Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Japan renames Iwo Jima, sort of

Iwo Jima is now Iwo To, the original name from before WWII. Apparently, either name translates as "Sulfur Island," both names are written with the same kanji, and the difference is simply whether the second character is pronounced using its ON reading (tou) or KUN reading (shima or jima). Nothing changes but the tiny furigana typeset beside each character, indicating pronunciation. To-may-to. To-mah-to. Technical, ain't it?

Such a small asterisk, so appropriate on modern maps, and so necessary as modern Nihon gently nudges our military bases off their sovereign little archipelago.

I'm in two minds about that. On the one hand, Japan has found the U.S. an unpredictable — dare we say unreliable, petulant and demanding? — trading partner ever since the Nixon Shocks; and while it's all well and good for Old Edo to delegate Japanese security to American military bases on Okinawa and so forth, etc., the prospect of seeing American attention transfixed by Iraq for the next decade does not bode well for Japanese peace of mind in a corner of the world which has such long memories.

On the other hand, I've always been a great admirer of Japan's pacifist ideals ever since we nuked them and gave their women suffrage. And frankly, every good toy I've ever owned — Yashicas, GameCubes, Nikons, PS2s, Hondas — all came from Japan.

Times change. Sun Tzu says that when a war is prolonged, peace on other fronts becomes unstable as local powers take advantage of the prevailing distraction. These are pretty deep waters. I hope nobody is underestimating anybody.

The four Volkswagens don't count. They were fun, but they were beaters with mythical mileage and interior fogs when it rained.



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