child abuser? Apparently, that’s OK, just as long as she’s Japanese and doesn’t walk into a lobby. If you think having your children kidnapped is bad enough, then obviously you haven’t been arrested in Japan for walking into a lobby.
Scott McIntyre held a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan after his release. Reuters, the BBC and the Wall Street Journal showed up, but no Japanese media. Which was a shame because he had plenty to say.

The Ghosn treatment
‘I was subjected to the same treatment as Carlos Ghosn was with the use of 24-hour light, which is classified by both the United Nations and Amnesty International as a method of torture. On three separate occasions I asked to make a formal complaint that I was being tortured and I was told that nothing would be done and if I complained further, I would be placed in solitary confinement or a strait jacket. These are not the marks of a modern, civilized nation and also bring shame on the nation of Japan and should be immediately ended, not just for myself but for the 95 percent of detainees and prisoners who are Japanese and who also don’t have a voice in this issue.’
‘I did 45 days detention for a minute of just going into the lobby of my parents-in-law’s apartment to try and see if my children were safe after a natural disaster. I was handcuffed and put in a four-by-three tatami-mat cell. I shared a cell with several murderers, with a rapist, with a pedophile, with a violent armed robber, with various yakuza. This is unusual for someone on a trespassing charge to be put in these kinds of situations.’
‘This is the image that Japan is portraying to the world ahead of hosting the Olympics, that they’re allowing abductions of children to happen and what I believe and what Amnesty International believe is torture for people in detention. Their own people are being tortured in detention. You can understand why if I had $20 million and a private jet and a big drum case, I would be out to Lebanon as well, because why would you want to stay here and suffer under these conditions?’
‘I was not allowed to exercise daily and when I complained about that, I was threatened with isolation and with the strait jacket. In Kosuge, where Carlos Ghosn was held, we were not permitted to stand up in the cell, so you have to sit at a table. You were not allowed to lean against the wall. So that was 23 and a half hours a day of sitting on the floor. You could lie down for a two-hour nap period in the afternoon and you could lie down at night, but during the day you had to remain seated at the desk, and over the nine-day New Year period, there was no exercise. So, for nine days, it was either lying asleep or sitting on the floor either seizan style or with crossed legs on the tatami.’
‘I made three separate complaints about what I explained to them was torture and was not permitted under Amnesty International and U.N. regulations and, as I said before, I was told this is just my opinion that this is Japanese law and this is the way things are done in Japan and if I made any further complaints about it I was threatened with either being placed in an isolation cell or with a strait jacket. I complained about the use of 24-hour light. The lights remained on and it’s impossible to sleep. I haven’t slept properly since November. I was fortunate to only have 45 days. You can only sleep for maybe an hour at a time. What does that do to people mentally? It’s like the night of the Walking Dead. People are walking around like zombies. You can’t have clarity of thought.’
‘I met so many people, other detainees and prisoners, who openly said to me: ‘I didn’t do what they are accusing me of doing but I’ll confess because I’m told if I confess, I’ll get half the sentence. If I fight it, I’ll get 10 years. If I confess, I’ll get five years.’ As Carlos Ghosn mentioned in his press conference, Japan has a conviction rate of 99.4 percent. This is not normal. This is not normal in any country.’
‘Japan uses this as a way of showing how safe and how efficient their system is, but I know from my experience, because I was told directly by so many inmates, ‘We didn’t do what they said we did but we’re confessing just to get out and we were told by prosecutors if we confess we will get a substantially lower sentence.’ This I was told directly by multiple prisoners that I was being held with. During the interviews I had – I think it was three interviews with the police and three or four with the prosecutors – at not one of those interviews was a lawyer present at any point in time, which I think is also an accepted practice.’

The chain gang
Both inside and outside the detention center, things weren’t going well for Scott. ‘When you’re moved, you’re moved in handcuffs and you’re tethered with rope to other prisoners, anywhere up to a dozen other prisoners. This is unacceptable, but it’s certainly not acceptable for a father who is trying to ascertain if his children are alive or dead.’
Not content with messing up his life, the police were also complicit in messing up his apartment.
‘Three days after I was detained, I managed to pass the key to my apartment to a friend of mine. When she opened the door of the apartment, the apartment was completely trashed. There was rubbish and garbage all over the floor and multiple items had been removed from the house. She went back two days later and everything was gone. All of my children’s belongings were removed from the house, my children’s books, their desks, their chairs, their toys. All of their photographs were gone, boxes containing little memories of them were all gone, the vast majority of my property was gone. I’ve managed to borrow a suit from a friend and bought a T-shirt from UniQlo, but outside of this I have almost nothing. The fridge was taken, the washing machine was taken, the television was taken. Almost all of my property was taken from my apartment.’
‘I don’t know who came into my apartment but there’s only two people that had a key to that apartment, me and my wife, and there was no sign of forced entry. Someone came into my apartment three days after I was detained and I want to know how they knew I was detained. Who from the police is informing people that I was detained? I made a complaint immediately to the police that everything had been removed from my apartment and I want to make a complaint of theft. I was told they would do nothing. My children were taken, my children’s memories were taken and now everything has been taken from me.’

