What if they held a nuclear test and nobody came?

On September 15, the American National Nuclear Security Administration in Nevada executed Bacchus, a sub-critical nuclear test, which they refer to as a safety test of the American nuclear stockpile. It was dutifully reported in a press release and on their Facebook page (!). And… nobody noticed.

At the end of September, they again reported this in their monthly newsletter. And… nobody noticed. Fully two sources reported on this in September: a man named Andrew Kishner and a man named RKM Ming Lai. Neither is associated with any news source; they are private, little-read bloggers.

The NNSA could have been forgiven for thinking that their sub-critical test was really not a big deal at all. Then, quite suddenly, in the morning of October 13, Asahi TV noticed!

アメリカが臨界前核実験 オバマ政権下で初

10/13 05:50
 米政府が臨界前核実験を行っていたことが分かりました。オバマ政権になって初めてです。

 米エネルギー省のホームページによると、実験は先月15日にネバダ州で行われたもので、地下での核爆発ではなく、臨界前実験によって核兵器開発のデータを得ることが目的としています。同じ実験はこれで24回目ですが、前回の2006年8月以来、オバマ政権下では初めてです。アメリカは爆発を伴う核実験を禁止する包括的核実験禁止条約を批准していませんが、「核なき世界」を目指すオバマ大統領は批准への強い意欲を示していて、臨界前実験でも国際社会から批判される可能性があります。

After hearing of Asahi’s belated scoop, the Mayor of Hiroshima issued a letter of protest. Only then was the Peace Watch Tower reset to “zero” (or, rather, 28), English-language news reports issued, NGOs notified, etc. All of this happened roughly a month late.

It seems like nobody at the Hiroshima mayor’s office, or indeed anyone else in the world with an interest in nuclear issues, was actually watching the NNSA website. The NHK falsely reported that a statement was released October 12. One group opens their article with the roundabout statement, “It was learned on October 12“, and an explanation that the NNSA failed to make an announcement beforehand like they should have. But the fact of the matter is that no announcement was made on October 12. In fact, someone at Asahi must have remembered to check the NNSA website on this date, and found the month-old announcement.

Posted: October 29th, 2010 | World Peace 1 Comment »


The Other 10 Commandments

As we students of the Takenouchi Documents already know, when Moses rode a UFO to Japan he presented the world with a second set of Ten Commandments. Actually, it was simply the same stone tablets, but he had forgotten to show the Israelites what was written on the back side. Anyway, here they are in English for the first time:

Honoring the law of Romulus, 60th generation descendant of Adam and Eve
Omoyakami Taruwake Toyosuki Emperor Hitsuki 200 Years — 10 Commandments of Moses
1. Thou shalt worship the gods of Heavenly Omoya Japan
2. Thou shalt worship the Omuya Hitsuki Emperor
3. Thou shalt not disobey the Sun Kami, for if thee do thou willst be smited
4. Thou shalt not disobey the law of the emperor of the Heavenly Omoya
5. Thou shalt not disobey the emperor of the Omoya
6. Thou shalt protect the law of the five races of Ajiti
7. Thou shalt not disobey the law of the Omoya of the Ajitikunists, the decided law of Ajitikuni
8. Thou shalt rescue the red and correct the black of heart
9. Thou shalt inform thyself of the stories of other kami
10. Thou shalt worship the spirit kami — Twice, Ä€men!
The law of all nations. 10 Commandments of Moses, Mount Sinai

You can visit Moses’ grave in Ishikawa-ken.

Posted: October 26th, 2010 | Japan 3 Comments »


Parallel Developments of Christian Science and Tenrikyo

Tenrikyo and Christian Science are both faith healing religions founded by women in the late 19th century on the basis of direct revelation from God. Both lived in an age where the powerful concept of faith healing was being crowded out or suppressed by more controllable, institutional behaviors, these being “Churchianity” in America and “non-religious Shinto” in Japan. Both attracted highly intelligent individuals from outside the mainstream, who eventually gave both groups unexpected relevance in 20th century society. Here is a brief sketch of their development from someone who is only somewhat acquainted with the church histories.

