Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Lost Village at Terminal Island

When one thinks of San Pedro or Terminal Island, most people are unaware that there once lived a thriving Japanese fishing village there. Unique in fact, the Islanders had their own accent. But sadly, the peaceful village that had been settled by people of Wakayama Prefecture.  The population numbered around 3000 Nisei, Sansei, and some original Isei was forcibly evacuated February 1942 following the outbreak of war with Japan. None of it's original structures remain most notably it's small Shinto Shrine. In honoring the ten year anniversary of the erection of the Terminal Island Memorial featuring two Japanese Fishermen at work in the shadow of a Shinto Tori Gate, we at American Mishima chose to feature some recently re-discovered photos of the last days of the Shrine and attach the following video that speaks of both the Village and the Documentary Furusato: The Lost Village of Terminal Island.

And next comes the two sad photos no Shinto Guji or Practitioner would ever want to endure.
Though lost to the cruelties of history, not forgotten in our hearts.

Monday, January 28, 2013

一日の画像 - Picture of the Day

It was 27 years ago today that Lt.Col. Ellison Shoji Onizuka lost his live aboard Space Shuttle Challenger flight STS-51-L. This memorial plaque sits today in Weller Court in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles California. 

Though his life lost, his memory is not.
God Speed Onizukasama!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Is Baby Kim Serious or Just Looking for Trouble?

The Korean Peninsula's favorite moon-faced assassin of joy baby Kim Jong Un is at it again talking smack and threatening the United States with Nuclear War. Yes, that's right. The half starved malnourished militarized hermit kingdom whose portly leader won't properly feed his own people has once again misprioritized what few scarce resources the tiny isolated nation has to create weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems to wag at the United States it's so-called “Sworn Enemy of the North Korean People.” It was reported last night on CNN that North Korea threatens to deliberately provoke a confrontation with the United States by conducting a nuclear test firing a long range rocket capable of reaching the continental United States at the US mainland. I would love to say I'm shaking in my boots but the fact of the matter nuclear war is nothing to joke about. Just ask any surviving Pacific Islander or Japanese fisherman who happened to be down wind of an open air nuclear test during the 1950's. It's deplorable if not downright repugnant for this novice dictator to be making such threats to an already tense region. One has to ask if he is crazy or just trying to be a tough guy in front of a captive gun pointed audience? Normally this would be laughable right out of an Austin Powers sketch minus a Mini-me if it weren't for the fact this pudgy North Korean dictator didn't actually have nuclear weapons. Seriously! How does this help his people? It doesn't. And why stir up trouble? There are much easier ways to get attention but belligerence should not be one of them. In our opinion, this is most likely just talk to make the “Dear Leader” look like he's leading his country into some glorious 1950's styled Communist Propaganda Fantasy Film. We'll say good luck with that Baby Kim. American Mishima laughs at you.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Real Officer and a Movie Part IV - The Admiral

American Mishima has been proud to continue this series based on the Military Channel's An Officer and a Movie to bring you the films and profiles of Real Japanese Officers and the Movies that featured them. In continuation with this series we are happy to present to you what we believe is the most important film that has ever come out of Japan – the Big Budget 2011 Toei Company's “The Admiral” - A film that not only tells the untold truth behind the Pacific War but of the man who opposed it who was ultimately forced to conduct it with absolutely no hope of winning.
In America, the great Pacific War of WWII is simply summed up with 'The Japs bombed Pearl Harbor then we bombed Hiroshima – enough said.” This pervasive attitude is not only an oversimplification but demonstrates a total ignorance of what took place during this war and how little Americans know of the Japanese who our country was fighting or why this war even took place in the first place. With the brief notable exception of 2001 Michael Bay film Pearl Harbor no such film has ever tried to adequately explain why Japan went to war with the United States or who fought on Japan's side. 2011's Toei Company The Admiral does just that.