It’s a family affair
‘So, now this ordeal for me is over but it’s not over for the children. I have to start again. I have nothing. And this all for trying to find my children who were taken from me against my will. I was told we won’t do anything for you; this is a simple family matter and simple family dispute. So, if it’s a simple family matter and simple family dispute, why, when I go to the apartment of the parents-in-law who are family, why am I arrested? Why are they supporting one element of the family but they are not supporting the other element of the family? Things are not equal, things are not just and as you know, as with so many parents, we go to the police. I went with a copy of the law. ‘This is the law of Japan, you must investigate.’ They said, ‘Go away. We will not investigate. I went more than a dozen times. It’s not acceptable. The police are obliged to investigate.’
‘What I would like to see the police do is put in the amount of effort they put in to investigating a two-minute trespassing in which I didn’t talk to anybody, I didn’t touch anything, I didn’t damage anything. I went in to look if my children’s umbrellas or shoes were there and I immediately left. It was no more than one or two minutes. The amount of effort they put into that they could have put the same amount of effort and work into investigating the claims I’d made of kidnapping and abduction but which they refused. What I want them to do now is to investigate equally the theft and removal of all of my children’s and my property from my apartment. It’s now time for the police to show they treat everybody fairly and equally. If they are going to investigate trespassing, then I want them to investigate why 90 percent of the things from my house were removed.’
‘In many cases in my experience in Japan, children are viewed almost not as a human. In this case, they are almost viewed as a marital asset, as property to be removed and distributed. In Japan, as soon as divorce is finalized, one of the parents is removed from the family register. You’re obliterated. You’re not longer a parent. If the parent remarries, the new partner has the chance to officially become a father or mother of your children and you have no rights. It’s not normal in most countries and this is why we keep coming back to the same thing – just change the law to joint custody. We want the family court to move things quickly. It’s not good enough – nine months on average for someone to see their children. It’s not good enough for 70 percent of parents to never, ever, for the rest of their life, see their children. It’s an abuse. It’s a human rights abuse against children, 100,000 children a year, and in my opinion, it’s one of the biggest human rights abuses anywhere on the planet that 100,000 children are being denied basic fundamental human rights by multiple organs of the Japanese state.’

The dehumanizers

It should be completely embarrassing for Japan to have a Wikipedia page titled ‘International child abduction in Japan,’ and for there to be websites such as bachome.org and japanchildabduction.org dedicated to child kidnappings in Japan. Japan was horrified by the abduction of its citizens by North Korea, but it seems to have no qualms about its own citizens stealing children. The United States put Japan on a blacklist of countries showing non-compliance with the Hague Convention on parental abduction. It removed Japan from its blacklist in the same month that Scott McIntyre’s wife kidnapped his children, despite State Department concerns ‘about both the lack of effective mechanisms for the enforcement of Convention orders and the sizable number of pre-Convention abduction cases.’ The move was criticized by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, who stated: ‘It cannot be denied that the Japanese government has done little to help reunite those American children who have been separated from their left-behind parents.’

The police state of Japan fits right in with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s desire to relive the glories of its militarist past. The wartime and pre-war military ‘thought police,’ the Kempeitai, struck fear into the hearts of Japan’s ordinary men and women. The current judicial system, including its police and prosecutors, aims to do the same. It’s ironic that the West tried to dehumanize the Japanese for their savagery during the Pacific War, when in fact the Japanese – led by the Japanese state – are perfectly capable of dehumanizing themselves.


Jan 3 2020

Tokyo’s New Olympic Stadium, an Exciting New Definition of Dull

By Fred Varcoe

Tokyo has a new Olympic Stadium. The National Stadium has been officially opened after a long and painful saga that clouded Tokyo’s Olympic preparations as well as the Rugby World Cup.

After deciding on a brilliant, futuristic design by Zaha Hadid, Japan’s organizers were slow to realize that their showpiece stadium would be credited to a muslim woman based in England. In a country known for xenophobia and nationalist pomposity, it was a massive own goal.

Japan’s leading right-wing dimwit, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, stepped up to the plate and declared: “This is a proudly homogenous country and we’re not going to have any foreign tart messing up our capital city with some space-age monstrosity.”

OK, he didn’t exactly say that. He said: “We have decided to go back to the start on the Tokyo Olympics-Paralympics stadium plan and start over from zero. I have been listening to the voices of the people for about a month now, thinking about the possibility of a review. The construction cost had been greatly inflated and there were criticisms from the public including the athletes on the plan. This made me believe that we will not be able to host a Games that everyone in this country will celebrate.”

Mr. “Back to Zero IQ” Abe never listens to the people, unless those people are the right-wing nuts he has in his government. The claim was that the Hadid stadium, which was stunning in its concept, would prove to be too expensive, even though the design was within the budget considerations set out by the organizers.

“It is not the case that the recently reported cost increases are due to the design, which uses standard materials and techniques well within the capability of Japanese contractors and meets the budget set by the Japan Sports Council,” a statement from Hadid’s company said.

More to the point was the baying of Japan’s architects, who were all less young, less female, less muslim and less talented than Hadid.

“I’ve never felt so emotional about any kind of architecture up until now,” Tokyo-based architect Edward Suzuki told Reuters. “But it’s happening in my garden, in our garden … We just can’t let it happen. It’s a sin, it’s a crime. It’s so overpowering, it’s not a human scale. It’s going to replace all the trees that had once been there. It was a park. Now it’s just going to be a very man-made object that is not really beautiful to look at.”

One must assume that Suzuki is a blind architect. Or a liar. The myth that Hadid’s stadium would wipe out a “park” was a lie. There were a few trees around the old stadium, but they were planted in concrete. It was not a park.

Hadid’s proposed structure was spectacular, but also stunningly beautiful. Some said it was too high. Also rubbish. Who has complained about architectural monstrosities such as Roppongi Hills or Tokyo Midtown or the ugly 50-story communications tower at Japan’s Self-Defence Forces headquarters in the middle of the city. No one. Pritzker Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki organised a symposium for Japanese designers including Toyo Ito and Kengo Kuma to protest against the size of the design. A number of Japanese architects were among the 11 finalists in the competition to design the stadium.

“I think it’s embarrassing for them, that’s all I can say,” Hadid said. “I understand it’s their town. But they’re hypocrites. They don’t want a foreigner to build in Tokyo for a national stadium.”

