Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Thoughts On Japan Without Research

  • This is either gonna be real short, or real racist: most of my knowledge of Japan comes from WWII propaganda cartoons and Sonny Chiba movies.
  • I will try to not be racist, but sometimes you just have to be.
  • What?
  • Japan is very old.
  • It was settled by people at precisely the moment you’d expect that landmass to have been settled.
  • There were a bunch of competing rich fuckers from all over the island who thought they should be in charge.
  • Then there was one rich fucker who was in charge, and he was the Emperor.
  • Having an Emperor never ends well, and Japan was no exception.
  • Now, Japan is a democracy, kinda, and capitalists, definitely.
  • But not like us.
  • I say this with no value-judgement; I refer back to my scale of American-ness: if Canadians are mostly American, then the Japanese have no American at all. (Perhaps there are trace amounts of American: they do like baseball.)
  • This is a culture not just thousands of miles away with a different religious, cultural, and moral history than mine, but it is an island culture, and therefore given to the dramatic evolutionary shifts Darwin saw in his finches on the Galapagos.
  • That said, the Japanese are some floor-sleeping motherfuckers.
  • Get up off that floor, Japan.
  • It is drafty down there.
  • I will sell you a bed, Japan.
  • Stop it.
  • Back to the history: speaking of the both the island and Emperor aspects, Japan has a lot in common with England:
  • Lords/Shoguns fighting for control of land and serfs.
  • Consolidation of the islands.
  • Outward expansion.
  • A bunch of good years.
  • Some awful ones.
  • Important again, but not as dickish.
  • And that, Enthusiasts, is the History of Japan.
  • Excellent food.
  • I was halfway through writing a sentence saying that everyone had excellent food, but y’know what: they don’t.
  • No one had ever thought of not cooking their food before the Japanese did.
  • They have made an art out of not cooking things, and cooks from around the world journey there to learn the secrets of how to properly not cook a piece of fish.
  • You think you know how to not cook fish?
  • You have no idea how to not cook fish.
  • The knife is important.
  • The rice is important.
  • There is a thesis to be written (probably has been already) on the differences between wheat-based and rice-based cultures.
  • (Historically, I mean: America has become a corn-based culture, which is not supposed to exist.)
  • One of my favorite things about humanity is that you can always tell what crop a culture values by what they make their booze out of.
  • Not particularly fond of outsiders.
  • Not particularly fond of other Asians.
  • Ambivalent about South Americans.
  • On this date, 74 years ago, Japan made a mistake.
  • We’re cool now–tight, even–but for a while, we had to go ultra-America on them.
  • (Electing a bad actor and sending him to yell at the Berlin Wall is also pretty damn American, but in a sadder way.)
  • We think of the Second World War Two in the Pacific as being between us and Japan, but there were a lot of other players: China and the Philipines and Indonesia and Japan behaved quite abominably in all of those places.
  • You would rather be occupied by America than Japan.
  • We actually may or may not have facilitated Japan’s move into China by cutting off oil sales. (There’s a 50/50 shot that’s right, at best.)
  • And here’s the part that confuses me and always have: let’s assume the Pearl Harbor attack was an even greater success, and that all of the fleet was in port like they were supposed to be, and that the whole of the Pacific Fleet was lost.
  • Did they think we wouldn’t build more?
  • Like: that was all we had?
  • What was the plan after that – invasion?
  • They were going to invade the West Coast?
  • Did anyone tell them how much West Coast there is?
  • Maybe the Japanese plan was to wipe out the fleet, then take over established ports along the West Coast and insert heavy artillery and troops and whatnot.
  • That is a terrible plan.
  • That couldn’t really have been the plan, could it?
  • Whatever the intention, Pearl Harbor turned out to have been possibly the greatest unforced error in the history of warfare, and just a poor fight to pick.
  • The Pacific War doesn’t get the recognition of the European Theater, but it was worse.
  • Normandy was hell, but there were many Normandies in the Pacific; each island you took had another island right after to take next.
  • If you are offered a choice between tactical positions and were offered “the beach” or “fortified bunkers on hilltops,” you should always choose “bunker.”
  • Japan had the bunkers, plus in between the beach and the bunkers was a jungle, and the jungle was full of poisonous and mean animals, and the jungle had also been cleverly booby-trapped: it was the worst place in the entire world.
  • This is, of course, if your ship didn’t get blown up or had a plane flown into it.
  • You know that kamikaze is Japanese for Divine Wind, which is a very poetic name for flying a plane into something.
  • Flying a plane into something is not a subtle act; there is little room for interpretation.
  • Those suicide flights were acts of last resort, obviously: that’s not your first move.
  • They were out of good pilots by then and would grab teenagers with a couple dozen hours of flying lessons, jack them full of speed, and stick them in a patched-together Zero without enough fuel to get home.
  • Welcome to the Air Force, kid.
  • Were kamikaze pilots–and the mindset that enabled their common usage–a peculiar outcropping of the Japanese psyche, or would any society in such a situation behave that way?
  • The Germans–whose soil was conquered and occupied–seemed to have little stomach for suicide attacks like the kamikazes.
  • Had the war turned the other way, would we have chucked young dustcroppers from Iowa in armored-up Cessnas and hurled them at the Japanese ships steaming towards the San Francisco Bay?
  • No answer can be given, and certainly not without research.
  • Japan also has many comic books and cartoons I do not understand and maybe judge you a little if you’re too into.


  1. To answer the “what the hell were they thinking in WW2” question, it was basically a psychology fail.

    They wanted to establish a strong defensive position – a ring around most of the Pacific – to secure the resources they needed and then negotiate from a position of strength. The psychological mistake was thinking the US would negotiate in order to concentrate on Germany and Europe, since in their conception Americans were more tied to Europe than the Pacific; and they placed great stock in the isolationist mood of the US. As late as mid 1939 some polls showed 95% opposition to intervention across either ocean.


    My granddad was a “coast watcher” forward observer in the 1st Marine Division starting in Iwo Jima. That means for 2.5 years he was either alone or with with a couple guys and a radio somewhere out in the boonies (frequently nowhere near major US forces) calling in enemy troop movements & directing air, PT boat & submarine attacks, that kind of thing. We got zero stories about it because he was PTSD’d into a near-catatonic alcohol haze and have had to reconstruct the whole thing from his medals and public service records…

  2. Watching band of brothers 1 in Euorpe was heroic and awesome. Made sense

    Watching band of brothers 2 in the Pacific. Omg wtf? this is depressing and sad. I want to go home turn this off why are we watching this

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