So who is this enigmatic Admiral? Yamamoto Isoroku! When one thinks of Admiral Yamamoto, the best image that comes to mind comes from the final scene in 1971's Tora Tora Tora where Yamamoto played by Sō Yamamura declares “We have only wakened a sleeping giant.” For most that is their only impression of this great man. But who was he really? Yamamoto Isoroku was born of Samurai lineage in 1884 in Nagaoka, a village that fought for the Shogunate during the Boshin War. He was a graduate of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy in 1904 and would go on to serve aboard the cruiser Nisshin during the Japan-Russo War where he would lose his middle and index fingers on his left hand as the Nisshin hit the Russian battle line. After the war he returned to the Naval Staff College in 1914 and made Lieutenant Commander by 1916 about the time he met his wife Reiko Mihashi who would bear him two sons and two daughters. 
From almost the outset of the 1920's Yamamoto Isoroku had become a well known fixture in the Naval establishment who supported gunboat diplomacy through a strong Navy. This of course made him many enemies within the Army which in the film depicts many of the rivalries going back to unsettled grudges from the Boshin War. Unlike many of the wartime leaders, Yamamoto Isoroku had the fortune to study at Harvard (1919-1921) and have two postings as Naval Attache in Washington DC. He became very fluent in English and understood America well. He became a strong advocate for Naval Aviation for like his disgraced American contemporary Billy Mitchel believed the age of the Battleship was over. Being such a proponent made him the target of many assassination attempts which became public after he opposed Japan's proposed signing of the Tripartite Pact with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. He believed this did not serve Japan's better interests and he was right. But we'll get into that later as we talk more about the movie.
You see, unlike his rivals in the Army who pushed for war with America, he opposed it. Yamamoto Isoroku understood the great industrial output America had compared to Japan's meager building capacity. With both demotion or assassination remaining a constant threat, he chose his words in opposition cautiously. “I would not dare invade America for there would be a gun behind every blade of grass,” reads one famous quote. Another quote: “I wonder if our politicians (who speak so lightly of a Japanese-American war) have confidence as to the final outcome and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices.” Such a war could only lead to catastrophe. Yet in the grim hopes of stalling for time there was a faint hope that if diplomacy failed one heavy blow to the US Navy could open a position in which to sue for peace. Once it started, he knew this would not be possible. While the press back in Japan touted the Pearl Harbor bombings as a great victory, Yamamoto Isoroku's pessimistic predictions of disaster echoed with the air raid sirens sounding Doolittle's Tokyo Raid. 
As seen here, this was the last image of the Admiral before his fateful flight. Yamamoto Isoroku had always hoped Japan could sue for peace something only he believed could do but would never live to see it as his plane was jumped by a flight of P-38 Lightnings who had been given his exact itinerary that was foolishly or deliberately transmitted by the Army in the open frequency announcing where he would be. Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku died April 18th 1943. The exact details of his violent death was kept hidden from the public. He was given a state funeral the following month.