So, Tokyo has a new National Stadium designed by one of the protesting architects, Kengo Kuma. It’s way bigger than the old stadium and admittedly looks a lot better than the 1964 design, but it’s a 20th century lump of concrete (Wait, don’t forget the wood!) that looks pathetic when compared with Hadid’s 21st century design.

Kuma said he did not think that the Japan Sport Council had decided against working with Hadid because she was a foreigner, but added that working in Japan as a non-Japanese might be ‘challenging.’

Almost as duplicitous as his prime minister, who at the opening ceremony in December stated: “We revised the project, and today, we have arrived at this moment to announce the completion of the National Stadium, which has the world’s utmost universal design and is in harmony with the surrounding environment.

“I believe that there have been difficult times leading up to the completion of the National Stadium, which will serve as the symbol for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. There was the alteration (of the design), but it was successfully completed with an ‘All-Japan’ effort.” The prime minister blended in well with the concrete and wood used for the new “All Japanese” stadium.

Hadid died before the new stadium was completed. Probably just as well. If she’d seen it, it would have killed her anyway.


Dec 28 2019

Isn’t It Time Japanese Golf Changed?

 

By Fred Varcoe

It happened again. I think it happens a lot. It shouldn’t be surprising, but it is.

About a year ago, I went to play Pacific Golf Management’s Chiba Kokusai Golf Club in Chiba Prefecture with my friend and regular golf buddy Don. Don had to leave by 13:30 in order to get to work on time. So we booked an early start time, around 7 a.m., figuring we could get through in less than six and a half hours. We also figured that as Chiba Kokusai has 45 holes, there wouldn’t be any great delays. We finished the first half at around 9:10 and, depressingly but not surprisingly, were told to take “lunch” and wait until 10:50 before we could play our second nine holes. Still, we figured we should be finished by 13:30. It shouldn’t take two hours and 40 minutes to play nine holes of golf on a 45-hole golf course.

It took an hour to play the first three holes, at which point we encountered a serious golf traffic jam. This sometimes happens at Par 3s but usually things clear up after that. That didn’t happen. If anything, the pace slowed. After finishing the seventh hole, it was nearly 13:30. “I’ve got to go,” Don said and he called the clubhouse to ask someone to pick him up along with his clubs. I figured I might as well get my money’s worth and finish the last two holes. But the man on the cart said “No!” I couldn’t continue as a solo player. Why? Who knows? There was no logical reason for denying me the last two holes. I was paying for 18 holes, I had a cart and I wasn’t holding any other players up. If I’d finished the last two holes, the second nine would have taken roughly three and a half hours. I thought that was scandalous and made my feelings felt with comments on the Golf Digest (GDO) website.

Amazingly, someone (from the golf club, I think) called me the next day to apologize. I suggested that, as Chiba Kokusai has three nine-hole courses plus a separate 18-hole course, they allow golfers to play through on the 18-hole course. I got some pro-forma apologies and nothing happened. Obviously, I haven’t been back to Chiba Kokusai again.

Fast forward to this year and Don and I are in the same situation. He has to finish by 13:30 to get to work, so we choose Moonlake Mobara (coincidentally and unfortunately another PGM course) as it’s close to home and has a 7:21 starting time. We finish the first nine by 9:10 and then, once again, are told to have “lunch” for an hour and 40 minutes. More traffic jams on the back nine but we finish at 13:30, so Don can get to work. That’s good, but why should a round of golf take six hours and why can’t we play through? Simple questions, but the answers aren’t simple.

The pointless lunch

Why do golf clubs in Japan – almost unique in the world – insist that you stop for lunch, even if “lunch” is at 9 o’clock in the morning? It’s part of a frustrating golf experience in Japan, which has a reputation for slow play, and an odd attitude to golf’s rules that edges toward stupidity at times.

A note on PGM’s parent company’s website gives the impression they want to change:

“In the future, while there is concern that players in their late 60s, who are the major golf players, will retire at a stretch, ‘one person reservation’ services such as increasing opportunities to visit golf courses are drawing attention. There is a movement to gain visitors. In addition, to make it easier for young people and women to participate, you can also find casual golf courses that can be enjoyed more casually, such as using nine holes instead of 18 holes per round, or shortening the time by through play.”

In other words: No halftime lunch. The compulsory stop for lunch is an obvious ploy to try and squeeze more money out of the golfer. Customers are prisoners of golf clubs. They can’t go anywhere, there aren’t any alternative eating establishments and they have nothing to do for an hour, so the clubs make them eat food, pay for the food and, hopefully, drink beer. In the past, this might have made some sense as a big lunch can cost quite a lot, especially if you include drinks and coffee. But this is now largely redundant. Most clubs now include lunch as a package, which means it’s not going to affect the cost of a round of golf. But it also means there is no reason to stop after nine holes as the golfer has to pay for lunch whether he eats it or not. And, of course, it doesn’t make any difference to the golf club if lunch is eaten after nine holes or 18 holes. If I start my round at 7:30 and it takes a “normal” four and a half hours to play 18 holes, I can then choose to go home at midday or eat lunch at lunchtime. More to the point, I won’t disrupt my rhythm on the course and my stomach won’t be weighed down with curry, rice and beer as I play my second nine.

One of the problems of the Japanese system is that it is so ingrained into the Japanese consciousness that golf clubs can’t even conceive of players playing through. On a number of occasions, I have almost had to force staff to allow us to play through. Once, after being told we couldn’t play through, we were waiting around and there was no one on the tee. Still, the reaction of the staff was NO. Eventually, they realised that there was a space on the schedule – which, of course, they hadn’t even checked – and reluctantly allowed us to go ahead and play half an hour earlier than our scheduled post-lunch tee time. Compare that to the club where I regularly play – Ichinomiya Country Club in Chiba Prefecture. The staff there – mainly old ladies – are just wonderful. They remember our names, they laugh and joke, they noticed when one player was absent for a long time (due to illness) and they know we always like to play through. The last time we played there, they said there was an opening after about 25 minutes. So, as usual, we sat down in the lobby for a quick drink. Moments later, one of the old ladies came rushing in looking for us and said they could squeeze us out if we could start immediately. This, Japan, is service. They always try to accommodate us and we know that if they can’t, it’s not for the lack of trying. Invariably, we start between 7:30 and 8 o’clock and finish by midday. Then we have lunch and everyone gets to work on time.

