Yoshihiko Noda just took power as Japan's prime minister this month, the country's sixth PM in five years. He won election, following the March 11 triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.
In describing himself to the people of Japan, Mr. Noda said he was like a loach bottom feeder rather than a sparkling goldfish.
Noda also denied that Japan's wartime leaders were criminals. As reported by The Independent (U.K.), on the anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War Two, August 15, the new PM refused to rule out a prime ministerial visit to Yasukuni Shrine, which honours the nation's war dead, including 14 executed Class-A war criminals.
What's up, Dude? Or, Lilahoej? (I understand "Lilahoej," is Japanese for "Dude.")
Oh, the Japanese don't seem concerned about their new prime minister's denial that Japan's war leaders 65 years ago were war criminals, as convicted by trials of the International War Tribunal. Barely a mention of that. It's this fish business that's got them upset.
Puzzled observers and Japan's numerous newspapers and news media outlets can't figure out this loach-description, judging by the numerous articles on the subject. Why did he say he's like a loach? What did Noda mean by that?
In the States, The Wall Street Journal even talked about the loach hot pot dish, a traditional delicacy known as "nabe" in Japanese, quoting a Japanese citizen perplexed as to why the new prime minister would want to compare himself to the humble loach: "I wonder what he meant? To be honest, I have no idea."
The loach, "dojo" in Japanese, is a slippery, eel-like fish that lives in the mud.
The Wall Street Journal reports that "the humble loach is a hardy, bottom-feeding fish that lives, among other places, in ditches."
The Washington Post says the loach is "an unattractive, bottom-feeding fish," and the New York Times described that it is "an eel-like bottom-feeding fish with whiskers."
The Canon Institute for Global Studies cautions that the word "dojo" really connotes more than merely the fish, but conveys a kind of nuance as well for "friendliness," "Popular appeal," and "rusticity." The word "rusticity" suggests a plainness or sturdiness.
Odd that most of the media coverage about Yoshihiko Noda is about his fish self-description and not about his denial that Japan had any war criminals. It's frightening that the country's prime minister would make this claim.
It's like the Germans and Nazi sympathizers who continue to deny that the Germans really did kill more than 6 million persons in concentration camps -- Jews and persons who were homosexual, disabled, mentally ill and gypsy.
Japan's wartime prime minister General Tojo at 1946 Tokyo Trials
The Economist reminds us that the Japanese government accepted the war tribunal's criminally guilty verdicts for Japan's war leaders as part of the 1952 San Francisco peace treaty, Article 11 which begins:
"Japan accepts the judgments of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and of other Allied War Crimes Courts both within and outside Japan, and will carry out the sentences imposed thereby upon Japanese nationals imprisoned in Japan."
The Economist article described "the bizarre part of Mr. Noda's argument" as his claim that the San Francisco treaty "restored the honour" of all Japan's war criminals.
In response, South Korea's foreign ministry in Seoul said Noda's remarks "negate Japan's past history of aggression."
Noda's comments prove the declaration of Professor Saburo Lenaga, distinguished Japanese historian, as correct. In 1998, the historian said:
"I do not think things are going well in terms of Japan accepting responsibility for the past."
And what does this foretell for the future?
Bottom-feeders -- politicians everywhere, including the U.S. Congress --don't leave the mud voluntarily.