Splinter groups

It was expected that Tenrikyo Shrine of God and foundress Oyasama would live to 115 years per her own prediction. When this did not happen there was confusion in the movement. Many believed in the 天啓待望論 (tenkei taibou-ron), the doctrine that a new Shrine of God would be appointed at the end of Oyasama’s 115-year era. At least two splinter groups formed when the 115 years were up in 1913: Oonishi Ajirou’s Honmichi, and a group called 茨木一派 (Ippa Daidou). I think there were others, but this is not clear to me. Individual Tenrikyoists, dissatisfied with the direction of the church, also founded basically unrelated groups like Moralogy.

Christian Science also splintered after its founder’s death. The Christian Science Parent Church was founded in England in 1912, two years after Mary Baker Eddy’s death, and gained a small following in America as well. Like Honmichi, the Parent Church emphasized its leader’s position as the next inheritor of revelation. In this case, leader Annie C. Bill wrote a book called Science, Evolution, and Immortality which supplemented Science and Health. Unlike Honmichi, this group is now completely extinct. This information comes from a fascinating 1926 encyclopedia of religious bodies issued by the U.S. Census, which also includes an early official recognition of non-Christian “religious groups”.

Making faith healing relevant

The paths taken by both organizations in the 20th century are fascinating as stories of how marginal spiritual groups plant themselves in their home societies. Christian Science, of course, is known through the United States for two things: its reading rooms, which dot main streets throughout the country, and the Pulitzer-winning Christian Science Monitor, propped up entirely on Christian Scientist donations for many years with scarcely a mention of religion in the paper itself. Tenrikyo has worked the same way: in Japan they are known throughout the country for Tenri University, which has a famous judo team, and on a lesser scale for the excellent Tenri Hospital and Tenri City in which both organizations are located. If you ask an American about a Christian Science Reading Room, they will often be familiar with its existence as a neighborhood staple even if they don’t know exactly what it means; Tenri University has the same associations in Japan.

More to come as I research more.

Posted: October 10th, 2010 | Secular-Religious 1 Comment »


Ahistory, Part 2

You will recall my quote of Spengler in my article on ahistory, where he asserts that India had no history, and I clarify that it instead had a resistance network of stories which prevented the creation of history. I think this was a good thing with regards to Indian society. Now I have learned that there was a very interesting person who thought it was a bad thing:

Now, sickening as it must be to human feeling to witness those myriads of industrious patriarchal and inoffensive social organizations disorganized and dissolved into their units, thrown into a sea of woes, and their individual members losing at the same time their ancient form of civilization, and their hereditary means of subsistence, we must not forget that these idyllic village-communities, inoffensive though they may appear, had always been the solid foundation of Oriental despotism, that they restrained the human mind within the smallest possible compass, making it the unresisting tool of superstition, enslaving it beneath traditional rules, depriving it of all grandeur and historical energies.

Indian society has no history at all, at least no known history. What we call its history, is but the history of the successive intruders who founded their empires on the passive basis of that unresisting and unchanging society. … England has to fulfill a double mission in India: one destructive, the other regenerating the annihilation of old Asiatic society, and the laying the material foundations of Western society in Asia.

Karl Marx, 1853.

What “grandeur” did Marx see in a potential India? What are the “historical energies” that he believed needed to be loosed on the country? Well, I guess I can answer that question from what I read of Marx. Still, it certainly points the political compass of the ahistorian in a new direction.

Posted: October 2nd, 2010 | Postcolonialism 1 Comment »


Politically Incorrect Glossary of Japanese Buddhism

高野聖 Kōya hijiri

A brand of merchant from Mount Kōya, usually from the criminal class. Often improperly translated as “Buddhist missionaries”, sometimes with the claim that they spread some Buddhist beliefs, which is at best a vast exaggeration of the facts. In reality, although they were approved by Kōya authorities, the approval chiefly permitted them to make a living as traveling salesmen, perhaps playing some music or dancing on the side.