The irony of the Japanese system is that while the clubs might think they are earning more by forcing people to stop for lunch, they really aren’t. A golfer is far more likely to feel hungry at lunchtime rather than at 9 o’clock in the morning and is going to drink more beer after his round than during the round. But don’t try that now, especially if you start late. After finishing our round at Nouvel Golf Club in Chiba Prefecture, my friends and I went to the restaurant for some drinks and snacks. At 5:30, I went downstairs to take a shower. “No shower,” the manager said. “The bathroom is closed.” Ridiculous. That is not good service.

So, how does this compare with the West? Have Japanese golf clubs never heard of the 19th hole?

The 19th hole in the West is the bar/restaurant in the clubhouse, where people can drink and eat and chat and have a laugh. Many clubhouse bars and restaurants are open to the public and cater to groups, parties and even weddings. They are open all day and close late at night and are often a focal point in the local community. In effect, the catering side of the golf club is separate from the golf side but provides a greater service. OK, this isn’t going to work for many of Japan’s remote golf courses, but one of my local courses, Kimi-no-Mori, is on a housing estate that has very few catering outlets. An upmarket café/ restaurant has opened on the edge of the golf course and is doing terrific business but has no connection to the golf club. You would think that the golf club would have wanted to use its own extensive catering facilities for more than lunch. By doing so, it could play a greater role in the community and even attract more members. Ironically, a new restaurant has opened up around the corner from the clubhouse and is doing good business.

Slow, slow, slow

I was once playing golf in Los Angeles with a friend and I was keeping an eye on the group ahead of us. They’d started a hole or two in front of us but were getting slower and slower. I watched how they played, particularly on the greens. “They’re Japanese,” I said to my friend and when we caught them up, I was proved right.

Lunch aside, why are Japanese golfers so slow? Well, it’s not all their fault. At a recent USGA-JGA symposium in Tokyo, most of the American speakers explained how they were trying to make golf a better all-round experience and create more customer satisfaction. They outlined the changes they were making and the targets they were aiming at. Most of the Japanese speakers had nothing to say, no results to explain and no vision of the future. They seemed reluctant to take on board the ideas expressed or else they just didn’t understand them. To their credit, Kasumigaseki Golf Club – the host club for the 2020 Olympic golf tournament – explained how they had done a heat-image survey of golfers on their course to find out where players went, where they didn’t go and where players got held up. Areas that players seldom visited needed less turf and less maintenance, so saving the course money, while logjams could be analyzed and solutions sought to maintain pace of play. Holes could be redesigned to be either more difficult or less difficult to adjust the pace of play. This might involve shifting a tee box back or forward or adding/ removing bunkers. Another way of improving pace of play was to lengthen the separation of tee times. The USGA reported that the biggest annoyance that golfers had on a golf course was being held up by other golfers.

The ritual of the green

Japanese golfers are so slow in putting, it’s painful to watch. In a casual round, me and my friends concede putts of around 50 cm or less. We just pick up the ball. Of course, in a competition you’re not going to do that, but in a friendly round, putting out is not really necessary, especially if there are people behind you. But the Japanese not only insist on putting out, they become obsessed with the ritual of the green.

They LOVE marking their ball, cleaning their ball, lining up a line on their ball and using their putters as a plumb line. And they love doing this on EVERY putt. Even if the putt is 20 cm. It wastes an inordinate amount of time and is largely unnecessary. I would guess that you don’t actually need to clean your ball more than 50% of the time. If the course is dry, dirt won’t stick to the ball. Japanese golfers think this is imperative, especially if you have a caddie to do it for you. There’s nothing quite like being a feudal master instructing your servants to do your bidding. This wastes time.

And the line on the ball? It’s there to help you square your club to the ball, but really I think it’s an illusion. It makes little or no difference to your putt unless you can line everything up perfectly, which most players can’t. And if you can, you probably don’t need a line on your ball. Yes, professionals do it, but they probably don’t need it either. The slightest deviance from your line’s alignment or the face of your putter renders the line useless. Even worse, it locks you into a shot when you need to retain some flexibility. When you address the ball from an upright position, the target will look different again. You might have to readjust. Not only will the line on your ball not help you, it will distract you from the target and the target is what you should be focused on. Mygolfspy.com did a comparison of putts of balls with a line and without a line and found that at 5 feet, there was a marginal advantage. But at longer distances (10 feet and 20 feet) the line on the ball was disadvantageous. The margin wasn’t huge, which seems to confirm that having a line makes no difference, so spending unnecessary time marking your ball and then annoying other golfers as you mistakenly align your line with your imagined route to the pin is just posing. Don’t waste my time!

Hurry up!

A recent marketing ploy by golf equipment manufacturers is the mini-bag, sometimes called a greenside bag. This is a little bag you can put your putter and wedges in and is another complete waste of time. My short-game set consists of my putter, 8-iron and three wedges. That’s all I’ll ever need and I can fit them in my hand quite easily. I don’t need to put them in another bag, unhook that and carry it to my ball. It’s another time-waster.

As is waiting for other people to play their shots after you’ve finished. It’s traditional for the player who is furthest away from the hole to go first, but this is not a strict rule. The actual rules state the following (bold emphasis is mine):

“A round of golf is meant to be played at a prompt pace.

Each player should recognize that his or her pace of play is likely to affect how long it will take other players to play their rounds, including both those in the player’s own group and those in following groups.