So onto the movie which starts with a young Isoroku watching his town of Nagaoka burn in flames he is told the story of his 71 year old grandfather who made his last stand drawing his sword against Satsuma during the Boshin War. From this point on the entire movie is told from the perspective of a Tokyo based reporter named Shindo Toshikazu (played by Tamaki Hiroshi) who is tasked to interview Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku (played by Yakusho Koji) under the watchful eye of his nationalistic boss Munakata Keikiyoshi (played by Kagawa Teruyuki) and cover Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku's career.
The Admiral is anything but what Shindo expected. He is openly opposed to a War with America and further believes Japan could not win. Munakata argues that Russia was also big and powerful yet lost to Japan. Of course the Admiral counters with "They were weak and the in the midst of Revolution. You could not easily sweep America aside. To wage such a war would mean total war will not end until one country is reduced to ashes." This of course enrages Munakata and storms out of the interview. But it is Shindo who keeps an open mind which Yamamoto Isoroku sees clearly. Such a complex man yet so unpopular with the masses all buying into the Army's propaganda. What people in America are unaware of is during the early Showa Period there were three Military Coup detat's in Japan. With the Army in control, the Navy was always under threat. Shindo realizes that the inner circles of power were made up of men from Satsuma & Choshu still engaged in never ending fighting with Nagaoka in the Boshin War. 
While the public is happy to have a law and order restored under Prime Minister Tojo who is looking to join hands with Adolf Hitler, Yamamoto Isoroku and much of the Naval Staff are opposed to the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy for they have read the uncensored version of Mein Kampf and unlike the public who adores Hitler are unaware of Chapter 13 where Hitler talks about using the Asiatic people to serve Germany. In one scene a fellow Officer who quotes Hitler's censored chapter to three young arrogant officers demanding to support the pact, Yamamoto asks "How do you like your friend Hitler now?"
All is not what it seems in Japan. The truth is hidden from the public in an effort to support the Army Controlled Military Government of Tojo and their alliance with Nazi Germany. In an effort to get Yamamoto Isoroku out of the way he is ordered out to sea. A safe demotion as they called it but ultimately it forces him to light the very match to the flames of war he so vigorously opposes. His faint hope is that if one knock out blow to the US Navy can be achieved then they could sue for peace. It was a hope he knew was a near impossibility. Yet under pressure, he was forced to take command of the fleet and carry out the attack on Pearl Harbor. 
At first the attack is viewed as a success. But with the reports of no aircraft carriers in port has the Admiral cautious. But when it is revealed that the Japanese Embassy bungled the delivery of the Declaration of War by announcing it thirty minutes late after the attack at Pearl Harbor commenced, Yamamoto concluded that Japan had now committed itself to a path of destruction with little hope of any chance to sue for peace given.
As history recorded, Admiral Yamamoto halted all further attacks on Pearl Harbor and returned his fleet to port. He did not see the attack as a victory but the embarkation of the a great unmitigated military disaster that could only end in Japan being reduced to ashes. Upon arrival, they were greeted as heroes but the celebration is short lived as the air raid sirens are heard over Tokyo as Jimmy Doolittle's raid bombs the capitol. 
In this film we are given insights into his relationship with his family and his brother. 
His own sister who still farmed in Nagaoka is greeted with praise for her family's honorable son. Such affection warms his stark cabin aboard the Battleship Nagato.
But you naval buffs won't be cut short there! Check out these dream shots of the carrier Agaki
Carrier Hiryu
Battleship Nagato
And my personal favorite the Battleship Yamato!
What is great is you see new re-imagined views of the Battleship Yamato not seen in the film Otoko Tachi no Yamato. But the War doesn't end at Pearl Harbor. We are next taken to the disaster known as The Battle of Midway.
Using the same planner of the Pearl Harbor attack Kuroshima Kameto (played by Shiina Kippei), Admiral Yamamoto approves the plans to for the assault on Midway Island in hopes of establishing a forward operating base to keep America away from Japan's Empire. He will do this by entrusting the fleet to Admiral Nagumo Chuichi (played by Nakahara Takeo).
But from the start, the operation goes against Japan. Nagumo's tactical blunders costs him all four aircraft carriers and the bulk of the combined fleet.
It is the pilots of the Hiryu who throw everything at the US Navy who score their only damage to US Carriers but it comes at a high cost in both well trained men and machinery.
In the end, it is Admiral Nagumo who comes to apologize to Admiral Yamamoto who asks him to join him for soup. To me this is a poignant scene where two men share a moment of humanity as one consoles another in their defeat. Nagumo is both ashamed of failure but more so humbled by Yamamoto Isoroku's understanding, Admiral Nagumo breaks down and weeps.
Meanwhile back in Tokyo, Shindo is told to report the war as he is told to omitting the truth that Japan is losing. Instead of using the word retreat, they are told to report that units are being transferred.
Shindo is bothered deeply by this prospect and thinks back to the Admiral's gloomy predictions of what war would bring to Japan. 
As the war wages on there are few hopes left that Admiral Yamamoto could sue for peace. While visiting front lines, he chose to visit the Army who foolishly or deliberately transmits his itinerary on open frequency that results in the most tragic consequences. 
On April 18th 1943, Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku's plane is jumped by a flight of American P-38's armed with 50 caliber machine guns and the knowledge of the Admiral's flight. The news of his death is a shock to the nation. A clear indication that Japan's hope for victory was now an impossibility with more and more men being called up to serve including Shindo.
We can not emphasize how important this film is. It is easy for any arm chair historians to say "well if he opposed the war so much why did he fight it?" There is no simple answer to such an simplified assessment of the war or the man that Yamamoto Isoroku was without being halfway knowledgeable of Japanese Culture and History dating back to the Arrival of the Commodore Perry's Black Ships in 1853. It is so sad that this film is not playing in major theaters in America for this film provides the ultimate history lesson as to why Japan ever fought the United States. 
We have read other blogs and Japanese papers who have printed many negative comments by people who are largely anti-Japanese and who have never seen the film. We won't allow negative comments here and luckily for us we have never had any. As pro-Japan we are here we do not make excuses for Japan's Wartime past but acknowledge it as we do those who fought it and those who opposed it. We wish that war never happened and had military leaders had listened to Admiral Yamamoto it is possible the war could have been avoided as it should have. None the less, there is no further debate. This film regardless of your feelings about the war tells what really happened on the other side and that of one remarkable man. If we were to recommend only one film to explain this war this would be it. But don't just take my word for it. See it for yourself!

To get your copy of the Admiral please see our man Eddie at

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Years 2013!

Happy New Years! 平成25 巳年 (Mi-nen) The Year of the Snake is upon us. And with it new opportunities. As this being Heisei 25 American Mishima will continue to Honor Emperor Akihito and the Imperial Family with the first photo of the year. We hope you have all had a happy new years celebration and continue to support American Mishima in 2013. あけましておめでとう ございます!