English Wikipedia amusingly links their Kōya hijiri article to another term, yadōkai, which they describe as follows: “Yadōkai (夜道怪) is a derogatory term for Kōya hijiri. They were considered to be a kind of supernatural creature, wandering at night, damaging property, injuring people or kidnapping children. As shown in Gegege no Kitaro. Kōya hijiri served as itinerant traders, were well informed about life, and deceived local people.”

解毒圓 Gedokuen

A brand of medicinal herb sold by a pharmacy named Dōshōan 道正庵 under exclusive contract from the Sōtō Zen sect of Japanese Buddhism; it was sold to Zen temples as well as the general public. Mixing Gedokuen with various other herbs or rubbing it on yourself was guaranteed to cure almost any ailment, and it was advertised as a panacea. The story went that the recipe for Gedokuen was received by Dōgen from the white fox kami Imari, and Dōgen went on to order Dōshōan to sell the drug throughout Japan. This story was fabricated in the 1700s and tacked on to the first printed biography of Dōgen, which created a fairly confusing narrative where Dōgen’s whole life built up to endorsing a magical drug. However, the Sōtō Zen sect apparently approved of this activity. It continued until 1945.

Another famous panacea of the Tokugawa period was called Kintaien 錦袋圓, and was also invented by a Buddhist sect, allegedly communicated to a young monk in a dream by the sect’s founder Gyōtei.

般若湯 Hannya tō

“Water of Perfect Wisdom”. A term for alcohol used by Japanese Buddhist monks, implying that drinking this very special water will open you up to the wisdom of Buddha. Drinking alcohol is a violation of one of the five precepts of all Buddhist monks and is grounds for expulsion from the sangha, except in Japan. In the Meiji period, many temples had signs posted at the door warning monks not to bring alcohol inside, but hannyatō would be carried in regardless. Contrary to the American scholarship on Japanese Buddhist jargon, this euphemism is not meant to cover up the fact that monks are drinking alcohol. Rather, it is a sardonic term, and many Americans seem to misunderstand the deadpan tone in which the joke is told (e.g. “if you call it hannyatō it’s okay”). It is still used today.

There are various other Japanese Buddhist terms which had secret slang meanings in the Edo period, most of which are not fit for publication on a family blog: 念仏講 nenbutsukō, 阿弥陀経 Amida Kyō, etc.

三種の浄肉 sanshu no jōniku

“The three kinds of pure meat”. It is often claimed that the precept prohibiting killing renders all Buddhist monks vegetarians. However, in Japan (as well as China and Korea, in this case) circumventing this rule has proven all too simple. There was a sutra somewhere, nobody knows quite where, that says that there are three ways to make meat pure:

  1. You didn’t see the animal being killed.
  2. You don’t know whether it was killed for your sake.
  3. You didn’t hear whether it was killed for your sake.

These exemptions are so ludicrously huge that meat is pretty much fine. Thus everyone in Japan has an in-joke to laugh about, and gaijin vegetarians who come to a temple seeking Japanese vegetarian food are oftentimes naively disappointed (or charged exorbitant prices for shōjin ryōri).

僧兵 sōhei

“Warrior monks”, or more accurately the military forces of temple-states. There are entire books written about this subject, but suffice to say, the majority of “monks” from A.D. 950-1600 were not above setting fire to rival temples or pillaging local villages. Usually they lived in temple towns, 門前町 monzenmachi, and not within the temple itself. Most notably found in Hieizan Enryakuji (controlled western Biwako), Kyōto Hongwanji (distributed throughout the provinces), Kōyasan Kongōbuji (controlled Kii), and and Kōyasan Negoroji (controled Kii; notable for manufacturing muskets).

Posted: October 1st, 2010 | Dharma 1 Comment »