Players are encouraged to allow faster groups to play through.

(1) Pace of Play Recommendations. The player should play at a prompt pace throughout the round, including the time taken to:

Prepare for and make each stroke,
Move from one place to another between strokes, and
Move to the next teeing area after completing a hole.
A player should prepare in advance for the next stroke and be ready to play when it is his or her turn.

When it is the player’s turn to play:

It is recommended that the player make the stroke in no more than 40 seconds after he or she is (or should be) able to play without interference or distraction, and
The player should usually be able to play more quickly than that and is encouraged to do so.
(2) Playing Out of Turn to Help Pace of Play. Depending on the form of play, there are times when players may play out of turn to help the pace of play:

In match play, the players may agree that one of them will play out of turn to save time (see Rule 6.4a).
In stroke play, players may play “ready golf” in a safe and responsible way (see Rule 6.4b Exception).”

In other words, get on with the game.

But one sentence stands out from the above-quoted rules: “Players are encouraged to allow faster groups to play through.” This almost never happens in Japan for two simple reasons:

1. It’s barely a concept that’s thought about in Japan.
2. Fixed cart paths.

When I talked with Lauren Johnson, who gave a speech on pace of play at the USGA-JGA symposium, she wasn’t aware that the biggest obstacle to pace of play in Japan is that golf carts are invariably on a fixed path, making it impossible for one group to give way to another, faster group. Some courses do have free-roaming carts but they are expected to stay on the cart paths just like fixed carts. However, it is possible to play through and very, very rarely that happens. The old rules actually stated that two-ball groups had precedence over all other groups. In other words, you had to give way to a two-ball group. Now the rule is simpler, if the group behind you is faster, you should give way.

This almost never happens in Japan. But it’s not only other players who are to blame; the golf clubs and online booking services are also to blame. It’s very, very annoying when you book an early tee time for you and your friend only to find there’s one group ahead of you and it’s a foursome of old people who stick to their old traditions and think they’re playing by the rules. When you made your booking, there was no way of knowing who or how many people would be in front of you because online booking systems in Japan allow you to book two to four people on either the out course or the in course. Surely, there’s a more rational way of doing this. Wouldn’t it be better if all the foursomes were routed to one nine and all the twosomes to the other nine. Threesomes could go either way, hopefully ensuring that neither nine is overbooked. This would make it far more likely that the groups on one nine would progress at the same pace.

And then there’s the groups who want to play through. As I have stated above, clubs such as Ichinomiya will go out of their way to help groups play through, while others just don’t care or can’t be bothered. Why? Why? Why?

 

There really aren’t many reasons why playing through shouldn’t be an option at every golf course. The prime reason why golf clubs THINK they can’t accommodate golfers who want to play through is that they think it will be difficult. The real reason why I have to have nearly a two-hour lunch at 9 a.m. is because the tee times between 9 and 10:30 have already been allocated. Those starting early have to wait until all other groups that have booked have gone out. But the answer is very, very simple.

If a group that starts at 7 a.m. makes a booking with an option to play through, then the golf club eliminates a tee time at, say, 9:10 or 9:20 to allow that group to go through. They can add tee times after 10:30 to accommodate those who want to play a little later and still have the same number of groups each day finishing at the same time. There might be a need for all parties to be a little flexible, but players often have to wait anyway and traffic jams can cause heavy delays. Overall it would give players a more satisfying golf experience. Japanese golf clubs are wrong if they think that Japanese players don’t want to play through. It would also make sense for golf clubs to offer both earlier and later starting times to allow more groups on the course, especially at weekends. I once called a golf club from Narita airport asking for a tee time at 11 a.m. “We can’t do that,” came the reply. There were no starting times after 10:30. If the sun sets at 7 p.m., there should at least be starting times until 2 p.m. It’s very frustrating to drive past golf courses at 5 in the afternoon and see nobody playing, the flags removed and the course getting ready to shut up shop.

The last resort

Finally, there’s my experience at Kanucha Resort in Okinawa. I went there as a journalist and promised to publish my article on golf websites, a good opportunity for publicity for the resort. They came back with an offer: You can play six holes! If you think that sounds ridiculous, their next statement was even more absurd: “You can’t play on your own.” This is ridiculous in itself, but it is compounded by the fact that we’re talking about a resort golf course. So, a player could travel halfway around the world to experience an Okinawan golf course, he could take his clubs and his gear and then be told he can’t play because he’s on his own? At a resort course with almost no players on it? This is pure idiocy and symbolic of Japan’s resistance to change. In the West, a solo player expects to be teamed up with one, two or three other players, especially at a resort course or busy course. It’s nice to see there’s been a little headway on accommodating solo golfers in Japan, but so far the progress is slow.

And that is Japan: Progress is slow. When I worked at The Japan Times, my Japanese boss once refused to use an idea I had. I asked him why and he replied: “Because it’s never been done before.” Golf courses in Japan, which in general are a joy to play on, are facing a major crisis in the years to come as the population declines and the economy falters. If they’re not going to do stuff that hasn’t been done before, many of them are doomed.


