Thursday, April 10, 2008

Still More "Yasukuni" Controversy...

Yes, controversy surrounding the documentary film, which has yet to be seen in public in Japan, continues. The following article appears in Japan Today today.

"Yasukuni" director slams lawmaker for intervention after swordsmith wants his scenes deleted

Link to story at Japan Times:

Japan Focus has an article with an introduction by David McNeill giving some background and context of the Yasukuni controversy, follwed by an interview of the film's director, Li Ying, by John Junkerman.

Freedom Next Time. Japanese Neonationalists Seek to Silence Yasukuni Film

Link to article at Japan Focus:

Politically, of course, the Yasukuni controversy, along with other current events, illustrates serious problems in Japanese society. From the McNeill introduction:

“My sense is that we have entered a very dangerous period for freedom of expression and press freedom in this country,” says Tajima Yasuhiko, a professor of journalism in Tokyo’s Sophia University. “That is the background to these cases. The idea that people are entitled to express different opinions and views is withering. That should be common sense, whether one is on the left or the right.”

There is also a recent article in Japan Today by Tetsuro Koyama about Haruki Murakami and his ideas and experiences with the writing of his non-fiction book, Underground. Underground deals with the Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway in 1995.

"Why did those people (members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult who carried out the attack) go over to that side? We should fully probe that. It’s not good to put an end to it by simply sentencing them to die."

Murakami was frequently in courtrooms to hear the Aum trials and saw Aum members who had merely obeyed cult leader Shoko Asahara’s order to spray sarin. Through this experience, he "seriously thought about" World War II, he said. "During the war, no one could say ‘No’ to senior officers’ orders to kill prisoners of war. The Japanese did such things in the war. I think the Japanese have yet to undertake soul-searching."

Murakami discusses the importance of story telling in the area of such soul searching. Li Ying would probably agree with this idea as he sees his film as a story whose aim is to explore the events and ideas surrounding Yasukuni Shrine as a symbol of Japanese culture.

Link to "Murakami sees storytelling as global common language" at Japan Today:

From a visual anthropological perspective, this latest Yasukuni controversy brings up interesting ethical questions. I assume that the filmmaker had the sword maker sign a consent form. But now what if the sword maker does not want to appear in the film? Can he change his mind? Should Li Ying remove those scenes featuring the sword maker? What is the filmmaker's responsibility to the subjects featured in his film? Ethically anthropologists are supposed to protect those who help us in our research. Some might suggest that Li Ying should have anticipated that the film would make life difficult for the sword maker. Li Ying is not an anthropologist, of course, but should he have similar responsibilities?

There are no easy answers. How do we balance freedom of speech/freedom of expression with protecting real human beings?


An article in the Mainichi Daily News provides a different perspective about the sword maker's objection to the film.

Link to Sword maker asks his scenes to be deleted...

It would certainly be more problematic is Li lied to the sword maker about the nature of the film and broke his promise about editing a new version.

Yasukuni keeps getting messier and messier...

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