Nov 6 2015

Victoria’s Video Debut


Jun 20 2015

The Battle of Okinawa (excerpt)

Most Leathernecks viewed Okinawans merely as more “Japs,” who might look and act somewhat differently from those the Marines had previously encountered but who were still subject to suspicion and definitely not to be trusted. “All they know about Americans is what they get from Tokyo propaganda,” the handouts warned, “so you can expect them to look at you as though you were a combination of Dracula and the Sad Sack— at first, anyway.” What Tokyo was telling the Okinawans , and what was being reinforced by a large majority of the Japanese soldiers Tokyo had sent to their island, was that the Americans were devils, in the most literal and loathsome sense of the term. They were devils whose sole desire was to kill Okinawans in the most brutal , merciless ways possible. They would shoot Okinawan men on sight, but instead of a quick kill , they preferred to leave their victims writhing in agony for as long as possible. They would rape and torture Okinawan women and butcher their children before their eyes . At times, they would pretend to be friendly, but the gifts of candy or other food they offered were always laced with poison.
To emphasize these points, some Japanese soldiers supplied the Okinawans with grenades so that they could blow up themselves and their children before the American devils could subject them to their unquenchable bloodlust. But when U.S. troops began finding grenades hidden on civilians, their first assumption was that the explosive charges were intended to hurt or kill Americans, rather than as instruments of self-destruction. Hence, every confrontation between traumatized natives and wary invaders held the potential for violent tragedy. It may have been somewhat worse in the early going, but what no American could anticipate was the depth, intensity— and obsessive power— of many Okinawans’ fear. It seemed to have a life of its own.
By their very nature, the Okinawans were a peaceful, nonaggressive people, who hadn’t seen armed conflict on their soilin more than 300 years. Then the Americans had come, first to rain fire bombs and high-explosive shells on their cities and towns and later to storm ashore by the tens of thousands, sweeping across the countryside, brandishing their awesome weapons and , it seemed, searching for Okinawans to brutalize and murder.
“The most pitiful things about the Okinawan civilians,” said PFC Gene Sledge of K/ 3/ 5, “were that they were totally bewildered by the shock of our invasion, and they were scared to death of us. Countless times they passed us on the way to the rear with fear, dismay, and confusion on their faces.”
Author George Feifer cites the case of eleven-year-old Shigeko Sonan, eldest daughter of a family in Gushikawa, a village seven miles east of the landing beaches, near the east (Pacific) coast. Although ordered by the Japanese to evacuate before the landing, the family had elected to stay, and Shigeko, her three younger sisters, and their pregnant mother were terrorized by the preinvasion bombs and shells, some of which landed in their village. In school, Shigeko had been taught all about “subhuman Americans who drowned deformed infants and killed healthy but unwanted babies by bashing their heads against a wall,” wrote Feifer in his book, Tennozan: The Battle of Okinawa and the Atomic Bomb. “She knew about their racist yearning to destroy and depopulate Divine Japan, except for the few attractive women they planned to keep for their insatiable animal lust.” Not surprisingly, Shigeko was petrified with fear when the invaders began marching toward Gushikawa. When an American plane flew overhead, she believed it was shooting directly at her as she took cover. After the girl’s father made his way home from working as an enforced laborer for the Japanese, the family decided to flee with as much food as they could carry and try to reach the northern village where they’d been assigned. But a bombed-out bridge forced them to leave their provisions behind, and they struggled on by foot, traveling only at night.
The family came close to starvation , but when Shigeko and the other children accepted chocolate and K-rations from the Americans, their parents threw the food away, fearing it was poisoned. Eventually , the children’s hunger won out, and they ate some of the food, anyway. Otherwise, they subsisted on boiled grass, tree bark, edible palms, and discarded half-rotten sweet potatoes. As the family fled from one end of the island to the other, some of the huts where they hid were burned by advancing U.S. troops, and Shigeko witnessed the rape of a young woman by two American soldiers. At the scene of a fierce battle, they came upon dozens of blown-apart Japanese corpses. Too weak from hunger to dig deep enough to bury the bodies completely, they collapsed from exhaustion among the corpses, stuffing leaves in their noses in an effort to block out the smell. The family’s plight continued for more than three months and might have lasted longer if Shigeko’s mother hadn’t given birth while seriously ill with malaria. The children were walking skeletons, and, because of her illness, Shigeko’s mother had no milk for the baby. Faced with all this, the girl’s father finally brought his family down from the mountains and surrendered to the Americans. Within a few hours, they were in a detention camp, where they were fed and sprayed with DDT, but the ordeal had been too much for Shigeko’s four-year-old sister , who died a few days later of illness and malnutrition. Surviving family members weren’t allowed to return to their village for ten months after the fighting ended, and when they got there, all their possessions were gone. Despite this, the Sonans were luckier than most Okinawan families. Only one family member had succumbed to their ordeal; none had met violent death at the hands of the American devils , and none had committed suicide.
Corporal Don Dencker of the 96th Infantry Division’s 382nd Regiment, Second Battalion, had paused in the drive east across the island when he confronted his first civilians. As Dencker and his buddy, PFC Ernie Zimmer, were setting up their mortar and dining on K-rations, they noticed an Okinawan woman come out of a cave on a nearby hill. She glanced down at the two GIs for a moment, then quickly ducked back inside. Dencker hadn’t seen even one Japanese soldier, either dead or alive, since coming ashore, but he decided the cave warranted investigation. With Zimmer covering him, he drew his .45 and approached to within about fifty feet of the entrance. “De-tay-ko-ee!” Dencker yelled. The strange-sounding phrase meant “come out” in Japanese and was among three or four potentially useful expressions included in the GIs’ preinvasion orientation. Dencker waited. When nothing happened, he eased closer to the cave and yelled again: “De-tay-ko-ee!” This time , seven figures slowly emerged— three women, two children, and two old men— and stood staring at Dencker in obvious terror. When he motioned them forward, they took a few halting steps toward him, then stopped. The women sobbed and whispered nervously to each other. “Move! Move!” Dencker shouted, advancing to within a few feet of the group and pointing to the path that led down the hillside. The Okinawans still stood there immobilized by fright until one old man stepped forward . He pointed to the pistol in Dencker’s hand, then to his own head, repeating the gesture several times until its meaning became distressingly clear: He was asking— actually pleading— for Dencker to shoot him in the head. Dencker refused, of course, and after several more minutes, he managed to coax the group down from the hill and into the company’s defensive perimeter. When two MPs showed up a short time later and led the civilians away to one of the detention centers hurriedly being set up in rear areas , Dencker felt a surge of relief. For the time being, he thought , the war was over for these Okinawans, and they’d been spared— in part, at least, from themselves and their own anguished fears. But as Dencker and his comrades would later see with their own eyes, thousands of other innocent noncombatants would be denied this little group’s good fortune. Within the next few days, they would come across the bodies of dozens of civilians who had died of self-inflicted wounds.
CORPORAL DAN LAWLER of K/ 3/ 5’ s machine-gun section had never seen kids refuse to eat candy— not until now. But the little Okinawan boy, who looked about seven years old and had ventured out of a cave with his younger sister, was adamant about it. When Lawler held out a K-ration chocolate bar to the boy, he shook his head so hard that Lawler was afraid it would fall off his skinny shoulders. “They were the cutest damn kids you ever saw,” Lawler recalled more than sixty years later. “Neither one of them appeared to be injured, but they were both so scared they were shaking, and their clothes were streaked with dried blood.” Lawler continued to hold the chocolate bar out toward them, smiling and awkwardly repeating a phrase that he thought meant, “Don’t be afraid. Come on out, and we’ll give you some food.” The boy shook his head again, his eyes wide with fright. “The kid thinks the candy’s poisoned,” said Lawler’s assistant gunner. “The Japs’ve told these people if they ask us for anything we’ll kill ’em. Maybe if you took a bite of the candy yourself, the kid might change his mind.” Lawler shrugged and bit off a corner of the bar. He chewed it up and swallowed it, then licked his lips. “See, it’s good,” he coaxed. “Come on, try it.” The boy took a couple of steps forward with his sister peeking out from behind him, then he hesitated and shrank back. Lawler broke the other corner off the bar and ate it, too, with elaborate expressions of enjoyment . “Umm, that’s really delicious! You’d better come on and get it before I eat it all.” The kids couldn’t stand it any longer. The boy sidled up to Lawler, took what was left of the bar, broke off a piece for his sister, then gobbled down the rest. He managed a small smile as he turned and shouted something toward the cave. Then a whole group of Okinawans crept out into the daylight, smiling, bowing, and moving in slow motion with their eyes glued to Lawler and the other Marines. There were eight of them in all—two other children, two women, and two ancient, virtually toothless men. “We gave them all some candy,” Lawler recalled, “but they still refused to touch it unless one of us ate some of it first. You could tell they didn’t trust us as far as they could throw us.”
As Ushijima’s army deteriorated into small groups, desperate soldiers sought any means to elude advancing U.S. forces. Many attempted to slip past American lines by posing as civilians and mingling with women and children. “Near Itoman, we set up trip wires across the road that would set off flares if anybody hit one of them,” recalled Lieutenant Colonel Spencer Berger, commanding the Second Battalion, Seventh Marines. “That night, a mass of people— about 150 of them— came along and set off our flares. Many of them appeared to be women in kimonos, but then our guys noticed that some of them were also wearing boots.” Berger hesitated only a few seconds before ordering his troops to open fire. Almost every member of the group was killed —including more than forty kimono-clad Japanese soldiers.
Between June 1 and June 23, when the battle for Okinawa would officially end, American land and naval artillery eclipsed their earlier bombardments by pouring nearly 7 million rounds into the compressed southern area where the refugees crowded among the remnants of Ushijima’s army. Dead and dying civilians littered the roads and roadsides as dazed orphans and maimed adults dragged past, some crawling on hands and knees, with no concept of where they were going. To Tokuyu Higashionna, an Okinawan schoolteacher who crossed the area while trying to reach the town of Kyan on the southern coast, the scenes of mothers carrying dead children and living children lying on the corpses of dead mothers defied description. It was, he said, “Utter horror… dead everywhere … everywhere!…literally hell.” Every tragedy seems to have its elements of irony. The irony of this one was that, if the Okinawans had only done as they were instructed by either the Japanese or the Americans, the vast majority of civilian deaths could have been avoided. The Chinen Peninsula, which juts into the Pacific Ocean about four miles southeast of the town of Yonabaru, and where the civilians had been ordered to go by the 32nd Army, was almost totally untouched by the fighting. Likewise, if the noncombatants had assembled on the west coast highway and avoided Japanese troops, as the American leaflets urged , they also would have found safe haven, along with sufficient food and water, in the detention camps. As it was, however, close to 15,000 civilians are believed to have died during the retreat from Shuri alone— about the same toll suffered by Japanese troops— and those who survived then found themselves in a grinding trap between the armies from which there was no escape.
Evidence suggests that extremely few Okinawan civilians were actually “gung-ho” enough to stage deliberate attacks against Marines or GIs. But the thousands who leaped to their deaths from high cliffs, slashed their children’s throats, or blew themselves to bits with Japanese-provided hand grenades to avoid American brutality are ample proof that the Americans’ distrust was returned a hundredfold. Some sources contend, however, that the majority of Okinawans didn’t commit suicide but became victims of disease, starvation, Japanese atrocities, and indiscriminate American bombing and shelling. “[ T] he greater number of civilians slaughtered on Okinawa… more often died in days or weeks rather than minutes,” wrote historian George Feifer, “with that much more time to witness the agony of their families.” Meanwhile, some of the same Japanese soldiers in whom the Okinawans had placed infinite trust became the natives’ worst enemies. As the soldiers grew more desperate for food, water, and temporarily safe shelter, they systematically slaughtered men, women, and children who got in their way. Numerous eyewitness accounts tell of Japanese soldiers murdering crying children in cold blood for fear their cries would attract Americans to the soldiers’ hiding places. Military deaths on both sides of the battle totaled just under 120,000— at least 20,000 fewer than the number of noncombatants who died during the same period, according to official estimates. Virtually every Okinawan lost family members to the battle . About one of every three civilians living on the island in the spring of 1945 was killed. As the Japanese 32nd Army was collapsing and during the final mop-up by American forces, approximately 80,000 Okinawan civilians surrendered to GIs and Marines. Up to half of these were wounded, and many might well have died without the food, medical care, and other assistance they received at U.S . refugee centers.
Sloan, Bill (2007-10-23). The Ultimate Battle: Okinawa 1945–The Last Epic Struggle of World War II (pp. 310-311). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.


Sep 18 2014

I’m fine with YES or NO

scotnation11

 

By FRED VARCOE

Congratulations, Scotland, you’ve got a referendum. As a resident of Monmouthshire, nobody ever asked me if I wanted to live in Wales. Where was my fucking referendum when Monmouthshire was moved from England to Wales in 1974? There wasn’t one. The best I could do after that was to vote Plaid Cymru in the hope that Wales would just fuck off and leave the rest of England alone.
I’m English, but possibly up to a quarter Scottish (Douglass and Brown if you’re tribally inclined), so where should I stand on the Scottish referendum?
I’m English, so why should I give a fuck? In truth, if Scotland’s getting a referendum on independence, England, Wales and Northern Ireland should be getting the same choice. Would I like to be independent of Wales? Fuck, yes. Scotland? Don’t have a strong opinion about that, but it wouldn’t worry me.
So what should the Scots do?
Well, they have to think about the currency, security, the EU, oil, their health system, the national debt….but, wait a minute…..
NO THEY FUCKING DON’T!
They have to ask themselves:

1. Do I feel primarily Scottish or British?
2. Would I rather live as a Scot under a Scottish government or as a Scot under the cunts who make up the British government?

YES or NO?

Scottish NO voters (why the fuck do foreigners in Scotland get a vote?) will, I believe, vote NO on the basis of security. They think things will be more secure, safer, more economically sound under a British government.

They can never go back to a union again. FALSE
They can’t use the pound. FALSE.
They’ll be shut out of the EU. FALSE.
The oil fields are in English waters. FALSE.
Banks will desert Scotland. FALSE.
You won’t have a queen any more. FALSE.

While Alex Smugbastard may not be the poster boy I’d want for my country, I think I’d vote for him rather than the scaremongering and lying fuckheads in Westminster: David Camerloon, Corporal Clott and Ed Moribund. These people deserve to die horrible political deaths. They’ve already thrown away Britain’s sovereignty to the even bigger cunts of the EU, so why are they bleating about a country that wants self-determination? Is Scotland Palestine in disguise?

Can separation work? Well if can work for the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Sudan and South Sudan and the countries that used to belong to Yugoslavia, why the fuck can’t it work between two brotherly countries of the United Kingdom? And most of those countries above were separated violently; this is being done by a referendum. It’s about what people want, not what they’ve been forced into.

So the Scots are free to make a free choice. Good luck to them is what I say. If they vote to stay within the United Kingdom, I’ll be fine with that; if they vote to go their own way, I’ll be happy for them and, as a brother Englishman and part Scot, I’LL TRY TO HELP THEM, NOT TRY TO FUCK THEM UP.

The referendum’s a good thing.

Now bring on the fucking EU referendum. NOW!


Sep 9 2014

Blunders cost Japan as they draw with Venezuela

osako

Yuya Osako was taken off at halftime.

 

YOKOHAMA, Japan, September 9, 2014 – Defensive mistakes spoiled Javier Aguirre’s second game in charge of Japan as his team twice let leads slip away in a 2-2 draw with Venezuela at Nissan Stadium in Yokohama.

After their 2-0 defeat to Uruguay in Sapporo on Friday, Japan started off brightly enough with Keisuke Honda firing just over the bar after 12 seconds. But it was a bit of a false dawn as the first half descended into a scrappy contest.

Venezuela’s Rosales forced Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima into a good save after 11 minutes, while Mario Rondon’s volley went wide in the 24th minute.

Kawashima was again called into action to save from a decent effort by Rondon on the half-hour mark after some some poor play by Hosogai let the Venezuelans in.

Venezuela continued to carve out chances but luckily for Japan the next three went off target.

Japan sparked only occasionally but a nice move in the 38th minute forced a save out of the Venezuela keeper Herndandez.

Aguirre realised changes were necessary at the break and took off the lightweight pair of Yoichiro Kakitani and Yuya Osaka in favour of Shinji Okazaki and Yoshinori Muto.

The change paid off quickly for Japan.

Six minutes into the second half, Muto seized on a poor clearance from Venezuela, sprinted forward 30 meters and rifled in a left-foot shot from just outside the box.

Things were looking up and Maya Yoshida showed his confidence with a superb covering tackle in the 54th minute on Mario Rondon.

But three minutes later his fellow defender Hiroki Mizumoto let him down. The Japanese defender allowed Guerra to rob him of the ball in the middle of the park and after a chase into the box, brought him down.

Rondon stroked the penalty down the middle to make the score 1-1.

Suddenly, the game was livelier. Honda was able to be more involved than the first half when there was no pattern to Japan’s attacking play, Muto was looking confident and Yuto Nagatomo started to make more runs down the left in conjunction with Okazaki.

And it was Okazaki who turned it on for Japan’s second goal in the 67th minute. He sped down the left and put in a hopeful ball to the center where Gaku Shibasaki was on hand to sweep the ball home with a nicely controlled downward shot from 10 meters.

After Vizcarrondo brought down Muto just outside the box, Honda had a chance to put the poor free-kicks from Friday’s game against Uruguay behind him and he did well but saw his shot rebound off the inside of the post.

That was to prove costly when Cichero unleashed a speculative shot at the Japan goal in the 71st minute. Kawashima had it covered all the way but let it slip through his gloves to make the score 2-2.

Kawashima made up for that with a neat save from a Rosales long shot in the 84th minute, but Japan couldn’t pull another goal back and Aguire will have to wait another month for his first win.